- Ukraine forces kill up to five rebels, Putin warns of consequences (Reuters)
- Obama to Russia: More sanctions are 'teed up' (AP)
- Vienna Banks Bemoan Russia Sanctions Testing Cold War Neutrality (BBG)
- GE’s $57 Billion Cash Overseas Said to Fuel Alstom Deal (BBG)
- GM posts lower first-quarter profit after recall costs (Reuters)
- Apple Stock Split Removes Obstacle to Inclusion in Dow (BBG)
- U.S. regulators to propose new net neutrality rules in May (Reuters)
While events in Ukraine have once again broken out into lethal fighting, and in a surprise development the Chinese Yuan crossed the 6.25 line for the first time in two years threatening to accelerate the unwind of carry trades which have a 6.25-6.30 point of max pain, futures remain completely focused solely on the strong after-hours results from Apple and Facebook which have helped push Spoos overnight to near record levels once again. The biggest push was given to NASDAQ futures which are back up 1% with optimism for US tech returning with the material earnings beats from both Apple ($11.62 EPS vs Est $10.17 EPS) and Facebook ($0.34 Adj EPS vs $0.24 forecast). Shares in both companies rose in afterhours trading with Facebook up +5% and Apple up more than +7% (supported further by the announcement that the company was expanding its share buyback plan to $90bn from $60bn). Not even the Nikkei being down 1%, the SHCOMP down 0.5% and the USDJPY once again treading water could put a dent in the tech-driven euphoria, which somehow also managed to slam gold and silver to month lows.
It seems yesterday's decoupling (stocks up, and everything else risk-off) has unwound today as equity markets were broadly weaker. The Dow and S&P traded in a very narrow range on the day closing slightly negative and breaking the 6-day winning streak. Nasdaq and Russell underperformed notably as "most shorted" stocks appeared to gain some momentum to the downside once again (ahead of tonight's AAPL/FB results) as high-beta caught down to low-beta today. Away from the oddly decoupled equity markets, Gold, silver and copper all closed unch to modestly higher as WTI crude prces dropped further (to $101.50). The USD rallied off European open weakness to end unchanged for the week (with notable AUD weakness overnight). Treasuries rallied with 30Y outperforming once again and the yield curve flattening to fresh 5 year lows. Credit markets continues to push wider and are not sustaining any of the exuberance remaining in the S&P.
It has been exactly six days in which algos, reversing the most recent drop in the S&P with buying sparked by a casual Nikkei leak that the BOJ may, wink wink, boost its QE (subsequently denied until such time as that rumor has to be used again), have pushed the market higher in the longest buying streak since September, ignoring virtually every adverse macroeconomic news, and certainly ignoring an earnings season that is set to be the worst since 2012. Today, the buying streak may finally end on rumors even the vacuum tubes are scratching their glassy heads if more buying on bad or no news makes any sense now that even the likes of David Einhorn is openly saying the second tech bubble has arrived. Keep an eye on the USDJPY which has had seen some rather acute "trapdoor" action in early trading and is approaching 102 after breaching its 55-DMA technical support of 102.38. If the support is broken here we go again on the downside. Keep an eye on biotechs and GILD in particular - if the early strength reverts into more selling again (after the two best days for the biotech space in 30 months), the most recent euphoria phase is now over.
“Flash Boys” is a book written for Hollywood instead of the history books or policy makers. Stay tuned for the movie.
If the great rotation out of bonds into stocks was the story of 2013, it now appears that 2014 will see another great rotation - a mirror image one, out of stocks and back into bonds, driven on one hand, of course, by the Fed which will continue to monetize the bulk of net duration issuance for the foreseeable future, but more importantly, by some $16 trillion in corporate pension assets which after (almost) recovering their post-crisis high water market are once again, will now phase out their risky holdings in favor of safe (Treasury) exposure. As Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann explains, "The rationale is quite simply that the cost/benefit equation changes as the plans’ funding status improves. In other words, the upside for a firm with a fully-funded plan is less rewarding than for an under-funded plan." As Haselmann concludes: "Given the decline in market liquidity and so many investors chasing the same crowded riskseeking trades, these pension flows could have a material impact on market prices for the remainder of the year."
US Equity markets were on a mission today... all-time highs for the S&P and Dow were in sight, green for April for the S&P, and unchanged year-to-date for the Nasdaq and Russell was just over the horizon, but... a total divergence from JPY carry, bond yields, credit, and even VIX meant that a 'warning' from David Einhorn about Tech Bubble 2.0 was just enough to take the juice out of what was already a low volume levitation. It's a Tuesday so we closed green - the 6th up day in a row - longest run in 7 months. Biotechs ripped higher on M&A "get rich quick'"fever - biggest 2-day rise in 30 months. Treasuries were mixed with 30Y bond yields ripping lower and 5s30s dropping 4bps to 1.75% - new lows since 2007. Copper made modest gains on the day but gold, silver, and worst of all WTI crude all dropped on the day (WTI -2% to $102).
Moving onto overnight markets, apart from China we are seeing broad based gains across most Asian equities. Bourses in Japan, Korea and Australia are up +0.2%, +0.2% and +0.5% respectively whereas the Hang Seng and the Shenzhen Composite indices are down -0.2% and -1.1% as we type. The gains in broader Asia Pacific followed what was another constructive session for risk assets yesterday during US trading hours. The S&P 500 (+0.38%) rose for its 5th consecutive day partly driven by better corporate earnings from the likes of GE and Morgan Stanley. Staying on the results season, we’ve had 70 of the S&P 500 companies reporting so far and the usual trend is starting to emerge in which earnings beats are faring better than revenue beats. Indeed the beat:miss ratio for earnings has been strong at 77%:23% whereas revenue beats/misses are more balanced at 50%:50%. Looking ahead, markets should get ready for another big week of US earnings.
It has been a largely event-free weekend except, of course, for the previously reported re-escalation in Ukraine following what was a lethal shooting in the east Ukraine city of Slavyansk blamed on Ukraine's Right Front, which has made a mockery, as expected, of the Geneva Ukraine de-escalation announcement from last Thursday. Overnight in Asia, Japan reported its largest ever trade deficit, providing yet more evidence that Abenomics has been an abysmal failure: all we are waiting for now is confirmation that basic Japanese wages have fallen yet again, which would make nearly 2 years in a row of declines. Still, the USDJPY, gamed as usual by HFT algos for which FX is now the last respite as the equity market crackdown gets louder, is doing its best to ramp from the overnight lows and ahead of the traditional US market open surge, as a result equity futures are modestly higher.
The surge in volume on the anti-HFT equity trading platform IEX - of Flash Boys and TV-fight-night fame - makes it very easy to see how the buy-side (which the US retail investor is one small part of) clearly prefers an un-rigged place to find willing sellers (or buyers). Relatively light regulation and high volumes make the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market a prime target for high-frequency traders. More than 35% of spot currency volume in October was by speed traders, up from 9% five years earlier, but just as in equity markets, there are speculators and there are natural buyers and sellers in FX markets (looking to hedge payments and receipts from real business for example). As Bloomberg reports, a currency-dealing platform known as ParFX, established in 2011, offers a transparent marketplace and subjects orders to random pauses of about 20 to 80 milliseconds, and "is the industry’s effort to heal itself."
After a solid day for risk yesterday, surging higher on a continuation of the rumor that Japan's economy will deteriorate so much the BOJ will have to print more money (even though overnight ex BOJ governor Sekido said Kuroda won't print more) we have a more cautious tone this morning heading into the Easter long weekend. A double earnings miss from Google and IBM following the US market close, comments from the Chinese Premier suggesting that the government will keep its policy settings unchanged, and a press conference from Russia’s President Putin in which the Russian president as expected, has refused to back down, has put a small dampener on sentiment today. Add the fact that due to Good Friday April equities Op-Ex will take place today and trading in the next 9 hours promises to be more unrigged than ever, especially if the NY Fed trading desk manages to slam the VIX into single-digit territory
We summarized yesterday's both better and worse than expected Chinese GDP data as follows: "a substantial deterioration of the economy, one which was to be expected yet one which can be spun as either bullish thanks to the GDP "beat", and negatively if the purpose is to make a case for more PBOC stimulus." Sure enough here are the headlines that "explain" the latest overnight futures surge which has once again brought the S&P into the green on the year - a 40 point Spoo move in hours since yesterday's bottom when the Nikkei "leaked" Japan's economy is on the ropes :
- Stocks Rise on China Stimulus Speculation
Here one should of course add the comment that launched yesterday's rebound, namely the Japanese warning that its economy is about to contract, adding to calls for more BOJ stimulus, and finally this other Bloomberg headline:
- The Strengthening Case for ECB Easing
And there you have it - goodbye "fundamental" case; welcome back "central banks will once again bail everyone out" case. Hopefully today's news are absolutely abysmal to add "US economic contraction fear renew calls for untapering" to the list of headlines that should send the S&P to all time highs by the end of today.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Almost exactly a year ago, we remarked on the massive bifurcation that was occurring in US equity markets based on the crucial fundamental factor known as "day of week." The Dow Jones Industrials average is down 2% in 2014... but absent the crucial day we call "Tuesday", the Dow would be down almost 8%. On average, the Dow is up 0.4% each and every Tuesday this year (and every other day of the week is red on average)... lots of unriggedness here we are sure...
You know it's bad when... the red flashing headline that sparked the accelerating downward momentum in US equity markets to stop and reverse on a dime is...
*JAPAN TO DOWNGRADE ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT IN APRIL REPORT: NIKKEI
Proving once again how insanely non-sensical this bad-news-is-good-news market has become. Fundamentals, schmundamentals. However, as we noted here, this bad news is not going to lead to the good news that stocks are hoping for...
Consumer confidence slumps in the core and Ukraine fears weighed heavily on European stocks despite getting a push from the insanity in US equity markets this morning. Europe closed at their lows of the day led by Italy and Portugal stocks fading fast. It would appear that these worried investors greatly rotated into safe-havens such as Italian government bonds - which broke to their lowest yield on record today... makes sense right?