In his 712-page tour de force, The Great Deformation, David Stockman dissects America’s descent into the present era of “bubble finance.” it’s hard to refute Stockman’s perspective on the Fed’s role in the housing bubble. But that won’t stop some from trying, and especially the many academic economists beholden to the Fed. Research papers have stealthily danced around the Fed’s culpability for our crappy economy, as we discussed here. More importantly, if Stockman is right about bubble finance, there’s more mayhem to come. Consider that denying failure and persisting with the same strategy are two sides of the same coin. Just as investors avoid the pain of admitting mistakes by holding onto losing positions, Fed officials who claim to have done little wrong are also more committed than ever to propping up asset markets with cheap money. For those concerned about another policy failure, a key question is: “As of today, where do we stand with respect to bubbles and bubble finance?”
On the heels of his less-than-optimistic presentation, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach tells Europe's Finanz und Wirtschaft "he's concerned about the growing amount of speculation" and draws a parallel between today’s markets and the dot-com boom of the late Nineties. This excellent interview takes the themes of his recent conference call and extends them as he warns "In the over thirty years I’ve been in the financial investment industry, I don’t recall a single year where I saw the year begin with the consensus being so solidified in its thinking across virtually every asset class." His biggest worry (for investors, as opposed to his funds), "the most unthinkable things happen this year and that is a basic pain trade that forces people into treasury bonds."
Following December's biggest-surge-in-4-years for UMich consumer confidence (though a miss), UMich data has fallen back to 80.4 - missing expectations by the biggest margin in 8 years. This is the 4th miss in the last 5 months as hope for moar multiple expansion begins to fade. Both current conditions and the outlook indices fell (for the first time sicne October). As UPS would says, confidence dropped because there was too much confidence...
Weak results from Intel, American Express and Capital One, not to mention Goldman and Citi? No problem: there's is overnight USDJPY levitation for that, which has pushed S&P futures firmly into the green after early overnight weakness: because while the components of the market may have such trivial indicators as multiples and earnings, the USDJPY to which the Emini is tethered has unlimited upside. And now that the market is back into "good news is good, bad news is better" mode, today's avalanche of macro data which includes December housing starts and building permits, industrial production, UofMichigan consumer confidence and JOLTs job openings, not to mention the up to $3 billion POMO, should make sure the week closes off in style: after all can't have the tapped out consumer enter the weekend looking at a red number on their E-trade account: they might just not spend as much (money they don't have).
With the Q4 earnings season beginning, ConvergEx's Nick Colas reminds that the top of the income statement matters more than the bottom line if we expect further upside to domestic equities in 2014. Revenue growth has been in short supply over the last four quarters, with the companies of the Dow only able to average a 0.6% top line growth rate over the last year. If 2013 was all about multiple expansion in equity markets, then, Colas warns this will be the year when revenue growth must fulfill the promise of a U.S. stock market so near all-time highs. Analysts have been perennial over-optimists on revenues every month since early 2012. Maybe they finally have it right, but that is purely a matter of faith at this point; their track record on this count is not good.
Equity markets were stumbling lower into the close of the US day session and volume was picking up... the powers that be clearly decided that was not to be allowed and the NASDAQ needed to close green (as we noted previously). JPY was not going to help as overnight volatility had reduced carry games so... slam dat VIX was the game. While not much in nominal size, the 0.3 vols smackdown in VIX starting at 1550ET lifted the S&P 3.5 points to close at the afternoon highs, Trannies up 0.3%! (and helped NASDAQ green and new highs)... But, seconds later (as INTC and AXP earnings disappointed), the entire ramp - and more - was dissolved before S&P futures closed. Ah, the efficient markets...
"The "common sense" justifications for these dramatic moves are now well documented. The Federal Reserve (Fed) model, which compares earnings yields on the S&P 500 Index (the inverse of price/earnings) with the Treasury yield, clearly signals to load up on stocks. Common sense also tells us that profit margins are at an all-time high, so clearly it's a good time to be buying stocks. Yellen's dovish background, common sense tells us, is yet further reason to expect continued loose monetary policy and accommodation. And, finally, common sense dictates that recent upward gross domestic product (GOP) revisions, lower unemployment numbers, and a successful holiday retail season, means that of course it's time to load up on stocks. Here's the problem: We don't buy the common sense. And so, like the philosopher boy above, we choose to ignore it. We suggest you do the same, but for good reason."
The positive momentum in equities slowed in Asian trading with losses seen on the Nikkei (-0.4%), and HSCEI , the SCHOMP unchanged and EM indices such as the Nifty (-
0.1%). In Australia, a disappointing December employment report saw a 23k fall in jobs for the month against consensus expectations of rise of 10k. The 10yr Australian government bond has rallied 5bp and the front end is outperforming as a number of investors expect the RBA to continue its easing bias over 2014. AUDUSD has sold off -1.1% to a three year low of 0.881. The ASX200 closed up 1.2% however, boosted by mining-giant Rio Tinto (+2%) who reported better than anticipated Q4 production. Amid recent fears of a Chinese growth deceleration, Rio Tinto reported record levels of production of iron-ore, coal and bauxite. In FX, USDJPY is finding further support in Asia, adding 0.1% to yesterday’s 0.38% gain to trade not too far from the 105 level. Which is also why the S&P futures are trading modestly lower: without a major breakout in the Yen carry, there can't be a sustained ramp in the US stock market which is driven entirely by the value of the Yen, which in turn is a reflection of the expectations of future BOJ easing.
Earlier today we showed that even the big banks are officially throwing in the towel on the "artificial market" when Deutsche's Jim Reid summarized the complete insanity of Bernanke's (because it still is his) centrally-planned new normal as follows. "So far this year markets have gone down on good data, gone up on good data, gone down on concerns over weaker data and also gone up on weaker data." Now we can add yet another item to the list of explanations that will send futures higher: a plunge in Australian job numbers. Moments ago, Australia reported that in December employment fell by a jarring 22,600 jobs on expectations of a 10,000 gain, driven by a 31,600 plunge in full-time jobs offset by an increase in 9,000 part-time jobs (do they have Obamacare in Australia too?).
As equity markets revert to their new normal BTFATH, Japanese-Yen-pinned reality, we thought a gentle reminder of the longer-term state of the real (not financial) economy would prod more than a few into the realization of just how 'encouraged' they should be by the nominal high after nominal high that is gloated over day after day...
Day two of the bounce from the biggest market drop in months is here, driven once again by weak carry currencies, with the USDJPY creeping up as high as 104.50 overnight before retracing some of the gains, and of course, the virtually non-existant volume. Whatever the reason don't look now but market all time highs are just around the corner, and the Nasdaq is back to 14 year highs. Stocks traded higher since the get-go in Europe, with financials leading the move higher following reports that European banks will not be required in upcoming stress tests to adjust their sovereign debt holdings to maturity to reflect current values. As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads tightened, also benefiting from good demand for 5y EFSF syndication, where price guidance tightened to MS+7bps from initial MS+9bps. Also of note, Burberry shares in London gained over 6% and advanced to its highest level since July, after the company posted better than expected sales data. Nevertheless, the FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers, with several large cap stocks trading ex-dividend today. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Empire Manufacturing report, PPI and DoE data, as well as earnings by Bank of America.
The rally is running out of steam, and there is a real possibility of a trend change.
Following yesterday's major market drubbing, in which the sliding market was propped up by the skin of Nomura's (and BOJ, and Fed's) teeth at 103.00 on the USDJPY, it was inevitable that with Japan returning from holiday there would be a dead cat bounce in the Yen carry pair, and sure enough there was, as the USDJPY rose all the way back up to 103.70, and nearly closed the Friday gap, before starting to let off some air. However, now that US traders are coming back online, Japan's attempts to keep markets in the green may falter, especially since it only has a couple of ES ticks to show for its efforts, as for the Nikkei which dropped 3% overnight, it has now lost all US "Taper" gains.
"We downgrade the US equity market to underweight relative to other equity markets over 3 months following strong performance. Our broader asset allocation is unchanged and so are almost all our forecasts. Since our last GOAL report, we have rolled our oil forecast forward in time to lower levels along our longstanding profile of declining prices. We have also lowered the near-term forecast for equities in Asia ex-Japan slightly. Near-term risks have declined as the US fiscal and monetary outlook has become clearer. Over 3 months our conviction in equities is now much lower as the run-up in prices leaves less room for unexpected events.... Our US strategists have also noted the risk of a 10% drawdown in 2014 following a large and low volatility rally in 2013 that may create a more attractive entry point later this year."
With no major macro news on today's docket, it is a day of continuing reflection of Friday's abysmal jobs report, which for now has hammered the USDJPY carry first and foremost, a pair which is now down 170 pips from the 105 level seen on Friday, which in turn is putting pressure on global equities. As DB summarizes, everyone "knows" that Friday's US December employment report had a sizeable weather impact but no-one can quite grasp how much or why it didn't show up in other reports. Given that parts of the US were colder than Mars last week one would have to think a few people might have struggled to get to work this month too. So we could be in for another difficult to decipher report at the start of February. Will the Fed look through the distortions? It’s fair to say that equities just about saw the report as good news (S&P 500 +0.23%) probably due to it increasing the possibility in a pause in tapering at the end of the month. However if the equity market was content the bond market was ecstatic with 10 year USTs rallying 11bps. The price action suggests the market was looking for a pretty strong print.