In a carry-trade driven world in which news and fundamentals no longer matter, the only relevant "variable" is whether the JPY is down (check) and the EUR is up (check) which always results in green equities around the globe and green futures in the US, with yesterday's sudden and sharp selloff on no liquidity and no news long forgotten. The conventional wisdom "reason" for the overnight JPY underperformance against all major FX is once again due to central bank rhetoric, when overnight BOJ's Kiuchi sees high uncertainty whether 2% CPI will be reached in 2 years, Shirai says bank should ease further if growth, CPI diverge from main scenario. Also the BOJ once again hinted at more QE, and since this has proven sufficient to keep the JPY selling momentum, for now, why not continue doing it until like in May it stops working. As a result EURJPY rose above the 4 year high resistance of 138.00, while USDJPY is bordering on 102.00. On the other hand, the EUR gained after German parties strike coalition accord, pushing the EURUSD over 1.36 and further making the ECB's life, now that it has to talk the currency down not up, impossible. This is especially true following reports in the German press that the ECB is looking at introducing an LTRO in order to help promote bank lending. Since that rumor made zero dent on the EUR, expect the ongoing daily litany of ECB rumors that the bank is "technically ready" for negative rates and even QE, although as has been shown in recent months this now has a half-life measured in minutes as the market largely is ignoring whatever "tools" Draghi and company believe they have left.
The mainstream media staple 'common wisdom' within the financial markets is that when the Federal Reserve "tapers," or eventually ceases, its current bond buying program that interest rates will begin to rise. However, there are three primary issues which should be considered that fail to support this widely held belief. The Federal Reserve has gotten itself trapped into creating an asset bubble in the equity markets because any reversal of policy leads to severely negative economic consequences. With the current economic recovery cycle already very extended in historical terms, along with the financial markets, it is unlikely that we have just begun a growth cycle that will allow the Federal Reserve to extract its support. The reality is quite the opposite, and the next asset rotation will not be from bonds to stocks; but just the opposite.
The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth - defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt - which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months. Sounds like a perfect time to BTFATH...
This is a macro global trend well underway and I don't see anything in the cards stopping it.
As we noted previously (here and here), the exuberance over 'lower' gas prices is a little overdone. Perhaps more worrying though, as Bloomberg's Jo Brusuelas notes, wholesale gasoline futures are pointing to about a 5% rise in gasoline prices during the next few weeks. This would essentially erase the entire decline in gas prices seen since Sept. 1. As Brusuelas warns, because recent gains in inflation-adjusted personal disposable income on a per capita basis can be directly tied to falling gasoline prices, rising prices may come at an inopportune time for many larger retailers.
No matter what measure of confidence, sentiment, or animal spirits one uses, the consumer is not encouraged by the record-er and record-er highs in the US equity market. The Conference Board's consumer confidence data missed for the 2nd month in a row - its biggest miss in 8 months - as it seems in October consumers were un-confident due to the government shutdown... but in November they are un-confident-er due to its reopening. As we have noted in the past a 10 point drop in confidence has historically led to a 2x multiple compression in stocks (which suggests the Fed will need to un-Taper some more to keep the dream alive). Ironically, more respondents believe stocks will rise of stay the same over the next 12 months even as the 'expectations' sub-index collapsed to its lowest in 8 months.
Energized by a lower crude oil price - and collapsing JPY - equity markets hit their highs shortly after 8pmET on Sunday night, trod water thorugh the Asian and European markets and started more aggressive selling once US cash markets opened. Coincidentally (or not) when Obama started speaking around 1445ET, US equities took a dramatic dive - catching down to an already weaker signaling VIX rally. EURJPY stayed in sync through all of this priming ignition pumps right into the close as NASDAQ 4,000 close was desperately needed (but the dot-com darlings were all hit). Gold and Silver's early monkey-hammering was met with buyers which lifted then up 0.5% and 0.8% respectively on the day (and 2% off their lows). WTI crude recovered more than half of its losses (-0.6% on the day) but Brent not so much as the spread broke to new 8 month highs. VIX closed higher and Treasury yields trended lower all day from the overnight open to close practically unchanged as the USD lost half its early gains to end +0.25%.
The only thing that prevents us from going all in short the S&P following the revelation that Goldman's first revealed top trade of 2014 is to go long the S&P Dec 2014 futures with a target of 2250 and a close below 1855, is that the reco is not from Tom Stolper but his colleague Noah Weisberger whose muppet wipe out record is not quite as prominent. Still, for Goldman clients to buy S&P futs, Goldman has to sell it to them, and as always - do what Goldman does, not what it says.
In 'An Open Letter To The FOMC' John Hussman lays out in detail the true state of the world that asset-gatherers and Fed members alike seem blinded to. The intent of his letter is not to criticize, but hopefully to increase the mindfulness of the FOMC as to historical evidence, the strength of various financial and economic relationships, and the potentially grave consequences of further extreme and experimental monetary policy. Crucially, as we have heard numerous times in the last few weeks, the Fed sees no bubble, and so, a courtesy to both the investing public and the gamblers at the Fed, Hussman explains the reason that the Fed does not see an “obvious” stock market bubble (to use a word regularly used by Governor Bullard, as if to imply that misvaluations cannot exist unless they smack their observers with a two-by-four).
There were two events of note in the overnight session: first was the return of the Japanese jawboning, because now that the Nikkei has upward momentum - nearly hitting 15600 in early trading only to close unchanged - and the Yen has downward momentum, the Abe, Kuroda, Amari trio will do everything to talk Mrs. Watanabe to accelerate the momentum. In this case BoJ Governor Kuroda said he does not think JPY is at abnormally low levels and consumer inflation likely to hit 2% by fiscal year to March 2016. Kuroda also said he does not think JPY is excessively weak or in a bubble now and JPY has corrected from excessive strength after Lehman. This also means look forward to the daily bevy of Japanese speaker headlines in overnight trading to push the USDJPY and EURJPY higher on an ad hoc basis. The other notable event was the German IFO Business climate which jumped from 107.4 to 109.3, beating expectations of 107.7 and in the process pushing the EUR notably higher, and particularly the EURJPY which moved from 136.30 to nearly 137 or a fresh four year high. At this point European exporters must be tearing their hair out, as must the ECB whose every effort to talk the Euro lower has been met with relentless export-crushing buying.
The following Top Ten Market Themes, represent the broad list of macro themes from Goldman Sachs' economic outlook that they think will dominate markets in 2014.
- Showtime for the US/DM Recovery
- Forward guidance harder in an above-trend world
- Earn the DM equity risk premium, hedge the risk
- Good carry, bad carry
- The race to the exit kicks off
- Decision time for the ‘high-flyers’
- Still not your older brother’s EM...
- ...but EM differentiation to continue
- Commodity downside risks grow
- Stable China may be good enough
They summarize their positive growth expectations: if and when the period of stability will give way to bigger directional moves largely depends on how re-accelerating growth forces the hands of central banks to move ahead of everybody else. And, in practice, that boils down to the question of whether the Fed will be able to prevent the short end from selling off; i.e. it's all about the Fed.
After the DJIA and S&P briefly crossed the key resistance levels of 16000 and 1800, the upper bound on the markets has been looking increasingly more distant and this morning's lack of an overnight ramp only makes it more so. Perhaps the biggest concern, however, is that with both Yellen and Bernanke on the tape yesterday, the S&P still was unable to close green. This follows on Monday's double POMO day when the S&P once again closed... red. Not helping things was the overnight announcement by the Japanese government pension fund, the GPIF, in which the fund announced it would lower its bond allocation further however the new law to reform the GPIF could be written by spring 2015. This was hardly as exciting as the market had expected, and as a result both the USDJPY and the ES-moving EURJPY find themselves at overnight lows. Will the EURJPY engage in its usual post 8 am ramp - keep a close eye, especially since the usual morning gold and silver slam down just took place.
"We already live in a financial economy in which the debt and capital markets exceed the value of the real economy by far," Marc Faber explains to Germany's Finanzen100, "and that's before the current formation of bubbles." His most ominous warning, and one that fits perfectly with the seeming insanity of Federal Reserve (and all developed market central banks) is that "the next time a bubble bursts, then the capitalist economic system as we know will falter."
Dispassionate discussion of the investment climate.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that we are seeing the disconnect between financial markets and the real economy grow. It is also increasingly obvious (to Citi's FX Technicals team) that not only is QE not helping this dynamic, it is making things worse. It encourages misallocation of capital out of the real economy, it encourages poor risk management, it increases the danger of financial asset inflation/bubbles, and it emboldens fiscal irresponsibility etc.etc. If the Fed was prepared to draw a line under this experiment now rather than continuing to "kick the can down the road" it would not be painless but it would likely be less painful than what we might see later. Failure to do so will likely see us at the "end of the road" at some time in the future and the 'can' being "kicked over the edge of a cliff." Enough is enough.