Instead of allocating capital to expensive tail risk bets on direct asset class collapse (in equities, credit, and commodities), it appears, just as we detailed previously, the 'smartest money in the room' is "betting" indirectly on a stock market crash through eurodollar options.
US futures were largely unchanged overnight, with a modest bounce after the European close driven by a feeble attempt to push oil higher, faded quickly and as of this moment the E-mini was hugging the flatline ahead of today's main event - the January payrolls, expected to print at 190K and 5.0% unemployment, however the whisper number - that required to push stocks higher - is well lower, at 150K (according to DB), as only a bad (in fact very bad) jobs number today will cement the Fed's relent and assure no more rate hikes in 2016 as the market now largely expects.
After yesterday's torrid, chaotic moves in the market, where an initial drop in stocks was quickly pared and led to a surge into the close after a weaker dollar on the heels of even more disappointing US data and Bill Dudley's "serious consequences" speech sent oil soaring and put the "Fed Relent" scenario squarely back on the table, overnight we have seen more global equity strength on the back of a weaker dollar, even if said weakness hurt Kuroda's post-NIRP world and the Nikkei erased virtually all losses since last Friday's surprising negative rate announcement. Oil and metals also rose piggybacking on the continued dollar weakness as the word's most crowded trade was suddenly shaken out.
While the biggest news of the night had nothing to do with either oil or China, all that mattered to US equity futures trading also was oil and China, and since WTI managed to rebound modestly from their biggest 2-day drop in years, rising back over $30, and with China falling only 0.4% overnight after the National Team made a rare, for 2016, appearance and pushed stocks to close at the day's high, US E-minis were able to rebound from overnight lows in the mid-1880s, and levitate above 1900. Whether they sustain this level remains to be seen.
It certainly does feel like groundhog day today because while last week's near record oil surge is long forgotten, and one can debate the impact the result of last night's Iowa primary which saw Trump disappoint to an ascendant Ted Cruz while Hillary and Bernie were practically tied, one thing is certain: today's continued decline in crude, which has seen Brent and WTI both tumble by over 3% has once again pushed global stocks and US equity futures lower, offsetting the euphoria from last night's earnings beat by Google which made Alphabet the largest company in the world by market cap.
"We originally looked for up to half of past losses to be recovered. We believe that we are perhaps 2/3rds of the way through the bounce, and would look to start fading it within days. We stick to the overriding view that one should use any strength as an opportunity to reduce equity allocation."
Since granting IEX exchange status would lead to an immediate market structure disruption, one which would impair such embedded HFT players as Citadel which, as we have explained previously is the NY Fed's preferred "arms length" intermediator in the market to ingite momentum at critical downward junctions, we are very skeptical that when all is said and done, the SEC will grant IEX what it wants: after all there are too many status quo revenue models at stake, not to mention a potential threat to the Fed's preferred market "intervention" pipeline.
As DB's Jim Reid points out, it was definitely not the easiest start to the year with many global equity markets suffering from their worst January in a post-Lehman world.
It didn't take much to fizzle Friday's Japan NIRP-driven euphoria, when first ugly Chinese manufacturing (and service) PMI data reminded the world just what the bull in the China shop is leading to a 1.8% Shanghai drop on the first day of February. Then it was about oil once more when Goldman itself said not to expect any crude production cuts in the near future. Finally throw in some very cautious words by the sellside what Japan's act of NIRP desperation means, and it becomes clear why stocks on both sides of the pond are down, why crude is not far behind, and why gold continues to rise.
Oil prices around USD 30/bbl mean that an increasingly significant volume of future oil projects no longer make sense. Although Deutsche Bank does not expect US crude inventories to reach capacity, rising US inventories and high US crude imports may heighten downside pressures to push prices closer to marginal cash costs of USD 7-17/bbl for US tight oil, with few plausible scenarios for a strong price recovery in the short term,
If equities sell off another 20% like 2008, gold would not follow them down in a "dollar short squeeze or flight to quality". There is now a very different real interest rate and energy price setup and gold doesn't have the same macro correlations as before.
It is safe to say that nobody expected the BOJ stunner announced last night, when Kuroda announced that Japan would become the latest country to unleash negative interest rates, for one simple reason: Kuroda himself said Japan would not adopt negative rates just one week ago! However, a few BIS conference calls since then clearly changed the Japanese central banker's mind and as we wrote, and as those who are just waking up are shocked to learn, negative rates are now a reality in Japan. The immediate reaction was to send the USDJPY surging by nearly 200 pips, back to levels seen... well, about a month ago.
As the great and the good gathered in Davos to ponder the next big thing, the pummeling of global equity markets brought key assumptions into question. Yet, their collective heads stayed buried in the snow with regard to the big ideas from years past, namely, the three grand economic experiments launched by the U.S., Japan and China following the Global Financial Crisis. By clinging to unrealistic growth expectations, the economic establishment has effectively bet everything on the success of these grand experiments, and the risk of losing that bet is rising inexorably.
"We learned one thing yesterday: the U.S. Federal Reserve is in the same position as the rest of us when it comes to forecasting the future path of economic growth. Nobody really “Knows” anything right now. Now, there’s enough doubt for everyone: markets, central banks, consumers, governments. Everyone. The best thing we can say about that: if markets accept that the Fed is no better informed than they are, maybe investors will devote more time to stock fundamentals and intrinsic value analysis."