As the dash-for-trash continues in US equities, Neuberger Berman sums up the state of investing currently, "there has certainly been little reward for owning high-return, superior business models that are conservatively financed," as Bloomberg notes, Fed policy has had the “unintended consequence” of boosting the stocks of companies with heavy debt and little or no earnings. Typically after a recession, such companies lose out to firms that generate more cash and have better balance sheets; this time, no “Darwinian” shakeout happened and low-quality stocks ruled. Managers say they haven’t changed, the market has.
As the chasm between earnings (tumbling most since 2008) & macro data (90% misses in February and weakest in 11 months) and the inexorable rise of the US equity market yawns ever wider, we thought the following clip (from South Korea) perfectly summed up what happens next...
"For me the shorting opportunity looks as great as it was in 07/09, if only because people are still looking at what is hap-pening and believe that each event is an individual, isolated event. Whether it’s the oil price fall or the Swiss franc move, they’re seen as exceptions. ... we used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09, so we are really at a dangerous point to try to counter the effects of a slowing China, falling commodities and EM incomes, and the ultimate First World effects. This down cycle is likely to be remembered in a hundred years . Sadly this down cycle will cause a great deal of damage, precisely because it will happen despite the efforts of the central banks to thwart it."
There was an expectation that today's receipt by the Troika of the revised Greek "reform proposal" would send risk and the EUR higher, which is probably precisely why nothing has happened so far, and US equity futures are unchanged ahead of what the HFT algos' new attention focus is today, namely Yellen's semi-annual testimony to Congress. As a result, the only thing that has seen notable strength this morning is the USD, which has surged to 119.50 against the Yen, and briefly pushed the EURUSD under 1.1300. which also means that WTI has also gone nowhere overnight and remains under $50. One wonders just what OPEC "rumor" those long crude will leak today.
When, amid the plunging stock market in October as we neared the end of QE3, Jim Bullard said QE4 was possible; not only did markets then undertake the longest and most consistent streak of gains in history, he appears to have entirely changed the market's reaction function to data...
So, while the markets have surged to "all-time highs," the majority of Americans who have little, or no, vested interest in the financial markets have a markedly different view. Currently, mainstream analysts and economists keep hoping with each passing year that this will be the year the economy comes roaring back but each passing year has only led to disappointment. Like Humpty Dumpty, all the Fed stimulus and government support has failed to put the broken financial transmission system back together again. Eventually, the current disconnect between the economy and the markets will merge. Our bet is that such a convergence is not likely to be a pleasant one.
US stock markets reached record highs last week. Question: does that make them riskier, or less risky? We think the former.
If you thought the Greek tragicomedy is over, you ain't seen nothing yet, because despite the so-called Friday agreement, the immediate next step is for Greece to submit its list of reform measures to the Troika, which will almost certainly result in an immediate revulsion in Germany's finance ministry, and lead to another protracted back and forth between the Troika and Greece, which may once again well end with a Grexit, especially if the Greek liquidity situation, where bash is bleeding from both the banks and the state at a record pace, remains unhalted. It is therefore not surprising that the ongoing decline in the EURUSD since the inking of the agreement, and the fact that the pair briefly dipped below 1.13 this morning - over 100 pips below the euphoric rip on Friday - is a clear indication that the market is starting to realize that absolutely nothing is either fixed, or set in stone.
This past week has been a virtual tennis match watching the evolution of the Greek bailout negotiations. No Deal, Deal, No Deal, Deal. However, despite the fallout that would likely come from a Greek "exit," the markets have largely managed to ignore the risk and hit an all-time high this week. Market valuations, bullish sentiment and complacency are all pushing higher as the focus remains on the ignition of the ECB's QE program as a stimulus for the markets. In fact, this is so much the case that the net percentage of managers overweight Eurozone equities is at the highest level on record.
With reports of near mutiny in Syriza's ranks amid the back-bending they have done to try to meet Germany's demands - only to be abjectly denied by a non-ultimatum-setting Schaeuble - it is perhaps time to prepare (ahead of tomorrow's apparent "G" day) for the possibility that Greece creates a systemic event. As Goldman recently warned, there are aspects that leave us more worried than we have been since the start of the Euro area crisis with a tight schedule to avert a disorderly outcome. Risk markets so far have traded in a resilient (well managed) manner but risks of an accident remain and here is how Goldman suggests you hedge that exposure.
"Suffice it to say that current equity markets are no place for long-term investors, and that even a resumption of risk-seeking investor preferences would demand a considerable safety net. For now, we believe the best interpretation of recent market action is as a hopeful, low-volume short-squeeze to marginal new highs, despite early deterioration in market internals following a period of extreme overvalued, overbought, overbullish conditions. This pattern is much like we observed in September 2000 and October 2007."
There was much confusion yesterday when algos went into a buying frenzy on news that Greece would submit a request for a 6 month loan extension, believing this means Greece has caved and will agree to a bailout programme extension as well. Nothing could have been further from the truth as we explained first moments after the headline struck, and also as Reuters validated moments ago when it said that "Greece will submit a request to the euro zone on Wednesday to extend a "loan agreement" for up to six months but EU paymaster Germany says no such deal is on offer and Athens must stick to the terms of its existing international bailout." But since the political nuances of diplomacy are lost on the math Ph.Ds who program the market-moving algos, the S&P did manage to roar above 2100 on what was another headfake and then forgot to sell off on the reality.
Two months ago we showed, and explained in great detail, how in the new normal the role of gold is nothing more than a funding "currency" to allow the BOJ to sell Yen against it (on a borrowed basis, which is also why the LBMA halted reporting its GOFO data as of the end of February, as it would not be pleasant for the central bank cartel to demonstrate just how much institutional gold shortfall there developed following major BOJ interventions). So for all those who are curious what it looks like when the BOJ "enters the house", here it is...
MMT: Monetizing Muppet Trades. This one made good money!
It has been a quiet start to the week, with US equity futures and European stocks mostly unchanged with all eyes on what progress (if any) will be made between Greece and the Eurogroup, where the press conference is scheduled for 7:00 pm GMT (expect significant delays) in what is otherwise expected to be a relatively subdued day with the US away from market and a light macroeconomic calendar.