As we hurtle toward the absolutely critical months of September and October, the unraveling of the global financial system is beginning to accelerate.
Asset price inflation, a disease whose source always lies in monetary disorder, is not a new affliction. It was virtually inevitable that the present wild experimentation by the Federal Reserve - joined by the Bank of Japan and ECB - would produce a severe outbreak. And indications from the markets are that the disease is in a late phase, though still short of the final deadly stage characterized by pervasive falls in asset markets, sometimes financial panic, and the onset of recession.
The overnight market has been a repeat of yesterday's action, when following China's repeat 1.6% devaluation of the CNY (which was to be expected since the PBOC made it quite clear the fixing would be based off the market value, a value which continues plunging), the second biggest in history following Monday's 1.9% plunge, traders appeared stunned having believed the PBOC's lies that the devaluation was a one-off and as a result the E-Mini tumbled overnight, and is now 30 points lower from last night's PBOC fixing announcement, trading at around 2058, and far below the "magical" 200-DMA support line, which has now been solidly breached.
Despite claiming yesterday's devaluation was a "one-off", The PBOC has devalued the Yuan Fix dramatically for the 2nd day in a row - now 22 handles weaker than Monday's Fix. Offshore Yuan is trading at 4 year lows against the USD. The carnage from this dramatic shift is just beginning as global equity markets (US futures to China cash) are tumbling, US Treasury bond yields are crashing, gold is up, China credit risk is at 2 year highs, and China implied vol has exploded to 4 year highs. Ironically, China's government mouthpeiece Xinhua explains "China is not waging a currency war; merely fixing a discrepancy."
When China sneezes, the world catches a cold. Alternatively, when China devalues, the rest of the (exporting) world scrambles to not be the last (exporting) nation standing, and to do so next, before everyone else does. We give Russia, Thailand and India (as well as the rest of the EM countries, actually make that all countries, the US included) at least a few days (hours may suffice) before they all realize that in a beggar-thy-neighbor global currency war, where the ZIRP (or NIRP) liquidity trap is already stalking at least half of the entire world, there really is no choice.
For financial asset investors in the U.S. and around the world, the immediate question becomes whether the Fed will now relax its guidance and seeming intention to raise its Fed Funds target. We think the Fed will still raise rates.
US equity markets have given up almost all of yesterday's irrational exuberance ramp gains in a perfect echo of last week's Wednesday/Thursday debacle. Bond yields are plunging - also retracing all of yesterday's losses (with 2Y -5bps since Friday now). Europe is suffering most as EUR strengthens (as it was the most popular carry trade against China), driving USD weakness and sending European stocks lower (DAX is dumping almost 3%). And finally commodities are seeing Crude and copper crushed as PMs bounce...
If yesterday it was the turn of the upside stop hunting algos to crush anyone who was even modestly bearishly positioned in what ended up being the biggest short squeeze of 2015, then today it is the downside trailing stops that are about to be taken out in what remains the most vicious rangebound market in years, in the aftermath of the Chinese currency devaluation which weakened the CNY reference rate against the USD by the most on record, in what some have said was an attempt by China to spark its flailing SDR inclusion chances, but what was really a long overdue reaction by an exporter country having pegged to the strongest currency in the world in the past year.
Wondering why stocks are surging this morning - aside from Fischer's comments, OPEC rumors, Greek bank recaps, and JPY ignition? Perhaps it is the veritable swarm of professional technical analysts out with notes warning of significant problems ahead. From John Hussman's refined Hindenberg Omen and Carter Worth's "sell stocks, breadth is a problem," to Oppenheimer's warning of "seasonals and weak internals," and Louise Yamada's "stocks are vulnerable, keep cash on sidelines" warning - it appears today's early bounce is as much about contrarian oversold bounce as it is about any macro news. But with 73% of the largest 1000 stocks at least 5% off their highs, stocks remain fragile as they push back towards highs.
"The risk could be that brokers may not be able to execute forced liquidations in case of sharp declines in the overall stock market. It can be positive if they are using the funds to develop new businesses but negative for China’s financial market if they keep lending out for margin financing."
"Any rally that occurs over the next few days from the current oversold condition should be used as a "sellable rally" to rebalance portfolios and related risk."
The omens are not good when momentum and quality become highly correlated, warns SocGen's cross-asset research group. Quality is now essentially price momentum and vice versa, and history tells us when these two strategies collide the omens are not usually good, as it is a phenomena usually associated with equity markets turning bearish. This becomes even more evident when they plug the factors into their bear market indicator... simply put, we are in a bear market!
Here comes today's main event, the July non-farm payrolls - once again the "most important ever" as the number will cement whether the Fed hikes this year or punts once again to the next year, and which consensus expects to print +225K although the whisper range is very wide: based on this week's ADP report, NFP may easily slide under 200K, while if using the non-mfg PMI as an indicator, a 300K+ print is in the cards. At the end of the day, it will be all in the hands of the BLS' Arima X 12 seasonal adjusters, and whatever goalseeked print the labor department has been strongly urged is the right one.
The #1 question we get after we review correlations every month is “Why are they so high relative to long term historical norms?” Our answer is that Federal Reserve policy has been an unusually important factor in asset prices since 2009. The unusually easy monetary policy since that time (and its planning, implementation, and effect on the economy) has been a powerful unifying story in capital markets. Now, as the Federal Reserve moves to return the economy to a more “Normal” policy stance, correlations should drop. That they have not yet moved convincingly lower is a sign that equity markets may want to see the Fed actually pull the trigger.
In early 2007, market internals began to weaken dramatically. Talking heads and asset gatherers said fears were overblown, risk was contained, Fed has it under control, stay the course. Six months later, the equity markets began to collapse and then accelerated lower. Today, in an eery case of deja vu all over again, it has been six months now since US equity market internals began to decouple from the manipulated index levels that manufacture wealth and happiness across America... what would you do?