A dispassionate look at the issues and events shaping the investment climate in the week ahead.
We show that equity markets are stretched (e.g., more than 80% of the S&P rally since last year is due to re-rating), but we also find that the fixed income market has become quite rich (we have been overweight European peripherals for more than a year on valuation grounds, we show that this argument no longer holds), and the same is true of the credit market. Second because capital has been flowing rapidly into risky assets, we document that argument and here too find evidence that the market might be ahead of itself. We read the market reaction last week to the Portuguese news as a sign that the market is indeed too complacent and could correct rapidly.
Thanks to the capable carry-induced ramp in AUDJPY (and a helpful OPEX pile-on for VIX), US equity markets are surging this morning (Russell 2000 above yesterday's highs?!) on the heels of the biggest short squeeze in over a month... SSDD...
"Fixed" - well almost. US equity markets have retraced all the losses suffered post-Israel-escalation (why worry?) but remain (for now) below the levels reached before the MH17 crash headlines hit... Of course, AUDJPY is in in charge along with VIX (as it is Friday after all)...
Despite an initial attempt to rally after the terrible news out of Ukraine hit, stocks were unable to mount any serious BTFD as uncertainty spread. Despite Bullard's best efforts, bond yields crashed lower (over 7bps today) with 10Y at 2.45% near the lowest close in 13 months. Gold prices jumped over $20 (even as the USD Index flatlined - though JPY strengthened notably as risk-off set in). VIX exploded 3.7 vols (its biggest swing - 45% - since Aug 2011). Equity markets cratered into the close as Israel ground invasion news (A White House Lockdown) added to the concerns leaving all US markets red post-payrolls and red post-Yellen. The S&P 500 dropped 1.18% - its biggest drop in 3 months. The Russell 2000 is now down 2.5% year-to-date.
Remember when Ukraine was fixed and you could BTFATH as no geopolitical concerns could ever harm US equity markets... well that just changed... News that a Malaysian Airlines passeneger jet carrying 280 passengers was shot down in Ukraine has sparked major derisking across stocks and slammed bonds to the low yields of the day. Gold and Silver are jumping and the USD is fading.
Ironically, Carl Icahn - poster-child of the leveraged financial engineering that has overtaken US equity markets on the back of Central Bank largesse - told CNBC that he was "very nervous" about US equity markets. Refelecting on Yellen's apparent cluelessness of the consequences of her actions, and fearful of the build of derivative positions, Icahn says he's "worried" because if Yellen does not understand the end-game then "there's no argument - you have to worry about the excesssive printing of money!" So in 12 hours, we have been told: some sectors are stretched (Yellen), there is a bubble but we don't want to pop it (Fisher), when the Fed ends QE, there'll be abear market (Druckenmiller), and now Icahn is "worried about markets." Cue, Cramer explaining how none of these buffoons know anything about stocks...
Since Janet Yellen started speaking yesterday, the USD has jumped most in 10 weeks to 1-month highs, Treasury yields have risen 5bps at the short-end but are unchanged at the long-end, Gold and silver are down 1%, oil up 1%, and copper -1.4%. In stock land, The Dow and Trannies are leading, S&P is unch, and Russell 2000 is not happy (-1.3%). VIX tested down to a 10-handle once again (but closed at 11.1). Credit markets remained far less excited than stocks today. Biotechs are down over 4.5% since Yellen started speaking and Social Media -1.2%. The Russell 2000 closes -0.8% for 2014.
What does Yellen know? Nothing apparently (if she says 'sell') US equity markets, juiced by China's GDP data (but missing China's retail sales and home price slump) and helped by Portugal 'reassurances' that have yet to materialize, are soaring this morning... VIX is back at a 10-handle as Dow hits record highs, the S&P nears record highs and even small-cap, social media, momo, tech fantasy stocks are ripping... you can't keep a good market down... It seems "fight the Fed" is the new "Don't fight the Fed"
If last week's big "Risk Off" event was the acute spike in heretofore dormant Portugese bank troubles (as a reference Banco Espirito Santo has a market cap at the close last night stood at around €2.1bn ($2.9bn), contrasting to Goldman Sachs ($78.1bn) and JP Morgan ($220.5bn)), then yesterday's acceleration in the Portuguese lender's troubles which as we reported have now spread to its holding company RioForte which is set to default, were completely ignored by the market. Today this has conveniently flipped, following a Diario Economico report that Banco Espirito Santo has the potential to raise capital from private investors. No detail were given but this news alone was enough to send the stock soaring by nearly 20% higher in early trading. Still, despite the "good", if very vague news (and RioForte is still defaulting), Bunds remained bid, supported by a good Bund auction, in part also dragged higher by Gilts, which gained upside traction after the release of the latest UK jobs report reinforced the view that there is plenty of spare capacity for the economy to absorb before the BoE enact on any rate rises. Also of note, touted domestic buying resulted in SP/GE 10y yield spread narrowing, ahead of bond auctions tomorrow.
Financial markets are complex in normal times. When government is actively supporting them, they only become more so and more dangerous. If today’s financial markets were rated like movies, they would be rated “R” (perhaps, “X”). Whether the “R” stands for risky or restricted is immaterial.
As stocks have pushed to new record highs in recent weeks, and VIX has dropped accordingly, the cost of protecting desperate asset managers from a far bigger collapse in prices has been soaring. We first noted the record high price of SKEW - a measure of market fear of a big drop in prices - a month ago, but for the first time in history, prices have remained elevated for a considerable period. As Bloomberg reports, the SKEW "is flashing a big warning signal for equity markets right now,” Kevin Cook, a senior stock strategist at Zacks Investment Research Inc. in Chicago, wrote, adding that, "big players are quietly and eagerly buying up put protection while they hang onto their stocks." This institutional nervousness is occurring as retail dives and AAII Bulls surge back above 60% of investors.
Everyone knows that you "don't fight the Fed" - and sure enough, traders are selling momo, social media, and biotech stocks, sending the Russell 2000 ands Nasdaq to the lows of the day. Despite the best efforts of USDJPY momentum igniters - which has now shifted to tracking Treasury yields, pushing them modestly hgher. No bounce at all in broad US equity markets (though we expect the spin to be a rotation from growth to value once again very soon). Gold jumped on the dovishness but fell back to unch as did the USD. The S&P 500 is now in the red post-payrolls. Summing it all up - saying that these sectors are 'stretched' but the market is within 'norms' just won't cut it... Yellen is losing control and this level of specificity (and honesty) implies some degree of panic at the Fed.
It has been a mixed overnight session, following data out of China first showing that any hopes of ongoing PBOC tapering are dead and buried, following the June report showing money and loan creation (1.08 trillion Yuan up from 871 billion in May and above the 980 billion expected) in China soared, slamming expectations and indicating that Beijing is once again set on masking slowing growth with a surge in money creation. Should the Chinese not so secret any more money laundering channel be plugged this means local inflation may be set to surge in the coming months. More worrying was the release of a big drop in the German ZEW Survey expectations print at 27.1, down from 29.8 and below the expected 28.2. The low print has prompted several banks to warn that Europe's growth spurt has finally ended and there may be substantial downside surprises ahead, and certainly even more cuts to the IMF "forecast" for European growth. Finally, the Portuguese situation may be out of sight, but it is certainly not out of mind as the stock of BES continues to tumble and now the contagion has finally moved over to Espirito Santo Financial Group whose shares dropped to the lowest since 1993. Keep a close eye on this "not so lonely" cockroach.
The central banks of the world are massively and insouciantly pursuing financial instability. That’s the inherent result of the 68 straight months of zero money market rates that have been forced into the global financial system by the Fed and its confederates at the BOJ, ECB and BOE. ZIRP fuels endless carry trades and the harvesting of every manner of profit spread between negligible “funding” costs and positive yields and returns on a wide spectrum of risk assets. Stated differently, ZIRP systematically dismantles the market’s natural stability mechanisms.