Valuations are stretched. Profit margins are stretched. And given that these two have been reliable mean-reverting indicators, they are what drive our sobriety. We’re not saying the party’s over. For all we know, 2014 could post another positive year for the risk markets. There’s enough good news out there in terms of cash on the sidelines, declining unemployment numbers, U.S. as a safe haven in the event of an emerging meltdown ... yada, yada, yada. All we’re saying is that, as value investors, we’re nervous about the longer-term prospects for equities, especially in the U.S. Markets in the U.S. are not a little bit overvalued—they are overvalued by a hefty margin, especially small-cap stocks. And it is this concern, above all else, that will be driving our asset allocation decisions.
Despite all the hoop-la of the UK economic recovery - and Mark Carney's credibility-sapping dynamic forward guidance "we'll know it when we see it" perspective - billions in QE has failed to spark enough 'inflation' to break the Bank of England's oh so critical 2% inflation target. For the first time since November 2009, UK CPI fell below the 2% 'threshold' in January (must be the weather) as Japan's deflation exporting (what goes up there must go down everywhere else) spreads from the US to the UK. Of course, the silver lining for equity markets is that this provides Carney just the right ammo to keep rates lower for longer at their record lows; but price pressures are building...
Spoos Rise To Within Inches Of All Time High As Overnight Bad News Is Respun As Great News By Levitation AlgosSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/17/2014 08:26 -0400
After tumbling as low as the 101.30 level overnight on atrocious GDP data, it was the same atrocious GDP data that slowly became the spin needed to push the USDJPY higher as the market became convinced that like everywhere else, bad news is great news and a relapse in the Japanese economy simply means more QE is coming from the BOJ despite the numerous articles here, and elsewhere, explaining why this very well may not be the case. Furthermore, as we noted last night, comments by the chairman of the GPIF panel Takatoshi Ito that the largest Japanese bond pension fund should cut its bond holdings to 40% were used as further "support" to weaken the Yen, and what was completely ignored was the rebuttal by the very head of the GPIF who told the FT that demands were unfair on an institution that has been functionally independent from government since 2006. The FSA “should be doing what they are supposed to be doing, without asking too much from us,” he said, adding that the calls for trillions of yen of bond sales from panel chairman Takatoshi Ito showed he "lacks understanding of the practical issues of this portfolio.” What he understands, however, is that in the failing Japanese mega ponzi scheme, every lie to prop up support in its fading stock market is now critical as all it would take for the second reign of Abe to end is another 10% drop in the Nikkei 225.
Overview of the events and data that will be of interest to investors.
"It is unbelievable how bullish [investors] have become."
"We expect another deflationary episode leading to systemic risks and economic disappointments. Hence, it is time to structure portfolios much more conservatively and put capital preservation ahead of aggressive return strategies. In contrast to last year, 2014 will hardly be a year with a powerful and easy trend to ride. Instead, it will bring much more volatility."
"It may take a few more months until the dimension of risk in the credit system become more visible, but I expect this to be on the table in the second half at the latest, when the price of gold should be higher again."
Take your pick of which "confidence" measure you choose to watch to confirm your previous "common knowledge" meme. Unsurprisingly, the government's own Conference Board indicator provides the highest level of confidence relative to recent months but today's beat by UMich (81.2 flat from last month but above 80.2 expectations) is the highest overall level among the indices. It seems not even the weather can dampen the enthusiasm of the US consumer (who is retail spending at a dismally low level?) Hardly surprising is the fact that the tumble in the current conditions index was entirely dissolved by the hope for the economic outlook which stands at 6 month highs! Short-dated inflation expectations also ticked up. Of course what really matters is keeping the dream alive that multiple-expanding confidence will cover up any and all missed expectations in macro and micro data.
Investors said Sayonara to the crucial 102.00 level for USDJPY tonight and while S&P 500 futures are leaking lower (down 7 points from their earlier highs), the Nikkei 225 has collapsed over 430 points and is pressing one-week lows. This is the lowest the Nikkei 225 has been relative to the Dow in 8 months. With the Nikkei at one-week lows, its now 700 points below the post-Yellen exuberance; and the broader TOPIX Index is down 4.25% from Tueaday's post-Yellen highs.
With so much of the recent bad news roundly ignored or simply "priced in" and blamed on the snow, it is unknown just what it is that catalyzed the overnight round of risk-offness, but whatever the ultimate factor, it first dragged the Nikkei lower by 1.8%, as we noted previously, then sent the SHCOMP down by 0.55%, then ultimately dragged the USDJPY below the key 102 support area which in turn pulled US equity futures to set the scene for a red open (with no POMO and no Yellen testimony today which also was canceled due to snow), and, putting it all together, suddenly Europe too is back on the scene, with a blow out in Italian yields driven by the realization that the Letta government is on the edge of collapse, in a deja vu moment to those hot summers of 2011 and 2012.
Unfortunately many investors, with central banks having slashed deposit rates to de minimis levels, have gone ‘all-in’ with regard to risk assets in the desperate pursuit of yield. Be careful what you wish for. It is quite clear that central banks will do literally anything within their power to attempt to avert deflation – to ensure that “it cannot happen here”. That does not mean they will succeed – but they may end up destroying fiat currencies in the process (one of the reasons we have consistently held gold). It is “quite obvious” what the Fed will ultimately do... Six years into this crisis, and in the words of Lily Tomlin, things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.
While January was a bad month for the market, it was certainly one which the majority of hedge funds would also rather forget as we showed yesterday. So with volatility, the lack of a clear daily ramp higher (with the exception of the last 4 days which are straight from the 2013 play book), and, worst of all, that Old Normal staple - risk - back in the picture. what is a collector of 2 and 20 to do (especially since in the post-Steve Cohen world, one must now make their money the old-fashioned way: without access to "expert networks")? For everyone asking this question, here is Deutsche Bank with its take on which will be the best and worst performing strategies of 2014. So without further ado, here is the Deutsche Bank Asset and Wealth Management's forecast of hedge fund performance matrix...
Gold has rallied another 1.2% today and touched resistance at $1,294/oz during Yellen's first testimony to Congress. Gold is testing resistance between $1,294/oz and $1,300/oz. A close above $1,300 should see gold quickly rally to test the next level of resistance at $1,360/oz.
A sneaky overnight levitation pushed the Spoos above 1800 thanks to a modest USDJPY run (as we had forecast) despite, or maybe due to, the lack of any newsflow, although today's first official Humphrey Hawkins conference by the new Fed chairman, Janet Yellen, before the House and followed by the first post-mortem to her testimony where several prominent hawks will speak and comprising of John B. Taylor, Mark A. Calabria, Abby M. McCloskey, and Donald Kohn, could promptly put an end to this modest euphoria. Also, keep in mind both today, and Thursday, when Yellens' testimoeny before the Senate takes place, are POMO-free days. So things may get exciting quick, especially since as Goldman's Jan Hatzius opined overnight, the third tapering - down to $55 billion per month - is on deck.
US equity markets traded in a narrow range ahead of tomorrow's Yellen testimony with Trannies underperforming and Nasdaq outperforming. Cross-asset-class correlations picked up from their negligible levels on Friday as JPY (and increasingly 5Y bonds) are linked at the hip with stocks. The S&P cash tested almost up to 1,800 (but failed at 1799.94) then faded. Notably from the European close, equity handily outperformed credit markets - which ended closing near their wides of the day. Treasuries ended the day modestly bid (30y -2bps) but T-Bill yields are starting to reflect debt-ceiling concerns. The USD closed unch - drifting lower from overnight strength - but gold and silver rallied on the day (though faded of early highs). Late-day ramp efforts got the S&P green but failed to cross 1,800... and VIX decoupled on the ramp.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
Although there are no policy making meetings, central banks will still dominate the agenda in the week ahead.