Whether it was stocks, credit, gold, silver, oil, EURUSD, or conk shells, the message we were to believe was clear - BTFD today. As if by clockwork, Europe closed and US equity markets surged - seemingly forgetting that Europe will re-open again tonight but should you need any reassurance of what your pre-assigned Pavlovian role in this tragi-comedic dance-with-the-devil is - we suggest the following clip as a reminder.
Given both the ECB (we must give LTRO time to work) and the Fed (it would be reckless to risk inflation for a few jobs) appear to be disappointing the addicts in the equity markets, perhaps it is time to reflect on what the relative size of the Fed and ECB balance sheets say about the new normal fair-value for EURUSD. Given the current levels, it appears 1.20 is not such a leap of faith here. Or alternatively, assuming all else equal, the market is obviously still pricing $700 billion in more QE by the Fed.
The only relevant section from a just released note by Jan Hatzius titled "Still Dreary" (guess what he is referring to), is the following: "we have stuck with our forecast of some additional monetary easing at the June 19-20 FOMC meeting for now, despite the less-than-encouraging noises from Fed officials in recent weeks. However, it is a close call, and we worry about a re-run of the 2010 and 2011 experience—the last two times Fed officials decided to let a purchase program lapse without having put a successor program in place. In both cases, the economy slowed and financial conditions tightened to a degree that pulled them back into the market before long. It is easy to see how this could happen again, given the renewed turmoil in Europe and the possibility that US markets will ratchet up their concerns about the impending fiscal cliff in the run up to the election. In such an uncertain environment, taking out a bit more insurance still looks like the sensible choice for US monetary policymakers." Replace "US monetary policymakers" with "banker bonuses" and you get the picture. And here is our free tip to Goldman: the Fed has finally understood that in order to surprise the market with more easing it has to, gasp, surprise the market with more easing (and banks obviously have to play along and all act like they don't expect more easing, wink wink). Don't worry Jan - Bernanke knows the game plan and will not leave you hanging. However, as has been constantly repeated, there first has to be a deflationary scare before any announcement: such as oil crumbling, gold plunging, and stocks tumbling. Kinda like today. Who whouda think that Greece would serve the role of Lehman... over and over and over. In the meantime keep an eye on Bill Gross holdings of MBS securities when the April update is announced shortly- we fully expect a new all time record high, not to mention an imminent Hilsenrath Op-Ed suddenly hinting that, forget Twist, the Fed is now outright contemplating full blown MBS and UST LSAPs all over again. Because this time it will be different.
European equity markets are seen trading in negative territory across the board at the midway point as the lack of a Greek governing coalition continues to weigh on sentiment. As such, an earlier Greek T-Bill auction passed by with an unsurprising increase in borrowing costs for the country. The concern over sovereign debt is clear elsewhere, as the spread between peripheral 10-year government bond yields remain wider against the German Bund. Very strong German Industrial Production data has failed to provide relief for the DAX index as concerns on the periphery outweigh the strength in the core. The monthly reading for March beat expectations, coming in at 2.8% against estimates of 0.8%. Overnight reports from the Spanish press concerning a government intervention in the lender Bankia have been denied by the Spanish Ministry, commenting that the aim for the company is a cleanup and restructuring, not a seizure. EU’s Almunia has commented on the developments, saying that it seems likely the bank will receive state aid.
Confirming that the market is now completely insane is a rehash of the actual catalyst data flow: recall that yesterday the one thing that pushed stocks higher, as described in Clutching at Straws, was the surge in German factory orders. Today, we get another huge beat of expectations in German Industrial Production and everything is red. Although now that US traders, most of them originating at Liberty 33, are starting to walk in, we may get yet another of the much anticipated and largely loved turns from a blood red premarket to green everywhere.
After plunging by 19 points in the overnight session, and just touching the 100 DMA, ES has managed to score a recovery, one which has so far clutched at straws, namely stronger than expected German factory orders (+2.2% vs Exp. 0.5%) despite German GDP due in a week which may well push the core European country into the same double dip tsunami which has swept the resto of Europe, if it prints even a slightly negative GDP print. News from Spain that the "bad bank" bailout has started, with Bankia as the first casualty is also lifting spirits as it means that more taxpayer cash will be used to support risk assets. How long this micro euphoria of "bad news is good news" lasts is anyone's guess, but mostly that of the BIS which after failing to defend the 1.3000 EURUSD, has again managed to get the all important pair over the critical support area.
Germany's DAX is the hardest hit so far of the major European equity markets (futures) with a drop of over 2.2% (underperforming the French CAC40 -1.5% for now). The EuroSTOXX 50 is down 2% and reflects the general state of affairs in European equity markets as they open - which is a little worse than the S&P futures market's move since the European close on Friday. European credit markets are very quiet and illiquid thanks to the UK's May-Day celebrations (and its position as hub for CDS market-making) but sovereign bonds are trading across mainland Europe and are being sold relatively hard so far. Spain, Italy, and Greece are underperforming with the former two pushing towards recent wide spreads even if yields remain off recent highs. EURUSD rallied a little off its overnight lows as Europe opens but has started to give back some of those gains. As the cash markets open there is some buying-the-dip pressure in stocks - even as govvies remain offered while financials remain under significant pressure. US equity futures and Treasuries remain in sync as ES limps a little higher off overnight lows.
But I would contend that you need to be careful for what you wish for as something has happened to the relationship between bonds and stocks over the past 2 years.
Stocks are currently priced for a 10% growth rate which makes bonds a safer investment in the current environment which cannot deliver 10% rates of returns. We are no longer in the era of capital appreciation and growth. The “baby boomers” are driving the demand for income which will keep pressure on finding yield which in turn reduces buying pressure on stocks. This is why even with the current stock market rally since the 2009 lows - equity funds have seen continual outflows. The “Capital Preservation” crowd will continue to grow relative to the “Capital Appreciation” crowd.... According to the recent McKinsey study the debt deleveraging cycles, in normal historical recessionary cycles, lasted on average six to seven years, with total debt as a percentage of GDP declining by roughly 25 percent. More importantly, while GDP contracted in the initial years of the deleveraging cycle it rebounded in the later years.
Europe is about to begin its "Audacity of Hope" moment. I'm not sure how markets will react on Monday to the various results. My best guess is that after an initial sell-off we see a rebound. European politicians will start to say the "right" things about working with the new governments. "Growth" will be the most commonly used word. Equities “LOVE” growth. If there is one thing equity markets love, it is the talk of growth, stimulus, of more money being spent. .. Why is everyone so willing to believe Europe can achieve growth? Let's assume that no one ever tried for growth before (though seriously, most policies implement in past 15 years had growth as at least part of the rationale). What experience does Hollande have in creating growth? If growth opportunities are so easy to spot and identity why do we pay 2 and 20 to hedge funds and private equity?... That is the harsh reality. Identifying opportunities just isn't that easy. Figuring out what projects will generate returns that pay for themselves is difficult. A political body with many competing agendas is hardly likely to do better than companies whose whole goal is to find growth opportunities. Corporations have no shortage of cash right now, they have a shortage of growth ideas. .. "Growth" which is really just code for spending, will be a failure. The credit markets will see it sooner than equities, but equities will eventually see it too. Saying you are going to become an actress is really easy. Moving to L.A. in an effort to become an actress is a bit more difficult but still relatively easy. Becoming an actress is really hard! Growth won't buy years. It might not even buy months. Like so much else through the entire crisis, the markets are willing to suspend their disbelief on the back of attractive headlines. In the end, the actual plans disappoint. Not because the politicians aren't good at making plans, but because the original announcements never had a chance of being implement and the suspension of disbelief (or critical thinking) was the market's real mistake.
Gold is down 1.6% on the week. The gold market has seen peculiar, lack lustre, low volume trading this week punctuated with sudden, oddly timed, very large sell orders. This leads to quick price falls followed either by slow, gradual recovery or a sharp bounce, prior to next bout of strangely timed sudden large sell orders.
This was clearly seen by the mysterious and massive $1.24 billion ‘Goldfinger’ trade on Monday.
Sunday marks the day in Greece, France, parts of Italy and Spain. May 6 will stand out perhaps as the day when the fortunes of Europe were reversed and if not reversed; re-programmed. There has been a lot of talk about this of course and a lot of speculation in the Press and, one would think, that it had all been discounted by the markets but not so fast. The discount will only go as far as the political implications are generally understood and we would submit that the particularities of the European elections are not well understood at all. We think the markets’ reaction is a first blush notion which does not get close to the more pressing questions of what some of the potential changes in power will mean past the revelry of the election night parties. Mr. Hollande, in fact, represents the wave that is sweeping all across Europe which is a return to Nationalism, to tribal pride, to economic self-protection as the European Recession, as driven by the “austerity measures” and fiscal restrictions imposed by Berlin deepen both the economic travails and the reaction to finding your nation under the economic jack boots of Berlin. All of the changes of guard in Europe are going to have a profound effect upon the marketplace in my view. There will be a widening of credit/risk spreads, a decline in the equity markets, a decline of the Euro against the Dollar as Fear climbs back in the driver’s seat and as uncertainty is the prevalent theme of each day.
Here is what happened in Europe overnight, and why the market sentiment is already negative in advance of an NFP number which many are watching closely as a miss of expectations will cement the thesis that the US economy has now rolled over and will likely need more nominally dilutive aid from central planners to regain its upward slope:
- Spain Services PMI for April 42.1 – lower than expected. Consensus 45.4. Previous 46.3.
- Italian Services PMI for April 42.3 – lower than expected. Consensus 43.7. Previous 44.3.
- France Services PMI for April 45.2 – lower than expected. Consensus 46.4. Previous 46.4.
- Germany Service PMI for April 52.2 – lower than expected. Consensus 52.6. Previous 52.6.
- Euro-area Service PMI for April 46.9 – lower than expected. Consensus 47.9. Previous 47.9.
And while the data was bad enough to send European stocks and US stock futures lower, the latest meme spreading as the first US traders walk in, is one of reNEWed QE expectations already, if a very weak one for now.
Here is what Wall Street expects will be announced at 8:30 am Eastern today:
|Bank of America||+155K|
And while as usual the actual number will be largely meaningless, and is merely an indication of our headline chasing nature since as the BLS itself says the error interval is +/- 100,000, a few hnndred purely statistical jobs will make or break the market and send it soaring on either "virtuous circle" expectations, or on NEW QE coming back with a bang.
There are two forthcoming dates which will set the direction and strength of the tide and certainly have a marked affect upon the ventures. They are this Sunday, May 6, when both the French and Greek populace will decide on who is running their government and then on May 31 when the Irish have their refrendum. At the least one must be thankful that there are Democracies that are working and that no group of Generals or some thug is making the decisions. Forthcoming we visualize many Socialist demands such as Eurobonds being made and Germany standing alone in the corner and refusing to fund which will make for all kinds of volatile markets. The bigger crisis though, we fear, will be when Germany says no to funding some grand Socialist idea. The problem is the size of the economy. The German economy is 25% of the American economy and it is going to get down to a matter of capital and what Germany can afford without being downgraded and a European Union without a AAA rated Germany is a very different affair both for the EU’s debt structure and for the Euro. In June the Fed’s Operation Twist comes to an end. There is no new stimulus plan on the table in either America or in Europe now. This means that the last four years of monetary easing and living off of that which has been printed is coming to an end. The consequences of this, historically, have been declines in the equity markets.