As already noted, one piece of good news out of Europe - German GDP (ignore the huge ZEW miss) - was enough to make everyone forget the Italian bank downgrade, and that Greece is one election away from unwinding the EMU. Yet perhaps it is good to have a modest bounce from a market, which however not even Goldman says is oversold: after all the central planners need a day or two to regroup, and consider what currency to crush next to buy the global nominal stock market a few months of breathing room.
Many pixels have been 'spilled' trying to comprehend what exactly JPMorgan were up to, where they are now, and what the response will likely end up becoming. Our note from last week appears, given the mainstream media's 'similar' notes after it, to have struck a nerve with many as both sensible and fitting with the facts (and is well worth a read) but we have been asked again and again for a simplification. So here is our attempt, in 22 simple tweets (or sentences less than 140 characters in length) to describe what the smartest people in the room did and in possibly the most incredible irony ever, how the Fed (and the Central Banks of the world) were likely responsible for it all going pear-shaped for Bruno and Ina. The key factor is that if systemic risk had remained in even a 'normal' range of possible regions based on history, then the JPM CIO office would have had no need to over-hedge their tail-risk hedge position, no greed-driven need to press the momentum, and no need for such an epic collapse as we are seeing now. The point is - this was a trader/manager with a good idea (hedge tail risk) that was executed poorly (and with arrogance) but exaggerated by the unintended consequences of the Central-Banks-of-the-world's actions (and 'models behaving badly' as Derman would say).
The failure to form a coalition government in Greece this weekend has prompted risk averse trade across the asset classes this morning with publications across Europe continuing to speculate about the potential exit of Greece from the Euro-area. As a result of this the Spanish 10yr yield touched 6.2% and the respective spreads over benchmark bunds in Spain and Italy have traded as wide as 30bps so far today. The knock on effect has been a sell-off in the financials which has seen the IBEX and FTSE MIB under perform in the equity markets with a relative safe-haven bid into the USD weighing on crude futures and precious metals. Spanish t-bill auctions and a variety of lines tapped out of Italy did stem the tide after selling around the top end of their indicative ranges but focus will remain solely on Greece given a lack of tier 1 data out of the US. Moving forward the next meeting of party heads in Greece is scheduled to commence at 1730BST, however, the head of the Syriza party has already indicated he will not be attending with the leader of the democratic left suggesting he is doubtful that a coalition can be formed.
Just in case you were wondering if there was any fall-out from the JPM/Iksil debacle. The investment grade credit indices are getting Corzined here from IG9 10Y to the latest and greatest IG18 5Y. Equity markets will not stand idly by as the investment grade credit market violently jerks wider.
There are a lot of moving parts in the Dismal tale of Dimon's demise... Iksil' large size in the market left a mark that hedge funds tried to fix - that was his index trading was making the index extremely rich (expensive) relative to intrinsics (fair-value). That is where the media picked up the story and as we detail below leads us to today. Attempts to hedge his over-hedged positions and/or unwind them impacted the market too much and we suspect created the need for today's admission of guilt. And so, we find ourselves with - net CDS/CDO notionals remain huge (and implicitly on JPM's shoulders), his very recent lack of selling has left the credit index maybe 20bps rich to where it might trade given its rough correlation with the S&P 500 and this would imply at least $3bn of losses already in addition at fair-value. Of course, the situation is far worse because 1) any efforts to unwind such a huge position will lead to the market yawning wide and swallowing him in illiquid bid-ask spreads; and 2) the rest of the world knows their position - so why would the hedge funds not push their position. Note, it is not the instrument that caused this - it is the trader as "you don't hedge risk when you bet on momentum continuing you idiot!"
Equity markets did not disappoint today in their automaton pattern today with the 4th day in a row of buy the morning dip and sell the afternoon rip. Gold was stable (as was the USD) and the S&P 500 rotated back to their reality at the close. Treasuries were notable underperformers today. The Dow just inched into the green, breaking its 6-day losing streak.
A Guide for Those with Much Money and Very Little Patience Whom Want to Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse But Are Afraid to Google It For Fear of DHS Labeling Them A Terrorist.
There was no good news overnight: CSCO (a rather prominent DJIA member) imploded on global demand weakness, China posted a larger than expected trade surplus which however was due to a greater than expected drop in imports, European industrial production was slightly better in Italy but offset by worse than expected news out of France (as for Greece - forget it), while all the attention continues to be focus on how the Greek endgame plays out, and now Spain too. Still, futures are on the cusp of greenness simply because following 6 days of declines stocks are oversold, and will desperately try to rally into any good news: such as initial claims later today, which will once again be spun as "declining" following a bigger upward revision to last week's number, making this week's appear to drop... at least until next week. As usual be on the watch for any erroneous headlines based on spurious rumors out of Greek developments: these tend to more the EURUSD, and thus ES, quite violently.
Investors should be questioning their positive assumptions after the events of the past two weeks. Things have changed a great deal and rumors abound on how the authorities plan to support the market now. At the end of last month, only ten calendar days ago, the perky US equity market, the placid foreign exchange scene, calm credit spreads and rock-bottom volatility implied to us and anyone paying even cursory attention that the world was happy with the way things were turning out in 2012, no matter what the Mayan calendar might be saying. But now, after the Socialist victory in France, the Greek electoral disintegration, the poor US employment numbers and the disastrous European PMI readings the market is very uncertain with the EUR/USD below 1.30, Spanish 10-year Bonds back over 6.00% and equity markets down sharply around the world. Our cyclical analysis finds this weakness very appropriate as we should be in a decline. What makes the ground so uncertain beneath our feet is the reality of our current position: interest rates are at zero, fiscal budgets are stretched to the maximum, total national financial liabilities are at a breaking point and national monetary bases are a multiple of the highest they have ever been. Quite simply, there are no good borrowers. No one wants to loan anyone any money.
Because the market sure could do with some humor on this blood red morning, we bring you FX strategist extraordinaire Thomas Stolper, who sadly does not give us the latest fade trade, but decides instead to come clean with pearls as: "On our EUR/$ forecast, last revised in January, we have been both right and wrong." Surely the "right" part is what he is worried about: after all if Goldman prop (whatever it is called these days) can't take the other side of the clients' trades, nobody gets paid. Yet Tommy still gets paid the big bucks: Why? For insights like these: "Cyclical forces and continued fiscal stress account for the lack of a EUR/$ rally...and we see little chance that they resolve themselves near term for EUR/$ higher." So cutting right to the good stuff: "Our structural, long term thought framework has not changed; we think global macro and flow fundamentals still argue for a weak USD and this theme will likely overwhelm other currency market developments on a one to two year horizon." We get it: the EURUSD can't go higher, but the USD is going lower. Mmmk.
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.