Another conspiracy "theory" becomes conspiracy "fact" as The FT reports "a cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets." The report, to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), confirms $29.1tn in market investments, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries, which "could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices." China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become “the world’s largest public sector holder of equities”, according to officials, and we suspect the Fed is close behind (courtesy of more levered positions at Citadel), as the world's banks try to diversify themselves and "counters the monopoly power of the dollar." Which leaves us wondering where are the central bank 13Fs?
It's one of those days: despite the Iraq conflict spilling out of control and about to involve US drones and warplanes, despite China's naval conflict with Vietnam over an oil rig in disputed territory set to go "kinetic" at any moment, despite the Ukraine civil war having its deadliest day yet this weekend and adding insult to injury Russia halting gas supplies to Ukraine (letting Kiev and Berlin fight for the scraps), despite crude prices rising ever higher and about to unleash a "discretionary income" shockwave on America's summertime motorists, despite yet another massive tax inversion M&A deal in which the buyer has made abundantly clear its stock is overvalued and will be used as the purchasing currency, stocks are inexplicably not at all time highs this morning.
"The government bond markets right now present one of the most one sided trades I've ever seen in my professional life."
Believe it or not, the main driver of risk overnight had nothing to do with Iraq, with the global economy or even with hopes for more liquidity, and everything to do with a largely meaningless component of Japan's future tax policy, namely whether or not Abe (who at this pace of soaring imported inflation and plunging wages won't have to worry much about 2015 as he won't be PM then) should cut the corporate tax rate in 2015. As Bloomberg reported, Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo today after a meeting with Finance Minister Taro Aso and Economy Minister Akira Amari, said the plan would bring the rate under 30 percent in a few years. He said alternative revenue will be secured for the move, which requires approval from the Diet.
It seems blood on Iraq streets and infringements near oil reserves is enough to pop crude oil price, break the airlines bubble, stall the Trannies unstoppable surge, and spark volume selling through the US equity markets. We will be reassured that this is a buying opportunity and that 'nothing fundamental has changed' and the US is 'the cleanest dirty shirt' but when the Chinese are tamping down carry with flip-flopping CNY fixes, the ECB has shot his mini-bazooka, and we know the Fed ain't un-tapering anytime soon (as they are fearsome of complacency and financial fragility), it makes one wonder if the corporate buyback machine can overwhelm the geopolitical-risk selling pressure of the rest of the world. Trannies dropped to their worst day in 4 months as all major US equities reversed any Draghi gains. Treasuries were well bid (-6bps and lower in yield on the week) as gold also benefited from safe haven status rising up to $1275. Copper slipped further south. Oil was the big news, spiking up to $106.70 (9 month highs). It's not Tuesday - what did you expect? (and remember there are no Friday POMOs in June).
Volume is well above average pro rata as US equity markets are stumbling notably this morning. Was retail sales' miss the final straw that broke the hope back? Or was it China's CNY vol, failed auction, warehouse probe, or Japan's dismal data and misery, or Iraq's reignition, or Ukraine, or Q1 GDP downgrades, or earnings outlook downward revisions, or flows? Since Mario Draghi promised the world and made everyone believe that's what he gave them, US equity markets have rolled over hard today and Dow Transports are now notably in the red as the former high-flier unbreakable trend looks set to follow Biotechs in the momo meltdown club...
While the turmoil in Iraq continues to rise, US equity markets have brushed off most of the geopolitical concerns (more worried about dismal retail sales than the surge in oil prices that is now happening) but bond traders did not wait to sell. Iraq's bond prices have plunged in the last 2 days as concerns that fighting will reach the oil-rich regions of the nation (and thus the money). As Aberdeen Asset Management's Anthony Simond told Bloomberg, "if violence can stay away from the oil region, you'll probably see a rebound in prices; the ability to pay is there... and the willingness to pay for the moment."
With another day of little otherwise completely irrelevant macro news (because following last night's abysmal Australian jobs data one would think the AUD would be weaker; one would be wrong), market participants - all 3 of them - and algos (which have finally uncovered where Iraq is on google maps) are finally turning their attention to the latest conflict in Iraq (because they obviously no longer care about the martial law in Thailand or the civil war in Ukraine), where the Al Qaeda spin off ISIS overnight seized at least 310K B/D in refinery capacity in northern Iraq according to the Police, and what is more concerning, is now less than a 100 kilometers away from Baghdad. Will ISIS dare to venture further south? Keep an eye on crude for the answer.
Many of you probably heard the news yesterday that teachers unions received a nasty (and well-deserved) blow from the Los Angeles Superior Court. So when I was listening to the radio yesterday, and the reporter was saying that California teachers are granted "tenure at eighteen...." I naively assumed the next word was going to be "years." Nope. It was "months." After just eighteen months, these people get what is effectively guaranteed lifetime employment. Even, as in the court's case, the teacher just sleeps at their desk or browses the web.
Overnight saw China spook its markets by weakening the CNY (and breaking the trend again) and suffering a failed bond auction and that led on to weakness across Europe as USDJPY toyed with 102 and dragged stocks and peripheral bonds down. The US opened weak, saw the usual buying spree jerked higher by JPY then as the budge deficit hit (reducing room for monetization money) stocks tumbled to the session's lows and red fo rthe week. Of course that will never do and at around 330ET, as usual, the buying panic began (though in a tiny range). US cash equity markets saw a double dump-and-pump but were unable to scramble back to the green by the close. The USD closed unchanged as EUR tested once again down to Draghi spike lows. Gold and silver closed unch (with a midday dump of $175 million notional in gold futs); oil flatlined (iraq vs world bank) and copper slid (China). Treasury yields closed 2bps lower with the belly outperforming. VIX was slammed at 330 but stocks could not hold their gaisn as The Dow had its worst day in 3 weeks.
The FOMC should (and might) accelerate the pace of QE reductions to $15 billion on Wednesday (June 18th). Furthermore, at its meeting on July 30th, the FOMC could – and should -announce a similar-sized reduction for the subsequent two months. Hence, the Fed would not have to wait until its September 17th meeting to announce the final leg. QE would then end two months earlier at the end of August rather than the end of October as markets currently expect. Such a path would generally afford the FOMC more freedoms, particularly at the September17th press conference meeting. There are of plenty of reasons to justify such a move...
Yesterday's market action was perfectly predictable, and as we forecast, it followed the move of the USDJPY almost to a tick, which with the help of a last minute VIX smash (just when will the CFTC finally look at the "banging the close" in the VIX by the NY Fed?) pushed the DJIA to a new record high, courtesy of the overnight USDJPY selling which in turn allowed all day buying of the key carry pair. Fast forward to today when once again we have a replica of the set up: a big overnight dump in USDJPY has sent the dollar-yen to just over 102.000. And since Nomura has a green light by the BOJ to lift every USDJPY offer south of 102.000 we expect the USDJPY to once again rebound and push what right now is a weak equity futures session (-8) well above current levels. Unless, of course, central banks finally are starting to shift their policy, realizing that they may have lost control to the upside since algos no longer care about warnings that "volatility is too low", knowing full well the same Fed will come and bail them out on even the tiniest downtick. Which begs the question: is a big Fed-mandated shakeout coming? Could the coming FOMC announcement be just the right time and place for the Fed to surprise the market out of its "complacency" and whip out an unexpected hawk out of its sleeve?
"Treasury-selling" Tuesday came and went and for the 2nd week in a row, bond yields rose (+2-3bps) following the 7th losing Monday in a row. Equity markets languished amid dismal volumes but were rangebound all day apart form AUDJPY and VIX-driven pumps to try and close green and keep the Tuesday dream alive (and the running count of new all-time highs). The USD jumped once again as EUR tested lower (near Draghi spike lows). Gold and silver saw a squeeze higher at the open this morning and maintained gains (as fears of CCFD unwinds spread) but copper rose as WTI crude touched 9-month highs then reversed sharply lower. As we forecast this morning, a mid-day VIX plunge and late-day JPY tumble (and another VIX plunge) sparked just enough exuberant buying panic among the machines to manipulate stocks to a green close and save the Tuesday plan. Stocks have fallen only 2 days in the last 3 weeks...
Moments ago, St. Louis Fed president Bullard gave one of his signature yellow-backgrounded presentations to the Tennessee Bankers Association Annual Meeting taking place at the favorited by 1%-ers everywhere Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. The bulk of his presentation is the usual trite platitudes, but he did have some chose comments, such as:
- BULLARD: FED SHOULDN'T BE `INTERVENING' ALL THE TIME IN MARKETS
So just intervene from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm in the US equity market? But what will those who have been screaming about rigged, manipulated, broken US equity markets rail about if the Fed isn't intervening all the time in "markets", and if some semblance of normalcy, even if highly crashy, returns?
With the VIX smashing last week to levels not seen since early 2007, the S&P rising to all time highs, and European core and peripheral bond yield this morning touching historic lows, it would appear that the "market" has priced in every possible negative outcome. Which, as Goldman showed over the weekend is clearly not the case at least as investors are concerned who continued to sell stocks across the board in May even as the market broke out to record levels making many wonder who is buying stocks (for more read here)? Expect more of the same, and with some luck we will get a single digit VIX in the coming days as newsflow slows down following payrolls week and ahead of the world cup start in Brazil.