As Icahn was selling, or just before as we don't know precisely when Icahn, who has since indicated he has turned massively bearish on the overall market, one entity was buying every AAPL share it could find. In fact, according to its latest 13F, everyone's favorite central bank that openly admits it is also a wholesale buyer of stocks (with a portfolio of some $100 billion), the Swiss National Bank reveals that in Q1 it bought another 4.1 million in AAPL shares, bringing its total to a record 14.5 milion shares.
Global stocks have started Friday the 13th on the wrong foot, with not only Hong Kong GDP unexpectedly tumbling by 0.4%, the worst print in years while retail sales fell for a thirteenth straight month in March, the longest stretch since 1999 as the Chinese hard landing spreads to the wealthy enclave, but also following a predicted collapse in Chinese new loan creation, which will reverberate not only in China but around the globe in the coming weeks. The latest overnight drop in the Yuan hinted that should the recent USD strength continue, China will have no choice but to repeat its devaluation from last summer and winter.
What is taking place in the macro economy is a true demand death spiral and this can be seen very clearly by using Proctor & Gamble’s microeconomic context as a representative model. If one steps back and simply looks at the accuracy of the world’s prominent PhD economists and market pros’ predictions over the past 7 years one can’t help but shake one’s head. And we believe investors have become wise to their ignorance. We’ve seen a record 15 consecutive weeks of net selling of equities despite these expert pundits continuing on in their attempt to deceive investors into believing we are just one or two quarters away from that (now) proverbial recovery.
Following last week's Sohn Conference, where the overarching theme was one of prevailing bearishness topped by Stanley Druckenmiller's near-apocalyptic forecast that only gold will be left standing after all confidence evaporates in the "magic people" known as central bankers, yesterday some 1,800 hedge fund industry executives gathered in Las Vegas at the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference or SALT, where the prevalent concern about the future of the world continued, driven primarily by worries about China.
"My fear is that central banks are now taking this too far through negative interest rates in particular and that they’re going to literally destroy their own banking systems. If they’re actually successful in generating higher inflation, then they’re going to destroy their own bond markets... our government officials, and I will include the Federal Reserve in that, have failed the American people."
Why central planning efforts will ultimately backfire - Anyone involved with managing projects, people or systems knows that the only thing that can be planned with absolute certainty is that things will never go 100% according to plan. History is full of examples where governments' best-laid plans failed in spectacular fashion, exacerbating the very problems they were intending to solve. Here are a few of our favorites...
"U.S. economic recovery remains fragile, and downside risks to the economy are still present. Provided the data improve, the Council believes one or two well-timed and well-communicated increases in the federal funds rate between now and year-end would be prudent to accomplish the Fed’s mandates, enhance central bank credibility, and create policy latitude in the event of an unexpected economic downturn."
In what has been an approximate repeat of the Monday overnight session, global stocks and US futures rose around the world as oil prices climbed toward $44 a barrel, with risk-sentiment pushed higher by another plunge in the Yen which has now soared 300 pips since the Friday post-payroll kneejerk reaction, and was trading above 109.20 this morning. At the same time base metals regained some of Monday’s steep losses following Chinese CPI data that came in line while PPI declined for 50 consecutive months however showed a modest rebound from the prior month on the back of China's recent, and now burst, speculative commodity bubble.
"If we have borrowed more from our future than any time in history and markets value the future, we should be selling at a discount, not a premium to historic valuations... Overconfidence and over valuation always extract a terrible payback."
The overnight session has been one of alternative weakness and strength: it started in China where stocks tumbled 2.8% to a two month low following some unexpected warnings in the official People's Daily newspaper and poor trade data. Concerns about China, however, were promptly forgotten and certainly not enough to keep global assets lower, with European stocks gapping higher at the open and rallying from a one-month low, driven by a "surprising" surge in the USDJPY which has moved nearly 200 pips higher since its post-payrolls low. Another driver is the jump in oil, which rallied just shy of $46 a barrel, buoyed by Canadian wildfires that are curbing production and speculation that the Saudi Arabian oil minister succession will be bullish for oil prices.
"The lack of progress and volatility in global equity markets the past year, which often precedes a major trend change, suggests that their risk/reward is negative without substantially lower prices and/or structural reform. Don’t hold your breath for the latter. While policymakers have no end game, markets do."
"Saudi Arabia will maintain its stable petroleum policies. We remain committed to maintaining our role in international energy markets and strengthening our position as the world's most reliable supplier of energy," Khalid al-Falih said in an e-mailed statement. "We are committed to meeting existing and additional hydrocarbons demand from our expanding global customer base, backed by our current maximum sustainable capacity."