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.
If predicting yesterday's EURUSD (and market) reaction to the ECB announcement was easy enough, today's reaction to the latest "most important ever" nonfarm payrolls number (because remember: with the Fed getting out of market manipulation, if only for now, it is imperative that the economy show it can self-sustain growth on its own even without $85 billion in flow per month, which is why just like the ISM data earlier this week, the degree of "seasonal adjustments" are about to blow everyone away) should be just as obvious: since both bad news and good news remain "risk-on catalysts", and since courtesy of Draghi's latest green light to abuse any and every carry trade all risk assets will the bought the second there is a dip, the "BTFATH mentality" will be alive in well. It certainly was overnight, when the S&P500 rose to new all time highs despite another 0.5% drop in the Shcomp (now barely holding on above 2000), and a slight decline in the Nikkei (holding on just over 15,000).
No matter what, SocGen sees US equity performance over the next 10 years as modest at best. They note that US equities face three headwinds: cyclically-adjusted valuations (CAPE, starting date 1881) have returned to very expensive territory, corporate margins stand at historically high levels, and after already five years of growth from the 2009 trough, we estimate that the probability of another recession kicking in is close to 100% within the forecast timeframe (the longest cycle ever was 120 months, or 10 years). While their central case is 'moderate growth and inflation', they project a possible high growth surge to 4000 for the S&P 500 and a deflation scenario which would put the S&P 500 at 500 (-12% per annum).
Borrowing heavily from Albert Edwards "Ice Age" analogy of our new normal, PIMCO's Bill Gross, after explaining why he does not have a cell phone, discusses the "frigidly low" levels of "The New Neutral" in this week's letter. Confirming Ben Bernanke's "not in my lifetime" promise for low rates and a lack of normalization, Gross explains that the "the new neutral" real policy rate will be close to 0% as opposed to 2-3% (just as in Japan) leaving an increasingly small incremental rise in rates as potentially responsible for popping the bubble. Gross concludes, "if 'The New Neutral' rates stay low, it supports current prices of financial assets. They would appear to be less bubbly," clearly defending the valuation of bonds knowing that he can't expose stocks as 'bubbly' without exposing his firm to more outflows.
In today's abnormally quiet overnight session one could hear a pin, or the USDJPY, drop: with everyone focusing on the ECB announcement in one hour, not a single algo is willing to make any big moves, or even start some momentum ignition, ahead of Draghi's announcement, which absent launching full scale QE, which it won't, will be a disappointment which means the EUR will ultimatly move higher after a kneejerk lower as the market forces Super Mario to do even more next time. As Bloomberg adds, a cut in refi and deposit rates is fully priced in and latest price action suggests investors brace for disappointment if ECB stops short of signaling asset purchases or other liquidity measures to combat deflation.
Shitty macro data, check; VIX up, check; Bond yields flat to lower, check; Oil down, check; New Record Highs in the S&P 500 - of course. AAPL was up again as we suspect the world of levered momo players are greatly rotating back into this old hedge fund hotel once again (and lifting the indices with them). Trannies closed red for the 2nd day in a row (first time in 3 weeks). Once again the opening dip was BTFATH back up on no volume thanks to USDJPY's ignition and once Europe closed, stocks went sideways. Copper was clubbed on warehousing concerns. With Draghi about to unveil his holy grail tomorrow, the EUR was flat but protection in volatility was well bid in FX and equity markets. Oil prices (growth?) tumbled after chatter of Ukraine-Russia talks. Gold and silver closed flat as did Treasuries - after catching up to equities from last week. Credit markets faded despite the equity exuberance today. It seems simply that no one is willing to sell anything ahead of tomorrow's grand unveiling (but derivatives protection - away from the simple gaze of the mainstream media - is very active).
If yesterday's non-record, red-tick close can be attributed to algos applying the wrong ISM seasonal factor to the day, believing it was Wednesday instead of the permabullish Tuesday, today there is no such excuse, which is why we fully expect the unallowed redness with which futures are currently trading to promptly morph into a non-red color especially with the USDJPY doing it best to ramp to 103.000 levels overnight, stopping out all shorts, and push spoos to fresh record highs. It is an algo world after all. It appears that already record low volatility is being pushed even lower in anticipation of numerous imminent data releases, including today's ADP and Services ISM (first, second and final release), tomorrow's ECB announcement and Friday's payrolls number. Which while good for low volume levitation means bank trading revenues continue to deteriorate forcing banks to pitch M&A deals to clients, which in turn result in even more synergies and more layoffs: because in order to preserve the bottom line, crushing real employment further is perfectly acceptable collateral damage.
Broad US equity markets stumbled out of the gate this morning but it's Tuesday so the BTFT traders rescued it. However, when news of 2 downed helicopters in Ukraine hit, stocks tumbled once again with Russell 2000 (small caps) and Dow Transports (the highest hig beta recently) getting slammed... USDJPy ramp efforts continue to save us from terrible Tuesday. Bonds and FX are not reacting so far...
Considering that both key overnight news reports: the Chinese HSBC PMI (printing at 49.4, vs 49.7 expected) and the Eurozone CPI print from a few hours ago (print of 0.5%, down from 0.7% and below the 0.6% expected), we find it odd that futures are red: after all this is precisely that kind of negative data that has pushed the market to record highs over the past five years. And speaking of odd, considering the ongoing non-dis-deflation in Europe, the fact that Bunds and TSYs are being sold off today makes perfect sense in a New Normal bizarro world.