The markets are all about timing. In this case, 55 weeks.
If there is one dominant consensus in the financial sphere, it is that the Federal Reserve's $85 billion/month bond-and-mortgage-buying "quantitative easing" will inevitably send stocks higher. The general idea is that the Fed buys the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds from the banks, which turn around and dump the cash into "risk on" assets like equities (stocks). This consensus can be summarized in the time-worn phrase, "Don't fight the Fed." This near-universal confidence in a QE-goosed stock market is reflected in the low level of volatility (the VIX) and other signs of complacency such as relatively few buyers of put options, which are viewed as "insurance" against a decline in stocks. The usual sentiment readings are bullish as well.
But what if QE fails to send stocks higher? Is such a thing even possible? Yes, it does seem "impossible" in a market as rigged and centrally managed as this one, but there are a handful of reasons why QE might not unleash a flood of cash into "risk on" assets every month from now until Doomsday
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Leonardo Fibonacci (1170-1250) may have just stuck his 'golden-ratio-based' fork in the equity market's rally. As the following chart shows, the diminishing marginal utility of Quantitative Easing's wealth effect has followed a rather remarkable pattern... and today marks the next turning point.
Do you believe in miracles? Well, all those managers who were long the QE-sensitive darlings of Financials, Materials, and Consumer Discretionary into the month can breath a collective unchanged sigh of relief - thanks to last week's Draghi drag higher. The Energy sector managed a stupendous 4.9% gain on the month. The S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq all finished about 1-1.4% higher on the month (while Dow Transports ended -2.3%) as we came close to some Hindenberg Omens in the last few days. Today's market felt like the start of a sell-the-news day as we leaked back to the edge of the Friday cliff in S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) - with an after-day-session-close snap down to catch-down to where risk-assets had broadly been biased all day - amid huge volume (leaving ES below its recent swing highs and Fibonacci levels). Commodities generally slid lower but WTI led the way ending down over 3% from Friday's close. Gold, Silver, and Copper all slid even as USD slid lower too. Treasury yields fell back retracing about half of the post-Draghi sell-off. VIX ended testing 19% into the close, up almost 1vol as the term-structure flattened ahead of the events of the next couple of days. The massive rip in volume at the close (and 5pt drop in ES) suggest plenty of short-term exits ahead of the fun-and-games of the next two days and certainly Treasuries were sending similar derisking signals.
CRAAPL taketh and Draghi giveth it all back. The question remains - given all the front-running anticipatory moves on the back of jawbone after jawbone, will ECB/Fed action have anything but a brief romance with higher prices when/if it occurs? The S&P 500 pushed up to fill its Monday opening gap-down on a reasonable volume day (heading into T-3 from month-end shenanigans) but the participation is absolutely not what one would expect if this was belief with S&P 500 e-mini futures seeing their lowest average trade size of the year. Gold was a winner again as the USD was sold against everything. Treasuries gave back some of their gains - yields leaking higher by around 3-5bps at the mid- to long-end. Credit and equity stayed largely in sync but the former was quiet and likely being reracked more than traded as it gapped at the open and stayed there. Stocks took off from their broad-risk-asset peers from the day-session open, retested VWAP, then pushed back to highs into the close - ending well above risk-assets' view of the world as correlations fell modestly. VIX ended the day down 2 vols at 17.5% but was unable to close the gap to Friday's close like stocks - which closed (rather coincidentally, given month-end, at June's closing price)
Stepping back from the trees to survey the forest (from the Moon perhaps) often provides some clarifying picture-paints-a-thousand-words view of the world. This is exactly what Citi's Rick Lorusso has done and while he called for a correction back in March which was followed by a 10.9% drop in the Dow, he was disappointed and is looking for a far greater adjustment - no matter how many times he hears about negative sentiment and QE and soft-landings. Starting from a truly long-term yearly chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Lorusso conjures wave patterns, Fibonnacci, and cycles as he rotates down to monthly and daily charts to conclude that his charts "suggest the potential for a very significant high this year," in the July/August period, summarizing that Citi is "anticipating that the market will form a terminal high." - even more so on a rally from here as he warns "beware of new highs" so bulls be careful what you wish for.
Early weakness in Treasuries (rising yields) and an acceleration in WTI prices back over $80 provided the 'contextual' support for an almost perfect 38.2% retracement bounce in S&P 500 e-mini futures today. Key support/resistance at the 1330 level was restested on dismal volume with a late-day surge but average trade size and activity picked up rather notably into the bell and ES cracked back almost 7 points to a 'mysterious' VWAP close. HYG outperformed today (as did VXX - and implicitly VIX which closed around 18% dropping 2 vols) but it appeared medium-term that equities were reverting to HYG's less sanguine view of the last month rather than HYG really leading. Financials were strong performers but all of those gains were at the open with XLF (and JPM which was unable to break VWAP in the afternoon) unch from 930ET and MS/GS/BAC/C all down 0.7% to 1.6% from the open (with a late day give back). Gold, Silver, and Copper are pretty much unchanged from the 4pmET close levels of yesterday while WTI is up over 2% closing back above $80. The long-bond underperformed +7bps on the day but outperformed on the week (as the 7Y and 10Y underperformed on the week) and provided the support for equity's levitation but this seemed as much QE-hope unwind as any implicit weakness. FX markets were dead with slight strength in AUD and EUR and weakness in JPY as USD basically trod water +0.8% on the week.
Global gold demand continues to surprise to the upside – especially sizeable demand from the Middle East and China. Confirmation of continuing huge demand in China came yesterday with data showing that Hong Kong shipped 101,768 kilograms of gold to mainland China in April, up 62% on the month - marking the second-highest monthly exports ever. While demand from India continues it has fallen from the record levels recently but demand from other Asian countries is robust with reports of demand in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. A new and potentially significant source of demand is that of demand from Iran. Iran imported a massive $1.2 billion worth of precious metals from Turkey in April alone. Turkish exports of gold, precious metals, pearls and coins to Iran rose to $1.2 billion in April from a tiny $7,500 a year earlier, according to figures released by the state statistics institute in Ankara yesterday. This is a massive increase in demand and suggests that there may be official involvement in the imports from the Central Bank of Iran.
With the EUR imploding following the recent note out of witchhunt target extraordinaire Egan-Jones, and the apparent inability of the ECB to handle the sandtrap on the 18th (they were supposed to announce the magical mystical bailout announcement 20 minutes ago), it makes sense to check up on the most recent InTrade odds for a [Insert first two letters of a peripheral European country]-xit, or, technically, the odds"Any country currently using the Euro to announce intention to drop it before midnight ET 31 Dec 2012." As of minutes ago, this number was 40%. This, however, appears to be a simple Fibonacci retracement to the all time high of 60% seen last November. And while we don't have an opinion one way or another, this level certainly provides pair trade opportunities: recall that according to Buiter, Greece is out by January 1, 2013, so technically a 100% probability, while the ECB gives 0% odds of a Grexit, ever. In other words, two pair trades of Buying ECB while Shorting InTrade, and Buying InTrade while Shorting Citi, virtually guarantees profits.
Gold hit a 4 month low today despite deepening worries that the political upheaval in Greece may sink the country into chaos and endanger the euro zone's efforts to end the debt crisis – possibly leading to contagion and or a monetary crisis. Some decent demand from South East Asia has been reported at the $1,600/oz level and there are also reports from Reuters of a “semi-official buyer of gold” emerging “on dip below $1,600/oz”. Gold’s weakness yesterday may have been again due to dollar strength and oil weakness - oil is now below $97 a barrel (NYMEX). It may also have been due to wholesale liquidation which created a new bout of "risk off" which has seen global equities and commodities all come under pressure. However, gold’s weakness yesterday was also contributed to by more unusual trading activity. As trading in New York got underway, there was an unusually large bout of selling with some 6,000 gold futures contracts sold in minutes and this led to gold's initial $10 fall to the $1,615/oz level. Momentum driven algorithm trading may have then led to follow through selling and the initial sell off may have emboldened tech traders to sell more leading to the falls below $1,600/oz.
WTI Crude dropped its most in almost five months today, losing around 2.5%, beginning its descent after Draghi somewhat disappointed a hungry markets this morning (after better-than-expected claims data). Silver (which recoupled with Gold today) and Copper also started their drops at that point and extended the losses after the ISM Services miss. Gold leaked lower (though not as much as the rest of the commodity complex) even as the USD (which had been following its typical path of strengthening through the EU day session) dropped as an expectant EUR popped on no rate cuts. Stocks started their slide at the same time but broad risk-assets were in general leading equities lower (more carry FX and commodities than Treasuries today). We had a little bounce in stocks into the European close (up to VWAP) but that quickly fell back, lost today's lows, then broke yesterday's lows heading for one-week lows and the S&P 500's 50DMA. AAPL lost its 50DMA and closed there for the first time since earnings. After some noise around the macro data (and Draghi) this morning, Treasuries were extremely flat - trading in a very narrow range all afternoon - as did FX in general but AUD kept leaking lower (down 2% on the week now) and JPY stable on the week. Equities and credit re-converged today and late in the afternoon as ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures) caught up to the downside of broad risk assets and stabilized in the late day ahead of tomorrow's noisy and meaningless NFP print. ES volume was average as it traded closest to its 50DMA in a week (and dropped the most in 8 days today closing near its lows of the day) and VIX, while off its highs of the day, closed above 17.5% - its highest close in over a week. While stocks are short-term in line with risk-assets, over the medium-term they remain notably expensive (especially to Treasuries since last week).
There continues to be no coverage of silver in the non specialist financial media and little coverage of silver in the specialist financial media. However, both the Financial Times and Bloomberg cover silver today which might be a harbinger of short term weakness. The majority of articles on silver are bearish and most bank analysts remain bearish on silver again in 2012 – as they have been in recent years. Prices will average $37.50/ounce in Q4, according to a survey of 13 analysts by Bloomberg. The lack of coverage of silver and consequent “animal spirits” in the silver market is of course bullish from a contrarian perspective. Analysts look set to get the silver market wrong again as recent rocketing industrial demand for silver, from solar panels to batteries to medical applications and growing investor demand for coins, and small & large bars is “diminishing a supply surplus” according to Nicholas Larkin of Bloomberg. This has led to silver’s best January gains in 30 years with silver up over 20% from below $28/oz to nearly $34/oz. Barclay's estimates that manufacturers will need a 2.5% increase of the metric tons used last year and investment demand continues to grow due to risks posed by both inflation and systemic risks. Silver supply shortages are something we and other analysts who are bullish on silver have been warning of for some time. This is because the silver market is small versus the gold market and tiny versus equity, bond, currency and derivative markets. This is why we believe silver should rise to well over its nominal recent and 1980 high of $50/oz in the coming months.
The Fib retracement from the highs to the lows in the cycle is now nearly 61.8 (at 1,228). The retracement from the highs to the lows in the first wave of the Great Depression peaked just below 61.8. Does history repeat itself, or come in tidy little Fibonacci packages? Are today's math Ph.D.'s even aware of retracements, or do they just know how to buy, buy, buy on ever declining volume?1,228 is the magical number on the S&P. We'll find out soon enough.