As Bill Clinton once famously stated; "What is....is" and while the current market "IS" within a bullish trend currently, it doesn't mean that this will always be the case. This is why, as investors, we must modify Clinton's line to: "What is...is...until it isn't." That thought is the foundation of this weekend's "Things To Ponder." In order to recognize when market dynamics have changed for the worse, we must be aware of the risks that are currently mounting.
Despite stocks being at record highs, sell-side strategists proclaiming today's jobs report as great, and the Fed comfortable tapering in the face of transitory weather-related macro weakness, the following chart suggests all is not well... Echoing Irving Fisher, it appears we have reached a permanently high plateau in the duration of unemployment in America...
While Janet Yellen fell back on the ubiquitous central banker statement that she "would do all that [she] can" it was Dallas Fed's Richard Fisher who raised the most eyebrows yesterday. In a speech in Mexico City, the central banker said he was concerned about "eye-popping levels" of some stock market metrics warning that the Fed must monitor the signs carefully to ensure bubbles were not forming. While other Fed members have paid lip-service to bubbles, Fisher explicitly discussed stocks in the context of the dot-com boom of the late '90s warning of "the ghost of 'irrational exuberance'" and worried about corporate bonds too.
Following yesterday's abysmal employment and service data which led to an unchanged close it quite clear that the market has returned to a mode where it ignores all newsflow - at least the bad, which is due to the weather, the good news is due to the recovery - and instead is simply driven by such "fundamental drivers" as the momentum and position of the Yen carry trade. And overnight the USDJPY positively exploded following news that the Japan advisory committee has decided the nation's pension fund, the GPIF, does' t need a domestic bond focus. Implicitly this means that the GPIF will soon be able to purchase stocks like Facebook and Tesla, which is a guaranteed way of generated short-term gains and longer-term total losses for the Japanese pensioners. Of course, when the latter happens, nobody will have been able to foresee it and some scapegoat somewhere will be summarily fired. As for what this means for futures, the drift higher has made SPOOs rise once more and at last check was just below if not at new all time highs on an ongoing barrage of increasingly negative macro news.
With the world still on edge over developments in the Ukraine, overnight newsflow was far less dramatic than yesterday, with no "bombshell" uttered at today's Putin press conferences in which he said nothing new and simply reiterated the party line and yet the market saw it as a full abdication, he did have some soundbites saying Russia should keep economic issues separate from politics, and that Russia should cooperate with all partners on Ukraine. Elsewhere Gazprom kept the heat on, or rather off, saying Ukraine recently paid $10 million of its nat gas debt, but that for February alone Ukraine owes $440 million for gas, which Ukraine has informed Gazprom it can't pay in full. Adding the overdue amounts for prior months, means Ukraine's current payable on gas is nearly $2 billion. Which is why almost concurrently Barosso announced that Europe would offer €1.6 billion in loans as part of EU package, which however is condition on striking a deal with the IMF (thank you US taxpayers), and that total aid could be as large as $15 billion, once again offloading the bulk of the obligations to the IMF. And so one more country joins the Troika bailout routine, and this one isn't even in the Eurozone, or the EU.
In addition to the already noted fireworks out of China, where the Yuan saw the biggest daily plunge since 2008 and the ongoing and very rapid newsflow out of the Ukraine, focus this morning was very much of the latest Eurozone CPI data, which despite matching previous low levels, came in above expectations and in turn resulted in an aggressive unwind of short-EUR bets as market participants were forced to re-asses the likelihood of more easing by the ECB. Still, even though the Euribor curve bear steepened and Bunds came under significant selling pressure, the EONIA forward curve remained inverted, signifying that there is still a degree of apprehension over what is unarguably very low inflation data.
Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.
"When the market is in the depressive phase of what President Lockhart referred to as a bipolar disorder, crafting policy to satisfy it is like feeding Jabba the Hutt—doing so is fruitless, if not dangerous, because it simply will insist upon more." - Fed's Dick Fisher
The short answer: if it did, the Chairman is unaware of it. Or is he? [Laughter]
The world may have been crashing and burning, and as Bernanke admitted in March 2008, "At some point, of course, either things will stabilize or there will be some kind of massive governmental intervention, but I just don’t have much confidence about the timing of that" (guess which one it was), but at least the Fed ended the catastrophic 2008 yeat on a high note. The chart below shows the number of the time the FOMC committee had an moment of levity as captured by [Laughter] in the FOMC transcripts. Perhaps not surprisingly, the December 2008 meeting, when the market was in free fall, saw the biggest number of laugh lines in the entire year.
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...
- Facebook CEO Raises Dealmaker Profile With $19 Billion Takeover (BBG)
- WhatsApp’s Founder Goes From Food Stamps to Billionaire (BBG)
- U.S. Feels Putin's Sharp Elbows in Ukraine (WSJ)
- PBOC Drains Cash as Overnight Rate Slides to Lowest in 10 Months (BBG)
- Fed Puts Rate Increase on the Radar (Hilsenrath)
- Banks Flouting Bonus Rules in Denmark Set to Be Named by FSA (BBG)
- Work Set to Resume on Upgrading Panama Canal (WSJ)
- Euro-Area Recovery Loses Pace as Manufacturing Weakens (BBG) - uh, what recovery?
- Ukraine Exposes EU Policy Disarray (WSJ)
With a plethora of Fed speakers playing good cop, bad cop todasy, it is hardly surprising that the FOMC minutes (as adulterated as they are) still show disagreement...
- *SEVERAL FOMC PARTICIPANTS SAID TEMPORARY FACTORS SPURRED GROWTH
- *FED TO CHANGE RATE GUIDANCE AS UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS, MINUTES SHOW
- *SOME FOMC PARTICIPANTS FAVORED `QUALITATIVE GUIDANCE'
- *SEVERAL PARTICIPANTS FAVORED $10 BILLION QE TAPER PER MEETING
The bottom-line is that the Fed is very confused and while headlines will crow of communication and forward-guidance, it is clear they are winging it now as "qualitative" guidance is the new way forward.
President Obama’s state of the union pledge to “act with or without Congress” marks a milestone in presidential usurpation of Congressional authority. The concentration of power in the office of the president is yet one more negative consequence of our interventionist foreign policy. Once it became accepted practice for the president to disregard Congress in foreign affairs, it was only a matter of time before presidents would begin usurping Congressional authority in domestic matters...any member of Congress who ignores or facilitates presidential usurpation is being derelict in his Constitutional duty.
It is still all about the Yen carry which overnight tumbled to the lowest level since November, dragging the Nikkei down by 4.8% which halted its plunge at just overf 14,000, only to stage a modest rebound and carry US equity futures with it, even if it hasn't helped the Dax much which moments ago dropped to session lows and broke its 100 DMA, where carmakers are being especially punished following a downgrade by HSBC of the entire sector. Also overnight the Hang Seng entered an official correction phase (following on from the Nikkei 225 doing the same yesterday) amid global growth concerns and has filtered through to European trade with equities mostly red across the board. Markets have shrugged off news that ECB's Draghi is seeking German support in the bond sterilization debate, something which we forecast would happen a few weeks ago when we pointed out the relentless pace of SMP sterilization failures, with analysts playing down the news as the move would only add a nominal amount of almost EUR 180bln to the Euro-Area financial system. Elsewhere, disappointing earnings from KPN (-4.3%) and ARM holdings (-2.5%) are assisting the downward momentum for their respective sectors.