With most market participants (what's left of them) traditionally narrowly focused on one specific asset class, be it stocks, bonds, rates, or commodities, they sees a few trees but miss the whole forest - a perspective which has to include all cross asset perspectives, which in our day and age is quite complicated, to say the least, due to the prevailing and oftentimes irreconcilable cognitive biases among such traders (all of which tend to interpret Bernanke's market signaling in their different way). So courtesy of Citi's Stephen Antczak, here is a comprehensive summary how every single asset class is viewing the market right now.
In the brief but tempestuous fight between Abe and the "deflation monster", the latter is now victoriously romping through an irradiated Tokyo, if last night's epic (ongoing) collapse in the Nikkei is any indication: down 6.4%, crushing anyone who listened to Goldman's "buy Nikkei" recommendation which has now been stopped out at a major loss in three days, and now well in bear-market territory, it would appear that a neurotic Mrs. Watanabe is finally with done with daytrading the Pennikkeistock market, and demands Shirakawa's deflationary, triumphal return to finally clam the market. Only this time the Japan's selling tsunami is finally starting to spill, if not to the US just yet (it will) then certainly to Asia, where the Shanghai Composite which was down 2.7%, and is once again well down for the year, and virtually all other Asian stock markets. Except for Pakistan - the Karachi Stock Exchange is an island of stability in the Asian sea of red.
Emerging markets have tanked but some of the reasons for their underperformance will prove overblown, providing opportunities for long-term investors.
The Fed’s zero lower bound policies have dislodged credit risk as the primary concern for investors, only to replace it with a major technical headache: interest rate risk. If rates remain too low for too long, financial stability suffers as investors reach for yield, companies lever up, and lending standards decline. The greatest of financial stability risks is probably the least discussed among those that matter at the Fed: the deterioration in trading volumes. As such, we suspect that the longer low rates persist, the worse the unwind of QE may be. And it may, in fact, already be too late. As events in the past two weeks have shown, credit markets also appear vulnerable to a rise in rates that occurs too quickly or in a chaotic fashion. Moreover, to the extent that issuers sense demand may be waning for bonds, there’s a distinct possibility the pace of supply increases precisely at the same time that demand decreases. Invariably, it’s this sort of dynamic that ends in tears.
While, as we recently destroyed here, the current meme is that "bonds are mispriced" due to the Fed and so holding them is an idiot's play as at some point they will normalize (which somehow means equities are a great investment - as they apparently never drop in price). DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach appeared on CNBC this morning laying out a few very obvious (but entirely overlooked by the mainstream) reasons why a 'rise' in interest rates (and the bond price drop implicit in that) is not necessarily positive for most of the equity-type investments currently. We see four reasons why the "bonds bad, stocks good" meme is fundamentally flawed and why a great rotation remains a myth... Gundlach also warned flow-driven equity bulls, "QE effects are in the eighth inning."
The investment environment is changing at a rate that's representative of global economic imbalances, fund flows, and geopolitical risks. We believe this decade will continue to witness greatly increased volatility and instability in the economies of the world and the global financial system. Very few past models are still valid (and most have been proved 'empirically' in real-time to be entirely fallacious). Such a situation has contributed to the extreme uncertainty that currently prevails. Our guiding principle is to help investors understand and navigate through all the complexities of an unstable, inflation-prone world. The following ten themes will be key drivers of financial market performance over the next 1 to 5 years.
When a month ago we wrote "It's Deja Vu, All Over Again: This Time Is... Completely The Same" as the endless din over some non-existent "Great Rotation" had the TV anchors on the financial comedy channel giddy with excitement, we said one thing, when we compared the current environment with its carbon copy observed back in 2011: "Fund Flows into equities were unstoppable. Yes - that was 7 consecutive weeks of major equity inflows into stocks... back in January 2011." Moments ago ICI just released its latest weekly US equity mutual fund flow data for the week ended February 27. We can now officially end the 2013 version of the "great rotation" myth because we just got our first outflow, after how many weeks of inflows? That's right: seven. Just like in 2011.
There is a simple reason why the real money (as opposed to fast money tweakers) has been far less excited about the domestic equity fund inflows than the financial media and their sponsoring commission-takers would suggest. The reason is - as Goldman shows empirically, not anecdotally - fund flows 'lag' performance, 'not lead'! As we have noted previously, the great rotation myth is simply that - a unicorn-like belief that the investing public will sell down their bond portfolios (high-yield, investment-grade, and sovereign) to stake their future on stocks - when the reality is the flows (which are not rotating to stocks 'net' anyway) simply reflect the sheep-like herding of performance-chasing index-huggers hoping to beat the greater fool. There always has to be someone left holding the bag...
It would appear that the hopes and commissions of each and every talking head wealth manager and/or central banker has been dashed on the rocks of 'fiscal cliff' tax-hike front-running and a citizenry who remain far more cognizant of the unreality of the real world than the reality being preached by the market. There were some fund flows this week into equity funds (the lowest in six weeks) but, as Reuters notes, it was all into international funds as domestic funds saw outflows and domestic bond funds once again saw inflows. As Goldman Sachs' funds flow and positioning monitor shows - Rotation, Over.
We have gone from a supply and demand market to a funds flow market and this really sucks for consumers.
It was the deep of winter... CNBC was talking about "animal spirits", had just touted "the best January in 14 years", was quoting Raymond James' Jeff Saut as saying that "The market "is amazingly resilient, and is no longer overbought" and desperately doing everything it could to get retail back into stocks, and was succeeding: retail inflows into stocks were surging and seemed unstoppable... The Chicago PMI had just printed at its highest level in decades... the VIX was dropping fast... Stocks were soaring... Bonds were sliding... NYSE margin debt had just risen to the highest level since 2008... A few brief months earlier the Fed had unleashed a new, massive round of unsterilized bond buying... Bank of America was blaring about the "great rotation" for stocks, and yes - just shortly prior "global currency warfare" had broken out.
Name the year?
From the close on Dec 28th (pre-fiscal-cliff), the Dow is up over 7% (for its best January since 1994), the long bond is down 3.3% in price, gold is up marginally and the USD is down marginally. From around November 2012, the current in stocks is eerily reminiscent of the same run from November 2011's dip and co-ordinated easing. It would appear that if 2011/2 was the world normalizing to ZIRP, 2012/3 is the world's central banks fighting currency wars with their ever-expanding balance sheets (and while Europe won last year in stocks, the ECB's fading balance sheet is leading its stocks to underperform a renewed Fed expansion). Credit markets are notably not buying this risk-on move (and nor is VIX) in January but JPY-cross-based carry is leading the way, so the world better hope that no one doubts the BoJ's ability top unilaterally 'win' the currency wars. Energy and Healthcare are the month's winners as JPY loses 6.4% on the month and EUR gains 2.7% against the USD. ES clung to VWAP into the close. with a second down day in a row
If Peter Schiff is selling gold, then maybe you should too!
Everyone's favorite bull made another magnificently arrogant appearance on TV this morning. Following his recent CNBC embarrassment, Bloomberg TV interviewed the outperforming hedge fund manager this morning - during which he explained his 'where else ya gonna go' bullish stocks thesis. From expectations for an "explosion of greatness" in the US to his gratuitous flirtation, he appears to have the inane ability to use many words where few are needed and his bullish thesis has the ring of any and every guest pumper (with nothing new to add): the same supposedly 'low' multiple, central-banks-are-printing, and wide spread between bond and equity yield argument that everyone's mom can explain. From expectations for the 'great rotation' from bonds to stocks and his 50%-upside prediction in Citi, Tepper is "balls to the wall" the best guest ever on any stock-touting network. However, one little thing gets in the way - the last time the Great-and-Powerful Tepper appeared so overtly bullish of stocks (and financials specifically), he also was dumping his holdings into the rally that followed.
Over the course of the last two weeks, I attempted to explain to the general investing public how, thanks to the virtual impossibility of distinguising between 'legitimate' market making and 'illegitimate' prop trading, some of America's systemically important financial institutions are able to trade for their own accounts with the fungible cash so generously bestowed upon them by an unwitting multitude of depositors and an enabling Fed.