Most economic observers are predicting that 2014 will be the year in which the United States finally shrugs off the persistent malaise of the Great Recession. In contrast, we believe that the episode has, for the moment, established supreme confidence in the powers of monetary policy to keep the economy afloat and to keep a floor under asset prices, even in the worst of circumstances. The shift in sentiment can only be explained by the growing acceptance of monetary policy as the magic elixir that Keynesians have always claimed it to be. This blind faith has prevented investors from seeing the obvious economic crises that may lay ahead. Based on nothing but pure optimism, the market believes that the Fed can somehow contract its $4 trillion balance sheet without pushing up rates to the point where asset prices are threatened, or where debt service costs become too big a burden for debtors to bear. The more likely truth is that this widespread mistake will allow us to drift into the next crisis.
Each quarter the Fed releases their assessment of the economy along with their forward looking projections for three years into the future. The reality is, however, is that the Federal Reserve simply cannot verbally state what they really see during each highly publicized meeting as it would roil the markets. Instead, they use their communications to guide the markets expectations toward reality in the hopes of reducing the risks of market dislocations. The most recent release of the Fed's economic projections on the economy, inflation and unemployment continue to follow the same previous trends of weaker growth, lower inflation and a complete misunderstanding of the real labor market. Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks - the reality is that the Fed's estimates for economic growth in 2013 was too hot, employment was too cold and inflation estimates were just about right. The real unspoken concern should be the continued threat of deflation and what actions will be available when the next recession eventually comes.
BlackRock said there is a 20% risk that world events could go badly wrong, either because the eurozone acts too late to head off deflation or because of a chain reaction as the Fed starts to wind down stimulus in earnest. As The Telegraph notes, BlackRock’s risk indicator is almost as high as it was just before the dotcom bust. "The ratio of the two is the key. High valuations combined with low volatility can make for a lethal mix. This market gauge sounded the alarm well before the Great Financial Crisis." Furthermore, the largest asset manager in the world warns, "troubling trends of growing inequality and weak wage growth, bring into question the sustainability of profit margins." What is good for investors is corrosive for societies, hardly tenable equilibrium.
Today's nonfarm payroll number critical "make or break" margin, as estimated earlier by Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid, is a tiny 30K: "anything above +200k (net of revisions) will lead to a further dip in risk as taper fears intensify and anything less than say +170k will probably see a decent relief rally after a tricky week for markets." Goldilocks of course will be the expected 185K but what economists forecast rarely if every happens. So it is likely that what the BLS reports will either be good for the economy and horrible for market, or vice versa. So we decided to put this 30K in context. The charts below show both the average and the annual seasonal adjustment between the unadjusted and the final, adjusted nonfarm payroll print. In the past decade, the average November seasonal adjustment is the highest of all months, amounting to 1.165 million jobs! In other words, the 30K critical difference will fit nearly 40 times in just what the BLS' Arima X 13 smoothing simulator adjusts the actual print by in order to get what it believes is the appropriate trendline, ignoring entirely that in the New Normal all historical seasonal adjustments are no longer applicable.
As stocks hit new records and small investors—finally—return to the market, some analysts are getting worried. Risk assets have rallied to previous bubble conditions. Powered by unprecedented refinancing and recap activity, 2013 is now the most productive year ever for new-issue leveraged loans, for example. This has been great for corporations as financing and refinancing has put them on a stronger footing. Where M&A activity still lags the highs of the last boom, issuers have jumped into the opportunistic pool with both feet. And why not? Secondary prices are high and new-issue clearing yields remain low. Yet very inadequate movement has been evidenced on the hiring front. And after all the improvement in ebitda, where do we go from here? Forward guidance will clearly be harder. One might argue that we are back in a Goldilocks fantasy world, where the economy is not so strong (as to cause inflation and trigger serious monetary tightening) or so weak (as to cause recession and a collapse in profits) but "just right". Yet, it seems unlikely that issuers with weaker credit quality could find it so easy to sell debt without the excess liquidity created by the Fed and other central banks.
Bond markets may be closed today for Veterans' Day, but equities and far more importantly, FX, are certainly open and thanks to yet another overnight ramp in the ES leading EURJPY, we have seen one more levitation session to start off the week, and an implied stock market open which will be another record high. There was little overnight developed market data to digest, with just Italian Industrial Production coming in line with expectations at 0.2%, while the bulk of the attention fell on China which over the weekend reported stronger Industrial Production and retail sales, while CPI was just below expectations and additionally China new loans of CNY 506 billion (below est. of CNY 580bn) even as M2 in line, should give the Chinese government the all clear to reform absolutely nothing. That all this goldilocks and goalseeked data is taking place just as the Third Plenum picks up pace was not lost on anyone.
Just as Friday ended with a last minute meltup, there continues to be nothing that can stop Bernanke's runaway liquidity train, and the overnight trading session has been one of a continuing slow melt up in risk assets, which as expected merely ape the Fed's balance sheet to their implied fair year end target of roughly 1900. The data in the past 48 hours was hot but not too hot, with China Non-mfg PMI rising from 55.4 to 56.3 a 14 month high (and entirely made up as all other China data) - hot but not too hot to concern the PBOC additionally over cutting additional liquidity - while the Eurozone Mfg PMI came as expected at 51.3 up from 51.1 prior driven by rising German PMI (up from 51.1 to 51.7 on 51.5 expected), declining French PMI (from 49.8 to 49.1, exp. 49.4), declining Italian PMI (from 50.8 to 50.7, exp. 51.0), Spain up (from 50.7 to 50.9, vs 51.0 expected), and finally the UK construction PMI up from 58.9 to 59.4.
Ye Gods! Even that discredited old hack, Alan Greenspan ? the man who bears as much responsibility as anyone for the hypertrophy of state- supported finance and thus for the havoc it continues to wreak ? is at it, trying to tell us that because of a low ‘equity premium’ (read: ludicrously intervention?depressed bond yields), the ‘momentum’ of stocks ‘is still relativel. Such a market is therefore likely to suck everyone in to its last, Plinian updraft no matter how stretched everything becomes and no matter how great the risk of being cast into perdition in the pyroclastic collapse to come.
Of course, equity markets can only hear one thing (for fear of the consideration of Plan B) but as The Washington Post notes, the Senate Republicans can't agree on how their meeting with Obama went.
- Good - Sen. Bon Corker: "I was pleasantly surprised, I think there's a gelling that's beginning to take place."
- Bad - Sen. Susan Collins: "I don't want to give the impress that he endorsed it, but he indicated there were 'elements' with which he agreed."
- Ugly - Sen John Cornyn: "...what could have been a productive conversation was instead another predictable lecture from the President that did not lay out a new path forward."
Summing it all up (and mixing metaphors) - it's a Goldilocks meeting for stocks.
Following the market's shocking realization that the taper is coming prompting a kneejerk to the kneejerk reaction after the FOMC minutes, and yet another painful session in Asia, stocks were desperate for some good news from somewhere, which they got thanks to a Goldilocks PMI from China printing by the smallest possible expansionary quantum, or 50.1, and well above expectations, as well as a continuation of better than expected European PMI data with the August composite rising from 50.5 to 51.7 vs. Exp. 50.9, based pm a Services PMI rising into expansion to 51.0 from 49.8, (Exp. 50.2), and Manufacturing at 51.3 vs. Exp. 50.8 up from 50.3, the highest since June 2011. It is perhaps stunning just how conflicting this "improving" data is with private sector industrial and manufacturing company metrics, but with the credit creation situation in Europe (read: all that matters) at record lows, and with banks retrenching and needing to delever by trillions, it is only a matter of time before this latest propaganda wave is exposed for what it is. The net effect of the overnight data is to push the USDJPY to nearly 99.00 which thanks to the ubiquitous correlation algos has dragged US equity futures higher, if only briefly (the 10 Year is at 2.91% - under 10bps from redline territory), while slamming the offsetting EURUSD despite the "better" than expected European data.
Trifecta Of CPI, Initial Claims And Empire Manufacturing All In Line, And All Pushing The Market LowerSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2013 08:46 -0400
If there was one thing the bulls did not want this morning, it was a goldilocks report in the trifecta of economic data, which included CPI, Initial Claims and the Empire Fed. Sadly, Goldilocks is precisely what they got with CPI printing just as expected, up 0.2% from June, and up 2.0% from a year ago (ex food and energy also in line at 0.2%), claims coming modestly better than expected at 320K vs Expectations of 335K, and finally the Empire Fed offsetting the sligh claims beat by printing at 8.24 on expectations of 10.00, down from 9.46 in July. As a reminder, only a big economic shock could have derailed the Fed's September taper intentions. So far it is not coming, which means only the August NFP report is left.
While the utility of initial claims data in a regime dominated by 70% retention of part-time workers and in which even the Fed says the distortion of the labor force participation rate makes unemployment numbers skewed to the downside, those who follow the weekly claims number will be happy (or maybe sad) to learn that there were 333K new initial claims filed in the week ended August 3, just 2K below expectations and 5K above last week's upward revised 328K (from 326K). No states claims were estimated in the past week the DOL reported. The good news: the four-week average fell to the lowest since November 2007. The bad news: this number is hardly horrible enough to send futures soaring.
Liquidity Update: Record High Deposits, Fed Reserves And Foreign Bank Cash; Fed Owns 31% Of Treasury MarketSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/27/2013 13:39 -0400
Bored with the constant daily speculation about who may be the Fed's next head (short answer: whoever Goldman says), and more interested with the actual liquidity dynamics that the next Chairman (or Bernanke, as his departure is far from certain) will have to deal with? Here is the latest.
Are we likely forming a market top? It is very possible. We saw the same type of market action towards the last two market peaks. However, it will only be known for sure in hindsight. The many similarities between the last cyclical bull market cycle and what we are currently experiencing should be at least raising some warning flags for investors. The levels of speculation, leverage, price extensions, duration of the rally, earnings trends and valuations are all at levels that have historically led to not so pleasant outcomes. The reality, however, is that the current "liquidity driven exuberance" could keep the markets "irrational" longer than logic, technicals or fundamentals would dictate.
The prospect of financial sector deleveraging in China increases the risk of a hard landing - despite yesterday's goldilocks GDP print (and ugly miss in IP). Although the probability of the hard landing is still low, Morgan Stanley warns it’s not low enough to make hedging costs irrelevant: The new government's policy drive to deleverage the banking sector has become more apparent, and they think this deleveraging will likely continue to unfold in the next 6-12 months. In MS' Super-Bear scenario, they expect aggressive policy tightening to reduce 2H13 GDP growth to 5.5% YoY. In this scenario, policy-makers are also slow to respond to this deceleration, leading to more turmoil in the financial sector. Although a low probability event, this would have major implications for global markets. MS estimates that markets are pricing in a 1-in-10 chance of a Super-Bear scenario in China in the coming 12 months, more in equities, less in FX markets.