Today's consensus estimate for the non-farm payroll is for a 149K increase broken down as follows among some select banks:
- Bank of America 115K
- Deutsche Bank 120K
- Goldman Sachs 125K
- Citigroup 135K
Why is the expectation so low? Why cold weather of course - the same cold weather that supposedly impacted December and January data. Then again, one wonders just what is the seasonal adjustment factor for if not to adjust for the, gasp, seasons. So when one puts the February actual number in the context of its average adjustment over the past decade, what does one get? Simple - a boost of 1.5 million "jobs" which exsit nowhere in the real world but in some Arima-X-13 spreadsheet.
Off the top, Universa's Mark Spitznagel explains that "high-frequency traders are making markets more jumpy" and the idea of HFT as a liquidity provider is a fallacy since as he notes "that liquidity won't be there when they most need it," especially when there is one-way order flow such as in the flash crash. Spitznagel then crushes the 'cash on the sidelines' meme but explaining that while corporate cash balances have soared, net debt has actually gone up beyond the highs of 2008. As we have previously discussed, "the idea that corporate balance sheets are so strong right now is entirely wrong," as investors are conveniently focusing in one piece of the balance sheet (assets not liabilities). Maria B just can't fathom it but Spitznagel's words are clear - scale the cash on the balance sheet against debt and we are as bad as we were in 2008.
Having sold his 7-bedroom NY mansion, the CEO of Virtu Financial (the high-frequency-trading firm that accounts for 5% of US equity trading volume) appears to believe investors are ripe for him to IPO his firm. As The FT reports, New York-based Virtu is aiming to raise between $250-$350m from a listing that would make it the first electronic trading business that trades with its own funds to launch an IPO. The question, of course, is, will Virtu be the top-ticking, greater-fool-finding IPO of this bubble that Blackstone was for the last one?
All you need to know about the New Normal breed of crony capitalism and unbridled hypocrisy is once again best exemplified by the following quote by Charlie Munger - the lifetime business partner of crony capitalist par excellence Warren Buffett - from May 2013, in which he said that "I think it is very stupid to allow a system to evolve where half of the trading is a bunch of short term people trying to get information one millionth of a nanosecond ahead of somebody else. It's legalized front-running. I think it is basically evil and I don't think it should have ever been allowed to reach the size that it did. Why should all of us pay a little group of people to engage in legalized front-running of our orders?" Noble, noble words Charlie. What Munger, however, did not disclose is that as part of the Berkshire Hathaway-owned Business Wire news service, the company was enabling just this "basically evil" frontrunning, by allowing some, those who could afford the hefty fee of course, to make Munger and Buffett even richer and to subscribe to BW's HFT direct news access which gave them a few millisecond headstart and in the process frontrun everyone else.
The market value of a stock quote continues to plummet. As Nanex shows so graphically below, it's taking more quotes to get the same amount of trading done in today's stock market, meaning that everyone has to process more information than ever before, yet actual trading continues to stagnate... not just taking money out of the pockets of investors, but actually destroying wealth (not merely redistributing it).
The chart is very disturbing: it shows that as the S&P rises higher and higher (on ever declining volumes), foreigners are buying fewer and fewer US securities. In fact, on a 12 Month Moving Average basis, foreigners bought less long-term US securities than they did when Lehman crashed! And so we have come full circle, because while, understandably, nobody had any apetite for US securities around the Lehman crash when until the Fed stepped in and singlehandedly took over the US capital markets it was unclear if there even would be a US capital markets, now that five years later the S&P has risen to a level nearly three times the March 2009 lows thanks entirely to the Fed's $4.1 trillion balance sheet backstop, the interest in US securities is... lower than it was in the days just after Lehman!
It is not easy for one bank to anger more people with one announcement than what Barclays did in the past 24 hours. In one fell swoop, the British bank infuriated shareholders after announcing dismal earnings (an adjusted Q4 profit of about 200 million pounds and a statutory profit of less than 100 million as investment banking income slumped 37% as income fell 9% to 10.7 billion due to a fall in fixed income, and it took further charges related to a cleanup of the banking industry in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis) which sent the share price sliding, it then pissed off UK workers and taxpayers after it announced it would hike investment bank bonuses by 13% despite the abovementioned profit slump, and finally it crushed 9% of its workforce, or 12,000 workers, who are set to prepare pink slips as the bank "streamlines."
With the HFT brigade selling then buying, and trying to goalseek an explanation of why this happened after the fact, one key aspect of today's release that was ignored is that the BLS just revised its Establishment Survey data, in the process changing all historical job numbers. To wit: "Establishment survey data have been revised as a result of the annual benchmarking process and the updating of seasonal adjustment factors. Also, household survey data for January 2014 reflect updated population estimates." As a result of this revision, while the monthly changes were not that dramatic, what happened is that the "stock" level of jobs as reflected in the Establishment Survey rose by half a million as of December 31, from 136,877 to 137,386. And so all key historic data - from GDP in early 2013 to jobs - has now been revised to reflect a more rosy economy, and instill consumers with even more confidence in hopes they will spend, spend, spend.
While Bitcoin has been relatively more stable than high-frequency-traded US equity markets in the last few weeks, the news that HFT tool provider Perseus Telecom will be accepting Bitcoin for its services. As The FT reports, move highlights high-frequency traders’ increasing interest in trading Bitcoin as global regulators indicate a growing acceptance of fast-emerging digital currencies - despite several high-profile arrests.Perseus CEO, Jock Mr Percy said the extension of high-frequency trading into virtual currencies would change the nature of the Bitcoin market over time.
The farce that is the so-called stock "market" gets more and more mindblowing every day. Following yesterday's record high volume in VIX futures and options, this morning saw one stock - the $4bn market cap WhiteWave Foods represent a stunning 27% of all quotes in this morning's pre-open. As Nanex notes in this great analysis, HFT algos generated 2.04 million quotes which created... drum roll please... 3 trades.
It used to be conventional wisdom that shorting on POMO days is a sure way to drain one's P&L in no time. However, since the arrival of tapering, this has changed, and no longer is the surgeon general advising against shorting on POMO days especially if concurrent with an implosion in this emerging market or that. Moments ago the Fed released its February POMO schedule, where we find, that as expected, the Fed will now monetize "only" $35 billion in duration paper, down from $40 billion in January and the $45 billion monthly in all of 2013. Of note: there will be a POMO on Monday, and a double POMO - the only one in February - on February 5. There will be no POMOs on February 11, on February 13, and February 17 - the most non-POMO days in a month since the launch of QEternity. All the other days: just keep an eye on the USDJPY, especially if the epic support barrier at 102 is finally breached. In that case, it's is every colocalized vacuum tube and HFT algo for itself.
If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun.
Shanghai Daily: "China may soon announce an increase in its official gold reserve from 1,054 tons to 2,710 tons, Jeffrey Nichols, managing director of American Precious Metals Advisors, said. The People’s Bank of China has not reported any increase in official gold holdings since 2009, when the central bank said the official reserve was at 1,054 tons, which accounted for only about 1 percent of its multi-trillion foreign exchange reserves. The PBOC has been “surreptitiously” adding to its official gold reserves. It has bought a total of 654 tons in 2009 through 2011, another 388 tons in 2012, and more than 622 tons last year, mostly from domestic mine production and secondary supplies, Nichols said in a commentary posted on NicholsOnGold.com yesterday. Central bank purchases comprise the smallest fraction of global gold demand — less than 10 percent. “If China announces an increase in gold reserves, there would be an immediate drag-up force in the gold market,” Albert Cheng, managing director of the industrial association World Gold Council for the Far East, told Shanghai Daily. China is the biggest gold consumer and producer in the world."
It's just sad now: with every passing day bringing new (and previously unseen) cases of high frequency trading algo-generated market halts or crashes, that none of the regulators are willing to take a stand against this market scourge that we have written about for nearly 5 years now, is a clear indication that the HFT lobby is firmly in control of what were once "capital markets" and that the retail investor is once again, the sacrificial lamb. But while it was one thing for the high freak thugs to control marginal price action through momentum ignition, quote stuffing, hide not slide, flash trades, and all the other well-known manipulative techniques which seemingly are too complicated for the SEC to figure out, in equities where things get really bad is when HFTs start crashing, or at least halting, the bond market at key market inflection points such as during the most important monthly data release, the payrolls release. This is precisely what happened on Friday, when as Nanex clearly shows, a momentum ignition algo sent the ZF (5 Year T-Note future) soaring and resulting in a 5 second - an eternity in today's nanosecond age - trading halt during the actual release of the BLS report.
In the last 3 years, the volume of options quotes (not trades) in the first few seconds of the US equity market's open has exploded. From around 1 million quotes in the first second of the day in 2011, Nanex' detailed animation shows that volumes are now reaching 4 million quotes. Does this quote spam look like it provides liquidity? Wondering why the opening price action in US equity markets has become incredulous in recent months - with vertical dump-and-pumps - wonder no more... 'efficient' markets indeed...