Following the drubbing in commodities in Q2 it is was only a matter of time that the pendulum swung the other way. At least that is the view of JPMorgan's commodities team led by Colin Fenton who says to "go overweight commodity indices now." JPM's summary: "It’s our first OW call on commodities since September 2010… we turned underweight commodities as an asset class in November 2011, shortly after it became apparent that Europe and Australia had entered manufacturing recessions and commodities were likely to underperform equities and bonds over the following 6 to 12 months, likely yielding negative returns in 1H12. Over the past year, we have grown more positive on the asset class, as energy has improved, expected menaces in bulks and metals have arrived, and sentiment across commodities has belatedly soured. However, our strategies have sought to be directionally neutral. Now, we move to recommend a net long, overweight exposure for institutional investors for the first time in more than two years, based on ten fundamental factors we quantify in this note." Yes, that includes gold, although as a hedge JPM adds: "Liquidity could fall quickly in summertime. Buy 25-delta puts in oil, copper, and gold to protect a core position in commodity index total return swaps."
The Fed has managed to remove some of the complacency in financial markets for now, but we would also argue that financial markets have managed to remove any complacency the Fed (and any other central banks) may have had regarding how easy the exit strategy from QE was going to be. As we discussed here, the market and the Fed are trapped in a prisoner’s dilemma, and, as Citi notes, the events over the past three weeks make it clear that 'collaboration' is the best strategy – i.e. a non-complacent market and no hawkish surprises from central banks. There is a big risk to this scenario though. As Citi explains, a risk that we fear not even the recent dovish messages by central banks may be able to do much about. The recent sell-off has, unlike the previous sell-offs this year, managed to trigger outflows in funds and ETFs; as we mentioned above, our credit survey reports the first outflows since 2008. The negative feedback loop which has been triggered around (retail-driven) fund and ETF outflows has gained a momentum of its own and the following four charts suggest bonds are in fact primed for the perfect storm.
Here's my take on the key events for investors in the week ahead, with an attempt to place them in a somewhat larger context.
It is easy to get the impression that the naysayers are wrong on Europe. After all the predictions of Armageddon, ten-year government bond yields for Spain and Italy fell to the 4% level, France which is retreating into old-fashioned socialism was able to borrow at about 2%, and one of the best performing bond investments has been until recently – wait for it – Greek government bonds! Admittedly, bond yields have risen from those lows, but so have they everywhere. It is clear when one stands back from all the usual euro-rhetoric that as a threat to the global financial system it is a case of panic over. Well, no. Europe has not recapitalized its banking system the way the US has (at great taxpayer expense, of course). Therefore, it is much more vulnerable. Where European governments and regulators have failed to make their banks more secure it is because they tied their strategy to growth arising from an economic recovery that has failed to materialize. The reality is that the Eurozone GDP levels are only being supported at the moment by the consumption of savings; in orther words, the consumption of personal wealth. Wealth that is not infinite; and held by those not likely to tolerate footing the bill for much longer.
Overview of the great unwind, which I suggest has three components--tapering talk in the US, Japanese selling foreign assets and the liquidity squeeze in China (squeezing another carry carry trade).
We have long held the opinion that the markets, all of them, have been buoyed by what the Fed and the other central banks have done which was to pump a massive amount of money into the system. There are various ways to count this but about $16 trillion is my estimation. The economy in America has been flat-lining while the economies in Europe have been red-lining and while China has claimed growth their numbers did not add up and could not be believed. In other words, the economic fundamentals were not supporting the lofty levels of the markets which had rested upon one thing and one thing alone which was liquidity. Yesterday was the first day of the reversal. There will be more days to come.
Goldman Slams Abenomics: "Positive Impact Is Gone, Only High Yields And Volatility Remain; BOJ Credibility At Stake"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/18/2013 11:16 -0400
While many impartial observers have been lamenting the death of Abenomics now that the Nikkei - essentially the only favorable indicator resulting from the coordinated and unprecedented action by the Japanese government and its less than independent central bank - has peaked and dropped 20% from the highs, Wall Street was largely mum on its Abenomics scorecard. This changed overnight following a scathing report by Goldman which slams Abenomics, it sorry current condition, and where it is headed, warning that unless the BOJ promptly implements a set of changes to how it manipulates markets as per Goldman's recommendations, the situation will get out of control fast. To wit: "Our conclusion is that the positive market reaction initially created by the policy has been almost completely undone. At the same time, a lack of credible forward guidance for policy duration means that five-year JGB yields have risen in comparison with before the easing started, and volatility has also increased. It will not be an easy task to completely rebuild confidence in the BOJ among overseas investors after it has been undermined, and the BOJ will not be able to easily pull out of its 2% price target after committing to it."
Foreigners are net buyers of Japanese stocks in the most recent week. When they have bene sellers it has been very small amounts. Japanese investors for their part continue to sell foreign assets and at arond the average pace seen over the last several months.
As we noted just two weeks ago - before the hope-and-change-driven exuberance in Japanese equities came crashing down - "those who believe in Abenomics are suffering from amnesia," and Nomura's Richard Koo clarifies just who is responsible for the exuberance and why things are about to shift dramatically. Reasons cited for the equity selloff include Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s remarks about ending QE and a weaker than expected (preliminary) Chinese PMI reading, but, simply put, Koo notes, more fundamental factor was also involved: stocks had risen far above the level justified by improvements in the real economy. It was overseas investors (particularly US hedge funds) that responded to Abe's comments late last year by closing out their positions in the euro (having been unable to profit from the Euro's collapse) and redeploying those funds in Japan, where they drove the yen lower and pushed stocks higher. Koo suspects that only a handful of the overseas investors who led this shift from the euro into the yen understood there was no reason why quantitative easing should work when private demand for funds was negligible... The recent upheaval in the JGB market signals an end to the virtuous cycle that pushed stock prices steadily higher.
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.
It’s always a bit amusing to meet an investor making money in the markets right now who actually thinks it’s because he’s smarter than everyone else. Everyone knows the Fed’s quantitative easing program calls for them to buy $85 billion worth of bonds and mortgage backed securities each and every month. And the connection to market performance is clear. But, as is clear with USDJPY, Nikkei, and European sovereigns, the end of this exuberance is beginning to happen. All of this indicates that the leveraged investing herd seems to be squaring positions, going to cash, and paying back some of the USD-denominated debt they’ve borrowed. So far it’s all been an orderly move lower. And herein lies the trouble. Few investors are spooked right now because there is so much calm in the markets. But that calm can quickly turn into anxiety, which can quicly turn into all-out panic. It’s taken years (since 2008) to print so much money. This means that a market panic will unwind years’ worth of liquidity in a matter of weeks. It’s a financial tsunami that no investor should underestimate.
- Reports on surveillance of Americans fuel debate over privacy, security (Reuters)
- Apple to Yahoo Deny Providing Direct Access to Spy Agency (Bloomberg)
- Misfired 2010 email alerted IRS officials in Washington of targeting (Reuters)
- Spy vs Spy: Cyber disputes loom large as Obama meets China's Xi (Reuters)
- When NSA Calls, Companies Answer (WSJ)
- How the Robots Lost: High-Frequency Trading's Rise and Fall (BBG)
- Japan's Pension Fund to Buy More Stocks (WSJ)
- ‘Frankenstein’ CDOs twitch back to life (FT)
- China’s ‘great power’ call to the US could stir friction (FT)
- Toyota Tries on Corolla Look That’s Just Different Enough (BBG)
The first time we wrote about the Volcker-led Group of 30 recommendation to crush Money Markets in January 2010 by effectively imposing capital controls and fund "gates", whose purpose was simply to scare investors out of the $2.6 trillion liquidity pool and force said capital to reallocate into a much more "reflation friendly" asset classes such as stocks, many were concerned but few took it seriously. After all, such a coercive push into a "free" market at the time seemed incomprehensible (if, in reality, turned out to be just a few years ahead of its time). Fast forward two years to July 2012 when the same proposal of "risk-mitigation" by allocating a portion of the balance to a "loss-absorption fund", which would "create a disincentive to redeem if the fund is likely to have losses" was not only re-espoused by Tim Geithner, and the NY Fed but the SEC put it to a vote and the proposal would have almost passed had it no been for a nay vote by Commissioner Luis Aguilar opposing Mary Schapiro in the last minute. Still, once more many largely unconcerned about the implications behind this urgent push to intervene and establish pseudo-capital controls in this major source of potential stock buying "dry powder." Today, with a brand new leader, Mary Jo White, now that the clueless and co-opted Mary Schapiro is long gone, the $2.6 trillion Money Market Fund industry is one step closer to finally being gated. But don't it call it that - the SEC prefers the term "protecting investors"