This past week has seen the market struggle due to continued weak economic data, rising tensions between Russia and the Ukraine and an extended bull market run. Market internals are showing some early signs of deterioration even though the longer term bullish trajectory remains intact. Therefore, this week's "Things To Ponder" wades through some broader macro investment thoughts, from the safety of your investments to how market tops are made.
We provide this map showing the latest distribution of Russian military forces along the Ukraine borders so that readers can make up their own mind if, as John Kerry says, "Russia doesn't yet have forces for Ukraine Takeover."
The "good" news this evening is that Baoding Tianwei Baobian Electric Co (TBE), the company which as recently as two days ago was rumored to be the second "imminent" Chinese corporate bond default which sent copper to multi year lows, has issued a statement that it will not default on its upcoming interest payment (due July 11th - so how the delisted company is convinced it will have enough cash four months from now is a mustery). The "bad" news is that markets don't care. There is a slight whiff of positivity in Copper futures but aside from that, weakness continues in China's corporate bond and stock market. Simply put, the market gets it - this is no longer about the next idiosyncratic bond (or trust) to default; this is about Xi's renewed confidence in efforts to 'clean up' the mounting local government and corporate debts and shrink the shadow-banking bubble. This is systemic, and the markets know it.
Copper's China-credit-contraction-driven crash continues as the metal drops to fresh 5-year lows today (on par with Lehman and the US downgrade collapses). Japanese stocks are down over 1000 points from their post-Putin highs. Russian stocks are plunging, Germany's (and Swiss) bonds are surging (as is gold) and European equity and credit markets are in free-fall. But apart from that... Finally we saw the world's angst spill into Yen-carry trades (USDJPY was spanked today - almost biggest drop in 6 months). US equities plunged tick-for-tick with USDJPY (S&P's biggest drop in 6 weeks and red for 2014); Treasury yields were crushed 9-10bps from intraday highs (biggest drop in 2 months); credit spreads banged wider; gold jumped to six-month highs; and EUR weakness (post-Draghi) ramped the USD back near unchanged on the week. VIX was a one-way street higher all day (biggest low-to-high run in 6 weeks) to 6-week highs.
Simply ending the corporate lives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the Johnson-Crapo proposal envisions is not sufficient
Does anything about 2014 remind you of 2008? The long lists of visible stress in the global financial system and the almost laughably hollow assurances that there are no bubbles, everything is under control, etc. etc. etc. certainly remind me of the late-2007-early 2008 period when the subprime mortgage meltdown was already visible and officialdom from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on down were mounting the bully pulpit at every opportunity to declare that there was no bubble in housing and the system was easily able to handle little things like defaulting mortgages. The party, once again, is clearly ending and raises the question: "If asset bubbles no longer boost full-time employment or incomes across the board, what is the broad-based, “social good” justification for inflating them?"
Bond Trading Grinds To A Halt: Goldman Set To Report Weakest Q1 Since 2005; Revenues Down As Much As 25% ElsewhereSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/12/2014 11:47 -0400
Since Wall Street has been explicitly fighting the Fed (remember: the main reason there is no volume is because nobody is selling) Wall Street has once again lost, and despite its appeals, the time to pay the piper has come. Said payment will be taken out of bank Q1 earnings which as everyone knows, will continue the declining trend seen in recent years (so much for that whole Net Interest Margin fable), but to learn just how bad, we go to the FT which reports that fixed income groups across Wall Street "are set for their worst start to the year since before the financial crisis, with revenue declines of up to 25%." The punchline: "Analysts now expect Goldman Sachs to record its weakest first quarter since 2005 and JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are forecast to see their lowest revenues since they bought Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, respectively, in 2008."
Following a triumvirate of macro misses from AsiaPac (South Korea unemployment surged, Aussie confidence plunged, and Japanese inflation tumbled), the credit concerns running riot through the collateral underlying China's shadow banking system continue to crush Copper (and iron ore) prices. Copper is limit down in Shanghai at its lowest since July 2009 - these size moves have only occurred twice in history (Lehman and the US downgrade). Japanese stocks are ignoring any ramp efforts in USDJPY and US equity futures are fading qucikly with AUDJPY....
Stocks in Europe failed to hold onto early gains and gradually moved into negative territory, albeit minor, as concerns over money markets in China gathered attention yet again after benchmark rates fell to lowest since May 2012. Nevertheless, basic materials outperformed on the sector breakdown, as energy and metal prices rebounded following yesterday’s weaker than expected Chinese data inspired sell off. At the same time, Bunds remained supported by the cautious sentiment, while EUR/USD came under pressure following comments by ECB's Constancio who said that financial markets misinterpreted us a little, can still cut rates and implement QE or buy assets. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly API report after the closing bell on Wall Street and the US Treasury will kick off this week’s issuance with a sale of USD 30bln in 3y notes.
The Whole World Has Gone Into Debt
While the US may be rejoicing its daily stock market all time highs day after day, it may come as a surprise to many that global equity capitalization has hardly performed as impressively compared to its previous records set in mid-2007. In fact, between the last bubble peak, and mid-2013, there has been a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion over this six year time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from 2007 to 2013, from "only" $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS' just-released quarterly review.
Big Bubble Brutally Bursts ... Bringing Bankruptcies, Bond Busts
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.
Is the U.S. economy steamrolling toward another recession? Will 2014 turn out to be a major "turning point" when we look back on it? Before we get to the evidence, it is important to note that there are many economists that believe that the United States never actually got out of the last recession. In fact, that would fit with the daily reality of tens of millions of Americans that are deeply suffering in this harsh economic environment. But no matter whether we are in a "recession" at the moment or not, there are an increasing number of indications that we are rapidly plunging into another major economic slowdown. The following are the top 12 signs that the U.S. economy is heading toward another recession...
ISM Services headline index collapsed to 51.6 (missing expectations of 53.5) to its lowest since February of 2010. We are sure many will proclaim this as "weather-related" but remember the strong performance of the Manufacturing print. Respondents worried about weather, Obamacare, and oil prices... as the employment sub-index crashed from 56.4 (highest since Nov 2010) to 47.5 (lowest since Mar 2010) - the biggest drop since Lehman!