In the aftermath of Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys" there has been a renewed surge in interest in High Frequency Trading. Alas, much of it is conflicted, biased, overly technical or simply wrong. And since we can't assume that all those interested have been followed our 5 year of coverage of a topic that finally has earned its day in the public spotlight, below is a simple summary for everyone.
February 2013 saw Russian visitors spend 16% more than in 2012 as "investor" visas flowed, property soared, and hot money slooshed into the UK recovery. However, as AFP reports, Russian spending in British shops fell by 17 percent last month compared to February 2013 as the "unstable situation in Russia has shown its effect on tourism spend this year," already. Shoppers from the Middle East (up 31%) and China (up 23%) continue to represent the highest proportion of international sales in Britain, but it is clear, as The Economist points out, Russian wealth has permeated the upper reaches of society in Britain more completely than in any other Western country, with the health of "Londongrad" now at stake if sanctions are extended.
As promised, the Johnson/Crapo bill has finally arrived. There are 442 pages of legal mumbo jumbo, guaranteed to cure all forms of insomnia and those suffering from low blood pressure. The agencies have been providing cheap financing to borrowers, courtesy of the Fed. The agencies have been providing cheap and bullet proof insurance for bond investors, courtesy of the Treasury. The Bill somehow expects some mysterious private capital will come in to insure the first loss position and the Government (including the FOMC) can gracefully exit its role in the mortgage monopoly. That is more than overly optimistic. Can anyone quantify that in dollars as well as mortgage rates? In summary, the Bill is going to increase mortgage compliance costs. It will confuse, rather than clarify, the mortgage application and approval process. It is a disaster. Fortunately, we suspect the Bill has no chance of passing in its present form.
The biggest news this past week was Janet Yellen's first post-FOMC meeting speech and press conference as the Federal Reserve Chairwoman. While some have the utmost respect for her accomplishments, every time we hear her speak all we can think of is a white haired, 75-year old grandmother baking cookies in her kitchen. This week's "Things To Ponder" covers several disparate takes on what she said, didn't say and the direction of the Federal Reserve from here.
In the aftermath of yesterday's key market event, the FOMC's $10 billion tapering and elimination of QE with "QualG", not to mention the "dots" and the "6 month" comment, the USD has been on fire against all key pairs, with the EURUSD sliding below 1.38, a 150 pip move in one day which should at least give Mario Draghi some comfort, but more importantly sending the USDJPY soaring to 102.500 even as US equity futures continue to slide, and not to mention the Nikkei which tumbled -1.7% to just above 14,000 overnight. Perhaps the biggest take home message for traders from yesterday is that the Yen carry trade correlation to the Emini is now dead if only for the time being until DE Shaw and Virtu recalibrate their all-important correlation signal algos. The other big news overnight was the plunge in the Yuan, tumbling 0.5%, 6.2286, up 343 pips and crushing countless speculators now that the "max vega" point has been passed. Expect under the radar news about insolvent trading desks over the next few days, as numerous mega levered FX traders, who had bet on continued CNY appreciation are quietly carted out the back door. Elsewhere, gold and other commodities continue to be hit on rising fear the plunging CNY will accelerate the unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals.
Much has been said about Yellen's Freudian slip involving the "6 month" considerable period language, which as we pointed out earlier, is said to have been the catalyst that sent stocks sharply lower just after 3 pm when it was uttered. However, in reality all this statement suggests is a rate hike some time in mid-2015, half a year after when QE is said to have ended, which if one listens to the market experts, is what is supposed to be priced in (of course, what the experts won't tell you is that the market wants its cake and endless liquidity injections by the Fed too). However, one thing that was far more unexpected and certainly remained unexplained by Yellen, is the curious case of the Fed dots, or the estimations by the individual committee members, of where they see rates at the end of 2016. What was surprising here was the sharp upward jump from 1.75% as of December to 2.25% currently.What is even more inexplicable, is that the Fed hiked its rate forecast even as it lowered its GDP projections for the next two years. Why? Not even Janet Yellen could answer that.
In case you misunderstood and judged the market's reaction to Janet Yellen's first FOMC statement, the ultimate Fed mouthpiece is out with a few clarifying words (well 712 words posted in under 4 minutes). The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath clarifies "The Fed stressed it has not changed its plan to keep interest rates low long after the bond-buying program ends," and added further that "the Fed said explicitly for the first time that it likely would keep short-term rates lower than normal, even after inflation and employment return to their longer-run trends." While noting a bigger consensus of members around a 2015 rate 'liftoff', Hilsenrath is careful to point out that the Fed also blamed the weather for not having a clue.
The FOMC is now meeting for the first time with Janet Yellen as Chair. Goldman's US team expects the FOMC to deliver an accommodative message...alongside a continued tapering of asset purchases. However, they note, their market views here are likely to shift little in response, as much of that dovishness is arguably already priced, particularly in US rates. SocGen notes that "qualitative guidance" will probably consist of two components: the FOMC’s forecast for the fed funds rate (aka “the dots”) providing a baseline scenario, and a descriptive component signalling the elasticity of this rate path to the underlying economic outlook. SocGen also warns that this transition is worrisome for inflation in 2015. But BofA suggests this is not problem as The Fed will indicate the US economy "lift-off" in late-2015 will save us all.
To believe that the housing bubble caused the 2008 crash was is to ignore its origin in Federal Reserve policies that forced investors to reach for yield. Tragically, the Federal Reserve has done the same thing again – starving investors of safe returns, and promoting a reach for yield into increasingly elevated and speculative assets. Thinking about the crisis only from the perspective of housing, investors and policy-makers have allowed the same process to play out more broadly in the equity market. On a quantitative basis, the overvaluation of the equity market is greater percentage-wise, and greater dollar-wise, than the overvaluation of housing in 2006-2007. Impatient, crowd-following investors are all too willing to wastefully scatter seeds onto this parched desert, thinking that this is their only chance to sow. To wait patiently in the expectation of fertile soil and rain is not an act of pessimism, but an act of optimism and informed experience.
Diversification with a solid strategy
Near-Bankrupt Rome Bailed Out As Italy Unemployment Rises To All Time High, Grows By Most On Record In 2013Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/01/2014 14:34 -0500
A few days ago, we reported that, seemingly out of the blue, the city of Rome was on the verge of a "Detroit-style bankruptcy." " And just as expected, yesterday Rome was bailed out. What is certain is that this year will not be the last one Rome is bailed out either. In fact, it will continue getting rescued for years to come because contrary to the propaganda, the Italian economy continues to get worse with every passing month, yields on Italian bonds notwithstanding. Ansa reports that in January the Italian unemployment rate rose to a record 12.9%, and that "reducing Italy's "shocking" rate of unemployment must be the government's highest priority, Premier Matteo Renzi said Friday." How, by pretending everything is ok, kicking the Roman can and hoping things improve by bailing out anyone that is insolvent? Putting 2013 in perspective, this is the year when according to national statistical agency Istat, some 478,000 jobs were lost in Italy in 2013, the worst year since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, with an average annual jobless rate of 12.2% last year.
Crisis was averted. Or was it just put off for another day?
Once again the smell of NAPALM is in the air
The biggest fear the market currently has is not the ongoing crisis in the Emerging Markets, not the suddenly slowing economy, not even China's credit bubble popping: it is that Bernanke's successor may have suddenly reverted to the "Old Normal" - a regime in which the Fed is not there to provide the training wheels should the S&P suffer a 5%, 10% or 20% (or more) drop. Whether such fears are warranted will be tested as soon as there is indeed a bear market plunge in stocks - the first in nearly three years (incidentally the topic of the Fed's lack of vacalty was covered in a recent Reuters article). So, assuming that indeed the most dramatic change in market dynamics in the past five years has taken place, how does one trade this new world which is so unfamiliar to so many of today's "younger" (and forgotten by many of the older) traders? And, more importantly, how does one look for the signs of a bottom: an Old Normal bottom that is. Courtesy of Convergex' Nicholas Colas, here is a reminder of what to look forward to, for those who are so inclined, to time the next market inflection point.
In the aftermath of yesterday's Developed Market rout, it may come as a surprise how - relatively - quiet the EM bourses were. Because while the now ongoing Argentina reserve depletion continues (the country has $28 billion left - a drain of over $2 billion in two weeks, the Turkish political instability is still there, and everyone from Hungary to South Africa to India are lamenting the Fed's taper, for the most part traders were ignoring developments out of the emerging world. This may change today when just over an hour ago, Russia announced it would cancel a bond auction for the second consecutive week after an emerging-market rout sent yields on January 2028 bonds to record highs. The reason cite: market conditions.