U.S. equity markets rallied once again after opening weaker Monday repeating previous performances. There wasn’t much news domestically. The Fed continued modest POMO actions which will grow in scope throughout the week. Stocks were quiet most of the day but got a lift on rumors that Apple (AAPL) will declare a dividend of some kind. If they do this, then the SEC should be monitoring who and what groups were front-running this piece of news.
As Mark Grant so poignantly reminded us yesterday, the Fed is printing $188 million per hour. That is the cost of Dow 14,000 -- that is the price we pay to see Jim Cramer and company consecrate the new bull market via impromptu CNBC specials. This hourly rate is of course implied by the $85 billion of assets the Fed now buys each and every month.
The following five charts reflect the hollowing out of the private-sector employment. This has profound implications for education, taxes, housing and inequality. What no one dares admit is that the U.S. economy is burdened by overcapacity (too many malls, restaurants, MRI machines, etc.) and too much debt, much of which was taken on to fund mal-investments. We suffer from a systemic failure of imagination. The financial and political Aristocracy that rules the neofeudal, financialized economy have no other model other than debt-based misallocation of capital and endless growth of debt-based consumption. That this model is broken and cannot possibly get us where we need to go does not matter; they will continue to do more of what's failed because they have no alternative model that leaves their power and wealth intact.
Ben was in congress campaigning er, testifying mostly about the effectiveness of all things ZIRP and QE. He was grilled about possible risks with QE especially if interest rates should rise. The Bernank saying that interest rates would rise was unlikely but he then cavalierly stated if rates rise, the Fed would just “hold back on payments” er, stiff the Treasury. That’s no big deal for him since by then he’ll be down the road writing his memoirs, making speeches and joining some big Wall Street firm as a well-paid consultant. The Bernank was also asked if he noted any bubbles or market excess and said he saw none.
The great trade, capital flow and debt imbalances that were built up over the preceding two decades must reverse themselves. Michael Pettis notes, however, that these imbalances can continue for many years, but at some point they become unsustainable and the world must adjust by reversing those imbalances. One way or the other, in other words, the world will rebalance. But there are worse ways and better ways it can do so. Pettis adds that, any policy that does not clearly result in a reversal of the deep debt, trade and capital imbalances of the past decade is a policy that cannot be sustained. It is likely to be political considerations that determine how quickly the rebalancing processes take place and whether they do so in ways that set the stages for future growth or future stagnation. Pettis' guess is that we have ended the first stage of the global crisis, and most of the deepest problems have been identified. In 2013 we will begin to see how policymakers respond and what the future outlook is likely to be. The following 10 themes are what he will be watching this year in order to figure out where we are likely to end up.
It appears that not only we are tracking the phaseout in equity inflows, all of which are simply the reversal of the massive $220 billion surge in bank deposits in the month of December due to fears of Fiscal Cliff dividend and capital gains tax increases (explained previously), and which as today's ICI update indicates have trickled down to just $683 million - the lowest weekly inflow year to date. Among the others who are keeping track of the weekly reduction in inbound capital euphoria, in addition to the six companies which priced equity offerings on Monday as was shown previously, are these fine corporations and existing stakeholders, including Apollo, KKR, Carlyle, Blackstone, Thomas H. Lee, and Bain, who just can't wait to get out while the getting is good, split once again evenly between secondaries and follow ons.
The price action in the foreign exchange market is choppy as short-term participants seem nervous after being whipsawed yesterday. Sterling fell nearly a cent to new multi-month lows following the BOE's inflation report that confirmed official expectations that price pressures will remain above target and King welcomed the recent depreciation of the point. Also of note the Australian dollar, which staged a sharp recovery off the year's lows yesterday and has seen follow through buying today, helped perhaps by gains in a consumer confidence measure.
The was nothing in the rogue G7 sourced comment yesterday that that Japanese Finance Minister Aso did not say prior to the G7 statement and before the weekend. The pace of the yen's depreciation was too fast. The market reacted to it at the time.
We have long held the machinations of The National Association of Realtors (NAR) up to some ridicule. As many will note, we ignore every NAR data release due to the fact that it is certified guesswork (at best) as per the massive periodic revisions that just so happen wipe out all prior year gains. We also suspect a darker side, as the NAR, courtesy of its anti money-laundering exemption, is simply a middleman allowed to close its eyes as dirty money is ferried into the US and specifically its real estate market. But former Fannie Mae chief credit officer Ed Pinto digs a little deeper into the real driver behind the NAR. For 90 years the NAR (and its predecessor organization) has supported expanding the government’s role in housing finance. Today, the government guarantees upwards of 90 percent of all new mortgages. It is easy to reconcile the NAR’s interest in home ownership and its support for the expansion of the government’s role in housing finance. In Ed's research he has not come across a single instance where the NAR has stated that lending standards should be tightened. To the contrary the NAR has almost always called for loosened lending standards and continued or increased government involvement, no matter the market conditions.
With the world so obviously gripped in currency war even the hotdog guy has moved away from saying how technically undervalued AAPL stock is to opining on who is leading the global race to debase, it was only a matter of time before the G-7 confirmed the only strategy left is FX devaluation by denying it. Sure enough, a preliminary statement from the G-7 came earlier, in which the leading "developed" nations said, well, absolutely nothing:
We, the G7 Ministers and Governors, reaffirm our longstanding commitment to market determined exchange rates and to consult closely in regard to actions in foreign exchange markets. We reaffirm that our fiscal and monetary policies have been and will remain oriented towards meeting our respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments, and that we will not target exchange rates. We are agreed that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will continue to consult closely on exchange markets and cooperate as appropriate.
This follows a statement by the US Treasury's Lael Branaird yesterday in which she said that she is supportive of the effort in Japan to end deflation and “reinvigorate growth”. Lastly, the SNB's Jordan also confirmed that the Swiss National Bank will continue to do everything to crush its own currency, and will the 1.20 EURCHF floor, stating that Japan is merely doing the right thing to stimulate growth (i.e., doing what "we" are doing). In other words, let the FX wars continue and may the biggest balance sheet win, all the while everyone pretends nothing is happening.
Just in case the Friday night insider dump bomb by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, in which he announced the sale of 42% of his GOOG holdings the day the stock hit its all time high, did not send a clear enough message to the market as to what side of the under-over valued spectrum corporate insiders believe we currently find ourselves in, here come six other companies with announcement of equity follow ons and secondary offerings - mostly by "selling shareholders" who happen to be some of the smartest LBO shops around - after the close on Monday alone. The scramble to sell equity while the selling is good is on.
Coffee is just that kind of market great for traders and well worth putting on your trading radar screens.
After two consecutive down days in the market, it was time to get real, and like clockwork the dollar and yen devastation started right out of the gate in overnight trading, when first the USDJPY exploded higher, followed promptly by the EURUSD, both of which hit new period highs, of over 92, and just why of 1.37 respectively. And with not one funding currency around to push risk higher, but two, futures have ramped enough to undo all of yesterday's losses and then some. Bad news was either promptly ignored, such as China's official PMI coming in at 50.4, below expectations of the 50.6 print, or offset by conflicting data, with the HSBC China PMI print moments after at 52.3, higher than the 52.0 expected, taking us back to early 2012 when the Chinese PMI was contracting and expending at the same time.
In a slight surprise, the FOMC appears to have seen the recent weakness in macro data as supportive of its ongoing pumpathon even suggesting more is possible:
- *FED SAYS GLOBAL MARKET STRAINS EASED
- *FED SAYS ECONOMY PAUSED DUE TO WEATHER, TRANSITORY ISSUES
- *FED SAYS ECONOMIC ACTIVITY `PAUSED IN RECENT MONTHS'
- *GEORGE DISSENTS FROM FOMC DECISION
Pre-FOMC: ES 1502.5, 10Y 2.025%, Crude $97.75, Gold $1678, EUR 1.3570
In a week dominated by prognosticators pointing reflexively to a nominal price index flashing green on their TV as indication that all is well in the world, Bob Shiller provides some much-needed healthy skepticism on not just the state of the housing market but the broad economy itself. While Bloomberg TV's Tom Keene presses his short-term anchoring-biased view of a world heading for much better growth and a US housing recovery that will seemingly save us all; Shiller warns we have seen this before (in 2009's housing market) and that the housing decline could go on. When Keene tries to translate the market's performance into economic performance expectations, Shiller responds "you are talking to wrong man." From the fact that we should be growing super-normally now to return to 'normal' market conditions to his view of many more years to go in this stagnation, four minutes of Shiller's historical prescience is the perfect foil to the tick-watching talking-heads exuberance (especially in light of today's dismal new home sales).
It is a well-known phenomenon that quiet markets, low volatility and a lack of visible risks on the horizon can lead to complacence and increasingly dangerous, leveraged positions. In doing so, these market conditions set the stage for the next cycle of deleveraging and losses. What has also become apparent is a predictable behavioral response to this cycle: when the markets experience large losses, tail risk hedging comes back into fashion; on the other hand, when markets are quiet, investors can quickly forget the pain suffered during prior crises. As PIMCO's Vineer Bhansali points out, the current hedging characteristics are comparable to 1/15/2008, right before the crisis. He adds that, for many investors, it paid to have tail hedges then. If investors believe we are still investing in a dangerous, potentially even more dangerous, environment, they should consider hedging; adding that in their view, tail hedging is not just a trade, but an asset allocation decision for robust portfolio construction. In this light, today’s valuation levels make it easy to be countercyclical and add to tail hedges. Perhaps today's VIX-SPX decoupling is the first sign?