The longer Abe’s policies fail to deliver the hoped-for economic results, the more intensely they will be implemented.
After being solidly ignored for weeks, suddenly the Scottish independence referendum is all anyone can talk about, manifesting itself in a plunge in the GBPUSD which ha slide over 100 pips in the past 24 hours, adding to the slide over the past week, and is now just above 1.61, the lowest since November 2013. In fact, the collapse of the unionist momentum has managed to push back overnight news from Ukraine, major Russian sanction escalations, Japan GDP as well as global trade data on the back burner. Speaking of global trade, with both China and Germany reporting a record trade surplus overnight, with the US trade deficit declining recently, and with not a single country in the past several month reporting of an increase in imports, one wonders just which planet in the solar system (or beyond) the world, which once again finds itself in a magical global trade surplus position, is exporting to?
Even as the NATO summit began hours ago in Wales, conveniently enough (for Obama) at the venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup, so far today geopolitics has taken a backseat to the biggest event of the day - the ECB's much hyped and anticipated announcement. So anticipated in fact that even as it has been priced in for the past month, especially by BlackRock which is already calculating the Christmas bonus on its "consultancy" in implementing the ECB's ABS purchasing program and manifesting itself in record low yields across Europe's bond market, Reuters decided to milk it some more moments ago with the following blast: "Plans to launch an asset-backed securities (ABS) and covered bond purchase programme worth up to 500 billion euros are on the table at Thursday's European Central Bank policy meeting..." The notable being the size of the program, which at €500 billion, is precisely what Deutsche Bank said a week ago the size of the ABS program would be. Almost as if the bank with the world's biggest derivative exposure is helping coordinate the "Private QE"...
Having singularly failed to reform or restructure their dilapidated economies, many governments throughout the West have left it to their central banks to keep a now exhausted credit bubble to inflate further. Unprecedented monetary stimulus and the suppression of interest rates have now boxed both central bankers and many investors into a corner. Bond markets now have no value but could yet get even more delusional in terms of price and yield. Stock markets are looking increasingly irrational relative to the health of their underlying economies. The euro zone looks set to re-enter recession and now expects the ECB to unveil outright quantitative easing. If the West wishes to regain its economic vigour versus Asia, it would do well to remember what made it so culturally and economically exceptional in the first place. We seem to be close to the endgame.
Non-ideologically laden overview of the key issues shaping the investment climate in the week ahead.
Dispassionate, non-conspiratorial rant , fact-based high level discussion of the sigificant drivers of the week ahead.
"... signs of risk-taking have increased in some asset classes. Equity valuations of smaller firms as well as social media and biotechnology firms appear to be stretched, with ratios of prices to forward earnings remaining high relative to historical norms. Beyond equities, risk spreads for corporate bonds have narrowed and yields have reached all-time lows. Issuance of speculative-grade corporate bonds and leveraged loans has been very robust, and underwriting standards have loosened. For example, average debt-to-earnings multiples have risen, and the share rated B or below has moved up further for leveraged loans." - Janet Yellen
"We’re in a world where there are very few unambiguously cheap assets...If you ask me to give you the one big bargain out there, I’m not sure there is one." But frustrating as the situation can be for investors hoping for better returns, the bigger question for the global economy is what happens next. How long will this low-return environment last? And what risks are being created that might be realized only if and when the Everything Boom ends?
While the situation between Israel and Gaza continues to escalate, pulling the markets' attention away from the recent developments in Iraq (as for the Ukraine civil war, forget it), the big news overnight came out of Chine which reported another contraction in consumer prices, which both declined to 2.3% and missed expectations of a 2.4% print (down from 2.5%). Producer Prices had another negative print, the 28th in a row, and have remained negative since 2012. This led to the Hang Seng Index falling at the fastest rate since late June to erase all YTD gains. However, as has now become the norm, macro news hardly impacted US equity futures, which are driven exclusively by the Yen carry trade, which unlike yesterday's pounding, has traded rangebound between 101.6-101.7 keeping US equity futures just barely in the green. We expect the momentum ignition algo to kick in at some point, for absolute no fundamental reason beside the NY Fed trading desk issuing a green light, sending the USDJPY surging, taking the Spoos with them, and helping stocks forget all about the weak Asian session.
On the day after Chairman Yellen’s press conference, investors aggressively bid up inflation trades across numerous asset classes. Gold and silver rallied sharply, TIPS implied inflation breakevens widened (despite a new slug of 30-year supply), Treasury yields rose, and the yield curve steepened. Based on investor positioning and market sentiment (CFTC’s Commitment of Traders data show record net short positions exceeding $1.5 trillion in notional rates exposure among speculators in the eurodollar futures markets), there’s decent potential for additional gains in these inflation expressions in the days and weeks ahead.
As another week passes by the markets have made no real movement in months. News flow, outside of Yellen's testimony, was also rather slow as first quarter's earnings season begins to come to a close. However, there were a few articles that we read this week that we thought you might find interesting as well... from the dangers of hidden leverage (in the re-burgeoning CDO markets) to the history if bubbles (and their lack of logic) and the demise of the US small business.
- Alibaba files for what may be biggest tech IPO (Reuters)
- Early Tap of 401(k) Replaces Homes as American Piggy Bank (BBG)
- Developers Turn Former Office Buildings Into High-End Apartments (WSJ)
- Thai court orders Yingluck Shinawatra to step down as PM (Guardian)
- German industry orders fell 2.8% in March, the biggest drop in one and a half years (RTE)
- Ukraine Bulls Scatter as Death Toll Mounts (BBG)
- China Property Slump Adds Danger to Local Finances (BBG)
- Stein Says Fed May See Bouts of Volatility as It Approaches Exit (BBG)
This time is different - check; Moral Hazard - check; Easy Money - check; Overblown growth stories - check; No valuation anchor - check; Conspicuous consumption - check; Ponzi finance - check... and, of course, Irrational exuberance: check!
This doesn't happen very often. Marketwatch reports that Jim Bianco points out in a recent market comment that the 67 economists taking part in a regular Bloomberg survey have a unanimous forecast regarding treasury bond yields: they will be higher 6 months from now... and a separate poll of economists recently showed that exactly zero expect the economy to contract. This is an astonishing degree of consensus thinking, but it perfectly mirrors the complacency we see in stock market sentiment and positioning data. The probability that such a unanimous view will turn out to be correct is traditionally extremely low. The economy is likely resting on a much weaker foundation than is generally believed. This is not least the result of massive monetary pumping and deficit spending, both of which tend to severely weaken the economy on a structural level, even though they can create a temporary illusion of 'growth'.
Earlier today, the NAHB released its latest builder confidence report. Something stood out to us, namely the following data, which shows that while confidence picked up modestly in the Northeast in April, it tumbled in the West and Midwest. What's the explanation for this ongoing deterioration in housing market sentiment in states that had, not only were not impact by the "vortex" but if anything, were "crushed" by the balmy March atmospheric conditions? Why, "it's the weather, duh."