Recent housing data have been generally been encouraging. However, the large number of residential properties that are "underwater"—meaning the borrower owes more on the mortgage than the property is worth—casts a long shadow on the sustainability of the housing recovery. Goldman estimates that approximately 10 million properties are currently underwater. Although this number has not changed much during the past three years, there is much divergence across the nation: California, Michigan, and Arizona, for example, experienced significant improvement, while Georgia, Utah, and Missouri saw many more properties falling underwater during this period. Given that there are 3 million first-lien mortgages that have LTVs of 125% or above as of April 2012, whether or not a large fraction of these mortgages will default in the near future has important implications for the housing market recovery.
The avuncular Art Cashin opines on the roller-coaster of unreality that has been the equity markets for the last few days as outcomes become increasingly binary and investors increasingly herded from one direction to another. His sage advice - as if spoken by the most-interesting-person-in-the-world - "Stay nimble", my friends.
I want a farm subsidy too!
European stock futures saw a jump higher at the cash equity open as the Eurostoxx broke through yesterday’s high of 2160. Comments from the Italian PM from late yesterday, who said that the majority of ministers are in favour of Euro bonds was noted but the move was largely technically driven with stops tripped on the ascent. In reaction to this the European bond yield spreads in the 10yr part of the curve tightened aggressively with OAT’s outperforming once again edging back toward the psychological 100bps level. Meanwhile in the FX market the USD weakened in early trade on the renewed risk appetite which bolstered the gains in EUR/USD alongside touted option defence by a Swiss name at the 1.2500 level. Commodity linked currencies such as the AUD was the main benefactor of a moderate move higher in crude futures and precious metals but has been capped so far by offers at 0.9800. Into the North American open prices have pared, with European equities in the cash and futures both slipping into the red, excepting the DAX. A distinctly light calendar from the US with only the May final Michigan report due, coupled with an early closure in the Treasury pit today, ahead of the Memorial day holiday, means that volumes will likely decline into the latter stages of the US session today.
With US markets already checked out ahead of the holiday day weekend, and Europe acting abnormally stupid (PIIGS bond spreads plunging, then soaring right back), there is little newsflow to report overnight, except for a key report that China loan growth is plunging in what is a major risk flag proudly ignored by all algos (but not the SHCOMP which dropped 0.7%). Futures have followed the now traditional inverse pattern of selling off early in the Asian session, then ramping following the European opening on nothing but vapors of hope. All that needs to happen today is a drop early in regular trading, following by a major squeeze on the third consecutive baseless rumor for the week to be complete, and for stocks to actually post an increase even as the EUR crashes and burns. Unless of course we get a rumor that Europe will be open on Monday even as the US is not there to bail out risk assets.
All you need to read and some more.
Yes, believe it or not, there is a world outside of JPM in the past 12 hours, and it was very ugly: weak Chinese CPI, big miss in Chinese industrial output (+9.3%, Est. +12.2%), even bigger miss, actually make it a decline, in Indian factory Outupt (down -3.5%, est. +1.7%), a collapse in China’s new local-currency loans plunging by 32% m/m in April, making a new money infusion paramount (yet inflation still abounds, and the threat of NEW QE keeping the PBOC mum - oh what to do?) and of course... Greece, where things are heading for a second election at breakneck speed, and where Syriza is gaining about a percent in new support each day, guaranteeing life for Europe will be a living hell in one month. What else happened overnight to send futures down 0.5% (and JPM down 8%). Below is a full recap from Bank of America.
We are in the last innings of a very bad ball game. We are coping with the crash of a 30-year–long debt super-cycle and the aftermath of an unsustainable bubble. Quantitative easing is making it worse by facilitating more public-sector borrowing and preventing debt liquidation in the private sector—both erroneous steps in my view. The federal government is not getting its financial house in order. We are on the edge of a crisis in the bond markets. It has already happened in Europe and will be coming to our neighborhood soon. The Fed is destroying the capital market by pegging and manipulating the price of money and debt capital. Interest rates signal nothing anymore because they are zero. Capital markets are at the heart of capitalism and they are not working.
The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence headline data beat expectations and rose to its highest level since February 2011. However, the somewhat surprising drop in 1-year inflation expectations (to four-month-lows) and drop in Current Economic Conditions index to four-month-lows that underlies less exuberance. Perhaps it is the fact that this current economic conditions index dropped by its largest amount in eight months that is fading equities.
Futures are unchanged after dropping steeply overnight following the Spanish re-downgrade as the Italian 5/10 year bond auction was bad, but still passed (somehow the lack of the European bond market ending is good news). This is ironic with Europe very much on edge following the release of very disappointing EU data, with German confidence, French consumer spending, Spanish unemployment all worse than estimates. Offsetting all of the negativity to some extent is the gross JPY10 trillion and net JPY5 trillion injection by the BOJ, which is a harbinger of what will happen west of Japan when push comes to shove. And so now all eyes turn to US GDP, which, continuing the Constanza bizarroness, better miss for stocks to surge, as a beat of consensus of 2.5% will mean the Chairman was not joking when he told the world he was morphing from a dove to a hawk (if only for theatrical purposes).
One of the biggest games in the Wall Street farce is the game of Beat the Number.
What we need to understand is that we are in one of the most dangerous phases of this crisis at the moment. The priests of fiat are being attacked from all sides. People have awoken to the Fed and how criminal and deceitful this organization is and the existential threat it poses to economic freedom and hence human liberty. The arguments against the Fed are blistering and the only rebuttal the Fed has is to spout the same old nonsense like “we saved the world” or some trite derivative of this fallacy. The only thing they saved are untalented speculators from their bad bets. What the Fed has systematically done is literally transfer all of the bad debts and bets from the banks to the taxpayer. We are living this reality to this day. This fact is becoming increasingly understood throughout society, hence the emergence of the tea party and then last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement. So the thing I want my readers to really internalize is that the Fed and indeed TPTB generally are getting slaughtered in the intellectual arena and they know it. As a result, they feel cornered and will thus act increasingly aggressive to prove they are right and everyone else is wrong.
What a quarter! The Dow up 8% and enjoying a record quarter in terms of points — 994 of them to be exact and in percent terms, now just 7% off attaining a new all-time high. The S&P 500 surged 12% (and 3.1% for March; 28% from the October 2011 lows), which was the best performance since 1998. It seems so strange to draw comparisons to 1998, which was the infancy of the Internet revolution; a period of fiscal stability, 5% risk-free rates, sustained 4% real growth in the economy, strong housing markets, political stability, sub-5% unemployment, a stable and predictable central bank. And look at the composition of the rally. Apple soared 48% and accounted for nearly 20% of the appreciation in the S&P 500. But outside of Apple, what led the rally were the low-quality names that got so beat up last year, such as Bank of America bouncing 72% (it was the Dow's worst performer in 2011; financials in aggregate rose 22%). Sears Holdings have skyrocketed 108% this year even though the company doesn't expect to make money this year or next. What does that tell you? What it says is that this bull run was really more about pricing out a possible financial disaster coming out of Europe than anything that could really be described as positive on the global macroeconomic front. What is most fascinating is how the private client sector simply refuses to drink from the Fed liquidity spiked punch bowl, having been burnt by two central bank-induced bubbles separated less than a decade apart leaving David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, still rightly focused on benefiting from his long-term 3-D view of deleveraging, demographics, and deflation - as he notes US data is on notably shaky ground. This appears to have been very much a trader's rally as he reminds us that liquidity is not an antidote for fundamentals.
Now that the Mega Millions Jackpot has just hit a record $640 million, people, mostly those in the lower and middle classes, are coming out in droves and buying lottery tickets with hopes of striking it rich. After all, with $640 million one can even afford a few shares of Apple stock. Naturally, we wish the lucky winner all the (non-diluted) best. There is, however, a small problem here when one steps back from the Sino Forest trees. As ConvergEx' Nicholas Colas explains, "Lotteries essentially target and encourage lower-income individuals into a cycle that directly prevents them from improving their financial status and leverages their desire to escape poverty. Yes, that’s a bit harsh, and yes, people have the right to make their own decisions. Even bad ones… Also, many people tend to significantly overestimate the odds of winning because we tend to assess the likelihood of an event occurring based on how frequently we hear about it happening. The technical name for this is the Availability Heuristic, which means the more we hear about big winners in the press, the less uncommon a big payday begins to seem." Call it that, or call it what one wishes, the end result is that the lottery is nothing but society's perfectly efficient way of, to use a term from the vernacular, keeping the poor man down while dangling hopes and dreams of escaping into the world of the loathsome and oh so very detested "1% ers". Alas, the probability of the latter happening to "you" is virtually non-existant.