There are simply no words to describe this.
Brian Sack, whom we have all grown to love and loathe, and whose mysterious Citadel trade tickets seemingly out of nowhere have prevented financial meltdowns on more than one occasion, may be leaving us next Friday, but that does not mean the Plunge Protection Team will remain headless. Meet Brian's replacement: Simon Potter, who before joining the NY Fed was... assistant professor of economics at UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, New York University and Princeton University and who " has written extensively on nonlinear dynamics over the business cycles. Recent topics have included forecasting the probability of recession, large panel forecasting models, modeling structural change and inflation expectations." So now we have a Keynesian economics professor with an expertise in "modeling inflation expectations" in charge of the S&P. Swell.
"We are recommending a short position in the S&P 500 index with a target of 1285 (roughly 5% below current levels) and a stop on a close above 1390."
The always pragmatic Art Cashin summarizes today's 12:30pm FOMC announcement. In summary: "look for the Fed to dangle a big carrot - some semi-specific course of action that would be put in place if the labor markets continue to worsen. Net/net, he needs to keep the door wide open and maybe outline certain milestone “triggers” that will allow the Fed to act later in an election year without being accused of being overtly political." Said otherwise, the happy ending will likely be deferred one more time. The market may not be very happy.
Everything today is all about the Fed, which at 12:30 pm will release its standard statement. The publication of Fed officials' forecasts and Chairman Bernanke's press conference will follow at 14:00 and 14:15, respectively. Some, like Goldman are convinced the Fed will announce new easing measures, which could take the form of a new LSAP, more Twist as well as a lengthening of short-term rate guidance beyond 2014, potentially going as far as announcing a Flow-based form of QE, while others such as BofA are fairly certain nothing will happen. Then at 2:00 pm the Fed will release its new economic projections, in which it is roundly expected that the Fed will revise its GDP forecasts for 2012 and 2013 lower, and unemployment - higher. Finally at 2:15 pm Bernanke will address Steve Liesman and a few other members of the fawning captured media. By then the market will be either much higher or much lower, although with about 5% of the recent market move driven entirely by pricing in of more QE, the risk is to the downside. In other words the hopium phase is over. It is now make or break for the Fed.
After a volatile morning’s trade, European equities are making gains. Having progressed through the session, markets saw a distinct period of volatility wherein peripheral 10-yr government bond yield spreads tightened markedly with their German counterpart, with the Spanish 10-yr yield making a test, but stopping short of a break below the 7.00% handle. The moves came in the wake of a relatively smooth Spanish T-Bill auction, which saw decent bid/cover ratios albeit with markedly higher yields on their 12- and 18-month lines. A modest relief rally was also observed when markets received confirmation that a recent ruling from the top German court regarding information on the ESM’s configuration does not bar the fund from coming into action and taking effect. In terms of data, markets have shrugged off a particularly poor ZEW survey from Germany, however a substantial weakening was observed in GBP following the release of the first deflationary May reading of CPI since records began. The pullback in cost-push inflation has given markets further reason to believe the BoE may conduct additional QE, as the price-level pressures have eased across the past two months.
Not like it should come as any surprise that the bank that first among peers "discovered" that flow, not stock matters, implying the Fed may literally never be able to stop monetizing, is expecting the FOMC to "ease monetary policy on June 20", but nonetheless here is the full just released Q&A from Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who just happens to be a Pound and Pence drinking buddy of former Goldmanite Bill Dudley, who just happens to run the New York Fed. Connects the dots. Implicit is that a big dollop of Large Scale Asset Purchases is imminent. That said, if the Fed does disappoint on June 20, and merely extends the maturity of bonds that it will sell as part of a Twist extension from 3 to 4 years, as the bond market appears to be implying (as first warned by Zero Hedge), then all bets are truly off. On the other hand, note where Goldman says: "However, it is also possible that the program would be specified as a "flow" of purchases of perhaps $50bn-$75bn per month." If that happens, gold is going to $2000, $3000, hell, $10,000 very soon, as it means the Fed will not stop printing ever again. Period.
That Italy is now at most days away from technical insolvency is not news: after all we reported on just this a week ago, citing not some fringe lunatics but Bloomberg economist David Powell who said that "Italy would probably be forced into receiving a bailout if it were to face another two weeks like the last seven days." This was a week ago... so one more week left, and things have not only not gotten better, they have gotten much worse. Which is why we were not very surprised to read the following just released news from Reuters: "Italy will push this week at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers for a semi-automatic mechanism involving the European Central Bank or the permanent bailout fund ESM to reduce spreads of euro zone bonds over Germany, Italy's European Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero said on Monday." Having done this for a while, we can tell Italy what the bond market, having perused the above sentence, just read: "semi-bailout." Because if Italy is implicitly demanding assistance from the ECB, and the Spanish bailout vehicle, the ESM, then things are about to hit the country with the €1.25 trillion in debt. It is all downhill from there. Oh, and here is what the bond market reads when they see ESM: "not so semi-subordination." Because if in Europe the idiotic plan to avoid a bank run is to announce preparations for one, followed by furious back pedaling, it is only logical (and we use the term loosely) that an attempt to avert a bailout will be pursued by requesting a semi version. Instead, that action always and only leads to one thing: waving the sellers right in.
"The art of life is the art of avoiding pain." ~ We'll see how this goes.
"Private Debt Doesn't Matter" Because "Banks Can't Create Money Out of Thin Air"
From Deutsche Bank, below is a list of key events to watch over the next several weeks – events that could have bearing on how the euro sovereign debt crisis evolves. Of particular note: in the next 6 weeks there are 18 or so days on which Spain, Italy or, yes, Greece will be issuing debt. Have that espresso machine ready.
One European think tank which has been spot on in its skepticism over the past two years, is OpenEurope. Below they share their views on the next steps for Greece.