In her first public speech on monetary policy, Janet Yellen made it clear that the Fed intends to pursue a more rules-based, less discretionary policy. This is good news. The bad news, however, is that Yellen focused only on employment and inflation. In that same speech, not a single word was said about attending to speculative risks or financial instability (which are inherent in Fed-induced, yield-seeking speculation). Without attending to that third leg, the Fed is resting the fate of the U.S. economy on a two-legged stool. The problem is this. In viewing the Fed’s mandate as a tradeoff only between inflation and unemployment, Chair Yellen seems to overlook the feature of economic dynamics that has been most punishing for the U.S. economy over the past decade. That feature is repeated malinvestment, yield-seeking speculation, and ultimately financial instability, largely enabled by the Federal Reserve’s own actions.
Ultimately, I think the problem for HFT liquidity providers is not that they are skinning investors, but that they are outsiders. They're doing what the keepers of the market infrastructure keys have always done - skin investors, retail and institutional alike, to the outer limits of what technology and the law allows. But while their outward behavior and appearance may be familiar, they are clearly an alien species on the inside, without so much as a microgram of Wall Street DNA. They are Rakshasa's. HFT liquidity providers are technology companies disguised as financial intermediaries. They hijacked the market infrastructure in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stealing it away from under the noses of the big financial firms who had come to see control over market structure as their birthright, and they had a good run. But now the big boys want their market infrastructure back, and they're going to get it.
Keep interest rates at zero, whilst printing trillions of dollars, pounds and yen out of thin air, and you can make investors do some pretty extraordinary things. "Central bankers control the price of money and therefore indirectly influence every market in the world. Given this immense power, the ideal central banker would be humble, cautious and deferential to market signals. Instead, modern central bankers are both bold and arrogant in their efforts to bend markets to their will. Top-down central planning, dictating resource allocation and industrial output based on supposedly superior knowledge of needs and wants, is an impulse that has infected political players throughout history." The result was always a conspicuous and dismal failure. Today’s central planners, especially the Federal Reserve, will encounter the same failure in time. The open issues are, when and at what cost to society?
- Putin Doesn't Rule Out Sending Troops (WSJ)
- Japan Cuts Economic View on Tax Rise (WSJ)
- No "harsh weather" in Chipotle restaurants where comp store sales rose 13.4% (PR)
- No sanctions for you: EU sanctions push on Russia falters amid big business lobbying (FT)
- Consumer Spending on Health Care Jumps as Obamacare Takes Hold (BBG)
- China Seen Cracking on Property Controls (BBG)
- Google, IBM results raise questions about other tech-sector companies (Reuters)
- California city evacuation lifted after military ordnance found (Reuters)
- For Obama, Standoff With Moscow Jumbles Plans at Home and Abroad (WSJ)
After a solid day for risk yesterday, surging higher on a continuation of the rumor that Japan's economy will deteriorate so much the BOJ will have to print more money (even though overnight ex BOJ governor Sekido said Kuroda won't print more) we have a more cautious tone this morning heading into the Easter long weekend. A double earnings miss from Google and IBM following the US market close, comments from the Chinese Premier suggesting that the government will keep its policy settings unchanged, and a press conference from Russia’s President Putin in which the Russian president as expected, has refused to back down, has put a small dampener on sentiment today. Add the fact that due to Good Friday April equities Op-Ex will take place today and trading in the next 9 hours promises to be more unrigged than ever, especially if the NY Fed trading desk manages to slam the VIX into single-digit territory
Yesterday we reminded those who fear the dreadful deflation ogre and its extreme monetary policy supporting fantasy that food inflation was in fact soaring. Of course, for those that do not eat Beef, Pork, Eggs, or Shrimp - everything's fine... except today we add yet another 'staple' to the extreme inflationary dilution of the average consumer's pocketbook... ORANGE-JUICE FUTURES RISE AS MUCH AS 1.5% TO TWO-YEAR HIGH
We are now entering the fifth season of head-fakes about “escape velocity” acceleration in as many years. Yet the Wall Street stock peddlers and their financial media echo boxes are so fixated on the latest “delta”—that is, ultra short-term “high frequency” data releases—that time and again they serve up noise, not meaningful economic signal. The larger point here is that the Kool-Aid drinkers keep torturing the high frequency data because they are desperate for any sign that the Fed’s $3.5 trillion of QE has favorably impacted the Main Street economy. And that’s important not because it might mean some sorely needed income and job gains for middle America, but because its utterly necessary to validate the Fed’s financial bubble.
*YELLEN SAYS FED COMMITTED TO ACCOMMODATION TO SUPPORT RECOVERY
Markets will be hanging on every word of what is likely Janet Yellen's first monetary policy speech and even more so the Q&A afterwards as she suggests that a considerable time is more than 6 months, and the delicate balance she has to play between admitting the economy is ugly while admitting that QE is over no matter what... all the while maintaining some semblance of credibility. One has to wonder if the ripfest rally of the last 24 hours is a buy the rumor ramp ahead of a sell the Yellen news event as once again she is tested...
We believe Fed’s actions would be more appropriately described as permitted cancerous beliefs to spread throughout the financial system, thereby killing Democratic Capitalism which is the basis of the capital markets.
We summarized yesterday's both better and worse than expected Chinese GDP data as follows: "a substantial deterioration of the economy, one which was to be expected yet one which can be spun as either bullish thanks to the GDP "beat", and negatively if the purpose is to make a case for more PBOC stimulus." Sure enough here are the headlines that "explain" the latest overnight futures surge which has once again brought the S&P into the green on the year - a 40 point Spoo move in hours since yesterday's bottom when the Nikkei "leaked" Japan's economy is on the ropes :
- Stocks Rise on China Stimulus Speculation
Here one should of course add the comment that launched yesterday's rebound, namely the Japanese warning that its economy is about to contract, adding to calls for more BOJ stimulus, and finally this other Bloomberg headline:
- The Strengthening Case for ECB Easing
And there you have it - goodbye "fundamental" case; welcome back "central banks will once again bail everyone out" case. Hopefully today's news are absolutely abysmal to add "US economic contraction fear renew calls for untapering" to the list of headlines that should send the S&P to all time highs by the end of today.
" The Korean authorities should limit foreign exchange intervention to the exceptional circumstances of disorderly market conditions" - US Treasury
One can see that while the traditional 6:00 AM USDJPY buy program is just duying to resume aggressive upward momentum ignition, futures are still leery and confused by the recent post-open high beta selloffs. Then again, things like yesterday's ridiculous no news 3:30pm ramp happen and confused them even more just as momentum is about to take a downward direction. Stocks in Asia (ex-China) advanced amid a reversal in sentiment after Citigroup (+4.15%) inspired positive close on Wall Street, however Shanghai Comp (-1.4%) underperformed as concerns over GDP data on Wednesday following weak money supply data weighed on sentiment. Stocks remained on the back foot (Eurostoxx50 -0.42%), with Bunds supported by the release of lower than expected German ZEW survey and also ongoing concerns surrounding the stand-off between Ukraine/Russia. Short-Sterling bear steepened after UK CPI fell to its lowest level since October 2009, but house prices across Britain posted its biggest rise since June 2010, reviving concerns over an overheating market.
On the 'growth' side, Commercial and Industrial loans are rising at a double digit annual rate of change (although it is unclear whether this is an indication of business optimism or stress - after all, we did see a big jump in these loans leading into the last recession). On the flip side, the bond market and the US dollar index seem to be flashing some warning signs about future growth. Simply put, the outlook for the economy is decidedly uncertain right now and we think so is the confidence in Janet Yellen. We think the more dire outcome for stocks would be if Toto fully pulled back the curtain on monetary policy and revealed it to be nothing more than a bunch clueless economists sitting in a conference room with no ability to control the economy or the markets. If US growth disappoints after all the Fed has done, how could anyone continue to view the Fed wizards as omnipotent? That would send the stock market back over the rainbow to the reality of an economy with big structural problems that can only be solved through political negotiation, something that has been notable only by its absence over – at least – the last 6 years. Are we headed back to Kansas?
Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.
What is an underlying explanation that can account for Momentum failing and Value working, but Quality NOT working? When one of my colleagues here at Salient saw these charts he said, “looks to me like the market is trading on a narrative of risk appetites and fear rather than toward some notion of seeking fundamentals or selling overbought growth stocks; otherwise Quality would be working, too.” To which I replied, “Amen, brother!” The notion that this market sell-off is limited to biotech or Internet or some other high-flying sub-sector because the market “realized” that these stocks were too expensive or out of concern with earnings this quarter (both explanations that I’ve seen of late in the WSJ and FT), just doesn’t hold water. These high-beta stocks are being hit hardest because they are at the epicenter of a broad market or beta earthquake. This is what it means to be high-beta…you live by the broad market sword and you die by the broad market sword.