Another morning melt up after a less than impressive session in China which saw the SHCOMP drop again reversing the furious gains in the past few days driven by hopes of more PBOC easing (despite China's repeated warning not to expect much). A flurry of market topping activity overnight once again, with Candy Crush maker King Digital pricing at $22.50 or the projected midpoint of its price range, and with FaceBook using more of its epically overvalued stock as currency to purchase yet another company, this time virtual reality firm Oculus VR for $2 billion. Perhaps an appropriate purchase considering the entire economy is pushed higher on pro-forma, "virtual" output, and the Fed's capital markets are something straight out of the matrix. Despite today's pre-open ramp, which will be the 4th in a row, one wonders if biotechs will finally break the downward tractor beam they have been latched on to as the bubble has shown signs of cracking, or will the mad momo crowd come back with a vengeance - this too will be answered shortly.
For some inane reason, about a year ago, there was a brief - and painfully boring - academic tussle between one group of clueless economists and another group of clueless economists, debating whether Too Big To Fail banks enjoy an implicit or explicit taxpayer subsidy, courtesy of their systematic importance (because apparently the fact that these banks only exist because they are too big in the first place must have been lost on both sets of clueless economists). Naturally, it goes without saying that the Fed, which as even Fisher now admits, has over the past five years, worked solely for the benefit of its banker owners and a few good billionaires, has done everything in its power to subsidize banks as much as possible, which is why this debate was so ridiculous it merited precisely zero electronic ink from anyone who is not a clueless economist. Today, the debate, for what it's worth, is finally over, when yet another set of clueless economists, those of the NY Fed itself, say clearly and on the record, that TBTF banks indeed do get a subsidy. To wit: " in fact, the very largest (top-five) nonbank firms also enjoy a funding advantage, but for very large banks it’s significantly larger, suggesting there’s a TBTF funding advantage that’s unique to mega-banks."
Spending just $3.33 on US-produced goods every year by every person in the USA would create 10,000 jobs. We obviously don’t have that much money to spend or we don’t care
It’s evident that the economy isn’t growing strongly because of conditions that central bankers themselves created, by encouraging excessive borrowing and disregarding moral hazard. In other words, the problem isn’t so much that the Fed can’t deliver another debt-fueled boom, but that it shouldn’t be trying to cure a credit bust with more borrowing in the first place. Sadly, though, this idea falls in the same category as the notion that the Fed’s balance sheet isn’t the right tool for job creation. It’s too damning a thought to be accepted by central bankers who’ve shackled themselves to a philosophy of ceaseless intervention. It’s also too basic for economists who prefer abstract theories and mathematical models over reality-based thinking.
As promised, the Johnson/Crapo bill has finally arrived. There are 442 pages of legal mumbo jumbo, guaranteed to cure all forms of insomnia and those suffering from low blood pressure. The agencies have been providing cheap financing to borrowers, courtesy of the Fed. The agencies have been providing cheap and bullet proof insurance for bond investors, courtesy of the Treasury. The Bill somehow expects some mysterious private capital will come in to insure the first loss position and the Government (including the FOMC) can gracefully exit its role in the mortgage monopoly. That is more than overly optimistic. Can anyone quantify that in dollars as well as mortgage rates? In summary, the Bill is going to increase mortgage compliance costs. It will confuse, rather than clarify, the mortgage application and approval process. It is a disaster. Fortunately, we suspect the Bill has no chance of passing in its present form.
If there was one thing that the market was demanding after last night's disappointing March HSBC manufacturing PMI, which has now fallen so low, local market participants are convinced a stimulus is imminent (despite China's own warnings not to expect this), and sent both the SHCOMP and the CNY surging, it would have been further weak data out of Europe, where the other possible, if not probable, "QE-stimulus" bank is located now that the Fed is in full taper mode. It didn't get precisely that however there was a step in the right direction when overnight the Euro area Composite Flash PMI eased marginally from 53.3 to 53.2 in March, largely as expected. The country breakdown showed a narrowing of the Germany/France Composite PMI gap owing to a notable (3.7pt) increase in the French PMI while the German PMI eased somewhat (1.4pt). On the basis of past correlations, a Euro area Composite PMI of 53.2 is consistent with GDP growth of around +0.4%qoq, slightly stronger than our Current Activity Indicator (+0.35%qoq).
Apparently China did not get the memo that the Fed's apologists are furiously scrambling to packpedal on Yellen's "6 month" guidance in virtually all media outlets. The is the only way to explain why Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao said overnight that "the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin boosting interest rates within six months after exiting “unconventional” monetary policy, and that will have a “significant impact” on the U.S. and world economy, as Market News International reported earlier. Zhu told China Development Forum this weekend “we believe a the Fed meeting this October, the exit of their quantiative easing will complete." In other words while the spin for public and algo consumption is that the Fed will continue placating those long the stock market until everyone's price target on the S&P 500 is hit and everyone can comfortably sell into an ever-present bid, China is already looking for the exits. But while the end of QE appears a given, at least until the market realizes there is no handover to an economy that is a moribund as it has ever been in the past five years, and the Fed has no choice but to untaper and return with an "even more QE" vengeance (it certainly won't be the first time - just recall the "end" of QE1, QE2, Op Twist, etc), a bigger question surrounds whether China, already sliding in credit contraction and suffering a plunging stock market with its housing sector also on the edge of a bubble bust, is about to take over from the Fed and proceed with its own stimulus program. The answer is no.
I think we are now even more strongly in a good-news-is-bad-news (and vice-versa) world. If we start seeing some strong economic data come out over the next few weeks and months, then I think the market - particularly the bond market and emerging markets - could get pretty squirrelly. Not that US stocks would be immune from this. Remember, the modern day Goldilocks environment for stocks has nothing to do with a happy medium between growth and inflation, but everything to do with growth being weak enough to keep an accommodative Fed in play. Strong growth data would augment a Common Knowledge structure that the Fed is on track to raise rates sooner and more rather than later and less, and that's no fun for anyone. Then again, if global growth data remains weak - and you really can't look at what's coming out of China, Europe, or Japan and think that the global growth story is anything but weak - that creates enough uncertainty about the Fed's path (not to mention the cover for political and economic Powers That Be to wage a full-scale media war to keep monetary policy in QE la-la land forever) to support the markets. Sounds a lot like Freedonia to me. Rufus T. Firefly for President?
One could see this one coming from a mile away.
In the early hours of yesterday morning European Union politicians struck a deal on legislation to create a single agency to handle failing banks and bail-ins in the Eurozone. It is important to realise that not just the EU but also the UK, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most G20 nations all have plans for bail-ins. Prepare accordingly ...
Look who is warning us again about the great harm conspiracy theories are doing to the minds of impressionable citizens everywhere: Cass Sunstein has emerged at Bloomberg, to once again plead for 'correction' of the many conspiracy theories that are disseminated on that pesky new medium, the intertubes, seemingly without inhibition. Contrary to the infamous paper in which he described how to precisely combat the spreading of false information that lacks the government's seal of approval, he doesn't list his favored censorship and disinformation techniques outright this time, but it is certainly implied that 'something must be done'. Mr. Sunstein's concern with 'conspiracy theories' is all about preserving the State's perceived right to rule by letting nothing intrude on the notion that politicians and bureaucrats are 'disembodied spirits solely devoted to the public good' rather than people who pursue their own personal interests.
Despite the total collapse (flattening) in the Treasury yield curve in the last 2 days, Citi's FX Technicals group is convinced that we have seen a turn in fixed income that will see significantly higher yields in the years ahead and notably higher yields by this yearend also. Furthermore, they believe this will initially come from the belief in a continued taper, and the curve will initially steepen (2’s versus 5’s and 2’s versus 10’s). This normalization, they add, will be a good thing - QE encourages misallocation of capital and poor business decisions which has a negative feedback loop into the economy - but add (as long as yields do not go too far too fast like last year).
The biggest news this past week was Janet Yellen's first post-FOMC meeting speech and press conference as the Federal Reserve Chairwoman. While some have the utmost respect for her accomplishments, every time we hear her speak all we can think of is a white haired, 75-year old grandmother baking cookies in her kitchen. This week's "Things To Ponder" covers several disparate takes on what she said, didn't say and the direction of the Federal Reserve from here.
Over the past few years we have grown used to the odd dissent among Fed members as hawks complain at the uber-easy policies and the costs outweighing the benefits but it's different this time. Among the most dovish of Fed heads, Narayana Kocherlakota, dissented, warning that the new "guidance" of the Fed (rather than lowering existing and entirely discredited 'thresholds') will hurt Fed credibility, foster undertainty, and lower growth. Perhaps, then, this is moment when the doves cry and in fact the Fed is becoming more hawkish than that investing public really believes is possible.
Once again there has been little fundamental news or economic data this morning in Europe with price action largely driven by expiring option contracts. In terms of key events, Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against US sanctions for now even as Bank Rossiya discovered Visa and MasterCard have stopped servicing its cards, and as Putin further added he would have his salary sent to the sanctioned bank - the farce will go on. Continuing the amusing "rating agency" news following yesterday's policy warning by S&P and Fitch on Russian debt (was that a phone call from Geithner... or directly from Obama), Fitch affirmed United States at AAA; outlook revised to stable from negative, adding that the US has greater debt tolerance than AAA peers. Perhaps thje most notable move was in Chinese stocks which rallied overnight after major domestic banks said to have stopped selling trust products which were blamed for encouraging reckless borrowing and diluted credit standards. Speculation of further stimulus and the potential introduction of single stock futures also helped the Shanghai Comp mark its biggest gain of 2014 closing up 2.7%.