If asking traders where stocks and oil would be trading one day after a weekend in which the Doha OPEC meeting resulted in a spectacular failure, few if any would have said the S&P would be over 2,100, WTI would be back over $40 and the VIX would be about to drop to 12 and yet that is precisely where the the S&P500 is set to open today, hitting Goldman's year end target 8 months early, and oblivious of the latest batch of poor earnings news, this time from Intel and Netflix, both of which are sharply lower. We expect that after taking out any 2,100 stops, the S&P will then make a solid effort to take out all time highs, now just over 1% away.
Sometimes you have to laugh...
Following yesterday's OPEC "production freeze" meeting in Doha which ended in total failure, where in a seemingly last minute change of heart Saudi Arabia and specifically its deputy crown prince bin Salman revised the terms of the agreement demanding Iran participate in the freeze after all knowing well it won't, oil crashed and with it so did the strategy of jawboning for the past 2 months had been exposed for what it was: a desperate attempt to keep oil prices stable and "crush shorts" while global demand slowly picked up. And whether it is central banks, or chronic BTFDers, just 12 hours after oil opened for trading with a loud crash, the commodity has nearly wiped out all losses, and both brent and WTI were down barely 2%, leading to both European stocks and US equity futures virtually unchanged on the session.
Today Janet Yellen and the FOMC will go back to square one and try to reset global expectations unleashed by the ill-fated December rate "policy mistake" hike, when at 2pm the Fed will announce assessment of the economy, even if not rate hike is expected today. Just like in December the Fed will be forced to telegraph that it is hiking rates as a signal of a strengthening US, and global, economy where "risks are balanced" and hope that the subsequent global reaction will not be a rerun of what happened in January and February when confusion about the Fed's intentions led to a global market rout.
Was that it for the great February/March bear market rally?
Last week it was all about the ECB, which disappointed on hopes of further rate cuts (leading to the Thursday selloff) but delivered on the delayed realization that the ECB is now greenlighting a tsunami in buybacks (leading to the Friday market surge). This week it is once again all about central banks, only this time instead of stimulus, the risk is to the downside, with the BOJ expected to do nothing at all after the January NIRP fiasco, while the "data dependent" Fed will - if anything - hint at further hawkishness now that the S&P is back over 2,000.
It has been a morning session of two halves. In Asia, the mood was somber, and stocks fell with the Shanghai Composite (+1.1%) outperforming on another late session binge-fest by the National Team. The European session on the other hand surged higher and did not look back when the USDJPY proceeded to soar 100 pips from overnight lows, and push the Stoxx 600 +1.7% and US equity futures up with it, with the ES trading above 1900 as of this posting, adding to the best 2-day rally in the S&P in five months.
Current sales and buyer traffic tumbled in February for homebuilders who downgraded their confidence index to 58 (from 61) missing expctations and at its worst level since May 2015. While futures sales hope rose very modestly, NAHB shows buyer traffic plunged to its lowest since March 2015 with every region seeing weakness (most notably The West).
One day after markets saw a violent return of optimism, which sent stocks around the globe and US equity futures soaring (the US was closed for President's Day) driven by terrible Japanese and Chinese economic data which in turn hinted at more central bank easing, animal spirits have cooled off despite some truly unprecedented Chinese credit numbers.
Last night's Chinese data deluge can only be classified with one word: bad. So if bad news was again bad news as many claim, both commodities (read oil), and US equity futures should be tumbling right now... but just the opposite is happening and in fact both Brent and WTI have already jumped over $30 this morning. This happens even as the IEA said this morning that global oil markets could “drown in oversupply,” And yet this morning both commodities, global stocks and futures soaring? Simple: the following Bloomberg headline summarizes it: "Brent Rallies More Than $1 as China GDP Spurs Stimulus Bets," and where Brent goes, so goes risk, and the S&P.
With the US closed today for Martin Luther King Holiday, global risk tone has once again been set entirely by oil, which opened sharply lower at fresh 12 year lows on fears of an Iran oil glut, but has steadily rebounded on the latest OPEC comments, and at last check both WTI and Brent were unchanged trading in the low $29's on muted volume. With Asian markets mixed, European shares swung between gains and losses, while the yen weakened as China stepped up efforts to curb foreign speculation against its currency. Crude oil rose from a 12-year low after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast a decline in supplies from rival producers.
The day has come when the boxed-in Fed has no choice: with the vast majority of the market expecting a rate hike, Yellen has to deliver or suffer a crushing confidence blow like no other. And deliver she will, with expectations that said hike will be "as dovish as possible." For now however, the market is desperate to convince itself that just as more easing and more QE were bullish for the market, so rate hikes are just as bullish. Recall from late 2013: "tapering is not tightening," then the 2015 version of this refrain is "tightening is not tightening."
The start of the Fed's most eagerly awaited two-day policy meeting in years has finally arrived with the market expecting Yellen to announce the first 25 bps rate hike in 9 years tomorrow with nearly 80% probability, and so far US equity futures are enjoying a last minute relief rally, while emerging market stocks rose for the first day in ten after the longest losing run since June. Europe's Stoxx 600 Index has also rebounded from a five-day losing streak, the worst in over four months.
While this may well be the most important week for capital markets in the past 9 years, when the Fed is widely expected to hike rates on Wednesday, precisely 7 years to the day since it cut rates to zero, here are the other key events to watch out for.