The small-cap Russell 2000 is down over 10% from its July highs (down 6.2% year-to-date) as VIX is back over 17. Treasury yields continue to collapse (down 8-9bps today alone) with 10Y trading with a 2.40% handle (and 3Y under 1% again). All other major equity indices are also red from the Russell 2000 peak in July and have broken various key technical levels today - S&P below 100DMA, Dow Industrials below 100DMA, Dow Transports At 100DMA, and Nasdaq broken well below its 50DMA. Russell is back at levels first seen a year ago.
A quick anecdote that should quickly confirm just how broken everything is: earlier today MarkIt reported European manufacturing data that was atrocious, with both German and European PMIs tumbling to levels not seen since mid-2013, and with Europe's growth dynamo now in a contraction phase clearly signalling what has been long overdue: a European triple dip recession. So what happens? Moments later Germany sells €4.1 billion in 10 Year paper at a record low yield below 1%.... even as the Bundesbank had to retain a whopping 17.84% of the auction, the highest since June, with only €4.663 Bn in bids for the €5 Bn target, the first miss since May 21. So hurray for the central banks, boo for the economy, and as for that mythical creature, once known as bond vigilantes, our condolences: good luck figuring out what the hell just happened, and good luck recalling what a free market is.
The Nasdaq, Russell 2000, and Dow Transports have been rescued in their high-beta manner all the way back to green by an initial USDJPY ramp to ignite some momentum "off the lows". Treasuries and credit refuse to play along and even USDJPY has decoupled as stocks surged on a VIX-slamming (from over 17 to 15.50) ramp to unch. Safe-haven buying of camera-on-a-stick continues (+8% today).
With over half of all the stocks in the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq already in a bear market, US equity market indices are becoming increasingly driven by a highly concentrated set of stocks that lack any relationship to macro factors. As BofA shows in the charts below, participation in the record-high exuberance in stocks is waning... and waning fast... But, the biggest concern, BofA fears, is a new low for net free credit at -$182 billion - the major risk is if the market drops and triggers margin calls, investors do not have cash and would be forced to sell stocks or get cash from other sources to meet the margin calls. This would exacerbate an equity market sell-off.
We have corporate insiders selling the farm, investment legends warning of a collapse, institutional investors selling stocks, and global growth slowing rapidly.
Black Swan? Having seen liquidations of a relatively small fund yesterday send the NASDAQ down 2% and credit reeling, world bond and stock markets are reacting aggressively to Bill Gross' move from PIMCO. German stocks (PIMCO's parent Allianz is the 7th largest stock in DAX) are tumbling, European peripheral bond spreads are pushing wider (major holdings of PIMCO) and US credit markets are getting smashed (PIMCO is a major player in CDS markets and obviously a huge holder of US corporate debt) and concerns spread of redemptions triggering the kind of liquidity suck out we described yesterday.
Yesterday's plunge in stocks (and credit markets) was pinned on several catalysts from Russia to Fed speak, but the 'liquidations' explanation appeared tomake most sense and now we have a candidate for the culprit. As The Wall Street Journal reports, $10.6 billion BlueCrest Capital Management LLP, one of Europe's largest hedge-fund firms (and best known for its credit market expertise), laid off several stock traders in the U.S. Thursday and began liquidating their investments, according to people familiar with the matter, not long after it aggressively expanded into equities. When one fund's liquidation of part of their portfolio can drop the Nasdaq by 2%, it should be clear to everyone (including Janet and here friends at The Eccles Building) that the stock market 'stability' is anything but "contained."
US equities suffered their biggest drop in 2 months today, with the S&P 500 closing a glaring 30-point divergence with high-yield credit markets which also sold off dramatically. The S&P 500 broke (and closed) below its 50DMA (as did the Nasdaq, Dow Industrials, and Transports). Russell 2000 dropped to beyond 4-month lows (-4.4% in 2014). Early USD strength gave way as stocks started to leak lower and closed unchanged (+0.5% on the week) led by JPY and EUR strength. Treasury yields plunged 4-6bps on the day (led by the long-end) with 10Y testing the critical 2.50% handle once again. VIX broke above 16, its 4th biggest rise of the year. Gold rose as stocks lost ground but silver, oil and copper slipped lower. HY Credit spreads closed at 8 month wides. Investors also piled into safe-haven short-squeeze 'camera-on-a-stick'. Stocks closed not "off the lows."
When last did your government deliver to you something that amazed you?
If yesterday the bombardment, no pun intended, of bad news from around the globe was too much even for Mahwah's vacuum tubes to spin as bullish - for stocks - news, then tonight's macro economic updates have so far been hardly as bombastic, with the only real news of the day has Germany's IFO Business Climate reading, which dropped from 106.3 to 105.8, declining for the 5th month in a row, missing expectations, and printing at the lowest level of since April 2013! (More from Goldman below) Net result: Bunds yields were once again pushed in the sub-1% category, even if stocks today are higher because the European data is "so bad it means the ECB has no choice but to do (public instead of just private) QE" blah blah blah.
UPDATE: Stocks have roundtripped from their voyage into fantasy...
As we predicted an hour ago when the USDJPY was 50 pips lower, today's aggression against stocks would not stand. So, lo and behold, one or more central banks decided to aggressively collect 6J (USDJPY) liquidity rebates from the CME and have bought the pair in a straight line since this morning. And sure enough, after it dropped notably just a few hours ago, the NASDAQ and S&P is now back in the green, where it belongs in a "market" as rigged as this one.
"Silicon Valley as a whole... is taking on an excessive amount of risk right now. Unprecedented since '99." The widely accepted model is that it's acceptable for companies to be "[b]urning cash and losing money.. with the emphasis on the losing." "It reminds me of 2000, when investment capital was flooding into startups and flooded a lot of marginal companies. If 2000 was a bubble factor of 10, we are at an 8 to 9 in my opinion right now."
Positioning among "smart money" participants in the markets continues to show major divergences. While large speculators bought S&P 500 contracts at their strongest weekely pace in more than a year - shifting to a net long position - they also increased the net short Russell 2000 position to its 'most short' in five years. Large speculators also bought crude oil after eleven consecutive weeks of selling. In the rates complex, hedge funds maintained their 10Y Treasury long exposure while large speculators sold 2-Y Treasuries at the fastest weekely pace in more than three years to the biggest net short position in five years. - leaving, as BofA warns, 2Y susceptible to a squeeze pull-back. This potential squeeze extends all the way to 5Y as repo rates indicate a massive shortage into month-end.
While some were wondering if last night's sudden, commodity-liquidation driven selloff would last, most were not, expecting that the perfectly predictable levitation in the USDJPY around a round "tractor beam" number would provide a floor under the market .Sure enough, starting around midnight eastern, the USDJPY BTFDers emerged, oblivious to comments from former BOJ deputy governor Iwata who late last night said the obvious, and what we have been saying since January 2013, namely that a weak yen puts Japan at recession risk, and that a USDJPY in the 90-100 range reflects Japan fundamentals. And, as expected, the 109 level is where the algos have hone in today as a strange FX attractor, which also means that ES has reverse sharper overnight losses and was down just 7 points at last check even as the poundage in the commodity sector continues over rising fears of a sharp Chinese slowdown driven by its imploding housing sector (most recently observed here) without an offsetting stimulus program, following several comments by high-ranked Chinese individuals who poured cold water on any hopes of an imminent Chinese mega-QE or even modest rate cut.