With just a tad more than three weeks left in the year it is time to start focusing on what 2014 will likely bring. Of course, what really happens over the next twelve months is likely to be far different than what is currently expected but issuing prognostications, making conjectures and telling fortunes has always kept business brisk on Wall Street.
Despite every effort to sell as much JPY as possible to lift stocks and create the best run for the S&P since 2004, the algos failed (by pennies) but with solid gains nevertheless just to disprove all the good news is bad news believers - for now. While the NASDAQ managed a green close on the week (though underperformed today), stocks couldn't quite make it all back today but broke the 5-day losing streak. Treasuries ended the day unchanged and 10-13bps higher on the week. The USD dollar lost considerable ground this week (-0.5%) but it was safe-haven Swissy that stood out as the last 4 days are the best run in 5 months. Gold and Silver ended the week -2% or so and despite the intraday swings relatively flat today. All-in-all, stocks and JPY carry were in charge today as bonds and commodities were not playing at all. VIX dropped the most in 2 months back under 14% as the front-end drop removed the inversion.
Bitcoin and other Internet currencies are viewed by some as a Beanie baby fad and, as Citi's Steve Englander notes, by others as revolutionizing the financial system. Market acceptance of alternative currencies now looks to be growing a lot faster than the pace at which the supply of Bitcoin and Bitcoin wannabees is expanding the Internet money supply. The responses fell into five categories which we feel are well worth considering before trading or utilizing the digital currency (including Bitcoin's role in reserves management - Bitcoin with its inelastic supply and deflationary bias would look attractive to reserve managers as a complement to gold, and in contrast to fiat currencies in unlimited supply.). Among skeptics, a minority think that security is a much bigger issue than proponents admit. However correct the longer-term concerns, there is nothing obvious to derail the expansion of Internet currencies in the near-term, as they are meeting both legitimate and illicit economic and social needs.
This is the first 3-day losing streak at the start of a month since September 2011. Despite the best efforts of the machines to lift stocks into the green (which NASDAQ managed very marginally), Bonds closed near their high yields of the day, the USD roundtripped with weakness in the US session leaving it unch for the week. S&P futures closed the day-session perfectly at VWAP as many noted the inversion of the VIX term structure once again (short-term 'fear' above medium-term 'fear'). The day's action was punctuated by 4 things - ADP beat (sell), ISM miss (rally-hard), Obama "inequality" (sell hard), BTFD (levered carry ramp 'blamed' on budget deal rumors) - which left the S&P entirely adrift from its relationship with FX carry and Treasuries by the close (amid the heaviest volume in a month). Precious metals had their best day in 7 weeks.
Even if you don't have a Nobel Prize, it should be glaringly apparent to anyone with half a brain - the financial markets have been soaring while the overall economy has been stagnating. Despite assurances from the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve that everything is just fine, many Americans are beginning to realize that we have seen this movie before. We saw it during the dotcom bubble, and we saw it during the lead up to the horrible financial crisis of 2008. So precisely when will the bubble burst this time? Nobody knows for sure, but without a doubt this irrational financial bubble will burst at some point. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts, and the following are 15 signs that we are near the peak of an absolutely massive stock market bubble...
Despite a significant tumble into the close ($3.25bn notional sold in last 4 seconds of S&P futures); for the first time since January 2004, the S&P 500 has risen for eight straight weeks. Trannies are still leading off the debt-ceiling-debacle lows up 13.3% but this week saw the NASDAQ accelerating to 11.3% gains off those lows. Despite being pounded by GBP buyers, the USD (rescued by JPY weakness) ended the week unchanged and Treasury yields are +/-2bps on the week (30Y -1.5bps, 5Y +2bps). Despite some early week weakness, today saw commodities rising (with WTI crude jumping higher - modestly narrowing the 8-month wides in the Brent-WTI spread at $17.60). Gold and silver recovered to gains on the week keeping pace with the S&P and Dow. VIX (once again) entirely disengaged from stocks' exuberance and so did credit markets.
Volumes - expectedly - were extremely light and so, we all know what that means: a dash for trash meltup. NASDAQ keeps powering ahead as the S&P and Dow recover from yesterday afternoon's cliff dive. Trannies now up 13.3% off the debt-ceiling lows 5 weeks ago... sure, why not. "Most shorted" names outperformed once again but it seems investors, while not wanting to sell, are happy to bid for protection as VIX diverges. Credit markets also diverged bearishly today. Stocks disconnected (a la yesterday) from JPY carry briefly but rapidly caught up in the low volume churn. Bonds leaked higher in yield (unch on the week now); the USD pushed higher after Europe's close (back to unch on the week); but inventories and USD strength weighed on oil prices and precious metals limped modestly lower.
The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth - defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt - which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months. Sounds like a perfect time to BTFATH...
Another (like yesterday) late-day collapse in stocks was not enough to entirely ruin CNBC's headlines as the NASDAQ closed above 4,000 for the first time in 13 years. The only thing that could have made today better for the central planners was a red close for gold but despite rolling over from late-yesterday's spike, the precious metal closed marginally higher and unch on the week. The NASDAQ just rolls on - up over 100 points in the last 4 days and now +10.3% off debt-ceiling lows (outpacing the S&P and Dow). Today's 'apparently' good news on housing sent homebuilder buyers into a frenzy (+2.4% on the day as the squeeze continues wherever it can). The total lack of volume and liquidty was evident when sellers appeared in the last 15 minutes and instantly smashed the S&P back to VWAP and below echoing yesterday afternoon. Treasuries rallied on the day (with a little selloff as stocks sold off into the close) ending -3bp on the week. The USD slid from the US open but notably stocks disconnected from any JPY carry for most of the day until the closing collapse...
- M&A Mystery: Why Are Takeover Prices Plummeting? (WSJ)
- Hedge-Fund Fight Club Traded Illegal Tips Not Punches (BBG)
- Speed Traders Meet Nightmare on Elm Street With Nanex (BBG)
- A new wave of U.S. mortgage trouble threatens (Reuters)
- Penny Lane: Gitmo's other secret CIA facility (AP)
- US hardens threat to leave Afghanistan with no troops (WSJ)
- Russian Prison Stuns Captain of Greenpeace’s Bombed Ship (BBG)
- ECB's Weidmann Warns Central Banks Might Be Too Dominated by Fiscal Concerns (WSJ)
- China Air Move Splits Japan as Carriers Obey New Rules (BBG)
- Inside the Breakup of the Pritzker Empire (WSJ)
Even the most ardent of bulls would 'admit' that the period of the last 90s was a bubble in US equities. What started at the margin quickly morphed into a euphoric valuation for any and everything that could be pitched. Even The Fed's Jim Bullard 'knew' there was a bubble back then... Today's recovery of the NASDAQ to 4,000 - levels not seen since this period - is quickly dismissed by those that need things to go higher on the basis of earnings, multiples, or some such forward-looking hope-based methodology that reinforces their bias. However, Tobin's Q - among the longest-lived and most well-respected of longer-term valuation methodologies has just reached levels only ever seen during the 1999/2000 bubble. BTFATH valuation?
Energized by a lower crude oil price - and collapsing JPY - equity markets hit their highs shortly after 8pmET on Sunday night, trod water thorugh the Asian and European markets and started more aggressive selling once US cash markets opened. Coincidentally (or not) when Obama started speaking around 1445ET, US equities took a dramatic dive - catching down to an already weaker signaling VIX rally. EURJPY stayed in sync through all of this priming ignition pumps right into the close as NASDAQ 4,000 close was desperately needed (but the dot-com darlings were all hit). Gold and Silver's early monkey-hammering was met with buyers which lifted then up 0.5% and 0.8% respectively on the day (and 2% off their lows). WTI crude recovered more than half of its losses (-0.6% on the day) but Brent not so much as the spread broke to new 8 month highs. VIX closed higher and Treasury yields trended lower all day from the overnight open to close practically unchanged as the USD lost half its early gains to end +0.25%.
Nope, no bubble here... and no complacency either. And while just like last time, the tech companies still have no profits, at least this time they have revenues... most of which originate from the seemingly infinite advertising budgets at struggling discretionary retailers. By way of gentle reminder - In 2000, total US debt was $5.7 trillion. Now it is three times greater, or $17.2 trillion. As Kyle Bass once warned, "we are right back there! The brevity of financial memory is about two years."
The S&P 500 has now managed the longest weekly winning streak (7 weeks) since May 2007 (when it managed a 9% gain). Off the recent lows, the current run is an impressive 9.6% (for the S&P) with Trannies up 12.5% in the same period. (we hesitate to mention that May 2007's run-up was halted by the first of the structured credit funds imploding) On the week, Trannies and NASDAQ ended back practically unch, Russell 2000 outperformed but the afternoon melt-up in stocks (on the back of more shorts being squeezed) held the S&P above 1,800 close for the first time ever. Bonds rallied (recovering a lot of their mid-week losses), the USD was offered in general (led by EUR strength) but AUD's 2% loss was notable. VIX was manhandled to 12.25% into the close to maintain the headline-grabbing 1,800 as gold and silver clung to their lows.
A new opportunity to play "What's wrong with this picture" arose recently, with Larry Summers’ recent speech at the IMF and Paul Krugman’s follow-up blog. The two economists’ messages are slightly different, but combining them into one fictional character we shall call SK, their comments can be summed up "...essentially, we need to manufacture bubbles to achieve full employment equilibrium." With this new line of reasoning, SK have completely outdone themselves, but not in a good way. Think Jamie Dimon’s infamous “that’s why I’m richer than you” quip. Or, Bill Dudley’s memorable “but the price of iPads is falling” excuse for increases in basic living costs. Dimon and Dudley managed to encapsulate in single sentences much of what’s wrong with their institutions. Yet, they showed baffling ignorance of faults that are clear to the rest of us.