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?
The US open was enough of an event to decouple stocks (up) from USDJPY (down) but as we approached the crucial 330ET "fundamental" stocks had caught down to USDJPY weakness (worth noting that USDJPY tagged 102 in the pre-open and plunged). The 330 Ramp - JPY and VIX driven - was right on time getting S&P to VWAP and up to its 100DMA and Nasdaq back above 4000. Away from the roller-coaster ride in hope, faith, and BTFD charity in stocks, Treasuries leaked higher in yield all day (with 5Y underperforming and 30Y unch). The USD was bid (+0.3%) led by EUR weakness. USD strength pressured commodities but Gold was bid (closing above $1325 at 3-week highs). Credit markets did not buy the late-day spike exuberance... All major equity indices remain red year-to-date (and negative from 3/19's FOMC). All "normal" and full of unriggedness.
Just a few short hours ago we were treated to a plethora of talking-heads proclaiming "see, this is it... the dip to be bought." But now, led by Biotechs as well as more 'growth' weakness, the Nasdaq has piled back below the critical 4000 level and broken to new cycle lows... we anxiously await the 330 Ramp to see just how much damage they can do (though stocks did catch perfectly down to USDJPY's early weakness)
Wheat, gas and palladium surge 3.3%, 2.4% and 1.7% respectively. Palladium surged for a fifth straight session to its highest since August 2011 on growing fears that supply would be hurt by more U.S. sanctions on top producer Russia and prolonged labour strikes in world number two producer, South Africa.
While US equities have spent much of the past several weeks under pressure (the NASDAQ bio tech index has fallen over 21%, the NASDAQ Comp is down over 8% and the S&P500 is down over 4%), BofAML's Macneil Curry is concerned that the VIX index suggests conditions should deteriorate further before greater signs of a base materialize.
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.
We have bad news for hedge funds who, like Hugh Hendry in December of last year, threw fundamentals and caution to the wind and, with great reservations, jumped into this momo bandwagon in which mere buying beget more buying until nobody knew why anyone bought in the first place... and then everything crashed, leading to the worst day for hedge funds in a decade: according to Goldman's David Kostin, whose job is to be a cheerleader for the intangible "wealth effect" leading to all too tangible Goldman bonuses: "The stock market will likely recover during the next few months... but not momentum stocks."
Ever since Goldman's anti-HFT Op-Ed less than a month ago, and since the even more recent full-hearted support by Goldman of Michael Lewis' most recent entry into the anti-HFT crusade (one promoting the Goldman-supported IEX exchange), one thing has been clear: the days of market structure in its current format are numbered. This was further confirmed after Goldman exited both its legacy Spear Leeds & Kellogg designated market making post at the NYSE, and is said to be winding down its market-dominating dark pool, Sigma X. Sure enough, Post reports that just three weeks after the Gary Cohn Op-Ed, the SEC is "preparing to remove some high-frequency trading firms."
It’s perplexing that analysts are perplexed by the rout.
From Goldman's Sales & Trading Team, "The equity rout continued. Growth tech names felt the heat once again as Nasdaq led the way down, but the weakness was truly wide spread as all sectors ended in the red – both in domestic and overseas developed markets. Earnings season continued, but derisking is the name of the game in these markets."
"The current levels of investor complacency are more usually associated with late stage bull markets rather than the beginning of new ones. Of course, if you think about it, this only makes sense if you refer back to the investor psychology chart above. The point here is simple. The combined levels of bullish optimism, lack of concern about a possible market correction (don't worry the Fed has the markets back), and rising levels of leverage in markets provide the "ingredients" for a more severe market correction. However, it is important to understand that these ingredients by themselves are inert. It is because they are inert that they are quickly dismissed under the guise that 'this time is different.' Like a thermite reaction, when these relatively inert ingredients are ignited by a catalyst they will burn extremely hot. Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly what that catalyst will be or when it will occur. The problem for individuals is that they are trapped by the combustion an unable to extract themselves in time."
Equity markets opened down hard, bounced into Europe's close, and then pushed to new cycle lows into the last hour of the day. The Nasdaq hit 4,000 for the first timein over 2 months and closed at its lowest close in 4 months. Around 3pm we saw the standard ramp attempt but it was weak and faded back towards the lows by the close. EURJPY ran the show this afternoon. This is the Nasdaq's worst week since June 2012 (with Nasdaq and Russell -3.5% from the FOMC Minutes alone). All major US equity indices closed red for 2014 (first time in over 2 months). Biotechs fell for the 7th week in a row (the longest losing streak since 1998) in a bear-market -21%. Away from the bloodbath in stocks, bond yields tumbled 8-11bps on the week (with the short-end modestly outperforming)... with 30Y yields (3.47%) at their lowest in 10 months. CAD and EUR weakness today supported modest USD buying but USD Index is -1.3% on the week (biggest weekly drop in 9 months).Commodites were flat today (despite a pump-and-dump in copper early and WTI later) with gold ending the week +1% at $1318.
For the first time in over two months, all the major US equity indices are negative year-to-date (as Trannies finally succumb to the selling pressure). Russell and Nasdaq are down 4% YTD.
"We can't help thinking that as it becomes ever clearer that the Fed is pretty much fixed in its determination to stop QE late this year, the oxygen that has fuelled the 5 year bull market is slowly draining out of the market. Clearly the Fed is still buying a significant amount of bonds and thus providing a lot of liquidity but clearly only for a few more months."
- Deutsche Bank
Overnight weakness in Asia spilled into Europe and the bloodbath is continuing - especially in the peripheral markets which have until now been invincible in the face of deteriorating fundamentals. Just like US hyper-growth hope, Portugal, Spain, and Italy stock markets have soared this year - among the world's best performers - but are getting monkey-hammered in the last 2 days (down over 5%). Despite more chatter of ECB QE, peripheral bond spreads are also jumping higher (+7bps) as German Bund yields are slumping back below 1.5% - the lowest in 10 months. US futures are ugly too.