Don't look now but futures are up as usual, driven higher by both good and bad news. The biggest event of the weekend, if largely priced in, was the victory by Abe's coalition in the upper-house leading to the following seat breakdown. Of course, judging by the Yen and market reaction, which barely managed to eek out a gain: its first in four trading days, the event was largely of the "sell the news" type despite such bold proclamations: "Abe’s victory in the upper house is bullish for Japanese equities and the Japanese economy as a whole, as the removal of political headwinds bolsters the government’s ability to press forward with all ‘three arrows’ of its growth strategy," John Vail, Tokyo-based chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management Co., which manages $162 billion, wrote in an e-mail. Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal bond yields have plunged by roughly 60 bps on news that the Portuguese President Silva has backed the centre-right coalition government, consequently ruling out snap polls. Well, what else is he going to do? This also comes on the heels of a Goldman report that said a second bailout for the country will be necessary and will likely be discussed in the fall. That too is bullish. What also was bullish in Europe apparently is that government debt hit a new record high of 92.2% of GDP. Remember: debt is wealth so just buy more futures. Looking forward to the US, the market will focus on the latest existing home sales data, the Chicago Fed activity index, as well as earnings report releases from McDonalds, Texas Instruments and Halliburton and a bunch of other companies that will beat EPS and miss revenues.
UPDATE: At least 22 killed, 300 injured in the Chabu quake; Nikkei 225 -400 from intraday highs.
It seems Asia-Pac is a hot-bed of activity this evening as both markets and mainland are being buffeted. Despite the 'positive' news of Abe's victory, JPY is strengthening (back below 100) and the Nikkei has given up all its post-Japan-close gains from Friday (down 340 from the US-day-session-close). But more importantly, New Zealand (Wellington) and China (Chabu) have suffered significant earthquakes this evening. There are reports of some damage to buildings and infrastructure in New Zealand after the 6.5 quake (and >4.5 aftershocks). Local news in China claims that a village has been leveled by a strong, shallow 6.6 quake but China Daily notes details remain unclear. We worry that just as in late 2010 (culminating in Japan in March 2011), the tectonic plate movement in Asia-Pac is starting to pick up.
Bottomline: the Chairman went rogue and did it at the precise time when stocks were in need of a major boost. This is not coincidence. And now that this is over we have to wonder what’s next.
Microsoft's collapse last night is extending this morning as the stock holds at its 100DMA, down 10% from yesterday's close. The drop is knocking 24 points off the Dow and along with GOOG's damage is weighing heavily on the Tech sector overall (which was more evident in last night's Nikkei dump than in the US for now). The drop for Balmer's baby means a $30 billion loss of market cap - or one Schwab or Aflac or Freeport-McMoRan (or 2 Mattels).
With little going on today besides the just reported GE earnings, which beat consensus EPS expectations of $0.35 by the smallest possible increment but, as expected, missed consensus revenue of $35.56 printing at $35.12, and both the Japanese (which experienced a 500 point drop in minutes overnight) and Chinese (which closed below 2000 again) markets sliding, it is perhaps better to summarize the day that just was: Detroit City files for bankruptcy (send in Detroika!), Moody's take the US off negative outlook, Google and Microsoft miss on earnings and the S&P 500 hits a new record high. As DB says, the above certainly made for an eventful close to the US session after what was a fairly dull second day of testimony and Q&A for Bernanke. He has said all that can be said for now and we're left waiting for the data. And the earnings data so far has been abysmal if mostly on the top line, with corporate revenues now assured to double dip and decline for the second quarter in a row. And if the tech bellwethers all of which have been major disappointments to date and have guided down, are an indication of what is coming, Q3 may and will be even worse.
UPDATE: S&P futures are stalling too now - down 5 points (it seems Japan is more worried about a tech wreck than the US); JPY and Gold are rising and JGB Futures rise to highest in 2 months
For now it appears there is no apparent catalyst (unless someone just got the mother of all taps on the shoulder) but the Nikkei 225 futures just collapsed almost 600 points from the US day-session highs... five days of gains gone in 30 minutes.
Stocks in Europe recovered from a cautious start to the trading session and gradually edged back into positive territory, though the DAX index in Germany under performed following less than impressive earnings by SAP. Company’s shares fell around 3% after the company trimmed its outlook for 2013 software revenue, blaming slowing economic growth in China. Elsewhere, Akzo Nobel shares fell 5% in early trade after the company said that its Q2 net profit almost doubled from the same period last year thanks to the sale of its North American paints division and a tax gain. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly jobs report, Philadelphia Fed survey for the month of July and earnings report releases from Morgan Stanley, Verizon, BlackRock and Google. Finally, today is the second day of Bernanke's semi-annual testimony.
Bernanke today testifies on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee (formerly the Humphrey-Hawkins). The testimony will be released at 8:30 am NY with Q&A after his testimony. Tomorrow he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee but the prepared remarks are the same for both days. Indeed it’s likely that the Q&A will be where all the fun starts. As DB says, he will likely try to pull off the trick of continuing to prepare the groundwork for tapering but try to give bond markets something to help them fight off the pressure of higher yields. With no post-meeting press conference planned for the July 30th/31st FOMC, and Bernanke not scheduled to speak publicly until he appears at the Global Education Forum event on August 7th, this week’s testimony may well be the only remarks we hear directly from the chairman for some weeks.
Fear not US: with a Q2 GDP of under 1% now all but assured, and with all economic data reporting now a global bizarro day farce, you will have a chance to take the torch from Europe in the ugliest girl category, and push the S&P to a new record intraday high today following what should be assured epic misses in the Industrial Production print (exp. +0.3%), Cap Utilization and the NAHB housing market index which is set to tumble now that any retail demand for housing was promptly killed following the recent spike in rates. In addition to a relatively lite economic docket, we get the all systematically important hedge fund, Goldman Sachs, reporting which is expected to announce a 21% q/q drop in revenues, led by lower gains in Investment Lending (i.e. prop), offset by 12% drop in operating expenses. Of course, nothing fundamental actually matters as markets continue to be on ultra low-volume, "drift higher" autopilot until tomorrow's Ben Bernanke semi-annual muppet show in Congress, when he is expected to refill the hopium trough once more and finally send the S&P above 1700 on central planning.
"If you think it is going to rise, you may as well double your return," is the risk-schmisk perspective one Japanese strategist notes, that appears to permeate every aspect of investing nowadays. If ever the herding recency-bias-based mentality was evident it is Japanese ETFs (which as everywhere in the world have become the primary liquidity driver - along with futures - of the underlying stocks on every exchange in the world). The double-levered Nikkei 225 ETF in Japan has seen trading activity rise an incredible 1158% year-to-date (while the broad Topix index has only seen a more 'normal' 17% rise in the same period). While institutional volume still dominates, individual investors (enamored of the crack-up boom in equities this year) have piled in like never before with 28% of Japan's trading volume now retail. This won't end well.
When Bloomberg blasts headlines like this: S&P FUTURES UP 1PT, AT SESSION HIGH, ERASE EARLIER 3.4PT DROP, you know Bernanke hasn't spoken in over 24 hours if a 4 point swing is headline worthy. That said, the exhausted S&P ramp is now going for the 6th consecutive session as all the losses since the June FOMC meeting have now been erased, the S&P is making constant all time highs, and seemingly the Fed's message on tapering and communication has been clarified. The message being that the Fed is tapering its monthly purchases but short-term rates aren't being lifted. Sadly, the market's first reaction was the right one but the herd of cats has once again been herded by the trading desk at Liberty 33.
One minute we hear that Quantitative Easing is going completely, then it’s going a bit and withdrawing in side-steps and little paces and then it’s going to carry on. Where do we stand?
The only story this morning remains Bernanke's after hours speech, which solidly trumped the FOMC minutes in market impact, and which, in addition to ramping US equity futures to just about new all time highs, sent the EURUSD soaring by almost the same amount (+300 pips) as the actual QE1 announcement on March 18, 2009. Such is the power of verbal currency warfare, when Bernanke hasn't acutally done anything and merely hinted the Fed is as confused as ever about what to do. Of course, as Commerzbank notes this morning, the U.S. economy would have to lose a lot of momentum for the Fed to cancel tapering, and the central bank would only expand the purchase program if the economy collapses, but none of that matters to the "wealth effect" for the 1% where economic destruction simply means more wealth.
If the worst Chinese trade data in years (and by that we mean unmanipulated, because what was released last night is merely China offsetting blatantly BS Q1 trade data), and yesterday's S&P downgrade of Italy (which has sent BTPs lower although the EURUSD drop was offset by buying pressure resulting from Stolper closing out his EURUSD long) doesn't send the Stalingrad & Poorski 451 to new all time highs, then all the Chairman's efforts to make a complete farce of the "market" will have been for naught. But while the Fed keeps pushing mom and pop into stocks, he may want to tell his friends at the CME to hike WTI margins, because this morning's latest surge in crude to over $105 will really start hurting refiner margins, and due to the overall energy complex roaring higher, gas prices too, which incidentally just crossed $3.50 in the wrong direction this morning.
The U.S. economy weakened appreciably in the first quarter of 2013. But what if this weakness persists into the second quarter just completed, and worsens still in the second half of this year? Q1 GDP, as reported on June 26th, was revised lower to just 1.8%. And various indications suggest that Q2 could come in slightly lower still, at 1.6%. Might the U.S. economy be guiding to a long-term GDP of 1.5%? That’s the rate identified by such observers as Jeremy Grantham – the rate at which we combine aging demographics, lower fertility rates, high resource costs, and the burdensome legacy of debt. After a four-year reflationary rally in just about everything, and now with an emerging interest rate shock, the second half of 2013 appears to have more downside risk than upside. Have global stock markets started to discount this possibility?