First, the bad news; the un-Taper-inspired collapse in the USD is not helping the JPY weakness that Abe desires and the NKY is now 200 points off its US day-session highs (though still green from yesterday) and the JASDAQ is red. But everywhere else there is much rejoicing... EM FX is back at 5 to 6 week highs with MYR, INR (fwds), and IDR all having major surges. Equity markets are green in general but the Philippines PSEi (+3%) and Indonesia's JCI (+4% but was +7.7% at one point) are an illiquid mess of over-exuberance. Gold, US Treasuries, and US equity futures are all holding gains or inching slightly better. Thai bonds are 22bps lower in yield, Indonesia -10bps, but Indian bonds for now are quiet. MSCI's AsiaPac Ex-Japan equity index is now back at highs from May 2011, having risen 12 of the last 16 days for a 9.7% gain. While the moves are large, they are not unprecedented and certainly don't signal a wholesale charge back in of new hot-money since volumes remain on the low side for now.
The day when the Fed will begin the unwind of its latest QE program (for the fourth time) has finally arrived (as has the day when an impeachment committee will vote whether to ban Berlusconi from public office, but understandably that is getting far less press). In a few short hours the answer to all those questions of whether and how much of the taper was priced in, will be revealed. But while the Taper discussions will dominate the airwaves, as they have for the past five months, there actually were some news in the world that had nothing to do with the US Politburo in charge of capital markets and the US economy, located in the Marriner Eccles building. Here is a brief summary.
Overnight trading started with Asian markets continuing where yesterday's S&P 500 fizzle ended, wishing Summers could withdraw from Fed running again, as both the Nikkei and SHCOMP were well lower by the close. Perhaps all the easy multiple-expanding, headline-driven money is made, or perhaps economic fundamentals will finally start having to justify a 17x multiple on the S&P (a good is good regime for those who may be too young, or old, to remember), but overnight US futures were dull, and no doubt anticipating today's start of the "Most important FOMC meeting ever", which concludes tomorrow with an announcement by the Fed of what and how much (if any) tapering it will commence with an eye toward halting QE next summer, although more realistically what will happen is an Untaper being announced before then. While the start of the FOMC meeting is the main event, today we get CPI, TIC flows and the NAHB housing market index. Today's POMO is another modest $1.25-$1.75 billion in the long-end sector.
If he were a flavor of ice cream, what flavor would it be?
Earlier today, when we observed the overnight "news" floated by Japan's Nikkei we cautioned that the Nikkei is best known not for breaking news but for floating trial balloons. In other words, the report was merely leaked to gauge the market response. Sure enough, the response was gauged, and here comes the official news, shooting down this latest trial balloon.
- White House Is Saying Reports In Japanese Press That Obama Is Set To Name Larry Summers Are Wrong - Dow Jones
Sure enough, any modest USD strength accumulated on the overnight rumor, is now being promptly unwound.
- U.S., Russia to push for new Syria peace talks (Reuters)
- Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile (WSJ)
- Obama to nominate Summers as Fed chief: Nikkei (Reuters)
- Boehner Wants Joint Talks on Debt, Budget (WSJ)
- House Republicans go for broke in fiscal battles (Reuters)
- Pimco, BlackRock Together Received More Than a Quarter of Verizon's $49 Billion Bond Deal (WSJ)
- Insane financial system lives post-Lehman (Gillian Tett)
- JPM to add $2.5 billion to its litigation reserves in the second half of the year (WSJ)
- Goldman’s Zurich offices visited over working-hours complaint (FT)
Overnight asset classes got a jolt following a report by Nikkei that Obama was moving toward naming Summers the next Fed chairman, citing “several close US sources,” pushing stocks modestly lower in Europe, with bond yields higher. According to the report, Obama is to name Summers as next Fed chairman as early as late next week, after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Otherwise, risk is still digesting the news of the confidential Twitter IPO, as it is becoming quite clear that some of the largest names (Hilton also announced yesterday) are seeking to cash out in the public markets. Is this the top?
Jitters from Syria still abound, as confirmed by reports from the Israeli army that two shells had hit the Southern Golan region. Despite the reports that the shelling appeared to be errant, WTI remains near session highs as markets remain sensitive ahead of the meeting between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva over the next two days. Buying of the 10Y is also prevalent and the yield on the benchmark bond was has dropped below 2.90%, or at 2.88% at last check. Today's key economic news in the US session will be the weekly claims report, the Fed buying 10 Year bonds at 11 am followed by the Treasury selling 30 Year bonds at 1 pm (this follows the Fed buying 30 Year bond yesterday: yes ironic).
Despite earlier comments from Obama on Tuesday night, who called for a pause in authorizing military strikes on Syria, which led to another drop in crude prices overnight, the drop has since reversed and both WTI and Brent Crude contracts are trading in the green. Whether this is the result of a note by Goldman analysts who noted that the Brent crude sell-off was overdone and that they see no improvement regarding the conflict in Libya which is constraining oil production, or because Russia is once again throwing hurdles in the international process to force Syrian disarmament, is unknown. The lack of any key catalysts and no USDJPY levitation, led to most global markets unchanged, and futures currently trading sideways. What is not trading sideways is Apple which is down over 2% to just over $480 as all hopes of a China Mobile deal fall apart, coupled with pervasive critical panning of the new iPhones which, aside for the commodity version, is just the old iPhone with an extension that allows the NSA's new fingerprint database to be filled in record time.
For the second day in a row, better than expected Chinese "data" set sentiment across the board when following an improvement in its trade data (even as crude oil imports dropped to an 11 month low), last night China reported a better than expected August Industrial Production print of 10.4%, compared to 9.7% for July, and higher than the 9.9% expected. This was driven by a pick up in Chinese M2, which rose from 14.5% to 14.7% Y/Y, as the PBOC has once again resuming what it does best, injecting liquidity into the system, even if said liquidity no longer makes its way into the proper channels, as new CNY loans missed the expected CNY730bn, rising to 711.3bn for August. Elsewhere, not all was good on the Industrial Production front, following a French miss of -0.6% on expectations of a rebound to +0.5%, as well as a miss in mfg production of -0.7%, down from -0.4% and below the expected 0.7%. This, in parallel with Moscovici once again saying the 2013 deficit will be "slightly higher than 3.7%" means that just like in 2012, and with German economic metrics continuing to contract, as the periphery stages a modest rebound it is the core that threatens Europe's stability once again. Finally, and since in Europe everything is ultimately funded by current account positive Germany either directly or via TARGET2, the recent Italian economic strength, which also means a bounce in imports, meant that Italian TARGET2 liabilities (through which Germany indirectly funds Italy's current account deficit) are once again back at a 4 month high. And so the cycle repeats.
Today's equity market exuberance is being pitched as due to to Asian strength... We hate to burst that bubble but... The Nikkei 225 actually fell after GDP was released; JGBs rallied (well that doesn't fit with the meme of Japanese growth); Japanese GDP missed expectations (oops); Japanese trade balance was the 3rd worst on record; Chinese imports missed expectations (as copper demand fell since liquidity has eased and less need for cash-for-copper deals). So what is the catalyst for today's S&P 500 rally... behold the EURJPY cross rate...
As macro news continues to trickle in better than expected, the latest batch being benign (if completely fake) Chinese inflation data (CPI 2.6%, Exp. 2.6%, Last 2.7%) and trade data released overnight which saw ahigher than expected trade balance ($28.5bn vs Exp. $20.0; as exports rose from 5.1% to 7.2%, and imports dipped from 10.9% to 7.0%, missing expectations), markets remain confused: is good news better or does it mean even more global liquidity will be pulled. As a result, the release of an encouraging set of macroeconomic data from China failed to have a meaningful impact on the sentiment in Europe this morning and instead stocks traded lower, with the Spanish IBEX-35 index underperforming after Madrid lost out to Tokyo to win rights to host 2020 Olympic Games. Even though the news buoyed USD/JPY overnight, the pair faced downside pressure stemming from interest rate differential flows amid better bid USTs. The price action in the US curve was partly driven by the latest article from a prolific Fed watcher Jon Hilsenrath who said many Fed officials are undecided on whether to scale back bond purchases in September. Hilsenrath added that the Fed could wait or reduce the programme by a small amount at the upcoming meeting. Going forward, there are no major macroeconomic data releases scheduled for the second half of the session, but Fed’s Williams is due to speak.
An exuberant Japanese investing public bid the open of equity trading in their oh so-penny-stock-like prestigious Nikkei 225 stock index by 540 points from Friday's close. That these 4% rips in major global stock markets have become ubiquitous is now no surprise to anyone but, sadly, for Abenomics supporters the world over, final Q2 GDP missed expectations modestly (+0.9% vs +1.0% exp.) with the 3rd worst trade balance (on a BoP basis ) ever not helping matters. Is that GDP hit enough to maintain Abe's decision to hike taxes? Maybe, maybe not. In thge hour since the data hit, the Nikkei has collapsed back 220 points and USDJPY, having surged up over 100.00 into the GDP print, is fading lower (stronger JPY). The rest of Asia is quiet for now, gold and Treasury bond prices are very slightly lower and amid very thin trading in S&P futures, equities are up 3 points.
Despite Mariano Rajoy's solemn promises that awarding the 2020 Olympics to Madrid would boost the Spanish GDP by 1.8% and lead to the creation of anywhere between 168,000 and a few hundred million new jobs (the latter number is a joke but since it comes from Rajoy, both are equally credible), the Olympic committee cut the Spanish contender before the final, which pitted Tokyo vs Istanbul. And when the final votes were tallied it was not even a contest: with 60 to 36 votes, the 2020 Olympics Games will be held in Tokyo: the city that was supposed to host the event in 1940 but due to the break out of World War II the event was delayed until 1964 (when it was almost cancelled again, permanently, following a modest escalation in nuclear deterrence between the US and USSR surrounding Cuba). Let's hope history does not rhyme.
The highlight of today's economic releases will be the 8:30 am non-farm payroll data, expected to print at 180K jobs, up from July's 162K, and result in an unchanged 7.4% unemployment rate. The "most important jobs number ever " is neither, because even if it comes as a wild outlier to the good or bad side, the Fed is unlikely to change its tapering intentions this late in the game. Still, it will provide fireworks in a very jittery market and if the number is far stronger than expected, expect the 10 Year to finally blow out from below the 3% range which it breached briefly overnight, and never look back, at least not until there is an August 2011 wholesale risk revulsion episode and stocks tumble. Speaking of jittery, overnight the WSJ reports that if picked as Bernanke's replscament, Larry Summers' faces an uphill battle to get the votes of three key democrats on the Senate Banking Committee (Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren). It would be only fitting that the dysfunctional Democratic dominated senate now lashes out against the president, and in the process scuttles the market's only hope of maintaining its Fed-derived gains over the past five years... And there is, of course, Syria which is becoming increasingly problematic for Obama whose support in Congress is looking ever shakier. Will he go it alone in the case of a no vote?