The market is facing an increasingly negative environment. Historically speaking April and May have not been big months for crises, but the number of negatives the market is facing today is rather unique.
After a selloff as violent as that of last night, usually the overnight liftathon crew does a great job of recovering a substantial portion of the losses. Not this time, which coupled with the sudden and quite furious breakdown on market structure, leads us to believe that something has changed rather dramatically if preserving investor confidence is not the paramount issue on the mind of the NY Fed trading desk. Nikkei 225 (-2.38%) suffered its worst week since March'11 amid broad based risk off sentiment following on from a lower close on Wall St. where the Nasdaq Biotech index suffered its largest intra-day decline since August 2011. Negative sentiment carried over into European session, with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -1.17%) and tech under performing in a continuation of the recent sector weakness seen in the US. JP Morgan (JPM) due to report earnings at 7:00AM EDT and Wells Fargo (WFC) at 8:00Am EDT.
The Nikkei 225 is down over 700 points from the post-FOMC minutes exuberance with major volume hitting the open in Japan. Japanese stocks are now down 15% from their high and trading at six-month lows (and the cheapest to the Dow in 15 months). USDJPY is tumbling further (though the standard opening knee-jerk stop-run is being attempted). Within the broader Topix index, Japanese bank stocks have just hit a bear market (down over 20% from their highs) at 10-months. When asked how he felt about this, we suspect Abe said "depends."
But the pretty people on TV said the Fed Minutes proved they were the most dovish ever and initial claims hit recovery lows... What a total disaster - Equity markets peaked within a few minutes of the open and never looked back - yesterday's "Fed Cat Bounce" gave way to Really Red Thursday... with the Nasdaq and Russell 6.5% from their recent highs (and the S&P 3.5% off), we suspect a "markets in turmoil" special on business media any moment...
The main overnight event, which we commented on previously, was China's trade data which was a disaster. March numbers turned out to be well below market consensus with exports falling 6.6% YoY (vs +4.8% expected) and imports falling 11.3% YoY (vs +3.9% expected). The underperformance of imports caused the trade balance to spike to $7.7bn (vs -$23bn in Feb). Pricing on the Greek 5-year syndicated bond is due later today, with the final size of the bond boosted to EUR 3bln from EUR 2.5bln as order books exceed EUR 20bln (equating to a rough bid/cover ratio of over 6) as the final yield is set at 4.75% (well below the 5.3% finance ministry target and well above our "the world is a bunch of idiots managing other people's money" 3% target). Ireland sold EUR 1bln in 10y bonds, marking the third successful return to the bond market since the bailout. Also of note, this morning saw the release of lower than expected French CPI data, underpinning fears of potential deflation in the Eurozone.
All the gains that Japan's Nikkei 225 futures had achieved in the post-FOMC-Minutes exuberance have been lost as first Japan (huge miss in machine orders) and then China (huge miss in imports and exports) hit the market with a disappointing data double whammy. US futures are relatively untouched for now (even as USDJPY tumbles back below 102). Asian equity markets are mixed (China/India down notably and Japan fading fast) as another Chinese bank has "delayed payment" on a bond. Copper prices have also reverted and given up post-FOMC gains (despite rumors of PBOC bailout buying).
On April 1, as was widely known, Japan raised its sales tax from 5% to 8% - a move many dread could unleash a recession as happened the last time Japan hiked a consumption tax in 1997. A week later the verdict on just how much consumption was frontloaded ahead of the hike is in, as we get the first sales data on the ground. The result is, in short, a disaster: overnight the Nikkei reported that Japanese department store Takashimaya’s revenue in April 1-7 period crashed 25%!
The positive sentiment stemming from a positive close on Wall Street and saw Shanghai Comp (+0.33%), Hang Seng (+1.09%) trade higher, failed to support the Nikkei 225 (-2.10%), which underperformed its peers and finished in the red amid JPY strength as BoJ's Kuroda failed to hint on more easing. Stocks in Europe (Eurostoxx50 +0.32%) traded higher since the open, with Bunds also under pressure amid the reversal in sentiment.
Alcoa kicked off earnings season yesterday, with shares up 3% in after-market hours. Focus now turns to the release of the FOMC meeting minutes.
Fundamentals are always important over the long term. That said, it has become quite clear that company financials are not what’s moving this market. If fundamentals mattered then the words and decisions of central bankers wouldn’t be the most important headlines. Simply put, the economic fundamentals do not support stock prices. Is this the top? There’s no way to tell. Do some areas of the market look like past bubbles once did? Without a doubt. The last step up before the fall is often characterized by a feeling that the market is invincible. Despite the S&P’s incredible run, it cannot continue to rally forever. Eventually, economic fundamentals will matter again and when that happens it’s likely that the market will sell off.
USDJPY has fallen over 250 pips in the last few days and today is its biggest daily drop in 8 months as stimulus-hope premia is removed from the FX carry trade juicer. USDJPY has retraced all its post-FOMC gains in the last 2 days as the euphoria-to-disaster crowd continues to flood in and out. This dive has driven Nikkei 225 futures down almost 1000 points from Friday's highs, pressuring the Japanese stock market to near its cheapest to the Dow in 15 months.
It took Virtu's idiot algos some time to process that the lack of BOJ stimulus is not bullish for more BOJ stimulus - something that has been priced in since October and which sent the USDJPY up from 97.000 to 105.000 in a few months, but it finally sank in when BOJ head Kuroda explicitly stated overnight that there is "no need to add stimulus now." That, and the disappointing news from China that the middle kingdom too has no plans for a major stimulus, as we reported last night, were the final straws that forced the USDJPY to lose the tractor-beamed 103.000 "fundamental level", tripping the countless sell stops just below it, and slid 50 pips lower as of this moment to overnight lows at the 102.500 level, in turn dragging US but mostly European equity futures with it, and the Dax was last seen tripping stops below 9400.
No Yen carry levitation overnight and, naturally, no Spoo levitation, with the futures struggling following the Nikkei's -1.7% drubbing (pushing it back to nearly -10% on the year) and down well from Friday's closing print. Risk averse sentiment following on from lower close on Wall Street on Friday, NASDAQ 100 (-2.7%) marked the worst session since 2011 dominated the price action in Asia, with JGBs up 32 ticks and the Nikkei 225 index (-1.7%). The Shanghai Composite was closed for a market holiday. Overall, stocks in Europe have recovered off lows but remain in negative territory (Eurostoxx50 -0.64%), with tech sector under performing in a continuation of sector weakness seen in the US and Asia, however Bunds remained under pressure as speculation of QE by ECB continued to undermine demand for core EU bonds. No major tier 1 releases scheduled for rest of the session, with focus likely turning to any policy related comments from ECB’s Weidmann, Constancio and Fed’s Bullard.
Dispassionate big picture overview.
Today’s nonfarm payrolls release is expected to show a "spring" renaissance of labor market activity that was weighed on by "adverse weather" during the winter months (Exp. 200K, range low 150K - high 275K, Prev. 175K). Markets have been fairly lackluster overnight ahead of non-farm payrolls with volumes generally on the low side. The USD and USTs are fairly steady and there are some subdued moves the Nikkei (-0.1%) and HSCEI (+0.1%). S&P500 futures are up modestly, just over 0.1%, courtesy of the traditional overnight, low volume levitation. In China, the banking regulator is reported to have issued a guideline in March to commercial banks, requiring them to better manage outstanding non-performing loans this year. Peripheral EU bonds continued to benefit from dovish ECB threats at the expense of core EU paper, with Bunds under pressure since the open, while stocks in Europe advanced on prospect of more easing (Eurostoxx 50 +0.14%). And in a confirmation how broken centrally-planned markets are, Italian 2 Year bonds high a record low yield, while Spanish 5 Year bonds yield dropped below US for the first time since 2007... or the last time the credit risk was priced to perfection.