- Australia says nothing spotted in search for plane (AP)
- Putin looks to Asia as West threatens to isolate Russia (Reuters)
- China Billionaire Builds Metals With Dreyfus, Glencore Hires (BBG)
- China Beige Book Says Economy Slowing (BBG)
- Caterpillar Said to Be Focus of Senate Overseas Tax Probe (BBG)
- US Cancels Summit With Divided Group of Gulf Nations (WSJ)
- Cyprus defense minister suffers aneurysm (AP)
- Abe to zero in on economy as tax hike looms (Nikkei)
- Europe strikes deal to complete banking union (Reuters)
In the aftermath of yesterday's key market event, the FOMC's $10 billion tapering and elimination of QE with "QualG", not to mention the "dots" and the "6 month" comment, the USD has been on fire against all key pairs, with the EURUSD sliding below 1.38, a 150 pip move in one day which should at least give Mario Draghi some comfort, but more importantly sending the USDJPY soaring to 102.500 even as US equity futures continue to slide, and not to mention the Nikkei which tumbled -1.7% to just above 14,000 overnight. Perhaps the biggest take home message for traders from yesterday is that the Yen carry trade correlation to the Emini is now dead if only for the time being until DE Shaw and Virtu recalibrate their all-important correlation signal algos. The other big news overnight was the plunge in the Yuan, tumbling 0.5%, 6.2286, up 343 pips and crushing countless speculators now that the "max vega" point has been passed. Expect under the radar news about insolvent trading desks over the next few days, as numerous mega levered FX traders, who had bet on continued CNY appreciation are quietly carted out the back door. Elsewhere, gold and other commodities continue to be hit on rising fear the plunging CNY will accelerate the unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals.
In an overnight session that had little in terms of macro and news flow, the most notable event was that the Dollar-Renminbi finally crossed above 6.20 which as a reminder is the suggested "max vega" point beyond which even more max pain lies for levered accounts long the Yuan. However, in a world in which nothing is discounted and in which no news matters, the "market" broadly ignored this significant development (which as we explained further yesterday means an accelerated unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals, and a potential drop in global commodity prices), and eagerly awaited today's non-event of an FOMC conference, where nothing new will be announced save for the novelty of it being Yellen's first appearance before the press as the head of the Fed. And of course the Fed will almost certainly scrap the 6.5% employment threshold, as the FOMC scrambles to make the economy appear worse than it is reported to be, in a stark reminder that the biggest optically manipulated tool meant to boost confidence in the recovery was nothing but a number meant to serve political purposes.
After trading well above the Dow at last year's peak (and equal with it at 2013 year-end), the Nikkei 225 is now almost 2000 points below the level of the Dow - a 13-month low. Trading not far off the EM-crisis lows of January, Japanese stocks are fading as JPY can't sustain any offer and carry-trades are unwound. Not helped by yet another in a long and illustrious list of mssed trade balance figures since Abe took the helm. Elsewhere in Asia, USDCNY traded up to almost 6.20 (the Maginot line for many derivatives trades) and does not look like the PBOC has it under control and copper has dumped from earlier US exuberance; iron ore is flat; and Chinese stocks are down (along with US futures fading modestly).
Despite much hope that the current breakout of the markets is the beginning of a new secular "bull" market - the economic and fundamental variables suggest otherwise. Valuations and sentiment are at very elevated levels while interest rates, inflation, wages and savings rates are all at historically low levels. This set of fundamental variables are normally seen at the end of secular bull market periods. It is entirely conceivable that stock prices can be driven higher through the Federal Reserve's ongoing interventions, current momentum, and excessive optimism. However, the current economic variables, demographic trends and underlying fundamentals make it currently impossible to "replay the tape" of the 80's and 90's. These dynamics increase the potential of a rather nasty mean reversion at some point in the future. The good news is that it is precisely that reversion that will likely create the "set up" necessary to launch the next great secular bull market. However, as was seen at the bottom of the market in 1974, there were few individual investors left to enjoy the beginning of that ride.
Today's prime time geopolitical risk event is Putin's speech to a joint session of parliament, in which he will address the Crimean crisis. No major surprises are likely, with mentions of retaliatory sanctions and the formal annexation of Crimea expected to be the main talking points, although it is the nuances and the phrasing that threaten to pull the USDJPY lower potentially into the double digit territory at which point all bets are off, if only for the Nikkei and the future of Abenomics. Watch Putin's speech live below.
Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.
S&P 500 rise to new high recently was a "party for one" as other global indexes did not participate; "there are so many issues with the market that it strains the imagination," writes Sterne Agee technical analyst Carter Worth in note. Nikkei 225 "deteriorating for weeks" has “look and feel of an important topping-out formation” while European stocks at or below February lows. Small cap stocks, including solar, marine shipping, new-era dot.com, and micro-cap biotech stocks "surging with abandon"
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
Markets are showing increased signs of investor anxiety, warns BofA's Macneil Curry. The Friday breakout in the VIX Index says that this anxiety will likely persist into next week. Indeed, Curry adds, the VIX has based from its highest levels in over a year suggesting that investors are more susceptible to bad news and defensive behavior than at any time in the past 12 months. Several markets look particularly susceptible to this change in sentiment.
With the Japanese stock market fading fast and macro-economic data showing anything but the kinds of inspiring recovery that Abenomics promised, the leaders in Japan have turned to a new meme - that the economy will be fixed when companies start raising their wages. Day after day the mantra is repeated in the hopes that repetition will make it come true and every company that raises wages (by an average of 4 Big Macs per month) is heralded as heroic. But, as The Japan Times reports, the government (in all its newly socialist bravado) has threatened to take the unprecedented step of shaming big "uncooperative" companies that do not raise wages during the annual spring labor talks. Forget minimum wage adjustments, this is pay-by-mandate Maduro-style; we just wonder how Abe will cope when a nation used to 'full' employment sees joblessness surge.
An overview of the technical condition of the major currencies.
- Ukraine anxiety triggers flight to safety, stocks tumble (Reuters)
- Woodrow Wilson’s Ukraine Failure Foreshadows West’s Dilemmas (BBG)
- Fortress Executives Join Peers Selling Stock After Rally (BBG)
- 303 Deaths Seen in G.M. Cars With Failed Air Bags (NYT)
- Putin Deports Executives for Speeding as Sanctions Loom (BBG)
- Russia blocks internet sites of Putin critics (Reuters)
- China Bond Risk Exceeds Ireland as Defaults Unavoidable (BBG)
- China H-Shares Post Biggest Weekly Drop Since October (BBG)
- Surge in Rail Shipments of Oil Sidetracks Other Industries (WSJ)
- Blackstone’s Home Buying Binge Ends as Prices Surge (BBG)
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.