Following yesterday's modest bounce in equities punctuated by the traditional last minute spike, sentiment has reverted lower once again, driven by the uncertainty surrounding debt ceiling talks in the US, where lawmakers have until next Tuesday to agree to a spending bill, or much of the government will shut down. The Senate will vote on a spending bill later today, which will then be sent back to the House putting republicans in a quandary (Politico explains the complications surrounding the GOP's "Plan C"). It was reported that US House leaders are considering postponing action on a bill to extend the US government's borrowing power, with the leadership discussing a change of strategy to complete action on the stopgap spending bill before debating the debt-limit debate. In FX, GBP strengthened across the board this morning after BoE’s Carney said he does not see a case for more quantitative easing.
The best summary of what has (not) been going on in the downward drifting equity markets comes from DB's Jim Reid, quoting: "Markets are in non-panicky limbo at the moment ahead of the upcoming US budget debate. US equities fell for the 5th day in row (S&P 500 -0.27%) and although this is the worst run since the Christmas/New Year’s Eve period of 2012 (due to the fiscal cliff debacle), the cumulative fall is only -1.9% over this decline. Meanwhile Treasuries hit a 7-week low in yield as they recorded their 12th decline in the last 14 days." As has been the case over the past week, stocks in Asia have generally traded lower with the exception of the Nikkei225 which day after day continues to do its insane penny stock thing, first dropping -1.5% only to close up 1.2% on absolutely no news, but some chatter the Abe administration would raise the sales tax on October 1, only to offset the fiscal benefit by lowering corporate tax. How this has any net impact is beyond us. Proceeding to Europe, stocks failed to sustain the initial higher open and moved into negative territory, with Italian asset classes underperforming, as market participants digested reports citing Italian MP Gasparri saying that PdL lawmakers are ready to quit if Berlusconi is ousted. This in turn saw a number of Italian banking stocks come under intense selling pressure, with the Italian/German yield spread widening in spite of supportive reinvestment flows that are due this week.
Early weakness in Asia driven by US-follow thru selling and ongoing concerns about the us fiscal showdowns as well as the debt ceiling, if not by actual news, resulted in a red close in both the Nikkei and SHCOMP, as well as other regional indices such as the Sensex. This then shifted to Europe, where however stocks reversed the initial move lower and are seen broadly flat, with Bunds remaining bid on the back of month-end, as well as coupon and redemption related flows. However the move higher in stocks was led by telecommunications and health care sectors, which indicates that further upside will require another positive catalyst. There was little in terms of fresh EU related macroeconomic commentary, but according to a report published by the European Banking Authority, the EU’s biggest 42 banks cut their aggregate capital shortfall with respect to the “fully loaded” 2019 Basel III requirements to €70.4bln as of December 2012. This is amusing since not one European bank has actually raised capital, but merely redefined what constitutes capital courtesy of a liberal expansion of RWA, Tier 1 and various other meaningless definition which works until such time as the perilous European balance kept together by the non-existent OMT, is tipped over.
Everything was proceeding according to central-plan with a gradual rise in risk and a decline in the USD until 4 am Eastern, when the German IFO Business Climate data was released and missed across the board (107.7 vs Exp. 108.0; Current assessment 111.4 vs Exp. 112.5; Expectations 104.2 Exp.104.0), reminding everyone now that Merkel is cemented for the near future, the immediate prerogative for Europe is to get the EUR lower, one way or another. A returning bid to the dollar also has pushed 10 Year yields under 2.70%, while once again sending various EM currencies sliding, and bringing back cross asset volatility to a world whose Sharpe ratio over the past several months has plummeted into negative territory. Increasing concerns about a government shutdown (misplaced) will likely prevent a solid bid from developing under markets.
It has been a quiet start to Quadruple Witching Friday (expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures) but expect that to change, as erratic price action is a recurring hallmark of Quad Witches, especially with persistent low volume and markets that tend to shut down for no reason. So far stocks have traded steady in Europe this morning, credit spreads widened and Bunds traded in positive territory as market participants positioned for the much-anticipated German elections which are to be held on Sunday, with exit polls to be made available after the close of polling stations at 6pm local time. Ahead of that, and as reported here previously, Germany’s AfD Eurosceptic party could win enough support in the general election on Sunday to gain seats in the German Bundestag, an opinion poll published for a leading newspaper has forecast for the first time. Basic materials and utilities underperformed in Europe, with RWE trading sharply lower in Germany after the company announced plans to cut its dividend by half (and with the Adidas fiasco yesterday, one wonders just how bad things in Europe really are).
Japan’s core CPI (which excludes perishables) surged 0.7% y/y in July, but the upturn is largely due to higher prices for energy that reflect rising import prices due the yen’s weakness. Despite global exuberance at Abe's "progress", BNP notes that there are still no signs of price growth for rent and service prices, factors behind Japan’s protracted deflation. Crucially, BNP believes that Abenomics could lead to four possible medium-term outcomes: (1) Continued deflation (35% probability), (2) Financial repression (40%), (3) High inflation (15%), and(4) Happy end to deflation via revived trend growth (10%). Furthermore, even if this happy ending scenario were to unfold, that does not mean that structural problems, like the swelling public debt and insolvent social welfare, will be headed for resolution.
Yes, yes, only the Fed matters. Still, there was some event flow overnight which while completely meaningless for the epic liquidity bubble, may have some implications eventually when the music finally stops. In thie regard, perhaps the best summary of the the lunacy coming out of the Marriner Eccles building is the following sentence from Bloomberg: "Bernanke said he was concerned that market interest rates, driven higher by his own suggestion he would scale back QE, would curb growth." One can't make this up.
If there was any doubt whether fundamentals still matter (they don't, and in fact the worse the economic data, the better for risk) or what is the only driver of global performance (central-planners), they can all be put to rest following Bernanke's surprise announcement from yesterday which may have sent US stocks to record credit-bubble highs, and global asset soaring, but it also confirmed that the Fed literally makes up monetary policy as it goes along. As the recap below shows, a one-word summary of what has been bought this morning: everything.
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?