Following the overnight ramp in various JPY crosses (dragging equity futures higher, and the Nikkei up 0.8%) it is as if the market is desperate to put all of last week's geopolitical events in the rearview mirror, and while yesterday there were no economic events of note, today's CPI and existing home prints should provide at least some distraction from the relentless barrage of one-line updates on Ukraine and Gaza. Still, that is precisely where the biggest risk remains, with an emphasis on the possibility of more Russian sanctions, this time by Europe.
The simple fact is that trading involves risk. Bad risk management happens every day to individual traders who blow up their accounts with one overly aggressive or poorly managed position, and it occasionally happens to those paid to risk other people’s money as well. When it happens to the pros, though, the enormous access they have to leverage exaggerates the effects. n the energy markets, that leverage is ever present as most trading is done via futures contracts and other derivatives. As a result, some of the most spectacular blowups in trading history have involved energy.
The S&P500 has now gone 47 days without a gain or loss of more than 1% - a feat unmatched since 1995, according to AP. Overnight markets are having a weaker session across the board (except the US of course). Even the Nikkei is trading with a weak tone (-0.7%) seemingly unimpressed by the Third Arrow reform announcements from Prime Minister Abe yesterday (and considering in Japan the market is entirely dictated by the BOJ, perhaps they could have at least coordinated a "happy" reception of the revised Abe plan). Either that or they have largely been priced in following the sizable rally in Japanese stocks over the past month or so. Abe outlined about a dozen reforms yesterday including changes to the GPIF investment allocations and a reduction in the corporate tax rate to below 30% from the current level of 35%+. Separately, the Hang Seng Index (-0.06%) and the Shanghai Composite (-0.41%) 98closed lower as traders cited dilutive IPOs as a concern for future equity gains.
The situation in Ukraine and Iraq have gone from bad to worse. There is the potential for a wider Middle East conflict as the region remains a ‘powder keg.’ Iraq may be the match that sees the region explode into chaos and war - with attendant effects on global oil prices and the global economy.
It took a precisely 0.1 beat in the Chinese Manufacturing PMI over the weekend (50.8 vs Exp. 50.7) for the USDJPY and the Nikkei to forget all about last week's abysmal Japanese economic data and to send the Nikkei soaring by 2.1% to its highest print in 5 months. Subsequent overnight weakness from Europe, where the Eurozone Final May Manufacturing PMI dropped again from 52.5 to 52.2, below the 52.5 expected, served simply to push bunds higher back over 147.00, if not do much to US equities which as usual continue their low volume "the music is still playing" melt-up completely dislocated from all newsflow and fundamentals (because just like over the past 5 years, "there is hope").
It has been a largely event-free weekend except, of course, for the previously reported re-escalation in Ukraine following what was a lethal shooting in the east Ukraine city of Slavyansk blamed on Ukraine's Right Front, which has made a mockery, as expected, of the Geneva Ukraine de-escalation announcement from last Thursday. Overnight in Asia, Japan reported its largest ever trade deficit, providing yet more evidence that Abenomics has been an abysmal failure: all we are waiting for now is confirmation that basic Japanese wages have fallen yet again, which would make nearly 2 years in a row of declines. Still, the USDJPY, gamed as usual by HFT algos for which FX is now the last respite as the equity market crackdown gets louder, is doing its best to ramp from the overnight lows and ahead of the traditional US market open surge, as a result equity futures are modestly higher.
Symbolism is important and Putin may be sending the U.S. a message, in the aftermath of JP Morgan unilaterally deciding to block an official Russian wire transfer, regarding how they might use gold as a geopolitical weapon should economic and currency wars deepen ...
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.
Since Ukraine is the only wildcard variable in the news these past few days, it was to be expected that following i) the end of the large Russian military drill begun two weeks ago and ii) a press conference by Putin in which he toned down the war rhetoric, even if he did not actually say anything indicating Russia will difuse the tension, futures have soared and have retraced all their losses from yesterday. And not only in the US - European equity indices gapped higher at the open this morning in reaction to reports that Russian President Putin has ordered troops engaged in military exercises to return to their bases. Consequent broad based reduction in risk premia built up over the past few sessions meant that in spite of looming risk events (ECB, BoE policy meetings and NFP release this Friday), Bund also failed to close the opening gap lower. At the same time, USD/JPY and EUR/CHF benefited as the recent flight to quality sentiment was reversed, with energy and precious metal prices also coming off overnight highs.
U.K. natural gas jumped the most in more than 16 months and was 2.3% higher to $4.72 on supply concerns. Wheat and corn surged 4.3% and 3.3% respectively, also on supply concerns. Should relations between Russia and Western nations deteriorate further, it will have consequences for already vulnerable economies and lead to increased safe haven demand.
In addition to the already noted fireworks out of China, where the Yuan saw the biggest daily plunge since 2008 and the ongoing and very rapid newsflow out of the Ukraine, focus this morning was very much of the latest Eurozone CPI data, which despite matching previous low levels, came in above expectations and in turn resulted in an aggressive unwind of short-EUR bets as market participants were forced to re-asses the likelihood of more easing by the ECB. Still, even though the Euribor curve bear steepened and Bunds came under significant selling pressure, the EONIA forward curve remained inverted, signifying that there is still a degree of apprehension over what is unarguably very low inflation data.
It's snowing in New York so the market must be down. Just kidding - everyone know the only thing that matters for the state of global risk is the level of USDJPY and it is this that nearly caused a bump in the night after pushing the Nikkei as low as 13,995, before the Japanese PPT intervened and rammed the carry trade higher, and thus the Japanese index higher by 1.23% before the close of Japan trading. However, since then the USDJPY has failed to levitate as it usually does overnight and at last check was fluctuating within dangerous territory of 101.000, below which there be tigers. The earlier report of European retail sales tumbling by 1.6% on expectations of a modest 0.6% drop from a downward revised 0.9% only confirmed that the last traces of last year's illusionary European recovery have long gone. Then again, it's all the cold weather's fault. In Europe, not in the US that is.
Alarms are going off in assorted plunge protecting offices, now that the USDJPY has breached the 102.000 "fundamental" support level, below which the Yen can comfortably soar to sub 100.000 in perfectly even 100 pip increments. The first trading day of February has brought another weaker session across Asia though some equity indices such as the KOSPI (-1.1%) are in catch-up mode given they were shut towards the back-end of last week. Over the weekend, the Chinese government published its latest official manufacturing PMI which showed a 0.5pt drop to 50.5, a six-month low, and consistent with consensus estimates. DB’s Jun Ma believes there was some element of seasonality affecting this month’s result including the fact that Chinese New Year started at the end of January (vs February last year), anti-pollution measures in the lead up to CNY and efforts to control government consumption around the holiday period. The official service PMI was released overnight (53.4) which printed at the lowest level since at least 2011. The uninspiring Chinese data has not helped market sentiment this morning, with the Nikkei plunging -2% and ASX200 once again under pressure. S&P500 futures have fluctuated around the unchanged line this morning although if support below the USDJPY fail solidly, then watch out below. Markets in Mainland China and Hong Kong remain closed for Lunar New Year.
The Fed tightens by a little (sorry, tapering - flow - is and always will be tightening): markets soar; Turkey tightens by a lot: markets soar. If only it was that easy everyone would tighten. Only it never is. Which is why as we just reported, the initial euphoria in Turkey is long gone and the Turkish Lira is basically at pre-announcement levels, only now the government has a furious, and loan-challenged population to deal with, not to mention an economy which has just ground to a halt. Anyway, good luck - other EMs already faded, including the ZAR which many are speculating could be the next Turkey, and certainly the USDJPY which sent futures soaring last night, only to fade all gains as well and bring equities down with it.
The US wants its dollar system to prevail for as long as possible. It therefore has every interest in preventing a ‘rush out of dollars into gold’. By selling (paper) gold, bankers have been trying in the last few decades to keep the price of gold under control. This war on gold has been going on for almost one hundred years, but it gained traction in the 1960's with the forming of the London Gold Pool. Just like the London Gold Pool failed in 1969, the current manipulation scheme of gold (and silver prices) cannot be maintained for much longer.