If the big hope propelling both ES and S&P cash over 2,000 was the Ukraine-Russian talks, leading to some de-escalation and a thawing of Russian-German conditions, then it was clearly a dud. As the WSJ reports, "face-to-face talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents failed to produce a breakthrough for ending the conflict over eastern Ukraine, as Kiev released videos of captured Russian soldiers and rebels pushed toward a government-held city. The one-on-one session, which Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko described as "tough and complex," ended early Wednesday after a day of talks on the crisis in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Mr. Poroshenko said afterward that he would prepare a "road map" toward a possible cease-fire with the pro-Russia separatists." In other words, absolutely no progress. There was however escalation, when overnight the September Bund future rose as much as 36 ticks to 151.18, after Poland PM Tusk said “regular” Russian troops are operating in eastern Ukraine. And so we are back to square one, with concerns over Russia pushing European bonds to new record highs, in turn leading to more US Treasury buying, while a brand new rumor of more easing from the ECB, this time by Deutsche Bank, has propped up European equities, which like US futures are trading water around the critical 2000 level.
While today's key events were supposed to be the Jackson speeches first by Janet Yellen at 10:00am Eastern and then by Mario Draghi at 2:30 pm, Ukraine quickly managed to steal the spotlight yet again when moments after the first Russian humanitarian aid convoys entered Ukraine allegedly without permission, Kiev first accused Russia of staging a direct invasion, even if moments later it changed its tune and said it had allowed the convoy in to "avoid provocations." In other words, your daily dose of Ukraine disinformation, which initially managed to push futures down some 0.3% before futs regained virtually all losses on the subsequent clarifications. Expect much more conflicting, confusing and very provocative headlines out of Kiev as the local government and the CIA try to get their story straight.
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If the global equity "markets" were in need of a sharp "horrible news is great news" boost overnight, it came courtesy of Germany's ZEW investor confidence survey, which printed at a stunning 8.6, a plunge from the 27.1 in July and far below the 17.0 expected - the lowest print since December 2012 -largely suggesting that a European triple-dip is all but assured. And if that wasn't enough, strong language from John Kerry, assured to fan the flames of geopolitical instability, came hours ago when the US SecState said even more Russian sanctions may be coming. And just to make sure the NY Fed trading desk has to come up with a new narrative is the latest development in the Russian "humanitarian convoy" saga, which as we reported last night, has departed Russia but which Ukraine is now refusing to allow into its country. All in all, it's is setting up to be another super bullish day in the rigged markets for which all that matters is... Tuesday.
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.