Li & Fung’s latest results yesterday offered some interesting anecdotes. The company’s performance for the first 6 months was hampered by ongoing macroeconomic weakness, geopolitical and weather events in its key destination markets (US and Europe). Price discounting remains a theme in US retail even beyond the end of June. The company also noted a reduction of foreign tourist flow by Russian tourists into Europe which is affecting retail markets there. This fits consistently well with some of the ECB’s geopolitical concerns outlined at its previous policy meeting.
The July FOMC minutes generally had a slightly hawkish tone, warns Goldman's Jan Hatzius, emphasizing that labor market slack had improved faster than expected and that the labor market was now closer to what might be considered normal in the longer run. Overall, these remarks suggest that the change in the labor market language found in the July FOMC statement - shifting focus to broader labor market indicators rather than the unemployment rate specifically - was not intended to be a dovish change, as some commentators thought at the time. Finally, some participants noted some evidence of stretched valuations in specific markets.
Curious what Europe's true economic state is? The chart below, showing Europe's annual inflation or lack thereof, and which just dropped from 0.5% to 0.4%, missing estimates of an unchanged print despite the ECB's ongoing and losing war with disinflation, and soon deflation, shows all you need to know.
Having already warned that looming political uncertainty is not at all priced-in to US equities, Goldman's Alec Phillips points out that legislation was introduced earlier this week (July 7) in the US House that would attempt to revamp the FOMC's monetary policy process. The bill would require the FOMC to justify to Congress each policy decision relative to a Taylor rule specified in the legislation. While Goldman, do not expect the bill to get very far, but the issue does appear to be a growing focus for some lawmakers and we expect further action on it in the near term.
This week brings PMIs (US and Euro area ‘flash’) and inflation (US PCE, CPI in Germany, Spain, and Japan). Among other releases, next week in DMs includes [on Monday] PMIs in US (June P), Euro Area Composite (expect 52.8, a touch below previous) and Japan; [on Tuesday] US home prices (FHFA and S&P/Case Shiller) and Consumer Confidence (expect 83.5, same as consensus), Germany IFO; [on Wednesday] US Durable Goods Orders (expect -0.50%, at touch below consensus) and real GDP 1Q anniversary. 3rd (expect -2.0%) and Personal Consumption 1Q (expect 2.0%), and confidence indicators in Germany, France and Italy; [on Thursday] US PCE price index (expect 0.20%), Personal Income and Spending, and GS Analyst Index; and [on Friday] Reuters/U. Michigan Confidence (expect slight improvement to 82, same as consensus), GDP 1Q in France and UK (expect 0.8% and 0.9% yoy, respectively), and CPI in Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan.
Here Are The Funniest Quotes From BofA As It Throws In The Towel On Its "Above-Consensus" GDP ForecastSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/13/2014 10:28 -0400
It is hard not to gloat when reading the latest embarrassing mea culpa from Bank of America's Ethan Harris, who incidentally came out with an "above consensus" forecast late last year, and has been crushed month after month as the hard data has lobbed off percentage from his irrationally exuberant growth forecast for every quarter, and now, the year. As a result, BofA has finally thrown in the towel, and tongue in cheekly admits it was wrong, as follows: "our tracking model now suggests growth of -1.9% in 1Q and 4.0% in 2Q for a first half average of just 1.0%.... Momentum is weak, but fundamentals are strong. We have lowered second half growth to 3.0% from 3.4%."
One of the most important, but difficult to measure, concepts in macroeconomics is the natural or equilibrium real interest rate. This is the rate of interest consistent with full employment and stable inflation. The last few weeks have seen bond yields tumble and a rising cacophony of market participants questioning both the Fed's central tendency of terminal or natural rates (around 4%) and the market's perception of how fast we get there. SF Fed Williams models see a 1.8% natural rate, BofA also believes it is between 1.5 and 2%; and now Citi admits, "fair value of long-term rates may be lower than we and other market participants judged them to be."
"by July we expect the US economy to be in full recovery from the weather- and inventory-induced slowdown in Q1, and this should push US rates higher and boost the Dollar, including against the Yen." - Goldman Sachs
Despite Mario Draghi and Janet Yellen's (repeat) attempt to steal the show today, the first when the ECB reports its monetary decision (with zero real chance of announcing any change in policy considering all the furious, and failed, attempts to jawbone the Euro lower) as it faces the dilemma of deflationary pressure, record low bond yields and interest rates at record lows coupled with an export crushing Euro just shy of 1.40, and a practical impossibility to conduct QE even as the hawks jawbone a "potential" European QE to death, while Janet Yellen conducts the second part of the congressional testimony this time before the Senate Budget Committee where she will again, say nothing at all, it appears the world will be focused on Russia once again after the latest 24 hour "de-escalation" gambit is now once again dead and buried and on top of it is Putin waving a "come launch a nuclear attack at me, bro" flag.
Prak central bank balance sheets are still ahead. Interest rate increases are still several quarters out. Austerity has peaked. The output gap has peaked. What does this mean in the week ahead ?
For a decade or two, it's been dubbed the widowmaker (though truth be told, the losses are more bleed than massive capital loss like those holding US growth stocks currently), but as Barclays notes the Japanese bond market 'conundrum' (that nothing like a recovery is priced into the JGB curve, which is failing to price even a partial, eventual success of the Abe government's reflationary agenda) may finally be ready to be played..."We are always on the lookout for asset prices that seem inconsistent with the more plausible economic and financial scenarios. Sometimes these discrepancies point toward necessary alterations of our fundamental world view. In other cases, they point toward investment opportunity. At the moment, one of the most glaring discrepancies between macro and markets is the long end of the Japanese curve."
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.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
Although there are no policy making meetings, central banks will still dominate the agenda in the week ahead.
While moderate recovery in growth and inflation is BofAML's rates team's base case, there are numerous risks to that forecast. The risk of tapering is already quite well known and they suspect it may not result in the significant market-moving event many expect when it actually happens; however, the following downside and upside risks threaten BofAML's central scenarios for 2014 as well.