While the comments by Russian presidential advisor, Sergei Glazyev, came before Putin's detente press conference early this morning, they did flash a red light of warning as to what Russian response may be should the west indeed proceed with "crippling" sanctions as Kerry is demanding. As RIA reports, his advice is that "authorities should dump US government bonds in the event of Russian companies and individuals being targeted by sanctions over events in Ukraine." Glazyev said the United States would be the first to suffer in the event of any sanctions regime. “The Americans are threatening Russia with sanctions and pulling the EU into a trade and economic war with Russia,” Glazyev said. “Most of the sanctions against Russia will bring harm to the United States itself, because as far as trade relations with the United States go, we don’t depend on them in any way.”
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.
Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.
Asian equities are trading lower across the board on the back of some negative credit stories from China. Shanghai Securities News noted that ICBC and some other banks have curbed loans to developers in sectors such as steel and cement. Slower gains in home property prices in China’s tier 1 cities are also not helping sentiment. Beijing and Shenzhen prices rose 0.4% in January, which looks to be the slowest monthly gain since October 2012 according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere there are reports that a property developer in Hangzhou (Tier 2 city in China) is reducing its unit prices by 19%. Our property analysts noted that given the strong gains seen in Tier-1 and some bigger Tier-2 cities in 2013, a slowdown or negative trends in price growth should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, it has been a very weak day for Chinese and HK markets with the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng indices down -2.0% and -1.2% lower as we type. Across the region, bourses in Japan and Korea are down -1.0% and -0.6%, respectively.
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...
After learning that it snowed in China this winter following the release of the abysmal February Flash HSBC PMI numbers, we found out that there had also been snow in Europe, following misses across virtually all key French, German and composite PMIs with the exception of the German Services PMI which was the sole "beater" out of 6. To wit:
- Eurozone PMI Manufacturing (Feb A) M/M 53.0 vs Exp. 54.0 (Prev. 54.0); Eurozone PMI Services (Feb A) M/M 51.7 vs Exp. 51.9 (Prev. 51.6)
- German Manufacturing PMI (Feb A) M/M 54.7 vs. Exp. 56.3 (Prev. 56.5); German PMI Services (Feb A) M/M 55.4 vs Exp. 53.4 (Prev. 53.1)
- French PMI Manufacturing (Feb P) M/M 48.5 vs. Exp. 49.6 (Prev. 49.3); French PMI Services (Feb P) M/M 46.9 vs. Exp. 49.4 (Prev. 48.9)
Of course, economic data is the last thing that matters in a manipulated market. Instead, all that does matter is what the USDJPY does overnight, and as we forecast yesterday, the USDJPY 102 tractor beam is alive and well and managed to pull equity futures from a -10 drop overnight to nearly unchanged, despite the now traditional pattern of USDJPY selling during the overnight session and buying during the US session.
After surging yesterday for no reason whatsoever because as we explained on several occasions, there were no surprises in the Tuesday BOJ statement, and the doubling and extension of its loan facilities was implicit and factored into the doubling of its monetary policy (as goldman explained quite well), both the Nikkei and the USDJPY has been forced to revert, with the latter all important carry funding pair back to 102 and in danger of sliding lower, as a result ES is now below yesterday's lows. Which is why the 102 USDJPY "invisible hand" tractor beam will be all important today especially if the market finally starts paying attention to the proxy civil war that has gripped the Ukraine. Stocks traded lower, albeit in a relatively range-bound range this morning, with the Spanish IBEX-35 underperforming. Banking names remained under pressure, with focus still on yesterday’s reports that Spanish banks' bad loans marked a fresh record, together with comments by ECB's Weidmann, who said that sovereign debt purchases would constrain the central bank via political pressure. Similar view was also echoed by ECB’s Nowotny, who said that government bond buying US Fed-style would be difficult to do under ECB's mandate.
The key event overnight was the monetary policy announcement by the BOJ in which its kept it QE unchanged while the Board decided by unanimous vote to double the scale of two funding facilities, namely the Stimulating Bank Lending Facility and Growth-Supporting Funding Facility and to extend the application period for these facilities by a year. Both facilities are designed to stimulate the provision of funding to Japanese banks, allowing them to borrow from the BoJ at a fixed rate of 0.1%pa, for a period 4 years now, instead of 1-3 years previous. Some are arguing that by expanding its funding programmes but not changing its asset purchase targets, the BoJ has signalled its intention to ease policy whilst preserving firepower for extra stimulus in coming months when a sales-tax hike is due to kick-in. The result was a surge in both the Nikkei and USDJPY. The problem, and confirmation that once again the market is now a bunch of cluless automatons unable to analyze even one sentence below the headline level, is that as Goldman explained overnight, the "surprise" announcement was already fully factored in.
Just as we saw yesterday, US equities have decoupled from FX carry but not long after POMO started something very odd happened... at 1035ET, shorts started piling on...
The machines have learned well that 1015ET is buying time... Why, you ask? Well, it's POMO time - when the Fed hands out its fully fungible, rehypothecatable, infinitely leveragable free-money and risk assets pop... apart from today, there is no POMO... USDJPY 102 was all that mattered - no excuses. At least the currency manipulation crack down has fully rooted out all the front-running, options-strike-searching behavior...
With so much of the recent bad news roundly ignored or simply "priced in" and blamed on the snow, it is unknown just what it is that catalyzed the overnight round of risk-offness, but whatever the ultimate factor, it first dragged the Nikkei lower by 1.8%, as we noted previously, then sent the SHCOMP down by 0.55%, then ultimately dragged the USDJPY below the key 102 support area which in turn pulled US equity futures to set the scene for a red open (with no POMO and no Yellen testimony today which also was canceled due to snow), and, putting it all together, suddenly Europe too is back on the scene, with a blow out in Italian yields driven by the realization that the Letta government is on the edge of collapse, in a deja vu moment to those hot summers of 2011 and 2012.
Apart from a 45-minute period from 1030ET to 1115ET (POMO) of totally failed momentum ignition, US equities and USDJPY were once again perfectly coupled leaving the Dow and S&P in the red today and the rest practically unchanged on dismally low volumes. Treasuries continue to slide with yields now 5bps (30Y) to 10bps (5Y) higher in the last 2 days (the worst 2 days for 5Y in almost 2 months). The USD ended practically unchanged on the week (once again) as EUR weakness (Coeure comments on negative rates) offset GBP strength (Carney comments). VIX traded down to 14.02% intraday (and the term structure is very steep and complacent once again). Gold (new 3-month highs) and silver surged intraday but the afternoon saw selling even as bonds, stocks, and the USD weakened. Dow remains below 16k.
After initially sending the all important USDJPY carry pair - and thus all risk assets - into rally mode, the initial euphoria over manipulated Chinese trade data (see China Trade Puzzle Revived as Hong Kong Data Diverge), has all but fizzled and at last check the USDJPY was sliding to its LOD, approaching 102 from the wrong side. That, and a statement by the ECB's Coeure that the ECB is "very seriously" considering a negative deposit rate (and that the OMT is ready to be used even though it obviously isn't following the latest brewhaha from the German top court) have so far defined the overnight session, the latter having sent the EUR sliding across all major pairs.
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.
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.