For the first half an hour after China opened, things looked bleak: after opening down 5%, the Shanghai Composite staged a quick relief rally, then tumbled again. And then, just around 10pm Eastern, we saw a coordinated central bank intervention stepping in to give the flailing PBOC a helping hand, driven by the BOJ but also involving NY Fed members, that sent the USDJPY soaring which in turn dragged ES and most risk assets up with it. And while Shanghai did end up closing down -1.7%, with Shenzhen 2.2% lower at the close, the final outcome was far better than what could have been, with the result being that S&P futures have gone back to doing their thing, and have wiped out all of yesterday's losses in the levitating, zero volume, overnight session which has long become a favorite setting for central banks buying E-Minis.
"Central bank quantitative easing drove traditional investors seeking mid-to-high single digit yields out of investment grade/ crossover credit into high yield, loan and emerging market debt to satisfy yield bogeys. The problem, however, is some of the tourists underappreciate the exponential loss and mark-to-market functions for low quality high yield assets."
For those who are speculating on the dollar—i.e. most people—there was good news. The dollar rose to 28.3mg gold. It’s a big gain, and welcome news for those who keep all of their eggs in the one dollar basket.
The dollar's pause may be short-lived. Divergence still the key driver.
Here we now call market deflation by the sobriquet “volatility”, as in “major market indices suffered from volatility today, down almost one-half of one percent”, where a down day is treated as something akin to the common cold, a temporary illness with symptoms that we can shrug off with an aspirin or two. You can’t be in favor of volatility, surely. It’s a bad thing, almost on a par with littering. No, we want good things and good words, like “wealth effect” and “accommodation” and “stability” and “price appreciation”. As President Snow says in reference to The Hunger Games version of a political utility, “may the odds be always in your favor”. Who doesn’t want that?
As Nanex once again shows, having captured the exact "spoofing" moment, the action was all on the ask side, with a "spoofer" first representing a large sell order, and sending gold lower after 2:41pm, which remains on the order book, but which promptly vanishes once the actual price of gold crossed into the spoofer's "ask" following a subsequent ramp at 4:51pm.
China will be a net buyer, and a net importer of physical gold for years to come. In and of itself that won’t necessarily cause a sharp rally in gold prices anytime soon, but gold acquisition from the Chinese state and her citizens, as well as emerging market central banks the world over will continue to provide support for the physical gold market. Those that have sold gold in the past few days (and there have been plenty in the ETF and futures markets) as a result of the “disappointing” number out of China may have just caused the capitulation event that typically marks the bottom of any bear market.
A slow week devoid of virtually any macro news - last night the biggest weekly geopolitical event concluded as expected, when Greece voted to pass the bailout bill which "the government does not believe in" just so the ECB's ELA support for Greek depositors can continue - is slowly coming to a close, as is the busiest week of the second quarter earnings season which so far has been largely disappointing despite aggressive consensus estimate cuts, especially for some of the marquee names, and unlike Q1 when a quarterly drop in EPS was avoided in the last minute, this time we won't be so lucky, and the only question is on what side of -3.5% Y/Y change in EPS will the quarter end.
While this week has been, and continues to be, devoid of macro updates, yesterday's flurry of mostly disappointing earnings releases both before and after the open, including some of the biggest DJIA companies as well as the current and previously biggest and most important companies in the world, AAPL and MSFT, both of which came crashing down following earnings and forecasts that were well short of market expectations, came as a jolt to a market that was artificially priced by central bank liquidity and HFT momo algos beyond perfection. Add to that yesterday's downward revision to historical industrial production which confirmed the US economy is a step away from recession, as well as last night's Crude API inventory build which is once again pressuring WTI lower and on the verge of a 49 handle, and perhaps the biggest question is why are futures not much lower.
You don’t hear it much, but the S&P 500 has been a bit of a “One trick pony” in 2015. No, it isn’t the 4% weighting in Apple that makes it such; it is the combination of a 15% weighting in Health Care AND that sector’s 12.9% return year to date. When you compare the S&P 500’s price return year to date of 3.37%, you can see that the Health Care sector’s contribution is essentially just over half the market’s price return for 2015 (12.9 times 15% is 1.90 of that 3.37). Layer on the fact that 5 of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 are still down on the year: Materials (-2.7%), Industrials (-2.9%), Telecomm (-0.7%), Utilities (-8.6%) and Energy (-9.7%).
Today's action is so far an exact replica of Friday's zero-volume ES overnight levitation higher (even if Europe's derivatives market, the EUREX exchange, did break at the open for good measure leading to a delayed market open just to make sure nobody sells) with the "catalyst" today being the official Greek repayment to both the ECB and the IMF which will use up €6.8 billion of the €7.2 billion bridge loan the EU just handed over Athens so it can immediately repay its creditors. In other words, Greek creditors including the ECB, just repaid themselves once again. One thing which is not "one-time" or "non-recurring" is the total collapse in commodities, which after last night's precious metals flash crash has sent the Bloomberg commodity complex to a 13 year low.
After weeks of overnight turbulence following every twist and turn in the Greek drama, this morning has seen a scarcity of mostly gap up (or NYSE-breakding "down") moves, and S&P500 futures are unchanged as of this moment however the Nasdaq is looking set for another record high at the open after last night's better than expected GOOG results which sent the stop higher by 11% of over $40 billion in market cap. We expect this not to last very long as the traditional no volume, USDJPY-levitation driven buying of ES will surely resume once US algos wake up and launch the self-trading spoof programs. More importantly: a red close on Friday is not exactly permitted by the central planners.
Having now passed the anniversary of the “rising dollar”, it is interesting to see the related and continued effects on the stock bubble(s). As should be obvious by now, stock buybacks, funded via corporate bonds and loosely categorized C&I loans, are responsible for the post-QE3 nearly uninterrupted rise. Repurchases are forming a separate “liquidity” conduit, indirect leverage if you will, which has already started to fray. Various broader “market” indices have diverged, starting with the Russell 2000 in early 2014 (with the economic slowdown that was supposed to be an anomaly of weather). At the very least it might imply that the central bank paradigm that lasted since the middle of 2012 has greatly eroded or even ended.
And so the 2015 season of the Greek drama is coming to a close following last night's vote in Greek parliament to vote the country into even more austerity than was the case before Syriza was voted into power with promises of removing all austerity, even with Europe - which formally admits Greece is unsustainable in its current debt configuration - now terminally split on how to proceed, with Germany's finmin still calling for a "temporary Grexit", the IMF demanding massive debt haircuts, while the rest of Europe (and not so happy if one is Finnish or Dutch) just happy to kick the can for the third time.
Just when the Chinese plunge protection team (and "arrest shortie" task force) seemed to be finally getting "malicious selling" under control, first we saw a crack yesterday when the composite broke the surge of the past three days as a result of yet another spike in margin debt funded purchases, but it was last night's reminder that "good news is bad news" that really confused the stock trading farmers and grandmas, which goalseeked Chinese economic "data" beat across the board, with Q2 GDP coming solidly above expectations at 7.0%, and retail sales and industrial production both beating, but in the process raising doubts that the PBOC will continue supporting stocks.