Perhaps the most important "news" of the day is that it is non-Tuesday. Yes, there was actual news news, like German factory orders dropping -2.8% on expectations of a 0.3% increase, French industrial production down -0.7% on expectations of a 0.3% increase (both misses driven by a soaring Euro which is now spitting distance away from the 1.40 ECB "redline"), the Nikkei tumbling 2.9% to just above 14000, the Shanghai Composite down 0.9%, SocGen Q1 profit plunging 13% and conveniently blaming it on Russia, speaking of Russia things continue to deteriorate even though Interfax reported that the country has received the first part, some $3.2 billion, of the promised IMF bailout - money which will be used to promptly pay Gazprom... and buy gold, a sudden conflict between China and Vietnam escalating over the placement of an offshore oil rig and so forth, but in the new normal, none of this matters.
The streak is over! US equities suffered their biggest Tuesday loss in over 6 months today. Despite the same valiant attempt to ramp stocks after a weak open (using JPY and VIX) as yesterday, Turbo Tuesday turned out to be tepid tumbling Tuesday as high-beta hopes were dashed amid little to no macro or event risk news. Yesterday's dead cat bounce in yields appears to have been just that and stocks tracked them lower all day (and disconnected from USDJPY mid-afternoon as it was unable to break 101.50). The Russell was the worst performer (along with NASDAQ) as the broad index closed below its 200-day-moving-average for the first time in 18 months (after 7 false alarms in the last 2 weeks). Away from stocks, credit spreads widened, bond yields dropped, the USD sold off 0.5% to 19-month lows, commodities were generally flat (gold +0.65% on the week), and VIX closed +0.5 vols near 14. Welcome to "Torpedo Tuesday"
Many are perplexed by the 'strength' in Treasuries as yields collapse despite a headline payroll print propagandized (choosing to be non-believers in the bond-market's all-knowing eye). As Deutsche Bank notes, for well established reasons, a multi-decade Pavlovian response to much stronger than expected US data has been higher Treasury yields, which usually provides some USD lift. Last Friday, this plainly did not work, which proved extremely costly for many in the trading community. At a minimum Pavlov’s dog choked, but is Pavlov’s dog dead? The short answer is no, but Pavlov’s dog may have taken off the summer.
Despite being told for weeks that the always efficient US equity market had "priced in" the end of Twitter's lock-up period, it seems (surprise) that it hadn't. Yesterday, some Twitter insiders were promising they would hang on to their stock now that the selling lock up has been lifted. Judging by today's price action, where TWTR is down another 7%, and is down over 50% from its all time high hit in late December, they lied.
In this brave New Normal world, a Chinese contraction is somehow expected to be offset by a rebound in Europe's worst economies, because following China's latest PMI miss, overnight we were told of beats in the Service PMI in Spain (56.5, vs Exp. 54.0, a 7 year high sending the Spanish 10 Year to fresh sub 3% lows), Italy at 51.1, vs Exp. 50.5, also pushing Italian yields to record lows, and France 50.4 (Exp. 50.3). We would speculate that macro events such as these, as fabricated as they may be, are relevant or even market-moving, but they aren't - all that matters is what the JPY and VIX traders at the NY Fed do in a low volume tape, usually in the last 30 minutes of the trading day. And since the trading day today happens to be a Tuesday, and nothing ever goes down on a Tuesday, the outcome is pretty much clear, and not even the absolutely abysmal Barclays earnings report has any chance of denting the latest rigged and manufactured low-volume levitation.
One Wall Street strategist who appears to have thrown in the towel on the entire rising wages debate is none other than BofA's chief economist, Ethan Harris, who in a note released on Friday fires the proverbial shot across the David Rosenberg bow regarding rising wage pressures: "Don't hold your breath."
Some thoughts about the price action, or lack thereof, in the foreign exchange market.
Another day where the taken for granted overnight futures levitation is missing (despite a rather rampy USDJPY), indicates that algos are likely waiting for guidance from today's NFP data (buy if beat, buy more if miss) before committing monopoly money. The consensus for today's NFP is 218K, (up from 192K), although as Goldman notes the whisper number is as high as 240K. As DB says, the honest truth is that markets are in one giant holding pattern at the moment with volatility and conviction low. One evidence of this is the AAII weekly sentiment indicator which shows the % bullish, bearish or neutral on the US stock market for the next six months. This week the neutral indicator (40.78) is at its highest level for 9 years. No wonder volumes and volatility are low if investors are lacking a directional bias. Yesterday’s reaction to the ISM manufacturing was interesting. Though the headline number came in firmer than expected (54.9 vs 54.3 expected) and more than 1pt higher than last month’s reading of 53.7, the UST and equity reaction suggested that the data had actually surprised to the downside.
Since it's not Tuesday (the only day that matters for stocks, of course), call it opposite, or rather stop hunt take out, day. First, it was the BOJ which, as we warned previously, would disappoint and not boost QE (sorry SocGen which had expected an increase in monetization today, and now expects nothing more from the BOJ until year end), which sent the USDJPY sliding, only to see the pair make up all the BOJ announcement losses and then some; and then it was Europe, where first German retail sales cratered, printing at -1.9%, down from 2.0% and on expectations of a 1.7% print, and then Eurozone inflation once again missed estimates, and while rising from the abysmal 0.5% in March printed at only 0.7% - hardly the runaway inflation stuff Draghi is praying for. What happened then: EURUSD tumbled then promptly rebounded a la the flash crash, and at last check was trading near the high of the day.
If one needed a flurry of "worse than expected" macro data to "explain" why European bourses and US futures are up, one got them: first with UK Q1 GDP printing at 0.8%, below the expected 0.9%, then German consumer prices falling 0.1% in April, and finally with Spanish unemployment actually rising from a revised 25.73% to 25.93%, above the 25.85% expected. All of this was "good enough" to allow Italy to price its latest batch of 10 Year paper at a yield of 3.22%, the lowest yield on record! Either way, something else had to catalyze what is shaping up as another 0.5% move higher in US stocks and that something is the old standby, the USDJPY, which ramped higher just before the European open and then ramped some more when European stocks opened for trading. Look for at least one or two more USDJPY momentum ignition moments at specific intervals before US stocks open for trading. But all of that is moot. Remember - the biggest catalyst of what promises to be the latest buying panic rampathon is simple: it's Tuesday (oh, and the $2-$2.5 billion POMO won't hurt).
The last time Goldman Sachs urged clients to "sell", it was gold - and in the next quarter, they were the largest acquirer of the precious metal via ETFs. So when the muppet-murdering bank suggests this morning that, while "we have been caught in choppy action" there is a slow awakening of Treasury bears and recommends shifting from a neutral to short-duration position in bonds... one can't help but wonder just what the bank will do with all the bonds clients sell to them...
Last week, USDNCY began to accelerate lower and break across the "real pain" threshold that we have been discussing for many of the world's so-called "hedgers" who have been riding the one-way strengthening trend of the CNY for years and piled in with leveraged trades on what had been a one-way bet. The collapse this week, to levels not seen since pre-BoJ QQE and pre-Fed QE3 appeared to trigger an avalanche of unwinds or hedges of the exposures we have been worrying about. As the chart below shows, billions of dollars of upside calls on USDCNY were purchased on Friday with serious size out to 6.65 strikes (levels not seen since 2009) by the end of 2014.
It is not true that there has been a secret protocol, reintroducing fixed exchange rates, though the lackluster price action in the foreign exchange market and the continued erosion of volatility make it feel almost like it.
The PBOC's willingness to a) enter the global currency war (beggar thy neighbor), and b) 'allow' the Yuan to weaken and thus crush carry traders and leveraged 'hedgers' is about to get serious. The total size of the carry trades and hedges is hard to estimate but Deutsche believes it is around $500bn and as Morgan Stanley notes the ongoing weakness means things can get ugly fast as USDCNY crosses the crucial 6.25 level where losses from hedge products begin to surge. This is a critical level as it pre-dates Fed QE3 and BoJ QQE levels and these are pure levered derivative MtM losses - not a "well they will just rotate to US equities" loss - which means major tightening on credit conditions...
Outlook for the major currencies in the week ahead.