With another session in which US futures levitate into the open, despite a modest drop in the Nikkei225 (to be expected after the president of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension fund, said that a review of asset allocations into stocks is not aimed at supporting domestic share prices) and an unchanged Shanghai Composite while the currency pair du jour, the USDCNY, closes higher despite tumbling in early trade (which also was to be expected after a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China said China is headed for a “mini crisis” in its local- government debt market as economic reforms lead to the first defaults) everyone is asking: will it be deja vu all over again, and after a solid ramp into 9:30 am, facilitated without doubt by the traditional Yen carry trade, will stocks roll over as first biotech and then all other bubble stocks are whacked? We will find out in just over two hours.
Weekly outlook for the major currencies, from a technical perspective.
Once again there has been little fundamental news or economic data this morning in Europe with price action largely driven by expiring option contracts. In terms of key events, Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against US sanctions for now even as Bank Rossiya discovered Visa and MasterCard have stopped servicing its cards, and as Putin further added he would have his salary sent to the sanctioned bank - the farce will go on. Continuing the amusing "rating agency" news following yesterday's policy warning by S&P and Fitch on Russian debt (was that a phone call from Geithner... or directly from Obama), Fitch affirmed United States at AAA; outlook revised to stable from negative, adding that the US has greater debt tolerance than AAA peers. Perhaps thje most notable move was in Chinese stocks which rallied overnight after major domestic banks said to have stopped selling trust products which were blamed for encouraging reckless borrowing and diluted credit standards. Speculation of further stimulus and the potential introduction of single stock futures also helped the Shanghai Comp mark its biggest gain of 2014 closing up 2.7%.
The Yuan has weakened over 250 pips in early China trading. Trading at almost 6.22, we are now deeply into the significant-loss-realizing region of the world's carry-traders and Chinese over-hedgers. Morgan Stanley estimates a minimum $4.8bn loss for each 100 pip move. However, the bigger picture is considerably worse as the vicious circle of desperate liquidity needs are starting to gang up on Hong Kong real estate and commodity prices. For those who see the silver lining in this and construe all this as a reason to buy more developed world stocks on the premise that the money flooding out of China (et al.) will be parked in the S&P are overlooking the fact that the purchase price of these now-unwanted positions was most likely borrowed, meaning that their liquidation will also extinguish the associated credit, not re-allocate it.
In an overnight session that had little in terms of macro and news flow, the most notable event was that the Dollar-Renminbi finally crossed above 6.20 which as a reminder is the suggested "max vega" point beyond which even more max pain lies for levered accounts long the Yuan. However, in a world in which nothing is discounted and in which no news matters, the "market" broadly ignored this significant development (which as we explained further yesterday means an accelerated unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals, and a potential drop in global commodity prices), and eagerly awaited today's non-event of an FOMC conference, where nothing new will be announced save for the novelty of it being Yellen's first appearance before the press as the head of the Fed. And of course the Fed will almost certainly scrap the 6.5% employment threshold, as the FOMC scrambles to make the economy appear worse than it is reported to be, in a stark reminder that the biggest optically manipulated tool meant to boost confidence in the recovery was nothing but a number meant to serve political purposes.
Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.
It would appear that the widening of the daily trading bands (we discussed last night) are having a directional effect on USDCNY as the devaluation continues on the back of forced carry-trade unwinds. At 6.19, CNY is its weakest in 11 months (2.5% weaker than its lows in January) and the last 2 months have seen by far the biggest weakening in the currency on record. This 'implied' easing is modestly supporting the stock market and copper for now (though we suspect that is more spillover from risk-on squeezes post-Ukraine). While Goldman and BofA are adamant that widening the bands will not mean a change in trend overall, it seems clear that hot money is outflowing and driving a trend change anyway as corporate bond prices are not rising and home-price appreciation is slowing in the major cities.
Having offloaded its short-dated Ukraine bonds to clients (recommending they buy them in size when Yanukovych was ousted for a decent loss so far), the boys from Goldman are up to their old tricks with a lorry-load of German stocks to sell you... "Year to date, the DAX is one of the worst performing indices in Europe (down 4.6% relative to the European market which is flat)... but we think the overall German market will outperform the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 index, and also highlight a list of DAX stocks that are currently Buy rated by our analysts."
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
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.
"Excessive credit growth eventually leads to a crisis," Marc Faber tells CNBC Asia, warning that "it has always happened and will again." The Gloom, Boom, & Doom editor briefly explains how the facts are that China is growing at no more than 4% per annum (if one looks beneath the government's manufactured data) and in the case of China "we have a gigantic credit bubble." Reflecting on recent price action (and the potential for social unrest), Faber exclaims, to deny the problems is to believe "the market is wrong and the government is right."
Ukraine, we are told, is infamous for its colorful proverbs and as the title suggests Citi's Matt King warns that emerging market (EM) bond investors may yet become familiar with more of them in coming weeks. Unfortunately Ukraine’s importance is greater than its economic or even geopolitical significance would suggest. Risk premia everywhere have been compressed by the prolonged force-feeding of central bank liquidity. EM in particular has benefited from enormous inflows. However, for developed market (DM), King believes even a serious deterioration in Ukraine still feels unlikely to really derail the serene march tighter we see in spreads – but even so, he warns there are some broader implications of the EM woes which investors would do well to be aware of as "drunkards know no danger".
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
The news last week that bitcoin's founder had been sort-of/maybe/not-so-much “found” got ConvergExs's Nick Colas thinking about the importance of creation myths in business and economics. A key part of bitcoin's current appeal is anonymity, so the fact that the digital currency’s inventor is unknown highlights that central value proposition. The tech industry is full of creation myths that resonate with both general social messages and specific business models. Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Woz, Page and Brin – all began their businesses in garages, showing that anything is possible with a great idea. However, as Colas details below, the truth behind all these stories is, of course, far more complex than the idealized creation myths we tell about them.
Stocks in Europe failed to hold onto early gains and gradually moved into negative territory, albeit minor, as concerns over money markets in China gathered attention yet again after benchmark rates fell to lowest since May 2012. Nevertheless, basic materials outperformed on the sector breakdown, as energy and metal prices rebounded following yesterday’s weaker than expected Chinese data inspired sell off. At the same time, Bunds remained supported by the cautious sentiment, while EUR/USD came under pressure following comments by ECB's Constancio who said that financial markets misinterpreted us a little, can still cut rates and implement QE or buy assets. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly API report after the closing bell on Wall Street and the US Treasury will kick off this week’s issuance with a sale of USD 30bln in 3y notes.