As market prognosticators search for something to pin the recent weakness on (Ebola panic, macro data weakness, global growth scare, M&A boom over, fund liquidations, oil crash.. and so on), there is one much larger driver of hysteria that is missing from this list... The Moon and the madness of crowds.
We know low interest rates and QE hasn`t worked, or they wouldn`t have to be re-initiated in the form of additional QE Programs, and we wouldn`t still be having this entire conversation 7 years after ZIRP began.
The last time the stock market reached a fevered peak and began to wobble unexpectedly was August 2007. Markets were most definitely not in the classic “price discovery” business. Instead, the stock market had discovered the “goldilocks economy." But what is profoundly different this time is that the Fed is out of dry powder. Its can’t slash the discount rate as Bernanke did in August 2007 or continuously reduce it federal funds target on a trip from 6% all the way down to zero. Nor can it resort to massive balance sheet expansion. That card has been played and a replay would only spook the market even more. So this time is different. The gamblers are scampering around the casino fixing to buy the dip as soon as white smoke wafts from the Eccles Building. But none is coming. For the first time in 25- years, the Wall Street gamblers are home alone.
Theories abound why this is suddenly happening, after years of deceptive calm.
The systemic risks underlying the Financial Crisis are in no way resolved.
As we explained in detail yesterday, between governments hopes to exit the bailout program early (in order to save their election) - which the market does not like the idea of - and fears over the reality of OMT, Greek markets are tumbling. Greek stocks are down over 9% - the biggest plunge in 6 years and bond yields are surging... it appears the market is demanding Draghi get back to work as the "whatever it takes" gains have been halved (Greek stocks -35% from March 2014 highs).
"Investors around the world are shocked, shocked that the monetary wizards may have run out of magic tricks to revive global economic growth... Even the wizards are admitting that their powers to do so are limited."
The fact that the US economy is nowhere near strong enough to offset the deflation it would import and is already importing through USD strength vs EUR and JPY in particular, has now become a key market theme. Crucially, markets are now collectively having to consider what Bob Janjuah thinks is the reality – that annual trend global growth is converging down at around 2.5%, well short of the pre-crisis levels of over 4%. Janjuah believes "we will see UST 10yr yields closer to 1.5% before they get anywhere near 3.5%, with 10yr Bund yields at 50bp; and a weekly close on the S&P 500 below 1905 was and remains his key pivot point - targeting 1770 as the next stop."
While today's trading volume was better than in recent weeks (as it has been for the last 4 days of collapse), quote activity spiked to the 2nd highest ever on record. As Nanex's Eric Hunsader notes, quote cancellations were higher than ever and are accelerating even as the overall market volume slides lower and lower. What is intriguing is that the last 3 times quote activity spiked this much corresponded with a 'sudden' v-shaped recovery from a significant market weakness - which extended notably for six months or more... is this time different?
Yet again, early exuberance in stocks - which was entirely unsupported by credit and bonds - plunged back to reality late in the day. Intraday volatility in Russell and Trannies was unbelievable with 3-4% swings (Trannies best day in 14 months before the tumble - but managed to close back above its 200DMA). Since Friday, Treasury yields are 6-9bps lower and the dollar rallied back to unchanged today. The big story was the total collapse in oil prices into their close (accompanied by weakness in CAD and EUR, stocks, and bond strength) as it appears someone large got a serious tap on the shoulder to liquidate (WTI under $82 -4.4%, biggest drop in 2 years). Copper gained as gold and silver slipped modestly on the day. HY credit pushed back above 400bps (widest in 13 months) as VIX broke above 24.5 briefly in the last hour (from below 21.5 at its lows) highest since June 2012.
This Ebola outbreak is being called the “most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times“, and the U.S. health care system is completely and totally unprepared for it. The truth is that most U.S. hospitals are simply not equipped to safely handle Ebola patients, and most hospital staff members have received little or no training on Ebola. And the fact that Barack Obama and our top public health officials are running around proclaiming that Ebola is “difficult to catch” is giving doctors and nurses a false sense of security.
Having noted last week of the rising tensions between the French (pushing forward with plans for a budget deficit that far exceeds EU Treaty rules) and Germany (letting a Frenchman run EU's finances is "an unwise personnel decision") and Brussels (planning to reject the French budget); it seems the French are unimpressed. As les Echos reports, French finance minister Michel Sapin has proclaimed he won't change the budget, arguing that the EU commission has no power to reject a budget as sovereignty belongs to France's parliament... fighting words for a 'union'! In addition, the EU is now planning to reject Italy's budget, due to its "serious violation" of EU rules.
Equity markets live and die on several well-established conventions, according to ConvergEx's Nick Colas, noting that these are the rules that investors use as the bedrock of their fundamental analysis. The volatility of the last few weeks shows that some of these paradigms are now under attack. Chief among the question marks: “Do central banks always have the power to tip the balance between growth and recession?” Another rising concern: “Can stocks constantly shrug off recessionary signals from commodity and fixed income markets?” Lastly, “How many exogenous, if largely unpredictable, global events can equities ignore before their collective weight halts a bull market?” Bottom line: the debate on these topics isn’t over for October or the balance of the year.
While Greek leaders are proclaiming victory, intending to exit the bailout plan early and fund themselves in the public marketplace - just as they did in April (despite record poverty, unemployment, and suicides); it appears investors are a little less sanguine about the prospect. Greek bond yields have topped 7% for the first time since March and any gains from the 5Y bonds sold to hedge funds in April have now gone (and Greek stocks are at 13-month lows). The driver of recent weakness appears to be fears over whether Draghi's OMT will ever be real enough to monetize Greek debt and a re-rating based on more standalone risk if Greece were to exit the bailout program early.
At 1532ET today (Columbus Day - with half the market absent), someone - apparently having waited to see if the almost 'ubiquitous' 330pm Ramp would occur - decided it was time to dump three-quarters of a billion dollars notional of US equity market exposure in 1 second. The results of this forced liquidation (or utter disregard for fiduciary duty) were as follows...