Reality

SEC Hits Peak Idiocy

And scene: "A lot of our rules were written for people and not necessarily for computers." - SEC

The Problem With HFT Explained In One Chart

The problem is now readily apparent: without any gates to prevent HFT (ab)users from positioning themselves anywhere they wish in the constructiveness/profitabilty spectrum, it goes without saying that everyone will immediately flock to the most profitable, and hence, least constructive and most predatory, HFT strategies.

10 Year Breakdown To 2.4% Possible BofA Warns

As one well-known trader noted - referring to the current move in the US Treasury complex - "rubber, meet road."With the death cross (50DMA crossing below the 200DMA) for bond yields and a crucial trendline having been tested now numerous times (building up its importance), it seems we are about to find out just how much "growth" stocks really do reflect the reality of 'ungrowth' in bonds and vice versa. A break of 2.64% in 10Y yield could be a critical floodgate the Fed does not want opened. As BofAML's Macneil Curry warns, 10Y Treasury bears beware, a break below this level opens up a drop to 2.399%.

Picturing The Gap Between Hope And Reality In Stocks

Companies will have to increase profit margins to all-time records in order to meet estimates, is the message of utter hope embedded in the forward expectations for earnings and sales growth. As Bloomberg reports, Oppenheimer's Andrew Burkly warns this is "a scenario we view with ongoing skepticism." As the chart below shows, the gap between growth in sales (top-line) and earnings (bottom-line) is set to explode in the next few quarters as even the most exuberant analsyst struggle to upgrade their GDP-riddled sales forecasts and are thus forced to make up whatever margins they need to reflect extrapolated buy-and-hold targets for their stocks.

Futures Fail To Levitate Green Despite Atrocious Chinese And Japanese Econ Data

The main overnight event, which we commented on previously, was China's trade data which was a disaster. March numbers turned out to be well below market consensus with exports falling 6.6% YoY (vs +4.8% expected) and imports falling 11.3% YoY (vs +3.9% expected). The underperformance of imports caused the trade balance to spike to $7.7bn (vs -$23bn in Feb). Pricing on the Greek 5-year syndicated bond is due later today, with the final size of the bond boosted to EUR 3bln from EUR 2.5bln as order books exceed EUR 20bln (equating to a rough bid/cover ratio of over 6) as the final yield is set at 4.75% (well below the 5.3% finance ministry target and well above our "the world is a bunch of idiots managing other people's money" 3% target). Ireland sold EUR 1bln in 10y bonds, marking the third successful return to the bond market since the bailout. Also of note, this morning saw the release of lower than expected French CPI data, underpinning fears of potential deflation in the Eurozone.

Howard Marks: "Dare To Look Wrong, It's Not Supposed To Be Easy"

Echoing Charlie Munger, Oaktree's Howard Marks warns today's institutional and retail investors that "everything that’s important in investing is counterintuitive, and everything that’s obvious is wrong." These words seem critically important at a time when the world and his pet rabbit is a self-proclaimed stock-picking export. Be "uncomfortably idiosyncratic," Marks advises, noting thaty most great investments begin in discomfort as "non-conformists don’t enjoy the warmth that comes with being at the center of the herd." Dare to be different is his message, "dare to be wrong," or as Charlie Munger told him, "it’s not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid." While Marks philosophically adds that "being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong," he warns the lulled masses that "you can’t take the same actions as everyone else and expect to outperform."

Russia's New Weapons: Passports And Pipelines

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Sebastopol last month, Western leaders have been pondering how to get back at Moscow for its actions without starting a new world war. The situation is what the Brits may describe as a sticky wicket.  They want to get back at Russian President Vladimir Putin but at the same time they don’t want to upset him too much seeing that he controls much of the oil and natural gas that flows to Eastern and Western Europe via a number of pipelines. The options available to punish Russia for its actions are really quite limited when you think about it; but President Putin now has two new weapons which in some ways frightens some of the old Soviet republics and the Europeans even more than conventional and nuclear weapons

A Year Later, Cyprus Still Has "An Emergency Situation" And Capital Controls

Just over a year ago, people across Cyprus went to bed thinking everything was just fine. They woke up the next morning to a brand new reality: their government AND their banking system were flat broke. Cash withdrawal limits were imposed. Funds transfers were curtailed. Cypriots were even forbidden from doing something as simple as cashing a check. These destructive tactics are called capital controls. And one year later they’re still in place. Naturally, since this is an “emergency situation” in their view, they have to impose these “restrictive measures” in order to safeguard “public order and public security”. In other words, capital controls are for your own good.

Guest Post: Welcome To The Casino

Fundamentals are always important over the long term. That said, it has become quite clear that company financials are not what’s moving this market. If fundamentals mattered then the words and decisions of central bankers wouldn’t be the most important headlines. Simply put, the economic fundamentals do not support stock prices. Is this the top? There’s no way to tell. Do some areas of the market look like past bubbles once did? Without a doubt. The last step up before the fall is often characterized by a feeling that the market is invincible. Despite the S&P’s incredible run, it cannot continue to rally forever. Eventually, economic fundamentals will matter again and when that happens it’s likely that the market will sell off.

 

David Stockman's "Born Again Jobs Scam": The Ugly Truth Behind "Jobs Friday"

The mainstream recovery narrative has an astounding “recency bias”. According to all the CNBC talking heads, the 192,000 NFP jobs gain reported on Friday constituted another “strong” report card. Well, let’s see. Approximately 75 months ago (December 2007) at the cyclical peak before the so-called Great Recession, the BLS reported 138.4 million NFP jobs. When the hosanna chorus broke into song last Friday, the reported figure was 137.9 million NFP jobs. By the lights of old-fashioned subtraction, therefore, we are still 500k jobs short—notwithstanding $3.5 trillion of money printing in the interim. The truth is, all the ballyhooed “new jobs” celebrated on bubblevision month-after-month have actually been “born again” jobs. That is, jobs which were created during the Fed’s 2002-2007 bubble inflation; lost in the aftermath of the September 2008 meltdown; and then “recovered” during the renewed bubble inflation now underway.

Russian Sanctions And The Negative Effect On Global Energy Security

For the first time ever in the history of US-Russian relations we are seeing a public debate about a threat of economic sanctions that may have a long-range negative effect on global energy security. The Obama administration acts as if it is guided by a chapter out of an old Soviet textbook on political economy. At the moment, apparently, the sacred dogma of the free market, from Samuelson to Friedman, can be conveniently overlooked for the sake of punishing a sovereign nation. When the head of the most influential state in the world talks about manipulating market prices to punish recalcitrant players, what kind of “global free market” and fair play are we really talking about? After a series of headline-grabbing statements about the possibility of “switching” European consumers over to American gas, the US media hastened to announce the launch of Obama’s oil and gas offensive against Russia. In reality the EU is not currently prepared, neither technically nor in terms of price, to buy its energy resources from the US.  It would take at least ten years to adapt even the technically advanced German energy system to work with American gas supply. In a crisis, when it is particularly urgent to see a quick return on an investment, such projects are unrealistic.

Profit Margins And Stock Market Reversions

Corporations continue to push the boundaries of wage and employment suppression, productivity increases and accounting gimmickry to support elevated profit margins. All of these functions are finite in nature, and despite much hope to the contrary, the current set of fundamental variables are more usually witnessed at the end of cyclical expansions rather than the beginning. With corporate profits being driven primarily by "accounting magic" rather than strongly rising revenue, the sustainability of the current level of corporate profits is in question. Fed actions leave a void in the future that must eventually be filled by organic economic growth. The problem comes when such growth doesn't appear.