For the sixth day in a row, the Dow managed a triple digit gain/loss - the first time since Sep/Oct 2011 - as markets appear to playing out a perfect echo of last year's June FOMC meeting with a ~3% 4-day gain in the run-up to the decision only to give it all back in the next few days. In the same way as last year, despite the rally in stocks, VIX (hedging) is rising, credit is diverging (hedging), and bonds are bid (though this appears more a Taper-off trade this time). Today's volume was among the lowest of the year (even accounting for holiday trading days) but that didn't stop the Dow ended up within a Hilsenrath headline of its all-time highs (though VIX near YTD highs, credit near YTD high spreads, and bonds close to YTD high yields). Silver, gold, and copper were hit hard today (-1.8% on the week) as WTI surged back up to $98.50; the USD retraced back to unchanged on the week (JPY -1%); Treasury yields are now up 4-5bps on the week (unch today); and while stocks looked good off the Friday surge, the last few minutes today saw them give back some of the exuberance back as hedgers turned to sellers (helped by a smash'n'grab in HYG) but all-in-all, equity investors seem very confident that Bernanke won't let them down.
Despite (or in fact 'due to' in this alice-through-the-looking-glass market) terrible data overnight in Europe and weak data this morning in the US, equities went from strength to strength thanks to a pre-European POMO vertical liftathon that pulled equities 1% higher on nothing (nothing at all). This faded but was helped into the close by a JPY-driven spurt to hold above 1650 in the S&P 500 at another all-time high (intraday) and close. Behind the scenes it was a mess though. Treasuries rallied (after recoupling with stocks) and did not play in the final hour frolicking. VIX ended the day higher (and notably divergent). High-yield credit closed weaker and credit markets are significantly divergent now as releveraging begins to bite. The USD pushed on to new highs intraday (highest since July 2010) which we are sure will help earnings. While the market has done its best to pressure the oil markets lower, today saw WTI gush higher back over $94 once again. The big story is in gold and silver which were jerked lower at around the US open (ending the day down 3.8% and 5.6% respectively on the week). As a reminder for those calling for the death of gold - AAPL is down over 8% in the last 3 days (the death of AAPL?).
- Bank of America 125K
- UBS 130K
- Deutsche Bank 140K
- Citigroup 140K
- JP Morgan 145K
- Goldman Sachs 150K
- Barclays 150K
- HSBC 170K
The world's macro data is pointing a significant slowdown, and yet - as we noted here - stocks remain sanguine; buoyed by the promises of central planners everywhere that no harm will come to them. Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid, like us, is a little skeptical that this chasm of un-reality can remain for long. His perspective is from the correlation of PMIs and YoY changes in equities (based on data back to the 1990s). The current implied results for the US, UK, and the big 4 in Europe is more than a little worrying - with the French in most trouble.
The S&P 500 gained 12% in 2012 and has almost reached that level of return in 2013 YTD , delayed only by the apparent non-event in Cyprus, led, if one is to believe the talking heads and asset gatherers, not by a Fed-driven liquidity flush but by the mother's milk of stocks - earnings. A major driver of these earnings has been corporations ability to squeeze more blood out of their stones (read - layoff and automate as much as possible) and margin expansion is often cited as the catalyst for the next leg higher in stocks. The trouble with that 'anecdotal' meme, trotted out again and again, is it appears to have hit its unemployment/consumerism-driven limiting point. As JPMorgan notes, in light of the robust cost cutting experienced during the recovery, additional margin expansion remains unlikely going forward, leaving future earnings growth dependent on stronger revenues - recoupling expectations to GDP growth and we know what that means. Critically, in reality, S&P 500 profit margins have dropped rather notably in the last two quarters - now at their lowest since Q1 2010 - not exactly the 'expansion' the advisers told us would happen.
It was a dream come true new normal FOMC day - green all around as the overnight pump on Russian hope provided the anchor. US equities (except Transports which were hammered by FDX) wiggled sideways around unchanged from pre-Cyprus, ignored the Fed, jumped on the BoJ non-news, ran some stops into the close, and then gave back all the open-to-close gains as JBL and ORCL missed and reality sunk in. Post-Cyprus, Morgan Stanley remains -4% (and BofA +2%) but homebuilders led the way. Volume was average; average trade size was low (and has been falling). For most of the day Treasury yields (+5bps on the day), S&P 500 futures (+6pts), and EURJPY were inseparable as algos ruled the VWAP waves. The S&P 500 ends below pre-FOMC levels but Oil was among the biggest post-FOMC gainer.
While we are used to seeing insta-crashes in our highly-regulated and trustworthy equity markets, the unregulated digital world of Bitcoins suffered another flash-crash last night. According to Ars Technica, the 23% plungefest in the value of the digital currency (the second in a week) was due not to Waddel & Reed, not HFT algos, but 'forking' Cryptographic algos gone wild agreeing on different (legacy) keys as being correct - akin to finding Tungsten in your Gold bars (and hence the drop in the value). This latest glitch is different from the problem that caused Bitcoin prices to briefly crash to zero in June of 2011. In that case, the sell-off was caused by the compromise of the exchange itself, whereas this time the glitch occurred in the core Bitcoin software. Obviously, the incident will be another important test of the cryptocurrency's decentralized governance structure - to say nothing of its reputation among the less technically-capable owners and miners (even though BTC rapidly recovered almost all its losses).
Because all that matters is the Dow, as one intellectual giant noted - whether we close red or green "psychologically, we closed positive." Unfortunately, AAPL closed at its lows, Nasdaq -11 points, S&P 500 futures in the red perfectly balanced at their VWAP (which saw nothing but selling all day) for the fifth lowest volume day of the year (following yesterday's lowest volume day). The S&P stayed in its uptrend channel as the USD-Stocks correlation algos gave up today - as did the Treasury-Stocks algos. 10Y closed -3bps on the week (-6bps today). HY credit closed at its lows, VIX rose 0.75 vols today at 12.3% - leading stocks south, and while commodities pulled back off early spike highs, they are all in the green on the week (with gold just shy of $1600 intraday). While it is of little import as the sixth consecutive all-time Dow highs is all that counts for the headlines this evening, we would note that we haven't seen such weakness in AAPL and selling pressure at VWAP in S&P 500 futures for a while (and that was with a 19/30, $650 to the sell side MOC in the DJIA).
Volume was nothing to cheer about after a long weekend, but it seemed the forced buy-ins and stop-runs remain as stocks pushed on to new highs even as the USD ended unchanged from Friday's close and Treasury yields up 2-3bps. A 1.2% rally in S&P futures from Friday's lows as Copper and Silver were slammed lower (former on China 'tightening' and latter on equity short-covering margin unwinds we suspect). In general risk-assets were not playing along with stocks' exuberance but as the after noon played on and stocks saw at most a 1 pt reversal, so bonds pushed higher in yields - recoupling risk and stocks towards the close. VIX led the way - testing Friday's decoupled lows around 12.08%. Credit markets remain underperformers but tracked stocks higher on the day. Oil prices - seemingly the only thing that could potentially foil the current rally - pushed around 1% higher from Friday's close, as Gold fell back modestly to $1605. AAPL ended the day unch - with a huge volume spike at the close, as homebuilders suffered post-NAHB. VIX closed at its lowest since April 2007; S&P 500 futures had their biggest open-to-close rise of the year.
The media appears to be gorging on the 2% drop today in Gold and 11% drop in the last 4 months. Gold's demise today appears triggered by JPY's dump at around 8amET - though longer-term, it appears gold and stocks are recoupling in the reflation trade from around the start of QE2. At $1600, gold is back at August 2012 levels but +134% from the 2008 Lehman 'event'.
Nothing matters - that is all. Some of the ugliest macro data we have seen in a while (apart from an 'estimated' initial claims print) and the moment the US opens - the bid is in (discounting Buffett's inflows?). It seems that the market has decided that if it quietly goes up day after day by a point here or there then noone will notice - and call it for what it is. S&P 500 has closed within a 4 point range for the last week - 1518, 1517, 1519, 1520, 1521. Financials were bid, Utilities offered, and Tech tracked AAPL up and down. Treasuries rallied notably from the open of the US day session, recoupling with stocks from yesterday's 'great rotation' sell-off. The USD leaks higher, with GBP weakness and modest JPY strength on the week, weighing on PMs further as Silver ran lower this morning (to test unchanged YTD) but bounced from the open on. VIX compressed to 12.65% and held stocks up. Oil remains bid above $97 - handy outperfortmer on the week. So summing it up - 4 days of uber low volume, falling average trade size, gently rising stocks, flat USD, flat Treasuries, lower gold, and higher oil. And for the record, S&P options skew (complacency) is now at pre-crisis levels.
Starting at around 10amET this morning, the 'markets' began to get a little more odd than normal. The glimpses we got overnight are playing out in FX, Treasury, and credit markets - i.e. they are trading in a notably risk-off mode, recognizing the doubt over economic recovery and perhaps even concerns at the sequester. However, while it may not come as a huge surprise to many, equities have no fear and as bond yields test the day's lows, S&P 500 futures test the day's highs... recoupling on the week. All is well...
S&P 500 (henceforth - under the Un-Patriot Act - to be known as the Moodys & Fitch 500 at least until such time as Moodys too downgrades the US) futures scrambled up to fill yesterday's day-session gap-down open and then pressed on to run stops to new highs. The Dow did not make new highs - but managed a third day in a row of greater-than-100 point swings and tested back above the magic 14,000 level. Credit markets were absolutely not buying it. VIX was not playing along either (though did compress). Treasury yields rose but nothing on par with stock's surge. The USD fall very modestly - not supportive of stocks. And sure enough, after running those highs, S&P 500 futures cracked back lower into the close with the Dow losing 14,000. A gain of around 0.8 to 1% on the day for stocks with reasonable volume as early haters like JCP and AAPL surged handily on the day by the close. The S&P 500 ended the day recoupling perfectly with Gold on the week...
We noted yesterday the growing disconnect between stocks and credit - today saw stocks start to play catch-down. High-yield credit (specifically HYG - the bond ETF) has fallen four days in a row - its biggest four day plunge in over 2 months (with today's drop the biggest single-day drop in almost 4 months) amid mega volume. VIX (another notable disconnect) continued to push higher (above 14% for the first time in 3 weeks). Treasuries had been leaking higher in yield on the week (30Y +8bps as FOMC hit) but slid lower as the post-FOMC day wore on. The USD weakness (led by significant strength in CHF and EUR) supported precious metals (and commodities broadly) but not stocks. Silver are up almost 3% on the week (and Gold outperforming USD's implied shift). Homebuilders faded from the open with all the QE-sensitive sectors (Materials, Energy, and Discretionary) all red on the week now. It would appear that bonds recoupling (higher in yield) with stocks was the end of the catalyst for this run higher for now as divergences are appearing everywhere. S&P futures end the day red on the week, on large average trade size and volume.
Once again equity markets disconnected (positively) from their risk-related cousins at around the European close and while broad equity markets closed around unchanged, the weakness in HY credit, and rise in VIX and Treasury bond prices as the day wore on told a slightly more concerned story than stocks would suggest. AAPL rose helping the tech sector; homebuilders saw their biggest loss in 5 weeks following weaker than expected housing data; and CAT's incredulous rally on total lack of clarity for their outlook provided just enough juice to keep the Dow near unchanged. S&P 500 futures fell rapidly to Friday's low as the US day session opened but found support and oscillated around unch/VWAP for the rest of the day. The USD round-tripped from early strength to end unchanged with GBP weakness and JPY strength. Oil rallied, Silver slipped, Gold tracked the USD, but Treasuries' overnight weakness halted instantly as the US day-session opened. Volume and average trade size were low which combined with the VIX expansion and broad risk-off suggests the equity rally is losing steam - but who knows anymore.