Just 3 short days ago, energy stocks were surging and oil was - according to the mainstream media - "stabilizing." Today, we plumb new cycle lows, with WTI back below $53 as every rally is to be sold for now... While no one can resist the temptation to call the bottom in oil, the recoupling of oil-dependent energy stocks from oil appears to the no-brainer trade of January... Here are 3 potential reasons for today's drop.
Today was a significant day for many markets. For the 7th time in the last 8 months, US Treasuries opened the month with weakness (30Y up 8.5bps, 2Y +3bps from Friday). Significant JPY and GBP weakness pushed the USD Index to fresh 14-month highs (+0.25% on the week). USD strength smacked gold (-$20 to $1265), silver, and crude oil significantly lower (WTI under $93 and Brent testing towards $100, both down over $3). US equities decoupled (lower) from VIX and JPY-carry around the European close after hitting new all-time highs in the early session (over 2,006 for S&P Futs). Volume was better (but then it was a down day). Despite oil weakness, Trannies took off leading the day (with Dow and S&P closing lower from Friday). Credit traded with stocks for most of the day but ignored the late-day VWAP ramp in the S&P, closing at its wides. The ubiquitous late-day buying panic saved S&P 2,000... because it can.
It's Tuesday - so bonds are red, idiot. Trannies (-0.9%), rather unusually, underperformed and on the back of yesterday's Russell 2000 weakness suggests beta-chasing muppets are less engaged. After yesterday's USDJPY recoupling, Treasury yields pushed higher once again and almost recoupled with stocks strength from last week. 10Y yields are up 12bps in the last 2 days - the worst 2 days in almost 7 months. The USD leaked modestly lower led by EUR strength. Copper gave back all its gains from the weekend's exuberant China PMI and oil, gold, and silver flatlined. VIX remains total decoupled from this last few days' exuberance. Volume was average - fed by the early plunge but faded rapidly as we levitated. With regard to the red close for stocks on a Tuesday: it is rumored that a wrong seasonal adjustment factor was applied to today: it was really a Wednesday.
Despite a late-day (very sudden) shellacking in silver, commodities rallied with gold pressing up towards Sept 2013 levels (over $1340). Treasury bonds rallied all day to end near the low yields of the day (-3 to 4bps from Friday). The USD's early losses were unwound as the US day-session continued to leave the greenback modestly lower on the week. And that leaves us with stocks... in almost the exact same pattern as yesterday (except with an overall downward bias) the US open sparked some JPY selling which sent stocks careening to highs only for the European close to smash that hope to smithereens and send stocks limping lacklustrously lower into the close (recoupling with JPY and Credit). All indices closed red with Trannies underperforming and the S&P (yet again) unable to hold a green year-to-date close.
So far the overnight session has been a replica of yesterday, with the all important carry trade once again fizzling overnight during Japan trading hours, and dipping as low at 101.60 before staging a modest rebound to the 101.8 level. We expect the "invisible" 102.000 USDJPY tractor beam to be again engaged shortly and provide market support and/or levitate stocks higher as the now standard selling in Japan, buying in the US trade pattern repeats. On the other hand, US equity futures appear to have decoupled from the pure carry trade, and instead latched on to USD weakness and EUR strength following European Q4 GDP data, which came at 0.3% on expectations of 0.2%, up from 0.1%. Considering the constant adjustments to the European definition of GDP, at this point Mongolia would have been able to demonstrate growth if it was in Europe (but apparently not Greece which once again missed GDP expectations with Q4 GDP of -2.6% vs Exp. -2.0%). Expect ES and USDJPY to recouple shortly, as they always do - the only question if the recoupling will take place lower or higher.
UPDATE: Nikkei 225 Futures back under 14,000 - down 15% from Dec 31st high; USDJPY back under 101.00
Despite the hope-driven exuberance exhibited immediately post the Abe/Kuroda show, the USDJPY-pumping stock-momentum fest has ended - abruptly. Japan's Nikkei 225 has lost all its gains and is now trading below US day-session lows (3-month lows) but it is the broader TOPIX index (more akin to the S&P 500) that is collapsing. Down almost 5% on the day (its biggest drop since the May collapse), the TOPIX is at 4-month lows. The TOPIX Real Estate index just hit a bear-market - down 20% from Dec 31st highs. Japanese sell-side shops are in full panic desparation mode as "suggestions" that a sub-14,000 Nikkei will prompt an acceleration of Japan's QQE money-printing idiocy. This is getting ugly fast.
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).