Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse... In a veritable deluge of data from Japan tonight, there is - simply put - no silver lining. First, Japan's jobless rate unexpectedly jumped to 3.8% - its highest since Nov 2013 (despite the highest job-to-applicant ratio in 22 years). Then, household spending re-collapsed 5.9% for the 4th month in a row (showingh no sign of post-tax-hike-recovery). Industrial Production was up next and dramatically missed expectations with a mere 0.2% rebound after last month's plunge (-0.9% YoY - worst in 13 months), quickly followed by a 0.5% drop in Japanes retail trade MoM (missing hope for a 0.3% gain). That's good news, right? Means moar QQE, right? Wrong! Japanese CPI came hot at 3.4% YoY with energy costs and electronic goods 'hyperinflating' at 8.8% and 9.1% respectively. As Goldman's chief Japan economist warns, "the BOJ doesn’t have another bazooka," adding that "The window for reform may already have been half closed." We're gonna need another arrow, Abe!
How do we know when an asset class is in a bubble? When everyone who stands to benefit from the continuation of the expansion declares it can't be a bubble.
US GDP beat expectations 'proving' that government data shows the recovery meme is on track (as long as it doesn't snow ever again). The market's reaction... intriguing - stocks shrugged even as a USDJPY pump tried to get things going; gold and silver moved modestly higher; and Treasury yields... fell notably at the long end. 30Y is now trading with a 3.06% handle and 5s30s is back below 145bps...!
Yesterday we noted the fact that Biotech stock investors has 'fought the Fed' and won (for now) in the last few months after Janet Yellen's "stretched valuations" warning. With bond yields continuing to collapse, despite Bullard's ongoing demand that the market 'sell sell sell', we thought a glimpse at just how dovish the market is compared to the 'hawkish' Fed would be useful...
David Rosenberg, in one of his recent missives, wrote: "...based on the current trend in the LEI and the level of the diffusion index, history suggests that the next recession is at least four years away." While anything is certainly possible, it is highly unlikely that the current economic environment is supportive of another four years of a "struggle along" economy. Given the artificial supports during recent years, the extreme extension in assets prices, record levels of margin debt and the chase for yield in "junk credits," it is highly possible that the next recessionary decline could be much larger than the historical average.
Just in case futures buying algos forgot what the regurgitated "catalyst" that activated the overnight ramp was, the ECB was kind enough to remind everyone that the main event over the past 12 hours was the Deutsche Bank leak that while the ECB will not announce outright QE any time soon, thus denying the rumor spread in the past weak by the likes of Citi and JPM, the formerly preannounced and thus already priced-in (by the EURUSD which was about to take out 1.40 a few months ago) ABS purchase program, or as DB called it "private QE" is about to be unleashed. The ECB confirmed this earlier this morning when it announced that it had appointed BlackRock, the world’s biggest money manager, to advise on developing a program to buy asset-backed securities. In other words, Europe's largest public-sector hedge fund has just hired the world's largest private-sector hedge fund to "fix things."
"Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly.... Central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have taken aggressive action, consistently lowering interest rates such that today they hover near zero. They have also pumped trillions of dollars’ worth of new money into the financial system. Yet such policies have only fed a damaging cycle of booms and busts, warping incentives and distorting asset prices, and now economic growth is stagnating while inequality gets worse. It’s well past time, then, for U.S. policymakers -- as well as their counterparts in other developed countries -- to consider a version of Friedman’s helicopter drops. In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy... The transfers wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them"...
In the rush to make QE’s taper and the follow-on “forward guidance” appear more data-related than of due concerns about the structural (and ultimately philosophical) flaws in the economy, the regressionists of the Federal Reserve have come up with more regressions - a 19-factor model to determine Yellen's 'labor market conditions'. What does this mathematical reconstruction of the labor market tell us about the labor market? If you believe the figures, this has been one of the best recoveries on record. No, seriously...
There rarely seems to be a “reason” for why market crashes happen. Market observers are e.g. debating to this day what actually “caused” the crash of 1987. It is in the nature of the beast that once liquidity evaporates sufficiently that not all bubble activities can be sustained at once any longer, bids begin to become scarce in one market segment after another. Eventually, they can disappear altogether – and sellers suddenly find they are selling into a vacuum. Once this happens, the usual sequence of margin calls and forced selling does the rest. Risk premiums normalize abruptly, and there doesn't need to be an obvious reason for this to happen. Compressed risk premiums can never be sustained “forever”.
It is unclear exactly why stock futures, bonds - with European peripheral yields hitting new record lows for the second day in a row - gold, oil and pretty much everything else is up this morning but it is safe to say the central banks are behind it, as is the "de-escalation" algo as a meeting between Russia and Ukraine begins today in Belarus' capital Minsk. Belarusian and Kazakhstani leaders will also be at the summit. Hopes of a significant progress on the peace talks were dampened following Merkel’s visit to Kiev over the weekend. The German Chancellor said that a big breakthrough is unlikely at today’s meeting. Russian FM Lavrov said that the discussion will focus on economic ties, the humanitarian crisis and prospects for a political resolution. On that note Lavrov also told reporters yesterday that Russia hopes to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine this week. What he didn't say is that he would also send a cohort of Russian troops which supposedly were captured by overnight by the Ukraine army (more shortly).
When the majority of Americans examine the world around them, they see a stock market at record highs and modest apparent improvement in the economy, but, as John Hussman notes, they also have the sense that something remains terribly wrong, and they can't quite put their finger on it. QE-induced speculation misallocates resources that might otherwise contribute to long-run growth, and while conditions could certainly be worse, the benefits of this economic recovery have been highly uneven. The economy is starting to take on features of a winner-take-all monoculture that encourages and subsidizes too-big-to-fail banks and large-scale financial speculation at the expense of productive real investment and small-to-medium size enterprises.
That 4% market correction was quick and virtually painless. Not missing a beat after the market briefly tested 1900, the dip buyers came roaring back - gunning for the 2000 marker on the S&P 500, confident that longs were not selling and that shorts had long ago been obliterated. Needless to say, bubblevision had its banners ready to crawl triumphantly across the screen. When the algos finally did print the magic 2000 number, it represented a 200% gain from the March 2009 lows. And to complete the symmetry, the S&P 500 thereby clocked in at exactly 20X LTM reported earnings based on consistent historical pension accounting. The bulls said not to worry because the market is still “cheap” - like it always is, until it isn’t. To be sure, the Fed is a serial bubble machine. But even it cannot defy economic gravity indefinitely.
With Philly Fed surging to record highs (along with stocks) but Services PMI dropping "as the recovery fades," it was left to Dallas Fed to split the buy good news or buy bad news dilemma this morning. It was bad news - from 2012 highs, Dallas Fed plunged to 7.1 (against 12.7 expectations) for the biggest miss in 16 months. Production fell, capital expenditure and employment subindices all fell and New Orders collapsed at the fastest rate since April 2013 (to 2014 lows). Even hope faded as the outlook index dropped.
Following last week's housing starts data, everyone was expecting a new home sales number that was even better than the consensus 430K. Instead, the July print of 412K was not only the 5th miss in the last 6 prints, but also the lowest number since March's 403K. The biggest drop took place in the Northeast where the sequential plunge was some 31% to just 18K new houses, and a whopping 44% from a year ago. There were declines in the Midwest which dropped 8.8% and in the West, which dropped 15.2%, while the only increase was recorded in the South which rose 8.1%. In fact, of all regions, only the South posted an increase from July 2013, surging by 33%, with new home sales in all other regions dropping.
US Services PMI dropped from multi-year highs to a still expanding 58.5, 3 month lows and the biggest MoM drop in 6 months. This is the 10th month of expansion in a row but employment growth continues to slow, as opposed to the priced-in escape velocity to the moon levels the market expects, even if this particular piece of bad news may just be the good news the "market" needs for that nudge above 2,000.