Recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that employers have a duty to protect workers invested in their 401(k) plans from mutual funds that perform poorly or are too expensive. By passing this ruling, the US government has the power to seize private pension funds “to protect pensioners”. It also has the authority to dictate how funds may be invested. The way is now paved for the requirement that 401(k)s be invested heavily in US Treasuries.
Just as Japan thought they could go back to pre-Plaza Accord growth rates by holding on to the old ways in the 1990s, the Chinese will expect the growth miracle to return in 2016 with the “right” policies. It will not. It is all a mirage though. Just as in Japan, the Chinese will not allow the market process to do its magic to get the economy back on a stable footing. Draconian measures to stop the recent stock market rout are a clear testimony of that. In other words, the Chinese economy will resemble that of Japan, and it will do so very soon, if it is not already there. China is heading straight into a zero growth environment, and will be mired there for years to come.
This was not supposed to happen.
Over the last five-plus years in regard to today’s financial markets, the most revered memes that are recited in unison whether it’s in the form of a silent prayer or, it’s done in a near backwoods revival fashion from the televised financial shows “pulpit” in a “Can I get an …. !!!” stylized homily are: “It’s different this time!” followed with “The Fed’s got you’re back.” However, what they mean today may find those that put all their “faith” into such dogma finding that faith severely tested. For as of today July, 26, 2015 It truly is – different this time. And what else is different is: the Fed. may indeed have one’s back. Only problem this time is – that back may no longer be “yours.”
It all started in China, where as we noted previously, the Shanghai Composite plunged by 8.5% in closing hour, suffering its biggest one day drop since February 2007 and the second biggest in history. The Hang Seng, while spared the worst of the drubbing, was also down 3.1%. There were numerous theories about the risk off catalyst, including fears the PPT was gradually being withdrawn, a decline in industrial profits, as well as an influx in IPOs which drained liquidity from the market. At the same time, Nikkei 225 (-0.95%) and ASX 200 (-0.16%) traded in negative territory underpinned by softness in commodity prices.
With every passing day that Greece maintains its capital controls, the already dire funding situations is getting even worse, as Greek bank NPLs are rising with every day in which there is no normal flow of credit within the economy. This has led to a massive bank funding catch-22: the longer capital controls persist, the less confidence in local banks there is, the longer the bank run (capped by the ECB's weekly ELA allotment), the greater the ultimate bail out cost, and the greater the haircut of not only equity and debt stakeholders but also depositors.
"I don’t know if you’ll get the same slack in October as in April, absent a turnaround in the market price for oil. It’s going to be that ‘come-to-Jesus’ point in time where it’s about how much longer can they let it play. If the banks get too aggressive, they’re going to hurt the value for themselves and their ability to exit. So they’re playing a balancing act."
With two-thirds of companies still set to report, and as the second quarter earnings season continues and assures the first revenue and EPS recession since 2009, the question on everyone's lips is just how bad will/can it get. The answer will be determined largely by any/all of the following three "C"s which continue to define the ugly face of non-GAAP corporate earnings for the past 3 quarters which appear set to persist for the foreseeable future.
Here we now call market deflation by the sobriquet “volatility”, as in “major market indices suffered from volatility today, down almost one-half of one percent”, where a down day is treated as something akin to the common cold, a temporary illness with symptoms that we can shrug off with an aspirin or two. You can’t be in favor of volatility, surely. It’s a bad thing, almost on a par with littering. No, we want good things and good words, like “wealth effect” and “accommodation” and “stability” and “price appreciation”. As President Snow says in reference to The Hunger Games version of a political utility, “may the odds be always in your favor”. Who doesn’t want that?
As commodities carnage and credit cracks, talking heads remain intentionally ignorant in there sheep-like mantra to buy and hold stocks no matter what. Ever hopeful that 'growth' and the 'future' will fix any and all over-valuations, even with the current record low number of stocks trading 'cheap', they continues to ignore the facts. As Professor Bruce Greenwald recently told Goldman Sachs, "if a cyclical is trading expensively, it doesn't really matter how fast it is growing because historically growth hasn’t created value for cyclicals. Absent growth, value cyclicals don’t look like good investments."
We are seeing a kind of flight forward by investors – promises of future returns that may or may not eventuate continue to be highly rewarded – no price seems too high. This is actually a fairly typical bubble phenomenon. It is impossible to say for how long it will continue and how far it will go, but it is possible to say how it will end: in tears, especially for Johnny-come-lately investors.
Despite exuberant existing home sales, new home sales crosses back below the 500k Maginot Line to 482k SAAR - the lowest since Nov 2014. Previous data was revised notably lower as June data missed expectations by the most in a year. The West region saw new home sales collapse 17%. Perhaps the slide in single-family home starts means something after all?
- Gunman kills two, wounds seven in Louisiana theater before killing himself (Reuters)
- Health insurer Anthem to buy Cigna in $54.2 billion deal (Reuters)
- Murder, Poisoning, Raids: It’s Election Season in Russia (BBG)
- Lagarde Push for Greece Debt Relief Challenges Merkel (Bloomberg)
- Fund Boss’s Gamble on Health Law Pays Off Big (WSJ)
- Wall Street Cranks Up Its Outlook for Amazon After It Delivers Monster Earnings Report (BBG)
- China's Richest Man Marks Push Into Hollywood With Jake Gyllenhaal Movie (BBG)
- West Africa's alarming growth industry - meth (Reuters)
After yesterday's latest drop in stocks driven by "old economy" companies such as CAT, which sent the Dow Jones back to red for the year and the S&P fractionally unchanged, today has been a glaring example of the "new" vs "old" economy contrast, with futures propped up thanks to strong tech company earnings after the close, chief among which Amazon, which gained $40 billion in after hours trading and has now surpassed Walmart as the largest US retailer. As a result Brent crude is little changed near 2-wk low after disappointing Chinese manufacturing data fueled demand concerns, adding to bearish sentiment in an oversupplied mkt. WTI up ~26c, trimming losses after yday falling to lowest since March 31 to close in bear mkt. Both Brent and WTI are set for 4th consecutive week of declines; this is the longest losing streak for Brent since Jan., for WTI since March.
"Public statements, media reports and market data reveal that Beijing unleashed 5 trillion yuan in funds - equivalent to nearly 10 percent of China's GDP in 2014 and greater than the 4 trillion yuan it committed in response to the global financial crisis - to calm a savage share sell-off. Beijing has thus produced the equivalent of around 1 index point gain for every $1 billion committed," Reuters reports.