Positioning among "smart money" participants in the markets continues to show major divergences. While large speculators bought S&P 500 contracts at their strongest weekely pace in more than a year - shifting to a net long position - they also increased the net short Russell 2000 position to its 'most short' in five years. Large speculators also bought crude oil after eleven consecutive weeks of selling. In the rates complex, hedge funds maintained their 10Y Treasury long exposure while large speculators sold 2-Y Treasuries at the fastest weekely pace in more than three years to the biggest net short position in five years. - leaving, as BofA warns, 2Y susceptible to a squeeze pull-back. This potential squeeze extends all the way to 5Y as repo rates indicate a massive shortage into month-end.
Death crosses; Hindenburg Omens; PBOC, BOJ, and ECB hinted at removing the punchbowl; crappy US housing data; and a Chinese IPO takeout hangover weighed on stocks with Russell 2000 the biggest loser (suffering its biggest high-to-low drop from Friday in over 5 months). The Dow is the only index holding post-FOMC gains (Russell down over 2%). Homebuilders are now down 4% from last week's FOMC statement, post-FOMC high-flyer financials have tumbled red (catching down to credit), and only safe-haven healthcare is holding any gains post-FOMC (Biotech -3%). Treasury yields fell led by the short-end (3Y -3.5bps, 10Y -2bps) back under FOMC levels. The USD recovered European session losses to end almost unchanged as considerable AUD and CAD weakness outweighed GBP strength. Despite being clubbed like a baby seal in Asia, Silver rebounded through the day to end -0.3%, gold unch, oil down, and copper -1.6% as China stimulus hopes faded. S&P 500 lost 2,000; Russell is down 2.6% year-to-date (-6.8% from July highs); VIX jumped most in 2 months to ~14. BABA pinned at $90, HLF smashed -10%.
The narrative just a few short days ago was how 'dovish' the Fed was (despite their apparent hawkishness) and that clearly they would not act unless they were highly confident of future US economic growth (which they have shown almost perfect ineptitude in forecasting). The savior of any weakness in this meme was 'well the rest of the world will take up the money-printing mantle'... but that narrative broke this weekend. Only The Dow (for now) is still holding gains post-FOMC with the Russell 2000 down over 2% since then having completed its 'death cross' today.
What a difference two days make. After the exuberance of The Fed-day's "dovishness" which was "hawkishness", Small Cap stocks and Transports have given back all their FOMC gains and Treasuries have regained all their losses. Russell 2000 closes near 6-week lows, down 1.0% year-to-date (as Trannies end the week +17.4% YTD) with the S&P and Dow making new record highs. Despite a 1-2% gain for big caps, Treasury yields ended the week lower (30Y -6bps, 10Y -4bps) tumbling 7-10bps from high-to-low today. The USD ended the week +0.75% (10th week in a row) at new multi-year highs led by JPY, AUD, and EUR weakness. Oil was the only commodity holding gains by the close of the week as copper and gold were clubbed in line with the USD gain as Silver was monkey-hammered -4% on the week. BABA closed just above its opening level around $93. Today was also the 2nd Hindenburg Omen in a row.
Global growth expectations... we have a problem. With all eyes focused on BABA, Treasury yields, and Russell 2000 death-crosses, the old equally-weighted CRB commodity index has broken down through support to 4-year lows this morning...
This is not what Yellen promised! The Russell 2000 (inching ever closer to its death cross) has plunged today and is now -0.8% from pre-FOMC and negative year-to-date. Dow Transports have also given up all their post-FOMC gains and Homebuilders have plunged. US Treasury yields have tumbled with 30Y now -3bps on the week (and below pre-FOMC levels). The USD is rising as GBP weakness re-emerges.
Precious metals are under pressure once again this morning led by Silver which just hit its lowest since August 2010. It appears investors are liquidating precious metals to make room in their 'safe haven' portfolio for precious Ma's Alibaba IPO... because what could go wrong there... (Russell 2000 is also seeing notable liquidation)
For the first time since July 2011's plunge, and with almost half its components already in bear market, the Russell 2000 looks set to experience a 'death cross' in the next few days (50-day moving average crossing below the 200-day). But don't look at that - the S&P 500 and Dow hit new record highs (despite market internals slumping) today ahead of the BABA IPO to keep the dream alive just a little longer ahead of tomorrow's quad-witching malarkey. Today's action was dominated by dismal housing data (demolishing yesterday's exuberance in homebuilders), Poroshenko's "Ukraine invasion" headlines, and hopes ahead of BABA and Scottish votes. USD down on the day, commodities down, bonds unch, stocks... UP.
Overnight weakness in Asia and Europe was shrugged off. The Dow hit all-time record highs (first since July) and the S&P broke back above 2,000 following headlines proclaiming a "stealth QE" from China (which actually hit the news during the Asia session) and chatter from WSJ's Hilsenrath that The Fed will leave the words "considerable period" in the statement tomorrow. Early weakness in stocks was ripped 25 points higher in the S&P on the back of a 97% correlation to AUDJPY (China-driven), the USD dumped to unch for the week (worst day since May), commodities all took off higher (led by Copper and Oil), and Treasuries flip-flopped to end steeper (5Y -5bps, 30Y +1bp on the week). "Most Shorted" stocks squeezed higher. HY credit compressed with stocks rally but decoupled later in the day. The Nasdaq and Russell (nearing death-cross) remain red on the week despite today's exuberance. VIX was smashed back under 13 (which makes perfect sense because there is no uncertainty this week at all). S&P closed below 2,000 and The Dow "off the highs".
The starting point in comprehending the dynamics of modern "markets' is to recognize that once they gain a head of steam, financial bubbles tend to envelope virtually every nook and cranny of the economy, creating terrible distortions and destructive excesses as they rumble forward. In this instance, Wolf Richter explains how Silicon Valley has once again (like 1999-2000) been transformed into a rollicking capital “burn rate” machine that has spawned a whole economy based on striving for bigger losses, not better profits. Even the leading venture capitalists now recognize that the insanity of the dotcom era has re-emerged. One of these days, even the monetary politburo may notice. But by then it will be too late. Again.
It appears today's weakness in stocks (most notably high-beta momo) and bonds (HY credit weakness) was triggered by two "ma"s - grandma Yellen and grand-poohbah BABA's Ma. Hawkish FOMC concerns took the shine off HY credit (and stocks) but Treasury bonds rallied modestly (5Y -3bps, 10Y -2bps). However, high-beta momo stocks dragged Nasdaq and Russell lower as 'smart money' proclaimed this was making room for the Alibaba IPO (which raises the question - if there is so much pent-up demand money on the sidelines just dying to be lost in the stock market, then why were so many high-beta, high-growth, momo names being sold today, theoretically in order to make room for the BABA IPO?) The USDollar ended marginally higher (GBP weakness, EUR strength) but most commodities gained on the day (Copper down on China) with WTI back to $93. Stocks did have a mini-melt-up on absolutely no news whatsoever into the last hour but gave most back. The Russell 2000 is -0.5% in 2014.
With the S&P 500 hitting fresh record highs day after day (apart from last week), everything must be great, right? Wrong! As we have noted previously, the leadership in this market is becoming more and more narrowly focused as stunningly 47% of Nasdaq Composite stocks are down at least 20% from their highs with the average stock in the index in a bear market (down 24%). The same is true for the Russell 2000, with over 40% of stocks in bear market and an average drop from recent highs of 22%. By contrast only 31 names in the S&P 500 have seen drops of 20% or more this year. It appears, just as there has been an up-in-quality rotation in credit markets, so stock investors appear to have rotated into momentum winners, chasing returns in an ever-more narrow group of extreme beta stocks.
With BofAML, Goldman, and now JPMorgan all bringing forward their 'liftoff' expectations for rates, US equity and bond markets are starting to quake a little. The Russell 2000 is now back in the red for 2014 and all but Trannies are red for September. The S&P is back to Aug 20 levels as 10Y yields push 15bps higher on the week to 2-month highs over 2.60%. VIX is back over 14, catching up with rates and FX volatility.
It seems like it was only yesterday when Goldman was predicting either two-thirds chance of a 10% correction in stocks, said that the S&P is either 30% or 45% overvalued relative to its historical value, or warned about a market slide when it downgraded the S&P500 "to neutral over 3 months as a sell-off in bonds could lead to a temporary sell-off in equities." Alas, that was the old Goldman: the one which still considered the impact of fundamentals in a centrally-planned world. The new one is far more pragmatic for the New Normal times, and overnight David Kostin, who has consistently fluctuated on either his year end S&P500 price target in 2014, or the justification for getting there (first higher bonds yields, then lower), came out with his latest thesis why now is the time to own stocks. Naturally, his catalysts have nothing to do with actual fundamentals, and instead all focus on the three only relevant metrics of the new normal: beta, momentum and career risk, which can be summarizes as follows: buy stocks because Hedge Funds suck.
Once Europe closed, US equity markets rolled over on what is a new 'lowest-volume-day-of-the-year' led by recent winner Russell 2000. The Dow is now red on the week and the Nasdaq up 11 days in a row. Today was not about stocks though (aside from the close). While CAD saw its best gain in over 2 years, it was US Treasuries (as EUR weakened and Bund yields plunged) that made the flashing red headlines with 30Y back at 15-month lows (at 3.10%) and 10Y -3.5bps at 2.36% as the yield curve flattened even further. 2s30s dropped below 260bps - its flattest since Dec 2012. Un-de-escalation concerns evident in TSYs and credit finally started to bleed into VIX and stocks. Gold, silver, and oil limped higher as US weakened (and copper fell). A desperate buying panic into the close smashing S&P futures to VWAP magically enabled the S&P to close at the confidence-inspiring centrally-planned 'wealth effect' level of 2000.07!!