The Nasdaq, Russell 2000, and Dow Transports have been rescued in their high-beta manner all the way back to green by an initial USDJPY ramp to ignite some momentum "off the lows". Treasuries and credit refuse to play along and even USDJPY has decoupled as stocks surged on a VIX-slamming (from over 17 to 15.50) ramp to unch. Safe-haven buying of camera-on-a-stick continues (+8% today).
This week's 35bps rise in high-yield credit spreads (or ~10%) is the worst since at least June of last year and anxiety spread through other asset-classes appropriately as cheap-buyback-funding and liquidity concerns weighed on all equities - most aggressively small caps. The Russell 2000 is down around 4% from FOMC (and for the year) even with today's buying-panic this afternoon trying to rescue yesterday's losses. Much of today's moves were thanks to The Bill Gross Effect - Treasury short-end sold (2Y-5Y +5bps, 30Y unch), corporate bond spreads jumped wider (HY +20bps, IG +4bps), and European bonds (and German stocks) lurched lower. Markets recovered some of the early move but 2Y closed at 2014 yield highs. The USD closed 1% higher for the 11th week in a row to June 2010 highs. WTI crude close +1.5% on the week, gold unchanged, and copper and silver lower. VIX jumped 22% on the week, closing above 14.5.
With over half of all the stocks in the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq already in a bear market, US equity market indices are becoming increasingly driven by a highly concentrated set of stocks that lack any relationship to macro factors. As BofA shows in the charts below, participation in the record-high exuberance in stocks is waning... and waning fast... But, the biggest concern, BofA fears, is a new low for net free credit at -$182 billion - the major risk is if the market drops and triggers margin calls, investors do not have cash and would be forced to sell stocks or get cash from other sources to meet the margin calls. This would exacerbate an equity market sell-off.
First it was the foreign exchange markets, then commodities, followed by fixed income markets. Now it’s the equity markets. Wherever we look, volatility has been creeping higher. To some extent, this is not surprising. At the end of the US Federal Reserve’s first round of quantitative easing, and at the end of QE2, the markets wobbled. So with QE3 now winding to a close (and with the European Central Bank (ECB) still behind the curve), a period of uncertainty and frazzled nerves should probably have been expected.
US equities suffered their biggest drop in 2 months today, with the S&P 500 closing a glaring 30-point divergence with high-yield credit markets which also sold off dramatically. The S&P 500 broke (and closed) below its 50DMA (as did the Nasdaq, Dow Industrials, and Transports). Russell 2000 dropped to beyond 4-month lows (-4.4% in 2014). Early USD strength gave way as stocks started to leak lower and closed unchanged (+0.5% on the week) led by JPY and EUR strength. Treasury yields plunged 4-6bps on the day (led by the long-end) with 10Y testing the critical 2.50% handle once again. VIX broke above 16, its 4th biggest rise of the year. Gold rose as stocks lost ground but silver, oil and copper slipped lower. HY Credit spreads closed at 8 month wides. Investors also piled into safe-haven short-squeeze 'camera-on-a-stick'. Stocks closed not "off the lows."
A "huge" institutional sell order, covering almost 200 individual stocks, is rumored to have been responsible for getting this morning's weakness across stocks going as equity indices catch down to bonds and credit. The S&P 500 broke key support at its 50-day moving-average (for first time in 2 months) and is back at 6 week lows. The Russell 2000 is now down 4.25% from the FOMC meeting last week...
The U.S. economy has had six full years to bounce back since the financial collapse of 2008, and it simply has not happened. Median household income has declined substantially since then, total household wealth for middle class families is way down, the percentage of the population that is employed is still about where it was at the end of the last recession, and the number of Americans that are dependent on the government has absolutely exploded. Even those that claim that the economy is "recovering" admit that we are not even close to where we used to be economically. Many hope that someday we will eventually get back to that level, but the truth is that this is about as good as things are ever going to get for the middle class.
The Russell 2000 is -7.5% from July highs, -3% in 2014, unchanged since last October and year-over-year small-cap performance is the worst since July 2012. Despite four valiant momo-pump efforts to rally stocks to VWAP (to cover institutional sellers), they just kept falling back to bond-market-reality as US equities decoupled lower from JPY after Europe closed. The USD closed unch (after major swings intraday around Europe's close) with GBP strength and AUD/CAD weakness leading it lower on the week. Treasury yields dropped 2-3bps across the curve (down 3-5bps on the week) and all below FOMC levels (30Y -11bps). Gold is now up 0.6% on the week with oil and silver rising modestly. Copper found no bid. Financials slipped once again (catching down closer to credit). On the day, the European close signaled risk-off and the ubiquitous Tuesday panic buying in the last hour lifted the S&P to VWAP before a very weak close "not off the lows." Dow down 100+ pts 2 days in row for first time since June. VIX closed just shy of 15 at 7-week highs.
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.