The big driver of market declines Friday was led by the Non-Farm Payrolls report. The jobs data was a dreadful miss which leads to the major “disconnect” we’ve been seeing between stock prices and overall economic data which we posted just last week. This is the nagging and confounding reality of the QE and ZIRP grand experiment for many investors.
It all looked great as we held the overnight rampathon (driven by EURJPY fiddling) into the US open and yay verily, the media was celebrating (and kept their exuberance going til the close with the Dow at another all-time closing high). The S&P was amusingly (and oh so humanly) bid 7 points vertically into the close to ensure a VWAP close in the futures (and another new closing high for the S&P) as the Nasdaq bounced perfectly off unchanged from Cyprus levels. But away from that idiocy, things were not so great. Builders were battered out of the gate (-2.4% on the week); The Dow Transports never saw green all day dropping 1.3% (and now down 3% post-Cyprus) and while the broad Russell 2000 opened gap up (like the rest) it was slammed slower all day and ends -2% from pre-Cyprus (while the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq hold 0.5-1% gains). Silver was monkey-hammered (on no news whatsoever - and record US Mint demand) down 4% on the week and gold slipped ending -1.3% (even with the USD retracing yesterday's weakness to close unchanged on the week). Treasuries drifted higher in yield with 7Y underperforming (but only unch on the week). VIX compressed but remains considerably dislocated from stocks' exuberance.
Worried about potential bankruptcy next week, buy the stock. Concerned at slumping top- and bottom-line misses, buy the stock. Regulatory oversight, buy the stock. Over-leveraged, buy the stock. Fortress-like balance sheet, not so much... Since the mid-November lows at the start of this liquidity-fueled rally de luxe, the most-shorted names in the Russell 2000 have risen an impressive 27% - even more impressive is that this is a 1150bps outperformance over the index itself. As we warned a few times, the list of most-shorted stocks is often a place to find epic (and ridiculous) returns but with our macro hats on for one second, if this kind of 'capital' is flooding into these kinds of companies - we can only imagine the landscape of mal-investment that will be exposed if and when the tide ever ebbs even modestly. For now, the dash-for-trash continues - though today is the first 2-day drop in 3 weeks (but still outperforming the not-most-shorted names).
The Chinese PMI may be slowing down (first HSBC, official one coming out soon), but why bother when according to MarkIt it is now the US' turn to carry the torch of economic growth, reality notwithstanding. As the just released Chicago PMI indicated, in February the broad index rose to 56.8, higher by 1.2 points and beating expectations of a 54.0 print. It is only logical that with the rest of the world in contraction mode, and China about to enter, that the US would have the highest print in 11 months (or Q1 2012, when US GDP was just a tad higher). Or not. Remember: it is all about playing along the script that always, at some place, there is at least some growth taking place. That said, while last month cojoined PMI and Mfg ISM were flipped, as has happened nearly every month in the past year to keep everyone baffled with BS, today's PMI beat likely means that the Manufacturing ISM will be a miss, which according to GETCO's algos will be just as positive for stocks, as today's beat.
In plain terms, the stock market has become totally detached from economic realities. There is a term for when asset prices become detached from fundamentals, it’s called “A BUBBLE.”
While yesterday's biggest S&P drop of the year to date, and today's risk off continuation, is merely a modest response to the completely baseless fear that the Fed will no longer create free beta for everyone, to most liquidity-addicts it is merely a chance to "BTFD." So for the benefit of those who just can't wait for the momentum to return (in a world where fundamentals are completely meaningless as a result of the Fed's soon to be $4 trillion balance sheet and only momo and hope-based strategies remain), we provide our quarterly update of the most hated stocks as represented by the percentage of short interest relative to float. Because as the recent Herbalife saga has shown, the only residual strategy from the Old Normal in a time when the only thing matters is what direction the Fed chairman sneezes, is to force epic short squeezes not based on fundamentals but purely on stock technicals and massive short overhangs.
We have noted the incessant slamdown in the precious metals markets, and highlighted that the only thing that can slow the flood of liquidity into each and every market is a rise in energy prices. The former represents 'trust' in the system; the latter represents 'real economics' as it squeezes the global economy forcing the central banks to pull back or tighten (see China's lack of rev repo recently). To wit, we just noted the plunge in WTI this morning; but Nanex, given their depth of data, noticed something considerably more concerning... "Because the circuit breaker tripped after the market had somewhat stabilized, we think another large sale appeared that would have decimated prices - which CME's circuit breaker logic picked up on, causing the halt." Did someone intentionally try to crash the WTI Crude contract? And if so, who? We don't know, but the usual suspect (singular) does emerge, considering that with gas prices hitting new February daily record every day, and every dollar in increase in WTI means even less (seasonally adjusted) GDP, and less consumer purchasing power, those evil speculators who are taking the Fed's free money to buy commodities (and very unpatriotically not the S&P or Russell 2000) must be promptly punished.
While everyone is very familiar, and at times hypnotized, with the plain vanilla equity chart of stock prices which at least in the US are near all time highs, and where the small-cup Russell 2000 - long the object of Bernanke's affection - is already at never before seen levels, one chart virtually nobody has seen, perhaps the most important chart for the global capital markets right now, is the following from Goldman, which shows that while outright market cap for the G7 countries (ex basket case Japan) is near all time highs courtesy of the $15 trillion in liquidity pumped by central banks, the ratio of equity market cap to the outstanding value of debt securities underlying this equity is near all time lows!
Reports indicating that Americans have invested more in equity funds here in 2013 than they did all last year have given rise to talk of the "Great Rotation". The idea is that Americans are selling fixed income investments bought during the financial crisis and now buying shares. We are less sanguine. There is a third asset class that needs to be integrated into the analysis: cash. After surveying the data and various reports, it looks to us that the flows into equities is not coming out of fixed income but rather money market funds and deposits.
As the AAA chart below shows, the gasoline price is now higher than it was a year ago, and has been for the past two weeks, which also automatically means it is the highest it has even been in history (naturally, the implications of this record high gasoline tax on the cash-strapped US consumer are painfully clear). So with gas prices once again "an issue", it is time to trot out the worn out scapegoating usual suspects - those evil, evil hedge funds, whom everyone is perfectly happy to blame. Or at least pest exterminators and cab drivers. From Reuters:
At a filling station in Midtown New York last week, several people were prepared to blame traders on Wall Street as they paid more than $4 per gallon to fill up their cars. "It really is not supply and demand. It's definitely speculation," said John Keegan, an exterminator with pest control company Terminate Control, who was filling up his van. A cab driver said he was convinced the price would be just $1 a gallon if the government "stopped Wall Street trading oil."
Of course, what the exterminator and cab driver fail to understand, or just are happy to ignore, is that the same hedge funds that merely allocate the Fed's virtually "open-ended" excess liquidity into stocks, which are now beyond furiously overvalued by any benchmark, and which as we explained over the weekend are trading at a higher forward P/E multiple now than they were in 2007, have increasingly few choices where to park their money, and even with the threat of the Margin Hiker in Chief sending CME margins to 100% across the energy space, sooner or later, those $85 billion in fresh monthly liquidity will go into Brent, WTI, and of course, gas.
Janet Yellen Discovers Okun's Law Is Broken, Confused Record Russell 2000 Doesn't Lead To Plunging UnemploymentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/11/2013 14:31 -0400
Moments ago Fed vice-chair Janet Yellen released a speech titled: "A Painfully Slow Recovery for America's Workers: Causes, Implications, and the Federal Reserve's Response." In it, Yellen finally revealed she is on the path to realizing the it is none other than the Fed's own actions that have broken the economic "virtuous cycle", and that Okun's Law - the bedrock behind the Fed's flawed philosophy of assuming more debt -> more GDP -> more jobs, is no longer relevant in the broken "New Normal." In other words, Yellen finally starts to grasp what Zero Hedge readers knew a year ago, when they read, "JP Morgan Finds Obama, And US Central Planning, Has Broken The Economic "Virtuous Cycle."
If yesterday's indications of the near-record overweight net long positioning in Russell 2000 Futures & incredible net short VIX futures positioning, along with the extreme flows contrarian indication was not enough to concern investors that the 'money' is in, then the following four charts should cross the tipping point. Citi's Panic/Euphoria guage for US stocks has only been more euphoric on two occasions - Q4 2000 & 2008; Goldman's S&P 500 positioning has only been this extremely long-biased on two occasions - Q4 2008 & Q2 2011; and Barclays' credit-equity divergence has only been this over-bought stocks on two occasions - Q4 2008 & Q2 2012. It doesn't take a PhD to comprehend the extent of excess priced into stocks currently - no matter what Maria B tries to tell us.
There were two quite notable pieces of information in today's Committment of Traders weekly update: on one hand, the net non-commercial spec position in VIX futures just plunged by 16,222 contracts to 104,284. This was just shy of the all time low net VIX spec position hit in early December, and means bets that the VIX will continue plunging lower will likely set a new record next week. It could also mean that courtesy of the reflexivity of the market, in which the underlying is driven by its synthetic derivative (for a detailed explanation of how that works just ask Bruno Iskil and how massively mispriced various IG credits were thanks to his whale trade in IG9), the VIX itself is being pushed around by the VIX futures itself. That the dramatic move lower in the VIX futures began with the appointment of Simon Potter as head of the NY Fed's trading desk is perhaps not surprising.
While we have pointed out various divergences among risk assets, the deterioration in macro fundamentals, the dismal earnings picture, and the potential for various geopolitical hotspots to ignite, there appears to be only one chart that the US equity market is willing to pay any attention to, for now - that of global central bank balance sheet size. The ongoing competitive devaluations of developed market currencies is a by-product of policymakers’ attempts to (repress) lower real bond yields and, as Credit Suisse notes, has an important (and potentially vicious) element of contagion to it (as Europe is finding out currently): currency appreciation continues until the deflationary pressures associated with an overly strong currency become too large and the country is forced to join in the trend of central bank balance sheet expansion. For now, it appears stocks are 'allowed' to rise, gold is suppressed, and balance sheets are expanding, but as we saw in Q4 2012, there comes a time when reality interjects (albeit briefly).
As we noted in yesterday’s article, the Fed is already splintering on the benefits of QE. For the US to print such an ugly GDP number right after QE 3 and QE 4 were announced doesn’t bode well for more aggressive policy from the Fed. But then again, we are talking about the Fed here, so they could very easily claim that the bad GDP print is because QE 3 and QE 4 are not big enough.