There is a simple mnemonic for the Keynesian world: credit creation = growth. More importantly, no credit creation = no growth. And that, in a nutshell is the entire problem with Europe.
Following yesterday's blow out in US bond yields, which have continued to leak wider and are now at 2.20% after touching 2.23%, the overnight Japanese trading session was relatively tame, with the 10Y JGB closing just modestly wider at 0.93%, following the market stabilization due to a substantial JPY1 trillion JOMO operation which also meant barely any change to the NKY225, while the USDJPY slipped in overnight trading below the 102 support line and was trading in the mid 101s as of this moment, pulling all risk classes lower with it. There was no immediate catalyst for the sharp slide around 3am Eastern, although there was the usual plethora of weak economic data.
First, the important news: in a few hours the Fed will inject between $1.25-$1.75 billion into the stock market. More importantly, it is a Tuesday, which means that in order to not disturb a very technical pattern that will have held for 20 out of 20 Tuesdays in a row, the Dow Jones will close higher. Judging by the futures, this has been telegraphed far and wide: it is a Ben Bernanke risk-managed market, and everyone is a momentum monkey in it. In less relevant news, the underlying catalyst for the overnight rip higher in risk was the surge in the USDJPY, which left the gate at precisely Japan open time, and after languishing at the round number 101 support for several days, did not look back facilitated by what rumors said was a direct BOJ intervention via a Price Keeping Operation in which banks bought ETFs directly. This was catalyzed by the usual barrage of BOJ and FinMin individuals engaging in post-crash damage control and chattering from the usual script.
With US markets taking a day off today for Memorial Day, liquidity will be even more sporadic than usual, and any sharp moves will be that much more accentuated, although such a likelihood is minimal with all US traders still in the Hamptons. In an otherwise very quiet overnight session, perhaps the most notable move was that of the USDJPY, which continues to be "strangely attracted" to the 101 line although selling pressure is certainly to the downside, with a downside breakout quite possible, however that would lead to an early and very unpleasant end to Abe's latest 'experiment' (to quote Weidmann). The Nikkei225 already closed down 470 points, or 3.22%, as Mrs. Watanabe's faith in the market, seems to be fading with every passing day.
Was this it for the index that until last night was up a pennystockesque 85% in 6 months? According to the supposedly smartest money, hedge funds, who had already started offloading NKY225 exposure, the answer is yes.
Today is one on those rare days in which everyone stops pretending fundamentals matter, and admits every market uptick is purely a function of what side of the bed Bernanke wakes up on, how loudly Kuroda sneezes, or how much coffee Mark Carney has had before lunch, but more importantly: that all "risk" is in the hands of a few good central-planners. Following last night's uneventful Bank of Japan meeting, in which Kuroda announced no changes to the "full speed ahead" policy of inflation or bust(ed bank sector following soaring JGB yields) and which pushed the Nikkei225 to surge above the DJIA closing at 15,627, today it is Bernanke's turn not once but twice, when he first takes the chair in the Joint Economic Committee's "Economic Outlook" hearing at 10 am, followed by the May 1 minutes release at 2pm (which may or may not have been previously leaked like last month). As a reminder, Politico reported last night that Ben Bernanke had previously met in secret with Darrell Issa and other lawmakers "to discuss the central bank’s efforts to stimulate the economy and how it could exit this strategy in the future, according to people who attended the meeting." And since we know how important transparency is to Bernanke and the Congress, "Participants in the meeting declined to disclose specifically what Bernanke told lawmakers beyond saying there was discussion about the Fed’s bond buying programs and other issues." But as long as Mr. Issa, the wealthiest man in the House, has his advance marching orders, all is well.
- IMF Tells Central Europe to Spend More (WSJ)
- Tornadoes Blast Oklahoma (WSJ)
- Frenetic search for survivors as 91 feared dead in tornado-hit Oklahoma (Reuters)
- JPMorgan investors on edge over vote on Dimon; what if they win? (Reuters)
- Wealthy bank depositors to suffer losses in EU law (Reuters)
- Yen Slips as Amari Backtracks (BBG)
- Japan Ready for More Yen Weakness Despite Recent Comments (WSJ)
- IRS officials back on Capitol Hill hot seat over targeting (Reuters)
- Li Keqiang pledges China boost to India trade (FT)
- Europe's Recession Sparks Grass-Roots Political Push (WSJ)
- Obama and Xi to meet in effort to calm growing US-China rivalry (FT)
- Berlin plans to streamline EU but avoid wholesale treaty change (FT)
- France must reform or face punitive measures - EU's Oettinger (Reuters)
Another event-free day in which the only major economic data point was the release of UK CPI, which joined the rest of the world in telegraphing price deflation, despite bubbles in the real estate and stock markets, printing 2.0% Y/Y on expectations of a 2.3% increase, the lowest since November 2009 and giving Mark Carney carte blanche to print as soon as he arrives on deck. In an amusing twist of European deja-vuness, last night Japan's economy minister who made waves over the weekend when he said that the Yen has dropped low enough to where people's lives may be getting complicated (i.e., inflation), refuted everything he said as having been lost in translation, and the result was a prompt move higher in the USDJPY, quickly filling the entire Sunday night gap. That said, and as has been made very clear in recent years, data is irrelevant, and the only thing that matters, at least so far in 2013, is whether it is Tuesday: the day that has seen 18 out of 18 consecutive rises in the DJIA so far in 2013, and whether there is a POMO scheduled. We are happy to answer yes to both, so sit back, and wait for the no-volume levitation to wash over ever. The US docket is empty except for Dudley and Bullard speaking, but more importantly, the fate of Jamie Dimon may be determined today when the vote on the Chairman/CEO title is due, while Tim Cook will testify in D.C. on the company's tax strategy and overseas profits.
In the absence of major data releases, the focal point of the week for markets becomes the release of the minutes of the May FOMC meeting. The most notable change in the statement was the inclusion of the new language: “the Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.” In the May meeting minutes, the market will be looking for any clarification of the motivation behind this change as well as any evidence that the committee members may be becoming less comfortable with the unemployment rate threshold or more specific about tapering timelines and dates.
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
In a world in which fundamentals no longer drive risk prices (that task is left to central banks, and HFT stop hunts and momentum ignition patterns) or anything for that matter, it only makes sense that the day on which Japan posted a better than expected annualized, adjusted Q1 GDP of 3.5% compared to the expected 2.7% that the Nikkei would be down, following days of relentless surges higher. Of course, Japan's GDP wasn't really the stellar result many portrayed it to be, with the sequential rise coming in at 0.9%, just modestly higher than the 0.7% expected, although when reporting actual, nominal figures, it was up by just 0.4%, or below the 0.5% expected, meaning the entire annualized beat came from the gratuitous fudging of the deflator which was far lower than the -0.9% expected at -1.2%: so higher than expected deflation leading to an adjustment which implies more inflation - a perfect Keynesian mess. In other words, yet another largely made up number designed exclusively to stimulate "confidence" in the economy and to get the Japanese population to spend, even with wages stagnant and hardly rising in line with the "adjusted" growth. And since none of the above matters with risk levels set entirely by FX rates, in this case the USDJPY, the early strength in the Yen is what caused the Japanese stock market to close red.
So much for Europe's "recovery." In a quarter when the whisper was that some upside surprise would come out of Europe, the biggest overnight data releases, European standalone and consolidated GDPs were yet another flop, missing across the board from Germany (+0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), to France (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), to Italy (-0.5%, Exp. -0.4%), and to the entire Eurozone (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), As SocGen recapped, the first estimate of eurozone Q1 GDP comes in at -0.2% qoq, below consensus of a 0.1% drop. The economy shrank by 1.0% yoy, the worst rate since Dec-09. The decline of 0.5% qoq in Italy means that the economy has been in recession continuously since Q4-11. A 0.2% qoq drop in France means the economy has ‘double-dipped’, posting a second back-to-back drop in GDP since Q4-08. The increase of 0.1% qoq in Germany was disappointing and shows the economy is not in a position to support demand in the weaker member states (table below shows %q/q changes).
There was a time three months ago, when "beating" German confidence served as an upward stock and EURUSD catalyst not once but twice in the same week. One would therefore assume a German confidence miss, such as with today's German ZEW, which barely budged from 36.3 to 36.4 on expectations of a rise to 40.0, with the current situtation dropping from 9.2 to 8.9, on expectations of a rise to 9.8, should be risk negative. Well, it wasn't: it is the new normal after all, and in fact the EURUSD jumped in a kneejerk reaction at 5 am, rising over 1.3000, albeit briefly, assisted by ZEW members saying that respondents do not see a further ECB rate cut - well, of course not - they are Germans, and Draghi isn't. Perhaps the news of a better than expected Eurozone Industrial Production print, which rose from 0.3% to 1.0%, on expectations of a more modest increase to 0.5%, is what catalyzed the subsequent drop in both the EUR, and US stock futures. The IP strength was driven by Germany, Spain and Netherlands offset be decline in France and Italy.
We have recently explained (here and here) just how dismal the outlook for France is. The gaping divide between French and German perspectives on austerity, growth, and policy is widening by the day. And yet French credit spreads (and yields) have been collapsing ever tighter at the behest of a world gone mad on monetary munificence. We know who the greater fool is in Spain and Italy (the domestic banks and pension funds); and so now, thanks to SocGen, we know who the greater fool is in French debt (OATs). The BoP data also show that Japanese institutions have been sellers of USTs every month from January to March; and France has been by far the largest recipient of Japanese debt purchases. In March alone flows into OATs rose to JPY232bn, a 3-month high. Institutions have been buying OATs for 16 months in a row for a cumulative JPY5.7trn (E43.8bn) since December 2011. A marked 31bp decline in 10y OAT yields in April indicates that Japanese investors stepped up their purchases last month. This will not end well... and there is a limiting factor...
Premia for gold bars (physical over paper) rallied to their highest since late-2008 according to SocGen, even as 'professional' investors look to position the exact other way. The combined short positions of futures and options speculators in COMEX gold is now at a record high for the third week (having surged from 4.3 million ounces in late September to a a stunning 13.9 million ounces short now. At the same time, Gold ETFs have only seen one in-flow day in the last 34 days. It seems investors are well-and-truly on one side of this boat - even as price continues to buck the supposed structural weakness.