Stanley Druckenmiller is no stranger to the pages of Zero Hedge as he appears immune to the herd-like status-quo-hugging nature of 99% of the financial markets lackeys that strut on TV. His comments today - lengthy, aggressive, and very worried about what the Fed has done - can be summed up in the following chart and his ominous conclusion, "when the Fed ends QE, there'll be a bear market."
With the Q2 US reporting season upon us, SocGen's quant research team focuses on the deteriorating state of corporate balance sheets in the US. Despite Intel going full retard on forecast buybacks, as we remarked numerous times, US firms are starting to show the strains of having to buy back $500bn of shares every year, whilst cash flows were under pressure. Leverage, SocGen argues, is starting to become an issue... and with it the ability to fund ever more expensive buybacks to maintain the illusion of EPS growth
The US is tapering, with the Fed knowing any further monetization of private sector bonds will lead to a crash in the already illiquid bond market; Japan is stuck with its massive QE, jawboning every day a rumor that first appeared in November of 2013 (and which sent the USDJPY 500 pips higher and has so far been nothing but a lie) that it may do more, but has unleashed such a firestorm of imported inflation, plunging real wages and collapsing exports that there is nothing Abe or Kuroda can do to boost the Nikkei "wealth effect" or halt what now appears an almost certain 2014 recession. Europe, too, saw a rumor emerge in November 2013 that it would also launch QE, however it won't: instead the ECB just went NIRP and is threatening to do ABS purchases, which just like the OMT pipedream will never happen simply because there aren't enough unencumbered assets to monetize (most of which are already have liens with local banks) while an outright QE would require redrafting Article 123. So what is a world starved for "outside money" to do? Why make up another rumor, this time focusing on the last possible source of QE: China.
Gold has held firmly above $1300 for over two weeks, confounding those who said it would never see that key level again, but as the constantly-bearish SocGen explains in this 'astounding' report, gold's downturn is set to return... except their reasoning has a fatal flaw - it's entirely factually incorrect.
We could focus on whatever events took place in the overnight session or the seasonally-adjusted economic data avalanche that will dominate US newsflow over the next two days (ADP, ISM New York, Factory Orders, Services ISM, Yellen Speaking, and of course Nonfarm payrolls tomorrow), or we could ignore all of that as it is absolutely meaningless and all very much bullish, and use a phrase from Standard Chartered which said that "the dollars Yellen is removing could be compensated for by cheap euros from the ECB; result may be enough cash sloshing around to underpin this year’s run-up in risk assets even if the Fed begins mulling higher interest rates too." In other words, the bubble will go on, as the Fed passes the baton to the ECB, if not so much the BOJ which is drowning in its own imported inflation. Case in point: two of the three HY deals priced yesterday were PIK, and the $1 billion in proceeds was quickly used to pay back equity sponsors. The credit bubble has never been bigger.
BTFATH! That was the motto overnight, when despite a plethora of mixed final manufacturing data across the globe (weaker Japan, Europe; stronger China, UK) the USDJPY carry-trade has been a one-way street up and to the right, and saw its first overnight buying scramble in weeks (as opposed to the US daytime trading session, when the JPY is sold off to push carry-driven stocks higher). Low volumes have only facilitated the now usual buying at the all time highs: The last trading day of 1H14 failed to bring with it any volatility associated with month-end and half-end portfolio rebalancing - yesterday’s S&P 500 volumes were about half that compared to the last trading day of 1H13.
Back in Feb 2013 we introduced the "Brent Vigilantes" and reminded traders how stock markets (and macro economies) react to shifts in the oil price with the two trading together to a 'tipping point' at which point strocks belief in growth breaks. We further confirmed that this is even more worrisome in the case of an oil price shock which strongly suggests that VIX at 12 is not pricing in the volatility that we have seen in the past when the oil complex starts to shake.
No matter what, SocGen sees US equity performance over the next 10 years as modest at best. They note that US equities face three headwinds: cyclically-adjusted valuations (CAPE, starting date 1881) have returned to very expensive territory, corporate margins stand at historically high levels, and after already five years of growth from the 2009 trough, we estimate that the probability of another recession kicking in is close to 100% within the forecast timeframe (the longest cycle ever was 120 months, or 10 years). While their central case is 'moderate growth and inflation', they project a possible high growth surge to 4000 for the S&P 500 and a deflation scenario which would put the S&P 500 at 500 (-12% per annum).
As we noted previously, it is likely that whatever Draghi does this week "will not deliver a significant impulse to the real economy" in Europe but while negative rates are almost guaranteed (based on the consensus), reviving the ABS market (via focused QE) is being heralded by many as a positive swing factor. Unfortunately, as SocGen explains, even if the ECB began purchasing ABS in H2 2014, the size and reach of the market is not enough to move the scale as Europe acts desperately to avoid a Japanese-style lost decade.
Ahead of this Thursday's ECB meeting, speculation is rife about what Mario Draghi will announce, and as the following Nomura chart highlights most pundits are convinced that the most likely announcement is a cut in the refi and deposit rate with a probability of around 90%, an LTRO in distant third at 34%, and a full blown QE dead last with 10%. However, as SocGen predicts, which is rather aggressive in its assumptions expecting a negative deposit rate of -0.1%, a targeted LTRO to "boost lending to the private sector", and a "signal" of €300 billion in asset purchases, the bulk of this new-found liquidity will almost exclusively go to boost capital markets, and the wealth effect. As for the broader economy? "We do not expect the 5 June measures to deliver a significant impulse to the real economy."
Recently we showed that in order to goose its fading all-important housing market (to China housing is like the stock market to the US: both mission-critical bubbles designed to give a sense of comfort nd boost the "wealth effect"), China has first resorted to zero money down mortgages across various markets, and secondly to such gimmicks as "buy one floor, get one free." However, that's only part of the story. Even worse is what is not being disclosed to the general public: such as the true state of the housing market in China. Because according to a recent report on Sina, quoted on Investing In Chinese Stocks, when it comes to revealing just how bad things are domestically, Chinese developers are simply pulling a page out of biotech ETF playbooks, and simply not reporting price drops greater than 15%!
Equity Blow Off Top Takes Brief Overnight Rest, Prepares For Another Session Of Low Volume LevitationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/30/2014 07:03 -0400
Last night's docket of atrocious Japanese economic data inexplicably managed to push the Nikkei lower, not because the data was ugly but because the scorching inflation - the highest since 1991 - mostly driven by import costs, food and energy as a result of a weak yen, and certainly not in wages, has pushed back most banks' estimates of additional QE to late 2014 if not 2015 which is as we predicted would happen over a year ago. As a result the market, addicted to central bank liquidity, has had to make a modest reassessment of just how much disconnected from reality it is willing to push equities relative to expectations of central bank balance sheet growth. However, now that the night crew trading the USDJPY is replaced with the US session algo shift which does a great job of re-levitating the pair, and with it bringing the S&P 500 higher, we expect this brief flicker of red futures currently observable on trading terminals to be promptly replaced with the friendly, well-known and "confidence-boosting" green. The same goes for Treasurys which lately have been tracking every directional move in stocks not in yield but in price.
A simple way of grasping the precarious situation China has found itself in is with this useful diagram which summarizes the negative loop that China's economy (which essentially means housing market which as SocGen recently explained is indirectly responsible for 80% of local GDP) could fall into should the government not promptly move to address the emerging dangerous situation, i.e., resume aggressive easing.
Equity volumes were abysmal today... (NYSE lowest in 2014) which means only one thing... a VIX-driven levitation. Bonds sold off at the long-end (30Y +4bps) but the short-end remained bid (5Y -1bp) but did get 5s30s back to 5 week steeps. USDJPY bounced off its 200DMA (~101.25) but did not really support stocks higher. Credit markets did not buy the exuberance in stocks either. What today's ramp appears to have been was a gap-fill for VIX from Friday's dislocation on a day with no macro data to upset the algo stop-run procession. Gold and silver (along with all commodities) overnight but once the US day session opened, the selling began and PMs closed unch. The USD ended down 0.1% led by modest EUR strength (despite ECB jawboning) and AUD weakness (rumors of downgrades). "Most shorted" stocks rallied almost 3% from Friday's lows (when S&P bounced off its 50DMA) as once again a squeeze manufactures broad index pick-ups.
Yesterday we mocked China for being desperate enough to push its tumbling housing market (which directly and indirectly accounts for some 80% of Chinese GDP per SocGen estimates) no matter the cost, that at least 20 developers were offering the kinds of mortgages that resulted in the first credit bubble crack up boom and collapse, namely "Zero money down." Little did we know that the US, never one to lag in the financial innovation department had once again one-upped China, by bringing back from the dead the company that according to Housing Wire was "once a poster child for pre-crash subprime lending" - Ditech Mortgage Corp. But best of all, ditech was known as a leader in subprime. The bulk of the mortgages were interest-only, low-documentation subprimes, and ditech was a pioneer in offering 125% loans allowing the borrower to borrow more than the sale price.