Another day, another low volume overnight meltup to record highs in equity futures. Stocks traded higher in Europe this morning, with tech stocks outperforming following reports that Apple has finally secured a deal to bring the iPhone to China Mobile, which has more than 750 million subscribers. As a result, the likes of ARM Holdings and STMicro traded with gains of over 2% and Apple's German listing traded up around 2.5%. At the same time, French CAC index under performed its peers, with Technip among the worst performing stocks after being removed from Goldman's Sustained Focus List. Addtionally, over the weekend, the ECB's Praet said that the ECB is ready to intervene if credit contracts - and since Euro credit is contracting at a record pace, we wonder what he is waiting for. This happened as Fitch affirmed France at AA+, outlook stable. Looking elsewhere, thin trading conditions resulted in an aggressive spike higher in CME US 30y futures this morning after a large clip was traded, which consequently saw the exchange adjust prices lower, but did not bust any trades.
This past week the Federal Reserve began tapering their current large scale asset purchase (LSAP) program, more commonly referred to as Quantitative Easing (QE), by trimming $10 billion in bond purchases from the previous monthly totals. This week's "Things To Ponder" is a diverse set of views on the potential effect of the taper on the financial markets and the impact to investors. Regardless of your personal expectations as to the impact of the reduction of liquidity in the months ahead, it is always a good mental exercise to consider opposing viewpoints to balance your own views by eliminating confirmation bias. Here are 5 disparate views on the effect, and potential outcome, of the Federal Reserve's latest move.
If yesterday's price action in the moments following (and preceding) the FOMC announcement was just a little suspicious, with a seemingly endless supply of VIX selling originating as if from nowhere (or perhaps the 9th floor of Liberty 33) the morning after has so far been a snoozer. Perhaps this is to be expected following the third biggest one-day surge in the stock market in the year (1st = Jan 2nd, 2nd = October 10th), or perhaps the market is finally focusing on Bernanke's tongue in cheek suggestion that the taper may be lowered by $10 billion per month (we disagree as described previously). Or perhaps the creep higher in 10 Year yields, at 2.915% at last check and just shy of the 3.00% psychological level, is finally being noticed. Or perhaps the fact that China, very surprisingly, is also tapering concurrently is finally being appreciated as is the fact that despite all talk of preparedness, developing economies were hardly left unscathed following yesterday's development. Whatever the reason, the euphoria this morning has "tapered."
Strategists were largely wrong about the yes taper in September, and then they were just as largely wrong about the no taper in December, and yet their opinion is just as largely gospel and people continue to listen to them (what else is there to be distracted by in a still very much centrally-planned market and economy). Which is why the below summary by Bloomberg of what global financial strategists and investors, also known as "they", are saying about how to trade assets in the post-taper world, should probably be taken, largely, with a grain of salt.
The US data flow is relatively light which is typical of a post-payrolls week but it’s worth noting wholesale inventories on Tuesday and retail sales on Thursday. Importantly US House and senate negotiators are supposed to come to an agreement on a budget before the December 13th deadline. A lot of optimism has been expressed thus far from members of congress, and there are reports that a budget deal will be unveiled this week.
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, if with a downward bias in the EURJPY which means futures are just modestly in the red. The action however is merely deferred, with a slew of macroeconomic reports on the horizon, chief of which is the ECB rate decision, which consensus has as unchanged at 0.25%, although Draghi's subsequent conference is expected to lead to EUR weakness, even if briefly, since the central bank is widely expected to downgrade both growth and inflation forecasts. DB adds that the recent rise in eonia — which may reflect concerns about the treatment of LTROs in the end-December AQR and be encouraging the accelerated 3Y LTRO repayments — may warrant a temporary liquidity easing: a special short-term tender; temporarily easing minimum reserve requirements; or — technically possible, if politically controversial — temporarily suspending the SMP sterilization process. Concurrent with the draghi conference, we also get the second revision of Q3 GDP, which consensus now expects to rise to 3.1%, as well as this week's initial jobless claims random number generator. Later in the day the Factory Orders update is expected to show a -1.0% decline, while Fed speakers Lockhart and Fisher round off the day.
- Deutsche Bank gets biggest combined penalty of €725.4mln.
- SocGen fined €445.9mln for Euribor manipulation.
- RBS agrees to pay €391mln in cartels
- JPMorgan fined €79.9mln in JPY LIBOR case.
- R.P. Martin Holdings Ltd fined €247,000
- UBS and Barclays escape fines as EU whistle-blowers.
While there was a plethora of macro data (starting with some ugly numbers out of Australia which clobbered AUD pairs overnight), China HSBC Services PMI dipping slighlty from 52.6 to 52.5, Final Eurozone PMI Services (printing at 51.2 up from 50.9 and beating expectations of the same on an increase in German PMI numbers from 54.5 to 55.7 and a decline in French PMI from 48.8 to 48.0), Eurozone retail sales declining by 0.2%, on expectations of an unchanged print, and much more (see below), perhaps the most important news of the day came from Japan which many expect will be the source of much more easing in the coming months and thus serve as marginal lever to push global fungible markets higher. However, not only did various BOJ officials for the first time in a while talk down expectations of a QE boost, but the head of the Japan GPIF said that it doesn't need to sell JGBs right now as it would "rock markets" and that instead can achieve its targeted 52% weighing as bonds mature, that it may buy foreign bonds instead to raise weighting to core target (as the Fed buys Japan bonds?), and that it will be very difficult for Japan to hit the BOJ's inflation target in 2 years. Is Japan already getting cold feet on rumors of more QE and did it realize there are only so many assets it can monetize. If so, watch out below on the EURJPY which has now priced in about 700 pips of expected BOJ QE boosting in early 2014.
Previewing the rest of this week’s events, we have a bumper week of US data over the next five days, in part making up for two days of blackout last week for Thanksgiving. Aside from Friday’s nonfarm payroll report, the key releases to look for are manufacturing ISM and construction spending (today), unit motor vehicle sales (tomorrow), non-manufacturing ISM (Wednesday), preliminary Q3 real GDP and initial jobless claims (Thursday), as well as personal income/consumption and consumer sentiment (Friday). Wednesday’s ADP employment report will, as usual, provide a preamble for Friday’s payrolls.
On November 7, when the ECB announced a "surprising" rate cut, 67 out of 70 economists who never saw it coming, were shocked. We were not. As we observed ten days prior, Europe had just seen the latest month of record low private sector loan growth in history. Or rather contraction. Back than we said that "one of our favorite series of posts describing the "Walking Dead" monetary zombie-infested continent that is Europe is the one showing the abysmal state Europe's credit creation machinery, operated by none other than the Bank of Italy's, Goldman's ECB's Mario Draghi, finds itself in." We concluded: "we now fully expect a very unclear Draghi, plagued by monetary zombie dreams, to do everything in his power, even though as SocGen notes, he really has no power in this case, to show he has not lost control and start with a rate cut in the November ECB meeting (eventually proceeding to a full-blown QE) in order to boost loan creation." Less than two weeks later he did just that. The problem, as the ECB reported today, is that not only did M3 decline once more, to 1.4% or the slowest pace in over 2 years and well below the ECB's 4.5% reference growth value, but more importantly lending to companies and households shrank 2.1% in October - the biggest drop on record! Draghi's monetary zombies are winning.
Keep a close eye on China: it is on the cusp between the end of the leverage cycle (where as we reported over the past two days, it has been pumping bank assets at the ridiculous pace of $3.5 trillion per year) and on the verge of having its debt bubble bursting. What happens then is unclear.
In a carry-trade driven world in which news and fundamentals no longer matter, the only relevant "variable" is whether the JPY is down (check) and the EUR is up (check) which always results in green equities around the globe and green futures in the US, with yesterday's sudden and sharp selloff on no liquidity and no news long forgotten. The conventional wisdom "reason" for the overnight JPY underperformance against all major FX is once again due to central bank rhetoric, when overnight BOJ's Kiuchi sees high uncertainty whether 2% CPI will be reached in 2 years, Shirai says bank should ease further if growth, CPI diverge from main scenario. Also the BOJ once again hinted at more QE, and since this has proven sufficient to keep the JPY selling momentum, for now, why not continue doing it until like in May it stops working. As a result EURJPY rose above the 4 year high resistance of 138.00, while USDJPY is bordering on 102.00. On the other hand, the EUR gained after German parties strike coalition accord, pushing the EURUSD over 1.36 and further making the ECB's life, now that it has to talk the currency down not up, impossible. This is especially true following reports in the German press that the ECB is looking at introducing an LTRO in order to help promote bank lending. Since that rumor made zero dent on the EUR, expect the ongoing daily litany of ECB rumors that the bank is "technically ready" for negative rates and even QE, although as has been shown in recent months this now has a half-life measured in minutes as the market largely is ignoring whatever "tools" Draghi and company believe they have left.
Summer optimism on euro area recovery has faded to grey winter skies. Looking ahead we see continue weak growth in the region with a very gradual recovery only. For the 2007 to 2018, we expect GDP per capita to be essentially flat, marking a lost decade of growth for the region. We blame much of this weak performance on a slow policy response in tackling both the sovereign and banking crisis, and the still too slow pace of structural reform. The fear is now that the euro area is on the verge of deflation.
In fitting with the pre-holiday theme, and the moribund liquidity theme of the past few months and years, there was little of note in the overnight session with few event catalysts to guide futures beside the topping out EURJPY. Chinese stocks closed a shade of red following news local banks might be coming under further scrutiny on their lending/accounting practices - the Chinese banking regulator has drafted rules restricting banks from using resale or repurchase agreements to move assets off their balance sheets as a way to sidestep loan-to-deposit ratios that constrain loan growth. The return of the nightly Japanese jawboning of the Yen did little to boost sentiment, as the Nikkei closed down 104 points to 15515. Japan has gotten to the point where merely talking a weaker Yen will no longer work, and the BOJ will actually have to do something - something which the ECB, whose currency is at a 4 year high against Japan, may not like.
Looking ahead at the week ahead, data watchers will be kept fairly occupied before Thanksgiving. Starting with today, we will see US pending home sales with the Treasury also conducting the first of 3 bond auctions this week starting with a $32 billion 2yr note sale later. We will get more housing data tomorrow with the release of housing starts, home prices as well as US consumer confidence. Durable goods, Chicago PMI, initial jobless claims and the final UofM Consumer Sentiment print for November are Wednesday’s highlights although we will also get the UK GDP report for Q3. US Equity and fixed income markets are closed on Thursday but US aside we will get the BoE financial stability report, German inflation, Spanish GDP and Chinese industrial profit stats. Expect market activity to remain subdued into Friday as it will be a half-day for US stocks and bond markets. As ever Black Friday sales will be carefully monitored for consumer spending trends. So a reasonably busy, holiday-shortened week for markets ahead of what will be another crucial payrolls number the following week.