Quality stocks along with everything else are expensive. Increasing risk while valuations in the equity market are so elevated seems dangerous, so the obvious answer is to hide in cash. Given valuation dispersion is so tight, avoiding risk will be pivotal in 2015. To that end, avoiding or even shorting companies with a high degree of earnings manipulation seems sensible. This style was a particular strong performer in Europe and Japan last year. We expect to see similar effects emerging in US stocks this year. Simply put, the lack of quality income stocks to invest in is often a precursor to a market downturn.
We’re getting back to normal, and though normal’s going to hurt – and far more than you realize yet - it’s hugely preferable to upside down; you hang upside-down long enough, it makes your brain explode. The price of oil was the first thing to go, central banks are the next. And then the whole edifice follows suit. The Fed has been setting up its yes-no narrative for months now, and that’s not without a reason. But everyone’s still convinced there won’t be a rate hike until well into this new year. And the Swiss central bank said, a few days before it did, that it wouldn’t. And then it did anyway. The financial sectors’ trust in central banks is gone forever. And none too soon. Now they’ll have to cover their own bets. If anything spells deflation, it’s got to be that. But not even one man in a thousand understands what deflation is.
'After two days of sharp intraday and vicious reversals, the BTFD algos are suspiciously missing overnight, when as reported earlier, a bout of margin calls and stop loss selling meant not crude but copper would crash in today's episode of "guess the crashing commodity", on what Goldman dubbed a Chinese demand collapse which for those confused is different than an OPEC supply glut, and is also the reason why the entire commodity complex is trading at a decade plus low. As a result copper plunged to a five and a half year low, in the process halting the market due to the severity of the plunge. But the big event overnight was the farcical announcement by the European top court, which as everyone expected, rejected the German rejection of the OMT as illegal, stating it was not only legal (with certain conditions) but greenlighting the way for the ECB's QE in one week, a move which sent the EURUSD crashing to a fresh 9 year low!
Moments ago, the Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon of the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg delivered the non-binding opinion on issue of Mario Draghi's "unconditional" OMT. Here are the details from Reuters and Bloomberg:
- EU COURT ADVISER SAYS OMT PROGRAMME IN LINE WITH EU LAW SO LONG AS CERTAIN CONDITIONS MET
- EU COURT ADVISER SAYS OMT LEGITIMATE SO LONG AS THERE IS NO DIRECT INVOLVEMENT IN FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMME THAT APPLIES TO STATE IN QUESTION
- EU COURT ADVISER SAYS ECB MUST OUTLINE REASONS FOR ADOPTING UNCONVENTIONAL MEASURES SUCH AS OMT PROGRAMME
In other words, Draghi's "unconditional" bazooka just became conditional, but it is still a bazooka, albeit one that will never actually be used since well over two years after it was revealed following Draghi's famous "whatever it takes" speech, it still has no legal termsheet or basis, and no definition on its pari passu or burden-sharing status. And it never will: after all it was merely meant as a precautionary device designed to scare away the bond vigilantes, and never to be actually implemented.
Every couple of years the same identical European drill repeats itself: 1) Greece makes loud noises as it approaches an election, 2) Europe says it couldn't care what the outcome is and that Greece should stay in the Euro but if it exits it won't be a disaster, 3) the ECB reminds everyone of the lie that it is not preparing for Plan B (it is) despite holding on to over €100 billion in "credibility-crushing" Greek bonds, 4) panicking Greek banks say the deposit outflow situation is completely under control (adding that "The Bank of Greece along with the European Central Bank are monitoring closely the developments and intervene whenever this is necessary," which is code word for far more familiar, five-letter word), and meanwhile 5) all non-Greek banks quietly start preparing for the worst case scenario. So far this time around, we had everything but step "5". We do now.
History literally appears to be repeating. The mainstream media and our politicians are promising Americans that everything is going to be okay somehow, and that seems to be good enough for most people. But the signs that another massive financial crisis is on the horizon are everywhere.
“Don’t look back - something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from.
Russia Busts "Gold-Selling" Rumors, Reports It Bought Another 600,000 Ounces Taking Gold Holdings To New Record HighSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/19/2014 10:40 -0400
Moments ago, as if to sway further speculation that Russia is indeed converting hard money earned from real resources for fiat paper, the Russian monetary authority made it quite clear, that at least in November, Russia not only did not sell any gold, but in fact bought another 600K ounces in the month of November.
"It appears possible that the Central Bank of Russia has started to sell off some of its gold reserves in December, with some sources reporting that official gold reserves dropped by $4.3 billion in the first week of the month."
We recently noted the rise of counterparty risks in the financial system due to oil prices dropping (and leveraged derivative exposures) but as the Russia situation has deteriorated so dramatically this week, a renewed focus on bank exposures has sent stocks reeling (and credit risk soaring) among many European (and US) banks. As Bloomberg reports, Raiffeisen Bank International and Societe Generale, the European banks with most at stake in Russia, led European lenders lower. Raiffeisen fell as much as 10.3% to 11.40 euros in Vienna, the lowest level since it went public in 2005. Societe Generale dropped as much as 7.3% to 31.85 euros, hitting the lowest intraday level since August 2013. CDS markets for both also exploded with Raffeisen risk at 27 month highs. As one analyst noted, "There remains a huge amount of uncertainty at this juncture, but the key point is that there are no benign scenarios." While not on the same scale, US bank risk has also widened signicantly in recent weeks (despite equity strength).
It wasn't just China's long overdue crash last night. In addition to the Shanghai Composite suffering its biggest plunge since August 2009, there has been a sharp slide in the USDJPY which has broken its uptrend to +∞ (and hyperinflation), and around the time Chinese gamblers were panicking, the FX pair tumbled under 120, although since then the 120 tractor beam has been activated. Elsewhere, the Athens stock exchange is also crashing by over 10% this morning on the heels of news that the Greek government has accelerated the process to elect the next president and possibly, a rerun of the drama from the summer of 2012 when the Eurozone was hanging by a thread when Tsipras almost won the presidential vote and killed the world's most artificial and insolvent monetary union. And finally, the crude plunge appears to have finally caught up with ground zero, with ADX General Index in Abu Dhabi plunging 3.5%, also poised for the biggest drop since 2009. In fact the only thing that isn't crashing (at least not this moment), is Brent, which did drop to new 5 year lows earlier under $66, but has since staged a feeble rebound.
Confused why in the lack of any horrible economic news (unless of course someone leaked a worse than expected November payrolls print which would put QE4 right back on the table) futures are higher, especially in the aftermath of yesterday's disappointing ECB conference? Then look no further than the Yen which has now lost pretty much all control and is in freeplunge mode, rising some 25 pips moments ago on no news, but merely as wave after wave of momentum ignition algos now make a joke of the Japanese currency, whose redline of 123 (as defined by SocGen)is now just 240 pips away. At this pace, Japan's economy, which as reported yesterday has just seen a record number of corporate bankruptcies due to the plummeting yen, may well be dead some time next week. Which, with Paul Krugman as its new and improved economic advisor, is precisely as expected. RIP Japan.
If all it took to push stocks to ever recorder(est) highs, granted on no volume, but recorder(est) highs nonetheless, was for correlation algos to pick a carry FX pair trade du jour which to push the Nikkei, or the Dax, or - most frequently - the S&P higher, then all equity indices would already been in scientific digit territory. And since they aren't, it is only logical that prosperity through currency debasement can only "work" for so long.
But how long? Well, when it comes to the primary carry pair du jour, the Dollar-Yen, the answer may be just a few hundred pips more, before it all comes unglued for Japan's Prime Minister whose first stint in the role ended in a prophetic bout of epic diarrhea, Shinzo Abe.
The oil industry is no longer what it once was, it’s not even a normal industry anymore. Oil companies sell assets and borrow heavily, then buy back their own stock and pay out big dividends. What kind of business model is that? Well, not the kind that can survive a 40% cut in revenue for long. Cheap oil a boon for the economy? You might want to give that some thought.
While the biggest news of the day will certainly be China's rate cut (and the Dutch secret gold repatriation but more on the shortly), here is a list of all the other central-banking/planning events which have moved markets overnight, because in the new normal it no longer is about any news or fundamentals, it is all about the destruction of the value of money and the matched increase in nominal asset values.