Last week, the main area of focus was the political situation in the US where Democrats and Republicans finally agreed upon a short term fix to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling. The conclusion of this saw equity markets rally to all time highs in Europe and the US, with the USD continuing to slide as markets turn their attention to the Fed’s QE programme and push back expectations of when the central bank will begin to pull back on asset purchases. With the government now reopen, attention will turn to the numerous data releases that were delayed but will now take place over the next two weeks, including the jobs report which is due on Tuesday. The release of this report will once again be used to help predict when the Fed will begin to taper QE however, recent comments from Fed members have suggested that October is likely to be too soon trim bond buying due to the lack of key macroeconomic data and the unknown economic impact as a result of the government closing for 16 days.
Every month we say it, and every month it just keeps getting worse: RIP Abenomics... until next month, when it will be RIP-er. Overnight Japan posted its latest, September, trade numbers which were absolutely abysmal, as the trade deficit rose to a fresh record high of 932 billion yen ($9.5 billion), the 15th consecutive monthly shortfall. The deficit for April-September rose to nearly 5 trillion yen ($51 billion), also a record for the first half of the fiscal year. The reason: as we warned in January when we predicted that the surging import costs of energy and food as a result of the plunging yen will far outweigh any incremental benefits for exports, is that, well, surging cost of energy and food far outweighed any incremental benefits for exports courtesy of the ongoing Yen devaluation. But at least Japan's 0.1%, like the 0.1% in the US and Europe, have their wealth effect. The rest can just go on a diet. And walk getting there since they can't afford gas.
We already highlighted the return of gold lease rates to subzero yesterday, during the dramatic spike in gold following Gartman's latest sell recommendation. Now, it is time for the banks to also begin admitting that, as SocGen has just pointed out, the gold "physical squeeze returns."
The ongoing government shutdown will continue to affect the quality and/or the release schedule of official macro data. In the meantime, survey data is probably the best set of indicators to follow. The Empire (NY) and Philly Fed surveys are likely the highlight for this week. The US TIC data will get released as scheduled on Wednesday. Given the evidence of large capital outflows in recent months it will be interesting if this trend has abated. Data that will likely not be released this week includes September CPI, Housing Starts, and Industrial Production. It's ok: one can just draw a trendline and extrapolate. That's what the BLS does.
Over the weekend, we humbly suggested that the dream of ongoing US equity market multiple expansion may be over. It would appear SocGen not only agrees but finds current valuations very stretched. On the basis of Price-to-Book (valuation) and return-on-equity (profitability), the US equity market is extremely 'expensive'; and "hoping" for further expansion on the RoE to save the day is whimsical given the limits to leverage. Still, despite Obama's sell signal, it appears from today's open that the BTFATH crowd remains alive and well.
Curious why recently the US stock market has dislocated from its most trusty correlation counterparty: the size of the Fed's balance sheet? Simple: the market is now starting to factor in the end of QE, because while tapering may have been delayed it has not been cancelled. And while the Fed has done everything in its power to destroy the market's discounting function, when it comes to frontrunning the Fed the market can still think ahead. Especially when frontrunning is no longer on the table. Which is precisely the basis for the just released forecast by SocGen's Alain Bokozba, which extrapolates what will happen when the Fed's balance sheet stops rising, and applies the same drop to stocks as was seen at the end of QE1 (-16%) and QE2 (-17%) and concludes that the "end of QE3 would cost the S&P500 15%" and that following that, absent even more QE of course, "the US equity index should remain relatively flat, burdened by higher yields (rate hikes in mid-2015), a higher US dollar and limited earnings growth (Return on Equity is already high), but supported by better economic prospects and a new shareholder value cycle, staving off a bear market." Or, as SocGen calls it, "the Big Sleep."
While the ongoing government shutdown, now in its second week, means even more macro data will be retained by the random number generators, central banks are up and running. This means that in the upcoming week the key event will be the release of the FOMC minutes from the last meeting at which the Fed surprised almost the entire market by not tapering asset purchases as effectively pre-announced. There are MPC meetings in the UK, Brazil, South Korea and Indonesia. The main focus, however, will be on the US political situation still. Data that will most likely be delayed this week includes the US Trade balance, JOLTs, Wholesale and Business inventories, Retail sales, PPI, Import Prices, and the Monthly Federal budget.
David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, summarizes the last quarter century thus: What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway and the sway of the three great branches of government - that is, the warfare state, the welfare state and the central bank...
What is flailing is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority have experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate material savings, rapidly approach old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut...
He calls this condition "Sundown in America".
In the upcoming week markets will continue to focus on these fiscal issues in the US, now that a temporary Government shutdown past Tuesday is assured. Still on the fiscal side but outside the US, look forward to Prime Minister Abe announcing his final decision on the VAT hike as well as unveiling a widely anticipated economic stimulus package. Finally, fiscal policy also played a role in the Italian political instability with four ministers resigning from the coalition Government. The backdrop to these events is a rapid deterioration of the political climate after former PM Berlusconi was convicted of tax evasion by a High Court.
Early weakness in Asia driven by US-follow thru selling and ongoing concerns about the us fiscal showdowns as well as the debt ceiling, if not by actual news, resulted in a red close in both the Nikkei and SHCOMP, as well as other regional indices such as the Sensex. This then shifted to Europe, where however stocks reversed the initial move lower and are seen broadly flat, with Bunds remaining bid on the back of month-end, as well as coupon and redemption related flows. However the move higher in stocks was led by telecommunications and health care sectors, which indicates that further upside will require another positive catalyst. There was little in terms of fresh EU related macroeconomic commentary, but according to a report published by the European Banking Authority, the EU’s biggest 42 banks cut their aggregate capital shortfall with respect to the “fully loaded” 2019 Basel III requirements to €70.4bln as of December 2012. This is amusing since not one European bank has actually raised capital, but merely redefined what constitutes capital courtesy of a liberal expansion of RWA, Tier 1 and various other meaningless definition which works until such time as the perilous European balance kept together by the non-existent OMT, is tipped over.
Following the FOMC surprise, no less than twelve Fed speeches will provide some "clarifications" on where the Fed now stands. It is very likely that this subject will continue to dominate the discussions of market participants. At the same time, US data will get scrutinized after the recent weakening and to see how warranted the Fed's concerns were. Two US consumer sentiment surveys, durable goods orders, and the third reading of Q2 GDP are important. In addition, monthly consumption and income data for August provide more information on the third quarter and of course there will be interest in the latest weekly claims numbers after some distortions in recent readings.
"I sometimes feel I am in a parallel universe. Maybe I am... It?s like they're on a train which they know to be heading for a crash, but it is accelerating so rapidly they?'re scared to jump off." - Albert Edwards
The Euro area is no longer the centre of all the stress... EM countries are! Despite their significant correction in recent months, SocGen notes that valuations remain far more extreme (or cheap) and outflows are dominating (despite a 24% discount on a price-to-book basis across EM stocks, they reain rich historically). Significant structural issues like balance of payments, deficit or inflation may lead to further turmoil in emerging markets, potentially destabilising the underlying economies. Simply put, SocGen warns, valuations have further to fall; do not catch the falling knife (yet).
Overnight trading started with Asian markets continuing where yesterday's S&P 500 fizzle ended, wishing Summers could withdraw from Fed running again, as both the Nikkei and SHCOMP were well lower by the close. Perhaps all the easy multiple-expanding, headline-driven money is made, or perhaps economic fundamentals will finally start having to justify a 17x multiple on the S&P (a good is good regime for those who may be too young, or old, to remember), but overnight US futures were dull, and no doubt anticipating today's start of the "Most important FOMC meeting ever", which concludes tomorrow with an announcement by the Fed of what and how much (if any) tapering it will commence with an eye toward halting QE next summer, although more realistically what will happen is an Untaper being announced before then. While the start of the FOMC meeting is the main event, today we get CPI, TIC flows and the NAHB housing market index. Today's POMO is another modest $1.25-$1.75 billion in the long-end sector.
The most important event of the "coming" week was unexpected, and did not even take place during the week, but the weekend. So with Summers unexpectedly, and uncharacteristically out, here is what else is in store.