Bernanke today testifies on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee (formerly the Humphrey-Hawkins). The testimony will be released at 8:30 am NY with Q&A after his testimony. Tomorrow he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee but the prepared remarks are the same for both days. Indeed it’s likely that the Q&A will be where all the fun starts. As DB says, he will likely try to pull off the trick of continuing to prepare the groundwork for tapering but try to give bond markets something to help them fight off the pressure of higher yields. With no post-meeting press conference planned for the July 30th/31st FOMC, and Bernanke not scheduled to speak publicly until he appears at the Global Education Forum event on August 7th, this week’s testimony may well be the only remarks we hear directly from the chairman for some weeks.
Fear not US: with a Q2 GDP of under 1% now all but assured, and with all economic data reporting now a global bizarro day farce, you will have a chance to take the torch from Europe in the ugliest girl category, and push the S&P to a new record intraday high today following what should be assured epic misses in the Industrial Production print (exp. +0.3%), Cap Utilization and the NAHB housing market index which is set to tumble now that any retail demand for housing was promptly killed following the recent spike in rates. In addition to a relatively lite economic docket, we get the all systematically important hedge fund, Goldman Sachs, reporting which is expected to announce a 21% q/q drop in revenues, led by lower gains in Investment Lending (i.e. prop), offset by 12% drop in operating expenses. Of course, nothing fundamental actually matters as markets continue to be on ultra low-volume, "drift higher" autopilot until tomorrow's Ben Bernanke semi-annual muppet show in Congress, when he is expected to refill the hopium trough once more and finally send the S&P above 1700 on central planning.
Risk assets are not quite (yet) back to the ‘melt-up' of May but equity markets are trading in a confident mood after Bernanke caused sentiment to flip from glass ‘half empty' to ‘half full'. China Q2 GDP data did not derail price action as equity futures anticipate a positive start of the week. The semi-annual testimony of the Fed Chairman is typically a seminal event on the market calendar but do we dare say that the one coming up this week is a non-event following last week's message on policy accommodation? The VIX index dropped 7 points over the last three weeks of which 2 points alone came last Thursday and Friday as stocks roared to new highs and shrugged off the candid observation on the Chinese economy by finance minister Lou Jiwei. If a 6.5% growth rate is tolerable in the future, there is little doubt that commodities and the AUD have further to fall. Chinese GDP slowed from 7.7% to 7.5% according to data released overnight and prospects for the second half don't look much brighter after evidence of slowing credit growth. Data on Friday showed declines of narrow money from 11.3% yoy to 9.1% in May, with broad money growth slowing to 14% yoy. Non-bank credit and new foreign currency bank lending also weakened.
The central bank "reason" goal-seeked for today's US overnight ramp - because it sure wasn't fundamentals with both German exports (-2.4%, Exp. +0.1%) and Industrial Production (-1.0%, Exp. -0.5%) missing - was the weekend Spiegel story that despite the unanimous decision by the ECB last week to keep rates unchanged, ECB chief economist Peter Praet and Mario Draghi himself had insisted on a 25 bps rate cut. They were, however, stopped by seven council members from the northern euro states, including Weidmann, Knot and Asmussen. As a result, Draghi was steamrolled in the final vote. Yet somehow this is bullish for risk, pushing equity futures higher and peripheral debt spreads lower, even as the EURUSD has drifted higher. Of course, one can't have an even more dovish ECB as a risk on catalyst alongside a rising Euro, but who cares about news, fundamentals, or logic at this point. All that matters is that US futures are higher, which was especially needed following yet another rout in the Shanghai Composite which dropped 2.44% back under 2,000 following news that China's Finance Ministry has told central government agencies to cut expenditures by 5% this year, and a 1.4% drop in the PenNikkeiStock225 on a weaker USDJPY. Remember: all is well in the global economy (whose forecast is about to be cut by the IMF) if the US is generating a record number of part-time jobs.
While the skeleton crew of market participants are still digesting yesterday's uber-dovish, "forward guidance" conversion by the BOE and ECB, driven in response to the Fed's increasingly tight (at least relatively) monetary policy, they now have month's biggest economic and market catalyst to look forward to. In a day which promises to be rife with illiquidity as the bulk of US market participants are within 100 feet of a sandy beach, we are about to get the number that will shape the market's mood for the next month: will the Fed's tapering planes be strengthened in response to strong NFP, or not. As Deutsche accurately points out, the curveball to throw in is that June-August numbers have tended to be seasonally weak over the whole period we have data (back 70+ years) and again over the last 10 years. Today's number is therefore going to be fascinating. A number between 150-200k is unlikely to change anyone’s opinion on the Fed whereas a number below might start to build a case for a taper delay. Above 200k and the September taper momentum will build. Such a high number (especially in a weak seasonal period) is unlikely to be great for markets but the ECB/BoE might have cushioned some of the hawkish blow for now. For the record the market is expecting 165k on payrolls and 7.5% (DB same) for unemployment. A full NFP preview post is coming shortly.
Confused what the (non) news of today's "unprecedented" forward guidance announcement by the ECB means? Shocked that the ECB is about as dovish as it has ever been? Then SocGen is here to explain, if only for all those who are seemingly stunned that the ECB isn't planning on hiking rates, or even "tapering" any time soon.
While it was not surprising that the BOE did nothing to change its rate or QE program, it was surprising (to some) that in the first official statement following the appointment of Goldman's Mark Carney as head of the Bank of England, the bank did mention that forward guidance and intermediate thresholds would likely be considered at the August assessment. Which, of course, is code for expect a major change in monetary policy. And now we also know the date, meaning that some time in August Goldman's latest central bank head will proceed doing what Goldman central bank heads do best: crush currencies in order to boost nominal, not real, returns and ensure another record Goldman bonus pool.
And just like that things are going bump in the night once more. First, as previously reported, the $100+ WTI surge continues on fears over how the Egyptian coup will unfold, now that Mursi has a few short hours left until his army-given ultimatum runs out. But it is Europe where things are crashing fast and furious, with the EURUSD tumbling to under 1.2925 overnight and stocks sliding on renewed political risk, with particular underperformance observed over in Portugal, closely followed by its Iberian neighbor Spain, amid concerns that developments in Portugal, where according to some media reports all CDS-PP ministers will resign forcing early elections, will undermine country's ability to continue implementing the agreed bailout measures. As a result, Portuguese bond yields have spiked higher and the 10y bond yield spread are wider by over a whopping 100bps as austerity's "poster child" has rapidly become Europe's forgotten "dunce." The portu-litical crisis has finally arrived.
The first news overnight came from the RBA which kept the target cash rate at 2.75% and following a warning that the AUD remains at a high levels (despite falling 10%), saw various AUD pairs slide. Which meant that all those correlation desks which had linked their rising ES signals to the AUDJPY and AUDUSD, would have to promptly recalibrate and find something else to "carry" them higher. That something was the Yen, as the USDJPY once again rose to just shy of the 100 resistance area, in the process pushing the Penikkeistock higher by 1.8% and above 14k, to 14,099 to be precise. Supposedly the Yen carry trade is back and all good again, or until such time as the 10 year hits 1% and the entire farce is repeated once more. However, at least Abenomics has bought itself a few weeks reprieve for the time being.
A busy week, with a bevy of significant data releases, starting with the already reported PMIs out of China and Europe (as well as unemployment and inflation numbers from the Old World), the US Manufacturing and Services PMI, another Bill Dudley speech on Tuesday, US factory orders, statements by the ECB and BOE, where Goldman's new head Mark Carney will preside over his first meeting, and much more in a holiday shortened US week.
Overnight newsflow (which nowadays has zero impact on markets which only care what Ben Bernanke had for dinner) started in Japan where factory orders were reported to have risen the most since December 2011, retail sales climbed, the unemployment rate rose modestly, consumer prices stayed flat compared to a year ago, however real spending plunged -1.6% significantly below the market consensus forecast for +1.3% yoy, marking the first yoy decline in five months. This suggests that households are cutting utility costs more so than the level of increase in prices. By contrast, real spending on clothing and footwear grew sharply by 6.9% yoy (+0.6% in April) marking positive growth for a fourth consecutive month. Simply said, the Japanese reflation continues to be limited by the lack of wage growth even as utility and energy prices are exploding and limiting the potential for core inflation across the board.
As excess reserves in Europe continue to fall, prompting some to claim this is positive since banks are "no longer hoarding cash," the reality of a dramatically deleveraging European financial system is far worse. As Goldman notes, lending to Non-Financial Corporations (NFCs) fell by a significant EUR17.2bn month-on-month (seasonally adjusted) in May (with a stunning 19.9% drop in Spain). Perhaps more worrisome, while NFCs have been seeing lower lending, households have been 'steady' for much of the last year - until now. Bank lending to households fell by EUR7.5bn in May. This marks the first material decline since July 2012. Simply put, the European economy (ad hoc economic data items aside) is mired in a grand deleveraging and since credit equals growth - and the ECB somewhat scuppered by a German election looming likely to hold down any free money handouts (and the fact that they cling to the OMT promise reality that is clearly not doing anything for the real economy) - with lending collapsing, growth is set to plunge further. As we noted previously, 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.
It's almost as if the manic-depressive market has gotten exhausted with the script of surging overnight volatility, and following a week of breathless global "taper tantrumed" trading, tonight's gentle ramp seems modest by comparison to recent violent swings. With no incremental news out of China, the Shanghai composite ended just modestly lower, the Nikkei rushed higher to catch up to the USDJPY implied value, Europe has been largely muted despite better than expected news out of Germany on the unemployment front. This however was offset by a decline in Europe's May M3 (from 3.2% to 2.9%) while bank lending to NFCs and households simply imploded, confirming that there is no hope for a Keynesian, insolvent Europe in which there isn't any credit creation either by commercial banks or by the central bank (and in fact there is ongoing deleveraging across the board). US futures are rangebound with ES just shy of 1,500. We will need some truly ugly data in today's economic docket which includes claims, personal income/spending and pending home sales to push stocks that next leg higher. To think the S&P could have been higher by triple digits yesterday if the final Q1 GDP has just printed red. Failing that, the Fed's doves jawboning may be sufficient for a 100+ DJIA points today with Dudley, Lockhart and Powell all set to speak later today.
After Thursday night's global liquidation fireworks, the overnight trading session was positively tame by comparison. After opening lower, the Nikkei ended up 1.7% driven by a modest jump in the USDJPY. China too noted a drop in its ultra-short term repo and SHIBOR rate, however not due to a broad liquidity injection but because as we reported previously the PBOC did a targeted bail out of one or more banks with a CNY 50 billion injection. Overnight, the PBOC added some more color telling banks to not expect the liquidity will always be plentiful as the well-known transition to a slower growth frame continues. The PBOC also reaffirmed that monetary policy will remain prudential, ordered commercial banks to enhance liquidity management, told big banks that they should play a role in keeping markets stable, and most importantly that banks can't rely on an expansionary policy to solve economic problems. Had the Fed uttered the last statement, the ES would be halted limit down right about now. For now, however, communist China continues to act as the most capitalist country, even if it means the Shanghai Composite is now down 11% for the month of June.
Who though that a term we coined over a month ago would suddenly get so much airplay: why, it was none other than billionaire hedge fund investor David Tepper who said days later (and just in time to top tick the market) not to fear the taper, that it is a bullish sign. Looks like it wasn't. But at least Tepper sold everything he had to sell by now so someone is happy. As for what happens next, nobody still has any idea, although the first, and so far best, post-mortem of Bernanke's predicament comes from SocGen, whose opionion is simple enough: FOMC on track for September tapering.