Things in risk land started off badly this morning, with the worst start to a year ever was set to worsen when European equities came under early selling pressure following news of German unemployment falling to record low, offset by a record high Italian jobless rate, with declining oil prices still the predominant theme as Brent crude briefly touched its lowest level since May 2009, this consequently saw the German 10yr yield print a fresh record low in a continuation of the move seen yesterday. However, after breaking USD 50.00 Brent prices have seen an aggressive bounce which has seen European equities move into positive territory with the energy names helping lift the sector which is now outperforming its peers. As a result fixed income futures have pared a large majority of the move higher at the EU open. But the punchline came several hours ago courtesy of Eurostat, when it was revealed that December was the first deflationary month for the Eurozone since the depths of the financial crisis more than five years ago, when prices dropped by -0.2% below the -0.1% expectation, and sharply lower than the 0.3% increase in November, driven by a collapse in Energy prices.
If the last three days all started with a rout in futures before the US market open only to ramp higher all day, today it may well be the opposite, when shortly after Europe opened it was the ECB's turn to talk stocks higher, when literally within minutes of the European market's open, ECB's Coeure said that:
- COEURE SAYS ECB WILL START WITHIN DAYS TO BUY ASSETS
Which was today's code word for all is clear, and within minutes US futures, which until that moment had languished unchanged, soared by 25 points. So will today be more of the same and whatever early action was directed by the central bankers will be faded into a weekend in which only more bad news can come out of Ebola-land?
Since there is nothing on today's data docket, it will be all about, you guessed it, geopolitical risks, where "consensus" is best summarized by these two Bloomberg headlines:
- Stay USD Long as Geopolitical Risks Loom
- USD is mixed and world stock markets rise as concerns over geopolitical risks ease
That pretty much covers it, although in addition to the Ukraine civil war one can now add an Iraq coup to the list of geopolitical fiascoes instigated by US foreign policy.
There were some minor fireworks in the overnight session following the worst Australian unemployment data in 12 years reported previously (and which sent the AUD crashing), most notably news that the Japanese Pension Fund would throw more pensioner money away by boosting the allocation to domestic stocks from 12% to 20%, while reducing holdings of JGBs from 60% to 40%. This in turn sent the USDJPY soaring (ironically, following yesterday's mini flash crash) if only briefly before it retraced much of the gains, even as the Pension asset reallocation news now appears to be entirely priced in. It may be all downhill from here for Japanese stocks. It was certainly downhill for Europe where after ugly German factory orders yesterday, it was the turn of Europe's growth dynamo to report just as ugly Industrial Production which missed expectations of a 1.2% print rising only 0.3%. Nonetheless, asset classes have not seen major moves yet, as today's main event is the ECB announcement due out in less than an hour. Consensus expects Draghi to do nothing, however with fresh cyclical lows in European inflation prints, and an economy which is clearly rolling over from Germany to the periphery, the ex-Goldmanite just may surprise watchers.
Despite yesterday's lackluster earnings the most recent market levitation on low volume was largely due to what some considered a moderation in geopolitical tensions after Europe once again showed it is completely incapable of stopping Putin from dominating Europe with his energy trump card, and is so conflicted it is even unable to impose sanctions (despite the US prodding first France with BNP and now Germany with the latest DB revelations to get their act together), as well as it being, well, Tuesday, today's moderate run-up in equity futures can likely be best attributed to momentum algos, which are also rushing to recalibrate and follow the overnight surge in the AUDJPY while ignoring any drifting USDJPY signals.
If predicting yesterday's EURUSD (and market) reaction to the ECB announcement was easy enough, today's reaction to the latest "most important ever" nonfarm payrolls number (because remember: with the Fed getting out of market manipulation, if only for now, it is imperative that the economy show it can self-sustain growth on its own even without $85 billion in flow per month, which is why just like the ISM data earlier this week, the degree of "seasonal adjustments" are about to blow everyone away) should be just as obvious: since both bad news and good news remain "risk-on catalysts", and since courtesy of Draghi's latest green light to abuse any and every carry trade all risk assets will the bought the second there is a dip, the "BTFATH mentality" will be alive in well. It certainly was overnight, when the S&P500 rose to new all time highs despite another 0.5% drop in the Shcomp (now barely holding on above 2000), and a slight decline in the Nikkei (holding on just over 15,000).
Not much going on tonight, except for the non-coupy martial law announcement in Thailand where the government is said to still be in charge of everything except for martial law decisions taken by the army of course, which in turn is in charge of everything else apparently including the central bank which intervened so extensively in the market, the Baht was barely changed at one point. There was also news of explosions and clashes in Benghazi but as everyone knows, what difference does Libya make at this, or any other, point. Additionally overnight there were reports that the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in east Ukraine were being shelled by the Ukraine army but that too barely registered as bullish for the USDJPY (which in now traditional fashion ramped during the US day session then sold off during Asia hours).
It would appear the fears of a global bank run are spreading. From HSBC's limiting large cash withdrawals (for your own good) to Lloyds ATMs going down, Bloomberg reports that 'My Bank' - one of Russia's top 200 lenders by assets - has introduced a complete ban on cash withdrawals until next week. While the Ruble has been losing ground rapidly recently, we suspect few have been expecting bank runs in Russia. Russia sovereign CDS had recently weakned to 4-month wides at 192bps.
As a prelude to the following dismal market update, Japan just posted the largest annual trade deficit ever (ever ever ever) at JPY 11.47 trillion... so much for Abenomics and the magic J-Curve as the year just got worse (not better). With the Nikkei 225 (cash) down over 400 points (as we would have expected given futures action) and back under 15,000; Japanese stocks are at 7-week lows but Japanese credit risk is rapidly accelerating lower at its riskiest in 10-weeks. Japanese government bonds are well bid with yields on the 20Y having dropped to 1.443% - the lowest since April 2013. Away from Japan, the iTraxx Asia index (which tracks credit risk of investment grade corporates) has soared in the last few days to almost 5-month highs. Emerging Market Sovereign CDS are all notably wider with Vietnam and Indonesia topping the relative moves so far (and most at multi-month wides). Chinese repo is stable for now (CDS are wider by 2bps at 7-month wides) but so far, no good, for those believing the contagion in EM FX will remain contained.
While last night's almost unprecedented reverse repo liquidty injection into the Chinese banking system stopped the bleeding of short-dated money-market rates briefly, the likelihood remains that a shadow-banking system default will occur: As CASS's Zhang noted:
*CHINA TRUSTS AND SHADOW BANKING TO SEE DEFAULTS IN 2014; DEFAULTS WOULD BE GOOD THING
Perhaps that explains why China's CDS spread remains at its highest since the summer credit crunch, barely budging on last night's cash drop. At double the default risk of Japan, China appears far from out of the contagion fire.
Some better than expected economic news out of Europe, Greek 10 Year yields dropping to 7.65% or the lowest since May 2010, and futures are... red? Alas, such is life in a world in which the S&P500, aka the E-mini, is simply a derivative of the Yen funding currency pairs, where the USDJPY touched on 105 after a straight line diagonal move only to sell off in recent trading. Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen mixed, with peripheral stock indices outperforming, buoyed by the prospect of Portugal echoing yesterday’s Irish NTMA return to capital markets with its 10y bond syndication. As such, despite the cautious sentiment, financials led the move higher, with Italian banks gaining for 4th session as IT/GE 10y spread narrowed to its tightest level since early July 2011. Of note, FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers since the get-go, with retailers and tobacco names under pressure. In spite of opening higher by over 3%, Sainsbury's shares have since reversed and are seen lower by almost 2% after co. CFO said that he expects FY LFL sales to be just below 1% and expects Q4 to be similar to Q3. Elsewhere, tobacco names came under selling pressure following reports that China is planning a ban on smoking in public by year's end.
Everywhere you look these days, central planning just can't stop reaping failure after failure. First it was Japan's Q3 GDP rising just 1.1%, well below the 1.9% in the previous quarter and the 1.6% expected, while the Japanese current account posted its first decline since of €128 billion (on expectations of a JPY149 billion increase) since January. What's worse, according to Asahi, Abe's approval rating tumbled to 46% in the current week, down from the low 60s as soon as early 2013, while a former BOJ member and current head of Japan rates and currency research, Tohru Sasaki, said that the high flying days of the USDJPY (and plunging of the JPY respectively) is over, and the USDJPY is likely to slide back to 100 because the BOJ would not be able to expand monetary easing by enough to repeat this year's "success." He definitely uses that last word rather loosely.
As DB notes, it appears that markets continue to steadily price in a greater probability of a December taper judging by the 2bp increase in 10yr UST yields, 1.2% drop in the gold price and an edging up in the USD crosses yesterday. Indeed, the Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart, who is considered a bellwether within the Fed, kept the possibility of a December tapering open in public comments yesterday. But his other comments were quite dovish, particularly when he said that he wants to see inflation accelerate toward 2% before reducing asset purchases to give him confidence that the US economy was not dealing with a “downside scenario”. Lockhart stressed that any decision by the Fed on QE would be data dependent - so his comments that the government shutdown will make coming data "less reliable" than might otherwise have been, until at least December, were also quite telling. The dovish sentiments were echoed by Kocherlakota, a FOMC voter next year. In other words, an Oscar-worthy good-cop/bad-cop performance by the Fed's henchmen, confusing algotrons for the second day in a row.
Bond markets may be closed today for Veterans' Day, but equities and far more importantly, FX, are certainly open and thanks to yet another overnight ramp in the ES leading EURJPY, we have seen one more levitation session to start off the week, and an implied stock market open which will be another record high. There was little overnight developed market data to digest, with just Italian Industrial Production coming in line with expectations at 0.2%, while the bulk of the attention fell on China which over the weekend reported stronger Industrial Production and retail sales, while CPI was just below expectations and additionally China new loans of CNY 506 billion (below est. of CNY 580bn) even as M2 in line, should give the Chinese government the all clear to reform absolutely nothing. That all this goldilocks and goalseeked data is taking place just as the Third Plenum picks up pace was not lost on anyone.
Understanding the complexities of the sovereign CDS market is tricky... so we are constantly bemused by the mainstream media's constant comment on it as if they have a clue. The fact is that the USA CDS market is indicating a higher risk of imminent technical default now than in 2011. As we explained in painful detail previously, you cannot compare a 71bps (+8 today) 1Y USA CDS spread to a 1200bps JCPenney CDS spread - they are apples and unicorns. Having got that off our chest, the fact that the cost of 1Y protection is at 2011 extremes (implying around a 6.5% probaility fo default) and has been higher (inverted) relative to 5Y now for 3 weeks is a clear indication that investor anxiety is very high this time (just look at T-Bills!).