Following yet another rout in Asia overnight, which since shifted over to Europe, US equity futures have stabilized as a result of a modest buying/short-covering spree in the 10 Year which after threatening to blow out in the 2.90% range and above, instead fell back to 2.81%. Yet algos appear confused by the seeming USD weakness in the past few hours (EURUSD just briefly rose over 1.34) and instead of ploughing head first into stock futures have only modestly bid them up and are keeping the DJIA futs just above the sacred to the vacuum tube world 15,000 mark. A lower USDJPY (heavily correlated to the ES) did not help, after it was pushed south by more comments out of Japan that a sales tax hike is inevitable which then also means a lower budget deficit, less monetization, less Japanese QE and all the other waterfall effect the US Fed is slogging through. Keep an eye on the 10 Year and on the USD: which signal wins out will determine whether equities rise or fall, and with speculation about what tomorrow's minutes bring rife, it is anybody's bet whether we get the 10th red close out of 12 in the S&P500.
Over the last thirty some odd years, the world has seen an unprecedented level of economic growth and prosperity. That much is certain. However, things are not as they appear when the bullish rose-tinted glasses that most view the world through are removed.
And the issue is debt.
Draghi is a clever man in charge of a pretend central bank (for it’s only equipped to fight inflation, not a banking-turned-sovereign-debt-and-unemployment crisis). He must guess that bond investors will soon figure out that a stateless central bank defending a stateless currency is so hamstrung politically that it carries far less firepower than, say, the Federal Reserve has over the US economy and US dollar. If his outright-monetary-transactions bluff collapses, he may well have other tricks ready to suppress yields on struggling sovereign debt and save the euro (without which there is no need for the ECB). If Draghi is out of surprises, he can be thanked for buying time for politicians to come up with durable solutions to the eurozone’s woes. Oh, that’s another flaw with Draghi’s scheme; it removed the pressure for politicians to act. So they haven’t.
The amusing news overnight was that following slightly better than expected Q2 GDP data out of Germany (0.7% vs 0.6% expected and up from 0.0%) and France (0.5% vs 0.2% expected and up from -0.2%), driven by consumer spending and industrial output, although investment dropped again, which meant that the Eurozone which posted a 0.3% growth in the quarter has "emerged" from its double dip recession. The most amusing thing is that on an annualized basis both Germany and France grew faster than the US in Q2. And they didn't even need to add iTunes song sales and underfunded liabilities to their GDP calculation - truly a miracle! Or perhaps to grow faster the US just needs higher taxes after all? Of course, with the all important loan creation to the private sector still at a record low, and with the ECB not injecting unsterilized credit, the European depression continues and this is merely an exercise in optics and an attempt to boost consumer confidence.
As readers are well aware by now, at 8:30 am today we get to see the rewriting of US GDP history back to 1929 with the revisions from the BEA. It’s a big last day of July with the Fed meeting coming after the GDP release. For GDP, real growth is expected to be as low as 1.0% in Q2. Opinions vary widely on today’s GDP number with one major US investment bank’s estimate as low as 0.2%, a number of bulge bracket banks at 0.5% while there are also plenty of economists above 1.5%. It is not news to anyone that nominal GDP is very low at the moment - especially in a world of nosebleed high debts - and today could see this have a 1-handle YoY (and at best a 2-handle) - a level not even normally seen at the depths of most recessions.
Europe has denigrated into a strange place where fantasy replaces reality as necessitated by their governments and the Union that governs them. It is a world where anything but direct liabilities are not counted, where securitizations worth 50 cents on the Dollar are held at par and where both data and numbers are manipulated for the preservation of the State. Dreams are born of imagination, fed upon illusions, and put to death by reality. The guillotine returns after September 22, 2013.
"Perhaps the success that central bankers had in preventing the collapse of the financial system after the crisis secured them the public's trust to go further into the deeper waters of quantitative easing. Could success at rescuing the banks have also mislead some central bankers into thinking they had the Midas touch? So a combination of public confidence, tinged with central-banker hubris could explain the foray into quantitative easing. Yet this too seems only a partial explanation. For few amongst the lay public were happy that the bankers were rescued, and many on Main Street did not understand why the financial system had to be saved when their own employers were laying off workers or closing down." - Raghuram Rajan
If the worst Chinese trade data in years (and by that we mean unmanipulated, because what was released last night is merely China offsetting blatantly BS Q1 trade data), and yesterday's S&P downgrade of Italy (which has sent BTPs lower although the EURUSD drop was offset by buying pressure resulting from Stolper closing out his EURUSD long) doesn't send the Stalingrad & Poorski 451 to new all time highs, then all the Chairman's efforts to make a complete farce of the "market" will have been for naught. But while the Fed keeps pushing mom and pop into stocks, he may want to tell his friends at the CME to hike WTI margins, because this morning's latest surge in crude to over $105 will really start hurting refiner margins, and due to the overall energy complex roaring higher, gas prices too, which incidentally just crossed $3.50 in the wrong direction this morning.
On occasion of an address to economists at a conference in France, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann reminded the audience that 'the ECB cannot solve the crisis', because it is due to structural reasons and therefore requires structural reform. Weidmann rightly fears that governments will begin to postpone or even stop their reform efforts now that the ECB has managed to calm markets down. In a Reuters article on the topic, a number of people are quoted remarking on ECB policy. What is so interesting about this is how far removed from reality general perceptions are when it comes to judging current central bank policies. In short, Weidmann wants to end the three card Monte, whereby commercial banks buy the bonds issued by governments because they don't have to put any capital aside for the purpose, which bonds they then can in turn pawn off to the central bank for refinancing purposes. Weidmann wants to see the connection between banks and sovereigns severed, a connection that has been fostered by governments over many centuries in order to enable them to spend more than they take in through tax revenues.
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.
Once again it is all about central banks, with early negative sentiment heading into Asian trading - following the disappointing announcement from the PBOC about "ample liquidity" leading to the 6th consecutive drop in the Shanghai Composite while the PenNikkeiStock index tumbled yet again - completely erased and flipped as Mario Draghi spoke, although not to explain his involvement with the latest European derivative window-dressing scandal, but to announce that he is, once again, "ready to act" (supposedly through the OMT, which despite the best hopes to the contrary, still DOES NOT OFFICIALLY EXIST) and that while it is up to government to raise growth potentials, growth would "partly come from accommodative policy." In other words, ignore all BIS warnings, for Europe's unaccountable Goldmanite overlord Mario Draghi continues to promise more morphined Koolaid (read record Goldman bonuses) to any banker that comes knocking.
With the spigot about to be turned down there will be a marked effect on earnings and profits in American corporations as borrowing costs rise and as all of the gains that could be taken were utilized from our very low interest rate environment. Much of the corporate earnings gains during the last two years did not result from growth but from financial management which was to be anticipated and expected. Those schemes, however, have been brought to an end by the rise in interest rates. In the meantime the Fed, in every manner possible, will try to downplay what Mr. Bernanke has done. The Governors will make speeches. Tidbit swill be handed to the Press. Calming remarks will come from every corner of the great machine and every stock guru on the planet will focus on the Bernanke's remark that the overall economy is improving. Fortunately I have seen this game before exorcised by every Fed during the last forty years. The correct response is, "Bah Humbug" and the correct viewpoint is to watch what they do and not what they say. They will say what suits them. What they do will be a different story.
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.
Europe plays catch down to credit and the Bernanke/China double whammy. The broad Bloomberg Europe 500 equity index tumbled over 3% today - its worst day since November 2011 and fell below its 200DMA for the first time in 11 months. Europe's Dow (EuroStoxx 50) fell a stunning 3.7% - its worst since October 11 - smashing thorugh its 200DMA and notably red year-to-date. Sovereigns widened dramatically with Italy and Spain spreads +20bps or so. The EUR is having its worst 2-day run against the USD in 3 months. Europe's VIX closes at its highest in 4 months. Europe's high-yield credit market saw its worst day in 19 months and is back notably above its 200DMA. Not pretty overall.
The days of reasonable economic forecasting are over. Today, an economic forecast is more like the analysis of a criminal mind than the evaluation of economic data. The dominating role of government overpowers markets intentionally. In the short-term that will continue. Reactions to Federal Reserve minutes referencing continuation, alteration or cessation of quantitative easing cause stock markets to move by over 100 points. Other markets are affected by government interventions, just not so noticeably. Long term, markets will overpower government. Welfare states can no longer maintain their level of spending, services and welfare. However, they dare not stop lest civil unrest and violence break out. The bind they are in has no solution. Governments around the world are doing whatever is necessary to survive. Lying, stealing and outright confiscation will begin in order to support their bankruptcies. Cyprus was a minor precursor of what is coming.