It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
While we thought Venezuelan President Maduro was doing well in the verbal combat sparring match of global diplomacy, and of course Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the lead in proclaimed "despotism", it is the corruption-probe bedraggled Prime Minister of Turkey that is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the world's leaders in his insults. As Zaman reports, not a day goes by when Erdogan does not spew forth some insult-infused speech to rally his cheering supporters and here are his Top 15...
The Battle for Ukraine Was Planned in 1997 … Or Earlier
“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”
The core elements of this Fourth Turning continue to propel this Crisis: debt, civic decay, global disorder. Central bankers, politicians, and government bureaucrats have been able to fashion the illusion of recovery and return to normalcy, but their “solutions” are nothing more than smoke and mirrors exacerbating the next bloodier violent stage of this Fourth Turning. The emergencies will become increasingly dire, triggering unforeseen reactions and unintended consequences. The civic fabric of our society will be torn asunder.
We've discussed margin debt records, the jump in earnings-less-IPOs, the massive surge in junk-debt-issuance, and the spike in penny-stock speculation - which we are told by Janet Yellen are no indication of a bubble in US equities. Given her perspective then we are sure the following two charts will doubly-confirm the lack of any exuberant activity...
It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.
Ukraine, we are told, is infamous for its colorful proverbs and as the title suggests Citi's Matt King warns that emerging market (EM) bond investors may yet become familiar with more of them in coming weeks. Unfortunately Ukraine’s importance is greater than its economic or even geopolitical significance would suggest. Risk premia everywhere have been compressed by the prolonged force-feeding of central bank liquidity. EM in particular has benefited from enormous inflows. However, for developed market (DM), King believes even a serious deterioration in Ukraine still feels unlikely to really derail the serene march tighter we see in spreads – but even so, he warns there are some broader implications of the EM woes which investors would do well to be aware of as "drunkards know no danger".
The Fed is playing a very dangerous game here. It was way behind the curve on deflation and economic weakness going into the crash of 2008. Today, it continues to worry about deflation when the clear signs show that inflation is already on the rise.
The Turkish yield curve has inverted once again as the 10Y bond yield in the troubled nation crosses 11% and hits record highs for that maturity. 2Y at 11.2% has broken to almost 5 year high yields as the Lira also presses back lower to six-week lows. This comes as the nation mourns the death of a teenager from last year's riots and Erdogan remains defiant ahead of March 30 elections in the face of rising calls from the EU to let the law run its course:
- *TURKEY 10-YR BOND YIELD RISES TO 11.34% RECORD ON CLOSING BASIS
- *ERDOGAN: MAR 30 VOTE MOST IMPORTANT IN TURKEY DEMOCRACY HISTORY
- *ERDOGAN SAYS VIOLENT PROTESTS WON'T BRING DEMOCRACY TO TURKEY
- *EU PARLIAMENT URGES TURKEY NOT TO INTERFERE WITH LEGAL PROBES
- *ERDOGAN RECITES ISLAMIC POEM FOR WHICH HE'D BEEN JAILED IN 1997
So once again political instability is soaring and with it capital outflows and bond yields. No, EM is not fixed!
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
Russia's military action in Crimea was out of weakness. He was afraid having a potentially hostile power on his border and losing his naval base in Crimea. He is at risk of repeating mistakes of the Soviet Union in not taking market forces seriously enough.
Stocks in Europe failed to hold onto early gains and gradually moved into negative territory, albeit minor, as concerns over money markets in China gathered attention yet again after benchmark rates fell to lowest since May 2012. Nevertheless, basic materials outperformed on the sector breakdown, as energy and metal prices rebounded following yesterday’s weaker than expected Chinese data inspired sell off. At the same time, Bunds remained supported by the cautious sentiment, while EUR/USD came under pressure following comments by ECB's Constancio who said that financial markets misinterpreted us a little, can still cut rates and implement QE or buy assets. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly API report after the closing bell on Wall Street and the US Treasury will kick off this week’s issuance with a sale of USD 30bln in 3y notes.
The Turkish Lira is tumbling this morning (+150pips at 2.22); rapidly devaluing back towards pre-emergency-rate-hike levels and Turkish bond yields have surged back to levels seen in mid-2009. The driver appears to be the release of several political prisoners, suggesting the President is starting to lose control and given that 'political stability' is the key factor for many of these EM debt markets. The government, however, remains adamant that an "operation" by some institutional holders of lira bonds to "threaten" Turkey's economy started after the probe into government corruption began in mid-December.
This week brings a slew of central bank meetings: At the forefront will be the BOJ meeting on Tuesday where no changes to monetary policy are expected. However, we will be watching the commentary closely for hints to further monetary easing in the coming months. Goldman, and others, still expect the BOJ to provide additional stimulus in the second quarter of this year as the impact of the consumption tax hike on the economy becomes visible - it is that expectation that sent the USDJPY above 100 in late 2013 and any disappointment by the BOJ will certainly have an adverse impact on the all important Yen carry pair. In terms of the key data to watch this week, the themes of recent weeks remain the same: US activity data, with retail sales and the U. Michigan Consumer sentiment survey the main releases, European inflation trends (French and German HCPI data on Thursday and Friday, respectively), and finally external balances in EM. Within that group, the latest data points for trade and current account balances in India, Turkey and South Africa will receive the most attention.
With 40% of the portfolio in cash and having returned $4 billion to clients at year-end, Seth Klarman's Baupost Group has "drawn the line in the sand" as they reflect on the diminished opportunities in the so-called "Truman Show" market we see today. In the face of mixed economic data and at a critical inflection point in Federal Reserve policy, Klarman notes, the stock market, heading into 2014, resembles a Rorschach test - "what investors see in the inkblots says considerably more about them than it does about the market." From "born bulls" to "worry genes" and from Bitcoin to flash-mob-speculation, "there is a growing gap between the financial markets and the real economy...and the overall picture is one of growing risk and inadequate potential return almost everywhere one looks... as every 'Truman' under Bernanke’s dome knows the environment is phony."