"Data dependent" or "making it up as they go along?"
Unlike last week's economic report deluge, this week has virtually no A-grade updates of note, with the key events being Factory Orders (exp. 0.6%), ISM non-mfg (exp. 56.5), Trade balance (Exp. -$44.9 bn), Unit Labor Costs (1.2%) and Wholesale Inventories (0.7%).
Outlook of the foreign exchange market in the week ahead, with some observations about equities and bonds.
What will it be? A gloat about 6 months of 200k-plus jobs growth (but ignoring rise in unemployment and drop in wage growth)? Republican-bashing over the Border Bill? Putin-panning after their phone call this morning (better not discuss costs)? Israel-condemnation (and funding)? Why you should buy the dip because it's patriotic? Stay hopey... (not cyniccy)
If today's market desperately needed some bad news, it got it moments ago when the July payrolls printed at 209K, below the 230K expected, and far below the June upward revised 298K (was 288K). Of note is that this is the 6th month in a row of 200K+ job gains, the longst since 1998 . Away from the establishment survey, the household survey showed an even worse print, with just 131K job growth in July, down from 407K in June, so if any algos are scrambling to convince themselves that the data was horrible, look at this. But is the momentum slowing enough to force the Fed to push QE back? The unemployment rate rose modestly from 6.1% to 6.2%, beating expectations of an unchanged print driven by a decline in the people out of the labor force from 92.1 million to 92.0 million while the labor force participation rate rose by a tiny 0.1% to 62.9%.
In an unscheduled release moments ago the Fed's Plosser just explained why he was the sole dissenter with the FOMC's announcement. Here is the punchline: "I cast a dissenting vote because I opposed retaining the statement language that reads "…it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends." I viewed such language as an inappropriate characterization of the future path of policy and so may limit the Committee's flexibility going forward."... "In addition, the economy today is very close to achieving the central tendency outcomes for 2015 reported in the December 2013 Summary of Economic Projections. Specifically, the central tendency projection for unemployment at the end of 2015 was 5.8 to 6.1 percent, and that for inflation was between 1.5 and 2.0 percent. From this perspective, we are nearly 18 months ahead of where the Committee thought we would be just seven months ago." He concludes: "the Committee's statement does not appear to reflect what was once thought to be appropriate policy based on the behavior of unemployment and inflation."
- As we predicted yesterday, the "big" Gaza ceasefire lasted all of a few hours (Reuters)
- To Lift Sales, G.M. Turns to Discounts (NYT)
- Espirito Santo Family’s Swift Fall From Grace Jolts Portugal (BBG)
- Argentine Debt Feud Finds Much Fault, Few Fixes (WSJ)
- Fiat Says Ciao to Italy as Merger With Chrysler Ends Era (BBG)
- Euro zone factory growth eases in July as inflation fades away (Reuters)
- CIA concedes it spied on U.S. Senate investigators, apologizes (Reuters)
- Ukraine Reports Losses After Pro-Russian Ambush Near Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash Area (WSJ)
- U.S. says India refusal on WTO deal a wrong signal (Reuters)
- Why Putin Has 2006 Flash Before His Eyes After Sanctions (BBG)
If yesterday's selloff catalysts were largely obvious, if long overdue, in the form of the record collapse of Espirito Santo coupled with the Argentina default, German companies warning vocally about Russian exposure, the ongoing geopolitical escalations, and topped off by a labor costs rising and concerns this can accelerate a hiking cycle, overnight's latest dump, which started in Europe and has carried over into US futures is less easily explained although yet another weak European PMI print across the board probably didn't help. However, one can hardly blame largely unreliable "soft data" for what is rapidly becoming the biggest selloff in months and in reality what the market may be worried about is today's payroll number, due out in 90 minutes, which could lead to big Treasury jitters if it comes above the 230K expected: in fact, today is one of those days when horrible news would surely be great news for the momentum algos. Still, with futures down 0.6% at last check, it is worth noting that Treasurys are barely changed, as the great unrotation from stocks into bonds picks up and hence the great irony of any rate initiated sell off: should rates spike on growth/inflation concern, the concurrent equity selloff will once again push rates lower, and so on ad inf. Ain't central planning grand?
"Although the levitation of financial assets has yet to levitate gold, we will grit our collective teeth on that score and await either 'asset price justice' or the 'end times,' whichever comes first."
It appears - judging by today's shenanigans - that good news for Main Street (rising employment costs) is bad news (for stocks), though obviously there are other factors; but tomorrow's payrolls data is the last best hope before the Fed finishes its taper for them to pull a 'data-driven' U-turn out of the bag. Consensus is for a drop from last month's exuberance at 288k to 230k (with Barclays slightly cold and Deutsche slightly hot). The fear, for market bulls, is that the print is anti-goldilocks now - not bad enough to provide excuses for lower-longer Fed rates; and not high enough to justify the hockey-stick of miraculous H2 growth priced into stocks. Average S&P gains on NFP Friday are 0.5% but recently have become more noisy.
It has been a deja vu session of that day nearly a month ago when the Banco Espirito Santo (BES) problems were first revealed, sending European stocks and US futures, however briefly, plunging. Since then things have only gotten worse for the insolvent Portuguese megabank, and overnight BES, all three of its holdco now bankrupt, reported an epic loss despite which it will not get a bailout but instead must raise capital on its own. The result has been a record drop in both the bonds (down some 20 points earlier) and the stock (despite a shorting ban instituted last night), which crashed as much as 40% before stabilizing at new all time lows around €0.25, in the process wiping out recent investments by such "smart money" as Baupost, Goldman and DE Shaw. The result is a European financial sector that is struggling in the red, while adding to its pain are some large cap names such as Adidas which also tumbled after issuing a profit warning relating to "developments" in Russia. Then there was European inflation which printed at 0.4%, below the expected 0.5%, and the lowest in pretty much ever, and certainly since the ECB commenced its latest fight with "deflation", which so far is not going well. The European cherry on top was Greece, whose dead cat bounce is now over, after May retail sales crashed 8.5%, after rising 3.8% in April.
As always, for the best take of what the Fed was thinking, skip Hilsenrath and go straight to the people who provide it with its talking points. Here is Goldman's Jan Hatzius with hos post-mortem of the just released FOMC minutes.
As expected, The FOMC continued its taper pace at $10bn but what was supposed to be a 'steady as she goes' statement had a few surprises:
- *PLOSSER DISSENTS ON DECISION, CITING GUIDANCE ON RATE OUTLOOK
- *FOMC SEES SIGNIFICANT UNDERUTILIZATION OF LABOR RESOURCES
- *FOMC: ODDS OF PERSISTENT SUB-2% INFLATION `DIMINISHED SOMEWHAT'
More of the same but some modestly hawkish sentiment sneaking in regarding improving labor markets. Oddly - no trade recommendations from Yellen. Full redline below...
Pre-FOMC: S&P Futs 1961.5, 10Y 2.55%, JPY 102.90, Gold $1294
"More of the same," should summarize today's FOMC statement. There will be no press conference or refresh of the 'dot plot' economic projections. The Fed is expected to continue to taper by $10 billion with confirmation that the "growth meme" is playing out just as they projected (especially after today's GDP print). Goldman believes the focus will be on the jobs 'dashboard' and recent inflation data enables the dovish Fed to argue recent moves were noise and stay easier for longer. The downside risk (for markets) may be that Fed hawks will likely have little luck in altering the way forward guidance is employed by the Fed (and chatter over a Fisher dissent is possible).