For 39 minutes today, as we noted earlier, the US stock "market" broke. As Nanex details, a total of 1,384 symbols were affected as 100s of stocks trade with crossed NBBOs, practically eliminating any chance for retail traders to transact. Options market were frantic, volatility swung around like a Ukrainian border-patrol agent, and yet the US equity indices limped ever higher. For those who fear 'the big one', for those who understand market liquidity, for those who got a glimpse of what happens when large crowds meet small doors in the high-yield credit market, today's "broken" market was a cold hard lesson that few 'moms and pops' would have noticed... but from the perspective of 'ability to trade' - today's market was worse than the Nasdaq Blackout and the Flash Crash... Hedge accordingly.
There rarely seems to be a “reason” for why market crashes happen. Market observers are e.g. debating to this day what actually “caused” the crash of 1987. It is in the nature of the beast that once liquidity evaporates sufficiently that not all bubble activities can be sustained at once any longer, bids begin to become scarce in one market segment after another. Eventually, they can disappear altogether – and sellers suddenly find they are selling into a vacuum. Once this happens, the usual sequence of margin calls and forced selling does the rest. Risk premiums normalize abruptly, and there doesn't need to be an obvious reason for this to happen. Compressed risk premiums can never be sustained “forever”.
From Arab Spring-related uprisings in Libya or Egypt, to a civil war in Syria and now violence in Iraq and the Ukraine, geopolitics are impacting oil. True, geopolitical risk measured by combat deaths does not always correlate well with market volatility. But wars and conflict are easy to spot on an oil price series. With combat deaths rising four fold in the last 10 years, oil markets should prepare for more turmoil. BofA 's Francisco Blanch asks "Can the US preserve geopolitical stability?" America still takes up 38% of global military spending, but appetite for foreign adventures has been low. As an example, a drop in US combat deaths in recent years has been mirrored by a rise elsewhere. Following a drop to multi-decade lows, implied vol in long dated oil options at 15% looks cheap. Oil after US hegemony may not be as steady.
Another day, another brilliant scheme from the think-tank that is the G-20: prevent systemic collapse from TBTF banks loaded up with record amounts of debt by forcing them to... issue more debt.
Just what Europe needs... more QE... this is the real problem - not only is demand for credit weak in the periphery as the balance sheet recession rolls on, but "real" borrowing costs are at near-record highs... Despite Draghi's earlier comments and promises, cramming SME loans down the throats of borrowers at suppressed risks will do nothing but kill bank balance sheets (most critically the ECB's)...
The first half of the year has been relatively quiet for the markets, but the coming months might bring more turbulence...
- Ukraine accuses Russia of invasion after aid convoy crosses border (Reuters)
- Hunt for Foley’s Killer Spans Old Policing and Tech Tools (BBG)
- U.S. Probe Examines GM Lawyers (WSJ)
- Argentina accuses U.S. Judge Griesa of "imperialist" attitude (Reuters)
- Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm (Reuters)
- Geneva Banks Break 200-Year Silence to Unveil Earnings (BBG)
- Richest Jailed Putin Foe Says Ukraine Fears Sparked Prosecution (BBG)
- Disclosure of Failed Attempt to Rescue James Foley Is Criticized (WSJ)
- Execution of U.S. journalist reveals the changing business of war coverage (Reuters)
The current occupation of the markets is both "unbelievable in power and grandeur." There is simply no denying the current bull market trend as "silent crowds remain stupefied by its immensity, its endlessness and its splendid perfection." The thought for the day is simply this: "Like the many proud soldiers that occupied Brussels then, two or three years from now, how many investors will be alive to 'tell the tale' of the occupation of the bull market today?" It is within "resigned complacency" that the risks to portfolios are easily dismissed with the conviction of strength and control. Yet, it is also within this illusion that the greatest defeats in history have been delivered.
If QE is ending because it was so successful, then why is aggressive forward guidance necessary? If QE worked so well, then why will Yellen likely need to mention ‘the elevated number of part time workers’, ‘under-utilization of labor resources’ or ‘room for improvement in the labor market’? In regard to its inflation mandate, there is no evidence that QE has had any impact other than causing asset price inflation.
We are sure this will end well... As CDS-based credit ETFs are launched, so the number of ways to 'sell' volatility (buy complacency) for retail equity investors have exploded in recent years as The Fed's stranglehold on uncertainty has continued. However, as Bloomberg reports, as VIX has tumbled in the last few weeks, investors are wagering on further declines - in the five weeks through Aug. 15, they put almost $320 million into the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term ETN (XIV): the longest stretch of weekly investments since the note began trading in 2010.
The Federal Reserve's communications and policies are a form of crazy-making double bind. No wonder the economy and everyone participating in it are beset by various manifestations of mental and physical illness. On the one hand, the Fed insists the economy is expanding and all is well. If this is true, then the Fed should allow interest rates to normalize, i.e. be unleashed from the Fed's financial prison and allowed to rise to whatever the market of borrowers and lenders sets as fair in the current climate. But the Fed also insists that it cannot allow rates to rise. The ultimate Fed crazy-making double-bind is this: you can't live without us, your financial Overlords who keep you safe from recession and the volatility of creative destruction, but you can't be free or prosperous with us in control.
When a tin-foil-hat-wearing blog full of digital dickweeds suggest the dollar's reserve currency status is at best diminishing, it is fobbed off as yet another conspiracy theory (yet to be proved conspiracy fact) too horrible to imagine for the status quo huggers. But when the VP of Research at the New York Fed asks "Could the dollar lose its status as the key international currency for international trade and international financial transactions," and further is unable to say why not, it is perhaps worth considering the principal contributing factors she warns of.
"Today’s environment, however, is quite distinct, as seen in the chart below, where we lay out the GMO seven-year forecasts in a volatility (an imperfect shorthand for risk) versus return format for the traditional asset classes, or betas. This beta desert is so challenging because not only are there no asset classes that we believe are priced to deliver 5% real return (the red line), there is also no safe place to hide and wait (the green circle)." - GMO
While everyone's (algorithmic) attention will be focused on today's minutes from the July 29-30 FOMC meeting for views on remaining slack in U.S. economy following recent changes in the labor market (especially a particularly solid JOLTS report which indicates that at least on the openings front, there is no more) and any signal of policy change by the Fed ahead of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech in Jackson Hole on Aug. 22, a curious thing happened overnight when a few hours ago the BoE's own minutes show the first vote split since 2011, as Weale and McCafferty argue for a 0.75% bank rate. Then again, if the Russians are finally bailing on London real estate, the inflationary pressures at the top of UK housing may finally be easing. In any event, every FOMC "minute" will be overanalyzed for hints of what Yellen's speech on Friday morning will say, even if stocks just shy of all time highs know quite well she won't dare say anything to tip the boat despite her warnings of a biotech and social network bubble.
A quick reminder of how geopolitics governs markets: on Friday, the market plunged 0.005% over fears Ukraine and Russia may be about to go at it all out after a fake report Ukraine shelled a Russian military convoy. On Monday, the same "market" soared just under 1% as the news that had caused the "crash" was refuted. That has been the dominant rinse, repeat theme for the past month and will continue to be well after Yellen's Friday speech at Jackson Hole (although one does wonder why she is not speaking on Wednesday when the symposium begins). Not surprisingly, with only modest re-escalation news overnight (that Russia is preparing further retaliatory sanctions against the West), which is simply "pent up de-escalation" in the eyes of Keynesian algos, futures are again up a solid 0.2% and rising, and the way the rampy USDJPY is being manipulated before its pre-market blast off, we may well see the S&P hit 1980, if not a new all time high before 9:30am, let alone during today's cash session. In any event, whatever you do, don't you dare suggest that algos should care one bit about Ferguson and its implications for US society.