Shortly after 1042am local, Chinese stock futures (CSI-300) flash-crashed over 12.5% on extreme heavy volume (while the cash CSI-300 remained unch). This move erased 3 months of gains but within 1 minute was back in the green with stocks up over 2.5%. The shocking collapse, exaggerated by a major lack of liquidity, was made more surprising by the fact that the last week has seen a record short position in the major Chinese stock ETF. Simply put, the heavy hand of market-central-planning has erased any and all depth in futures markets and positioning has become so tilted that price vacuums are likely to continue to occur.
In June there will be "an unusual number of known unknowns from several sources. June 2016 is a month in which the number of event risks is particularly high. In our baseline scenarios we do not see market upsets, but the potential is there: Japanese fiscal policy; meetings of the ECB, Fed and BoJ; new ECB policy implementation; a German Constitutional Court ruling; the UK referendum; elections in Spain; and a decision on the FTT are all thrown into the mix."
As if on cue, NATO made it even more explicit that its primary prerogative remains to provoke Russia into an offensive move, when over the weekend the Times reported that the British military may soon start stockpiling tanks and other heavy equipment in Eastern Europe as part of NATO's military beef up close to Russia's border. The decision may come at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw in July.
In the run-up to June, financial markets continue to be trapped within multi-month trading ranges: GT5 1.2-1.8%, DXY 92-100, ACWI 380-440, SPX 1850-2100, VIX 12-20. So what are the catalysts & “trades of the unexpected” should risk assets finally breakout or breakdown?
We showed you the "bored" Chinese workers who traded commodity futures for excitement - Now, it's time to meet North America's oil day-traders... moms-and millenials. The recent volatility in crude oil has gotten the attention of people who do not list trading as their day job, but are randomly attempting to day trade oil anyway...“I just thought, let’s throw a couple of hundred dollars in it...and try it out...I just enjoy the risk and the thrill of the market in general.”
In a stunning reversal for an organization that rests at the bedrock of the modern "neoliberal" (a term the IMF itself uses generously), aka capitalist system, overnight IMF authors Jonathan D. Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri issued a research paper titled "Neoliberalism: Oversold?" whose theme is a stunning one: it accuses neoliberalism, and its immediate offshoot, globalization and "financial openness", for causing not only inequality, but also making capital markets unstable.
With Goldman suggesting VIX should be in the upper teens based on 'fundamentals' and event risks galore on the horizon (FOMC, Brexit, Spain elections, US elections, etc.) Geneva Swiss Bank suggests it is time to BTFVIX...
Implied volatility should remain structurally elevated into and through an eventual recession (and likely bear market) before subsiding once the next sustained recovery has begun. That is precisely why we have struggled with the idea that the high-volatility regime intact since last August may truncate at less than a year. If our reasoning is correct and volatility remains structurally elevated, it follows that the recent three-month cyclical trough, as the longest such period on record, is statistically unlikely to last much longer.
Last November, capital markets were discounting a rate hike five months later, based on Fed Funds futures. Same story today. Last November, the S&P 500 was trading near 2100. Same story today. Last November, VIX levels were around 14. Same story today. Last November, instead of waiting five months, the Fed hiked rates one month later; the S&P dropped by 10% over the next eight weeks... And as BofAML's Savita Subramanian warns, hiking during a profits recession usually hasn't ended well.
Ever since last September, when we explained that as a result of China's crackdown on capital controls, the one clear winner (in addition to Vancouver real estate) would be bitcoin, the digital currency has more than doubled in dollar terms, rising from $230 and surging as high as $500 a few months later. Overnight bitcoin, which had traded in a stable range with little of its characteristic volatility in recent months, made its latest breakout, surging nearly 5% from a $440-level, to a fresh 2016 high of $480, and has since retracted the move modestly, trading at $475 at last check.
In a world where fundamentals don't matter, everyone's attention will be on Janet Yellen who speaks at 1:15pm today in Harvard, hoping to glean some more hints about the Fed's intentionas and next steps, including a possible rate hike in June or July. And with a long holiday in both the US and UK (US bond market closes at 2pm today), it is no surprise overnight trading volumes have been dreadful, helping keep global equities poised for the highest close in three weeks; this won't change unless Yellen says something that would disrupt the calm that’s settled over financial markets.
Overnight the Commerce Department escalated its trade war with China when it implemented the latest clampdown on a glut of steel imports, when it announced that corrosion-resistant steel from China will face final U.S. anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of up to 450%. China's Commerce Ministry said it was extremely dissatisfied at what it called the "irrational" move by the United States, which it said would harm cooperation between the two countries. "China will take all necessary steps to strive for fair treatment and to protect the companies' rights," it said, without elaborating.
Cable has strengthened notably in the last week or so as Cameron and Osborne unleashed phase 2 of "project fear" and 'some' Brexit polls suggested market fears of a 'leave' decision were overblown. However, the broad polls still show the decision is too close to call, which is why the news from Ladbrokes - Britain's largest bookmaker - that they have seen a sudden surge in Brexit bets in the last few days. Interestingly, sterling has started to leak lower today...