With Gallup indicating the biggest 3-week decline in economic confidence since Lehman, it is hardly a surprise that UMich consumer confidence slumped to its lowest since January having fallen 3 months in a row. This is the 2nd monthly miss in a row - and biggest 3-month drop in 25 months - and appears to confirm the cyclical turn we have been discussing for a few months. And remember, the exuberance of multiple expansion relies on the ever-rising confidence of the people to lift it back to nebulous heights.
Despite stock (not bond) euphoria yesterday that a DC debt ceiling deal was sealed leading to the second largest risk ramp of 2013, last night was spent diffusing the excitement as one after another politician talked back the success of a "non-deal" that Obama rejected, at least according to the NYT. As a result, with both retail sales data and the PPI not being released (and the only data of note the always leaked UMichigan consumer confidence) markets will again be at the behest of developments on Capitol Hill, with some talk from Republicans suggesting a deal as early as today could be possible in an effort to reopen government on Monday. It is entirely possible that talks could continue over the weekend though, which would ensure a gappy open to Asian markets on Monday.
Is it any wonder that there are rumors of CEO after CEO turning down the top-job at Microsoft? As Gartner just announced, the 2013 "back-to-school" sales quarter experienced its lowest PC volume since 2008. Excuses are myriad - from inventory channel delays, currency volatility, and operating system upgrades - but the bottom-line is that "cheaper Android-based tablets attracted first-time consumers," and the PC slide continues to its sixth consecutive decline in worldwide shipments.
After reading the coverage of Janet Yellen’s Fed Chair nomination yesterday, it feels as though it’s 2006 all over again. Confidence in our central bankers seems to be approaching all-time highs, little more than five years after it collapsed alongside the financial sector. The overwhelmingly positive response to Yellen’s nomination is worrisome because, well, it’s overwhelming positive. As Galbraith once astutely observed: “In economics, the majority is always wrong.”
Nearly exactly five years after Hank Paulson appeared before Congress dangling a 3 page term sheet ultimatum warning it was his way or the apocalypse, it is time for the sequel. Since we all love the smell of a good Mutually Assured Destruction spectacle in the morning. Which is why we can't wait for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's presentation before the Senate Finance Committee discussing the Debt Limit, in which he will rain fire and brimstone on anyone who suggests that the Treasury can enter the X-Date without a debt ceiling deal in place, and will most certainly seek to crucify anyone who points out the logical, namely that payments can be prioritized and interest expense is a fraction the revenue the Treasury brings in, and that the end of the world would be nigh should the US actually be forced to live within its means.
In what had already been exposed as a 'contentious' meeting the minutes of the last Un-Taper FOMC meeting show a Fed in turmoil...
- *MOST FED OFFICIALS SAW QE TAPERING THIS YEAR, HALTING MID-2014
- *FOMC FORECAST `GRADUAL ABATEMENT' OF HEADWINDS SLOWING GROWTH
- *A NUMBER OF FOMC PARTICIPANTS SAW RISING FISCAL POLICY RISK
- *SEVERAL FOMC PARTICIPANTS SAW FINANCIAL CONDITIONS AS TIGHTER
Of course, the question is - will Yellen be a consensus-seeker or dictator?
Pre - S&P 500 Futs 1653, 10Y 2.66%, 10/17 bill 40bps, EUR 1.3515, Gold $1310
In the equity asset management world, the word risk is ubiquitously interchangeable with the word "volatility" for myriad asset allocation models that promise mathematical precision way beyond the realms of possibility in a dynamic world. However, extending that definition of risk, we thought it worth pointing out that, for the last month, US Treasury bonds have become more volatile (more risky) than Italian and Spanish bonds. Something to ponder for The Fed's new head we suspect...
- Janet Yellen, a Backer of Pushing the Fed's Policy Boundaries (WSJ)
- Jos. A. Bank proposes to buy Men's Wearhouse for $2.3 billion (Reuters)
- J.P. Morgan to Cull Business Clients (WSJ)
- RBS Said to Pass Currency Trader Chats to FCA Amid Probe (BBG)
- Prosecutors give SAC settlement ultimatum (FT)
- U.S. builders hoard mineral rights under new homes (Reuters)
- Bill Comes Due for Brazil's Middle Class (WSJ)
- US expected to slash aid to Egyptian government (AP)
- Samsung launches world's first smartphone with curved screen (Reuters)
- Microsoft’s $7.2 Billion Nokia Bet Not Luring Apps (BBG)
- China raises hurdles for foreign banks (FT)
- Hilsenrath: Tense Negotiations Inside the Fed Produced Muddled Signals to Markets (WSJ)
- Biggest US Foreign Creditors Show Concern on Default Risk (BBG)
- Shutdown Costs at $1.6 Billion With $160 Million Each Day (BBG)
- What default? Republicans downplay impact of U.S. debt limit (Reuters)
- Top Bankers Warn on U.S. Debt Proposal (WSJ)
- India to stick with austerity despite looming election (Reuters)
- Japan's Current-Account Surplus Plunges (WSJ)
- Amazon Wins Ruling for $600 Million CIA Cloud Contract (BBG)
- German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall on Weak Recovery (BBG)
- Britain's Higgs, Belgium's Englert win 2013 physics Nobel prize (Reuters)
- Supreme Owner Made a Billionaire Feeding U.S. War Machine (BBG)
Curious why recently the US stock market has dislocated from its most trusty correlation counterparty: the size of the Fed's balance sheet? Simple: the market is now starting to factor in the end of QE, because while tapering may have been delayed it has not been cancelled. And while the Fed has done everything in its power to destroy the market's discounting function, when it comes to frontrunning the Fed the market can still think ahead. Especially when frontrunning is no longer on the table. Which is precisely the basis for the just released forecast by SocGen's Alain Bokozba, which extrapolates what will happen when the Fed's balance sheet stops rising, and applies the same drop to stocks as was seen at the end of QE1 (-16%) and QE2 (-17%) and concludes that the "end of QE3 would cost the S&P500 15%" and that following that, absent even more QE of course, "the US equity index should remain relatively flat, burdened by higher yields (rate hikes in mid-2015), a higher US dollar and limited earnings growth (Return on Equity is already high), but supported by better economic prospects and a new shareholder value cycle, staving off a bear market." Or, as SocGen calls it, "the Big Sleep."
From Cascading Complexity To Systemic Collapse: A Walk Thru "Society's Equivalent Of A Heart Attack"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/05/2013 22:59 -0500
"The commonalities of global integration mean that diverse hazards may lead to common shock consequences. The systems that transmit shocks are also the systems we depend upon for our welfare and the operation of businesses, institutions and society... One of the primary consequences of a generic shock is an interruption in the flow of goods and services in the economy. This has diverse and profound implications - including food security crises’, business shut-downs, critical infrastructure risks and social crises... More generally it can entail multi-network and delocalised cascading failure leading to a collapse in societal complexity.... This is a complex society’s equivalent of a heart attack. When a person has a heart attack, there is a brief period during which CPR can revive the person. But beyond a certain point when there has been cascading failure in co-dependent life support systems, the person cannot be revived. The extent of our contemporary complex global system dependencies, and our habituation to a long period of broadly stable economic and complexity growth means a systemic collapse would present profound and existential challenges."
Technically, the dollar is looking a bit better. Here is our assessment.
While the recent Federal Reserve inaction is bullish for stocks in the short term there are plenty of reasons to remain somewhat cautious. Stocks are overvalued, rates are rising, earnings are deteriorating and despite signs of short term economic improvements the data trends remain within negative downtrends. Investors, however, have disregarded fundamentals as irrelevant as long as the Federal Reserve remains committed to its accommodative policies. The problem is that no one really knows how this will turn out and the current assumptions are based upon past performance. Complacency is not an option; it is critically important to understand that market reversions do not occur without a catalyst. Whether it is the onset of an economic recession, a natural disaster or a financial crisis - there is always something that sparks the initial selloff that leads to a full blown market panic. With this idea in mind here are 3 rising risks that investors should be paying attention to.
Just two weeks ago we explained how when there is only one driving factor for market performance and "too-many coat-tail clinging asset managers chasing too few real alpha opportunities" then problems can arise. Critically, we showed the correlation between the S&P 500 and hedge fund returns has never been higher and is approaching 1. So it is refreshing that the Treasury Department agrees in a recent report that this "herding into popular assets" by asset managers could pose a threat to the US financial system.
In and of itself, the government shutdown appears to be a limited market event. The indirect effect, however, is on the other main risk scenario for markets – the deal on the debt ceiling (which will need to be in place before October 17). An increase in the probability of breaching the debt ceiling would likely be destabilizing for the market. For one, the effect on growth will be far larger – our economists estimate that it would imply an immediate cut in spending equal to 4.2% of GDP (4Q average of the fiscal deficit). Second, it would raise the risk of a US sovereign default because the Treasury does not believe it has the authority to prioritize interest payments above other obligations. As such, with markets firmly focused on US fiscal matters - so where to from here?