A thumbnail sketch of the main events of during the week ahead.
Since everyone and their pundit grandmother has opined on volatility in the past month, we will say no more and instead of Wall Street, we will do a Wallace Stevens, with 13 ways of looking at record low volatility, in charts.
As individuals, it is entirely acceptable to be "optimistic" about the future. However, "optimism" and "pessimism" are emotional biases that tend to obfuscate the critical thinking required to effectively assess the "risks". The current "hope" that Q1 was simply a "weather related" anomaly is also an emotionally driven skew. The underlying data suggests that while "weather" did play a role in the sluggishness of the economy, it was also just a reflection of the continued "boom bust" cycle that has existed since the end of the financial crisis. The current downturn in real final sales suggests that the underlying strength in the economy remains extremely fragile. More importantly, with final sales below levels normally associated with the onset of recessions, it suggests that the current rebound in activity from the sharp decline in Q1 could be transient.
There are a few “market anomalies” affecting the seasonality of stock returns that have captured some investor attention, like the day-of-the-week effect or the January effect, for example. They are called anomalies because – according to financial theory – the market should arbitrage away the regularity of such patterns. But in reality, it does not. As Goldman notes, there are similar patterns exist with respect to market volatility; and they are equally puzzling.
Overview of the price action in the foreign exchange market and a short word on US 10-year Treasuries.
This week's "Things To Ponder" is focused on things that, in my opinion, far too many individuals are ignoring. Bob Farrell once wrote that "when all experts and forecasts agree; something else is bound to happen." Today, that is the case as much as it ever was. Despite rising geopolitical risks, weak economic data, deteriorating fundamentals and softer internals - the overwhelming belief is "equities are the only game in town." Of course, we have seen this mentality many times in past history whether it was 1929, 1987, 2000 or 2007. While every market peak was different, there were all the same.
Before 330ET, the Nasdaq was the lone survivor in the green this week despite every effort to spark short squeezes and ramps day after day - but that all changed as the ubiquitous late-Friday buying panic occurred of course - lifting stock green for the day (and desperately searching for green on the week). There was a sudden heavy volume dump at 1315ET with no news catalyst amking many wonder if a dark pool puked its orders? A glance at the week's market moves would suggest 'volatility' is anything but low - yet we always manage to close day-to-day calmly. Wondering what provides the ammo for Nasdaq's rise? "Most shorted" stocks are up for the 7th week in a row. Despite all that idiocy, bond yields tumbled the most in 6 weeks and USDJPY fell the most in 14 weeks. Oil slipped on the week but copper, gold, and silver all gained. With the Rusell rebalance, volume was extreme today (but only at the close and that 1315ET dump).
With USDJPY near 4-week lows and, as BofAML's Macneil Curry warns "is setting up for a breakdown", we thought a look back at the total and utter chaos that last week's FOMC statement (and press conference) unleashed in futures markets. JPY futures were the only market in the world that was halted as the statement was revealed as Nanex shows below it seemed 'someone' decided that 'carry traders' needed to show the world just how positive what Janet said was... then within 24 hours, chaos was unleashed as the real world algos tried to come to terms with just what the Fed had done. With every asset class in the world predicated on JPY weakness, this market behavior shows just how illiquid and thin the world's risk really is.
Abe's honeymoon is over. Following nearly two years of having free reign to crush the Japanese economy with his idiotic monetary and fiscal policies - but, but the Nikkei is up - the market may have finally pulled its head out of its, well, sand, and after last night's abysmal economic data from Japan which saw not only the highest (cost-push) inflation rate since 1982, in everything but wages (hence, zero demand-pull) - after wages dropped for 23 consecutive months, disposable income imploded - but a total collapse in household spending, the USDJPY appears to have finally been dislodged from its rigged resting place just around 102. As a result the 50 pip overnight drop to 101.4 was the biggest drop in over a month. And since the Nikkei is nothing but the USDJPY (same for the S&P), Japan stocks tumbled 1.4%, their biggest drop in weeks, as suddenly the days of the grand Keynesian ninja out of Tokyo appear numbered. Unless Nomura manages to stabilize USDJPY and push it higher, look for the USDJPY to slide back to double digits in the coming weeks.
While Janet Yellen is bust ignoring "noisy" inflation and dismissing low volatility as indicative of any complacency, Goldman is a little more concerned. The decline in economic and asset market volatility this year from already low levels in 2013 has been striking, which as Markus Brunnermeier states, means "the whole system is more prone to a financial crisis when measured volatility is low, which tends to lead to a build-up of risk in the background – the so-called 'volatility paradox'."
Now that any credibility Barclays, pardon Darklays, may have had in the capital markets has drowned at the bottom of its (soon to be shuttered) dark pool, it is time to start making fun of the bank. To do that we bring our readers the British bank's "Ongoing Commitment to Transparency", and specifiically the "Equities Electronic Order Handling." Curiously, nowhere in said book does it say that the bank will route the vast majority of its trades to the most lucrative predatory HFT algos lurking deep in the bowels of LX, which incidentally is co-located in the Savvis NJ2 Data Center in Weehawken, New Jersey, may it rest in piece now that nobody on the buyside will ever use it again. What it does report are the following creative lies, which we reveal to the general public because after all remember: the biggest defense the HFT lobby makes is that "whatever HFT does it never hurt retail investors." We will let retail investors decide for themselves.
It wasn’t an edgy blogger but the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that issued the warning.
Janet Yellen has dismissed rising inflation figures. They were “noisy,” she said. She didn’t like the sound of them. Valid numbers are harmonious. Invalid ones are cacophonous. But after so many years of listening to such loud noise coming from her own colleagues, poor Ms. Yellen may be tone deaf. At least, that is one explanation for her nonchalance toward the threat of inflation.
The S&P500 has now gone 47 days without a gain or loss of more than 1% - a feat unmatched since 1995, according to AP. Overnight markets are having a weaker session across the board (except the US of course). Even the Nikkei is trading with a weak tone (-0.7%) seemingly unimpressed by the Third Arrow reform announcements from Prime Minister Abe yesterday (and considering in Japan the market is entirely dictated by the BOJ, perhaps they could have at least coordinated a "happy" reception of the revised Abe plan). Either that or they have largely been priced in following the sizable rally in Japanese stocks over the past month or so. Abe outlined about a dozen reforms yesterday including changes to the GPIF investment allocations and a reduction in the corporate tax rate to below 30% from the current level of 35%+. Separately, the Hang Seng Index (-0.06%) and the Shanghai Composite (-0.41%) 98closed lower as traders cited dilutive IPOs as a concern for future equity gains.
With the market firmly under the control of the Fed, VIX plunging and the S&P at all time highs is the a different indicator to look at for "fear"? For one possible answer we refer to the latest note by FBN's JC O'Hara who looks at a different "fear" index, namely the Credit Suisse Fear Barometer. He finds that, at 37%, it has never been higher.