Imagine the world economy as an armada of ships passing through a narrow and dangerous strait leading to the sea of prosperity. Navigating the channel is treacherous for to err too far to one side and your ship plunges off the waterfall of deflation but too close to the other and it burns in the hellfire of inflation. The global fleet is tethered by chains of trade and investment so if one ship veers perilously off course it pulls the others with it. Our only salvation is to hoist our economic sails and harness the winds of innovation and productivity. It is said that de-leveraging is a perilous journey and beneath these dark waters are many a sunken economy of lore. Print too little money and we cascade off the waterfall like the Great Depression of the 1930s... print too much and we burn like the Weimar Republic Germany in the 1920s... fail to harness the trade winds and we sink like Japan in the 1990s. On cold nights when the moon is full you can watch these ghost ships making their journey back to hell... they appear to warn us that our resolution to avoid one fate may damn us to the other.
It seems the short-end of the volatility term structure is snapping shut on a few nickel-in-front-of-a-steamroller gatherers...
UPDATE: Added S&P 500 in Gold reversion post LTRO2/Bank Stress Test
Are investors rotating from the 'safety' of Apple to the new 'safety' of Gold and Silver? Because the next time there is a wholesale margin call, which courtesy of soaring margin debt will likely be today, speculators will have to sell the one asset that is outperforming everything. You guessed it...
AAPL is down well over 2% from its $600bn market cap peak this morning and breaking closing VWAPs one-by-one as it drops. Rumors of liquidations across funds in US and Europe will mean margin calls force funds to sell the one performing asset that is the functional equivalent of Gold in 2011: Apple.
Five down days in a row (first time in 5 months) for the S&P 500 (cash) and it has broken its 50DMA for the first time since 12/20/11. Notably the equal-weight S&P 500 broke the 50DMA yesterday and is now down 4.4% (versus -3.5% for the cap-weighted S&P 500) from its highs on 4/2. At what point do levered liquidations (VIX nearing 20% at one-month highs) cause the S&P 500 index dog to wag its AAPL tail as opposed to the other way around as it remains the outperformer relative to European equity and US and Europe's credit markets.
We will have much more to say about the impact of central planning on price (lack of) discovery and general market manipulation shortly, courtesy of the just released latest must read report by our friends over at Artemis Capital Management, we wanted to show our readers Exhibit A of what everyone has intuitively known for years, yet been unable to put it to paper. Until today. Below is Exhibit A that courtesy of global, relentless central-planning, the market is now nothing more than a liquidity-addicted abortion, whose future discounting capabilities have been utterly destroyed, which no longer reflects any economic fundamentals, and which is merely a fake construct in the Eye of the Benholder. It also throws temper tantrums in the form of VIX surges any time the promise of liquid heroin is taken away.
I know, I know: the stock market will never go down because Ben Bernanke and the other central bankers won't let it. It's funny how the "Bernanke/European Central Bank Put" is ranked alongside gravity as a rule of Nature until markets roll over; then talk shifts from purring adulation of central bankers' godlike powers to panicky calls for another flood of liquidity/free money to "save" the market from the harsh reality of global recession. The crash test dummies know better: they've been called up for a humongous crash. The basic mechanism that is being overlooked is Liquidity Resistance. This is akin to insulin resistance, where insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugars. The amount of insulin required to maintain normal blood sugar levels increases as resistance rises until even massive doses of insulin no longer have the desired effect and the system crashes.
UPDATE: *ITALY'S FTSE MIB INDEX SLIDES 5% and Spanish 10Y at 6%
Italian bank shares are down over 8.5% in the last two trading days as all the majors (Intesa SanPaolo, Unicredit, Banco Popolare -7.14%, UBI Banca, Banca Pop Milano -6.3%) are still HALTED. As 10Y BTP spreads break above 400bps for the first time in over two months, it seems the marginal buyer of last resort has left the building and with little if any performing collateral left, credit spreads (and LTRO Stigma most notably) is breaking to close to record wides. We wonder how long those nasty speculators will be blamed for an attack and the short-selling ban will re-materialize (since it was so successful last time).
Bob Janjuah, who has been quiet lately (recall his last piece in which he quite honestly told everyone that "Markets Are So Rigged By Policy Makers That I Have No Meaningful Insights To Offer"), is out with his latest, in which he gives us not only his long-term preview, "ultimately I still fear and expect the S&P500 – as the global risk-on/risk-off proxy – to trade at 800, and the Dow/Gold ratio to hit parity (currently at 8, down from an all-time high of 45 in late 1999) before we can begin the next multi-decade bull cycle", but also his checklist of 8 things to look forward to in the short-term centrally-planned future.
Overnight Chinese trade data came in modestly disappointing, with imports rising just 5.3% on expectations of 9% increase. However one area where imports certainly did not decline, is commodities, and especially crude. As the chart below shows, Chinese crude imports in March were virtually unchanged from February's all time high (and same as January), and while the bpd number was slightly lower due to fewer days in the month at 5.50, one thing is clear: every ounce of oil that the rest of the world does not want, China will rapaciously import and stockpile. Good luck to Saudi Arabia with perpetuating the lie that it can boost its production by 2.5 million bpd to offset Iran. And even if it can, we at least know who will be waving it all in.
There is a lot of talk about IG9 these days. We think the JPMorgan 'Iksil' story has a lot more to do with tranches than with outright selling of the index. Noone knows what exactly is going on, but we think selling tranches without delta explains far more than just selling the index, given the size and leverage. Critically, in the end it is all speculation as what (if any) trade they have on but if our belief on this being a tranche exposure (for the thesis reasons we explain) then the explanation is far less scary.
It sounds good when said and credible and positive but the problem is that it is one more absurd illusion. Spain, this morning, says the next round of budget cuts are going to come from Education and Health benefits which is all very nice except they do not totally come under the purview of the Spanish Federal government. The way that Spain is currently constructed these expenditures are mostly under the control of the regional governments and so that these kinds of promises by the current administration in Spain are wisps of cultivated air floating from Madrid to Berlin. Even if the Federal government could get the cuts accomplished it will take them months and perhaps months and months so that the headlines of what Spain is going to do has all of the substance of the milky froth atop some cup of coffee in Valencia that resembles a cappuccino.
Those hoping for a quick and painless resolution to the Iranian question may have just seen their hopes dashed, following the breaking news from Iranian Press TV, according to which not only is Iran not seeking to appease its Western counterparts, but is, in fact escalating. From Press TV: "Tehran has cut oil supply to Spain after stopping crude export to Greece as part of its countersanctions, unnamed sources confirmed on Tuesday. Tehran also mulls cutting oil supply to Germany and Italy." "Countersactions" - lovely: another Swiss watch plan by the insolvent developed world. Said otherwise, one can hardly threaten to do something to a country, which is already doing so voluntarily, in the process hurting Europe's already crippled economies even more by removing the cheapest source of energy for both. Which however begs the question: just how much more Iranian crude are China and India importing despite promises to the contrary, and open warnings from the US not to do so?