We could tell you all about the fact that high-yield credit did not play along with this rally today (and that the underlying cash market for corporate bonds has been weak for well over a week now); we could note that VIX did not take part in this surge today as the stops were run; we could point to the total lack of volume (NYSE or futures) confirming the move; we could highlight the fact that Treasury yields rose a de minimus 1.5bps on the day and while the USD slipped modestly on the day, it is only down 0.22% on the week and that Gold, Silver, and Oil are all unchanged on the week. But - all that matters, in this headline-driven algo-aided market is - The Dow hit all time highs - 'Mission Accomplished' Mr. Bernanke, well played - record stocks, record debt, record food stamps recipients.
The following five charts reflect the hollowing out of the private-sector employment. This has profound implications for education, taxes, housing and inequality. What no one dares admit is that the U.S. economy is burdened by overcapacity (too many malls, restaurants, MRI machines, etc.) and too much debt, much of which was taken on to fund mal-investments. We suffer from a systemic failure of imagination. The financial and political Aristocracy that rules the neofeudal, financialized economy have no other model other than debt-based misallocation of capital and endless growth of debt-based consumption. That this model is broken and cannot possibly get us where we need to go does not matter; they will continue to do more of what's failed because they have no alternative model that leaves their power and wealth intact.
After exposing the stock market manipulative arsenal that is High Frequency Trading, quote stuffing, flash trading, packet churning, layering, sub-pennying, liquidity, latency and dark pool arbitrage, NBBO and Reg NMS exemptions, "hide-not-sliding", collocation, and much, much more for four years, or so long even Credit Suisse joined the chorus we started in April of 2009, we are glad to learn that finally, with a ridiculous Rip Van Winklesian delay, but better late than never, "the FBI has teamed up with securities regulators to tackle the potential threat of market manipulation posed by new computer trading methods that have taken operations beyond the scope of traditional policing." In other words, the SEC has finally realized it can no longer pretend it is not co-opted, but because it has no clue where to even start with HFT, has asked the help of the Feds. Which in itself is hardly reason for optimism, but if there is one thing Hans Gruber has taught us, it is that when the Feds get involved, the first thing they do is cut the power, and in this algo-based market that will end some 99% of all daily manipulative practices we have all grown to love and look forward to every single day.
Yesterday we noted the somewhat startling confession of @NYCAviation investigating a four-engined small aircraft (or drone) at JFK. Today we get the confirmation as the FBI "seeks public assistance in identifying, locating, unmanned aircraft and operator." The unnamed aircraft was described as black in color and no more than three feet wide with four propellers.
As the world awaits the outcome of Chavez's latest 'severe infection', the Venezuelan headlines appear to have become more and more surreal...
- *VENEZUELA'S MADURO SAYS CHAVEZ ENEMIES CAUSED HIS ILLNESS
- *VENEZUELA EXPELS U.S. MILITARY ATTACHE, MADURO SAYS
- *VENEZUELA HAS INFORMATION ON SABOTAGE TO ELECTRIC GRID: MADURO
As Bloomberg notes, Maduro says U.S. official was meeting with Venezuelan military officials and was seeking to destabilize country. Or perhaps it is all about distraction?
Given his reiteration last week that the Fed is here to stay - and his fellow dovish lapdogs' confirmation that we can all rest assured that our 'wealth' is being protected - we know that the Fed balance sheet will hit around $4 trillion by year-end. Given the hyper-correlation over the past three months between US equity performance and the daily pump of POMO, it appears clear that Bernanke's target for the S&P 500 by year-end is around 2000 (unless of course you think there is even a little bit of market efficiency and discounting left in the world).
One of China's wealthiest men, Zong Qinghou - founder of the privately listed beverage empire Hangzhou Wahaha Group - is hunting fort deals overseas as the WSJ reports, he believes “The capital markets suck in China.” Since China's stock market bubble burst (after running up from 1000 in 2005 to 7000 in 2007), it has never recovered from its collapse, loitering around 2,000 points ever since. Plagued by too many offerings (run by the government) and a slowing economy, WSJ notes that a common complaint is that the only investors who make money from China’s stock markets are those with inside information. The retail investors that fueled the bubble in the first place remain scarred by the experience, and have mostly stayed away, as Zong concludes: "When the ordinary people invest in it, the market should reward them with some benefits. But it does not." This has driven the desire to 'invest' or speculate in real estate - a topic we discussed yesterday - leading to a looming bubble there also.
When we reported on JCPenney's horrendous quarterly results, we made the comments that when "speaking of [the] credit facility, JCP had no borrowings under its 2012 Revolver, and about $1.3 billion available net of L/Cs. Expect these numbers to change." The reason we pointed this out, is that the second a retailer goes from "unused Revolver" to "used Revolver", the bankruptcy deathwatch drums begin their steady beat. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before even the traditionally slow sellside brigade figured out that JCP's liquidity is horrifying and about to get much worse, and moments ago Bank of America downgraded JCP by $3 to a $13 price target on expectations of an imminent revolver draw. To wit: "JCPenney intends to self-fund its transformation, but we think it will need to draw down on the revolver as early as this quarter." This explains why Ackman is down another $60 million in the name at last check.
Gold's rise over the past few years has been driven by a number of factors. Aside from the unprecedented monetary easing and skepticism over the global financial system in recent years, Morgan Stanley notes that 1) a persistent increase in investment demand, 2) acceleration in producer de-hedging, 3) a decline in net official sector sales, and 4) a persistent failure on the part of the mining companies to respond to the incentive of a steadily rising price and materially lift production; all also impacted gold's premium. A recent re-evaluation of gold’s security premium followed from the various mitigations of the numerous risks to global growth. However, as they note, a decisive break lower heralding the end of the bull market has not appeared and they believe we are about to witness the third installment of the Great Monetary Easing that started to play out when the credit bubble burst five years ago and that the gold bull market will enter its strongest phase.
What really strikes us is the universal belief by the majority of analysts, economists and commentators, that there is currently "no evidence" of an asset bubble. This idea was further confirmed by Bernanke's testimony last week he explicitly stated: "I don't see much evidence of an equity bubble" In the long term it will ultimately be the fundamentals that drive the markets. Currently, the deterioration in the growth rate of earnings, and economic strength, are not supportive of the speculative rise in asset prices or leverage. The idea of whether, or not, the Federal Reserve, along with virtually every other central bank in the world, are inflating the next asset bubble is of significant importance to investors who can ill afford to once again lose a large chunk of their net worth. It is all reminiscent of the market peak of 1929 when Dr. Irving Fisher uttered his now famous words: "Stocks have now reached a permanently high plateau." The clamoring of voices that the bull market is just beginning is telling much the same story. History is repleat with market crashes that occurred just as the mainstream belief made heretics out of anyone who dared to contradict the bullish bias.
As Greece's painfully desperate fight to collect tax revenue, any tax revenue, using traditional methods meets failure after grotesque failure, driven by such unconventional stumbling blocks as running out of ink with which to print tax forms, striking tax collectors, and repossessed (or stolen) tax department computer equipment, the necessity to prove to Europe that Greece is doing something to fill the income side of its reformist ledger has forced it to turn to the glaringly illegal. "Greece’s General Secretariat for Information Systems has completed an application that will allow the state’s monitoring and collection mechanism to access the country’s banking system via an online connection and let the government have access to depositor bank accounts. The application, which will let the Finance Ministry troll through the accounts of all depositors suspected of tax evasion means online inspectors can scour through records of deposits, loans, credit card use and other data without permission from the account holder." What is troubling is that while this happens in the US on a daily basis, at least the NSA has to dig through data illegally, and can't use what it finds against citizens in court. In Greece, however, any trace of personal privacy in the insolvent state is now gone, and in a way that is made very public and clear to all citizens. The result will be an even greater hit to all forms of electronic spending (remember that all bulk cash transactions are prohibited), and a collapse in all economic transactions, leading to an even more acute depression, and an even greater need to yet another "bailout" from Europe (this one will be the last surely, as it will be after this it will be different).
Not like a market test was needed, but in a time when bad news is great for stocks, we fully expected today's Service ISM consensus beat to be great-er for the several hot potato passing algos still trading. Sure enough, the February non-manufacturing ISM just printed at 56.0, higher than the 55.0 expected, up from the 55.2 in February and the 8th beat of expectations in a row. That the service sector output rose despite consensus it wouldn't due to tax hikes, and higher gas prices, indicates just how "valid" and accurate it truly is, but with every data point now geared to only one goal - to get everyone to play musical chairs while the music plays, does any data actually even matter? After all, an improving economy would mean a tapering QE, but Bernanke has now made it clear no matter what the actual real or fake state of the economy is, he will never stop the liquid(ity) moprhine. Perhaps that is why the employment index actually dipped in February from 57.5 to 57.2 - supposedly this makes it "realistic."
On October 11th 2007, the 'old' Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its previous all-time high of 14,198.10 (with the all-time closing high of 14,164.5 on October 9th) as plans for the MLEC were rumored to save the world from the intensification of stress in the interbank funding markets. A week later, the Dow had dropped 5.5%; a month later it had dropped 8.5%; three months later it had slumped 18%. But, this time the 'wealth effect' will be different-er.
The world is a disparate place these days. It is dislocated. Central bank money buoying all of the markets; equities, debt, commodities while the underlying economies languish or dissipate. Month after month the division widens while even a slight whisper that the monetary creation might cease or falter hits the markets hard and then the leaders of the central banks assure everyone that it will go on ad infinitum and the markets all bounce back and begin to breathe again. The markets might be characterized as “Pucker and Sigh.” “Over the Rainbow” plays on non-stop in the media and those of us with a more skeptical eye are long past “If” and on to the “When.”