When news broke a month ago that the US Mint had suspended selling one-tenth ounce gold coins, perhaps the most surprising news was that there were thousands of consumers willing to pay the exorbitant retail premium demanded by the US mint, with the resulting order deluge promptly sapping the mint's stretched inventories. Well: we have good news - as of moments ago the US mint has once again restocked on the popular denomination (with a 20,000 production limit), and without a limit per household. The even better news: the coin will set you back just $195. This means a "tiny" 40% premium to spot.
While this morning's explosion higher in Treasury bond yields (the largest in 9 months) was 'evidence' for many of the 'great rotation' as stocks rallied; it seems that now the 'crowd' is selling everything. Stocks, commodities, bonds, and credit are all offered (while the USD and precious metals are bid). The end of POMO appears to have stalled the exuberance and cracked the JPY collapse of the day (for now - since it is Tuesday). With the 10Y yield now well above the S&P 500 yield, we wonder what 'measure of cheapness' will be wheeled out next to justify buying stocks again.
Over a year ago we wrote "How The Fed's Visible Hand Is Forcing Corporate Cash Mismanagement" in which we explained that due to ZIRP, management teams are left with just two (very shareholder-friendly) capital allocation choices: stock buybacks and dividends, to the detriment of such much more long-term critical uses of funds as capital expenditures, and to a lesser extent M&A. So far, this observation has proven spot on with buybacks (most of which using leverage to arb the record low cost of debt, notably in the case of Apple) dominating cash allocation decisions. However, there is a key drawback to this strategy: corporate assets whose age has hit all time highs across the globe. Naturally, this is a critical issue in a world in which the return on assets is now rapidly declining as seen in two years of deteriorating profit margins, and in which as much utility has been extracted as possible from an asset base which in many cases is well beyond its functional age. Logically, more and more companies will have no choice but to reasses capital deployment and in the coming months formerly very shareholder friendly companies will have no choice but to redeploy cash from dividends and buyback and to long-ignored capex once more. We bring this up because moments ago Dole Food just provided the missing piece to this capital allocation puzzle.
Just because you have to laugh (rightfully so since it seems everyone is so 'confident'), we thought a quick look under the covers of the Richmond Fed 'beat' was worthwhile. The index 'rose' from -6 to -2 (still negative), beating expectations of -4, seemingly driven by a 'surge' in Shipments (from -9 to +8). The Richmond Fed accounts for around 9.1% of the nation's GDP so it is intriguing that (drum roll please)... New order volume plunged to its lowest since January; the number of Employees swung to a negative, also its lowest since January; the average workweek cratered to -6 (its lowest since August 2012); and Wages dropped near its lowest level in a year. But apart from all that... of course, it's 'expectations' that are keeping the dream alive (despite a fading belief in higher wages). So hard data about the current situation is still collapsing but 'hope' brings us off the ledge?
The Conference Board's measure of just how awesome everyone feels just hit its highest level since February 2008 driven by an impressive surge in 'Expectations'. This should surprise nobody: as we previewed earlier today, "just to make sure that the market closes well green today, the only actual "data" will be yet another reading of consumer "confidence" this time from the Conference Board. Expect this to surge on news that it is Tuesday and stocks have nowhere to go but up, which in turn will send stocks, where else but, up." In short: reflexivity in all its glory. And to think it was just 10 days ago that the market reacted in absolutely the same way to a UMichigan confidence print that beat expectations by the most ever and to the highest since 2007. Perhaps if the US had one consumer confidence metric for every day of the week, all days would be like Tuesdays.
The following chart represents the all-time record-low household confidence of a European nation (which, in the last month, fell at the second fastest rate in 20 years). This nation's equity market is near pre-crisis highs having rallied over 37% in the last 11 months. This nation's bond market risk is near post-crisis lows with its spread having halved in the last year. Name this Nation whose households have never been more depressed, economically speaking...
What states were the primary drivers of the 2006 housing bubble, at least right before the "subprime is contained" pop that is? Those who said Phoenix, California and Nevada you are in the right direction. We bring it up because according to the just released Case-Shiller data for March, these three same states, indicated by the representative MSAs of Phoenix, San Francisco and Las Vegas, are once again heading the charge in the latest bubble fed by Bernanke's cheap credit. What do they have in common: they were the three to post a greater than 20% increase in home prices compared to last year. Where was Detroit? Sadly it just barely missed the cut off with a far less bubbly 18% increase in home prices.
"Gold premiums have tumbled in India and Hong Kong, signaling that the buying frenzy that followed bullion’s biggest slump in three decades last month has weakened in the largest consumers." - Bloomberg
"With the drop in gold prices, jewellery stores are reporting a heavy demand for gold coins in Hyderabad. In fact, many say that gold coin denominations of 2, 5 and 10 grams have fast dwindled ever since prices of gold came down globally. The huge demand has triggered such a mad rush for gold coins that jewellers in Abids' said they were asking customers to come back later." - Times of India
Spanish and Italian stocks are up 3% this week, European sovereign bond spreads are compressing like there's no tomorrow, and Europe's VIX is dropping rapidly. Why? Aside from being a 'Tuesday, we suspect two reasons. First, Hungary's decision to cut rates this morning is the 15th central bank rate cut in May so far which appears to be providing a very visible hand lift to risk assets globally (especially the most junky)' and second, Spain's deficit missed expectations this morning (surprise), worsening still from 2012 and looking set for a significant miss versus both EU expectations (and the phantasm of EU Treaty requirements). As the following chart shows, Spain is not Greece, it is considerably worse, and the worse it gets the closer the market believes we get to Draghi firing his albeit somewhat impotent OMT bazooka and reversing the ECB's balance sheet drag. Of course, direct monetization is all but present via the ECB collateral route and now the chatter is that ABS will see haircuts slashed to keep the spice flowing. What could possibly go wrong?
The Belgian Central Bank said yesterday that about 25 tons of the European nation’s gold reserves have been lent to bullion banks according to Bloomberg. Nearly 10% or about 25 metric tons of the National Bank of Belgium’s remaining 227.5 tons of gold reserves are currently lent to bullion banks, Director and Treasurer Jean Hilgers told the central bank’s annual meeting in Brussels. The proportion of gold reserves on loan declined from 84.3 tons on December 31, 2011, and averaged 48.1 tons in 2012 as loans matured and some gold loans were reimbursed early. Hilgers said that the Belgian central bank sees gold lending decreasing further this year. During the 1990’s, Belgium sold some 1,000 tons of gold into the market - more than three quarters of its remaining holdings. The Belgian gold reserves, which had already seen sizeable liquidation in late 1978, fell from 33.7 million ounces on 12/31/88, to just 5.7 million ounces on 03/31/98, or a fall of 83% in less than 10 year.
It doesn't take an Econ Ph.D to realize that what Japan is trying to do: which is to recreate the US monetary experiment of the past four years, which has had rising stocks and bonds at the same time, the first due to the Fed's endless monetary injections (and pent up inflation expectations) and the second due to quality collateral mismatch and scarcity and shadow bank system funding via reserve currency "deposit-like" instruments such as TSYs, is a problem. After all, those who understand that the BOJ is merely taking hints from the Fed all along the way, have been warning about just that, and also warning that once the dam breaks, and if (or when) there is a massive rotation out of bonds into stocks, it is the Japanese banks - levered to the gills with trillions of JGBs - that will crack first. Apparently, this elementary finance 101 logic has finally trickled down to the BOJ, whose minutes over the weekend revealed that members are pointing out "contradictions" in the Kuroda-stated intent of doubling the monetary base in two years, unleashing inflation, sending the stock market soaring, all the while pressuring bondholders to not sell their bonds. As the FT reports, "According to the minutes of the April 26 policy meeting, released on Monday, a “few” board members said the BoJ’s original stance “might initially have been perceived by market participants as contradictory”, causing “fluctuations in financial markets”.
- ‘Cov-lite’ loans soar in dash for yield (FT)
- Cambodian police clash with thousands of garment workers, 23 hurt (Reuters)
- Obama Accepting Sequestration as Deficit Shrinks (BBG)
- Having done nothing to restore confidence in a fragmented market, the SEC turns back to main street fraud (WSJ)
- Europe's austerity-to-growth shift largely semantic (Reuters)
- Germany thwarts EU in China solar fight (FT)
- In EU-China dispute, Beijing warns of trade (FT)
- U.S. Oil Boom Divides OPEC (WSJ)
- Record Cash Sent to Balanced Funds (BBG)
- Hilsenrath: Fed Wrestles With Market Expectations About Pace of QE (WSJ)
- Worse-Than-Cyprus Debt Load Means Caribbean Defaults to Moody’s (BBG)
- States Raise College Budgets After Years of Deep Cuts (WSJ)
- U.K. Banks Cut 189,000 With Employment at Nine-Year Low (BBG)
First, the important news: in a few hours the Fed will inject between $1.25-$1.75 billion into the stock market. More importantly, it is a Tuesday, which means that in order to not disturb a very technical pattern that will have held for 20 out of 20 Tuesdays in a row, the Dow Jones will close higher. Judging by the futures, this has been telegraphed far and wide: it is a Ben Bernanke risk-managed market, and everyone is a momentum monkey in it. In less relevant news, the underlying catalyst for the overnight rip higher in risk was the surge in the USDJPY, which left the gate at precisely Japan open time, and after languishing at the round number 101 support for several days, did not look back facilitated by what rumors said was a direct BOJ intervention via a Price Keeping Operation in which banks bought ETFs directly. This was catalyzed by the usual barrage of BOJ and FinMin individuals engaging in post-crash damage control and chattering from the usual script.