Just when the Super Goldman Mario Bros (Monti and Draghi) told us everything is fine in Europe, and it is not only safe but encouraged to get back in the pool, the first canary of 2013 just died.
Updated for the summary of MSFT, SBUX and T earnings.
Amid the deafening screams of hundreds of hedge fund managers looking for any hedging port in an AAPL storm, stock indices (expect the Nasdaq) surged to new highs from the moment the US day-session began until POMO was complete and European markets closed. Volume and block size was large as we took out S&P 500 highs up to 1500 and it appeared we ran out of the short-term proverbial great fool. In general, risk-assets and stocks were well correlated though the big disconnect today was a rising VIX. HY Credit did not play along with the exuberance early on either - as it seemed relatively clear that any and every trick in the book was being used to enable more out of the AAPL boat as we ramped up to VWAP. Once Europe had closed, AAPL slid, stocks slid (with S&P 500 dropping its most of 2013 so far), and risk-assets in general slid lower. JPY weakness and EUR strength helped support risk but Treasury yields falling back and a drop in commodities overall (Gold -0.9% on the week) had the opposite effect. The typical late-day ramp failed despite the best efforts of vol compression as stocks closed almost unch, at VWAP, in line with risk-assets (ahead of tomorrow's LTRO news). AAPL at lows as ramp failed...
ECB will release data on the early LTRO loans repayment tomorrow. The release will help gauge the liquidity needs of the European banking sector. Consensus expectations seem to be around EUR100bn. Recent EURUSD resilience appears based on the market's growing concern that LTRO repayments will be larger than expected (thus reducing the ECB balance sheet / tightening more than expected) and driving up the EUR vs the USD (e.g. ECB vs Fed balance sheet). Critically, as Citi notes, the repayment of LTRO loans will free up collateral in the form of peripheral bonds. This seems to be particularly the case ahead of tomorrow given that Spanish and Italian banks were among the biggest borrowers under LTRO’s first tranche. If these banks opt to benefit from the spectacular rally in BTPs and Bonos and liquidate some of their LTRO collateral (shrinking their balance sheets in the process) this could fuel renewed upside pressure on the peripheral bond yields. This could then dampen any EUR upside post LTRO repayment - and as the main carry-driver for US equity performance, could lead to a risk-off switch quite rapidly. So tomorrow's LTRO repayment needs to be Goldilocks - too little and its clear banks have liquidity problems still; too much and the market's reaction could be notably risk-off.
We guess Americans just haven’t heard of a little something called the stock market. Isn’t that right Bernanke? Wasn’t the stock market rally you engineered supposed to make everyone feel all nice and confident? Well the great middle class squeeze continues, as the stock market is for the 1% what food stamps are for the poor. They are just strategies to keep these groups apathetic and obedient. The middle class isn’t buying it though, as is evidenced by this recent Gallup Poll conducted January 7-10, 2013.
Spanish and Greek youth unemployment surged to yet another new record as joblessness among the under-25 cohort is now above 55% for both of these troubled nations. "We haven't seen the bottom yet," one analyst notes as the BBC notes that the youth unemployment in these nations is more than double the euro-area average. As we have noted many times, this ludicrous state of affairs (in nations that proclaim the worst is past) is by far the most-concerning for European stability. Even Frau Merkel opined this morning in Davos that: *MERKEL SAYS EU YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT BIGGEST BURDEN, NEEDS TACKLED Yet, there is nothing being done. Across the 27-nation bloc, there are 5.8 million people aged under-25 that remain long-term unemployed. This has always and forever led to extreme events and social unrest, as we warned here (must read). As the year warms up, which nation will 'spring' first?
As we reported previously, the stock of the oldest bank in the world, Italy's venerable Banca Monte Dei Paschi of Siena, was halted in early trade after plunging on news that the bank had engaged in not only the previously reported secret derivative transaction with Deustche Bank to hide losses before a prior government bailout, but yet another derivative transaction, this time with Nomura, signed three years ago and whose intention, ironically, was to reduce 2012 earnings by some €220 million.What the ultimate purpose of these deals was is still unclear and will likely become apparent eventually, however it will likely require the former Chairman of the bank, Giuseppe Mussari, who served as Chair from 2006 until April 2012, and who officially quit his post as Italy's top banking lobbyist after today's revelations, to testify. One person whom he may testify against is none other than current ECB head Mario Draghi, who just happened to be the head of the Bank of Italy from 2006 to 2011, or the entire period when Monte Paschi was engaging in what increasingly appears to have been fraudulent activity.But don't worry: just like in the US, nobody of signfiicance is about to go down for this "glitch" which is about to be blamed on some poor mid-level shmuck, and which nobody in the senior level management had any idea about, and certainly not the person who ultimately would have had to give the green light: the current head of the ECB.
From the highs this morning as European markets closed, S&P 500 futures have plunged 11.5 points. Doesn't sound like much - but this is in fact the largest intraday swing of 2013...Keep calm and BTFD.
With eight months left until million of Americans are supposed to begin shopping at online markets created by the Obamacare 'tax' law, the insurance industry is concerned at the government's lack of readiness. Bloomberg reports that Jim Donelon, the head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, suggested that President Obama may need to delay the implementation of the health-care overhaul or "risk chaos" when the subsidized plans go on sale later this year. While it is clear that the administration has shown no sign of seeking a delay, Donelon notes that "...to rush into implementation before it's ready would not be in the President's best interest."
One of the most dangerous mistakes possible to make in trying to understand the shape of the economic future is to think of the fundamental concepts of economics as simple and uncontroversial. They aren’t. In economics, as in all other fields, the fundamentals are where disguised ideologies and unexamined presuppositions are most likely to hide out, precisely because nobody questions them. In this note we will explore a number of things that seem, at first glance, very obvious and basic. There are lessons of crucial and deeply practical importance to anyone facing the challenging years ahead. This is, above all, true of the first thing we want to talk about: the tangled relationship between wealth and money. Chris Martenson, likes to remind us all that money is not wealth, but a claim on wealth. He’s quite right, and it’s important to understand why.
A funny thing happened as US equity indices pushed to new highs - levered this time by Bond and FX markets - and following the new normal US-Open-to-EU-Close pattern. VIX, that much talked-about contemporaneous indicator of concern (or complacency) took a divergent dive. Different this time? Maybe... Or are all those downside call-writers covering their levered losses and forced buy-ins in AAPL? Seems like that initial burst of recovery is fading fast now as AAPL drops back below its VWAP.
The global economy is ill, and everyone who is not mired in denial or a paid shill knows it. Saying it's healthy doesn't make it so. Is is possible to usefully generalize the illness and outline a cure in a few points? Maybe not, but let's try anyway.
We are now four-for-four (five-for-five if we include the drastic downward revisions in the Chicago PMI) for regional Fed business outlooks taking a serious (and consistent) turn for the worse. Kansas Fed manufacturing just missed expectations turning negative once again. Amid the sub-indices (which were broadly weak) was a plunge in employment as it fell to August 2009 levels. This weakness in Kansas follows Richmond's quadruple dip, Empire State's weakness, and Philly's major miss and in aggregate suggests a very weak ISM to come. Of course, all of this flies in the face of today's US PMI which beat expectations and pushed to recent highs.
While the seasonally adjusted, BLS-estimated version of the China-Japan conflict says that things are normalizing, following the arrival of a Japanese envoy visiting Beijing to "soothe relations" which have been frayed since September and have led to a collapse in Japanese exports to China, the unadjusted reality is once again different, and the latest update comes from Reuters which informs that Japanese authorities have detained a Chinese boat for fishing in Japanese waters, China's Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, "even as the two countries moved to defuse tensions that flared last year over disputed islands." It is now China's turn to "de-escalate" by returning the favor in kind.
Back in 2011, when day after day the true ugly nature of the Greek economy was being exposed for all to see well just after the second and before the third bailouts of the country were a fact, and as the decade-long obfuscation campaign to present the economy far stronger than it was in reality was crashing and burning, Greece decided to do something unique: it would put all the blame on the president of its newly created, independent Greek statistics service ELSTAT, accusing him of making the country look worse than it was (as if that was at all possible). Just like in the US, the blame would never reach those who were truly responsible, and instead would find a scapegoat in a person who was new to the scene, had no political ties and connections, and could not defend himself. Today, he has defended himself... but to no avail: he will be thrown under the bus, as the economic data lies and manipulation have resumed, only this time with someone to take the blame if only for a while. Then, in a few months when the lies are uncovered to have resumed, the charade can repeat itself all over again.
We have noted the odd cyclicality in macro data (and its leading effect on the market) and it seems Goldman Sachs has also noticed that something is different this time. For 15 years, the seasonal patterns in Goldman's macro index have been mild to totally negligible; but since 2009, something changed. As the chart below indicates, it really is different this time as the macro cycle has become extremely short and consistent (drop in H1, rise in H2) - and is evident not just top-down but bottom-up in payrolls and ISM for instance. Goldman expounds pages of statistical jiggery-pokery to show what we suspected - that this is not weather or seasonality effects, and is not just US (UK and Europe see same pattern of six month cycles); but appears driven by central-bank policy actions (which have been more concentrated in Q4/Q1). 2013 is playing out exactly as the last three years has - with a downdraft that is set to continue for the next few months - though they note that stability in oil prices this time (and recent expansion of easing efforts - Fed and BoJ) may shift the pattern. For now, it appears the macro cycle is becoming shorter and warrants concern as they are unable to find anything but 'reality' as a driver of this odd cyclical pattern as the real economy fades rapidly after each and every infusion of promises from the Central Banks.