UPDATE: PCLN -12.5% AH (and DIS missed)
Admittedly slightly higher than yesterday's year-to-date lows in volume, today was not much better as S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) pushed up over 1400, back to three month highs, on decent average trade size (following yesterday's low average trade size). Treasuries tracked stocks (higher in yield) but Gold and the USD disconnected (from stocks) into the US open and never really recovered. ES rolled off its highs late on and reverted perfectly to VWAP once again and rather coincidentally the 'correction' occurred just as ES priced in Gold hit the year's highs (which intriguingly is a critical cliff's edge level from a year ago). Oil's surge (and Treasury's weakness) were the main risk drivers which pushed CONTEXT to lead stocks higher as FX, credit, and PMs trod water largely. Interestingly, in ETF-land, our capital structure models were flashing red with HYG down notably and credit underperforming broadly, along with VIX (and VXX having an outside up-close day) not playing along with the rally. With VIX bouncing off 4-month lows, closing back over 16% (and up on the day), the pull to VWAP into the close on decent average trade size, the plunge in short-interest, and the underperformance broadly of credit markets (especially the ever-reliable-for-a-pump-job HYG); we'd be a little nervous up here (especially after Europe's sovereign and credit weakness today).
Just like every other aspect of the global economy and capital markets, the sudden, rapid moves in every times series are becoming increasingly more pronounced: today's case in point - consumer credit. Instead of rising by the expected $10.25 billion in June, following the whopper of a May bounce when it grew by $17 billion, in June, credit rose by only $6.46 billion. On the surface this was not a big miss and was the 10th consecutive increase in a row, driven exclusively by non-revolving credit - i.e. student and GM subprime loans. However, looking below the surface shows that following May's biggest monthly surge in revolving credit since November 2007 (+$7.5 billion), consumers have again expressed a revulsion to credit, with revolving credit sliding by $3.7 billion: this was the biggest monthly contraction in revolving credit since April 2011, and before that since February 2009. Did Americans developed a sudden taste for credit funded consumption in May, only to puke it all up and then some in June? It sure appears that way based on recent retail sales numbers. The July retail sales number will simply confirm if the re-icing of US consumers has continued for another month.
The global printer-in-chief is about to address educators in Washington DC (via the video conference stream below) focusing on the need for personal financial education in the wake of the financial crisis. We suggested a name for the plan: The 'Complete Re-education And Positivism' Plan but given the audience was K-12 educators of economics, the C-R-A-P Plan just did not seem appropriate. Perhaps his proposal is the BTFD Plan?
And so the fly in the ointment arrives as beggars are not only choosers but have completely lost their minds. As we explained very, very clearly over the weekend in "In Order To Be Saved, Spain And Italy Must First Be Destroyed", the market, courtesy of its primary function of discounting being completely and utter distorted and destroyed thanks to central planning, "priced in" the fact that Spain will be bailed out in the only possible way: by making a Spanish bailout next to impossible, sending its bonds so much higher that Rajoy could not possibly see any need in demanding a bailout (something which as Art Cashin explained further today will very much infuriate Obama). Well, as often happens, we may have been ahead of the market by a few days. And reality as well: because as of minutes ago Spain's PM confirmed precisely what we warned against - that by frontrunning Spain's destruction, and hence rescue, it has doomed Spain to a fate far worse. From France24: Spain will not seek eurozone financial aid beyond an agreed rescue for its banks if more conditions than those already agreed for recapitalising lenders are attached, an EU source said Tuesday." The problem is that if and when the inevitable bailout demand comes, not only will there be more conditions, but Spain will effectively cede sovereignty to the Troika explicitly, and to Germany implicitly (for the full breakdown see here). Which again begs the question: which came first - the market frontruning the bailout or the government refusing to request a bailout on the market frontrunning the bailout and so ad inf.
While all eyes are on the absurdist tragicomedy playing out in Europe, Japan is quietly circling a financial black hole as its export economy is destroyed by its strong currency and the global recession. There is a terrible irony in export-dependent nations being viewed as "safe havens." Their safe haven status pushes their currencies higher, which then crushes their export sector, which then weakens their entire economy and stability, undermining the very factors that created their safe haven status.
Two weeks ago we noted the transmission channels that Mr. Draghi had pointed out having become broken, clearly enunciating the chasm that is developing in the interbank market. Goldman's Huw Pill takes this a step further and notes a 'red line' - running along the Pyrenees and the Alps - that has descended with banks south of this line having difficulty accessing Euro interbank markets, whereas banks north of that line remain better integrated and retain market access. This is the exact segmentation that Draghi worries is interfering with policy transmission (and thus affecting macroeconomic outcomes - in his view). Banks in the periphery have been 'red-lined' and while last week's ECB announcements initiated a policy response to this segmentation, the obvious (to anyone who actually comprehends the situation) reality is that ECB purchases of government bonds does not eliminate this 'red line'; only convincing markets through fundamental adjustment (fiscal consolidation, structural reform, and institutional building) will the red-line be lifted. This is highly improbable in the short-term and means an expectation of more direct intervention in bank funding markets (with all its encumbrance) will occur soon enough (and perhaps that is why European financial credit is underperforming).
Moments ago, members of the Greek government, which likely won't last long once the thorny issue of "math" returns and not even selling Bills to local banks (which promptly repo said Bills back to the Greek central bank) so the country can fund its payment to the ECB via an ECB guaranteed ELA payment from a Greek central Bank (confused yet) satisfies the New Normal ponzi math, made a strong statement: the country will not let any more public workers go:
- VENIZELOS SAYS STICKS TO PLEDGE NO LAYOFFS IN PUBLIC SECTOR
- KOUVELIS SAYS CAN'T ADD MORE UNEMPLOYED TO RANKS
The reason for this pledge is obvious: the last thing the country's new rulers need is more anger in the ranks as people demand a new government, which in turn will bring back Drachma redenomination risk. So what is the Greek solution instead? Simple: enter the labor pool, or the Greek version of the Permanent Paid Vacation, or akin to America's 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Expansionary monetary policy constitutes a transfer of purchasing power away from those who hold old money to whoever gets new money. This is known as the Cantillon Effect, after 18th Century economist Richard Cantillon who first proposed it. In the immediate term, as more dollars are created, each one translates to a smaller slice of all goods and services produced. How we measure this phenomenon and its size depends how we define money.... What is clear is that the dramatic expansion of the monetary base that we saw after 2008 is merely catching up with the more gradual growth of debt that took place in the 90s and 00s. While it is my hunch that overblown credit bubbles are better liquidated than reflated (not least because the reflation of a corrupt and dysfunctional financial sector entails huge moral hazard), it is true the Fed’s efforts to inflate the money supply have so far prevented a default cascade. We should expect that such initiatives will continue, not least because Bernanke has a deep intellectual investment in reflationism.
UPDATE: Added Santelli carefully negotiating LeBeau's awesome optimism.
Like everywhere else, quality collateral is increasingly being soaked away and nowhere is this more evident than in the auto industry. We recently noted the significance of the auto industry and its self-fulfilling (and destroying) channel-stuffing 'mandates' around the world but today we get confirmation of the depths the car industry will stoop to. Via Subprime News, we see that Preferred Automobile Credit Co. (PACCO) is 'expanding' both the age and mileage limits of vehicles eligible for collateral, as "the pool of quality used cars has been shrinking, making it more challenging for dealers to find quality inventory". Of course, any 'knock' on the risk management or honesty or sustainability of an auto industry so much a part of the US recovery would not be complete without CNBC's Phil LeBeau's rebuff that the entire industry sees things as golden (in all its rear-view mirror glory) - we wonder what subprime lenders were saying about the environment for loans in 2006? And of course they can carry that 20% interest-rate, car prices never go down right?
It's happening again. The euphoria is fading in the critical fulcrum security markets but stocks remain oblivious in their momentum-heavy liquidity-less way. Spanish and Italian sovereign bonds ended weaker - quite notably weaker in the case of Spain with the curve flattening significantly as the much-heralded front-end started to give some back and 10Y spain leaked back up towards 7% yields. Compared to post Draghi-'believe' (and post-Draghi 'reality') the Spanish and Italian stock markets are cock-a-hoop - massively outperforming. European equity markets in general are now the Usain Bolt compared with the Derek Redmond of European credit markets as once again stock holders are either last to get the joke or first to be ignorant enough to play the ECB's game of chicken. Spain's IBEX is now +13% from Thursday's close, followed by Italy +10% - but Italy and Spain 10Y bonds are still wide of the pre-Draghi 'reality' trough in spreads. German and Swiss rates increased modestly today but the latter remains negative out to 6Y.
Exactly one year ago, the short-interest in SPY (the S&P 500 ETF) reached epic heights at over 536mm shares. At the same time, short-interest in QQQ (the Nasdaq ETF) also short-term peaked at over 116mm shares short. While QQQ has seen a gentle drift lower in general (somewhat reflective of trading volumes in the last few years), since July of last year SPY has seen a 62% drop in short-interest and QQQ 59%. QQQ short-interest is now its lowest since October 2000 and SPY short-interest its equal lowest since October 2007 and so ammunition for charging this market higher seems to be running out. This is even more highlighted by the 45% and 30% plunge in QQQ and SPY short-interest in the last six weeks alone.
Back in 2009 when the government sacrificed GM and Chrysler bondholders just so labor unions (read voters) can be made whole, the media, for various reasons, decided not to pursue the decision-making process that left some workers with their pensions wiped out, while others were made whole and suffered no losses (with a comparable lack of investigation being conducted as to the decisions that shuttered some Chrysler dealers, but left others operating, a topic Zero Hedge had some say over). In fact, as the Daily Caller reminds us "The White House and Treasury Department have consistently maintained that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) independently made the decision to terminate the 20,000 non-union Delphi workers’ pension plan...Former Treasury official Matthew Feldman and former White House auto czar Ron Bloom, both key members of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry during the GM bailout, have testified under oath that the PBGC, not the administration, led the effort to terminate the non-union Delphi workers’ pension plan." Turns out they lied... Under oath.
If ever there was a name and a face synonymous with Einstein's famous definition of repeating the same action and expecting a different unicorn-full world of happiness, it is Boston Fed's Eric Rosengren. Thankfully far from consensus among the Fed heads - though worrying fanatical - the hyperinflationary head used the propaganda channel this morning to pump hope into an increasingly skeptical market. In an effort to pre-empt a possible slowing global economy, his prescription is "open-ended quantitative easing triggered on economic outcomes". Fearful of the US merely treading water, Rosengren sounds like he admits that it's all about the flow when he shuns pegging interest rates as a 'trigger' since this removes control of the Fed's balance sheet to market forces (in other words - we need to keep printing and expanding the balance sheet no matter what rates or stocks are doing). Stunningly, the only limiting factor he sees to this open-ended print-fest is the size of the asset markets they are buying in - which he would like to see in MBS (and suggests his disappointment at the limited scope of assets available to the Fed). Just under nine minutes sums up the extremely dangerous experimental mind of an eternal optimist "if at first (or second, or third) you don't succeed..." as he shuns the impact on (transitory) energy price rises by pointing at the lack of inflationary pressures.
Last week we explained why while endless promises of Fed intervention may be enough to confuse the market and force endless rounds of short covering as weak hands are flushed out of positions under threat (but never action) of central planning, banks are no longer in a position to delay indefinitely the moment they have all been waiting for: a $500+ billion reserve injection which will allow them to go hog wild in investing in risk assets or plug capital shortfalls (off the books of course), and otherwise continue their lives in a ZIRP environment which makes net interest margin existence impossible. We also showed that for the first time after nearly 4 years, the Fed conducted a regular (not reverse) repo last Friday. As we explained, regular repos are liquidity injecting, and while the Fed may promise these are merely test runs, everyone knows they are anything but, and are merely a telegraphing to the banks of what is in store. Today, the day after the last repo expired, we just got a new 3 day repo, only not for $210 million this time, but one for $600 million, including not only Treasury, but also Agency and MBS securities. The result: S&P above 1400 for the first time in months.