Yesterday, with all the grace of a permabull in a China propaganda store (aka CNBC), Rayond James' ever ebullient Jeff Saut tangoed in to tell anyone clueless enough to listen that stocks are cheap. Oh, and to buy some firm nobody had ever heard of before called Tangoe. In explaining what they do, here is what he said: "these people have the greatest and newest software on the planet right now. Who did they sell it to? To institutions like raymond james. We use their ordering and billing software and hopefully switch to their telecommunications software. It's nifty stuff." He also had some great things to say about Whiting Petroleum. So far so good. What Saut did not say is that his employer, Raymond James, for whom he works as chief strategist (which probably means to advise clients to dollar cost average all the way to $0.00) is an underwriter on not just one but both companies' secondary equity offerings in process, and that commenting on their growth prospects in a non-banana republic would be not only prohibited but punished (see quiet period). Well, the people with the "greatest and newest software on the planet" aren't waiting for the SEC to turn off the porncast. As can be seen from the following before and after cover pages of Tangoe's S1, Raymond James has just been fired as of this morning, following Saut's rank amateur commentary yesterday.
Oil as a commodity has always been a highly valuable early warning indicator of economic instability. Every conceivable element of our financial system depends on the price of energy, from fabrication, to production, to shipping, to the consumer’s very ability to travel and make purchases. High energy prices derail healthy economies and completely decimate systems already on the verge of collapse. Oil affects everything. This is why oil markets also tend to be the most misrepresented in the mainstream financial media. With so much at stake over the price of petroleum, and the cost steadily climbing over the past year returning to disastrous levels last seen in 2008, the American public will soon be looking for someone to blame, and you can bet the MSM will do its utmost to ensure that blame is focused in the wrong direction. While there are, indeed, multiple reasons for the current high costs of oil, the primary culprits are obscured by considerable disinformation… The most prominent but false conclusions on the expanding value of oil are centered on assertions that supply is decreasing dramatically, while demand is increasing dramatically. Neither of these claims is true…
All you need to read and some more.
BarCap said it expects precious metals to be one of the commodity price leaders in the second quarter, citing the "resumption of the kind of currency debasement/inflation concerns that have been the big driver of gold and silver prices over the past 12 months". It recommended that investors take a long position in December 2012 palladium, saying lower Russian exports should push the market into a supply deficit and bring prices "significantly above current levels" by later this year. BarCap put a second-quarter price of $745 per ounce for palladium futures on the London Metal Exchange, versus the past four weeks' average of $701. Spot palladium on the LME hit a session bottom below $645 on Thursday.
Yesterday we discussed extensively how the narrative of US decoupling, which has so far trumped everything else, is finally fading, is coming to an abrupt end, and with no other "plotline" to take its place, as China, Europe and corporate profits are all in the dumps, the only option is for more easy money to come soon. However, with crude sticky this will be a problem in an election year. Today, this sentiment has become even more acute as new Greek 2023 bonds have for the first time trade over 20%, with weakness spreading to all the other PIIGS, and talk of yet another LTRO already picking up pace. The question of what if any assets European banks is luckily ignored for now. So as futures turned red once more, here is Bank of America summarizing the bearish market sentiment this morning.
European cash equity markets were seen on a slight upward trend in the early hours of the session amid some rumours that the Chinese PBOC were considering a cut to their RRR. However, this failed to materialise and markets have now retreated into negative territory with flows seen moving into fixed income securities. This follows some market talk of selling in Greek PSI bonds due to the absence of CDSs. This sparked some renewed concern regarding the emergence of Greece from their recovery. Elsewhere, we saw the publication of the BoE’s financial stability review recommending that UK banks raise external capital as soon as possible. This saw risk-averse flows into the gilt, with futures now trading up around 40 ticks.
Dressed in the ominous black of his alter ego (Lewis), Charles reflects on his recent trip to NYC with the same incredulity as we do with our many and varied conversations with equity fund managers - they're long and terrified. The recognition of total dependency on Central Bank manipulation leaves an investing public seemingly believing in miracles. From Europe, where the consensus (media) belief is that 'all-is-now-fixed' or at minimum the can is a long way down the road (though the velocity of deterioration in Spanish spreads this week - largest 2-day widening in over 3 months - has many funds we know greatly concerned) when the reality is a dis-union declining into recession relying on more and greater money printing (while disparaging the Greek bailout and offering some crazy facts on the Greek population); to the US as incomes (and the economy) is growing modestly (very modestly) but the impact of earnings dropping (as margins/profits mean-revert) implied far less buybacks to fund the continued expansion of equities; to Asia where China (and EM implicitly) appears to be slowing. The reality is that in an election year he believes Central Banks will do all they can though warning that at some point in time even Wile.E.Coyote has to fall back to Earth.
And the US fell to second place. Nothing is gradual in modern China.
Back in early 2011, even as the global economy was at best flatlining, the one goalseeked explanation to justify a levitating stock market (which was rising solely due to the short-term effect of transitory QE2 liquidity), was soaring corporate profitability (which only lasted as long as companies could trim some residual SG&A fat; they have now cut into the bone in terms of layoffs). This time around, with corporate margins having peaked, there had to be some other validation to explain away the "narrative" of the latest bout of central bank infused stock market levitation: it just happened that this time it was once again that old faithful, and always wrong, justification - decoupling. After all one just has to listen to 5 minutes of CNBC to hear it taken for granted that the US economy is doing oh so swimmingly. Here is a newsflash for all the permabulls out there. It isn't. Not only that, but as David Rosenberg highlights, 11 of the 13 most recent economic indicators have missed consensus expectations, and one can demonstrate that the other 2 - car sales and jobs - have been simplistically manipulated into a favorable outcome. So now that the market is turning over, with Europe and China both solidly into contractionary territory, with Corporate profit margins turning over, and with US data missing virtually every print, how long until the permabullish validations all go up in smoke, and the one true source of stock market "nirvana" - cheap money - is once again in high demand from the central planning cabal. In turn, the Chairsatans of the world will do as requested, as they always do, however not with crude (the real one - Brent, not that Cushing-buffered substitate) at $125, and with the risk that Israel may attack Iran any day now, with or without the blessing of the Fed's Class A director.
For the third day in a row (equal most for the year), stocks fell, led by the broad high-beta sectors (as one would expect) with energy (suffering as WTI lost almost 2%), materials, industrials, and financials all down notably (with the majors dominating weakness in the financials - though still up significantly post-JPM-divi). Futures and cash volumes picked up from yesterday - nearing their average year-to-date but average trade size fell further equaling the lowest year-to-date. With the China news (and then Europe), it was AUD and JPY that dominated price action as JPY strengthened and AUD weakened leaving the USD tracking the EUR and ending very modestly higher on the day. Commodities faced another day of torment with Silver underperforming. Gold outperformed but was down on the day still as from mid-afternoon, the commodity complex crept higher as the USD stabilized. Broadly speaking risk assets (CONTEXT) led the equity market lower into lunch and then stabilized this afternoon - holding stocks off from further deterioration. An up-day for HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) - seemingly on the back of HY-HYG arbitrage more than asset rotation - and the craziness in the vol complex (VXX vs TVIX) somewhat supported SPY on the day but we note that ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures contract) was unable to break above its VWAP meaningfully the entire day. Treasuries sold off from early in the US day session but only very marginally as 30Y remains -4bps on the week while the rest of the curve is unch to 1bps lower in yield only.
In a number of stories in China's top newspapers today, the US has been slammed for its moves to restrict Iran's oil trade which could see Chinese banks sanctioned. As The People's Daily noted, Hong Lei (a Foreign Ministry spokesperson) warned such unilateral action was not only wrong but could exacerbate the stand-off over Iran's nuclear program. Arguing that China 'imports oil based on its economic development needs' without violating relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and undermining the third party's and international community's interests, he noted China will not accept the practice of saddling unilateral sanctions on the third country. Adding to this, China Daily notes the typical UN blah-dom of Wang Min's comments of the "more pragmatic importance to be firmly committed to dialogue and negotiations in order to properly solve the Iranian nuclear issue". While China is clearly 'disappointed' in the US efforts, Russia turns the dial to 11 with its comments that the US efforts are inflaming, as Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday, "Scientists in nearly all countries....are convinced that strikes may slow down the Iranian nuclear program. But they will never cancel it, close it down or eliminate it" warning that Iran will have no option but to develop nuclear weapons should the US strike. Well you can't please all the people all the time eh? Just ask Ben.
Bailed-out but un-restructured. And now Fiat-Chrysler CEO is crying for help as EU car sales crash.
While some believe we can decouple from the primary and secondary impacts of a China slowdown (jst what happens if we all decouple from the world?), it seems like wishful thinking that the growth engine of the world can now be waved aside on the back of "well, they will just re-stimulate and will be well" especially given where oil prices are currently. Michael Cembalest is little more sanguine that us on China's growth (expecting 7-8% GDP growth to fuel Asian economic activity) but given the 'easing' that has already occurred in China: Chinese government has injected more liquidity; expanded the quota for foreign equity investment; cut bank reserve requirements; delayed tighter capital adequacy rules; created a program through which municipalities can issue bonds with government guarantees (rather than having to borrow from banks); eased first time homebuyer restrictions; and injected capital into its biggest banks; and yet still the macro data is leaking weaker as these 12 charts highlight only too harshly.
Commodities are broadly under significant pressure but nowhere is it more noteworthy than in Crude (even though the USD is only modestly higher on the day). Brent is falling but WTI is underperforming as it trades down on the day at the biggest drop in over three months. Brent-WTI is leaking higher though as the focus shifts increasingly to Brent. WTI and Brent are trading down close to the SPR-rumor spike-low levels as China and Russia both raise the rhetoric against the US on Iran.