If the big hope propelling both ES and S&P cash over 2,000 was the Ukraine-Russian talks, leading to some de-escalation and a thawing of Russian-German conditions, then it was clearly a dud. As the WSJ reports, "face-to-face talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents failed to produce a breakthrough for ending the conflict over eastern Ukraine, as Kiev released videos of captured Russian soldiers and rebels pushed toward a government-held city. The one-on-one session, which Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko described as "tough and complex," ended early Wednesday after a day of talks on the crisis in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Mr. Poroshenko said afterward that he would prepare a "road map" toward a possible cease-fire with the pro-Russia separatists." In other words, absolutely no progress. There was however escalation, when overnight the September Bund future rose as much as 36 ticks to 151.18, after Poland PM Tusk said “regular” Russian troops are operating in eastern Ukraine. And so we are back to square one, with concerns over Russia pushing European bonds to new record highs, in turn leading to more US Treasury buying, while a brand new rumor of more easing from the ECB, this time by Deutsche Bank, has propped up European equities, which like US futures are trading water around the critical 2000 level.
It is unclear exactly why stock futures, bonds - with European peripheral yields hitting new record lows for the second day in a row - gold, oil and pretty much everything else is up this morning but it is safe to say the central banks are behind it, as is the "de-escalation" algo as a meeting between Russia and Ukraine begins today in Belarus' capital Minsk. Belarusian and Kazakhstani leaders will also be at the summit. Hopes of a significant progress on the peace talks were dampened following Merkel’s visit to Kiev over the weekend. The German Chancellor said that a big breakthrough is unlikely at today’s meeting. Russian FM Lavrov said that the discussion will focus on economic ties, the humanitarian crisis and prospects for a political resolution. On that note Lavrov also told reporters yesterday that Russia hopes to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine this week. What he didn't say is that he would also send a cohort of Russian troops which supposedly were captured by overnight by the Ukraine army (more shortly).
After surging all week on the worst volume of the year, US equities hit an air-pocket of reality this morning as last night's news of a Russian 'invasion' was confirmed by Ukraine (and UK reporters), denied by Russia, and met with silence from the US. Of course, thanks to a handy VIXnado, stock bounced back to VWAP, stabilized and closed the week in the green. The last two weeks have been the best for 7Y bonds in 10 months as it closes back under 2% for the first time since Oct 2013. Amid all this chaos, the US dollar closed unchanged on the week (giving up mid-week gains) as AUD and CAD strength dominated EUR weakness. Gold and silver - after a quiet week - was clubbed lower in the pre-open. Gold and oil surged higher on the Ukraine news - closing marginally lower on the week. VIX was cranked down to an 11 handle before Ukraine hit, surged back over 14.5, then jerked lower to close 'weaker' than stocks imply. Once again, US stocks surged once Europe closed (and of course, the panic buying into close makes perfect sense).
If it was crashing German business confidence yesterday setting the somber mood for European economic "growth" in the second half, with a European GDP decline if not outright contraction now almost practically inevitable, then overnight it was disappointing data from virtually every other spot in the globe (and Europe again) to hammer the message in, starting with a historic 6.8% drop in Japanese GDP driven by a record plunge in consumption, quickly followed by total social financing out of China which in aggregate rose by only RMB273.1bn in July, or just 18% of what was expected, with missing industrial production and retail sales just the cherry on top. Then it was Europe's turn again, where June Industrial Production contracted -0.3% on expectations of a 0.4% increase, to set the stage for tomorrow's Eurozone GDP print which, following Italy's triple-drip recession shocker last week, probably means it will be not only Japan but also Europe which are about to have taken a sharp move for the worse. All of which of course, explains why just as Europe opened, the USDJPY blasted off and took both EuroSTOXX and US equity futures higher with it, and at last check ES was some 10 higher.
If the global equity "markets" were in need of a sharp "horrible news is great news" boost overnight, it came courtesy of Germany's ZEW investor confidence survey, which printed at a stunning 8.6, a plunge from the 27.1 in July and far below the 17.0 expected - the lowest print since December 2012 -largely suggesting that a European triple-dip is all but assured. And if that wasn't enough, strong language from John Kerry, assured to fan the flames of geopolitical instability, came hours ago when the US SecState said even more Russian sanctions may be coming. And just to make sure the NY Fed trading desk has to come up with a new narrative is the latest development in the Russian "humanitarian convoy" saga, which as we reported last night, has departed Russia but which Ukraine is now refusing to allow into its country. All in all, it's is setting up to be another super bullish day in the rigged markets for which all that matters is... Tuesday.
Since there is nothing on today's data docket, it will be all about, you guessed it, geopolitical risks, where "consensus" is best summarized by these two Bloomberg headlines:
- Stay USD Long as Geopolitical Risks Loom
- USD is mixed and world stock markets rise as concerns over geopolitical risks ease
That pretty much covers it, although in addition to the Ukraine civil war one can now add an Iraq coup to the list of geopolitical fiascoes instigated by US foreign policy.
Gold Breaks Out As Tensions In Middle East, With Russia Intensify - Technicals and Fundamentals PositiveSubmitted by GoldCore on 08/08/2014 17:06 -0400
Gold is nearly 2% higher this week and its technical position has further improved (see key charts). On Wednesday, gold broke out of bullish descending wedge chart pattern that has formed in recent months. Another buy signal for gold came when gold rose above the 20 EMA and 50 EMA (exponential moving averages). Also positive is the fact that the price momentum oscillator (PMO) has turned up, indicating that a positive momentum shift has occurred.
High-Yield bonds funds saw record outflows of $7.1 billion this week - the fourth week running - as the slow-motion train crash in credit starts to accelerate. As Forbes reports, the huge redemption blows out past the prior record outflow of $4.63 billion in June 2013. The full-year reading is now deeply in the red, at $5.9 billion, with 43% of the withdrawal tied to ETFs. Simply put, everyone in the bond market knew 'not' to sell because liquidity is simply not there; but game theory's first mover advantage finally broke as retail investors run and create a vicious cycle of 'liquid' ETF selling forcing 'illiquid' underlying bond selling... just as we warned here and here. Why should equity investors care? See chart below...
There were some minor fireworks in the overnight session following the worst Australian unemployment data in 12 years reported previously (and which sent the AUD crashing), most notably news that the Japanese Pension Fund would throw more pensioner money away by boosting the allocation to domestic stocks from 12% to 20%, while reducing holdings of JGBs from 60% to 40%. This in turn sent the USDJPY soaring (ironically, following yesterday's mini flash crash) if only briefly before it retraced much of the gains, even as the Pension asset reallocation news now appears to be entirely priced in. It may be all downhill from here for Japanese stocks. It was certainly downhill for Europe where after ugly German factory orders yesterday, it was the turn of Europe's growth dynamo to report just as ugly Industrial Production which missed expectations of a 1.2% print rising only 0.3%. Nonetheless, asset classes have not seen major moves yet, as today's main event is the ECB announcement due out in less than an hour. Consensus expects Draghi to do nothing, however with fresh cyclical lows in European inflation prints, and an economy which is clearly rolling over from Germany to the periphery, the ex-Goldmanite just may surprise watchers.
Practically since the day Lehman went down in September 2008 Washington has been conducting a monumental farce. It has been pretending to up-root the causes of the thundering financial crisis which struck that month and to enact measures insuring that it would never happen again. In fact, however, official policy has done just the opposite. The Fed’s massive money printing campaign has perpetuated and drastically enlarged the Wall Street casino, making the pre-crisis gamblers in CDOs, CDS and other derivatives appear like pikers compared to the present momentum chasing madness. In a nutshell, the Fed’s prolonged regime of ZIRP and wealth effects based “puts” under risk assets has destroyed two-way markets.
The three charts below are still another reminder that the Fed’s heedless fueling of the third financial bubble this century has done enormous damage to the internals of financial markets. In this case, investors and savers being brutally punished by ZIRP were herded into bonds funds in a desperate scramble for yield. Yet the market’s structural liquidity condition has gone in the opposite direction. Dealer inventories of corporate bonds have plummeted by nearly 75% from pre-crash levels, meaning that the ratio of dealer inventories to bond fund assets has virtually been vaporized. The implication is no mystery. When the financial markets eventually succumb to a “risk-off” selling panic, the corporate bond market will gap down violently, "everyone is hoping to be first through the exit,” warns Citi's Matt King, "by definition, that’s not possible."
Fearful of any impact to the Portuguese/European dream, EU commission leaders folded and bailed out Banco Espirito Santo. Bond and CDS traders are scrambling this morning to come to grips with the consequences of BES bail-out/bail-in. The $6.6 billion bailout's burden-sharing has wiped out shareholders and crushed subordinated debt holders (traded down to 16c on the dollar this morning) where "the likelihood of recovery for junior bondholders is minimal,” according to one trader; but leaves senior bond holders (+10pts to 100) and depositors unaffected. However, it is those 'smart' investors who bought insurance in the CDS market that are struggling this morning as the plan to transfer BES assets to a new company, Novo Banco, may constitute a so-called 'succession event' whereby all the contracts associated with CDS move to the new company (and this do not trigger the CDS to pay). CDS spreads ripped 350bps tighter.
Following a ghastly week for stocks, the momentum algos were desperate for something, anything to ignite some upward momentum and stop the collapse which last week pushed the DJIA into the red for the year: they got it overnight with the previously reported bailout of Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo, where the foreplay finally ended and after the Portuguese Central Bank finally realized that the bank is insolvent and that no more private investors will "recapitalize" it further, finally bailed it out, sticking the stock and the subs into a bad bank runoff entity, while preserving the senior bonds. So much for Europe's much vaunted bail in regime and spreading of pain across asset classes. At least the depositors did not get Cyprused, for now.
Moments ago ISDA, which yesterday was queried whether a CDS-triggering credit event had taken place in Argentina, made a ruling. Here it is:
- The Americas [Determinations Commitee] met on August 1, 2014 and resolved that a Failure to Pay Credit Event in relation to the Argentine Republic occurred on July 30, 2014.
And now, we find out who is the biggest seller of the CDS. Up next: the CDS auction.
With Argentine politicians explaining that "Argentina is not in default" and ISDA set to decide if last night's default is an 'official' trigger event for CDS, it appears Kirchner, Kicillof, and their (k)omrades may have found an angel. The initial 'bailout' plan, by which Argentine banks bought the holdouts defaulted debt (then promptly acquiesced to Argentina's old debt-swap agreement), failed last night; but, as WSJ reports, JPMorgan is in discussions to buy the defaulted bonds of Argentina's holdout creditors. While this would not impact the default decision (that is history), it would speed up the exit from default rapidly. Of course, JPM is not doing this out of love for Argentina, we suspect they are on the hook for a few billion CDS and need some cheapest-to-deliver bonds to help them through the settlement process.