With newsflow out of Iraq having slowed down as has the ISIS offensive, which appears to have been halted north of Baghdad, the market now shifts its attention to the Fed's two-day meeting which begins today and continues through tomorrow afternoon, when it will be leaked by media outlets to ultra-wealthy speculators and robots, breaching the embargo (in exchange for a hefty payoff) some 10 minutes before 2 pm.
So much can change over a weekend.
"In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” - The Fourth Turning - Strauss & Howe – 1997
More and more investors are struggling...
Now that Q2 is not shaping up to be much better than Q1, other, mostly climatic, excuses have arisen: such as El Nino, the California drought, and even suggestions that, gasp, as a result of the Fed's endless meddling in the economy, the terminal growth rate of the world has been permanently lowered to 2% or lower. What is sadder for economists, even formerly respectable ones, is that overnight it was none other than Tyler Cowen who, writing in the New York Times, came up with yet another theory to explain the "continuing slowness of economic growth in high-income economies." In his own words: "An additional explanation of slow growth is now receiving attention, however. It is the persistence and expectation of peace." That's right - blame it on the lack of war!
Today's financial markets make a mockery out of sanity and logic. The difference between what SHOULD happen and what IS happening is perhaps the greatest it has been in our investing lifetimes. If you're perplexed, flummoxed, frustrated, stymied, enraged, bored, irritated, insulted, discouraged -- any or all of these -- by the ever-higher blind grinding of asset prices over the past several years, despite so many structural reasons for concern, you have good reason to be.
This week’s news certainly WASN’T BORING. Big events and small add up to unfolding CHAOS around the WORLD. This week’s subjects: American Empire on FIRE!, Out on a LIMB: Credit Unions facing INSOLVECY, Is rising indebtedness a sign of economic strength?, Bond YIELDS continue to collapse as the race for yield INTENSIFIES, George Orwell in Action, Showdown looming at the OK corral!, Simply UNBELIEVABLE SOVEREIGN credit market action, PHANTOM GDP, Rare INDEED, Must watch video interview with Charles Nenner,European BANKING SYSTEM INSOLVECY
Believe it or not, the main driver of risk overnight had nothing to do with Iraq, with the global economy or even with hopes for more liquidity, and everything to do with a largely meaningless component of Japan's future tax policy, namely whether or not Abe (who at this pace of soaring imported inflation and plunging wages won't have to worry much about 2015 as he won't be PM then) should cut the corporate tax rate in 2015. As Bloomberg reported, Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo today after a meeting with Finance Minister Taro Aso and Economy Minister Akira Amari, said the plan would bring the rate under 30 percent in a few years. He said alternative revenue will be secured for the move, which requires approval from the Diet.
As human beings, we are remarkably poor at predicting our future selves. We know that our personalities, preferences and values have certainly changed in the past, but, as ConvergEx's Nick Colas explains, we tend to dramatically underestimate what changes might be in store on these fronts in the future. That’s the upshot of a recent bit of research by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, and it helps explain how we process decisions as varied as whether to get a tattoo or how we invest financial capital. Stasis is our default setting when it comes to considering our futures, and that lack of imagination seems to inform how much we can predict about how other people and systems will change as well. The most important takeaway: no matter how much you think your life will remain the same, you are almost certainly wrong. And the same goes for capital markets.
It seems blood on Iraq streets and infringements near oil reserves is enough to pop crude oil price, break the airlines bubble, stall the Trannies unstoppable surge, and spark volume selling through the US equity markets. We will be reassured that this is a buying opportunity and that 'nothing fundamental has changed' and the US is 'the cleanest dirty shirt' but when the Chinese are tamping down carry with flip-flopping CNY fixes, the ECB has shot his mini-bazooka, and we know the Fed ain't un-tapering anytime soon (as they are fearsome of complacency and financial fragility), it makes one wonder if the corporate buyback machine can overwhelm the geopolitical-risk selling pressure of the rest of the world. Trannies dropped to their worst day in 4 months as all major US equities reversed any Draghi gains. Treasuries were well bid (-6bps and lower in yield on the week) as gold also benefited from safe haven status rising up to $1275. Copper slipped further south. Oil was the big news, spiking up to $106.70 (9 month highs). It's not Tuesday - what did you expect? (and remember there are no Friday POMOs in June).
Now that 25 year old math PhD HFT programmers have finally figured out what this thing called Iraq is, and why headlines around it should factor into algo trading signals, here, for their benefit is a summary of the latest events in Iraq, and also for everyone else confused why crude is back to levels not seen since last summer.
With another day of little otherwise completely irrelevant macro news (because following last night's abysmal Australian jobs data one would think the AUD would be weaker; one would be wrong), market participants - all 3 of them - and algos (which have finally uncovered where Iraq is on google maps) are finally turning their attention to the latest conflict in Iraq (because they obviously no longer care about the martial law in Thailand or the civil war in Ukraine), where the Al Qaeda spin off ISIS overnight seized at least 310K B/D in refinery capacity in northern Iraq according to the Police, and what is more concerning, is now less than a 100 kilometers away from Baghdad. Will ISIS dare to venture further south? Keep an eye on crude for the answer.
"When an activist movement holds the moral high ground against a repressive establishment power structure, the establishment’s primary recourse is to target the character of its principles. The secondary recourse is direct confrontation. If a dissenting organization is not mindlessly vicious in its methods, then simply make it 'appear' vicious. If it is not hateful in its rhetoric, then artificially tie it to people who are. And if a government really needs to kick-start a crackdown, it can engineer its own man-made calamities and blame the groups that most threaten its authority."
Yesterday's market action was perfectly predictable, and as we forecast, it followed the move of the USDJPY almost to a tick, which with the help of a last minute VIX smash (just when will the CFTC finally look at the "banging the close" in the VIX by the NY Fed?) pushed the DJIA to a new record high, courtesy of the overnight USDJPY selling which in turn allowed all day buying of the key carry pair. Fast forward to today when once again we have a replica of the set up: a big overnight dump in USDJPY has sent the dollar-yen to just over 102.000. And since Nomura has a green light by the BOJ to lift every USDJPY offer south of 102.000 we expect the USDJPY to once again rebound and push what right now is a weak equity futures session (-8) well above current levels. Unless, of course, central banks finally are starting to shift their policy, realizing that they may have lost control to the upside since algos no longer care about warnings that "volatility is too low", knowing full well the same Fed will come and bail them out on even the tiniest downtick. Which begs the question: is a big Fed-mandated shakeout coming? Could the coming FOMC announcement be just the right time and place for the Fed to surprise the market out of its "complacency" and whip out an unexpected hawk out of its sleeve?
Looking across retailers with at least $1B in market cap, the top 20 of those with the highest concentration of activist investors has under-performed a leading retailing index.