Did stocks window dressing come one day early in this volatile, bipolar, stop-hunting, HFT-infested market? Looking at futures this morning, which are down about 12 points already on yet another surge in the USD which has sent the EURUSD just above 1.07, the lowest since March 20 , and the USDJPY back under 120 now that the "strong dollar is bad for stocks after all" algo seems to be back from vacation, all those hedge funds who chased risk higher yesterday because their peers did the same, may find they are all selling on the way down. It will be oddly ironic if all of yesterday's widely touted gains evaporate comparably in the first 10 minutes of trading today, and lead to an end in the longest streak of quarterly increases in two decades.
The horrible events of last week just go from bad to worse, if that is possible, as investigators dig further into the disturbed past of murderous co-pilot Andreas Lubitz and find more problems, as Reuters reports:
GERMANWINGS CO-PILOT HAD BEEN IN TREATMENT FOR SUICIDAL TENDENCIES IN THE PAST
Reports have suggested he was troubled by his sexuality and also seeking treatment for vision problems. While careful to note that recent treatments suggested no suicidal tendency, this merely raises questions about historical screening and ongoing monitoring among a group of people who are ultimately responsible for the lives of many others... especially after finding "a small mountain of anti-depressants" in his apartment.
With the rest of the developed world's central banks waiting for the Fed to admit defeat for one more year and delay its proposed rate hike (or launch NIRP/QE4 outright) it was all about China (the same China which a month ago we said would launch QE sooner or later) and hope that its central bank would boost asset prices, when over the weekend the PBoC governor hinted that more easing is imminent to offset the accelerating drag after he admitted that the nation’s growth rate has tumbled "a bit" too much and that policy makers have scope to respond. How much scope it really has now that its bad debt is rising exponentially is a different question. It got so bad, Shanghai Securities News leaked a false rumor earlier forcing many to believe China would announce an unexpected rate cut as soon as today, in the process sending the Shanghai Composite soaring by 2.6%.
In a few minutes, Janet Yellen will address a lunch session in her native SF Fed (the same place that last week finally figured out what debt is) during a conference whose topic is The New Normal for Monetary Policy (the typo from "Paranormal" is easy to make). The informal agenda will be Yellen's explanation of how she plans on achieving the yield curve which we predicted back in 2010 is just a matter of time.
Crude oil prices have rallied sharply this week on headlines that a coalition of Sunni-ruled nations initiated airstrikes on Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels. Goldman's Damian Courvalin notes that this rally reversed the sell-off that occurred in part on the rising odds of a deal with Iran being reached. Courvalin expects both events to have negligible near-term supply impacts, with the build in crude inventories set to continue in 2Q15. Longer term, a deal with Iran could lead to greater OPEC supplies although the timing of the sanction relief remains uncertain. It appears today's weakness indicates a dawning realization that there's still too much...
After a few days of dollar weakness due to concerns that the Fed's rate hike intentions have been derailed following some undisputedly ugly economic data (perhaps the Fed should just make it clear there will never be rate hikes during the winter ever again) the USD has resumed its rise, and as a result risk assets, after surging early in the overnight session driven by the Nikkei225 and the Emini, the "strong dollar is bad for risk" trade has re-emerged, with the Nikkei dropping almost 500 points off its intraday highs, with US equity futures poised to open lower once more, sliding nearly 20 points in the overnight session, and surprising the BTFDers who have not seen five consecutive days of "risk-off" in a long time.
We're just a little over two weeks into PSPP and signs are already beginning to show that the ECB is effectively breaking the market. "The soaring cost of borrowing government bonds in secured lending markets highlights the distortions caused by the ECB's asset-purchase scheme, which analysts say could clog up Europe's financial system," Reuters notes.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, this morning's futures reaction to last night's shocking start of a completely unexpected Yemen proxy war, which has seen an alliance of Gulf State launch an air, and soon land, war against Yemen's Houthi rebels, is what one would expect: down, and down big. This is surprising, because on previous occasions one would expect the NY Fed, or its pet hedge fund, Citadel, or the BOJ or ECB (via the CME's "Central Bank Incentive Program") to aggressively buy ES to prevent a slide, something has changed, and for the BTFDers, that something may be very fatal with the e-Mini rapidly approaching a 1-handle yet again. The offset to tumbling stocks, as previously observed, is oil, with WTI soaring over 6% in a delayed algo response to the Qatar headlines.
Does it really take purportedly intelligent people six years to see that the macros are not responding? Better still, isn’t it time for the Fed to explain the exact channel by which its interest rate pegging and forward guidance is supposed to be transmitted to the main street economy? After all, if these channels are blocked or ineffective - then its flood of liquidity never leaves the canyons of Wall Street. In that event, the central bank actually functions as a financial doomsday machine, inflating the next financial bubble until it bursts. Then, apparently, its job is to rinse and repeat.
After three days of unexpected market weakness without an apparent cause, especially since after 7 years of conditioning, the algos have been habituated to buy on both good and bad news, overnight futures are getting weary, and futures are barely up, at least before this morning's transitory FX-driven stop hunt higher. Whether this is due to the previously noted "blackout period" for stock buybacks which started a few days ago and continues until the first week of May is unclear, but should the recent "dramatic" stock weakness persist, expect Bullard to once again flip flop and suggesting it is clearly time to hike rates, as long as the S&P does not drop more than 5%. In that case, QE4 is clearly warranted.
It is a centrally-planned "market" and everyone is merely a bystander. Last night, following a dramatic China PMI miss, which as previously reported tumbled to the worst print since early 2014 and is flashing a "hard-landing" warning, the Shanghai Composite first dipped then spiked because all a "hard-landing" means is even more liquidity by the PBOC (which as we suggested a month ago will be the last entrant into the QE party before everyone falls apart). Then, this morning, a surprise beat by the German (and Eurozone) PMI was likewise interpreted by the algos as a catalyst to buy, and at this moment both European stock and US equity futures are their session highs. So, to summarize, for anyone confused: both good and bad data is a green light to buy stocks. In fact, all one needs is a flashing red headline to launch the momentum igniting algos into a buying spasm.
Spot the odd one out...
*FISCHER SAYS RATE LIFTOFF LIKELY WARRANTED BEFORE END-2015
With the world now convinmced that Janet Yellen is as dovish as she has ever been on rate hikes, today comes the first post-FOMC speech. None other than Vice-chair Stanley Fischer is due to address The Economic Club of New York on the topic of "Monetary-policy lessons and the way ahead." As Art Cashin warned this morning, Fischer "seems to feel that the Fed must raise rates this year. He is also the only Fed official to concede that any rate hike will be different than any seen before."
As previously observed (skeptically), a main reason for the surge in the DAX, and thus the S&P, on Friday was premature hope that the Greek talks earlier were a long-overdue precursor to a Greek resolution, and as we further noted yesterday, subsequent bickering and lack of any clarity as we go into today's critical "final ultimatum" meeting between Merkel and Tsipras, is also why the Dax was lower by 1.1% at last check, even if the EURUSD continues to trade like an illiquid, B-grade currency pair whose only HFT purpose is to slam all stops within 100 pips of whatever the current price may be.
- Clinton Charity Tapped Foreign Friends (WSJ)
- Dollar Set for Worst Week Since ’13; S&P Futures Rise (BBG)
- Shale Producers Have Found Another Lifeline: Shareholders (BBG)
- BOJ Kuroda says no sign of 'currency war' brewing in world (Reuters)
- Fed Is Pushing and Pulling on Rates Riddle (WSJ
- Brent oil falls towards $54 on OPEC output, Iran (Reuters)
- Iran Talks Stall Over Ending of Sanctions (WSJ)