UDPATE: *UKRAINE SERVICEMAN KILLED IN CRIMEA ATTACK:RTRS CITING INTERFAX
More headlines, more buying fuel for the algos, and apparently another step closer to all out war:
- CONFLICT IN CRIMEA HAS MOVED FROM POLITICAL TO MILITARY STAGE - UKRAINIAN PM YATSENIUK
- UKRAINIAN PM SAYS HAS ASKED DEFENCE MINISTER TO ORGANISE URGENT MEETING WITH RUSSIAN, BRITISH, U.S. COUNTERPARTS
- UKRAINIAN PM: "TODAY RUSSIAN SOLDIERS BEGAN SHOOTING AT UKRAINIAN SERVICEMEN. THIS IS A WAR CRIME"
What, still reading? Run, run, run to your nearest Virtu colocated terminal and BTFWWWIIID already!
Many had feared (or expected), fallout from Crimea's referendum and subsequent accession to Russia may embolden ethnic minorities in many bordering nations to seek self-determination. It appears that is taking place in Moldova where Vedomosti reports that Mikhail Burla, head of the Transnistria region's legislature, has asked Russia's Duma for draft laws on accession to Russia to be altered to allow the region to join. The timing of this move is surreal as headlines appeared this morning that Europe is looking to speed up its "association" with Moldova. In a 2006 referendum, over 97% of Transnistrians voted to join Russia...
Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
The much anticipated, if largely moot, Crimean referendum vote whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, began early on Sunday, even as Kiev is accusing Moscow of rapidly building up its armed forces on the peninsula in "crude violation" of an international treaty.
With the Japanese stock market fading fast and macro-economic data showing anything but the kinds of inspiring recovery that Abenomics promised, the leaders in Japan have turned to a new meme - that the economy will be fixed when companies start raising their wages. Day after day the mantra is repeated in the hopes that repetition will make it come true and every company that raises wages (by an average of 4 Big Macs per month) is heralded as heroic. But, as The Japan Times reports, the government (in all its newly socialist bravado) has threatened to take the unprecedented step of shaming big "uncooperative" companies that do not raise wages during the annual spring labor talks. Forget minimum wage adjustments, this is pay-by-mandate Maduro-style; we just wonder how Abe will cope when a nation used to 'full' employment sees joblessness surge.
In a rather concerning (though not entirely surprising) turn of events, the United Nations (which may well need to be renamed after this) is making headlines:
- *RUSSIA REJECTS U.S. DRAFT RESOLUTION ON UKRAINE, CHURKING SAYS
- *U.S. DRAFT DOES NOT DIRECTLY BLAME RUSSIA FOR CRISIS IN UKRAINE
- *RUSSIA VETOES UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON UKRAINE CRISIS
- *CHINA ABSTAINS ON UN RESOLUTION ON UKRAINE
And then the US comes over the top:
- *POWER SAYS UN VOTE SHOWS RUSSIA 'ISOLATED, ALONE, WRONG'
Well "isolated and alone" with China?
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.
News about Bitcoin suddenly seems to be everywhere. The severe technological and security problems that have led to the outright collapse of Mt. Gox – the largest bitcoin exchange globally - on top of the stunning spike in bitcoin prices by more than five-fold late last year and spectacular collapse (then some rebound!) since, some high-profile arrests in the Bitcoin universe, and a swath of regulators and government officials beginning to weigh in on the subject have pushed Bitcoin and digital currencies into the headlines enough to warrant Goldman Sachs discussing it.
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
Following a triumvirate of macro misses from AsiaPac (South Korea unemployment surged, Aussie confidence plunged, and Japanese inflation tumbled), the credit concerns running riot through the collateral underlying China's shadow banking system continue to crush Copper (and iron ore) prices. Copper is limit down in Shanghai at its lowest since July 2009 - these size moves have only occurred twice in history (Lehman and the US downgrade). Japanese stocks are ignoring any ramp efforts in USDJPY and US equity futures are fading qucikly with AUDJPY....
Stocks in Europe failed to hold onto early gains and gradually moved into negative territory, albeit minor, as concerns over money markets in China gathered attention yet again after benchmark rates fell to lowest since May 2012. Nevertheless, basic materials outperformed on the sector breakdown, as energy and metal prices rebounded following yesterday’s weaker than expected Chinese data inspired sell off. At the same time, Bunds remained supported by the cautious sentiment, while EUR/USD came under pressure following comments by ECB's Constancio who said that financial markets misinterpreted us a little, can still cut rates and implement QE or buy assets. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly API report after the closing bell on Wall Street and the US Treasury will kick off this week’s issuance with a sale of USD 30bln in 3y notes.
Puerto Rico muni owners who never saw the Barron’s story or the rating firms’ downgrades are better off than those who kept up with the financial news.
Just when you thought the distractions in Russia, Malaysia, and Libya were enough to take the spotlight off domestic drama, Chris Christie's BridgeGate scandal bubbles back into the headlines. As WSJ reports, Manhattan federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey related to the business interests of its chairman, David Samson, people familiar with the matter said Monday. Samson, a close ally of Christie, is, according to sources, under investigation for potential conflicts between his private business interests and his actions as chairman of the sprawling bi-state authority, which oversees Hudson River crossings into New York City, airports, the PATH rail system and the World Trade Center complex.