Given emerging data in 2012, it's becoming increasingly clear that the post-war automobile era in the United States is now in well-articulated decline. Accordingly, it makes sense to note the beginning of a long-term supertrend that is just getting started: the resurrection of America’s rail system. At Seattle’s historic King Street Station (a classic example of early 20th Century railroad architecture), a nasty looking dropped-tile ceiling – which hung above travellers for decades – was removed late last year to reveal ornate plasterwork as the building undergoes extensive renovation. These cosmetic (and structural) alterations are part of a wide-ranging upgrade to the entire Cascades passenger rail service that runs from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon. In Tacoma, for example, a new station will either be built or renovated, and part of the Cascades line will be re-routed from its current shoreline path more directly through that city. Elsewhere, bridges are being rebuilt, track is being upgraded, and other infrastructure improvements are underway as part of the $500 million program to resurrect more efficient, faster inter-city rail in the 466-mile Amtrak route through this part of the Pacific Northwest. These changes will not bring European-style high-speed rail to the United States. Indeed, in many similar projects across the country, top speeds of 125 mph will characterize new system capability, rather than the average speed actually maintained from city to city. However, the incremental improvements now underway will become the platform for the next phase of investment, as Americans are increasingly persuaded to limit their car ownership and make rail transport part of their lives once again.
- ISM Manufacturing: 51.7, Exp. 51.0, Last 51.5
- Consumer Confidence: 72.2, Exp. 73.0, Last 68.4
- Construction Spending: 0.6%, Exp. 0.7%, Last -0.1%
As we enter the North American session, equity markets are seen marginally higher, as concerns over the never-ending Greek debt drama are offset by the release of an encouraging data from China. Chinese HSBC Manufacturing PMI printed a fresh 8-month high, while the official Chinese Manufacturing PMI came in line with expectations. In addition to that, a state researcher has said that the countries economy has bottomed and is stabilizing. Meanwhile in Greece, the fact that debt is now seen climbing to 192% in 2014 and an agreement on how to defuse the situation has yet to be found may lead to another speculative attack not only on Greek paper, but also other southern states. As a result, GR/GE 10s spread is seen wider by 30bps, however other peripheral bond yield spreads with respect to the German Bund are tighter. The second half of the session sees the release of the latest weekly jobs report, consumer confidence and the weekly DoE from the US.
Equity markets in Europe traded higher today, supported by solid corporate earnings, further monetary policy easing from Japan, as well as what can only be described as “less bad” GDP report from Spain. Also, commodity complex benefited from upward revision to China’s GDP estimate by analysts at Bank of America (Q4 GDP estimate now stands at 7.8% vs. Prev. view of 7.5%). Decent demand for the latest debt issuance saw IT/GE 10s tighten by c.5bps, with SP/GE 10s also seen tighter by 3bps.
With the stock markets of the "developed world" in limbo for the second straight day and leaderless as New York is paralyzed, and the US was set to be closed for a second straight day, and with futures tumbling to their lowest level in over 2 months overnight, it was time for the East to step up. And step up it did! First, it was China's turn, which while still refusing to ease outright, conducted a massive 395 billion yuan reverse repo - this operation is the biggest on record, according to Bloomberg data going back to 2004, which in turn sent China's seven-day Repo rate plunging the most since January. And because this whopping injection would prove to be promptly internalized, a few short hours later Japan followed with nothing less than QE9! Just around 2 am eastern, the BOJ announced the 9th installment in its neverending monetary farce, when it said it would proceed to monetize an additional Y11 trillion in assets. From BusinessWeek: "The BOJ expanded its asset-purchase program by 11 trillion yen ($138 billion) to 66 trillion yen, the central bank said after a policy meeting today. The range of forecasts in a Bloomberg survey was from 10 trillion yen to 20 trillion yen." Of course, in this bizarro world in which intervention is the only thing left, the latest Japanese QE had an immediate and opposite effect of that planned, sending the USDJPY lower the second it was announced, as the amount announced was disappointing to most who had expected even more easing, and the halflife was for the first time in recorded monetary intervention history, absolute zero! But at least this failed intervention for Japan, helped America, sending ES from 1393, a full 13 ticks higher, where they are now. And so the epic defense of 1400 (and 1.2900 in EURUSD) continues for a 5th straight day!
It is cloudy out there as Sandy enters the mid-Atlantic region, although for all the pre-apocalypse preparations in New York, the Frankenstorm may just be yet another dud now that its landfall is expected to come sufficiently south of NYC to make the latest round of Zone 1 evacuations about overblown as last year's Irene hysteria (of course it will be a gift from god for each and every S&P company as it will provide a perfect excuse for everyone to miss revenues and earnings in Q4). That said, Wall Street is effectively closed today for carbon-based lifeforms if not for electron ones, and a quick look at the futures bottom line, which will be open until 9:15 am Eastern, shows a lot of red, with ES down nearly 10 ticks (Shanghai down again as the same old realization seeps day after day - no major easing from the PBOC means Bernanke and company is on their own) as the Friday overnight summary is back on again: Johnny 5 must defend 1400 in ES and 1.2900 in EURUSD at all costs for just two more hours.
There have been no major overnight events or surprises, with Europe continuing a war of semantics whether the Spanish bailout is a bailout, and attempting to avoid it as long as possible while reaping the benefits of Spanish bonds which are trading at post-bailout levels for a 3rd months now, as well as whether Greece will receive more Troika money (the WSJ reported that Greece requires €30 billion through 2016 to close its funding gap: a number which will eventually double, then triple), and yet as of moments ago the EURUSD slipped under the psychological 1.2900 support, which also means that 1400 on the SPX cash is in play. Italy did not help after business confidence declined from 88.3 to 87.6 on expectations of a rise to 88.7 What news there has been is largely the realization that reality is here to stay, following misses and guides lower from Amazon and Apple, and no matter what some low-volume algo tries to represent by buying the stock in the after hours session, profitability and cash flow creation for both companies will be lower going forward. In terms of newsflow, the NYT released a report last night that China's Premier may have been hiding billions in "related-party" transactions - imagine that, and one which promptly got the NYT blocked from China's internet. Obviously this is a touchy topic for China days ahead of its internal party vote, and one which will hardly score the US brownie points with the domestic administration. Concurrently, Japan announced a new fiscal "stimulus" for a whopping ... $9.4 billion. That is roughly the amount of money needed to evade deflation for 2-3 hours. More apropos, Bild reports what Bloomberg noted earlier, namely that Merkel has no majority for reported Greek aid, further blowing up the hole that Greek finmin Stournaras dug himself in with his lies earlier this week. So while everyone is once again on edge, with the Shanghai composite sliding 1.7%, and key technical levels either breached or in play, today's session promises to be quite interesting.
Heading into the North American open, equities in Europe are seen higher, supported by financials and basic material stocks. With banks benefiting from improved credit spreads in Europe, while reports from the Chinese industry ministry saying that China’s industrial output may be faster in Q4 than in Q3 underpinned the strength by basic material sector. In terms of EU related commentary, the Spanish treasury chief has said that Spain is almost fully funded until year end and can start funding itself for 2013 adding that the ECB has already been very explicit about details of a potential bond-buying plan for Spain. He added that Spain's central government funding program for 2013 will also cover regions' financial needs. In turn, spreads tightened, with SP/GE below the 400bps level, with cash inflows via looming redemption/coupon payments also weighing on German Bunds. However the focus has been on the latest UK GDP print, which came in much higher than the median estimate and also above the upper est. GBP/USD continued to advance, with EUR/GBP on path to make a test on 0.8000 to the downside. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest weekly jobs and durables reports.
While the media continues to push the idea that the housing market is on the mend the data really doesn't yet support such optimism. The current percentage of the total number of housing units available that are currently occupied remains at very depressed levels. When it comes to the reality of the housing recovery the 4-panel chart (below) tells the whole story. There is another problem with the housing recovery story. It isn't real. The nascent recovery in the housing market, such as it has been, has been driven by the largest amount of fiscal subsidy in the history of world. The problem, however, is that for all of the financial support and programs that have been thrown at the housing market - only a very minor recovery could be mustered. With household formation at very low levels and the 25-35 cohort facing the highest levels of unemployment since the "Great Depression" it is no wonder that being a "renter" is no longer a derogatory label.
With Greece making headlines with extensions rumors (from the Greeks) and denials (from the Germans), we continue to hear of the resurgence in the Greek stock market. It must mean something after all - its up almost 90% in the last few months! The following two charts may give those who 'believe' a little pause for thought as the Athens Stock Index was down 91% from its 2007 highs before it rebounded and we remind those 'option' buyers that Eastman Kodak had fallen 93.5% from its highs before rebounding a remarkable 300% off the March 2009 lows, before giving up all of that into bankruptcy just a few short years later. Recency bias is a behavioral instinct that this market has become beholden to - but perhaps a step back might enable a little more perspective on just where we are.
Bernanke has fired his infinite bazooka and yet markets have done nothing but slide since and macro-economic data are showing further signs of weakness (New Orders and Capex) with the reality under the headlines of a housing 'recovery' hardly green-shoots. Draghi remains sidelined with his conditionally infinite bazooka as his region of the world slides deeper and deeper into the abyss of recession/depression with IFO expectations and New Orders slumping and deleveraging continuing. So, it seems, the hope for moar-money from central-bankers remains squarely on the shoulders of the PBoC. However, a glimmer of green shoots as a gentle acceleration PMI (and New Export Orders? to Japan?) suggest (as Goldman's Jim O'Neill would have us believe) that the Chinese have manufactured a slow landing (for now - given 'their' data). Hardly the driver for the next major round of stimulus that is so required to fill deleveraging shoes (leaving aside the question of food inflation concerns). So a 'blip' of a green shoot in China is in fact nothing to be celebrated as the world remains a closed-loop (no martians yet) and two of the world's three largest economies are lagging badly. Look at these three charts and decide which way the world is heading!
On the surface, today's New Home Sales number was great (as always tends to happen just before a presidential election): a print of 389K seasonally adjusted annualized units sold in the US (ignoring the 37.3% collapse in the Midwest), which was a 5.7% increase from August's downward (unlike initial jobless claims, when one is attempting to report an increase, the last number is always revised downward) revised 368K (was 373K). This number was the highest adjusted print since April 2010, which makes for great headlines. So far so good, until one looks beneath the headline and finds that the 389K number (to be revised lower next month), is based on a September unadjusted number of 31K in actual sales, consistting of 3K sales in the Northeast and MidWest each, 16K in the South and 9K in the West. This is the unadjusted number, which as last week's BLS fiasco with Initial Claims showed, applying seasonal adjustments is the easiest and best way to manipulate any data set (for more see X-12 Arima's FAQ). This was the lowest print since February's 30K, the same as August's 31K, and well below the 35K from May 2012.
After absorbing the latest PMI reports from Europe, as well as yet another disappointing German IFO survey which in turn was followed by a sharp rise in volatility, saw equity markets in Europe print lows of the day. However ever since, equities staged an impressive recovery and are now in positive territory, supported by investors looking to capitalise on oversold conditions and in part by short-positions being squeezed. The sharp and unpredictable mood swings resemble one suffering manic depression and it remains to be seen whether stocks will be able to hold onto gains. The move higher in stocks has been led by the tech sector, which has been one of the worst performing sectors over the recent weeks. Looking elsewhere, EUR underperformed its peers, largely driven by a lower EUR/GBP (by-product of deterioration in EU credit markets, as well as good sized buying by a UK bank in GBP/USD).
What better way to start the morning for EUR trading algobots (which at last check account for 50% of the volume and rising) than with a bout of total confusion over the Greek bailout (non) extension. On one hand we have the Greek FinMin Stournaras saying a two year grace period has been reached - something which the European core has said is not standalone, and which will need much more bailout cash, and on the other we once again have Germany flat out denying this report, saying the official Troika reports has not been completed, and that Greece is expected to show deviations from the fiscal plan. From Kathimerini: "Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has informed journalists that there is an agreement between the Greek government and the troika on all aspects of the austerity and reform program and the coalition is likely to be in a position to submit the measures to Parliament by the end of the week. “The package has been sealed,” Stournaras is reported to have told journalists, less than 24 hours after coalition partners Democratic Left and PASOK expressed objections to some aspects of the measures." And yet, moments ago, headlines blast that GERMANY DEP FINMIN:TROIKA REPORT ON GREECE NOT YET FINISHED and GREEK REPORT TO SHOW DEVIANCE FROM AGREED GOALS, KAMPETER SAYS. Go figure it out.
There were two major datapoints overnight: the first one came out early in the session, when the Chinese Flash HSBC PMI (not the official one), printed in contraction territory for a 12th consecutive month but jumped sufficiently to 3 month highs to give the algobots hope that China may be turning (it isn't: China, like the US has a major political event early November and all its data is more manipulated than ever). Regardless, this sent future rising to session highs until virtually yesterday's entire gap down was eliminated. The euphoria continued until several hours later we got composite European (as well as the most important German PMI data, and to far less relevant extent France, which always has been the dynamo in European economic growth), manufacturing and services PMI, both of which missed expectations or declined substantially, reaffirming that the German economy is getting dragged down more and more into recession even as continues funding the rescue of the periphery. As the chart from Markit below shows, German PMI is hinting at a solidly negative German GDP print, further confirmed by the German IFO business print which came at 100, a drop from 101.4 and below expectations of 101.6. Other secondary macroeconomic data was just as bad, which explains why futures are now well on their way to dropping back to their lows. Finally, today we get the FOMC statement, which will be much ado about nothing, and will merely serve as an appetizer to the December FOMC meeting, when Goldman (and Zero Hedge) now expected the Fed to expand unsterilized monthly monetization to increase from $40 billion to $85 billion (more on the shortly). Yet perhaps the biggest shift in mood has been coming out of our old friend Greece, where Troika negotiations, largely under the radar, are progressing from bad to worse, where the bond buyback plan was scuttled last night (as ZH reported sending Greek bonds 70 bps wider on the day and rising), and where the probability of another flash election, which can crash the precarious European balance in an instant, is rising with each passing day.