Heading into the North American open, EU stocks are seen lower across the board as market participants reacted to cautious comments from Moody’s rating agency on Spain, which noted that Spain’s fiscal outlook remains challenging despite easier targets. Still, the ratings agency further commented that easier targets do not affect Spain’s A3 government bond rating with a negative outlook. Separately to this, a BHP Billiton executive said that Chinese demand for iron ore is flattening, while according to China's state-backed auto association, China's vehicles sales this year will probably miss their growth forecasts. As a result, basic materials sector has been the worst performing sector today, while auto related stocks such as Daimler and VW also posted significant losses. The ONS reported that inflation in the UK fell to 3.4% in February, down from 3.6% in January. However, higher alcohol prices stopped the rate declining further. Going forward, the latter half of the session sees the release of the latest US housing data, as well as the weekly API report.
"Whocouldanode?" that Apple would do something like pay a de minimus dividend and begin a modest buyback program? Indeed, initial reactions for the stock seemed to be 'sell the news' but of course, it wouldn't be a day ending in 'y' if Apple didn't close green and sure enough, with seconds to spare, Apple managed to close over $600 for the first time. BofA, not so much. After pinging $10 (a healthy double of recent lows), chatter of a secondary began the process of 'normalizing' its recent behavior (the stock is still up 17% post JPM-divi/Stress test news, a whopping 10% better than any of its peers in that 4 day period). The leak in financials dragged on the S&P which limped back lower to close almost perfectly at its VWAP as NYSE trading volumes (after almost record-breaking high levels on Friday OPEX hedge removal day) dropped back to near their lows . Credit outperformed equities today but its a very 'technical' day for credit in general with the CDS/index rolls tomorrow (meaning the major credit indices will move to new maturities and new components) though HYG staggered notably early in the day. USD and Treasury weakness were the headlines of the day (aside from AAPL of course - which apparently has a great new screen) which of course helped commodities rally with high-beta Silver the best on the day +1.2% from Friday and WTI breaking $108 as Gold limped higher (tortoise-like) over $1660 at the end. VIX rose once again and the term structure flattened a little but once again post-OPEX and futures roll, there are some more difficult apples-to-camels comparisons there. Finally we note average trade size in ES today was its largest since 7/1/11.
Ahead of the US open, markets are exhibiting some modest risk appetite, with all major European bourses trading higher, and financials outperforming all other sectors. There has been little in the way of key data from Europe, however we have seen the Eurozone Trade Balance coming in alongside expectations in the seasonally adjusted reading. Bund futures continue to move lower in recent trade as US participants come into the market, with the 10-year German yield crossing the 2% level to the upside, trading at a level not seen since the 10th February. Bunds may also have experienced some pressure following the release of a research note from a major US bank recommending rotation trade with the selling of bonds and the buying of equities. USD/JPY is seen trading higher ahead of the US open following the overnight release of some relatively dovish BoJ minutes, with commentary suggesting further easing in Japan in the future. Taking a look at the energy complex, The IEA have commented on yesterday’s speculation concerning the use of the US’ Special Petroleum Reserve, stating that they have not received any contact regarding any emergency oil release. As such, WTI and Brent crude futures are seen higher; however they have seen some selling off in recent trade.
In one of the strangest headlines from Bloomberg today, MuppetGate takes on a new life...
*MAYOR BLOOMBERG MEETS WITH GOLDMAN EMPLOYEES AFTER SMITH OP-ED
Caption Contest seems appropriate...
Update: as we hit print, we see headlines that the UK will cooperate with the US on bilateral agreement to release oil stocks. Crude down big on the news, which is merely an advance move ahead of almost inevitable war with Iran, simply to make the spike more palatable.
The push to get Iran to do something terminally irrational (now that USS Enterprise in its final tour of duty is almost on location just off the side of CVN-70 Lincoln and CVN-72 Vinson in the Arabian Sea, where the US will shortly have not one, not two, but three aircraft carriers) is now in its final stretch. As AP reported earlier, Iran has been now entirely cut off from the global financial system, as that anchor of international financial transactions, SWIFT, has just taken Iran off the grid. This leaves Iran with just three options for international trade: making gold into a fully convertible currency, barter, or exchanging Rials for Renminbi and other local currencies. As a reminder, virtually the entire non-parked naval fleet will be in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf in the next 4-6 days, where 3 aircraft carriers and one big-deck amphibious warfare ship are just waiting for the order.
Gregg Smith quit Goldman in the grand style on New York Times blasting GS culture of greed. Goldman's own track record supports Smith's statement.
UPDATE: The UK outlook change has had little reaction so far: TSY yield down 1-2bps, gold/silver bounced up a little, and a small drop in GBP.
While most of the talk will be about the drop in precious metals today, the sell-off in Treasuries is of a much larger relative magnitude and yet equities broadly ignored this re-risking 'signal'. At almost 2.5 standard deviations, today's 10Y rate jump (closing it above the 200DMA for the first time in eight months) trumps the 1.3 standard deviation drop in Gold prices - taking prices back to mid-January levels. According to our data (h/t JL) for only the 14th time in the last five years (and not seen for 16 months) Treasury yields rose significantly and stocks fell as the broad gains in yesterday's financials (on the JPM rip) were held on to at the ETF level but not for Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, or Citigroup (who gave all the knee-jerk reaction back). Tech led the way as AAPL surged once again (though faltered a few times intraday) having now completed back-to-back unfilled gap-up-openings. Credit and equity were generally in sync until mid afternoon when the up-in-quality rotation took over and stocks and high-yield sold off (notably HYG - the high-yield bond ETF underperformed all day long) while investment grade credit rallied to multi-month tights. VIX bounced higher (notably more than the S&P would have implied) recovering to Monday's closing levels and back above 15%. The Treasury sell-off was 'balanced' in terms of risk-on/-off by the strength in the USD (and modest weakness in FX carry pairs as JPY's weakness was largely in sync with the rest of the majors - hinting its was a USD story). Oil and Copper both lost ground (as did Silver - the most on the day) though they tracked more in line with USD strength than the PMs.
Going into the US open, European equity markets have carried across some risk appetite from last night’s Wall Street news that 15 out of 19 major US banks had passed the Fed’s stress test scenarios. This risk appetite is evident in Europe today with financials outperforming all other sectors, currently up over 2%. Data released so far today has been relatively uneventful, with Eurozone CPI coming in alongside expectations and Industrial Production just below the expected reading for January. Taking a look at the energy complex, WTI and Brent crude futures are seen on a slight downwards trajectory so far in session following some overnight comments from China, highlighting the imbalance in the Chinese property market, dampening future demand for oil. Looking ahead in the session, the DOE crude oil inventories will shed further light on the current standing of US energy inventories.
Mark Fisher Accused By CFTC Of Pulling An MF Global, Depositing Customer Funds Into Non-Segregated AccountSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/13/2012 12:49 -0400
Mark Fisher is a staple contributor on CNBC. Or at least was. According to various headlines flashing across both Bloomberg and Reuters, it seems that his MBF Clearing Corp is the first victim of the CFTC expanding its MF Global inquiry, and Fisher's MBF Clearing Corp of performing just the same "vaporization" activity that MF Global engaged in and that boggle regulators' minds.
MBF CLEARING CORP SUED BY CFTC FOR FAILIING TO SEGREGATE FUNDS
CFTC ACCUSES MBF OF DEPOSITING CUSTOMER FUNDS INTO A NON-SEGREGATED ACCOUNT THAT ROUTINELY HELD BETWEEN $30-90 MLN
CFTC ALLEGES CUSTOMER ACCOUNTS WEREN'T PROPERLY SEGREGATED
Oops. In other news, JPM and Jon Corzine are both completely innocent of anything. But at least the CFTC can say it has done its duty of punishing transgressors and all is now well.
While he does have some new philosophy (at X% off MSRP of course, coming to a Kindle near you) to preach, Nassim Taleb's re-emergence from the darkness of the media spotlight starts with a bang: "I realized that something wrong is going on, and only one candidate 'Ron Paul' seems to have grasped the issues and is offering the right remedies". He was given quite a lengthy period to proselytize as he outlines the Big Four problems he sees with the USA (and for that matter the world): Deficits (metastatic governments), The Fed, Militarism, and non-Bailouts (what is fragile should break early). As Ron Paul notes, "It's an illusion that the USD can bailout the world", Taleb makes many interesting, though a little murmur-some for our liking, points like "you don't gamble with hyperinflation" and his comparison between the US and the Soviet Union will surely raise some headlines as he rants of the growing divide between public and private employees standards of living, our "need to do something drastic about it" and on Obama/Government and deficit reduction that "the whole thing is rotten".
European equity markets are trading higher across the board ahead of the US open, with the financials sector outstripping others and Health Care lagging behind, although still in positive territory. The main news from yesterday’s finance minister’s meeting was instruction to reduce their deficit by a further 0.5% of GDP; this is having an effect on the Spanish spread against the German bund today, underperforming against other European spreads. The main data of the European session so far comes from Germany, with the ZEW survey for Economic sentiment beating expectations for March, as well as the UK trade balance figures showing a record high in the UK’s non-EU exports. As the session progresses, participants will be looking towards the US retail sales data and the latest FOMC rate decision.
While US equity futures continue to do their thing as the DJIA 13K ceiling comes into play again (two weeks ago Dow 13K was crossed nearly 80 times), ahead of today's 2:15pm Bernanke statement which will make the case for the NEW QE even more remote, none of the traditional correlation drivers are in active mode, with the EURUSD now at LOD levels, following headlines such as the following: "Euro Pares Losses vs Dollar as Germany’s ZEW Beats Ests" and 20 minutes later "EUR Weakens After German Zew Rises for 4th Month." As can be surmised, a consumer confidence circular and reflexive indicator is the basis for this Schrodinger (alive and dead) euro, and sure enough sentiment, aka the stock market, aka the ECB's balance sheet expansion of $1.3 trillion, is "improved" despite renewed concern over Spain’s fiscal outlook after better than expected German ZEW per Bloomberg. Next, investors await U.S. retail sales, which have come in consistently weaker in the past 3 month, and unless a pick up here is noted, one can scratch Q1 GDP. None of which will have any impact on the S&P 500 policy indicator whatsoever: in an election year, not even Brian Sack can push the stock market into the red.
Today, almost every financial journalist that is published in the mainstream media prefers to be steered by their controlling interests into being a “cleaner”, scrubbing clean the facts and hard evidence of every financial crime scene and of inherent risks that lurk everywhere, and instead, opting to present a rosy, unrealistic, fantasy outlook of stock markets and the global economy.
While the recent employment report will most assuredly give the current Administration plenty to boast about the underlying trends are far more disturbing. The ongoing structural realities, the fact that many of the jobs that have been destroyed will never return, combined with the demographic shift make the headline number much less important compared with the emerging trends. Take a look at a recent Gallup Organization poll which polls weekly, rather than one week out of a month with BLS, in regards to the emerging trends of employment. The most recent poll update shows the trend of the percentage of unemployed rising. As you can see the Gallup survey tends to lead movements in the BLS poll by about 4 weeks or so. Therefore, it is highly likely that in the coming month as the massive seasonal adjustments in January and February fade out we will see the unemployment rate rise back towards 8.5%.
Global risk markets and US equity futures were drifting lower together (post China trade deficit data) into this morning's confusion in Europe but around 430ET, equities pushed higher, Treasuries rallied rapidly as we approached the US day session open and broadly speaking risk was off (in everything except stocks). Commodities dropped notably with Oil and Silver losing over 1.5% from Friday's close before heading into the US open. The across-the-board weakness in credit and our broad risk asset proxy (CONTEXT) reversed, as if by magic, as the day-session open in the US dawned and led generally by Treasuries, which staged a 4-5bps sell-off from overnight low yields (with 2s10s30s notably rising on 30Y outperformance and 10Y underperformance), we leaked back to unchanged in ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) having traded in a very narrow range all day on low volumes (across MAR and JUN). VIX made headlines for its low levels but the steepness of the term structure should be a much bigger concern. AUD weakness spurred much of the early risk-off but accelerated stringer into the US close to maintain equities as close to green as possible. A very noisy day given very little news/event risk and the general confusion in European sovereign markets which all leaked wider. Credit and the vol term structure remain notable canaries as it appears EURJPY has become carry trade-of-the-day once again.