And now it is time for our favorite monthly chart-only newsletter, The PunchLine by Abe Gulkowitz, who unlike the momentum chasing crowd which has an attention span measured in inverse significant digits, and has a brokerage account (but endless monopoly money) that is even smaller courtesy of always being on the receiving end of a market which actually needs commission payments on both sides of those candle charts, sees well behind the headlines designed to sucker in the feeble minded twitter-traders, and presents it all with gorgeous, chartific clarity. And the only thing better than the insight of his hand-picked charts is the focus of his narrative, which speaks volumes without actually speaking volumes: "European banks are dumping government debt, deposits are draining from south European banks and a looming recession is aggravating the pain, fuelling doubts about the survival of the single currency in the European zone. Between the bookends of economic data points, rating agency actions, and political developments - - market gyrations are seriously affected by policy directions. A key consideration for any 2012 forecast is the impact of public policy on risk premiums and business confidence. Persistent fears of major policy missteps could come to a head at any time regarding the U.S. fiscal nightmare and Europe’s responses to the sovereign and banking crisis. One now needs to believe that the policy environment – both in the US and Europe – could serve as significant headwinds to growth in 2012."
Just headlines via Bloomberg from the Iran Foreign Minster Mehr:
*IRAN SAYS U.K. DECISION TO CLOSE EMBASSY IS `HASTY'
*IRAN WILL TAKE `NECESSARY MEASURES' IN REACTION, MEHR SAYS
This as Germany, Italy, and now France also call back their Ambassador from Iran.
We noted early the lackluster improvement in the EUR-USD cross-currency basis swap, especialy compared to its trend and previous crisis scenarios. Peter Tchir, of TF Market Advisors, puts today's central bank actions into context relative to the underlying problems being faced in Europe and covers the implications of some of the headlines that may have slipped past in the middle of the rally-fest. We were down over 1% on futures overnight specifically because the EFSF was a failure and banks were downgraded (belatedly) by S&P. No one is talking about EFSF right now. The IMF denial and now the Italian 'deal' is also off the table. Back on the table is "treaty changes".The swap line announcement seems largely symbolic in that changing the rate to 50 bps instead of 100 bps is not a game changer, and the basis-swap's previous bailout reaction offers less hope this time around.
It appears that the Fed decision to bail out Europe was not made this morning, or yesterday, but on Monday as per the following two headlines:
- LACKER DISSENTED AGAINST FOMC SWAP DECISION ON NOV. 28
- LACKER VOTED INSTEAD OF PLOSSER, WHO WAS UNAVAILABLE
It also means that the decision was leaked on Monday, and explains the relentless surge in stocks since then despite progressively worse news out of Europe. Q.E.D. - a plan so good Hank Paulson could have leaked it to his hedge fund buddies.
Gross On The Futility Of The European Deus Ex Machina: "A French/German Guillotine Hangs Over The Markets"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/29/2011 09:25 -0400
Bill Gross continues with his rational Keynes bashing with the following statement from his latest monthly piece just released: "What has become obvious in the last few years is that debt-driven growth is a flawed business model when financial markets and society no longer have an appetite for it. In addition to initial conditions of debt to gross domestic product and related metrics, the ability of a sovereign to snatch more than its fair share of growth from an anorexic global economy has become the defining condition of creditworthiness – and very few nations are equal to the challenge." In addition he also meaks it all too clear why the sudden reappearance of the Federal states of German-funded Europe proposal is a dead end: "On the fiscal side the EU’s solution has been to “clean up your act,” throw out the scoundrels and scofflaws (eight governments have fallen) and balance your budgets. Such a process, however, almost necessarily involves several years of recessionary growth and deflationary wage pressures on labor markets in the offending countries." Gross picturesque analogies never fail to amuse (maybe not the French though): "The ultimate vote of the working men and women in these countries will always hang over the markets like a Damocles sword or perhaps a French/German guillotine. If the axe falls, then bond defaults may follow no matter what current policies may promise in the short term." That's right. He went there. As for his conclusion, he is spot on: "Investors and investment markets will likely be supported or even heartened by recent days’ policy proposals. The problem of Euroland is twofold however. First of all, they will remain a dysfunctional family no matter what the outcome. You can’t tell a German much, and while they can issue what appear to be constructive orders and solutions to the southern peripherals, there is little doubt that none of them will “like it very much.”....Secondly, and perhaps more importantly however, investors should recognize that Euroland’s problems are global and secular in nature, reflecting worldwide delevering and growth dynamics that began in 2008." And that's it folks: Europe will never submit to a federalist union controlled by Germany. And even if it does, it is not just Europe that is broken. It is the entire world. Speaking of broken marriages, we wonder just how many CDS Gross is long parent risk-soaring Allianz?
UPDATE: Post Fitch's US outlook change, TSYs are unch and Gold is +$7 (more likely on our SocGen QE3 post)
30Y Treasuries rallied 14bps from high to low yield today peaking at the US equity day session open and troughing just prior to the late day vertical ramp-fest that managed to turn what was heading to be a mediocre day into a headline-grabbing risk-fest. Unfortunately, stocks were the only asset class enjoying this exuberance as Oil lost over 2.5% from its highs, AUDJPY and FX in general drifted lower all day and copper and silver slid after Europe's close. The huge burst in volume which ripped us back to VWAP in ES and several of the financials (as BAC was heading towards a $4 handle) was very notable and dragged ES back away from a critically risk-off performance day in CONTEXT. Credit notably underperformed equity and did not partake in the screaming reach for risk in stocks at the close with financials actually much more aggressively net sold in corporate bond land and high-yield bonds seeing selling pressure also.
Just the headlines. They speak volumes:
OBAMA SAYS U.S. `READY TO DO OUR PART' TO RESOLVE EURO CRISIS.
OBAMA SAYS SOLVING EURO CRISIS OF `HUGE IMPORTANCE' TO U.S.
On October 27th we rallied 40 points in SPX and hit 1285. So far today we are up 32 points and are at 1185. About the only positive thing I have to say is that 1185 is cheaper than 1285. The reasons for the rally are largely based on headlines and rumors out of Europe and being too pessimistic about what happens if there is no “solution”. The IMF bazooka does not seem to be there (offically denied), the EFSF is nothing like what was promised, Euro-bonds seem practically impossible in any time-frame and 'fast-treaty-ing' remains a pipe-dream, Greece is closer to actual restructuring as it starts direct negotiating, and while Thanksgiving Sales were up it seems the main reason for a market rally is the amrageddon-like scenario of the break-up and the typical belief that 'the-worse-it-gets, the-better-it-will-be-in-the-end', so buy.
- According to La Stampa, the IMF is preparing a EUR 600bln loan for Italy, in case its debt crisis worsens, although the report was swiftly denied by IMF officials
- Several papers reported that Germany is considering the option of joining the five other AAA-rated Eurozone member states to issue common bonds. However, the German finance ministry dismissed the report later in the session
- Particular narrowing was observed in the Belgian/German 10-year government bond yield spread partly after Belgian negotiators reached an accord on the country's 2012 budget during the weekend, together with well received OLO bond auctions from Belgium
A bullish argument? In three words: Print More Money.
By now the broader population has been inundated with reports of what a stunning retail experience Black Friday was. And for those who haven't just head over to CNBC: "Sales rose an estimated 6.6 percent to a record $11.4 billion on Black Friday, typically the busiest shopping day of the year for Americans, while the traffic at stores rose 5.1 percent, according to ShopperTrak. The day's sales growth was the strongest percentage gain since 2007, when sales rose 8.3 percent on the day after Thanksgiving, said Ed Marcheselli, chief marketing officer at ShopperTrak, which monitors retail traffic." This is happening despite the savings rate recently dropping to pre-Depressionary level, and despite revolving consumer credit (as in not cars and colleges), continuing to contract. That there is more than enough fine print will be largely irrelevant for the mainstream media which will naturally trumpet this as the next best thing to the S&P actually rising for once: "More than 120 stores at the Mall of America opened at midnight. The crowd at that point was about 15,000 people. Mall operators estimated that it was the largest crowd ever at the mall, which is big enough to hold seven Yankee Stadiums. While eager shoppers emerged from stores around the country lugging big-screen TVs and bags full of video games and toys, it was far from certain that people will pull out their wallets for much more than the best deals this year. Shoppers with limited budgets started using layaway at chains such as Walmart as early as October. Retail shares fell more than the overall market on Friday. "Americans are still worried about jobs, still worried about the economy," said Mike Thielmann, group executive vice president at J.C. Penney, who noted that shoppers were buying gifts and for themselves, and said jewelry was selling well." Yet what really caught our attention was the Retail Group comparison of this "record" black Friday Weekend. From Bloomberg: 'RETAIL GROUP SAYS SECOND-BEST BLACK FRIDAY WEEKEND WAS IN 2008." As a reminder, Thanksgiving 2008 happened just after a nearly 400 point plunge in the S&P in two months as can be seen in the chart below. Which begs the question: with the world on the verge every single day once again, is it a coincidence that people spent more than they did only compared to 2008 when the world was once again ending. In other words, did Americans really spend "like there is no tomorrow" (more so than ever that is)... and what happens when the bill (because there is no doubt the purchasing was entirely on credit) is in the mailbox?
Something big has to happen soon, or else...
We have discussed the obvious lack of demand for EFSF paper in the last few weeks and note that Friday saw the longer-dated issue break above 4% yield - clearly indicating the market's unwillingness to 'believe' in the AAA rating (and therefore any explicit wrapper that may evolve from this entity). Peter Tchir, of TF Market Advisors, notes the headlines and rumours are already coming in fast and furious. The EFSF is starting to put out some data and is discussing tradable insurance certificates as well as very short-dated issuance (further evidence of a dearth of demand). We worry that rolling short-dated EFSF paper will lead from a liquidit crisis to a solvency crisis much faster. European leaders clearly saw how weak the market closed every day last week (futures accelerated to the downside after 4 pm) and are trying to talk up the market. We remain highly skeptical and will continue to use overly optimistic rallies to get shorter.
UPDATE1: Oil is rallying (at $97) back towards the day's highs as EUR is back near the week's lows (1.3220).
UPDATE2: Major Financials dropped after hours (MS -0.15% on the day)
Stocks plunged at the close for the third day in a row to cap the worst Thanksgiving week ever. US equities seemed in a world of their own for much of the day - especially financials - as all the hope and rumors faded and clearly a large number wanted to be flat or short into the weekend. Across a broad basket of risk assets (CONTEXT), today's equity rally and selloff was pure emotional overshoot and correction as we closed back at reality. What has been most notable this week - particularly the last day or so, has been the sell-off in Treasuries. The concerns that European entities are repatriating anything and everything should be very worrisome and the volume into the ES close suggests that fear is growing. As Peter Tchir noted, it is increasingly evident that the only logical conclusion is that we are further away from a solution or agreement in Europe than we have been in a long time.
Back in August, the news that Venezuela ruler Hugo Chavez had decided to repatriate his gold from London vaults made headlines and was one of the key catalysts sending gold to its all time highs north of $1900/oz. Since then the story died down with no updates. Until today: Bloomberg has reported that Venezuela will receive the first shipment of gold reserves being repatriated from U.S., Canadian and European banks today. "Chavez, speaking on state television, said that the bars will be escorted to vaults in Venezuela s central bank by the military after arriving by air to the South American country. The gold that was over there in England will soon be arriving, said Chavez. The opposition says that I'll put the gold in the presidential palace or give it away to Cuba or something. This gold is going back to where it should have never left -- to the Central Bank of Venezuela. Chavez, a former paratrooper and self-professed socialist, in August ordered the central bank to repatriate $11 billion of gold as a safeguard against volatility in financial markets." Will Chavez demonstrate phenomenal foresight having collected his gold just months ahead of Europe falling into the abyss of a toxic debt spiral or were his worries unfounded? It remains to be seen. However, he will probably sleep sounder knowing that his gold is no longer in the vaults of the LBMA, HSBC, or several hundred feet under the New York Fed. That is, of course, if the "presidential palace or Cuba or something" ends up having real 999 gold, and not just several blocks of Tungsten with a pretty plating on top.