"...the path of tapering is going to be tough because every time the market thinks they are going to taper, yields will likely rise and conditions will tighten" - Deutsche Bank
It has been a "Summer of Recovery" for the U.S. economy with GDP growth rising from 1.1% in the first quarter to 2.5% in the second and manufacturing surveys showed sharp jumps in new orders and outlooks. The same occurred in the Eurozone with Markit's PMI reports showing sharp bounces higher and hopes that the recession that has plagued the region was finally coming to an end. The question of sustainability remains. The recent uptick in the Eurozone has now ended which most likely suggests that the recent pop in domestic production is likely ephemeral. The next couple of months of data should be telling in the regard and also suggests why employment reports have been much weaker than anticipated. With hopes once again running high that the economy is set to regain "escape velocity" in the coming year there is plenty of margin for disappointment.
Yes, yes, only the Fed matters. Still, there was some event flow overnight which while completely meaningless for the epic liquidity bubble, may have some implications eventually when the music finally stops. In thie regard, perhaps the best summary of the the lunacy coming out of the Marriner Eccles building is the following sentence from Bloomberg: "Bernanke said he was concerned that market interest rates, driven higher by his own suggestion he would scale back QE, would curb growth." One can't make this up.
Today, the Italian Senate will vote at 8:30 PM whether to formally expel the 76-year old former prime minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. Concurrently, the winner of three of the six Italian elections in the past 20 days will launch a delayed nationwide address on his political future. The contents of said address are unclear however, as Reuters reports, "political sources and local media said he would not use the address to torpedo the fragile left-right governing coalition of centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta - at least for now - despite weeks of threats to do so." Furthermore, as WSJ adds, citing a column in daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Marco Travaglio noted that Mr. Berlusconi came in third in the February vote but managed to pick the head of state, the prime minister and the government program. "Given all that, it would be crazy to trigger a crisis," observed Mr. Travaglio, a longtime critic of Mr. Berlusconi. That said, and as is well-known, the media magnate is highly unpredictable and in the past has made several versions of video announcements so he can choose one only at the last minute. However, no matter the content, what is most curious is that the vote, the Berlusconi expulsion vote and nationwide address, as well as the Bernanke press conference, which is also due at 2:30pm Eastern, will all coincide.
The day when the Fed will begin the unwind of its latest QE program (for the fourth time) has finally arrived (as has the day when an impeachment committee will vote whether to ban Berlusconi from public office, but understandably that is getting far less press). In a few short hours the answer to all those questions of whether and how much of the taper was priced in, will be revealed. But while the Taper discussions will dominate the airwaves, as they have for the past five months, there actually were some news in the world that had nothing to do with the US Politburo in charge of capital markets and the US economy, located in the Marriner Eccles building. Here is a brief summary.
A snapshot of the top Bloomberg news from five years ago shows something very unusual - an entire screen of negative headlines. Of course, back then, bad news was indeed bad news... in our new normal, a smorgasbord of cataclysmic event, terrorism, and systemic risk possibilities would likely be reason to BTFATH as it guarantees the Fed will come to the rescue... (just as they did eventually last time).
With Syria now quickly fading from the headlines and Wall Street believing that Yellen is a "shoe in" for the Fed, what headwinds still remain for the markets ahead...
Overnight trading started with Asian markets continuing where yesterday's S&P 500 fizzle ended, wishing Summers could withdraw from Fed running again, as both the Nikkei and SHCOMP were well lower by the close. Perhaps all the easy multiple-expanding, headline-driven money is made, or perhaps economic fundamentals will finally start having to justify a 17x multiple on the S&P (a good is good regime for those who may be too young, or old, to remember), but overnight US futures were dull, and no doubt anticipating today's start of the "Most important FOMC meeting ever", which concludes tomorrow with an announcement by the Fed of what and how much (if any) tapering it will commence with an eye toward halting QE next summer, although more realistically what will happen is an Untaper being announced before then. While the start of the FOMC meeting is the main event, today we get CPI, TIC flows and the NAHB housing market index. Today's POMO is another modest $1.25-$1.75 billion in the long-end sector.
First, Summers steps away; Second, Geithner politely declines; and now - just as his odds of becoming the next Fed Head begin to rise, Donald Kohn drops the following headline bomb-shells at a Brookings' event this morning
KOHN: BAIL-IN NEEDED TO PROTECT FINANCIAL SYSTEM FROM TOO BIG TO FAIL FIRMS
KOHN: VERY EASY MONETARY POLICY CAN CREATE DANGEROUS RISKS
Kohn: Problems can arise when one policy [monetary or financial regulation] is leaning so hard in one direction
That should be enough to effectively remove himself from the running... It seems we are back to the lowest common denominator Fed-head - so much for American exceptionalism again.
While headlines, we are sure, will crow of industrial production's best gain in six months, the sad fact is that the market was expecting more. At +0.4% - against an expectation of +0.5% - this is the 5th month in a row of missed expectations for this significant indicator of economic health. Capacity utilization rose but also missed expectations. It seems manufacturing and mining got a modest boost (the former bounced more than expected but only thanks to a notable prior revision downward) and Utilities dragged the headline index down - so we await the "it's the weather's fault" remarks.
A flurry of headlines suggesting the Syrian situation may not be contained, after Turkish media report a Syrian jet crashed 400 meters away from the Syrian-Turkey border.
- MILITARY JET SAID TO CRASH ON SYRIA BORDER: TURKEY’S DHA
It also appears the crash was not self-inflicted. Moments ago, Turkey's Today's Zaman adds that "Turkish army has downed a Syrian fighter jet in Hatay on the Syrian border." Has Turkey, which has been spoiling for regime change in Syria (just think of all the fringe benefits if and when the Qatari pipeline finally crosses Syria and enters Turkey), grown tired of waiting for a decisive false flag, and decided to take matters into its own hands?
While the only market moving event of note had nothing to do with the economy (as usual), and everything to do with the Fed's potential propensity to print even more dollars and inject even more reserves into the stock market (now that Summers the wrongly perceived "hawk" is out) some other notable events did take place in the Monday trading session. Of note: while India's August inflation soared far higher than the expected 5.7%, rising to 6.1% from 5.79% (making life for the RBI even more miserable, as it is fighting inflation on one hand, and a lack of liquidity on the other), in Europe inflation decelerated to 1.3% from 1.6% in July driven by a drop in energy prices, while core inflation was a tiny 1.1%. In a continent with record negative loan growth this is to be expected. Additionally, as also reported, Merkel appears to be positioned stronger ahead of this weekend's Federal election following stronger results for her CDU/CSU, if weaker for her broader coalition. In Libya, oil protesters said they would continue stoppages at oil terminals until their demands are met in yet another startling outcome for US foreign intervention. Finally, some headline on Syria noted a Kerry statement "will not tolerate avoidance of a Syria deal", while Lavrov observed that it may be time to "force Syria opposition to peace talks." And one quote of the day so far: "Don't want market to become excessively exuberant" from the ECB's Mersch- just modestly so?
Financial circles in Hong Kong are buzzing today on the new Goldman Sachs projection that gold may drop below $1,000 an ounce. The central thess: since the US economy is out of the woods, there’s no longer a need for gold as a risk hedge. But as one senior-level manager at a major investment bank noted, "Nobody knows what the f**k is going on..." However, this mentality entirely misses the point of precious metals. When the hopes and dreams of the entire global financial system rest on the lies of politicians, the whims of central bankers, and the mountains of debt they have all accumulated, things could turn on a dime... tomorrow. Gold is an insurance policy. It’s a form of money that you might never need to use. But should that need ever arise, you’ll be so much better off for owning it.
Overnight asset classes got a jolt following a report by Nikkei that Obama was moving toward naming Summers the next Fed chairman, citing “several close US sources,” pushing stocks modestly lower in Europe, with bond yields higher. According to the report, Obama is to name Summers as next Fed chairman as early as late next week, after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Otherwise, risk is still digesting the news of the confidential Twitter IPO, as it is becoming quite clear that some of the largest names (Hilton also announced yesterday) are seeking to cash out in the public markets. Is this the top?
Equity markets have to explaining to do, regardless of where you think they are heading. As ConvesrgEx's Nick Colas notes, if bullish, riddle me this: are stocks just going to hop-skip-jump over Fed tapering, U.S. budget battles, a new Federal Reserve Chair, Syria, Greek bailout 3.0, German Elections, and other near term speedbumps? Last time we checked "hope" still isn’t a strategy. And for the bears: Colas asks, how has that been working out for you over the last week of boa constrictor-like squeezes higher? Not so good. In the following note, Colas takes an out-of-the-box approach to explaining the recent rally by looking at some new academic work on the subject of stress. As it turns out, stress is only harmful if you believe it is. Maybe markets have 'learned' that lesson and view all these potential stomach-churning headlines as annoyances, rather than existential crises-in-waiting.