More of the same downward drift this overnight trading session, with early Asian outflows coupled with a fresh record low in the Indian currency, driven in part by reports the Fukushima leak severity had been raised from Level 1 to Level 3, which however subsequently reversed following a weakening in the JPY and pushed the Nikkei from a steep early drop to a modest green close. China was unchanged even as Fan Jianping, chief economist at the State Information Center, said that a new reasonable range for China’s growth is 7%-9%, Xinhua said and ongoing liquidity additions by the PBOC. In Europe, newsflow was dominated early on by a Suddeutsche report that the third Greek bailout would be likely financed in part by EU budget as the reality that nothing is fixed in Europe slowly returns and fears that the latent and non-existent OMT will eventually have to be used. US futures have seen a modest risk off bias in part driven by concerns what today's key event, the FOMC minutes due out at 2 pm, would reveal (if anything new). Also on deck are Existing home sales at 10:00 am which expect a slight pick up to 5.15 million from a 5.08 million prior print. Moments ago the latest weekly MBA Mortgage Applications number came out and, to nobody surprise, it posted the last weekly decline, dropping another 4.6% with conventional refis dropping for the 10th consecutive week.
The current belief is that rising interest rates are a sign that the economy is improving as activity is pushing borrowing rates higher. In turn, as investors, this bodes well for corporate profitability which supports the current valuations of stocks in the market. While this seems completely logical the question is whether, or not, this is really the case? Increases in interest rates slow economic activity, with a lag effect, which negatively impacts earnings, margins and forward guidance. Ultimately, and it may take several quarters to manifest itself fully, the fundamental deterioration leads to a reversion in stock market prices which, ironically, will then lead to the next decline in rates.
When a sophisticated hedge fund manager takes a position in the most senior segment of a failing retail form's capital structure, it is not a bet on recovery: it's a bet on being long the fulcrum security in an upcoming chapter 11, or at worst, on having collateral coverage to cover your exposure in a liquidation Chapter 7... And for anyone who spent more than 2 minutes deciphering this morning's JCP results will know, the cash burn is immense and outweighs any glib PR-strewn headlines that support a positive future. In fact, even the CFO noted he did not see any major trend change in the short-term (i.e. more of the same downtrend?) Of course, that didn't stop CNBC's Jim Cramer from talking it up pre-market (to a 8.9% gain before the bell) as he exclaims in the clip below "this is an amazing quarter... I am positive, the stock will go higher." Well, 60 minutes after retail got their first chance to buy, JCP is down 9% from its open, in the red for the day, and reflecting more closely the dismal reality that credit markets remain convinced of.
The “cloud” in China is corporate nirvana: a high-growth tech sector in a high-growth country. Or was. And it’s showing up in the numbers.
In a session that has been painfully boring so far (yet which should pick up with CPI, jobless claims, industrial production and the NY Empire Fed on deck, as well as Wal-Mart earnings which will no doubt reflect the continuing disappointing retail plight) perhaps the only notable news was that Japan - the nation that brought you "Fukushima is contained" - was caught in yet another lie. Recall that the upside catalyst (and source of Yen weakness) two days ago was what we classified then as "paradoxical news" that Japan would cut corporate taxes in a move that somehow would offset the upcoming consumption tax hike. Turns out that, as our gut sense indicated, this was merely yet another BS trial balloon out of Japan, which admitted overnight that the entire report was a lie.
TRQ stock price is 80% lower today than it was a few years ago, yet the OT project is further along and now shipping concentrate..?
It seems the headline-reading algos are in charge once again... as Fed's Bullard held an informal discussion this lunchtime, Bloomberg headlines sent the S&P 500 (the index that represents 500 major US corporations economic viability) up and down rapidly...
*BULLARD SAYS FED DOING 'WHAT IT CAN DO' TO AID U.S. RECOVERY (not so hopeful)
*BULLARD SEES 'A LOT OF RISK GOING FORWARD' OF HIGHER INFLATION (uh oh, Sell!)
*BULLARD: FED NEEDS TO MAINTAIN CRED. ON 2% INFLATION GOAL (oh wait, Buy!)
*BULLARD SAYS U.S. SHOULD MAKE BIGGEST BANKS SMALLER (umm, Sell!)
And so the game goes on...
In the past the Jackson Hole conference very much revolved around the Fed chairman with the opening remarks often the top (and most market-moving) news from the junket. Despite an interesting docket of speakers and presenters from a central banking perspective (as BofAML details below), with no major Fed officials scheduled to speak (and only Kuroda turning up from the rest of the major world central banks), the markets are likely to pay a lot less attention to Jackson Hole than in the past.
Despite an overnight surge in the Chinese markets, with the Shanghai Composite closing up 2.4% following reports that China will not only continue with its "liquidity tightening" operation by, paradoxically, cutting RRR for smaller banks, but launch a stimulus for several Chinese provinces and city governments "on the quiet" in the form of jumbo-sized bank loans, and GDP news in Japan that were so bad they were almost good (although not bad enough to close the Nikkei in the green) US futures continue to take on water following the second worst week of 2013 as the market now appears resigned to a Taper announcement in just over 5 weeks (as we have claimed since May). News in Europe continues to be bipolar, with the big picture confirming that only dark skies lie ahead following yesterday's news that a new Greek bailout is just around the corner, or rather just after the Merkel reelection (even though Kotthaus perpetuated the lies and said a second cut in Greek debt is not on the agenda - although maybe he is not lying: maybe only Greek deposits will be cut this time), offset by on the margin improvements in the economic headlines, even as credit creation remains not only non-existent but as the FT reports (one year after Zero Hedge), some €3.2 trillion in financial deleveraging is still on deck meaning an unprecedented contraction in all credit-driven aggregates (one of which of course is GDP).
Two upcoming events could prove catalysts for a Japanese sovereign debt crisis.
The marginal economic strength that was described in the most recent GDP release from Washington has caused many to double down on their belief that the Federal Reserve will begin tapering Quantitative Easing sometime later this year. While some believe that is a fantasy given our economy's extreme dependence on QE, market observers should have learned long ago that the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) initial GDP estimates can't be trusted. A perusal of their subsequent GDP revisions in the last five years reveals a clear trend: They are almost twice as likely to revise initial estimates down rather than up, and the downward adjustments have been much larger on average. As a result of this phenomenon, an overall optimism has pervaded the economic discussion that has consistently been unfulfilled by actual performance. The government is continuously over promising and under delivering. Unfortunately, no one seems to care.
The good, if fake, Chinese "data" releases continued for a second day in row, dominating the overnight headlines with a barrage that included CPI, PPI, retail sales, industrial production, fixed investment, money growth, car sales, and much more (summary recap below). Needless to say, all the data was just "good enough" or better than expected. Yet judging by both the Chinese market (which is barely up, following the drop on yesterday's "surge" in made up trade data) and the US futures, not even algos are dumb enough to fall for the goalseek function in China_economy.xls. Either that, or traders are taking the "rebound" in the Chinese economy as a further indication that the Taper (which will take place in September), will take place in September. And since global risk sentiment continues to be driven by the USDJPY, the Yen pushing to overnight highs is not helping the "China is bullish" narrative.
The Russian Bear is stronger and more powerful than it has ever been before. Sadly, most Americans don't understand this. They still think of Russia as an "ex-superpower" that was rendered almost irrelevant when the Cold War ended. And yes, when the Cold War ended Russia was in rough shape. Today, Russia is an economic powerhouse that is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Their debt to GDP ratio is extremely small, they actually run a trade surplus every year, and they have the second most powerful military on the entire planet. Anyone that underestimates Russia at this point is making a huge mistake. The Russian Bear is back, and today it is a more formidable adversary than it ever was at any point during the Cold War. Just check out the following statistics...
"You can't go up forever," noted Bob Pisani before piling on a series of excuses for the recent 'weakness' that quite frankly could have been used at any 1.1% drop in stocks of the last 3 years... While stocks bounced off lows today and are making the headlines for a third down day for the first time in 2 months, the real story that most are ignoring is the surge in the JPY. The USD is legging lower confusing the 'Taper' chatter but it is the JPY strength that is dominating (up 3.6% against the USD in the last 4 days (and the Nikkei futures -800 from Friday's highs). Treasuries rallied 3-4bps (and the curve flattened) as it seems the modest weakness in stocks is being met with some safe-haven demand. Despite bonds' bid, Homebuilders were battered (-4.5% on the week). Gold and silver strengthened off pre-open lows as WTI fell back to around $104. VIX spiked to 13.9% at the open but ended around 13% at the close. Back to CNBC for the close: "off the lows," but not in credit Maria...
The summer doldrums continue. Overnight news included an expected 25 bps rate cut in Australia to a new record low of 2.50%, although the statement surprised by not retaining its expected dovish outlook. Perhaps this is due to the PBOC finally folding and despite raging for weeks that it was dead serious about its tightening experiment, injected another CNY12 billion in its banks via 7-day reverse repos at 4.0% compared to the previous, July 30 CNY14 billion 7 day injection at 4.40%. The Chinese central bank came, saw, and didn't like what it found in the Chinese interbank liquidity situation. Whether and how this will change the Politburo's reform agenda, and whether the provided liquidity will do much if anything, remains to be seen. Elsewhere, in Europe, German factory orders soared 3.8% on expectations of +1.0%, however all driven by Paris airshow orders which boosted bulk orders, and without which orders would have fallen -0.7%. The UK upward momentum continues with Industrial Production's turn now to soar to the highest since January 2011, while Italian GDP declined less than expected, dropping -0.2%, on expectations of a -0.4% slide. In other words Europe continues to rep and warrant that it does not need any assistance from the ECB despite a complete lock up in private lending and credit creation. Good luck with all that.