San Francisco Fed
Yesterday's weak dollar headfake has ended and overnight the USD rallied, while Asian stocks dropped to the lowest level in 7 weeks and crude oil fell as speculation returned that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as next month. The pound jumped and European stocks gained thanks to a weaker EUR.
Following last week's lull in global macro, it’s a busy start to the week in which we get the latest deluge of global flash PMIs, while the US economic calendar is loaded with New Home Sales data, Trade Balance, Initial Claims, UMichigan sentiment and the revised US Q1 GDP print on Friday. But perhaps the most expected event will be Yellen's speech on Friday at Harvard's Radcliffe, where the Fed chairman is expected to reveal some more hints on the upcoming rate hike.
After two violently volatile days in which the market soared (Monday) then promptly retraced all gains (Tuesday), the overnight session has been relatively calm with futures and oil both unchanged even as the BBG dollar index rose to the highest level since April 4. This took place despite a substantial amount of macro data from both Japan, where the GDP came well above the expected 0.3%, instead printing 1.7% annualized, which pushed stocks lower as it meant the probability of more BOJ interventions or a delay of the sales tax hike both dropped. Meanwhile, in China we got proof of the ongoing housing bubble when new property prices were reproted to have soared 12.4% Y/Y in April, which in turn pushed the local stock market to two month lows amid concerns the rampant housing bubble sector could divert funds from stocks. Yes, China is trading on the "risk" one bubble will burst another bubble.
After last week's key event, the retail sales number, which the market discounted as being too unrealistic (and overly seasonally adjusted) after printing at a 13 month high and attempting to refute the reality observed by countless retailers, this week has a quiet start today with no data of note due out of Europe and just Empire manufacturing (which moments ago missed badly) and the NAHB housing market index of note in the US session this morning.
One would have to be blinded from either denial or ignorance not see the escalating political and military tension between the U.S. and Russia/China. While the U.S. media spins the story into a tall-tale in which BRIC nation leaders are the provocateurs, the truth is that the U.S. has transformed its illegitimate “war on terror” into war on the world in a last-gasp attempt hold onto the economic and geopolitical hegemony it has enjoyed for several decades.
In the traditional post payrolls data lull, we’re kicking off what’s set to be a much quieter week for data this week with nothing of note due to be released in the US on Monday, however the week picks up with notable economic dataon NFIB small business cofidence, Import prices, PPI and culminates with Friday's retail sales report, UMichigan sentiment and business inventories.
While there was no unexpected overnight central bank announcement unlike yesterday's surprise by the RBA which unleashed volatility havoc in the FX market, which promptly spilled over into all asset classes, overnight stocks around the world saw another leg lower without a tangible catalyst, while EM currencies fell to a one-month low after two Fed presidents raised concern investors had become too complacent in their belief that U.S. interest rate raises will stay on hold. Or perhaps all that is happening is that after ignoring Trump, the market is starting to finally price in the possible reality of the Donald in the White House (although as Jeff Gundlach pointed out, Trump would be a far better president for the economy and the market than Hillary or Bernie).
Overnight Australia finally admitted it has succumbed to the global economic weakness plaguing the rest of the world when in a "surprise" move, Australia’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rate for the first time in a year to a record low and left the door open for further easing to counter a wave of disinflation that’s swept over the developed world. The move sent the local currency tumbling and local stocks climbing. Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens and his board lowered the cash rate by 25 basis points to 1.75 percent Tuesday, a move predicted by just 12 of 27 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The announcement has, not surprisingly unleashed havoc across FX markets and broadly pushed global mood into its latest "risk off" phase.
How long will interest rates stay low? We expect the Fed to keep rates very low for a long, long time.
In 1977, the total indebtedness of U.S. government, corporate and household borrowers was $323 billion. By 1985, that figure had grown to $7 trillion. Volcker left the Fed in August of 1987 after handing the reins over to Alan Greenspan. By year’s end 2015, U.S. indebtedness had swelled to $45.2 trillion. Tack on financials, which few do, and it’s $64.5 trillion and unabashedly growing. We are a nation transformed. What has today’s vast store of debt purchased? Certainly not freedom.
With oil losing some of its euphoric oomph overnight, following the API report of a surge in US oil inventories, and a subsequent report that Iran's oil minister would skip the Doha OPEC meeting altogether, the global stock rally needed another catalyst to maintain the levitation. It got that courtesy of the return of USDJPY levitation, which has pushed the pair back above 109, the highest in over a week, as well as a boost in sentiment from the previously reported Chinese trade data where exports rose the most in over a year, however much of the bounce was due to a favorable base effect from last year's decline. Additionally, as RBC reported, the 116.5% y/y increase in China’s reported March imports from HK likely reflects the growing trend of "over-invoicing", which is merely another form of capital outflow.
While the market is still enjoying the post-NFP weekly data lull, economic data starts to pick up again in the coming days, alongside the start of the reporting season. Below are this week's key events.
In the final day of the week, it has again been a story of currencies and commodities setting stock prices, however instead of yesterday's Yen surge which slammed the USDJPY as low as 107.67 and led to a global tumble in equities, and crude slide, today has been a mirror imoage after a modest FX short squeeze, which sent the Yen pair as high as 109.1, before easing back to the 108.80 range. This, coupled with a 3.5% bounce in WTI, which is back up to $38.54 and up 4.9% on the week as speculation has returned that Russia and OPEC members can reach a production freeze deal on April 17, led to a global stock rebound which will see the S&P open back in the green for 2016.
It’s important to realize that the inexorable buying of debt securities by global central banks has so distorted markets that no one can actually know what’s implied by market pricing: other than monetary policy run amok. Just this week several central banks warned they have plenty more ammunition to ease further. After all, its done so much good. Wave after wave of price insensitive frenzy and disregard for risk make these debates merely an academic exercise. But, scarily, one that directly influences policy.
After The Fed jawboned the world into the largest aggregate net short position in Treasuries in Q4 since 2010, its rapid realization that all is not well in the real world - and subsequent talking (and walking) back of rate-hike expectations - has sparked the biggest short-squeeze in 6 years and sent Treasuries up by the most since 2012. With odds collapsing for any more rate-hikes in 2016, as Yellen admits their forecasts are worthless, it seems - just as in 2010 - the bonds shorts have a way to go.