Our biggest concern here on the cusp of 2013 is the current odd combination of extreme complacency about the risks presented by extend-and-pretend macro policy making and rapidly accelerating social tensions that could threaten political and eventually financial market stability. Before everyone labels us ‘doomers’ and pessimists, let us point out that, economically, we already have wartime financial conditions: the debt burden and fiscal deficits of the western world are at levels not seen since the end of World War II. We may not be fighting in the trenches, but we may soon be fighting in the streets. To continue with the current extend-and-pretend policies is to continue to disenfranchise wide swaths of our population - particularly the young - those who will be taking care of us as we are entering our doddering old age. We would not blame them if they felt a bit less than generous. The macro economy has no ammunition left for improving sentiment. We are all reduced to praying for a better day tomorrow, as we realise that the current macro policies are like pushing on a string because there is no true price discovery in the market anymore. We have all been reduced to a bunch of central bank watchers, only ever looking for the next liquidity fix, like some kind of horde of heroin addicts. We have a pro forma capitalism with de facto market totalitarianism. Can we have our free markets back please?
A few days ago, Credit Suisse did something profoundly unexpected: its Trading Strategy team led by Jonathan Tse released a report titled "High Frequency Trading - Measurement, Detection and Response" in which the firm - one of the biggest flow and prop traders by equity volume in both light and dark venues - admitted what Zero Hedge has been alleging for years (and has gotten sick and tired of preaching), and which the regulators have been unable to grasp and comprehend: that high frequency trading is a predatory system which abuses market structure and topology, which virtually constantly engages in such abusive trading practices as the Nanex-branded quote stuffing, as well as layering, spoofing, order book fading, and, last but not least, momentum ignition. While we we cover the full report in the next few days and all its SEC-humiliating implications, it is the last aspect that we wish to focus on because while all the prior ones have been extensively covered on these pages in the past, it is the phenomenon of momentum ignition that goes straight at the dark beating heart of today's zombie markets: momentum, momentum, and more momentum, in which nothing but stop hunts and even more momentum, define the "fair value" of any risk asset - i.e., reflexivity at its absolute worst (in addition to Fed intervention of course), where value is implied by technicals and trading patterns, and where algos buy simply because other algos are buying. Behold robotic stop hunts: HFT-facilitated "Momentum Ignition."
Sluggish global economic growth means many public companies will have to rely on mergers and acquisitions to generate earnings growth in 2013 and beyond (FCX aside that is). ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes that the academic discussion of whether such a strategy adds “Real” value to shareholders has shifted in recent years. From an unequivocal “No, never…” to a more qualified, “It really depends,” this discussion will grow more critical as industries from financial services to manufacturing to commodity producers evaluate their long term prospects. The key to this question, at least to Colas' thinking, is in the analysis of barriers to entry/exit and true economies of scale. The right answer to the “Does M&A add value” question is much more about business strategy and competitive analysis than any blanket statement about the merits of buying or selling assets. In summary, M&A is now simply much more important to corporate strategy than at any point in the last 30 years; over the next 5-10 years M&A activity will be increasingly necessary to keep the tailwind of growth in almost every sector of the economy and capital markets. There’s just no other way to grow (though shareholders increasingly want that 'cash' in dividends or buybacks - and not growth!)
See-sawing – and still looking for direction. Open weaker, in line with the US close. Some exuberance ahead of the Italian auction, despite negative figures. Awakening that nothing was justifying this. Re-correction while awaiting the US take of things. With the US opening flattish plus, Europe had a light lift and started tagging along, tick for tick, stuck in a loop. Some more European gloomy news to end the day. Way Down. For the moment mostly an equity move. And cut.
"Way Down" (Bunds 1,34% unch; Spain 5,92% +9; Stoxx 2475% -0,8%; EUR 1,274 +20)
- Jefferies to be bought by Ian Cumming's Leucadia in an all-stock deal for $3.59 billion or about $17/share (WSJ)
- FBI Scrutinized on Petraeus (WSJ)
- Identity of second woman emerges in Petraeus' downfall (Reuters)
- SEC staffers used government computers for personal use (Reuters)
- Japan edges towards fifth recession in 15 years (FT)
- Europe Finance Chiefs Seek Greek Pact as Economy Gloom Grows (BBG)
- Americans Say Europe Lesson Means Act Now as Austerity Will Fail (BBG) - of course it would be great if Europe had ever implemented austerity...
- Greece battles to avert €5bn default (FT)
- You don't bail out the US government for nothing: No Individual Charges In Probe of J.P. Morgan (WSJ)
- Israel Warns of Painful Response to Fire From Gaza, Syria (BBG)
- Greece's far-right party goes on the offensive (Reuters)
- Don’t fear fiscal cliff, says Democrat (FT)
- Apple Settles HTC Patent Suits Shifting From Jobs’ War (BBG)
- Man Set on Fire in Argentina Over Debt (EFE)
- Iraq cancels $4.2-billion weapons deal with Russia over corruption concerns (Globe and Mail)
- An Honest Guy on Wall Street (Bloomberg)
Heading into the North American open, equities in Europe are seen higher, supported by financials and basic material stocks. With banks benefiting from improved credit spreads in Europe, while reports from the Chinese industry ministry saying that China’s industrial output may be faster in Q4 than in Q3 underpinned the strength by basic material sector. In terms of EU related commentary, the Spanish treasury chief has said that Spain is almost fully funded until year end and can start funding itself for 2013 adding that the ECB has already been very explicit about details of a potential bond-buying plan for Spain. He added that Spain's central government funding program for 2013 will also cover regions' financial needs. In turn, spreads tightened, with SP/GE below the 400bps level, with cash inflows via looming redemption/coupon payments also weighing on German Bunds. However the focus has been on the latest UK GDP print, which came in much higher than the median estimate and also above the upper est. GBP/USD continued to advance, with EUR/GBP on path to make a test on 0.8000 to the downside. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest weekly jobs and durables reports.
- Europe’s crisis will be followed by a more devastating one, likely beginning in Japan. (Simon Johnson)
- Porsche, Daimler Indicate Europe’s Car Crisis Spreading (Bloomberg)
- No progress in Catalonia-Madrid talks (FT)
- Hilsenrath speaks: Fed's Kocherlakota Shifts on Unemployment (WSJ) - luckily QEternity made both obsolete
- Lenders Reportedly Consider New Greek Haircut (Spiegel)
- Fed Officials Highlight Benefits of Bond-Buying (WSJ)
- ESM to Launch without Leverage Vehicle Options (WSJ)
- Japanese companies report China delays (FT)
- Borg Says Swedish Taxes Can’t Go Into Ill-Managed European Banks (Bloomberg)
- Greek Leaders Struggle With Spending Reductions (Bloomberg)
- Asian Stocks Rise as iPhone 5 Debut Boosts Tech Shares (Bloomberg)
- China government's hand seen in anti-Japan protests (LA Times)
There is still some compression margin, but where to put the credit spread, real or “perceived”, from a (real) default possibility point of view or even from the shunned convertibility point of view?
Peripheral stock indices continued to outperform today, as market participants reacted to yet another reiteration of support for ECB’s pledge to do all necessary to defend the Eurozone. As a result, banks in Europe are trading up with decent gains, with health care sector in the red given its traditional appeal as a safe-haven investment. German DAX continues to consolidate above the key 7000 mark, being driven higher by Daimler and Deutsche Bank. Looking at other asset classes, there is visible outperformance in the short-end of the curve, with the in-focus Spanish 2s tighter by around 20bps mark. The ongoing speculation of an intervention in the bond market also weighed on the German Bund, which underperformed its US counterpart. USTs come off overnight highs to trade little changed, with the move attributed to deal related selling. In the FX market, the EUR continued to re-price risks surrounding what is inevitable an unlikely scenario of a Eurozone break up. To the upside, resistance levels are seen at the 55DMA line at 1.2395 and then at 1.2400, which is also an intraday option expiry for the session.
The absence of the UK from today’s trade is particularly evident, with volumes remaining particularly light across all asset classes. Nonetheless, European equities are largely seen drifting higher with the exception of the DAX index, which is yet to move over into positive territory. News flow remains light with the highlight of the day so far being comments from the Troika, confirming that Portugal remains on track with its bailout program, and have confirmed that the country will receive the next EUR 4.1bln tranche in July. FX moves remain in a tight range, with EUR/USD looking relatively unchanged, with the USD index slightly weaker as the US comes to market. Looking ahead in the session, participants can look forward to US ISM New York and Factory Orders data as the next risk events of the session.
Everyone knows that Europe is divided into the Periphery (aka the PIIGS), and the Core (aka the countries that are supposed to be safe). What everyone also knows, is that the core, naively represented by Germany and France, supposedly has homogeneous distribution of economic growth and prospects. That all changed last year, when France moved from being a AAA-rated country, to a fallen superduper angel following the Moody's downgrade to AA+. Yet nowhere is the glaring divergence between these two formerly comparable economies than in the two articles cited below, both from the same publication, and both from today.
- Fed Holds Rates Steady, But Outlooks Shift (Hilsenrath)
- Has Obama Stacked the Fed? Not Really (Hilsenrath)
- High Court Skeptical of Obama’s Use of Power as Campaign Starts (Bloomberg)
- Europe Seen Adding Growth Terms to Budget Rules as Focus Shifts (Bloomberg)
- China Reaches Out to Its Adversaries Over Rare Earths (WSJ)
- Iran Says It May Halt Nuclear Program Over Sanctions (Bloomberg)
- Europe Shifts Crisis Focus to Growth as Merkel Backs Draghi Call (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Wants Rules for Raw Material Derivative Trade (Reuters)
- Evercore Profit Falls 62% as Investment Banking Expenses Rise (Bloomberg)
Investing in an uncompetitive company in the ugly EU auto market to bail out its own failing subsidiary.
European equities are taking losses as North America comes to market, with particular underperformance noted in the periphery bourses. Risk-aversion pushed both Spanish and Italian yields higher, with the spread between the Spanish 10-year and the Bund crossing above 400BPS for the first time since Late November 2011. The yields have now come off their highs but still remain elevated. It should be noted that markets are generally light today heading into the Easter weekend as investors take risk off the markets, so large surges in volumes have been observed. In the FX markets, EUR/CHF briefly broke below the SNB’s staunchly defended 1.2000 level on some exchanges, but uncertainty remains over the exact low due to different exchanges registering different prints. Needless to say, all exchanges witnessed a 30pip spike upwards in the cross with significant demand seen pushing the cross away from the floor. EUR/CHF now trades around the 1.2020 level.
More pain in Spain has been the theme so far in the European morning as poor auction results across three lines has resulted in significant widening in the 10-yr government bond yield spreads over benchmark bunds with the Spanish 10yr yield up some 24bps on the day. In combination with this the latest Germany Factory orders also fell short of analysts’ expectations and as such the lower open in bund futures following yesterday’s less than dovish FOMC minutes has been completed retracted and we now sit above last Friday’s high at 138.58.