BTFATH! That was the motto overnight, when despite a plethora of mixed final manufacturing data across the globe (weaker Japan, Europe; stronger China, UK) the USDJPY carry-trade has been a one-way street up and to the right, and saw its first overnight buying scramble in weeks (as opposed to the US daytime trading session, when the JPY is sold off to push carry-driven stocks higher). Low volumes have only facilitated the now usual buying at the all time highs: The last trading day of 1H14 failed to bring with it any volatility associated with month-end and half-end portfolio rebalancing - yesterday’s S&P 500 volumes were about half that compared to the last trading day of 1H13.
The holiday shortened, and very busy, week includes the following highlights: [on Monday] US Chicago PMI; [on Tuesday] US ISM Manufacturing, Construction Spending, and Vehicle Sales, in addition to a host of PMI Manufacturing in various countries; [on Wednesday] US ADP Employment, Factory Orders; [on Thursday] US Non-farm Payrolls and Unemployment, MP Decisions by ECB and Riksbank, in addition to various Services and Composite PMIs; [on Friday] US holiday, Germany Factory Orders and Sweden IP.
It is the last day of not only the month but also the quarter, not to mention the halfway point of 2014, which means that window dressing by hedge funds will be rampant, as they scramble to catch up some of the ground lost to the S&P 500 so far in 2014. Most likely this means that once again the most shorted names will ramp in everyone's face and the short side of the hedgie book will soar, further pushing hedged P&L into the red, because remember: in a market in which all the risk is borne by the Fed there is no need to hedge.
Employment in the United States is becoming increasingly polarized, growing ever more concentrated in the highest- and lowest-paying occupations and creating growing income inequality. As the Dallas Fed explains, market changes involving middle-skill jobs in the U.S. are hastening labor market polarization. So-called "Routine" jobs have declined from 58% of employment in 1981 to 44% in 2011, while both types of non-routine jobs have expanded. Since 1990, none of the routine jobs lost in these downturns came back in the following expansions. This is a problem since middle-skill, routine jobs still account for almost half of all existing jobs; and as the Dallas Fed concludes, the pace of labor market polarization is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
Risk is no longer priced into anything. Volatility has gone to sleep. Uniformity of thought has taken over the stock market. Complacency has reached a point where even central banks have begun to worry about it: the idea that markets can only go up – once entrenched, which it is – leads to financial instability because no one is prepared when that theory suddenly snaps. But all this bullishness, this complacency is only skin deep. Beneath the layer of the largest stocks, volatility has taken over ruthlessly, the market is in turmoil, people are dumping stocks wholesale, and dreams and hopes are drowning in red ink.
With a 9 standard deviation range between the highest and lowest excuse for a forecast from the 81 "qualified" economists on Bloomberg's survey, there is plenty of room for noise to dominate signal with tomorrow's payrolls data. Goldman forecasts a softer-than-consensus 210k increase in non-farm-payrolls as May employment data flow looks more mixed, and they expect that the unemployment rate rose two-tenths to 6.5% in May (vs. consensus 6.4%). Average hourly earnings (AHE) are likely to be in focus again following several months of heightened attention to wage growth and labor market slack; Goldman expects an increase of 0.2% in May (vs. consensus 0.2%).
As the chart below shows, there’s much the Fed doesn’t understand, while at the same time showing that QE may have little purpose beyond providing a massive gift to wealthy traders and investors. With regard the question of where a dollar of QE goes, the answer is “not far.” Outside of pushing up asset prices and encouraging an occasional luxury purchase, it doesn’t seem to escape the financial sector. Liquidity that might otherwise be offered by private institutions is instead provided by the Fed, and – as Phil Collins might put it – that’s all.
With all eyes firmly focused on housing data that is adjusted beyond belief and a confidence print that merely met expectations, both the Richmond and Dallas Fed just missed expectations with some very concerning data under the hood. In no particular order - Dallas Fed outlook plunged from 14.5 to 11.8; Dallas employees plunged from 13.9 to 2.8 (and the workweek collapsed); New Orders and production also slumped as any post-weather bounce is buggered. For Richmond, new order volume plunged from 10 to 3 and capacity utilization dropped back below 0; and the outlook for shipments also slid to 3 month lows with employees expected to drop. In short - a total disaster...
The melt up is accelerating and with the momentum tailwind back, newsflow is once again irrelevant: any news that are even remotely good are trumpeted, and any bad news - such as Europe's right storm rising in the northern states, and left storm surge in the states that demand more handouts from the northern states or China sinking a Vietnamese boat, the most serious bilateral incident since 2007 - are once again (and as usual) nothing more than a catalyst for even more liquidity injections. End result: the S&P futures this morning are 5 points above Goldman's year end target of 1900 and 45 points away from its June 30, 2015 target. Can this breakneck scramble on zero volume continue until Grantham's bubble peak level of 2,200 is hit? Well of course: after all anything goes in the centrally-planned new normal. To be sure, this is an equity only phenomenon: moments ago the Bund future hit its highest level since May 19, while the 10 Year remains unchanged at 2.53% as it continues to price in the new "deflationary" (and Japanese) normal. And as has been the case during all such divergences of late, either bonds or equities are making a horrible mistake: the question remains: who? Since all equities are doing is tracking FX pairs to the pip and have completely forgotten all about fundamentals, we have a pretty good idea what the answer is.
It was supposed to be a blistering Mega Merger Monday following the news of both AT&T'a purchase of DirecTV and Pfizer's 15% boosted "final" offer for AstraZeneca. Instead it is shaping up to be not only a dud but maybe a drubbing, with AstraZeneca plunging after its board rejected the latest, greatest and last offer, European peripheral bond spreads resume blowing out again, whether on concerns about the massive Deutsche Bank capital raise or further fears that "radical parties" are gaining strength in Greece ahead of local elections. But the worst news for BTFDers is that not only did the USDJPY break its long-term support line as we showed on Friday, but this morning it is taking even more technician scalps after it dropped below its 200 DMA (101.23) which means that a retest of double digit support is now just a matter of time, as is a retest of how strong Abe's diapers are now that the Nikkei has slid to just above 14,000, while China, following its own weak housing sales data, saw the Shanghai Composite briefly dip under 2000 before closing just above it. Overall, it is shaping up to be a less than stellar day with zero econ news (hence no bullish flashing red headlines of horrible data) for the algos who bought Friday's late afternoon VIX slam-driven risk blast off.
In one of his most voracious tomes, The Wall Street Journal's Fed-see-er Jon Hilsenrath prepared 726 words and published them in 5 minutes to explain that the Fed's forecasts for Q1 were dismally wrong, that the future will all be rosy, and their forecasts spot on, and that the Taper is steady..."Fed officials acknowledged the first-quarter slowdown was worse than expected by saying activity "slowed sharply." Previously, they had just said activity merely slowed...Still, officials nodded to signs of a pickup in economic activity in March and April, suggesting they aren't too worried about the winter slowdown."
The Dallas Fed manufacturing survey beat expectations by the most since September 2013 and rose to near its highest since Feb 2012. Most of the 'current' sub-indices rose thogh prices paid tumbled (oddly to its lowest since August) and wages stagnated (as new orders surged to their 2nd highest since 2006 - entirely sustainable!!) What is probably more worrisome is the plunge in the employment expectations index - which dropped to its lowest since Dec 2013 (but but but the weather).
The coming week will be busy in terms of data releases in the US; highlights include an improvement in consumer confidence, anemic 1Q GDP growth, and solid non-farm payrolls (consensus expects 215K). Wednesday brings advanced 1Q GDP - consensus expected a pathetic 1.1% qoq, on the back of what Goldman scapegoats as "weather distortions and an inventory investment drag", personal consumption (consensus 1.9%), and FOMC (the meeting is not associated with economic projections or a press conference). Thursday brings PCE Core (consensus 0.20%). Friday brings non-farm payrolls (consensus of 215K) and unemployment (6.6%). Other indicators for the week include pending home sales, S&P/Case Shiller home price index, Chicago PMI, ADP employment, personal income/spending, and hourly earnings.
The early session risk on trade, which materialized after the Pfizer confirmation it was seeking to buy AstraZeneca, and which sent the GBPUSD to its highest level since 2009, and also sent the EURUSD and EURJPY soaring in the process lifting US equity futures, has started to fizzle on the most recent news out of Ukraine, where the pro-Russian mayor of Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv was shot in the back in an apparent assassination attempt, which happened hours before the US is set to announce more sanctions against the Kremlin and its closest financial oligarchs. As a result, futures have pared gaisn modestly, especially since AstraZeneca made it clear with its initial reponse it has no interest in Pfizer's offer in its current format.
Despite Janet Yellen's meet-and-greet with the unemployed and criminal classes, the absence of Ben Bernanke has seemingly empowered several Fed heads to be just a little too frank and honest about their views. The uncomfortable truthsayer this time is none other than Dallas Fed's Fisher:
*FISHER SAYS FED POLICIES HAVE MADE THE RICH 'MUCH RICHER' (but...)
*FISHER: UNCLEAR IF FED POLICIES WILL BENEFIT THE MIDDLE-CLASS
We wonder how President Obama, that crusader for fairness, equality and all time Russell 2000 highs, will feel about that? In the meantime, just like the Herp, QE is the gift that keeps on giving.. and giving... and giving... to the 0.001%.