The recent market weakness (selling off in equity indices and widening in credit spreads) shares many elements of the previous dips this year, which should give bulls some comfort (the Italian- and Cyprus-led dips didn't last very long). However, there are elements which are concerning - as Citi notes, positioning in long equity and credit positions are notably 'long', and how weak cash credit has been this time around. As Citi points out, investors and the Fed are trapped in a prisoner's dilemma. Will everyone collaborate (investors hold to cash positions & dovish Fed) or betray (investors start unwinding cash positions & hawkish Fed)? The strategy each player follows will determine whether the weakness this time around is to be faded (like the previous ones this year) or not.
Some might be surprised by the title's positivity, but while the barbarous relic has meandered in an ever-compressing (triangle pattern) series of waves in the last few months, it has rather notably outperformed relative to global risk aversion, CFTC positioning, and central bank balance sheet dynamics - especially in the last few weeks. Whether the yellow metal's zero-yield is now 'technically' attractive to safe-haven flows relative to the NIRPs of Germany and Switzerland - or in fundamental anticipation of the next bout of central bank largesse, Citi's global macro strategy group remain bullish of the precious metal and the charts below suggest they are not alone - as the view that precious metals are a put on political stupidity remains front-and-center.
After a brief spike higher (just to flush all those stops) in front of Draghi's 'dis-believe' press conference this morning, markets plunged. Some wanted more but algos tickled us up to VWAP into the close once again though we note that once there - volume and average trade size surged, allowing those bigger momo players a better exit than mere mortals. Equities and broad risk assets stayed in very close sync all day with cross asset class correlation surging systemically, VIX rose and fell on the day ending down 1.4 vols at 17.5% (after touching 19.25% after the European close) - but notably VIX is now more back in line with equity/credit implied values. The USD ends today up 0.8% on the week, and implicitly commodities tumbled (copper and oil down 3-3.5% on the week and gold/silver -2%). Treasury yields bounced higher as stocks nibbled back to VWAP into the close but ended down 2-4bps (long-end outperforming). All in all - no capitulation, but a broad based derisking that seemed to benefit from some pre-positioning in protection (and help from the VWAP algos twice). Wil tomorrow's NFP be good enough to be bad or bad enough to be good (high volume and low average trade size suggests few want to position for it too aggressively).
As he began to speak the EUR rallied, EGBs rallied and ES rallied - last minute hopiness wrung out of the system, but as soon as he explained that his plan to promise a plan which plans to promise a solution was nothing but another promise and not an actual plan, so everything reversed. S&P futures are -17pts from pre-Draghi, Gold back under $1600, and the USD is ripping higher, Treasury yields are down 8bps from pre-Draghi, EURUSD is down 50pip sfpom, pre-Draghi after trading up over 1.24 as he began, and has retraced over 75% of the post-Draghi 'believe' speech. Spain and Italy have given back the immediate euphoria with Italy now 50bps wider from pre-Draghi and Spain +25bps (having retraced over 60% of the post-'believe' rally).
A slow leak higher in risk assets (assisted by Knight Capital's exposing the 'tickle-algo') into the FOMC in general was abruptly extinguished by a lack of anything new to report at all. The knee-jerk derisking was then caught as BTFD'ers could not resist and while FX markets in general were not buying the rebound, Treasuries sold off as stocks reverted back up into the green, above VWAP and above pre-FOMC levels. But as the real trading of the last 90 seconds of the day began, stocks smashed back down towards their lows with JPY crosses also dragging lower. Financials appeared to be the signal that 'all bets were off' as they went all humpty-dumpty and couldn't get back to pre-FOMC levels. Treasuries ended up 4-5bps with the belly underperforming (though off their worst levels), Gold and stocks recoupled lower, the USD closed at its highs of the day, VIX staged a come-back and closed unch at 18.9% (as stocks caught down to it too and it ended at its flattest in 10 weeks), and while HYG staged what appeared to be a miraculous effort to save the day to close unchanged (but was HYG-SPY arb), equities ended at their lows - underperforming credit notably. Of course KCG was the talk of the day, dumping over 32% of its market cap to end with a $6 handle as all those market-making algos start to look each other in the eye and fight over that last 100-lot 'real' transaction.
Do you believe in miracles? Well, all those managers who were long the QE-sensitive darlings of Financials, Materials, and Consumer Discretionary into the month can breath a collective unchanged sigh of relief - thanks to last week's Draghi drag higher. The Energy sector managed a stupendous 4.9% gain on the month. The S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq all finished about 1-1.4% higher on the month (while Dow Transports ended -2.3%) as we came close to some Hindenberg Omens in the last few days. Today's market felt like the start of a sell-the-news day as we leaked back to the edge of the Friday cliff in S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) - with an after-day-session-close snap down to catch-down to where risk-assets had broadly been biased all day - amid huge volume (leaving ES below its recent swing highs and Fibonacci levels). Commodities generally slid lower but WTI led the way ending down over 3% from Friday's close. Gold, Silver, and Copper all slid even as USD slid lower too. Treasury yields fell back retracing about half of the post-Draghi sell-off. VIX ended testing 19% into the close, up almost 1vol as the term-structure flattened ahead of the events of the next couple of days. The massive rip in volume at the close (and 5pt drop in ES) suggest plenty of short-term exits ahead of the fun-and-games of the next two days and certainly Treasuries were sending similar derisking signals.
After surging away from risk-assets into Friday's close (only to revert yesterday) and once again surging into yesterday's close, broad derisking among most risk-assets finally saw US equities catching-down to that reality in the short-term today - as they broke the EU-Summit/Spain-Bailout/Greek-Election shoulder and ended comfortably below the 50DMA. Short-end Treasury yields made new record lows as belly to long-end all fell notably close to those record lows (with 10Y back under 1.50% and 30Y under 2.60%). The USD rallied back from a 0.3% loss on the week to a 0.1% gain - thanks mostly to EUR's new 2Y low at 1.2235 intraday and AUD weakness (as JPY remains better on the week - more carry unwinds). Commodities plunged - far exceeding the USD-implied moves - with WTI down over 3% from yesterday's highs and Gold and Silver in sync down around 1% on the week. Staples and Utilities were the only sectors holding green today (marginally) as Industrials, Materials, and Energy (all the high beta QE-sensitive sectors) took a dive. It seems the message that no NEW QE without a market plunge is getting through and the reality of a global slowdown looms large. Credit outperformed (though was very quiet flow-wise) but HYG underperformed - cracking into the close - as it just seems like the most yield-chasing 'technicals-driven' market there is currently. Slightly below average volume and above average trade size offers little insight here but a pop back above 19% in VIX (and a 2-month flat in term structure), a rise in implied correlation, a rise in systemic cross-asset class correlation, and the leaking negatives of broad risk assets suggest there is more to come here (especially given the BUBA's comments this morning and a lack of real progress in Europe). The ubiquitous late-day ramp saw aggressive trade size and volume (with a delta bias to selling) as it remained far below VWAP.
S&P 500 futures have broken the shoulder and are off over 20 points from the day-session open highs but it seems that CMI's cut has spurred derisking reality in many industrials and that has knocked into everything else. WTI has plunged back under $84 and the 10Y Treasury yield just broke back under 1.50% for the first time in a month - heading close to record-lows. Equities remain at least 70pts or so rich to where Treasuries trade for now (short-term) and considerably more longer-term.
Just as we noted yesterday, the ludicrous late-day ramp in European equity markets relative to the absolute nonchalance of credit (corporate, financial, and sovereign) markets, has now reverted totally as broadly speaking Europe ends the day in the red. Spain and Italy stock indices bounced a modest 0.5% on the day as the UK's FTSE and Germany's DAX suffered the most (down 1-1.5%) on Banking Lie-Bor drama and unemployment respectively. Corporate credit leaked a little wider on the day with the investment grade credits underperforming (dragged by weakness in financials). Financials were notably weak with Subordinated credit significantly underperforming Senior credit (bail-in anyone?). Sovereigns were weak overall (not just Spain, Italy, and Portugal this time) as Spain's 2s10s has now flattened to year's lows. Swiss 2Y rates dropped further - to record closing lows at -35.2bps (after being -39bps at their best/worst of the day - suggesting all is not well, and Bunds largely tracked Treasuries as the SCOTUS decision came on and pushed derisking across assets. EURUSD tested towards 1.2400 early on but is holding -35pips or so for now at 1.2430.
The last few minutes of the European day ended with a resplendent surge in stock prices in the face of sideways to wider credit markets and deteriorating sovereign and FX markets. Not to be outdone, US equities remain in a world of hope of their own today having disconnected shortly after the US day-session open as Treasuries, Gold, and the USD have all moved in a more derisking mode. Also, despite S&P's 0.6% gain, VIX has just pushed higher into the green for the day.
Update: Gold and Silver are extending losses now.
Asian markets have been open for an hour or two now and markets have done nothing but extend the late-day derisking from the last hour of the US day-session. S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) are down around 8pts from the close, Treasury yields are 5-7bps off their intraday highs now (3-4bps lower than where they closed), JPY is strengthening (carry-off - even though Noda is scheduled to speak), AUD is weakening (carry-off - almost back to post Aussie jobs print levels), and Copper & Oil are tumbling (WTI back under $83). Gold and Silver are falling off quicker now (having suffered during the day session and stabilized a little) as it seems markets are playing catch up to their signals (still around unch from 5/28 closing levels while WTI is down almost 9% and Copper -3.5% from those swing equity highs). Broadly speaking risk assets are increasing in correlation and ES is getting dragged lower.
For the third year in a row, crude oil prices have stumbled in April (-26% in 2010, -17% in 2011, and -10% in 2012 so far). Much has been made of the help this will offer the economy and consumer spending but this is ceteris-paribus linear thinking. There are a few other critical aspects to consider that make many, including Barclays, believe "there is little to the latest price action than the increasingly self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘sell it in May and go away’, exaggerated by market positioning, with broader macroeconomic concerns used as a lightening rod." With crude inventories on the high side and gasoline (and other oil product) inventories relatively low and falling - we would hold our breaths on the recent crude price drop funneling along to the retail pump price anytime soon as there is one critical aspect of the supply-demand equation that many have missed - a period of heavier-than-usual refinery maintenance which while temporary have reduced demand but tell us nothing about the state of final demand. In other words, even if a balance of sorts was achieved in terms of crude flows in March and April due to maintenance, that balance is likely to be disturbed from June onwards. The mainstream media is full of talking-heads on the chronic weakness in US oil demand, but it does not appear to be a real phenomenon according to the steadily improving flow of data and while Greece, Hollande, and US macro data has dragged out macro shorts, it would appear the fundamentals support oil prices higher from here. With the upward-sloping curve in crude to year-end and the relatively small drop this week (-1.2% only in WTI) despite all the derisking, perhaps the market is already starting to realize.
Just as we warned last night, the lack of an active European credit market to look over the shoulders of their more exuberant equity colleagues quickly came to bear today as London traders turned up for work in no mood for bullish hope. Investment grade credit spreads in Europe jumped their most in a month and pushed close to four-month wides as the entire credit complex sold off aggressively. It seemed Main (the European IG credit index) was instrument of choice for hedgers (cheaper and more liquid with a smattering of financials) as opposed to XOVER (the European HY credit index) but we suspect the latter will rapidly catch up. Stocks fell further with Greece hitting multi-decade lows but Italy and France underperforming (as reality bit following yesterday's pump). Euro Stoxx 50 was down around 2% (now -3.5% YTD) but Spain remains the YTD biggest loser -18.2% (as opposed to Germany's DAX +9.25%). Sovereign credit was also not happy (just like yesterday) but as US opened, Italy and Spain saw notable derisking pushing their 5Y spreads +7bps and +15bps respectively on the week now. Portugal is +24bps on the week so far as the basis trade unwind begins. Europe's VIX surged above 31% for the first time since the beginning of the year and while Treasuries were bid (with 30Y touching 3%), 10Y Bunds outperformed on the safety rotation now 28.5bps inside of the 10Y TSY. EURUSD slid back under 1.30 shortly after the US opened but some miraculous gappiness (and comments from Greece) dragged its lumbering body back over the 1.30 Maginot line for now.
US Treasuries opened just over an hour ago and are now trading considerably lower in yield. 10Y yields are under 1.84%, their lowest since February 3rd and within a few bps of ther 1.7959% yield lows of mid-December which would all but guarantee a return to the September 2012 2011 low yields. More critically for all those QE-hopers, the massive divergence which we have been vociferously arguing as unsustainable between 10Y yields and the S&P 500 has how collapsed and converged perfectly. From last Tuesday's Bernanke press-conference when he hinted (albeit hedged with chatter of recklessness) that QE was still on the table (which we argued meant that - should the entire world suddenly go pear-shaped, we will step in but until then we are on hold), US equities decided that they should forget fundamentals once again and simply bid the market on nominal price improvement based on fiat-debasement - which enabled a 50 point divergence from reality- which has now completely converged and in fact S&P futures are now 10-15points below the pre-Bernanke-week-hope lows.
ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures contract) tested up to its 50DMA and rejected it early in the day (after some rhetorical enthusiasm from the ECB's new French contingent - surprise!). The 10pt rally in ES overnight into the open was the best levels of the day as we slid lower (within a small range) for the rest of the day making its initial lows around the European close and retesting (lower lows) into the US day session close. NYSE and ES volumes were about average (well below yesterday) as Stocks and HY credit underperformed IG credit (with HYG having a good day - after closing at a discount to NAV last night). The Beige Book took the shine off the day as hopes of QE3 faded (remember its the flow not the stock that counts) and that is when stocks began to leak lower - especially energy, financials, materials, and industrials. FX markets were relatively quiet (aside from Jim O'Neill's comments on the SNB which shook swissy) as the USD closed marginally lower helped by strength in EUR and GBP. AUD lost ground after the European close and JPY strengthened (derisking) which likely dragged on US stocks. The modest move in USD was echoed in commodities (apart from WTI where we broke above $103 and Brent-WTI compressed significantly - not forgetting the $1 handle on Nattie) as Gold and Silver largely went sideways all day with some weakness in Copper. Treasuries leaked higher in yield for much of the morning then stabilized after the European close as the long-end underperformed (steepening). VIX closed back above 20% (though lower from the close) having drifted from below 19% near the open - we haven't closed above 20% two-days-in-a-row since 1/18.