During the last several years of uber-accommodation by the Fed, both stock and bond prices rose. It would not be surprising if both fell in price as the Fed proceeds with a June “lift-off”. However, stocks might be the worse of the two performers. In a sense, markets are now beyond the control of the Fed. They were able to change investor behavior for a few years, but the herd mentality is now becoming dislodged: “lift-off” could possibly cause a steep reversal. We expect SPX to dip below 2000 by the time of the March 18th Fed Meeting.
"I am concerned that a sizable equity market correction looms. In order to justify general equity market over-weights, either risk premiums needs to fall further, or the economy and financial markets need to have reached a level of ‘escape velocity’ powerful enough to push them forward, even in the face of Fed rate hikes. I find such a ‘soft landing’ scenario improbable at best."
With rates seemingly flip-flopped today (yields higher as stocks drop), we thought it worth skimming what the smart money in the bond market is thinking. As RBS Strategist Bill O'Donnell warns, "Janet must act like a diving instructor, hoping to bring levels to the surface without giving the economy the bends. What makes it really risky for Janet is that financial sector regulation has created a ‘one-way valve’ in secondary market liquidity. Nobody really knows how the system will hold up under duress." This is confirmed by Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann who fears, "the Fed will have difficulties controlling market gyrations and its potential loss of credibility from troubles that are likely to arise from its exit strategy."
This week’s market reaction to Fed chair Janet Yellen’s Humphrey Hawkins testimony – which was initially perceived as hawkish – provided another highlight of just how nervous investors have become about the risk of tighter monetary policy, post the very strong June payrolls report. As BofA warns, the current pace of jobs creation mirrors what forced the Fed’s hand in the 1994 rate hiking cycle, which led to lower stocks and wider credit spreads. Simply put, as the indicator of just how insane "markets" have becomes, rapidly improving job growth (as fallacious as it is under the surface) means BOFA thinks that hedges should be set and long positions in risky assets reduced.
For the past several weeks it felt as if Bank of America's chief technician, MacNeill Curry (or at least his clients) had an infinite balance sheet to fund relentless P&L losses, resulting from his daily recommendation to short the 10 Year, which contrary to the best wishes of the Fed and the sellside penguins constantly refused to go lower and validate the "economy is getting better" thesis. Today, even his TBTF balance sheet finally ran out, and moments ago he finally capitulated, and was stopped out on his TYU4 short.
Goldman Sachs, like most of the mainstream economists believes today's FOMC statement will likely be "broadly neutral" with no indication of sooner rate rises than expected (despite what we have noted as the timing not being better), some modest upgrades to the economic outlook (to keep the "everything's good and you don't need us anymore" meme alive), and continued taper at the same pace (with maybe some acknowledgemnet of the transitory pop in inflation). UBS, on the other side, suggests there is a chance of some FOMC surprises with Janet Yellen pulling a semi-Carney as Citi's Steven Englander has previously noted "the Fed needs more volatility in order to maintain its illusion of omnipotence."
The market is highly confident that it has a good handle on tomorrow’s FOMC meeting, despite the fact that several factors will require modification. There is high conviction that the Fed will not surprise the market, but rather take a “steady as she goes” approach that delivers a market consensus outcome. The reasons for this view are obvious and logical; however, such complacency breeds risk as well as opportunity, because the arguments for accelerating tapering to $15 billion (per month) are quite compelling.
One after another pundit has tried to explain the relentless bid for US Treasurys, and failed. First it was the March geopolitical shock, and the "capital outflows" from Russia that were supposedly entering the "safety" of US paper. Well, today Russian stocks just hit a bull market from the recent sell off (despite, or perhaps in spite of, Draghi's idiotic "estimate" of €160 billion in Russian capital outflows), however without a comparable move lower in the 10 Year, meaning it was not Russian capital reallocation that was pushing US Treasurys higher. Then, a new theory appeared, namely that pension funds, seeking to lock up equity upside, will "reverse rotate" out of stocks and into bonds. Judging by where US stocks are trading, they certainly did not rotate nearly enough, and now courtesy of Bank of America which parsed the latest Flow of Funds report, we learn that the in fact "buying of bonds by pension funds slowed down significantly in 1Q."
We have shown the surge in short positioning that CFTC exposes via its Commitment of Traders data that has begun to see some covering; but despite Citi's protestation that the recent rally in bonds 'must' have cleared out the short base and squared positions, the truth is - the Treasury market is dominated by more than just futures and institutional clients have not been this short Treasuries since 2006. As JPMorgan's Client Survey exposes, as of the end of last week, active clients were adding to shorts... which could be a problem as the last time all clients were this net short, bond yields collapsed in the next few months...
UPDATE: *NYSE REVIEWING TRADES FOR 'AOL,' 'NBR,' 'MPC,' 'LO,' 'CNQ' FROM 3:49:00PM-3:51:00PM ET
By now it is clear to everyone that the market is rigged, manipulated and broken. But this rigged, manipulated and broken? Honestly, we don't know, hence our question: is this now "normal" or are these just the death throes of a "market" busted beyond all repair?
On a closing price basis, the trading range for the US 10 year note since January 24th has been 22 basis points which is the narrowest in that length of time in over 30 years. Often times, narrow trading ranges act like coiled springs. The longer markets stay in those ranges the greater the pressure builds. Tight ranges over longer time periods cause ever-more-powerful movements once the ranges break. Over the next two weeks, there are multitudes of events and economic data which could set the tone of trading for the next several months and potentially provide the catalyst necessary for markets to break out of ranges.
Japanese data (double) miss, check! Chinese data miss, check! US data miss, check! Investor trust in US equity at record lows, check! All-time record highs for US equities - you betcha! Stocks broadly pumped and dumped once again today but the start-of-the-month exuberance over April's seasonality was enough to leave gains that accelerated into the close as the long-bond sold off and short-end rallied (biggest 2-day steepening in 5 months). USDJPY was in charge for much of the day but when it went limp in the last hour, it was VIX-clubbing time (to 10-week lows ahead of the ECB and NFP?) Oil prices slumped intraday (back below $100) as gold slipped but copper and silver flatlined. Wondering what fueled today's panic buying spree? "Most shorted" stocks tripled the market's performance on the day...
Once again there has been little fundamental news or economic data this morning in Europe with price action largely driven by expiring option contracts. In terms of key events, Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against US sanctions for now even as Bank Rossiya discovered Visa and MasterCard have stopped servicing its cards, and as Putin further added he would have his salary sent to the sanctioned bank - the farce will go on. Continuing the amusing "rating agency" news following yesterday's policy warning by S&P and Fitch on Russian debt (was that a phone call from Geithner... or directly from Obama), Fitch affirmed United States at AAA; outlook revised to stable from negative, adding that the US has greater debt tolerance than AAA peers. Perhaps thje most notable move was in Chinese stocks which rallied overnight after major domestic banks said to have stopped selling trust products which were blamed for encouraging reckless borrowing and diluted credit standards. Speculation of further stimulus and the potential introduction of single stock futures also helped the Shanghai Comp mark its biggest gain of 2014 closing up 2.7%.