This past Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the US stock market’s death when stocks saw their last high. Market bulls have spent a year looking like the walking dead. They’ve tried to push back up to that distant high that means new life several times, but each time the market falls into a pit again to where the market is once again lower than it was a year ago. These are the last gasps of a stock market (and economy) that is struggling to rise again, which it simply cannot do now that QE has been turned off and the oxygen tank of zero interest is being slowly turned down.
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 yesterday's algo-driven mad dash to close the S&P green both for the day and for the year following Fed minutes that came in shocking hawkish, the selling has continued overnight, led by the commodity complex as rate hike fears have pushed oil back down some 2% from yesterday's 7 month highs, which in turn has dragged global stocks lower to a six-week low, while pushing bond yields higher across developed nations as the market suddenly reprices the probability of a June/July 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.
The issue with today's housing starts and permits report, is the multi-family, aka rental units, barely rebounded and remained at severely depressed levels last seen in 2013: at 348K rental units permitted in April, this is a far cry from the recent highs of 598K in June. One wonders if this is intentional, because based on soaring asking rents, as shown in the chart below, with Americans increasingly unable or unwilling to buy single-family units, rental prices have exploded to 8% Y/Y based on Census data.
It has been more of the same overnight, as global stocks piggybacked on the strong US close and rose despite the lack of good (or bad) macro news, propelled higher by the two usual suspects: a higher USDJPY and a even higher oil, if mostly early on in the trading session.
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.
The biggest catalyst for overnight markets, first reported on this site, was the announcement by Kuwait that its oil workers had ended their strike which disrupted oil production in the 4th largest OPEC producer for 3 days cutting it by as much as 1.7 mmb/d, and had served to offset the negative news from the Doha debacle. Kuwait Petroleum also added that it would boost output to 3m b/d within 3 days, which in turn has pressured the price of oil overnight, and the May WTI contract was back to just over $40 at last check, sliding 2%. Not helping things was a very dejected Venezuela oil minister Eulogio Del Pino who said at a conference in Moscow that he sees oil prices returning to lows in 3-4 weeks if oil producers can't make a deal. For now the algos - and central banks - disagree.
US Housing Starts tumbled 8.8% in March (missing -1.1% expectations by the most since Feb 2015) as both single-family (-9.2%) and multi-family units (-7.9%) tumbled. The biggest drop was in The West (-16% overall with a 26.9% MoM plunge in single-family units). Worst still, Permits (forward-looking), plunged 7.7% (agsinst expectations of 2% rise) - this is the 2nd biggest MoM crash since Jan 2011. As the Spring-selling season starts, the housing 'recovery' appears to be stalling.
If asking traders where stocks and oil would be trading one day after a weekend in which the Doha OPEC meeting resulted in a spectacular failure, few if any would have said the S&P would be over 2,100, WTI would be back over $40 and the VIX would be about to drop to 12 and yet that is precisely where the the S&P500 is set to open today, hitting Goldman's year end target 8 months early, and oblivious of the latest batch of poor earnings news, this time from Intel and Netflix, both of which are sharply lower. We expect that after taking out any 2,100 stops, the S&P will then make a solid effort to take out all time highs, now just over 1% away.
US Home prices rose 5.75% YoY according to Case-Shiller (the fastest rate since July 2014) as it appears the Chinese buyers are migrating south from Canada with Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities with another month of double digit annual price increases. Home prices continue to climb at more than twice the rate of inflation amid a suply shortage as West Coast propertty markets become "Vancouvered."
It is always hard to buck the crowd, to be a bear when the market is up this much, this fast. Stocks are rallying and being underweight gets harder to maintain every day. The bulls are out there yapping about how this was just another correction, another dip to buy and that we better get back in, yada, yada, yada. What makes being bearish so hard is the noise of the perpetually bullish street, the lure of easy money in a market you know is overvalued but keeps going higher. Like JM Keynes "I change my mind when the facts change." Despite the rally, the facts – at least for now – still favor the bears.
In the aftermath of the Fed's surprising dovish announcement, overnight there has been a rather sudden repricing of risk, which has seen European stocks and US equity futures stumble to roughly where they were when the Fed unveiled its dovish surprise, while the dollar collapse has continued, sparking deflationary fears resulting in treasury yields plunging even as gold soars, all hinting at another Fed policy error. So was that it for the Fed's latest intervention "halflife"? We don't know, but we expect much confusion today over whether even the Fed has now run out of dovish ammunition.
Housing Starts Beat Expectations, As Slowdown In Rental Permits Suggest Further Rent Increases In Coming MonthsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/16/2016 08:50 -0400
Coming at the same time as an inflationary report which showed Core CPI rising at 2.30%, or the highest rate since October 2008, and one which will put further pressure on the Fed to hike rates as shelter inflation is now simply too big to sweep under the rug, we also got February's housing starts and permits, which while painting a mixed picture of the US housing market suggested further strength in the US housing sector in the past month.
Today Janet Yellen and the FOMC will go back to square one and try to reset global expectations unleashed by the ill-fated December rate "policy mistake" hike, when at 2pm the Fed will announce assessment of the economy, even if not rate hike is expected today. Just like in December the Fed will be forced to telegraph that it is hiking rates as a signal of a strengthening US, and global, economy where "risks are balanced" and hope that the subsequent global reaction will not be a rerun of what happened in January and February when confusion about the Fed's intentions led to a global market rout.