With Thanksgiving this Thursday, trading desks will be empty on Wednesday afternoon and remain so until next Monday. So even though it is a holiday shortened week, here are the main things to expect in the next 5 days: Bank of Japan meeting, the European Council meeting and the Eurogroup meeting. Key data releases include European and Chinese Flash PMIs.
Those looking for fundamental newsflow and/or facts to justify the latest bout of overnight risk exuberance will not find it. To be sure, among the few economic indicators reported overnight in the Thanksgiving shortened week, European construction output for September tumbled -1.4% from August, after rising 0.6% previously. How long until Europe copycats the latest US foreclosure sequestration, "demand pull" gimmick and gives hedge funds risk free loans to buy up housing (aka REO-to-Rent)? More importantly, and confirming that Spain is far, far from a positive inflection point, Spanish bad loans rose to a new record high of 10.7%. This was the the highest level since the records began in 1962. The total value of these loans was €182.2 billion ($233 billion) in September, according to the Bank of Spain (more on this shortly). The relentless rise indicates that the Spanish bad bank rescue fund will be woefully insufficient and will need to be raised again and again. So while there was nothing in the facts to make investors happy, traders looked to hope and prayer, instead pushing risk higher on the much overplayed Friday "news" that politicians are willing to compromise in the cliff (which as we reported was merely a market ramping publicity stunt by Nancy Pelosi et al), and that Greece may be saved at tomorrow's Eurogroup meeting, for the third time. That this will be difficult is an understatement, with the Dutch finance minister saying no final decisions on Greece should be expected, and his German counterpart adding that a Greek debt writeoff is "inconceivable." In other words, even hoping for hope is a stretch, but the market is doing it nonetheless.
While the prior week was marked by some kind of awakening, this week was more about finding a direction. Eventually mostly downwards, but always in jumps, marked by tentative rebounds. Europe mostly lost, so unused not to be the focal point anymore, waiting for US input. If it wasn’t for the Fiscal Cliff, and in absence of further news out of the Periphery, we seem to have
"No Direction" (Bunds 1,32% -2; Spain 5,86% +5; Stoxx 2429% -2,1%; EUR 1,27 -10)
Europe mostly boring. Several inconclusive downside tests in European equities. Static bonds, unwilling to tighten further. More US equity weakness, more downside. Way is shown by US equity dump. Periphery? What Periphery? What problem? Credit, EGBs, most commodities just watching. Dismal close.
"That's the Way (I Like It)" (Bunds 1,32% -2; Spain 5,86% -3; Stoxx 2429 -1,2%; EUR 1,27 -90)
The US crashing close yesterday was cushioned in Europe by better than expected (backward-looking) GDP figures in Germany and France. EZ in recession nevertheless. Limited fall-out, albeit lower (equity) levels tested. Periphery okay’ish, then good on better Italian GDP. Spain tag along with limited own dynamics, mainly trailing Risk assessment. EGBs difficult to move lower from here. Watching the US. Someone. Please. Show the way.
"Are You Gonna Go My Way? " (Bunds 1,34% +0; Spain 5,89% -3; Stoxx 2459% -0,6%; EUR 1,279 +50)
While the media continues to push the idea that the housing market is on the mend the data really doesn't yet support such optimism. The current percentage of the total number of housing units available that are currently occupied remains at very depressed levels. When it comes to the reality of the housing recovery the 4-panel chart (below) tells the whole story. There is another problem with the housing recovery story. It isn't real. The nascent recovery in the housing market, such as it has been, has been driven by the largest amount of fiscal subsidy in the history of world. The problem, however, is that for all of the financial support and programs that have been thrown at the housing market - only a very minor recovery could be mustered. With household formation at very low levels and the 25-35 cohort facing the highest levels of unemployment since the "Great Depression" it is no wonder that being a "renter" is no longer a derogatory label.
On the surface, today's New Home Sales number was great (as always tends to happen just before a presidential election): a print of 389K seasonally adjusted annualized units sold in the US (ignoring the 37.3% collapse in the Midwest), which was a 5.7% increase from August's downward (unlike initial jobless claims, when one is attempting to report an increase, the last number is always revised downward) revised 368K (was 373K). This number was the highest adjusted print since April 2010, which makes for great headlines. So far so good, until one looks beneath the headline and finds that the 389K number (to be revised lower next month), is based on a September unadjusted number of 31K in actual sales, consistting of 3K sales in the Northeast and MidWest each, 16K in the South and 9K in the West. This is the unadjusted number, which as last week's BLS fiasco with Initial Claims showed, applying seasonal adjustments is the easiest and best way to manipulate any data set (for more see X-12 Arima's FAQ). This was the lowest print since February's 30K, the same as August's 31K, and well below the 35K from May 2012.
Today's just announced revenue and EPS misses from both megacaps McDonalds and GE (in addition to MSFT, GOOG, INTC, IBM and everyone else) merely adds to what has so far been an abysmal earnings season, and one which is set to continue for far more weakness into Q4 (why? Hint: China, and its unwillingness to ease, and thus provide the much needed demand oomph US corporates need). Yet, the pundits will claim, economic conditions in the US have improved. How does one reconcile this disconnect? Simple: as Bloomberg Brief shows in two simple charts, what we are undergoing is not the first, but second case of annual deja vu, as the economy supposedly picks up in Q3 and Q4, courtesy of the latest and greatest artificial sugar high from the Fed, only to slide promptly back into decline once the initial euphoria fizzles. However, this time there is a major difference: corporate Y/Y revenue (and in many cases EPS) comps have turned negative, which means that unlike before when corporations would be the silver lining in a dreary macro environment once the economic downward trend resumed, this time around there won't be a convenient Deus Ex to provide a last gasp reason to hold on to the myth that things are getting better. This, in turn means, that with "dividend" assets no longer attractive, the investing/trading crowd will rush into hard assets like crude (recall the $125/barrell Brent barrier for economic decline)... and gold. But that is a story for another day.
Today Europe awakes to yet another Eurozone summit, one at which such topics as Greece, Spain, the banking union project or a economic/budgetary union will have to gain further traction, if not resolution. In fact Greece could hardly wait and has already launched it latest 24 hour strike against austerity. The same Greece which demands a 2 year, €30 billion extension from Europe to comply with reform, a move which Europe has/has not agreed to as while the core have said yes to more time, all have refused to fund Greece with any more money. Alas the two are synonymous. As SocGen predicts unless there is some credible progress today, all the progress since the September ECB meeting, which has seen SPGB 10 Year yields decline from 690 bps to sub 550 bps, may simply drift away. And as everyone knows, there is never any progress at these meetings, except for lots of headlines, lots of promises (the Eurozone June summit's conclusions have yet to be implemented) and lots of bottom line profits by Belgian caterers. Elsewhere, Spain sold 3, 4 and 10 year bonds at declining yields on residual optimism from the pro forma bailed out country's paradoxical Investment Grade rating. In non-hopium based news, Spanish bad loans rose to a record 10.5% in August from 10.1% previously while the oldest bank in the world, Italy's Banka Monte dei Paschi was cut to junk status. All this is irrelevant though, as no negative news will ever matter again in a centrally-planned world. Finally the only real good news (at least until it is revised)came out of the UK, where retail sales posted a 0.4% increase on expectations of a 0.2% rise from -0.2%.
This morning's New Home Starts and Building Permits was called by some 'The Most Bullish Development On The Entire Earth'. That is indeed a very bullish statement about a sector of the economy that is still running at very recessionary levels of activity. However, let's analyze the data beyond the headline to determine what is really occurring. Among the various 'surprises' are seasonal adjustments, as we saw with the retail sales, were exceptionally large in September; the underlying fundamentals, especially in the 25-35 cohorts, are simply not in place to create a sustainable upturn in housing; and the disconnect between the housing data and the real demand for construction workers. The current activity falls well within the bounds of normal volatility, and we will likely see revisions lower in the coming months ahead, as seasonal variations began to negatively impact the data towards year end. The important point, however, is that while the housing data on the surface is showing improvement the more important components to sustainability from employment to lending are not.
Playing in the market, with Phil.
European Risk remains buoyant (unlike in the US), but the question is whether Moody’s upholding Spain a tick above Junk is really worth a 30bp plus relief rally?
The pre-election barrage of "six-sigma" economic beats continues, with today the trophy going to Housing Starts, which soared by a whopping 15% from a revised 758K to 872K. The highest forecast called for a 800,000 print with consensus expecting an increase to 770,000K. Did we say 6 sigma? We meant a 9 sigma beat to consensus. The numbers being thrown about are so ridiculous they are almost credible in their political talking point ridiculousness. Expect this outlier printing to continue at least until the election. In the meantime, prepare for a barrage that housing start soared to the highest since July 2008. Looking inside the numbers, the print for single family rose to 603K from a revised 543K, while multi-family houses increased to 260K from 208K. The geographical breakdown is as follows Northeast down 4K to 75K, Midwest modestly higher to 143K from 134K, West a little more higher from 169K to 203K, and the biggest surge was in the South from 376K to 451K. At this point the best one can hope for is for a return to some normal data reporting after the election, because it is now obvious that every data series will be skewed and 'seasonally adjusted' substantially higher. Curious why BofA charge-offs are already soaring thanks to the Housing Bubble 2.0? That's why.
To summarize: European stocks are little changed although Spanish shares rise. Spain 10-yr bond yields fall to the lowest level in more than 6 months. S&P futures are now higher on the trading session, driven by correlation engines as the euro is up vs the dollar, despite major disappointments by IBM and Intel. In other news Germany formally shut down the debt redemption fund proposal, ending one more rescue avenue for when the recent baseless euphoria ends, even as Spanish La Vanguardia reports that Germany is pressuring Italy to request European aid alongside Spain so that the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti doesn’t reap the benefit of lower borrowing costs without being tied to tougher economic reforms. Needless to say, Italy is said to resist the proposal: after all in Europe one just wants the upside from being bailed out, as opposed to actually being bailed out...
Hmmm… Bunds getting trashed by equities and Spailout; Spain getting a lift on the latter, but a break from Greek Troika news and German back pedalling.
Spain better, but had lost 20 bp just yesterday.
Equities stopping out and squeezing. Credit ripping tighter.
Risk On, but not everywhere. Wild...