After last week's economic fireworks, this one will be far more quiet with earnings dominating investors' attention: US financials reporting this week include JPM and Wells Fargo tomorrow, BofA on Wednesday, GS and Citi on Thursday, BoNY and MS on Friday. Industrial bellwethers Intel (Thurs) and General Electric (Fri) are also on this week’s earnings docket. On the macro front, this coming week we have two MPC meetings - both in LatAm. For Brazil consensus expects a 25bps hike in the policy rate. For Chile consensus forecasts monetary policy to remain on hold. Among the data releases, one should point out inflation numbers from the US (CPI and PPI), Eurozone, the UK and India. We also have three important US producer and consumer surveys - Empire Manufacturing, Philadelphia Fed (consensus +8.5), and U. of Michigan (consensus 83.5). Among external trade and capital flow stats, we would emphasize US TIC data, as well as current account balances from Japan and Turkey. Finally, the accumulation of FX reserves in China is interesting to track as it provides an indication of CNY appreciation pressure.
With no major macro news on today's docket, it is a day of continuing reflection of Friday's abysmal jobs report, which for now has hammered the USDJPY carry first and foremost, a pair which is now down 170 pips from the 105 level seen on Friday, which in turn is putting pressure on global equities. As DB summarizes, everyone "knows" that Friday's US December employment report had a sizeable weather impact but no-one can quite grasp how much or why it didn't show up in other reports. Given that parts of the US were colder than Mars last week one would have to think a few people might have struggled to get to work this month too. So we could be in for another difficult to decipher report at the start of February. Will the Fed look through the distortions? It’s fair to say that equities just about saw the report as good news (S&P 500 +0.23%) probably due to it increasing the possibility in a pause in tapering at the end of the month. However if the equity market was content the bond market was ecstatic with 10 year USTs rallying 11bps. The price action suggests the market was looking for a pretty strong print.
Is it all about expectations about tapering, again?
"At the end of that live-long day the American people are left in a matrix of lies so thick and sticky that all the de-greasing agents supposedly vested in freedom of the press will not avail to liberate them, and they are suspended like little morsels of winged prey to be sucked dry by the descending spiders of crony capital."
Despite yesterday's exuberant spike in optimism from the NAHB sentiment index to 8 year highs, the delusion from reality appears to growing ever wider. This morning's "if we build them, they will buy'em" false headline spike in housing starts (seasonally-adjusted) is yet another delusional divergence as the mortgage applications index collapses (down 60% from 2013 highs) to a new 13-year low.
Today's key economic data point, aside from the FOMC announcement of course, was the monthly Housing Starts and Permits report. And with November starts printing at 1091K, a massive 202K unit surge compared to the revised 889K in October, this was the highest monthly print since early 2008 and biggest monthly jump since... January 1990! Supposedly builders just can't get enough. Well, maybe. Until one again looks below the headlines, where one finds that a substantial portion of the jump is once again due to the builders' bet that rental housing demand will continue growing, as multi-family unit starts soared from 281K to 354K - just shy of the highest print since 2008 as well. Additionally, the single-family print barely rose from 49.2 to just 51.9, well below the highs seen in the summer of 2013, when unadjusted single-family starts were higher than the November print from March until August! In fact, at 51.9K, single unit homes are back to mid-2011 levels. Thank you seasonal adjustments. But nowhere was the seasonal adjustment in today's data more evident than in the Housing Permits number. What happens when one looks at the non-seasonally adjusted number? It cratered from 90.3 to 70.9K - this was the lowest print since February and the biggest absolute monthly drop in 5 years since November 2008!
Of the 8 "most important ever" FOMC decisions in 2013, this one is undisputedly, and without doubt, the 8th. As Jim Reid summarizes, what everyone wonders is whether today’s decision by the FOMC will have a bearing on a few last-minute Xmas presents around global financial markets. No taper and markets probably breathe a sigh of relief and the feel-good factor might turn that handheld game machine into a full-blown PS4 by Xmas day. However a taper now might just take the edge off the festivities and leave a few presents on the shelves. Given that the S&P 500 has pretty much flat-lined since early-mid November in spite of better data one would have to say that some risk of tapering has been priced in but perhaps not all of it. Alternatively if they don’t taper one would expect markets to see a pretty decent relief rally over the rest of the year. So will it be Santa or Scrooge from the Fed tonight at 2pm EST?
The US data flow is relatively light which is typical of a post-payrolls week but it’s worth noting wholesale inventories on Tuesday and retail sales on Thursday. Importantly US House and senate negotiators are supposed to come to an agreement on a budget before the December 13th deadline. A lot of optimism has been expressed thus far from members of congress, and there are reports that a budget deal will be unveiled this week.
Thinking like the Fed
To know your enemy, you must become your enemy -Sun Tzu
In war, poker, chess and many other endeavors, wise old hands will advise you to think like your opponent. We’ll try a related idea here by seeing if we can think like the members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Specifically, we’ll pretend to write part of the statement for the FOMC’s December 17/18 meeting.
IN CHINA, THE GOLD RUSH CONTINUES as Chinese people buy jewellery, coins and bars as a store of wealth protection from inflation. The worlds largest jewellery group, Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd., established in 1929, saw sales jump 49% during the first half of 2013.
Looking ahead at the week ahead, data watchers will be kept fairly occupied before Thanksgiving. Starting with today, we will see US pending home sales with the Treasury also conducting the first of 3 bond auctions this week starting with a $32 billion 2yr note sale later. We will get more housing data tomorrow with the release of housing starts, home prices as well as US consumer confidence. Durable goods, Chicago PMI, initial jobless claims and the final UofM Consumer Sentiment print for November are Wednesday’s highlights although we will also get the UK GDP report for Q3. US Equity and fixed income markets are closed on Thursday but US aside we will get the BoE financial stability report, German inflation, Spanish GDP and Chinese industrial profit stats. Expect market activity to remain subdued into Friday as it will be a half-day for US stocks and bond markets. As ever Black Friday sales will be carefully monitored for consumer spending trends. So a reasonably busy, holiday-shortened week for markets ahead of what will be another crucial payrolls number the following week.
Another day, another carry currency-driven futures melt-up to daily record highs (the all important EURJPY soared overnight on the return of the now standard overnight Japanese jawboning of the JPY which sent the EURJPY just shy of a new 4 year high of 138 overnight), and another attempt by the ECB to have its record high market cake, and eat a lower Euro too (recall DB's said the "pain threshold" for the EUR/USD exchange rate - the level at which further appreciation impairs competitiveness and economic recovery - is $1.79 for Germany, $1.24 for France, and $1.17 for Italy) this time with ECB's Hansson repeating the generic talking point that the ECB is technically ready for negative deposit rates. However, with the halflife on such "threats" now measured in the minutes, and soon seconds, the European central bank will have to come up with something more original and creative soon, especially since the EURJPY can't really rise much more without really crushing European trade further.
Looking ahead, Thursday will be a busy day with the ECB (plus Draghi’s press conference) and BoE meetings. Some are expecting the ECB to cut rates as early at this week although most believe the rate cut will not happen until December. Draghi will likely deflect the exchange rate’s relevance via its impact on inflation forecasts. This could strengthen the credibility of the forward guidance message, but this is just rhetoric — a rate cut would require a rejection of the current recovery hypothesis. They expect more focus on low inflation at this press conference, albeit without pre-empting the ECB staff new macroeconomic forecasts that will be published in December.
China's attempts to curb runaway inflation in its housing market - which in a country in which the relatively young capital markets lack the breadth and depth of their western equivalents remains the only venue in which to park any of the excess cash generated from the global central bank liquidity avalanche - continue to be met with failure after failure. Overnight, the China Statistics Bureau reported that in September new home price across the country's 70 tracked cities, rose in virtually all of them, or 69 compared to a year ago. On a monthly basis, or compared to August, new home prices rose in only 65 of China's cities, compared to 66 in the month prior. And while the CSB data differs from the Shanghai Uwin data reported yesterday, the government's data while less stunning still shows the extent of the Chinese housing bubble and the persistent inflation plaguing the country: Beijing new home prices rose 1% M/m; and 16% Y/y; Shanghai new home prices rose 1.4% M/m; and 17% Y/y in September.
Following last week's last two day panic buying driven not by data (since in the US it has been delayed until late October and November, and elsewhere in the world it is just getting worse) but by the catalyst that the US isn't going to default (yes, that's all that is needed to push the S&P to all time highs) and just hopes that the tapering - that horrifying prospect of the Fed reducing its monthly monetization by $15 billion from $85 to $70 billion in line with the decline in the US deficit - will be delayed until March or June 2014 because, you see, the Fed isn't sure how the economy is doing, it makes no sense to even comment on the market. Squeezes, momentum ignitions, rumors about what Messers Bernanke and Yellen had for breakfast, Goldman's 2015 S&P forecast of 2100: that's the lunacy that passes for market moving factors. News, and reality, have long since been put in the dust. Just keep an eye on flashing read headlines, and try to buy (remember: anyone caught selling by the NSA is guaranteed a lifetime of annual IRS audits) ahead of the algos. That's what Bernanke's centrally-planned "market" has devolved to.