This is how ridiculous goverment data has become: in the same month in which both Housing Starts and Existing Home sales significantly missed expectations, misses which were promptly blamed on the weather, the Census Bureau moments ago released a stunner of a New Home Sales number, which supposedly rose from an upward revised 500K to 539K, a 25% spike from a year ago and up 7.8% from January, which incidentally is also the highest number since February 2008, even as the median home price dropped to the lowest since September. All of this would be great... if it was remotely credible. It isn't.
Stocks are pulling back ahead of a greatly anticipated FED meeting. Investors are holding their breath as they wait for news from Janet Yellen on whether or not the FED will give more indication of future interest rates.
We often hear various Fed officials described as hawks or doves but Janet Yellen’s Fed brings to mind another avian metaphor. They are afraid to raise rates for fear that doing so would upset the asset market inflation process and derail what is left of their theory. In her press conference last week Yellen said that stock market valuations were on the high side of historical norms, an appellation that only works if one includes the stock bubble of the late 90s. It seems that she and the other members of the FOMC have decided that another epic stock market bubble is better than admitting they were wrong. This FOMC doesn’t have any hawks or doves, only chickens.
The percentage of homeowners underwater in the US was flat from Q3 to Q4 which doesn’t sound all that terrible until you consider that this figure had fallen for 10 consecutive quarters. Things look particularly bad in Florida and the midwest where more than 25% of borrowers are sitting in a negative equity position. A new report from Zillow says negative equity will become a permanent fixture in the housing market.
What we have here is another powerful case of the Great Immoderation. That is, the havoc that the Fed’s bubble finance policies have visited upon the main street economy. In short, in the name of improving upon the alleged instability of the private economy - absent the Fed’s expert ministrations - the geniuses in the Eccles building have actually caused the rate of housing starts to gyrate wildly. To wit, by a factor of 5X from top to bottom - so far this century.
The only news that matters to algos today is whether Janet Yellen will include the word "patient" in the FOMC statement as a hint of a June rate hike, even though the phrase "international developments" is far more important in a world in which everyone (such as the 25 or so central banks who have cut rates in the past 80 days) is now scrambling to export deflation to everyone else. And with carbon-based traders recuperating from St. Patrick's day, few will notice that the oil tumble continues as WTI touches new 6 year highs after yesterday's shocking 10MM+ API build, and is now openly eyeing a collapse into the $30s. Just as nobody will notice that even as futures in the US and European stocks are looking a little hungover ahead of the Fed and perhaps on the latest bout of anti-austerity out of Europe, the China levitation has gone full retard, with the SHCOMP up another 2.1% yesterday and now in full-blown parabolic mode as housing data confirms the Chinese housing bubble has truly burst, and as shadow bankers dump all their funds into stocks in hopes of making up for losses due to regulatory intervention.
"Seasonally adjusted housing starts for February plunged by one of the largest amounts in the post-crisis period. The chart below shows a subset of the February non-farm payroll report, residential construction jobs. Seasonally adjusted these jobs increased by 17,200 in February, the most in two years (Feb 2013 was greater) and the second most in four years. So while economists are blaming the weather for the plunge in housing starts, residential construction jobs were fairly robust in February. This makes no sense."
Housing Recovery? Yellen, we have a problem. Housing Starts for February collapsed 17% - this is the biggest MoM drop since February 2011. At 897k SAAR, this is the first sub-900k print since September 2013 and biggest miss since Feb 2007. Multi-family starts are the lowest since June 2014. The collapse was dominated by the Northeast (-56.5%) and Midwest (-37%) so it must be the weather, right? Not so fast, The West region saw starts collapse 18.2%. Permits for multi-family units rose notably as single-family permits dropped to one-year lows...
- Israelis vote as 'King Bibi's' reign hangs in the balance (Reuters), Factbox: Main candidates in Israel's election (Reuters)
- Iran Can Add Million Barrels a Day of Oil If Sanctions Halt (BBG)
- Kremlin rules out handing back Crimea to Ukraine (Reuters)
- Saudi Arabia Needs More Oil to Feed Local Refinery Expansion (BBG)
- How Lafarge’s CEO Went From Holcim Merger Architect to Obstacle (BBG)
- When Yellen Gets Less Predictable She’s Getting Back to Normal (BBG)
- Iran nuclear talks intensify as sides face tough issues (Reuters)
- Debunking $1.4 Trillion Europe Debt Myth in Post-Heta Age (BBG)
Following yesterday's inexplicable ramp in stocks, which perhaps was driven by the collapse in oil (which sent energy companies higher because a 30x energy forward PE is cheap), and by the latest battery of disappointing economic data which made it less likely the Fed will proceed with a tightening move, overnight futures have given up a portion of the gains, and were trading down 0.3% at last check. And yet, if yesterday's weakness was driven by USD weakness, today's jump in the EURUSD above 1.06 (on absolutely disastrous German ZEW investor index print) is now somehow responsible for risk offness? And, adding confusion to insult, the 10 Y is down to 2.05% and in danger of re-entering a 1% handle. Sadly, nothing makes sense any more and today's conclave of central planners in the Marriner Eccles building ahead of tomorrow's 2pm FOMC "impatient" announcement isn't going to make it any better.
In what most traders dubbed an "extremely disappointing" performance, stocks ended Monday's session with modest gains of 1.35%... "Honestly, what more could the market ask for'?" queried one frustrated floor trader. "When the market can't gain at least 2% on disappointing manufacturing and housing data, something is very wrong."
This week's main event will be the FOMC announcement on Wednesday at 2:00 pm and the subsequent press conference, the conclusion of the March 2-day Fed meeting, in which it is widely expected that Yellen will announce the end of the Fed's "Patience" with an economy in which resurgent waiters and bartenders continue to skew the job market even if it means consistently declining wages for 80% of the US labor force. Here is a summary of what else to expect this week.
It started off as the perfect storm for futures: after Sunday night's latest plunge in WTI, which saw it drop to the lowest price since Lehman, the double whammy that has now forced Deutsche Bank to become the first major institution to forecast no growth for S&P500 EPS in 2015, namely the strong dollar, reared its ugly head and the EURUSD seemed dangerouly close to breaching the all important 1.04-1.05 support level we first noted last week. However, overnight parties tasked with preserving "financial stability" appear to have once again stepped in, and not only has the EURUSD rebounded off 1.05, but crude is now just barely down from the Friday close as all firepower is put to the same use, that sent the Shanghai Composite soaring by 2.3% overnight, and which sent the Dax over 12,000 for the first time ever.
- Fed Likely to Remove ‘Patient’ Barrier for Rate Increase as Soon as June (Hilsenrath) - which year?
- Clinton says used personal email account for convenience (Reuters)
- Euro sinks to 12-year lows as yield gap grows (Reuters)
- Get Ready for Oil Deals: Shale Is Going on Sale (BBG)
- EIA raises 2015 US oil production forecast, cuts 2016 outlook (Reuters)
- How Falling Oil Prices Are Hindering Iraq’s Ability to Fight Islamic State (WSJ)
- China economic data weaker than expected, fuels policy easing bets (Reuters)
- ECB ‘Chasing Own Tail’ as Bond Rates Turn Negative, SocGen Says (BBG)
- Swiss makers quietly gear up with smartwatches of their own (Reuters)
Financial systems that seem robust are more often than not inherently fragile - China is no exception!