VIX, the market's measure of forward-looking expectations of equity volatility has been hovering at decade lows (and even after yesterday's spike has plunged back once again today). MOVE, the bond market's measure of forward-looking uncertainty is at all-time record lows. As one infamous rates trader said recently, maybe it's early Alzheimers, but we are fairly certain that that last time Implied Volatility was scraping the lows, we did not experience:
- Gold moving almost $250 or over 15% in less than 48 hours;
- A G-3 currency moving over 25% in less than six months;
- A G-3 bond yield moving by 35% in two months;
- The Dow leaping by almost 20% in five months;
- A joint monetary policy as impactful as Volker or the Paris accords.
We can't help but agree.
Investors take note, the global economy appears to be contracting again. China’s recent GDP miss is the just the latest in a series of economic surprises to the downside. And stocks are always the last asset class to realize this.
While expectations for global GDP growth are now expected to be +3.3% for 2013 against +3.2% for 2012, the IMF has just slashed the previously rosy 3.6% expectation as the global economy stalls. The US and Europe had significant cuts to their 2013 GDP growth expectations (though of course, this dip recovers hockey-stick-like in 2014). It will perhaps be surprising to learn that Japan had its growth expectation raised the most of all the major advanced and emerging nations. World Trade volume growth has also been cut notably - driven by a fall in the previously supposed driver of growth - emerging markets. The IMF's less sanguine forecasts, however, are caveated with hope-driven perspective such as expectations that Debt-to-GDP will drop for all nations from 2013 to 2018 and while energy remains a major downside risk to global growth, we were stunned to read that they cite S&P 500 option prices as an indicator of upside potential. It seems, even at the IMF, that the market is all that matters (oh and the Japanese printing press).
Long experience in the markets will inform you that this kind of massive sell-off in gold is indicative of someone or perhaps a numbers of someones with serious problems. It may be ETF's, it may be some hedge fund or it may be central banks who have pledged their gold as collateral with the ECB but somebody is in trouble. The world is a fragile place these days. World-wide Quantitative Easing has buoyed all of the markets. The backdrop though is economies that cannot support current prices. Europe and Japan are both in tatters, China is slowing down and America is in what I would call a "sputter." Yesterday was a stark reminder of what can happen when the discrepancy between the results of the flood of newly minted cash comes into conflict with underlying fundamentals. The markets can turn on a dime and the move can be severe and painful.
JPY was its strongest at the start of October - and then the new Abenomics plan began. Very quickly the "long of gold in JPY terms" trade became extremely popular. After an impressive 16.4% rise into mid-February, gold-in-JPY corrected modestly; but the BoJ-inspired action smashed gold-in-JPY back up to its recent highs (helped by the seeming capitulation is JPY longs on the bigger-than-expected QQE). This appears to be the last straw on this trade. With JPY shorts so extremely positioned, the small rally on Thursday/Friday in JPY sent many scrambling to cover and, along with the need to unwind any and every asset to cover cash needs for JGB volatility, the avalanche began in gold-in-JPY. In 2 days, the entire Abe-inspired 'rally' in gold-in-JPY has been undone and all post-Abe buyers are now underwater. Whether this marks a short-term capitulation of these positions is unclear but CTFC CoT this week will be intriguing - and further JGB vol will not help. The rally in JPY of the last two days is the largest in 35 months - so someone clearly broke something...
The problem with cutting the links between risk and consequence and the real economy and the stock market is that a market deprived of feedback from reality is prone to disorderly disruption. Why is this so? Participants make decisions based on the information made available to them. If the information from the real world is suppressed or limited, then the decisions made by participants will necessarily be misinformed, i.e. wrong. If feedback from the real world is suppressed, then decisions will necessarily be bad. The only choice for participants who have lost faith in central planning's promise of permanently higher markets will be to abandon the manipulated markets entirely.
According to Central Banker thinking, if something doesn’t work for 20 years the only answer is to do even more of it. So the Bank of Japan attempted a “shock and awe” move with an unprecedented QE equal to $1.2 trillion. Japanese bonds, already strained as investments by the demographic and economic issues plaguing Japan, have since become extremely volatil
- Venezuela Says Chávez Successor Wins Vote (WSJ)
- China growth risks in focus as first quarter data falls short (Reuters)
- Japan Gets Calls From U.S. to Europe Not to Drive Down Yen (BBG)
- EU Set to Clash on Bank Deal as Germany Sees Treaty Limit (BBG)
- Dish Launches $25.5 Billion Bid for Sprint (WSJ)
- Commodities Tumble, Stocks Slide as China Growth Slows (BBG)
- Top fund managers take home $8bn less (FT)
- Obama Programs Derided by Republicans as Pejorative Entitlements (BBG)
- Gene swapping makes new China bird flu a moving target (Reuters)
- McDonald's Cranks Up The Volume on 'Value' (WSJ)
- UK pension deficits set to rise by £100bn (FT)
While China's trifecta miss of GDP, Retail Sales and Industrial Production all coming lower than expected was likely a factor in the overnight rout of gold, the initial burst of selling started well before the Chinese data hit the tape, or as soon as Japan opened for trading with forced financial institution selling to prefund cash for any and all future JGB VaR-driven margin calls. It was all downhill from there, literally, with overnight selling of gold punctured by brief burst of targeted stop hunting, sending the metal down $116 per ounce, as spot touches $1385 after trading nearly at $1500 yesterday and down $200 in 4 days. End result, whether due to a re-collapsing global economy, margin calls, fears forced Cyprus gold selling will be imposed on all other insolvent European countries, coordinated central bank slams, hedge fund positioning, long unwinds, liquidations, fears about future demand, or whatever the usual selling suspects are, is that gold tumbles an unprecedented 7.8% on 230,000 contracts in one day, and well over 10% in two days, pushing the yellow metal 14 day RSI band to 18, meaning it is now most oversold since 1999. In brief, it is an all out panic, with Goldman still telling clients to sell, i.e., buying every shiny ounce all the way down (not to mention India, where accordingto UBS Friday demand was double the average).
A high level overview of the drivers of the capital markets.
Ex-Soros Advisor Sells "Almost All" Japan Holdings, Shorts Bonds; Sees Market Crash, Default And HyperinflationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/14/2013 21:24 -0400
Former Soros' Japan advisor Fujimaki takes center stage: “The volatility in the JGB market as well as the fact that there is large selling represent fear among investors,” Fujimaki said. “They are early signs of a larger selloff and we should continue to monitor the moves in the long-term bonds.” Fujimaki said he recently bought put options for Japanese government bonds of various maturities, without elaborating. He continues to hold real estate in Japan and options granting the right to sell the yen against the greenback expiring in less than five years. He also holds assets in U.S. dollars and currencies of other developed nations. "Japan’s finance is sinking into the ocean,” Fujimaki said. “There’s no escape from a market crash in the future when you have such enormous debt.” “By expanding the monetary base to 270 trillion yen, the BOJ is making a huge bet which I think it will ultimately lose,” Fujimaki said in an interview in Tokyo on April 11. “Kuroda’s QE announcement is declaring double suicide with the government. The BOJ will have to share the country’s fate and default together. Shirakawa did more than enough and he had good reasons to not do any more,” said Fujimaki. “There will be tremendous side effects from monetary stimulus. QE doesn’t work and has no exit... Things may look rosy for now as stocks rise, but should we see hyper-inflation, JGBs will see a huge selloff, leading to a stock market crash,” said Fujimaki, adding that he sold “almost all” of his Japanese stock holdings some time ago.
The equity rally over the past 18 months has been driven by multiple expansion. As Morgan Stanley's Gerard Minack notes, equity markets have been highly correlated with macro surprises – whether economic data have been exceeding, or falling short of, consensus forecasts – through this expansion. However, we note that the potential for a market setback is extreme; as the gap between what seems increasingly needed to sustain the rally – better growth and earnings news – versus the prospect of weaker US growth is as wide as it has been in five years. The macro news flow is now disappointing in the major developed economies. Moreover, there’s been a pseudo-seasonal pattern to the ebb and flow of surprises, with weakness typical in the middle quarters of the year. The very recent weakness in the US is more troubling though as it is set against the backdrop of already-sluggish global growth, which is most pronounced in the developed markets; and reflecting the sag in global growth (and earnings), global equities have already stalled outside the US. The out-performance of equities versus bonds over the past year is consistent with solid macro improvement and as the chart below indicates, that hope is fading fast.
The lesson from the events of 2007-2008 should have been clear: Boosting GDP with loose money can only lead to short term booms followed by severe busts. A policy of artificially cheapened credit cannot but cause mispricing of risk, misallocation of capital and a deeply dislocated financial infrastructure, all of which will ultimately conspire to bring the fake boom to a screeching halt. The ‘good times’ of the cheap money expansion, largely characterized by windfall profits for the financial industry and the faux prosperity of propped-up financial assets and real estate (largely to be enjoyed by the ‘1 percent’), necessarily end in an almighty hangover. The crisis that commenced in 2007 was therefore a massive opportunity: An opportunity to allow the market to liquidate the accumulated dislocations and to bring the economy back into balance. That opportunity was not taken and is now lost – maybe until the next crisis comes along, which won’t be long. It has become clear in recent years – and even more so in recent months and weeks – that we are moving with increasing speed in the opposite direction: ever more money, cheaper credit, and manipulated markets (there is one notable exception to which I come later). Policy makers have learned nothing. The same mistakes are being repeated and the consequences are going to make 2007/8 look like a picnic.
A discussion of gold and US Treasury report on foreign exchange.
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