The week ahead brings key leading indicators of global activity. The flash PMI's in China and Euro area will be published on Tuesday. Bloomberg consensus expects the China flash to be slightly lower than the previous reading and that the Euro area flash releases for manufacturing and service activity will rise slightly. In addition, Korean 20-day export data for April will provide a good guide to both the external sector in Korea and the likely momentum of Asian exports more broadly. For the same reasons, Taiwan export orders are worth a look as well. The week ahead also provides Q1 GDP prints in US, UK, and Korea. Goldman expects US GDP to rise by 3.2%. The Australia CPI print may open the door to an RBA rate cut as soon as May and Japanese CPI is likely to underscore why the BoJ policy has shifted aggressively. Friday also brings an update of the BoJ's outlook, along with the next BoJ meeting (unchanged policy expected).
Judging by the stock markets the last two weeks have been one of the best periods ever but the reality - hidden behind a smoke-screen of central bank liquidity and jawboning mirrors is dire. The last ten days have seen miss-after-miss in macro economic data - in fact this is the biggest plunge in macro data in 10 months. Despite the stock market's exuberance (at all-time highs), macro data has rolled over dramatically to 4-month lows. Of the major economic data points we have missed 18 of the last 20. With sentiment sagging, GDP revising lower, and earnings season disappointing, we can only imagine the BTFD opportunities that await.
Curious why the Dow Jones just hit new all time highs? Here's a partial list of recent economic events:
- Markit US PMI Miss
- ISM Manufacturing Miss
- ISM New York Miss
- Vehicle Sales Miss
- ADP Employment Miss
- ISM Services Miss
- Challenger Job Cuts Miss
- Initial Claims Miss
- Trade Balance Beat
- Non-Farm Payrolls Miss
- Hourly Earnings Miss
- NFIB Small Business Miss
- Wholesale Inventories Miss
The driftless overnight sessions are back. After the Nikkei soared by 3% following several days of declines, and the Shanghai Composite continued its downward ways despite Non-Manufacturing PMI prints for March which rose both per official and HSBC MarkIt data, Europe was unsure which way to go, especially with the EURUSD once more probing the 1.28 support level. The USDJPY was no help, and even with the BOJ meeting at which new governor Kuroda is finally expected to do something instead of only talking about it, imminent, has hardly seen the Yen budge and provide the expected carry-funding boost to global risk. In terms of newsflow there was little of it: European CPI in March printed at 1.7%, above expectations of 1.6%, but below February's 1.8% rise in inflation. UK continued telegraphing the inevitability of Mark Carney's imminent QE, with construction PMI the latest indicator missing, at 47.2, below expectations of 48.0 (above 46.8 last). Elsewhere, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday called for Europe to implement growth policies to balance its austerity drive and for countries with room for fiscal manoeuvre to increase public spending. "Europe is the only region in the world in recession. To overcome this situation we need three things: every country needs to do its homework, we need more (European) integration and we need growth policies," Rajoy said in a televised speech to leaders of his People's Party. "That's why countries which can afford it should spend more." Surely Europe will get right on it: after all, it's only "fair."
With Europe and the UK closed today, it was unclear if the traditional overnight futures levitation would take place as scheduled. To nobody's big surprise, it did, driven as usual by the EURUSD, which rose from an overnight low in the mid 1.27s following news that the Cypriot parliament head wanted to pull his country out of the Eurozone as reported here, but more importantly as that second ramp funding carry pair of choice, the USDJPY fell to the lowest in a month following yet another miss in the Japan Tankan big manufacturer index, touching under 93.30 for the first time since March 6, pushing the Nikkei 225 lower by over 2% - has the magic of Japanese rhetoric finally worn off and is the market finally demanding action instead of hollow promises, threats and simply, words? In China we got a miss in the official PMI data setting up yet another Schrodinger PMI split in Chinese economic growth indicators where the official details once again deteriorating while those tracked by HSBC/Markit are mysteriously improving. Also in Asia, rumblings out of South Korea, which continues to miss on key export and economic growth indicators, that it should cut rates mean the export-driven country is on the verge of joining the global currency warfare at which point the free Japanese lunch is over.
In all of the tortuous moments that have taken place with the European Union the one thing that has become apparent is a radical change of mindset. In the beginning there was a kind of democratic viewpoint. All nations had a voice and while some were louder than others; all were heard. This is no longer the case. There is but one mindset now and it is decidedly German. It is not that this is good or bad or even someplace in between. That is not the real issue. The Germans will do what is necessary to accomplish their goals. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about this but it is taking its toll on many nations in Europe. It is the occupation of Poland in a very real sense just accomplished without tanks or bloodshed as money is used instead of armaments to dominate and control a nation. Politically you may "Hiss" or you may "Applaud" but there are consequences here for investors that must be understood. First and foremost is that they will not stop.
- Euro zone call notes reveal extent of alarm over Cyprus (Reuters)
- Stagnant Japan Rolls Dice on New Era of Easy Money (WSJ)
- Cyprus, European data batters shares and euro (Reuters)
- UK cuts taxes to revive stagnant economy (FT)
- "Quality Control" Rat Body Linked to Blackout at Fukushima (NYT)
- North Korea issues fresh threat to U.S., South probes hacking (Reuters)
- South Korea Says Chinese Code Used in Computer Attack (BBG)
- Osborne paves way for Carney to retool Bank of England (Reuters)
- Carney Gets ‘Escape Velocity’ Mandate With Limiter (BBG)
- Osborne Pledges Five More Years of U.K. Austerity (BBG)
- Bernanke Saying He’s Dispensable Suggests Tenure Ending (BBG)
- Senate Passes Bill to Fund Operations (WSJ)
Those wondering why the overnight ramp has not yet materialized despite promises from BOJ's new governor Kuroda to openly-endedly monetize Fukushima radiation if necessary in order to reflate the economy, will have to look at Europe where a raft of horrifying PMIs confirms what most have known: the relapse into a multi-dip European recession is progressing nicely, and the hoped for rebound in the core economies of France and Germany is once again on track to not happen, but at least there will be Cyprus to blame it all on this time. The specific reason this time was French and German Flash Manufacturing and Services PMI for March, all of which came far below expectations: German Mfg PMIs printed at a contracting 48.9 vs Exp. 50.5 (back from 50.3), while Services came at 51.6, down from 54.6 on expectations of a rise to 55.0, while French Mfg PMI stayed stubbornly flat at 43.9, despite hopes of a "bounce" to 44.3, even as the Service number ticked even lower from 43.7 to 41.9, below expectations of 44.3 and the lowest since February 2009. End result: Eurozone March Services PMI down from 47.9 to 46.5, vs Exp. of 48.2, while Manufacturing slid from 47.9 to 46.6 on hopes and prayers of a bounce to 48.2. Which then takes us back to Cyprus, where things are not fixed yet, where the parliament is not expected to vote for a revised Bailout proposal yet, and where we got a cornucopia of brilliant one liners, such as these from the new Eurogroup head, who is filling in the shoes of his predecessor Juncker in style, and proving quite well that "things are serious."
As expected, it is all about Cyprus this morning, and overnight, and just as naturally it wouldn't be a centrally-planned market without the generic BTFD overnight ramp attempt, which we got from the EURUSD, as the pair rose from sub 1.29 to 1.2973, which also pushed the US futures up to nearly fill half the overnight gap lower. Citi explained this, observing the "EUR/USD squeezed higher on reports Cyprus bailout terms may be eased, CitiFX Wire says", but it did add that "selling was likely to materialize; flow has 60% bias in favor of downside, Seeing heavy net selling, mainly from leveraged funds." Naturally, the market does what it does best - clutches at straws, although not even this centrally-planned market could ignore news that today's Cyprus parliament vote has been cancelled, that banks will likely remain closed tomorrow, and that a vote may not happen until Friday, which likely means the bank holiday is about to stretch to one week, and possibly much longer as Cyprus is terrified to open its banks to the fury of scrambling "bank-runners." Things started to get interesting following another RIA report citing finance minister Siluanov, that Russia may reconsider its role in the Cyprus rescue following the bank tax. Siluanov added that bank tax breaks the plan for joint steps on Cyprus and that the decision was made without Russia.
When you get into too much debt, eventually really bad things start to happen. This is a very painful lesson that southern Europe is learning right now, and it is a lesson that the United States will soon learn as well. It simply is not possible to live way beyond your means forever. You can do it for a while though, and politicians in the U.S. and in Europe keep trying to kick the can down the road and extend the party, but the truth is that debt is a very cruel master and at some point it inevitably catches up with you. And when it catches up with you, the results can be absolutely devastating. Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal all tried to just slow down the rate at which their government debts were increasing, and look at what happened to their economies. I have always said that the next wave of the economic collapse would start in Europe and that is exactly what is happening. So keep watching Europe. What is happening to them will eventually happen to us.
"Equity prices in the US and Europe have been hovering at multi-year highs. To the extent that this reflects powerful policy easing, equity markets may have lost some of its ability to reflect economic trends in exchange for an important role in the policy fight to support spending." This is a statement from a Bank of America report overnight in which the bailed out bank confirms what has been said here since the launch of QE1 - there is no "market", there is no economic growth discounting mechanism, there is merely a monetary policy vehicle. To those, therefore, who can "forecast" what this vehicle does based on the whims of a few good central planners, we congratulate them. Because, explicitly, there is no actual forecasting involved. The only question is how long does the "career trade", in which everyone must be herded into the same trades or else risk loss of a bonus or job, go on for before mean reversion finally strikes. One thing that is clear is that since news is market positive, irrelevant of whether it is good or bad, virtually everything that has happened overnight, or will happen today, does not matter, and all stock watchers have to look forward to is another low volume grind higher, as has been the case for the past two weeks.
This is the third day in a row that an attempt to mount an overnight ramp out of the US has fizzled, with first the Nikkei closing down for the second day in a row and snapping a week-long rally, and then the Shanghai Composite following suit with its 5th consecutive drop in a row as the rumblings out of the PBOC on the inflation front get louder and louder, following PBOC governor Zhou's statement that inflation expectations must be stabilized and that great importance must be attached to inflation. Stirring the pot further was SAFE chief Yi Gang who joined the Chinese chorus warning against a currency war, by saying the G20 should avoid competitive currency devaluations. Obviously China is on the edge, and only the US stock market is completely oblivious that the marginal economy may soon force itself to enter outright contraction to offset the G-7 exported hot money keeping China's real estate beyond bubbly. Finally, SocGen released a note last night title "A strong case for easing Korean monetary policy" which confirms that it is only a brief matter of time before the Asian currency war goes thermonuclear. Moving to Europe, it should surprise nobody that the only key data point, Eurozone Industrial Production for January missed badly, printing at -0.4% on expectations of a -0.1% contraction, down from a 0.9% revised print in December as the European recession shows no signs of abating. So while the rest of the world did bad or worse than expected for the third day in a row, it will be up to the POMO and seasonally adjusted retail sales data in the US to offset the ongoing global contraction, and to send the perfectly manipulated Dow Jones to yet another all time high, in direct refutation of logic and every previous market reality ever.
Here is my take on the drivers of the foreign exchange market today and some implications.
The Chinese PMI may be slowing down (first HSBC, official one coming out soon), but why bother when according to MarkIt it is now the US' turn to carry the torch of economic growth, reality notwithstanding. As the just released Chicago PMI indicated, in February the broad index rose to 56.8, higher by 1.2 points and beating expectations of a 54.0 print. It is only logical that with the rest of the world in contraction mode, and China about to enter, that the US would have the highest print in 11 months (or Q1 2012, when US GDP was just a tad higher). Or not. Remember: it is all about playing along the script that always, at some place, there is at least some growth taking place. That said, while last month cojoined PMI and Mfg ISM were flipped, as has happened nearly every month in the past year to keep everyone baffled with BS, today's PMI beat likely means that the Manufacturing ISM will be a miss, which according to GETCO's algos will be just as positive for stocks, as today's beat.