Yesterday's epic market surge, the biggest Dow surge since December 2011 on the back of the most violent short squeeze in three years, highlighted just why being caught wrong side in an illiquid market can be terminal to one's asset management career (especially if on margin), and thus why hedge funds are so leery of dipping more than their toe in especially on the short side, resulting in a 6th consecutive year of underperformance relative to the confidence-boosting policy tool that is the S&P. And with today's session the last Friday before Christmas week, compounded by a quadruple witching option expiration, expect even less liquidity and even more violent moves as a few E-mini oddlots take out the entire stack on either the bid or ask side. Keep an eye on the USDJPY which, now that equities have decided to ignore both HY and energy prices, is the only driver for risk left: this means the usual pre-US open upward momentum ignition rigging will be rife to set a positive tone ahead of today's session.
For those wondering if the CBR's intervention in the Russian FX market with its shocking emergency rate hike to 17% overnight calmed things, the answer is yes... for about two minutes. The USDRUB indeed tumbled nearly 10% to 59 and then promptly blew right back out, the Ruble crashing in panic selling and seemingly without any CBR market interventions, and at last check was freefalling through 72 74 76, and sending the Russian stock market plummeting by over 15%.
One sign would be for non-energy junk bonds to begin dropping in price. That would mean large holders are exiting from all junk bonds, not just those companies affected by low oil prices.
Another sign would be sudden drops in share prices for banks or insurance companies that hold small amounts of energy-related bonds or bank loans, a clue that some market participants think they have derivative exposure.
A third sign to look for would be the rumors or news that the big, investment-grade energy companies are having trouble renewing their Commercial Paper, bank loans or maturing bonds (the Exxon-Mobils and Shells of the world).
Overnight the bank with the $58 trillion in derivative exposure issued a note "From GRecovery to GRelapse" which is quite absent on the usual optimism, cheerfulness and happy-ending we have grown to expect from the bank whose former employee is in charge of the European printing press. Here is the punchline: "In the event of a severe Greek government clash with international lenders, interruption of liquidity provision to Greek banks by the ECB could potentially even lead to a Cyprus-style prolonged “bank holiday”. And market fears for potential Euro-exit risks could rise at that point." Dear Greeks, you have been warned, and "don't vote wrong" as EU's Juncker urges the Greeks.
- New Normal headlines: Global stocks up on hopes of China policy easing (Reuters)
- China inflation eases to five-year low (BBC)
- U.S. Lawmakers Agree on $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill (WSJ)
- U.S. Braced for Blowback as CIA Report Lays Bare Abuses (BBG)
- CIA tortured, misled, U.S. report finds, drawing calls for action (Reuters)
- CIA Made False Claims Torture Prevented Heathrow Attacks (BBG)
- Oil Resumes Drop as Iran Sees $40 If There’s OPEC Discord (BBG)
- OPEC Says 2015 Demand for Its Crude Will Be Weakest in 12 Years (BBG)
- Greek yield curve inverted as politics raise default fears (Reuters)
It wasn't just China's long overdue crash last night. In addition to the Shanghai Composite suffering its biggest plunge since August 2009, there has been a sharp slide in the USDJPY which has broken its uptrend to +∞ (and hyperinflation), and around the time Chinese gamblers were panicking, the FX pair tumbled under 120, although since then the 120 tractor beam has been activated. Elsewhere, the Athens stock exchange is also crashing by over 10% this morning on the heels of news that the Greek government has accelerated the process to elect the next president and possibly, a rerun of the drama from the summer of 2012 when the Eurozone was hanging by a thread when Tsipras almost won the presidential vote and killed the world's most artificial and insolvent monetary union. And finally, the crude plunge appears to have finally caught up with ground zero, with ADX General Index in Abu Dhabi plunging 3.5%, also poised for the biggest drop since 2009. In fact the only thing that isn't crashing (at least not this moment), is Brent, which did drop to new 5 year lows earlier under $66, but has since staged a feeble rebound.
Without doubt, the most memorable line from the latest quarterly report by the BIS, one which shows how shocked even the central banks' central bank is with how perverted and broken the "market" has become is the following: "The highly abnormal is becoming uncomfortably normal.... There is something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine." Overnight, "markets" did all in their (central banks') power to justify the BIS' amazement, when first the Nikkei closed green following another shocker of Japanese econ data, when it was revealed that the quadruple-dip recession was even worse than expected, and then the Shanghai composite soaring over 3000 or up 2.8% for the session, following news of the worst trade data - whether completely fabricated or not - out of China in over half a year.
It has been centuries since the Portuguese last dominated the world's seaways, but in glancing over recent headlines one would be forgiven for thinking that their pirates are still running around. With the economy still reeling from the effects of the devastating financial crisis in 2010-11, Portugal has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals which go to the very core of the political and financial establishments. Portugal's economic divergence relative to Europe’s core is striking; it has even been overtaken by an average of the newcomers that joined the European Union in 2004, many of which are former communist countries. This in spite of Portugal receiving billions in structural reform funds from Brussels for almost three decades now – a process which is still ongoing. So how did this significant underperformance come about?
"We all are in a Ponzi world right now. Hoping to be bailed out by the next person. The problem is that demographics alone have to tell us, that there are fewer people entering the scheme then leaving. More people get out than in. Which means, by definition, that the scheme is at an end. The Minsky moment is the crash. Like all crashes it is easier to explain it afterwards than to time it before. But I think it is obvious that the endgame is near."
"Today central banks give money to institutions, which are not solvent, against doubtful collateral for zero interest. This is not capitalism."
A few days of near-record crude volatility (which the CME is scrambling to reduce following 2 crude margin hikes in the past week) is giving way to the New Normal default thinking: that central banks will soon take care of everything. And sure enough, just an hour earlier, US equity futures had jumped 8 points on virtually zero volume, wiping out all of yesterday's losses, driven higher by that new "old favorite", the USDJPY, which has once again resumed its climb higher, briefly rising above 119.00 once again and sending the Nikkei and the Topix to fresh 7 year highs, perfectly oblivious to both yesterday's Moody's downgrade and now open warnings from both Eisuke Sakakibara and Goldman Sachs that further declines in the Yen will accelerate the collapse of the Japanese economy. And, since there is also zero liquidity in the market, that entire gain was also just as promptly wiped out with futures now practically unchanged from yesterday's close.
Goldman Sachs' 2015 global equity views and themes note is out and its title "The Long Grind Higher Continues" says it all... it's muppet slaughtering time...
The Dutch and German governments were preparing emergency plans for a return to their national currencies at the height of the euro crisis it has emerged. These plans remain in place.
Since this is the season for giving thanks in the US, we might give some consideration to the unsung heroes who have been underwriting a big chunk of our economic recovery of late. Actually, we literally owe our future to them - in more ways than one. Since there are no free lunches in economics (that we all must agree on), somebody has to pay for this. And it should be obvious by now who that will be: our children and grandchildren (and at this rate, probably their children and grandchildren too).
Just two months after the OECD cut its global growth outlook, overnight the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development cut it again, taking down its US, Chinese, Japanese but mostly, Eurozone forecasts. In the report it said: "The Economic Outlook draws attention to a global economy stuck in low gear, with growth in trade and investment under-performing historic averages and diverging demand patterns across countries and regions, both in advanced and emerging economies. “We are far from being on the road to a healthy recovery. There is a growing risk of stagnation in the euro zone that could have impacts worldwide, while Japan has fallen into a technical recession,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said. “Furthermore, diverging monetary policies could lead to greater financial volatility for emerging economies, many of which have accumulated high levels of debt.” And sure enough, the OECD's prescription: more Eurozone QE. As a result, futures in the US are in fresh all time high territory ignoring any potential spillover from last night's Ferguson protests, just 30 points from Goldman's latest 2015 S&P target, Stoxx is up 0.5%, while bond yields are lower as frontrunning of central bank bond purchases resumes. Oil is a fraction higher due to a note suggesting the Saudi's are preparing for a bigger supply cut than expected, although as the note says "it is unclear if the cut sticks."
Another day, another case of central banks, not one but two this time, dictating "price" action.