Despite the decline in stock valuations, US equities have performed far better than credit, causing investors to ask us, “What does the credit market see that the equity market does not?” Credit markets are reacting to a real deterioration in corporate balance sheets that the equity market has yet to digest. High yield (HY) credit spreads have widened dramatically since June and are currently in territory typical of recessionary environments. In contrast, the S&P 500 is just 6% below its all time high of 2131 reached in May of this year. Here are five observations...
"Templeton Global Bond ($100bn in total; $59bn in mutual funds) – BEN’s largest fixed income fund – has seen meaningful outflows YTD (-$7.6bn from retail; -13% annualized rate) and could persist given the deterioration in excess performance (-460bps vs. benchmark YTD)."
The Energy names in the S&P 500 haven't broken their August lows in the recent downdraft for the group. That’s surprising for two reasons: first, spot crude prices certainly have – $36.52 today versus a $39.65 low on August 24th; and second, December is typically the month where investors harvest tax losses by selling losing positions and the Energy sector has a bumper crop of such candidates.
The S&P 500 is now only about 1% off Black Monday lows. Have the market internals deteriorated as much as the headline price index has?
Presenting Exhibit A: Goldman's latest YTD performance breakdown by strategy basket. It reveals is that far from suffering even the most modest correction, the "Hedge Fund Hotel" strategy (aka the most concentrated holdings), is massively outperforming not only the broader market, but has returned double the second most profitable strategy - investing in companies with high revenue growth. In a world in which the Fed just saw its credibility crushed, expect this to change shortly.
Holidays in Europe and Asia left things quiet overnight after some traders used the last day of April to frontrun the old "sell in May and go away" market adage. Market closures also kept the Chinese day trading hordes from using a tiny beat on the official manufacturing PMI print as an excuse to pile more money into the country's equity mania, while Japanese shares ended mostly unchanged as investors fret over when the BoJ will deliver the next shot of monetary heroin. In the US we'll get a look at ISM manufacturing and the latest read on consumer confidence as we head into the weekend.
With key economic data either behind us (with the downward revised GDP), or ahead of us (the February payrolls on deck), and the Greek situation currently shelved if only for a few days/weeks until the IMF payment comes due and the farce begins anew, stocks are focuing on the widely telegraphed 25 bps Chinese rate cut over the weekend, which however has so far failed to inspire a broad based rally either in Asia (where the SHCOMP closed up 0.8% after first dipping in the red) or across developed markets. In fact, as of this moment futures are hugging the unchanged line as the USDJPY attempted another breakout of 120.000 but with numerous option barrier expiration stop at that level, it has since retracted all the overnight gains and is back to the Sundey lows, even as the EURUSD has seen a powerful breakout from overnight lows and is currently at the highest level since the US GDP print, following the release of the final European February PMI data, as a result of USD weakness since the European open.
Never in the history of US equity markets has the S&P 500 closed above its 5-day moving average for 28 days in a row... until today. While most indices tracked sideways in a very narrow range today, Trannies outperformed (helped by weaker oil, but even when oil rallied intraday Trannies rallied too). VIX tracked back below 12.5 with an inverted term structure for the 5th day in a row. The USD lost ground for the 2nd day in a row, driven by EUR strength (with notable AUD weakness extending). Silver rallied as gold flatlined and copper tumbled after US GDP beat. However, the two big themes today were the collapse in oil prices (as rumors/news ahead of OPEC sent volatility soaring) to a $73 handle - the lowest close since 2010; and the plunge in Treasury yields (with a very stroing 5Y auction and big block trade in TLT suggesting short-covering). Finally, AAPL broke above a $700 billion market cap briefly today but was unable to hold it.
First, the bad news: Last week was the worst week for hedge funds since 2011.... Then the good: hedge funds dropped by less than half what the decline in the broader market was, largely because many hedge funds still haven't been fully shaken out of their shorts, despite 6 years of relentless central planning seeking to crush all bears.
Here is a summary of the best and worst performing hedge funds in October and 2014.
One would think that after last week's market rout, the worst in years, that Goldman clients would have just one question: why just a month after you, chief Goldman strategist David Kostin said to "Buy Stocks Because Hedge Funds Suck; Also Chase Momentum And Beta", are stocks crashing? No really: this is literally what Kostin said in the first days of September: "investors should buy stocks which should benefit from a combination of beta, momentum, and popularity as funds attempt to remedy their weak YTD performance heading into late 2014." Turns out frontrunning the world's most overpaid money losers wasn't such a great strategy after all. In any event, that is not what Goldman's clients are asking. Instead as David Kostin informs us in his weekly letter to Jim Hanson's beloved creations, "every client inquiry focused on the same four topics: global growth, FX, oil, and small-caps."
While some are shocked by Calpers' decision to abandon hedge funds as an investment class (the first of many such "exits"), there really should be no surprise here. As we have said year after year after year (and so on), it was only a matter of time before limited partners said "enough" and stopped paying 2 and 20 to overpaid asset managers in a world in which central banks have "guaranteed" there is no longer any risk, just to underperform the market for a whopping 6 years in a row now. And to showcase where Calpers decision came from here are just two charts.
Just 2 months ago, the illustrious muppet catchers at Goldman Sachs stated that both stocks were 30-45% overvalued but lifted its year-end target in what we subjectively described as 'moronic drivel'. Then, 2 short weeks after that 'upgrade', the same thought-provoking sell-side strategist downgraded stocks on the basis that a 'sell-off in bonds could lead to short-term weakness in stocks'. Now, with the S&P 500 closing at new record highs on the worst employment data of the year, Goldman is at it again - upgrading equities to overweight for the next 3 months, rolling index targets forward, and piling investors into high-yield credit. Welcome to muppetville...
It seems like it was only yesterday when Goldman was predicting either two-thirds chance of a 10% correction in stocks, said that the S&P is either 30% or 45% overvalued relative to its historical value, or warned about a market slide when it downgraded the S&P500 "to neutral over 3 months as a sell-off in bonds could lead to a temporary sell-off in equities." Alas, that was the old Goldman: the one which still considered the impact of fundamentals in a centrally-planned world. The new one is far more pragmatic for the New Normal times, and overnight David Kostin, who has consistently fluctuated on either his year end S&P500 price target in 2014, or the justification for getting there (first higher bonds yields, then lower), came out with his latest thesis why now is the time to own stocks. Naturally, his catalysts have nothing to do with actual fundamentals, and instead all focus on the three only relevant metrics of the new normal: beta, momentum and career risk, which can be summarizes as follows: buy stocks because Hedge Funds suck.