European Banks Soar On Rumor ECB May Monetize Bank Stocks; Japan Crash Continues

While algos patiently await the only thing that matters for US stocks today which is Janet Yellen's testimony before Congress. expected to be released at 8:30 am (and previewed here), the rest of the world this morning is a hot mess of schizophrenic highs and lows.

One look at Asia this morning and it was more of the same: another deja vu session for Japan where the relentless surge in the Yen pressured the Nikkei lower by another 2.3%, pushing it down to 15713, to the lowest close since October 2014. The MSCI Asia index was likewise down 1.4% with all 10 sectors falling.

Europe, however, was a different story entirely: following yesterday's late afternoon FT "trial balloon" that Deutsche Bank would part with much needed liquidity to repurchase bonds in the open market (perhaps to indicate how unconcerned it is about the future), the German bank was up already over 4% in the premarket, and then proceeded to absolutely explode, soaring as much as 15% higher, up 13.15% at last check in Frankfurt, on what is likely a combination of short covering and a rumor which hit about an hour ago, when a German newsletter reported that the ECB could buy bank stocks as part of its QE.

We would be very surprised if in a world in which central bankers are being openly called out by markets that their bags of tricks are empty, the ECB were to actually do that, but we doubt the ECB has any intention of actually buying bank stocks: if anything, intention is far simpler - to slow down the relentless selling in Europe's most systematically important bank, which between the FT trial balloon and today's rumor, it has achieved... for now.

Also as a result, following 8 brutal days of carnage which sent European stocks to the lowest level since October 2013,Europe is solidly in the green, with the Stoxx up 2.3% the same as the Dax, however nothing compares to the European banking sector which as shown in the chart from Mark Barton below, is quite literally all green: not a single bank in Europe is in the red this morning.


We expect that today's volatile European bank euphoria will be brief if not validated by concerte actions, because while central banks have the luxury of jawboning, commercial banks are actually burning through funds - rapidly at that - and don't have the luxury of hoping for the best while doing nothing.

Which brings us back to Yellen's testimony, which Jim Reid previews as follows: "Yellen can give the market hope today that the committee is acknowledging the worrying signs from both financial markets and the global economy and take a step closer to a cleaner dovish stance. That would certainly help if for no other reason than it would halt the dollar bull market (notwithstanding the recent sell-off) which has caused problems with commodities, EM, China and encouraged shrinking global dollar liquidity. However we won't get such a turnaround in one speech. If it happens it's likely to be a multi month story."

Alternatively, she can just as easily send stocks reeling with one word out of place.

We will find out shortly which word she picks. For the time being, here is where markets stand right now.

  • S&P 500 futures up 1.0% to 1867
  • Stoxx 600 up 2.3% to 316.4
  • FTSE 100 up 1.3% to 5708
  • DAX up 2.4% to 9091
  • German 10Yr yield up 3bps to 0.26%
  • Italian 10Yr yield down 8bps to 1.6%
  • Spanish 10Yr yield down 7bps to 1.69%
  • MSCI Asia Pacific down 1.4% to 117
  • Nikkei 225 down 2.3% to 15713
  • S&P/ASX 200 down 1.2% to 4776
  • US 10-yr yield up 3bps to 1.76%
  • Dollar Index up 0.15% to 96.21
  • WTI Crude futures up 1.8% to $28.45
  • Brent Futures up 1.7% to $30.84
  • Gold spot down 0.5% to $1,184
  • Silver spot down 0.7% to $15.14

Top Global News

  • New Hampshire Bucks the Establishment to Back Trump and Sanders: Biggest loser of the night was Hillary Clinton, who won the state in 2008; Clinton’s Loss to Sanders Exposes Weakness of Message—and Messenger; Christie Reevaluates Bid After Poor New Hampshire Showing
  • Deutsche Bank Said in Early Stages of Mulling Bond Buyback: Shares gain most in more than 4 years
  • U.S., Russia Make Syria Cease-Fire Push as Assad Regains Ground: Kerry, Lavrov among 17 diplomats to hold talks in Munich
  • Renzi Says EU Can Dodge Titanic Disaster Following Italy’s Lead: EU leaders like band playing as doomed liner sank, Renzi says in interview
  • How Low Can Central Banks Go? JPMorgan Reckons Way, Way Lower: Says ECB could cut to -4.5% and Fed to -1.3%
  • Oil Snaps 4-Day Losing Streak as Crude Producers Cut Spending: Rebounds from lowest close in almost three weeks
  • Goldman Sachs Abandons Five of Six ‘Top Trade’ Calls for 2016: Closes bet on dollar strength versus euro, yen
  • KKR-Backed US Foods Files for Initial Public Offering: co. filed initial prospectus Tuesday with offering size of $100m
  • BTG Said to Plan Granting Equity to Traders at Commodities Unit: Deal aimed at keeping staff as bank recovers from CEO arrest
  • Disney Shares Sink as Lower ESPN Profit Overshadows ‘Star Wars’: Programming costs, subscriber losses, dollar hit sports network
  • Google’s Self-Driving Car Software Seen as Driver by U.S. Agency: NHTSA interpretation contrasts with California’s push-back
  • FTSE 100 Profits Shrink by GBP29b in 2015, Seen Falling Further: U.K. profits set to drop further 5.3% in 2016, Bloomberg data shows
  • Kim Purges North Korea’s Military Chief of Staff, Yonhap Says: Ri Yong Gil executed early this month on corruption charges

Looking at regional markets reveals two different worlds: in Asia, the plummet equities saw no respite as they extended on yesterday's losses following the lacklustre close on Wall St, alongside concerns over the banking sector. As such, Nikkei 225 (-2.3%) continued to take a hammering, subsequently paring the entirety of its gains since the BoJ QQE expansion in Oct'14 amid the persistent JPY strength, coupled with weakness in Tech heavyweight KDDI (-7.4%) after their earnings. ASX 200 (-1.2%) showed no signs of a resurgence having entered into a bear market territory with pressure coming from energy names. Despite the risk off sentiment, JGBs slipped in Asian trade with touted profit taking after yesterday's stellar gains, whilst 20yr JGBs continued the recent record-breaking strike as yields fell to 0.075%.

Top Asian News:

  • Nissan Profit Beats Estimates as Rogue Paces U.S. Sales Rise: U.S. sales of the Rogue crossover surged 44% last year
  • Coal Trader Seeing Rebound Hunts for Bargains in Troubled Mines: Javelin Global Commodities Holdings, run by ex- Goldman traders sees recovery in 2017
  • Yen Gains Sideline Kuroda as Volatility Sweeps Rates Shock Aside: Options protecting against yen gains cost most in over 5 yrs
  • Behind China’s $720 Million Bet on British Tech Startups: Cocoon Networks plans London incubator for tech, biotech

In Europe, on the other hand, it has been a surge from the beginning on the back of the soaring banking sector were as noted earlier, not a single bank is red today following speculation the ECB may monetize bank shares in the next QE. Sure enough, after the heavy selling seen in yesterday's trade, this morning sees equities reside in positive territory to pare back some of the recent losses (Euro Stoxx: +2.8%). Banking names remain in focus, with Deutsche Bank (+12.7%) outperforming today after source reports suggesting the bank is considering a bond buyback. The latest Deutsche Bank news has seen a broad based recovery in credit metrics in Europe, with the exception of Credit Suisse CDS rates, which are actually higher this morning. Gains in equities have been capped by the energy sector, with energy names lagging as a result of the continued subdued oil prices, with WTI Mar'16 futures remaining firmly below USD 29.00/bbl despite a smaller than anticipated build.

European Top News:

  • Opera to Be Sold to Chinese Tech Companies for $1.2b: 71 kroner/shr cash tender offer at 46% premium to latest close
  • Maersk Profit Plunges as Oil, Container Units Both Suffer: reports 2015 net income $791m vs $5.02b in 2014; est. $3.7b
  • Heineken, Carlsberg Forecast Profit Gains as Asia Sales Rise: Vietnam, Southeast Asia growth offsetting weak China, Russia
  • Hermes Says 2016 Sales Growth May Fall Short of Mid-Term Target: Cites global economic, geopolitical, monetary uncertainties
  • James Bond, Star Wars Studio Pinewood Puts Itself Up for Sale: Rothschild hired to conduct a strategic review of company
  • Telenor Earnings Fall Short Amid Norway Wireless Competition: Margin forecast for 2016 also trails analysts’ estimates
  • Daimler Sees $384 Million Expense for Takata Air-Bag Recall: xpense cuts net income to EU8.7b for 2015
  • ARM 4Q Sales Beat Ests., Sees 2016 Revenue ‘Broadly In Line’: says enters 2016 with robust opportunity pipeline for licensing

In FX, a banking sector recovery has led to the near term relief in global stocks to lend a period of calm. The familiar FX correlations have followed through as a result, though USD/JPY looks to be lagging, but this is down to the dovish expectations of Fed Chair Yellen's semi-annual testimony due later today. 115.00+ is proving a struggle, so positive risk sentiment preferred through Ccy/USD elsewhere, with AUD and NZD notable gainers. GBP brushed off the weak Q4 manufacturing numbers, as the ONS stated this would have less than a 0.1 % impact on GDP. Cable struggling on a 1.4500 handle, but supported for now. EUR crosses have come right back down again — including GBP — and this has pulled EUR/USD back into the mid 1.1200's, which is also in line with the risk scenario at present. CAD well contained as Oil prices stabilise post API last night.

In commodities, WTI and Crude have steadily risen in the European session as a result of more comments from Iran about cooperating with Saudi Arabia regarding oil output. Furthermore, the latest API crude oil inventory report produced a build of 2.4mln which was below expectations of a 3.6mln build and below today's DoE expected build of 2.85m1n.

Overnight gold traded range bound failing to benefit from further risk off sentiment in Asia. The yellow metal has enjoyed its best start to the year since 1980, but could be set to drop according to some analysts, as Chinese purchases that ramped up prior to the Lunar New Year, slow down. This comes after a rather bearish note from Goldman Sachs yesterday, who said they see prices falling to USD 1,000 by year end, citing fed rate hikes. In the short term at least, prices will be dictated by the fed, given Chair Yeliens semi-annual testimony later on today. The market has priced in a dovish testimony, with some saying she will er on the side of 2 rate hikes this year. Should she surprise to the hawkish side we could see dovish USD bets unwinding and this will ultimately drive the price gold.

Elsewhere in the metals complex, copper, which also received a bearish note from Goldman yesterday, has declined an is one of the worst performers on the LME, following the news that Freepoort McMoRan have been granted new permits from Indonesia. The company's Grasberg mine in the country is the world second largest on terms of capacity, consequently the markets expect the glut to swell further. LME zinc outperforms, continuing to benefit from a bullish note by Goldman.

On today's US calendar, the only thing that will matter will be Yellen’s semi-annual testimony to the House Financial Services Panel delivered at 10:00 however her speech will be out at 8:30 am. We’ll also hear from the Fed’s Williams later this evening (due at 6.30pm GMT). Earnings wise we’ve got 18 S&P 500 companies set to report including Cisco and Time Warner.


Bulletin Headline Summary from Bloomberg and RanSquawk

  • Deutsche Bank (+12.7%) are outperforming today after source reports suggesting the bank is considering a bond buyback
  • The banking sector recovery has led to the near term relief in global stocks and consequently lent a period of calm to FX markets
  • Looking ahead, the standout event through the rest of the session will be any comments from Fed's Yellen at her semi-annual testimony to congress. Participants will also be looking out for the latest OPEC reports and DoE crude oil inventories as well as comments from ECB's Praet and Hansson
  • Treasuries lower in overnight trading as European equities rally, led by bank stocks, ahead of Yellen’s testimony before House Financial Services Committee at 10am ET, remarks to be released at 8:30am; Treasury to sell $23b U.S. 10Y notes, WI 1.765% vs 2.09% in Jan.
  • Deutsche Bank shares jumped the most in more than four years as Germany’s biggest bank is considering a bond buyback to help ease concerns about its funds, according to a person with knowledge of the matter
  • Financial firms will have an additional year to comply with MiFID II, the overhaul of European Union market rules covering everything from derivatives trading to bond pricing. The deadline has been moved forward to Jan. 3, 2018
  • 699 officers and directors of American companies purchased their own stock in the last 30 days compared with 828 who sold, the most bullish ratio in more than four years, according to data compiled by The Washington Service and Bloomberg
  • The cost of insuring the bonds of State Bank of India is surging before the nation’s largest lender reports quarterly earnings on Thursday amid concern over worsening asset quality
  • U.K. industrial production plunged 1.1% m/m in December, more than economists forecast, capping its worst quarterly performance in almost three years, the Office for National Statistics said in London on Wednesday
  • Italian industrial production unexpectedly plunged in December, down 0.7% m/m, signaling that the recovery in the euro region’s third-biggest economy probably slowed in the last quarter of 2015 and might struggle to continue in coming months
  • Recent U.S. labor-market data shows persistent hiring, near- record job openings, and growing confidence among workers that they can quit their jobs with the prospect of easily finding another one
  • No IG corporates (YTD volume $181.575b) and no HY (YTD volume $9.275b) priced yesterday

US Event Calendar

  • 7:00am: MBA Mortgage Applications, Feb. 5 (prior -2.6%)
  • 2:00pm: Monthly Budget Statement, Jan., est. $47.5b (prior -$17.5b)
  • 8:30am: Yellen’s prepared remarks to House committee released
  • 10:00am: Fed’s Yellen testifies to House committee
  • 1:00pm: U.S. to sell $23b 10Y notes
  • 1:30pm: Fed’s Williams speaks in Los Angeles

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Can Yellen help create peace today in a market in full battle mode? She is set to deliver her semi-annual testimony to the House Financial Services Committee today at 3.00pm GMT (although her prepared remarks may be released earlier) before answering questions from lawmakers. It’s likely that much of what she says today will be repeated in her speech tomorrow at the same time to the Senate, with only the Q&A sessions different.

We clearly have long thought that any rate rise in this cycle is a policy error given our growth and financial system concerns but the Fed are probably nowhere near to acknowledging that they are now on hold for an indefinite period. Yellen can however give the market hope today that the committee is acknowledging the worrying signs from both financial markets and the global economy and take a step closer to a cleaner dovish stance. That would certainly help if for no other reason than it would halt the dollar bull market (notwithstanding the recent sell-off) which has caused problems with commodities, EM, China and encouraged shrinking global dollar liquidity. However we won't get such a turnaround in one speech. If it happens it's likely to be a multi month story.

Meanwhile European banks continue to feel the full force of the latest leg of this sell-off with the Stoxx 600 closing down -1.58% yesterday and to the lowest level since October 2013. Peripheral banks were the hardest hit and that saw equity markets in Italy, Spain and Greece tumble -3.21%, -2.39% and -2.89% respectively. In fairness yet another sharp leg down for Oil (WTI closing -5.89% at $27.94/bbl) also more than played its part. Interestingly it was a much better day for European credit markets. With much of the commentary suggesting that Monday’s moves were overdone yesterday we saw the iTraxx senior and sub indices tighten 5bps and 7.5bps respectively. That helped Main close 2bps tighter and Crossover finish more or less unchanged.

Whilst the profitability outlook for European financials remains highly uncertain, a personal view is that the credit risk has been exaggerated in recent days. The ECB still has numerous facilities that banks can use to prevent liquidity concerns. Having said this even if the market is wrong on this, a mistaken sell-off can lead to self fulfilling problems in a sector like financials. If stress continues then as a minimum bank lending that has recently helped European growth could easily suffer which in turn would weaken the operating environment for banks - and all because of a sell-off that was sentiment driven. Banks are often a confidence play and there isn't much of it around at the moment. One wonders what the ECB could possibly do at their March 10th meeting to enhance such an elusive commodity. At some point soon the market will start discussing this as surely it's not in the ECB's interest to see such destabilising focus on what are transmitters of their policy through the economy.

Volatility was the name of the game again for US equity markets yesterday. After trading as much as 1% lower in early trading and then as high as +0.7% in late trading the index eventually finished more or less unchanged (-0.07%) although the tone for the most part felt distinctly negative with the VIX up again (+2%) and closing above 20 for the seventh consecutive session. US credit indices staged a similar roundabout performance while US Treasury yields extended their march lower. 10y Treasuries eventually closed 2.2bps lower at 1.727% but did in fact dip as low as 1.680% which was close to the testing the low print we made around this time last year (1.665%).

It’s a familiar start for markets in Asia (for those open) this morning. Equity bourses in Japan have extended yesterday’s steep losses with the Nikkei and Topix both down close to 3.5%. In Australia the ASX is currently -1.17% although it has pared earlier steep losses but still sits on the verge of dipping into bear market territory. US equity futures are down close to half a percent despite an early 2% bounce for WTI to back above $28/bbl. Much like European markets yesterday its credit markets which are outperforming. The iTraxx Australia is currently 2bps tighter and iTraxx Japan 3bps tighter.

Meanwhile, over in the US the New Hampshire primary results have started filtering through this morning. According to FT, in the Democrat race and with 60% of the ballots currently counted for Sanders has a 59%-39% lead over Clinton (who has since conceded victory in the state), while in the Republican race Trump has secured 34% of the overall vote and is leading with Ohio Governor, John Kasich, coming in second place with 16% with Cruz (12%), Rubio and Bush (both 11%) closely behind. Eyebrows may be raised at the success of these two extreme candidates yesterday but there is still a long way to go.

As expected the data out of the US JOLTS job opening report yesterday shone a positive light on the US labour market. Job openings rose a better than expected 261k in December to 5.61m (vs. 5.41m expected) and to the second highest level on record. In the details the quits rate nudged up one-tenth to 2.1% and to the highest since April 2008. The hiring rate was unchanged at 3.7%. Meanwhile the NFIB small business optimism print was down 1.3pts to 93.9 (vs. 94.5 expected) and wholesale inventories (-0.1% mom vs. -0.2% expected) and trade sales (-0.3% mom vs. -0.4% expected) were down a little less than expected in December. With markets getting smacked from all angles, just to confuse matters the Atlanta Fed upgraded their Q1 GDP forecast again yesterday following the wholesale trade report. They now forecast GDP growth of 2.5% (up from 2.2%).

The other notable dataflow yesterday was out of Germany where the most significant was an unexpected drop in industrial production in December (-1.2% mom vs. +0.5% expected and the biggest monthly decline since August 2014), which has helped to push the YoY rate now down to -2.2% from +0.1%. Also underperforming relative to expectations was the latest trade data where exports in particular slid -1.6% mom in December (relative to expectations for a +0.5% gain). A bigger than expected decline in imports however did see the trade surplus shrink. As our colleagues in Europe pointed out, the latest data clearly poses downside risks ahead for Friday’s Q4 GDP release. That said, turnover data, new orders and capacity utilization data does suggest that December data somewhat overstates the weakness and that the Q1 outlook for production is not threatened. Still, growth looks ever further tilted towards domestic demand.

In terms of the day ahead, this morning in Europe the main releases of note are the next slug of industrial production reports where we’ll get the readings for the UK, France and Italy. Datawise in the US this afternoon we’ll get the January Monthly Budget Statement but expect that to be secondary to Fed Chair Yellen’s semi-annual testimony to the House Financial Services Panel at 3.00pm GMT. We’ll also hear from the Fed’s Williams later this evening (due at 6.30pm GMT). Earnings wise we’ve got 18 S&P 500 companies set to report including Cisco and Time Warner.