by ilene - September 12th, 2010 7:27 pm
Courtesy of Rohan at Data Diary
Risk appetite has been ticking higher this past week. The price action in isolation looks pretty positive. The question that is troubling the synapses is whether equity markets are poised to thrust higher once more – egged on by the monetary cattleprod of the US and a seeming stabilisation in China’s growth dynamics.
Certainly the penultimate rejection of the S&P500 off 1040 set the scene for a short squeeze of material proportions. Given the ramp up in volumes that accompanied the selloff from the April highs, it’d be reasonable to expect that there’d be a block of nervous ‘shorts’ at levels not too far from here. It’ll be interesting to see what the tea-leaves say about who sold/bought in the Flow of Funds data next week, but the 1130 level is looking like a pretty tasty target.
For the moment, it’s probably wise to respect the
Still my read of the bigger picture has this run-up as a position driven head fake. Momentum has turned lower since the April high that marked the exhaustion point for global stimulus mark I. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that successive rounds of government intervention will be as wildly successful as the first. While the leading indicators are tracking lower, so will the market.
The other factor tugging at the market’s tail is that the logic for risk spreads to widen remains compelling. The Fed may be the fat kid sitting on the longer end of the Treasuries market, but ultimately the other end of the risk plank can’t join in as the economic malaise works its way through earnings forecasts and default probabilities. This rally should meet its maker over the next couple of weeks – just a matter of whether it can convince him that all those calories can’t be good for you.
by ilene - September 7th, 2010 5:15 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners says the global economy is set to “muddle through” as the excesses of the last few decades are worked off. Tilson detailed his macro outlook in his most recent investor letter for August. Tilson believes the worst of the credit crisis is behind us, however, the heavy lifting is not over yet. Tilson is very concerned about the macro risks, particularly the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and US housing. Tilson says the US housing
“We think we have gone through the most difficult economic period in the United States and the world since the Great Depression. We think the worldwide debt bubble — this was not just a US housing crisis or bubble, but a worldwide debt bubble — was unprecedented in the degree of depravity that took place, in the amount of leverage that built up in the system all over the world, and we’re very skeptical that we have somehow successfully managed our way through the aftermath of that bubble and that everything is rosy now.
We think the aftermath of this bubble will be with us for many years and that will continue to cause disruptions and turmoil in various markets. The sovereign debt crisis in Europe is a good example of that just in the past few months; we think the US housing market is already in a double dip right now, though because there is a lag in the data, most people haven’t yet realized it. We don’t think it’s going to be anything like the first dip, which really took world economy over a cliff, but there are 7 million people not paying their mortgages right now and we have not resolved that problem and that’s going to continue to be a headwind for our financial system. There are probably six or eight major risk factors, two of which are the sovereign debt issues and the US housing market. These make us very nervous and we don’t know how it’s going to play out (and we’re skeptical that anyone knows how it’s going to play out), so in light of these major problems, we think it’s wise to be prudent.”
by ilene - September 3rd, 2010 7:27 pm
Courtesy of MIKE WHITNEY writing at CounterPunch
Here’s something to munch on from Dennis K. Berman in last week’s Wall Street Journal:
"Today, small investors are fleeing the equities markets in droves, according to data from the Investment Company Institute, pulling out a net $34 billion from stock funds so far this year…..They say, "I still feel like someone is screwing me……trading feels different than it used to."
Berman traces the problem to its source, the "inscrutable interplay between myriad exchanges and high-frequency traders, whose volume now accounts for an estimated two-thirds of all trading"…"a market that many perceive as tainted and prone to gaming by a cadre of insiders."
That sounds like a long-winded way of saying the market is rigged.
High-frequency trading (HFT) is algorithmic-computer trading that finds "statistical patterns and pricing anomalies" by scanning the various stock exchanges. It’s high-speed robo-trading that oftentimes executes orders without human intervention. HFT allows one group of investors to see the data on other people’s orders ahead of time and use their supercomputers to buy in front of them. It’s called frontloading, and it goes on every day right under the SEC’s nose.
In an interview on CNBC, market analyst Joe Saluzzi was asked if the big HFT players were able to see other investors orders (and execute trades) before them. Saluzzi said, "Yes. The answer is absolutely yes. The exchanges supply you with the data, giving you the flash order, and if your fixed connection goes into their lines first, you are disadvantaging the retail and institutional investor."
Frontloading is cheating pure and simple, but rather than go after the "big fish" who run these enormous computerized skimming operations; regulators have been rolling up rogue traders who abscond with the trading code.
Here’s a blurp from wired.com:
"Monday’s arrest of Samarth Agrawal, 26, came nine months after a Goldman Sachs programmer was arrested on similar charges that he, too, stole his employers source code for software, his employer used to make sophisticated, high-speed, high-volume stock and commodities trades.
“The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the use of these programs that many believe give their users an unfair advantage over other traders. Nevertheless, stealing the code to these suspect programs remains illegal. ("Second banker accused of stealing high frequency trading code", wired.com)
by ilene - September 3rd, 2010 7:23 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
The deterioration in the economy has been clear in recent months, but the equity markets have confounded many investors. Stocks are just 10.6% off their highs and have shown some remarkable resilience, particularly in the last few weeks. There’s a great tug-of-war going on underneath what appears like a potentially frightening macro picture.
A closer look shows that what we’ve primarily seen is deterioration in the macro outlook and not so much in specific corporate outlooks. Despite the persistently weak economy, earnings aren’t falling out of bed. Without a sharp decline in earnings there is unlikely to be a sharp decline in the equity markets (outside of some exogenous event such as a sovereign default).
The most distinct characteristic I can recall from the the 2007/2008 market downturn was the persistent deterioration in earnings. Like dominoes we saw the various industries go down one by one: housing, then banks, then consumer discretionary and on down the line. While the macro picture has deteriorated recently we haven’t seen the same sort of deterioration in earnings that we saw in 2007 and 2008.
In a recent strategy note JP Morgan elaborated on the divergence between the macro outlook and the earnings outlook:
“What matters for equities is earnings and not GDP growth. US GDP growth projections are being cut, but earnings projections have been little affected so far. Investors and analysts are hoping that, to the extent the soft patch in US GDP growth lasts for only a few quarters and does not spillover to the rest of the world, US companies will be able to protect their revenues and profits. Indeed, this is what happened during 2Q, when US companies were able to deliver strong top line and EPS growth even as US GDP grew at only a 1% pace.
It is a prolonged soft patch that poses the greater threat for corporate earnings and equity markets as it raises the specter of deflation and profit margin contraction. Why is deflation bad for corporate profitability? When nominal interest rates are bounded at zero, a fall in expected inflation causes a rise in real interest rates and the cost of capital, hurting corporate profitability. In addition, nominal wage rigidities mean that deflation reduces output prices by more than input prices putting pressure on corporate profitability. Indeed, the
by ilene - August 31st, 2010 3:59 am
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Over the course of the last 18 months I’ve been adhering to a macro view that can best be summed up as follows:
1) The explosion in private
sectordebt (excessive housing borrowing, excessive corporate debt, etc) levels would reveal the private sector as unable to sustain positive economic growth, de-leveraging and deflation would ensue.
2) Government intervention would help moderately boost aggregate demand, improve bank balance sheets, improve sentiment, boost asset prices but fail to result in sustained economic recovery as private sector balance
3) Extremely depressed estimates and corporate cost cutting would improve margins and generate a moderate earnings rebound, but would come under pressure in 2010 as margin expansion failed to continue at the 2009 rate.
The rebound in assets was surprisingly strong and the ability of corporations to sustain bottom line growth has been truly impressive – far better than I expected. However, I am growing increasingly concerned that the market has priced in overly optimistic earnings sustainability – in other words, estimates and expectations have overshot to the upside.
What we’ve seen over the last few years is not terribly complex in my opinion. The housing boom created what was in essence a massively leveraged household sector. The problems were compounded by the leveraging in the financial sector, however, this was merely a symptom of the real underlying problem and not the cause of the financial crisis (despite what Mr. Bernanke continues to say and do to fix the economy).
As the consumer balance sheet imploded the economy imploded with it. This shocked aggregate demand like we haven’t seen in nearly a century. This resulted in collapsing corporate revenues. The decrease in corporate revenues, due to this decline in aggregate demand, resulted in massive cost cutting and defensive posturing by corporations. This exacerbated the problems as job losses further weakened the consumer balance sheet position. Consumers, like, corporations, got defensive and began cutting expenses and paying down liabilities. Sentiment collapsed and we all know what unfolded in 2008.
by ilene - August 11th, 2010 10:51 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
From today’s Breakfast with Rosie
NOT IN KANSAS ANY MORE
Well, it took some patience but it looks like the economic environment I was depicting this time last year just shortly after I joined GS+A is starting to play out. Deflation risks are prevailing and a growing acknowledgment over the lack of sustainability regarding the nascent economic recovery. Extreme fragility and volatility is what one should expect in a post-bubble credit collapse and asset inflation that we endured back in 2008 and part of 2009.
History is replete with enough examples of this — balance sheet recessions are different animals than traditional inventory recessions, and the transition to the next sustainable economic expansion, and bull market (the operative word being sustainability) in these types of cycles take between 5 to 10 years and are fraught with periodic setbacks. I know this sounds a bit dire, but little has changed from where we were a year ago. To be sure, we had a tremendous short-covering and a government induced equity market rally on our hands and it’s really nothing more than a commentary on human nature that so many people rely on what the stock market is doing at any moment in time to base their conclusions on what the economic landscape is going to look like.
So, we had a huge bounce off the lows, but we had a similar bounce off the lows in 1930. The equity market was up something like 50% in the opening months of 1930, and while I am sure there was euphoria at the time that the worst of the recession and the contraction in credit was over, it’s interesting to see today that nobody talks about the great runup of 1930 even though it must have hurt not to have participated in that wonderful rally. Instead, when we talk about 1930 today, the images that are conjured up are hardly very joyous.
I’m not saying that we are into something that is entirely like the 1930s. But at the same time, we’re not in Kansas any more; if Kansas is the type of economic recoveries and market performances we came to understand in the context of a post-World War II era where we had a secular credit expansion, youthful boomers heading into their formative working and spending years and all the economic activity that…
by ilene - March 30th, 2010 12:37 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
When it comes to equity analysts Teun Draaisma is a must-read. The European equity analyst famously called for investors to sell stocks in June 2007 when the markets were flashing a “full house sell” signal. He then flipped bullish in November of 2008 as the markets were pricing in a much more severe situation than Draaisma saw unfolding. He’s one of the few investors who actually got the downturn and the upturn correct and was able to connect the dots between cause and effect. In his latest strategy note Draaisma is saying the rally has gotten ahead of itself and that we’re due to for a correction as good news becomes bad news. In addition to being bearish about 2010 (see here), Draaisma says the better than expected growth in the near-term is putting more pressure on the Fed to raise rates and will lead to tightening measures sooner than most investors suspect:
“The rally since 5-February is nearing its end, we believe. Our thesis is that good growth will lead to tightening measures and struggling equity markets this year, just like in 1994 and 2004. The recent rally was larger than we expected, and in our eyes was due to:
1) there have been no positive payrolls or Fed language change yet (we even saw some loosening rather than tightening
measures last week, with the Greek bailout, the
by ilene - February 26th, 2010 10:19 pm
Excellent article by Pragcap – I highly recommend reading. – Ilene
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
There has been a lot of chatter over the last year about the government’s involvement in the equity markets. Yesterday’s market action was certainly odd. Several large institutions were active buyers of enormous blocks of the S&P on no news. The volume shot through the roof from out of nowhere. It was not an unusual occurrence. We have seen it repeatedly over the course of the last 12 months (see here for more). Of course, this whole discussion has a very conspiratorial aspect to it, but I think it’s less nefarious than many presume (depending on your definition of nefarious when it come to pseudo-government intervention in markets).
The usual argument with regards to government intervention in the equity markets is pretty simple. The government, or the “President’s Working Group” (aka, the Plunge Protection Team) purchases securities in big blocks and jams prices higher. Jamming, gunning, carpet bombing (whatever you want to call it) is quite simple. In any market there are down times in terms of volume. If you have the firepower (the capital) and the desire you can knock out just about every asking price on the board. Have a look at just about any Russell 2,000 stock at around noon as the volume slows to a drizzle and ask yourself what you could do with $10,000,000? Of course, the same goes for the downside. You can hit the bids and literally knock them off the board in an illiquid market (exactly what we saw in Fall of 2008 with fund redemptions).
Anyone who has ever traded in size has seen this in action. It’s like taking a machine gun to a medieval battle or sending the U.S. Army to Baghdad (not that anyone would ever do such a thing). The point is, you can slice through prices like a hot knife through butter, create a certain sentiment in the
by ilene - February 22nd, 2010 1:16 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Marc Faber, who nailed both the economic
“I would look at the market to close probably a bit lower than it started the year in 2010.” Equally, I don’t think we have a huge downside risk. If the Dow and the S&P dropped, say 15-20 percent, in other words the S&P towards 900, I think there would be more stimulus and more quantitative easing.”
Faber predicts that we are nowhere near the end of economic weakness and that the government will continue to pour money into the economy due to continuing deleveraging in the private sector. He believes we are likely to see more stimulus packages in the US and an ever expanding Federal Reserve balance sheet.
In terms of the global economy, Faber also expects slowing growth. He says China is likely a bubble and that there is a 99% chance the economy will slow with a 30% chance of a full blown crash. He says the Chinese slow-down will have extremely negative impacts on the global recovery.
Faber says the Chinese and US governments have only prolonged our problems with their stimulus packages. He says we are now staring at the next great crisis as opposed to letting the system cleanse itself as it should have. Due to this, government debts have exploded and Faber says higher rates are guaranteed over the next decade.
by ilene - February 4th, 2010 12:33 pm
Courtesy of Jesse’s Café Américain
The markets breathlessly await the latest Non-Farm Payrolls Report for the US, which will be released tomorrow morning. January is the month in this report that contains the largest seasonal adjustments by far.
Here is a projection of what tomorrow’s numbers may look like, and their historical context. The raw number unadjusted for seasonality may be a loss of around 4,000,000 jobs.
It is no accident that the BLS does the major adjustment to its Birth-Death Model in January. Keep in mind that the Birth-Death adjustment is applied BEFORE seasonal adjustment, that is, to the raw, unadjusted number.
Given that the expected raw number will probably be around 3.5 million jobs lost, and then adjusted to a headline number much closer to zero, adding even 380,000 or so job losses to that does not result in such an enormous adjustment in January.
In other words, the adjustment is largely adjusted away by the seasonality. Nonsense, hardly connected to the real world, but quite clever bureaucratic sleight of hand really.
Saying all this, it seems almost needless to stress that any projection of the headline number is a tough call in January, because the seasonality has such enormous latitude. More in the nature of a SWAG than a proper forecast.
Then there is also the matter of the revisions to the prior two months at least, and the possibility of a revision to the whole series going back two years, which sometimes occurs.
So, we’ll look for a ‘headline number’ closer to zero than not, with a shade to the negative, maybe a loss of 20,000 or so. But we are very prepared to be surprised to the upside to a positive number, and downside to a loss of around 80,000. That speaks less to our inability to forecast, we hope, and more so to the arbitrary nature of the government’s willingness and ability to fiddle with the numbers.
With pretty colors, it may look more like a sideways chop than a plunge, especially in light of a greater negative from December which will be adjusted but not higher.
And as for the reaction of US equity markets in anticipation today?