“It was not the common people who were to blame for these failures…”
“Rather, it is the great ones among you who have committed these sins. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all religious on you this morning. That’s just what Genghis Kahn told the elite of Bukhara after conquering their centrally planned city. “He then gave each rich man into the control of one of his Mongol warriors who would go with him and collect his treasure.” (Genghis Kahn and The Making of The Modern World, pg 7)
Maybe Bernanke and his central planning ideologues around the world should do a little summer reading on my man Genghis and reflect upon how plundering the purchasing power of free peoples ends…
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
And over the #Waterfall bonds go. No matter where you think we were last week, here we are – lots of Global Macro tourists who didn’t respect the VELOCITY + VOLUME of the water approaching our bifurcation point (2.41% = the dam) = soaking wet.
So, to start, Hedgeye Risk Management will, in #OldWall style, “reiterate” the following Global Macro positions:
As the US Treasury 10yr Yield rips through our critical intermediate-term breakout line of 2.41% to 2.60% this morning, everything starts to happen a lot faster. The aforementioned 0% asset allocations were already in motion. We affectionately called Commodities, Bonds, and Emerging Markets #BernankeBubbles for a reason. When they pop, there’s no more flow!
If you’ve ever tried suspending yourself in mid-air after living in a bubble that’s popped, it doesn’t end well. Neither does living a centrally planned life where everyone in a so called “free-market” is at the beck and call of an un-elected man named Bernanke.
That’s all history now. If you didn’t know that the anti-gravity “smoothing” experiment using the most debt leverage in world history has another side of the trade (deflating debt, commodities, emerging markets, etc.), now you know.
There are two big potential drivers of asset deflation:
No, it’s not the common people who are to blame for deflation. It’s the conflicted and compromised politicians who have been cheered on by those who get paid by Commodity, Fixed Income, and Emerging Market inflations whose bar tab is up.
Deflation? If you inflate a bubble to its max, there will eventually be deflation. And, yes, there will be blood. Deflation is only a bad word if you are long the thing that is deflating.
But can our institutionalized world of short-term price performance chasing handle a stronger currency and rising interest rates? Can we handle this thing call a long-term cycle turning?
And what would more of the same do to our insecure world?
In chaos theory, we call a big macro cycle turning a Phase Transition. Leading towards this current point of entropy, there were a series of what we call Emergent Properties warning us of a pending phase transition.
Some investors get hurt during phase transitions; some prosper. I have a great deal of respect for Bill Gross and what he has built at @PIMCO, but if you read his last 3 tweets, you can get a sense of who doesn’t win if this keeps happening.
It’s time to start winning. The USA has never achieved what all these vaunted elites of economics peddle to you as the desired outcome of all this central planning (real inflation-adjusted economic growth) without a #StrongDollar and #RisingRates.
To be clear, there will be pain before we all prosper (that’s why we have been cutting our US Equity exposure for 3 weeks). In the early 1980s and the early 1990s, Great Failures in asset allocation became as readily evident as they are this morning:
Whether it’s the commodity bubble or the emerging market debt bubble, it’s all the same thing. US Central planners committed the great sin of devaluing the hard earned currency of the American people – and now some have to pay the price for that. The punishment happens the faster rates rise. And I don’t think The People want to go back to the zero bound all over again.
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now (new format!):
UST 10yr Yield 2.41-2.61%
US Dollar Index 81.21-82.69
USD/YEN Yen 96.54-98.76
Oil (Brent) 100.23-103.73
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.
Takeaway: Current Investing Ideas FDX, HCA, HOLX, MPEL, NSM, WWW
(Editor’s Note: We are removing Darden (DRI) from the list of our Investing Ideas. Please see our DRI update below.)
The bull case was comprised of two scenarios, either of which was sufficient, in March, to boost the stock considerably from the depressed levels where it was trading. The first was an improving economy, which implied accelerating Knapp Track comps that would most likely imply a sequential acceleration in Darden’s comps.
The second was the possibility of an activist emerging to shake up management and take advantage of what we saw as a company whose equity was trading below the value of the sum of its parts. Following the earnings release and conference call Friday, Penney believes neither scenario is likely from here. The stock has appreciated handsomely since the lows of the year and Penney believes that management is entrenched in the company and the fundamental performance of the company suggests that further downward revisions of fiscal year 2014 earnings are in play.
The Express division has reduced capacity and increased use of commercial aircraft belly space to meet demand for lower-cost options with better economics. Van Sciver says shareholders continue to get the Express divisionessentially for free, as it is not a meaningful constituent of the market value with its current low earnings. Going forward, Van Sciver is looking less for surprises, than for validation as FDX executes on its plan to expand margins. That’s why he was comfortable, and a bit amused, that management soft-pedaled guidance for next year. “In a long- term restructuring,” says Van Sciver, “it is much more attractive to progressively raise guidance than to cut/raise/cut/raise.”
Van Sciver sees significant upside in FDX and continues to believe it represents one of the best long-term investment opportunities in Industrials. (Please click here to see the latest Stock Report on FDX.)
In other words, the demographic shift towards more health care – driven by a gradually improving economy, improving employment trends, and accelerating new household formation and births – is a meaningful Macro factor and likely to lead to improving revenue and volume trends moving forward. Near-term market mayhem should not hamper this trend, even if it means slightly higher borrowing costs for hospitals down the road. (Please click here to see the latest Stock Report on HCA.)
MPEL reaffirmed that it is on track to open its $1 billion Philippine casino operation by the middle of next year. Saying the project is already fully funded, MPEL says they will take advantage of all their connections in the region – including their “VIP database” of high rollers to make sure the opening of their Manila operation is a success. Jordan continues to like MPEL on current industry strength, and for significant expansion as its new operations come on line. (Please click here to see the latest Stock Report on MPEL.)
The reasons we’re not overly concerned fundamentally are twofold. First, most of Nationstar’s refinancing business isn’t traditional refinancing at all, it’s HARP refinancing. HARP refinancing entails borrowers who are underwater and cannot refinance through conventional means because their LTV, or loan-to-value, ratios are too high to meet traditional underwriting criteria. The thing about HARP refinancing volume is that it is far less rate-sensitive than traditional refi volume.
That’s because a) these borrowers have no real options and b) many of these borrowers are at rates way above market rates anyway, so a 50-75 bps back-up in rates doesn’t sufficiently offset the kind of savings they can achieve by participating in HARP. Also, it’s important to realize that HARP activity has been quite low in the servicing portfolios that Nationstar has acquired, namely the Bank of America book.
Second, there is a benefit to mortgage servicers from rising rates. Mortgage accounting can be a bit confusing, but here’s a simple way of thinking about it. Mortgage servicing rights, or the MSR, are recorded as an asset on the balance sheet. The MSR is the present value of the future stream of income from servicing the portfolio of mortgages under contract. There are several things that can cause the value of this asset to fluctuate, one of which is interest rates. Rising rates make the asset more valuable because they reduce refinancing volume, which is the same as extending the life of the asset. Mortgage companies recognize changes in the value of the MSR asset as income or loss each quarter. As such, this rise in rates late in the quarter is likely to trigger a sizeable MSR write-up (that is, more income) for Nationstar.
Over the intermediate term we’ll get 2Q earnings results in just over a month and Steiner thinks it will be increasingly clear that NSM is less exposed to rising rates than the market thinks. (Please click here to see the latest Stock Report on NSM.)
Certain uncontrollable factors affect their growth – two years of horrible weather in Europe hurt sales, and the self- inflicted slip in sales in Merrell’s Active Lifestyle division. But McGough says WWW continues to make the right kind of progress where it counts, restructuring their Merrill division by outdoor activity category, rather than gender, for example, in response to clear consumer preferences.
And they are just starting on realizing manufacturing efficiencies from the consolidation of a broad range of brands. McGough says the transition will take time, and that working through it will be a drag on results for the balance of 2013. Twelve to 18 months out, says McGough, the numbers should reflect a whole new reality, and ultimately, McGough thinks estimates are too low. WWW remains a top pick in the Retail space. (Please click here to see the latest Stock Report on WWW.)
Ben Bernanke’s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.
- President Obama
Scientists observing bird flight patterns tell us the lead goose in the migratory V-pattern switches back and forth between looking ahead, and looking back. It constantly checks the formation behind and adjusts its position to make sure it remains at the point of the flock. Periodically, the lead goose swerves out and another moves up to replace it, going through the same drill of lead, reposition, lead, and reposition.
President Obama made noises this week about Bernanke’s future, comments which are being read as a clear signal that Bernanke will leave the Fed when his current term expires. Hot speculation was set off when President Obama said Bernanke has been on the job “longer than he was supposed to.” Will Bernanke be fired? Will he be allowed to serve out his term? Is he in the Presidential dog house? Commentators are furiously connecting the dots as pundits smack themselves on the forehead saying, We shoulda known when Bernanke failed to show at this year’s global central bank confab at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What could all this mean?
Bernanke’s term as Fed Chairman runs through January 31, 2014. His term as a member of the Federal Reserve Board ends January 31, 2020. Speculation aside, there seems little point in letting him go at this juncture (“Maybe President Obama didn’t look at his teleprompter when he made that remark,” one commentator mused.) President Obama is not up for re-election, and with the wheels of the economy grinding, it’s too late for someone else to step in and take either credit or blame.
Of course there are those who wish he’d never gotten the appointment in the first place. Hedgeye has taken exception with Bernanke’s policies from the beginning – starting well before him. Bernanke is in many respects not a leader, but rather a follower of the Greenspan-Henry Paulson-Tim Geithner school of coddling the rich. We have been firmly in favor of a Volcker-like jolt, one that pushes all the pain into a short time frame, then gets it out of the way. At the same time we wish to state for the record that we have tremendous admiration for Mr. Bernanke’s intelligence, for his dedication, and for the profound commitment he has brought to his stint in public service. Serving as the appointed Head of Bloody Everything is a damned-if-you-do / damned-if-you-don’t proposition under the best of circumstances. It does not take a Princeton PhD to recognize that Mr. Bernanke has not been faced with the Best of Circumstances.
The question remains, though, how much of that is his fault?
Bernanke’s approach has been to stimulate the financial markets, and with them the major banking and financial firms. It is not clear to us that Bernanke ever believed the multiple trillions of dollars in guarantees, free profits on Treasury spreads, and actual cash handouts were ever going to turn into actual loans to America’s businesses. Bernanke’s read of the Great Depression – a topic on which he is famously a world-renowned expert – is that the government did not do nearly enough. And history may in fact judge him in a positive light. In a society with so many freedoms tugging at the strings of policy – and with such a compromised and conflicted process driving both legislation and the regulatory process – it can’t be simple to manage the economy from the top down.
Or can it?
As Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough has repeatedly observed, the most predictable and constant effect of government intervention is to increase volatility in the marketplace by accelerating economic cycles, rather than letting things play out in their own time. We do not know how one measures societal pain, but we have always been of the opinion that a Volcker-like short, sharp shock to the system would have been far healthier than the extended malaise we have lived through over nearly three presidencies.
We think the next president may want to consider a substantive shift in policy. The Fed does not need an economist to run it. It may not even need someone with a deep understanding of the financial markets. Increasingly, as our elected government has abdicated its responsibility for decision making, the nuts and bolts of running the economy has been handed over to appointed experts. Perhaps the Fed needs to be run like a business. Perhaps the Fed needs someone with experience meeting operating budgets, hiring and managing employees, and tracking flows in the economy to stay on budget. We never need to stay within a budget as long as we have unlimited access to the printing press. Maybe the next Fed chair should be the owner of a major plumbing supply house or a machine-tool shop.
Mr. Bernanke’s task has been made more difficult by the fact that major economies’ central banks are all pushing on the same accelerator. From Japan to Europe, printing presses are running ‘round the clock to create liquidity, in hopes it will stimulate the global economy. This has had the effect of making Bernanke’s QE “To Infinity and Beyond” what folks in the hedge fund world call a “crowded trade.” When one smart person buys a cheap stock, they can make money with it. When everyone piles into the same “smart idea,” two things happen: first, it drives the price to levels where there is no more profit to be made by the next buyer, and it sucks the liquidity out of the market, leaving holders with no one to sell to. In the ultimate Crowded Trade, the profits vanish and the next move is down. Usually way down. Usually with a thud.
In his testimony this week, Bernanke expressed himself as “surprised” that interest rates have edged up recently. This is not occurring in a vacuum. This week Keith writes “The last of the central planning bubbles left in the world is now popping. It’s called the bubble in super sovereign debt.” May we flatter ourselves to point out that Mr. Bernanke should have been subscribed to Hedgeye’s research?
The impenetrable aspect of the Fed policy game is that we don’t actually know what Chairman Bernanke thinks. The game is played as much with carefully-selected public utterances as with actual open market transactions to add liquidity. (We know there is also a theoretical policy option to decrease liquidity, but it has long been treated as hypothetical. Mr. Bernanke is like a driver who never learned that cars have brakes.)
Our take on Bernanke’s performance is that he acknowledges the markets are moving away from his ability to control them. QE or not QE is no longer the question. Having led from the front, checking market reactions assiduously along the way – and having apparently followed Americans’ most ardent policy desire by focusing on employment and housing – Mr. Bernanke is now trying to get out of the way gradually enough that the entire edifice does not collapse like a ten-story building into a vast sinkhole.
Why all the fuss about a correction in the Treasurys market? We can be cynical (trust us, we’re good at it) or we can take news at face value.
Taking news at face value, the public policy read-through on Bernanke’s concern over rising rates is a blow to consumer confidence. Mortgage rates will edge up, they say, and people will be afraid to buy new homes, which will derail the economic recovery. Home ownership is one of two key psychological metrics of this nation’s health – the other being employment. An increase in Treasury rates flows directly through to the mortgage market, so the fear is that buying a home becomes more of a challenge.
In fact, a mild increase in rates will likely slow down some marginal home buying – private equity firms have already bought all the distressed housing stock they need, but some people who were considering trading up to better homes at bargain rates will probably defer those purchases.
But our Financials sector head says the latest Census Bureau data on new household formation supports his thesis that the rate of new home construction could double to keep pace with rising demand. Steiner foresees a need for two million or more new starts per year, and while new families need to be frugal, they will not be deterred from buying their first home by 4%, or even 4.5% mortgage rates.
Selecting one number at random, here are comparable 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates going back forty years:
May 1973 – 7.65%
May 1983 – 12.63%
May 1993 – 7.48%
May 2003 – 5.74%
May 2013 – 3.71%
Steiner provides a slide of average rates going back to 1971, the period covered in the Fed’s mortgage database.
The short takeaway is that, even with panic in the markets, the economy looks like it is recovering solidly, if slowly – and we keep reminding ourselves that the Stock Market is not the Economy. It wasn’t the economy when the market was on the way to all-time highs, and it still isn’t the economy now that it’s dropping in panic.
Reversion to the Mean, as we believe we are seeing in mortgage rates, is one of the most powerful forces we know and appears to be one of the few mathematical rules that actually keep happening over and over again. Economies are driven by human factors, but are understood through mathematics. Societal memory runs deep and occasionally surfaces when we pause for perspective. After the dust clears, today’s 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4% will be seen as a bargain.
Fair or foul, what happens on Bernanke’s watch will become his legacy. Our guess is that, when the history of current economic policy is written, Mr. Bernanke will be credited with the positives that Hedgeye has been signaling of late: resumption of growth, strengthening of the dollar, newfound strength in the housing market, and a significant decline in unemployment. By the time Chairman Bernanke returns to the world of academia, our Health Care sector head Tom Tobin’s read on an upturn in the birth rate may have become common wisdom, so Bernanke will also get credit for a boost in confidence in the American Way of Life. Not a bad review.
Silly us! We almost forgot to give you the cynical view.
Chairman Bernanke seems genuinely perplexed that rates are edging up – some folks are criticizing him for being too up front about his confusion. Unless he’s acting. Since no one on Wall Street ever stops to ponder the possible consequences of their actions, markets are crashing left and right. Talk about a Crowded Trade, everybody is selling everything.
Mortgage rates at 4.24% have people concerned that the banks “need” more QE. Far be it from us to accuse an appointed official of pandering to Washington’s appetite for campaign contributions from Big Finance. As we go to press, economists are projecting the Fed will reduce QE from $85 billion a month to $65 billion in September – though with bond prices coming down, those dollars will buy more. You may accuse us of a lack of perspective but for our money – and it is our money – that’s still a lot. And Bernanke said they will re-invest what’s already on their books, which we read as a signal that the Fed balance sheet will not shrink and will remain with the risks of its gigantic mortgages portfolio. Bernanke continues to run the world’s largest long-only hedge fund.
Either way, nobody remembers anything on Wall Street. As we are seeing yet again, this produces constant opportunities for panic. And when you panic, two things happen: you lose money in your portfolio, and your banker gets paid.
Cynical enough for you?
Hedgeye senior Macro analyst Darius Dale did an in-depth presentation earlier this year sounding the alarm on the billions invested in Emerging Markets. If you are an Emerging Markets investor, we sincerely hope you were paying attention in April.
Bloomberg reports $3.9 trillion has been invested in Emerging Markets in the past four years. Talk about a Crowded Trade! (See “Investors are pulling money from emerging markets at the fastest pace in two years”) Needless to say, unrest in Turkey and Brazil is making matters much worse, much faster. When EM trades get crowded, they get really crowded. Brazil’s entire Bovespa equities market has a total capitalization of around one trillion $US, which leaves precious little liquidity for investors fleeing for the exits.
EM managers anticipate “crisis-like price actions without having a crisis.” This was the crux of Dale’s presentation: there is a difference between an “Investment Opportunity” and an “Opportunistic Investment.”
An Investment Opportunity is associated with strong fundamentals as investors look for that company with the “sweet spot” combination of a well-wrought business plan, outstanding management, a product or service with an identified need – in short, that Harvard B-School thingy called Competitive Advantage. The “Opportunity” is to ride the Up elevator as the company succeeds. The “Investment” bit is that the company is solid enough in all fundamental respects to make it worth the risk of holding it in your portfolio while waiting for the payoff.
In an Opportunistic Investment, an investor finds a company with a single distinct advantage in a product or service that is clearly cheaper than it normally is in the world market – usually something not of their own making, like a natural resource or a vast pool of low-paid labor. This was the case of all those billions invested in Brazilian oil and mining companies, and it was almost the entire case for China (all those people, and none of them have iPhones yet!)
Opportunistic Investing in the Emerging Markets has focused on cartels, many of them driven by what we would consider government corruption, and on state-managed capitalism. The relatively cheap price of such natural resources as oil – both onshore (Russia) and inaccessibly offshore (Brazil) – of iron ore (Brazil, as long as China was a willing buyer), and of the projected consumer power of lots and lots of people who haven’t yet attained even the minimum of the American standard of living (China, India). These investment have largely been made with minimal regard for the robustness of the companies’ management teams, internal processes, or finances – and still less concern over the ability of the local market to sustain stress through a robust democratic political structure, protection of minority rights, freedom of the press and the encouragement of popular debate and dissent.
A front-page case in point today is Brazil, where a million people are demonstrating over increasing prices and irresponsible government spending. To put this in perspective: Brazilians are so used to widespread corruption in both government and business that they are surprised when someone is not on the take. Brazilians tend to be jaded and passive about the widespread problems in their society, rather than outraged and motivated. Trust us, the demonstrations in the streets of over 100 Brazilian cities are a major event.
This signals that the concerns Emerging Market investors have largely ignored are now erupting with full force. Not least among these is the range of damaging economic effects of corruption and a society that, despite tremendous advances in the last twenty years, remains one of the most economically unequal on the planet. Officially, the Central Bank is struggling to keep inflation within its target range, capped at 6.5%. Unofficially – in figures not sent to overseas investors – the basket of consumer staples, including basic foodstuffs and public transportation, has inflated at rates between 10% and18% in Brazil’s major urban centers. Officially, Brazil is a free and open society that promotes equality. Unofficially, two million children aged 5-17 (more than 1% of the population of Brazil) work in unsafe and unsanitary jobs under conditions condemned by the ILO. Women earn significantly less than men, and dark-skinned Brazilians of African descent earn still less – while the indigenous earn essentially nothing at all.
Brazil has a free press, but on average one news reporter is murdered every year – the majority by professional killers or policemen – for investigating local corruption. The murderers are not often convicted – not least because police officers have also murdered judges assigned to corruption cases. Senior government officials – including members of congress and a member of the military joint chiefs of staff – have been directly tied to Brazil’s extensive network of drug traffickers.
On a less terrifying level, Brazil is hosting the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. It is woefully unprepared for either. Rio’s Maracana stadium, the proposed centerpiece of the global soccer tournament, was not completely ready when it opened this week for the Confederations Cup, the international competition that is the undercard for next year’s World Cup. Cost overruns took the budget for the Maracana renovation to one billion reais ($US 440 million). And even if FIFA does not cancel next year’s World Cup, Brazil’s airports and highways don’t have the capacity to accommodate the more than 500,000 foreigners expected to attend.
As of this writing, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is in meetings with cabinet officials, while bomb threats are being called in around government buildings. How’s your Opportunistic Investment working out?
By the way, in Turkey things are a lot worse.
Which brings us back to Chairman Bernanke, whose timing was perhaps dead on. With the darlings of the EM world imploding, America’s markets – even in a panic correction downdraft – look immeasurably better than any alternative. America may still be a long way from being a prime property, but we are still the best house in a bad neighborhood.
The most common Yield Curve plots yields on 3-month, 2-year, 5-year and 30-year Treasury debt. For a simple definition, the Yield Curve measures interest rates over time for the same debt instrument, and the shape of the curve is a barometer for market sentiment. (Treasury debt issued with one year maturity or less are called Treasury Bills, or T-Bills. Treasury Notes have two to ten years’ maturity, while longer maturities are called Treasury Bonds.)
A Normal yield curve depicts lower yields demanded for short-term bills and notes, and higher returns for bonds. This implies that investors are concerned about the time value of future streams of interest payments, assuming an equal perception of risk across the maturities.
An Inverted yield curve has short-term yields higher than longer term ones. This happens when investors are selling their short-term debt (which drives the price down and the yield up) and buying longer term debt (which drives the price up, and the yield down). This means they don’t want to be in the market now, but are willing to predict today that the market will be safer in the future.
A Flat yield curve has rates very close together other across the range of maturities. This indicates general uncertainty and is seen as signaling a transition, though perhaps not a panic.
Financial theory has different ways of analyzing the Yield Curve.
The Pure Expectations hypothesis assumes that bonds, notes and bills are fungible – that is, they are equally substitutable for each other. This means they will be equally desirable across the range of maturities, and the difference in pricing reflects a consensus of expectations about future interest rates.
Opposite this are a range of theories that add a future liquidity premium to the time value of money calculation. At the end of the spectrum, market segmentation theories say that, even though the curve depicts yields on the same underlying security, demand for the security is unrelated at different maturities. This means the buyer of a two-year note does not consider a 30-year bond as a substitute for the note – the buyers of each maturity have a distinct set of needs that include return over time and future liquidity.
The yield curve is a guide for bond buyers, indicating current market sentiment about the bonds they are contemplating adding to their portfolio. Using the yield curve, you can calculate the projected future market price of the bonds you own today, to determine whether there is a projected capital gain, for example, or whether you should expect volatility in your portfolio.
And economists use the yield curve to make predictions about the economy. According to the National Bureau for Economic Research, every recession in the US between 1 has been preceded by an inverted yield curve – and every inverted yield curve has been followed by a recession.
This 1.000 batting average begs the question of whether the inverted yield curve has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading economists to push recessionary policy moves. Confusing, huh? You might as well ask whether Mr. Bernanke says what he says because it moves the markets, or the markets move because Mr. Bernanke says what he says.
Takeaway: All of the market dislocations -- Treasuries, commodities, etc. -- were percolating underneath the surface well before this frenzy.
(Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published on Thursday June 20. It was subsequently featured on Fortune. If you are an individual investor, and would like more information on how you can subscribe to Hedgeye's services, please click here.)
FORTUNE -- What an epic 48 hours it has been. Just. Total. Chaos.
We are officially going over the waterfall now. Boats are in midair. People are hanging on trees. Everybody is scrambling, trying to explain what they missed. Trying to make sense out of it all. Hat tip to Bernanke-sponsored bedlam with a big assist from our Central-Planning Fed Overlords.
The reality? Everything is playing out precisely how it should have played out.
If you're data-dependent, if you have a rigorous quantitative process backing the research (God forbid), this was a fairly straightforward call to make. U.S. growth has been accelerating as we have been saying all along (well ahead of consensus).
Here are the facts: U.S. economic data stabilized from December 2012 through March 2013. From April to June, growth accelerated. On June 18th the Russell 2000 hit an all-time high. On Wednesday, the Fed basically repeated all of this and outlined its view on tapering. Cue market mayhem.
All of these market dislocations were percolating underneath the surface of consensus well before this frenzy. When markets don't trust something, the forward curve of implied volatility starts to rise. When they really don't trust something, that volatility rises at a faster rate. It's called convexity.
In terms of implied volatility in everything that was already crashing (gold, Treasuries, emerging markets, etc), that concept has been pretty straightforward for going on for six months now. For U.S. equities, it's relatively new.
As consumption, employment, and housing growth accelerated in the last three months, stock market expectations went right squirrel. While it may seem strange, it does make sense. We have a Federal Reserve that is A) horrendous in terms of forecasting and B) compromised and conflicted in terms of timing its "communications." Bernanke made his legacy bed – now we all have to sleep in it.
Turning our attention to the rest of the world: What a disaster. Asia is a bloody mess. Go back to the tapes, we've been sounding the alarm here for a while now. Asian markets overnight were a debacle with the Nikkei "outperforming" its peers by only declining 1.7% (no, we still don't like Japan).
As for China -- just nasty. I don't know what else you would call it. Meanwhile, the Hang Seng is down 14.4% since the end of January. Now it's not as nasty as Brazil, or Russia, but it's pretty darn nasty. India is down 2.9%; Indonesia down 3.7%. Even though we like the Philippines, (it's an interesting micro story within the broader disaster which is Emerging Markets) we sold that as well. We realized the research there was going to be trumped by the risk management signal.
You can't be dogmatic in your stance. When the macro flows take over, get out of the way.
Europe? It doesn't look good, either. That's not new. Now if the DAX trend line at 8013 breaks, that would definitely be news. That is a critical line. Most trend lines in Europe are broken. The FTSE just broke its trend. So if the DAX breaks, there will not be one—not one—out of the 86 countries whose equity markets we follow that will have held its trend line, other than the U.S. stock market.
Investors are running out of places to put their money. So in a sense, the S&P 500 is the last of the Mohicans. Keep a close eye on the 1583 level on the S&P 500.
Now the question is at what point do growth expectations in equities get prices in? I don't know the answer to that. That's what we've been trying to convey recently. What we have been saying is No. 1: Don't buy fixed income and don't buy commodities or anything that we haven't liked for six months. No. 2: Take down your equity exposure. That's the risk management order of the day.
Ranting and raving about what has transpired these last six months is no longer my task. It's history. Right now you take a deep breath. You wait and you watch.
One of the first things we'll be buying is Financials (XLF). We like the Financials. Particularly with the yield spread at 211 basis points wide and climbing. That's a very bullish indicator for the group. Your buy list should have a lot of financial names on it. After that, we'll go to the old bailiwick which is consumption-oriented names in healthcare and consumer itself.
Keep an eye on that 1583 level on the S&P 500 (SPX). It's key. If that breaks, it's bye-bye to the Mohicans.
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