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KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST?

Takeaway: Our conviction in the direction of the JPY and Nikkei over the next 3-6M lags far behind our understanding of the [mixed] fundamentals.

Editor's note: This research note was originally published February 12, 2014 at 12:52 in Macro. For more information on how you can subscribe to Hedgeye click here.

CONCLUSIONS:

  1. Our long-term view on Japan and the “Abenomics Trade” (short yen/long Nikkei) isn’t materially different from our previous strategy update; as such, long-term investors should remain involved in the trade.
  2. With respect to the intermediate-term (3-6M), however, we think any investors who have to meet performance targets on that duration should strongly consider the eight factors we outline below – the net of which leaves us uncomfortably neutral on the yen and Japanese equities with respect to that duration.
  3. Refer to the bullets and charts below for a comprehensive analysis of the aforementioned critical factors, which we think will drive the “Abenomics Trade” over the intermediate term.

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - 555 

The curse of the sell-side: feeling pressure to make a call when your conviction level would suggest otherwise. We don’t run money at Hedgeye, so our stress levels are likely consistently far lower than yours; when I do get stressed out, however, 9 times out of 10 it’s because of the aforementioned curse.

That pretty much sums up our view on Japan.

Right now our research and risk management processes are scoring the odds of a +5% correction on the USD/JPY cross vs. a +5% appreciation at about 50/50 on a 3-6M forward basis. I know, that’s super helpful… probably about as helpful as having a “hold” call on a stock or publishing a strategy note that says, “we’re cautious on the market”.

All told, our long-term view on Japan and the “Abenomics Trade” (short yen/long Nikkei) isn’t materially different from our previous strategy update; as such, long-term investors should remain involved in the trade.

With respect to the intermediate-term (3-6M), however, we think any investors who have to meet performance targets on that duration should strongly consider the following factors – the net of which leaves us uncomfortably neutral on the yen and Japanese equities with respect to that duration (please share any feedback if you disagree with our neutral bias).

RED = bearish for the JPY; GREEN = bullish for the JPY; BLACK = toss-up:

  1. Sentiment: The market is still net short the yen to the tune of 82k contracts (futures + options), but bearish sentiment has receded dramatically in recent weeks as evidenced by the trailing 1Y Z-Score moving from -3.4x in early DEC to +0.2x currently.
  2. Inflation Expectations: Breakeven rates continue to march higher across the curve, with the 2Y and 5Y tenors up +91bps MoM and +46bps MoM, respectively. In the context of the JPY strengthening +1.6% MoM vs. the USD, this signals to us that Kuroda has convinced the market that either the BoJ’s existing QQE program is large enough to meet its strategic economic objectives or that the bank will respond with enough incremental easing to accomplish its goals. Either outcome is bearish for the yen.
  3. “5% Monetary Math”: Lost in the context of the day-to-day news flow are the aforementioned strategic economic objectives the LDP has tasked the BoJ with achieving. In our view, which has been consistent since NOV ’12, such lofty targets all but ensure the BoJ will remain aggressively easy over the long term.
  4. GIP Fundamentals: Not new news, but we continue to think Japanese growth will slow throughout the balance of 1H14. To the extent that weighs on inflation expectations in Japan – which they haven’t yet – we would anticipate broad JPY strength as the market attempts to force the BoJ’s hand. Thus far, JAN data (e.g. slowing Services PMI, slowing Consumer Confidence, slowing Economy Watchers Surveys) suggests Japanese economic growth is, at best, flat sequentially in the YTD. Sequentially flat growth plus sequentially tough compares tend to equate to slowing YoY growth more often than not.
  5. Correlation Analysis: We are the lonely inflation hawks in the YTD and continue to trumpet our non-consensus expectation of continued commodity reflation. Our multi-duration, cross-asset correlation analysis suggests our #InflationAccelerating theme is explicitly bullish for the Japanese yen, provided historical relationships hold.
  6. US Dollar Index Quant Factoring: The DXY is bearish on our TREND and TAIL durations and Janet Yellen’s testimony yesterday did absolutely nothing to assuage our fears that the FOMC will eventually cease tapering and begin to lay the groundwork for incremental easing at some point over the intermediate term. In fact, the only things she said that could be remotely considered positive for the USD is that the bar is set high in terms of deviating from the existing strategy (i.e. they need to see a few months of #GrowthSlowing first) and that the recent EM-related market turmoil wasn’t material enough to alter their expectations for the US economy. Their models have US real GDP growth accelerating from +1.9% in 2013 to +3% in 2014. We are currently down at +2.3% for CY14 (and falling, depending on the timing and magnitude of incremental Policies to Inflate out of the Fed). We have little doubt that the Fed will stop tapering and contemplate easing in 2014; it’s just a matter of when.
  7. USD/JPY Quant Factoring: The dollar-yen cross is now below our TREND line; this is very new. It needs to hold, but if it does, mean reversion support is all the way down at 97.27. Again, we don’t have a strong level of conviction on it holding or not holding below the TREND line. As such, we are content to let the market determine our level of conviction here.
  8. Nikkei 225 Quant Factoring: The Japanese equity market is also now below our TREND line; this is somewhat of a recent phenomenon. The longer this quantitative setup holds as is, the more foreign selling pressure we think will be applied to the index. Since equity volatility tends to be inversely correlated to sentiment, we think domestic Japanese investors are likely to repatriate their foreign assets, at the margins, which is particularly bullish for the JPY. It’s worth reiterating that Japan has a net international investment/GDP ratio of +63%, which compares -24% for the US; Japanese investors have been financing global growth for decades via persistent current account surpluses.

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - 556

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - Breakevens

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - 5  Monetary Math

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - JAPAN

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - Correlations

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - DXY

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - JPY

KURODA VS. YELLEN: WHO BLINKS FIRST? - Nikkei

The ability to function amid elevated levels of cognitive dissonance remains one of the keys to effective risk management. Best of luck out there!

DD

Darius Dale

Associate: Macro Team