The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 14th of December through the 18th is full of critical releases and events. Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.
In the past month, we witnessed the DJIA holding above 10,000, President Obama’s new strategy for the war on terror, a "less bad" unemployment rate at 10.0%, and more than enough holiday commercials!
Surprisingly, confidence among U.S. consumers increased in December for the first time in three months. However, current sentiment remains well below indices from more prosperous times.
The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose to 73.4 in December, from 67.4 in November. The December figure exceeds the average of 65.0 for the first nine months of the year.
Contradicting some of my thoughts earlier in the week, the U of Michigan’s measure of CURRENT CONDITIONS (which reflects a slightly better job market) jumped to 79.1, from 68.8 in November and is the highest level since March 2008. The index of EXPECTATIONS index also increased to 69.7 from 66.5 last month.
As you can see from the chart below, confidence clearly appears to be settling in at a higher level. This is just a preliminary number from the U. of Michigan survey, and the final number will likely be lower, but that is less important.
Better consumer sentiment and improved retail sales numbers are leading to a breakdown in the RISK trade. Positive MACRO data out of the US traditionally suggests the RISK trade will outperform. Right now we are seeing a strong dollar with stocks up, led by the low beta Utilities (XLU).
The breakdown in the inverse relationship between the dollar and risky assets is NEW.
Overnight we were issued a whole new round of Chinese economic data. Since equity markets in Asia have started to lose their upward price momentum this week, I am left asking myself whether that’s it? The leading indicator in answering this question (the Shanghai Composite Index) closed down on the “news”…
In the chart below Matt Hedrick and I contextualize what the Street is labeling as “better than expected” Chinese export data. While, on the margin, the export data continues to improve sequentially, all we have really observed here is a rally to lower-highs.
We understand that China is not all about exports (34% of GDP). On the internal consumption front, we actually saw monthly Chinese Retail Sales slow sequentially as well (from 16.2% in October to 15.8% in November).
The red arrow in the chart shows the series of lower-highs we have seen in Chinese Exports since export demand was white hot (2006-2007). You can look at this chart in two ways: 1. A rally to a lower high (bearish) or 2. A pending breakout to the upside (bullish).
While negative year-over-year export growth of -1.2% in November is not absolutely bullish, what has been bullish is what we have seen on the margin in China since her 2008 lows. However, in terms of export recovery, THE question remains: Is that it?
If the Chinese local A-shares were not making a series of lower-highs and if the H-shares on the Hang Seng Index were not breaking down from an immediate term TRADE perspective, I would give this Chinese Export chart the bullish benefit of doubt. For now, I am paid to be skeptical. Market prices don’t lie.
There are plenty more bulls in the China shop today than when we got bullish (December of 2008), to be worried about.
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“If I had lived through the Depression, I would have been in a better position to understand events.”
In 1994, John Meriwether founded a company called Long Term Capital Management. It’s a good thing that the Salomon guys didn’t focus much on Long Term Financial History back in the 90’s. Heck, who would have ever made a Billion Dollars if they actually had some historical context?
Without Goldman’s very own Fisher Black (Black Scholes Options Pricing Model) selling academia, Washington, and Wall Street on “Value At Risk” as a risk management concept, where would this fine nation of Perceived Financial Wizardry be?
Not that I (or history) has kept track, but Meriwether went to business school with a guy named John Corzine. The man formerly known as the Governor of New Jersey (Corzine) became CEO of Goldman Sachs in 1994 (the year LTCM launched) and his successor as GS Chief, Hank Paulson, was co-head of Investment Banking, then, COO of GS from 1994 to 1998.
Only to be outdone by Paulson’s leverage ratios at GS in 2006, Meriwether eventually levered up $7 Billion by a factor of 19:1 in 1997. Then, tick-ah-teee-booom! All of that Perceived Value was at risk. LTCM blew up and the Corzine/Paulson show moved on to careers in the arms races of nuclear national and state leverage.
This morning we are waking up to another Goldman concept. This one is more populist than capitalist in nature. The bankers are calling it “Shares At Risk.” As opposed to a “10-sigma event” that the Salomon, Goldman, and LTCM guys said couldn’t happen 1998, I actually understand this one. Having built my own financial company in the shadow of their creative destruction, I definitely get the partner capital at risk thing. Unfortunately, that’s not what this is.
Getting paid is cool. But having to make up stories to justify why Government Sachs has a Geithner Put, and calling that next gen-American Capitalism is a bit much. I appreciate your bravery and all that, but I would have just taken the cash comp as opposed to the political compromise.
“Shares At Risk” are what Goldman’s top 30 employees on the management committee get for the next 5 years. Bonus compensation in stock, not cash. This what they get for taking state capital. This is the real price. Goldman is now officially, The System.
Re-Regulation of The System is next. Alongside a +2% US Dollar rally breaking the back of REFLATION trades in both Energy and Financial stocks, this is one of the main reasons why GS has broken its intermediate term TREND line of $174/share.
Per Goldman’s definition, “Shares at Risk” now include “an enhanced recapture provision” that will let the committee take away an employee’s shares if that GS employee is engaged in “materially improper risk analysis or failed sufficiently to raise concerns about risks.”
Ok. So what does that mean?
To me, that means that Goldman will never be able to take on the risk and/or government sponsored leverage ratios required to drive themselves back to past peak profit margins. The peak returns for this company are now going to be etched in stone. This is evolution. Private Partnerships are now finally going to be allowed to beat Goldman in their own back yard. Sorry guys – this is the price for taking state capital.
That’s all I have to say about that. Let’s get going this morning with giving The New Reality some risk management levels “to raise concerns about”:
1. Alongside intermediate term TREND line breakdowns in the price of GS, BAC, and C, the XLF (US Financials Sector) continues to break down
2. The intermediate term TREND line for XLF = $14.67, and the long term TAIL line of support for the XLF is all the way down at $12.09 (-15% lower)
3. The inverse correlation between US Dollar Index and the XLF remains very high. The USD has made a bullish move above its TRADE line of $75.32.
The math argues that Mr. Macro Market has been pricing in a Lloyd Blankfein capitulation for the last few months. In the last 3 months, the SP500 is up +5.6% and the XLF (US Financials) is down -2.3%. Yes, in risk management speak, that’s called -790 basis points of negative performance. GS peaked for the YTD on October 14th (it’s down -14% since). Both the stock market in Greece and the United Arab Emirates peaked on that same day, and have since crashed. Irony?
Away from the American Citizenry getting some visibility that we may be seeing an end to the US Government financing banker bonuses on the short end of the yield curve (i.e. financing those bonuses with American Savings), there are other important bullish signals appearing for the Bombed Out Buck:
1. The Fed’s Balance Sheet actually contracted by $18B this week. That’s one of the largest week-over-week contractions in months.
2. Next week’s Consumer Price Inflation data (for November) is going to show another sequential rise in inflationary pressures (hawkish Fed data point)
3. US Treasury yields on the long end of the curve are starting to breakout. I have the intermediate term TREND breakout line for 10-year yields at 3.4%.
I suppose it’s only fitting that on the day after Goldman moving to illiquid compensation that the steepness of the Piggy Banker Spread (the Yield Spread, which is 10-year yields minus 2-years) is setting up to make a lower-high. This morning, with 2-year rates at 0.78% (right at its immediate term TRADE line) and 10-year rates at 3.50%, the Piggy Banker’s have a +272 basis point spread to chow down on. That’s only 4 basis points from the widest spread EVER.
Ever, of course, is a long time. I guess this is the most politicized decision Goldman has ever had to make too. That’s why their share price is at risk of breaking down.
Our new Sector Head for Financials, Josh Steiner, and I are going to be hosting an 11AM EST conference call to go through many of the topics I grazed over this morning. If you’d like to listen in, email
My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1093 and 1112, respectively.
Enjoy your weekend and best of luck out there today,
EWZ – iShares Brazil — As Greece and Dubai were blowing up, we took our Asset Allocation on International Equities to zero. On 12/8 we started buying back exposure via our favorite country, Brazil, with the etf trading down on the day. We remain bullish on Brazil’s commodity complex and believe the country’s management of its interest rate policy has promoted stimulus.
XLK – SPDR Technology — We bought back our position in Tech on 11/20. Rebecca Runkle has an innovation story in Mobility and Team Macro has an M&A story in our Q4 Theme, the “Banker Bonanza”. We’re bullish on XLK on TREND (3 Months or more).
GLD – SPDR Gold — We bought back our long standing bullish position on gold on a down day on 9/14 with the threat of US centric stagflation heightening.
CYB – WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan — The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.
TIP – iShares TIPS — The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.
EWJ – iShares Japan — While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.
XLI – SPDR Industrials — We shorted Industrials again on 11/9 on the up move as the US market made a lower-high. This is the best way for us to be short the hope of a V-shaped recovery.
XLY – SPDR Consumer Discretionary — We shorted Howard Penney’s view on Consumer Discretionary stocks on 10/30 and 12/2.
SHY – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds — If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic
The Macau Metro Monitor. December 11th, 2009.
HONG KONG-ZHUHAI-MACAU BRIDGE TO START CONSTRUCTION ON TUESDAY chinaknowledge.com
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, a mega bridge linking Hong Kong and Macau with mainland cuty Zhuhai, will start construction on December 15th. It is estimated that the bridge will be completed as early as 2015 and that it will bring economic benefits totaling HK$40 billion in 20 years.
MUCH GOING ON BUT DON’T ASK US Destination-macau.com
DM understands that TPG/Apollo/Harrahs people are in town. They have been reported to be meeting with SJM, although that has not been confirmed. DM suggests that they are likely meeting with Melco Crown and Galaxy also and also that they eSun could be looking for a new partner while Macau Studio City is embroiled in a legal battle. DM believes that Melco-Crown needs cash, Harrahs would go to considerable lengths to get a Macau license, and eSun’s Peter Lam is in a great position to broker a deal. The key question is whether or not the authorities want another American group owning a casino asset in Macau.
VIVA MELBOURNE! Destination-macau.com
Direct flights from Macau to Melbourne were launched this week by Viva Macau. Flights are twice weekly and are fully booked through December. Reg MacDonald, acting CEO of Viva Macau, is seeking to increase the frequency of the flights.
The S&P 500 finished higher by 0.6% on light volume and we saw another outside reversal. All the major indices were higher except for the Russell 2000, which was down 0.4%. The dollar index was basically flat on the day and the VIX was down 1.5%.
On the Macro calendar, Initial jobless claims rose to 474,000, an increase of 17,000 from last week figure of 457,000. The 4-week moving average was 473,750, a decrease of 7,750 from the previous week's revised average of 481,250. This is the lowest level since October 2008.
The good news is that the number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Nov. 28 was 5,157,000, a decrease of 303,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 5,460,000. While the trend may be friendly, the level of the 4-week average is suggesting continued job losses. This is consistent with the EMPLOYMENT post of 12/08/09 - the numbers reported by the labor department just don’t add up.
For the USA to see a sustainable drop in the unemployment rate, we need Initial jobless claims to drop below 390,000. This week’s Initial claims number shoots back above the 4-wk moving average, and puts everything NASTY (to be confirmed by a NASTY confidence reading on Friday and declining presidential ratings) in play.
The best performing sector yesterday was the Consumer Discretionary, led by the media names. GCI was up +7.0%, followed by SBUX up 4.7% and TWX up 4.2%. GT and IPG rounded out the top five performing stocks.
Financials (XLF) and Materials (XLB) were the two worst performing sectors. Dragging down the Financials were MBI, MI and ZION. Also underperforming were WFC (2.4%) and BAC (1.2%) on the back of increased expectations for TARP driven capital raises. Bucking the downward trend in the XLFs were TROW +3.0% and AMG +2.5%.
Healthcare also outperformed led higher by HMOs, which were up for a fifth straight day, in reaction to news concerning the public option. A Research Edge favorite, UNH, was up +6.4%.
From a risk management standpoint, the ranges for the S&P 500, the Dollar Index and the VIX are seen in the charts below. The range for the S&P 500 is 19 points or 1.0% upside and 1.0% downside. At the time of writing the major market futures are trading slightly higher.
In early trading today, crude oil is higher for the first time in eight days after China’s refineries processed a record amount of crude last month. The Research Edge Quant models have the following levels for OIL – buy Trade (69.15) and Sell Trade (74.30).
In London Gold is higher on the day and looking like it will be down two weeks in a row. The Research Edge Quant models have the following levels for GOLD – buy Trade (1,102) and Sell Trade (1,167).
Copper is higher for the first time in seven days as China’s industrial production grew more than forecast. The Research Edge Quant models have the following levels for COPPER – buy Trade (3.10) and Sell Trade (3.26).
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