Markets

Dovish Fed Minutes Ramp Market; Valuing the Yellen Put

October 10, 2015
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Dovish Fed Minutes Ramp Market; Valuing the Yellen Put

The September 16-17th FOMC minutes were released Thursday afternoon, continuing the market’s Beast Mode reaction to Fed dovishness. The S&P 500 completed the best week of the year, barely down-ticking from 1,893 to 2,015. The market rallied 7% from the lows after the September Employment report to the highs yesterday. The 122 handle rally takes the market multiple up one turn (from 15x to 16x multiple). Despite the euphoria of a quick fix, there are a number of reasons for caution after scrutiny of the Fed’s minutes. Yes, the Fed minutes were dovish. Full stop. The Fed awaits more data on improving labor markets despite a 5.1% unemployment rate, and inflation is expected to remain below 2% for some time. All the voting members, other than Lacker, voted against a hike....

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Utilities Utilities Utilities; sound investment for a slower growth, low rate world

October 6, 2015
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Utilities Utilities Utilities; sound investment for a slower growth, low rate world

What a rally! In two sessions, the S&P 500 rallied 5%, almost 100 handles from the Friday low. The ex-post “cause” of the rally seems to be the punk September Employment Report, which boxes the Fed into a corner. Yellen’s inertia, and dovishness, during the September press conference, coupled with the subsequent soft employment data, led to an immediate feeling of: “oh my, now they can’t hike“. The surprisingly low payroll data initially got sold, but upon further reflection, the soft report created certainty, that the Fed is out of the equation, and zero interest rates will remain in place for as far as the eye can see. Markets prefer certainty, and thus the 5% explosion higher. It’s really that simple a 5% move. Using 2016 earnings estimates of $125, the...

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Global Growth Scare + High Valuations = Bear Market Dynamics

September 29, 2015
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Global Growth Scare + High Valuations = Bear Market Dynamics

It’s been a difficult market since the dog days of summer. After 10-months of exceptionally low volatility, a fierce downdraft set in during mid-August. Lower stock prices, and volatility, will persist, simply because the conditions to go right back to the old dynamic aren’t in place. There isn’t enough global growth to support stock prices at high valuations. Full stop. Investors got complacent, extrapolating higher trends in stocks price as growth around the world slowed; a bad combination. For perspective, the market (S&P 500) got close to 18x forward (1-year ahead) earnings at the high of 2,131. An 18x multiple represents an incredible move from the 12x multiple the market achieved during most of 2011. QE set in motion exceptionally low interest rates and a stock-market re-rating. The ability...

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Brazil’s Economic Miracle; Seeing the Monster

September 15, 2015
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Brazil’s Economic Miracle; Seeing the Monster

The depth of corruption and scandal at Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras) isn’t your typical run of the mill emerging market scam. A conflux of events around the world, built up over decades, fostered the conditions for a defrauding of this magnitude. Post financial crisis, global central bank stimulus, created an environment devoid of scrutiny, resulting in robust emerging market capital inflows, largely untied to the merits of structural reform. Investors were encouraged to take risks, and the BRICS were beneficiaries of exceptionally loose, if not misguided, capital flows. Today, we behold the end result of the grand EM experiment, and unfortunately, the results are appalling. The extent of economic mismanagement has been spectacular, with all BRIC governments, to varying degrees, failing the opportunity to modernize. Economic malaise got masked by...

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Employment Report & Markets; Forcing a Fed Rate Hike

September 9, 2015
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Employment Report & Markets; Forcing a Fed Rate Hike

While the odds on a Fed rate hike are still vacillating, the strong jobs report, and recent market action are now forcing the Fed’s hand. The Fed needs extreme market conditions to justify not hiking. The point has arrived where stock and bond markets are strong enough, even with the prospects of a hike, that diminished Fed credibility should outweigh any benefits of pausing. Stanley Fischer clearly outlined the need to hike ahead of not only inflation, but inflationary expectations. The August Employment Report was a key data set before the Fed meeting. The headline jobs number was soft at +173k jobs but all other aspects of the report were notably strong: July payrolls were revised +30k higher (to 245k) June payrolls were revised ++14k higher (to 245k) The unemployment rate fell to...

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China Central Bank Governor, Zhou Xiaochuan; China Bubble has Burst

September 5, 2015
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China Central Bank Governor, Zhou Xiaochuan; China Bubble has Burst

News out of China is opaque; often altered, editorialized, or outright censored. It is rare to receive a straightforward assessment, based in fact, irrespective of the congruence with the China governmental aims. Zhou Xiaochuan (ZX) is a maverick Central Bank governor, versed in global economics, and financial markets. ZX is a reformer, pushing to open China’s financial markets and currency regime in order to achieve longer-term economic goals. Over the past couple of years, news that ZX would be replaced caused China stock market rallies, as more accommodative, short-term oriented governors were rumored to take his place. For years, China deferred near-term pain, always attempting to maximize short-term growth. The push-out game is now over. The FT recently ran a story crediting ZX with selling the need to devalue the renminbi...

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Emerging Market Doldrums

August 26, 2015
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Emerging Market Doldrums

Not out of the woods yet – no way. The world has changed in the past week, and unmistakably, extreme volatility (mostly of the down kind) is back within financial markets. The potential of Fed rate hike cycle, in the not too distant future, is wreaking havoc. An unintended consequences of the extended period of ZIRP (2011-now) is the degree to which the rest of world, particularly EM, depend on it. Market lurches with random gaps higher and sudden sell-offs occur daily since China’s FX policy shift and highlight the fragility of financial markets. The overarching issue for EM can be reduced to capital flows and structural reforms. The 2015 circus act out of Greece/EU, in hindsight, deflected attention from the coming EM storm/crisis. With Greece now “fixed” EM...

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Market Treads Water

August 17, 2015
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Market Treads Water

After a one year hiatus (CJF writing hiatus), the US equity market remains resilient, hovering around 2,100, in a historically tight range for the past 9-months. The 20-day, 50-day, 100-day, and now 200-day, moving averages are converging, because again, the market is flat. A few observations to re-engage investment dialogue on this blog… At risk of a truism, sideways markets always resolve in one of two ways: a breakout to the upside or downside. CJF points this out because investors should not be lulled by extreme sideways action, nor should investors underestimate the possibility of a significant move in either direction. The current sideways market is manic, with a rotating focus on different exogenous factors, some of which have an inflated perception of ultimate impact. Market negatives and positives...

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S&P2K; a new highs odyssey

August 28, 2014
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S&P2K; a new highs odyssey

Please excuse the summer lull – anticipating more regular posts after a well needed period of summer travel! Two posts ago (in late May) focused on the market ascent to 1,900. In relatively short order, another centennial milestone is surpassed with the market melt-up to 2,000 over the past 15 trading days. Recapping the market action this summer (while CJF was on hiatus):         market hit new highs in July multiple on the S&P 500 approached 16.5x (notably representing new cycle highs) several geopolitical fears hit (Iraq, Syria, Israel, Russia/Ukraine) none of the geopolitical fears came close to corralling the bull (only a 4% pullback ensued) still no correction of 10% (for those keeping track it’s been over 1,000 days since one) since Aug 7th, there...

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A tale of two growth rates; GDP and US corporate profits

June 3, 2014
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A tale of two growth rates; GDP and US corporate profits

Last week’s “second” 1Q14 GDP print revised to a -1.0% annualized growth rate relative to the prior print of +0.1%. The second 1Q14 GDP print was shrugged off, with equity markets rallying to new highs, in impressive fashion, given the seasonally low volumes around Memorial Day. While the 1Q14 print is still not “final” (there will be third print, and an ultimate benchmark revision) there is little fear for two consecutive down GDP quarters; the typical definition of a recession. Nonetheless, the real economy is still punk. The performance between the real economy, and the environment for corporate profits, is often confused, and wrongly, treated as one and the same thing. CJF holds the view that what’s ok for the economy is a nirvana for corporate profits. If the...

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1,900; now what?

May 27, 2014
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1,900; now what?

The US stock market, the best market in the world for a multitude of reasons, hit new highs on Friday, ascending to the 1,900 level, on a closing basis. The market is confounding because of the lack of normal draw-down (no meaningful pull-backs in a long enough time to be scary) and because many high profile stocks or stock indexes are way off recent highs. Yet the market is at a new high. This is based on capitalization weightings. An example can be found in the Russell 2000; comprised of the smallest 2,000 stocks within the Russell 3,000 (top 3,000 stocks in the US). The Russell 2000’s market capitalization is only about 8% of that of the Russell 3000. Select internet, growth, biotech, and small-cap stocks are under significant...

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The widow maker trade spreads from Japan to the US

May 19, 2014
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The widow maker trade spreads from Japan to the US

Since 1990, one trade that has always lost money, over any reasonable time period, has been the shorting of JGBs (Japanese 10-year). This trade, unique in its consistency, developed its own name; “the widow maker”. With JGBs yielding 57 bps today, the widow maker is alive and kicking. Over the past 24-year time period, JGB yields peaked around 8% in 1990, and trended steadily lower since. Within the US bond market, through the second half of 2013, into 2014, consensus developed on the inevitability of a sell-off, and potentially severe one. A one-sided consensus view is always dangerous in any market, creating heightened risks as new information is gleaned. The recent bout of inconsistent economic data, and degree to which active market participants were on the same side of...

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