Thursday, September 6, 2012

Draghi Delivers Win-Win for Europe, Stocks

ECB president Mario Draghi pleased just about everyone when he unveiled the latest bond-purchasing scheme by the European Central Bank at a news conference early this morning. Stocks rose across Europe and the Americas with the NASDAQ reaching 11 1/2 year highs.

Portions of the new ECB bond purchase program, which is designed to purchase sovereign bonds with maturities of 1, 2, and 3 years, were purposely leaked to the press in the days and weeks prior to the official announcement, which came after the ECB's rate policy meeting (kept the official bank lending rate at 0.75%), during afternoon trading on European bourses and prior to the open of trading in New York.

The plan, called by Draghi, Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) rests on five main pillars: 1) Strict conditionality will be applied to bond purchases 2) There will be unlimited purchases of bonds with a maturity of one to three years 3) The ECB will not have seniority 4) All transactions will be 'sterilized' 5) Purchases will be reported monthly.

Countries wishing to participate (notably Spain and Italy) will have to make a formal application and adhere to conditions, mostly in the form of austerity measures, something at which many governments have balked.

While the stock markets advanced broadly, the S&P reaching a four-year high there are some land-mines over which the ECB will have to traverse in order to make the program a success.

First, there is the matter of legality, upon which the German high court will rule on Wednesday, September 12. The court is reviewing previous bond-buying programs by the ECB, such as the ESM, to determine if such plans comply the rigors of the German constitution. If the court decides against such plans, everything in Europe will be thrown into chaos, as Germany is the major funder of bailout programs.

The matter of nations applying for funding is another sticking point. Spain and Italy are in fiscal crises, but the political leaders are wary of conditionality, submitting their government to severe austerity measures, such as the recently-proposed six-day work week for Greeks. Additionally, sticking to the conditions ofthe loans is often difficult if not impossible, though the OMT specifically says that bond purchases will be curtailed if conditions are not met.

with the ECB now in the Fed's arena of massive money printing, what lies ahead for the US and global economies is next week's FOMC meeting, at which it is widely believed Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will unveil some new liquidity program of his own, commonly called QE3, though recent economic data, such as today's August ADP employment report and the ISM Services data would seem to indicate that further easing by the Fed is not warranted nor wise at this juncture.

Thus, positive economic data, a recovering economy and anything outside the stock market viewed as positive to growth will be viewed by Wall Street as an impediment to more easy money, likely causing a sell-off in equities.

Tomorrow's non-farm payroll report for August is the linchpin to Fed action. Anything over 150,000 net new jobs may cause the Fed to hold back from further easing. There's also widespread belief that the Fed will be reluctant to move so close to the US presidential elections, not wishing to be perceived as a political entity.

Next week is shaping up to be epic, one way or the other.

Dow 13,292.00, +244.52 (1.87%)
NASDAQ 3,135.81, +66.54 (2.17%)
S&P 500 1,432.12, +28.68 (2.04%)
NYSE Composite 8,160.40, +168.39 (2.11%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,883,115,000
NYSE Volume 3,919,524,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4360-1203
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 494-39
WTI crude oil: 95.53, +0.17
Gold: 1,705.60, +11.60
Silver: 32.67, +0.35

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