Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bernanke's Departure Marks the End of the Bull Market as Stocks Slump Again

There were so many moving parts to the economic and trading landscape since yesterday's close, it may be most instructive to review them in chronological order.

First, around 5:00 pm ET, the Turkish central bank raised overnight lending rates - along with all other key rates - from 7.75% to 12%. That's the overnight rate, the rate at which the central bank lends to member banks. Ouch! The move immediately sent US stock futures soaring, as though the global economy had been saved by this one clumsy, desperate stroke of policy.

At 9:00 pm ET, the impostor-in-chief, Barrack Obama, gave his fifth state of he union address, grossly misrepresenting the overall health and stability of the United States and glibly calling on American businesses to give employees a raise.

The euphoria spread to Asian markets, which were higher on the day, the Nikkei gaining more than 400 points on the session.

However, by the time the sun began to rise on Europe, the glad tidings had turned back to fear, as the Turkish Lira began to come under continued pressure from other currencies. Most European indices were trending lower, though marginally, with losses of under one percent on the majors.

By early morning in the US, the trend had completely reversed course, with stock futures deeply negative. At the open, the Dow Jones Industrials fell by roughly 120 points and held in that range until the 2:00 pm ET Fed policy announcement.

Widely expected to taper their bond purchases by another $10 billion per month, dropping the total to $65 billion, the Fed did exactly that, to the ultimate dismay of equity investors. Those who had made the correct call prior to the action continued pulling money out of stocks, rotating, as it seemed prudent, into bonds, which continued to fall in the aftermath of the Fed's announcement.

By the end of the session, stocks had put in severe losses once again, with the Dow leading the way lower. Bonds reacted by rallying sharply, the 10-year-note finishing at its lowest yield - 2.68% - in more than two months. In addition to bonds, the main beneficiary of the Fed's reckless monetary policy at this juncture were precious metals, as gold and silver rallied throughout the day.

What becomes of equities, sovereign currencies and the global economy as the Federal Reserve says good-bye to Ben Bernanke (this was his final FOMC meeting as Fed chairman) and hello to Janet Yellen, is now an open question, though with obvious clues.

If the Fed continues to taper its bond purchases by an additional $10 billion per month, they would be completely out of the market sometime around September, though it is unlikely that the Fed's path will be so resolute and straightforward. Already, it's apparent that stocks are going to suffer in the short term, while bonds enjoy a day or two in the sun. With returns on equities becoming more and more risky endeavors, bonds will appear as a safe have, forcing more investors to rush in, thus, sending yields lower.

While a crash in the equity market may not exactly be what the fed had in mind, it may be unavoidable, as there is no neat way to unwind their massive QE program which unfolded over the past five years and should come to an end. As reckless as was Bernanke's policy directives of QE and ZIRP, unwinding these programs is going to cause massive economic disruptions and further fuel a gathering global deflation trade. It only makes sense. If the Fed withdraws liquidity, economies will suffer. At least it's a plan that makes some sense, though nobody really wants to endure the pain that comes from such an unwinding. In the long run, it may be the only way back to something resembling normalcy.

The pain will be acute - and already has been so - in emerging markets, where most of the hot money had been headed during the Fed's money-printing spree. Look for developed nations to maintain an aura of stability, while the rest of the world, in places as diverse as South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, India and eventually, China, become somewhat ungled, economically-speaking.

With money fleeing these former hotbeds of investment, their currencies will devalue against the rest of the developed world, Japan, the US and Europe remaining as the centrist states and most stable currencies... for a while. The risk is contagion from the emerging markets into the developed, as the destruction of deflation engulfs the globe.

Bonds should fare well. An expectation of the US 10-year note below two percent would be rational. However, carry trades, such as a Euro-Yen or Dollar-Yen might lose much of their luster, the better plays to be short the emerging currencies.

Of course, with dislocations of capital everywhere, gold and silver should be afforded a top-shelf position, though their advance will, as always, be suppressed by the concerted efforts of the central banks. Still, in a devaluing environment, the ultimate price of the precious metals, as measured against various currencies, may indeed become a top choice for wealth preservation.

With the current path of the Fed set in place (for now, because they can, have, and will move the goal posts), it would be safe to conclude that the bull market in stocks has come to an abrupt end and money in 401k and other accounts of storage will become victims of a nasty, clawing bear that has no regard for the future, only a perception of the unfolding present, complete with companies that are presently overvalued, have limited earnings growth potential and have to be unwound.

Unless the major indices can find a way to turn the tide and rally past recent highs, the bull market, spurred on by vast wasted sums of money from the Federal Reserve and other sources, is over.

From a technical perspective, Wednesday's trade was an outright disaster. Declining issues led advancers by a 7:2 margin and new lows exceeded new highs for the third day in the last four.

DOW 15,738.79, -189.77 (-1.19%)
NASDAQ 4,051.43, -46.53 (-1.14%)
S&P 1,774.20, -18.30 (-1.02%)
10-Yr Note 100.26, +0.97 (+0.97%) Yield: 2.68%
NASDAQ Volume 2.05 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.93 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1289-4441
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 66-128
WTI crude oil: 97.36, -0.05
Gold: 1,262.20, +11.40
Silver: 19.55, +0.049
Corn: 427.50, -4.50

No comments: