MorningWord 4/12/13: #BitCoin – The Latest Sign of the Next Financial Apocalypse

by Dan April 12, 2013 8:58 am • Commentary

MorningWord 4/12/13:  I am not sure about you guys, but I am getting a little tired of the first crap that I see on my Twitter feed in the morning, and the last turdlet at night about Bitcoin, and all the geniuses trying to parse out what this new phenomenon means for a world dead-set on debasing their hard currencies.  I am no economist and certainly no genius, but one thing is fairly certain to this market participant, the whole thing is a massive scam, and in a financial media environment that is getting a tad tired with daily “new all time high” headlines and “very special” programs on the price action, Bitcoin seems to be just the sort of story to re-engage the complacent investing public.

I don’t buy it, don’t waste a minute more on the topic (until I am done with my little rant of course), but if there has ever been a more obvious sign of asset bubbles popping up, this is it.  At some point in the next 12 months or so I suspect there will be a postmortem on why we failed at SPX 1600 (again) and the snarky ones will be pointing to Bitcoin as the “sign that the apocalypse was upon us”.  I’m just saying.  How that will help make you money you ask?  Simple answer, it won’t, but maybe just maybe it will shed a little light on some of the stupid goings on in the current investment environment.

Pivoting from fake investments, to real investments in single stock land, Enis had a great write up on his first impressions of JPM’s Q1 earnings results reported this morning (here).  There does not appear to be any fireworks in the report, but think back to a year ago this exact week, this was the time that CEO Jamie Dimon called the rumored losses in their CIO’s office a “Tempest in a Teapot”.

The “Disaster Dujour” is courtesy of India today, as INFY, one of the largest IT consulting firms in the world was down 20% in Mumbai (with its ADR following suit here) after issuing disappointing results and even worse guidance blaming an “even global recovery”.  I suspect this should weigh on some large cap tech shares like IBM, as it reinforces some of the sentiment displayed by ORCL last month.

In Sum, it will be very important to see how the financials act today in response to what appears to be generally benign results from JPM and WFC.   As we have mentioned on more than one occasion, it has been a seasonal pattern that banks get off to a strong Q1 stock performance only to give some of that back in Q2.

Also keeping a close eye on the retail sector which had a heck of a day yesterday with the XRT up 2% to see if this morning’s weak March retail sales data will cause a bit of a pause.


MorningWord 4/11/13:  Wham, Take that MSFT.  The mighty Goldman Sachs, the firm that brought MSFT public in 1986 just placed a SELL rating on the stock this morning, reiterating their $27 twelve month price target.  The firm has been Neutral on the stock for years since the stock was about $25, and last had a Buy on the stock in October of 2010.   It’s sort of comical that last week Bank Of America Merrill Lynch downgraded MSFT from Buy to Hold for many of the same reasons as GS this morning, but as of yesterday’s close the stock had rallied 7% in a straight line since.

A few weeks back, I bought April Puts on MSFT in front of what I suspect will be a very challenged fiscal Q3 earnings report (Apr 18th) that could be coupled with murky guidance. I was obviously too early on my trade as the stock caught a bad with the market, much like BAC. but there is an interesting lesson here about the timing of shorting laggards, or more specifically “pressing shorts”  You could argue that GS has been Neutral on the stock for years and thus has not participated in 2 moves that have seen the stock rally from the mid $20s to the lows $30s in that time period, but rather than pressing the lows like me and BAC, they wait for a pop, identify a catalyst, lay out a simple thesis, and then get in there.  Hindsight is obviously 20/20, and much of what we have been saying about MSFT, their market-share troubles as a result of PC cannibalization by tablets, poor offerings in Mobile and lack of PC upgrade cycle as expected by Bulls from the intro of Win8 are the crux of the GS downgrade from this morning’s note:

Accelerating market share loss for PCs within total PCs + Tablets. The GS hardware team is expecting PC market share to decline from 73% in 2012 to 65% in 2013 and 59% in 2014. A more bearish PC outlook for 2013 is supported by IDC’s preliminary March 2013 quarter PC shipment data which reflects a 14% yoy decline and in our view suggests the secular headwinds for Windows appear to be continuing. Lack of catalysts to help support earnings. In the near-term we do not expect any meaningful strategy shifts given the recent releases of Windows 8/RT. However, we do investigate several potential “Plan B” options investors believe MSFT could consider to help offset fundamental headwinds. Despite the potential for some degree of value creation we do not find any clear option to act as a meaningful catalyst to drive our below consensus estimates higher over the near-term.

So the question is where is the disconnect btwn MSFT’s very recent signs of life as a stock and the perceived challenges to it’s core business?  I guess my view put very simply, in a market that is trading at all time highs, with an investment world desperate for yield, MSFT with it’s fortress balance sheet, strong cash flow generation, 3% dividend yield and relative poor performance made it an “easy own”, as a sort of bond proxy with fairly well defined downside risk.   But now from a trading perspective, the savvy “traders” at GS feel like they have been given a good entry so to speak to press their short, or maybe they are just doubling down a bit!  Either way, I think both downgrades in the last week are fundamentally sound, and similar to trading, timing in equity research can be the difference of being right or wrong.


MorningWord 4/10/13:  As the SPX regained all of the lost ground from late last weeks ‘Mini” correction, yesterday’s rally appeared to be led by some new horses so to speak.  For the first time in a while, the Nasdaq outperformed the SPX, largely due to the 3% plus performance in MSFT and INTC.  And it wasn’t just crap tech that caught a bid yesterday, commodity related names like FCX, BHP & VALE were all up 4% of more, and some   industrials like CAT, CMI & JOY showed some signs of life, all up about 2% on the session, after showing massive relative under-performance to the broad market for months.

We clearly saw a bit of rotation yesterday, as some of the sectors that got us here (all time highs) were noticeably absent from yesterday’s strength, particularly Homebuilders (XHB -75bps),  Utilities ( XLU -30bps), Retail (XRT -60bps) & Consumer Staples (XLP -10bps).  So Crawhat does it all this performance mumbo jumbo mean when looking at just one days price actiBron?  Not a whole heck of a lot to be honest,  but one could suggest that at this stage of the rally, the SPX will need to see some broader participation by some laggards to held achieve a meaningful breakout from the 1560/1570 range that appears to be decent resistance.  Or one could draw the conclusion that the rally is stalling at that the move into some under-performers is a sort of last dash for those looking to play a little catch up.

I would add that the price action in the XLF was actually most interesting to me, especially when you consider that the first meaningful Q1 earnings come from the sector this Friday morning when JPM & WFC both report.  Banks have a tendency to rally into their earnings reports over the last few years, but as Enis mentioned on the Webinar, the 2nd quarter has not been kind to the sector in each of the last 3 years.  Price action in the sector will be especially important to watch after the bellwethers report, as the setup looks awfully similar, and could result in a post-earnings selloff once again.

On a macro basis, we get the FOMC Minutes this afternoon, which has been a market mover on the past 2 releases, which Enis laid out in the Macro Wrap this morning.  He also mentioned the yen as a barometer for risk appetite.  The USD/JPY cross has gotten close to the 100 level on a couple instances this week, but has not been able to push through.  My hunch is that if it does push through (though Enis expects it to pull back), then the SPX will also break the all-time intraday high of 1576.




In case you missed it, Enis and I hosted a Webinar last night “Trading Q1 Earnings Season w/ Options” where we detailed our process for event trading, and used GOOG and JPM’s upcoming Q1 earnings reports as potential catalysts, while laying out a few options strategies that we would consider heading into the prints.  Watch the replay here:


MorningWord 4/9/13:  Friday morning in this space, I suggested that your guess on the non-farm payrolls number was likely better than mine, and it that it wasn’t going to the magnitude of the beat or miss of the data, but the equity market’s reaction.   Between Friday’s late day heroics off of the lows, and yesterday’s continuation, the little matter of disappointing jobs data is all done and dusted as far as the Bulls are concerned, wash, rinse, repeat.

With Friday’s down 1% opening we took the opportunity to cover some shorts, knowing one of 2 things, the weakness was the start of a more protracted decline, or that was our one shot to take some profits before we get back to the business of making new highs.

Despite some of the underlying weakness in a handful of sectors (see a nice write up from JC Parets this morning here) and many technical divergences, the SPX continues to hold its ground with 1540/1550 serving as massive support.  The longer we base above 1550, the more I tend to worry about the potential for a blow rally possibly to 1600.   Enis wrote a nice piece this morning about the importance of forward earnings guidance, and how visibility for the next couple quarters could dictate the next move in U.S. equities, given our proximity to all time highs and the relatively high expectations for continued growth.

This may sound like a soundbite, but as we head into Q1 earnings, it may be more of a stock picker’s market than I can remember in a very long time.  Consider the frightening low levels of realized volatility in the SPX, and current implied vol suggests little more than 50 bps moves.  Getting single stock names correct in this environment may not seem like too much of a fire drill, but think for a second of three high profile misses in the last few weeks and how the stocks reacted…..

ORCL in late March missed expectations and shed nearly $15 billion in market cap in 24 hours (about a 10% decline):

ORCL 1 yr chart from Bloomberg
ORCL 1 yr chart from Bloomberg

After breaking out of a 3 year base in March, FDX missed and offered murky guidance and the stock has also shed about 10% or $3 billion in market cap:

FDX 1 yr chart from Bloomberg
FDX 1 yr chart from Bloomberg

And just last week FFIV pre-announced worse than expected results for Q1 and has since dropped 19%, about $1 billion in market cap.

FFIV 1 year chart from Bloomberg
FFIV 1 year chart from Bloomberg


The main take-away from the little excessive above is simple in mind, the risk reward of NOT knowing what’s under your hood in this Volatility environment is not entirely attractive for lazy longs.  While earnings beats may garner 3-5% rallies, misses are likely to cause double the damage.  Stock-picking may become a bit of a skill again, and dart throwers take a back seat.  As the title suggests, I am going to remain cautiously cautious, I took off a few shorts, and closed a bit of my index short positions, but as we head into the meat of earnings season, I intend to be very careful of where and how I allocate capital to long premium ideas and I think it would make sense for most savvy investors to consider stock replacement or defensive options strategies on at least a portion of their positions where they have decent gains.  We fully expect to see increased volatility in the weeks/months to come.




MorningWord 4/8/13:  As I write, the S&P 500 futures are trading right where they were at 8:30, prior to the non-farm payrolls number that fairly dramatically disappointed expectations.  Maybe you were confused like me of the desired outcome for those who think the Fed should continue with their endless bond buying mania.  I guess the Bears are missing one simple fact, Bad Number = More QE, and Better Number Still More QE.   SO you get the point, the Fed is here to stay, for the time being, as long as they think the economic recovery remains fragile and the economic world outside the U.S. remains challenged.  I know I know, it is stupid to “Fight the Fed” but remaining cognizant of the diminishing returns of “QEfinity”, should be a continued background theme for any investor (raging bull or cautious bear).

John Hussman of the Hussman Funds, in his weekly letter to investors suggests that the U.S. may already be in recession:

The economic data are wrestling between two likely possibilities and a third less likely one. The first of the likely ones remains that the U.S. already entered a recession in the third quarter of 2012.

The second likely possibility is that the enthusiasm about QEternity (combined with a positive jolt to personal income from special dividends to front-run the fiscal cliff) represented another successful round of “kick-the-can” to push a weak economy from the verge of recession for another few months. When we look at the broad evidence from a variety of good leading and coincident indicators, that’s actually the possibility that I am starting to lean toward.

The unlikely possibility, in my view, is that the economy has started to walk on its own”

Husmman goes on to state:

Repeated rounds of QE have produced little but short-lived bounces to defer a recession that historically would have followed such deterioration more quickly. The chart below offers a good picture of this process.

Notice the successively lower levels, as each round of quantitative easing has smaller and smaller effects on real economic activity (speculative activity in the financial markets aside). The question at present is whether the recent bounce will prove to be temporary as well. This expectation is certainly consistent with the series of rapid-fire misses from the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (particularly the new orders component), the national PMI reports for both manufacturing and services, and the unexpected weakness on both payroll and household employment surveys.

Now Hussman is obviously a smarter macro-mind than me, and while many market participants file him away in the perma-bear category, likely to be critical of the Fed no matter what their policy, I have always enjoyed his writing (having no knowledge of his performance).   I think it is safe to assume that Chairman Bernanke is well aware of the diminishing returns of his policies, yet the nightmare scenario in my mind would be how successful will their doomsday plans (similar to TARP in 2008) work in the throws of the next financial crisis, after years and years of FED support with a massively expanded balance sheet?

ON ANOTHER NOTE, the Nikkei continues to rock and roll, making fresh 52 week highs on their own easing policies  now trading at levels not seen since late 2008.  While the 60% move off of last years lows seems fairly orderly when shown this way:

Nikkei 1 yr chart from Bloomberg
Nikkei 1 yr chart from Bloomberg

When shown over a 10 year period, the chart below looks absolutely ridiculous when you consider that it is one of the largest equity INDEXes in the world.

NIkkei 10 yr chart from Bloomberg
NIkkei 10 yr chart from Bloomberg

Many of you are keeping a close eye on Chinese equities as the Birdflu has apparently taken its toll, at least from a sentiment standpoint on Chinese equities in the last week.   The Shanghai Comp closed down 62 bps overnight, recovering from a down 2% open, stopping on a dime at its 200 day moving average.

Shanghai Comp 1 yr chart from Bloomberg
Shanghai Comp 1 yr chart from Bloomberg

If you are a China Bear, the “impending” Birdflu  epidemic is just the latest of worries coupled with the impending property market collapse, at a time the country transitions to a new Govt which is grappling with the realization of single digit growth for the foreseeable future.  The chart above is a troubling one, with most European equity markets struggling (the EuroStoxx 50 (SX5E) is down 1.45% ytd and the EuroStoxx banking index (SX7E) is down 11% and looking precarious sitting right on massive technical support), the SPX and the Nikkei are becoming very very crowded trades.

Despite Friday’s bounce we remain very cautious at current levels and believe the next real catalyst for equities the world over is likely to be U.S. corporate earnings.  If Q2 guidance reeks of poor visibility, I suspect investors hit the pause button for a bit as we digest the combination of a weak U.S. coupled with all of the macro problems that appear to be brewing overseas.


Also as bonus, I saw Green Day play last night at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.  Billie Joe is back and better than ever, he is a clip of the opening song 99 Revolutions and then one of my all time Green Day favorites, Jesus of Suburbia:


Jesus Of Suburbia: