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Gary Townsend - Founding member and Chairman, GBT Capital Management, LLC, a macro long/short fund based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Also, 2007-2013, a founding partner, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Hill-Townsend Capital LLC, a long/short equity financial sector fund. Mr. Townsend has 35 years... More
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  • Hawkish Yellen Weighs On U.S. Futures; Asia Distributes, Europe Trades Lower 0 comments
    Mar 20, 2014 9:05 AM

    This morning. Today, U.S. equity futures are moderately lower after fair value adjustment, but off their morning lows. In Asia, equity markets distributed. In Europe, indexes are also lower. The dollar is stronger. Commodities are mostly higher. Friday's Nikkei 225 June 2014 (NKM4) equity futures are up +0.708%.

    Commentary focuses on yesterday afternoon's 2:00 p.m. FOMC meeting report, followed by the new Fed Chair Yellen's news conference at 3:00 p.m. Equity markets broadly sold off on hints that short-term rate increases may come sooner and rise more quickly than previous guidance had suggested. The expected taper of asset purchases continued apace. Today, the FRB will publish the results of its bank CCAR stress tests, followed on March 26th with its approval/disapproval of requested bank capital plans. No surprises are expected.

    On March 13th, the U.S. equity market outlook worsened to "uptrend under pressure". Starting February 7th, the prior U.S. equity market outlook was "confirmed uptrend", following a brief, but sharp "in correction" episode that commenced on January 23rd. The S&P 500 Index (SPX) rose a net +3.55% subsequently. The 4Q2013 quarter's earnings reports are complete, with U.S. materials reports particularly strong, followed by financials. The 1Q2014 earnings reports began on March 15th.

    Wednesday, equities distributed as the SPX, DJ Industrials (DJI), Nasdaq, and NYSE composite closed down -0.61%, -0.70%, -0.59%, and -0.79%, respectively, on greater volume. The DJ Transports (TRAN) fell -0.43%. The SPX and Nasdaq are higher on the year. NYSE volume rose +13.4% to 0.95x its 20-day moving average.

    Trading desks note poor equity market reaction to the FOMC news, but otherwise remarkably little other news. News out of China was encouraging, as officials discussed an acceleration in spending and investment plans to spur growth. In Japan, focus is on the increased consumption tax that starts on April 1st. With regard to Tuesday's trade, traders noted complacency regarding Yellen's expected dovishness and disappointment with her more hawkish tone. Despite yesterday's distributions and increased volume, trading was slow through the session until the FOMC report suggested the likelihood of some Yellen surprise. Traders expect continued resistance to higher equity prices.

    Indexes remain near recent record levels and P/E multiples remain elevated. With SPX equities trading at a 16.9x 2013 earnings multiple, attention focuses on 2014 earnings and valuations (16.9x times survey $117.49 2014 SPX operating earnings suggests a 1984.77 SPX level next year, a +6.66% rise).

    Technicals worsened slightly. All indexes surrendered their 10-day moving averages. All are above their respective 5-, 20-, 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages. Led by utilities, all SPX market segments closed at least -0.20% lower. Market breadth was negative, and up volume lagged down volume. After 2:00, volatility rose. Treasury bond markets weakened markedly. The U.S. Treasury 10-year bond yield rose +10.03 bps to 2.7725%, compared to 2.6722% at the prior close.

    This morning, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields are up +1.00 bps at 2.7825%, compared to the prior close. Spanish and Italian 10-year debt yields are 3.38% and 3.44%, respectively, compared to 3.34% and 3.40% the prior day. The U.S. dollar is mixed.

    U.S. options markets are unchanged at neutral to bullish, compared to neutral to bullish the prior day. The CBOE SKEW rose +2.60% to 132.74, compared to 129.37 the prior day, above a neutral range (115-120) and again above 130, a level that correlates well with short-term market tops.

    In pre-market futures trading, June SPX equity futures (SPM4) price near the bottom of a 1844-1854 trading range. After a fair value adjustment of +0.82 points, SPM4 price at 1847.50, down -5.57 points. The SPX opens +0.13%, +1.63%, +2.67%, and +6.889% above its respective 20-, 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages. Initial resistance is 1873.16. Initial support is 1849.37, then 1837.96.

    In Asia, equity markets distributed. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index (NYSEARCA:NKY) fell -1.65% and is in a bear market. The Hang Sang index (HSI) fell -1.79% and returns to bear market territory. The SHCOMP fell -1.40%. Today's volumes are unavailable.

    Commentary focused on Chinese credit issues, especially in the real estate development and industrial segments. Economic reporting was light. In China, short-term interbank lending rates remain volatile, with 7-day Shibo rates at 3.47%, compared to 3.41% the prior day, up from a 2.26% low on March 11th, but down from the February 7th 5.41% recent high.

    Regional relative strength indexes (RSI) show Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, in the lower end of a neutral range or oversold. The NKY RSI fell to 38.75, compared to 42.81 the prior day, up from an oversold 27.92 on February 4th. The HSI RSI ended at 29.85, compared to 35.46 the prior day and an oversold 24.02 on February 5th. The SHCOMP's RSI closed at 37.79, compared to 43.49 the prior session. On June 27, 2013, the index's RSI fell to a low of 15.27, which was also last year's low index close.

    This week, the NKY, HSI, and SHCOMP are down -0.72%, -1.66%, and -0.54%, respectively. Last week, the NKY, HSI, and SHCOMP closed down -6.20%, -4.95%, and -2.60%, respectively. In March, the NKY, HSI, and SHCOMP are down -4.16%, -7.25%, and -3.06%, respectively. In February, the NKY closed down -0.49%, while the HSI and the SHCOMP gained +3.64% and +1.14%, respectively.

    In 2014, the NKY, HSI, and SHCOMP are down -12.7%, -9.11%, and -5.79%, respectively. In 2013, the NKY rose +56.7%. The HSI closed up +2.87%. The SHCOMP closed down -6.75%.

    In Japan, the NKY closed at 14,224.23, compared to 14,462.52 the prior day, -12.7% below its recent year-end 16,291.31 high and -63.5% below its late-1989 38,915.87 high close. The index opened higher, set an immediate 14,548.76 intraday high, but reversed lower in the first hour and fell to support at 14,250 by early afternoon. The index traded narrowly to the close, but couldn't hold resistance. The index closed -3.92%, -5.17%, -5.65%, and -1.94% below its respective 20-, 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages. All market segments closed at least -1.01% lower. Leaders were industrials, utilities, and telecommunications. Laggards were basic materials, health care, and financials, which fell at least -2.14%.

    In China, the HSI closed at 21,185.16, compared to 21,568.69 at the prior close. The index opened at 21,350, rose to an early 21,475.48 intraday high, then trended lower to a late 21,137.61 intraday low. All market segments closed at least -1.04% lower. Leaders were utilities, oil and gas, and basic materials. Financials fell -1.63%. Laggards were consumer goods, consumer services, and telecommunications, which fell at least -2.20%. The index closed -11.4% below its recent December 3rd 23,910.47 high, but +16.5% above its 18,185.59 June 4, 2012 low.

    In Shanghai, the SHCOMP closed at 1,993.48, compared to 2,021.73 at the prior close, +2.23% above the 1,950.01 June 27th close, last year's low. The index opened modestly lower, traded to an early 2,030.74 intraday high, but reversed lower in early afternoon, lost ground through the afternoon with a late 1993.24 intraday low. All market segments closed at least -0.37% lower. Leaders were oil and gas, financials and basic materials. Laggards were health care, consumer goods, and technology, which fell -2.52%.

    In Europe, major equity indexes opened lower, but are off their mid-session lows. The Euro Stoxx50, FTSE 100 CAC 40, and DAX are down -0.62%, -1.03%, -0.72%, and -0.61%, respectively. The Spanish IBEX 35 is down -0.64%, but the Italian FTSE MIB is down -0.31%. Economic reporting is light. Commentary focuses on Fed Chair Yellen's rate hike comments.

    European bourses have recently outperformed U.S. equity indexes. Intraday Euro Stoxx50 relative strength (RSI) is 45.76, compared to 48.71 at the prior close, in a neutral (30-70) range, but better than its recent February 5th 33.57 low, which coincided with its 2014 low. The indexes lowest recent RSI level was 25.77 on June 24th, which marked the 2013 2,494.54 closing low.

    Today, the Euro Stoxx50 trades at 3,055.76, -3.55% below its 3,168.76 January 15th post-2008 high close, and -41.8% below its 5,249.55 March 31, 2000, all-time closing high. From its prior day 3,076.36 close, the index traded lower to a late morning 3,040.44 intraday low, the rallied back to nearly 3,060 in early afternoon. All market segments are at least -0.31%. Leaders are industrials, financials, and utilities. Laggards are health care, basic materials, and telecommunications, which are down at least -1.09%.

    This week, the Euro Stoxx50, CAC 40, and DAX are up +1.72%, +1.42%, and +1.76%, respectively, while the FTSE 100 is down -0.36%. Last week, the Euro Stoxx50, FTSE 100, CAC 40, and DAX closed down -2.93%, -2.75%, -3.44%, and -3.15%, respectively. In March, Euro Stoxx50, FTSE 100, CAC 40, and DAX are down -2.95%, -4.49%, -2.99%, and -4.91%, respectively. In February, the indexes closed at least +4.14% higher.

    In 2014, the indexes are lower. The Euro Stoxx50, FTSE 100, CAC 40, and DAX are down -1.69%, -3.63%, -0.46%, and -3.52%, respectively. In 2013, the indexes closed up +18.0%, +14.4%, +18.0%, and +25.5%, respectively.

    1Q2014 SPX Earnings. Of 8 (of 497) reporting companies, 3 or 37.5% surprised positively on earnings, with an average -3.55% surprise average. Of reporting companies, 2 or 0.25% reported sales or revenues above estimates. The average sales/revenue surprise is -0.74%. Consumer discretionary leads with respective +34.1% and +8.75% earnings and revenue surprises. Industrials lag with respective -13.4% and -1.08% revenues surprises.

    Valuation. The SPX trades at 16.9x estimated 2013 earnings ($110.15), 15.8x estimated 2014 earnings ($117.49), 14.2x estimated 2015 earnings ($130.75), and 12.9x estimated 2016 earnings ($144.21). The 10-year average median price/earnings multiple is 15.9x. Analysts expect 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 earnings to grow +6.52%, +6.66%, +11.3%, and 10.3%, respectively.

    The BKX trades at 13.8x 2013 adjusted EPS ($5.16), 12.9x estimated 2014 earnings ($5.55), 11.6x estimated 2015 earnings ($6.14), and 10.3x 2016 earnings ($6.89). Analysts expect 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 EPS will grow +19.4%, +7.51%, +10.7%, and +12.3%, respectively.

    Composite, index, and equity options. Options markets are unchanged at neutral to bullish, compared to neutral to bullish the prior session. Composite options are bullish, index options are bullish, and equity options are neutral. The composite put/call ratio is 0.80, compared to 0.74 the prior day, and better than 5- and 10-period moving averages of 0.84 and 0.84, respectively. The index put/call ratio is 0.85, compared to 0.67 the prior day, and worse than its 5- and 10-period moving averages of 0.77 and 0.85, respectively. The equity put/call ratio closed the day at 0.80, compared to 0.80 the prior day, and better than its 5- and 10-period moving averages of 0.91 and 0.87, respectively.

    NYSE Volume, Breadth Indicators. Volume rose +13.4% to 663.90 million shares, compared to 585.46 million shares the prior day, 0.95x the 701.11 million share 20-day moving average. Market breadth was negative, and up volume lagged down volume. Advancing stocks lagged by -1,544 (compared to +1,648 the prior day), or 0.33:1. Up volume was 0.36:1 down volume.

    Distribution day count and market outlook. Since March 13, the market outlook is "uptrend under pressure". On February 7th, with the SPX at 1797.02, the market outlook improved to "confirmed uptrend" after a brief corrective episode that began on January 23rd. The subsequent distribution day count is 4 for the SPX and 8 for the Nasdaq. The SPX's subsequent rise is +3.55%. Today, the SPX opens -0.92% below its March 7th 1878.04 record closing high.

    Libor, LOIS, Currencies, Treasuries, Commodities:

    · USD LIBOR is 0.08900%, compared to 0.08850% the prior day. USD 3-month LIBOR is 0.23385%, up from 0.23485% the prior day, and compares to the January 4, 2013, recent peak of 0.58250%.

    · The US Libor-OIS (LOIS) spread is 14.885 bps, compared to 14.885 bps the prior day, and compares to the recent June 12, 2012, 46.785 bps high. Euribor-OIS is 13.100 bps, down from 12.700 bps the prior day, and down from the December 27, 2011, high of 98.800 bps. Moves in the LOIS indicate changes in intra-bank lending risk premiums.

    · The 3-month Euro basis swap is -3.733 bps, compared to -3.521 bps the prior day, up from a trough of -147.00 bps on December 14, 2011, but far better than a normal -10 bps and -40 bps range.

    · German 10-year debt yields are 1.65%, compared to 1.60% the prior day. Japanese 10-year debt yields are 0.60%, compared to 0.61% the prior day. Spanish 10-year debt yields are 3.38%, compared to 3.34% the prior day. Italian 10-year debt yields are at 3.44%, compared to 3.40% the prior day.

    · U.S. Treasury yields are slightly higher, with 2- and 10-year maturities yielding 0.424% and 2.776%, respectively, compared to 0.420% and 2.773% Wednesday. The yield curve narrowed -0.070 bps, with the 2- to 10-year spread at +2.352%, compared to 2.353% the prior day. In the past year, the 2- and 10-year spread varied from a low of +1.429% on May 1, 2013, to a high of +2.648% on December 31, 2013.

    · The U.S. dollar is stronger compared to the euro, Japanese yen, and British pound. The dollar trades at US$80.290, compared to a US$803.304 intraday high and US$79.995 the prior day, and worse compared to its $80.382 50-day, US$80.488 100-day, and US$80.951 200-day averages. The euro trades at US$1.3761, compared to a US$1.3758 intraday low and US$1.3833 the prior day. The euro trades better compared to its US$1.3702 50-day and US$1.3655 100-day averages, and compares to a multi-year low of US$1.1877 on June 7, 2010. In Japan, the dollar trades at ¥102.46, compared to ¥102.32 the prior day. The yen trades better than its 50-day moving average ¥102.64, and better than its January 1st 105.31 closing low, its weakest prior multi-year closing low.

    · Citigroup Economic Surprise Index worsened to -34.80, compared to -33.50 the prior day, its 20th consecutive negative reading. The index is worse compared to its respective -33.38 5-day and -32.54 10-day moving averages. The index fell to a 52-week low of -33.26 on June 10th. The index improved and turned positive on July 30th and rose to 53.30 on October 1st, but subsequently fell on dollar weakness to -2.10 on October 31st. It subsequently strengthened to a +72.70 high on January 15th, but then subsequently trended lower and turned negative on February 19th. After a lag, the CESIUSD correlates with EPS revisions.

    · Commodities prices are mixed, with lower energy, lower precious metals, higher aluminum and copper, and mostly lower agriculture prices.

    Volatility, Skew:

    · The CBOE SPX Volatility Index (VIX) rose +4.13% to 15.12, compared to 14.52 at the prior close. The VIX is +2.56% above the 14.74 20-day moving average. Its 30-day high is 20.72. Its 30-day low is 13.44. The index's all-time closing low is 9.31 on December 22, 1993. The long-term average is 20.14.

    · The Euro Stoxx 50 volatility index (V2X) is 20.18, up +4.61% compared to 19.29 at the prior day's close. The V2X index trades +5.69% above its 19.29 20-day moving average, -17.1% below the 24.35 30-day high, and +26.2% above the 15.99 30-day low.

    · The Hang Seng volatility index (VHSI) closed at 18.12, up +3.25% compared to 17.55 at the prior close. The VHSI index trades +1.44% above its 17.86 20-day moving average. Its lowest historical close was 11.72, on June 30, 2005.

    · CBOE SKEW (SKEW) rose +2.60% to 132.74, compared to 129.37 the prior session, above a neutral (115-120) range for the first time since last September, and again above 130, a level that correlates well with short-term market tops. The recent record high was 143.20 on December 20th. Its recent low was 112.47 on May 25, 2013. Spikes in excess of 130 correlate well with short-term market tops, though not in October or November. The index rarely falls below 110, last on July 31, 2009. The index correlates with market tail risks, the cost of buying out-of-the-money, long-dated options, i.e., options not affected by expirations. A rise suggests that investors are buying more puts than calls, a bearish signal.

    U.S. Economic Reporting and News:
     

    • The latest weeks' initial and continuing jobless claims were 320K and 2889K, compared to 322K and 2880K survey and 315K and 2848K revised prior.
    • At 10:00, March Philadelphia Fed business outlook, with 3.2 survey and -6.3 prior.
    • February MoM existing home sales, with -0.4% survey and -5.1% prior.
    • February leading index, with +0.2% survey and +0.3% prior.


    Overseas Economic Reporting and News:
     

    • None.


    Company Ratings/News:
     

    • None.


    Wednesday's Trade. On higher and above average NYSE volume, U.S. equity indexes distributed, with all the day's action occurring post the 2:00 p.m. release of the FOMC meeting report, and with even greater downward volatility during the new Chair's follow-on news conference. The SPX, DJI, Nasdaq, and NYSE composite fell -0.61%, -0.70%, -0.59%, and -0.79%, respectively. Only the SPX and Nasdaq indexes are higher this year.

    Since March 13th, the U.S. equity market outlook is "uptrend under pressure". On February 7th, the U.S. equity market outlook improved to "confirmed uptrend". The subsequent distribution count is 4 on the SPX and 8 on the Nasdaq. The SPX closed +3.55% above the February 7th 1797.02 close and -0.92% below the recent March 7, 2014 record close.

    Market breadth was negative, with gainers 0.33x losing stocks. Led by utilities, all SPX market segments closed at least -0.20% lower. Leaders were financials, health care, and telecommunications. Laggards were oil and gas, industrials, and utilities.

    NYSE volume rose +13.4% to 663.90 million shares, compared to 585.46 million shares the prior day, 0.95x the 701.11 million share 20-day moving average volume. On the day, bond markets weakened significantly. The U.S. 10-year yield opened at 2.6749%, eased to a mid-session 2.6597% intraday low, then spiked after 2:00 p.m. to 2.74% and then through the Yellen news conference to a late 2.7916 intraday high. The index ended at 2.7725%, up -10.03 bps compared to the 2.6722% prior close.

    From its prior day 1872.25 close, SPX futures signaled a modestly higher open. The index opened slightly lower and traded narrowly until 2:00 p.m., when it weakened to 1865 ahead of the follow-on news conference and to the 1850.35 intraday low as Yellen began her remarks. The index ended at 1860.77, -0.92% below its March 7th record close. The index closed +73.1% above the 1074.77 October 4, 2011, intraday low.

    The DJ Transportation index (TRAN) fell -0.43%, compared to DJI's -0.70% loss. From its prior 7,582.43 close, the TRAN set an early 7,609.05 intraday high, but traded around breakeven through 2:00, then weakened to the 7,513.08 intraday low as the Yellen news conference commenced. The index closed at 7,549.71, -0.56% below its recent 7,592.36 March 7 record close. Volume rose +23.3% to 11.719 million shares, compared to 9.503 million shares the prior session, and 0.95x the 15-day moving average volume. The TRAN closed +1.41% and +2.58% above its respective 20- and 50-day moving averages, and +3.96% and +10.1% above its respective 100- and 200-day moving averages.

    Market volatility rose +4.13%, as the CBOE SPX volatility index (VIX) closed at 15.12, compared to 14.52 at the prior close. The VIX moved narrowly until just before the 2:00 release of the FOMC meeting report, when it fell to the session's 13.89 low, then spiked at the start of the follow-on news conference to the 15.95 intraday high. The VIX's all-time closing low was 9.31, on December 22, 1993. Its lifetime average is 20.09.

    The market's technical factors worsened marginally, as all indexes surrendered their 10-day moving averages. All exchanges closed above their 5-, 20-, 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages. SPX relative strength (RSI) fell to 54.62, compared to 59.62 the prior day, in a neutral range, and much better than an oversold 31.24 on February 3rd. The RSI is also down from an overbought 71.26 on December 31st, when the SPX closed an earlier record high, but above earlier oversold levels of 35.14 on August 27th and 39.19 on October 9th. The CBOE put/call SKEW rose +2.60%, compared to 129.37 the prior session, above a neutral 115-120 range, but again above 130, a level that correlates well with short-term market tops.

    This week, the SPX, DJI, Nasdaq, and NYSE composite are up +1.07%, +0.97%, +1.47%, and +0.72%, respectively. Last week, the SPX, DJI, Nasdaq, NYSE composite closed down -1.97%, -2.35%, -2.09%, and -2.16%, respectively. In March, the SPX is up +0.07%, while the DJI, Nasdaq, and NYSE composite are down -0.61%, -0.01%, and -0.64%, respectively. In February, the SPX, DJI, Nasdaq, and NYSE composite closed up +4.31%, +3.97%, +4.98%, and +4.60%, respectively.

    In 2014, the SPX and Nasdaq are up +0.67% and +3.14%, respectively, while the DJI and NYSE composite are down -2.14% and -0.39%. In 2013, the SPX, DJI, Nasdaq, and NYSE composite closed up +29.6%, +26.5%, +38.2%, +23.2%, respectively. All closed at least +5.91% higher in 2012.

    KBW Bank Index (BKX). On higher, and above average volume, the BKX closed at 71.32, up +0.78% from 70.77 at the prior day's close, its 3rd consecutive close above 70.00. The index traded narrowly until the 2:00 pm release of the FOMC meeting report, then spiked to a 71.82 intraday high, dropped back to breakeven at the start of the follow-on Yellen news conference, then rebounded in final hour trading. Volume rose +34.1% to 52.748 million shares, compared to 39.327 million shares the prior day, and 1.06x the 49.755 million share 15-day moving average.

    Large cap banks equaled the performance of the regional banks, as the KBW regional banking index (KRX) rose +0.30%.

    This week, the BKX is up +2.94%, compared to a loss of -2.89% last week and a gain of +3.36% the prior week. In March, the BKX is up +3.33%. In February, the BKX closed up +2.41%, compared to January, when the BKX closed down -1.07%. In 2014, the BKX is up +2.97%. In 2013, the BKX rose +35.1%, better than the SPX's +29.6% rise.

    The BKX is now +20.5% better than the June 24th 59.19 close, its worst since May 13, 2013. The index crossed above 50 on December 17, 2012, 60 on May 15, 2013, and 70 on January 8, 2014, but then dropped back below 70 on January 24th, which persisted until March 6th. The BKX closed +119.0% above the 32.56 intraday low on October 4, 2011. Large-cap bank stocks have outperformed the broader market's rebound, with the SPX up +73.1% in the same period.

    The BKX index closed -41.1% below its February 20, 2007, record 121.06 high. The BKX is up +283.0% from its 18.62 March 6, 2009, closing low.

    Technical indicators were little changed. The index closed +2.38%, +3.08%, +4.87%, and +8.46% above its respective 20-, 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages. The 20-day moving average rose +20 bps to 69.66. The 69.19 50-day moving average rose +3 bps. Its 100-day moving average rose +7 bps to 68.01, and the 200-day moving average rose +5 bps to 65.76. The 20-day closed (by +0.47 points) above the 50-day, and the gap widened +16 bps. The 50-day moving average closed (by +3.45 points) above the 200-day moving average, and the gap narrowed -2 bps. The 100-day moving average closed (by +2.25 points) above the 200-day moving average, and the gap widened +2 bps.

    The directional movement indicator widened to +18.6001, compared to +11.360 the prior day, its 13th consecutive positive reading. Relative strength rose to 62.25, compared to 59.21 the prior day, in a neutral range, up from the recent 32.95 low on February 3rd, but down sharply from an overbought 75.56 and 71.88 on January 9th and 10th, respectively. The recent low RSI level 31.08 on November 14, 2012, which is also the date of the BKX's 2012 closing low. Next resistance is 71.91; next support is 70.63.

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