Excitement in markets is fading
With GameStop and silver both trading
Much lower today
As sellers convey
The message that both need downgrading
Well, it appears that the GameStop bubble is deflating rapidly this morning, which is only to be expected. Short interest in the stock has fallen from 140% of market cap to just 39% as of yesterday’s close. This means that there is precious little reason for it to rally again, as, if you recall, the company’s business model remains a bad fit for the times. The top tick, last Thursday, was $483 per share. In the pre-market this morning it is trading at $172, and I anticipate that before the end of the month, it will be trading back to its pre-hype $17-$18 level. But it was fun while it lasted!
Meanwhile silver, yesterday’s story, has also fallen sharply, -4.7% as I type, as the mania there seems to have been more readily absorbed by a much larger market. The conspiracy theory that the central banks and JP Morgan have been manipulating the price lower for the past several decades has always been hard to understand but was certainly more widespread than I expected. The major difference between silver and GME though, is that silver has a real raison d’etre as an industrial metal, as well as a traditional store of wealth and monetary metal. Last year silver’s price rose 46.5%, leading all precious metals higher. And, in the event that inflation does begin to show itself again, something I believe is coming soon to a screen near you, there is a strong case to be made for it to rally further. This is especially so given the ongoing debasement of all fiat currencies by central banks around the world as they print more and more each day.
Down Under the RBA stunned
The market and every hedge fund
As they want to see
The Aussie increasingly shunned
While other major central banks stood pat in their recent policy meetings, the RBA last night surprised one and all by increasing the amount of QE by A$100 billion, at A$5 billion / month, meaning they will continue the program well into 2022. As well, they explained that they would not consider raising rates until 2024 at the earliest as they work to push unemployment lower. This means, the overnight rate will remain at 0.1% and YCC for the 3-year bond will also remain at that level. Interestingly, the market had tapering on its mind, as ahead of the meeting AUD had rallied nearly 0.6%, with analyst discussions of tapering rampant. As such, it is no surprise that the currency gave up those gains immediately upon the release of the statement, and has now fallen 0.25% on the day, the worst laggard in the G10.
With the FOMC meeting behind us, Fed speakers are going to be inundating us with their views for the next month, so be prepared for a lot more discussion on this topic. Remember, before the quiet period ahead of the January meeting, four regional presidents were talking taper, with two seeing the possibility of that occurring late in 2021. Chairman Powell, however, tried to squelch that theory in the statement and press conference. Yesterday, uber-dove Neel Kashkari expressed his view that it is “..key for Fed to keep foot on monetary policy gas.” Meanwhile, Raphael Bostic and Eric Rosengren both harped on the need for additional fiscal stimulus to revive the economy, with Bostic once again explaining that tapering when economic growth picks up will be appropriate, although giving no timeline. (He was one of the four discussing a taper ahead of the meeting.) We have seven more speakers this week, some of them multiple times, so there will certainly be headline risk as this debate plays out in public.
But for now, markets are sanguine about the possibility of central bank tightening in any way, shape or form, as once again, risk is being embraced across the board. Starting in Asia, we saw green results everywhere (Nikkei +1.0%, Hang Seng +1.2%, Shanghai +0.8%), with the same being true in Europe (DAX +1.1%, CAC +1.6%, FTSE 100 +0.5%). US futures are pointing in the same direction with gains on the order of 0.75% at 7:00am.
Bond markets are also on board the risk train, with yields rising in Treasuries (+2.9 bps) and throughout Europe (Bunds +2.7bps, OATs +2.2bps, Gilts +3.1bps). Part of this positivity seems to be coming from the release of Eurozone Q4 GDP data, which was not quite as bad, at -0.7% Q/Q (-5.1% Y/Y) as forecast. That outcome, though, was reasonably well known ahead of time as both Germany and Spain printed Q4 GDP at +0.1% in a surprise last week. Unfortunately, the ongoing lockdowns throughout Europe, which have been extended into March in some cases, point to another quarter of economic contraction in Q1, thus resulting in a second recession in short order on the continent. With that in mind, while we have not heard much from ECB speakers lately, it is certainly clear that there is no taper talk in Frankfurt at this time.
Which takes us to the currency markets. The G10 bloc is split with EUR (-0.25%) matching AUD’s futility, while the rest of the European currencies are all modestly lower. Commodity currencies, however, are holding their own led by CAD (+0.35%) which is benefitting from oil’s rally (+1.3%), although NOK (+0.1%) has seen less benefit. EMG currencies, however, lean toward gains this morning, with MXN (+0.8%), BRL (+0.6%) and RUB (+0.6%) leading the way, each benefitting from higher commodity prices. Even ZAR (+0.5%) is higher despite the lagging in precious metals. But that story is far more focused on ZAR interest rates, which are an attractive carry play in a risk on scenario. The laggards in this bloc are basically the CE4, tracking the euro, and even those losses are minimal.
While there is no data this morning in the US, we do have important statistics coming up later in the week as follows:
|Unit Labor Costs||-3.0%|
|Friday||Non Farm Payrolls||60K|
|Average Hourly Earnings||0.3% (5.0% Y/Y)|
|Average Weekly Hours||34.7|
So, plenty to see, but will we learn that much? Obviously, all eyes will be on the payroll data, which given the rise in Initial Claims we have seen during the past month seems unlikely to surprise on the high side. As such, anticipating sufficient data exuberance to get the Fed doves to talk about tapering seems remote.
Adding it all up leaves the current short dollar squeeze in place, with an opportunity, I think, for the euro to trade back below 1.20 for a time, but nothing we have seen or heard has changed my view that the dollar will fall in the second half of the year. For those of you with payables, hedging sooner rather than later should be rewarded over time.
Good luck and stay safe