Thursday, February 04, 2016

Friday Watch

Evening Headlines

  • China’s Foreign Reserves Poised for Record Drop on Yuan Defense. China’s foreign-exchange reserves, already at a three-year low, are poised to post a second consecutive record monthly drop as policy makers intervene to support the yuan. The central bank will say Sunday that the currency hoard fell by $118 billion to $3.2 trillion in January, according to economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey. That would exceed a record $108 billion decline in December, which brought last year’s total draw-down to more than half a trillion dollars and capped the first annual decrease in the reserves since 1992. Policy makers are burning through billions of dollars to hold up a weakening currency amid flagging growth and $1 trillion in capital outflows last year. The yuan sank to a five-year low last month as the People’s Bank of China set the reference rate at an unexpectedly weak level, a signal that it’s more tolerant of depreciation as growth slows. “China is facing a significant capital outflow problem,” said Krishna Memani, who helps oversee $217 billion as chief investment officer at Oppenheimer Funds Inc. in New York. “It’s an astounding reduction in their capital account position. This is an issue they’ve been aware of, and they have to find a way of managing it. The economy itself cannot turn this around.”
  • Japan's Bear Market Digs In as Stock Pessimists Crash BOJ Party. Japanese stock investors trying to escape from bear territory may want to prepare for a long and painful road back. Since the Nikkei 225 Stock Average tumbled more than 20 percent from a peak last month, Japanese equities have made several attempts at rallies, only to falter as the market gets swept along in a global selloff spurred by tumbling oil prices. Even optimism over central bank stimulus -- a frequent rescuer of stocks during the bull market -- has failed to spark a sustained rally. History supports the view that the recovery will take time. Wiping out a bear market takes seven and a half months on average, according to an analysis of the index’s 14 occurrences since 1989. Worse, shares tend to fall further after the initial 20 percent drop -- the Nikkei has slid an additional 18 percent on average, according to the data that include steep selloffs in the early 1990s, the Asian financial crisis, the dot-com bubble and the global financial crisis.
  • Yen Set for Best Week Since 2009 as Fed Outlook Overtakes BOJ. The yen is set for its biggest advance against the dollar in more than six years as concern about global economic growth and mounting doubt over whether U.S. interest rates will rise this year overshadow the impact of Japan adopting negative rates. The Japanese currency has more than recouped its decline against the greenback triggered when the Bank of Japan last week unexpectedly decided to charge lenders for their excess reserves held at the central bank. Prospects for higher interest rates in the U.S. are receding on speculation the Federal Reserve can’t tighten monetary policy further against a backdrop of global turmoil. American jobs data due Friday and a report on China’s foreign reserves this weekend will help determine short-term haven demand. The euro is heading for its biggest weekly advance since 2011. The yen has surged 3.6 percent this week, the most since July 2009, and was little changed at 116.90 per dollar as of 9:28 a.m. in Tokyo. It was as weak as 121.69 on Jan. 29 after the BOJ policy decision. Japan’s benchmark 10-year bond yield continued to decline this week, touching a record-low 0.04 percent Friday.
  • Asian Stocks Fall as Japanese Shares Drop Amid Strengthening Yen. Asian stocks fell, with the regional benchmark index heading for a weekly loss, after Japanese shares declined as the strengthening yen pressured major exporters. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.5 percent to 120.53 as of 9:16 a.m. in Tokyo. The measure is poised for a 0.7 percent decline this week as Japan’s Topix index erased its gains from last Friday’s Bank of Japan stimulus and the yen headed for its best weekly gain in seven years.“It’s still way too early to say we’ve found the bottom,” Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., said by phone.
  • Citi: 'We Should All Fear Oilmageddon'. A feedback loop of the U.S. dollar, crude, capital flows, and emerging markets. Markets are currently in a well-oiled "death spiral," according to Citigroup Inc. analysts led by Jonathan Stubbs. "It appears that four inter-linked phenomena are driving a negative feedback loop in the global economy and across financial markets," the analysts write, citing the resilient U.S. dollar, lower commodities prices, weaker trade and capital flows, and declining emerging market growth. "It seems reasonable to assume that another year of extreme moves in U.S. dollar (higher) and oil/commodity prices (lower) would likely continue to drive this negative feedback loop and make it very difficult for policy makers in emerging markets and developing markets to fight disinflationary forces and intercept downside risks," the analysts add. "Corporate profits and equity markets would also likely suffer further downside risk in this scenario of Oilmageddon."
  • A Saudi-Russian Oil Détente? Not Likely. Moscow’s call for talks went nowhere, but oil prices jumped. A deal is not only “highly unlikely,” in the estimation of Goldman Sachs, but “self-defeating” for the Saudis. By cutting production now and boosting prices, Saudi Arabia would effectively bail out U.S. shale producers just as the Saudi strategy of keeping prices low to squeeze them out of the market is beginning to work, Goldman’s Jeff Currie argues.
  • Mining Rally Questioned by Jefferies to Investec Amid Glut. The best two days for mining companies since the depths of the recession might be the end of the good times as the gluts across metals keep prices low. That’s the view of analysts at Jefferies LLC and Investec Plc who predict the gains won’t last. The Bloomberg World Mining Index surged 10 percent, adding more than $44 billion to the combined market value of the 80 companies tracked by the measure. The rally was propelled by a weaker dollar that makes commodities, including copper and gold, attractive alternative investments. Industrial-metal prices plunged 27 percent last year, the worst performance since 2008, as the market grappled with excess supplies amid cooling demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer. While miners including Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Glencore Plc have trimmed production, the cuts haven’t been deep enough to end the glut. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts copper will remain in surplus through at least 2020. A resilient U.S. economy will keep a lid on gold, which has fallen for the past three years, according to Societe Generale SA. “The bounce may be short lived because the fundamental outlook is still troublesome and looks likely to remain that way for some time,” Tai Wong, the director of commodity products trading at BMO Capital Markets in New York, said in a telephone interview. “These short-term players will sell as quickly as they bought.
Wall Street Journal:
  • Syrians Flee Aleppo to Escape Damascus Offensive Against Rebels. Turkish officials are preparing for new wave of refugees. Tens of thousands of Syrians fled the province of Aleppo for the Turkish border on Thursday, trying to escape a regime offensive backed by Russian airstrikes a day after the latest international efforts to end the country’s conflict unraveled.
  • WSJ Poll: Bernie Sanders Maintains Big Lead in New Hampshire. Survey taken after Iowa caucuses finds that Vermont senator leads Hillary Clinton 58% to 38%.
  • Democratic Presidential Debate: Live Coverage.
  • Some New Hampshire Voters Question Donald Trump’s Latest Moves. Accusations over Iowa caucuses don’t sit well with some Republicans ahead of presidential primary. After a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump has been making accusations and shifting his message and tactics as he tries to regain the title of Republican presidential front-runner. Some of it isn’t sitting well with New Hampshire voters just as they are settling on their candidate of choice in next Tuesday’s...
  • Big Oil Opts for Payouts Over Debt Rating. As cheap oil siphons cash, companies borrow to pay dividends, threatening credit standing. The world’s biggest energy companies have a tough decision to make amid languishing oil prices: Do they keep their coveted investment-grade credit ratings or maintain century-old practices of paying shareholders annual dividends worth billions in cash?
  • Hillary’s Wall Street Reckoning. Clinton struggles to explain why Goldman paid her $675,000. President Obama has spent seven years denouncing Wall Street and persuading young progressives that the U.S. economy is rigged for the benefit of wealthy financiers. So how will he now persuade them to support Wall Street’s favorite Democrat? This is the political trap Mr. Obama has sprung on Hillary Clinton, who made it difficult to watch Wednesday’s Democratic town hall on CNN as she squirmed in response to a...
  • Killing the Working Class at Wal-Mart(WMT). When a store closes, the minimum wage for your lost job is zero. Activists should have seen it coming. The evidence continues to roll in: Broad increases in the minimum wage destroy jobs and hurt the working-class Americans that they are supposed to help. The latest evidence is an announcement that Wal-Mart, America’s largest employer, will close more than 150 U.S. stores, a move that will affect 10,000 employees.
Fox News:
  •  'Something smells:' Des Moines Register calls for audit of Iowa Dem caucus. (video) Iowa's largest newspaper called Thursday for an audit into the results of the state's Democratic caucus, pointing to confusion and problems at numerous polling sites -- and declaring “something smells in the Democratic Party.” The Des Moines Register, in an editorial, wrote that “once again the world is laughing at Iowa” over alleged discrepancies and disorganization surrounding caucus results and called the process a “debacle.” The editorial pointed in part to Hillary Clinton's razor-thin margin of victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in seeking an audit. 
  • Obama to call for $10-per-barrel oil tax to fund clean transport. President Obama will propose a $10 fee for every barrel of oil to be paid by oil companies in order to fund clean energy transport system, the White House announced Thursday -- although Republicans were quick to declare the plan "dead on arrival" in Congress. The fee would be phased in over five years and would provide $20 billion per year for traffic reduction, investment in transit systems and other modes of transport such as high-speed rail, the White House said. It would also offer $10 billion to encourage investment in clean transport at the regional level.
  • UGG maker Deckers(DECK) lowers guidance, plans cost cuts. Deckers Outdoor Corp. maker of UGG boots and Sanuk sandals, reported lower-than-expected earnings and announced cost-saving moves including store closings. The company also lowered its guidance for the current quarter. Shares fell 7.8%, to $45, in after-hours trading.
  • Splunk(SPLK), cloud-software co. shares decline in wake of Tableau(DATA) drop. Splunk shares fell 12% to $41, as Tableau shares plummeted 46% to $44.60 after hours.
  • Share buyback machine remains in overdrive and experts warn it will end badly. Companies are draining funds with buybacks, instead of investing in growth. Companies, even those that are missing profit and sales estimates and cutting outlooks, or restructuring and cutting jobs, are still announcing buybacks. Coming after a long period of intensive spending on shareholder returns, the news is bad for investors hoping to see a return to growth. “We continue to be skeptical about how companies are deploying capital, especially when it’s tied to stock-based compensation,” said Ben Silverman, vice president of research at InsiderScore, a research firm that tracks buybacks and legal insider trading for institutional clients. “We believe buybacks can be used to mask management’s inability to grow the business and be innovative thinkers.” William Lazonick, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Lowell and director of the Center for Industrial Competitiveness., went a step further, suggesting that buybacks have the potential to push the U.S. into recession. He argues that companies are using them to prop up share prices at the expense of reinvesting in the business and supporting job stability and long-term growth. “It has the potential to really drive the economy into the ground,” he said. “Companies have given away so much money, it’s been a long-run secular problem that has contributed to why income is so concentrated at the top.” Data shows that 78% of the total compensation paid to executives at the top 500 U.S. companies in 2014 went on stock options and stock awards, he said. “Executives are basically incentivized and rewarded for getting the stock up, and buybacks are a prime way of doing that,” he said.
Zero Hedge:
Business Insider:
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE President: Hillary Clinton (D) 44% Marco Rubio (R) 45%.
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE President: Hillary Clinton (D) 48% Donald Trump (R) 39%.
  • U.S.-based stock funds post 5th straight week of withdrawals: Lipper. Investors pulled $6.5 billion out of U.S.-based stock funds during the week ended Feb. 3, Lipper data showed on Thursday, as investors largely shunned risky financial assets for the fifth straight week. U.S.-based corporate investment-grade bond funds, another gauge of risk appetite, also saw significant cash withdrawals, with investors yanking $1.5 billion from the sector for an 11th straight week. U.S.-based emerging market debt funds posted $415 million in outflows, the group's 15th straight week of cash withdrawals, Lipper said.
Night Trading 
  • Asian equity indices are -.75% to +.75% on average.
  • Asia Ex-Japan Investment Grade CDS Index 155.5 -.25 basis point.
  • Asia Pacific Sovereign CDS Index 79.5 -1.75 basis points.
  • Bloomberg Emerging Markets Currency Index 68.83 -.03%.
  • S&P 500 futures -.08%.
  • NASDAQ 100 futures -.12%.

Earnings of Note 
  • (AON)/2.09
  • (CME)/.90
  • (EL)/1.10
  • (MCO)/1.05
  • (TSN)/.89
  • (WY)/.24 
Economic Releases
8:30 am EST
  • The Trade Deficit for December is estimated at -$43.2B versus -$42.37b in November.
  • The Change in Non-Farm Payrolls for January is estimated to fall to 190K versus 292K in December.
  • The Unemployment Rate for January is estimated to remain at 5.0% versus 5.0% in December.
  • Average Hourly Earnings for January are estimated to rise +.3% versus unch. in December.   
3:00 pm EST
  • Consumer Credit for December is estimated to rise to $16.0b versus $13.951b in November.
Upcoming Splits
  • None of note
Other Potential Market Movers
  • The German Factory Orders report, (STJ) investor meeting, (TSN) annual meeting and the (GLW) investor meeting could also impact trading today.
BOTTOM LINE: Asian indices are mostly lower, weighed down by industrial and commodity shares in the region. I expect US stocks to open mixed and to weaken into the afternoon, finishing modestly lower. The Portfolio is 25% net long heading into the day.

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