Friday, June 19, 2015

Market Week Wrap-up Weekly Market Update: Greece Endgame in Sight, Fed Stays Dovish
Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:11 PM EST

Global markets were seen approaching or crossing key thresholds this week. At Wednesday's post rate decision press conference, Fed Chair Yellen said conditions were still not ripe for starting rate hikes, citing continued labor market slack and weakness in wages. Fed dovishness help propel stocks higher and the Nasdaq closed at a new all-time high of 5,143 on Thursday, finally topping the all-time high set on March 10th, 2000 at the height of the dot com bubble. Greece and its creditors remained at an impasse, failing to bring any new ideas to a meeting of European financial ministers on Thursday. An emergency summit of euro zone leaders on Monday appears to be the last chance to change the course of events flowing toward a Greek default. In Asia, both the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets fell into correction territory, as liquidity concerns pummeled the markets after regulators again scolded brokers about excessive margin trading. Even as China sank, US stocks had their best week in two months: the DJIA added 0.6%, the S&P500 rose 0.7%, and the Nasdaq gained 1.3%.

The Fed statement on Wednesday was updated to acknowledge economic activity has expanded moderately, the pace of job gains picked up, underutilization of labor resources diminished, moderate spending growth, and stabilization in energy prices. But on the key issue, there was no change: inflation continued to run below target. In March, the dot chart gave a sense that the Fed would tighten by at least 50 bps in 2015 and quite possibly more. The updated projections showed more members were now anticipating only one 25 bps hike this year, though some still see one or two in addition to that. Chair Yellen explained that conditions have not yet been met for a rate hike, and urged Fed watchers to focus more on the shape of the rate policy cycle than on when rate liftoff occurs. After the policy statement, Goldman Sachs said it now believes the Fed will wait until December to raise interest rates, pushing back its forecast for rate liftoff by three months.

Pessimism regarding the final act of the Greece bailout drama waxed and waned this week, with passing headlines about possible imminent deals outweighed by more material statements from officials on both sides that the game was just about over. June 30th is the unavoidable deadline, and IMF Chief Lagarde warned that the payment due at that time was definitive and there would be no grace period or possibility of delay, while Greek officials confirmed there was no money in the till to make the payment. After no progress was made at the Eurogroup meeting on Thursday, a summit of euro zone leaders was hastily arranged for next Monday to give Athens one last chance to submit concrete concessions. As much as €3.2 billion leaked out of the Greek banking system this week, shrinking total deposits to around €125 billion, even as the ECB doled out two ELA hikes to prop up Greece's financial system through Monday.

EUR/USD was notably less volatile in the first half of the week, with the pair mostly confined in a 1.1200-1300 range. The more dovish tone in the Fed decision sent EUR/USD higher, with the pair around the 1.1400-1.1440 area on Thursday, then lower through week's end. Bond market volatility also cooled off considerably, with much tighter ranges seen in yields.

There were contrasting June regional Fed manufacturing reports. The New York Fed's Empire index unexpectedly dropped into negative territory (-1.9 v +3.1 m/m) and saw weak new orders (-2.1 v +3.9 m/m). Meanwhile the Philadelphia Fed's index more than doubled (15.2 v 6.7 m/m) and new orders rose to their highest level since November 2014 (15.2 v 4.0 m/m). The Commerce Department's May industrial production saw a slightly m/m contraction, while the April data was revised to a steeper contraction. The May CPI data was a bit softer than expected, with lower food and energy prices responsible for much of the weakness. The shortfall in the monthly increase resulted in an unchanged y/y reading.

May housing starts declined somewhat from the seven-year highs seen in the April numbers. Meanwhile, the May building permits rose to an eight-year high, topping the April figures by 12% or so. Most of the surprise was in the volatile multi-family component, where permits rose to a 25-year high of 592K, largely reflecting a doubling y/y in the Northeast region. Single-family permits were only up 2.6% y/y, just shy of the cycle high of 685K seen in December.

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch released a report this week that shed more light on the great bond selloff. The report showed bond funds suffered about $10.3 billion outflows last week, the largest redemptions in about two years. During the same period, equity funds saw $10.8 billion inflows, the largest in three months. The report also reminded readers that over the past six years, bond funds have enjoyed $1.2 trillion inflows compared to only $573 billion to equity funds.

Shipping giant FedEx and database powerhouse Oracle both disclosed disappointing fourth-quarter results this week. Earnings and revenue from both firms missed consensus expectations, and FedEx's initial FY16 outlook also fell flat. On the conference call, FedEx executives warned they see first quarter growth lower than consensus. Oracle blamed FX pain for its miss, but continued to highlight the strong growth in its cloud computing business.

In M&A news, Standard Pacific Corp and Ryland Group announced a merger of equals in a $5.2B deal. Botox maker Allergan agreed to buy Kythera Biopharmaceuticals for about $2.1 billion, getting its hands on Kythera's double chin treatment. CVS Health reached a deal to acquire and operate 1,660 in-store Target pharmacies for just under $2B. Medical device manufacturer Hill-Rom Holdings acquired diagnostic and patient monitoring device maker Welch Allyn for $2.0 billion.

The massive year-to-date surge in Chinese stocks was blunted this week, as the Shanghai Composite gave up 13%, the index's biggest weekly slump since 2008, and thrusting it into a technical correction in a matter of days. Shares sold off in the absence of any significant data to set the tone and on concerns that equities may have gone too-far-too-fast as regulators reiterated concerns about excessive margin trading. The selloff was also partly attributed to a rise in money market rates to two-month highs amid demand for a raft of upcoming IPOs.