Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Nightmare on Wall Street; Currency Markets Turmoil

``Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish Philosopher, Essayist

Early this week, I had been asked why despite the adaptation of a bullish stance I sounded quite tentative. Well, the answer from the hindsight is quite obvious. We have been saying all along that since developments in the US markets appear to have been directing the path of the its counterparts in the global arena, if the financial markets were to reflect on the developments in the real economy, then we are at a loss of pertinent explanations except that we find massive expansion in today’s credit cycle and excessive risk taking behavior, underpinned by the expansionary policies assumed by the world’s central banks as basically responsible for the recent activities in today’s global financial marketplace.

Yet, regardless of the intensifying risks, financial markets have had their extended shindig, which seemed to uphold the impression that any inflection point could only be found in the distant future. Meanwhile, bearish analysts had been seen fading in the limelight as markets conspicuously contravened their outlooks as indices scaled to new heights. On the other hand, momentum investing appears to have gathered more following.

But suddenly, we found some of our apprehensions may have turned into a reality.

Last week, we described the possibility that as the US dollar Index approached its 35-year low, assaults on any major support levels have usually been accompanied by violent reactions. While we pointed out several factors that may lead the US dollar to breakdown into uncharted waters, we also raised the possibility that the US dollar index could in all probability stage a massive rebound from its lows. MOST of what we projected last week materialized as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Currencies illuminate Market Stresses

At the start of the week, the US dollar index (+1.07% w-o-w) breached slightly below the 80s to a record low but fiercely recoiled after its attempted breakdown faltered (see panel above center window).

This coincided with a huge spike in the Japanese Yen (+2.06% w-o-w; see main window), which behind the scenes could have conspired to aggravate the turbulent conditions of several institutions holding assets already suffering from the worsening subprime implosions in the US.

And while both the Yen and the US dollar index surged, global markets represented by the US S & P 500 (upper pane below main window) and our own Phisix (lower pane) were thrashed (red circles). The blue vertical line signifies the demarcation timeline of the recent volatility chronicles.

In a perspective, the decline seen in the US markets in the weekly context has almost been similar in magnitude to the one seen late February (recall the “Shanghai Surprise”?), albeit a Bloomberg report calls it the worst week since 2002 (in allusion to the S&P 500--see how selective referencing can make a powerful difference in a presentation?) with about US $2 trillion in global market value wiped out.

This week the Dow Jones Industrials fell 4.23%, the S & P dropped 4.9% and the Nasdaq was lower 4.66% compared to end February’s 4.22%, 4.41% and 5.85%, respectively. This means that YES, the S & P was in accordance to the description by Bloomberg report but NOT so with the Dow Jones Industrials or the Nasdaq.

Similarly, for this week the Philippine Phisix got shellacked by 5.78%, however compared to February’s shakeout where the Phisix dived by a nasty 7.35%, the mitigated circumstances could have been cushioned by the latest BSP’s motion to reflate.

Anyway, following the said bloodbath early this year, the Phisix followed through with two successive weeks of decline, down 1.29% and 1.21% for a cumulative loss of nearly 10% before recovering. This is not to impress upon you that the Phisix will do a February reprise simply because the factors contributing to the recent actions have been dissimilar. Although our message is that streaks whether to the upsides or downsides occur. And given that the recent selloff resulted to some minor technical wreck (Phisix broke 50-day moving averages), momentum suggests to us that the path of least resistance could either be down or sideways.

Pockets of Resistance: Belated Effect or Incipient Decoupling?

Nevertheless, during February’s volatility, much of the world markets apparently sympathized with the actions of the US markets. However today, we see some peculiar divergences or markets behaving independently from the general activities in the equities frontier. For instance, while most people attribute February’s volatility to China, which we vehemently argued against, China’s Shanghai Composite rocketed by 7.06% and Shenzhen flew 10.84% (!) over the week in defiance to the prevailing sentiment across the globe--this should equally dispel the much touted China’s correlation with that of the world’s equity markets.

In addition, most of South Asia’s (Pakistan +2.09%, Sri Lanka +3.25%, Bangladesh +2.66%) and East European markets have likewise seemed insouciant to the recent turmoil to even end the week significantly higher. Even neighboring Thailand managed to eke out a 1.53% gain over the week.

Either we will be seeing belated effects on these markets or these pockets of aberration could be representative of emergent signs of financial markets “decoupling” with that of the highly leveraged US and western markets.

No comments: