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SocGen Is Telling Its Nervous Clients “Don’t Leave The Party Yet” – Here’s Why

SocGen Is Telling Its Nervous Clients "Don’t Leave The Party Yet" – Here’s Why

A surge in cross-asset volatility over the past two weeks has left investors with many questions about its nature and implications and whether it is safe to buy…

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SocGen Is Telling Its Nervous Clients "Don't Leave The Party Yet" - Here's Why

A surge in cross-asset volatility over the past two weeks has left investors with many questions about its nature and implications and whether it is safe to buy the dip (technically there is no longer a dip).

In a note seeking to ease client concerns, SocGen strategists Jitesh Kumar and Alain Bokobza say "don’t leave the party yet" because they found that the main trigger for the recent market turmoil has been "investors seeking to deleverage their more illiquid/expensive assets to protect profits as the year ends." And while the market may be shaken by residual liquidity tremors over the next couple of weeks, "recent trends nevertheless underpin our recommendation to remain invested and stay overweight in equities, real assets (including commodities), and the dollar."

Drilling down on the increasingly nervous market since the Fed’s recent hawkish turn and the move higher in rates since the September FOMC meeting, SocGen points to several other catalysts that have kept investors on their toes, including:

  1. collateral scarcity in Europe, fueling very high demand for ‘safe’ assets, wider asset swap spreads and a wider cross-currency basis swaps due to a drop in ECB net issuance;

  2. the threat of COVID Delta-variant related lockdowns in Europe (Austria, Germany) even before the emergence of Omicron;

  3. the 6%+ CPI print in the US, followed by the re-nomination of Jerome Powell at the Fed, enabling him to signal scope for a faster taper and earlier rate hikes, stoking policy error fears;

  4. credit spread widening against plummeting German bond yields, while corporate bond issuance has remained robust; and

  5. high pension funding ratios fueling demand for ‘safer’ assets (bonds) to rotate into.

One read of the above is that these combined pressures have increased demand for bonds, while Omicron spooked some investors into cutting over-extended positions on the Friday following Thanksgiving amid low market liquidity. These pressures triggered very sharp moves in some widely owned illiquid assets, including:

  • rotation from high beta stocks into quality stocks;

  • a shift in preference to US equities/large cap tech from small caps/other overseas investments;

  • increased hedging to lock in gains before year-end, triggering higher equity/credit volatility;

  • a sharp rise in funding currencies at the expense of high yielders/EM, leading to a weaker dollar.

Additionally, as the SocGen duo notes, some highly extended inflation plays have been among the most impacted, e.g. both crude oil and breakeven inflation linkers saw substantial one-day drops on 26 November as shown below (the French bank is quick to note that it remains overweight on both commodities and inflation-linked bonds as they provide protection against higher inflation prints and a Fed tightening cycle over 2022).

The market turbulence also took an already extended VIX complex up to the highest levels since the March 2020 crash. So illiquid was the market that the VIX bid/offer spread exploded to 4 vol points, but here too SocGen thinks the Left Tail risks are in fact a manifestation of a lack of liquidity in downside hedges

But how does the sharp risk off episode square with dollar weakness - after all the dollar usually surges when there is a dump in risk.

According to SocGen, dollar weakness coinciding with broader market weakness "was unusual but makes sense when seen through the deleveraging lens." The chart below left shows that during the turmoil on 26 November, the typical funding currencies (EUR, JPY, CHF) strengthened while EM currencies (most of which are high yielders) weakened. This had the overall effect of weakening the broad dollar, especially in the G10 space. However, this trend is expected to reverse and take us back to a strong dollar environment given that we see a full Fed hiking cycle ahead of us (unless of course Omicron or whatever variant comes next ruins these plans).

Looking at actual stock positions, SG’s derivatives team notes that options positioning on US small caps had been increasing throughout October. Therefore, it says, "the risk-off episode came at an inopportune moment for some well invested market participants, who likely had to reduce risk in US small caps faster than they would have preferred." As can be seen in the chart above right, Russell 2000 index turnover in the cash market was overwhelmed by the futures market on 26 November, triggering large intraday moves.

Separately, SocGen also points to the combined position changes visible in the CFTC data for hedge funds and asset managers which it says provides further evidence of the pressure on Russell 2000 futures, which in aggregate saw $5.4bn in selling in the holiday-curtailed last week of November (23-30 Nov data). This was the largest weekly sale of Russell 2000 futures as per CFTC data in more than four years.

In contrast to small caps, positioning on large cap equities has not been under the same pressure. Asset manager + hedge fund flows in S&P500 e-mini futures totalled -$6.4bn in the last available dataset, a relatively small amount for the S&P500. More tellingly, the overall flow on the Nasdaq 100 was slightly positive over this period at +$0.8bn, as shown in the right-hand chart above.

Generally speaking, short-term repo is also a useful indicator of the demand/supply profile of major equity indices. A sharply negative repo rate usually signifies very high demand for balance sheet exposure relative to supply, while a very positive repo rate signifies risk aversion. The chart below shows the 1-month repo rate on S&P500, while the balance sheet pressures faced by banks during the fourth quarter of every year are well known. That said, the current quarter, despite recent weakness in broad equities, has not seen positive repo levels, indicating that US large caps have not been hit by material drawdowns according to SocGen (and their price).

So what should traders do?

In a word, nothing, at least that's the recommendation of SocGen. The bank continues to believe that tightening spells are flattening, and thus recommend being positioned for a flattening of the yield curve, which also supports US stocks that are longer-duration assets and are tilted toward quality. In terms of sectors, long Information & Technology against the financial sector is very well correlated with the trend in the yield curve and is one of our key sector calls linked to the Fed tightening cycle.

Sure enough, the curve has not only flattened at the very long end, but market pricing of the total number of hikes from the Fed over the next few years has also reduced. Hikes previously priced for 2024 and  2025 have all been brought forward to 2023, as the chart below shows. Indeed, as we first showed a week ago, the market is now pricing a small probability of a rate cut in 2025.

One take on these moves is that i) either inflation is not going to be a longer-term problem, and that longer-duration assets should therefore continue to do well, or ii) inflation will be a problem but the Fed will be powerless to do anything about it without blowing up the entire market in the process. Our money is on the latter.

Last but not least, SocGen continues to see support for broader financial markets going into next year as private-sector balance sheets remain strong. To wit, US corporates hold close to $7 trillion in liquid assets and US households have $17 trillion tucked away in deposit and money market funds post the pandemic (then again most of this cash belongs to the 1% with few benefits trickling down to the lower 90%). In short, the French bank believes that there is still plenty of cash on the sidelines and investors will sooner or later need to move away from cash in a 6%+ inflation environment.

In conclusion, SocGen's remains alert to the risks that would flare up in the event of more hawkish central banks as well new COVID variants, but for now it recommends its playbook for 2022, "which is working well so far."

Tyler Durden Wed, 12/08/2021 - 13:46

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Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion

The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of…
The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of the gains the budget airline had made earlier in the week. The new slide came after it announced a £213 loss for the last quarter of the year covering the Christmas period, taking losses for the Covid-19 pandemic period to £2.2 billion. The airline also told investors it is still burning through £150 million in cash every month as it struggles to build capacity back up.

The short-haul airline that makes most of its income shuttling holidaymakers and business travellers around Europe said it is still only operating at around half of its pre-pandemic capacity. However, it is hopeful that pent-up demand and an end to travel restrictions mean it will return to pre-pandemic levels by summer and enjoy much brisker trade than of late over the Easter and spring period.

easy jet plc

But before then the airline company will again have to absorb deep losses over the current quarter, which is traditionally its weakest of the year. Even a strong summer period, think most analysts, will be insufficient to see the company return to profit this year. EasyJet’s value is still less than half of what it was in February 2020 before the coronavirus-induced market sell-off that hit later that month and saw markets dive into March before starting to recover. The share prices of rival budget airlines Ryanair and WizzAir have recovered much more strongly in comparison to EasyJet’s and are now close to their pre-pandemic levels. There have been concerns around whether EasyJet could survive the pandemic but investors contributed £1.2 billion last autumn to bolster its balance sheet.

The EasyJet share price is closing the week at around £6.15 compared to over £15 before the pandemic. However, there is now hope the worst may be behind the airline and it can begin its, potentially long, journey back to health. Chief executive John Lundgren attempted to soften the announcement of another hefty loss with a bullish statement on where things go from here for his company:

“Booking volumes jumped in the UK following the welcome reduction of travel restrictions announced on January 5, which have been sustained and given a further boost from the UK government’s decision this week to remove all testing requirements.”

“We believe testing for travel across our network should soon become a thing of the past. We see a strong summer ahead, with pent-up demand that will see easyJet returning to near-2019 levels of capacity, with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well.”

For now, however, forward guidance for the immediate quarter remains cautious with the company admitting it has fallen short of its expectations to be at 80% capacity by this quarter, sitting at just 67%. However, with most analysts confident the company will eventually return to strength, and profit in the 2022-23 financial year, EasyJet shares could offer a good buying opportunity at current levels.

The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwal

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwald, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.”

- Rod Serling, Deaths-Head Revisited

In the politically charged, polarizing tug-of-war that is the debate over COVID-19, we find ourselves buffeted by fear over a viral pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with lives and the economy, threats of vaccine mandates and financial penalties for noncompliance, and discord over how to legislate the public good without sacrificing individual liberty.

The discord is getting more discordant by the day.

Just recently, for instance, the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board suggested that government officials should mandate mass vaccinations and deploy the National Guard “to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.”

In other words, lock up the unvaccinated and use the military to determine who gets to be “free.”

These tactics have been used before.

This is why significant numbers of people are worried: because this is the slippery slope that starts with well-meaning intentions for the greater good and ends with tyrannical abuses no one should tolerate.

For a glimpse at what the future might look like if such a policy were to be enforced, look beyond America’s borders.

In Italy, the unvaccinated are banned from restaurants, bars and public transportation, and could face suspensions from work and monthly fines. Similarly, France will ban the unvaccinated from most public venues.

In Austria, anyone who has not complied with the vaccine mandate could face fines up to $4100. Police will be authorized to carry out routine checks and demand proof of vaccination, with penalties of as much as $685 for failure to do so.

In China, which has adopted a zero tolerance, “zero COVID” strategy, whole cities—some with populations in the tens of millions—are being forced into home lockdowns for weeks on end, resulting in mass shortages of food and household supplies. Reports have surfaced of residents “trading cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples and sanitary pads for a small pile of vegetables. One resident traded a Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns.”

For those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, China has constructed “quarantine camps” throughout the country: massive complexes boasting thousands of small, metal boxes containing little more than a bed and a toilet. Detainees—including children, pregnant women and the elderly— were reportedly ordered to leave their homes in the middle of the night, transported to the quarantine camps in buses and held in isolation.

If this last scenario sounds chillingly familiar, it should.

Eighty years ago, another authoritarian regime established more than 44,000 quarantine camps for those perceived as “enemies of the state”: racially inferior, politically unacceptable or simply noncompliant.

While the majority of those imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, forced labor camps, incarceration sites and ghettos were Jews, there were also Polish nationals, gypsies, Russians, political dissidents, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.

Culturally, we have become so fixated on the mass murders of Jewish prisoners by the Nazis that we overlook the fact that the purpose of these concentration camps were initially intended to “incarcerate and intimidate the leaders of political, social, and cultural movements that the Nazis perceived to be a threat to the survival of the regime.”

As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains:

“Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were political prisoners—German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats—as well as Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of ‘asocial’ or socially deviant behavior. Many of these sites were called concentration camps. The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”

How do you get from there to here, from Auschwitz concentration camps to COVID quarantine centers?

Connect the dots.

You don’t have to be unvaccinated or a conspiracy theorist or even anti-government to be worried about what lies ahead. You just have to recognize the truth in the warning: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is not about COVID-19. Nor is it about politics, populist movements, or any particular country.

This is about what happens when good, generally decent people—distracted by manufactured crises, polarizing politics, and fighting that divides the populace into warring “us vs. them” camps—fail to take note of the looming danger that threatens to wipe freedom from the map and place us all in chains.

It’s about what happens when any government is empowered to adopt a comply-or-suffer-the-consequences mindset that is enforced through mandates, lockdowns, penalties, detention centers, martial law, and a disregard for the rights of the individual.

The slippery slope begins in just this way, with propaganda campaigns about the public good being more important than individual liberty, and it ends with lockdowns and concentration camps.

The danger signs are everywhere.

Claudio Ronco, a 66-year-old Orthodox Jew and a specialist in 18th-century music, recognizes the signs. Because of his decision to remain unvaccinated, Ronco is trapped inside his house, unable to move about in public without a digital vaccination card. He can no longer board a plane, check into a hotel, eat at a restaurant or get a coffee at a bar. He has been ostracized by friends, shut out of public life, and will soon face monthly fines for insisting on his right to bodily integrity and individual freedom.

For all intents and purposes, Ronco has become an undesirable in the eyes of the government, forced into isolation so he doesn’t risk contaminating the rest of the populace.

This is the slippery slope: a government empowered to restrict movements, limit individual liberty, and isolate “undesirables” to prevent the spread of a disease is a government that has the power to lockdown a country, label whole segments of the population a danger to national security, and force those undesirables—a.k.a. extremists, dissidents, troublemakers, etc.—into isolation so they don’t contaminate the rest of the populace.

The world has been down this road before, too.

Others have ignored the warning signs. We cannot afford to do so.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free:

“Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.”

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, life was good.

Life is good in America, too, as long as you’re able to keep cocooning yourself in political fantasies that depict a world in which your party is always right and everyone else is wrong, while distracting yourself with bread-and-circus entertainment that bears no resemblance to reality.

Indeed, life in America may be good for the privileged few who aren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, but it’s getting worse by the day for the rest of us.

Which brings me back to the present crisis: COVID-19 is not the Holocaust, and those who advocate vaccine mandates, lockdowns and quarantine camps are not Hitler, but this still has the makings of a slippery slope.

The means do not justify the ends: we must find other ways of fighting a pandemic without resorting to mandates and lockdowns and concentration camps. To do otherwise is to lay the groundwork for another authoritarian monster to rise up and wreak havoc.

If we do not want to repeat the past, then we must learn from past mistakes.

January 27 marks Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a day for remembering those who died at the hands of Hitler’s henchmen and those who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Yet remembering is not enough. We can do better. We must do better.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the world is teetering on the edge of authoritarian madness.

All it will take is one solid push for tyranny to prevail.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/28/2022 - 23:40

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Eli Lilly says FDA could deny expanded use of arthritis drug for eczema

Eli Lilly said on Jan. 28 the company expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to decline the approval of expanded use of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Olumiant as a treatment for adults with moderate-to-severe eczema.

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Eli Lilly says FDA could deny expanded use of arthritis drug for eczema

(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) said on Friday it expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to decline the approval of expanded use of its rheumatoid arthritis drug as a treatment for adults with moderate-to-severe eczema.

“At this point, the company does not have alignment with the FDA on the indicated population,” the drugmaker said.

Olumiant, discovered by Incyte Corp (INCY.O) and licensed to Lilly, belongs to a class of drugs called JAK inhibitors, which came under regulatory scrutiny after Pfizer’s (PFE.N) arthritis drug Xeljanz showed an increased risk of serious heart-related problems and cancer in a February trial. read more

The path to approval for the drug has been arduous, with the FDA extending its review timeline repeatedly.

AbbVie’s (ABBV.N) rival eczema drug, Rinvoq, also faced similar regulatory hurdles before being finally approved by the FDA earlier this month, as well as Pfizer’s Cibinqo. read more

“While not specified by the company, we wonder if the FDA may be looking to limit the use of the product (Olumiant) to an even smaller subset of patients than what Rinvoq and Cibinqo were approved for,” Mizuho analyst Vamil Divan said in a client note.

An Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is pictured at 50 ImClone Drive in Branchburg, New Jersey, March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Lilly also said it has decided to discontinue its program for testing use of Olumiant in autoimmune disease lupus, based on early results from two late-stage trials.

The decision would adversely affect Lilly which continues to bet on upcoming regulatory decisions on the drug for treating COVID-19 for certain hospitalized patients and severe alopecia areata, a type of hair loss.

In the United States, the drug is already authorized for emergency use in hospitalized adults with COVID-19 and children aged two or older requiring supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. Lilly awaits Olumiant’s full approval in certain hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with an anticipated regulatory action in the second quarter.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Shinjini Ganguli

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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