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Buzz on the Street: Tesla Is No Longer On Fire

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A look back at the happenings on Wall Street this week, as seen by Minyanville's Buzz & Banter.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Hump Day Cometh! - 9:54 a.m.
Todd Harrison

We've reached the half-way point of this freaky week as global indices "back and fill" recent gains. You know the drill; with mainstay indices up smartly this year--the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 22%, the S&P is ahead 25% and the NASDAQ is sporting a 30% return--fund managers are 'on edge' with 28 sessions left until the year-end letters are penned.

In recent sessions, we've paid homage to the technical landscape--initial support resides at S&P (INDEXSP:.INX) 1775, with more meaningful supports down at S&P 1730 and NDX (INDEXNASDAQ:NDX) 3255--as we continue to respect the performance anxiety-driven "long squeeze," with the buyers higher and the sellers lower into year-end. Perception is reality in the marketplace and the masses are making the bet that current perception continues to manifest into January.

There are a few caveats as the bulls count their Benjamins. For one, the Investor's Intelligence Weekly Advisor Sentiment finds 53.6% bulls and only 15.5% bears, which is near the prior peak of 55.2% bulls two weeks ago. That dovetails into the VXO chart below, which shows that "fear" is a kitten's whisker away from 25-year support. If the past is a prologue to the future, option hedges and/or stock replacements is emerging as a smart strategy.

Another flag, for those who care of such things, is the price action in high-beta. Tesla, which was king of the world at $190, is suddenly the poster child of ambition gone awry, while other fliers, such as LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), Yelp (NYSE:YELP), Chipolte (NYSE:CMG), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) have been sudden battlegrounds. These names remain a terrific proxy for the aforementioned performance anxiety as they provide the best bang for the buck for those trailing their benchmarks.

On the news front, we'll get the FOMC minutes this afternoon at 2PM ET, which will be dissected in kind. Keep an eye out for any tangible shift in perception; while Mrs. Yellen's Fed prides itself on wearing white feathers (read: remaining dovish), any dissension in the ranks could rattle psychology in kind.

Good luck today; be the ball.

R.P.

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Swap Spreads and IOER - 1:06 p.m.
Michael Sedacca

Yesterday I commented on the collapsing interest rate swap spreads. I've had the conversation with a few more people today and at this point have a pretty good handle on what's going on.

Realized volatility in the Treasury space is collapsing back to a multi-year low again. This is essentially because the market is embracing forward guidance, lower for longer, and allowing the Fed to tell them where rates should and will be. Complacency. So there has been a lot of short covering and new longs added in 2016 or longer Eurodollars, which drives swap spreads tighter. This also explains why the MOVE Index of interest rate volatility is back to the May lows.

I do like the fact that the market is becoming more rational, but I think we passed rational on our way to overtly complacent and that worries me. If and when interest rate vol picks back up, it might not be a pretty sight again.

The leak about the ECB deposit rate cut into the negative is adding more flames to the fire about an IOER cut. In his interview earlier this morning, St. Louis Fed President Bullard mentioned that the cut to the IOER rate has been discussed by the FOMC in the past. To my knowledge, when looking at the cut in early 2012, they found that the costs outweighed the benefits. So let's set sail on the SS Theoretical to analyze some things and how it may affect domestic banks.

I'll give a rundown of what the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) rate is. The rate, currently at 25bps, is paid to banks on excess reserves they hold from the Fed. To my understanding, total reserves are calculated as the monetary base minus the value of Federal Reserve notes, and excess takes into account required reserves. As of last June 26, there are $2.04trln of total reserves ($2.5trln as of Nov 13, but I do not have excess for that date), of which $1.92trln are considered "excess". Basically, only 6% of the money the Fed has "printed" is actually being used.

I imagine there is a structural limit to how many of these reserves can be used. For example, to my understanding, the only primary dealer eligible to receive reserves in exchange for Treasuries are those that are commercial banks. So these reserves are going to the likes of Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman (NYSE:GS), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), etc. These banks can only lend out a certain amount, it's not free money, and affects their leverage ratio. The asset (reserve) is essentially a deposit and must be matched against a liability before being taken onto the balance sheet. Next, you have banks being pressured by all sorts of new regulation to limit their size, so regardless of an IOER cut, they aren't incentivized to take on more loans.

Practically, the IOER rate acts as a ceiling for overnight rates. So if the rate was lowered to 0, that would cause widespread dysfunction in money markets and repo markets. If a money market fund is leveraging bank assets at 0%, they have ZERO incentive to take on that risk. My guess is that they are thinking about lowering it to 10bps because the 5bps rate from the Fixed Rate Reverse Repo Facility acts as the floor. It would then enforce a band of 5bps to 10bps for overnight rates and the Fed Funds rate.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Things Are Looking Better in Biotech - 10:31 a.m.
David Miller

There are a million crosscurrents out there in the Market. Uber-Minyan Jeff Saut, who in the nearly 10 years (!) I've been writing for Minyanville has been right an astoundingly large portion of the time, is warning of weakness next week. Smaller biotech has been gingerly in risk-on mode for most of this week -- to the point where we relaxed our short exposure on the names in which we had nice gains. In my experience, that's usually a coal-mine canary for outperformance by the broader market.

This is a buyer-driven market. When buyers take a vacation -- figuratively or, like next week, literally -- the market drops. There haven't really been many sellers. For the other portfolio managers out there, when was the last time a colleague asked you "So what do you like on the short side?" People simply aren't all that interested in selling. They're cranky when they have to sell.

That sentiment is an incredible tailwind for stocks, for however long it might last.

For those interested in my home sector (biotech), do yourself a favor and pull up separate yearly charts of the NASDAQ Biotech Index (INDEXNASDAQ:NBI) for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Print them out and line them up one atop the other (I have this hanging on my wall over my desk). You'll see we're pretty much beyond the point of the traditional Fall drop in biotech. Seasonality is less of a headwind. We have the big American Society of Hematology meeting in early December and then all the specialists in my space start positioning their portfolios trying to anticipate which companies will have positive gains heading in and out of our sector's Super Bowl -- The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco January 13-16. That creates buying pressure, macro issues being equal.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a little weakness next week per Mr. Saut's tells, but I think we're on the edge of another upswing in biotech. As Toddo says, we're rapidly closing in on year-end, and I suspect the hot performance in the biotech sector are going to cause portfolio managers at generalist funds to add biotech exposure so they can talk about that in their year-end letters.

Twitter: @Minyanville

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