Want to buy stocks on anything than a greater fool theory, or hope and prayer that someone with "other people's money" will bail you out of a losing position when the market goes bidless? That may change after reading the latest monthly letter from Pimco's Bill Gross whose crusade against risk hits a crescendo. Yes, he is talking his book (and talking down his equity asset allocation), but his reasons are all too valid: "The cult of equity is dying. Like a once bright green aspen turning to subtle shades of yellow then red in the Colorado fall, investors’ impressions of “stocks for the long run” or any run have mellowed as well. I “tweeted” last month that the souring attitude might be a generational thing: “Boomers can’t take risk. Gen X and Y believe in Facebook but not its stock. Gen Z has no money.”.... So what is a cult chasing figure supposed to do? Well, the cult of equities may be over. But the cult of reflating inflation is just beginning: "The primary magic potion that policymakers have always applied in such a predicament is to inflate their way out of the corner. The easiest way to produce 7–8% yields for bonds over the next 30 years is to inflate them as quickly as possible to 7–8%! Woe to the holder of long-term bonds in the process!... Unfair though it may be, an investor should continue to expect an attempted inflationary solution in almost all developed economies over the next few years and even decades. Financial repression, QEs of all sorts and sizes, and even negative nominal interest rates now experienced in Switzerland and five other Euroland countries may dominate the timescape. The cult of equity may be dying, but the cult of inflation may only have just begun."
- Hilsenrath: Heat Rises on Central Banks (WSJ)
- Some at Fed Are Urging Pre-Emptive Stimulus (NYT)
- Obama Warns of Headwinds in Europe; Urges European Leaders to Take Decisive Action on Euro (WSJ) - also needs reelection
- ECB thinks the unthinkable, action likely weeks away (Reuters)
- Games Turn London Into ‘Ghost Town.’ (FT)
- Greek Leaders Seek to Defer Austerity Cuts (FT)
- Hong Kong Builders Unload Properties to Raise Cash for Land Rush (Bloomberg)
- North India Crippled by Power Cuts (FT)
- Euro-Area Unemployment Rate Reaches Record 11.2% on Crisis (Bloomberg)
- Italy's Monti sees hope of end to euro crisis (Reuters)
Two weeks ago we touched upon the possibility that the US climatic deep fried black swan could soon stretch to India where the Monsoon season was 22% below normal conditions for this time of year. Today India is the locus of another flightless bird sighting following an epic powergrid meltdown which left half of its 1.2 billion people without power on Tuesday "as the grids covering a dozen states broke down, the second major blackout in as many days and an embarrassment for the government as it struggles to revive economic growth... More than a dozen states with a total population of 670 million people were without power, with the lights out even at major hospitals in Kolkata." Indicatively this is the same as every man, woman and child in America having no electricity. Twice over."Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut was the worst to hit India in more than a decade. Trains were stranded in Kolkata and Delhi and thousands of people poured out of the sweltering capital's modern metro system when it ground to a halt at lunchtime. Office buildings switched to diesel generators and traffic jammed the roads." Hopefully, two events in a row don't confirm a trend. Although if indeed systemic, and if suddenly the Indian power infrastructure is unable to handle the local drought-related conditions, thus serving as a natural cap on economic expansion, all bets may be off as to the unlimited upside potential capacity of the BRICs.
Previously we presented an expose on various Geneva-based hedge funds traders, all of whom were implicated in Libor manipulation in their current or prior positions, which promptly resulted in the halting of trading privileges of one of the named individuals. Tonight it is time to back away from the buyside and to refocus on the banking sector, in the process jumping a few hundred kilometers to the northeast and that other Swiss banking capital, Zurich, where we get to do a quick run through several UBS Libor traders. Pardon, make that ex-traders. And make that "short-term interest rate" traders which naturally means OIS, IRS, FRA, Money Markets and, sometimes Euribor. In other words, all the other various IR derivatives which will blow up next as the Libor inquiry gets deeper and deeper into the Swiss rabbit hole. But before the global media juggernaut gets there, in about 6-8 weeks, we will do a quick roster of several voluntarily "retired" UBS traders, all of whom are now "looking for new challenges" and a rather amusing finding.
Our earlier discussion of the rapid slowdown in Asia trade volumes and the anecdotal evidence of growthiness issues across many industries brings up the seemingly dichotomous relationship between top-down 'data' such as GDP or PMI and bottom-up sector-level activity. As BofAML points out, there has been a significant improvement in data collection in this activity data which enables 'outsiders' to cross-check macro data and potentially obtain leading information. As markets have become skeptical of China's macro data, so the effort to search for alternative measures such as power output, container throughput, and rail transport seems worthwhile. Though not perfect by any means, the higher frequency data mapping flowchart below and a comprehension of the upstream vs downstream activity flows seems to go a long way towards building a credible view on the real state of the Chinese economy - for better or for worse.
Lately various media outlets have been swamped with stories and allegations of precious metal manipulation ranging from the arcane, to the bizarre to the outright ridiculous. At issue is not that these claims of price fraud are unfounded - they very well may be completely true - but without a notarized facsimile of an actual trade ticket signed by Brian Sack, or his replacement Simon Potter, or any of the BIS traders confirming they are indeed selling gold on behalf of the Fed, BOE, ECB, SNB or BOJ simply to keep the price of the metal down, what such constant factless accusations (and no, sorry, a chart showing that the price of gold may go up or go down sharply indicates merely that and nothing about the underlying factors for such a move) do is to habituate the broader public to the real issues surrounding precious metal, and other asset class, manipulation. So instead of searching for circumstantial evidence which one can easily find everywhere, we decided to go straight to the source. To do that we go back to a post we wrote back in September of 2009, based on an internal previously confidential Fed document, which conveniently enough explains everything vis-a-vis gold manipulation and leaves nothing to speculation or misinterpretation. Zero Hedge presents the smoking gun that may provide responses to all the various open questions regarding the Fed's Modus Operandi in the gold arena which answer the core question - motive - courtesy of a declassified memorandum, written by none other than the then Fed Chairman, and addressed to the president of the United States.
As markets continue to yo-yo and commentators deliver mixed forecasts, investors are faced with some tough decisions and have a number of important questions that need answering. On a daily basis we are asked what’s happening with oil prices alongside questions on China’s slowdown, why global trade will collapse if Romney wins, why investors should get out of stocks, why the Eurozone is doomed, and why we need to get rid of fractional reserve lending. Answering these and more, Mike Shedlock's in-depth interview concludes: "The gold standard did one thing for sure. It limited trade imbalances. Once Nixon took the United States off the gold standard, the U.S. trade deficit soared (along with the exportation of manufacturing jobs). To fix the problems of the U.S. losing jobs to China, to South Korea, to India, and other places, we need to put a gold standard back in place, not enact tariffs."
While it is probably not surprising that so many decided to focus on those few words of relevance to an implicitly self-aggrandizing crowd of long-only risk-takers and commission-makers; the truth is that, as UBS notes, "Draghi was stating a fact, not changing a policy". Putting the fateful sentence in the context of the rest of his speech/interview is critical and most importantly, we agree with UBS' Justin Knight's opinion that Draghi did nothing more than make a technical observation on an impairment in monetary policy transmission (as we discussed here). Regardless, if our interpretation is correct, then the rally in peripheral bonds should unwind quickly. The size of the move probably has knocked many shorts out of the market.
When all you can do is cry and sit on your hands - since no-one is actually trading given today's volumes - here is some Monday Mirth. Comedian Dominic Frisby explains the Debt Bomb in all its 'global financial crisis stripped bare' beauty: "mal-investment, oooh you turn me on."
Treasury Admits It Underestimated Debt Needs, Predicts Ceiling Breach In 2012; $600 Billion More Debt In Second HalfSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/30/2012 - 16:15
Back on April 30, when the US Treasury, together with the TBAC chaired by Matt Zames (who as everyone knows is being groomed to take over JPMorgan after Jamie gracefully steps down) sat down put together its latest debt funding needs projection, we openly mocked the numbers when we said "Now obviously we are all for the US needing less debt, however we wonder: did the US discover some magical source of tax revenue: last we checked the companies with $100+ billion in cash were paying virtually zero taxes, and US workers were making less and less courtesy of more and more jobs being converted into temp jobs with lower wages, and less withheld tax as a result." Sure enough, minutes ago the Treasury just admitted what we and our readers knew all along: in its quarterly Treasury refunding appetizer, it noted that during the "September 2012 quarter, Treasury expects to issue $276 billion in net marketable debt, assuming an end-of-September cash balance of $60 billion. This borrowing estimate is $12 billion higher than announced in April 2012. The increase is primarily due to lower receipts, higher outlays, redemptions of portfolio holdings by the Federal Reserve System, and higher issuances of State and Local Government securities." In other words: if only it wasn't for that pesky lack of revenue and excess spending our mocking would have been for nothing. Alas, it was spot on, and as a result instead of needing $253 billion in fiscal Q4, the US will need $272 billion (after having a $5 greater financing need in Q3 as also expected).
Equities traded in a very narrow range (aside from an early day-session stop-run) amid extremely low volume in equity cash and futures markets and ended the day modestly lower (holding the post-Draghi gains). However, a funny thing happened on the way to the equity bull market; HY and IG credit have underperformed since mid-day Friday, VIX (+1.3vols to 18.03%) has risen notably since the open on Friday - completely shrugging off equity's strength, and while Treasuries saw a great deal of ugliness at the end of last week - and a pull back would be expected - they notably outperformed (relatively speaking) their equity cousins today. The USD gained 0.25% today as the EUR dropped a notable 0.5% but only WTI reacted to that (by dropping 0.67% today) while Copper and Gold trod water and Silver spurted to a high-beta 1.7% gain (crossing back above its 50DMA for the first time since mid-March). As Unilever and Texas Industries issue debt at record-low coupons we also note that IG/HY advance-declines lines are extremely high and along with implied-skewness in SPY options suggests a very high level of complacency.
Group-On, Group-Off is not the title of the new Karate Kid movie but we couldn't resist but highlight the sheer lunacy of this market...