Last week, there were relatively few US data releases, but Initial Jobless Claims continued to surprise on the positive side, while U of Michigan Consumer Sentiment saw a small decline. This week, the FOMC minutes on Wednesday with guidance on the Fed's balance sheet will be the key event. Aside from the Fed, there will be many key releases in the US with IP, CPI, and the regional business surveys. The market expects an increase of 0.6%mom in IP, 0.3%mom in CPI, and small gains in the surveys. ?In Greece, negative headlines over the new austerity package on Friday caused some reversal of the rally in the first part of the week, and as a result, we were stopped out of our short $/CAD recommendation (for a small potential gain). However, the Greek cabinet agreed on the new austerity measures late on Friday, and parliament appears to be on track for a positive vote. The Eurogroup meeting scheduled this coming week will be important to watch as well, and Greek GDP will give a sense of the cyclical damage caused by austerity.
Tonight's protest in Athens has all the makings of the vintage ones from May of 2010, and the nigh is still young. Here are some updates:
- FTW: Public order minister resigns in Greece as fires burn - BBC
- Rioting spreads across central Athens, at least 5 buildings set ablaze - AP
- 2:02PM EST: FIRES ARE BURNING SEVERAL SMALL BUSINESSES AROUND ATHENS AS PROTESTERS CLASH WITH POLICE NEAR GREEK PARLIAMENT
- 1:52 PM EST: POLICE ARE CLEARING PROTESTERS FROM OUT IN FRONT OF GREEK PARLIAMENT BUILDING
- 1:50 PM EST: ATMS ARE REPORTEDLY EMPTY AROUND ATHENS... STILL UNCONFIRMED WORKING TO CONFIRM THIS
- 1:48 PM EST: LARGE FIRES ARE REPORTED AROUND ATHENS... INCLUDING A BRANCH OF EUROBANK AND STARBUCKS
- Skai TV reports that police have run out of tear gas & have asked for more supplies to be brought
As a reminder, the final vote is not until midnight.
If one is wondering why Greece Finance Minister Venizelos is scrambling to pass the proposed bill which enacts Greek Bailout #2, without any debate or details, very much like the US Attorneys General passed the robosigning settlement without a robosigning settlement even having been inked, the following excerpt from Section E of the MoU between Greece and the Troika should explain it. Because heaven forbid someone actually ask for details as to just what '€[xxx]' of future funding needs over and above the €320 billion in committed funding means in practical terms, i.e., just how lower the minimum wage is going, how many million more jobs will be lost (in a population of just 11 million), and how soon until pension and retirement benefits go negative. Also, our German friends may be interested to know that funding 136% of Greek GDP in the form of endless "bailouts" (of which 81% goes to shore up bank balance sheets), is just the beginning. We are confident our German PM friend is more than aware of this exit clause which gives her the loophole to opt out of everything all over again.
Today at midnight local time, 5pm Eastern, the Greek parliament is expected to pass the latest bill finalizing the terms of the second Greek bailout, which as explained yesterday has quietly increased from €130 billion to €210 billion. Needless to say, it will pass, as the opportunity cost for Greece of "pledging" to achieve unattainable targets while doing absolutely nothing, as has been shown repeatedly over the past two years, is zero. The only real questions are i) what the Greek population may do in response to this latest selling out of a population "led" by an unelected banker, which if history is any precedent, the answer is not much, and ii) how Germany will subvert this latest event, and put the bail [sic] back in Greece's court once again.
The rhetoric coming out of Greece has reached a fever pitch. Papademos and Samaras are both out their creating dire images of a post apocalyptic Greek state if a default occurs. Maybe it is a good time to remember what Papademos’ job is. He wasn’t elected. He doesn’t represent the Greek people in a fashion that we are used to – running for election and winning the election. He was foisted on the Greek people by the EU – the very people he is going through the motions of negotiating with. His JOB was to get the Greeks to accept what the EU wants. If he isn’t the most conflicted politician of all time, he is right up there. Samaras may believe it, or may have decided this is his best route to power when the vote is passed and the Greek people decide to kick Papademos out (remember, he was never voted in). Either of them would be more credible if they made any attempt to explain why it would be so disastrous. So far, not one basic fact to support the chaos theory has been given. I will admit that if Greece defaults without any preparation, it would be extremely ugly, but there is no reason not to be prepared. So, if I was the Greek Finance Minister (I would probably have a longer last name, with more vowels) here is an outline of how I would prepare for default.
The prophetic words of Antal Fekete in his now infamous 'essay' on Gold are as relevant now (perhaps more so) as they were when he first wrote them 15 years ago - especially as the Euro-zone migrates from lossening fiat-money to quasi-money (greek pharma bonds for instance). While summarizing this must-read discussion of mainstream economic orthodoxy's mis-teachings is impractical, his initial introduction sets the stage for what is to come: "The year 1971 was a milestone in the history of money and credit. Previously, in the world's most developed countries, money (and hence credit) was tied to a positive value: the value of a well-defined quantity of a good of well-defined quality. In 1971 this tie was cut. Ever since, money has been tied not to positive but to negative values -- the value of debt instruments." After a brief, clarifying history of money, Fekete goes on to discuss the misnomers of currency depreciation, gold as wealth, the failings of kicking the can, quantitative easing, and finally in the misunderstanding of interest rates themselves - seeing them as nothing more than merely bribe-money, trying to persuade reluctant holders of irredeemable promises to hang on a while longer. Paradoxically, gold's importance is growing while its dispersal from official hoards and the mines continues apace. Dispersed gold represents latent power, far greater in scope than its nominal market value, as sound credit can be built only upon a gold base.
We have posted various extracts from this piece from Credit Suisse previously. We will post from it again, because, to loosely paraphrase Lewis Black, it bears reposting... especially in the context of the latest and greatest Greek "bailout" (of Europe's bankers), which incidentally, will achieve nothing and merely bring the country one step closer to a military coup and/or civil war.
While Obama may or may not be on the way to winning his reelection, courtesy of a GOP field that is, to say the least, limited, and where the only worthy candidate is more ostracized by the right than even anyone on the left, the bottom line is that whoever wins the presidency, it will matter precisely didley squat. As the US debt clock shows, fast forwarding 4 years, or to February 2016, when the next presidential race will be in its final stretch, America will have $24.1 trillion in debt, about $9 trillion more than it does, now on $17.4 trillion in GDP, for a gross debt to GDP ratio of 138.9% (and Apple's $1 trillion market cap will account for 150% of the Nasdaq... just as IBM is 125% of the DJIA). Needless to say, it will be long past game over at that point confirming that the current presidential race, with its exciting tangential detours into female fertility, moon bases, LBO IRR maximization courtesy of cost-cutting, is completely and utterly meaningless. Also, keep in mind, "at current rates" for an endspiel that has now entered the exponential phase in virtually every category, is to say the least, optimistic. Yes, interest rates may be negative in 2016, but that means that the liquidity trap endgame has not only begun, but is well on its way to ending, and mercifully putting an end to this whole Keynesian "sustainability" charade. Remember: Japan's debt-deflation lasted for 30 years only thanks to new pockets of incremental global leverage and inflation: China and the PIIGS. This time, absent the levering of the entire continent of Africa, there is noone who can take the releverage baton and run. Which means the only "buyers" will be the central banks. At least back in the day, Weimar just one nation. This time, it will be the "Weimar World."
The Cost Of The Combined Greek Bailout Just Rose To €320 Billion In Secured Debt, Or 136% Of Greek GDPSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/11/2012 - 12:02
Some of our German readers may be laboring under the impression that following the €110 billion first Greek bailout agreed upon and executed in May 2010, the second Greek bailout would cost a "mere" €130 billion. Alas we have news for you - as of this morning, the formal cost of rescuing Greece for the adjusted adjusted adjusted second time has just risen to €145 billion, €175 billion, a whopping €210 billion, bringing the total explicit cost of all Greek bailout funds to date (and many more in store) to €320 billion. Which incidentally is a little more than Greek GDP (which however is declining rapidly) at 310 billion, only in dollars. So as of today, merely the ratio of the Greek DIP loan (Debtor In Possession, because Greece is after all broke) has reached a whopping ratio of 136% Debt to GDP. This excludes any standing debt which is for all intents and purposes worthless. This is secured debt, which means that if every dollar in assets generating one dollar in GDP were to be liquidated and Greece sold off entirely in part or whole to Goldman Sachs et al, there would still be a 36% shortfall to the Troika, EFSF, ECB and whoever else funds the DIP loan (i.e., European and US taxpayers)! Another way of putting this disturbing fact is that global bankers now have a priming lien on 136% of Greek GDP - the entire country and then some now officially belongs to the world banking syndicate. Consider that when evaluating Greek promises of reducing total debt to GDP to 120% in 2020, as it would mean wiping all existing "pre-petition debt" and paying off some of the DIP. Also keep in mind that Greece has roughly €240 billion in existing pre-petition debt, of which much will remain untouched as it is not held in Private hands (this is the debt which will see a major "haircut" - or not: all depends on the holdout lawsuits, the local vs non-local bonds and various other nuances discussed here). If you said this is beyond idiotic, you are right. It is not the impairment on the Greek "pre-petition' debt that the market should be worried about - that clearly is 100% wiped out. It is how much the Troika DIP will have to charge off when the Greek 363 asset sale finally comes. This is also what Angela Merkel will say tomorrow when Greece shows up on its doorstep with the latest "revised" agreement from its parliament to take Europe's money ahead of the March 20 D-Day. Because finally, after months (and to think we did the math for Die Frau back in July) Germany has done the math, and has reached the conclusion that letting Greece go is now the cheaper option.
Under any collectivist society, the act of non-participation is always painted as an attack on the group. In a fully interdependent system, refusing to contribute automatically hurts others, and therefore, makes you a criminal by default. These systems are built this way deliberately, in order to control a population by exploiting their sense of innate guilt. The DHS may claim a limited involvement in globalization, restricted to security issues, but the very process of integration with the international corporate framework as well as foreign institutions makes the agency a catalyst for forced collectivism. Bombs in shipping containers (the bombs we’re supposed to believe are everywhere), do not warrant the massive shift of our security apparatus into a policy of global centralization. In the end, this move on the part of the DHS has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with manipulating the attitude of the general public towards globalization. It is much more difficult to challenge a methodology when that methodology is suddenly treated as a national security issue, and is defended by an army of bureaucrats and blue-shirted thugs. When a world view is made violently essential to the very survival of a people, defiance is held tantamount to treason, and change, no matter how wise, becomes impossible.
To be happy is to be confident. And at least until the recent past, in America to be confident, meant to have purchasing power, which pretty much always, at least for the bulk of the population, meant to lever up, i.e., to take on debt and to spend it on worthless crap. Well, as we reported earlier this week, in December the US population literally jumped head first right back into the credit frenzy, experiencing the largest jump in unadjusted consumer credit since the peak of the credit bubble. however, very much contrary to naive interpretations that this would reignite the economy, as Lance Roberts explained, and as Charles Hugh Smith confirmed showing plunging gasoline usage, it merely indicated that with savings again at record lows, US consumer have no choice but to dig deep into their credit card stash merely to pay for staples, and non-discretionary spending. And one hardly is happy when one purchases a roll of toiler paper (not to be confused with US Treasurys - there is far less than 15.4 trillion pieces of toiler paper in the world) on credit. Sure enough, as the following chart from John Lohman demonstrates, the recent (mini) reincarnation (because it will last at most a month or two) of the consumer credit bubble has done absolutely nothing for consumer confidence. In fact, today's UMichigan data showed a decline in confidence. Which shows all one needs to know about just what the true state of the US consumer is...
UPDATE: EURUSD back over 1.32 and TSYs +2bps on Greek loan plan news.
Credit (and vol) continue to lead the way as smart deriskers as ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) ends down only 0.5% - which sadly is the biggest drop since 12/28. The late day surge in ES, which was not supported by IG or HY credit (and very clearly not HYG - the HY bond ETF - which closed at its lows and saw its biggest single-day loss since Thanksgiving), saw heavier volumes and large average trade size which suggest professionals willing to cover longs or add shorts above in order to get filled. Materials stocks underperformed but the major financials had a tough day as their CDS deteriorated to one-week wides. VIX (and its many derivative ETFs) had a very bumpy ride today. VXX (the vol ETF) rose over 14% (most in 3 months) at one point before it pulled back (coming back to settle perfectly at its VWAP so not too worrisome). After the European close, FX markets largely went sideways with the USD inching higher (EUR weaker) as JPY strength reflected on FX carry pair weakness and held stocks down. Treasuries extended their gains from yesterday's peak of the week yields as 7s to 30s rallied around 6bps leaving the 30Y best performer on the week at around unchanged. Commodities generally tracked lower on USD strength with Oil the exception as WTI pushed back up to $99 into the close (ending the week +1.1% and Copper -1.1%). Gold and Silver ended the week down almost in line with USD's gains at around 0.25-0.5%. Broadly speaking risk has been off since around the European close yesterday and ES and CONTEXT have reconverged on a medium-term basis this afternoon (to around NFP-spike levels) as traders await the potential for event risk emerging from Europe.
For the last thirty years economic policy makers have been in the business of promoting asset prices higher through easy credit. Global policy makers are meddling in markets so that the economies they feel responsible for can achieve what seems to be a consensus objective of muddling through. A policy of meddling to muddle, if you will. QBAMCO's critical 'inflation' insights, and Tourette's-ridden ranting, reflect the simple realities of what real-world consequences occur when policy makers succumb to the perceived political imperatives of perverting economic data. In this combined note, Brodsky and Quaintance scrub away at the misconceptions related to inflation, raise doubts as to the incentives of central banks to share the true loss of their currencies' purchasing power with the public, and extend this to try and get a truer sense of money, inflation, and real value today - all of which seem grossly misunderstood, despite our best efforts, in the marketplace. Simply put, they point out that, "It should not be considered acceptable to be in a profession – as a political economist, policy maker or investor – in which self-delusion has become a necessary requirement for success and perpetuating that delusion is harmful to the broad economy over time. Yes, but the “public good” you say? Ah, but for how long?"
The Epic Farce Continues - US Attorneys General "Robosigned" A Foreclosure Settlement Which Does Not ExistSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/10/2012 - 16:03
It is only appropriate, and so ironic, that a politically motivated settlement whose purpose is to squash any claims of pervasive defective document fraud (and contract law but just ask GM bondholders about that - it's hardly news) is itself found to be... defective. American Banker reports that the reason why the terms of the so-called historic (just ask the Teleprompter in Chief) foreclosure settlement deal are not public yet, is "because a fully authorized, legally binding deal has not been inked yet." Wait, so America's cohort of AGs just all, pardon the pun, robosigned a piece of paper that does not exist? What next: there is a different Linda Green signature on every page of this yet to be produced document making a complete mockery of the rule of law?