For the last two weeks here in the UK, TV stations have been running a documentary series called “Bank of Dave“, in which down-to-earth businessman Dave Fishwick attempts to establish his own bank. The premise sounds plausible: offer depositors 5% interest (as opposed to zero), and lend to credible small businesses that are otherwise ignored by the majors. But as the irrepressible Dave soon discovers, getting a new banking licence in the UK isn’t easy. ‘Bank of Dave’ has obviously been, albeit inadvertently, deliciously well-timed, arriving on television and computer screens accompanied by increasingly shrill coverage of interest rate rigging in the LIBOR manipulation scandal. Granted, the news of the world’s biggest banks colluding to manipulate interest rates to their own benefit has spark a major debate about banking. But what’s frustrating about the banking debate is how narrowly focused most contributors are.
In the last year, consensus EPS for 2012 among those oh-so-smart equity analysts has been crushed from over $113 to under $104 but multiple expansion has held the index together on the back of the hopes and dreams of a hockey stick recovery in Q4 thanks to a 'this-time-is-different' response to NEW QE at some point. Goldman has a different perspective. The Earnings Revision Leading Indicator points to a dramatic drop in ISM as micro data not just comfirms macro data but notably points to further weakness. Of course this will be eaten up by all asunder as bad-is-good but worse-is-better, but we worry that the scope of the drop is extreme and given a far more 'aware' market (as Stephen Roach alluded to) that this hole might just be too large this time.
Up until this point, Europe has been transfixed with severing the linkage between the sovereign and the banking system. This has been a particularly big issue in Spain because as is now well known, its banks are insolvent, yet the country is trying to pass off as not needing a bailout. Of course, if RBS is correct, that is all going to change very soon as the entire country demands a formal bailout. Yet link that has been largely ignored is the link between the sovereign, the financial sector and the broad corporate sector. Because if the first two are imploding, it is only a matter of time before the latter is also dragging into the maelstrom. As of minutes ago, this has just happened, following an announcement by Telefonica, Spain's second largest company, that it has cancelled its dividend and share buyback for the entire year.
- TELEFONICA SAYS CANCELS DIVIDEND AND SHARE BUYBACK FOR 2012
Why is Telefonica doing this? Simple - to conserve cash ahead of what may be a sovereign default which will have a huge adverse impact on all Spanish corporations.
Is it any wonder that Stephen Roach is now ex-Morgan Stanley? Today's brilliant truthiness in his interview on Bloomberg TV is an absolute must-watch as the veteran market practitioner notes that the Fed is forced to act next week and while consumers are telling you that they want to pay down debt - which all the monetray stimulus in the world is not going to change - that QE is nothing but crack to a ridiculously addicted market. With 70% of the US economy in a balance sheet recession, the Fed knows this (which he notes is now run by WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath since what he prints must be adhered to by Ben for fear of market disappointment) and is "dangling QE in front of the markets like raw meat - but it has not worked and it will not work!" But critically, he believes, the euphoric response of markets will be tempered since they have become "used to the fact that all of this unconventional monetary easing by the central bank is just not what it is supposed to be."
This is where Orwell enters the convergence, for the State masks its stripmining and power grab with deliciously Orwellian misdirections such as "the People's Party," "democratic socialism," and so on. Orwell understood the State's ontological imperative is expansion, to the point where it controls every level of community, markets and society. Once the State escapes the control of the citizenry, it is free to exploit them in a parasitic predation that is the mirror-image of Monopoly capital. For what is the State but a monopoly of force, coercion, data manipulation and the regulation of private monopolies? What is the EU bureaucracy in Brussels but the perfection of a stateless State? As Kafka divined, centralized bureaucracy has the capacity for both Orwellian obfuscation (anyone read those 1,300-page Congressional bills other than those gaming the system for their private benefit?) and systemic avarice and injustice. The convergence boils down to this: it would be impossible to loot this much wealth if the State didn't exist to enforce the "rules" of parasitic predation. In China, the Elite's looting proceeds along somewhat different rules from the looting of Europe and the U.S., but the end result is the same in all financialized, centrally managed economies: an expansive kleptocracy best understood as the convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka.
Every hour of every day we are told by the 'repeaters' that sentiment is terrible, it's all priced in, market's gotta go higher. Nowhere is this more true than in the constant diatribe of commentary on the EURUSD exchange rate and the 'massive build-up of short EUR positions'. However, as Citigroup's Steven Englander points out - shushing the bullish mob - that "a closer look at the data suggests that the investors with the biggest shorts seem to have built up their short positions at much higher euro levels, so the short squeeze risk may not be as great as aggregate positions suggest."
Probably not the news those who hopped on the Hilsenrath bandwagon of hope, prayer and bullshit were looking for. From Bloomberg:
- Spain likely to lose market access in near term, and will probably ask for precautionary sovereign bailout MOU “within days,” strategist Harvinder Sian writes in client note.
- ECB can act as agent to EFSF and buy Spanish bonds, lowering yields for Spain; BTPs to benefit by “correlation”
- Due to small size, this backstop would have “no credibility”; excluding risk that Moody’s cuts Spain to junk, ultimately SPGBs and BTPs will head to “double-digit” yields
- Giving ESM banking license is only “high-impact turnaround policy left”; however, Germany likely only to drop opposition to move at close to point of failure for EMU
It also means that those who bought non-local law Spanish bonds are about to be cremated as the PSI rears its ugly head once again. Everyone else who listened to us and bought UK, Swiss and Japanese law near-term bonds, should get taken out at par.
Since January we have been pounding the table that 2012 is nothing but a carbon copy of 2011. Whether this is due to the limited imagination of the central planners, or a quota on the number of pages in the market's script, we don't know. What we do know is that since now everyone acknowledges that the two years have been fused into one, we suggest readers take a double dose of Dramamine ahead of what comes next, which can be easily seen courtesy of the following chart from SocGen's Albert Edwards.
While we were 'trained' in the 70s and 80s on what 'our brain looks like on drugs', it appears we never learned what it looks like when hope is crushed... until today. With Netflix and Radioshack smashed down over 20%, the darlings of momentum, tech, and LBO rumor ping-pong appear to be facing up to a new reality - "this is your portfolio on hope". We can only assume that everyone's favorite newly-standalone investment manager is licking his lips at the 'opportunity'. As a gentle reminder, Radioshack's CDS implies a cumulative 85% probability of default in the next five years (and 27% within a year, and 14% by the holidays).
Gary Gensler Explains How CFTC Allowed PFG To Steal $200 MM In Client Funds 8 Months After MF GlobalSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/25/2012 - 10:13
Former Goldman appartchik Gary Gensler is about to take the stage (again) and explain why the CFTC should exist at all after allowing not only MF Global but a few weeks ago, Peregrine Financial, to steal hundreds of millions in client money without any regulatory supervision at all. All we can say here is: Free Corzine!
But, but, but... the housing recovery. Was demand pulled forward? Could it be that warm weather encouraged people to venture out of their igloos? It appears so as new home sales plunge 8.4% MoM on expectations of a rise of 0.7%, days after the already fudged NAR data showed a huge miss in existing home sales as well. This is the first miss since October of last year and the biggest miss of expectations since October 2010. This is the biggest absolute drop since January with the actual number of new homes sold, not annualized, in June was 33,000 - of which a mere 1,000 was in the NorthEast. Median home prices also fell appreciably. Hope.is.fading as we note that of the 33,000 total new houses sold in June, 11,000 have not even been started, and 11,000 are still under construction and the number of homes sold at a price over $750,000 was less than 1,000.
In the last four days much has been made of Swiss and German short-dated bonds moving negative as investors seek the preservationist path of least resistance but perhaps even more critically, the real flight to safety globally has been from Europe to the US. The spread between 10Y US Treasuries and 10Y German Bunds has collapsed the most in over 3 months in the last few days as the world and their pet rabbit jump to front-run Bernanke and seek the safety of the most print-worthy currency in the world. Notably though, 2Y Treasuries are at their cheapest (widest spread relative) to German 2Y since Q3 2007! It appears domestic European capital is flooding into short-dated Bunds and any foreign money is being repatriated back to longer-dated US Treasuries.
With GGB prices, down 53% from post-PSI, plunging to all-time lows (offering Greywolf more opportunities to add to its 'no-brainer' trade) it appears Europe's ever-hopeful self-perpetuating banks are turning tail and realizing that the truth will set them free. In a turnabout from a late May note detailing 'why Greece will not leave the Euro', Credit Suisse now expects a return to some form of local currency for Greece within one year (an event they now assign a probability greater than 50%). The reason for their change of view is the slowness of structural reforms/privatizations and the lack of available capital to bail out the increasing number of distressed euro zone countries. It seems almost impossible for Greece to pull itself out of the contractionary hole it's in without additional support that few are politically able or willing to provide. Expecting another round of PSI - extending to ECB losses - and ending the ridiculous state of affairs that exists currently whereby the euro area is providing funding to Greece to enable them to repay the ECB. Ominously, they note, against the backdrop of the situation in Spain, we believe that such a development in Greece will have a highly negative impact on sentiment, further putting into question the sustainability of the euro area as a whole.
Well not really, but it will be someone else's fault of course that there was gambling going on here. There is no way the head of the New York Fed at the time could have possibly known that Barclays was manipulating its Libor rate. Recall: : “Barclays: You know, LIBORs being set too low anyway, but uh, yeah, that-that is correct. Fed person: “Yeah.” Supposedly Geithner is not the Fed person. Anyway, the scheduled topic of today's hearing in the House Financial Services Committee is the annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) but the hearing seems likely to be dominated by questions about manipulation of LIBOR rate. Watch it live here.
"The global growth picture is, as per our long-term contention, weak and deteriorating, pretty much everywhere – in the US, in the eurozone and in the emerging markets/BRICs.... We in the Global Macro Strategy team still think the market consensus is far too optimistic on policy expectations both in terms of the likelihood of seeing more (timely) fiscal and/or monetary policy assistance (globally), and in terms of any meaningful and/or lasting success of any such policy moves. In particular, we think that the period August through to November (inclusive) represents a major global policy and political vacuum. Based on the reasons set out earlier and also covered in my two prior notes, over the August to November period I am looking for the S&P500 to trade off down from around 1400 to 1100/1000 – in other words, I expect over the next four months to see global equity markets fall by 20% to 25% from current levels and to trade at or below the lows of 2011! US equity markets, along with parts of the EM spectrum, will I think underperform eurozone equity markets, where already very little hope resides. For iTraxx crossover, this equates to a spread wide for 2012 of – in my view – 800/1000bp.... And of course I still see a very clear path to 800 on the S&P500 at some point in 2013/2014, driven by market revulsion against pump-priming money printing central bankers, but this discussion is also for nearer the time."