Is there a bottom in housing? It is entirely possible. However, for all the reasons stated herein, both financial, economic and psycholgoical, the "calls" for a housing recovery may be a bit premature. This is particularly true if our estimation of an economic recession in the next 18 months comes to fruition. The strains on the housing market caused by a recession will cause a secondary decline in housing. The reality of a recession is not a question of "if" — it is only a question of "when" and how bad will it be?
While most of the early action today was driven by a baseless rumor that the ECB would announce some magical recapitalization plan that would put everything back into its normal (by this we mean somehow sustainable) place, the alleged time when Draghi would make such an announcement came and went... and nothing. Instead, the ECB, using the FT as its mouthpiece, came out late in the day, however not with news that Europhiles wanted to hear. As a reminder, as part of the proposed Bankia nationalization scheme, Spain would inject Spanish debt into the insolvent entity, thereby allowing it to pledge the debt for ECB repo cash. Or so the thinking went. This was, in effect, Spain's bluff. The ECB has just called it.
Update: It appears that when a company calls the market's bluff with a forced strategic alternatives announcement coupled with the phrase "challenging financial performance", the market does not like it very much. Stock now down 13% and sliding.
RIMM stock was just halted, preceding an announcement that JPM and RBC have been retained for "strategic purposes", as well as an operating loss warning for Q1 and notification of major headcuts. In other words, the endgame for RIMM is here: either the company finds a suitor or it may well be game over. For the benefit of RIMM longs we sure hope FB is eager to spend some of its cash soon if not quite soon.
The 4th day in a row when US equities disconnected (rallied) from credit markets - will this reversion be different. NYSE volumes were dismal (near the year's lowest) which seemed the perfect recipe for some stock-ramping tom-foolery - apart, that is, for FaceBerg of course. Yesterday's futures action in sync with global risk-assets continued into the morning with Europe open but TSYs led markets lower in the US pre-open until the plethora of miserable macro data was enough to spur the bad-is-better brigade who bid stocks up into the US open and just beyond only to see Spain's downgrade drag the spirits of every Treasury, FX, credit, and commodity trader down. The flush into the European close was the lows of the day for stocks (and TSY yields) with the former accelerating back up to its highs of the day by the close and the latter leaking higher in yields and filling the divergence gap. However, IG and HY credit spreads were far less sanguine than US equities in the afternoon even though HYG swung from significantly cheap to its fair-value (and stocks) to considerably rich by the close. EURUSD managed to get back over 1.25 at the close which seemed to provide some comfort that everything wasn't crash landing and while the USD implicitly weakened into the close (to end unch from Friday), it did little to redeem commodities back from their European-close plungefest. Treasuries ended higher in yield marginally from Friday's close while ES managed +1.4% potentially on the back of window-dressing - even though heavy volume came as equities crossed the trendline support. VIX fell less than 1 vol and held above 21% while Facebook vols were skewed 65%/55% (Put/Call) and volumes 5 to 4 in favor of Puts as it closed -10% at its lows.
The Swiss National Bank may have pegged the EURCHF (and as noted earlier, is progressively accumulating losses defending the barrier - even as EURCHF options are leaning further and further towards the peg breaking), but what about its bonds? At the current rate, Swiss debt, which is quite negative, with 2 year bonds now trading at record NEGATIVE rates, will repay itself quietly in a few short decades: ahhh the benefits of compounding. And for an example of how this is done, hours ago, the government issued debt at a rate of 0.62%. Oh sorry, we forgot the negative sign.
There’s a rather peculiar tribe of people in northern Uganda known as the Ik that has completely mystified anthropologists for decades. You see, the Ik are unlike just about any other people on the planet in that they shun cooperation, community, and even family. Due to the constant disruption of national boundaries in Africa coupled with terminal drought and famine conditions, the Ik have a very limited means of survival. As such, their culture epitomizes the ‘every man for himself’ mentality. Family means nothing. One brother could be starving to death, and the other brother with a belly full of food, and neither would have the slightest thought of sharing. It simply does not register with them. Each member of the tribe typically spends long periods in isolation searching for food and water. Their only reason for marriage is simply that it’s more convenient to build homes in pairs. Nothing else is shared… and most of the time, an Ik husband and wife will seldom be home at the same time. Children are occasionally produced from conjugal relationships, generally because they scare off birds and pests from the agricultural fields. By the age of 3, Ik children are kicked out of the home and left to fend for themselves. And they’re not weaned off, either, it’s sink or swim. All of this sounds shocking to westerners.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that some new policy option is required in Europe - but as JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest excellent cartoon description of the never-ending circular arguments among European leaders would put it - you would have to be a wide-eyed optimist to believe it will be a decisive one. Comparing the progress of the European Monetary Union with structural changes in the US around the end of the 19th century, it is arguable that more time is needed before judgment is passed but they may not get the chance. The resolution of a staggering EUR10 trillion in peripheral sovereign, household, and corporate debt may not wait. Durable unions are signaled by signs of wage convergence and unilateral transfers of wealth to smooth regional income difference - while a lender of last resort appears to be most people's solution, it likely will not be enough given the competitive divergences.
Back in February, as part of the latest Greek bailout of European banks, we noted that the most subversive part of the German-led proposal was nothing short of a gold confiscation scheme. Today, courtesy of The Telegraph, we learn that Germany is quietly reminding the world that the stealthy, but voluntary, accumulation of gold is what it is all about. As part of a newed push for quasi-Federalism, whereby Germany would fund a "European Redemption Pact", in which Berlin would, in the form of Germany-backed joint bonds, be responsible for any sovereign debt over the 60% Maastrtich limit, but with a big catch. The catch is that "a key motive is to relieve the European Central Bank of its duties as chief fire-fighter. "We have got to get the ECB out of the game of distributing money, and separate fiscal and monetary policy. Germany has only two votes on the ECB Council and has no way to control consolidation," he said. Germany would have a lockhold over the fund, able to enforce discipline. Each state would have to pledge 20pc of their debt as collateral. "The assets could be taken from the country’s currency and gold reserves. The collateral nominated would only be used in the event that a country does not meet its payment obligations," said the proposal. In other words: a perfectly legitimate, and fully voluntary scheme in which sovereign gold is pledged to a German "pawn broker" until such time as the joint bonds are extinguished, and if for some "unpredictable" reason, a country fails to meet its obligations, read defaults, all the pledged gold goes to Germany!
But why Gold? Why not spam. After all gold is selling off, spam is stable, and the dollar is soaring. Couldn't Germany merely demand that broke countries simply pledge all their USD reserves, and keep their worthless, stinking yellow metal? Apparently not.
While InTrade has the odds of Grexit by year-end at 40% (off from its 60% highs), when it comes to the professional money, it seems the odds are higher. In Citigroup's client survey of credit professionals, they find 62% of investors sure that Greece would not survive in the Eurozone until the end of next year. With 45% expecting Grexit this year and a further 17% expecting it by the end of next, that leaves a still remarkably hopeful 38% of managers who believe Greece will never leave. Are you a Grexican or a Grexican't?
Experienced investors try to avoid the "confirmation bias" trap by asking what supports the other side of the trade. Confirmation bias is our instinct to find data to support our position once it is taken. To counter this bias, we must attempt to build a plausible case against our position. If the effort is sincere, we gain a fuller understanding of the market we are playing (or perhaps avoiding). That the global economy is going to heck in a handbasket is self-evident. If you over-weight anecdotal "on the ground" evidence and fade the ginned-up official statistics, it is obvious the global slowdown is picking up speed in Europe and China, two of the world's largest "linchpin" economies.
Presented with little comment - aside to note that we have seen this again and again and again, but perhaps this time is different...