Individuals do not always, if ever, exercise their freedoms so as to promote order in everyone’s lives. On the contrary, in seeking order in their own lives, individuals tend to impinge upon the lives of at least some others, if only because, in their efforts to cooper-ate with one party – i.e., to exchange one or another good or service to their mutual advantage – they inadvertently compete with another party, in which case one or the other must accordingly lose. But insofar as this process of exchange promotes the division of labor, resulting in the provision of a wider variety of goods and services that in turn improves individuals’ lot in life, the gains far exceed the losses. For how else could the human species have advanced at all, much less to a stage that was inconceivable little more than a century, or even mere decades, ago? How else could it have harnessed electricity, for example – or invented the locomotive, the telegraph, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, the computer, the cell phone, email, the World Wide Web, etc. – if not but through this cooperative, if inevitably competitive, process?
As the rest of the world celebrates Christmas, blissfully pretending all is good, and the Fed can manipulate markets to infinity without at least one of the numerous violated laws of physics being reasserted in the process, things in China are once again reminding those who care that just as liquidity giveth, so does liquidity taketh away. We pointed out a week ago that the 7 day Repo rate in China recently hit a post-Lehman high, as banks are increasingly concerned that following 3 RRR hikes, the PBOC has no choice but to resort to some tightening measure that actually works. As a result excess liquidity has suddenly become rares than hen's teeth. Today we get a first hand lesson of why this was material: Dow Jones reports that the Chinese MoF has failed to attract sufficient interest in its 3 Month 20 billion CNY auction. The result: SHCOMP is now down 1.2%. Bottom line: as the world is sleeping, China just had a failed bond auction. If news mattered, this would be a very disturbing event. Luckily for Ben, it doesn't. For the time being. It will soon. Then Montier's mean reversion meme may just strike with great deferred vengeance and furious accrued anger.
The ideologies that condone unloading fiscal costs onto future taxpayers and savers clearly suppress default rates and default vol. But it creates seriously nonlinear returns: there may be massive upside as a result of nuclear fusion research subsidies, but there can be equally massive downside. What you get in exchange for control of fundamental laws of motion is asymmetry in outcomes and a much higher probability of extreme outcomes. Complexity and interconnectivity within the financial system—crowded trades and herd behavior—create fundamental asymmetric instabilities. Asymmetry implies a false sense of security. The result can be massive concentrated positions in either paying or receiving on a swap because “an adverse unhedgeable move can never happen”. Such positions are great when the good times roll, but under stress performance collapses.
Update: Charles Biderman sends us an addendum to his earlier CNBC appearance...
A year after Charles Biderman's provocative post first appeared on Zero Hedge, in which he asked just who is doing all the buying of stocks as the money was obviously not coming from retail investors (and came up with one very notable suggestion), today Maria Bartiromo invited the TrimTabs head once again (conveniently in CNBC's lowest rated show, during Christmas Eve eve, at a time when perhaps 5 people would be watching) in an interview which disclosed that after more than a year of searching, Biderman still has no idea who actually buying. In response to Bartiromo's question if the retail investor, who left after the flash crash (thank you SEC), Biderman responds what every Zero Hedger has known for 33 weeks: "Retail investors are not coming back to the US. Those investors that are investing are buying global equities and are buying commodities. We are seeing lots money going into commodity ETF funds: gold, silver..." and the even more unpleasant summation: "individuals have been selling, companies are net selling, insider selling and new offerings are swamping any buyback and any cash M&A activity since QE 2 was announced. Pension funds and hedge funds don't really have that much cash to invest. So what nobody's asking is what happens when QE 2 stops: if the only buyer is the Fed, and the Fed stops buying, I don't know what is going to happen...When I was on your show a year ago I was saying the same thing: we can't figure out who is doing the buying it has to be the government, and people said I was nuts. Now the government is admitting it is rigging the market." Cue Bartiromo jaw dropping.
In his latest letter, "In Defense of the 'Old Always'" GMO's James Montier takes PIMCO's trademark "New Normal" to task, and argues that the "Old Always" with its ever trusty mean reversion strategies work as well now as they always did. Summarizing his disagreement with what the investment implications of the New Normal are, Montier says: "For instance, Richard Clarida of PIMCO wrote the following earlier this year, “Positioning for mean reversion will be a less compelling investment theme in a world where realized returns cluster nearer the tails and away from the mean.” This certainly isn’t the first premature obituary written for mean reversion. During pretty much every “new era,” someone proclaims that the old rules simply don’t apply anymore … who could forget Irving Fisher’s statement that stocks had reached a “permanently high plateau” in 1929? Mean reversion is in some august company in being well enough to read its own obituary." The key defense for mean reversion Montier says, is the market itself: "we have witnessed some quite remarkable, and quite appalling, things – the deaths of empires, the births of nations, waves of globalization, periods of deregulation, periods of re-regulation, World Wars, revolutions, plagues, and huge technological and medical advances – and yet one thing has remained true throughout history: none of these events mattered from the perspective of value!" Which means: is this time really different? Have we passed some rubicon at which time not even the otherwise spot on observations of traditionally sensible analysts like Montier make sense? The answer is so far elusive. Yet in a universe in which true asset fair value can no longer be derived, and all valuations are wrapped in the enigma of trillions of monetary and fiscal stimuli, whose stripping is virtually impossible in a world in which everything is centrally planned, we just may have entered... the non-"old always" zone.
And so the spirit of Mark Pittman lives on. Bloomberg, which last year sued the Fed in a landmark FOIA case, and won (a decision which is being appealed by the kleptocrats but not the Fed), has decided to go transatlantic, and is now suing that smaller and far less viagraed cousin of the Fed, the ECB. Per Bloomberg: "The lawsuit asks the European Union’s General Court in Luxembourg to overturn a decision by the ECB not to disclose two internal documents drafted for the central bank’s six-member executive board in Frankfurt this year. The notes show how Greece used swaps to hide its borrowings, according to a March 3 cover page attached to the papers obtained by Bloomberg News. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet withheld the documents after the EU and International Monetary Fund led a 110 billion- euro bailout ($144 billion) for Greece. The dossier should be disclosed to stop governments from employing the derivatives in a similar way again and to show how EU authorities acted on information they had on the swaps, according to the suit, filed by Bloomberg Finance LP, the parent of Bloomberg News." And for all those who were concerned that Mutual Assured Destruction is purely a US response to a rat being cornered, it appears the virus has gone airborne: "The information contained in the two documents would
undermine the public confidence as regards the effective conduct
of economic policy,” Trichet wrote in an Oct. 21 letter,
turning down Bloomberg’s request for the documents. Disclosure
“bears, in the current very vulnerable market environment, the
substantial and acute risk of adding to volatility and
instability.” Hello, McFly... We got the impression that PGBs moving 350 bps in two hours after Trichet's own bucket shop of a central bank decided to buy every single outstanding bond in the open market may be a far more potent reason for market "volatility." As for undermining confidence, perhaps this murder of charlatans should have considered that before they set off on the world's most ridiculous pilgrimage to the gods of lies, hubris, deceit, market manipulation and propaganda. Lastly, as this is merely a "protect Goldman" exercise, which as everyone knows is the main party involved in this Greek swap "transaction" - who cares: everyone in the world knows full well the high ethical standards of the West 200-based hedge fund.
In his weekly headline letter John Taylor analyzes where he and Jim Chanos have overlapping views, and where both of them erred (hint: everyone underestimated the willingness of Bernanke to sacrifice monetary prudence in order to reflate anything and everything, although with oil now the latest and greatest excess liquidity target, the experiment may soon be ending). Yet the time of the global reliquification may be coming to an end: "If the Republicans play rough and California craters, fiscal tightening will be the rule, US rates will be higher than Bernanke wants, the dollar will be strong, and foreign markets will be hurt. The odds favor an outcome like this, and the Fed is not free to ride to the rescue again. With Ron Paul riding hard over Bernanke, the Feds wild ways will be corralled. With fewer excess dollars, the growth game, and the markets that follow it, are over." So is shorting stocks the best bet? Yes. But an even better one is going short the Aussies: "The Aussie was over USD 1.0000 today and we think it is a great sell here."
Dennis wants the power of the Federal Reserve in Congress. His ambitions are actually quite disturbing because he is also pursuing the flawed concept of full employment, but now he has added even grander ambitions - the one thing that the horrible Federal Reserve prevented Congress from doing - creating money for the purpose of spending it. Granted with QE2 in full swing it becomes difficult to make that argument, because buying US debt so that the US Government can continue functioning is essentially the same thing, but at least our total debt grows and Americans are still aware of the cost. With Kucinich's bill this aspect disappears as money will appear whenever Congress wishes it to be so and the value imbued in this money will come through Congress alone - a Chartalist dream come true. - Arkady Kamenetsky
A few days ago, when oil was pushing on $89 we said that we expect oil to pass $100 in a few weeks, now that chasing returns in stocks is beyond ludicrous, and speculators are branching out to those commodities which have not yet been cornered by the JP Morgue, although we are confident the Masters brain trust is plotting and scheming how to create a synthetic security that allows crude to hit $150 as RBOB goes negative. As of a few minutes ago, WTI has just passed $91, which for those who have taken math means that $100 oil is less than $9 away. And as a reminder, every $1 rise in oil reduces US GDP by $100 billion, just as every cent increase in gas prices lowers disposable income by $600 million. Who would have thought that trillions in binary dollars just sitting there, unused, unwanted, doing nothing but taking up EEPROM space could possibly have an inflationary impact...
David Rosenberg closes the 2010 books with his top ten reasons to be cautious for 2011. We are fairly confident that none of these will come as a surprise to regular readers of Zero Hedge. The only real risk to the now endless melt up, in our view, is that actual news actually start having an impact on stocks. If that ever happens, look out below.
After many months of calls for SNB intervention, did Philipp Hildebrand finally wake up? The EURCHF just surged, bringing day gains to over 1% on no news. Is the Swiss giant, with its pregnant CHF-full balance sheet, finally stirring? Or does Switzerland realize that Hungary and Austria are toast if the EURCHF continues to plunge? Keep an eye out on this pair (and the EURUSD which surged in sympathy). Or is the catalyst crude oil, where WTI just hit $91 and possibly set off some array of derivative USD selling? Or, far simpler, is the FTSE's passing 6,000 somehow supposed to imply that the dollar should take a step function move down. We can only scratch our head - for the answer, ask the momo quants who are in charge.
We have the perfect job for Designated Market Maker Getco: after the HFT firm did everything in its power to make sure GM's stock will never drop below $33 as long as HFT is the only dominant power in the stock market, the next logical place for the talents of the world's biggest High Frequency Trading powerhouse, is making markets in Brian Moynihan resignation odds. Because even though InTrade has just launched a contract on Brian Moynihan resignation odds by June 30, 2011, there is no markets and no bids and offers. Furthermore, we are confident that Bank of America, which has recently bought out all potentially embarassing domains of the www.brianmoynihanblows.com variety (although www.brianmoynihanswallows.com, .net and .org are still available), will demand a market maker who represents a "slightly" subrealistic outlook on Moynihan's chances of survival, and is willing to "internalize" all such risk, (unclear whether or not selling residual risk to the Fed would subsequently ensue). And in keeping with tradition, Getco should surely be paid using BofA's residual taxpayer-funded TLGP capital. Furthermore, Zero Hedge will work closely with Nanex to monitor the number of flash crashes in Moynihan "eats shit" contracts as they are already called in the street.
Two days ago, in a surprisingly vocal announcement to make sure everyone heard it, the Fed extended the duration of its USD FX swap lines with foreign central banks from January (when they were due to expire) to August. One may ask: why the extension when Europe continues to lie that all is good, and when America has made it clear that it is not China, but the US, which will suddenly lead the next global growth spurt (ignore for a second that the recent jump in crude to just under $91 has wiped out virtually the entire benefit from the just passed payroll tax "stimulus"). One may also not get an answer. So while the announcement is nothing but the latest salvo in what is now merely a policy approach to risk asset pricing, the question of what is being achieved from a purely fundamental standpoint is likely somewhat relevant in our brave new centrally planned world. Bank of America provides the explanation to all those for whom the Fed's continuing backstop of Europe is a novel topic.
New home sales continue to bounce along the bottom, with the November number coming in at 290K, 10K below expectations. This number will likely be revised lower next month, just like the October number was which ended up being not 283K but 275K, the lowest in pretty much forever. Months supply came at 8.2, a decline from the 8.8 in October. The news is sufficiently bad for the robots to push stocks higher.