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RANsquawk US Market Wrap -- 24/05/12



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May Hedge Funds Performance Update: Red Is Bad

And it was shaping up to be such a good year. According to the latest just released HSBC hedge fund performance update, increasingly more funds are starting to lose it, certainly for the month, but increasingly more for the year. How many LPs will be eager to keep on paying 2% management fees (forget performance) to funds who at best are long AAPL (at least 226 of them), and at worst have underperformed the S&P, for the second year in a row, by anywhere from 5 to 15%?



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Google Trends Shows Why The Status Quo "Powers That Be" Should Be Scared. Very Scared

The volume of searches for the phrase 'Bank Run' has just hit an all-time high - higher now than even during the peak of the Lehman Brothers 'moment'. While English dominates the language choices, the Europeans (Dutch, Germans, and French) are extremely 'interested' as are the Chinese...but it appears the Singaporeans are running the most scared (as we noted here) is perhaps not surprising, followed by the Irish and the Americans - with Germany a disappointing 10th - perhaps they really do not care as much as everyone's bluff-calling hopes. It seems the fears of real 'bank runs' are becoming virtually 'viral' - not a good sign for the stability of the fictional-reserve-banking-dependent status quo.



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Greek Schizophrenia Update

The latest from the mathematically challenged country:

  • GREEK OPINION POLL SHOWS 85% IN FAVOR OF EURO
  • GREEK OPINION POLL SHOWS 12% OPPOSE EURO

Yet at the same time...

  • GREEK OPINION POLL SHOWS SYRIZA WITH 30%

That's right - 30%, or a polling record high, support anti-bailout Syriza. Finally, something like 120% want to shove Merkel's memorandum in her face, or any other orifice, although that number is based on our own, highly unscientific estimates. Basically, the Greeks don't care what currency their debt is denominated in, as long as it is not paid...



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In Europe, It's All About The Bank (Run)

The word 'encumbrance' has received a lot of headlines in the last few months - and rightfully so - after we pointed out the impact that LTROs had in subordinating senior creditors of European banks. As Morgan Stanley points out, this is a considerable problem for bondholders as 'in a wind-down scenario, senior unsecured holders have recourse to fewer assets and hence face a higher loss given default (LGD)'. In understanding just how bad things are for European banks, it is important to focus on 'how much loss-absorbing capital there is beneath you in the bank’s liability stack, as this is the capital that will take losses before senior creditors in the event of a bail-in' which means looking at deposits as well as secured encumbrance. What is very apparent from the pictorial representations of banks’ liability structures is that rather than encumbrance from covered bonds/LTRO etc. the bigger issue for encumbrance of senior unsecured investors is the potential threat from depositor 'runs'. The hope of another LTRO is limited by collateral as policy-makers are well aware that, in a world where failing banks are to be resolved through resolution frameworks and senior creditors are to take losses to shield taxpayers’ funds, banks may not have enough ‘bail-in-able’ debt, given their growing reliance on secured funding sources. With deposits increasingly impaired - and/or the potential for contagious bank runs if we see Grexit, Europe's problem is 'all about the bank runs' now and we were told yesterday how far off that is - though the crisis 'event' may bring deposit guarantees (and the implicit exchange of sovereignty for monetary support) sooner.



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Guest Post: Things That Are More Important Than Facebook

The story of Facebook’s disappointing IPO is a gripping tale, and it holds some valuable lessons. But it concerns an event that has already happened. Forget Facebook — there are far more interesting events in play and that will affect you, if only at the margins. They haven’t happened yet, and they may not happen at all. But if they do, you’d sure as hell better have a plan.



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Uncle Sam Borrows $29 Billion Due In 2019, At Another All-Time Record Low Yield

Yesterday it was a record low 5 Year yield, today it is the 7 Year. Tim Geithner just issued a fresh $29 billion in 7 Year bonds at a new all time low yield of 1.203%, on top of the When Issued 1.200%,and paying a cash interest of 1.125%. Those concerned that the belly of the curve may not enjoy the benefits of Twist can put those fears at rest. The internals were non-eventful, with a 2.80 B/C, just shy of the 12 TTM average of 2.81, Directs taking down 15.70%, Indirects 42.73% and Dealers left with 41.57% of the auction, an improvement from yesterday when they were stuck with over 50% of the takedown. And so, with this final weekly auction, total US debt rises to $15.75 trillion.



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Europeans Betting Millions That Facebook Will Plunge Another 30% By December

While US banks have been busy refocusing their "creative financial products"-time over the past two months, instead defending against allegations of muppetism, or explaining how hedging is really betting it all on red, and then doubling down (just because the casino supposedly has the bank's back), Europe has been busy coming up with new and creative ways of betting on the demise of FaceBook. While official shorting of the most overhyped and overvalued company in history only became a reality for most investors today, Europe's banks have a head start courtesy of "innovated" structured products created by UBS, Commerzbank and Julius Baer. As Bloomberg explains, "the most actively traded structured products tied to Facebook since its IPO have been so-called put warrants, whose buyers profit if the shares drop below a pre-defined level, in some cases as low as $22, data compiled by Bloomberg show. UBS AG (UBSN), Commerzbank AG (CBK) and Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER) are among lenders that listed 1,504 warrants and certificates in Europe linked to shares of the social networking site that were offered at $38....“There has been strong demand on the put side, with the ratio between puts and calls at around 70/30” with “some people expressing deep downside views,” Heiko Geiger, the head of public distribution for Germany and Austria at Bank Vontobel AG in Frankfurt, said in an interview yesterday."



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The gEUR.QQ: "The Only Winners Are Foreign Banks"

In a brief though detailed clip, Stratfor's VP Peter Zeihan discusses the risk of contagion from Greece and the 'creative' - if not self-centered - suggestions for a solution to these problems. Earlier in the week we described Deutsche's suggestion of a dual currency - the GEURO - and that is where Zeihan focuses, noting that "The Greek economy is as deliciously non-competitive as the German economy is hyper-competitive" - this mismatch is the core of the crisis. The GEURO (trading as gEUROQQ on the pink sheets) plan doesn't address this mismatch but extends it just a little longer while bailout funds will continue to funneled through Athens to the country's lenders (read European banks) but private capital would be unlikely to flow and without outside capital, they would be unlikely to stimulate the growth they need to regain any kind of solid footing. Greek debt levels to GDP would rise (not fall) under the plan as EUR debts would remain but GEURO incomes (devalued) would be the source of GDP - making a long-term recovery even less likely. The only winners - simple: foreign banks who have exposure to Greece. The Stratfor VP goes on to note that the vast bulk of Greek debt is held by the ECB, IMF, and the Greeks (Greek banks) adding that private losses would not be catastrophic in the event of another Greek default - though we point out that it is the contagion effects (as we have so critically established in the past) that makes the Greek imbroglio so important to watch.



Tyler Durden's picture

Frontline On MF Global's Six Billion Dollar Bet

While the sur-realities of just what Corzine and the rest of the MF Global 'traders' did has been extensively discussed here and elsewhere, PBS' Frontline provides the most succinct (and relatively in-depth) documentary on just what occurred from how the corrupt CEO lobbied regulators who had the power to stop his risky bets to the endgame realization of the missing customer money. A narrative, not just of "a bet that went bad", but "a Wall Street morality tale". Must watch!



Tyler Durden's picture

Here Is What The Real Fear Index Is Saying

With so many talking heads claiming the 8% drop in stocks and VIX's jump back above 20% as a sure-fire indication that the market is in chaos and needs Fed help stat, we remind readers that VIX reflects a contemporaneous premium for up/down movements in the future offering little insight into downside risk per se and more reflective of a regime shift in market volatility - i.e. a rising VIX merely means market participants expect the markets to move around more (up and/or down). There is a cleaner way of judging the level of concern in trader's heads. The implied correlation, a topic we have discussed in the past at length, quantifies the difference between the index's volatility and the summation of the underlying volatility of the names in an index. In a nutshell, the implied correlation measures the relative demand for instant liquid index macro protection relative to its underlying names. The higher the correlation, the greater the risk of a very significant downside move (since correlations tend to approach 1 when systemically bad events occur). Currently, implied correlation is rising rapidly - a worrying trend - and has broken back above 70% (a critical threshold from last September when capital market risk became epic). We will be watching implied correlation closely - especially relative to VIX - to get a handle on the market's relative demand for downside protection and thus a real 'fear' index (as opposed to a 'movement' index).



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Guest Post: The E.U., Neofeudalism And The Neocolonial-Financialization Model

Forget "austerity"and political theater--the only way to truly comprehend the Eurozone is to understand the Neocolonial-Financialization Model, as that's the key dynamic of the Eurozone. In the old model of Colonialism, the colonizing power conquered or co-opted the Power Elites of the region, and proceeded to exploit the new colony's resources and labor to enrich the "center," i.e. the home empire. In Neocolonialism, the forces of financialization (debt and leverage controlled by State-approved banking cartels) are used to indenture the local Elites and populace to the banking center: the peripheral "colonials" borrow money to buy the finished goods sold by the "core," doubly enriching the center with 1) interest and the transactional "skim" of financializing assets such as real estate, and 2) the profits made selling goods to the debtors.

In essence, the "core" nations of the E.U. colonized the "peripheral" nations via the financializing euro, which enabled a massive expansion of debt and consumption in the periphery.



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And Meanwhile, In The Arabian Sea...

There was a time, late in the winter, that not a day passed without some headline announcing Israel's preparedness to attack Iran, culminating with the grotesque - a show on Israel TV detailing the actual invasion plans. All these daily updates did was guarantee one thing - that absolutely no war could possibly break out for two simple reasons:

i) you never declare war when the opponent is expecting you, instead you habituate them to news about imminent invasions which never happens, and,

ii) Brent was over $120, which would guarantee no re-election for Obama as outright war would send the energy complex soaring, gas prices surging, and the world economy, but most importantly the Russell 2000, tumbling.

Over the past 2 months two things have happened: chatter of "imminent" war with Iran has died down to barely a whisper, and WTI is now trading 20% lower than 2012 highs. Which means there is far more capacity for a run higher. So putting all that together, does it mean that the prospect of war with Iran is now gone? Below we present the latest naval update map courtesy of Stratfor, and leave readers to make their own conclusions...



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Regulatory Capital: Size And How You Use It Both Matter

Bank Regulatory Capital has been in the news a lot recently - between the $1+ trillion Basel 3 shortfall, the Spanish banks with seemingly their own set of capital issues, or JPM's snafu.  There has been a lot of discussion about Too Big To Fail (“TBTF”) in the U.S. with regulators demanding more and banks fighting it.  After JPM's surprise loss this month, the debate over the proper regulatory framework and capital requirements will reach a fever pitch.  That is great, but maybe it is also time to step back and think about what capital is supposed to do, and with that as a guideline, think of rules that make sense. Specifically, regulatory capital, or capital adequacy, or just plain capital needs to address the worst of eventual loss and potential mark to market loss. Hedges are once again front and center.  The only "perfect" hedge is selling an asset. This "hedge" is also a trade.  The risk profile looks very different than having sold the loan and the capital should reflect that.



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Oslo Stock Exchange Fights Back Against HFT And Quote Stuffing

As High-Frequency-Trading rapes and pillages its way across global capital markets, perhaps it is no surprise that the country that gave the world 'Vikings' would be the first to stand up to the computerized hordes. In a breakthrough moment of clarity, The Financial Times reports, the Oslo Stock Exchange will issue punitive changes to traders if they send too many orders into the exchange that do not result in deals being done. This first-of-its-kind crackdown on 'Quote Stuffing' comes after the exchange has seen a surge in the number of orders flooding its systems and while the bourse does not quite go so far as to say HFT is "in itself necessarily negative for the market", it says the placement and cancellation frequency of trades has reduced the efficiency of its market. Bente Landsnes, chief executive of Oslo Bors, said: "A market participant does not incur any costs by inputting a disproportionately high number of orders to the order book, but this type of activity does cause indirect costs that the whole market has to bear. The measure we are announcing will help to reduce unnecessary order activity that does not contribute to improving market quality. This will make the market more efficient, to the benefit of all its participants." From September 1st the exchange will limit each trader to 70 orders for every trade executed and any excess of that ratio will be charged $0.0008 per order. We are sure the NASDAQ, wanting to make up for its SNAFBU, will be next in line to punish the pernicious penny-pinchers.



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