Our friends at Themis Trading, who continue the good, if seemingly futile fight, for a fair and untiered market, refresh on their late 2010 market structure forecast, only to find that with a 1 out of 10 "success" track record, they have the same predictive hit rate as Byron Wien and Joe LaVorgna. Which, incidentally, is not a good thing: it simply means the US stock market is now more broken and corrupt than ever, a development that is not lost on US investors, who later today we will find have redeemed a near record amount of cash from US equity mutual funds in 2011, and have pulled cash for 34 out of 35 weeks in a row, leaving mutual funds with virtually zero cash buffer, massive leverage and dreading that day when the Santa rally coupled with low volume levitation is no longer sufficient to mask the massive capital hole in the heart of the S&P 500.
With many expecting 2012 to be a replica of 2011, at least for US stocks which the non-permabull consensus sees closing the year largely unchanged for the second year in a row, one open question is whether this will also be applicable to Europe. As a reminder, the EURUSD opened this year near the 52 week lows, only to rise by several thousand pips as concerns about European contagion were brushed away on hopes Europe's politicians had it "under control." They didn't, and the EURUSD returned to its year's lows recently. But is the same pattern in store for early 2012, where as we already noted, the bulk of gross debt issuance is due to take place, especially in January? Below are UBS' 5 other key reasons why the European resurgence (however brief) that was experienced early this year will not be recreated in the new year that is now just around the corner.
- BRIC Decade Ends With Record Fund Outflows as Growth Slows (Bloomberg)
- U.S. says China not currency manipulator; chides Japan (Reuters)
- Japan Deflation Returns as Production Slides (Bloomberg)
- Record use made of ECB deposit facility (FT)
- Irish May Pay Greek Price for T-Bill Market Return: Euro Credit (Bloomberg)
- Italian 10-Year Bonds Rise, Stocks Advance After Debt Auction (Bloomberg)
- Obama to nominate economist, banker, as Fed governors (Reuters)
- Japan relaxes weapons export ban (FT)
Despite European banks hoarding cash at the ECB at record levels as observed previously, Italy succeeded in selling ultra short maturity debt earlier today at interest rates that confirm Europe has managed to stabilize near-term expectations. Specifically, as Reuters reports, Italy sold 1.7 billion euros of 24-month zero-coupon bonds on Wednesday at an average 4.85 percent rate, sharply down from an auction yield of 7.8 percent a month ago. The Bid to Cover was 2.24 compared to 1.59 previously. Nonetheless, this amount was less than the maximum 2.5 billion euros targeted at the auction. Italy also sold 9 billion euros of six-month bills at an average yield of 3.25 percent on Wednesday, half of what it paid a month ago to sell six-month paper at a bid to cover of 1.69 compared to 1.47 previously. Lastly, the fact that Italy can place debt in under 2 years when the LTRO itself has a 3 year maturity means that the real issuance test will come tomorrow when Italy is on deck to sell 3 Year bonds. As for 10 year BTP, which were trading at over 7% as recently as overnight, that is a different story completely.
If there is anything that the European banks' negative response to the LTRO's invitation to use "free money" and relever even as Europe faces a perfect storm of deleveraging in 2012 (a topic beaten to death by us here previously) is that the problem at the root of the European financial crisis is not a liquidity one - it is, and has always been one of solvency, or, said otherwise, a problem when bank assets do not generate enough cash flow to satisfy cash outflows from bank liabilities, period, the end. Everything else is irrelevant. And while the market is fascinated in complete noise such as at what price will Italian bonds price in minutes, what the real focus should be on is the state of the primary driver that led Europe into (and eventually will take it out of) the credit bubble- housing. Today, Bloomberg provides a quick update of the Spanish housing situation which can be summarized as follows: horrible and getting much worse, because as October data shows, lending has imploded, down nearly by half just from a year earlier, while the average price is down over 7%.
While sovereign spreads are leaking modestly tighter this morning as European credit markets emerge from the holiday hibernation, the ECB Deposit Facility surged 10% further to a LTRO-busting EUR452bn. While we assume there is some year-end 'management' involved here (and some will argue that putting the LTRO-carry-trade to work takes time), the sheer velocity and scale of the ramp in deposits suggests this is not a game-theoretically optimal use of this new-found cash (neg-carry-trade) but instead a clear message that banks will delever and remain risk averse no matter what the central banks 'suggest' is appropriate. Didn't we learn this lesson already in Japan (for two decades of debt minimization as opposed to profit maximization) and the US (Fed reserves skyrocketed as dealer bond inventories drop precipitously?). Also, those saying that banks are just waiting for the new year to start putting LTRO cash to use, there is no reason to wait - Italian BTPs are already at 7% - all banks are doing by delaying is giving up on days of free carry trade, thus this argument is pure rubbish. We are also seeing EUR-USD basis swaps starting to decompress (worsen) once again. In summary: since LTRO day, EUR187 billion of the 210 billion free money has been redeposited at the ECB.
Given the low volume day, it is hardly surprising that markets had some unusual actions today but the consistency with which financials lagged on the day, combined with the selling pressure we saw in HYG (which has increasingly seemed to dominate credit markets recently) offers little to 'buy into' from today. ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) oscillated up and back to VWAP all day long in a very narrow range as risk assets rose modestly (helped by the seemingly Iran-driven surge in Oil more than any other). FX carry did little, TSYs rallied (and 2s10s30s dropped) modestly, as Gold dropped on the day but credit (based on the IG and HY credit indices) outperformed equities by a little (more end of day liquidity than risk appetite) as the anchor of BofA (-2.5%) and MS (-2.9%) dragged financial stocks (-0.6%) to close at their lows of the day and seemed the most important factor of the day (even as corp bonds - as thinly traded as they were) saw net buying. Combine this move with the metals sell-off that stabilized only after Europe closed (collateral/liquidation needs?) and there is some food for thought even on a quiet day.
The details of the European liquidity crisis are generally reported, but for some reason no media source wants to pull the pieces together so everyone can see the magnitude and futility of the crisis. A growing Collateral Contagion is being shrouded in the apparent belief that the solution to the European Financial and Banking crisis is a grand change in Treaty governance. Obviously the European Central Bank (ECB) was well aware of the reality, when it was forced to deploy a historic and unprecedented LTRO (Long Term Purchase Operations) on Wednesday December 21, 2011. 560 banks desperately and immediately grabbed what they could, to the tune of €489B. The LTRO bought the EU private banks some time. It did nothing to solve the EU Sovereign Debt Crisis. Gordon T Long describes 13 symptoms of the stark reality that forced the ECB to offer unprecedented three year loans at absurd rates and most alarmingly, the acceptance of collateral that no other financial institutions will accept. The ECB has sacrificed its balance sheet in yet another EU "kick at the can". He argues correctly that the problem short term is a shortage of real collateral and that US dollar cash, versus 'encumbered' cash flow, is now king.
580 Morgan Stanley Soon To Be Former-Employees Learn They Are Redundant Courtesy Of The Dept Of LaborSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/27/2011 - 17:12
Previously it was Credit Suisse and Citigroup. Now it is Morgan Stanley's turn, as 580 employees in the firm's three New York office learn they are about to get the boot courtesy not of the HR department but the DOL's WARN website, which just happens to be the best real-time indicator for observing the transition of the soon to be former 1% into the 99%.
Rosenberg, Ryding, Zandi, Arbess, Zuckermann And Rickards All Chime In On The Future Of The EurozoneSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/27/2011 - 16:49
When six out of five economists (thanks to the magic of Keynesianism... and self promotion from general counsel to general expert) all agree on the same topic, and the very definition of groupthink is that the Eurozone will survive, the glaringly obvious call is precisely the opposite. If there was ever an argument to say that 2012 is the year the Eurozone finally dies, the below video is it.
Nine weeks after its bankruptcy, the general public still hasn’t quite realized the implications of the MF Global scandal. Our own sense is, this is the first tremor of the earthquake that’s coming to the global financial system. And how the central banks and financial regulators treated the “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” that had exposure to MF Global—to the detriment of the ordinary, blameless customer who got royally ripped off in its bankruptcy—is both the template of how the next financial crisis will be handled, and an accelerator that will make the next crisis happen that much sooner. We critics of the current, corrupt state of affairs also sometimes confuse the SIFI’s with the system itself, whenever we say, “The whole system is corrupt!” But the system is not corrupt—it’s the regulators and SIFI’s who are corrupt. If nothing else, the handling of the MF Global bankruptcy has proven that, once and for all. That’s why we’re pulling out our money now—while we still can. Because once the general public catches on to what we already know . . . oh boy.
While it might be a little premature, we thought an early reflection on the day's moves in commodities worthwhile. As COMEX copper closes -1.7%, its biggest one-day drop since 12/14, Gold and Silver are suffering similarly weak performances - even as the USD weakens. Oil, on the other hand, has staged its largest 5-day rally since 10/27. It seems the reasoning behind all of these moves is beyond mere mortal investors as newsflow is irksomely flip-floppish. We have seen bigger moves and more volume obviously but on a day with little real newsflow and macro data that is mixed at best, these moves are notable.
Following the fireworks from this weekend in which Anonymous hacked and exposed thousands of Stratfor clients and millions of confidential emails, it may be time to pay some more attention to the hacker collective, and specifically a document that was released a few weeks ago titled "Survival Guide for Citizens in a Revolution." As Anonymous itself says, "This is a snapshot of what Anonymous thinks will be useful for your survival in case of a violent revolution in your country. As most of Anonymous works, it will be constantly changed, reused, improved etc. So watch for newer releases." Because all it takes for complete chaos to erupt in addition to the unwind in the financial system, is for one or two major hacks at system critical institutions to precipitate all out social panic. And who knows - while the financial system will self destruct on is own, perhaps Anonymous itself will do this or that vis-a-vis the latter.
The past several years have seen a growing backlash against "paper" investments as more and more investors consider hard assets to be a safe haven against the implications of central bank money printing. But as the global economy visibly slows, this question arises in many minds: Are commodities, which have been on a tear since the March 2009 bottom, finally topping out? The question requires both a fundamental economic response as well as a technical chart analysis. We can start by observing the common-sense connection between demand for commodities such as copper, cement, steel,etc. and economic expansion. When demand rises faster than supply, prices rise. Since supplies of commodities face all sorts of restraints in terms of extraction rates, energy costs, and declining reserves, increased demand quickly pushes prices higher.
Last week, we presented an equity "valuation" analysis based on Austrian economics, which concluded that the only thing that matters for the economy and for asset prices in general, is the amount of credit money moving one way or another at the margin, ie how active global central banker printers are. Unfortunately, in this economy of record correlations, and in which alpha creation is now impossible, this may well be the only approach to capital markets that works any more. Today, Tradition Analytics takes this analysis from the micro the macro level, explaining why the US, and global, economy is now like a shark - cash has to move (inward) or else the economy will suffocate. Naturally, nothing could make Bernanke happy- according to Tradition, "To sustain the up-cycle banks will have to pump out net new credit probably in the order of about $1 trillion in the coming 8-10 months, even larger than the $700 billion pumped out in the previous 8-10 months." Alas there is a problem with this, very much along the lines of what we discussed last week, which is that the new crude baseline is now a triple digit number, not one in the $30s or even $60s: "it is going to be difficult to sustain this level of credit expansion, not only due to the sheer gravity of the inflation problem that would follow, but also simply due to the fact that it is always increasingly difficult to extend more credit at the margin, and this time into an economy that is already steeped in credit."