The recent plunge in gold prices below $1500 an ounce has suddenly awoken, well, just about everyone. The "gold bugs" are yelling that it is a conspiracy theory by the Fed while the stock market bulls say it is a sign that the Fed has achieved its goal of creating economic growth. Unfortunately, both arguments, while great for headlines, are wrong. The real concern for investors should not be the fall of gold - but the overall stock market. With investors fully allocated to the markets - the lurking correction therein is potentially far more dangerous to portfolios than the current fall in gold simply due to weighting differences. Even with earnings hurdles moved substantially lower in recent weeks it may not be enough to offset the softening global economy. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is what gold, commodities and interest rates are really telling us.
For those flying in the northeast today, especially in and out of Boston, it is just not their day (all the more so if there are terroristy-looking, Arab-speaking passengers nearby). The day just got much worse for those flying American Airlines. Via BBG:
- FAA SAYS ALL AMERICAN FLIGHTS GROUNDED AT AIRLINE'S REQUEST
- FAA SAYS AMERICAN GROUNDINGS DUE TO AIRLINE COMPUTER PROBLEMS
- AMERICAN AIRLINES SAYS SABRE RESERVATION SYSTEM OFFLINE
- AMERICAN AIRLINES REPORTS RESERVATION SYSTEM OUTAGE ON TWITTER
- SABRE SAYS THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS WITH AIRLINE BOOKING SYSTEM
- FLIGHTS MAY RESUME AT 5PM EASTERN
Must be the evil Chinese hackers' fault again, and it is about time the government stepped in and regulated the entire Internet, preferably with a kill switch to get rid of all the pesky, fringe elements.
Well-known permabull financial analyst Dick Bove lost his job in November 2012. Not due to his ineptness, but due to his Rochdale Securities colleague David Miller who today plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy over an epic Apple trade gone wrong. As Reuters reports, Miller faces a maximum 25 years (though is expected to suffer less) after falsely telling his bosses that he executed a 1,625 share trade for a client, when in fact he bought 1,623,375 shares of the 'never-gonna-fall' stock on the day of its earnings release (October 25th 2012). When the bet backfired, Rochdale was on the hook for the losses which led the firm to cease operations and to provide the market with a brief respite from Bove's 'loan-loss-provision'-ignoring, 'we're-going-to-the-moon-Alice' investment advice on US banks. What a difference a decimal place makes...
VIX, the market's measure of forward-looking expectations of equity volatility has been hovering at decade lows (and even after yesterday's spike has plunged back once again today). MOVE, the bond market's measure of forward-looking uncertainty is at all-time record lows. As one infamous rates trader said recently, maybe it's early Alzheimers, but we are fairly certain that that last time Implied Volatility was scraping the lows, we did not experience:
- Gold moving almost $250 or over 15% in less than 48 hours;
- A G-3 currency moving over 25% in less than six months;
- A G-3 bond yield moving by 35% in two months;
- The Dow leaping by almost 20% in five months;
- A joint monetary policy as impactful as Volker or the Paris accords.
We can't help but agree.
Did anyone seriously believe the global economy was expanding so robustly that corporate profits would loft ever higher? Based on what data? Laughably bogus data from China, where warehouses are bulging with stockpiles of aluminum and copper, and a diminishing-return housing/credit bubble is the only "engine of growth"? Or was it the equally bogus unemployment rate in the U.S. that inspired such confidence? Did money managers really not notice that most of those new jobs are part-time, and that the rate is only low because millions of people have statistically been disappeared from the workforce by central planners? Wages, private-sector employment and labor's share of the economy have all declined: no wonder the risk-on recovery is rolling over.
Time after time, it appears, in Europe 'beggars can be choosers'. That is, it seems, until Cyprus, when the Merkel hammer was brought down and a new 'template' to avoid German taxpayers implictly taking on the burden of southern European largesse. The initial pro-Euro indifference to the bailouts has turned increasingly to resentment in Germany - and, as we noted here, the rise of anti-Euro parties in the very heart of the political project. The following Bloomberg Briefs chart explains the tension and why the German 'five-wise-men' are pushing for a broad-based 'wealth tax' across Europe's periphery. Simply put, the Germans bearing the burden are 'poorer' than the peripheral nations as the chart of median wealth so clearly indicates. Combine this with the fact that Germany has the lowest rate of home ownership in Europe and it is little wonder that 'Alternative-for-Germany' party is already at a 3% polling? However, as discussed below, this is misleading since wealth is very unequally distributed in Germany, creating a perception among less wealthy Germans that these transfers are unfair.
While a week ago, when gold was $1600/ounce the self-funded component (read gold sale) of the Cypriot bailout amounted to just over 10 tons of gold, as of today's price and EURUSD rate, Cyprus would now have to sell 12 tons of gold to cover the gap, if it were to hit the sell button today (assuming a price of $1385/ounce and a 1.315 EURUSD exchange rate). As far as we know, Cyprus hasn't sold one ounce yet. But what if gold keeps tumbling as it has in the past three days? Well, the problem as most know, is that as of March based on IMF data, Cyprus only has 13.9 metric tons of "excess" (as the EC defined it) gold. This means one can extrapolate below what price Cyrpus is out of luck and the proposed European Commission bailout fails as one of the key self-funded elements simply will not have enough cash to fill the €400 MM hold. That price for gold, once again assuming a 1.315 EURUSD, is roughly $1175/ounce. So if the coordinated selling (straight to Goldman's traders) were to continue, and gold did plunge to the threshold price, or even drop into triple digit territory, and Cyprus simply did not have enough gold to sell, what then?
As gold recovered overnight and JPY weakness sparked hope for risk-assets once again, European stocks opened down and rallied for much of the European day. However, just as with yesterday, once the US opened, European stocks decided enough was enough and rolled over quite significantly (led by the banks). Safety was well bid in general in Europe with 2Y Swiss rates dropping further to 3-month lows at -10bps at their lowest! It appears the appeal of European sovereign debt has worn off for a moment among the BoJ as Spanish and Italian bond spreads leaked back wider on the day. EUR strength (and JPY weakness) provided the impetus for US equities to levitate but it appears more like EUR repatriation given Europe's risk-aversion today.
The most recent gold bear raid has vastly enriched the bullion bankers, once again, at the expense of everyone trying to protect their wealth from global central bank money printing. The central plank of Bernanke's magic recovery plan has been to get everybody back borrowing, spending, and "investing" in stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. But not equally so - he has been instrumental in distorting the landscape towards risk assets and away from safe harbors. That's why a 2- year loan to the US government will only net you 0.22%, a rate that is far below even the official rate of inflation. After the two years is up, you are up $44k (interest) but out $260k (inflation) for net loss of $216,000. That wealth, or purchasing power, did not just vanish: it was taken by the process of inflation and transferred to someone else. This explains, almost completely, why the gap between the rich and everyone else is widening so rapidly, and why financiers now populate the top of every Forbes 400 list. There is no mystery, just a process of wealth transfer of magnificent and historic proportions; one that has been repeated dozens of times throughout history.
The President is due to address the nation at 1130ET - the big question is, will it be Boston (given the events of this morning already) or will it be the Budget... or is it Immigration?
UPDATE: In an unrelated event, Laguardia Airport has been evacated due to a suspicious package
And so the flashbacks to the aftermath of 9/11 begin, as apparently the only catalyst necessary to have a plane grounded and returned to the gate is to speak Arabic. So in hopes of diffusing what is already a very tense, if ridiculous situation, here is how in a world where Murphy's Law dominates and all it takes to be judged a potential terrorist is to have a deep tan and speak a language the average American is not familiar with (i.e., most of them), airplane seating truly works.
While expectations for global GDP growth are now expected to be +3.3% for 2013 against +3.2% for 2012, the IMF has just slashed the previously rosy 3.6% expectation as the global economy stalls. The US and Europe had significant cuts to their 2013 GDP growth expectations (though of course, this dip recovers hockey-stick-like in 2014). It will perhaps be surprising to learn that Japan had its growth expectation raised the most of all the major advanced and emerging nations. World Trade volume growth has also been cut notably - driven by a fall in the previously supposed driver of growth - emerging markets. The IMF's less sanguine forecasts, however, are caveated with hope-driven perspective such as expectations that Debt-to-GDP will drop for all nations from 2013 to 2018 and while energy remains a major downside risk to global growth, we were stunned to read that they cite S&P 500 option prices as an indicator of upside potential. It seems, even at the IMF, that the market is all that matters (oh and the Japanese printing press).
Long experience in the markets will inform you that this kind of massive sell-off in gold is indicative of someone or perhaps a numbers of someones with serious problems. It may be ETF's, it may be some hedge fund or it may be central banks who have pledged their gold as collateral with the ECB but somebody is in trouble. The world is a fragile place these days. World-wide Quantitative Easing has buoyed all of the markets. The backdrop though is economies that cannot support current prices. Europe and Japan are both in tatters, China is slowing down and America is in what I would call a "sputter." Yesterday was a stark reminder of what can happen when the discrepancy between the results of the flood of newly minted cash comes into conflict with underlying fundamentals. The markets can turn on a dime and the move can be severe and painful.
Goldman Keeps Gold Short As It Lowers Stop Price, Even As It Is Stopped Out On Commodity Basket For 6% LossSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/16/2013 - 09:43
Yesterday, Goldman was stopped out of its inflationary Long Brent reco for a 15.5% loss (for the clients of course, not for the Goldman counterparty traders who made 15.5%). Today, it was time for Goldman to get stopped out on its Commodity Carry Basket, after the firm's 6.0% stop loss was triggered: "Spillover from gold and renewed European and EM macroeconomic concerns also created sharp sell-offs in crude oil and base metals, that were mostly front-end driven, crushing spreads (the carry), as longer-dated prices remained remarkably stable. This stopped us out of our CCB (Commodity Carry Basket) recommendation with the potential loss reaching our 6.0% stop." With gold now trading below the revised stop out target, we will watch to see if Goldman lower its target once more to buy even more paper gold that its clients are furiously selling.
While yesterday's cliff-dive in gold was impressive by any standards, the escalating drop over the past 5 days has been just as dramatic. Based on 20 years of rolling 5-day moves, the ~15% plunge is equivalent to around 7 standard deviations (in context Yao Ming is a mere 6 standard deviations taller than the average human making gold's move the equivalent of meeting a man taller than 7'7")