The following people are paid to have an opinion, whether right or wrong, so it is our job to listen to them. Supposedly. Reuters summarizes the professionals kneejerk reaction to the LTRO 2. Because when it comes to explaining why Europe's banks are not only not deleveraging but increasing leverage while paying an incremental 75 bps on up to €700 billion in deposits soon to be handed over to the ECB, one needs all the favorable spin one can muster.
- Euro-Area Banks Tap ECB for Record Amount of Three-Year Cash (Bloomberg)
- Papademos Gets Backing for $4.3B of Cuts (Bloomberg)
- China February Bank Lending Remains Weak (Reuters)
- Romney Regains Momentum (WSJ)
- Shanghai Raises Minimum Wage 13% as China Seeks to Boost Demand (Bloomberg)
- Fiscal Stability Key To Economic Competitiveness - SNB's Jordan (WSJ)
- Bank's Tucker Says Cannot Relax Bank Requirements (Reuters)
- Life as a Landlord (NYT)
Since for all intents and purposes the ECB's LTRO is equivalent (and likely accepts even 'looser' collateral) to the Fed's massive (for its time) liquidity injection following the failure of Lehman, a good question is what happened to stocks after the Discount Window usage spiked back in the fall of 2008. Spoiler alert: nothing good.
UPDATE: European Sovereigns not excited and PORTUG getting ugly...and corporate credit spreads leaking wider
EURUSD and equity markets are undecided, European sovereigns have rallied modestly back to earlier day tights but no further (and Portuguese debt is underperforming), and credit markets in Europe are leaking modestly wider so far. The biggest movers initially appeared to be AUD (carry FX as we noted earlier) and the precious metals (with Silver outperforming Gold so far). Cable (GBP) is weakening relative to USD and EUR and that is holding DXY up a little here. Treasuries are doing better. As we post, the USD is now strengthening, ES is losing steam, and gold and silver are slipping back. CONTEXT is lower than pre-LTRO as risk is leaking off for now.
Goldman waited exactly 20 minutes to try to comfort the market, especially the EURUSD which is getting increasingly jittery, that €1 trillion in Discount Window borrowings is a "positive." We beg to differ that trillions in more debt collateralized by candy bar boxes and condoms will cure an excess debt problem, especially with all the good collateral now gone, and we are confident that ongoing deleveraging needs will put a major cog in the system, especially since the only liquidity expansion move now is "fade", at least until the next major crisis.
The results for the second European 3 year discount window operation, pardon LTRO are in, and the winner is...
- ECB ALLOTS EU 529.5BLN IN 1,092 DAY REFINANCING TENDER
- ECB SAYS 800 BANKS ASKED FOR THREE-YEAR LOANS
Since the expected range was €200 billion - €1 trillion, and just above the median €500 billion, this is clearly within expectations, however notably less than what the Goldman investor survey expected at €680 billion. What is certainly scary is that the number of banks demanding a hand out was a whopping 800, well above the 523 from the first LTRO: clearly many banks are capital deprived.
It appears markets have re-converged in the last few days across asset classes as European credit markets have rallied to meet a modestly underperforming European equity market after quite significant drops in the former a week or so ago. In the US, equity futures have reconverged with CONTEXT (our proxy for broad risk assets) as Treasuries have weakened and FX carry has improved tone overnight while futures themselves have drifted sideways. Commodities have largely drifted also with a modest improvement in Copper and slow drift up in WTI (back over $107 now). For some perspective, GDP-weighted European Sovereign risk has improved 80bps from its Nov2011 wides (or around 23%) but remains over 200bps wide of Post March 2009 lows and over 500% higher still - back only to levels seen in August 2011. Consensus appears to be that a larger than expected LTRO is positive for risk assets with Equities and then Credit the main beneficiaries (with FX the least) and a notable divide between European traders and non-European traders with the former believing the EUR will strengthen vs USD and the latter not so much (more focused on carry trades). For now, Italian and Spanish sovereign yields are leaking higher but in general wait-and-see mode remains with anxiety high.
"It Ain't Over Till It's Over": Empirical Observations On Who The Next Occupant Of The White House May Be And WhySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/28/2012 - 22:44
It is appropriate that as a post-mortem to tonight's GOP primary, which according to initial reports has Romney as winning both Michigan and Arizona, we have ConvergEx' Nick Colas providing an extensive summary of the factors in favor and against both the presidential incumbent, and the challenger, and in doing so handicap the possibility of election victory for either Obama or the Republican candidate, whoever he may end up being. As Colas says, 'it ain't over till it's over' - "As the battle for the 2012 Presidential election begins to pick up speed, we read a flood of reports that President Obama is a lock for reelection. And just as many that he is destined to be a one-termer. Those who believe that the winner of the 2012 election will be Republican claim that the keys to Obama’s downfall will be unemployment, skyrocketing oil prices, and increased federal spending. However, according to historical data and some political science theory, it looks like Obama has a pretty good chance of staying in the White House.... The GOP isn’t out of the race yet, but it’s up against some strong historical opposition." And while we would agree that all else equal Obama likely is a shoo-in, never before will there have been a full blown debt ceiling crisis in a repeat of August 2011 in the weeks and months leading into the election - that factor alone, in our humble opinion, could end up being the swing variable that pulls the otherwise ironclad victory away from Obama's clutch, and explains why the GOP caved so quickly on the payroll tax extension which will add $100 billion in debt, and force a debt ceiling breach ahead of November, as was first predicted on Zero Hedge. That, of course, and runaway oil: should crude continue its relentless surge, which it will if QE3 occurs, or an invasion or Iran becomes reality, Obama can kiss another 4 years goodbye.
Although U.S. demand for crude oil has fallen by 1.5 million barrels per day since 2007, anyone spending more than a few minutes on the road, watching TV, or surfing the internet will be more than unpleasantly aware of the rapid rise in gas prices recently. As we noted earlier, following January's record high average gas price, February just surpassed its own record and TrimTabs quantifies the impact of this implicit tax on consumption, noting three key factors that will remain supportive of high oil prices: Central Bank liquidity provision (ZIRP), political tensions, and implicit USD devaluation. Critically, around 70% of the benefits of the payroll tax extension has already been removed thanks to 60-80c rise in gas prices nationwide whose growth has far outstripped wage and salary growth in recent years. As Madeline Schnapp points out, while the latest round of oil speculation is likely to end with a pop, the erosion of purchasing power from high energy prices is here to stay. Bottom Line: Rapidly Rising Fuel Prices Put Sluggish Economic Growth at Risk.
The seemingly endless GOP primary goes through the states of Michigan and Arizona tonight, where Romney and Santorum are the key competitors, while Gingrich and Paul focus elsewhere. BBC reports: "Both men have been campaigning intensively over the past few days. Pre-primary polls gave Mr Romney a marginal lead in Michigan, and a stronger advantage in Arizona. Analysts say a victory in his home state of Michigan is key for Mr Romney. He has long been seen as the front-runner and favourite for the nomination - and currently leads the race for delegates - but has struggled to win over a strong majority of conservative Republican voters. Most polls will close in Michigan at 20:00 EST (01:00 GMT), where 30 delegates are at stake. Delegates will be awarded to candidates in each congressional district, with two at-large delegates also awarded. In Arizona, where polls will close at 19:00 local time (02:00 GMT), 29 delegates will be awarded to the winner of the state's primary."
In a previous report, Headwinds for Housing, I examined structural reasons why the much-anticipated recovery in housing valuations and sales has failed to materialize. In Searching for the Bottom in Home Prices, I addressed the Washington and Federal Reserve policies that have attempted to boost the housing market. In this third series, let’s explore this question: is housing now an attractive investment? At least some people think so, as investors are accounting for around 25% of recent home sales. Superficially, housing looks potentially attractive as an investment. Mortgage rates are at historic lows, prices have declined about one-third from the bubble top (and even more in some markets), and alternative investments, such as Treasury bonds, are paying such low returns that when inflation is factored in, they're essentially negative. On the “not so fast” side of the ledger, there is a bulge of distressed inventory still working its way through the “hose” of the marketplace, as owners are withholding foreclosed and underwater homes from the market in hopes of higher prices ahead. The uncertainties of the MERS/robosigning Foreclosuregate mortgage issues offer a very real impediment to the market discovering price and risk. And massive Federal intervention to prop up demand with cheap mortgages and low down payments has introduced another uncertainty: What happens to prices if this unprecedented intervention ever declines? Last, the obvious correlation between housing and the economy remains an open question: Is the economy recovering robustly enough to boost demand for housing, or is it still wallowing in a low-growth environment that isn’t particularly positive for housing?
Looks like the SEC is not done with Goldman Sachs, already the subject of the largest civil fine levied by the SEC on a Wall Street firm, aside for that whole Robosettlement farce of course - which still is not available to the general public, and is back for more wristslaps. Per Reuters: "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission notified Goldman Sachs Group Inc that it may file a civil case against the bank related to a $1.3 billion offering of subprime mortgage securities, Goldman said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday. Goldman received the "Wells notice" on Feb. 24 related to the bond deal, which was underwritten by Goldman in 2006, according to the 10-K filing. A Wells notice indicates that SEC staff plans to recommend that the Commission take legal action, and gives a recipient a chance to mount a defense. The bank said it will be making a submission to SEC staff "and intends to engage in a dialogue" with them to address their concerns." Our only question is how will Goldman pin this one entirely on Fabrice Tourre who may or may not be still in the employ of the 200 West headquartered firm.
...European banks are three times larger than the European sovereigns, the ECB is not the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, the leading economy in Europe, Germany, is 22% of the economy of America, that there are ever and always consequences for providing free money, that Europe is in a recession and it will be much deeper than thought by many in my view, that the demanded austerity measures are unquestionably worsening the recession and increasing unemployment, that nations become much more self-centered when their economies are contracting and that the more protracted all of this is; the more pronounced Newton’s reaction will be when the pendulum reverses course.
After 22 crosses yesterday, and 12 more today, the Dow managed to close above 13000. Transports were lower but less so on Oil's modest retracement (though the Brent-WTI spread remained around $15). While stocks closed modestly higher, volatility and correlation markets remained considerably higher than would be expected and along with quite considerable relative weakness in HYG (the high yield bond ETF) into the close as well as a clear up-in-quality rotation was evident as investment grade credit outperformed notably (not exactly a high-beta risk-on shift). Apple's meteoric rise helped drag Tech to first place overall today and also YTD followed closely (YTD) by financials both up around 14%. The last week or so of slow bleed higher in stocks has notably not been led by a short-squeeze in general - based on our index of most shorted names - but as is becoming more and more clear, divergences (and canaries) are appearing all over the place but we suspect can be traced back to Apple in many cases for its over-weighting impact. Treasuries slid lower (higher in yield) after Europe's close but remain better on the week and modestly flatter across the curve. Aside from a hiccup around the macro data this morning, EUR pushed higher all day against the USD shifting into the green by the US close as JPY stabilized. The USD weakness helped Copper and Gold leak higher but Silver was the massive winner, now up an impressive 4.3% since Friday and 30% YTD as WTI lost $107 and is now down over 3% on the week. The IG rotation coupled with vol decompression makes some (nervous) sense heading into the LTRO results but it seems the new safe-haven trade is Apple (whose option prices are now the most complacent since early 2009).