A snapshot of the European Morning Briefing covering Stocks, Bonds, FX, etc.
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What we are witnessing is the ideological exhaustion of “Western liberal democracy” and therefore the last gasp of the fraud upon which it rests: the state, even its best form. No longer able to hide behind the Jeffersonian dream of constitutional freedom and order or the Lincolnian myth that the dream could be preserved at the expense of the principle upon which it was founded, the American state’s demise proves that “the final form of human government” has not yet arrived – not because a final form shouldn’t have arrived but because, for those who have had so much fun during historical times, the aftermath won’t be any fun. On the contrary, it will be “a very sad time”
As of 8 pm Eastern, the Comex' monopoly to the precious metals futures is over. As we reported previously, today, at 8 am local time, is when the Hong Kong Mercantile exchange would start trading the inaugural Asian precious metal futures contract: the 32 ounce /1 kilo/ gold futures. In the first 30 minutes of trading it appears to have been a subdued session, with just 22 contracts changing hands in the August 2011-June 2012 frame. How this trading will impact prices: nobody knows (yet). The spot price of gold has barely budged in the past hour. That said, now that PM futures fragmentation is starting, we expect that within 2 years we will have various deranged HFT algos trading tonnes of gold, quote stuffing globally, and otherwise creating one of the most volatile trading environments imaginable. And since we know you are asking: the margin schedule for the HKMerx will be kept and listed by the same LCH.Clearnet that hikes and lowers Irish and Portuguese bond margins by 10% on an almost weekly basis. Let see now how the Comex hikes its gold margins with impunity if it has competition that keeps margins "artificially" low, and provides disgruntled Comex clients with an alternative venue that accepts far less cash collateral to trade.
There are those who thought that following the material pushback by every chatterbox on CNBC that the muni situation is actually nice to quite nice, contrary to what Meredith Whitney had prophesied, that the scourge of Citi would slink back into whatever hole it is she crawled out of. And then there is Meredith Whitney, whose occasional appearances on TV have resulted in 25 weeks of consecutive, and material outflow from municipal funds. Undaunted by her critics, she has now doubled down, and shifting away from munis, is now focusing one level higher: on the state financial crisis. Her conclusion, sure to set off a firestorm of angry responses tomorrow when the Op-Ed hits the print version of the WSJ: "Defaults in a variety of forms by states and municipalities are already happening and more are inevitable. Taxpayers have borne the initial brunt of these defaults by paying higher taxes in exchange for lower social services. And state and local government employees are having to renegotiate labor contracts that they once believed were sacrosanct." And sure enough, she refuses to abandon her muni thesis: "Municipal bond holders will experience their own form of contract renegotiation in the form of debt restructurings at the local level. These are just the facts. The sooner we accept them, the sooner we can get state finances back on track, and a real U.S. economic recovery underway." Yes, well, one can argue that the sooner Ms. Whitney accepts that the modus operandi in the developed world is to preserve the status quo no matter the cost, and kick the can down the road indefinitely, the sooner we can all get back to a state of vegetative existence in which nobody questions anything and the world is one swell place until everything blows up.
Richard Koo Explains Why An Unwind Of QE2, With Nothing To Replace It, Could Lead To The Biggest Depression YetSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/17/2011 - 17:09
Over the past several days, quite a few readers have been asking us why we are so confident that QE3 (in some format: it does not and likely will not be in the form of the Large Scale Asset Purchases that defined QE1 and 2 - the Fed could easily disclose that it will henceforth sell Treasury puts, a topic discussed previously, or engage any of the other proposals from Vince Reinhart disclosed in June of 2003) will eventually be implemented by the Fed. Luckily, instead of engaging in a lengthy explanation of the logical, Nomura's Richard Koo comes to our rescue with his latest research piece. While we disagree with Koo on various interpretations of his about monetary theory (namely that the Fed is not in effect "printing" money and thus creating inflation - this is semantics and leads to a paradoxical binary outcome, whereby if there Fed was successful in boosting the economy, the economy would indeed be flooded with the nearly $2 trillion in excess reserves held with reserve banks. And good luck trying to contain this surge by changing the IOER - if the Fed indeed pushed the IOER to the required 5%+ level it would immediately destroy money markets, leading to the same liquidity freeze that marked the post-Lehman days, confirming the "Catch 22" nature of Quantitative Easing that we have observed since its beginning) we do agree with his analysis of what would happen to the economy if either stocks or commodities are in a bubble (and judging by the violent opinions out there, most investors believe that either one or the other has indeed reached bubble territory), should QE2 end cold turkey: "Viewed objectively, the central banks are trying to push up asset prices using quantitative easing and the portfolio rebalancing effect. The resultant rise in asset prices based on this effect represented a potential bubble—or at least a liquidity-driven event—from the start. The question is whether the real economy can keep pace with asset prices formed in those liquidity-driven markets. If it cannot, higher asset prices will be considered a bubble and will collapse at some point. The resulting situation could be much more severe than if quantitative easing had never been implemented to begin with." Bingo.
Protest At JPMorgan Annual Meeting In Ohio Leads To The Handcuffing Of At Least One Person, Eight ArrestsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/17/2011 - 16:02
Some time ago it was primarily the G7 meetings that drew the Molotov cocktails and the anarchists crowds. Now it is the annual meetings of the big banks as increasingly more people realize that it is not the toothless developed countries but the banks backing them that actually pull the strings. The Washington Post reports that "at least one person was handcuffed after a group of about 400 protestors marched up Chase’s property and placed a sign on a raft floating in a pond in the bank’s premises. The sign read: “Foreclosed: Chase sinks our economy. Annual shareholder meetings of large banks routinely draw protesters. However, security this year has been especially tight after Wells Fargo & Co.’s annual meeting on May 4 in San Francisco became a rowdy scene after hundreds protested outside. Inside the meeting, a group of shareholders demanded that the bank immediately stop foreclosures and waive principal for troubled home owners. The shareholders were escorted out of the meeting by police. Eight people were arrested for blocking entrances to the building." Perhaps it is too late for Dimon to use the Blankfein "doing god's work" excuse at this point. Or not. However it is unlikely that any such proclamation will be met with any more success than its first iteration.
Apparently even Libya has had enough of the toothless and impotent NATO offense and is hoping for some sort of escalation. Reuters reports: "Libya said on Tuesday its forces had hit a NATO warship while it was shelling areas in the western parts of the rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata. Libyan state television said "our forces fired (at warships) and hit one directly and severely". It gave no further details. It was not immediately possible to verify the report." It remains to be seen if Nicholas "the people's liberator" Sarkozy, busy celebrating the recent developments in New York, will take time from his presidential campaign to urge the "marines in the water" to become "boots on the ground."
It's Official: DTS Discloses Total Debt Hit Ceiling Yesterday; Government Draws On $14.3 Billion From Retirement FundsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/17/2011 - 15:16
While it won't be a surprise to anyone at this point, seeing it in black on white is about as startling as hearing that one's credit card has been denied. Yesterday, following the settlement of all of last week's auctions, total debt held by the public increased by$51.4 billion, just as we had predicted, bringing the total to $9.717694 trillion. And with the total debt subject to the ceiling maxed out legally by $14.294, Tim Geithner reported a total of $14,293,975 MM, $25 million away from the ceiling. What was the plug? Why "Intragovernment Holdings" of course, which declined by $14.3 billion. As Tim Geithner warned yesterday this is now money held in retirement trust funds, which is now being directly sacrificed in order to keep the ceiling from breach: "I will
be unable to invest fully the portion of the Civil Service Retirement
and Disability Fund (“CSRDF”) not immediately required to pay
beneficiaries. In addition, I am notifying you, as required under 5 U.S.C. §
8438(h)(2), of my determination that, by reason of the statutory debt
limit, I will be unable to invest fully the Government Securities
Investment Fund (“G Fund”) of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System
in interest-bearing securities of the United States." And as expected, once the debt ceiling is raised, the accrued shortfall will be filled, meaning upon a debt ceiling hike, which will come some time in July, total debt will explode higher, surging by about $300 billion in a few days.
Last week I used the analogy of a shotgun wedding to describe how the bailout was being forced upon the Greek people. Maybe, after the events of this weekend, I wasn’t being harsh enough in my choice of analogy. As I continue to digest the news and various opinions, I still reach the same conclusion. Default or restructuring is the most logical outcome and should occur sooner than later. I believe that the image of the IMF has been tainted and it will make it more difficult for the Greek people to accept a deal from them, unless the terms are incredibly favorable. I’ve also listed several of the arguments most commonly used to encourage Greece to delay restructuring, and point out the flaws in each of them.
Another Woman Steps Up: Former Employee Sent Letter To IMF, Warning Organization About DSK Following Her Own AffairSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/17/2011 - 14:24
And so another woman appears on the DSK scene, so far unnamed. As AP reports, "An employee who had a brief affair with IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned the organization about his behavior toward women in a letter sent three years ago." And no, this is no the Hungarian Piroska Nagy who almost caused the downfall of DSK if only the bailout crew had had enough brains to do a little more to the "head" than censure him. But it appears that the two are close: "The person who confirmed the existence of
the letter is close to the former International Monetary Fund employee,
Hungarian-born economist Piroska Nagy. The person declined to be
identified, citing the sensitivity of the matter." As a reminder the so far only known major transgression of DSK, Nagy, had worked at the IMF for decades, and left the organization after the affair with Strauss-Kahn in 2008. An IMF-funded investigation into the affair cleared Strauss-Kahn of wrongdoing but criticized his judgment. If it now turns out that the IMF had been officially warned about DSK, yet completely ignored the charges, we may have another public humiliation ala the SEC and Bernie Madoff, which ultimately will strip the organization of even more "bailout" and dollar-alternative power. Which begs the question: just how far will the powers that be go to make sure the SDR concept is now and forever killed as a USD-replacement currency?
Just when you thought the humiliation couldn't get any worse...
As if today's disappointing announcement of slowing Industrial Production was not enough for all those still hoping for a hockeystick to the economy, we now get an update from Stone McCarthy which looks at the latest Wards Automotive data and sees what apparently nobody has factored into their models yet. In a nutshell, the annualized April motor vehicle assembly plunged at a 12% rate from 8.923 million in March to just 7.847, the lowest reading in all of 2011. From SMRA: "In the past, such a sizable drop in the assembly rate has usually translated into a sharp decline in motor vehicle output. We project motor vehicle output to decline by 9% in April, which would be entirely consistent with the drop-off in the assembly rate." The immediate impact: the drop in the industrial production already seen, but the bulk of it due to delayed aftereffects will likely impact the May number, as the follow through from the Japanese supply chain halt starts ringing a loud alarm bell across Wall Street. Of course, this is another thing that all those calling for a 4% H2 GDP could have absolutely not foreseen (and in fact it was originally supposed to be positive for the economy, eh Deutsche Bank?). Expect to see drastic downward cuts to May Industrial Production and next, to Q2 GDP.
Mohamed El-Erian Blasts The "Feudal" Traditions Of The IMF, Officially Denies He Is In The Running To Become The New DSKSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/17/2011 - 12:07
Mohamed El-Erian is back to doing what he has been doing best lately: writing opeds. Today, the man who some speculated could well be the replacement for DSK himself, has written a scathing posting blasting the IMF's sad state, focusing on the specifics of the "head" position as well as the qualifications required to attain it. His coup de grace: "This feudal selection approach must be changed; and now is the time to do it. Without a credible and quickly-recovering IMF, Europe will face even more uncertain prospects, progress on structural reforms in advanced economies will recede, and the world will find it more difficult to make room for rapidly growing emerging economies." As for speculation that MEE (in keeping with acronymis) could be the next DSK: "I will not be part of this process; I already have a great job, here in California." His words of wisdom: "Hopefully, governments of the world can finally come together and open the selection process to a pool of other candidates from around the world. By so doing, they would cast aside a tradition that no longer serves a purpose consistent with the spirit of multilateralism and its required effectiveness."
There are certain times in life when a man is faced with overwhelming adversity… times when he has no reason to adhere to society’s norms anymore. It is in these instances that the true quality of his character comes shining through. One of these situations is when he’s broke. Dead, flat broke. Some people, even when staring deep into their own financial abyss, still hold to their moral principles, honor their obligations, and keep their word. For others, the boundaries of morality are quickly blurred into shades of gray, and things like fraud, thievery, and deception become perfectly legitimate tactics in their minds. Speaking of broke, faced with what is tantamount to the official insolvency of the United States of America, policymakers have opted to seize funds from the retirement accounts of public sector workers in order to keep the government running. Wow. America’s leaders are willing to engage in cannibalistic thievery in order to continue funding government operations. I wonder what sorts of operations are so important that they are willing to steal from their own people in order to finance? Any ideas? Apparently, starting a shooting war in Pakistan was at the top of their list.
It is no secret that CLSA's Russell Napier has not been a fan of QE2. As he pointed out in his recent prominent note, "whether equities will fall further depends on how flexible and successful the Fed’s next monetary package will be. Given the risk, investors are better off watching from the sidelines." He further explained: "A risk to reflation would send equities sharply lower. The failure of QEII will undermine investor faith in a monetary solution. With equities near bubble valuations, based on cyclically adjusted PE, a failure to reflate risks major downside. The Fed will try again with a new package, but investors would do best by waiting to see how it plays out." Since as of now we still don't know when and if there even will be a package, here is Napier once again, interviewed by the FT's Long View, presenting his updated views on the economy. His outlook, which we agree with entirely, is that first we will see another major deflationary shock, following which the Fed, already boxed in a corner, will have two choices: let major financial institutions fail, or proceed to monetize outright. Regardless of which outcome is picked, Napier's target for the S&P, which just happens to coincide with that of Albert Edwards, is not pleasant for the bulls: 400 (or somewhere in that vicinity). And that will be the true generational buying bottom.