Gold outperformed (+0.5%) today (as the rest of its commodity peers lost ground on USD strength today) and Copper and Silver underperformed. But for January, Silver is the clear winner in the global asset return race (at almost a 20% gain) with Gold in 2nd place at around +11.2%. JGBs and the DXY (USD) along with UK Gilts and Oil lost the most ground among the major assets we track. The outperformance of the precious metals as the dollar ebbed along with the general 'last year's losers were January's winners' and vice-versa was evident as Asia Ex-Japan and EM equities surged along with Nasdaq (and Copper). Long-dated Treasuries have just limped into the money for the year as they rallied dramatically today - ending the day at their low yields (new record 5Y lows) with 30Y now -12bps on the week. FX markets gave a little of the USD strength back in the afternoon but the rally in stocks was almost entirely unsupported by risk assets in general (as it seemed like a desperate low-volume try to push ES back to VWAP into the close to hold the 50/200DMA golden cross in SPX) after this morning's dismal macro data. Financials rallied to fill some Friday close gaps but gave some back into the close as CDS inched wider and Energy underperformed as Oil came almost 3% off its early morning highs (managing to crawl back above $98 by the close). IG credit outperformed as HY and stocks were largely in sync but open to close, credit outperformed stocks on a beta basis (after overnight exuberance in stock futures faded).
Amazon slides 10% after hours as it reports much weaker revenues of $17.43 billion on expectations of $18.26 billion. EPS are not really comparable but seems to beat EPS of $0.16 on Exp. of $0.38. This may not be apples to apples. More importantly, the company guides Q1 to Operating Loss of $200MM to Income of income of $100MM, on Wall Street Consensus of $268MM, and guides to Q1 revenue of just $120-$13.4 billion on Estimates of $13.4 billion: pretty wide range there... This is merely the latst time that the company has disappointed materially, yet Wall Street keeps giving it the benefit of the doubt, on hopes that the Kindle will finally become an iPad-like device. How much longer? Yet the take home message is that the US consumer, contrary to rumors otherwise, is actually not doing all that well.
If anyone is tired of the daily European soap opera with surrealistic tragicomic overtones, they can simply shift their gaze to the 8th largest economy in the world: the insolvent state of California, whose controller just told legislators has just over a month worth of cash left. From the Sacramento Bee: "California will run out of cash by early March if the state does not take swift action to find $3.3 billion through payment delays and borrowing, according to a letter state Controller John Chiang sent to state lawmakers today. The announcement is surprising since lawmakers previously believed the state had enough cash to last through the fiscal year that ends in June." ....uh, oops? But sure, fix the problem of excess debt by more "borrowing" why not. As for the math: "But Chiang said additional cash management solutions are needed because state tax revenues are $2.6 billion less than what Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers assumed in their optimistic budget last year. Meanwhile, Chiang said, the state is spending $2.6 billion more than state leaders planned on." Quick, someone come up with a plan that involves subsidies and tariffs on China, or something else that deflects from what the source of the problem really is. Because the last thing that anyone in America would want to bring up is this thing called "responsibility" for their actions, or, as in now becoming the default case, the lack thereof. And why do that, when time spent so much more productively scapegoating this, and blaming that for one's own massive errors of judgment.
No sooner have the supposedly close (and yet so far away) Greek debt negotiations increased haircuts but added desperate incentives such as GDP Warrants, then The Guardian is reporting that Greek PM Papademos is calling crisis meetings with Greek political party leaders as tensions are clearly growing between Greeks and their EU overlords/partners. The 'increasingly intransigent' negotiating team sent by Brussels is demanding even more severe austerity measures before sanctioning the new bailout funds. The incredulity at the complete mis-communication and increasing bifurcation is nowhere more clear than the divergence between FinMin Venizelos saying "We are one step [away]. I would say it is a formality away from finalizing (the debt relief agreement)," and the disbelief by Greek MPs that "The troika doesn't appear to be willing to accept any concessions whatsoever on reducing the minimum wage and scrapping bonuses," said the government aide. "No political party is willing to move either, saying wage cuts are a red line they are simply not going to cross. You tell me how this is going to be resolved. We have no idea and we're very worried."
Labor Unions Demand Escalation Of Trade War With China, Ask Obama To Restrict Chinese Auto Part ImportsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/31/2012 - 15:52
Because the last time the administration got involved in the car space the results were so positive (for the unions if not so much for creditors), it appears we may be approaching another episode where central planning will make the decisions in the US auto space. Only this time instead of creditors, the impaired party will be China. Reuters reports: "Midwestern U.S. lawmakers and union groups on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to restrict imports of auto parts from China that they said benefited from massive illegal subsidies and threatened hundreds of thousands of American jobs. "We need to stand up to the bully on the block," U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said, referring to Beijing. "The bully on the block continues to take our lunch money and we need to stop that," she said." Odd - China was not complaining when the Obama administration was providing massive subsidies (whether or not illegal remains to be seen - surely Holder is all over it) to the solar and other "green" industries. In other words, just like Solyndra and Ener1, who are merely the first of many artificially subsidized entities, provided such great if highly transitory results for US employment, let's recreate the experiment at the wholesale level, by implicit subsidies and while also angering America's biggest creditor. Something tells us this proposal has a definite probability of passing. In the meantime, central planning for everyone.
The most recent addition to the "I am Jack's complete lack of surprise" pile comes from Reuters, which reports that the latest out of Greece is a proposal for even greater cuts for creditors than previously expected. From Reuters: "Greece's private sector creditors could take a loss of more than 70 percent in a planned debt swap, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday. "There is a very serious discussion based on new facts. We are talking about a PSI much greater than the original," he told lawmakers, referring to private sector involvement in the deal. "We are talking about a haircut on the net present value exceeding 70 percent," he said." What this means, simply, is that when calculating the NPV of the post-reorg bond, the Yield to Maturity is now less than 30%, and thus is likely going to have a cash coupon of about 3.6%. This is relevant because as is known, one component of the creditor recovery is receipt of EFSF bill in lieu of cash to the tune of 15 cents of notional, and the balance, at least until this point, would have been a 35% yielding piece of post-reorg paper. That was the case when the cash coupon was 4%. Going forward, and assuming a 3.6% cash coupon, the return on this fresh start debt drops substantially. Needless to say, creditors will almost certainly balk at this, because when it comes to calculating real yield, most are expecting a roughly 90% recovery at best on the EFSF strip (as every fund will scramble to dump their paper), so 14 cents on the total, and then funds are also hoping for at least 1 year of current yield, i.e., cash coupon. It becomes iffy around the 2 year mark, as it is a roughly 90% probability that Greece will file for bankruptcy yet again just after the first coupon is paid, at least according to hedge fund return calculations. It also means that nobody gives a rats ass about the IRR, but most are only concerned with what the cash coupon will be that they can collect for one, max two years. Which explains why at 14 cents + 3.6 + 3.6 or 21.2, which is where Greek paper trades currently, there is absolutely no upside for creditors, and the only real upside option is to hold out for sovereign debt litigation, where the recovery could be as high as par. Expect no deal to come out of this, despite what the IFF, which now likely represents just Deutsche Bank and SocGen, says. So much for that upper hand.
The post-hoc (correlation implies causation) reasons for why the initial LTRO spurred bond buying are many-fold but as Nomura points out in a recent note (confirming our thoughts from last week) investors (especially bank stock and bondholders) should be very nervous at the size of the next LTRO. Whether it was anticipation of carry trades becoming self-reinforcing, bank liquidity shock buffering, or pre-funding private debt market needs, financials and sovereigns have rallied handsomely, squeezing new liquidity realities into a still-insolvent (and no-growth / austerity-driven) region. Concerns about the durability of the rally are already appearing as Greek PSI shocks, Portugal contagion, mark-to-market risks impacting repo and margin call event risk, increased dispersion among European (core and peripheral) curves, and the dramatic rise in ECB Deposits (or negative carry and entirely unproductive liquidity use) show all is not Utopian. However, the largest concern, specifically for bondholders of the now sacrosanct European financials, is if LTRO 2.0 sees heavy demand (EUR200-300bn expected, EUR500bn would be an approximate trigger for 'outsize' concerns) since, as we pointed out previously, this ECB-provided liquidity is effectively senior to all other unsecured claims on the banks' balance sheets and so implicitly subordinates all existing unsecured senior and subordinated debt holders dramatically (and could potentially reduce any future willingness of private investors to take up demand from capital markets issuance - another unintended consequence). We have long suggested that with the stigma gone and markets remaining mostly closed, banks will see this as their all-in moment and grab any and every ounce of LTRO they can muster (which again will implicitly reduce all the collateral that was supporting the rest of their balance sheets even more). Perhaps the hope of ECB implicit QE in the trillions is not the medicine that so many money-printing-addicts will crave and a well-placed hedge (Senior-Sub decompression or 3s5s10s butterfly on financials) or simple underweight to the equity most exposed to the capital structure (and collateral constrained) impact of LTRO will prove fruitful.
Back in January 2010, when in complete disgust of the farce that the market has become, and where fundamentals were completely trumped by central bank intervention, we said, that "Zero Hedge long ago gave up discussing corporate fundamentals due to our long-held tenet that currently the only relevant pieces of financial information are contained in the Fed's H.4.1, H.3 statements." This capitulation in light of the advent of the Central Planner of Last Resort juggernaut was predicated by our belief that ever since 2008, the only thing that would keep the world from keeling over and succumbing to the $20+ trillion in excess debt (excess to a global debt/GDP ratio of 180%, not like even that is sustainable!) would be relentless central bank dilution of monetary intermediaries, read, legacy currencies, all to the benefit of hard currencies such as gold. Needless to say gold back then was just over $1000. Slowly but surely, following several additional central bank intervention attempts, the world is once again starting to realize that everything else is noise, and the only thing that matters is what the Fed, the ECB, the BOE, the SNB, the PBOC and the BOJ will do. Which brings us to today's George Glynos, head of research at Tradition, who basically comes to the same conclusion that we reached 2 years ago, and which the market is slowly understand is the only way out today (not the relentless bid under financial names). The note's title? "If 2011 was the year of the eurozone crisis, 2012 will be the year of the central banks." George is spot on. And it is this why we are virtually certain that by the end of the year, gold will once again be if not the best performing assets, then certainly well north of $2000 as the 2009-2011 playbook is refreshed. Cutting to the chase, here are Glynos' conclusions.
Counterfeiting is illegal because it is the false creation of value. The counterfeiter takes low-value paper and turns it into high-value money, which is fundamentally a claim on the real productive value of the economy that issues the currency and recognizes it as a proxy means of exchanging that productive value. Counterfeiting is illegal because the counterfeiter creates no additional value--he creates only the proxy for value. Creating real value--adding meaningful goods or services to the economy--is tedious, hard work. How much easier to simply transform near-worthless paper into a claim on actual goods and services. If this is illegal, then would somebody please arrest the Board of the Federal Reserve for counterfeiting? The Fed has blatantly printed money without creating any real value to back up their added claims on productive value. Hence they are counterfeiting, pure and simple. A government based on rule of law would arrest these fraudsters and cons at the earliest possible convenience.
Solyndra, Ener1, and now Kaufman Bros - The current economy may not be very good at creating jobs, even minority-focused ones, but its track record in inverse job creation is rapidly becoming second to none. Bloomberg reports that "Kaufman Bros. LP, the minority-owned investment bank that helped unwind U.S. stakes in bailed-out financial companies, ceased operations as of yesterday, according to a notice posted on its website. Chief Executive Officer Benny Lorenzo told employees that New York-based Kaufman was closing immediately in a meeting yesterday after trading closed, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Neither Lorenzo nor Chief Financial Officer Gerard Durkin returned messages left on their office and mobile phones yesterday and today." More amusing is the following description: "The company, which also has offices in San Francisco, said it was sought out by institutional investors, hedge funds and government agencies to help meet diversity goals." No comment. The closure notice can be found on the company's website. And so another bank bites the dust. Many more coming.
Two days ago we learned that when MF Global goes bankrupt, billions in cash can just "vaporize" (no, really - see here, and of course, in the passive voice. can't say something like Jon Corzine vaporized $1.2+ billion in client money now can we). Next we have Art Cashin explain why it is that the US economy is about to see several hundred thousand jobs "vaporize" as well. Perhaps "vaporize" should be the motto of the current Administration: confidence "vaporized", hope "vaporized", and "evaporation" you can believe in, as it condenses on the teleprompter...
While so many were hoping for the siren-call of private-equity or perhaps a reverse-merger MBO with RadioShack, CIT has once again managed to pour well-risk-managed-credit-extension cold water on Sears short-squeeze. SHLD is down 6% following Reuters reports (via The Orlando Sentinel) that CIT will again stop providing loans to suppliers of Sears Holdings as the lender/factor awaits further information of the company's health. Volume picked up dramatically as the stock fell and we note that SRAC (the more active 5Y CDS contract) is leaking wider but has surged around 400bps (to 1800bps) in the last week (as the stock has been treading water off its spike squeeze highs on 1/23).
What do the NAR, Consumer Confidence and CBO forecasts have in common? If you said, "they are all completely worthless" you are absolutely correct. Alas, the market needs to "trade" off numbers, which is why the just released CBO numbers apparently are important... And the fact that the CBO predicted negative $2.5 trillion in net debt by 2011 back in 2011 is largely ignored. Anyway, here are some of the highlights, but here is the kicker: "Had that portion of the decline in the labor force participation rate since 2007 that is attributable to neither the aging of the baby boomers nor the downturn in the business cycle (on the basis of the experience in previous downturns) not occurred, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2011 would have been about 1¼ percentage points higher than the actual rate of 8.7 percent"- translation: CBO just admitted that the BLS numbers are bogus and real unemployment is 10%. Thank you.