Sometimes it takes 60 pages to describe where we have been this year; on other occasions it takes 28 pages to describe where we are going and why. However, BBVA (via Constantin Gurdgiev's True Economics) have managed to condense the state of risk in our global markets down to seven critical dimensions (and into one table). From Macro (GDP and inflation) to Fiscal, Liquidity, and Credit Growth, the following matrix is your must-have guide for this new-year's cocktail party circuit. You're welcome...
Obviously I don’t want to conflate complex issues of foreign policy and war with the Sandy Hook shooting, but it is important to make the broader point that our federal government has zero moral authority to legislate against violence. Furthermore, do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches? We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders. This is the world of government provided "security," a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse. School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America. Do we really believe government can provide total security? Do we want to involuntarily commit every disaffected, disturbed, or alienated person who fantasizes about violence? Or can we accept that liberty is more important than the illusion of state-provided security? Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. We shouldn’t settle for substituting one type of violence for another. Government role is to protect liberty, not to pursue unobtainable safety.
Bloomberg's William Cohan released a provocative piece last night, headlined by the even more provocative "UBS Libor Manipulation Deserves the Death Penalty." We can only assume that Cohan is being metaphorical - after all, despite the rare occasional recent criminal charge no one has still gone to prison for the biggest coordinated manipulation of a benchmark fixed income market for years: something previously relegated to the fringes of crackpot conspiracy theories - after all, so many people were in on it, how can they possibly all keep their mouths shut - you know, the usual excuse against massive conspiracy theories, at least until they become conspiracy fact. Yet one wonders: will current and future ongoing market manipulations ever cease when there is no real deterrent: after all spending a few years in jail is certainly worth a few million in ill-gotten proceeds, even assuming the termination of a career in finance. Is Cohan being rhetorical? Or has the time for some true vigilante justice finally come? Because in a world increasingly best portrayed by the 2009 movie "The International" where one has to "go outside" a captured legal system to get real justice, is vigilantism eventually coming to every town near you, once the money illusion ends? And a bigger question - is this the main preemptive reason for the gun control push seen so vividly in recent days and months?
The awful truth is that WE are responsible. We elected these people. We condone a two party system where we end up with a choice between the mediocre and the inferior. We are left to choose between the fool and the idiot and the men of character, the people of intellect and those focused on the health of the nation are left behind either because they will not participate or because they cannot survive the taunts and tricks of those that have no other interest besides their own ego and their own self-interests. I make no apologies. This is our fault and until and unless WE start demanding a government that represents our interests and values and morals that sets-aside America from other nations; we have no one to blame but ourselves. That is the sad truth of it which is why going off our present fiscal cliff may be the best thing that could happen to the United States. We might just wake up!
There is much debate whether when it comes to the total notional size of outstanding derivatives, it is the gross notional that matters (roughly $600 trillion), or the amount which takes out biletaral netting and other offsetting positions (much lower). We explained previously how gross is irrelevant... until it is, i.e. until there is a breach in the counterparty chain and suddenly all net becomes gross (as in the case of the Lehman bankruptcy), such as during a financial crisis, i.e., the only time when gross derivative exposure becomes material (er, by definition). But a bigger question is what is the actual collateral backing this gargantuan market which is about 10 times greater than the world's combined GDP, because as the "derivative" name implies all this exposure is backed on some dedicated, real assets, somewhere. Luckily, the IMF recently released a discussion note titled "Shadow Banking: Economics and Policy" where quietly hidden in one of the appendices it answers precisely this critical question. The bottom line: $600 trillion in gross notional derivatives backed by a tiny $600 billion in real assets: a whopping 0.1% margin requirement! Surely nothing can possibly go wrong with this amount of unprecedented 1000x systemic leverage.
One of the biggest complaints about gold - always a parallel currency to paper, and soon to be serial, once the world shifts to a post-paper currency reality in which faith in infinitely creatable electronic paper money is finally destroyed - is that it would be an impractical medium of exchange, as the traditional denominations are so large one would be unable to trade one ounce (and certainly one bar) for every day needs. This is also one of the main reasons various retail investors prefer silver over gold. All this may be changing courtesy of Swiss refiner Valcambi which has created a CombiBar, a credit-card sized, 50 gram block of 99.9 gold, which is precut, and which can easily be broken into one gram pieces which can then be used as forms of payment in an emergency. And since one gram of gold has roughly the value of two ounces of silver, it is a far more practical lowest common denominator unit of exchange than the traditional one ounce minimums in broad circulation.
- Global Currency Tensions Rise (WSJ) - in other words, when everyone eases to infinity, nobody eases
- EU to give Spain, France more time to cut deficit (Reuters) - But not because their economies are not "recovering" fast enough, oh no.
- As we expected, Grupo Bimbo considering a bid for Hostess' snack cakes and bread brands (NY Post)
- Time for bus-control: Eleven children killed in latest Chinese bus crash (Reuters)
- Greece Should Write Off Billions of Overdue Taxes, Report Says (BBG) - not all taxes in perpetuity?
- India clamps down on gang-rape protests, PM appeals for calm (Reuters)
- But Meredith Whitney said... Push for Cheaper Credit Hits Wall (WSJ)
- For Greece, last major austerity package, says eurozone official (Kathimerini)... "unless there is another one"
- Americans Miss $200 Billion Abandoning Stocks (BBG) ... and two flash crashes... and $15 trillion in artificial central bank props
- Goldman Sachs Takes Long View Over Payouts (FT)
- Cliff Would Strike Low Incomes Hard (WSJ)
- Afghan policewoman kills US police adviser (AP)
- For Sale in Japan: Electronics Assets (WSJ)
As DB's Jim Reid summarizes, "it is fair to say that newsflow over the next 72 hours will be fairly thin before we head into a tense final few business days of the year." It is also fair to say, that the usual tricks of the new normal trade, such as the EUR and risk ramp as Europe walks in around 3 am, precisely what happened once again overnight to lift futures "off the lows", will continue working until it doesn't. In the meantime, the market is still convinced that some compromise will appear miraculously in the 2 trading sessions remaining until the end of the year, and a recession will be avoided even as talks now appear set to continue as far down as late March when the debt ceiling expiration, not cliff, will become the primary driving power for a resolution. That said, expect to start hearing rumors of a US downgrade by a major rating agency as soon as today: because the agenda is known all too well.
Presented with little comment.
We have a new era dawning in Global Monetary policy. It is a new day with the monetary skies already red. Within 90 days the captains of monetary policy have steered the world into uncharted waters and on a course that history warns us against. Federal Reserve: QE3 "Unlimited" and QE4 within 90 days, ECB: OMT "Uncapped", BoJ: QE 10 and the newly elected Prime Minister Abe's mandate for "Inflation at any cost" BoE: UK's newly appointed BoE Governor, Mark Carney's Monetary Evan Rule targeting. These untested and newly commissioned captains all have PhD's from the finest Economic schools in the world, but they clearly have not studied nor grasped the key lessons of history. To any sane person, who has a grasp of what is presently occurring, it is obvious that the current state of affairs is unsustainable. The question is how long can the Monetary Captains' misguided policies keep us off the shoals of our economic destruction. How long can policies of "Extend and Pretend", Kick the Can Down the Road" or "Fake it Until You Make It" continue? The answer is likely unknowable, the certainty of it ending badly is not.
It seems a few humans have read a little this weekend and sold into the algo-induced euphoria from Friday's close. S&P 500 futures are down around 9 points - at the lows from Friday's day-session. EUR is bleeding modestly and JPY is weakening as equities appear to be recoupling with FX as a risk-driver (following EUR's dislocation two weeks ago). Cash Treasuries are yet to open but futures infer 2-3bps compression in yields. Much was made of VIX's 'strength' on Friday as some kind of tell; unfortunately misunderstanding is rife and it is evident that hedges were in fact rolled out into January (rather than lifted in any bullish manner). So far stocks are pushing back down to recouple with VIX's view of the world. Silver is flat at $30, Gold and Oil down a little. 6 more hours til Europe opens.
We recently posted Kyle Bass’s keynote speech at the Americatalyst 2012 conference. One of the main threads running through his thesis is the “Keynesian Endpoint”; covering debt super-cycles, the Federal Reserve’s inability to move rates from 0% and the (unintuitive) interconnectedness of sovereign default and hyperinflation. By way of clarification to global Ponzi we discussed earlier, Addogram has created an excellent infographic plotting the development of these ideas and mechanisms from 1792 to the present day.
A Cassandra is a hopelessly honest person, while a Pollyanna is an incredibly hopeful person, the incurable optimist. Cassandras are often disparaged as "nattering nabobs of negativism/negativity," instead of being looked upon as prophetic realists, while Pollyannas are deservedly dismissed as the "pandering puppies of positivity/positivism." To wit, this wondrously self-satirical clip pitting Marc Faber's doom-and-gloom reality with Becky Quick's boom-and-boom status quo.
The developed world’s Ponzi scheme is caused by record-high levels of public and private debt. As Boston Consulting Group notes, it is exacerbated by huge unfunded liabilities that will be impossible to pay off owing to long-term changes in developed-world demographics. Addressing these challenges at any time would be difficult. To make matters even worse, however, BCG points out that they come at a moment when the developed world’s traditional model of economic growth appears to be broken. This is partly a consequence of the Ponzi scheme itself. The underlying issues cannot be ignored any longer. The developed world faces a day of reckoning. It is time to act. In this excellent layman's guide to the the real world, not only does BCG explain the Ponzi, but they lay out ten critical steps that developed economies must take to definitively end the era of Ponzi finance. Some are sacrifices required of various stakeholders. Others are new social investments, both public and private, that are needed in order to return to a sustainable growth path.