Any internal memo that is distributed on the last day of the week, and intercepted by American Banker at 5pm on a Friday, must surely be a portent of many good news for the bank which recently added a few trillion in derivative "assets" to match its OpCo deposit pool "liability". We can only hope that as a result of the restructuring, the company's retail banking website will no longer mysteriously crash following announcements of gratuitous debit card fees. Then again, any BofA announcement that has the following sentence in it, "remember, we have the best franchise, capabilities, and customer base in the industry" confirms that the level of mass delusion is unfixable, and that the website will most certainly be the first to go once the bank's $1 trillion in deposits realize they are the first line of defense to just a few extra trillion in derivative contracts.
Just when one thought the oversold status of the all important Euro (by way of the market defining EURUSD) may have peaked and short covering resumed, we once again find that the technical reason (not to be confused with the fundamental one which has to do with EUR repatriation by French banks) why the EUR continues to melt up, and drag all 1.000 correlated assets along with it, is that after a brief retracement in mega bearish exposure in the currency as of last week, bearish sentment once again returned, and after 8,902 net short non-commercial contracts were covered in the weekend ended October 11, the subsequent most recent week saw another 3,925 net shorts added according to the CFTC's COT report, bringing net short exposure back to near 2011 'highs' at -77,720 contracts. This is, to put it mildly, disturbing, because while stock pundits look at NYSE short interest, in this day and age of ultra low volume and liquidity algo trading, the only real transaction occur on the uber-levered margin: i.e., the EURUSD, where one pip delta translates in roughly 2 DJIA points. But it is explicitly disturbing because while the EURUSD has just closed at 1.39, or the highest (resistance) level since early September when the pair broke down, the net short interest now is well over double when the EURUSD first traded at this level.
From my recent conversations with emerging market portfolio managers, it is becoming quite clear that the enthusiasm investors had placed in Brazil as a domestic growth story earlier in the year is running thin. Buy why is the bloom coming off the rose? Some of the things portfolio managers are saying range from an experienced small-cap Latam buyer who said, “Inflation, Mantega going Don Quixote fighting wars that nobody creates other than themselves with high inflation. There is just no visibility,” to a large global fund manager who said, “I am in Brazil this week, it’s slowing down here for sure...” Banco Fator head of equity research Lika Takahashi made some very insightful comments this morning on this topic. In her view, there are couple of factors. First off, valuations in Brazil remain high. Especially considering that it’s likely the global slowdown coupled with high inflation domestically will crimp margins going forward, something she believes is not fully priced in yet.
Today was one of those days when the PT lifestyle was... less than glamorous. It took nearly 24-hours of travel dealing with weather delays, in-flight diversions, and mind-numbing airline incompetency... but I've finally arrived to Mongolia. As I write this, it's a balmy -7 Celsius (19F) outside. Despite the terrible weather, I'm excited to spend the next several days here sniffing around a few private placements and hopefully having some killer barbecue. More on Mongolia next week, let's move on to this week's questions. First, Jennifer asks, "Simon, you've been writing a lot lately about the prospect of social unrest in the developed world, including the US. You suggest that international diversification is a great way to protect against this threat. But if there's social unrest in the US, won't there be total chaos everywhere else?" Not by a long shot. I'll explain--
Slowly even those staunchest critics of reality, namely undercapitalized and insolvent French banks, are coming to grips with the truth that they are going to see massive losses on their tens of billions of French debt exposure. The FT reports that the French stock market regulator has told French banks to apply realistic assumptions to their Greek debt haircuts. Because through today, French banks only used the 21% agreed upon haircut at the July 21 (and even that number is likely greatly overstated). So where are Greek bonds trading now? Oh about 30 cents on the dollar (70% haircut) , which means at the end of the day French banks will see about three time more losses on Greek holdings than provisioned. And the market, which is not all that stupid, knows this and has been punishing French banks. This is precisely what regulators are trying to avoid. The problem, as is well known courtesy of daily fruitless discussions between Sarkozy and Merkel, is that "French banks have more cross-border exposure to Greece than any other country, mainly through subsidiaries owned by Crédit Agricole and Société Générale. BNP Paribas holds the most Greek sovereign bonds among private sector investors, with €4bn of exposure...French banks argued that limiting themselves to 21 per cent was justified because trading in Greek government debt was so subdued, making market prices unreliable." Uh, what? Those billions in Greek bond volumes, where the 1 year yields 184% in dozens of daily trades, are "subdued" and "unreliable?" Why not just buy the bonds then and take advantage of the illiquid arb then? What's that? Crickets? Oh ok. In the meantime, what is certain is that after the ECB, France is the country most exposed to a Greek admission of reality (even truncated, assuming a 60% haircut which is still generous). Which of course confirms, once again, our thesis that the only source of EURUSD stability in the past two weeks have been French banks liquidating assets, and using the feedback loop of rising asset prices from FX EUR repatriation to sell even more to a willing market.
Berlusconi Screws Over The Wrong Person: ECB Shake Up Imminent Following Big French-Italian Relations SNAFU?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/21/2011 - 14:00
Just when one thought the Italian PM could not possibly come up with yet another massive SNAFU, he does it once again. This time however he may have screwed over the wrong (non-underage) person. Last night, after the FT had previously leaked (incorrectly once again) that the Italian head would pick ECB executive Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to head the Bank of Italy following Mario Draghi's departure to head the ECB, Berlusconi instead chose a relatively unknown Ignazio Visco to head the Italian Central Bank. The move, while largely symbolic as it hardly matters who is in charge of the Italian bank but is of great import from a "national pride" perspective, managed to infuriate French leader Nicholas Sarkozy, who had previously made it clear he would advance his support of incoming ECB head, former Goldmanite and current Bank of Italy head, Mario Draghi, only if Bini Smaghi would be pulled and his seat would be vacated to allow a Frenchman to enter the ECB. That did not happen. So with the latest faux pas out of Berlusconi, he is now poised to destabilize not only Italian-French relations, but the percevied stability of the ECB if the Frenchman decides to make it an issue vis-a-vis his support of the incoming President. All in all, this is yet another reminder of the total and utter chaos that dominates Europe every single day. And somehow the broad public is supposed to believe that Europe can come up with a solution to an insolvable math problem...
To know what is wrong with the Federal Reserve, one must first understand the nature of money. Money is like any other good in our economy that emerges from the market to satisfy the needs and wants of consumers. Its particular usefulness is that it helps facilitate indirect exchange, making it easier for us to buy and sell goods because there is a common way of measuring their value. Money is not a government phenomenon, and it need not and should not be managed by government. When central banks like the Fed manage money they are engaging in price fixing, which leads not to prosperity but to disaster.
Talk about launching ESM early and in conjunction with EFSF has helped the market rally. On Page 1, the ESM will have an effective lending capacity of 500 billion (footnote 2) During the transition from EFSF to ESM, the combined lending capacity will not exceed this amount. Somone better ask Finland and Slovakia whether they are prepared to fund both? Are stocks as strong as they are because Algo's are good are reading headlines, but suck at finding termsheets and reading them?
Bloomberg has just disclosed a statement from the German Budgetary Committee which is critical to the future shape of the EFSF:
- GERMAN CDU/CSU PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESMAN SCHARLACK SPEAKS ON EFSF
- GERMAN BUDGET COMMITTEE SETS CONDITIONS FOR EFSF LEVERAGING
- BUDGET COMMITTEE SAYS EFSF REPOS MUSTN'T RAISE GUARANTEES
- GERMAN BUDGET COMMITTEE SAYS EFSF LEVERAGING MUST EXCLUDE ECB
So far so good... But this...
- BUDGET COMMITTEE SAYS EFSF GUARANTEES MUSTN'T EXCEED EU211 BLN
...Is not good. If this is the core guarantees that can be levered up to 5x assuming a 20% first loss guarantee, it means barely $1 trillion can be insured. This is nowhere near enough to backstop the just noted €1.7 trillion in future debt rolls, not to mention the €X billion in bank recaps. It also means that a French downgrade, with S&P noted earlier is contingent on the country not falling into recession, an event which even Goldman has said previously is assured, would put the full weight of the European rescue squarely on the shoulders of Germany.
It's time to forget about Europe's headlines for 15 minutes and refresh what is really going on in Europe, and why European leaders are scrambling day to day to come up with a solution to what is ultimately an intractable problem. Technically, the problem, as explained below, is manifested in three distinct symptoms, which exist in a self-referencing feedback loop that amplifies good input signals when times are good, and incremental debt is ample, and vice versa, or become a toxic spiral where one problem is amplified in the other two, when the system is caught in a deflationary spiral, until the entire system is threatened by collapse. The three "problems" are summarized best in a chart by Morgan Stanley's Huw Van Steenis (see below) in what we have dubbed the "Triangle of Terror" - these are i) Bank Solvency, ii) Sovereign Stress, and iii) Bank Funding Stress...Yet the core problem at the very heart of European instability, is nothing more than, you guessed it, excess debt, €1.7 trillion worth of it to be precise: this is how much debt has to be rolled over the next 3 years, and also explains the magical €2 trillion number needed for the EFSF as only something that big can i) backstop the debt roll and ii) insure the needed bank recap, which in reality needs more like €400 billion but that is the topic of a different post. And without the abovementioned support pillars of bank solvency, funding and sovereign stress being address and fixed, in a credible manner and at the same time, this debt will not be able to roll, and effectively lead to systemic European insolvency. And that, in a nutshell, is what the issues facing Europe are. Everything else is headlines, smoke and mirrors.
The ongoing squeeze in US equities, evident in the significant outperformance of the most-shorted-name indices from Goldman relative to market indices, continues to keep domestic wealth effects ticking along nicely while US credit and European equity and credit markets do not seem to have got the same memo. While this rally, seemingly predicated on the fact that Europe 'get's it' finally (and admittedly some talking head chatter about the number of earnings beats - which we argue is useless given previous discussions of the wholesale downgrading of expectations heading into earnings), the US equity market is the only market to have made new highs this week, is outperforming its credit peers in the US (which is simply ignorant given HY's relative cheapness if this was a risk-on buying spree), and most wonderfully - is hugely outperforming the European financials, European sovereigns, European IG and HY credit, and European equities. Did US equities become the new safe-haven play of the world? Perhaps this week, but we suspect that won't end well - at least from the experience of the last decade or so.
Visualizing The True Cost Of The First Bank Bailout: $3.5 Trillion And Rising At Over $1 Trillion Every YearSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/21/2011 - 11:09
In his latest letter to clients (which we will present shortly), Diapason's Sean Corrigan has one chart that explains beyond a shadow of a doubt what the true cost of the (First) Great Financial Crisis, the failure of Lehman, and the bailout of the US financial sector, is. The premise is ridiculously simple: the chart below compares the trendline of US debt before and after the Lehman from September 2008, and the rescue of everyone else who unlike Dick Fuld, was in Hank Paulson's good graces. What is immediately obvious is that US debt is currently $3.5 trillion higher than where it would be had America's banks not received a rescue. That is Sean's conclusion. It is however incomplete. The truth is that this is a proportional increase which if extrapolated into the future, means that every year the US will incur well over $1.2 trillion each and every year as a result of bailing out the banks. That is the true cost to Americans regardless of what Tim Geithner may claim. But note how we said First. Unfortunately, the Second Great Financial Crisis, that of bailing out insolvent sovereigns, is currently and process. And when all is said and done, the global cost in terms of new "trendline" debt will be many more trillions in incremental debt every year. And despite what economic voodoo theories say, near infinite debt always ends in near infinite pain. It will this time too. Guaranteed.
We wish there was something tangible we could attribute the sudden surge in the E-Mini S&P contract to, but we can't. This is just the latest repeat of the hope as an upside catalyst thesis. Oh, and QE3 of course. We are confident, that unlike all previous times, the market's hope that math does not matter when bailing out insolvent countries, will be justified.