Santiago Capital has put together a concise and highly informative 10 minutes video, which explains in the amount of time that a traditional economics professor takes to prepare their coffee, virtually everything that is at risk, and fundamentally flawed, with the current monetary system. While this presentation will not be news to regular readers, we suggest it is watched with recent revelations elsewhere (certainly not here: this has been the default assumption here since day one), that it is flow, not stock that matters to price formation. Which means the exponential curve discussed below will only get ever steeper to asymptote, if the true purpose of the Fed is simply to ramp stocks come hell or high water, in its artificial pursuit of "price stability."
Amid the fourth heaviest volume of the year, Apple shares fell over 4% today - its largest single-day drop in six months (and largest two-day drop in 23 months) and GOOG also fell over 3%. This dragged the NASDAQ down but the S&P 500 (which was implicitly hurt by this major underperformance) managed to survive with relatively minimal damage close-to-close as the EUR repatriation drove TSY yields up and the USD down with correlations doing the rest to support stocks. Heavier volume and trade size came in as ES (the S&P 500 e-mini future) slid notably into the close though - almost 10pts off its afternoon highs and over 1% off its day-session opening levels (which were the highs). USD weakness accelerated rapidly after the European close - quite evenly distributed across all the majors but EUR weighed heavily as it retraced most of Friday's losses. The USD selling stopped around 130pm ET. The USD weakness supported some recovery from early weakness in commodities but the second largest compression in Brent-WTI in 16 months to around $15 - led by Brent more than WTI - on the Seaway reversal date being brought forward, was the biggest news in commodities. Silver ended unch and gold down modestly. Credit outperformed stocks on the day (and from open-to-close) but this seems as much credit-equity index arb as credit remains notably weaker. HYG stayed in sync with SPY today after we first noted the convergence on Friday (following the April asset allocation shift). After rallying early, Treasuries stabilized through the USD selling frenzy immediately post-European close but as the USD stabilized in the late afternoon (and AUD weakened) so Treasuries were oddly sold off (along with stocks) ending the day basically unchanged (after being lower by 4-5bps before the US open). VIX closed unchanged after opening lower and pushing to well over 20% at its worst - as 19% seemed to support it as we rallied in the afternoon. ES tested above its 50DMA once again and closed back below it on a relatively heavy day with very low average trade size.
Correction: the Gundlach call is tomorrow. We got a little ahead of ourselves. We will bring this post back tomorrow after the close.
DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach (whose AUM is now well into the $30 billion area - a scorching ascent for the former TCW manager) will host a live call at 4:15 PM Eastern today, on the ever so salient topic (if somewhat regurgitated soundbite) of whether "To QE3 or Not To QE3: That is the question." As is traditional, Gundlach will accept questions from the audience. And as always, lots of very interesting tangential info to be gleaned from one of the truly objective and original thinkers out there.
Slowly but surely, the Spanish authorities are gradually socializing the rest of the world to the dismal truth that we have been so vociferously arguing - that their debt levels (or more specifically their debt/GDP ratios) are significantly higher (explicitly) than their current official data suggest. Today's news, via the WSJ, that the Spanish government may take over some regions' finances, in an attempt to shore up investor confidence (just as Ireland did with its banks and we know how well that worked out?) is yet another step closer to the 'realization' that all that is "contingent" is actually "explicitly guaranteed." As we noted here, this leaves Spain's Debt/GDP nearer 135% than its 'official' 68.5%. The WSJ notes comments from a top government official that "there will soon be new tools to control regional spending" and that they may take over at least one of the country's cash-strapped regions this year. As we broke down extensively here, this is no surprise as yet another group of political elite find the truth harder to deal with than the blinkered optimism they face the media with every day and yet as PM Rajoy notes "Nobody can expect that deep-seated problems be solved in just a few weeks", the irony of the euphoria felt around the world at the optical rally in Spanish spreads for the first few months of the year is not lost as Spain heads back into the abyss ahead of pending auctions and what appears to be more ponzified guarantees of regional finances (as long as they promise to pay it back and have 'a plan'). The simple truth is, as acknowledged by Rajoy, Spain has lost the trust of financial markets.
Gallup Finds Obama, Romney In Dead Heat As Daily Tracking Begins, With Independents Leaning Toward GOPSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/16/2012 - 14:05
Now that the GOP primary is essentially over, and Mitt Romney is set, for better or worse, to be the Republican frontrunner, Gallup has launched its daily tracking poll to keep an eye on each one's presidential prospects. Not surprisingly, the result is a dead heat. "Mitt Romney is supported by 47% of national registered voters and Barack Obama by 45% in the inaugural Gallup Daily tracking results from April 11-15. Both Obama and Romney are supported by 90% of their respective partisans." What is curious is that "The crucial voting bloc of independents breaks toward Romney by 45% to 39%, giving the GOP challenger his slight overall edge." So will Obama now be forced to make a moderate push to attract what will likely be the critical voter constituency in November? We will find out over the next few months.
The time has come to raise the 'noise' level for global markets to Defcon 3 as Clive Hale, of View from the Bridge, discusses his four largest stressors currently. Instead of going 'hmmm' as Grant Williams regularly does, Hale is screaming 'aaargh' as he sees Japanese radioactivity uncertainty, market manipulation, the main-stream media's anaesthetising propaganda, and finally the euro (that last lingering but fatally flawed bastion of european union) plethora problems all increasingly weighing on global macro concerns.
While it is not unusual for everyone's favorite truth-seeker in Chicago to cut to the chase and simplify the over-complex world of data and nuance that is thrust upon us day after day, CNBC's Rick Santelli outdoes himself today. Initially addressing the retail sales and housing data dichotomy, Rick jumps above the noise of day-to-day data and focuses on what is critical - in his view - the weather and the debt. If only he had used the term "It's the debt stupid" as it would have made for better headlines but the clip below should help anyone and everyone decide on whether this dip is for buying or fading/waiting. In the end, Santelli notes, "It is simple. There are questions about weather and questions about debt. First one we'll know more about in the next two or three months. [For the] latter, we'll have to look toward our neighbors in Europe to see how it ultimately turns out and see if our political class is going to do a better job than the European bureaucracies."
Back in October, there were those who were confused how it was possible that European sovereign bond yields could be exploding to their highest in a decade, even as the EURUSD keep grinding higher. We explained it, and said to prepare for much worse down the road. Sure enough, much worse came, and was promptly forestalled as both the Fed expanded its swap lines and lower the OIS swap rate, and the ECB "begrudgingly" ceded to LTRO 1+2 (that this resulted in nominal price gains was to be expected - after all humans enjoy being fooled when price levels rise when in reality just the underlying monetary base has expanded). But how did the EURUSD spike fit into all this? Simple - FX repatriation. This was explained as follows: "the sole reason for the EUR (and hence S&P and global 100% correlated equity risk) surge in the past 9 days is not driven by any latent "optimism" that Europe will fix itself, but simply due to the previously discussed wholesale asset liquidations (as none other than the FT already noted), which on the margin are explicitly EUR positive due to FX repatriation, courtesy of the post-sale conversion of USDs to EURs. Which means that the ever so gullible equity market has just experienced one of the biggest headfakes in history, and has misinterpreted a pervasive European, though mostly French, scramble to procure liquidity at any cost by dumping various USD-denominated assets, as a risk on signal!" It appears we are now back into liquidation mode, and the higher Euro spread surge, the faster EURUSD will rise as more and more FX is "repatriated." In other words, as back in the fall of 2011, the faster the EURUSD rises, the worstr the true liquidity situation in Europe becomes: a critical regime change, which will naturally fool the algos who assume every spike up in EURUSD is indicative of Risk On, and send ES higher when in reality, the underlying situation is diametrically opposite.
It would appear that the recent renewed excitement down in the Falklands was indeed the writing on the wall for a nation that is now desperate enough to nationalize foreign entities. Argentina, still unable to access capital markets years after its restructuring appears to be hitting an irrational wall again as its CDS has exploded wider recently, and even more so today with the YPF news, to near 1000bps - its widest in 4 months. Simply put this is not rational in any game-theoretic strategy and is frighteningly indicative of a supreme (irrecoverable) defection from friends-with-benefits status of the world - indicative only of massive internal problems in the South American nation. But do not worry, as Lagarde and her friends will just bring a bigger bag around to the next G-20 meeting as we are sure the IMF's members will have enough money to deal with Argentina AND Europe.
Update 2: SPAIN SEES FIRMS' INTERESTS AS NATIONAL INTEREST, OFFICIAL SAYS; SPAIN ANALYZING RESPONSE TO ARGENTINA OVER YPF, OFFICIAL SAYS. Oops.
Update: TRADING HALT: YPF (NYSE)-NEWS DISSEMINATION. Translation: YPF shareholders - you have been Corzined. The money has vaporized. Jon Corzine has been appointed to the newly formed Argentina based Board of Dictators. Have a nice day
There are those who naively believe that any time the tables turn against a government, that government will quietly sit in the corner and play by the rules as its power erodes to zero. Probably the best example of just this is Executive Order 6102 when FDR, in a country that supposedly honors contract laws, issued Executive Order 6102, which effectively nationalized all private gold, no questions asked. And while we may not be there just yet, we are getting close, as demonstrated by the most recent developments in Argentina, where president Cristina Kirchner asked Congress to "expropriate" oil and gas producer YPF (which is majority owned by Repsol YPF) thereby "allowing the government to share ownership of the company with oil-producing provinces, a spokeswoman for Ms. Kirchner said Monday." What is the pretext for this move formerly associated almost exclusively with lawless, "communist" third world banana republics? Why "hydrocarbon self-sufficiency" of course. How soon until any and every government follows suit in a world in which excess liquidity sloshing around makes expropriation of vital energy producing assets a key prerogative? And how long until the resultant (accelerating) collapse in faith of the monetary system, leads government to declare "monetary self-sufficiency" and confiscate everything that is not nailed down. In exchange for worthless pieces of paper of course. Just to make it "fair". And just to return the favor, the market just sent Argentina CDS up by 60 bps, to just shy of 1000 bps. You know, because it's only "fair."
Since we first suggested in early February that investors should be underweight LTRO-encumbered banks relative to un-encumbered banks, and summarily dismissed Mario Draghi's lies with regard any stigma associated with LTRO loans, the spread has increased from around 50bps to almost 140bps today. The move today has taken LTRO Stigma (the spread between banks that took LTRO loans and those that did not) to the widest it has been since the announcement of the LTRO program. So while financial spreads in absolute terms are not back to their very early January widest levels quite yet - the differentiation between the encumbered and unencumbered is gaping wide. Perhaps this helps to explain why a further indicator of funding stress - the 3Y EUR-USD basis swap - is deteriorating rapidly (at a similar velocity as was seen heading into the crisis epicenter last year) meaning European banks are increasingly willing to pay a higher premium for USD funding - not a sign of a healthy market in any way.
When one thinks PIIGS, one usually imagines countries with collapsing economies, 50%+ youth unemployment, and current account deficits so large they are about to drag down the ECB, Bundesbank and Germany. And while that is absolutely correct for the most part, there is one product which the PIIGS, or in this case Italy, are all too happy to export in size. Gold, and not just to anywhere, but to that ultimate safe haven - Switzerland. From BBC: "Italian exports of gold ingots to Switzerland have soared in recent months, data has shown. Exports to Switzerland were 35.6% higher than in February 2011 "mainly because of sales of non-monetary raw gold", statistics agency Istat said. This followed a 34.6% year-on-year rise in exports to Switzerland in January." And the absolutely funniest attempt at spin ever: "Experts say improvements in the trade deficit could be a sign that Prime Minister Mario Monti's economic reforms are starting to take effect." Uhm, when the country is exporting the only real asset it has for when it will need to backstop its own currency following the inevitable collapse of the EUR, this is not exactly a sign that the country's reforms are taking effect, but rather that everyone else in Europe is stockpiling the precious metal in advance of "some" event, which is coming.
Anyone who bought the 10 year Spanish bond this year is now down money. It does have a 5.85% coupon, so if you bought the prior lows on Jan. 6th, you have earned 1.6% of carry. Anyone else has lost more and not earned as much interest. This bond is bouncing up and down today on no volume, but we think we are very close to levels that could see a mass exodus of stop loss trading on levered positions.
The extent of Obama’s duplicity continues to grow apace. And yes — it’s duplicity. If you can’t or won’t fulfil a promise, don’t make it. From Bloomberg: "Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis." And the hilarious (or perhaps soul-destroying) thing? The size of the banks isn’t even the major issue. AIG didn’t have to be bailed out because of its size; AIG was bailed out because of its interconnectivity. If AIG went down, it would have taken down assets on balance sheets of a great deal more firms, thus perhaps triggering even more failures. So the issue is not size, but systemic interconnectivity. And yes — that too is rising, measured in terms of gross OTC derivatives exposure, as well as the size of the shadow banking system (i.e. pseudo-money created not by lending but by securitisation) — which sits, slumbering, a $35 trillion wall of inflationary liquidity ready to crash down on the global dollar economy.