• Pivotfarm
    04/20/2014 - 17:08
    As the audience went from laughter to applause, Vladimir Putin responded to the question that he had just read out on a televised debate in Russia. What was the question?

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Guest Post: Some Bubble Snapshots And Schizophrenic Five Year Plans

Asset quality is the crux of a bubble. Deteriorating asset quality creates balance sheet mismatches. Just as investors “reach for yield”, the first banks in on low quality loans show strong returns, so the whole banking sector joins in. Thus an imperfect indicator of declining asset quality is a high loans/total assets ratio. Vulnerability happens when loans season and NPLs creep up. Then banks need cash. When they don’t provision for losses you get a meltdown. China, Korea, and India have extremely low capital provisioning for this contingency. The Korean consumer sector looks shaky, although corporate balance sheets are much stronger and contribute to the high deposits to GDP in the first chart. A lot of Korean valuations are sky high and ready for a long drop. While the balance of loan growth, customer deposit growth, and capital to assets in India doesn’t look good, India is not as “financialized” to the same extent as the other countries. Because of this, it is less susceptible to deleveraging fire-sales and also rides a long term trend of financial system growth. Frankly, Indian risk started rolling over a while ago anyway. China deserves some attention. Flare-ups in Chinese social tension are a function of inflation. There are steps to it...



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The Great QE Unwind Compression Trade(s)

Now that the market is finally starting to digest the end of QE2 (if not yet pricing in the inevitable transition to QE3), investors are wondering where the most violent "regression to the mean" snapback will occur. And whereas many talk about the dispersion between equities and commodities and speculate about this and that compression trade, the truth is that within equities themselves there is far greater dispersion between one of 9 traditional equity sectors. To wit, as the first chart below demonstrates, since the Jackson Hole confirmation of QE2, energy stocks have outperformed utilities by an 4x order of magnitude. An almost as pronounced dispersion can be observed between financials and industrials/consumer discretionary stocks. For those who believe that the market still has to price in the end of quantitative easing part 2 (and ignore the inevitable roll out of QEx), a compression trade which involves a long Utilities/Fins and short Energy/Industrials/Consumer Discretionary would seem quite appropriate. There is however one caveat. If the market, in its traditional stupidity and irrationality, proceeds to go ahead an unwind not only the impact of QE2 but go all the way back to QE1, than the compression cohorts change drastically. While utilities are once again the worst performing sector since March 2009, and bested just barely by healthcare and consumer staples, financials are by and far the best peforming sector, having returned over 150% in the past 2 years, with consumer retail and industrials following behind. Thus, it probably makes sense to avoid any long Financial leg and focus purely on Utilities and Consumer Staples as the long led in a compression trade, while shorting Industrials and Consumer Discretionary, leaving Financials alone (John Paulson's projections of Bank of America hitting $30/share by the end of 2011 notwithstanding).



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Guest Post: Indiana Supreme Court Dispenses With Magna Carta, Constitution

Constitution toilet paper Indiana Supreme Court dispenses with Magna Carta, ConstitutionOn June 10, 1215 AD, after prolonged rebellion and frustrating negotiation, a group of England’s most influential barons entered London to force the disastrous King John Softsword into accepting a revolutionary charter of individual freedoms. Five days later in the Runnymede meadow of Surrey County, John affixed his royal seal onto what became known as the Magna Carta. It still exists on the books today in England and Wales. This document was one of the more important antecedents to the US Constitution; its proclamations ended the absolutism of England’s monarchy and spelled out very clear rights and freedoms, including, among others, the right of a man to enjoy his private property without trespass from government officials. Over 550 years later, the framers of the Constitution codified this right in the 4th Amendment to be secure in one’s private property. Last week, the Indiana Supreme Court effectively rejected both documents in two separate cases.



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Complete Paulson Q1 Holdings Breakdown, And How Soros Sold His Gold... Two Months Ago

Below is a chart summarizing all the moves in the Paulson & Co. just released 13F. The total equity AUM increased to $34.6 billion, pushing the hedge fund further into mutual fund territory. The key addition in the fund was 25 million shares in Hewlett Packard, or roughly $1 billion, a position which is since at least 3% underwater. Other key additions included 17.3 million shares in Transocean (a 240% increase), which made the total stake worth nearly $2 billion and is now the 3rd largest Paulson holding, and make the fund the firm's largest holder: a move most likely predicated by expectations of an acquisition. Of course, RIG has been no stranger to the M&A/LBO arena, and should crude drop further, this could be another largely wrong way bet. Other major additions included a 6 million share stake in Lubrizol, and a $780 million new stake in Weyerhaeuser, in keeping with the fund's recent addition of paper stocks. In that vein, Paulson also added $353 million worth of Smurfit-Stone: a new position, and added 10 million shares to his holding of International Paper. Gold continues to be the fund's largest exposure: GLD, for the gold denominated share class (unchanged), and at number 2 Anglogold Ashanti, at $2 billion. Just like Tepper, Paulson reduced his holdings of Citi, Bank of America and SunTrust. The firm cut its entire holding of Alcoa, Pfizer, Del Monte, McAfee and Walter Energy.



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Guest Post: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Part 3

The economic peril that we find ourselves confronted with, has been ninety-eight years in the making. The confluence of debt, demographics, delusion, and denial has left the country at the precipice of annihilation. There are two kinds of people in the world, those who control the money and those that are controlled by those who control the money. The last century has been marked by a methodical looting of the good (working middle class) by the bad (Federal Reserve & bankers) and supported by the ugly (Washington D.C. politicians). When historians pinpoint the year in which the Great American Empire began its downward spiral they will conclude that year to be 1913. In this dark year for the Republic, slimy politicians, at the behest of the biggest bankers in the country, created a private central bank that has since controlled the currency of the United States. This same Congress staked their claim as the most damaging group of politicians in US history by passing the personal income tax in the same year. These two acts unleashed the two headed monster of inflation and taxation on the American people.



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Hewlett-Packard Predicts "Another Tough Quarter" In Internal Memo, Warns Of Layoffs, Profit Margins

Wondering what is causing the quicksand under HP stock after hours? Nothing more and nothing less than what we have been predicting, namely that on its public call had such a bullish outlook on the economy, has been warning internally of that another "tough quarter" is coming. "The company’s existing headcount plans are “unaffordable given the pressures on our business,” Apotheker wrote in the May 4 memo to deputies including Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the personal systems business, and Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak. The memo was obtained by Bloomberg. “Q3 is going to be another tough quarter, one in which we will be driving hard for revenue and profit,” Apotheker wrote. “We have absolutely no room for profitless revenue or any discretionary expenditures." And now the deluge of real, and very much deferred profit warnings, is about to hit Wall Street like a redirected Mississippi river.



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Tepper Gives Up On Fins, Cuts Stakes In Citi, Bank Of America, Wells Fargo, GM; Adds Apple, Valero, MetLife

So much for the financial stock renaissance. David "Balls to the Wall" Tepper appears to have played out his QE card, and at least in the quarter ended March 31, decided to dump a substantial portion of his financial holdings, cutting his stake in Bank of America, Citi and Wells Fargo by 31.3%, 34.8% and 58.6% respectively. Tepper also appears to have lost his faith in GM, trimming his holdings from over a million shares to just 38,700 shares. On the additions side, Tepper did add 200,000 shares of Apple, his biggest new position, followed by a new $76 million Valero Energy position and a new $67 million MetLife holding. Based on this report we fail to see Tepper as showing up on CNBC for another Tepper rally iteration any time soon.



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Weekly Insider Buying And Selling: $2.8 Million In Purchases; $1 Billion In Sales

There was once a rule of thumb that insider selling over 20x in any given period is bearish. We would be overly generous and say bearish is 30x, no 50x, oh why not: 100x more sellers than buyers. So what does a ratio of 351.3x sellers to buyers indicate? Because this according to Bloomberg is last week's insider activity in S&P500 names in the past week. Indeed, in the past week insiders purchased a total of $2.75 million notional in corporate stock, across 13 different companies, with the bulk focusing on Mead Johnson and Comcast. This was offset by a whopping $1 billion + in insider sales, as corporate officers couldn't wait to dump MetroPCS ($151 million), Sara Lee ($133 million), and, surprise, Microsoft ($127 million). Compare this to last week's insider purchases of just over $1 million and sales of $650 million and make your own conclusions.



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Eric Sprott Discusses Silver's Prospects And Last Week's Raid With Max Keiser

Eric Sprott, who according to some catalyzed the initial move lower in silver following his sale of PSLV units, to be followed by a bullish clarification that he transferred all proceeds into other silver holdings, was on Max Keiser late last week in an interview that anyone interested in the silver market should listen to. Among the key summary highlights: "I will be a buyer of silver today. I will be a buyer of silver tomorrow. We have not lost any faith in what has happened to silver." As for what happened with that instantaneous $6 dollar drop in silver on May 1: "In my mind it was just one of those raids that we experience from time to time. There was no particular reason for it. And then we end up with 5 margin rate increases. It just reeks of someone manipulating the price of silver down. I have no fear of silver here. Yes it will be parabolic, but it's going to be way more parabolic than what we have today... I believe that gold today is the de facto reserve currency. It's outperformed everything for 11 years. Silver has always been a currency, people are now treating it as a currency, and it's a very, very small market. There is no way that with roughly $50 billion of silver inventory around that we can make it a currency, so I see the price going much higher." And on the ridiculous recent trading volume in silver: "One of the things we should look at is the trading of silver in the paper markets, I mean the Comex and the SLV. Last week it averaged 1.2 billion ounces per day. There is only 700 million ounces mined in a year. There is only 33 million ounces of physical silver that is available for delivery by the commercial shorters. If something like 3% of the people that were trading silver in one day demanded physical delivery, there would be no silver on the Comex.... The key market is the physical market. I don't think this raid is going to work." Much more on Sprott's views of the silver raid and the silver market in general in the full interview.



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Guest Post: Our Peculiar State Of Suspended Animation

The U.S. is in a peculiar state of suspended animation: nothing is actually moving, we're all frozen in an extended moment of disbelief, denial and crisis, waiting for something to finally break loose. We know the present isn't sustainable, but we go through the motions of phony "reforms" and "trimming the deficit" as if another 1,000 pages of "reforms" will fix what's broken in the economy or that trimming $50 billion from $1.7 trillion annual deficits will actually matter. The wheels visibly fell off the bubble-debt-fraud economy four years ago in mid-2007. It's worth recalling that the U.S. won a global war (World War II) in less than four years, yet now we are pleased to borrow and and squander an extra $1 trillion a year just to keep our fragile state of suspended animation from being disrupted by unpleaseant reality. In a nutshell, here's the reality: the entire "prosperity" of the past decade was a false prosperity, constructed entirely of money borrowed by the private sector based on the rising value of McMansions and strip-malls that made no sense except as speculations based on the Federal Reserve's credit-bubble policies and Wall Street's systemic financialization of that debt based on fraud and misrepresentation of risk.



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Paul Ryan Speaks On The "Catastrophic Trajectory" Of US Debt

I’ll come to the point. Despite talk of a recovery, the economy is badly underperforming. Growth last quarter came in at just 1.8 percent. We’re not even creating enough jobs to employ new workers entering the job market, let alone the six million workers who lost their jobs during the recession. The rising cost of living is becoming a serious problem for many Americans. The Fed’s aggressive expansion of the money supply is clearly contributing to major increases in the cost of food and energy. An even bigger threat comes from the rapidly growing cost of health care, a problem made worse by the health care law enacted last year. Most troubling of all, the unsustainable trajectory of government spending is accelerating the nation toward a ruinous debt crisis. This crisis has been decades in the making. Republican administrations, including the last one, have failed to control spending. Democratic administrations, including the present one, have not been honest about the cost of the tax burden required to fund their expansive vision of government. And Congresses controlled by both parties have failed to confront our growing entitlement crisis. There is plenty of blame to go around. Years of ignoring the drivers of our debt have left our nation’s finances in dismal shape. In the coming years, our debt is projected to grow to more than three times the size of our entire economy. This trajectory is catastrophic.



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No, Actually Bill Gross IS Short Treasurys

In the funniest piece of news today, we have Bill Gross accusing a "blogger" of spreading misinformation that Pimco, and especially the firm's Total Return Fund is short Treasurys, in order to defend himself from CNBC that he is underperforming the market in the current bond rally (somehow Roswell flying saucers got mixed up too). While it is unfortunate that Gross will actually not man up and tell the truth (and yes, you can be off by a month or a year in what is a correct call Bill - there is no shame in that, and you certainly don't have to defend your view to a bunch of teleprompter reading CNBC marionettes). Well, guess what: PIMCO is short Treasury, as disclosed by both Market Value and Duration Weighted Exposure. And while one can hide, if one so desires for disgruntled LP purposes, behind semantics, and Gross can say he is not notionally short cash Treasurys, he most certainly has a sizable synthetic short exposure. Those who actually wish to do the forensic analysis on the April TRF portfolio, will not that that his duration of the various sectors shows he is selling some long dated swaps/swaptions to obtain his negative US Govt exposure given his market value of govt holdings was -9,628 MM, dollar duration was -189,340 resulting in an avg duration of 19.7 yrs. And while HY exposure has been moving out the maturity spectrum as well, from 2.6 yrs to 3.0 yrs to 3.4 yrs, his cash has grown shorter from 5.6 yrs to 4.3 yrs to 4.0 yrs over the past 3 months. Perhaps next time anyone interviewing Gross will ask something more substantial than textbook "finance for retards/CNBC anchors" questions and demand an answer from the bond titan just how many hundreds of billions in UST short equivalent eurodollar notionals he has on his books? And while we wish we had an updated TRF holding (the last one is as of December 31, 2010), even using even stale data, we find that at the end of 2010 TRF had $608.3 billion in Net Futures held SHORT (link), and $588 billion in Eurodollar positions, which is precisely where his marginal synthetic rate bias/exposure is contained. Yes. This is a short equivalent position.



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SocGen On A Chinese Slowdown: Buy China CDS, Sell Hard Commodities

Following last week's news that as we suggested US stagflation is starting to shift to China, SocGen's Patrick Legland looks at the consequences of what a Chinese slowdown in H2 would look like for the country, and the world. Cutting to the chase: buy Chinese CDS, and sell hard commodities. That said, the risks to the global economy, should China implode, are far vaster, and we fail to conceive how the central planning cartel would ever allow this to happen, or the PBoC for that matter, considering today's earlier news of not one but two failed Chinese auctions.



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No Bail For DSK, Next Court Hearing May 20

As Daily Telegraph reporter Jon Swaine notes via Twitter, DSK has been denied bail, and has been remanded to stay in custody until the next grand jury hearing which is due for May 20. Looks like DSK will now be mugshotted and stay in jail for 4 days. And so the IMF continues to be headed by a man about to spend 72 hours in prison.



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Full Complaint Against DSK Released, Detailing Allegation Of Forced Oral And Anal Sex, And Much More

ABC has released the details of the full complaint issued against DSK: "International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegedly forced a New York City hotel housekeeper to perform oral sex and submit to anal sex, in addition to allegedly attempting to rape her, according to a complaint filed today by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The complaint charges him with two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of attempted rape, sexual abuse in the first degree, unlawful imprisonment, sexual abuse in the third degree and forcible touching. The complaint is a terse charging document, less than a full page in length. It charges that he forcibly touched the housekeeper's breasts, attempted to pull off her panty hose, twice "forcibly made contact with his penis and the informant's mouth" and that "the defendant engaged in oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct with another person by forcible compulsion."



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