Notable 2009 performers:
- Paulson Credit: 34%
- York: 45%
- Maverick: 24%
- Moore Global: 22%
- Tudor: 15%
- Brigade: 40%
- Davidson Kempner Distressed: 45%
- Brevan Howard: 19%
The decline in weekly consumer confidence as measured by ABC will not end. From -41 two weeks ago, this number has now fallen a dramatic 8 points to -49. And add another double-dip data point: after being respondents were evenly split between those who think the economy is getting better and those who saw deterioration on December 13, 2009, the spread has surged with 36% now seeing a worsening while those who think things are getting better is now 24% the worst reading since June 2009. People have just about had enough of change they can believe in.
PIMCO Sells $37 Billion In Treasuries, Adds Bunds, MBS And Cash As Total Return Fund Hits Record In DecemberSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/19/2010 - 18:01
Congratulations Bill Gross: PIMCO's flagship Total Return Fund closed December at $202 Billion, representing $70 billion in net inflows, more than the combined inflows of the prior three years. December also saw a curious reshuffling of TRS' portfolio: Gross sold a whopping $34 billion in Treasuries, bringing the total to $64.6 billion from $101.7 billion in November. And while the bond manager surprisngly added $10 billion in MBS (now accounting for 17% of holdings) after selling $95 billion in MBS to the Fed in the previous 10 months, for the first time (probably ever) PIMCO's holdings of Treasuries and MBS accounted for less than half of total holdings. As was previously noted, Bill Gross notably increased his non-US Developed country bond holdings by $22 billion to $32.3 billion, which is a direct result of his recent purchases of German Bunds.
This latest development should surely make for some abnormally entertaining Sprott reports: "Sprott Inc. (TSX: SII) (the "Corporation") is pleased to announce that the Board of Directors has appointed Marc Faber as a director and member of the Audit Committee."
Joseph Mason from Roubini Global Economics has written an interesting analysis of Fed monetary policy, focusing on the Fed Fund rate as the primary tool of economic intervention, in which concludes that the Fed's traditional weapon for moderating the business cycle is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and has reached a point where the traditional central bank arsenal could be considered irrelevant. By analyzing historical data of rate tightening into and during recessions, coupled with loosening interventions, Mason observes that by "reducing rates before recession may both add to the speculative fury that will (eventually) necessitate the (potentially larger) downturn and leaves no room to lower rates in order to address lagging effects like unemployment." If correct, and if the excess reserve phenomenon currently witnessed, which is purely a function of negative implied interest rates per the Taylor rule, is unable to force the economy into a recovery mode, the Fed will be left with absolutely no additional mechanisms to facilitate monetary expansion, resulting in an impotent Federal Reserve, whose only function would then become to fund balance sheet shortfalls at major financial institutions. And if there is a an actual empirical point arguing that the Fed no longer needs to exist, in addition to all the rhetoric we have witnessed over the past year which implicates the Fed as merely a proxy vehicle for banker status quo perpetuation, this could very well be it.
As several pundits already pointed out, today's supposed political regime change (the polls are still not closed) implies that the stimulus spigot may well be closed for the Obama administration, after the Massachusetts "policy no-confidence" slap in the face, on the verge of the President's one year anniversary. What this implies is that the economy at this point could very well be on its own. Just ask Paul Krugman (or any economic skeptic for that matter) what will happen to the U.S. if gobs of money can not be printed out of thin air to support a recovery that as the NAHB data earlier indicated is already heading into a potential double-dip situation. Yet the market is giddy. Let's paraphrase - the equity market is giddy. Credit, oblivious to the 1% pop in stocks, has turned wider once again, with key indices IG and SovX both trending wider for the day. IG 13 was 84.5 bps at last check, 1 basis point wider for the day, and almost 10 bps wider since January 11. Yet equities are almost 1% higher in the same period.
And while credit is certainly spooked by the rise in the dollar, equities once again, continue to trade in a vacuum of the Fed's devices. Which begs the question: does anyone even trade equities anymore?
Bernanke Yields To Pressure, Welcomes "Full Review" Of AIG, Copies Boilerplate Language From Prior TestimonySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/19/2010 - 14:59
Ben Bernanke has yielded to increasing public pressure to finally disclose all the details surrounding the AIG bailout, and in a letter to Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Bernanke said he would welcome a full review of the AIG taxpayer bailout by the GAO and will make available "all records and personnel necessary to conduct this review," emphasizing that a review should give taxpayers "the most complete understanding of our decisions and actions." One wonders why stop at AIG? Why not open up the Fed to a GAO audit on all bank bailout activities undertaken in the period commencing with the GSE nationalization, and culminating with the Lehman bankruptcy. Surely that would provide an ever more "most complete" understanding of just who got what and how much taxpayer capital was put just so Wall Street could enjoy another record bonus season.
The NAHB reported its December housing market index, which came in at 15, missing expectations of a rebound from November's reading of 16, and is now at the low levels last seen in June. The double dip, at least in perceptions of what is happening to the housing market is here, and follows the recent housing starts inflection point.
Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has put together a simple yet comprehensive presentation on a topic Zero Hedge has discussed in the past: how the demographic shift in the US will mirror the spender-to-saver transformation of an aging Japanese society, and as a result lead to an accentuation of the economic crisis into the double-dip phase, should all the artificial , one-time stimulus actions be phased out. For all those who think that a "new normal" with unemployment straddling double digits for years to come will be conducive to growth, think again. And after today's failed referendum on Obama's healthcare policies, America's immediate future will be focused on two simple propositions: [yes/no] on stimulus and [yes/no] on Q.E. 2. Everything else will be smoke and mirrors.
Buy at 1,127, sell at 1,147, turn on reversion algos, throw in some momentum kickers, rinse, repeat, watch the money come in. For the truly creative ones, go long the crappiest companies in the world, and wait for a short-interest covering spree following the most recent Goldman upgrade. In other news, the SEC is concerned about efficient markets.
"Relative to oil, silver could surge 4x from here and it still wouldn’t match the prior high in this relationship over three decades ago. Considering the problems that plague every major currency in the world, from the U.S. dollar, to the Yen, to the Euro, to sterling, and knowing from the McKinsey report that the need to monetize the surge in public debt will be required to cushion the economic blow from what will likely be another 5-6 years of deleveraging in the private sector, and given the much more stable supply outlook for silver (all the low-cost shallow mines on the planet have already been gutted) and where it trades relative to gold, not to mention what little attention the metals grabs and how under-owned it still appears to be, exposure to silver, whether it be in bars, coins, ETFs or mining companies, is likely going to be prove to be a very attractive investment in coming years." - David Rosenberg
The SEC has opened up the public comment section for File No. S7-02-10 "Concept Release on Equity Market Structure" also known as the "Help us because the SEC is hopelessly lost when evaluating the impact of high frequency trading" proposal. As the SEC points out: "This release is intended to facilitate public comment by first giving a basic overview of the legal and factual elements of the current equity market structure and then presenting a wide range of issues for comment. The Commission cautions that it has not reached any final conclusions on the issues presented for comment. The discussion and questions in this release should not be interpreted as slanted in any particular way on any particular issue. The Commission intends to consider carefully all comments and to complete its review in a timely fashion. At that point, it will determine whether there are any problems that require a regulatory initiative and, if so, the nature of that initiative." Most relevantly for Zero Hedge readers, the SEC's response solicitation form is now open and can be found here.
In one week, Tim Geithner will testify before Congress on his involvement in the AIG disclosuregate scandal, which, in late 2008 sought to prevent material information about AIG counterparty make-whole arrangements from seeing the light of day. Of course, in March of 2009, following political pressure, AIG and the FBRNY caved and disclosed that $27 billion in taxpayer capital had been used to yield to the bankers' every whim and to take them out at par, while their underlying AIG CDOs were priced 50% lower, if not more. Zero Hedge previously wondered when will Goldman be approached by the SEC with questions on whether or not they sold their direct AIG protection in the form of CDS to parties under a "big boy" letter, or did Goldman transact on a $2.5 billion notional position while in possession of material, non-public information. This, of course, in addition to having absolutely no impairments on their actual CDOs, thereby providing the firm with material excess returns over and above what their total capital at risk would have been. With Goldman's Stephen Friedman accompanying Geithner in the hearings, he hope that someone in authority will finally ask the right questions. And while they are at it, and have both a Goldman and a New York Fed employee in tow, maybe they can ask why NY Fed Senior Vice President on AIG Relationship Monitoring Steven Manzari told former AIG Financial Services CFO Elias Habayeb to "stand down on all discussions with counterparties on tearing up/unwinding CDS trades on the CDO portfolio."