While we have heard a lot from Jim Grant recently - all pointedly correct and substantial - today marked the pinnacle of propaganda-brinksmanship. Explaining to Maria B just why the world in which she lives, Bernanke-lovers-all, is nothing but a hall of mirrors - a fake mirage - of the true reality thanks to central bank repression of all that we know about risk and return. "By changing interest rates, central banks change the perception of every asset class - so what seems cheap may not be cheap" as Grant notes that when you can fund investment at 0%, we are collectively being manipulated and moreover should try to realize - as an investing public - that we are Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Of course the 75% of professional investors who believe Bernanke is doing a great job would prefer to stay inside the fake reality where their bonuses get paid and leveraged tranche losses get soaked up by some account transfer from the fed or loan loss provisioning adjustment - for the rest of us - wake up and smell the unreality. The money-honey pulls the blame and deflect card - noting the ECB are just as bad - but Grant brings her back to the reality that we are facing as he suggests being in the crowd who own Treasuries and Bunds when the next risk flare occurs will not end as well as many hope, preferring gold (and gold stocks) as a hedge as "The Gold move is not over".
There are a lot of moving parts in the Dismal tale of Dimon's demise... Iksil' large size in the market left a mark that hedge funds tried to fix - that was his index trading was making the index extremely rich (expensive) relative to intrinsics (fair-value). That is where the media picked up the story and as we detail below leads us to today. Attempts to hedge his over-hedged positions and/or unwind them impacted the market too much and we suspect created the need for today's admission of guilt. And so, we find ourselves with - net CDS/CDO notionals remain huge (and implicitly on JPM's shoulders), his very recent lack of selling has left the credit index maybe 20bps rich to where it might trade given its rough correlation with the S&P 500 and this would imply at least $3bn of losses already in addition at fair-value. Of course, the situation is far worse because 1) any efforts to unwind such a huge position will lead to the market yawning wide and swallowing him in illiquid bid-ask spreads; and 2) the rest of the world knows their position - so why would the hedge funds not push their position. Note, it is not the instrument that caused this - it is the trader as "you don't hedge risk when you bet on momentum continuing you idiot!"
A month ago we warned that JPM's CIO office is nothing short of the world's largest prop trading desk. Not only were we right, but what just transpired is just shy of our worst possible prediction. At the end of the day, the real question is why did JPM put in so much money at risk in a prop trade because we can dispense with the bullshit that his was a hedge, right? Simple: because it knew with 100% certainty that if things turn out very, very badly, that the taxpayer, via the Fed, would come to its rescue. Luckily, things turned out only 80% bad. Although it is not over yet: if credit spreads soar, assuming at $200 million DV01, and a 100 bps move, JPM could suffer a $20 billion loss when all is said and done. But hey: at least "net" is not "gross" and we know, just know, that the SEC will get involved and make sure something like this never happens again.
The last time a French trader delivered a bomb this big (Jerome Kerviel), the Fed cut the discount rate by 75 bps. As for this particular Frenchman, his best epitaph is his Bloomberg profile page. Recall:
"Chuck is french ; champion of 'kick it', walking over water and humble.. yes"
You can now add "fired." Oh, and it is all Egan Jones' fault of course, who downgraded JPM on April 13, while all the other rating agencies were posturing for the highest possible bribe to keep their mouths shut.
JPM Crashing After It Convenes Emergency Call To Advise Of "Significant Mark-To-Market" Losses In Bruno Iksil/CIO GroupSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/10/2012 - 15:50
Out of nowehere, JPM announced 40 minutes ago that it would hold an unscheduled 5pm call to coincide with the release of its 10-Q. Rumors were swirling as to why. The reason is as follows:
- JPMORGAN SAYS CIO UNIT HAS SIGNIFICANT MARK-TO-MARKET LOSSES - "Fortress balance sheet" at least until Bruno Iskil gets done with it.
- JPMORGAN SAYS LOSSES ARE IN SYNTHETIC CREDIT PORTFOLIO - but, but, net is NEVER, EVER Gross.
- JPM WOULD NEED $971M ADDED COLLATERAL IF RATINGS CUT ONE-NOTCH
- JPM WOULD NEED $1.7B ADDED COLLATERAL IF RATINGS CUT 2 NOTCHES - how about three notches?
- JPMORGAN: MAY HOLD SOME SYNTHETIC CREDIT POSITIONS LONG TERM - "Level 3 CDS FTW"
- "As of March 31, 2012, the value of CIO's total AFS securities portfolio exceeded its cost by approximately $8 billion"
As a reminder, the CIO unit is where Bruno Iksil was making $200 billion-sized bets. Basically JPM has suffered massive losses at its CIO group most likely due to its IG/HY positions held by Iksil.
With the need for exponentially larger expansions of the central bank balance sheets - and most importantly, the rate of expansion (flow) not just the size (stock) - we thought it useful to see just how the Fed's actions had impacted the S&P 500. From the lows in March 2009, 1150 S&P points have been 'created-or-saved' thanks to central bank largesse. That is a cost of $2 billion (not million!) for every S&P 500 point since the Fed started to expands its balance sheet by $2.3 trillion. Money-well-spent, we are sure you'll agree. In the meantime, it is the printing-endgames that we care about and the horrible sense of deja vu that the following chart inspires should at minimum see investors scaling back (which it appears the sensible retail investor is) - despite the imploring of every long-only asset manager.
Equity markets did not disappoint today in their automaton pattern today with the 4th day in a row of buy the morning dip and sell the afternoon rip. Gold was stable (as was the USD) and the S&P 500 rotated back to their reality at the close. Treasuries were notable underperformers today. The Dow just inched into the green, breaking its 6-day losing streak.
On the surface, the fact that NYSE short interest was just reported today to have risen to 13.1 billion shares as of April 30 could be troubling for the bears, as this just happens to be the highest short interest number of 2012. Indeed, an increase in short interest into a centrally-planned market is always disturbing, as it opens up stocks to the kinds of baseless short covering melt ups that simply have some HFT algo going on a stop hunt as their source, that we have seen in the past several weeks. Naturally, it would be far easier to be short a market in which Ben Bernanke managed to eradicate all other bears, especially when considering that a year ago the Short Interest as of April 30 was virtually identical.
As the S&P 500 oscillates in a 20pt range this week between its 50DMA and the 4/23-4 Bernanke Hope lows, it is becoming increasingly clear that the breadth of the hopium-infused float-all-boats new-normal reality is seriously fading.
When most people think of Brazil, it’s the incredible beaches that come to mind. Or the crazy parties of Carnival. Or the spectacular vistas and great weather. Or how indescribably gorgeous (and welcoming) the locals are. But here’s a little known fact, and it’s something that sets Brazil apart from most other places: Brazil’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Brazilian citizens to other countries. This is a rare gem in the world… I’ll explain.
In what S&P calls a 'Perfect Storm', the next four years will see a minimum of $30 trillion in companies' refinancing needs related to maturing bonds and loans and further they expect $13-$16 trillion more debt will be required to finance growth. With bond portfolios over-stuffed with corporate debt (since angst over sovereign risk has skewed asset allocation away from that cohort) the rating agency is concerned that ongoing bank deleveraging, these huge debt re-funding requirements, and the diminishment of central banks and governments to do anything about it leave serious problems with a credit overhang so large. Critically, especially as we hear calls for 'growth' plans from Europe, is the increasing likelihood that, as Reuters reports, this will potentially influence corporate credit quality and "alter the fragile equilibrium that currently exists in the global corporate credit landscape". While S&P expect the refinancing needs may well be met "This global wall of nonfinancial corporate debt will potentially compound the credit rationing that may occur as banks seek to restructure their balance sheets, and bond and equity investors reassess their risk-return thresholds" which "raises the downside risk in global markets" as an inability to finance growth may well be the catalyst for another risk flare. "Governments and central banks have less fiscal and monetary flexibility to prevent serious problems emanating from future market disturbances. A perfect storm scenario would likely cause financing disruptions even for borrowers that are not highly leveraged."
Below is the letter that the man who will most likely be Greece's next premier sent out earlier today to "the European leadership" including Jean-Claude "I only lie when it is reeeeeealy important" Juncker, and Gollum Van Vompuy. According to local, pro-bailout Greek media, the tone is far more conciliatory than his remarks from the past few days. Well, it must be google-translated Greek to us, because we sure don't see much if any conciliation in the letter.