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Some Sobering Charts

Even a traditionally optimistic Michael Darda, of MKM Partners, is having trouble discovering the silver lining among the flotsam and jetsam that is the global macro-economic ocean currently. The Japanification theme continues with five charts offering too-correlated-to-be-ignored perspectives on equities, money supply/velocity, valuations/multiples, and demographics.



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Guest Post: How To Manipulate VIX Settlement Price

VIX expiration day often coincides with particularly heavy trading activity in underlying SPX options. VIX settlement value, or VRO rarely matches either the Tuesday close or Wednesday open prices on the "cash" index, prompting pundits to blame VIX settlment for being manipulated. A popular theory is that VIX settlement value is being pushed up or down with huge SPX trades, referred to as "carpet-bombing". Some say that the manipulative trades are concentrated around high-vega strikes, others concerned specifically about puts. In this post I explain why large trades are not likely an explanation for VIX manipulation, and instead how VIX settlement value can be artificially increased for less than one hundred dollars, how VSTOXX futures and options are not subject to such manipulation, and propose a simple modification that makes VIX manipulation too expensive to be profitable.



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Euro Rumormill Disintegration Begins As Reality Returns: France, Germany Fail To Reach Agreement On EFSF

In our previous post we warned, indirectly through the IMF, that the biggest risk for Europe is the inability to reach consensus over anything from the most complicated, to the simplest matter. As noted previously, one of the main initial drivers of the market surge which has since translated into yet another short covering rally of epic proportions was the belief that Europe can actually come together in agreement over the simplest thing - like its own survival. Alas, it appears even that is not the case. As Bloomberg reports, "Germany and France are at odds over whether the European Financial Stability Facility should have limits on government bond purchases, Handelsblatt reported, citing an unidentified high-ranking European Union diplomat. France doesn’t want to restrict the EFSF on how much of its funds it can use for such purchases, the newspaper said in a preview of an article to appear in tomorrow’s edition. Germany wants to limit the amount EFSF can spend for bonds per country and is also considering whether there should be a time limit for bond purchases, Handelsblatt said." Said otherwise, here comes the latest cause of discord within Europe. Unfortunately, it also means that any rumor, innuendo and speculation that Europe has finally reached a coherent union over its own bailout can be promptly discarded. As if there was ever any doubt in the first place.



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Market Snapshot: Did Credit Just Capitulate?

Another day, another 12 swings of greater than 0.75% in S&P futures as volume slid to the lowest in a week and second lowest in two weeks. Credit and equity markets stayed largely in sync (as they have for the last few days - with slight beta-adjusted underperformance of credit) until around lunchtime and then a funny thing happened to investment grade credit. At around 12:30ET, the most liquid credit index, IG17, gapped tighter as ES and HY reversed briefly off the highs and then IG did not stop - compressing 3-4bps more into the close - notably outperforming HY and ES (its far higher beta cousins). At the same time, the less liquid but hugely levered (and exposed to correlation traders, tail-, and jump-risks), IG9, cracked very notably tighter (from our runs around 15bps) to 147bps. IG9 had held up as markets rallied but this move's magnitude and velocity suggest more than just some hedge adjustments and while the rest of the risk assets we cover were all levitating, this 'capitulation' stands out among them. Dollar weakness of course helped fuel the equity strength and commodities and PMs pushed on all day with gold the most subdued.



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BBC Does It Again: "In The Absence Of A Credible Plan We Will Have A Global Financial Meltdown In Two To Three Weeks" - IMF Advisor

A week after the BBC exploded Alessio Rastani to the stage, it has just done it all over again. In an interview with IMF advisor Robert Shapiro, the bailout expert has pretty much said what, once again, is on everyone's mind: "If they can not address [the financial crisis] in a credible way I believe within perhaps 2 to 3 weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system. We are not just talking about a relatively small Belgian bank, we are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France, that will spread to the United Kingdom, it will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected. All those banks are counterparties to every significant bank in the United States, and in Britain, and in Japan, and around the world. This would be a crisis that would be in my view more serrious than the crisis in 2008.... What we don't know the state of credit default swaps held by banks against sovereign debt and against European banks, nor do we know the state of CDS held by British banks, nor are we certain of how certain the exposure of British banks is to the Ireland sovereign debt problems."



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A Picture Paints A Thousand Words (Well Just Two - Short Squeeze)

We have highlighted this before but given the incessant rumblings that everything is fixed and that nationalizations, recaps, and EFSF votes are 'positive', we thought a reflection on what is really going on would be useful. The mother of all short squeezes as we mentioned recently continues - catalyzed by the since refuted FT Rumor of a pan-European bank recap 'plan'. The fact that Short Interest is at its highest since the "generational lows" only helps.



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SocGen: "65% Probability Of US Recession"

On Monday, Goldman was the first bank to go ahead and hike its recession odds for the US from 30% to 40% (needless to say assigning probabilities to a non-linear outcome is utterly ridiculous but we'll play along), additionally saying that both France and Germany will enter a recession shortly. Promptly, Wall Street followed. Yet despite the glaringly obvious, still nobody dares to assign a majority probability to a recession in America. Until today. French bank SocGen is once again the trailblazer in telling the truth, with its economics team being the first to make the bold (for a bank) claim that America now has not only a majority, but a two thirds chance of recession. To wit: "the recent financial shock, if it continues, is already large enough to derail the cycle prematurely. Our financial conditions index is at a tipping point and, all else equal, suggest 65% probability that the economy will enter recession in the next 12 months" (and to all those who point to record corporate profitability as the strawman which will never allow the US to enter a recession, SocGen has this response: "the recession that began in December of 2007 occurred in the face of very strong corporate profitability.").



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Mike Krieger On The "Useful Idiots"

Most of the time you hear the term “useful idiots” it is used in a totally pejorative sense. I think this is wrong. A “useful idiot” is actually not really an idiot, rather it is someone who is ignorant and therefore can be manipulated by those that are not ignorant to do as they desire. I mean who reading this was not a “useful idiot” at some point? I know I was. For most of my career on Wall Street that is exactly what I was. I worked in finance but had no idea how the system actually worked. As a result of my ignorance I was very susceptible to much of the propaganda that was blasted in my ear overtly and subliminally for much of my life. While I have always been cynical and never fell for the garbage either political party spewed, I was ignorant about how the world works and as such I could have been a danger to myself and others. Fortunately, I finally did dig further into the matrix, took the red pill and started writing about what I learned. Eventually I decided to leave Wall Street and pursue a different path. Ok, so is there a point to all this rambling? Of course. The point is that just because there are a lot of “useful idiots” at the Occupy Wall Street protests (just as there were at the Tea Party Protests) that doesn’t mean we should dismiss what is happening or belittle their frustrations. They are merely ships without anchors floating around aimlessly in a sea of ignorance. Rather that mock them right into the hands of bad guys that want to recreate feudalism like Michael Moore, George Soros and Warren Buffett we should educate them.



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Guest Post: If You Want More Jobs, Look To Steve Jobs

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Steve Jobs passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer; it’s been all over the news with wall-to-wall coverage, and iCandle vigils have sprung up all over the world. Jobs is being remembered as a pioneer, a technological revolutionary, a visionary.  Rightfully so. But it’s important to give credit where credit is due, and the world owes a tremendous debt to Steve Jobs for something else. He was perhaps the greatest living example of ‘philanthropy’ in action. While people like Warren Buffet are pleading with the government to raise their taxes and give away their wealth to sycophantic bureaucrats, Jobs showed time and time again that the best way to improve people’s lives is to create value and be productive.



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Fed Is 4 Times More Efficient At Selling Government Bonds Than The US Treasury... With A Taxpayer-Funded Twist

Something curious happened today. As we pointed out earlier, for the first time as part of Operation Twist, the Fed, instead of buying bonds in the open market, actually sold bonds: a departure for Bernanke, and only the first time the Fed has practically rebalanced its portfolio since the first Operation Twist 50 years ago. In essence, by dint of its adjusted mandate, the Fed became the Treasury - what proceeded at precisely 11 am was the announcement of a sale of $8.87 billion in bonds with maturities from January 31, 2012 through July 31, 2012, bonds that were sold not by the traditional issuer of bonds, but by the Fed. Granted no new money was raised by the US in the process, but it was still a curious development. What was far more curious was the staggering turnout by the Dealer community, which indicated an interest for, wait for it, a whopping $242.6 billion in bonds!  Said in conventional terms, the Bid To Cover was an unprecedented 27.3, or there was $27 in demand for every $1 of bonds finally sold by the Fed. Why is this worthy of bolding. Because, in a traditional Treasury auction, the Bid to Cover by the Dealer community is far, far lower. In fact, as the most recent 52 week Bill auction demonstrates, there was $89.5 billion in Bids for $14 billion in bonds allocated to Dealers, or a 6.4 Bid To Cover. Said otherwise the Fed is about 4.3 times more efficient at finding buyers than the Treasury. How is this possible? And should the Fed take over Treasury in all future bond sales? Nope: the answer is that this is nothing but yet another taxpayer funded gift to the (recently expanded by 2 Canadian banks) Dealers. Let us explain.



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Market Snapshot: Financials Underperform As Europe Closes

We noted earlier the initial positive reaction to Trichet's comments followed by a more reasoned down-draft. Subordinated financial credit underperformed in that sell-off and remained that way for the rest of the day even as the EUR managed to rip-snorting rally back above 1.34 on confusing comments from Juncker on EFSF leveraging (contra his earlier in the week comments) and Merkel's noting bank recaps may be necessary. Three main things stand out from the Europe session: senior and more-so subordinated financial credit underperformed, EUR dipped-and-ripped as anti-POMO started in the US, and gold remains subdued while silver, oil, and copper hold and extend gains. Back in the real-world, Dexia (-44% in the last few days) will remain halted til 10/10 and Belgian spreads and yield curve are increasing and flattening rapidly.



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Guest Post: Russia Claims New Arctic Hydrocarbon Finds Effectively Double Nations Reserves

Russia, currently vying for the title of world's top oil producer with Saudi Arabia, claimed that new findings in its offshore Arctic territories have effectively doubled the nation’s energy reserves. According to numerous Russian media reports, addressing a meeting of the sixth media forum of the United Russia Party on 25 September, Russian Natural Resources Minister Iury Trutnev said that the preliminary forecast is that resources in the Russian Arctic shelf are comparable to those in mainland Russia, adding, “Speaking of long-term planning, these reserves could last 100, may be 150 years, but longer is unlikely. Humanity will eventually have to look for new energy anyway. Recently, we completed 40-year talks with Norway, delineated the gray zone, and now obtained another 5 billion tons of fuel equivalent there.” Trutnev’s new Arctic reserve claims are buttressed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) 2008 survey, which estimated that 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 1.668 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas lie beneath the Arctic’s waters and ice, representing 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil. Strong oil prices, more advanced offshore equipment and receding sea ice are leading to a growing interest in the Arctic.



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Interactive DIY Euro Bank Stress Test

To all who can't wait for the next European bailout FT rumor that ramps the market 30 minutes before close (only to be completely refuted by Europe itself 30 minutes after that but by then nobody will care), which last night turned out to be speculation of a third and certainly not final version of the joke that is the stress test, here is your chance to run and execute your very own interactive European stress test and not have to wait for the conflicted European media to tell you the outcome. That said, we could argue that Reuters, which created this test, may have been a little optimistic, for the simple reason that assuming a scenario that sees 100% writedowns on all PIIGS bonds, and assuming a 2% Tier 1 capital target, sees just 46 banks failing the "test" with a €257 billion capital deficiency. So as cool as it is, Reuters failed the simplest sniff test, as somehow the apocalypse scenario of a complete pan-European wipeout sees just a quarter of a trillion in capital needed, when in reality every bank in Europe would be completely insolvent. Still, it is fun to play around with. For a few minutes...



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