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Obama Lays Out His Latest "Mortgage Plan"

Listen to the Landlord in Chief lay out his REO to LBO plan live and in stereo. Since everyone will end up paying for it, directly or indirectly, sooner or later it probably is relevant.



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As Individual Witholding Taxes Roll Over, It Is Time To Ask Where The Corporate Taxes Are

Two days ago, the US Treasury announced that for the Q2 fiscal quarter (January - March), the net borrowing need of the US would be $97 billion lower than its previous estimate, coming in at $444 billion for the three months (still a $115 billion monthly run rate, not nearly enough to last until the end of the year with the current debt ceiling capacity, and likely not even through the election). What the Treasury did not specify is where this incremental cash would come from, merely noting that the higher cash balance which it ended December 2011 with compared to estimates "was driven primarily by higher-than-projected receipts and lower outlays" implying that the Treasury was confident higher than expected tax receipts would continue.  There is however one problem with this: as the attached chart from the just released Q1 fiscal report from the Office of Debt Management shows, withheld taxes, the primary source of US government revenues, has just rolled over and is now posting negative Year over Year numbers (chart 1). Which is bad news for Tim Geithner if he hopes that the spike in tax receipts will continue, and for the TBAC which projects a lower than expected funding needs: in fact we are confident that the net issuance in Q2 will be substantially greater than the net forecast, and will likely be funded with short-term Bills, either ad hoc, or in the form of increased program Cash Management Bills issuance. Yet the fact that America can not live within its means is not news. What however, needs addressing is why, as Chart 2 shows, have US corporate taxes never regained their historical levels from 2007, when as is well-known, corporate profits have never been higher (if now rolling over finally), and corporate cash, especially that held off shore, at record levels? Because as the green line shows, the 12 month moving average of corporate income taxes, has barely budged from the recession lows. We wonder why nobody has asked the question: why is this the case and why have neither politicians nor individual taxpayers made an issue out of this yet?



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Explaining Portugal's Disappearing Risk

Early Tuesday morning, the Portuguese 10Y bond was trading over 300bps wider than its close last Friday. Contagion from concerns in Greece and what that meant for a nation that while not in as dire a position as Greece economically was well on its way to totally unsustainable debt levels relative to what little and shrinking GDP they can garner. Market access is of course off the cards and there are reasonable chunks of debt maturing that will need to be funded. Since then the PGB has rallied an incredible 300bps, now trading a mere 5bps wider on the week as if nothing had ever happened. We know the ECB was active yesterday and it appears also today but what is also very notable and perhaps explains more of the compression is the huge drop in the basis between CDS and bonds for Portugal. The basis, as we have discussed before, was extremely wide for Portugal (a quite illiquid sovereign bond and CDS market) and we suspect at a spread between bonds and CDS of almost 850bps, it was just too tempting for hedgies not to buy the package en masse. This means they would have bought PGBs (bonds) and bought CDS protection to try and 'lock-in' the spread between the two. That demand for the basis has pushed it 200bps narrower and given the thinness of the PGB market, the marginal demand from basis traders has exaggerated that rally by the 300bps we noted above. So Portuguese bond risk remains elevated (CDS around 1400bps and and 5Y PGB around 20% yield) but the drop in the last few days is not a risk appetite signal but reflective of an ECB-spurred risk transfer to basis traders who we assume are more confident in Portuguese bond contracts and CDS triggers than Greek bonds for now. It seems they have found another pivotal security to manipulate down to show 'improvement' as Portugal leaves the global bond indices but is mysteriously bid this week - watch the basis for more compression and the signal for unwinds which will stress PGBs once again.



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Manufacturing ISM Misses Expectations, Rises From December, Prices Paid Surge

As we hinted earlier, and contrary to 100% wrong whisper numbers, the January ISM not only did not land in the 55+ ball park, but missed consensus estimates of 54.5, printing at 54.1, yet up from December's 53.1. However, just like in China, the goalseeked number was neither good nor bad, although leaning toward the weaker side to keep with the Chicago PM's miss. After all the Chairman needs an exit door for more QE.The internals were not very notable with the exception of Prices Paid, which came at 55.5 compared to expectations of 50.0 and up from 47.5 in December, the highest since September 2011. Oops margins and oops Inflation? And what is just as bad, the traditionally leading "New Orders less Inventories" index turned down once again, with Invs rising by +4.0, and New Orders up just 2.8%.



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"Supercommittee That Runs America" Urges End To The "Zero Bound", Demands Issuance Of Negative Yield Bonds

One of the laments of the uberdoves in the world over the past several years has naturally been the fact that interest rates are bound by Zero on the lower side, and that the lowest possible rate on new paper is, by definition, 0.000%. Which is what led to the advent of QE in the first place: in lieu of negative rates, the Fed was forced to actively purchase securities to catch up to a negative Taylor implied rate. This may be about to change, because as the just released letter from the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, or as we affectionately called the JPMorgan/ Goldman Sachs Chaired committee, the "Supercommittee That Runs America", simply because it alone makes up Tim Geithner's mind on what America needs to do funding wise, demand, "It was broadly agreed that flooring interest rates at zero, or capping issuance proceeds at par, was prohibiting proper market function. The Committee unanimously recommended that the Treasury Department allow for negative yield auction results as soon as logistically practical." And what JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs want, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs get. And once we get the green light on negative yields at auction, next up will be the push for the Fed to impose negative rates on all standing securities, which means that coming soon savers will be literally paying to hold cash. And that will be the final straw.



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Why Non-Farm Payrolls Will Be Weak

Following today's sizable miss and significant revision to the ADP data it is perhaps worth taking a step back and looking at some independent research on the adjustments and seasonality issues in forecasting jobs around this time of year and furthermore, why one of the pillars of this extended rally and US decoupling story (a substantially improving jobs market) could be made of salt. Bloomberg's consensus for Friday's NFP at +145k (from +200k prior) and a 30k standard deviation, there is plenty of uncertainty among the economic elite (with 125k to 150k the sweet spot for their guesses) and our favorite outlier Joe LaVorgna near the top at +210k. So while the trend is supposedly improving (though expectations are slightly off December's exuberance), Stone & McCarthy (SMRA) point out a disturbing trend of sizable forecasting errors for the January payroll print with 7 straight years of estimates overshooting by an average of 64k - strangely consistent post the BLS switch to a probability-based sample. But its not just forecasting error, TrimTabs takes a deep dive into the actual daily income tax deposits from all salaried employees (which are historically more accurate than BLS initial estimates) sees the US economy added only 45,000 jobs in January, nearly unchanged from the 38,000 in December. Noting similar forecasting errors as SMRA, TrimTabs points out that the decline in seasonal adjustment factors and the reality of the underlying tax data suggest "It appears that the economy has hit stall speed due to lackluster demand and a deleveraging consumer who would rather save than spend." as wage and salary growth (net of inflation) weakened further to -2.1% YoY in January from -0.5% YoY in December. "The weak job market has us concerned" seems like a truer reality than the establishment trying to keep the dream alive.



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Bill Gross Explains Why "We Are Witnessing The Death Of Abundance" And Why Gold Is Becoming The Default "Store Of Value"

While sounding just a tad preachy in his February newsletter, Bill Gross' latest summary piece on the economy, on the Fed's forray into infinite ZIRP, into maturity transformation, and the lack thereof, on the Fed's massive blunder in treating the liquidity trap, but most importantly on what the transition from a levering to delevering global economy means, is a must read. First: on the fatal flaw in the Fed's plan: "when rational or irrational fear persuades an investor to be more concerned about the return of her money than on her money then liquidity can be trapped in a mattress, a bank account or a five basis point Treasury bill. But that commonsensical observation is well known to Fed policymakers, economic historians and certainly citizens on Main Street." And secondly, here is why the party is over: "Where does credit go when it dies? It goes back to where it came from. It delevers, it slows and inhibits economic growth, and it turns economic theory upside down, ultimately challenging the wisdom of policymakers. We’ll all be making this up as we go along for what may seem like an eternity. A 30-50 year virtuous cycle of credit expansion which has produced outsize paranormal returns for financial assets – bonds, stocks, real estate and commodities alike – is now delevering because of excessive “risk” and the “price” of money at the zero-bound. We are witnessing the death of abundance and the borning of austerity, for what may be a long, long time." Yet most troubling is that even Gross, a long-time member of the status quo, now sees what has been obvious only to fringe blogs for years: "Recent central bank behavior, including that of the U.S. Fed, provides assurances that short and intermediate yields will not change, and therefore bond prices are not likely threatened on the downside. Still, zero-bound money may kill as opposed to create credit. Developed economies where these low yields reside may suffer accordingly. It may as well, induce inflationary distortions that give a rise to commodities and gold as store of value alternatives when there is little value left in paper." Let that sink in for a second, and let it further sink in what happens when $1.3 trillion Pimco decides to open a gold fund. Physical preferably...



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Is Volatility Coming Back?

VIX continues to remain low, but intraday (or intranight) volatility appears to be making a comeback.  That is volatility in the true sense of moves up and down (I'm not sure when volatility came to mean 'stocks went down'). Chinese PMI is supposedly one of the reasons that futures are up, yet, that seems to be a bad explanation, since futures went from an Amazon induced low of 1306, up to 1311 on the PMI news, but then drifted lower and were at 1304 by the time Europe got up and running.  It has been a relentless march higher since then as it went to 1320. Volumes remain low.  Street liquidity remains very low.  I don't see any reason for this trend to reverse itself, and think higher levels of intraday volatility are on the way.  Is it time to buy some options to capture this? Long or short, it looks like trading some options could make sense as some timely 'delta' rebalancing could be very effective and the implied volatility you are paying seems reasonable.



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Irrelevant ADP Report Gyrates Epileptically, Misses Expectations, Sees 9,000 Financial Jobs Added In January

The highly irrelevant economic noise that is the ADP private payrolls indicator has come in form the month of January, and printed at nearly half of the December number  of 325K, which was revised lower to 292K, at 170K, on expectations of 182K. We should be the last to tell readers that anything this unbearably noisy series says is beyond meaningless, but since someone follows it, it bears noting that this was the weakest number since October 2011. Furthermore, with the NFP virtually guaranteed to be a miss for a variety of reasons, this is merely the latest confirmation that economist expectations of the economic recovery ramping up, were short sighted - after all the Chairman has an agenda. Yet what makes this report a total mockery is that in the month in which banks, and the FIRE industry in general, was firing left and right, ADP saw 9K people in financial services added to private payrolls. Ironically the financial jobs "added" were almost as many as the manufacturing jobs, at +10K in January. Who says America is not a manufacturing juggernaut and only exports weapons of financial mass destruction?



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In Advance Of Third Aircraft Carrier Approaching Iran, US Nuclear Sub And Destroyer Enter Red Sea

While a few days ago we reported that the US was set to place a third aircraft carrier, ostensibly the USS Enterprise, in the Arabian Gulf in the indefinite future, it appears that the US is wasting little time in making preparations for this latest military escalation against Iran. As RT reports, "two ships of the US Navy, the nuclear submarine USS Annapolis and the destroyer USS Momsen have passed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. Although their destination is confidential, they are now getting dangerously close to the Persian Gulf. ­The ships’ passage was a major operation for the Suez administration as due to safety reasons they had to close off the canal to all other traffic and even shut down the bridge, disrupting the link between the banks for some four hours. The traffic on the roadways alongside the canal was also restricted, Interfax news agency reports." What's next: reports that Russian destroyers in Syria are also moving in the general direction of the Arabian Gulf?



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Today's Events: ADP, ISM And Auto Sales

Following the Chicago PMI miss, will today's important ISM, which is forecast to grow substantially, be the next disappointment as the "economy" aligns even further with the chairman's vision of more easing, which however has to be justified by the "data"? Find out at 10am. Elsewhere, the ADP will continue to be its utterly worthless indicator self.



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Goldman Puts More Kindling On The Fire, Cuts Amazon Price Target To $182

Goldman not happy with with the fact that contrary to market expectations, the Amazon negative margin retail caterpillar keeps on refusing to transform into a beautiful apple. To wit: "Amazon reported 4Q11 results after the close. Despite upside to EPS versus consensus and consolidated segment operating income which came in materially above the Street, in our view the focus will be on the shortfall in revenue, which came in at $17.4bn versus consensus of $18.3bn. In fact, the 4Q2011 quarter marks the second consecutive quarter that Amazon has fallen short of the consensus revenue forecast. Along with a slowdown in growth in video games and consoles and an impact on certain sales due to the floods in Thailand, management also referenced the macro environment as a cause for the miss, with weakness in Europe called out in particular. As for its Kindle and Kindle Fire performance in 4Q2011, we estimate sales hit 10.6mn, below our forecast of 13.9mn units. That said, we believe the company hit our more important Kindle Fire unit forecast of 6mn, suggesting the Fire cannibalized sales of traditional e-readers. As for guidance, Amazon gave an outlook below consensus on all major metrics; revenue, GAAP  operating income, and CSOI. As such, we are lowering our revenue forecast for the year by roughly $2bn to $63.6bn versus the Street prior to last night at  $65.3bn, and our GAAP operating margin is being reduced to 0.3% for CY2012, versus consensus of 1.8%. On lower expected sales and higher expenses we are reducing our 2012/2013 GAAP EPS by 75%/40% to $0.36/$2.11 from $1.42/$3.57 versus consensus of $1.88/$3.75 prior to the call. On lower expected earnings we are reducing our 12-month price target to $182 from $190. At around $177 in the after market, Amazon is trading at 29X our 2012 non-GAAP EBITDA estimate of $2.57bn. Our price target is based on our equally weighted DCF, P/E, and EV/EBITDA analysis." Time for Amazon to make up for ever lower margins with even higher volume. Or something.



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Overnight Mood Better Following Stronger PMI Data, More Promises Of "Imminent" Greek Deal

Anyone who went to bed with the EURUSD about to breach 1.30 to the downside may have been surprised this morning to see it trading nearly 150 pips higher. Checking the headlines for news of a Greek deal however would be futile, as one did not occur. Instead what did, were more promises of a deal being "imminent" even as Greece is doing all it can to appease intransigent creditors, offering GDP upside warrants (something that did not work too well for Argentina), with the IMF stating it demands guarantees that this time Greece will follow through with promises. Oddly enough the German demand for fiscal overrule has gotten lost in the noise but is certainly not forgotten and last we checked Merkel has not withdrawn this polite request. Still futures are up, primarily on a smattering of better than expected PMIs, in China and Europe. Alas, the Chinese PMI beat as discussed last night, was more of a cold water shower as the market had been hoping for much more defined promises of PBoC intervention and instead got a lukewarm Goldilocks economy which could last quite a bit longer without RRR-cuts. As for European PMI numbers being better than expected, we only wonder if these now correlate with the prevailing unemployment rate throughout the Eurozone.



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Frontrunning: February 1

  • China’s factories in strong start to 2012 (FT)
  • Merkel to court Chinese investors (FT)
  • States to decide this week on mortgage deal (Reuters)
  • Europe is stuck on life support (FT)
  • IMF's Thomsen Says Greece Must Step Up Reform (Reuters)
  • Tax cuts expiry to slow US growth (FT)
  • Government health spending seen hitting $1.8 trillion (Reuters)
  • Romney Win in Florida Primary Shows Strength (Bloomberg)
  • EU regulator blocks D.Boerse-NYSE merger (Reuters)
  • Greek Bondholders said to get GDP Sweetener in Debt Swap Agreement (Bloomberg)
  • S. Korea Plans to Buy China Shares (Bloomberg)


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