Ever since the DSK rape allegation surfaced, there has been an avalanche of opinions that the former head of the IMF has been "set up by vengeful Americans" and that the entire affair is nothing but a classic "Spitzer" repeat. It has gotten so far as 57% of the French population saying DSK was trapped in a plot by his enemies, a number that rises to a staggering 70% when only French socialists are queried. Well, since everyone is innocent until proven guilty, there is no point in further digging until DSK is either convicted by a jury or set free... But that does not mean that various media personalities can not have some long overdue fun at the IMF head's expense, whose past transgressions toward poor countries and "emerging economies" one can argue, dwarf his dramatic career implosion from last Saturday. And in keeping with the spirit of amusement, below is Jon Stewart's amusing takedown of the DSK situation to date.
Yesterday we presented the latest 13F quarterly compilation summary, as prepared by Goldman's David Kostin, in raw format. Today, we bring you his high level observations on what this update means for stocks from a big picture perspective, as well as thematically. "We estimate hedge funds own roughly 3% of the US equity market. Turnover of all hedge fund positions averaged 32% during 1Q
2011 (roughly 130% annualized). The tilt of hedge fund holdings towards large-cap stocks has been increasing for almost 10 years.
The typical hedge fund operates 48% net long, flat versus 4Q 2010. Combining long and short position data, hedge funds have the
greatest net portfolio exposure to Consumer Discretionary (18%), Information Technology (16%), and Energy (14%). Our Hedge Fund
VIP basket has 15 new constituents: SSCC, BP, MRO, PCLN, VRX, TEVA, YHOO, CVX, MET, NFLX, MA, SINA, CHK, EQIX, and ESV." In addition, for all you technicians, here is the full weekly chartporn from GS.
First Credit Agricole, now Italy....Maestro: the EUR take down orchestra is reaching the fortissimo cadenza. Next up: the glissando. "On May 20, 2011, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services revised its outlook on the ratings on the Republic of Italy to negative from stable to reflect its views of the heightened downside risks in the government's debt reduction plan. At the same time, Standard & Poor's affirmed its 'A+' long-term and 'A-1+' short-term sovereign credit ratings on Italy. The transfer and convertibility assessment remains at 'AAA'." The negative ratings outlook on Italy (unsolicited rating A+/Negative/A-1+) reflects Standard & Poor's view of the increased downside risks to the Italian government's debt-reduction plan because of potentially weaker-than-expected economic growth and possible political gridlock that could contribute to fiscal slippage. The diminished growth prospects stem from what we consider to be a lack of political commitment to deregulating the labor market and introducing reforms to boost productivity. We believe measures to reduce the bottlenecks and rigidities in Italy's economy are especially important in light of Italy's limited monetary flexibility, which stems from its membership in the European Monetary Union and its limited fiscal room to maneuver because of Italy's high government debt burden."
The book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" by John Perkins is easily one of the most engrossing pieces of non-fiction one can read to learn about the true drivers behind globalization, espionage, corporate cronyism, the emergence of such "artificial" organizations as the World Bank and the IMF, and most importantly, debt "enslavement", all as seen from an insider's view. It explains in simple words why over the past 40 years the developing world paradigm has been exploited as heavily as it has, why the BRIC concept was instrumental as a Red Herring to perpetuating the myth of endless growth, and why credit must always flow no matter what to keep the status quo in power. For those who have read the book, and for those who are on the fence about reading it, below we present the three part presentation by John Perkins at the 2006 Veterans for Peace National Convention in which he expounds on all the key ideas in his book, and does an extended Q&A covering topics not discussed previously. We urge everyone to spend at least a few minutes listening to Perkins who gives a unique and non-conflicted expert opinion on the primary force for why the the modern equivalent of enslavement is not by force, but by debt.
As we expected, the recent rout in the EUR and the spike in the USD have largely kicked out all marginal speculative elements. As the first chart below indicates, as of May 17 net non-commercial spec EUR contracts dropped by 19.8k from 61.4k to 41.6k, nearly a third of the current bullish bet. And as that was happening, USD shorts were covering rapidly, confirmed by the weekly change from 4,563 contracts short to just 1,270, the most bullish position in the USD since January 2011, and roughly where it was back in October 2010. And probably more important, now that speculative fervor is all the talk, the silver net long positioning by non-commercials, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not only at an all time high, nor was it recently, but instead in the last week plunged to a level last seen back in April 2009. Net silver exposure has dropped by almost 60% since its recent peak in February (40,937 contracts), and at this point it seems all speculators have left the party. The new base is now being rebuilt based on much firmer hands.
And so, what goes around, comes around. Goldman Sachs, which in mid-2010 hit a two years low of $130 following an SEC probe that found the firm neither admitted nor denied it used its clients as Sofitel maids, the stock is once again threatening to take out the critical $130 level. At last check the stock was down 3%, just above its $134.20 May 2010 pivot low. If this is taken out, $130 is next, and then it is free fall, and the long-desired MBO gets a full green light. In the meantime, next week could see the launch of a possible criminal inquiry into the firm as was reported yesterday which will certainly force a retest of lows.
Just over 2 hours after the Fed ramped the ES at the expense of every other risk pair, the spread has collapsed. We said: "Bottom line: either play both legs outright in a pair combo, or sell ES for a FV 4 points lower." Well, the ES is now 4 points lower. And unlike Goldman, which was 60 pips away from its 1.50 EURUSD target and decided to hold on, only to get blown up literally minutes later, we are not greedy and are closing it.
It seems like it was only yesterday that the Fed passed the $1 trillion mark in total Treasury holdings (actually it was on that memorable Winter Solstice of 2010 but who's counting). Well it is not even 5 full months later, and the Fed has already added $500 billion in holdings. Following today's $6.94 billion Pomo, total Fed holdings of US Treasurys have now passed $1.5 trillion (which is ironic because the net new cash tendered to the Treasury per total Bond, Note and Bill issuance and redemption in 2011 through the most recent settled auction is $350 billion, in other words the Fed has funded about 140% of the total Treasury cash needs). As a reminder there is just under 6 weeks left until QE2 ends, at which poin the Fed's Treasury holdings will be about $1.6 trillion, and the Treasury will be without its primary (over and above the maximum) source of capital.
What is the relative value of housing if we price it in ounces of gold? My basic point of view is that nominal prices and broad terms such as deflation, inflation and growth should be viewed with extreme skepticism. The more useful approach is to examine the purchasing power of various assets and the the purchasing power of the income streams generated by those assets. Put another way: to value housing, let's compare the price of a house priced in loaves of bread, or ounces of gold, or barrels of oil to historical norms. Secondly, let's look at the income stream generated by the median-priced home (that is, the median rent and net income after all expenses of maintaining and paying for the rental home are deducted) and ask how many loaves of bread, ounces of gold and barrels of oil that net income can buy. In terms of the median price, it took almost 600 ounces of gold to buy the median priced house in 2005. Then housing collapsed, and gold rocketed from $500/oz to $1,500/oz. As a result of housing declining by 40% and gold tripling, the ratio has plummeted by 80%, from 500 to just above 100. How low can the ratio go? Some might look at the second chart and conclude that the previous bottom around 90, in 1980 when gold shot up to $800/oz, might well mark a bottom in the ratio.
Domino #2: S&P Downgrades Largest French Retail Banking Group, Credit Agricole, To A+ From AA-, Due To "Greek Exposure"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2011 - 13:32
Yes, banks are indeed on the hook should Greece file. Keep an eye on those Deutsche Bank puts. From S&P: "We consider that French banking group Crédit Agricole (GCA) has a significant sensitivity to Greece's creditworthiness and economic prospects, primarily through subsidiary Emporiki's funding needs and exposure to local credit risk. The downgrades reflect our view that reduced creditworthiness of the Greek sovereign puts pressure on GCA's financial profile, given its exposure to the troubled Greek economy, mostly through its subsidiary Emporiki Bank of Greece (not rated). The downgrade reflects our view that persistent deterioration of the Greek economy induces negative prospects for the local banking sector, which could translate into further material credit losses at Emporiki and/or a sharp decrease in its customer deposits. "
Suspicious Man In Inflatable Boat With Unknown Device Chained To Neck Close To Surrey, VA Nuclear Power Plant Scrambles Bomb Squad, Sniper TeamSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2011 - 13:03
A man in a boat has a suspicious device attached to himself several miles away from the nuclear power plant in Surry, Va., according to officials. A Virginia State Police representative said that there is a man on a boat or a raft on the James River, according to WTVR-TV in Richmond. The man is in an inflatable boat and drifting with the current, Bull said. He has a metal chain around his neck and the chain is attached to a black box. Bull said officials have a bomb squad and snipers near the scene out of caution. He said they have tried talking to the man, and that he is coherent and lucid at times, but that it does not last for long. The airspace around the incident is closed, according to WBBT in Richmond, and boaters are being rerouted around the scene.
And so the broader risk basket of AUDJPY, EURJPY, 10Y, 2s10s30s, gold, and oil once again rapidly diverges from the ES, which must mean that Citadel is busy processing FRBNY trade tickets on a FIFO basis. Expect the spread to close (buy the basket in a pro rata basis for an intraday correlation catch up), or not: all depends on just how aggressive Brian Sack is to indicate that life is good, wealth effect is wonderful, and the rapture is overblown. Bottom line: either play both legs outright in a pair combo, or sell ES for a FV 4 points lower.
And while everyone is focused on the charade dot com resurgence courtesy of the LinkedIn IPO mockery, which is nothing but a VWAP magnet and a tool for Goldman to set a public comp benchmark for its plethora of upcoming "social" IPOs, things are a little uglier for the biggest IPO of 2011. In just its second day of trading, Glencore has already broken its IPO price. Reuters reports: "Shares in commodities trading group Glencore fell below their issue price of 530 pence on Friday, the second day of conditional trading, as investors fretted over its valuation. The world's largest diversified commodities trader
touched a low of 519 pence in unofficial grey market trade before
closing at 524 pence, down 1.1 percent after more than 200 million
shares changed hands, underperfoming a virtually flat FTSE index and a
0.4 percent dip in the broad mining sector. "Basically, the valuation looks a little bit rich. They worked very hard to get a favourable price and one could argue the only reason it was up yesterday was support from the sponsoring banks," said analyst Nik Stanojevic at Brewin Dolphin. "I think the market feels the same way. It wasn't as if they sold this thing really cheaply with the expectation it would go up 50 percent on the first day." Fools: they should have just packaged GLEN as a social network for commodity speculators and Glencore would have been the world's largest market cap company already..