RANsquawk European Morning Briefing - Stocks, Bonds, FX etc. – 07/03/11
In the fall of 2010, there was no shortage of news regarding faulty foreclosure processes, aka "robo-signing." Bank stocks took a hit and the threat of a nationwide foreclosure moratorium appeared imminent. Then came the concept of put back risk to the big banks claiming violations of reps and warranty agreements or pooling and servicing agreements (PSAs). Since that time the media has gone rather quiet on the subject and the price action in the bank stocks would imply all is well. BAC settled for pennies on the dollar with one of the GSEs and the stock rocketed that very day as investors were no longer "worried about the uncertainty." The story may have gone cold but the lawsuits, court rulings, class actions, investigations have only heated up and continue to grow. In fact they have grown to the point where keeping up with all of it was next to impossible. Banks have tried to downplay any of these threats in their most recent earnings releases and conference calls but suddenly things seem to have changed. Recent SEC filings by JPM, earnings restatements by BAC, a quick departure of Howard Atkins from WFC and regulators investigating CDO transactions by C have begun to turn the spotlight back to the banks and the balance sheet risk they face.
One of our key predictions from early this year has been that Goldman Sachs' formerly crack economic team (and now considered by some to be nothing but a propaganda team on crack) will in the coming weeks and months materially downward revise its dramatic economic upgrade from early December (just coincidentally coinciding with the minute the Fed released previously secret bank bailout records), which ended the firm's skeptical stance on the US economy, and launched it into all out Kool-Aid mode on nothing but one-time adjustments courtesy of a last gasp attempt at fiscal stimulus. While we are still scratching our heads why Hatzius would totally discredit himself by doing nothing more than what momentum traders do at an inflection point, and calling for a paradigm shift in his outlook when the most recent bout of gains is not driven by any recurring fundamental improvements, frankly we don't care. What we do know is when Goldman turns outright bearish again, some time in late March, early April, it will be time to buy QE3 with both hands, following a dinner or two between Hatzius and Bill Dudley at the Pound and Pence. Tonight, Hatzius issued his first and very vague intro to the coming mea culpa: "The increase in oil prices is emerging as a more meaningful downside risk to growth later in the year. At this point, we emphasize that this is just a risk, not a change in the forecast, as our commodity strategists expect part of the near-term price increase to reverse if the situation in the Middle East stabilizes. But we are now clearly moving into riskier territory" and "eventually, fiscal policy will need to tighten anyway because the current structural deficit is much too large to be sustained over the longer term. But if this tightening occurs more quickly than expected, that would likely weigh on near-term growth and, in turn, reduce the likelihood of tighter monetary policy." We are certain that today's note is the first whisper to those who read between the lines on what is coming from Goldman as soon as a few weeks from today, perfectly in line with Zero Hedge expectations. To be certain, it wouldn't be a Goldman report without the now traditional comic interlude: "Going forward, we expect employment to continue growing at a healthy clip, but participation is likely to flatten out and may rebound a bit, as word about the improvement in labor demand gets around more widely." Come again? Goldman is blaming the lack of propaganda media penetration for what will be a rise in unemployment? Frontal lobe hemorrhage to commence in T minus 5...4...3...
Egypt Paper Plunges On Latest Stock Market Reopening Delay, 266 Day Bond Hits 12.47% Following Partial Auction FailureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/06/2011 - 23:24
Remember when Egypt said that March 6 is the latest, guaranteed stock market reopen, or else? Well, the day has come and gone, and no Egypt stock market (all those who have been buying the EGPT ETF are forgiven for feeling like total idiots right about now). What however is trading are Egyptian bonds, which have plunged as a result of the ongoing total and complete chaos in the revolutionary country, which is now seeing a second wave of reactionary violence as fighting escalates between the police and protesters in Alexandria. As BusinessWeek reports: "Egypt’s borrowing costs are rising to the highest in more than two years
and stocks listed overseas are tumbling as the Cairo exchange’s
five-week shutdown and new rules on shareholder disclosure keep
investors away. The Ministry of Finance sold 3 billion pounds ($509 million) of bonds
yesterday, 1.5 billion pounds less than planned, as yields on 266-day
notes climbed 31 basis points from the last auction to 12.47 percent,
data compiled by Bloomberg show. Global depositary receipts of
Commercial International Bank Egypt SAE sank 15 percent in London last
week to the lowest level since July. Orascom Telecom Holding SAE traded
5.2 percent below its Jan. 27 close, when the Egyptian Exchange shut
down." Our advice: don't expect Egypt to reopen any time soon, and certainly not before the situation in Libya is under control, which won't be for a long time. In the meantime the flight to safety trade (read gold, silver and crude) is raging overnight. And if and when it reopens, look for nothing less than freefall: "The EGX30 may drop another 10 percent when it eventually reopens, said
Slim Feriani, London-based chief executive officer of Advance Emerging
Capital Ltd., which manages $750 million in frontier and developing
nation stocks including Egyptian shares."
Bill Buckler On How The US Morphed From A "Global Beacon Of Freedom" To A Symbol Of Political And Economic RepressionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/06/2011 - 21:22
In his latest edition of the Privateer newsletter, Bill Buckler confirms that he is one of the premier politco-economic commentators, with one of the most devastating expositions on how America, once the land of the brave and the home of the free, and truly a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world, has entered the death spiral of its cilivizational curve, which "beginning of the end" started in 1913 with the introduction of the income tax and the ascent of the Federal Reserve, and now, a century later, has morphed into what can poetically be called the "ending of the end." Recent events in the Middle East and Africa only underscore how rapidly the sun is setting on the world's once undisputed superpower. That China is merely biding its time before it disconnects its mutual life support system to the US (which contrary to conventional wisdom, is far more important to the US than vice versa, now that the Fed is by the far the biggest owner of US debt), and ends its symbiosis with US fiscal and monetary policy, should not be a reason for optimism to anyone. With each passing day, Chinese superiority is becoming ever more palpable (even despite the massive loan bubble currently in process in China), even as desperate US attempts to cling to the last trace of its former superpower status are getting increasingly ignored by virtually everyone. If Buckler is correct, the final nail in the US superpower status coffin could come as soon as the unwind of events in MENA, where the people have made it all too clear the US is no longer welcome. What happens next will indicate just how rapidly the complete fall from grace for the US will transpire: "The Middle East is again in strife. This time, the conflict is between
the regimes which have been installed and supported by the US government
in their march to empire and the people who those same regimes have
ruled with an iron fist. To these people, the US is not looked upon as
an “exemplar” of anything - except political AND economic repression."
Gold Surges, Hits New All Time High Of $1,437 After Precious Metals Talked Up During PDAC ConferenceSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/06/2011 - 19:38
As the world continues to burn, gold hits a new all time high of $1,437 as silver is en route to pass $36. Whatever shorts did not cover on Friday night are strongly urged to postpone their "market top" speculation until another day. Elsewhere Bernanke is still confused by what the relentless march to daily all time highs in gold means...
Sean Corrigan's Take On The Fed's "Apres Moi Le Deluge" Policy Which Only "A Krugman" Can Approve OfSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/06/2011 - 16:32
The key running theme this weekend is "the flood", specifically that soon to be left in the wake of the Federal Reserve, which is now facing the last days of its ignoble existence. Previously, Egon von Greyerz shared his outlook on why the Pompadour-esque cliche will soon lead to a complete destruction of the dollar, and all other paper currencies. Now, it is the turn turn of Diapason's Sean Corrigan, who in his note from Thursday shares his view on the Fed's "reprehensible policy": "When the Chuck Prince Charleston suddenly stopped in 2008, the initial impact was just as dramatic on the market for machine tools, ceramic magnets, and silicon wafers as it was on lumber, carpets, and dishwashers and, so, the shock hit the surplus nations every bit as hard as the deficit ones as they all realised, to their horror, that they had all become nothing more than imprudent, Rueffian tailors. Since then, of course, the game has been replayed at an even more frantic pace, with governments largely taking pole position as the drivers of deficits, the media of monetization and, hence, the inflamers of inflation...By the time this last blunder works its way through the system, it will not just be the world's tinpot tyrants and biddable client kings who will pay the price for the Fed's reprehensible policy of 'apres moi le deluge', but it will be the ordinary man and woman who will have occasion to rue a programme so replete with intellectual arrogance, power-worship, and a wilful blindness to its awful, unintended consequences that only a Krugman could approve of it."
Egon von Greyerz: "A Hyperinflationary Deluge Is Imminent", And Why, Therefore, Bernanke's Motto Is "Après Nous Le Déluge"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/06/2011 - 15:17
"Happy days are here again! Stock markets are strong, company profits are up, bankers are making record profits and bonuses, unemployment is declining, and inflation is non-existent. Obama and Bernanke are the dream team making the US into the Superpower it once was. Yes, it is amazing the castles in the air that can be built with paper money and deceitful manipulation of all economic data. And Madame Bernanke de Pompadour will do anything to keep King Louis XV Obama happy, including flooding markets with unlimited amounts of printed money. They both know that, in their holy alliance, they are committing a cardinal sin. But clinging to power is more important than the good of the country. An economic and social disaster is imminent for the US and a major part of the world and Bernanke de Pompadour and Louis XV Obama are praying that it won’t happen during their reign: “Après nous le déluge”. (Warm thanks to my good friend the artist Leo Lein)." Matterhorn Asset Management
With nobody having any clue how the MENA situation will play out (and those who tell you otherwise can be immediately dismissed as full of feces to be ridiculed in perpetuity by everyone but CNBC where they will have a guaranteed contributor slot), and as crude has promptly become the most volatile asset class (as Zero Hedge predicted last summer when we lamented the death of equities) recently experiencing an unprecedented 7 Sigma move which likely led to the liquidation of at least one asset manager, there are two main charts which matter for the oil. On one hand, the Crude Oil non-commercial net specs are at an all time high: well over 100% more than during the oil time highs in crude in 2008. This means that speculators are anticipating an even more powerful move higher than that seen in the summer of 2008 when Crude hit $150 (it also presents the possibility of an unprecedented plunge in oil should the speculative thesis not be realized). Just as important, the performance of energy as a subsegment of all commodities is currently materially underperforming all other commodities, with Previous, Agircultural and Industrial commodity classes all doing far better than crude and its peers. Should there be a rotation out of other commodities into the energy complex, look for crude to surge far beyond $125 in the next few weeks. All it would take is one Saudi geopolitical spark.
We're Just Gonna Inflate Our Way Out If It!...Oh really? I don't think so, Scooter. In a recent discussion we mentioned the fact that lately former Fed member Larry Lindsey has been talking up the idea of a potential fiscal trap for the US. To be honest, we believe this idea has already played itself out in Japan and day by day is coming to a Euro theater near you in terms of individual country experience. The whole idea of a fiscal trap involves the combination of sovereign debt levels with manipulated domestic interest rate levels. Japan has been a poster child example of this simple concept. By artificially holding its domestic interest rates at the theoretical zero bound, it has allowed the government to lever up in a magnitude that most likely never could have happened had free market forces set domestic interest rate levels. Japan has enjoyed an artificial depressant on nominal dollar (in this case Yen) interest costs that has made incredible sovereign debt expansion feel relatively benign from an ongoing debt servicing cost perspective relative to what has been up to this point the magnitude of ongoing sovereign revenue collection.
By now it is no secret that the end of QE2, should one actually transpire as the alternative is surging bond yields which as described yesterday means gross interest expense as a percentage of total US revenue would hit a Weimaresque 30%+, the collapse in equities will be dramatic, once the marginal buyer of up to $8 billion in daily risk disappears, and as was further pointed out recently, the only variable that every asset class correlates with with no exception is the Fed's balance sheet. And while the drop in equities is all but guaranteed, a more important question is what happens to not only Treasury rates but to the shape of the curve. Even though the jump in rates seems inevitable (to those whose career does not depend on pursuing the lemming-like call of the sellside groupthink wild), the finer nuances in the curve shift have not seen a broad discussion. Morgan Stanley's Jim Caron, whose predictive track record leaves much to be desired, has released an analysis of what the end of QE2 will look like from a rates perspective. We urge readers to take this analysis with the same dose of skepticism as any FX recommendation from Goldman's Thomas Stolper.
With ICE and CME margin hikes - that last bastion of supply/demand imbalance suppression - no longer having an impact on crude price, it was only a matter of time before the last theatrical measure in the price arsenal was used. Per Dow Jones: "White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on Sunday the Obama administration is considering tapping into the U.S. strategic oil reserve as one way to help ease soaring oil prices." Speaking on NBC television's "Meet the Press," Daley said: "We are looking at the options. The issue of the reserves is one we are considering. ... All matters have to be on the table." There has been support among Senate Democrats for tapping the reserves. Senator Jay Rockefeller on Thursday became the third Democrat to ask President Barack Obama to tap America's emergency oil supply to cool prices that have risen past $100 a barrel on the strife in Libya." What our esteemed politicians fail to realize that tapping the SPR is analogous to Lehman filing an 8K declaring to the world it is now tapping directly into the Fed's discount window for its liquidity - that didn't end too well. The problem with the SPR is that as a non-marginal replacement of supply it is largely a puppet: with a capacity 726.7 million barrels, the SPR holds a 34 day reserve at the US daily consumption of 21 million barrels. The picture is slightly better when considering that the US only imports 12 MMbd, meaning there is a 58 day supply. But the biggest issue that nobody is considering, is that the maximum total withdrawal capacity is physically limited to just 4.4 million barrels per day. In other words, should the MENA escalation flare up, there is no way to physically replace all the lost output. Yet what is most troubling is that even as the US is about to start using up its reserves, Asia is actively shoring up its oil, meaning that as our own oil buffer gets ever smaller, Asia could easily dictate economic terms over the OPEC cartel as soon as a few months from now if the Bernanke liberation wave does not end any time soon.
When discussing central planning, as manifested by the policies of the world's central banks, a recurring theme is the upcoming reversion to the mean: whether in economic data, in financial statistics, or, as Dylan Grice points out in his latest piece, in luck. While the mandate of every institution, whose existence depends on the perpetuation of the status quo, is to extend the amplitude of all such deviations from the trendline median, there is only so much that hope, myth and endless paper dilution can achieve. And alas for the US, whose 3.5% bond yields are, according to Grice, primarily due to "150% luck", the mean reversion is about to come crashing down with a vengeance after 30 years of rubber band stretching. The primary reason is that while the official percentage of interest expenditures as a portion of total government revenues is roughly 10% based on official propaganda data, the real number, factoring in gross interest expense, and assuming a reversion to the historic average debt yield of 5.8%, means that right now, the US government is already spending 30% of its revenues on gross interest payments! And what is worse, is that the chart has entered the parabolic phase. Once the convergence of theoretical and real rates happens, and all those who wonder who will buy US debt get their answer (which will happen once the 10 Year is trading at 6% or more), the inevitability of the US transition into the next phase of the "Weimar" experiment will become all too obvious. Because once the abovementioned percentage hits 50%, it is game over.
And now, for a break from our regularly scheduled Fed-bashing programming. The latest social phenomenon is 85k viewers in and rising at 1k per 30 seconds. Time for a new iBorg?
Two weeks ago Zero Hedge claimed that Saudi Arabian "gestures" to hike crude output were about as hollow as the heads of those suggesting that dealing with surging oil prices involves reducing interest rates even more (which just happen to be at zero already), mostly as a result of the country's recent adoption of "whorism" or its doomed strategy to buy the love of its citizens. The reason is that as UBS' Andy Lees noted, Saudi "will need to ramp up production by about 10% (more capital spending) without prices falling" to fill the suddenly gaping budget hole left from literally throwing $37 billion out of Bernanke's leased helicopter. Yesterday, BusinessWeek's Peter Coy essentially reaffirmed our theory verbatim in the piece "Saudi Arabia Must Keep Pumping Oil to Buy Stability"... needless to say we completely agree with this. Obviously, the bigger issue here is that as WikiLeaks recently suggested, and was reconfirmed by Jim Rogers, Saudi Arabia is simply lying about its excess capacity. Because if Saudi had indeed raised output as many have hoped for, and as Saudi has represented, it would have made up for the funding differential simply by the hike in export volume. Instead, as Reuters reports, Saudi Aramco just hiked prices on oil to customers in Asia and Europe up substantially. This, at least to us, does not appear like the rational action of a player seeking to moderate surging oil prices to avoid further social conflict, and one who can plug offline capacity.