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Uncle Sam To The Rescue After All: Latest Rumor Sees €600 Billion Bailout Of Italy From US, Pardon IMF

The European desperation is palpable ahead of the EURUSD open in a few hours, which has to deal with the aftermath of the Friday afternoon downgrade of Belgium, the junking of Portugal and Hungary, and the prospect of an imminent downgrade of AAA-stalwarts Austria and France. So what does Europe do instead of actually proposing the inevitable debt repudiation that is the only and final outcome? Why more rumors of course. To wit: last night saw the preannouncement of Welt am Sonntag indicating that in order to bypass the lengthy process of treaty changes, Europe would instead proceed with bilateral agreements that would somehow enforce fiscal stability and convince the market that European states would follow the German leader. Well since that is sure to have absolutely no impact, overnight Italian La Stampa is out with a fresh new rumor which cites "IMF sources" according to which the US-headquartered and funded organization would provide a €600 billion loan to Italy at 4-5%. In other words, Uncle Sam, in his role as primary funding agent of the IMF would lose massive amount of money on the "market to fair value" arbitrage, only to bail out the latest European domino. As a reminder, the whole "under market rates" loan from the IMF was implemented in Greece and worked out just swell: at last check the 1 Year Greek bond was trading with a yield of over 300%. Oh, and La Stampa forgot to mention one thing: any changes to the IMF, which currently is massively underfunded and is why the organization was forced to create two new liquidity facilities: a Precautionary and Liquidity Credit line, since it is unable to fund its New Arrangements to Borrow, have to go through US Congress when it comes to expanding funding capacity. Yup, the most dysfunctional, corrupt and criminal thing in the world - the US House of Representatives, where unless everyone is short Italian CDS, this will never pass. In other words: this rumor is dead in the water.



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$707,568,901,000,000: How (And Why) Banks Increased Total Outstanding Derivatives By A Record $107 Trillion In 6 Months

While everyone was focused on the impending European collapse, the latest soon to be refuted rumors of a quick fix from the Welt am Sonntag notwithstanding, the Bank of International Settlements reported a number that quietly slipped through the cracks of the broader media. Which is paradoxical because it is the biggest ever reported in the financial world: the number in question is $707,568,901,000,000 and represents the latest total amount of all notional Over The Counter (read unregulated) outstanding derivatives reported by the world's financial institutions to the BIS for its semi-annual OTC derivatives report titled "OTC derivatives market activity in the first half of 2011." Said otherwise, for the six month period ended June 30, 2011, the total number of outstanding derivatives surged past the previous all time high of $673 trillion from June 2008, and is now firmly in 7-handle territory: the synthetic credit bubble has now been blown to a new all time high. What is probably just as disturbing is that in the first 6 months of 2011, the total outstanding notional of all derivatives rose from $601 trillion at December 31, 2010 to $708 trillion at June 30, 2011. A $107 trillion increase in notional in half a year. Needless to say this is the biggest increase in history. So why did the notional increase by such an incomprehensible amount? Simple: based on some widely accepted (and very much wrong) definitions of gross market value (not to be confused with gross notional), the value of outstanding derivatives actually declined in the first half of the year from $21.3 trillion to $19.5 trillion (a number still 33% greater than US GDP). Which means that in order to satisfy what likely threatened to become a self-feeding margin call as the (previously) $600 trillion derivatives market collapsed on itself, banks had to sell more, more, more derivatives in order to collect recurring and/or upfront premia and to pad their books with GAAP-endorsed delusions of future derivative based cash flows. Because derivatives in addition to a core source of trading desk P&L courtesy of wide bid/ask spreads (there is a reason banks want to keep them OTC and thus off standardization and margin-destroying exchanges) are also terrific annuities for the status quo. Just ask Buffett why he sold a multi-billion index put on the US stock market. The answer is simple - if he ever has to make good on it, it is too late.



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Guest Post: A Glimpse Into The Future Of The Stock Market And Dollar

A lot of technical analysts and financial pundits are expecting a standard-issue Santa Claus Rally once a "solution" to Europe's debt crisis magically appears. There will be no such magical solution for the simple reason the problems are intrinsic to the euro, the Eurozone's immense debts and the structure of the E.U. itself. The accident has finally happened, and it's called the euro/European debt crisis. I see a lot of analysts trying to torture a Bullish interpretation out of the charts, so let's take a "nothing fancy" chart of the broad-based S&P 500 with five basic TA tools: Bollinger Bands to measure volatility, relative strength (RSI), MACD (moving average convergence-divergence), stochastics and volume. If we use Technical Analysis 101 (basic version), a number of things quickly pop out of this chart--and none of them are remotely bullish.



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Britain's Foreign Office Prepares For Riots In Europe; Sees Euro Collapse "When, Not If"

As every major developed economy hits Bass's Keynesian Endgame, the status quo is set to change dramatically. Nowhere is this climax playing out louder than in Europe and the implicit solution of Germany-uber-alles (while seemingly inevitable though nevertheless lengthy in execution) is likely to not sit well with many of the EMU nations. To wit, The Telegraph today reports that Britain's Foreign Office is advising its overseas embassies to draw up plans to help expats should the collapse of the Euro turn explosive. Almost incredibly, a senior minister has revealed that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is matter of time.



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Guest Post: The Scientific Challenges To Replacing Oil With Renewables

So, assuming the Peak Oil camp is on to something, what's the likelihood for a disruption-free transition to another energy source that can replace the energy output we currently enjoy from oil? There's no shortage of promising claims from new laboratory experiments, and there is a lot of optimism in political and entrepreneurial circles that renewable, alternative forms of energy (wind, solar, biofuels, etc) may be able to fill the "energy gap" in time. How realistic are these hopes?



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10 Market Conclusions Based On Recent Hedge Fund Exposure

Yesterday we highlighted the top 50 stocks that comprise the hedge fund "darling" universe. And while it is good to know which stocks will get the chop first the next time there is a major margin call induced liquidation scare, as David Kostin points out in a follow-up piece there is a much more nuanced read through for Hedge Fund data. "We estimate hedge funds own roughly 3% of the US equity market. Turnover of all hedge fund positions averaged 34% during 3Q 2011 (nearly 140% annualized). The tilt of hedge fund holdings towards large-cap stocks has been increasing for almost 10 years. The typical hedge fund operates 36% net long, down from 2Q 2011. Combining long and short position data, hedge funds have the greatest net portfolio exposure to Consumer Discretionary (23%), Information Technology (20%), and Energy (14%)." he then proceeds to list the 10 conclusions that can be derived using the most recent public 13F data (which is understandable quite stale already in our day and age of sub-24 hour investment horizons). Yet the bulk of conclusions are mostly fluff save for the following: " The average hedge fund returned -2% YTD in 2011 through November 11th compared with +2% for the S&P 500", "Hedge fund returns are highly dependent on the performance of a few key stocks" and "The typical hedge fund operates 36% net long ($394 billion net/$822 billion long), versus 46% in 2Q 2011." So just why do people still pay 2 and 20 to chase popular, concentrated stock positions while underperforming the broader market again?



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Guest Post: Woman Pepper Sprays Shoppers To Get Xbox

It never fails. Every Black Friday we get yet another heaping helping of pure unadulterated ignorant mentally deficient bottom feeding fat-saturated sheeple mania. Every year it gets worse. And, every holiday season I am faced with the painful question of whether or not these people are actually worth saving. My answer so far has always been a begrudging "yes". Many of them have been conditioned by a society on the brink of collapse, not just of economy, but also of conscience. That doesn't mean, however, that I excuse this kind of behavior. Frankly, if some mongoloid Wal-Mart shopper tried to pepper spray me in the face for a video game, I would beat them into cranberry sauce and drink some delicious eggnog to celebrate. Is this a well balanced response? Probably not. But then again, they would likely think twice before pulling the same stunt on anyone else. Actually, in my humble opinion, at least half the population of this country needs a good a smack upside the head. Seriously......this situation is getting uncomfortably crooked.......



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The Plot Thickens: More On The Weekly $88 Billion "Other" Outflow

Following our observations last night that there was an $88 billion swing in the weekly "other" deposit account with the Fed, some have quickly come to the fore to "debunk" our observation that this is a rather curious swing in total notional, by claiming that this can easily be explained away using cash demands at the GSE level. There are two problems with this "explanation" - i) it does not actually explain the swing, and ii) it is incomplete. As noted previously, Fannie tapped the Treasury for $7.8 billion in Q3, while the quarterly Freddie Mac injection amounted to $6.0 billion. In other words the combined $13.8 billion cash draw need (assuming a deferral to the funds flow) would almost explain the $88 billion weekly shift... if only it weren't for the other $74.2 billion, which not even fully unmatched (i.e., assuming no new issuance) weekly debt maturity and interest repayment comes close to filling the gap. Furthermore, the "Other" cumulative delta for November and the YTD period is $61.5 billion and $115 billion, respectively, which is nowhere near close to explaining the total funding needs of these entities. What may explain the delta, and what these "debunkers" have missed is the full definition of the "Deposits with Federal Reserve Banks, other than Reserve Balances: Other (WOTHLB)" from the St Louis Fed which is as follows: "Other deposits at Federal Reserve Banks include balances of international and multilateral organizations with accounts at FRBNY, such as the International Monetary Fund, United Nations, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank); the special checking account of the ESF (where deposits from monetizing SDRs would be placed); and balances of a few U.S. government agencies, such as the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." In other words, the GSEs may well be a part of last week's cash outflow package, but they certainly are not the full story, and other entities such as the IMF, the UN, the World Bank and the legendary in some circles ESF are all part of the "other" reserve "use of funds" destination. In other words, someone (presumably someone with some urgent window dressing needs), and it sure wasn't only (if at all) the GSEs, had a massive capital shortfall and had to resort to Fed deposits. And by the looks of things, these could have easily been "international" entities tasked with bailing out the world such as the IMF.



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Why Did The Fed Inject Banks With A Record Amount Of "Other" Cash In The Past Week?

For all its obscurity, the Fed's balance sheet is relatively simple: on the right there are the liabilities such as currency in circulation (which is relatively flat at around $1.1 trillion but rising slowly (for now) every week), and excess reserves, at $1.5 trillion, or the money that is "parked" with banks and is the topic of so much consternation: will it ever spill out into the broader economy, won't it, and if not why not, and if yes, will it cause hyperinflation, and other such tangential ruminations. Then on the left we have the assets, or the "stuff" that backs the currency in circulation and excess reserves, such as Treasurys and MBS, which total $2.6 trillion, and which are the primary variable in every Large Scale Asset Purchase episode also known as Quantitative Easing: should the Fed "print", or said otherwise, "purchase" assets, then the excess reserve number goes up first, with a hope that it will slowly spill over into currency in circulation and other broader monetary aggregates. Lastly, there is also the Fed's capital account or "shareholder equity" for purists, but since the Fed can never in theory be undercapitalized by conventional definitions, this is merely a placeholder. Another broad way of looking at the Fed's assets is "factors that supply reserve funds" or "source of cash", and liabilities as "factors that absorb reserve funds" which is, logically, "use of cash." The key assets and liabilities noted above are the major components of the "flow" - they move glacially up and down, and are priced in well in advance of such moves. It is the marginal, or far small numbers that matter, and that fluctuate materially from week to week, that are not priced in, and are thus market moving. One such curious liability which we pointed out recently is the Fed's reverse repo agreements with foreign banks: in the week following the MF Global bankruptcy these soared to a record $124.5 billion. Basically, foreign banks scrambled to procure a record amount of US Dollars while repoing Treasurys and who knows what else with the Fed, an indication that other conventional liquidity conduits had frozen in the days following the Halloween MF massacre. Since then the Fed's Reverse Repo balance has moderated to more normal levels as Treasurys have gone out of repo with the Fed. Yet something more troubling has just been spotted. In today's one-day delayed issue of the Fed's H.4.1, literally the very last number on the very last subpage in the weekly update reveals something quite disturbing. Namely the Fed's "other" non-reserve based factors absorbing liquidity. And specifically, the actual number, which rose by an unprecedented $88 billion in one week to an all time high of $115 billion for the week ended November 23! We wonder: in this day and age of trillions in fungible excess reserves, and discount window stigmata, just what was it that caused US banks to demand a record amount of effectively under the table cash from the Fed?



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Guest Post: Are There Any Disadvantages To A Second Passport?

The advantages of having a second passport are extraordinary– more freedom, more opportunity, more options; most of all, it’s a great insurance policy against sovereign calamity. Most North Americans and Western Europeans are blind to these advantages. They don’t understand why they’d ever need another passport because they already live in the pinnacle of civilization… or so they think. Russians, Chinese, Argentines… these sorts of folks have personally experienced the ramrod fist of government. And they’re not taking chances. Slowly, the developed West will begin to understand that their home government is their greatest threat. Unfortunately most of the second passport opportunities will be closed by then. To address ‘disadvantages’, there may be some depending on the country. For example, if you obtain US citizenship as your second passport, you’re signing up for taxation on your worldwide income. Congratulations.



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Presenting The Latest Hedge Fund Hotel: These Are The Most Beloved Stocks By Hedge Funds At September 30

Every quarter, Goldman's David Kostin conveniently compiles a list of the 50 stock that "matter the most" to hedge funds, which is simply a polite way to define the "hedge fund hotel", or the companies which are expected to generate the most alpha. As the name implies these are the names that more so than the S&P 500, or the Nasdaq, determine the fate of Wall Street's richest, because while bankers may comprise the 0.1%, hedge funders constitute the 0.0001%. Why is this list significant? Because just like gold has a liquidation threat associated to it each and every day as it is the item to be sold when the margin calls start, at some point even the gold runs out, and funds will be forced to sell their paper winners, the bulk of which can be found in the top ten places on the list below. Which is why, like last quarter, we caution anyone still long AAPL, GOOG and MSFT. When the trapdoor opens, it is the top 3 stocks on this list that will get hit the most as those who were first, become last.



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Weekly Bull/Bear Recap: Thanksgiving Edition, 2011

Risk markets are losing their patience.  The Eurozone situation is approaching a major climax.  This is by far the most important story to follow in the coming days and weeks.  U.S. Economic data has been quite encouraging and the economy remains muddling along.  If Europe took care of business quickly, global stock markets would rally sharply.  The S&P 500 could possibly make a run at the bull market highs. Unfortunately, there is a major ongoing political crisis in the region.  There are 3 options. Still, a Eurozone blowup would undoubtably sink the U.S. recovery.  The ball's in Europe's court and they need to take action.  If they act now, it may still be on time to avert a Chinese hard-landing.  The bulls would end up as winners and risk assets would make a comeback.  It has really all come down to this binary variable in the short-term.  Government officials wanted Globalization, well they've got it.



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Another Late Day Dumpfest Ends Worst Thanksgiving Week Ever For Stocks

UPDATE1: Oil is rallying (at $97) back towards the day's highs as EUR is back near the week's lows (1.3220).

UPDATE2: Major Financials dropped after hours (MS -0.15% on the day)

Stocks plunged at the close for the third day in a row to cap the worst Thanksgiving week ever. US equities seemed in a world of their own for much of the day - especially financials - as all the hope and rumors faded and clearly a large number wanted to be flat or short into the weekend. Across a broad basket of risk assets (CONTEXT), today's equity rally and selloff was pure emotional overshoot and correction as we closed back at reality. What has been most notable this week - particularly the last day or so, has been the sell-off in Treasuries. The concerns that European entities are repatriating anything and everything should be very worrisome and the volume into the ES close suggests that fear is growing. As Peter Tchir noted, it is increasingly evident that the only logical conclusion is that we are further away from a solution or agreement in Europe than we have been in a long time.



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Venezuela Gets First Shipment Of Physical Gold Today

Back in August, the news that Venezuela ruler Hugo Chavez had decided to repatriate his gold from London vaults made headlines and was one of the key catalysts sending gold to its all time highs north of $1900/oz. Since then the story died down with no updates. Until today: Bloomberg has reported that Venezuela will receive the first shipment of gold reserves being repatriated from U.S., Canadian and European banks today. "Chavez, speaking on state television, said that the bars will be escorted to vaults in Venezuela s central bank by the military after arriving by air to the South American country. The gold that was over there in England will soon be arriving,  said Chavez.  The opposition says that I'll put the gold in the presidential palace or give it away to Cuba or something. This gold is going back to where it should have never left -- to the Central Bank of Venezuela. Chavez, a former paratrooper and self-professed socialist, in August ordered the central bank to repatriate $11 billion of gold as a safeguard against volatility in financial markets." Will Chavez demonstrate phenomenal foresight having collected his gold just months ahead of Europe falling into the abyss of a toxic debt spiral or were his worries unfounded? It remains to be seen. However, he will probably sleep sounder knowing that his gold is no longer in the vaults of the LBMA, HSBC, or several hundred feet under the New York Fed. That is, of course, if the "presidential palace or Cuba or something" ends up having real 999 gold, and not just several blocks of Tungsten with a pretty plating on top.



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Guest Post: Just A Holiday Reminder - Black Friday Is Utterly Meaningless

You know the economy and stock market are in deep trouble when the Mainstream Media elevates one essentially meaningless metric to "The One Meaningful Statistic" and then trumpets it slavishly. One such meaningless metric is Black Friday. The Media has glommed onto Black Friday for a number of flawed reasons, number one being the MSM's ceaseless drive to reduce all complex problems down to something that can be expressed in a sound-bite voiceover and a video clip of a crowded mall. The MSM loves binaries: two parties, two final contestants, and if Black Friday is "good," i.e. sales exceed last year's consumerist bacchanal, then the economy is "healthy." Any weakening of the consumer's lemming-like drive to buy, buy, buy means the economy is "weak." This is of course absolutely backward: consumers buying shiploads of poor-quality crap made overseas means the economy is still on the slippery slope to implosion, as debt is being used to fund consumption while capital formation (savings) remains pathetic. Since most of the crap (and it is crap--most Americans have either forgotten what actual quality is or they have never experienced it) is made overseas, the "boost" to the economy generated by rampant charge-card consumption flows to only one slice of the the U.S. economy: corporate profits.



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