RANsquawk Market Wrap Up - Stocks, Bonds, FX etc. – 15/08/11
Our Biggest Surprise From The "Patriotic Millionaires For More Taxes Initiative": Whitney Tilson Makes Over A $1,000,000Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2011 - 14:44
When we read about the "Patriotic Millionaires" initative, in which anyone can submit a name and an email address, and indicate they make over a million dollars, while patriotically proclaiming their desire to be taxed more, our biggest surprise was not that nearly 400 Americans gave the IRS a carte blanche to go through their 2011 tax returns line by line, but that Whitney Tilson actually makes over a million per year. It appears the "Value" Investing Congress still has money left over after spending millions on R&D for uncovering revolutionary ways for its VIC conference invite (80% off, but only if you respond in the next 10 minutes) blast mail to pass through every single spam filter known to man (or so it would appear to disinterested 3rd parties who have tendonitis from hitting unsubscribe countless times). That said, we are confident all of these patriotic individuals will gladly submit at least an additional 10% of their gross income to the IRS, and provide proof of doing so, regardless of how successful their highly patriotic and altruistic campaign ends up being. Because otherwise those tempted to do so, may actually accuse said "millionaires" of hypocritical posturing. Incidentally, perhaps next said self-proclaimed millionaires, who count in their ranks such rich men as Nouriel Roubini, Leo Hindery, Mike Steinhardt, and Edie Falco can also disclose the liability side of their balance sheets.
We were a little torn as to who should receive today's captain obvious award of the day. For a while Atlanta Fed's Lockhart was in the lead, who in a speech to the Rotary Club of Atlanta came up with this pearl of wisdom: "the stock market may not tell the economy's direction." Does this mean that the efficient market hypothesis is now dead and that the Chicago School of Voodoo should hand out refunds for decades of indoctrinated lies? Nonetheless, the winner was sealed when we read about an actual paper writtedn by BCA Research's Dhaval Joshi, which found that "Quantitative Easing is good for the rich, and bad for the poor." And there you have it: all those scrathcing their heads, confused, wondering how it is possible that QE which was supposed to make everyone richer, did not do so, have an explanation. And nobody could have possibly come up with this conclusion before: it is a true blessing that BCA decided to invest the capital and manpower into cracking this indecipherable quandary (which truth be told apparently stumped the geniuses at the Fed not once, but twice, and will continue to do so them every single time the S&P drops below 1000).
In the aftermath of the first of may town hall meetings (there is a second one tonight), it is only fitting to present this chart courtesy of Real Clear Politics which summarizes data across all the different polling services indicating Obama's approval and more importantly disapproval rating. The message is clear: all time low. Time to resurrect and kill Osama for the 3rd time? Or maybe Obama can spend another day spamming his vastly reduced Twitter followers?
As if hedge funds did not have enough to worry about with redemption requests galore after last week's epic rout and vol surge, today's Google stunner acquisition of MMI caught a near record number of them with their pant down. The company, which had over the past year, ever since its spin off, become one of the most despised public companies, saw a 250% increase in its short interest since December, peaking at 25 million shares short, dropped to just under 20 million shares, or essentially the second highest to date. These are precisely the institutional shorts who are hating their live right now as they are sitting on a $260 million paper loss, enough to wipe out several mid-size hedge funds. Speaking of, following rampant rumors spread by CNBC's strategy session last week that various funds were blowing up left and right (in addition to perennial bete noire Paulson & Co of course), we have yet to hear of even one casualty. Just how tight of a lid are prime brokers keeping on their hedge fund client casualties if not one peep has been uttered about who blew up? Following today's trouncing in MMI, we doubt this secret will be such a secret for much longer.
...Courtesy of the teleprompter:
OBAMA SAYS SOLVING DEFICIT IS `NOT THAT COMPLICATED'
Translated: "My fellow Americans, I forgot my antipsychosis medications this morning, and god bless. Thank you." Watch the town hall webcast below.
Panic In DC As Starbucks' Schultz Calls For CEO Boycott Of Campaign Donations, Urges Americans To Go On Strike Against Their PoliticiansSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2011 - 11:56
In today's most underreported news of the day, which could potentially have the biggest impact on the future of America, none other than America's CEOs, or at least one of them: Starbucks' Howard Schultz, has mass blasted an email to fellow CEOs asking for a consensual boycott on donating to political campaigns in order to encourage the nation's muppets, elsewhere idiotically called "leaders", to solve America's budget and debt impasse. Bloomberg quotes from the CEO's e-mail to business leaders:"I am asking that all of us forego political contributions until the Congress and the President return to Washington and deliver a fiscally disciplined long-term debt and deficit plan to the American people." Cue panic, terror, homicidal and suicidal screeching, and overall sheer existential angst in D.C., whose critters suddenly face the nightmare scenario of having no corporate bribes, period, until they get to do their job.
They can strike... Or they can create post-modernist art. They appear to have taken the latter approach for now. Once they realize that artistically beheading fictitious clowns (whose burgers cost over $17 in Zurich, thank you stable dollar policy) does not pay the entitlement benefits, the former is next in the queue.
Stone McCarthy: "You Don't Get Three Months Of Negative Empire Survey Results Unless You Are In A Recession"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2011 - 11:05
Forgive us while we take another quick and gratuitous look at today's disastrous Empire Index, but we wanted to bring a very important point highlighted by Stone McCarthy: "You usually don't get three straight months of negative results unless you are in a recession (Note: NY Fed historical data only started in July 2001)." SMRA continues: "If that's not bad enough for you, the forward-looking new orders index fell to -7.8 in August, after posting -5.5 in July and -3.6 in June. Not only is the latest reading a new low in the recent string of negative results, it's also the third straight month of contraction." In other words when the NBER finally sits down to look at the disaster that the US economy has been over the past several years, the start of the next re-recession will likely be given as June 2011, oddly enough in a year when every sell side bank predicted that the economy would grow by at least 3.5% by Q4. As for what to expect next, look for the Philly Fed to be the next major leading indicator disappointment, which based on the NY Fed result, will miss Wall Street expectations of a +2.0% increase yet once gain, and which SMRA believes will drop from 3.2 in July to -3.4 in August.
A snapshot of the US Afternoon Briefing covering Stocks, Bonds, FX, etc.
There is always an element of price action driving investment decisions, but today it seems to have hit unprecedented levels. The relief is palpable. People are getting bullish again, but so many of the bullish comments seem to start with the fact that stocks are up today. There were some investors who were happily long coming into this week, there were even some who were short at the start of last week and turned into bulls at some time last week (hats off to them). What is bizarre is how many people who were nervous longs last week, suddenly feel comfortable. If stocks were down 5% would they still be so bullish? What is driving the bullishness? Stock prices being up, really does seem to be the biggest driver. We are seeing short squeezes in the most liquid asset classes, particularly those used as hedges - CDX indices, BAC CDS, Gold, beaten down ETF's like XLF. Italian and Spanish bond yields are unchanged to a tiny bit higher. That should be watched. Some IG new issues are in the market and are being priced at a large concession to existing bonds. That will put pressure on the real market. With some core real markets not responding as well as some of the hedge markets, I am not convinced the rally will remain persistent, and since so much of bullish sentiment is coming from the rally, that could turn negative quickly.
Citi On The Two Latest European Deus Ex Machinas: The Improbable Swiss Franc Peg Rumor And The Impossible Eurobond InitiativeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2011 - 10:15
Today's two, and two only, upside catalysts for this recent nano-volume breakout rally are the expectations of a Eurobond announcement following tomorrow's nth Merkel+Sark summit. Another expectation is that the SNB will announce any.second.now that it will peg the SNB, an event made virtually impossible as the whole purpose of the recent media PR campaign was to telegraph to the market what the SNB would like to happen, but what will actually not happen in reality (contrary to popular opinion, central banks, when actually doing instead of manipulating, act in total surprise, not in confirmation of leaked rumors). After all why be on the hook for more billions in losses when just spreading rumors achieves the same effect... however briefly. So for those just waiting for tomorrow's headlines which will have no mention of a Eurobond (at least until the next EUR rout), and for the imminent resurgence in the CHF once the market tires of being manipulated by a still completely helpless Philipp Hildebrand, here is Citi's take on both the very much improbable peg and the Eurobond news, which we believe will not happen until the Eurozone is officially on the verge of collapse as that is the very last round in the ECB's bazooka.
In 2011, so far gold has been the champion investment above and beyond any contender, including stocks and equities. At the announcement of the S&P downgrade of America’s credit rating, only gold showcased immunity. In fact, gold has thrived (as we predicted) in the face of any potential economic threat, from deflation in stocks, to inflation of fiat currencies. Some may wonder, though, where silver has been while its big brother is flexing its investment muscle? While traditionally, silver tends to follow market surges in gold, the past eight months have been rather confusing for the cheaper metal. Admittedly, silver has performed far beyond the predictions of slow witted mainstream skeptics, but it still has not come anywhere near its true potential, especially in light of gold’s incredible strides. Many may be wondering how it was possible for gold to stampede into the $1800 an ounce range after the downgrade while silver stayed completely static at around $40 an ounce. The behavior of commodities markets has been, indeed, very strange…
There was little to smile about in today's Treasury International Capital data for June (as always 2 months delayed). As usual the press release was chock full of irrelevant gross level data, so here is the bottom line. The good news: despite all the posturing China, continued to buy Treasurys, with its total increaseing from $1160 billion to $1165.5 billion. The bad news: China was more or less the only one buying, as total LT Treasury activity saw a net sale of $4.5 billion in June: the first net sale of US paper since May 2009, and only the third time we have seen a net sale of US paper since the start of the Second Great Depression (the third time being, paradoxically, just after the bankruptcy of Lehman, see chart below). The bad news gets downright ugly when digging into the foreign transactions. As is well known, total foreign purchases (or sales as the case may be) consist of central bank transactions, as well as those by non-monetary authorities, i.e., retail and institutionals. And here is where we get today's record: at $18.3 billion in total non-central bank sales, this was the biggest one month sale of US Treasurys in history! Luckily, in keeping with the maintenance of the optics of the global ponzi, this was buffered by central bank purchases of $13.8 billion. With everyone needing someone else to buy their debt we wonder just how much longer, everyone will be able to buy everyone else's debt, even as sales are bound to increase month after month. And the last really ugly news (for ponzi'ists): while China may be posturing, Russia is doing anything but: its holdings have plunged to a fresh multi-year low after Putin gave the green light to dump another $5 billion in US paper, bringing Russia's total to just $110 billion, a 38% drop from the $176 billion in October. A little birdie tells us gold is the primary beneficiary of this asset roll over.
The ECB just disclosed its much anticipated weekly purchases under the SMP (or direct monetization) program, which at €22 billion came well above expectations of €15 billion, and represents the biggest weekly total in the 66 weeks of purchases under the program, more than the previous record €16.5 billion purchased in the inaugural week of the SMP. Furthermore, as has been disclosed before on Zero Hedge, with a regular (T+3) settlement on SMP purchases, this means that the full weekly total will not be clear until next week's number is announced, and the presented number is only indicative of the pre-settled purchases of Italian and Spanish bonds. As before, what happens under the SMP is irrelevant (although is occurring as predicted by Zero Hedge back in November, when we said the SMP total is about to double as the crisis spreads) since the only thing that matters is when and how big the EFSF will become. Continuing monetizations at this rate under the SMP is political suicide (because make no mistake: the ECB is nothing but a political player now) for JC Trichet and his Italian soon to be replacement. We can't wait to hear Germany's reaction to the fact that cumulative SMP purchases (and thus "Weimar" risk) increased by 30% in one week.