Reports suggest foreign intervention in Bahrain, or at least the possibility that the Bahraini military is taking over the security reins. Such moves mean the regime is getting increasingly concerned with Shiite unrest, which does not seem to be subsiding despite dialogue calls from Bahraini Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa. The ongoing unrest is exacerbated by the split between Bahrain’s Shiite movement, which became clearer during protests on March 11. The more hardline faction of the Shiite movement, led by the Wafa and al-Haq blocs, has been increasing the tension on the streets in the hopes of stalling the talks between the Shiite al-Wefaq-led coalition’s negotiations with the regime. Military intervention from GCC countries means the situation is increasingly untenable for the regime. The paradox the Bahraini regime faces is that it cannot contain the unrest while trying to kick off talks with al-Wefaq. Al-Wefaq finds itself in a difficult position, since it risks losing ground against hardliners if it appears too close to the regime while Shiite protesters are beaten by the police.
The Nikkei 225 plummeted to its lowest point in two years as the damage due to Japan’s recent earthquake became realized. The Bank of Japan injected ¥15T ($183B) into money markets this morning to maintain financial stability within Japan’s economy, while boosting asset purchasing capability to ¥40T from ¥35T to head off a likely decline in business sentiment. Reports put Japan’s insured earthquake losses at $14.5-35B, excluding tsunami-related losses. As a leading global consumer, Japan’s weakened state will likely affect commodity prices and its main trade partners. Although Australia’s second largest export market is Japan, the Australian press reported that its companies are not exposed to Japan’s recent disaster.
Chinese Economy Slows Further - Monetary Conditions Tighten As Credit Growth And M2 Both Come Below ConsensusSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/14/2011 - 07:44
While geopolitical/logical news continues to dominate, the global economy still is supposed to be driven by something (even as the major slowdown to Japanese GDP is about to be factored in by economists). Today's important news in regard to marginal economic drivers comes from China where commercial banks extended CNY 535.6 billion in loans in February, down from CNY 1.04 trillion in January, substantially below market consensus: of CNY 650 billion. Same with existing credit: outstanding CNY loans grew by 17.7% yoy in February, down from 18.5% yoy in January (market consensus: 18.0% yoy). Just as importantly, M2 growth came in at 15.7% yoy, down from 17.2% yoy in January (market consensus: 17.0% yoy). China was officially slowing down long before of of the devastating news from Japan hit the tape.
Just headlines for now that war may just have broken out in the Persian Gulf. Look for America to have an official statement on this supposed act of war if for no other reason than to indicate on whose side the massive Fifth Fleet is on (for the time being).
And yes, in a day when a perfect clusterflock of black swans hits, news will be just a little faster than usual.
TEPCO CDS Surges 92 bps Wider At 133 As Japan Government Announces Will Release 3 Days Worth Of Oil ReservesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/14/2011 - 07:22
Our expectation that TEPCO CDS will fly this morning has just been confirmed with a market indicated 92 bps wider from Friday close at 133 bps. We expect this number will soon be at multiples as the fall out to the company is increasingly exposed to the market: to wit - news from Kyodo that the fuel rods at Reactor number 2 at Fukushima (which has so far not exploded) have now been fully exposed. Should there be a trifecta of explosions at Fukushima, TEPCO will likely not survive the public fury aftermath. And in related news, the Japanese government had just announced it will release 3 days worth of oil reserves. Per Wikipedia, Japan has the world's second largest strategic reserve, with state controlled reserves of petroleum at eleven different locations totaling 324,000,000 barrels.
And the hits just keep on coming. The news, first noted yesterday that Saudi Arabia would send troops into Bahrain, has just been confirmed with a Saudi Official reporting that more than 1,000 Saudi troops have entered the tiny island home to the US Fifth fleet. Just headlines for now and we will bring you more as we see it. But far more troubling is the rumor that oil exporting countries have now started dumping Treasurys, leading to a soft patch in the govvie space earlier. We have not yet confirmed the rumor, which may have confused the seller of bonds (Japanese insurance companies come to mind).
The latest in an endless escalation of bad news comes from Seattle Times: "Pentagon officials reported Sunday that helicopters flying 60 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant picked up small amounts of radioactive particulates — still being analyzed, but presumed to include cesium-137 and iodine-121 — suggesting widening environmental contamination. The detection of the highly radioactive elements heralds the beginning of an ecological and human tragedy. The two radioactive isotopes can mean only one thing: One or more of the reactor cores is badly damaged and at least partially melted down." If true, this also means that the Japanese government is blatantly lying to its people and the world, in its relentless determination to prevent panic and to pursue the party line that after two massive blasts the cores are still stable. And judging by the time stamp, this was announced before last night's second blast: if radioactivity had spread then, how about now? And who can blame Americans and people around the world who are concerned that radiation may be coming their way if nobody is to be trusted.
"Operation LeakS" Releases Initial BofA Emails Indicating Premeditated Intent To Deceive Government And AuditorsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/14/2011 - 00:31
From Operation LeakS' site, http://bankofamericasuck.com, here is the initial release of what appears to be a whistleblower's (former employee) disclosure that Brian Moynihan's firm is lying to the Federal government. The punchline is that this appears to be a concerted effort from the ground up to hide foreclosure data from auditors and the Fed in order to obtain select preferential treatment in a variety of housing related axes, in many instances to accelerate foreclosures. As the whistleblower summarizes: "Balboa Insurance/Countrywide knowingly hiding foreclosure information from federal auditors during the federal takeovers of IndyMac Federal (a subsidiary of OneWest) and Aurora Loan Services (a subsidiary of Lehman Bros Holdings), falsifying loan documentation in order to proceed with foreclosures by fixing letter cycles in the system, reporting incorrect volumes to all of their lenders and to the federal auditors to avoid fines for falling behind on Loan Modifications, purposefully and knowingly adjusting premiums for REO insurance for their corporate clients while denying forebearances for individual borrowers, etc, etc, etc. In addition, if anyone can get me a copy of the image of the hard drive that Jullian Assange reportedly has from the BofA executive, it will not take a dozen financial analysis to decipher it like I've read in the news. I could find all the dirt on that hard drive within a week." We'll see if Assange steps up. In the meantime we expect Brian Moynihan, or rather Ken Lewis who was in control back then, to pull a Dick Fuld and tell a Congressional hearing he had no idea any of this was happening, leading to the termination of some mid-level employee, notably the person who invalidated the following concerns: "I'm just a little concerned about the impact this has on the department and company. Why are we removing all record of this error?... There is always going to be the paper trail when one of these sent documents come back, this to me, seems to be a huge red flag for the auditors...This just doesn't seem right to me." That's ok - it will most certainly seem right to everyone in "law enforcement." In the meantime, note the date: November 2010. This is not a Ken Lewis transgression (as we previously assumed) - this is all Brian, all the way.
The surreal black swan clusterflock continues its trek through the world: "The BOJ offered a combined 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) into the banking system on Monday in its first same-day market operation since the Greek debt crisis in May last year, to soothe market jitters in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan on Friday. The central bank's policy board will likely discuss whether the sharp fall in Tokyo stock prices and the potential damage from the quake to corporate profits warrant an immediate policy response, the sources said." And we have since learned that the extra 3 trillion will be use to buy government bonds. Hello QE, my old friend.
As a new 5 meter Tsunami is expected to hit Fukushima again, and residents are being advised to immediately get to higher ground, an explosion had been heard coming out of Reactor #3 at the power plant at 11:08 am local time. Supposedly this is a hydrogen explosion just like on Saturday, although the credibility of everyone involved at this point is zero. Dow Jones confirms that only the shell of the third reactor remains.
Follow the latest at NHK in what is becoming the most surreal news night in history.
An advance look at data to be released in under 2 hours from the previously discussed OperationLeakS indicates that tomorrow may be a very bad day from John Paulson, David Tepper and the rest of the "don't fight the fed" crowd.
And just when oil was tapering off on hopes that the Middle East supply situation may actually normalize, we get this from The Guardian: "Saudi forces are preparing to intervene in neighbouring Bahrain,
after a day of clashes between police and protesters who mounted the
most serious challenge to the island's royal family since demonstrations
began a month ago. The Crown Prince of Bahrain is expected to formally invite security forces from Saudi Arabia into his country today, as part of a request for support from other members of the six-member Gulf Co-operation Council." Pretty mich just as we predicted earlier. And yes, this is huge as Iran will promptly respond, setting off dormant religious tensions with a bang.
Now that the market has had some time to digest the events over the weekend, it may be time to hedge risk on the company most exposed to the nuclear shock in Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Company. The company was just downgraded by Goldman Sachs to Neutral (which means it held it as a Buy until now) as the firm does not see "a dividend hike"... We see far greater issues for the company's equity investors than just a dividend hike. Number one: TEPCO (9501.T) has over $90 billion in debt and roughly $30 billion in equity buffer. As Bruce Krasting points out vis a vis the equity - "it's gone." More from BK: "I used to work on financing these things. It's all long term leases. The actual debt behind the power plants is multiples of what they show on the balance sheet."