Goldman's David Greely is no Tom Stolper. In fact his recommendations have been correct more often than not. Which is why we believe that when the market learns that the Goldman commodities strategist just opened a long September WTI position at $107.55, it will merely provide that extra oomph to send WTI up, up and away. Or maybe not: this could be another one of the "fade Goldman" calls. Alas, with the real impact of the recent $2 trillion balance sheet expansion becomes truly felt we have a distinct feeling Goldman is quite right on this one. Evil, evil speculators.
It seems that the mainstream investment community only takes a break from ignoring gold to berate it: one of gold’s most outspoken critics, uber-investor Warren Buffett, did so recently in his latest shareholder letter. The indictments were familiar; gold is an inanimate object “incapable of producing anything,” so any investor holding it instead of stocks is acting out of irrational fear. How can it be that Buffett, perhaps the most successful (and definitely the most well-known) investor of our time, believes that gold has no place in an intelligently allocated investment portfolio? Perhaps it has something to do with his mentor, Benjamin Graham....for most of Graham's adult life and the most important years of his career, ownership of more than a small amount of gold was outlawed. Banned for private ownership by FDR in 1933, it wasn't re-legalized until late 1974. Graham passed away in 1976; he thus never lived through a period in which gold was unmistakably a better investment than either stocks or bonds. All of which makes us wonder: if Graham had lived to witness the two great bull markets in precious metals during the last 40 years, would he have updated his allocation models to include gold?
When it comes to labor-wage parity, nowhere has this topic been more debated than in the context of China and the US. Specifically, with US wages declining consistently for the past 3 years despite commodity price inflation spiking with a 2-3 month lag following every coordinated central bank printing episode (such as the one we are experiencing now), many have proffered their predictions as to when Chinese secular inflation would make wage pay equivalent on both sides of the Pacific, and stop the exporting of jobs from the US to China (a good discussion on the topic can be found in "With China Forecast To Reach Wage Parity With The US In Five Years, Is A New Manufacturing Golden Age Coming To The US?"). And while labor equivalency between China and the US likely still has a ways to go, we have now crossed a critical Rubicon, as Chinese and European wages, at least in one part of European Union, have caught up. Net result, as Spiegel reports, carmaker "Great Wall this week became the first Chinese automobile manufacturer to open an automobile assembly plant inside the European Union in the latest move suggesting the country's carmakers are seeking to establish a beachhead into the European market." Yes, that's right: it is now cheaper for China to make cars in the European Union: "It used to be that European carmakers opened plants to assemble their cars in China. Now the Chinese have turned the tables with the opening of their first factory in Bulgaria, an EU country with low labor costs and taxes. Increasingly, Chinese carmakers are setting their sights on the European and American automobile markets." The ramifications of this landmark development are massive for virtually every aspect of the economy: for domestic labor migration, for inflation, for the trade balance, and certainly for US workers.
Warning: Not for the faint of heart.
Negative Salaries, Negative Bailout And Now Negative Gold - Greece Just Became The Bankster's ParadiseSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/22/2012 - 17:58
While Iceland is now known as the country that is the closest earthly approximation to banker hell, it is safe to say that Greece is the terrestrial equivalent of banker heaven. Because as explained earlier today, the country's population is about to get a worse deal than your average run of the mill slave - they may get whipped, but at least never have to pay for the privilege, unlike the Greeks. Hence negative salaries. As also explained, the European bailout of Greece, is now formally a Greek bailout of Europe, funded by the country's already negative primary surplus, or better said - deficit (don't try to make mathematical sense of that - a scene out of Scanners is guaranteed). Hence, negative bailout. But the piece de resistance, and the reason why Greece is the in situ version of bankster heaven is the news from the NYT that Greece is also about to have negative gold.
NYSE volume was the 3rd lowest of the year so far (while ES was just below average) as stocks leaked lower all day to small net losses by the close. Financials led the drop in stocks as they start to catch up the credit market weakness we have been pointing to for over a week but while HY (the high yield credit spread index) continues to underperform (and stocks following at a lower beta), IG (investment grade credit spread index) modestly outperforms (the up-in-quality rotation) but HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) surged today into a world of its own once again. We suspect this is driven by 'arbitrage' flows between HY's recent richness and HYG's cheapness (as well as potential HY new issue impacts). Gold (and to a lesser extent Silver) was the story of the day as it exploded (perhaps on the Greek gold-collateral news) over $1780 intraday (now up over $55 in the last 3 days) although the USD did nothing (FX was quiet with JPY inching lower and EUR small higher as DXY leaked higher on the day to -0.25% on the week). The rest of the commodity complex jumped also (with WTI losing ground into the close even as Brent kept going - suggesting the spread decompression was in play). Treasuries rallied from early in the European day with yields dropping 6-8bps from the peaks and shifting the entire curve into the green for the week now (10y and 30Y around 1bps lower in yield). ES couldn't get significantly above VWAP today and CSFB's fear index (which tracks equity option skews) is at record highs which both suggest a preference to sell/cover is appearing (even as VIX diverged modestly from stocks today with implied correlation rising).
While the record corporate profit bonanza (if now declining) is still the fallback argument for any bearish allegation that the only reason why the market is up 20% in 3 months is due to $2 trillion in liquidity dumped into markets by central banks, this may be about to end quite abruptly, especially if Europe is a harbinger of things to come. As the following chart from Credit Suisse shows, the number of large companies (>500bn market cap) that lose money on an LTM basis (so not just in the quarter, and thus with a much longer lasting effect) has risen in Q4 for the first time since Q3 2009. And while in nominal terms the change is still relatively modest, the actual change in "losing companies" is a doubling from under 5% to 10%, as for the first time in years the percentage of European money losing companies matches that of the US.
'All is not resolved' is how Morgan Stanley's Arnaud Mares begins his latest diatribe on the debacle that is occurring in Europe. While a disorderly default seems to have been avoided (for now), the Greek problem (as we have discussed extensively) remains unsolved as debt sustainability seems questionable at best, economic recovery a remote hope, and the growing political tensions across Europe (and its people) grow wider. Critically, Mares addresses the seeming complacency towards a Greek exit from the euro area noting that it is no small matter and has dramatic consequences (specifically a la Lehman, the unintended consequences could be catastrophic). Greece (or another nation) leaving the Euro invites concerns over the fungibility of bank deposits across weak and strong nations and with doubt over the Euro, the EU could collapse as free-trade broke down. The key is that, just as in the US downgrade case last year, a Euro-exit implies the impossible is possible and the impact of such an event is much, much higher than most seem to realize. While the likelihood of a Greek euro-exit may remain low (for now), the scale of the impact makes this highly material and suggests the EU will do whatever it takes (print?) within their mandates to hold the status quo. For all practical purposes, it would be the end of the euro as a genuine single currency and to preserve the euro if Greece left would require total federalism in the rest of the area.
Somehow out of the blue, the strangely morbid yet delightfully Hollywood-esque story of Greek modern day Robin Hood Vassilis Paleokostas re-emerged today. Which, considering the latest developments out of Greece is probably oddly appropriate: if there is anything the Greek population needs now to finally free itself of its usurping, unelected and banker-appointed technocratic oligarchy, which does nothing but keep selling the nation ever further down the river just so it can use Greece as a passthru funding vehicle to keep Europe's banks solvent, it is many more like Paleokostas. And incidentally, so does the US, when considering the farce the country's "democratic process" has become, where both parties are merely representative agents of the Wall Street banking class (recall who the main funders are of the last three presidential campaigns). It is thus our belief that in keeping with the endless global Onion-esque farce that has gripped the world, Kodos (of Simpsons fame) is a perfect running mate for Paleokostas' presidential campaign - a campaign that is suitable not just for the US, but for any country which is controlled not by democratic checks-and-balances, but by bank issued checks (backed by nothing but electronic "money"). Because the farce will truly be strong with those two. And that, unfortunately, is all that makes any sense in this centrally planned world.
Day after day, the long overdue correction of gold to fair value which as we have discussed previously, is now at about $2000 based on the recent multi-trillion Central Bank balance sheet expansion, keeps getting delayed, providing cheap entry points to all real money adherents. And then we get moments like the past 10 minutes, when gold goes on the same kinds of buying sprees that we remember best from the summer of 2011. With no news at all, in a span of minutes, both gold and silver have soared, with gold touching on $1772, and now about $150 away from its all time highs. The return of gold now is 13% YTD, compared to the far lower 8.4% return for the general market. Why the move? A big buyer obviously. But besides that, why the hell not - when one considers that the last time gold was over $1900, total central bank assets were $2 trillion less, it is a miracle gold is not far, far higher. The catalyst this time according to some is the "sudden realization" that in one week the ECB's balance sheet is about to increase by at least 20% courtesy of the latest and greatest LTRO. According to others, it is "more buyers than sellers." Both are right. As a reminder: we have warned repeatedly that the massive balance sheet expansion is spilling over out from equities and into everything else, including gas and now, gold. We pointed out that the biggest trade off of a soaring market could well be the one thing that derails Obama's presidential campaign. Now the only other thing that could stop central bankers from their CTRL+P frenzy - the surge in real money - is starting, and unlike 2011, it is starting quite early this time around. As we said over the weekend: inflation is a-coming back.
Little to note about today's unremarkable bond auction of $35 billion in 5 Year bonds. Hot on the heels of yesterday's just as unremarkable 2 year bond auction, which saw total US debt/GDP surpass 101% two weeks after total debt/GDP rose over 100% for the first time, the details surrounding today's issuance were more or less as expected: the closing yield of 0.90% was inside the When Issued of 0.905%. The Bid To Cover was 2.89, weaker than January's 3.17, but right inline with the TMM BTC of 2.89. The Indirects took down 41.8%, Directs 12.9%, and the Dealers held at 45.3%, all in line with TTM average, so nothing to write home about. Overall an auction that just added a few pips to the total US debt/GDP, with the proceeds, especially by the Dealers, promptly to be pledged back into the repo market with the blessings of BoNY and State Street, where it is never heard from again.
Since the system itself has disconnected risk from consequence with backstops, guarantees and illusory claims of financial security, then it is has lost the essential feedback required to adapt to changing circumstances. As the risk being transferred to the system rises geometrically, the system is incapable of recognizing, measuring or assessing the risk being transferred until it is so large it overwhelms the system in a massive collapse/default. The consortium has only two ways to create the illusion of solvency when the punter's $100 million bet goes bad: borrow $100 million from credulous possessors of capital or counterfeit it on a printing press. These are precisely the strategies being pursued by central banks and states around the globe. BUt since risk remains disconnected from gain/loss, then capital and risk both remain completely mispriced. Risk is being transferred to the entire global financial system at a fantastic rate, because counterfeiting money or borrowing it on this scale to cover losses creates new self-reinforcing feedbacks of risk....At some unpredictable stick/slip point, the accumulated risk will cause the system to implode like a supernova star.