When Zero Hedge first admonished our readers in June of 2009 to stay away from markets in light of a general deterioration in market structure, which included a regulator-authorized form of structural frontrunning in the form Flash trading (not to be confused with the imminently following Flash crash), an unprecedented mismatch between stock valuations and economic reality, and Wall Street continued attempts to reflate the ponzi merely for the sake of proving that it can be done, we never expected that retail would take to our warning with the ensuing solemnity. Yet with 16 consecutive outflows from domestic equity mutual funds, shut downs by legendary hedge fund managers such as Druckenmiller and Pellegrini (and many more Tiger derivative blows up to be disclosed soon, once the full extent of the carnage of the flattening of the steepener bandwagon trade is fully appreciated), virtually everyone is asking themselves how did Wall Street not only get it all so wrong, but how on earth is the primary business of the post-facelift Wall Street, which is no longer investment banking, but merely trading (with or without flow-facilitated prop frontrunning) going to sustain the recent record headcount levels (hint: it won't, and many more banks will soon let go thousands of additional staffers as key revenue sources have now disappeared forever), and most importantly, why is this time different? Why did the "dumb money" for the first time ever, not bite on the Wall Street siren song lure of an economic "rebound", but instead has hunkered down, proving that not only is Wall Street nothing more than a pure-play enabler of the ponzi regime's status quo, but that all those who were warning that the economy is far more dire than Wall Street represents, were proven right. These same individuals (and bloggers), first validated in predicting the downward direction of the economy, will see their pessimistic forecasts about stocks validated next. Yet while that happens, all those who still somehow find this a surprising development, are now left proposing hypothesis as to what went wrong. Such as the following piece by the Financial Times.
Not China, not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran, not terrorists...According to Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the "single biggest threat" to American national security is the US national debt, which is either $8.85 trillion (public debt), $13.4 trillion (total national debt), $20 trillion (total debt including GSE debt), or $124 trillion (total debt including unfunded obligations), depending on one's definition of the word "debt." And as Zero Hedge has long been warning, the imminent increase in interest rates (sooner or later), will eventually put the country in an untenable funding position. "Tax payers will be paying around $600 billion in interest on the
national debt by 2012, the chairman told students and local leaders in
Detroit." The Chairman (the real one, not his pale imitation over at Marriner Eccles) politely forgot to add that the successful rolling of nearly $600 billion in debt per month is likely an even greater threat to national security.
The firm that was long the biggest bull on Wall Street, Morgan Stanley, with its initial 5.5% target on 10 Years by the end of 2010, has finally folded: "We are downgrading our outlook for second-half growth to 2-2.5% from 3-3.5% previously. This downgrade from above-trend to below-trend growth has important implications for forecasts of the unemployment rate, inflation and monetary policy." Ostensibly it also has implications on rates, with the firm now actively calling for a flattener, just in time for the 10s30s to start creeping out again. Of course, this being Morgan Stanley, nothing is ever easy, and the firm obstinately refuses to see the plunge in H2 GDP as anything more than just a temporary blip: "we don’t think this slowdown will last beyond H2, much less morph into a downturn. In his Jackson Hole speech, Chairman Bernanke seemed to agree that the current economic weakness does not augur a weaker outlook for 2011. We agree. Among the reasons: Downside risks probably will prompt policy actions, balance sheet repair will be more advanced, and we expect net exports to improve in the second half of 2010 and into 2011. In fact, we see no reason to downgrade 2011 and possible reasons to upgrade, especially if policy turns more stimulative." Ok, Richard Berner, your colleague Jim Caron's rates call already lost a ton of people even more money : we will be sure to remind you of the bolded statement on January 1, 2011.
Goldman's David Kostin continues to pitch the firm's recent "SIRP" investment strategy, highlighting that while the S&P was down 0.6% in the past week, the recommended trade of buying low operating leverage companies (long
In our attempts to simplify the comprehension of the ongoing serfdomization of the US population, we would like to present one of the more persuasive charts which the administration would likely be loath to demonstrate. Having collated monthly data from the FMS' Daily Treasury Statement on incremental tax revenues (individual, gross), and new debt issuance, we observe the following rather surprising pattern: since September 2008, or the month when capitalism collapsed, and the Fed, and ever other global Central Bank had to step in as a backstop of last recourse to the western way of life, the US government has undertaken the most peculiar matching program: simply said, for every dollar of individual tax revenue, the government has issued just over one dollar of incremental debt. In other words, in the past two years, tax revenues alone would have proven insufficient by over half to fill the budget gap. In yet other words, the US Treasury is now the functional equivalent of the entire US population and then some, when it comes to keeping the US economy afloat. From another perspective, with an average take down of roughly 50% of each recent auction by Indirect bidders, nearly a quarter (half of half) of US budget deficit needs is funded directly by foreigners. Should (in)formal trade wars escalate, and should the US see an embargo of foreign debt participation, then overnight a quarter of US spending will be unfundable: this includes such critical key expenditures as defense and social security spending. Also, it is important to recall , that of the $3.35 trillion in debt issued over the prior two year period, the Fed has directly (via UST purchases) and indirectly (via MBS purchases, and thus the forced rotation of MBS securities into UST securities for agency holders such as PIMCO) purchased the other half. Thus between foreigners, and the Fed, the US consumer's traditional contribution to funding the US economy has been diluted by half. And unfortunately, as the chart below shows, absent some dramatic deux ex machina, there is no chance this trend in which US debt issuance is the functional equivalent of taxpayer contributions, will ever end.
What ails Japan, the United States, and many other countries is financial deleveraging. Much talk about “Japanification” over the past year or so because the Federal Reserve response to deleveraging has been to compress BOJ policies into a shorter overlapping timeframe… giving the scenario a look and feel of the Japanese experience. Aside from this policy compression, there’s nothing new in the policy brew. The monetary policy compression and fiscal insanity has arguably made the next step—a tax increase—even more imminent than when Japan instituted their consumption tax.
Central banks can salve financial system wounds, but they must heal on their own. The problems of the financial sector reflect adjustments going on at the household level. This implies that these problems will be resolved organically by debt reduction, capital losses, and rescaling of capacity.
Oil prices were higher again on Friday, in a renewed frenzy of risk appetite, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave investors the signal they had been looking for. Speaking from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he essentially told investors that the Fed will step in if the economic recovery appears to be in serious trouble. As a result of his comments, traders and investors dumped the US dollar, which is considered a “safe haven,” and they bought equities and commodities, including oil. The fact that prices were still oversold and near support certainly did not hurt. Traders saw buying oil as a low-risk purchase, and then the Fed seemed to guarantee it. - Cameron Hanover
While no one can say when the big spike in gold will occur, one can say accurately that, given the systematic frailty, it could literally happen on any given day. That’s what happens when scams are unveiled. Remember Bernie Madoff? How many people do you think tried to give him money the day after he was arrested, versus desperately scrambled to get their money out of his sticky web? The answers are “No one” and “Everyone” – that’s what happens when people lose faith in a currency.
The primary key variable when it comes to determining the future direction of US market is no longer corporate fundamentals and technicals, nor the US economy itself, as much as the daily gyrations in the Japanese Yen, which defines the move in the S&P on a tick for tick basis. As such, what the BoJ will do is likely far more relevant to US capital markets (or the sad joke that passes for them these days) than anything the Fed can pull out of its hat. And while there has been much posturing out of various Japanese administrations that deflation will not be tolerated (presumably unlike the past 20 years), and that FX intervention is near, few actually believe anything coming out of the BoJ or the Finance Ministry these days. Yet looking at what domestic Japanese investors are doing may provide a better clue as to what is in store for the Yen. As Barclays points out, in time of heavy FX intervention, such as the last period between 2002 and 2004, Japanese holdings of foreign securities tend to surge: a good example being precisely that period, during which Japanese holdings of US Treasuries increased by $320 billion, to go side by side with a BoJ which was actively selling Yen and buying up Dollars. In essence, investors there were frontrunning (or at worst investing side by side with) the BOJ. And as weekly data demonstrate, Japanese investors are once again gearing up for intervention, having purchased $60 billion of foreign securities in July and $75 billion so far in August, the highest number in half a decade. While the BoJ's talk is cheap, Japanese investors appear to have decided that at prevailing JPY levels the BoJ has no option but to start its intervention regime.
This week's CFTC Commitment of Traders action, presented in visual form. Some highlights: net spec long positions in wheat futures on the CBOT and the KCBOT hit fresh records, at 36.7k and 67.6k: is more food inflation on the immediate horizon? Net spec shorts in US Treasury Bonds, and LT Us Treasury Bonds, while still just negative at -5.8k, and -2.6k, respectively, are at the highest they have been in 2010: keep an eye on this metric as a positive inflection point may be the contrarian signal to sell. At least those concerned about the price of chocolate may rest easy: Cocoa ICE futures dipped to the lowest net spec total for 2010, at 8,092k. In currencies, the JPY posted the second highest net long exposure for 2010 at +51,069 Net Spec, an increase of 1,000 from a week prior, and a far cry from the -55.7k recorded on April 13. EUR net positions also droppe notably, after hitting a 2010 high of -3,731k, the net spec contracts have declined to -21.6k as of August 24.
In this week's update on technical chart formations, Goldman's John Noyce has nothing optimistic to tell clients. Noyce observes that while the market may have entered a short-term consolidation period with the 1,038-1,045, "looking further out the setup on the weekly charts of the S&P and the VIX, plus those for broader asset markets - fixed income in particular – make us think that a sustained bounce is unlikely and that broader risks remain on the downside." Yet the most interesting chart formation is the imminent flattening of the 2s30s... not here, but in the UK. Will the Julian Robertson "suicide" trade shift across the Atlantic?
In this week's Big Interview, the WSJ's Simon Constable interviews Robert Shiller who flat out says that an economic double dip may be "imminent." This compares to his earlier warning that he saw the chances of a double dip at over 50%. Guess that probability has now doubled. Notably, Shiller also believes that when the NBER looks back at the data, Q3 of this year will mark the beginning of the second dip of the recession. Ironically, since up to now the previous recession has never actually officially ended, very soon the NBER will merely confirm that the recession which started in December 2007, will have continued for three years, in what is possibly the longest recession on record. Furthermore, those looking to sell houses are advised not to listen to the interview, as the co-creator of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index also added that he is worried housing prices could decline for another five years. He noted that Japan saw land prices decline for 15 consecutive years up to 2006. Following up on this week's weakest new home sales data in history this should probably not come as a big surprise to most. Also for bond fans, Shiller confirmed Rosenberg's view that bonds are not in a bubble. Hopefully Mr. Shiller bond prophecying skills in bonds are better than in houses, where it was mostly in hindsight in early 2007 when the bubble had already popped.
Selling the opening rally worked again. How easy is this becoming? The bears were on their way to the bank after the Intel pre-announcement but I don’t think they stayed on the Fidelity green path. Everyone got short and then the Bernanke prepared statement said the Fed stands ready to act. When traders realized that INTC was going to reopen flattish, the buyers came back in a big way. Did anyone notice that the key 1040 level held on the S&P 500? How about that VIX? It held below Wednesday’s peak. What’s next? There are overhead down trend lines that have to be taken out in
order to change the short-term trend.
Presumably this is in response to the ongoing lock out of Michael Mayo, who as Fox Business previously reported claims Citi is cooking its books by misreporting its deferred tax assets, by Citi management. We assume the letters are of a congratulatory nature, and commend Citi management on alleged ongoing fraud, also sharing tips on how the firm's HFT traders can flash dash its worthless stock to a few trillion/share, guaranteeing that unlike in daily isolated flash crashes none of the transactions will be D/K'ed.
Banana Ben absolutely wants to do a massive QE2 program. The only thing holding him back is gold is near an all time high. What he wants is gold much lower and stocks much lower to give him cover... He is scared to do it here and he is right to be scared because such a reaction would be the end of the Fed right then and there. The Fed will be gone anyway within a few years in my opinion but it’s going to fight hard to survive and if you want to make money in this market you need to understand that. The most powerful institution in the world is fighting for its survival. Never forget that. So what is he going to do? I believe that the Fed and government are doing a lot more than people think to manipulate all markets behind the scenes. After all, they have publicly announced their manipulation in many other ways so does it make any sense whatsoever to assume they aren’t doing a plethora of other things behind the scenes? Of course not. I think that with the Fed in a bind they will accelerate and become ever more aggressive in behind the scenes games. This will make markets even more volatile and extraordinarily challenging. This is financial war make no mistake about it. The only way in my opinion to survive this is to buy all dips in precious metals, agriculture and oil. It is in these three areas that I expect to see the most price inflation as money eventually figures out the end game. The end game is more and more people will eventually wake up to the fact that the markets are a hologram put in front of you by the magicians at the Fed. That what constitutes real wealth in the years ahead will be owning food, energy and a means of exchange that will be accepted should a black market economy arise as it has in virtually all nations at one time or another throughout history. - Michael Krieger