With less than three months to go, the outcome of the November election remains highly uncertain. SocGen notes that, as always, economic performance over the coming months will be a key determinant of who wins and who loses. If the elections were held today, the most likely outcome would be a Republican win in both Congressional races and a Democratic win in the race for the White House. This means that any new significant legislation will almost certainly have to be a product of compromise. In this sense, we may very well be looking at a status quo in terms of bipartisanship and gridlock which have dominated Washington politics over the past few years. This would be bad news at a time when the country faces a number of serious challenges with significant long-term implications. From the economy to long-term fiscal health, and from the debt-ceiling to Housing, Healthcare, and Energy policy differences, the following provides a succinct review.
Deep Fried Black Swan Lands As China Admits It Has A Food Inflation Problem, Releases Corn, Rice From ReservesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/13/2012 - 17:11
Last week we wrote an article that to many was anathema: namely an explanation why everyone is deluding themselves in their expectation that the PBOC would ease, soft, hard, or just right landing notwithstanding. The reason? The threat that food inflation is about to read its ugly head which is "Why The Fate Of The Global Equity Rally May Rest In The Hands Of Soybeans." This was merely a continuation of our observations from a month ago that as a result of the Black Swan being "deep fried" in 2012, that the threat of food inflation will keep key BRIC central banks in check for a long time. As of today the threat has become fact, because as China Daily reports "China will release corn and rice from state reserves to help tame inflation and reduce imports as the worst US drought in half a century pushes corn prices to global records, creating fears of a world food crisis...The release may prompt Chinese importers to cancel shipments in the near term and take some pressure off international corn prices, which set a new all-time high on Friday as the US government slashed its estimate of the size of the crop in the world's top grain exporter." Sure, as every other short-termist measure the world over, it may help with prices in the short-term, but will merely expose China, and thus everyone, to the threat of a much greater price spike in the future. Because just as the strategic petroleum reserve release did nothing to help gas prices, nor the short selling ban in the US and Europe did anything to help the underlying broken financial system, so this will merely force the local population to scramble and ration whatever food they can get asap, now that the government has admitted there is, indeed, a food inflationary problem.
The cash S&P 500 closed very modestly in the red - but tried its best into the end of the day-session to get green to make it seven-in-a-row. After-hours, amid heavier block size, S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) pushed up to the overnight highs and tried to hold green but failed. NYSE volume plunged - almost unbelievably to be frank - to its lowest non-holiday-trading day volume in over a decade. Intraday ranges remain tiny and average trade size unremarkable as ES is still suffering from the post-Knight slashing in volume (down 45%!!). Are we witnessing Gross' death of equities?
At last check, one of the final remnants of the second coming of the dot com bubble was trading down 15% after hours following its Q2 earnings report which while beating on the bottom line at $0.08/share (including a one time $0.04 gain) on expectations of $0.03, missed the top line forecast of $575 MM, instead reporting $568.3 MM in revenues. Also spooking the market is the company's Q3 revenue forecast of $580MM - $620MM vs estimates of $607.4 MM. Company also adds that "income from operations for the third quarter 2012 is expected to be between $15 million and $35 million, compared with a loss from operations of $0.2 million in the third quarter 2011." Considering the market cap is just shy of $5 billion one may be excused to ask just how the company will grow its net income to anything remotely resembling a rational valuation, even when taking that company's $1.2 billion cash, all of its as a result of fundraising. Finally, what would a GRPN release be without the now traditional recasting, adjusting, and otherwise proformaing of some historical core line times. Sure enough: "The second quarter 2012 marked the first time that direct revenue was material to the Company’s consolidated performance. As a result, beginning in the second quarter 2012, third party and other and direct revenue are presented separately. Third party revenue is related to the sales for which the company acts as an agent for the merchant. This revenue is recorded on a net basis. Direct revenue is related to the sale of products for which the Company is the merchant of record. These revenues are accounted for on a gross basis, with the cost of inventory recorded in cost of revenue." Uh... Ok. Have fun with that..
Thai Senator "Accidentally" Kills Secretary With Submachine Gun, Has Arrest Immunity, Faces $636 FineSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/13/2012 - 15:45
We had great hopes that following the return of Merkel from vacation, the VIX would finally post an uptick. Alas, it appears that the Fed's new market desk head will not relent until the VIX is at or below 0 (alternatively, stock volume will hit 0 first, in either case confirming the death of equities as anything resembling a discounting mechanism, and validating it as a plaything of central banks). Which means that until reality does come back first slowly and then very fast, we have to focus on more "off the beaten path" news. Such as this one courtesy of BBC: Thai MP Boonsong Kowawisarat 'accidentally kills secretary.' With a submachine gun. In a restaurant. Has yet to be arrested. And faces a $636 fine if convicted.
There is a segment of the Baby Boomers that will never return to investing in equities because the last 12 years has produced a lack of returns with relentless volatility and scary headline news. BofAML's Mary Ann Bartels notes that equity holdings as a percentage of financial assets peaked in 2000 and have been declining ever since. This same behavior occurred last time the market traded sideways from 1966-1984 (16 years) and we clearly face the risk of more years of sideways trading to come as cumulative bond and equity flows show no sign of letting up at all.
Does Wall Street really want a Romney Presidency? Or could Wall Street not care less, because they know that both sides will gladly do their bidding? After all it’s not like Obama has tried to jail corrupt bankers — Corzine, who after raiding segregated accounts is surely up there with the most corrupt guys on Wall Street — has been bundling for Obama as recently as April. Ignore the chickenshit donations. If markets fall significantly between now and November — 1300, 1200, 1100, 1000 — the powers that be on Wall Street want a Romney presidency. After all, it’s not only possible but extremely easy to deliberately crash the market. No S&P crash? They’re happy to stick with Obama.
While every investor you ask is vehemently concerned about any and every risk and sentiment surveys suggest there is a 'wall of worry' to climb, once again the truth is in the positioning. Based on DTCC data, via Morgan Stanley, investors' net bullish CDS positioning in European investment grade credit has never been higher - having surged recently. Critically, note that that investment grade credit index has a major exposure to European financials. Adding to the reality of positioning and self-deceiving biases of all those so afraid to miss the CB rally or look like fools in the face of momentum, bond markets are even more ebullient (as European bond spreads trade back under CDS spreads) and European credit implied volatility trades below realized vol - an even more unusual occurrence than in VIX currently. It seems the real pain trade is a risk flare in European financials once again - as opposed to all those who 'hear' everyone's bearish.
As the 'new' normal limps on, PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian focuses his attention on the political dysfunction that roils the 'new new' normal in an excellent op-ed in Foreign Policy today. The economic and financial system risks breakages that the political system will be increasingly incapable of mending rapidly enough," he opines as he fears sluggishness in economic growth, unacceptably high youth unemployment and long-term joblessness, redoubled debt and deficit concerns, and worsening inequalities between rich and poor leading the US down a path towards Europe's disruption. Sadly, neither Obama nor Romney has yet offered a meaningful, forward-looking economic reform program to address problems such as a malfunctioning labor market, unsustainable public finances, a broken credit system, inadequate infrastructure, and a lagging education system. The warning bells are ringing, and they are ringing loudly. We've already allowed bad economics to lead to bad politics. Now, it's high time to put a stop to the cycle where bad politics undermines an already fragile economy.
Another day, another LCH margin hike on Spanish and Italian bonds. Spanish SPGBs which will have to post more margin beginning tomorrow are all bonds with a maturity between 0.75 and 3.25 years, as well as bonds between 10 and 15 years, as well as all short-term Italian bonds between 3.25 and 7 year, in effect offsetting Draghi's "reverse Twist" house of cards. Expect to see more flattening in the Spanish and Italian 2s10s curve, followed by more promises of imminent action by the ECB, which however, may finally be realizing that for Spain to actually demand a bailout, its 10 years will have to be closer to 10% than to 5%. Finally, if this ratcheting up in asset encumbrance in Europe doesn't send the VIX to single digits nothing will.
Two years in and they are only starting now? What took them so long. Also, absolutely nothing new here, but merely the latest attempt to shift public opinion and EUR viability perceptions ever so slightly by one of Germany's most respect magazines. Those whose agenda it is to spook Germany with images of fire, brimstone, and 3-page mutual assured destruction termsheets if the Euro implodes, are now free to take the podium. One wonders: if it wasn't for the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR, and of course Paul Ryan, would there be absolutely no news today?
It's not unheard of for stocks to rally when economic conditions are weak, particularly when corporate profits are doing well; Q2 marked a new all-time high run rate of S&P profits. As a result, the 13% gain in the S&P this year is not a complete anomaly. But, as Michael Cembalest of JPMorgan notes, in prior cycles, 'weak economy' stock market rallies were predicated more on the view that a private sector recovery was just around the corner, rather than the current view that more Central Bank stimulus is just around the corner. The other notable aspect of the rally is that it took place as earnings forecasts for 2012 and 2013 have been falling, and as Q2 revenue growth slowed. To paraphrase what’s going on, Cembalest believes "Bronze is the new Gold" as expectations are so low, that anything better than recessionary data can be well-received by markets. Of course, the other factor behind the recent rally is the prospect of unlimited bond purchases by the ECB to which the JPM CIO science-fictionally analogizes: "Swallowing an alien is one sure-fire way to get rid of it, but then you have to wonder what happens once it gets digested. Color me nervous how this all turns out."
Think the attempted fake suicide by Bayou Capital's Sam Israel which dominated the headlines for a few days in 2008 was strange? You ain't seen nothing yet: as the following excerpt of Octopus, The Secret Market And The World’s Wildest Con by Guy Lawson via the Daily Mail explains, that was merely the anticlimatic culmination of an amazing tale of bogus London traders, 'secret' Bond markets, frontrunning the Fed, fake CIA and MI6 spies, ponzi schemes and staged murders.