Payback sure is a bitch. After being demonized for everything from the tiniest tick down in the EURUSD, to blowing out spreads in CDS, to plunging stocks across the insolvent continent, hedge funds, long falsely prosecuted for everything, even stuff they patently did not do, are about to have their day in the sun, precisely in the manner we predicted back in June of last year when we posted: "Greek Bailout #2 Is Dead On Arrival: A Few Good Hedge Funds May Have Called The ECB's Bluff, And Hold The Future Of The EUR Hostage." Back then we wrote: "we may suddenly find ourselves in the biggest "activist" investor drama, in which voluntary restructuring "hold out" hedge funds will settle for Cheapest to Delivery or else demand a trillion pounds of flesh from the ECB in order to keep the eurozone afloat. In other words, the drama is about to get very, very real. And, most ironically, a tiny David is about to flip the scales on the mammoth Goliath of the ECB and hold the entire European experiment hostage..." Sure enough, we were right yet again. Ekathimerini writes: "Hedge funds are taking on the powerful International Monetary Fund over its plan to slash Greece's towering debt burden as time runs out on the talks that could sway the future of Europe's single currency. The funds have built up such a powerful positions in Greek bonds that they could derail Europe's tactic of getting banks and other bondholders to share the burden of reducing the country's debt on a voluntary basis." Oh no, they will let it happen, but first Europe will pay, with real interest, for every single incident of hedge fund bashing and abuse over the past 2 years. We estimate the final tally, to US taxpayer mind you, will be about $20 billion, to remove the "nuisance factor" of hold out hedge funds. Congratulations Europe - you have proven to be a continent full of idiot "leaders" once again.
Not even an hour after we asked the question, The Hill gives us the answer: "The Obama administration will be asking Congress to raise the debt limit in the coming days, White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday. "I'm confident it will be executed in a matter of days, not weeks," he told reporters. The notification by the administration — which had been scheduled for last month — was delayed because Congress has been holding only pro forma sessions. The White House will be asking Congress to raise the U.S. borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion. The move would mark the third and final increase from the debt-ceiling deal reached last year by Congress." Of course, the optics of yet another debt-ceiling increase, even a preapproved one, are simply horrible during campaign season. But such is life. Here is the kicker though: the US has preapproval for $1.2 trillion in debt issuance, as per the August 2011 agreement. So far so good. The problem is that since then the US has issued $900 billion in debt in five short months! In other words, somehow the remaining buffer of just $300 billion, or a final debt ceiling of $15.5 trillion, is supposed to last the US until after the presidential election, because this topic flaring up just before Obama is due to hit the debate circuit will be reelection suicide. So our question is: how will the US, which has a gross debt issuance rate of over $100 billion per month on average, last for a year with just $300 billion in dry powder? And even if the $1.2 trillion count begins from the new request, it still means the new debt ceiling will be breached some time in August/September, as we expected last year when we did the calculation assuming a $180 billion gross issuance per month ($900 billion in 5 months). We can't wait to hear the OMB's explanation.
Those who depend on a strategy of pleading with central authorities to continue funding at old levels are doomed to disappointment--all systems follow an S-Curve of rapid expansion, stasis and decline. The Central State is no different. The solution is localism. By creating cheap housing with its own modest tax resources, then the village attracts young families, whose children will keep the village school from closing, and the commerce brought to the village and its post office will keep it above the "closure" threshold. Passively hoping that centralized concentrations of wealth and power will return to pre-eminence is a losing strategy, the equivalent of a cargo cult ritualistically hoping for a return to World War II-era bounty. Focusing local resources on obvious bootstrap solutions is the winning strategy, not just in the U.S. but globally.
3 Year Auction Prices At Record High Bid To Cover, Direct Bidders At 2 Year Low, Even As Debt Ceiling Breached AgainSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/10/2012 - 14:21
We may well have reached the point where every single bond auction has to be a new record in something, or else (the else being the point where a reversal in yields becomes self-sustaining with trillions and trillions of ZIRP cash sloshing around and the smallest increases in rates could wreak havoc within the entire system)... Today, the record in the just completed $32 billion 3 Year auction was the record high Bid To Cover, which came at an all time high, obviously, 3.73, compared to 3.624 before, and 3.314 last 12 auction average. The bond priced at 0.37% (44.86% allotted at the high), with the low yield coming at a tiny 0.276%. Naturally, there always is more than meets the eye, with the bulk of the demand coming from Dealers, who took down 56.1% in the never-ending game of repo-mediated ponzi, while Indirects were accountable for just 38.%, and Directs coming at a 2 year low of 5.3%: this should probably be a warning sign to some. Probably a far more important question is why the Treasury is issuing debt in the first place: as Zero Hedge first (and so far only) pointed out last week, the Treasury has, or rather had, a $25 million buffer before it breaches the ceiling - in other words no capacity for gross issuance (not even net of the $77 billion Fed remittance). Simply said, this means every auction means more plunder from government retirement accounts - a replay of what happened in late July. Obviously, at some point the president will make it a point to push the interim debt ceiling higher, just probably not before the state of the union speech.
Hyperinflation has struck again, this time at ground zero of the most sensitive geopolitical conflict in ages: Iran. EA WorldView reports:
An EA source reports that a relative in Tehran ordered a washing machine for 400,000 Toman (about $240) this week. When he went to the shop the next day, he was told that --- amidst the currency crisis and rising import costs --- the price was now 800,000 Toman (about $480). Another EA source says that the price of an item of software for a laptop computer has tripled from 50,000 Toman to 150,000 Toman within days.
And so the opportunity cost for the Ahmedinejad regime to preserve its status quo gradually grinds to zero, as the entire economy implodes (courtesy of a few strategic financially isolating decisions) making further escalation virtually inevitable, in a 100% replica of the US-planned Japanese escalation that led to the Pearl Harbor attack, and gave America the green light to enter the war.
When one has $2.9 trillion in costless AUM (because if the cost is breached, one just doubles down, especially if one prints the money), it is not all that surprising to generate $77 billion in profits in one year (think of the hubris emanating from that particular year end letter), or even $385 billion in profits in the past 10 years. Yet it is still a stunning number considering the rest of the $2 trillion hedge fund industry lost about 10% in 2011. Which is why we all bow down to what is without doubt the world's most lucrative and profitable generator of P&L in history: the Federal Reserve, which for the second year in a row has printed (pun intended) over $70 billion in profits. And who is the lucky LP? Why the US Treasury of course, which for the second year in a row will pocket all the proceeds from PM Ben's immaculate trading perfection. Of course, there is one caveat for this spotless performance sheet: what happens when Fed interest expense surpasses interest income? But why worry - everyone tells us this can never happen, so it obviously can never happen...
One of the recurring analogues we have used in the past to describe the centrally planned farce that capital markets have become and the global economy in general has been one of a increasingly chaotic sine wave with ever greater amplitude and ever higher frequency (shorter wavelength). By definition, the greater the central intervention, the bigger the dampening or promoting effect, as central banks attempt to mute or enhance a given wave leg. As a result, each oscillation becomes ever more acute, ever more chaotic, and increasingly more unpredictable. And with "Austrian" analytics becoming increasingly dominant, i.e., how much money on the margin is entering or leaving the closed monetary system at any given moment, the same analysis can be drawn out to the primary driver of virtually everything: the inflation-vs-deflation debate. This in turn is why we are increasingly convinced that as the system gets caught in an ever more rapid round trip scramble peak deflation to peak inflation (and vice versa) so the ever more desperate central planners will have no choice but to ultimately throw the kitchen sink at the massive deflationary problem - because after all it is their prerogative to spur inflation, and will do as at any cost - a process which will culminate with the only possible outcome: terminal currency debasement as the Chaotic monetary swings finally become uncontrollable. Ironically, the reason why bring this up is an essay by Pimco's Neel Kashkari titled simply enough: "Chaos Theory" which looks at unfolding events precisely in the very same light, and whose observations we agree with entirely. Furthermore, since he lays it out more coherently, we present it in its entirety below. His conclusion, especially as pertains to the ubiquitous inflation-deflation debate however, is worth nothing upfront: "I believe societies will in the end choose inflation because it is the less painful option for the largest number of its citizens. I am hopeful central banks will be effective in preventing runaway inflation. But it is going to be a long, bumpy journey until the destination becomes clear. This equity market is best for long-term investors who can withstand extended volatility. Day traders beware: chaos is here to stay for the foreseeable future." Unfortunately, we are far less optimistic that the very same central bankers who have blundered in virtually everything, will succeed this one time. But, for the sake of the status quo, one can hope...
What would a Collective Action clause achieve? Let’s say they institute a 75% agreement clause, so that if at least 75% of the holders of anyindividual bond issue, agree to the terms, then all bondholders are forced to accept the new terms. Will adding a Collective Action Clause make investors agree to the changes? I don’t see why that would happen. If you didn’t agree to the plan being proposed by Greece now, why would you agree to the plan if all they have done is institute a Collective Action Clause. You wouldn’t, so you would still have the same group of holdouts. What happens if a bond doesn’t get 75% agreement? Then those that agree get the new bonds, and those that don’t agree keep the old bonds. Same as now. But if it is the same as now, why bother? Maybe they need to make it 50% agreement? Or 10%? In any case, there may be individual bonds that don’t meet the Collective Action threshold. For those bonds, it is exactly the same as it is now – except that the government changed the rules retroactively and jammed it down your throats (but more on that later). What happens if 80% of the holders of a particular bond agree? Then all bondholders are subject to the agreement. Well, guess what, that is a Credit Event!
The year is not over yet, and already Greece's banks have lost €36.7 billion of their deposit base in 2011, and a whopping €64.6 billion since the beginning of 2010, which is down from €233 billion to €173 billion in under two years. In October another €3.5 billion was withdrawn from Greek banks and likely either redeposited somewhere deep in the heart of Switzerland, or converted to various inert metals and buried somewhere in the back yard. The good news: the outflow is just over half of October's record €6.8 billion. The bad news: at this rate of outflows, Greek banks will have zero deposits in around 4 years. Which at the end of the day is all the matters, because while the Troica can keep funding capital shortfalls indefinitely, all faith in the country's banks has now been lost and Greece is officially a zombie economy. The fact that the country's deficit as a % of GDP is about to be re-revised even higher is no longer even meaningful: the Greek economy and its banking sectors are now officially dead. We merely feel bad for anyone who still has cash in banks as, just like gold in 1930s America, any residual cash may soon be "sequestered" for national security purposes. After all there are bankers who need record bonuses, and Military sales from Europe and the US that have to proceed using what will likely soon be "commingled" deposit cash.
Lately, Bain founder and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has found himself in a spirited defense of the private equity industry, doing all he can to spin decades of data which confirm, without failure, that PE Leveraged Buy Outs are nothing but "efficiency maximizing" transactions whose only goal is the "maximization" of EBITDA in the pursuit of dividend recap deals, IPOs or outright sales, while loading up the company with untenable amounts of leverage. All this with a 3-5 year investment horizon, which ignores the long-term viability of a company and seeks to streamline (read fire as many as possible) operations as quickly as possible in the goal of maximizing short-term returns. We wish him luck in his endeavor. As for the other side of the equation, we recreate a post we penned back in November 2009 which analyzes just how effective the mega-LBOs have been for the economy, and the workers involved. In other words - the facts. In a nutshell, here they are: "The Disastrous Performance Of Private Equity: Of The Top 10 LBOs, 6 Are In Distress, 4 Have Defaulted." Read on for the full details.
If there is any one more vivid confirmation of Mayer Rothschild words "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws" then we have yet to find it. Today Hungary, which had "valiantly" defied Europe and the IMF in ignoring pressure to make its central bank more "malleable" finally folded, following a recent explosion in its bond yields, a surge in CDS to records, and a collapse in its currency. And to think how easy it is to subjugate a state to slave status in our "globalized" days without shedding one drop of blood. Reuters reports: "Hungary's government is ready to consider modifying disputed legislation if the European Commission deems it necessary, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told the bloc's executive and European Union partners. "We fully respect the authority of the European Commission, the guardian of the EU treaties," Martonyi wrote in a letter dated January 6 and published by his ministry on Tuesday. "We stand ready to consider changing legislation, if necessary."" As Rothschild foresaw so effectively over 200 years ago, selling out your sovereignty only takes a few pieces of (paper) silver.
Is it right to crush free speech as long as the message is offensive to you personally? Do peaceful protestors really present a legitimate threat to our national stability? Are they truly more dangerous than a corrupt government hellbent on assassinating the legal protections of our natural rights which have existed for centuries? Would any supporter of the jackboot methodology like to explain to me in a coherent manner why they believe their skewed world view should be shielded from sincere questions? Please, I can't wait to witness the kind of ridiculous mental gymnastics required to make such arguments palatable. If this kind of ignorance wasn't so destructive, it might actually be entertaining.
Whitney Tilson Calms Investors Following Abysmal Year By Telling Them He Has Lost Money Faster In The PastSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/10/2012 - 10:13
Grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable chair, lean back, and prepare to be entertained: here is Whitney Tilson's Mea Culpa for "returning" -24.9% in 2011.
Remember when various economics professors and self-anointed Ph.D'ed market timers said to sell everything because the gold 200 DMA had been breached to the downside, never to be crossed back again, to which our simple retort was, "Many are doing their damnedest Ph.D.-best to somehow fuse economic theory and technical charting, and state that a breach of the 200 DMA in gold is indicative of imminent price collapse. And then there are facts. Such as this nugget from Stone McCarthy which looks at previous episodes of the 200 DMA breach and concludes based on severity of trendline penetration compared to average, that "this is just one reason we see strong potential for a rebound as participants reduce short exposure." So much for technicals." Sure enough: less than a month later, and $100 higher, gold is right back above the 200 DMA. Oh, and we expect to hear nothing from said academics for a long time.