Back in 2007, at the peak of the credit and housing bubble, Wall Street knew very well the securitization (and every other) party was ending, which is why the internal names used for most of the Collateralized Debt Obligations - securitized products designed to provide a last dash trace of yield in a market in which all the upside had already been taken out - sold to less sophisticated, primarily European, investors were as follows: "Subprime Meltdown," "Hitman," "Nuclear Holocaust," "Mike Tyson's Punchout," and, naturally, "Shitbag." Yet even in the last days of the bubble, Wall Street had a certain integrity - it sold securitized products collateralized by houses, which as S&P, and certainly Moody's, will attest were expected to never drop in price again. But one thing that was hardly ever sold even in the peak days of the 2007 credit bubble were securitizations based on personal-loans, the reason being even back then everyone's memory was still fresh with the recollection that it was precisely personal-loan securitization that was at the core of the previous, and in some ways worse, credit bubble - that of the late 1990s, which resulted with the bankruptcy of Conseco Finance. Well, in a few short days, those stalwarts of suicidal financial innovation Fortress and AIG, are about to unleash on the market (or at least those who invest other people's money in the absolutely worst possible trash to preserve their Wall Street careers while chasing a few basis points of yield) the second coming of the very worst of the last two credit bubbles.
S&P 500 (henceforth - under the Un-Patriot Act - to be known as the Moodys & Fitch 500 at least until such time as Moodys too downgrades the US) futures scrambled up to fill yesterday's day-session gap-down open and then pressed on to run stops to new highs. The Dow did not make new highs - but managed a third day in a row of greater-than-100 point swings and tested back above the magic 14,000 level. Credit markets were absolutely not buying it. VIX was not playing along either (though did compress). Treasury yields rose but nothing on par with stock's surge. The USD fall very modestly - not supportive of stocks. And sure enough, after running those highs, S&P 500 futures cracked back lower into the close with the Dow losing 14,000. A gain of around 0.8 to 1% on the day for stocks with reasonable volume as early haters like JCP and AAPL surged handily on the day by the close. The S&P 500 ended the day recoupling perfectly with Gold on the week...
Following a brief infomercial for Gordian Group's apparent skills in bringing dough-makers and yeast-cooking perfection to the table - arguing that they are here to preserve jobs (for skilled workers who have been apparently working for below-market wages) - and maximizing value for the Bakery Union; Peter Kaufman stops the pretense of helping and goes straight for the threat. "We are here to work with credible bidders to get started right away with a great work-force; on the other hand, if bidders don't want to work with us (and re-hire Hostess employees), the union will ask the AFL-CIO to put any Hostess product on its 'boycott product' list." But "we're here to help," he reminds the somewhat stunned CNBC anchor. It seems beggars are once again choosers... as the entitled roll on.
We have not been shy about exposing the massive (and unsustainable) bubble of credit being blown into the economy via Student Loans from the government. We have not been afraid to note the dramatic rise in delinquencies among these loans - and the implications for the government. However, as Bloomberg reports, it appears the impact of this exuberance has come back to bite the colleges themselves. In what can only be described as a vendor-financing model, the so-called Perkins loans (for students with extraordinary financial hardships) have seen defaults surging more than 20%. The vicious circle, though, has begun as the ponzi of using these revolving loan funds to 'fund' the next round of students is collapsing thanks to the rise in delinquencies. Schools such as Yale, Penn, and George Washington are becoming very aggressive at going after delinquent student borrowers. While financially hard-up graduates complain of no jobs, the schools are not impressed: "You could take a job at Subway or wherever to pay the bills ... It seems like basic responsibility to me," but perhaps that is the point - avoiding responsibility is seemingly rewarded in the new normal.
From Whitney Tilson: "After a strong 12-year run, 2011 and 2012 were lost years. I feel very badly about this and apologize to you. But I know you don’t want an apology – you want performance! To that end, I’ve reflected on the mistakes I’ve made, learned from them, and taken significant steps to maximize our chances of success going forward: I’m now the sole portfolio manager and have dramatically simplified, focused, and de-risked the fund. I’m confident that my strategy is sound, I will execute it well going forward, and we will all profit."
Exactly ten years ago to the day, Simon Black was in the Kuwaiti desert waiting for George W. Bush to ‘make his decision’. He knew it was going to happen. At the time, he was a rising intelligence officer, his head still filled with ideals of national duty from my time at West Point. It all came crashing down ten years ago today. On February 5, 2003 Colin Powell, four-star general turned US Secretary of State, made a case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Now, we won’t bother delving into the inaccuracies of the intelligence he presented. In Powell’s own words, making that presentation to the UN was “the lowest point in [his] life” and a “lasting blot on his record.”For Black, it was pivotal. At that instant, he knew without doubt that his government had reprehensibly lied through its teeth. And if they were lying about this... what else were they lying about? As destructive as these politicians are, though, they’re easy to defeat. Individuals who take action early have plenty of options to buy precious metals, move a portion of their savings abroad to a stable banking jurisdiction, and scout out locations overseas in case they ever need to get out of dodge.
We won't spend any time discussing the accuracy of the "impartial" Congressional Budget Office: we already did that in August 2011 when we showed that back in 2001 the CBO forecast total 2011 public debt would be negative $2.4 trillion; instead the real number was positive $10.4 trillion, a delta of only $12.8 trillion. We also won't spend much time on the just released CBO headline grabbing projection that the 2013 budget deficit will be under $1 trillion, or $845 billion to be precise. Instead we will show the progression of the CBO's baseline forecasts for the period 2012 and onward. We will also note that the now-forecast 2013 budget deficit of $845 billion was supposed to be a deficit of just $585 billion one short year ago, a token 40%+ error rate, but in the immortal words of Hillary Clinton: "who cares." Of course we should note that if we apply the same forecast error to the 2013 budget, it means the real final deficit print will be $1.2 trillion - just a tad more realistic. Finally, we will certainly note that while the CBO believes 2013 may see the first sub $1 trillion deficit in 4 years, a number which will decline modestly in the coming years, the deficit then proceeds to grow and grow and grow, until we reach 2024, at which point the US deficit returns to $1 trillion once again... and never gets smaller. And this is the optimistic version.
The Chairman of Goldman's Asset Management group, unwise supporter of Man Utd, promoter of 'decoupling' myths, and creator of the BRIC mnemonic has decided, with everything looking so tickety-boo, to retire. Whether his great Buy BRICS fail or his BoE leadership bid fail was the final straw is unclear, but for now, the erstwhile permabull (and mocker of market skeptics) leaves us on a bright note:
- *O'NEILL SAYS CLEAR EVIDENCE OF THINGS DOING BETTER ECONOMICALLY
20 years of 'broken record' survival and the Brit throws in his chips now - just as everything looks be taking off? Leave your farewell message below...
Sequester, Schmequester. It would seem Q4's initial warning from the DoD was enough to get the DC-ites scrambling. President Obama takes to the teleprompter to suggest (we assume) humbly that we swap today's sequester plans for tomorrow's 'balanced' slower rate of spending growth (oh and we are sure some new taxes). And yay verily, all will be well once again in the land of make-believe fiscal policy...
The raging second Egyptian Spring isn't quite the webcast ratings bonanza it was when it first struck in 2011, which makes sense as the current Muslim Brotherhood government has the full backing of the US and thus it is in "everyone's best interest" to not follow how close to a counterrevolution the nation once again is. And while for the time being the country's most valuable asset, the Egypt-controlled Suez Canal Authority is in "stable" hands, that does not mean that the government, which today announced its foreign reserves had dipped precariously to only $13.6 billion, can't enforce inflation where everyone else says deflation reigns. As a result, as of May 1, the tolls for any crude oil and other liquid tankers will rise by 5%, while tolls for other commodities will increase by 2-3%. Expect said additional infrastructure costs to be promptly passed on to end consumers around the globe.
The mainstream media is overflowing with stories proclaiming the global economy is on the mend. Really? Based on what engine of growth? If we cut through the Keynesian jargon of aggregate demand and other Cargo-Cult mumbo-jumbo, what we find is the Status Quo is hoping to boost its precious aggregate demand with the same bag of tricks that imploded so spectacularly in 2008: the wealth effect based on phantom collateral created by Centrally Planned asset bubbles. Though you will not find a Keynesian pundit or economist with the courage required to admit it, the same problem of phantom collateral applies to Federal and state debt: the consumption all that debt funded is soon forgotten, but the debt remains to be paid, essentially forever.
While every central banker and policy-leech spews forth the government-supplied statistics on inflation - noting that all is well, carry on - we recently pointed out that Gas Prices are their highest ever for this time of year. Of course, the standard supply constraints (or technical) reasoning was applied to dismiss this as transitory (even though it has continued to rise since); but what is perhaps more worrisome is the broad-based nature of the real inflation that is leaking into our global supply chain. The 24-commodity heavy S&P GSCI index (widely recognized as a leading measure of general price movements and inflation in the world economy) has never been as high in early February as it is currently - ever. And with global growth stagnating at best, it seems a tough call to blame 'recovery' for this inflating (fastest pace in 8 years) raw material price leaking cost-push inflation (and margin-compression) into the real economy.
We urge readers to do a word search for "Moody's" in the official department of justice release below. Here are the highlights:
DOJ COMPLAINT ALLEGES S&P LIED ABOUT ITS OBJECTIVITY - when it downgraded the US?
HOLDER SAYS S&P'S ACTIONS CAUSED `BILLIONS' IN LOSSES - did Moody's actions, profiled previously here, which happens to be a major holding of one Warren Buffett, cause billions in profits?
HOLDER SAYS `NO CONNECTION' BETWEEN S&P SUIT, U.S. DOWNGRADE - just brilliant
Pure pathetic political posturing, because it was the rating agencies, whose complicity and conflicts of interest everyone knew about, who were responsible for the financial crisis. Not Alan Greenspan, not Ben Bernanke, and certainly not Wall Street which made tens of billions in profits selling CDOs to idiots in Europe and Asia. Of course, the US consumer who had a gun held against their head when they were buying McMansions with no money down and no future cash flow is not even mentioned.
Over the weekend we reported on the second Greek strike of the year, the first being that of subway workers which ended prematurely into its ninth day when the government threatened to arrest all strikers who had snarled traffic in Athens to a halt, this time involving Greek seamen who had left the Greek isles in geographic isolation for a week. Earlier today, the strike which had gone on for a week, was voted to be extended another 48 hours which mean ships would remain tied up in port until early Friday, while the seamen's union will meet anew to debate whether to further extend their walkout. Needless to say, the union is angry at pay arrears and government austerity policies. As of moments ago the union will be even angrier, as the government just announced it would order civil mobilization - or said otherwise, deploy the arrest threats - once again as a repeat desperate measure to halt this latest strike.
As UBS' Art Cashin points out, the weekend talk shows were filled with talk of immigration reform, and yet, as he exclaims, no discussion of Social Security. The avuncular arbitrageur, however, sees immigration reform from a different and insightful perspective noting that while immigration reform may finally get the undocumented worker a fairer break, Social Security will lose significantly...