Archive - Feb 2011

February 28th

CNBC On The Case For $130 Silver

Nothing new for regulars here. Yet the fact that CNBC, following Cramer's endorsement of gold, is now apparently pushing silver on retail is very troubling: can't the fast money crew just stick with pitching Netflix or some other widowmaker to their demographic. That said, since per Nielsen, said demo did not even register in recent surveys, we are not all that concerned. That said, the people still demand Doug Kass to appear with an immediate rebuttal how he is all in short silver, just to neutralize the suddenly disconcerting feng shui.

A Look At The Lawsuit Against Michael Lewis, In Which We Find That Brad Pitt Has Bought The Movie Right To "The Big Short"

Earlier today, some hilarious news hit the tape after it was made public that disgraced CDO trader Wing Chau has decided to go nuclear and sue Michael Lewis and Steve Eisman due to their all too honest representation of the Harding Advisory asset manager, in Lewis' book "The Big Short" (not spared from the lawsuit was even book publisher W.W. Norton). "Michael Lewis was sued by Wing Chau, president and principal of Harding Advisory LLC, who accused the writer of defaming him in his 2010 book. The book "depicts Mr. Chau as someone who ignored his professional responsibilities, made misrepresentations to investors, charged money for work that was not performed, had no stake in the CDOs he managed, was incompetent or reckless in carrying out his responsibilities, and violated his fiduciary duties by putting the interests of 'Wall Street bond trading desks' above those of his investors." It appears that Chau missed at least one additional defendant: Jody Shenn of Bloomberg, who in 2010 wrote a scathing article titled "How Wing Chau Helped Neo Default in Merrill CDOs Under SEC View" which provided just as damning and just as accurate a portrait of the (allegedly) pathologically greedy manager who presided at the "center of an epidemic of conflicts of interest." And while we present the key highlights from Shenn's piece which is a must read for anyone interested in what will surely be a recurring drama in the coming months (the Michael Lewis op-ed repartees will be worth the price of admission alone), what appears to have forced Chau to take this career ending step (sorry Wing, no more AUM for you) is that he is about to hit the silver screen. In the full lawsuit we read that "Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B Entertainment Inc., has bought the movie rights and is working with Paramount Pictures Corporation to produce [The Big Short] film." Well isn't that special...

Is PIMCO The Fed's "Agent Provocateur" In Scuttling Billions In Legal Putback Claims Against JP Morgan And Bank Of America?

Perhaps it is time for JP Morgan to revise its estimate for putback liability claims. As a reminder back in October, it was none other than JP Morgan which said: "We estimate putback risk to be approximately $23-$35bn for agency mortgages, $40-80bn in non-agency and roughly $20-30bn for second liens and HELOCs. However, there are a number of reasons why these estimates are on the high end, including losses already taken and loss reserves established." Well, there appear to be a number of reasons of why these estimates may have been on the very low end as well, the first one being that the bank itself just announced "it faces up to $4.5 billion in legal losses, in excess of its established litigation reserves, should its worst-case legal scenario occur." And if JP Morgan is seeing billion more in putback exposure, then what should Bank of Countrywide Lynch say, which just reported that the amount of debt which is being put against the firm for fraud of various types has just doubled from $46 billion to $84 billion. Luckily, according to a DebtWire report, PIMCO and BlackRock are actively doing the Fed's bidding in attempting to form a splinter group within the putback litigants and to settle with BofA for a nominal charge. Will the Fed be once again successful at subverting justice?

Chinese Treasury Holdings Revised $268 Billion Higher To $1.12 Trillion, Fed Still Top Holder Of US Debt

Earlier, the Treasury International Capital website released its periodic update/refinement of Treasury holdings. Not surprisingly, the most impacted holders were China and the "UK" which as we had previously speculated was nothing but a custodian front for Chinese institutional accumulation. China, which according to the most recent TIC data, owned $891.6 billion in Treasurys as of December 31, is now said to hold $1,160 billion, an adjustment of $268 billion. This upward revision came almost exclusively at the expense of the UK, which saw its holdings decline by $269 billion, in other words a nearly dollar for dollar shift between the UK and China. Japan, the third largest holder, was virtually unchanged at $882.3 billion compared to $883.6 billion pre revision. Oil exporters also saw a modest drop to $212 billion from $218 billion previously (all numbers as of December 31). Still, even with this adjustment, the Fed continues to be, and likely will never be surpassed, at the top position in terms of Treasury Holdings.

Guest Post: Corporate Profits Soaring Thanks To Record Unemployment

In a January 2009 ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, then President-elect Barack Obama said fixing the economy required shared sacrifice, "Everybody’s going to have to give. Everybody’s going to have to have some skin in the game." For the past two years, American workers submitted to the President’s appeal—taking steep pay cuts despite hectic productivity growth. By contrast, corporate executives have extracted record profits by sabotaging the recovery on every front—eliminating employees, repressing wages, withholding investment, and shirking federal taxes. Washington’s embrace of labor market flexibility ensured companies encountered little resistance when they launched their brutal recovery plans. Leading into the recession, the US had the weakest worker protections against individual and collective dismissals in the world, according to a 2008 OECD study. Blackrock’s Robert Doll explains, “When the markets faltered in 2008 and revenue growth stalled, U.S. companies moved decisively to cut costs—unlike their European and Japanese counterparts.” The U.S. now has the highest unemployment rate among the ten major developed countries.

How Ireland Can Leave The Euro: One Expert's View

Dear Minister, Congratulations on your new appointment. As you read the civil service briefings on the present crisis, you will come to appreciate that Ireland's problems would be much easier to manage if your administration could choose the country's own exchange rate and interest rate. However, your officials and your colleagues may believe that there is no practical way to leave the present European monetary union and so achieve this flexibility. In fact, there is. Leaving the euro is politically tricky and economically costly in the short-term. But it is far from impossible. The long-term advantages clearly outweigh the short-term costs, and the politics can be managed. The following outlines how it can be done...

US Freezes $30 Billion In Libyan Assets (The Bulk Of Which Originated In The US And Europe)

The US crackdown on its former business partner continues, with the US Treasury announcing it has "located and frozen" at least $30 billion in Libyan assets " as it seeks to deprive embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi of access to government and personal accounts, a department official said." Unclear is what the source of the funds was, where they were held, and whether any US banks would be impacted as a result. Also unclear is whether the US Treasury, which has to rely on a Ponzi check kiting game with the Primary Dealers to fund itself, and, of course, on the Fed to monetize its debt issuance, would confiscate any of this amount. "This is the largest blocking under any sanctions program ever,” said David Cohen, acting undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, during a conference call. “These blocking actions … are depriving Col. Gadhafi access to these assets and safeguarding them for the Libyan people." Since the bulk of the money came from the US and its European allies in the first place, it was supposedly not that difficult to track down.

Jim Rogers: "Saudi Arabia Is Lying About Being Able To Increase Its Oil Production"

Jim Rogers joins Zero Hedge in being highly skeptical about just how credible Saudi's call for a 1MM + boost in its oil supply is: "Saudi Arabia has been lying about the reserves for decades. Saudi Arabia the last two times said they are going to increase production and they couldn't increase production. Don't fall for that. The reason oil is going up is the world is running out of known reserves of oil." Of course, then there is the question of do we trust the Quantum fund creator who retired at 37, or do we go with the sellside lemming brigade of monkeys with typewriters who will groupthink anything and everything to death, just to get paid another completely unwarranted bonus. As to those who are concerned that the commodity "bubble" is about to pop, Rogers says: "It's still years away." And some reinforcement for the gold and silver bulls: "Gold will certainly go over $2,000 by the end of the decade, and silver will pass $50." And as a hedge to his great commodity bull market call, Rogers continues to be short Nasdaq stocks. His thesis: "If the economy gets better I am going to make money in commodities, if it doesn't get better, I am going to make money in commodities cause they are going to print huge amounts of money." Call it the adjusted Tepper call.

CBOE To Add Another Layer Of Gold Price Volatility, Launches Futures And Options On Gold VIX

It's not quite a triple forward (or inverse) ETF on gold just yet, but it's a start. Capitalizing on the surge in volatility in the commodity space, which together with FX has become the go to arena for day traders seeking volatility, which has been completely eradicated from stocks courtesy of the Bernanke Put, the CBOE and CFE have "announced plans to launch futures and options on the CBOE Gold ETF Volatility Index (Ticker - GVZ). Pending regulatory approval, CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE) will begin trading GVZ futures on Friday, March 25, and CBOE will introduce GVZ options a few weeks later." The reason for this product to be pushed on investors is that after peaking near 25 in December, the ^GVZ has plunged to one year lows as gold has steadily remained just off its all time highs. So if the first volatility derivative isn't generating the much needed commission broker P&L, it is time to break out 2nd and further vol derivatives. We expect a triple or more-leveraged ETF on gold and silver to arrive shortly, then followed by an ETF which tracks the theta in the first ETF , and so forth, until the entire market is dominated by "synthetic CDO-like" derivatives and nobody cares about the actual underlying, just so traders have something to keep them occupied. After all diversion, is half the battle.