Archive - Aug 2012

August 31st

Charting China's 'Monetary Policy' Impotence

Iron Ore inventories to the roof; steel production still ramping; food and energy prices soaring; economy deteriorating rapidly. So why no major stimulus from the PBoC? Too busy in-fighting or perhaps waiting on The Fed or The ECB to rescue us all; we suspect neither of the above. This chart, via Goldman Sachs, indicates the relative looseness of financial conditions (easing / tightening) compared to China's current activity. These two proprietary indicators provide a 'cleaner' view of the various aspects of China's monetary/fiscal policies (from fiscal stimulus to RRR hikes or reverse repos) and its 'real' level of economic growth (unbiased by political need). As is extremely evident, since the initial collapse and huge stimulus in 2008/09, the PBoC has become less and less capable of generating any additional economic activity. Whether this is due to the same shadow-banking effect Europe and the US suffer from in their transmission channels; or more simply that the Chinese may have also hit their bubble-created balance-sheet-recession debt-minimization limit (no matter how mandated from the top-down that spending is).

Visualizing The Public Vs. Private College Debate

While attending a private college and being trained in the mystical art of CTRL->C / CTRL->P might leave you strangled by a debt-load larger than Spain's, it is empirically true that salary-upside remains (almost $10,000 per year more); the following infographic lays out why the public vs private college debate continues.

Today's Mad 'Manipulated' World Of Markets; Or "How To Fit 2 Seconds Of Trading Into 1 Millisecond!"

We noted earlier that something looked fishy into the close today - our so-called 'tickle-algo' appeared evident - but without the superlative HFT data that Nanex has, we had no way to know just how berserk things were. Here, for your viewing pleasure (with a hidden message) is the last 1 millisecond of trading in SPY today - a period in which as much trading data (quotes and trades) that would fit in two seconds of 'pipe' was blasted through the exchange networks. Nanex's 'Whac-a-mole' algo in all its glory - as they note "this has the strong odor of manipulation."

Europe's Scariest Chart... Got Scarier

While the general level of unemployment in Europe is rising in a scary enough way (more detail here), the one really concerning data point has gone from bad to worse. When we last looked at youth unemployment in Europe, things were stabilizing a little, though at extremely lofty levels. With the release of July's data, the situation has deteriorated rapidly; Euro-Zone youth unemployment hs now ticked back up to its euro-era record-high of 22.6% (18-year highs). Only Portugal saw an improvement is the rate of unemployment among the Under-25 age group (from 37.6% to 36.4%) though it remains anarchically high. Italy was the hardest hit, back above 35% with its largest rise in youth joblessness in 5 months, Ireland rose back above 30% for its biggest rise in 11 months as France jumped to two-year highs and Spain and Greece are practically deadlocked with ~53% of their younger-generation out of work - new all-time records. Why do we worry? Why is this so scary? Two reasons - this and this.

Guest Post: Your Window to Buy Gold Below $1,700 Is Closing

Even the hardiest investors have been lamenting that gold prices have been stuck in a rut for a long time. Others with less experience have watched the market waiting for something to happen... And as always, many bailed out of the market entirely, licking their wounds. But some, have been stocking up. Regardless of the date, we're confident that a new high in the gold price will come. The highs will come because many major currencies are unsound, overburdened with debt, and being actively diluted by governments. Indeed, the ultimate high could be frighteningly higher than current levels. As such, we suggest taking advantage of prices that won't be available indefinitely. I think we all need some of nature's cure for man's monetary ills.

Can "It" Happen Again... Again?

Many have talked about it. More have eschewed it. But Minsky's hugely important insight in asking the question "Can 'It' Happen Again?" regarding the Depression remains critical reading for any- and every-one who opines day-in and day-out on how much we need or do not need Central Bank money-printing. As Bill Gross put it: "Minsky, originator of the commonsensical “stability leads to instability” thesis; the economist with naming rights for 2008’s “Minsky Moment”; the exposer of the financial fragility of modern capitalism; probably couldn’t imagine the liquidity trap qualities of zero-based money, because who could have conceived 30 or 40 years ago that interest rates could ever approach zero per cent for an extended period of time? Probably no one. Nor, more importantly I suppose, can Ben Bernanke, Mario Draghi or Mervyn King. In their historical models, credit is as credit does, expanding perpetually after brief periods of recessionary contraction, showering economic activity with liquid fertiliser for productive investment and inevitable growth." For a long-weekend, we present the full 30-year-old must-read paper.

Guest Post: The End Of The Euro: When Will It Happen?

In Rome, the main post office is in a majestic old building with imposing architecture. It was a procession just to buy a few stamps. Stand here, stand there. Take this ticket, fill out this form, print that form. What should have taken 10 seconds took 10 minutes;  the process it took to get there was a real eye opener. They have all these fancy IT systems, but we get the sense that this ‘technology’ just gives the post office a veneer of modernity and sophistication without actually being necessary or adding any value. This is typical of bureaucracy: take a simple task, make it unnecessarily complicated, then spend a bunch of money on technology that makes it even more complicated. Given this experience, Italy has clearly mastered the art of unnecessarily complicating the simple. It’s no wonder they have serious problems paying the bills. Moreover, the country’s demographic challenges indicate the country’s fiscal situation cannot improve. Robust economies are productive… and productivity is typically not associated with the elderly. Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations concurrent with one of the lowest birth rates. This trend drives an unsustainable fiscal quandary: bloated public sector bills with lots of old people to pay pensions to, coupled with a rapidly shrinking population devoid of young workers to pay taxes.

At this point, there can be little doubt that Italy will exit the eurozone... most likely voluntarily. A return to the lira means the Italian government (probably to be headed by Berlusconi once again) would be free to print currency at will. This is the only reasonable solution remaining. When will it happen? Probably sooner than we think.

Gold Soars To Near Six Month High As Silver Overtakes Stocks In 2012

A very noisy gappy day with much larger volume than in recent days (which all dried up in the afternoon session until the close - for the heaviest volume day in a month) in US equities. European comments lifted us early in a correlated-risk-on manner until Bernanke's speech which hit markets like a meteor - stops were run up and down - but by the close equities and the USD ended fractionally lower from pre-Ben (notably up on the day to save the month for the Dow), Gold considerably up from pre-Ben, Treasury yields down notably from pre-Ben. Near six-month highs in Gold and five-month highs in Silver were the real movers today - with their largest gains in two months. VIX ended marginally lower at 17.5% (-0.3vols); credit was very thin today and tracked stocks in general (though less volatile); USD ended the week -0.5% which matches Oil's +0.5% on the week as Copper underperformed. Silver has overtaken Stocks as the Year-to-Date winner once again...

The ECB 'Compromise' Cheat-Sheet

With Bernanke leaving the door open, but not pre-committing, in a check-raise to Draghi next week, market focus remains almost exclusively on the bond-buying program to support Spain. Credit Suisse expects markets to be mildly disappointed by Draghi's words and deeds as they question how far he can go, and in terms of near-term market moves, how much is said at next week's meeting versus said at later occasions or indicated through actions (e.g. once Spain asks for help). Draghi has already started to manage expectations with his Die Zeit comments (pitched at the German populous) but in order to get a handle on what the various scenarios are - and what the implications could be - here is Credit Suisse's matrix of compromise.

How To Lose $400,000 With Credit Suisse Betting On A Big Jackson Hole Disappointment

This Tuesday, we gave the podium to Credit Suisse's rates group with "How To Make $500,000 With Credit Suisse Betting On A Big Jackson Hole Disappointment" who in turn suggested that one of the best risk return opportunities heading into J-Hole, was to go short the 10 Year betting on disappointment by Bernanke (as a reminder earlier today we showed that virtually 100% of QE was already priced in). Well, Bernanke came and went, and although our personal take on the speech was broadly negative, which highlighted the adverse side effects of what would happen if there is another big QE round, and substantially toning the exuberant language from the latest FOMC minutes, which had previously made it seem that the majority of Fed presidents thought more easing should be imminent resulting in another centrally-planned market rip, the stock market did not agree with our take. At least not initially. As for Credit Suisse, it said to "put on a $50K DV01 short at 1.64% and expect a steep selloff when the Fed disappoints, with a 1.75% target. If all works out according to plan, everyone involved should be $500,000 richer at market close on Friday with Bollingers all around." Turns out nothing worked out quite as expected. In fact, as a result of the J-Hole remarks, we have had another stock buying spree of anything that is not nailed down, with gold popping the most, the DJIA soaring as much as 150 (although rapidly taking on water), and the 10 year... well, let's just say anyone who was on the other side of the CS prop traders, sometimes called "flow" for Volcker Rule purposes, is now down -$400,000 on a trade that was supposed to be a +$500,000 meatpacking extravaganza.

Guest Post: The Real Reverse Robin Hood: Ben Bernanke And His Merry Band Of Thieves

Listen up, debt-serfs, you have it good here on the manor estate. You get three squares of greasy fast-food or heavily processed faux-food a day, and if Reverse Robin Hood and his Merry Band of Thieves is ripping you off it's for a good reason: the predatory Neofeudalist Financial Lords need the money more than you do, as they have a lot of political bribes to pay: it's an election year, and the bribes are getting increasingly costly. Poor things, we're sure you understand. Now go back to work or watching entertainment (or "news," heh) and leave the Lords alone - but answer these 11 questions first, before hailing the new hero.

Friday Humor: Gold Is A Barbeque Relish

"My Doctor’s an idiot.  A few years ago, he started expressing concerns about my weight, pointing at this chart supposedly showing how much a man of my height should weigh.  One glance at his stupid chart and it was clear to me that he had completely misdiagnosed my condition.   There was nothing wrong with my weight, I just wasn’t tall enough.  Clearly I needed to grow my way out of this. So I went home and googled “how to stimulate growth.”  Once I got past the all the baldness cures and penis pumps (it’s not my bag, baby), I found hundreds of papers so incredibly boring I knew they had to be true.  In no time, I was able to design and implement my own stimulus plan based on the irrefutable scientificky principles of Nobel prize winners and other people so smart they never had to do an honest day’s work in their lives.  Despite the difficulty climbing stairs, I was feeling pretty good about things until my last check-up..."