July 18th, 2012
- Who Needs the Euro When You Can Pay With Deutsche Marks? (WSJ)
- Now it's personal and ad hominem: Is German Economist Exacerbating Euro Crisis? (Spiegel)
- Bernanke Outlines Range Of Options For Additional Easing (Bloomberg)
- Italy's Monti says serious worry Sicily region may default (Reuters)
- Libor ‘structurally flawed’, says Fed (FT)
- Some Firms Opt to Bring Manufacturing Back to U.S. (WSJ)
- ECB Signals Support for Easing Irish Debt Terms (WSJ)
- China’s Wen Warns Of Severe Job Outlook As Growth Yet To Return (Bloomberg)
- Hollande scraps tax breaks on overtime (WSJ)
- China’s June Home Prices Rebound As Sentiment Improves (Bloomberg)
There were several numbers one should focus on today's Bank of America earnings release. They were not the Net Income EPS ($0.19 which beat estimates of $0.15), the Income before income taxes of $3.4 billion, nor Revenue net of interest expense ($21.968 which missed expectations of $22.71 billion). Here are the numbers that did matter: Loan Loss Reserve Release $1.9b billion, or 56% of pretax net income, Sales And Trading Revenue exluding DVA plunged by $1.9 billion from Q1 to $3.3 billion (and by $263 million from a year ago), and most importantly, counterparty claims by coutnerparties for Reps and Warranties purposes (remember those? the realization of their size caused the stock to plummet last August) soared from $16.1 billion to $22.7 billion sequentially: the highest it has ever been, even as the company only took a $395 million provision against losses, and the ending Rep and Warranties balance was $16 billion (driven by nearly a doubling in Private repurchase request claims from $4.9 billion to $8.6 billion!), or well below the potential outstanding claims. BAC is now reserve deficient by about $6.7 billion! Considering the company's settlement with Syncora yesterday, and imminent settlement with MBIA this may be a tiny problem.
"A week after Bernanke spoke last year we saw the highs for H2 2012 (1345) before moving aggressively lower into the low 1100s through August- October as Europe’s problems intensified and the US debt ceiling problems came to a head. One year on and the biggest H2 risks are probably similar. US data is weakening, Europe’s problems could easily come to a head again and the fiscal cliff could become a major issue, albeit slightly later in the year. We also now have a China slowdown to contend with. So the parallels are there."
The NIRP club, or those countries whose 2 Year (or longer) bonds trade inside negative territory as presented yesterday, is happy to welcome Finland among its ranks, following the country's 2 Year bond briefly touching on -.008% minutes ago (since "recovering" to 0.0000% briefly). Other proud member countries include Holland, Germany (which earlier issued 2 Year debt at sub zero rates for the first time ever), Denmark, and Switzerland, or Europe's AAA-list. On the other end, the peripherals continue to trade on an ever more unsustainable basis. Europe has now become one big pair trade: everyone is long the viable countries and short the... less than viable ones.
FDA Spies On Whistleblowers’ Personal Information … then Uses It to Smear Whistleblowers of Faulty Medical DevicesSubmitted by George Washington on 07/17/2012 23:48 -0400
Regulators and Politicians Work Hard … to Protect Corporate Wrongdoing and Smear Whistleblowers
During an economic boom, exuberance finds itself lodged in all types of industries. When profits soar, so does the public’s disregard for prudence. And as tax revenues rise, politicians can’t help but give in to their bread and butter of buying votes. In the case of a credit-expansion boom fueled primarily by fractional reserve banking and interest rate manipulation through a central bank, the boom conditions are destined toward bust. Liquidation then becomes necessary as the bust gets underway and malinvestments come to light. What the city of Scranton has in common with San Bernardino, Detroit, et al. is that its dire fiscal condition is due to one thing and one thing only: benefits promised to unionized workers, and, it appears, "the salad days of the government employee are coming to an end, as they have already in Greece, Italy and Spain." To those sick and tired of the tax-eater mentality that is destroying the very core of society’s productive capacity and moral base, those days can’t come soon enough.
Despite the 'idiosyncratic' stresses in California (and elsewhere) the reach-for-'safe'-yield has maintained a strong bid for Munis in the last few weeks (on both a spread and yield basis). As Citi's George Friedlander notes, the last week alone saw 15-20bps compression in the mid- to long-end of the Muni curve - notably outperforming the longer-end of the Treasury curve. New issues have been oversubscribed and snapped as much as 20bps on the break. The reason is simple - 'all-time record' total redemptions (maturing and called bonds) - which left net issuance negative and a strong tendency for certain types of investors to put cash back to work as soon as it is received. However, this flood of 'technical' liquidity from reinvestment faces a rather sudden cliff around the start of August when expected net issuance will turn aggressively positive relative to redemptions. Given the constant refinancings and a lack of maturing reinvestment, Freiedlander expects "the muni market to struggle to absorb [the heavy calendar] after August 1 - and slightly earlier if participants begin to discount this shift", which will only push refinancing costs higher for issuers coming to market.
When it comes to estimating the biggest threat to the global financial system, by far the biggest threat and biggest unknown is the total Financial debt in the system, for the simple reason that as we have been showing for over two years, it is simply impossible to quantify just what the real level of such debt in the developed world truly is, especially when one accounts for shadow liabilities, rehypothecated collateral, derivatives, and all those other footnotes in financial statements that only become relevant when daisy-chained collateral links start collapsing following the default of one or more financial entities, and when gross becomes net. What we can, however, do is show the other three major categories of debt currently existing in the system: Government, Corporate and Household debt, as they are distributed among the "developed" countries. We also know what the tresholds are beyond which the debt becomes unstustainable. In the words of the BIS: "For government debt, the threshold is around 85% of GDP... When corporate debt goes beyond 90% of GDP, it becomes a drag on growth. And for household debt, we report a threshold around 85% of GDP, although the impact is very imprecisely estimated."
The Fed is caught between a rock and a hard place. If they inflate, they risk the danger of initiating a damaging and deleterious trade war with creditors who do not want to take an inflationary haircut. If they don’t inflate, they remain stuck in a deleveraging trap resulting in weak fundamentals, and large increases in government debt, also rattling creditors. The likeliest route from here remains that the Fed will continue to baffle the Krugmanites by pursuing relatively restrained inflationism (i.e. Operation Twist, restrained QE, no NGDP targeting, no debt jubilee, etc) to keep the economy ticking along while minimising creditor irritation. The problem with this is that the economy remains caught in the deleveraging trap. And while the economy is depressed tax revenues remain depressed, meaning that deficits will grow, further irritating creditors (who unlike bond-flipping hedge funds must eat the very low yields instead of passing off treasuries to a greater fool for a profit), who may pursue trade war and currency war strategies and gradually (or suddenly) desert US treasuries and dollars. Geopolitical tension would spike commodity prices. And as more dollars end up back in the United States (there are currently $5+ trillion floating around Asia), there will be more inflation still. The reduced global demand for dollar-denominated assets would put pressure on the Fed to print to buy more treasuries.
Citi, Bank Of America, And JPMorgan Enter Lieborgate: Congress Expands Libor Probe To Big Three Domestic BanksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2012 20:40 -0400
When the Fed released its "trove" of materials confirming that the Fed indeed knew that the Barclays was manipulating its Libor submissions (amusingly explained by Ben Bernanke before Senate today that "the employee had no idea what Libor is in that case"), few were surprised, but more were confused why the congressional inquiry focused solely on the Fed's interactions with British Barclays, instead of focusing on the three domestic banks that were part of the BBA's USD Libor fixing committee.Sure enough, the 3 US banks on the USD Libor fixing committee were just dragged into the fray: "Representative Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican and chairman of the oversight and investigations panel of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee said he intends to request correspondence between the Fed and the three U.S. banks on the Libor-setting panel, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp., according to a congressional aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not yet public."
Whitney Tilson may have met his match. Canadian commodities hedge fund Salida Capital is no stranger to media notoriety: last October none other than Zero Hedge wrote that "Fund Blamed For Gold Sell Off, Salida Capital, Tumbles 37% In September, 49% YTD" after the fund's infamously timed bet on more easing by the Fed backfired and resulted in losses so severe it was enough to warrant liquidation rumors across all commodity classes, which in turn set off follow on liquidations worries in a self reinforcing feedback loop. In retrospect, anyone who read the caveats about the Toronto-based asset manager would have been wise to get the hell out of dodge, because the firm that simply had used massive amount of leverage to generate ridiculous returns such as +35.84%, -66.50%, +188.55%, 44.88%, and -53.39%, is now down 75% in the last 12 months, meaning anyone who invested $100 with the fund, is down to just $25 (and realistically less when management fees are accounted for). It also means that the fund's Sharpe ratio is borderline negative. Finally, it is precisely such fantastically leveraged contraptions on coin toss-based outcomes that even further undermine what little credibility and standing the last vestiges of real, alpha not beta-focused, asset managers remain in this New Normal of ubiquitous central planning.
Wealth has become stateless, and as a consequence it is becoming increasingly less accountable to any state’s laws or tax codes. Over the last quarter century it has become increasing easier to transfer large sums of money, what is more, large financial institutions find it far easier today to relocate to a different legal and tax jurisdiction than at any previous time, because it is easier to re-establish the necessary business infrastructure, the cost of relocation has lessened. Recognising this trend over the last quarter century, and being desirous of any slice of revenue they can get their hands on, governments around the world have competed with each other, to provide the ‘best business environment’ for those financial institutions. Let’s not delude ourselves about this, the ‘best business environment’ is the least regulation and the most advantageous tax breaks. And by competing with each other in this way, governments around the world created the regulatory environment which was, in part, responsible for the current financial crisis. And then there are the ‘Tax Havens’