March 4th, 2013
When the Eurozone crisis first broke some four years ago, most analysts quickly and correctly concluded that the Eurozone was an incomplete monetary union; but, as UBS Larry Hatheway notes, neither rapid integration nor breakup were or are politically feasible options for Europe’s political classes. The 'Merkel-Draghi wager' then began with the determination that capital markets would not dictate Europe’s future: with growth-supporting fiscal transfers or debt mutualisation ruled out by national politics, the remainder of the story is about an ‘Austrian’ solution to cleanse Europe of excessive fiscal deficits, narrow gaps in competitiveness, and shrink external imbalances. The ‘Merkel-Draghi wager’, then, is a political gamble of historic proportions. It is a calculated bet that a policy prescription of robust liquidity buffers coupled with internal devaluation and fiscal consolidation will work. Equally, it is a view that the historical, cultural, economic, financial and political forces that have brought Europe together in the post-war era will prove stronger than those unleashed by the wrenching social dislocations associated with ‘Austrian’ economics that could one day threaten to rip apart the Eurozone. So far, the ‘wager’ is working in economic terms, or at least that's the hope.
In what we are sure will be a BLS job creating moment, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will create a common platform for issuing MBS as they wind down operations and plan for a future in which the two companies no longer exist. Big is about to get bigger as Bloomberg reports, these two GOEs will start sharing risk with private financiers in the single-family loan market. FHFA head Ed DeMarco comments that they are beginning to move to a "post-conservatorship world," though we assume still as explicitly and implicitly guaranteed by the good taxpaying public of America. The merger and creation of a joint securitization company with the goal of executing $30bn each in transactions partnered with the private sector will attempt to reduce that taxpayer load and "ease the transition from where we are today to wherever lawmakers decide the country ought to ultimately go."
In light of today's enormous domestic and international challenges, the United States today needs, more than ever, an effective grand strategy. Without one, the nation is in a dangerous state of drift. In the aftermath of the recent U.S. presidential elections and in the midst of grueling battles over spending and deficit crises, American politics is highly polarized with the electorate and their policymakers deeply divided on domestic issues. Turning to foreign policy, the picture is equally troubling. The United States struggles without a coherent grand strategy, while the American people, its friends and allies, and competitors wonder what principles guide Washington's foreign policy. What, they must ask, does the United States want to achieve in its foreign policy, and what leadership role does it seek to play in this rapidly evolving world order. Simply put, grand strategy is a broad set of principles, beliefs, or ideas that govern the decisions and actions of a nation’s policymakers with public support on foreign policy.
With the heavy central-planning boot of repression on the neck of any and all realized risky asset volatility, it is perhaps no surprise that investors, professional and amateur alike, have been dragged into the latest yield-enhancing 'scheme' of being short front-month vol and earning the premium. Bernanke has created a world of insurance providers - who are fundamentally under-capitalized when the big one hits - as record high levels of net short positions, record volumes, and extreme beta to stocks leave the bevy of option premium sellers still consistently picking up nickels in front of that steam-roller. Of course, as Taleb reminds, suppressing volatility actually makes the world a less predictable and more dangerous place - though for now, it seems, everyone and their eTrade baby is willing to follow Kevin Henry down the vol-premium selling route until of course that steam-roller tears more than just an arm off (given the massive and levered exposure to this market now). Instead of equity 'Buy-and-Hold'; the new normal is 'Sell Vol-and-Roll.
Surprise - equities rally on volumeless (25% below average volume in S&P futures) and low average trade size trickle to Thursday's highs. Risk-assets in general traded in a narrow range and did not enjoy the after-lunch 1% linear ramp anything like as much as stocks. Market breadth (TRIN) was not in any way impressed with the indices - which staged a viagra-like ramp in the last few seconds entirely ignored by the underlying stocks themselves. A 0.5% rise in stocks was accompanied by a 3bps rise in Treasury yields, Gold and Silver ended the day unchanged as did the USD (even as GBP rallied 0.5% and AUD rallied around -.8% from its overnight gap down lows). WTI recovered off its lows back above $90 by the close. VIX remains decoupled from stocks but dropped tick for tick as they rallied today - almost back to 14.0%. Meanwhile, AAPL slipped 2.5%, JCP over 5%, and MBI popped 24% on a legal win against BofA. And so we find ourselves, a week from the Italian election and the scores on the doors are: ES +2pts, 10Y -13bps, USD +1.5%, WTI -$4, Gold -$15... magic..
Two airliners landed at JFK earlier reporting an RC plane or drone at 1,500ft on the approach to runway 31R. We are investigating...
— NYCAviation (@NYCAviation) March 4, 2013
As investors (and the risk asset markets they inhabit) have recovered from their deep trough of panic, Credit Suisse believes the recovery has followed a somewhat predictable pattern back to euphoria. The trouble is, based on the last 3 'panic' scenarios of 1982, 2002, and 2008, the current wall-of-worry has been scaled to now euphoric levels, and the equity market looks to be at an important inflection point.
Gundlach Says Stocks "Obviously Overbought", Buys "More Long-Term Treasuries In Last Month Than In Four Years"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/04/2013 16:15 -0400
Doubleline's Jeff Gundlach must not be a GETCO algo because unlike the algorithmic programs who are all that's left of traders in this policy farce of a manipulated market and who are programmed to BTFD especially when there is a massive stop hunt program about to be unleashed on 10-20 ES contracts, he is not buying stocks. Instead the bond manager has closed his July 2012 call when he called the top in Treasurys, and told Reuters that he has bought "more long-term Treasuries in the last month" than in the last four years." And this coming form the so-called new "bond king." Gundlach said he started buying benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes in the last month after yields popped above 2 percent, because he sees value there relative to other asset classes, including stocks, which he said are "overbought."
The last time we looked at the "hazardous" days for shorting in January and February, we found something very simple - being a bear on POMO days, or those days in which Ben Bernanke makes it his life's mission to personally annihilate anyone who dares to face his money-spewing helicopter-printer with something as pathetic as a sense of reality and a frontal lobe, leads to certain immediate or eventual destruction, depending on one's margin level. So thanks to the most recent monthly update of POMO days covering the month of March, here is Ben Bernanke at his most helpful, providing the schedule in which he, the NY Fed, and the Primary Dealers will proceed to rip the heads off those who happen to be short in the face of what are the now daily GETCO stop hunts that send the S&P higher by 5-15 point in minutes on, well, absolutely no news, except for the usual deluge of between $1 and $5 billion in additional purchasing handed over by Chairman Ben to the banks because, you see, they need the money. And sooner or later it will trickle down on everyone else.
I'm not a dictator, I'm a benevolent dictator...
Paul Krugman just did something mind-bending. In a recent column, he cited Minsky ostensibly to defend Alan Greenspan’s loose monetary policies. Krugman correctly identifies the mechanism here — prior to 2008, people forgot about risk. Macroeconomic stability bred complacency. And the longer the perceived good times last, the more fragile the economy becomes, as more and more risky behaviour becomes the norm. Stability is destabilising. The Great Moderation was intimately connected to markets becoming forgetful of risk. And bubbles formed. In endorsing Minsky’s view, Krugman is coming closer to the truth. But he is still one crucial step away. If stability is destabilising, we must embrace the business cycle. Smaller cyclical booms, and smaller cyclical busts. Not boom, boom, boom and then a grand mal seizure.
The European Commission is a little embarrassed over a leaked email that warns EC staffers of the threats of traveling in Europe (and most specifically Greece). As The WSJ reports, the note, among other things; encourages staffers to invent a fake life story; warns them not to stand near windows during a protest so as not to provoke “an aggressive reaction” from demonstrators: admonishes officials to avoid bringing sensitive documents to bars or restaurants; and observes that “even the mildest reaction can be misinterpreted by protestors.” The email, published on the To Vima website, has led to an uproar, with some in the Greek press accusing the Commission of scare-mongering and insulting Greek citizens. Seemingly taking a page out of a James Bond novel, the rage against the Troika appears very real as officials warn: people you meet "don't have to know that you work for the [troika], when asked, talk about your previous profession or the one of your best friend." Troika, shaken but not stirred.
The rise of cross-border investing in recent decades is not the first time the world has seen a significant burst of financial globalization. Indeed, the Second Industrial Revolution coincided with a new era of capital mobility that extended roughly from 1860 to 1915. Foreign investment assets rose to 55 percent of GDP in the major European economies. But the ending of the first age of financial globalization provides a cautionary tale. Two world wars and a global depression not only brought this period of integration to a halt but also ushered in six decades of tightly restricted capital flows and pegged foreign exchange rates. Today it is unclear whether financial globalization will rebound or whether we will enter a similar period of more insular national financial markets.
Obama’s nominee to head the SEC, Mary Jo White, is just another gatekeeper appointed to make sure no one ever goes after the Wall Street crime syndicate. As I have written about many times in the past, Obama does not nominate anyone to a high position of power in government who will not behave like a good little lapdog for Wall Street. Despite Obama’s propagandist statement about how “you don’t want to mess with Mary Jo,” her background implies she will function as a useful servant to the financial oligarchs. Forget for a second about that fact at her recent firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP her clients included the usual suspects such as such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Morgan Stanley (MS), and UBS AG, but she is actually known as the prosecutor who popularized the “slap Wall Street on the wrist” approach.
Yet again, the Greeks are coming down hard in a very un-American manner, on the body politik's misbehavior. Following our comments last week on the life sentence for the Greek Mayor who embezzled EUR 17mm, eKatherimini reports, former Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos has been sentenced to eight years in jail for failing to declare his assets properly over the last few years. While not on the same scale as the mayor's fraud, The ex-minister failed to declare 47,000 euros of assets in 2006, 33,000 in 2007 and 20,000 in 2008. The property has been seized and Akis is not allowed an appeal but the story doesn't end there for he also faces a separate trial for embezzlement of taxpayers' money.