February 21st, 2012
While nothing is more certain than death and taxes (and central bank largesse), David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff uncovers The Unlucky Seven major tax-related uncertainties facing households and businesses that will likely lead to multiple compression in markets (rather than the much-heralded multiple expansion 'story' which appears to have topped the talking-head charts - just above 'money on the sidelines' and 'wall of worry', as 'earnings-driven' arguments are failing on the back of this quarter). As he notes the radically changed taxation climate in 2013 and beyond will have an impact on all economic participants as they will probably opt to bolster their cash reserves in the second half of the year in preparation for the proverbial rainy day.
To be or not to be (in the Euro), that should be the question on the Greek people's minds and not whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings (fiscal occupation) and arrows (sovereignty destruction) of an outraged 'fiscally fascist' Troika. As Rodney Shakespeare so eloquently explains in this Russia Today interview, the projected trajectory of the debt/GDP for Greece is nonsense and are simply 'manipulations that justify the banking occupation of Greece'. In words that should ring true to any reader of the Bard, Rodney goes on to highlight the terrible plight that is to come to generations of Greeks citing the 'whole thing as a fraud'. The brave and highly inventive Greek people can succeed if they are not forced to bailout the banks and instead leave the Euro; dismissing the office of the financial fascists that will soon occupy the nation. Strong (and emotional) words describe why the IMF/EU/ECB bloc is so keen to maintain the status quo that is clearly crumbling at their feet as perhaps they would do well to remember the final words of this Hamlet soliloquy: 'be all my sins remembered'.
Anonymous Hacks Greek Ministry Website, Demands IMF Withdrawal, Threatens It Will Wipe Away All Citizen DebtsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 18:31 -0500
If there is one war that Greece could not afford to join, that is with the global computer hacking collective known as Anonymous. Yet as of minutes ago, that is precisley what happened, after Anonymous, as part of what it now calls Operation Greece, took down the Greek Ministry of Justice (http://www.ministryofjustice.gr/). While the pretext for the hacking appears to have been an arrest of the wrong people, is seems to have angered Anonymous to the point where they have left an extended message of demands on the Greek website, warning that unless the IMF withdraws from the country and the government resigns, all debts of Greek citizens will be wiped clean.
Today, without much fanfare, US debt to GDP hit 101% with the latest issuance of $32 billion in 2 Year Bonds. If the moment when this ratio went from double to triple digits is still fresh in readers minds, is because it is: total debt hit and surpassed the most recently revised Q4 GDP on January 30, or just three weeks ago. Said otherwise, it has taken the US 21 days to add a full percentage point to this most critical of debt sustainability ratios: but fear not, with just under $1 trillion in new debt issuance on deck in the next 9 months, we will be at 110% in no time. Still, this trend made us curious to see who has been buying (and selling) US debt over the past year. The results are somewhat surprising. As the chart below, which highlights some of the biggest and most notable holders of US paper, shows, in the period December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2011, there have been two very distinct shifts: those who are going all in on the ponzi, and those who are gradually shifting away from the greenback, and just as quietly, and without much fanfare of their own, reinvesting their trade surplus in something distinctly other than US paper. The latter two: China and Russia, as we have noted in the past. Yet these are more than offset by... well, we'll let the readers look at the chart and figure out it.
Volumes were below average but not dismally so as the sad 6.5pt drop in ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) from Sunday's open to today's close is incredibly the largest drop since 12/28 [correction: 2/10 saw a slightly larger open to close drop] on a day when the problems of Greece are now apparently behind us and Dow 13,000 means that retail will come storming back. High yield credit underperformed (and investment grade outperformed) as stocks drifted to Friday's lows suggesting some up-in-quality rotation (though HYG - the high-yield bond ETF - was strong most of the day). Financials ended the day red with the majors losing significant ground off intraday highs (and CDS widening still further) but the bigger story of the day was the rise in commodities with Copper (RRR cut?) and Silver outperforming (up 3.3% since Friday's close already), WTI managing $106 intraday and Gold touching $1760 (both up over 2% from Friday). What was surprising was the dramatic outperformance with the USD which weakened by 0.44% from Friday as EUR is up 0.75% from Friday alone (while Cable, JPY, and most notably for risk AUD are all weaker against the USD). Treasuries sold off through European hours today and then recovered about half the loss only to ebb quietly into the close with 30Y +6.5bps from Friday (another divergence with stocks) and steeper curve. All-in-all, it seems confusion reigned on Europe but the bias in credit (and financials) seemed more concerned than equities (even with HD and WMT) and FX as real assets were bought aggressively.
Highly paid shills for the status quo on Wall Street have recently been wheeled out to observe the fundamental ugliness of western government bonds. They are correct. This is an asset class that has managed to defy the laws of economics in becoming ever more expensive even as its supply swells. Their response has been to recommend piling into stocks instead. The logic here is not so pristine. If Napier's thesis is correct, the West faces a period of outright deflation, which will be deeply traumatic for exactly the sort of speculative stocks that have lately done so well. Admittedly, the picture is confused, and prone to all sorts of political horseplay, as observers of the long-running euro zone farce can attest. Nevertheless, when faced with a) huge underlying uncertainties; b) structurally unsound banking and government finances; and c) central banks determinedly priming the monetary pumps, we conclude that the last free lunch in investment markets remains diversification. G7 government bond markets are a waste of time (though you may end up being cattle-prodded into them regardless). But there are still investment grade sovereign markets offering positive real yields. Stock markets are partying like 1999. Which, in many cases, it probably is. We would normally advise to enjoy the party but dance near the door.
Much has been written of the dramatic drop in the Debt/GDP multiplier, or Keynesian accelerator, over the last few years that shows the marginal utility of adding more debt produces less and less growth (and in fact can become a drag). More debt to solve too much debt seems put to bed as a solution except in the surreal world of central bankers and politicians. Well, with all the hoop-la today for the 'peek' over Dow 13000 and our discussion of the nominal versus real 'value' of the Dow as central banks of the world have printed $7tn into existence in the last few years, we thought an examination of the marginal utility of central bank printing would be useful. The depressing truth is that, using Gold as a proxy for central bank ebullience, the impact of implicit devaluation (or explicit printing) by central banks is having a smaller and smaller impact on stock market (asset) prices. Since the lows in March 2009, the impact of central bank intervention on the Dow has rapidly diminished from over 20 Dow points per $1 Gold move to only 2 Dow points per $1 Gold move in the last few months. What is dramatically clear is that investors are losing 'value' even as they see their brokerage statements rise and while Gas prices will inevitably slap reality into their faces, perhaps just as the Debt/GDP multiplier signaled the Keynesian Endgame, then the Gold/Dow multiplier signals the Currency-Wars Endgame - or alternatively, Central Banks will have to go exponential in their extreme experimentation to fulfill equity-holder's hopes and dreams as they approach their event horizon.
Something funny happened on the road to Dow Jones 13,000 - the car ran out of gas, and the driver noticed what the latest and (literally) greatest price of unleaded is...
The new Crony Crapitalist Utopia...
To all those who stayed up until 6 am local time yesterday to hear Europe announce that the Greek deal is done, Europe is fixed, and that a pot of gold was found at the end of the rainbow, our condolences. Sorry, no isn't. Following up on our earlier post about the potential of UK-law bondholders to once again scuttle the deal, here comes none other than the IIF's Charles Dallara who basically says that the fate of Greece, the Euro, and the Eurozone, are in the hands of Greek creditors as we have been cautioning all along. And after all why on earth would hedge funds who just lost over 70% of their recoveries bear a grudge whatsoever...
As Greece Deems 66% CAC Bondholder Acceptance Sufficient, Has It Threatened To Scuttle Its Bailout All Over Again?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 14:41 -0500
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Greek threshold for "successful" CAC passage is now expected to be just 66%, far below the 95% discussed yesterday. Says the WSJ: "The Greek government is aiming for a minimum participation of least two-thirds of bond holders in a planned debt exchange, a finance ministry official said Tuesday, with a formal offer on the exchange expected to take place by the end of this week. The deal, which aims to erase some EUR107 billion from Greece's debt burden, is part and parcel of a related EUR130 billion loan deal agreed to by euro-zone finance ministers in the early hours of Tuesday." As was extensively explained in our subordination piece from January, this is the number of bondholders that have to agree to the Collective Action Clause, which if passed successfully, would avoid a CDS trigger as it would be then deemed voluntary by ISDA who are more than happy to avoid any type of contagion causes by CDS triggers - they are after all a banker-owned organization. We ignore how a 66% participation rate is anything but a majority, let alone supposedly consensual. There is a bigger issue. And unfortunately by the Greek's actions, it shows they are in process of abrogating even more contractual rights in the form of foreign (UK-Law) covenant agreements. Either that, or the country is about to pay par to all UK-law bonds, both outcomes that threaten to put the entire second bailout in jeopardy.
Just when we thought that when it comes to nonsensical announcements Europe is second to none, here comes the White House and takes the cake:
- WHITE HOUSE SAYS RISE IN GASOLINE PRICES CAUSED BY VARIETY OF GLOBAL FACTORS, INCLUDING UNREST IN SOME PARTS OF WORLD, FAST GROWTH IN OTHERS - RTRS
Uhm, would the "unrestful" parts of the world be those that have an above average US drone presence. At least we know that said price surges have nothing to do with the following chart:
The ECB needs to convert its bonds so that they can be addressed separately. So far, there is no indication on Bloomberg, which gets its bond information from trustees, that this has been done. The outstanding amounts of existing GGB and Greece (Greek and English law bonds) hasn’t changed. Greece has to implement a retroactive collective action law. With some luck, they will implement that, before the ECB actually converts their bonds. As we’ve written before, both of those actions are likely to be challenged. There are many concerns: that the PSI is such a mess, or that Greece continues to erode, or some governments fail to support the deal, and it gets cancelled and Greece actually doesn’t pay any of its bonds. Somehow no one in equity land or fx land seems to believe a failure to pay can occur, but I think bond values here, show that the credit markets are far less convinced that the can has been kicked.
Today the US Treasury quietly and efficiently auctioned off enough debt to satisfy nearly 20% of the entire second Greek bailout funding needs (thank you repo markets and multi-trillion repo custodians BoNY and State Street). Tim Geithner just sold $32 billion in 2 year bonds at a rate of 0.31%, right on top of the When Issued, which was the highest yield since August 2011, yet nothing too dramatic. Since this is the short end of the curve where Bernanke is fully in control, the range in recent auctions has fluctuated from 0.222% to 0.31%. Yet as noted last week, the biggest "beneficiary" of short-end purchases have been Primary Dealers - are they starting to choke on thier holdings? And who will they sell to this paper which yields absolutely nothing. The auction internals were a snooze - the Bid To Cover was 3.54, a drop from January's 3.75, but higher than the TTM average of 3.42. Dealers took down 54.66%, in line with the average, Indirects left holding 35.84%, and 9.5% for the direct. Overall, nothing to write home about, and the bottom line is that the US just added another $32 billion to its net debt of $15.413 trillion, or a new record high debt/GDP ratio of 101%. It is going much higher.