October 14th, 2011
Update on protests ...
A simple indicator constructed from readily available data is suggesting with great certainty that the US economy is already in a recession.
We recently received a note from a German journalist writing for a national paper there. He asked, “Simon, German politicians swear to support the well-being of the German people. Given this, what would you advise the German government about the euro– keep saving it? Or let everything fail regardless of the consequences?” Europe and the United States have much in common in that their sovereign debt problems are really quite simple to understand. You don’t need a PhD in economics– you just need to understand basic arithmetic.
S&P Downgrades BNP From AA To AA-, Lower Hybrid Capital Instrument Rating On All Top Five French BanksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/14/2011 13:22 -0400
The rating agency cavalry is relentless in its attempt to catch up to credit implied spreads, which are all about 6-10 notches below where the raters have the banks and countires. Yesterday it was UBS. Today, it is BNP's turn. S&P leaves it off with the following warning: "We could move to a more negative view about the French banking industry if French and European economic and market conditions turn out to be tougher than our base case, moving for instance toward a double-dip recession, which is likely to hurt asset quality and earnings. Or, in case of a prolonged disruption of capital markets that would reduce access to euro-denominated resources."
Just starting on C-SPAN 2 is a new hearing on Obama's Solargate, Solyndra, which today will focus on the question of whether the Solyndra loan restructuring broke the law. From CSM: "Newly released emails show that the Treasury Department was concerned that the loan restructuring, approved earlier this year, could violate federal law. The deal was structured so that private investors moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment on part of the loan in case of a default by Solyndra. Administration officials have defended the loan restructuring, saying that without an infusion of cash earlier this year, Solyndra would likely have faced immediate bankruptcy, putting more than 1,000 people out of work. Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee say the hearing Friday will focus on whether the Energy Department broke the law when it agreed to restructure Solyndra' s debt in February. The lawmakers cite emails showing that Mary Miller, an assistant treasury secretary, said the deal could violate the law because it put investors' interests ahead of taxpayers. Miller told a top White House budget official that she had advised that any proposed restructuring be reviewed by the Justice Department before it was approved. "To our knowledge that has never happened," Miller wrote in an Aug. 17 memo to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., called Miller's memo "startling" and said it appears that DOE violated "the plain letter of the law" in approving the restructuring. "We need insight into Treasury's role in reviewing this loan guarantee," said Stearns, chairman of the energy panel's subcommittee on oversight and investigations." Learn more in today's hearing.
UBS' Stephane Deo has rapidly become of one of the most vocal, and luckily most erudite, critics of the veritable rumor-a-palooza that Europe has become: a continent that is now desperately throwing anything and everything at the wall in hopes it will stick and generate another intraday EURUSD short covering squeeze to perpetuate the illusion that Europe is viable for at least one more day. His note today effectively puts an end to the most current approach whereby Greece will see a 50% haircut on its debt (the 21% haircut proposal from July 21 is now dead and buried as we had suggested back then). With that, he forces Europe back to the drawing table to come up with a plan that is endorsed by the market, with just 9 short days until the Eurogroup Summit on October 23 at which point kicking the can into the future will no longer be tolerated and the market will finally judge Europe not for promises, rumors, lies, innuendo and hyperbole, not necessarily in that order, but on actual decisions and policies. Alas, if the 50% haircut idea, which is now proposed by Germany (in diametrical contrast to a month ago), and staunchly opposed by France whose banks, unlike Deutsche Bank, have not been able to dispose of legacy exposure, is killed before it is even implemented, look for a spike in panic in Europe which will now have to redo everything from scratch.
A week ago, after we had already correctly predicted the unwind of the Dexia long CDS trade on the way up in advance of the bank's nationalization announcement, we suggested a Belgium-Dexia compression trade, now that the bank is the ward of not only Belgium but France. Quite obviously, the idea is that Dexia may well trade inside of Belgium once Belgium itself is downgraded by not only Moody's but also Fitch and S&P (look at today's blow out in Belgium CDS for an indication) imminently, while Dexia still has the implicit backing of AAA-rated (for now France). Net result: 110 bps in one week, from 452 bps last Friday to 343 bps today. We expect a pick of at least another 150 bps before unwind considerations.
As the U.S.-led Afghan campaign lurches into its second decade, the country’s vast untapped mineralogical resources are again emerging in the Western media, seemingly underpinning the benefits of International Security Assistance Force troops “staying the course” and defeating the insurgency, after which these resources can be tapped, both providing the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai with a source beyond drugs for reconstruction and Western companies who develop the reserves a handsome profit. The latest discovery is that Afghanistan is rich in rare earth elements (RREs). China currently has a near monopoly on the global production of RREs, and the price for a ton of unprocessed ore has soared to a dizzying $100,000 a ton. So, what’s wrong with this picture?
A few days ago we brought you the delightful Chinese boat launch straight into the river bottom. Today, we observe the curious case of the JH-7 "Flying Leopard" which during an exhibition airshow decided to show just how effective gravity is at combating those pesky "highly reliable license-built Spey Mk202 engines" which as the AP reports were "considered unlikely that both would have stalled at the same time"...They stalled. "The Chinese-made JH-7 entered service in 2004 and is a mainstay of the country's air force and naval aviation, with more than 100 built." Also, how do you spell oops in Mandarin? "China rarely released information about military accidents, but the public nature of the crash and the rapid spread of images of it happening on the Internet made it impossible to keep secret." Yeah, sorry about that. Next: we can't wait to see the official launch of the first (and only) Chinese aircraft carrier.
Cost-cutting days are here again. With the year grinding to a close, and with various banks around the world and in the US once again the target of popular adoration, management teams are wondering whether or not to cancel their "elves" parties come Christmas-time. The first bank to vote Nay on free booze, finger food and cheesy music is UK's nationalized RBS: "Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) is canceling Christmas for its investment bankers this year as the government-owned lender tries to reduce costs." It gets worse: the first person to laugh or joke gets the sack: "The bank will stop subsidizing holiday parties and has banned staff entertainment for the rest of the year, Chris Kyle, chief financial officer of RBS’s investment bank, wrote in an e- mail to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. A spokesman for the lender confirmed the contents of the memo." The latest development marks a new low for the bankrupt bank, which previously had the generous allowance of $16 per person for holiday spending: "RBS reduced its spending on holiday parties to 10 pounds ($16) a head, enough to buy two pints of lager and a packet of potato chips, in 2008 after receiving the biggest banking bailout in the world in the financial crisis. The lender announced 2,000 job cuts at the securities unit in August." Certainly this aggression will not stand: we expect white collar riots, powerpoints of mass demonstrations, and multiple scenario IRR excel models for the pros and cons of banker unionization, all organized via Blackberry-blasted calendar events, in which Wall Street will finally #OccupyMainStreet.
First Goldman, next the heart of all that is wrong and corrupt with Italian politics: the headquarters of Silvio Berlusconi's Milan Fininvest office itself. And this is just the beginning: many more protests are expected to take place tomorrow as "outraged" civilians take the streets of Rome.
While hardly the explanation for why the EURUSD has surged nearly 100 pips in the past 45 minutes on absolutely no news (or, in this bizarro market, explaining it perfectly), and as the market focuses its attention on where the line of angry young protesters is longer: by the New York Stock Exchange or in front of the Apple store, Italians, once again betrayed by their politicians who were bribed by Berlusconi to vote for him in the latest vote of "confidence" (at a price of €250k per vote), have decided to make their feelings for financial innovation, and its patron saint, known, by storming the Goldman office in Milan. From Corriere: "on Friday students took to the streets to demonstrate for and against the public school funds the crisis and the government. The procession was attended by about ten thousand young people (two thousand according to initial estimates of the Police Station). The raid at the headquarters of U.S. bank Goldman Sachs was the first action of the student demonstration. A group of twenty boys tried to get a surprise in the Milanese headquarters of the U.S. bank, Bossi in the square, near Piazza Cordusio. Rejected by some employees of the home, the young people then smeared with spray paint the hallway and throwing bags full of garbage to the cry of "Goldman Sachs has the courage to face the future without young people." We doubt this is the last expression of love for those who do God's work in Europe, primarily with austerity-delaying FX swaps... Now that the delay can no longer be delayed.
An hour after getting a whopper in the retail sales number, which handily beat all expectations, we get "confirmation" that consumers are not only more optimistic, with overall Michigan confidence sliding from 59.4 to 57.5, on expectations of 60.2, but that they have less to look forward to than ever in the past 31 years, with the consumer expectations number dropping from 49.4 to 47.0, the lowest since May 1980. Yet expectations for a Dow 36,000 are easily the highest since October 2007. Although the chart that will blow everyone's mind is this comparison of the YoY change in retail sales and consumer sentiment. Two words: Peak Schizophrenia.
A week ago we showed NYSE short interest, which in the aftermath of the massive slide in the EURUSD (the only real driver of beta these days, and with correlation at 1.000, also alpha), had soared to March 2009 levels. Naturally that left the market extremely exposed to any forced short squeeze, such as that witnessed 9 days ago when based on since refuted, but metastasized rumors, we saw a major flush higher in the Euro, and hence ES, which became self-sustaining once the short covering squeeze in stocks took over. Yesterday we got the latest NYSE short interest update and as expected, the shorts have dropped markedly with the number down from 15.7 billion on September 15 to 14.9 billion at the end of September. And since the SPY has moved from 110 to over 120 in the interim period, it is safe to say that when the next short interest update is released in two weeks, the number will be well in the low 14 billion range if not below it. The question is when the market will start pricing in the end of the short squeeze. Our estimate: at about the time when the EURUSD stops surging on hope and lies.