October 15th, 2012
In the four weeks since Bernanke unveiled QEtc. and its focus on the MBS market, mortgage REITs have slumped - losing more than half the year's gains amid heavy volume. The selling pressure is warranted as these vehicles tend to be owned by investors seeking high-yield dividend plays - and as such any risk to that stream means high-beta selling. With re-investment opportunities miserly - thanks to Bernanke's ZIRP and spread repression - dividend-paying ability remains questionable. The business model of these entities relies on high asset yields, low liability costs, and access to leverage and the three major hot buttons we look at below do not look like improving anytime soon in a QEtc. world.
Anyone wondering what the reason for today's dramatic gold price dump is, look no further than South Africa, where we learn that after nearly two months of endless strikes in the metals and mining complex, the country - the world's fifth largest producer of gold - is nowhere nearer to restoring its mining output. This of course means that less and less gold will hit the market. Which in centrally planned and regulated markets, means gold will collapse far more than the 1% so far, and likely close limit down, with Bernanke's compliment (don't worry that none of this makes logical sense: Heidelberg toner cartridge did a hostile take over of logic long, long ago).
European equities trying to decouple from EGBs and US equities, trying to trade “No news is good news”.
Low action day.
Short term trading strategy buy Spain on weekend bail-out hopes and resell rapidly might need to be deepened. Not much to chew on eventually.
Against a deflationary environment of austerity-driven wage and pension cuts combined with rising unemployment; food, commodity, and fuel prices continue to surge in Greece. The government has taken an unusual step - allowing the sale of expired food at lower prices. As Voz Populi reports, this act means the government has 'virtually admitted their inability to control prices" as the worst aspects of stagflation crush the Hellenic Republic. The regulation (allowing from one-week to one-month extensions of foods for sale post their eat-before-this-day-or-you'll-get-Salmonella date) has existed for many years, according to a ministerial decree and this action merely states that these foods must be sold at a lower price. Meat and dairy is excluded but this move is described as "an immoral act" as few believe prices will actually be reduced - since that is at the discretion of the merchant. As the National Food Agency notes: "This is also a moral dilemma, to divide consumers into two groups: those who can afford basic food and those who, because of poverty, are forced to resort to dubious quality food." We presume this will also reduce the drag on pension and healthcare costs as death rates will rise?
If you want to know how the Keynesian Cargo Cult's grand experiment in borrowing money to fund bloated fiefdoms, rapacious cartels and bridges to nowhere ends, just look west (from California) to Japan. The Japanese State, partly because they seem to believe in the Cargo Cult, and partly to avoid exposing the insolvency of their crony-capitalist financial sector, has been borrowing and spending money on a vast scale for two decades. Rather than face the fraud and corruption at the heart of American (and Japanese) finance and governance, the Keynesians just want to leave the predatory, parasitic crony-capitalist Status Quo intact and create an illusory world of bogus "demand" and grotesque malinvestment funded by ever-increasing debt. Does anyone seriously think this is the "road to recovery"? If you want a look at the fiscal future of the U.S., look west to Japan, a nation that sits precariously on a fiscal cliff a thousand feet high.
Nearly four years ago, we started a series of articles in which we methodically presented evidence that LIBOR was manipulated. Then, in late June, the biggest (to date) bank conspiracy was exposed, in which it was found beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one, and in many case all (including the BOE and Fed) were if not engaging, then certainly aware of numerous instances when daily USD LIBOR fixing was fudged one way or another for various non-fiduciary, read illegal purposes. When our conspiracy theory was confirmed to be conspiracy fact (as usual), we suggested the following: "Our advice to anyone who had an adjustable rate mortgage in the period between 2005 and today: speak to a lawyer immediately about suing the living feces out of Barclays, and all other banks who crawl out of the woodwork with purported settlements. Because due to their undisputed mark manipulation, it is absolutely safe to say that ARMs, which rely on Libor for interest rate formation, were grossly manipulated by the same idiot traders who left written evidence of their manipulation year after year. Now it is their turn to pay." As of last night, this too has occurred, after several homeowners, aka Adams et al (Southern New York, 12-cv-07461) launched a class action lawsuit against Bank of America and all other LIBOR banks, accusing the defendants of "unjustly enriched themselves" by manipulating the rate, which allowed them to increase the payments by homeowners on adjustable rate loans, and boosting profits.
Presented with little comment but comparing the free-fall in AAPL's share price to this amazing chest-cam video from Felix Baumgartner's jump yesterday must be how all those hedge fund feel this morning... AAPL is trading below its 100DMA.
The markets are all about timing. In this case, 55 weeks.
For the majority of Americans living along the country's coastlines, anything that is not within 50 miles of the the big water is pejoratively called "flyover states", its contents to be avoided at all costs, and its contributions to society and the economy to be loudly mocked and jeered at high society cocktail parties from the Hamptons to Malibu and back (but not inbetween). That is, until election time. Because when it comes to determining the fate of America's leadership every 4 years, the bankers, lawyers, venture capitalists, socialites, marketers, hedge funders, Economist PhDs, and other very important jobs, courtesy of the Electoral College, have absolutely no impact, and it all boils down to such swing states as Ohio, Florida, Iowa and Nevada. For the full cartoon presentation of what states do matter this election, see the cartoon below.
WTI crude started moving first but soon afte the US day session opened we saw EUR weakness, US strength and precious metals started to fade rapidly. Gold and Silver have now retraced the post-FOMC Bernanke-Bump, but remain above the Draghi-Day levels...
While European equities, sovereigns, and corporate credit all seem cock-a-hoop at the tail-risk mitigation efforts of the Draghi 'promise'; demand for the safety of Swiss interest rates has quietly been creeping higher. Swiss 2Y rates are now at almost six-week lows (below -18bps), its lowest since the Draghi 'believe' speech... it seems not everyone 'believes'.
Just when we thought we may finally get one decent economic data point which even we could get excited about, we decided to look at the Non-Seasonally Adjusted September retail sales data. After all the $4.7 billion seasonal increase in headline retail sales was the second highest ever (in absolute terms, second only to 2004). Turns out our curiosity was an enthusiasm-dowsing mistake, as a number which on the surface looked good, was hardly validated by the Not-Seasonally Adjusted number, which plunged by $31.9 billion. How does this September sequential change compare to previous years? See the chart below and decide for yourselves if the massive NSA plunge in September 2012 merits the second best seasonally adjusted retail sales increase in history.
The bottom line on Citigroup's just released results: the firm reported an adjusted adjusted Net Income number of $3.268 billion ($1.06 EPS), which was "better" than the expected $0.97 (just like JPM's bottom line was better and the initial spike higher in the stock price promptly reverted into the red once people read the footnote text). How did Citi get to this number? It started with an unadjusted $964 million of Net LOSS and then added back a tax provision, CVA losses (as its spread tightened in the quarter), the loss for the sale of MSSB ($4.7 billion pre tax), and miraculously got to $3.3 billion. The MSSB and CVA/DVA adjustment also miraculously increased total revenues from $13.951 billion to $19.411 billion, making a sequential unadjusted 25% drop in Revenues equal to a 3% increase. But even if one were to assume that the bank's $3.3 billion uber-adjusted Net Income number is meaningful in any way, it is certainly notable that $1.509 million of this, or nearly 50% came from the tried and true gimmick: Loan Loss Reserves, which boosted EPS by the same percentage, even as the firm saw its Net Credit Losses soar by 11% from Q2, to $3.979 billion. This was a bigger LLR than in Q2 ($984MM) and Q3 2011 ($1,422MM). Same old goosing gimmicks, different day.
The Japanese Yen has been one of the strongest currencies among the developed nations of the world since the end of LTRO (up 6%). This strength (repatriation flows and or carry unwind?) combined with a dismal domestic economic growth environment appears to have pushed Japanese firms to spend spend spend for growth. The latest and greatest Softbank/Sprint deal will shift this year's Japanese corporate acquisition of foreign companies to near-record levels. As Bloomberg Briefs notes, this will be the country's largest overseas acquisition on record - exceeding Japan Tobacco's $19bn acquisition of the UK's Gallaher Group in 2007. However, this growth-buying-spree does not come cheap as ratings are under pressure and while LBO-style financing might make the deal 'cheap' at first, at some point the cycle will re-emerge; but for now - it appears the BoJ (who we are sure are watching intently) should maybe leave intervention off the table until Japan owns it all again and becomes even more too-bigger-to-fail.
The economic data twofer this morning was a beat and a miss. Retail sales increased by 1.1% on expectations of a 0.8% increase, with the last month's data being revised from 1.2% to 0.9%. Headline retail sales, ex autos was up 1.1% on expectations of a 0.7% print, and up from an upward revised 1.0%. Some of the main drivers in the September retail sales pick up were in electronics and appliance stores, which rose 4.5% from August (thank you iPhone 5), Gasoline Stations +2.5%, and Motor vehicle and parts dealers 1.3%, which continue to be a notable driver of retail strength for the second month in a row. As for the miss, it came from the Empire Fed, which increased from September's -10.41, to -6.16, but missed expectations of a -4 print. New Orders improved modestly from -14.03 to -8.97, and ironically was the only subindex in the entire report that staged an increase. Shipments declined to a negative print, from 2.75 to -6.40. Declines were also recorded in Delivery Times, Unfilled Orders, Inventories, Prices Paid, Prices Received, the average Employee Workweek, and most importantly, Number of Employees which declined from 4.26 to -1.08. Not even the forward looking indicators, so critical to consumer "confidence" managed to rise, dropping from 27.22 to 19.42.