My novel Hummel’s Cross takes place in pre-war (and wartime) Nazi Germany. In the course of writing the book I became fascinated by how a nation of such highly sophisticated and astute people as the Germans—who gave us Bach, Beethoven, Luther, Goethe, Schweitzer, Einstein, Handel, Nietzsche, Kant, Wagner, (and thrown in a few Austrians like Mozart. Strauss, and Haydn) etc. could be so easily led to their own destruction – taking much of the Western World with them – by a charismatic if empty man. I remember in the film Gladiator the observation is made that the Roman mob is fickle and easily led. Well, we have seen that in the case of this country in these times the mob is the intelligentsia in the media, the college campus, entertainment and some corners of high finance to name a few groups. In 2008, they looked to Barack Obama and like past societies feeling the need for guidance from on high projected upon him the their own needs, desires and (let’s be honest here) need to cleanse the sense of self-flagellating white guilt they continue to carry over a perceived racism in the country that is now more prevalent as a topic of media round-tables than it is a fact in day-to-day American life.
There is a kind of rubbernecking excitement that one experiences when we hear a person in position of power, control or money, utter something that is such a blatant lie that we wonder how anyone could believe listeners are so stupid to even remotely believe what is being said. The excitement is only magnified when we go back in time and re-listen the spoken lies, with the realization that they have already proven false. Perhaps nowehere in history is this kind of active revisionist history more appropriate then when listening to central bankers, who have been wrong on more occassions than anyone else in a professional occupation, and still retained their jobs. For everyone who enjoys being amused at the expense of others' stupidity, the latest note from Grant Williams will be full of delightful reminiscences. And while ridiculing idiots and institutional stupidity is easy, there is always a lesson to be learned from someone else's humiliation. Or not. Perhaps sometimes it is best just to jeer at the morons who are in charge of this wholo ponzi house of cards. As Williams says: "The trick is to try and figure out which words of encouragement being offered today by those doing the talking will be remembered for all the wrong reasons when viewed in the rear-view mirror of history. Fortunately, we have a collection of people at the helms of Central Banks, governments, political unions and international organizations who make this job fairly simple as most of what they all say will probably end up haunting them for the rest of their lives. All one has to do to steer through the turbulent waters is work out which comments from public officials are virtually guaranteed to be laughably off the mark, or which smack of far too much invested optimism, discount them in favour of logic and move forward."
It is Friday night, which means that any bad and self-discrediting news from Goldman Sachs are due any minute. Sure enough, the squid does not disappoint: "Following another dose of disappointing economic data, we have cut
our Q2 growth estimate to 2% (annualized) from 3%. We also have issued a
preliminary forecast for the manufacturing ISM in June of 52.0. At this
point, we still expect a bounceback in Q3 and beyond, but will need to
see significant improvement in the data over the next few weeks to
maintain that view." Zero Hedge's own ISM outlook is for a 48 print. And as we will comment on later, as JPM's Michael Feroli demonstrates, the fate of the economic pick up in Q3 is all up to car sales surging by about 58% on an annualized basis as predicted by IHS. Good luck with that. As we said yesterday, we expect Goldman to lower its H2 outlook to under 2% within a month, most likely following the next ISM miss and the disappointing NFP report due out in 2 weeks.
Last Friday, the CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio reached the highest level in the past two and a half years, higher not only than May 2010 when the market plunged on the first Greek bankruptcy, but higher than March 2009 when the S&P hit 666, and lower only than the second week of January 2009. Additionally, while this one off event may be discounted, the 10 Day Moving Average, as shown on the chart below, has now lifted to levels not seen since February 2009. A quite note by Stone McCarthy captures the conventional wisdom on the topic: "Where a 1-day rise in this indicator alerts us to investors temporarily seeking protection against a market decline, an extreme high by the 10-day smoothing line reveals a more comprehensive sentiment buildup that typically proves to be a more reliable contrary indication of a meaningful bottom being NEAR." Perhaps. However, never in the past has the Put/Call ratio been at such levels even despite the multi-trillion backstop of central banks, and worse still, just two weeks in advance of when the Fed will end its daily stimulus program. The is a saying that being contrarian in the face of conventional wisdom is the only sure way to make money. The problem with that saying is that conventional wisdom is quite often actually correct. Furthermore, last time we checked back in January 2009 Greece and Europe were not about to go Chapter 11, nor was a $900 billion asset purchasing program about to end...
About the only thing that the doom and gloom crowd, the politicians, and the media all agree on is that credit derivatives are evil, unnecessary, ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’. With the European Sovereign Debt crisis escalating, the CDS market has once again become a topic of conversation. Many of the issues related to CDS that are discussed are old, misleading, or plain wrong. Here is my attempt to address some of the issues that come up most whenever CDS is mentioned: Credit Events; Exposures; Counterparty Risk, and Transparency. These are topics that need to be understood in order for investors to make informed decisions. I am not here to defend CDS as a product, but to try and shed light on the subject so that people don’t react to inaccuracies that cause them to make decisions based on incorrect information. Since so many journalists still feel that the investing public needs to see the boilerplate language ‘when yields go up, bonds prices, which move in the opposite direction, go up’ this may be an uphill struggle. But here is my attempt.
But before people scream bloody murder that the USPS finally went bankrupt (3 months ahead of schedule), the blame for this one actually lies with socialist Canada, where the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is continuing its strike, making deliveries of all sorts of unmarked boxes to incognito recipients quite problematic. As a result, "the U.S. Postal Service will suspend accepting mail destined to Canada -- effective Saturday, June 18, 2011, 11:59 p.m. CDT -- with the exception of Global Express Guaranteed shipments." Hopefully Americans trying to reach friends and neighbors in the far more solvent northern neighbor will be able to make do with email attachments for the indefinite future. "As a convenience to our customers and to minimize service disruptions, we arranged to accept mail destined for Canada as long as possible," said Giselle Valera, vice president, Global Business. "We will continue to closely monitor the strike situation, and once Canada Post resumes operations, the U.S. Postal Service will again begin accepting mail for Canada. We also will then resume processing any Canadian-destined mail currently held in our network." Next up: outbound mail to Europe halted indefinitely (except for shipments of secret Fed-originating cash of course), where we are stunned that the local socialist union of postmen still believe in showing up to work daily.
Greek cabinet reshuffle for Dummies/Idiots/Keynesians.
Moody's Puts Italy's Aa2 Rating On Downgrade Review, EUR Slides, And A Bonus Report From SocGen: "How Vulnerable Is Italy?"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/17/2011 - 15:21
"Moody's Investors Service has today placed Italy's Aa2 local and foreign currency government bond ratings on review for possible downgrade, while affirming its short-term ratings at Prime-1. The main drivers that prompted the rating review are: (1) Economic growth challenges due to macroeconomic structural weaknesses and a likely rise in interest rates over time; (2) Implementation risks surrounding the fiscal consolidation plans that are required to reduce Italy's stock of debt and keep it at affordable levels; and (3) Risks posed by changing funding conditions for European sovereigns with high levels of debt." EURUSD slides on the news, which also pushes stocks far lower, courtesy of 100% correlation.
Spokes, meet stick. According to Reuters, Greece will seek approval from euro zone finance ministers on Sunday to agree to some changes in a mid-term austerity plan that parliament is expected to pass, the country's new finance minister said on Friday. And so the scramble for concessions begins. First Greece will demand a scrapping of all retirement age hike requirements, then public sector cuts, then everything else in the mid-term plan, until the second bailout is effectively without conditions. And now that Merkel has effectively thrown in the towel to her, and the CDU's, political reign by agreeing with the ECB's and France's demands, a move which will be brutalized by Der Spiegel in T minus 5 minutes, the fact that Europe blinked to Greece's bluff, just may mean that every demand out of Greece will be met. Or not. If the Troica tells Greece to go to hell, this could be the end of the bailout package.
Back in October we asked readers if they have "Ever heard of the oxides of Lanthanum, Cerium, Neodymium, Praseodymium and/or Samarium?" We added that "With price surges between 250% and 600% in one quarter, you may wish you have." As we further predicted, courtesy of Chinese attempts to corner the rare earth space, these oxides were due to explode much further, because as their name implies, these compounds are "rare", and happen to be mostly contained in one country: that's right China. Well, for those who decided to give it the good old speculative college try, you may now retire. As the chart below shows, the YTD moves in the oxides of Dysprosium, Europium, Neodymium, Lanthanum, and all the other ones, have not doubled, not tripled, but in same cases, seen their prices increase tenfold! And people ridicule the silver "bubble"... The extra benefit: the CME's "risk management" group is completely powerless to control the rate of ascent. And judging by the charts below, the rate is certainly worthy of escape velocity. What happens next is that plasma TV purchase one may have putting off for months could end up being costly, after TV producers are forced to double the prices of finished goods, not doing much to help hedonically adjusted core inflation.
It has not been Jim Caron's decade. The Morgan Stanley rates strategist, riding on the coattails of the always wrong Morgan Stanley economics team led by David Greenlaw, has been wrong in his annual rates call year after year after year. Which is unfortunate because while unable to see the forest for the trees, Caron does have a better grasp of rates than most other Wall Street penguins. That said, just like everyone else in the status quo, Caron has just come out with another short duration call (i.e. sell bonds), probably the 6th time in a row he has done that in the past 3 years. Perhaps 7th time will be the charm. Amusingly, Caron, terrified to be seen in the same camp as Bill Gross who is short bonds on fears that there will be nobody available to step in an buy the 80% of gross issuance that has been monetized by the Fed to date, make this very loud caveat on his short bond call: "To be sure, our shift toward short from neutral duration has nothing to do with the end of QE2 and related concerns that there will be a lack of demand to buy US Treasuries once the Fed stops buying them. As we have stated many times in the past, the outlook for the economy will be the main driver of yields, not the end of QE2." No, instead Caron believes that the sell off in bonds will be due to the same bullish economic growth call that he has been predicting over... and over... and over... and over... etc. More interesting is how he suggests the trade is implemented: in MS' view the best way to be bearish on rates is with a DV01 neutral 7s-10s flattener: "we continue to recommend being short 5s on the 2s5s10s fly. In line with the butterfly, and in order to express a more robust short duration position, we recommend a curve flattener on the UST 7s10s curve: · Sell $133.7mm OTR 7y Notes; · Buy $100mm OTR 10y Notes." Perhaps those who want to be short bonds, but for the right reason, that predicted by Zero Hedge and then Bill Gross, this may be one of the better ways to put the trade on.
This stuff is funny. Especially when google translated...
Scrape away the Human Resource Department rah-rah about "our mission" and how much your loyalty is "valued," and what's left? A paycheck and a sucking sound. Let's state the heretical obvious: Corporate America, you suck. We could count the ways--subverting democracy via your lobbying and campaign contributions, your sabotage of competition via regulatory capture, and so on--but what really matters is how you treat your employees. We know: you really really care about your employees. Really. The propaganda would be laughable if it wasn't so bald-faced. Do corporate managers really believe in the Big Lie theory, that the bigger the lie, the easier it is to sell?
The latest quarterly slidedeck from Damien Cleusix' Global Tactical Asset Analysis is out and as always it is replete with insightful and exciting observations, outlooks and charts. His thesis summary: "Markets seems to be in the typically slow and frustrating cyclical top formation process. Our cyclical models are giving sell signals one after the other while leverage is reaching levels typical of cyclical market turns. It would be imprudent to bury the Bull too soon but It seems to be in bad hape. A contra-trend rally is to beexpected so on and the behavior of the markets (participants, internals) during this rebound should be carefully analyzed to decide if we can send the Bulls obituary (a waterfall decline without intermitting rebound would settle the case)."
Here is a simple summary of the Greek bailout math explained with just 2 numbers. First, the country has to do the impossible. As Citi's Jurgen Michels summarizes: "Once the whole new cabinet is announced, parliamentary discussions ahead of the vote of confidence will probably start on Sunday, with the vote actually taking place next week on Tuesday evening. Even if the new government manages to pass the vote of confidence, it will still have to submit to Parliament the new austerity package for approval, probably sometime later next week or the week thereafter. This will be key for the smooth disbursement of the next tranche of EU/IMF loans, of €12bn." In other words, the Greek government has to pass 2 near-Sysiphean tasks before it can even hope to sniff the IMF's €12 billion in rescue funding. That's number 1. Number 2 comes from the chart below, which shows the debt and interest payments through August. This number is €18.2 billion. This number does not include the billions in deficit spending that will also have to be funded somehow over and above debt paydown. Ergo, the math for a viable Greece is as follows: €12BN > €18.2BN + X. Simply said, unless somehow Greece discovers how to tax its citizens and actually record net revenue in July, the best the ECB can hope for before it has to mark its tens of billions in Greek bonds to about 45 cents on the dollar, is one month. So will someone please explain to us why again the EUR is up today? Actually the only possible reason is that Europe is now pricing in the fact that China will be the de facto owner of at least 2 European countries by this time next year, however not in an Asset Purchase Transaction but Stock, whereby China also acquires the liabilities. Which in turn may explain why Russia's just announced minutes ago that China may turn into "zone of risk" for the global economy.