Previously, we brought you parts one, two and three of the Canadian must see documentary "Meltdown." In this final episode "After the Fall", we hear about the sheikh who says the crash never happened; a Wall Street king charged with fraud; a congresswoman who wants to jail the bankers; and the world leaders who want a re-think of capitalism. As one world leader handles the crisis through denial, other leaders try to re-think capitalism. Even though the causes of the 2008 meltdown are now clear, there is no magic formula to stop it from happening again. The world has to start planning for the next crisis, even as we recognise that this one is not over yet.
The September Swiss National Bank balance sheet update is out and while it reportedly indicates balances at the end of August, it appears that the SNB intervention in the FX market (i.e. the currency peg) started early, which would make sense as the first peg rumor hit on August 11. As a result, as the chart below shows, the latest central bank balance sheet to be completely devastated as a result of currency wars is that of Switzerland, where both Foreign Currency Investments and the total balance sheet increased by just under 50%, the biggest such monthly increase. In fact, in September, "aggregate short and long positions in forwards and futures in foreign currencies vis-a?-vis the domestic currency (including the forward leg of currency swaps)" increased by $92 billion CHF or just about $100 billion - a whopping 20% of Swiss GDP! And this is the capital at risk for Switzerland to avoid having its currency trading a parity with the euro since the bulk of this increase is due almost certainly purely to EUR purchases. And here is the bad news: since the bulk of the purchases were made in the 1.40+ area, we can't wait to find out just how NZZ and other Swiss financial publications will react tomorrow when they learn that the SNB has experienced an immediate 5% drop in its "assets" courtesy of the subsequent plunge in the EUR. And with the SNB's total balance sheet at a record (?) CHF 365 billion, something tells us that the days of this latest attempt at repegging the Swiss Franc to some arbitrary number are coming to an end, and with that Hildebrand's futile attempts at preventing parity.
At the Friday close, there was a spurt of rapid EUR selling at the close, taking the currency to the lowest since January 2011, at 1.3367. It turns out it was not a fat finger - with a spate of traditionally euro negative news over the past 48 hours, most notably yet another negative Greek deficit revision which will make the Troika's job that much more difficult in justifying the need to fund the next IMF bailout payment, the EURUSD is now even lower premarket at 1.3344. With the rumormill thoroughly exhausted, and with nobody in Europe having any credibility left whatsoever, we fail to see what can catalyze a move higher before the Asian open, which will likely not be a pretty way to start the final quarter of the year.
Greece To Miss Budget Deficit Targets, As Usual, While Qatar Prepares A Bailout Pennies-For-Gold SwapSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/02/2011 - 13:55
As the Greek parliament meets to finalize huge public sector job cuts, Reuters is reporting that Greece will miss the deficit targets set in its EU/IMF bailout this year and next... We would say "again" but at this point "as usual" makes far more sense, Why this should come as a surprise to anyone is beyond us but the next steps by the Troika (as again and again targets are not met and yet still bank-extending-and-pretending-funding is provided) will be fascinating as they switch from carrot to stick and back to carrot perhaps. Assuming, of course, the "wildcat strikes" at any and all government institutions by government workers about to be sacked, allow Troika member access at some point in the near to long-term future. Although using numbers conceived on napkins as a replacement will be nothing new to either Greece, Eurostat or the Troika. Add to this the comment from the Deputy Leader of the CSU (one of Merkel's tri-party coalition) that Greece would find it easier to recover outside the currency bloc and rhetoric remains high, as do expectations for an inverse surge in the EURUSD at open in a few hours. The biggest winner: Qatar which just snuck in some recycled petrodollars into Greece, which will last the kleptocorrupt government about 1 week, in exchange for Greek gold.
Out Of The "Hard Landing" Pan And Into The "Crash" Fire - Are Things About To Get Even Worse For China?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/02/2011 - 13:51
Over the past week one of the more hotly debated and market moving topics was the resurgence of speculation that China may be on the verge of a "hard landing." To a large extent this was driven by renewed concerns that the country's debt load, especially at the local government level, will be a substantially greater hindrance to growth and hence, concern than previously thought. This was paralleled by concerns that Chinese growth will likely slow down substantially more than previously expected, even as inflation remains stubbornly high. The result: a move wider in Chinese CDS in the past week whose severity was matched only by a similar move around the time of Lehman, when the world was widely seen as ending. Concerns that delusions about decoupling are precisely that (courtesy of 3 out of 4 BRICs printing a contractionary sub-50 ISM also led to the biggest drop in the Hang Seng index since 2001, after it tumbled 22% in Q3 as fears that a Chinese slow down would impact all developing economies with an emphasis on East Asia. Yet if a Hard Landing is all it took to disturb the precarious balance in which China always somehow always ride off into the sunset having rescued the entire world, we wonder what would happen if the market started expressing concerns that a Hard Landing is the optimistic case, and nothing short of a Crash Landing may be the baseline. Because according to the Economist, which informs us of a very troubling development out of China in which foreigners may be about to face a new entitlement funding tax for all domestic workers beginning October 15, and hence a surge in overall labor costs, then a "Crash Landing" may well be in the cards for the world's biggest marginal economy.
In his latest edition of "The Privateer", Bill Buckler has an enlightening 'compare and contrast' between that one species that will every so often engage in acts of such sheer stupidity, it will blindly follow the herd, oblivious of the near certain resulting doom, right over the cliff, and lemmings...
We have discussed the dynamics of the credit-equity-vol relationship for many months in the hope that it broadens investment horizons and opens traders' eyes to a bigger picture of global risk appetite. Following (and understanding) the debt-equity relationship has proved, in general, a very useful instrument in an investor's toolkit and Barclay's Capital this week points to just how dislocated European credits are relative to stocks (having underperformed) and while we may not be quite as exuberant as them in the call to add credit exposure here (as we see more structural than cyclical concerns ahead), we cannot argue that on a relative-value basis. However, arguments for significant re-allocation from bonds to stocks simply do not make sense (from both valuation and risk perspectives) - no matter how many times Pisani tells us so.
A very disturbing precedent, for the already frayed domestic financial system, was set in Greece over the past few days, where as the linked story from On-News.gr explains, an unemplyed Greek woman who owed a little over 26,000 euros to two banks, Eurobank and National, received a full debt discharge on her outstanding loans. As the blog logical concludes, this decision will probably be adhered to in thousands of similar cases. Furthermore, it should be noted the woman had a perfect payment record for 18 years, and only fell behind when she lost her job. Imagine the sheer panic that would ensue if a comparable legal decision vis-a-vis ordinary consumer debt were to occur in the US - that would be a supreme court resolution for the ages. In the meantime in Greece, a one-two punch arrives: deposits being drained and moved overseas, and bad loans being outright erased from the balance sheet by court order. At least both sides of the balance sheet are declining so there will be no way for banks to fudge their capitalization and make it seem that loan writedowns are actually a beneficial thing for book equity.
We continue the Meltdown series by presenting part three out of four: Paying the Price, which looks at how the victims of the 2008 financial crash fight back. A protesting singer in Iceland brings down the government; in France a union leader oversees the kidnapping of his bosses; and thousands of families are made homeless in California.
Presenting some deeply philosophical observations from the man who has been wrong about pretty much everything, and to whom the jarring return of reality and its relentless destruction of the ivory towers he has carefully erected his entire career, can only be described as "surreal." No Jim - it's not surreal. It is all too real. The only surreal thing will be the response when GSAM's LP get their year end performance statement.
This Bloomberg article about German utilities giving away power got me thinking what our world would look like if the trillions in bailout money had instead been spent to build alternative energy infrastructure. From Bloomberg: “The 15 mile-per-hour winds that buffeted northern Germany on July 24 caused the nation’s 21,600 windmills to generate so much power that utilities such as EON AG and RWE AG (RWE) had to pay consumers to take it off the grid.” “You’re looking at a future where on a sunny day in Germany , you’ll have negative prices,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief solar analyst Jenny Chase said about power rates in wholesale trading. “And a lot of the other markets are heading the same way.” I will use only simple round numbers and calculations to make my point.
When we reported that Bank of America will be the first bank to institute debit card fees we made the following less than insightful observation: "The problem is that the bulk of depositor clients will simply walk away from Bank of America (which had $1,038 billion in deposits as of June 30), and any other institutions that piggy back on this, and from a game theory perspective, everyone has to do it, or nobody will do it." Well, Citigroup, which had no other choice, has just decided to follow in BofA's footsteps, which i) proves there is indeed a collusive move of desperation by the bank cartel, which in a normal country would see at least a statement from Eric Rip Van Holder, and ii) our thesis about America's impatience with petty theft - they are more than ok with grand scale larson such as that by the Fed via shadow inflation and currency devaluation, but when it comes to paying up an additional $5/month, well, just look at Netflix, which instituted a $6/month price hike two months ago... and is now fighting for survival. As for the exemption requirements, they will likely be the same as Bank of Countrywide Lynch's: either have a mortgage with the TBTF behemoth, or have $20k in a deposit account - both which will likely not be much of a help to 90%+ of the bank clients. The biggest problem is that suddenly at risk are $1.9 trillion in deposits - $1 trillion at BofA, $866 billion at Citi. While the financial crisis did little to dent the banks' deposit buffer, it will be highly ironic if it is an act of the banks themselves that begins the great bank run that resets it all...
One of the sterling performers in the hedge fund arena so far has just gone negative in several of his hedge funds for the year after another painful month. And if one of the best is unch, what can the rest say? Remember when we said 25% of the hedge fund space may be "redeemed"? We were being very optimistic...
Because we can always do with a Saturday afternoon laugh at Cramer's expense...
While the drop in speculative interest in various currencies made news last week, it is the turn of precious metals to be the key focus in this week's summary of the CFTC's Commitment of Traders report. As the chart below demonstrates, as of Thursday September 27, both gold and silver saw a massive plunge in the net long non-commercial interest (the cleanest proxy of how speculators are positioned in gold and silver). This is not surprising, following last Friday's CME hike in gold and silver margins, and this week's follow through action by the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The drop of 22,278 and 7,113 contracts, in gold and silver, to 127,801 and 15,425 contracts, respectively, brings the net total exposure to the lowest it has been since the fear of deflation was the only thing on everyone's mind in March of 2009. What is perplexing is that the net spec interest in silver is about half where it was on December 31, 2010 even with silver unchanged on the year, while only 56% of the long spec gold contracts from the beginning of the year remain even as gold is still up 15% YTD!