The presented interactive chart from the WSJ tracks the intervention by global central banks in the monetary realm. It should come as no surprise that following the Lehman failure, virtually the entire world went from red (tight liquidity) to green (loose, and ostensibly for most, ZIRP). It is fairly safe to say that when it comes to America, ZIRP will stay forever, as the elimination of a -7% Taylor Rate equivalent offset to rates will annihilate capital markets of all shapes and sizes, which continue to levitate solely on free money promises and micro trading feedback loops. Incidentally, we are willing to immediately cede that there is indeed an economic recovery: all that would take is for Bernanke to stop QE2 immediately, and certify that no incremental forms of quantitative easing will occur. Let's see what happens to stocks, pardon, the economy, and naturally the wealth effect, following such a pronouncement. Another observation on the chart below: note the monetary reaction in the developed-developing world in the last year. This is only driven by the increasing unwillingness of the BRICs and their derivatives to import Bernanke's excess inflation. This is precisely what will be the defining topic of 2011 newsflow (together with Europe's further plunge into insolvency, and as always geopolitical news).
Oil prices came in higher on Tuesday, largely in response to a weaker US dollar. As the morning wore on, the euro started losing ground against the greenback, turning into negative territory just before 10 AM. At that Consumer Confidence came out at a disappointing 52.5, down from the previous reading of 54.3. Expectations had been for an improvement to 56, so the figure was not helpful. Consumers are clearly still anxious about the future. At this time, crude oil prices came near unchanged, just holding on in positive territory. That was as poor as it got, though. Equities rallied from there and oil switched to following the DJIA, while the dollar followed a straight line higher through the session. - Cameron Hanover
How Allstate Used Sampling To Confirm BofA/Countrywide Lied About Virtually Everything When Selling MortgagesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/28/2010 - 18:43
A few days ago, news broke that MBIA was allowed to use statistical sampling in its ongoing Bank of America fraud lawsuit. This happened despite the Countrywide acquiror's loud protests. And now, courtesy of today's brand new lawsuit against BofA (and Agent Orange himself) filed by Allstate, in which the insurer "seeks unspecified damages, alleges fraud, negligent misrepresentation and violation of U.S. securities laws" we know just why Bank of America was so very against allowing sampling to be used by plaintiffs. According to the full report (pdf attached below), Allstate has determined that Bank of America misrepresented virtually everything in its prospectuses: from the percentage of owner-occupied properties reped in prospectuses (about a 10% differential), to the LTV thresholds on represented loans (both at the 90% and 100% threshold), while inbetween finding willful and malicious intent to defraud and deceive. We are confident that none of this, however, will result in a prison sentence for Mozillo, as laws in America are meant to be broken by anyone who can demonstrate an LTV more than 100,000% or have more than $100MM in annual income (including that derived from golden parachutes).
Though he’s no longer running one of the largest companies in the world, former President of Shell Oil John Hofmeister warns that the outlook for gas prices in the coming decade is not looking good: "when prices are so high - $5 a gallon for gasoline by 2012 - I believe that’s going to happen - that’s going to set a new tone, it’s going to be panic time on the part of the politicians, they’re going to suddenly get some kind of a sense we better do something." The scary thing is that Mr. Hofmeister is basing his $5 per gallon gasoline prediction on supply/demand issues, not even taking into account the unfettered digital creation of dollars by the Federal Reserve.
Hopefully today's 4th consecutive decline in home prices, as per the earlier noted Case Shiller October data (and with both mortgage rates and foreclosure inventory surging, we are willing to bet that following the reported November and December CS data, the decline will be for half a year straight), makes it sufficiently clear that housing has double dipped, and that the primary goal of Bernanke, which is not to pad banker bonuses, but to reflate home prices and recreate that mythical HELOC "fake wealth effect" piggybank, has been a complete failure (he sure is succeeding in getting WTI about to soon hit $100/barrel). Just in case there are any doubters left, Nouriel Roubini sat down with CNBC's netnet to confirm what virtually everyone else already knows: "It's pretty clear the housing market has already double dipped," per Nouriel, who recently took advantage of the NYC housing downturn and bought a $5.5MM pad. "And the rate of decline is stronger than in previous months" - precisely what we pointed out a few hours back. In other words, the double dip is accelerating. Today's jump in 10 and 30 Y rates will not help.
Today's Bloomberg has a good article on how S&P: that most reliable lagging market counterindicator has thrown in the towel, and is upgrading anything that moves. "Ford Motor Co., the world’s most profitable automaker, and San Jose, California-based EBay Inc. were upgraded by S&P along with 756 others, compared with 722 downgrades, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In 2009, S&P slashed corporate debt grades more than three times as often as it raised them, the data show." The article continues: "S&P boosted grades for non-financial issuers 1.5 times as often as it cut them, while Moody’s Investors Service made 1.9 upgrades in those sectors for each downgrade, the ratings companies said." In other words, the crisis is all over according to S&P. Luckily, we all know one thing that the ratings agencies apparently don't: that when it comes to top or bottom ticking the market, there is nobody even in the same ballpark as these two business model relics (both of which only downgraded Ireland after the country became insolvent). Which is why, as the chart below, courtesy of Andrew Yorks, demonstrates, the time to go balls to the wall short credit is now.
According to the just released NYSE short interest update, the number of shares short on the NYSE group has just dropped to 2010 lows, after dropping by over 1 billion since the August highs. This has occurred pretty much in linear fashion: in the last 4 months, there has been just one two week period in which the shorts have increased. What is just delightfully ironic, is that even as broad market volume has collapsed, biweekly short covering has surged on a relative basis. In essence, the bulk of the market buying has been short covering, which traditionally is always 'offer-lifting' heavy, as shorts are willing to pay any price to cover underwater positions, especially if there is an accelerant involved, such as when a repo desk advises its "client" that State Street has decided to force squeeze financial stocks for the nth time since March 2009.
Following today's ugly 5 Year auction, and hot on the heels of the 180 degree EUR reversal from this morning, coupled with the renewed surge in gold and silver, the entire bond complex is again in free fall (and no, Build America Bonds has not and likely will not be renewed in its current form), lead by the 30 Year. And if this was based on an expectation of real rates rising, as the pundits would claim, which would be an expectation of economic improvement, then gold would not be flirting with its all time highs. Which means that today's market action in every asset class is representing the economy accurately, especially following the 4th consecutive home price drop be Case Shiller... every asset class except for stocks of course. Then again, with volume once again abysmal (MVOLNYE just under 1,400), HFT/Fed levitation programs are the only thing that is trading 100x P/E hot grenades as per always.
Simon Black's "Best Of 2010": Explains Why Planting "Mutiple Flags" Is Crucial For Our Insolvent AgeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/28/2010 - 14:46
Simon Black, who for the past few months was frolicking in middle earth has reemerged again, this time from Buenos Aires, and shares a "Best of 2010" compilation with readers. "As we're quickly approaching the end of December, I thought it would be appropriate to republish a few letters from earlier this year. 2010 brought substantial growth for this community-- our numbers swelled, and I know that many readers probably missed some important letters from earlier days. Today I want to repost a letter that I originally sent to you in early January, just after the 2009 holidays. In it, I defined what planting multiple flags is, and why everyone should be thinking about it. As the events of 2010 have unfolded, I think those reasons have only become stronger."
Today's $35 billion 5 Year auction closed surprisingly weak, pricing at a high yield of 2.149%, a huge tail as they were trading at 2.07% WI. The bond came at a 2.61 BTC, Indirects accounted for 35.6%, Directs for 6.2%, and the balance, or well over half, was soaked up by Primary Dealers, who had to make sure this auction was not a dud. As access to our Treasury database is limited those wanting to see the auction represented visually will have to take our word for it for just how ugly it was. We are confident the bond weakness will be misrepresented by the Kool Aid Krew as a very positive development for stocks.
Next European Leg Down? First Failed ECB Monetization Sterilization, As Central Bank Has E13 Billion Shortfall In Bond BidsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/28/2010 - 12:09
Today, to little fanfare, the ECB managed to obtain just E60.8 billion in tender interest for its most recent 7 Day SMP "peripheral bond monetization" operation, whereby it needed at least E73.5 billion to be able to offload all of its cumulative acquired sovereign bonds to other financial institutions: a de facto sterilization, which is why the ECB has so far been claiming it is not monetizing debt (as it constantly rolls the held balance on other bank balance sheets). That is no more: following today, the ECB is left with just under E13 billion in sovereign holdings and thus are not sterilized. This development follows Monday's announcement, which was reported first on Zero Hedge, that the ECB acquired 100% more in peripheral bonds in the prior week compared to two weeks ago. Another notable development: the number of bidding banks participating in the tender operation dropped to just 41- the lowest since the inception of the program in May when Greece went tits up and all of Europe was supposed to bail each other out in perpetuity. And what is most disturbing is that this complete lack of interest (or telegraphed lack of bank liquidity) happened even as the marginal rate jumped by over 50%, from 0.6% to 1%- the same as the maximum rate allowed on an auction. Should banks not come back with tender takedown interest next week, this could very well be the catalyst for the next leg down in the European crisis. Because despite what ING economist Martin Van Vliet told Reuters, "It has happened before but I wouldn't make too much of a big deal out of it", we would make a big deal out of it, as this has actually not happened before. For confirmation that ING economists may want to take an Excel 101 chart, below is the buffer shortfall in every auction since the program's inception. As is all too obvious, this was the first one that missed by a mile.
The December Consumer Confidence (Conference Board, not UMich) number misses expectations of 56.3 by a mile printing at 52.5. This is also a material drop from the November 54.3 print. On the very important topic of jobs, "Those saying jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 3.9 percent from 4.3
percent, while those stating jobs are "hard to get" edged up to 46.8
percent from 46.3 percent." And while this completely irrelevant data point (and how it could be down when the market is up is beyond is) is pushing stocks lower, elsewhere we see the Richmond Fed come way ahead of expectations, coming at 25 on expectations of 11. Nonetheless, since the recent weakness in other regional diffusion indices has been completely ignored in recent weeks, we see no reason why the market should suddenly pay attention to this traditionally secondary Fed indicator.
If Bernanke is hoping to eventually have restore HELOCs as a piggybank for the greater US population, he better come up with something quick. The Case Shiller for October, as always nearly three months delayed, shows that the double dip in home prices which started in June, is persisting. And since both new and mortgage refi apps have plunged in recent weeks following the spike in the 30 Year cash mortgage rate, do not expect to see any rise in Top 20 Composite MSA home prices. From the October print: the October SA Composite 20 came at 143.52%, a decline of 0.99% from September, and just down from a year earlier. There was a sequential decline in 18 of the 20 MSAs, with just Denver and DC posting an increase. The biggest drops were in Atlanta (-2.13%), Chicago (-1.80%), and Minneapolis (-1.76%). The decline was even worse on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, where the sequential decline in the Composite 20 was -1.32%. As the attached chart demonstrates, the double dip is accelerating, as the sequential drops are increasing in magnitude. This data flatly continues to refute claims that there is any economic recovery going on, as the primary source of middle class wealth continues to decline in value.
Guest Post: Retirement Account Fantasy And Middle Class Erosion – 1 Out Of 3 Americans Has Zero Dollars In A Retirement AccountSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/28/2010 - 09:44
Many Americans live precariously close to the edge of financial insolvency flirting with economic disaster daily. If you casually browse mainstream articles and watch any amount of television you would think that the US still had a vibrant and strong middle class. When we pull back the covers on the current financial situation we realize that many Americans are merely getting by and many would like to live in some 1984 Orwellian fantasy world where suddenly things are back to financial equilibrium. 43 million Americans are depending on government food assistance to get by. But many more millions are merely living paycheck to paycheck hidden in the cellar of the headlines. 1 out of 3 Americans has zero in any retirement account (not one slowly eroding dollar). Half of Americans have $2,000 or less which puts them one month away from needing government assistance. With the volatile job market and turbulent Wall Street middle class Americans are feeling the once prided stability being slowly washed away. Let us examine how retirement is now becoming more of a fantasy for many Americans.
Considering our level of nervousness following an uninterrupted battery of gold endorsements by Cramer, we felt much better when a week ago Doug Kass decided to bash gold based on his half-reading of Howard Marks' latest letter. To be sure, we assumed that this merely opens the way for yet another year end rally to all time highs, in line with the prediction by John Embry from two days earlier. And it may happen just yet: gold has surged by $8 in just the last 8 minutes and appears to be on track to surpass the $1420s record highs on short notice.