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Risk Off

Asian equities too a hit, posting their biggest two-day loss this year. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.2%. The losses were situated in the Hang Seng, which fell 2.2% and China’s Shanghai Composite, which declined 1.4%. Meanwhile, Europe is off 1.6% in the aggregate after the second take on Q4 GDP confirmed the 0.3% drop from the initial estimate. And, after yesterday’s sell-off, equity futures are pointing to a weaker open at home across the major indices driven in part by concerns that the Greek PSI will not get the required 75% participation as reported here yesterday. In the US, government bonds are in rally mode with the 10-year Treasury note yield down 4bps, to 1.97%; the long bond is rallying 5bps, to 3.10%. Across the pond, government bonds are performing as one would expect. Benchmark German bunds are rallying 4bps, to 1.78% while France, Italy, and Spain are selling off anywhere from 5 to 9bps. In the FX market, the US dollar is enjoying a flight to safety bid against major currencies. The DXY index is up 0.5%. Not surprisingly, with risk being taken off the table, commodities are taking a hit. WTI crude oil is down 60 cents, to $106.10 per barrel. Industrial metals are taking a hit too; copper is off 1.6% to its lowest level since mid February. In Europe, the LTRO continues to not work at all as the ECB deposit facility rose to a new all time record of €827 billion as cash parked with the ECB is not being used for any other purpose, and the net money from LTRO 1 and 2 is now less than the cash added to the ECB from Europe's banks.



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Mystery Trader Revealed...And His Name Is 'Hope'

The UK's Daily Mirror newspaper has uncovered the FX trader who dropped over $300k in a Scouse club. It is a 23-year old 'self-taught' barrow-boy named (somewhat ironically in our view) Alex Hope. Self-described as "talented (three years in and a six-figure salary, hhmm), charismatic (its amazing how much 'charisma' a GBP125k bottle of bubbly will buy), and thoroughly likeable (ditto) man. Alex Hope exudes knowledge..." and is willing to share it with you according to his website. How did he become this B.S.D. of the FX markets? "I took two months off my job at Wembley, got really obsessed with reading charts and got the guts to start trading properly." This self-made rosy-cheeked young chap with a penchant for mind-numbingly-arrogant-looking photos on his website may have just become the poster boy for all that is 'great' about the free market - or perhaps a skim through his blog and media exposure will reassure us all that anything is possible as we note he does have some good taste (not just in Champagne) in RTing our posts on Twitter. We can only HOPE that the next time he decides to go down the rub-a-dub-dub for a Leo Sayer, maybe he'll take some of us Septic Tanks with him on the frog-and-toad...as the days of the ship-it-in-large-on-the-left John, done-a-yard by-breakfast spot FX trader are clearly back with us.



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Welcome To Sub-Nanosecond Markets

Just as market regulators were finally getting wise to the fact that they have no clue how how modern market works, what modern market topology is, or how High Frequency Trading impacts the stock market (think Flash Crash), here comes Certichron, the supplier of a time service center at a Savvis market center in Weehakwen, which says it has now mastered sub-nanosecond readouts which are now "compliant with the FINRA Order Audit Trail System and is likely to be compliant with any Consolidated Audit Trail that might be specified by the Securities and Exchange Commission." In other words, here come sub-nanosecond markets.



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Morgan Stanley's Latest 'Commodity Thermometer'

Two weeks ago we presented the latest and greatest "commodity thermometer" courtesy of Morgan Stanley's commodities team. Below is the latest just released iteration. Not much of a change, with gold still the most loved, and inc the most hated (this could well be one of those "endorsed by John Paulson" moments), and the only notable change being that silver has pushed above Live Cattle and entered the Top 5.



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On Contagion: How The Rest Of The World Will Suffer

Insolvency will keep dragging the Euro-Area economy down until sovereign and bank balance sheets are repaired, but as Lombard Street Research  points out: eliminating the Ponzi debt without fracturing the entire credit system is impossible. The Lehman default occurred 13 months after the US TED spread crossed 100 basis points. The European equivalent crossed 100 basis points in September 2011, so its banking crisis would occur this autumn if a year or so is a normal incubation period. A Greek or any other significant default will precipitate a European banking crisis in the foreseeable future. Markets are already speculating on Portuguese negotiations for haircuts and Ireland can’t be far behind and the contagion to US (and global) banking systems is inevitable given counterparty risks, debt loads (and refi needs), and capital requirements (no matter how well hidden by MtM math). The contagion will likely show up as a risk premium in the credit markets initially as we suggest the recent underperformance of both US and European bank credit relative to stocks is a canary to keep an eye on.



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Apple Encounters Gravity As 3rd Biggest Drop In 3 Months Drags Market Down

While not quite as impressive as the 02/15 sell-off in terms of volume or size, today's weakness in Apple's stock price was the 3rd largest drop in 3 months as we note implied vol pushed up once again mimicking the pattern from mid-Feb as the stock lost over $21.5 from high to low in a very flash-crash style around 1110ET. As both realized volatility and implied volatility increase, perhaps some of the 200+ hedge funds will allocate some risk budget away from the Apple or change mandates so that their bogeys are AAPL. Apple's weakness weighed on most other high-beta assets with High yield credit lower and only Utilities and Staples managing a positive close among S&P sectors (financials were mixed in stocks but CDS were wider). Somewhat interestingly, Treasuries sold off all day and modestly steepened and while FX markets drifted very modestly higher for the USD after the European close (despite some overnight JPY strength - risk-off), ES (the e-mini S&P futures contract) synced back with an underperforming CONTEXT (broad risk asset proxy) into the close as WTI regained $107 (along with strength in commodities) and AUDJPY improvement.



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FX Trader Spends $323,483 At Liverpool Night Club

In what could be the largest (known) bartab in history, an unknown gentleman spent £203,948.80 ($323,483 at the closing GBPUSD spot rate) at Liverpool nightclub PlayGround - a purchase which included a £125,000 bottle of the world's most expensive champagne, Nebuchadnezzar of Armand de Brignac Midas, as well as a whole lot of other drinks, including among them 42 instances of "Pussy" at a low price of £3.00 (the Dire Straits definitely had that part right). The man "was there with about ten friends on a private table but after the big bottle came in they were mobbed by gorgeous girls." As for the man's background: an FX trader believed to be "in his early twenties." Sure enough, this will hardly help bridging the already uncrossable chasm between the 99ers (of whom virtually all can live for this amount for at least one year) and the "balance." Naturally, every hedge fund will now scramble to find and hire said generous patron, who due to his age one can assume was not former SNB head, and comparable FX trading whiz-kid, Philipp Hildebrand.



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IIF Steering Committee Holds Only 20% Of Greek Bonds Subject To PSI

Earlier this morning, to much fanfare, the various member of the IIF steering committee announced that they would all gladly be part of the voluntary haircut that would chop off over 70% of their hair. The FT described this development as follows: "A large grouping of private creditors agreed on Monday to take part in the multibillion-euro Greek debt swap in a significant step forward for Athens as the country struggles to avert a sovereign default. Twelve banks, insurers, asset managers and hedge funds in the steering committee of bank lobby group the Institute of International Finance said in a statement that they would take part in the bond exchange. Members of the IIF steering committee include BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, National Bank of Greece, Allianz and Greylock Capital Management. A spokesman for the IIF said this represented a “substantial” amount of the €206bn in Greek bonds held by the private sector that banks managing the swap are trying to involve. Analysts estimate that institutions represented by the IIF make up about 50 per cent of the private sector bonds." Bzzz. Analysts, as so often happens, may have been wrong to quite wrong.  According to just released data from Bloomberg analysts analysts may have overestimated the substantial amount... by about 150%. From Bloomberg: "Private Investors Holding About 20% of Greek Debt to Join Swap...The 12 members of the creditors’ steering committee that said today they would join in the exchange have debt with a face value of about 40b euros ($53b), compared with the 206b euros of Greek bonds in private hands, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from company reports." If so, this means that a whopping 80% of the bonds subject to exchange are unaccounted for, and more importantly, it means that the likelihood of a major blocking stake having organized is far greater than even we expected.



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Biggest 3-Day Slump in 3 Months for High-Yield Bond ETF

The ever-so-popular high-yield bond ETF, HYG, is suffering its biggest 3-day drop since Thanksgiving as higher beta assets are underperforming and the up-in-quality and up-in-capital-structure trade gathers pace post LTRO 2. Even with last week's ex-divi date, we note that this loss of the last 2-3 days wipes out the yield that was 'reached for' of the last 2-3 months. It seems all too easy to buy high-yield bonds when they are on the rise but underlying that ETF is a portfolio of 'junk' assets - some better and some worse obviously - that are increasingly being driven top-down by the fast-money action in this newfound ETF's liquidity (as dealer inventories dwindle). This leaves them prone to just-as-fast exits as the secondary high yield bond market remains 'illiquid' away from benchmark size and ETF-bound assets providing little underlying 'pricing' evidence of market value. This is the largest underperformance of the high-yield market relative to the equity market since the recent rally began.



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Couple Lives In $1.3 Million, 4,900 Square Foot Home For Five Years Without Making A Single Mortgage Payment

Wonder how Americans can afford to buy millions of iGadgets, a second LCD TV for the shoe closet, and eat at restaurants more than almost any time in the past despite sliding personal income? Simple - increasingly fewer pay the biggest staple bill in a US household: their mortgage. The following story of Keith And Janet Ritter, who have lived in their Fort Washington, MD $1.29MM, 4,900 square foot McMansion for 5 years (which they purchase with no money down) without ever making a single mortgage payment, and who are not even close to being evicted, may explain much about the way US society currently operates, and why other perfectly responsible and hard-working taxpayers (who do have to pay for their mortgage) continue to fund tens of billions in Fannie and Freddie losses who are first on the hook to absorb the implicit losses by allowing families such as the Ritters to live in perpetuity without paying, and the banks to keep said mortgage on the books at par without any impairments.



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3 Charts On The US Consumption Crash Dead-Ahead

Average US gas prices are over 13% higher since late December 2011, back at June 2011 levels, and do not look set to drop any time soon. The anecdotal impact of this rise in a significant segment of the real US consumer's spending habits is unmistakable, as we discussed earlier, but it is more important to note where we have come from when considering the macro impact. Q4 macro data was 'juiced' by the significant drop in the price of energy as the 4-5pt drop in Energy-and-Utilities spend enabled 'visible' consumption to rise during that time (obviously helped by government handouts also). Just as occurred in the latter part of 2008, as the consumer was forced to spend more on Energy, so the visible consumption dropped notably and given the significance of the current data 'drop' in energy spending, when the current gas prices filter into this data, we would expect, as Credit Suisse points out, consumption on more discretionary spending will drop significantly, especially with the gridlock in Washington. Perhaps this is just the 'crash' that Bernanke needs to run-the-presses again as conditionality will increasingly force investors to reject the buy-and-keep-buying trend as they recognize that QE3 can't start until things get worse, and buying in anticipation of QE3 means it will never happen?



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McCain Calls For US To Lead Effort To Begin Syrian Air Strikes

Just a headline from AP for now:

  • Sen. McCain calls for US to lead 'international effort' to begin air strikes on Syria.

Looks like operation "Enduring Brent Crude Freedom" is about to commence.



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Dallas Fed's Fisher "Perplexed" By Wall Street "Fetish" With QE3 And Disgusted With The Addiction To "Monetary Morphine...

And now for some pure irony, we have a member of the Fed, granted a gold bug, but a Fed member nonetheless, one of the same people who not only enacted ZIRP, but encourage easy money every time there is a downtick in the market, complaining about, get this, Wall Street's "continued preoccupation, bordering upon fetish" with QE3. The irony continues: "Trillions of dollars are lying fallow, not being employed in the real economy. Yet financial market operators keep looking and hoping for more. Why? I think it may be because they have become hooked on the monetary morphine we provided when we performed massive reconstructive surgery, rescuing the economy from the Financial Panic of 2008–09, and then kept the medication in the financial bloodstream to ensure recovery....I believe adding to the accommodative doses we have applied rather than beginning to wean the patient might be the equivalent of medical malpractice." So let's get this straight: these academic titans, who for one reason or another, are given free rein to determine the fate of the once free world with their secret decisions every two or three months, are completely unaware of classical conditioning, discovered by Pavlov nearly 90 years ago, also known as a salivation response. The same Fed is shocked, shocked, that every time the market dips, the red light goes off, and the "balls to the wall" crowd scream for more, more, more free money. Really Fisher? Really? Oh, and let us guess what happens the next time the S&P slides into the tripple digits: will the Fed a) do nothing, thereby letting the market slide to its fair value in the 400 point range, or b) print. Our money, in the form of hard yellow metal, is on the latter, just like we predicted, correctly, back in March 2009 in " Bailoutspotting (Or The Search For The Great Financial Methadone Clinic" that nothing will ever change vis-a-vis the great market junkie until it all comes crashing down.



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