Why Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program Failed (Spoiler Alert: Thank Bank Of America et al)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 - 19:41
Back when the Executive and Congress at least pretended not to abdicate all power to the Fed, one of the centerpiece programs designed to boost the housing market for the benefit of the poor (as opposed to letting Ben Bernanke make marginal US housing a rental industry owned by a handful of private equity firms and hedge funds), was Barack Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which attempted to prevent foreclosures by lowering distressed borrowers’ mortgage payments. Under the program, homeowners would be given trial modifications to prove they can make reduced payments before the changes become permanent. The program was a disaster as of the 3 million foreclosures that were targeted for modification in 2009, only 905,663 mods have been successful nearly five years later - a tiny 13% of the 6.9 million who applied (still, numbers which Obamacare would be delighted to achieve). Part of the reason: the program's reliance on the same industry that sold shoddy mortgages during the housing bubble and improperly sped foreclosures afterward. But there was much more. For the definitive explanation of everything else that went wrong, we go to Bloomberg's Hugh Son whose masterpiece released today explains how and why once again the banks - and especially one of them - won, and everyone else lost.
The European Union's February decision to outlaw banker bonuses that are more than twice fixed pay was an effort to curb excessive payouts and asymmetric risk-taking. The UK challenged the caps as illegal in September (and the case has yet to be decided) but the European Banking Authority softened its stance last week by allowing banks to exempt staff earning up to EUR 1 million from the rules that cap bonuses. It seems the bankers are making hay while the sun shines as Bloomberg now reports, Managing Directors at banks in London are expecting a 44% rise in bonuses for 2013 - to more than double their average salary.
Despite the best efforts of the search engines, the majority of the Internet is unsearchable with estimates of this “Unlit” Web as high as 90%. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, some of this content (no one knows how much) is dark for a reason - hosting every form of criminal behavior known to man - but the rest from the increasing interest in anonymous Internet use in light of widely publicized government surveillance. Among the least well understood emerging themes in technology, Colas points out, is the “Dark Web”, adding that Oscar Wilde famously opined that “All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.” The existing structure of the Internet handles the first two very well. The Dark Web is, apparently, for the third. The first innovation to move from “Dark” to “Lit” Web is bitcoin, but it certainly won’t be the last.
Could we have another bullish year in 2014? It is certainly possible as long as the Federal Reserve remains engaged in their ongoing balance sheet expansions. But maybe the ongoing inflation of assets, without the underlying improvement in organic, sustainable, economic growth, will eventually lead to the next market bubble and bust. Of course, for anyone that has payed attention, such an outcome would be of little surprise. The important point is that, as an investor, you need to pay attention to the ever decreasing reward/risk ratio of chasing the financial markets. The "low hanging fruit" has long been harvested and the risk currently far outweighs the potential reward of being aggressively invested. Of course, it is not popular, or fun, to rain on the bullish parade. However, while they will likely appear to be correct in the short term; the long term outcome will most likely be far less pleasant.
While the BLS may be searching far and wide for evidence of hedonically-adjusted "core" inflation, and not finding it anywhere (expect in assets, housing prices, food and energy, but apparently all America buys every day are LCD TVs and iPads), one place where not even the BLS can hide what is clear and present "inflation" is college grade point averages, and especially grades for humanities courses, where as the saying goes pretty much everyone is "above average." And, as JPM adds, "Soon, colleges will have to “turn the dial up to 11” or else everyone will have the maximum GPA." Well, in a society where the push is to make everyone equal, it would only be fair for everyone to get the exact same perfect grades...
We want to believe the fake unemployment rate of 7% rather than the real rate of 14+% because the officially sanctioned forgery feeds our belief that our bloated, corrupt Empire of Debt is sustainable, fair and working well. To accept that we've been bamboozled, ripped off, taken advantage of and ultimately cheated out of an authentic economy and life by swindlers is too painful.
While stocks clung to overnight ramp gains, tensions were clear under the surface. Managers sought protection as spot VIX trended higher (closing over 16%); JPY crosses were not buying into (or supporting) the equity bounce (off the S&P's 50DMA), credit markets remained unimpressed, Treasuries closed practically unchanged (30Y was worst +2bps), gold and silver were bid, and another Hindenburg was spotted. The previous two "clusters" of Hindenburg Omens produced meaningful corrections in the US equity market (albeit dips that were rapidly bought). While ominous in its wording, the features that cause an Omen are all about market confusion with highs, lows, advancers, decliners, and momentum all signaling opposing (and mixed) views. With this week's FOMC meeting likely to resolve in significant volatility one way or the other, it is perhaps not surprising that the 3rd H.O. has just been spotted.
Ackman's Year Of Living Dangerously Get Worse - The Herbalife Timeline (Audit Complete With No Material Changes)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 - 15:21
UPDATE: Herbalife is halted for the following news:
- HERBALIFE COMPLETES RE-AUDIT FOR FISCAL '10 '11, '12
- HERBALIFE NO MATERIAL CHANGES TO 2010, 2011 OR 2012 FINL
Which opens the doors for the substantial buyback they have planned. We suspect one can hear a pin drop in Pershing Square's headquarters.
Herbalife has re-opened up 9% over $75 on very heavy volume - It seems Ackman's "end of the earth" bet may take a little longer...
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Bill Ackman’s 342-page slide presentation at the Ira Sohn Conference in NYC. At that time he publicly disclosed his $1 billion short bet against Herbalife (HLF), accusing the company of being a pyramid scheme and claiming its stock was destined to fall to zero once regulators stepped in. As everyone knows, HLF shares plummeted, losing nearly half their value in the three days after the presentation. The market’s initial response did not last, and HLF is up about 160% since its 12/21/12 low of $26.06 (vs S&P 500 +24%). Pershing Square’s public campaign has taken many forms, as Barclays outlines below...
Saying we need continuous financial bubbles to keep full employment is such a flawed conception of economics, it belongs on an island of misfit philosophies. Krugman’s incessant promotion of statism is doing more harm to the economy than good. As an opinion-molder, he is perpetuating the economic malaise of the last few years. More bubbles won’t help the recovery, just harm it more. In the middle of a grease fire, Krugman calls for more pig fat. And the rest of us are the ones left burnt.
... the average person in the generation that turned 65 this year received $327 thousand dollars more in lifetime government benefits than they paid in Federal taxes. On the other hand, children born in the future (e.g., yours) will have a lifetime deficit on this basis of -$421 thousand dollars. If it sounds unfair, it is.
A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely to be unconstitutional. As Politico reports, Judge Richard Leon blasted, "I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval." This is the first significant legal setback for the NSA’s surveillance program since Edward Snowden exposed it.
The Federal Reserve System was created on December 23, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. Today, the Fed has decided to commemorate the event today with all three living Fed chairman delivering remarks. We are sure it will be very exciting but in the interests of 'balance' we offer a few alternative views of the "success" of the venerable monopoly including its cost: since 1913, the dollar has lost nearly 90% of its purchasing power.
As we noted overnight, at 22:08:32 ET, a large wave of sell orders hit many stock index futures contracts. Most notably, Nanex notes, over 6,000 March 2014 eMini contracts traded in 1 second. After closer inspection, it appears that trading began almost simultaneously in several contracts, with the March 2014 eMini (ES) starting just a few milliseconds before the others. It's unclear whether the trades in the other contracts were a reaction to the eMini or part of the same sell program... but the slowness of reversion in prices makes it clear that while the mainstream media would like to shrug it off as just another "fat finger," it was anything but.
As was reported several days ago, the latest embarrassment for US foreign policy in Syria took place when the US-backed commander of the Free Syrian Army was forced to flee the country to Qatar after "Islamist fighters ran the top Western-backed rebel commander out of his headquarters." In other words, the Islamic Front, which is a more palatable name for the six major groups among Syria's religious extremist rebels, or as some call them, Al Qaeda, is now the only entity "fighting" the regime of Assad (funded with Qatari and Saudi financial generosity), which as recently as September was a very theatrically sworn enemy of John Kerry. So what is an isolated America to do in a country in which ambitions for Qatari nat gas pipelines will almost certainly rear their heads as soon as the spring of 2014? Why engage directly with Al Qaeda, pardon, the Islamic Front of course. Because the enemy of my enemy, who obstinately refuses to throw Putin under the bus or allow a Qatari gas pipeline under their territory, is my friend.