In his latest weekly kickstart, David Kostin says: "The core aspects of our positive outlook for US stocks remain in place. However, the distribution around our base case has widened since early December following a 9% rally in the S&P 500 and elevated risk to the US economic outlook from higher oil prices and inflation. Accordingly, we have shifted our recommended sector weights closer to benchmark and adjusted our thematic trade recommendations to gain more exposure to growth markets. We (1) maintain our S&P 500 year-end 2011 price target of 1500 (+14%); (2) lower our Financials weighting to Neutral from Overweight and reduce the size of our Health Care underweight; and (3) recommend buying stocks with high BRICs sales and close our Dividend Growth and Dual Beta trades. We believe these changes are consistent with portfolio risk reduction during periods of uncertainty." Considering that this came out before Hatzius' Friday night bomgb skewering Q1 GDP from 2.5% to 1.75%, we are confident Kostin will have no choice but to lower his interim S&P target, following promptly by his full year 1,500 on the S&P. After all preparations for QE3 are now in full force., only this time the brent will have $125 as a baseline instead of $70. We won't even mention gold.
Must See: TEPCO Releases Video From Unmanned Helicopter Drones Above Fukushima As Robots Are Finally Used In Restoration EffortSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/17/2011 - 11:09
On Friday, April 15, TEPCO released what is the most conclusive video of the devastation at Fukushima. After watching these three clips we fail to see how even the most optimistic of individuals see the situation as resolving with anything but entombment, which however judging by the urgency in Japan's actions will be the first even on the agenda...in 2015. In other Fukushima news, we learn that after declining for a few days, the seawater around the reactor has once again seen a surge in radioactivity (Kyodo), that fuel rods have melted through not one, not two, but all three active reactors at Fukushima, but not to panic: all is well as long as these are cooled down, by the same water that will eventually seep into the ocean of into the groundwater considering the cooling system is destroyed beyond repair (Japan Times), that TEPCO itself, following weeks of denials, will not only be nationalized but most likely bankrupted eventually as a push to complete the liberalization of Japan's power industry (Asahi), but this won't happen before TEPCO drags down the Nikkei: Reuters reports that as part of funding its reconstruction efforts, the virtually insolvent utility will be forced to liquidate up to its entire stake ($2.2 billion) in telecom giant KDDI, potentially setting off a selling waterfall across various asset classes. Elsewhere, now that Japan will have no choice but to contend with rolling blackouts indefinitely, the country's energy needs will be increasingly reliant on Russia's goodwill, which now is the white knight "energetic" protector of not only Europe, but Japan (Yomiuri). Lastly, also from Yomiuri is this brief summary of just how majorly impacted Q2 GDP will be (read inventory liquidations following supply chain disruptions) following the Japan earthquake.
China Hikes RRR For Fourth Time In 2011: As Real Estate Bubble Pops, JPM Sees "Mass Affluent" Rushing Into GoldSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/17/2011 - 10:21
Following leaked (and confirmed) news that in March Chinese inflation came at 5.4%, the PBoC has once again decided to intervene, enacting its fourth Reserve Requirement Ratio hike of 2011. From Bloomberg: "Reserve ratios will increase a half point from April 21, the People’s Bank of China said on its website today. The move, taking the requirement to 20.5 percent for the nation’s biggest lenders, came less than two weeks after the central bank boosted benchmark interest rates. “Tightening will continue until there are signs that inflation has been effectively brought under control,” Shen Jianguang, a Hong Kong-based economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd., said before today’s announcement. A surge in foreign-exchange reserves to $3 trillion last month and rebounding lending and money-supply growth have highlighted overheating risks in the fastest-growing major economy. Gross domestic product rose 9.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier and inflation accelerated to 5.4 percent, the most since July 2008, the statistics bureau said April 15. Inflation has exceeded the government’s 2011 target of 4 percent each month so far this year. The increase in reserve requirements was the fourth this year." Naturally, this also means that the plunge in real estate ASPs, confirmed everywhere, but most pronounced in the capital, is set to continue. This, according to JPM's Jing Ulrich, means that with real estate no longer an attractive asset bubble, the "mass affluent" Chinese will be forced to invest in gold and alternative property investments. From Dow Jones: This group "has seen its investment options sharply affected by restrictive housing measures" such as property taxes, increases in down-payment requirements, and raised interest rates, "since these households possess sufficient capital to purchase
investment property, but do not have the same degree of access to
investment vehicles such as private equity funds and retail property" as
the super-rich, she says, adding that equities, gold and alternative
property investments are therefore the key beneficiaries."
Tipping points are funny: for years, decades, even centuries, the conditions for an event to occur may be ripe yet nothing happens. Then, in an instant, a shift occurs, whether its is due a change in conventional wisdom, due to an exogenous event or due to something completely inexplicable. That event, colloquially called a black swan in recent years, changes the prevalent perception of reality in a moment. This past week, we were seeing the effect of a tipping point in process, with gold prices rising to new all time highs day after day, and the price of silver literally moving in a parabolic fashion. What was missing was the cause. We now know what it is: per Bloomberg: "The University of Texas Investment Management Co., the second-largest U.S. academic endowment, took delivery of almost $1 billion in gold bullion and is storing the bars in a New York vault, according to the fund’s board." And so, the game theory of a nearly 100 year old system of monetary exchange has seen its first defector, but most certainly not last. With an entity as large as the University of Texas calling the bluff of the Comex, the Chairman, and fiat in general in roughly that order, virtually every other asset manager is now sure to follow, considering there is not nearly enough physical gold to satisfy all paper gold in existence by a factor of about 100x. The proverbial Nash equilibrium has just been broken.
Doubling Down To (DXY) Zero: Has The Fed, In Its Stealthy Synthetic Bet To Keep Long-Term Yields Low, Become The Next AIG?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/16/2011 - 16:41
The Fed, in bailing out the world (a meme that has only now received popular acceptance following the release of formerly classified Fed documents, despite our claims precisely to that end from back in October 2009) has become the world's largest hedge fund and with a DV01 of over $1.5 billion by now, has taken on virtually unlimited interest rate risk (a topic discussed back in April 2010). As such controlling inflation expectations, or more specifically, Long-Term rates (the part on the curve that Quantitative Easing is powerless to control) is the most critical aspect of the viability of the monetary system. Stunningly, today we learn that to keep long rates low, the Fed may have resorted to nothing short of the same suicidal trade that destroyed AIG FP and brought the entire system to its knees. Namely, Ben Bernanke is now quite possibly the second coming of Joe Cassano, since in order to keep rates low, Bernanke is forced to a last resort action of selling billions upon billions of Treasury puts to "pin" rates low contrary to natural supply-demand mechanics. If so, the Fed is now basically AIG Financial Products, although instead of being synthetically long mortgages (and thus betting on a rate decline) and selling hundreds of billions in CDS to amplify its bet, Bernanke has done the same thing, only this time with Treasurys. Of course, Ben has the printing press on his side apologists will claim. Alas, that will have no impact whatsoever, if indeed the Fed has been reduced to finding ever fewer counterparties to a synthetic bet to keep long-term rates low, as very soon, with inflation ticking up, all hell may break loose in an identical replay of what happened to AIG once the Fed's put is called against it. Only this time there will be nobody to bail out the ultimate backstopper, resulting in the long overdue end of the current failed monetary system experiment.
Jim Grant On Inflation: "There Will Be A Lot Of It Suddenly" Because Our Interest Rate Structure Is "Beyond Strange"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/16/2011 - 13:20
One of our favorite economic commentators - Jim Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer - was on Consuelo Mack continuing his ongoing crusade against Ben Bernanke's lunacy, and the monetary central planning of the Federal Reserve, particularly focusing on the topic of pernicious inflation which for good reason has received much attention of the past year. Grant, who unlike Steve Liesman correctly observes that inflation is now rampant (those who need a reminder can do so at the only objective source for actual inflation tracking, MIT's Billion Price Index), is eating away at the standard of living of the bulk of the population, even as this same population can not benefit from anything beyond minimal rates on their saving deposits. "The Fed is unconscionably complacent about the consequences of what it is doing, and let us not blink at what it is doing: it has imposed the lowest money market interest rates anyone remembers, it has expanded its balance sheet into something grotesque all in the space of a couple of years. These are monetary events that have never before been seen, and indeed, never before imagined...The Fed's policies are certainly great for one class of society: the speculative classes.... We have socialized risk, we have privatized gains, much to the relief of Greenwich, CT where our zillionaires live, and the unconscionable and indefensible fallout of this is that savers get zero on their savings balances, and the speculative classes get to borrow in wholesale markets at zero and get to make their zillions all over again... The Chairman is whistling by the graveyard in this manner of 2% inflation rate being harmless." On Grant's expectations for inflation rates: "there will be a lot of suddenly - 4 or 5% let us say...So much of our speculative apparatus is powered on these zero percent interest rates... Think how hard it is to hold back a cash reserve in this economy... Your stupid neighbor who is watching this program is making a lot fo money in the stock market: how hard is it not to participate? You can't do it... But 4% inflation would mean that the party is over... Everything would fall out of bed... Gold and silver would right themselves, because they are money that would come into their own at the end of the cycle of disillusionment but for a time there would be terrific chaos in investment markets."
Following this week's ebullient UMichigan consumer confidence readings (which continue to diverge from reality as per Gallup which oddly enough does not poll Wall Street CEOs who are always eager to give their economic assessment from the infinity pool while vacationing in Fiji) one would think that the price of gas had fallen of a cliff. Alas no. In fact quite the opposite. And the propaganda logic of the domestic ministry of disinformation, consumers in Hawaii must be by far the most confident as it is the state where gas prices are now at virtually all time highs, well ahead of the peak summer driving season. Businessweek reports: "Hawaii's average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline hit a nation-leading $4.46 on Thursday, 28 cents higher than second-place California. The national average reached $3.81, according to AAA data. Wyoming had the cheapest gas in the country at $3.53. As many states brace for gas to climb to $4, Hawaii was the first to reach that mark a month ago. The Aloha state's average on Thursday was 12 cents higher than a week ago, according to the automobile association." The weekly increase is double what the national spike for regular gas was, which moved from $3.750 to $3.818 in the span of a week (compared to $2.858 a year ago). And as the LA Times reports, the ongoing surge in gas prices has led many to paradoxical outcome of literally run out of while driving from station to station looking for the cheapest refuelling option.
Nobody could have seen this coming: "With most of the news on first-quarter growth now in, the GDP “bean count” looks even softer than it did a couple of weeks ago. The most recent disappointments have come on the export side—with trade now set to subtract significantly from growth in the quarter—and from inventories. Consequently, we are downgrading our real GDP growth estimate to 1¾% (annualized), from 2½% previously (and from 3½% not too long ago)." Some other things nobody will be able to predict: Hatzius dropping full year GDP from 4% to 2.25%; Goldman's downgrade of precious metals, Kostin's 2011 S&P 500 price target reduction by 20%, and Goldman getting its New York Fed branch to commence monetizing $1.5 trillion in debt some time in October.
The same theme of the last few days remains in place with vol and CDS being derisked for lower quality names and relatively rerisked for higher quality names. Stocks were a much more mixed bag today with crossover names outperforming the high and low quality names on average. Financials (monolines aside) were the only sector in which equity and credit deteriorated together on average while equity outperformed credit in all the others (aside from Telecoms which saw slightly more spread compression than the equity moves would have assumed).
- On April 18, 2011, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange launched six Euro-denominated oil contracts - one Brent crude oil and five gasoil.
- Pricing, margining and treasury for exchange-cleared oil price management can be fully executed in Euros.
On the surface, this appears to be a reasonable product suite offer from the CME. These contracts are financially-settled and rely on the US dollar oil contracts that trade on ICE, the Intercontinental Exchange. These contracts should make certain trading functions more streamlined for oil exporters to and oil consumers in the Euro-zone. For some users, no need to buy US dollars to effect oil trades. Seems like a nothing-to-see-here moment….
It seems like only yesterday that silver took out $42. Oh wait... Luckily, it did not succeed in moving a full buck today. Instead it closed, per the Bloomberg feed, at $44.9913. Other feeds that price based on the offer, however, may see $43.0163. For the shorts, neither will be much of a consolation.
While we may be running out of adjectives for "Volume is ______" headlines, that does not change the fact that the reality red shift of the universe that CNBC exists in (Bartiromo: "market volume is above average today") is approaching burgundy. On one hand you have CNBC's... one can't really even call it "spin"... On the other you have reality, if only for the time being. We hear the Fed is willing to fund a reverse merger between bizarro and the real world.
Obama Confirms Leadership Failure, Pulls Out Mother Of All Mutual Assured Nukes: "Raise Debt Ceiling Or Risk Global Recession"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/15/2011 - 15:33
And people made fun of Hank Paulson for threatening with eternal damnation if congress didn't stamp his multi-trillion blank check to bail out his former co-workers from Goldman. In a step that makes the Kashkari-Paulson threat seem like amateur hour, the teleprompter just received its latest high frequency directive from the Wall Street superiors, promptly delivering the latest MAD message to what continues to be perceived as an idiot audience: "Failure by Congress to raise the U.S. debt limit "could plunge the world economy back into recession," President Barack Obama declared Friday, and he acknowledged that he must compromise on spending with Republicans who control the House to avoid such a crisis. Obama urged swift action, saying he doesn't want the United States to get close to a deadline that would destabilize financial markets. He said he was confident Congress ultimately would raise the limit. "We always have. We will do it again," said Obama, who voted against raising the debt limit as a freshman senator from Illinois." The statement merely underscores that the president is now in contention for the Nobel Prize in hypocrisy: after all compare this statement to Obama's now supremely ironic remark from March 20, 2006: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." They sure do. And in order to replace the current failed leadership, they will gladly start with a new president.