European corporate and financial credit markets are opening weak this morning - ignoring the exuberance in overnight ES futures (11,000 contracts in seconds on rumor of China for 10pt jump?) which is also leaking back rapidly to VWAP (even as European equity markets continue to levitate). Financials especially are now beyond yesterday's wides with subordinated spreads the underperformer for now. This extends from our comments yesterday that were picked up on CNBC with regard to the 'stigma-trade' in LTRO-encumbered banks (which is widening further this morning) as well as broad divergence between stocks and credit. Concerns over Ireland's fiscal consolidation plans balanced with a very slight beat on German GDP (though still negative) are seeing EURUSD leak back off its best levels of the night after it bounced off 1.31 in late US trading (on Samaras rumors then extended by this China chatter). Gold and Silver are pushing higher while Copper and Oil are stable for now (though notably up from yesterday's European close). European sovereigns are quiet for now while US Treasuries are slightly better bid.
While we have shown some quite fascinating infographics (here and here) from the folks at Demonocracy, this one may be the most informative. Because while everyone knows by now that if the global "bailout" to preserve the insolvent ponzi were to be paid in crisp, physical $100 bills, the amount of money required would fill countless skyscrapers, and only pales compared to the the amount of money needed to fund the insolvent welfare state which at last check was at over a quarter of a quadrillion, it is another less appreciated aspect of the daily US spending routine that is arguably just as big an offender when it comes to endless wanton spending: the cost of war. Below we present just that, in a series of simple, easy to understand charts that even Nobel peace prize winners should grasp.
In case one is wondering what lit a fire under the EURUSD and the ES' ass in the past 30 minutes, why it is the trusty old fall back - China, to which all algos respond every single time like stung donkeys as if on command. Because just as the EURUSD was about to retrace the lows as the realization that the EOD rumor was nothing but an infrared herring, something else had to step in an continue to rumor-based levitation. Sure enough, that something was the Chinese central bank.
- CHINA PBOC'S ZHOU SAYS HE'S CONFIDENT EU WILL SOLVE CRISIS: MNI
- CHINA PBOC'S ZHOU SAYS HE SUPPORTS EU, ECB MEASURES: MNI
- PBOC'S ZHOU: CHINA WILL PARTICIPATE IN RESOLVING EU DEBT CRISIS
- CHINA PBOC GOVERNOR ZHOU SAYS HE HAS CONFIDENCE IN EURO: MNI
And that's all it took to life the ES by over 10 points in minutes.
Earlier, you heard it from Jeff Gundlach, whom one can not accuse (at least not yet) of sleeping on his laurels and/or being a broken watch, who told his listeners to "reduce risk right now" especially in the frenzied momo stocks. Now, it is David Rosenberg's turn who tries to refute the presiding transitory dogma that 'things are ok" and that a Greek default will be contained (no, it won't be, and if nobody remembers what happened in 2008, here is a reminder of everything one needs to know ahead of the "controlled", whatever that is, Greek default). Alas, it will be to no avail, as one of the dominant features of the lemming herd is that it will gladly believe the grandest of delusions well past the ledge. On the other hand, they don't call it the pain trade for nothing.
Michael “Moneyball” Lewis was the first one to, er, expose us to the term Big Swinging Dick. His his first novel, Liar’s Poker, was full of them. The BSDs were the guys on the trading floor who brought more rain than El Niño. But the BSDs have gone a little soft now. Even the famous Wall Street bull has been caged. And some, like number one banking fanboi Dick Bove say that bankers been “castrated” altogether by new regulation. Regulation which many argue does not go far enough. Regardless, the Masters of the Universe suddenly find themselves feeling the pain that many of the rest of us have been feeling for the past four years. Only their ways of coping with it are a little different than what you might expect.
The man whose fund is a pale shadow of his once invincible self, especially around the time he could tell Goldman which securities to short for him, with hapless and gullible Euros on the other side (but, hey, Goldman makes a market) continues to be the laughing stock of the market, following the latest 13F (with $13.9 billion AUM compared to $20.7 billion as Sept 30) release by Paulson. And considering the complete lack of liquidity in the market in Q4 (which is only getting worse now), the portfolio unwind of Paulson's holdings explains some very acute securities moves in November and December of 2011. Particularly the collapse in gold, which contrary to what economist Ph.D.s will tell you, was not due to technicals, or fundamentals, but due to Paulson dumping another 20% of his GLD, which is now just $2.6 billion as a share class, compared to $4.6 billion as of June 30, we for one can't wait for him to dump it all so that there is no more "Paulson overhang" in gold. Of course since this is a gold share class, it won't happen as long as Paulson & Co survives, but one can dream. What is far more laughable is that in the fourth quarter, Paulson dumped his entire Bank of America common stake (of which he had 64 million shares), his entire Citi common of 25 million shares (worth $627 million at Sept 30) and more than half of both his Capital One and SunTrust stakes, which went from $880 million to $401 million, and from $546 million to $210 million. He also cut almost his entire stake in Wells Fargo which went from $575 million to $96 million. That sure is some conviction in the always appropriately named "Recovery Fund." It is oddly ironic that precisely these stocks are the ones that have soared in Q1 as the Paulson overhang has been lifted.
Your listened the call, now enjoy the Gundlach slides in the leisure of your own unrehypothecated concrete bunker, 50 feet below sea level.
The concept of off-grid living is often encumbered by numerous false assumptions and associations. Many think that to delve into the lifestyle you must be either a grizzled anti-social mountain man, a pompous starry-eyed hippie, or, a criminal on the lam. The spectrum of characterizations range from “kooky” bunker building militia members to spoiled Al Gore worshipping vegan hipsters out to prove they are better than everyone else by reducing their “carbon footprint”. The point is, for the average television-fed American, the idea of off-grid life automatically conjures visions of the extreme. I believe this reaction is due in large part to our society’s obsession with feeling “connected”. Ever challenge a friend or family member to go without touching their cell phone for a day? Ever ask them to shut off their TV and see if they can find other ways to occupy themselves? Ever ask them to leave modern conveniences behind, if only for a weekend, to take part in some simple camping? I can say that in my own experience, nine out of ten people will stare at you pale faced like you just kicked them square in the loins. For them, leaving behind the buzz of our make-believe culture is the same as stepping outside of time, or abandoning one’s very identity. The whole suggestion is alien. Luckily, here in Montana, I’ve encountered far hardier souls than in most other places, and the pursuit of an existence disconnected from dependence on the system is not treated as quite so outlandish. In fact, many here have taken the leap into self-sufficiency and gone 100% off-grid. I was lucky enough to meet one of these pioneers recently, and take a tour of his farm, but what interested me most about him were his origins, which were rooted about as far away from his current environment as you can get…
While the star of multibillionaire Bill Gross may or may not be fading (the jury is still out on what the final outcome will be for the man who so far alone among his peers has dared to point out the lunacy in the Fed's actions), that of his far smaller and nimbler peer Jeff Gundlach of DoubleLine Capital has been rising rapidly, and at last check has his fund's AUMs at over $25 billion, a doubling in a few short months. Gundlach is conducting his periodic webcast live at 4:15pm Eastern (i.e., now) at the link below. Anyone can join in. And by the title of the presentaiton, it promises to be quite interesting. Click on the following Link for webcast or the image below.
The defining soundbite from the call Q&A: Regarding Bank of America - "It is wise to avoid banks. Not surprised BAC has gone up - just like NFLX - just like Italian bonds. Reduce risk right now, including, Bank of America."
Wondering why the market just viagra'ed up to green on absolutely nothing? Here is the news from Reuters, with key words underlined:
Greek conservative party leader Antonis Samaras is expected to deliver a letter of commitment to the country's international lenders on Wednesday, a government source said on Tuesday.
"Samaras' letter of commitment is expected to be handed in tomorrow morning," the government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
A senior official at the conservative New Democracy party confirmed that Samaras intended to sign the letter. There was no official comment from the party.
So... let's get this straight: Samaras, the guy who has promised will he reneg on the European deal as soon as he becomes PM, is "expected" to agree to the deal he voted for on Sunday..."according to a Grek government source." And who will he supposedly delivery this letter to? The cancelled European meeting? Or to Juncker who said Greece needs to comply with the terms of the first bailout, forget the second one. The same Juncker who said he is uncomfortable with Samaras lack of commitment?
We noted the particular shift in Europe's sentiment toward Greece back in January, observing that ever since the "favorable" uptake of the LTRO (all of which has since been recycled and parked at the ECB's deposit facility which was at €510 billion as of today), Europe has become convinced that letting Greece fail is not a bad idea (an idea which is so ludicrous, and so Lehman deja vuish it makes us shudder, and which CS' William Porter wrote his entire February 10 piece "The Flaw" on, an excerpt of which can be found here). This culminated with the following observations by UBS. Ever since then everything Europe has done has been in preparation of an "orderly" Greek default (odd - try as we might we fail to find that section in the MiniCode MiniRules) and all the posturing about Greece saving itself has been beyond a farce. Yet as has been beaten to death, the final outcome won't be certain until March 20, at which point the market may finally grasp the new reality. In the meantime, here is Peter Tchir explaining how Germany just broke up with Greece... via a text message.
While the government propaganda machine chugs along and tells us to move along, there is nothing to see in the plunging labor participation rate, it is just 50 year olds pulling a Greek and retiring (fully intent on milking those 0.001% interest checking accounts, CDs and 3 Year Treasury Bonds for all they are worth - they are after all called fixed "income" not "outcome") there is more than meets the eye here. Yet while we will happily debunk any and all stupidity that Americans actually have the wherewithal to retire in droves as we are meant to believe (with the oldest labor segment's participation rate surging to multi-decade highs), there is a distinct subset of the population that migrates from being a 99-week'er to moving to merely yet another government trough - disability. Art Cashin explains.
While we mock and ridicule the corrupt and often times purposefully obtuse Greek politicians, we often ignore the human cost in the equation (and so does the rest of the world). Unfortunately this is becoming an ever greater issue for a country that is rapidly devolving to sub-3rd world status. Because while we have previously discussed the miserable conditions for a country where ever more people are sliding out of the middle class and into poverty status, in reality it is far worse. Spiegel has profiled the new Misery in Athens where "aid workers and soup kitchens in Athens are struggling to provide for the city's "new poor." Since the economic crisis has taken hold, poverty has taken hold among Greece's middle class. And suicide rates have nearly doubled." Just like in the US, those in misery are growing exponentially, but the last thing anyone needs is a reminder of their existence. Yet perhaps they should, because when the Bastille moment hits, the spark to overthrow tyranny, especially that masking under the guise of democracy, will come precisely from the slums of the impoverished and disenfranchised, from those who have nothing left to lose. In Greece, with 28% of the population living "at risk of poverty or social exclusion" this moment may arrive any second.
Forget the weather, forget AAPL, forget American Idol, forget Greece, forget the Middle East, forget inventories, forget USD strength, forget the SPR, and forget the implicit tax cut we 'received' in Q4 from low gas prices... the average gasoline price in the US was the highest ever for January - is it any wonder that retail sales disappointed? So as we all await the tax-cut extension to pass, perhaps we should remember just how big a chunk of our consumer-spending bias is anchored from the starting point of our energy needs and seasonals will do nothing to help this time, like it did in Q4.