• Marc To Market
    12/20/2014 - 12:21
    When the dollar falls, we are told it is logical.  The empire is crashing and burning.  When the dollar rises, the markets, we are told are manipulated.    Well, the dollar is...

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China Posts Biggest Trade Deficit Since 1989 As Crude Imports Surge: Is China Recycling Export Dollars Solely Into Oil?

In addition to all the US election year propaganda and delayed after effects of central banks injecting nearly $3 trillion in liquidity to juice up the US stock market, something far more notable yet underreported has happened in 2012: the world stopped exporting. Observe the following sequence of very recent headlines: "Japan trade deficit hits record", "Australia Records First Trade Deficit in 11 Months on 8% Plunge in Exports", "Brazil Posts First Monthly Trade Deficit in 12 Months " then of course this: "[US] Trade deficit hits 3-year record imbalance", and finally, as of late last night, we get the following stunning headline: "China Has Biggest Trade Shortfall Since 1989 on Europe Turmoil." Here we must apologize, but blaming the highest trade deficit in 23 years for a country that needs a trade surplus to exist, on the Chinese Lunar new year, which accidentally happens every year, is more than a little naive. Because as the charts below indicate, while exports did in fact tumble in a seasonal pattern as they do every February although more than expected, February imports of $146 billion not only did not drop, but posted a 19% increase compared to January, and soared 40% compared to a year prior. Why? Perhaps the second consecutive record high in monthly crude imports has something to do with it. Which in turn when considering the huge selloff of US Treasury paper by China in the last few months, indicates that the world's fastest growing economy no longer has an interest in taking its export dollars and using them to fund purchases of US paper, but is in fact converting US fiat into real, hard goods. Such as crude (for all those curious where the marginal demand is coming from that is). And most likely gold. But we will only learn about the gold hoarding well after the fact, when China is prepared to see the price of the metal soar as it did in 2009.



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Guest Post: Time to Accumulate Gold and Silver?

...most investors fall into one of two categories: those that hold an abundance of gold and silver (which tends to be physical forms only), and those with little or none. While both groups need to diversify, I'm a little more concerned about the second group. Here's why. Regardless of what you think will happen over the remainder of this decade, one thing seems virtually certain: the value of paper money will be affected, perhaps dramatically. Even if the economy slips into deflation, the deflation wouldn't last long. A panicked Fed would print to the max and set off a wild rise in prices. This is why we're convinced currency dilution will not only continue but accelerate. Let's take a look at what's happened so far with the value of our currency vs. gold, after accounting for the loss in purchasing power.



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The Eight Hundred Pound Greek Gorilla Enters The Room

I hold up my hand, “One moment please” as I introduce you to the 800 pound Greek Gorilla that is about to enter the room. Allow me to now present to you the “OTHER” Greek debt that is outstanding and will have to be accounted for as the country defaults. Detailed below are some of the “OTHER” sovereign obligations of the Greek government which have now been submitted to the ISDA and I list some of them below. You will note that there are bank bonds, Hellenic Railway bonds, Urban Transportation bonds et al that are guaranteed by Greece. You will also note that there are bonds tied to Inflation, Floating Rate Notes, Asset-Backed securities and a whole mélange of other structured products with a Greek sovereign guarantee. What we all thought was fact is now clearly fiction and default will now bring “Acceleration” one could reasonably bet in all kinds of these securitizations and in all kinds of currencies.  This could come from the ratings agencies placing Greece in “Default” or it could come from the CDS contracts being triggered depending upon each indenture and you will also note that a great many of these off balance sheet securitizations are governed by English Law and not Greek Law. You may also wish to consider the fallout to the banking system as the lead managers of all of these deals could find themselves behind the eight ball as various clauses trigger and as the holders of these securitizations line up at the judicial bench [ZH note: there is a reason why Allen & Overy is getting paid $1500 an hour to indemnify ISDA with a plethora of exculpation clauses - they know what is coming] The ISDN numbers are on all of these securities and the lead managers may be found on Bloomberg or other sources as well as the holders of the debt.  The curtain just lifted and the show is about to get way too interesting!



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Bank Of America Throws Up All Over Friday's Jobs Number

There was a time when Bank of America's archoptimist David Bianco would take any economic data point, no matter how fecal mattery, and convert it into 24-carat gold. Then, in late 2011 Bianco was fired because the bank realized that its only chance to persevere was if the Fed proceeded with another round of QE, (and another, and another, ad inf) and as such economic reporting would have to lose its upward bias and be reporting in its natural ugly habitat. And while many other banks have in recent days become content with every other central bank in the world easing but not the Fed in an election year due to the risks of record gas prices, BAC's push for QE has not abated and in fact has gotten louder and louder. So exposes us to some oddities. Such as the firm's 29 year old senior economist Michelle Meyer literally demolishing any myth that yesterday's job number was "good." Needless to say, this will not come as a surprise to Zero Hedge readers. Nor to TrimTabs, whose opinion on the BLS BS we have attached as exhibit B as to the sheer economic data propaganda happening in an election year. Yet it is quite shocking that such former stalwarts of the bullish doctrine are now finally exposing the truth for what it is. Presenting Bank of America as we have never seen it before - throwing up all over the Bureau of Labor Statistics.



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Greece Has Defaulted: Here Is Where We Stand

After reading this, everyone should have a fairly good grasp of what happened not only today, but ever since the great (and quite endless) European financial crisis took center stage, and what to look forward to next...



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Chris Martenson Interviews Robert Mish: Front-Line Evidence That We are Nowhere Near a Gold Bubble

Robert Mish has been a precious metals dealer for nearly 50 years and knows what a gold bubble mania looks like. We are nowhere near that stage, in his opinion. Instead, he sees a US populace largely unappreciative of holding precious metal as a store of wealth, and engaged in a slow process of dis-hording their gold and silver to eager foreign buyers who are more than happy to take the bullion back to their shores. In terms of where we are on the gold mania spectrum, he sees us at a "2" out of 10. But he foresees a very rude awakening ahead as the populace eventually wakes up to the increasing damage our over-debted global economy is doing to the purchasing power of world currencies. Because when the general investor finally realizes the protection the precious metals offer against currency debasement, much of the retail supply will already be out of the system in very tight hands, and largely overseas. Moreover, when supply gets tight, there will be more challenges to obtaining physical bullion during a buying mania than there were during the last one in 1980. There are many fewer local sources to exchange bullion these days as much of that business is now transacted by online vendors dependent mail delivery to ship product, which are more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. And be sure you're aware of how the form you hold your bullion in will affect the price you get during a buying frenzy, when refining capacity is overwhelmed. You may find you gold or silver sells at a hefty discount because it's not in a preferred format for trade.



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No More QE? Bill Gross Isn't Buying It, As Total Return Fund MBS Holdings Surge To New All Time High

The Fed may be using the WSJ to spread rumors of sterilized QE, but Bill Gross ain't buying. According ot the latest update from the world's largest bond fund, the firm lowered its holdings of cash and synthetic Treasury exposure to 38% of total from 41% (even as AUM increased from $250.5 billion to $251.8 billion), while hiking MBS to 52% of AUM: not the highest relative exposure ever, but at $131 billion in Mortgage Backed Debt, certainly the highest in absolute terms. Margin cash declined slightly from $87.7 to $78.1 billion, but one thing that appears to have increased even more is Gross' conviction that QE 3, or to borrow a recent euphemism, THE NEW QE, is coming and it will be all about mortgage backed debt. Of secondary note is that after extending the effective duration of its holdings to an all time high 7.58 years in October 2011, the fund has rapidly cut duration and was at 5.68 at last check as holding in the 1-3 year bucket saw a substantial jump: indicating the ramp up in short duration MBS paper.



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The European Bailout-And-Borrow Train Has Run Out Of Track

The first instinct of any card-carrying Eurocrat is to reach for his wallet, or as clear-thinking MEP Daniel Hannan points out, someone else's wallet. His prophetic words with regard the bailout-and-borrow bandwagon, that Europe remains on, running out of track are so critical that they bear repeating as he remains incredulous that his fellow MEPs still see the one solution to a debt crisis as yet more debt...



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Short Greek Bonds vs Long Apple: No Contest

One may be surprised to learn that in the past 6 months NASDApple is not the best performing "asset class." Sure, it has generated a respectable 43% return since last September when the Greek 1 Year bond crossed a 100% yield for the first time ever (or a cash price of 54). That was also the time when many were saying to buy Greek bonds as there was no chance the yield could tumble much further (probably the same ones who said to buy AAPL). As it turns out, now that the saga of Greece is officially over, and its existing debt is being "retired" at a final price of about 19 cents of par, here is the final tally: shorting Greek bonds since September 2011 has generated 63%, while being long Apple returned 43%. And that's with virtually every hedge fund and their mother entering the Apple hedge fund hotel. So yes - sometimes going against the conventional groupthink does generate the best results. Now if only one could short the "new" Greek bonds at par, the return would be 80% in a millisecond as the bonds will break for trading under 20 cents.



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Germany Wants New European Constitution: "There Are New Centers Of Power In The World."

Germany wants to "reignite a debate over creating an EU constitution to strengthen the bloc's ability to fight off financial troubles and counter-balance the rising influence of emerging economies". Guido Westerwelle noted that Germany EU leaders "need a new constitution... as there are new centers of power in the world." A key change that Germany wants for instance is an amendment to incorporate tighter regional oversight of government spending and allow the EU court of Justice to strike down Spain's a member's laws if they violated fiscal discipline. Here comes the 'Pro-Quo' to the Greek Bailout 'Quid'!



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As First Greek CDS "Anstalt" Appears, A Question Emerges: Did Banks Not Square Off Margins?

The irony is not lost on us that Bloomberg is reporting that KA Finanz, an Austrian bad-bank supported by the Austrian government, faces as much as a €1 billion need for funding to cover its exposures to Greek CDS (coughcreditanstaltcough). In a statement this morning, which we noted in a tweet, the bank noted "activation of the CDS with an assumed loss ratio of about 80% would mean an additional provisioning charge of EUR 423.6 million". KA Finanz's total amount of Greek CDS exposure is around EUR1bn. What is shocking and should be of great concern is that we have been led to believe that very little net cash will change hands on the basis of the $3.2bn net aggregate market exposure. This was based on the now false premise that variation margin was maintained and transferred throughout the process (as we note below from recent IMF filings). What appears to have happened is that dealer to dealer variation margin has been, let's say, less rigorous as perhaps all collateral was netted up across all exposures (or simply ignored on the basis of government backstops). The far bigger question then is: are banks simply marking ALL sovereign CDS at par, and not paying off cash to other dealers? Remember it only takes one counterparty in the chain to turn net into gross and quality collateral seems tied up a little right now at the ECB (or with margin calls).



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ISDA CDS Trigger Decision Is Unanimous

In light of today’s EMEA Determinations Committee (the EMEA DC) unanimous decision in respect of the potential Credit Event question relating to The Hellenic Republic (DC Issue 2012030901), the EMEA DC has agreed to publish the following statement:

The EMEA DC resolved that a Restructuring Credit Event has occurred under Section 4.7 of the ISDA 2003 Credit Derivatives Definitions (as amended by the July 2009 Supplement) (the 2003 Definitions) following the exercise by The Hellenic Republic of collective action clauses to amend the terms of Greek law governed bonds issued by The Hellenic Republic (the Affected Bonds) such that the right of all holders of the Affected Bonds to receive payments has been reduced. The EMEA DC has resolved to hold an auction with respect to the settlement of standard credit default swaps for which The Hellenic Republic is the reference entity. To maximise the range of obligations that market participants may deliver in settlement of any such credit default swaps, the EMEA DC  has agreed to run an expedited auction process such that the auction itself will take place on March 19, 2012. In light of this expedited auction process, market participants should submit any obligations that they would like to include on the list of deliverable obligations to ISDA as soon as possible.



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ISDA Finds Greek Credit Event Has Occurred Reports Bloomberg

Total confusion around this, as there is no formal Press Release from ISDA yet, but since this one comes from Bloomberg, let's assume they have double checked their data. From Bloomberg:

  • ISDA EMEA DETERMINATIONS COMMITTEE: RESTRUCTURING CREDIT EVENT
  • ISDA SAYS CREDIT EVENT HAS OCCURRED WITH RESPECT TO GREECE
  • COMMITTEE DETERMINES AUCTION TO BE HELD ON MARCH 19
  • ISDA EMEA: AUCTION TO BE HELD ON OUTSTANDING CDS TRANSACTIONS

This despite refutations from ISDA 15 minutes ago that no decision had been reached. Of course, if this is a spoof PR that has gotten half the media world confused, the farce will be 100% complete.



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Three Charts Of Equity Complacency Pre-ISDA

UPDATE: Equity reverted down to Vol, Implied Correlation, CONTEXT, and credit - credit leaking further down now

Equities have drifted sideways at their highs for the last few hours. Meanwhile, credit markets have sold off, Volatility and implied correlation have pushed higher, and broad risk assets (CONTEXT) has leaked lower. Complacency, or do stock momo algos know something everyone else doesn't?



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Guest Post: Our "Let's Pretend" Economy: Let's Pretend "Job Growth Is Best Since 2006"

The Ministry of Propaganda and its media minions are announcing that "job growth is on a tear" and the "best growth since 2006." How about we look under the hood of the employment euphoria? Here is an example of the Ministry's work: Best U.S. employment growth in 12 years Almost all the data agree — labor market’s on a tear.

Over the past six months, the number of people who are employed has risen by 2.3 million — an average of 385,000 per month. That’s the best growth since early 2000, when the dot-com bubble was in full flower. Since August, the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.8 of a percentage points, to 8.3%. For adults over 25, the jobless rate has fallen to 7%.

In other words, people who generally work full time so they don't have to share a bunk in a flop house or live in their parents' basement are almost fully employed, as 'full employment" typically generates an unemployment rate of 5% just due to churn. Would we as a nation be better off dealing with the truth rather than believing fantasies that prop up the Status Quo and the Fed's dearly beloved measure of the economy, the stock market? How often does accepting illusion help us navigate real life? Short answer: never.



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