Moments ago the MTS released the final October budget report. It was not pretty, although those who read our report on how much debt was added - $195 billion to be precise - in the first month of the 2013 Fiscal Year will know where this is going. The US budget deficit was expected to soar after the September surplus of $75 billion, driven entirely by calendar shifts and pre-election propaganda, to -$113 billion. That was optimistic: the total amount of overspending in October was $120 billion. What is distressing is that this was well above the $98.5 billion deficit from a year ago, and confirms that the long-term trendline of ever greater spending continues. This was also the fourth largest October deficit in history. And looking merely at the spending side of the ledger, the US government's outlays in October alone were $304 billion. This is the third biggest October monthly spend for the government ever, and just why of the all time high $320.4 billion record in October 2008, when everything imploded after Lehman failure and Hank Paulson was literally dousing the monetary flames with brand new Benjamins.
Whenever the case is made for a stronger U.S. dollar (USD), the feedback can be sorted into three basic reasons why the dollar will continue declining in value:
- The USD may gain relative to other currencies, but since all fiat currencies are declining against gold, it doesn’t mean that the USD is actually gaining value; in fact, all paper money is losing value.
- When the global financial system finally crashes, won’t that include the dollar?
- The Federal Reserve is “printing” (creating) money, and that will continue eroding the purchasing power of the USD. Lowering interest rates to zero has dropped the yield paid on Treasury bonds, which also weakens the dollar.
All of these objections are well-grounded. However, the price of gold is not consistently correlated to the monetary base, the trade-weighted dollar, or interest rates. We have seen interest rates leap to 16% and fall to near-zero; gold collapse, stagnate, and then quadruple; and the dollar gain and lose 30% of its trade-weighted value in a few years. None of these huge swings had any correlation to broad measures of domestic activity such as GDP. Clearly, interest rates occasionally (but not always) affect the value of the trade-weighted dollar, and the monetary base occasionally (but not always) affects the price of gold, but these appear to have little correlation to productivity, earnings, etc., or to each other. Gold appears to march to an independent drummer.
As the government and Bank of Japan constantly survey the marketplace for speculation while intervening en masse with ever-decreasing levels of effectiveness, we thought the following charts would highlight the impact of the relative strength of the JPY. Of course, in the past, at least the trade surplus (thanks to these legacy companies) used to provide incremental capital into the country but now even that is gone. As Credit Suisse notes, "the TWI of the JPY has appreciated by more than 40% post crisis – even more than the CHF! But it is the relative strength versus the KRW that is really hurting Japanese firms. The Won plummeted sharply post crisis and has recovered nowhere near pre-crisis levels. Some of this shift in relative competitiveness may be reflected in the market cap of Samsung versus that of major Japanese tech firms. Samsung is more than three times the size of Japan’s top technology firms."
Whether greed-prone, fear-stricken, or full-prepper; the post-election performance of both gun-and-ammo 'makers' and gun-and-ammo 'searches' on-line has been remarkable...
Over the past several days there had been concerns that even if Greece managed to roll its maturing €5 billion in Bills with a new Bill issuance (which it did earlier today), it would be unable to actually obtain cash for this worthless paper, through a repo with the European Central Bank. The reason being that last week the ECB allowed a temporary extension in Greek ELA collateral eligibility to expire, enacted on August 2, which in turn reduced the amount of repoable T-Bills from €7 billion to just €3.5 billion, in the process reducing the amount of cash Greece can obtain in half from the Bill roll. And while there had been lots of speculation and rumors that the ECB would, as in the case of Spain, either make a "mistake" or extend the collateral pool exemption once more, this did not occur. Instead, as we have just learned, the ECB has allowed Greek banks to use "asset-backed" securities to plug the collateral gap. Needless to say, one can only conceive just what unencumbered assets still can be found on Greek bank balance sheets (here is one artist's impression) but it was largely expected that in the race to debase its currency, the ECB would once again admit that when it comes to perpetuating the Ponzi, especially at a marginal cost of a token €3.5 billion, anything goes (just don't tell Germany). And so, Greece kicks the can once again.
Farce #1: “Market value” and “free markets” have become a joke.
Farce #2: Private, self-assigned, fake value is being traded for public money at 100 cents on the dollar.
Farce #3: Printed money is backed by nothing.
Farce #4: We have a “free” enterprise system dominated by monopolies that force people to buy inferior goods and services at exorbitant rates.
Farce #5: High-level financial crimes, no matter how egregious or widespread, are not being prosecuted.
Farce #6: Risk is gone. Now there is only liability borne by citizens.
Farce #7: Productivity has been supplanted by parasitism.
It would appear, given today's remarkable moves across every risk-asset in Europe and the US, that all that is required to fix Europe's broken transmission channels and undercapitalized banks and to "remediate" the US fiscal cliff is that the US equity market be open... It seems our earlier tweet was spot on!
Student debt has seemingly been the transmission channel of choice for pumping credit into the US economy for the last few years as the government addition of $1 trillion has done nothing but leave those under-55 with fewer and fewer jobs (especially above-minimum-wage jobs) while saddled with non-extinguishable debt. Of course, this 'pump' of credit has had the usual unintended 'inflationary' consequence of raising tuition prices (which as we noted this morning was the main driver of inflation in the UK overnight). So what would be fair? Cue: A Petition to "Provide University graduates the ability to trade their Diplomas back for 100% tuition refunds" The hope-driven (or hopelessness) push into higher education (and implicitly higher debt), in a nation where the marginal benefit of Calculus 101 over a strong right 'burger-flipping / coffee-machine-pressing' wrist is falling by the day, seems to warrant further societal protection. All that's needed is 25,000 signatures to move this forward.
Earlier today, the BIS, which has been doing everything in its power today to defend the 1.27 support in the EURUSD since the market open this morning, released its H1 OTC derivatives presentation update. There was little of material note: total OTC derivatives were virtually unchanged at $639 trillion gross, representing $25 trillion in net outstanding (market value), and $3.7 trillion in gross credit exposure. Here the PhD theorists will say gross is irrelevant because Finance 101 said so, while the market practitioners will point to Lehman, counterparty risk, and less than infinite collateral to fund sudden implosions of weakest links in counterparty chains, and say that it is gross (which until a recent revision of BIS data had been documented at over $1 quadrillion) that mattered, gross which matters, and gross which will always matter until finally everything inevitably collapses in a house of missing deliverable cards. Because not even the most generous sovereigns and central banks can halt the Tsunami once there is a failure of a major OTC Interest Rate swap counterparty. And whereas Basel III had some hopes it would be able to bring down the total notional in derivative notionals slowly over the next few years with a gradual deleveraging across all financial firms, the bankers fought, and the bankers won, because the last thing the current batch of TBTFs can afford it admit there is any hope they can ever slim down. The will... but never voluntarily.
Presented without comment - but plenty of incredulity...
A mere three weeks ago, Nomura's Bob Janjuah forcefully suggested that complacency warranted a tactical risk-off position given the misplaced confidence heading into the plethora of event-risk ahead. It seems, 60 points later, that he is on to something; but this time he is more critically concerned: "Investment decisions based largely on the greater fool theory and predicated by the assumption that central bankers can sustainably and credibly misprice money, supporting a significant misallocation of capital, without any major negative consequences, are in general not good investments."
Question: Is the goal still to get Greece's debt to 120%?
Juncker: The fact is that the target of 120% will remain, but the target as far as the time frame is concerned has been postponed to 2022.
[Laughter in the room]
Juncker: That was not a joke!
Sometimes a picture paints a thousand words. In the case of this chart, it paints an expectation of around 300 S&P points (to the downside). The strange symmetrical exponentiality of the last four years can only be marveled at in its reflection of greed and fear catalyzed by the machinations of an increasingly impotent central banking cartel. Trade accordingly.
In a shining example of the law of unintended consequences, when 2012 started Wall Street bankers had expected that all it would take for bonuses to surge and offset 2011's deplorable comp, is another round of QE. Well, QE came and went, not only in the US, but virtually everywhere else, and sure enough the market traded up to new 5 year highs (and just why of all time highs as well), yet something was not going according to plan: bank revenues. Another side-effect of the Fed buying the long end is everyone piling in and frontrunning Bernanke in the 10-30 Year segment, flattening the curve, and making Net Interest Margin profitability a thing of the past. The result has been a year in which despite stocks rising, banker pay is set to tumble even more (for those lucky enough to still even have a job that is, which for UBS and Nomura means about 80% of the employees a year ago) with traders of cash equities and derivatives set to see another 20% drop in comp from 2011 according to Options Group. The end result: 2012 all in comp will be half of what it was in 2007. Say goodbye to the Master of the Universe - they will now have to settle for a galaxy or two at most.