As JPM's Michael Feroli, he move to cut the Fed's swap lines rate from OIS+100 to OIS+50 should not come as a surprise: it was already in the works, the only question is when it would be enacted. As it so happens it was decided on Monday, and was announced today after unfounded rumors of a potential bank failure in Europe became apparent. There was however a twist: "The new foreign liquidity swaps, whereby the Fed can offer euros, yen, loonies, pounds or swiss francs to US banks, is a novel step and a curious feature of today's announcement. The Fed's official statement is that these are being implemented as a "contingency measure." There are no plans to make these operational in the near term, but are apparently being set up as a backup plan in the event of a worsening in global financial conditions." What this means remains unclear but the Fed never changes policy without reason. Which then begs the question: while everyone is focusing on foreign bank lack of USD liquidity, should the real focus be on US bank lack of foreign currency liquidity?
It is no secret that MBIA has long been one of our favorite longs (and by longs it is really a contrarian bet on various bad things happening - our latest piece can be found here). Today, we are happy to see that BTIG has come out with an initiating coverage report on the name following virtually all the same logic we presented two months ago, only with a price target that makes even us blush: $22.50. To wit: "We are initiating coverage of MBIA with a BUY rating and a $22.50 price target which equates to a 1.0x multiple of 2012E year-end stand-alone adjusted per share book value of National ($26.26) less the holding company net debt per share ($3.73). Our valuation is based on our view that if MBIA is able to resolve the fraudulent conveyance and Article 78 cases challenging its transformation either through a settlement or a court judgment, the value of National will flow up to the holding company and to shareholders.... Given our view that the challenges to MBIA?s transformation will be resolved through a settlement and that its shares could nearly triple in a post-announcement short squeeze, we believe MBIA offers one of the market's most compelling risk-reward propositions. Following almost four years of uncertainty during which its status as a viable entity has been in question, MBIA appears closer to resolving the various challenges it faces, unlocking the value of National Public Finance Guaranty Corporation – the company?s public finance unit – to the benefit of shareholders, and resuming its role as one of the last remaining players within that industry." and the kicker: "We would note that the large short interest in the stock relative to its float - 28.5 mm shares short versus a float of 140.4mm shares – combined with highly concentrated institutional ownership could set the stage for a dramatic short squeeze as short sellers might have to scramble to find shares to cover." Remember: "Is MBIA A Volkswagen-Like Short Squeeze Candidate?" Mmhmm.
Just headlines via Bloomberg from the Iran Foreign Minster Mehr:
*IRAN SAYS U.K. DECISION TO CLOSE EMBASSY IS `HASTY'
*IRAN WILL TAKE `NECESSARY MEASURES' IN REACTION, MEHR SAYS
This as Germany, Italy, and now France also call back their Ambassador from Iran.
We noted early the lackluster improvement in the EUR-USD cross-currency basis swap, especialy compared to its trend and previous crisis scenarios. Peter Tchir, of TF Market Advisors, puts today's central bank actions into context relative to the underlying problems being faced in Europe and covers the implications of some of the headlines that may have slipped past in the middle of the rally-fest. We were down over 1% on futures overnight specifically because the EFSF was a failure and banks were downgraded (belatedly) by S&P. No one is talking about EFSF right now. The IMF denial and now the Italian 'deal' is also off the table. Back on the table is "treaty changes".The swap line announcement seems largely symbolic in that changing the rate to 50 bps instead of 100 bps is not a game changer, and the basis-swap's previous bailout reaction offers less hope this time around.
Rather than calming markets, these arrangements should indicate just how frightened governments around the world are about the European financial crisis. Central banks are grasping at straws, hoping that flooding the world with money created out of thin air will somehow resolve a crisis caused by uncontrolled government spending and irresponsible debt issuance. Congress should not permit this type of open-ended commitment on the part of the Fed, a commitment which could easily run into the trillions of dollars. These dollar swaps are purely inflationary and will harm American consumers as much as any form of quantitative easing.
China is leaving no shale deposit unturned in its effort to develop indigenous energy resources. On 24 November China’s Ministry of Land and Resources geological exploration department head Peng Qiming said during a press conference that China’s combined oil and natural gas output, 280 million tons in 2010, is projected to rise to 360 million tons of oil equivalent by 2015, a 23 percent increase in four years and will rise to 450 million tons by 2030, a 62 percent increase over 2010 production, impressive rises in production by any yardstick. And Beijing authorities in their drive are embracing a controversial natural gas production technique that is coming under increasing government scrutiny in both the United States and Britain – hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.” China has started drilling to meet an ambitious annual production target of 80 billion cubic meters by 2020 by which time the government is seeking to meet a target of generating 10 percent of its energy needs from natural gas and 15 percent from renewable sources and launched a national shale gas research center in August 2010.
The much anticipated Goldman Sachs list of "Top Trades Recommendations for 2012" is out... And the squid is bearish. Which is bad news, as if there is one thing one does not want is to be aligned with Goldman's salesforce. Let's dig in.
Equity and Credit markets rallied significantly on the day with credit catching up to equity's recent strength in an unusually biased move. The higher beta XOver (high yield European credit) and Subordinated financial credit outperformed close to close but lags overall relative to equity and investment grade credit, suggesting less than stellar demand to lay out new risk and more likely shorts covering in a hurry. Seniors underperformed Subs in financials - again suggesting some covering on the SEN-SUB decompression trade on the back of the ratings actions this week. Sovereign spread moves were actually largely unimpressive with spread curves flattening, some decompressing, and the fulcrum security BTPs, not exactly ripping across the curve.
Ok, what the hell is going on? This is the first POMO ever cancelled in QE/Lite/Twist history. As a reminder, today the Fed was supposed to sell $8 billion in 2013 bonds: a liquidity withdrawing operation. Just how little liquidity is there in the "system"?
We talked about the total disconnect between US equities and the rest of the global financial market on Monday morning. At the time, many market participants commented that they had not seen this kind of disconnect so broadly and how strange it was - and with reasonable volume (unusual for an upswing). Well, now we have some details on what exactly was said and done on Monday with the Fed decision, perhaps it is clear that someone somewhere was tipped off that this was coming as the rest of the world's risk assets leaked inexorably lower and US equities hugely outperformed.
It appears that the Fed decision to bail out Europe was not made this morning, or yesterday, but on Monday as per the following two headlines:
- LACKER DISSENTED AGAINST FOMC SWAP DECISION ON NOV. 28
- LACKER VOTED INSTEAD OF PLOSSER, WHO WAS UNAVAILABLE
It also means that the decision was leaked on Monday, and explains the relentless surge in stocks since then despite progressively worse news out of Europe. Q.E.D. - a plan so good Hank Paulson could have leaked it to his hedge fund buddies.
Need a reason to explain the massive central bank intervention from China, to Japan, Switzerland, the ECB, England and all the way to the US? Forbes may have one explanation: "It appears that a big European bank got close to failure last night. European banks, especially French banks, rely heavily on funding in the wholesale money markets. It appears that a major bank was having difficulty funding its immediate liquidity needs. The cavalry was called in and has come to the successful rescue." Granted the post is rather weak on factual backing and is mostly speculative, but it would certainly make sense. That said, it harkens back to our original question: just how bad was the situation if the global central banking cabal had to intervene all over again, and just what was not being told to the general public? Lastly, and most important, slapping liquidity bandaids on solvency gangrenes does nothing but buy a few days at most. Furthermore, we now expect the stigmata associated with borrowing from the Fed to haunt each and every European bank as vigilantes will now use the weekly ECB update on borrowings from the Fed as a signal to hone in on this and that weak Italian and French, pardon, European bank.
While being caught short stocks in the face of the global Bernanke Put, or long Chinese IPOs this year, it seems relative-value trades remain preferential from a risk-reward perspective. That is of course unless you are our old friend Whitney Tilson. The Anti-Tilson ETF (Long GMCR / Short NFLX) is up 8% today and stands at an impressive +43% (lifetime highs) in the 20 days since we recommended it. NFLX weakness this morning attributed to Wedbush's 30% downside target downgrade.
US Economic Data Reporting Now Officially A Farce: Every Economic Data Point Prints 4+ Std Devs Above ConsensusSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/30/2011 - 10:15
It appears that central bank intervention was not the only thing in full force today: The US version of the Chinese Ministry of Truth in economic reporting has now officially joined the fray. Anyone wondering just how much of a joke the US high frequency economic data updates have become should look no further than these three charts showing Wall Street forecasts (consensus and distribution) and actual prints for the ADP Payroll, the Chicago PMI and Pending Home Sales. Not one indicator has come below 4 standard deviations above the average forecast, and every single one has printed above the highest forecast. It is now safe to say without any doubt that US data is equal if not more equal in credibility terms with that of China.