The Federal Financial Institution Examination Council recently told banks that, “if a particular asset . . . has features that could place it in more than one risk category, it is assigned to the category that has the lowest risk weight.” This gives banks extraordinary latitude to underreport the risk levels of their investments. Bankers can now arbitrarily decide that a risky asset ‘has features’ of a lower risk asset, and thus they can completely misrepresent their investments. Bottom line, it’s becoming extremely difficult to have confidence in western banks’ financial health.
As the chasm between earnings (tumbling most since 2008) & macro data (90% misses in February and weakest in 11 months) and the inexorable rise of the US equity market yawns ever wider, we thought the following clip (from South Korea) perfectly summed up what happens next...
Remember when shortly after the avalanche victory of the GOP in both the House and the Senate the pundits said that with the lame duck president in his final stretch, now is the time when long-overdue legislation would finally get passed? They were wrong.
- OBAMA NOTIFIES U.S. SENATE OF VETO OF KEYSTONE PIPELINE APPROVAL BILL
- OBAMA VETOES REPUBLICAN ATTEMPT TO FORCE KEYSTONE APPROVAL
As Bloomberg adds, Obama’s action sets up new round of votes in Congress that will likely fail as supporters don’t have enough backing to override veto. As a reminder, the Senate vote was 62-36, while House vote was 270-152; with a two-thirds majority required to override veto.
"For me the shorting opportunity looks as great as it was in 07/09, if only because people are still looking at what is hap-pening and believe that each event is an individual, isolated event. Whether it’s the oil price fall or the Swiss franc move, they’re seen as exceptions. ... we used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09, so we are really at a dangerous point to try to counter the effects of a slowing China, falling commodities and EM incomes, and the ultimate First World effects. This down cycle is likely to be remembered in a hundred years . Sadly this down cycle will cause a great deal of damage, precisely because it will happen despite the efforts of the central banks to thwart it."
With economic data serially disappointing in 2015, it is probably not entirely surprising that Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index fell to an average of -2 last week (with the biggest drop since July). This is the first time the index has had a negative weekly average since late December. Both the current conditions and outlook sub-indices tumbled but it was the future 'hope' index that fell the most with more people now saying the future will be 'poor' than believe it will be 'good'.
Western "Boots On The Ground" In Ukraine: Britain Sends 75 "Military Advisers" To Combat "Russia-Backed Aggression"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/24/2015 - 14:33
In what we believe is the first touchdown of Western 'boots-on-the-ground' in Ukraine, Britain's David Cameron stated today that British military personnel are to be deployed to Ukraine for the first time in the next few weeks to provide advice and training to government troops. As The Guardian reports, Britain would be “the strongest pole in the tent”, and argued for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine failed to observe the ceasefire. The MoD said up to 75 personnel would begin to deploy to Ukraine from next month as Cameron warned sanctions could become "materially different" and held out SWIFT exclusion once again. We suspect Putin will not be impressed at the 'encroachment'.
If you have been following the price of oil over the last few months, the chances are you’re a little confused. On the one hand you have the likes of A. Gary Shilling who, in this Bloomberg article, loudly trumpets the prospect of oil at $10/Barrel, and on the other there is T. Boone Pickens, who, at the end of last year was predicting a return to $100 within 12-18 months. Pickens prediction has moderated somewhat as WTI and Brent crude have continued to fall, but in January he was still saying that oil would return to $70 or $80/barrel in the near future. So, who is correct?
As home sales drop and home prices surge, the shifting sands of the housing market are accelerating in a seemingly inequality-expanding manner. As first-time homebuyers struggle to qualify for mortgages in a market that’s shrinking after the housing collapse, Bloomberg reports that lenders are providing more multi-million dollar loans to Americans who (in their opinion) pose less risk. Home loans from $1-5 million were the fastest growing part of the jumbo market in January with the number of loans surging to the highest since 2007.
Beginning at the time of Disney World’s grand opening in 1971 when Magic Kingdom tickets cost only $3.50, Magic Kingdom ticket prices have increased at a compound annual growth rate of 8.04% – nearly double the U.S. CPI’s compound annual growth rate of 4.13%. The U.S. CPI no longer accounts for the cost of maintaining the same standard of living in America. The Magic Kingdom Price Inflation Rate provides a much more accurate view of real U.S. price inflation.
If there was any debate whether Yellen's testimony today was hawkish or dovish, the bond market certainly made it clear what it thinks, when first the 10 Year yield tumbled back under 2.00%, and then moments ago, the Treasury auction of $26 billion in 2 Year paper continued to trend of strong demand for government paper, when 3.45 bidders lined up for every dollar for sale, at a closing yield of 0.603%, 0.5 bps through the When Issued.
Former Ukraine Deputy PM Says "Another Coup Can Not Be Ruled Out" Among Currency Implosion, Central Bank ChargesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/24/2015 - 12:52
A year or so on from the last coup in Ukraine, Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Sergey Arbuzov told TASS, with growing popular discontent, "another state coup can’t be ruled out in Ukraine." As the cease-fire deal hangs torn and tattered in the Debaltseve winds, the nation is a mess: a new gas dispute looms as Gazprom demands upfront payments; capital controls have been tightened as the $17.5bn IMF loan may not be enough; and the central bank governor faces prosecution as the economy craters. All of these factors have driven massive outflows from Ukraine and the Hryvnia has crashed to over 33 to the USD - a record high (and 70% devaluation from the last coup).
It appears Janet Yellen's confidence-inspiring testimony that juiced stocks was interpreted as a buying opportunity for bonds. US Treasury yields are now down 10bps on the week with 10Y yields back with a 1% handle...
"Let us begin with what should be indisputable: the Eurogroup agreement that the Greek government was dragged into on Friday amounts to a headlong retreat. The memorandum regime is to be extended, the loan agreement and the totality of debt recognized, “supervision,” another word for troika rule, is to be continued under another name, and there is now little chance Syriza’s program can be implemented.... Greece will be receiving the tranche it had initially refused, but on the condition of sticking to the commitments of its predecessors.... How is it possible that, only a few weeks after the historic result of January 25, we have this countermanding of the popular mandate for the overthrow of the memorandum?"
While there are many that suggest there is "no bubble" in the financial markets at the current time, a simple look at the extreme elevation of prices over the last couple of years is eerily reminiscent of the late 90's. Given the very elevated levels of investor bullishness, margin debt and complacency, there is more than sufficient evidence that a mean reverting event is highly likely at some point. However, at the moment, the perceived "risk" by investors is "missing the run" rather than the potential destruction of capital if something goes wrong. This is the opposite of what "risk" management is about...