Some rather unexpected rational insight out of Bernanke responding to Patrick McHenry's question on whether and how much more QE the Fed can do:
- "I assume there is a theoretical limit on QE as the Fed can only buy TSYs and Agencies"
- "If the Fed owned too much TSYs and Agencies it would hurt the market"
But in closing:
- "We still have some capacity at this point."
Perhaps the market was expecting that the Fed would admit it can buy ETFs and REITs like the BOJ, or that it can sell vol into the single digits, as its New York Fed trading desk is rumored to be doing, but this is hardly the stamp of endorsement to buy any stock come hell or high water that the algos now expect out of the Fed.
There is a strange delayed reaction between the initial exposure of weakness in the financial system and the public’s realization of the truth, sort of like Wile E. Coyote dashing off a cliff in the cartoons only to continue running in mid-air above the abyss below. It is a testament to the fact that beyond the math, there is an undeniable power of psychology in our economy. The investment world naively believes it can fly, even with the weight of endless debt around its ankles, and for a very short time, that pure delirious oblivious belief sustains the markets. Eventually, though, gravity always triumphs over fantasy…
All throughout the epic surge in corn prices, the big Kahoona, Goldman Sachs, where buy means sell, and sell means Goldman's traders are buying everything its clients have to dump, was quiet. That is no longer the case: "we recommend a short May-13 CBOT wheat position vs. a long May-13 CBOT corn position." In other words, Goldman will now be selling May 13 corn. We all know how these recommendations end.
Update: According to BurgasInfo.com not one but two buses were blown up. Unclear if the second one was also carrying Israeli tourists.
According to Bulgarian press Sega.bg, and confirmed by other wire sources, a bus with 40 Israeli tourists was "blown up" at 5:30 pm local time at the local airport of the seaside town of Bourgas. Sega says that according to BTV "it is an assassination attempt." The bomb was located in the trunk of a white bus with Israel tourists from Israel who were en route to the seaside town of Sunny Beach according to an airport source. The mayor of the city, Dimitar Nikolov confirmed the news according to Sega. Furthermore, according to the airport's website, an Air Via flight from Tel Aviv landed at 4:50 pm local time. The shock wave was so large it also exploded two neighboringing buses located in the arrival area of the airport. The number of casualties is currently unknown, but at least three people are dead according to the local police, with dozens wounded. Sega adds "the flames are huge with three firetrucks on the scene and seven ambulances driving out charred people."
As Messers Frank and Paul take on the Bernank this morning, we reflect on the four easing options that the illustrious fed-head laid out in a statement-of-the-obvious that still managed to get the algos ripping. As Goldman notes, his prepared remarks were terse (and lacking in 'easing options' discussion) - cautious on his outlook, concerned at Europe, and fearful of the 'fiscal cliff' - but his response in the Q&A were a little more revealing as he laid out his choices: asset purchases, discount window lending programs, changes in communication about the likely path of rates or the Fed balance sheet, or a cut in the interest rate on excess reserves. We discuss each below but note, just as Goldman believes, that while we think that a modest easing step is a strong possibility at the August or September meeting, we suspect that a large move is more likely to come after the election or in early 2013 (and not before), barring a very rapid further deterioration in the already-cautious near term Fed economic outlook (which we assume implicitly brings the threat of deflation).
Because once the dominoes start, they don't stop. Stockton, Mammoth, San Bernardino and now legendary rap and LA riots nexus - the City of Compton. Fear not: the ESM, and the German population whose retirement age will have to be in the quadruple digit range to fund a broke world, has got this, too, covered. Also, only squares don't make fun of Meredith Whitney for saying municipal America is insolvent, so please do.
Ultimately, we should not be doing business with businesses that are repeat offenders; it's kind of like Stockholm syndrome. We keep on allowing ourselves to be abused and even protect our abuser. Unless and until the business changes their ways and assists in the prosecution of White collar criminals, we're going to keep on having problems in how our society functions. Why our local governments continue to do business with the big Wall Street banks is beyond me. In many cases, it appears that the management decided to incorporate fraud into their business models. No reasonable person would knowingly do business with the Mob, but we continue to do business with these banks which have been run just like organized crime. We can either live by the rule of law or the law of the jungle. I prefer the former.
VIX is now trading with a 15 handle - at its lowest since early April. At current levels of exuberant complacency, the S&P 500 should be trading over 1400 and HY credit spreads back at 500bps. The volatility term structure has collapsed in the last month or two as it appears that there remains an extremely well-capitalized vol-seller at the front-end of the curve - unafraid of risk flares as they pick up those nickels in front of the European steam-roller. We can see two reasons for this compression (from a fundamental perspective): extreme confidence in NEW QE appearing shortly (and suppressing vol as it does) or more likely a vol steepener out beyond the German judge's decision on Spain's bailout constitutionality - or just call-writing retail monkeys following TD Ameritrade's CEO's advice - what could go wrong.
Ben Bernanke's prepared remarks in today's second session of his semiannual Humprhey Hawkins testimony will be identical to yesterday's, but one thing is certain: the questions asked of the Chairman will be far more colorful, courtesy of the inquiry of such penetrating financial experts as Barney Frank and Maxine Waters et al.
From the inbox: "Tilson splitting from Tongue, unwinding T2 Partners, new fund at KASE Capital" We very much hope our tipster is wrong: after all how will CNBC Fast Money viewers know to buy JCP at $27, and $26, and $25, and $24, and all the way down to $19 where it is today. Also who could have possibly foreseen the end of a mega long-biased end of a $345 Million fund which had over $125 million in long derivative equivalents? Oh wait...
As we approach 'peak earnings reporting' in the next two weeks, a quick glance at the state of the 65 companies of the S&P 500 that have reported so far may be useful. In yet another miracle of modern-day accounting, and just when you thought there was no more fat to cut, staff to lay-off, or Capex to cut, 73% of companies reporting have surprised positively on EPS while 65% have surprised negatively on Revenues. Industrials stand out in the liberal sprinkling of accounting fairy dust with 100% of the firms having missed top-line while 88% beat bottom-line. Is it any wonder that unemployment is rising once again and CapEx is falling?
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) primary role is to make retail markets for financial products and services work more effectively, and so help retail consumers to get a fair deal. In June 2006, the FSA created its Retail Distribution Review (RDR) programme which they are enacting in order to enhance consumer confidence in the retail investment market. The RDR has a target for full-implementation of 31 December 2012. The RDR is expected to have a significant impact on the way in which financial services are delivered to retail investors in the UK. The primary delivery mechanism of financial services to retail customers is via approximately 30,000 Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) who are authorised and regulated by the FSA. They are expected to bear the brunt of the force of the RDR. Gold bullion is set to benefit from the axing of commission for IFAs and the implementation of the RDR “should be regarded as a game changer” for gold as an investment in the UK, according to the World Gold Council. Managing director of investment Marcus Grubb, says: “These extremely challenging times mean it’s impossible to quantify the risks for UK investors. They are facing an unprecedented combination of threats to their assets including extreme and unexpected market shocks that can trigger widespread value destruction.” “As UK investors reduce allocations to traditional investments such as equities and bonds and increasingly dash to cash, they face a double whammy, with the potential for stagnation of capital due to the lack of returns from cash and the increased possibility of inflation as a result of ongoing monetary stimulation.”
Appropriately coming just after today's Housing Starts data, which captured MSM headlines will blast was "the highest since 2008" is the following chart from this morning's Bloomberg Brief, which shows precisely the reason why "housing has bottomed" - and it has nothing to do with organic demand rising. No, it has everything with excess inventory once again starting to pile up, which means that the imbalance in the supply and demand curves is purely a function of shadow inventory being stocked away, and that there is once again no true clearing price.
Despite the world and their lemur believing that, with a self-referential EUR100 billion bailout (loan) for its banks and a ponzi guarantee scheme for its insolvent regions, all will be well and more debt fixes too much debt, Spanish 10Y yields are back near 7% and spreads over 575bps. The reason - simple - the backbone of their credit-fueled economic growth has crumbled and is now crumbling faster. As the FT reports today, Spain's housing and banking sectors continue to deteriorate, grim new government data showed Wednesday, providing the latest indication that the country's economy remains caught in a protracted recession. House prices declined at the fastest pace since the start of the crisis in the second quarter, the public ministry said, and bad loans increased for a 14th month in a row, the Bank of Spain reported. What is more worrisome is that in spite of a bank rescue plan (that is obviously tyet tto be implemented), bank deposits saw a record decline shrinking 5.75% from a year earlier. The vicious cycle of rising borrowing costs and continued economic recession prompted the International Monetary Fund earlier this week to predict that the downturn will last into next year. "This government can't decide between a good and a bad choice," Mr. Rajoy said. "This government has to choose between the bad and the even worse."