Presenting The Latest Eurodebt Exposure Masking Scam Courtesy Of Morgan Stanley: Level 1 To Level 2 TransfersSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/07/2011 - 18:33
For the latest gimmick to mask PIIGS sovereign debt exposure (where we already know that the traditional fallback of "gross being irrelevant and only net being important" crashed and burned today after Jefferies offloaded precisely half of its gross exposure, while raising net, thereby confirming that gross exposure is indeed a risk), we turn yet again to Morgan Stanley. As a reminder, despite our note that the company's gross exposure (which is now a major risk factor, thank you Rich Handler for proving our "bilateral netting is flawed" thesis) to French banks alone is $39 billion, Morgan Stanley downplayed this by saying that only $2.1 billion is the actual net funded exposure to Peripherals Eurozone countries. We'll see if Jack Gorman will have to revisit his defense after today's Jefferies action. Well as it turns out, we now have gimmick number two, one which will surely delight the bearish investors out there looking to find a bank doing all it can to mask not only its gross but net exposure (and wondering why it has to resort to such shenanigans). Presenting the Level 1 to Level 2 switcheroo, courtesy of, who else, Morgan Stanley.
Gold has retraced over 60% of its September swing high to low - rallying almost 12% off late September lows. Whether by cause or effect, it seems our stimulus-driven, vendor-financing, USD-heavy, mercantilist neighbors across the Pacific have decided the time is right to BTFDs in gold and gold miners as today's South China Morning Post notes "China Gold to buy Central Asia mine". Jery Xie Quan, VP of China Gold, further noted that was also negotiating potential mine acquisitions in Canada and Mongolia, which are either in advanced development or close to starting production. Are the Chinese using their excess USD to purchase gold-producing assets? Who knows but it may help explain the relatively strong performance of the EUR against the USD as the former region deteriorate fast.
Consumer Credit Rises As Uncle Sam Funds More Subprime Car And Student Loans; Revolving Credit DropsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/07/2011 - 17:51
Superficially, it was all smiles following the announcement of the September consumer credit number which rose by $7.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis, on expectations of $5.2 billion (and down from the revised $9.7 billion borrowed in August). However a quick look under the surface reveals the same old trickery we have grown to know and love: revolving credit declined by $627 million, while the entire growth was in Non-revolving borrowing, which rose by $8 billion. What does non-revolving credit fund? Why auto loans (read subprime GM car loans) and student loans of course, the latter being the very same loans which even the president now is saying have to be reduced. As for the former, the G.19 now no longer even bother to report such data as Loan to Value, Interest Rates, Maturity and Amount Financed: analysts are left to imagine the best possible outcome. And just to confirm where consumer credit in 2011 has come from, of the $32 billion in credit issued YTD, $89.7 billion of it comes from the US government. The only other positive source of credit in 2011, for the whopping amount of $1 billion are savings institutions. Every other traditional source of credit is now... a drain.
With volume in S&P futures more than 20% below average, the afternoon's rumor-mill managed to juice stocks to overnight highs, well ahead of credit once again and more than two standard deviations above the day's VWAP. Interestingly, today's VWAP and Friday's VWAP were within 1 S&P point, rather coincidental given the 2% swings from high to low to high during the day - suggesting little in the way of active real-money participation as opposed to correlation-driven excitement.
For some actually relevant news, instead of market kneejerk reaction comments, we turn to the WSJ, whose Nick Timiraos points out an important inflection point, namely that Kyle Bass, one of the best hedge fund managers of his generations, may have turned moderately bullish on housing. To wit "A closely followed hedge fund manager known for correctly betting on the housing market’s collapse four years ago purchased a small stake in the nation’s largest mortgage insurance company in a bet that the housing market has neared bottom. J. Kyle Bass, portfolio manager at Dallas-based Hayman Capital Management LP, bought the 4.9% stake in MGIC Investment Corp, according to federal filings. He said on Monday the bet reflected his view that the housing market’s losses had largely been absorbed. “You can see that the pig has moved through the python in terms of U.S. housing losses,” he said. Shares of MGIC are about 10.2% higher in Monday afternoon trading, to $2.82." The Heyman Capital filing can be found here.
In true save-the-market style, as 3pm ET comes around we have another rumor from Europe. This time it purports to be the creation of an investment fund, as a subsidiary of the EFSF, which will 'attract' external capital sources, via tranching of returns, to enable the purchase of sovereign debt in primary and secondary markets. Headlines, via Bloomberg, for now suggest this is yet another strawman and given the concessions on this morning's EFSF issue, just who exactly is going to be investing in this levered product and why? Equity markets remain 'exuberant' relative to credit though HY is slowly catching up to the intrday heights of the S&P 500 futures. It really doesn't sound like anything but the beginnings of the structure of the SIV for the EFSF that we have been discussing for a couple of weeks now.
While Banks Are Being Shorted With Impunity On Euro Sovereign Debt Panic, Did Someone Forget About BlackRock?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/07/2011 - 16:07
Why? Primarily because of this innocent statement by former R3 scion and former Lehmanite Rick Rieder, currently employed by the firm that ostensibly has more clout than even Goldman Sachs: BlackRock. From October 21 "BlackRock Inc. Chief Investment Officer Rick Rieder said the world’s biggest money manager remains a buyer of Italian government debt as European policy makers gather to address the region’s sovereign debt crisis. "Italy is attractive,” Rieder said during an interview on “InBusiness With Margaret Brennan” on Bloomberg Television. “As long as we are moving toward solutions, we think Italy is very reasonable at these levels. BlackRock, which manages about $3.66 trillion in assets, has also been buying debt issued by financial firms and high- yield bonds, Rieder said. As with the Italian bonds BlackRock has bought, the financial debt will benefit “as soon as you see stability,” Rieder said." Uh, Rick, you are marking to market right? Because Your P&L would be a 100% correlation to the following chart, which shows BTP prices since October 21.
Yesterday, Barclays' Ben Powell of macro sales sent out the following note to clients, which referenced a as of then unconfirmed report in the China Securities Journal: "China putting 1Tr RMB into its banks?? Very positive no? The attached bloomberg story suggests that China may inject >Tr1 Yuan into its banks deposits before the end of the year. This is a meaningful number vs the Tr7.5 RMB that the banks are expected to lend in 2011 as a whole. So what? 2 things. Most obviously this is cheap liquidity to Chinese banks that should see SHIBOR continue to fall and banks shares to rise. And secondly more broadly this would seem to suggest (again) that the rumours of easing are true. This will add fuel to the soft landing argument that I have been pushing. Remain long Chinese banks on very simple easing + bearishness = up thesis." Granted the Barclays spin was to go long China (incidentally just in time for the biggest drop in the Chinese market since October 20), but the real take home here is that China is now actively pumping money to bail out its own banks once again! And not just token money - €158.2 bilion. So how much money will be left to fund the European bailout which is oh so contingent on Chinese generosity? The short answer? Pretty much nothing, as confirmed by the fact that today's €3 billion EFSF deal was underbid and the underwriters were left holding about €500 million of the total issue. As usual, good luck Europe with your multifunctional Swiss EFSF Army knife.
In the past few minutes, the market, in true stung dog fashion, has soared without anyone even being faintly aware of what the actual news is. The consensus for the time being is that the primary driver of the latest bout of idiocy is the following BBG headline:
- GREEK PRIME MINISTER MAY BE IMF'S ROUMELIOTIS, NET TV SAYS
How this makes any sense we don't know. Supposedly the IMF being in charge of Greece will make losses to European banks even more negligible (and Greek austerity that much more austere) or something. We don't even pretend to comprehend this BS any more. Obviously we would say this rumor is total BS, but with Europe now a fully onionized continent, we prefer to keep our mouth shut.
Remember how virtually all "experts" speculated that the drop in the price of gold would set off a liquidation cascade in China, where everyone was "loaded to the gills" and at the first hint of deflation would dump all holdings (not to mention that economic Ph.D. proclaimed the gold "bubble" popped two months and $200 lower)? It seems that as so often happens when all experts agree on something, it is precisely the opposite that happens. The FT reports that "Chinese gold imports from Hong Kong, a proxy for the country’s overall overseas buying, leapt to a record high in September, when monthly purchases matched almost half that for the whole of 2010....After hitting a nominal all-time high of $1,920.30 a troy ounce in early September, the yellow metal fell to a three-month low of $1,534 an ounce later in the month. Chinese investors snapped up the metal as prices fell." Fair enough: this means the natural bid under gold will pretty much always be there, especially since the SHCOMP plunged at the same time, and if there was truly cross asset liquidation, imports would hardly rise. Which begs the question: if not China, then who sold? Was the move purely a function of fears that Paulson was liquidating? Or were rumors that various central banks are liquidating gold, actually true? We will likely find out when the next WGC report is filed. WE will also know that the Chinese number for total gold holdings is grossly underreported.
We are all quite aware of the fact that heightened volatility has become a short term norm in the financial markets as of late. Not surprisingly, we’re seeing the same thing in a number of recent economic surveys. The most current poster child example being the Philly Fed survey that has shown us historic month over month whipsaw movement over the last few months. Movement measured in standard deviation parameters has been breathtaking. All part of a “new normal” in volatility? For now, yes. But over the very short term economic surveys and stats have been taking a back seat in driving investor behavior and decision making in deference to the “promise” of ever more money printing. Of course this time the central bank wizardry will happen across the pond, although the US Fed is also now back to carrying out it’s own modest permanent open market operations (money printing) relatively quietly, but consistently, as of late. Although over the short term “money makes the world go ‘round”, we need to remember that historic money printing in the US in recent years only acted to offset asset value contraction in the financial sector and did not lead to macro credit cycle acceleration engendering meaningful aggregate demand and GDP expansion. And we should expect a Euro money printing experience to be different? Seriously?
As the following update from the World Gold Council reminds us, at the end of October, Italy had 2,451.8 tonnes of gold, or roughly $140 billion dollars at today's price. We doubt we are the only ones keeping track of all this gold (most of it almost certainly 'safe and sound' about 150 feet deep under the infamous LIberty 33 location). We also doubt we are the only ones curious about its future, which we see as have five distinct possible outcomes: i) nothing; ii) it is currently being shipped quietly from The New York Fed to Italy for "general corporate purposes); iii) it has already been shipped and is currently being loaded up in Silvio's private jet; iv) the G-20 is already preparing to launch a formal demand that in order to remain in the Eurozone and to find the EFSF, which will be used to buy Italian bonds, Italy will have to do its patriotic duty and remit it to the ECB, an extortion attempt which was tried with Germany last week and which failed spectacularly; or v) it is being lent out to other countries who have long since sold their gold and continue to pretend they have some hard asset backing to the currencies issued by their own central banks. We hope to get an answer shortly.
First there are the more legitimate skim sources - interest payments, management fees, IPO fees, M&A fees, trade commissions. Then there are the less legitimate bank sources: penalty credit card interest rates, late fees, usage fees, over-the-limit fees, late payment fees, bounced check fees, low balance fees. And the capital markets sources - front-running, insider trading, account churning, manipulation of the news cycle, the captive analyst "ratings game", trading against your own client's order book, forex trades which are marked at the day high or low irrespective of when the trade took place, market manipulations at options expiration, stuffing your managed client accounts full of dubious IPOs and new issues that your organization is earning fees from originating. Bucket shops and ponzi schemes take it even a step further - no actual financial activity takes place. Its simply robbery. And now we add the new stuff: credit default swaps without margin, fraudulent loan origination, sliced & diced mortgages, mark to myth accounting, foreclosure halts to avoid realizing losses, extend & pretend, quote stuffing, HFT trading activity that boils down to denial of service attacks on exchange computers causing delays in pricing information, highly complex derivatives sold to unsuspecting but optimistic public servants, too big to fail status providing cheap backup in the event of trouble, and increased organizational size that facilitate cartel-like control over government and regulators. But if that's not enough, there is the structure itself: they aren't doing this with saved capital, but rather with freshly printed and/or borrowed capital. Its all done with 12:1 leverage at a minimum... And if the bet goes bad, the Fed will ride to the rescue with low-cost money. But usually the bet goes well, because ordinarily the number of sources of fraud today is so HUGE, its practically impossible not to succeed.