We have previously described the change in market structure post the mid-year USA ratings downgrade as the impossible was suddenly made possible. Nowhere is this more evident than in the huge difference in cumulative distance traveled by the S&P 500. Considering close-to-close changes from the beginning of the year, we see that the average shift of 6 points per day (pre-USA-downgrade) has more than doubled post the downgrade to 12.6 points per day. The S&P 500 has traveled, close-to-close only an incredible 3193 points on the year while from the 12/31/10 close, the index itself has moved a mere 3.64 points. At this rate, should the US be downgraded another notch, we will see 25 point per day ranges and the broken market that we described post-downgrade will become more of a farce than it already is.
Core Durable, Capital Goods Orders Miss Despite Inventory Stuffing, To Push Q4 GDP Lower; Savings Rate DeclinesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/23/2011 - 09:46
So much for ending the year on a positive economic tone: today's November durable goods number, while better than expected on a headline basis including volatile transportation data coming at 3.8% on expectations of 2.2%, was a big disappointment when looking at the core economic indicators such as Durables ex-transportation and non-defense capital goods orders ex-transportation, both of which missed, 0.3 vs 0.4% in the former case, and a whopping 11st devs for the latter: at -1.2% on expectations of 1.0% (Joe LaVorgna was +1.2%... of course), the worst since January 2011. Simply said the trend of downward GDP revisions is now coming to Q4 GDP which will likely see the consensus dip below 3.0%. While we are at it, why not stuff channels a little more: "Inventories of manufactured durable goods in November, up twenty three consecutive months, increased $2.0 billion or 0.6 percent to $368.8 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 0.4 percent October increase. Transportation equipment, also up twenty three consecutive months, had the largest increase, $1.0 billion or 0.9 percent to $114.3 billion." And in other news, both consumer income (0.1%, exp 0.2%) and spending (0.1%, exp 0.3%) missed, pushing the savings rate lower again from an upward revised 3.6% in October to 3.5% in November. The reason consumers had to rely on their savings? "Private wage and salary disbursements decreased $7.1 billion in November, in contrast to an increase of $37.2 billion in October." And yet, "Government wage and salary disbursements increased $0.1 billion in November, the same increase as in October." But that's ok - for a slow motion economic trainwreck there is Obama and fudged labor data from the BLS; for everything else's there's Mastercard and soon to be unlimited lines of credit for everyone drawn straight from the Discount Window.
On the day of the 3 Year European LTRO, in a whim of fancy we wondered if contrary to all expectations, the European banks would not instead of using the money for any real releveraging (carry Trade) or deleveraging (switching out of expensive into cheaper debt) purposes, just park it with the ECB's deposit facility, an outcome which would be the worst possible case as it simply recycles ECB cash from on pocket into another without any incremental velocity. As it turns out, we were only half kidding: as of yesterday, the day after the LTRO, European banks parked almost half of the free €210 billion (recall that while gross LTRO proceeds were €489 billion, only €210 billion was net), or €82 billion, with the ECB's deposit facility, which incidentally brought the cumulative total to a new 2011 record of €347 billion, from €265 the day before. And that is what monetary policy failure is all about.
It was just a little footnote to the LTRO announcement. Just a little statement that 40 billion of the collateral received by the ECB was newly issued, newly guaranteed Italian debt. The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I get. The ECB claims they have 40 billion of Italian government bonds on their books from the LTRO. The banks say they pledged 40 billion of Italian government debt. The Italian government doesn't acknowledge it as debt. Is this just a ploy to inextricably link the Italian banks to the government. The banks could have borrowed direct from the ECB. Bizarrely enough they may have even been able to post their own non government guaranteed debt directly but that was too obviously Enronesque? We are scared that as these contingent liabilities hit the spotlight we will find that the sovereign debt problem is far far bigger than we have realized.
- Volumes remained thin across various asset classes ahead of market holidays related to Christmas and the New Year, together with a light economic calendar
- Moody’s maintained the US’s sovereign credit rating at Aaa, adding that the US rating outlook is negative on federal government debt ratio risks, and the US rating could move down if debt ratios and interest costs continue rising
- Outperformance was observed in Gilt futures partly helped by lacklustre economic data from the UK, which resulted in the UK 10-year yield falling below the 2% level and printing record lows
- According to European government sources, the S&P ratings report on 15 Eurozone members is expected in January
- Fed’s Once-Secret Data Released to Public (Bloomberg) - full excel spreadsheet link
- Call for QE to stave off euro deflation (FT)
- King Says Crisis Threatens Europe’s Economy as Stability Outlook Worsens (Bloomberg)
- Russia’s Medvedev calls for reforms, but protesters not satisfied (WaPo)
- EU's carbon tax meets turbulence (China Daily)
- IMF May Delay Boosting China’s Role as Members Fail to Back Quota Changes (Bloomberg)
- China's 2012 social housing target at 7 million (Reuters)
- Bini Smaghi Says ECB Should Use QE If Deflation Risk Arises (Bloomberg)
- Italy to Kick the Cash Habit as Monti Cracks Down (Bloomberg)
- U.S. House Speaker Boehner Signs On to Tax Deal (Bloomberg)
If you are looking to fill 20 minutes on this low volume pre-holiday 'trading' day with some sanity (away from the low correlation markets), look no further than the following interview between CMC Market's Michael Hewson and Roubini Global Economics' Megan Greene. From the evolution of the European sovereign debt crisis to a financial and political firestorm, the growing divergence between Merkel's demands and the rest of Europe's needs, to the band-aid plugs to practically unsolvable fiscal differences, she does an excellent job summarizing not just the problems, but the solutions' efficacy so far, and the troublesome future ahead. Furthermore, her perspective on the 3Y LTRO 'carry-trade' that it exacerbates the crisis and is a terrifying prospect fits with our view that while the prospect of this silver bullet is timely for year-end thin markets, the reality is far different (as we see in ITA and ESP bonds today). She notes that this effort will just strengthen the negative feedback loop between sovereign and banking systems. Expecting multiple Euro exits, she sees more can-kicking with jolts from mini-crisis to mini-crisis as the political will is just not there for Germany - ever. Monetary union is really a political choice, and with as many countries dropping out as she expects (as austerity fatigue increases), there will simply not be the political will to keep the Euro project going any longer.
Since the European markets opened we have seen modest selling pressure, admittedly with little to no volume and thin liquidity wherever we look. The overnight ebullience in ES (the e-mini S&P futures contract) was not matched by other broad risk assets as CONTEXT (the risk asset proxy) rose only mildly and is now dropping (back below US day session closing levels). The main drivers of correlated derisking are rallies in TSYs (levels and 2s10s30s compression) and mild selling pressure in JPY crosses (AUDJPY most notably). Oil and Copper are finding 'up' is the path of least resistance for now and Gold and Silver are also pushing higher even as the USD has started to rollover a little in the last hour or so. A weak UK services print and Italian consumer confidence has Gilts rallying and (pivot security du jour) BTPs selling off, as the former 2Y hits a record low 0.299% and the latter breaks 500bps over Bunds (in 10Y). Asset correlations have been ebbing and flowing all week and while credit and equity have largely been in sync (as the former reracks off the latter), we note that Sub financials are underperforming so far and Main (investment grade) and XOver (high yield) have leaked wider from the pre-open in Europe.
Dr. Ben Bernanke went to school and never left. He is an academic who has never worked in the private sector yet controls the fate of trillions of Dollars, Euros, Yens and Pounds. Today he is smiling. Dr. Marc Faber also went to school, but he didn’t stick around. He has worked exclusively in the private sector and today is considered one of the most prescient investors on the planet. Today he is also smiling. To better appreciate all the smiling, one must understand exactly what happened or better still, what didn’t happen in Brussels last week. In the eyes of Dr. Bernanke and Dr. Faber, the historic 17th emergency summit meeting by the Europeans to solve their money problems went off without a hitch. Not only did the Euro-Elite fail to resolve their debt crisis, they failed miserably at even coming close to recognizing the problem. It’s this distinct lack of recognition that is turning frowns into smiles. Dr. Bernanke is smiling of course because he is a money printer. The continuing inability of the Euro-Elite to solve their problems virtually guarantees a 2012 recession in the Old World. In return, this will also create a recession in the US which will provide plenty of excuses for Mr. Bernanke to once again print money under the guise of QE3. Dr. Faber’s uncanny ability to understand the big picture and foresee the response from financial markets allowed him to predict the 1987 crash, the 2008-09 crash, and the resulting 2009 stock market rally. Dr. Faber is smiling today not because he agrees with Dr. Bernanke’s fondness for money printing, but rather because the global financial system is developing exactly as he has envisioned. This vision of course is a money maker for both him and his clients.
The following release represents Moody's Investors Service's summary credit opinion on the United States of America and includes certain regulatory disclosures regarding its ratings. This release does not constitute any change in Moody's ratings or rating rationale for United States of America. "Despite high debt levels, the financeability of the US federal government debt remains high, in part due to the global role of the US dollar. This has been demonstrated during the course of 2011, with the yields on Treasury securities falling to near-record lows at times. Over the longer term, this role could be eroded, but Moody's sees no immediate threat to the US government's ability to continue to access financing at relatively low cost."
While 2011 is not quite over yet, we urge readers to set their alarm clocks because in 9 days, Groundhog Year is here - as of right now, there are at least 12 Eurogroup and European Council meeting scheduled in Europe for the balance of "next" year. And we use the term "next" loosely, as 2012 is a carbon copy replica of 2011, before it has even begun.
If there is one cross asset correlation that defined 2011 (and the greater part of 2010), it was that of the Euro-Dollar (EURUSD) currency pair and the S&P 500, which have correlated with near unison nearly all of the time. And yet, the stability of this correlation may be getting unglued, because as Goldman insinuated in its market roundup note from yesterday, it is "reasonable to think that the ... reflexive relationship between EURUSD and SPX...will take some time to break, but this correlation should start to fray." Why? Because, "like the FED before them, the ECB is aggressively expanding their balance sheet." Which brings us to the point of this article: much to the dismay of the armies of disgruntled bankers and investors demanding that the ECB print right now, the ECB has in fact been printing, as shown the other day. Only it has not done so in the conventional sense where it assumes an "asset" on its balance sheet while expanding a monetary liability, but indirectly through shadow conduits, such as repo and other liquidity backstops, also as shown yesterday, where no new currency actually enters the system, yet whereby the balance sheet expands just as efficiently (and in doing so, dilutes the underlying currency). It is well known that it has been our contention that in this centrally planned world the only thing that matters is the global provisioning of liquidity by the monetary authority, as the ultimate marginal determinant of Risk On behavior (and inversely Risk Off), is how much ZIRPy cash do speculators (and more importantly Prime Brokers) have at their possession (for outright and (re)hypothecated purchasing purposes). So here we would like to make a distinction: it is not so much how much cash one global monetary central planner will provide to markets, but how much the various standalone central banks will inject, in whole or in part. We contend that for 2012 the key qualifier will be "in part" with the ECB and the Fed printing (either outright or via repo) in staggered regimes, and thus the primary determinant of "risk", the EURUSD, will be the relative ratio of the two balance sheets. This can be seen on the charts below, the first of which shows just how dramatic the ECB expansion has been in the past 6 months, and the second showing the correlation between the EURUSD and the ratio of the Fed to the ECB.
It wasn't a fun week for gold. By the close on Friday, the metal was down 6.7% (based on London PM fix prices), the biggest weekly decline since September. It got downright irritating when the mainstream media seemingly rejoiced at gold's decline. Economist Nouriel Roubini poked fun at gold bugs in a Tweet. Über investor Dennis Gartman said he sold his holdings. CNBC ran an article proclaiming gold was no longer a safe-haven asset (talk about an overreaction). While the worry may have been real, let's focus on facts. Have the reasons for gold's bull market changed in any material way such that we should consider exiting? Instead of me providing an answer, ask yourself some basic questions: Is the current support for the US dollar an honest indication of its health? Are the sovereign debt problems in Europe solved? How will the US repay its $15 trillion debt load without some level of currency dilution? Is there likely to be more money printing in the future, or less? Are real interest rates positive yet? Has gold really lost its safe haven status as a result of one bad week? And one more: What is the mainstream media's record on forecasting precious metals prices?
When one hears of foreclosed real estate or its sibbling REO (real estate owned) aka repossessed property, typically visions of dilapidated shacks in Detroit, Las Vegas, or the Inland Empire come to mind. And with the average foreclosed home selling at $182,489 according to RealtyTrac, this is understandable. However, such a vision would be wildly incorrect when talking about the property located at 188 Minna St., in San Francisco, which just happens to be America's most expensive bank-owned home. As MSNBC reports, the property in question is quite unlike any other REO out there: because "there's the waterfall in the foyer. And the 2,500-square-foot master bedroom with a hallway just for closets. And the 22-foot glass walls that look out on San Francisco's Arts District." And while we don't know who the original owner is who happens to have walked away on this mortgage, we know which bank got stuck with it. Who else, but Bank of America. Luckily for the bank which recently tested a 4 handle stock price, this property won't be stuck on its books generating zero cash. "According to San Francisco real estate blog SocketSite.com, lender Bank of America, which picked up the deed to the 20,000-square-foot penthouse in lieu of foreclosure back in July, just sold the condo. Listed at $35 million, 188 Minna St. was purchased for an eye-popping $28 million, making it the most expensive residential sale in the city's history." To be sure, whoever bought the REO from BAC likely got a good deal on it: "the bank's asking price is half of what the original owner, developer Victor MacFarlane, was seeking for the unit back in 2008, although he did slash the price to $49 million the following year." Which also means that Bank of America was likely largely was underwater on the "half off" sale, which also means a huge writedown on the paper value of the apartment. And one wonders why Bank of America trades at fractions of its book value.