With a economic calendar devoid of virtually any events, the only two events worth of note this morning are the Greek CDS auction (where RBS appears to once again be confusing price and discount), and the Apple cash announcement due in just over an hour. The result is Apple stock which in the premarket session has traded as high as a new record high og $606, even as concerns emerge that the growth phase is over as the company transitions into a MSFT-type, post-Steve Jobs existence. Details of the 9 am call can be found here. Aside from that risk is broadly flat as hungover American traders take their seats.
- There is no Spanish siesta for the eurozone (FT)
- Greece over halfway to recovery, says PM (FT) - inspired comedy...
- Sarkozy Trims Gap With Rival, Polls Show (WSJ) - Diebold speaks again
- IMF’s Zhu Sees ‘Soft-Landing’ Even as Property Slides: Economy (Bloomberg)
- Obama Uses Lincoln to Needle Republicans Battling in Illinois (Bloomberg)
- Three shot dead outside Jewish school in France (Reuters)
- Osborne Seeks to End 50% Tax Spat With Pledge to Aid U.K. Poor (Bloomberg)
- Monti to Meet Labor Unions Amid Warning of Continued Euro Crisis (Bloomberg)
This week brings policy decisions in Taiwan and Thailand. The CBC decision will be very interesting to watch. The December statement at the time was surprisingly hawkish, only to be followed by a large upside surprise in inflation, and the TWD was subsequently allowed to appreciate. Given that the bank continues to view inflation as a major problem, according to quotes from Reuters, it will be very interesting to see how the bank weighs up concerns about hot money inflows vs the need to contain inflation risks. In particular, in the face of imported inflation pressures via higher commodity prices, many central banks may shift towards accepting the need for more currency strength. The week also brings some important central bank commentary. The RBA governor has an opportunity to opine on the recent slew of weak Australian data, as well as developments in the A$. There is quite a bit of commentary from Fed officials on the docket, including from Bernanke, which we will dissect for information on the further direction of policy. More dovish commentary than that of the FOMC last week, would arguably be a surprise and potentially dampen, if not reverse some of the moves of last week.
The results from the Greek CDS auction are starting to come in (the full calendar can be found here). Moments ago ISDA, via Creditfixings.com released the initial results of the Auction, which indicate a preliminary market midpoint based on bids and offers of the defaulted bonds of 21.75, which is roughly in line with where bonds had been trading ahead of the PSI completion, if a little higher than the Cheapest to Deliver, indicating some modest upside to those who bought the CTDs in the final days. The Net Open Interest going into the bidding period which begins at 13:30 GMT and lasts for 30 minutes is a modest €291.6 million, with an offer-heavy side. Then final results will become pulbic in 4:30 hours, at 15:30 GMT.Once again, a full generic run down of the whole physical settlement process can be found here. Finally, what's with the RBS "Adjustment Amount": did the bank once again forget there is a difference between "discount" and "price"? Nothing less would surprise coming from the world's most incompetent bank.
The persistent negative investment flows at U.S. listed mutual funds specializing in domestic stocks is one of the most important long-term trends catalyzed by the Financial Crisis. AUM has dropped by $473 billion since January 2007 despite the S&P 500 Index’s essentially flat performance over this period. The news is no better since the beginning of 2012 – despite the ongoing rally in domestic equities – with $6.8 billion of further outflows year to date. In today’s note Nic Colas, of ConvergEx analyzes what will reverse this trend along two vectors: the desire and ability of individuals to invest. The rally in risk assets, along with declining actual volatility, is the best hope for a reversal in money flow trends. Offsetting that factor are continued stresses on household budgets and consumer psychology combined with problematic demographic trends. Bottom line: domestic money flows have likely become more economically sensitive than in previous cycles.
This cannot be the right course for us to take in the wake of such a widely recognized crisis. The lack of purposeful outrage is deafening. We cannot restore lasting stability to our economy and society unless we are willing to face up to what we did wrong, right it, and throw out the bums who put us there. Without that, the pattern of ever escalating crisis and interventionist, market-distorting solutions will surely lead to a bigger crisis still ahead... Perhaps the most important symbol of our failure to address reform are the pictures accompanying much of the coverage of Greg Smith’s letter, those of a power-posing Blankfein and Cohn, who without the Government’s accommodation might be striking a very different pose, indeed. You want to sign on to Mr. Smith’s army in joint distaste for Goldman’s lost culture? Please, be my guest. But more deserving of your enmity is the insidious co-option of the core premise of capitalism by a handful of people to ensure the banks’ undeserved survival, and their managers’ really nice lifestyle.
Last June (the 24th to be precise), it was announced that 60 million barrels of oil would be released from world reserves, with about half of that amount being taken from the SPR. Oil was trading at $91 when the announcement was made but actually rose in price - hitting $97 - before dropping to $88 once the surplus oil was introduced on July 15. 60 million barrels = $3 lower price. Hardly bang for the buck - especially as oil was back above $100 before the end of the year. As much as the SPR is seen by many to be the panacea for high prices, the lack of available additional supply from the world’s biggest producers is a far bigger concern; one which my friend Ronni Stoeferle from Vienna wrote a fantastic report on recently entitled “Nothing To Spare” (you can email Ronni HERE for a copy of the report which is an incredibly detailed piece of work). In it he took an in-depth look at some of the supply constraints facing the world and his conclusions are, to say the least, troubling.
Minutes ago Apple announced that first thing tomorrow it will "host a conference call to announce the outcome of the Company’s discussions concerning its cash balance. Apple® will not be providing an update on the current quarter nor will any topics be discussed other than cash." As a reminder, Apple has just about 100 billion in cash. Everyone expects a dividend. So what happens when everyone finally gets what they have been expecting for so long? Will it mean the end of the growth phase and the advent of the "MSFT" anti-growth curve? Also, which bank will claim the commission for advising Apple on how to spend a cash amount that while nearly a third of Greek GDP, is less than half of the US February budget deficit (in other words, Apple could fund just 12 days of the US spending burn rate in February)? Finally, was the pre-election administration at all involved in the making of this decision - remember the company was expected to announce a cash-related decision a month ago, and nothing happened. Why now? All shall be revealed tomorrow at 9 am.
The surprising tale that I will attempt to pen in this blog entry has a very familiar cast of characters; the Obama Administration, the Housing Bubble, "Toxic Mortgages", and Too Big To Fail "TBTF" Banks among others. While the headline of TBTF banks in a $25bil mortgage settlement is known to many, the underlying details of the settlement are less known and quite appalling when you pull back the covers. The wounds on past and present homeowners are still fresh from the housing crisis. As Jonathan Laing points out in this weekend's Barron's cover story, "five million of the country's 76million mortgage holders have lost their homes to foreclosure or lender ordered short sales since 2006, and an estimated 14million more own more on their homes than their properties are currently worth. In all, some $7.4 trillion in homeowners' equity has been destroyed according to Mark Zandi..."
Back in May of last year, just after the now historic silver slamdown of "Silver Sunday" on May 1, 2011, when the metal imploded by nearly 20% in the span of seconds, a move that some considered 'normal', primarily the CFTC, we presented the extended biopic of the infamous "Silverfinger": Bunker Hunt, who attempted to corner the silver market, and succeeded, if only briefly (and they say Playboy has no good articles). Today, courtesy of Grant Williams, we have dredged up the following clip from the archives, which is a 10 minute overview of just how there is really nothing new ever in the silver market, bringing up memories of Silver Thursday, March 27, 1980, and raising questions whether last year the move in precious metals was not due to the same attempt to corner the silver and gold markets as happened 30 years prior. A far more important question perhaps is how was it that tried a redux of the Hunt brothers (and Warren Buffett of course), and when will someone take their place next?
We have long argued that at its core, modern society, at least on a mathematical basis - the one which ultimately trumps hopium every single time - is fatally flawed due to the existence, and implementation, of the concept of modern "welfare" - an idea spawned by Otto von Bismarck in the 1870s, and since enveloped the globe in various forms of transfer payments which provide the illusion of a social safety net, dangles the carrot of pension, health, and retirement benefits, and in turn converts society into a collage of blank faces, calm as Hindu cows. Alas, the cows will promptly become enraged bulls once they realize that all that has been promised to them in exchange for their docility and complacency has... well... vaporized. It is at that point that the final comprehension would dawn, that instead of a Welfare State, it has been, as Bill Buckler terms it, a Hardship State all along. Below we present the latest views from the captain of The Privateer on what the insoluble dilemma of the welfare state is, and what the key problems that the status quo will face with its attempts at perpetuating this lie.
One of the big stories of the week was that Morgan Stanley “reduced” its exposures to Italy by $3.4 billion mostly by unwinding some swaps they had on with Italy. Morgan Stanley booked profit of $600 million on the unwind. The timing couldn’t have been worse coming on the heels of the “Darth Vader” resignation at Goldman Sachs, attracting more attention to profits on derivatives trades was the last thing the investment banks need. Much of the outrage seems misplaced though. In this case, don’t blame Morgan Stanley, blame Italy, and be very afraid of what else Italy has done.
Last week we learned two things: that Jamie Dimon specifically telegraphed he is now more powerful than the Fed, and that the US economy is back down to the same March 2009 optical exercises in financial strength gimmickry to stimulate rallies. Recall that on FOMC day, the market barely budged on Bernanke's ambivalent statement and in fact was in danger of backing off as the readthrough was that of no more QE... until JPM announced a major stock buyback and dividend boost. The catalyst: a successful passing of the latest and greatest Stress Test, which according to experts was "much more credible" than all those before it. Wrong. The test was merely yet another complete farce and a total joke. But as expected, the test had its intended effect: financial shares soared across the board, and banks promptly took advantage of investors and robot gullibility to sell equity into transitory strength. Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil explains.
If there is one thing 2011 taught us is that one totally unpredictable and unexpected event, such as the great March 11 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima disaster, can wreak massive havoc on otherwise stable economic ecosystems, models and forecasts. According to many, most certainly the Fed, the events in Japan had a major spillover effect on global GDP that lasted for months, in turn forcing fiscal and monetary responses around the world. A true black swan. As the following brief video summarizes, 2011 was the year of earthquakes. Has the earth become increasingly unstable? Will the pattern from 2011 continue into 2012 and beyond? Is mother nature getting angrier? We have no idea, but we do know that the following clip is quite awesome: make sure you have your volume turned up high.