UPDATE: Denials of the rumor (confirming our earlier note) of a mass refi program has BAC dropping (-3% AH) and ES down around 5pts so far (red on the day).
Late in the day as news broke of Iran nuclear talks, Oil lost some of it sheen and Gold overtook it year-to-date. Gold is now up 3.6% YTD against stocks up 1.9% (and the USD up 0.75%) as we saw stocks on their own today compared to credit markets and broad risk assets. Instead of following yesterday's stability post-Europe, FX (from a USD perspective) continued its uptrend as equities (led by financials - led by BofA on refi rumors) surged into the green as high yield credit, investment grade credit, and high-yield bond ETFs all lost ground on the day. Treasuries did sell-off (directionally correct at least) with stocks rallying but did not move as much as expected on a beta-adjusted basis (even though 30Y is now 16bps wider this year). EURUSD closed at its lows of the day (under 1.28) and Oil under $101.5 at its lows.
It's simply amazing how quickly the US managed to hit its debt target, pardon, debt ceiling all over again...And now the Social Security Fund pillaging begins anew until Congress signs off on the latest interim debt ceiling increase.
When we presented the news about yesterday's UniCredit rights offering we said that "a UniCredit €7.5 billion new stock issue pricing at a whopping 43% discount to market price shows that fair value of actual demand for European banks is about half of where the artificially propped up price is." Sure enough the market appears to have taken testing this assumption to task, and in the past two days 30% of the entire market cap of UniCredit has been destroyed. And what makes this otherwise sad development for many people, who had previously been fooled by various governments in believing that asset values are fair and could thus rise when in reality everything has been distorted and manipulated beyond comprehension, simply hilarious is that not even a month ago UniCredit did a one for ten reverse stock split. At this rate another reverse stock split is imminent before next week is over. Which is to be expected: after all prices are determined on the margin and are a function of systemic liquidity, which in Europe no longer exists in free form. US readers be advised: discoveries such as this one are coming to the US very soon.
In their 2012 Technical Analysis outlook, UBS, the Swiss bank that seems the most desirous of a helping hand from any and every printing-press manufacturer in the world, sees both a major cyclical bottom forming in 2012 based on a confluence of cycles as well as a very timely long-term sell-signal based on one of its proprietary models. We assume that the downside (based on their composite sell signal which triggered last May and has a 10-13 month lag to cycle lows) they see in equity market, as the Juglar and Kitchin cycles trough together, drives Central Banks to finally flip the switch and save the world (in nominal terms) around mid-year. In the meantime, we will see QE3-based disconnects ebb and flow day after day as volumes wax and wane from panic (buying or selling) to vacuous - where rallies should be faded and not chased. Combine these two charts with their views on cycle lows in election years, years ending with a '2', and decennial cycles and it appears technically we are all set for a tumultuous year.
"I hold a deeply held view of Ron Paul as an honorable, genuine and trustworthy American statesman. In fact, I cannot really think of anyone else in the tepid cesspool of American politics today whom I could even remotely categorize as a statesman as opposed to a run of the mill politician (or ideologue as Mr. Lucas puts it). Mr. Lucas moves on to explain that to an ideologue it is current ideas that matter, while to a statesman it is certain principles that matter. He states that an ideologue’s view of the world and its inhabitants is political, while to a statesman it is historical. These simple sentences are what I believe inherently separate Ron Paul at his very core from everyone else currently running for president. This is merely what separates the man’s character from the others. This is reason enough to consider him, but not reason enough to vote for him. His ideas about liberty, war and economics also separate him from the pack and it is his strongly held principles on these subjects that in my view make him the only one capable and with enough conviction to help heal this country’s wounds, get us back on the right and moral path and foster real change as opposed to a campaign slogan."
CMA Now Officially Assumes 20% Recovery In Greek Default - Time To Change Sovereign Debt Risk Management Defaults?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/05/2012 - 16:18
One of the ironclad assumptions in CDS trading was that recovery assumptions, especially on sovereign bonds, would be 40% of par come hell or high water. This key variable, which drives various other downstream implied data points, was never really touched as most i) had never really experienced a freefall sovereign default and ii) 40% recovery on sovereign bonds seemed more than fair. Obviously with Greek bonds already trading in the 20s this assumption was substantially challenged, although the methodology for all intents and purposes remained at 40%. No more - according to CMA, the default recovery on Greece is now 20%. So how long before both this number is adjusted, before recovery assumptions for all sovereigns are adjusted lower, and before all existing risk model have to be scrapped and redone with this new assumption which would impact how trillions in cash is allocated across the board. Of course, none of this will happen - after all what happens in Greece stays in Greece. In fact since America can decouple from the outside world, it now also appears that Greece can decouple from within the Eurozone, even though it has to be in the eurozone for there to be a Eurozone. We may go as suggesting that the word of the year 2012 will be "decoupling", even though as everyone knows, decoupling does not exist: thank you 60 years of globalization, $100 trillion in cross-held debt, and a $1 quadrillion interlinked derivatives framework.
Those attempting to pressure Iran by increasing "tensions" and thus the price of oil have it precisely backwards. The one sure way to fatally destabilize the Iranian theocracy is to adjust the demand and supply of oil so the price plummets (as it did in December 2008) to $25/barrel, and stays there for at least six months. It has been estimated that the Iranian theocracy cannot fund its bloated bureaucracies, military and its welfare state if oil falls below around $40-$45/barrel. Drop oil to $25/barrel and keep it there, and the Iranian regime will implode, along with the Chavez regime in Venezuela. Saber-rattling actually aids the Iranian regime by artificially injecting a "disruptive war" premium into the price of oil: they can make the same profits from fewer barrels of oil. The way to put them out of business is drop the price of oil and restrict their sales by whatever means are available. They will be selling fewer barrels and getting less than production costs for those barrels. With no income, the regime will face the wrath of a people who have become dependent on the State for their sustenance and subsidized fuel. How do you drop oil to $25/barrel? Easy: stop saber-rattling in the mideast and engineer a massive global recession with a side order of low-level trade war. Though you wouldn't know it from the high price of oil, the world is awash in oil; storage facilities are full, and production has actually increased a bit in North America.
Confirming once again that anyone who subscribes to newsletters looking for guidance on market inflection points, trend, and momentum deserves to lose every last penny, is the just released mea culpa from "world renowned economist" and lately even more renowned flip-flopper Dennis Gartman who has just admitted that his call from December 13, which stated that "gold is in the "beginnings of a real bear market" and conveniently mocked right here, may have been, well, wrong. Financial Post, which apparently is one of the subscribers to said newsletter, reports that "In his daily investment letter Thursday, Mr. Gartman officially reversed his outlook for gold, saying he now views the precious metal as being in a bull market. The new position follows a month where Mr. Gartman was the subject of some high-profile name calling from fellow investment letter writer, Peter Grandich. Mr. Grandich called Mr. Gartman “one of the Three Stooges” of gold forecasting after the latter declared that gold was officially in a bear market (if you’re wondering, the other two accused of being in that trio are Jeff Christian of CPM Group and Jon Nadler of Kitco)." Frankly there is no point to devolve to name calling - those who are not familiar with Gartman need but take one look at the performance of his ETF since inception - suffice it to say that with Gartman now flip flopping to the long side, it is likely time to get the hell out of dodge.
Presented with little comment suffice to ask why the rest of the mortgage-exposed financials would not also be rallying if this move higher in BAC stock was all based on mortgage refi program rumors off of Bernanke's white paper released yesterday and in general because it is an election year and Obama will do anything for a short-term vote grabbing fix? It appears just as likely that there is active arbitrage catch up between BofA's CDS and stock from a notable underperformance in mid-December back to 'fair' now.
Australia is the sixth-largest country (2.9m square miles) on earth, just a tad smaller than the contiguous United States (3.1m). They are a little short on people (22.8m), which comes handy, since they dig up their entire country and sell the dirt to China. Australia has a remarkably low government dept-to-GDP ratio (29% ), low unemployment (5.2%), a moderate budget deficit (3.4% of GDP) and moderate inflation. However, Australia has been running current account deficits of up to 6% of GDP for more than 50 years. The “mates”, until recently, didn’t like to save, hence most investment has to be financed by borrowing from foreigners. I was curious as to how much of the success was due to exporting dirt to China. From the Australian Bureau of Statistics you get the following data about their top-10 export markets (accounting for 82% of all exports)...
As seems obvious from the market's reaction over the last week, European problems are not solved by short-term liquidity band-aids. In fact, as Goldman notes this week, the same economic and political risks remain even if some funding relief has been put in place. With sovereigns and financials leading one another to new lows since the LTRO, the negative feedback loops remain in full force. Given the difficulties on the road ahead – and significant ongoing differences across governments on how to resolve them – the risk of political miscalculation or errors is unfortunately still very clear. In the limit, those instabilities could still put the union on a path towards a break-up. Economic weakness in the meantime will intensify the challenges for the weaker sovereigns.
While we have previously presented aggregated level data showing European bond redemption needs by country, we have not had a chance to do so on a monthly basis and broken down by maturity (Bills, Notes, Bonds). Luckily, here is Goldman with a full monthly cheat sheet by country by maturity type of the €1+ trillion in scheduled 2012 bond redemptions.
The New Year has ushered in a new pattern for the market - or perhaps has clarified an old one. The last 3 days has seen European credit markets notably underperform equity markets but stage a significant rally around the equity close each day. This rally then flops into US markets. Today was no different from yesterday - EURUSD leaked lower (holding under 1.28 here) all through the European day session - the question is whether we will see the same stability we saw during yesterday's US afternoon session in FX which will enable the equity strength to hold. We suspect not given that broad risk assets (CONTEXT) has notably not participated in the equity markets pull higher so far. At the same time as Europe closed, with financials massively underperforming, US financials were breaking out as XLF went green and BofA broke above $6. Volumes are above yesterday but below Tuesday for this time of day - still notably low on a medium-term basis. TSYs have been very volatile this morning but European sovereigns have been on a one-way path wider all day - closing near their wides. Commodities are lower (USD strength) but Gold is holding up relatively best for now - well above $1600.
Whereas we have already noted that Dan Loeb's Third Point closed 2011 unchanged due to a disappointing December, today we note that according to his latest monthly performance update Loeb appears to have opened a major new position in the bonds of recently troubled Norwegian financial company Eksportfinans ASA. The chart below compares his October and December top holdings in which it is obvious that as of December 31, Third Point's third largest position is in the bonds of the private guarantor, which recently got in trouble following its downgrade to junk status in late November as Oslo withdrew its support. the result was a sharp drop lower in the bonds of the company, which traded down by 20 points on the news. So what is Loeb seeing here that makes him confident the bonds, all $33 billion of them, the bulk of which are Samurai, or yen-denominated, will surge sooner or later: another TBTF scenario, bond call play, or something else? One thing is certain: the 13F chasing lemmingrati will promptly jump in these bonds and take them much higher even if absolutely clueless why.