A company whose value is dependent on the continued success of two key products, now has a larger market capitalization (at $542 billion), than the entire US retail sector (as defined by the S&P 500). Little to add here.
The Fed Chairman, who is too busy to tweet at the moment, has just released his pre-recorded speech on Community Banking. In its we find the following pearl: "Despite some recent signs of improvement, the recovery has been frustratingly slow, constraining opportunities for profitable lending." Wait, hold on, yesterday the same Chairman told an eager headline scanning robotic world that economic growth was upgraded from "modest" to "moderate" - so which is it? Or will the Fed merely feed the HFT robots whatever cherry picked keywords are needed to nudge the market in the appropriate direction as required? Oh wait, we forgot... Election year. Carry on.
As of this morning the Federal Reserve is officially on twitter and can be followed at @federalreserve. This is truly great news as it means that the US debt will have to be limited to at most 140 zeroes! Then again, after yesterday who cares about the Fed?Where is uber-boss Jamie Dimon's twitter account?
In what can only be seen as raising the rhetoric bar on the timing, scale, and seriousness of the Iran 'situation', Kommersant is reporting that "Tehran has one last chance" as US Secretary of State Clinton asks her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to relay the message to Iranian leaders. If this 'last chance' is wasted an attack will happen in months as diplomats noted that the probability of an Israel/US attack on Iran is now a specific 'when' instead of an indefinite 'if'. The sentiment is best summarized by a quote from inside the meeting "The invasion will happen before year’s end. The Israelis are de facto blackmailing Obama. They’ve put him in this interesting position – either he supports the war or loses the support of the Jewish lobby". Russian diplomats, as Russia Today points out, criticized the 'last chance' rhetoric as unprofessional suggesting "those tempted to use military force should restrain themselves - a war will not solve any problems, but create a million new ones."
Greece just defaulted. Again. No surprise - the country has been in default half the time since 1820. Curiously, Greece is also the first recorded sovereign defaulted as Art Cashin notes in his piece today. He also reminds us that the UK's plans to return the 100 Year bond are nothing new. In fact, the Consol, or the UK perpetual, was around in the 1700's. Things did not work out very well back then...
In an update of our post from a week ago, the ECB has increased its margin calls on European banks by EUR162 million this week to another record high of over EUR17.3 billion. While our pointing out of this huge jump from 'average' historical margin calls last week was met with - it's temporary/transitory due to temporary/transitory ineligibility of defaulted (and since undefaulted) Greek bonds (which given the rise this week has now been proven incorrect) or the more prosaic "don't worry, be happy", we remain concerned at both the velocity and now sustained size of these margin calls (as clearly collateral quality has dropped rapidly and remained weak). This is concerning since it would appear we had a good week for collateral (risk assets) in general, so we can only imagine what garbage is clogging the ECB's balance sheet. The side-effect of this appears to be (as we pointed out here) that Gold (the banks' remaining quality collateral) is being sold to cover these margin calls just as it was in September 2011 (though lease rates have not squeezed as much this time). We can only imagine the size of these margin calls should we happen to have a week where AAPL stock drops or BTPs don't rally (broad collateral actually loses value), but that seems impossible anyway.
And how can it not be? As Banco de Espana just released earlier today, Spanish banks have borrowed a record €152 billion in February, a €19 billion increase from January. At least we now know what the capital shortfall was in Spain since pre-LTRO days, when total borrowings were €98 billion: "LTRO is for carry trade purposes"... right. So thank you European tax payers, and the 'bad bank' hedge fund formerly known as the ECB - you just bought Spain a few more months, however with your actions you guaranteed that nobody will change any part of their destructive behavior, and merely enable even more solvency crises in the future, which will be band-aided with even more trillions in free money, and so on, until the global central banks need to show their expansion not on a weekly but millisecond basis. And oh yes, this explains why Blackrock is tripping over itself this morning recommending Spanish bonds, which "may offer opportunities for long-term investors" - perhaps the same profit opportunity that the ECB had on its Greek bond holdings purchased at 80 cents of par and collapsed at about 20.
Because every former employee confession has an equal and opposite reaction from "toxic and destructive" firms. And what a better way to test the PR disaster damage control skills of the firm's new global head of corporate communications: former Treasury aide and Geithner lackey Jake Siewert. In other news, Goldman is now promptly adding perpetual non-disparagement clauses to all employee contracts. Retroactively, if possible.
Going into the US open, European equity markets have carried across some risk appetite from last night’s Wall Street news that 15 out of 19 major US banks had passed the Fed’s stress test scenarios. This risk appetite is evident in Europe today with financials outperforming all other sectors, currently up over 2%. Data released so far today has been relatively uneventful, with Eurozone CPI coming in alongside expectations and Industrial Production just below the expected reading for January. Taking a look at the energy complex, WTI and Brent crude futures are seen on a slight downwards trajectory so far in session following some overnight comments from China, highlighting the imbalance in the Chinese property market, dampening future demand for oil. Looking ahead in the session, the DOE crude oil inventories will shed further light on the current standing of US energy inventories.
Stop us when this confession from Greg Smith, a now former executive director and head of the Goldman's United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, sounds exactly like everything we have said about the firm over the past 3+ years (and why we just can't wait for the next trading "recommendation" from Tom Stolper). "Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it."
- Euro zone formally approves 2nd Greek bailout: statement (Reuters)
- In a First, Europeans Act to Suspend Aid to Hungary Unless It Cuts Deficit (NYT)
- UK Chancellor Looks at 100-Year Gilt (FT) - What? No Consols?
- Hilsenrath: Fed's Outlook a Tad Sunnier - (WSJ)
- Banks Shored Up By Stress Test Success (FT)
- U.S. dangles secret data for Russia missile shield approval (Reuters)
- Wen Warns of Second China Cultural Revolution Without Reform (Bloomberg)
- Wen Says Yuan May Be Near Equilibrium as Gains Stall (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Says Europe Is ‘Good Way’ Up Mountain, Not Over It (Bloomberg)
Following a brief dip in the overnight session, yesterday's momentum transitioning out of stocks and into bonds has continued, with futures now at overnight highs 2.5 pts above closing. As Bloomberg's cross asset dashboard and analyst TJ Marta write, most stocks and bond yields are higher on the Fed’s upgraded economic outlook, ebbing of EU debt concerns vs Chinese equities, AUD, NZD, commodities lower after China warned of need for continued policy restraint. The VIX has again tumbled to fresh mutli-year lows, touching on 14.80, at this rate threatening to enter the single digits and wreak havoc with swaption trader models. Bad or negative news is now roundly ignored, such as the just released 5th consecutive drop in the MBA mortgage applications index, which slid 2.4%, following a 1.2% drop: what was that about a housing bottom again? Also ignored was the miss in the January European Industrial Production which rose 0.2% on expectations of a 0.5% increase, following a -1.1% drop in December. Finally Spanish bank borrowings soared to €152.4 billion in February, from €133.2 billion, even as the second LTRO hit. In other words - of course risk will be back: every single Eurobank balance sheet is now flooded exclusively with taxpayer money. Who cares if that is gambled and lost: more will simply be issued (in exchange for even more worthless collateral) just as the ECB intended. As for the primary driver of risk on-ness, rotation out of bonds - best of luck with that as the US has to find buyers for $1 trillion in bonds in the next 9 months, especially as the Fed is running out of 2 Year bonds to swap for 30 Year pieces of paper, and as Twist expires (never mind the $2.0 billion DV01 on the Fed's balance sheet).
While not quite as dramatic as Kim Cattrall in a cheongsam, the recent group-think of 'heads bulls win, tails bears lose" on the back of seemingly ever-rising strike prices on central bankers implied-puts is becoming crescendo-like. Nowhere is this more evident in China currently, as the world views every inflation, growth, and lending print as either positive because of more stimulation or positive because of global growth. Of course all of this ignores the 'trap' that is/has already sprung in Japan (ZIRP, deflation, and zombification), US (ZIRP, addiction, and energy prices), and Europe (print, subordinate, and alienate foreign bond purchasers) and the care with which even insane printers must tread for fear of upsetting the world economy. Tonight we hear from China's Premier Wen that, via Bloomberg, China seeks to establish social democracy and much to Chuck Schumer's chagrin we pre-suppose, that the Yuan is close to equilibrium levels. Furthermore the veiled threat that China-US cooperation is better than confrontation, which brings us to four charts we found interesting in their potential to upset the euphoria of a global race-to-the-bottom which apparently makes US stocks invincible.
In a stunning turn of events, a Japanese Ministry of Finance official admits to Richard Koo's worst nightmare "Japan is fiscally worse than Greece". Bloomberg is reporting that, at a conference in Tokyo, Yasushi Kinoshita says Japan's 2011 fiscal deficit was up to 10% of GDP and its debt-to-GDP has soared to over 230%. What is more concerning is the Kyle-Bass- / Hugh-Hendry-recognized concentration risk that Kinoshita admits to also - with a large amount of JGBs held domestically, the Japanese financial system is much more vulnerable to fiscal shocks (cough energy price cough) than Europe. Of course, the market is catatonic in its reaction to this - mesmerized by the possibility of buybacks and hypnotized at big-banks-passing-stress-tests - though we do note the small reverse stronger in USDJPY has reversed as this news broke and the USD pushes modestly higher.