By now everyone is well aware what the main tension involving this year's presidential campaign as far as Mitt Romney is concerned, will be his professional past, namely his experience at, and exposure to, Bain Capital. By now most have also gotten a sense of the angle of attack that the incumbent will rely on in order to discredit his GOP challenger, and if they haven't, they will soon enough: after all in Obama's own words "Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is what this campaign is going to be about." In other words, Romney's history with managing private (emphasis added) equity. Yet at Marc Thiessen at the WaPo points out, the logical retort from the Romney camp would be to shift attention to something potentially more embarrassing: Obama's record with public equity. Because, frankly, it is deplorable. And while one may debate the number of job losses at the companies that Bain took private, the driving prerogative for Romney was to generate value for his investors and shareholders. This in itself will hardly be debated by Obama. In other words, for any and all of his other failings, Romney succeeded at his primary task. The question then is: did Obama do the same? Did he succeed in investing public equity, i.e., the taxpayer capital that the US financial mechanism has afforded him. Sadly, the answer appears to be a resounding no.
Despite all the stories of apocalypse now there is a fighting chance that Greece will stay in the eurozone for the time being. This is the real tragedy of course, but unfortunately for all involved there just isn’t the political appetite for “Grexit”. The Germans have done their sums and if Greece leaves they are in deep, way above the top of their lederhosen. The Greeks of course want to stay on the euro gravy train, but it is German gravy and Siemens almost certainly built the loco. Merkel is increasingly isolated but being from the old East Germany she is almost certainly dangerous when cornered. The option for her may not be kicking the Greeks into touch, but taking Germany back to the DMark and leaving the French to sort the mess out. This is something her Finance Minister, who looks increasingly like one of Peter Sellers’ characters in Dr Strangelove, would heartily approve of and might even get her re-elected.
In twenty or thrity years, I expect future monetary historians looking back on this period of history to frequently misquote Ernest Hemingway:
How did the dollar die? First it died slowly — then all at once.
The slow death began with the dollar’s birth as a global reserve currency. America was creditor and manufacturer to the world, and the capitalist superpower. People around the globe transacted overwhelmingly in dollars. Above all else, people needed dollars to conduct trade, and they were willing to pay richly for them, and for dollar-denominated debt
Back on March 27, following the epic disappointment that was the BATS IPO, we presented a detailed forensic analysis courtesy of Nanex, which demonstrated step by step how a Nasdaq-borne algo may have been the culprit shattering BATS' hopes of ever going public. Fast forward two months later to the most anticipated IPO in recent history, in which FaceBook's even more epic, if not quite as stark, implosion has set back the general public's faith in capital markets decades back. The irony, of course, is that FB didn't do anything that many weren't warning about: it simply plunged which would make perfect sense in a normal world. This in turn was the spark that provoked the public ire - had FB simply doubled since IPO day, nobody would care about what really happened on May 18. Alas, it didn't. And now the lawsuits come. The problem is we don't transact in a normal world, but one dominated by central banks and algorithms - which is why the most pressing question for those who grasp the real new normal is how come in a market as controlled and manipulated as the central bank-dominated venue we have now, was FB stock allowed to plunge? For what may be the actual definitive answer, as opposed to now trite philosophical ruminations on valuation, ethics, underwriter and shareholder greed, we once again go to Nanex, which has caught the perpetrator red handed once again... As Nanex' Eric Hunsader tells us: "Turns out just before Nasdaq's quote crossed and became non-firm, one copy of the same quote (crossed) was marked regular, and I think that caused other algos to react and immediately sell off the stock. When that crossed quote from nasdaq appears, bid prices from other exchanges suddenly evaporate and that causes the NBBO spread to explode from 1 cent to 70+cents in 1/10th of a second! Nasdaq's quote started doing this when the stock approached 42.99 -- that effectively prevented the stock from going higher (a few spurious trades right at the open came from BATS for 44 ~ 45 etc, before Nq's quote was in play). So these stupid Algos effectively short circuited the stock for Facebooks IPO! Unreal."
While various three letter economic schools of thought continue sprouting left and right, in an attempt to validate endless spending predicated on one simple thing: transitory reserve currency status, and we emphasize transitory, reality moves on, oblivious of what economic theoreticians believe it should be doing. As Yomiuri Shimbun reported last night, China and Japan are set to launch direct currency trading, bypassing the dollar, and the associated benefits and risks, entirely. "But how can that be?" dollar purists will scream. After all, when one bypasses the dollar, one commits blasphemy to a reserve currency. Somehow we think China gets that. From the AP: "Japan and China are expected to start direct trading of their currencies as early as June as part of efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment, according to reports. With the planned step, exchange rates between the yen and the yuan will be determined by their transactions, departing from the current "cross rate" system that involves the dollar in setting yen-yuan rates, Kyodo News said on Saturday."
We present the following postcard we just got from Sweden. We can only hope this is a very isolated incident of people enjoying to wait in line for a few pieces of paper, completely devoid of any contextual reference. That, or they are all suddenly applying for a mortgage, or in the best case, merely enjoying the wonderful weather, just incidentally next to a branch of one of Sweden's largest banks.
If you cannot read the writing on the wall then allow me to read it for you. The European Union has abrogated the Rule of Law for the good of the State. This is the second such abrogation with the first being the exemption of certain European institutions and the IMF from the Private Sector Involvement of Greece. Greece may be a one-off exemption as they claim but we now have a second instance where jurisprudence has been overturned for the good of the nations of Europe. This is not Socialism or Capitalism but rather some sort of Fascist governance which I publically decry as the echo of the jackboots sounds across the Continent once again. The precedents have now been set and the future is clearly marked by a return to the totalitarianism of a politically controlled State. My advice is therefore succinct:
The dream of virtually anyone who has ever traded even one share of stock has always been to generate above market returns, also known as alpha, preferably in a long-term horizon. Why? Because those who manage to return 30%, 20% even 10% above the S&P over the long run, become, all else equal (expert networks and collocated flow-frontrunning HFT boxes aside), legendary investors in the eyes of the general public, which brings the ancillary benefits of fame and fortune (usually in the form of 2 and 20). This is the ultimate goal of everyone who works on Wall Street. Yet, ironically, what most don't realize, is that these returns, or Returns On Investment (ROI), are absolutely meaningless when put side by side next to something few think about when considering investment returns.
Only in public schools and universities is the fairy tale still taught that governments are representative of the people. The blue collared man on the street realizes the chips are stacked against him. For those who don’t have political connections, the pseudo fascist system that is still referred to as “capitalism” in the U.S. is akin to a casino game of chance. That is, the odds are always in the house’s favor. The house is the federal leviathan and its equivalent at the state and local level as well as the big, cartelized industries which feed off government protection. With Obamacare, the middle class will end up being liable for yet another entitlement program that, like any other government initiative, will cost more than was initially estimated. Worse yet, they will be bombarded with advertisements they paid for which attempt to convince them that Uncle Sam has once again delivered prosperity with a badge and a gun. The disheartening part is some Americans will be foolish enough to actually believe it.
In a brief clip from a lengthier discussion between historian Niall Ferguson and ex-Greek PM George Papandreou at this week's Zeitgeist conference, the effusive Englishman lays out perfectly what many are missing with regard to Europe: "Greece is not the problem - it is a symptom of a much more profound malaise that affects the entire monetary union." - just as Lehman Brothers was not the 'cause' of the US's problems. The wasted energy spent moralizing about the 'work habits' of Mediterranean citizens as being the problem is incorrect as this is a European-wide problem - a systemic crisis of European banking and public finance. Papandreou pipes in by noting, in typical toe-the-line manner, that Germany must swerve (in the game of chicken) or there is a major danger of disintegration because "there will be contagion".
On any other occasion, we would translate this title from the German into English, however at this point in the European lifecycle it is self-explanatory. A poll was conducted by Germany's ZDF today, asking many questions, but this one above all. The answers were then compared to a similar poll conducted six months ago. It is pretty clear which way Germany is leaning (certainly not the one suggested by a very clueless Peter Mandelson during the Munk Debates).
Munk Debates Live: "Has The European Experiment Failed?" - Niall Ferguson And Others Dissect Today's Most Critical IssueSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/25/2012 - 19:02
Today's most exciting piece of financial analysis and debate has been conveniently saved until early evening, when courtesy of BNN's "Munk Debates" we will get a great discussion on the number one topic of the times: whether the European experiment has failed. Arguing for the argument will be famed historian Niall Ferguson as well as Josef Joffe, while the contra side will be defended by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Peter Mandelson. Courtesy of BNN: "In the sweep of human history, the European Union stands out as one of humankind's most ambitious endeavors. It encompasses half a billion people, twenty-seven member states, twenty-three languages and an economy valued at over $15 trillion. Modern Europe's stunning achievements aside, its sovereign debt crisis has shaken the world's largest political and economic union to its core. Can the federal institutions and shared values of Europeans meet the challenges of debt crisis that are as much political as economic? Or, are Europe's current woes indicative of a series of deep structural faults that will doom the European Union to breakup and failure?"
While eugenicists and Keynesians make correct descriptive observations — like the fact that certain qualities and traits are inheritable, or more simply that children are like their parents — their attempts to use the state as a mechanism to control these natural systems often turns out to be drastically worse than the natural systems that they seek to replace. As Keynes seems to admit when — in the German language edition of his General Theory — he noted that the conditions of a totalitarian state may be more amenable to his economic theory, the desire for control may be the real story here. Keynesianism brings more of the economy under the control of the state. It is a slow and creeping descent into dependency on the state. As we are seeing in Europe today, cuts in state spending in a state-dependent economy can cause deep economic contraction, providing the Keynesian more confirmation for his idea that the state should tax more, and spend more. That is, until nature intervenes. Just as a state-controlled eugenics program might well spawn an inbred elite suffering hereditary illnesses as a result of a lack of genetic diversity, so a state-controlled economy may well grind itself into the dirt as it runs out of innovation as a result of a lack of economic diversity. Such a situation is unsustainable — no planner is smarter than nature.
FaceBook is now not only the worst (from an investor standpoint) large IPO in the past decade, but by the time Andy Borowitz is done with it, it will also be the funniest. Today, having previously presented the world with the "adjusted" letter from Zuck, and introduced PhoneBook, Borowitz gives us the low down on the Facebook founder's own post-mortem.
Presenting How Carl Icahn Accumulated A 7.5% Stake In Chesapeake In 18 Days, And His Letter To The CHK BoardSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/25/2012 - 16:38
Recall when Zero Hedge said two weeks ago that in the age of ZIRP, corporate balance sheets simply do not matter. The reason for that conclusion were of course the endless public debates over whether Chesapeake's massively overlevered capital structure would lead to its demise. Our view was that while balance sheets certainly matter in a normal market, one not dominated by central planning and endless hunger for yield, in the new ZIRP normal, none of the old school metrics of solvency, viability or even profitability matter. One person who appears to have agreed with our assessment, and put his money where his mouth is, or $775MM more specifically, is none other than legendary corporate raider Carl Icahn, who minutes ago announced that funds controlled by Icahn have raised their stake in CHK to 7.56%, making him the second biggest holder of the stock, and in a letter just sent to the CHK Board, in rather angry tones, demanded 2 board seats for his own representatives and 2 for Chesapeake's largest shareholder Southeastern Asset Management. Below we chart just how it is that beginning on April 19 at a price of $18.03, Icahn's funds accumulated over a period of 18 days, a total of 49.4 million shares of stock at what appears to be a Volume Weighted Average Cost of $15.70/share, meaning that as of the stock spike on this announcement he is currently in the money.