Short of the complete destruction of a fiat currency, there is nothing that can demonstrate beyond doubt the shallowness of the promise to protect purchasing power that is being made on any day. There is no bright line separating performance from talk. With a gold standard, deception is much more difficult. Creating too much money will lead to redemptions that drain away the official gold stockpile. Everyone can see the inventory shrinking. If it shrinks to zero, then the managers of the system have failed, period. There is no ambiguity about it, and the politicians in charge at the time have little room for denial. The formal adoption of a gold standard holds no magic. It's just another promise. But it is a promise that carries an assured potential for egg-on-face political embarrassment if it is broken, and the only way for the people in charge to avoid that embarrassment is to refrain from recklessly expanding the supply of cash. That's why a gold standard protects the value of a currency, and that is why the politicians don't want it.
Color us not stunned at all. China's Manufacturing PMI finally reverted to the reality that HSBC's Manufacturing PMI has been arguing for and fell for the first time in six months. The drop is the largest since February 2010. While still above 50 (though the lowest level of expansion in five months), or 50.4 technically, down from 53.4, and missing expectations of 52.0, it seems another engine of global growth just sputtered finally - as the real impact of a European depression and fiscally challenged US hit home.
Was it just a week ago that we suggested buying Burlington Northern CDS (credit protection) as the cheapest Black-Swan bet against Buffett and Bernanke's ebullience? The answer is yes. And from the start of May the cost of protection has doubled from around 15bps to just over 30bps - quite a surge as it seems more than a few funds thought this a worthwhile trade to tuck in the back pocket at a minimal carry cost. At 32bps mid (31/34), it remains cheap still from a carry perspective and while we are approaching the initial profit target, the reason for buying this low cost, long vol trade is the huge convexity upside should things go a little more pear-shaped for the Octogenarian-of-Omaha - or more specifically for the US equities in general. We do note that if this keeps pushing past our other profit-targets then some should be covered since counterparty risk will rapidly become an issue (unless the Fed officially becomes a CCP).
If Raoul Pal was some doomsday spouting windbag, writing in all caps, arbitrarily pasting together disparate charts to create 200 page slideshows, it would be easy to ignore him. He isn't. The founder of Global Macro Investor "previously co-managed the GLG Global Macro Fund in London for GLG Partners, one of the largest hedge fund groups in the world. Raoul came to GLG from Goldman Sachs where he co-managed the hedge fund sales business in Equities and Equity Derivatives in Europe... Raoul Pal retired from managing client money in 2004 at the age of 36 and now lives on the Valencian coast of Spain, from where he writes." It is his writing we are concerned about, and specifically his latest presentation, which is, for lack of a better word, the most disturbing and scary forecast of the future of the world we have ever seen....
And we see a lot of those.
When Iran's nuclear facilities were publicly crippled in 2011 by what then was considered a revolutionary computer virus which destroys physical equipment, many immediately assumed the virus originated in Israel for obvious reasons. They were wrong. In what can be described as the first presidentially-mandated and condoned act of cyberwarfare, one circumventing the War Powers Act of course, the NYT informs us that the order to physically impair Iranian sovereignty came from none other than the Nobel Peace prize winning president: Barack Obama.
Here we go again. Back in July 2011 we wrote an article entitled "The Real Banking Crisis" where we discussed the increasing instability of the Eurozone banks suffering from depositor bank runs. Since that time (and two LTRO infusions and numerous bailouts later), Eurozone banks, as represented by the Euro Stoxx Banks Index, have fallen more than 50% from their July 2011 levels and are now in the midst of yet another breakdown led by the abysmal situation currently unfolding in Greece and Spain.... Although the last eight months have not played out the way we would have expected for gold, they have played out the way we envisioned for the banks. The question now is how long this can go on for, and how long gold can remain under pressure in a banking crisis that has the potential to spread beyond Greece and Spain? So much now rests on the policy responses fashioned by the US Fed and ECB, and just as much also rests on what's left of European citizens' confidence in their local banking institutions. Neither of these things can be precisely measured or predicted, but we continue to firmly believe that depositors in Greece and Spain will choose gold over drachmas or pesetas if they have the foresight and are given the freedom to act accordingly. The number one reason we have always believed gold should be owned, and why we believe it will go higher, is people's growing distrust of the banking system - and we are now there. We will wait and see how the summer develops, and keep our attention firmly focused of the second phase of the bank run now spreading across southern Europe.
If there was one piece of news that could force an all out panic in a market already on the edge, it is that outgoing (as in finally departing) US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, was getting involved in the European Crisis. Sadly, this is precisely what happened.
- SPAIN DEPUTY PM: US TREASURY'S GEITHNER AGREES TO WORK WITH SPAIN TO RESOLVE BANK CRISIS - DJ
- SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA SAYS GEITHNER URGES SPAIN BANK SOLUTION
- SPAIN'S SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA TOLD GEITHNER OF REFORM EFFORTS
- GEITHNER DISCUSSED SPAIN'S PLANS TO STRENGTHEN FINANCE SECTOR
- SPAIN'S SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA TOLD GEITHNER OF REFORM EFFORTS
Sorry, Europe, you are now doomed.
Focusing on his supply-demand perspective of what drives stock prices and the heavy volume of corporate selling combined with mutual fund outflows that we have been so vociferous about, Charles Biderman of TrimTabs provides color on why, just like in 2010 and 2011, markets sold off in May. Whether you believe it is explicitly the angst-inspiring European malaise, Facebook's flop, or US macro deterioration and a pending fiscal cliff - the real driver is more shares chasing less cash as he puts it and reflexively the news exaggerates it or stalls it. Stock prices are likely to keep dropping, no matter what, until the Fed announces the next stimulus/easing (as we all know) but unfortunately this will have no impact on the real economy (though stocks will pop). Biderman berates the Fed for its constant insistence that this time is different and as far as the election 'our policies will bring about sustainable recovery and jobs' promises we will hear from both candidates, he succinctly summarizes thus: "What Bullshit! Where we are now as a world is: it's ok for government to lie for their own benefit".
One of breakout standup routines from the late, great George Carlin was his 1972 monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” In the presence of polite company, I shall not repeat them… but rest assured, the routine is still hilarious to this day. I wish I could say the same about the Department of Homeland Security… I wish I could say this is all a big joke… that the government’s “377 words you can never use online” is just some stupid comedy routine. But it’s not. And you just can’t make this stuff. After vigorous resistance, the Department of Homeland Security was finally forced into releasing it’s 2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder. It’s a manual of sorts, teaching all the storm troopers who monitor our Internet activity all day which key words to look for.
Everyone knows that Europe is divided into the Periphery (aka the PIIGS), and the Core (aka the countries that are supposed to be safe). What everyone also knows, is that the core, naively represented by Germany and France, supposedly has homogeneous distribution of economic growth and prospects. That all changed last year, when France moved from being a AAA-rated country, to a fallen superduper angel following the Moody's downgrade to AA+. Yet nowhere is the glaring divergence between these two formerly comparable economies than in the two articles cited below, both from the same publication, and both from today.
Well, they sold in May but did they go away? If today is any guide, they did as the swings across asset classes intraday were very reminiscent of 'death rattles' with trading scenarios becoming more and more binary and more and more extreme. Into the US macro data this morning risk assets in general were behaving in a synchronized manner. As the dismal data hit, it got wild with gold and stocks gapping down and Treasury yields crashing lower (10Y 1.53 handle!) only to be saved around the European close by chatter of IMF aid for Spain (funded by the selling of unicorn tears) at which stocks erupted (and while bonds, the USD, and Gold also reacted - they were far more muted). The afternoon was quiet until stocks had a mind of their own and went on a stop-hunt up to yesterday's late day highs (and that magical 1315 level) - pulling well away from any other asset-class reality - only to fail dismally, ending with an abrupt tumble back to sanity (just slightly in the red for the day) grabbing VWAP into the close. The signals were everywhere that risk was not 'on' no matter how hard stocks tried with high-yield credit (most notably the ETFs) surging and purging ending with a terrible dive (after popping up to VWAP after our earlier note) on heavy volume.
So Facebook keeps falling, and is now floating around the $27 mark. We’re a third of the way down to my IPO valuation of FB as worth roughly $2-4 a share (or 5-10 times earnings), although I wouldn’t be surprised for the market to stabilise at a higher price (at least until the next earnings figures come out and reveal — shock horror — that Facebook is terrible at making money). The really stunning thing is that even after all these falls, FB is still trading at 86 times earnings. What the hell did Morgan Stanley think they were doing valuing an IPO without any viable profit model at over 100 times earnings? The answer is that this was an exit strategy. This IPO was about the people who got in early passing on a stick of dynamite to a greater fool which incidentally is precisely the same bubble mentality business model as bond investors who are currently buying negative-real-yielding treasuries at 1.6% hoping to pass them onto a greater fool at 0.5% (good luck with that).
While stocks, gold, and the dollar are generally in sync, Treasuries appear modestly more bearish now (for stocks) but it is the high-yield bond ETFs that is making a few people nervous as they plunge on heavy volume (and well below their intrinsic value). Obviously no-one really knows what i going on at JPM, but fort some more color we note that IG9 10Y is trading wider once again offered at 169bps - so one wonders if the liquidity in HYG is allowing some unwinds (or more hedges to be laid out). Certainly stocks remain ignorant of it for now - though month-end may be impacting both.
If it appears like it was only yesterday that Goldman was advising clients to short the 10 Year Treasury, it is because it was... give or take a few months: From January: "Since the end of last August, we have argued that 10-yr US Treasury yields would not be able to sustain levels much below 2% in this cycle. Yields have traded in a tight range around an average 2% since September, including so far into 2012. We are now of the view that a break to the upside, to 2.25-2.50%, is likely and recommend going tactically short. Using Mar-12 futures contracts, which closed on Friday at 130-08, we would aim for a target of 126-00 and stops on a close above 132-00." We added the following: "As a reminder, don't do what Goldman says, do what it does, especially when one looks the firm's Top 6 trades for 2012, of which 5 are losing money, and 2 have been stopped out less than a month into the year." Sure enough, as we tabulated last night, those who had listened to this call, and also gone long stocks as Goldman urged on March 21, have lost nearly 30% in about 2 months. Those who listened to us and did the opposite, well, didn't. Which is why the just released note from the very same Garzarelli who 4 months ago was so gung ho on shorting bonds, just cut his bond yield forecast for the entire world, US Treasurys included: "We now see 10-year US Treasuries ending this year at 2.00% (from 2.50% previously, and 30bp above current forwards), rising to 2.50% (previously 3.25%, and 60bp above the forwards) by December 2013. The corresponding numbers for German Bunds are 1.75% and 2.25%." In other words, it is now that Doug Kass should have made his short bonds call: not when he did it, a month ago and got his face bathsalted right off. For those asking - yes: Goldman is now selling bonds to clients.