The official release, just issued by HM Treasury, is below. The unofficial one is as follows: "The successful candidate must have proficiency with the CTRL and P buttons. Must sound confident and sophisticated when talking in circles while saying nothing. Must be malleable to financial sector suggestions. All other considerations secondary."
Last week we discussed what the expectations were for Draghi's OMT - approximately EUR250bn - which coincidentally provided cover for the rest of the year (conditionally) for the entire new issuance of the European Union. Based on EURUSD's recent exuberance - something we saw ahead of QE1 and QE2 - the market is now more than primed for some serious USD debasement. The current EURUSD of 1.2850 implies a Fed-to-ECB balance sheet ratio around 1.11x. If we assume the ECB wil not have to fire its conditional bazooka (of which is priced in 100% likelihood of EUR250bn), then the Fed is expected to conjure a monetization scheme of around USD580bn - anything less would be a disappointment to the market. However, if we assume the ECB will be doing it's bond-buying monetization thing - as per the equity market's expectations - then the Fed will need to come to the table with a bag of swag around USD850bn in order to debase the USD just enough to regain some hope. It seems like the market has priced in a great deal of monetary policy exuberance - especially considering how 'confident' consumers appear to be.
To all who miss the highly volatile days of August 2011, when as a result of the congressional deadlock on the debt ceiling, and the S&P downgrade of the US, the DJIA swung by 400 points every day for 4 days in a row just to get Congress to come to the "compromise" exposed in painful detail by Bob Woodward a few days ago, fear not: they are coming back, and with a vengeance. Because while last year only the debt ceiling was under discussion, now we get the double whammy of the debt ceiling and the Fiscal cliff. And just so the suspense meter is pushed off the charts early, and the performance gets maximum billing for theatrics if not execution, House Speaker John Boehner has just said he's not confident Congress can reach a budget deal and avoid a downgrading of the U.S. debt rating. Let us paraphrase: there will be no deal until the 11th hour, 59th minute, 59th second, and 999th millisecond, at which point the market will plunge and get Congress to do what it always does: Wall Street's bidding, which now and always, is a smooth and seamless continuation of the status quo.
Just in case there wasn't enough excitement and fury directed at Swiss bank account holders, which continue to dominate the presidential election "debate" above such mundane topics as the economy, or, say, reality, here comes the IRS, which as we noted yesterday collected $192 billion less than the government spent in the month of August alone, and have awarded Bradely Birkenfeld, a former UBS employee who in 2008 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and was sentenced in 2009 to 40 months in prison, but received preferential whistleblower status after a prior arrangement to expose numerous Americans with Swiss bank accounts, has just been awarded $104 million.
The Second Great Depression officially started in December 2007. The NBER tells us that the recession that started at the same time ended some time in the summer of 2009. The Second Great Depression continues. The chart below shows the cumulative increase in Americans receiving foodstamps and disability benefits since December 2007 on the positive Y-Axis, and the jobs lost on the negative Y-axis. No additional explanation is necessary.
Gallup's US economic confidence index surged 11 points last week (more than the 10 points when Bin Laden was killed) and has reached levels comparable to the pre-crisis highs from January 2008. As Gallup notes, it appears that the spark for the dramatic rise in Americans' economic confidence last week was the Democratic National Convention. A review of Gallup's nightly tracking results shows that the index was consistently near or below -25 each night in late August and early September, but then sharply improved on Sept. 4, the first night of the convention, to -18. Confidence then held at or near -18 through Sunday, despite the dismal August unemployment report Friday morning showing continued weak jobs growth. More specifically, the convention appears to have given Democrats and, to a lesser degree, independents, fresh optimism about the economy. We can only assume that the cognitive dissonance of the hope-holding believers-in-change will not carry through to real economic growth or all those other 'hopers' - the 'this-time-QE-is-different' crowd - will be sadly disappointed.
"...the only smiles you see in Wall Street are on the photocopied photos of the missing that family and friends have taped to walls, mailboxes and lampposts. It may take a long time for smiles to naturally return to Wall Street. It may take a long while to find those criminals who took our smiles and our friends. But, we will have patience. As our President said – "We will not tire. We will not falter. We will not fail!"
Despite the exuberance in Spanish equity and bond markets (which in the US managed to create a quadruple-dip bounce), home prices just can't get a break in the troubled bailout-less nation. According to TINSA, the general home price in Spain fell 11.6% YoY, and has recent reaccelerated with a 2.8% drop sequentially as hope for a third-time's-the-charm bounce now faded for the forelorn real estate market. The Mediterranean Coast suffered the most, -14.7% YoY (and are down a cumulative 39.5% from the highs). Overall, Spanish house prices are down a cumulative 32.4% from the December 2007 highs (back to 2003 levels). This re-acceleration of the downturn in home prices is hardly what the Dreme is made of as bank balance sheets come under further pressure; deposit outflows will simply not stop until there is underlying improvement in bank collateral, i.e. mortgages and housing values; and so in effect, all this news indicates is that bank balance sheets are even more impaired than previously believed (tourniquet or amputation?).
In a sad case of deja vu all over again, the over-reliance on 'shaky' collateral and concentration of risk is building once more - this time in the $648 trillion derivatives market. New Clearing House rules (a la Dodd-Frank) mean derivatives counterparties are required to pledge high quality collateral with the clearing houses (or exchanges) in a more formalized manner to cover potential losses. However, the safety bid combined with Central Banks monetization of every sovereign risk asset onto their balance sheet has reduced the amount of quality collateral available; this scarcity of quality collateral creates liquidity problems. The dealers, ever willing to create fee-based business, have created a repo-like program to meet the needs of the desperate derivative counterparties - to enable them to transform lower-quality collateral into high quality collateral - which can then be posted to the clearing house or exchange. This collateral transformation, while meeting a need, runs the risk of concentrating illiquid low quality assets on bank balance sheets. In essence the next blow up risk is the eureka moment when all banks are forced to look at the cross-posted collateral. Last time it was the 'fair-value' of housing, now it is the 'fair-value' of 'transformed' collateral that is pledged at par and is really worth nickels on the dollar - "The dealers look after their own interests, and they won’t necessarily look after the systemic risks that are associated with this."
13 months ago, in the aftermath of the debt ceiling fiasco, which we now know was a last minute compromise achieved almost entirely thanks to the market plunging to 2011 lows, S&P had the guts to downgrade the US. Moody's did not. Now, it is Moody's turn to fire up the threat cannon with a release in which it says that should the inevitable come to pass, i.e. should congressional negotiations not "lead to specific policies that produce a stabilization and then downward trend in the ratio of federal debt to GDP over the medium term" then "Moody's would expect to lower the rating, probably to Aa1" or a one notch cut. Moody's also warns that should a repeat of last year's debt ceiling fiasco occur, it will also most likely cut the US. Of course, that the US/GDP has risen by about 8% since the last August fiasco has now been apparently forgotten by both S&P and Moodys. Sadly, continued deterioration in the US credit profile is inevitable, as every single aspect of modern day lives that is "better than its was 4 years ago" has been borrowed from the future. More importantly, with the S&P at multi year highs courtesy of Bernanke using monetary policy to replace the need for fiscal policy, Congress will see no need to act, and Moody's warning will be completely ignored. This will continue until it no longer can.
America's July trade deficit came in slightly better than expected, printing at $42 billion, compared to expectations of $44.4 billion, on exports of $183.3 billion and imports of $225.3 billion, which was to be expected in light of the ongoing drop in Chinese net trade surplus. After all global trade is a zero sum game. The better than expected number was an increase from the revised July deficit of -$41.9 billion, revised lower from $42.9 billion in June. And while GDP beancounter calculations will generate slightly higher Q3 GDP forecasts as a result of the number and revision, the reason for the "improvement" is an ongoing contraction in global trade, which is anything but favorable for the world's economies for which any diversion from a status quo M.O. means longer-term pain.
By now everyone knows about the collapse in Chinese iron ore consumption, electricity production and luxury good demand (see Burberry), as well as the record copper stockpiling, all of which point to the arrival of the long-deferred Chinese hard landing. Rumors, subsequential denials notwithstanding, that Chinese Hu Jintao successor Xi Jinping may or may not be missing, are not helping. Below we present yet another data point which had, for the longest time managed to diverge from the underlying Chinese economic reality, only for it too now to recouple with gravity with a bang: Chinese crude imports. Coming in at 18.4 million barrels, this was a 16% plunge from July's total imported energy needs, and is the lowest print since mid-2010 swoon, first crossed to the upside back in early 2009. Which likely is where the general Chinese economy is as well, at least in terms of actual demand. Only this time instead of going from the lower left to the upper right, to quote Dennis Gartman, it is doing the inverse.
Central bank demand internationally continues and demand for gold in the increasingly volatile Middle East remains robust as seen in data from the Istanbul Gold Exchange. It showed that Turkey’s gold imports were 11.3 metric tons last month alone. Silver imports were 6.7 tons, the data show. Much of these imports may be destined for Iran where imports have surged an astonishing 2,700% in just one year – from $21 million to $6.2 billion. In the first seven months of this year, Turkey's exports to Iran have also skyrocketed to $8 billion, up from $2 billion in the same period last year. And it is widely believed that the major portion of the increase, which is $6 billion, stems from the export of gold. There is speculation that the Iranian central bank is buying gold and that they may be accepting gold in payment for oil and gas in order to bypass western sanctions. Turkey is paying for the oil and natural gas it is importing from Iran in gold, Turkish opposition deputies have claimed, drawing attention to the enormous increase in Turkey's gold exports to Iran in 2012. “Gold is being used as an instrument for payment. Under the guise of exportation, gold is being sent to Iran in exchange for oil,” Sinan Aygün, a deputy from the Republican People's Party (CHP), has told Turkish daily Today's Zaman.
Equities traded lower in Europe today as market participants continued to book profits after a rally to 13-month highs on growing concerns that even though the Constitutional Court in Germany will dismiss the injunction, it may enforce certain conditions. In addition to that, yesterday’s comments from Spain’s Rajoy who said that the new ECB backstop makes a bailout for his country less urgent. As a result, there is a risk that markets may scale back their expectations of an imminent full-scale bailout and in turn lead to another speculative attack on Spanish bonds. This, together with touted profit taking, saw the short-end in Spain and Italy come under pressure (2y Spanish yield up 8bps and 2y Italian yield up 7bps). In turn, this supported duration assets throughout the session. Looking elsewhere, the looming elections failed to deter investors from the latest DSL tap, which drew a record low yield. Going forward, the second half of the session will see the release of the latest Trade Balance data from the US, as well as the weekly API report. In addition to that, the US Treasury will sell USD 32bln in 3y notes.