Another day, another delay, and still nothing is done.
- GREEK PREMIER SAYS OUTSTANDING ISSUE NEEDS FURTHER WORK
- GREEK PREMIER SAYS DISCUSSION TO CONTINUE ON OUTSTANDING ISSUE
- PAPDEMOS SAYS AIMS TO CONCLUDE LOAN TALKS AHEAD OF THURSDAY'S EUROGROUP MEETING
And on the off chance that Greece, gasp, does not actually get something done by the deadline, it means that at tomorrow's meeting the only topic of discussion will be the calorie content in the taxpayer funded pastries. In the meantime, some semblance of reality is creeping back into the EURUSD.
Bloomberg reports that at almost 1 am local time, the Greek government meeting has broken up, and the head of LAOS is speaking, and by the looks of things, is not going along with the program:
- KARATZAFERIS SAYS HE DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO STUDY MEASURES
- KARATZAFERIS SAYS HE NEEDS LEGAL ASSURANCES ON MEASURES
- KARATZAFERIS SAYS HE MIGHT CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT DESPITE NOT AGREEING TO DEAL
- KARATZAFERIS SAYS HE MADE HIS POSITIONS CLEAR EARLY IN MEETING
- KARATZAFERIS SAYS HE APPRECIATES THE PREMIER'S EFFORTS
- KARATZAFERIS SUPPORTED ND LEADER ON ISSUE OF PENSIONS
Translation: no deal. And, dum dum dum, another headlines says that the Troika is now back in Papademos' office. The suspense builds.
And so the legend of the once invincible "hedge fund titan" Phil Falcone, often the target of mockery and ridicule on the pages of Zero Hedge, ends, after his now irrelevant hedge fund which peaked in the tens of billions back in 2006/2007 is forced to borrow a secured loan from Jefferies at a 15% rate. The reason - the firm's all in gamble in satellite communication company LightSquared, which is also pretty much finished following today's announcement by airline carriers who said that LightSquared would "ruin US aviation." That, and pretty much everything else that Falcone invested in in the past 5 years. Check and mate. This also answers our question from August 2010 "Is Phil Falcone's Mega Bet On [LightSquared] Going To Be His Last?" It is.
Diamond Foods Fires CEO, CFO After Audit Committee Finds Books Have Been "Cooked" For The Past Two YearsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/08/2012 - 17:24
First, small momo-favorite companies. Next: entire nations. Finally: the all-seeing, all-dancing central banks. Today, Diamond Foods just fired its CEO and CFO after the audit committee found its books have been cooked, only phrased more politically correct: "the Audit Committee has carefully reviewed the accounting treatment of certain payments to walnut growers. The Audit Committee has concluded that a "continuity" payment made to growers in August 2010 of approximately $20 million and a "momentum" payment made to growers in September 2011 of approximately $60 million were not accounted for in the correct periods, and the Audit Committee identified material weaknesses in the Company's internal control over financial reporting." Cue the class action lawsuits. When everything is said and done, the US investor will find that the Madoff M.O. of "doing business" has simply shifted to corporate America, where courtesy of non-GAAP BS one can report whatever the investing public wants to believe, until it all blows up. In other news, the now fired executives were stunned to discover they are not getting an extra bonus for cooking the books, last heard mumbling "double standard" under their breath. And if anyone wonders why despite the confirmed "bull market" in stocks (driven entirely by the nearly $1 trillion liquidity injection from the ECB in the past 6 months), investors just pulled $1.8 billion out of US mutual funds yet again, this is your answer.
This week, Arizona legislators are voting on a package of bills that would be “Wisconsin on steroids” – banning collective bargaining, release time and automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks. The unions plan state capitol protests this week, so things are heating up and the story has already appeared in various national publications. Since union protests are planned for the capitol tomorrow it will likely involve a lot of drama and TV coverage. Yet like every issue there are pros and cons, and government unions are a very sensitive topic to be sure. While the TV coverage will certainly focus on the favorable side of unionization (after all, what is better for the economy than more people collecting paycheks.... even if these are ever diminishing paychecks) here is an infographic from the Goldwater Institute looking at the cost side of the equation.
Rising consumer credit means more consumption which leads to stronger economic growth. Let me explain. Individuals go to work to produce a good or service for which they are paid a finite amount of money for. With that income they pay taxes which leaves them with discretionary income from which to live on. Pay the rent, utilities, insurance and healthcare, food, clothes and put gas in the car and that pretty much consumes the majority of the paycheck. Today, the situation is quite different and a harbinger of potentially bigger problems ahead. The consumer is no longer turning to credit to leverage UP consumption - they are turning to credit to maintain their current living needs. Take a look at the chart of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) versus total consumer credit. Notice in the past year as consumer credit rose you saw an increase in PCE. In the last two months consumer credit has exploded higher but there has been virtually NO increase in PCE levels on a month over month basis. Retail sales during the Christmas shopping season we disappointing and this was even with a large decrease in gasoline prices. This situation becomes even more apparent when we begin to look at the longer term trends of real disposable incomes, consumer credit and personal saving rates.
At this point everyone is so habituated to worthless updates from Greece that we are shocked Bloomberg even noticed. Either way, here is latest Greek headline tape bomb, via BBG, which looks at a leaked Troika draft report obtained by Bloomberg.
- TROIKA DRAFT GREEK ACCORD SAYS 2012 GDP TO SHRINK AS MUCH AS 5% - so make that 15%-25% realistically
- GREECE TO CUT MEDICINE SPENDING TO 1.5% OF GDP FROM 1.9% OF GDP - why not just "cull" 15-20% of the population?
- GREECE PLEDGES TO MERGE ALL AUXILIARY PENSION FUNDS - one problem - following the default, there will be no pension funds left.
- GREECE TO PLEDGE 20% CUT IN MINIMUM WAGE IN TROIKA DRAFT - and Greek citizens pledge to never work again.
- TROIKA DRAFT GREEK ACCORD RENEWS PLEDGE TO CUT 150,000 EMPLOYEE - or the US equivalent of nearly 5 million workers...
But the winner is:
- TROIKA DRAFT GREEK ACCORD SEES RETURN TO GROWTH IN 2013 - OMFG.... no, did they just... HILARIOUS
Not like it is news, but... Out of one pocket, into another, and in the mean time "things get better" as Gross explains below. That said, we hope Bill knows where Allianz of A&G fame (which just happens to be the closest comp to our own AIG) falls in the pecking order of the European house of cards.
Irish Finance Minister saying that whatever the ECB does with Greece would be of interest to Ireland. So if ECB forgives Greek debt (directly or through EFSF), Ireland is going to want the same deal. Portugal won't be far behind. And why stop at ECB and not go for PSI as well?
The Treasury just sold $24 billion 10 Years in a completely unremarkable bond auction, which was virtually a carbon copy of the January sale of 10 Year, except with a slight drop in the Bid To Cover, which declined from 3.29 to 3.05, and an increase in the yield from 1.90% to 2.02%. All the other metrics were essentially the same as a month earlier: Directs at 17.9% vs 17.4% prior, Indirects 38.9% vs 38.4% before, and Dealers at 43.3% vs 44.4% before. And now, heartened by this successful sale, the Fed itself is in the market selling $8.00-$8.75 billion in 1.5 year bonds. In other words, bonds for everyone - it is a repo market ponzified debt issuance bonanza!
The last time the Fed tried to dump Maiden Lane 2 assets via a public auction in a BWIC manner, it nearly crashed the credit market. This time, the FRBNY, headed by one ex-Goldman Sachs alum Bill Dudley, has decided to go back to its shady, opaque ways, and transact in private, with no clear indication of the actual bidding process or transaction terms, and sell $6.2 billion in Maiden Lane 2 "assets" to, wait for it, Goldman Sachs, the same firm that would benefit in the first place if AIG's assets imploded (remember all those CDS it held on AIG which supposedly prevented it from losing money if AIG went bankrupt?). One wonders: does Goldman have a put option on the ML2 portfolio if the market experiences a sudden and totally impossible downtick some day? But all is well - we have assurance from the Fed that the sale happened in a "competitive process." Luckily, that takes care of any appearance of impropriety.
Will A be the new AA+? Perhaps, if the S&P follows through with its latest threat. Bloomberg reports that, "the U.S., lacking a plan to contain $1 trillion deficits, faces the prospect of another rating cut in six to 24 months depending on the outcome of November elections, according to John Chambers of Standard & Poor’s. America has had an AA+ rating with a negative outlook since Aug. 5 when the New York-based unit of McGraw-Hill Cos. stripped the nation of its AAA ranking for the first time, citing the government’s failure to agree on a path to reduce deficits. The U.S. has a one-in-three chance of another downgrade, Chamber said today during an S&P sponsored Webcast. “What the U.S. needs is not so much a short-term fiscal tightening, but it has to have a credible medium-term fiscal plan,” said Chambers, managing director of sovereign ratings." Too bad the US doesn't even have a fiscal plan what it will do tomorrow, let alone in the "medium-term" courtesy of the most deadlocked political system ever. As for "credible" - forget it. And as was shown, if the first US downgrade from August 5, 2011 broke the US stock market, we can't wait to find out how the Citadel-controlled, FRBNY-blessed stock market will deal with this particular event. In other news, we are still waiting to hear from Moody's on both the US and France.
We have discussed forecasts for the second (and certainly not last ) February 29 3 Year LTRO in the past, with expectations for its size ranging from €1 trillion all the way up to a mindboggling €10 trillion. Today, Goldman has conducted a poll focusing on investors and banks, to gauge the sentiment for what has over the past 2 months been taken as the latest Deus Ex, which is really nothing than yet another bout of quantitative easing, only one in which the central bank pretend to be sterilizing 3 year loans by accepting any and virtually all collateral that banks can scrape off the bottom of their balance sheets (as a reminder, back in the financial crisis, Zero Hedge discovered that the Fed was accepting stocks of bankrupt companies as collateral - certainly the ECB is doing the same now). And once the banks get the cash instead of lending it out, or using it for carry trades, they simply use it to plug equity undercapitalization due to massive asset shortfalls on their balance sheets which are mark-to-unicornTM, yet which generate zero cash flow, even as banks have to pay out cash on their liabilities. In essence, the banks convert worthless crap into perfectly normal cash with the ECB as an intermediary: and that is all the LTRO is. Luckily, as we pointed out, even the idiot market is starting to grasp the circular scam nature of this arrangement, and the fact that it is nothing short of Discount Window usage, and because of that, the stigma associated with being seen as needing this last ditch liquidity injection is starting to grind on the banks. It is only a matter of time before hedge funds create portfolios in which they go long banks which openly refuse to use LTRO cash, and short all the other ones (read every single Italian and Spanish bank out there, and most French ones too) because at the end of the day one can only fool insolvency for so long. But once again we are getting ahead of the market by about 3-6 weeks. In the meantime, and looking forward to the next LTRO, whose cash will be used exclusively to build up "firewalls" ahead of the Greek default, here is what Goldman's clients expect to happen...
The idea that the very same economic forces that are currently plaguing Greece, et al., are somehow not relevant to the United States' circumstances does not hold water. As goes the rest of the world, so goes the US. When we back up far enough, it is clear that money and debt are there to reflect and be in service to the production of real things by real people, not the other way around. With too much debt relative to production, it is the debt that will suffer. The same is true of money. Neither are magical substances; they are merely markers for real things. When they get out of balance with reality, they lose value, and sometimes even their entire meaning. This report lays out the case that the US is irretrievably down the rabbit hole of deficits and debt, and that, even if there were endless natural resources of increasing quality available at this point, servicing the debt loads and liabilities of the nation will require both austerity and a pretty serious fall in living standards for most people.