In the last days of 2012 we penned an article describing the current situation of the market as follows: "Margin Debt Soars To 2008 Levels As Everyone Is "All In", Levered, And Selling Vol." Today, Bloomberg catches up with this rather critical topic, and confirms that the buying power of the biggest marginal traders left in the market who do not recycled deposits into stocks - hedge funds - is nothing more than debt piled upon debt, as "Leverage among managers who speculate on rising and falling shares climbed to the highest level to start any year since at least 2004, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley." BBG also recaps what our readers already know: "Margin debt at NYSE firms rose in November to the most since February 2008, data from NYSE Euronext show." In other words: everyone is all in and levered. And soon, in about two weeks, Bloomberg will figure out that everyone, or at least a central bank here or there, is, indeed, "selling vol."
Because in a world in which markets no longer are affected by fundamentals, and reflect nothing more than what politicians (and their Wall Street lobbies) believe the "fair value" of risk assets should be, it is likely that any fat-tail events will emerge not out of the markets, but out of politics (and perhaps out of central banks, although it is a safe bet that the world's central planners will merely do much more of the same). The chart below summarizes the geopolitical hotspots of the coming 12 months, which together with everything else are no longer reflected in asset prices courtesy of the central banks completely destroying the market's discounting function.
If the Status Quo is ultimately a distribution system, as correspondent Simon H. proposes, then we should focus our attention on the inordinate share of the system's profits being distributed to the financial sector. Frequent contributor B.C. has ably captured this perfection of Neoliberal economic order in five charts. The essence of neoliberalism is that a liberalized financial sector will efficiently regulate itself via market mechanisms and make more profitable use of capital than either the State or the non-financial sectors of the economy. This is the classic theory, but in practice the Neoliberal financial sector is the ultimate perfection of cronyism and political corruption, as the Central Bank and State protect the financial sector's vast skim of the national income with a combination of toothless regulations and regulations that are only enforced for purposes of percetpion management (see Soviet Show Trials). When the aforementioned benign neglect is insufficient to divert the national income to the parasitic finance-rentier sector, then the Central Bank and State actively transfer taxpayer monies to the financial sector via tax breaks, loopholes, and massive direct and indirect subsidies.
While the furious defense of $500 the second AAPL crossed under the psychological barrier - the first time it did so in regular trading since February 15, 2012 - was promptly launched as otherwise the hedge fund community, which as we reported two weeks ago, and as Bloomberg caught on today, is more levered and long than at any moment in the past 9 years and is mostly invested in AAPL, we expect this intervention to eventually succumb to the inevitable French military campaign conclusion, as not even every HFT algo programmed to lift every offer under $500 can delay the inevitable arrival of a very sad cashflow reality. As for the Bank of Israel which is now about 5% underwater on its AAPL cost basis: don't worry - Ben will bail you out too.
As reported over the weekend, late on Friday French forces launched a military campaign, consisting primarily of airforce incursions, designed to crush the "Islamic extremists" in the country in order to protect "European interests" (it is unclear what these may be). Parallel with this came the first humiliation for French military forces as a French helicopter pilot was killed nearly at the same time as the offensive was launched. But even more embarrassing was the bungled attempt to rescue a hostage in Somalia, in which the hostage is said to have died (by France at least, not his captors), while at least one French commando is also reported to have been left behind. Moments ago, AP reported on the latest French military developments in Mali, which confirm that when it comes to the words "French military" and "success" will hardly ever be seen side by side. To wit: "Despite intensive aerial bombardments by French warplanes, Islamist insurgents grabbed more territory in Mali on Monday and got much closer to the capital, French and Malian authorities said. In the latest setback, the al-Qaida-linked extremists overran the garrison village of Diabaly in central Mali, France's defense minister said in Paris. Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday the rebels "took Diabaly after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army that couldn't hold them back." In other words, "before France sent its forces in on Friday, the closest known spot the Islamists were to the capital was 680 kilometers (420 miles) away"... while "by now sweeping in from the west, they are now only 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mali's capital, Bamako, in southern Mali." Yet another French military campaign stupendously executed.
What a long and wild ride it has been since then and the forks in the road have been marked with turmoil, disdain and an ever increasing amount of debt for this small nation. The solution for each and every problem has been more money appended by more taxes and more austerity measures and the Greeks keep lining up and will keep lining up until the cash dries up and then other conclusions will be found. You may think it is a never ending story and that the current act will go on forever but that would not be my bet nor do I think it is a likely conclusion. Whether it is the German Parliament or the IMF or some other nation in Europe under the guise of nationalism and prudence who has had enough and rightly says, “That is enough;” there is an ultimate endpoint to this game.
There are some people who are very confused by last week's news of the "second highest inflow into equity funds on history." First and foremost, this is not "retail" capital reallocation, as EFSF/Lipper compile primarily institutional and ETF flow data. And indeed, as we reported earlier last week, the injection into the market, which also includes allocation to such vehicles as equity funds and ETFs by institutions, was driven primarily by a $220 billion surge in deposits in December, subsequently used by banks to reinvest said capital (most of which, ironically, coming from equity sales by retail investors as banks simply take the proceeds and reinvest into stocks). At the same time, retail investors [sic] continued to solidly pull money out of equity mutual funds. But while the source of funds was wrong, the use of funds was indeed accurate, and in the first week of the year there was a massive, $22 billion allocation to equities, second only to the $23 billion dumped into equity funds in the third week of September 2007. What happened the first time we such such an epic injection (whether it is from deposits, or from levered funding, or who knows what)? Brad Wishak of Newedge shows very clearly what happened then.
The Central Bank of Ireland continues to be queried about the status of the Irish gold reserves. It has been reluctant to release information and said that it is “not obliged” to release information due to certain “rules and regulations”. Ireland's finance minister, Michael Noonan, has also been asked about the country's gold vaulted at the Bank of England, such as whether the gold is held in allocated form with a bar list available and whether the gold is leased out into international markets. Answers are as of yet not forthcoming. The Sunday Independent, Ireland’s best selling Sunday broadsheet covered the story yesterday in an article (see news) published yesterday which is being widely shared on the internet and commented upon: Bankrupt Ireland owns six tonnes of gold, the bulk of which is held at the Bank of England, it has been revealed. The Central Bank of Ireland said the value of its gold holdings was €235m last time it checked. This represents just over 1 per cent of its total investments. A spokeswoman said the Central Bank was a party to the Washington Agreement on Gold, which recognised gold as an important element of global monetary reserves. She said the Central Bank had not entered into any lease arrangements regarding any of its gold but would not provide specific details of its storage arrangements with the Bank of England.
Yesterday, Citigroup floated the idea that a temporary government shutdown once the full array of debt ceiling extension measures expires some time in mid/late February, is possible, which would also mean the first technical default of the US depending on the prioritization of US debt payments. Now, Politico reports that this idea is rapidly gaining support within the GOP and that "more than half of GOP members are prepare to allow default unless Obama agress to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes." It gets better... or worse depending how many ES contracts on is long: "Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”" Of course, at this point not even a US government bankruptcy may send the ES more than one or two ticks lower. After all, there is no risk of anything happening anywhere, any time.
The week ahead will deliver important data from the US and China. In the US, the focus will be on retail sales and housing starts, as well as on the Philadelphia Fed and U. Michigan Consumer Sentiment surveys. Turning to China, the consensus forecast for China Q4 GDP is 7.8%yoy, while secondary data will come from the country's IP and FAI data updates.
- Guess who doesn't believe in the "great rotation out of bonds and into stocks": Abe Aids Bernanke as Japan Seen Buying Foreign Debt (BBG)
- AIG Sues Federal Reserve Vehicle in Dispute Over Lawsuit Rights (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Said to Weigh Disclosing Whale Report Faulting Dimon (BBG)
- Ugly Choices Loom Over Debt Clash (WSJ)
- Credit Suisse to cut bonus pool by 20 percent (Reuters)
- Brazilian Bikini Waxes Make Crab Lice Endangered Species (BBG)
- EU redrafts plan for bank rescue funding (FT)
- JCPenney stock plunges after bad holiday (NY Post)
- Regulator Comments Buoy Shanghai Stocks (WSJ)
- Japan voters back PM Abe's efforts to spur growth, beat deflation (Reuters)
- Cameron averts row over Europe speech (FT)
- Swatch Buys Harry Winston Jewelry Brand for $1 Billion (BBG)
We are back to that phase in market euphoria where no news is good news, good news is better, and bad news is best. While there was little news over the weekend, and overnight, what news there was uniformly negative: northern China drowning in smog, the Apple fad bubble bursting, European Industrial production printing below expectations (-0.3%, exp.-0.2%, down from revised -1.0%), and ever louder rumors that the debt ceiling debate may metastasize into an actual government shutdown for at least a few days, which means the first technical default in US history. Yet nothing seems able to faze the risk on mood, still driven by a relentless surge in the EURUSD which touched on 1.34 overnight before retracing, and the EURCHF, which too has soared by over a 100 pips in recent trading action, which according to some is a result of Swatch buying the Harry Winston watch and jewelry brand for $1 billion, and an aggressively selling of CHF into USD by the company. Eventwise, today will be a quiet day in the US, although the action will pick up tomorrow as more companies report earnings as well as the all important retail sales report will put to rest all debate over just how good or bad this holiday shopping season (pre and post seasonal adjustments) truly was.
AAPL stock is currently trading at or just under the $500 "generational bottom" in the premarket session, or nearly a one year low, following news first from Japan's Nikkei that Apple has slashed orders for iPhone 5 components, and then from the WSJ, that demand for the flagship phone was far less than expected, resulting in a cut in orders in the supply chain. Per the WSJ: "Apple's orders for iPhone 5 screens for the January-March quarter, for example, have dropped to roughly half of what the company had previously planned to order, the people said. The Cupertino, Calif., company has also cut orders for components other than screens, according to one of the people. Apple notified the suppliers of the order cut last month, the people said."
In a world in which the NSA has access to everything, including - soon - one's bank accounts, because "the government is there to protect you", it was only a matter of time before the logical extension of abdicating all privacy was enforced in the city that never sleeps, and which ended up with 24/7 vigilant "alarm clocks" in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, "for the sake of security." From RT: "The head of the New York City Police Department announced this week that the largest local law enforcement agency in the United States might soon rely on spy drones for conducting surveillance. During an open conversation held Thursday between Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, the chief of police confirmed that New York’s boys in blue aren’t entirely opposed to acquiring an unmanned aerial vehicle for the sake of security. “We’re looking into it," Kelly reportedly told an audience at the 92nd Street Y Thursday evening. “Anything that helps us.”