It is still not too late to short that consumer discretionary basket, albeit with a footnote: whatever you do don't short the ultra luxury retailers. Those will be doing very good, courtesy of all their shoppers having the Amex Discount Window credit card. Everyone else: better luck next time. As the chart below from BofA shows the May retail SSS data turned very sour with 12 misses and only 5 beats, and just like every other segment, very soon the stock market, which since Jackson Hole has been reacting to newsflow like a retárd, will finally grasp that even with nobody paying their mortgage, the reality of diminishing squatter returns is unavoidable. That said, since the data comes from Bank of America, naturally there would be a scapegoat: "may results were negatively impacted by unseasonably cool weather as well as pressure from high gas prices." That's ok: In keeping with tradition, QE3 will very soon be blamed on unreasonably normal weather.
The Federal Reserve, just like Atlas, continues carrying the weight of if not the world, then certainly the stock market on its shoulders. As expected, both the Fed's balance sheet, and its economic equivalent, the Adjusted Monetary Base, just hit fresh all time records. This will continue for 4 more weeks at which point QE2 will end and what happens next will depend entirely on what side of the bed Bernanke wakes on.
Adding insult to injury, the SEC costs business billions of dollars annually – probably scores of billions, if you take all the secondary and trickle-down costs into account: direct fees, legal fees, printing, mailing, and other costs of compliance. They have a direct budget cost of something over a billion dollars per year, but that’s trivial relative to the indirect costs they impose on the economy. They ought to be ashamed, diverting a significant fraction of GDP from productive use into the pockets of parasites, in the name of protecting business and investors, when they do the opposite. The SEC is like a Pied Piper who attracts ravening hordes of rats with his flute instead of getting rid of them – and then charges people tenfold for the “service.” This is one agency I would abolish, immediately and completely. Not a single one of its functions should even be handed off to other agencies. The SEC serves absolutely no useful purpose whatsoever – just the opposite. It’s not a question of getting it under control or paring it back. It should be eliminated in toto.
Moody's Leaked Again: Told Nancy Pelosi Will "Probably Not" Downgrade US Weeks Ago; Did Her Multi-Millionaire Investor Husband Know...Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/02/2011 - 19:30
Moody's reputation for leaking inside information is well-known: after all it was one of its own employees, Deep "Throat" Shah, who leaked to infamous hedge fund Galleon information of upcoming LBOs. But at least that wasn't information originating from Moody's: the world's most incompetent rating agency was merely a conduit. Yet we were little surprised to learn that the firm that facilitated the housing bubble, and where such apparatchiks as Mark Zandi reside, informed none other than House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi that it likely wouldn't downgrade the US debt as long as several weeks ago. Per Dow Jones: "Moody's earlier Thursday took the unusual step of warning that it might place the U.S. government's debt rating under review for a possible downgrade. The agency said the review would come if Congress doesn't make progress on raising the country's debt ceiling. Pelosi said she was alerted to the Moody's report just after House Democrats met with President Barack Obama at the White House. She said a few weeks ago she was in New York and the head of Moody's told her that it "would probably not downgrade, so this is interesting news today," she said. "But the fact is we cannot default" on the debt." We are relieved to learn that the head of Moody's, a firm which only last summer received a Wells Notice from the SEC, in an investigation which was promptly scuttled by powerful and rich people, takes its responsibility of protecting material, non-public information with such passion. Yet it is the topic of another leak of non-public information, and not Moody's criminal incompetence, that bothers us. Because as we noted last week, it is now proven scientifically that members of both Congress and Senate (especially democrats), tend to trade a littel too much on inside information. And even if not Ms. Pelosi, who precisely will guarantee us that Ms Pelosi's husband, multi-millionaire Paul Pelosi who just happens to be the owner of Financial Leasing Services, Inc., a San Francisco, California-based real estate and venture capital investment and consulting firm, did not procure the Moody's inside information courtesy of wagging tongues at Moody's and in his wife's mouth, and then proceed to trade accordingly. Alas, with the regulator in charge being the same one who let the whole Moody's investigation get deadended in record time, we are not hopeful of getting any information or justice. Ever.
According to China Business the earthquake and tsunami halted production at most of Japan’s giant solar power companies, including Kyocera, Sharp and Sanyo because of the subsequent lack of electricity. Prior to the earthquake China and Japan essentially shared the European photovoltaic (PV) market; since the earthquake analysts predict that Japan will lose one quarter of its market share. The shift has already started, as The Nikkei business daily reported on Wednesday that Softbank Corp, Japan's third-largest mobile phone operator, has announced plans to assist in the construction of about ten 20-megawatt facilities, costing about 8 billion yen ($100 million) each. But, as in many Western countries dominated by the nuclear and oil industries, solar energy policies have up to now enjoyed fitful support in Japan, where pioneers such as Sharp Corp and Kyocera Corp have lost their lead to overseas rivals that received larger subsidies and lower production costs. Furthermore, the cost of solar panel installation in Japan is double that in Germany. So, who will be one of the major beneficiaries of this policy shift towards reducing solar costs? China, surprise surprise.
Treasury Continues To Dip Into Retirement Accounts, Prepares To "Take Out" $66 Billion Chunk To Make Room For New Bond IssuanceSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/02/2011 - 17:32
Today, very quietly, the Treasury released its latest refunding announcement, in which it disclosed it would issue another $66 billion in 3, 10 and 30 Year notes next week. The irony of course is that the US is and continues to be at its debt ceiling limit (or just $25 million short of it), at a total of $14,293,975 million. Furthermore, as was also disclosed by the Treasury, this gross issuance will also be the net amount added in marketable debt, as upon settlement on June 15, there will be no redemptions of maturing bonds. Which simply means that the continued "disinvesting" (which is merely a polite word for plundering) from intragovernmental debt, also known as retirement accounts, is about to kick into high gear. As a reminder, the only solution that Geithner currently has to run the government, at least until August 2 when even this runs out, is to slowly drain the debt in non-marketable accounts, in the form of Suspension of G-Fund and ESF reinvestments, as well as the Redemption and suspension of of CSRDF Investments, measure which when combined will provide a short-term buffer of $232 billion. Yet for all practical purposes, what is happening is that retirement accounts are now being seriously plundered, and if the unthinkable were to happen, and the debt ceiling would not rise, not only would the US be in technical default, but various retirement funds, which already are underfunded, would find themselves even more severely in the Red. As the chart below shows, the total amount of intragovernmental debt currently outstanding, has dropped to levels last seen in early April, even as total debt has continued its steadfast move higher. The scary thing is that by the time August 2 rolls around, the current total of $4.608 trillion in various Trust Funds, will drop to well about $4.4 trillion, or an implicit 6% underfunding in 2 months merely to keep the bloated government operating for a few more months.
There was a time when depositor institutions (which nowadays paradoxically includes such entities as Goldman Sachs and its millions of ATMs crisscrossing the land), not flush with unprecedented amounts of bank reserves (which just hit an all time record high of $1.59 trillion), would go to the Fed's discount window for short-term funding needs: a stigmatized act which telegraphed to the street that the borrowing bank was undergoing some form of liquidity crunch. Not surprisingly, the Fed fought tooth and nail to prevent discount window disclosure from becoming public, especially since it was later discovered that the biggest recipients of Fed Discount Window generosity were foreign banks, and especially Dexia. We bring this up because going through the Fed's weekly balance sheet update (yes, it just hit a new all time record, and yes, we will provide a full breakdown soon) we find that weekly borrowings across the Fed's three discount window facilities, Primary, Secondary and Seasonal Credit, surged to a 2011 high of just over $100 million, and also saw the very first usage of the "reserved for really ugly bank" Secondary Credit Facility in the current year to the tune of $9 million. Yes, in the grand scheme of things this is a modest number, but when one considers that with all the liquidity sloshing around there should be no discount window borrowings at all, the fact that we have had such a dramatic spike is troubling to say the least. As for the culprit, we have one guess. If proven correct, this would mean that the emergency liquidity provisioning system of the ECB is starting to get a little "problematic" to put it mildly.
With all the commotion associated with the Groupon IPO, some may have missed that in scrambling to take advantage of the IPO window which closes on June 30 with the end of QE2, today music streaming company Pandora (Proposed ticker symbol "P") announced it would increase the money it would attempt to raise publicly up to $142 million at a price of $7-9/share for 13.7 million shares (of which 8.7 million are from selling shareholders). In other words, Pandora would retain at most $45 million in cash from the offering. But the stunner is that assuming the offering closes, the 13.7 million pro forma float is a laughable 8.6% of the total number of shares outstanding after the offering, or 158.7 million shares. Which also implies that Pandora would have a ridiculous valuation of $1.1-$1.4 billion! And what are the multiples: well, Q1 revenue was a healthy $51 million growing about 100% Y/Y from $22 million a year earlier, so about $200 million annualized. Ok: a 5-7 revenue multiple for a dot com 2.0 company, we'll buy it. The problem is that total costs and expenses increased by the same amount Y/Y: from $24 million to $56 million. Ergo, EBITDA, forget net income, was a negative $6.8 million in Q1. Annualized, this is, well, negative, meaning the company will have an EV/EBITDA that is N/M and at best #Ref!. So yes, the bubble is back. And for all intents and purposes, the only prospectus we are interested in is the one that specifies the terms and conditions of the quadruple negative ETF that will track only the stock of GRPN and P. To everyone else who does not get a primary allocation, just look at LinkedIn, where everyone who bought post the break and held is now at a loss.
This morning, amidst news of Moodys cutting Greece's debt rating to Caa1, I came across a phrase I wish I'd thought of first, reading through a friend's morning commentary. The phrase? "Too Stupid to Stop". According to Bill Blain, Senior Director at Newedge in London, and self-professed Euro skeptic, "'Too Stupid to Stop' is based on politicians behaving as rational maximisers of their electoral objectives." He was referring to the real reason behind all the bank-demanded bailout loans for austerity measures throughout Europe. In the United States, that mantra can be extended to include appointed officials, like Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner (still not admitting our record debt increase came directly from the $4 trillion worth of Treasury issuance and other forms of assistance extended to our banking system since late 2008, as we endure his stomach-churning 'show-begging' to the GOP for a debt cap raise) and Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke (ditto). It also, of course, applies to congress people whose political survival depends on corporate and bank contributions and financial support, the ones that believe the Dodd-Frank bill changes anything. Rather than considering how governments have systematically done, and continue to do, the wrong (as in immoral, unfair, and uneconomically sound) thing by trying to preserve banks, any politicians possessing the ability to think independently (an oxymoron, I know) should be asking themselves instead, how clever they could be about closing them down. Take a cue from Iceland. But, the 'Too Stupid to Stop" behavior, prevents this from occurring.
Here is the key data from the Morgan Stanley (lead Underwriter), Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse-led IPO:
- Q1 Revenue: $644 million, up from $44 million a year prior
- Q1 Gross Profit: $270 million, 41.9% margin, up from $20 million a year prior, and down from the margin of 45.5%
- Q1 Loss from operations: ($117) million compared to $8.5 million profit a year earlier.
- Q1 subscribers: 83.1 million, up from 3.4 million
- Q1 cash flow: $6.978 million down from $12.0 million a year earlier
- Cumulative customers: 15.8 million, up from 874K
- Featured merchants 56.781 up from 2,903
- Groupons sold: 28 million compared to 1.76 million
- Cash balance: $208.7 million; Working capital deficit: ($228.7) million
- Total Assets: $541.4 million, Total Liabilities: $14.8 million
- Total shares outstanding: 296,140,145
Who says Mutual Assured Destruction is to be used only by bankers: our military leaders appear to have mastered the strategy of getting what they want to warning about all hell breaking loose, just as effectively. Reuters reports that should Congress pursue a resolution to withdraw from the humanitarian Libyian oil liberation force, currently headed by Sarkozy, it would send
an "unhelpful message of disunity" to allies and foes alike. "Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that "once military forces are committed, such actions by Congress can have significant consequences," particularly on relations with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "It sends an unhelpful message of disunity and uncertainty to our troops, our allies and, most importantly, the Gaddafi regime," Morrell said in a statement in Singapore, where Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived on Thursday to attend a security dialogue with Asian allies...Kucinich's measure would invoke the 1973 War Powers
Resolution to direct Obama to stop the U.S. participation in the
war. Kucinich says Obama violated the part of the law that
prohibits U.S. armed forces from being involved in military
actions for more than 60 days without congressional
authorization." Kucinich seems to forget that reminding a constitutional lawyer about constitutional abuses is actually racist. And more importantly, what excuse will those hundreds of billions in "defense spending" by the US government have if America's military is relegated to "bankster" status in terms of utility.
- EU COMMISSION DENIES AGREEMENT ON NEW GREEK AID PLAN
There is no point in even commenting on the cannonade of unbelievable bullshit coming out of Europe at this moment.
The central planners have now officially lost their minds.
That famous Chinese fraudcap swatter Muddy Waters was overdue to take down another Chinese fraud is not a surprise. Indeed, as reported earlier, the fraud-focused shorter just initiated coverage on Sino-Forest Corporation (TRE.TO), which the firm "Like Madoff, TRE is one of the rare frauds that is committed by an established institution. In TRE’s case, its early start as an RTO fraud, luck, and deft navigation enabled it to grow into an institution whose “quality management” consistently delivered on earnings growth." The rating, not surprisingly, is Strong Sell, and the estimated per share value is <$1.00. MW describes the fraud as follows: "TRE, which was probably conceived as another short-lived Canadian-listed resources pump and dump, was aggressively committing fraud since its RTO in 1995. The foundation of TRE’s fraud is its convoluted structure whereby it runs most of its revenues through “authorized intermediaries” (“AI”). AIs supposedly process TRE’s tax payments, which ensures that TRE leaves its auditors far less of a paper trail. On the other side of its books, TRE massively exaggerates its assets. We present smoking gun evidence that TRE overstated its Yunnan timber investments by approximately $900 million. TRE relies on Jakko Poyry to produce reports that give it legitimacy. TRE provides fraudulent data to Poyry, which produces reports that do nothing to ensure that TRE is legitimate. TRE’s capital raising is a multi-billion dollar ponzi scheme, and accompanied by substantial theft." So far so good: as soon as the report came out the stock traded down from CAD$18 to $14, and was promptly halted. Once again, none of this is surprising. What is surprising, is that the biggest holder of the stock, with over 34 million shares, which amount to just under $650 million, is none other than stock picker extraordinaire John Paulson. And to think Zero Hedge has been warning everyone about the dangers of the fraudcap space for 8 months now. Oh well, one analyst learned the hard way today.
Moody's Says It Expects To Place US Rating For Downgrade Review If No Progress On Increasing Statutory Debt LimitSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/02/2011 - 12:31
From Moodys, which now appears to have been hacked by Greece (in what may or may not be considered an act of war): "If the debt limit is raised and default avoided, the Aaa rating will be maintained. However, the rating outlook will depend on the outcome of negotiations on deficit reduction. A credible agreement on substantial deficit reduction would support a continued stable outlook; lack of such an agreement could prompt Moody's to change its outlook to negative on the Aaa rating....Although Moody's fully expected political wrangling prior to an increase
in the statutory debt limit, the degree of entrenchment into
conflicting positions has exceeded expectations. The heightened
polarization over the debt limit has increased the odds of a short-lived
default. If this situation remains unchanged in coming weeks, Moody's
will place the rating under review." Translation: unless America promises to increase its total debt to 120% of GDP in one year, the current debt which is just under 100% will be downgraded.