As already noted, one piece of good news out of Europe - German GDP (ignore the huge ZEW miss) - was enough to make everyone forget the Italian bank downgrade, and that Greece is one election away from unwinding the EMU. Yet perhaps it is good to have a modest bounce from a market, which however not even Goldman says is oversold: after all the central planners need a day or two to regroup, and consider what currency to crush next to buy the global nominal stock market a few months of breathing room.
There was little good news out of Europe overnight, when several key countries (Germany, France, Greece and Portugal) reported their Q1 GDP, but what good news did come, namely that Germany avoided a double dip, with Q1 GDP printing at 0.5% on expectations of a 0.1% move, has for now saved the EURUSD and the futures. Why the growth: according to the German statistics office, net trade drove 1Q growth (thank you weaker EUR); domestic consumption rose in 1Q while investment declined in 1Q. The sellside community was quick: "Germany’s 1Q numbers show how EMU’s biggest economy is weathering debt crisis", Newedge said in a note. Then there was everyone else: Italian GDP contracted by 0.8%, more than consensus of 0.7%, the most in 3 years. Broadly, the Eurozone GDP avoided a technical recession with GDP printing at 0.0% on estimates of -0.2%. But as the PMI vs GDP chart below shows, this razor thin escape will hardly be repeated in Q2. Greek GDP declined by 6.2%, Portugal down by 0.1%, Holland down -0.2%, and so on. The well known split in Europe between Germany and everyone else continues, and just as we pointed out yesterday for the US: any "decoupling" is always temporary, and eventually catches up with the decouplee. Finally, proving that not all is well even in Germany, the ZEW Investor Confidence for May printed at nearly half expectations of 19, or 10.8, and down from 23.4.
Many pixels have been 'spilled' trying to comprehend what exactly JPMorgan were up to, where they are now, and what the response will likely end up becoming. Our note from last week appears, given the mainstream media's 'similar' notes after it, to have struck a nerve with many as both sensible and fitting with the facts (and is well worth a read) but we have been asked again and again for a simplification. So here is our attempt, in 22 simple tweets (or sentences less than 140 characters in length) to describe what the smartest people in the room did and in possibly the most incredible irony ever, how the Fed (and the Central Banks of the world) were likely responsible for it all going pear-shaped for Bruno and Ina. The key factor is that if systemic risk had remained in even a 'normal' range of possible regions based on history, then the JPM CIO office would have had no need to over-hedge their tail-risk hedge position, no greed-driven need to press the momentum, and no need for such an epic collapse as we are seeing now. The point is - this was a trader/manager with a good idea (hedge tail risk) that was executed poorly (and with arrogance) but exaggerated by the unintended consequences of the Central-Banks-of-the-world's actions (and 'models behaving badly' as Derman would say).
Jim Rogers is hedging his gold (and silver) positions reflecting that this is normal, following such a tremendous run, and that this is good for the precious metal in the long-run. In his discussion with Maria Bartiromo this afternoon, he notes India's anti-gold 'protectionism' (and its potential balance of payments issues) that are trying to force the hoarding into risky 'productive' assets (as others might say). The immutable commodity maven suggests JPMorgan (and its peers) could be behind the drops in the overall commodity complex as the uncertainty of their positions (and liquidation potential to raise cash as bank examiners begin their forensics) becomes more important. He holds the USD, which he hates; has a number of equity shorts; and is most fearful of banks - specifically admitting he is a serial seller of calls on JPMorgan. His advice, and perhaps Maria should look into it given their ratings recently, is to become a farmer; own farmland; and speculate on agriculture. On the dismal 'ethical' state of our leaders and management, the thoughtful Rogers opines, "You can read world history for decades. There are always people doing things wrong. We have not changed our human nature and we will continue to have scandals and problems" and in a follow-up to CNBC's standard 'money-on-the-sidelines' argument he crushes the money-honey's dreams: "Finance had a great 30 years. That's finished. Now to advance, we have too many people, too many MBAs, too much leverage and too many governments that don't like us". A must-see rebuttal to the 'normal' CNBC hopium with more on China's slowdown, a US recession, Europe and a Greek exit, QE3, and 'tractors'.
While, by definition, we can't 'know' or predict what the event is that becomes a Black Swan, it is nevertheless useful to consider which large risks are relatively underpriced by the market currently and perhaps more so - what to keep an eye on to consider the odds of such an event. Biancerman (or should it be Bideranco) take on Europe (the pace of the disaster is accelerating and the hope for a Draghi-save is overdone), US Inflation (focus on 3% as a 'problem' and owners-equivalent-rent), The Debt Ceiling (will Geithner get 'extraordinary' again or will it become the political hot potato that proves the deficit will never be cut) , and The Fiscal Cliff (the entire gain in income from the 2009 lows will be removed if this occurs - that doesn't seem like a positive) in this thought-provoking clip. Reflecting on these realities, Biderman so eloquently notes "means the smelly stuff is likely to hit the fan" and Bianco reminds us that, just as in 2008, "hope [in equities] can be a very powerful drug".
68.8% of Americans are overweight or obese: this stunning fact, setting aside the unsustainability of US fiscal or monetary policy, means that something must change in this country, or very soon it won't matter if America has $20 trillion or $1 googol in debt: everyone will be simply too fat to care. And, shortly thereafter, too dead. Now that America's obesity epidemic is rapidly, and finally, becoming a front and center topic of conversation, and one which can not be excluded from any rational healthcare policy discussion, increasingly more media has started to narrow in, pardon the pun, on the causes, consequences, choices and challenges involved in recognizing that America does in fact have an obesity problem, and that the sooner proactive steps are taken, the better for everyone. As Charles Hugh Smith pointed out recently, sickcare represents a(n at least) 8% hidden VAT tax to all Americans, of which obesity is the primary cause for outflows: this number will only grow, until it too becomes merely one more unsustainable line item in America's increasingly improbable income statement. Starting tonight, HBO is releasing a 4 part documentary titled "The Weight of the Nation - confronting America's obesity epidemic" to bring more attention to a systemic threat which if left unchecked will, by 2020, impact 75% of America's population. We present the first movie in the series below, and will bring the remaining three parts shortly.
Last week the hedgies were dumping, as the "momo whale" dumb money was chasing things higher on low volume intraday levitation. Today, idiot money (which is known thus for a reason) joins the dump fest. And according to Goldman, "the selling pressure is still muted." And unless the Politburo of the Developed World comes up with a Deus ex Printerium fast, muted may soon go to Max Volume.
Sometime around March 31 the market was soaring, and there were still those naive, clueless ones, who thought that 2012 would not be a carbon copy of 2011. Rumors of more QE were becoming quieter and quieter as the S&P was on a rampage, the economy was humming along (courtesy of the reacord warm winter as ZH predicted in January, but this would not be widely accepted for at least 2-3 more weeks), Europe was "fixed" and the world was a lovely place. It is right there that everyone's favorite "baller to the waller" David Tepper went all in and bought anything that moves, or doesn't, in financials and tech. As the chart below shows, after having a mere $764 million in equity AUM at the end of December 31, Appaloosa went on an epic liftathon, and increased its AUM to a whopping $4.1 billion in the span of 3 months.
Digging into the details of the Fed's balance sheet can sometimes be a thankless task but Charles Biderman and Jim Bianco have some fascinating insights into where the real money is being hidden. The stability of the Fed's balance sheet post-QE2, given we are borrowing-and-spending over $100bn per month is all down to Operation Twist and the Fed's creation of demand at the short-end (via telling banks that rates will be low forever and 'guaranteeing' positive carry returns on rolling overnight repo) and using this 'cash' to almost entirely fund longer-term borrowing. In a simple primer of the Fed's implicit risk-free carry trade, the two chaps note that the only downside is too much growth or inflation which would cause a massive unwind of these positions (leading only to further bailouts). Critically though, they explain the fact that Operation Twist (and its implicit off-balance-sheet funding of this risk-free carry trade) is nothing more than the Fed's version of the ECB's LTRO - as the banks are 'encouraged' to buy short-term government debt with risk-free-carry expectations - implying the Fed's balance sheet could in fact be considerably larger than it appears. Yet more ponzinomics explained in a simple way - that surely eventually will trickle down to the masses who will question the emperor's clothing.
It’s 1933 and the country has undergone several years of painful Depression following the 1920s speculation that crashed in the fall of 1929. Investigations into the bank related causes began under Republican President, Herbert Hoover and continued under Democratic President, FDR. Okay, that’s pretty common knowledge. But, here’s something that isn’t: of all the giant banks operating their trusts schemes and taking advantage of off-book deals, and international bets in the late 1920s, it was an incoming head of Chase (replacing Al Wiggins who shorted Chase stock in a network of fraud) that advocated for Glass-Steagall. Indeed, despite all pedigree to the opposite (his father was Senator Nelson Aldrich architect of the Federal Reserve and brother-in-law, John D. Rockefeller), Chase Chair, Winthrop Aldrich, took to the front pages of the New York Times in March, 1933 to pitch decisive separation of commercial and speculative activity arguments. Fellow bankers hated him. His motives weren’t totally altruistic to be sure, but somewhere in his calculation that Chase would survive a separation of activities and emerge stronger than rival, Morgan Bank, was an awareness that something more – permanent – had to be put in place if only to save the banking industry from future confidence breaches and loss. It turned out he was right. And wrong. (much more on that in my next book, research still ongoing.) Financial history has a sense of irony. JPM Chase was the post-Glass-Steagall repeal marriage, 66 years in the making, of Morgan Bank and Chase. Today, it is the largest bank in America, possessing greater control of the nation’s cash than any other bank. It also has the largest derivatives exposure ($70 trillion) including nearly $6 trillion worth of credit derivatives.
Just because it is never boring after hours:
- MOODY'S DOWNGRADES ITALIAN BANKS; OUTLOOKS REMAIN NEGATIVE
EURUSD sliding... even more. But that's ok: at some point tomorrow Europe will close and all shall be fixed, only to break shortly thereafter. And now.... Margin Stanley's $10 billion collateral-call inducing 3 notch downgrade is on deck.
It happened again. Just like the last five days in a row - post-Europe close euphoria gives way to oops-Europe-will-open-tomorrow-reality dysphoria. The S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) closed below their 50DMA for the first since November today as it has dropped 7 of the last 9 days. Financials were a disaster (-2%) as the reality of a levered bet on the Bernanke Put and economic growth are unwound on a total and utter lack of trust (back below 100DMA again) and as we noted BofA is starting to converge back with its peers (and broadly financial stocks with their CDS). With JPM back below $36 and its 200DMA and AAPL testing its pre-earnings lows, markets are hotting up and Treasuries were bid all the way to the close with the long-end down 6-7bps today alone (10Y with a 1.77% handle). IG and HY credit underperformed stocks on the day as the JPM overhang continues to pressure the indices - though the skew is collapsing fast. VIX jumped to its highest close in 4 months at 21.87%. IG9 10Y jumped over 8bps more today to 147bps mid, now 30bps from its 5/1 swing low spead. The USD rose further and EURUSD dropped back below 1.29 for the first time in 4 months but perhaps AUD losing pairty with the USD was the bigger news - back to 5 month lows.