• Sprout Money
    02/28/2015 - 15:53
    American investors might be extremely disappointed with the recent performance of the gold price as the yellow metal is once again trading below $1200/oz. This causes a lot of people to frown, but...

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Spain Sells 1 Year Bills At Record Post-Euro Yield, ING Says Spain To Need €250 Billion More; German ZEW Implodes

In a meaningless "test" of investor appetite for Spain's Thursday issuance of 2, 3 and 5 years bonds, Spain today sold €3.04 billion in 12 and 18 month bills, well inside the LTRO maturity, and completely meaningless from a risk perspective - after all even Greece is issuing Bills. Yet for some reason the market which continues to be dumber by the day, somehow took the "successful" auction as an indication that there is actual demand for standalone Spanish subordinated debt. And what a 'success' it was: €2.4 billion in 12 month Bills were sold at 5.074%, the highest since at least 2003 and possibly on record. This is more than 2% greater than the same such auction at the end of May. In other words, Spain just locked in absolutely unsustainable 1 year rates. It also sold €639 million of 18 month paper at 5.107% compared to 3.302% less than a month ago. The good news: bids to cover for the two maturities, from 1.8 and 3.2, to 2.2 and 4.4 respectively. And of course they would: Spanish banks found what little LTRO cash they had lying around and in act of total desperation tried to do a carry trade whereby 3 year paper priced at 1% is used to buy 1 year paper yielding 5%.



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RANsquawk EU Market Re-Cap - 19th June 2012



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US Retirement Benefits Underfunding Rises To Record $1.4 Trillion

The Pew Center has released its annual summary of US pension and retirement health care (under)funding. As of 2010, the total underfunding gap rose by $120 billion from the prior year's $1.26 trillion deficit to a record $1.38 trillion underfunding. This number consists of $757 billion in pension promises, not backed by any hard cash, representing pension liabilities of $3.07 trillion and assets of $2.31 trillion. In 2000, more than half of the states had their pensions 100 percent funded, but by 2010 only Wisconsin was fully funded, and 34 were below the 80 percent threshold—up from 31 in 2009 and just 22 in 2008. But that pales in comparison to the ridiculous spread between retiree health care liabilities of $660 billion and assets of, drum roll, $33 billion, or a funding shortage that is $627 billion, roughly 19 times the actual assets in the system! Just seven states funded 25 percent or more of their retiree health care obligations: Alaska, Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin. What this means is soon US pensioners will have no choice but to experience not only austerity unlike any seen in Europe, but broken promises of retirement benefits which will never materialize. The response will likewise be proportional.



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"Textbook Economics" Quote Of The Day

For our quote of the day, we go to none other than the Fed's favorite mouthpiece, the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath:

Fed officials have been frustrated in the past year that low interest rate policies haven't reached enough Americans to spur stronger growth, the way economics textbooks say low rates should... Multiply the fruit of cheap credit across millions of households—with healthy portions of interest savings spent on goods and services—and the U.S. should be recovering more quickly, according to textbook economics.

No... not the textbooks... Does this mean... Economics 101 is... nothing but one epic lie, based on Ponzi assumptions which work in a world of constant and gradual leveraging, and completely fall apart in a deleveraging world such as the one we have now?



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Biderman On Europe: "Germany Must Say No To Greece, Spain, & Italy"

After offering his condolences for the loss today of Dan Dorfman, Charles Biderman, of TrimTabs, takes the Greeks (and Germans) to task. Charles remains long-term bearish on European stocks (and the big US banks). Greeks, it appears from Charles perspective, want to stay in the Euro but on easier terms. This, at first glance, perplexes the less-than-sanguine Sausalitan, given the disastrous economic situation they remain in. However, on reflection, Biderman realizes that the simple fact is that the Greeks like the ability to borrow money to pay their bills and even better, never having to repay the loan - which makes perfect sense. If the Germans are willing to keep lending to Greece, even if most goes to repay old loans, then Greeks keep getting some new cash - which would disappear if the Greeks left the Euro. This situation, he opines, would seem 'horrible' as "Greeks might have to go and do something for a living and even pay some taxes". Concluding on the three types of creditors that exist, it is little wonder that the Greeks, in their ponzi state, would want to keep the dream alive and hold the M.A.D. grenade over Germany's head just a little longer. The brutal truth is that Greece (and Spain and Italy) will take as much cash as they can until there is no more given and then-and-only-then will they act for change. The disastrous end-result will be the same as if Germany left the Euro and first mover advantage in this case may well prove exceptionally valuable.



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As Part Of Its NEW QE Q&A, Goldman Warns Of Possibility For $50-$75 Billion "Flow" Program

Not like it should come as any surprise that the bank that first among peers "discovered" that flow, not stock matters, implying the Fed may literally never be able to stop monetizing, is expecting the FOMC to "ease monetary policy on June 20", but nonetheless here is the full just released Q&A from Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who just happens to be a Pound and Pence drinking buddy of former Goldmanite Bill Dudley, who just happens to run the New York Fed. Connects the dots. Implicit is that a big dollop of Large Scale Asset Purchases is imminent. That said, if the Fed does disappoint on June 20, and merely extends the maturity of bonds that it will sell as part of a Twist extension from 3 to 4 years, as the bond market appears to be implying (as first warned by Zero Hedge), then all bets are truly off. On the other hand, note where Goldman says: "However, it is also possible that the program would be specified as a "flow" of purchases of perhaps $50bn-$75bn per month." If that happens, gold is going to $2000, $3000, hell, $10,000 very soon, as it means the Fed will not stop printing ever again. Period.



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Guest Post: How to Save Your Money And Your Life

You should do the following.

  1. Maintain significant bank and brokerage accounts outside your home country. Consider setting up an offshore asset protection trust. These things aren't as easy to do as they used to be. But they'll likely be much less easy in the future.
  2. Make sure you have a significant portion of your wealth in precious metals and a significant part of that offshore.
  3. Buy some nice foreign real estate, ideally in a place where you wouldn't mind spending some time.
  4. Work on getting official residency in another country, as well as a second citizenship/passport. There's every advantage to doing so, and no disadvantages. That's true of all these things.

One more thing: Don't worry too much. All countries seem to go through nasty phases. Within the lifetime of most people today, we've seen it in big countries such as Russia, Germany and China. And in scores of smaller ones – the list is too long to recount here. The good news is that things almost always get better, eventually.



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JC Penney President Mike Francis Came, Saw, Collected $10 Million, And Quit Nine Months Later

If anyone is wondering why the darling stock of Bill Ackman and Whitney Tilson, for whom every collapse of JCP is a buying gift from god, namely JCPenney, is plunging after hours, it is because the company's president, Michael Francis, hired October 4, 2011, has just quit. To wit: "J. C. Penney Company, Inc. ("jcpenney") (JCP) today announced that Michael Francis will be leaving the Company, effective today. Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson will assume direct responsibility and oversight of the company's marketing and merchandising functions." And to think that just 9 months ago the company CEO Ron Johnson announced, that "I am thrilled to welcome Michael to our team... He is an extremely talented executive with the vision and courage to re-imagine the department store experience. His ability to innovate and deep understanding of the industry will be invaluable as we set out to transform J.C. Penney into America's favorite store." And while his ability to do anything else appears to have been a dud, his ability to read the fine print in his contract, especially where it talks about his perks, was second to none. Because despite leaving just 9 months after his hiring, Francis is entitled to collect a whopping $9 million in pro-rated signing bonus (alongside $100,000/month in salary): all in all - a tidy package of $10 million for shooting the breeze while observing a sinking retail ship. Not bad for a company whose stock has just plunged to September 2010 levels.



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Credit Slumps But VIX Dump Drives Equity Pump

Echo. In a slightly less aggressive replay of last Sunday/Monday's reaction to news from Europe, equity futures (and FX markets) opened gap-up and faded significantly to end modestly green after touching the 50DMA briefly. A 20pt drop from its open last night in S&P 500 e-mini futures on the less-than-Armageddon-but-more-of-the-same-disaster scenario played out, which then retraced around 50% of its drop during the day session. Equities diverged strongly from a notably decompressing IG and HY credit market (and significant weakness in HYG - the high-yield bond ETF). Treasuries and FX markets also remain disconnected (implying weaker levels in US stocks) as broadly speaking risk-assets did not feel the same love as stocks today. It would appear that, given the heavy volatility action, drop in Short-term vol (VIX), and recent divergence from stocks, that there was heavy vol selling today which supported a higher equity market in a virtuous manner until later in the afternoon when VIX and SPX had recoupled and stocks then limped lower to VWAP. Treasuries ended the day relatively unchanged from Friday's close after opening 6bps higher in yield, rallying 10bps from there as equities and FX plunged, and recovering higher in yield as the US day session progressed. EURUSD held under 1.26, diverging lower from equity strength from just before the US open leaving the USD higher by 0.45% from Friday's close - even as AUD strengthened notably. Commodities generally ignored USD strength with Copper, Gold, and Silver practically unch from Friday's close while WTI dropped over 1% to around $83 by the close. Financials underperformed as a sector (as Tech and Discretionary gained) but the majors were the worst hit having given up all their gains from Friday's MS lost 3.4%, Citi -2.6% and BofA & GS -2% with JPM close behind.



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On Egyptian Elections And Israeli Escalations

The full results of the Egyptian election will not be 'released' until the 21st but as Stratfor's Reva Bhalla notes, the Muslim Brotherhood is already claiming a narrow victory over the military's preferred candidate. Rather sadly, she opines, "the Presidency itself may not even matter much as the military has taken a series of moves in recent days to overtly reassert its authority over the Egyptian political system", further reinforcing Stratfor's historical position that Egypt's political future will be dictated (ironic choice of words) by the military and not by protesters in Tahrir Square. In a succinct 4 minutes, Reva explains why the possibility of a Brotherhood victory remains somewhat impotent given the implicit understandings with the military (via the constitution) but worries that the changes in the clamp-down efforts (more aggressive) of political protests will affect political affiliates in the Palestinian border-lands with Israel - where this weekend's 'suspiciously timed' renewed spate of attacks into Israel raises questions of who was responsible (and for what end?). The bottom-line is that tensions remain and the Brotherhood's links to Hamas are a political foil for the military (or even Israel's Netanyahu) to declare them unfit to rule.



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RANsquawk US Market Wrap - 18th June 2012



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Guest Post: The Experiment Has Failed. Are You Ready?

After about an hour’s worth of air traffic congestion delays around JFK airport, I finally departed New York City yesterday evening en route for Vilnius, Lithuania… one of my favorite inconspicuous corners of Europe. The route took me through Helsinki, Finland for a brief connection, and I was on the ground long enough to witness something truly bizarre: a complete and utter lack of people. I could practically count on two hands the number of passengers milling around the airport this morning during peak business hours… it was almost something out of a zombie movie. Ordinarily I would have seen hundreds, thousands of people… and I have in the past as I’ve traversed this route many times before. And no, today was not a holiday.



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Three Charts Your Stockbroker Won't Want You To See

While every long-only manager and jobbing stockbroker is hard at work twisting the simple logic of 'but, but Central Banks will print and save the world' into a much more appetizing 'US decoupling, cleanest-shirt, ignore Europe, earnings, profits, money-on-the-sidelines' euphemism, we note that the following three charts from UBS suggest that things are not quite as rosy as one might believe - whether or not Ben speaks monetarily this week. Between consensus growth expectations rolling over, the analyst upgrade/downgrade ratio turning negative once again, and recent changes in US growth remain positively ecstatic relative to global/regional changes; it would appear hope is a powerful (and hallucinatory) drug (as is QE kool-aid).



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As Italy Hints Of Subordination, Did Rome Just Request A "Semi" Bailout?

That Italy is now at most days away from technical insolvency is not news: after all we reported on just this a week ago, citing not some fringe lunatics but Bloomberg economist David Powell who said that "Italy would probably be forced into receiving a bailout if it were to face another two weeks like the last seven days." This was a week ago... so one more week left, and things have not only not gotten better, they have gotten much worse. Which is why we were not very surprised to read the following just released news from Reuters: "Italy will push this week at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers for a semi-automatic mechanism involving the European Central Bank or the permanent bailout fund ESM to reduce spreads of euro zone bonds over Germany, Italy's European Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero said on Monday." Having done this for a while, we can tell Italy what the bond market, having perused the above sentence, just read: "semi-bailout." Because if Italy is implicitly demanding assistance from the ECB, and the Spanish bailout vehicle, the ESM, then things are about to hit the country with the €1.25 trillion in debt. It is all downhill from there. Oh, and here is what the bond market reads when they see ESM: "not so semi-subordination." Because if in Europe the idiotic plan to avoid a bank run is to announce preparations for one, followed by furious back pedaling, it is only logical (and we use the term loosely) that an attempt to avert a bailout will be pursued by requesting a semi version. Instead, that action always and only leads to one thing: waving the sellers right in.



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