Since the last Greek FinMin came and went before anyone could even learn how many syllables are in his last name, here is an advance peek at the man who is tasked with the world's worst transitory job imaginable: that of being the new Greek finance minister. His complete profile below is courtesy of Athens News. Feel free not to learn it by heart: something tells us when he too sees the inside of the Greek finance ministry he too may developed a mysterious illness and be promptly "replaced."
Turkey raised its reported gold holdings by another 2% in the month of May. Turkey’s gold holding rose by 5.7 tonnes in May to total 245 tonnes, International Monetary Fund data showed, making it the latest in a string of countries to increase gold bullion reserves this year. Turkey has allowed banks to hold more of their reserves in gold to provide extra liquidity. The central bank this month raised the proportion of reserve requirements that can be held in foreign exchange to 50 percent from 45 percent, while the limit for gold was increased to 25 percent from 20 percent. The changes will add as much as $2.2 billion to gold reserves. Gold accounts for about 9.1 percent of Russia’s total reserves, 5.1 percent of Ukraine’s and 15 percent of Kazakhstan’s, according to the World Gold Council. That compares with more than 70 percent for the U.S. and Germany, the biggest bullion holders, according to Bloomberg figures. Kazakhstan plans to raise the amount of gold it holds as part of its reserves to 20 percent, Bisengaly Tadzhiyakov, deputy chairman of the country’s central bank, said earlier this month.
- On the continuing fraud that is Liebor: Libor Guardians Said to Resist Changes to Broken Rate (Bloomberg)
- Bank bailout to spark firesale of corporate Spain (Reuters) with Goldman and China just waiting
- EU Could Rewrite Eurozone Budgets (FT) but it won't because Germany will just say Nein again
- Congress Said to Delay Automatic Budget Cuts Until March (Bloomberg)
- China Says June Trade Improving in Sign Slowdown Stabilizing (Bloomberg)
- Biggest U.S. Banks Curb Loans as Regional Firms Fill Gap (Bloomberg)
- New York Fed Sells $4bn in Mortgage Debt (FT)
- Julian Assange’s fall from the heavens (Reuters)
- Wheeler to Lead N.Z. Central Bank as Kiwi Hits Exports: Economy (Bloomberg)
- Japan Lower House Passes Sales Tax Bill as Vote Divides DPJ (Bloomberg)
Not much to add to Reuters summary of the overnight Spanish bill auction. The good news: the country that is not Uganda sold €3.08 billion compared to a range sought of €2-3 billion. The bad news: the price paid to sell this debt more than makes up for any optics that this was a good deal. "Spain's short-term borrowing costs nearly tripled at auction on Tuesday, underlining the country's precarious finances as it struggles against recession and juggles with a debt crisis among its newly downgraded banks. The yield paid on a 3-month bill was 2.362 percent, up from just 0.846 percent a month ago. For six-month paper, it leapt to 3.237 percent from 1.737 percent in May... Spain sold 3.08 billion euros of its short-term debt on Tuesday, slightly above its target amount, even as the Treasury paid the highest rates to sell the paper since November and met with falling demand from the country's struggling banks. The Treasury sold 1.6 billion euros of a 3-month bill, and 1.48 billion euros of a 6 month bill, which together was just above the 2-3 billion euro target set. The Treasury has overshot its sales target in recent auctions, showing it still is capable of selling its debt even if has to rely on domestic banks to do so as international investors avoid Spanish debt." Here's a hint to whoever is pretending to be in charge of Spanish finances: selling more debt than the "max" just to show you still have bond market access (i.e., debt bought by just downgraded Spanish banks) while paying ridiculous interest on this "optical success" is about the dumbest thing a broke country can do. But who are we to judge. We will leave that to the bond market. Below we show the yield on the Spanish 10 Year, which in two days has retraced the entire move tighter in the past week.
We have discussed the use of correlation (cross-asset-class and intra-asset-class) a number of times in the last few years, most recently here, as a better way to track 'fear' or greed than the traditional (and much misunderstood) VIX. As Nic Colas writes this evening, a review of asset price correlations shows that the convergence typical of 'risk-off' periods in the market is solidly underway. While we prefer to monitor the 'finer' average pairwise realized correlations for the S&P 100 - which have been rising significantly recently, Nic points out that the more coarse S&P 500 industry correlations relative to the index as a whole are up to 88% from a low of 75% back in February. In terms of assessing market health, a decline in correlation is a positive for markets since it shows investors are focused on individual sector and stock fundamentals instead of a macro “Do or die” concerns. By that measure, we’re moving in the wrong direction, and not just because of recent decline in risk assets. Moreover, other asset classes such as U.S. High Yield corporate bonds, foreign stocks (both emerging market and develop economies), and even some currencies are increasingly moving in lock step. Lastly, we would highlight that average sector correlations have done a better job in 2012 of warning investors about upcoming turbulence than the closely-watched CBOE VIX Index. Those investors looking for reliable “Buy at a bottom” indicators should add these metrics to their investment toolbox as a better 'mousetrap' than the now ubiquitous VIX.
With the Supreme Court likely to announce its decision on the constitutionality of Health Care Reform Law this Thursday, BofA outlines five possible scenarios and their potential impact across the healthcare sectors. They base the likelihood of their scenarios on a review of the March oral arguments, previous circuit court decisions, as well as surveys of legal experts and former Supreme Court clerks. Everything you need to know about the possible outcomes and actions to take.
In a finding that many have subliminally known about for years, but never been actually proven, yet is still quite shocking, the WSJ is reporting that tourism portal Orbitz "has found that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see." Which is not really surprising: after all Mac users tend to "see" far pricier computers too, not to mention "buy." As a result, Orbitz has decided to automatically redirect Mac users: aka the rich, but gullible ones, to seeing hotel offers that are more expensive than those seen by PC users by on average $20-$30. Call it OS screening, and call it perfectly acceptable: because it appears, empirically, that Mac users are perfectly ok with spending more than they have to for virtually anything.
The underlying premise for much of the management of other-people's-money (OPM) is that if the market drops by an appreciable amount, then Bernanke will step in and save the day. The problem with these 'perceived truths', as Charles Biderman of TrimTabs notes, is that they come-and-go; much like buy-and-hold and China-as-the-engine-of-the-world's-growth. The belief in the Bernanke Put has been around since the end of 2009 and is why the biggest holders of stocks are today mostly fully invested because they really believe that the Fed will remain the buyer of last resort. Unfortunately, as Charles points out, 'market truths always end badly' and in this case what is underlying the belief is that sooner of later the US economy will grow fast enough to allow the Fed to stop priming the pump with newly minted money into stocks; and in this case, he fears, "the headwinds are just too big and that rapid growth will not happen any time soon".
One of oil's most important characteristics is its fungibility, which means that a barrel of refined oil from Texas is equivalent to one from Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or anywhere else in the world. The global oil machine is built upon this premise – tankers take oil wherever it is needed, and one country pays almost the same as the next for this valuable commodity. Well, that's true aside from two factors that can render this equivalency void. In fact, crude oil prices range a fair bit according to the quality of the crude and the challenge of moving it from wellhead to refinery. Those factors are currently wreaking havoc on oil prices in North America: a range of oil qualities and a raft of infrastructure issues are creating record price differentials. And with no solution in sight, we think those differentials are here to stay.
Just out from the TOTUS, who manages to convert a Supreme Court slap into a piece of pre-election propaganda like no other.
The long anticipated downgrade of the recently bailed out Spanish banking sector has arrived. Moody's just brought the hammer down on 28 Spanish banks. Also apparently in Spain banks are now more stable than the country: "The ratings of both Banco Santander and Santander Consumer Finance are one notch higher than the sovereign's rating, due to the high degree of geographical diversification of their balance sheet and income sources, and a manageable level of direct exposure to Spanish sovereign debt relative to their Tier 1 capital, including under stress scenarios. All the rest of the affected banks' standalone ratings are now at or below Spain's Baa3 rating." Can Spain borrow from Santander then? They don't need the ECB.
While few want to think about their death, its becoming increasingly popular for folks to prepare for the inevitable by pre-planning their own funerals (we assume a little like England's soccer team yesterday). While cremation is rapidly gaining on straight-up-burial, funeral costs remain high; and despite non-traditional options like 'Angels Flight Inc.' which launches your ashes in fireworks or 'Space Services Inc.' which sends you posthumously into orbit around the moon, the following infographic is a guide to budget-busting your own 'happy-ending'.