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Guest Post: Changing Risk Perceptions Across Multiple Asset Classes

Bottom line this market is very dangerous right now . As witnessed in August when the SPX appeared "oversold" it still managed to sell off another 200 points and take out support levels as if they never existed. The most recent short covering rally has taken away buying pressure and flushed out weak shorts. With leverage still at multi year highs it appears selling pressure remains the bigger risk to equities. Most important though is the diminished threat of the Bernanke put which is analogous to a pick up game between a group of guys on the weekend. The "bears" begin to show an ability to outscore the "bulls" only to see Michael Jordan (the most famous Bull) come in from the sidelines and reverse everything. Perhaps Michael Jordan is sidelined for a while finally or at least limited in his ability to score at will.



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CDS Implied Probability of Default – Be Careful

Unless something changes in the next 24 hours, I expect we will hear more and more talk about default, not only of Greece but of other countries and of banks. Just in case that happens, here is some information that may help you make good decisions. There will be lots of chatter about the “likelihood of default” the CDS market is implying, but although it can be a useful statistic, it can also be very misleading. Before jumping into trades based on erroneous assumptions, it is worth spending a few minutes reading this. If all it does is confuse you, maybe that is a good thing in itself, because you won’t take a headline about default probability as fact.



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Presenting The Org Chart Of The Soon To Be Quite Famous Banque De France

The bank that Napoleon created, and which will very shortly be in every major newspaper's headlines,  certainly believes in the ideology of Keeping It Simple Stupid. Presenting the Banque De Paris Org Chart.



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France Resets The Rumormill: "No Plan To Recapitalize Banks" ... Until Tomorrow

It's just getting plain idiotic in France and Europe. After last week the global stock market soared (then crashed) on two separate micro-occasions (since everything is now measured in HFT time) following rumors first from the FT then from someone we don't even remember who, that French banks would be recapitalized, here comes the strawman reset for the next 24hours. From Reuters: "French banks are solid and can face any risk from their exposure to Greek sovereign debt, the head of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, told a French newspaper, adding that there was no secret plan in place to recapitalise them." Well, no, they are not. Just ask the Chinese. Or Siemens. But at least this latest refutation gives France hope that when BNP, SocGen and CA are all down 15%, leaking this same rumor for the third time, may provide a short-term temporary boost. Alas, not even the vacuum-tube controlled market is that dumb.



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Sunday Morning Politicomedy - SNL Does The GOP

With pretty much everyone else mocking the comedic interlude that nearly daily GOP debates have become, it was only a matter of time before Saturday Night Live had something to say on the matter. Sure enough, last night it did... And with Alec Baldwin doing Rick Perry, the conservative response aftershock begins in 5...4...3...



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Guest Post: Bleeding the Patient, Modern Economics and the Symbolic Economy

Modern economics is analogous to the junk-science of 17th century medicine, and it serves a symbolic economy of phantom wealth and freedom. Back in the bad old days, the premier physicians of the age accepted and practiced the idea that the cure for illness was to bleed very ill patients, effectively weakening them. Countless patients who might have recovered if simply left "untreated" died as a result of the misguided "science of healing" of the era. Only with the advent of a true understanding of the nature of infection, the immune system and disease did the "folk" pseudo-science of bleeding pass from accepted medical practice. We are mired in a similar era of pseudo-science being accepted as actual science, i.e. as reflecting the underlying causal mechanisms of life and the universe, and that pseudo-science is called economics. As I have noted here many times, we are experiencing not just a standard-issue financial crisis but the failure of the entire pseudo-science edifice of modern conventional economics.



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Record Correlations + Record Low Mutual Fund Cash + Soaring Dispersion = Recipe For Redemption Driven Disaster

The topic of surging market return correlation (and the death of alpha on broader terms) is nothing new to long-term Zero Hedge readers: every time the market appears poised to crash, stock and sector correlations reach new highs while return dispersion drops as fundamentals and technical are broadly ignored, and only the roar of the thundering herd matters. And while whether a spike in volatility is a precondition to correlation jumps, or simply a coincident factor, is unknown, in recent weeks an equity correlation of 1.000 has been matched by a jump in volatility not seen since the days of September 2008. What this has done is to make return dispersion for the hedge fund community higher than historical associated with comparable episodes of palpable market fear, exposing a broad rift between the outperformers (very few, mostly macro hedge funds) and underperformers (many, long-biased primarily). Curiously in the (massively levered) mutual fund community everyone is broadly underperforming with roughly the same intensity. Which means that while in the past one’s returns could suck, at least so would everyone else’s, the past month has accentuated the ability of funds to generate alpha (and even beta) lead to broad reallocation of capital by fund LPs. The will force the en masse selling of winners to satisfy margin calls, exacerbated by record low mutual fund cash "dry powder" positions, and sets the groundwork for even more volatility as all traditional hedging strategies fail. So what is an investor to do in such a confusing environment? Pray... is the short answer. As for the longer one, there is not much that can be done according to Goldman, which in its latest weekly chartology has little if any words of encouragement for both clients and market speculators alike.



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Guest Post: Forget Gold—What Matters Is Copper

People are freaking out that gold has fallen to $1,650, from its lofty highs above $1,800—they are freaking out something awful. “Gold has fallen 10%! The world is coming to an end!!!” I myself took a shellacking in gold—...—but copper is what has me worried. Copper fell from $4.20 to $3.25—close to 25%—in about three weeks. Most of that tumble has happened in the last ten days, and what’s worrisome is that, as I write these words over the weekend, there is every indication that copper will continue its free fall come Monday.  From the numbers that I’m seeing—and from the historical fact that copper tends to fall roughly 40% from peak to trough during an American recession—there is every indication that copper could reach $2.67 in short order. And even bottom out below that—say at $2.20—before stabilizing around the $2.67 level.  But we’ll see. The price of copper is not the point of this discussion. The point of this discussion is what the price of copper means. What it means for monetary policy.



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IMF Releases Steering Commttee Communique On Greece - Full Text

The global economy has entered a dangerous phase, calling for exceptional vigilance, coordination and readiness to take bold action from members and the IMF alike. We are encouraged by the determination of our euro-area colleagues to do what is needed to resolve the euro-area crisis. We welcome that the IMF stands ready to strongly support this effort as part of its global role...Today we agreed to act decisively to tackle the dangers confronting the global economy. These include sovereign debt risks, financial system fragility, weakening economic growth and high unemployment. Our circumstances vary, but our economies and financial systems are closely interlinked. We will therefore act collectively to restore confidence and financial stability, and rekindle global growth....



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There Will Never Be A “Good” Time For Greece To Default

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the banks squandered a year to improve their capital base. BAC wasn’t selling cheap options to Warren Buffett when their stock was at 13. The SocGen CEO wasn’t on TV trying to convince investors that they had no funding or capital problems when his stock was at 42. The banks are even worse off than most of the countries, but why should anyone assume that waiting will make it easier for them to digest a Greek default... It seems that a lot has already been priced in and that the contagion is occurring whether we want it to or not, so we may as well let Greece default now and figure out how much has already been priced in and how to really stop the contagion from spreading to Italy and Spain and to banks that deserve to be saved. Let’s just admit it is gangrene and that it has already spread farther than is safe, but it is still better to cut off an arm to save the body. If we keep waiting it may not be possible to save the patient. The patient is getting weaker by the day, and being blind to that is just as big and just as dangerous as letting Greece default now.



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Germany Demands "Managed" Greek Default And 50% Bond Haircuts In Exchange For Expanding EFSF, Peripheral "Firewall"

Back on July 21, the same day as the Greek bailout redux hit the tape, we speculated that the biggest weakness in the Second Greek Bailout is that the EFSF would have to be expanded to well over the current E440 billion (which even at its current size has not been fully ratified in Europe, and based on recent events may not be implemented until 2012 thanks to Slovenia and Finland), or about E1.5 trillion (and possibly as much as E3.5 trillion). The reason this is a "problem" is that it would have to come exclusively at the expense of Germany which would have to pledge anywhere between 50% and 133% of its GDP (as France would have long since been downgraded and hence unable to participate in the EFSF at a AAA rating). We also assumed that the debt rollover with a 21% haircut would not be an issue as it should have been a formality: on this we were fataly wrong - the debt rollover plan has imploded and means that the entire Greek bailout has collapsed as some had expected. And now that it is clear that contagion is threatening to sweep through the core, it is back to Germany to prevent the gangrene, no longer contagion, from advancing beyond the PIIGS. However, in order to prevent a full out revolution, Germany's economic elite has said it would agree to an EFSF expansion and hence installation of European firewall, but at a price: a "controlled" default by Greece and 50% haircuts for private bondholders (as German banks have long since offloaded their Greek bonds).



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Lehman Weekend Redux?



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Weekly Key Event Recap: September 19-23, 2011

Last week the DJIA tumbled the most since 2008, while gold had an even more profound collapse. Yet did the economic news justify such a plunge? You decided - here is the summary recap of last week's key bullish and bearish events.



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UBS' CEO Booted

Things for UBS are just getting from bad to worse. The UBS "Rogue Trader" incident which was anything but rogue and certainly involved far more than just a trader, has struck at the very top and just claimed the scalp of the top man at the organization, forcing many to ask: just what is really going on behind the scenes at the embattled Swiss bank? Alas, this latest development means that life for the bank's other employees is about to become a (bonus free) living hell, as a complete overhaul of the employee base is imminent. From Reuters: "The board of UBS accepted on Saturday the resignation of Chief Executive Oswald Gruebel after the Swiss bank lost $2.3 billion in alleged rogue trading and said it had appointed Sergio Ermotti to replace him for now. Ermotti, a 51 year-old from Switzerland's Italian-speaking region of Ticino, joined UBS in April from UniCredit as head of Europe, Middle East and Africa. Before joining UniCredit in 2005, he worked at Merrill Lynch for 18 years. The board said in a statement it had asked management to accelerate an overhaul of the investment bank already under way "concentrating on advisory, capital markets, and client flow and solutions businesses". UBS's board meeting, one of four regular meetings per year, had originally been due to end on Friday ahead of the UBS-sponsored Singapore Formula One motor racing Grand Prix on Sunday, when executives will be trying to reassure big clients. But deliberations continued on Saturday by conference call after the board left Singapore on Friday with some members headed back to Switzerland, sources told Reuters. "



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Five Banks Account For 96% Of The $250 Trillion In Outstanding US Derivative Exposure; Is Morgan Stanley Sitting On An FX Derivative Time Bomb?

The latest quarterly report from the Office Of the Currency Comptroller is out and as usual it presents in a crisp, clear and very much glaring format the fact that the top 4 banks in the US now account for a massively disproportionate amount of the derivative risk in the financial system. Specifically, of the $250 trillion in gross notional amount of derivative contracts outstanding (consisting of Interest Rate, FX, Equity Contracts, Commodity and CDS) among the Top 25 commercial banks (a number that swells to $333 trillion when looking at the Top 25 Bank Holding Companies), a mere 5 banks (and really 4) account for 95.9% of all derivative exposure (HSBC replaced Wells as the Top 5th bank, which at $3.9 trillion in derivative exposure is a distant place from #4 Goldman with $47.7 trillion). The top 4 banks: JPM with $78.1 trillion in exposure, Citi with $56 trillion, Bank of America with $53 trillion and Goldman with $48 trillion, account for 94.4% of total exposure. As historically has been the case, the bulk of consolidated exposure is in Interest Rate swaps ($204.6 trillion), followed by FX ($26.5TR), CDS ($15.2 trillion), and Equity and Commodity with $1.6 and $1.4 trillion, respectively. And that's your definition of Too Big To Fail right there: the biggest banks are not only getting bigger, but their risk exposure is now at a new all time high and up $5.3 trillion from Q1 as they have to risk ever more in the derivatives market to generate that incremental penny of return.



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