The Financial Services Authority (FSA) primary role is to make retail markets for financial products and services work more effectively, and so help retail consumers to get a fair deal. In June 2006, the FSA created its Retail Distribution Review (RDR) programme which they are enacting in order to enhance consumer confidence in the retail investment market. The RDR has a target for full-implementation of 31 December 2012. The RDR is expected to have a significant impact on the way in which financial services are delivered to retail investors in the UK. The primary delivery mechanism of financial services to retail customers is via approximately 30,000 Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) who are authorised and regulated by the FSA. They are expected to bear the brunt of the force of the RDR. Gold bullion is set to benefit from the axing of commission for IFAs and the implementation of the RDR “should be regarded as a game changer” for gold as an investment in the UK, according to the World Gold Council. Managing director of investment Marcus Grubb, says: “These extremely challenging times mean it’s impossible to quantify the risks for UK investors. They are facing an unprecedented combination of threats to their assets including extreme and unexpected market shocks that can trigger widespread value destruction.” “As UK investors reduce allocations to traditional investments such as equities and bonds and increasingly dash to cash, they face a double whammy, with the potential for stagnation of capital due to the lack of returns from cash and the increased possibility of inflation as a result of ongoing monetary stimulation.”
Appropriately coming just after today's Housing Starts data, which captured MSM headlines will blast was "the highest since 2008" is the following chart from this morning's Bloomberg Brief, which shows precisely the reason why "housing has bottomed" - and it has nothing to do with organic demand rising. No, it has everything with excess inventory once again starting to pile up, which means that the imbalance in the supply and demand curves is purely a function of shadow inventory being stocked away, and that there is once again no true clearing price.
Despite the world and their lemur believing that, with a self-referential EUR100 billion bailout (loan) for its banks and a ponzi guarantee scheme for its insolvent regions, all will be well and more debt fixes too much debt, Spanish 10Y yields are back near 7% and spreads over 575bps. The reason - simple - the backbone of their credit-fueled economic growth has crumbled and is now crumbling faster. As the FT reports today, Spain's housing and banking sectors continue to deteriorate, grim new government data showed Wednesday, providing the latest indication that the country's economy remains caught in a protracted recession. House prices declined at the fastest pace since the start of the crisis in the second quarter, the public ministry said, and bad loans increased for a 14th month in a row, the Bank of Spain reported. What is more worrisome is that in spite of a bank rescue plan (that is obviously tyet tto be implemented), bank deposits saw a record decline shrinking 5.75% from a year earlier. The vicious cycle of rising borrowing costs and continued economic recession prompted the International Monetary Fund earlier this week to predict that the downturn will last into next year. "This government can't decide between a good and a bad choice," Mr. Rajoy said. "This government has to choose between the bad and the even worse."
Housing starts, permits, units under construction and completions all continue to crawl slowly along the bottom. The noise was as follows: June starts came in at 760K on expectations of a 745K print, up from a revised 711K in May; Permits were 755K on expectations of 765K, and down from a revised 784K. In other words, largely a wash. Within start, single unit housing has barely budged upward, with the only strength focused on multi-family units on hopes that the rental market will pick up. Of course, by building much more rental units, the only thing that will happen is a flood of supply on the margin which sends rents lower yet again. Finally, keep in mind that both starts and permits only indicate one aspect of the lifecycle of new homes: the final one, and the one that few speak about, completions, came at 622K: as the second chart below shows, there is absolutely no rebound in this category which actually shows what is coming to market.
You may recall that the PSI (Private Sector Involvement) was a one-off event as heralded again and again in the Press by every political leader in the European Union. This proclamation was thundered from the rafters, held up like a banner by the ECB and trumpeted by every Parliament in Europe. The message was clear and rolled out like a red carpet for bond owners, “This will never happen again.” Amazingly, or perhaps not so, is the length of time that “never happen again” took to dissipate. The European Union and the European Central Bank are now signaling a change of position as tax payers always trump the owners of bonds and I fear one more example of this is about to be shoved down our throats. Mr. Draghi’s recent statements are all but a fait accompli in my opinion and you may expect some definitive announcements very soon. The situation is even more grave than this however as the question of “seniority,” already a distressing issue, is also going to be re-addressed and I think recalculated in some very non-conventional ways so that an owner of senior debt in European sovereigns and European banks will find himself behind an eight ball with absolutely no control and in serious jeopardy.
European equities are trading in minor positive territory on light volume and a light economic calendar with the exception of the IBEX and the FTSE MIB which are down 0.3% and 0.4% respectively as US participants begin to come to their desks. Headline employment data from the UK was for the most part in-line with expectations, though the jobless claims change for June showed a 6.1K increase compared with the 5.0K expected, with downward revisions to May’s figures. The BoE minutes showed the July increase in APF was not unanimous at 7-2, and a GBP 75bln increase was also discussed, and that should the additional easing measures not work, a further rate cut would be examined. The final comment caused a spike to the upside in the short Sterling strip of 6 ticks, Gilt futures rose to make highs of 121.78, and GBP/USD to slide back below 1.5600, though the pair has since come off its lows and trades back above this level.
- Who Needs the Euro When You Can Pay With Deutsche Marks? (WSJ)
- Now it's personal and ad hominem: Is German Economist Exacerbating Euro Crisis? (Spiegel)
- Bernanke Outlines Range Of Options For Additional Easing (Bloomberg)
- Italy's Monti says serious worry Sicily region may default (Reuters)
- Libor ‘structurally flawed’, says Fed (FT)
- Some Firms Opt to Bring Manufacturing Back to U.S. (WSJ)
- ECB Signals Support for Easing Irish Debt Terms (WSJ)
- China’s Wen Warns Of Severe Job Outlook As Growth Yet To Return (Bloomberg)
- Hollande scraps tax breaks on overtime (WSJ)
- China’s June Home Prices Rebound As Sentiment Improves (Bloomberg)
There were several numbers one should focus on today's Bank of America earnings release. They were not the Net Income EPS ($0.19 which beat estimates of $0.15), the Income before income taxes of $3.4 billion, nor Revenue net of interest expense ($21.968 which missed expectations of $22.71 billion). Here are the numbers that did matter: Loan Loss Reserve Release $1.9b billion, or 56% of pretax net income, Sales And Trading Revenue exluding DVA plunged by $1.9 billion from Q1 to $3.3 billion (and by $263 million from a year ago), and most importantly, counterparty claims by coutnerparties for Reps and Warranties purposes (remember those? the realization of their size caused the stock to plummet last August) soared from $16.1 billion to $22.7 billion sequentially: the highest it has ever been, even as the company only took a $395 million provision against losses, and the ending Rep and Warranties balance was $16 billion (driven by nearly a doubling in Private repurchase request claims from $4.9 billion to $8.6 billion!), or well below the potential outstanding claims. BAC is now reserve deficient by about $6.7 billion! Considering the company's settlement with Syncora yesterday, and imminent settlement with MBIA this may be a tiny problem.
"A week after Bernanke spoke last year we saw the highs for H2 2012 (1345) before moving aggressively lower into the low 1100s through August- October as Europe’s problems intensified and the US debt ceiling problems came to a head. One year on and the biggest H2 risks are probably similar. US data is weakening, Europe’s problems could easily come to a head again and the fiscal cliff could become a major issue, albeit slightly later in the year. We also now have a China slowdown to contend with. So the parallels are there."
The NIRP club, or those countries whose 2 Year (or longer) bonds trade inside negative territory as presented yesterday, is happy to welcome Finland among its ranks, following the country's 2 Year bond briefly touching on -.008% minutes ago (since "recovering" to 0.0000% briefly). Other proud member countries include Holland, Germany (which earlier issued 2 Year debt at sub zero rates for the first time ever), Denmark, and Switzerland, or Europe's AAA-list. On the other end, the peripherals continue to trade on an ever more unsustainable basis. Europe has now become one big pair trade: everyone is long the viable countries and short the... less than viable ones.
During an economic boom, exuberance finds itself lodged in all types of industries. When profits soar, so does the public’s disregard for prudence. And as tax revenues rise, politicians can’t help but give in to their bread and butter of buying votes. In the case of a credit-expansion boom fueled primarily by fractional reserve banking and interest rate manipulation through a central bank, the boom conditions are destined toward bust. Liquidation then becomes necessary as the bust gets underway and malinvestments come to light. What the city of Scranton has in common with San Bernardino, Detroit, et al. is that its dire fiscal condition is due to one thing and one thing only: benefits promised to unionized workers, and, it appears, "the salad days of the government employee are coming to an end, as they have already in Greece, Italy and Spain." To those sick and tired of the tax-eater mentality that is destroying the very core of society’s productive capacity and moral base, those days can’t come soon enough.
Despite the 'idiosyncratic' stresses in California (and elsewhere) the reach-for-'safe'-yield has maintained a strong bid for Munis in the last few weeks (on both a spread and yield basis). As Citi's George Friedlander notes, the last week alone saw 15-20bps compression in the mid- to long-end of the Muni curve - notably outperforming the longer-end of the Treasury curve. New issues have been oversubscribed and snapped as much as 20bps on the break. The reason is simple - 'all-time record' total redemptions (maturing and called bonds) - which left net issuance negative and a strong tendency for certain types of investors to put cash back to work as soon as it is received. However, this flood of 'technical' liquidity from reinvestment faces a rather sudden cliff around the start of August when expected net issuance will turn aggressively positive relative to redemptions. Given the constant refinancings and a lack of maturing reinvestment, Freiedlander expects "the muni market to struggle to absorb [the heavy calendar] after August 1 - and slightly earlier if participants begin to discount this shift", which will only push refinancing costs higher for issuers coming to market.