One of the recurring themes on Zero Hedge in the past several months has been the continued mockery of the seemingly global conventional idiocy that China can bail out the world, when it itself is on the verge of a huge credit bubble popping and requiring the rescue of China itself by the rest of the global pyramid scheme (which however will be far too busy monetizing its own debt by then). Why, we vividly recall this quote from July 4, "So let's get this straight: a country which has 10% of its GDP in the form of bad debt, is somehow expected to be credible enough to buy not only Greek debt, but the EURUSD each and every day? Mmmmk. In the meantime, Dagong downgrades the US to junk status in 5, 4, 3..." Well, Dagong did since downgrade the US (as did S&P), although not to junk just yet, and somehow the world still continues to labor under the illusion that China (whose shadow banking system we also covered most recently here), is somehow healthy because it is far better than Europe (and the US) in hiding the true severity of its problems. Naturally, as long as that persists, the global ponzi will always have the benefit of pulling out a "white knight" whenever needed, regardless of just how ludicrous such an presumption has become. Today, famous China bear Jim Chanos appeared on Bloomberg TV and recapped his thesis which summarizes the bulk of these points, further extrapolating based on the Andy Lees analysis posted yesterday which estimates what a true economic growth rate is when one factors for bad debt and loss severities. His conclusion: "If we assume that China will grow total credit this year between 30% to 40% of GDP, and half of that debt will go bad, that is 15% to 20%. Say the recoveries on that are 50%. That means that China, on an after write off basis, may not be growing at all. It may be having to simply write off some of this stuff in the future so its 9% growth may be zero." And this stagnant, overlevered behemoth is somehow supposed to be... the world's white knight?
Greece Promises To Front-Load Austerity Even As Troika Has Not Yet Agreed To Provide Next Dose Of Monetary HeroinSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/20/2011 - 17:34
After Greece realized that it is not America, which can pretend it will do an infinite does of austerity... just not today... and not tomorrow...and really everything will be back-end loaded to some point 9 year from now (when it is some "other administration's problem") and the IMF made it clear that cuts have to happen immediately if not sooner, the country has released a statement that in exchange for getting the latest round of Troika funding (which it needs desperately: recall that it has another €2 billion debt paydown this Friday), it will front-load some of those mythical austerity measures that otherwise would have never really occurred. Which means that strikes (most notably by the tax collectors), riots and all around fun is about to become the prime time TV highlight from Syntagma square all over again, as tens of thousands of more government workers are fired or furloughed, or just generally lose their pension benefits, courtesy of living in an insolvent country. In the meantime, the European banks can pretend the contagion from a Greek fall out will be contained and the Fed's infinite swap lines will mask any and all completely unexpected black swans. Best of luck with that.
Another day, another roller-coaster ride in US equities as every other asset class was relatively well-behaved. We lurched from headline to headline all day long - up on some hope of a 'deal', down on news that nothing was achieved, up on 'progress', down on a revisit in October - but the lurches were much more evident in US equities than in FX, credit, TSYs, PMs, and commodities. These other markets were not dull by any means but did not exhibit the absolute schizophrenic paranoia that equities did and this was critical in getting a handle on trading today as with 30 minutes to go, equities tore back down from Friday's highs to reconnect with several fair-value models across broad risk assets and the credit markets (highlighted in our earlier European close snapshot).
RANsquawk Market Wrap Up - Stocks, Bonds, FX etc. – 20/09/11
Lately it is hard to avoid talk about the Lehman "Moment". It almost makes you think that the world fell apart the weekend Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection. But that's not the case at all. Stocks sold off that first day, bounced the second, had another sell off, but by the Thursday, they actually closed higher than the Friday before Lehman filed. From there they generally went down. Often painfully swiftly, though the rallies were just as sharp. It wasn't until March of the following year that we hit the lows - a full 6 months after Lehman.
And now the political rags will really tear the American Jobs Act, ARRA and the administration, apart, because the Venn diagrams of Enron and Watergate just crossed and the point of intersection is called Solyndra. According to Reuters: "Solyndra LLC's chief executive and chief financial officer will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and decline to answer any questions put to them at a Congressional hearing on Friday, according to letters from their attorneys obtained by Reuters." But, but, what do they have to hide? And how many times in the past has pleading the fifth not led to a prison sentence for someone? And, implicitly, and potentially, the commencement of impeachment hearings?
It seems that Greece has managed to scrape together left-over medals from the Olympics and sell some fish in order to meet the interest payments so far but a closer look at the debt distributions - both interest and principal sends a worrying message. No wonder the Troika will be back in October!! Across all the PIIGS, there are dramatic amounts of principal and interest due over the next month or two and perhaps bond market deterioration today in the face of rising/hoping equities was the message not heard around the world.
That Tim Geithner is either incomponent or a pathological liar is by now irrelevant: anything that comes out of his mouth traditionally ends up being completely wrong, either on purpose or otherwise. What is always entertaining is putting Tiny Tim through a lie detector test of some sort, which is what the good former spies from Behavioral Intelligence Research (for previous iterations of their work see here) done with their just released report "Tim Geithner at II/Delivering Alpha Conference." Which is why, while hardly telling us anything new, BIA's "body language" interpretation of what was said, and unsaid, is quite interesting now that the Treasury Secretary has decided to put upon himself to become more cryptic than the maestro and less credible than Baron Munchausen. To wit: "[Geithner's] responses to questions on the U.S. economy frequently reflect efforts to aggressively garner bipartisan support. From a behavioral perspective, however, his responses to questions about the European crisis are more significant. Mr. Geithner is asked a number of questions aimed at gaining insight into the situation and how the crisis will impact the United States. However, he consistently sidesteps specific questions and attempts to minimize the severity of certain factors suggesting he has more significant concerns than he implies about the depth of the risk in the region and the potential impact it has for the U.S. Below are our observations."
With the FOMC meeting currently in full swing, speculation is rampant what will be announced tomorrow at 2:15 pm, with the market exhibiting its now traditional schizophrenic mood swings of either pricing in QE 6.66, or, alternatively, the apocalypse, with furious speed. And while many are convinced that at least the "Twist" is already guaranteed, as is an IOER cut, per Goldman's "predictions" and possibly something bigger, as per David Rosenberg who thinks that an effective announcement would have to truly shock the market to the upside, the truth is that the Chairman's hands are very much tied. Because, all rhetoric and political posturing aside, at the very bottom it is and has always been a money problem. Specifically, one of "credit money." Which brings us to the topic of this post. When the Fed released its quarterly Z.1 statement last week, the headlines predictably, as they always do, focused primarily on the fluctuations in household net worth (which is nothing but a proxy for the stock market now that housing is a constant drag to net worth) and to a lesser extent, household credit. Yet the one item that is always ignored, is what is by and far the most important data in the Z.1, and what the Fed apparatchiks spend days poring over, namely the update on the liabilities held in the all important shadow banking system. And with the data confirming that the shadow banking system declined by $278 billion in Q2, the most since Q2 2010, it is pretty clear that Bernanke's choice has already been made for him. Because with D.C. in total fiscal stimulus hiatus, in order to offset the continuing collapse in credit at the financial level, the Fed will have no choice but to proceed with not only curve flattening (to the detriment of America's TBTF banks whose stock prices certainly reflect what a complete Twist-induced flattening of the 2s10s implies) but offsetting the ongoing implosion in the all too critical, yet increasingly smaller, shadow banking system. And without credit growth, at either the commercial bank, the shadow bank or the sovereign level, one can kiss GDP growth, and hence employment, and Obama's second term goodbye.
The European Union failed to approve a law or plan to bank naked shorts on sovereign CDS. Their focus on CDS trading started over 18 months ago when the Greek Finance Minister said that all the short sellers would lose their shirts. There have been a multitude of rumors that it would be banned, but there are many better ways to control the CDS market. In all likelihood, the politicians will remain intent on banning CDS. I think they will be disappointed with the impact and realize that CDS is not the root of all evil and Europe will still have a sovereign debt crisis, without the benefit now of some short covering and additional price discovery.
The weird and wonderful world of options markets and models can sometimes provide useful insights on a reflexive/contrarian basis if we know where to look. Everyone is used to reading/hearing about VIX (Pisani's Fear Index) which tracks a near-the-money relatively short-dated implied volatility (note upside and downside volatility not just downside - though volatility and price do tend to co-depend quite highly). There are many other 'implied' distributional measures one can glean from the broad array of liquid options prices. When all of these indications are at extremes, there is little chance of an extended downside move since broad swathes of investors are hedged and hence not feeling all the pain - however, with current levels having normalized modestly, any downside shock (no QE3 for example) could easily be exaggerated by unhedged forced selling.
As was already discussed last week, the number of Americans living in poverty is now at an all time high, even as the real income of the average American male worker adjusted for inflation is back to 1968 levels. But that is only the beginning. ProPublica has compiled an exhaustive bulletin summarizing the sad state of America's depressionary reality in "Our Sputtering Economy by the Numbers: Poverty Edition." For anyone wondering how we are doing now compared to "before", this is the only list needed. The results are not pretty and confirm that Bernanke is now trapped in a corner, where every incremental attempt to reflate the stock market will make ever more people on the other side of the social spectrum even poorer until finally the Arab Spring makes its lone overdue appearance in America.
Earlier this month, some economic luminaries in the United States Congress introduced a new bill, H.R. 2835. The bill intends to “establish a joint select committee of Congress to report findings and propose legislation to restore the Nation’s workforce to full employment…” Great idea, fellas. After failing to ignore your way out of recession, spend your way out of recession, lie your way out of recession, and print your way out of recession, you now intend to legislate your way out of recession. This bill exemplifies how completely clueless the leadership is, and highlights the common demeanor of the political class. By definition, people are in government because they believe that government is the solution, not the problem. Legislating your way to full employment is as fantastical as prancing unicorns and the Tooth Fairy. It’s impossible. The only employment created by legislation are government jobs to staff all those new agencies and bureaus. And naturally, those jobs must come with some task, some responsibility.
Shrugging off Italy's rating downgrade (somewhat expected but continued negative outlook), funding stress in Europe (Libor levitating and Swiss/French banks divergent), cuts in global growth expectations (IMF and World Bank), concerns over systemic risk contagion (ESRB and World Bank), and escalating rhetoric in Sino-US trade wars, US equities have managed to reach up to Friday's highs as rumors of AAPL being added to the Dow seemed enough for hapless traders. But, like a broken record, we note that the new highs in ES are being accompanied by new lows in 2s10s30s, near day's low yields in TSYs, day's highs in gold and silver, and multi-day lows in copper - all seems to make perfect sense...
Slovenian Government Collapses After Confidence Vote Loss; EFSF Ratification To Be Delayed Until 2012Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/20/2011 - 12:03
As expected earlier, the next domino in the European contagion cascade, has just tumbled after the local government has collapsed following loss of parliamentary confidence vote.
- SLOVENIAN GOVT LOSES PARLIAMENTARY CONFIDENCE VOTE - BBG
This means that the pan-European EFSF vote, originally scheduled to be completed by the end of this month, will likely be delayed until 2012 which means at least 4 more months of SMP bond purchases and more anger at direct ECB monetization of Peripheral debt.