- 6.0+ Magnitude quake strikes near Tokyo (USGS)
- Ireland Faces Legal Challenge on Bank Bailout (Reuters)
- Bernanke says U.S. needs faster growth (Reuters)
- Spain Promises Austere Budget Despite Poll Blow (Reuters)
- Orban Punished by Investors as Hungary Retreats From IMF Talks (Bloomberg)
- Obama vows to pursue further nuclear cuts with Russia (Reuters)
- Japan's Azumi Wants Tax Issue Decided Tuesday (WSJ)
- Australia Losing Competitive Edge, Says Dow Chemicals CEO (Australian)
- OECD Urges ‘Ambitious’ Eurozone Reform (FT)
- Yields Less Than Italy’s Signal Indonesia Exiting Junk (Bloomberg)
UPDATE: Added link to Matthew Bishop's ebook 'In Gold We Trust'
On a day where gold surged generously on the same thesis with which it managed a five-fold increase in the last decade or so - that of paper money debasement - we thought it appropriate to get some context as to the yellow metal's history, current implications, and potential future. In a mere 111 seconds, we are treated to a history of sound money (from Croesus to The Bank of England to The Great Depression), the growing division between some of the world's most-famous smartest investors with regards to Gold's price (Buffett vs Paulson/Bass), Governments and Central Banks Spending and Printing 'experiments', and a discussion of the endgame of "Where Will All The Money Go?" - all with the help of a magical cartoon hand. As it seems the profligate control of the electronic press is now all that matters to an increasingly correlated and blind-leading-the-ignorant markets, perhaps it pays to consider how markets have changed reactions to the threat promise of the extreme easing upon which the equity market's heart beats so strongly. Once anxious of bond vigilantes (taken care of via LTRO reacharounds and direct Fed monetization), FX markets remain intervention-prone (just ask Azumi how many times he looks at JGBs or JPY risk-reversals every day), and finally to the stock (and vol) markets as 'Bernanke's trailing-strike Put' ensures 'the wealth effect' buoys us all the chosen few to greater and greater spending disconnects between value and price and potentially larger and larger mal-allocations of capital. With Corporate cash stockpiles so huge - the "Where Is John Galt?" line can't help but appear in many minds as reinvestment in a dilapidated, aging, increasingly less cash flow generating asset base remains to be seen.
Earlier today we presented an extended case by Caixin's Andy Xie, who is now confident that a massive 40% devaluation of the Yen is imminent and inevitable (with dire consequences for regional trading partners), as the opportunity cost, now that the Japanese economy is no longer competitive in the New Normal world (read trade surplus) of delaying what every other central banks has been doing so well (just observe the nominal surge in risk assets at 8 am this morning when Bernanke made it clear more real dilution is coming, as predicted here just yesterday), is the 3 decade long overdue pop in the JGB bond market. Yet as Xie notes, either of these two bubbles popping - the JPY or the JGB - is fraught with danger as both will confirm that three decades of central planning have failed. What is worse, Japan would then become a case study for failed central planning (yes, redundant), everywhere, but nowhere more than in the US. Which in turn, would not be a surprise to most, or at least to those who don't chase dead end momentum trends and heatmapped assets in simplistic hopes of finding a greater fool 1 millisecond into the future. It also would not be a surprise to anyone who sees the following chart from John Lohman which shows the gradual failure of central planning since the second global depression started in 2007 (and offset to date by $7 trillion in central bank private-to-public risk offset), during which time the BOJ has been forced to load up its balance sheet with substantially more assets than its GDP has grown by. Alas, this trend will accelerate which is why with time the exponential chart of central bank balance sheet expansion will only get more "exponential" until it finally pops, bringing with it an end to the truly last bubble. We can only hope we are somewhere far away when that happens.
Taking Bernanke’s statement to indicate that QE is coming in April is wishful thinking at best. Bernanke’s actual words imply, if anything, that the Fed may have failed to fix the US economy. This is more of the Fed playing damage control because the reality is that Bernanke is well aware of this: by the Fed’s own data we’re clearly in a structural Depression, NOT a cyclical recession.
Every quarter the Office of the Currency Comptroller releases its report on Bank Derivative Activities, and every quarter we find that the Too Big To Fail get Too Bigger To Fail. To wit: in Q4 2011, of the total $230.8 trillion in US outstanding derivatives, the Top 5 banks (JPM, BofA, Morgan Stanley, Goldman and HSBC) accounted for 95.7% of all Derivatives. In some respects this is good news: in Q2, the Top 5 banks held 95.9% of the $250 trillion in derivatives. Unfortunately it is also bad news, because $220 trillion is more than enough for the world to collapse in a daisy chained failure of bilateral netting (which not even all the central banks in the world can offset). What is the worst news, is that the just released report indicates that in addition to everything else, we have now hit peak delusion, as banks now report to the OCC that a record high 92.2% of gross credit exposure is "bilaterally netted." While we won't spend much time on this issue now, it is safe to say that bilateral netting is the biggest lie in modern finance (read How US Banks Are Lying About Their European Exposure; Or How Bilateral Netting Ends With A Bang, Not A Whimper for an explanation of this fraud which was exposed completely in the AIG collapse). And just to put this in global perspective, according to the BIS in the first half of 2011, global derivative gross exposure increased by $107 trillion to a record $707 trillion. It will be quite interesting to get the full year report to see if this acceleration in gross exposure has increased. Because if it has, we will now know that in 2011 European banks were forced up to load up on several hundred trillion in mostly interest rate swap exposure. Which can only mean one thing: when and if central banks lose control of government bond curves, an rates start moving wider again, the global margin call will be unprecedented. Until then we can just delude ourselves that central planners have everything under control, have everything under control, have everything under control.
Chinese Business Media Cautions Japanese Bond Bubble Is Ready To Burst, Anticipates 40% Yen DevaluationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/26/2012 14:50 -0400
It is a fact that when it comes to the oddly resilient Japanese hyperlevered economic model, the bodies of those screaming for the end of the JGB bubble litter the sides of central planning's tungsten brick road. Yet in the aftermath of last month's stunning surge in the country's trade deficit, this, and much more may soon be finally ending. Because as Caixin's Andy Xie writes "The day of reckoning for the yen is not distant. Japanese companies are struggling with profitability. It only gets worse from here. When a major company goes bankrupt, this may change the prevailing psychology. A weak yen consensus will emerge then." As for the bubble pop, it will be a sudden pop, not the 30 year deflationary whimper Mrs. Watanabe has gotten so used to: "Yen devaluation is likely to unfold quickly. A financial bubble doesn't burst slowly. When it occurs, it just pops. The odds are that yen devaluation will occur over days. Only a large and sudden devaluation can keep the JGB yield low. Otherwise, the devaluation expectation will trigger a sharp rise in the JGB yield. The resulting worries over the government's solvency could lead to a collapse of the JGB market." It gets worse: "Of course, the government will collapse with the JGB market." And once Japan falls, the rest of the world follows, says Xie, which is why he is now actively encouraging China, and all other Japanese trade partners of the world's rapidly declining 3rd largest economy to take precautions for when this day comes... soon.
In Don Coxe's latest and typically excellent letter, "All Clear?", he highlights the opportunity in precious metals mining companies: "If there were one over-arching theme at the BMO Global Metals & Mining Conference, it was that the gold miners are upset and even embarrassed that their shares have so dramatically underperformed bullion... "On the one hand, they were delighted in 2011 when it was reported that since Nixon closed the gold window, a bar of bullion had delivered higher investment returns than the S&P 500 for forty years-- with dividends reinvested. But some gold mining CEOs find it an insult that what they mine is more respected than their companies' shares... "In our view, we have entered the most favourable era for gold prices in our lifetime, and the share prices of the great mining companies will eventually outperform bullion prices." As Don Coxe makes clear, governments are running deficits "beyond the forecasts of all but the hardiest goldbugs five years ago; central banks are printing money and creating liquidity beyond the forecasts of all but the most paranoid goldbugs a year ago." The choice for the saver is essentially binary: hold money in ever-depreciating paper, or in a tangible vehicle that has the potential to rise dramatically as expressed in paper money terms.
Short term, the bulls will probably remain in control.
Big picture: the markets are being held together via a very tenuous balancing act on the part of EU leaders and the world Central Banks. The short-term bias will be bullish due to the factors listed above. But big trouble is lurking just beneath the surface. And should anything upset the current balance being maintained, we could see some real fireworks in the markets in short order.
When the world's central bankers speechified in DC, ironies abounded. But off to the side, Turkey had just floated a plan to grab its people’s gold.
Next week will be relatively light in economic reporting, and with no HFT exchange IPOs on deck, and the VVIX hardly large enough to warrant a TVIX type collapse, it may be downright boring. The one thing that will provide excitement is whether or not the US economic decline in March following modestly stronger than expected January and February courtesy of a record warm winter, will accelerate in order to set the stage for the April FOMC meeting in which Bill Gross, quite pregnant with a record amount of MBS, now believes the first QE hint will come. Naturally this can not happen unless the market drops first, but the market will only spike on every drop interpreting it for more QE hints, and so on in a senseless Catch 22 until the FRBNY is forced to crash the market with gusto to unleash the NEW qeasing (remember - the Fed is now officially losing the race to debase). For those looking for a more detailed preview of next week's events, Goldman provides a handy primer.
There is a good reason why we need not encourage Arianna Huffington to believe she is an important thinker of our time. I believe ridicule is a good way to inform her of that.
Firstly, Britain’s ‘safe-haven status’ is a fallacy. It is no more safe than many of the other major economies who are choking on debts that cannot be paid off. The only reason it HAS that status currently is because of the very Achilles Heel that will ultimately prove to be its demise - the ability to print its own currency. By NOT being a part of the euro experiment, Britain has kept control of its fate and has been able to print its way out of trouble - so far - while its neighbours to the east have all been lashed to the deck of the same sinking boat, but the day is coming when Britain’s profligacy will become important again. As I keep saying; none of this matters to anyone until it matters to everyone. Secondly, interest rates may have ‘fallen to a record low’ but they have done so in the same way heavily-indebted gamblers often ‘fall’ from hotel rooms - with a big push (only this time from the Bank of England and not a guy called Fat Tony). Like US Treasurys, the price of UK gilts would be nowhere near these levels without a captive and very friendly buyer in the shape of the central bank.
Just this week we had: TVIX, MF Global & “customer money”, CPDO, Greek CDS auction, BATS.... I’m all for some complexity and innovation, but it does seem after a week like this, that the financial markets have become too complex, and some real effort should be made to simplify things and put everyone on an even playing field.