JPMorgan, Madoff, And Why No One Dared Ask "The Cult" Any "Serious Questions As Long As The Performance Is Good"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/07/2014 18:02 -0500
JPMorgan: "[t]here are various elements in the story that could make us nervous," including the fund managers "apparent fear of Madoff, where no one dares to ask any serious questions as long as the performance is good.... personnel at one feeder fund seem[ed] very defensive and almost scared of Madoff... They seem unwilling to ask him any difficult questions and seem to be considering his 'interests' before those of the investors. It's almost a cult he seems to have fostered."
For a man who spent his entire career, over half a century, generating ~2% inflation leading to the great middle-class wealth transfer known as the "great moderation", and of course the great financial crisis, personally experiencing 40% deflation in under three months must be the supremest of ironies. Oh wait, 40% two weeks ago. Make that 50% deflation as of today... or as the Princeton economics department would say, an annualized deflation rate of #Ref!
Alan Greenspan's Modest Proposal: Fix Broken Economic Models By... Modeling Irrational "Animal Spirits"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/02/2014 14:26 -0500
We leave it to everyone's supreme amusement to enjoy the Maestro's full non-mea culpa essay, but we will highlight Greenspan's two most amusing incosistencies contained in the span of a few hundred words. On one hand the former Chairman admits that "The financial crisis [...] represented an existential crisis for economic forecasting. The conventional method of predicting macroeconomic developments -- econometric modeling, the roots of which lie in the work of John Maynard Keynes -- had failed when it was needed most, much to the chagrin of economists." On the other, his solution is to do... more of the same: "if economists better integrate animal spirits into our models, we can improve our forecasting accuracy. Economic models should, when possible, measure and forecast systematic human behavior and the tendencies of corporate culture.... Forecasters may never approach the fantasy success of the Oracle of Delphi or Nostradamus, but we can surely improve on the discouraging performance of the past." So, Greenspan's solution to the failure of linear models is to... model animal spirits, or said otherwise human irrationality. Brilliant.
A month ago, the press was aflutter with rumors that NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, spurned by mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, would join JPMorgan in a "top security" position. The rumor was since denied and the fate of Kelly was unclear, until today, when the Council on Foreign Relations announced that the NYPD top man would join the CFR as a "distinguished visiting fellow" in turn opening the doors wide for a world of financial opportunities to Kelly. Considering his tenure, where Kelly served as senior managing director of global corporate security at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. from 2000 to 2001, he seems like a perfect fit for the CFR.
Once gold goes into China’s vault, it’s like going into a black hole.
It wasn't long after three former General Electric Co. executives were convicted of rigging auctions for municipal-bond investment contracts that they received the ultimate sendoff: A 7,400-word torching in Rolling Stone magazine by Matt Taibbi, the writer who branded Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with the nickname "vampire squid." "Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia," Taibbi began his June 2012 opus about Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm. "Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street." Then came a surprise last week, right before Thanksgiving. A federal judge ordered the men released from prison.
The rock is reality. The squishy place is the illusion that pervasive racketeering is an okay replacement for an economy. The essence of racketeering is the use of dishonest schemes to get money, often (but not always) employing coercion to make it work. Some rackets can function on the sheer cluelessness of the victim(s).
The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth - defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt - which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months. Sounds like a perfect time to BTFATH...
Since the Financial Crisis erupted in 2007, the US Federal Reserve has engaged in dozens of interventions/ bailouts to try and prop up the financial system. Now, I realize that everyone knows the Fed is “printing money.” However, when you look at the list of bailouts/ money pumps it’s absolutely staggering how much money the Fed has thrown around.
To the DOJ, a $13 billion receipt is the "largest ever settlement with a single entity." To #AskJPM, a $13 billion outlay is a 100%+ IRR. And perhaps more relevant, let's recall that JPM holds $550 billion in Fed excess reserves, on which it is paid 0.25% interest, or $1.4 billion annually. In other words, out of the Fed's pocket, through JPM, and back into the government. Luckily, this is not considered outright government financing.
Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope. Who was to blame?
"The government, writ large, had a hand in creating the conditions that encouraged the approval of dubious mortgages. It was the government, in the form of Congress, that repealed Glass-Steagall, thus allowing certain banks that had previously viewed mortgages as a source of interest income to become instead deeply involved in securitizing pools of mortgages in order to obtain the much greater profits available from trading. It was the government, in the form of both the executive and the legislature, that encouraged deregulation..."
- Judge Jed Rakoff
Remember the main reason why the Fed should have tapered, namely the illiquidity in the bond market it is creating with its feverish pace of collateral extraction, and conversion of quality collateral into 500x fwd P/E dot com dot two stocks? Here to put it all in context is Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann: "Through its QE policy, the Fed buys $3 of mortgages for every $1 of origination. The consequence is that secondary mortgage market liquidity has been decimated: it is as bad as when Bear Stearns failed." That's just MBS for now. However, since the Fed has refused and refuses to taper, the same liquidity collapse is coming to Treasury's first, then corporates, then ETFs, then REITs and everything else that the Fed will eventually monetize. Just like the BOJ.
On the day when the CFTC begins considering 'speculative position limits', believed to be "the signal rule of [his] tenure at the Commission," Bart Chilton has had enough. Having "left traders in their own" during the shutdown, Chilton expressed "excitement" at his new endeavours after sending his resignation letter to President Obama this morning (more poetry? - or body doubles?) "I'm reminded of the old Etta James song, 'At Last,'" said Mr. Chilton, one of the agency's three Democratic members. "At last, we've got this rule here," and at last, he would be leaving the CFTC. This leaves us wondering whether Chilton, no longer burdened by the shackles of his meagre compensation, perhaps can finally do what he has been promising to do for years - become a whistleblower - after all he has insinuated so many times he knows where all the "dirt" is; unless, of course, it was all for show.
It is a common view that the shutdown, the debt-limit debacle and the repeated failure to enact entitlement and pro-growth tax reform reflect increased political polarization. John Taylor believes this gets the causality backward. Today's governance failures are closely connected to economic policy changes, particularly those growing out of the 2008 financial crisis. Despite a massive onslaught of legislation and regulation designed to foster prosperity, economic growth remains low and unemployment remains high. Claiming that one political party has been hijacked by extremists misses this key point, and prevents a serious discussion of the fundamental changes in economic policies in recent years, and their effects.
This artificial prosperity plan for Wall Street has the added benefit of allowing the captured politicians in Washington D.C. to continue their $1 trillion per year deficit spending with no consequences for their squandering of future generations’ wealth. Bernanke and Yellen will never taper, because they can’t. The Fed balance sheet will continue to grow by at least $1 trillion per year until they crash the financial system again. Except this time, there will be no money printing solution. We are all trapped like rats in this monetary experiment being conducted by evil mad scientists. No one will get out alive. Welcome to the new normal. Now eat your cheese.