Here come the revisionists with new malarkey about the 2008 financial crisis. No less august a forum than the New York Times today carries a front page piece by journeyman financial reporter James Stewart suggesting that Lehman Brothers was solvent; could and should have been bailed out; and that the entire trauma of the financial crisis and Great Recession might have been avoided or substantially mitigated. That is not just meretricious nonsense; its a measure of how thoroughly corrupted public discourse about the fundamental financial and economic realities of the present era has become owing to the cult of central banking. The great error of September 2008 was not in failing to bailout Lehman. It was in providing a $100 billion liquidity hose to Morgan Stanley and an even larger one to Goldman. They too were insolvent. That was the essence of their business model. Fed policies inherently generate runs, and then it stands ready with limitless free money to rescue the gamblers. You can call that pragmatism, if you like. But don’t call it capitalism.
Black Swan? Having seen liquidations of a relatively small fund yesterday send the NASDAQ down 2% and credit reeling, world bond and stock markets are reacting aggressively to Bill Gross' move from PIMCO. German stocks (PIMCO's parent Allianz is the 7th largest stock in DAX) are tumbling, European peripheral bond spreads are pushing wider (major holdings of PIMCO) and US credit markets are getting smashed (PIMCO is a major player in CDS markets and obviously a huge holder of US corporate debt) and concerns spread of redemptions triggering the kind of liquidity suck out we described yesterday.
When is the U.S. banking system going to crash? We can sum it up in three words. Watch the derivatives. It used to be only four, but now there are five "too big to fail" banks in the United States that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives.
Billions of dollars have already been lost in just a few days, since everybody realized the UK may actually split up. Many more billions will be lost in the coming week, as measures of volatility go through the roof. Neither the Yes side nor the No side have gone into this thing terribly prepared; there are a zillion questions surrounding the independence issue that won’t be solved before the vote takes place. Passports, currencies, central banks, monetary unions, there’s too much even to mention. Somewhere, emanating from the old crypts and burrows in which Britain was founded, we fear a hideous force may emerge to crush the Scottish people’s desire for self-determination, if only because that desire is a major threat to some very rich and powerful entities who found themselves as unprepared as Downing Street 10.
The hollowing out of corporate strengths to enable short-term profiteering by the handful at the top leads to systemic fragility. No shock is needed to bring down these fragile corporate structures: existing debt and the slightest tremor of global recession will be enough to topple the rickety facade.
Mark Spitznagel: "Mises will ultimately be right yet again about the inevitable final collapse of the current asset boom brought about by credit expansion. The term “black swan” (the surprising, unforeseen event) used for bursting financial bubbles has been and will remain a misnomer - we can and, indeed, should expect such tumults to occur at some point as a consequence of massive central bank intervention and economic distortion."
Ron Paul: "As to the unwinding of this mess, I’m convinced that when the current expansion ends it will be abrupt, gigantic, and worldwide. The 43-year expansion of Fed credit and debt, delivered to us by a fiat dollar standard, and held together artificially by an undeserved trust will end badly."
The advent of computer generated trading algorithms heralded a quantum leap forward in the quest for 24/7 control of markets. No longer were humans beings required to do such unseemly things as man trading desks or worry a whit if free markets were, if even infrequently, attempting to function. Algo precision has made even the blackest of black swan events seem to turn lily white in their utter non-eventfulness. No more significant Dow or bond crashes, and best of all, no gold rallies exceeding (exactly) 1.00%, or the occasional 2.00%.
That 4% market correction was quick and virtually painless. Not missing a beat after the market briefly tested 1900, the dip buyers came roaring back - gunning for the 2000 marker on the S&P 500, confident that longs were not selling and that shorts had long ago been obliterated. Needless to say, bubblevision had its banners ready to crawl triumphantly across the screen. When the algos finally did print the magic 2000 number, it represented a 200% gain from the March 2009 lows. And to complete the symmetry, the S&P 500 thereby clocked in at exactly 20X LTM reported earnings based on consistent historical pension accounting. The bulls said not to worry because the market is still “cheap” - like it always is, until it isn’t. To be sure, the Fed is a serial bubble machine. But even it cannot defy economic gravity indefinitely.
“Train wreck is a pretty good term to describe what is coming. But this train wreck isn’t simply going to hit a wall out of the blue. Actually, it has been forming and accumulating and expanding for many years now, and yet it has simply been ignored, particularly by the financial markets which have ridden this bubble to these extreme and historic heights. The only issue is, when does it hit the wall? The answer to that question is it’s not very far down the road, and I can promise you that is when all hell is going to break loose.”
Nouriel Roubini, Kyle Bass, Hugo Salinas Price, Charles Nenner, James Dines, Jim Rogers, David Stockman, Marc Faber, Jim Rickards, Paul Craig Roberts, Martin Armstrong, Larry Edelson, Gerald Celente and Others Warn of Wider War
The 2008 Wall Street meltdown is long forgotten, having been washed away by a tsunami of central bank liquidity. Indeed, the S&P closed today up by nearly 200% from its March 2009 low. Yet four cardinal measures of Main Street economic health convey nothing like a 2x pick-up from the post-crisis bottom.
At the heart of the China Commodity Financing Deals (CCFD) is the ability to leverage a letter of credit on the basis that there was some collateral somewhere that backed the risk of this rehypothecatable 'money'. Until now, the biggest concern has been "where's my copper, nickel, gold, etc..?" as the Qingdao ponzi scheme is unveiled; but, as Metal Bulletin reports, the contagion from the exposure of CCFDs ponzi has now hit Western banks. At least one western bank has stopped discount financing of copper into China after Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) applied for the right not to settle a letter of credit it issued earlier this year, as a result of the Qingdao investigations. In other words the collateral chains were just snapped...
"There's something going on in derivatives land," is the warning from ADM's Andy Ash and as Paul Mylchreest notes the relationship between VIX and SKEW suggests the options market is pricing in the possibility of a major market event. The process enables professionals to maintain the illusion of calmness in VIX while hedging their positions (as they attempt to unwind as we have shown). Whether this 'event' is a crash or melt-up is historically unclear but given the taper and the trend of the last few years, we suspect the former more likely that the latter.
While we noted last week the death of the Japanese bond market as government intervention has killed the largest bond market in the world; it is now becoming increasingly clear that the dearth of trading volumes is not only spreading to equity markets but also to all major global markets as investors rotate to derivatives in order to find any liquidity. Central planners removal of increasing amounts of assets from the capital markets (bonds and now we find out stocks), thus reducing collateral availability, leaves traders lamenting "liquidity is becoming a serious issue." While there are 'trade-less' sessions now in Japanese bonds, the lack of liquidity is becoming a growing problem in US Treasuries (where the Fed owns 1/3rd of the market) and Europe where as JPMorgan warns, "some of this liquidity may be more superficial than really deep." The instability this lack of liquidity creates is extremely worrisome and likely another reason the Fed wants to Taper asap as DoubleLine warns, this is "the sort of thing that rears its ugly head when it is least welcome -- when it’s the greatest problem."
In order to back the dollars now in circulation and on deposit -- about $2.7 trillion -- with the approximately 261 million ounces of gold believed to be held by the U.S. government, gold prices would have to rise as high as $10,000 an ounce. Who said gold is not money?