Everyone has seen them: those "inexplicable" bouts of furious selling in gold and silver, coming out of nowhere with no news or catalyst. In fact, look no further than what happened first thing this morning, when an unknown seller, smashed all stops in one big sale, and took silver to its lowest price for 2014. This was a premeditated and deliberate selling of silver with one simple purpose: push and reprice silver lower. But this is nothing new: precious metal traders, especially those who are on the other side of the table of the BIS' Mikael Charoze or Benoit Gilson, and countless other commercial banks, are all too aware of this behavior and they take it for granted. No, the real surprise is that suddenly none other than the CME is getting worred that manipulation this blatant is finally chasing regular retail traders away who are tired of being fleeced on a daily basis, leaving central banks and a few "fixing" banks to trade only with each other, which is not acceptable - after all it is the muppets' money that is fair game, not that of other cartel members.
You can't keep a rigged market down... despite weak GDP, weak jobs data, weaker PMI sub-indices, and weak construction spending, US equity markets are making new highs led by the ever-squeezable Nasdaq playing catch-up (and the Trannies). All of this stands in stark contrast to the continuing collapse in bond yields as macro fundamentals are reflected in only one side of the capital markets. 30Y yields - at 4.42% - are near their lowest in 10 months, and the rest of the complex hovers near 2014 lows.
Since it's not Tuesday (the only day that matters for stocks, of course), call it opposite, or rather stop hunt take out, day. First, it was the BOJ which, as we warned previously, would disappoint and not boost QE (sorry SocGen which had expected an increase in monetization today, and now expects nothing more from the BOJ until year end), which sent the USDJPY sliding, only to see the pair make up all the BOJ announcement losses and then some; and then it was Europe, where first German retail sales cratered, printing at -1.9%, down from 2.0% and on expectations of a 1.7% print, and then Eurozone inflation once again missed estimates, and while rising from the abysmal 0.5% in March printed at only 0.7% - hardly the runaway inflation stuff Draghi is praying for. What happened then: EURUSD tumbled then promptly rebounded a la the flash crash, and at last check was trading near the high of the day.
In what turned out to be immaculate timing, it was only yesterday that we previewed the collapse in Apple's domestic cash hoard (at the expense of its soaring, if non-recourse offshore cash) which we concluded by saying that "what this simply means is that after making the history books with the biggest ever, $17 billion bond offering 12 months ago, Apple is about to issue a whole lot more of debt." Less than 24 hours later, it did just that. Moments ago Apple filed a bond offering prospectus, in which it laid out a 7-part bond offering consisting of two FRN tranches (due 2017 and 2019), and 5 fixed rate tranches (due 2017, 2019, 2021, 2024 and 2044), with Goldman and Deustche Bank as lead underwrtiers.
- EU regulators unveil details of bank stress tests (FT)
- Just use NSAfari: U.S., UK advise avoiding Internet Explorer until bug fixed (Reuters)
- China’s Income Inequality Surpasses U.S., Posing Risk for Xi (BBG)
- US races to refuel infrastructure fund as revenue dries up (FT)
- New Era Dawns at Nokia as Company Appoints CEO, Plans $1.4 Billion Special Dividend, Share-Repurchase Program (WSJ)
- Obama reassures allies, but doubts over 'pivot' to Asia persist (Reuters)
- Dissent at SEC over bank waivers (FT)
- U.S. Banks to Help Authorities with Tax Evasion Probe (WSJ)
- U.S., Europe Impose New Sanctions on Russia (WSJ)
- Why the U.S. Is Targeting the Business Empire of a Putin Ally (BBG)
- Euro-Area April Economic Confidence Unexpectedly Declines (BBG)
- Bitcoin traders settle class actions over failed Mt. Gox exchange (Reut
On the subject of High Frequency Trading, our respondents are thus far unimpressed with the argument that HFT helps U.S. equity market participants. Fully half answered that it is “Harmful” or “Very Harmful”. Only 19% said it was “Helpful” or “Very Helpful” to participants. ... In short, the survey seems to tell a very clear story. Most professional investors and institutional brokers do not feel that markets treat all participants fairly. They worry about how fragile markets might become during periods of abnormally high volume. At the same time, they are cautiously picking their way through the minefield in which they find themselves and are unsure what role regulators should play. How the landscape will change as a result of their unease is still unclear. What is certain is that change is coming.
Who can forget the amazing story of Alex Hope which was all the rage two years ago? Probably everyone. So here is a timely reminder because as it turns out young master Hope, who struck the proverbial gold at the tender age of 23, was nothing more than the latest Ponzi schemer whose only success in life was finding the absolute, and quite rich, idiots who believed his lies. Well, that, and being able to transform himself from a catering manager working at Wembley Stadium into an FX trader.... even if a fake, criminal and absolutely terrible FX trader.
Dear Gennady, ...So you see, Gennady, we are actually quite prepared to see the stock market crash, to see all the stock markets in the world crash, and the yields on our dollar bonds rise to whatever level. We are prepared for much worse things... The inevitable economic setback may result in some political opposition within Russia itself, but in the context of an escalating confrontation with Europe it shouldn’t be too difficult to cope with.... I hope that makes things a little clearer. Yes, it is a risky strategy, but a Europe dominated by Russia, or at least detached from the United States and disunited, is a prize worth risking everything for. Beppo is worth a crash.... Think about what I’ve said – some of it may come as a shock, but in the end, I think you’ll agree that it’s actually good news that the long tense period of waiting is finally over. We can’t win a conventional or a nuclear conflict, but this plan really might succeed. If not, well, we Russians are used to overcoming adversity.. Your Friend, Sasha
The conventional view of deflation is that if it sets in, “the banking industry, the financial markets, and much of the rest of the economy will be wiped out in a bottomless deflationary spiral.” But, such a spiral would not prove fatal to the lives and welfare of the general population. Rather, it would destroy “essentially those companies and industries that live a parasitical existence at the expense of the rest of the economy, and which owe their existence to our present money system.” Let us be more explicit. Severe deflation threatens at an existential level bankrupt banks and the bankrupt governments that perpetuate their existence. Deflation is a mortal enemy to the heavily indebted state and its embedded parasites, but it is a friend to the saver and to anyone with a positive net worth.
The Fed’s 5-year campaign to drive the 30-year mortgage rate from 6.5% to 3.3% has accomplished nothing except to touch off another of those pointless “refi” booms which enable homeowners to swap an existing mortgage for a new one carrying a significantly lower interest rate and monthly service cost. Such debt churning exercises have been sponsored repeatedly by the Fed since the S&L debacle of the late 1980s. The overwhelming evidence, however, is that America’s shop-till-they-drop consumers have finally dropped. But while peak debt means that the Fed’s entire 5-year money printing spree was destined to fail, it nevertheless has produced massive impacts - all of them bad or stupid. One of the most crucial is that it generated an artificial refi windfall to the Big Banks which now dominate the home mortgage business. And the profit windfall was a doozy. Now that financial results for Q1 2014 have been posted, the impact on Big Four financial results can actually be quantified. The four charts below on mortgage originations per quarter during the course of the Fed’s balance sheet expansion binge are the smoking gun.
As we reported last night, whether as a result of Snowden revelations and NSA blowback by BRIC nations, or simply because the global economy is contracting far faster than rigged and manipulated markets worldwide will admit, IBM's Q1 revenues not only missed consensus earnings, but dropped to their lowest level since 2009. And yet, IBM stock is just shy off its all time highs and earnings per share have been flat if not rising during this period, leading even such acclaimed investors who never invest in tech companies as Warren Buffett to give IBM the seal of approval. How is that possible? Simple: all that investment grade companies like IBM have done in the New Normal in order to preserve the illusion of growth, is to use cash from operations, or incremental zero-cost leverage, to fund stock buybacks. In essence a balance sheet for income statement tradeoff. However, that "great stock buyback gimmick" as we call it, is finally coming to an end.
Those munificently rising stock prices and options cash-outs owe much to the Fed’s campaign to suppress interest rates and fuel stock market based ”wealth effects”, but the CEOs are doing their part, too. They have become full-time financial engineers who use the Fed’s flood of liquidity, cheap debt and soaring stock prices to perform a giant strip-mining operation on their own companies. That is, through endless stock buybacks and M&A maneuvers they create the appearance of “growth” while actually liquidating the balance sheet equity and future asset base on which legitimate earnings growth depends. The poster boy for this deformation is IBM which for all intents and purposes has become a stock buyback machine on steroids. It had a bad hair day yesterday, reporting still another year/year decline in sales, but that goes right to the heart of the matter. During the last seven years IBM has been a stock traders dream, climbing an almost picture perfect chart from $94 per share in March 2007 to a recent peak of $212.
We believe Fed’s actions would be more appropriately described as permitted cancerous beliefs to spread throughout the financial system, thereby killing Democratic Capitalism which is the basis of the capital markets.
What was worst, and naturally will not be discussed at all by the peanut gallery, about Citi's just announced results is that the amount of Citigroup mortgage originations - that key aspect of the trumpeted "housing market recovery" - did what it has done at every other bank. It plunged. Only at Citigroup, it plunged so badly, it just reached a new record low which at $5.2 billion is a 71% drop from a year ago! Long live the housing recovery... in which nobody seems to be participating.
In light of the recent "triumphant" return of Greece to the capital markets with its brand new 5 Year bond issuance (which much to the chagrin of the flippers is already trading below its breaking price), one of our Greek readers decided to provide his "on the ground" perspective on what is really happening in Greece: "I am writing you in an effort to get you to provide a more public and harsh(I mean realistic) description of what has been going on, for the past few days with relation to what’s left of my country. I doubt it will not take you long to discover its mostly spent on “political commissions” and interest payments (I’d bet only 6-7% actually flows through). I am sure you are aware that according to Greek law all political parties receive some kind of (substantial) financial support from the government budget. The government has not delivered. There are still over 900,000 people working for public and government related services, for a population of roughly 11 million. The banks still maintain negative real equity and have consistently defrauded investors over the past few years."