- Obama Picking Lew for Treasury Fuels Fight on Budget (BBG)
- Deutsche Bank Bank Made Huge Bet, and Profit, on Libor (WSJ)
- Spain Beats Maximum Target in First 2013 Debt Sale (BBG) - In other news, the social security fund is now running on negative?
- "Icahn is also believed to have taken a long position in Herbalife" (NYPost) - HLF +5% premarket
- Lew-for-Geithner Switch Closes Era of Tight Fed-Treasury Ties (BBG)
- Turkey Beating Norway as Biggest Regional Oil Driller (BBG)
- Greek State Firms are Facing Closure (WSJ)
- Draghi Spared as Confidence Swing Quells Rate-Cut Talk (BBG)
- China’s Yuan Loans Trail Estimates (BBG)
- SEC enforcement chief steps down (WSJ)
- CFPB releases new mortgage rules in bid to reduce risky lending (WaPo)
- Japan Bond Investors Expect Extra Sales From February (BBG)
European officials have impressed upon investors that the tail risks of a EMU break up have receded markedly. Some officials talk even that the crisis is over. The premium Italy, and to a less extent, Spain, pay over Germany have narrowed to levels that had previously thought possible only if the ECB were to make good on its promise of unlimited (ex ante) purchases. There have been some signs that foreign investors are participating in the primary and secondary sovereign European bond market. Ireland is returning to the capital markets.
To be sure, challenges remain. Greece's will and ability to impose more austerity is questioned. Spain has relied on cuts in public investment over the last several years while other spending has actually risen. With high issuance this year than last, apparently without the help of another LTRO (with some borrowing, perhaps around 100 bln euros expected to be paid back early--beginning as soon as the end of Jan), Spain's funding challenges are likely to resurface. Italy's elections next month could still result in a hung parliament, with Monti's centrist movement seemingly contributing to the fragmentation. However, it is Cyprus that may be the most pressing issue. Yes it is small and few international investors have any exposure. Its significance extends beyond its size.
Beginning with Malthus' warning to the world and the Great Irish famine, David McWilliams (of Punk Economics) provides his typically succinct, profoundly fascinating, and graphically pleasing insights on the state of the global food economy. "What happens when hungry people panic?" is the question McWilliams poses; "they move to other parts of the world," he rhetorically answers, adding that this could well be the story of the next 50 years on Earth as the rock of the insatiable demand of seven billion (soon-to-be-ten-billion) people smashes into the hard place of the planet's limited resources to produce that one thing that keeps us all alive - food. The food dilemma is more complex though as it is really an energy dilemma - one that is not going away (on the downside). On the bright side, Malthus' nightmare has yet to occur thanks to the ingenuity of humans. However, if all the world's seven billion people consumer as much as the average American, it would require the resources of over five planet Earths to sustainably support all of us. So either the rest-of-the-world eats less to allow Americans to eat more or we are stuck! McWilliams takes us on a path from changing global diets to water and energy demands, through central banks' "frothy response" to the global financial crisis and on to the impacts such as class divisions, rising healthcare costs, and social unrest - all in 11 minutes... Truly must watch!
The Cliff is dead; long live the Cliff. Yesterday’s impressive market rally was a great way to kick off the New Year, but (as ConvergEx's Nicholas Colas notes) we do have 251 trading days to go before we can lock in those gains and dance a celebratory jig. The market’s psychological pendulum swings between extremes of “Macro” and “micro” focus, and we shouldn’t take it for granted that the stock market’s positive take on the Fiscal Cliff negotiations portend a better economy, a stronger financial picture for the U.S., or any of the actual nuts-and-bolts which hold together the framework of corporate earnings and cash flows. Colas' prime concern is that the increase in Social Security tax withholding by 2 percentage points – back to its pre-2011 12.4% - will take a chunk out of the spending power for tens of millions of households. In the abstract, the amounts involved are not huge – perhaps 50 basis points of GDP. But everything counts when GDP growth remains stubbornly subpar.
Bill Gross On Bernanke's Latest Helicopter Flyover, "Money For Nothing, Debt For Free" And The End Of Ponzi SchemesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/03/2013 08:53 -0400
Back in April 2012, in "How The Fed's Visible Hand Is Forcing Corporate Cash Mismanagement" we first explained how despite its best intentions (to boost the Russell 2000 to new all time highs, a goal it achieved), the Fed's now constant intervention in capital markets has achieved one thing when it comes to the real economy: an unprecedented capital mismanagemenet, where as a result of ZIRP, corporate executives will always opt for short-term, low IRR, myopic cash allocation decisions such as dividend, buyback and, sometimes, M&A, seeking to satisfy shareholders and ignoring real long-term growth opportunities such as R&D spending, efficiency improvements, capital reinvestment, retention and hiring of employees, and generally all those things that determine success for anyone whose investment horizon is longer than the nearest lockup gate. Today, one calendar year later, none other than Bill Gross, in his first investment letter of 2013, admits we were correct: "Zero-bound interest rates, QE maneuvering, and “essentially costless” check writing destroy financial business models and stunt investment decisions which offer increasingly lower ROIs and ROEs. Purchases of “paper” shares as opposed to investments in tangible productive investment assets become the likely preferred corporate choice." It is this that should be the focus of economists, and not what the level of the S&P is, as it is no longer indicative of any underlying market fundamentals, but merely how large, in nominal terms, the global balance sheet is. And as long as the impact of peak central-planning on "business models" is ignored, there can be no hope of economic stabilization, let alone improvement. All this and much more, especially his admissions that yes, it is flow, and not stock, that dominates the Fed market impact (think great white shark - must always be moving), if not calculus, in Bill Gross' latest letter.
"Are the key governments and their leaders able to maintain confidence in this fragile system?" "Are 'they' going to do the 'right' things?"
Time is running out. The cliff negotiations have devolved into two unpalatable options: (1) extend just the middle income tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits and allow about two-thirds of the cliff to happen, or (2) go over the cliff in the entirety. In BofAML's view, given the short time frame and legislative hurdles, the latter appears much more likely. Stock market vigilantes have replaced bond vigilantes as the potential good, bad, and ugly scenarios are devoured flashing red headline by flashing red headline. They, like us, believe that going over the cliff is not a benign “slope” as some suggest. Rather, it accelerates the already-building damage to the economy and markets. The latest evidence is the plunge in consumer confidence. Indeed, this could mark the beginning of the rotation in the uncertainty shock from businesses to consumers. Going over the cliff has many secondary, largely ignored, negative impacts, including tax changes that could damage the housing recovery, as well as negatively impact education and alternative energy, among many others.
It's no secret that high-frequency traders and those who employ bad or manipulative algorithms are swimming in pools of money. Most of these guys making complex statements for computers to follow aren't even financially inclined, most are physicists, aeronautics engineers, and quants looking to impose math upon the world instead of deriving it from the world. This form of trading has reversed the flow of finance. At one point the stocks that make up an ETF would move before the ETF. Now because of the speed at which computers can freeze the stock prices, calculate wh
There have been very few times where in my 40+ years of capital markets participation that I’ve strongly believed that we have witnessed a significant, material, public but seemingly under-discussed, under appreciated watershed event that will over the next several years, impact capital markets in a profound manner. The recent announcement by the Fed that they were to pursue the future course of monetary policy with direct regard to a specific, numerical level of unemployment in my mind, represents exactly one of those rare events. While the optics of the recent decision to accept an active target of the unemployment rate might be well meant, socially responsible and politically correct, the dependency upon the single datum construct already of a highly controversial nature may well likely reduce further the credibility of the Federal Reserve’s monetary efforts, thereby leading to slower economic growth, hiring and economic well being as adverse unintended consequences. Indeed, another triumph of form over substance wherein appearances of a literally wondrous intent might soothe the fevered brows of the public but remain entirely within the manipulative province of the data managers.
What causes hyperinflations? The answer is: Quasi-fiscal deficits (A quasi-fiscal deficit is the deficit of a central bank)! Why have we not seen hyperinflation yet? Because we have not had quasi-fiscal deficits! Essentially, hyperinflation is the ultimate and most expensive bailout of a broken banking system, which every holder of the currency is forced to pay for in a losing proposition, for it inevitably ends in its final destruction. Hyperinflation is the vomit of economic systems: Just like any other vomit, it’s a very good thing, because we can all finally feel better. We have puked the rotten stuff out of the system.
- Republicans put squeeze on Obama in "fiscal cliff" talks (Reuters)
- Inquiry harshly criticizes State Department over Benghazi attack (Reuters)
- Banks See Biggest Returns Since ’03 as Employees Suffer (BBG)
- Italy president urges election be held on time (Reuters)
- Bank of England Says Sterling Hurting Economy (WSJ) - there's an app for that, it's called a Goldman BOE chairman
- China slowdown hits Indonesian farmers (FT)
- China dispute hits Japanese exports (FT)
- Market to get even more monopolized by the HFT king: Getco wins Knight with $2 bln sweetened offer (Reuters)
- MF Global Cases Focus on 'Letters' (WSJ)
- UBS fined $1.5 billion in growing Libor scandal (Reuters)
- Spotlight swings to interdealer brokers (FT)
- China Widens Access to Capital Markets (WSJ)
- With Instagram, Facebook Spars With Twitter (WSJ)
Our biggest concern here on the cusp of 2013 is the current odd combination of extreme complacency about the risks presented by extend-and-pretend macro policy making and rapidly accelerating social tensions that could threaten political and eventually financial market stability. Before everyone labels us ‘doomers’ and pessimists, let us point out that, economically, we already have wartime financial conditions: the debt burden and fiscal deficits of the western world are at levels not seen since the end of World War II. We may not be fighting in the trenches, but we may soon be fighting in the streets. To continue with the current extend-and-pretend policies is to continue to disenfranchise wide swaths of our population - particularly the young - those who will be taking care of us as we are entering our doddering old age. We would not blame them if they felt a bit less than generous. The macro economy has no ammunition left for improving sentiment. We are all reduced to praying for a better day tomorrow, as we realise that the current macro policies are like pushing on a string because there is no true price discovery in the market anymore. We have all been reduced to a bunch of central bank watchers, only ever looking for the next liquidity fix, like some kind of horde of heroin addicts. We have a pro forma capitalism with de facto market totalitarianism. Can we have our free markets back please?
Last week Eurogroup head Juncker warned that the situation tiny Cyprus was more worrisome than Greece. While this seemed to be an exercise in hyperbole, sure enough Monday, a Cyprus official was quoted on the news wires warning of an imminent default.
Hang on. Didn't Cyprus reach a memorandum of understanding with the Troika ? Indeed, it did. However, it will take some time to deliver the funds.
Moments ago, the San Fran Fed, best known for spending taxpayer money to conduct such indepth analyses on topics including whether water is wet, and whether the Fed creates bubbles, has just released its most recent 'FedViews' economic outlook in which we read that "we expect growth to steadily accelerate in 2013 as the economy bounces back from harsh weather conditions and as the underlying expansion of consumer spending reemerges. We expect growth to register 1.7% in 2012 and 2.6% in 2013." This would be great if only a two minute Google search did not expose some of the San Fran Fed's previous attempts at forecasting the future, such as this one from October 14, 2010, in which the crack experts said that "we currently project that real GDP will expand around 2½% in 2010, below its potential of about 3% annually. We expect the recovery to gain momentum over the course of next year and that real GDP growth for 2011 will reach about 3½%." Final 2011 GDP growth: 2.4%.... or this one from June 9, 2011, in which we learned that "growth should rebound in the third quarter. We expect GDP to expand at an annualized 3½% rate in the second half of the year and to continue to strengthen throughout 2012." Final 2012 GDP growth: 1.8%. Or just 50% off. Applying the same undershoot error rate to the Fed's 2013 forecast means that real economic growth next year will be at best 1.3%. And that's with a fresh $1 trillion in monetary injections from the Fed.