The vast majority of professional investors are unable to contemplate truly dark times for the markets. After all, the two worst items most of them have witnessed (the Tech Bust and 2008) were both remedied within about 18 months and were followed by massive market rallies.Because of this, the idea that the financial system might fail or that we might see any number of major catastrophes (Germany leaving the EU, a US debt default, hyperinflation, etc.) is on par with Bigfoot or Unicorns for 99% of those whose jobs are to manage investors' money or advise investors on how to allocate their capital.
Yesterday we noted how a CBO analyst may have been terminated for her conflicting views on model assumptions, especially when they veered away from the Wall Street-defined norm. Today, we find that the same approach to dissent may have been the reason why MF Global ended up taking inordinate risk, and ultimately blowing up, leaving over a billion in client money transitioning from liquid to gas phase overnight. According to Reuters, "The former chief risk officer at MF Global who raised red flags about the firm's aggressive trading bets told lawmakers that his warnings contributed to the firm's decision to let him go in early 2011. Michael Roseman, who was ousted in January 2011 from the now-bankrupt futures brokerage, said he rang alarm bells about the firm's exposure to European sovereign debt a year before the firm collapsed in late October of 2011." Roseman's statement on whether his skepticism to Corzine's get rich quick scheme was the reason for his termination? ""My views on risk certainly played a factor in that decision," Roseman told a House Financial Services subcommittee, about why he was asked to leave the firm." And so the status quo continues: any time anyone ever dares to disagree with broad misconceptions, whether it is regarding infinitely rising home prices, broad global compression trades, or the ability of European banks to onboard toxic CDOs in perpetuity is always promptly shown the door. The flipside to this complete lack of checks and balances? Why the bailout culture of course, in which finding one company responsible for gross complacency would mean all are guilty. Which is nobody will ever go to prison as it would set the "worst" possible precedent ever: that one is ultimately responsible for their own stupidity. Said otherwise: the best qualification one can hope to add to one's resume: "distinguished yes man with honors."
Obama's latest attempt to stimulate the housing sector and inflate home prices "before waiting for them to hit bottom" (which they never will as long as central planning tries to define what clearing prices are) is a noble reincarnation of now an annual, and completely ineffectual, theatrical gambit. There is, unfortunately, one major snag. It is Dead on Arrival (just like every single iteration of the Greek bailout), for the simple reason that it has to get congressional approval. Which it won't. And that's not just the view of biased political pundits. Wall Street agrees.
Corruption is only possible if the benefits to the parties engaged in it far outweigh the potential consequences. However, as soon as the potential consequences become real, that’s when everything changes: people start talking/ confessing, and the corruption begins to come unraveled.
While the “across the board” perspective looks quite bleak, there are going to be truly outstanding opportunities for wealth creation available to those entrepreneurs and businesspeople who are able to think creatively.
The post-hoc (correlation implies causation) reasons for why the initial LTRO spurred bond buying are many-fold but as Nomura points out in a recent note (confirming our thoughts from last week) investors (especially bank stock and bondholders) should be very nervous at the size of the next LTRO. Whether it was anticipation of carry trades becoming self-reinforcing, bank liquidity shock buffering, or pre-funding private debt market needs, financials and sovereigns have rallied handsomely, squeezing new liquidity realities into a still-insolvent (and no-growth / austerity-driven) region. Concerns about the durability of the rally are already appearing as Greek PSI shocks, Portugal contagion, mark-to-market risks impacting repo and margin call event risk, increased dispersion among European (core and peripheral) curves, and the dramatic rise in ECB Deposits (or negative carry and entirely unproductive liquidity use) show all is not Utopian. However, the largest concern, specifically for bondholders of the now sacrosanct European financials, is if LTRO 2.0 sees heavy demand (EUR200-300bn expected, EUR500bn would be an approximate trigger for 'outsize' concerns) since, as we pointed out previously, this ECB-provided liquidity is effectively senior to all other unsecured claims on the banks' balance sheets and so implicitly subordinates all existing unsecured senior and subordinated debt holders dramatically (and could potentially reduce any future willingness of private investors to take up demand from capital markets issuance - another unintended consequence). We have long suggested that with the stigma gone and markets remaining mostly closed, banks will see this as their all-in moment and grab any and every ounce of LTRO they can muster (which again will implicitly reduce all the collateral that was supporting the rest of their balance sheets even more). Perhaps the hope of ECB implicit QE in the trillions is not the medicine that so many money-printing-addicts will crave and a well-placed hedge (Senior-Sub decompression or 3s5s10s butterfly on financials) or simple underweight to the equity most exposed to the capital structure (and collateral constrained) impact of LTRO will prove fruitful.
It was only logical that following its most profitable year in history, the world's most successful hedge fund (by absolute P&L), which generated $77 billion in profit in the past year, would follow up with mass promotions. In other news, it is now more lucrative, and with better job security, to work for the FRBNY LLC Onshore Fund as a vice president than for Goldman Sachs as a Managing Director. Also, since one only has to know how to buy, as the ancient and arcane art of selling is irrelevant at this particular taxpayer funded hedge fund, think of all the incremental equity that is retained courtesy of a training session that is only half as long.
3 Months After The MF Global Bankruptcy, We Find That $1.2 Billion (Or More) In Client Money Has "Vaporized"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/29/2012 23:58 -0500
On the three month bankruptcy anniversary of the company whose rehypothecation gimmicks will one day be seen as a harbinger of everything that is broken with the multi-trillion ponzi system, but not just yet despite loud warnings otherwise, we are getting close to a final verdict of where the $1.2 billion (and possibly more as originally predicted by Zero Hedge - see below) in commingled client money may have gone. Note the use of the passive voice because using the active, as in money that MF Global executives stole from clients, is prohibited in a legal system in which nobody goes to jail for something as modest as $1.2 billion in theft. That verdict? "Vaporized." No really (and yes, in the passive voice of course). From the WSJ: "As the sprawling probe that includes regulators, criminal and congressional investigators, and court-appointed trustees grinds on, the findings so far suggest that a "significant amount" of the money could have "vaporized" as a result of chaotic trading at MF Global during the week before the company's Oct. 31 bankruptcy filing, said a person close to the investigation." Uh huh... Because money simply vaporizes. Which means one of two things: i) the "vaporization" is merely the phrase that so called investigators use to avoid the far more troubling sounding "stolen" as it would imply guilt, something which the former NJ governor and Goldman CEO (and not to mention JP Morgan which most likely was on the receiving end of the $1.2 billion + transaction) will, under guidance from counsel, sternly disagree with, or ii) the capital markets are such an unprecedented and manipulated fraud, that nobody has any clue at any moment, where any client money is, and that any residual capital still "invested" in mythical representations of "assets", which are likely rehypothecated so many times, that not even Bank of America's robosigning division would have a clue where to start unraveling, will promptly be converted into tangible manifestations of capital. So when someone asks what happened to stock market volume, and to investor confidence in the "stock market" feel free to use just that phrase: "it vaporized."
Which is why we were delighted that after months of modest confusion on the topic, the Congressional Committee on Financial Services (including subcommittee chairman Ron Paul), have demanded that not only Geithner make his stance on a US-funded IMF bailout of Europe crystal clear, but that they are openly opposed to "American taxpayer dollars being used to bail out Europe...through additional contributions to the IMF." We are curious to see just how Geithner will weasel his way out of responding to this: perhaps the only logical stall tactic is to reply that he will be busy helping Mitt Romney in his tax "revisions" over the next several months.
The advance reading of Q4 UK GDP released today came in at -0.2%, slightly below expectations, however many market participants had feared a worse outcome for the indicator, allowing the GBP to pare the losses made in the lead-up to the GDP announcement. The Bank of England minutes released today have shown that the MPC unanimously agreed to keep the UK rate at 0.5%, and maintain the volume of the APF, however they also revealed that some MPC members saw the need for further QE in the future. Despite higher than expected German IFO Business Climate data this morning, European indices are trading in negative territory, with technology and financial stocks suffering the highest losses. This has seen asset reallocations into safe havens, which has seen Bunds outperform for the morning.
Just when one thinks American crony capitalism couldn't hit new lows, here comes Warren Buffett and his personal puppet, the president, proving everyone wrong once more. Because if one thinks there is no (s)quid pro quo for all that "sage" advice that Buffett has been giving to Obama on extracting as much wealth as possible from future wealthy Americans (before they decide they have had enough with this crony shit and leave the country for good), one would be fatally wrong. As it turns out, it is not just natural resources and aquifer purity that Obama had in mind when sealing the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. No - it appears there were far more relevant numerial metrics that determined Obama's decisions. Such as the bottom line number of Buffett's Burlington Northern, which according to Bloomberg, is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit. '“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said in an interview. If Keystone XL “doesn’t happen, we’re here to haul." And quite delighted to reap the windfalls of unfounded populist fears she forgot to add. Because while the whole "carbon-credit" multi-trillion top line expansion scheme for Goldman under the pretense of actually caring for the environment may have collapsed, it is not preventing others from trying and succeeding where even Goldman has failed.
As of Q3 2011, the citizens of less than 20% of the countries involved in Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence, Concerns, and Spending Intentions Survey were on average confident in their future economic confidence. Not surprisingly, Nic Colas of ConvergEx points out, six were in Asia, the least confident were in Eastern and Peripheral European nations, and furthermore overall global consumer confidence remains 9.3% below 2H 2006 (and 6.4% below Q4 2010) readings as the global economy still has a long way to get its 'mojo' back. Colas points to the fact that 'confidence is an essential lubricant of any capitalist-based system' and one of the key challenges that worst hit Europe (and other regions and nations) face is capital markets that are assessing the long shadow of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis impact on the world's Consumer Confidence.
Nowhere in S&P’s statement about “global economic and financial crisis”, did it clarify that sovereigns were hit due to backing their largest national banks (and international, US ones) which engaged in half a decade of leveraged speculation. But here’s how it worked: 1) Big banks funneled speculative capital, and their own, into local areas, using real estate and other collateral as fodder for securitized deals with derivative touches. 2) They lost money on these bets, and on the borrowing incurred to leverage them. 3) The losses ate their capital. 4) The capital markets soured against them in mutual bank distrust so they couldn’t raise more money to cover their bets as before. 5) So, their borrowing costs rose which made it more difficult for them to back their bets or purchase their own government’s debt. 6) This decreased demand for government debt, which drove up the cost of that debt, which transformed into additional country expenses. 7) Countries had to turn to bailouts to keep banks happy and plush with enough capital. 8) In return for bailouts and cheap lending, governments sacrificed citizens. 9) As citizens lost jobs and countries lost assets to subsidize the international speculation wave, their economies weakened further. 10) S&P (and every political leader) downplayed this chain of events.... The die has been cast. Central entities like the Fed, ECB, and IMF perpetuate strategies that further undermine economies, through emergency loan facilities and bailouts, with rating agency downgrades spurring them on. Governments attempt to raise money at harsher terms PLUS repay the bailouts that caused those terms to be higher. Banks hoard cheap money which doesn’t help populations, exacerbating the damaging economic effects. Unfortunately, this won't end any time soon.
Fed Back To Its Secretive Ways, Sells $7 Billion In Maiden Lane Assets Directly To Credit Suisse Without Public AuctionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/19/2012 13:03 -0500
Instead of opting for a publicly transparent BWIC in the disposition of its Maiden Lane II assets, the Fed has once again gone opaque - long a critique of the Fed's practices which have required repeated FOIAs in the past to get some clarity on its secret bailouts and transactions - and proceeded with a private sale, without any clarity on the deal terms, in which it sold $7 billion in face amount of Maiden Lane II assets direct to Credit Suisse. The alternative of course would be the same snarling of the MBS and broadly fixed income market that we saw in June of last year. In other words, the Fed looked at the options: transparency and risk of grinding credit demand to a halt, or doing what it does best, which is to transact in the shadows, and avoid capital markets risk. It opted for the latter. As to why the Fed decided to go ahead with a deal shrouded in secrecy? "The New York Fed decided to move forward with the transaction only after determining that the winning bid represented good value for the public." "I am pleased with the strength of the bids and the level of market interest in these assets," said William C. Dudley, President of the New York Fed. Because if there is one thing Bill Dudley and the Fed knows is gauging what is in the best interest of the public... and the callorie content of the iPad of course.