In a "new normal" "market" that has long since given up discounting fundamental news, and merely reacts to how any given central planner banker blinks, coughs, sneezes, or otherwise hints on future monetary injection plans at any given moment, it is useful to know the only market players that matter. Courtesy of Guggenheim, they are listed out below - these are no longer the major TBTF banks, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein ambitions to rule the world notwithstanding; they are now the world's central banks, whose assets are rapidly approaching their host sovereign GDPs even as their overall leverage is increasing by leaps and bounds on a daily basis, putting such recent Investment Bank overlevered behemoths to shame. It is in this playing field where the price of any one "risk asset" is no longer indicative of anything more than monetary, and in a world in which politicians have long been made obsolete by the central planners, fiscal policies. It also means that capital markets are only whatever the various central bankers want to make them... and nothing else.
Capital Markets Über Alles: What Mitt Romney's Economic Advisor, Goldman Sachs (And The NY Fed) Really ThinkSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/22/2012 11:09 -0400
When it comes to Glenn Hubbard, the man needs no introduction, at least to those who have watched the Charles Ferguson seminal movie 'Inside Job.' Indeed, the extensive connections of the Dean of the Columbia school of business to the financial industry is well known, a fact which served as the basis of Ferguson's question: just how corrupt is America's elite educational establishment, and just how much of a factor in the perpetuation of the status quo is Wall Street's puppet control over each generation of rising financial and economic thinkers. For those who are unaware, Hubbard also happens to be presidential candidate Mitt Romney's top economic advisor. The reason why Hubbard has suddenly made the headlines, is because of his overnight statement that contrary to what the potential future president has said, namely that Bernanke's days would be numbered under a Romney presidency, and that the Fed would be audited, Glenn has taken the other side of this argument, and told Reuters that Bernanke should "get every consideration" to stay beyond January 2014, when Ben's term expires. But why? Well, for the answer to this particular question, we have to go back to that long ago year 2004, when Glenn Hubbard together with current Fed president, and former chief Goldman chief economist Bill Dudley, authored a white paper bearing the Goldman sachs logo, titled "How Capital Markets Enhance Economic Performance and Facilitate Job Creation." In a word: for Mr. Hubbard (as well as for Mr. Dudley, Goldman Sachs, and thus, the New York Fed) it is all about the capital markets.
Where European Banks Store Their Cash: Foreign Banks Domiciled In US See Cash Hoard Spike Back To Record HighsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/21/2012 11:49 -0400
Anyone looking at the broad headline data from the weekly commercial bank asset (H.8) release could rush to the superficial conclusion that cash assets at US-based financial institutions is approaching all time highs, which, again superficially, it is, at $1.9 trillion, the highest in 2012, and just shy of the all time highs of $1.936 trillion from July 2011. Further superficial analysis would lead one to believe that there is a notable divergence between total US bank cash (the bulk of its procured via repoing of previously purchased securities) and the weekly excess reserve balance indicated by the Fed. All these would be useful, if completely, wrong observations. The only relevant and accurate observation in this week's H.8 data is that foreign banks domiciled in the US have taken their cash balance back to all time highs, which at $918 billion is in the ballpark of the highest it has ever been, and merely confirms what everyone has known: the only reason the US market has benefited in the last several months is due to flight to safety into what, for whatever reason, is perceived as the safety of the US capital markets. At some point, this record cash balance will once again flow out, even as US bank cash holdings remain as flat as they have been for the past 3 years.
- German central bank warns country’s financial health not a given (WaPo)
- Secret Libor Committee Clings to Anonymity After Rigging Scandal (Bloomberg)
- Peru Declares State of Emergency to Quell Violent Mining Protests (Dow Jones)
- Euro-Area Economic Adjustment Only Half Complete, Moody’s Says (Bloomberg)
- Wall Street Leaderless in Rules Fight as Dimon Diminished (Bloomberg)
- China Swaps Drop From Three-Month High as PBOC Adds Record Cash (Bloomberg)
- China invest $1 billion in U.S. Cheniere's LNG plant, Blackstone to act as intermediary buffer (FT, Reuters)
- Romney Offers Lukewarm Support for Fed Audit - Hilsenrath (WSJ)
- U.K. Unexpectedly Posts Deficit as Corporation Taxes Plunge (Bloomberg)
- Obama issues military threat to Syria (FT)
- Merkel Allies Signal Concessions on Greece Before Samaras Visit (Bloomberg)
- Chinese banks warned of foreign exchange risks (China Daily)
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, one of the landmark philosophical texts of the last century. The central thesis of the book is that science advances in fits and starts, clustered around the advent of new 'Paradigms' - a term that Kuhn introduced in the book and much of academia subsequently coopted as their own. This was a novel thought for the times, since the conventional philosophy held that science advanced through the ages in plodding but rigorous steps. Kuhn’s observation about science is equally applicable to capital markets, for the range of 'Paradigm shifts' underway goes a long way to explaining everything from why companies refuse to invest to why earnings multiples on U.S. stocks remain so low. Today, in celebration of Kuhn's opus, ConvergEx's Nick Colas offers up a list of the 'Top 10 Paradigm Shifts' currently underway; and notes that new paradigms don't often have as much to them as the old ideas they replace. They are often actually inferior. Over time they get their bearings, yes. But the transition is rough.
And to think that the market could have learned its lesson by now. Following the planting of an unsourced, glaringly obvious ECB propaganda report such as that attempted yesterday in Der Spiegel, in which nothing of substance was in fact enacted or even proposed (as rate caps is merely a regurgitation of ideas thrown out previously in the summer and fall of 2011), peripheral bonds once again tightened on absolutely nothing, with the Spanish 10 Year now back in the 6.30% territory, over 100 bps inside where it was a month ago. On not a single enacted reform or actual ECB action. Of course, it was a matter of hours before the German FinMin put an end to this latest rumor, and sure enough an hour ago a spokesman for the German FinMin said they were unaware of any ECB plan to target bond spread. Perhaps because there are none? And of course, if there were, the Germans would promptly put an end to what is my implication an open-ended bond buying program without conditionality: something that worked like a "charm" last summer with Italy. And just to make sure Germany's message was read loud and clear, here is the Bundesbank turning on the "just say 9" machine.
Perhaps the biggest affront to the natural order of things set in motion by central planners' intervention in capital markets of all varieties, is that through sheer brute force (of a printer, of posturing, and of outright politicized pandering), several academics in a low-lit room can suppress, for a brief period of time, the Darwinian survival of the fittest. Key word here is "brief" because in the end nature always gets even, and usually with a vengeance. In the meantime, however, epic distortions in what are already indefinitely irrational markets, which however always eventually regress to a rational mean (in popular jargon a process better known as "crash"), succeed in driving out legacy traders who no longer can navigate the chaos unleashed by the authoritarian ambitions oh the kind that ultimately resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union, and every other centrally-planned establishment, when abused on a long-enough timeline... For a vivid example of what happens "when Darwinism fails" we go to a parable from a just released letter to client by the English hedge fund Toscafund, which looks at modern day trading from the perspective of fishing in the Polynesian seas, which also does an admirable job in explaining why being lucky is almost always more important than being good (sadly, one can not sell "luck" in newsletter format for $29.95/ month).
Yes, we all know that Europe is in deep, deep, trouble, and we all know that Europe has a major fiscal deficit issue which is why well over half of the Eurozone is effectively locked out of the capital markets, and only has funding courtesy of various back door Ponzi schemes funded by the ECB, and we also all know that on a consolidated basis Europe's debt/GDP is very high. But the truth is that at least Europe is taking small steps to rectify its historic profligacy and is at least pretending to be implementing austerity (in some cases actually truly doing so). How about the US. Well, the chart below should answer that particular question. Because while the consolidated GDP of the US and Europe are nearly identical, they differ very materially in terms of both fiscal deficit, and total Debt/GDP. The chart below shows precisely where the differences lie between the United States of Europe and the United States of America.
We have said it over and over, we'll say it again. For all those who for one reason or another would like to boycott the broken markets, yet trade gold in paper form, please understand that all the invested capital is at risk of total loss and can and will be lost, commingled and rehypothecated, not necessarily in that order, with little to zero recourse and the residual claim on liquidating assets pushed to the very end of the queue. Because if Lehman, MF Global, Peregrine, and countless other examples were not enough, here comes Amber Gold: a gold-based investment ponzi scheme out of Poland, in which it is likely needless to say that the gullible investors never had actual possession of the gold. And when they tried, it was gone. All gone.
Last week we presented the aftermath of the very much unannounced "Conference of Beijing" as a result of which Africa has been slowly but surely converting to a continent controlled almost exclusively by China. However, there was one thing missing: even as China has been virtually the sole source of infrastructure funding in Africa, the continent has long been a legacy dollar preserve, which obviously means renminbi penetration and replacement would be problematic to say the least. As it turns out, this too is rapidly changing: as the WSJ reports, Africa is increasingly just saying "nein" to the USD. "African countries are trying to shoo the U.S. dollar away, even if it means threatening to throw people who use greenbacks in jail. Starting next year, Angola will require oil and gas companies to pay tax revenue and local contracts in kwanza, its currency, rather than dollars. Mozambique wants companies to exchange half of their export earnings for meticais, hoping to pull more of the wealth in vast coal and natural-gas deposits into the domestic economy. And Ghana is seeking similar ways to reinforce "the primacy of the domestic currency," after the cedi plummeted more than 17% against the dollar in the first six months of this year. The sternest steps come from Zambia, a copper-rich country in southern Africa where the central bank has banned dollar-denominated transactions. Offenders who are "quoting, paying or demanding to be paid or receiving foreign currency" can face a maximum 10 years in prison, the central bank said in a two-page directive in May." Is it time to dump the EUR in hopes of a short covering rally that continues to be elusive (just as Germany wants) and buy Zambian Kwachas instead? We will wait for Tom Stolper to advise Goldman clients to sell the Zambian currency first, but at this rate the USDZMK may well be the most profitable currency pair of the next 3-6 months.
What is high-frequency trading? We will never exhaustively address this issue here. We recommend that you do your own research on the subject. There are numerous articles on this topic. High-frequency trading (HFT) consists in using sophisticated technology to trade securities. It is highly quantitative, employing algorithms to analyze incoming market data. HF investment positions are held only very briefly, with HF traders trading in and out of positions intraday tens of thousands of times. The important feature is that at the end of a trading day there is no net investment position. Processing speed and access to the exchanges are critical.
Six weeks ago we detailed how watching intra- and inter-asset-class correlations can tell investors a lot about what is behind market movements and as Nick Colas, of ConvergEx, highlights in his monthly review of asset price correlations - it reveals a key feature of the "Mystery Rally of Summer 2012." The move from the early June lows for U.S. stocks has come with increasing correlations across a wide array of asset types and industry sectors. That's unusual, because rising markets over the past three years more commonly bring lower correlations. For example, the rally from January to early April of this year saw industry correlations within the S&P 500 drop from +95% to 75-80% as the index went from 1270 to 1420 (a 12% return). Conversely, the move from 1278 to 1400 (early June to present day) has come with increasing industry correlations – 82% in May to 86% currently. To us, that's an important "Tell" about what's been taking us higher – hopes for further Federal Reserve liquidity at the next FOMC meeting in September and ECB liquidity to support the euro. The rest of August will likely feature the kind of light-volume tape that loves to drift higher, but increasing correlations represent a flashing yellow light signifying the need for caution in trading over the balance of the month.
Active traders and professional money managers already know how the U.S. stock market actually works, but Joe and Jane Citizen, whose pensions generally depend on the market in some way, typically do not. This entry is for them. Today's financial markets are endlessly complex, and this complexity implicitly serves to mask the true nature of market operations. Most of this complexity can be boiled away with zero loss of understanding. Indeed, manipulating this complexity is what earns the big bucks on Wall Street, while boiling it away earns the big bucks for commentators and analysts. Thus complexity serves the financial industry extremely well.
- The first and most important thing to understand about the U.S. stock market is how few humans are actually involved in the decision to buy or sell large blocks of shares.
- The second important thing to know about the stock market is that central banks and governments intervene as buyers to trigger rallies and put floors under declines.
- The third thing to know about U.S. stock market is that their operations are opaque, invisible, and hidden from the citizenry and non-Elite human traders.
- The fourth and last thing to know about U.S. stock markets is that this skimming and intervention have left the markets extremely vulnerable to collapse.