Here is a recap of today's European bond issuance as well as the Wall Street "instaview" response to each
Decades of manipulation by the Federal Reserve (through its creation of paper money) and by Congress (through its taxing and spending) have pushed the US economy into a circumstance that can't be sustained but from which there is no graceful exit. With few exceptions, all of the noble souls who chose a career in "public service" and who've advanced to be voting members of Congress are committed to chronic deficits, though they deny it. For political purposes, deficits work. The people whose wishes come true through the spending side of the deficit are happy and vote to reelect. The people on the borrowing side of the deficit aren't complaining, since they willingly buy the Treasury bonds and Treasury bills that fund the deficit. And taxpayers generally tolerate deficits as a lesser evil than a tax hike. So stay up as late as you like on election night to see who wins, but the deficits aren't going to stop anytime soon. The debt mountain will keep growing. The part of it the government acknowledges is now approaching $16 trillion, which is more than the country's gross domestic product for a year. Obviously, the debt can't keep growing faster than the economy forever, but the people in charge do seem determined to find out just how far they can push things.
The time has come to raise the 'noise' level for global markets to Defcon 3 as Clive Hale, of View from the Bridge, discusses his four largest stressors currently. Instead of going 'hmmm' as Grant Williams regularly does, Hale is screaming 'aaargh' as he sees Japanese radioactivity uncertainty, market manipulation, the main-stream media's anaesthetising propaganda, and finally the euro (that last lingering but fatally flawed bastion of european union) plethora problems all increasingly weighing on global macro concerns.
It would appear that the recent renewed excitement down in the Falklands was indeed the writing on the wall for a nation that is now desperate enough to nationalize foreign entities. Argentina, still unable to access capital markets years after its restructuring appears to be hitting an irrational wall again as its CDS has exploded wider recently, and even more so today with the YPF news, to near 1000bps - its widest in 4 months. Simply put this is not rational in any game-theoretic strategy and is frighteningly indicative of a supreme (irrecoverable) defection from friends-with-benefits status of the world - indicative only of massive internal problems in the South American nation. But do not worry, as Lagarde and her friends will just bring a bigger bag around to the next G-20 meeting as we are sure the IMF's members will have enough money to deal with Argentina AND Europe.
At the start of April, ECB's Draghi noted, "let's keep in mind that it [the LTRO] is not capital", adding that "if a bank does not have capital, it would be better to raise it now". Given the rapidly fading glow of LTRO's liquidity flush, the seemingly 'wasted' ammunition that Spanish and Italian banks have fired at the sovereign bond bears and the complete and utter lack of capital raising that has occurred, perhaps it is no wonder that credit spreads on the major European financials have exploded back to near their wides once again (LTRO-encumbrance aside). As Barclays notes today, the major financials alone look set to need over EUR120 billion in capital to bring their credit risks down to acceptable levels to be able to openly access capital markets once again. This means a median 30% of current equity market capitalization has to be raised. Just as we pointed out again and again, not only is the LTRO an encumbrance of bank balance sheets (and therefore increasingly subordinates all existing bond-holders implicitly reducing recoveries in a worst case scenario) but it delayed much-needed decision-making by giving the banks an 'out' for a few months.
Each day then that passes, as the cash river runs dry, will change the dynamics of the investment world. The biggest change that I see forthcoming on the landscape, beyond those which I have noted, I believe will take place in Germany. China is heading towards some sort of landing and most of Europe is now officially in a recession. The bite of the austerity measures will deepen the process and between the two I think we will begin to see a decline in the finances of Germany which will bring all manner of howls and screams. Germany cannot keep heading in one direction while the rest of its partners founder all around them. The demands of Berlin are self-defeating eventually as demand falls off and I think we are just at the cusp of deterioration in Germany. The problem, all along, has been that Eurobonds or other measures representing a transfer union will cause the averaging of all of the economies in Europe so that the periphery countries benefit with a higher standard of living while the wealthier nations have standards of living that decline as the result of accumulated debts for the troubled nations. This will bring out nationalism again in force as the grand dream succumbs to the grim reality of the costs for nations that have lived beyond their means. The Pied Piper always gets paid and Hamelin still rests upon German soil.
From Morgan Stanley: "In our mind, many of the approaches to algorithmic execution were developed in an environment that is substantially, structurally different from today’s environment. In particular, the early part of the last decade saw households as significant natural liquidity providers as they sold their single stock positions over time to exchange them for institutionally managed products... While the time horizon over which liquidity is provided can range from microseconds to months, it is particularly shorter-term liquidity provisioning that has become more common." Translation: as retail investors retrench more and more, which they will due to previously discussed secular themes as well as demographics, and HFT becomes and ever more dominant force, which it has no choice but to, liquidity and investment horizons will get ever shorter and shorter and shorter, until eventually by simple limit expansion, they hit zero, or some investing singularity, for those who are thought experiment inclined. That is when the currently unsustainable course of market de-evolution will, to use a symbolic 100 year anniversary allegory, finally hit the iceberg head one one final time.
Addressing his perception of lessons learned from the financial crisis, Ben Bernanke is speaking this afternoon on poor risk management and shadow banking vulnerabilities - all of which remain obviously as we continue to draw attention to. However, more worrisome for the junkies is the total lack of QE3 chatter in his speech. While he does note the words 'collateral' and 'repo' the proximity of the words 'Shadow, Institutions, & Vulnerabilities' are awkwardly close.
It appears the chaotic volatility of last Summer is rearing its ugly head once again as credit and equity markets in Europe flip-flop from best performance in months to worst performance day after day. With Spain front-and-center as pivot security (as we have been aggressively noting for weeks), sovereigns and financials are lagging dreadfully once again. The Bloomberg 500 (Europe's S&P 500 equivalent) back near mid January lows, having swung from unchanged to pre-NFP levels back to worst of the week at today's close, European banks are leading the charge lower as the simple fact that liquidity can't fix insolvency is rwit large in bank spreads and stocks. Treasuries have benefited, even as Bunds saw huge flows, outperforming Bunds by 18bps since pre-NFP but it is Portugal +33bps, Spain +22bps, and Italy +9bps from then that is most worrisome. LTRO Stigma remains at its 4 month wides but financials broadly are under pressure as many head back towards pre-LTRO record wides. Europe's VIX is back up near recent highs around 30%. With too-big-to-save Spain seeing record wide CDS and even the manipulated bond market unable to hold up under the real-money selling pressure, the ECB's dry powder in SMP looks de minimus with only unbridled QE (since banks have no more collateral to lend) and the ECB taking the entire Spanish debt stock on its books as a solution, access to capital markets is about to case for Spain (outside of central-bank-inspired reacharounds) and as we noted earlier - every time the ECB executes its SMP it increases the credit risk for existing sovereign bondholders (and implicitly all the Spanish banks). Spain's equity market is a mere 5% above its March 2009 lows (55% off its highs).
"What Bernanke is to the Treasury market, Iksil is to the derivatives market"
Gold bullion remains supported, mostly due to a pickup in physical Indian and Chinese gold demand this week. There are expectations of sustained Indian consumption next week in the lead up to the Akshaya Tritiya festival later this month. Western physical buying remains unusually anaemic - for now. In recent years, April and May have been positive months for gold in terms of returns (see table above). April has returned 1.4% per annum in the course of the current bull market since 2000. May has returned 1.75% per annum in the course of the current bull market since 2000. Interestingly, the last month of Q1 and Q2, March and June, have been negative in terms of returns. March in particular has seen the poorest returns for any month in the last 11 years with average falls of 0.6%. Therefore the very poor performance of gold in March 2012 (-6.4%) may represent another buying opportunity as it did last year (see chart below) and in previous years.
As we have recently pointed out (here), the exponential level of global central bank one-upmanship has created a level of dependency in capital markets never seen so obviously before. Critically, though, it is not the sheer scale of the balance sheet (or STOCK of assets) that is good enough anymore - equity market performance is all about the marginal change in that stock (FLOW). Nowhere is this "It's The Flow Stupid" better highlighted than in the chart below showing the periods of central bank balance sheet expansion coinciding almost perfectly with the largest surges in equity market performance. Furthermore, as the flow fades so the performance starts to fade (unable to counter the natural tendency of retail to exit the risky markets perhaps) and as the Fed's balance sheet begins to actually compress marginally (as it has the last few weeks), so equity market performance has turned negative - and notably so. This leaves the Fed with the dilemma that it is not just about the size of the bazooka anymore but the frequency with which you are willing to use it - and as we are likely to see this week - jaw-boning alone will not do the trick (no matter what today's market might have been hoping for) as unless we see the balance sheet of the Fed expand again (which would mean a rise of around 0.4% - something we haven't seen since mid February), we should expect the rolling 4-week performance of equities to continue to fall.
Was The SEC "Explanation" Of The Flash Crash Maliciously Fabricated Or Completely Flawed Out Of Plain Incompetence?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/12/2012 20:59 -0400
Regular readers know that since the beginning, Zero Hedge has been vehemently opposed to the official SEC explanation of the chain of events that brought upon the Flash Crash of May 6, 2010, in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1000 points in a span of seconds, and during which billions were lost when stop loss orders were triggered catching hapless victims unaware (unless of course, one had a stop loss well beyond a reasonable interval of 20%, in which case the trades were simply DKed). It is no secret that one of the main reasons why the retail investor has since declared a boycott of capital markets, which lasts to this day, and manifests itself in hundreds of billions pulled out of equities and deposited into bonds and hard assets, has been precisely the SEC's unwillingness to probe into this still open issue, and not only come up with a reasonable and accurate explanation for what truly happened, but hold anyone responsible for the biggest market crash in history in absolute terms. Instead, the SEC, naively has been pushing forth a ridiculous story that the entire market crash was the doing of one small mutual fund: Waddell and Reed, and its 75,000 E-mini trade, which initially was opposed to being scapegoated, but subsequently went oddly radio silent. Well, if they didn't mind shouldering the blame, the SEC was likely right, most would say. However, as virtually always happens, most would be wrong. Over the past few days, Nanex has one again, without any assistance from the regulators or any third parties, managed to unravel a critical component of the entire 104 page SEC "findings" which as is now known, indemnified all forms of high frequency trading (even as subsequently it was found, again by Nanex, that it was precisely HFT quote churning that was the primary, if not sole, reason for the catastrophic chain of events) with a finding so profound which in turn discredits the entire analytical framework of the SEC report, and makes it null and void.... The only open question is whether the SEC, which certainly co-opted the authors of the paper to reach the desired conclusion, real facts be damned, acted out of malice and purposefully fabricated the data knowing very well the evidence does not support the conclusion, or, just as bad, was the entire supporting cast and crew so glaringly incompetent they did not understand what they were looking at in the first place.
"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.
While equity trading last March trading was affected by the excess volatility arising from the Fukushima explosions a year earlier, and the Japan earthquake induced volatility in general, today's monthly volume update by the NYSE shows that no matter what the reason for the volume collapse, toplines for banks and traders will suffer, on both a Y/Y as well as sequential basis. Per the NYSE: "European and U.S. Cash ADV Down 13% and 24% Year-over-Year.... NYSE Euronext European cash products ADV of 1.6 million transactions in March 2012 decreased 12.7% compared to March 2011, but increased 0.5% compared to February 2012. NYSE Euronext U.S. cash products handled ADV in March 2012 decreased 23.6% to 1.8 billion shares compared to March 2011 and decreased 0.6% from February 2012." An even bigger year-over-year collapse took place in the one product which everyone thinks is taking the place of individual stock trading: the synthetic CDOs known as ETFs: "NYSE Euronext U.S. matched exchange-traded funds ADV (included in volumes for Tape B and Tape C) of 222 million shares in March 2012 decreased 29.3% compared to March 2011, but increased 4.1% compared to February 2012. In the first quarter of 2012, NYSE Euronext U.S. matched exchange-traded funds ADV of 221 million shares was 21.8% below prior year levels." The YoY collapse in trading volumes for derivatives was less compared to cash, but the sequential drop from February 2012 was even more pronounced: "NYSE Euronext global derivatives ADV in March 2012 of 8.1 million contracts decreased 11.5% compared to March 2011 and decreased 15.4% from February 2012 levels." We can only hope that banks have found some innovative ways of compensating for this collapse in overall market participation, such as traditional revenue pathways like underwriting and advisory fees, as well as lending and arbing the carry trade. Alas, as the following Bloomberg piece points out, this will hardly be the case, as Zero Hedge has warned previously.