Global Gold Demand in 2011 Rises 0.4% To $200 Billion - Central Banks, Asia and Europe Diversifying Into GoldSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/16/2012 08:25 -0500
Global demand for gold reached 4,067.1 tonnes last year, the highest tonnage since 1997, due in large part to a nearly 5% increase in investment demand, which hit a record 1,640.7 tonnes. Asian countries like China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and others see bullion as a store of value against the growing inflation and the ongoing debasement of their currencies. The fundamentals for gold in 2012 look good. Continuing low and often negative real interest rates will continue to support gold’s safe haven status. The Fed’s statement that it will continue to see rates remain very low until 2014 is very bullish for gold. Central banks were net buyers of gold and their demand surged nearly 6 fold (570%) to 439.7 tonnes in 2011 (compared with 77 tonnes in 2010), more metal than at any time since the end of the gold standard in 1971. The World Gold Council noted that, “The buyers are all ... in Latin America, Asia and the Far East and they are basically enjoying strong growth, fiscal surpluses and growing foreign exchange reserves."
Presented with little comment - AAPL trading $503.34. Why is this good news for the "financial industry?" Because Apple is now the financial industry, with a record 209 hedge funds holding it (a number that has likely surged in the past 3 months). As Apple goes, so goes not only the entire Tech index, the NASDAPPLE, the global capital markets, but the entire 2 and 20 model.
As we pointed out on Friday, there is a clear stigma being priced into LTRO-encumbered European banks relative to non-LTRO-encumbered (due to many aspects but most notably the implicit subordination of senior unsecured debt via collateralized loans to the ECB). Today that stigma, proving as we said that Draghi is simply incorrect, continues to grow as there is a dramatic preference for non-LTRO names in today's modest post-Greece's gun-to-my-head decision relative to a small improvement in LTRO-accepting names. As this performance gap increases we suspect it increases the probability that LTRO II will be a disappointment in terms of size and the implicit derisking that could encourage.
We have posted various extracts from this piece from Credit Suisse previously. We will post from it again, because, to loosely paraphrase Lewis Black, it bears reposting... especially in the context of the latest and greatest Greek "bailout" (of Europe's bankers), which incidentally, will achieve nothing and merely bring the country one step closer to a military coup and/or civil war.
Earlier in the week we began discussing the stigma that would likely be attached to the banks that decide to borrow from the ECB via the LTRO. Many talking heads including Mario Draghi himself, arbiter in chief of all risky collateral in Europe, dismissed this - reflecting back at the compression in credit spreads in the market-place as evidence that all was well and confidence was returning. In the last week our (senior unsecured debt) index of LTRO-ridden banks has underperformed non-LTRO-ridden banks by 23bps to a 75bps differential. This is the largest divergence since the LTRO began and corrects off mid-Summer tight levels of difference as the critical flaw that we also pointed out earlier in the week (that of the implicit subordination of bank assets via ECB's LTRO collateralization). Credit Suisse agrees with us and expounds on 'the flaw' in the LTRO scheme noting that the market is fickle and self-sustaining at times (as we have seen) but over time (and that time appears to be up this week), the market will weigh the liability side of the balance sheet versus the asset side, less haircuts (which implies haircuts will become the de facto capital requirements) and inevitably (given bank earnings potential) reflect this huge differential - most specifically in the senior unsecured debt market. With few shorts left to squeeze, spreads back at pre-crisis levels and financials having dramatically outperformed even large gains on sovereigns, the weakness in senior financial debt in Europe this week is more than just a canary in the coal-mine, it should become the pivot security for risk appetite perception.
S&P just downgraded 34 of the 37 Italian banks it covers. Below is the full statement. And so get get one second closer to midnight for Europe's AIG equivalent: A&G. As for S&P, this is the funniest bit: "We classify the Italian government as "supportive" toward its banking sector. We recognize the government's record of providing support to the banking system in times of stress." Even rating agencies now have to rely on sovereign risk transfer as the only upside case to their reports. Oh, and who just went balls to the wall Italian stocks? Why the oldest (no pun intended) contrarian indicator in the book - none other than permawrong Notorious (Barton) B.I.G.G.S.
Just over three years ago, Zero Hedge first pointed out some dramatically meaningless inconsistencies in one of the world's most important numbers (which also happens to be "self-reported" and without any checks and balances) - the London Interbank Offered Rate, better known as LIBOR, which is the reference rate of a rather large market. Following that, we made a stronger case that the Libor, should really be abbreviated to LiEbor in "On the Uselessness of Libor" from June 2009, which alleged that this number is essentially manipulated, potentially with malicious intent. That alone got us a very unhappy retort from the British Banker Association (BBA) which is the banker-owned entity set to "determine" what the daily Libor fixing is based on how banks themselves tell us their liquidity conditions are. Well, as has been getting more and more obvious over the past two years, our allegations were 100% correct, and have now manifested in a series of articles digging through the dirt, manipulation and outright crime behind this completely fabricated number. And yet this should be the most aggravated offence in the capital markets, because LIBOR just so happens is the primary driver in determining implicit risk as a reference rate for $350 trillion worth of financial products. That's right - that one little number, now thoroughly discredited, has downtstream effects on $350,000,000,000,000.00 worth of notional assets. That's a lot. And while we are confident that nobody will ever go to prison for LIBOR fraud, which has explicitly been leading investors and speculators alike to believe that risk is far lower than where it truly is, what one should ask if the LIBOR rate is manipulated, and with is the entire floating and interest rate derivative market, not to mention CDS which are also driven off a Libor benchmark, what is there to say about the minuscule in comparison global equity market? In other words, does anyone honestly think that with the entire fixed income market pushed around by individuals with ulterior motives, that stocks are ... safe for manipulation?
In real terms, if a continued rise in US markets is accomplished through covert or overt QE, ironically one will grow poorer as the nominal dollar amount of one’s US portfolio rises but one's purchasing power of said dollar plummets. So rise or bust, either way you lose.
US To Settle Fraudclosure For $25 Billion Even As It Channels Fake Tough Guy In Meaningless Lawsuit Against Very Same BanksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/08/2012 22:08 -0500
Remember robosigning and the whole fraudclosure scandal? In a few days you can forget it. Because in America, the cost of contractual rights was just announced, and it is $25 billion: this is the amount of money that banks will pay to settle the fact that for years mortgages were issued and re-issued without proper title and liens on the underlying paper, courtesy of Linda Green et al. Why is this happening? Because staunch hold outs for equitable justice (at least until this point), the AGs of NY and California folded like cheap lawn chairs (we can't wait to find what corner office of Bank of America they end up in), but not before the one and only intervened. From the WSJ: "The Obama administration made a full-court press over the past four days to secure the support of key state attorneys general, including those from Florida, California and New York." Nothing like a little presidential persuasion to help one with overcoming one's conscience. Because in America the push to abrogate the very foundation of contractual agreements comes from the very top. But wait, there's more - just to wash its hands of the guilt associated with this settlement which shows once and for all that the Democratic administration panders as much if not more to the banking syndicate as any republican administration, as it announces one settlement with one hand, with the other the US will sue banks over the mortgage reps and warranties issue covered extensively here, in the most glaringly obtuse way to distract that it is gifting trillions worth of contingent liabilities right back to the banks, not to mention discarding the whole concept of justice. From the WSJ: "Federal securities regulators plan to warn several major banks that they intend to sue them over mortgage-related actions linked to the financial crisis, according to people familiar with the matter. The move would mark a stepped-up regulatory effort to hold Wall Street accountable for its sale of bonds linked to subprime mortgages in 2007 and 2008. At issue is whether the banks misrepresented the poor quality of loan pools they bundled and sold to investors, the people said." Wait, let us guess -that particular lawsuit will end up in a... settlement? Ding ding ding. We have a winner. All today's news succeed in doing is finally wrapping up any and all legal loose ends, so that banks can finally wrap all outstanding litigation overhangs at pennies on the dollar. And if at the end of the day, they find themselves cash strapped, why the US will simply loan them more cash of course.
Back in July of 2011, when we first predicted the demise of the second Greek bailout package, even before the details were fully known in "The Fatal Flaw In Europe's Second "Bazooka" Bailout: 82 Million Soon To Be Very Angry Germans, Or How Euro Bailout #2 Could Cost Up To 56% Of German GDP" we asked, "what happens tomorrow when every German (in a population of 82 very efficient million) wakes up to newspaper headlines screaming that their country is now on the hook to 32% of its GDP in order to keep insolvent Greece, with its 50-some year old retirement age, not to mention Ireland, Portugal, and soon Italy and Spain, as part of the Eurozone? What happens when these same 82 million realize that they are on the hook to sacrificing hundreds of years of welfare state entitlements (recall that Otto von Bismark was the original welfare state progentior) just so a few peripheral national can continue to lie about their deficits (the 6 month Greek deficit already is missing Its full year benchmark target by about 20%) and enjoy generous socialist benefits up to an including guaranteed pensions? What happens when an already mortally wounded in the polls Angela Merkel finds herself in the next general election and experiences an epic electoral loss? We will find out very, very shortly." Alas, it has not been all that very "shortly", as once again we underestimated people's stupidity and willingness to pay the piper of a crumbling economic and monetary system. But our prediction is finally starting to come true. Spiegel has just released an article, which encapsulates what well over 50% of Germans think, who say that the time to let Greece loose, has come.
If you think the EU Crisis is over, think again. True we’ve got until March 20th for the Greek deal to be reached, but things have already gotten to the point that Germany has essentially issued its ultimatum. Either Greece hands over fiscal sovereignty, or it defaults in a BIG way.
USS Enterprise Holding Drills To Attack Made Up 'Faux Theocracy' Shahida States And 'Pesky Garnetians'Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/06/2012 13:13 -0500
A few days ago we presented some speculation on what the final deployment of the 50 year old USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea may mean from a strategic standpoint, today we get to hear it from the US Navy itself. And just when we thought we had heard it all, we now get confirmation that the farcism that has defined capital markets for the past 3 years is slowly migrating to military planning. "The carrier and its entourage of support ships are in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere east of Florida, with land completely out of sight. But for the purposes of the drill, they’re cruising near the fictitious Treasure Coast. Maps displayed on the bridge’s monitors show the contours of the Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico and a good chunk of the Midwest, but all state borders have been removed and replaced with a handful of countries that come with their own boundaries and political allegiances. Enterprise and its strike group are focused on Garnet and North Garnet, countries that support terrorism on the Treasure Coast. They’re fundamentalist Shahida states — a faux-theocracy — and they want to reunite with Pyrope, one of the nine other made-up countries. On Enterprise, intelligence analysts evaluate the situation, fighter squadrons plan sorties, and the ship’s newspaper, “The Shuttle,” prints an extra section that details the international political situation. It’s a novella set at sea that grows more complex as hours past. “Those pesky Garnetians,” strike group commander Rear Adm. Walter Carter Jr. told sailors after a day packed with maneuvers, launches and landings."
Over the weekend, we commented on Dylan Grice's seminal analysis which excoriates the central planning "fools", who are perpetually caught in the "lost pilot" paradigm, whereby the world's central planners increasingly operate by the mantra of “I have no idea where we’re going, but we’re making good time!” and which confirms that in the absence of real resolutions to problems created by a century of flawed economic models, the only option is to continue doubling down until terminal failure. Basically, the take home message there is that once "economists" get lost in trying to correct the errata their own models output as a result of faulty assumptions (which they always are able to "explain away" as one time events), they drift ever further into unknown territory until finally we end up with such monetary aberrations as "liquidity traps", "zero bound yields" and, soon, NIRP (which comes after ZIRP), if indeed the Treasury proceeds with negative yields beginning in May under the tutelage of the Goldman-JPM chaired Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee. Today, it is Bill Gross who takes the Grice perspective one step further, and looks at implications for liquidity, and the lack thereof, in a world where one of the three primary functions of modern financial intermediaries - maturity transformation (the other two being credit and liquidity transformation) is terminally broken. He then juxtaposes this in the context of Hyman Minsky's monetary theories, and concludes: "What incentive does a US bank have to extend maturity to a two- or three-year term when Treasury rates at that level of the curve are below the 25 basis points available to them overnight from the Fed? What incentive does Pimco or banks have to buy five-year Treasuries at 75bp when the maximum upside capital gain is two per cent of par and the downside substantially more?" In other words, Pimco is finally grasping just how ZIRP is punking it and its clients. It also means that very soon all the maturity, and soon, credit risk of the world will be on the shoulders of the Fed, which in turn labor under a false economic paradigm. And one wonders why nobody has any faith left in these here "capital markets"...
At least he knows where the bathroom is.
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.