Those curious why Goldman Sachs felt compelled to undertake a quiet an unexpected by most (if not us) peaceful coup of the Bank of England, it is because the oldest central bank still has among its ranks people such as Andy Haldane, who in a world populated by deranged textbook economists who don't understand that it is the central bank policies' fault the world will be forever mired in substandard growth and soaring unemployment, is a lone voice of reason (recall BOE's Andy Haldane Channels Zero Hedge, Reveals The Liquidity Mirage And The Collateral Crunch). And since the BOE has no choice but to join all its peers in a global race to the bottom (largely futile in a world in which currencies exist in a closed loop, and in which if everyone devalues, nobody devalues as even Bill Gross figured out yesterday), it is prudent to listen to Haldane's warnings while he is still in the employ of Her Majesty the Queen. Such as his latest one, in which he says that the scale of the loss of income and output as a result of the crisis started by the banks was as damaging as a "world war."
We find ourselves more amazed than ever at the ability of those in power to lie, misinform and obfuscate the truth, while millions of Americans willfully choose to be ignorant of the truth and yearn to be misled. It’s a match made in heaven. Acknowledging the truth of our society’s descent from a country of hard working, self-reliant, charitable, civic minded citizens into the abyss of entitled, dependent, greedy, materialistic consumers is unacceptable to the slave owners and the slaves. We can’t handle the truth because that would require critical thought, hard choices, sacrifice, and dealing with the reality of an unsustainable economic and societal model. It’s much easier to believe the big lies that allow us to sleep at night. The concept of lying to the masses and using propaganda techniques to manipulate and form public opinion really took hold in the 1920s and have been perfected by the powerful ruling elite that control the reins of finance, government and mass media. How many Americans are awake enough to handle the truth? Abraham Lincoln once said that he believed in the people and that if you told them the truth and gave them the cold hard facts they would meet any crisis. That may have been true in 1860, but not today.
Today's "trading", in a repeat of what has become a daily routine, can be summarized as follows: flashing red headline about Fiscal Cliff hope/optimism/constructiveness out of a member of Congress who bought SPY calls in advance of statement: market soars; flashing red headlines about the inverse of Fiscal Cliff hope/optimism/constructiveness out a member of Congress who bought SPY puts in advance of statement: market plunges. Everything else is noise, as is said hope/expectations/constructiveness too since it is increasingly likely nothing will happen until the debt ceiling hike deadline in March, but stop hunts must take place in a market which nobody even pretends is driven by fundamental newsflow. Such as the bevy of PMIs released last night, the key of which was the China HSBC PMI as reported previously, which beat expectations by the smallest of possible increments, at 50.5, but rising to expansion territory and the highest in 13 months, which sent the EURUSD spiking and has kept it in the 1.3030 range for the duration of the overnight session. Sadly, those on the ground in China hardly felt the number was a bullish as EURUSD trading algos around the world, sending the Shanghai Composite to a fresh post-2008 low, closing down over 1% at 1,960. But let's just ignore this inconvenient datapoint shall we?
The US dollar's recent losses are being extended at the start of the new week. The announcement of the details of the Greek bond buy-back scheme has triggered a sharp rally in peripheral bond yields, while the euro area Nov manufacturing PMI is reported at 8-month highs, even if still below the 50 boom./bust level at 46.2. The euro has completely recouped the knee-jerk losses scored in thin activity just before the weekend when Moody's announced a cut in the ratings for the EFSF, which follows its recent downgrade of France.
One of the best bond traders on Wall Street said this recently: “Get ready for The Great Bond Shortage in North America. If it has a cusip and it is rated, it is going higher/tighter.” The compression in bond spreads since the Fed started all of their “made-up/newly printed money for free” antics is the root of all of this and we do not expect a change anytime soon. There are various estimations for the 2013 net new issue supply in all sectors of Fixed Income but I peg it around $400 billion. Around $800 billion will be paid to bond holders during the year in coupon payments and, if reinvested, will cause a supply deficit of about $400 billion for the year. Exacerbating all of this is the Fed, who will buy around $500 billion in MBS this year and perhaps the same amount in Treasuries which could take $1 trillion out of the market all by itself. Consequently we face a lack of bonds denominated somewhere between $900 billion and $1.4 trillion, depending upon the Fed, which will increase the rolling train of compression, lower interest rates further in all likelihood and cause great angst for investors who will find very little of value left in the Fixed Income markets. Safety; yes but yield; no. Inflation and Deflation, it should be noted, only work in operative systems; but it is not Inflation or Deflation that are going to matter in the short run, though it will later; it will be the lack of bonds of any sort to purchase and a stock market that may be dangerously out of sync with the fundamentals opening the possibility of a crash. If so much money is printed and so little regard is placed upon fundamental economic principles then the Real Estate crash of several years ago will look like child’s play by comparison. “Systemic Breakdown” would be the functioning words.
Our assessment of macro fundamentals leave us inclined to favor the dollar on a medium term basis. However, we continue (seehereandhere) to recognize that near-term technical considerations favor the major foreign currencies, but the yen.
Thanks in large part to the supply-constructing yield-compressing repression of a few 'apparently well meaning' bad men running the central banks of the world, the divergence between fundamental weakness and credit spread 'strength' is at record levels. The overwhelming 'technical' flow of funds from investors combined with an 'end of equity' cult and belief that tail-risks have been removed (OMT) juxtaposes with earnings crumbling, ratings downgrades, and the exogenous fact that a complex system means a systemic crisis is inevitable (especially after such ongoing volatility suppression). As Citi's Matt King notes, while "it is almost impossible to predict exactly when they start," the desperation for yield has led to highly unstable equilibria - as what investors can't earn they will lever; via lower-quality 'levered' assets (PIKs and BB/CCCs for example) or 'levered' vehicles (CLOs and structured credit). Sure enough, margins (street repo haircuts are low and NYSE margin accounts high) look very 2007-like. While yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater will typically get the people moving, it seems the movie that is playing in corporate credit is simply too engrossing for many to listen.
Two critical developments give us clues that the days of Central Bank intervention holding the system together are coming to an end.
The conflict between labor and capital is a long and illustrious one, and one in which ideology and politics have played a far greater role than simple economics and math. And while labor enjoyed a brief period of growth in the the past 100 years first due to the anti-trust and anti-monopoly, and pro-union laws and regulations taking place in the early 20th century US, and subsequently due to the era of "Great Moderation"-driven "trickling down" abnormal growth in the developed world, it is precisely the unwind of this latest period of prosperity, loosely known as "The New Normal", and in which economic growth will persist at well sub-optimal (<2%) rates for the foreseeable future, that is pushing the precarious balance between labor and capital costs - in their purest economic sense, and stripped of all ethics and ideology - to a point in which labor will likely find itself at a persistent disadvantage, leading to the same social upheaval that ushered in pure Marxist ideology in the late 19th century. Only this time there will be a peculiar twist, because while in relative terms labor costs as a percentage of all operating expenses are declining around the world, when accounting for benefits, and entitlement funding, labor costs are rising in absolute terms if at uneven rates and are now at record highs. Which sets the stage for what may probably be the biggest push-pull tension of the 21st century for the simple worker: declining relative wages, which however are increasing in absolute terms when factoring in the self-funded components paid into an insolvent welfare system. But the rub comes when one considers the biggest disequilibrium creator of all: central bank predicated cost of capital "planning", whereby Fed policies may be the most insidious and stealth destroyer of all of labor's hard won gains over the past century.
The Bernank is beginning to wind down his "non-bailout" of Europe. On 12/14/2011 the Chairsatan himself reportedly told Senator Corker that he had no intentions of furthering the US's involvement in the European Crisis. Coincidently , a few weeks later CNBC interviewed Gerald O'Driscoll who is a previous Dallas Fed Vice President, after he released an Op-ed in the WSJ calling out the FED's European bailout. O'Driscoll is dead on with his claims and his suspicions about Bernanke's reasoning behind going through the FED market arm to lend USD to the ECB.
In our first installment of this series we explored the concept of stock to flow in the gold markets being the key driver of supply/demand dynamics, and ultimately its price. Today we are going to explore the paper markets and, importantly, to what degree they distort upwardly the “flow” of the physical gold market. We believe the very existence of paper gold creates the illusion of physical gold flow that does not and physically cannot exist. After all, if flow determines price – and if paper flow simulates physical metal movement to a degree much larger than is possible – doesn’t it then suggest that paper flow creates an artificially low price?
Leveraged systems are based on confidence – confidence in efficient exchanges, confidence in reputable counterparties, and confidence in the rule of law. As we have learned (or should have learned) with the failures of Long Term Capital Management, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie & Freddie, and MF Global – the unwind from a highly leveraged system can be sudden and chaotic. These systems function…until they don’t. CDOs were AAA... until they weren’t. Paper Gold is just like allocated, unambiguously owned physical bullion... until it’s not.
Following some well-timed 'suggestions' in Natural Gas and Apple this year, the new bond guru has some rather more concerning views about the future of America. Reflecting on a dismal outlook progressing due to the fact that "Retirees take resources from a society, and workers produce resources", Gundlach has cut his exposure to US equities (apart from gold-miners and NatGas producers) noting their expensive valuation and low potential for growth. In a forthcoming Bloomberg Markets interview, the DoubleLine CEO warns we are about to enter the ominous third phase of the current debacle (Phase 1: a 27-year buildup of corporate, personal and sovereign debt. That lasted until 2008, when Phase 2 started, unfettered lending finally toppled banks and pushed the global economy into a recession, spurring governments and central banks to spend trillions of dollars to stimulate growth) as deeply indebted countries and companies, which Gundlach doesn’t name, will default sometime after 2013. "I don’t believe you’re going to get some sort of an early warning," Gundlach warns "You should be moving now."
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision is an exclusive and somewhat mysterious entity that issues banking guidelines for the world’s largest financial institutions. The Committee’s latest ‘framework’, is referred to as “Basel III”. The regulators have stubbornly held to the view that AAA-government securities constitute the bulk of those high quality assets, even as the rest of the financial world increasingly realizes they are anything but that. As banks move forward in their Basel III compliance efforts, they will be forced to buy ever-increasing amounts of AAA-rated government bonds to meet liquidity and capital ratios. Add to this the additional demand for bonds from governments themselves through various Quantitative Easing programs, and we may soon have a situation where government bond yields are so low that they simply make no sense to hold at all. This is where gold comes into play. If the Basel Committee decides to grant gold a favourable liquidity profile under its proposed Basel III framework, it will open the door for gold to compete with cash and government bonds on bank balance sheets – and provide banks with an asset that actually has the chance to appreciate. The world’s non-Western central banks have already embraced this concept with their foreign exchange reserves, which are vulnerable to erosion from ‘Central Planning’ printing programs. After all – if the banks are ultimately interested in restoring stability and confidence, they could do worse than holding an asset that has gone up by an average of 17% per year for the last 12 years and represented ‘sound money’ throughout history.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
In America we face our fiscal cliff or perhaps our bungee jump and while no resolution is in sight the one thing that we can hang our hats on is that we will face higher taxes. These may be the ones currently proposed or they may be totally new ones as defined by some sort of compromise. Given this 99% possibility it may be wise and in my opinion it is wise to take some profits now before the end of the year. We would start with bonds that are trading within a hairsbreadth of Treasuries or even through them and redeploy further out the curve in bonds that have some reasonable chance of continued compression. We think the compression will continue as the policy of the Fed and the ECB does not change for some period of time and the flows of money keep forcing the compression. We suggest taking some profits now because of two common sense principles.