Here we are, just barely into our first earnings season without the incessantly added fuel provided by QE and the markets are stumbling. At times on Friday the indexes were hovering near the possibility of posting 2% losses going into the weekend. In today’s media mindset of “everything is awesome.” That’s near – unthinkable. No Fed speaker saved the day; no HFT-induced ramp came to the rescue... Maybe it’s because all ammo (and there has been no silver bullet more powerful of late than a Central Banker press conference) is being reserved for a much larger crisis looming on the horizon (i.e. Greece and all its tenuous implications calling for an “All hands on
printing presses deck, battle stations” response).
Having previously explained the 175,846,629,768 reasons why former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke would join Citadel - the most-levered hedge fund in the world and alleged conduit of fed put protection; we thought it intriguing to note what billionaire Citadel Ken Griffin had to say about Bernanke and his policies just 2 years ago...
"Bridgewater’s assets under management increased from $150 billion as of 12/31/13 to approximately $154 billion as of 12/31/14."... "Bridgewater generally requires that its Clients have a minimum of $5 billion of investable assets."... "For new client relationships, Bridgewater’s standard minimum fee is expected to be $500,000 for its All Weather strategy, $1,000,000 for its Pure Alpha and Pure Alpha Major Markets strategies, and $4,750,000 for Optimal Portfolio."
It is almost too coincidental to be a coincidence: on the day Ben Bernanke, who until a year ago was the biggest fixed income portfolio manager in the world courtesy of the Fed's $4.5 trillion in assets, joins Citadel as an advisor, the massively levered "market-neutral" hedge fund which as we showed earlier has $176 billion in regulatory assets, "loses" its global head of fixed income, senior managing director Derek Kaufman. Well not exactly loses. The reason for his "voluntary" departure: according to Bloomberg Kaufman is leaving Citadel not because he is about to be replaced by the former Fed chairman but because last year he lost $1 billion "in a variety of trades."
Here is Bernanke's new job: to make sure that Citadel's 7.4x leverage only keeps rising, and that its "true" regulatory assets of $175.8 billion follow. Because if there is one thing Bernanke has experience with, it's lots and lots of leverage.
Just as the S&P appeared set to blast off to a forward GAAP PE > 21.0x, here comes Greece and drags it back down to a far more somber 20.0x. The catalyst this time is an FT article according to which officials of now openly insolvent Greece have made an informal approach to the International Monetary Fund to delay repayments of loans to the international lender, but were told that no rescheduling was possible. The result if a drop in not only US equity futures which are down 8 points at last check, but also yields across the board with the German 10Y Bund now just single basis points above 0.00% (the German 9Y is now < 0), on its way to -0.20% at which point it will lead to a very awkward "crossing the streams" moment for the ECB.
Several years ago, Zero Hedge first, and to our knowledge only, reported that when it comes to unofficially executing trades in the equity market the NY Fed - through a slightly more than arms-length arrangement - does so using Chicago HFT powerhouse Citadel. In other words, while Citadel was instrumental in preserving the smooth, diagonal ramp in stocks since 2009 and igniting upward momentum just as everyone else stared to sell when the Markets Group of the NY Fed called, it was also paid handsomely: after all, nobody checks the Fed's broker commission statement. In fact according to some, indirect Fed compensation to what is the world's most leveraged hedge fund has been in the billions over the past decade. Well, now it's payback time, and as the NYT reported overnight, the Brookings Institution favorite blogger, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, has joined none other than Citadel as an advisor.
NY Fed's "Plunge Protection Team" Starts Chicago Trading Floor "In Case Of Disaster Or Other Eventuality"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/15/2015 09:48 -0500
We have known for quite some time now that the NY Fed's market group, aka the Plunge Protection Team, is opening a second office in HFT-capital Chicago. What was not known is what is the official reasoning behind the Fed's move to be even closer to its Citadel executions arm. Overnight, courtesy of Reuters we found that the "The New York branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve, wary that a natural disaster or other eventuality could shut down its market operations as it approaches an interest rate hike, has added staff and bulked up its satellite office in Chicago."
"In some instances, malfunctioning algorithms have interfered with market functioning, inundating trading venues with message traffic or creating sharp, short-lived spikes in prices as a result of other algorithms responding to the initial erroneous order flow."... "If liquidity is as bad as it is now, what’s going to happen when things really get adverse?” said Richard Schlanger, who co-manages about $30 billion in bonds as vice president at Pioneer Investments in Boston.
In retrospect, we almost feel bad for Gregg: after all in the new paranormal, in which the market is manipulated, fragmented and broken from the top (central banks) all the way to the very bottom (HFTs) with the sole purpose of pushing it ever higher in a futile attempt to restore confidence and retail investor participation in what is so clearly a rigged casino it is not easy pretending everything is fine when everything is on the verge of total collapse at any given (nano)second, and where the only recourse to coordinated selling is for the markets to break. Literally.
As noted earlier, with equities now a barren wasteland of volume (and liquidity), the last remaining HFT master (of whale order frontrunning) has been forced to go to those asset classes where organic flow is still abundant such as FX, courtesy of central banks engaged in global currency wars. However, HFTs realize it is only a matter of time before FX order flow also dries up as central banks take their trade away from public venues (and dark pools) and as such are always looking for new, untapped markets. One place where they are about to land according to the WSJ, with hilarious consequences sure to follow, will be the one place that HFTs should have felt at home from the very beginning: bitcoin.
The question on everyone's lips: which asset class was responsible for Virtu's trading perfection for yet another year. It wasn't stocks because adding across the firm's America, EMEA and APAX equity product lines, Virtu revenues actually declined, from $201 million in 2013 to $195 million in 2014. It also wasn't commodities, where revenue dropped by almost $2 million in 2014 to $93.1 million.The answer is...
In a few minutes, Janet Yellen will address a lunch session in her native SF Fed (the same place that last week finally figured out what debt is) during a conference whose topic is The New Normal for Monetary Policy (the typo from "Paranormal" is easy to make). The informal agenda will be Yellen's explanation of how she plans on achieving the yield curve which we predicted back in 2010 is just a matter of time.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, this morning's futures reaction to last night's shocking start of a completely unexpected Yemen proxy war, which has seen an alliance of Gulf State launch an air, and soon land, war against Yemen's Houthi rebels, is what one would expect: down, and down big. This is surprising, because on previous occasions one would expect the NY Fed, or its pet hedge fund, Citadel, or the BOJ or ECB (via the CME's "Central Bank Incentive Program") to aggressively buy ES to prevent a slide, something has changed, and for the BTFDers, that something may be very fatal with the e-Mini rapidly approaching a 1-handle yet again. The offset to tumbling stocks, as previously observed, is oil, with WTI soaring over 6% in a delayed algo response to the Qatar headlines.