Collateralized Debt Obligations
The stock market really was rigged... “It’s 2009,” Katsuyama says. “This had been happening to me for almost two years. There’s no way I’m the first guy to have figured this out. So what happened to everyone else?” The question seemed to answer itself: Anyone who understood the problem was making money off it...
“Guidance” is the new organizing credo of US financial life with Janet Yellen officially installed as the new Wizard of Oz at the Federal Reserve. Guidance refers to periodic cryptic utterances made by the Wizard in staged appearances before congress or in the “minutes” (i.e. transcribed notes) from meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee. The cryptic utterances don’t necessarily have any bearing on reality, but are issued with the hope that they will be mistaken for it, especially by managers in the financial markets where assets are priced and traded.
I crush the JP Morgan Managing Director and Head of FX, John Normand, and his false-factual rant against Bitcoin. Fear, envy & loathing in seeing your bonus floating margin at cryptocurrency risk!
Earlier today, the non-profit organization Better Markets did what so many others have only dreamed of doing - they sued JPMorgan. We wish them the best of luck, as in a "crony jsutice" system as corrupt as this one - perhaps best described, paradoxically enough by the fictional movie The International - where the same DOJ previously implicitly admitted it will not prosecute "systemically important" firms like JPM to the full extent of the law and instead merely lob one after another wrist slap at them to placate the peasantry, any hope for obtaining true justice is impossible.
Tomorrow we prepare for a “new” Fed. It looks a lot like the old Fed, but one can hope. In the meantime we wonder if QE is worth it? Does it do what it is “supposed” to do? No. We don’t think it has done much for jobs or inflation or housing. We look at the pre QE data and the post QE data and we are underwhelmed. But what real evidence is there that QE is helping the economy? Would we be the same without it? Better even? I am told no, but I am told a lot of things that turn out not to be true. If it was clear that QE was really helping the economy, I wouldn’t be wondering why we do it. But is there any harm to QE? That is the other side of the coin. Ask any person from an Emerging Market whether QE is harmful and you will likely get a very different answer than the one Ben has given.
As we first reported one week ago, the first shadow default in Chinese history, the "Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product" issued by China Credit Trust Co. Ltd. (CCT) due to mature Jan 31st with $492 million outstanding, appears ready to go down in the record books. In turn, virtually every sellside desk has issued notes and papers advising what this event would mean ("don't panic, here's a towel", and "all shall be well"), and is holding conference calls with clients to put their mind at ease in the increasingly likely scenario that there is indeed a historic "first" default for a country in which such events have previously been prohibited. So with under 10 days to go, for anyone who is still confused about the role of trusts in China's financial system, a default's significance, the underlying causes, the implications for the broad economy, and what the possible outcomes of the CCT product default are, here is Goldman's Q&A on a potential Chinese trust default.
So much for the strict, evil Volcker Rule which was a "victory for regulators" and its requirement that banks dispose of TruPS CDOs. Recall a month, when it was revealed that various regional banks would need to dispose of their TruPS CDO portfolios, we posted "As First Volcker Rule Victim Emerges, Implications Could "Roil The Market"." Well, the market shall remain unroiled because last night by FDIC decree, the TruPS CDO provision was effectively stripped from the rule. This is what came out of the FDIC last night: "Five federal agencies on Tuesday approved an interim final rule to permit banking entities to retain interests in certain collateralized debt obligations backed primarily by trust preferred securities (TruPS CDOs) from the investment prohibitions of section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Volcker rule." In other words, the first unintended consequences of the Volcker Rule was just neutralized after the ABA and assorted banks screamed against it.
- Firms to Face new Rules Over Pay, Taxes (WSJ)
- US to test commercial drones at six sites (CNN)
- China’s Local Debt Swells to 17.9 Trillion Yuan in Audit (BBG) - which is about 2 trillion less than where it actually is (Reuters)
- Fears after key China debt level soars 70% (FT) and in reality the debt level is saoring far more
- Pot Shops in Denver Open Door to $578 Million in Sales (BBG)
- China Says It Will Shun Abe After Shrine Visit (WSJ)
- De Blasio Taking Office Citing Wealth Gap as Crime Falls (BBG)
- China Approves $353 Million of Share Sales as IPOs Resume (BBG)
- Obama Seeks Way to Right His Ship (WSJ)
- Netflix Tests Subscription Fees Based on Number of Account Users (BBG)
- Three big macro questions for 2014 (FT)
Over the past two weeks, Trust Preferred (or TruPS) CDOs have gained prominent attention as a result of being the first, and so far only, security that the recently implemented and largely watered-down, Volcker Rule has frowned upon, and leading various regional banks, such as Zions, to liquidate the offending asset while booking substantial losses. But... what are TruPS CDOs, and just how big (or small) of an issue is a potential wholesale liquidation in the market? Courtesy of the Philly Fed we now have the extended answer.
Yesterday afternoon, Zions Bancorp, Utah's biggest lender, stunned the financial community with a regulatory filing in which it announced that as a result of the final Volcker Rule implementation, it will need to make some very dramatic changes to its balance sheet, which would also have a follow through, and quite adverse, impact on its income statement. To wit: "Under the published rule, the Company would no longer have the ability to hold disallowed securities until the anticipated recovery of their amortized cost. Therefore, as of December 15, 2013, Zions anticipates that in the fourth quarter of 2013 it will reclassify all covered CDOs that currently are classified as “Held to Maturity” into “Available for Sale,” and that all covered CDOs, regardless of the accounting classification, will be adjusted to Fair Value through an Other Than Temporary Impairment non-cash charge to earnings. The net result would eliminate substantially all of the accumulated other comprehensive income adjustment to equity related to the covered securities." The implications of this announcement could be severe, and in a worst case scenario, as Sterne Agee notes, could "roil the market"...
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.
The rock is reality. The squishy place is the illusion that pervasive racketeering is an okay replacement for an economy. The essence of racketeering is the use of dishonest schemes to get money, often (but not always) employing coercion to make it work. Some rackets can function on the sheer cluelessness of the victim(s).
On December 23, 2013, the U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) will celebrate its 100th birthday, so we thought it was time to take a look at the Fed’s real accomplishment, and the practices and policies it has employed during this time to rob the public of its wealth. The criticism is directed not only at the world’s most powerful central bank - the Fed - but also at the concept of central banks in general, because they are the antithesis of fiscal responsibility and financial constraint as represented by gold and a gold standard. The Fed was sold to the public in much the same way as the Patriot Act was sold after 9/11 - as a sacrifice of personal freedom for the promise of greater government protection. Instead of providing protection, the Fed has robbed the public through the hidden tax of inflation brought about by currency devaluation.
Financial innovation is a recurring theme in the NY Fed's review of historic crises. The 1720 South Sea Company structured the national debt in a way that was initially attractive to investors, but the scheme to finance the debt-for-equity swap ultimately proved to be noncredible and the market collapsed. Now fast-forward to 2013 and the five-year anniversary of Lehman's failure. As Fed Governor Jeremy Stein pointed out in a recent speech, a combination of factors such as financial innovation, regulation, and a change in the economic environment, contribute to an overheating of credit markets. So, the NY Fed asks - has the current reach for yield led to ever more complex, leveraged investments and the next credit market bubble? Or will the lessons from the Great Recession last at least a lifetime?
Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope. Who was to blame?
"The government, writ large, had a hand in creating the conditions that encouraged the approval of dubious mortgages. It was the government, in the form of Congress, that repealed Glass-Steagall, thus allowing certain banks that had previously viewed mortgages as a source of interest income to become instead deeply involved in securitizing pools of mortgages in order to obtain the much greater profits available from trading. It was the government, in the form of both the executive and the legislature, that encouraged deregulation..."
- Judge Jed Rakoff