Consumer protection

Guest Post: Why Are Markets Confused?

The market deals extremely poorly with paradigm shifts or cycle changes. One reason for this is that there has been no need for any strategy except for the just-buy-the-dip mantra. This may have ended and that could be the best signal to the markets since the global financial crisis started. Sorry to be the messenger, but the only way for investors to understand risk and leverage is by having them lose money. Essentially then, the balance of this year could be an exercise in re-educating the market to long-lost concepts such as loss, risk, inter-market correlations and price discovery. We even predict that high-frequency trading systems will suffer, as will momentum-based trading and, most interestingly, long-only funds. Why? Because, at the end of the day, they are all built on the same premise: predictable policy actions, financial oppression and no true price discovery. We could be in for a summer of discontent as policy measures and markets return to try to search out a new paradigm. This will be good news for all us.

Frontrunning: June 19

  • China cash crunch deepens as PBOC withholds funding (FT), just a week behind ZH
  • Platts in hot manipulated crude again: Traders Try to Game Platts Oil-Price Benchmarks (WSJ)
  • Kabul Suspends Security Talks With U.S., jeopardizing plans to maintain a U.S. military presence (WSJ)
  • Afghan government irked over U.S. talks with Taliban (Reuters)
  • BOJ Kuroda: BOJ to Adjust Policy If Japan Econ Changes (MNI)
  • Google Considering Private-Equity Alliances (BBG)
  • Korean Air Buying 747-8s to End Boeing’s Sales Drought (BBG)
  • Syria's Islamists seize control as moderates dither (Reuters)
  • SEC considers policy shift on admissions of wrongdoing (FT)
  • U.K. Banker Bonuses Face Decade Delays in Industry Overhaul (BBG)

Ben Bernanke Speaks - Live Webcast

The Chairman is about to take the lectern to discuss bank structure and competition at the SIFI conference at the Chicago Fed. His prepared remarks are likely to be a little less exciting than the Q&A where the world will be watching for the words "buy, buy, buy", "mission accomplished", or "taper". Charles Evans will be his lead out man. Finally, since Bernanke will be discussing shadow banking, or the source of some $30 trillion in shadow money always ignored by Keynesians, Monetarists and Magic Money Tree (MMT) growers, a topic we have discussed over the past three years, here is the TBAC's own summary on how Modern Money really works.

Niall Ferguson – The Great Degeneration

While Harvard historian Niall Ferguson's off-the-cuff remarks during the Q&A were in his words "as stupid as they were insensitive", the core message of his presentation was clear: the party of the last 20 years is now over and the longer we fail to address the real issues the bigger the hangover will be in the future. The central question Ferguson asks is whether our institutions, corporations and governments, are degenerating. As Lance Roberts of Street Talk Live notes Ferguson believes that without addressing the structural problems that plague the economy from production to employment – stimulus will fail. The reality is that the 'punch bowl' won't fix employment growth, economic growth or the rule of law.

Frontrunning: April 17

  • Boston bomb probe looking at pressure cooker, backpacks (Reuters), Boston Bomb Clues Surface (WSJ) Forensic Investigators Discover Clues to Boston Bombing (BBG)
  • China local authority debt ‘out of control’ (FT)
  • Gold Wipes $560 Billion From Central Banks as Equities Rally (BBG)... or the same impact a 2% rise in rates would have on the Fed's balance sheet
  • More Wall Street leakage: Stock Surge Linked to Lobbyist (WSJ)
  • China's bird flu death toll rises to 16, government warns of spread (Reuters)
  • Chinese official endorses monetary easing (FT)
  • As global price slumps, "Abenomics" risks drive Japan gold bugs (Reuters)
  • North Korea rejects US call for talks (FT)
  • IMF Renews Push Against Austerity (WSJ)
  • India Gains as Gold Plunge Boosts Scope for Rate Cuts (BBG)
  • Germany set to approve Cyprus aid (FT)
  • Easing Is an Issue as G-20 Meets (WSJ)

Surprise! All Banks Pass Stress Test (Except Ally)

In a stunning headline-making moment of clarity, it appears that all the major financials that the Fed monitors (except GMAC Ally) will survive a cataclysmic, Lehman-like moment based on their self-determined analytics of their deeply illiquid off-balance-sheet assets (and a comprehensive understanding of the co-dependence of all those assets). As Bloomberg notes,

*FED SAYS 18 BANKS PROJECTED LOSSES WOULD BE $462B UNDER TEST
*FED SEES 17 BANKS' TIER 1 COMMON RATIO ABOVE 5% IN WORST CASE
*GMAC ALLY ONLY STRESS-TESTED BANK SEEN WITH TIER 1 COMMON BELOW 5%
*TESTS SCENARIO ASSUMES EQUITY PRICES DROP MORE THAN 50%, HOUSING PRICES DECLINE MORE THAN 20%

Is it any wonder that Government Motors wanted to IPO its GMAC/Ally business recently - with a 1.5% stressed Tier 1 ratio.

Icahn Thanks Ackman For "Very Big Mistakes"

As if today's collapse in JCP's stock price, Bill Ackman had his nose bloodied both figuratively and numerically when his now arch-nemesis appeared on Bloomberg TV to explain his gaining two seats on the board and option to purchase 25% of Herbalife. While obviously not full of the to-and-fro fireworks of their recent encounter, Icahn had quite a few jabs at Ackman record lately, "he has made a few very big mistakes," and thanked him for his big mistake in "giving us an opportunity to buy a company at a discounted price." The interview was full of Icahn's normal bluster but he once again brought up the fact that this whole 300-page dog-and-pony show was undertaken right before year-end, "I do not understand why someone... talks about the fact that he is short," for obvious reasons, "except to say that it certainly helped his year-end numbers."

InBev Sued For Overstating Budweiser Alcohol Content

Maker's Mark recent foray into "diluting" reality by keeping prices flat while reducing the alcohol content - a painful reminder that stealth inflation comes in the most unexpected of shapes - came and went, with the outcry limited to a select group of Bourbon lovers. However, when the realization hits that every other alcohol producer may have been engaging in the same less than ethical behavior, including America's precious Budweiser, we expect the response to be faster and furiouser. We also expect the answer to the question of how it is that food inflation is not far greater, will be made even clearer. It will, however, certainly bring new meaning to the phrase the beer glass is half full. Of course, since the lawsuit was filed by two men who "routinely purchased as many as four cases of Bud per month for the past four years" one can see why it may not be taken very seriously.

A Primer On Europe's Common Bank Supervisor

The Eurozone was once again engaged in burning the midnight oil, in yet another futile endeavor, this time setting the stage for a common bank supervisor in the face of the ECB, which is somehow supposed to "regulate" Europe's thousands of banks. That this was a total practical dud can be seen in the response of the EURUSD to the news. However, for those interested in the theoretical nuances, whose actual implementation has once again been kicked into the future, here is a quick and dirty primer from SocGen.