Credit Default Swaps
History literally appears to be repeating. The mainstream media and our politicians are promising Americans that everything is going to be okay somehow, and that seems to be good enough for most people. But the signs that another massive financial crisis is on the horizon are everywhere.
“Don’t look back - something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from.
As investors and market participants become increasingly aware of the regulatory failures that allowed for manipulation of LIBOR, FOREX, municipal bond bidding and certain commodities markets, regulatory sources are increasingly expressing concern that they have paid too little attention to potential manipulations of an arguably larger, more systemically important and less regulated market – the CDS market as self-governed, through ‘regulatory license’, by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA).
For those wondering where US shale exploration and production companies will be in about 2-3 years, look no further than the gold miners, where the disconnect between undaunted physical demand and relentless paper supply (after rebounding above 0%, GOFO is once again negative through the 3 month mark), and where high production costs and low selling prices, after two years of balance sheet pain, is finally leading many over the cliff. Case in point, Canadian gold-miner San Gold, which had a capitalization of over $1 billion in 2010 just filed for bankruptcy protection. It isn't the first gold-miner to wave the white flag, and it certainly won't be the last.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
It's a wonderful life on Wall Street, yet here is a holiday wish list to make it even better...
Of all the problems with fiat currency, the most basic is that it empowers the dark side of human nature. We’re potentially good but infinitely corruptible, and giving an unlimited monetary printing press to a government or group of banks is guaranteed to produce a dystopia of ever-greater debt and more centralized control, until the only remaining choice is between deflationary collapse or runaway inflation. The people in charge at that point are in a box with no painless exit.
Who Are the Worst Looters?
Economists, Military Strategists and Others Warned Us … Long Ago
Moments ago, Bloomberg released a stunning update that Europe's largest bank is exiting the single-name, both IG and HY, CDS product line, which for years was one of its biggest revenue generators and a product in which DB was for a long time one of the best and deepest CDS trade axes. As Bloomberg reports, Deutsche Bank AG will stop trading investment-grade and high-yield credit default swaps on single credits and will instead focus on trading corporate bonds, according to a spokeswoman.
Putting Things In Context ...
Is It Fair to compare this sell off to the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009?
Yesterday, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was the keynote speaker at KPMG’s 2014 Insurance Industry Conference Tuesday, where he answered questions such as 1) where the economy is going, 2) why, and 3) when (if ever) is it likely to improve. The answers, as reported by Property Casualty 360, are: 1) nowhere fast, 2) because nobody is willing to invest, and 3) eventually, but nobody can tell when. He listed 9 specific reasons why the "economy stinks", although surprisingly, nowhere did he mention the fact that the current and future economic disaster is all a direct result of his ruinous reign at helm of the Fed where as a result of his "great moderation" and the Fed's catastrophic monetary policies conceived mostly under Greenspan himself, the economy is now perpetually stuck in a boom-bust cycle, and where every time a bubble bursts another has to replace it or else the entire western way of life will be gone in a heartbeat.
The memory hole is working overtime in the USA zeitgeist these days. Shit happens and a week or so later, it unhappens. So it goes, as the late, great Vonnegut always said. All of these stories have something in common: tons of unanswered questions, which the news media shows no interest whatsoever in following up on. And no consequences. People die, nations rise and fall, money disappears, and everybody forgets. The memory hole is the truest signifier of the times we live in: the Age of Anything Goes and Nothing Matters... but that may be changing.
Does the use of leverage (properly defined) and derivatives (properly defined) create trading risks that wouldn’t be there if you just bought the Vanguard 60/40 fund and called it a day? Sure. But we believe risk-balancing strategies mitigate far more dangerous risks to a public pension portfolio – particularly an over-reliance on equity markets. Public pensions are complex entities whose liability structures are often many times greater than the size of their investment portfolios. The common practice to resolve this dilemma has been to pursue an equity-dominated asset structure that has greater chances of achieving the required return to make the entire structure work. The problem is that equities are themselves leveraged, but it’s hidden leverage and thus hidden risk.