Credit Default Swaps
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.
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- Palestinians accuse Israel of breaking seven-hour Gaza truce (Reuters)
- Argentine Default Sours Outlook for Peso as Talks Ordered (BBG)
- Espírito Santo Saga Entangles Swiss Company (WSJ)
- Booming African Lion Economies Gear Up to Emulate Asians (BBG)
- CME Profit Falls as Trading Volume Declines (WSJ)
- Why Recalled Cars Stay on the Road (WSJ)
- London Renters Win in Billionaire Backyard as Prices Soar (BBG)
- Junk-Debt Liquidity Concerns Bring Sales (WSJ)
- Rescuers race to find survivors after 400 die in China quake (AFP)
Janet Yellen is always one step behind. If people start to ask you "Are you fat?", then you ARE fat!
Vested interests are threatened by the losses generated by small financial fires, so these are systemically suppressed. As a result, the fallen deadwood piles ever higher, creating more fuel for the next random lightning strike to ignite. Once the deadwood piles high enough, the random lightning strike ignites a fire so fast-moving and so hot that it cannot be suppressed, and the entire financial system burns to the ground. So go ahead and keep defending the Status Quo as the best system possible, or believe Elites will keep suppressing fires forever because they're so powerful, or whatever excuse, rationalization or justification you prefer. It won't matter, because the firestorm won't respond to words, beliefs, ideological certainties, reassurances or official pronouncements. It will do what fires do, which is burn all available fuel until there's no fuel left to consume.
The selloff last year was a desperate warning about the lack of resilience in credit and funding. That repo markets persist in that is, again, the opposite of the picture Janet Yellen is trying to clumsily fashion. Central banks cannot create that because their intrusion axiomatically alters the state of financial affairs, and they know this. It has always been the idea (“extend and pretend” among others) to do so with the expectation that economic growth would allow enough margin for error to go back and clean up these central bank alterations. That has never happened, and the modifications persist. Resilience is the last word we would use to describe markets right now, with very recent history declaring as much.
As if the market needed any further proof it is not only manipulated and rigged (at least under a legal system that classifies trading on insider information as illegal), but is constantly abused by those with material, non-public information - i.e., insiders - here comes a study conducted by professors at McGill and New York Universities, which, as the NYT summarizes, finds that "A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading."
Is there any hope that we might actually elect a president with the mandate and courage to take down Wall Street instead of kissing its rear end in humiliating obeisance? The 2016 presidential election may be far away to those obsessed with the news cycle, but it's not too early to express one single hope: that we finally elect a president who doesn't kiss Wall Street's rear end every single day for four/eight years running. Either the next president issues an executive order (or whatever it takes) to enact these four administrative rules, or he/she is kissing Wall Street's rear end every single day of his/her administration.
As we explained in great detail recently, the abundance of so-called cash-on-the-sidelines is a fallacy, but even more critically the we showed the belief that these 'IOUs of past economic activity' would immediately translate into efforts to deploy them into future economic activity is also entirely false. Simply put, there is no relationship between corporate cash and subsequent capital expenditure, nor is the level of capital expenditure even well-correlated with the level of real interest rates. At this point, as John Hussman explains, it should be clear that the mere existence of a mountain of IOUs related to past economic activity is not enough to provoke future economic activity. What matters instead is the same thing that always matters: Are the resources of the economy being directed toward productive uses that satisfy the needs of others?
There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false. The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category... But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized. What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time.