Does it really make any sense at all that Bernanke would leave gold to trade in an open and transparent market? Hardly. Consider. The Fed has conjured multiple trillions of digital dollars out thin air in the last five years. These efforts have propped up the Treasury market, the domestic TBTF banks, the foreign TBTF banks, the ECB, the BOE, every European sovereign bond market, the RMBS market, the CMBS market, the equity market, the housing market and the entire industrial and soft commodity complexes, to name a few. Since the price of gold we see on our Bloomberg screens is set via derivatives and overwhelmingly settled in USD, the ability for central banks and bullion banks to manipulate the price of gold is way too easy. All the bullion banks have to do is coordinate (as in LIBOR), sell in size and punish anyone in their way. Take losses? No problem, more fiat can be conjured post-haste. So long as no one is taking physical delivery, the band(k) plays on. (Actually, physical demand delivery IS becoming a major new problem for the banks but this is a topic for a different note.) A quickly rising gold price upsets this fiat-engineered, centrally planned, non-market based recovery. Gold left to its’ own devices would signal the unwinding the rehypothecated world of shadow banking where latent monetary inflation goes to summer (think of it as the monetary Hamptons where only the Wall Street elite get to play). Most importantly, it would signal a huge lack of faith in the US dollar. A currency backed by nothing more than faith in central banking.
Over a year ago we wrote "How The Fed's Visible Hand Is Forcing Corporate Cash Mismanagement" in which we explained that due to ZIRP, management teams are left with just two (very shareholder-friendly) capital allocation choices: stock buybacks and dividends, to the detriment of such much more long-term critical uses of funds as capital expenditures, and to a lesser extent M&A. So far, this observation has proven spot on with buybacks (most of which using leverage to arb the record low cost of debt, notably in the case of Apple) dominating cash allocation decisions. However, there is a key drawback to this strategy: corporate assets whose age has hit all time highs across the globe. Naturally, this is a critical issue in a world in which the return on assets is now rapidly declining as seen in two years of deteriorating profit margins, and in which as much utility has been extracted as possible from an asset base which in many cases is well beyond its functional age. Logically, more and more companies will have no choice but to reasses capital deployment and in the coming months formerly very shareholder friendly companies will have no choice but to redeploy cash from dividends and buyback and to long-ignored capex once more. We bring this up because moments ago Dole Food just provided the missing piece to this capital allocation puzzle.
News That Matters - Today's news in brief
Since 2009, when Hypo Alpe Adria was 'nationalized', the Austrian government has dumped more than EUR2 billion into the troubled bank. It remains on life-support but this time the government-proposed 'aid' being offered is running into a wall. The rest of Austria's banks (as creditors as well as forced levy-payers from other bailouts) dismiss the government's plan for a "bad-bank" model a la Ireland adding that they "will not allow themselves to be put under pressure by politicians." Reuters notes that the 'bad-bank' plan is up against a deadline at the end of May from the European Commission, and among others Unicredit Austria is clear on its role, "decidedly rule out a commitment on our part." The increasing tension between Vienna and Brussels is evident as a quick sale of the bank will lead to a EUR5-6 billion loss for taxpayers (hurting the government's budget plans) but it seems the rest of Austria's banks are unwilling to throw more good money after bad, "if we go this way, some persuasion will be needed". Is it time for more non-templates?
- As scandals mount, White House springs into damage control (Reuters)
- Glencore Xstrata chairman ousted in surprise coup (Reuters), former BP CEO Tony Hayward appointed as interim chairman (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Chase asks Bloomberg for data records (Telegraph)
- Platts Retains Energy Trader Confidence Amid Price-Fix Probe (BBG)
- Syrian Internet service comes back online (PCWorld)
- Japan Q1 growth hits 3.5% on Abe impact although fall in business investment clouds optimism for recovery (FT)
- Soros Joins Gold-Stake Cuts Before Bear Market Drop (BBG)
- Factory Ceiling Collapses in Cambodia (WSJ)
- Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Breakup (BBG)
- Snags await favourite for Federal Reserve job (FT)
- James Bond’s Pinewood Turned Down on $300 Million Plan (BBG)
It’s amazing what people can trick themselves into believing and even shout about when you tell them exactly what they want to hear. It was disappointing to see Brad DeLong’s latest defense of Fed policy, which was published this past weekend and trumpeted far and wide by like-minded bloggers. If you take DeLong’s word for it, you would think that the only policy risk that concerns hedge fund managers is a return to full employment. He suggests that these managers criticize existing policy only because they’ve made bad bets that are losing money, while they naively expect the Fed’s “political masters” to bail them out. Well, every one of these claims is blatantly false. DeLong’s story is irresponsible and arrogant, really. And since he flouts the truth in his worst articles and ignores half the picture in much of the rest, we’ll take a stab here at a more balanced summary of the pros and cons of the Fed’s current policies. We’ll try to capture the discussion that’s occurring within the investment community that DeLong ridicules. Firstly, the benefits of existing policies are well understood. Monetary stimulus has certainly contributed to the meager growth of recent years. And jobs that are preserved in the near-term have helped to mitigate the rise in long-term unemployment, which can weigh on the economy for years to come. These are the primary benefits of monetary stimulus, and we don’t recall any hedge fund managers disputing them. But the ultimate success or failure of today’s policies won’t be determined by these benefits alone – there are many delayed effects and unintended consequences. Here are seven long-term risks that aren’t mentioned in DeLong’s article...
It will come as a shock to all of you to know that such daylight robbery is perfectly legal and this has been so for hundreds of years.
- Once a beacon, Obama under fire over civil liberties (Reuters)
- Eurozone in longest recession since birth of currency bloc (FT)
- EU Oil Manipulation Probe Shines Light on Platts Pricing Window (BBG)
- BMWs Cheaper Than Hyundais in Korea as Tariffs Crumble (BBG)
- Stock Boom Isn't a Bubble, Says BOJ's Kuroda (WSJ)
- Struggling France strives to shake off economic gloom (FT)
- JPMorgan investors take heat off Dimon (FT)
- Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy (WSJ)
- Bloomberg Saga Highlights Clash Between Two Worlds (WSJ)
- Bank documents portray Cyprus as Russia's favorite haven (Reuters)
- HSBC Signals 14,000 Jobs Cuts in $3 Billion Savings Plan (BBG)
- Argentines Hold More Than $50 Billion in U.S. Currency (BBG)
Another day, another US city on the brink of insolvency. This time it's Detroit, whose recently appointed emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr said may run out of cash next month and must cut costs such as long-term debt and retiree obligations. According to Bloomberg, "Orr’s report says the cost of $9.4 billion in bond, pension and other long-term liabilities is sapping the ability to provide such basic services as public safety and transportation. He listed cutting debt principal, retiree benefits and jobs among options he may take. “No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis,” He called his report "a sobering wake-up call about the dire financial straits the city of Detroit faces."
It's Not Just Reggie Warning Irishmen Anymore As Irish Presidency of the European Council Says Capital At RiskSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 05/08/2013 08:02 -0500
Irishmen with over 100k in euros in suspect Irish banks might as well kiss those damn euros goodbye. You can't say I didn't warn 'ya!
- Pentagon Plans for the Worst in Syria (WSJ)
- Russia and US agree to Syria conference after Moscow talks (FT)
- Hedge Funds Rush Into Debt Trading With $108 Billion (BBG)
- Detroit is the new "deep value" - Hedge funds in search of distress take a look at Detroit (Reuters)
- Commodities hedge funds suffer weak first quarter (FT)
- But... but... Abenomics - Toshiba posts 62% decline in Q1 net profit (WSJ)
- Americans Are Borrowing Again but Still Less Than Before Freeze (WSJ)
- Man Utd announce Alex Ferguson to retire (FT)
- Asmussen Says ECB Discussed ABS Purchases to Spur SME Lending (BBG)
- Benghazi Attack Set for New Review (WSJ)
- Belgium Says 31 People Arrested Over $50 Million Diamond Theft (BBG)
- Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo wins WTO leadership battle (FT)
- Bangladesh Garment Factory Building Collapse Toll Reaches 782 (BBG)
The debate rages... Soros: "The euro crisis has already transformed the European Union from a voluntary association of equal states into a creditor-debtor relationship from which there is no easy escape. The creditors stand to lose large sums should a member state exit the monetary union, yet debtors are subjected to policies that deepen their depression, aggravate their debt burden, and perpetuate their subordinate position. As a result, the crisis is now threatening to destroy the EU itself. That would be a tragedy of historic proportions, which only German leadership can prevent." Sinn: "Soros is playing with fire... Many investors echo Soros. They want to cut and run – to unload their toxic paper onto intergovernmental rescuers, who should pay for it with the proceeds of Eurobond sales, and put their money in safer havens... Soros does not recognize the real nature of the eurozone’s problems. The ongoing financial crisis is merely a symptom of the monetary union’s underlying malady: its southern members’ loss of competitiveness... His accusation that Germany is imposing austerity is unfair. Austerity is imposed by the markets, not by those countries providing the funds to mitigate the crisis."
With equity valuations no longer levitating but in a different, 4th dimension altogether, and credit spreads compressing dramatically (and unreasonably)... It is in situations like these, when the crash comes, that the proverbial run for liquidity forces central banks to coordinate liquidity injections. However, something tells me that this time, the trick won’t work. Over almost a century, we have witnessed the slow and progressive destruction of the best global mechanism available to cooperate in the creation and allocation of resources. This process began with the loss of the ability to address flow imbalances (i.e. savings, trade). After the World Wars, it became clear that we had also lost the ability to address stock imbalances, and by 1971 we ensured that any price flexibility left to reset the system in the face of an adjustment would be wiped out too. From this moment, adjustments can only make way through a growing series of global systemic risk events with increasingly relevant consequences. Swaps, as a tool, will no longer be able to face the upcoming challenges. When this fact finally sets in, governments will be forced to resort directly to basic asset confiscation.
The world is awash in contradiction with stocks rising to new highs as interest rates reflect a slowing economy. It is an upside down world according to PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian. As Lance Roberts annotates, the moustaced maestro explains individuals are both excited and anxious. They are excited by the rally in the markets as they see their portfolios increase in values but at the same timed overwhelmingly concerned about the economic future. It is a world with an enormous contrast between the markets and the real economy. That is the world we are navigating and it is incredibly unusual. This is why it is an unloved rally. His discussion at the recent Strategic Investment Conference is about a simple framework to reconcile these issues. The long term view matters greatly - but the short term matters also.
- The number of bond funds that own stocks has surged to its highest point in at least 18 years (WSJ)
- Clubby London Trading Scene Fostered Libor Rate-Fixing Scandal (WSJ)
- Cheap money bankrolls Wall Street's bet on housing (Reuters)
- Bank of Japan reveals concerns over easing policy (FT)
- iPads and low-end rivals propel higher tablet shipments (Reuters)
- China Cyberspies Outwit U.S. Stealing Military Secrets (BBG)
- Draghi Fuels Bets on Rate Cut With Risk of Limited Impact (BBG)
- China guides renminbi to fresh high against US dollar (FT)
- Japan is preparing to start up a massive nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant (WSJ)
- Apple’s Ive Seen Risking iOS 7 Delay on Software Overhaul (BBG)
- UBS faces calls for break-up at investor meeting (Reuters)