Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
When one observes the decline in Deutsche Bank's two net derivative exposures since 2011, one notices something curious: over the past year, the nominal net exposure of the bank's positive and negative derivative market values has collapsed from a combined total of €1.678 trillion to just €1.253 trillion, with consecutive declines over each of the past 4 quarters for a cumulative net deleveraging of €425 billion.
The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating an self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Instead it led to a speculative rush into buying rental properties creating a temporary, and artificial, inventory suppression. The risks to the housing story remains high due to the impact of higher taxes, stagnant wage growth, re-defaults of the 6-million modifications and workouts and a slowdown of speculative investment due to reduced profit margins. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2013 and beyond - the data suggests that it might be quite a bit of wishful thinking.
Based on media reports over the past few weeks, there are two clear front-runners in the competition to be named Ben Bernanke’s successor as Fed chairman. Current Vice Chair Janet Yellen sits in one corner, former Treasury Secretary and National Economic Council (NEC) Director Larry Summers in the other corner, and pundits are actively placing their bets. Yellen is "soft-spoken, even-tempered, 100% mainstream academic economist who boils the world down to simplistic concepts," so similarities between Bernanke and Yellen are far stronger than the differences. A hand off from one to the other would be about as eventful as a rainy day in Seattle. Compared to Yellen, Summers has a longer history as a heavyweight policymaker but as Charles Ferguson wrote, “rarely has one individual embodied so much of what is wrong with economics, with academe, and indeed with the American economy." And that’s what it seems to be coming down to: a choice between a yawn and a hiss. Why not appoint someone with a track record of getting things right, you ask? Well, that would require a culture of accountability in the White House. Does anyone remember when we last had that?
Following the debacle of free-and-easy mortgage money to anyone who could fog a mirror in the run-up to the last housing bubble (remember that was just 6 years ago), regulators proposed 'skin-in-the-game' rules which forced banks to hold certain amounts of the loans they made (as opposed to securitizing and selling off that yieldy risk to the next greater fool). Makes sense. However, in a major U-turn, with interest rates rising, mortgage rates spiking, and home prices now collapsing once again, it would appear the very same congress has folded. As the WSJ reports, more stringent lending standards on top of the market environment leave the watchdogs, which include the Fed and the FDIC, wanting to loosen a proposed requirement that banks retain a portion of the mortgage securities they sell to investors (representing a victory for an unusual alliance of banks and consumer advocates that opposed the new rules). Undermining the initial goal of imposing market discipline, former FDIC Chair Sheil Bair noted, "My sense is that Washington has lost its political will for serious reform of the securitization market." Indeed it has, Sheila.
We need to think about lessening the economic “skin-in-the-game” for RMBS and focusing anew on enforcing US securities laws...
Plunging Chinese manufacturing and an 11 month low PMI got you down? Don't worry: there's a Europe for that, which overnight reported that manufacturing and service PMI in Germany and, don't laugh, France soared far above expectations (German Mfg and Services PMIs of 50.3 and 52.5, up from 48.6 and 50.4, and above expectations of 49.2 and 50.8; French Mfg and Services PMIs of 48.3 and 49.8, up from 47.2 and 48.4 and an 11 and 17 month high, respectively, blowing away expectations of 47.6 and 48.8). The result was a composite Eurozone Manufacturing PMI of 50.1, above 50 for the first time since February of 2012, up from 48.8 and at a 24 month high - reporting the largest monthly increase in output sunce June 2011, as well as a composite Services PMI of 49.6, up from 48.3, and an 18 month high. In other words, European Composite PMI is expanding (above 50) for the first time since January 2012.
As we warned here most recently, the shadow-banking system remains the most crisis-catalyzing part of the markets currently as collateral shortages (and capital inadequacy) continue to grow as concerns. In recent weeks, between The Fed, Basel III, and the FDIC, regulators have signalled the possible intent to change risk, netting, and capital rules that could have dramatic implications on the repo markets and now, it seems, the SEC has begun to recognize just how big a concern that could be. As Reuters reports, the SEC urged funds and advisers last week to review master repurchase agreement documentation to see if there are any procedures to handle defaults, and if necessary, prepare draft templates in advance. A retrenchment in repo markets is unwelcome news for the liquidity of the underlying securities and the impact on the derivative portfolios should not be underestimated.
As part of the Appendixed disclosures in the aftermath of JPM's London Whale fiasco, we learned the source of funding that Bruno Iksil and company at the firm's Chief Investment Office used to rig and corner the IG and HY market, making billions in profits in what, on paper, were supposed to be safe, hedging investments until it all went to hell and resulted in the most humiliating episode of Jamie Dimon's career and huge losses: it was excess customer customer deposits arising from a $400+ billion gap between loans and deposits. After JPM's fiasco went public, the firm hunkered down and promptly unwound (or is still in the process of doing so) its existing CIO positions at a huge loss. However, that meant that suddenly the firm found itself with nearly $400 billion billion in inert, nonmargined cash: something that was unacceptable to the CEO and the firm's shareholders. In other words, it was time to get to work, Mr. Dimon, and put that cash to good, or bad as the case almost always is, use. So what has JPM allocated all those billions in excess deposits over loans? Courtesy of Fortune magazine we now know the answer - CLOs.
We are confident the following amusing bill titled grandiosely enough "A 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act" (the Bill text here) by Elizabeth Warren, John McCain et al, to pretend Congress is not a bought and paid for by Wall Street marionette, will have a last minute rider that says "Compliance with any or all of the above provisions is purely voluntary."
- ICE's NYSE to determine the rate used by key competitor CME: NYSE Euronext to Take Over Libor (WSJ)
- Japan slams China over maritime disputes (FT)
- The Twinkie Returns, With Less Baggage (WSJ)
- Pentagon Workers From Pennsylvania to Ghana Hit by Cuts (BBG)
- Why Prostitutes Aren't Enough to Deprive the World of Eliot Spitzer (BBG)
- Groups gather in Turkish protest park after night of clashes (Reuters)
- Apartment Rents Rise, But the Pace Is Slowing (WSJ)
- Asiana Seen Saving Millions With Tactic to Bar U.S. Suits (BBG)
- Bin Laden's life on the run revealed by Pakistani inquiry (Reuters)
- Fracking Firms Face New Crop of Competitors (WSJ)
Following Friday's ugliness in bond-land, today saw the Treasury market's best day in around 13 months as UST are starting to look a lot like JGBs in terms of volatility regime - which really won't help collateral. Gold and silver also had a positive day (both up around 1.1%) as the USD leaked 0.3% lower (led by a surging AUD that recovered a lot of Friday's gap-down losses). The Nasdaq underperformed on the day (as AAPL tumbled 3% from pre-open highs) but remains in the green (just) post-FOMC while the Dow, S&P, and Trannies are all holding red post-FOMC. Discretionary and Financials are now in the green post-FOMC as Builders continue their open-high-close-low regime (now down 7% from FOMC). WTI trod water around $103. Credit markets modestly outperformed on the day but remain significantly below pre-FOMC levels as stocks have almost regained it and VIX slid back to its lowest in 6 weeks (under 15%) though slipped higher from the open today.
This week's biggest news is not the Non-Farm Payrolls, or the European Central Bank or even Portugal's government falling. No - this week's big deal is the openness with which the Federal Reserve is preparing a major margin call on the too-big-to-fail banks in the US. This has been a long time coming since the introduction of the Dodd-Frank law back in 2010 but it is a game changer. Remember all macro paradigm shifts come from policy impulses, often mistakes. Is the Fed about to given the whole banking industry a major margin call?
Despite best effort to immunize banks from rate swings and debt MTM risk, a substantial amount of duration exposure has remained with the glorified hedge funds known as FDIC-insured bank holdings companies under the designation of “Available For Sale” (AFS) or those which due to their explicit short-term trading fate, would have to be subject to mark to market moves. It is the bottom line impact of these securities that threatens to crush bank earnings in the just concluded second quarter by an amount that could be as large as $25 (or more) billion.
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.
Almost three years ago we first highlighted the real math behind the surging entitlement class that America has become. So why does a large portion of the population choose not to work when there are many jobs available? The answer is simple. If you can receive 2-3 times as much money from unemployment, disability, and/or welfare benefits (subsidized housing, food stamps, free cellphones, etc.) as you can from a temporary or part-time job, and live a life of leisure, why work? This is the ugly reality we illustrated just six months ago and the situation - amid what is apparently called a 'recovery' remains a depressingly real sign of the times. The political allure of free is so strong that an alarming number of people choose to become wards of the entitlement/welfare state rather than captain their own destiny. Indeed, while many are 'proud', 49% of American households now receive one or more government transfer benefits amounting to 18% of all personal income and a burden of $7,400 for every American - seemingly threatening the supposed self-reliance that has long characterized the American national psyche.