Earlier today, Bill Frezza of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and CNBC's Steve Liesman got into a heated exchange over a recent Frezza article, based on some of the key points we made in a prior post "A Record $2 Trillion In Deposits Over Loans - The Fed's Indirect Market Propping Pathway Exposed" in which, as the title implies, we showed how it was that the Fed was indirectly intervening in the stock market by way of banks using excess deposits to chase risky returns and generally push the market higher. We urge readers to spend the few minutes of this clip to familiarize themselves with Frezza's point which is essentially what Zero Hedge suggested, and Liesman's objection that "this is something the banks don't do and can't do." Liesman's naive view, as is to be expected for anyone who does not understand money creation under a fractional reserve system, was simple: the Fed does not create reserves to boost bank profits, and thus shareholder returns, and certainly is not using the fungible cash, which at the end of the day is what reserves amount to once dispersed among the US banks, to gun risk assets higher.
Alas, Steve is very much wrong.
Today, to little fanfare, the Fed announced a major binding settlement with the banks over robosigning and fraudclosure, which benefited the large banks, impaired the small ones (which is great: room for even more consolidation, and even more TBest-erTF, which benefits America's handful of remaining megabanks), and was nothing but one minor slap on the banking sector's consolidated wrist involving a laughable $3 billion cash payment. As part of the settlement, the US public is expected to ignore how much money the banks actually made in the primary and secondary market over the years courtesy of countless Linda Greens and robosigning abuses. A guess: the "settlement" represents an IRR of some 10,000% to 100,000% for the settling banks. We are confident once the details are ironed out, this will be an accurate range. Yet what is most disturbing, or not at all, depending on one's level of naivete, is the response of Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the house Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As a reminder, Congress had demanded that the settlement not be announced before there was a hearing on it. This did not even dent the Fed's plans to proceed with today's 11 am public announcement which can now not be revoked. It is Cummings' response which shows, yet again, just who is the true master of the Federal Reserve.
Gold dropped $8.20 or 0.49% in New York on Friday and closed at $1,656.30/oz. Silver slipped to as low as $29.22 in London, but it then rallied to as high as $30.25 in New York and finished with a gain of 0.2%. Gold finished down 0.05% for the week, while silver was up 0.53%.
Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls for December were 155K, 150K was expected and this was down from the previous data of 161K. The unemployment rate was still an elevated 7.8% suggesting a frail U.S. jobs market.
The chapter on robosigning, i.e., Fraudclosure, is now closed with a $10 billion wristslap on US banks, of which a whopping $3.3 billion in the form of direct cash and $5.2 billion in "other assistance." The banks who are now absolved from any and all Linda Green transgressions in the past include: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo. And so, banks can resume to resell properties with mortgages on which the original lien may or may not have been lost in the sands of time.
The ascent of the Democratic Party of Japan marked the end of Japan's one-party state, dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party since the 1955. However, the DPJ was unable to address the challenges Japan faced, was internally unstable, as illustrated by the revolving door in the prime minister's office, and spent scarce political clout to support a controversial retail sales tax increase.
The LDP has returned to power. Its ascent is a victory for the old elite. Reports suggest that half of the cabinet positions were given to members of parliament who had inherited their Diet seats from their families. The LDP's program, or Abenomics as it has been dubbed, seeks to strengthen the domestic economy and enhance Japan's ability to project its power internationally.
People are talking about the Trilion Dollar Tuna idea to save the economy...
Central Planners are trying with all their might to force people into behaviors and financial assets that are in direct contrast to their logic as well as long term financial well being. This is the height of immorality, not to mention hubris.
“In general [traders/economists] are trained to analyze the economic data, balance sheets and so on. They’re not trained to predict political decisions. These factors have ruled the lives of fund managers in a more significant manner than what used to be over the past 20 or 30 years.”
The paragraph above pretty much sums it up. There are no markets, there are manipulations.
Gold fell $20.20 or 1.2% in New York yesterday and closed at $1,664.50/oz. Silver slipped to as low as $29.972 and finished with a loss of 2.55%.
In money management long term success lies not in garnering short term returns but avoiding the pitfalls that lead to large losses of invested capital. While it is not popular in the media to point out the headwinds that face investors in the months ahead - it is also naive to only focus on the positives. While it is true that markets rise more often than not, unfortunately, it is when markets don't that investors are critically set back from their long term goals. It is not just the loss of capital that is devastating to the compounding effect of returns but, more importantly, it is the loss of "time" which is truly limited and never recoverable. Therefore, as we look forward into 2013, we want to review three reasons to be bullish about investing in the months to come but also review three risks that could derail the markets along the way. The reality is that no one knows for sure where the markets will end this year; and while it is true that "bull markets are more fun than bear markets" the damage to investment portfolios by not managing the risks can be catastrophic.
We are living in the United States of Delusion. The delusion has four key sources. The irony is that clinging to delusion rather than face the necessity of deep cuts in borrow-and-squander budgets will lead to the involuntary reset of the entire system, depriving every vested interest of their share of the swag. Is delusion a sustainable state? No. Thus we can confidently predict that causality, factuality and karma will eventually sweep aside delusion and all those who cling to it.
- Just like last year: A Postholiday Letdown for Retailers (WSJ)
- Obama Fights Republicans on Debt as Investors Seek Growth (BBG)
- Housing a Sweet Spot for U.S. Economy as Recovery Expands (BBG)
- House chooses Boehner as speaker again despite dissent (Reuters)
- Backlash pushes Republicans to seek cuts (FT)
- Jobs Lost Hit 5 Million With Rigged Currencies (BBG)
- Chavez still has "severe" respiratory problem (Reuters)
- Paris promises flurry of economic reforms (FT)
- Investors Sour on Pro Stock Pickers (WSJ)
- Abe moves to ease South Korea tensions (FT)
- Wildfires Hit Australia Amid Worst Heatwave in Decade (BBG)
- Monti attacks ‘extremist’ rivals (FT)
US dollar gains have been extended for the third session. The euro has been sold down to almost $.1.30 after testing $1.33 on Wed. More stale longs may be forced out on a break of $1.2985, which corresponds to a 50% retracement of the advance from the mid-Nov low near $1.2660 and the 50-day moving average. Sterling's decline is even more dramatic. It has come off hard since setting a 17-month high on Wed near $1.6380. It has now been pushed below $1.6040, which the 61.8% retracement of its rally from mid-Nov low near $1.5830. Sterling has also slipped below the 50 and 100-day moving averages for the first time in seven weeks.
Overnight, Frank Partnoy and Jesse Eisinger released an epic magnum opus titled "What's Inside America's Banks", in which they use over 9000 words, including spot on references to Wells Fargo, JPM, Andy Haldane, Kevin Warsh, Basel II, Basel III (whose regulatory framework is now 509 pages and includes a ridiculous 78 calculus equations to suggest that banks have to delever by some $3 trillion, which is why it will never pass) to give their answer: "Nobody knows." Of course, while this yeoman's effort may come as news to a broader cross-section of the population, is it well known by anyone who has even a passing interest in the loan-loss reserve release earnings generating black boxes formerly known as banks (which once upon a time made their money using Net Interest margin, and actually lending out money to make a profit), and now simply known as FDIC insured Bank Holding Company hedge funds. This also happens to be the second sentence in the lead paragraph of the story: "Sophisticated investors describe big banks as “black boxes” that may still be concealing enormous risks—the sort that could again take down the economy." So far so good, and again - not truly news. What however may come as news to none other than the author is that the first sentence of the lead-in: 'Some four years after the 2008 financial crisis, public trust in banks is as low as ever" is, sadly, wrong.
It took the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath, who one more time is modestly relevant in a world in which QE is implied until infinity or until the Fed loses all control of the money creation process, 12 whopping minutes to release a 589-word article analyzing the FOMC minutes. At least we know one of the people who had the embargoed version hours ago. We are confident he did not leak their content to anyone. Hilsenrath's prepared take: "A new fault line has opened up at the often-divided Federal Reserve: When to halt the bond-buying programs that are adding $85 billion a month of Treasury and mortgage securities to the central bank's assets. Minutes of the Fed's Dec. 11-12 policy meeting showed that officials were divided about when to halt the programs, with a few wanting to continue them until year-end, several others wanting to end the programs well before then and some wanting to halt them right away. While exposing the rift, the minutes left little clear indication which course the central bank would choose. In its official policy statement, it has been saying since September that it would continue the bond-buying programs until the job market substantially improves... It is a hugely consequential decision for the Fed and likely the next big challenge for Ben Bernanke in what could be his final year at the helm of the central bank, where he has been chairman since 2006."
What are the core characteristics of the spoiled teenager? The conventional view is that the spoiled teen "gets everything they want." In my view, the key characteristic of Spoiled Teenager Syndrome is that risk, cost and consequence have been masked. This is a systemic point of view, meaning that the masking of risk, cost and consequence help us understand not just the eventual failure of spoiled teenagers but the eventual failure of every group or enterprise that masks risk, cost and consequence as a strategy to paper over an unsustainable Status Quo. This includes families, companies, states and nations. Masking risk, cost and consequence creates an illusory world that eventually crashes on the unforgiving rocks of reality. What is the Central Planning strategy being pursued by our Central State and the Federal Reserve? Masking risk, cost and consequence.