Financial Accounting Standards Board
We have good reason to be waiting for Lehman—our current situation is simple and stark: Sovereign nations and individual citizens are over-indebted—to the point where they cannot pay back what they owe. We all know that this overindebtedness at the sovereign and individual level is going to end, and end badly: Worse than 2008. So along with everyone else, I’ve been waiting for Lehman—and fruitlessly trying to guess which will be the Lehman-like event this time around. Will it be the bankruptcy of Dexia? BofA? UniCredit or SocGen or one of the Spanish banks? Will it be a war in the Middle East? Bad producer index numbers from China? A fart by a day-trader in Uzbekistan?
When will Lehman arrive!?!?
But lately, my thinking has changed: Like the characters in Godot, I think that we’re waiting in vain. The Lehman-like event will never arrive because it won’t be allowed to arrive. So this miserable slog we are going through will continue—indefinitely. (Yeah, I know: Sucks to be us.)
The ongoing squeeze in US equities, evident in the significant outperformance of the most-shorted-name indices from Goldman relative to market indices, continues to keep domestic wealth effects ticking along nicely while US credit and European equity and credit markets do not seem to have got the same memo. While this rally, seemingly predicated on the fact that Europe 'get's it' finally (and admittedly some talking head chatter about the number of earnings beats - which we argue is useless given previous discussions of the wholesale downgrading of expectations heading into earnings), the US equity market is the only market to have made new highs this week, is outperforming its credit peers in the US (which is simply ignorant given HY's relative cheapness if this was a risk-on buying spree), and most wonderfully - is hugely outperforming the European financials, European sovereigns, European IG and HY credit, and European equities. Did US equities become the new safe-haven play of the world? Perhaps this week, but we suspect that won't end well - at least from the experience of the last decade or so.
To everyone needing a big picture refresh of all that is happening in the world, and to focus on the forest behind the trees of endless headlines, here is Damien Cleusix' latest macro markets update. "We will start with some rumblings on the financial sector in general and banks in particular. For those only interested in the financial market calls they are at the end... THE KEY for the future of the system has we know it will be the decision which will be made in the weeks/months to come with regard to banks. If politicians screw this once more we are afraid that this will be remembered as the final trigger toward a radical change on how our financial system work. This won't happen overnight but be sure that the system you will be living in in 5 years will be RADICALLY different than today's. While the "Occupy Wall Street" movement remains marginal, be sure that it will grow exponentially if politicians make the bad choices. It will grow so much that it might ultimately dictate the political (regulator) agenda. Far fetched? Probably but we have done some far fetched prediction in the past 10 years and they have come to pass to why not try our luck once more. How could politicians and regulators screw it once more? Simply by not letting the losses fall upon those who made the wrong bets. Did they learn from the 2008-2009 mistake? We don't think so and so there is a very high probability that they will screw it again (we apologize for the choice of word but this is really what they are doing, they are paving the way for a whole generation toward insecurity, poverty and despair)."
While it won't say much new to those "stupid enough" to exist in the intersection of the "Retired" and "Alive" Venn circles under the Bernanke central planning regime, we suggest any pensioners who hope to see their life savings generate some...any... return (on capital, or of capital) in their lifetime, to simply skip this article and read some of our cheerier fare. So here is the punchline for pension fund managers which now predict an utterly insane 11% equity return which is the only thing that would make their Pension Plans whole: "In the early nineties, plan sponsors, if biased in their forecast, were generally biased toward conservatism. From 1997 through 2007, expectations, although a bit rosy at times, were largely within the realm of reasonableness. In our view, a long-run equity risk premium of 11% is pure jibber-jabber. It is wishful thinking. I dare not predict the level of the S&P 500 ten years out, but an ERP this high suggests the S&P would have to reach unprecedented levels. If this is what plan sponsors are counting on, I, like Clubber Lang, predict Pain." And "Hope is neither a training plan nor an investment strategy." Uh, wrong. Have you seen the EURUSD these days?
I personally believe that there is no "free" alpha. That said, there is a way to earn returns that may look like alpha, especially if you are an astute student of human nature. You can make a bet when other people are behaving irrationally, as when you buy when there is blood in the street.
If there has been one consistent theme since day one at CI, it has been our perhaps near myopic focus and focal point highlight of importance that is the macro credit cycle. Does this play into long wave and perhaps Kondratieff cycle or Austrian economics type of thinking? Call it what you will, but elements of all of these schools of thought very much overlap. Right to the point, we believe THE key thematic construct to keep in mind as a macro cycle decision making overlay and character point dead ahead is the now more than apparent collision of the generational long wave credit cycle with the current short term business cycle of the moment. Without trying to reach for melodrama, this is the first time a multi-decade long wave credit cycle has collided with the short-term business cycle since the late 1920’s/early 1930’s. Most decision makers and Street seers of the moment have absolutely no experience with this type of a generational collision. Moreover, our illustrious academician Fed Chairman has never even considered long wave or credit cycle based Austrian economics thinking in his and the broader Fed’s policy making – absolutely key and crucial mistake. Although it’s just our perception, this will be Bernanke’s legacy Waterloo. It also tells us directly that his only policy tool ahead will be more money printing.
You Know Those Bombastic Warnings I Gave About Banks Being The New Tobacco Industry? Well, You Might As Well Light Your StogiesSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 09/02/2011 08:23 -0500
This time, an "I told 'ya so" simply will not suffice. The amount of pressure the big banks will come under will reverbrate around the globe, yet many in the sell side are still recommending big bank "buys"!!!
Finally serious economists are considering a position I have been maintaining and writing about since the 2008 financial meltdown. Whatever its name— erasure, repudiation, abolishment, cancellation, jubilee—debt forgiveness, will have to eventually emerge forefront in global efforts to solve an ongoing systemic financial crisis. Debt forgiveness, therefore, accomplishes two important things. It eliminates the increasing and outsized portion of productive enterprise to pay off unproductive obligations, and it clears the ground for new opportunities, new thinking, invention, and entrepreneurialism. This is why the ability to declare bankruptcy is so essential in the pursuit of both happiness and innovation.
A lot of people—children of the ’70’s, I suppose—claim that judgment is a bad thing: “Don’t judge! You have no right to judge!” is their mantra. They insist that we as a society have no right to judge how they live, or more importantly what they do. A lot of other people have taken up the same slogan, and adopted it as their own: People like Dick Cheney—like Monsanto and DuPont and BP, who poison us with impunity—like the oil and gas companies carrying out “fracking”, which is causing earthquakes and flammable water on the East Coast—like the TBTF banks and the prop desks front-running their clients, or illegally foreclosing on homeowners—in short, people near the top of our social pyramid. They have adopted the non-judgmental slogans: “Don’t judge! You have no right to judge! It’s not illegal! We’re not breaking the law! So don’t judge! Don’t judge!” they yell and scream as loud as they can. They seem so convincing, these slogans: It’s tempting to do what they ask—to not judge. Because judgment is hard. It’s far easier to passively accept a situation—to not pass judgment—to simply let it be—than to stand up, make a judgment, and then say it out loud.
I am confident in predicting we are about to have another Global Financial Crisis—I’m calling it The Sequel: Same movie, same players, same story. Only this time around—like all good sequels—the financial crisis we are about to experience is going to be bigger, longer, and uncut by bailouts. By the way, that is the key difference between 2008 and 2011: We’re not going to have a Hollywood Ending this time around. The governments of Europe and the United States, as well as their respective central banks, do not have any weapons to fight off this 2011 financial crisis, as they did in 2008, for the simple reason that they used them all up—they’re out of bullets, both monetarily and politically. So when The Sequel hits the big screen, there won’t be a Big Daddy Government deus ex machina to come save the day in the third act twist. When The Sequel hits, we’re on our own.
The Debt Ceiling Reality Show approaches its grand finale in the next week. The world breathlessly awaits the shocking conclusion. The debt ceiling will be raised. The world will be saved. Wall Street will rejoice. Americans can focus on the important stuff again, like Casey Anthony’s upcoming book, who will win this week’s Toddlers and Tiaras pageant, and the latest app created for their iPads. Based on my observations over the last few weeks, I’m absolutely sure that 90% of the politicians in Washington DC would lose on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? What the public doesn’t see is the rooms filled with PR maggots in the bowels of Congress generating talking points and testing them in over night polls of the public. Their sole purpose is to generate a message that will convince the public the fiscal debacle is the fault of the other party. The goal is to gain an advantage in the next elections. The long term future of our country is unimportant to the soulless autobots that get paid to misinform and mislead the masses. Leaving unborn generations with an un-payable debt so we can selfishly cling to benefits promised to us by corrupt politicians who only made the promises so they could be elected, is the ultimate in egocentric myopia.
85% Of Bank Of America's "Net Income" Comes From Reserve Release And MSR Adjustment, Capitalization Ratios PlungeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/19/2011 07:14 -0500
Another horrendous quarter for Bank of America. While the company reported an adjusted EPS of $0.33 which shockingly came at the "at the high end of the prior guidance on June 29, 2011 when the company said net income excluding mortgage items and other selected items would be between $0.28 and $0.33 per share" the truth is that of the $5.6 billion in adjusted pretax net income, $3.3 billion was the result of credit loss releases. In other words 59% of the firm's "adjusted EPS" came from an accounting treatment and the CFO's interpretation of improving credit trends. As for the balance: another $1.5 billion came from a write-down in Mortgage Servicing Rights or another accounting gimmick. So take away the reserve release and MSRs, and one gets an EPS number that is 86% lower than the disclosed or about $0.05. The problem is that on an andjusted basis, the EPS was ($0.90) or a loss of $12.6 billion pre tax, driven by the previously disclosed settlements and a surge in provisions for Rep and Warranty settlements to $14 billion. Keep in mind this number will be far, far higher when all the Countrywide litigation is said and done. After all, the firm itself said that the "Estimated range of possible loss related to non-GSE representations and warranties exposure could be up to $5B over existing accruals at June 30, 2011. This estimate does not include reasonably possible litigation losses." So what about litigation losses? Well at $1.9 billion this was a huge surge from the $0.8 billion in Q1 and $0.6 billion Q4 2010. This number will also only go up as everyone and the kitchen sink sues Bank of America. And while one can play accounting games to paint the EPS tape, the cash that leaves the company is all too real: the firm's Common Equity Ratio plunged from 9.42% in Q1 to 9.09% in Q2, the lowest since Q2 2010, and the result was a plunge in the firm's (very much meaningless courtesy of Mark to Market being illegal - thank you FASB) Book Value per Share to $20.29: the lowest in well... ever since the firm's bailout by the US taxpayer.
Certainly, if we compare the fiscal trajectory of the Eurozone as a whole with the US, the US is not really on a better path.
It was just a matter of time before wholesale debt-forgiveness became the primary source of wealth in the US. The time is now. The NYT reports that "big banks are going to borrowers who are not even in default and cutting their debt or easing the mortgage terms, sometimes with no questions asked. Two of the nation’s biggest lenders, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, are quietly modifying loans for tens of thousands of borrowers who have not asked for help but whom the banks deem to be at special risk." To be deemed in "special risk" one needs to simply have an Option ARM mortgage, and be underwater, even if still current on mortgage payments. End result: an up to 50% cut in the actual mortgage obligation. To wit: "Ms. Giosmas, who lives in Miami, was not in default on her $300,000 loan. She did not understand why she would receive this gift — although she wasted no time in taking it. Before Chase shaved $150,000 off her mortgage, Ms. Giosmas owed much more on her place than it was worth. It was a fate she shared with a quarter of all homeowners with mortgages across the nation. Being underwater, as it is called, can prevent these owners from moving and taking new jobs, and places the households at greater risk of foreclosure." Whether this is a strategic step by the banks who wish to avoid tens if not hundreds of billions in fraudclosure and putback related legal costs, charges and reserves is for now unclear, although all signs point to yes. Next up: everyone in America stops paying their mortgage, or demands a 50% haircut on existing debt, now that the example has been made. And in the meantime, banks will somehow continue to keep the mortgages, which they have now cut by up to half, at par on their books following some brand new, thoroughly senseless announcement by the FASB which says banks can mark anything to whatever price they chose in perpetuity. Because otherwise, the TBTF lenders will suddenly find themselves in a massive deficiency on their Tier 1 capital, also known as completely insolvent.
Bill Clinton, in what appears to be an attempt to succeed where the IEA failed so miserably to score some brownie points for the president, told Bloomberg's Al Hunt during an interview, that Bank of America Corp.’s accord with mortgage-bond investors may give more “underwater” homeowners a chance to cut the principal on their home loans. "You’d relieve the anxiety of countless Americans who would know they could hold onto their homes." That you would also bring moral hazard to the masses and demonstrate to the public that the alternative of prudent monetary management is not insolvency, but yet more bailouts, apparently was lost on the slick one. And confirming that he still has no clue how anything in the ponzi system works, he added: "You lift not only an economic, but a psychological burden off of the homeowners and the banks,” he said. “And we’re free to start lending again, we’re free to engage in normal economic activity." Apparently marking down one's assets, which would in turn lead to massive Tier 1 capital (as artificial as it may be) erosion, and a need to funnel hundreds of billions of new cash in on the balance sheet, while at the same time setting off a chain reaction whereby everyone else is forced to remark their assets (all currently at par thanks to FASB encouraged Mark to Unicorn), an act which QE 1, Lite and 2 have been doing all they can to avert, is stimulative to "lending". And this is the thought process of the person credit with generating the last American budget surplus...