Flight to Safety
Something curious happened recently: for the first time in over a decade, perhaps ever, the US saw a record $25 billion worth of Treasury bond outflows from the Treasury's custodial account in the week ended September 28. Just as curious is that in the past 5 weeks we have seen relentless selling of Treasurys from the same custodial account which, with Treasury International Capital data 3 months delayed, and largely incorrect until its annual revision, is the only real source of recent (and somewhat accurate) foreign activity in US bonds. In fact, starting with the week ended September 7, through last Thursday, foreigners appear to have dumped a massive $56 billion worth of Treasurys (don't take our word for it - check it here, courtesy of the Fed). This is quite disturbing for two reasons. One explanation for this move would be to look back to the Quant crash in early August 2007, which preceded the market's secular (and all time) high, when various quant funds blew up for reasons still not completely known. The reason why this date is important is that it was the catalyst for the next biggest concerted dump of Treasurys, when in a subsequent span of 4 weeks, foreigners sold $47 billion in Treasurys... but at least the market's precipitous move lower was prevented, if only for a few brief months. Also curious is that the recent move is in direct contrast to the Custodial Account reaction to the Lehman implosion in 2008 when 20 weeks of consecutive UST inflows, beginning September 10, saw $300 billion in "safe haven" purchases. So while the market plunge back then was accompanied by a shift into Treasurys, this time around, the biggest market volatility since Lehman has seen a record sequential exodus out of bonds. Which begs the question: did Tim Geithner make a few phone calls, and tell foreigners to dump Treasurys (knowing full well Op Twist was coming and the Fed would backstop the entire curve), and to buy stocks instead in order to prevent the next relapse of the Great Financial Crisis?
As Peter Tchir, of TF Market Advisors, observes in the note below, the inevitable as predicted by us a week ago, is about to become a reality. In light of the imminent nationalization of Belgium's biggest bank, it may be time to compress the CDS of Dexia, which also as suggested last week, should trade in line with Belgium, while Belgium itself blows up. The only risk to this trade is that ISDA actually does its job for once, and proclaims Dexia to have experienced a credit event - thus triggering the CDS. Alas, since this will set a very bad precedent for all the other banks due to be nationalized, we would tend to discount the possibility of this happening.
Yesterday's last minute short covering rally has been all but eliminated and then some, on fresh European concerns following a Deutsche Bank report that the agreed writedown of 21% from the July 21 second Greek bailout agreement could be executed, and that instead an orderly default with an up to 50% haircut is being considered. Generally, broad concerns that Greece can and will go bankrupt any minute once again dominate and have undone any favorable market sentiment from yesterday's G20, also known as the Full Tilt Ponzi Group, announcement, which was also followed up by an ECB statement that the central bank would do everything to prevent further contagion. Judging by the risk waterfall this morning, and the liquidations in gold (driven by a vague but ever stronger rumor of a winddown at a GLD-heavy hedge fund that is now down 50% YTD), virtually nobody believes anything coming out of any European institution. Alas, this is what two years of relentless accrued lying will do to your reputation. Adding fuel to the fire is a report from Credit Suisse that the chance of a "general European break up" is about 10% and that European banks would fall by about 40% on a disorderly Euro breakup and that peripheral European banks' net foreign liabilities would rise by €800 billion. In other words, European banks would blow up, which is nothing really new. Next, we hear from Dexia which yesterday got annihilated and today is down another 2.5% despite promises from the Belgian central bank governor Luc Coene that the bank is not in trouble and has not sought dollars from the ECB in a long time: obviously an attempt to prevent an all out attack on the insolvent bank, which as is well known bypasses the ECB and goes straight to the Fed for emergency funding. Overall, there is a very distinct sense that it's the end of the world as we know it, and the market does not feel all that fine anymore.
Uncertainty. That has become the key word of the day, the month, and of 2011 in general. And while broad uncertainty has manifested itself most notably in the capital markets, it has a far more practical representation in labor markets, where the main reason why employers are not hiring more people, arguably the primary scourge of the Obama administration's record low approval rating, is due to corporate uncertainty about the future: about taxes, about government demanding its pound of flesh when the time comes, and about the economy in general. Ironically, as PIMCO speculates in its daily note authored by Tony Crescenzi, probably the primary driver of global uncertainty is the increasingly uncoordinated response by monetary policy authorities (read Central Banks) in which where before all had cooperated in the global game theory, now increasingly it is every printer for himself, as the default response turns to one of defection. And as everyone who has studied Game Theory knows, it is only the first defection that provides the biggest return, with each subsequent act generating far less benefits to the uncooperative actor, forcing even more uncooperative irrationality, and so on in a toxic spiral until outright belligerent action develops. For now said belligerence has begun to manifest itself in plain vanilla trade wars, such as that pointed out last night with the Chinese response to Europe's lack of response to its "bailout" overtures, and following up with the just announced complaint filed by the US against China on chicken prices. Naturally this is just the beginning. The real concern is that where trade wars end (which in turn begin when FX wars end), real ones start. When a year ago we first branded the Chairsatan as "genocidal" we were mostly joking. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate our definition, as it is far less comical under the current environment. Here is what Pimco has to say on the issue.
Confirming that this is a market for idiots, by idiots, was the 4 am response in the price of gold, which following the SNB's Swiss Franc peg announcement did not surge, as it should have considering that the SNB just singularly changed the role of the CHF from a "flight to safety" to a carry currency, making gold the only island of stability in a world of fiat insanity, but instead plunged by over $50. Subsequent attempts to regain the $1900+ level were met with constant program selling for no other reason, than just because someone 'else' was selling. Of course, the logic is completely and totally the opposite. But don't take our word for it: here is Reuters: "Switzerland's decision to peg the erstwhile safe-haven franc to the euro may finally give gold bugs the chance to see prices hit the once-unimaginable $2,000 an ounce mark, as the metal holds on track for its strongest annual rally in three decades. By buying euros in unlimited amounts to weaken the franc, the SNB is in effect putting more of its own currency into circulation, which threatens to trigger inflation. It has also impacted the Swiss currency's status as a haven in its own right. While gold prices initially dipped as the move sparked a rush to liquidity in the form of other currencies such as the dollar, the SNB move is likely to lend firm support to gold in the medium term, analysts said." Precisely. And it is not only Reuters: Bank of America's MacNeill Curry said that Gold will probably rise to $2,050 this year. The rationale - identical to the above: SNB decision to peg franc to euro should also support gold. "They have taken out one of the big safe-haven assets, which is the Swissie." As for the amount of time the idiots will need to realize that QE3 coupled with the SNB action means that gold is now valued somewhere well over $2000: at least a few days...Which everyone who looks for even the smallest golden pullback will be happy to take advantage of.
- Worse than expected manufacturing PMI figures from core Eurozone countries dented risk-appetite
- Equities came under further pressure following news that Credit Agricole is removed from EuroSTOXX 50 Index, whereas Societe Generale, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit are removed from STOXX Europe 50 Index
- Risk-aversion was enhanced following a lack-lustre 5-year bond auction from Spain
- The French/German spread continued to widen throughout the session partly on the back of weaker manufacturing PMI from France
- According to an article in FT, citing European source, the IMF has estimated European banks could face a capital shortfall of EUR 200bln. However, Eurozone officials strongly disagreed with the IMF’s analysis.
Bond King's cardinal sin at the Treasury market analyzed.....
Precious Metal Margin Warfare Jumps The Pacific, As Shanghai Hikes Gold Margins For Second Time In A Month, Prepares To Crush SilverSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/23/2011 16:34 -0400
Wondering why gold dropped by almost $100 today? Wonder no more: today the Shanghai Gold Exchange lifted gold margins for forward contracts the second time this month to 12% beginning on Friday, in a move that is starting to resemble the CME's vendetta with silver back from May. Should we expect 3 more SGE margin hikes in the next 2 weeks? Or will the CME rightfully accept the baton and do everything in its power to dent the parabolic rise in the alternative reserve currency? We are cautiously looking at what the CME will do today and will advise readers. In the meantime, here is what else happened in Shanghai: "China’s main precious metals exchange will also widen daily trading limits for those gold contracts to 9 percent, up from 7 percent, the SGE said on its website on Tuesday. The contracts to be affected include Au(T+D), Au(T+N1) and Au(T+N2). This is the second time the exchange has raised collateral requirements on gold forward contracts this year — both times in August — as international gold prices hit a series of record highs over the past few weeks, boosted by a flight to safety on worries over a stalling U.S. recovery and crippling sovereign debt in the euro zone. Shanghai Gold T+D contract lost half a percent to 387.8 yuan per gram, or $1,884.47 an ounce, down from an intraday high of 391.9 yuan when the market opened."
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.
USDCHF Plunges To Record Low Following Generali CEO Comments Eurozone Faces Risk Of Breakup, Flight To Safety ResumesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/05/2011 10:43 -0400
Yep. Europe again. Following comments from Generali's CEO Giovanni Perissinotto based on a transcript from a conference call earlier that the Eurozone is at risk of breakup (something which everyone knows, but nobody dares to say, especially not anyone whose CDS is trading in lockstep with those of Italy), the USDCHF just plunged to fresh all time lows. And so all the goodwill created by the robotic buying on the NFP headlines is gone.
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Word War Two: After Calling Bernanke A "Hooligan", Putin Now Says America Is "A Parasite" Living Off The Global EconomySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/01/2011 17:53 -0400
Three weeks ago Putin called Bernanke a hooligan. Since that remark came from the (allegedly) largest oil producing country in the world, it provoked nary a peep from America's foreign department. Today, he decided to ratchet up the rhetoric, and in a speech to a Kremlin youth group told his listeners what the bulk of the rest of the world thinks of America: ""They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy," Putin told a Kremlin youth group while touring its summer camp north of Moscow. "They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar."" Russia has not made its distrust of America clear in the past, and while others (ahem China) have been jawboning about selling Treasurys even as they continue buying US one-ply paper, Russia has been actively dumping its Treasury paper to the lowest in years. The reason for the unprovoked outburst? The insanity in Congress. "Thank god," Putin said, "that they had enough common sense and responsibility to make a balanced decision." The former KGBer's solution? Other, and more deserving, reserve currencies.
Sen. John kerry comments that the Chinese "are laughing all the way to the bank" on a downgrading of US Treasury securities. China owns about 8% of the U.S. debt, so does that mean the rest of 92% debtors, including the U.S. taxpayer, would also be "laughing"?