It is almost too coincidental to be a coincidence: on the day Ben Bernanke, who until a year ago was the biggest fixed income portfolio manager in the world courtesy of the Fed's $4.5 trillion in assets, joins Citadel as an advisor, the massively levered "market-neutral" hedge fund which as we showed earlier has $176 billion in regulatory assets, "loses" its global head of fixed income, senior managing director Derek Kaufman. Well not exactly loses. The reason for his "voluntary" departure: according to Bloomberg Kaufman is leaving Citadel not because he is about to be replaced by the former Fed chairman but because last year he lost $1 billion "in a variety of trades."
A week ago, we were surprised to learn that one of the most prominent critics of HFT, Joseph Stiglitz, had been barred from an SEC Panel that will "advise regulators on issues facing U.S. equity markets." Today, a day after the SEC busted DirectEdge for failing to "accurately describe the order types being used on the exchanges" namely the infamous Hide not Slide, even after said order had repeatedly made the front page of the WSJ, the SEC finally announced the full list of members of the "New Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee" which will focus on the structure and operations of the U.S. equities markets. Alas most of the committee members are, sadly, placeholding figureheads. Because there is only one person on the list whose participation matters, and whose presence is not at all surprising...
That markets are rigged, at both the macro level, through central banks, and micro, through HFTs, dark pools and purposeful market fragmentation, should be painfully obvious to everyone by now. But when even the regulators engage in "jury rigging", or in this case blocking prominent HFT-critic Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist (a prize which doesn't count for much on these pages but should - at least on paper - impress such statist cronies as the SEC), has been blocked from a government panel that will advise regulators on issues facing U.S. equity markets, it becomes clear as day that the rigging is not just in the markets: worse, it is openly involves the market's "regulator" and "enforcer."
Do not panic. Ebola is not very contagious at all. That remains the mantra from health and political officials in America.. and as far as the nurse who was treating now-dead Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, it was user error, according to CDC Director Frieden. As Reuters reports, some healthcare experts are bristling at the assertion by a top U.S. health official that a “protocol breach” caused the Dallas nurse to be infected with Ebola while caring for a dying patient, saying the case instead shows how far the nation’s hospitals are from adequately training staff to deal with the deadly virus, "you don't scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak... We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct."
Out of the gate - based on the fact the word "slack" was present and the word "bubble" was not, stocks ramped higher as J-Yell's J-Hole speech hit. Bond yields surged (led by 5Y) and the USDollar also surged (as gold shrugged). However, once the machines were done, humans reacted to the fact that this was not the "full dovish" speech that was 'priced in' and have started to sell stocks back... but then again - we always have Draghi later to save Friday...
The fact that that the NSA is now claiming it is “Too Big to Comply” with a court order is an extremely important revelation since it further proves that the super rich and super powerful are in no way shape or form subject to the same laws as the rest of us. The mega banks are “Too Big to Fail,” multi-national corporations are “Too Big to Pay Taxes” and the government is just “Too Big to be Useful.” The rule of law no longer exists in America (remember Jon Corzine), which in turn means there is no longer a functioning society. This may not be obvious to most people at the moment, but it will become painfully clear to everyone in time unless these trends are reversed.
Once upon a time Wall Street Journal reporters were economically literate. Now, apparently, when they muster-in for the job they get a Keynesian chip implant while signing their HR forms. Otherwise, how can you explain the bullshit penned this morning by Brian Blackstone on the EU’s “disappointing” Q1 GDP report. He didn’t say Keynesian economists say you need more inflation to get jobs and growth. He just declared it!
Never in a million years did we think we’d ever use an article by Andrew Ross Sorkin as the basis of a blog post, but here we are. While probably entirely unintentional, his article serves to further solidify as accurate the prevailing notion across America that former head of the New York Federal Reserve and Obama’s first Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, is nothing more than an addled, crony, bureaucratic banker cabin boy. Simply put, "Geithner is so bad, he actually makes Larry Summers look good."
The Father Of High Speed Trading Speaks: "The Market We Created Is A Casino; A Complete Mess; A Rigged Game"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/07/2014 18:42 -0400
"I must confess to you that I was an ardent proponent of bringing technology to trading and brokerage. Unfortunately, I only saw the good sides. I saw how electronic trading and record-keeping could be used to force people to be more honest, to make the process more efficient, to lower transaction costs and to bring liquidity to the markets. I did not see the forces of fragmentation and the opportunity for people to use technology to keep to the letter but avoid the spirit of the rules -- creating the current crisis.... Technology, market structure, and new products have evolved more quickly than our capacity to understand or control them. ... To the public the financial markets may increasingly seem like a casino, except that the casino is more transparent and simpler to understand.... The result has been a series of crises over the past few years that have caused many investors to lose confidence or to think that the whole system is a rigged game."
- Firms to Face new Rules Over Pay, Taxes (WSJ)
- US to test commercial drones at six sites (CNN)
- China’s Local Debt Swells to 17.9 Trillion Yuan in Audit (BBG) - which is about 2 trillion less than where it actually is (Reuters)
- Fears after key China debt level soars 70% (FT) and in reality the debt level is saoring far more
- Pot Shops in Denver Open Door to $578 Million in Sales (BBG)
- China Says It Will Shun Abe After Shrine Visit (WSJ)
- De Blasio Taking Office Citing Wealth Gap as Crime Falls (BBG)
- China Approves $353 Million of Share Sales as IPOs Resume (BBG)
- Obama Seeks Way to Right His Ship (WSJ)
- Netflix Tests Subscription Fees Based on Number of Account Users (BBG)
- Three big macro questions for 2014 (FT)
The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth - defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt - which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months. Sounds like a perfect time to BTFATH...
"When things are going well people become greedy and enthusiastic, and when times are troubled, people become fearful and reticent. That’s just the wrong thing to do. Another mistake that people often make is that they compare themselves with others who are making more money than they are and conclude that they should emulate the others’ actions ... after they’ve worked. This is the source of the herd behaviour that so often gets them into trouble... As long as human nature is part of the investment environment, which it always will be, we’ll experience bubbles and crashes.... People talk about the wisdom of the free market – of the invisible hand – but there’s no free market in money today. Interest rates are not natural. They are where they are because the governments have set them at that level. Free markets optimise the allocation of resources in the long run, and administered markets distort the allocation of resources. This is not a good thing..." - Howard Marks
It is well-known that as part of the S&P500's ascent to new records, investor margin debt has also surged to all time highs, surpassing for the past three months previous records set during both prior, the dot com and the housing, stock market bubbles. And as more attention has shifted to the topic of speculator leverage once more, inquiries into the correlation between bets upon bets and stock performance are popping up once more, in this case in a study by Deutsche Bank titled "Red Flag! - The curious case of NYSE margin debt." Of particular note here is a historical comparison of margin-debt warnings that have recurred throughout history but especially just before major stock bubble crashes, such as in the period 1999/2000, 2007/2008 and of course today, which have time and again been ignored. Here is what was said then, what is being said now, and what is ignored always.
When we as a species use language to communicate and engage with one another, we have a certain understanding that certain words mean certain things. That is the entire purpose of language, effective communication between human beings that can be easily understood. As a result, we should be able to assume that when government bureaucrats utilize words that are commonplace within society, that these words represent specific commonly understood meanings. That would be a huge mistake. Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU have compiled an excellent list of some commonplace words used by the NSA to mislead us into thinking they aren’t doing the bad things that they are actually doing. Words such as “surveillance,” “collect,” and “relevant.”
There is no greater crime in Washington today than speaking truth about the US economy in public. This is why Ben Bernanke is not being reappointed for another term as Fed Chairman.