Lehman Brothers

Frontrunning: January 19

  • The Fed's HFT price manipulation code stolen? U.S. Charges Programmer With Stealing Code (Reuters)
  • One million homeowners may get mortgage writedowns: U.S. (Reuters)
  • In MF Global, JPMorgan again at center of a financial failure (Reuters)
  • China's Money Rates Slump After PBOC Injects Money (Reuters)
  • Athens closes in on bondholder pact (FT) - or not
  • Hedge Funds May Sue Greece If Loss Forced (NYT)
  • China Said to Weigh Easing Constraints on Banks as Growth Slows (Bloomberg) - But wasn't a rate cut already priced in on Monday?
  • Obama Under Attack Over Keystone Rejection (FT)
  • Chinese Economy Heads for Soft Landing in 2012 (China Daily) - don't really expect "China Daily" to tell you otherwise
  • Brazil Cuts Interest Rates Further to 10.5% (FT)
  • India to Launch $35bn of Public Investments (FT)

Nomura's Koo Plays The Pre-Blame Game For The Pessimism Ahead

While his diagnosis of the balance sheet recessionary outbreak that is sweeping global economies (including China now he fears) is a useful framework for understanding ZIRP's (and monetary stimulus broadly) general inability to create a sustainable recovery, his one-size-fits-all government-borrow-and-spend to infinity (fiscal deficits during balance sheet recessions are good deficits) solution is perhaps becoming (just as he said it would) politically impossible to implement. In his latest missive, the Nomura economist does not hold back with the blame-bazooka for the mess we are in and face in 2012. Initially criticizing US and now European bankers and politicians for not recognizing the balance sheet recession, Koo takes to task the ECB and European governments (for implementing LTRO which simply papers over the cracks without solving the underlying problem of the real economy suggesting bank capital injections should be implemented immediately), then unloads on the EBA's 9% Tier 1 capital by June 2012 decision, and ends with a significant dressing-down of the Western ratings agencies (and their 'ignorance of economic realities'). While believing that Greece is the lone profligate nation in Europe, he concludes that Germany should spend-it-or-send-it (to the EFSF) as capital flight flows end up at Berlin's gates. Given he had the holidays to unwind, we sense a growing level of frustration in the thoughtful economist's calm demeanor as he realizes his prescription is being ignored (for better or worse) and what this means for a global economy (facing deflationary deleveraging and debt minimization) - "It appears as though the world economy will remain under the spell of the housing bubble collapse that began in 2007 for some time yet" and it will be a "miracle if Europe does not experience a full-blown credit contraction."

Q4 Spanish Unemployment Soars By Most Since Lehman, Hits "Astronomical" 23.3%

For anyone convinced that yesterday's S&P two notch downgrade of Spain to A is the last one for a while, we have some bad news: in Q4 Spanish unemployment soared by the most since the Lehman collapse, hitting what new PM Mariano Rajoy called an "astronomical" 5.4 million. This compares to 4.978 million people unemployed at the end of Q3 2011. Since the official number is not yet public and will be released on January 27 we will take his word for it. In which case it becomes clear that in Q4 the Spanish economy experienced a Lehman-like collapse, losing more than 400K people, or the most since the bankruptcy of Lehman brothers. In percentage terms this means that Spanish unemployment rose by a ridiculous 2%, or from 21.5% to 23.3%, in one quarter! And since Spain is a country of the Keynesian persuasion, we can only assume the number includes a whole bunch of meaningless birth/death and seasonal adjustments, but we'll leave it at that. Incidentally, it means that by the time the mean reversion exercise, with cost-cutting and what not is complete, Spanish unemployment will be well north of 30%, and 2 out of 3 people aged between 16 and 25 will be out of a job, if ot more. It also begs the question just what the real unemployment picture in the US, which lately has put the Chinese Department of Truth to shame, would be if reported on a realistic, unadjusted, and not "workforce contracted" basis. The chart below shows you everything you need to know.

Exposing American Banks' Multi-Trillion Umbilical Cord With Europe

One of the reports making the rounds today is a previously little-known academic presentation by Princeton University economist Hyun Song Shin, given in November, titled "Global Banking Glut and Loan Risk Premium" whose conclusion as recently reported by the Washington Post is that "European banks have played a much bigger role in the U.S. economy than has been generally thought — and could do a lot more damage than expected as they pull back." Apparently the fact that in an age of peak globalization where every bank's assets are every other banks liabilities and so forth in what is an infinite daisy chain of counterparty exposure, something we have been warning about for years, it is news that the US is not immune to Europe's banks crashing and burning. The same Europe which as Bridgewater described yesterday as follows: "You've got insolvent banks supporting insolvent sovereigns and insolvent sovereigns supporting insolvent banks." In other words, trillions (about $3 trillion to be exact) in exposure to Europe hangs in the balance on the insolvency continent's perpetuation of a ponzi by a set of insolvent nations, backstopping their insolvent banks. If this is not enough reason to buy XLF nothing is. Yet while CNBC's surprise at this finding is to be expected, one person whom we did not expect to be caught offguard by this was one of the only economists out there worth listening to: Ken Rogoff. Here is what he said: "Shin’s paper has orders of magnitude that I didn’t know"...Rogoff said it’s hard to calculate the impact that the unfolding European banking crisis could have on the United States. “If we saw a meltdown, it’s hard to be too hyperbolic about how grave the effects would be” he said. Actually not that hard - complete collapse sounds about right. Which is why the central banks will never let Europe fail - first they will print, then they will print, and lastly they will print some more. But we all knew that. Although the take home is the finally the talking heads who claim that financial decoupling is here will shut up once and for all.

Guest Post: A Bankrupt BP - Worse For The Financial World Than Lehman Brothers

The BP crisis in the Gulf of Mexico has rightfully been analysed (mostly) from the ecological perspective. People’s lives and livelihoods are in grave danger. But that focus has equally masked something very serious from a financial perspective, in my opinion, that could lead to an acceleration of the crisis brought about by the Lehman implosion.