We do not inhabit a “normal” economy. We live in a financialised world in which our banks cannot be trusted, our politicians cannot be trusted, our money cannot be trusted, and – not least thanks to ongoing spasms of QE and expectations of much more of the same – our markets cannot be trusted. At some point (though the timing is impossible to predict), asset markets that cannot be pumped artificially any higher will start moving, under the forces of inevitable gravitation, lower.
Greed; corporate arrogance; lobbying influence; excessive leverage; accounting tricks to hide debt; lack of transparency; off balance sheet obligations; mark to market accounting; short-term focus on profit to drive compensation; failure of corporate governance; as well as auditors, analysts, rating agencies and regulators who were either lax, ignorant or complicit. This laundry list of causes has often been used to describe what went wrong in the credit crunch crisis of 2008-2010. Actually these terms were equally used to describe what went wrong with Enron more than twenty years ago. Both crises resulted in what at the time was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history — Enron in December 2001 and Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Naturally, this leads to the question that despite all the righteous indignation in the wake of Enron's failure did we really learn or change anything?
Today's broad "rewriting of history" GDP revision is set to "boost" US GDP by about 3% cumulatively (or about the size of Belgium's economy) and shave off 1-2% from US GDP. That's great. For the sake of the world, however, we hope that the rest of the developed (and less than developed) world's countries promptly follow in America's footsteps and fudge their own numbers post haste because things are rapidly getting out of hand, as the following chart conveniently reminds. Nowhere is this more so than in Japan, where as has been the case now for almost a year, Goldman Sachs, the central bank and local government (in order of decisionmaking importance) have all doubled down on their "all in" bet that the only thing that fixes recorder debt is moar recordest debt.
Here’s a question– if you’re in the Land of the Free, do you think those green pieces of paper in your wallet are dollars? They’re not. Those green pieces of paper are Federal Reserve notes. “Notes” in this case meaning liabilities to the central bank of the United States. That makes you, me, and anyone else holding those green pieces of paper essentially creditors of the Federal Reserve, whether we signed up for it or not. And at this point, thanks to a long-standing policy of wanton money printing, the Fed has more liabilities than ever before in its history. By an enormous margin. Given that the Fed’s assets are so closely tied to the finances of the US government, the outlook should concern independent, thinking people. The US, Japan, and Europe are already too indebted to bail out their central banks. An insolvent government cannot bail out an insolvent central bank.
If our leaders could have recognized the signs ahead of time, do you think that they could have prevented the financial crisis of 2008? That is a very timely question, because so many of the warning signs that we saw just before and during the last financial crisis are popping up again. Many of the things that are happening right now in the stock market, the bond market, the real estate market and in the overall economic data are eerily similar to what we witnessed back in 2008 and 2009. It is almost as if we are being forced to watch some kind of a perverse replay of previous events, only this time our economy and our financial system are much weaker than they were the last time around. We have been living so far above our means for so long that most of us actually think that our current economic situation is "normal."
Over the past several decades, people around the world have become so brainwashed that few people really give much thought anymore to the safety of their currency. It’s not something people really understand... there’s apparently some Wizard of Oz type figure at the top of the hill pulling all the levers of the monetary system. And we just trust them to be good guys. This power rests primarily in the hands of four men who control roughly 75% of the entire world money supply. So, how are they doing?
While the conventional way of looking at hedge fund assets has traditionally been to simply add up the assets under management to estimate gross exposure, as so often happens conventional wisdom is wrong. Because what the "traditional" approach simplistically looks at is merely a fund's equity and ignores all leverage through assorted generic and "shadow" conduits such as repo, loans, rehypothecation, "hedging" and others. Luckily, as a result of Dodd-Frank, hedge funds were required to present their full market exposure when netting leverage as per an annual SEC form known as Form PF. It is here that we learn that SAC's market exposure, something very relevant now that the firm is facing an imminent or eventual winddown, is likely orders of magnitude above what the market believes.
We need to think about lessening the economic “skin-in-the-game” for RMBS and focusing anew on enforcing US securities laws...
In every era, there are certain people and institutions that are held in the highest public regard as they embody the prevailing values of society. Not that long ago, Albert Einstein was a major public figure and was widely revered. Can you name a scientist that commands a similar presence today? Today, some of the most celebrated individuals and institutions are ensconced within the financial industry; in banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms. Which is odd because none of these firms or individuals actually make anything, which society might point to as additive to our living standards. Instead, these financial magicians harvest value from the rest of society that has to work hard to produce real things of real value. Money is power. And history has shown that power is never ceded spontaneously or willingly. But the stability of this parasitical system begins to weaken quickly when the lifeblood it depends on begins to dry up. And that's when things can begin to go south in a hurry
"In the last week of June, the dollar value represented by ARM applications accounted for 16 percent of mortgage requests, the highest share since July 2008, two months before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, according to Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington." Oops.
In the US, our regulators have publicly embraced a "too big to prosecute" doctrine. We are restraining, underfunding and dismantling regulatory oversight in the interests of short-term stability for the status quo. Which as a criminologist, Black knows with certainty creates an environment where bad actors will act in their self-interest with assumed (and likely real, at this point) impunity... And so there is no more destructive asset against trust than elite fraud.
Gold is little changed near a one-week high, and is marginally higher in dollars as the dollar has retreated from a three-year high, and higher in most currencies. The gold market continues to digest the ramifications of gold borrowing costs surging to the highest since the post-Lehman Brothers scramble for gold bullion. Gold Forward Offered Rates (GOFO) or the cost to borrow gold remains negative and overnight the 1 month GOFO has gone from -0.106% to -0.11167%. Other durations eased marginally. The lack of liquidity in the the interbank London Good Delivery gold market (400 ounce gold bars) has pushed gold forward rates, known as “gofo”, into negative territory, meaning that gold for future delivery is trading at a discount to physical market prices – a rare situation that has occurred only after the Lehman Brothers collapse and near the bottom of the gold market in 1999. The last time forwards were negative was in November 2008, when a scramble for physical gold led a sharp price rally of 46% from $682/oz to over $1,000/oz between October 2008 and February 2009.
It should come as no surprise to most ZeroHedge readers but sometimes the facts and data need to be reiterated to ensure the message is not getting lost. As Michael Snyder rhetorically asks, did you know that U.S. banks have more than 1.8 trillion dollars parked at the Federal Reserve and that the Fed is actually paying them not to lend that money to us? We were always told that the goal of quantitative easing was to "help the economy", but the truth is that the vast majority of the money that the Fed has created through quantitative easing has not even gotten into the system. Instead, most of it is sitting at the Fed slowly earning interest for the bankers. Our financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of risk, leverage and debt. When it all comes tumbling down, it should not be a surprise to any of us.
Back in 2002 Warren Buffet famously proclaimed that derivatives were ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ (FWMDs). Time has proven this view to be correct. As The Amphora Report's John Butler notes, it is difficult to imagine that the US housing and general global credit bubble of 2004-07 could have formed without the widespread use of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and various other products of early 21st century financial engineering. But to paraphrase those who oppose gun control, "FWMDs don’t cause crises, people do." But then who, exactly, does? And why? And can so-called 'liquidity regulation' prevent the next crisis? To answer these questions, John takes a closer look at proposed liquidity regulation as a response to the growing use of 'collateral transformation' (a topic often discussed here): the latest, greatest FWMD in the arsenal.
There may come a day soon where the markets sell off if one of the whiskers in Big Ben's beard is out of place. Or perhaps if his tie is a bit crooked. Or maybe we end up with Janet Yellen as the next puppet in charge over at the local banking cabal and we fret about her hairdo. I don't know, but one thing that is for certain is that this central bank so wants to be loved and we are so under psychological attack with all of this QE nonsense that it isn't even funny. QE is the endgame. ZIRP was only the beginning. QE, or monetization (which they'll never call it because of the negative connotations), is the heroic measure applied to an already dead system. Our system, for all intent and purposes, died in 2008. It ceased to exist. The investing, economic, and business paradigm that has existed since is drastically different than its predecessor despite all the efforts being made to convince everyone, including Humpty Dumpty, that it is in fact 2005 all over again.