Way back in 2009, we remember fielding all manner of questions from people wanting to invest in gold, having seen it spike from its turn-of-the-millennium slump, and worried about the state of the wider financial economy. A whole swathe of those were from people wanting to invest in exchange traded funds (ETFs). John Aziz always and without exception slammed the notion of a gold ETF as being outstandingly awful, and solely for investors who didn’t really understand the modern case for gold — those who believed that gold was a 'commodity' with the potential to 'do well' in the coming years. People who wanted to push dollars in, and get more dollars out some years later. 2009 was the year when gold ETFs really broke into the mass consciousness. Yet by 2011 the market had collapsed: people were buying much, much larger quantities of physical bullion and coins, but the popularity of ETFs had greatly slumped. This is even clearer when the ETF market is expressed as a percentage of the physical market. So what does this say about gold now? Especially as Zhang Jianhua of the PBoC noted "No asset is safe now. The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency — gold."
There have been many grand experiments in social engineering during the past several centuries. We have witnessed the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the American Civil War, Communism and finally 1999 and the founding of the European Union. It is an interesting exercise to consider the long view as I have wondered what the world looked like in 1789 which was thirteen years after the commencement of the American experiment. It seems then historically that thirteen years after America began we were in a process of formation and working towards national goals as a coalition of individual States while we find the European Union, thirteen years after its inception, following quite a different route. May 6 may mark the date when the sleeper finally awakens as Greece and France may both vote in such a manner as to significantly change the political landscape on the Continent. We submit that we are quickly coming to a major reversal in both equities and in credit/risk assets and that instead of being aggravated that it took so long that you should be thankful that you had the luxury of time to prepare for it.
I do not believe that China or Russia are in any position to dump the US dollar, at least not in the near-term. The US Dollar may one day no longer be the reserve currency of the world. But that day is years and possibly decades out. But the notion that China or Russia could just dump the Dollar and move around the US in terms of trade is unbelievably naïve and greatly underestimates the importance of the US to the global economy.
The ECB has found its hands tied: if it continues to monetize aggressively, inflation will surge and Germany will either leave the Euro or at the very least make life very, very difficult for the ECB and those EU members asking for bailouts.
After all, doing this would score MAJOR political points for both Merkel and Weidmann who have both come under fire for revelations that the Bundesbank has in fact put Germany on the hook for over €2 trillion via various back-door deals.
Remember when Lehman or Bear Stearns was 'too small' to matter and 'subprime was contained', we we are getting same ignorant first-order analysis now with regard Spain (or more broadly-speaking Southern Europe). The whole of Southern Europe is only 6% of global GDP - how can that matter? (especially when we can eat iPads?) Michael Cembalest, of JPMorgan, provides some much needed sense on why these small countries pack a large disruption risk punch for global markets and economies. By breaking down the world into a few categories of disruption risk, the JPM CIO notes that the southern strain of Eurovirus has a much larger non-proportional impact thanks to transmission risk via its significantly greater share of sovereign and bank debt relative to the world and how these debts are financed. The transmission risk to the much-larger Northern Europe is material. We are already seeing Germany's new orders from within the Euro-zone slumping and this week's business sector surveys were very weak. As Cembalest concludes, from an alien's perspective, Earth may be able to outrun the collapse in Europe’s periphery if the ECB keeps printing money and the IMF increases its firewall, but it’s not going to be easy.
MF Global Roundup: the [so-far] Great Escape of "Teflon Don" Corzine; Bankruptcy Shenanigans Exposed; the "F" Word RevisitedSubmitted by EB on 04/23/2012 09:25 -0400
Has the case really gone cold? Or, are those who are in charge of the investigation, the "regulators" and the trustees, simply spraying teflon on every piece of sticky evidence that could lead to criminal prosecutions?
The music is playing.
With Spain today, we have a virtually unregulated banking system sitting atop HALF of ALL Spanish mortgages after a housing bubble that makes the one that happened in the US look like a small bump.
In simple terms, Spain is like Greece, only bigger and worse. According to the Bank of International Settlements worldwide exposure to Spain is north of $1 TRILLION with Great Britain on the hook for $51 billion, the US on the hook for $187 billion, France on the hook for $224 billion and Germany on the hook for a whopping $244 billion.
It appears that after months of abuse for their water-is-wet economic insights, the San Francisco Fed may have stumbled on to the cold harsh reality that this post-great-recession world finds itself in. The crux of the matter, that will come as no surprise to any of our readers, is credit and "its central role to understanding the business cycle". Oscar Jorda then concludes, in a refreshingly honest and shocking manner that "Any forecast that assumes the recovery from the Great Recession will resemble previous post-World War II recoveries runs the risk of overstating future economic growth, lending activity, interest rates, investment, and inflation." His analysis, which Minsky-ites (and Reinhart and Rogoff) will appreciate - and perhaps our neo-classical brethren will embrace - is that the Great Recession upended the paradigm that modern macro-economic models omitted banks and finance and this time it really is different in that the 'achilles heel' of economic modeling - credit - cannot be considered a secondary effect. His analysis points to considerably slower GDP growth and lower inflation expectations as he compares the current 'recovery' to post-WWII recoveries across 14 advanced economies - a sad picture is painted as he notes "Today employment is about 10% and investment 30% below where they were on average at similar points after other postwar recessions."
Aubrey McClendon is no amateur when it comes to shady personal transactions involving his company, nat gas giant Chesapeake: Back in October 2008, just after the financial crisis erupted, he was forced to sell more than 31 million Chesapeake shares for $569 million to cover margin calls generated from buying CHK stock just prior on margin. The company’s stock fell nearly 40 percent the week of McClendon’s share sales. McClendon issued an apology but the company’s credibility with many shareholders suffered significantly. It looks lie the story is repeating itself, only this time the margined security is not company stock, but company loans. As Reuters reports in a must read special report "Since he co-founded Chesapeake in 1989, McClendon has frequently borrowed money on a smaller scale by pledging his share of company wells as collateral. Records filed in Oklahoma in 1992 show a $2.9 million loan taken out by Chesapeake Investments, a company that McClendon runs. And in a statement, Chesapeake said McClendon’s securing of such loans has been “commonplace” during the past 20 years. But in the last three years, the terms and size of the loans have changed substantially. During that period, he has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion – an amount that coincidentally matches Forbes magazine’s estimate of McClendon’s net worth." Ah yes, net worth calculations, which always focus on the assets, but endlessly ignore the liabilities (as Donald Trump will be first to admit). But ignore that: what is more notable here is the circuitous way that McClendon basically lifted himself by his, or rather CHK's bootstraps: all the loans are collateralized by his 2.5% working interest in new CHK wells drilled every year. In essence a roundabout way of generating "cash" by hypothecation, and levering into an "upside" corporate case. Should CHK however incur asset impairments, and/or if the current price of gas stays at or $2.00, then not only will CHK be gutted but so will the asset quality securing the private loans to the CEO, which on top of everything have no covenants ("There are no covenants or obligations in my loan documents or mortgages that bind Chesapeake in any way," McClendon wrote in an email to Reuters.) and thus no stakeholder protections. Is it any wonder then that CHK is getting creamed as of right now as investors are once again reminded that CHK may not quite play by the rules?
Central Banks Favour Gold As IMF Warns of “Collapse of Euro” and “Full Blown Panic in Financial Markets”Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/18/2012 07:40 -0400
The Eurozone could break up and trigger a “full-blown panic in financial markets and depositor flight” and a global economic slump to rival the Great Depression, the IMF warned yesterday. In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out. It warned that a disorderly exit of one member country would have untold knock-on effects. "The potential consequences of a disorderly default and exit by a euro area member are unpredictable... If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies perceived to have similar risk characteristics would come under severe pressure as well, with full-blown panic in financial markets and depositor flight from several banking systems," said the report. "Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out." “This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse," said the report. The risks outlined by the IMF are real and are being taken seriously by central banks who are becoming more favourable towards diversifying foreign exchange reserves into gold. Central bank reserve managers responsible for trillions of dollars of investments are shunning euro assets and questioning the currency’s haven status because of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, research has found, according to the FT.... Elsewhere, gold demand in India, the world’s biggest importer, may climb as much as 25 percent during a Hindu festival next week, according to Rajesh Exports Ltd., reviving jewelry buying that was curtailed by a nationwide shutdown.
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath was kind enough to present to the general public some 515 pages of massively redacted Fed transcripts from the oh so very interesting period of 2007-2010, ahead of schedule. Unfortunately those curious to find out the details of just what was going on in that critical period between March 2008 and March 2009 will have to wait another 3 years for the full declassification to take place. That said, digging among the unredacted data, one does find the occasional pearl. Such as the following exchange between CHAIRMAN BERNANKE and the Fed staff, from the October 28-29, 2008 meeting, in the days when AIG was dying, when Lehman had failed, when money markets had frozen and when the end of the world was nigh. Ironically, it is this one unredacted piece of data that pretty much says it all.
- I’d like first to do the open market operations, which I hope are not too controversial. [Laughter] (source: page 231 of 513)
And that, as they say, is that.
All you need to read and some more.
From Morgan Stanley: "In our mind, many of the approaches to algorithmic execution were developed in an environment that is substantially, structurally different from today’s environment. In particular, the early part of the last decade saw households as significant natural liquidity providers as they sold their single stock positions over time to exchange them for institutionally managed products... While the time horizon over which liquidity is provided can range from microseconds to months, it is particularly shorter-term liquidity provisioning that has become more common." Translation: as retail investors retrench more and more, which they will due to previously discussed secular themes as well as demographics, and HFT becomes and ever more dominant force, which it has no choice but to, liquidity and investment horizons will get ever shorter and shorter and shorter, until eventually by simple limit expansion, they hit zero, or some investing singularity, for those who are thought experiment inclined. That is when the currently unsustainable course of market de-evolution will, to use a symbolic 100 year anniversary allegory, finally hit the iceberg head one one final time.