The May Chicago PMI is out and contrary to the herd of clueless Wall Street idiots, better known in polite circles as economists, it came at 56.6 on expectations of 62.0, a collapse drop from the 67.6 before. This is the worst monthly drop since the economy imploded back in October 2008, and the second largest two month drop since 1980! A quick look at the New Orders index indicates it was the lowest since September 2009. But the good news: the economy is still in expansion... for about 1 more month. The release says it all: "NEW ORDERS and PRODUCTION posted their largest declines in several years...but remained positive" and "INVENTORIES accelerated buildup" - thank god for artificial economic expansion. And from the respondents: "Fuel cost are going to have a major impact on business activity in a negative way that will slow recovery to a crawl." Uh, what recovery? Just you wait until QE3 is announced in 3 months. And elsewhere, the May consumer confidence completed the trifecta of bad news, coming at 60.8 on expectations of 65.4, and down from 66.6.
As we reported yesterday, The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, easily the most important 3rd party advisory structure at the US Treasury currently, chaired not surprisingly by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, released a letter to Tim Geithner, doubling up his calls for untold death and destruction, not to mention plunging year end bonuses, if the US is not allowed to kick the can down the road for another 1-2 years. For those curious, in addition to the Matt Zames chaired committee, other members include Soros, Tudor, Bank of America, BNY, Moore, Alliance Bernstein, Morgan Stanley, Round Table IMC, Brevan Howard, PIMCO (lol), Dodge & Cox, RBS, and Western Asset Management. The full M.A.D. letter is presented below.
And while the general public frets over the latest geopolitical disasters, the SEC proves Rahm Emanuel correct once again, and letting no disaster go to waste, man-made or natural, the world's most incompetent (but massively underpaid, or so they claim) regulator is preparing to let Dick Fuld completely off the hook for last spring's stunning Repo 105 report by Anton Valukas, whose findings even the bankruptcy expert said were probably cause for civil lawsuits. The WSJ reports: "In recent months, Securities and Exchange Commission officials have grown increasingly doubtful they can prove that Lehman violated U.S. laws by using an accounting maneuver to move as much as $50 billion in assets off its balance sheet, which made it appear that the securities firm had reduced its debt levels....After zeroing in last summer on the battered real-estate portfolio and an accounting move known as Repo 105, SEC officials have grown more worried they could lose a court battle if they bring civil charges that allege Lehman investors were duped by company executives. The key stumbling block: The accounting move, while controversial, isn't necessarily illegal." Oh no, illegal it is. The problem is that should the SEC actually pursue it and win, that act would open up the floodgates for hundreds of lawsuits against everyone from Bank of America and Citi, which have also disclosed they used comparable tactics to misrepresent the true status of their books, to shady accounts like Ernst & Young, all the way to FASB at the very top of the corruption pyramid. And with hundreds of millions if not billions in legal fees about to be paid out if the fraudclosure back door settlement fails, the SEC simply can not allow the pursuit of justice to threaten the viability of America's only national interest: that of its criminal banking syndicate.
The largest US public pension fund accused Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc., its former top executives and numerous bond underwriters of fraud and making materially false statements about losses from mortgage-backed securities during the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008...
NYSE October Margin Debt Jumps To Highest Since Lehman Failure As Investor Net Worth Is At Lowest Since April HighsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/22/2010 18:11 -0400
It is not just the stock market that is at the highest levels since Lehman. Probably just as importantly, NYSE margin debt has surged to $269 billion, an increase of $13 billion from the prior month, and the highest since September 2008 when it was at $299 billion, and subsequently tumbled as investors rushed to get out of all margined positions. And this has happened even free cash credit accounts and credit balance in margin accounts remained relatively flat. In other words, net NYSE available cash decreased by $10 billion M/M to ($34) billion, the lowest since April 2010, just before the market tumbled, and net cash surged by almost $50 billion in two months. We are confident that NYSE cash in November will be at the lowest level of the year, not to mention December, as hedge funds leveraged everything they could, in some cases hitting as much as 3-4x gross leverage, in pursuit of beta, now that unleveraged alpha strategies have ceased to work. Which means that with retail stubbornly missing from the picture, the only beneficiaries of the HFT and Fed facilitated melt up are the 1000 or so hedge funds, where average net worth is in the 6 digits, that will be profitable this year. Everyone else can drown their sorrows in McDonalds fries which are about to surge in price. Of course, what this means should some unexpected credit event occur, is that the forced selling that will follow this two year high margin debt unwind will lead to a comparable results as those seen after the Lehman collapse. For the sake of America, we can only hope that the centrally planning Chairman can sustain the lie for a few more months before the house of cards on the camel's back, which in turn is suspended on a ladder as the eye of the hurricane passes over, finally topples.
No End In Sight To Equity Outflows As Stock Boycott Persists Despite Largest Bond Outflow Since Lehman FailureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/22/2010 17:44 -0400
For the second week in a row, those claiming that flows will any.minute.now. shift away from bonds and go to equities are proven dead wrong. ICI has just reported that in the week ended December 15, not only was there another massive outflow, the 33rd in a row, from domestic equity mutual funds to the tune of $2.4 billion, but taxable and municipal bonds saw a stunning $8.6 billion in outflows, including another record $4.9 billion in muni outflows. At this point absent another major pull back in bond prices, we anticipate that bond inflows will once again resume, even as stock outflows persist indefinitely. Year to date investors have pulled just under $100 billion in money from US-focused equity mutual funds, offset by just $16 billion in comparable inflows into equity strategies via ETFs as we described yesterday. The reason for this seemingly endless boycott of stocks via the bulk of the population was given best by Geoff Bobroff, who told Bloomberg: "I would guess most retail investors are staying put
because you aren’t seeing the money go anywhere else." Another explanation, and just as spot on: nobody, save for a few hedge funds, gives a rats ass about manipulated stocks prices anymore.
It was only a matter of time: back in March, following revelations of the Lehman Repo 105 scam, we speculated that the days of Ernst & Young are numbered. Back then we said "we are confident that (again, with the assumption that we live in some
semblance of a sane/ration world), E&Y's Financial Services Office
and quite possibly the entire firm. Integrity is the number one
currency for an auditor, and just like Anderson, E&Y's just went out
in a puff of green-colored smoke." Today we learn that Andrew Cuomo is about to make E&Y's life a whole lot more difficult. Per the WSJ "State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is close to filing the case, which
would mark the first time a major accounting firm was targeted for its
role in the financial crisis." Too bad - E&Y was surely hoping that just like everything else in this corrupt country, out of sight would mean out of mind, and soon everyone would forget about the firm's involvement in the biggest bankruptcy in history. Better luck next time...
Following increasing concerns that China may finally realize that its repeated RRR hikes are insufficient and the PBoC will finally be forced to do the right thing and hike the general interest rate (or depeg the Yuan, but that ain't gonna happen), or otherwise withdraw liquidity, the 7 day Repo Rate has jumped to 3.58, the highest since October 2008, when there was no liquidity in the markets anywhere following the Lehman collapse. This merely indicates that obtaining liquidity in China, either directly or indirectly, is becoming increasingly more costly and problematic. But surely this news, together with the escalating riots in Athens, as well as the fact that gasoline prices this holiday season will be the highest on record, are not only priced in but in fact positive for the US stock market, which now responds to no negative news whatsoever, and jumps on the smallest hint that the latest fiscal and monetary stimulus is trickling through in the economy.
It always seemed to us that the whole Lehman Repo 105 fiasco seemed to be too much of a slam dunk for nobody to get sued over it. Yet here we were, almost a year after the Valukas report, and nobody was even pretend to be fighting off justice, or even a bunch of brain impaired porn addicts. Not so any longer. Bloomberg reports that per an unsealed filing in the Lehman bankruptcy docket, the Lehman 401(k) retirement plan, which had just under $230 million invested in Lehman stock, has sued Dick Fuld "and other former executives of the defunct firm for failing to disclose Repo 105, a financing method allegedly used to conceal billions of dollars of debt." And all this is occurring as the SEC is scrambling to find new and improved ways to pay off its multi-million midget porn bill, up to an including firing every staffer with an IQ over 50...All 4 of them.
The latest confirmation that there is nobody left in stocks save for hedge funds, HFTs (who do so at a comped exchange loss via liquidity rebates), and primary dealers, comes courtesy of UBS Client Flow research, which reports that "long only funds increased their net selling to levels last seen in October 2008." Putting a number to this: the week outflows by long-only funds was $783 million in the week ended October 1. This is in addition to observations that retail flows are now a one way street away from stocks, and merely reinforces the threat that the hedge fund playground which is what the stock market is now exclusively, could plunge the moment there is coordinated selling and profit taking. To use more graphic terms, the entire theater is just full of hedge fund millionaires, where everyone owns the same stock (mostly Apple), there is only one open door, and the Fed keeps on pouring gasoline all over the place.
News out of the Irish government is that Anglo Irish bank will be split into a funding bank and an asset recovery bank, saying that the bank's "own plan in its current form does not provide the most viable and sustainable solution." Those who are familiar with Lehman will recall that this was a plan expected to be put into place for Lehman, in which a CRE-asset holding division would be spun off and allowed to roll off its assets. This plan was scrapped as it was deemed unviable. Glad to see it will work in Ireland.
In today’s world of trillion dollar bailouts, $2-4 billion doesn’t sound like much, so let’s give some perspective here… in its golden days, Lehman Brother’s market cap was roughly $47 billion. So you’re talking about bets equal to an amount between five and 10% of its market cap. Not exactly chump change.
And Lehman had no idea where it was or how much it really owed.
Mind you, we’re only addressing Lehman’s options and futures derivatives, we’re completely ignoring its mortgage backed securities, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and other Level 3 assets. Options and futures are literally the “tip of the iceberg,” the most visible portion of the behemoth that was Lehman’s off balance sheet derivative issues. After all, these are regulated securities unlike most derivatives.
In an indication of just how good "redundancy" record keeping is within the financial industry, Bloomberg discloses that according to testimony by Barclays' Elizabeth James, a director of
Barclays’s futures business, in bankruptcy court, Lehman Brothers basically had no idea whatsoever how big its derivative book was within a +/- range of $2 billion. In addition to robts running wild and jeopardizing flash crashes on a daily basis, this should certainly restore some credibility to the market. “Lehman’s books were in such a mess that I don’t think
they knew where they were.” She said she received an e-mail from former Barclays
trading executive Stephen King saying Lehman had “absolutely no
idea” if it had sold $2 billion more options than it had
bought, or whether it owned $4 billion more than it had sold. Just lovely.
Fox Biz' Charlie Gasparino reports that the SEC has likely issued Wells Noticed to former Lehman executives. It is unclear who they are but between Fuld, Callan, and Gregory, one can be sure that at least one of the three will be involved. Charlie also says the executives are trying to prevent the SEC from filing formal allegations. However, in light of the huge slap to the face for the SEC after the Repo 105 disclosure, we doubt Schapiro's farm will be amenable to yet another bust, like the Goldman and BofA settlements.
Are Dick Fuld's days in non-captivity numbered? After the Repo 105 criminal disclosure came and went, most have forgotten about the last ditch attempt by Lehman to misrepresent its balance sheet (with or without the complicity of E&Y) as it was collapsing into insolvency. That may soon be ending. Charlie Gasparino, via Dow Jones, has the (fluid) scoop.