Ben Bernanke To Miss Jackson Hole Symposium Due To "Scheduling Conflict"

The Fed's Jackson Hole, Wyoming symposium is one of the most sacred of annual Fed meetings: it is here that the Fed has historically hinted at any and all upcoming episodes of major monetary experimentation. As such, presence by the high priests of global monetarism is not only compulsory, it is a circular stamp of approval of the Fed's ongoing status quo-preservation capabilities. Which is why the fact that the man at the top himself, Ben Bernanke, whose term is due to expire just five months after this year's Jackson Hole gathering, will be absent "due to a scheduling conflict", is set to spark a fire of questions, first and foremost of which: is this the sign Bernanke is handing over the suitcase with the printer launch codes to some yet unspecified, second in command? Or, even worse for those addicted to monetary heroin, will Bernanke simply try to put as much distance as possible between himself and the place where (and when) the Fed announces the grand "open-ended" QE experiment is set to begin tapering?

How A Misplaced Decimal Comma Left Dick Bove Unemployed

Well-known permabull financial analyst Dick Bove lost his job in November 2012. Not due to his ineptness, but due to his Rochdale Securities colleague David Miller who today plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy over an epic Apple trade gone wrong. As Reuters reports, Miller faces a maximum 25 years (though is expected to suffer less) after falsely telling his bosses that he executed a 1,625 share trade for a client, when in fact he bought 1,623,375 shares of the 'never-gonna-fall' stock on the day of its earnings release (October 25th 2012). When the bet backfired, Rochdale was on the hook for the losses which led the firm to cease operations and to provide the market with a brief respite from Bove's 'loan-loss-provision'-ignoring, 'we're-going-to-the-moon-Alice' investment advice on US banks. What a difference a decimal place makes...

Gold's VIX Term Structure 'Most Inverted' Since Lehman

While there are obviously sellers in the gold market, there is also a dramatic spike in demand for protecting what is still being held (remember there is a buyer for every seller). Gold's short-term VIX (implied volatility) has spiked to 18 month highs above 29% but it is the steepness of the term-structure of volatility that shows just how much protection is being sought. The difference between the one-month volatility and one-year volatility is almost 10 vols - the highest level of inversion (short-term risk higher than long-term) since Lehman. It seems the market is extremely fearful of further volatility in the short-term but less concerned longer-term. What is also worrisome is that the last two times that Gold's VIX was this much higher than the S&P's VIX was June 2006 (when the first hedge funds started to implode from Subprime) and Sept 2008 (Lehman). It appears that gold volatility is signalling counterparty risk concerns once again.

What Happened The Last Time We Saw Gold Drop Like This?

The rapidity of gold's drop is impressive, concerning, and disorderly. We have seen two other such instances of disorderly 'hurried' selling in the last five years. In July 2008, gold quickly dropped 21% - seemingly pre-empting the Lehman debacle and the collapse of the western banking system. In September 2011, gold fell 20% in a short period - as Europe's risks exploded and stocks slumped prompting a globally co-ordinated central bank intervention the likes of which we have not seen before. Given the almost-record-breaking drop in gold in the last few days, we wonder what is coming?

Which Nations Are Next? The Credit Market Answers

The debate about the usefulness of sovereign credit default swaps (SCDS) intensified with the outbreak of sovereign debt stress in the euro area. SCDS can be used to protect investors against losses on sovereign debt arising from so-called credit events such as default or debt restructuring. With the growing influence of SCDS, questions arose about whether speculative use of SCDS contracts could be destabilizing - and this caused regulators to ban non-hedge-related protection buying. The prohibition is based on the view that, in extreme market conditions, such short selling could push sovereign bond prices into a downward spiral, which would lead to disorderly markets and systemic risks, and hence sharply raise the issuance costs of the underlying sovereigns. The IMF's empirical results do not support many of the negative perceptions about SCDS. In particular, spreads of both SCDS and sovereign bonds reflect economic fundamentals, and other relevant market factors, in a similar fashion. Relative to bond spreads, SCDS spreads tend to reveal new information more rapidly during periods of stress, admittedly with overshoots one way or the other. Given the current apparent 'stability' in many nations' bond market spreads, the chart below suggests an alternative way of judging what the credit market thinks - the volume of protection bid - and in this case some interesting names emerge.

Guest Post: The Return Of The Money Cranks

The lesson from the events of 2007-2008 should have been clear: Boosting GDP with loose money can only lead to short term booms followed by severe busts. A policy of artificially cheapened credit cannot but cause mispricing of risk, misallocation of capital and a deeply dislocated financial infrastructure, all of which will ultimately conspire to bring the fake boom to a screeching halt. The ‘good times’ of the cheap money expansion, largely characterized by windfall profits for the financial industry and the faux prosperity of propped-up financial assets and real estate (largely to be enjoyed by the ‘1 percent’), necessarily end in an almighty hangover. The crisis that commenced in 2007 was therefore a massive opportunity: An opportunity to allow the market to liquidate the accumulated dislocations and to bring the economy back into balance. That opportunity was not taken and is now lost – maybe until the next crisis comes along, which won’t be long. It has become clear in recent years – and even more so in recent months and weeks – that we are moving with increasing speed in the opposite direction: ever more money, cheaper credit, and manipulated markets (there is one notable exception to which I come later). Policy makers have learned nothing. The same mistakes are being repeated and the consequences are going to make 2007/8 look like a picnic.

BlackRock Calls For Bernanke To "Rein In" QE: Says It "Distorts Markets, Risks Stoking Inflation"

It has been well known for years that PIMCO's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Gross, the original bond king in charge of Allianz' $1+ trillion bond portfolio, has been a vocal critic of QE even in the face of his daily tweet barrage, which often recommends positions in complete contradiction to what said king opined on in his expansive monthly essays. What will come a great surprise, however, is that the "other" fund, which is just as big, is run by Wall Street's shadow king Larry Fink, and which has been advocating to go all in stocks for over a year (preferably using ETFs) interim drawdowns be damned (after all everyone by now should have an infinite balance sheet) - BlackRock - just went all out against QE.  As the FT reports, BlackRock's fixed income guru, formerly at Lehman Brothers, Rick Reider, "has called on the Federal Reserve to rein in its programme of quantitative easing, saying its bond-buying tactics are a “large and dull hammerthat have distorted markets and risk stoking inflation." Why, it is almost as if we wrote that... Oh wait, we did. Back in 2009.

Record 2,564 Spanish Firms File For Bankruptcy In Q1, 45% Higher Than Year Ago

Perhaps the best measure to gauge the European recovery is by the soaring number of companies going bust, because only from this perspective is Europe finally "fixed." As Reuters reports citing a report by Axesor, a record 2,564 companies filed for "insolvency proceedings", a more palatable version of the word bankruptcy, in the first quarter - an increase of 10% from Q4 and up a whopping 45% from Q1 2012. The reasons given: "tight credit conditions and meager demand." Or in other words: no actual cash flow to fund demand for products and services. Obviously it will take some truly phenomenal massaging and manipulation to represent GDP as rising in this environment, but we are confident the Spanish authorities are already on it, and somehow the Spanish pension fund, already 97% filled with Spanish government bonds, will somehow have a finger in yet another completely unbelievable economic print which will fool most of the algos most of the time on flashing red Bloomberg headlines.