With mere hours left until the first Greek exit polls are released, one group of the Greek population, perhaps the most important one if the country of 23% unemployment is to have any hope of not sinking into the Mediterranean, its business executives, has yet to express its opinion on the aftermath of today's election. And while we know that many local businesses have already transferred their money (whether or not taxed is a different question) abroad, it is after all they that will serve as the backbone of any possible future Greek renaissance, whether EUR or XGD denominated. So do they think? Recently Citigroup's European team met with executives from big Greek / Cyprus banks and several officials - independent parties. The key message is that the situation is critical but there is some optimism on the Day after the elections.
This weekend, everyone's attention will be on the Greek elections, however it is Spain that has now become the "fulcrum security" of Europe. As such, events in Greece are merely a catalyst that will set off a chain of events that will have an impact not only on Spain, but on all of Europe, and thus, the world. As we pointed out last week after the Spanish bailout announcement, based on a preliminary analysis which had been compiled by Deutsche Bank's europhiles hours before the formal announcement, and one which just happened to be a carbon-copy of what was proposed as the 'final (and failed) Spanish solution', it appears that the events in Europe are if not orchestrated by the largest German bank, then certainly receiving part-time advice. Which brings us to the present, where we find that even Deutsche Bank has given up hope for interim solutions, having realized that the market will no longer accept transitory, feeble arrangements. Instead DB is now formally calling for a big bang resolution, one coming from the ECB. Here is the punchline: "ECB has room for manoeuvre, but needs political cover for a ‘big’ policy" or said otherwise, "A shock is required to get a liquidity response." In other words: Europe's only real hope for even a stop gap solution... is a wholesale market crash, not surprisingly the very same conclusion that Citi reached on May 19 when they warned that only Crossover (XO) at 1000 bps or wider could push Europe into acting... Basically stated, anything less than a controlled market crash, one that finally gets the ECB involved with Germany's persmission of course, merely pushes the market higher on nothing but hope of an intervention that said market lift makes even more improbable, as now both Citi and DB admit, which can and will lead to an uncontrolled market collapse, one from which not even the ECB will be able to extricate Europe.
If yesterday was a repeat of the market action from that day three weeks ago before the last FinMin conference, when everyone expected Germany to announce it had agreed to a bank deposit guarantee, then today is, logically, day after. Because just like back then, so now, Germany has once again made it clear that it will first see the EUR crushed, and all off Europe begging for a bailout (as in the case of Spain - when presented with reality, they all will beg the one with the cash to come to the rescue). To wit from the German Finance Minister, via Stern magazine:
- Schaeuble Rejects European Redemption Fund: Stern Magazine
- German finance minister says redemption fund would violate EU treaties, in interview with Stern magazine
At the rate the market has soared in the past 3 days, one would think Bernanke has already formally announced QE. Instead we have had a rumor, a hint, and a headline. All of this was sufficient to push the DJIA up 500 points. Problem is there has been nothing official from the Fed. Which is why everyone will be looking for the Chairman to leak something at the 10am hearing before the Joint Economic Committee. Otherwise, if nothing comes now, and nothing comes on June 20, we may be looking at another deja vu event from 2011: namely the August 2011 market crash.
Back in October 19, 1988, in response to Black Monday from a year earlier (the SEC is not known for fast turnaround times) a little known SEC rule came into effect, known as Rule 80B, and somewhat better known as "Trading Halts Due to Extraordinary Market Volatility" which set trigger thresholds for market wide circuit breakers - think a wholesale temporary market shutdown. According to Rule 80B (as revised in 1998), the trigger levels for a market-wide trading halt were set at 10%, 20% and 30% of the DJIA. Needless to say, a 30% drop in the market in our day and age when the bulk of US wealth is concentrated in the stock market, would be a shot straight to the heart of the entire capitalist system. Which is why the smallest gating threshold is and has always been the key.However, despite the revision, as anyone who traded stocks on that fateful day in May knows, the market-wide circuit breakers were completely ineffective and unused during the HFT-induced and ETF-facilitated flash crash of May 6, 2010. In turn, the SEC's flash crash response was to implement individual stock-level circuit breakers which however, instead of restoring confidence in the market, have become the butt of daily jokes involving freaked out algos. This was merely the most recent indication of how horribly the SEC's attempts to "regulate" a market it no longer has any grasp or understanding of, backfire on it. However, even that may pale in comparison to just how badly the SEC may have blundered yesterday afternoon, when it proposed yet another revision to its market-wide halt rule. And once again, instead of making traders and investors more comfortable that the SEC is capable and in control, the questions have already come pouring in: is the SEC preparing for another massive market crash?
Imagine, if you will, a fantastic near future in which the United States is facing an unmitigated economic implosion. Not just a mere market crash, or a stint of high unemployment, but a full spectrum collapse driven by unsustainable debt spending and hyperinflationary printing. The American people witness multiple credit downgrades of U.S. Treasury mechanisms, the dollar loses its reserve status, devaluation of the currency runs rampant, and the prices of commodities and imported goods immediately skyrocket. In the background of this disaster, a group of financial elite with dreams of a new centralized economic and political system use the chaos to encourage a removal of long held civil liberties; displacing Constitutional protections they deem “outdated” and no longer “practical” in the midst of our modern day troubles. This group then institutes draconian policies through the executive orders of a puppet president, including indefinite detention, assassination, and even martial law against citizens... With modern computer driven weaponry at their fingertips, any resistance appears futile. Some Americans, though, do their homework, and discover that most successful revolutions against better equipped opponents utilize low tech methods in highly intelligent ways. They study the inherent weaknesses of the enemy weapons platforms using readily available online manuals and scientific journals. They realize that these pieces of equipment costing millions of dollars each can be defeated using methods that cost little more than pocket change. A war of economic attrition ensues.
Just when we though that nobody would take advantage of the cover provided by the epic flame out of the FaceBomb IPO and the ongoing market crash, here comes Spain. Because there is nothing quite like a little Friday night action following a market drubbing and an "IPO for the people" shock in which to sneak the news that, oops, sorry, we were lying about all that austerity. Because while it came as a surprise to the market back in December when Spain announced it would post a 2011 budget deficit of 8.5% instead of the previously promised 6%, the market will hardly be impressed that Spain actually overspent by another €4.2 billion, to a brand new total of €95.5 billion of 8.9% of GDP. So Monday now has two things to look forward to: the Spanish bond margin hike on one hand courtesy of LCH.Clearnet earlier, and the fact that despite spending even more than expected, GDP growth has disappointed and the country is now officially in a double dip. Hardly what the country with the record wide CDS needs right now.
In a development that would make Dostoevsky turn in his grave, we learn that the first three casualites of Fail-Whalegate have been identified.
One can call the BOJ inefficient, slow and for the most part utterly worthless, but one can certainly not accuse them of lying, and beating around the bush. Because unlike all other central banks, with the BOJ at least it has been fully public knowledge that this particular central bank unlike all others (wink wink), is actively engaged in buying equity products, among them REITs and broad equity ETFs (which provide much explicit tail-wags-dog leverage and explains why the FRBNY's red phone hotline goes directly to Citadel's ETF trading desk). And buy stocks on full tilt and in record quantities is precisely what the BOJ just did, only as one can expect, with absolutely no impact on the broader stock market. Because once even the central bank is exposed as participating in the market, the element of surprise is gone, and the central bank becomes just one mark (if one with a largish balance sheet). As MarketWatch reports, "The Bank of Japan stepped back into the stock market Monday, making its largest single-day purchase of exchange-traded funds to date... The Japanese central bank said it spent 39.7 billion yen (about $500 million) buying up stock ETFs as part of its ongoing asset-purchase program, breaking a previous record of ¥28.5 billion, set on April 16. In addition to the ETF buys, the Bank of Japan also acquired ¥2.3 billion in real-estate investment trusts Monday." Too bad that this latest outright bull in a Japan store (sic) intervention had zero impact: "the move failed to prevent a sharp fall for the Tokyo equity market." But at least they are honest. Imagine the shock and horror (and complete lack of apologies to all those who have predicted just that) when the world finally gets a trade confirm-based proof that Brian Sack was indeed buying (never selling) SPYs and ES. Why everyone would be truly shocked, SHOCKED, that the Fed is nothing but another two-bit gambler in a rigged and broken casino.
"Either someone likes buying high and selling low, or they have figured out how to significantly increase the volatility in a stock." On May 2, 2012 beginning right at market close (16:00 Eastern) and continuing for about 54 seconds, an HFT algo ran that significantly increased volatility and impacted at least 34 stocks. We think this was either a test of an algorithm someone is getting ready to deploy during market hours, or that this algo already runs during market hours, but is much harder to detect amidst the huge volume of market data noise.
In the shady underground world of banking, doing wrong means doing right, up is down, and left is right.
Few have been as steadfast in their correct call that the US economy sugar high of the first quarter was nothing but a liquidity-driven, hot weather-facilitated uptick in the economy, which has now ended with a thud, as seen by the recent epic collapse in all high-frequency economic indicators, which have not translated into a market crash simply because the market is absolutely convinced that the worse things get, the more likely the Fed is to come in with another round of nominal value dilution. Perhaps: it is unclear if the Fed will risk a spike in inflation in Q2 especially since as one of the respondents in today's Chicago PMI warned very prudently that Chinese inflation is about to hit America in the next 60 days. That said, here are some of today's must read observations on where we stand currently, on why 1937-38 may be the next imminent calendar period deja vu, and most importantly, the fact that Rosie now too has realized that the next credit bubble is student debt as we have been warning since last summer.
In perhaps the most courageous (and now must-read) speech ever given inside the New York Fed's shallowed hallowed walls, Economic Policy Journal's Robert Wenzel delivered the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the monetary priesthood. Gracious from the start, Wenzel takes the Keynesian clap-trappers to task on almost every nonsensical and oblivious decision they have made in recent years. "My views, I suspect, differ from beginning to end... I stand here confused as to how you see the world so differently than I do. I simply do not understand most of the thinking that goes on here at the Fed and I do not understand how this thinking can go on when in my view it smacks up against reality." And further..."I scratch my head that somehow your conclusions about unemployment are so different than mine and that you call for the printing of money to boost 'demand'. A call, I add, that since the founding of the Federal Reserve has resulted in an increase of the money supply by 12,230%." But his closing was tremendous: "Let’s have one good meal here. Let’s make it a feast. Then I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you all, walk out of here with me, never to come back. It’s the moral and ethical thing to do. Nothing good goes on in this place. Let’s lock the doors and leave the building to the spiders, moths and four-legged rats."
H.L. Mencken was a renowned newspaper columnist for the Baltimore Sun from 1906 until 1948. His biting sarcasm seems to fit perfectly in today’s world. His acerbic satirical writings on government, democracy, politicians and the ignorant masses are as true today as they were then. I believe the reason his words hit home is because he was writing during the last Unraveling and Crisis periods in America. The similarities cannot be denied. There are no journalists of his stature working in the mainstream media today. His acerbic wit is nowhere to be found among the lightweight shills that parrot their corporate masters’ propaganda on a daily basis and unquestioningly report the fabrications spewed by our government. Mencken’s skepticism of all institutions is an unknown quality in the vapid world of present day journalism.
H.L. Mencken understood the false promises of democracy 80 years ago:
“Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. It is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
We deserve to get it good and hard, and we will.
In the science of physics, we know that ice freezes at 32 degrees. We can predict with immense accuracy exactly how far a rocket ship will travel filled with 500 gallons of fuel. There is preciseness because there are constants, which do not change and upon which equations can be constructed.. There are no such constants in the field of economics since the science of economics deals with human action, which can change at any time. If potato prices remain the same for 10 weeks, it does not mean they will be the same the following day. I defy anyone in this room to provide me with a constant in the field of economics that has the same unchanging constancy that exists in the fields of physics or chemistry. And yet, in paper after paper here at the Federal Reserve, I see equations built as though constants do exist. It is as if one were to assume a constant relationship existed between interest rates here and in Russia and throughout the world, and create equations based on this belief and then attempt to trade based on these equations. That was tried and the result was the blow up of the fund Long Term Capital Management, a blow up that resulted in high level meetings in this very building. It is as if traders assumed a given default rate was constant for subprime mortgage paper and traded on that belief. Only to see it blow up in their faces, as it did, again, with intense meetings being held in this very building. Yet, the equations, assuming constants, continue to be published in papers throughout the Fed system. I scratch my head.