Currency wars have captured the imagination of many. However, the modern history of the foreign exchange market demonstrates that is has always been an arena in which nation-states compete. Typically central banks want the currency's exchange rate to affirm not contradict monetary policy. The synchronized crisis and easier monetary policy makes it appear that nearly ever one wants a weak currency. Yet most officials are on low rungs of the intervention escalation ladder. Moreover, there is no sign of it spilling over to a trade war. Has any one else noticed that Japan's largest trading partner and regional rival China has been quiet, not joining the the chorus of criticism?
Yesterday we broke the news of what is prima facie evidence, sourced by none other than the Federal Reserve's official August 16, 2007 conference call transcript, that then-NY Fed president and FOMC Vice Chairman Tim Geithner leaked material, non-public, and very much market moving information (the "Geithner Leak") to at least one banker, in this case then Bank of America CEO Ken Leiws, in advance of a formal Fed announcement - an act explicitly prohibited by virtually every capital markets law (and reading thereof). It was refreshing to see that at least several other mainstream outlets, including Reuters, The Hill and the NYT, carried this story which is far more significant than Season 1 of Lance Armstrong's produced theatrical confession and rating bonanza. What, however, the mainstream media has not touched upon, yet, is just how profound the market response to the Geithner Leak was, and by implication, how much money those who were aware of what the Fed was about to do, made. Perhaps, it should because as we show below, the implications were staggering. But perhaps what is even more relevant, is why the Fed's previously disclosed details of Mr. Geithner's daily actions at the time, have exactly no mention of any of this.
It is a “fraudulent transfer” to transfer assets with intent to leave the transferor with inadequate capital... Thus every bank “sale” done for the purpose of reducing regulatory capital is, by definition, fraud – a form of bank theft.
You truly have to be mentally challenged if you follow the gold/silver market action and cannot appreciate something is very amiss, as per the confused Mitsui gold people, as brought to your attention the other day.
By the Deceptive means of Misinformation and Manipulation of economic data the Federal Reserve has set the stage for broad based moral hazard. Through Distortions caused by Malpractice and Malfeasance, a raft of Unintended Consequences have now changed the economic and financial fabric of America likely forever. The Federal Reserve policies of Quantitative Easing and Negative real interest rates, across the entire yield curve, have been allowed to go on so long that Mispricing and Malinvestment has reached the level that markets are effectively Delusional. Markets have become Dysfunctional concerning the pricing of risk and risk adjusted valuations. Fund Managers can no longer use even the Fed's own Valuation Model which is openly acknowledged to be broken.
It may not be apparent immediately, but in the aftermath of last night's epic collapse in fiscal cliff negotiations, which incidentally was perfectly obvious to anyone with half a brain and who experienced last summer's debt ceiling fiasco, which sadly excludes all paid political and financial - including sellside - commentators, all of whom expected a prompt resolution to this polarized issue as recently as a week ago, there is major behind the scenes panic. Because while banks would write profuse, long-winded essays to explain the logic and rationality of the "deal", now that they are all faced with adjusting their narrative the best they can come up with are two sentence fragments such as this one from Citi's Steven Englander "Problem is that it is the right wing of the Republican Party that wouldn’t give Boehner their support, making it less likely that he could win broad support among Republicans for a compromise with the White House. Also he will have to spend next couple of days negotiating with both his own party and the Democrats without knowing how much he can deliver." The answer: nothing at all. In fact as Scott Rigell said “I’m not sure the people who have been up here 20 or 30 years really understand what the next iteration of this process is”. He is speaking for pretty much everyone else who has now been made a total fool by the Black Swan that is Congress. As a reminder a 3 month delay resolution assures a US recession, and a ~20% or so minimum correction in the stock market, which has been priced for absolute perfection for months, and which will once again have to be used by Wall Street as a means to get a consensus out of DC. Just as we predicted over a month ago. Finally while we may have avoided the Mayan apocalypse, we do have a quad witching and a NASDAQ rebalance to look forward to. Enjoy!
No, really, there is a big, huge, massive rotation out of those dangerous, inflationary bonds into safe, predictable equities...
The Fiscal Cliff cat and mouse game is entering its last two weeks of calendar 2012, with Congress now officially closed for the year. And while we would have expected major updates in the Cliff timeline to only hit during trading hours, usually just as AAPL once again threatens to trade with a 4-handle, Reuters reports that out of the blue Boehner, who last we checked is back in Ohio, has made a radical departure with the Norquist pledge status quo, and has offered to raise tax rates on high earners to break the "fiscal cliff" deadlock in exchange for major cuts in entitlement programs, "but President Barack Obama is not ready to accept, a source said late Saturday."
InTrade may have gotten the Obamacare outcome horribly wrong, but it was spot on in predicting the Obama presidential victory. And if it has continued its accurately predictive ways, it will mean a lot of pain is in store for the market (if not so much the President) very shortly, because the online betting service, now only accessible to offshore based US residents just saw odds on a debt ceiling deal plunge to all time lows of 10% earlier today, before rebounding weakly to 16%. As a reminder, Harry Reid has said on numerous occasions that there will be no Fiscal Cliff resolution without a favorable debt ceiling outcome, which therefore means that according to InTrade the odds of a Fiscal Cliff getting done in 2012 have plunged to 16%, and the probability of a market tumble, as the cliff moving over to 2013 means a cornucopia of unintended consequences, is logically (1-16%).
Back in June, we wrote an article titled "On The Verge Of A Historic Inversion In Shadow Banking" in which we showed that for the first time since December 1995, the total "shadow liabilities" in the United States - the deposit-free funding instruments that serve as credit to those unregulated institutions that are financial banks in all but name (i.e., they perform maturity, credit and liquidity transformations) - were on the verge of being once more eclipsed by traditional bank funding liabilities. As of Thursday, this inversion is now a fact, with Shadow Bank liabilities representing less in notional than traditional liabilities.
I recently received the following question from a friend of mine and wanted to share my thoughts with my market pals, and throw this out for feedback. I would be particularly interested in hearing from my derivatives friends who are much more technically informed than I am on the subject.
“I was looking at something today that I thought you would probably have some comment on: have you noticed how wide the out months on the VIX are versus the one or two month? How are you interpreting this?”
From my viewpoint this has been a key debate/driver in the equity derivatives world for a good while now (I started having this discussion in early 2011 with some market pals and the situation has only grown more extreme since then).
In the past it has been the bond market whose vigilantes had rampaged across the fields to keep policymakers honest - but something has changed with the Fed's boot on the bond market. As BofAML notes, when the Fed was too soft on inflation or the fiscal deficit was out of control, interest rates spiked higher. In our view, this has changed and today the stock market is the disciplining force for Washington. We have argued this perspective for a while - that nothing will be done until we get a stock market crash - but the press will continue to make molehills out of mountains it seems as BofAML adds, the most obvious lesson of the last week is that when Washington approaches a policy impasse, the financial press tends to signal a resolution of the crisis many times before it happens. Don’t believe it. After elections there is always conciliatory talk: no one wants to be seen as a sore loser or a gloating winner. The risk remains huge and the four hurdles to a grand bargain seem to be getting larger - no matter what the press wants us to think - investors should look past reassuring rhetoric and focus on the underlying reality.
There was precious little in terms of actionable news in the overnight session, which means that, like a broken record, Europe falls back to contemplating its two main question marks: Greece and Spain, with the former once again making noises about the "inevitability" of receiving the Troika's long delayed €31.5 billion rescue tranche. The chief noise emitter was Italian Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli who said he was "confident that euro-region finance chiefs will reach an agreement on aiding Greece when they meet next week." He was joined by Luxembourg Finance Minister Frieden who also "saw" a Greek solution on November 20. Naturally, what the two thing is irrelevant: when it comes to funding cash flows, only Germany matters, everything else is noise, and so far Schauble has made it clear Germany has to vote on the final Troika report so Europe continues to be in stasis when it comes to its main talking point. In fundamental European news, there was once again nothing positive to report as Euro-area exports fell in September as the region’s economy slipped into a recession for the second time in four years. Exports declined a 1.1% from August, when they gained 3.3%. Imports dropped 2.7%. The trade surplus widened to 11.3 billion euros from a revised 8.9 billion euros in the previous month. Global trade, at whose nexus Europe has always been at the apex, continues to shrink rapidly. Elsewhere, geopolitical developments between Israel and Gaza have been muted with little to report, although this will hardly remain as is. Providing some news amusement is Japan, where the LDP opposition leader Shinzo Abe continues to threaten that he will make the BOJ a formal branch of the government and will impose 2% inflation targeting, which in turn explain the ongoing move in the USDJPY higher. This too will fade when laughter takes the place of stunned silence.
If the Fiscal Cliff negotiations are supposed to result in a bipartisan compromise, it is safe that the initial shots fired so far are about as extreme as can possibly be. As per our previous assessment of the status quo, with the GOP firmly against any tax hike, many were expecting the first olive branch to come from the generous victor - Barack Obama. Yet on the contrary, the WSJ reports, Obama's gambit will be to ask for double what the preliminary negotiations from the "debt deficit" summer of 2011 indicated would be the Democrats demand for tax revenue increase. To wit: "President Barack Obama will begin budget negotiations with congressional leaders Friday by calling for $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade, far more than Republicans are likely to accept and double the $800 billion discussed in talks with GOP leaders during the summer of 2011. Mr. Obama, in a meeting Tuesday with union leaders and other liberal activists, also pledged to hang tough in seeking tax increases on wealthy Americans." Granted, there was a tiny conciliation loophole still open, after he made no specific commitment to leave unscathed domestic programs such as Medicare, yet this is one program that the GOP will likely not find much solace in cutting. In other words, all the preliminary talk of one party being open to this or that, was, naturally, just that, with a whole lot of theatrics, politics and teleprompting thrown into the mix. The one hope is that the initial demands are so ludicrous on both sides, that some leeway may be seen as a victory by a given party's constituents. Yet that is unlikely: as we have noted on many occasions in the past, any compromise will result in swift condemnation in a congress that has never been as more polarized in history.
We expect a return to a skittish environment in markets. We are confident in my prediction for the course of the economy by leveraging simple game theory in handling the upcoming crisis as Congress returns for its lame duck session. “Compromise” reflects a decision from either side that each find unpalatable. Both President Obama and Speaker Boehner would rather shove two sticks in their eyes than move from their hardened stance despite some of the recent rhetoric in favor of bargaining in good faith. As long as the loss of utility from both sides’ digging in their heels is more favorable than conceding to the preferences from those across the aisle, then the game arrives at a Prisoner’s Dilemma. the above matrix concludes that the fiscal cliff virtually guarantees an aggressive selloff for equities until the stop loss for the Democrats and Republicans has been triggered. For example, if the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve with the blue chip index at or near its September peak, each faction would feel comfortable standing up to the other well into January.