There's no way to sugarcoat the dismal performance of the precious metals in recent months. But a revisitation of the reasons for owning them reveals no cracks in the underlying thesis for doing so. In fact, there are a number of new compelling developments arguing that the long heartbreak for gold and silver holders will soon be over.
It may come as news to some, but the Fed really has no idea what it is doing (no, really - just read "Fed Confused Reality Doesn't Conform To Its Economic Models, Shocked Its Models Predict "Explosive Inflation" if you don't believe us ). After all, there is a reason for the saying "we are in uncharted waters." Which is why, to help it in its monetary decision-making, every few months, the Fed issues a survey to the 21 Primary Dealers (used to be 22 but MF Global showed that often the PDs also have no idea what they are doing) asking for their feedback on when it should tighten, how big it's balance sheet should be, how big monthly POMO should be, what the Fed Funds target range "may" be, where the GDP and unemployment rate will be, what the likelihood of the 10 Year soaring to 4% by the end of 2014 is, and other pertinent questions that frame the "independent" thinking of the Fed.
Fractional reserve banking is unlike most other businesses. It's not just because its product is money. It's because banks can manufacture their product out of thin air. Under the bygone rules of free market capitalism, only one thing kept banks from creating an infinite amount of money, and that was fear of failure. Periodic bank failures remind depositors of the connection between risk and reward. What is not widely appreciated is that the ensuing government bailouts allowed an underlying shadow banking system to not only survive but grow even larger. To the frustration of Keynesians, and despite an unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve, conventional commercial banks have broken with custom and have amassed almost $2 trillion in excess reserves they are reluctant to lend as they scramble to digest all the bad loans still on their books. So most of the money manufactured today is actually being created by the shadow banks. But shadow banks do not generally make commercial loans. Rather, they use the money they manufacture to fund proprietary trading operations in repos and derivatives. No one knows when the bubble will pop, but when it does a donnybrook is going to break out over that thin wedge of collateral whose ownership is spread across counterparties around the world, each looking for relief from their own judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.
"While certain types of rehypothecation can be beneficial to market functioning, if collateral collected to protect against the risk of counterparty default has been rehypothecated, then it may not be readily available in the event of a default. This, in turn, may increase system interconnectedness and procyclicality, and could amplify market stresses. Therefore, when collateral is rehypothecated, it is important to understand under what circumstances and the extent to which the rehypothecation has occurred; or in other words, how long the collateral chain is... Financial intermediaries should provide sufficient disclosure to clients when collateral assets posted by them are rehypothecated; rehypothecation should be allowed only for the purpose of financing the long position of clients and not for financing the own-account activities of the intermediary; and only entities subject to adequate regulation of liquidity risk should be allowed to engage in the rehypothecation of client assets."
Peak collateral is just a notion - one we have discussed in detail many times (most recently here). The notion that at the time we want yield and growth we are running out of collateral which is supposed to underpin the high yielding assets and loans. Such a shortage would cause the ponzi-like growth that is necessary to sustain a bubble, to stall and then implode. We think our lords and rulers know this and have decided that it must not be allowed. And this – the need for collateral – is the reason for the endless QE. If this is even close to the mark, then recent murmurings about the Fed tailing off its bond buying will prove to be hollow. The Fed will quickly find it cannot exit QE without precipitating precisely the disorderly collapse, to which it was supposed to be the solution.
Europe Opens $80 Trillion Shadow Banking Pandora's Box: Will Seek To Collapse Repo "Collateral Chains"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/24/2013 10:51 -0400
In what may be the most important story of the day, or maybe year, for a world in which there already is an $11 trillion shortfall in high-quality collateral (and declining every day courtesy of Ben's monetization of Treasury paper) so needed to support the deposit-free liability structures of the shadow banking system (as most recently explained here), Bloomberg has just reported that Europe may begin a crackdown on that most important credit money conduit: the $80 trillion+ global shadow banking system, by effectively collapsing collateral chains, and by making wanton asset rehypothecation a thing of the past, permitted only with express prior permission, which obviously will never come: who in their right mind would allow a bank to repledge an asset which may be lost as part of the counterparty carnage should said bank pull a Lehman. The result of this, should it be taken to completion, would be pervasive liquidations as countless collateral chain margin calls spread, counterparty risk soars all over again, and as the scramble to obtain the true underlying assets finally begins.
Over a year ago, we first explained what one of the key terminal problems affecting the modern financial system is: namely the increasing scarcity and disappearance of money-good assets ("safe" or otherwise) which due to the way "modern" finance is structured, where a set universe of assets forms what is known as "high-quality collateral" backstopping trillions of rehypothecated shadow liabilities all of which have negligible margin requirements (and thus provide virtually unlimited leverage) until times turn rough and there is a scramble for collateral, has become perhaps the most critical, and missing, lynchpin of financial stability. Not surprisingly, recent attempts to replenish assets (read collateral) backing shadow money, most recently via attempted Basel III regulations, failed miserably as it became clear it would be impossible to procure the just $1-$2.5 trillion in collateral needed according to regulatory requirements. The reason why this is a big problem is that as the Matt Zames-headed Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) showed today as part of the appendix to the quarterly refunding presentation, total demand for "High Qualty Collateral" (HQC) would and could be as high as $11.2 trillion under stressed market conditions.
Those who think back to November 2011 will recall that it wasn't Jon Corzine's wrong way bet on Italian bonds that ultimately led to the bankruptcy of MF Global, well it did in part, but the real Chapter 11 cause was the sudden liquidity shortage due to the way the trades were structured as a Repo To Maturity, where the bank had hoped to collect the carry from the bond coupons, thereby offsetting the nominal repo cost of funding. The kind of deal which is the very definition of collecting pennies in front of a steamroller, as while the funding cost may be tiny and the capital allocated negligible (due to the nearly infinite implied leverage involved when using repo), when the underlying instrument crashes, and the originating counterparty has to fund a massive variation margin shortfall, that is when the shadow transformation cascade triggers an immediate liquidity crisis, which can result in liquidation cascade in a few brief hours. It happened with MF Global, it happened with Lehman too. And, we now learn, it also happened with Italy's most troubled and oldest bank, Monte Paschi (BMPS), whose endless bailouts, political intrigue, depoit runs, and cooked books have all been covered extensively here previously.
The paper price of gold crashed to $1,325 in the wake of this huge trade. It is now hovering around $1,400. Our first reaction is to suggest that this is only an aberration, and that the fundamentals of the depreciating value of paper currencies will eventually take the price of gold much higher, making it a buying opportunity. But what we can't predict is whether big players might again deliver short-term downturns to the market. The momentum in the futures market can make swings surprisingly larger than the fundamentals of currency valuation would suggest; but the fundamentals will drive the long-term market more than these short-term events. The fight between pricing from the physical market for bullion and that from the "paper market" of futures is showing signs of discrimination and disagreement, as the physical market is booming, while prices set by futures are seemingly pressured to go nowhere. In short, we think this is a strong buying opportunity.
Just about a year and a half after the bankruptcy filing of MF Global, the first real lawsuit that directly names former MF Global (and Goldman) CEO Jon Corzine and his cronies, has hit the docket with MFG Holdings bankruptcy trustee Louis Freeh as plaintiff. The complaint: breach of fiduciary duty. Of course, when one is a bundler for the president, such trivial concepts as duty to anyone else, be it fiduciary or otherwise, naturally does not exist.
The swindling art is in his tentacles...
Yesterday we reported that the conclusion of the MF Global Trustee's 124 page report is that the collapse of MF Global, and the illegal commingling of billions in customer funds which may or may not have been recovered yet from JPMorgan and others, was all Jon Corzine's fault. Of course, courtesy of his special rank in the Obama administration, Corzine will never go to jail: after all justice in the crony states of America is only for the little people - those who don't bundle millions for the president, and those who don't run Too Big To Prosecute banks, or both at the same time, get a get out of jail card (literally). So if he isn't in minimum security prison, where on earth is Mr. Corzine to be found these days? The WSJ answers.
- George Soros: 'What Japan is doing is actually quite dangerous because" (BBG)
- North Korea lacks means for nuclear strike on U.S., experts say (Reuters)
- Yellen latest to hint about slowing of QE3 (FT)
- Hollande approval rating hits new low (FT)
- Hollande Dismisses Reshuffle as Crisis Hits Popularity (BBG)
- Japan Upper house approves full 5 year term for BOJ gov. Kuroda (BBG)
- US: Plan to Cap Tax Breaks Is Gaining Steam (WSJ)
- BOE Says Investors May Be Taking ‘Too Rosy’ a View of Stress (BBG)
- Kiwis Say ‘Ni Hao’ as China Ties Trump Australia Sales (BBG)
- Obama Avoids Trading Threats With North Korea’s Kim (BBG)
In the somewhat unsurprising conclusion of former FBI Director Louis Freeh's investigation into the MFGlobal collapse, Jon Corzine's aggressive bets on European sovereign debt led to the firm's dramatic collapse. The 124 page report (below) is extensive; noting, as Reuters reports, that Corzine's single-handed "negligent conduct" contributed to the company's failure. It was also "almost impossible to properly monitor the liquidity drains... caused by Corzine's proprietary trading strategy," the report said, adding that the "glaring deficiencies" in the firm's internal reporting were, "long-known to Corzine and management, yet they failed to implement sufficient corrective measures promptly." The investigation, based on interviews with former MF Global employees, board members and the review of hundreds of thousands of documents, concludes, "The risky business strategy engineered and executed by Corzine and other officers and their failure to improve the company's inadequate systems and procedures so that the company could accommodate that business strategy contributed to the company's collapse." Obviously, Corzine has denied any wrongdoing.
Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling may be the latest beneficiary of the culture of pervasive permitted, even at times encouraged, crime. After being sentenced to prison for 24 years in the aftermath of Enron's spectacular 2001 bankruptcy, the former CEO may be released after serving well less than half of his term. As a result his prison term, which scheduled to end in 2028, may be cut by more than half as a result of a new agreement with the Department of Justice. It appears that AG Eric Holder is so busy not prosecuting Wall Street for being Too Big To Prosecute, he has decided it is far wiser to spend his time productively by commuting the sentences of convicted financial felons, because apparently there is nothing more important to do.