Everyone knows that for the better part of the past year Apple was the world's biggest company by market cap. Most also know that AAPL aggressively uses all legal tax loopholes to pay as little State and Federal tax as possible, despite being one of the world's most profitable companies. Many know, courtesy of our exclusive from September, that Apple also is the holding company for Braeburn Capital: a firm which with a few exceptions, also happens to be among the world's largest hedge funds, whose function is to manage Apple's massive cash hoard with virtually zero reporting requirements, and whose obligation is to make sure that AAPL's cash gets laundered legally and efficiently in a way that complies with prerogative #1: avoid paying taxes. What few if any know, is that as part of its cash management obligations, Braeburn, and AAPL by extension, has conducted a mindboggling $600 billion worth of gross notional trades in just the past four years, consisting of buying and selling assorted unknown securities, or some $250 billion in 2012 alone: a grand total which represents some $1 billion per working day on average, and which puts the net turnover of some 99% of all hedge funds to shame! Finally, what nobody knows, except for the recipients of course, is just how much in trade commissions AAPL has paid on these hundreds of billions in trades to the brokering banks, many (or maybe all) of which may have found this commission revenue facilitating AAPL having a "Buy" recommendation: a rating shared by 52, or 83% of the raters, despite the company's wiping out of one year in capital gains in a few short months.
Reconciling Opposites ...
The so-called recovery is built on sand, and as stock markets climb and climb, and more traders and investors turn bullish, we come ever-closer to a new 2008-style collapse. Soaring markets, and soaring speculation. Big finance using loopholes to speculate bigger and harder. Mainstream financial journalists becoming more and more complacent about the “recovery”. We’ve been here before. Isn’t repeating the same behaviour and hoping for different results the very definition of insanity?
We are on the same path as Greece, and Mr. President, you need to recognize that being a true leader is not doing the popular thing but the right thing with regard to fiscal responsibility.
Every nation-state has a body of laws woven into the fabric of society. As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has commented on extensively, the stronger the rule of law, the stronger the economy. And by "stronger" laws, I mean laws that are impervious to tampering for personal or political gains. The connection between a sound judiciary and economic health is readily comprehensible, except maybe to a politician... businesses and individuals are far more likely to invest capital in a country with understandable laws that are impartially and universally enforced than if the opposite condition exists. That's because the lack of a consistent body of law breeds uncertainty and adds a huge element of risk for entrepreneurs. Which brings us back to the matter at hand – American justice on a slippery slope.
Earlier today, Bill Frezza of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and CNBC's Steve Liesman got into a heated exchange over a recent Frezza article, based on some of the key points we made in a prior post "A Record $2 Trillion In Deposits Over Loans - The Fed's Indirect Market Propping Pathway Exposed" in which, as the title implies, we showed how it was that the Fed was indirectly intervening in the stock market by way of banks using excess deposits to chase risky returns and generally push the market higher. We urge readers to spend the few minutes of this clip to familiarize themselves with Frezza's point which is essentially what Zero Hedge suggested, and Liesman's objection that "this is something the banks don't do and can't do." Liesman's naive view, as is to be expected for anyone who does not understand money creation under a fractional reserve system, was simple: the Fed does not create reserves to boost bank profits, and thus shareholder returns, and certainly is not using the fungible cash, which at the end of the day is what reserves amount to once dispersed among the US banks, to gun risk assets higher.
Alas, Steve is very much wrong.
Perhaps one of the most startling and telling charts of the New Normal, one which few talk about, is the soaring difference between bank loans - traditionally the source of growth for banks, at least in their Old Normal business model which did not envision all of them becoming glorified, Too Big To Fail hedge funds, ala the Goldman Sachs "Bank Holding Company" model; and deposits - traditionally the source of capital banks use to fund said loans. Historically, and logically, the relationship between the two time series has been virtually one to one. However, ever since the advent of actively managed Central Planning by the Fed, as a result of which Ben Bernanke dumped nearly $2 trillion in excess deposits on banks to facilitate their risk taking even more, the traditional correlation between loans and deposits has broken down. It is time to once again start talking about this chart as for the first time ever the difference between deposits and loans has hit a record $2 trillion! But that's just the beginning - the rabbit hole goes so much deeper...
- Global Currency Tensions Rise (WSJ) - in other words, when everyone eases to infinity, nobody eases
- EU to give Spain, France more time to cut deficit (Reuters) - But not because their economies are not "recovering" fast enough, oh no.
- As we expected, Grupo Bimbo considering a bid for Hostess' snack cakes and bread brands (NY Post)
- Time for bus-control: Eleven children killed in latest Chinese bus crash (Reuters)
- Greece Should Write Off Billions of Overdue Taxes, Report Says (BBG) - not all taxes in perpetuity?
- India clamps down on gang-rape protests, PM appeals for calm (Reuters)
- But Meredith Whitney said... Push for Cheaper Credit Hits Wall (WSJ)
- For Greece, last major austerity package, says eurozone official (Kathimerini)... "unless there is another one"
- Americans Miss $200 Billion Abandoning Stocks (BBG) ... and two flash crashes... and $15 trillion in artificial central bank props
- Goldman Sachs Takes Long View Over Payouts (FT)
- Cliff Would Strike Low Incomes Hard (WSJ)
- Afghan policewoman kills US police adviser (AP)
- For Sale in Japan: Electronics Assets (WSJ)
Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).
If one reads sellside research (especially that of Bank of America or Goldman), if one listens to comedy-finance fusion TV channels, if one reads newspapers, one can't help but be left with the impression that everyone and their grandmother is now dumping Treasurys and buying stocks. Why - because this is a key part of Bernanke's latest masterplan (which is the same as all his previous "masterplans", which have failed so far about 4 times previously) to force what little retail investing capital is left out there out of the safety of bonds (return of capital), and into stocks (return on capital). The catalyst? This time, for real, central planners will generate enough (controlled) inflation to create losses for anyone holding long duration paper (such as the Fed of course, whose DV01 is the biggest in the history of the world at over $2 billion, but we digress). So just to test whether or not this was indeed the case, we decided to go to the source data for what the smartest money of all is doing: the 20 or so (RIP 21st PD MF Global) primary dealers. After all, if everyone is dumping Treasurys over fears of an imminent surge in yields, and rotating into stocks, it would be them right? Well, the result is charted below: we present it without commentary.
- Republicans put squeeze on Obama in "fiscal cliff" talks (Reuters)
- Inquiry harshly criticizes State Department over Benghazi attack (Reuters)
- Banks See Biggest Returns Since ’03 as Employees Suffer (BBG)
- Italy president urges election be held on time (Reuters)
- Bank of England Says Sterling Hurting Economy (WSJ) - there's an app for that, it's called a Goldman BOE chairman
- China slowdown hits Indonesian farmers (FT)
- China dispute hits Japanese exports (FT)
- Market to get even more monopolized by the HFT king: Getco wins Knight with $2 bln sweetened offer (Reuters)
- MF Global Cases Focus on 'Letters' (WSJ)
- UBS fined $1.5 billion in growing Libor scandal (Reuters)
- Spotlight swings to interdealer brokers (FT)
- China Widens Access to Capital Markets (WSJ)
- With Instagram, Facebook Spars With Twitter (WSJ)
UBS and Nomura have suggested that gold could rise next week as the Federal Reserve may announce further easing at the FOMC meeting – on Tuesday (11/12/12) and Wednesday (12/12/12). Nomura said it is worth considering whether the FOMC will announce further easing to replace so called ‘Operation Twist’. The research house noted that gold remains at the same level as during the October meeting, which suggests gold has not yet priced in any move by the FOMC – creating an opportunity for gold bullion buyers. Regardless of whether the FOMC actually eases at this point – Nomura thinks there is a non-negligible probability – gold is likely to rise. Therefore, Nomura expects gold to rise and prices in this probability as the December meeting approaches, just as gold rose when the September meeting was approaching.
In our first installment of this series we explored the concept of stock to flow in the gold markets being the key driver of supply/demand dynamics, and ultimately its price. Today we are going to explore the paper markets and, importantly, to what degree they distort upwardly the “flow” of the physical gold market. We believe the very existence of paper gold creates the illusion of physical gold flow that does not and physically cannot exist. After all, if flow determines price – and if paper flow simulates physical metal movement to a degree much larger than is possible – doesn’t it then suggest that paper flow creates an artificially low price?
Leveraged systems are based on confidence – confidence in efficient exchanges, confidence in reputable counterparties, and confidence in the rule of law. As we have learned (or should have learned) with the failures of Long Term Capital Management, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie & Freddie, and MF Global – the unwind from a highly leveraged system can be sudden and chaotic. These systems function…until they don’t. CDOs were AAA... until they weren’t. Paper Gold is just like allocated, unambiguously owned physical bullion... until it’s not.
Earlier today, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), one of the few transnational financial "supervisors" which is about as relevant in the grand scheme of things as the BIS, whose Basel III capitalization requirements will never be adopted for the simple reason that banks can not afford, now or ever, to delever and dispose of assets to the degree required for them to regain "stability" (nearly $4 trillion in Europe alone as we explained months ago), issued a report on Shadow Banking. The report is about 3 years late (Zero Hedge has been following this topic since 2010), and is largely meaningless, coming to the same conclusion as all other historical regulatory observations into shadow banking have done in the recent past, namely that it is too big, too unwieldy, and too risky, but that little if anything can be done about it. Specifically, the FSB finds that the size of the US shadow banking system is estimated to amount to $23 trillion (higher than our internal estimate of about $15 trillion due to the inclusion of various equity-linked products such as ETFs, which hardly fit the narrow definition of a "bank" with its three compulsory transformation vectors), is the largest in the world, followed by the Euro area with a $22 trillion shadow bank system (or 111% of total Euro GDP in 2011, down from 128% at its peak in 2007), and the UK in third, with $9 trillion. Combined total shadow banking, not to be confused with derivatives, which at least from a theoretical level can be said to offset each other (good luck with that when there is even one counterparty failure), is now $67 trillion, $6 trillion higher than previously thought, and virtually the same as global GDP of $70 trillion at the end of 2011.