The Fed can’t possibly claim it’s trying to lower interest rates with the short end of the curve essentially offering 0% and Operation Twist 2 focusing on getting the long-end even lower (at a time when the 30-year is already under 3% and the 10-year under 2%)?
On November 25, Moody's cut Hungary to junk. Now it is S&P's turn: "The downgrade reflects our opinion that the predictability and credibility of Hungary's policy framework continues to weaken. We believe this weakening is due, in part, to official actions that, in our opinion, raise questions about the independence of oversight institutions and complicate the operating environment for investors. In our view, this is likely to have a negative impact on investment and fiscal planning, which we believe will continue to weigh on Hungary's medium-term growth prospects. Moreover, in our opinion, the downside risks to Hungary's creditworthiness have also increased as the global and domestic economic environments have weakened."
There are clear signs of a liquidity crunch in the asset markets right now, and the question I keep hearing is, Is this 2008 all over again? No, it’s worse. Much worse. In 2008 there was a lot more faith and optimism upon which to draw. But both have been squandered to significant degrees by feckless regulators and authorities who failed to properly address any of the root causes of the first crisis even as they slathered layer after layer of thin-air money over many of the symptoms. Anyone who has paid attention knows that those "magic potions" proved to be anything but. Not only are the root causes still with us (too much debt, vast regional financial imbalances, and high energy prices), but they have actually grown worse the entire time. As always, we have no idea exactly what is going to happen and when, but we can track the various stresses and strains, noting that more and wider fingers of instability increase the risk of a major event. Heading into 2012, there's enough data to warrant maintaining an extremely cautious stance regarding holding onto one's wealth and increasing one's preparations towards resilience.
Stock markets globally had a torrid year with the S&P500 down 1.3%, the FTSE down 8% and the CAC and DAX down 19% and 15% respectively. Asian stock markets also fell with the Nikkei down 17%, the Hang Seng 20% and the Shanghai SE down 22%. The MSCI World Index fell 9%. Thus, gold again acted as a safe haven and protected and preserved wealth over the long term. While gold reached record nominal highs at $1,915/oz in August, it is important to continually emphasize that gold remains well below the real high, adjusted for inflation, in 1980 of $2,500/oz. Gold today at $1,625/oz is 18% below the record nominal high of $1915/oz in August 2011. More importantly, gold remains 46% below its real high of $2,500/oz. Global money supply continued to rise in 2011 and helped push gold prices to all-time highs on the fear of currency debasement. If accommodative monetary policies continue as the dominant tool for central banks, precious metals will almost certainly continue to benefit. Were this trend to turn, responsible monetary policy actions could hinder returns. We see no prospect of this in the short term – and little prospect in the medium term.
Nearly two years ago, we first breached the topic of the Fed's nuclear option: the possibility (or is that likelihood) of the Fed stepping out of the continental US and proceeding to monetize European bonds. Back then we noted: "One thing learned over the past year is that everything is a distraction for something else, and that something else, quite usually without failure, ends up being the Marriner Eccles building on Constitution Avenue in D.C. What we refer to is disclosure from a paper written by none other than the Maestro Jr, in 2004, titled "Conducting Monetary Policy at Very Low Short-Term Interest Rates" (oddly appropriate). In this paper, Bernanke discusses not only the possibility of purchasing corporate assets (bonds and stocks), but emphasizes that one other security class which the Fed may be inclined to acquire under conditions such as those today, and has an explicit authority to do so, are foreign government bonds." The specific text referenced was the following: "In simple terms, if the liquidity or risk characteristics of securities differ, so that investors do not treat all securities as perfect substitutes, then changes in relative demands by a large purchaser have the potential to alter relative security prices. The same logic might lead the central bank to consider purchasing assets other than government securities, such as corporate bonds or stocks or foreign government bonds. (The Federal Reserve is currently authorized to purchase some foreign government bonds...)" So the question then becomes: with the ECB stubbornly refusing (for now) to proceed with outright monetization, and with its balance sheet already surpassing all time records as noted earlier (see below), coupled with tomorrow's LTRO which as discussed over the weekend will be a "Risk On" attempted failure, even if providing a brief relief rally in the interim, not to mention the complete lack of any long-term viability plan out of the Eurozone (EFSF failure due to lack of demand; IMF bailout plan failure due to the UK's veto and the circular joint and several funding by Italy and Spain of an Italian and Spanish bailout), will it be, once again, the Fed which at the end of the day will have to, by covert pathways or otherwise, be forced to step in and monetize European bonds: the so called Nuclear Option? Providing the latest thoughts on the topic is SocGen's Aneta Markowska...
Morgan Stanley Deconstructs The Funding Crisis At The Heart Of The Recent Gold Sell Off, And Why The Gold Surge Can ResumeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/20/2011 11:10 -0500
A week ago, we touched upon the likelihood that the recent gold sell-off was driven primarily due to a quirk in liquidity provisioning in which gold plays a key role via its "forward lease rates", or the Libor-GOFO differential. Specifically, in "As Negative Gold Lease Rates Collapse, The Gold Sell Off Is Likely Coming To An End" we said, "In a nutshell, negative lease rates mean one has to pay for the "privilege" of lending out one's gold as collateral - a prima facie collateral crunch. The lower the lease rate, the greater the use of gold as a source of liquidity - and since the indicator is public - it is all too easy for entities that do have liquidity to game the spread and force sell offs by those who are telegraphing they are in dire straits and will sell their gold at any price if forced, to prevent a liquidity collapse." Said otherwise, the lower lease rates drop, and they recently hit a record low for the 3M varietal, the likelier it is that gold may see substantial moves lower. Today, Morgan Stanley's Peter Richardson recaps precisely what was said here, in a note titled "Recent fall in gold prices points to bank funding costs." Granted, MS only looks at the first part of the equation - the dropping lease rates, and ignores the re-normalization in gold, aka the tightening in lease rates. Well, with the 3M forward lease rate now almost back to unchanged, it appears our speculation that the gold sell off, with spot at $1575 on the 15th, is over were correct, and gold is now $40 higher, and just below the critical 200 DMA that everyone saw as the catalyst of gold going to $0. So what does MS have to add to our analysis? Well, much more optimism for one, because not only does the bank think we are right that the collapse in negative lease rates (i,e., the flattening to practically unchanged) mean the sell off is over, but such a normalization of the gold lease market has "the makings of a renewed upward assault on the recent all-time high.... Our current gold price forecast for 2012 of US$2,200/oz remains in place under these circumstances." Qed.
Two weeks ago in "Has The Imploding European Shadow Banking System Forced The Bundesbank To Prepare For Plan B?" we suggested that according to recent fund flow data, "the Bundesbank wants slowly and quietly out." Out of what? Why the European intertwined monetary mechanism of course, where surplus nations' central bank continue to fund deficit countries' accounts via an ECB intermediary. We speculated that according to the recent ECB proposal, the primary beneficiary of direct ECB intermediation in fund flows, as Draghi has been pushing for past month, would be to disentangle solvent entities like the Bundesbank, allowing it to prepare for D-Day without the shackles of trillions of Euros in deficit capital by virtually all of its counterparties. Today it is the turn of Goldman's Dirk Schumacher to pick up where our argument left off, and to suggest that it is indeed a possibility that the Buba would suffer irreparable consequences as a result of Eurozone implosion, and thus, implicitly, it is Jens Wiedmann's role to accelerate the plan of extracting the Buba from the continent's rapidly unwinding monetary (and fiscal) system. Needless to say, the possibility that a European country can leave at will, as the European Nash Equilibrium finally fails, is something the Bundesbank not only knows all too well, but is actively preparing for: here is what we said on December 6: "we may be experiencing the attempt by the last safe European central bank - Buba - to disintermediate itself from the slow motion trainwreck that is the European shadow banking (first) and then traditional banking collapse (second and last). Because as Lehman showed, it took the lock up of money markets - that stalwart of shadow liabilities - to push the system over the edge, and require a multi-trillion bailout from the true lender of last resort. The same thing is happening now in Europe. And the Bundesbank increasingly appears to want none of it." After all, Germany has been sending the periphery enough messages to where only the most vacuous is not preparing to exit. The question is just how self-serving is Germany being, and whether once Buba is fully disintermediated, Germany will finally push the domino, letting the chips fall where they may?
As Bob Janjuah, of Nomura, notes in his final dissertation of the year, our in-boxes are stuffed with all the good cheer of sell-side research outlooks. However, the bearded bear manages to cut through all the nuance to get to the six questions that need to be addressed in order to see your way successfully in 2012. With the US two-thirds of the way through the post-crisis workout phase while Europe remains only half-way through, and China a mere one-third through the necessary adjustments to less global imbalance, he is not a global uber-bear on every asset class as the net effect is modest global underlying demand and plenty of savings sloshing around looking for a home. The market, though, will have to adjust further to an extended period of weakness in Europe, which will impact EM growth expectations and so the existential ursine strategist is skewing his macro expectations to the downside and with the market pricing a 'softish' global landing, there remains a considerable gap between downside risk potential and current expectations. Furthermore, Janjuah believes the upside is relatively self-limiting on the basis of commodity price pressures and the potential for property or asset bubble bursts - leaving upside limited and downside substantial.
As we wind down 2011, the time for predictions for what is to come as nigh. Having posted what UBS believes their biggest list of surprises for 2012 will be earlier, we next proceed with out long-term favorite - Saxobank's list of "Outrageous Predictions" for what the bank has dubbed "2012: the Perfect Storm." Mostly proposed tongue in cheek (unlike predictions by other pundits who actually believe their own delusions), the list of 10 suggestions represents nothing less than an attempt to force people "out of the box" and look at the world with a set of "what if" eyes. Because if there is anything 2011 taught is, it is not to discount any one event from happening. As Saxo says: "Should one, two or three of our Outrageous Predictions come to pass, it would make 2012 a year of tremendous change. This may not necessarily be a negative thing either - and given the structure and uncertainties in the marketplace here at the end of 2011, we would suggest that even if none of our predictions come to pass, equally important and totally unanticipated events will. Sometimes we need to get to a new starting point before we can gain the right perspective. We hope 2012 will be the year where we start on the long march towards re-establishing jobs, growth and confidence." Naturally, the best outcome for 2012 would be the end of the broken status quo model, and a global fresh reset... but not even we are that deluded to believe that the quadrillions in credit money (real or synthetic) will allow such a revolutionary event to occur in such a brief period of time. At least not before everything is thrown at the intractable problem unfortunately has just one possible long-term outcome. In the meantime, here, to help readers expand their minds, is Saxo Bank's list of "Outrageous Predictions" for 2012.
The European banking system is on the verge of collapse.
How much further might gold fall? Market momentum is a powerful force and therefore further weakness is quite possible. Support is at the 200 day moving average at $1,619/oz. Below that is the psychological level of $1,600 per ounce and the 250 day moving average of $1,571/oz. Price resistance was seen at the $1,570/oz level between late April and July 2011 (see chart) and this level could become support as is often the case in bull markets. It is important to note that gold’s falls have been primarily dollar related and gold has fallen by a lot less in pound and in euro terms. Most analysts of the gold market remain of the view that this is another correction and that the medium and long term uptrend will continue due to significant investment, store of wealth and central bank demand due to geopolitical, macroeconomic, systemic and monetary risk. One analyst who appears to have a very different view regarding gold is world renowned economist Nouriel Roubini. The Chairman of Roubini Global Economics has again taken to Twitter to engage in some name calling and to appear to question gold’s recent price action and whether gold may reach $2,000/oz.
- A well-received Schatz auction from Germany rendered support to Bund futures
- ECB allotted USD 5.122bln in its 7-day USD operation - a much higher allotment than usual
- ECB's Weidmann said Bundesbank is only willing to provide fresh funds to the IMF if conditions on other countries' involvement are met, adding that losing AAA rating is not the end of the world
- Market talk that S&P may downgrade France, however the talk remains unconfirmed