Promises Of More QE Are No Longer Sufficient: Desperate Banks Demand Reserves, Get First Fed Repo In 4 YearsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/03/2012 12:03 -0400
While endless jawboning and threats of more free (and even paid for those close to the discount window) money can do miracles for markets, if only for a day or two, by spooking every new incremental layer of shorts into covering, there is one problem with this strategy: the "flow" pathway is about to run out of purchasing power. Recall that Goldman finally admitted that when it comes to monetary policy, it really is all about the flow, just as we have been claiming for years. What does this mean - simple: the Fed needs to constantly infuse the financial system with new, unsterilized reserves in order to provide bank traders with the dry powder needed to ramp risk higher. Logically, this makes intuitive sense: if talking the market up was all that was needed, Ben would simply say he would like to see the Dow at 36,000 and leave it at that. That's great, but unless the Fed is the one doing the actual buying, those who wish to take advantage of the Fed's jawboning need to have access to reserves, which via Shadow banking conduits, i.e., repos, can be converted to fungible cash, which can then be used to ramp up ES, SPY and other risk aggregates (just like JPM was doing by selling IG9 and becoming the market in that axe). As it turns out, today we may have just hit the limit on how much banks can do without an actual injection of new reserves by the Fed. Read: a new unsterilized QE program.
When we started reading the LA Times article reporting that "the federal government has quietly been completing an audit of U.S. gold stored at the New York Fed" we couldn't help but wonder when the gotcha moment would appear. It was about 15 paragraphs in that we stumbled upon what we were waiting for: "The process involved about half a dozen employees of the Mint, the Treasury inspector general's office and the New York Fed. It was monitored by employees of the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm." In other words the Fed's gold is being audited... by the Treasury. Now our history may be a little rusty, but as far as we can remember, the last time the Fed was actually independent of the Treasury then-president Harry Truman fired not one but two Fed Chairmen including both Thomas McCabe as well as the man after whom the Fed's current residence is named: Marriner Eccles, culminating with the Fed-Treasury "Accord" of March 3, 1951 which effectively fused the two entities into one - a quasi independent branch of the US government, which would do the bidding of its "political", who in turn has always been merely a proxy for wherever the money came from (historically, and primarily, from Wall Street), which can pretend it is a "private bank" yet which is entirely subjugated to the crony interests funding US politicians (more on that below). But in a nutshell, the irony of the Treasury auditing the fed is like asking Libor Trade A to confirm that Libor Trader B was not only "fixing" the Libor rate correctly and accurately, but that there is no champagne involved for anyone who could misrepresent it the best within the cabal of manipulation in which the Nash Equilibrium was for everyone to commit fraud.
Ken Wattret who is chief Euroarea economist for BNP is quite furious with Draghi: the reason? Precisely what we warned last week: that Draghi is posturing and attempting to bluff the Bundesbank into accepting his "conditions." End result, Buba called the bluff and the ECB blew it in a fashion so spectacular that Draghi actually had to defend himself from reporters who were mocking him and the ECB with questions if the ECB won't get its inflation call wrong "again." It also prompted the head of the Central Bank to spin off Mario Draghi FX trading advisory, of which he is the sole employee, and issue the following Series 7 and 63 unauthorized advice: not to short the EUR, which incidentally was the dumbest thing he could say, because the one thing that can save Europe is if its currency keeps sliding (much to the benefit of Germany) in the process boosting Europe's manufacturing sector. That he openly warned against this is perhaps precisely why the EUR tumbled just after he said it. Trust us: the Chairsatan would love if investors were shorting the USD. Anyway, back to Draghi and the biggest French bank which realizes all too well one simple thing: Draghi no longer has credibility, and all those European banks which rely on the ECB for their day to day operations (like BNP) are suddenly far more exposed than ever before.
Ron Paul’s signature Audit the Fed legislation finally passed the House; on July 25, the House bill was passed 327 to 98. But the chances of a comprehensive audit of monetary policy — including the specifics of the 2008 bailouts — remain distant. All that the current state of secrecy does is encourage conspiracy theories. What is the FOMC trying to hide? Are they making decisions that they think would prove unpopular or inexplicable? We can’t have a real debate about policy unless we have access to all the data about decisions. Those who believe the Fed’s monetary policy has worked should welcome transparency just as much as those who believe the Fed’s monetary policy has not worked. If the Fed’s actions have been beneficial, then transparency will shine kindly on it. If not, then transparency will help us have a better debate about the road forward.
Summary of what has been said so far: Nothing, just as we said last week. Draghi basically repeated the June 29 summit bottom line that the EFSF should buy PIIGS bonds, the ECB "May" act, which means Germany is still not on board, and that after talking markets up by 5%, he has delivered nothing but a delay. This is a huge blow to his and the ECB's credibility.
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With speculation ripe out of everyone from Reuters to the FT about what Draghi may or may not say, with or without Germany's blessing, the best at this point is just to hand over the microphone to the former Goldmanite. Here is the live webcast of Draghi's press conference. Pay attention as a word out of place will send the EURUSD plunging by 200 pips. Or soaring.
The rate announcement is not the surprise: virtually nobody expected a cut which would have taken the deposit facility to a negative rate and the monetary Twilight Zone. Where the surprise will come is what Draghi announces at the press conference in 45 minutes time which we will livestream when it starts.
The S&P 500 has made little headway for two years running and as Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg points out, it first crossed 1380 on July 1, 1999 and since then has run around like a headless chicken (while other asset classes have not). Meanwhile, Europe's bottomless pit of debt deleveraging (which is as much a problem for the US and China but less ion focus for now) makes the entire discourse of some new and aggressive intervention by the ECB even more ridiculous (and all so deja vu); and the US is facing up to an entirely topless earnings season as revenues are coming in at only 1.2% above last year as it appears Q2 EPS is on track for a 0.2% YoY dip - with guidance falling fast. But apart from all that, Rosie sees the only source of real buying support for the stock market is the stranded short-seller forced to cover in the face of CB-jawboning as there is little sign of long-term believers stepping into the void.
We previously observed that the US Treasury, under advisement of TBAC Chairman Matt Zames, who currently runs JPM's CIO group in the aftermath of the London #FailWhale and who will become the next JPM CEO after Jamie Dimon decides he has had enough of competing with the Fed over just who it is that run the US capital markets, would soon commence issuing Floating Rate bonds (here and here) as well as the implication that the launch of said product is a green light to get out of Dodge especially if the 1951 Accord is any indication (which as we explained in detail previously was the critical D-Day in which the Fed formerly independent of Treasury control, effectively became a subservient branch of the government, in the process "becoming Independent" according to then president Harry Truman). Sure enough, minutes ago the TBAC just told Tim Geithner they have given their blessing to the launch of Floating Rate Notes. To Wit: "TBAC was unanimous in its support for the introduction of an FRN program as soon as operationally possible. Members felt confident that there would be strong, broad-based demand for the product." Well of course there will be demand - the question is why should Treasury index future cash coupons to inflation when investors are perfectly happy to preserve their capital even if that means collecting 2.5% in exchange for 30 Year paper. What is the reason for this? Why the Fed of course: "Whereas the Fed had, as a matter of practice, reinvested those proceeds in subsequent Treasury auctions, Treasury must now issue that debt to the public to remain cash neutral. For fiscal years 2012-2016, this sums to $667 billion." Slowly but surely, the Fed's intervention in the capital markets is starting to have a structural impact on the US bond market.
Following David Einhorn's take-down of the great and glorious Oz Larry Meyer eighteen months ago, the latter has been in training - readying his counterfactual counter-punches and controlling his ire. The king of Keynesianism just had his bell rung once again by a market realist and pragmatist as Stephen Roach destroyed the "if-we-don't-have-models-we-are-making-it-all-up" maestro and his constant diatribe of counterfactual crap. "Where's the beef, Larry?" Roach asked on CNBC this morning, which was followed up with a rabbit punch from Kiernan, "and what about Christina Romer's stimulus-employment model?" The visibly shaken (seriously watch the clip) Meyer falls back once again to a defensive pose - and while practically admitting that the Fed is impotent - as he pulls out the ultimate "but without our models we would not be able to tell you how much worse it would be without the Fed interventions". Roach takes this weak cross to the chin and comes over the top with a devastating "mark your models to market in light of what the economy has done over the four and a half years, the traction from monetary policy has been the major disappointment of this so-called post-crisis recovery." TKO.
A Fed decision to launch QE3 would increase the yellow metal’s appeal as an inflation hedge and bolster prices. US house prices increased for their 4th month in a row suggesting that the US housing market recovery may be underway which dampened further hopes of any immediate easing in the US Fed’s monetary policy. The markets are playing a waiting game and investors are cautious. Thursday’s ECB policy meeting will determine if President Mario Draghi will have the backing he needs to embark on significant policy changes to rescue the region’s financial woes. Yesterday, German Finance Minister Schauble said in an email response to a newspaper, “The rules of the European Stability Mechanism don’t foresee a banking license to allow refinancing at the European Central Bank”. Schauble’s comments fell like a penny in a wishing well that rippled to curb the market’s enthusiasm. Since Draghi’s initial comments to “do anything it takes” gold has increased by nearly $50/oz.
The Hilsenrath-Haggle Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is likely to ease monetary policy at the July 31-August 1 meeting in response to the continued weakness of the economic data and the persistent downside risks from the crisis in Europe. While we expect nothing more exciting than an extension of the current “late 2014” interest rate guidance to "mid-2015", Goldman adds in their preview of the decision that although a new Fed asset purchase program is a possibility in the near term if the data continue to disappoint, their central expectation is for a return to QE in December or early 2013.
The catalyst for the major turnaround in markets last week was comments from ECB President Draghi that he was prepared to do whatever it takes to preserve the Euro and ensure monetary policy transmission. While this is nothing more than stating his mandate (and that water is wet), the focus on 'transmission' caught the attention of many and Barclays provides a succinct flowchart of just where those transmission channels are broken. However, with SMP empirically a losing proposition for sovereign spreads, LTROs having had no impact on loans to non-financial corporates, and rate cuts not reaching the peripheral economies (and in fact signaling further divergence); it seems that short of full-scale LSAP (which JPM thinks will need to be a minimum EUR600bn to be in any way effective), whatever Draghi says will be a disappointment and perhaps that explains the weakness in European sovereigns this week as exuberance fades (or is the game to implicitly weaken the EUR to regain competitiveness).
Minutes ago French socialist president Hollande once again climbed on top of Cloud Nine, fully hopeful that Draghi's bluff would be enough:
- HOLLANDE CITES `STRONG WORDS' BY ECB'S DRAGHI ON EURO
- HOLLANDE SAYS ALL WILL BE DONE TO `DEFEND, PRESERVE' EURO
This led to a brief spike in the EURUSD until moments later, CNBC's Steve Liesman, by way of the Bundesbank, just converted Cloud Nine into Cloud Nein, which in turn was promptly pulled from under Hollande:
- BUNDESBANK TELLS LIESMAN MONETARY POLICY SHOULD FOCUS SOLELY ON PRICE STABILITY, STATES NEED FISCAL INTERVENTION
This means the Bundesbank does not give its blessing to SMP reactivation, and does not all "all" to be done to defend the Euroe.
While it is probably not surprising that so many decided to focus on those few words of relevance to an implicitly self-aggrandizing crowd of long-only risk-takers and commission-makers; the truth is that, as UBS notes, "Draghi was stating a fact, not changing a policy". Putting the fateful sentence in the context of the rest of his speech/interview is critical and most importantly, we agree with UBS' Justin Knight's opinion that Draghi did nothing more than make a technical observation on an impairment in monetary policy transmission (as we discussed here). Regardless, if our interpretation is correct, then the rally in peripheral bonds should unwind quickly. The size of the move probably has knocked many shorts out of the market.
It's all about the central banks this week.