Even as the ECB is desperately doing its best to stick a finger in every hole in the leaking European dam, in which just like in the US failed monetary policy is a substitute for sound fiscal one, and in which the pattern of interventions and cause and effect will now follow that of Japan until the bitter end, others are not waiting around to see the results. Reuters reports that Royal Dutch Shell is pulling some of its funds out of European banks "over fears stirred by the euro zone's mounting debt crisis, The Times reported on Monday." And shell is not the only one: more and more institutional are actively preparing to lock up their cash on a moment's notice, an eventuality which can be seen best at the ECB itself, where deposits with the ECB (collecting 0.00%), dropped to just €300 billion the lowest since 2011, while the ready for withdrawal current account saw holdings rise to a record €550 billion overnight, a €20 billion increase overnight. And so the cycle repeats anew, and Gresham's law rises to the surface, as bad money pushes out good money, and in return the situation deteriorates once more, until the next time much more than just harsh language out of the ECB will be needed just to preserve the status quo.
After last week's event-a-palooza, where the headlines, the spin, the erroneous HFT trading, and the propaganda (Draghi is too cold; Draghi is too hot; Draghi is just right) just refused to stop, we finally enter the summer proper where all of Europe is on vacation, as is congress. Add on top of this a very light macro event week and an earnings season which has seen the bulk of companies already report, and we expect the volume in the coming 5 days to be among the lowest recorded in 2012, and thus in the past decade. Which of course means that the cannibalization among the market makers will continue as more and more firms succumb to "trading anomalies."
And, as expected, it's not happy. The punchline:
The central bank is to become subordinate to finance ministers in crisis-stricken countries. In Draghi's homeland Italy, such a situation was the norm for decades -- and the result was chronic inflation. Now, he is accepting a repeat of history. On the short term, it will create relief in the debt crisis. On the long term, vengeance will be bitter."
There has been much confusion over last week's remarks by Mario Draghi, with the prevailing narrative being that the market first got what Draghi meant wrong (when it plunged), then right (when it soared). The confusion is further granulated by attempts to explain what was merely a desperate attempt at delaying a decision for action, which was inevitable considering the now open opposition by Buba's Weidmann, into a formal and planned plotline: "Inverse Twist" or other such technical jargon is what we have seen floating around. The reality is that, just like all other central bankers, Draghi did what he does best: use big words and threats of action in hope it will buy him a few extra days of time. The reality is also that, just like when the LTRO was announced, the market did get it right initially, when peripheral bonds plunged, and got it wrong over the subsequent 3 months when bond prices rose, only to collapse to new lows (and in the case of Spain - record high yields as of two weeks ago). Back then, the ECB merely bought a few months time with its transitory intervention. This time it has at best bought a few days with the lack of any actual action. And yet, Draghi did leave a way out, for at least another brief respite (where unless Europe expands the available bailout machinery yet again, the respite will have an even briefer half life than that from the LTROs). The way out is simple, and in order to avoid any confusion, we will use an allegory from the movie Batman: Spain and Italy can be saved. But first they must be destroyed.
John Tamny of Forbes is one of the more informed contributors in the increasingly dismal state of economic commentating. Tamny readily admits he is on the libertarian side of things and doesn’t give into the money-making game of carrying the flag for a favored political party under the guise of a neutral observer. He condemns the whole of the Washington establishment for our current economic woes and realizes that government spending is wasteful in the sense that it is outside the sphere of profit and loss consideration. In short, Tamny’s column for both Forbes and RealClearMarkets.com are a breath of fresh air in the stale rottenness of mainstream economic analysis. Much to this author’s dismay however, Tamny has written a piece that denies one of the key functions through which central banks facilitate the creation of money. In doing so, he lets banks off the hook for what really can be classified as counterfeiting. In a recent Forbes column entitled “Ron Paul, Fractional Reserve Banking, and the Money Multiplier Myth,” Tamny attempts to bust what he calls the myth that fractional reserve banking allows for the creation of money through credit lending. According to him, it is an extreme exaggeration to say money is created “out of thin air” by fractional reserve banks as Murray Rothbard alleged. This is a truly outrageous claim that finds itself wrong not just in theory but also in plain evidence. Not only does fractional reserve banking play a crucial role in inflationary credit expansion, it borders on being outright fraudulent.
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.