What summarizes the clip below best:
A) Hubris; B) Greed; C) Stupidity; D) Moral Hazard; E) All of the above?
The dulcet tones of Jim Grant provided much food for thought on Tom Keene's Bloomberg Radio show this morning. While the interest rate observer did not change his tack on the extreme experimentation of world's central banks, he did have some new perspective on the incredible moral hazard (or unintended consequence) that is being created. One of his main criticisms is the incredible arrogance and conceit of a central banking system that believes it can see the future and thwart things before they come to pass, as he notes "I blame the central bankers for confusing the black art of central planning with the traditional art of central banking". He fully expects more easing by the Fed and its friends as he awaits their response to this latest stumble in the markets but what is most evident to him is that "The Fed owns the stock market" since they have financially repressed all investors into risky assets they now have been forced to have a moral responsibility to keep us safe in those assets - incredibly! The Fed is more likely than not to intervene with still more money-printing in any effort to keep this bubble afloat. What Jim focuses on is the morality in economics and the current immoral policies that have very bad consequences.
Every quarter as part of its refunding announcement, the Office of Debt Management together with the all important Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, which as noted previously is basically Wall Street's conduit telling the Treasury what to do, releases its Fiscal Quarterly Report which is for all intents and purposes the most important presentation of any 3 month period, containing not only 70 slides worth of critical charts about the fiscal status of the country, America's debt issuance, its funding needs, the structure of the Treasury portfolio, but more importantly what future debt supply and demand needs look like, as well as various sundry topics which will shape the debate between Wall Street and Treasury execs for the next 3 months: some of the fascinating topics touched upon are fixed income ETFs, algo trading in Treasurys, and finally the implications of High Frequency trading - a topic which has finally made it to the highest levels of executive discussion. It is presented in its entirety below (in a non-click bait fashion as we respect readers' intelligence), although we find the following statement absolutely priceless: "Anticipation of central bank behavior has become a significant driver of market sentiment." This is coming from the banks and Treasury. Q.E.D.
Three weeks ago we discussed the ultimate-doomsday presentation of the state of Spain which best summarized the macro-concerns facing the nation and its banks. Since then the market, and now the ratings agencies, have fully digested that meal of dysphoric data and pushed Spanish sovereign and bank bond spreads back to levels seen before the LTRO's short-lived (though self-defeating) munificence transfixed global investors. However, the world moves on and while most are focused directly on yields, spreads, unemployment rates, and loan-delinquency levels, there are two critical new numbers to pay attention to immediately - that we are sure the market will soon learn to appreciate. The first is 5%. This is the haircut increase that ECB collateral will require once all ratings agencies shift to BBB+ or below (meaning massive margin calls and cash needs for the exact banks that are the most exposed and least capable of achieving said liquidity). The second is 10%. This is the level of funded (bank) assets that are financed by the Central Bank and as UBS notes, this is the tipping point beyond which banks are treated differently by the market and have historically required significant equity issuance to return to regular private market funding. With S&P having made the move to BBB+ this week (and Italy already there), and Spain's banking system having reached 11% as of the last ECB announcement (and Italy 7.7%), it would appear we are set for more heat in the European kitchen - especially since Nomura adds that they do not expect any meaningful response from the ECB until things get a lot worse. The world is waking up to the realization that de-linking sovereigns and banks (as opposed to concentrating that systemic risk) is key to stabilizing markets.
Does believing in the "recovery" make it real? The propaganda policies of the Federal Reserve and the Federal government are based on the hope that you'll answer "yes." The entire "recovery" is founded on the idea that if the Fed and Federal agencies can persuade the citizenry that down is up then people will hurry into their friendly "too big to fail" bank and borrow scads of money to bid up housing, buy new vehicles, and generally spend money they don't have in the delusional belief that inflation is low, wages are rising and the economy is growing.... Data is now massaged for political expediency, failure is spun into success, and consequences are shoved remorselessly onto the future generations. The entire policy of the Federal Reserve and the Federal government boils down to pushing propaganda in the hopes we'll all swallow the con and believe that down is now up and our "leadership" is a swell bunch of guys and gals instead of sociopaths who will say anything to evade the consequences of their actions and policy choices.
Overall, EverBank is showing good current performance, but some of the asset quality factors and trends that I see are of concern for the future.
"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.
The Fed's currency swap with the ECB is nothing more than a covert bailout for European banks. Philipp Bagus of Mises.com explains how the USD-funding crisis occurred among European banks inevitably leading to the Fed assuming the role of international lender of last resort - for which US taxpayers are told to be lucky happy since this free-lunch from printing USD and sending them overseas provides an almost risk-free benefit in the form of interest on the swap. Furthermore, the M.A.D. defense was also initiated that if this was not done, it would be far worse for US markets (and we assume implicitly the economy). The Fed's assurances on ending the bailout policy should it become imprudent or cost-benefits get misaligned seems like wishful thinking and as the EUR-USD basis swap starts to deteriorate once again, we wonder just how long before the Fed's assumed role of bailing out the financial industry and governments of the world by debasing the dollar will come home to roost. As Bagus concludes: "Fed officials claim to know that the bailout-swaps are basically a free lunch for US taxpayers and a prudent thing to do. Thank God the world is in such good hands." and perhaps more worryingly "The highest cost of the Fed policy, therefore, may be liberty in Europe" as the Euro project is enabled to play out to its increasingly centralized full fiscal union endgame.
FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco offered some prepared remarks today making it abundantly clear that his preference is for forbearance over forgiveness in the great mortgage hole in the US balance sheet's dam. As Bank of America's Chris Flanagan noted this evening "[DeMarco] effectively nixed the idea of broad-based principal forgiveness by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" in his comments on the Treasury's incentives to forgive principal on underwater borrowers. Citing three factors - NPV Impact to taxpayer, moral hazard, and operational costs - the FHFA Director indicated that forbearance (simply put - delaying foreclosure) is effectively a shared appreciation mortgage (SAM) without the operational complexities of a more formal SAM. BofA concludes: "his preliminary remarks on the incentive approach to principal forgiveness of GSE loans [mean] that there will be zero to minimal scale of such an approach." Back to the drawing board for the Treasury (or more forced-through unintended consequences?).
Many are eagerly awaiting Bernanke's opening speech at the 2012 Financial Markets Conference "The Devil’s in the Details" which just like last year had nothing in the prepared remarks about the market, or about current labor or inflation conditions. Instead, Bernanke speaks about (what we deem far more important) Shadow Banking, repos, money markets, and other things which the market does not care about at all. And since he will not address monetary policy at all in the prepared remarks, the only hope is if a random question at the Q&A will provoke him to tell the world if the NEW QE is coming. We are not holding our breath.
Unfortunately, nobody in the Treasury seems to want to deal with the mess at Ally Financial before Election Day. But the question is whether Ally can wait until then.
In what appears to be surprising news for some, Reuters has an article titled "Americans brace for next foreclosure wave" whose key premise is that "a painful part two of the [housing] slump looks set to unfold: Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures." Thank the robosettlement, where in exchange for a few wrist slaps, contract law was thoroughly trampled by America's attorneys general, but far more importantly to the country's crony capitalist system, the foreclosure pipeline was once again unclogged, and whether one does or does not have a legal title on a given house, the banks are now fully in their right to foreclose on it. What this means also is that America's record shadow housing inventory, which is far greater than any fabricated number the NAR reports on a monthly basis, is about to get unleashed on buyers, shifting the supply curve much further to the right, as up to 9 million new properties slowly but surely appear on the market. And while many will no longer be able to live mortgage free, forcing them to go out and rent (and no longer be able to afford incremental iGizmos), it also means that the prevalent price of homes is about to take another major tumble, making buffoons out of all those who, once again, called for a housing bottom in early 2012. Here's the simply math: there will be no housing bottom until the 9 million excess homes clear. Period. Until then it is a buyer's market, even if said buyer is unable to obtain bank financing, as ultimately it will be the seller who is forced to monetize (or vacate if underwater) their home in a world of ever diminishing cashflows. The fear of the supply onslaught will only make the dumpage that much faster.
Wherein Tom Day of Sungard drops out of hyperspace just long enough to write the following missive on the PRMIA DC web rant soapbox and get a few hours sleeep. Ode to Frank Partnoy. -- Chris
The Fed is not a “dealer” giving “hits” of monetary morphine to an “addict”… the Fed has permitted cancerous beliefs to spread throughout the financial system. And the end result is going to be the same as that of a patient who ignores cancer and simply acts as though everything is fine. That patient is now past the point of no return. There can be no return to health. Instead the system will eventually collapse and then be replaced by a new one.
Thank you Ben Shalom Bernanke for being the singular pompous PhD idiot who can take the yeoman's credit for navigating this entire golbal ship of financial farce into the sargasso sea of pinstriped fraud.