Open Market Operations
Despite the aura of control, Fed officials (and casual observers) may sense things spinning out of control. Of course, hyper-fragility is exactly the effect that all the Fed’s own actions would predictably lead to. When you divorce truth from reality, strange things are bound to happen. There is one thing that we know for sure in this strange period when bankers have tried to manage reality in the absence of truth: that advanced industrial-technological economies designed to run on $20-a-barrel oil can’t run on $100-a-barrel oil, and that is why the US economy was subject to financialization in the first place - to offset declining productive activity by an attempt to get something for nothing. The world is about to find out that you really can’t get something for nothing. It will be a harsh lesson.
This past week a near doubling of the amount to the ECB coincides with the Fed's non involvement with the direct bailout of European banks from $4,192 million to $8,343 million.
The net effect of QE4EVA is that on average, every business day in March will see the Fed effectively seed a new $4.25bn AUM investment firm whose sole goal is to buy, not sell, securities. Some of you have worked in asset management your entire careers. You know how hard it is raise assets. Out of thin air, a new $4.25bn competitor is starting up each and every business day in March, courtesy of the good folks in the Marriner-Eccles building in DC. It must be hard to sit by and watch while the Fed creates a new $4.25bn competitor every business day where the sole goal of that money is to buy simply because a Princeton academic thinks it should. The Princeton academic thinks stocks should be high, so they are. The Princeton academic thinks bond yields should be low, so they are. Period. Of course this makes a mockery of those of you who actually try to understand fundamental value, but hey, the Princeton academic gets what the Princeton academic wants. The devil take the hindmost. However, I do know that what the Fed is doing now is unsustainable and certainly unfair to those of us who actually work for a living. And what is unsustainable and unfair in the long-run does not last.
- 'London Whale' Sounded an Alarm on Risky Bets (WSJ)
- Deadly Blast Strikes U.S. Embassy in Turkey (WSJ)
- Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul (BBG)
- Endowment Returns Fail to Keep Pace with College Spending (BBG) - More student loans
- Mexico rescue workers search for survivors after Pemex blast kills 25 (Reuters)
- Lingering Bad Debts Stifle Europe Recovery (WSJ)
- Peregrine Founder Hit With 50 Years (WSJ) - there is hope Corzine will get pardoned yet
- Deutsche Bank to Limit Immediate Bonuses to 300,000 Euros
- France's Hollande to visit Mali Saturday (Reuters)
- France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war (Reuters)
- Barclays CEO refuses bonus (Barclays)
- Edward Koch, Brash New York Mayor During 1980s Boom, Dies at 88 (BBG)
- Samsung Doubles Tablet PC Market Share Amid Apple’s Lead (BBG)
There have been very few times where in my 40+ years of capital markets participation that I’ve strongly believed that we have witnessed a significant, material, public but seemingly under-discussed, under appreciated watershed event that will over the next several years, impact capital markets in a profound manner. The recent announcement by the Fed that they were to pursue the future course of monetary policy with direct regard to a specific, numerical level of unemployment in my mind, represents exactly one of those rare events. While the optics of the recent decision to accept an active target of the unemployment rate might be well meant, socially responsible and politically correct, the dependency upon the single datum construct already of a highly controversial nature may well likely reduce further the credibility of the Federal Reserve’s monetary efforts, thereby leading to slower economic growth, hiring and economic well being as adverse unintended consequences. Indeed, another triumph of form over substance wherein appearances of a literally wondrous intent might soothe the fevered brows of the public but remain entirely within the manipulative province of the data managers.
Global Central Banks agree to another year of access to FRBNY FX Swap Lines
In what is the first formal speech of Simon "Harry" Potter since taking over the magic ALL-LIFTvander wand from one Brian Sack, and who is best known for launching the Levitatus spell just when the market is about to plunge and end the insolvent S&P500-supported status quo as we know it, as well as hiring such sturdy understudies as Kevin Henry, the former UCLA economist in charge of the S&P discuss the "role of central bank interactions with financial markets." He describes the fed "Desk" of which he is in charge of as follows: "The Markets Group interacts with financial markets in several important capacities... As most of you probably know, in an OMO the central bank purchases or sells securities in the market in order to influence the level of central bank reserves available to the banking system... The Markets Group also provides important payment, custody and investment services for the dollar holdings of foreign central banks and international institutions." In other words: if the SPX plunging, send trade ticket to Citadel to buy tons of SPOOSs, levered ETFs and ES outright. That the Fed manipulates all markets: equities most certainly included, is well-known, and largely priced in by most, especially by the shorts, who have been all but annihilated by the Fed. But where it gets hilarious, is the section titled "Lessons Learned on Market Interactions through Prism of an Economist" and in which he explains why the Efficient Market Hypothesis is applicable to the market. If anyone wanted to know why the US equity, and overall capital markets, are doomed, now that they have a central planning economist in charge of trading, read only that and weep...
"The sale of Treasury securities that was tentatively scheduled for today, Monday, October 29, will take place as scheduled, with a 10:15 AM open and 11:00 AM close. However, settlement will take place on Wednesday, October 31, not Tuesday, October 30. The purchase of Treasury securities previously scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30, has been postponed, and the schedule of Treasury security operations will be updated in the coming days with details of the rescheduled operation. After today's sale, Treasury purchase and sale operations are anticipated to resume on Wednesday, October 31. Similarly, there will be no agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) trading on Tuesday, October 30. MBS trading operations are anticipated to resume on Wednesday, October 31."
Readers may recall that Ron Paul once surprised everyone with a seemingly very elegant proposal to bring the debt ceiling wrangle to a close. If you're all so worried about the federal deficit and the debt ceiling, so Paul asked, then why doesn't the treasury simply cancel the treasury bonds held by the Fed? After all, the Fed is a government organization as well, so it could well be argued that the government literally owes the money to itself. He even introduced a bill which if adopted, would have led to the cancellation of $1.6 trillion in federal debt held by the Fed. Of course the proposal was not really meant to be taken serious: rather, it was meant to highlight the absurdities of the modern-day monetary system. In a way, we would actually not necessarily be entirely inimical to the idea, for similar reasons Ron Paul had in mind: it would no doubt speed up the inevitable demise of the fiat money system. Control can be lost, and it usually happens only after a considerable period of time during which their interventions appear to have no ill effects if looked at only superficially: “Thus we learn….to be ignorant of political economy is to allow ourselves to be dazzled by the immediate effect of a phenomenon."
There was a time before the Fed announced it would commence sterilizing its Large Scale Asset Purchases when every day in which there was a Permanent Open Market Operation, or POMO (remember those?) was a gift from Bernanke, virtually assuring the market would ramp higher. This phenomenon had been documented extensively in Zero Hedge and elsewhere (a comprehensive analysis can be found in "POMO and Market Intervention: A Primer"). The pronounced market effect of POMO was diminished somewhat once the Fed sterilized the daily flow injection by selling short-term bonds to Primary Dealers, even though the Fed continues to buy $45 billion in long-term bonds to this day, effectively mopping up all 10 Year+ gross Treasury issuance, and keeping the stock of long bonds in the private market flat at ~$650 billion as we observed before. All of this is well known. What was not known is who were the Fed's POMO counterparties. Now we know. Yesterday, the Fed for the first time ever released Transaction level data for all of its Open Market Operations. The new data focuses on discount window transactions (completely irrelevant now that there are $1.7 trillion in excess reserves and the last thing banks need is overnight emergency lending from the Fed when there is already a liquidity tsunami floating, yet this is precisely what the WSJ focused on), on FX operations, and, our favorite, Open Market Operations, chief among them POMOs. What today's release reveals is that once again a conspiracy theory becomes fact, because we now know just which infamous bank was by fat the biggest monopolist of POMO operations in a period in which banks reported quarter after quarter of zero trading day losses. We leave it up to readers to discover just which bank we are referring to.
After seeing its stock market tumbling to fresh 2009 lows, the PBOC decided it couldn't take it any more, and joined the Fed's QE3 and the BOJ's QE8 (RIP) in easing. Sort of. Because while the PBOC is prevented from outright easing as we have been saying for months now (even as "experts" screamed an RRR or outright rate cut is imminent every day while we warned that Chinese inflation has proven quite sticky especially in home prices and food and China's central bank will not attempt to push its stocks up as long as the situation persists, so for quite a while) it can inject liquidity on a ultra-short term basis using reverse repos (or what are called repos here in the US). And shortly after it was found that Chinese companies industrial profits fell 6.2% in August after tumbling 5.4% in July, we learned that the PBOC added a record 365 billion Yuan to the financial system in order to prevent a creeping lockup in the banking system. While this managed to push the Shanghai Composite by nearly 3% overnight, this injection will prove meaningless in even the medium-term as the liquidity is now internalized and the PBOC has no choice but to add ever more liquidity or face fresh post-2009 lows every single day. Which it won't as very soon it will seep over into the broader market. And as long as the threat of surging pork prices next year is there, and with a global bacon shortage already appearing, and food prices set to surge in a few short months on the delayed effects of the US drought, one thing is certain: China will need a rumor that someone- even Spain- is coming to its rescue.
Just a few hours before someone (cough Draghi cough) leaked the details of the sterilized - though unlimited, peripheral spread-reducing - though not capped or fundamentally-based, SMP 2.0, Goldman Sachs released their 'view' of what Super-Mario will do. Rather unsurprisingly, almost verbatim, the rumors fit that 'guess' rather well as the chaps at Goldman fully expected demanded this 'compromise' solution. They also expect no rate cut - since economic data is not a broadly dismal and falling as it was - but do expect further non-standard measures including collateral-easing (which has been pre-announced to some extent in the 'credit-easing' camp).
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.
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.
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.
* * *
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.