In the same way that FDR had an existential political interest in generating inflation and preventing volatility in the US labor market, so does the US Executive branch today (regardless of what party holds the office) have an existential political interest in generating inflation and preventing volatility in the US capital markets. Transforming Wall Street into a political utility was an afterthought for FDR; today the relative importance of the labor markets and capital markets have completely switched positions. Today, the quote would be "markets are too important to be left to investors."
One day after the Greek "pre-deal" was announced and the world breathed a sigh of relief, sending US stocks soaring and Greek halted stocks, well, tumbling (via ETFs and ADRs), things are oddly quiet and in fact quite red in Europe, with futures in the US modestly lower, following both China's first red close in several days (SHCOMP -1.2%), and a Europe which is hardly looking very euphoric at this moment: it is almost as if the algos finally got to read the fine print of the Greek deal after trading all day on just the headlines.
The Greek D-(efault) day has arrived, and with it so has quarter-end window dressing for many underwater hedge funds (recall the S&P is now red for the 2015) which means the rumor mill today will be off the charts. And sure enough, less than an hour ago, futures exploded higher as did the EURUSD, following another "report/rumor" of a last minute detente between Greece and the Troika when Greek Ekahtimerini said that "Tsipras is reconsidering the last-ditch offer made by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, sources have told Kathimerini."
Bill Gross just revealed another aspect of trading in the new (or any) normal: one may get the direction and the timing with laser-like precision (as Gross did on his Bund trade), but if said trade is excecuted in a way where the inherent "coiled spring" volatility of the Gross-defined "new normal" blows up the trade structure, the losses will make one wish never to have had the correct idea in the first place.
Who would have thought all it takes for Eurozone Q4 GDP to print above expectations, even if by the smallest of possible margins - one which even the Chinese goalseek-o-tron bows its head down to in respect - which at 0.3% Q/Q was above the 0.2% expected and above Q3's 0.2%, was for Europe to admit it has finally succumbed to deflation. Oh, and for the ECB to admit the situation has never been more serious by launching Q€. Oh, and add the "estimated contribution" to GDP from hookers and drugs. Put all that together and on an annualized basis, the European economy grew by 1.4%. Whatever the reason, Q4 GDP was the best print since Q1, even as Germany blew not only consensus of 0.3%, but the highest GDP estimate of 0.6% out of the water when it reported that courtesy of a spike in spending, its economy grew by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, up from the near-recessionary 0.1% in Q3. That, together with QE and ZIRP now raging across the continent, was enough to push the DAX above 11,000 for the first time ever.
Back in October of 2012, Hugh Hendry proposed a very simple investment thesis: '"I am long gold and I am short gold mining equities. There is no rationale for owning gold mining equities. It is as close as you get to insanity. The risk premium goes up when the gold price goes up. Societies are more envious of your gold at $3000 than at $300. And there is no valuation argument that protects you against the risk of confiscation. And if you are bullish gold why don’t you buy gold ETFs, gold futures or gold bullion." Since then, anyone who listened to Hendry has made a substantial double digit return (yes, one can make double digits returns on gold even when gold is sliding: such is the "magic" of long gold, short GDX pair trades). However, following a massive, 50%+ selloff, there comes a time when even gold miner stocks become attractive to those with deep pockets filled with reserve fiat. For someone like China, that time may be now. The WSJ reports that China's largest gold company, China National Gold Group Corp., has talked to Ivanhoe Mines "about buying a stake in or asset from the company."
Our "silver lining" concluding remark to last week's lackluster 10 Year bond reopening auction was that "the good news is that with the reopening, dealers should have some additional collateral for a while, or at least until the Fed monetizes it. Look for this CUSIP - VB3 (On The Run) to remain on the POMO exclusion lists for white a while." Sure enough, following the Friday settlement of this auction, things in the Treasury repo market have normalized somewhat after hitting very dangerous levels. How bad did it get? The following chart of failures to deliver from the NY Fed shows just how acute the shortage of "high quality collateral" (where the 10 Year is the fulcrum instrument) got in the past two months, with the total rising to $129 billion, or the biggest freeze in the repo market since the debt-ceiling crisis in the summer of 2011 when this number hit $280 billion.
The announcement by the UK Treasury and BoE to take co-ordinated steps to boost credit and with the central bank re-activating its emergency liquidity facility has resulted in a sharp move higher in UK fixed income futures. GBP swaps are now pricing in a cut of 25bps in the base rate by the end of this year and following on from Goldman Sachs, analysts at Barclays and BNP Paribas are now calling for an increase in QE next month. The new measures have seen the likes of Lloyds Banking Group (+4.3%) and RBS (+7.0%) outperform the more moderate gains observed in their European counterparts. Meanwhile in Europe the focus remains on the possibility of co-ordinated action from the major central banks. However, it would seem more realistic that any new measures will likely come after the Greek election results are known and once ministers have conducted their G20 meetings. Given that there is an EU level conference call this afternoon scheduled for 1500BST the likelihood of rumours seem high but as the wires have indicated already these conversations are purely based upon co-ordination ahead of the meeting which is usual practice. The yields in Spain and Italy have been a lot calmer so far with the 10yr in Spain at 6.88%, off the uncomfortable test of 7% seen yesterday.
"Stocks off just shy of 1%, which erases most of yesterday’s gains, which erased most of Monday’s losses. After tomorrow, will you be able to say that Thursday’s gains erased most of Wednesday’s losses, which erased most of Tuesday’s gains, which had erased most of Monday’s losses? With apathy running high and conviction low, that sounds just as reasonable as anything else."
With the EUR imploding following the recent note out of witchhunt target extraordinaire Egan-Jones, and the apparent inability of the ECB to handle the sandtrap on the 18th (they were supposed to announce the magical mystical bailout announcement 20 minutes ago), it makes sense to check up on the most recent InTrade odds for a [Insert first two letters of a peripheral European country]-xit, or, technically, the odds"Any country currently using the Euro to announce intention to drop it before midnight ET 31 Dec 2012." As of minutes ago, this number was 40%. This, however, appears to be a simple Fibonacci retracement to the all time high of 60% seen last November. And while we don't have an opinion one way or another, this level certainly provides pair trade opportunities: recall that according to Buiter, Greece is out by January 1, 2013, so technically a 100% probability, while the ECB gives 0% odds of a Grexit, ever. In other words, two pair trades of Buying ECB while Shorting InTrade, and Buying InTrade while Shorting Citi, virtually guarantees profits.
Remember when Jamie Dimon told the world the CIO stories were a "tempest in a teapot" during the firm's Q1 conference call the very same day we accused the CIO of being the world's biggest prop desk (aside from the Fed of course) and that the JP Morgan was merely "hedging" its positions? It appears that just like Vegas, it's the lie that keeps on giving. Because as it turns out in addition to being a massive undisclosed loss leader courtesy of 'unlimited downside' CDS pair trades (anyone remember DB employee Boaz Weinstein?) which have yet to be unwound, and which may have a total book loss of up to or over $31.5 billion as explained before, that was merely the tip of the prop-trading iceberg. The WSJ reports: "The JPM unit whose wrong-way bets on corporate credit cost the bank more than $2 billion includes a group that has invested in financially challenged companies, including LightSquared Inc., the wireless broadband provider that this month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The group within the CIO doing the distressed equity investing is known as the Special Investments Group. Whether it should be part of the CIO in the future is something that Matt Zames, who was put in charge of the CIO this month after the losses were disclosed, is evaluating, according to a person familiar with the bank. He is also examining whether the bank should keep some of these investments, the person said... The Special Investments Group last year took a $150 million stake in closely held LightSquared, in a deal that J.P. Morgan lost money on, according to a person familiar with the bank." But, but, surely they were hedging their offsetting position in er, uhm, non-satellite, telegraph stocks? In yet other words, an SIO within the CIO... once again Wall Street's only value added shines through - baffle them with acronym-based bullshit. And of course, everyone is busy hedging, hedging, the firm's other positions... Or not: as these are pure play directional prop bets. And all are funded by, you guessed it, your deposit dollars. Which one day will go boom, when JPM suffers a loss so large that not even the Fed bails them out any more (Jon Corzine anyone?).
It has been a while since we have seen any clearly actionable compression (or divergence) trade opportunities in a market that so far in 2012 been abused almost exclusively by central planners and robots. However, today we believe it is time to point out what appears to be a very distinct arb pair: specifically, the divergence between the EURUSD and the Italian-Bund spread. As can be seen on the chart below, the first time we saw a material divergence between the two very tightly correlated series was in mid-March when the phase out of LTRO2 spooked the FX market but still left enough dry powder at Italian banks to provide a fake support for Italian bonds. That did not last long, and the subsequent month saw another push wider in Italian (and Spanish, and all other PIIG) spreads to Bunds, however not wide enough. It appears that a long EURUSD vs. short Italian bonds (or rather Italian-Bund spreads widening) here could provide for substantial alpha, with either roughly 300 pips in EURUSD upside, or nearly 75 bps of Italian spread upside once the dust settles and the two series reconverge.
Update: JPMORGAN SAYS DIMON TO AGREE TO TESTIFY TO SENATE. Ummmm, there was an option?
As everyone (or at least Zero Hedge) long expected, JPM's prop trading debacle just got political and senators are about to demonstrate to the world just how little they understand about modern IG9-tranche pair trades. Expect to hear much more about JPM's "shitty" prop deal.
In the neverending saga that is the Greek exchange offer we have a new and very important player: the head of the Greek debt management agency, Petros Christodoulou, who is now actively threatening any Greek hold out hedge funds against doing what is in their LPs' best interests (suing Greece and the EU and holding out for par recoveries - as discussed here), by using not only the now trite and idiotic Mutual Assured Destruction clause which only those stuck in 2008 believe is remotely credible, but by advising hedge funds (which are actively forming ad hoc hold out committees as we speak, just as we predicted 6 weeks ago) that "there is just no money for holdouts...We are prepared for legal challenges but the risk here is that people are trying to be too smart." Oh, so now if one does what is in their interest, and dare hold out against collectivist fascist interests, they are "trying to be smart." We wonder if Mr. Christodoulou learned such brute force negotiating tactics at one of his former employers: JP Morgan or Goldman That's right - as we wrote over two years ago, the man who is now negotiating for Greece's and Europe's life (because a failed PSI will not only trigger CDS, more importantly it will result in an out of control default of Greece and likely its exist from the Euro and the Eurozone - two things that Germany would be delighted to see) is a former employee of the two companies that just so happens are the co-chairmen of the US Treasury Borriwng Advisory Committee, or as we have also called it before, "The Supercommittee That Really Runs America." Is the pattern finally emerging?
While we are aware of politicians' repeated vows about the uniqueness of the Greek case, we remain deeply skeptical. After all, hasn't it been a winning investment strategy to assume that the exact opposite of whatever Europe's elite says will become fact? The recently overheard and filmed conversation between Germany's and Portugal's finmins (http://t.co/iDA9HJPo) points in the direction of an imminent review of the Portuguese case and might be a harbinger of PSI, OSI etc à la Gréce. And why stop there? Why not relieve the Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese etc. of their troublesome load? Wouldn't it be nice to pull a Greek and finally make it for those pesky Maastricht criteria? But regardless of one's view on the ongoing crisis, it makes perfect sense to go where no investor has gone before. We did the unthinkable, read the unreadable and made it back alive to tell the tale: we ploughed through all of the individual bond prospectuses of our favorite list of countries in peril and actually found a lot of useful information for the investor. Given that the sovereign bonds of the Eurozone used to be looked at as riskless assets, it is safe to assume that the exercise hasn't been done by a lot of investors on a regular basis. Judging by the difficulty to even obtain the information, both the interest of investors to obtain it and that of issuers and underwriters to provide it has been and remains extremely limited.