A week ago we wrote: 'While it has been public for a long time that i) JPM is eager to sell its physical commodities business and ii) the most likely buyer was little known Swiss-based Mercuria, there was nothing definitive released by JPM. Until moments ago, when Jamie Dimon formally announced that JPM is officially parting ways with the physical commodities business. But while contrary to previous expectations, following the sale JPM will still provide commercial gold vaulting operations around the world, it almost certainly means farewell to Blythe Masters." Sure enough:
JP MORGAN COMMODITY CHIEF BLYTHE MASTERS LEAVING, WSJ SAYS
Farewell Blythe: we hope your replacement will be just as skilled in keeping the price of physical gold affordable for those of us who keep BTFD every single day.
In what is a true double whammy of market structure stunners from Goldman over the past week, not only has the firm done an about face on HFT (we eagerly await Goldman's pardon of "HFT market manipulator" and former Goldman employee Sergey Aleynikov) and is now actively bashing the high freaks (much to the chagrin of Virtu and its pulled IPO, whose lead underwriter Goldman just happened to be), overnight it was reported that Goldman is also in the process of selling its "designated market-maker" unit to Dutch firm IMC Financial Markets to sell the trading business.
Yesterday's news from the NAR that in February all cash transactions accounted for 35% of all existing home purchases, up from 33% in January, not to mention that 73% of speculators paid "all cash", caught some by surprise. But what this data ignores are new home purchases, where while single-family sales have been muted as expected considering the plunge in mortgage applications, multi-family unit growth - where investors hope to play the tail end of the popping rental bubble - has been stunning, and where multi-fam permits have soared to the highest since 2008. So how does the history of "all cash" home purchases in the US look before and after the arrival of the 2008 post-Lehman "New Normal." The answer is shown in the chart below.
For the past five years we have been complaining about the two-tiered, and broken, market resulting from the near-ubiquitous presence of HFT trading strategies, where fundamentals have been tossed into the trash, and where quote churning, packet stuffing and not to mention, momentum ignition, put on candid display just before market open today when the Emini was ramped in a vertical line straight up taking the S&P to new all time highs, have become the only trading strategies that matter. Why? Because algos were in a panic buying mode as other algos were in a panic buying mode, and so reflexively on. The SEC long ignored our complaints, even after the HFT-precipitated flash crash, which we had warned apriori would happen, in a market as broken and manipulated as the one the Fed and the algos have unleashed. This changed recently when NY AG Schneiderman finally decided to "look into things" following the release of Virtu's ridiculous prop trading profits when the firm, in its IPO prospectus, announced it had made money on 1327 of 1328 trading days. However, when even Goldman Sachs begins complaining about HFT, it may be time to fire all those 20-some year old math PhDs who devies your trading algorithms.
Just last week Goldman noted that February was "the busiest month in the buyback desk's history," so one has to wonder just what management is thinking when the Wall Street Journal reports that corporate insiders are more bearish than they have been at least since 1990. According to this adjusted measure, there have been two prior occasions when the insider ratio got almost as bearish as it is today - early 2007 and early 2011 - and the first came a half a year before the beginning of the worst bear market since the 1930s. Simply put, it seems management teams are using their company's balance sheet as their own personal piggybank.
Bond Trading Grinds To A Halt: Goldman Set To Report Weakest Q1 Since 2005; Revenues Down As Much As 25% ElsewhereSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/12/2014 11:47 -0400
Since Wall Street has been explicitly fighting the Fed (remember: the main reason there is no volume is because nobody is selling) Wall Street has once again lost, and despite its appeals, the time to pay the piper has come. Said payment will be taken out of bank Q1 earnings which as everyone knows, will continue the declining trend seen in recent years (so much for that whole Net Interest Margin fable), but to learn just how bad, we go to the FT which reports that fixed income groups across Wall Street "are set for their worst start to the year since before the financial crisis, with revenue declines of up to 25%." The punchline: "Analysts now expect Goldman Sachs to record its weakest first quarter since 2005 and JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are forecast to see their lowest revenues since they bought Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, respectively, in 2008."
Over the weekend we reported that even Goldman has now highlighted what has been clear to most, but certainly not the Fed, for quite some time: stocks are in such an epic bubble, with many of the key valuation metrics notably EV/sales, off the charts and at all time highs, that even Goldman's own clients are asking "When does the party end?" Goldman Sachs was kind enough to point out that while buying into undervalued stocks at this record high market junction may be a safe bet, the alternative, going long the most overvalued stocks usually ends in tears. So just what are these most overvalued stocks? To answer this question David Kostin screens for those Russell 1000 companies with the highest EV/Sales ratios, and finds 40 companies, with a ratio between 10x and 875x (median of 15x compared to the overall Russell's 2x), that fit the bill. The answer - the list of the America's most overvalued companies - is shown in the table below.
According to Goldman, the median company’s EV/sales ratio is now the highest in 35 years, surpassing even the dot com bubble.
Take a wild guess...
Yesterday Bank of America beat thanks to (among other things) ye olde "plunge in the effective tax rate" gimmick which let it beat EPS by two cents instead of missing by three. Today it was Goldman's turn to "beat" lowered EPS expectations of $4.18, posting a substantial beat of $4.60. So did Goldman also fudge its tax rate? Not exactly: instead, what Goldman did was to reduce its compensation benefits from $2.4 billion to $2.2 billion, which meant the firm's compensation margin declined from 35.2% to a tiny 24.9% of revenue. Had Goldman kept the comp margin flat it would have missed EPS by about 50 cents. However, unlike the other "banks" Goldman at least did post a notable beat in GAAP revenues (it was reluctant to use a non-GAAP top line, hear that Jamie?) as well, with Q4 sales rising from $6.7 billion in Q3 to $8.8 billion, on expectations of $7.8 billion. However, compared to a year ago, the top line was 5% lower, while Net Income of $4.60 was 21% lower than a year earlier.
Non-GAAP EPS, sure. But non-GAAP revenues? Up until today one would think that kind of accounting gimmickry is solely reserved for the profitless one-hit wonders of the world, i.e. Tesla, but moments ago we just saw JPM report two sets of revenues: one which was the firm's GAAP revenue, and which was $23.156 billion, and another, far higher number, which was $24.112 billion which JPM described as revenue on a "managed basis" or also known as non-GAAP, and largely made up as they go along. So continuing with the other fudges, JPM also reported Net Income of $5.3 billion, or EPS of $1.30, once again on a pseudo-GAAP basis. However, this wouldn't be JPM if it didn't have a boat load of adjustments, and sure enough it did as per the waterfall schedule below. As can be seen, the biggest benefit aside from the $0.32 DVA & FVA (yes, blowing out your CDS is profitable once more), was the $0.27 in litigation charges. Of course, for these to be an addback, they have to be non-recurring instead of repeated, guaranteed every quarter, but once again, who cares. And since we choose to stick with GAAP, the bottom line is that JPM revenues dropped from $23.7 billion in Q4 2012 to $23.2 billion this quarter, while EPS dropped from $1.39 to $1.31. Oh, and yes: for the purists, here is the bottom line: of that $5.3 billion in "earnings", $1.3 billion or double the expected (at least from Barclays) $616MM, came from loan loss reserve releases. Accounting magic wins again.
While Wall Street's hordes of lawyers are doing their best to find the various loopholes in the Volcker Rule that will allow them to resume unconditional prop trading, they are being kept busy with all the various other forms of regulation that have been thrown at them by regulators and the government in an attempt to make it appear that it is not Wall Street but DC that calls the shots. Some, however, such as Morgan Stanley have decided instead of engaging in costly fight with domestic regulation, to engage in cross border regulatory arbitrage, and focus on other, more prop-trading jurisdiction. Like India. As the Economic Times reports, the Indian brokerage arm of global investment banker Morgan Stanley has sought RBI's approval to start proprietary trading under which it will be able to buy and sell securities on its own account in India.
The ink on the final Volcker Rule has not dried yet, and already the TBTF armies of lawyers have found all the loopholes in the rule they need to continue prop trading as if nothing has changed. Enter Goldman Sachs which as the WSJ reported, is raising a new fund, to which it will contribute 20% in capital, which will make investments in commercial real estate-backed loans including office buildings, hotels, and shopping centers. "Goldman has raised more than $1 billion for the new fund, according to people briefed on the matter. The fund aims to boost that total to $2 billion, and Goldman expects to invest "up to 20% of total equity commitments," according to September marketing documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal." Just how did Goldman get the green light to allocated up to $400 million for what is clearly a prop trading bet: "because regulators excluded many real-estate loans from the tough restrictions on investment funds, allowing Wall Street firms to continue making concentrated bets—sometimes risky ones—with their own capital." In other words, when it comes to reflating the precious real estate bubble, anything goes.
Curious how much the various banks who stood to be impacted by or, otherwise, benefit from either a concentration or dilution of the Volcker rule? According to OpenSecrets, which crunched the numbers, here is how much being able to continue prop trading meant to some of the largest US banks and lobby groups:
- American Bankers Association: $6.495 million
- JPMorgan: $4 million
- Wells Fargo: $4.440 million
- Citigroup: $4.240 million
- Independent Community Bankers of America: $3.581 million
- Bank of America: $2 million
Not bad considering the loophole-ridden Volcker Rule will effectively permit "hedge" books (where an army of lawyers paid $1000/hour defines just what a hedge is) to continue piling on billions of dollars in wildly profitable, Fed reserve funded trades.