- G20 struggles over forex, at odds over debts (Reuters)
- Alwaleed Sells Airbus A380 to Invest in Middle East Firms (BBG)
- GOP Stalls Vote on Pick for Pentagon (WSJ)
- ECB officials rebuff currency targeting as G20 meets (Reuters)
- Not good for the reflation effort: Muto leads as Japan PM close to choosing nominee for Bank of Japan chief (Reuters)
- M&A Surges as Confidence Spurs Deals in Computers to Consumer (BBG)
- JPMorgan’s head of equity prop trading Gulati to launch own fund (FT)
- Tiffany & Co. sues Costco over engagement rings labeled ‘Tiffany' (WaPo)
- JPMorgan Said to Fire Traders, Realign Pay Amid Slump (BBG)
- Broker draws Tullett into Libor scandal (FT)
- Airbus drops Lithium-Ion batteries for A350 (Reuters)
When it comes to "get rich quick" housing schemes, one can be a bank prop trading desk or a hedge fund, with access to the Federal "REO-To-Rent" program which grants a costless purchase of distressed real estate with zero cash down, in order to facilitate the subsidized removal of housing inventory from the market, or, if one is not too big to fail, one can simply pull off an Andre Barbosa, the infamous Boca Raton squatter who used the "adverse possession" loophole to claim title to a multi-million mansion. Or, as it turns out now, one can take advantage of the latter and lever it up even more, by renting out other people's foreclosed property without ever being present, while claiming ownership rights through "adverse possession", keeping the inbound cash flow while having someone else on the hook should the cops come knocking.
Everyone knows that for the better part of the past year Apple was the world's biggest company by market cap. Most also know that AAPL aggressively uses all legal tax loopholes to pay as little State and Federal tax as possible, despite being one of the world's most profitable companies. Many know, courtesy of our exclusive from September, that Apple also is the holding company for Braeburn Capital: a firm which with a few exceptions, also happens to be among the world's largest hedge funds, whose function is to manage Apple's massive cash hoard with virtually zero reporting requirements, and whose obligation is to make sure that AAPL's cash gets laundered legally and efficiently in a way that complies with prerogative #1: avoid paying taxes. What few if any know, is that as part of its cash management obligations, Braeburn, and AAPL by extension, has conducted a mindboggling $600 billion worth of gross notional trades in just the past four years, consisting of buying and selling assorted unknown securities, or some $250 billion in 2012 alone: a grand total which represents some $1 billion per working day on average, and which puts the net turnover of some 99% of all hedge funds to shame! Finally, what nobody knows, except for the recipients of course, is just how much in trade commissions AAPL has paid on these hundreds of billions in trades to the brokering banks, many (or maybe all) of which may have found this commission revenue facilitating AAPL having a "Buy" recommendation: a rating shared by 52, or 83% of the raters, despite the company's wiping out of one year in capital gains in a few short months.
Over the course of the last two weeks, I attempted to explain to the general investing public how, thanks to the virtual impossibility of distinguising between 'legitimate' market making and 'illegitimate' prop trading, some of America's systemically important financial institutions are able to trade for their own accounts with the fungible cash so generously bestowed upon them by an unwitting multitude of depositors and an enabling Fed.
To some, today is Martin Luther King day and as a result the US markets are closed, especially since today is also the day when Obama celebrates his second inauguration with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor at his side (hopefully not on the taxpayers' dime). To others, January 21 is nothing more than the anniversary of the real beginning of the end, when five years ago a little known SocGen trader named Jerome Kerviel could no longer hide his massive futures positions and was forced to unwind them, sending global indices plunging resulting in the biggest single day drop in the Dax (-7.2%), and punking the Fed into an unannounced 75 bps cut. Luckily, today such cataclysmic unwinds are impossible as the market is priced perfectly efficiently, without central bank intervention, price transparency is ubiquitous and the Volcker rule has made prop trading by banks, funded by Fed reserves (which are nothing more than the monetization of excess budget deficits) and excess deposits, impossible.
"April 10 was the first trading day in London after the “London Whale” articles were published. When the U.S. markets opened (i.e., towards the middle of the London trading day), one of the traders informed another that he was estimating a loss of approximately $700 million for the day. The latter reported this information to a more senior team member, who became angry and accused the third trader of undermining his credibility at JPMorgan. At 7:02 p.m. GMT on April 10, the trader with responsibility for the P&L Predict circulated a P&L Predict indicating a $5 million loss for the day; according to one of the traders, the trader who circulated this P&L Predict did so at the direction of another trader. After a confrontation between the other two traders, the same trader sent an updated P&L Predict at 8:30 p.m. GMT the same day, this time showing an estimated loss of approximately $400 million. He explained to one of the other traders that the market had improved and that the $400 million figure was an accurate reflection of mark-to-market losses for the day."
A week ago, when Wells Fargo unleashed the so far quite disappointing earnings season for commercial banks (connected hedge funds like Goldman Sachs excluded) we reported that the bank's deposits had risen to a record $176 billion over loans on its books. Today we conduct the same analysis for the other big two commercial banks: Wells Fargo and JPMorgan (we ignore Citi as it is still a partially nationalized disaster). The results are presented below, together with a rather stunning observation.
Today at 4pm Eastern, Ben Bernanke, at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, will take live questions from Twitter for the first time as part of the Fed's new policy of openness. Of course, the policy won't be so open for him to answer if banks are actually using reserves as prop trading funding (as was the case with JP Morgan, and any other bank which realizes that when it comes to fungible cash, money is just 1s and 0s in a server somewhere). However, the filter may slip and at least one or two good questions may slip through. So please take this opportunity to submit any pressing questions you may have on the Fed's policy to pump the market to new stratospheric highs courtesy of $85 billion (for now) in monthly reserve injections into the Primary Dealers, by using the #fordschoolbernanke tag to your questions. For convenience, we have appended a twitter module below that captures all tweets with that querry.
Previously, in our first two editions of FleeceBook, we focused on "public servants" working for either the Bank of International Settlements, or the Bank of England (doing all they can to generate returns for private shareholders, especially those of financial firms). Today, for a change, we shift to the private sector, and specifically a bank situated at the nexus of public and private finance: JP Morgan, which courtesy of its monopolist position at the apex of the Shadow Banking's critical Tri-Party Repo system (consisting of The New York Fed, The Bank of New York, and JP Morgan, of course) has an unparalleled reach (and domination - much to Lehman Brother's humiliation) into not only traditional bank funding conduits, but "shadow" as well. And of all this bank's employees, by far the most interesting, unassuming and "underappreciated" is neither its CEO Jamie Dimon, nor the head of JPM's global commodities group (and individual responsible for conceiving of the Credit Default Swap product) Blythe Masters, but one Matt Zames.
While Wall Street combs through Wells Fargo's numbers (which unlike the rest of US banks is not just a glorified hedge fund and actually still lends out deposits, primarily to fund home loans) to find some glimmer of good news (judging by the stock price it hasn't succeeded yet and won't), there is just one number that is of particular significance: that would be $176.5 billion, or the amount of excess total deposits ($976.1 billion) over loans ($799.6 billion) as of Q4. This is an all time record delta (as is to be expected since the entire US financial system now has a $2 trillion excess in deposits over loans), and a dramatic inversion from the excess loans over deposits that marked the bank's "Old Normal" balance sheet.
Back in December 2011, we previewed the rotation in the FOMC's voting block with "When Doves Laugh: 4 Weeks Until The Quiet Coup In The Fed Gives QE3 A Green Light", a post whose summary was that as a bevy of new voting doves came in, it made QE3, then very much a taboo topic - because, you see, "the economy was improving on its own" - virtually inevitable (despite some angry comments from even our own readers). Naturally, as 2012 played out, we got not only QE3 but QE4EVA. So now what? Well, with the new year comes the now traditional new roster of voting regional Fed president members. And while the supremacy of the Bernanke core supermajority group of 8 permanent voters (especially with the three new hires) will never be in jeopardy, 4 new regional presidents join the core group of Bernanke doves. The new voting FOMC members: Evans, Rosengren, Bullard and George. They replace Pianalto, Lockhart, Williams and consummate critic and sole voice of reason and opposition at the Fed in 2011, Lacker. So how does the layout of the 2013 FOMC nest of hawks and doves look like? SocGen summarizes.
Earlier today, Bill Frezza of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and CNBC's Steve Liesman got into a heated exchange over a recent Frezza article, based on some of the key points we made in a prior post "A Record $2 Trillion In Deposits Over Loans - The Fed's Indirect Market Propping Pathway Exposed" in which, as the title implies, we showed how it was that the Fed was indirectly intervening in the stock market by way of banks using excess deposits to chase risky returns and generally push the market higher. We urge readers to spend the few minutes of this clip to familiarize themselves with Frezza's point which is essentially what Zero Hedge suggested, and Liesman's objection that "this is something the banks don't do and can't do." Liesman's naive view, as is to be expected for anyone who does not understand money creation under a fractional reserve system, was simple: the Fed does not create reserves to boost bank profits, and thus shareholder returns, and certainly is not using the fungible cash, which at the end of the day is what reserves amount to once dispersed among the US banks, to gun risk assets higher.
Alas, Steve is very much wrong.
Perhaps one of the most startling and telling charts of the New Normal, one which few talk about, is the soaring difference between bank loans - traditionally the source of growth for banks, at least in their Old Normal business model which did not envision all of them becoming glorified, Too Big To Fail hedge funds, ala the Goldman Sachs "Bank Holding Company" model; and deposits - traditionally the source of capital banks use to fund said loans. Historically, and logically, the relationship between the two time series has been virtually one to one. However, ever since the advent of actively managed Central Planning by the Fed, as a result of which Ben Bernanke dumped nearly $2 trillion in excess deposits on banks to facilitate their risk taking even more, the traditional correlation between loans and deposits has broken down. It is time to once again start talking about this chart as for the first time ever the difference between deposits and loans has hit a record $2 trillion! But that's just the beginning - the rabbit hole goes so much deeper...
For those who want to imitate what is once again the world's largest hedge fund (reclaiming the spot from Apple's own prop trading vehicle, Braeburn, first exposed here), Ray Dalio's Bridgewater, which at last check had $138 billion in AUM ($76 billion Pure Alpha, $63 billion All Weather), the path is simple: just recreate the performance shown on the chart below over a period of two decades. (Oh and stop "trading" on Twitter and do some real trading).
Greg Smith's 15 minutes of fame has come and gone, but the muppet crushing at Goldman is only starting to ramp up, courtesy of the man who singlehandedly has made sure Goldman's FX prop trading team should be the most profitable one in the entire universe by simply doing the opposite of what Goldman's clients do. As a reminder, sent out at 5 pm yesterday, as we alerted our Twitter followers: "Go long EUR/CAD on further risk premium compression in the EUR and a more dovish BoC... We recommend going long EUR/CAD at a current level of 1.296 with an initial target of 1.37 and a stop on a London close below 1.26." Big Oops (see chart). Then again, after Stolper epic failure to Impala the muppets on his last EURUSD trade reco, it is great to see him back to 0.000 batting form.