Prop Trading

JPM's London Whale Fine: At Least $750 Million

What started off as a tempest in a teacup just ended up becoming not only the largest, $6.2 billion prop trading blunder in JPMorgan history, but the latest ligitation headache for Jamie Dimon amounting to at least $750 million to get the government off his back, and who will of course neither admit nor deny it used customer deposits in an attempt to corner the IG and HY markets:

  • JPMORGAN SAID TO AGREE TO AT LEAST $750 MILLION IN WHALE FINES
  • JPMORGAN SAID TO SEEK END TO U.S., U.K REGULATORY PROBES IN Q
  • SOME WHALE SETTLEMENTS MAY BE ANNOUNCED AS EARLY AS THIS WEEK
  • JPM TO ADMIT FAULTY INTERNAL CONTROLS IN WHALE SETTLEMENT: WSJ

Of course, we hope that as part of the settlement JPM will announce just what it is investing its current $500 billion in prop trading dry powder in as we disclosed last week.

JPMorgan Balance Sheet Update: Record $500 Billion In Prop Trading Dry Powder

In the aftermath of the JPM CIO prop trading blunder, the firm disclosed that the capital used for risky bets such as attempting to corner the IG or HY markets was the result of excess deposits over loans, which at that time stood at $423 billion, resulting in $323 billion in CIO invested and non Marked-to-Market "Available for Sale" securities. Following yesterday's CFO update on the state of the mortgage market, which we recapped here, and which warned how the recent spike in rates would impact the firm's balance sheet, the firm also provided an updated snapshot of its balance sheet as of June 30, broken down by core capital components. We now know that in the one year period since the London Whale blunder, the firm's available "dry powder" which can be invested in any type of AFS security, or in stocks, or bonds, or any other risk asset for that matter, has now risen to a record $497 billion, the result of a record $1203 billion in deposits offset by just $706 billion in loans, or what we assume is a record low 60% loan-to-deposit ratio.

JPMorgan Warns: Increasing Rates Have "Reduced The Remaining Refinance Opportunity By More Than 50%"

About an hour ago, Bank of America served the latest indication that the US housing "recovery" (also known as the fourth consecutive dead cat bounce of the cheap credit policy-driven housing market in the past five years) may be on its last breath. Namely, the bank announced that it will eliminate about 2,100 jobs and shutter 16 mortgage offices as rising interest rates weaken loan demand, said two people with direct knowledge of the plans and reported by Bloomberg. In some ways this may be non-news: previously we reported, using a Goldman analysis, that up to 60% of all home purchases in recent months have been, which of course shows just how hollow the "recovery" has been for the common American for whom the average home has once again become unaffordable. However, judging by an update presentation given earlier today by the CFO of none other than JP "fortress balance sheet" Morgan, things are rapidly going from bad to worse for the banking industry as a result of the souring mortgage market for which, absent prop trading, loan origination is the primary bread and butter.

Asian Fat Finger Roils An Otherwise Boring Overnight Session

Starting with the Asian markets this morning, it appear the roller coaster ride for markets continued overnight. Asian equities started the day trading weaker but shortly after the open though, all of Asia bounced off the lows following the previously noted surge in Chinese A-shares soaring more than 5% in a matter of minutes in what was initially described as a potential “fat finger” incident. As DB notes, alternative explanations ranged from a potential restructuring of the government’s holdings in some listed companies, to market buying ahead of a rate cut this coming weekend. All indications point toward a fat finger. The A-share spike has managed to drag other indices along with it though some gains have been pared. Yet for all the drama the Shanghai Composite soared... and then closed red. The region’s underperformer is the Nikkei (-0.75%). Elsewhere, the NZDUSD dropped 0.5% after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the city of Wellington this morning. Looking at the US S&P500 futures are trading modestly higher at 1660. Looking ahead to today there is very little in the way of Tier 1 data to be expected. Housing starts/permits from the US and the preliminary UofM Consumer Sentiment reading for August are the main reports. The moves in rates and perhaps oil will probably offer some markets some directional cues.

The London Whale Has Become The London Snitch

Somewhat ironically, the "punishment" of Goldman and JPMorgan has boiled down to the punishment, or lack thereof, of two Frenchmen. On one hand, we have Fabrice Tourre, who we are led to believe (laughably so) was solely-responsible for all CDO-related transgressions at Goldman in the 2003-2007 period. On the other, we have the London Whale, former JPMorgan employee and also French citizen, Bruno Iksil who was the catalyst and public face, that led to the unwind of the biggest prop trading desk in history. But while Fabulous Fab was scapegoated to the full extend of the crony law, Bruno is set to walk. The reason: the London Whale has become the London Snitch.

The One Chart Explanation Behind Ben Bernanke's "Open Mouth Operation" Scramble

The pain that banks have experienced can best be seen in the following chart showing the latest update in "Net unrealized gains (losses) on available-for-sale securities" from the Fed's weekly H.8. Two things come to mind: i) For the first time since April 2011, unrealized gains in AFS portfolios among the entire US banking sector became losses, and  ii) The two month rate of loss creation in MTM exempt AFS portfolio soared to the highest in series history.

Fed, Treasury Investigating Bloomberg Client Surveillance

As reported on Friday, the most recent example of a breach in informational Chinese walls was confirmed at Bloomberg, where it was discovered that reporters have the same degree of client surveillance as workers on the API/terminal side. The reason why this is problematic is that since Bloomberg is a monopolist in the financial terminal industry, with such competitor attempts as Reuters' Eikon being massive failures, virtually every finance professional needs a terminal (even if the rate of sale of such terminals is slowing down as a result of the ongoing financial margin headaches). Which means that Bloomberg journos, an increasingly competitive service to the likes of Dow Jones, Reuters and AP, may have had an unfair advantage when it comes to tracking their "pray" - Bloomberg's own clients. And now, following the original Goldman complaint which Bloomberg said ended such informational commingling, it is the turn of the Treasury and the Fed (certainly very heave users of the BBG Trading terminal) to complain. What is left unsaid in all of this is the simple question of just why is it material information what the Fed, arguably an entity that at least in a normal world should not have any day to day trade interactions with financial markets, looked up on its trading terminal.

Will JPMorgan's "Enron" Be The End Of Blythe Masters?

One year after the infamous Jamie Dimon "tempest in a teapot" fiasco, which promptly turned out to be the biggest TBTF prop-trading desk debacle in history, things were going well for JPMorgan. On one hand, the chairman of the TBAC (and thus US Treasury advisor and policy administrator), and former LTCM trader, Matt Zames, was just recently promoted to the sole second in command post at the biggest US bank (and 2nd biggest in the world) by assets, and first in line to take over from Jamie Dimon. On the other hand, one of Mary Jo White's former co-workers, and a JPM defense attorney from Debevoise just became head of the SEC's enforcement division, in theory guaranteeing that the US government would never do more than slap the wrist of JPM in perpetuity. And then, when everything seemed like smooth sailing ahead, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) showed up on March 13, the day before Carl Levin's committee released its latest report on JPM's prop trading blunder, and according to the NYT, alleged that JPM in the past several years, quietly became nothing short than the next Enron. ... But what is worst for JPM, and its brilliant (abovementioned) employee, often times credited with creating the Credit Default Swap product and market (simply an instrument to trade credit with negligible upfront collateral and thus allow equity option-like speculation in the credit realm), is that FERC may be seeking to throw the book at none other than Blythe Masters.

Sergey Aleynikov Suffers The Full Wrath Of A Vindictive US Judicial System

'Commingle' hundreds of millions in client funds which are subsequently stolen rehypothecated as collateral by JPMorgan while your firm goes bankrupt as a result of your idiotic prop trading decisions, and what happens? Your toughest choice is whether to vacation in Fiji or St Barths. That said, being former CEO of the world's biggest TBTF hedge fund also known as Goldman, a former governor and senator, and most importantly bundler for the president of the "transparent" administration certainly helps. On the other hand, be a lowly algo trader and quant programmer working at the aforementioned hedge fund, and having dared to "steal" secret trading client code what can "manipulate markets" and what - you get the full wrath and anger of the FBI, the Federal Court System, and now the Supreme Court.

Chief Advisor To US Treasury Becomes JPMorgan's Second Most Important Man

The man who is the chief advisor to the US Treasury on its debt funding and issuance strategy was just promoted to the rank of second most important person at the biggest commercial bank in the US by assets (of which it was $2.5 trillion), and second biggest commercial bank in the world. And soon, Jamie willing, Matt is set for his final promotion, whereby he will run two very different enterprises: JPMorgan Chase and, by indirect implication, United States, Inc.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you take over the world.

Average Comp Rises To $403,281 As Goldman Offsets Decline In FICC, Equity Trading With Prop Revenue At 2 Year High

Moments ago Goldman reported its Q1 earnings which were strong enough to beat the highest Wall Street estimate, printing at $4.29 on an estimate range of $3.33 to $4.27/share. Revenue was $10.09 billion on estimates of $9.65 billion. What is notable is that while the bank is eating the lunch of its competitors, as it tends to do, in virtually all revenue categories (IB at $1.41 billion, FICC $3.22 bn, Equities: $1.92 bn, Investment Management $1.32 bn, and Prop trading $2.07 bn), it still was unable to match its prior year revenue in the key "client flow" categories of FICC and equities, which dropped from $3.46 billion to $3.22 bn, and $2.25 bn to $1.92 bn, respectively. How did Goldman offset the secular decline in market participation by everyone else? By doing what it does best: prop trading - in Q1 the firm's "Investing and lending" group, aka its Prop group, reported revenue of $2.068 billion (highlighted in the chart below) well higher than the $1.973 billion in Q4 and $1.911 a year earlier. This was the highest prop trading revenue reported by Goldman since Q1 2011 when, as we reported in February, the world was on the verge of being fixed. It wasn't, and the result was a collapse in Goldman prop trading in Q2 2011. Will this year repeat? This remains to be seen. However, for now, Goldman's employees are happy: in Q1 compensation benefits were $4.34 billion, or 43% of revenue. And with Goldman reporting "only" 32,000 total staff at period end, or the lowest since the great financial crisis, the average compensation per employee is once again above the "psychological" $400K barrier, or $403,281 on a trailing 12 month basis to be exact. Bollinger time, boys.