Ratings Agencies

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"Well you know if you look at the last 13 years it was up 12 out of 13 and this year isn't even over yet, so I would say its responded pretty well.  But you might say well yeah what about in the last year why hasn’t it? Well, markets do these things they go up sharply and sometimes they take a rest.  But the long term is something you can get a handle on, but I was never very good on short term, whether it’s the stock market or whatever, or what government will do, they are just all over the place.

Peak Collateral

Peak collateral is just a notion - one we have discussed in detail many times (most recently here). The notion that at the time we want yield and growth we are running out of collateral which is supposed to underpin the high yielding assets and loans. Such a shortage would cause the ponzi-like growth that is necessary to sustain a bubble, to stall and then implode. We think our lords and rulers know this and have decided that it must not be allowed. And this – the need for collateral – is the reason for the endless QE. If this is even close to the mark, then recent murmurings about the Fed tailing off its bond buying will prove to be hollow. The Fed will quickly find it cannot exit QE without precipitating precisely the disorderly collapse, to which it was supposed to be  the solution.

Thanks Ben Bernanke: Using A Shotgun As Down Payment For A Car

Thanks to the Fed's ZIRP, the investing world is on a constant reach for yield; and due to the fact that the last bubble of investor largesse (ignoring leverage and reality) was not 'punished' but in fact 'bailed-out', participants in the financial markets learned nothing. Just as the last crisis was formed on the back of an insatiable mortgage-backed security market desperate for new loans (any loans) of increasingly dubious quality to securitize, so this time it is subprime auto loans that have taken over. As a Reuters review of court records shows, subprime auto lenders are showing up in a lot of personal bankruptcy filings. At car dealers across the United States, loans to subprime borrowers are surging - up 18% in 2012 YoY, to 6.6 million borrowers. Subprime auto lending is just one of several mini-bubbles the bond-buying program has created across a range of assets; "it's the same sort of thing we saw in 2007, people get driven to do riskier and riskier things." Of course, with auto production having been the backbone of so many macro data points that are used to 'show' the real economy recovering (despite the channel-stuffing), now that the growth in auto-sales are stalling, it is for the subprime originators "under extreme pressure to hit goals" in their boiler-room-like dealings to extend loans (at ever higher rates) and securitize while the Fed 'music' is still playing. It seems we truly never learn.

Union: One Survived; One May Not

One of the most interesting issues of what has happened in Cyprus is where was the problem three weeks ago? There was not a mention, not a hint of anything that was wrong. All of the banks in Cyprus had passed each and every European bank stress test. The numbers reported out by the ECB and the Bank for International Settlements indicated nothing and everything reported by any official organization in the European Union pointed to a stable and sound fiscal and monetary policy and conditions. The IMF, who monitors these things as well, did not have Cyprus or her banks on any kind of watch list. In just two weeks' time we have gone from not a mention of Cyprus to a crisis in Cyprus because none of the official numbers were accurate. Without doubt, without question, if this can happen in Cyprus then it could happen in any other country in the Eurozone because the uncounted liabilities are systemic to the whole of Europe.

Cyprus: The World’s Biggest "Poker Game"

While this kind of 'wealth tax' has been predicted, as we noted yesterday, this stunning move in Cyprus is likely only the beginning of this process (which seems only stoppable by social unrest now). To get a sense of both what just happened and what its implications are, RBS has put together an excellent summary of everything you need to know about what the Europeans did, why they did it, what the short- and medium-term market reaction is likely to be, and the big picture of this "toxic policy error." As RBS summarizes, "the deal to effectively haircut Cypriot deposits is an unprecedented move in the Euro crisis and highlights the limits of solidarity and the raw economics that somebody has to pay. It is also the most dangerous gambit that EMU leaders have made to date." And so we await Europe's open and what to expect as the rest of the PIIGSy Banks get plundered.

Guest Post: It's Always The Best Time To Buy

I really need to stop being so pessimistic. I’m getting richer by the day. My home value is rising at a rate of 1% per month according to the National Association of Realtors. At that rate, my house will be worth $1 million in less than 10 years. Every mainstream media newspaper, magazine, and news channel is telling me the “strong” housing recovery is propelling the economy and creating millions of new jobs. Keynesian economists, Wall Street bankers, government apparatchiks and housing trade organizations are all in agreement that the wealth effect from rising home prices will be the jumpstart our economy needs to get back to the glory days of 2005. Who am I to argue with such honorable men with degrees from Ivy League schools and a track record of unquestioned accuracy as we can see in the chart below? These are the facts. But why trust facts when you can believe Baghdad Ben and the NAR? It’s always the best time to buy.

Guest Post: How The End Of Empire Comes, Not With A Bang, But With A Whimper

When Moody's downgraded the UK's sovereign credit rating last week it was something of an anti-climax. The ratings agencies long ago lost what little credibility they ever had. Being downgraded by Moody's is like being called a moron by a moron; ask anyone who has ever set foot in a bond dealing room - the ratings agencies are always behind the curve. The UK has been on the skids, credit-wise, for years. Britain's debt to GDP has gone through the roof. We, and generations to come, will be left with the reckoning. Nobody believes that bonds are an objective reflection of economic reality. The game is rigged, and everybody knows it. But the Moody's downgrade should serve as a piercing smoke alarm to anybody still naive enough to be holding these instruments of value destruction. Get out now while the going is good.