First it was the TBAC's May presentation "Availability of High Quality Collateral" piggybacking on reasoning presented previously by Credit Suisse. Then JPM's resident "flow and liquidity" expert Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou rang the bell on regulatory changes to shadow banking and how they would impact the repo market and collateral availability (and transformation) in an adverse fashion. Now, it is the turn of Barclays' own repo chief Joseph Abate to highlight a topic we have discussed since 2009: the ongoing contraction in quality collateral as a result of transformations in shadow banking and the Fed's extraction of quality collateral from traditional liquidity conduits (i.e., QE's monetization of bonds). To wit: "Several recent regulatory proposals will increase the pressure on banks to reduce assets that carry low risk weights. Repurchase agreements are a large source of banks’ low-risk assets, and we expect banks to reduce their matched book operations in response to these proposals."
The problem is clear; every level of government has promised too much and is now faced with the politically unappealing prospect of either drastically increasing taxes for the working age population or significantly reducing benefits for the retired (or future retired). As evidenced by the Detroit bankruptcy, the longer we wait, the worse it will get. The greater the delay, the more pain and suffering citizens will face when the benefits and safety nets they have come to expect from the government suddenly disappear. Over time, politicians from all stripes have proven adept at cognitive dissonance, but these increases in taxes and cuts to benefits will have to happen, one way or another; it is just a matter of time.
Greed; corporate arrogance; lobbying influence; excessive leverage; accounting tricks to hide debt; lack of transparency; off balance sheet obligations; mark to market accounting; short-term focus on profit to drive compensation; failure of corporate governance; as well as auditors, analysts, rating agencies and regulators who were either lax, ignorant or complicit. This laundry list of causes has often been used to describe what went wrong in the credit crunch crisis of 2008-2010. Actually these terms were equally used to describe what went wrong with Enron more than twenty years ago. Both crises resulted in what at the time was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history — Enron in December 2001 and Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Naturally, this leads to the question that despite all the righteous indignation in the wake of Enron's failure did we really learn or change anything?
The ancient question: how do you extract some moolah while you still can?
Following OAO Uralkali's decision to break up a 'marketing venture' that controlled around 43% of global potash exports, the world's largest producer is breaking the cartel that many US fertilizer companies have enjoyed. This move signals prices will weaken as the Russian company tries to grab market share shifting sales to its own unit. As Goldman notes, such behavior by Belaruskali in a structurally oversupplied potash industry should push for stricter competition for end customers and result in a significant swift decline in pricing to a level of marginal cost production. This slashing of margins has crushed the fertilizer stocks with POT, MOS, and AGU all down significantly in the pre-market."Uralkali’s announcement completely turns the global potash market upside down," noted one analyst. "If previously global potash producers were acting like an oligopoly, working with the rule that benefited higher potash prices over shipped volumes, now the market will be fully competitive." Shock, horror!
Munis are the most decentralized and still the most "good old boy" part of the Capital Markets. Relationships are paramount in the municipal markets, and in non-competitive situations, who you know often trumps what you know in doing business. Municipals are a unique space. For many years people and institutions paid less attention than they should to the financial statements of municipalities. Detroit is now teaching us several lessons and you can feel the sand shifting yet again. General Obligation bonds no longer have the first call on assets. The psychology of the Municipal market is also shifting in the sand. It was once a widely held belief that the State would stand behind any large Municipal credit in its domain. Detroit is proving this to be an inaccurate observation. There was even the notion that if the Municipal credit was large and systemic enough that the Federal government might step in to help. Detroit is exemplifying that this was a second mistake in thinking. We are now learning that each Municipal credit is a stand-alone situation which is a break from the traditional thinking of days past.
Hopes that Kuroda would say something substantial, material and beneficial to the "three arrow" wealth effect (about Japan's sales tax) last night were promptly dashed when the BOJ head came, spoke, and went, with the USDJPY sliding to a new monthly low, which in turn saw the Nikkei tumble another nearly 500 points. China didn't help either, where the Shanghai Composite also closed below 2000 wiping out a few weeks of gains on artificial hopes that the PBOC would step in with a bailout package, as attention turned to the reported announcement that an update of local government debt could double the size of China's non-performing loans, and what's worse, that the PBOC was ok with that. Asian negativity was offset by the European open, where fundamentals are irrelevant (especially on the one year anniversary of Draghi FX Advisors LLC "whatever it takes to buy the EURUSD" speech) and renewed M&A sentiment buoyed algos to generate enough buying momentum to send more momentum algos buying and so on. As for the US, futures are indicating weakness for the third day in a row but hardly anyone is fooled following two consecutive days of green closes on melt ups "from the lows": expect another rerun of the now traditional Friday ramp, where a 150 DJIA loss was wiped out during the day for a pre-programmed just green closing print.
When Standard & Poors is not engaged in "Puffery" (a defense which admits "our entire business model is worthless") it pretends to analyze credits and assign ratings, usually with both humorous and systematically catastrophic results. Just as it has done in the chart below. In the aftermath of the Detroit filing, one may be interested to see just how the rating agency, which had Greece rated at "A" months before the Eurozone's bananaest-republic member had its first bailout, evaluated America's various states since the start of the 21st century through 2012. Among the best: Florida. Worst: California. Michigan, whose main city just went bankrupt: AA-. And with countless cross-default provisions and collateral waterfalls upon a multi-notch downgrade, one can be certain that as reality finally comes to the muni space with roughly a 3 years delay, that this too will have a happy ending.
The raw economic truths from the Street. What's the difference between your common street thug or hustler and the K Street/Wall Steet/Central Banker? Read this to find out...
Municipal finance is in sharp focus after Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. Detroit’s filing is arguably an isolated case and its fiscal problems are not indicative of the broader municipal credit landscape; but, the outcome of the bankruptcy process will dictate whether the value of the full faith and credit pledge backing GO bonds will be diminished going forward. The global hunt for yield has probably chased new investors into the Muni market who may not fully understand that in recent years it has become an ‘ownership not rental’ market. In other words, it is unlikely holders of Munis can sell what they own, as liquidity in the secondary market is almost non-existent.
Following the debacle of free-and-easy mortgage money to anyone who could fog a mirror in the run-up to the last housing bubble (remember that was just 6 years ago), regulators proposed 'skin-in-the-game' rules which forced banks to hold certain amounts of the loans they made (as opposed to securitizing and selling off that yieldy risk to the next greater fool). Makes sense. However, in a major U-turn, with interest rates rising, mortgage rates spiking, and home prices now collapsing once again, it would appear the very same congress has folded. As the WSJ reports, more stringent lending standards on top of the market environment leave the watchdogs, which include the Fed and the FDIC, wanting to loosen a proposed requirement that banks retain a portion of the mortgage securities they sell to investors (representing a victory for an unusual alliance of banks and consumer advocates that opposed the new rules). Undermining the initial goal of imposing market discipline, former FDIC Chair Sheil Bair noted, "My sense is that Washington has lost its political will for serious reform of the securitization market." Indeed it has, Sheila.
At precisely 4 am Eastern two opposite things happened: the German IFO Business Climate for July printed at a better than expected 106.2 vs 105.9 in June and higher than the 106.1 consensus: news which would have been EURUSD positive. And yet the EUR tumbled. Why? Because at the same time the ECB provided an update to the chart that "keeps Mario Draghi up at night" as we reminded readers yesterday - the ECB's all important credit creation update in the form of the M3, which not only missed expectations (of +3%) but declined from 2.9% to 2.3%. But more importantly, ECB lending to private sector shrank for the 14th consecutive month in June, and slid to a new record low 1.6% in June, down from a 1.1% in May.
Anyone that thinks that the U.S. economy can keep going along like this is delusional. We are in the terminal phase of an unprecedented debt spiral which has allowed us to live far, far beyond our means for the last several decades. Unfortunately, all debt spirals eventually end, and they usually do so in a very disorderly manner.
Detroit will be followed by many cities, and this was not hard to see coming, not at all - as exemplified by the ample warnings given not just by me but by at least one other pundit who was derided for her candidness.
If We Don’t Break Up the Big Banks, They Will Manipulate More and More of the Economy … Making Us Poorer and PoorerSubmitted by George Washington on 07/21/2013 13:06 -0500