The market may have found itself in the purgatory of the summer doldrums, where unlike last year this time, not only are volumes over 50% lower, but volatility is non-existent, but that doesn't mean that investors are sleeping easy. In fact, quite the opposite because as the following chart from MS confirms, the lack of market volatility merely mimics the complete chaos and lack of decisiveness in Congress, where each passing day brings America not only closer to the most contentious presidential election in ages, but to another debt ceiling hike debate, and, of course, the fiscal cliff. All of these combined have brought US policy uncertainty to the third all time highest level, on par with September 11 and the collapse of Lehman/TARP, and just short of last year's imminent European collapse, which was only staved off courtesy of the coordinated global central bank intervention on November 30.
The Status Quo around the globe is trying to manage perceptions to foster the illusion that all the high expectations can be met; but the reassurances are increasingly hollow, and the promises increasingly threadbare. People are waking up, one at a time, to the reality that all the promises and guarantees are fantasy, and their emotional response is deeply negative: they feel betrayed by the Status Quo and its institutions, and they feel a volatile mixture of rage, distrust and resignation. Studies have found that people (usually those in the lower social and financial tiers) with low expectations tend to be happier than those with high (and unmet) expectations. The Status Quo bought the support of the masses by raising expectations of permanently rising prosperity and security for all. Now that these near-infinite claims cannot be fulfilled, the Status Quo has no institutional ability to lower expectations to more realistic levels. It only knows how to spin artifice and fantasy, in the vain hope that managing perceptions will substitute for managing reality. This is how credibility is lost. Managing perceptions is a dangerous game, as the perceptions are pushed ever-farther from reality, increasing the shockwave when the two snap together: it won't be reality rising to meet lofty perceptions, it will be perceptions and expectations plummeting to meet reality. This is how the Status Quo will collapse: it will lose the faith of its people, and become the target of their wrath.
Two years in and they are only starting now? What took them so long. Also, absolutely nothing new here, but merely the latest attempt to shift public opinion and EUR viability perceptions ever so slightly by one of Germany's most respect magazines. Those whose agenda it is to spook Germany with images of fire, brimstone, and 3-page mutual assured destruction termsheets if the Euro implodes, are now free to take the podium. One wonders: if it wasn't for the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR, and of course Paul Ryan, would there be absolutely no news today?
- Oil hits 3-month high above $114 on supply concern (Reuters)
- G20 plans response to rising food prices (FT)
- First centrally planned FX, now real estate - SNB Seen Targeting Bank Capital to Curb Property Boom (Bloomberg)
- EU hedge funds face pay threat (FT)
- Euro-Area Crisis Has ‘No Obvious End in Sight,’ BOE’s King Says (Bloomberg)
- King urged to widen recovery measures (FT)
- All threats "dwarfed" by Iran nuclear work: Israel PM (Reuters)
- Obama campaign attacks Romney’s pick (FT)
- Romney, Ryan hit the road in an energized campaign (Reuters)
- Yellen Must Show How 12 Fed Opinions Become One Policy (Bloomberg)
What is high-frequency trading? We will never exhaustively address this issue here. We recommend that you do your own research on the subject. There are numerous articles on this topic. High-frequency trading (HFT) consists in using sophisticated technology to trade securities. It is highly quantitative, employing algorithms to analyze incoming market data. HF investment positions are held only very briefly, with HF traders trading in and out of positions intraday tens of thousands of times. The important feature is that at the end of a trading day there is no net investment position. Processing speed and access to the exchanges are critical.
All major macro data from China over the last 2 days have been disappointing. The third quarter started on a surprisingly weak note for China despite all the talks (and hope) on stimulus and monetary policy easing. The macro data pretty much confirm our view that economic growth did not reach a bottom in the second quarter as the consensus used to believe. If anything, the economy seems to be worsening somewhat again. We hope that the consensus is (finally) right and that we are wrong. We hope that we will not be repeating the joke that “the consensus is expecting a recovery in next quarter during every quarter”. Unfortunately, we just don’t see that, and we doubt if the government has the willingness at this point to do much more, and we doubt whether the government really has the ability as the market thinks. We do not see convincing signs of recovery (except, perhaps, Wen Jiabao making waves every other week), and we even struggle to see signs of stabilisation. If we see anything, we are seeing a bottomless pit.
Chautauqua Notes | Ethical Challenges of Finally Fixing the Financial Crisis: Fair Deals vs. New DealsSubmitted by rcwhalen on 08/09/2012 06:48 -0500
From the perspective of ethics, the fiscal profligacy of the US government and related behavior in the private sector is the cause of the financial crisis
- Gu Kailai Trial Has Ended, verdict imminent (WSJ)
- Greek unemployment rises to 23.1 pct in May, new record (Reuters)
- Greece’s Power Generator Tests Euro Fitness Amid Blackout Threat (Bloomberg)
- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Results May Ease Wind-Down Push (Bloomberg)
- Monti takes off gloves in euro zone fight (Reuters)
- U.S. Fed extends comment period for Basel III (Reuters)
- HP in $8bn writedown on services arm (FT) - must be good for +10% in the stock
- News Corp in $2.8bn writedown (FT) - must be good for +10% in the stock
- Japan to Pass Sales Tax Bill After Noda Avoids Election Push (Bloomberg)
- China May Set New Property Controls This Month, Securities Says (Bloomberg)
Anyone betting that the global financial system will continue to muddle along indefinitely deserves to reap the whirlwind that’s coming. As the rest of us well know, the international banking system is being kept afloat solely by political lies, stupidity, corruption, greed and, most of all, egregiously misplaced confidence. It would seem to be only a matter of time before the rotted timbers of this belief system give way. But what will be the catalyst? The possibility or even likelihood that the financial system will be toppled by some event no one was expecting was an implicit theme of Nassim Taleb’s widely read 2004 book.
While the surging unemployment rates across Europe are the most troublesome for politicians (and the extreme youth unemployment even more so), if we take a closer and more 'local' view of the stress, it is interestingly more regional than national. While Spain and Greece stand out, the unemployment rate, as analyzed in the chart below by Flute Thoughts blog, does not follow national borders. Northern Italy, for example, seems to have more in common with the German-speaking regions of Europe than with Southern Italy; France appears more peripheral than core; and the former eastern Germany still has not caught up with the west (so much for fiscal integration). Eastern Europe also has some striking differences as we suspect the ovals are slowly collapsing in on themselves as the reality of lower revenues from more unemployed procyclically pulls the euro-zone into depression.
Putting our trust and faith in a few unelected bureaucrats and bankers, who use their obscene wealth to buy off politicians in writing the laws and regulations to favor them has proven to be a death knell for our country. The captured main stream media proclaims these men to be heroes and saviors of the world, when they are truly the villains in this episode. These are the men who unleashed the frenzy of Wall Street greed and pillaging by repealing Glass Steagall, blocking Brooksley Born’s efforts to regulate derivatives, encouraging mortgage fraud, not enforcing existing regulations, and creating speculative bubbles through excessively low interest rates and making it known they would bailout recklessness. They have created an overly complex tangled financial system so they could peddle propaganda to the math challenged American public without fear of being caught in their web of lies. Big government, big banks and big legislation like Dodd/Frank and Obamacare are designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. The system has been captured by a plutocracy of self-serving men. They don’t care about you or your children. We are only given 80 years, or so, on this earth and our purpose should be to sustain our economic and political system in a balanced way, so our children and their children have a chance at a decent life. Do you trust that is the purpose of those in power today? Should we trust the jackals and grifters who got us into this mess, to get us out?
Over the past month America's ever vigilant law enforcers have taken to task not one but two foreign (domestic bank lobbies are sufficiently large to make Congress muppets perfectly eager to look the other way as noted previously) banks: HSBC and now Standard Chartered, for money laundering. Yet, when it comes to the true elephant in the room, which is not foreign and is fully domestic, they continue to ignore events such as this one just described by the Wall Street Journal: "A Florida home that originally listed for $60 million has sold for $47 million, a record for a single-family house in Miami-Dade County. The home, in Indian Creek Village, had been on the market since early 2011, when construction was still being completed. The asking price was reduced to $52 million this year." And the punchline: "The identity of the buyer, a foreigner who purchased the home in the name of a U.S.-based limited-liability company, couldn't be learned." In other words a foreigner who may or may not have engaged in massive criminal activity and/or dealt with Iran, Afghanistan, or any other bogeyman du jour at some point in their past, and is using US real estate merely as a money-laundering front perhaps? Sadly, we will never know. Why? As explained before, it is all thanks to the National Association of Realtors - those wonderful people who bring you the existing home sales update every month (with a documented upward bias every single time) - which just so happens is the only organization that actively lobbied for and received an exemption from AML regulation compliance. In other words, unlike HSBC, the NAR is untouchable, even if it were to sell a triplex to Ahmedinejad on West 57th street.
Here are my thoughts from the VALUEx Vail conference. The idea for this conference came to me when I attended VALUEx Zurich, organized by Guy Spier and John Mihaljevic in February 2011 (you can register for VALUEx Zurich 2013, here). The thought of spending three days learning and sharing ideas with smart, like-minded value investors felt instantly right. Investing on some level is a never-ending pursuit to get better. Most of us are locked up in air-conditioned offices where we learn through reading SEC filings, magazines, blogs, etc.
The ear-piercing screech of the German export machinery as it down-shifts....
Just because one foreign - note: not local because US bankers know very well where the bodies are buried - bank (whose CEO forgot to bribe American congressmen as efficiently as some other bank CEOs), namely HSBC, was not enough to convince Americans just how active America's corrupt political muppets are when it comes to eradicating the evil banking scourge, here comes redirection target #2:
- STANDARD CHARTERED MAY FACE SUSPENSION OVER IRAN TRANSACTIONS
- BANK HAD $250 BLN IN TRANSACTIONS WITH IRAN, REGULATOR CLAIMS
- STANDARD ORDERED BY N.Y. FINANCIAL REGULATOR TO HIRE MONITOR
- STANDARD CHARTERED ORDERED TO APPEAR BEFORE N.Y. REGULATOR