Beige Book summary:
- "Optimistic" or "Optimism": 24
- "Pessimism": 1
The sell off was greeted by Chinese buyers as Chinese premiums edged up to just over $1 an ounce on the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE).
Gold price drops this year have led to a marked increase in demand for gold as seen in very large increases in ETF holdings (See chart - Orange is Gold, Purple is absolute change in gold ETF holdings). The smart money in Asia, the West and globally continues to use price dips as an opportunity to allocate to gold.
Bank of America's $10 Billion In 2014 Legal Charges Mask Ugly Trends, Net Interest Margin Drops To Lowest On RecordSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/16/2014 08:00 -0400
Another quarter down, another desperate attempt by Bank of America to mask a serious underlying business deterioration using bells, whistles, and gimmicks.
Having glimpsed the ugly reality of the under-belly of the Chinese economy last week, and the divergence between that and the government's PMI survey fallacy, it is no surprise that by the magic of excel, GDP and Industrial Production modestly beat expectations (+7.5% YoY vs 7.4% exp and +9.2% YoY vs +9.0% exp respectuvely). However, despite epic credit injections, home prices tumbled 9.2% YoY and Retail Sales missed expectations rising only 12.4% YoY. Even as it is self-evident that re-flating the next chosen bubble, or attempting to socialize losses, is not sustainable in the long-run, it is clear (given the surge in deposit creation in recent months) that China has chosen the path of short-term easy-street as opposed to the reform-based hard-street they had promised.
While Banco Espirito Santo continues to exist on fumes and life support (that last ditch equity injection by Baupost a week ago may not have been Seth Klarman's wisest investment), a key link in the Espirito Santo Holding Company structure is preparing to default. According to Reuters:
ESPÍRITO SANTO GROUPS HOLDING COMPANY RIOFORTE PREPARING TO FILE FOR CREDITOR PROTECTION IN LUXEMBOURG - SOURCES
For those confused, "creditor protection" = bankruptcy.
"... signs of risk-taking have increased in some asset classes. Equity valuations of smaller firms as well as social media and biotechnology firms appear to be stretched, with ratios of prices to forward earnings remaining high relative to historical norms. Beyond equities, risk spreads for corporate bonds have narrowed and yields have reached all-time lows. Issuance of speculative-grade corporate bonds and leveraged loans has been very robust, and underwriting standards have loosened. For example, average debt-to-earnings multiples have risen, and the share rated B or below has moved up further for leveraged loans." - Janet Yellen
Fed Chair Janet Yellen will provide Congress with an update on the state of the economy, how rosy the future is, why she needs to keep rates lower for longer, and that there are no bubbles (oh apart from in bonds which everyone should sell because we need the collateral). These are her first comments since the FOMC press conference in mid-June and stocks have soared since then (as bond yields have tumbled) and she will have to tread a fine line between exuberant over headline job improvements and the need to keep over-inflated bubbles pumped full of cheap/free money for longer...
When we broke the story of China's "secret" money laundering into US real estate scheme, we said "So what happens next? Assuming there is the anticipated resulting backlash and crackdown on Chinese banks, which will finally enforce the $50K/year outflow limitation, this could well be the worst possible news not only for Chinese inflation, which suddenly - no longer having a convenient outlet for the unprecedented liquidity formed in the country every month - is set to soar, but also for the ultra-luxury housing in the US. Because without the Chinese bid in a market in which the Chinese are the biggest marginal buyer scooping up real estate across the land, sight unseen, and paid for in laundered cash (which the NAR blissfully does not need to know about due to its AML exemptions), watch as suddenly the 4th dead cat bounce in US housing since the Lehman failure rediscovers just how painful gravity really is." What we forgot to add is that virtually every other financial mainstream outlet would promptly pick up on the story even as the original source back in China took its secrets to the grace. Metaphorically speaking, we hope...
Exactly 50 years ago last month the US Supreme Court ruled on the now famous case of Jacobellis v. Ohio. At stake was whether a French movie with graphic sexual content could be outlawed by the state via its obscenity laws. The court ruled that it could not because the film wasn’t hardcore pornography. How could they tell? In an explanation that has now turned into one of the most famous quotes in court history, Justice Potter Stewart explained that although he could not define exactly what hardcore porn was, “I know it when I see it” Like porn, asset bubbles are also hard to define, but given our economic history, and especially our recent economic history, we know it when we see it, and now we see it everywhere. We all see it. Apparently the only people that don’t see the bubbles are the people creating them.
Another round of overnight risk on exuberance helped Europe forget all about last week's Banco Espirito Santo worries, which earlier today announced a new CEO and executive team, concurrently with the announcement by the Espirito Santo family of a sale of 4.99% of the company to an unknown party, withe the proceeds used to repay a margin loan, issued during the bank's capital increase in May. This initially sent the stock of BES surging only to see it tumble promptly thereafter even despite the continuation of a short selling bank in BES shares this morning. Far more impotantly to macro risk, it was that 2013 staple, the European open surge in the USDJPY that has reset risk levels higher, while pushing gold lower by over 1% following the usual dump through the entire bid stack in overnight low volume trading. Clearly nothing has been fixed in Portugal, although at least for now, the investing community appears to have convinced itself that the slow motion wreck of Portugal's largest bank even after on Sunday, Portugal’s prime minister said taxpayers would not be called on to bail out failing banks, making clear there would be no state support for BES.
Scanning the Chinese press, the sense is primarily that problems related to their dysfunctional financial system and the gross lack of personal accountability in its exploitation are being detailed everywhere. Troubles involving mutual guarantee companies in Whenzhou, commodity shippers in Qingdao and elsewhere, Ping An insurance execs, BOC/CITI 'money launderers' in Guangzhou, steel execs, trust fund sellers, stockbrokers front running orders via their personal accounts, real estate developers colluding with their local government buddies - you name it; and the whole superstructure is, of course, intricately interlocking and hence becoming systemically fragile. Every day that goes by, China's "little Dutch boy" needs another finger to plug the new leak he caused by trying to stem the previous one. The risk is, he may soon run out of digits...
"The world has changed," explains the 27-year old daughter of David Stevens - CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. Despite her father's constant 30-year pitch of the merits of homeownership - and knowing full well that rates are low, rents are high, and owning a home 'builds wealth' - Sara Stevens is not buying. After watching "cousins and other family members go through pretty tough situations in 2008 and 2009," her skepticism is broad-based as Bloomberg reports, t’s more than the weight of student loans, an iffy job market and tight credit -- even those who can buy are hesitant. As Bloomberg so eloquently concludes, when even the cheerleader-in-chief for housing can’t get a rah-rah out of his daughter, you know this time is different.
Well, if you take the US Supreme Court and representatives of the Federal Reserve System at their own words, the case is pretty clear: the member banks of the Federal Reserve System are private corporations / banks.
The UK had feared whiplash from sanctions on Russian oligarchs but this 'boomerang' is too much to bear... As Bloomberg reports, “We’re seeing a lot less Russian surnames on the booking sheet," at London's Mahiki, a Polynesian-themed nightclub in upmarket Mayfair where a bottle of Cristal Champagne goes for $719 - and Russian customers are being supplanted by revelers from countries including China and Nigeria. “The Russian market was like a Champagne fountain,” notes on ereveler, "The money was coming into the top and flowing down..." but not so much anymore...
A money-laundering butterfly flaps its wings in China... and the US housing market crashes?