And just a little bit more on yesterday's story of the day, which a few recent journalist grads took as positive having absolutely no clue about the very basics of a simple restructuring process, and in turn fed it to the 18 year old math Ph.Ds who program FX trading algos that ran away with it in the form of a 150 pip gain, when in reality it was all negative. As the WSJ reports, the only sane person in Europe, did get it: Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann "voted against the proposal, according to a person familiar with the matter." As we expected. Why? Go back to our story on subordination and what it means as the ECB creates an ever more junior class of bond holders. For those who hate long sentences, the WSJ gets it right this time: "The move could rankle investors and turn them away from the peripheral euro zone bond market, blunting the impact of a possible approval of a Greek aid deal and plentiful cash from the ECB." Of course, those who don't react to idiot headlines, and every upticks courtesy of algobots, knew that long ago. But in this stupid market, it takes hours, if not days, for the progressively dumber investor base to comprehend what is going on.
In spite of the fact that the Greek story has been out there for almost 2 years now, it still drives the market. Virtually all of the big moves this week came on the back of Greek headlines so it is impossible to argue that it is “priced in”. My best guess is that a resolution (which the market believes is most likely) sparks a 2%-4% rally. A default (which I think is most likely) sparks a 5%-10% decline. So at these levels I will be short as I think the most likely move is lower, and the move lower is likely to be bigger. With the market being choppy, being nimble remains a key....The market has a tendency to do well after the credit guys leave on holiday shortened trading days. So with the desire to believe that Europe will not let Greece default (in spite of evidence to the contrary) the markets may remain in rally mode for the day because no one wants to miss the imminent resolution of the crisis. I am far more convinced that we will get some very disappointing headlines because the situation really doesn’t work, and the tone of Europe has switched from “No Default” to “No Disorderly Default”.
Market participants continued to react positively to yesterday’s reports that Euro-zone central banks, via the ECB, are to exchange the Greek bonds they hold for new bonds, without CAC’s, to help the Greek debt deal. As a result, stock futures traded higher throughout the session, led by the financials sector, while the health-care sector which is characterised by defensive-investment properties underperformed. Looking elsewhere, EUR/GBP traded briefly below the 0.8300 level, while GBP/USD continued to consolidate above the 1.5800 level following the release of better than expected retail sales. Hopes that a Greek deal is in the pipeline also lifted EUR/USD, which trades in close proximity to an intraday option expiry at 1.3110.
Yesterday, when the rumor (because it has not been confirmed by the ECB, and most certainly not by the Bundesbank) that the ECB would distribute its "gains" (i.e., personally fund the difference between cost basis and par on Greek bonds - incidentally, a development which BUBA president Jens Weidmann has said would only happen over his dead body) we urged readers "to ignore the constant barrage of meaningless noise and flashing red headlines" as apparently nobody who trades the EURUSD has any clue what subordination means or has ever participated in any debt for equity transaction. Specifically, with regard to the idiotic EURUSD reaction we said: "Today [yesterday] is a great case in point of a tangential detour which does nothing to change the reality that Germany no longer wants Greece in the Eurozone (remember, oh, yesterday), and that the ECB is merely playing possum with PSI creditors who will block the deal with even greater vigor than before (anyone recall the FT story about the PSI deal being on the verge of collapse not due to the ECB but due to private creditors?) as the ECB's even bigger subordination will simply make the amount of hold outs even greater." We concluded by assuming that "algos will take the required 12-48 hours to figure out what just happened today." Well, the algos are still lost in idiot vacuum tube world, but at least the banks are starting to comprehend what the 'deal' really means and that the Nash Equilibrium is even worse than before. From Bloomberg: "A plan being considered by the European Central Bank to shield its Greek bond holdings from a restructuring may hurt the euro because it implies senior status for the ECB over other investors, UBS AG said. “There are at least two euro-negative dimensions, which will likely lead to euro weakness” as a result of the plan, Chris Walker, a foreign-exchange strategist at UBS in London, wrote in a research report today." Once again, we urge all FX traders to read our primer on subordination, and why and how it will define trading this year, as reactions such as the one yesterday confirm that the market is not only broken but also very stupid. Which is just as those in charge like it.
The drums of war are beating louder and louder ... What's really going on?
Today, Rand’s fictional world has seemingly become a reality – endless bailouts and economic stimulus for the unproductive at the expense of the most productive, and calls for additional taxation on capital investment. The shrug of Rand’s heroic entrepreneurs is to be found today within the tangled ciphers of corporate and government balance sheets. The US Federal Reserve has added more than $2 trillion to the base money supply since 2008 – an incredible and unprecedented number that is basically a gift to banks intended to cover their deep losses and spur lending and investment. Instead, as banks continue their enormous deleveraging, almost all of their new money remains at the Fed in the form of excess reserves. Corporations, moreover, are holding the largest amounts of cash, relative to assets and net worth, ever recorded. And yet, despite what pundits claim about strong balance sheets, firms’ debt levels, relative to assets and net worth, also remain near record-high levels. Hoarded cash is king. The velocity of money (the frequency at which money is spent, or GDP relative to base money) continues to plunge to historic lows. No wonder monetary policy has had so little impact. Capital, the engine of economic growth, sits idle – shrugging everywhere.
While next to impossible, now may be a good time to ignore the constant barrage of meaningless noise and flashing red headlines, which not only are contradictory but prove that Europe is literally making it all up as it goes along. Today is a great case in point of a tangential detour which does nothing to change the reality that Germany no longer wants Greece in the Eurozone (remember, oh, yesterday), and that the ECB is merely playing possum with PSI creditors who will block the deal with even greater vigor than before (anyone recall the FT story about the PSI deal being on the verge of collapse not due to the ECB but due to private creditors?) as the ECB's even bigger subordination will simply make the amount of hold outs even greater. So while algos take the required 12-48 hours to figure out what just happened today, here is SocGen's Suki Mann stepping back from the endless daily din, and summarizing what is really happening in Europe.
There are those who have been waiting to buy undilutable precious metals in response to a headline announcement from the Fed that it is starting to buy up hundreds of billions of Treasurys or MBS. This is understandable - after all that is precisely the trigger that the headline scanning robots which account for 90% of market action in the past year are programmed to do. And the worst thing that one can do is put on the right trade at the wrong time. Yet it may come as a surprise to some, that while the world was waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for Bernanke to hit the Print button, virtually every other central bank was quietly unleashing it own mini tsunami of liquidity. In fact, as Morgan Stanley puts it, "the Great Monetary Easing Part 2 is in full swing." But wait, there's more: in an Austrian world, where fundamentals don't matter and only how much additional nominal fiat is created is relevant, it is sheer idiocy to assume that the printers will stop here... or anywhere for that matter. They simply can't, now that the marginal utility of every dollars is sub 1.00 relative to GDP creation. This means that by the time the Global Weimar is in full swing, we will see much, much more easing. Sure enough, MS anticipates an unprecedented additional round of easing in the months ahead. So for those waiting to buy gold et al at the same time as DE Shaw's correlation quants do, the time will be long gone. Because slowly everyone is realizing that it is not the Fed that is the marginal creator of fake money. It is everyone.
While many will point to the drop in front-end Italian bond yields as proof positive that all is well in the still-peripheral nation, we note that today saw 10Y Italian bond (BTP) spreads crack back above 400bps for the first time in 3 weeks and nervously remind readers of the stock market reaction in Eastman Kodak a week or two before its death. Of course, Italy is perhaps not quite as imminently terminal as EK was (thanks to the ECB reacharound) but the excitement about BTP's 'optical' improvement will be starting to fade as banks are underperforming dramatically, we have exposed the sad reality of the LTRO, and now even the short-dated BTP yields are now over 40bps off their tights from last week. Why? Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid may have the answer that Italy has now been in recession four times in the last decade and while hope is high that the new austere budget will take the nation to debt sustainability, he notes that the cumulative forecast miss since 2003 on GDP estimates is approaching an incredible 20%. As Reid notes, "When debt sustainability arguments are finely balanced and very dependent on future growth the question we'd ask is how confident can we be that economists’ forecasts are correct that Italy will pull itself out of the perpetual weak and disappointing growth cycle seen over the last decade or so." As we (ZH) have been vociferously noting, LTRO did nothing but solve a very short-term liquidity crisis in bank funding, and the reality of insolvent sovereign and now more encumbered-bank balance sheets is starting the vicious circles up again. Deutsche's base case remains that peripheral growth will disappoint and the sovereign crisis will re-emerge shortly - we tend to agree.
While these pages have been warning for about a month that a Greek default is precisely what Europe wants, a self-deluded market has been ignoring this reality. That is no longer the case as the default (pardon the pun) thought is now one of Greek default. As for the assumption that "it is all priced in"... that too is being scrapped as revisionist histories of Lehman come to mind. As a result the EURUSD is drifting ever lower, and has been trading with a 1.29 handle for the first time in weeks. Needless to say, Europe is on the verge of panic as the nearly 2-month impact of the LTRO is now truly gone, and with unmistakable stigma (sorry Jernej Omahen - read this) associated with LTRO banks, we shudder at the thought how many banks will voluntarily subject themselves to being seen as desperately needing European Discount Window access in two weeks. Moody's downgrade of key insurance companies and threat to cut most banks, has not helped. Finally, some unpleasant news out of China, where commerce ministry said that the trade outlook is "grim" while a research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that Chinese EFSF contribution should be capped at Spain's €92.6 billion, rounds out the rout. So while we wait patiently as reality in Europe truly seeps into risk prices, here is Bloomberg with a summary of overnight catalysts.
It was a bad week for freedom loving people, but I believe there are enough patriots left in this country to change our course. We are being buried under a blizzard of lies on a daily basis. We have a choice. We can support the existing corrupt crony capitalist establishment (Obama & Romney) or we can declare war on lies, deceit and misinformation by rallying behind the only person who would truly attempt to reverse decades of corruption, sleaze, incompetence, bloat, debt accumulation, and a warped version of free market capitalism – Ron Paul. He is the only public figure willing to level with the American people and tell them the truth. Will we let the concept of truth fade out of the world? The choice is ours.
“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.” – George Orwell
Last week we discussed the gradual unraveling of a topic we had been following for the past 3 years, namely the brazen and criminal manipulation in the Libor market, which directly and indirectly impacts a stunning $350 trillion worth of securities (and thus, their implied risk, and hence, prices). Today we are delighted to learn that the retribution against these banks who have been artificially representing to the market that they are in better condition than in reality (courtesy of Libor's "strict" self-reporting approach), are beginning to see lawsuits filed against them, with Schwab merely the latest out of the gate. And just as fraudclosure was the litigation topic of 2010 and 2011, sit down and watch as Li(E)borgate explodes into the biggest litigation pain for banks, with litigation expenses that could easily surpass both the robosigning scandal (and its robo-settlement) and the escalating banks Reps and Warranties scandal. Because as recent evidence confirms, there are likely emails proving manipulation exists black on white, as discussed last week. Which means that the case of Schwab, noted last summer by Reuters, is about to become a pandemic.
No this is not a trick question... well maybe a little. Minutes ago the National Association of Home Builders announced that its Housing Market index soared from 25 to 29, trouncing not only expectations of a 26 print, but just like the Empire Fed, the highest forecast. This was supposedly the highest since May 2007. In other words, everyone is confident, and the commentary is that this print is "reinforcing optimism that the housing market is finding a bottom" and that "this consistency suggests that the housing market is moving toward more sustainable growth." That at least is the spin. Below we show the reality, in the form of the Mortgage Brokers' Association mortgage applications index. We somehow fail to see just where the onslaught of demand for new home loans is, and just where all this optimism comes from.
Outspoken and oracular MEP Nigel Farage bombards his fellow unelected officials with 'you can't handle the truth' comments as he points out the total contradiction that is the European Parliament's (and 'Puppet Papademos') view of how things are going in their democracy relative to the reality of a TROIKA-ordered coup forced on the man in the street. Greece is being driven further and further into chaos and as he implores his peers: "If they don't get the Drachma back, you will be responsible for something truly truly horrible!".
S&P futures have moved more than 20 points since 3:30. The first big move was on the back of a story that Greece really will commit to the whatever the EU demands. The second move was after China re-pledged to invest in Europe. IG17 is about 1.5 bps tighter than the wides of the day and is unchanged this morning. In Europe, Main is unchanged while stocks are up about 1% across the board. Even the 10 year bond which saw yields drop from 1.98% to a low of 1.92% are only back to 1.94%. Why? Sentiment seems overly bullish, overly complacent, and the credit markets are sending a warning sign to stocks about irrational exuberance.