Far be it from us to reflect Schadenfreude here but at the time of the squeezefest leading up to and after the announcement of the lipstick-on-a-pig US Stress Tests in mid-March, when CDS were remaining wide and hardly budged, we questioned the reality of the assumptions and the lack of contagion comprehension. Most critically, in the 4 months since that wondrous day when all was proved great in the world of US banking, the major financials are down a stupendous 25% on average with Wells Fargo taking over the mantle of least used bed-pan in the E-Coli ward - at an unimpressive unchanged since 3/13.
And you can restructure all you like, but many underwater homeowners with a serious income shortfall will still not be able to pay their mortgages. Who carries the can? If the mortgage has been sold on then the loss will be on the new owner. In reality this is far more likely to be the taxpayer. Simply, the taxpayer may well end up carrying the can for a whole lot of bust mortgages. What Taibbi — who usually has a very good sense of moral hazard — and MRP effectively seem to be considering is not only the continuation and expansion of Kelo, but also potentially the transfer of liability from bust irresponsible lenders to the taxpayer. While this is sure to enrich the bureaucracy and well-connected insiders — and admittedly, while it may help some underwater homeowners — it seems incredibly risky for the taxpayer. While debt-forgiveness is one way out of the debt trap, we should be careful and recognise that many so-called debt-forgiveness schemes may instead be dressed-up scams and frauds that end up enriching special interests while putting the taxpayer deeper into a hole.
In the U.S. economy, the driplines are debt-based spending and leverage. Thanks to endless intervention and manipulation, the economy is now totally dependent on massive debt-based spending and increased leverage for its "growth." The person or business that becomes dependent on welfare loses resiliency and resourcefulness. To the degree that economies become dependent on debt and leverage just like individuals and companies become dependent on welfare, entire economies lose their resilience and resourcefulness. A healthy forest offers another apt analogy. A healthy temperate-region forest depends on occasional forest fires to clear out deadwood and refertilize the depleted soil with ashes. In suppressing all fires--what we might call "stress" and feedback-- management virtually guaranteed that when the forest was eventually set ablaze by a random lightning strike, the resulting fire would be catastrophic because the deadwood had been allowed to pile far higher than Nature would have allowed. The "managers" of the economy have let a couple hundred billion dollars in bad debt burn, and they think the $15 trillion economy is now restored to health. Writing off a couple hundred billion is like letting a few acres of grassland around the parking lot burn and reckoning you've cleared the entire forest of deadwood. The buildup of deadwood--fraud, impaired debt, leverage, bogus accounting, malinvestments, promises that cannot possibly be met and the multiple pathologies of crony capitalism--continues apace, untouched by Federal Reserve intervention. Masking risk and suppressing feedback do not restore resiliency or vitality; they cripple the system's ability to respond to reality.
There is a strange delayed reaction between the initial exposure of weakness in the financial system and the public’s realization of the truth, sort of like Wile E. Coyote dashing off a cliff in the cartoons only to continue running in mid-air above the abyss below. It is a testament to the fact that beyond the math, there is an undeniable power of psychology in our economy. The investment world naively believes it can fly, even with the weight of endless debt around its ankles, and for a very short time, that pure delirious oblivious belief sustains the markets. Eventually, though, gravity always triumphs over fantasy…
The debate on how to deal with false or misguiding campaign speech is neither new nor likely to be resolved soon, but as Europe’s economic crisis continues to deepen, and as social and political tensions rise, elemental questions of democracy once limited to seemingly distant European Union institutions are now spilling over to national governments. In the case of Spain, broken campaign promises coupled with the notion that Brussels and Berlin may have de facto hijacked the national political process are seeding the ground for an imminent political crisis. Indeed, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s systematic adoption of policies that are in complete breach of the promises which took him to power only a few months ago are casting doubts on the legitimacy of his political leadership.
The Fed has released the first of its Lieborgate treasure trove: "Attached are materials related to the actions of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) in connection with the Barclays-LIBOR matter. These include documents requested by Chairman Neugebauer of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Chairman Neugebauer requested all transcripts that relate to communications with Barclays regarding the setting of interbank offered rates from August 2007 to November 2009. Please note that the transcript of conversations between the New York Fed and Barclays was provided by Barclays pursuant to recent regulatory actions, and the New York Fed cannot attest to the accuracy of these records. The packet also includes additional materials that document our efforts in 2008 to highlight problems with LIBOR and press for reform. We will continue to review our records and actions and will provide updated information as warranted."
As Euro area policymakers continue to ‘muddle through’ the crisis, everyone's favorite FX Strategist - Goldman's Thomas Stolper, summarizes the decline in the EUR so far as due to slower growth and easier monetary policy, together with growing EUR short positions. Of course, the root cause of both developments is the political crisis in the Euro area. The uncertainty about the stability of the institutional framework of the Euro area forces front-loaded fiscal tightening, which in turn damages growth. In response, the ECB eased policy more than expected, while the Fed, did not ease as much or as early as many projected. Despite today's ecstacy in EURUSD, Stolper believes the EUR is unlikely to strengthen materially as long as this situation persists especially as the potential for the ‘fiscal risk premium’ to rise on the back of daily headlines that are dominated by disagreement and dispute remains. In an effort to clarify his thinking, Stolper identifies eight key issues that will determine the outlook for the Euro. Most of them relate to the Euro area crisis. The most interesting ones are possibly the timing of a recovery in the periphery, the ability of France and Germany to develop a common vision for further integration, and the evolution of fiscal policies in major economies outside the Euro area. He concludes that the risks in the near term remain substantial.
Just as we noted here, the analyst estimates for the potential impact of Libor (litigation and regulatory) liabilities have begun. Morgan Stanley sees up to a 17% hit to 2012 EPS (from $420 to $847 million per bank) in a worst case from just regulatory costs, and a further 6.8% potential hit to 2013 EPS if the top-down $400 million average per banks losses from litigation are taken on one year (considerably more if the bottom-up numbers of more than $1 billion are included). They see LIBOR risk in three parts: regulatory fines (we est median 7-12% hit to ‘12 EPS; litigation risk (7% EPS hit over 2 yrs); and less certainty on forward earnings. There are a plethora of assumptions - as one would expect - but the ranges of potential regulatory fine and litigation risk are very large though the MS analysts make the greater point that the LIBOR 'fixing' broadens investor support for more transparency in fixed income trading in addition to fixed income clearing leaving the threat of thinner margins as another investor concern.
Government Will Soon Be Able to Know Your Adrenaline Level, What You Ate Breakfast and What You’re Thinking … from 164 FeetSubmitted by George Washington on 07/12/2012 01:26 -0400
Whether Technology Imprisons Us Or Frees Us Remains To Be Seen … The Result Is Largely Up To Us: Scientists, Engineers And We The People As A Whole
A lack of transparency, a lack of enforcement of law and a compliant media which failed to ask the hard questions and do basic investigative journalism led to the price fixing continuing and the manipulation continuing unchecked on such a wide scale for so long - until it was exposed recently. Similarly, the gold market has the appearance of a market that is a victim of “financial repression”. Given the degree of risk in the world – it is arguable that gold prices should have surged in recent months and should be at much higher levels today. The gold market has all the hallmarks of Libor manipulation but as usual all evidence is ignored until official sources acknowlege the truth. However, like LIBOR the gold manipulation 'conspiracy theory' is likely to soon become conspiracy fact. It will then – belatedly - become accepted wisdom among 'experts.' Experts who had never acknowledged it, failed to research and comment on it or had simply dismissed it as a “goldbug accusation.” Financial repression means that most markets are manipulated today - especially bond and foreign exchange markets.
The devil is in the details and we finally have the Spanish Bank rescue details. The cost is not mentioned. We do not know the cost of the borrowing or how long it will last for. That ultimately will be key. Short dated, high coupon loans will not help much. Long dated, low coupon loans will help. The seniority issue doesn’t seem too bad but reading the documentation it looks like it must have been extremely contentious as it can’t help but say it is going to Spain time and again where it was unnecessary. The other reason the seniority doesn’t look too bad is because it doesn’t look like much money will get doled out. The timing seems far too long. This is a political fix and one where they live in some bankers world rather than a traders world. We are VERY concerned about the long timeframe for implementation. The immediate availability of €30 billion is good, but as TF Market Advisors' Peter Tchir confirms, we have our doubts that it will be distributed. However, as we noted earlier, even if fully implemented there would be well under EUR200 billion by year-end anyway and now with the German Court stalling implementation further, the devil in the details may just be overwhelmed by the god of reality.
Remember the running joke about Spain's constantly deteriorating budget? Or was that Greece's? No matter: there was a time when Spain was expected to hit a 5.3% budget deficit in 2012, and the Maastricht mandated 3.0% by 2013. So much for that. It turns out the Spanish economy has deteriorated so much in the last few months, that the EU had no choice but to grant Spain a 1 year extension, according to Europapress. In doing so, the EU has eased deficit targets for Spain by 1% in 2013, granting it a 6.3% deficit miss, a number which will be revised at least once more before the year is over, and the 2013 target is now widened by 1.5% to 4.5%. So much for serious deficit cutting. But let's blame "austerity" while we are at it. It would, however, be great if countries in Europe, or anywhere, were actually austere, and cut their deficits, instead of just blaming austerity for every economic problem while never actually enacting such policies (as we explained before). So while Spain gets an extension due to a "recession of rare violence", the trade off will be even greater supervision by the Eurogroup, or said otherwise, more people will watch how Spain does nothing to actually fix itself and then 6 months from now everyone will be shocked, shocked, when the 2013 deficit is over 8%. In other news, Spain 10 Year bond were trading at 7.08%, well wide for the day and about 20 bps shy of the all time record lows.
Twitter Reports 679 US Government User Information Requests In The First Half Of 2012, Folding On 75% Of ThemSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/02/2012 17:09 -0400
In the first of its kind action, Twitter has unveiled its first Twitter Transparency Report, in which it says that as "inspired by the great work done by our peers @Google, the primary goal of this report is to shed more light on: government requests received for user information, government requests received to withhold content, and DMCA takedown notices received from copyright holders." Is it something Americans should be concerned about? Well, with 679 out of a total of 849 user information requests by various governments, or the most by a margin of nearly 700% belonging to the US, we would say so. This also translates into 948 of all users/accounts specified. But most troubling is that Twitter has folded on a 75% of all such demands when it comes to the US government demanding information. It has provided information to only 6 other governments: Australia, Canada, Greece, Japan, Netherlands and the UK, but at a far lower "hit rate." You gotta give it to Uncle Sam: he sure can be persuasive.
While conflicts within and with the Middle East region are still among the top global risks, the paradigm has definitively shifted to China and Europe.
Last week the BEA published it preliminary take on the international investment position (IIP) of the country. As Citi's FX team note, the IIP measures foreign investment assets minus native assets owned by foreigners. In the US, the IIP has been negative (meaning the US is a debtor nation) since 1985. The US’s IIP deficit reached USD 4.03trn in 2012, up sharply from 2.47trn in 2011. As a share of nominal GDP, the IIP deficit reached a record (for the US) of -27%. Commonly accepted wisdom based on a combination of models and experience is that an IIP bigger than +30% of GDP or smaller than -30% is a problem. On the IIP surplus side, having too big of a net creditor position leads to a perennially strengthening currency that chokes out industry and stokes deflation (think JPY). On the IIP deficit side, having too big of a net debtor position leads to a debt spiral. High debt leads to reluctant external creditors charging ever high interest rates, which leads to economic stagnation and ultimately crisis. The US may not be able to run another dozen years of 3-6% current account deficits without starting to look like a ponzi scheme - but while risk aversion flows (and rates) suggest there is little to worry about, we have noted again and again the moves behind the scenes in global trade flows to shift away from the world's current numeraire.