Last week we learned two things: that Jamie Dimon specifically telegraphed he is now more powerful than the Fed, and that the US economy is back down to the same March 2009 optical exercises in financial strength gimmickry to stimulate rallies. Recall that on FOMC day, the market barely budged on Bernanke's ambivalent statement and in fact was in danger of backing off as the readthrough was that of no more QE... until JPM announced a major stock buyback and dividend boost. The catalyst: a successful passing of the latest and greatest Stress Test, which according to experts was "much more credible" than all those before it. Wrong. The test was merely yet another complete farce and a total joke. But as expected, the test had its intended effect: financial shares soared across the board, and banks promptly took advantage of investors and robot gullibility to sell equity into transitory strength. Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil explains.
In the spirit of George Orwell’s Animal Farm commandment: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal then others” comes the galling news that bankruptcy trustee, Louis Freeh, could approve the defunct, MF Global to pay bonuses to certain senior executives. This, despite the fact that nearly $1.6 billion of customer funds remains “missing” or otherwise partially accounted for, yet beyond the reach of those customers, perhaps forever, since before the firm declared bankruptcy on October 31, 2011... The Orwellian nature of finance is spiraling out of control. It was acutely demonstrated during the fall 2008, merge-and-be-bailed period, and subsequently, through mainstream acceptance that “too big to fail” validates the subsidization of reckless banking practices (bail first, ask questions or consider tepid regulation later), and the European debacle. Three wrinkles of audacity underscore the potential MF Global bonus approvals.
- Investors help Athens over bailout hurdle (FT)
- Greece Moves Closer to Swap (WSJ)
- U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers (WSJ)
- China offers other Brics renminbi loans (FT)
- Court Challenges EU on Bank Downsizings (WSJ)
- QE blamed for surge in pensions shortfall (FT)
- Tang: Open to adjusting dollar trading band (WSJ)
- U.S. Report to Warn on Cyberattack Threat From China (WSJ)
Every year in February, the Treasury department releases its adjustment to foreign purchases of Treasury bond holdings as of the previous June (with revised and overriding estimates for all the intervening months in the interim, as well as previous monthly forecasts). It did that earlier today. And while many may have been expecting the revision to show that contrary to Zero Hedge claims China has in fact been building up its Treasury stake (following the now traditional transfer of UK purchases to China), the reality is that not only has China indeed been dumping US exposure (first reported by us previously when we observed the plunge in holdings in the Fed's custodial account), selling over $100 billion in Treasurys in December alone (bringing its total to $1152 billion, and down 12% from its June total of $1307 billion) but that probably far more curiously, the UK is no longer a shadow buyer of Chinese bond accumulation and instead has become a secret accumulator of Russian holdings.
Anyone Who Thinks that War Is Good For the Economy Has One Eye Covered ... And Is Only Looking At Half the Picture ...
Plunging deeper into the farce-hole, the FT reports tonight that Obama's foreclosure settlement with the banks over their improper seizure of tax-paying US citizens' homes will in fact be subsidized by those very same US taxpayers. It is a hidden clause (that has not been made public yet) that allows the banks to count future loan modifications under the $30bn (taxpayer funded) HAMP initiative towards their $35bn agreement to restructure obligations under the new settlement. As the FT goes on to note, BofA will be able to use future mods made under HAMP towards the $7.6bn in borrower assistance it is committed to provide - which means, in a (as TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky describes) 'scandalous' turn of events the bank will receive payments for averting a borrower default and be reimbursed by the taxpayer for the principal write-down. We have much stronger words for how we are feeling about this but Barofsky sums it up calmly "It turns the notion that this is about justice and accountability on its head". Are the Big Five banks truly beyond the law?
- Greece's Hazardous Road to Restructuring (WSJ)
- Spain Coaxes Banks to Merge to Purge Losses (Bloomberg)
- Brussels Discovers New €15bn Black Hole in Greece's Finances (Guardian)
- UK Recession Predicted to Return (FT)
- Senate OKs insider trading curbs on lawmakers (Reuters)
- China Limits Mortgages for Foreigners (Bloomberg)
- Villagers scramble for fuel in Europe's big chill (Reuters)
- SNB Head Warns of Political Fallout After Crisis (FT)
- Portugal Bond Rout Overstates Greek Likeness (Bloomberg)
- Bernanke Says He Won’t Trade 2% Inflation-Rate Target for More Job Growth (Businessweek)
"Supercommittee That Runs America" Urges End To The "Zero Bound", Demands Issuance Of Negative Yield BondsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/01/2012 10:40 -0400
One of the laments of the uberdoves in the world over the past several years has naturally been the fact that interest rates are bound by Zero on the lower side, and that the lowest possible rate on new paper is, by definition, 0.000%. Which is what led to the advent of QE in the first place: in lieu of negative rates, the Fed was forced to actively purchase securities to catch up to a negative Taylor implied rate. This may be about to change, because as the just released letter from the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, or as we affectionately called the JPMorgan/ Goldman Sachs Chaired committee, the "Supercommittee That Runs America", simply because it alone makes up Tim Geithner's mind on what America needs to do funding wise, demand, "It was broadly agreed that flooring interest rates at zero, or capping issuance proceeds at par, was prohibiting proper market function. The Committee unanimously recommended that the Treasury Department allow for negative yield auction results as soon as logistically practical." And what JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs want, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs get. And once we get the green light on negative yields at auction, next up will be the push for the Fed to impose negative rates on all standing securities, which means that coming soon savers will be literally paying to hold cash. And that will be the final straw.
Solyndra, Ener1, and now Kaufman Bros - The current economy may not be very good at creating jobs, even minority-focused ones, but its track record in inverse job creation is rapidly becoming second to none. Bloomberg reports that "Kaufman Bros. LP, the minority-owned investment bank that helped unwind U.S. stakes in bailed-out financial companies, ceased operations as of yesterday, according to a notice posted on its website. Chief Executive Officer Benny Lorenzo told employees that New York-based Kaufman was closing immediately in a meeting yesterday after trading closed, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Neither Lorenzo nor Chief Financial Officer Gerard Durkin returned messages left on their office and mobile phones yesterday and today." More amusing is the following description: "The company, which also has offices in San Francisco, said it was sought out by institutional investors, hedge funds and government agencies to help meet diversity goals." No comment. The closure notice can be found on the company's website. And so another bank bites the dust. Many more coming.
- Victory for Merkel Over Fiscal Treaty (FT)
- Everyone wants a mediterranean colony: China's NDRC Delegation Visit Greece to Boost Economic Ties (Xinhua)
- As Florida votes, Romney seems in driver's seat (Reuters)
- Greece’s Papademos Seek On Debt Deal by End of Week (Reuters)
- Banks Set to Double Crisis Loans From ECB (FT) - as Zero Hedge predicted two weeks ago
- S&P: Doubling Sales Tax Won’t Help Japan Enough (Bloomberg)
- Toshiba cuts outlook after Q3 profit tumbles (Reuters)
- Blackrock’s Doll says Fed’s QE3 is Unlikely, In Contrast to Pimco’s Gross (Bloomberg)
The debt ceiling, coporate taxes and health care.
Last week, the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), an agency of the US Treasury Department, published its 2011 annual report. There are a few numbers that are pretty startling. We’ve discussed before that FinCEN is the executive agency tasked with ensuring that every US banker is an unpaid government spy through Suspicious Activity Reports. A Suspicious Activity Report, or SAR, includes details of any transaction that may be deemed ‘suspicious’. Naturally, there’s no clear guidance on what is/is not considered suspicious. Banks, brokerages, money service businesses, precious metals dealers… even casinos are required by law to fill them out. If you withdraw an unusual amount of cash from your bank account, that could be deemed suspicious. If you set up a new payee in your billpay service, that could be deemed suspicious. Anything and everything is fair game. Banks and other businesses who do not fill out SARs face hefty penalties, including imprisonment. If they disclose to a customer that s/he is the subject of a SAR, they have hefty penalties, including imprisonment. When push comes to shove and they have to choose between a nasty penalty, or submitting a SAR about your unusual cash withdrawal, which option do you think they’ll pick? Unsurprisingly, nearly 1.5 million ‘suspicious activity reports’ were filed across the US banking system in 2011, well over twice the number reported in 2004. On top of this, there were an additional -14.8 million- ‘currency transaction reports’ filed in 2011, a 6% jump over last year. It’s an unfortunate trend which highlights not only the end of financial privacy, but also the massive amount of data being collected by the government to keep tabs on its citizens.
- Europe’s $39T Pension Threat Grows as Economy Sputters (Bloomberg)
- Monti Warns of Italy Protests as He Meets Merkel (Bloomberg)
- Bernanke Doubling Down on Housing Bet Asks Government to Help: Mortgages (Bloomberg)
- Europe Banks Resist Draghi Bid to Avoid Crunch by Hoarding Cash (Bloomberg)
- Europe Fears Rising Greek Cost (WSJ)
- ECB’s Nowotny Sees Risk of Mild Recession in Euro Region (Bloomberg)
- Republican Senators Criticize Fed Recommendations on Housing (Bloomberg)
- Spanish Banks Try to Build Their Way Out of Home Glut (WSJ)
- Europe Stocks Fluctuate After German Auction (Bloomberg)
When it comes to corruption, cronyism and general muppetry in Washington D.C., the only real question is 'where does one start?' Yet one has to start somewhere to conclude with a list of the ten most corrupt and despicable marionettes in D.C. Which is precisely what JudicialWatch has done in its annual compilation of the "Top 10 Most Corrupt Politicians in Washington D.C." for 2011. And confirming what everyone knows, that both the left and right are merely irrelevant names for the same general social affliction, or should we call it by its true name - wealth pillage - the split is even between democrats and republicans. In no particular order, the winners of 2011 are...
[T]he Treasury Department said that any review of [patently misleading and false] announcements last year “must be considered in light of the unprecedented circumstances in which they were made.”