Treasury Department

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Frontrunning: September 11

  • Germany says U.S. debt levels "much too high" (Reuters)
  • Netanyahu ramps up Iran attack threat (Reuters)
  • Burberry plummets by most ever, slashes guidance, rattles Luxury-Goods Industry as Revenue Growth (Bloomberg)
  • FoxConn Again Faces Labor Issue on iPhones (NYT)
  • Southern whites troubled by Romney's wealth, religion (Reuters)
  • China's Xi not seen in public because of ailment (Reuters)
  • Another California muni default: Oakdale, Calif., Restructuring Debt, Planning Rate Raise After Default (Bond Buyer)
  • Spain's PM expects "reasonable" terms for any new aid (Reuters)
  • Bernanke Proves Like No Other Fed Chairman on Joblessness (Bloomberg) - Ineffective like no other?
  • John Lennon’s Island Goes on Sale as Irish Unpick Property Boom (Bloomberg)
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Frontrunning: September 10

  • China Output Growth Slows as Leadership Handover Looms (Bloomberg); Weak China trade data raises Beijing spending stakes (Reuters)
  • Italy Q2 GDP revised down to -0.8% year-on-year on weak domestic demand (Economic Times)
  • Troika disagreed with €2 billion in Greek "cuts" (Reuters)
  • No Greek bottom in sight yet: Greek IP, Manufacturing Output plunge compared to year earlier (WSJ)
  • France's Hollande sees 2013 growth forecast about 0.8 pct (Reuters), France plots tax hikes of up to 20 bln euros (Reuters)
  • Euro Crisis Faces Tests in German Court, Greek Infighting (Bloomberg)
  • Geithner sells more AIG stock (FT)
  • Japan infuriates China by agreeing to buy disputed isles (Reuters)
  • Euro crisis to worsen, Greece could exit euro: Swedish FinMin Anders Borg (Economic Times)
  • ‘Lead or leave euro’, Soros tells Germany (FT)
  • German MP makes new court complaint against euro plans (Reuters)
  • Obama super-Pac in push to raise $150m (FT)
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Guest Post: Some Clear Thinking On 'The Debt'

If you haven't heard yet, the United States of America just hit $16 trillion in debt yesterday. On a gross, nominal basis, this makes the US, by far, the greatest debtor in the history of the world.  It took the United States government over 200 years to accumulate its first trillion dollars of debt. It took only 286 days to accumulate the most recent trillion dollars of debt. 200 years vs. 286 days. This portends two key points:

  1. Anyone who thinks that inflation doesn't exist is a complete idiot;
  2. To say that the trend is unsustainable is a massive understatement.

This is banana republic stuff, plain and simple... and smart, thinking people ought to be planning on capital controls, wage and price controls, pension confiscation, and selective default. Because the next trillion will be here before you know it.

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Guest Post: Trading on Yesterday's News – What Does the Stock Market Really 'Know'?

We have critically examined the question of whether the stock market 'discounts' anything on several previous occasions. The question was for instance raised in the context of what happened in the second half of 2007. Surely by October 2007 it must have been crystal clear even to people with the intellectual capacity of a lamp post and the attention span of a fly that something was greatly amiss in the mortgage credit market. Then, just as now, both the ECB and the Fed had begun to take emergency measures to keep the banking system from keeling over in August. This brings to mind the 'potent directors fallacy' which is the belief held by investors that someone – either the monetary authority, the treasury department, or a consortium of bankers, or nowadays e.g. the government of China – will come to their rescue when the market begins to fall. 'They' won't allow the market to decline!' 'They' won't allow a recession to occur!' 'They can't let the market go down in an election year!' All of these are often heard phrases. This brings us to today's markets. Nowadays, traders are not only not attempting to 'discount' anything, they are investing with their eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror – they effectively trade on yesterday's news.

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Guest Post: A Gold Standard: Easier Said Than Done

If you haven’t heard yet, the committee which is drafting the platform for next week’s US Republican National Convention has announced that they are including a proposal to return to the gold standard. Big news. Remember, a gold standard is a monetary system in which individual currency units are fixed to an amount of gold held by the government; under a gold standard, the paper money supply cannot be expanded without also increasing the amount of gold on hand. At present, the market value of the federal government’s gold holdings only amounts to about $250 billion which constitutes a mere 2.5% of US money supply. Clearly one of the key risks in this scenario is that the US government would need to acquire as much gold as they can get their hands on, likely through Roosewellian-style gold confiscation, and if so - the safest place for your gold is going to be a snug safety deposit box in a place like Hong Kong or Singapore.

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Crony Socialism Strikes Back: Geithner Retaliates Against DeMarco; Accelerates Wind Down Of GSE Treasury Backing

Two weeks ago we reported in Geithner To DeMarco: "I Do Not Believe [Un-Socialism] Is The Best Decision For The Country" that TurboTax Tim did not take lightly to FHFA head Ed DeMarco's snubbing of the worst treasury secretary ever, when DeMarco refused to comply with Tim Geithner's "proposal" for mortgage principal reduction in effect forcing responsible taxpayers to bail out irresponsible ones. Lots of media posturing and free-market bashing ensued. Today, Tim has once again taken the offensive, and is announcing plans that the Treasury is accelerating the winddown of its backing of Fannie and Freddie and that going forward instead of a 10% dividend, the Treasury will be entitled to a "full income sweep" of the GSEs on behalf of the US Treasury. One can only hope that the loan loss reserve reduction which was the sole source of Fannie and Freddie "profit" (see Bank of America) will continue. And since it won't, it is once again Tim Geithner who ends up with the short end of the stick in his idiotic attempt to escalate a matter which is far beyond his meager comprehension skills. And here is the kicker: "The agreements require an accelerated reduction of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s investment portfolios. Those portfolios will now be wound down at an annual rate of 15 percent – an increase from the 10 percent annual reduction required in the previous agreements. As a result of this change, the GSEs’ investment portfolios must be reduced to the $250 billion target set in the previous agreements four years earlier than previously scheduled." Oops MBS market, unless of course there is someone who will miraculous step up and buy the "excess investment portfolio"... who could that be... who could that be? Ah yes: Giethner just greenlighted the MBS purchases (sorry MBS twist - no cookie for you) portfion of QE3. And finally, following today's unambiguous renationalization of the GSEs, does this mean that US debt is now $16+6 trillion or over $22 trillion courtesy of the GSEs which are now on the US balance sheet?

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Geithner Sacrificed Pensions Of Non-Union Delphi Retirees

Back in 2009 when the government sacrificed GM and Chrysler bondholders just so labor unions (read voters) can be made whole, the media, for various reasons, decided not to pursue the decision-making process that left some workers with their pensions wiped out, while others were made whole and suffered no losses (with a comparable lack of investigation being conducted as to the decisions that shuttered some Chrysler dealers, but left others operating, a topic Zero Hedge had some say over). In fact, as the Daily Caller reminds us "The White House and Treasury Department have consistently maintained that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) independently made the decision to terminate the 20,000 non-union Delphi workers’ pension plan...Former Treasury official Matthew Feldman and former White House auto czar Ron Bloom, both key members of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry during the GM bailout, have testified under oath that the PBGC, not the administration, led the effort to terminate the non-union Delphi workers’ pension plan." Turns out they lied... Under oath.

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The Fed's Gold Is Being Audited... By The US Treasury

When we started reading the LA Times article reporting that "the federal government has quietly been completing an audit of U.S. gold stored at the New York Fed" we couldn't help but wonder when the gotcha moment would appear. It was about 15 paragraphs in that we stumbled upon what we were waiting for: "The process involved about half a dozen employees of the Mint, the Treasury inspector general's office and the New York Fed. It was monitored by employees of the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm." In other words the Fed's gold is being audited... by the Treasury. Now our history may be a little rusty, but as far as we can remember, the last time the Fed was actually independent of the Treasury then-president Harry Truman fired not one but two Fed Chairmen including both Thomas McCabe as well as the man after whom the Fed's current residence is named: Marriner Eccles, culminating with the Fed-Treasury "Accord" of March 3, 1951 which effectively fused the two entities into one - a quasi independent branch of the US government, which would do the bidding of its "political", who in turn has always been merely a proxy for wherever the money came from (historically, and primarily, from Wall Street), which can pretend it is a "private bank" yet which is entirely subjugated to the crony interests funding US politicians (more on that below). But in a nutshell, the irony of the Treasury auditing the fed is like asking Libor Trade A to confirm that Libor Trader B was not only "fixing" the Libor rate correctly and accurately, but that there is no champagne involved for anyone who could misrepresent it the best within the cabal of manipulation in which the Nash Equilibrium was for everyone to commit fraud.

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Geithner To DeMarco: "I Do Not Believe [Un-Socialism] Is The Best Decision For The Country"

In an administration that has completely lost its mind, and in which the solution to every problem is the forgiveness of debt to those who lived beyond their means, FHFA's Ed DeMarco is a lone voice of sanity. In a letter to Tim Geithner, the FHFA has the temerity to tell the truth and say that "after extensive analysis of the revised [Principal Reduction Act]...FHFA has concluded that the anticipated benefits do not outweigh the costs and risks... FHFA concluded that HAMP PRA did not clearly improve foreclosure avoidance while reducing costs to taxpayers relative to the approaches in place today."Via Bloomberg:


Needless to say, when presented with a minority opinion that socialism just may not be the answer, Geithner was not happy and penned his own response. Both are presented below.

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Guest Post: The State As A Fantasy

The unconscionable behavior of the political class should be thought of as a contagious disease that infiltrates any industry that comes within influence of the state.  Government contractors, lobbying associations, favored corporations, and even the press all seek to use the monopolized power of government to further their own interests.  Instead of attempting to roll back stifling regulations, many of these firms simply wish to get in on the spoils of the great extortionary scheme.  The results are always the same.  Politicians pretend to be saving the people from cold-natured capitalism while politically-connected businessmen and bankers act as if their commercial success is completely of their own doing.  The hidden truth is both act in tandem to fleece the average taxpayer.

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Presenting The Good, Bad, And Nuclear Options For The Fed

While some have talked of the 'credit-easing' possibility a la Bank of England (which Goldman notes is unlikely due to low costs of funding for banks already, significant current backing for mortgage lending, and bank aversion to holding hands with the government again), there remains a plethora of options available for the Fed. From ZIRP extensions, lower IOER, direct monetization of fiscal policy needs, all the way to explicit USD devaluation (relative to Gold); BofAML lays out the choices, impacts, and probabilities in this handy pocket-size cheat-sheet that every FOMC member will be carrying with them next week.

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