While the sight of Russian flags, pro-Russian troops, and Russian navy ships in Crimea is now a day-to-day thing; this morning brings a new normal for the eastern Ukraine region - long lines at bank ATMs as the bank runs have begun. We noted last night the dreaded inversion of Ukraine's yield curve, the greater-than-50% yields on 3-month Ukraine government debt, and the pressures on local bank debt maturities as the ability to garner dollars cost-effectively was becoming a problem but on the heels of concerns by the head of the central bank that moving cash in Crimea was difficult, ATM withdrawal limits have been cut. People in long ATM lines are reported to be concerned because "banks are closing" but it is Deutsche Bank's comments this morning that raised many an eyebrow as they suggest that Ukraine's debt is pricing in a "burden-sharing" haircut for bondholders (which as we have seen in the past - in Cyprus - can quickly ripple up the capital structure and become a depositor haircut).
Simply ending the corporate lives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the Johnson-Crapo proposal envisions is not sufficient
Despite promises by the West to do "whatever it takes" and Treasury Secretary Lew's note today that Ukraine aid could reach $15 billion, it appears the market is not buying it with June 2014 Ukraine government bond yields spiking above 53% today. Of course, this should be no surprise to Goldman Sachs clients who were told on Feb 21st that events were "unambiguously positive" for short-term bonds (then trading above 97) but are now trading below 90. It seems that the market believes default is highly likely and that any "aid" will flow directly to Russia for energy bills.
The Turkish yield curve has inverted once again as the 10Y bond yield in the troubled nation crosses 11% and hits record highs for that maturity. 2Y at 11.2% has broken to almost 5 year high yields as the Lira also presses back lower to six-week lows. This comes as the nation mourns the death of a teenager from last year's riots and Erdogan remains defiant ahead of March 30 elections in the face of rising calls from the EU to let the law run its course:
- *TURKEY 10-YR BOND YIELD RISES TO 11.34% RECORD ON CLOSING BASIS
- *ERDOGAN: MAR 30 VOTE MOST IMPORTANT IN TURKEY DEMOCRACY HISTORY
- *ERDOGAN SAYS VIOLENT PROTESTS WON'T BRING DEMOCRACY TO TURKEY
- *EU PARLIAMENT URGES TURKEY NOT TO INTERFERE WITH LEGAL PROBES
- *ERDOGAN RECITES ISLAMIC POEM FOR WHICH HE'D BEEN JAILED IN 1997
So once again political instability is soaring and with it capital outflows and bond yields. No, EM is not fixed!
Mainstream media discussion of the macro economic picture goes something like this: “When there is a recession, the Fed should stimulate. We know from history the recovery comes about 12-18 months after stimulus. We stimulated, we printed a lot of money, we waited 18 months. So the economy ipso facto has recovered. Or it’s just about to recover, any time now.” But to quote the comedian Richard Pryor, “Who ya gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?” However, as Hayek said, the more the state centrally plans, the more difficult it becomes for the individual to plan. Economic growth is not something that just happens. It requires saving. It requires investment and capital accumulation. And it requires the real market process. It is not a delicate flower but it requires some degree of legal stability and property rights. And when you get in the way of these things, the capital accumulation stops and the economy stagnates.
In the aftermath of the recent Wall Street Journal profile piece that, rather meaninglessly, shifted attention to Bill Gross as quirky manager (who isn't) to justify El-Erian's departure and ignoring Bill Gross as the man who built up the largest bond fund in the world, the sole head of Pimco was eager to return to what he does best - thinking about the future and sharing his thoughts with one of his trademark monthly letters without an estranged El-Erian by his side. He did that moments ago with "The Second Coming" in which the 69-year-old Ohian appears to have pulled a Hugh Hendry, and in a letter shrouded in caveats and skepticism, goes on to essentially plug "risk" assets. To wit: "As long as artificially low policy rates persist, then artificially high-priced risk assets are not necessarily mispriced. Low returning, yes, but mispriced? Not necessarily.... In plain English – stocks, bonds and other “carry”-sensitive assets would outperform cash."
Dennis Gartman, already humiliated beyond any hope of reputation salvage in the media, appears to be refocusing his keen talents and acute sense of extrapolating instantaneous market momentum 1 millisecond into the future, to a renewed direct exposure in the capital markets. And while hoping that market junkies have forgotten the epic disaster that was his last foray into ETF-land with ONN and OFF, Gartman today announced that he is now launching his signature shtick as a brand new ETF: gold... in non-dollar terms.
In less than 30-seconds, the always eloquent founder of the Interest Rate Observer 'translates' Yellen's Fed speak into reality:-
"What we mean to do is continue to nationalize the yield curve... and we would like to enlist the stock market in a program of wealth creation for the security holders of America."
The Fed has manipulated interest rates for 100 years but Grant adds, "never - until now - has it manipulated the stock market as if it were a lever of public policy." His discussion ranges from the bubble in Biotech to holding Gold (which he describes as "nature's bitcoin") because it is "the reciprocal of faith in Central Banks."
Unfortunately many investors, with central banks having slashed deposit rates to de minimis levels, have gone ‘all-in’ with regard to risk assets in the desperate pursuit of yield. Be careful what you wish for. It is quite clear that central banks will do literally anything within their power to attempt to avert deflation – to ensure that “it cannot happen here”. That does not mean they will succeed – but they may end up destroying fiat currencies in the process (one of the reasons we have consistently held gold). It is “quite obvious” what the Fed will ultimately do... Six years into this crisis, and in the words of Lily Tomlin, things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.
If the stock market were already crashing then it would be simple to blame the dismally sad rash of dead bankers in the last week on that - certainly that was reflected in 1929. However, for the third time in the last week, a senior financial executive has died in what appears to be a suicide. As Bloomberg reports, following the deaths of a JPMorgan senior manager (Tuesday) and a Deutsche Bank executive (Sunday), Russell Investments' Chief Economist (and former Fed economist) Mike Dueker was found dead at the side of a highway in Washington State. Police said the death appeared to be a suicide.
In a week that has been marked by astonishing mainstream media headlines, BFI Capital’s CEO Frank Suess happened to give an outstanding interview about the outlook for global currencies, gold and manipulation in the markets. These developments are significant and could mark a tipping point. Up until now, the currency and precious metals manipulation has been a topic associated with conspiracy theorists in the corners of the blogosphere. The interesting fact is that this news breaks out exactly at the time when most people are being trapped into the “economic recovery” news. With the markets hanging at the lips of the central bankers, it is fair to say that “the central banks are the markets.” Frank Suess points out that, for several decades now, central banks around the world, with the US Federal Reserve in the lead, haven’t allowed business and credit cycles to happen anymore. In fact, they have been fighting consistently every sign of recession with more money, resulting in a race to the bottom of world currencies. The effect of this on world currencies is that they are shuffling each other down in a see-saw pattern...
Jeff Gundlach recently warned that the trade that could inflict the most pain to the most people is a significant move down in yields (and potential bull flattening to the yield curve). Citi's FX Technicals group laid out numerous reasons why this is entirely possible (technically and fundamentally) but despite this, investors remain entirely enamored with stocks and, as the following chart shows, Treasury Bond sentiment now stands at 20-year extremes of bearishness.
Fed's Fisher Says "Investors Have Beer Goggles From Liquidity", Joins Goldman In Stock Correction WarningSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/14/2014 14:40 -0400
"Continuing large-scale asset purchases risks placing us in an untenable position, both from the standpoint of unreasonably inflating the stock, bond and other tradable asset markets and from the perspective of complicating the future conduct of monetary policy," warns the admittedly-hawkish Dallas Fed head. Fisher goes on to confirm Peter Boockvar's "QE puts beer goggles on investors," analogy adding that while he is "not among those who think we are presently in a 'bubble' mode for stocks or bonds; he is reminded of William McChesney Martin comments - the longest-serving Fed chair - "markets for anything tradable overshoot and one must be prepared for adjustments that bring markets back to normal valuations."
The eye of the needle of pulling off a clean exit is narrow; the camel is already too fat. As soon as feasible, we should change tack. We should stop digging. I plan to cast my votes at FOMC meetings accordingly.
Non-GAAP EPS, sure. But non-GAAP revenues? Up until today one would think that kind of accounting gimmickry is solely reserved for the profitless one-hit wonders of the world, i.e. Tesla, but moments ago we just saw JPM report two sets of revenues: one which was the firm's GAAP revenue, and which was $23.156 billion, and another, far higher number, which was $24.112 billion which JPM described as revenue on a "managed basis" or also known as non-GAAP, and largely made up as they go along. So continuing with the other fudges, JPM also reported Net Income of $5.3 billion, or EPS of $1.30, once again on a pseudo-GAAP basis. However, this wouldn't be JPM if it didn't have a boat load of adjustments, and sure enough it did as per the waterfall schedule below. As can be seen, the biggest benefit aside from the $0.32 DVA & FVA (yes, blowing out your CDS is profitable once more), was the $0.27 in litigation charges. Of course, for these to be an addback, they have to be non-recurring instead of repeated, guaranteed every quarter, but once again, who cares. And since we choose to stick with GAAP, the bottom line is that JPM revenues dropped from $23.7 billion in Q4 2012 to $23.2 billion this quarter, while EPS dropped from $1.39 to $1.31. Oh, and yes: for the purists, here is the bottom line: of that $5.3 billion in "earnings", $1.3 billion or double the expected (at least from Barclays) $616MM, came from loan loss reserve releases. Accounting magic wins again.
This morning we showed several charts that "Market Bulls Should Consider", as the mainstream media, analysts and economists continue to become more ebullient as we enter the new year. This weekend's "Things To Ponder" follows along with this contrarian thought process particularly as it appears that virtually all "bears" have now been forced into hibernation.