Yesterday, after the news of the Heinz acquisition hit the market just in time to wipe away the bitter aftertaste of the biggest GDP drop in Europe since 2009, we brought you the undisputed fact that someone made nearly $2 million in call options, which soared 1700% overnight and was bought the day before. It appears even the SEC finally is back to doing what its historic task was before it discovered internet porn, and one day after the report, has charged unidentified traders operating or trading out of Zurich, Switzerland with generating some $1.8 million in profits. Notably, the trade occurred through an "omnibus account located in Zurich, Switzerland in the name of GS Bank IC Buy Open List Options GS & Co c/o Zurich Office (the "GS Account")." Does GS stand for Goldman Sachs one wonders? And while we commend the SEC on finally doing its job, our original question still stands: who leaked the details of the transaction one day before its formal announcement?
If you say…what is good science is prediction… and you can’t predict the most important event in 75 years, what good are you? In particular, it might be very nice you can talk about the likelihood of an one tenth increase in GDP growth rate…and you miss a major economic downturn….or worse, they said the things can’t happen… We all know the shock in this crisis…was a credit bubble and we have had those credit bubbles since the beginning of capitalism…So it was remarkable the intellectual bubble led people to believe there were no such thing as credit bubbles when there was 200 years of history of that…..How could people be so stupid? …The theory was with well functioning financial markets, spreading risk, diversifying risk, risk is contained. They came to believe the models and that’s always dangerous..
It's been a while since the Syntagma square riotcam was broadcasting live from Athens. After all, despite the ongoing collapse in its economy, where only 3.7 million people have jobs compared to 4.7 million who are unemployed or inactive, the general sentiment was that "austerity" measures have been put on hiatus, and no more tax, pension, or benefits cuts are on the table. That changed last night when Greece was the latest country to become the US, following a tax hike on its highest earners. However, unlike the US, this increase in "rich" taxes is being offset by at least some spending cuts such as tighter control of the budgets of ministries and state utilities, and the reduction of parliamentary employees’ wages in line with cuts to the wages of other civil servants. In other words, it is almost time for the Syntagma square daily pay-per-view daily webcast. The good news, at least for Greece, is that it does not have a debt ceiling to worry about. Then again, when all your debt is zero coupon perpetuals in the hands of the ECB and other "official" institutions, the balance sheet is the last thing you have to worry about. It's the income statement, one where not even all the one-time charges or loan loss reserve releases in the world will do any difference, that suddenly matters far more.
There was a time when Swiss bank secrecy was the passion of every tax-challenged oligarch in the world. Then things changed, Obama made it s badge of honor to rat out anyone you know who has a bank account in Zurich or Geneva, lists of previously ultra-secret account holders started "leaking" and from an asset, Swiss bank accounts promptly became a liability to everyone involved. Such as the matriarch of the legendary Papandreou family, former Pasok Greek PM G-Pap's mother, Margaret, also wife of former PM Andreas, who according to The Telegraph has been revealed as having a €550 million ($700 million) Swiss bank account (she will hardly be happy to learn that Credit Suisse just instituted a negative interest on CHF deposits) in the Geneva branch of HSBC. Obviously lots of hard work by M-Pap went into building up that particular nest egg.
There was precious little in terms of actionable news in the overnight session, which means that, like a broken record, Europe falls back to contemplating its two main question marks: Greece and Spain, with the former once again making noises about the "inevitability" of receiving the Troika's long delayed €31.5 billion rescue tranche. The chief noise emitter was Italian Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli who said he was "confident that euro-region finance chiefs will reach an agreement on aiding Greece when they meet next week." He was joined by Luxembourg Finance Minister Frieden who also "saw" a Greek solution on November 20. Naturally, what the two thing is irrelevant: when it comes to funding cash flows, only Germany matters, everything else is noise, and so far Schauble has made it clear Germany has to vote on the final Troika report so Europe continues to be in stasis when it comes to its main talking point. In fundamental European news, there was once again nothing positive to report as Euro-area exports fell in September as the region’s economy slipped into a recession for the second time in four years. Exports declined a 1.1% from August, when they gained 3.3%. Imports dropped 2.7%. The trade surplus widened to 11.3 billion euros from a revised 8.9 billion euros in the previous month. Global trade, at whose nexus Europe has always been at the apex, continues to shrink rapidly. Elsewhere, geopolitical developments between Israel and Gaza have been muted with little to report, although this will hardly remain as is. Providing some news amusement is Japan, where the LDP opposition leader Shinzo Abe continues to threaten that he will make the BOJ a formal branch of the government and will impose 2% inflation targeting, which in turn explain the ongoing move in the USDJPY higher. This too will fade when laughter takes the place of stunned silence.
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,715.00, EUR 1,347.42, and 1,075.84 GBP per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,730.50, EUR 1,345.86, and GBP 1,080.75 per ounce.
Silver is trading at $31.85/oz, €25.10/oz and £20.00/oz. Platinum is trading at $1,546.75/oz, palladium at $607.30/oz and rhodium at $1,100/oz.
Gold rose $2.10 or 0.12% in New York yesterday and closed at $1,718.30. Silver hit a low of $31.209 then recovered in late trade but still finished with a loss of 0.56%.
There are an awful lot of people who are crapping in their pants over this development
One by one all the money-laundering loopholes in a broke world are coming to an end. First it was Swiss bank accounts, which for centuries guaranteed the depositors absolute secrecy, and as a result saw money inflows from all the wealthiest savers in the world, who felt truly safe their wealth (obtained by legal means or otherwise) would not be redistributed forcefully. In the ecosystem of finance, Switzerland was the depositor bank. Then 2008 happened, and starting with the US, shortly to be followed by every other insolvent country, demands were issued for a full list of people who had used Zurich and Geneva bank vaults to avoid the risk of asset taxation, capital controls and confiscation on their own native soil. The result was the end of the Swiss banking sector as the ultimate target of all global money laundering. In the ensuing power vacuum, others have sprung up to take its place, most notably Singapore, but its days as a tax-haven are numbered by how long it takes China to fall face first into a hard landing at which point no saving on the Pacific seaboard will be safe.
Now, it is the turn of real estate.
Just in case there wasn't enough excitement and fury directed at Swiss bank account holders, which continue to dominate the presidential election "debate" above such mundane topics as the economy, or, say, reality, here comes the IRS, which as we noted yesterday collected $192 billion less than the government spent in the month of August alone, and have awarded Bradely Birkenfeld, a former UBS employee who in 2008 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and was sentenced in 2009 to 40 months in prison, but received preferential whistleblower status after a prior arrangement to expose numerous Americans with Swiss bank accounts, has just been awarded $104 million.
Here are my thoughts from the VALUEx Vail conference. The idea for this conference came to me when I attended VALUEx Zurich, organized by Guy Spier and John Mihaljevic in February 2011 (you can register for VALUEx Zurich 2013, here). The thought of spending three days learning and sharing ideas with smart, like-minded value investors felt instantly right. Investing on some level is a never-ending pursuit to get better. Most of us are locked up in air-conditioned offices where we learn through reading SEC filings, magazines, blogs, etc.
Previously we presented an expose on various Geneva-based hedge funds traders, all of whom were implicated in Libor manipulation in their current or prior positions, which promptly resulted in the halting of trading privileges of one of the named individuals. Tonight it is time to back away from the buyside and to refocus on the banking sector, in the process jumping a few hundred kilometers to the northeast and that other Swiss banking capital, Zurich, where we get to do a quick run through several UBS Libor traders. Pardon, make that ex-traders. And make that "short-term interest rate" traders which naturally means OIS, IRS, FRA, Money Markets and, sometimes Euribor. In other words, all the other various IR derivatives which will blow up next as the Libor inquiry gets deeper and deeper into the Swiss rabbit hole. But before the global media juggernaut gets there, in about 6-8 weeks, we will do a quick roster of several voluntarily "retired" UBS traders, all of whom are now "looking for new challenges" and a rather amusing finding.
Did you know that, according to Capgemini and the Royal Bank of Canada’s latest World Wealth Report, there are now more millionaires in Asia than North America…? An estimated 3.37 million individuals in the Asia-Pacific region have a liquid net worth of over US$1 million. That compares to 3.35 million in North America. The same trend is evident in the gold market. While the current world hubs for gold trading and storage are London, Zurich, and New York, stores of physical metal are also beginning to migrate east. Gold storage facilities are springing up all over Asia like mushrooms after a summer rain. Back in 2009, the Hong Kong Airport Authority set up the first secure gold storage facility inside the confines of the Hong Kong Airport. This September, Malca-Amit, the Tel Aviv-based diamonds and precious metals company is opening a second state of the art facility at the airport, which will have capacity for 1,000 metric tons of gold. That compares to the 4,582 tons that the US government claims is in Fort Knox, and the record 2,414 million tons that the world’s exchange traded gold funds collectively held – mostly in London– as of July 5th.
While virtually every European risk indicator is now being gamed to underreport the true nature of the capital flow panic on the continent, one remains steadfast: Swiss nominal yields, which as we pointed out a month ago, have become the only true indicator of liquidity stress. And as noted this morning, Swiss 2 Year bond just hit a record nominal -0.37% (which coupled with record low yields in German yields explains everything about where money is sprinting to in Europe, and just how much "confidence" in the system is left). And while the SNB continues to suffer massive losses on its EURCHF peg, the reality is that it continues to offer a free put to all those who wish to move away from EUR exposure and into the relative safety of the CHF (the risk of cantonal disintegration is still relatively low). Which is why the only recourse authorities have in dealing with the now record flight to Swiss safety is brute force. Sure enough, as Reuters reports, clients of the two largest Swiss banks: Credit Suisse and UBS was raided in two independent, but likely linked, operations in Germany and France, respectively, in a show of force that moves beyond mere tax-evasion and has a goal of scaring anyone who still thinks of keeping their money in the relative safety of Geneva and Zurich bank vaults.
First it was Nigeria cutting back its European exposure, now it is South Africa's turn:
- S. AFRICA'S MARCUS: SCALE OF GLOBAL CRISIS IS `HUGE'
- MARCUS: WORLD IN WORST POSITION NOW THAN BEFORE CRISIS
- MARCUS: CENBANK MONITORING POSSIBILITY OF CONTAGION
Who is next? Kalahari Bushmen pulling their coke bottles on deposit in Murcia cajas? Mail tribesmen wiring their funds from Zurich to Singapore? Somalian pirates watching the VaR models of their Spanish bond portfolios #Ref! out and give up in sheer disgust?