While Chinese government and consumer debt can be whatever China wants it to be (and when it isn't, any discharged and non-performing debt is merely masked over with more debt: China doesn't have $3 trillion in foreign reserves for nothing) corporate debt, in keeping with Western-style reporting requirements, is far more difficult to obfuscate and falsify in recent years. It is here that we get the first glimpse of the true sheer extent of the Chinese credit bubble, which as the chart below shows, is already the largest in the entire world.
When it comes to sleepless nights, Toimi Soini of Finland originally set the record by using the "toothpicks under the eyelids" method for 11 straight days. In hindsight, Toimi was an amateur. Toimi Soini was not a banker and this was his downfall. As for the Canadians, Swiss and British – yes they are all bankers, but not just any bankers. This terrific trio have the displeasure of forever being known as the bankers who sold their gold. The irony of course, is the action of the World’s central bankers themselves is the reason why gold is destined to remain golden for sometime to come. And with gold sitting near $1700/oz, and with no end to the money printing games, the sleepless nights are destined to continue. IceCap's Keith Dicker opines on the wrong-ness of Alan Greenspan's economic miracle, equity manager's misplaced rationalization of performance as skill, China's gold-buying spree, the Nobel Peace Prize debacle, and the inexorable growth of 'fake money'.
Just over 400-years ago today, a group of 13 conspirators was caught trying to assassinate King James I of England and blow up the House of Lords in what became known as the Gunpowder Treason. If you’ve ever seen the movie V for Vendetta, you know the story. The plot of 1605 may have been a failure for the conspirators, but given enough time, a system so screwed up, so unsustainable, was destined to collapse on itself. Curiously, we’re not so different in the west today; just like the English monarchs, we have a tiny elite that controls absolutely everything about our economy– taxation, regulation, and the supply of money. Needless to say, this is also unsustainable. And history shows that these types of unsustainable systems will always collapse under their own weight.
The regional government of the Communidad Valencia owes pharmacies in Valencia, Alicante, and Castellon five and a half months of prescription payments. The EUR450mm debt that is owed has prompted a remarkable (and somewhat justified) action by the pharmacies. As ThinkSpain reports, from today, two in every three pharmacies will be closed each day, on rotation, until the debt is settled. Last week the government settled half of their April debt and half of their May debt using funds from the Regional Liquidity Fund (FLA) but as the pharmacists point out, "this [merely] moves [them] back to where [they] were, since on Wednesday, we'll be adding another month's worth to the ongoing debt." Perhaps this fact - among all the others - combined with the ECB's lies, will bring some reality to the minds of those who see these bailouts as anything but a band-aid - and in fact (in this case) an entirely back-filling band-aid as everyone is faced with a "dramatic situation which has forced [pharmacies] to close indefinitely."
Americans are on pace to buy more firearms than ever before in 2012. Yet in the run-up to the 2012 election, both President Obama and Governor Romney have downplayed the topic of gun control. And given that neither one is an avid shooter, special interest groups such as the NRA and the Brady Campaign have dominated much of the campaign rhetoric. The following infographic provides a historical look at how the position on guns of both Governor Romney and President Obama has "evolved" since both entered the political realm.
By now we are confident that everyone is sick to death and beyond of listening about elections, polling, conditional probabilities, permutations, (confusing) statistical sampling and heuristics, and all those other things that the vast majority of the population fail in STAT 101 yet somehow end up as experts in during cocktail hour, on TV, on Op-Ed columns and, of course, on twitter. Which is why we are delighted to bring you this comic interlude. Presenting Donald "The Hairpiece" Trump vs Mark "Avion Tequila" Cuban.
Tim Geithner's public "servant" tenure has not been without its blemishes: from his deplorable run as the (figure)head of the New York Fed (from 2003 until 2009), when the entire financial system literally imploded under his watch, to his epic failing up as Hank Paulson's replacement as treasury Secretary of the United States, despite his legendary inability to navigate the Minotaurian labyrinth that is the TurboTax income tax flowchart, the Dartmouth alum has had his share of run ins with adversity (and adversity won). Of course, Geithner's tenure in charge of the Treasury in the past 4 years has been somewhat mollified by the fact that here too here was merely a figurehead, and the true entity that runs the US printing presses is none other than the JPM and Goldman Sachs co-chaired Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (for more on the TBAC read here and especially here as pertains to the former LTCM trader and current head of JPM's CIO group), meaning that the US Treasury, just like the Fed, are merely branches of the one true power in US governance: Wall Street. Geithnerian figureheadedness aside, the one undeniable fact is that Tim Geithner's days as head of the Treasury are now numbered: he has made it quite clear that he will not accompany Obama (should the incumbent be reelected) into his second term. So what is a career "public servant" to do once the public no longer has any interest in retaining his services? Bloomberg's Deborah Solomon has some suggestions...
UPDATE: Zillow is getting monkey-hammered -27% after-hours on outlook cut
With S&P 500 futures volume around 25% below average, it is little surprise that the little-algos-that-could did their damnedest to get up to Friday's closing VWAP. Equities were in a world of their own today relative to broad risk assets with high-yield credit lower, volatility up, and rates lower - seemingly supported by its correlation with oil (which managed to pop over 1% on the day to almost $86). Utilities were hurt the most as QE-sensitive Materials, Energy, and Tech managing to outperform as AAPL levitated from lower lows ($570) pre-open to bring today's price up to Friday's closing VWAP and that's where we wriggled most of the day, with every rally faded at that magical level. Whether investors were placing chips last minute into the election is unclear (Energy outperformance, Financials unch, and Utility underperformance possibly suggest Romney victory and split house?) but certainly conviction was low as evidenced by volume and pre-ramp ranges. Despite USD strength, Gold and Silver also outperformed on the day as Treasury yields dropped 2-4bps. The S&P ended the day at resistance half-way between Bernanke's Bottom and Draghi's Dream levels...
Investors' perceptions of risks, both normal (volatility) and tail (event), have intriguingly run to both extremes at the same time. 'Normal' volatility has been so suppressed by Central-Bank action as to become an almost useless indicator (or at best contemporaneous) - or as Artemis Capital notes "volatility has become a shadow currency" with the USD (safe-haven) becoming considerably more correlated with volatility. Extreme volatility concerns are where the 'unintended' consequence has appeared. In a somewhat stunning market realization, options markets currently suggest a 1 in 4.7 chance of a greater-than-50% drop in the S&P over the next year. That is more likely than the lifetime risk of a heart attack. The question then is, are tail-risks over-priced? Or are investors willing to overpay for that kind of 'deflation' insurance since we now know that the impossible is possible!
We have had two Greek moments, a Portuguese moment, an Irish moment and we are about to possibly have the “moments of our lives” during the next two weeks. America’s primary moment will be tomorrow when the people of the United States exercise their constitutional right and choose a President and a significant amount of the members of Congress. One thing that can be said with certainty is that we have a choice and a real choice. While America turns inward and pays attention to very little else besides our election on Tuesday we may well find ourselves peering outward on short notice. We are told by Greece that they have one week on money left to pay their bills. Pay attention here; decisions will be made as forced by the financial condition of Greece and can kicking is no longer an operative solution now.
Just in case anyone wanted to know what not to say to defend the absolute horrific mess of self-aware vacuum tubes and errant algos, formerly known as "the market", here is a great primer from Credit Suisse's trading strategist Phil Mackintosh.
Over the last few weeks we have looked at where the two candidates stand, the implications of a Romney win on the economy, how investors are positioning in equity and bond portfolios for each candidate's potential victory, what gold will do, what stocks will do, and the fact that either way; the easy-money days are over. The last market to look at is the largest - the foreign exchange market - and Citi's Steve Englander provides a succinct explanation of how the various asset-class shifts post-election will impact flows in the FX market. Most specifically, how sensitive various safe-haven and risk-sensitive FX crosses will be to House composition. He also notes the potential for knee-jerk reactions as timing issues across various state poll closings offers exit poll information - especially as a Romney win is very much not priced in.
Canadian household debt as a percentage of income by now vastly exceeds the peak that was seen at the height of the US real estate bubble. CIBC thinks the huge amount of household debt in Canada and the beginning cracks in the housing bubble are nothing to worry about. The main reason for this benign assessment seems to be that there have been a few other credit and real estate bubbles in the world that have grown even bigger than the US one before it burst. What a relief. It is generally held that Canada's banking system is in ruddy health and not in danger from the extended credit and real estate bubble, mainly because a government-owned organization, Canadian Mortgage Housing Corp. This kind of thinking has things exactly the wrong way around. It is precisely because such a state-owned guarantor of mortgages exists that the vaunted lending standards of Canada's banks have increasingly gone out of the window as the bubble has grown.
Friday's afternoon avalanche was unevenly distributed across asset classes with Gold and Oil leading the move lower, the USD limped higher, and until late in the day, stocks and Bonds meandered along together. Equities' late-day plunge saw it catch down to Gold's move and this morning we see the USD and US Treasuries rallying and resyncing to the rest of the asset classes. Volume is leaching away now that Europe is closed and correlation across asset-classes is on the rise as they now seem range-bound. The most notable 'divergences' are among the various ETFs as VXX (volatility) is rising notably, HYG (credit) is losing ground, and TLT (rates) are rallying while SPY (stocks) are unchanged (for now)...
The center cannot hold because it has failed the nation by defending the Status Quo kleptocracy. As a case study, let's look at Greece, a nation that is the leading-edge of Status Quo delegitimization and destabilization. As the Status Quo fails to protect the national interests and the citizenry from the neofeudal kleptocracy, faith in the political center fades. What happens when people lose faith in the financial institutions and their coercive "fixes"? They move their capital to less-risky, more productive climes. In other words, capital flight is another positive feedback: as people move their capital out of the country, then there is less available per capita for productive investment. The same holds true for every nation ruled by kleptocratic Elites that has attempted to "grow our way out of debt" by piling debt on debt. Doesn't that include Spain, Italy, China, the U.S. and a host of other nations?