There is only one word to describe the opinion that the U.S. dollar is in a multi-year uptrend: heresy. Understanding why this is so may well be critical to understanding market action in the 2011-2016 timeframe. Embracing the contrarian viewpoint offers little joy, because heretics are constantly being hounded by devotees of orthodoxy seeking their conversion to the one true faith or their crucifixion as mortal threats to the orthodoxy. Why is this so? For two simple but profound reasons. The human mind strongly prefers certainty to uncertainty and simple, fixed explanations over complex, contingent explanations. The human mind has a second, superglue-like quality: Once a viewpoint has been plucked from the swirling chaos of beliefs and explanations, then the mind quickly solidifies that view, resisting any future modification. Very little energy is devoted to questioning the position, while enormous energy is devoted to defending it.
At its very core, to price something complicated, you lay the most similar liquid asset you can find next to it that has a liquid price. You deconstruct the liquid one by its risk premia, and then you reconstruct the one you are trying to price by applying suitable risk premia to it. The output is fair value. All the talk of “Japanification” is just a variation on this theme at a pretty remarkable order of complexity. Call it modeling, call it storytelling, whatever: one compares an economy going through a multi-year banking crisis with one that is just a few years into a banking crisis. Compare trajectories, similarities, and differences. Then figure out what matters and what doesn’t in a macro-sense. One has either past observation to understand reality, or rely on dumb luck to understand future events.
Anyone tearing their hair out trying to answer how it is that this great Keynesian experiment of a nation managed to sneek by with so little new incremental debt over the past month can now relax. As Zero Hedge reported yesterday, the US closed out Fiscal 2010-2011 with a $95 billion surge in debt in one day brining the total to just under $14.8 trillion. That, however was not nearly enough to settle all outstanding debt, and on the first day of the next fiscal year, Timmy G added another $47 billion in debt, to have a closing balance of $14.837 trillion on the first day of the 2011-2012 fiscal year. In other words, in just the past two work days, America has technically settled a whopping $142 billion in debt. There was a time when a year was needed to issue this much debt. Then, a month. Now, we are officialy down to two days. What is ironic is that the recently expanded debt ceiling of $15.194 trillion has just $400 billion of additional dry powder. At this rate, it won't last the US until the end of the calendar year.
Because while soaring volatility in gold and copper, not to mention silver, results in one after another margin hike to "cool off the speculators", when it comes to financial stocks, especially in the "tail wag the dog" variety where the synthetic drives the stock price, a surge in vol means a cut in margins, or 33% to be precise. As of minutes ago, the biggest futures exchange just cut XAF margins by a whopping 33%, exploding vol be damned, or actually, because of it. The CME would be even more delighted if clients were to pledge their gold as collateral, especially following yesterday's expansion of gold's marginability from $200 to $500 million. So just in case anyone missed the message from today, when fins plunged then soared on a rumor, the CME would be delighted if you could repeat all of that but this time with 23% more margin. Expect more margins cuts, this time in ES offset by margins hike in all other instruments, especially of the public enemy #1 variety such as precious metals and crude.
Ignoring the knee-jerk reaction of stocks to rally 4% on the headlines that Dexia will be save and other banks will be recapitalized, it is worth thinking about what this really means and the next logical steps. For now I will not even focus on the fact that this was from a meeting of Finance Ministers and not heads of state. I left my "EU Leadership" trading cards at the office, but so far, not many of the big names, who can actually close the deal, have spoken. I won't even focus on the fact that Dexia has been on the fringe of "contagion" discussion. Look at articles about "contagion" or "debt crisis" and PIIGS and French Banks and German Banks and Italian Banks show up in nearly every article. Dexia is discussed less frequently, though ZeroHedge has been on top of it for awhile. So stocks rose 4% on a plan of a plan to plan a plan for a bank they hadn't heard of until this morning. Hmmm.
And here we go again. Ironically, this is nothing. Wait until S&P, which just telegraphed very loudly the next steps earlier, puts France on downgrade review...
Here are the key selected sections from the FT story that sent the Dow Jones soaring 400 points from its intraday lows: "Although the details of the plan are still under discussion, officials said EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg had concluded that they had not done enough to convince financial markets that Europe’s banks could withstand the current debt crisis... “There is an increasingly shared view that we need a concerted, co-ordinated approach in Europe while many of the elements are done in the member states,” Olli Rehn, European commissioner for economic affairs, told the Financial Times. “There is a sense of urgency among ministers and we need to move on.” Mr Rehn cautioned that while there was “no formal decision” to begin a Europe-wide effort, co-ordination among EU’s institutions – including the European Central Bank, European Banking Authority and the European Commission – on necessary measures had intensified." So, there is .... nothing definite, just more speculation, more rumors, and more innuendo. But hey, it worked last week with the Liesman rumor. It obviously would work for the FT which has become the End of Day rumor source du jour, first with China bailout rumors (since denied), then with recapitalization rumors (denied), and now with this joke. Pathetic.
Millions of middle class citizens in the U.S. sink deeper into despair every day. Day by day hope is being lost that the future for our children will be better than our past. The political, financial, and corporate leaders of our country are intellectually and morally bankrupt. The major Wall Street banks are bankrupt. Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. The whole damned world is bankrupt. Anyone with an unbiased view of our planet would conclude that we are in unfathomable danger. The list of impending catastrophic issues that will blow up the world for millions in the U.S. and across the globe is virtually endless... When I started to detail the issues facing our country today, I expected to come up with 10 to 20 bullet points of key concerns. As I methodically worked through the categories of challenges facing the American Empire, the total reached 76 bullet points. The facts as presented above paint a picture of impending doom for America. The slogans and vapid “solutions” proposed by political candidates and entrenched Washington politicians do not even scratch the surface of what would need to be done to save this country from economic collapse. Many of these problems took decades to create and are not solvable in a reasonable time frame. With the country still delusion, overleveraged, and underemployed, it seems like the existing economic and social structure will need to be blown up to restore hope in this country.
If anyone had any doubt this market is broken beyond compare and controlled by complete idiots, this should put all doubts to rest. Anyone wondering why stocks are soaring, the reason is that according to non-news, because this was first reported yesterday by the FT, Dexia will park €180 billion in worthless assets in a bad bank. This is beyond ridiculous as Belgium, even in JV with France, will be unable to ringfence and hence fund this amount of capital for the now nationalized bank. It also means that Belgium is about to be downgraded following a long-overdue warning by S&P and Moodys to cut the country. It also means that Belgian CDS will soon trade points up front. It also means that Belgian funding costs will soar. It also means that French CDS will explode tomorrow and that interbank markets in Europe will collapse (even more) once the market realizes that France has just diluted its "bailout dry capital" by rescuing a Belgian bank. And so on. And so on. But for now the ripfest is here. Fade every uptick as this is sheer desperation out of Belgium which pretends it is Switzerland and can do with Dexia what the Swiss did with UBS. Hint: it is not and no, it can't.
UPDATE: AAPL -5.25%, $354.24 lows - holding at 200DMA!
Everyone was expecting an iPhone 5 to be announced today, and... instead got a 4S. Whether due to infrastructure issues, or forward demand analysis, or merely Apple releasing the 4S today only to announce the 5 in a few weeks, is unclear, but the market is not liking the development, and has now dragged America's largest publicly traded company over 3% lower. The bigger problem, as always has been with this company, is when does a whale holder decide to bail, and be the first defector on the most storied company in recent history. As the second chart below reminds us, everyone is in Apple. With 181 key hedge fund holders (leaving slow money out of it), what are the odds one will pull out?
Recession. It is now becoming clearer, even to the mainstream media, that the "Big 'R'" is rapidly approaching, or already upon us. Without further stimulus from the government the economy will continue its slide into negative growth. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the "Calvary" will be charging to the rescue anytime soon. Bernanke, at this point has effectively punted to the Whitehouse for stimulative action. The Whitehouse is embroiled in partisan politics which will keep any action from occurring until most likely after the next election. This leaves the economy and the financial markets to their own devices, and much like kids without parental supervision, they are running amok. I have been very vocal as of late commenting on the fact that a recession is fast approaching. The trends of the economic numbers have all soured to the negative. From manufacturing to personal incomes to sentiment they all are signaling a recession lay ahead. Another confirming indicator of a recessionary track is the spread in yields between junk bonds and high quality bonds. The chart here shows two different yield spreads. The blue represents the difference in yields between AAA rated corporate bonds to BB rated bonds while the red represents the spread between 10-yr government treasuries to BB rated bonds. The dotted horizontal lines represent when these spreads have signaled recessions in the economy.
Reverting back to short. The sell-off this morning felt overdone, in HYG in particular. We bounced on Bernanke, but it wasn't with much conviction. Although BAC and MS bounced nicely off their lows, BAC hasn't been able to get green on the day, although MS has, but barely. With such weak performance from ideal short squeeze candidates, it seems clear that we are not out of the woods yet. I think the failure to trade up significantly means we go through the morning lows.
Five simple lessons from one of the original skeptics.