While we spend a lot of our time pointing out critical factors driving the reality of our markets and economies, today's note from David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, provides a spot-on and unarguable description of what every one of your favorite long-only strategist, sell-side economist, and hope-heavy CNBC anchor told you would happen - and hasn't! Then Rosie goes on to compare Italy to Lehman in a not so flattering light.
Little to be said about today's $35 Billion 2 Year auction: it was nothing short of a complete scramble for cover in a piece of paper that comes due just around the time of the Fed's guaranteed ZIRP interval of mid-2013 (which will likely be extended). The result: an all time record high Bid To Cover of 4.07, the highest since records started being kept back in 1993. The yield was 0.28%, inside of the 0.285% When Issued level trading at 1pm. Yet notably, Dealers took down just 46.53% of the auction, the lowest since October 2010: this compares to 54.16% for the LTM period, and 52.57% for the prior auction. This is not unexpected considering the Primary Dealer issues in the aftermath of MF Global. Indirects stepped up and took home 42.24% of the final allocation - the highest since February 2010. Directs were in line at 11.24%, just below the LTM average of 14.30%. Overall, nothing says price stability like 0.28% on 2 Year paper. And so much for the Fed's attempts to sell the short end of the curve via Twist.
We were one of the earliest to raise concerns about the future impact of the maturing TLGP debt that was 'given' to the bank-holding-companies in the middle of the crisis three years ago. December is the first month with very significant maturities as more than $52bn comes due, with $14.9bn next week alone. The banks face at least two major problems from this debt maturing: 1) It is sizable and primary markets seem unlikely to be able or willing to soak up such large issuance without significant concessions, and 2) The extremely low cost of funds for this debt means that rolling into market rates will drastically impact earnings (as interest expenses jump - should fundamentals matter again). BAC faces $3.6bn maturing, MS $3.75bn, and JPM $7.55bn next week alone.
Muddy Waters Releases 80 Page Report Disclosing Latest "Strong Sell" Target: Focus Media (Nasdaq: FMCN)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/21/2011 13:37 -0400
If Sino Forest is any indication, the $3 billion market cap company is about to have a B -> M market cap transition. The reason: Muddy Waters just said FMCN could be the next Olympus: "FMCN has been fraudulently overstating the number of screens in its LCD network by approximately 50%. This is similar to China MediaExpress Holdings, Inc. (OTC: CCME), which we reported is a fraud on February 3, 2011. We therefore question whether FMCN’s core LCD business is viable." From the report: "Muddy Waters rates Focus Media Holding Ltd. (NASDAQ: FMCN) shares a Strong Sell because of significant overstatement of the number of screens in its LCD network and its Olympus-style acquisition overpayments. The $1.1 billion in write-downs from its acquisitions exceed one-third of FMCN’s enterprise value, making FMCN’s acquisitive behavior more destructive than Olympus’s to shareholder value. FMCN insiders have sold at least $1.7 billion worth of stock (two-thirds of FMCN’s enterprise value) since FMCN’s IPO. At the same time, the insiders and their business associates further enrich themselves by trading in FMCN assets, while costing FMCN shareholders substantial sums of money."
We believe that the Super Commitee’s lack of action portends for inaction by our government until the 2012 election is concluded. We also believe, that no matter who wins the printing presses are gearing up. There are two scenarios we are looking at though a political prism. Our conclusions are digital. First of all and of major importance , we believe it is in the GOPs interest to have the economy be in its worst shape possible going into the election. It is their method to be the party of no to Obama’s ideas. And it is their method to be the party of “tax cuts” to actual suggestions. This is essentially what came out of the Super Committee. The GOP wanted tax cuts, the Dems did not. Thus deadlock continues. Therefore nothing will happen until post election. And post election, the dollar will get decimated. Post election will create an environment wherein risk assets rise again. There will be Good Inflation (Stocks, Stocks, and more Stocks) and bad inflation (oil, gold and grains). Wall Street wins as fees from the never ending asset ping pong makes investors migrate their holdings from one class to another. Remember those Golden Crumbs that fall off the bonds when they are sold, from Bonfire of the Vanities?
And so the wave of beta chasers has once again be caught flat footed. Following the 11% jump in the S&P, hedge funds, which are now down 2% YTD (more on that shortly) and getting killed with redemption requests, it was only natural that in focusing solely on performance and not on fundamentals, that margin debt would increase. Sure enough, the NYSE has reported that in October, margin debt jumped by $21 billion, the most since June 2007's $25 billion... just in time for the market rout. And as funds levered up yet again, net worth, which nets out free credit cash accounts and cash balances in margin accounts, plunged by $46 billion, the most since the Lehman collapse which saw net worth implode by $184 billion. And just as the market ramped for no reason in October, it has now already retraced almost half the gains in the prior month. Oops.
Out of nowhere, and based on no news whatsoever, the EURUSD just jumped by 40+ pips in what appears to have been one trade. There is no news to justify this move, as the only possibly related headline to come out was that the Greek finance minister sees parliament vote on the new EUR 130bln aid deal in January. This is neither news, nor is it bullish. In addition, we have information now that Intesa has now been halted on the Italian market due to excessive (downward naturally) volatility. Which begs the question: has the ECB decided it has had enough of bond monetizations and is now actively engaged in FX warfare against the Fed, or are French banks now massively dumping USD assets and buying EUR with the proceeds with indescriminate abandon, as was reported first previously here.
MF Global Trustee Says Commingling Shortfall May Be Double Previous Estimate, Could Reach "$1.2 Billion Or More"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/21/2011 12:29 -0400
The day after MF Global filed, we calculated that contrary to widely accepted media expectations that the client theft at MF Global was limited to "only" $600 million, the true client loss (and thus, MF Global executive felony) was in fact up to $1.5 billion. Sure enough, three weeks in the Trustee has come to see things in a comparable light. From Reuters: "The trustee liquidating MF Global Holdings Ltd'sbroker-dealer unit said on Monday that the apparent "shortfall" of customer funds may be larger than the futures brokerage had reported prior to its bankruptcy. "The trustee believes that even if he recovers everything that is at U.S. depositories, the apparent shortfall in what MF Global management should have segregated at U.S. depositories may be as much as $1.2 billion or more," the trustee, James Giddens, said in a statement. He added that the amount could change. Giddens also said he expects in early December to transfer 60 percent of what is in segregated customer accounts for U.S. futures positions, pending court approval. He said the transfer would require $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion to implement, exhausting much of the assets under the trustee's control. MF Global was run by former Goldman Sachs & Co chief and New Jersey governor Jon Corzine before its Chapter 11 filing on Oct. 31. The filing came after the New York-based company revealed that it made a $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt. Corzine resigned on Nov. 4." In other news, major Chicago-based exchanges are fine (no seriously: they got some very sweet preferential terms in the account transfer... to the detriment of former MF Global accounts). And it goes without saying that Corzine has not even been questioned yet.
Volume is further picking up as Financials move to the worst spot (down over 3%). ES is down 2.5% and has just taken out the 50DMA as the Dow is down over 300pts. HYG remains a significant underperformer but equities look like they are playing catch up finally to credit markets - short-term target 1166 for S&P 500 given current HY levels.
Credit Suisse Goes For Broke: Predicts End Of Euro, Escalating Bank Runs On "Strongest European Banks"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/21/2011 10:43 -0400
Just because Credit Suisse bankers are people too (even if 1% people, but still people), and just because they know too damn well that "no ECB intervention" means "no bonus", and very likely "no job", they go for broke and join Deutsche Bank, JPM, RBS, and everyone else (but, again, not Goldman), in predicting the end of Europe unless Draghi does his rightful duty and remembers that without banker support he will also be lining up at the jobless claims office very soon. Of course, being a Goldman boy, Draghi will only do what Lloyd tells him to. Either way, here is Credit Suisse's rejoinder to the global Mutual Assured Destruction tragicomedy, which now makes Honk (as Lagarde calls him) Paulson's overtures to congress seem like amateur hour. "We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks. That may sound overdramatic, but it reflects the inexorable logic of investors realizing that – as things currently stand – they simply cannot be sure what exactly they are holding or buying in the euro zone sovereign bond markets...One paradox is that pressure on Italian and Spanish bond yields may get quite a lot worse even as their new governments start to deliver reforms – 10-year yields spiking above 9% for a short period is not something one could rule out. For that matter, it’s quite possible that we will see French yields above 5%, and even Bund yields rise during this critical fiscal union debate." Of course, the explicit message is: help us ECB-Wan Kenobi, you are our only hope. The implicit one is: do it, or we pull the trigger and blow it all up to hell.
Some headlines from Spain, confirming that the buck did not end with Dexia, and that another bank which accounted for 0.74% of total Spanish assets has just folded. For now it is just the smaller ones. Soon, it will be the bigger ones.
The current governments in place in Italy and Greece are puppets of the banking system, making sure that countries do not default and pay as much interest for as long as possible by implementing short term austerity measures. This is not the type of technocratic government these countries need. They need a technocratic government that sees that the current debt burden is unsustainable and cannot be serviced, acknowledging that defaults are necessary. They should seize this opportunity to change the financial system and implement structural reforms, while exercising their powers to facilitate orderly defaults for both governments and household debt. This way countries will be able to start from a situation where there is breathing room to implement much needed structural reforms throughout society.
Much has been made of "unintended consequences" of various policies. Even ZIRP is gaining more attention. ZIRP punishes savers. ZIRP forces bond managers to move out in duration or down in credit quality to get enough income to provide some semblance of a return after fees. ZIRP may be encouraging people to wait on home purchases as they don't think interest rates or mortgages will rise anytime soon. ZIRP has played a role in the credit crisis as well. As has the SNAC protocol for CDS (which enabled - among other things - a fixed and lower running cost in CDS contracts) when combined with ZIRP means there is minimal carrying cost on the amount of up front premium paid in the case of credit shorts.
Just a headline for now, but hardly a pleasant one for non Euroskeptics:
- Hague tells UK Treasury preparing for contingencies on Euro.
- Preparations under way in a “quiet, assiduous way,” Hague tells CBI conference
More as we get it.