After QE-based disconnects last week (Gold rallying with stocks and USD weakness as Treasury yields drop), the last day or so has seen these relationships fading fast. Gold and Treasuries have resynced at a much less sanguine on QE level and the USD is gaining modestly leaving stocks by far the most 'hope-full' asset class for now. WTI crude is back below $82 also - hardly a NEW QE indication of conviction. The major financials continue to push higher though the sector overall just limped back to unch on the day. With ES dropping back to overnight lows, we suspect the realization is gradually reaching the smart, sexy stock traders that their exuberance has removed the punchbowl once again.
Commenting on the incredible circle-jerk that Europe (sovereign-to-banking-system) has become, the outspoken UKIP MEP Nigel Farage exclaimed to FOX Business in this best-ever-rant clip that "The whole thing is a giant Ponzi scheme, isn't it?" Goaded somewhat by the interviewer's questions citing Barroso's intimation that the US is to blame for Europe's problems, Farage opines that "Barroso is a deluded idiot" and a communist who supported Chairman Mao. The contagion effect from the US financial crisis did have impacts on Europe, there is no doubt, but as the frustrated Farage notes: the reason the Euro is in the state it is in is that they put together a completely artificial currency with countries that never fitted together on top of which was added a regulatory cost burden through excess regulation on the environment and employment legislation that is driving parts of Europe towards being a third world country; "America, you are not to blame". The clip goes on to discuss the circular bailout fantasy, the taxpayer burden leading to a democratic revolution, and at the end of the day "this whole thing is going bust" as the likable libertarian notes that European leaders believe that "well-educated bureaucrats know better than we the poor peasants how best our lives should be led" which is the same path that led to the economic and social crash-and-burn in the Soviet Union.
The focus of the markets these days is driven by the headlines that are pumped out by the European Union. Hope is promised, the next big summit to fix all issues is touted, Germany is going to come around any day is offered up as Ms. Merkel denies any such thing and “muddling through” holds up prices as the by-word of belief as the blinders of the great propaganda machine direct everyone’s attention away from what is most important. As one example of this is some firewall, no matter what size, that does not do one thing to address the core issues of Italy and Spain which both have too much debt and too many other liabilities in a time of recession where contingent liabilities become outright liabilities and hidden in a vast variety of ways. These firewalls accomplish nothing except to dissuade investors from being involved and their capitalization weakens the finances of the countries providing the capital, whether counted or not, and ends up weakening the balance sheets of the core countries of Europe as we roll from promises and guarantees to moments when real money must be put up. If you stand far enough back you can visualize what is going on; “look at our firewall and do not pay attention to the countries which are having severe economic declines” and so the head fake continues until it cannot any longer as the bills overcome the ability of a nation to pay them.
Believing 'people familiar with the matter', extending rumors of large trades, and extrapolating DTCC (the CDS data repository) data has apparently caused a number of mainstream media reporters to believe that the JPMorgan 'Whale Trade' has been 60-75% unwound. The assertion appears to be based on two things: 1) a rumor from a Credit Suisse desk of heavy volumes in the last few days; and 2) DTCC data showing open trades falling. While we restate that no-one knows what the trade was, we offer three retorts to these assertions: 1) there is nothing in DTCC data that suggests any recent change in trend (or dramatic shift in net or gross notionals); 2) the aggregate nature of DTCC data offers little insight into the actual changes (whether they be unwinds or opposing positions); and 3) today is single-name CDS and index credit option expiration which means the few days leading up to this will ALWAYS have heavy volume - especially at the end of a very dramatic quarter such as the one we have just witnessed. The bottom-line is that the 'price' changes in IG9, HY9, and IG18 do not suggest any 'recent' change in the unwind scale and while we would expect that JPM has been unwinding (at least the hedge of the hedge), no-one knows how much and given the market's awareness of the position, IG9 would dramatically underperform its whale-driven rally move (which it has not yet). Anything else is speculation - though it is clear that IG9 tranche notionals suggest the original tail-risk position remains on the books.
Because if left unchecked Europe will likely talk the algos trading the market with flashing read headlines to 36,000, here comes Findland to put some things in order
- FINNISH PM KATAINEN REJECTS PROPOSAL TO USE ESM AND EFSF MONEY TO BUY GOVT BONDS
Yes, the same Finland who ten days ago made it perfectly clear that the EFSF is also subordinating, when they demanded collateral from Spanish banks courtesy of negative pledge language.
Remember "What Is The Upside In Chesapeake?" from 3 weeks ago, where we said, "one thing is certain: the company has lots of good assets, as well as quite a few legacy liabilities, combined with an industry environment that is as bad as it has ever been. And sure enough, in betting that the environment might actually improve for a change, there are quite a few big firms which may be happy to onboard the assets and the liabilities, knowing they wouldn't impair the right side of their balance sheet, while acquiring some good real estate and substantial reserves on the left, at a valuation that is the cheapest in the industry. Because in finance, once central planning is (finally) stripped away, valuation is all that matters." Today we read in the FT: "Sinopec, the Chinese oil and gas group, is considering bidding for billions of dollars worth of assets owned by Chesapeake Energy, the US gas producer. Fu Chengyu, head of Sinopec, was in Oklahoma in the US this week in connection with the company’s due diligence on the Chesapeake assets, according to people familiar with the move."
If there was any confusion whether Obama is in fact Bush, or maybe even Nixon, this has now been squashed. From Fox:
President Obama has granted an 11th-hour request by Attorney General Eric Holder to exert executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents, a last-minute maneuver that appears unlikely to head off a contempt vote against Holder by Republicans in the House. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to forge ahead with its meeting on the contempt resolution anyway.
Holder, whose guilt is implicitly proven by this action, is now likely absolved of everything as the TOTUS has effectively onboarded all of his "balance sheet risk." And why not. The Fed does it for everyone else every day.
Volunteering to join the military has always been a process rife with internal and external conflictions. A vital aspect of one’s ultimate decision to do so often depends greatly upon the era in which one becomes eligible. U.S. citizens leaped at the chance to defend their country at the onset of World War II because the enemies were indeed a legitimate and obvious threat to the freedom and sovereignty of all nations. During Vietnam, the waters were muddied (at least in the view of millions of citizens), and many Americans did not see the fight as their own. The line between our system, and the enemies we were supposed to despise, had become progressively more foggy and disjointed. For any wise and honorable man to go out of his way to risk his life, the fight must be clearly just, otherwise, he may feel that his death will serve no purpose. No matter what era of war an American soldier happens to take part in, his desire is usually simple and honest; most seek to defend the underlying principles of freedom which have guided the soul of this country for generations. They seek a righteous cause, and transparent leadership. Unfortunately, for decades, sincere leadership by our government, from Washington D.C. down to the good-old-boy networks of county politics, has all but been erased. Not even a trace of truth permeates the bedrock of our legal or bureaucratic structure anymore. The system has become so corrupt, so leprous and putrid, that it now actually influences originally honorable men and women to do great evil just to survive and to thrive. Our administrative structure encourages and even breeds thieves, murderers, and tyrants. It is a self-perpetuating monster machine.
The always pragmatic Art Cashin summarizes today's 12:30pm FOMC announcement. In summary: "look for the Fed to dangle a big carrot - some semi-specific course of action that would be put in place if the labor markets continue to worsen. Net/net, he needs to keep the door wide open and maybe outline certain milestone “triggers” that will allow the Fed to act later in an election year without being accused of being overtly political." Said otherwise, the happy ending will likely be deferred one more time. The market may not be very happy.
Congrats Greece: you are no longer Belgium, even if the new leader is the same as the old leader
- GREEK NEW DEMOCRACY LEADER SAMARAS SWORN IN AS PRIME MINISTER
Now: we eagerly await the list of Greek bailout renegotiation "conditions" to Germany.
There are those (such as the entire world) who have in recent months ganged up on Germany, see "In The Case Of The World Vs Merkel, The Broke Prosecution Proposes Eurobonds Lite", and are now openly demanding that the German population shoulder even more of the broke continent's bailout costs, and not only that but implicitly foot the lowering of the French retirement age from 62 to 60. Nowhere is there any discussion of how Germany should go about achieving this: by raising its own retirement age to 100 maybe? Nor is there any discussion that Germany is now very actively engaged in bailing out Europe one day at a time to the tune of €2 billion each 24 hours via TARGET 2. Well, it was only a matter of time before Germany, having long kept radio silence, lashed out at its accusers. Spiegel summarizes: "Merkel was certainly in the hot seat, once again, as many nations pressed her to do more for the euro -- at a time when many Germans feel their country has already done too much." And finally the instigator of it all, TurboTaxCheat Tim Geithner, gets exposed: "It is rather hypocritical when the Americans and the British, whose own mountains of debt have reached a high point, try to lecture the Europeans. One number is sufficient to reveal what a bad tactic this is. At a time when the budget deficits of the US and Great Britain are about 8 percent, the euro-zone members have almost managed to bring their deficits as a whole down to 3 percent." And they are spot on: Europe may be going through a painful time but at least it is doing something to address its problems. America continues to rely on one simple, and very much transitory thing: reserve status. Newsflash: reserve status ends. And when it does: run.
Everything today is all about the Fed, which at 12:30 pm will release its standard statement. The publication of Fed officials' forecasts and Chairman Bernanke's press conference will follow at 14:00 and 14:15, respectively. Some, like Goldman are convinced the Fed will announce new easing measures, which could take the form of a new LSAP, more Twist as well as a lengthening of short-term rate guidance beyond 2014, potentially going as far as announcing a Flow-based form of QE, while others such as BofA are fairly certain nothing will happen. Then at 2:00 pm the Fed will release its new economic projections, in which it is roundly expected that the Fed will revise its GDP forecasts for 2012 and 2013 lower, and unemployment - higher. Finally at 2:15 pm Bernanke will address Steve Liesman and a few other members of the fawning captured media. By then the market will be either much higher or much lower, although with about 5% of the recent market move driven entirely by pricing in of more QE, the risk is to the downside. In other words the hopium phase is over. It is now make or break for the Fed.
Think the Fed will pump more today? You are not alone: an implicit 7 out of 10 market participants do so too (and have for the past 70 or so S&P points, urged by nothing more than hopes of more easing as economic data after economic data has come in worse than expected). Which naturally means the pain trade today will be one of disappointment. But fear not: everyone will be able to sell ahead of everyone else if and when the Fed disappoints. Or so the thinking goes. Others like Citi, Deutsche and now SocGen, believe that a real policy intervention will come in only following a market crash. Bottom line: nobody knows anything. Correction - we know one thing. Absent central bank intervention everyone now agrees that the economy would be a complete disaster, so at least we can stop pretending that the word "recovery" makes any sense.