There is that famous line from the movie Die Hard: "You ask me for miracles, I give you the FBI." Well, to all the gold bulls out there, "I give you the SNB." The Swiss central bank "unexpectedly" intervened to curb the record appreciation of the Swiss Franc which is having Swiss exporters seeing black and blue, by saying it would cut rates and by increasing the supply of francs to money markets. Specifically it lowered its target 3 month Libor to "as close to zero as possible" from 0.25%. The central bank also expanded banks' sight deposits to 80 billion Swiss Francs from 30 billion and said it will repurchase outstanding SNB bills. So while it did not directly go ahead and buy dollars it made it all too clear the SNB's appreciation days are over. Which leaves those seeing a non-fiat based refuge from all the insanity in Europe (which is currently raging at unseen before levels, and as a result the EU announced it would issue a statement on the situation in the markets this afternoon - expect nothing but more lies and BS) and the rest of the world, with just one option. Gold.
A snapshot of the European Morning Briefing covering Stocks, Bonds, FX, etc.
It appears that GDP data revisions are not the only thing that the administration enjoys fudging with in order to make the Chinese ministry of Truth seem like a real ministry of truth. After last month the data for April food stamp recipients indicated the we may, just may, be reaching an inflection point in the foodstamp participation following a mere 60 thousand jump in those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), today's just released data confirmed that the BLS and BEA may have had a hand or two when determining this latest data series. Because the just announced jump in foodstamp usage of over 1.1 million is entirely out of the blue, and as the chart below shows, is the highest single monthly jump in Foodstamp participation since mid 2009, when eligibility requirements were adjusted. Yes, that's 45.8 million people (obviously an all time record) living on foodstamps which amount to the whopping $133.80 per person (an increase of $0.54 M/M) and $283.65 (an increase of $1.29) per household. Obviously, annualizing the latest monthly rate of 1.1 million people, it means that over 13 million Americans will live on about one third what the cheapest iPad costs in about a year. But wait, there's more. Digging into the numbers reveals something pecuiliar: virtually the entire surge in monthly SNAP participation is due to one state alone: Alabama, which saw those living on foodstamps jump from 868K to 1.762MM. That's 36% of Alabama's population.
At any point during the recent negotiations in Washington over the debt, did you seriously think for even a second that the U.S. was about to default? Of course, in time the U.S. government (along with many others) will default. However, they are highly unlikely to do so by decree or even through the sort of legislative inaction recently on display. Rather, it will come about through the time-honored tradition of screwing debtors via the slow-roasting method of monetary inflation. Yet most people still bought into the latest drama put on by the Congressional Players – a troupe of actors whose skills at pretense and artifice might very well qualify them for gilded trophies at awards banquets. Instead, rather than glittering statuettes, these masters of the thespian arts settle for undeserved honorifics and the pole position at the public trough. Followed by lifelong pensions. But to the heart of the current matter, do I think that the latest antics out of Washington will have any more lasting effect on the trajectory of the economy than what I had for breakfast this morning (raw oats with a dab of maple syrup, milk, a sprinkling of strawberries, and half of a banana, sliced)? Absolutely not. Sorry to say, but the trajectory of the economy at this point is well established, and closely resembles that of a meteor streaking through the night sky. What’s left of the solid matter of the nation’s accumulated private wealth is fast being burned off by an unstoppable inferno of government spending, inevitably leading to an earth-shaking crash.
For those who thought the crocodile algo or the fractal HFT patterns were crazy, you ain't seen nothing yet. Earlier today, Nanex caught arguably the most berserk HFT algorithm yet captured on film, or jpeg as the case may be, in the trading of Earthlink stock shortly after hours. What happened next is one for the ages... Because it certainly will not make it to the regulators. In essence, we had our first spotted appearance of the Whack-A-Mole algorithm, which allowed one, if one is fast enough, and incidentally one isn't, as all the bids would be cancelled at the same time as they were sent out, to make free money on a 10% trading spread between the bid and ask. Gone is any pretense of an NBBO, gone is any pretense of an orderly market: it is the wild, electronic, and nanosecond west out there.
China Boldly Goes (Again) Where Moody's Has Never Gone Before, Downgrades US From A+ To A, Outlook NegativeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/02/2011 20:39 -0400
As was predicted last week, China's rating agency Dagong, unlike its worthless western counterparts, has come through on its threat to downgrade the US in the event a subpar debt ceiling deal was hammered out. As Xinhua reports, 'Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. said Wednesday it has cut the credit rating of the United States from A+ to A with a negative outlook after the U.S. federal government announced that the country's debt limit would be increased." Confirming that not being branded a NRSRO is the only thing that allows a rater to still think straight (and not in terms of lost client revenue if one goes ahead and tells the truth), Dagong's decision was spot on: "The decision to lift the debt ceiling will not change the fact that the U.S. national debt growth has outpaced that of its overall economy and fiscal revenue, which will lead to a decline in its debt-paying ability, said Dagong Global in a statement." So while Moody's, which is now certified as the laughing stock of the sheep herd (sorry Mark Zandi, you will never be promoted to anything in this administration - we promise you), pretend that all is well and that the only thing better than $14.3 trillion in debt is $16.8 trillion, China demonstrates what happens when a rating agency actually knows how to do addition and/or long division.
Moody's Sells Out As Usual: Leaves US At AAA, Puts Outlook On Negative Not To Appear Overly Corrupt Or IncompetentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/02/2011 18:00 -0400
As that uber-sycophant, Mark Zandi (who has yet to be right about one thing in his entire career), put it so well a few days ago, when discussing the deal that will bring the US to 110% debt/GDP within a year "I'm not in the rating agency... but listening to what they have to say, I think this would be sufficient... but this is substantive and should avoid a big downgrade." Sure enough, the former Moody's top "economist" certainly knows his own, and as of several minutes ago Moody's has confirmed it will not touch America's AAA rating. However, it will put the rating outlook on negative. That should shut them up. Full report of how to sell out like the best of them is attached. And the kicker: "Moody's has also confirmed the Aaa ratings of certain US government-guaranteed bonds issued by the governments of Israel and Egypt, which had been on review for possible downgrade as a result of the review of the US government's bond rating." Well at least America's direct protectorate states (as opposed to its indirect ones) can sleep well.
That the two heads of QBAMCO, Lee Quaintance and Paul Brodsky, have traditionally been in the non-conformist camp is no secret. They are two of the fund managers who will, when all is said and done, save and probably increase their clients' purchasing power (we won't call it money because money's days in its current version are numbered), unlike the vast preponderance of momentum chasing sheep who only find solace in their great delusion in even greater numbers (aka the ratings agency effect: "we may be wrong, but we will all be wrong"). In their latest letter, the duo does not uncover any great truths but merely keep exposing ever more dirt in the grave of the current monetary system. They also make short shrift of all the neo-Keynesian hacks who pretend to understand the fault-lines of modern monetary theory: "We would argue a system built upon unreserved bank credit expansion is inequitable, regressive, opaque, the source of asset boom/bust cycles and the root of virtually all the financial, economic and political chaos we are experiencing today. We assume this is in the process of being more widely intuited by global societies. Those that understand monetary identities are best prepared to shift wealth in advance of the necessary de-leveraging that must take place to restore equilibrium." Just as interesting is their observation that the 10 Year only trades where it does (2.6%) due to the ability of the big market players to lever up their return by 10, 20 times. Devoid of all theoretical textbook mumbo jumbo, they may well have hit the nail on the head: "the majority of bond investors driving marginal pricing such as primary dealers, hedge funds and central banks are quite a bit more leveraged. We would argue the Note is not trading at 49 because levered investors have incentive to collect 25% or more in current income (2.74% x 10 or 20) while awaiting their annual bonus or performance fee (or, in the case of the Fed, propping up the economy)." Translated: take away infinite leverage (thank you ZIRP) and the 10 year would be priced more fairly around 12.13% (dollar price of $49.20). Needless to say, their observations on gold, which this week borrow heavily from David Rosenberg are spot on. In a process first used by Dylan Grice, the QBAMCO duo defines the concept of the Shadow Gold Price, and then derives what the fair value of the metal is: roughly $9,250. All this and much more inside.
Almost as if someone is trying to kill this market... Almost.
This the intraday chart of spot gold. Whether the surge is due to JPMorgan's outlook on 2012 GDP, to Fitch saying it does not rule out revising the US outlook to negative by the end of August, or to Gross finally admitting QE3 is possible, is irrelevant. Our work here is done.
Sorry Hatzius, you snooze you lose. Your position as the most anticipatory, if far-less than credible (courtesy of your horrible December 2010 call) econo-forecaster on Wall Street has just been relinquished to JPMorgan's Michael Feroli who has been eating your breakfast for the past two quarters. Feroli, who yesterday warned that NFP could come in well short of the firm's forecast 45,000 on Friday (to be followed by his colleague telling Bloomberg TV a negative print is quite possible), has just fired the first shot not at merely 2011 GDP, but 2012. As a reminder, Jamie Dimon's firm had previously expected a 2.7% rate of economic growth next year. Well, it may be time to cut that to sub-1%! Quote Feroli: "All in all, by our estimates federal fiscal policy will subtract around 1-3/4%-points from GDP growth next year. Given that GDP growth has been 1.6% over the past four quarters when fiscal policy has been much less of a drag, this doesn't bode well for next year. There are elements of uncertainty in our 1-3/4%-point drag estimate, and the largest such uncertainty is probably political, as some measure could get extended. Respecting that uncertainty, it does appear that fiscal policy poses a downside challenge to our projection for 2.7% GDP growth in 2012." That's right: Jamie Dimon is right now on the phone with Bernanke screaming at the bald Princeton historian that his chief economist anticipates sub 1% GDP in 2012 unless the Fed starts printing. And printing it shall start. Remember: FOMC - August 9. Set your calendars.
The worst possible news for financials, which basically never managed to tick higher in all of 2011, is now here as the entire Treasury curve has virtually pancaked today, making sure that the perfect storm for banks is here, with nobody trading (no sales revenue), prop trading dismantled (no trading revenue), and no lending revenue soon either (2s10s heading to 0%). The closed loop will send even more money into the 10 and 30 Year, causing even more pain for banks, and so on ad inf until Bernanke relents. And you can be certain that the CEOs of the TBTFs are on the phone with the New York Fed as we speak. Luckily, the next FOMC meeting is August 9 which means the market will only have to deal with this non QE3 uncertainty for a few days. Naturally when QE3 is announced, gold will promptly leave $2000 in the rearview mirror.
Back on July 28, we conceived of an alternative trade to the "sell CDS" on a defaulting US as a win-win proposition, in the form of compressing the August 2/August 4 Cash Management Bill spread, which at the time was as high as 20 bps. Since a default would mean nobody would be there to collect, betting everything and the kitchen sink on a levered compression to zero in this trade would be a sure way to make money as the August 4 CMBs would mature and pay off par, or else the US would be insolvent. Specifically, we said: "the reason why this trade, with lots of leverage would be ideal, is that, as mentioned above, if the US does default, Repo desks and Prime Brokers will have much much bigger problems, and two, as we pointed out, it will imminently become "uncovered" that the Fed has a secret stash of cash, up to the amount of about half a trillion, which may easily carry the Treasury through the new year, in which case the spread will immediately collapse. Of course, we could be wrong, and everyone who plays the compression will blow up in an epic supernova that will make Boaz Weinsten's legendary basis trade annihilation seems like amateur hour." We were not wrong. And in fact, as of last check, with the August 2nd CMBs already matured, the spread is negative 1.2 bps due to the scramble into ultra near term securities courtesy of the collapse of the ponzi equity stock market left and right. To those who made money on this trade: congratulations.
If the nation is serious about encouraging new businesses, then government has to strip away the inefficiency and bloat which inhibit growth for essentially zero payoff. Permits are important, and oversight is important; but it is merely common-sense that these functions be centralized and speeded up to foster "best practices" without stultifying new businesses. Government employees who want to do their jobs efficiently and productively would be delighted to work for a stripped down, centralized agency which was designed to approve or disapprove projects quickly, and regulate the economy like vitamins--enough for safety, but not too much, i.e. a self-serving fiefdom. It's that simple: lower the cost structure of the economy, and remove the impediments to starting new businesses and hiring workers.