It is at times like these that we in the financial sector are humbled in the presumption of our own importance and of the meaning of our works. Daily, we chase the ebb and flow of symbols and numbers across the screens and ticker tapes of the world, seeking to distill from them a fleeting pattern, or to recognize within them some more enduring form. Rarely, if ever, amid the hubbub of the trading room or the raw intensity of the Pit, do we reflect on the power of such symbols. We crane for each flickering change in a terse alphanumeric—USZ1, DELL, CPI +0.2%, DAX +150—each of us striving uselessly, but compulsively, to see it before our peers do, or, with a little more purpose, to interpret it more quickly than they. These electronic lights represent a stock, a bond, a currency; of that much we remain aware. But the stocks or bonds themselves are but symbols: a claim to the ownership of a minuscule fraction of some sprawling enterprise, or a right to receive payment from it in days to come. Again, that payment—in dollars, or euros, or yen—is another symbol: a sign that men have "laboured the earth," in Jefferson’s trenchant phrase, and that they seek to exchange the fruits of those labours for our own. This is where the chain of ciphers and sigils leads us at last, then—to the efforts of ordinary men and women going about their daily lives, working at one thing, the thing at which they are most competent, in order to swap their efforts for other things, for a whole diversity of things, made, in turn, by countless, faceless others doing what they are good at, too. This is the majesty of the free market, of capitalism, this self-organizing scheme that most fully utilizes our jewelled planet’s greatest resource—humanity itself—so that the masses of today live better than all the fearsome khans and haughty emperors of old. But on Tuesday, out of a clear autumnal sky, all this was put at deadly hazard by earnest men, albeit men whose earnestness had been twisted into suicidal hatred by the potent brew of fanaticism and despair. By their intricate assault on the good people of the U.S., these men showed that they were versed in the power of symbols all too well.
The Summer Vacation Is Over - As Papandreou Briefs Greece On Its Sorry State, The Riot Police ReturnsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/10/2011 13:14 -0400
Just as Greece's G-Pap, who has proven he has more political lives than a cat, is about to speak at the Thessaloniki trade fair with an update on the economy (which is now contracting at more than 5% compared to the -3.8% forecast in May), the country reminds us that summer vacation is over, and that millions of Greeks have returned from their month long vacations only to find that they still are not getting the socialist benefits they thought may, just may, sneak their way back into their paychecks and early retirement plans. To wit, as AP reports, "Riot police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse anti-austerity protesters armed with flare guns, stones and sticks as clashes broke out in Greece's second-largest city. From taxi drivers to sports fans, thousands of angry citizens were protesting in the northern port of Thessaloniki before the prime minister's annual speech on the economy. The protests came in waves Saturday. Several thousand taxi drivers angry over new licensing reforms chanted anti-government slogans as they marched, many throwing plastic water bottles at riot police guarding the trade fair where Papandreou was to speak later. An estimated 1,500 students and anarchists followed on their heels, while other crowds gathered for separate protests by the barely-solvent country's two biggest labor unions. Even fans of Thessaloniki's soccer club Iraklis turned out to protest." Of course, now that even Italy, after one aborted attempt to paint over the issue, is forced to impose some austerity, Europe has a long, long autumn and winter of protesting to look forward to, which coupled with the logical impact on GDP courtesy of everyone's complete lack of interest in working any more (think of the horror at retiring at 65), means that all European economies will soon grind to a halt... Just as has been predited on these pages over a year ago.
It's that time again when the IMF has just telegraphed something very big and very bad is about to happen. But let's back up, and paraphrase our post from March: "Back in April 2010, before Waddell and Reed sold a few shares of ES, effectively destroying the market on news that Europe was insolvent, we made the following observation: "The IMF has just announced that it is expanding its New Arrangement to Borrow (NAB) multilateral facility from its existing $50 billion by a whopping $500 billion (SDR333.5 billion), to $550 billion." Little did we know that our conclusion "something big must be coming" would prove spot on just a month later after Greece, then Ireland, then Portgual, and soon Spain, Italy, Belgium, and pretty much all other European countries would topple like dominoes tethered together by a flawed monetary regime. Well, based on news from Dow Jones we can now safely predict the following: "something bigger must be coming." The specific reason for this prediction was the following: "the International Monetary Fund is expected to soon activate a special funding pool that will boost the fund's ability to prevent or resolve economic crises." Sure enough something bigger came, and then some: Greece received its second bailout package about 4 months later, only to see the entire Eurozone hang by a thread following the political fallout that has since ensued. Well, it is time to shift from the comparative to the superlative: "something biggest must be coming."
Ten days ago Zero Hedge presented the idea of applying an Asbestos-type settlement to the neverending lawsuits against Bank of America which if continue at the current rate will result in the swift and brutal end of the massively undercapitalized bank by a thousand Rep and Warranty litigation cuts. Yesterday, we were happy to see that the idea has received far broader billing, and is being taken up by non other than Reuters: "When some look at all of the litigation arising from Bank of America's big role in the U.S. mortgage mess, they start thinking of asbestos and how thousands of lawsuits arising from that cancer-causing product brought down many manufacturers more than a decade ago. The solution back then to dealing with claims filed by more than 750,000 workers exposed to asbestos was the creation of dozens of "asbestos settlement trusts," which have paid out tens of billions dollars in damages. Some of them are still going strong today. The asbestos trusts were seen as an innovative approach to deal with seemingly endless litigation and provide a measure of compensation to sick workers and their families. The system for dealing with claims also allowed some of the hobbled manufacturers to emerge from bankruptcy largely free of the crushing weight of lawsuits." In other words, the choices for Bank of America are now two: either it prepares for a slow, painful, insolvency as all of its cash is bled out in litigation fees and "one-time" lawsuit charges, or, almost just as bad, it funds a massive trust, ringfencing all past, current, and future claims, and which is funded...by nearly all of Bank of America's equity. Yes, the end result will be a near wipe out of the existing Bank of America stock, but it will not be bankruptcy! In essence, what BAC will do is a bankruptcy remote "prepackaged bankruptcy" in which it spins off its contingent liabilities, with an equity buffer of whatever the litigants choose (most likely up to about 95% of the firm's current equity value), and proceeds to grow as a simple bank (with or without Merrill) and fund itself through retained earnings, in the process shedding off the "cancer" that are $1.2 trillion in toxic mortgages. The result of this would be a BAC share price of under $1 but that is inevitable. The alternative: freefall chapter 11 and technically 7 (which will never be allowed by the administration, sorry Chris Whalen), means BAC trades to $0.00, and the status quo system of crony communism is finished.
Goldman's head equity strategist David Kostin is shocked, shocked, that things have not turned out the way he expected them to at the beginning of the year. He is even more shocked that August just ended up being about the worst month in market history since Lehman, courtesy of this whole "mean reversion" to normalcy thing, whatever it is (apparently you can not have an infinity+1 S&P point levitation on increasingly less volume without it correcting at some point). Specifically for the statistics buffs, "In August the S&P 500 was down 5.7% with an annualized volatility of 47%. August S&P return was in the bottom 10% of monthly returns since 1928. Over that time 58% of monthly returns have been positive with an average return of 0.6% (7.4% annualized). August volatility was in the 98th percentile over that period at more than triple its 15% average since 1928. Just 25 out of 1004 months over the past 83 years have experienced higher realized volatility than August 2011. Amid that volatility, the median hedge fund returned -2%, outperforming both the S&P 500 and the median large-cap core mutual fund (-5.9%)." Ahh, 'ze price stabeeleetee'... Anyway, it is about to get worse: if September closes red, we will have a 5th consecutive down month: "Five consecutive negative monthly returns are rare for the S&P 500. Since 1928 there have been only nine episodes when the S&P 500 declined for more than four months in a row (Exhibit 1). The longest was a ninemonth stretch of futility in 1974 that was part of two-year period when the market fell in 20 of 24 months by a cumulative 42%. The most recent example was the five-month period of negative returns from November 2007 through March 2008, which was the first since 1990." Now should September, and October close read, we hit the panic button: there have been just 4 occurences of 6 consecutive down months in the history of the S&P! Which all leads us to the following shuck and jive: "Investors look to the Fed to stop the losing streak." And there you have it: when fundamentals reassert themselves, bring out the chairsatan.
The G-7 is in full panic mode. The organization for the prevention of harm to the Status Quo was expected to release a communique possibly over the weekend, but the speed with which one was dropped for mass circulation is stunning and confirms that its members are in full meltdown as the weekend comes. It is now certain that the G-7 will attempt some major intervention over the next 48 hours to inject a last dose of hope into capital markets, or else the Monday open will be an epic collapse.
It’s probably the #1 question on every gold investor’s mind right now: Why are gold stocks underperforming gold? Aren’t they supposed to bring us leverage to the gold price? Yes, they are, and their performance been both disappointing and puzzling. There are some exceptions, to be sure, but in the majority of cases the stocks are lagging the metal. And it’s been happening for most of the year. What’s going on? I think part of the answer lies in the state of our current environment. Recent headlines and developments around the globe have ratcheted up fear… from the S&P’s downgrade to European bank solvency, from fears of another recession to worse-than-expected unemployment. The nervous climate has pushed investors toward gold for safety, simultaneously reducing the demand for gold equities. The investment implications here are twofold. First, if I’m right, then the strategy should be to buy when shares are relatively cheap and hold for the duration of the bull market. You may think we’d suffer “opportunity loss” if we have to wait too long, but that could be a dangerous game; you could buy after they take off and miss out on some of the easier gains. Further, I don’t know of another sector that is both cheap and imminently poised to break out. The second implication is that corrections wouldn’t be a time to get out, but a time to consider getting in. The ultimate prognosis, in my opinion, is that gold stocks are headed much higher. Sooner or later a catalyst will ignite interest in our sector, and the rush will be on. Now is the time to build positions in the stocks you want to own.
We have long discussed what we suspect will be one of the first European financials to hit the proverbial fan. Given today's anarchic behavior in the US and European markets (credit and equity) and the continued insistence by TPTB (yes you Mr. Greek finance minister) that this is all due to a speculative rumor-mongering attack, we decide to layout some basic facts on one of the banks that was saved by the Fed/FDIC.
The algo-driven levitation of the last hour or so today seemed all about making it back to the magical VWAP line so more selling could occur but even though we were rising, average trade size rose notably into the cash close which is very suggestive of pros selling into the lift (as deltas were definitely weak). This little burst was enough to drag equity into outperformance today relative to credit markets which had a very weak day.
We are surprised to find that there are still those who are naively on the fence about the functionality and efficacy of the upcoming, and if Wall Street is correct, imminent (less than two weeks now) Operation Twist. There is absolutely no reason for such confusion. After all none other than the Chairman himself, in collaboration with Vince Reinhart of Treasury put fame and Brian Sack, of Plunge Protection Team fame, described precisely what we can expect out of the second coming of Chubby Checker...
For those struggling under the deluge of relentless newsflow out of Europe, here are the key events to look for over the next month, courtesy of CitiFX Wire. Readers can take advantage of the weekend which will be calm until late Sunday morning after which it won't be calm, to familiarize themselves with the hurricane that is headed straight to global capital markets.
Jim Rogers Explains To Bob "Not a Cheerleader" Pisani Why He Is Short Stocks, Long Commodities, And Wants Europe To FailSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/09/2011 15:58 -0400
Jim Rogers was on CNBC earlier, discussing the recent intervention by the SNB and the overnight plunge in Europe, in the process generating yet another amusing episode of market "non-cheerleader" Bob Pisani attempting spin the global economic collapse in a favorable light on not one, not two but on three separate occasions, and being soundly rejected by the far more, informed shall we say, Rogers. Specifically, to Pisani's repeated attempt to get Rogers to admit the uber-secret of which stocks he is long (CNBC Ponzi playbook 101), the former Quantumanite responds that not only is he not long anything, he is mostly short stocks and very much long commodities for two simpler reasons: "if the world economy gets better i'm going to make money in commodities because of shortages that are developing. Especially in agriculture and precious metals. If the world economy doesn't get better, Bob, you're not going to make any money in Toyota or IBM but you might make money in commodities because they're going to print more money. It's the wrong thing to do but they will print money. Bernanke is already printing money again. You have to protect yourself. I'm short stocks but i don't expect the world economy to get better. Not much better anyway, if it does and I am long commodities as a protection." And on some other topic like the Chairsatan, "Bernanke has been lying to us again", on the SNB intervention attempt: "This is a terrible mistake" and on what should happen to Europe: " It would be good for the world, though, if they let people go bankrupt."