Claiming that enough time had surely passed since they last caused a global economic meltdown, top executives from the U.S. financial sector told reporters Monday that they are just about ready to completely destroy the world again. Representatives from all major banking and investment institutions cited recent increases in consumer spending, rebounding home prices, and a stabilizing unemployment rate as confirmation that the time had once again come to inflict another round of catastrophic financial losses on individuals and businesses worldwide. “It’s been about five or six years since we last crippled every major market on the planet, so it seems like the time is right for us to get back out there and start ruining the lives of billions of people again,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. “We gave it some time and let everyone get a little comfortable, and now we’re looking to get back on the old horse, shatter some consumer confidence, and flat-out kill any optimism for a stable global economy for years to come.”
With the confusion over Bernanke's comments - "have no fear as the economy is bad enough that the Taper will never come" confused with "the economy is picking-up and that's great so we don't need the Fed anymore" - one has to ask, as we have numerous times, is there another reason for the Fed to start the ball rolling on the Taper talk? In the last few weeks, the Treasury market's yields have risen notably but much more critically, the fails-to-deliver has surged. This critical indicator of both collateral shortages and technical carry trade unwinds is a little-discussed indicator of just how broken the market is thanks to the overwhelming ownership of the Fed. It's getting worse - as Barclays warns, the weakness in bonds is feeding on itself as more people want to short and so the need to borrow from the Fed (as dealer inventory is so low) increases and raises the cost (special-ness) of that short. Simply put, the main reason the Fed is tapering has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with the TBAC presentation (rehypothecation and collateral shortages) and that the US is now running smaller deficits!!!
Global financial markets are now in a very perilous state, and there is a much higher than normal chance of a crash. Bernanke's recent statement revealed just how large a role speculation had played in the prices of nearly everything, and now there is a mad dash for cash taking place all over the world. Collectively, the move away from commodities, bonds, and equities in all markets globally tells us that there's nowhere to hide and that this is a 2008-style dash for cash. Everything is being sold, as it must, to meet margin calls, pay down leverage, and get out of positions; all are signs of the end of a speculative phase.
"If you believe that [Bernanke] means what he says," explains Gloom, Boom, and Doom's Marc Faber to a spell-bound Trish Regan on Bloomberg TV, "then you believe in Father Christmas." Simply out, Faber adds, "we are going to see QE99," and while he notes that equities, bonds, and gold are "very oversold," he would "rather buy bonds and gold than equities." From his views on Laszlo Birinyi to inflation, the 'taper', US housing, and China, Faber calmly warns that "the S&P could drop 20-30% from the recent highs - easily."
"The only thing that I know is that I want to own some physical gold because I don't want all of my assets in financial assets."
"I am not a prophet, I don't know exactly where the price will be on a month by month basis, but I want to have some wealth, some of my assets in physical gold. I can see a lot of problems coming into the world including expropriation through taxation or through regulation or even through revolution and social strife."
Why did the U.S. government spend 2.6 million dollars to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly? Why did the U.S. government spend $175,587 "to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior"? Why did the U.S. government spend nearly a million dollars on a new soccer field for detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay? This week when we saw that the IRS was about to pay out 70 million dollars in bonuses to their employees and that the U.S. government was going to be leaving 7 billion dollars worth of military equipment behind in Afghanistan, it caused us to reflect on all of the other crazy ways that the government has been wasting our money in recent years. So we decided to go back through my previous articles and put together a list. We call it "The Waste List".
The United States has asked Hong Kong to detain Edward Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant after filing a sealed criminal complaint alleging espionage, theft, and conversion of government property. As The Washington Post reports, the complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia - where Snowden's former employer Booz Allen is headquartered:
- *U.S. CHARGES SNOWDEN IN SEALED COMPLAINT IN NSA LEAK, POST SAYS
- *U.S. SAID TO CHARGE SNOWDEN IN NSA SURVEILLANCE DISCLOSURES
While there was really little doubt that the Justice Department would seek to prosecute Snowden over the leaks, the district chosen, according to WaPo, has a long track-record of prosecuting cases with national security implications; and while Honk Kong does have an extradition treaty with the US, there are exceptions for political offenses.
The mere mention that tapering was even possible, combined with the Chairman's fairly sunny disposition (perhaps caused by the realization that the real mess will likely be his successor's problem to clean up) was enough to convince the market that the post-QE world was at hand. This conclusion is wrong. Although many haven't yet realized it, the financial markets are stuck in a "Waiting for Godot" era in which the change in policy that all are straining to see, will never in fact arrive. Most fail to grasp the degree to which the "recovery" will stall without the $85 billion per month that the Fed is currently pumping into the economy. Of course, when the Fed is forced to make this concession, it should be obvious to a critical mass that the recovery is a sham.
Buybacks, dividends, and M&A all depend on firms' abilities to borrow cheap. With leverage ratios rising (and micro fundamentals weakening) as we noted here, macro fundamentals deteriorating, and the visible hand of the Fed now lifting off the repressed neck of risk managers, we have a simple question - What Happens Next? Simply put, your glowing stocks cannot rally in a world of surging debt finance costs.
Paul Krugman meets Hannibal Lecter, Barack Obama stymies E.T., Ben Bernanke advises H.I. McDunnough, and more...
That pesky marketplace (Bernanke vs Obama) - a political fable...
Moral: When the financial markets no longer reflect the human condition, authorities must answer to true power – the marketplace.
After exposing the faux prosperity of the immediate post-2009 "wholly unnatural" recovery and explaining the precarious foundation of the Bernanke Bubble, David Stockman's new book 'The Great Deformation' delves deeper (in Part 2 of this 5-part series) into the dismal internals of the jobs numbers and only the utterly politicized calculation of the “unemployment rate” that disguises the jobless nature of the rebound. To be sure, the Fed’s Wall Street shills breathlessly reported the improved jobs “print” every month, picking and choosing starting and ending points and using continuously revised and seasonally maladjusted data to support that illusion. Yet the fundamentals with respect to breadwinner jobs could not be obfuscated - by September 2012, the S&P 500 was up by 115 percent from its recession lows and had recovered all of its losses from the peak of the second Greenspan bubble. By contrast, only 200,000 of the 5.6 million lost breadwinner jobs had been recovered by that same point in time.
Few others are better equipped to comprehend both the insider's and outsider's perspective on what the government, the Fed, and the banks are doing in this so-called 'recovery' we are experiencing than David Stockman. Nowhere does he detail this better than Chapter 31 of his new book 'The Great Deformation'. In this first part (of a five-part series), he explains just what happened after the US economy liquidated excess inventory and labor and hit its natural bottom in June 2009. Embarking upon a halting but wholly unnatural "recovery," doing nothing but igniting yet another round of rampant speculation in the risk asset classes. The precarious foundation of the Bernanke Bubble is starkly evident in the internal composition of the jobs numbers.
5Y yields rose a stunning 37% this week - the most in the 50 year record of Bloomberg data. The 38bps increase in yields is also among the worst absolute shifts over that period but off such low levels it is quite a shock. Credit markets saw hedge protection bought early on in the week and then covered as real money started to sell their bonds on the back of redemptions in the last two days. The high-yield bond ETF had its biggest weekly loss in 13 months (notably clinging to the Lehman ledge levels). Equity markets suffered too (down 3.5 to 4.0% from the FOMC) with the S&P's worst week of the year (even as it bounced off its 100DMA). Most sectors hung around the 3-4% drop but homebuilders are down over 8% since the FOMC. The USD surged over 2.1% on the week with JPY's worst week in 43 months. VIX ended the day down 1.7 vols at 18.8% but beware as OPEX and hedge unwinds into underlying covers seems prevalent. Gold's worst week in 21 months left it back under $1300.
Until the great-and-powerful Ben pronounced the Taper, US Treasury bonds had tracked the deteriorating macro fundamentals of this 'recovery' rather well. In the few weeks since, the squeeze has hit and yields have played catch up to equity's exuberance. However, now that the two asset classes have recoupled in the less-supported world, the question is, which of the three legs of reality - equities, bonds, or fundamentals - will move next?