There are a lot of moving parts in the Dismal tale of Dimon's demise... Iksil' large size in the market left a mark that hedge funds tried to fix - that was his index trading was making the index extremely rich (expensive) relative to intrinsics (fair-value). That is where the media picked up the story and as we detail below leads us to today. Attempts to hedge his over-hedged positions and/or unwind them impacted the market too much and we suspect created the need for today's admission of guilt. And so, we find ourselves with - net CDS/CDO notionals remain huge (and implicitly on JPM's shoulders), his very recent lack of selling has left the credit index maybe 20bps rich to where it might trade given its rough correlation with the S&P 500 and this would imply at least $3bn of losses already in addition at fair-value. Of course, the situation is far worse because 1) any efforts to unwind such a huge position will lead to the market yawning wide and swallowing him in illiquid bid-ask spreads; and 2) the rest of the world knows their position - so why would the hedge funds not push their position. Note, it is not the instrument that caused this - it is the trader as "you don't hedge risk when you bet on momentum continuing you idiot!"
Yes, believe it or not, there is a world outside of JPM in the past 12 hours, and it was very ugly: weak Chinese CPI, big miss in Chinese industrial output (+9.3%, Est. +12.2%), even bigger miss, actually make it a decline, in Indian factory Outupt (down -3.5%, est. +1.7%), a collapse in China’s new local-currency loans plunging by 32% m/m in April, making a new money infusion paramount (yet inflation still abounds, and the threat of NEW QE keeping the PBOC mum - oh what to do?) and of course... Greece, where things are heading for a second election at breakneck speed, and where Syriza is gaining about a percent in new support each day, guaranteeing life for Europe will be a living hell in one month. What else happened overnight to send futures down 0.5% (and JPM down 8%). Below is a full recap from Bank of America.
Lelaina: Can you define "irony"?
Troy Dyer: It's when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.
- Reality Bites
Highly respected economist and strategist David Rosenberg has told that Financial Times in a video interview (see below) that gold “will go to $3,000 per ounce before this cycle is over.” Markets are repeating the downturns of 2010 and 2011 and it is time to search for safety, David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff tells James Mackintosh, the FT Investment Editor. Rosenberg sees a “very good opportunity in gold” as it has corrected and seems to be “off the radar screen right now”. He sees gold as a currency and says the best way to value gold is in terms of money supply and “currency in circulation.” As the “volume of dollars is going up as we get more quantitative easing” he sees gold at $3,000 per ounce. Mackintosh says that Rosenberg’s view is a “pretty bearish view”. To which Rosenberg responds that it is “bullish view on gold and gold mining stocks.” Mackintosh says that it is “bearish on everything else”. Rosenberg says that it is not about being “bullish or bearish,” it is about “stating how you view the world” and he warns that the major central banks are all going to print more money and keep real interest rates negative “as far as the eye can see.”
JP Morgan may suddenly be finding itself in deep doodoo, with wide-ranging implications for what this huge prop trading loss means for other less than "fortress balance sheet" banks, all of whose trading blotters are surely riddled with comparable attempts at picking pennies in front of steamrollers, but at least "Europe is fine" and its banks are "solvent". So as a reminder, here is what Europe can look forward to next week: in a word - one of the heaviest bond issuance weeks so far in 2012. And no, these are not slam dunk Bills maturing inside the LTRO. Good luck Europe.
- China Industrial Output Growth Slows Sharply In April (WSJ)
- Indian industrial output shrinks unexpectedly (AFP)
- China’s Inflation Moderates, Adding Room for Easing (Bloomberg)... a nickel for every "imminent RRR-cut" prediction
- Drew Built 30-Year JPMorgan Career Embracing Risk (Bloomberg)
- Spain Offered Time to Curb Deficit (FT)
- France Entrepreneurs Flee From Hollande Wealth Rejection (BBG)
- Venizelos Eyes Unity Deal After Agreement With Democratic Left (Ekathimerini)
- Berlin Reaches Out to the Periphery (FT)
- Bernanke Speaks About Risks From End of Pro-Growth Plans (Bloomberg)
We have presented our opinion on the JPM prop trading desk repeatedly, in fact starting about a month ago. Last night, Senator Carl "Shitty Deal" Levin also decided to join the fray, which is to be expected: the man needs air time. And now, in a surprising twist, competing banks, all of whom have more than enough skeletons in their own prop desk trading closet, are starting to speak up against the bank that should not be named. Enter Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid and his take on the Fail Whale.
Having listened to the conference call (I was roaring with laughter), Jamie Dimon sounded very defensive especially about one detail: that the CIO’s activities were solely in risk management, and that its bets were designed to hedge risk. Now, we all know very well that banks have been capable of turning “risk management” into a hugely risky business — that was the whole problem with the mid-00s securitisation bubble, which made a sport out of packaging up bad debt and spreading it around balance sheets via shadow banking intermediation, thus turning a small localised risk (of mortgage default) into a huge systemic risk (of a default cascade). But wait a minute? If you’re hedging risk then the bets you make will be cancelled against your existing balance sheet. In other words, if your hedges turn out to be worthless then your initial portfolio should have gained, and if your initial portfolio falls, then your hedges will activate, limiting your losses. That is how hedging risk works. If the loss on your hedges is not being cancelled-out by gains in your initial portfolio then by definition you are not hedging risk. You are speculating.
With the need for exponentially larger expansions of the central bank balance sheets - and most importantly, the rate of expansion (flow) not just the size (stock) - we thought it useful to see just how the Fed's actions had impacted the S&P 500. From the lows in March 2009, 1150 S&P points have been 'created-or-saved' thanks to central bank largesse. That is a cost of $2 billion (not million!) for every S&P 500 point since the Fed started to expands its balance sheet by $2.3 trillion. Money-well-spent, we are sure you'll agree. In the meantime, it is the printing-endgames that we care about and the horrible sense of deja vu that the following chart inspires should at minimum see investors scaling back (which it appears the sensible retail investor is) - despite the imploring of every long-only asset manager.
While we have heard a lot from Jim Grant recently - all pointedly correct and substantial - today marked the pinnacle of propaganda-brinksmanship. Explaining to Maria B just why the world in which she lives, Bernanke-lovers-all, is nothing but a hall of mirrors - a fake mirage - of the true reality thanks to central bank repression of all that we know about risk and return. "By changing interest rates, central banks change the perception of every asset class - so what seems cheap may not be cheap" as Grant notes that when you can fund investment at 0%, we are collectively being manipulated and moreover should try to realize - as an investing public - that we are Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Of course the 75% of professional investors who believe Bernanke is doing a great job would prefer to stay inside the fake reality where their bonuses get paid and leveraged tranche losses get soaked up by some account transfer from the fed or loan loss provisioning adjustment - for the rest of us - wake up and smell the unreality. The money-honey pulls the blame and deflect card - noting the ECB are just as bad - but Grant brings her back to the reality that we are facing as he suggests being in the crowd who own Treasuries and Bunds when the next risk flare occurs will not end as well as many hope, preferring gold (and gold stocks) as a hedge as "The Gold move is not over".
A month ago we warned that JPM's CIO office is nothing short of the world's largest prop trading desk. Not only were we right, but what just transpired is just shy of our worst possible prediction. At the end of the day, the real question is why did JPM put in so much money at risk in a prop trade because we can dispense with the bullshit that his was a hedge, right? Simple: because it knew with 100% certainty that if things turn out very, very badly, that the taxpayer, via the Fed, would come to its rescue. Luckily, things turned out only 80% bad. Although it is not over yet: if credit spreads soar, assuming at $200 million DV01, and a 100 bps move, JPM could suffer a $20 billion loss when all is said and done. But hey: at least "net" is not "gross" and we know, just know, that the SEC will get involved and make sure something like this never happens again.