When it comes to energy, and specifically crude oil trading, few names are as respected, if controversial, as former Citi star trader, Andrew Hall, whose $100 million pay package in 2008 forced Citi to sell energy unit Phibro to Occidental. He currently is primarily focused on his own fund Astenbeck, where he trades what he has always traded - commodities, and primarily oil. As such, his view on the oil market is far more credible than that of the EIA, or any conflicted Saudi Interests. So what does he have to say about the biggest wildcard currently in the energy market, namely whether or not Saudi Arabia, can push its production from its recent record high of just under 10,000 tb/d to the 12,500 tb/d that would be needed to replace all lost Iranian output (a question we asked rhetorically two weeks ago). The answer? Don't make him laugh.
European equities are taking losses as North America comes to market, with particular underperformance noted in the periphery bourses. Risk-aversion pushed both Spanish and Italian yields higher, with the spread between the Spanish 10-year and the Bund crossing above 400BPS for the first time since Late November 2011. The yields have now come off their highs but still remain elevated. It should be noted that markets are generally light today heading into the Easter weekend as investors take risk off the markets, so large surges in volumes have been observed. In the FX markets, EUR/CHF briefly broke below the SNB’s staunchly defended 1.2000 level on some exchanges, but uncertainty remains over the exact low due to different exchanges registering different prints. Needless to say, all exchanges witnessed a 30pip spike upwards in the cross with significant demand seen pushing the cross away from the floor. EUR/CHF now trades around the 1.2020 level.
Liquidity never solves issues of solvency and the time that it buys is generally of a relatively short duration. After the $1.3 trillion loan by the ECB to the European banks which helped drive up the prices for European sovereigns what do we now find as the liquidity ebbs? Yesterday’s Spanish auction was abysmal and the French auction today did not go too well with rising yields and less demand. The austerity measures are driving Europe into a worsening recession and the financial positions of Spain and Italy are deteriorating even as new measures are put into place. In fact there are only two ways out of the European mess which are growth, not happening, and Inflation which may be the ultimate strategy employed by the EU and the ECB if the construct holds to the point of changing strategies which is surely no outlier event.
- Portugal Says Some Town Halls May Need to Restructure Their Debt (Bloomberg)
- Draghi Scotches ECB Exit Talk as Spain Keeps Crisis Alive (Bloomberg)
- China PBOC Injects Net CNY25 Bln Into Money Market This Week (WSJ)
- BoE warns on mortgage limits (FT)
- Apple investigating new iPad WiFi issues, tells AppleCare to replace affected units (9to5Mac)
- Juppé promises French hard line in EU (FT)
- ECB liquidity fuels high stakes hedging (FT)
- Fed’s Lacker Says Markets Saw Odds of Policy Easing as Too High (Bloomberg)
- Japan minister to ask for nuclear reactor restart: media (Reuters)
And like that, Europe is broken again. Following a spate of negative European data (what else is there), including a miss in German industrial production as well as a miss in UK manufacturing output, all eyes are again on Spain, especially those of the bond vigilantes, who have sold off the sovereign European bond market, sending the Spanish-Bund spread to over 400 bps for the first time since December 2011. The main reason today: a Goldman report saying Spain will unlikely meet its 2012 and 2013 budget targets, as well as JPM Chief Economist David Mackie saying Spanish government "missteps" have raised questions about its credibility, making investors reluctant to purchase Spanish debt. Stress has returned to periphery, if it broadened into bank funding markets more LTROs would be forthcoming; if that “failed to hold yields at an appropriate level” Spain may need assistance from the EFSF/ESM and the IMF. Euro area unlikely to return to stability in sovereigns without some burden sharing; nominal growth likely to stay below borrowing costs, making fiscal targets “all but impossible to achieve”. UBS piles in saying Spanish banking stresses still haven't been addressed. Finally, a big red flag is that market liquidity is once again starting to disappear, and as Peter Tchir points out, Main is now being quoted with 3/4 bps bid/ask spread, all the way up to 1 bps spread. In other words, as we have been warning for weeks, the period of fake LTRO-induced calm is over, and the market is demanding more central planner liquid heroin. The question becomes whether Europe has even more worthless collateral in exchange for which the ECB will continue handing out discount window money in sterilized sheep's clothing. Yet nowhere is the resumption in risk flaring more evident than in the Swiss Franc, where the EURCHF all of a sudden broke through the critical 1.20 SNB floor, which was set back in September 2011, the day gold was trading at its all time high. Said otherwise, everyone is once again scrambling for safety. And since they can't get it in the CHF, it is only a matter of time, before gold resumes its ascent as the paper currency alternative that sent it to its all time highs late last summer.
Pay close attention because this could be a record-breaking amount of mauling ever attempted by the colossus of client care as Goldman shows it does not discriminate between millionaire and billionaire Muppets. In a bizarre story in CNN Money, we are told that two billionaire 'married' executives of Marvell Technologies - MRVL (no, not the comic book though that would be spectacular) are suing Goldman for what initially appears to be a straight-forward alleged fraud of unauthorized transfer of ownership of their MRVL shares to Goldman's internal fund to enable more borrow availability for shorts (1 Corzine-ing). But the story gets better. The executives, upon the advice of another Goldman broker were advised to take levered long positions in competitor NVDA's shares (which GS was allegedly selling out of its own book - 2 Corzine-ings) only to very rapidly face significant losses when the company missed and the stock dropped notably (3 Corzine-ings). Then, GS sends the MRVL execs margin calls on that position (4 Corzine-ings) and unwilling to accept the MRVL shares as collateral due to its low share price (5 Corzine-ings), forces the former MRVL executives to sell their MRVL shares (6 Corzine-ings) to meet cash calls - all the while remembering that GS had transferred the ownership in order that they could allegedly have more of this hard-to-borrow stock to short (7 Corzine-ings). What's more, the couple's suit alleges that Goldman and a hedge fund run by Goldman were buying MRVL's shares at the same time the firm was forcing Sutardja and Dai to sell (8 Corzine-ings). Both NVDA and MRVL's shares have since more than doubled from their late 2008 lows. The couple claim they lost more than $100 million because of their forced sales and general Muppet massacre.
Do not, however, feel too bad for these two Muppets as Sutardja and Dia are not without controversy themselves. In 2008, MRVL paid a $10 million fine to settle allegations from the SEC that the company backdated the options it paid out to its executives. As part of the settlement, Dai, who was once Marvell's COO, paid a personal fine of $500,000 and was barred from being a director or officer of a publicly traded company for five years.
In what appears to be surprising news for some, Reuters has an article titled "Americans brace for next foreclosure wave" whose key premise is that "a painful part two of the [housing] slump looks set to unfold: Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures." Thank the robosettlement, where in exchange for a few wrist slaps, contract law was thoroughly trampled by America's attorneys general, but far more importantly to the country's crony capitalist system, the foreclosure pipeline was once again unclogged, and whether one does or does not have a legal title on a given house, the banks are now fully in their right to foreclose on it. What this means also is that America's record shadow housing inventory, which is far greater than any fabricated number the NAR reports on a monthly basis, is about to get unleashed on buyers, shifting the supply curve much further to the right, as up to 9 million new properties slowly but surely appear on the market. And while many will no longer be able to live mortgage free, forcing them to go out and rent (and no longer be able to afford incremental iGizmos), it also means that the prevalent price of homes is about to take another major tumble, making buffoons out of all those who, once again, called for a housing bottom in early 2012. Here's the simply math: there will be no housing bottom until the 9 million excess homes clear. Period. Until then it is a buyer's market, even if said buyer is unable to obtain bank financing, as ultimately it will be the seller who is forced to monetize (or vacate if underwater) their home in a world of ever diminishing cashflows. The fear of the supply onslaught will only make the dumpage that much faster.
That the market can be stupid long enough to make anyone seem like a fool is well-known and appreciated by all (even if the final fate of centrally planned markets is even better known by all). What apparently is not known by those who are self-professed trading experts, is that flipflopping like a windsock in a hurricane, with the comic regularity of a Goldman FX advisor who shall remain nameless hell bent on skewering what little clients one has left, only makes one look like a complete and utter buffoon. And yet this is precisely what "one of the best gold traders" CNBC knows does over and over and over, to the point where not only does nobody give any credibility to the utterances from said expert's mouth, but it makes the entire venue into sheer unadulterated, laugh out loud stand up comedy (even more so than normal). And while we do not grasp how CNBC's producers consistently invite said individual to dig ever deeper holes for himself, the other perspective is quite clear: after all each contributor makes $200 per CNBC appearance. In the case of the abovementioned gold expert, we can see how this is a make or break cash infusion.
Who will buy our debt in the coming months and years? Europe is saturated with debt and doesn’t have the means to purchase our debt. Japan is a train wreck waiting to happen. China’s customers aren’t buying their crap, so their economic miracle is about to go in reverse. The Federal Reserve cannot buy $1 trillion of Treasury bonds per year forever without creating more speculative bubbles and raging inflation in the things people need to live. The Minsky Moment will be the point when the U.S. Treasury begins having funding problems due to the spiraling debt incurred in financing perpetual government deficits. At this point no buyer will be found to bid at 2% to 3% yields for U.S. Treasuries; consequently, a major sell-off will ensue leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market clearing asset prices and a sharp drop in market liquidity. In layman terms that means – the shit will hit the fan. The Federal Reserve and Treasury will be caught in their own web of lies. The only way to attract buyers will be to dramatically increase interest rates. Doing this in a country up to its eyeballs in debt will be suicide. We will abruptly know how it feels to be Greek....The entire financial world is hopelessly entangled by the $700 trillion of derivatives that ensure mass destruction if one of the dominoes falls. This is the reason an otherwise inconsequential country like Greece had to be “saved”.
Treasury yields retraced more than 60% of their rise post-FOMC yesterday leaving them only marginally higher on the week as, despite another late afternoon light volume surge to VWAP, stocks closed with their second biggest daily loss of the year. Three days in a row now, ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures contract) has closed at its VWAP - suggesting institutional blocks continue to look for opportune/efficient selling levels (as opposed to buying the dips which we are so used to). After Spain's auction debacle and the ISM Services miss, it seems that with no Fed standing guard that good is good but bad is not better anymore as the S&P 500 cash lost over 1% (down 2% from Monday's peak to today's trough). Financials underperformed and the majors (which we noted on Monday sagging after Europe's close) have been really hurt with Citi, BofA, and MS down 6 to 7% since then. Equity markets in the US and Europe played catch up once again to credit's more realistic assessment of the world as HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) is back at one-month lows, down 2.7% from its end-Feb highs (or five months worth of yield, oops). Investment grade credit (which remains rich to its fair-value) was not helped as Treasuries were the place of refuge for the day as 30Y yields dropped their most in 2012. Commodities suffered significant damage as Silver tumbled to meet Gold's loss for the week, both down 3% Copper and Oil also dropped notably and are now back in sync with the USD for the week -1% or so. Most major FX remained USD positive except for JPY which retraced its snap lower from yesterday as carry trades were generally exited (with EUR and AUD weakness mirroring JPY strength post-FOMC) leaving DXY near 3-week highs. Who-/What-ever was doing the buying in the afternoon clearly levered the position (using AAPL or options) as VIX dumped once again out of nowhere intraday - closing near its lows of the day. However, VIX did close up near one-month highs as it catches up to Europe's VIX flare. Given the drop in implied correlation (and in-line VIX-S&P move) we suspect the covered-call strategy of the year was coming undone a little at the seams as single-name vol underperformed.
"Won't Be Fooled This Week Either": Retail Celebrates Highest Stock Prices Since 2007 With Biggest Redemptions Of 2012Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/04/2012 16:23 -0400
Another week of artificial stock rampage courtesy of a transitory, one-time $2 trillion liquidity spike (that is now ending, if only temporarily), and another week of retail investors refusing to be suckered in (and joining corporate insiders who just sold a record amount of their own stock). In the week ended March 28, domestic equity mutual funds per ICI saw another $3.5 billion in equity redemptions: the biggest since the start of 2012, bring total 2012 YTD outflows to $19 billion, nearly 100% more than the outflow for the comparable period in 2011, which saw "only" $10 billion in outflows. Truly a good way to celebrate the highest artificial stock market high since December 2007. And to all the "but the money is simply going into ETFs" apologists: you are right, with one caveat: Bond ETFs! ... And of course, the TVIX.
It’s important to put yourself in the minds of OECD policy makers. They are largely managing a retirement class that is moving out of the workforce and looking to draw upon its savings -- savings that are (mostly) in real estate, bonds, and equities. Given this demographic reality, growth in nominal terms is undoubtedly the new policy of the West. While a 'nominal GDP targeting' approach has been officially rejected (so far), don't believe it. Reflationary policy aimed at sustaining asset prices at high levels will continue to be the policy going forward. While it’s unclear how long a post-credit bubble world can sustain such period of forced growth, what is perfectly clear is that oil is no longer available to fund such growth. For the seventh year since 2005, global oil production in 2011 failed to surpass 74 mbpd (million barrels per day) on an annual basis. But while the West is set to dote upon its retirement class for many years to come, the five billion people in the developing world are ready to undertake the next leg of their industrial growth. They are already using oil at the margin as their populations urbanize. But as the developing world comes on board as new users of petroleum, they still need growing resources of other energy to fund the new growth which now lies ahead of them. This unchangeable fact sets the world on an inexorable path: a competitive race for BTU.