PIMCO Releases 2012 Economic Forecasts; Presenting The Wall Street 2011 Market Forecast Track RecordSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/22/2011 11:42 -0400
Following yesterday's €489 billion LTRO there are few things we know with certainty, primary among them is that the net proceeds from the 3 year refi operation are really €210 billion, due to the rolling of various other duration facilities which are already in use into the LTRO as discussed yesterday. What we do not know, is whether the net proceeds of €210 billion have been used by banks to purchase sovereign debt or as Peter Tchir suggested, are actually used in a reflexive ponzi whereby banks use the explicit ECB guarantee to buy their own debt. Perhaps the best evidence that the LTRO was an epic failure when it comes to subsidizing the peripheral bond market is the fact that hours after its completion the ECB was forced to jump into the secondary market and buy up billions in Italian and Spanish bonds: an action that was supposed to be conducted by the banks themselves. But let's assume that the entire €210 billion form the first LTRO (and there certainly will be more) is used to fund carry trades: what then? Well, luckily UBS has performed a mathematical analysis which looks at how much paper profit banks can extract from said trade and juxtaposes it with the most recent €115 billion capital shortfall calculated by the EBA in its most recent stress test (not to be confused with the second to last stress test which saw Dexia pass with the highest marks possible). The result: woefully insufficient . In other words, anyone who believes that the LTRO will be used by banks as a source of carry "profits" is massively deluded. If anything banks will find creative loophole to prop up their balance sheets and issue more of their own debt instead of chasing pennies in front of the bond vigilante rollercoaster by loading up on more sovereigns. Because the last thing Italian banks can afford is another late Novemeber blow out in yields which brought the system to within hours of imminent collapse.
Banks in weak countries have been issuing debt, getting a government guarantee, and then posting them as collateral at the ECB. There are examples of this for Greek banks for sure, but my understanding is it has also been occurring in Portugal and Ireland. It is the only way banks in Greece (and the other countries) can raise money. It always struck me as a little bizarre, but guess it was done so the ECB could justify lending the money. I always thought it was relatively harmless, and was only adding to the risk of countries that were already in deep trouble – providing a guarantee is NOT riskless. But it appears about €40 billion of yesterday’s LTRO was done by Italian banks that issued bonds to themselves and got a government guarantee, and then posted it to LTRO. So these banks didn’t have any other collateral they could post? Unicredit has a balance sheet approaching a €TRILLION but they had nothing they could post as ollateral? That seems strange. Extremely strange.
And so the year ends not with a bang but with an economic whimper, as the final Q3 GDP is revised lower from 2.0% to 1.8% on expectations of an unchanged print. The reason: Personal Consumption contributed only 1.24% instead of the 1.63% in the second revision and 1.72% in the advance forecast. No bias there at all. But sure enough, here comes the inventory kicker, which subtracted just 1.35% instead of the 1.55% seen previously. What this means is that the inventory kick which was expected to come in Q4 2011 was pushed forward to prevent a 20% collapse in GDP today as keeping inventory change fixed would have resulted in a 1.6% Q3 final GDP. Net net - very weak report and one which portends weakness from Q3 is spilling over in Q4, where in addition to everything we will soon see the NAR existing home sale adjustment hit the economy with a double whammy of historical adjustments.
Just as Blythe Masters' (yes, that one) team suffered huge trading losses in the middle of 2010 following the abysmal RBS Sempra purchase, showing that when traders of scale lose, they lose big, so today another big commodities trader, Barclays, is reported to have gotten crushed on copper and other base metals bets gone wrong. Dow Jones says that Barclays is set to reshuffle its base metals trading team following a series of significant financial losses made by the desk this year. "The base metals trading team is run by Iain MacRae, who is currently still working at Barcap. The company has been unravelling a number of its copper positions recently, traders and brokers said, along with positions in other base metals it trades. The majority of the losses were in forward copper spreads, people familiar with the matter said. Although these positions were in-the-money a year ago, the market has since gone in the other direction, forcing Barclays to close the positions out at significant loss, these people added....The investment banking division of Barclays Bank, Barclays Capital has been a category one ring dealing member of the London Metal Exchange since May 1997 and is traditionally a high volume participant in base metals futures and options trading. It also owns a 2.3% stake in the LME." As to who the most likely beneficiary of this collapse is Goldman, which in tried and true fashion told its clients to be buying copper throughout the carnage, only to close its copper position at a 20% loss a few days ago. But not before indicating that even more bloodbathing is in store for the future, having concurrently reopened future bullish positions in copper.
While volume today will be rather abysmal with virtually everyone now gone, the robots will be quite busy kneejerking themselves to a variety of economic reports, starting with the final Q3 GDP revision, consumer sentiment, index of leading indicators and ending with FHFA. On the political front it is unclear if there is any progress to the payroll tax extension negotiations, which has huge implications for if not the Q1 market, then definitely economy.
Credit calling, are you listening?
On the horizon, defaults are looming
A dreadful sight,
To see high yield's plight,
Walking in a weaker Euroland.
Without a pledge from the German,
Credit spreads are gonna widen
Who wants to pay?
For the peripheral disarray
Walking in a weaker Euroland.
- The watchdogs that didn't bark (Reuters)
- Italy's Monti faces key final vote on austerity (Reuters)
- Finland 'finds Patriot missiles' on China-bound ship (BBC)
- Swiss Panel Studying Measures to Curb Franc’s Gains, Widmer-Schlumpf Says (Bloomberg)
- U.S. exporters brace for cutbacks in European bank lending (WaPo)
- Gundlach fears debt ‘crescendo’ (FT)
- China accuses US of protectionism (FT)
- China banks eye easing as household inflation view cools: PBOC (Reuters)
- Obama Gets a Lift From Tax Battle With Republicans (NYT)... yes, the NYT
Anyone seeking joyous holiday greetings and cheerful forecasts for the new year is advised to not listen to the following most recent Mark Faber interview, in which in addition to his predictions for 2012 (led with "more printing" by the dodecatupling +1 down central planners of course, and far less prosperity), we get the following: "I am convinced the whole derivatives market will cease to exit. Will become zero. And when it happens I don't know: you can postpone the problems with monetary measures for a long time but you can't solve them... Greece should have defaulted - it would have sent a message that not all derivatives are equal because it depends on the counterparty." And on the long-term future: "I am ultra bearish. I think most people will be lucky if they still have 50% of their money in 5 years time. You have to have diversification - some real estate in the countryside, some gold and some equities because if you think it through, say Germany 1900 to today, we had WWI, we had hyperinflation, WWII, cash holders and bondholders they lost everything 3 times, but if you owned equities you'd be ok. In equities in general you will not lose it all, it may not be a good investment, unless you put it all in one company and it goes bankrupt." As for gold: "I am worried that one day the government will take it away." As for the one thing he hates the most? No surprise here -government bonds.
Credit Suisse has been producing country-specific and global risk appetite indices for years, offering a quick-and-dirty perspective on the market participant sentiment in global risk assets. By empirically tracking the relationships between 'safe' and 'risky' asset classes, they have created a useful contemporaneous view of current market perceptions. The index swings between euphoria and panic modes and shifted to full-scale panic around mid-year. Since then the index has gradually improved as the psychological bias of 'it can't get any worse, right?' seems to have kicked in until recently where CS notes a recent downturn. So while we have 'improved' back to only Panic Mode, the expectations are for a prolonged risk-off session in the short- to medium-term.
Since the 2012 Outlooks have now slowed to a drip, its appears retrospectives are the stocking-filler of choice for the week. Goldman's economist group reflects on their '10 Questions for 2011', released at the end of December 2010, and finds they were correct seven times. The tricky thing about judging the 'score' is the magnitude of the error - or more importantly the magnitude of the question's impact on trading views. Jan Hatzius and his team have had their moments this year, for better or worse, in economic sickness or health but they have largely been accurate at predicting Fed policy (or should we say 'directing/suggesting' Fed policy), but were significantly off (along with emajority of the Birinyi-ruler-based extrapolators from the sell-side) on growth (high) expectations and inflation (low) expectations. Nevertheless, the lessons learned from over-estimating the speed of healing from the credit crisis and the disin- / de-flationary effects of a large output gap (which BARCAP would argue is not as wide) when inflation is already low and inflation expectations well anchored are critical for not making the same overly-optimistic mistake into 2012.
While the rest of the world enjoys the New Normal, which lately has primarily and mostly negative connotations, when it comes to such "legacy" aspects of life as holiday shopping, we all enjoy the fall back to a simpler time assuming that at least such basic behavior as buying presents for the loved (and not so loved) ones can hardly change much with the years. Alas, even this last bastion of nostalgic simplicity has now been swept away: Nick Colas and his team from ConvergEx, have once again decided to educate us about the folly of assuming the old ways are with us, and has created a useful compilation exposing the finer nuances of the "twelve days of online Christmas" which show that just like everything else, holiday shopping patterns are rapidly changing as well. "This holiday season consumers aren’t quite as concerned with finding “cheap gifts” as in recent years, though traditional luxury items such as jewelry and cashmere sweaters are still losing traction with gift-givers. They’re seeking sales on electronics, becoming increasingly enamored with real vs. artificial Christmas trees, and backing off catering services in favor of home-cooked ham. New York City is the most popular place to spend Christmas and New Years (hey, it’s cheaper than a ski destination), but interest in the Radio City Rockettes and Broadway shows is dwindling. All these observations come courtesy of two of our favorite online gauges of consumer behavior – Google Trends and search engine autofills from Google, Yahoo and Bing. We’ve compiled a collection of 13 visuals (12 for the days of Christmas plus a bonus for Hanukkah) that ultimately show consumer spending patterns are still decidedly cautious."
With precisely one year left for the world and all of its inhabitants, at least according to the Mayans, not to mention on the day of the Winter Solstice, it is only fitting that US debt, net of all settlements for all already completed bond auctions, is now at precisely $15,182,756,264,288.80. Why is this relevant? Because the latest annualized US GDP, according to the BEA, was $15,180,900,000.00. Which means that, as of today, total US debt to GDP is 100.012%. Congratulations America: you are now in the triple digit "debt to GDP" club!