Equity futures closed at their lows (after cash ended nearer its highs) amid deathly quiet volume with VIX at 6 week highs and HYG underperforming. Much was made Friday about the compression in VIX from its early spike highs - with those that have the microphones explaining how this must be a bullish sigh - surely, and that this also means the cliff resolution is merely hours away. Unfortunately, as we noted at the time, both VIX's behavior (and the reality of our politicians) means that resolution is nowhere near (and the options market remains priced for more pain). In fact the rolling of hedges in VIX futures (and Friday's quad-witching) almost forced spot VIX to drop; today we see spot VIX rising (towards its now anchored January futures levels) and still pointing to significantly more 'concerned' pricing than the market would suggest. We go back to what we have been saying - managers know that selling down their exposure into this thin market creates a bid vacuum (a la Thursday's flash-crash) and so bidding option protection is the only way to survive (meanwhile dribbling down the underlying exposure). During this holiday week, with its low volumes, it would surprise us to see VIX rising further as algos take advantage of low volumes to tickle stocks higher - but the vacuum underneath grows larger by the day.
There is much debate whether when it comes to the total notional size of outstanding derivatives, it is the gross notional that matters (roughly $600 trillion), or the amount which takes out biletaral netting and other offsetting positions (much lower). We explained previously how gross is irrelevant... until it is, i.e. until there is a breach in the counterparty chain and suddenly all net becomes gross (as in the case of the Lehman bankruptcy), such as during a financial crisis, i.e., the only time when gross derivative exposure becomes material (er, by definition). But a bigger question is what is the actual collateral backing this gargantuan market which is about 10 times greater than the world's combined GDP, because as the "derivative" name implies all this exposure is backed on some dedicated, real assets, somewhere. Luckily, the IMF recently released a discussion note titled "Shadow Banking: Economics and Policy" where quietly hidden in one of the appendices it answers precisely this critical question. The bottom line: $600 trillion in gross notional derivatives backed by a tiny $600 billion in real assets: a whopping 0.1% margin requirement! Surely nothing can possibly go wrong with this amount of unprecedented 1000x systemic leverage.
Post-Hyperinflationary Zimbabwe Welcomes The Holidays With 80% Unemployment, Empty ATMs And Paralyzed TransportSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/24/2012 14:02 -0400
Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, courtesy of one Gideon Gono - the brilliant man behind such grand monetary experiments as QE and its offshoots throughout the developed world - and numerous one hundred trillion dollar Zimbabwe dollar bills, may have come and gone, and the country may no longer have a functioning currency of its own, but it certainly has the aftermath of the most recent episode of modern-era monetary hyperinflation to contend with. And with the holidays here, AP provides a very bleak snapshot of what the country which currently has an 80% unemployment, has to look forward to. Zimbabweans are facing bleak holidays this year amid rising poverty, food and cash shortages and political uncertainty, with some describing it as the worst since the formation of the coalition government in the southern African nation.... Banks have closed, ATMs have run out of cash and transport services have been paralyzed." It gets worse: "Zimbabwe's unemployment is pegged at around 80 percent with many people in Harare, the capital, eking out a living by selling vegetables and fruits on street corners." And all of this is after the massive economic imbalances in Zimbabwe's economy should have been "fixed" (or so conventional economic theory would have one believe) courtesy of hyperinflation, which left any savers in tatters, destroyed the value of the old currency, benefited solely debtors but also allowed a fresh start to a government, which could only remain in power due to a violent power grab by the democratically elected-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe.
Copper is often referred to as the PhD of commodities for, as JPMorgan's Ken Landon notes, "When companies ramp up production of various products, whether during or in anticipation of economic recovery, they demand more cooper." Gold, however, he adds, "is not sensitive at all to business-cycle demand. Its price is driven by the monetary environment." While Bloomberg's chart of the day prefers to take the short-term (last few weeks) view of the world to justify a bullish equity market call, we prefer to look at longer-term cycles and the message is extremely clear - manufacturers are anything but confident, are doing anything but buying copper in anticipation of demand, and despite gold's recent fluctuations it is anything but implying that the world's grand monetary policy experiment is slowing down. What we see from this chart is yet another clear fundamental divergence between Dr. Copper's take on the global economy and the US equity market's nominal recovery.
Sometimes it takes 60 pages to describe where we have been this year; on other occasions it takes 28 pages to describe where we are going and why. However, BBVA (via Constantin Gurdgiev's True Economics) have managed to condense the state of risk in our global markets down to seven critical dimensions (and into one table). From Macro (GDP and inflation) to Fiscal, Liquidity, and Credit Growth, the following matrix is your must-have guide for this new-year's cocktail party circuit. You're welcome...
Bloomberg's William Cohan released a provocative piece last night, headlined by the even more provocative "UBS Libor Manipulation Deserves the Death Penalty." We can only assume that Cohan is being metaphorical - after all, despite the rare occasional recent criminal charge no one has still gone to prison for the biggest coordinated manipulation of a benchmark fixed income market for years: something previously relegated to the fringes of crackpot conspiracy theories - after all, so many people were in on it, how can they possibly all keep their mouths shut - you know, the usual excuse against massive conspiracy theories, at least until they become conspiracy fact. Yet one wonders: will current and future ongoing market manipulations ever cease when there is no real deterrent: after all spending a few years in jail is certainly worth a few million in ill-gotten proceeds, even assuming the termination of a career in finance. Is Cohan being rhetorical? Or has the time for some true vigilante justice finally come? Because in a world increasingly best portrayed by the 2009 movie "The International" where one has to "go outside" a captured legal system to get real justice, is vigilantism eventually coming to every town near you, once the money illusion ends? And a bigger question - is this the main preemptive reason for the gun control push seen so vividly in recent days and months?
The awful truth is that WE are responsible. We elected these people. We condone a two party system where we end up with a choice between the mediocre and the inferior. We are left to choose between the fool and the idiot and the men of character, the people of intellect and those focused on the health of the nation are left behind either because they will not participate or because they cannot survive the taunts and tricks of those that have no other interest besides their own ego and their own self-interests. I make no apologies. This is our fault and until and unless WE start demanding a government that represents our interests and values and morals that sets-aside America from other nations; we have no one to blame but ourselves. That is the sad truth of it which is why going off our present fiscal cliff may be the best thing that could happen to the United States. We might just wake up!
One of the biggest complaints about gold - always a parallel currency to paper, and soon to be serial, once the world shifts to a post-paper currency reality in which faith in infinitely creatable electronic paper money is finally destroyed - is that it would be an impractical medium of exchange, as the traditional denominations are so large one would be unable to trade one ounce (and certainly one bar) for every day needs. This is also one of the main reasons various retail investors prefer silver over gold. All this may be changing courtesy of Swiss refiner Valcambi which has created a CombiBar, a credit-card sized, 50 gram block of 99.9 gold, which is precut, and which can easily be broken into one gram pieces which can then be used as forms of payment in an emergency. And since one gram of gold has roughly the value of two ounces of silver, it is a far more practical lowest common denominator unit of exchange than the traditional one ounce minimums in broad circulation.
- Global Currency Tensions Rise (WSJ) - in other words, when everyone eases to infinity, nobody eases
- EU to give Spain, France more time to cut deficit (Reuters) - But not because their economies are not "recovering" fast enough, oh no.
- As we expected, Grupo Bimbo considering a bid for Hostess' snack cakes and bread brands (NY Post)
- Time for bus-control: Eleven children killed in latest Chinese bus crash (Reuters)
- Greece Should Write Off Billions of Overdue Taxes, Report Says (BBG) - not all taxes in perpetuity?
- India clamps down on gang-rape protests, PM appeals for calm (Reuters)
- But Meredith Whitney said... Push for Cheaper Credit Hits Wall (WSJ)
- For Greece, last major austerity package, says eurozone official (Kathimerini)... "unless there is another one"
- Americans Miss $200 Billion Abandoning Stocks (BBG) ... and two flash crashes... and $15 trillion in artificial central bank props
- Goldman Sachs Takes Long View Over Payouts (FT)
- Cliff Would Strike Low Incomes Hard (WSJ)
- Afghan policewoman kills US police adviser (AP)
- For Sale in Japan: Electronics Assets (WSJ)
A Cassandra is a hopelessly honest person, while a Pollyanna is an incredibly hopeful person, the incurable optimist. Cassandras are often disparaged as "nattering nabobs of negativism/negativity," instead of being looked upon as prophetic realists, while Pollyannas are deservedly dismissed as the "pandering puppies of positivity/positivism." To wit, this wondrously self-satirical clip pitting Marc Faber's doom-and-gloom reality with Becky Quick's boom-and-boom status quo.
As DB's Jim Reid summarizes, "it is fair to say that newsflow over the next 72 hours will be fairly thin before we head into a tense final few business days of the year." It is also fair to say, that the usual tricks of the new normal trade, such as the EUR and risk ramp as Europe walks in around 3 am, precisely what happened once again overnight to lift futures "off the lows", will continue working until it doesn't. In the meantime, the market is still convinced that some compromise will appear miraculously in the 2 trading sessions remaining until the end of the year, and a recession will be avoided even as talks now appear set to continue as far down as late March when the debt ceiling expiration, not cliff, will become the primary driving power for a resolution. That said, expect to start hearing rumors of a US downgrade by a major rating agency as soon as today: because the agenda is known all too well.
Presented with little comment.
We have a new era dawning in Global Monetary policy. It is a new day with the monetary skies already red. Within 90 days the captains of monetary policy have steered the world into uncharted waters and on a course that history warns us against. Federal Reserve: QE3 "Unlimited" and QE4 within 90 days, ECB: OMT "Uncapped", BoJ: QE 10 and the newly elected Prime Minister Abe's mandate for "Inflation at any cost" BoE: UK's newly appointed BoE Governor, Mark Carney's Monetary Evan Rule targeting. These untested and newly commissioned captains all have PhD's from the finest Economic schools in the world, but they clearly have not studied nor grasped the key lessons of history. To any sane person, who has a grasp of what is presently occurring, it is obvious that the current state of affairs is unsustainable. The question is how long can the Monetary Captains' misguided policies keep us off the shoals of our economic destruction. How long can policies of "Extend and Pretend", Kick the Can Down the Road" or "Fake it Until You Make It" continue? The answer is likely unknowable, the certainty of it ending badly is not.