From Friday: "The Treasury may be ceasing the incremental funding for its market
manipulative ESF.... but not quite yet. Presenting the E-mini surge on absolutely no
volume. According to Chicago floor traders, at least one bank bought
150 S&P contracts at very the close with one obvious purpose: ramp
the stock market into the weekend. Luckily, for the observant ones this
is merely another free money opportunity: the ES-RISK spread just soared
and presents the latest compression opportunity." As of a few minutes ago, the free money opportunity, courtesy of Brian Sack and the now legendary stupidity of momentum chasers (yes, we'll gladly take their money) has just been cashed in, and brings us to n out of n profitable ES-Spread compressions.
Why The Latest European Bailout, Aka "The Debt Buyback" Plan Is Also DOA, And Why The CDO At The Heart Of The Eurozone Is About To Become Extremely ToxicSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2011 20:26 -0400
Over time many have wondered why the ECB, in order to "extend and pretend", does not simply do an episode of QE and monetize bonds outright? Well, in addition to Germany's flashbacks to hyperinflation which have so far kept Trichet from pursuing an all too aggressive bond buyback program in the primary market, the ECB does have the Securities Market Programme (SMP) which however since inception has bought only €74 billion (this week the number is expected to rise, or, if it doesn't, it confirms that now China is directly buying European bonds in the secondary market). The problem with the SMP is that it was conceived as a modest marginal debt buying program, never intended to surpass much more than a few dozen billion in debt. Alas, by now it is becoming all too clear that the ECB will need to monetize hundreds of billions of insolvent PIIGS debt in order to extend and pretend forcefully enough so that a new bailout is not needed every other week. But how to do it without monetizing debt on the ECB's books? Enter the EFSF, or the off-balance sheet CDO "at the heart of the eurozone" which according to the latest iteration of the European rescue package (Remember that most recent DOA plan to rollover debt? Yep - that's dead) is precisely the mechanism by which Europe's own open market QE is about to take place. "European Central Bank Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi suggested the EFSF be allowed to provide funds for a buy-back of bonds from the market, where prices have in some cases fallen 50 percent from levels at which the debt was issued. "This would allow the private sector to sell bonds at market prices, which are currently below nominal value. At the same time, the public sector could benefit monetarily," Bini Smaghi told Sunday's To Vima newspaper in an interview." Translated: another market clearing perversion courtesy of the same structured finance abominations that brought us here. The problem, unfortunately, is that Moody's announced nearly two and a half years ago that the whole distressed debt buyback approach is... a dead end, and will lead to the same "event of default" outcome that all the prior bailout plans would have achieved as well (we correctly surmised that Bailout #2 was DOA, about a month before the "efficient" market did). Here is why.
Someone is very, very nervous in Europe as it took precisely zero time for the various CHF crosses to plunge to all time lows. The chart below shows the EURCHF which just opened about 140 pips lower than the Friday close. And while there is little if any movement in the crap currencies, i.e. the USD and the EUR, the flight to fiat safety has never been as profound. Since the CHF is a direct proxy of gold in the commodities space, look for gold to take out $1,600 as early as a few hours from now when the market reopens. Also, expect a possible SNB intervention any minute as the Reuters IFR article below speculates.
CVN 77 G.H.W. Bush Enters Persian Gulf As CIA Veteran Robert Baer Predicts September Israel-Iran WarSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2011 16:02 -0400
One look at the most recent naval update maps shows that in addition to global insolvency (courtesy of the broke European dominoes and a potentially technically broke US), a UK on the verge of a parliamentary scandal courtesy of a media baron whose empire is crumbling, and not to mention yet another downward inflection point in the global economic slowdown courtesy of the end of QE2 and no replacement yet, market watchers may have to start factoring in geopolitical risk yet again. While the fact that Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, and now Turkey, are ever more increasingly on edge is apparently something Mr. Market has managed to internalize, when it comes to geopolitics everyone stops to listen when renewed Iran-Israel rumblings reappear. Which may just be the case. As the most recently updated naval map from Stratfor demonstrates, the CVN 77 G.H.W. Bush has just entered the Persian Gulf, the first time a US aircraft carrier has passed through the Straits of Hormuz in months. What is also notable is that the LHD 5 Bataan amphibious warfare ship has just weighed anchor right next to Libya: this is odd since the coast of Tripoli had been left unattended for many weeks by US attack ships. And topping it all off is that a third aircraft carrier, the CVN 73, is sailing west from the South China seas, potentially with a target next to CVN 76 Ronald Reagan which is the second carrier in the Straits of Hormuz area. Three carriers in proximity to Iran would be extremely troubling, yet fit perfectly with the story of CIA veteran Robert Baer, the man played by George Clooney in Syriana, who as Al Jazeera reports, appeared on KPFK Los Angeles, warning that Israeli PM Netanyahu is "likely to ignite a war with Iran in the very near future." It gets worse: "Masters asked Baer why the US military is not mobilising to stop this war from happening. Baer responded that the military is opposed, as is former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who used his influence to thwart an Israeli attack during the Bush and Obama administrations. But he's gone now and "there is a warning order inside the Pentagon" to prepare for war." The punchline: "There is almost "near certainty" that Netanyahu is "planning an attack [on Iran] ... and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he's also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict", Baer explained." For the betting public out there, an September CL call may not be the dumbest trade possible...
Alabama's Jefferson Country, which has been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy for years courtesy of $3.2 billion in bonds related to its sewer system (a deal which has not made JP Morgan many friends south of the Mason Dixon line over the years), may soon decide to unleash the spring-loaded municipal bankruptcy dominoes. Reuters reports that "bankruptcy is still a "very strong possibility" for Alabama's Jefferson County, Governor Robert Bentley said on Saturday -- a move that could make for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. "It is still on the table, and it's a very strong possibility," Bentley told Reuters during the National Governors Association meeting in Utah's Salt Lake City. The county is observing a "standstill period" to allow settlement talks with creditors, and this week it finalized a plan aimed at settling the debt to present to creditors." And while the municipal insolvency tsunami is merely a matter of time (it would be amusing to watch the army of Whitney bashers retract), the greatest irony would be if the Federal government were to file first, a move which as Moody's already noted would immediately send 7000 munis down the Chapter 9 rabbit hole as well, effectively bankrupting the entire $2.9 trillion municipal bond market overnight.
One of the "positive" side-effects of the Treasury's plundering of retirement accounts is that total US debt in June actually declined for the first time since January 2010, dropping by $1.6 billion from the May 31 closing print of $14.344 trillion. No doubt this was predicated by the US Treasury officially breaching the debt ceiling on May 16. Yet due to this, or for some other reason (and it is not a surge in net income tax receipts as these appear to have reached an inflection point earlier in the year and are now trendlining lower on a Y/Y basis), something else happened: the slope on the cumulative deficit line since the start of the depression in December 2007 (see below), is now the shallowest it has ever been. In other words, the US over the past few months, faced with the threat and now reality of a debt ceiling breach was actively cutting spending, while benefitting from a transitory spike in income tax revenues, although unfortunately now that the unemployment rate is back on the trendline to double digits, this will be the only true transitory thing about the US economy. Whether this actual, factual fiscal prudence was conscious is unclear, however the result is clear: faced with the threat of being unable to finance every single dollar in perpetuity, the US government's involuntary self-imposed austerity actually... Worked! And yes, the direct side effect is that Q2 GDP is now likely to come at 1.6%: the worst quarterly increase since... Q2 of 2010 (recall that 2010 Q2 GDP was revised from 2.4% to 1.6$ on August 27 last year... hours before Bernanke announced QE2 ). And there once again is the glaring correlation between the slowing of the economy and the decline in debt issuance, and the actual deficit "improvement." Now take this slower deficit growth, and assume it actually is reversed, i.e., America has a budget surplus. While great for the country in the Long-Run, it would mean that GDP, which is now purely reliant on how much debt Geithner can issue, it would mean a collapse in the GDP, in the S&P, and in Wall Street executives' bank accounts. At least in the absence of QE3, 4 and so forth...
We previously presented the following chart from Citi in our report on America's brief flirt with income statement austerity, although we feel we may not have emphasized it enough. So, in an attempt to remedy that situation, here is the chart that casually explains most if not everything that is wrong with the US healthcare system, currently the cause of so much political bickering and consternation... not to mention future spending.
You don't need a degree in macro economics to understand an economy. Just because an economy is complex, the analysis need not be. I've been studying the change in GDP from Q4 2010 to Q1 2011 to get a sense of where the economy is regarding contraction or expansion. I have a sense the economy stands today where it stood in December 2007 the very month the great recession began. I've shared various technical charts showing striking similarities with the 10 year treasury market and equity markets comparing the price action between May 2011 to present and October 2007 through December. The big component though was the macro picture. You could easily argue it is far closer to recession now than it was in 2007 when Q4 07 GDP was 2.9% only to print (.72)% the very next quarter. With Q1 2011 GDP at 1.9% the margin for error is far less than in 07. But that is not enough to base an investment decision upon.
For those who think the News Corp. fallout is anywhere near close to ending, we have one word: Nope. The chart below from BusinessWeek is the best visual representation of what started as a simple voicemail tapping scandal and is set to not only topple a media empire, but to revolutionize the tabloid industry (for once into something better we hope), in the process maybe even returning a few IQ points to the average "developed nation" citizen.
After working hard to compile a list of Obama's rather questionable record of fiscal promises and actual executions, the gist of which is represented best by the violent clash between myth and realty in Christina Romer's "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" whose epic failure is defined by one simple chart, we were disappointed to learn that Paul Ryan had already done this. And leaving Paul Ryan's politics aside, the facts do speak themselves. They speak even louder when one considers the din raised by the same president who back in 2006 said: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." Indeed they do president Obama. Indeed they do. So without further ado...
It may be time to rebrand Congress as the new CTU, although when it comes to who in D.C. should play agent Jack Bauer we are still unsure. The reason is that this morning we get two diametrically opposing fictions about the latest reality on the debt ceiling. On the one hand we read in the LA Times that, "Republican leaders in the House have begun to prepare their troops for politically painful votes to raise the nation's debt limit, offering warnings and concessions to move the hard-line majority toward a compromise that would avert a federal default. For weeks, GOP conservatives, particularly in the House, have issued demands about what they would require in exchange for their votes to increase the debt limit... Unwilling to risk the economic and political consequences of a federal default, which could come as early as Aug. 2, they have started the difficult process of standing down." That, however is not what The Hill heard: "House Republican leaders have missed a 36-hour deadline President Obama set during a Thursday meeting for lawmakers to give him a plan to avert a national default. The deadline came and went Saturday morning without a response from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Instead, Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) plan to move the Cut, Cap and Balance Act on the floor next week, which would require passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before the debt limit is raised. A House GOP leadership aide said at noontime Saturday that Boehner and Cantor did not send Obama a revised proposal to raise the debt-limit, as the president requested." So which is it? And has M. Night Shyamalan been retained to write the surprise twist ending to this nail-biter? We doubt it. Unfortunately, we are still convinced the republicans, under the "wise" defection of Mitch McConnell will fold, Obama will get what he wants, and the republican tough stance will go up in a puff of smoke leading to an even great loss of credibility for the GOP. There is less than 168 hours in which we can be proven wrong. We hope we are, but we doubt it.
After clearly demonstrating that last year's flash crash was essentially a byproduct of massive quote stuffing-induced churn surge, which cascaded into a full blown liquidity collapse, coupled with the bulk of HFT "liquidity" providers simply turning their machines off and subsequently reverberating by ETF "amplifiers" to the nth degree, last week Nanex released what is probably one of the most critical white papers on why in its pursuit of ever higher speed (or, at least speed that is physically capped by the theory of relativity at 300,000km/sec) to gain a frontrunning advantage over everyone else, courtesy of a massively two tiered market in which there is the collocated Ph.D. braintrust focused on millisecond trading (day trading is so 20th century), and then everyone else, the core premise of the "fair and efficient market" - the National Best Bid Or Offer, which is at the heart of Regulation NMS which in turn sets forth the guiding principles behind modern "capital markets" is now an anachronism and is being overrun on a daily basis as the fastest to the market gets to set just what their own NBBO is, in the process literally destroying the premise of market fairness and efficiency, as those who have the newest and shiniest toys are guaranteed to win, while everyone else fights for a fraction of the scraps. Said otherwise, steroids are forbidden in sports but when it comes to capital markets, they are very much accepted.
Never before has the job of Goldman's equity markets strategist been so difficult: on one hand he has to deal with an economy that is openly imploding after a readjustment of Q2 GDP to below subspeed, a drop in Q3 growth from his economic team as of last night to 2.5%, and a growth hockeystick that nobody (except for Joe LaVorgna of course) believes in any more. On the other he has to get paid for spreading propaganda to the firm's whale accounts even as GS is openly selling into any risk rally (Abacus deja vu). And while the latest weekly chartology from David Kostin is already very much outdated, after Jan Hatzius was forced to admit in his latest Friday night bomb installment that our view on the economy (i.e., absent stimulus = game over) is correct, he does make pretty charts. So ignore all the forecasts as they are 100% wrong as usual and focus on the pretty breakdowns of what has already happened. If nothing else, Goldman proves that billions in taxpayer bailout funds and secret Short Term OMO access can sure buy a damn good WP/Graphics department.