Since (at least) 2005, Barclays has been manipulating LIBOR, and their traders have been allegedly pocketing $40MM a day betting on interest rate derivatives. If the LIBOR, one of the most fundamental metrics of our banking system can be rigged, can you imagine what other elements of our financial system are a fraud? This morning's comments from European regulators appears to confirm that this story has a long way to go as ECB's Almunia states: "The evidence we have collected is quite telling so I am pretty sure this investigation will not be closed without results."
UPDATE: AAPL -6.25% AH
Major misses everywhere, and this for the second quarter in a row - from the Q3 earnings report:
- APPLE 3Q REV. $35.02B, EST. $37.25B
- APPLE 3Q EPS $9.32, EXP. $10.37
- APPLE 3Q NET PROFIT $8.8B
- APPLE SEES 4Q REV. ABOUT $34B, EST. $38.01B
- AAPLE 3Q GROSS MARGIN 42.8%, EST. 43.8%
- APPLE SOLD 17.0 MILLION IPADS DURING QTR, UNIT EST. 15.4M
- APPLE 3Q IPOD UNITS SOLD 6.8MLN , DOWN 10%
- APPLE SOLD 4.0 MILLION MACS DURING QTR, UNIT EST. 4.3M
- APPLE SOLD 6.8 MILLION IPODS IN QTR, UNIT EST. 6.6M
Is the dream over?
The endless saga of the rental and streaming company, that once had a vendetta with Whitney Tilson until the latter finally threw in the towel after he first shorted then went long Netflix only to blow up on both occasions, continues, this time by plunging 15% after hours following a cut in guidance for Q3 and announcing it will likely once again have a loss in Q4.
Pathetic. A late day surge to test yesterday's lows and VWAP (which makes some technical sense) was buoyed by positivity from yet another Hilsenrath 'hint'. The total lack of response in the afternoon as German and Spanish FinMins tried to jawbone us up was the reality. We do note though that all the 'Hint' managed to do was get us back to VWAP - which suggests that 'the force is weakening with this one'.
Just like last time around when stocks were plunging with no knight in shining armor in sight, until the Fed's faithful mouthpiece-cum-scribe Jon Hilsenrath showed up with a report, subsequently disproven, that more QE is coming minutes before the market close on July 6, so today stocks appeared poised for a precipice until some time after 3 pm it was leaked that none other than Hilseranth once again appeared, at precisely 3:55 pm, with more of the same. Ironically, the market only saw the word Hilsenrath in the headline, and ignored the rest. The irony is that this time around the Fed's scribbler said nothing that we did not know, namely that the Fed can do something in August, or it may do something in September, or it may do nothing, none of which is actually news.
Of all curious correlations we could find to demonstrate the collapse in GM stock, which opened for trade back in November 2010 at $35, and just hit an all time post-IPO low at just over half its IPO price, the best one that exemplifies the second great collapse of GM is the amount of dealer inventory, aka channel stuffing, shown on an inverted axis: the lower the price of GM, the more the channel stuffing. Of course, nobody could have possibly predicted that. Just like nobody could have predicted that Greece will need a third bailout, let along hit the IMF goal of 120 debt/GDP in 2020.
As with much of the euro area, the US is in a debt trap. All the politicking in DC does not change this economic fact. The federal debt is going to be devalued. Yet even now, amid a new economic slowdown, US consumer price inflation is set to remain positive following a large spike in global food prices. Few things damage economic confidence more than food price inflation. Combined with the escalating financial crises in the euro area and also now in US municipals, the global slowdown already underway is likely to accelerate, leading to a further deterioration of sovereign finances. The debt trap is deepening, with ominous consequences for monetary and price inflation. The dollar and most currencies remain severely overvalued; gold and most commodities, undervalued. Those not in a position to vote themselves pay rises should consider buying some gold instead. Diluting dollars are not a store of value. Gold is.
The importance of the negative credit outlook from Moody’s lies less in the realm of financial markets, given how little investors seem to value the views of the credit rating agencies. Rather the major importance lies in the policy and political reactions to the rating actions. As UBS notes, there is a risk of popular (not political leadership) adverse reaction. The media in Germany (where there is a tradition of media hostility to the Euro periphery) or in the Netherlands (approaching a general election in September) may portray this as "we are being dragged down by the Euro periphery". If that does transpire it could easily fan the flames of populist resentment of the Euro still further. Critically, if the media attribute (or mis-attribute) the blame to the periphery, there could be obstacles to that integrationist momentum. The reality of a common monetary policy and the necessity of some kind of communalized fiscal responsibility are being brought to bear on the Euro area polity - but markets seem confused. CDS markets are pricing Germany's risk as if it was becoming increasingly encumbered to the periphery and yet the FX market is dragging EURUSD lower on expectations of massive upheaval and potential SPexit with no German 'unlimited' support. CDS appears to fit with raters, FX more with haters - or as UBS points out, perhaps all is not well in Germany as it "has demonstrably failed to grow its way out of debt."
A few weeks ago America had to go through the supreme political theater that was the SCOTUS' unprecedented and uber-political decision on Obamacare, which in attempting to overcome allegations of partisanship, only succeeded in reinforcing these even deeper. Now, with everyone expecting Bernanke to launch QE every time there is a 1% downtick in the Russell, our honorable Chairsatan is in the same position: he needs to do something but can not afford to appear political with the presidential election just over 3 months away. In other words, from the soap opera about the Supreme Court of the US, we now move to the one about the Supreme Federal Reserve of the US. And the trouble for those whose investment strategy is hope and prayer is that the Fed is becoming aware of this reflexive phenomenon, and just for that reason may delay QE until September, by which point the US, and global economy, will be in freefall.
Despite some early angst, Treasury yields have been crushed lower today. Down 7bps from their European close levels, 30Y is trading with a 2.45% handle for the first time ever and 10Y now with a 1.39% handle. Both all-time record lows as the 2Y auctions with a 4x bid-to-cover as 2s5s flattens to almost five year lows as the Fed's ZIRP and Europe's NIRP has pushed investors to front-run into preservation of capital instead of pushing them out on the risk spectrum. For those who care (instead of preferring to listen to dividend-stock-touting talking heads), 10Y TSYs have plenty of room to run if rates keep falling (15% upside if Japanification takes hold) - which prompts the question - just what is the interest expense convexity for the Government if rates were ever to rise from here?
David Einhorn throws France under the bond vigilante bus, last seen meandering back and forth all over Spain and Italy: "Under the new regime, France is now cozying up to its new anti-austerity, pro-money-printing allies, Italy and Spain. This makes sense when one considers that France's economy is more akin to that of its southern neighbors than it is to the German economy. Strangely, the French bond market hasn’t figured this out just yet."
"While there are many reasons to be bearish on stocks, there is only one good reason to be bullish. The only bullish hope is that the Bernanke Put again will save the stock market" is the salient reality that TrimTabs' CEO Charles Biderman exclaims in his latest clip. Shifting to 100% bearish this weekend for his institutional clients, he believes that even if the Fed QuEases again, the equity pop is well-discounted and will have at most a 10% impact before he sees at least a 20% drop from April highs followed by potentially worse as the realization of the fiscal cliff begins. The glass-half-full-of-truth Biderman notes four specific reasons for his bearish call: from wage and salary growth slowing to barely positive YoY, to the Fed's inability to create any multiplier effect to boost the economy; and from the slowing global economy where "low tides will uncover all the hidden garbage created by booms" to the basic supply/demand of stock and money based on his 'Demand' index dropping to six-month lows. His bearish view is not even predicated on Europe's conflagration accelerating which would simply add more fuel to the growing fire.
Back in early May we noted that the 'strength' of EURUSD (at the time around 1.30) implied an expectation of a $700bn Fed NEW QE is on its way very soon - in fact, as recent developments by the two central banks have demonstrated, it was the ECB that added assets (and liabilities) over the past two months, even as the Fed has shed some excess weight. In those following six weeks, EURUSD has fallen nearly 1000pips in our favor as the FX market has finally given up hope of imminent printing (with only the most addicted of markets - US equities - left 'believing'). As Fed and ECB balance sheets have shifted in the last few weeks, so the new 'QE-less' target for EURUSD is around 1.1850 (200 pips lower), though we would suggest taking some healthy profits to leave a runner.
Spain's IBEX equity index closed at Euro-era lows today having dropped over 10% in the last 3 days (crushing the hopes of the afternoon post-short-sale-ban squeeze yesterday). This leaves IBEX down over 30% for the year (and Italy down over 18% YTD). Add to that; inverted long-end curves in Spain (and almost Italy), all-time record high short- and long-term spreads for Spanish debt and euro-era record high yields, record wide CDS-Cash basis, dramatic short-end weakness in Italy, new low negative rates in Switzerland (-46bps) and Germany (-7bps), and EURUSD at its lowest since June 2010 at 1.2059. But apart from that, the EU Summit seems to have done the trick nicely. Financials have been crushed in credit-land as subs notably underperform seniors and HY and IG credit continues to lead the equity markets lower in reality. Meanwhile, remember Greece? 30Y GGBs have dropped almost 20% in price in the last few days and have closed at all-time record low closing price at just EUR11.55!! S'all good though - where's Whitney?