“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” Isaac Newton tells us. It is within this context that we also account for “unintended consequences;” those nasty things that no one thinks of that tend to jump out of the bushes at you when you thought you had everything figured out. In Bernanke’s rush to increase employment and raise asset prices and lower mortgage rates, if not to help the President with his re-election; we would assert that the Fed did not go far enough in its thinking and that they may get stung by what they have not considered. The issue here is gas at the pump. Far more important to most Americans than the interest rate on their mortgages is how much they have to pay to fill up their cars. The recent position of the Fed was spelled out and will be enacted. The ECB, though, waved the banner of “unlimited” and “without cap” subject to the CONDITION of the EU’s acceptance and audits and the approval of any nation applying for aid. If 'A' depends on 'B' and 'B' is not forthcoming then 'A' is a worthless proposition. Tell no one that we told you though. After this weekend’s meeting of the European Finance Ministers it is crystal clear that no new banking oversight authority is imminent.
Global financial markets are awash in hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of derivatives. By some estimates, the total amount exceeds one quadrillion. Derivatives played a central role in the 2008 credit crisis, as they had a brutal multiplying effect on the magnitude of the carnage. As a bad asset was written down, oftentimes there were derivative contracts written against it that resulted in total losses 10x greater than the initial write-down. But what exactly are derivatives? How do they work? And have we learned to treat these "weapons of mass financial destruction" (as Warren Buffet colorfully coined them) any more carefully in the aftermath of the global financial crisis? Not really, claims Janet Tavakoli, the danger behind derivatives doesn't lie in their existence, she stresses, but when abused, derivatives can create massive damages. So at the root of the "derivatives problem" is control fraud - the rampant unchecked criminal action by influential players on Wall Street.
From the largest Japanese pension fund unwinding its JGB holdings to Kyle Bass' infamous 'debt-saturation Japan Trade' and Dylan Grice's original Japan funding crisis discussion, the nation - now facing Chinese dis-satisfaction over the recent island-purchase - continues to stagger with its Keynesian-endgame heading to a Koo-nesian disaster. The following info-graphic, via Informed Trades, provides everything the savvy investor needs to know about Debt/GDP, balance of payments, energy imports, demographics, and currency debasement.
Whether the optics of a jobs-related target for the Fed's QEternity are election-based public relations, from-the-heart sentiment of an ivory tower academic neck-deep in the reality of his failed ethos, or well-intentioned more-of-the-same Krugmanite 'we need a bigger boat' print til-we-stink policy; it is relatively clear that the Fed has changed course. The longstanding problem at the Fed has been that while each policymaker more or less agreed that guiding policy by a rule made sense, they could not collectively agree on the rule. Morgan Stanley's Vince Reinhart notes perfectly that at its September meeting, the Fed effectively evaded the issue by setting QE off in a general direction, much in the same way Columbus pointed his three ships West and expected eventually to land in India. The history books admire the audacity of a man with a vision. Columbus sailed in the direction toward the known world’s end. Of course, he also sailed further than expected and landed on a completely different continent than planned. If the Fed has not acted consistently over the past few meetings, how will market participants infer future action?
From The Last Sane Person At The Fed: "More Easing Will Not Lead To Growth, Would Lead To Inflation"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/15/2012 13:17 -0400
There are two key sentences which explain why there is now only sane voice left among the FOMC's voting members (recall that back in December 2011 we explained that more QE was only a matter of time now that the Doves have full control). From Jeffrey Lacker: "I dissented because I opposed additional asset purchases at this time. Further monetary stimulus now is unlikely to result in a discernible improvement in growth, but if it does, it’s also likely to cause an unwanted increase in inflation.... Channeling the flow of credit to particular economic sectors is an inappropriate role for the Federal Reserve. As stated in the Joint Statement of the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve on March 23, 2009, 'Government decisions to influence the allocation of credit are the province of the fiscal authorities.'" That, however, is no longer the case, as the only real branch of 'government', accountable and electable by nobody, going forward is that located in the Marriner Eccles building, named ironically enough, for the last Fed president who demanded Fed independence, and who was fired by the president precisely for that reason. It is in this building where the central planners of the New Normal huddle every month, and time after failed time, hope that "this time it will be different" and that wealth can finally be achieved through dilution of money.
Anti-US protests sweeping across the entire Muslim world (which are continuing today), besieging, attacking and burning down US embassies, are not the only thing that the central banker policy vehicle known as "the markets" have to ignore in the coming days and weeks. Cause here comes China: "Thousands besiege Japan's embassy in Beijing over Tokyo's assertion of control over disputed islands in East China Sea." And China is not happy: "For The Respect Of The Motherland, We Must Go To War With Japan." Sure enough, where would the US be if the focal point of this escalation in militant anger - the Senkaku Islands - was not merely the latest expression of Pax Americana, and America's national interests abroad.
What the Fed did was actually much more than QE3. Call it QE3-plus... a gift that will now keep on giving. The new normal of bad news being good news is now going to be more fully entrenched for the market and 'housing data' (the most trustworthy of data) - clearly the Fed's preferred transmission mechanism - is now front-and-center in driving volatility. I don't think this latest Fed action does anything more for the economy than the previous rounds did. It's just an added reminder of how screwed up the economy really is and that the U.S. is much closer to resembling Japan of the past two decades than is generally recognized. It would seem as though the Fed's macro models have a massive coefficient for the 'wealth effect' factor. The wealth effect may well stimulate economic activity at the bottom of an inventory or a normal business cycle. But this factor is really irrelevant at the trough of a balance sheet/delivering recession. The economy is suffering from a shortage of aggregate demand. Full stop. It just perpetuates the inequality that is building up in the country, and while this is not a headline maker, it is a real long term risk for the health of the country, from a social stability perspective as well.
In two weeks the Greek economy will once again suffer the consequences of European indentured servitude when it two main labor unions will grind the system to a halt with a general strike against planned austerity measures on September 26. Spain, however, can't wait, and is already out in the streets (video of today's protest can be found at BBC). From Al Jazeera: "Thousands of Spanish anti-austerity protesters have taken to the streets of Madrid to rally against government cuts aimed at cutting the public deficit. The demonstrators assembled in groups at noon on Saturday along the central streets of the capital city in a protest against spending cuts and tax rises. The developments came as Luis de Guindos, economy minister, said that Spain's borrowing costs still do not reflect the country's economic and fiscal adjustment, despite their recent easing." The key word uttered that makes this whole protest a moot point: "referendum" - silly Europeans don't seem to get quite yet that Democracy has been dead for decades, supplanted by kleptofascist globalization with just enough handouts for the lower and middle classes (usually in terms of welfare promises) to keep everyone happy. Actually make that silly Americans and Asians too.
Yesterday, when we first presented our calculation of what the Fed's balance sheet would look like through the end of 2013, some were confused why we assumed that the Fed would continue monetizing the long-end beyond the end of 2012. Simple: in its statement, the FOMC said that "If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability." Therefore, the only question is by what point the labor market would have improved sufficiently to satisfy the Fed with its "improvement" (all else equal, which however - and here's looking at you inflation - will not be). Conservatively, we assumed that it would take at the lest until December 2014 for unemployment to cross the Fed's "all clear threshold." As it turns out we were optimistic. Bank of America's Priya Misra has just released an analysis which is identical to ours in all other respects, except for when the latest QE version would end. BofA's take: "We do not believe there will be “substantial” improvement in the labor market for the next 1.5-2 years and foresee the Fed buying Treasuries after the end of Operation Twist." What does this mean for total Fed purchases? Again, simple. Add $1 trillion to the Zero Hedge total of $4TRN. In other words, Bank of America just predicted at least 2 years and change of constant monetization, which would send the Fed's balance sheet to grand total of just over $5,000,000,000,000 as the Fed adds another $2.2 trillion MBS and Treasury notional to the current total of $2.8 trillion.
Here are some common-sense rules for such a "new market":
- Every offer and bid will be left up for 15 minutes and cannot be withdrawn until 15 minutes has passed.
- Every security--stock or option--must be held for a minimum of one hour.
- Every trade must be placed by a human being.
- No equivalent of the ES/E-Mini contract--the futures contract for the S&P 500--will be allowed. The E-Mini contract is the favorite tool of the Federal Reserve's proxies, the Plunge Protection Team and other offically sanctioned manipulators, as a relatively modest sum of money can buy a boatload of contracts that ramp up the market.
- All bids, offers and trades will be transparently displayed in a form and media freely available to all traders with a standard PC and Internet connection.
- Any violation of #3 will cause the trader and the firm he/she works for to be banned from trading on the exchange for life--one strike, you're out.
Is such a retail-trader friendly exchange possible? There would certainly be a nice profit in it, for everyone who is tired of providing liquidity for HFT firms would flee the existing exchanges in a New York minute.
"It's never different this time." Ray Dalio's recent discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations is probably the most in-depth access to his 'model' explanation of the way the world works we have encountered. From bubbles to deleveragings and how the inter-relationships of various cycles bring about consistent trends and corrections; the full-length discussion, succinct interview with Foreign Affairs, and full readings are perhaps more useful than ever as we tread Wile E. Coyote-like off the edge of traditional monetary policy and encounter apparently different environments that in fact have occurred in perhaps alternate ways again and again over time. Great weekend viewing/reading on the three ways out of the panic-crisis that the Fed clearly believes we are in and the inevitability of his findings that "in all deleveragings, in the end they print money."
To the vast majority of the US citizenry, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is an odd number that flashes on the new 42" plasma-screen during dinner; wedged between a news story about a panda sneezing and some well-endowed weather-girl saying "hot, damn hot". This is why the behavior of Ben Bernanke this week might go unnoticed by most of the great unwashed. That is, of course, if they do not drive or eat food. For those that do eat or use vehicles; for the first time in history, national average gas prices for the 2nd week of September were over $4.00. Of course, this is mere transitory market speculators - and is not real money leaving their EBT card.
Despite a last minute surge (as stock indices lurched from their day-session open to closing VWAP levels), US equity markets extended gains but basically slid lower once Europe had closed. The day session opened gap higher as Europe extended (though Spanish debt slumped) and rushed out of the gate to new multi-year highs only to stumble on high volume and large block size into the European close. Also notable that VIX - which had tracked stocks from the QE3 announcement, began to push higher as stocks 'capitulated' up in the high 1460s and then stocks rolled back downhill for the rest of the day. VIX ended the day up 0.5vol at 14.5% while ES closed up 8pts. Equity sectors have split into 3 groups from the FOMC statement - Materials/Energy/Financials +~3.5%, Industrials/Discretionary/Tech +~2%, and Healthcare/Staples/Utilities +~0.5%. The USD lost 1.65% on the week (EUR +2.3% and JPY -0.18%) as Treasuries saw some vol but were basically one-way street with the long-bond +26bps, 10Y +20bps, and 5Y +6bps. Commodities outperformed USD-implied moves with Oil/Silver/Gold all up around 2-3% on the week - while Copper surged overnight to gain just under 5% on the week. Credit markets were less exuberant than their tracking stocks yesterday with HYG ended the day red.
Over two weeks ago we first described what at that point was merely the hint of trouble at Australian mega-miner Fortescue which is slowly but surely losing the fight with insolvency courtesy of plunging iron ore prices, whereby it was once again proven that bonds always have a better grasp of the situation than equities. Sure enough the cash crunch which we predicted was imminent at Fortescue, has since hit the company over the past several days, as the firm is currently in dire liquidity straits, desperate to renegotiate covenants and get waivers that allow it to continue operations even as creditors get the short stick (in exchange for some serious money upfront). It is unknown whether it will succeed, although judging by its halt from trading until next week by which point it hopes to restructure its debt, things are certainly not rosy for the megalevered iron-ore company. In retrospect, FMG AU is lucky to be alive as is, having had a comparable near-death experience back in 2007/2008: should its bondholders end up owning the equity, so be it. However, another far more troubling and certainly underpriced covenant renegotiation has struck, this time impacting Chinese conglomerate Sany Heavy Industry, a company which is the Chinese equivalent of US Caterpillar and Japanese Komatsu, which is owned by Liang Wengen who is mainland China's richest man with a $10 billion net worth, and which is so big and diversified that under no circumstances should it be forced to request covenant waivers, especially not under a soft-landing scenario for China. And yet this is precisely what it did.