In a world in which the Chief Risk Officer of the formerly free capital markets, Ben Bernanke, has made any downside hedges obsolete (and as a result hedge funds have posted 5 years of returns without outperforming the S&P500), the first casualty has emerged: fund of funds. These parasitic, fee-soaking institutions, which merely collect a fee on top of the fees already charged by hedge funds, are rapidly on their way to extinction as the following charts from Eurekahedge prove conclusively. Naturally, the FOF industry which generates massive fees for its "value adding" managers, will not go down without a fight. And as Pensions and Investment reports, the FOFs have found a way to strike back: convert hedge funds into long only, idiot money, and we do enjoy the irony that in this centrally-planned market the idiot money is outperforming the smart, nimble asset managers by orders of magnitude.
A month ago, the press was aflutter with rumors that NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, spurned by mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, would join JPMorgan in a "top security" position. The rumor was since denied and the fate of Kelly was unclear, until today, when the Council on Foreign Relations announced that the NYPD top man would join the CFR as a "distinguished visiting fellow" in turn opening the doors wide for a world of financial opportunities to Kelly. Considering his tenure, where Kelly served as senior managing director of global corporate security at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. from 2000 to 2001, he seems like a perfect fit for the CFR.
The Fed's announcement Wednesday to begin the tapering of its bond buying program (to our surprise) has been followed by a spike in the US 10 year yield; however, Citi's FX Technical group cannot help but feel that we have seen this dynamic play out before.
When it comes to key players in a global fungible monetary system, a far more important decision-maker than the US government is the FDIC-insured hedge fund that controls all central banks: Goldman Sachs. Which is why it is certainly notable that moments ago none other than Goldman effectively downgraded Russia's sovereign risk by announcing it is "shifting from constructive to neutral view on Russian sovereign risk." With the legacy rating agencies now largely moot and irrelevant, what the big banks say suddenly has so much more import. But when the biggest - and most connected - bank of them all, outright lobs a very loud shot across the Gazpromia Russian bow, even Putin listens.
So simple the underwear gnomes could do it:
- Create a cartel
- Corner and manipulate the market
And that's why they (and Jamie Dimon) are richer than you.
Of the 68 "economists" (which incidentally none of which are "qualified") that Bloomberg surveyed, 24 believe a taper is coming with the majority expecting a $10 billion cut in the asset-purchase program.
Of the 8 "most important ever" FOMC decisions in 2013, this one is undisputedly, and without doubt, the 8th. As Jim Reid summarizes, what everyone wonders is whether today’s decision by the FOMC will have a bearing on a few last-minute Xmas presents around global financial markets. No taper and markets probably breathe a sigh of relief and the feel-good factor might turn that handheld game machine into a full-blown PS4 by Xmas day. However a taper now might just take the edge off the festivities and leave a few presents on the shelves. Given that the S&P 500 has pretty much flat-lined since early-mid November in spite of better data one would have to say that some risk of tapering has been priced in but perhaps not all of it. Alternatively if they don’t taper one would expect markets to see a pretty decent relief rally over the rest of the year. So will it be Santa or Scrooge from the Fed tonight at 2pm EST?
Recently some of the more naive, not to mention top-ticking, financial commentators assumed that just because US regulators had not snapped shut a trap surrounding Bitcoin and other digital currencies yet, that this state of blissful cohabitation would continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, as we warned back in March during the initial leg higher in BTC following the Cyprus deposit confiscations, the well-known "honeypot" strategy was meant to draw out as many digital currency fans and participants as possible - who after all were warned by none other than the ECB that the current regime will never adopt a parallel, and quite threatening monetary unit - only to see the regulatory and enforcement fist of the nation that (still) hosts the reserve currency slowly but surely start to clench around the binary currency. Because, finally, after testing the ground long enough, the fist is starting to not only close but squeeze tight. And as Reuters reports, it is the U.S. Treasury Department's anti money-laundering unit that is now warning businesses linked to Bitcoin that they "may have to comply with federal law and regulation as money transmitters, a Treasury spokesman said."
America’s political economy has changed incrementally enough that many people have not noticed what is really happening. It’s over for most of us. You can call it collapse, or you can call it restructuring. You can even call it a recovery. But you can not call it sustainable, or pleasant. The overall trajectory is toward decline, decay, destitution... This collapse is the collapse of dreams, hopes and expectations, not an obvious one like the collapse of the currency or the government. And if you have no hopes or dreams, and your expectations are sufficiently low, then you might not even be aware of it. For the time being, what is really in everyone’s interest, here and abroad, is to keep playing along. Collapse? What collapse? We all have to keep pretending everything is fine, or things will get even worse quickly - for us. But if things are continuing to get worse for us in any case...
Why Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program Failed (Spoiler Alert: Thank Bank Of America et al)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 20:41 -0400
Back when the Executive and Congress at least pretended not to abdicate all power to the Fed, one of the centerpiece programs designed to boost the housing market for the benefit of the poor (as opposed to letting Ben Bernanke make marginal US housing a rental industry owned by a handful of private equity firms and hedge funds), was Barack Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which attempted to prevent foreclosures by lowering distressed borrowers’ mortgage payments. Under the program, homeowners would be given trial modifications to prove they can make reduced payments before the changes become permanent. The program was a disaster as of the 3 million foreclosures that were targeted for modification in 2009, only 905,663 mods have been successful nearly five years later - a tiny 13% of the 6.9 million who applied (still, numbers which Obamacare would be delighted to achieve). Part of the reason: the program's reliance on the same industry that sold shoddy mortgages during the housing bubble and improperly sped foreclosures afterward. But there was much more. For the definitive explanation of everything else that went wrong, we go to Bloomberg's Hugh Son whose masterpiece released today explains how and why once again the banks - and especially one of them - won, and everyone else lost.
The rise of the yuan has been exaggerated. Strip out data involving Hong Kong and the claims of trade flows that are concealed capital flows and one might get a more accurate picture.
Five months ago, we highlighted yet another in the inglorious roll of momentum-ignited stop-blasting manipulations of the US "stock market". In most cases, the furore dies down after a day or two as the algos find fresh meat... but in the case of USEC, it would appear the "berserker" algo we highlighted merely removed every willing buyer (i.e. forced short-cover-er) and was exhibiting the death throes of yet another micro-cap as the company has announced it is entering a pre-pack Chapter 11 bankruptcy - with existing stockholders receiving 5% of the new common stock.
"If secular stagnation concerns are relevant to our current economic situation, there are obviously profound policy implications... Some have suggested that a belief in secular stagnation implies the desirability of bubbles to support demand. This idea confuses prediction with recommendation. It is, of course, better to support demand by supporting productive investment or highly valued consumption than by artificially inflating bubbles. On the other hand, it is only rational to recognize that low interest rates raise asset values and drive investors to take greater risks, making bubbles more likely. So the risk of financial instability provides yet another reason why preempting structural stagnation is so profoundly important."
One of the more vocal members of the ECB's governing council and executive board, 47-year old German Joerg Asmussen, surprisingly announced this morning that he is stepping down for "purely private family reasons." Concurrently, the German who has been a less tenuous version of his far more outspoken and hawkish compatriot Jens Weidmann, announced that he would accept a job as Deputy Labour Ministry job in the new German government. What is surprising is that the German was not appointed finance minister in Merkel's new cabinet, although with Schrodinger Schauble determined to keep his position it is explainable. What is more surprising is that Asmussen replaced none other than Juergen Stark, who once was said to be Trichet's successor, and who dramatically quit the ECB over disagreements on the bank's bond monetization program. One wonders: is Joerg's untimely departure just the latest indication that the ECB is finally preparing to unroll a blanket quantitative easing program, just as BNP predicted it would, in its desperate, last-ditch attempt to defeat Europe's slide into outright deflation and credit-creation collapse? Certainly, if Weidmann were to quietly leave next, then whatever you do, don't stand below the Euro.