When the absolutely useless reign of the "captured" SEC head Mary Schapiro came to an end, only to be replaced with former Wall Street darling, former Debevoise lawyer Mary Jo White whose prior Wall Street clients were virtually all financial firms, many said her appointment was an epic blunder, since she would have no choice but to recuse herself out of the majority of SEC enforcement actions. And if not many, then certainly Zero Hedge. Recall from April: "Think the revolving door for Morgan Stanley's diaspora of clutch interests goes only from the private sector outward, with the recent appointment of MS' darling Mary Jo White (who will promptly recuse herself in virtually all major cases involved her former clients at Debevoise for years to come) to head the SEC? Think again. Sure enough moments ago, as part of the SEC's perhaps most important action in history, in which the agency managed to get a confirmation of securities law violation from none other than the largest US bank, JP Morgan, where was Mary Jo White? Why quietly drinking her coffee in some quiet corner of course, for one simple reason: she had to recuse herself as JPM was, you guessed it, a former client.
It has been a "Summer of Recovery" for the U.S. economy with GDP growth rising from 1.1% in the first quarter to 2.5% in the second and manufacturing surveys showed sharp jumps in new orders and outlooks. The same occurred in the Eurozone with Markit's PMI reports showing sharp bounces higher and hopes that the recession that has plagued the region was finally coming to an end. The question of sustainability remains. The recent uptick in the Eurozone has now ended which most likely suggests that the recent pop in domestic production is likely ephemeral. The next couple of months of data should be telling in the regard and also suggests why employment reports have been much weaker than anticipated. With hopes once again running high that the economy is set to regain "escape velocity" in the coming year there is plenty of margin for disappointment.
In light of this morning's Obama-Boehner volleys, we thought a reflection on the facts was useful. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook yesterday morning, and its government debt projections are dismal... But the CBO’s featured chart only tells a small part of the story. The baseline scenario happens to be bogus. Even as it shows our addiction to debt worsening, it doesn’t do justice to the severity of that addiction. (You may want to show the chart to your children. After all, they’ll be the ones who’ll have to deal with the debt we’re piling on today.)
Today, the Italian Senate will vote at 8:30 PM whether to formally expel the 76-year old former prime minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. Concurrently, the winner of three of the six Italian elections in the past 20 days will launch a delayed nationwide address on his political future. The contents of said address are unclear however, as Reuters reports, "political sources and local media said he would not use the address to torpedo the fragile left-right governing coalition of centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta - at least for now - despite weeks of threats to do so." Furthermore, as WSJ adds, citing a column in daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Marco Travaglio noted that Mr. Berlusconi came in third in the February vote but managed to pick the head of state, the prime minister and the government program. "Given all that, it would be crazy to trigger a crisis," observed Mr. Travaglio, a longtime critic of Mr. Berlusconi. That said, and as is well-known, the media magnate is highly unpredictable and in the past has made several versions of video announcements so he can choose one only at the last minute. However, no matter the content, what is most curious is that the vote, the Berlusconi expulsion vote and nationwide address, as well as the Bernanke press conference, which is also due at 2:30pm Eastern, will all coincide.
A week ago when we presented the missing link in the "all cash" housing recovery, namely laundered, embezzled or simply stolen off-shore sourced cash parked in the US real estate market which takes advantage of the NAR's generous anti-money laundering provision exemption, we asked what we thought would be a rhetorical question: "just how far will Preet Bharara take this, and comparable such future actions?" Turns out the answer is quite a bit farther, and higher. And not only that, but instead of just targeting residential real estate, the US attorney in Manhattan, is now focusing on commercial real estate as well. As CNN reported moments ago, the US government has seized an iconic midtown Manhattan skyscraper, one where none other than Ivan Boesky plotted his insider trading schemes in the 1980s, that prosecutors claim is secretly owned and controlled by the Iranian government. The skyscraper in question is 650 Fifth Avenue, also known as the Piaget building.
While the issue of whether they will or won't taper is certainly still not clear, the WSJ's John Hilsenrath notes that the other dilemma facing the Fed is whether to reduce their purchases of Treasurys, mortgage-backed securities or both. According to officials, Hilsenrath notes, there were two lines of thinking at the Fed on how to structure a pullback from the bond programs and the issue would be discussed at the meeting. Goldman's Jan Hatzius has posited that "Fed leadership probably views MBS purchases as more effective in boosting economic activity than Treasury purchases," but as Hilsenrath notes, some Fed officials prefer a simpler-to-communicate strategy of proportional cutbacks to both MBS and Treasuries. The fact that Hilsy is reporting this suggests that a Taper is somewhat inevitable - as we have noted since the Fed remains cornered. On average, the market expects a $6bn taper on Treasuries and $3 billion for MBS.
European recovery propaganda may be humming (for the latest proof see today's German ZEW sentiment index which soared from 42.0 to 49.0 matching the all time high in the Dax), but when it comes to the actual economy - that place where commerce is conducted and where supply and demand curves intersect, the situation has never been worse. And not only unemployment which is at a persistently record high for the Eurozone, but actual transactions, in this case in the form of car sales. As AP reports, for the first eight months of the year, passenger car sales in the European Union were off 5.2% to 7.84 million compared with the same period last year, the European Auto Manufacturers' Association said Tuesday. That's the lowest January-August figure since the group started keeping track in 1990.
Deep Thoughts From Jamie Dimon's Daughter On Fi-Nance, "What The Hell Is A Bond", And Who Should Get TaxedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/16/2013 21:28 -0400
One would think Laura Dimon, the daughter of one James Dimon, would be on familiar terms with such concepts as bonds, capital structure and finance (especially the more arcane substrata thereof). After all the father of the graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism (author of such previous pieces as "The Last Office Taboo for Women: Doing Your Business at Work" which examines "the lengths women go to avoid getting caught in the stall") is none other than the CEO of the largest bank in the US, best-known for such "one-time items" as constantly recurring legal charges associated with financial innovation gone horribly wrong (today's rumor of a $750MM settlement over the bank's London-based prop trading group being a case in point). As it turns out, one may be mistaken...
When we first posted this article a month ago, few paid attention as the entire world was gripped in Summer-mania. Now that Summers is out of the picture, and the monetary policy acumen of the former San Fran Fed president are under the spotlight, it is probably an opportune time to recall Janet Yellen's ability to foresee the future heading into the great financial crisis whose five year anniversary took place this weekend. Or rather lack thereof, because as the following excerpt from a 2010 FCIC hearing, noticed first by the NYT, demonstrates, if this is the best Fed head replacement we can do then we may as well fast forward to the Great Financial Crisis ver 2.0: “For my own part,” Ms. Yellen said, “I did not see and did not appreciate what the risks were with securitization, the credit ratings agencies, the shadow banking system, the S.I.V.’s — I didn’t see any of that coming until it happened.”
If Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama can get through their tiff over Bachar al-Assad and stop pulling the covers to their own side of the geopolitical bed, then the Russian leader may just up sticks and move into the US where he will be able to spend his money rather than making out that he is a poverty-stricken in Moscow to the Russian people.
Privacy: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the NSA, as it enters every computer and pries whatever data can be stolen and recorded in perpetuity. Its ongoing mission: to explore the internet and all TCP/IP packets, to seek out new emails, phone records, backdoors, webcams and bank accounts, to boldly go where no man with or without a search warrant has gone before.
UPDATE: *GEITHNER STILL DOESN'T WANT TO BE CONSIDERED FOR FED CHIEF: WSJ
The next chairman's main job is going to be deciding how soon and how aggressively to pull back on Fed programs; and as none other than Fed whisperer John Hilsenrath notes, Larry Summers' withdrawal increases the likelihood of continuity in central-bank policy for the next few years - meaning any Fed wind-down of its easy-money programs will be slow and gradual. Of course he posits Yellen and Kohn as potential front-runners but throws Tim Geithner and Roger Ferguson back into the mix. Business-as-usual is back and the doves are in control - all the Fed needs now is bigger deficits to enable it to keep the pumps primed...
While Obama and Kerry were both backpedalling furiously even as they were taking full credit for pulling Syria from the brink of war where they took it, it was Syria who was rejoicing: Syria's Minister for National Reconciliation said on Sunday that the chemical weapons agreement between Russia and the United States was a "victory" for Damascus, won by its Russian allies, and had taken away the pretext for war. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Saturday in Geneva on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account for his chemical weapons within a week. The deal may avert U.S. military strikes.
"A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money ."
- Ben Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, November 21, 2002
Still paying your 2-and-20, despite Stanley Druckenmiller's surprise that you would, for someone to pick stocks for you? Perhaps a glance at the following 3 charts will awaken the animal investing spirits in some (or just a 'fold' from many). This is what happens when there is only one economic market-driving factor (cough Fed cough) and too many coat-tail-clinging hedge fund managers (and newsletter writers) chasing too few real alpha opportunities. The correlation between the S&P 500 and hedge fund returns has never been higher and is approaching 1, excess return (alpha) is near its all-time lows, and, sadly, there is an extremely high correlation between styles and tilts. All your hedge fund alpha are belong to Ben.