As a distant but interested observer of history and investment markets, Marc Faber is fascinated how major events that arose from longer-term trends are often explained by short-term causes.; and more often than not, bailouts (short-term fixes) create larger problems down the road, and that the authorities should use them only very rarely and with great caution. Faber sides with J.R. Hicks, who maintained that “really catastrophic depression” is likely to occur “when there is profound monetary instability — when the rot in the monetary system goes very deep”. Simply put, a financial crisis doesn’t happen accidentally, but follows after a prolonged period of excesses (expansionary monetary policies and/or fiscal policies leading to excessive credit growth and excessive speculation). The problem lies in timing the onset of the crisis.
- HSBC 165K
- Goldman Sachs 175K
- Bank of America 175K
- JP Morgan 180K
- Citigroup 180K
- Deutsche Bank 185K
- UBS 190K
- Barclays 200K
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On September 26, mere hours after a foundering JCP swore up and down to CNBC it would not, repeat not, sell shares to raise much needed liquidity, the same company proceed to go ahead... and sell 84 million shares of stock via Goldman Sachs (which two days earlier suggesting JCP may be a bankruptcy candidate in a credit research report). Back then we summarizes JCP's actions as follows: "Guess what. They lied. Is this criminal? Surely the SEC will get involved immediately." Obviously, the last statement was delivered with an unlimited dose of sarcasm. Which is why we were absolutely floored to read in the company's just released 10-Q that the SEC did, in fact, do just that.
It is amazing what a few short months of intense regulatory scrutiny, a few multi-billion fines, and the occasional janitorial arrest can do to fraudulent bank business lines. First, recall that as we showed a week ago, and as we have been saying for the past five years, banks were recently "found" to manipulate, in a criminal sense, pretty much everything. Then recall that yesterday the European Union lobbed the biggest monetary fine in history against bank cartel behavior, with the guiltiest party, at least based on monetary amounts, being Deutsche Bank. So now that outsized profits as a result of illegal "trading" become virtually impossible to procure, what is a self-respectable criminal enterprise to do? Why shut down all formerly infringing lines of business of course. Which is what Deutsche Bank just did, which announced a few hours ago that it has pulled the plug on its global commodities trading business, cutting 200 jobs in the process (200 jobs that will certainly be able to find a job in a jurisdiction where criminal trading behavior is still not as intensely scrutinized).
It wasn't long after three former General Electric Co. executives were convicted of rigging auctions for municipal-bond investment contracts that they received the ultimate sendoff: A 7,400-word torching in Rolling Stone magazine by Matt Taibbi, the writer who branded Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with the nickname "vampire squid." "Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia," Taibbi began his June 2012 opus about Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm. "Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street." Then came a surprise last week, right before Thanksgiving. A federal judge ordered the men released from prison.
The too big to fail banks have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before. So if having banks that were too big to fail was a "problem" back in 2008, what is it today? The total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever. In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States. Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year. That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985. Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger.
It is only fitting that on the morning in which Europe levied the largest cartel fine in history against the criminal syndicate known as "banks", that Goldman Sachs would issue its #6 "Top Trade Recommendation" for 2014 which just happens to be, wait for it, a "long position in large-cap bank indices in the US, Europe and Japan." Supposedly, in a reflexive back and forth that should make one's head spin, this also includes Goldman Sachs (unless they specifically excluded FDIC-insured hedge funds, which we don't think was the case). So is Goldman recommending... itself? Joking aside, this means Goldman is now dumping its bank exposure to muppets.
While there was a plethora of macro data (starting with some ugly numbers out of Australia which clobbered AUD pairs overnight), China HSBC Services PMI dipping slighlty from 52.6 to 52.5, Final Eurozone PMI Services (printing at 51.2 up from 50.9 and beating expectations of the same on an increase in German PMI numbers from 54.5 to 55.7 and a decline in French PMI from 48.8 to 48.0), Eurozone retail sales declining by 0.2%, on expectations of an unchanged print, and much more (see below), perhaps the most important news of the day came from Japan which many expect will be the source of much more easing in the coming months and thus serve as marginal lever to push global fungible markets higher. However, not only did various BOJ officials for the first time in a while talk down expectations of a QE boost, but the head of the Japan GPIF said that it doesn't need to sell JGBs right now as it would "rock markets" and that instead can achieve its targeted 52% weighing as bonds mature, that it may buy foreign bonds instead to raise weighting to core target (as the Fed buys Japan bonds?), and that it will be very difficult for Japan to hit the BOJ's inflation target in 2 years. Is Japan already getting cold feet on rumors of more QE and did it realize there are only so many assets it can monetize. If so, watch out below on the EURJPY which has now priced in about 700 pips of expected BOJ QE boosting in early 2014.
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Something snapped overnight, moments after the EURJPY breached 140.00 for the first time since October 2008 - starting then, the dramatic weakening that the JPY had been undergoing for days ended as if by magic, and the so critical for the E-Mini EURJPY tumbled nearly 100 pips and was trading just over 139.2 at last check, in turn dragging futures materially lower with it. Considering various TV commentators described yesterday's 0.27% decline as a "sharp selloff" we can only imagine the sirens that must be going off across the land as the now generic and unsurprising overnight carry currency meltup is missing. Still, while it is easy to proclaim that today will follow yesterday's trend, and stocks will "selloff sharply", we remind readers that today is yet another infamous double POMO today when the NY Fed will monetize up to a total of $5 billion once at 11am and once at 2 pm.
From the start of 2012, the S&P 500 up over 40% with the bulk of that surge coming since QE3 (and 4EVA) was unleashed. Until that point, Goldman's global risk and macro models had stayed relatively well synced with stock market 'reality' but once that torrent of liquidity was released, all bets were off. As the following chart shows, more than half the equity market performance is due to factors unrelated to risk, macro fundamentals, or country-specific factors. So, BFTATH of course?
The rock is reality. The squishy place is the illusion that pervasive racketeering is an okay replacement for an economy. The essence of racketeering is the use of dishonest schemes to get money, often (but not always) employing coercion to make it work. Some rackets can function on the sheer cluelessness of the victim(s).
While nobody is impressed by breaking equity and options markets anymore, since this has become a virtually daily ocurrence and the habituation level is high, bond markets, and especially the US government's "guaranteed" bond issuance machinery, are a different matter altogether. Which is why any time something out of the ordinary happens, people pay attention. Such as what happened moments ago when the US Treasury announced that it would delay the closing of the 3 and 6 month Bill auctions, originally scheduled to close today, to tomorrow. The reason: "an error that occurred during a test of Treasury's auction system."