EU Debt Contamination Deepens In Greece, Portugal And Ireland - Gold Just 2% From Record Nominal HighSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/30/2011 07:00 -0500
Gold and silver are flat in US dollars but higher in euros this morning. Trade is thin with the UK and US markets closed for spring holidays. Gold and silver were 1.75% and 8% higher last week and the precious metals and especially gold appear to be on solid footing due to the continuing debt crisis in Europe and concerns about a slowdown in the US and global economy. Despite gold being only some 2% away from the record nominal highs seen at the end of April ($1,563.70/oz), sentiment remains lackluster at best with little or no coverage of gold in the international financial press and media over the weekend. In the last two weeks we have experienced a lot of sell orders and the ratio of sell to buy orders has been the highest since our foundation in 2003. Value buyers emerged last week but much of the buying was by existing clients adding to their holdings. The threat of sovereign default and contagion increases by the day.
Even as the peanut gallery debates whether or not the dollar is the reserve currency of choice for the world, China continues to diversify away from the USD. After last week's news that Beijing had not had enough of Portuguese bonds, in a repeat of the same scenario from January 2011, and was preparing to bid up Eurozone bonds across the curve (aka double down) we now learn that China, or rather third-party London-domiciled banks doing its bidding, is now the actor behind "massive Japanese bond buying" seen over the past month. Per Reuters: "Foreign investors have flocked to Japanese government bonds in the past five weeks, finance ministry data shows and market sources say China was among the main buyers, although a large part of buying was made through banks in London." That said, even Reuters appears unable to get its story straight: "Foreigners bought a net 4.696 trillion yen ($57.7 billion) of Japanese bonds in the five weeks to May 20, a record amount of purchases for any five consecutive weeks since data began to be compiled in its current form in 2005. One source said China appears to be buying the four to five-year sector after having sold a large amount of short-term bills earlier in the month. But other sources said foreign investors, including China, were buying long-dated bonds with less than one year left to maturity, effectively the same as buying short-term bills." Wherever in the curve China is focusing, the fact that it continues to actively buy JGBs after 5 consecutive months of declines in its UST purchases (coupled with the news broken by Zero Hedge that Fed custodial accounts of foreign UST holdings suffered the largest one week drop in almost 4 years) is sending a very clear political message to the US. One that certainly got some airplay when the Treasury once again declined to brand China an FX manipulator, despite rhetoric out of very brave Geithner at the first possible opportunity this week, that China is precisely that.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought a message from Canadian politics to his Greek counterpart Saturday. But is it the right message?
All the talk about a dollar currency crisis is getting ahead of itself. Quoting Mises won’t make it happen overnight. It takes years, even decades for a reserve currency to dissipate. Instead of wholesale collapse, the most likely outcome is a steady decline in the dollar over an extended period of time. Of course there is a tail possibility of a collapse, and that is why hedges exist. But the high likelihood trend is persistent policy action to drive the dollar lower with respect the United States trading partners’ currencies, combined with a decline in the dollar’s use as a vehicle currency. This means serious dollar weakness for the next three years (or more), but not collapse.
Debt is slavery… or at least indentured servitude of the worst kind. That looming mortgage, the high interest credit card debt, the short-term car loan– these are the forces that keep people from breaking free and taking action. Ironically, debt begets more debt. According to FinAid, the average US student loan debt for a four-year private university graduate is nearly $36,000, and $24,000 for public. Throw in that first car loan and maybe a mortgage, and suddenly you’re staring at hundreds of thousands of dollars in demoralizing claims on your future income. At this point, most people figure… ‘hey, I’m already in debt up to my nose, might as well get in up to my eyeballs and buy a new plasma screen on credit.’ Debt is an enormous psychological burden that influences life’s major decisions. It’s why so many people stay committed to jobs that are unfulfilling in cities they detest under conditions they find disheartening. Nobody wants to rock the boat too much… take too many risks and you could lose your job, and hence the ability to make those monthly payments. This familiar story has been playing out across the developed world for years. This is not an ill, however, that exclusively affects individuals and families. Even at the macro level, debt has the power to subjugate entire nations to the whims of their creditors. Enter the IMF.
More Political Capture: Goldman Hires Top Republican Fed Transparency Foe; Spends More Time With SEC Than Any Other BankSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/28/2011 11:55 -0500
The name Judd Gregg is not new to Zero Hedge readers. Back in the 2009-2010 battle for Fed transparency, which continues to be only fractionally on the way to being won, Gregg, who then served as the top Republican on the Budget Committee and a member of the Banking Committee, said that "opponents of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's second term are
guilty of "pandering populism"." Odd that these populism panderers, of which Zero Hedge was a proud member, ultimately succeeded in not only getting a one time Fed audit, but also won the legal case initiated by Mark Pittman to expose the Fed's dirty laundry, without which we would not know that not only did the Fed bail out primarily foreign investment banks during the financial crisis, but also that the biggest user of the Fed's somewhat secret Short Term Open Market Operations facility, also known as a 0.01% subsidy, was none other than Goldman Sachs, contrary to the firm's sworn statements that it did not really need bailing out. Gregg continued: "There's a lot of populism going on in this country right now, and I'm tired of it." Gregg warned that the growing tide of populism would threaten some of the most central institutions to the economy's recovery. "What it's going to do is burn down some of the institutions which are critical to us as a nation and as an economy to recover and create jobs," he warned." It was therefore only a matter of time that Gregg, following the end of his political career, has decided to step down, and work for one of these "central institutions to the economy's recovery" - Goldman Sachs. As such we present the list of companies that courtesy of their "top contributor" status with the senator over the years, are about to get preferential treatment from Goldman's sell side analysts, and see a prompt upgrade to Buy and/or Conviction Buy list in the near term. After all there is no such thing as squid-pro-zero in a world controlled by Wall Street's institutions "central to the economy's recovery."
The latest observations the spread of gold's popularity comes from none other than BRIC expert, Goldman's Jim O'Neill, who advises clients in his latest letter that it may be prudent that in addition to China and India as a source of ever increasing demand for gold, it may be time to also add the Middle East to the ever increasing list of investors (typically quite wealthy) who believe in the yellow metal. "Not because of this particular anecdote, but the Middle East being what it is, my meetings involved more discussion about Gold prices than is usually the case in other parts of the world. While the gold bar machine anecdote adds to all the other colourful stories I pick up, the recent remarkable resilience of gold, despite what has happened to silver and other commodities, is rather impressive. This gold price strength may perhaps be just a simple function of both the extremely low level of G7 real interest rates and the prospect that they might not rise anytime soon. I got the impression that there a quite a few bulls of Gold in the Middle East."
Tim Geithner Refuses To Brand China Currency Manipulator (Again), Says Yuan Rate Impairs China Inflation Curbing AbilitySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/27/2011 16:50 -0500
In a glowering example of humanist magnanimity, the tax expert, who also on occasion pens missives describing in detail the destruction that would ensue should dealers be hindered from perpetuating the US Treasury ponzy, known as Tim Geithner, just advised China that its low exchange rate impairs China's ability to curb inflation. This, coming from the man under whose watch the dollar has gotten pounded eight ways to Sunday. The announcement came as part of the semi-annual report issued to congress, which was due originally back in April, yet which as everyone knew was delayed for no other reason that more theatrics. And just to confirm how utterly toothless US game theory bluffs have become, Geithner, contrary to much bristling rhetoric to the contrary, decided not to name China a currency manipulator, a move that is sure to require the CME to promptly issued five margin hikes of Chuck Schumer's blood pressure. But lest someone accuse Tiny Tim of being not only a tax fraud, and a liar, but also a coward, he did add that the Yuan is "substantially undervalued." And so the USDCNY revaluation debate has been pushed back for at least one more year. And to those who experience a feeling of deja vu upon reading this, worry not: Geithner had exactly the same conclusion 3 months ago. Bottom line: China 2; US 0.
The Chinese Domino Has Fallen... Or Has It? And Why No Power, May Really Mean No (Inflationary) ProblemSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/27/2011 14:32 -0500
Earlier today SocGen came out with a report that is a must read for everyone who has an even passing fancy in global monetary policy, as the currently rampant inflation in China, and the approaches ushered to deal with it, threatens to derail the global "recovery" (although not sure in what: printing of credit money - yes; economy - no) which according to Morgan Stanley is "too young to fail." To be sure, SocGen discusses the first of three dominoes that will or already have, fallen, as part of the increasingly popular domino theory of Chinese inflation. SocGen explains: "Quite simply, the domino theory of 2011 is that when China comes under the influence of inflation, the surrounding countries, those with the most immediate trade ties, would also fall to inflation. It will only be a matter of time till those economies with the greatest trade ties; indeed the entire world has succumbed to the great inflation cascade emanating from China." And the first domino, which SocGen claims to already have fallen is the following: "The first domino is China creating autonomous structural inflation: China’s domestic inflation accelerated at an unprecedented pace at the end of 2010 and policy makers remain well behind the curve. As China engineers its economy to a more domestically focused one, its demand curve is shifting outwards and the global supply curve has been inelastic in response. That domino has already fallen and is the focus of this paper." And while we respect SocGen's opinion on China, most recently referenced to debunk a BCG report on imminent US-Chinese worker wage parity, in this case we wonder if SocGen has simply gotten on the boat of conventional wisdom a little too fast. What we mean is that "structural" inflation may not be all that "structural"especially if one considers a flip to a traditional Stalin saying: "no man - no problem".... in this case "no electricity - no inflation." Bernstein's Michael Parker explains...
For nearly 30 years we have had two Global Strategies working in a symbiotic fashion that has created a virtuous economic growth spiral. Unfortunately, the economic underpinnings were flawed and as a consequence, the virtuous cycle has ended. It is now in the process of reversing and becoming a vicious downward economic spiral. One of the strategies is the Asian Mercantile Strategy. The other is the US Dollar Reserve Currency Strategy. These two strategies have worked in harmony because they fed off each other, each reinforcing the other. However, today the realities of debt saturation have brought the virtuous spiral to an end. One of the two global strategies enabled the Asian Tigers to emerge and grow to the extent that they are now the manufacturing and potentially future economic engine of the world. The other allowed the US to live far beyond its means with massive fiscal deficits, chronic trade imbalances and more recently, current account imbalances. The US during this period has gone from being the richest country on the face of the globe to the biggest debtor nation in the world... So what could possible stop this ideal symbiotic relationship from continuing to feed on itself? A number of factors, all of which are now coming together to end this Virtuous Cycle.
The only thing that could prevent another oil shock from happening before the end of 2012 would be another major economic contraction. The emerging oil data continues to tell a tale of ever-tightening supplies that will soon be exceeded by rising global demand. This time, we will not be able to blame speculators for the steep prices we experience; instead, we will have nothing to blame but geology... With Brent crude oil having lofted over $100/bbl at the beginning of February and remained above that big, round number for four months now, we are already in the middle of a price shock. It may not be a perfect repeat of the circumstances of the 2008 oil shock, but it's close enough that the risk of an economic contraction, at least for the weaker economies, is not unthinkable here. Japan, now in recession and 100% dependent on oil imports, comes to mind. Looking at the new data and reading even minimally between the lines of recent International Energy Agency (IEA) statements, I am now ready to move my ‘Peak Oil is a statistically unavoidable fact’ event to sometime in 2012, which tightens my prediction from the prior range of 2012-2013. Upon this recognition, the next shock will drive oil to new heights that are currently unimaginable for most. First, $200/bbl will be breached, then $300, and then more.
- Former ECB chief economist Otmar Issing: Greece "Cheated" to join Euro (Bloomberg)
- Fitch cuts Japan credit rating outlook to negative (Reuters)
- Japan ends 25 months of deflation (Bloomberg)
- Basel III break for banks in EU (FT)
- China holds eight percent of US debt (China Daily)
- Obama, GOP unveil competing plans for job growth (WaPo)
- Ebay and PayPal sue Google over trade secrets (Reuters)
- Greek leaders meet to resolve crisis (WSJ)
- Lagarde offers bigger voice to emerging nations (FT)
- G-8: Faster growth to spur faster debt cutting (Bloomberg)
There was one truly interesting observation in this week's Fed balance sheet update: not that the actual balance sheet hit a new all time record (which it did at $2.779 trillion), or that the Fed added another $24 billion in Treasurys to its balance sheet, or that total reserves hit a new all time record, increasing by $53 billion to $1.59 trillion. No. The biggest surprise was that in the just ended week, Treasury securities held in custodial accounts at the Fed, considered by some the best real-time representation of foreign holdings of US Treasurys considering that the TIC update is not only wildly inaccurate in its monthly update, but is also 3 months delayed, dropped by the largest amount in 4 years. From a total of $2.704 trillion, USTs held in custodial accounts declined by $18.7 billion to $2.685 billion. This is the second largest decline in history, only topped by the $22.1 billion in the week of August 15, 2007 which is the week that followed the great quant crash of 2007 that wiped out, among others, Goldman Alpha. This observation is in stark contrast to the recent record strength of bond issuance, after both the 5 and 7 Years auctions posted record Bid to Cover investor interest.
Marc Faber Is Shocked By How Many Ferraris And Bentleys He Sees In Newport Beach During His Smoke BreakSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/26/2011 18:27 -0500
Yesterday Marc Faber first made a guest appearance at the Ira Sohn conference, warning his audience to prepare for war, then promptly shifted to Bloomberg's offices where he discussed his outlook primarily on China, but also on the US, with Carol Massar, once again warning about war. As usual, he did not mince his words, warning of a "recession", and predicting that China is simply not growing fast enough in real terms. Nothing new. He did however branch out into the topic of class divergence in both emerging and developed economies: "in front of far too many luxury hotels there are far too many Ferraris, Maseratis, Bentleys... I see a boom everywhere, except for the working class, except for the lower, middle class. But among the well to do people the wealth that is floating around and the prices you pay for high end properties is incredible, and I think that will come to an end, and a lot of people will lose a lot of money... I was in La Jolla, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, I was in front of a restaurant smoking and I've never seen so many Ferraris, Maseratis, Bentleys and fancy cars anywhere in the world, and this is in America. I am not saying this is wrong, but there is an opulence among a small group of people that is huge when there are lots of people that are struggling. This gives me a bad feeling because I've seen so many emerging economies when they were booming, that was the time to get out." As for the US economy, Faber agrees that the only thing that can help is a massive crisis (or "conflagration" as David Stockman calls it) that jars America out of its hypnotic state. And, sure enough, it will come.
I Absolutley Dare Anyone To Read This And Still Not Consider The Probability (Not Possibility) Of Apple Suffering From Margin CompressionSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 05/26/2011 11:40 -0500
It's amazing what one can discern from a leisurely walk through the local big box electronics retailer. I reiterate - the wholesale assumption that Apple can defy the basic rules of business, economics 101 (supply and demand) and common sense, combined with a near-nonsensical lovefest for this admittedly very impressive and innovative company will result in some very bad days for the NASDAQ (wherein Apple is one of the, if not the, heaviest weighting) in the future.