Zero Hedge embraces contrarian analysis. But its readers tend to be exaggeratedly and stubbornly critical of any opinion contrarian to the "ZH consensus". One of the most fallacious application of this proclivity is the never-ending attacks on TBTF banks, and the blame put on them for causing the current financial mess. We disagree with this myopic train of thought. Although banks have their share of criminality to pursue and prosecute, is the main blame argument posed against them merely the age-old straw man fallacy manifest?
Sovereign risk was once again front and center on the minds of investors today. Despite the EU's efforts to 'back' Greece's cost cutting plans, investors remain far less sanguine than Almunia. Greek bonds managed a small 7bps rally relative to Bunds (which widened 2bps) as CDS were around 9bps wider (compressing the basis a little more). Don't read too much into the small rally in bonds (the basis remains wide at 55-60bps and we suspect given the convergence today that some are putting the trade on).
Spreads were mixed in the US with IG unch, HVOL wider, ExHVOL weaker, and HY rallying. IG trades 1.5bps wide (cheap) to its 50d moving average, which is a Z-Score of 0.2s.d.. At 92.25bps, IG has closed tighter on 30 days in the last 282 trading days (JAN09). The last five days have seen IG flat to its 50d moving average.
After the earlier announcement of record risk in Portugal, it was only a matter of hours before the epicenter would feel an aftershock. Indeed, Greece CDS is now back to over 400 bps, after tightening under 370 bps yesterday. Those poor protection sellers just can't catch a break. The dollar flight to safety trade is on again. Lack of robotic, or otherwise, volume means the stock market has yet to digest what all this means. Lastly, in pursuit of an efficient sovereign risk market, STUPIDity is now back to April 2009 levels.
Portugal Bund Spreads Even Wider Following Substantially Reduced Bill Auction And Much Higher Auction Yield, CDS Hits RecordSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 11:34 -0400
Europe bailout tracker update: Portugal edition. Hey Almunia, is there anything to be concerned about in Portugal? We thought so... The country's 10 year spread is now 18 bps wider to 147 bps after the country just had an almost failed BILL (12 months) auction. The country had previously announced an indicative offer of €500 million in 12 month bill to be auctioned. The result- a sale of just €300 million at yields over 50 bps higher compared to just two weeks ago. Oh, forget Greece, Portugal CDS is now trading at record wides.
Pimcos' El-Erian Warns About Irrational Exuberance, Sees January Sell-Off As Harbinger Of Things To ComeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 09:52 -0400
"Judging from market valuations, I sense quite a gap between consensus market expectations and key political and economic realities, especially in the U.S. If the gap isn’t bridged by the validation of the more optimistic expectations, investors may well find that January’s global equity sell-off was just a precursor to a disappointing year for several asset classes, including stocks." - Mohamed El-Erian
In the past Zero Hedge had respect for Ten. Senator Bob Corker due to his opposition to the nationalization of the bankrupt automakers and making them yet another ward of the ever larger central-planning state. However, after today's hearing with Paul Volcker on the Prop trading ban, any respect we may have had for the Senator has promptly dissipated. While we understand that the pointless bashing of Volcker's proposal by Corker was predicated by his sizable lobby interest (over $21 million raised in the course of his career) and his talking points were undoubtedly a transliteration of a memorandum submitted by one of the Too Big To Fail banks that stand to experience substantial losses should the Volcker proposal pass, one line of argument in Corker's speech that is flagrantly flawed was Corker's naive rhetorical question whether there has been a single instance during the financial crisis where a commercial bank engaging in proprietary trading led directly to that institution failing or having to be bailed out by the taxpayer. Corker assumed the answer is no and kept pouncing on that answer. Well, Senator, you are wrong - meet Merrill Lynch, incidentally one of your biggest financial backers. Also, please meet Merrill's prop basis trade and its prop HVOL4 trade, which combined were the primary reason for the firm's $15 billion writedown in Q4 of 2008 and the subsequent bail out of the firm by Bank of America.
With every Tom, Dick and Harry convinced they can take on Goldman's Jim O'Neill and come up with a wittier, edgier, Gen Y/Z BRIC equivalent, Zero Hedge has decided to join the fray. We present the STUPIDs: Spain, Turkey, UK, Portgual, Italy and Dubai. We admit that while the BRICs and some the other more ridiculous sounding acronyms we have seen out there recently are a gauge into various countries' pent up "growth" potential, the STUPID index is merely a countdown to the inevitable sovereign debt implsion that so far has been postponed due to cash printers working on overdrive 24/7. And to make it simple for the armchair acronym specialists, since the index is in CDS, the chart will go up... but not on the pervasive permabullish sentiment.
Now that every trigger happy, red-bull OD'ing HiFTer is keenly following every lockbox in possession of Greek bureaucrats to see how many billions more in debt will "suddenly" appear out of thin air, many have forgotten about that "other" sovereign bailout - Dubai. The reason: Dubai World, which was supposed to present a restructuring offer for $22 billion in debt in a meeting with lenders in December, never did. January wasn't any different. February, by the early looks of it, will also be a dud. So as the world grinds along and creditors have no clue what the hell is going on in Dubai, and increasingly so in Greece, everyone has their fingers crossed that not only will there be no default anywhere, but that anyone who dares to mention just what a great big castle in the air the entire sovereign debt arena has become, funded by overt and covert cash transfers by the Federal Reserve, will be (in)voluntarily swept under the rug.
It appears not even one day can pass without some new and improved indication of Greece's economic collapse. The latest comes from website Kathimerini.gr which discloses that the recently appointed "Committee on the Reliability Of Statistics" has uncovered $40 billion of previously hidden debt (one wonders when America will get a comparable commission: no question we are in dire need of one).
Today, to much fanfare, the administration released its ridiculous $3+ trillion budget (we say + because at that size the one thing certain is that the budget will certainly never hit the target and while we wish it would be lower, we are certain it will end up materially higher), which consists of a "short" 192-page summary section and a 1420 page appendix. We are confident that not one politician will read the whole thing from cover to cover. We won't either. Not because we don't care about what's in it, but because we are much more concerned with what is not included, namely $2.8 Trillion and $1.9 Trillion of MBS guaranteed portfolios at Fannie and Freddie, and an additional $782 billion and $809 billion in company debt outstanding for the two GSEs, respectively. This amounts to a total of $6.3 trillion in liabilities which should be counted toward the budget. And yet, oddly, the error-checker somehow made this rather justifiable omission: after all if we were to look at a number which written out looks as follows $6,264,000,000,000.00, we would also probably just avoid it - it is somewhat difficult to hide a number that big even in the 1,420 pages of the budget's appendix. That's ok, we are here to remind them about the omission, and also to remind Mr. Orszag, who himself, in that long ago 2008, espoused that these companies should be put on the Federal Budget. Isn't it strange what one and a half years worth of realizations just how broken beyond repair the system is, will do to one's convictions?
Spreads were tighter in the US as all the indices improved (albeit marginally). IG trades 3.9bps wide (cheap) to its 50d moving average, which is a Z-Score of 0.4s.d. (and HY has now traded wide of its 50-day for 2 days). At 95bps, IG has closed tighter on 36 days in the last 280 trading days (JAN09). The last five days have seen IG flat to its 50d moving average.
Millions are buying Kindles. But what are they reading? Judging by AMZN's current price and valuations, we predicted more Jim Cramer than Charles Mackay. Amazon's site proved that much for us.
It appears that in the 11th hour, Europe is still unable to decide just what the proper approach to rescuing Greece is. The Sunday Times has just released information that a plan to be published by Brussels on Tuesday, titled "Urgent measures to be taken by May 15, 2010" will demand dramatic Greek austerity measures, such as cutting "average nominal wages, including in
central government, local governments, state agencies and other public
institutions" and proposes new luxury goods and self-employed taxes. Yet the kicker is that "Richer eurozone countries such as Germany and France would be expected to bail
out Greece in the worst-case scenario, to prevent a disastrous crash in the
value of the single currency" - not very surprisingly, this is precisely the Plan B that Almunia yesterday swore up and down that the EU was not, repeat not, considering. Moral Hazard has indeed gone global. Yet even with this bureaucratic memorandum on the table, it seems certain that the EU will not actually act before Greek deterioration escalates out of control. Here are the near term catalysts that will likely make the cost of inactivity very high.
- Goldman not only monopolizes FICC, now has best (read fastest) equity desk; And this is why prop can never be seperated from flow at Goldman (Bloomberg)
- Conflicting Greek stories: EU has no Greek "plan B", Finance Chief pledges cuts (Bloomberg), EU reluctantly plans Greece bail out (FT)
- Funds flee Greece as Germany warns warns "fatal" eurozone crisis (Telegraph)
- Geithner's AIG bailout (The Nation)
- Fed chief on shaky footing after confirmation fight; Tough calls ahead on rates (WSJ)
- Stiglitz: Obama's banking proposals are a good first step (LA Times)
Yet another rumor denied vehemently by the Greek Finance Ministry, which automatically means it is 100% true, is that Greece rescue talks are reaching a fever pitch, and according to FT-Deutschland, Germany is seeing increasing pressure to bail out the struggling country. As Dow Jones reports "rescue talks are being held in the EU and with certain capitals about aid for Greece, according to the sources, the report adds. Several options are being discussed, one of which being bilateral loans from some euro zone countries, where Germany would have to shoulder a major part as the euro zone's largest economy."