Risk Management

Goodbye Blythe Masters: JPM Sells Its Physical Commodities Business To Mercuria For $3.5 Billion

While it has been public for a long time that i) JPM is eager to sell its physical commodities business and ii) the most likely buyer was little known Swiss-based Mercuria, there was nothing definitive released by JPM. Until moments ago, when Jamie Dimon formally announced that JPM is officially parting ways with the physical commodities business. But while contrary to previous expectations, following the sale JPM will still provide commercial gold vaulting operations around the world, it almost certainly means farewell to Blythe Masters.

NY Attorney General Probing HFT "Fairness & Predatory Behavior": Did He Just Kill The Virtu IPO?

It seems the blatant unveiling of the HFT market's Holy Grail trading - Virtu (1 loss in 1238 days) - has raised some attention as Bloomberg reports, NY AG Eric Schneiderman has opened a broad investigation into whether U.S. stock exchanges and alternative venues provide high-frequency traders with improper advantages. As one European lawmaker noted, "the area of high-frequency trading is lacking suitable regulation," and Schneiderman warned "this new breed of predatory behavior gives a small segment of the industry an enormous advantage over all other competitors."  We wonder how this will affect Virtu's IPO given regulation is risk factor #1!

China Widens Dollar Trading Band From 1% To 2%, Yuan Volatility Set To Spike

In the aftermath in the recent surge in China's renminbi volatility which saw it plunge at the fastest pace in years, many, us included, suggested that the immediate next step in China's "fight with speculators" (not to mention the second biggest trade deficit in history), was for the PBOC to promptly widen the Yuan trading band, something it hasn't done since April 2012, with the stated objective of further liberalizing its monetary system and bringing the currency that much closer to being freely traded and market-set. Overnight it did just that, when it announced it would widen the Yuan's trading band against the dollar from 1% to 2%.

The Holy Grail Of Trading Has Been Found: HFT Firm Reveals 1 Losing Trading Day In 1238 Days Of Trading

Think JPM's 0 trading day losses in 2013 was impressive? Prepare to have your mind blown. The chart below shows the chart of daily net trading income by High Frequency Trading titan Virtu, taken from its just filed IPO prospectus. The punchline: in 4 years of trading Virtu has had one, one, day in which it lost money. Let that sink in: one trading loss day and 1237 days of profits. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Holy Grail of the New Normal broken, manipulated markets.

China On The Verge Of First Corporate Bond Default Once More

While everyone was focusing on the threat of tumbling debt dominoes in China's shadow banking sector, a new threat has re-emerged: regular, plain vanilla corporate bankruptcies, in the country with the $12 trillion corporate bond market (these are official numbers - the unofficial, and accurate, one is certainly far higher). And while anywhere else in the world this would be a non-event, in China, where corporate - as well as shadow banking - bankruptcies are taboo, a default would immediately reprice the entire bond market lower and have adverse follow through consequences to all other financial products. This explains is why in the past two months, China was forced to bail out not one but two Trusts with exposure to the coal industry as we reported previously in great detail. However, the Chinese Default Protection Team will have its hands full as soon as Friday, March 7, which is when the interest on a bond issued by Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology a Chinese maker of solar cells, falls due. That payment, as of this moment, will not be made, following an announcement made late on Tuesday that it will not be able to repay the CNY89.8 million interest on a CNY1 billion bond issued on March 7th 2012.

Frontrunning: February 26

  • California couple finds $10 million in buried treasure while walking dog (Reuters) ... not bitcoin?
  • Dimon Says Threats to JPMorgan Span Google to China Banks (BBG)
  • Stocks So Many Love to Hate Buoyed by Fed’s Jobs Priority (BBG)
  • White House Weighs Four Options for Revamping NSA Phone Surveillance (WSJ) ... to pick the fifth one
  • Credit Suisse Executives Weren’t Aware of U.S. Tax Dodges (BBG)
  • Militias Hunt Kiev Looters From Central Bank to Bling Palace (BBG)
  • Crisis Gauge Rises to Record High as Swaps Avoided (BBG)
  • Obama to Propose Highway-Repair Program (WSJ)
  • Ukraine Pledges to Protect Deposits as Kiev Rally Called (BBG)

The Tyranny Of Models (Or Don't Fear The Reaper)

The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.

Hedge Funds Declare Buyer's (And Seller's) Strike: Q4 Position Turnover Drops To Record Low

In a world in which there is no risk, only return (thank you Federal Reserve Risk Management LLC), hedge funds - used to generating Profits just by sitting on legacy positions - see no need to reallocate their portfolios. Nowhere was this more evident than in the position turnover in Q4. As Goldman calculates, total asset turnover in Q4 dropped to 28% - a new all time low. In fact, the only increase in turnover, either buying or selling, was in the tech and infotech spaces. Everything else saw an unprecedented buyers and sellers strike.

Chinese Capital Markets Frozen As Bad Loans Soar To Highest Since Crisis

Chinese capital markets are quietly turmoiling as debt issues are delayed and demand for "Trust" products - the shadow-banking-system's wealth management 'investments' - is tumbling. As Nikkei reports, since January, 9 companies have postponed or canceled issuance plans (around $1 billion) and is most pronounced in privately-owned companies (who lack an implicit government guarantee). This, of course, is exactly what the PBOC wanted (to instill some fear into these high-yield investors - demand - and thus slow the supply of credit to the riskiest over-capacity compenies) but as non-performing loans in China surge to post-crisis highs, fear remains prescient that they will be unable to "contain" the problem once real defaults begin (as opposed to 'delays of payment' that we have seen so far).

 

Another Bitcoin Flash Crash Imminent? Second Major Exchange Follows MtGox In Suspending Withdrawals

Bitcoin plunged another 15% or so from its bounce highs this morning as volatility has picked up dramatically in the virtual currency. The reasons are numerous: JPMorgan has come out with a scathing attack - "bitcoin looks like an innovation worth limiting exposure to;" CoinDesk reports that major exchanges are under a "massive and concerted attack" by a bot system - creating a "fog of confusion" over the system; and perhaps most critically, BitStamp has followed Mt.Gox and halted withdrawals "due to inconsistent results from their bitcoin wallet" - due to the DDoS attacks...

Frontrunning: January 30

  • Only time will define Bernanke's crisis-era legacy at Fed (Reuters)
  • Record Cash Leaves Emerging Market ETFs (BBG)
  • Investors Look Toward Safer Options as Ground Shifts (WSJ)
  • Fed Policy Makers Rally Behind Tapering QE as Yellen Era Begins (BBG)
  • Rating agencies criticise China’s bailout of failed $500m trust (FT)
  • Russia to await new Ukraine government before fully implementing rescue (Reuters)
  • U.S. readies financial sanctions against Ukraine: congressional aides (Reuters)
  • Companies resist president’s call for minimum wage rise (FT)
  • Secret Swiss Funds at Risk as Italy’s Saccomanni Visits Bern (BBG)
  • Top Democrat puts Obama trade deals in doubt (FT)
  • Erdogan to Give Rate Increase Time Before Trying Other Plans (BBG)

The Emerging Market Collapse Through The Eyes Of Don Corleone

The problem, though, is that once you embrace the Narrative of Central Bank Omnipotence to "explain" recent events, you can't compartmentalize it there. If the pattern of post-crisis Emerging Market growth rates is largely explained by US monetary accommodation or lack thereof ... well, the same must be true for pre-crisis Emerging Market growth rates. The inexorable conclusion is that Emerging Market growth rates are a function of Developed Market central bank liquidity measures and monetary policy, and that all Emerging Markets are, to one degree or another, Greece-like in their creation of unsustainable growth rates on the back of 20 years of The Great Moderation (as Bernanke referred to the decline in macroeconomic volatility from accommodative monetary policy) and the last 4 years of ZIRP. It was Barzini all along!