Europe just can't catch a break these days. While French Fitch naturally came out earlier with a AAA rating and a stable outlook, it is Moody's, which has yet to follow through in S&P's footsteps 14 months later and tell the truth about America's AAA rating, that moments ago spoiled the ESM "inauguration" party by branding it AAA, but with a Negative outlook. So much for the most 'supersecure' CDO on earth: looks like we are not the only ones to assign comical value to the ESM's €80 billion first loss "Paid-in" tranche. Because that 12% in buffered protection can disappear very quick if and when the central planners lose control.
When fringe-blogs highlight the reality of the US banking system and its financial engineering as nothing but overly complex three-card-Monte, it can be shrugged off; but when the head of China's sovereign wealth fund (yes the same one that will bail the world out) notes that the JPMorgan loss highlights a system that has become too complex, perhaps some should listen. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, Gao Xiqing of CIC stated that "I think we do need to slow down a little bit instead of rushing up to all these fancy derivatives." The fact that the 'whale' loss was not a rogue trader but a systemic decision gone wrong on weak risk management of an overly-complex position was "the single most revealing thing" to Gao as he expressed concern about a society in which "all the best engineers are engineering financial products." Summing up the entire ethos of US financial innovation he concluded: "You have all the smartest kids to design these products, the only purpose of which is to get money out of other people’s pockets, that is not very good."
Whether it is because the CME just did it; or it's all their clients have left; or Gold volatility is lower than EURUSD volatility (9.0% vs 9.6% in last 3 weeks); or they see the painting on the wall of Draghi's grand-plans, the LCH-Clearnet just announced that as of August 28th, unallocated gold will be accepted as collateral for margin cover purposes. This now means all the major exchanges accept worthless barbarous relics as collateral - as well as worthless fiat paper 'money'.
Over two years ago, the US Clearing house of the CME, the world's largest derivatives marketplace, had no choice but to allow gold as collateral. Why: because as we showed some days ago, while in Europe bank deposits are expansive, in the US, financial system funding relies primarily on mythical assets as liabilities, i.e., those that exist primarily due to faith in the system, something which has been in short supply, as a result of which the $15 trillion (down from a peak of $23 trillion) shadow banking system long used to fund regular operations, has been imploding. Couple that with a scarcity of other (re)pledgeable assets which in the US do not, unlike the UK, have an infinite rehypothecation chain, and one can see why back in October 2009 the CME had no choice but to accept gold as eligible collateral for clearing purposes. As of minutes ago, the European arm of CME Clearing has folded too, and has released a press release stating that it to0 "has extended the range of eligible collateral types to include gold bullion." Of course, this is the same gold bullion that Germany will be seeking to "repo" in exchange for sovereign bail outs as Europe's periphery continues to run out of endogenous money and has to increasingly rely on the benevolence of the Bundesbank. For now all we need to know is that another exchange just threw in the towel and admitted that contrary to Bernanke's stern position, gold is, indeed money.
We thought it timely to repost this oldie but humorous goodie on how bank style traders make their money. Ever wonder why Goldman, or BAC can have 90 straight days of profitable trading? Don't wonder too much more, the answer is here. The new reality is however, Banks are fast becoming utilities now that they cannot hide losses in mark-to-myth book keeping (whale legacy), and have removed (or renamed) their Prop trading divisions. The recent purge of prop traders and subsequent start up of unprofitable funds can be attributed to many things; among them market conditions, 100% correlated markets etc. But the biggest for a certain type of trader is a lack of flow, i.e. no clients to fleece or front run.
The Zero Hedge audience have always been tough task masters and will hold people's feet to the fire. While markets have been a little tempestuous to say the least recently, TrimTabs' Charles Biderman comes out swinging with a spirited and honest defense of his calls - and quite frankly we still tend to agree with his bigger picture view of where this ends. From his Facebook miss to short-term fluctuations in the equity market (that now seem precipitously away from credit market reality), Biderman responds to comments here and elsewhere on both position sizing and perhaps most importantly risk management - adding (and this is where we believe he is dead right though timing the call is practically impossible) that "when the collapse happens it will happen overnight - that is why [he wants] to be short but safe at the same time."
UPDATE: Added Santelli carefully negotiating LeBeau's awesome optimism.
Like everywhere else, quality collateral is increasingly being soaked away and nowhere is this more evident than in the auto industry. We recently noted the significance of the auto industry and its self-fulfilling (and destroying) channel-stuffing 'mandates' around the world but today we get confirmation of the depths the car industry will stoop to. Via Subprime News, we see that Preferred Automobile Credit Co. (PACCO) is 'expanding' both the age and mileage limits of vehicles eligible for collateral, as "the pool of quality used cars has been shrinking, making it more challenging for dealers to find quality inventory". Of course, any 'knock' on the risk management or honesty or sustainability of an auto industry so much a part of the US recovery would not be complete without CNBC's Phil LeBeau's rebuff that the entire industry sees things as golden (in all its rear-view mirror glory) - we wonder what subprime lenders were saying about the environment for loans in 2006? And of course they can carry that 20% interest-rate, car prices never go down right?
Too Big Leads To Destruction of the Rule of Law
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) primary role is to make retail markets for financial products and services work more effectively, and so help retail consumers to get a fair deal. In June 2006, the FSA created its Retail Distribution Review (RDR) programme which they are enacting in order to enhance consumer confidence in the retail investment market. The RDR has a target for full-implementation of 31 December 2012. The RDR is expected to have a significant impact on the way in which financial services are delivered to retail investors in the UK. The primary delivery mechanism of financial services to retail customers is via approximately 30,000 Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) who are authorised and regulated by the FSA. They are expected to bear the brunt of the force of the RDR. Gold bullion is set to benefit from the axing of commission for IFAs and the implementation of the RDR “should be regarded as a game changer” for gold as an investment in the UK, according to the World Gold Council. Managing director of investment Marcus Grubb, says: “These extremely challenging times mean it’s impossible to quantify the risks for UK investors. They are facing an unprecedented combination of threats to their assets including extreme and unexpected market shocks that can trigger widespread value destruction.” “As UK investors reduce allocations to traditional investments such as equities and bonds and increasingly dash to cash, they face a double whammy, with the potential for stagnation of capital due to the lack of returns from cash and the increased possibility of inflation as a result of ongoing monetary stimulation.”
Do the good citizens of the Wall Street establishment broadly defined understand the risks taken by the House of Morgan?
The reason for the ramp in risk as attributed by various buyside desks as to what recently has become the trademark of more hope, prayer and magic from Jefferies' (yes, Jefferies is driving the market for once, who wouldathunk it) David "SPOOS" Zervos, whose latest note that the Fed will follow the ECB and cut its overnight excess reserves rate to -0.25% has picked up some traction, and is causing a modest rise in risk markets. Here is the problem: the Fed will NOT do this, and certainly will not do this for months and months as not only would it destroy the US money market, general colalteral, unsecured and virtually every other overnight market instantaneously (and not even Ben is that dumb to trade a few trillion in private sector overnight funding for 10% in the S&P), but even as Zervos says this is nothing short of a thought experiment in what may happen: "Whether it happens or not is not the point. The issue is that we are not priced for it AT ALL." Correct David: they are unprepared because it will not happen. The Fed will do much more LSAP, and even that other flow-based lunacy, NGDP targeting, before it decides to blow up overnight markets (not to mention destroy the entire Primary Dealer risk analytics system all of which is based on positive flow from Reserves). Because if the Fed telegraphs it is ending the inflows from reserves experiment started 3 years ago, we better be having 4% GDP growth. Reality check: we have 1.1% Q2 annualized GDP. Finally, that whole ECB experiment with negative Deposit Rates led to... absolutely nothing... correction: it led to yet another plunge in Spanish and Italian yields: something the Fed is quite aware of.
By now it really, really should be obvious. While the insolvent "developed world" is furiously fighting over who gets to pay the bill for 30 years of unsustainable debt accumulation and how to pretend that the modern 'crony capitalist for some and communist for others' system isn't one flap of a butterfly's wings away from full on collapse mode, China is slowly taking over the world's real assets. As a reminder: here is a smattering of our headlines on the topic from the last year: ""World's Second (China) And Third Largest (Japan) Economies To Bypass Dollar, Engage In Direct Currency Trade", "China, Russia Drop Dollar In Bilateral Trade", "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System", "India and Japan sign new $15bn currency swap agreement", "Iran, Russia Replace Dollar With Rial, Ruble in Trade, Fars Says", "India Joins Asian Dollar Exclusion Zone, Will Transact With Iran In Rupees", 'The USD Trap Is Closing: Dollar Exclusion Zone Crosses The Pacific As Brazil Signs China Currency Swap", and finally, "Chile Is Latest Country To Launch Renminbi Swaps And Settlement", we now get the inevitable: "Central bank pledges financial push in Africa." To summarize: first Asia, next Latin America, and now Africa.
And now a little something for everyone who consistently has a nagging feeling that at any second the world is one short flap of a butterfly's wings away from complete systemic disintegration: according to David Korowicz of FEASTA, and his most recent paper: 'Trade-Off: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse." that just may be the case. Think of the attached 78-page paper as Nassim Taleb meets Edward Lorenz meets Malcom Gladwell meets Arthur Tansley meets Herman Muller meets Werner Heisenberg meets Hyman Minsky meets William Butler Yeats, and the resultant group spends all night drinking absinthe and smoking opium, while engaging in illegal debauchery in the 5th sub-basement of the Moulin Rouge circa 1890. To wit: "Something sets off an interrelated Eurozone crisis and banking crisis, a Spanish default say, which spreads panic and fear across other vulnerable Eurozone countries. This sets off a Minsky moment when overleveraged speculators in the banking and shadow banking system are forced to unwind positions into a one-sided (sellers only) market. The financial system contagion passes a tipping point where governments and central banks start to lose control and panic drives a (positive feedback) deepening and widening of the impact globally. In our tropic model of the globalised economy, the banking and monetary system keystone hub comes out of its equilibrium range, crosses a tipping point, and is driven away by positive feedbacks to some new state.... it is very clear that we have learned almost nothing general about risk management as a societal practice arising from the financial crisis. We have merely adopted a new consensus, with a questionable acknowledgement that we will not let this type of crisis happen again. However, the argument in this following report is that we are facing growing real-time, severe, civilisation transforming risks without any risk management."
In a few moments we will post a critical analysis by David Korowicz, titled Trade-Off: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross- Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse, arguably one of the best big picture overviews of the New Normal in systemic complexity, which considers the "relationship between a global systemic banking, monetary and solvency crisis and its implications for the real-time flow of goods and services in the globalised economy" and specifically looks at how various "what if" scenarios can propagate through a Just In Time world in which virtually everything is connected, and in which even a modest breakdown in one daisy-chain can lead to uncontrolled systemic collapse via the trade pathways more than ever reliant on solvency, sound money and bank intermediation.To wit: "For example, when the Federal Reserve Bank of New York commissioned a study of the structure of the inter-bank payment flows within the US Fedwire system they found remarkable levels of concentration. Looking at 7,000 transfers between 5,000 banks on an average day, they found 75% of payment flows involved less than 0.1% of the banks and 0.3% of linkages."
In a memo released to Barclays staff, outgoing Chairman Marcus Agius appeared to throw the rest of his Liebor-fixing cohort banks under the bus, noting that "As other banks settle with authorities, and their details become public, and various governments' inquiries shed more light, our situation will eventually be put in perspective" by the fines handed out to other international banks. As Sky News reports, it appears 90 million emails and 1 million voicemails will be made available to the independent body spearheading the Liebor probe - the details of which are being finalized this weekend. While the rest of the memo focused on the restoration of Barclays' reputation and the "trust that has been so badly damaged", they quite clearly hinted at its rivals were likely to be hit with even harder fines that the GBP290 million imposed on Barclays. They add, as if we did not need reminding that "the macro-environment remains febrile, especially in Europe. We have to remain vigilant on balance sheet exposures and risk management. In short, our focus must remain on capital, funding and liquidity; improving returns; and driving income growth." But we can't help but feel a Charles Prince-esque defense coming here that 'everyone was doing it' and while the music still played, we kept 'dancing'.