Curious how much the various banks who stood to be impacted by or, otherwise, benefit from either a concentration or dilution of the Volcker rule? According to OpenSecrets, which crunched the numbers, here is how much being able to continue prop trading meant to some of the largest US banks and lobby groups:
- American Bankers Association: $6.495 million
- JPMorgan: $4 million
- Wells Fargo: $4.440 million
- Citigroup: $4.240 million
- Independent Community Bankers of America: $3.581 million
- Bank of America: $2 million
Not bad considering the loophole-ridden Volcker Rule will effectively permit "hedge" books (where an army of lawyers paid $1000/hour defines just what a hedge is) to continue piling on billions of dollars in wildly profitable, Fed reserve funded trades.
And so it is done (as we detailed here)... and due to be put in place as of April1st 2014 (rather ironically). The 100-plus-pages of rules and regulations prohibit two activities of banking entities: (i) engaging in proprietary trading; and (ii) owning, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with a hedge fund or private equity fund. But the kicker...
"requires banking entities to establish an internal compliance program designed to help ensure and monitor compliance with the prohibitions and restrictions of the statute and the final rule."
Great! Because self-regulation worked so well in the past for the financial services industry.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The quarterly Flow of Funds report by the Fed has been released and the latest household net worth numbers are out. While not nearly quite as dramatic as last quarter's wholesale dataset revision, which saw all of America suddenly worth $3 trillion more primarily due to a change of how "pension entitlements" (formerly "pension reserves") are calculated (more more in the full breakdown from September), with the resulting total net worth rising to a total of $74.8 trillion, according to the just released data, in the third quarter, US housholds, or rather a very tiny subset of them, saw their net worth rise once again, this time to $77.3 trillion from a revised $75.3 trillion.
- Glass-Steagall Fans Plan New Assault If Volcker Rule Deemed Weak (BBG) ... "if"? The banks control the legislators and regulators...
- Cellphone data spying: It's not just the NSA (USA Today)
- Major tech companies push for limits on government surveillance (Reuters)
- Shanghai Warns Kids to Stay Indoors for Seventh Day on Smog (BBG)
- Protesters fell Lenin statue, tell Ukraine's president 'you're next' (Reuters)
- Everyone must be flying private these days: EADS to cut 5000-6000 jobs, close Paris HQ in restructuring (FT)
- Big Players Trade 'Upstairs' (WSJ)
- There’s no way to tell how many people who think they’ve signed up for health insurance through the U.S. exchange actually have (BBG)
- Slower China inflation reduces worries of tighter policy (Reuters)
It was inevitable that a few short days after Wall Street lovingly embraced Bitcoin as their own, with analysts from Bank of America, Citigroup and others, not to mention the peanut gallery vocally flipflopping on the currency after hating it at $200 only to love it at $1200 that Bitcoin... would promptly crash. And crash it did: overnight, following previously reported news that China's Baidu woild follow the PBOC in halting acceptance of Bitcoin payment, Bitcoin tumbled from a recent high of $1155 to an almost electronically destined "half-off" touching $576 hours ago, exactly 50% lower, on very heave volume, before a dead cat bounce levitated the currency back to the $800 range, where it may or may not stay much longer, especially if all those who jumped on the bandwagon at over $1000 on "get rich quick" hopes and dreams, only to see massive losses in their P&Ls. Which incidentally, like gold, is to be expected when one treats what is explicitly a currency, instead as an asset, with delusions of grandure that some greater fool will pay more for it tomorrow than it is worth today.
Bubbles are created when investors do not recognize when rising asset prices get detached from underlying fundamentals, but perhaps George Soros' perspective on bubbles is most prescient: "financial markets, far from accurately reflecting all the available knowledge, always provide a distorted view of reality. The degree of distortion may vary from time to time. Sometimes it's quite insignificant, at other times it is quite pronounced. Every bubble has two components: an underlying trend that prevails in reality and a misconception relating to that trend. When a positive feedback develops between the trend and the misconception, a boom-bust process is set in motion. Eventually a tipping point is reached when the trend is reversed; it then becomes self-reinforcing in the opposite direction. Typically bubbles have an asymmetric shape. The boom is long and slow to start. It accelerates gradually until it flattens out again during the twilight period. The bust is short and steep because it involves the forced liquidation of unsound positions." Does an asset bubble currently exist? Ask anyone and they will tell you "NO." However, maybe it is exactly that tacit denial which might just be an indication of its existence.
- Apple, China Mobile Sign Deal to Offer iPhone (WSJ)
- Japan approves $182 billion economic package, doubts remain (Reuters)
- Volcker Rule Won't Allow Banks to Use 'Portfolio Hedging' (WSJ)
- He went, he saw, he achieved nothing: Biden's Trip to Beijing Leaves China Air-Zone Rift Open (WSJ)
- Britain announces sharp upward revision to growth forecasts (Reuters)
- U.S. Airlines to Mortgage-Backed Debt Top List of Best ’14 Bets (BBG)
- Thaksin's homecoming hopes dashed as Thai crisis reignites (Reuters)
- Age of Austerity Nearing End May Boost Global Economy (BBG) - or it may expose that it was just corruption and incompetence at fault all along
- China aims to establish network of high-level FTAs (China Daily)
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.
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.
- America’s Role as Consumer of Last Resort Goes Missing (BBG)
- Holiday sales sag despite blitz of deals (WSJ)
- Abe Support Falls Below 50% for First Time Amid Secrecy Drive (BBG)
- U.S. airlines give China flight plans for defense zone (Reuters), while Japan: no change to airlines' notification policy when flying in East China Sea zone (Reuters)
- Thai protesters seek to topple PM after clashes (Reuters)
- Hilton Seeks as Much as $2.4 Billion in Biggest Hotel IPO (BBG)
- Biden on delicate mission to defuse tensions in East Asia (Reuters)
- Fed eyes financial system weak link (WSJ)
- Pentagon in line of fire in US budget war (FT)
- China’s monetary squeeze collides with housing bubble (FT)
Asian equities have gotten off to a rocky start to the week despite some initial optimism around the twin-Chinese PMI beats at the start of the session. That optimism has been replaced by selling in Chinese equities, particularly small-cap Chinese stocks and A-shares after the Chinese security regulator issued a reform plan for domestic IPOs over the weekend. The market is expecting the reforms to lead to a higher number of IPOs in the coming quarters, and the fear is that this will bring a wave of new supply of stock to an already-underperforming market. Indeed, the Chinese securities regulator expects about 50 firms to complete IPOs by January 2014 – and another 763 firms have already submitted their IPO applications and are currently awaiting approval. A large number of small cap stocks listed on Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market were down by more than 5% this morning, while the Shanghai Composite is down by 0.9%. The Hang Seng (+0.4%), Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (+0.8%) are performing better on a relative basis, and other China-growth assets including the AUDUSD is up 0.5%. The Nikkei (-0.1%) is also a touch weaker after Japan’s Q3 capital expenditure numbers came in well below estimates (1.5% YoY vs 3.6% forecast). Elsewhere Sterling continues to forge new multi-year highs against the USD (+0.3% overnight).
- M&A Mystery: Why Are Takeover Prices Plummeting? (WSJ)
- Hedge-Fund Fight Club Traded Illegal Tips Not Punches (BBG)
- Speed Traders Meet Nightmare on Elm Street With Nanex (BBG)
- A new wave of U.S. mortgage trouble threatens (Reuters)
- Penny Lane: Gitmo's other secret CIA facility (AP)
- US hardens threat to leave Afghanistan with no troops (WSJ)
- Russian Prison Stuns Captain of Greenpeace’s Bombed Ship (BBG)
- ECB's Weidmann Warns Central Banks Might Be Too Dominated by Fiscal Concerns (WSJ)
- China Air Move Splits Japan as Carriers Obey New Rules (BBG)
- Inside the Breakup of the Pritzker Empire (WSJ)
More than 100,000 protesters congregated at Democracy Monument in Bangkok yesterday to protest Thai PM Yingluck Shiniwatra’s consideration of an amnesty bill to pardon her banned brother Thaksin Shiniwatra, the former Thai PM ousted from the country in a 2006 coup.
Since the Financial Crisis erupted in 2007, the US Federal Reserve has engaged in dozens of interventions/ bailouts to try and prop up the financial system. Now, I realize that everyone knows the Fed is “printing money.” However, when you look at the list of bailouts/ money pumps it’s absolutely staggering how much money the Fed has thrown around.