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"We Are Doneski Gorgeous!" - How Bond Trading On Wall Street Really Works

"Jesse Litvak arranged trades for customers as part of his job as a managing director on the MBS desk at Jefferies.  Litvak would buy a MBS from one customer and sell it to another customer, but on many occasions he lied about the price at which his firm had bought the MBS so he could re-sell it to the other customer at a higher price and keep more money for the firm.  On other occasions, Litvak misled purchasers by creating a fictional seller to purport that he was arranging a MBS trade between customers when in reality he was just selling MBS out of his firm’s inventory at a higher price.  Because MBS are generally illiquid and difficult to price, it is particularly important for brokers to provide honest and accurate information. The SEC alleges that Litvak generated more than $2.7 million in additional revenue for Jefferies through his deceit.  His misconduct helped him improve his own standing at the firm, as his bonuses were determined in part by the amount of revenue he generated for the firm." 

BoE's Haldane: "Too Big To Fail Is Far From Gone"

Prior to the crisis, the 29 largest global banks benefitted from just over one notch of uplift from the ratings agencies due to expectations of state support. Today, those same global leviathans benefit from around three notches of implied support. Expectations of state support have risen threefold since the crisis began. This translates into a large implicit subsidy to the world’s biggest banks in the form of lower funding costs and higher profits. Prior to the crisis, this amounted to tens of billions of dollars each year. Today, it is hundreds of billions. Too-big-to-fail is far from gone.

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On December 7, I published an article entitled “Deutsche Bank: Explaining The $12 Billion Loss That Never Was.” The piece outlined a series of complaints filed by former Deutsche Bank employees. One of those employees, Matthew Simpson, claimed to have discovered  “substantial anomalies” in the firm’s credit default swap book while working at Deutsche’s credit correlation desk. Deutsche -- of course -- denied the allegations but did fire a top derivatives trader after an internal investigation into the matter and ultimately paid $900,000 to settle a related SEC whistleblower case filed by Simpson. Reuters broke Simpson’s story in the summer of 2011.

Paul Ryan Says Sequester Likely To Take Place

When the Republican party agreed last week to a push back on the debt ceiling discussion by three months to May 19, virtually without a fight in a move that may presage what is set to become a quarterly can kicking exercise on the US credit card max, some were curious what the quo to this particular quid may be. Earlier today on Meet the press Paul Ryan explained: the pound of spending flesh demanded by the GOP in exchange for caving on yet another key GOP hurdle is, as our readers have known for over two weeks, the Sequester, which is set to hit on March 1 and possibly the stop-gap government funding on March 27, after which various government agencies will start shutting down. Both programs are set to kick in automatically as incremental spending cuts, chopping away even more basis points from the 2013 US GDP, unless the GOP votes affirmatively to extend them in what would then be seen as a move that destroys any last trace of leverage and credibility that GOP may have had.

This Time Is Different

The 2008 crash resulted from the bursting of the biggest bubble in financial history, a ‘credit super-cycle’ that spanned more than three decades. How did this happen? Some might draw comfort from the observation that bubbles are a long established aberration, arguing that the boom-and-bust cycle of recent years is nothing abnormal. Any such comfort would be misplaced, for two main reasons. First, the excesses of recent years have reached a scale which exceeds anything that has been experienced before. Second, and more disturbing still, the developments which led to the financial crisis of 2008 amounted to a process of sequential bubbles, a process in which the bursting of each bubble was followed by the immediate creation of another. Though the sequential nature of the pre-2008 process marks this as something that really is different, in order to put the 'credit cuper-cycle' in context, we must understand the vast folly of globalization, the undermining of official economic and fiscal data, and the fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamic which really drives the economy.

Gold Backed Bonds - An Alternative To European Austerity?

The World Gold Council and leading academics and international think tanks believe that using a portion of a nation's gold reserves to back sovereign debt would lower sovereign debt yields and give some of the Eurozone's most distressed countries time to work on economic reform and recovery. According to research done by the World Gold Council using the European gold reserves as collateral for new sovereign debt issues would mean that without selling an ounce of gold, Eurozone countries could raise €413 billion. This is over 20% of Italy's and Portugal's two year borrowing requirements.  The move to back sovereign bonds with gold would lower sovereign debt yields, without increasing inflation, which would help to calm markets. This should give European countries some vital breathing space to work on economic reform and recovery. Some citizens would be concerned that there may be a risk that the sovereign nations who pledge their gold as collateral could ultimately end up losing their gold reserves to the ECB, or whoever the collateral of the gold reserves are pledged to, in the event of a default. Unlike currency debasement and the printing and electronic creation of money to buy sovereign debt, under schemes such as Draghi's “outright monetary transactions” (OMT), the use of gold as collateral would not create fiscal transfers between Eurozone members, long term inflation or currency devaluation risk.

Apple Earnings Shock Offset By Good Cop/Bad Cop Macro Data

While the main topic of conversation overnight was the Apple implosion after earnings (which was mercifully spared inbound calls from repo desk margin clerks who had all gone home by the time the stock hit $460), there was some macro data to muddle up the picture, which, like everything else in this baffle with BS new normal came in "good/bad cop" pairs. In early trading, all eyes were focused on Japan, whose trade and especially exports imploded when the country posted a record trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen ($78.27 billion) in 2012 and the seventh consecutive monthly drop in exports which showed that improved sentiment has yet to translate into hard economic data. Finance ministry data on Thursday showed that exports fell 5.8 percent in the year to December, more than economists' consensus forecast of a 4.2 percent drop. Trade with China was hit particularly hard following the ongoing island fiasco, which means that all the ongoing Yen destruction has largely been for nothing as organic growth markets simply shut off Japan. This ugly news was marginally offset by a tiny beat in the HSBC China manufacturing PMI which came slighly above consensus at 51.9 vs exp. 51.7, the highest print in 24 months, but as with everything else coming out of China one really shouldn't believe this or any other number in a country that will not allow even one corporate default to prevent the credit-driven illusion from popping.

What Really Goes On In China

From a valuation perspective, Chinese equities do not, at first glance, look to be a likely candidate for trouble. The PE ratios are either 12 or 15 times on MSCI China, depending on whether you include financials or not, and do not scream 'bubble'. And yet, China has been a source of worry for GMO over the past three years and continues to be one. China scares them because it looks like a bubble economy. Understanding these kinds of bubbles is important because they represent a situation in which standard valuation methodologies may fail. Just as financial stocks gave a false signal of cheapness before the GFC because the credit bubble pushed their earnings well above sustainable levels and masked the risks they were taking, so some valuation models may fail in the face of the credit, real estate, and general fixed asset investment boom in China, since it has gone on long enough to warp the models' estimation of what "normal" is. Of course, every credit bubble involves a widening divergence between perception and reality. China's case is not fundamentally different. In GMO's extensive discussion below, they have documented rapid credit growth against the background of a nationwide property bubble, the worst of Asian crony lending practices, and the appearance of a voracious and unstable shadow banking system. "Bad" credit booms generally end in banking crises and are followed by periods of lackluster economic growth. China appears to be heading in this direction.

Guest Post: Apparitions In The Fog

After digesting the opinions of the shills, shysters and scam artists, I am ready to predict that I have no clue what will happen during 2013. The fog of uncertainty is engulfing the nation, making consumers hesitant to spend and businesses reluctant to hire or invest. Virtually all of the mainstream media, Wall Street banks and paid shill economists are in agreement that 2013 will see improvement in employment, housing, retail spending and, of course the only thing that matters to the ruling class, the stock market. Even among the alternative media, there seems to be a consensus that we will continue to muddle through and the day of reckoning is still a few years off. Those who are predicting improvements are either ignorant of history or are being paid to predict improvement, despite the overwhelming evidence of a worsening economic climate. The mainstream media pundits, fulfilling their assigned task of purveying feel good propaganda, use the 10% stock market gain in 2012 as proof of economic recovery. The facts prove otherwise... Every day more people are realizing the con-job being perpetuated by the owners of this country. Will the tipping point be reached in 2013? I don’t know. But the era of decisiveness and confrontation has arrived. The existing social order will be swept away. Are you prepared?

China Narrowly Averts Credit Bubble Pop With Latest Government Bailout Of First Domestic Bond Default

A Chinese solar firm which nearly produced the country's first domestic bond default will complete an interest payment on schedule after a local government intervened on its behalf. Investors say the latest instance of a government riding to the rescue of a troubled Chinese firm has led to moral hazard and inefficient credit allocation. In previous near-defaults, local governments had stepped in directly to arrange bailout funding. But as in past cases, the deal flouts legal notions of debt seniority by allowing one group of creditors - bondholders - to get paid in full, even as a pre-existing default remains un-cured. Analysts say the market does not effectively price in risk because investors assume the government will never allow a default.

Tepper's "Balls To The Wall" Reappear, Lead To "Explosion Of Greatness"

Everyone's favorite bull made another magnificently arrogant appearance on TV this morning. Following his recent CNBC embarrassment, Bloomberg TV interviewed the outperforming hedge fund manager this morning - during which he explained his 'where else ya gonna go' bullish stocks thesis. From expectations for an "explosion of greatness" in the US to his gratuitous flirtation, he appears to have the inane ability to use many words where few are needed and his bullish thesis has the ring of any and every guest pumper (with nothing new to add): the same supposedly 'low' multiple, central-banks-are-printing, and wide spread between bond and equity yield argument that everyone's mom can explain. From expectations for the 'great rotation' from bonds to stocks and his 50%-upside prediction in Citi, Tepper is "balls to the wall" the best guest ever on any stock-touting network. However, one little thing gets in the way - the last time the Great-and-Powerful Tepper appeared so overtly bullish of stocks (and financials specifically), he also was dumping his holdings into the rally that followed.

China, Japan, And The US - Tying It All Together

As Japan and China increase naval and air activity around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, the United States is steadily increasing its active involvement to reassure Tokyo and send a warning to Beijing. But Beijing may seek an opportunity to challenge U.S. primacy in what China considers its territorial waters. In this succinst summary, Stratfor analyzes the current state of affairs, the potential for escalation, and how the US' presence in the Pacific will play tactically and strategically into the evolving crisis over the Islands.