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Shhh... Don't Tell Anyone; Central Banks Manipulate Rates

It should come as no surprise to anyone that major commercial banks manipulate Libor submissions for their own benefit. As Jefferies David Zervos writes this weekend, money-center commercial banks did not want the “truth” of market prices to determine their loan rates. Rather, they wanted an oligopolistically controlled subjective survey rate to be the basis for their lending businesses. When there are only 16 players – a “gentlemen’s agreement” is relatively easy to formulate. That is the way business has been transacted in the broader OTC lending markets for nearly 30 years. The most bizarre thing to come out of the Barclays scandal, Zervos goes on to say, is the attack on the Bank of England and Paul Tucker. Is it really a scandal that central bank officials tried to affect interest rates? Absolutely NOT! That’s what they do for a living. Central bankers try to influence rates directly and indirectly EVERY day. That is their job. Congresses and Parliaments have given central banks monopoly power in the printing of money and the management of interest rate policy. These same law makers did not endow 16 commercial banks with oligopoly power to collude on the rate setting process in their privately created, over the counter, publicly backstopped marketplaces.

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Merkel and Weidermann’s points here are crucial. There is no way that either can OK giving German funds (ultimately Germany is the real backstop for the EFSF and ESM) without conditions. Why should Germany risk its AAA status to prop up countries that have proven to be unwilling to implement any meaningful reforms and whom actually lie openly to Germany’s face time and again?

Reporting On The Golden Fleece

We are at that moment in time where Greece has capitulated and it is going to be hanging or life imprisonment and Greece, eyes downward cast, is waiting for the verdict. This situation may have been long in coming but it is going to be a disaster for the IMF and for the European Union however it goes. Greece (3) will be a “moment” of that you may be assured and the announcement will be coming shortly. The forthcoming decision will be a matter of credibility in the end as the next line in the sand will hit the ECB, the EU and the IMF in a place that hurts as the last free barrier, the private investors, has been breached and is it going to be the taxpayers of Europe that bear the brunt or is it to be the nation of Greece and her people. There can be no more excuses and the fantastic charades of the past have evaporated and been found wanting. The shepherd ascended Mount Olympus and finding no temples, no gods now is descending back down the mountain and trying hard to figure out just what to say to the people. We are about to face a “Moses Moment” when the worshipping of the “Golden Bull” will no longer cut it. Stand by!

The Cacophony Of Markets

Seven out of the seventeen economies that belong to the European Union that need to be bailed out. This is 41% of the Euro-17 that is in trouble. The second indication of decline is the recessions in Europe. In fact virtually all of Europe is in a recession and while Germany has held its head above the water I think by the third or fourth quarter that she is also mired in an economic decline. Europe is 25% of the global economy and this is beginning to affect the United States as exemplified by the declining revenues and profits of many American corporations that have so far reported out this quarter. The axes of the financial markets are America, Europe and China and with Europe in serious decline and China also contracting the strings are vibrating so that all of the markets are likely to go down. Even without some cataclysmic shock, realization is coming. The debts of Europe are being paid off with ever more debt and the can kicking will find its walls and as the European recession deepens it will be felt in America and then adjustments will have to be made - as fact overbears fantasy.

Guest Post: The Real-World Middle Class Tax Rate: 75%

For those Americans earning between $34,500 and $106,000, the real-world middle class tax burden in high-tax locales is 15% + 25% + 5% + 15% + 15% = 75%. Yes, 75%. Before you start listing the innumerable caveats and quibbles raised by any discussion of taxes, please hear me out first. Let's start by defining "taxes" as any fee that is mandated by law or legal necessity. In other words, taxes are what is not optional.  If we include all taxes, the real-world tax rate is much higher than the "official" income tax rate.

Spain Sells 10 Year Paper, Yields Jump; Ireland Is Not Uganda

So much for the latest European bail out. Not even a full week after the last European dead of night summit, which supposedly "was different this time", and Spanish bond yields have already retraced virtually the entire move lower, and after sliding to as low as 6.1%, are now back to 6.62% as of this morning, 22 bps wider on the day, as a result of the now generic realization that nothing actually changed, and also following the latest abysmal and unsustainable (there's that key word again) auction out of Spain, which sold bonds due 2015, 2016 and 2022, even as its default risk is now wider than that of Ireland.

David Rosenberg Explains The Housing "Recovery"

Confused by all the amusing arguments of a housing "recovery" (because if you believe in it, it just may come true.... maybe) in the sad context of a reality in which the economy is once again turning from bad to worse missing expectations left and right (for every report surprising to the upside, two do the opposite), corporate earnings and margins have rolled over, US states and cities and European countries are filing for default or demanding bailouts at an ever faster pace, and only headlines such as "stocks rise on hopes of more central bank easing" appear in the good news columns of mainstream media? Don't be: David Rosenberg explains it all.

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The Fed, by buying Treasuries is making insolvent banks even more insolvent. It is a short-term gain (liquidity) for a long-term disaster: banks need as much collateral as they can get their hands on right now. And with Treasuries rallying (raising the value of the banks' assets) any aggressive Fed program to take Treasuries out of the system would be a MAJOR step towards another solvency Crisis a la 2008.

Guest Post: Golden Cognitive Dissonance

The gold exchange standard period, which followed WW2, was a period of unprecedented and unparalleled expansion, productivity growth, technological innovation, and financial stability. The Bank of England’s recent report on the gold standard periods concluded:

"Overall the gold standard appeared to perform reasonably well against its financial stability and allocative efficiency objectives."

The BBC concludes by quoting former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson:

"You can’t force a government to stay on gold, so therefore gold has no credibility."

Do you see the cognitive dissonance here? If we are to believe Lord Lawson, gold has no credibility, because governments have previously proven themselves untrue to their word. Surely the thing that has no credibility is not gold, but government promises? And that is the answer to the BBC’s initial question.

Tuesday Humor: "Citi Today Is A Different Bank Than It Was Before The Crisis"

The FDIC decided to wait with its dose of pre-holiday humor until after the Barclays fixing for today's market close turned out to be spot on. And by that we mean that official release of the US banks' "living will" statements, which as far as we know is about the most worthless exercise ever conducted, and about the dumbest thing to be conceived by that very undynamic duo of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. Because last we checked, the treatment of living wills in bankruptcy court, where all these firms will end up eventually anyway, is... non-existent. But the real fun is when one actually reads this indicative statement from Citigroup: "Citi is today a fundamentally different institution than it was before the crisis." And that's where we stopped. Because it is banks wasting their time (and taxpayer bailout money) on gibberish like this instead of analyzing the risk inherent in their prop positions that guarantees the next CIO-like blow up will not be just $5 billion but far, far more, and will certainly prove that living wills when one has to equitize tens of billions in unsecured debt are worth exactly didely squat.

Unsealed Documents Expose Morgan Stanley Forcing Rating Agencies To Inflate Ratings

With Europe, the BBA, and virtually everyone shocked, shocked, that the global bank cabal schemed and colluded for years to manipulate interest rates, so far only America appears relatively blase, and totally ignorant, about the issue. Perhaps it is because the first bank exposed in the manipulation scheme so far is European, perhaps because it is just tired of all the endless crime coming out of the criminal complex known as Wall Street. It is unclear. Then again, America will soon have its own manipulation scandals to deal with: and if it is not the US BBA member banks, all of whom were just as guilty as Barclays, and the only question is which bank will be the sacrificial scapegoat whose CEO will have to demonstratively depart (to warmer, non-extradition climes), it will be the following story from Bloomberg which will likely pick up much more steam over the next weeks and months, detailing how the bank which just barely avoided a triple notch downgrade (wink wink) has had previous dealings with the very same rating agencies seeking to, picture this, artificially inflate ratings! So to summarize: Fed manipulates capital markets, HFT manipulates bid ask spreads, "self-policing" CDS pricing market groups fudge the prices on trillions in Credit Default Swaps, bank cabals collude and manipulate short-term interest rates, and now banks are confirmed to have manipulated the ratings on tens of billions of bonds using monetary incentives and threats. Is there anything in this "market" that was fair over the past several decades, and was actual price discovery ever actually possible? Because by now it should be very clear going forward all the things that actually make a free and fair market are forever gone, and that without endless fraud and manipulation by all the market participants who realize that anyone defecting the ponzi group means immediate and terminal losses for all, and all those calls for an S&P 400 would actually prove to be overly optimistic.