Guest Post: Ten Minutes After The Titanic Struck The Iceberg

As we all know, the "unsinkable" Titanic suffered a glancing collision with an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. Ten minutes after the iceberg had opened six of the ship's 16 watertight compartments, it was not at all apparent that the mighty vessel had been fatally wounded, as there was no evidence of damage topside. Indeed, some eyewitnesses reported that passengers playfully scattered the ice left on the foredeck by the encounter. But some rudimentary calculations soon revealed the truth to the officers: the ship was designed to survive four watertight compartments being compromised, and could likely stay afloat if five were opened to the sea, but not if six compartments were flooded. Water would inevitably spill over into adjacent compartments in a domino-like fashion until the ship sank. The financial system of the United States of America is like the Titanic. Hubris led many to declare it financially unsinkable even as its fundamental design was riddled with fatal flaws and the human pilots in charge ran it straight into the ice field at top speed. We have some time left before the ultimate fate is visible to all. Ten minutes after the collision, the Titanic's passengers had 2 hours and 30 minutes before the "unsinkable" ship sank. How much time we have left is unknown, but the bow of the ship will be visibly settling into the icy water within a year or two--and perhaps much sooner.

The Weekly Update - NFP And DMA

In a very thin market, the S&P futures came very close to hitting their 50 DMA on Friday. The S&P futures went from a high of 1,418 on Monday, to trade as low as 1,372 on Friday. A 46 point swing is healthy correction at the very least, if not an ominous warning sign of more problems to come. There were 3 key drivers to the negative price action in stocks this week. All 3 of them will continue to dominant issues next week.

LTRO #Fail And Two Types Of Credit Losses

Two weeks ago we noted that all those banks that 'invested' in Spanish and Italian 'Sarkozy' carry-trades post LTRO2 are now under-water on their positions (on a MtM basis). The last week or so has seen this situation deteriorate rather rapidly with Spanish yields now backed up all the way to mid-November levels (and notably Spanish equities below their November lows) removing all the LTRO-exuberance leaving all Spanish banks under-water on their carry trades (should they ever have to MtM). At the same time, the critical aspect of LTRO (that is reliquifying tha banks to avoid the credit contraction vicious cycle that was beginning) has also failed. LTRO-encumbered banks now trade with a credit spread on senior unsecured (but now hugely subordinated) paper of 305bps on average (compared to non-LTRO-encumbered banks trading at 180bps on average) - back up near January's worst levels and almost entirely removing any of the tail-risk-reduction expectations that LTRO was supposed to provide. As Peter Tchir notes, there are two types of credit losses - default/restructuring (Greece and soon to be Portugal/Spain et al.) and bad positioning (or forced selling as risk becomes too much to bear - Spanish Govt/Financial credit) - these two sources of self-fulfilling pain are mounting once again. The simple truth is that without endless and infinite LTRO (or printing) funding for banks there is not enough demand for Europe's peripheral junk (as the Spanish auction highlighted) and the lack of performing collateral means the next stage will be outright printing (as opposed to a veiled repo loan) and that fact is beginning to creep into US financials as systemic contagion spreads.

Guest Post: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Part 3

Who will buy our debt in the coming months and years? Europe is saturated with debt and doesn’t have the means to purchase our debt. Japan is a train wreck waiting to happen. China’s customers aren’t buying their crap, so their economic miracle is about to go in reverse. The Federal Reserve cannot buy $1 trillion of Treasury bonds per year forever without creating more speculative bubbles and raging inflation in the things people need to live. The Minsky Moment will be the point when the U.S. Treasury begins having funding problems due to the spiraling debt incurred in financing perpetual government deficits. At this point no buyer will be found to bid at 2% to 3% yields for U.S. Treasuries; consequently, a major sell-off will ensue leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market clearing asset prices and a sharp drop in market liquidity. In layman terms that means – the shit will hit the fan. The Federal Reserve and Treasury will be caught in their own web of lies. The only way to attract buyers will be to dramatically increase interest rates. Doing this in a country up to its eyeballs in debt will be suicide. We will abruptly know how it feels to be Greek....The entire financial world is hopelessly entangled by the $700 trillion of derivatives that ensure mass destruction if one of the dominoes falls. This is the reason an otherwise inconsequential country like Greece had to be “saved”.

Frontrunning: April 4

  • Low cost era over for China's workshops to the world (Reuters)
  • The HFT scourge never ends: SEC Probes Ties to High-Speed Traders (WSJ)
  • Rehn says Portugal may need "bridge" (Reuters)
  • China's GDP likely to have slowed in the first quarter (China Daily)
  • Chinese Premier Blasts Banks (WSJ)

Guest Post: Global Oil Risks in the Early 21st Century

The Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrated that most of the oil left is deep offshore or in other locations difficult to reach. Moreover, to obtain the oil remaining in currently producing reservoirs requires additional equipment and technology that comes at a higher price in both capital and energy. In this regard, the physical limitations on producing ever-increasing quantities of oil are highlighted, as well as the possibility of the peak of production occurring this decade. The economics of oil supply and demand are also briefly discussed, showing why the available supply is basically fixed in the short to medium term. Also, an alarm bell for economic recessions is raised when energy takes a disproportionate amount of total consumer expenditures. In this context, risk mitigation practices in government and business are called for. As for the former, early education of the citizenry about the risk of economic contraction is a prudent policy to minimize potential future social discord. As for the latter, all business operations should be examined with the aim of building in resilience and preparing for a scenario in which capital and energy are much more expensive than in the business-as-usual one.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

Folks, QE 3 is not coming. Not without a Crisis first. End of story. The last time the Fed hit “print” with QE 2 put food prices at all time records and kicked off revolutions and riots around the globe. Today, gas is already at $4, food prices aren’t too far off their highs… do you REALLY think the Fed will kick off more QE in this environment… during an election year? At a time when the Fed is becoming a hot topic in the election?

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

In simple terms, this time around, when Europe goes down (and it will) it’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And this time around, the world Central Banks are already leveraged to the hilt having spent virtually all of their dry powder propping up the markets for the last four years. Again, this time it is different. I realize most people believe the Fed can just hit “print” and solve everything, but they’re wrong. The last time the Fed hit “print” food prices hit records and revolutions began spreading in emerging markets. If the Fed does it again, especially in a more aggressive manner as it would have to, we would indeed enter a dark period in the world and the capital markets.