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Bulk Investors And The Real-Estate 'Recovery'

Bulk (Wall Street) buyers have been receiving a lot of attention recently. It's time to take a closer look. There is little data available pertaining to bulk investors and even less meaningful analysis. Historically, Wall Street has never been active in direct ownership of single family homes, so there is no past histrory to learn from. We need to start from scratch. Anecdotally, Las Vegas is the most shocking: "... never seen a market where over half of the buyers paid cash and over 1/3 of the sales were financed via the FHA, leaving only 14% of sales in the "other" category." The herd mentality is in full control with buying increasing at all levels. How long will this feeding frenzy last? Will the bulk investors be able to generate enough returns to whet their appetite for more? Stay tuned.

Argentina Rebels Against America's "Judicial Colonialism"

The ongoing debacle surrounding Argentina's holdout over holdouts appears to be escalating (in rhetoric at least) once again. As Reuters notes, negotiations or voluntary payment by Fernandez's government appear almost impossible. Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino called Griesa's ruling "a kind of judicial colonialism". "The only thing left is for Griesa to order them to send in the (U.S. Navy's) Fifth Fleet," Lorenzino told reporters, outlining Argentina's plans to file an appeal against Griesa's ruling with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday. Many specialists think it unlikely that the appeals court will reinstate the stay. "It may be an issue of process, but Argentina will struggle to justify why it refuses to pay the $1.3 billion," Eurasia Group analyst Daniel Kerner wrote last week. "Argentina has the resources to meet the payment, so in the end it will be a political decision (and) there does not seem to be any political support for paying the holdouts at all." The Argentina case surely brings into clear view the murkiness of investing in sovereign debt and the increasing difference between ability-to-pay and willingness-to-pay.

Overnight Sentiment: No Progress Means Lots Of Progress

Another week begins which means all eyes turn to Europe which is getting increasingly problematic once more, even if the central banks have lulled all capital markets into total submission, and a state of complete decoupling with the underlying fundamentals. The primary event last night without doubt was Catalonia's definitive vote for independence. While some have spun this as a loss for firebrand Artur Mas, who lost 12 seats since the 2010 election to a total of 50, and who recently made an independence referendum as his primary election mission, the reality is that his loss has only occurred as as result of his shift from a more moderate platform. The reality is that his loss is the gain of ERC, which gained the seats Mas lost, with 21, compared to 10 previously, and is now the second biggest Catalan power. The only difference between Mas' CiU and the ERC is that the latter is not interested in a referendum, and demand outright independence for Catalonia as soon as possible, coupled with a reduction in austerity and a write off of the Catalan debt. As such while there will be some serious horse trading in the coming days and week, it is idiotic to attempt to spin last night's result as anything less than a slap in the face of European "cohesion." And Catalonia is merely the beginning. Recall: "The European Disunion: The Richest Increasingly Want To Fragment From The Poorest" - it is coming to an insolvent European country near you.

The Greek Debt Buyback 'Boondoggle' - Questions Answered

Following this week's 'failed' Eurogroup meeting, leaked details suggest a debt-buyback is becoming the corner-piece of the 'new' Troika deal with Greece. The leaking of details (and anticipation by the market) has driven GGB prices up and reduced much of the benefit of the buyback 'boondoggle' but as Barclays notes, "even if the debt buyback enables the IMF and EU leaders to come to an agreement, leading to a Greek resolution in the near term, in the medium-to-long-term Greek debt is not sustainable on realistic macroeconomic assumptions without notable outright haircuts on official EU loans to Greece. Therefore, a successful debt buyback might resolve the Greek debt sustainability issue on paper in the troika report but it will most likely not resolve it in investors’ minds." While there are 'optical' advantages to the buyback, the four main disadvantages outlined below should be irksome to the Greeks (e.g. creditor benfitting over growth-empowering) - which is critical since, as ekathermini notes, a senior finance minister commented "God forbid we should not be close to an agreement on Monday."

Brazil Gold Reserves In Fixed Term Gold Deposits With Bullion Banks

Brazil’s aggressive efforts to weaken its currency by buying dollars – about $132 billion since the beginning of 2008 – have left the country with the sixth biggest international reserves in the world, about 80% of which is denominated in the US currency. However, recent turmoil in currency markets and concerns over the global financial crisis and fiat currencies in general has given Brazil’s authorities even more reason to diversify their holdings.  It has frequently stated its intention to diversify assets and reduce its exposure to currency risk. Recent sharp weakness in Brazil’s real (see table) and systemic risks are leading central banks, including the BCB to diversify into gold. Brazil raised its gold holdings by 17.2 tonnes in October to 52.5 tonnes, the highest level since January 2001. The move comes on the back of Brazil’s 1.7 tonne increase in September, the country’s first significant gold purchase in a decade. However, there are concerns that the increase in the Brazilian central bank gold holdings' and tonnage are not all that they seem.  It appears that the central bank in Brazil has not actually bought London Good Delivery bullion bars but rather fixed term gold deposits with bullion banks. Recently, the Brazilian central bank was asked about their gold reserves and about a section on gold on their website under 'Official Reserve Assets' lists gold as "gold (including gold deposit and, if appropriate, gold swapped)" with a footnote of "Includes available stock of financial gold plus time deposits."

W(h)ither China? "The End Of Extrapolation"

The question whether China will suffer a "hard" or "soft" landing is, in the long-term, largely irrelevant and misleading. A far more critical question is whether the period of 10%, or even 7% annual growth, for the world's biggest marginal growth dynamo of the past decade, is now over. Read on for the answer.

All You Need To Know About Argentina's Upcoming "Technical Default"

Technically, a technical default may still be avoided, but it is now unlikely. As the following presentation from JPM's Vladimir Werning shows, the market has already decided what the "next most likely big picture step" will be. The big question is what the less than big picture next steps will be. And as the following flow chart of options to all "potentially" impaired parties shows, there are quite a few possible steps as the variety of causal permutations has suddenly exploded. For everyone who has gotten sick and tired with following the sovereign default story of one Greece and Spain, please welcome... Argentina, where things are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

Elliott Management Vs Argentina Round 3: The Showdown

Most recently, in "Elliott Management Vs Argentina Round 2: Now It's Personal" we laid out the story of how in the ongoing legal fight between Argentina's prominent distressed debt creditor, and exchange offer holdout, Elliott Management (and to a smaller degree Aurelius), and distressed debtor Argentina, the moving pieces continue in flux, even as various US legal institutions have demanded that Argentina proceed with paying the holdouts despite the Latin American country's vocal prior refusals to do so, and most importantly, the lack of a sovereign payment enforcement mechanism. Last night, the fight escalate one more, and perhaps final time, before the Rubicon is crossed and Argentina either pays Elliott, "or else" the country proves all those who furiously bought up Argentina CDS in the past two weeks correct, and the country redefaults on $24 billion of debt. Because as Reuters reports, late last night, US District Judge Griesa overseeing the Argentina case, ordered the Latin American country to make immediate payment with a deadline for escrow account funding of December 15.

Guest Post: George Osborne And Big Banks

The Telegraph reports that George Osborne thinks big banks are good for society. Why would Osborne want to see more of something which requires government bailouts to subsist? Because that is the reality of a large, interconnective banking system filled with large, powerful interconnected banks. Under a free market system (i.e. no bailouts) the brutal liquidation resulting from the crash of a too-big-to-fail megabank would serve as a warning sign. Large interconnective banks would be tarnished as a risky counterparty. In the system we have (and the system Japan has lived with for the last twenty years) bailouts prevent liquidation, there are no real disincentives (after all capitalism without failure is like religion without sin — it doesn’t work), and the bailed-out too-big-to-fail banks become liquidity sucking zombies hooked on bailouts and injections.

The Circle Is Complete: GM Reunites With GMAC

When it comes to government bailout case studies, the past four years have plenty. One among them is the financial company jovially called Ally - a name which well-paid nomenclature consultants were convinced would inspire confidence and trust. And to an extent they were right - after all we are talking about a firm which several years ago had a far more unpleasant name: GMAC, short for General Motors Acceptance Corporation. It was GMAC which, as one of the various entities on the receiving end of involuntary taxpayer generosity in 2008/2009, received a $17.2 billion bailout. The reason for GMAC's Ally's collapse is that the firm was loaded up to the gills on various subprime and other NINJA auto-financing loans used to purchase cars made by that other spectacular collapse: General Motors, maker of such external combustion vehicles as the Chevy Volt. Over the past several months the Ally CEO, Michael Carpenter, decided to little by little start paying taxpayers back, having sold a Canadian unit to RBC in October for $4.1 billion, and its Mexican Insurance business to Ace Ltd for $865 million. Moments ago the firm just announced it would be selling its international auto-finance businesses, including its operations in Europe, LatAm and a 40% stake in its Chinese JV (a business it previously said it would not seek to divest), for a total of $4.2 billion. The buyer? Another previously bailed out company, and one which still counts the government as its biggest shareholder: General Motors. And so the vendor financing circle is now complete, with GM finally reuniting with its old captive finance units, or at least the international part of them, which were fully owned until GM sold 51% of it to Cerberus in 2006, after which everything went to hell.