Today's market action highlighted the perfect chaos that has engulfed the markets over the past several weeks, with most investors suddenly having no idea what to do with the mountain of cash on the "sidelines", and as a result putting most of it in Treasuries (remember the whole crash the markets hypothesis?), threatening to unwind the steepener trades that have become all the rage over the past several months. This is despite the just voted through $1.9 trillion debt ceiling increase, the ridiculous US budget deficit, looming state and municipal defaults, and the just cancelled MTA bond auction. Adding uncertainty to it all is tomorrow NFP report which as the BLS noted today, could probably see even greater revisions than the 824,000 presented before, coupled with rumblings of an incipient trade war between China and the US which could cause this major buyer of US heavy manufacturing to scale back its purchases. All of this is occurring on the backdrop of plunging markets everywhere, but especially in Europe where sovereign default risks are now spreading like wildfire, hitting stock and corporate levels without discrimination. And the cherry on top is that the contagion fears are spreading globally, with the Bovespa now closing 4.7% and the BZL plunging.
The latest casualty of New York's resurgent (not) commercial real estate market is rap mogul Jay-Z, who had previously guaranteed a $52 million loan for a Chelsea hotel, which subsequently has defaulted and is holding the artist as the responsible party for accrued interest. As a result, Jay-Z is lashing out, and in turn is suing defunct hedge fund Highland Capital (maybe he should have at least picked an adversary that can pay him), which last time we checked was still trying to offload second-lien debt at par plus. Bloomberg reports: "Carter, in his complaint filed yesterday in federal court in New York, claims Highland and co-defendant NexBank SSB are attempting to “bleed” from him funds in excess of those he and two other men pledged to pay when they guaranteed the non- principal obligations of a company planning to build a hotel in Manhattan’s west side neighborhood of Chelsea."
Contagion is here. Portugal and Greece default risks are now racing whose CDS can hit 500 first... Then 1,000... Forget the bond vigilantes: the sovereign default vigilantes just called Almunia's bluff. At last check SovX was flirting with the record century mark, Greece was almost back to record wides with some bids of 410 bps floating around, while Portugal, which is today's whipping boy, exploded to 215 bps. We eagerly await to see which other country will join the CDS ballet. Almunia is now openly waging a two-front war, which will soon become multi. The last time this happened to a European, the results were not that good.
Just another good news story. The Feds are doing the right thing on loan mods. They will be accelerating the process. The unintended consequence will be that defaults and foreclosures will have to rise. When? About 5 months from now.
A peculiar side-effect of the current low-volume rise market dynamic can be seen by the curious price (and volume) action in investing public darling Google. When the market was climbing in the low volume days since November, the stock grew from $531 to a peak of $626 in 42 days, on average volume of 2.02 million shares per day. Then, when the selling started, the volume picked up by more than 100%, with daily average volume of 4.7 million shares, while the decline in the stock to the onset price of $531 took less than half the time, or 19 days. Such are the vagaries of the VWAP unwind, as algorithms seek to reverse to a longer and longer mean. Google demonstrates very accurately what would happen to the stock market should there be a real, exogenous selling catalyst. Now consider that the S&P's VWAP since the March lows is around the 950 level. If the market is unable to sustain the most recent relief rally, and if this is coupled with geopolitical news or a default the PIIGS or some other unpredictable event, expect a very prompt but highly doable correction. If the market volume doubled and the time of decline was cut in half relative to the rise, consider what would happen if all mutual funds suddenly switched from a buying to a selling posture... And what this would mean for the final closing level on the S&P of that particular D-Day.
Did Societe Generale ever view its $1.2 billion investment in Adirondack 2005-2 as a buy-and-hold proposition? Or was the bank's original intention to offload the risk on to AIG? The answer is central to our understanding of the portfolio of collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, that wiped out the insurance behemoth. The circumstances of SG's, and other banks', holdings, suggest that CDO market was a Potemkin's Village, a facade constructed to give the illusion of economic substance to a series of sham transactions.
Guest Post: As the Middle East Peace Talks Hit Deadlock, Talk of Israel Joining the European Union IncreasesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 18:13 -0400
The Middle East peace talks are at a deadlock. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to move ahead with the plan established by the so-called Quartet – the US., U.N., EU and Russia -- have faltered and come to a complete standstill. Continuing with this inertia will have a long-term negative effect on the future of the region both from a political point of view as well as from a business perspective. With the exception of a few risk-takers, what company or business executive would be willing to invest in the Middle East once the region plunges onto the abyss amid renewed violence?
And whenever trouble brews in the Middle East it tends to spill over into other parts of the world. The risk that Mideast violence could spread to nearby Europe might have been one of the reasons that pushed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to say that Israel should be admitted into the European Union earlier this week. Berlusconi made the statement during an official state visit to Israel. Berlusconi, of course, is one of Israel’s strongest supporters.
After the earlier announcement of record risk in Portugal, it was only a matter of hours before the epicenter would feel an aftershock. Indeed, Greece CDS is now back to over 400 bps, after tightening under 370 bps yesterday. Those poor protection sellers just can't catch a break. The dollar flight to safety trade is on again. Lack of robotic, or otherwise, volume means the stock market has yet to digest what all this means. Lastly, in pursuit of an efficient sovereign risk market, STUPIDity is now back to April 2009 levels.
In the past Zero Hedge had respect for Ten. Senator Bob Corker due to his opposition to the nationalization of the bankrupt automakers and making them yet another ward of the ever larger central-planning state. However, after today's hearing with Paul Volcker on the Prop trading ban, any respect we may have had for the Senator has promptly dissipated. While we understand that the pointless bashing of Volcker's proposal by Corker was predicated by his sizable lobby interest (over $21 million raised in the course of his career) and his talking points were undoubtedly a transliteration of a memorandum submitted by one of the Too Big To Fail banks that stand to experience substantial losses should the Volcker proposal pass, one line of argument in Corker's speech that is flagrantly flawed was Corker's naive rhetorical question whether there has been a single instance during the financial crisis where a commercial bank engaging in proprietary trading led directly to that institution failing or having to be bailed out by the taxpayer. Corker assumed the answer is no and kept pouncing on that answer. Well, Senator, you are wrong - meet Merrill Lynch, incidentally one of your biggest financial backers. Also, please meet Merrill's prop basis trade and its prop HVOL4 trade, which combined were the primary reason for the firm's $15 billion writedown in Q4 of 2008 and the subsequent bail out of the firm by Bank of America.
The latest out of the Richmond Fed is a joke of a paper that while analyzing the possibility that the entire stock market and dollar carry trade is one zero cost of capital-funded bubble, skips over this possibility and instead goes on to analyze the "factors that could contribute to a fundamentals-based explanation for the recent rally in certain risky asset markets." Spoiler alert: No bubble - it's all based in sound reality.
Now that every trigger happy, red-bull OD'ing HiFTer is keenly following every lockbox in possession of Greek bureaucrats to see how many billions more in debt will "suddenly" appear out of thin air, many have forgotten about that "other" sovereign bailout - Dubai. The reason: Dubai World, which was supposed to present a restructuring offer for $22 billion in debt in a meeting with lenders in December, never did. January wasn't any different. February, by the early looks of it, will also be a dud. So as the world grinds along and creditors have no clue what the hell is going on in Dubai, and increasingly so in Greece, everyone has their fingers crossed that not only will there be no default anywhere, but that anyone who dares to mention just what a great big castle in the air the entire sovereign debt arena has become, funded by overt and covert cash transfers by the Federal Reserve, will be (in)voluntarily swept under the rug.
Everything that the government has done so far, with a few minor detours, has been almost exclusively focused on maintaining home prices high, by tweaking either the supply or the demand side of the housing equation. As the bulk of consumer net wealth is concentrated in the housing sector, and a wealthy and confident consumer, much more so than the banking system, is critical to the recovery of America's economy, the Administration will do everything in its power to achieve its goal of artificially manipulating the housing market, thereby not causing an incremental loss of wealth to those still stuck with overpriced houses, while the real intersection of actual supply and demand curves would indicate a materially lower equilibrium price. This is ironic, as proper price discovery is critical for a true recovery, since Americans realize all too well that buying a house at prevailing levels in advance of the second down-leg in housing is senseless, the continued pursuit of such flawed policies by the Fed and President Obama merely pulls the market ever further away from its equilibrium, thereby making the anticipated second dip so much more likely and not that far off in the distant future. Below are 5 simple charts the highlight just how precarious the housing situation in the U.S. is, and how likely the second, and probably much more fierce, leg down in the markets is going to be.
Yes, slowly but surely it is happening. In a federal notice filed earlier, the DOL and Treasury are soliciting a response on what has been on many investors' mind, namely the process of converting 401(k)s into annuity-like products. To wit:
The Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury (the "Agencies") are currently reviewing the rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the plan qualification rules under the Internal Revenue Code (Code) to determine whether, and, if so, how, the Agencies could or should enhance, by regulation or otherwise, the retirement security of participants in employer-sponsored retirement plans and in individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) by facilitating access to, and use of, lifetime income or other arrangements designed to provide a lifetime stream of income after retirement.
In response to several reader inquiries into the Bank Of America report behind the post highlighting the potential outcomes for the Greek nation, we present this simplified summary matrix from BofA that rates the probability of each possible scenario and the implications that would follow as a result. A useful cheat sheet for those sovereign default situations.
In a titanic call that the puking Charles Schwab E-Trade baby could probably make with its eyes closed, JP Morgan comes out this morning with the conclusion that investors should buy the market unless things turn bad. Isn't that kinda analogous to an analyst saying if the Dow is at 36,000 on December 31, you should have bought. And vice versa. At least JPM analysts Mislav Matejka and Emmanuel Cau admit that investor confidence is slipping. So in an attempt to prop it up, they present the following puff piece with content which everybody who has the pleasure of watching CNBC now and then, is all too aware of.