Believe it or not, the main driver of risk overnight had nothing to do with Iraq, with the global economy or even with hopes for more liquidity, and everything to do with a largely meaningless component of Japan's future tax policy, namely whether or not Abe (who at this pace of soaring imported inflation and plunging wages won't have to worry much about 2015 as he won't be PM then) should cut the corporate tax rate in 2015. As Bloomberg reported, Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo today after a meeting with Finance Minister Taro Aso and Economy Minister Akira Amari, said the plan would bring the rate under 30 percent in a few years. He said alternative revenue will be secured for the move, which requires approval from the Diet.
As human beings, we are remarkably poor at predicting our future selves. We know that our personalities, preferences and values have certainly changed in the past, but, as ConvergEx's Nick Colas explains, we tend to dramatically underestimate what changes might be in store on these fronts in the future. That’s the upshot of a recent bit of research by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, and it helps explain how we process decisions as varied as whether to get a tattoo or how we invest financial capital. Stasis is our default setting when it comes to considering our futures, and that lack of imagination seems to inform how much we can predict about how other people and systems will change as well. The most important takeaway: no matter how much you think your life will remain the same, you are almost certainly wrong. And the same goes for capital markets.
‘Creativity’ isn’t usually a word associated with ‘government’. Words like stodgy, bureaucratic, and incompetent are typically more appropriate. But there is at least one area where bankrupt governments in particular tend to be exceptionally creative - finding unique ways to steal people’s money... and among the most unique just hit the great state of Georgia.
With 10Y yields trading below those of US Treasuries, asking the question of Spain's rising default risk seems risible but as Bloomberg's Maxime Sbaihi notes, the longer the euro flirts with deflation, the higher the risk that the heavily indebted (and becoming more so) countries will be tempted to default. Of course, this 'concern' is entirely ignored by the 'market' as Draghi has promised enough liquidity to soak up every short-dated bond but as the European Union's so-called "1/20 rule" suggests - requiring states to reduce excessive (over 60% Debt/GDP) by 1/20th every year or face a fine of 0.2% of GDP - Spain, it appears has 5 options to escape this vicious circle... and one of those is restructuring...
The biggest news in the sage surrounding Chinese evaporated collateral troubles at Qingdao, which as noted is merely the 3rd largest Chinese port, is that this scandal has now spread to a second Chinese port: Penglai, which is also located in the Shandong province. Putting some size numbers for context: Qingdao's copper inventory is about 50,000 tons, compared to 800,000 tons in Shanghai, analysts say. There's "little evidence" for now that traders in Shanghai fraudulently have pledged collateral to banks, said Sijin Cheng, an analyst with Barclays Research in Singapore. Little evidence will become "lots" in the coming days when we expect more "discoveries" at all other bonded warehouses as the relentless inflow of commodities finally reverses and the beneficiaries finally demand possession. As everyone who has followed even the simplest Ponzi schemes knows, this is the part of the lifecycle when many tears are shed by most.
"The challenges of managing student loan debt can lead some borrowers to fall behind on their loan payments and in some cases even default on their debt obligation," notes the always astute White House... and so it's time to do something about that... by bailing the bad debtors out with US taxpayers money. As we have been vociferously warning, not only has the student loan debt bubble expanded massively (as the easiest credit substitute for real-world working and unemployment) but delinquencies on the 'easily available' credit is soaring with "consequences such as a damaged credit rating, losing their tax refund, or garnished wages." Consequences, as we have been taught now, are not acceptable for this administration and so President Barack Obama will issue an executive action on Monday aimed at making it easier for young people to avoid trouble repaying student loans.
With a closing P/E ratio over 17 and a VIX under 11, Deutsche Bank's David Bianco is sticking with his cautious call for the summer. Their preferred measure of equity market emotions is the price-to-earnings ratio divided by the VIX. As of Friday's close, this sentiment measure has never been higher and is in extreme "Mania" phase. Deutsche's advice to all the summertime-'chasers' - "wait for a better entry."
While we have warned about the problem with near-infinitely rehypothecated physical/funding commodities/metals, be they gold or copper, many times in the past, and most recently here, it was only this week that China finally admitted it has a major problem involving not just the commodities participating in funding deals - in this case copper and aluminum - but specifically their infinite rehypothecation, which usually results in the actual underlying metal mysteriously "disappearing", as in it never was there to begin with. It would appear our fears of global contagion (through various transmission channels) are now coming true as WSJ reports that as many as a half-dozen banks are trying to determine whether the collateral for loans they made to commodities traders was used fraudulently by a third party to obtain other loans. As we detailed previously, it appears the day when the Commodity Funding Deals finally end is fast approaching... and as we note below, why that will certainly be a watershed event.
As we reported yesterday, the third largest Chinese port of Qingdao is being investigated for after a source at a local warehouse said that "it appears there is a discrepancy in metal that should be there and metal that is actually there... We hear the discrepancy is 80,000 tonnes of aluminium and 20,000 tonnes of copper... It's either missing or it was never there - there have been triple issuing of documentation." This has resulted in a prompt and acute selloff of copper and other commodities as we further documents, but the problems may only now be starting and the banks. As Reuters reports, worries over a probe into commodity stockpile financing at China's Qingdao port appeared to deepen on Wednesday as Standard Bank Group and a part-owned unit of Louis Dreyfus Corp warned of potential losses and copper prices fell further."
If the Fed is looking for definitive proof of bubble euphoria it should look no further than the CLO market: according to Bloomberg, so far in 2014, more than $46 billion of collateralized loan obligations have been raised, after $82 billion were sold in all of 2013. As a result of this epic dash for repackaged trash, JPMorgan boosted its annual forecast for CLO issuance from $70 billion to as much as $100 billion, which means 2014 may end up as the biggest year on record. We assume it is with great irony that Bloomberg summarizes: "The business of bundling junk-rated corporate loans into top-rated securities is booming like never before after the implementation of regulation aimed at making the financial system safer."
Month after month, they came up with new excuses. Now they’ve used up all the good ones, but sales are still tanking.
Today you can’t go 10 minutes without tripping over an investment manager using the phrase “Minsky Moment” as shorthand for some Emperor’s New Clothes event, where all of a sudden we come to our senses and realize that the Emperor is naked, central bankers don’t rule the world, and financial assets have been artificially inflated by monetary policy largesse. Please. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
Has the next major economic downturn already started? The way that you would answer that question would probably depend on where you live. If you live in New York City, or the suburbs of Washington D.C., or you work for one of the big tech firms in the San Francisco area, you would probably respond to such a question by saying of course not. In those areas, the economy is doing great and prices for high end homes are still booming. But in most of the rest of the nation, evidence continues to mount that the next recession has already begun for the poor and the middle class.
With leverage rapidly rising while credit spreads approach record lows, high-yield bond markets have long since lost any sense of sanity with regard to forward-discounting... but that hasn't stopped the world's biggest bond managers (and now Japan's pension fund GPIF because as they say "now they have a chance to chase higher returns without taking on much risk") from diving in while the water is warm. With the smell of risk essentially removed from any and every market, why not pile into the riskiest credits, gain some extra yield (for free) - what could go wrong?
Because it worked so well for housing finance in the last bubble, the US government is poised to ease loan standards on this cycle's biggest bubble - student debt. It appears being punched in the face by over-leveraged, over-debted, over-priced housing finance was not enough and as Bloomberg reports, parents whose financial standing disqualify them from most loans will have an easier time borrowing to pay their children’s college costs under a U.S. government proposal to ease credit standards. Come on in - the debt-serf water is warm. With student loan delinquencies already soaring to record highs, some are actually questioning the government's sanity as consumer advotaes warn "a decent number of people are going to get in trouble."