Yesterday, Jens Weidmann called it a "drug addiction"; for the past 4 years we have called it sheer insanity (and other less polite words). Whatever one calls it, it is obvious that using monetary policy to delay the need for real (not theatrical) fiscal policy involvement that sees to restore debt credibility (i.e., deleverage) does nothing to fix the underlying problems, and merely provides an ever briefer respite from the symptoms of insolvency without ever addressing the underlying cause. Today, even Bank of America has realized this fundamental Catch 22 that is now the paradox at the heart of what remains of capital markets: more easing serves to appease politicians, who see no need to change any of their broken policies, in the process requiring even more QE in the future, and so on, until this always ending in tears game of extend and pretend comes to a sudden and violent end.
George Soros more than doubled his shares in the SPDR gold trust ETF. He increased his position in SPDR Gold to $137.3 million in the second quarter from $52 million previously. SEC filing for the second quarter showed Soros Fund Management more than doubled its investment in the SPDR Gold Trust from 319,550 shares to 884,400 shares at the end of June. In September 2010 (see chart), Soros called gold "the ultimate bubble" and largely dumped his stake in the ETF before gold recorded annual gains in 2010 and 2011 and rose to a nominal high of $1,920.30 per ounce in September. There was speculation at the time that he may have sold the SPDR trust in order to own far safer allocated gold bars. Another billionaire investor respected for his financial acumen is John Paulson and Paulson & Co increased its holdings by 26% by purchasing an additional 4.53 million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust to bring entire holding to 21.8 million shares. It was the first time Paulson & Co had increased its position in the SPDR Gold Trust since the first quarter of 2009, when the investment firm initially acquired 31.5 million shares. It means that Paulson's $21 billion hedge fund now has more than 44% of the company's assets allocated to gold.
Unlike Dan Loeb, David Einhorn did a far more calculated portfolio reshuffle in the three months of Q2, purging only 6 positions among which RIM, CA, Dell, HCA, the GDXJ Junior Gold Miners ETF, and Roundys. He appears to have also hired a new healthcare/insurance analyst after adding positions in Cigna, Coventry Health, UnitedHealth, Humana, Wellpoint, as well as Einstein Noah Restaurants, Virgin Media, Hess, Chipotle, Genworth and some Oaktree bonds. His top 5 positions are Apple, Seagate, Microsoft, Marvell Tech and Cigna. Overall, it does not appear as if he has had a major shift in perspective on the economy. Total reported long equity AUM as of June 30 was $6.4 billion.
Rumors are circulating that reports of the demise of the Chinese auto market may be exaggerated now that even David Einhorn is forced to defend his GM long (because it "has a strong cash position" - sure, and stuffs channels like no other) however stripped of stereotypes and hype, the reality is that even the one time impregnable ultra luxury car market in China is now faltering at an ever faster pace. BusinessWeek reports: "Waiting lists for ultra-luxury cars in Hong Kong are getting shorter and used-car lots are cutting prices on Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys in the latest sign of China’s slowdown. At first glance, the numbers are deceiving: Sales of very expensive new autos surged 47 percent in the first six months, according to industry analyst IHS Automotive. Look more deeply, however, and another picture emerges, especially in the city’s used-car lots." The picture is ugly: "“The more expensive the car, the more dry the business,” said Tommy Siu at the Causeway Bay showroom of Vin’s Motors Co., the used-car dealership he founded two decades ago. Sales of ultra-luxury cars have halved in the past two or three months, he said. “A lot of bankers don’t want to spend too much money for a car now. At this moment, they don’t know if they’ll have a big bonus.”" Sad: they should all just go to Singapore and manipulate Libor. Oh wait, too soon?
The insolvent banana continent is back. Recall back in May 2011:
“When it becomes serious, you have to lie." -Jean Claude Juncker
Ergo, things in Europe are very serious again because the Eurogroup's head, who until recently promised he was quitting his post because "he had gotten tired of the Franco-German interference in managing the region's debt crisis", only to spoil the fun and say he was lying about that too, is back to doing what he does best - lying. To wit: "the euro countries are preparing together with the bailout fund EFSF and the European Central Bank to buy government bonds if necessary clip euro countries." And now cue Schauble: "Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has rejected speculation about impending purchases of government bonds by Spanish EFSF and ECB."
David Einhorn throws France under the bond vigilante bus, last seen meandering back and forth all over Spain and Italy: "Under the new regime, France is now cozying up to its new anti-austerity, pro-money-printing allies, Italy and Spain. This makes sense when one considers that France's economy is more akin to that of its southern neighbors than it is to the German economy. Strangely, the French bond market hasn’t figured this out just yet."
JPM Admits CIO Group Consistently Mismarked Hundreds Of Billions In CDS In Effort To Artificially Boost ProfitsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/13/2012 05:52 -0500
Back on May 30 we wrote "The Second Act Of The JPM CIO Fiasco Has Arrived - Mismarking Hundreds Of Billions In Credit Default Swaps" in which we made it abundantly clear that due to the Over The Counter nature of CDS one can easily make up whatever marks one wants in order to boost the P&L impact of a given position, this is precisely what JPM was doing in order to boost its P&L? As of moments ago this too has been proven to be the case. From a just filed very shocking 8K which takes the "Whale" saga to a whole new level. To wit: 'the recently discovered information raises questions about the integrity of the trader marks, and suggests that certain individuals may have been seeking to avoid showing the full amount of the losses being incurred in the portfolio during the first quarter. As a result, the Firm is no longer confident that the trader marks used to prepare the Firm's reported first quarter results (although within the established thresholds) reflect good faith estimates of fair value at quarter end."
A lack of transparency, a lack of enforcement of law and a compliant media which failed to ask the hard questions and do basic investigative journalism led to the price fixing continuing and the manipulation continuing unchecked on such a wide scale for so long - until it was exposed recently. Similarly, the gold market has the appearance of a market that is a victim of “financial repression”. Given the degree of risk in the world – it is arguable that gold prices should have surged in recent months and should be at much higher levels today. The gold market has all the hallmarks of Libor manipulation but as usual all evidence is ignored until official sources acknowlege the truth. However, like LIBOR the gold manipulation 'conspiracy theory' is likely to soon become conspiracy fact. It will then – belatedly - become accepted wisdom among 'experts.' Experts who had never acknowledged it, failed to research and comment on it or had simply dismissed it as a “goldbug accusation.” Financial repression means that most markets are manipulated today - especially bond and foreign exchange markets.
By now we can only hope (pun intended) that everyone has seen the David Einhorn chart showing the circularity of the European "summit-based" decisionmaking process - somewhat relevant since we have had 21 summits since 2008 and Europe has never been in a condition quite as bad as last week when a historic move by the ECB to lower the deposit rate to zero and the refi rate below the critical threshold of 1.00%... and nothing happened. (that's not quite true: JPM, Goldman and Blackrock all made it quite clear European money markets are now officially dead). However, as the following empirical analysis from Credit Suisse shows, the "Einhorn" chart is not just a conversation piece at cocktail parties: there is an actual trade pattern which has made traders lots of money, and which makes Eurocrats the best friends of not only Belgian caterers, but short-sellers everywhere: go long into a summit when the clueless algos read headlines and send risk soaring, only to short the inevitable fizzles days if not hours later.
David Einhorn is kicking ass and taking names, currently in 4th at the WSOP 2012 with over $16 million in chips (having just won an all in with pocket Aces). Select US viewers can watch the live stream below direct from the ESPN2 website. To everyone else, we are confident a 3rd party livestream can be found elsewhere.
Just because there aren't enough traumatizing events in the next week to look forward to, the market has already set its sights on the next "big" (let down) event in Europe - the EU summit on June 28/29, which will only benefit just one class - Belgian caterers. But for some odd reason there is hope that Europe will, miraculously and magically, after years of failing at this, come to some understanding over either Eurobonds, a fiscal union, a deposit insurance, banking union, or some or all of the above (expect many daily rumors regarding any of the above to incite small but violent EUR and ES short covering rallies). However, as we have been observing for the past 3 years, and as David Einhorn summarized visually, nothing will come out of this latest summit. JPM explains why the one thing that can save Europe is a non-starter, and will be for years.
The Second Act Of The JPM CIO Fiasco Has Arrived - Mismarking Hundreds Of Billions In Credit Default SwapsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/30/2012 19:00 -0500
As anyone who has ever traded CDS (or any other OTC, non-exchange traded product) knows, when you have a short risk position, unless compliance tells you to and they rarely do as they have no idea what CDS is most of the time, you always mark the EOD price at the offer, and vice versa, on long risk positions, you always use the bid. That way the P&L always looks better. And for portfolios in which the DV01 is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (or much, much more if your name was Bruno Iksil), marking at either side of an illiquid market can result in tens if not hundreds of millions of unrealistic profits booked in advance, simply to make one's book look better, mostly for year end bonus purposes. Apparently JPM's soon to be fired Bruno Iksil was no stranger to this: as Bloomberg reports, JPM's CIO unit "was valuing some of its trades at prices that differed from those of its investment bank, according to people familiar with the matter. The discrepancy between prices used by the chief investment office and JPMorgan’s credit-swaps dealer, the biggest in the U.S., may have obscured by hundreds of millions of dollars the magnitude of the loss before it was disclosed May 10, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter. "I’ve never run into anything like that,” said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.’s Brad Hintz in New York. “That’s why you have a centralized accounting group that’s comparing marks” between different parts of the bank “to make sure you don’t have any outliers” .... Jamie Dimon's "tempest in a teapot" just became a fully-formed, perfect storm which suddenly threatens his very position, and could potentially lead to billions more in losses for his firm.
In continuing with the 2011 deja vu theme which has become the norm at this point, nearly half way into 2012, the key overnight events driving sentiment and futures higher (if not the EURUSD which despite a record number of shorts appears to have once again decoupled with the US stock market), were a statement following the latest G-8 summit (penned in the brief time when the world leaders were not watching soccer) that Greece should stay in the Eurozone (as opposed to?), and yet another promise from China's Wen Jiabao that the world's fastest growing economy would focus on growth (what a truly radical shift in policy for the country which needs GDP growth over 8% just to avoid riots and civil unrest). And in continuing with the "summit" theme so well exhausted back in 2011, and mocked by David Einhorn (see below), let's recall that there is yet another summit on May 22, this time where the European heads of state will sit down and also decide that, shockingly, they want Greece in Europe, in response to which stocks will surge, then be very confused just why they surged, and promptly tumble. Sadly, by now we have seen it all since 2012 continues to be a carbon copy replica of last year. We can only hope the powers that be infuse at least some originality before we are forced to start recycling headlines from the summer of 2011. In the meantime, futures are green, especially since Dennis Lockhart unleashed the QE bomb hours ago in Tokyo, saying that more easing should not be ruled out amid European risks. Wink wink.
Here are some of the things that David Einhorn likes and does not like, having just started his speech at the Ira Sohn Conference:
- Martin Marietta - stock plunges 10% and triggers circuit breaker.
- France - "a french default is not out of the question" - France not limit down yet. He says that a return to the Franc is not out of the question.
- Einhorn likes GJF.NO - "Norway is the only country which can finance itself."
- Einhorn likes Cairn Energy as it trades at discount to assets in just Britain and India.
- Says China is misunderstood and is not an investment opportunity: not enough money to feed the economy and banks aare becoming illquid; money is leaving the country
- Also does not like Japan for all the usual Kyle Bass and Andy Xie reasons. The Yen will continue strengthening.
- Einhorn likes AMZN, calls it "elephant in the room", but questions profit growth.
- Einhorn likes Dena Co, and Gree Inc in Japan
- Einhorn is short DKS
- Einhorn, who is long about $870MM AAPL as per last night's 13F, likes AAPL. Stunner.
Now that we have entered the summer phase of 2012 it is time to recall how the summer of 2011 ran: in a nutshell - unsubstantiated rumor emerges usually one involving central banks being "generous", sending stocks higher, rumor is then denied a few hours later, but the ramp persists. Sure enough, it has begun anew (because 2012 is 2011). Minutes ago we got the first such instance, where a European "think tank" came up with the brilliant conclusion that any minute now the ECB will be dragged back into the fray, announcing either LTRO 3 (because it will be different this time), or after 9 weeks of inactivity, the ECB's SMP program will resume buying plunging peripheral bonds. Any factual basis to this? Of course not. But once the algos pick up the headline and create buying momentum for the sake of buying momentum, it is all uphill from there. So just as the market was on the verge of turning red for the day, the "think tank" appeared. Prepare for many more such short covering instances, because there really is nothing else left in the status quo arsenal.