Four months ago, in another failed attempt to boost confidence in the Eurozone and stimulate lending (failed because three months later the ECB finally launched its own QE), the ECB conducted its latest stress test, which as we explicitly pointed out was an utter joke as even its "worst-case" scenario did not simulate a deflationary scenario. Two months later Europe was in outright deflation. It was initially unclear just how comparably laughable the Fed's own stress test assumptions were, but refuting rumors that Deutsche and Santander would fail the Fed's stress test (perhaps because former FDIC head and current Santander head Sheila Bair wasn't too happy about her bank being one of the failed ones), moments ago the Fed released the results of the 2015 Fed stress test, and.... it seems there was no need to provide a sacrificial lamb as with stocks at record highs. In fact everything is awesome! FED STRESS TEST SHOWS ALL 31 BANKS EXCEED MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
According to the WSJ, "prosecutors in the Justice Department’s antitrust division are scrutinizing the price-setting process for gold, silver, platinum and palladium in London, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has opened a civil investigation, these people said. The agencies have made initial requests for information, including a subpoena from the CFTC to HSBC Holdings PLC related to precious-metals trading, the bank said in its annual report Monday. Who is involved in this latest gold-rigging scandal? Why everyone! ... which makes it immediately obvious why the European regulator had to promptly cover up the whole affair. Under scrutiny are Bank of Nova Scotia , Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG , Deutsche Bank AG , Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Société Générale SA, Standard Bank Group Ltd. and UBS AG , according to one of the people close to the investigation.
In what turned out to be immaculate timing, it was only yesterday that we previewed the collapse in Apple's domestic cash hoard (at the expense of its soaring, if non-recourse offshore cash) which we concluded by saying that "what this simply means is that after making the history books with the biggest ever, $17 billion bond offering 12 months ago, Apple is about to issue a whole lot more of debt." Less than 24 hours later, it did just that. Moments ago Apple filed a bond offering prospectus, in which it laid out a 7-part bond offering consisting of two FRN tranches (due 2017 and 2019), and 5 fixed rate tranches (due 2017, 2019, 2021, 2024 and 2044), with Goldman and Deustche Bank as lead underwrtiers.
Back in May 2012, when we were making fun at the latest iteration of the now fatally discredited European stress tests, we took the first of many jabs at the what may currently be the world's most systematically important, and undercapitalized, bank in the world, Deutsche Bank, which was so bad that it wasn't even allowed to appear on a screen of Europe's most undercapitalized banks - and we helpfully pointed out its true capital ratio of just under 2%, and an implied leverage of 60x! Fast forward 13 months to a Reuters interview with former Kansas City Fed president and FOMC dissenter and sole voice of reason at the Federal Reserve, and current FDIC Vice Chairman Tom Hoenig, who confirmed that once again Zero Hedge was just a year ahead of the curve: "It's horrible, I mean they're horribly undercapitalized," said Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig in an interview. "They have no margin of error."
Just when the Super Goldman Mario Bros (Monti and Draghi) told us everything is fine in Europe, and it is not only safe but encouraged to get back in the pool, the first canary of 2013 just died.
As we reported previously, the stock of the oldest bank in the world, Italy's venerable Banca Monte Dei Paschi of Siena, was halted in early trade after plunging on news that the bank had engaged in not only the previously reported secret derivative transaction with Deustche Bank to hide losses before a prior government bailout, but yet another derivative transaction, this time with Nomura, signed three years ago and whose intention, ironically, was to reduce 2012 earnings by some €220 million.What the ultimate purpose of these deals was is still unclear and will likely become apparent eventually, however it will likely require the former Chairman of the bank, Giuseppe Mussari, who served as Chair from 2006 until April 2012, and who officially quit his post as Italy's top banking lobbyist after today's revelations, to testify. One person whom he may testify against is none other than current ECB head Mario Draghi, who just happened to be the head of the Bank of Italy from 2006 to 2011, or the entire period when Monte Paschi was engaging in what increasingly appears to have been fraudulent activity.But don't worry: just like in the US, nobody of signfiicance is about to go down for this "glitch" which is about to be blamed on some poor mid-level shmuck, and which nobody in the senior level management had any idea about, and certainly not the person who ultimately would have had to give the green light: the current head of the ECB.
To some, today is Martin Luther King day and as a result the US markets are closed, especially since today is also the day when Obama celebrates his second inauguration with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor at his side (hopefully not on the taxpayers' dime). To others, January 21 is nothing more than the anniversary of the real beginning of the end, when five years ago a little known SocGen trader named Jerome Kerviel could no longer hide his massive futures positions and was forced to unwind them, sending global indices plunging resulting in the biggest single day drop in the Dax (-7.2%), and punking the Fed into an unannounced 75 bps cut. Luckily, today such cataclysmic unwinds are impossible as the market is priced perfectly efficiently, without central bank intervention, price transparency is ubiquitous and the Volcker rule has made prop trading by banks, funded by Fed reserves (which are nothing more than the monetization of excess budget deficits) and excess deposits, impossible.
China’s monthly data dump was the main macro update overnight, which however with ongoing mockery of the Chinese data "goalseeking" and distribution methodologies, most recently by the likes of Goldman, UBS and ANZ, had purely political window dressing purposes for the new Chinese politburo. Sure enough, that all the data came precisely Goldilocks +1 was enough to put a smile on everyone's face. To wit - Q4 GDP growth came in just higher than consensus (+7.9%yoy v +7.8%). On a full year basis the economy grew by 7.8%, also a tad above expectations. Then we got industrial production, also just higher than expected (+10.3% v +10.2%) and retail sales - just higher as well (+15.2% v +15.1%). Much more important than meaningless, jiggered numbers, was the announcement from the PBOC that in light of the entire world going "open-ended" on easing, China - which now can't afford to lower rates for fears of rampant inflation together with importing everyone else's hot money - announced it will start short-term liquidity operations as additional tool for controlling liquidity, engaging in a reverse repo on a daily basis, which will have a maturity of less than 7 days. This way the central bank will be able to reacted almost instantly to any inflationary spikes across the economy, as it too has no choice but to ease although not by the conventional inflation targeting methods now used by everyone else.
After last week's event-a-palooza, where the headlines, the spin, the erroneous HFT trading, and the propaganda (Draghi is too cold; Draghi is too hot; Draghi is just right) just refused to stop, we finally enter the summer proper where all of Europe is on vacation, as is congress. Add on top of this a very light macro event week and an earnings season which has seen the bulk of companies already report, and we expect the volume in the coming 5 days to be among the lowest recorded in 2012, and thus in the past decade. Which of course means that the cannibalization among the market makers will continue as more and more firms succumb to "trading anomalies."
Pushing them to build up more debt to push additional debt on over-indebted nations who clearly can't pay back their current debt is quite foolish. Recession and depression looms everywhere.
We seem to get the daily barrage of messages and soundbites out of Germany demanding that countries stick to existing plans and that “austerity” is the only way forward. Germany continues to love to point the finger at the other countries and accuse them of borrowing too much and that these countries need to suck it up and pay what they owe. For now we will ignore the fact that Germany itself was one of the first countries to break the Maastricht Treaty. What Germany seems to be forgetting is that they jeopardized their own credit quality (as we first pointed out here). With bunds at record lows, this may not be obvious, but for the past 2 years, Germany has been throwing around guarantees and commitments like they meant nothing. We have argued since the beginning that all these guarantees were dangerous. Guarantees are more dangerous than CDS since it is truly impossible to figure out how much debt has been guaranteed or how likely the guarantees are to be honored. Germany is the ultimate backstop and seems to have forgotten that debt exists in two states - Debt is either Repaid or It Isn’t! No wonder Josef Ackermann came out in favor of more support for Europe. He has the good sense to see how bad this is - from EFSF/ESM support to bank losses to TARGET2 imbalances, it's just not pretty at all.
The good news: Spanish Q1 GDP printed -0.3% on expectations of a -0.4% Q/Q decline. Unfortunately this is hardly encouraging for the nearly 25% of the labor force which is unemployed, and for consumers whose purchasing habits imploded following record plunges in retail sales as observed last week. The bad news: Spain now joins at least 10 other Western countries which have (re) entered a recession. Per DB: "Spain will today likely join a growing list of Western Developed world countries in recession. Last week the UK was added to a recession roll call that includes Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia. Debt ladened countries with interest rates close to zero have limited flexibility to fight the business cycle and this impotency will continue for many years." Alas, the abovementioned good news won't last: from Evelyn Hermman, economist at BNP - "The Pace of Spain’s economic contraction may increase in coming quarters as austerity measures bite more sharply." Of course, it is the "good news" that sets the pace each and every day, as the bad news is merely a further catalyst to buy, buy, buy as the ECB will allegedly have no choice but to do just that when the time comes. And something quite surprising from DB's morning comment: "If it were us in charge we would allow more defaults which would speed up the cleansing out of the system thus encouraging a more efficient resource allocation in the economy at an earlier stage." Wait, this is Deustche Bank, with assets which are nearly on par with German GDP, saying this? Wow...
As predicted in May, DB honors its obligation to flush good shareholder capital down the toilet.