The March consumer credit headline was a disappointment, increasing by just $7.97 billion, on expectations of a $15.6 billion increase, with the February total revised lower to $18.14 billion. So far so bad. It gets worse when one peeks beneath the surface and finds that discretionary consumer credit in the form of credit card and other revolving loans posted its first decline of 2013, dropping by $1.7 billion, the biggest decline since December's 2.1 billion. So what rose: why debt for purchases of Government Motors and student loans of course, which increased by $9.676 billion in March. In other words: the student bubble keeps getting bigger, more and more GM cars are being bought on subprime credit, while the vast majority of Americans can't even afford to charge toilet paper purchases as the discretionary deleveraging continues.
In a stunning headline-making moment of clarity, it appears that all the major financials that the Fed monitors (except GMAC Ally) will survive a cataclysmic, Lehman-like moment based on their self-determined analytics of their deeply illiquid off-balance-sheet assets (and a comprehensive understanding of the co-dependence of all those assets). As Bloomberg notes,
*FED SAYS 18 BANKS PROJECTED LOSSES WOULD BE $462B UNDER TEST
*FED SEES 17 BANKS' TIER 1 COMMON RATIO ABOVE 5% IN WORST CASE
*GMAC ALLY ONLY STRESS-TESTED BANK SEEN WITH TIER 1 COMMON BELOW 5%
*TESTS SCENARIO ASSUMES EQUITY PRICES DROP MORE THAN 50%, HOUSING PRICES DECLINE MORE THAN 20%
Is it any wonder that Government Motors wanted to IPO its GMAC/Ally business recently - with a 1.5% stressed Tier 1 ratio.
I really need to stop being so pessimistic. I’m getting richer by the day. My home value is rising at a rate of 1% per month according to the National Association of Realtors. At that rate, my house will be worth $1 million in less than 10 years. Every mainstream media newspaper, magazine, and news channel is telling me the “strong” housing recovery is propelling the economy and creating millions of new jobs. Keynesian economists, Wall Street bankers, government apparatchiks and housing trade organizations are all in agreement that the wealth effect from rising home prices will be the jumpstart our economy needs to get back to the glory days of 2005. Who am I to argue with such honorable men with degrees from Ivy League schools and a track record of unquestioned accuracy as we can see in the chart below? These are the facts. But why trust facts when you can believe Baghdad Ben and the NAR? It’s always the best time to buy.
A few days after divesting its stake in the firm that started it all, AIG, and at a profit at that (ignoring that the risk has merely been onboarded by the Fed whose DV01 is now $2+ billion as a result), the US Treasury continues to divest of all its bailout stake, this time proceeding to GM, where the channel stuffing firm just announced it would buyback 200MM shares from the US government at a price of $27.50. More importantly, the "Treasury said it intends to sell its other remaining 300.1 million shares through various means in an orderly fashion within the next 12-15 months, subject to market conditions. Treasury intends to begin its disposition of those 300.1 million common shares as soon as January 2013 pursuant to a pre-arranged written trading plan. The manner, amount, and timing of the sales under the plan are dependent upon a number of factors." Assuming a price in the $27.50 range, this implies a nearly 50% loss on the government's breakeven price of $54. So much for the "profit" spin. One hopes all those Union votes were well worth the now booked $40+ billion cost to all taxpayers.
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.
Following one of the highest monthly jumps in consumer credit in August, the September data showed that following the drop in household savings to a multi-year low, consumers naturally retrenched, and had no choice but to pay down debt. As the just released G.19 confirmed, in September, households once again reduced their credit card debt, which declined by $2.9 billion to $852 billion. This was the fourth such decline in six months, confirming that at the discretionary level where banks have supervision over borrowings, the consumer is still nowhere near willing to relever. Where, there was leverage, a lot of it, was once again in the government sector, which funded $13.8 billion of the total $14.6 billion rise in NSA credit, and where non-revolving credit: read loans for Government Motors, at least those that have not been record channel stuffed (as reported previously) and Federal Student Loans, which are now over $1 trillion, rose by $14.3 billion in one month. Of course, the difference between revolving and non-revolving credit is that while banks expect the former to be paid off eventually, Uncle Sam has no such illusions on any low APR debt it hands out to anyone who asks for it (and if the proceeds from student loans are used to purchase iPads, so be it).
For a few months there, we were worried that GM may have actually found a (government-funded) natural subprime buyer of its vehicles after the company managed to keep its channel stuffing in check for several months. Those fears ended today with the company's October car sales report, according to which GM sold 4.7% more cars, or 42,759 in absolute terms (from 153,005 to 195,764) in October than September, below expectations of a 7.8% increase. So far so good. What however will hardly get any mention from Government Motors cheerleaders is that GM auto inventory at dealers as of October 31 was a record 739,034 (a massive 98 days of supply), an increase of 49,700 from October's 689,334. In other words, the entire incremental rise in sales, and then some, was due to the firm stuffing dealers with even more inventory than they can possibly handle!
You put Jim Grant on TV and someone mentions the Fed and the result every single time is the equivalent of waving a red curtain in front of a rabid bull. This time was no different, as the Interest Rate Observer once again let Bernanke, with whom he clarified is no longer on speaking terms, have it. The ensuing central-planner bashing was in line with expectations, and just as we presented yesterday in "The Experiment Economy", so too does Grant believe that the Fed is "learning by doing" and follows up by clarifying that this is an experiment, "and we are lab rats in the financial markets." He then proceeds to lament that the credit markets, clueless NYT econopundits notwithstanding, have now lost all informational value as every rate instrument is purely in the manipulated domain of the Fed. "We are all living in a land of speculation and manipulation" is Grant's summary of the current predicament of anyone who wishes to trade these "markets" and it may as well be the best synopsis of the New (ab)normal. And aside from an odd detour into Government Motors, Grant once again hones in on the only true antidote to central planner idiocy, gold: "the best thing about gold is that it's got no P/E multiple. Gold is a speculation on an anticipated macroeconomic outcome, the systematic debasement of currencies by central banks. Why wouldn't they do QE4? What intellectual argument do they have against doing it again, and again, and again." Well...none.
- Anti-Japan demonstrators protest in New York City (China Daily) ...and the propaganda: Younger generation feels wave of emotions (CD)
- And the retaliation: Obama to launch auto trade case against China (Reuters)
- Spanish Banks Bleeding Cash Cloud Bailout Debate (Bloomberg)
- Chicago teachers extend strike (Reuters); Emanuel Promises He’ll Sue to End Chicago Teacher Strike (Bloomberg)
- China hurts own credibility with Xi's vanishing act (Reuters)
- European Squabbling on Euro Crisis Solution May Test Rally (Bloomberg)
- Two South Africa mines reopen, most don't (Reuters)
- Finance Industry Warns of ‘Cliff Effect’ in ECB’s Bond Plan (Bloomberg)
- China struggles to cure the violent ills of health system (Reuters)
- QE3 is for Main Street, except... it isn't: QE3 hit by mortgage processing delays (FT)
- Probe focuses on JPMorgan's monitoring of suspect transactions (Reuters)
- As explained here before: Spanish Bonds Decline as EU Policy Makers Clash on Bank Plan (Bloomberg)
The Kangaroo In The Metals Mine: Fortescue Trying To Raise $1.5 Billion From 20 Banks As Iron Prices ImplodeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/30/2012 04:19 -0400
While last week's surprise announcement that GM was desperately seeking up to $5 billion in additional cash through a new revolver (meaning the administration's pride and bailed out joy, Government Motors, is once again burning far too much cash and that channel stuffing only pays in porn movies) took precisely nobody by surprise (at least not anyone who has been following our 2 year long series tracking AOL GM's dealer inventory warehousing habits), a far more sinister cash need has developed a very short time ago in a continent far, far away. Because while we have also noted the collapse in steel inventories and iron ore prices , which have recently imploded to 3 years lows as the Chinese hard landing, no longer maskable or avoidable, is finally sending shock waves around the world, as well as what these mean for a world that is sliding into a deep recession, promises by various impotent central bankers notwithstanding (see here, here and here), so far this wholesale collapse in the iron market had not translated into discrete events at the corporate level. Until now that is, because that second derivative of the "Chinese economic miracle", Australian hyper-levered iron ore miner, Fortescue, which is the fourth largest in the world, and is also the kangaroo in the iron ore mine for not only China, but Australia as well (and with a cornucopia of junk bonds in its balance sheet, a massively levered one at that) just telegraphed to the world that it is in desperate need of cash. According to Bloomberg, Fortescue Metals Group has approached about 20 banks as it markets a $1.5 billion loan in syndication, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Zero Hedge covered the topic of automotive channel stuffing long before it became a conversation piece, particularly as it pertains to Government Motors, a story which has recently taken precedence after being uncovered at such stalwarts of industry as German BMW and Mercedes, implying the German economic miracle may, too, have been largely fabricated. Another core topic over the years has been the artificial and inventory-stockpiling driven (in other words hollow) "growth" of China's economy, whose masking has been increasingly more difficult courtesy of such telltale signs of a slowdown as declining electricity consumption and off the charts concrete use. It was only logical that the themes would eventually collide and so they have: the New York Times published "China Besieged by Glut of Unsold Goods" in which, as the title implies, it is revealed that China is now nothing more than one big "stuffed channel."
Much has been said about the evil crony capitalism inflicted upon America as a result of PAC, SuperPACs, corporate donations, and just general bribery on behalf of America's corporations in broad terms, and Wall Street in narrow (and Private Equity firms in uber-narrow) terms. But is there an even bigger destabilizing force of "cronyness" in America? According to the WSJ, there well may be: labor unions. Yes: those same entities that are so critical for Obama's reelection campaign that the president abrogated property rights and overturned the entire bankruptcy process in the case of GM and Chrysler, to benefit various forms of organized labor at the expense of evil, evil bondholders (represented on occasion by such even more evil entities as little old grandmas whose retirement money had been invested in GM bonds), appear to have a far greater impact in bribe-facilitated decision-making than previously thought.
Zero Hedge readers know that we have long followed channel stuffing trends at GM, whose month-end dealer inventory hit a record (for the post-reorg company which is completely different from the pre-bankruptcy entity) of 713K cars stuck in various dealer "channels" at the end of March 2012, and since then has been stagnant at just about 700K, with the most recent June number coming at 701K, an increase of 6K over May. It would be great to assume that the company has given up on cheap ways to cheat investors and the taxpaying public into believing it is doing better. It would also be wrong. As it turns out, GM has merely turned to more backdoor methods of stuffing channels, and getting money from its biggest shareholders, which still happens to be Joe Sixpack (and "superpriority" labor unions of course) by way of the US Treasury, with 32% of the common stock.
That the just released consumer credit update for April missed expectations of a $11 billion increase is not much of a surprise. As noted earlier, the US consumer has once again resumed deleveraging: April merely saw this trend continue with revolving credit declining by $3.4 billion, offset by the now traditional increase in student and subprime government motors car loans, which increased by $10 billion. In other words, following a modest increase in revolving consumer credit in March, we have another downtick, and a YTD revolving credit number which is now negative. Obviously the government-funded student loan bubble still has a ways to go. No: all of this was expected. What was very surprising is that as noted in the earlier breakdown of the Z1, the entire consumer credit series was revised, with the cumulative impact resulting in a major divergence from the original data series. Why did the Fed feel compelled to revise consumer credit lower? Simple: as debt goes down, net worth goes up, assuming assets stay flat. Which in the Fed's bizarro world they did! Sure enough, if one compares the pre-revision Household Net Worth data (which can still be found at the St. Louis Fed but probably not for long) with that just released Z.1, one notices something quite, for lack of a better word, magical. Ignoring the March 31 datapoint which does not exist for the pre-revision data set, at December 31, household net worth magically grew from $58.5 trillion in the original data set to $60.0 trillion in the revised one!
That US consumer credit soared by $21.4 billion in March on expectations of $9.8 billion rise, or the fastest monthly expansion since March 2001 would have been commendable and memorable if one did not dig through the actual components. Which sadly are atrocious: of the entire surge, a modest $5.1 billion was from real credit, or revolving, credit-card type debt. This brought the total revolving debt to $804 billion or to a level first crossed in January 2005. The balance, or $16.2 billion, was non-revolving debt, or the type of debt used to fund GM car purchases by subprime borrowers and push the student loan bubble well into its $1+ trillion record territory. The total non-revolving debt is now $1.739 trillion: an all time record. As for the source of such debt? why the US government of course, in what is the supreme ponzi scheme, whereby the US government allows US consumers to purchase Government Motors products and to keep the Higher Learning status quo in power. In other words, the US government has become the final enabler of the consumer spending bubble with proceeds used to keep the US auto unions happy (as channel stuffing is already at record high levels), and of course, to fund such ancillary student purchases as iPads. As for whether any of this debt will ever be paid off? Don't be silly.