Merrill Lynch

Frontrunning: May 4

  • Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, but as of Saturday, not one of them will be in operation (Guardian)
  • US Readies Proposal to Clamp Down on Fracking (Reuters)
  • California pension fund (CALSTRS) sues Wal-Mart, alleges bribery (Reuters)
  • New Ripples for Gupta Case: Goldman Share Price, Volume Began Climbing Even Before Rajaratnam Trades (WSJ)
  • China says blind dissident can apply to study abroad (Reuters)
  • China paper calls Chen a U.S. pawn; envoy is a "troublemaker" (Reuters)
  • Samsung’s New Galaxy S Phone Raises Heat on Apple Iphone (Bloomberg)
  • Draghi predicts 2012 eurozone recovery  (FT)
  • Tumbling Home Ownership Marks a Return to Normal (Bloomberg)
  • Zuckerberg Facebook IPO to Make Him Richer Than Ballmer (Bloomberg)
  • SEC probes Chesapeake and its chief (FT)

Previewing Tomorrow's Floating Rate Treasury Launch

When we last discussed what now appears certain to be a TBAC announcement tomorrow that Floating Rate Treasurys are about to be launched by the US during the Treasury, we cautioned, using an analysis by the IMF's Singh, that "the US Treasury may be telegraphing to the world that it, or far more importantly, the TBAC, is quietly preparing for a surge in interest rates." We then continued that "What is also obvious is that if the TBAC is quietly shifting the market into preparation mode for "a steady (or rocky) rise in rates from near zero to a "neutral" fed funds rate of 400 bps and a "normal" 5 percent yield on 2 year U.S. Treasuries" as the IMF warns, then all hell is about to break loose in stocks, as by now everyone is aware that without the Fed liquidity, and not just liquidity, but "flow" or constant injection of liquidity, as opposed to merely "stock", VIX will explode, equities will implode, and all hell would break loose. It is not yet certain if the TBAC will proceed with implementing FRNs. Although, since the proposal came from the TBAC, read Goldman and JPM, and what Goldman and JPM want, they get, it is almost certain that in about a month, concurrent with the next quarterly refunding, America will slowly but surely proceed with adopting Floaters." Judging by the amount of press coverage this topic has received in the past week, the advent of FRNs is now a given. What is unclear is why: our take is that this is simply a move to make Treasurys more palatable to investors, simply to avoid capital losses when rates finally resume their inevitable surge higher. The flipside of course, is that the guaranteed coupon payments in a rising rate environment means that more cash will leave the Treasury to cover interest. It is this corollary to increasing demand that has made the "father" of Treasury floaters warn on Bloomberg that now is the worst possible time to being sales of FRN Treasurys.

NYSE March Cash, ETF Volumes Slide Nearly 30% Compared To Year Earlier

While equity trading last March trading was affected by the excess volatility arising from the Fukushima explosions a year earlier, and the Japan earthquake induced volatility in general, today's monthly volume update by the NYSE shows that no matter what the reason for the volume collapse, toplines for banks and traders will suffer, on both a Y/Y as well as sequential basis. Per the NYSE: "European and U.S. Cash ADV Down 13% and 24% Year-over-Year.... NYSE Euronext European cash products ADV of 1.6 million transactions in March 2012 decreased 12.7% compared to March 2011, but increased 0.5% compared to February 2012. NYSE Euronext U.S. cash products handled ADV in March 2012 decreased 23.6% to 1.8 billion shares compared to March 2011 and decreased 0.6% from February 2012." An even bigger year-over-year collapse took place in the one product which everyone thinks is taking the place of individual stock trading: the synthetic CDOs known as ETFs: "NYSE Euronext U.S. matched exchange-traded funds ADV (included in volumes for Tape B and Tape C) of 222 million shares in March 2012 decreased 29.3% compared to March 2011, but increased 4.1% compared to February 2012. In the first quarter of 2012, NYSE Euronext U.S. matched exchange-traded funds ADV of 221 million shares was 21.8% below prior year levels." The YoY collapse in trading volumes for derivatives was less compared to cash, but the sequential drop from February 2012 was even more pronounced: "NYSE Euronext global derivatives ADV in March 2012 of 8.1 million contracts decreased 11.5% compared to March 2011 and decreased 15.4% from February 2012 levels." We can only hope that banks have found some innovative ways of compensating for this collapse in overall market participation, such as traditional revenue pathways like underwriting and advisory fees, as well as lending and arbing the carry trade. Alas, as the following Bloomberg piece points out, this will hardly be the case, as Zero Hedge has warned previously.

Net Worthless: People As Corporations

US Households haven't shaken their 'junk bond' credit rating, given their poor income statement and balance sheet. Reversing Mitt Romney's famous quote "corporations are people", Bank Of America remains skeptical of this self-sustaining recovery - expecting second half growth to slow significantly as businesses and households react to the risk of a major fiscal shock (and in the short-term, momentum looks unsustainable). From an income statement perspective, 'a paycheck just ain't what it used to be' with food and energy prices rising and payroll growth (typically a good proxy for income growth) is disappointingly timid leaving real disposable income diverging weakly from a supposed job recovery. The balance sheet perspective has been helped by the rise of the equity market but the recovery in net worth in the last three years has barely outstripped income growth, leaving the ratio deeply depressed. The upshot is that the recent pick-up in consumption is not being fueled by income or wealth gains, but mainly by drawing down savings. Many households remain deeply distressed and react to higher costs of living by drawing down savings further. In sum, a true virtuous cycle still seems a long way off. As weather effects fade and gas pain builds the data should soften. BofA expects businesses to recognize the risks of the fiscal cliff first and pull back on hiring. Then with weaker job growth and with the growing awareness of the cliff, consumers will likely start delaying some discretionary spending.

JPMorgan Trader Accused Of "Breaking" CDS Index Market With Massive Prop Position

Earlier today we listened with bemused fascination as Blythe Masters explained to CNBC how JPMorgan's trading business is "about assisting clients in executing, managing, their risks and ensuring access to capital so they can make the kind of large long-term investments that are needed in the long run to expand the supply of commodities." You know - provide liquidity. Like the High Freaks. We were even ready to believe it, especially when Blythe conveniently added that JPM has a "matched book" meaning no net prop exposure, since the opposite would indicate breach of the Volcker Rule. ...And then we read this: "A JPMorgan Chase & Co. trader of derivatives linked to the financial health of corporations has amassed positions so large that he’s driving price moves in the multi-trillion dollar market, according to traders outside the firm." Say what? A JPMorgan trader has a prop (not flow, not client, not non-discretionary) position so big it is moving the entire market? And we are talking hundreds of billions of CDS notional. But... that would mean everything Blythe said is one big lie... It would also mean that JPMorgan is blatantly and without any regard for legislation, ignoring the Volcker rule, which arrived in the aftermath of Merrill Lynch doing precisely this with various CDO and credit indexes, and "moving the market" only to blow itself up and cost taxpayers billions when the bets all LTCMed. But wait, it gets better: "In some cases, [the trader] is believed to have “broken” the index -- Wall Street lingo for the market dysfunction that occurs when a price gap opens up between the index and its underlying constituents." So JPMorgan is now privately accused of "breaking" the CDS Index market, courtesy of its second to none economy of scale and fear no reprisal for any and all actions, and in the process causing untold losses to, you guessed it, its clients, but when it comes to allegations of massive manipulation in the precious metals market, why Blythe will tell you it is all about "assisting clients in executing, managing, their risks." Which client would that be - Lehman, or MFGlobal? Perhaps it is time for a follow up interview, Ms Masters to clarify some of these outstanding points?

A Wall Street Insider's Response To Greg Smith

This cannot be the right course for us to take in the wake of such a widely recognized crisis. The lack of purposeful outrage is deafening. We cannot restore lasting stability to our economy and society unless we are willing to face up to what we did wrong, right it, and throw out the bums who put us there. Without that, the pattern of ever escalating crisis and interventionist, market-distorting solutions will surely lead to a bigger crisis still ahead... Perhaps the most important symbol of our failure to address reform are the pictures accompanying much of the coverage of Greg Smith’s letter, those of a power-posing Blankfein and Cohn, who without the Government’s accommodation might be striking a very different pose, indeed. You want to sign on to Mr. Smith’s army in joint distaste for Goldman’s lost culture? Please, be my guest. But more deserving of your enmity is the insidious co-option of the core premise of capitalism by a handful of people to ensure the banks’ undeserved survival, and their managers’ really nice lifestyle.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

Do not, for one minute, believe that the folks involved in the Crisis will get away with it. The only reason why we haven’t yet seen major players get slammed is because no one wants the system to crumble again. And the only way for the system to remain propped up is for the Powers That Be to appear to have things under control and be on good terms with one another. However, eventually things will come unhinged again. When this happens, the relationships between Wall Street, the Fed, and the White House will crumble to the point that some key figures are sacrificed.

Frontrunning: March 13

  • Tainted Libor Guessing Games Face Replacement by Real Trades (Bloomberg) - so circular, self-reported data is "tainted" - but consumer confidence is great for pumping a stock market?
  • Japan Sets up $12 Billion Program for Dollar Loans, Increases Growth Fund (Bloomberg)
  • China Hints at Halt to Renminbi Rise (FT)
  • Spain Pressed to Cut More From Its Budget (FT)
  • Bailout can make Greek debt sustainable, but risks remain: EU/IMF (Reuters)
  • Banks to Face Tough Reviews, Details of Mortgage Deal Show (NYT)
  • U.S. and Europe Move on China Minerals (WSJ)
  • Use of Homeless as Internet Hot Spots Backfires on Marketer (NYT)
  • Obama administration seeks to pressure China on exports with new trade case (AP)

Greece Issues Statement On PSI, Says €172 Billion Of Bonds Tendered In Swap, Will Enact CACs, ISDA To Meet At 1pm To Find If CDS Trigger

The biggest sovereign debt restructuring in history is now, well, history. The headlines are finally come in:

  • GREECE ISSUES STATEMENT ON DEBT SWAP
  • GREECE COMPLETES DEBT SWAP
  • GREECE SAYS EU172 BLN OF BONDS TENDERED IN SWAP
  • GREECE GETS TENDERS, CONSENTS FROM HOLDERS OF 85.8%
  • GREECE SAYS 69% OF NON-GREEK LAW BONDHOLDERS PARTICIPATED

We learn that €152 of the €177 billion in Greek law bonds have tendered, which is 85.8%. This means that €25 billion in Greek law bonds have not - these are the hedge funds that could not be Steven Rattnered into participating, and will now sue Greece for par recoveries.This is also the number that ISDA will look at today to determine if, in conjunction with the CAC, means a credit event has occurred. And yes, the CACs are coming, as is the Credit Event finding:

  • GREECE SAYS WILL AMEND TERMS OF GREEK LAW BONDS FOR ALL HOLDERS

ISDA Unanimous - No Payout On Greek CDS

As expected by virtually everyone:

  • NO PAYOUT ON GREECE $3.25 BILLION DEFAULT SWAPS, ISDA SAYS

Keep in mind, as criminal as this appears, and as damaging to the CDS market, the real trigger will be what ISDA does determines following the end of the PSI process. If there is no credit event then either, especially when the CACs are triggered as expected - an event which will certifiably be a trigger event under Section 4.7, then ISDA is truly hell bent on blowing up the CDS market as a hedging vehicle in its entirety.

On The Dizzying Rise And Shattering Fall Of Dan Zwirn

For anyone who traded in the 2003-2007 interval (second liens what else - did anything else even trade in that period), the name DB Zwirn was synonymous with hedge fund perfection. In fact, the only name that stood above it was that of Phil Falcone's hedge fund Harbinger. Gradually, both of these high fliers were replaced in the awestruck trader lexicon with another "legendary" hedge fund, that of Paulson & Co. But for a brief period the Zwirn offce at 745 Fifth is where every fixed income trader wanted to reside. Yet as always happens, anything that is too good to be true, isn't. Below is William Cohan, who in a way that only he can, spins the tale of the the rapid rise and even more rapid fall of the hedge fund manager who had it all by his thirties, only to lose it (mostly) all shortly thereafter.