Merrill Lynch

Frontrunning: October 18

  • Germany will pay Greek aid (Spiegel)
  • Spain Banks Face More Pain as Worst-Case Scenario Turns Real (Bloomberg)
  • China’s Growth Continues to Slow (WSJ)
  • Executives Lack Confidence in U.S. Competitiveness (WSJ)
  • Poor Market Conditions will See 180 Solar Manufacturers Fail by 2015 (OilPrice)
  • Wen upbeat on China’s economy (FT)
  • Gold remains popular, despite the doubts of economists (Economist)
  • Armstrong Stands to Lose $30 Million as Sponsors Flee (Bloomberg)
  • IMF urges aid for Italy, Spain but Rome baulking (Reuters)
  • EU Summit Highlights Financial Divide (WSJ)
  • FOMC Straying on Price Target, Former Fed Officials Say (Bloomberg)
  • Putin defiant over weapons sales (FT)

Frontrunning: October 17

  • Obama takes offensive against Romney in debate rematch (Reuters)
  • Obama Says Romney Words Aren’t ‘True’ in Second Debate (Bloomberg)
  • Obama takes Romney head-on in debate (FT)
  • And another joins the club: Thailand Unexpectedly Cuts Rate as Global Outlook Worsens (Bloomberg)
  • PBOC Injects Less Cash (WSJ)
  • Japan to Hold Special Cabinet Meeting After Economy Downgraded (Bloomberg)
  • Greek Coalition Duo Reject Labour Moves Proposed by Troika (WSJ)
  • Opposition wanes to Spanish aid request (FT)
  • RBS to Exit U.K. Asset Protection Plan After $4 Billion Fees (Bloomberg)
  • Spain Retains Investment Grade Credit Rating From Moody’s (Bloomberg)
  • US diplomat asks Japan, ROK to resolve islands spat (China Daily)
  • Stagnation not due to austerity, says OBR (FT)

Frontrunning: October 4

  • Romney dominates presidential debate (FT)
  • What Romney’s Debate Victory Means (Bloomberg)
  • Obama Lead Shrinks in Two Battlegrounds (WSJ)
  • "Everything will fall apart unless the Spanish conditions are extremely tough" German policy-maker (Telegraph)
  • Draghi Stares at Spain as Brinkmanship Keeps ECB Waiting (Bloomberg)
  • RBS facing loss after Spanish property firm collapse (Telegraph)
  • Burdened by Old Mortgages, Banks Are Slow to Lend Now (WSJ)
  • The Woman Who Took the Fall for JPMorgan Chase (NYT)
  • European Banks Told to Hold On to $258 Billion of Fresh Capital (Bloomberg)
  • Europe Weighs More Sanctions as Iran’s Currency Plummets (Bloomberg)

Ultraluxury NY Real Estate Market Cracking As Legendary 740 Park Duplex Sells 45% Below Original Asking Price

Even as the media desperately tries to whip everyone into a buying frenzy in an attempt to rekindle the second housing bubble, the marginal, and less than pretty truth, is finally starting to emerge. Over the weekend we presented the first major red flag about the state of the housing market - in this case commercial - when we exposed that "New York's Ultraluxury Office Vacancy Rate Jumps To Two Year High As Financial Firms Brace For Impact." What is left unsaid here is that if demand for rents is low, then, well, demand for rents is low: hardly the stuff housing market recoveries are made of. Today, on the residential side, CNBC's Diana Olick adds to this bleak picture with "Apartment Demand Ebbs as ‘Avalanche’ of New Units Open." In other words rental demand for both commercial and resi properties is imploding. But at least there is always owning. Well, no. As we have shown, the foreclosure, aka distressed, market is dead, courtesy of the complete collapse in the foreclosure pipeline as banks are effectively subsidizing the upper end of the housing market by keeping all the low end inventory on their books (who doesn't love the smell of $1.6 trillion in fungible excess reserves to plug capital holes in the morning. It smells like crony capitalism). But at least the ultra luxury, aka money laundering market was chugging along at a healthy pace. After all there are billions in freefloating dollars that need to be grounded in the US, courtesy of the NAR which is always happy to look the other way, another issue we discussed this weekend. Now even that market appears to be cracking, following the purchase of a duplex in New York's most iconic property: 740 Park, by, who else but a former Goldman partner, at a whopping 45% off the original asking price.

Bank Of America To Fire 16,000 By Year End

Curious why nearly 4 years ago to the day Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson told Ken Lewis to purchase Merrill Lynch "or else" (but to make sure everyone gets paid their bonuses bright and early with no cuts)? It certainly had to do with the stock price and preserving the wealth of the shareholders. It had little to do with making the company viable in the long run, unfortunately, as the just announced news of a massive tsunami of 16,000 imminent terminations at the company confirms. All BofA did then was to take on dead weight at gunpoint, which it now has to shed. It also shows that despite rumors to the contrary the US economy is not getting better, the US financial system is not getting stronger, faith in capital markets is not returning (based on future staffing needs at banks), US tax revenues by the highest earners will go down, and the closed loop that is a procyclical economic move will just get worse as there are fewer service providers providing financial services, in the process taking out less consumer debt to keep the GDP "growing." What will also happen by January 1, 2013 is that BofA will no longer be America's largest employer, with the total headcount of 260,000 at year end being the lowest since 2008, and smaller than JPM, Citi and Wells.

Frontrunning: August 14

  • Must be those evil speculators' fault: Oil price inflates as speculators bet on stimulus (Reuters)
  • Need moar stimulus: UK Coalition plans housebuilding stimulus (FT)
  • Paul Ryan brings fundraising prowess to Romney presidential bid (Reuters)
  • Chinese serial killer shot dead after massive manhunt (Reuters)
  • Silver Hoard Near Record As Hedge-Fund Bulls Recoil (Bloomberg)
  • World powers eye emergency food meeting; action doubted (Reuters)
  • Clegg Said to Have Role in Picking King Successor as BOE Chief (Bloomberg)
  • Standard Chartered CEO takes charge of Iran probe talks (Reuters)
  • Risks must not hide positive China trends (FT)
  • BOJ should not rule out any policy options: July minutes (Reuters)
  • India Says Growth Sacrifice Needed in Inflation Fight (Bloomberg)

Knight's Berserk Algo Bought $2.6 Million Worth Of Stock Every Second

While we already presented, courtesy of Nanex, the modus operandi of the Knight berserker algo, there was one outstanding question. What was the bottom line. And no, not how much the loss on Knight's Income Statement would be as a result of this glimpse into what really happens in the market: we already knew that would be $440 million. The question is what is the notional amount of stock that this algo bought in the 45 minutes in which it was operational. We now know: $7 billion. Or $155 million per minute. Or $2.6 million per second. Or, assuming the algo impacted just 150 stocks as previously reported, it was buying on average $17,333 in each name every second. Or, assuming an average stock price of the universe of 150 stocks of $30/share, the Knight algo lifted the offer roughly 600 times each second. For 45 minutes straight! That's right - the market making algorithm of a designated market maker which is responsible for 10% of the order flow in the US stock market, entered a pre-programmed mode (because the computer was told to do whatever it did by someone, and not without reason) that saw it buy up $2.6 million worth of stock every second.

This Is The Government: Your Legal Right To Redeem Your Money Market Account Has Been Denied - The Sequel

Two years ago, in January 2010, Zero Hedge wrote "This Is The Government: Your Legal Right To Redeem Your Money Market Account Has Been Denied" which became one of our most read stories of the year. The reason? Perhaps something to do with an implicit attempt at capital controls by the government on one of the primary forms of cash aggregation available: $2.7 trillion in US money market funds. The proximal catalyst back then were new proposed regulations seeking to pull one of these three core pillars (these being no volatility, instantaneous liquidity, and redeemability) from the foundation of the entire money market industry, by changing the primary assumptions of the key Money Market Rule 2a-7. A key proposal would give money market fund managers the option to "suspend redemptions to allow for the orderly liquidation of fund assets." In other words: an attempt to prevent money market runs (the same thing that crushed Lehman when the Reserve Fund broke the buck). This idea, which previously had been implicitly backed by the all important Group of 30 which is basically the shadow central planners of the world (don't believe us? check out the roster of current members), did not get too far, and was quickly forgotten. Until today, when the New York Fed decided to bring it back from the dead by publishing "The Minimum Balance At Risk: A Proposal to Mitigate the Systemic Risks Posed by Money Market FUnds". Now it is well known that any attempt to prevent a bank runs achieves nothing but merely accelerating just that (as Europe recently learned). But this coming from central planners - who never can accurately predict a rational response - is not surprising. What is surprising is that this proposal is reincarnated now. The question becomes: why now? What does the Fed know about market liquidity conditions that it does not want to share, and more importantly, is the Fed seeing a rapid deterioration in liquidity conditions in the future, that may and/or will prompt retail investors to pull their money in another Lehman-like bank run repeat?

Peak Gold

Peak oil is a phenomenon many will be aware of – peak gold remains a foreign concept to most. Peak gold is the date at which the maximum rate of global gold extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. The term derives from the Hubbert peak of a resource. Unlike oil and silver, which is destroyed in use, gold can be reused and recycled. However, unlike oil gold is money, a store of value and a foreign exchange reserve and gold is slowly being remonetised in the global financial system and indeed may soon play a role in a new international monetary system. Ore grades have fallen from around 12 grams per tonne in 1950 to nearer 3 grams in the US, Canada, and Australia. South Africa's output has halved since peaking in 1970. Peak gold may not have happened in 2000. Nor may it have happened in 2011. However, the geological evidence suggests that it may happen in the near term due to the increasing difficulty large and small gold mining companies are having increasing their production. The fact that peak gold may take place at a time when the world is engaged in peak fiat paper and electronic money creation bodes very well for gold’s long term outlook.

Not All Prayers Are Answered Affirmatively

Because I pay attention to these things; I have the sense that there has been a lot of praying recently. Prayers for QE3, prayers for Quantitative Easing mortgage bond buying, “Please SIR;” and for words to the effect in each and every FOMC minutes that “Money will be printed forever and ever Amen.”

“Now I know I'm not normally a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman!”

                          -Homer Simpson

Now I hate to do this to you and I feel like the bad boy with the pin about to prick someone’s bubble but these prayers have gone unanswered as you know and are not likely to be answered any day soon unless Europe goes up in pixie dust which, while certainly possible, will be far more serious for the markets and will more than offset the Fed dragging out their printing presses and plugging them in once again.