Merrill Lynch

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The Sum Does Not Equal The Parts: China Provincial GDP Signals Sharper Slowdown





First-quarter growth in almost all Chinese provinces was below their annual targets, according to local media, with the most concerning data from resource-dependent and manufacturing-heavy provinces suffered the sharpest economic slowdown in the first quarter as the government pushed to tackle excessive factory capacity and pollution. As Reuters reports, the fastest growth regions are Chongqing, Guizhou and Tianjin and all saw growth drop significantly. Specific provinces affected by the government's reforms include Inner Mongolia, which provides one third of the coal supply in the country, saw GDP growth drop to 7.3% in Q1 from 9.9% a year earlier; Shanxi, a major coal producing province, which saw growth tumble to to only 5.5%; and Hebei province, the nation's top steel producer, collapsed to only 4.2% in the first quarter of 2014 from 8.2% in the previous quarter. It seems the sum of the parts is anything but the same as the whole.

 
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BofA "Finds" Capital Calculation Math Error, Halts Capital Action Plan, $4 Billion Buyback





Just weeks after the Fed signed off on CCAR and ackowledged how great the US banking system is, Bank of America (after being slapped with another $13bn RMBS suit demand) has ackowledged things are not quite as risy as they appeared.

BOFA HAD INCORRECT ADJUSTMENT ON TREATMENT OF SOME NOTES; BOFA SUSPENDS CAPITAL ACTION PLAN ON CHANGE IN CAPITAL RATIOS
BAC SEES REVISED CAPITAL ACTIONS LESS THAN PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED; BAC WILL ENGAGE THIRD PARTY TO REVIEW PROCESSES

So no buyback boost... no dividend boost... The question now is - how do we (or The Fed) trust any of the numbers?

 
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This Is Crazy! Current Leveraged Recap Binge Is Clone Of 2007 Mania





This eruption of late cycle bubble finance hardly needs comment. Below are highlights from a Bloomberg Story detailing the recent surge of leveraged recaps by the big LBO operators. These maneuvers amount to piling more debt on already heavily leveraged companies, but not to fund Capex or new products, technology or process improvements that might give these debt mules an outside chance of survival over time. No, the freshly borrowed cash from a leveraged recap often does not even leave the closing conference room - it just gets recycled out as a dividend to the LBO sponsors who otherwise hold a tiny sliver of equity at the bottom of the capital structure. This is financial strip-mining pure and simple - and is a by-product of the Fed’s insane repression of interest rates.

 
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Frontrunning: April 25





  • Russia raises interest rates to 7.5% (FT)
  • Shanghai to Allow Raw Material Exchanges in Trade Zone (BBG)
  • US, Japan Fail to Clinch Trade Deal (WSJ)
  • 'We don't have a magic wand', says ECB's Constancio (Reuters)
  • Tokyo Inflation Quickens to Fastest Since 1992 (BBG)
  • Demand for Home Loans Plunges (WSJ)
  • EU banks urged to grasp chance to raise capital (FT)
 
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Banks Win Again As Proposed "Toughened" Basel Derivatives Rule "Seems To Have Evaporated"





So from MF Global's "vaporized" commingled client assets to Basel's "evaporated" toughened derivatives rules, the banks are indeed "very happy." And now back to perpetuation the illusion that the system is stable.

 
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All The Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power





"The global financial landscape was evolving. Ever since World War II, US bankers hadn’t worried too much about their supremacy being challenged by other international banks, which were still playing catch-up in terms of deposits, loans, and global customers. But by now the international banks had moved beyond postwar reconstructive pain and gained significant ground by trading with Cold War enemies of the United States. They were, in short, cutting into the global market that the US bankers had dominated by extending themselves into areas in which the US bankers were absent for US policy reasons. There was no such thing as “enough” of a market share in this game. As a result, US bankers had to take a longer, harder look at the “shackles” hampering their growth. To remain globally competitive, among other things, bankers sought to shatter post-Depression legislative barriers like Glass-Steagall. They wielded fear coated in shades of nationalism as a weapon: if US bankers became less competitive, then by extension the United States would become less powerful. The competition argument would remain dominant on Wall Street and in Washington for nearly three decades, until the separation of speculative and commercial banking that had been invoked by the Glass-Steagall Act would be no more."

 
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Read Michael Lewis' Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt: An Adaptation





The stock market really was rigged... “It’s 2009,” Katsuyama says. “This had been happening to me for almost two years. There’s no way I’m the first guy to have figured this out. So what happened to everyone else?” The question seemed to answer itself: Anyone who understood the problem was making money off it...

 
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A U.S.-Saudi Move to Lower Oil Prices?





Could the U.S. unleash a flood of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve that would drive down prices in order to punish Russia? While the idea has been kicked around over the last few weeks – most recently by George Soros – it has also been dismissed as not a serious option. Some say the impact of an oil sale, if it actually succeeded in lower prices, would be temporary. Saudi Arabia could cut back on production to keep oil prices at their current levels. Others decried the idea as contrary to the objective of the SPR, which has been setup to be used only in cases of emergency. However, any collusion would be a problem since the Saudi King is convinced the U.S. is “unreliable,” and relations between the two countries hit a low point after Obama’s back and forth over air strikes on Syria last year.

 
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Frontrunning: March 27





  • BOE to Sign Agreement With China on Yuan Clearing Next Week (BBG)
  • U.S. law firm plans to bring suit against Boeing, Malaysia Airlines (Reuters)
  • Citigroup Fraud Stings Mexico Star as Medina-Mora Chased (BBG)
  • Fraternity Chief Feared for Son as Hazings Spurred JPMorgan Snub (BBG)
  • UBS suspends six more forex traders (FT)
  • Goodbye CSCO Q1 EPS: China to strengthen Internet security after U.S. spying report (Reuters)
  • Good luck: Spain Banks With $55 Billion of Property Seek Deals (BBG)
  • Citic Pacific Said to Plan About $4 Billion Public Offering (BBG)
  • Yahoo Japan to buy eAccess from SoftBank for $3.2 billion (Reuters)
  • "Whatever it takes" to talk down the Euro: Euro, peripheral bond yields fall on ECB easing debate (Reuters)
 
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Beware The Distressed Credit "Canary In The Coalmine"





The credit cycle is called a "cycle" because, unlike the business cycle (which the Fed has convinced investors no longer exists), it 'cycles'. At some point the re-leveraging of the balance sheet - remember more cash on the balance sheet but even morerer debt (as we noted here) - requires risk premia that outweigh even the biggest avalanche of yield-chasing free money. It appears, as Bloomberg's James Crombie notes, that point may be approaching as yield premiums for U.S. distressed debt hit a five-year high on March 25, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

 
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