OTC

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: February 7

Ahead of the North American open, European Indices are trading in negative territory following further deliberations over a Greek settlement, with a tentative meeting between the Greek PM and his respective Party Leaders scheduled for some time after 1600GMT as well as an underperforming Basic Materials sector following caution over the upcoming Glencore/Xstrata merger. In foreign exchange news, the EUR/CHF currency pair has exhibited volatility following comments from the SNB’s acting Chair Jordan. Jordan has committed the Central Banks’ resources to preventing any further appreciation of the CHF adding that the SNB will buy unlimited amounts of Forex to defend the minimum level of 1.2000. Overnight, the AUD index has appreciated following an unexpected move by the RBA to hold its base rate at 4.25%, with many analysts expecting a drop in rates due to the global economic outlook and domestic job losses. In terms of European economic releases, German Industrial Production data fell below expectations for the month of December, posting a 2.9% fall while the figure was expected to stay flat at 0.0%.

Thunder Road Report Update: "Dear Portfolio Manager, You Are Heading Into A Full-Spectrum Crisis."

Paul Mylchreest, author of the Thunder Road, releases his much anticipated latest report, and it's a doozy: "2012: Dear Portfolio Manager, you are leaving the capitalist sector and heading into a full-spectrum crisis." He continues: "You were to hear a report on the world crisis. That is what you are going to hear. For twelve years you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking….Now it’s  getting serious. 2012 will be a year to remember as the globalist agenda comes into focus amidst economic and geo-political crises: The titles of the last two Thunder Road Reports were prefaced with “Helter Skelter” - “The Illusion of Market Stability” followed by “Gentlemen Start Your Engines”. Sadly, the Helter Skelter I was writing about – the second part of the Great Financial Crisis is in progress and I’m expecting it to come to a head next year (2013 if we’re very lucky). The only question is WHAT brings it to a head? We’re not short of possible causes – a bank failure, sovereign default, Eurozone tipping into recession or the Middle East. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, like overwhelming debt levels and insolvent banks/sovereigns, the consensus seems convinced that we can “muddle through”. Dow Theory veteran, Richard Russell, explained it best: “In the coming two or three years we will be going through unprecedented situations beyond the understanding of most analysts.”"

Must Read: Presenting The MF Global Black Box: A Minute By Minute Breakdown Of The Doomed Broker's Last Week On Earth

In order to get to the bottom of every collapse (or death), a forensic analysis of the last minutes of any transition from life to death has to be perormed. So far, we have only had broad strokes of the key events in the last days of MF Global as obviously many of them will implicate the management team in gross criminal behavior. Until now, when courtesy of the CME we have received a full breakdown of every key events in the chronology of MF Global's last days on earth, starting with October 24, and the rating agency downgrade of the futures broker (the same catalyst incidentally that started the AIG death spiral waterfall... and yet clueless pundits will tell you the ratings are totally irrelevant), and ending with the firm's filing for bankruptcy protection. Anyone who has any interest in the MF Global collapse, which incidentally should be anyone who has capital in third party possession and thus has counterparty risk, should read this narrative from first to last bullet.

Presenting Kyle Bass' Analysis On Shortening Collateral Chains; Or The Gradual Evisceration Of Shadow Banking

Kyle Bass presented us with a preview of what to expect in his monthly letter in a David Faber interview yesterday; today he delivers the full monty with his extended analysis of "shortening collateral chains" in his latest investor letter - a topic that we have been discussing broadly ever since we starting focusing on Shadow Banking two years ago (and why, as we have been pounding the table, it is the central bankers' primary prerogative to offset the collapse in the shadow banking system more than anything), and narrowly, since the realization of how tenuous the rehypothecation system is. The below analysis leads Bass to come to the one logical conclusion: "As European leaders press forward with failed attempt after failed attempt to suppress borrowing costs, control spending, reduce deficits and prop up what the markets have already told us is a broken monetary system, the data tells us that the citizens of the most troubled and profligate nations are losing confidence in the Euro dream. Trust has been lost, confidence in the system is being lost, and the ultimate consequence of this break down - sovereign defaults —are imminent. We continue to move ever closer to a great restructuring of sovereign debt."

Evolution Securities Warns Of "Total Carnage And Meltdown" As European Bank Sales Of CDS On European Sovereign Debt Soar

As much as we hate to say it, Europe is now without a shadow of a doubt the new AIG, only this time such heretofore considered insane (in retrospect) activities as doubling down to infinity on ones TBTF status are out in the public record for all to see. At least AIG conducted Joe Cassano's "made in London" $2.7 trillion bet on home prices never dropping in the shadows of Curzon 1. Whereas two days ago we made it  clear how the unwind of trillions in rehypothecated securities could be the avalanche that buries first Europe and then the world, we explicitly excluded the impact of synthetic products such as CDS. Now it is time to bring the picture full circle, and put CDS front and center. As Bloomberg reports, "BNP Paribas SA, France’s biggest bank, sold a net 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) of credit- default swaps on the nation’s sovereign debt, according to data compiled by the European Banking Authority. UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest lender, and Banca Monte dei Paschi SpA are net insurers of more than 500 million euros each of their government’s bonds, and Oesterreichische Volksbanken AG, the Austrian lender which has yet to pay interest on 1 billion euros of state aid received in 2009, has guaranteed a net 839 million euros of its national debt, EBA data show." (EBA source - link). For those confused by the above, here is the explanation: European banks, in order to generate modest cash flow from collecting on the pariodic interest premiums owed to them in order to plug increasingly large capital shortfall holes that otherwise would simply keep growing ever larger, have sold and continue to sell massive amounts of default protection on their very own host countries! As a reminder, it was precisely this that destroyed AIG when the illusion of the credit bubble burst.

How The U.S. Will Become a 3rd World Country (Part 2)

The United States increasingly resembles a 3rd world country in terms of unemployment, lack of economic opportunity, falling wages, growing poverty and concentration of wealth, government debt, corporate influence over government and weakening rule of law. Federal Reserve monetary policies and federal government economic, regulatory and tax policies seem to favor the largest banks and corporations over the interests of small businesses or of the general population. The potential elimination of the middle class could reshape the socioeconomic strata of American society in the image of a 3rd world country. It seems only a matter of time before the devolution of the United States becomes more visible. As the U.S. economy continues to decline, public health, nutrition and education, as well as the country’s infrastructure, will visibly deteriorate. There is little evidence of political will or leadership for fundamental reforms. All other things being equal, the U.S. will become a post industrial neo-3rd-world country by 2032.

A Hedge Fund Insider Explains Why Retail Investors Should Flee The Stock Market

Regular readers know that ever since 2009, well before the confidence destroying flash crash of May 2010, Zero Hedge had been advocating that regular retail investors shun the equity market in its entirety as it is anything but "fair and efficient" in which frontrunning for a select few is legal, in which insider trading is permitted for politicians and is masked as "expert networks" for others, in which the government itself leaks information to a hand-picked elite of the wealthiest investors, in which investment banks send out their "huddle" top picks to "whale" accounts before everyone else gets access, in which hedge funds form "clubs" and collude in moving the market, in which millisecond algorithms make instantaneous decisions which regular investors can never hope to beat, in which daily record volatility triggers sell limits virtually assuring daytrading losses, and where the bid/ask spreads for all but the choicest few make the prospect of breaking even, let alone winning, quite daunting. In short: a rigged casino. What is gratifying is to see that this warning is permeating an ever broader cross-section of the retail population with hundreds of billions in equity fund outflows in the past two years. And yet, some pathological gamblers still return day after day, in hope of striking it rich, despite odds which make a slot machine seem like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In that regard, we are happy to present another perspective: this time from a hedge fund insider who while advocating his support for the OWS movement, explains, in no uncertain terms, and in a somewhat more detailed and lucid fashion, both how and why the market is not only broken, but rigged, and why it is nothing but a wealth extraction mechanism in which the richest slowly but surely steal the money from everyone else who still trades any public stock equity.

Hank Paulson Tipped Off The Goldman-Led "Plunge Protection Team" About Fannie Bankruptcy 7 Weeks In Advance

Today, BusinessWeek's Michael Serrill and Jonathan Neumann have released a blockbuster report based on a FOIA response by the Treasury, which proves that in America rules are only for little people, that this country has been a banana republic for years, that Animal Farm was spot on, and gives excruciating detail of how Hank Paulson tipped off a select group of Goldman diaspora hedge fund managers about the eventual failure of Fannie and Freddie 7 weeks ahead of this information becoming public knowledge. The report basically is a summary of a meeting that took place at the offices of Eton Mindich's Eton Park headquarters on July 21, 2008, 7 days after his famous '“If you have a bazooka, and people know you have it, you're not likely to take it out," speech and 7 weeks before both GSEs effectively filed for bankruptcy and were put into conservatorship. Now if it only ended there it would have been fine - a case of potential criminal collusion between the government (although nothing specific against Paulson as he didn't actually trade: he just made sure his former Goldman colleagues made money), and the 0.00001% in the face of a few multi-billionaires who most certainly did trade on material non-public information sourced by Hank. Where it however gets worse is when one considers the actual role of one Eric Mindich in the hierarchy of the Asset Managers' committee of the President's Working Group on Capital Markets, better known of course as the PPT: a topic we discussed first back in September 2009 when we asked "What Is Goldman Alum Eric Mindich's Role As Chair Of The Asset Managers' Committee Of The President's Working Group?" Back then we did not get an answer. Luckily, courtesy of a few answered FOIA requests, some real investigative journalism, and not reporting for the sake of brown-nosing just so one can get soundbites for their next name dropping "blockbuster" and straight to HBO movie, we are starting to get the full picture of just how high in US government the Goldman Sachs controlled "crony capitalist" adminsitration truly runs.

$707,568,901,000,000: How (And Why) Banks Increased Total Outstanding Derivatives By A Record $107 Trillion In 6 Months

While everyone was focused on the impending European collapse, the latest soon to be refuted rumors of a quick fix from the Welt am Sonntag notwithstanding, the Bank of International Settlements reported a number that quietly slipped through the cracks of the broader media. Which is paradoxical because it is the biggest ever reported in the financial world: the number in question is $707,568,901,000,000 and represents the latest total amount of all notional Over The Counter (read unregulated) outstanding derivatives reported by the world's financial institutions to the BIS for its semi-annual OTC derivatives report titled "OTC derivatives market activity in the first half of 2011." Said otherwise, for the six month period ended June 30, 2011, the total number of outstanding derivatives surged past the previous all time high of $673 trillion from June 2008, and is now firmly in 7-handle territory: the synthetic credit bubble has now been blown to a new all time high. What is probably just as disturbing is that in the first 6 months of 2011, the total outstanding notional of all derivatives rose from $601 trillion at December 31, 2010 to $708 trillion at June 30, 2011. A $107 trillion increase in notional in half a year. Needless to say this is the biggest increase in history. So why did the notional increase by such an incomprehensible amount? Simple: based on some widely accepted (and very much wrong) definitions of gross market value (not to be confused with gross notional), the value of outstanding derivatives actually declined in the first half of the year from $21.3 trillion to $19.5 trillion (a number still 33% greater than US GDP). Which means that in order to satisfy what likely threatened to become a self-feeding margin call as the (previously) $600 trillion derivatives market collapsed on itself, banks had to sell more, more, more derivatives in order to collect recurring and/or upfront premia and to pad their books with GAAP-endorsed delusions of future derivative based cash flows. Because derivatives in addition to a core source of trading desk P&L courtesy of wide bid/ask spreads (there is a reason banks want to keep them OTC and thus off standardization and margin-destroying exchanges) are also terrific annuities for the status quo. Just ask Buffett why he sold a multi-billion index put on the US stock market. The answer is simple - if he ever has to make good on it, it is too late.

Muddy Waters Releases 80 Page Report Disclosing Latest "Strong Sell" Target: Focus Media (Nasdaq: FMCN)

If Sino Forest is any indication, the $3 billion market cap company is about to have a B -> M market cap transition. The reason: Muddy Waters just said FMCN could be the next Olympus: "FMCN has been fraudulently overstating the number of screens in its LCD network by approximately 50%. This is similar to China MediaExpress Holdings, Inc. (OTC: CCME), which we reported is a fraud on February 3, 2011. We therefore question whether FMCN’s core LCD business is viable."  From the report: "Muddy Waters rates Focus Media Holding Ltd. (NASDAQ: FMCN) shares a Strong Sell because of significant overstatement of the number of screens in its LCD network and its Olympus-style acquisition overpayments. The $1.1 billion in write-downs from its acquisitions exceed one-third of FMCN’s enterprise value, making FMCN’s acquisitive behavior more destructive than Olympus’s to shareholder value. FMCN insiders have sold at least $1.7 billion worth of stock (two-thirds of FMCN’s enterprise value) since FMCN’s IPO. At the same time, the insiders and their business associates further enrich themselves by trading in FMCN assets, while costing FMCN shareholders substantial sums of money."

Print, Rally, Then What?

The demand that the ECB becomes the lender of last (and only) resort has reached a crescendo.  Virtually everyone in the world is pleading with Germany to allow the ECB to print money and buy massive amounts of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Belgium, and possibly Austrian debt.  But as far as I can tell, the analysis doesn’t go beyond buy and the problem will be solved.Before taking the step to print, all that we can hope for is that someone will actually do some serious analysis of the potential consequences, beyond the immediate relief rally.It may be the best solution, but until I see some real analysis convincing me the consequences of printing have been thought out, we will remain in the camp that letting some defaults, break-ups, write-downs, is the best longer term solution in spite of short term pain.