We read a Bloomberg article today that dissected the poor performance of Goldman’s trade recommendations to their clients: "Seven of the investment bank’s nine “recommended top trades for 2010” have been money losers for investors who followed the New York-based firm’s advice, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from a Goldman Sachs research note sent yesterday." We thought it was appropriate to dig up a previous guest post in our Commodity Intelligence series dealing with the moral hazards of flow trading.
SEC Report On May 6 Meltdown Discusses HFT, Has Not One Mention Of The NYSE's "Supplementary Liquidity Providers"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/19/2010 11:34 -0400
The SEC has released its Preliminary Findings Regarding the Market Events of May 6, 2010, which find nothing, and just bring the promise of further investigations. The to-date proposed solution to the problem is laughable - more curbs, which do nothing to address the underlying issues at hand, which are that the modern version of market makers, HFT algos, pull liquidity away on a whim, and which can destabilize the market in an instant once "momentum ignition" strategies take over. As we have speculated, the SEC will find nothing material until such time as the next flash crash wipes out not 10% but puts the market into indefinite hibernation. One thing the report does do, is provide an extensive analysis of High Frequency Traders, a concept that was barely known as recently as a year ago. One thing that there is no mention of anywhere in the report, is the NYSE contraption known as Supplementary Liquidity Provider, a program created to give Goldman dominance over the DMM-parallel liquidity rebate system at the NYSE. One would think that the SEC would be aware of this program that was supposed to expire in early 2009, yet continues to be extended and provides Goldman and Getco with, arguably, unprecedented forward-looking information on order flow.
Spreads exploded wider today across all markets as contagion from Europe smashed risk appetite everywhere as broad-based macro/index selling/hedging was clearly in play. So many record-breaking moves and breathless dealers that we are a little stunned still by today's action but to be clear, credit was leading equity down out of the gate, did not crash and bounce anything like stocks late afternoon, but closed at 10-month wides in IG and six month wides in HY.
Jean Turmel is a legend in Montreal and one of Canada's sharpest investment minds. He was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about markets and pensions.
This article was inspired by a conversation in January 2010 with fellow directors of the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee: Chairman Bill Murphy, Secretary/Treasurer Chris Powell, and Directors Adrian Douglas and Ed Steer. In speaking about the growing role of the exchange traded funds in the precious metals market, it was clear that the disclosure that the precious metals ETFs described below were providing to investors was inadequate. However, was there a material omission under securities law? I found the issues complex. Understanding the commodities markets can seem daunting to someone like myself with a securities background. Meanwhile, the securities markets and related legal and regulatory issues can be unfamiliar to those with a background in commodities. I decided to ask my attorney to help me gather the relevant information into one document to make it easier for GATA supporters and other interested parties—whether from the commodities or securities markets—to examine these issues and to better understand and price these securities. - Catherine Austin Fitts, Solari Report
Just because Goldman refuses to get it, and wishes to inflict even more pain on itself with more and more public appearances, here is Lloyd on Charlie Rose last night. More of the same: "We did well because we had the disciplined hedging [on housing]."Paraphrase: "Thank you Paulson for letting us steal your idea and have our prop book go $10 billion short two months before HSBC and New Century went tits up. Also thank you for reminding us to short hundreds of millions worth of Bear stock." Also, the amount of money put into Goldman by the government was not important for us. Ok Lloyd, please refund all the $2 billion in CDS profits you made by shorting AIG immediately. And again Lloyd blatantly misrepresents the truth, by saying that doing away with prop trading would only cost the firm 10% of the firm's revenue (so why the massive fight against the Volcker rule?). Forget all this market maker, liquidity provider generic fallback bs and mumbo jumbo. How about some disclosure on just how you classify prop trading Lloyd? Because something tells us that at least 50% of your flow and correlation desk is purely Prop (and certainly serves to bolster prop profits instead of putting clients "first" as we have disclosed about 10 times in the past week alone), as the 901 pages in Goldman discovery make only all too obvious (we will post on that soon). Hey Lloyd, here's an idea - how about instituting P&L stop limits on all your OTC FICC prop trades just like RBS? Oh yes, we'll go there... and in much more detail. Soon.
Eric King reports the breaking news that in a letter obtained by Ted Butler, the DOJ's Antitrust department is considering launching an investigation into silver market manipulation by JP Morgan. Should an announcement of a full formal probe of manipulation by JPM follow, it would be tantamount to a confirmation of what numerous individuals have been claiming over the years, that JP Morgan, the LBMA, the CFTC, various banks, and even that kindly old grandpa who was so much against derivatives except when he was about to lose money as a result of regulation that he is spending the whole weekend telling his investors in Omaha to run, not walk, to Borsheim's, and buy all their massively overpriced trinkets (you can't be a quadrillionaire without first being a trillionaire), are nothing but a borderline criminal cabal that traffics in wealth extraction courtesy of a few monopolist players. As Eric King discloses in its letter the Anti-Trust division announces that "it will carefully consider the issue of silver market manipulation by JP Morgan and other traders. Generally the CFTC investigates these types of market manipulations. However, the suggestion that JPMorgan Chase may be signaling other traders, warrants further analysis. The DOJ will carefully consider the issue you raise, and you can be assured that if we conclude that silver traders have engaged in anti-competitive conduct, we will take appropriate enforcement action."
The leaders of our industry have poured gasoline on the banking crisis and accelerated it completely out of control. It has gotten to the point where legislators and regulators seem to be doing their best to burn the industry down to the ground to rid it of the evils that caused the crisis in the first place. I put this squarely at the feet of our industry's leaders. They ignored common sense, signs, hints, nudges and flat out requests to curb their risk taking to the point where governments now are proposing rules that not only will force institutional break-ups and hurt our industry, but that very well may cripple the capital formulation engine Main Street needs to generate jobs. Talk about cutting off our proverbial nose to spite our face. All that our industry leaders needed to do was come together, highlight the major gaps that led to the subprime crisis and come up with a solution to solve the most egregious issues. Yes -- in order to keep the industry whole and the world sane, some profitable business would need to be eliminated, sacred cows slaughtered and sacrifices made to appease government leaders and stop the gathering hordes from marching down the Street with torches and pitchforks. - Larry Tabb, founder and CEO, TABB Group
Well it seems that at last Europe is embracing currency debasement, unless the parliament decides on a final insult to injury and turn down the package proposed by the ECB/IMF French dynamic duo Trichet/DSK. The choice was slim with contagion raging. No help means an inevitable downgrade by Fitch of Greece (at 20% 2Y borrowing rates like we saw this morning refinancing is impossible, there is no way out) which in turn renders Greek bonds inelligible for repo at the ECB facility. Who are the holder of Greek bonds? European banks of course, especially French ones. Then obviously the same happens for Portugal, Spain, and the entire banking system in Europe collapses. - Nic Lenoir
Recently the general public had the unpleasant experience of seeing what the real face of Warren Buffett looks like when it comes to derivative reform: a man ready to maim and kill to prevent even a minor loss when it involves controlling what he previously called "weapons of financial mass destruction." Sigh - yet another another hypocrite unmasked. However the battle over derivatives is just beginning. As the attached presentation from erdesk.com indicates, the big banks are not about to let a $55 billion annual revenue stream go away without a massive fight. And despite what Blanche Lincoln thinks, with Financial Reform suddenly stalling hopelessly in yet another indication that Chris Dodd's many years of robbing the middle class blind need to end yesterday, derivatives are not going anywhere in a hurry: with $11 billion in IR, $22 billion in FX, $10 billion in Credit, $10.5 billion in commodities and $1.5 billion in mortgages, most of it split between Goldman, DB, CS, MS and JPM, for anyone to think that the firms who run the world will cede such a core part of their business to the exchanges is naivete defined. We recommend the attached simplified overview to anyone who has a passing interest in not only the fascinating $600+ trillion world of OTC derivatives but of ongoing (futile) attempts to reform it.
Now we know why BRK, CAT and the other big corporates came oozing out of the woodwork last year to defend the OTC derivatives market. JPMorgan (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS) and the other OTC dealers let Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) and the other "AAA" corporates play at the roulette table w/o any chips. Isn't this the man who called OTC derivatives weapons of mass destruction?
The rush for money debasement around the world has escaped nobody's attention, and as a result the one undilutable commodity (unless everyone demands physical delivery at the same time) gold has seen investors around the world scramble to get their hands on the commodity, either in physical form or via ETFs. The World Gold Council has released its Q1 2010 update, according to which "Investors bought 5.6 net tonnes of gold via exchange traded funds (ETFs) in Q1 2010." This has brought the total amount of gold in monitored ETFs hit a new record of 1,768 tonnes ($63.4 billion worth of the shiny metal). Some more on the unquenchable demand for gold: "GFMS reports that the over-the-counter market saw a moderate increase in net demand during the first quarter. Meanwhile, previously existing long positions have generally continued to be very firmly held. Net long positions on gold futures contracts, a proxy for the more speculative investment, fell from the highs experienced in Q4 2009, but they remain high by historical standards." Despite the persistently high price of gold, and despite the strength of the dollar over the past quarter, demand for gold is not going away.
Interest rate derivatives certainly help many individual businesses control and hedge their costs.
But when a bunch of individuals all attempt to reduce their risks at the same time in the same way, it can increase the risk to the overall system.
A second whistleblower speaks. As the topic of physical delivery has gained prominent attention recently, it is crucial to complete the circle and show how this weakest link in the PM market is (ab)used by the big boys: Phibro and Warren Buffet. Pay particular attention to the analogues between the methods employed in the 90's commodity market and how the PM (and equity) market is being gamed currently. And to think that each new generation of traders believes it has discovered something new...
CPM's Jeffrey Christian opens his mouth (again), tries to defend his recent "foot in the mouth" acrobatics, hilarity ensues. To wit: "I've worked with major banks and these guys are incredibly conservative, risk averse people. Banks make their money at the margin. They borrow from so and so at 75 bps and they lend it out at 85 bps. They've made a tenth of a percent and they are very happy." The real punchline - according to his bio, the only major bank he has worked at, is Goldman Sachs.