Wall Street is back in the business of lending money at the Fed’s gifted rate of zero plus a modest 80 basis point spread - so that the fast money can buy CLO paper on 9 to 1 leverage. There is your triple shuffle. It didn’t work out last time, but that doesn’t matter because the game is obvious. After enough buying on Wall Street’s triple leverage, junk loan prices might temporarily rebound. Then the brokers will put out the call to retail: The junk loan asset class is rebounding - its time to come back. For the final shearing, that is!
It doesn’t get any more Orwellian than this: Wall Street mega banks crash the U.S. financial system in 2008. Hundreds of thousands of financial industry workers lose their jobs. Then, beginning late last year, a rash of suspicious deaths start to occur among current and former bank employees. Next we learn that four of the Wall Street mega banks likely hold over $680 billion face amount of life insurance on their workers, payable to the banks, not the families. We ask their Federal regulator for the details of this life insurance under a Freedom of Information Act request and we’re told the information constitutes “trade secrets.”
In February, we highlighted the fact that subprime loans were about to make a return: Subprime Mortgages are Back…This Time Marketed as “Second Chance Purchase Programs.” In that article, we posited that with the “all cash” private equity shops and hedge funds no longer able to make good returns through buying new homes to rent, these investors would need some sucker to sell to in order to realize a return (Blackstone’s purchases have plunged 70% recently). That sucker, as always, will be the retail muppets, and those muppets will be lured in through subprime. This is now starting to happen in earnest. "We're sorry, but on what sort of bizarro crackhead planet is putting 3% down toward an asset mean you are “buying it.” ... The Truman Show rolls on..."
The Fed’s 5-year campaign to drive the 30-year mortgage rate from 6.5% to 3.3% has accomplished nothing except to touch off another of those pointless “refi” booms which enable homeowners to swap an existing mortgage for a new one carrying a significantly lower interest rate and monthly service cost. Such debt churning exercises have been sponsored repeatedly by the Fed since the S&L debacle of the late 1980s. The overwhelming evidence, however, is that America’s shop-till-they-drop consumers have finally dropped. But while peak debt means that the Fed’s entire 5-year money printing spree was destined to fail, it nevertheless has produced massive impacts - all of them bad or stupid. One of the most crucial is that it generated an artificial refi windfall to the Big Banks which now dominate the home mortgage business. And the profit windfall was a doozy. Now that financial results for Q1 2014 have been posted, the impact on Big Four financial results can actually be quantified. The four charts below on mortgage originations per quarter during the course of the Fed’s balance sheet expansion binge are the smoking gun.