New York Fed
When two weeks ago we exposed the heretofore secret location of JPM's London gold vault (located under the firm's massive L-shaped office complex at 60 Victoria Embankment) we thought: what about New York? After all, while London is the legacy financial capital of the "old world", it is in New York that the biggest private wealth of the past century is concentrated, and it is also in New York where the bulk of the hard assets backing the public money of the world's sovereigns are located, some 80 feet below ground level in the fifth sub-basement of the New York Fed, resting on the bedrock of Manhattan. That the topic of the gold "held'' by the New York Fed - historically considered the gold vault with the largest concentration of gold bars in the world - has become rather sensitive, in the aftermath of the Bundesbank's request to repatriate it (surely, but very, very slowly), is an understatement. Yet in the aftermath of some of the revelations presented here, we believe quite a few other countries will follow in Germany's footsteps for one very simple reason: suddenly the question of whether their gold is located at 33 Liberty, or just adjacent to it, in what we have learned is the de facto largest private gold vault in the world, located across the street 90 feet below 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, doesn't appear to have a clear answer.
No, American Banks DON'T Need to Be Big to Compete with Bigger Foreign Rivals
The pound took a fresh beating yesterday as concerns of currency wars and debasement of sterling led to another sell-off and experts said the currency was at risk of a "large-scale devaluation". Sterling trails only Japan's yen as the worst performer against a basket of international currencies this year as a 4.5 per cent decline fuels import prices and pushes up the cost of food, insurance and other necessities for hundreds of thousands of households. As central banks tolerate higher levels of inflation, the pound is set to weaken further across the board particularly against safe haven gold. UBS warned that the pound seems clearly at risk of following the yen and "suffering the next large-scale devaluation." Dealers also noted weekend comments from Bank of England rate-setter Martin Weale, who warned the pound was still too high to help the UK economy rebalance effectively. The continued pressure on the currency comes after its biggest weekly loss since June last year amid gloom over weak growth prospects. The Bank of England has signalled it is willing to tolerate higher inflation for longer, while the pound's safe-haven appeal has also waned as the European Central Bank makes explicit commitments to prop up Eurozone strugglers and preserve the single currency.
While it is a time-honored tradition that every single person who worked with Tim Geithner, usually on spotless terms, never daring to say one word out of place for fears of offending the former Treasury Secretary and jeopardizing their government salary, has upon exit from the public sector penned a book bashing none other than the Tax-challenged former head of the New York Fed (whose leaks of imminent Fed activity will never be investigated by any US judicial body), it is certain that Tim Geithner's upcoming book will have a different subject. And since the centrally-planned US population is always glad to help out with ideas, today's key trending hash-tag in twitter is none other than #geithnerbooktitles, which as the name implies, is the collective twitter subsonciousness' proposal for what Timmy's new book should be called. The real time list is presented below. Readers are naturally encouraged to provide their own suggestions.
The NY Fed is the single most powerful entity in charge of the Fed’s daily operations. How can any investor believe that the Fed can manage the system and restore trust when the NY Fed granted MF Global primary dealer status a mere nine months before the latter went bankrupt?
Yesterday we broke the news of what is prima facie evidence, sourced by none other than the Federal Reserve's official August 16, 2007 conference call transcript, that then-NY Fed president and FOMC Vice Chairman Tim Geithner leaked material, non-public, and very much market moving information (the "Geithner Leak") to at least one banker, in this case then Bank of America CEO Ken Leiws, in advance of a formal Fed announcement - an act explicitly prohibited by virtually every capital markets law (and reading thereof). It was refreshing to see that at least several other mainstream outlets, including Reuters, The Hill and the NYT, carried this story which is far more significant than Season 1 of Lance Armstrong's produced theatrical confession and rating bonanza. What, however, the mainstream media has not touched upon, yet, is just how profound the market response to the Geithner Leak was, and by implication, how much money those who were aware of what the Fed was about to do, made. Perhaps, it should because as we show below, the implications were staggering. But perhaps what is even more relevant, is why the Fed's previously disclosed details of Mr. Geithner's daily actions at the time, have exactly no mention of any of this.
Tthe biggest news of the day comes from the official Buba announcement that, in its official capacity as a prudent central bank, it - as first of many - is looking to repatriate some 300 tons of gold from the New York Fed. That, however, is not today's news - that was Monday's news. What is news is that courtesy of the supplied calendar of events in the Buba statement, it will take the Fed some seven years to procure Germany's 300 tons of gold. This is the same Fed that, in its own words, holds some "216 million troy ounces of gold" or some 6720 tons, in its vault 80 feet below ground level. Putting the above in perspective, the amount of gold that Germany will have to wait 7 years for is shown in red. The amount of gold the Fed supposedly holds, is shown in yellow with a shade of tungsten. Why it will take the Fed 7 years to part with an amount of gold that is less than 5% of its total holdings is anyone's guess.
Germany is now openly telling the Fed that it is done playing around. This will have severe consequences in the financial system.
"By 2020, the Bundesbank intends to store half of Germany’s gold reserves in its own vaults in Germany. The other half will remain in storage at its partner central banks in New York and London. With this new storage plan, the Bundesbank is focusing on the two primary functions of the gold reserves: to build trust and confidence domestically, and the ability to exchange gold for foreign currencies at gold trading centres abroad within a short space of time. The withdrawal of the reserves from the storage location in Paris reflects the change in the framework conditions since the introduction of the euro. Given that France, like Germany, also has the euro as its national currency, the Bundesbank is no longer dependent on Paris as a financial centre in which to exchange gold for an international reserve currency should the need arise. As capacity has now become available in the Bundesbank’s own vaults in Germany, the gold stocks can now be relocated from Paris to Frankfurt."
In what could be a watershed moment for the price, provenance, and future of physical gold, not to mention the "stability" of the entire monetary regime based on rock solid, undisputed "faith and credit" in paper money, German Handelsblatt reports in an exclusive that the long suffering German gold, all official 3,396 tons of it, is about to be moved. Specifically, it is about to be partially moved out of the New York Fed, where the majority, or 45% of it is currently stored, as well as the entirety of the 11% of German gold held with the Banque de France, and repatriated back home to Buba in Frankfurt, where just 31% of it is held as of this moment. And while it is one thing for a "crazy, lunatic" dictator such as Hugo Chavez to pull his gold out of the Bank of England, it is something entirely different, and far less dismissible, when the bank with the second most official gold reserves in the world proceeds to formally pull some of its gold from the bank with the most. In brief: this is a momentous development, one which may signify that the regime of mutual assured and very much telegraphed - because if the central banks don't have faith in one another, why should anyone else? - trust in central banks by other central banks is ending.
Previously, in our first two editions of FleeceBook, we focused on "public servants" working for either the Bank of International Settlements, or the Bank of England (doing all they can to generate returns for private shareholders, especially those of financial firms). Today, for a change, we shift to the private sector, and specifically a bank situated at the nexus of public and private finance: JP Morgan, which courtesy of its monopolist position at the apex of the Shadow Banking's critical Tri-Party Repo system (consisting of The New York Fed, The Bank of New York, and JP Morgan, of course) has an unparalleled reach (and domination - much to Lehman Brother's humiliation) into not only traditional bank funding conduits, but "shadow" as well. And of all this bank's employees, by far the most interesting, unassuming and "underappreciated" is neither its CEO Jamie Dimon, nor the head of JPM's global commodities group (and individual responsible for conceiving of the Credit Default Swap product) Blythe Masters, but one Matt Zames.
On December 20, when we posted on the miraculous surge in the Philly Fed, offsetting the far weaker NY Fed data, we were left scratching our heads as the upwardly inflecting data made little sense in the context of broader data. To wit: "Three days ago the New York Fed released the December print Empire State index which showed a broad contraction across all key verticals. Today, in fine "keeping them baffled with bullshit" form, the Philly Fed swing precisely the other way, and despite expectations for a second consecutive negative print of -3 to be precise, up from -10.7 last month, the General Business Activity indicator printed at 8.1, the highest print since April, with New Orders at 10.7, the highest since February, and Employment at 3.6, the highest since April. Naturally, the algos pretending to trade on news, took this news and ran futures higher..." We also added, rather providently, "Needless to say, all economic data in the US at this point is completely meaningless, with regional distortions, seasonal adjustments, political pressures and overall central planning making a mockery of the US economic data apparatus." Today, 20 days after the data release, we get the explanation for this very surprising jump, which naturally put the algos in a buying tizzy and sent the market higher by 1% (before it flash crashed late in the night) on the date of its release, as well as the latest validation of our skepticism, courtesy of the Philly Fed annual data revision. So how does December looks like pre and post-revision? Well, it is self-explanatory: look at the chart and decide for yourselves - blue is original, red is revised.
It would appear that even the venerable Art Cashin had to rub his eyes in incredulity at the recircling of the idea of the Treasury minting a "Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin" to solve the debt-ceiling 'problem'. His brief discussion on the idea is summed up perfectly in his final six words "anybody got an ebook on alchemy?"
Three days ago the New York Fed released the December print Empire State index which showed a broad contraction across all key verticals. Today, in fine "keeping them baffled with bullshit" form, the Philly Fed swing precisely the other way, and despite expectations for a second consecutive negative print of -3 to be precise, up from -10.7 last month, the General Business Activity indicator printed at 8.1, the highest print since April, with New Orders at 10.7, the highest since February, and Employment at 3.6, the highest since April. Naturally, the algos pretending to trade on news, took this news and ran futures higher, even though this implies a sooner end to Fed easing (wink wink), having done precisely the same with the NY Fed data on Monday, when inversely it implied an even more infinite QE4EVA. Needless to say, all economic data in the US at this point is completely meaningless, with regional distortions, seasonal adjustments, political pressures and overall central planning making a mockery of the US economic data apparatus. The good news, of course, is that economic data has ceased to matter long ago. The only thing that matters now: how will the House vote later today.