The European Central Bank's (ECB) unprecedented use of a three year, low cost LTRO (Long Term Repurchase Agreement) policy initiative may have removed some of the short term pressures from the EU Banking crisis, but like the Greenspan PUT, the unintended consequences are not yet fully understood. One is the moral hazard which is fostering financial "games" to be played with reckless abandon. Some of the mischievous and cunning games are frankly questionably as being even legal! But then, nothing is illegal if the regulators and those organizations charged with surveillance are not bothering to investigate. Extend > Pretend > Bend is the new approach. MORE>>
The Obama Budget is A Campaign Budget. Nothing changes until after the fall election and precisely on december 31st, 2012. Suspect budget assumptions and and the outcome on this date will make a $5T difference over 10 years. The markets will not wait and be hedl hostage to the outcome. The World Economic Forum's 2012 Risks Report, the IMF's Global Financial Stability Report and our proprietary Aggregated Global Risk Level Index (AGRLI) all suggest that like the US, global macroeconomic risks are increasing. The consensus findings are that the center of gravity of Global Macro issues are a combination of Chronic Fiscal Imbalances and a Global Governance Failure. We submit the US Budget as evidence of the later.
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The market action since March 2009 is a bear market counter rally that has completed a classic ending diagonal pattern. The Bear Market which started in 2000 will resume in full force when the current "ROUNDED TOP" is completed. We presently are in the midst of of a "ROLLING TOP" across all Global Markets. We are seeing broad based weakening analytics and cascading warning signals. This behavior is typically seen during major tops. This is all part of a final topping formation and a long term right shoulder technical construction pattern.
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EURO EXPERIMENT : ECB's LTRO Won't Stop Collateral Contagion! Released December 27th, 2011
I would argue that the problem short term is a shortage of real collateral and that US dollar cash, versus 'encumbered' cash flow, is now king. It is clear that the rampant advancing Collateral Contagion will quickly eat the futile LTRO attempt like ravenous wolves. A well circulated Tweet from PIMCO bond king Bill Gross said it all: " What does LTRO stand for? 1- A shell game; 2-Cash for trash; 3 Three-card Monti; or 4. All of the above." Here is the stark reality of what forced the ECB to offer unprecedented three year loans at absurd rates and most alarmingly, the acceptance of collateral that no other financial institutions will accept. The ECB has sacrificed its balance sheet in yet another EU "kick at the can". MORE>>
03/12/2012 2:48 AM
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GREECE: ISDA Credit Event Triggered
Greece Deal Triggers $3B in Default Swaps 03/09/12 BL Greece’s use of collective action clauses forcing investors to take losses under the nation’s debt restructuring will trigger payouts on $3 billion of default insurance, the International Swaps & Derivatives Association said. A total 4,323 credit-default swap contracts can now be settled after ISDA’s determinations committee ruled the use of CACs is a restructuring credit event. Before the ruling, Greek swaps rose to a record $7.68 million in advance and $100,000 annually to insure $10 million of debt for five years. The decision was unanimous, New York-based ISDA said today in a statement distributed by Business Wire. An auction to set the size of the payouts will be held on March 19. Auctions will set a recovery value on the bonds and swaps sellers will pay buyers the difference between that and the face value of the debt.
Greece Default Is Official; Insurance Payouts Triggered 03/09/12 CNBC The net volume of CDS on Greece now stands at $3.2 billion, according to the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, which holds data on credit default swap contracts. “It’s peanuts really compared to the government bond market," said Nolan. "So I think it’s sometimes overplayed as to how important it is.”
"Success" at Gunpoint 03/08/12 Mish - Financial markets are already betting Greece will default again in the future. Grey market pricing for the new Greek bonds to be issued as part of the exchange ranged from 17 to 28 cents on the euro, a highly distressed level, according to indicative quotes seen by the FT. The pricing equates to a yield on the new bonds of 17 to 21 per cent about where Greek yields stood in the autumn and far worse than the yield on debt issued by Portugal, which has also received a bailout.
GREECE GETS TENDERS, CONSENTS FROM HOLDERS OF 85.8%
GREECE SAYS 69% OF NON-GREEK LAW BONDHOLDERS PARTICIPATED
We learn that €152 of the €177 billion in Greek law bonds have tendered, which is 85.8%. This means that €25 billion in Greek law bonds have not - these are the hedge funds that could not be Steven Rattnered into participating, and will now sue Greece for par recoveries.This is also the number that ISDA will look at today to determine if, in conjunction with the CAC, means a credit event has occurred. And yes, the CACs are coming, as is the Credit Event finding:
GREECE SAYS WILL AMEND TERMS OF GREEK LAW BONDS FOR ALL HOLDERS
Did Greek Bond And CDS Traders Just Ring The Bell 03/08/12 Zero Hedge the basis (the price of buying a Greek bond and fully hedging its 'default' risk) has peaked, implying a credit event is 100% priced in suggesting CACs are on their way later today (despite current 'news' reports').
2- Sovereign Debt Crisis
GREECE: Economy is Much Worse Than Presently Preceived
The Bad News Begins- Greek Q4 GDP Slide Revised Downward From -7.0% To -7.5% 03/09/12 Zero Hedge - Not even 6 hours after the PSI exchange offer details, and already the true Greek problem rears its head. Because it is not the crushing debt coupon that is the primary threat to Greece: cutting the cash coupon from infinity to 2.6% is welcome, but utterly meaningless if the debt load is still intolerable (as a reminder, just the Troika DIP is about 130% of Greek GDP, meaning all junior debt is worthless as confirmed by the trading price of the New Greek debt in the 15 cents on the euro region). No - the true threat to the Greek economy is that nobody wants to work anymore. Sure enough, the previously reported -7.0% contraction in Q4 GDP has just been revised to -7.5%. From Reuters: "Greece's gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 7.5 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2011, the country's statistics office said on Friday based on seasonally unadjusted provisional estimates. The contraction, which followed a 5.0 percent GDP decline in the previous quarter, was deeper than a previous Feb. flash estimate of -7.0 percent." And one can be absolutely certain that this number will be revised far further lower when all is said and done. Also, with recently released Greek PSI data coming at an all time low, we wish Greece the best of luck in achieving that -1.0% GDP growth in 2013 as per the IMF's downside case.
This explains why the NEW Greek debt is trading with an implied redefault probability of 98%. Here is how Greek GDP looks by quarter in
2011: Q1: -8.0%; Q2: -7.3%; Q3: -5.0%; and Q4: -7.5%
In the last year, the civilian population rose by 3,584,000. Yet the labor force only rose by 1,569,000. Those not in the labor force rose by 2,014,000.
In February, the Civilian Labor Force rose by 476,000.
In February, those "Not in Labor Force" decreased by 310,000. If you are not in the labor force, you are not counted as unemployed.
Participation Rate rose .2 to 63.9%
Were it not for people dropping out of the labor force, the unemployment rate would be well over 11%.
Over the past several years people have dropped out of the labor force at an astounding, almost unbelievable rate, holding the unemployment rate artificially low. Some of this was due to major revisions last month on account of the 2010 census finally factored in. However, most of it is simply economic weakness.
Jobs Report at a Glance
Here is an overview of today's release.
US Payrolls +227,000 - Establishment Survey
US Unemployment Rate steady at 8.3% - Household Survey
Average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged to 34.5 hours
The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged higher 0.1 hour to 33.8 hours.
Average hourly earnings for all employees in the private sector rose by 3 cents to $23.31
"Digging under the surface, the drop in the unemployment rate over the past two years is nothing but a statistical mirage. Things are much worse than the reported numbers indicate."
The Part-Time Economy (Redux) 03/09/12 ZH About 160k of private jobs added in Feb are 'low-paying work' which left average hourly earnings up only 0.1% (notes David Ader at CRT) - hardly the recipe for a sustainable recovery and perhaps the slow leak in stocks post the number is the rude awakening to that reality.
While the BLS may play around with various numerators, denominators, seasonal adjustments, and other irrelevant gimmicks which are only fit for popular consumption particularly by those who have never used excel in their lives, a deeper analysis confirms our concerns, that not only is America slipping ever further into a state of permanent "temp job" status, but that a "quality analysis" of the jobs created shows that the US job formation machinery is badly hurt, and just like the marginal utility of debt now hitting a critical inflection point, so the "marginal utility" of incremental jobs is now negative, which means that Obama, or whichever administration, can easily represent to be growing jobs, and declining the unemployment rate by whatever gimmick necessary. Yet these very jobs are now generating far less in so very critical tax revenue for the US treasury, and continue to declining steadily in quality.
The number of people holding Multiple Jobs rose by 286K in February, more than the entire employed increase announced in the Establishment survey, and at 7,116,000 is now back to the highest since May 2010.
U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1% in February from 8.6% in January and 8.5% in December. The 0.5-percentage-point increase in February compared with January is the largest such month-to-month change Gallup has recorded in its not-seasonally adjusted measure since December 2010, when the rate rose 0.8 points to 9.6% from 8.8% in November. A year ago, Gallup recorded a February increase of 0.4 percentage points, to 10.3% from 9.9% in January 2011.
7 - Chronic Unemployment
US DELEVERAGING - Nearly Stopped: Flow of Funds Report
The US Deleveraging Is Now Over 03/08/12 Zero Hedge while in Q4 household net worth did increase by $1.2 trillion to $58.5 trillion, all of this change, and then some, was purely driven by the central bank induced ramp in the stock market: $1.3 trillion of the $1.2 trillion increase in Net Worth was from the change of value in equity shares at market value which at December 31 was $17.3 trillion. In other words, the illusion of wealth is and continues to be merely a iCTRL+P keystroke away. Yet the one finding that is truly surprising is that in Q4 for the first time since Q1 2008, debt across all holder classes increased: debt held by Households, Nonfinancial corporate business, nonfinancial noncorporate business, state and local governments and of course the Federal government, all rose in the quarter. In other words, the US deleveraging is now over as everyone adds debt for the first time since before the crash. The credit bubble is now officially back.
U.S. Trade Gap Widens 03/09/12 WSJ The U.S. trade deficit expanded in January to its highest level in more than three years as exports to China and the debt-beleaguered euro zone plunged.
US ECONOMIC NEWS
MOST CRITICAL TIPPING POINT ARTICLES THIS WEEK - Mar 4th - Mar. 10th, 2012
EU BANKING CRISIS
European Banks Now Face Huge Margin Calls As ECB Collateral Crumbles 03/06/12 Zero Hedge - The ECB has started to make very sizable margin calls on its credit-extensions to counterparties. The rapid deterioration in collateral asset quality is extremely worrisome (GGBs? European financial sub debt? Papandreou's Kebab Shop unsecured 2nd lien notes?) as it forces the banks who took the collateralized loans to come up with more 'precious' cash or assets (unwind existing profitable trades such as sovereign carry, delever further by selling assets, or subordinate more of the capital structure via pledging more assets - to cover these collateral shortfalls) or pay-down the loan in part. This could very quickly become a self-fulfilling vicious circle - especially given the leverage in both the ECB and the already-insolvent banks that took LTRO loans that now back the main Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese sovereign bond markets.
Stealth sovereign bailouts 03/05/12 Zero Hedge As the EBA announced in February, that the next stress test will be in 2013, periphery country banks have the blessing of European regulators (and probably the active encouragement of their national regulators and other national authorities) to expand their holdings of domestic securities, and specifically domestic sovereign debt.
Jefferies: The ECB’s LTRO can be thought of as ‘a shadow QE’, in which the domestic banks support the ‘financial repression’ of their respective government debt. In effect, they have doubled down on their own government debt to rescue the country and at the same time themselves. Low nominal yields keep the governments solvent while the banks can earn a healthy spread between borrowing at 1% and owning government debt at more than triple that over a three year period. The scheme can work as long as the government does not default.
Morgan Stanley: With banks incentivised by the cheap loans and encouraged by their regulators and governments to load up on the bonds of their sovereigns again, they are actually becoming more vulnerable to the next sovereign crisis. Recall that the ECB’s version of QE, which we call indirect QE, differs from other central banks’ QE in an important way: there is no transfer of sovereign risk from the private sector to the central bank. Rather, the risk remains on banks’ balance sheets.
SocGen: €35bn of non-financials issuance and almost ?€45bn in senior unsecured have made the opening salvo in the primary market quite fantastic. Almost every issue printed this year is trading tighter versus reoffer as the initial LTRO-fuelled rally works its magic and has the desired impact of boosting credit markets. Tighter spreads, lower new issue premiums and great demand have combined to keep interest at a high. Issuers are seeing lower funding costs and investors have their performance.
The issue with LTRO-II is therefore not the spike in the Deposit Facility. It is with the fact that Eurozone periphery (plus French and Belgian) banks end up using far more of the facility than banks from the "core" (particularly Germany). That has three effects:
It increases TARGET2 imbalances, with periphery central banks owing Bundesbank more money (as discussed here).
It creates a further imbalance in M3 money stock. Periphery banks use up the collateral previously employed for secured interbank borrowing (repo) to now post with the ECB against the LTRO loans. The collateral effectively leaves the system (and gets "trapped" at the periphery central banks for 3 years). A decline in repo borrowing among the banks in the periphery reduces broad money supply in these nations.
As more of the collateral, including retail and business loans (including ABS), that now qualifies for LTRO, is pledged to the ECB, any unsecured bonds that periphery banks still have outstanding will have zero recovery in case of default - since all the "good" assets have now been pledged (encumbered).
2- Sovereign Debt Crisis
ECB - Policy Ramifications
European Credit Signals LTRO Ineffectiveness 03/06/12 Zero Hedge European credit markets, which are now trading at their worst levels post LTRO are much more concerned at the unintended consequences of the massive subordination and dependency than the equity market appears to be. Senior financial credit spreads are underperforming as they re-price for the broad subordination that has occurred but investment grade and high-yield credit in Europe is dramatically wider today even as stocks levitate. With ECB deposits breaking records and bank funding costs rising (as opposed to the hoped for drop), it seems unlikely that all this freshly minted collateralized cash will find its way out to the real economy and do anything but further zombify European banks and implicitly drag economic growth down (as credit markets appear to be better at discounting once again).
There are a variety of problems that arise with credit default swap language. The two biggest are
Disputes about the definition of a credit event and
Disputes when it's time to settle up after everyone finally agrees a credit event has occurred.
Settlement disputes arise over the value of the physical instrument delivered (for physical settlement) or with the calculation of the cash settlement amount (for cash settlement).
Recently the ISDA committee, which is stacked with the large financial institutions that dominate the trading of these products, ruled that no credit event has yet occurred for holders of credit default protection on Greece, if one used "standard" ISDA documentation.
The committee is controlled by the largest banks and financial institutions that trade these products. You can view the list here. For the Americas, the committee includes Voting Dealers: Bank of America / Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citibank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale, UBS, and Voting Non-dealers: BlueMountain Capital, Citadel LLC, D.E. Shaw Group, Elliott Management Corporation, and Pacific Investment Management Co., LLC.
Credit Default Swaps: A Speculators Dream of Leverage
Given all the problems for hedgers, why has the credit derivatives market grown like crazy to notional amounts in the tens of trillions of dollars? Speculators poured into the CDS market because of its tremendous leverage.
If you think a bond might go down in value, or if the bond is downgraded, the credit default swap will gain in value, even if no default occurs. A speculator who gets in early enough can exit the trade at a huge profit and is out only the amount of the premiums paid in the meantime.
It's as if you bought a life insurance policy on your sovereign neighbor, known to those paying attention to be a reckless-driver, and then made a killing when your neighbor had a fatal accident.
Obviously, you know it wouldn't be fair play to tamper with your neighbor's brakes, but others who stand to make a huge gain might be tempted.
Speculators look for huge swings in value. Some speculators aren't too fussy about how those swings in value occur and sometimes try to help it along by say, stoking a rumor mill or other market machinations.
Since credit derivatives often allow speculators to get the benefit of high leverage for very little initial outlay, credit derivatives, which were once touted as hedging tools, have become dominated by speculators.
A Contrarian View on Fear Some Investors Say Surge in VIX Futures Volumes Driven by Bigger Risk Appetites 03/04/12 WSJ - The surge in VIX futures volumes this time is being driven by an appetite for stocks and the need to hedge those positions, not panic over a sharp selloff. The surge in demand for VIX futures "is stemming less from concern the market will fall apart" and more from the fact that there are simply more risky investments to hedge, said Phil Rapoport, volatility specialist at Macro Risk Advisors LLC, a New York derivatives-strategy and execution firm that serves hedge funds and institutional investors.
Just as in late 2008, as the spend of Energy and Utilities rises, so discretionary spending will drop significantly and given the huge divergence in the last quarter or two, the reaction could be very significant. Perhaps this is just the 'crash' that Bernanke needs to run-the-presses again as conditionality will increasingly force investors to reject the 'optimal' buy-and-keep-buying trend as they recognize that QE3 can't start until things get worse, and buying in anticipation of QE3 means it will never happen?
January Consumer Credit Surges As Government Blows Student Debt Bubble To Epic Proportions 03/07/12 Zero Hedge - One look at the just released consumer credit data would make one believe that the US consumer is getting back into it and the velocity of money is finally starting to ramp up: after all the headline January number came at a whopping +$17.8 billion on expectations of +10.5 billion. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the first chart below demonstrates, January revolving credit, as in that used on one's credit card, actually declined by $2.9 billion compared to December, and was back to $800.9 billion: the first decline in 4 months as consumers spend less following an already weak holiday season. Yet offsetting this was an absolutely massive surge in Non-revolving credit, i.e., mostly student debt, which soared by $20.7 billion in the month, the highest sequential jump in this category in history, leading to a very misleading print of a major increase in credit. For earlier observations on the soaring student loan bubble see here. And it gets worse: when spread by sources of credit, the only place where credit came from was the US government, which funded a near record $28 billion, all of it going into student loans, even as every other source of credit declined in the month! If this is not the most blatant gaming of headlines, we don't know what is. But yes, America's lucky students get ever deeper into debt slavery, only to realize upon graduation that there are no jobs that pay high enough to allow them to pay off this debt. Thank you uncle Sam - may we have another bubble.
Government portion of total credit (courtesy of John Lohman). Getting plain ridiculous as the government has now funded nearly 20% of consumer debt, in addition to having nearly 102% of Federal debt/GDP.
Companies' Pension Plea 03/05/12 WSJ Congress eased the rules on pension-funding requirements at least six times between 2002 and 2010, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that insures the private sector's defined-benefit plans. The danger is that such assistance can have unintended results.
23 - Pension - Entitlement Crisis
GOLD - Suddenly Everyone Wants it Back from NY Fed?
Switzerland Wants Its Gold Back From The New York Fed 03/07/12 Zero Hedge - The “Gold Initiative”: A Swiss Initiative to Secure the Swiss National Bank’s Gold Reserves initiative, launched recently by four members of the Swiss parliament, the Swiss people should have a right to vote on 3 simple things: i) keeping the Swiss gold physically in Switzerland; ii) forbidding the SNB from selling any more of its gold reserves, and iii) the SNB has to hold at least 20% of its assets in gold. Needless the say the implications of this vote actually succeeding are comparable to the Greeks holding a referendum on whether or not to be in the Eurozone. And everyone saw how quickly G-Pap was "eliminated" within hours of making that particular threat. Yet it begs the question: how many more international grassroots outcries for if not repatriation, then at least an audit of foreign gold held by the New York Fed have to take place, before Goldman's (and New York Fed's) Bill Dudley relents? And why are the international central banks not disclosing what their people demand, if only to confirm that the gold is present and accounted for, even if it is at the Federal Reserve?
CONSUMER PRESSURES - Slowing May be Lagging, But It is Coming
Lance Roberts Streettalklive
34 - Slowing Retail & Consumer Sales
Gold & Silver Backed, Absolute-Return
Alternative Investments Q&A -- Hit PLAY to hear all or click on a specific title below
past performance is no guarantee of future results.
MACRO News Items of Importance - This Week
GLOBAL MACRO REPORTS & ANALYSIS
US ECONOMIC REPORTS & ANALYSIS
CENTRAL BANKING MONETARY POLICIES, ACTIONS & ACTIVITIES
FED POLICY - Sterilization?
'Sterilized' Bond Buying an Option in Fed Arsenal 03/07/12 WSJ - “Under the new approach, the Fed would print new money to buy long-term mortgage or Treasury bonds but effectively tie up that money by borrowing it back for short periods at low rates. The aim of such an approach would be to relieve anxieties that money printing could fuel inflation later, a fear widely expressed by critics of the Fed’s previous efforts to aid the recovery.”
The Fed's Steriliztion Shell Game 03/07/12 Pragmatic Capitalism - This sounds like a shell game to me. Who’s got the money? The Fed gives the banks reserves in exchange for long bonds and then borrows back the money? As if they need to stop banks from lending those reserves (banks don’t lend reserves)! We all know that QE2 had almost zero economic impact. After all, how could it since it doesn’t really alter net financial assets and does little to impact interest rates. These sorts of asset swaps might influence investor sentiment, but they don’t seem to have any real substantial impact on the economy. In fact, the one thing that QE2 seems to have potentially achieved was a change in inflation expectations, but this program is aimed at stopping that. So long story short – I have no idea what this would possibly accomplish, but it seems to have grown men excited about sterilization so “wealth effect on”…..
Fed Hooey 03/09/12 Larry Kudlow I didn’t want to let the latest cockamamie Fed idea for “sterilized” bond buying pass without a comment.
Jefferies summarizes a piece of academic research put out by the Bank for International Settlements in November 2011:
It appears that individuals forget that financial repression has been used far more frequently in the past, particularly in liquidating the vast debt accumulated by developed countries post the Second World War. Indeed, in the past, the US and UK have seen their debt ‘liquidated’ using negative real interest rates by 2% to 3% of GDP on average per annum.
The US and UK did not use high levels of inflation to do so in comparison to other countries. Argentina holds the record with negative real interest rates recorded every single year but one between 1945 and 1980. Between 1945 and 1980, there was only a single year when Argentina saw anything other than negative real interest rates.
Secondly, the inflation rate may not necessarily need to neither be that high relative to history nor take markets by surprise. According to the authors, between 1945 and 1980, the average US and UK negative real interest rate was 3.5%. However, the average for Argentina between 1942 and 1980 was 21.4%.
FINANCIAL REPRESSION - Toolbox of Centralized Banking
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