August 26, 2016

"Expensive" US Banks Are Global Outlier As 'Yield Curve' Inverts For First Time Since Lehman

12-months US Libor squeezed higher in anticipation to changes in US regulation on prime money-market funds, kicking in on October 14th. However, Fasanara Capital's Francesco Filia warns that critically, it is unclear whether such technical factors will fade, partially or in full, once the new regulation kicks in and uncertainties clear. Coincidentally, rates on short-dated govies also moved higher in past weeks in anticipation of potential rate hikes by the FED.

In addition to the tighter financial conditions in the inter-banking market that the squeeze on swap rates implies, to domestic and foreign users (as also reflected by TED spreads and OIS/Libor spreads being the widest since 2011), we note that Libor rates are now close to long dated US rates, resulting in a much flatter yield curve.  

Interestingly, the US yield curve is now flat between 12months Libor and 10yr Treasury yield,  for the first time since 2008.

The funding squeeze on Libor rates might prove temporary, but even then the US curve remains very flat: the spread between 10yr US Treasuries and 2yr US Treasuries is the tightest in years (at ~80bps) and on a multi-years declining path.

The shape of the yield curve is a major driver of profitability for commercial banks: the flatter the curve the least profitable its traditional core business of borrowing short-term/lending long-term.

The low level of interest rates is a major driver of profitability for all banks, not just commercial.

Banks’ main commodity is interest rates, so much as oil is the main commodity for oil companies: the lower the level of interest rates the least profitable its core and non-core businesses (fees, carry, bid-offers, trading, liquidity providing are all affected).

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August 25, 2016

Four More Mega-Banks Join The Anti-Dollar Alliance

Yesterday I told you how a consortium of 15 Japanese banks had just signed up to implement new financial technology to clear and settle international financial transactions.

This is a huge step.

Right now, most international financial transactions must pass through the US banking system’s network of correspondent accounts.

This gives the US government an incredible amount of power… power they haven’t been shy about using over the last several years.

2014 was one of the first major watershed moments when the Obama administration fined French bank BNP Paribas $9 billion for doing business with countries that the US doesn’t like– namely Cuba and Iran.

It didn’t matter that this French bank wasn’t violating any French laws.

Nor did it matter that only months later the President of the United States inked a sweetheart nuclear deal with Iran and flew down to Cuba to attend a baseball game with his new BFFs.

BNP had to pay up. A French bank paid $9 billion because they violated US law.

And if they didn’t pay, the US government threatened to kick them out of the US banking system.

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August 24, 2016

ECB Secretly Hands Cash to Select Corporations

In June, the ECB began buying the bonds of some of the most powerful companies in Europe as well as the European subsidiaries of foreign multinationals. This pushed the average yield on euro investment-grade corporate debt to 0.65%. Large quantities of highly rated corporate debt with shorter maturities are trading at negative yields, where brainwashed investors engage in the absurdity of paying for the privilege of lending money to corporations. By August 12, the ECB had handed out over €16 billion in freshly printed money in exchange for corporate bonds.

Throughout, the public was given to understand that the ECB was buying already-issued bonds trading in secondary markets. But the public has been fooled.

Now it has been revealed by The Wall Street Journal that the ECB has also secretly been buying bonds directly from companies, thus handing them directly its freshly printed money.

It has been doing so via “private placements.” These debt sales are not open to the broader market. There’s no need for a prospectus. Only a small number of institutional investors participate. It allows companies to raise cash quickly, without jumping through the normal hoops. Private placements are not unusual. What’s new is that the ECB used them to buy bonds.

There have been two of these secretive private placements. And Morgan Stanley arranged them. The Wall Street Journal determined this by analyzing data from Dealogic and national central banks.

The two companies involved were the Spanish energy giants Repsol and Iberdrola. The Bank of Spain, now no more than a local branch of the ECB, was among the select buyers of a €500 million bond issued by Repsol. It is also the owner of part of a €200 million bond issued by Iberdrola. Among the advantages of issuing debt in a private placement is that it allows companies to raise cash quickly. According to Apostolos Gkoutzinis, head of European capital markets at law firm Shearman & Sterling, cited by The Wall Street Journal: because there is no prospectus or the other formalities required in a normal bond offering, “there won’t be any transparency, there won’t be a press release. It’s all done discreetly.”

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August 23, 2016

Fed Admits Another $4 Trillion In QE Will Be Needed To Offset An "Economic Shock"

In a Fed Staff working paper released over the weekend titled "Gauging the Ability of the FOMC to Respond to Future Recessions" and penned by deputy director of the division of research and statistics at the Fed, the author concludes that "simulations of the FRB/US model of a severe recession suggest that large-scale asset purchases and forward guidance about the future path of the federal funds rate should be able to provide enough additional accommodation to fully compensate for a more limited [ability] to cut short-term interest rates in most, but probably not all, circumstances."

So far so good, however, there are some notable problems with the paper's assumptions, as Citi head of G10 FX, Steven Englander, observes.

He writes that the paper’s basic framework is to take the standard US economic model used by the Fed, give it a negative shock big enough to push the unemployment rate up by 5 percentage points (big but not unprecedented over the last 50 years) and deploying the Fed’s policy rate, QE and forward guidance tools to see if they are adequate to get the economy back on track. Negative rates and helicopter money are not used.

The two simulations assume:

  1. the economy is in equilibrium initially with inflation at 2%, r* at 1%, so equilibrium nominal fed funds is 3%
  2. the economy is in equilibrium initially with inflation at 2%, r* at zero (secular stagnation) and equilibrium nominal fed funds at 2%

He compares three policy approaches. The first assumes a linear world where fed funds can go into negative territory but there is no breakdown in the structure of economic relationships. It is probably not a realistic view of policy ineffectiveness at negative rates, but it is mean to be a baseline. The second just takes fed funds down to zero and keeps it there long enough for unemployment to return to baseline.

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August 22, 2016

OPEC Ignites Biggest Short Squeeze In History: Hedge Funds Cut Oil Shorts By Most On Record

Ever since the February crash, when oil tumbled to 13 years lows, and when OPEC started releasing tactical headlines at key inflection points about an imminent oil production freeze (which not only never arrived but has since seen Saudi Arabia's output grow to record levels) which we first suggested were meant to trigger a short squeeze among headline scanning HFT algos, our suggestion was - as is often the case - dismissed as yet another conspiracy theory.

Six months later, this conspiracy theory is now a widely accepted fact, and as Bloomberg reports tonight, "well-timed" OPEC talk of a potential deal to freeze output, has "forced bears" into a historic squeeze and helped push oil close to $50 a barrel, prompting West Texas Intermediate from a bear to a bull market in less than three weeks.

"This is all courtesy of some very well-timed comments from the Saudi oil minister," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York hedge fund focused on energy. "They’ve been successful over the last year in jawboning the market, and this is the latest example."

And while one can debate whether OPEC's "headline" leaks are timed to coincide with near-record short positions on WTI, one thing is certain: the past week saw the biggest crude oil short squeeze on record as money managers cut bets on falling prices by the most ever.

According to Bloomberg, Hedge funds trimmed their short position in WTI by 56,907 futures and options during the week ended Aug. 16, the most in data going back to 2006. And, as one would expect following yet another record short squeeze similar to the one experienced earlier in the year, WTI futures rose 8.9% to $46.58 a barrel in the report week and closed at $48.52 a barrel on Aug. 19. WTI is up more than 20 percent from its Aug. 2 low, meeting the common definition of a bull market.

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August 19, 2016

Another Market Descends Into Chaos: "It’s Madness. The Market Makes Major Moves For No Reason"

While that is indeed the quoted lament of a living, breathing market participant, it does not refer to what takes place in the stock or - increasingly more often - the bond or FX market. Instead, what Blake Alberts, cited by the WSJ, is furious about are the wild swings in the cattle futures market, which as a result of its recent unprecedented moves, has been dubbed “the meat casino” by traders.

In response, the WSJ writes, the world’s largest futures exchange has refused to list new contracts, leaving ranchers with fewer tools to hedge the $10.9 billion market. The reason is one painfully familiar to traders across all other product segments: a lack of collateral, only in the case of physical cattle it is much worse. According to the CME Group trading of physical cattle has become so scant that the futures market can’t get the signals it needs to set prices.

While we have long expected market-moving disconnects between a rapidly shrinking collateral base, and an exponentially growing universe of derivatives referencing this shrinking pool of underlying securities, we did not anticipate this would take place in this relatively quiet market. 

According to the WSJ, the decision to delay new contract listings is the culmination of alarms raised by the exchange and industry groups this year that problems in the physical marketplace have affected futures—a highly unusual meltdown in a market that has attracted more speculators.

As the chart below shows, live-cattle futures climbed as high as $1.4155 a pound before free-falling to $1.1580 over seven weeks this spring. That represents a more than $10,000 drop in income for a single contract. Many producers have lost money as prices tumbled to a five-year low of $1.07525 a pound this summer.

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August 18, 2016

Ford Announces Plans To Self-Destruct Starting In 2021

Ford CEO, Mark Fields, sat down with Bloomberg to discuss plans to introduce a completely autonomous car by 2021.  The only real problem we see with that plan is that it pretty much ensures their own demise.  That said, they're pretty much doomed anyway so might as well go for it.  

The company said it plans to have a fully autonomous vehicle -- no steering wheel, no gas or brake pedals -- available by 2021 for ride-hailing services.

“We see the autonomous car changing the way the world moves once again,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields said today at Ford’s research lab in Palo Alto, California. “They address a whole host of safety, social and environmental issues.”

Like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Ford will skip the interim steps of driver-assisted technology as a way to evolve toward full autonomy. Its plan to deploy self-driving cars in ride-hailing and ride-sharing fleets is similar to what General Motors Co. aims to do with Lyft Inc. Ford’s 2021 scheduled start matches BMW’s ambitious timeframe.

“We believe in our plan that taking the driver out of the loop is really important,” Fields said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. The automaker couldn’t find a sensible way through the “no-man’s land” -- determining exactly when a robotic car should to try to re-engage a human driver in an emergency.

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August 17, 2016

Lord Rothschild: "This Is The Greatest Experiment In Monetary Policy In The History Of The World"

Two months ago, the bond manager of what was once the world's biggest bond fund had a dire prediction about how "all of this" will end (spoiler: not well).

Gross: Global yields lowest in 500 years of recorded history. $10 trillion of neg. rate bonds. This is a supernova that will explode one day.

Now, it is the turn of another financial icon, if from a vastly different legacy -  and pedigree - that of Rothschild Investment Trust Chairman himself, Lord Jacob Rothschild, who appears to be the latest entrant to the bearish billionaire club.

We were surprised to find his summary of recent events downright gloomy, and certainly non-conforming with a stock "market", manipulated by central banks as it may be, trading at all time highs. Here are the key excerpts:

The six months under review have seen central bankers continuing what is surely the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world. We are therefore in uncharted waters and it is impossible to predict the unintended consequences of very low interest rates, with some 30% of global government debt at negative yields, combined with quantitative easing on a massive scale.

Read the entire article

August 16, 2016

Pension Duration Dilemma - Why Pension Funds Are Driving The Biggest Bond Bubble In History

We've frequently discussed the many problems faced by pension funds.  Public and private pension funds around the globe are massively underfunded yet they continue to pay out current claims in full despite insufficient funding to cover future liabilities...also referred to as a ponzi scheme.  In fact, we recently noted that the Central States Pension Fund pays out $3.46 in pension funds for every $1 it receives from employers (see our post entitled "407,000 Workers Stunned As Pension Fund Proposes 60% Cuts, Treasury Says "Not Enough""). 

The pension problem is often attributed to low returns on assets.  As Bill Gross frequently points out, low interest rates are the enemy of savers and pension funds have some of the biggest savings accounts around. 

That said, the impact of declining interest rates on the asset side of a pension's net funded status is dwarfed by the much more devastating impact of declining discount rates used to value future benefit obligations.  The problem is one of duration.  By definition, pension liabilities represent the present value of future benefit payments owed to retirees which is a virtually perpetual cash flow stream.  Obviously, the longer the duration of a cash flow stream the larger the impact of interest rate swings on the present value of that stream.

We created the chart below as a simplistic illustration of the pension "duration dilemma."  The chart graphs how a pension liability grows in a declining interest rate environment versus the value of 5-year and 30-year treasury bonds.  As you can see, a $1BN pension that is fully funded at prevailing interest rates would be nearly $700mm underfunded if interest rates declined 300bps and all of their assets were invested in 30-year treasury bonds.  The result is obviously even worse if the fund's assets are invested in shorter duration 5-year treasuries. 

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August 15, 2016

How Long Can Economic Reality Be Ignored?

Trump and Hitlery have come out with the obligatory “economic plans.” Neither them nor their advisors, have any idea about what really needs to be done, but this is of no concern to the media.

The presstitutes operate according to “pay and say.” They say what they are paid to say and that is whatever serves the corporations and the government. This means that the presstitutes like Hitlery’s economic plan and do not like Trump’s.

Yesterday I listened to the NPR presstitutes say how Trump pretends to be in favor of free trade but really is against it, because he is against all the free trade agreements such as NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic partnerships. The presstitutes don’t know that these are not trade agreements. NAFTA is a “give away American jobs” agreement, and the so-called partnerships give away the sovereignty of countries in order to award global corporations immunity from laws.

As I have reported on many occasions, the Oligarchs’ government lies to us about everything, including economic statistics. For example, we are told that we have been enjoying an economic recovery since June, 2009, that we are more or less at full employment with an unemployment rate of 5% or less, and that there is no inflation. We are told this despite the facts that the “recovery” is based on the under-reporting of the inflation rate, the unemployment rate is 23%, and inflation is high.

GDP is measured in current prices. If GDP rises 3% this year over last year, the output of real goods and services might have risen 3% or prices might have gone up by 3% or real output might have dropped but is masked by price increases. To know what really happened the nominal GDP number has to be deflated by the amount of inflation.

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August 12, 2016

Central banks pushing on strings again

This month has seen the antipodean central banks both cut rates, with almost no flow through to mortgages to relieve consumer debt and an appreciation in their respective currencies, in perfect opposition to their stated goals.

This is not a new trend – far from it. What’s supposed to happen when the local economy slows is you pull the lever, Kronk, lower interest rates stimulate consumer spending, reducing savings rate as a deluge of money floods the economy, inflation goes up, wages go up, more spending and whoosh, in come the accolades from the captured business media elites.

Now levers are pulled left right and centre and nothing seems to happen, further hindered by a lack of communication from both monetary and fiscal authorities into the truth of the matter at hand – that a lack of confidence in the direction of the economy is what is holding back consumer spending, not lower rates.

Furthermore, communicating and smoothing the confidence game that is the market is now becoming more of a parasite/host relationship, instead of a divorced, clinical approach in the past.

At Forexlive they put it a little less eloquently:

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August 11, 2016

Marc Faber Issues A Stunning Warning That A Gigantic 50 Percent Stock Market Crash Could Be Coming

Are we about to witness one of the largest stock market crashes in U.S. history?  Swiss investor Marc Faber is the publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report”, and he has been a regular guest on CNBC for years.  And even though U.S. stocks have been setting new record high after new record high in recent weeks, he is warning that a massive stock market crash is in our very near future.  According to Faber, we could “easily” see the S&P 500 plunge all the way down to 1,100.  As I sit here writing this article, the S&P 500 is sitting at 2,181.74, so that would be a drop of cataclysmic proportions.  The following is an excerpt from a CNBC article that discussed the remarks that Faber made on their network on Monday…

The notoriously bearish Marc Faber is doubling down on his dire market view.

The editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report said Monday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation” that stocks are likely to endure a gut-wrenching drop that would rival the greatest crashes in stock market history.

“I think we can easily give back five years of capital gains, which would take the market down to around 1,100,” Faber said, referring to a level 50 percent below Monday’s closing on the S&P 500.

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August 10, 2016

Bank Of England Suffers Stunning Failure On Second Day Of QE: "Goodness Knows What Happens Next Week"

It started off well enough.

On the first day of the Bank of England's resumption of Gilt QE after the central bank had put its monetization of bonds on hiatus in 2012, bondholders were perfectly happy to offload to Mark Carney bonds that matured in 3 to 7 years. In fact, in the first "POMO" in four years, there were 3.63 offers for every bid of the £1.17 billion in bonds the BOE wanted to buy.

However, earlier today, when the BOE tried to purchase another £1.17 billion in bonds, this time with a maturity monger than 15 years, something stunning happened: it suffered an unexpected failure which has rarely if ever happened in central bank history: only £1.118 billion worth of sellers showed up, meaning that the BOE's second open market operation was uncovered by a ratio of 0.96.  Simply stated, the Bank of England encountered an offerless market.

What makes this particular failure especially notable - and troubling - is that while technically uncovered sales of government securities happen frequently, and Germany is quite prominent in that regard as numerous Bund auctions have failed to find enough demand in the open market in recent years forcing the "retention" of the offered surplus, when it comes to a central bank's buying of securities, there should be, at least in practice, full coverage of the operation as the central bank is willing and able to pay any price to sellers to satisfy its quota.

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August 9, 2016

Economists Mystified that Negative Interest Rates Aren’t Leading Consumers to Run Out and Spend

Not only has it been remarkable to witness the casual way in which central banks have plunged into negative interest rate terrain, based on questionable models. Now that this experiment isn’t working out so well, the response comes troubling close to, “Well, they work in theory, so we just need to do more or wait longer to see them succeed.”

The particularly distressing part, as a new Wall Street Journal article makes clear, is that the purveyors of this snake oil talked themselves into the insane belief that negative interest rates would induce consumers to run out and spend. From the story:

Two years ago, the European Central Bank cut interest rates below zero to encourage people such as Heike Hofmann, who sells fruits and vegetables in this small city, to spend more.

Policy makers in Europe and Japan have turned to negative rates for the same reason—to stimulate their lackluster economies. Yet the results have left some economists scratching their heads. Instead of opening their wallets, many consumers and businesses are squirreling away more money.

When Ms. Hofmann heard the ECB was knocking rates below zero in June 2014, she considered it “madness” and promptly cut her spending, set aside more money and bought gold. “I now need to save more than before to have enough to retire,” says Ms. Hofmann, 54 years old.

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August 8, 2016

Why The Jobs Report Is Not Nearly As Strong As You Are Being Told

Happy days are here again? On Friday, the mainstream media was buzzing with the news that the U.S. economy had added 255,000 jobs during the month of July. But as you will see below, the U.S. economy did not add 255,000 jobs during the month of July. In fact, without an extremely generous “seasonal adjustment”, the number of jobs added during the month of July would not have even kept up with population growth. But the pretend number sounds so much better than the real number, and so the pretend number is what is being promoted for public consumption.

Why doesn’t the government ever just tell us the plain facts? Unfortunately, we live at a time when “spin” is everything, and just about everyone in the mainstream media seemed quite pleased with the “good jobs report” on Friday. However, as Zero Hedge has pointed out, the truth is that the “unadjusted” numbers tell a very different story…

As Mitsubishi UFJ strategist John Herrmann wrote in a note shortly after the report, the “jobs headline overstates” strength of payrolls. He adds that the unadjusted data show a “middling report” that’s “nowhere as strong as the headline” and adds that private payrolls unadjusted +85k in July vs seasonally adjusted +217k.

In Herrmann’s view, the government applied a “very benign seasonal adjustment factor upon private payrolls to transform a soft private payroll gain into a strong gain.”

He did not provide a reason why the government would do that.

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