The Bloomberg ‘Chart of the Day’ shows the proportion of gold in the international reserves of India, Russia, China and Mexico is significantly lower than the rates in the U.S., Germany and France, based on data compiled from the World Gold Council. The lower panel tracks central bank holdings in metric tons and the bullion price since March 2008. Central banks last year were net gold purchasers for the first time in two decades. Central banks, the biggest gold holders, have expanded reserves due to the international financial crisis. Central bank and government-institution buying totaled 192.3 metric tons in the first half of 2011, World Gold Council data show. Gold accounts for 75.4% of the U.S.’s reserves and 72.7% of Germany’s. The ratio is just 1.6% for China and 8.2% for Russia, WGC data show. “Governments in many places like Asia and South America are rapidly embracing gold as a security mechanism,” said Wendt, who expects gold at $2,500 in 2013. “The value of their U.S. dollar foreign reserves has drastically fallen over the past decade.” Thailand, Bolivia and Tajikistan raised reserves in August, according to the International Monetary Fund. Central bank demand is strategic leading to gradual accumulation and it is long term meaning that official sector demand will provide support to prices for the foreseeable future. Thus, continuous suggestions that gold is a bubble today and in recent years and of a gold bubble bursting and prices falling sharply as seen in 1980 is uninformed and misguided. The world of 2011 is very different to that of 1980.
UBS' Stephane Deo has rapidly become of one of the most vocal, and luckily most erudite, critics of the veritable rumor-a-palooza that Europe has become: a continent that is now desperately throwing anything and everything at the wall in hopes it will stick and generate another intraday EURUSD short covering squeeze to perpetuate the illusion that Europe is viable for at least one more day. His note today effectively puts an end to the most current approach whereby Greece will see a 50% haircut on its debt (the 21% haircut proposal from July 21 is now dead and buried as we had suggested back then). With that, he forces Europe back to the drawing table to come up with a plan that is endorsed by the market, with just 9 short days until the Eurogroup Summit on October 23 at which point kicking the can into the future will no longer be tolerated and the market will finally judge Europe not for promises, rumors, lies, innuendo and hyperbole, not necessarily in that order, but on actual decisions and policies. Alas, if the 50% haircut idea, which is now proposed by Germany (in diametrical contrast to a month ago), and staunchly opposed by France whose banks, unlike Deutsche Bank, have not been able to dispose of legacy exposure, is killed before it is even implemented, look for a spike in panic in Europe which will now have to redo everything from scratch.
Just starting on C-SPAN 2 is a new hearing on Obama's Solargate, Solyndra, which today will focus on the question of whether the Solyndra loan restructuring broke the law. From CSM: "Newly released emails show that the Treasury Department was concerned that the loan restructuring, approved earlier this year, could violate federal law. The deal was structured so that private investors moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment on part of the loan in case of a default by Solyndra. Administration officials have defended the loan restructuring, saying that without an infusion of cash earlier this year, Solyndra would likely have faced immediate bankruptcy, putting more than 1,000 people out of work. Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee say the hearing Friday will focus on whether the Energy Department broke the law when it agreed to restructure Solyndra' s debt in February. The lawmakers cite emails showing that Mary Miller, an assistant treasury secretary, said the deal could violate the law because it put investors' interests ahead of taxpayers. Miller told a top White House budget official that she had advised that any proposed restructuring be reviewed by the Justice Department before it was approved. "To our knowledge that has never happened," Miller wrote in an Aug. 17 memo to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., called Miller's memo "startling" and said it appears that DOE violated "the plain letter of the law" in approving the restructuring. "We need insight into Treasury's role in reviewing this loan guarantee," said Stearns, chairman of the energy panel's subcommittee on oversight and investigations." Learn more in today's hearing.
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You Know That Your City Has Become A Hellhole When….
A week ago, after we had already correctly predicted the unwind of the Dexia long CDS trade on the way up in advance of the bank's nationalization announcement, we suggested a Belgium-Dexia compression trade, now that the bank is the ward of not only Belgium but France. Quite obviously, the idea is that Dexia may well trade inside of Belgium once Belgium itself is downgraded by not only Moody's but also Fitch and S&P (look at today's blow out in Belgium CDS for an indication) imminently, while Dexia still has the implicit backing of AAA-rated (for now France). Net result: 110 bps in one week, from 452 bps last Friday to 343 bps today. We expect a pick of at least another 150 bps before unwind considerations.
A few days ago we brought you the delightful Chinese boat launch straight into the river bottom. Today, we observe the curious case of the JH-7 "Flying Leopard" which during an exhibition airshow decided to show just how effective gravity is at combating those pesky "highly reliable license-built Spey Mk202 engines" which as the AP reports were "considered unlikely that both would have stalled at the same time"...They stalled. "The Chinese-made JH-7 entered service in 2004 and is a mainstay of the country's air force and naval aviation, with more than 100 built." Also, how do you spell oops in Mandarin? "China rarely released information about military accidents, but the public nature of the crash and the rapid spread of images of it happening on the Internet made it impossible to keep secret." Yeah, sorry about that. Next: we can't wait to see the official launch of the first (and only) Chinese aircraft carrier.
Cost-cutting days are here again. With the year grinding to a close, and with various banks around the world and in the US once again the target of popular adoration, management teams are wondering whether or not to cancel their "elves" parties come Christmas-time. The first bank to vote Nay on free booze, finger food and cheesy music is UK's nationalized RBS: "Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) is canceling Christmas for its investment bankers this year as the government-owned lender tries to reduce costs." It gets worse: the first person to laugh or joke gets the sack: "The bank will stop subsidizing holiday parties and has banned staff entertainment for the rest of the year, Chris Kyle, chief financial officer of RBS’s investment bank, wrote in an e- mail to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. A spokesman for the lender confirmed the contents of the memo." The latest development marks a new low for the bankrupt bank, which previously had the generous allowance of $16 per person for holiday spending: "RBS reduced its spending on holiday parties to 10 pounds ($16) a head, enough to buy two pints of lager and a packet of potato chips, in 2008 after receiving the biggest banking bailout in the world in the financial crisis. The lender announced 2,000 job cuts at the securities unit in August." Certainly this aggression will not stand: we expect white collar riots, powerpoints of mass demonstrations, and multiple scenario IRR excel models for the pros and cons of banker unionization, all organized via Blackberry-blasted calendar events, in which Wall Street will finally #OccupyMainStreet.
While hardly the explanation for why the EURUSD has surged nearly 100 pips in the past 45 minutes on absolutely no news (or, in this bizarro market, explaining it perfectly), and as the market focuses its attention on where the line of angry young protesters is longer: by the New York Stock Exchange or in front of the Apple store, Italians, once again betrayed by their politicians who were bribed by Berlusconi to vote for him in the latest vote of "confidence" (at a price of €250k per vote), have decided to make their feelings for financial innovation, and its patron saint, known, by storming the Goldman office in Milan. From Corriere: "on Friday students took to the streets to demonstrate for and against the public school funds the crisis and the government. The procession was attended by about ten thousand young people (two thousand according to initial estimates of the Police Station). The raid at the headquarters of U.S. bank Goldman Sachs was the first action of the student demonstration. A group of twenty boys tried to get a surprise in the Milanese headquarters of the U.S. bank, Bossi in the square, near Piazza Cordusio. Rejected by some employees of the home, the young people then smeared with spray paint the hallway and throwing bags full of garbage to the cry of "Goldman Sachs has the courage to face the future without young people." We doubt this is the last expression of love for those who do God's work in Europe, primarily with austerity-delaying FX swaps... Now that the delay can no longer be delayed.
First Goldman, next the heart of all that is wrong and corrupt with Italian politics: the headquarters of Silvio Berlusconi's Milan Fininvest office itself. And this is just the beginning: many more protests are expected to take place tomorrow as "outraged" civilians take the streets of Rome.
An hour after getting a whopper in the retail sales number, which handily beat all expectations, we get "confirmation" that consumers are not only more optimistic, with overall Michigan confidence sliding from 59.4 to 57.5, on expectations of 60.2, but that they have less to look forward to than ever in the past 31 years, with the consumer expectations number dropping from 49.4 to 47.0, the lowest since May 1980. Yet expectations for a Dow 36,000 are easily the highest since October 2007. Although the chart that will blow everyone's mind is this comparison of the YoY change in retail sales and consumer sentiment. Two words: Peak Schizophrenia.
A week ago we showed NYSE short interest, which in the aftermath of the massive slide in the EURUSD (the only real driver of beta these days, and with correlation at 1.000, also alpha), had soared to March 2009 levels. Naturally that left the market extremely exposed to any forced short squeeze, such as that witnessed 9 days ago when based on since refuted, but metastasized rumors, we saw a major flush higher in the Euro, and hence ES, which became self-sustaining once the short covering squeeze in stocks took over. Yesterday we got the latest NYSE short interest update and as expected, the shorts have dropped markedly with the number down from 15.7 billion on September 15 to 14.9 billion at the end of September. And since the SPY has moved from 110 to over 120 in the interim period, it is safe to say that when the next short interest update is released in two weeks, the number will be well in the low 14 billion range if not below it. The question is when the market will start pricing in the end of the short squeeze. Our estimate: at about the time when the EURUSD stops surging on hope and lies.
When we looked at the latest release of consumer debt a few days ago, we spread the data into its constituent government and non-government loans. Needless to say, taking away the "government" means consumer credit has imploded. So where does all this government debt go? Two places: car financing (see previous post about retail sales surging on a spike in car sales especially subprime loans to Government Motors clients), and student loans. Below we look at the letter. As the following infographic from HealthcareAdministration.com shows, student loan debt, now at $830 billion, has surpassed credit card debt—a statement not likely to have been heard 20 years ago. Student loans, unlike any other form of debt, cannot be forgiven via bankruptcy—these loans must be repaid. Is this the next bubble to burst? Look for clues in this comprehensive infographic.
Retails Sales Beat Expectations On Levered Car And Gas Sales, As Inflation Picks Up Again In Import PricesThere is good and bad news in today's economic data release: on one hand retail sales in September beat expectations at 1.1%, on expectations of 0.7%, and up from an upward revised 0.3% in August. Retail sales less autos was a modest beat at 0.6% on expectations of 0.3%, although the previous number was revised substantially higher from 0.1% to 0.5%. Yet confirming that the bulk of the "beat" was in auto and associated gas sales, was that Retail Sales ex Autos and Gas (duh) came at 0.5% on expectations of 0.4%. Basically, surging subprime loans to autopurchasers and the resulting increase in gasoline sales was the reason for this "surprise" beat. And as for the bad news, import prices jumped to 0.3% in September, on expectations of -0.4%, a surge from August's revised -0.2%. And while fuel imports had dropped in August -1.4%, in September these jumped to a positive 0.1%, showing just how big the monthly sensitivity to any moves in the energy complex are. In other words, should inflation persist, don't expect for retail sales, which we expect to decline to recent deleveraging at the consumer level, to persist.
This morning feels like a bad facebook scam. Mr. Geithner continues to remain convinced that nothing bad would have happened had Lehman not gone bankrupt - in spite of a dearth of evidence supporting that view - and has decided that giving more of my money to the IMF will help "solve" things. Solve had been re-defined to mean temporarily, possibly, delay facing consequences only to face bigger problems at some point in the not too distant future. The IMF, EFSF, EU, G-20 are all busy figuring out how to take more taxpayer money to "solve" the problem. The problem is debt that cannot be paid back. Nothing is being done to ensure that the original lenders can pay back the debt. Not a single word of what is being discussed does anything about that. All this done is shift who will ultimately lose when that debt is not repaid. That is it. Instead of banks bearing the risk for bad credit decisions, they will roll out of their positions and shift it into all the supra-sovereign creations they have devised...I am sure we are due to get a good IMF rumor, a good EFSF multi trillion rumor, or even plan, so am prepared for one more good run in stocks, though I think a lot of this is built in, and shortly after any new grand plan is announced, the attention will shift to France and its problems. French and Belgium bonds are the worst performing bonds in Europe today. I would expect that trend to continue.
Update: it's over - the going rate for votes was met and Silvio got 316 to 301. The Bunga Bunga shall continue until morale improves and Italy is broke.
Just out from Bloomberg: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won enough votes in the first round of balloting to survive a confidence vote today in parliament, an opposition official who attended the vote said. Berlusconi won 315 votes in the first round, the party official said. Lawmakers are still voting in the second round of balloting. Not surprisingly, just like in America, Italians completely deserve the politicians who lead then.
Don't tell the stock and EUR momo squeeze-based melt up, but even as European funding markets continue to be completely snarled up, default risk has taken a big step wider today. As usual, expect the HFTs which now thoroughly control both equity and FX markets, to be the last to get the memo. Most notable: Belgium CDS have just soared to over 300 bps, a 15 bps move wider on the day (and a welcome boost to anyone still holding on the Dexia-Belgium compression trade), and are about to invert.
While the euro has been gloriously soaring higher over the past nine days, to much pomp and circumstance, with the move now 3.2% on the week - the biggest 5 day gain since the beginning of the year, and European bureaucrats overeager to point out that there is no way the currency could be on the verge of implosion if it is in fact soaring, a far more quiet and stealthy move has occurred in the spread between French and German bunds, which just hit an all time record. Why is this important? Because as the chart below shows, the correlation between the two had been for all intents and purposes 1.000... until 5 days ago when it bexome -1.000. Which is a clear signal that the move in the EUR is now purely technical and on last fumes from the ongoing short squeeze long discussed on Zero Hedge (watch for the CFTC COT update at 3pm today for the plunge in net EUR short exposure); it is also a loud signal for a compression trade between the France-German bund spread and the EUR, and as such we encourage readers with a capacity to enact said compression trade to boldly go where no weak EUR short covering hands have dared go in the past 5 days.