by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 9:19 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Even as the peanut gallery debates whether or not the dollar is the reserve currency of choice for the world, China continues to diversify away from the USD. After last week’s news that Beijing had not had enough of Portuguese bonds, in a repeat of the same scenario from January 2011, and was preparing to bid up Eurozone bonds across the curve (aka double down) we now learn that China, or rather third-party London-domiciled banks doing its bidding, is now the actor behind “massive Japanese bond buying” seen over the past month. Per Reuters: “Foreign investors have flocked to Japanese government bonds in the past five weeks, finance ministry data shows and market sources say China was among the main buyers, although a large part of buying was made through banks in London.” That said, even Reuters appears unable to get its story straight: “Foreigners bought a net 4.696 trillion yen ($57.7 billion) of Japanese bonds in the five weeks to May 20, a record amount of purchases for any five consecutive weeks since data began to be compiled in its current form in 2005. One source said China appears to be buying the four to five-year sector after having sold a large amount of short-term bills earlier in the month. But other sources said foreign investors, including China, were buying long-dated bonds with less than one year left to maturity, effectively the same as buying short-term bills.” Wherever in the curve China is focusing, the fact that it continues to actively buy JGBs after 5 consecutive months of declines in its UST purchases (coupled with the news broken by Zero Hedge that Fed custodial accounts of foreign UST holdings suffered the largest one week drop in almost 4 years) is sending a very clear political message to the US. One that certainly got some airplay when the Treasury once again declined to brand China an FX manipulator, despite rhetoric out of very brave Geithner at the first possible opportunity this week, that China is precisely that.
More from Reuters:
One likely trigger for the shift to the short-term yen market is the fall in yields for dollar government bills since April.
The foreign binge on Japanese government bonds started in the week of April 18-22, shortly after a squeeze in
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 7:47 pm
Courtesy of Michael Victory
There has been a lot of talk about whether the Fed will discontinue QE and let the economy stand (or fall) on its own legs this summer. As we explore this question, it’s important to keep in mind the Fed will continue reinvesting principal payments from mortgage-backed securities and maturing Treasury holdings to keep the Fed’s balance sheet in excess of $2.5T. Before the 2008 crisis, the Federal Reserve maintained a portfolio of between $700 billion and $800 billion of Treasury securities—an amount largely determined by the volume of dollar currency that was in circulation. The increased size of the Fed’s balance sheet is an attempt to support the ever-growing debt held within both the public and private sectors. If you understand this in the context of the bigger picture, it will help you anticipate future Fed actions.
Sustaining our debt based currency requires constant and increasingly higher rates of credit creation. Factors converging right now are the enormous levels of debt in the system,a tapped-out consumer, loss of productive capacity (outsourced manufacturing), and the inability to grow exponentially due to resource scarcity.Cheap energy (oil) that provided the necessary growth over the past century is now becoming more expensive. We are getting less net energy at the same time we need to be increasing energy returns. The Mid-East crisis is only adding to the costs of energy while Japan’s disaster will add Treasury selling at a time we are in dire need of new buyers.
Although I have stated and continue to believe the Fed will resume QE in some fashion, we need to understand the consequences of no further QE to best prepare and protect ourselves for various possibilities.
Can the Economy Survive without QE?
The main reason the US economy cannot survive without life-support (QE) is that there is no ability to close the gap between available public resources and government spending. Nor is there the political or public will to push forward structural reforms in social welfare or unfunded liabilities, such as Social Security and Medicare. US debt has grown rapidly since the early 1980s when the US had under $1T in national debt. Today the US national debt stands at $14.3T, with annual deficits exceeding $1.5T. This is a pyramid/ponzi scheme that has only one ending, collapse. Following the 2008 insolvency crisis, millions…
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 7:19 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
So after one year of beating around the bush, it is finally made clear that, as many were expecting all along, the ultimate goal of the Greek “bailouts” is nothing short of the state’s (partial for now) annexation by Europe. According to an FT breaking news article, “European leaders are negotiating a deal that would lead to unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatisation of state assets, in exchange for new bail-out loans for Athens. People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures.” Thus Greece is faced with the banker win-win choice, of not only abandoning sovereignty, a first in modern “democratic” history, in the pursuit of “Greek” policies that are beneficial for Europe, or not get a bailout, which would only serve to prevent senior bondholder impairments. How could Greek leaders and its population possibly not accept such an attractive option which either leaves the country as another Olli Rehn protectorate, or forces it to not bailout Europe’s overleveraged banker class. In essence Europe is now convinced, just like Hank Paulson was on September 14, 2008, that the downstream effects from letting Greece implode are manageable. But the key development is that the Greek bankruptcy, which from the beginning, and as Peter Tchir’s note below demonstrates, was always simply a Greek choice, was just made that much easier.
From the FT:
People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures.
Officials hope that as much as half of the €60bn-€70bn ($86bn-$100bn) in new financing needed by Athens until the end of 2013 could be accounted for without new loans. Under a plan advocated by some, much of that would be covered by the sale of state assets and the change in repayment terms for private debtholders.
Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund would then need to lend an additional €30bn-€35bn on top of the €110bn already promised as part of the bail-out programme agreed last year.
Officials warned, however, that almost every element of the new package faced significant
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 6:37 pm
Courtesy of Leo Kolivakis
Stephanie Levitz of the Canadian Press reports, Harper uses Greece trip to teach political lesson to his government and theirs:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought a message from Canadian politics to his Greek counterpart Saturday.
He said that sometimes, a government needs to act even if the opposition doesn’t want to co-operate.
Harper arrived in Greece for his first bilateral visit as the country is being rocked by protests and political turmoil over its debt crisis and the austerity measures required to get the deficit under control.
For the past year, Greece has relied on a $155 billion package of bailout loans from other EU countries and the International Monetary Fund.
But the first round of austerity measures agreed to in return didn’t ease market concerns that the Greek economy can be salvaged.
On Friday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou failed to get all-party support on new measures, jeopardizing the next round of bailout funds from the European Union and the IMF.
But on Saturday, Harper said he’s confident the Greeks will get the situation under control.
“I know from experience that it is not unusual for opposition parties to refuse to co-operate with government,” Harper said.
“But governments have a responsibility to act and I certainly honour the determination of Prime Minister Papandreou and the very difficult actions he’s had to take in response to problems his government did not create.”
Harper said he’s using the Greek situation as an example.
Accompanying Harper on the trip is Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who is of Greek heritage. Clement will be in charge of making the $4 billion in cuts to government services next year as Canada pays down it’s deficit.
Harper said he wanted Clement to sit in on the meetings to show him “we have nothing like the challenges faced here in Greece. He has a comparatively easy task.”
Clement also signed a youth mobility agreement with Greece as part of the trip. The agreement helps facilitate work and tourist trips by young people.
But the challenges facing Greece did hit home for Harper.
He was originally
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 5:10 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Who needs birds and stones when you have an insolvent fiat-based world and a IMF head fond of single (and/or) double-dipping. If anyone is still confused about the ritual sacrifice of the head of the world’s bailout organization (if only on paper), here is Bill Buckler explaining how the immaculate timing of DSK’s being dragged out of a plane and made into a full blown media farce achieved two very substantial targets: “First, it removes the “international” aspect of the moves the EU is making to damp down the ongoing Greek (and others) debt crisis. That turns the “sovereign debt crisis” into a strictly European problem and makes sure the headlines keep coming. Second, the stoush of who the next IMF head will be is now predicted to last until (at least) June 30. This takes the spotlight off the winding down of the Fed’s QE2, which is scheduled to end on – that’s right – June 30.” David Copperfield would be so proud…
From William Buckler’s latest edition of The Privateer:
Osama Bin Laden was simply “taken out” by US armed forces. That’s the official line anyway. IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not suffer so terminal a fate. He was simply stung, hauled off to jail and removed from his post. As with the Bin Laden episode, the timing could not have been improved upon. Strauss-Kahn was removed just as he was on his way to a meeting with European Union (EU) and Euro zone officials to “deal with” the latest flare up of the Greek debt drama. Presto, the Greek debt drama duly worsened, commodity prices fell some more (for a few days), the US Dollar rebounded and the Treasury’s debt limit was hit without a tremor.
As to Mr Strass-Kahn’s “indiscretion”, the entire thing is peurile in the extreme. In what has been called the “honey trap”, it had little to do with removing him as a potential rival to President Sarkosy of France in the next French elections. The whole idea was to put the IMF in disarray. This served and serves two purposes. First, it removes the “international” aspect of the moves the EU is making to damp down the ongoing Greek (and others) debt crisis. That turns the “sovereign debt crisis” into a strictly European problem and makes sure
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 4:33 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
The first confirmation of protests expected to sweep across Europe tonight from Greece to Spain, France and Italy comes from Syntagma square where up to 100,000 people are protesting at this moment. Ekathimerini reports: “Greeks inspired by the Spanish “Indignant” or “Indignados” movement held their largest protest so far in Athens on Sunday, which some estimates put as high as 100,000 people, although a more accurate assesment seemed to be that those taking part exceeded 30,000. No official figure was given for the number of people packing into Syntagma Square in front of Parliament but it was clear that the protest was by far the largest since the movement began on Wednesday.” For now the Greek protest is peaceful, but with the US on vacation, and the EURUSD about to be very volatile, we urge readers to follow the real time update at the following live webcast.
(the feed may be down due to a surge in traffic, we are looking for alternative feeds)
More from Ekathimerini:
Then, some 20,000 people were thought to have taken to the streets of the capital but it was clear that on Sunday, the numbers were much larger. The protest remained peaceful, as people sang, chanted slogans against the country’s politicians and austerity measures and aimed gestures at Parliament.
Greece’s deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos had earlier dismissed the significance of the country’s ‘Indignant’ movement.
“It is a movement without an ideology or organization, which bases itself on only one feeling, that of rage,” Pangalos told Ethnos newspaper.
Greece’s version of the ‘Indignant’ movement, protesting austerity measures and demanding that politicians are more in tune with citizens’ needs, has led to thousands of people protesting in front or Parliament in Athens, as well as in other cities, every day since Wednesday. Some have started camping out overnight as well.
On Sunday, similar protests were due to be held in other European countries, including Spain, France and Italy.
Famed Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis gave his public backing to the protesters and called for “the government of shame” to go along with “the politicians for destroying, plundering and subjugating Greece.”
The protesters also found an unlikely ally in Thessaloniki’s conservative bishop, Anthimos.
An MEP representing the centrist Democratic Alliance party, Theodoros Skylakakis said that the protesters would have to affect the
by ilene - May 29th, 2011 4:21 pm
Courtesy of John Mauldin, Thoughts from the Frontline
“All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”
– George Orwell
“ Hindsight is not only clearer than perception-in-the-moment but also unfair to those who actually lived through the moment.”
– Edwin S. Shneidman, Autopsy Of A Suicidal Mind
Brinkmanship is defined as the practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. It occurs in international politics, foreign policy, labor relations, and (in contemporary settings) military strategy involving the threatened use of nuclear weapons.
This maneuver of pushing a situation with the opponent to the brink succeeds by forcing the opponent to back down and make concessions. This might be achieved through diplomatic maneuvers by creating the impression that one is willing to use extreme methods rather than concede. During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear force was often used as such an escalating measure. Adolf Hitler also utilized brinkmanship conspicuously during his rise to power. (More on ignoring events and Hitler later on.)
In the last 48 hours, so much news has come out of Europe that has me frankly shaking my head. It is a strange game of brinksmanship they are playing, and it is one we should be paying attention to (as if the brinkmanship played by US politicians over the debt ceiling is not enough). This week we look at what seems to be European leaders taking random walks through the minefield at the very heart of the European Experiment. As Paul Simon wrote, “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.”
This week one member of the European Central Bank after another repeated the warning that if Greece defaults or restructures its debt, then Greek debt would not be eligible for use as collateral at the ECB, nor would Greek bank debt. They are continually warning of “contagion risks” and the end of the euro as we know it, and all in stentorian tones that would make any doomsday prophet of Armageddon jealous.
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 2:43 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Another indicator of what the US “recovery” looks like come courtesy of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. As can be seen in the chart below, one can only wonder just what recovery the US would have if it did not spend $3 trillion to kickstart the virtuous (or better make that virtual) economic cycle when it did. And by the looks of facts (and not Tim Geithner spin), the downward inflection point has now arrived. Next up: another $1-1.5 trillion in monetary stimulus, although admittedly in a form that may be slightly different from the LSAPs we have all grown used to love and expect each and every day at 11:00 am EST.
courtesy of John Poehling
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 2:33 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Submitted by JM
Dollar Got Me Down: A Down Dollar Roadmap
All the talk about a dollar currency crisis is getting ahead of itself. Quoting Mises won’t make it happen overnight. It takes years, even decades for a reserve currency to dissipate. Instead of wholesale collapse, the most likely outcome is a steady decline in the dollar over an extended period of time. Of course there is a tail possibility of a collapse, and that is why hedges exist. But the high likelihood trend is persistent policy action to drive the dollar lower with respect the United States trading partners’ currencies, combined with a decline in the dollar’s use as a vehicle currency. This means serious dollar weakness for the next three years (or more), but not collapse.
The Case for No Collapse
A currency collapse isn’t an issue of preferences or sore feelings about getting screwed by any given printing press. As long as there is minimal rule of law there will be contracts legally required to settle in a given currency. This is the interlocking stability of debtors and creditors that inflation will impact by diminished term risk, but as long as contracts remain, the dollar is going nowhere. The currency is bound tightly to political order, which is more stable than anywhere else in the world.
Second, there is a network of liquidity providing and withdrawing institutions made up of central banks. If a currency makes a multi-sigma move and the central bank that issues the currency can’t handle the strain itself, other central banks can act in concert to assist. Note the massive central bank currency swap action that stopped the herd of Mrs. Watanabe’s from skyrocketing the yen back in March. This can just as easily be accomplished for the dollar or the euro or the dong.
Further, the dollar holds a privileged place as it is more than a mere national construction. Like it or not, the dollar is still viewed as more desirable than many emerging market currencies. The dollar holds a special place in the world. It is the reserve currency, meaning it is a standard of valuation for international commerce. More than this it is the vehicle currency for much of the world’s debt. This international interlocking network of debtors and creditors makes the dollar even less capable of “collapse” than the good…
Carl Icahn Confesses That The “System Is Not Working Properly”, Warns Of Another “Major Problem” Coming
by Zero Hedge - May 29th, 2011 1:54 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Confirming our ongoing observations that the pursuit of leveraged beta is the only game in town (“Levered Beta Uber Alles: NYSE Borse Margin Debt Jumps To Three Year Highs, Investor Net Worth Remains At Record Lows“) is this surprising confession by hedge fund titan Carl Icahn, who not only warns that the levels of leverage achieved in the current centrally planned regime is as bad as it ever was, and that some form of Glass-Steagall should return, but that, stated simply, the entire “system is not working properly.” His warning, stated in a very politically correct fashion, is that “there could be another major problem” either next week, or next year. Which is not surprising: after all not only has anything changed, but the very same drivers of risk that nearly crashed capitalism in Q3 2008, are back and arguably stronger than ever. That the Fed is the last recourse mechanism preventing an all out systemic wipe out probably should not be a source of comfort to anyone. In the end, the Fed, as any other authoritarian institution promoting central planning, will always lose.
“I do think that there could be another major problem. Now, will it happen next week, next year, i don’t know and certainly nobody knows, but i don’t think that the system is working properly. I really find it amazing that we’re almost back to where it was, where there’s so much leverage going on in the investment banks today. There’s just way too much leverage and way too much risk-taking, with other people’s money. I know a lot of my friends on Wall Street will hate my saying this, but the Glass Steagall thing or something like it wasn’t a bad thing. In other words, a bank should be a bank. Investment bankers should be investment bankers. Investment bankers serve a purpose, raising capital and whatever, but i think today, and i know a lot of people won’t like hearing this, what’s going on today, i think we’re going back in the same trap, and i will tell you that very few people understood how toxic and how risky those derivatives were. CDS were extremely risky the way they were used, and you look at Wall Street and you say, hey, they did it, but then you can’t really