by Zero Hedge - March 11th, 2012 10:55 pm
Submitted by CrownThomas.
Thomas Woods gives a brief overview of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory, or in short, what creates boom & bust cycles in the economy.
“What Hayek was arguing in his important writing in the 1930′s, was that interest rates actually play a role in the economy, they’re not just arbitrary numbers. They play a coordinating function — when we save more, and interest rates consequently decline, that is the very time that it makes sense for businesses to produce goods and engage in projects that are going to bear fruit in the future”
“Simply saying let’s create more money, and lets jolt that money into the banking system and keep interest rates down, that’s not a solution to a depression, that’s the cause of the depression”
by ilene - March 11th, 2012 8:20 pm
Last week, Greece officially defaulted on its debt. (Unofficially, it defaulted long ago.) This formal default on about $100 billion triggered payment of $3 billion in credit-default swaps. These are the non-insurance insurance products that pay off in the event of a default.
Let’s take a closer look at the tortured history of the swaps and see why they should be regulated as commercial insurance policies.
Our story thus far: CDS obtained their favored status as unregulated insurance policies courtesy of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. It was sponsored by then-Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) — and benefited Enron, where his wife, Wendy, was a director on the board. The energy company had discovered the fast profit of trading energy derivatives, which was much easier to achieve without those pesky regulations. Late in the year, the CFMA was rushed through Congress. Passed unanimously in the Senate and overwhelmingly in the House, it was mostly unread by Congress or its staffers. On the advice of then-Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers, the bill was signed into law by Bill Clinton.
No one associated with this awful legislation has yet to be rebuked for it. Anyone who actually read this debacle and recommended it should be banned for life from having anything to do with public policy or economics.
Why? The act was a radical deregulation of derivatives. It was an example of the now widely discredited belief that banks and markets could self-regulate without problems. Management would never do anything that put the franchise at risk, and if it did, it would be suitably punished by the shareholders.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Across Wall Street, nearly all senior management involved escaped with their bonuses and stock options intact. Lehman chief executive Dick Fuld lost hundreds of millions of dollars and now must scrape by on the mere $500 million or so he squirreled away.
The act did more than change the way derivatives were regulated. It annihilated all relevant regulations. First, it modified the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936 (CEA) by exempting derivative transactions from all regulations…
by Zero Hedge - March 11th, 2012 8:19 pm
Submitted by Tyler Durden.
Since the much-heralded 3Y LTRO program was envisioned and enacted, we have been clear in our perspective that while this appears to have signaled a removal of downside (contagion-driven) tail-risk for banks (and implicitly to sovereigns), the market’s perceptions are once again short-termist. Missing the unintended-consequence for the sugar high is something that we have seen again and again for the past few years but we worry that this time, given the sheer size of the program, that the ECB has got a little over its skis. By demanding collateral for their bottomless pit of low-interest loans, the ECB has not only reduced banks’ necessary deleveraging needs (and/or capital raising) but has increased risk for all bond-holders (and implicitly equity holders, who are the lowest of the low in the capital structure remember) as the assets underlying the value of bank balance sheets are now increasingly encumbered to the ECB. Post LTRO, Barclays notes that several banking-systems (PIIGS) now have encumbered over 15% of their balance sheets but LTRO merely extends a broader trend among European banks (pledging collateral in return for funding) and on average (even excluding LTRO) 21% of European bank assets are now encumbered, and therefore unavailable for unsecured bond holders, ranging from over 50% at Danske (more a business model choice with covered bonds) to around 1% for Standard Chartered. As the liquidity-fueled euphoria starts to be unwound, perhaps this list of likely stigmatized banks is the place to look for higher beta exposure to the downside (especially as we see EC B margin calls start to pick up).
Barclays: Encumbrance at European Banks
Who cares about funding anymore? While €1trn of 3-year LTROs takes funding risk off the table near term and helps buy time in managing the European sovereign debt crisis, we think there remain several reasons to stay concerned about bank funding longer term.
A rising trend of encumbrance: Even before the LTROs, a growing feature in Europe was rising balance sheet ‘encumbrance’ – the pledging of collateral to one group of creditors at the expense of another. The most obvious example of this is the rise in covered bonds, accounting for 40% of debt issuance in 2011. The LTRO exacerbates this trend. Post LTRO, several banking systems
by ilene - March 11th, 2012 8:16 pm
This subject is so complex that it helps to read (and reread) the meaning of terms while trying to understand the material. It's a lot like learning a foreign language. So here is some background information describing what derivatives are, how big the derivatives markets are, and why this is a problem. ~ Ilene
Terms and Definitions:
Derivatives – A derivative is a risk transfer agreement, the value of which is derived from the value of an underlying asset. The underlying asset may be an interest rate, a commodity, equity shares, an equiity index, a currency, or virtually any other tradable instrument upon which parties can agree.
According to Wikipedia, "A derivative instrument is a contract between two parties that specifies conditions (especially the dates, resulting values of the underlying variables, and notional amounts) under which payments, or payoffs, are to be made between the parties.
"Under US law and the laws of most other developed countries, derivatives have special legal exemptions that make them a particularly attractive legal form through which to extend credit. However, the strong creditor protections afforded to derivatives counterparties, in combination with their complexity and lack of transparency, can cause capital markets to underprice credit risk. This can contribute to credit booms, and increase systemic risks. Indeed, the use of derivatives to mask credit risk from third parties while protecting derivative counterparties contributed to both the financial crisis of 2008 in the United States and the European sovereign debt crises in Greece and Italy.
"Financial reforms within the US since the financial crisis have served only to reinforce special protections for derivatives, including greater access to government guarantees, while minimizing disclosure to broader financial markets." More here.
Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) - A type of derivative - a credit derivative contract between two counterparties. According to Wiki, "A credit default swap (CDS) is a financial swap agreement that the seller of the CDS will compensate the buyer in the event of a loan default or other credit event. The buyer of the CDS makes a series of payments (the CDS "fee" or "spread") to the seller and, in exchange, receives a payoff if the loan defaults."
Thus, the buyer of the CDS receives a payoff from the
by Zero Hedge - March 11th, 2012 7:44 pm
Submitted by Tyler Durden.
If there was any confusion as to who calls the shots in the world, the following anecdote should provide some needed clarity. Hint: it is not the US. After last week India announced it would proceed with a Cotton export ban, two days ago China logged “a formal protest against India’s ban on cotton exports amid signs that India is rethinking the ban that was implemented a few days ago.” As a result hours ago India announced that less than a week after enacting said ban, it is now overturning it. Of course, there is the diplomatic snafu of just why it did, and for India it has to do with “protecting” the interests of its farmers, who “complained that, due to higher production this year, they were already suffering from lower prices than they had expected and needed to export to recover their domestic losses.” Of course, the farmers’ position was well-known before the ban overturn. What wasn’t known is just how vocal China would be, as suddenly it would scramble to find alternative sources as it fills its strategic cotton reserve. Turns out it was quite vocal. And India, unwilling to risk a trade war with the world’s biggest economic power, promptly relented. As a result, any and all commodity traders who bought up the widowmaker trade may find themselves staring into a limit down market post open.
From the FT:
The U-turn of the world’s second-largest producer of cotton comes as New Delhi tries to balance its relationship with Beijing, the interests of its farmers, and the concerns of its ailing textile industry.
“Keeping in view the facts, the interests of the farmers, interest of the industry, trade, a balanced view has been considered by the Group of Ministers to roll back the ban,” commerce minister Anand Sharma said on Sunday.
The abrupt move will add further volatility to the commodity after a rollercoaster two years in which prices first spiked from about 75 cents to an all-time high of more than $2 per pound only to crash to $1 per pound.
The wild price swings triggered a spate of contract defaults by farmers and textile mills, and losses for top cotton traders including Noble Group of Hong Kong
by Chart School - March 11th, 2012 5:09 pm
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by Chart School - March 11th, 2012 5:05 pm
Courtesy of Declan Fallon
The Nasdaq dug its heels at 2,900 on lower volume helped by decent technical strength.
Lending weight for a continuation of the Tech rally is the swing low in the Percentage of Nasdaq Stocks above the 50-day MA. A similar pattern emerged in 2010 which was the basis for a new reaction high in the Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 was able to find support at the former neckline head-and-shoulder pattern, turned support.
While the S&P positioned itself for a challenge on 2008 highs.
Although the concern is a swing high in the Bullish Percents, which suggests lower prices ahead for the S&P.
There is a bit of a divergence in market breadth; S&P breadth is pointing towards a top, while the Nasdaq is favoring a trade-able bottom. Despite this, further gains would appear to be favoured given the strong position of the Nasdaq and S&P.
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by Phil Davis - March 11th, 2012 5:02 pm
Is it time to tighten already?
Volker Kauder, the head of Germany's leading Parliamentary group thinks so, saying: "I hope that the ECB acknowledges its limits and quickly rakes in the money later." Mr. Kauder's warning follows similar comments made by Ms. Merkel at the most recent summit of European leaders on March 2. Responding to warnings by Brazil about a "tsunami of cheap money" flooding global markets, Merkel said during a news conference that she was certain that the ECB had now ended its program of issuing cheap 3-year loans to banks. Merkel also reassured critics that the ECB would not repeat such measures again.
The ECB's balance sheet is now nearly 1/3 of the Euro-Zone economy, 50% worse than the Fed's 19% stake in the US and even the Bank of England has "only" pumped their balance sheet to 21% of the UK GDP. On Friday, through some interesting number juggling, Germany's Federal Statistics Office announced that the country's deficit plunged in 2011 and, at 1 percent, is now well within EU limits. They are now ratcheting up the pressure for other nations to follow suit. As pointed out by Mish:
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has already announced his own budget target of 5.8% of GDP in 2012, ignoring the EMU mandate of 4.4% on the way to an alleged 3% in 2013. Rest assured 4.4% will not be met, nor will 5.8%. Last year's deficit was 8.5% and with Spain heading into a monster recession, 7.0% might be a more reasonable expectation for 2012.
This may all be just internal noise to placate the hawks in Germany or it may be stage one of panic over the 2.5% plunge in the Euro last week – despite Greece being "fixed" again. The bottom line is, without similar balance sheet inflation from the BOE and the Fed next week, the Euro still has a long way to fall and we know how a bouncing Dollar plays havoc with the markets.
Portugal is already showing a 2.8% CONTRACTION in GDP for the final 3 months of 2011, 1.3% worse than Q3 and no one thinks it's getting better in Q1. Their statistics agency said domestic demand and investment fell sharply, while growth in exports slowed. Portugal's largest export partner is Spain, who are just beginning…
by Zero Hedge - March 11th, 2012 4:28 pm
Submitted by Tyler Durden.
Today at noon Eastern, the storied aircraft carrier Enterprise, aka CVN-65, left its home port of Naval Station Norfolk one final time for its final voyage with a heading: Arabian Sea, aka Iran. There in a week it will join CVN 72 Lincoln and CVN 70 Vinson, as well as LHD 8 Makin Island, all of which are supporting any potential escalation of “hostilities” in the Persian Gulf region. As a reminder, back in January we learned that the Enterprise’s final voyage will be in proximity to Iran, and in the meantime, the aircraft carrier held extended drills off the Florida coast to attack a “faux theocracy” consisting of fundamentalist “Shahida” states. Why the Arabian Sea in about 7-10 days will be home to not two but three aircraft carriers and a big deck amphibious warfare ship is very much an open question, although we may have some thoughts.
Thousands of sailors will deploy today from Norfolk on the USS Enterprise for the last time on Sunday.
Nearly 5,500 Sailors aboard the ships of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (ENT CSG) are scheduled to deploy from Naval Stations Norfolk and Mayport, Fla., March 9, 11 and 12, to support operations with the U.S. Navys 5th and 6th Fleets.
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), commanded by Capt. William C. Hamilton Jr., will depart from Naval Station Norfolk for the ships 22nd and final deployment March 11.
CVN 65 will not be alone:
After the Enterprise leaves Sunday, three Norfolk-based guided-missile destroyers will head out Monday — the USS Porter, USS Nitze and USS James E. Williams.
The strike group is commanded by Rear Adm. Ted Carter Jr.
Carrier Air Wing 1, based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, will be embarked aboard the Enterprise.
The Enterprise was launched September 24, 1960, by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. and commissioned November 25, 1961.
Its record of high-profile service began with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Since then, it has served in countless missions around the world.
The aircraft squadrons of CVW 1 embarked aboard Enterprise are: Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 Red
by John Nyaradi - March 11th, 2012 3:39 pm
Courtesy of John Nyaradi.
Global stock markets and ETFs shrug off Greek default and now wonder what comes next.
In a volatile week, global stock markets and ETFs grappled with the meaning of Greece’s default amid uncertainty over what happens next.
Although Friday was a placid day, it’s hard to imagine that a $3 Billion “credit event” can go ignored, as Lehman Brothers’ default was a $7 Billion and was one of the triggers of the near collapse and subsequent multi-trillion dollar bailout of the global financial system. We’ll talk about all of this and more as we look at the question of, “What next?”
On My Wall Street Radar
chart courtesy of StockCharts.com
In the chart of the S&P 500 Index (NYSEARCA:SPY) above, we can see that RSI remains near overbought levels, MACD is in decline, indicating short term weakness in momentum and that the index is locked in a tight trading range between 1340 and 1370. The S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) has been in this tight, sideways channel since early February, and the longer this channel goes on, the more energy is being stored for the eventual breakout that will surely come.
The Economic View From 35,000 Feet
Last week brought mixed news on the global economic front.
On the plus side, the Greek situation seemed to be resolved, at least for the time being, the February Non Farm Payrolls report showed improvement and ISM Services Index rose.
On the negative side, initial jobless claims on Thursday ticked up and missed expectations, the U.S. January Trade Deficit jumped unexpectedly which will hurt U.S. economic growth, global economic growth continues to show slowing in China and Europe. Speaking of Europe, European ETFs were down for the week, with the iShares MSCI Germany Index (NYSEARCA:EWG) losing 0.95% for the week and Vanguard MSCI Europe ETF (NYSEARCA:VGK) losing 1.3% for the week as confidence in the Greek solution seemed to be lacking on the Continent.
Looking ahead, one can be quite sure that market players will now turn their attention to Portugal and Spain and the reaction to the Greek default as the news settles in and more details become known. Already on Friday there was talk of Greece needing yet another bailout and the execution of the credit default swaps payouts will take center stage.