by ilene - April 1st, 2015 4:30 pm
Courtesy of Joshua M Brown
There were 25 pieces of legislation entered in the Congress of the United States of America to try and outlaw the sale of junk bonds. … So I took several of my guys and went to Washington for the spring and summer of 1985. And I got 25 pieces of legislation withdrawn.
My friend Max Abelson and his colleagues have outdone themselves with a fantastic oral history of Drexel Burnham, as told by the people who were there.
Run, don’t walk, to read this beast – it is, as they say, one of the most emblematic stories of Wall Street and capitalism ever told. Hit the link above.
by ilene - April 1st, 2015 3:21 pm
Bill Gross is betting on leverage to lift returns in an environment of persistently low interest rates and inflated asset prices, an approach he says he shares with hedge fund managers Ray Dalio and Robert Prince.
Gross wrote in an investment outlook for Janus Capital Group Inc. that investors could opt for several approaches to balance risk with reward, espoused by managers including Jeremy Grantham, Warren Buffett and Jack Bogle. Gross, who runs the $1.5 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, wrote that he is most aligned with the philosophy of Dalio and Prince at Bridgewater Associates, of being “cautiously levered” while being wary of the risk of shocks. (More)
Does it get any better than this?
That’s the question Larry Hatheway, UBS Group AG’s chief economist, is asking about financial markets.
His answer: Probably not.
Right now, the MSCI World Index of stocks is trading near record highs and bond yields are at historic lows. Oil and the dollar seem to have settled down at about $60 and $1.08 per euro respectively. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX, has dropped from its highs of the year… (Continue)
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is battling to regain the trust of voters and global investors alike as the economy sinks and a corruption scandal deepens. On Tuesday she charted what she hopes is a path to recovery.
In an exclusive interview in the presidential palace in Brasilia, Rousseff said the recovery process at the state-run oil giant Petrobras would proceed by publishing a long-delayed audited financial statement by the end of April — and issued a strong denial that she knew about the bribery that has shaken the company she chaired from 2003 to 2010. (Continue)
by ilene - April 1st, 2015 1:46 pm
Courtesy of Mish.
With each passing month, driverless cars make new advances. Within five years I believe driverless vehicles of all sorts will be common, albeit perhaps not the norm.
Robotics Trends reports Driverless Car Completes Historic Cross-Country Trip.
It’s official: Delphi Automotive’s self-driving car completed it’s 3,500-mile trip from San Francisco, California to New York, setting the North American record for longest drive ever by a driverless car.
Delphi’s self-driving car, which is modeled after a 2014 Audi SQ5 and debuted at CES 2015, features six long-range radars, four short-range radars, three vision-based cameras, six lidars, a localization system, intelligent software algorithms and a full suite of Advanced Drive Assistance Systems.
The car can manage four-way stops, merge onto highways, and steer around unexpected presences in the roadway, such as a bicyclist.
Admittedly, Delphi’s test involved mostly highway driving, so there was minimal exposure to difficult scenarios that can pop up in city and even urban driving. But this also isn’t Delphi’s first rodeo. Delphi has driven back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles numerous times, testing its system all the way down I-5. And ABC News reports that the only time a human driver needed to take over the car on a recent eight-mile test drive was when the car had to unexpectedly merge into another lane due to road construction
Delphi has a series of videos for each major destination at Delphi Drive.
UK Rewriting Traffic Laws as Tests Begin
As self-driving car tests begin in the UK, the government is looking to change some of the rules of the road. Please consider UK Rewriting Traffic Laws as Tests Begin.
Britain is re-writing its traffic laws to stop self-driving vehicles from causing gridlock and to help them deal with aggressive human drivers.
According to the Daily Mail, one of the major changes will allow cars to drive closer together “with separation gaps between automated vehicles just a fraction of the recommend spaces between automated vehicles compared to those with drivers.” The goal is to prevent self-driving cars from lingering before changing lanes, merging into an intersection or trying to claim a parking spot.
The UK’s Department of Transport will publish this Spring a code of practice that will
by ilene - April 1st, 2015 11:50 am
The cozy "relationship" between Goldman and the Fed has been documented on these pages and elsewhere for years. From our 2010 question "Why Does Brian Sack Interact With Goldman's FX Committee?", to the Carmen Segarra tapes, the fact that the Fed, and specifically the New York Fed, is merely a branch of Goldman has been firmly established. Of course, for a bank which has every other major global financial institution also firmly in its grasp, this is merely ordinary course of business.
The main reason why this two-way relationship is so very critical, is because in a Fed dominated by career economists who are clueless about practical policies, the entity that comes up with said policies is none other than Goldman Sachs, and specifically head economist Jan Haztius. Conveniently, at this critical time to the Fed's rate hike decision, it was none other than Hatzius who moments ago schooled the Fed during the "20th Annual Financial Markets Conference: Central Banking in the Shadows: Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Postcrisis."
Reuters reported the big picture: Jan Hatzius said on Wednesday he believed the Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates late this year or early next year, given the amount of slack still present in the labor market.
Hatzius, speaking on a panel here at an Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank event, said his view on the timing reflected a significant amount of slack still in the labor market and weak wage growth.
"My own view is that it's not yet time. Certainly not high time yet," Hatzius said, adding that Goldman's forecast for the first hike is for September.
"My opinion in terms of when monetary policy ought to be tightened is very late this year, or early next year."
Amusing that this is the same "analyst" who last year forecast "above consensus" growth in the US. So much for that. However, now that he has been proven wrong once again (recall he did the exact same thing in December 2010 when he went from bearish to bullish just as the Fed was preparing to unleash Op Twist and QE3), it is time to tell the Fed what to do.
by ilene - April 1st, 2015 10:43 am
Courtesy of Pam Martens.
Barron’s should have published its gushing cover story on Jamie Dimon’s stewardship of JPMorgan today – as an April Fool’s joke.
The nation’s largest bank is operating under a deferred prosecution agreement until at least next January for two felony counts it received in the Madoff swindle, the largest Ponzi scheme in history. It’s under a current criminal investigation over potential rigging of the foreign exchange markets with the New York Times reporting on February 10 that federal prosecutors had informed JPMorgan and three other banks “that they must enter guilty pleas to settle the cases.” Barron’s sister publication, the Wall Street Journal, reported on February 24 that JPMorgan is one of the 10 banks being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for potential rigging of gold and other precious metals.
Against that backdrop, Barron’s comes up with this: JPMorgan is “Back on Top.” Back on top of what – its serial crime spree? The article, by Associate Editor Andrew Bary, goes downhill from there. Here’s a few howlers.
Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan, who has kept his job through a rising tide of scandals at the bank, says in the article: “We were tried, tested, and true during the worst of times.” Compare that assessment to the findings of former Senator Carl Levin in 2013 after his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a 306-page report on how JPMorgan had gambled with bank deposits in the infamous London Whale scandal at the bank and eventually lost at least $6.2 billion of those deposits. Levin said at the time that JPMorgan “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”
Bary quotes Dimon from a January call with analysts as stating that banks are “‘under assault’” from regulators, with Dimon adding that “ ‘We have five or six regulators or people coming after us on every different issue. It’s a hard thing to deal with.’ ” Shouldn’t the debate be why, after a nonstop 5-year crime spree, the nation’s largest bank still is being chased by regulators?
Another howler is Dimon telling the Barron’s reporter that the bank doesn’t take big trading positions and thus it is unfair for some investors to view JPMorgan as a black box, too complex to understand.
by ilene - April 1st, 2015 10:16 am
Courtesy of Sprout Money
As we already explained in numerous columns and articles over the past few weeks and months, we had serious doubts whether or not the Quantitative Easing program whereby the European Central Bank would pump 60B EUR per month in the ‘economy’ would trickle down to the ‘real’ economy. We expected the majority of the liquidity to stay in the ‘system’ as the sticky fingers of the banks would very likely use the funds for their own benefit instead of effectively taking care of their task as middle man to use the funds to re-start the economy in the Eurozone.
And the banks will very likely win on several fronts. As the additional liquidity injection on the markets will cause the volatility to increase, investment banks stand to profit from this as their clients will very likely try to anticipate further liquidity injections.
According to Citigroup , the revenues from trading fixed income securities has been decreasing since the end of the global financial crisis, but this trend might very well be reverted soon as investors are desperately trying to protect their assets from erosion. As the yields on most major investments are going south, it has been a very difficult exercise to keep the portfolio’s balanced and especially pension funds and insurance companies are at risk to get hit hard by the current low-yield environment.
Even the interest rates the governments of the more peripheral zones of the Eurozone are at ultra-low rates and we dare to bet nobody could ever have imagined Spain to pay less than 2% on its 10 year government bonds. Belgium’s case is even more drastic. Whereas mainstream media was talking about the B-PIIGS at the end of 2011 when Belgium’s 10 year bond rates were in excess of 5%, the current yield on Belgium’s 10 year government debt stands at less than half a percent.
Iceland Ponders Radical Money Plan Including Elimination of Fractional Reserve Lending and Deposit Insurance
by ilene - April 1st, 2015 6:50 am
Courtesy of Mish.
I have long railed against fractional reserve lending, duration mismatches (e.g. banks issuing 2-year CDs and lending money for 15-year mortgages), bank's ability to lend money into existence, and deposit insurance.
Fractional reserve lending allows banks to lend out a near infinite amount of credit with essentially no backing. Money inevitable creates asset bubbles, but as long as the bubbles are expanding it appears the system is solvent.
Money that depositors believe is available on demand in their checking accounts is not actually present at all. And banks are not required to hold any reserves on savings accounts at all.
Deposit insurance is the epitome of moral hazard. It guarantees money will flow to banks offering the highest yield. Of course, banks offering the highest yields on deposits need to take the highest risks to be able to pay that interest. Depositors do not care because the deposits are insured.
Iceland Ponders Radical Money Plan
I am somewhat surprised by this development, but Iceland is investigating a banking system that will eliminate all of the above flaws.
The Telegraph reports Iceland Looks at Ending Boom and Bust with Radical Money Plan.
Iceland's government is considering a revolutionary monetary proposal – removing the power of commercial banks to create money and handing it to the central bank.
The proposal, which would be a turnaround in the history of modern finance, was part of a report written by a lawmaker from the ruling centrist Progress Party, Frosti Sigurjonsson, entitled "A better monetary system for Iceland".
"The findings will be an important contribution to the upcoming discussion, here and elsewhere, on money creation and monetary policy," Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson said.
The report, commissioned by the premier, is aimed at putting an end to a monetary system in place through a slew of financial crises, including the latest one in 2008.
According to a study by four central bankers, the country has had "over 20 instances of financial crises of different types" since 1875, with "six serious multiple financial crisis episodes occurring every 15 years on average"….
Iceland picture via Pixabay.
by ilene - March 31st, 2015 9:01 pm
Courtesy of Mish.
Religious Freedom Act Take II
I received a number of emails in response to Indiana Legalizes Discrimination on Grounds of "Religious Freedom".
The bill, signed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence openly encourages discrimination based on sexual preference although Pence incredulously denies that claim. Pence now recognizes the need to "clarify" the legislation.
One of the better email responses came from reader Mark who wrote …
The Constitution plainly states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom is sacrosanct. The only restrictions placed on religious freedom are those religious practices that harm others.
And I would say “Yes” if you wanted to post a “No Catholics” or “No Jews” sign on the front door of your business. I would also warn, in the same breath, that you may find your business surrounded by protestors and boycotted the very next day. That is the market forces at work. Even though I am neither a Catholic nor a Jew, I would not do business with someone that had that sign on their front door. That is my choice, too.
If It Ain't Broken, Don't Fix It
I replied …
"Why was there a need then to pass any bill? Pence now says the bill needs to be 'clarified'. If the bill needs 'clarification' then something in it is wrong. At best, the law was political stupidity. At worst, the legislation provides explicit and open encouragement of discrimination."
By the way, the problem with allowing a sign "Blacks Not Welcome" or "Jews Not Welcome" would be the massive protests that would undoubtedly disrupt neighboring establishments, all of which whose business would suffer while the sign was up.
In fact, it is likely the entire neighborhood of an establishment posting such as sign would be torched, with considerable and perhaps permanent damage to the property owner. …
by ilene - March 31st, 2015 8:12 pm
Singapore’s home prices dropped for a sixth consecutive quarter, the longest losing streak in more than a decade, as tighter mortgage curbs cooled demand in Asia’s second-most expensive housing market.
An index tracking private residential prices fell 1.1 percent in the three months ended March 31, matching the longest stretch of declines since March 2004, according to preliminary data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday. The URA changed the method it uses to calculate the property index from last quarter to better reflect the property market, it said in the statement. (More)
To get a sense of the frenzy in China’s world-beating equity market, consider this: In a two-week span last month, the rally lured 2.8 million rookie stock pickers, almost the equivalent of Chicago’s entire population. (Read here)
Indian stock-index futures dropped after benchmark gauges capped their biggest monthly loss since February 2013.
SGX CNX Nifty Index futures for April delivery fell 0.2 percent to 8,525.5 at 9:52 a.m. in Singapore. The underlying CNX Nifty Index was little changed at 8,491 on Tuesday. The S&P BSE Sensex lost 0.1 percent to 27,957.49. The Bank of New York Mellon India ADR Index of U.S.-traded shares declined 0.4 percent. Markets in India are closed Thursday and Friday for the Mahavir Jayanti and Good Friday holidays. (Continue)
There’s a story that Joseph Kennedy sold his stocks on the cusp of the Great Crash of 1929 after a shoe shine boy shared trading tips with him. If even the shoe polisher is buying stocks, he reasoned, the market must be riding for a fall.
New data from the China Household Finance Survey, a large-scale survey of household income and assets headed by Professor Li Gan of Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, provides fresh insights
by ilene - March 31st, 2015 4:25 pm
Courtesy of Joshua M Brown
Why have stock-picking fund managers had it so tough over the last few years? A lot of people would say high correlation in the stock market, but that’s only part of the story. According to Goldman Sachs strategists, the real culprit is low dispersion. We’ve talked about this topic here before, but to rehash: Dispersion is a measurement of how stocks act in relation to each other, not just to the overall market.
A high-dispersion environment is where a large number of stocks are zigging and zagging drastically. This means that returns and risk factors are all over the map, which, in theory, would allow skilled stock-pickers to greatly differentiate themselves. In a low-dispersion environment, which is what Goldman expects to continue throughout 2015, it’s harder to select stocks that will move meaningfully based on individual company micro-drivers (fundamental changes, news, etc).
The two charts below show how the stock-pickers struggle when dispersion is low and alpha grows scarce:
You’ve also likely noticed that funds have trouble outperforming during bull markets generally, but we’ve been over that too (see: Why Active Management Fell Off a Cliff).
Strategist David Kostin & Co ran an analysis that measured the S&P 500 stocks for dispersion potential and the tendency to move independently.
They find that the stocks with the potential for high dispersion are most likely to fall into either the information technology or consumer discretionary sectors. This makes intuitive sense – consumer disc companies see radical changes in stock price as a result of the capricious preferences of shoppers while in technology, individual-company innovation is the big driver. Energy, materials and staples – with largely commoditized products to sell – tend to see the lowest amount of dispersion among their stocks.
GS emphasizes that picking stocks with high-dispersion tendencies will be the key to outperformance this year, long or short. The best hunting grounds are in the retailers, techs, biotechs and luxury brands.
Picking stocks in a low return dispersion market
Goldman Sachs – March 30th 2015