Tag: Bond (page 1 of 44)

Mnuchin On Bond-Villain Comparisons: “I Guess I Should Take That As A Compliment”

Treasury Secretary and noted Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin provoked criticisms from his political opponents after photos surfaced last week of Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton posing with a sheet of newly printed dollar bills bearing Mnuchin’s signature.

Asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace what it was like being compared with a bond villain after the photos went viral, Mnuchin said he took it as a compliment.

“I heard that. I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like a villain from the James Bond [movies]. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie,” Mnuchin said.

 

“I was very excited about having my signature on the money and it’s something I’m very proud of being the secretary and helping the American people.”

Mnuchin said he thought nothing of it at the time the photo was taken, saying he didn’t expect it to be so widely shared on the Internet.

“I didn’t realize the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral but people have the right to do that people can do that that’s the great thing about social media today people can say what they want.”

Asked why he chose to print his signature in script instead of using cursive, Mnuchin explained that he felt his ordinary signature was too sloppy to print on US currency.

“I had a very, very messy signature that you could barely read, and I felt that since it’s going to be on the dollar bill forever that I should have a very clean signature,” Mnuchin said.

An Associated Press photographer captured Mnuchin and Linton posing with the sheet of dollar bills – the first to include Mnuchin’s signature – at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing last week, according to Politico.

After photos of the couple posing with the sheet of newly minted $1 bills went viral, twitter users poked fun at the pair's expensive tastes, with one joking they were shopping for 'bathroom mats' and another calling the sheet of bills, 'their new line of luxury toilet paper.'

This isn’t the first time Mnuchin and his wife have been criticized for appearing out-of-touch: The mockery comes just months after Louise Linton was roundly mocked for a tone-deaf Instagram post authored in response to criticisms of her posing next to a taxpayer funded jet.

Before that, the two were cleared after an investigation into whether they timed a flight in another taxpayer funded chartered jet to coincide with the solar eclipse that happened back in August.

The new bills are expected to enter circulation next month.

http://WarMachines.com

Mnuchin On Bond-Villain Comparison: “I Guess I Should Take That As A Compliment”

Treasury Secretary and noted Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin provoked criticisms from his political opponents after photos surfaced last week of Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton posing with a sheet of newly printed dollar bills bearing Mnuchin’s signature.

Asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace what it was like being compared with a bond villain after the photos went viral, Mnuchin said he took it as a compliment.

“I heard that. I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like a villain from the James Bond [movies]. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie,” Mnuchin said.

 

“I was very excited about having my signature on the money and it’s something I’m very proud of being the secretary and helping the American people.”

Mnuchin said he thought nothing of it at the time the photo was taken, saying he didn’t expect it to be so widely shared on the Internet.

“I didn’t realize the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral but people have the right to do that people can do that that’s the great thing about social media today people can say what they want.”

Asked why he chose to print his signature in script instead of using cursive, Mnuchin explained that he felt his ordinary signature was too sloppy to print on US currency.

“I had a very, very messy signature that you could barely read, and I felt that since it’s going to be on the dollar bill forever that I should have a very clean signature,” Mnuchin said.

An Associated Press photographer captured Mnuchin and Linton posing with the sheet of dollar bills – the first to include Mnuchin’s signature – at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing last week, according to Politico.

After photos of the couple posing with the sheet of newly minted $1 bills went viral, twitter users poked fun at the pair's expensive tastes, with one joking they were shopping for 'bathroom mats' and another calling the sheet of bills, 'their new line of luxury toilet paper.'

This isn’t the first time Mnuchin and his wife have been criticized for appearing out-of-touch: The mockery comes just months after Louise Linton was roundly mocked for a tone-deaf Instagram post authored in response to criticisms of her posing next to a taxpayer funded jet.

Before that, the two were cleared after an investigation into whether they timed a flight in another taxpayer funded chartered jet to coincide with the solar eclipse that happened back in August.

The new bills are expected to enter circulation next month.

http://WarMachines.com

The Stage Has Been Set For The Next Financial Crisis

Authored by Constantin Gurdgiev via CaymanFinancialReview.com,

Last month, the Japanese government auctioned off some US$4 billion worth of new two-year bonds at a new record low yield of negative 0.149 percent. The country’s five-year debt is currently yielding minus 0.135 percent per annum, and its 10-year bonds are trading at -0.001 percent. Strange as it may sound, the safe haven status of Japanese bonds means that there is an ample demand among private investors, especially foreign buyers, for giving away free money to the Japanese government: the bid-to-cover ratio in the latest auction was at a hefty US$19.9 billion or 4.97 times the targeted volume. The average bid-to-cover ratio in the past 12 auctions was similar at 4.75 times. Japan’s status as the world’s most indebted advanced economy is not a deterrent to the foreign investors, banking primarily on the expectation that continued strengthening of the yen against the U.S. dollar, the U.K. pound sterling and, to a lesser extent, the euro, will stay on track into the foreseeable future. See chart 1

In a way, the bet on Japanese bonds is the bet that the massive tsunami of monetary easing that hit the global economy since 2008 is not going to recede anytime soon, no matter what the central bankers say in their dovishly-hawkish or hawkishly-dovish public statements. And this expectation is not only contributing to the continued inflation of a massive asset bubble, but also widens the financial sustainability gap within the insurance and pensions sectors. The stage has been set, cleaned and lit for the next global financial crisis.

Worldwide, current stock of government debt trading at negative yields is at or above the US$9 trillion mark, with more than two-thirds of this the debt of the highly leveraged advanced economies. Just under 85 percent of all government bonds outstanding and traded worldwide are carrying yields below the global inflation rate. In simple terms, fixed income investments can only stay in the positive real returns territory if speculative bets made by investors on the direction of the global exchange rates play out.

We are in a multidimensional and fully internationalized carry trade game, folks, which means there is a very serious and tangible risk pool sitting just below the surface across world’s largest insurance companies, pensions funds and banks, the so-called “mandated” undertakings. This pool is the deep uncertainty about the quality of their investment allocations. Regulatory requirements mandate that these financial intermediaries hold a large proportion of their investments in “safe” or “high quality” instruments, a class of assets that draws heavily on higher rated sovereign debt, primarily that of the advanced economies.

The first part of the problem is that with negative or ultra-low yields, this debt delivers poor income streams on the current portfolio. Earlier this year, Stanford’s Hoover Institution research showed that “in aggregate, the 564 state and local systems in the United States covered in this study reported $1.191 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities (net pension liabilities) under GASB 67 in FY 2014. This reflects total pension liabilities of $4.798 trillion and total pension assets (or fiduciary net position) of $3.607 trillion.” This accounts for roughly 97 percent of all public pension funds in the U.S. Taking into the account the pension funds’ penchant for manipulating (in their favor) the discount rates, the unfunded public sector pensions liabilities rise to $4.738 trillion. Key culprit: the U.S. pension funds require 7.5-8 percent average annual returns on their assets to break even on their future expected liabilities. In 2013-2016 they achieved an average return of below 3 percent. This year, things are looking even worse. Last year, Milliman research showed that on average, over 2012-2016, U.S. pension funds held 27-30 percent of their assets in cash (3-4 percent) and bonds (23-27 percent), generating total median returns over the same period of around 1.31 percent per annum.

Not surprisingly, over the recent years, traditionally conservative investment portfolios of the insurance companies and pensions funds have shifted dramatically toward higher risk and more exotic (or in simple parlance, more complex) assets. BlackRock Inc recently looked at the portfolio allocations, as disclosed in regulatory filings, of more than 500 insurance companies. The analysts found that their asset books – investments that sustain insurance companies’ solvency – can be expected to suffer an 11 percent drop in values, on average, in the case of another financial crisis. In other words, half of all the large insurance companies trading in the U.S. markets are currently carrying greater risks on their balance sheets than prior to 2007. Milliman 2016 report showed that among pension funds, share of assets allocated to private equity and real estate rose from 19 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2016.

The reason for this is that the insurance companies, just as the pension funds, re-insurers and other longer-term “mandated” investment vehicles have spent the last eight years loading up on highly risky assets, such as illiquid private equity, hedge funds and real estate. All in the name of chasing the yield: while mainstream low-risk assets-generated income (as opposed to capital gains) returned around zero percent per annum, higher risk assets were turning up double-digit yields through 2014 and high single digits since then. At the end of 2Q 2017, U.S. insurance companies’ holdings of private equity stood at the highest levels in history, and their exposures to direct real estate assets were almost at the levels comparable to 2007. Ditto for the pension funds. And, appetite for both of these high risk asset classes is still there.

The second reason to worry about the current assets mix in insurance and pension funds portfolios relates to monetary policy cycle timing. The prospect of serious monetary tightening is looming on the horizon in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and the eurozone; meanwhile, the risk of the slower rate of bonds monetization in Japan is also quite real. This means that the capital values of the low-risk assets are unlikely to post significant capital gains going forward, which spells trouble for capital buffers and trading income for the mandated intermediaries.

Thirdly, the Central Banks continue to hold large volumes of top-rated debt. As of Aug. 1, 2017, the Fed, Bank of Japan and the ECB held combined US$13.8 trillion worth of assets, with both Bank of Japan (US$4.55 trillion) and the ECB (US$5.1 trillion) now exceeding the Fed holdings (US$4.3 trillion) for the third month in a row.

Debt maturity profiles are exacerbating the risks of contagion from the monetary policy tightening to insurance and pension funds balance sheets. In the case of the U.S., based on data from Pimco, the maturity cliff for the Federal Reserve holdings of the Treasury bonds, Agency debt and TIPS, as well as MBS is falling on 1Q 2018 – 3Q 2020. Per Bloomberg data, the maturity cliff for the U.S. insurers and pensions funds debt assets is closer to 2020-2022. If the Fed simply stops replacing maturing debt – the most likely scenario for unwinding its QE legacy – there will be little market support for prices of assets that dominate capital base of large financial institutions. Prices will fall, values of assets will decline, marking these to markets will trigger the need for new capital. The picture is similar in the U.K. and Canada, but the risks are even more pronounced in the euro area, where the QE started later (2Q 2015 as opposed to the U.S. 1Q 2013) and, as of today, involves more significant interventions in the sovereign bonds markets than at the peak of the Fed interventions.

How distorted the EU markets for sovereign debt have become? At the end of August, Cyprus – a country that suffered a structural banking crisis, requiring bail-in of depositors and complete restructuring of the banking sector in March 2013 – has joined the club of euro area sovereigns with negative yields on two-year government debt. All in, 18 EU member states have negative yields on their two-year paper. All, save Greece, have negative real yields.

The problem is monetary in nature. Just as the entire set of quantitative easing (QE) policies aimed to do, the long period of extremely low interest rates and aggressive asset purchasing programs have created an indirect tax on savers, including the net savings institutions, such as pensions funds and insurers. However, contrary to the QE architects’ other objectives, the policies failed to drive up general inflation, pushing costs (and values) of only financial assets and real estate. This delayed and extended the QE beyond anyone’s expectations and drove unprecedented bubbles in financial capital. Even after the immediate crisis rescinded, growth returned, unemployment fell and the household debt dramatically ticked up, the world’s largest Central Banks continue buying some US$200 billion worth of sovereign and corporate debt per month.

Much of this debt buying produced no meaningfully productive investment in infrastructure or public services, having gone primarily to cover systemic inefficiencies already evident in the state programs. The result, in addition to unprecedented bubbles in property and financial markets, is low productivity growth and anemic private investment. (See chart 2.) As recently warned by the Bank for International Settlements, the global debt pile has reached 325 percent of the world’s GDP, just as the labor and total factor productivity growth measures collapsed.

The only two ways in which these financial and monetary excesses can be unwound involves pain.

The first path – currently favored by the status quo policy elites – is through another transfer of funds from the general population to the financial institutions that are holding the assets caught in the QE net. These transfers will likely start with tax increases, but will inevitably morph into another financial crisis and internal devaluation (inflation and currencies devaluations, coupled with a deep recession).

The alternative is also painful, but offers at least a ray of hope in the end: put a stop to debt accumulation through fiscal and tax reforms, reducing both government spending across the board (and, yes, in the U.S. case this involves cutting back on the coercive institutions and military, among other things) and flattening out personal income tax rates (to achieve tax savings in middle and upper-middle class cohorts, and to increase effective tax rates – via closure of loopholes – for highest earners). As a part of spending reforms, public investment and state pensions provisions should be shifted to private sector providers, while existent public sector pension funds should be forced to raise their members contributions to solvency-consistent levels.

Beyond this, we need serious rethink of the monetary policy institutions going forward. Historically, taxpayers and middle class and professionals have paid for both, the bailouts of the insolvent financial institutions and for the creation of conditions that lead to this insolvency. In other words, the real economy has consistently been charged with paying for utopian, unrealistic and state-subsidizing pricing of risks by the Central Banks. In the future, this pattern of the rounds upon rounds of financial repression policies must be broken.

Whether we like it or not, since the beginning of the Clinton economic bubble in the mid-1990s, the West has lived in a series of carry trade games that transferred real economic resources from the economy to the state. Today, we are broke. If we do not change our course, the next financial crisis will take out our insurers and pensions providers, and with them, the last remaining lifeline to future financial security.

http://WarMachines.com

“People Ask, Where’s The Leverage This Time?” – Eric Peters Answers

One of the Fed’s recurring arguments meant to explain why the financial system is more stable now than it was 10 years ago, and is therefore less prone to a Lehman or “Black monday”-type event, (which in turn is meant to justify the Fed’s blowing of a 31x Shiller PE bubble) is that there is generally less leverage in the system, and as a result a sudden, explosive leverage unwind is far less likely… or at least that’s what the Fed’s recently departed vice Chair, and top macroprudential regulator, Stanley Fischer has claimed.

But is Fischer right? Is systemic leverage truly lower? The answer is “of course not” as anyone who has observed the trends not only among vol trading products, where vega has never been higher, but also among corporate leverage, sovereign debt, and the record duration exposure can confirm. It’s just not where the Fed usually would look…

Which is why in the excerpt below, taken from the latest One River asset management weekend notes, CIO Eric Peters explains to US central bankers – and everyone else – not only why the Fed is yet again so precariously wrong, but also where all the record leverage is to be found this time around.

This Time, by Eric Peters

“People ask, ‘Where’s the leverage this time?’” said the investor. Last cycle it was housing, banks.

 

“People ask, ‘Where will we get a loss in value severe enough to sustain an asset price decline?’” he continued. Banks deleveraged, the economy is reasonably healthy.

 

“People say, ‘What’s good for the economy is good for the stock market,’” he said.

 

“People say, ‘I can see that there may be real market liquidity problems, but that’s a short-lived price shock, not a value shock,’” he explained.

 

“You see, people generally look for things they’ve seen before.”

 

“There’s less concentrated leverage in the economy than in 2008, but more leverage spread broadly across the economy this time,” said the same investor.

 

“The leverage is in risk parity strategies. There is greater duration and structural leverage.”

 

As volatility declines and Sharpe ratios rise, investors can expand leverage without the appearance of increasing risk.

 

“People move from senior-secured debt to unsecured. They buy 10yr Italian telecom debt instead of 5yr. This time, the rise in system-wide risk is not explicit leverage, it is implicit leverage.”

 

“Companies are leveraging themselves this cycle,” explained the same investor, marveling at the scale of bond issuance to fund stock buybacks.

 

“When people buy the stock of a company that is highly geared, they have more risk.” It is inescapable.

 

“It is not so much that a few sectors are insanely overvalued or explicitly overleveraged this time, it is that everything is overvalued and implicitly overleveraged,” he said.

 

“And what people struggle to see is that this time it will be a financial accident with economic consequences, not the other way around.”

http://WarMachines.com

Hunting Angels: What The World’s Most Bearish Hedge Fund Will Short Next

It's not easy being "the world's most bearish hedge fund", a description we first conceived nearly three years ago, and one look at Horseman Capital's returns over the past three years confirms it: after generating market-beating returns for much of its existence, things went bad in 2015, and much worse in 2016…

… when the Fund had a record net short equity position of over -100%, just as the market ripped higher after the Trump election.

That said, 2017 has been much better for Horseman and its CIO Russell Clark, who correctly timed the year's two big short trades so far: the mall REIT and the shale shorts.

Unfortunately, his other positions stood in the way, and as of the end of October (a good month with 2.04% in P&L), the fund is just 0.25% up on the year. Worse, after a period of calm, steady, upward grinding monthly performance for much of the previous several years, Horseman's sharpe ratio has cratered, as the monthly return variance surged, with a -6% month following two +7% months as a result of gross leverage that has never been higher, even if the net equity position – while still largely short – is far more manageable than it was in 2016.

Still, having been well ahead of the pack on the two big shorts of 2017, most money managers are always curious what if anything Clark – and Horseman – are shorting next. Well, they are in luck, because in his latest letter, he unveils the answer: according to Clark, the next major source of alpha will be shorting fallen angel bonds.

In his November letter to clients, Clark explains why he is hunting for soon to be "fallen angels", and where he got the idea from. And after more fund managers read the following excerpt, we have a feeling that the next big leg lower in not only junk, but also crossover credit, is imminent:

Mifid II will come into force soon, and a lot of research that used to be free, will need to be paid for. This has been a reason to ask ourselves some serious questions, namely what research do I read, and what has made me the most money. Strangely the research that has been most profitable for me, will remain free even post Mifid II as it is publicly available. The International Monetary Fund produces Global Financial Stability Reports. The stand out report for me was the April 2008 report that highlighted Eastern European banks vulnerability to wholesale funding. I shorted many of the banks named in the report. Most fell 70% to 90% subsequently.

 

What does the most recent issue of the Global Financial Stability Report have to say? It notes that BBB bonds now make up nearly 50% of the index of investment grade bonds, an all time high. BBB bonds are only one notch above high yield, and are at the greatest risk of becoming fallen angels, that is bonds that were investment grade when issued, but subsequently get downgraded to below investment grade, or what is known these days as high yield. It then points out that investors have never been more at risk of capital loss if yields were to rise. In addition, it notes volatility targeting investors will mechanically increase leverage as volatility drops, with variable annuities investors having little flexibility to deviate from target volatility. Another interesting point was that mutual fund share of the high yield market in the US have risen from 17% in 2008 to 30% today, and notes that investors outflows have become much more sensitive to losses than they used to be.

 

So my favourite research (love the price!) is telling me that US investment grade debt is very low quality, and could produce some large fallen angels. It then goes on to tell me that mutual funds are much larger in the high yield market than they used to be. It also tells me low rates means the capital losses are much higher than they used to be. And that investors in high yield mutual funds are much flightier than they used to be! Essentially the IMF are telling me that if you get a large enough fallen angel, the high yield market will freak out, and volatility will spike causing volatility targeting investors to dump leveraged positions. Sounds good to me – but with growth so good and the market so strong, how on earth would we get a fallen angel?

 

To find a potential fallen angel, I looked through the holdings of investment grade bond ETFs to find large BBB bond issuers. The biggest of the BBB issuers happened to be the large telecommunication companies. The sector has over USD300bn of BBB rated debt compared to a high-yield market of USD 1tn. I am not a debt specialist, but I have noticed that falling share prices tend to be good lead indicators on debt downgrades, and the US telecommunication sector has not been participating in the market rally this year. The story looks good to me, and it comes via my favourite research source. US debt markets look in trouble to me, whether that has any effect on broader equity markets remains to be seen.

Aside from this rather original idea, some other notable changes in Horseman's industry exposure are noted: while both the retail and E&P shorts are still there, they have been notably tamed, and of note are two other major shorts (both in the US): one in real estate (we assume this is a play on the adverse impact of rising rates on real estate valuations), and the healthcare sector, a short whose thesis is quite interesting and we will reveal tomorrow.

For those wondering, the top 10 positions by % of NAV are the following:

Needless to say, we wish Horseman much success with a prompt realization of his BBB-short, especially since it appears that his LPs are starting to get cold feet, and the fund's AUM has shrunk by half from $2.8 BN  one year ago…

… to less than half, or $1.2BN currently.

http://WarMachines.com

Why People Will Happily Line Up To Be Microchipped Like Dogs

Authord by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

So…some people actually want to be microchipped like a dog. They’re lining up for it. They’re having parties to get it done. It if isn’t available to them, they’re totally bummed out.

I’m not even going to venture into the religious aspect of having a microchip inserted into a human being. Let’s just talk about the secular ramifications.

Certain folks won’t be happy until everyone has a computer chip implanted in them. Here’s how this could go.

  • Initially, it would be the sheep who blindly desire to be chipped for their own “convenience” leading the way.
  • Then, it would become remarkably inconvenient not to be chipped – sort of like it’s nearly impossible to not have a bank account these days.
  • Then, the last holdouts could be forcibly chipped by law.

Read on, because I could not make this stuff up.

Some employers are chipping workers.

Last summer, the internet was abuzz about a company in Wisconsin that wanted to microchip their employees. Workers at the technology company, Three Market Square, were given the option of having a chip implanted in their hands and 50 out of 80 eagerly lined up for the privilege.

Why? So they could buy food or swipe their way through building security with a wave of their hand. Software engineer Sam Bengtson explained why he was on board.

“It was pretty much 100 percent yes right from the get-go for me. In the next five to 10 years, this is going to be something that isn’t scoffed at so much, or is more normal. So I like to jump on the bandwagon with these kind of things early, just to say that I have it.” (source)

He wasn’t alone. In fact, they had a microchipping party and some people got chipped live on TV so the rest of us reluctant humans could all see how cool it was to get microchipped. Watch what fun they had!

It isn’t just this American company chipping workers. Here’s an example in Sweden.

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

 

“The biggest benefit, I think, is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door merely by waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.” (source)

Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, warns that this might not be a good idea. (Although it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize this.)

“Companies often claim that these chips are secure and encrypted…But “encrypted” is “a pretty vague term,” he said, “which could include anything from a truly secure product to something that is easily hackable.”

 

Another potential problem, Dr. Acquisti said, is that technology designed for one purpose may later be used for another. A microchip implanted today to allow for easy building access and payments could, in theory, be used later in more invasive ways: to track the length of employees’ bathroom or lunch breaks, for instance, without their consent or even their knowledge.

 

“Once they are implanted, it’s very hard to predict or stop a future widening of their usage,” Dr. Acquisti said. (source)

Pretty soon, experts say everyone will want to be microchipped.

Many sources say that it’s inevitable that we’re all going to get chipped. Noelle Chesley, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says it’s inevitable.

“It will happen to everybody. But not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids.” (source)

Another pro-chipping advocate, Gene Munster, an investor and analyst at Loup Ventures, says that we just have to get past that silly social stigma and then everyone will be doing it within 50 years. Why? Oh, the benefits.

The company, which sells corporate cafeteria kiosks designed to replace vending machines, would like the kiosks to handle cashless transactions.

 

This would go beyond paying with your smartphone. Instead, chipped customers would simply wave their hands in lieu of Apple Pay and other mobile-payment systems.

 

The benefits don’t stop there. In the future, consumers could zip through airport scanners sans passport or drivers license; open doors; start cars; and operate home automation systems. All of it, if the technology pans out, with the simple wave of a hand. (source)

There are other companies who are on board with chipping everyone.

At a recent tech conference, Hannes Sjöblad explained how a microchip implanted in his hand makes his life easier. It replaces all the keys and cards that used to clutter his pockets.

 

“I use this many times a day, for example, I use it to unlock my smart phone, to open the door to my office,” Sjöblad said.

 

Sjöblad calls himself a biohacker. He explained, “We biohackers, we think the human body is a good start but there is certainly room for improvement.”

 

The first step in that improvement is getting a microchip about size of a grain of rice slipped under the skin. Suddenly, the touch of a hand is enough to tell the office printer this is an authorized user.

 

The microchips are radio frequency identification tags. The same technology widely used in things like key cards. The chips have been implanted in animals for years to help identify lost pets and now the technology is moving to humans.

 

Tech start-up Dangerous Things has sold tens of thousands of implant kits for humans and some to tech companies in Europe.

Sjöblad said he even organizes implant parties where people bond over getting chipped together.  (source)

Will microchipping parties be the next generation of those outrageously expensive candle parties? Will folks be pimping microchips like they do those scented wax melts? Will it become some kind of MLM thing to make it even more socially acceptable?

A UK newspaper, the Sun, explains how awesome it is to be microchipped.

The woman sat next to you could be hiding an implant under the skin which slowly releases hormones to stop her from getting pregnant.

 

Nans and granddads across the nation come installed with cutting-edge technology installed just to boost their hearing and vision seeing or help them walk with comfort.

 

We’re preparing ourselves for the next form of evolution in which humans will merge with artificial intelligence, becoming one with computers.

 

At least that’s the belief of Dr. Patrick Kramer, chief cyborg officer at Digiwell, a company that claims to be dedicated to “upgrading humans”. (source)

Seriously, who wouldn’t want all that awesomeness in their lives?

There are some serious pitfalls

While the current chips being “installed” in humans are said not to have GPS tracking, don’t you figure it’s just a matter of time? And also, how do you KNOW that there is no GPS tracking technology in that teeny little chip? Just because they tell you so?
Then there is the issue of the chip in your body being hacked.

“This is serious stuff. We’re talking about a nonstop potential connection to my body and I can’t turn it off, I can’t put it away, it’s in me. That’s a big problem,” said Ian Sherr, an executive editor at CNET.

 

“It’s very easy to hack a chip implant, so my advice is don’t put your life secrets on an implant, Sjöblad said…

 

“It’s about educating the people and giving every person the tools…not only how to use the technology but, more importantly, when it’s being used against you,” Sjöblad warned.  (source)

And microchipping won’t stop with a payment chip in your hand.

The endgame is microchipping people’s brains. And folks are chomping at the bit to get them. Scientists are saying that they can fix mental health issues with brain chips, they can make people smarter, and help them “merge” with AI. A chipped person could, theoretically, think his thoughts right onto his computer.

Watch this video…

So, with these chips in our brains, we’ll actually be merging with computers to some degree. The robot overlords will have a pretty easy takeover if our brains can be accessed like this.

Microchips may not be optional one day.

This horror movie gets even scarier. There is already a law on the books that potentially allows human beings to be forcibly chipped.

Oh, it’s couched in warm, fuzzy language and they say it’s just to help keep track of folks with Alzheimer’s or other developmental disabilities, but remember that the most unpatriotic law ever passed was also called the Patriot Act.

H.R.4919 was passed in 2016.

It directs the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to award competitive grants to health care, law enforcement, or public safety agencies, and nonprofit organizations, to develop or operate locally based proactive programs to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with dementia or children with developmental disabilities. The BJA must give preference to law enforcement or public safety agencies partnering with nonprofit organizations that use person-centered plans and are directly linked to individuals, and families of individuals, with dementia or developmental disabilities. (source)

Despite the fact that the bill requires everyone to use privacy “best practices,” it’s not that much of a stretch to see what a slippery slope this is. Who gets to decide whether a person “needs” to be chipped for their own good? Law enforcement. Scary.

Could this lead to a cashless society?

If “everyone” is getting microchipped like these experts predict, that could be the next step in the push toward a cashless society. Think about the lack of privacy then. If everything is purchased via a chip unique to you, then no purchases could be under the radar. Whether a person was stocking up on food, watching X-rated movies, reading books on revolution, or buying ammo, it would all be recorded in a database. Our purchases could be used in some kind of pre-crime technology, ala Minority Report, or they could be used to profile us in other ways.

If there is no way to make purchases but with a chip, many people will have to reluctantly comply. The same chips could be a requirement for medical care, driver’s licenses, jobs – you name it. No matter where you tried to hide, your GPS locator would mean that you would be found. It would be like everyone being forced to have one of those ankle bracelets that criminals wear, except it would be inside your body.

If you think the atmosphere of control is unnerving now, just wait. When everyone is microchipped, the net will be even tighter.

Between the pending robot apocalypse that I wrote about earlier this week and forcible microchipping, it seems like we won’t have to wait for “climate change” or a war of Mutually Assured Destruction to get us. Technology just might be the end of humanity.

 

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Moody’s Boosts Modi: India Gets First Sovereign Credit Upgrade Since 2004

Moody’s upgrade to India’s credit rating comes as a much-needed boost for India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who has been criticised for the fallout from the goods and services tax (GST) and demonetisation reforms. Indeed, Moody’s argued that Modi’s reforms will help to stabilize India’s rising debt levels. According to Reuters.

Moody's Investors Service upgraded its ratings on India's sovereign bonds for the first time in nearly 14 years on Friday, saying continued progress on economic and institutional reform will boost the country's growth potential. The agency said it was lifting India's rating to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed its rating outlook to stable from positive as risks to India's credit profile were broadly balanced. Moody's upgrade, its first since January 2004, moves India's rating to the second lowest level of investment grade. The upgrade is a shot in the arm for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and the reforms it has pushed through, and it comes just weeks after the World Bank moved India up 30 places in its annual ease of doing business rankings.

Moody's believes that Modi’s reforms have reduced the risk of a sharp increase in India’s debt, even in potential negative scenarios. On the GST reform, which converted India's 29 states into a single customs union, the rating agency expects it to boost productivity by removing barriers to inter-state trade. In addition, the recent $32 billion recapitalisation of state banks and the reform of the bankruptcy code are beginning to address India’s sovereign credit profile.

"While the capital injection will modestly increase the government's debt burden in the near term, it should enable banks to move forward with the resolution of NPLs."

Following the upgrade, India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index rose 1.1%, with metals, property and banks the strongest performers. The Sensex has risen 25% so far in 2017, while the banks sector is 42% higher. Retail investors have piled into financial assets and the banking system has been awash with funds since Modi unexpectedly banned high denomination bank notes last November.

As Reuters notes, the Indian government had been unsuccessful at persuading Moody’s to upgrade the rating in 2016.

Last year, India lobbied hard with Moody's for an upgrade, but failed. The agency raised doubts about the country's debt levels and fragile banks, and declined to budge despite the government's criticism of their rating methodology. The government cheered the upgrade on Friday with Economic Affairs Secretary S. Garg telling reporters the rating upgrade was a recognition of economic reforms undertaken over three years.

The Rupee and Indian bonds also rallied on the Moody’s announcement – although some debt traders expressed scepticism that the rally was sustainable.

"It seems like Santa Claus has already opened his bag of goodies," said Lakshmi Iyer, head of fixed income at Kotak Mutual Fund said. "The move is overall positive for bonds which were caught in a negative spiral. This is a structural positive which would lead to easing in yields across tenors," she said. 

 

The benchmark 10-year bond yield was down 10 basis points at 6.96 percent, the rupee was trading stronger at 64.76 per dollar versus the previous close of 65.3250. "We have been expecting it for a long time and this was long overdue and is very positive for the market. Looks like sentiments are going to become positive," said Sunil Sharma, chief investment officer with Sanctum Wealth Management. However, debt traders said the rally was unlikely to last beyond a few days as the coming heavy bond supply and hawkish inflation outlook were unlikely to change soon.

 

"Who has the guts to continue buying in this market?" said a bond trader at a private bank.

India has basked in its status as the world’s fastest growing major economy and Moody’s forecasts suggests that it will continue to outpace China’s roughly 6.5% growth, but only marginally. In the fiscal year to March 2018, Moody’s expects the Indian economy to grow at 6.7% versus last year’s 7.1%. From Reuters.

Moody's noted that while a number of key reforms remain at the design phase, it believes those already implemented will advance the government's objective of improving the business climate, enhancing productivity and stimulating investment. “Longer term, India's growth potential is significantly higher than most other Baa-rated sovereigns," said Moody's.

Bloomberg published some initial reactions from portfolio managers and analysts.

Luke Spajic (head of portfolio management for emerging Asia at Pacific Asset Management Co. in Singapore)

  • “The upgrade came sooner than expected. India has undertaken some tough but necessary reforms like demonetization and the GST, the benefits of which are yet to be fully calculated”
  • “India is on the right long-term path with capital markets — in both debt and equity — pricing in potential improvements in investment quality”

Lin Jing Leong (investment manager, Asia fixed income, at Aberdeen Standard Investments in Singapore)

  • “The upgrade has been long time coming” given Modi’s reform ambitions. “This is not a surprise — we do believe all the rating agencies have been behind the curve somewhat”
  • Initial Indian market reaction is likely to be knee-jerk, but we still expect dollar-India credit spreads, onshore India bonds and the rupee to continue outperforming the broader Asia and emerging-market bloc.

Navneet Munot (chief investment officer at SBI Funds Management Pvt. in Mumbai)

  • This will boost global investors’ confidence in India, but factors like world monetary policy shifts and company earnings will also be key to foreign inflows.
  • Investors like us who have long positions on India always expected an upgrade.
  • The firm has been boosting equity holdings in Indian corporate lenders, industrial and telecommunications companies.

Nischal Maheshwari (head of institutional equities at Edelweiss Securities Ltd. in Mumbai)

  • Equity markets have already given a thumbs up to the news”.
  • It will lead to a reduction in borrowing costs, which is a major improvement.
  • “For foreign investors in equity, it doesn’t change much as their concerns around high stock valuations remain. However, their commitment to the country is in place and the upgrade will only help reiterate their position”.

Shameek Ray (head of debt capital markets at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership in Mumbai)

  • Foreign investors won’t be able to take full advantage of the positive sentiment from the upgrade as quotas for them to buy into rupee-denominated government and corporate debt are full, Ray says.
  • “Whenever these quotas open up there will be keen interest to take India exposure,” but in the meantime Indian companies will get more access to offshore markets.
  • “We could see them pricing dollar or Masala bonds at tighter levels”.

Ken Hu (chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific fixed income at Invesco Hong Kong Ltd.)

  • The upgrade confirms Invesco’s positive view on India’s structural economic reforms.
  • “With more political capital, Modi and his party are able to launch more difficult but more impactful structural reforms. The positive feedback loop will continue to lead to more credit rating upgrades of India in future”.

Chakri Lokapriya (managing director at TCG Asset Management in Mumbai)

  • The upgrade is “very positive for banks, infrastructure and cyclical sectors”.
  • “Banks will benefit strongly as their credit costs come down leading to a reduction in interest costs for infrastructure and manufacturing companies”.

Ashley Perrott (head of pan-Asian fixed income at UBS Asset Management in Singapore)

  • The upgrade is a bit of a surprise, so the market is likely to see some initial bond-spread tightening.
  • “But raising one notch does not make much difference from a fundamental perspective”.

Avinash Thakur (managing director of debt capital markets at Barclays Plc in Hong Kong)

  • “The upgrade should help issuers from India as they are no longer on the cusp of investment grade”.
  • “It makes a big difference to investors and we will see more dollar bond supply from India”.

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Financial Times: Sell Bitcoin Because The Market Is About To Become “Civilized”

On 31 October 2017, we discussed the announcement that the CME Group was responding to client interest and launching a Bitcoin Futures contract before the end of this year. CME stated that the contract would be cash settled based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference rate, a once-a-day reference rate of the US dollar Bitcoin price at 4.00pm London time. In the run-up to the launch of the futures contract, the Financial Times has written a piece on the likely impact of futures trading on the Bitcoin price.

The title of the piece makes the FT’s view clear, “Prepare to bet against bitcoin as it becomes civilised”. We disagree with using the word “civilised” in this context (see below), but here is the FT’s take. 

In recent years, bitcoin has been the wild west of the financial world. Now, however, it is being civilised — a touch. In the coming weeks, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans to start listing bitcoin futures, with a centralised clearing mechanism. Cboe Global Markets may follow suit. That will enable investors to bet on the coin’s future value without actually holding it — just as investors can use the Chicago exchange to bet on hog prices, say, without ever handling a pig.

To its credit, the FT reflects the concerns from some CME participants that there is insufficient regulatory oversight and Bitcoin’s stratospheric vol could lead to significant losses for some traders.

Is this a good idea? Some of the CME’s members do not think so. This week Interactive Brokers, an important clearing firm in the exchange, took the extraordinary step of using a newspaper advertisement to ask for more regulatory oversight. It fears that bitcoin is potentially so volatile that these futures will create huge losses for traders, which might then undermine the health of the CME and hurt other brokers, given its part-mutualised structure. The CME — unsurprisingly — dismisses this as poppycock: it argues that any risks will be contained by rules that allow traders to charge more so as to generate fat margins (of about 30 per cent) and thus absorb losses, and by circuit breakers that would stop a trade in the event of wild price swings.

Our suspicion is that CME Group has seen the volume of Bitcoin trading and is determined to get its “cut”, whether or not some of its members take some big hits or not. It can deal with those issues if or when they occur. Anyway, the FT moves on to the more interesting subject of the impact on Bitcoin’s price. We should note that when the futures contract was announced the price surged more than $100 to a then all-time high of $645.

But while the regulatory debate bubbles on, there is a more immediate question facing investors: bitcoin prices. Until now, it has been an article of faith among bitcoin evangelists that if — or when — the currency became more “civilised”, this will boost the price. After all, the argument goes, assimilating bitcoin into the mainstream investment world should boost its appeal and demand, making it more valuable.

As the FT alludes to in the articles title, it expects the Bitcoin price to fall.

It is highly likely there will be an opposite effect. Until now, investors have not had an easy way to bet against bitcoin — the only “short” was to sell coins. But the CME futures contract will let investors place those negative bets. You do not need to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine that some bitcoin cynics will be doing just that.

To support its case, the FT cites the example of Japan launching equity derivatives in 1989, just before the bubble burst.

Think, for example, about Japan. Before the mid-1980s, its stock market seemed to exist on a planet of its own, subject to its own valuation rules. But when Japanese equity derivative contracts were launched, and then integrated within the wider global market system as a result of financial reform, that sense of “otherness” broke down. The change in how Japan was seen through a comparative investment lens was not the only reason for the 1990 Nikkei crash, but it contributed.

We have a slight problem with using this as an analogy for Bitcoin. Firstly, an ultra-hawkish BOJ-governor was nominated in mid-1989 who announced his intention to crackdown on house price inflation and the shadow banking system which was facilitating much of the leverage. Secondly, all bubbles burst and Japan’s was extreme. For example, depending on whether you use the highest per square metre property deal in the Ginza district, or one in the Chiyoda district, the land underneath the Imperial Palace was valued between $852 billion and $5.1 trillion at the time. Futures trading, we would suggest, played a tiny role.

The FT cites the launch of trading in the ABX Index prior to the sub-prime crisis, as another example.

So too with US mortgages. Until 2005 or so, outsiders could not easily assess or price the risks of America’s subprime mortgages: mortgage-backed bond prices were opaque, and the only way to short the market was to sell bonds. But when mortgage derivatives, such as the ABX index, were launched, it suddenly became easy to make negative bets. Then, the ABX index was published in newspapers, such as the Financial Times, in 2007, creating a visible barometer of sentiment. That helped a sense of panic to feed on itself after 2008.

Once again, we would suggest the FT is confusing the impact of derivatives with an inevitable reversion of market price of an asset in a bubble as expectations regarding the outlook changed. In the case of sub-prime, housing prices in the US had never fallen, then they did, the AAA-ratings of the bonds were manifestly incorrect and the dramatically overpriced sub-prime bonds were pledged as collateral in all manner of other risky, leveraged trades.

From our perspective, the impact of the futures launch is difficult to gauge as it depends on the interaction of two opposing forces.

Firstly, as cryptocurrencies gradually become accepted as an asset class, more institutional money is likely to enter the sector and holding long futures positions is one way to do it.

 

Secondly, as the article notes, Bitcoin futures will be settled in cash, which means there is potential for the volume of futures trading to vastly outweigh the buying and selling of “actual” Bitcoins. If this occurs, then the “tail can wag the dog” as price discovery is dominated by futures trading. This permits all manner of market abuse via naked short selling by investors, major banks and any “official” players who deem it necessary to manipulate the Bitcoin price.

For this reason, we don’t agree that adding a futures contract will necessarily “civilise” Bitcoin, indeed, it might have the opposite effect.

The second scenario precisely describes the state of the “gold” market today. According to the Reserve Bank of India’s estimate, the ratio of “paper gold” trading to physical gold trading is 92:1, meaning that the price of gold on the screens has almost nothing to do with the buying and selling of physical gold. This makes the gold market and, therefore, the gold price something of a mockery. As Zero Hedge has highlighted time after time, the gold price has frequently been subject to waterfall declines, as huge volumes of gold futures are dumped on the market with no regard for price. See "Gold Slammed After Someone Pukes $4bn Notional In Gold Futures" on 10 November 2017. Perhaps the FT journalist, Gillian Tett, could write an article on gold, instead of Bitcoin, explaining how the price of the former – a widely viewed indicator of financial risk – is being suppressed by derivative trading. Indeed, Tett was present at a private dinner in Scott’s of Mayfair several years ago when the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee gave a presentation on exactly the same process which she expects to lower the Bitcoin price.

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Gold Gains As Stocks Slide, Yield Curve Crashes, & Dollar Dumps

Economic Data continues to surprise to the upside (compared to what had been terrible expectations)…is this as good as it gets?

But credit, the yield curve, and now stocks are not loving it…

 

Small Caps were the only major index green today…

 

The Dow and S&P 500- fell for the 2nd week in a row – something they haven't done for 3 months…Small Caps best on the week (followed by Nasdaq thanks to yesterday's panic buy)…

 

Futures show the crazy moves this week better..

 

VIX was slammed late on today in a desperat ebid to get the S&P green on the week…

 

But while stocks rebounded briefly, FX carry wasn't…

 

And nor was the bond market…

 

Big week for tax-related stocks…

 

SFIX went public today at $15…

 

While US HY bond prices ended the week higher (thanks to yesterday's melt up)…but still remains well below its 200DMA…

 

US HY spreads rose for the 4th week in a row…

 

European HY Fund assets crashed to their lowest since June 2016…

 

Treasuries were mixed on the week with the front-end higher in yield and back-end lower….

 

The US Treasury yield curve crashed almost 10bps this week – the biggest flattening since Dec 2016 to its flattest since Nov 2007

 

Note that is the flattest 2s10s since Oct 2007… The last 3 times it was this flat, the US economy was in recession…

 

The Dollar Index had its worst week in over 2 months, dropping to 1-month lows… (this is also the first consective weekly decline in the dollar index since July)

 

Yen and Euro strength weighed the most on the dollar this week… (AUD and CAD were weaker as oil slipped)

 

USDJPY was clubbed like a baby seal this week (worst in 2 months) – (today was USDJPY's worst drop since May). It seems 114.000 to 112.00 is the corridor…

 

Gold had its best week in over a month, surging back above its 50DMA towards the $1300 level…

GOLD

 

Bitcoin had another big week – getting as close to $8000 as possible… (up 45% from its lows last weekend)…

 

Finally, we note that in the weeks since MbS launched his 'corruption' crackdown in Saudi Arabia, only one asset has really shone…

 

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“Did Mike Pence Buy A Diet Dr.Pepper For A Woman That Was Not His Wife?”

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

If only abortion were retroactive, we could suitably deal with monsters like Senator Al Franken (D – MN), who apparently ventured to apply a breast adjustment to a female colleague asleep on the military airplane winging them home from USO duty in Afghanistan. This was back in the day when Senator Franken was a professional entertainer, a clown to be precise, but his career shift to politics has rendered all his prior clowning anathema.

Will he slink out of the senate in disgrace with (ahem) his tail between his legs? Or will he bunker in and wait until the mega-storm of sexual accusation roars on to strand some bigger, flashier fish on the shoals of ignominy?

Perhaps we’ll soon learn that Warren Buffet repeatedly shagged his notoriously over-taxed secretary in the Berkshire Hathaway janitor’s closet.

Or that Mike Pence once bought a diet Dr. Pepper for a woman who was not his wife!

Seems to me this storm could roar and roil on until ninety-plus percent of the men in America are exposed as sex monsters and expelled from every workplace in the land. And then America can feel good about itself again. At least until the bond market blows up, or Kim Jung Fatboy sends a rocket over Rancho Cuckamonga.

But in the meantime, this scourging of male wickedness raises some interesting questions about human dynamics vis-a-vis workplace dynamics.

I (for one, apparently) find it amusing that people are shocked to learn that sexual favors are swapped for career advancement in show business, where sheer narcissism buys more than Bitcoin. The remedy, I suppose, will be to put an end to show business – except its doing a pretty good job of accomplishing that itself, especially the art-form formerly known as the movies. But what about the gazillion other less-glamorous business activities out there: the actuarial suites, the dental offices, the WalMart middle management departments?

I would begin with the recognition that human sexuality is a pretty potent and mischievous component of basic biology. In, say, the much maligned “cis” world of gender relations, people in the workplace surely feel a fairly constant cognitive tug of awareness that they are in the presence of the opposite sex. If nothing else, there is the pheromone thing: the involuntary wafting about of hormonal chemicals that signal sexual possibility, though not necessarily opportunity. It may be considered primitive and inconvenient, but it’s there anyway.

That being so, one obvious question is: what happened to manners, the once-conventional device for managing impulse control.

Narcissism does explain a lot, since that mental state prompts the treatment of other people as mere objects of utility rather than persons on a transect of mutual respect. But in the new sexual harassment workplace regime, a mere polite inquiry of romantic interest might provoke punishment, so that even an unmarried true gentleman asking a female co-worker out for a drink after work might be construed as a firing offense.

Offendedness has gone viral in America these days.

The rewards are a pretty sure thing for the offendee, ranging from simple brownie points to the offendedness powerball lottery of a $32 million payoff for getting seriously roughed up by a wealthy mug such as Bill O’Reilly. My guess is that the suppression of even gentlemanly approaches to women only pushes things to that darker and harsher edge of the gradient of male behavior, where the latent chimpanzee lurks.

It’s inconceivable to me that we are going to eliminate sexual mischief on-the-job as long as men and women are mixed together in work that can be done by anybody. The situation would be less toxic if genuine misbehavior was reported to bosses or to the police directly, instead of waiting twenty years to call up MSNBC, and if asking for a date, or proffering a compliment, were not treated as vile and inexcusable.

Of course, once all the predators are cleaned out of the corporate C-suites, we’ll still be stuck with a spectacularly trashy contemporary culture, saturated with inducements for all kinds of theoretically decent people to behave badly. Mainly what’s being accomplished in the current hysteria is reinforcement of the idea that the weaker sex is just that, but with a raging denial that they require some kind of protection.

* * *

This seemed particularly timely…

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Wall Street Traders Used Chat Rooms To Rig Treasury Auctions, Federal Lawsuit Alleges

Over the past several months, as we followed HSBC’s currency scandal involving trader Mark Johnson who netted his firm $8 million in illicit profits by front-running a $3.5 billion client order, we frequently noted that Johnson was nothing more than a convenient scapegoat for a global financial industry that is rife with similar front-running scams that go unnoticed.

That said, to our complete ‘shock’ the NY Post today highlights another front-running scam allegedly perpetrated by Wall Street’s finest at the expense of their clients.  According to new documents published in a class action lawsuit filed by a number pension funds and wealthy individual investors, some of Wall Street’s largest primary dealers in the U.S. Treasury market habitually, and illegally, shared client orders via online chat rooms to order to game Treasury auctions.

Wall Street banks secretly shared client information in online chat rooms in order to rig auctions for the $14 trillion US Treasurys market, according to an explosive lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.

 

The move wrongly fattened the banks’ profits and picked profits from clients, the suit claims.

 

The new accusations, leveled by several pension funds and wealthy individual investors, are contained in an expanded class-action suit originally filed in July 2015 — and include an unusual twist: Some of the evidence came from confidential informants and one of the banks sued in the earlier action.

 

That bank is now cooperating with the plaintiffs in the massive civil action, and is providing an in-depth look into how Wall Street allegedly conspired to rig Treasury bond trades.

Wall Street

As our readers are undoubtedly aware, typically, the Treasury holds an auction, then banks submit their bids for US debt based on how much they think those bonds are worth. The Treasury then doles out the bonds proportionately to the bidders at the same price. The bank that asked for the best price gets the most bonds.

Traders at the Wall Street banks shared the prices that their clients had sought to buy the bonds, giving each of the banks in the alleged cartel a clearer picture of what they thought the market was, and a better chance at getting a bigger share of the bonds to sell, according to the complaint.

So, which banks would participate in such a scheme?  Surely none of the marquee names on wall street, right?

The amended suit tightens its focus on a select number of banks, naming Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Royal Bank of Scotland, BNP Paribas, and UBS, among others, as the firms behind the rigging, which they allege occurred from Jan. 1, 2007, to mid-2015.

 

The funds continue to allege the banks mined their own customers’ bids for Treasury bonds to get a bigger share of the auction, and sell the bonds for more profit.

 

Probes on the auction practices are being conducted by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal, state and overseas regulators, sources said. No regulator has accused any bank of wrongdoing.

Of course, we’re sure this is all just another big misunderstanding by a DOJ that is just trying to “criminalize behavior that is normal.

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Turkish Lira, Bonds Plunge After Erdogan Tells Central Bank “It’s On The Wrong Path”

Turkish lira plunged near record low 3.9/USD this morning and bond yields spiked over 12.5% for the first time in history as investor anxiety escalated following President Erdogan's attack on the nation's central bank, decrying it's "wrong path."

Currency crisis…

And bond market panic…

As Bloomberg reports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled an end to his uneasy truce with the new central bank chief, attacking the institution now run by Governor Murat Cetinkaya for its repeated revisions to economic targets and “wrong path” to tackle soaring inflation.

“They say central banks are independent so we shouldn’t interfere. This is the end result because we haven’t interfered,” Erdogan said in a speech on Friday in Ankara.

 

“Results speak for themselves.”

“We will solve this, things can’t go on like this,” Erdogan said, vowing to step up a fight against what he calls the “interest rate lobby,” an alleged cabal of financiers and lobbyists that he says is conspiring to keep Turkey’s interest rates artificially high.

“We can’t make this a taboo,” he said, rejecting the idea that central bank independence means he shouldn’t comment on interest rate policy.

The comments come as a slew of economic stimulus measures implemented in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt have helped push growth up while driving core inflation to 11.8 percent in October, the highest since 2004.

“We’re back at Erdoganomics 101,” said Cristian Maggio, head of research at TD Securities in London.

 

“I would have expected him to start shouting at the central bank only once the lira was on a more solid footing versus the U.S. dollar and euro. We’re clearly not there yet, so that makes me think that he’s more concerned about growth, a concern that we share.”

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“Nightmare On Bond Street”: HY Turmoil Leads To Third Largest Junk Outflow In History

Following this month’s drop in junk bond prices and the 40 bps spread widening in high yield last week – the largest since November 2016 – Bank of America has come up with an apt title for its weekly fund flow report: “Nightmare on Bond Street”…

… and with good reason: last week, US junk bond funds and ETFs reported a $4.43bn outflow this past week – the third largest outflow on record and the largest since August 2014. This follows a smaller $0.94Bn outflow the prior week. Non-US HY contributed an additional $2.3bn worth of redemptions, bringing the global junk outflow figure to -$6.7bn, also the 3rd largest ever.

The near record outflows accompanied the second most aggressive round of selling in the US junk bond market in 2017. The weakness in performance only trails a sell-off that occurred in March, when spreads widened by 61 points in less than three weeks according to FT.

“It was very much a flows driven sell-off last week and in the beginning of this week,” said Tim Schwarz, a credit analyst with Investec Asset Management. “We saw a lot of . . . pockets of illiquidity.”

According to EPFR, roughly half of the US HY withdrawals came last Friday, when more than $2bn left the space in one day. Since then, the outflows have been slowly declining each day, from $585mn on Monday to $494mn yesterday. Somewhat surprisingly, large outflows such as the most recent bout are not correlated with subsequently weak performance. In fact, out of the 15 largest-ever daily high yield outflows recorded, next 3 month returns have been positive 10 times, with an average annualized return of 7.2%. According to BofA, this is likely because most of the spread widening occurs just before the flood of withdrawals, providing an opportunity to capture excess returns should the selloff prove to be temporary. Indeed, as BofA’s credit strategist note, given Thurdsday’s strong secondary performance, “we think such is likely to be the case in last week’s episode as investors have once again embraced a buy-the-dip mentality.

In contrast, EPFR also reports that flows for other fixed income asset classes were relatively stable. However, the large outflows from high yield and loans resulted in a net $1.32bn outflow from all bond funds and ETFs, after a $2.27bn inflow in the prior week.

Inflows to high grade were little changed at $3.31bn, down from $3.41bn a week earlier. Inflows to short-term fixed income increased (to $0.65bn from $0.27bn) while inflows outside of short-term declined (to $2.66bn from $3.15bn). Inflows were higher for high grade funds (to $1.83bn from $1.52bn), but lower for ETFs (to $1.48bn from $1.89bn). Inflows to global EM bonds weakened to $2.66bn from $3.15bn, mostly driven by local currency funds / ETFs. Inflows to munis instead improved to $0.34bn from $0.28bn. Finally, inflows to money markets were close to flat at $0.02bn, down from a $7.58bn inflow in the prior week.

Speaking to the FT, Robert Cusack, a PM at WhaleRock Point Partners, said that the recent high-yield sell-off could be short lived, likening it to the brief but rapid move higher in credit premiums earlier this year. But Cusack added that he is still looking to reduce exposure to the asset class.

“It’s a topic each week in our investment committee meetings and we have been discussing the risk reward in high yield now,” he said. “Our next move is to reduce our exposure in high yield.”

Meanwhile, there were no problems in equity land: flows to stocks improved to a $3.2 billion inflow, which however once again masked an ongoing divergence, as $9.9bn of this amount went to ETFs. Active, i.e., human managers, saw another outflow, this time for $6.7 billion as the non-ETF financial sector continues to die a slow, painful death.

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Mueller Subpoena Spooks Dollar, Sends European Stocks, US Futures Lower

Yesterday’s torrid, broad-based rally looked set to continue overnight until early in the Japanese session, when the USD tumbled and dragged down with it the USDJPY, Nikkei, and US futures following a WSJ report that Robert Mueller had issued a subpoena to more than a dozen top Trump administration officials in mid October.

And as traders sit at their desks on Friday, U.S. index futures point to a lower open as European stocks fall, struggling to follow Asian equities higher as the euro strengthened at the end of a tumultuous week. Chinese stocks dropped while Indian shares and the rupee gain on Moody’s upgrade. The MSCI world equity index was up 0.1% on the day, but was heading for a 0.1% fall on the week. The dollar declined against most major peers, while Treasury yields dropped and oil rose. 

Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index fluctuated before turning lower as much as 0.3% in brisk volumes, dropping towards the 200-DMA, although about 1% above Wednesday’s intraday low; weakness was observed in retail, mining, utilities sectors. In the past two weeks, the basic resources sector index is down 6%, oil & gas down 5.8%, autos down 4.9%, retail down 3.4%; while real estate is the only sector in green, up 0.1%. The Stoxx 600 is on track to record a weekly loss of 1.3%, adding to last week’s sell-off amid sharp rebound in euro, global equity pullback. The Euro climbed for the first time in three days after ECB President Mario Draghi said he was optimistic for wage growth in the region, although stressed the need for patience, speaking in Frankfurt. European bonds were mixed. The pound pared some of its earlier gains after comments from Brexit Secretary David Davis signaling a continued stand-off in negotiations with the European Union.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 took its time to catch up to the WSJ report that US Special Counsel Mueller has issued a Subpoena for Russia-related documents from Trump campaign officials, although reports pointing to North Korea conducting ‘aggressive’ work on the construction of a ballistic missile submarine helped the selloff. The Japanese blue-chip index rose as much as 1.8% in early dealing, but the broad-based dollar retreat led to the index unwinding the bulk of its gains; the index finished the session up 0.2% as the yen jumped to the strongest in four-weeks. Australia’s ASX 200 added 0.2% with IT, healthcare and telecoms leading the way, as utilities lagged. Mainland Chinese stocks fell, with the Shanghai Comp down circa 0.5% as the PBoC’s reversel in liquidity injections (overnight net drain of 10bn yuan) did little to boost risk appetite, as Kweichou Moutai (viewed as a bellwether among Chinese blue chips) fell sharply. This left the index facing its biggest weekly loss in 3 months, while the Hang Seng rallied with IT leading the way higher. Indian stocks and the currency advanced after Moody’s Investors Service raised the nation’s credit rating.

The dollar was pressured even as tax reform moved a step forward given Trump-Russia probe came back into focus. Two-year Treasury yield hit a fresh high and bonds slipped. The euro stayed on course to its best week in two months as Draghi remains bullish on prospects of higher wages; the kiwi hit its lowest level since June 2016.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury yield curve remained on investors’ radar, reaching its flattest levels in a decade, reflecting a belief that the Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a tax overhaul expected to boost share prices if it becomes law. The legislative battle now shifts to the Senate. As Bloomberg notes, as “Washington took one step closer to tax reform and China’s central bank injected the most cash since January into its financial system this week, investors have been trying to decide if resilient global growth and strong earnings forecasts warrant sticking it out in equities. Lofty valuations contributed to fund managers paring back some exposure after global shares reached record highs earlier this month.”

As earnings season drew to a close with 90 percent of U.S. and European companies having reported, analysts said results were supportive but weaker than the previous quarters. “While they look good overall, the strong momentum apparent since Q1 is now fading,” said Societe Generale analysts, adding that consensus earnings estimates are no longer being raised for U.S. or euro zone stocks.

As also reported on Thursday, Fed’s Williams suggested that central banks should consider unconventional policy tools for use in the future, including higher inflation targets and income targeting. Williams also suggested that negative rates need to be on list of potential tools if the US enters a recession, even as he said that a December hike, followed by 3 hikes in 2018 is perfectly reasonable. “What really matters is gradual normalisation not timing, should raise rates to around 2.5% in the next couple of years” he said adding that “Low inflation in a way is lucky as it allows strong growth, however, if it does not pick up over the next few years he will re-think the rate path.”

Oil prices were on track for weekly losses, slipping from two-year highs hit last week on signs that U.S. supply is rising and could potentially undermine OPEC’s efforts to tighten the market. U.S. light crude stood at $55.53 a barrel, up 0.7 percent on the day but still within its trading range in the past couple of days. It was down 2.1 percent on the week. Brent futures hit a two-week low of $61.08 a barrel but last stood 0.3 percent higher at $61.53. It was down 3.1 percent for the week.

Economic data today includes housing starts, building permits.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.1% to 2,583.25
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.2% to 384.06
  • MSCI Asia up 0.4% to 170.15
  • MSCI Asia ex Japan up 0.5% to 558.90
  • Nikkei up 0.2% to 22,396.80
  • Topix up 0.1% to 1,763.76
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.6% to 29,199.04
  • Shanghai Composite down 0.5% to 3,382.91
  • Sensex up 0.8% to 33,377.55
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.2% to 5,957.25
  • Kospi down 0.03% to 2,533.99
  • German 10Y yield rose 1.1 bps to 0.387%
  • Euro up 0.2% to $1.1795
  • Brent Futures up 0.7% to $61.78/bbl
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 0.2 bps to 1.572%
  • Spanish 10Y yield rose 0.6 bps to 1.548%
  • Brent Futures up 0.7% to $61.78/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,282.59
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.3% to 93.69

Top Overnight News

  • House Republicans pass tax bill, while Senate Finance Committee approves different version
  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller is said to have served President Donald Trump’s election campaign a subpoena in mid-October seeking documents related to Russia contacts
  • ECB President Mario Draghi said he was confident for wage growth in the euro area
  • While U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis said there would be some clarity on the Britain’s divorce bill with the European Union in a “a few more weeks,” there are signs that talks with EU leaders are in a new stand-off
  • Japanese PM Shinzo Abe says he will push through initiatives to boost productivity and compile a new economic policy package next month
  • Canada is open to a Mexican proposal to review the North American Free Trade Agreement every five years instead of ending the deal automatically if not renegotiated, which the U.S. had demanded, Reuters reports, citing two unidentified government sources
  • Senate Panel Approves Tax Plan as GOP Leaders Gird for Battle
  • Murdoch Has His Pick of Suitors as He Ponders Fox’s Fate; Sky Rises Most Since June on Interest From Comcast, Verizon
  • Chinese Stocks Tumble as State Media Warning Triggers Selloff
  • India’s First Moody’s Upgrade in 14 Years Bets on Reforms
  • Draghi Says Confidence on Inflation Will Help Drive Wage Gains
  • China Issues Draft Rules to Curb Asset Management Product Risks
  • Bitcoin Flirts With Record $8,000 High, Leaving Sell-Off Behind
  • PDVSA Looks Like a ‘Zero’ to Man Who Ran Elliott’s Argentina Bet
  • Manafort Spent Millions on Home Updates But Numbers Don’t Add Up
  • Tesla Seals Order From Michigan Grocery Chain for Semi Trucks
  • Luxoft Holding Second Quarter Adjusted EPS Beats Estimates
  • JPMorgan’s Gu Sees ‘Very Robust’ Pipeline for Hong Kong IPOs

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 took its time to catch up to a report suggesting that US Special Counsel Mueller has issued a Subpoena for Russia-related documents from Trump campaign officials, although reports pointing to North Korea conducting ‘aggressive’ work on the construction of a ballistic missile submarine probably helped the selloff. The Japanese blue-chip index rose as much as 1.8% in early dealing, but the broad-based dollar retreat led to the index unwinding the bulk of its gains; the index finished the session up 0.2%. Australia’s ASX 200 added 0.2% with IT, healthcare and telecoms leading the way, as utilities lagged. Mainland Chinese stocks fell, with the Shanghai Comp down circa 0.4% as the PBoC’s injections have done little to underscore risk appetite, as Kweichou Moutai (viewed as a bellwether among Chinese blue chips) fell sharply. This left the index facing its biggest weekly loss in 3 months, while  the Hang Seng rallied with IT leading the way higher. The PBoC injected a net CNY 810bln this week, against a net drain of CNY 230bln last week. Japanese PM Abe promised to rid the country of deflation once and for all. He pledged to use all policy tools, including tax reforms and deregulation, to push up wages in order to put an end to the country’s persistent deflation he also noted that he wants to increase pressure on North Korea along with the international community. Japanese Finance Minister Aso stated that Japan is to continue to firmly escape deflation. South Korea’s FX authority warned that the pace of the KRW’s gains has been fast. A BoK official warned that the KRW has appreciated fast in a short time, and reiterates that FX authorities are monitoring the situation. Moody’s raised India’s sovereign rating to Baa2 from Baa3, outlook to stable from positive.

Top Asian News

  • India Rating Raised by Moody’s as Reforms Boost Growth Potential
  • China to Rein Risks in Asset Management Industry
  • China Warning Wipes $6 Billion From Stock Loved by Goldman
  • Erdogan Says Turkey Has Withdrawn Troops From NATO Exercise
  • China Stocks Cap Worst Week Since August as Moutai Battered

European bourses trading modestly lower this morning, with downbeat earnings weighing sentiment, while the spill-over from a soft Asian session has dented risk in Europe. Vivendi shares had been lower as much as 2% after a weak earnings update. FTSE 100 slipping slight amid the strength in GBP, which is back above 1.32 against the greenback. Comments from ECB’s Draghi have sparked some additional movement, as while largely sticking to the post-October 26 policy meeting presser he appeared more confident about the growth and inflation outlook (economic activity more self-propelling, underlying inflation to converge with headline etc). Hence, a decline in Bunds below parity to a 162.50 low, but again not yet posing a real threat to more substantial downside targets/supports. Market contacts suggest that 162.48 needs to be breached from an intraday chart perspective to bring Thursday’s 162.38 Eurex base into contention, and recall there are more/bigger stops anticipated below 162.36. On the upside, assuming 162.48 holds, yesterday’s 162.82 session high is the first proper line of resistance. Gilts have also retreated into negative territory alongside Bunds and USTs, to 124.45 vs 124.77 at best and their 124.72 previous settlement.

Top European News

  • We’ll Wait for U.K. Brexit Concessions, EU Leaders Tell May
  • From EON to Fortum: How to Save Nasdaq’s Fading Power Market
  • Carige Talks With Underwriters Continue as Deadline Looms
  • Elior Plunges Most on Record as Hurricane Irma Wrecks Party
  • Norway Idea to Exit Oil Stocks Is ‘Shot Heard Around the World’

In FX, the USD is down again, but off worst levels seen so far this week as the Index holds within a 93.500-93.900 broad range. Some respite for Dollar from progress on the tax reform bill, but another Russian-related probe into Trump’s election campaign has capped the upside. The Euro was underpinned by upbeat comments from ECB President Draghi, and holding close to 1.1800 vs the Usd. Hefty option expiries still in play from 1.1790-1.1800 through 1.18250 and up to 1.1840-50. The Yen regaining a safe-haven bid amid the latest US political challenge against the President, with Usd/Jpy down to new multi-week
lows sub-112.50. AUD/NZD is the biggest G10 losers on broad risk-off sentiment and the recovering Greenback, with Aud/Usd back below 0.7600 and Nzd/Usd even weaker under the 0.6800 handle. Note, cross flow also weakening the Kiwi as Aud/Nzd trades back at 1.1100+ levels.

In commodities, Brent and WTI crude futures trading higher by 0.4% and 1.3% respectively, the latter making a break above yesterday’s at USD 55.59, however has met resistance at the USD 56 handle. Iraq/Kurd oil flow to Ceyhan rises to 254k bpd, according to Port Agent

Looking at the day ahead, a slightly quieter end to the week although the ECB’s Draghi is due to give a keynote address on “Europe into a new era – how to seize the opportunities”. The Bundesbank’s Weidmann is also slated to speak while the Fed’s Williams speaks in the evening. US housing starts for October and the Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing activity index for November are the data highlights.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Housing Starts, est. 1.19m, prior 1.13m; MoM, est. 5.59%, prior -4.7%
  • 8:30am: Building Permits, est. 1.25m, prior 1.22m; MoM, est. 2.04%, prior -4.5%
  • 10am: MBA Mortgage Foreclosures, prior 1.29%; Mortgage Delinquencies, prior 4.24%
  • 11am: Kansas City Fed Manf. Activity, est. 20.5, prior 23

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Maybe the S&P 500 will be the new hard currency of the world as nothing seems to break it at the moment. After a very nervous last week (longer in HY and EM) for markets, the S&P 500 closed +0.82% last night (best day since September 11th) and for all the recent fury and angst is only 0.34% off its’ all-time closing high. The Nasdaq gained 1.30% to a fresh all time high and the Stoxx 600 was also up for the first time in eight days. The positive reaction seems to have started in Asia yesterday, in part as commodity prices stabilised somewhat and news that China’s PBoC injected cash with the largest reverse repo operation since January. Then US markets got an additional boost from Cisco guiding to its first revenue gain in eight quarters and Wal-Mart posting its strongest US sales in more than eight years. There was also a little sentiment boost from the House passing its tax bill.

This morning in Asia, markets are strengthening further. The Nikkei (+0.11%), Hang Seng (+0.78%) and Kospi (+0.28%) are all modestly up while the Shanghai Comp. is down 0.55% as we type. Moody’s upgraded India’s sovereign bond rating for the first time since 2004. It’s one notch higher to Baa2/Stable (also one notch higher than S&P’s BBB-) with the agency citing ongoing progress in economic and institutional reforms. India’s 10y bond yields is down c10bp this morning to 6.96%. Elsewhere, UST 10y has partly reversed yesterday’s moves and is trading c2bp lower.

Now back to US tax reforms, which is a small step closer to resolution. The House has voted (227-205) to pass its version of the tax reform bill despite 13 Republicans dissenting. President Trump tweeted “a big step toward fulfilling our promise to deliver historic tax cuts…by the end of the year”. Notably, the more challenging task may now begin in terms of passing the Senate’s version where fiscal constraints are tighter and the Republicans only have 52 of the 100 seats in the Chamber. Overnight, the Senate Finance Committee voted to approve its revised tax package, so a full chamber vote could come as early as the  week after Thanksgiving. If passed, the two versions of the tax bill will need to be somehow reconciled. Our US economist believes there is a decent chance that some version of tax reform can be achieved, but this is likely to be a Q1 event with potential stumbling blocks along the way.

Turning to the various Brexit headlines, PM May flew out last night to Sweden for an informal summit with European leaders seeking to kick start the stalled Brexit talks. She is expected to meet with the Swedish Premier and Irish counterpart before meeting with EU President Tusk on Friday. Following on, the Brexit Secretary Davis noted that we have to “wait a few more weeks” for clarity on how much UK is willing to pay in the divorce settlement. Elsewhere, Goldman Sachs CEO Blankfein tweeted “many (fellow business leaders) wish for a confirming vote on (Brexit)…so much at stake, why not make sure consensus still there?”

Moving onto central bankers’ commentaries. In the US, the Fed’s Mester sounded reasonably balanced and remains supportive of continued gradual policy tightening. She noted “anecdotal feedback from business contacts suggest they are increasing wages”, but it’s going to be hard to see strong wage growth because productivity growth is low. Overall, she sees “good reasons” that inflation will rise back to 2% goal, but “it’s going to take a little longer…”

The Fed’s Williams noted one more rate hike this year and three more in 2018 remains a “reasonable guess” subject to incoming data. Finally, the Fed’s Kaplan  reiterated the Fed would continue to make progress towards achieving its 2% inflation target, but noted that the neutral fed funds rate is “not that far away”.

In the UK, BOE Governor Carney reiterated that interest rates would probably rise “a couple of times over the next few years” if the economy evolved in line with the Bank’s projections, but also cautioned that the fundamental economic impacts of Brexit will only be “known over a very long period of time”. That said, he noted the BOE will remain nimble and support the economy no matter what the result of the Brexit negotiations will be. Elsewhere, Chancellor Hammond has confirmed that the Treasury does not plan to change the inflation gauge that the BOE targets from CPI to CPIH – which includes owner occupied housing costs and is the new preferred price measure by the Office for National Statistics.

Now recapping other markets performance yesterday. Within the S&P, only the energy and utilities sector were modestly in the red (-0.58%), partly weighed down by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund plans to sell c$40bln of energy related stocks to make it less vulnerable to the sector. Elsewhere, gains were led by telco, consumer staples and tech stocks. European markets were all higher, with the DAX and CAC up c0.6% while the FTSE 100 was the relative underperformer at +0.19%. The VIX index dropped 10.4% to 11.76.

Over in government bonds, UST 10y yields rose 5.3bp following the House’s approval of the tax plans and a solid beat for industrial production, while Gilts also rose 2.3bp, in part due to slightly stronger retail sales figures. Other core bond yields were little changed (10y Bunds flat, OATs -0.4bp), while Italian yields marginally underperformed (+0.5bp), partly reflecting that Banca Carige has failed to get banks to underwrite its planned share sale – making a bail in more likely, as well as recent polls (eg: Ipsos) showing the 5SM party taking a modest lead versus peers. Elsewhere, some of the recent pressure in the HY space appears to be reversing with the Crossover index 9.2bp tighter.

Key currencies were little changed, with the US dollar index up 0.13% while Sterling gained 0.18% and Euro fell 0.18%. In commodities, WTI oil dipped 0.34% yesterday but is trading marginally higher this morning after Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its willingness to extend oil cuts at the November 30 OPEC meeting. Elsewhere, precious metals were slightly higher (Gold +0.03%; Silver +0.54%) while other base metals continue to softened, although losses are moderating (Copper -0.17%; Zinc -0.84%; Aluminium -0.35%).

Away from the markets, our US economists have published their latest outlook for the US economy. They note the US economy is on good footing for continued above-trend growth in 2018 and beyond. Overall, they believe private sector fundamentals are broadly sound, the labour market has more than achieved full employment and financial conditions are highly supportive of growth. On real GDP growth, their forecast for 2018 is unchanged at 2.3%, but 2019 is up a tenth to 2.1% while growth in 2020 is expected to slow to 1.5% as monetary policy tightening gains traction. The Unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.5% by early 2019, so although inflation should remain low through year-end, our team’s medium-term view that core inflation should normalise is intact. Hence, in terms of rates outlook, they still expect the next rate increase in December, followed by three hikes in 2018 and four more in 2019. Elsewhere, tax reform is a wild card, though it faces significant political challenges. Conversely, potential disruptions to trade policy would be a negative development. For more detail, refer to their note.

Before we take a look at today’s calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from yesterday. In the US, the October IP was above expectations at 0.9% mom (vs. 0.5%) and 2.9% yoy – the highest since January 2015, in part as the post storm recovery efforts gets underway. Aggregate capacity utilization was also beat at 77% (vs. 76.3% expected) – highest since April 2015 and the NAHB housing market index was also above at 70 (vs. 67) – highest since March. Elsewhere, the November Philly Fed index was slightly below expectations but still solid at 22.7 (vs. 24.6 expected), with both the new orders and employment indices above 20. Finally, the weekly initial jobless claims was slightly higher (249k vs. 235k expected), perhaps impacted by the delayed filings following the storms and the Veteran’s day holiday, while continuing claims fell to a new 44 year low (1,860k vs. 1,900k expected).

In the UK, core retail sales (ex-auto fuel) for October slightly beat expectations, at 0.1% mom (vs. flat expected) and -0.3% yoy (vs. -0.4% expected). In the Eurozone, the final reading for October CPI was unrevised at 0.1% mom and 1.4% yoy, but France’s 3Q unemployment was slightly higher than expected at 9.7% (vs. 9.5%).

Looking at the day ahead, a slightly quieter end to the week although the ECB’s Draghi is due to give a keynote address on “Europe into a new era – how to seize the opportunities”. The Bundesbank’s Weidmann is also slated to speak while the Fed’s Williams speaks in the evening. US housing starts for October and the Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing activity index for November are the data highlights.

http://WarMachines.com

Bill Blain: “Stock Markets Don’t Matter; The Great Crash Of 2018 Will Start In The Bond Market”

Blain’s Morning Porridge, Submitted by Bill Blain of Mint Partners

The Great Crash of 2018? Look to the bond markets to trigger Mayhem!

I had the impression the markets had pretty much battened down for rest of 2017 – keen to protect this year’s gains. Wrong again. It seems there is another up-step. After the People’s Bank of China dropped $47 bln of money into its financial system (where bond yields have risen dramatically amid growing signs of wobble), the game’s afoot once more. The result is global stocks bound upwards. Again. It suggest Central Banks have little to worry about in 2018 – if markets get fraxious, just bung a load of money at them.

Personally, I’m not convinced how the tau of monetary market distortion is a good thing? Markets have become like Pavlov’s dog: ring the easy money bell, and markets salivate to the upside.

Of course, stock markets don’t matter.

The truth is in bond markets. And that’s where I’m looking for the dam to break. The great crash of 2018 is going to start in the deeper, darker depths of the Credit Market.

I’ve already expressed my doubts about the long-term stability of certain sectors – like how covenants have been compromised in high-yield even as spreads have compressed to record tights over Treasuries, about busted European regions trying to pass themselves off as Sovereign States (no I don’t mean the Catalans, I mean Italy!), and how the bond market became increasingly less discerning on risk in its insatiable hunt for yield. Chuck all of these in a mixing bowl and the result is a massive Kerrang as the gears of finance explode!

Well.. maybe..

I’m convinced bond markets are the REAL bubble we should be watching. 

I’m convinced it’s going to start in High Yield.. so let’s start by talking about Collateralised Loan Obligations – the CLO market. Did you know that since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008 only 20 out of 1392 deals have seen their riskiest tranches default? (I pinched the numbers from a Bloomberg article.) When I quoted these numbers in the office everyone was surprised.. Surely losses were greater?

Of course not.

It wasn’t just banks that benefitted from Too-Big-To-Fail. (TBTF) Most CLOs did very well. In 2008 smart credit funds realised they would benefit on the back of TBTF and did exceeding well out buying cheap CLOs from panicked sellers. As the GFC unfolded in the wake of Lehman’s default, the global financial authorities pulled out the stops to stop contagion. Banks were unwilling to realise further losses, interest rates plummeted, meaning the highly levered companies issuing the debt backing CLOs survived and were better able to repay their existing debt.

The 2008 GFC was about consumer debt – triggered by mortgages. We still have consumer debt crisis problems ahead (in credit cards, autos and student loans). There is also the fact Consumers have suffered most these past 10-yrs as massive income inequality has left them paid less and paying more for everything – which is most definitely going to come back and haunt markets at some point.

But, I do think the next Financial Crisis is likely to be in Corporate debt, and will be an credit market analogue to the consumer debt crisis of 2008. The Hi-yield market is the likely source – as markets recovered banks started lending again, and low rates forced investors out the credit-risk curve to buy returns. The funds who used to buy nothing but AAAs are now buying speculative single B names. Such is the demand for assets, these companies have been able to lever up and refinance, increase leverage and refinance further, at ever faster rates.

It’s been exacerbated by private equity fuelling returns through debt.  As demand has increased exponentially, borrowers have been able to slash Covenants, making it easier and simpler for over-indebted companies to raise more and more dosh.

Where does it end?

As rates rise we’re going to see the “Toys’R’us” moment repeated on a grand scale. The rise of and fall of Zombie companies that simply can’t meet debt payments is bound to contage not just the rest of the credit market, but also stocks. 

More immediately, the realisation a crisis is coming feels very similar to June 2007 when the first mortgage backed funds in the US started to wobble. (The first few pebbles rolling down the hill before the landslide?) It explains why we’re seeing the highly levered sector of the Junk bond markets struggle, and companies correlated to struggling highly levered consumers (such as health and telecoms) also in trouble.

Basically, the very little is really fixed since the 2008 financial crisis. 10-years later, here we are with the next bubble about to burst. Corporate debt watch out.

Which leads us to the UK Housing Sector…

A few days I commented on how UK house prices have risen 50% over the last 5-years – a period which has seen incomes stagnate. The result is its practically impossible for anyone on a normal salary to even contemplate ever affording their own house – a very good article in the FT yesterday saw the author explain he’d have to save 20% of his gross income for 60 years to be able to put down a deposit on the bed-sit he lives in!

In short, the great myth of the Thatcher generation is dead. The dream of home ownership in the UK won’t happen for our children’s generation.. They will be forced to rent, and that’s a very expensive market here in London. At the moment a mortgage is far cheaper than renting – but as rates rise that will correct a little. 

Somehow we have to create decent rental accommodation at a cost comparable or below mortgages. After all, if you own a house you save money on accommodation, and you get all the upside from appreciation of the asset. Historically, housing has been a better performing asset to own than even stocks – so perhaps there is even a tax angle there, but one no sane politician would date to broach. 

To make it happen we need to encourage public and private landlords with the where-with-all to build new quality rentals – and surprisingly this may be possible under current government polices announced yesterday such as privatising the Housing Associations. As this point regular readers will be in shock – “Blain praising the government? Pass the smelling salts”!

Insurance and pension funds will fund the assets – they know house are literally “safe as houses”!  There is a clear role for Housing Associations to become even more important quality providers of rental/social accommodation.

The big risk is some political fool will decide to enhance their electoral prospects with some ill-conceived “right-to-buy” policy which will simply fuel expectations, drive up consumer borrowing, and fuel a boom market once more putting property out of reach for the masses. 

Meanwhile, I suppose we should be worrying about the fact Merkel still can’t put a government together, the fact it’s now pay to get out of jail in Saudi, and all the other noise. Will anyone be listening to Theresa Maybe in Brussels today?

http://WarMachines.com