Submitted by Daniel Drew via Dark-Bid.com,

After the carnage of the 2008 crash, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker proposed a rule that would prevent banks from making short-term proprietary trades with financial instruments. In other words, no gambling allowed. This rule would become known as The Volcker Rule, and it went into partial effect on April 1, 2014. Full compliance is required by July 21, 2015. Of course, the bank lobbyists were hard at work, and numerous exceptions and loopholes were created. The definition of "financial instruments" did not include currencies, despite the fact that currencies are the basis of the modern financial system and should be considered the ultimate financial instrument. Also, banks were allowed to "hedge" their risks. As JPMorgan demonstrated in 2012, apparently, it is possible to lose $6 billion while hedging risks with credit derivatives.

JPMorgan is at it again – this time, with the Swiss franc. On January 15 of this year, the Swiss Central Bank sent shockwaves around the financial world when they abruptly abandoned the 1.20 EURCHF floor.

CHF/USD Futures

The Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan made up to $300 million in the ensuing trading chaos. With the FX market facing a severe shortage of liquidity, JPMorgan stepped in. However, as with any illiquid market, the dealers call the shots. Bid/ask spreads can explode, creating enormous transaction costs for anyone who has to trade. These parties included desperate retail FX brokers and small clients who were bankrupted by the Swiss central bankers. As the WSJ reported,

J.P. Morgan filled client orders at a certain rate, allowing them to quickly assess their position and continue trading when liquidity dried up in the market, this person said. The bank told clients it would fill orders at 1.02 francs per euro while the Swiss currency grew from 1.20 francs per euro to nearly .85 on Jan. 15, the person said. It is unclear how long the bank offered this rate to clients.

By setting the fill 15% away from the last price, JPMorgan was able to lock in any gains from a long franc position instantly. It also gave the firm's traders an anchor so they knew where they were at. What if the clients could get a more advantageous rate at another bank? It didn't matter. 1.02 was the price. If JPMorgan's traders saw a better rate elsewhere, they could trade with that third party and effectively arbitrage the market against their own clients. Of course, it was all transparent. You knew you were getting 1.02, but if your bankrupt broker is margin calling you at any price, there's not much you can do. It was JPMorgan's market.

The chaos of the Swiss bank bluff showed up in JPMorgan's first quarter report. In the trading section that reports the firm's value at risk, January 15 stands out like LeBron James in his 5th grade class picture.

JPMorgan VAR

With free reign to trade currencies and under the guise of "market making," JPMorgan raped the accounts of retail FX brokers and small clients who never could have imagined that the Swiss Central Bank would turn the stable franc into one of the most volatile currencies of the decade. It also appears that The Wall Street Journal overstated the $300 million headline number. According to JPMorgan, they made about $200 million that day.

The fact that JPMorgan still takes value at risk (VAR) seriously is another irony. Wall Street anti-hero Nassim Taleb has made multiple fortunes betting on improbable events via out-of-the-money put options, and he remains one of the most steadfast critics of VAR. Taleb has an arcane style of communication, but the summary of his criticism is that VAR is based on the normal distribution, which underestimates the effects of extreme price moves. Furthermore, the very idea that wild events can be predicted by any model is an arrogant assumption, according to Taleb. A white paper by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) verifies Taleb's assertions.

S&P 500 Skew

The chart shows the type of statistical distribution that Taleb described as "Extremistan" in his popular book "The Black Swan." The frequency is heavy in the middle and higher than expected in the "tails," or the far extremes of the distribution. What this means is that wild events like the Swiss Central Bank bluffing the entire world happen more frequently than risk models suggest.

In their 10-Q filing, JPMorgan boasts that there were no VAR band breaks. Translation: They never had a 1-day loss that exceeded their estimates of about $50 million – although they did come uncomfortably close in March. Just like a typical swashbuckling bank that throws around billions of depositors' FDIC-insured money on convoluted derivative bets, JPMorgan is only concerned about downside volatility while ignoring upside volatility. Yes, they didn't have any downside VAR breaks, but anyone can look at the chart and see there were multiple instances where they made more than $50 million in a single day, with the Swiss bank debacle being the most notable one. Veteran traders know that this kind of wild upside can be just as great of a risk as unexpected downside. If you can make $200 million in a single day, you can also lose the same amount – especially when the P/L comes from linear non-derivative sources like the spot currency market. In this case, JPMorgan happened to be on the right side of the tidal wave. However, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays got caught in the crossfire, and they lost a combined $400 million on the franc. Just another day in casino capitalism.

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-15/what-volcker-rule-loophole-looks

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Update: within minutes of publishing this article news hit that the FBI is launching a probe into HFT. QED

For all the talk about how High Frequency Trading has rigged markets, most seem to be ignoring the two most obvious questions: why now and what happens next?

After all, Zero Hedge may have been ahead of the curve in exposing the parasitism of HFT (anyone who still doesn’t get it should read the following primer in two parts from Credit Suisse), but we were hardly alone and over the years many others joined along to expose what is clear market manipulation aided and abeted by not only the exchanges but by the regulators themselves who passed Reg NMS – the regulation that ushered in today’s fragmented and broken market – with much fanfare nearly a decade ago. And yet, it took over five years before our heretical view would become mainstream canon.

One logical explanation is the dramatic and sudden about face by none other than Goldman Sachs, which from one of the biggest proponents of quant trading strategies including algo trading, and which used to make a killing courtesy of HFT (who can possibly forget Goldman’s charges against Sergey Aleynikov’s code theft which alleged “there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways“), has in recent weeks unleashed a de facto war on HFT, first with the Gary Cohn HFT-bashing op-ed, and then with the implicit backing of the IEX pseudo dark pool exchange, whose employee just mysteriously also is the protagonist of the Michael Lewis book that has raised the issue of HFT to a fever pitch.

So does Goldman know something the rest of us don’t that it is now ready to give up on the HFT goldmine which lost money on just one day in 1238? Why of course it does. And one would imagine that judging by the dramatic turnaround exhibited by Goldman that said something is very adverse to the ongoing future profitability of the HFT industry. The amusement factor only rises by several notches when one considers that Goldman also happens to be lead underwriter on the Virtu IPO offering: one wonders what they uncovered and/or what they know about the industry that nobody else does, and just how the VRTU IPO will fare now that Goldman is so openly against HFT.

But what does all of that mean for the big picture? We hinted at it yesterday, on twitter when we had the following exchange.

Could it indeed be that the only reason why HFT – which has constantly been in the background of broken market structure culprits but never really taken such a prominent role until last night, is because the market is being primed for a crash, and just like with the May 2010 “Flash Crash” it will all be the algos’ fault?

This is precisely the angle that Rick Santelli took earlier today, during his earlier monolog asking “Why is HFT tolerated.” We show it below, but here is Rick’s punchline:

Are regulators stupid when it comes to high frequency trade? Well, i think that there was a time where they were a bit slow to the party. But i don’t think it’s stupidity or ignorance or not paying attention. So let’s wipe that off. So the question i’m asking is, why do they let it continue?

 

Why is it that anybody would want HFT to be unchallenged or at least not challenge it now? My reason, this is just my reason, when i look at the stock market it’s basically at historic highs. When i look at what the federal reserve is doing, it’s mostly to put stocks on all-time highs. When i look at all the debt and all the programs that don’t seem to be making a difference except for putting stocks on all-time highs, i see that you have this tower of power with regard to the stock market. And nobody wants to challenge or alter hft because it is good to go that many days without having a loss. So my guess is when the stock market eventually deals with reality and pricing, which will come at a time when there’s not a zero interest rate policy and we’re long past QE, I think they’ll address it.

Rick’s full clip:

Precisely: when reality reasserts itself – a reality which Rick accurately points out has been suspended due to 5 years and counting of Fed central-planning – HFT will be “addressed.” How? As the scapegoat of course. Because since virtually nobody really understands what HFT does, it can just as easily be flipped from innocent market bystander which “provides liquidity” to the root of all evil.

In other words: the high freaks are about to become the most convenient, and “misunderstood” scapegoat, for when the market finally does crash. Which means that those HFT-associated terms which very few recognize now, especially those on either side of the pro/anti-HFT debate who have very strong opinions but zero factual grasp of the matter, such as the following…

  • Frontrunning: needs no explanation
  • Subpennying: providing a “better” bid or offer in a fraction of penny to force the underlying order to move up or down.
  • Quote Stuffing: the HFT trader sends huge numbers of orders and cancels
  • Layering: multiple, large orders are placed passively with the goal of “pushing” the book away
  • Order Book Fade: lightning-fast reactions to news and order book pressure lead to disappearing liquidity
  • Momentum ignition: an HFT trader detects a large order targeting a percentage of volume, and front-runs it.

… will become part of the daily jargon as the anti-HFT wave sweeps through the land.

Why? Well to redirect anger from the real culprit for the manipulated market of course: the Federal Reserve. Because while what HFT does is or should be illegal, in performing its daily duties, it actively facilitates and assists the Fed’s underlying purpose: to boost asset prices to ever greater record highs in hopes that some of this paper wealth will eventually trickle down, contrary to five years of evidence that the wealth is merely being concentrated making the wealthiest even richer.

Amusingly some get it, such as the former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, Stephen Roach, who in the clip below laid it out perfectly in an interview with Bloomberg TV earlier today (he begins 1:30 into the linked clip), and explains precisely why HFT will be the next big Lehman-type fall guy, just after the next market crash happens. To wit: “flash traders are bit players compared to the biggest rigger of all which is the Fed.” Because after the next crash, which is only a matter of time, everything will be done to deflect attention from the “biggest rigger of all.”

So, dear HFT firms, enjoy your one trading day loss in 1238. Those days are about to come to a very abrupt, and unhappy, end.

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-31/high-frequency-trading-why-now-and-what-happens-next

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Mike Whitney of Counterpunch

The Greatest Propaganda Coup of Our Time?

There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false.

The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category. The transcripts (1,865 pages) reveal the details of 14 emergency meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in 2008, when the financial crisis was at its peak and the Fed braintrust was deliberating on how best to prevent a full-blown meltdown. But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized.

What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time. They take advantage of the fact that people simply forget a lot of what happened during the crisis and, as a result, absolve the Fed of any accountability for what is likely the crime of the century. It’s an accomplishment that PR-pioneer Edward Bernays would have applauded. After all, it was Bernays who argued that the sheeple need to be constantly bamboozled to keep them in line. Here’s a clip from his magnum opus “Propaganda”:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Sound familiar? My guess is that Bernays’ maxim probably features prominently in editors offices across the country where “manufacturing consent” is Job 1 and where no story so trivial that it can’t be spun in a way that serves the financial interests of the MSM’s constituents. (Should I say “clients”?) The Fed’s transcripts are just a particularly egregious example. Just look at the coverage in the New York Times and judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”:

“The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

This quote is so misleading on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, the New York Times is the ideological wellspring of elite propaganda in the US. They set the tone and the others follow. That’s the way the system works. So it always pays to go to the source and try to figure out what really lies behind the words, that is, the motive behind the smokescreen of half-truths, distortions, and lies. How is the Times trying to bend perceptions and steer the public in their corporate-friendly direction, that’s the question. In this case, the Times wants its readers to believe that the Fed members “misread the crisis”; that they were ‘behind the curve’ and stressed-out, but–dad-gum-it–they were trying their level-best to make things work out for everybody.

How believable is that? Not very believable at all.

Keep in mind, the crisis had been going on for a full year before the discussions in these transcripts took place, so it’s not like the members were plopped in a room the day before Lehman blew up and had to decide what to do. No. They had plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land, get their bearings and do what was in the best interests of the country. Here’s more from the Times:

”My initial takeaway from these voluminous transcripts is that they paint a disturbing picture of a central bank that was in the dark about each looming disaster throughout 2008. That meant that the nation’s top bank regulators were unprepared to deal with the consequences of each new event.”

Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? Of course, the Fed knew what was going on. How could they NOT know? Their buddies on Wall Street were taking it in the stern sheets every time their dingy asset pile was downgraded which was every damn day. It was costing them a bundle which means they were probably on the phone 24-7 to (Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson whining for help. “You gotta give us a hand here, Hank. The whole Street is going toes-up. Please.”

Here’s more from the NYT:

“Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators. As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

There’s that same refrain again, “Blind”, “In the dark”, “Behind the curve”, “Misread the crisis”.

Notice how the Times only invokes terminology that implies the Fed is blameless. But it’s all baloney. Everyone knew what was going on. Check out this excerpt from a post by Nouriel Roubini that was written nearly a full year before Lehman failed:

“The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation’s worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer; high oil and gasoline prices; falling capital spending by the corporate sector; a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up; and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who — thanks to falling home prices — can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their income. As private consumption in the US is over 70% of GDP the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.

 

On top of this recession there are now serious risks of a systemic financial crisis in the US as the financial losses are spreading from subprime to near prime and prime mortgages, consumer debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans), commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans and postponed/restructured/canceled LBO and, soon enough, sharply rising default rates on corporate bonds that will lead to a second round of large losses in credit default swaps. The total of all of these financial losses could be above $1 trillion thus triggering a massive credit crunch and a systemic financial sector crisis.” ( Nouriel Roubini Global EconoMonitor)

Roubini didn’t have some secret source for data that wasn’t available to the Fed. The financial system was collapsing and it had been collapsing for a full year. Everyone who followed the markets knew it. Hell, the Fed had already opened its Discount Window and the Term Auction Facility (TAF) in 2007 to prop up the ailing banks–something they’d never done before– so they certainly knew the system was cratering. So, why’s the Times prattling this silly fairytale that “the Fed was in the dark” in 2008?

I’ll tell you why: It’s because this whole transcript business is a big, freaking whitewash to absolve the shysters at the Fed of any legal accountability, that’s why. That’s why they’re stitching together this comical fable that the Fed was simply an innocent victim of circumstances beyond its control. And that’s why they want to focus attention on the members of the FOMC quibbling over meaningless technicalities –like non-existent inflation or interest rates–so people think they’re just kind-hearted buffoons who bumbled-along as best as they could. It’s all designed to deflect blame.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these conversations didn’t happen. They did, at least I think they did. I just think that the revisionist media is being employed to spin the facts in a way that minimizes the culpability of the central bank in its dodgy, collaborationist engineering of the bailouts. (You don’t hear the Times talking about Hank Paulson’s 50 or 60 phone calls to G-Sax headquarters in the week before Lehman kicked the bucket, do you? But, that’s where a real reporter would look for the truth.)

The purpose of the NYT article is to create plausible deniability for the perpetrators of the biggest ripoff in world history, a ripoff which continues to this very day since the same policies are in place, the same thieving fraudsters are being protected from prosecution, and the same boundless chasm of private debt is being concealed through accounting flim-flam to prevent losses to the insatiable bondholders who have the country by the balls and who set policy on everything from capital requirements on complex derivatives to toppling democratically-elected governments in Ukraine. These are the big money guys behind the vacillating-hologram poseurs like Obama and Bernanke, who are nothing more than kowtowing sock puppets who jump whenever they’re told. Here’s more bunkum from the Gray Lady:

”By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.

 

Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.

 

On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”

 

Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

This part deserves a little more explanation. The author says “the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.” Uh, yeah; because the whole flimsy house of cards came crashing down when investors figured out Wall Street was peddling toxic assets. So the money dried up. No one buys crap assets after they find out they’re crap; it’s a simple fact of life. The Times makes this sound like this was some kind of unavoidable natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado. It wasn’t. It was a crime, a crime for which no one has been indicted or sent to prison. That might have been worth mentioning, don’t you think?

More from the NYT: “…on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.”

Yipee! Free money for all the crooks who blew up the financial system and plunged the economy into recession. The Fed assumed blatantly-illegal powers it was never provided under its charter and used them to reward the people who were responsible for the crash, namely, the Fed’s moneybags constituents on Wall Street. It was a straightforward transfer of wealth to the Bank Mafia. Don’t you think the author should have mentioned something about that, just for the sake of context, maybe?

Again, the Times wants us to believe that the men who made these extraordinary decisions were just ordinary guys like you and me trying to muddle through a rough patch doing the best they could.

Right. I mean, c’mon, this is some pretty impressive propaganda, don’t you think? It takes a real talent to come up with this stuff, which is why most of these NYT guys probably got their sheepskin at Harvard or Yale, the establishment’s petri-dish for serial liars.

By September 2008, Bernanke and Paulson knew the game was over. The crisis had been raging for more than a year and the nation’s biggest banks were broke. (Bernanke even admitted as much in testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2011 when he said “only one ….out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States…was not at serious risk of failure within a period of a week or two.” He knew the banks were busted, and so did Paulson.) Their only chance to save their buddies was a Hail Mary pass in the form of Lehman Brothers. In other words, they had to create a “Financial 9-11?, a big enough crisis to blackmail congress into $700 no-strings-attached bailout called the TARP. And it worked too. They pushed Lehman to its death, scared the bejesus out of congress, and walked away with 700 billion smackers for their shifty gangster friends on Wall Street. Chalk up one for Hank and Bennie.

The only good thing to emerge from the Fed’s transcripts is that it proves that the people who’ve been saying all along that Lehman was deliberately snuffed-out in order to swindle money out of congress were right. Here’s how economist Dean Baker summed it up the other day on his blog:

“Gretchen Morgensen (NYT financial reporter) picks up an important point in the Fed transcripts from 2008. The discussion around the decision to allow Lehman to go bankrupt makes it very clear that it was a decision. In other words the Fed did not rescue Lehman because it chose not to.

 

This is important because the key regulators involved in this decision, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, have been allowed to rewrite history and claim that they didn’t rescue Lehman because they lacked the legal authority to rescue it. This is transparent tripe, which should be evident to any knowledgeable observer.” (“The Decision to Let Lehman Fail”, Dean Baker, CEPR)

Here’s the quote from Morgenson’s piece to which Baker is alluding:

“In public statements since that time, the Fed has maintained that the government didn’t have the tools to save Lehman. These documents appear to tell a different story. Some comments made at the Sept. 16 meeting, directly after Lehman filed for bankruptcy, indicate that letting Lehman fail was more of a policy decision than a passive one.” (“A New Light on Regulators in the Dark”, Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times)

Ah ha! So it was a planned demolition after all. At least that’s settled.

Here’s something else you’ll want to know: It was always within Bernanke’s power to stop the bank run and end to the panic, but if he relieved the pressure in the markets too soon (he figured), then Congress wouldn’t cave in to his demands and approve the TARP. Because, at the time, a solid majority of Republicans and Democrats in congress were adamantly opposed to the TARP and even voted it down on the first ballot. Here’s a clip from a speech by, Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in September 2008 which sums up the grassroots opposition to the bailouts:

“The $700 bailout bill is being driven by fear not fact. This is too much money, in too short of time, going to too few people, while too many questions remain unanswered. Why aren’t we having hearings…Why aren’t we considering any other alternatives other than giving $700 billion to Wall Street? Why aren’t we passing new laws to stop the speculation which triggered this? Why aren’t we putting up new regulatory structures to protect the investors? Why aren’t we directly helping homeowners with their debt burdens? Why aren’t we helping American families faced with bankruptcy? Isn’t time for fundamental change to our debt-based monetary system so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the US Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”

But despite overwhelming public resistance, the TARP was pushed through and Wall Street prevailed. mainly by sabotaging the democratic process the way they always do when it doesn’t suit their objectives.)

Of course, as we said earlier, Bernanke never really needed the money from TARP to stop the panic anyway. (Not one penny of the $700 bil was used to shore up the money markets or commercial paper markets where the bank run took place.) All Bernanke needed to do was to provide backstops for those two markets and, Voila, the problem was solved. Here’s Dean Baker with the details:

“Bernanke deliberately misled Congress to help pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He told them that the commercial paper market was shutting down, raising the prospect that most of corporate America would be unable to get the short-term credit needed to meet its payroll and pay other bills. Bernanke neglected to mention that he could singlehandedly keep the commercial paper market operating by setting up a special Fed lending facility for this purpose. He announced the establishment of a lending facility to buy commercial paper the weekend after Congress approved TARP.” (“Ben Bernanke; Wall Street’s Servant”, Dean Baker, Guardian)

So, there you have it. The American people were fleeced in broad daylight by the same dissembling cutthroats the NYT is now trying to characterize as well-meaning bunglers who were just trying to save the country from another Great Depression.

I could be wrong, but I think we’ve reached Peak Propaganda on this one.

(Note: By “good” propaganda, I mean “effective” propaganda. From an ethical point of view, propaganda can never be good because its objective is to intentionally mislead people…..which is bad.)

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-01/greatest-propaganda-coup-our-time

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click here to follow ZeroHedge in Real-time on FinancialJuice

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Chucked something in the wash and turned it on too high, only to see it pop out at the end of the cycle and it ends up the size of your hamster. Well, Obama has been doing the same. Except this time it’s not your winter woollies that he’s shrinking, it’s the greenback.

The US currency is shrinking as a percentage of world currency today according to the International Monetary Fund. It’s still in pole position for the moment, but business transactions are showing that companies around the world are today ready and willing to make the move to do business in other currencies.

The US Dollar has long been the world’s number one denomination in world currency supply. It represents 62% of total holdings in foreign exchange in central banks around the world. But, it is in for a tough race from up-and-coming strong currencies. The Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan are both giving the Americans a good run for their money. The Swiss franc is too (surprisingly). There is $6 trillion in foreign exchange holdings around the world at any given time, on average and the US Dollar represents almost two-thirds of that.

The fact that Brazil and China have also just signed a currency-swap deal worth something to the tune of $30 billion stands as living proof that the dollar may be further on the wane. China will exceed all expectations in the future as the world’s largest economy. The US will be overtaken. The Chinese currency will one day overtake the Dollar too. Has to be!

Although, it’s not quite there for the moment. China is not near being the world’s reserve currency yet. In order to be the world’s reserve currency there would be the need to produce enormous quantities of what the world wants. China has got that one off pat already. Then, countries holding the reserve currency would need to be able to spend that currency elsewhere in other countries or find a place to put it while waiting to do so. World capital markets are currently in dollars (40%), which means that there would be no possibility of using the Chinese currency. But, that’s only a matter of time. Some are predicting this will happen pretty soon.

The Federal Reserve has come in for some strong criticism over the unconventional Quantitative Easing methods that have resulted in 3 trillion spanking new dollars rolling off the printing presses. This has certainly brought about some degree of worry around the world that the dollar is not quite as safe as it might have been thought to be in the past. Is the world worrying that the dollar is not as safe a bet as it used to be in world domination. Are central banks worried that it will shrink in the wash and the colors will run?

Some are predicting that the dollar will shrink rapidly over the next two years and it will lose its top place as the world’s reserve currency by 2015. In the 1950s the dollar was 90% of total foreign currency holdings around the world. The dollar has definitely lost out to other currencies that are stronger. If there is a continued move and the dollar shrinks, then the resulting catastrophe that will ensue will have a spiral effect on the already enormous US budget deficit (over $1 trillion a year on average).

The only reason the Federal Reserve has been in a position to print more money recently is simply because they are in the strong position to be able to do so as the world’s leading reserve currency. If that changes, then the Americans won’t have the possibility of just hitting the button and setting the printing presses rolling. That means the US will be in no other position than to end up having to pay their debt back.

The US economy and the market are starting to show signs of recovery. Signs. It’s not sustained, hope as they might. If the dollar loses its attraction, then it won’t be used as the international reserve currency. Businesses will start using another currency and the dollar will lose out further still.

Some experts are saying that the problems of the dollar are like a time-bomb ready to explode. Ultimately, it will bring about the death of the dollar. As we stand on and watch, huddled around the coffin as it is lowered into the ground, we know it’s all too late. The flowers have been sent and the Stars and Stripes has been played in recognition of loyal service for the nation.

The QE methods are nothing more than aiding and abetting the already problematic situation of the greenback. We might look back in years to come and reminisce over whether it was the right (long-term) solution to use QE, whether printing bucks sent the greenback to an early grave, or whether it just reached the end of its life and croaked peacefully without making too much noise.

But, criticism of and worry over the dollar and its longevity have been hot topics for years now. The US dollar is a fiat currency that can easily lose status, deriving its value from government regulation and law. But, then again, so is the Euro. So, people living in Europe shouldn’t start throwing stones…they live in glass houses too…and that’s before they start.

Originally posted: Death of the Dollar

You might also enjoy: You’re Miserable USA! | Emerging Markets: Lock, Stock and Barrel | End of the Financial World 2014 |  Kristallnacht on Wall Street? Bull! | China’s Credit Crunch | Working for the Few | USA:The Land of the Not-So-Free  

 

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2014-02-05/death-dollar

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Just a week ago, Ben Bernanke stumbled when he almost admitted that "forward guidance worked in theory, but not in practice," and while the Fed is sticking to its guns with lower for longer "forward guidance" to replace "as much money as you can eat" quantitative easing; and the ECB promising moar for longer; the Bank of England's Mark Carney just threw them all under the bus by u-turning on his employment-based forward guidance strategy. Having previously established thresholds for his monetray policy guidance, as the FT reports, he has now ditched those plans (as we warned he might "lose his credibility" here) as the British economy is "in a different place" now. And still, we are supposed to trust these bankers to run the world? Perhaps most interesting is the FT changed its title on the story very quickly!

 

Via The FT,

 

Mr Carney signalled the policy U-turn in a series of TV interviews while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. However, he added that he had no plans to raise interest rates “immediately”.

 

 

Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight in response to the news this week that UK unemployment had fallen to 7.1 per cent, almost to the point the BoE said it would consider a rate rise, the bank has decided not to revise its 7 per cent unemployment threshold but drop the idea completely.

 

 

The BoE followed the Federal Reserve in announcing forward guidance last August in a bid to make monetary policy “more effective”. It said it would not consider a rate rise in the UK at least until unemployment fell to 7 per cent from the rate last summer of 7.9 per cent.

 

The BoE forecast that it was most likely that unemployment would fall to the 7 per cent threshold only in 2016. Recognising a serious forecasting error has caused red faces at the BoE and created confusion over the policy, Mr Carney will address the subject again on Friday and Saturday.

 

 

Commenting on the huge errors in the bank’s forecasts, Mr Carney said: “If our forecast is going to be wrong, it’s better to be wrong in that direction”.

 

What is perhaps more interesting is the fact that the FT changed the title of the story very quickly…

 

Before…

 

After…

 

It seems someone at the BoE did not like it…

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-23/bank-england-folds-forward-guidance

, , , , , , , , ,


Download GoldCore Outlook For 2014

CONTENTS
– Introduction
– Review of 2013
– Gold and Silver Have Torrid Year – Fall 27% and 35% Respectively
– Year Of Paper Selling But Robust Physical Demand – Especially From China
– Highlights Of Year – German Gold Repatriation, Record Highs In Yen, Huge Chinese Demand
– Lowlights Of Year – Massive Paper Sell Offs in April/June and Cypriot Deposit Confiscation
– Syria and the Middle East
– U.S. Government Shutdown and $12 Trillion Default Risk
– Continuing Central Bank Demand
– Regulatory Authorities Investigate Gold Rigging

Outlook 2014
– Geopolitical Tensions – The Middle East, Russia, China, Japan and the U.S.
– Ultra Loose Monetary Policies Set To Continue with Yellen as New Federal Reserve Chair
– Eurozone Debt Crisis Again – UK, U.S. Japan and China Also Vulnerable
– Enter The Dragon – Chinese Gold Demand Paradigm Shift To Continue
– Death Of Indian Gold Market Greatly Exaggerated
– Long Term (2014-2020) MSGM Fundamentals

Conclusion

Introduction
Happy New Year. We would like to take this opportunity to wish our clients and subscribers a prosperous, healthy and happy 2014.

With 2013 having come to a close, it is important to take stock and review how various assets have performed in 2013, assess the outlook in 2014, and even more importantly, the outlook for the coming years.

2013 was the year of the speculator and the year of the risk asset, such as equities, with global stocks doing well in the sea of liquidity and cheap money created by central banks.
Surprisingly to many gold bulls, these favourable monetary conditions did not lead to higher precious metal prices. Gold and particularly silver had a torrid year and significantly underperformed the vast majority of equity and bond markets.

The MSCI World Index was up 23% and the S&P 500, the Nasdaq and the FTSE were up 32%, 35% and 14% respectively.

MSCI World Index – 1970 to January 3, 2014 – Bloomberg

Bond investors did not fare as well as interest rates began to rise from all-time record lows. As bond prices fell, interest rates rose. The bellwether 10-year Treasury note closed the year at 3.028%, which was up from 1.76% at the start of 2013 and the highest since July 2011.

US 10 Year Note – 1964 to January 3, 2014 – Bloomberg

The Barclays US Aggregate bond index, which is dominated by Treasury, mortgage and corporate bonds and is the leading benchmark followed by institutional money, is set to record its first negative year of total returns since 1999. The bond market’s major benchmark registered a total return of minus 2.1% for 2013. It is only the benchmark’s third annual negative total return since 1976, according to Barclays.

REVIEW OF 2013

Gold and Silver Have a Torrid Year – Fall 28% and 36% Respectively
Gold fell in all major currencies in 2013 and fell 28% in dollar terms for its first annual price fall since 2000. Gold fell 40% in pound terms, 45% in euro terms. Gold fell much less in Japanese yen terms and was 16% lower in yen as the yen continued to be devalued and debased.

Silver was down by 36% in dollar terms and by more in the other currencies; silver had its poorest annual performance since 1984.

Gold came under pressure in the first half of 2013 and saw falls from near $1,700/oz at the start of the year to $1,180/oz by mid-year. Indeed, gold’s low for the year took place on June 28th, which was the last day of trading in Q2, and an important time frame for those evaluating gold’s longer term performance.

The price falls in the first half took place despite a positive fundamental backdrop and despite the risk of contagion in the Eurozone – especially from Spain, Italy and Greece. This risk was so great in the early part of the year that it led George Soros to warn in February that the Eurozone could collapse as the U.S.S.R. had.

In March, Cyprus was the first country to experience a bank bail-in of depositors, where both individual and corporate account holders, experienced capital controls and a confiscation of nearly 50% of their deposits. In June and then again two weeks ago, the EU confirmed that depositors will be bailed in when banks are insolvent.

International monetary and financial authorities globally, including the ECB, the Bank of England and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), have put in place the regulatory and legal framework for bail-in regimes in the event of banks failing again.

Are Your Savings Safe From Bail-Ins

Gold saw a bit of a recovery in the third quarter with gains in July and August as gold interest rates went negative, bullion premiums in Asia surged and COMEX inventories continued to fall. Silver surged 12% in 5 trading days in mid August due to record silver eagle coin demand and ETF demand.

UK gold ‘exports’ to Switzerland increased greatly during the year due to demand for allocated gold in Switzerland due to Switzerland’s tradition of respecting private property throughout the centuries and its strong economy. However, more importantly, UK gold exports to Switzerland were due to the significant increase in store-of-wealth demand from China and many countries in Asia.

Institutional gold in the form of London gold delivery bars (400 oz) was exported to Swiss refineries in order to be recast into one kilogramme, 0.9999 gold bars used on the Shanghai Gold Exchange and in the Chinese market.

However, this was not enough to prevent further falls in the final quarter and in recent days when gold has again tested support at $1,200/oz.

Year Of Technical, Paper Selling But Robust Physical Demand

German Gold Repatriation
The year began with a bang, when news broke on January 17 that the German central bank was attempting to repatriate Germany’s gold reserves. The Bundesbank announced that they will repatriate 674 metric tons of their total 3,391 metric ton gold reserves from vaults in Paris and New York to restore public confidence in the safety of Germany’s gold reserves.


Bundesbank – Goldbarren

The repatriation of only some 20% of Germany’s gold reserves from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Banque of Paris back to Frankfurt was meant to allay increasing German concerns about their gold reserves. But the fact that the transfer from the Federal Reserve is set to take place slowly over a seven year period and will only be completed in 2020 actually led to increased concerns. It also fueled concerns that the unaudited U.S. gold reserves may be less than what is officially recorded.

What was quite bullish news for the gold market, saw gold quickly rise by some $30 to challenge $1,700/oz. The news was expected to help contribute to higher prices but determined selling saw gold capped at $1,700/oz prior to falls in price in February.

Paper Selling On COMEX
Gold’s falls in 2013 can be attributed in large part to paper selling by more speculative players on the COMEX. This was graphically seen in April when there was a selling raid on the COMEX which led to a huge price fall of nearly 15% in two days prior to the emergence of “extraordinary” demand for gold internationally.

The sell off came as demand in Europe began to pick up due to concerns that the Cypriot deposit confiscation may be a precedent that could be seen in other EU countries.

The speed and scale of the sell off was incredible and even some of the bears were surprised by it. Many questioned the catalysts for the $150 two day sell off. The sell off was initially attributed to an unfounded rumour regarding Cyprus gold reserve sales – this was soon seen to be a non-story. The Cyprus rumour did not justify the scale of the unprecedented sell off.
Reports suggested that a single futures sell order worth $6 billion, equal to 4 million ounces or 124.4 tonnes of gold, by a large investment bank sent prices plummeting. The futures market then saw a further wave of selling of contracts worth some $15 billion, equivalent to 10 million ounces of selling or 300 tonnes, in just 35 minutes.
Gold futures with a value of over 400 tonnes were sold in a handful of trades in minutes. This was equal to 15% of annual gold mine production. The scale of the selling was massive and again underlines how one or two large banks or hedge funds can completely distort the market by aggressive, concentrated leveraged short positions.

Investment banks and hedge fund speculators can manipulate the paper or futures gold price in whichever direction they want in the short term due to the massive leverage they can utilise. The events in April further bolstered the allegations of manipulation by the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA).

Significant Demand For Physical Gold Globally
Gold prices fell very sharply despite very high demand. However, the gold price decline was arrested by the scale of physical demand globally. This demand was particularly strong in the Middle East and in Asia, particularly China but was also seen in western markets with government mints reporting a surge in demand in 2013.

This demand for physical gold was seen in western markets throughout the year. In April, the US Mint had to suspend sales of small gold coins; premiums for coins and bars surged in western markets due to high demand.

Mints, refineries and bullion brokerages were quickly cleared out of stock in April and COMEX gold inventories plummeted. There were gold and silver coin and bar shortages globally.

This continued into May as investors and savers globally digested the ramifications of the Cypriot deposit confiscation. The crash of the Nikkei in May also added to physical demand in Japan and by nervous investors internationally.

This led to all time record gold transactions being reported by the LBMA at the end of May.

Chinese demand remained very robust and Shanghai Gold Exchange volumes surged 55% in one day at the end of May – from 10,094 kilograms to 15,641 kilograms. There were “supply constraints” for gold bars in Singapore and bullion brokers in Singapore and India became sold out of bullion product at the end of May.

This, and concerns about a very poor current account deficit and a possible run on the Indian rupee, prompted the Indian government to bring in quasi capital controls and punitive taxes on gold in June. Ironically, this led to even higher demand for gold in the short term and much higher premiums in India. Longer term, it has led to a massive surge in black market gold buying with thousands of Indians smuggling in gold from Bangkok, Dubai and elsewhere in Asia.

June saw another peculiar sudden 6% price fall in less than 24 hours. This again contributed to increased and very robust physical demand. U.S. Mint sales of silver coins reached a record in the first half of 2013 at 4,651,429 ounces and the UK’s Royal Mint saw a demand surge continuing in June after demand had trebled in April.
Asian markets continued to see elevated levels of gold buying. Gold demand in Vietnam was so high that buyers were paying a $217 premium over spot gold at $1,390/oz. Premiums surged again in China as the wise Chinese ‘aunties’ and wealthy Chinese continued to buy gold as a store of wealth.

Despite very high levels of demand for gold, in Asia especially, gold languished and sentiment in western markets continued to be very poor with gold falling to the lows of the year on June 28th.

July saw continuing strong demand for gold internationally as volumes surged to records on the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE). Premiums rose and feverish buying left many of Hong Kong’s banks, jewellers and even its gold exchange without enough gold bullion to meet demand.

In August, demand remained elevated and gold forward offered rates (GOFO) remained negative and became more negative. This showed that physical demand was leading to supply issues in the highly leveraged LBMA gold market or the institutional gold bar market.

Today, as we enter the New Year gold, forward offered rates (GOFO) remain negative, meaning banks, which had lent their customers gold to obtain a positive return, and therefore increase the “paper” gold supply, will take the gold back. This should limit the amount of gold on the market and increase the gold price.

Chinese buyers are of increasing importance but it is important to note that physical demand rose significantly throughout the world in 2013 despite falling prices. This is seen in the levels of demand experienced by leading bullion dealers, refiners and government mints. This is clearly seen in the data released by the Perth Mint and the U.S. Mint which both saw increased demand for physical gold coins and bars in 2013. Other mints have yet to report their numbers.

The Perth Mint of Western Australia reported yesterday that they saw a very significant increase in sales in 2013 despite the falling prices. Gold sales from the Perth Mint, which refines most of the bullion from the world’s second-biggest producer Australia, climbed 41% last year.

Sales of gold coins and minted bars totalled 754,635 ounces in 2013 from 533,333 ounces a year earlier, according to data from the mint.

Silver coin sales surged 33% to about 8.6 million ounces from 6.5 million ounces in 2012, according to the Perth Mint.

Gold bullion sales expanded 12% to 58,944 ounces in December from 52,700 in November and about 51,778 ounces in December 2012, according to data from the mint. Gold sales fell to as low as 30,430 ounces in August and peaked at about 112,575 in April, when gold was hammered 14% lower on the COMEX in just two days.

Silver coin sales were 845,941 ounces last month from 807,246 in November and 452,389 a year earlier, it said.

The U.S. Mint also saw an increase in physical gold sales and sold 14% more American Eagle gold coins last year and sales climbed 17% to 56,000 ounces in December from November, according to data on the mint’s website as reported by Bloomberg.

Syria and the Middle East
Even bullish developments such as the prospect of war in Syria at the end of August, only led to small, short term price gains. War in Syria and in the Middle East, pitching the U.S. and western allies against China and Russia was expected by many to lead to “market panic” and to propel gold “much, much higher,” in the words of astute investor Jim Rogers.

Only the fact that President Obama and the U.S. were confronted with opposition by people internationally against another war and were outmaneuvered diplomatically, prevented the war with Syria.

The war had the potential to destabilise the region with ramifications for oil prices and the global economy.

U.S. Government Shutdown and $12 Trillion Default Risk
Another very bullish development for gold came in late September and early October with the U.S. budget negotiations and government shutdown.

They highlighted the dire U.S. fiscal position and the complete failure of the American political and economic class to deal with their extremely precarious financial position in any meaningful way. The U.S. government is essentially bankrupt with a national debt of over $17 trillion and unfunded liabilities of between $100 trillion and $200 trillion.

In the coming months and years, it will lead to a lower dollar and much higher gold and silver prices.

However, in the year of paper gold selling that was 2013, even this did not lead to higher gold prices.

Continuing Central Bank Gold Demand 
All year, central banks continued to accumulate gold with Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkey and other central banks continuing to diversify their foreign exchange reserves.


U.S. Federal Reserve employees in underground vault holding monetary gold

Central banks continued to be strong buyers of gold in 2013, albeit the full year data may show demand was at a slightly slower rate than the record levels seen in recent years. Q4 2013 will be the 12th consecutive quarter of net purchases of gold by central banks.

Total official central bank demand continued at roughly 100 tonnes every single quarter. However, this does not include the ongoing clandestine and undeclared purchases of gold by the People’s Bank of China. Conservative estimates put PBOC demand at 100 tonnes a quarter or at over 400 tonnes for the year. More radical projections are of demand of over 1,000 tonnes from the PBOC in 2013.

Regulatory Authorities Investigate Gold Rigging
Peculiar, single trade or handful of trades leading to sudden gold price falls were common in 2013 and contributed to the 28% price fall.

Therefore, those who have diversified into physical gold will welcome the move by the German financial regulator BaFin to widen their investigation into manipulation by banks of benchmark gold and silver prices. In December, the German banking regulator BaFin demanded documents from Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, as part of a probe into suspected manipulation of the gold and silver markets.

The German regulator has been interrogating the bank’s staff over the past several months. Since November, when the probe was first mentioned, similar audits in the U.S. and UK are also commencing.

Precious metal investors live in hope but their experience of such investigations is that they are often very lengthy affairs with little in the way of outcome, disclosure or sanction. The forces of global supply and demand, one anemic, the other very high, are likely to be more important and a valuable aid to gold and silver owners in 2014 and in the coming years. As ultimately, the price of all commodities, currencies and assets is determined by supply and demand.

Janet Yellen Becomes Fed Chair

At year end came confirmation that cheap money uber dove Janet Yellen was set to take over from Ben Bernanke as Chair of the Federal Reserve. Gold bulls cheered loudly at her appointment thinking that Yellen’s appointment would lead to a recovery in oversold gold prices. However, even this bullish development did not help embattled gold prices.

OUTLOOK FOR 2014

Introduction

2013 was a year of calm in the world of finance. 2014 may not be so calm and there is a risk of renewed turbulence on global financial markets. There are many unresolved risks which were present in 2013 but did not come to the fore and impact markets as they could have.

The Eurozone debt crisis is far from resolved and there remains an underappreciated risk of sovereign crises in other major industrial nations.

There are far more positives for gold than negatives and the positives include ultra-loose monetary policies, risk of sovereign and banking debt crises and systemic or contagion risk, the increasingly uncertain political and military situation globally and of course increased demand for gold from the Middle East, much of Asia and particularly China.

Download GoldCore Outlook For 2014

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2014-01-04/good-bad-and-ugly-gold-2013-and-outlook-2014

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Over the weekend, I met with John Titus, Executive Producer of the new documentary film “Bailout: The Dukes of Moral Hazard,” which tells the story of individual Americans affected by the financial bust.  Myself, Yves Smith and other members of the blogerati are featured in the film.

We talked about why the film seems to connect with people at a viseral level.  Our conclusion is that the clarity and hilarity comes from the choice of our late friend John Fox as narrator. 

http://thecomicscomic.com/2012/05/31/r-i-p-john-fox-1957-2012/

The next screening of “Bailout” will be in Philadelphia later this month:

http://usabailout.com/content/screening-philadelphia-june-20-and-june-23

The subject matter of “Bailout” had to pass through the keen, irreverant perspective that John Fox, a veteran television writer and later stand up commedian, brought to all of his work.  When the man who opened for Rodney Dangerfield for eight years tells you about the subprime crisis, it somehow makes sense.

But even though Bailout Director Sean Patrick Fahey vividly presents the impact of the crisis on home owners, there is another part of the story that remains untold, namely the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses borne by investors.  Incredibly, the vast majority of the losses on residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) and toxic derivatives like collateralized debt obligations (CDO) have been left on the table. 

Consumer and legal advocates, and politicians, focus most of their attention on the impact of the crisis on home owners and communities.  No surprise since this is where the heat is politically.  Likewise for the media, back to the point about John Fox in the role of interlocutor, the most easily understood and conveyed part of the crisis is found in the world of consumer real estate and foreclosures.  Talking about the role of a trustee in an RMBS trust quickly causes the eyes to glaze, but that same complexity and unattractiveness creates vast opportunities for fraud. 

I had an interesting conversation last week with a several consumer advocates who also understand the world of loan servicing in an intimate fashion.  These advocates have been successfully defeating foreclosure petitions in states such as New Jersey because the servicers lack the ability to prove their right to proceed to foreclosure.  That is, the party attempting to foreclose does not have the mortgage note and often cannot even document precisely who is supposed to own the note.

What many consumer advocates and politicians don’t seem to want to understand is that the chaos in the courts with respect to the robo signing mess is a big hint about a whole other area of criminality: securities fraud.  The same systemic inefficiency that makes it difficult for servicers to foreclose on a mortgage with defects in the chain of possesion of the note also enables fraud.  Wall Street firms such as Countrywide, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns reportedly double-pledged tens of billions of dollars worth of real and ficticious mortgages. And there has been zero interest from the Obama Administration or state attorneys general in pursuing these claims.

Back in February I wrote a comment for Housing Wire, Eric Schneiderman delves into housing, outlining some of the areas where the NY AG could act to address systemic fraud on Wall Street. 

http://www.housingwire.com/news/eric-schneiderman-delves-housing

But the trouble is that Scheiderman has done nothing.  It seems that the entire system of government in the US has been compromised by the TBTF banks.  From the Federal Reserve Board in Washington to the office of the US Attorney to the various state AGs to the world of Buy Side managers, nobody has any interest in asking difficult questions about the provenance of the collateral underlying a significant — as in double digit percentages of some RMBS and CDOs.

Based upon my discussions with managers and also Sell Side firms involved in the liquidation of asset classes like CDOs, for example, loss rates are running close to 60% on the total $700 billion plus in securities issued.  And something like 2/3rds or more of the principal amount of loss to investors remains on the table, with no claims filed in the courts.  We are talking about tens of billions of dollars in losses, mostly to Buy Side end investors like pension funds, insurers and funds.  Mad now?

The claims here have effectively been abandoned by the supposed managers and advisors.  These orphan claims could be pursued by either public sector or private parties, yet nothing is done.  Why?  Let’s go through the casual chain of complicity and inaction.

First we start with the Fed, OCC, FDIC and other regulators.  From the acquisition of Countrywide Financial by Bank of America, to the acquisition of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual by JPMorgan, the objective has always been to preserve primary dealers at all cost.  This means the Fed must keep the lid on disclosure of the true asset quality of these TBTF originator/servicr banks, both on balance sheet and in the trillions of dollars in off-balance sheet RMBS securitizations and CDOs sponsored by these banks.  This also means that my friends at the FDIC are sometimes unknowingly on the wrong side of disputes involving the chain of title on collateral.  

Likewise in the case of Lehman Brothers, the bankruptcy process served to obscure the issue with respect to fraud.  As I noted in earlier posts, the trustee in a bankruptcy does not have the power to pursue fraud by third parties.  Only a receiver appointed by a federal district court a la The Stanford Group fraud has this power.  See the evergreen copy of  The IRA Institutional Risk Analyst comment on ZH: “The IRA | It’s All About the Fraud: Madoff, MF Global & Antonin Scalia.

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-19-13/ira-its-all-about-fraud-madoff-mf-global-antonin-scalia

Thus when a financial institution files for bankruptcy, unless the creditors understand their right to ask to the appropriate federal district court for the appointment of a receiver, the chances of recoveries and equity fall dramatically.  In a bankruptcy, the officers and directors will almost always walk away scott free — unless a loss to an insured depository allows the FDIC to sue under US banking laws.  FDIC has power to protect the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) from loss and, more important, to be advocate for uninsured depositors and other bank creditors as well. 

Note that the payout waterfall in an FDIC insured bank in liquidation is different because the uninsured depositors are next in line after the insured deposits covered by the DIF.  Note too that in the case of a bank failure the FDIC is not merely trustee of the dead bank, but rather receiver with quasi judicial, Article I powers to protect the interests of third party creditors, including depositors, vendors, etc.  FDIC also has expedited access to the federal, Article III courts to compell obedience with its findings as receiver. 

Think of the appointment of an equitable reciever in a bankrtupcy like MF Global as a more general way to apply the same power weilded by FDIC as receiver to all types of fraud.  The unfortunate situation with MF Global illustrates the dilema facing the trustee in that case.  I will write a more detailed post on ZH regarding MF Global to discuss the actions of the trustee. If anybody out there can get me on the phone withe the counsel for the MF Global Bankruptcy Trustee I will put them in touch with my mentors on this issue.

Ask yourself a question:  Just why did BAC have to buy Countrywide?  Was the driver of that transaction merely that BAC was the warehouse lender to Countrywide?  Or was the issue more complex, namely that the target had billions of dollars in ficiticious assets on its balance sheet, bogus securities that were in some cases used as collateral in repurchase transactions.  It can be argued that BAC’s warehouse for Countrywide was the engine for vast fraud.  

Likewise with Lehman Brothers, nobody could buy the firm in its totality because nobody could or would attest to the assets, on or off balance sheet.  There was literally nobody who could or would sign off on representations and warranties needed to sell the company.  And the proverbial bodies were then burried in bankruptcy without the benefit of a receiver, allowing former CEO Dick Fuld and his cohorts to walk away without any criminal sanctions for what seem like obvious, dliberate acts of accounting and securities fraud.

With Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, JPM CEO Jamie Dimin likewise provided the cover to keep these two rancid situtations under wraps and away from close scrutiny.  Recall when during the last US presidential campaign, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) famously said that we would go through the subprime mess “loan by loan?”  That was the end of John McCain’s presidential run as far as Wall Street was concerned, says one industry insider.

President Obama, by comparison, has been very accommodating to the TBTF banks and their agenda to hide the ball when it comes to systemic securities fraud on Wall Street.  Remember we are talking about loss rates about 50% for production from Bear Stearns, for example, yet none of the responsible parties in the creation of these toxic securities have been indicted. 

Now you will notice there has been no discussion fo the SEC in this tirade.  The SEC has done nothing, squat, buptkus with respect to systemic fraud on Wall Street.  And as we have noted afore this, the Fed and other regulators are complicit in allowing these hideous zombies to merge to avoid resolution and bankruptcy.  The Merrill transaction with BAC, for example, brings along $30 billion in existing litigation due to CDOs.  But this number is still a fraction of the totality of the losses on this asset class.

So if the politicians and supposed officers of the federal and state courts have been bought off when it comes to pursuing criminal and even civil claims related to various flavors of fraud involved with the origination and sale of mortgages, what about the managers, trustees and custodians of RMBS trusts?  Sadly, there are no advocates real or imagine in this group either, except in those rare exceptions where managers have been willing to go to war with some of the biggest firms on Wall Street. 

The simple fact is that the nominee trust of today’s financial markets is a sham.  The trustee appointed by the sponsor of the deal is essentially ministerial in function, with neither the funding nor the mandate to act as an advocate for investor interests. The custodians of these trusts have likewise not historically acted as advocates for investors, although there are some notable exceptions. 

Bank of New York’s DE chancelery court  litigation against BAC behalf of Countrywide bond holders is one rare example.  And the moves by US Bancorp and Deutsche Bank to sue sponsors of deals where they acted as custodian to ingratiate themselves with NY AG Schneiderman is another example.  But of course the two biggest players in the market, BAC and BK, have yet to sue themselves for the deals in which they were involved together.        

Unlike an FDIC bank resolution where the receivership can pursue officers and directors for acts of fraud, in cases such as Maddoff and MF Global, the trustee is hamstrung in pursuing third party claims.  Likewise the investors in an RMBS trust or CDO must organize themselves to pursue claims. They must pay and indemnify the trustee, who then hires counsel and sues the sponsor.  But only in a small minority of deals has a claim been filed.

Aside from the legal and operational issues facing investors who want to sue deal sponsors for fraud, the fact is that managers don’t want to sue because, during discovery, it will be shown that they made bad investmnt choices.  That is a generous description.  Less generous is to say that the manager does to want admit publicly buying a “bag of shells” in terms of diligence on deals. 

Nobody on the Buy Side wants to sue JPM, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley et al for securities fraud on the more problematic deals of the past decade.  Buy Side asset managers who sue the largest Sell Side sponsors become pariah, excluded from the flow of deals and information.  But you have to wonder if the damage these passive managers are doing to investors and the US markets by not zealously pursuing legal claims against the sponsors of RMBS and CDOs is not a worse outcome at the end of the day.

If we take Schneiderman’s statement that nothing is “off the table” in terms of prosecuting acts of fraud, an ideal outcome here, IMHO, would be the following:

1)  NY AG Schneiderman goes into federal court next week and files a motion removing BK as custodian with respect to all RMBS trusts governed by NY law.  Schneiderman should ask the court to appoint a receiver with respect to all of the trusts where BK was custodian and immediately investigate whether fraud and professional malfeasance occurred.

2)  Schneiderman asks the court to appoint a receiver with respect to BAC because of ongoing acts of fraud and the recalcitrance shown to the court. Several federal courts have already found BAC to be engaging in “deliberate delay,” discovery abuse and other acts of bad faith in the various lawsuits now underway.  These acts of contempt of court alone are sufficient reason to apppoint a receiver with respect to BAC.    

3)  And come to think of it, while Schneiderman is in the court house, he can file an emergency motion to intervene in the MF Global bankruptcy and ask the court to appoint James W. Giddens as receiver in that matter.  Schneiderman has standing to bring this motion and could ask the IL AG and US attorney to join him in making the representations to the court.  Then we wipe that grin off Jon Corzine’s face and start to make some real progress on MF Global.  More tomorrow.

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-06-10/its-all-about-fraud-silence-buy-side

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Submitted by Thomas Gresham of Gresham’s Law,

Here we present a history of the Fed in charts. As you’ll surely glean from the below — the Fed has degenerated from a by and large passive institution (dealing only in high-quality self-liquidating commercial paper and gold) to an active pursuant of junk, an enabler of wars, a ‘benevolent’ combatant of the depressions of its own creation, a central planner of employment & prices and of course a forgiving friend to inconvenient market follies.

The Fed’s Assets from 1915 to 2012:

1915 to 1925

1925 to 1935

1935 to 1945

1945 to 1955

1955 to 1965

1965 to 1975

1975 to 1985

1985 to 1995

1995 to 2005

2005 to 2012

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-charting-federal-reserves-assets-1915-2012

,


Note from dshort: The charts in this commentary have been updated to include the January Consumer Price Index news release for the December data.

The Fed justified the previous round of quantitative easing “to promote a stronger pace of economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate” (full text).

In effect, the Fed has been trying to increase inflation, operating at the macro level.

But what does an increase in inflation mean at the micro level — specifically to your household?

Let’s do some analysis of the Consumer Price Index, the best known measure of inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) divides all expenditures into eight categories and assigns a relative size to each. The pie chart below illustrates the components of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers, the CPI-U, which I’ll refer to hereafter as the CPI.

cpi

The slices are listed in the order used by the BLS in their tables, not the relative size. The first three follow the traditional order of urgency: food, shelter, and clothing. Transportation comes before Medical Care, and Recreation precedes the lumped category of Education and Communication. Other Goods and Services refers to a bizarre grab-bag of odd fellows, including tobacco, cosmetics, financial services, and funeral expenses. For a complete breakdown and relative weights of all the subcategories of the eight categories, see the link to table 1 near the bottom of the BLS’s monthly Consumer Price Index Summary.

The chart below shows the cumulative percent change in price for each of the eight categories since 2000.

cpi plus 2000

 Not surprisingly, Medical Care has been the fastest growing category. At the opposite end, Apparel has actually been deflating since 2000. The latest Apparel number is the first fractional nudge above zero in about nine years. Another unique feature of Apparel is the obvious seasonal volatility of the contour.

Transportation is the other category with high volatility — much more dramatic and irregular than the seasonality of Apparel. Transportation includes a wide range of subcategories. The volatility is largely driven by the Motor Fuel subcategory. For example, the spike in gasoline above $4-a-gallon in 2008 is readily apparent in the chart.

The Ominous Shadow Category of Energy

The BLS does not lump energy costs into an expenditure category, but it does include energy subcategories in Housing in addition to the fuel subcategory in Transportation. Also, energy costs are indirectly reflected in expenditure changes for goods and services across the CPI.

The BLS does track Energy as a separate aggregate index, which in recent years has been assigned a relative importance of 8.553 out of 100. In other words, Uncle Sam calculates inflation on the assumption that energy in one form or another constitutes about 8.55% of total expenditures, about half of which (4.53%) goes to transportation fuels — mostly gasoline. The next chart overlays the highly volatile Energy aggregate on top of the eight expenditure categories. We can immediately see the impact of energy costs on transportation.

cpi plus energy

The next chart will come as no surprise to families footing the bill for college tuition. Here I’ve separately plotted the College Tuition and Fees subcategory of the Education and Communication expenditure category. Note that the steady staircase in this cost matches the annual cost increases in late summer for each academic year.

cpi college

Core Inflation

Economists and policy makers (e.g., the Federal Reserve) pay close attention to Core Inflation, which is the overall inflation rate excluding Food and Energy. Now this is a somewhat peculiar metric in that one of the exclusions, Energy, is an aggregate that combines specific pieces of two consumption categories: 1) Transportation fuels and 2) Housing fuels, gas, and electricity. The other, Food, is the major part of the Food and Beverage category. I should explain that “beverage” for the BLS means alcoholic beverages. So coffee and Coca Colas are excluded from Core Inflation, but Budweiser and Jack Daniels aren’t.

The next chart shows us the annualized rate of change (solid lines) and the cumulative change (dotted lines) in CPI and Core CPI since 2000.

cpi

Consumers, especially those who’ve managed expenses over several years, are most closely attuned to the top line.

Inflation and Your Household

The universal response is to moan over price increases and take delight when prices are cheaper. But in reality, households vary dramatically in the impact that inflation has upon them. When gasoline prices skyrocket, a two-earner suburban family with long car commutes suffers far more than the metro family with short subway commutes or retirees with no commute. And the pain is even more extreme for low income households whose grocery money shrinks with gas prices rise. And remember, Uncle Sam excludes energy costs from Core Inflation.

Households with high medical costs are significantly more vulnerable than comparable households with low expenses in this category.

The BLS weights College Tuition and Fees at 1.493% of the total expenditures. But for households with college-bound children, the relentless growth of tuition and fees can cripple budgets. Often those costs get bundled into loans that saddle degree recipients with exorbitant debt burdens. Consider the following numbers from the CollegeBoard.com website:

  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $8,244 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $12,526.
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.

Of course, Mr. Bernanke would point out that, with a healthy dose of Core Inflation (extended of course to wages), those debt-burdened college grads will pay down the loans with inflated dollars.

Which brings us back to the Fed’s efforts to manage the level of Core Inflation. At the macro level, Mr. Bernanke and his Federal Reserve team can doubtless make a theoretical argument for playing puppet master with inflation. But will their efforts — ZIRP and Quantitative Easing — achieve the desired goal?

The one thing we can be certain about is this: An increase in inflation will have a painful effect on lower income households, those on fixed incomes, those with higher ratios of transportation costs, and any household whose discretionary spending is more dream than reality.

This post originally appeared on AdvisorPerspectives.com.

Now read about the 6 ways to keep inflation from pounding your wallet >

Please follow Your Money on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »

See Also:




Share

Original source at: Money Game | http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheMoneyGame/~3/ICZN4TksHbY/these-charts-outline-how-inflation-will-directly-affect-your-family-2012-1

, , , , , ,

Worries of a Lehman-like financial crisis spreading through Europe and the world has made Greece talk of the market lately. Not to let Greece dominate the spotlight, the U.S. debt ceiling debate is also getting to be as traumatic since a failure to raise the debt ceiling could mean imminent default and credit downgrades for the United States sovereign debt.

In the midst of all these different crises, global markets rise and fall in lockstep with news coming out of Europe and the U.S. The U.S. stock market, after suffering a correction phase since April, snapped back last week, scored the best week in two years, but only to retreat again after the long July 4th weekend. The commodity and currency markets are not immune either, with investors switching back and forth between risk-on and risk-off trades.

In this environment, one has to ask … are there other indicators signaling a global market doomsday?

According to Oxford Analytica, there are 15 “Global Stress Points” ranging from medium to extreme high impact to the entire world. These are listed below ranked by their potential impact by Oxford (see graph). Around 60% of the “stress points” are related to geopolitics, war or unrest, while only about five events could be classified as financial crises.

  1. Dollar Collapse
  2. Taiwan / China Armed Hostility
  3. Israel / Iran Armed Conflict
  4. Mexico State Hollowing
  5. Global Protectionism
  6. Latin America Hydrocarbon Disruption
  7. Iraq State Institutions Collapse
  8. Russia Military Aggression
  9. End of Euro
  10. India / Pakistan War
  11. Pakistan State Collapse
  12. Argentina Sovereign Default 2.0
  13. North Korea Military Conflict
  14. War in North Africa
  15. Lebanon Civil War


(Click to enlarge) Chart Source: Oxford Analytica

For all the rage in the press, the euro’s demise is surprisingly not as big a deal as, for instance, China making good on its 60-year threat to Taiwan, or even a much more mundane “global protectionism.” And I hate to disappoint China Bears, but it looks whatever problems China has, it is not the one that will tank the world like the dollar and the euro.

Since a U.S. dollar collapse is ranked as the greatest risk to the world, and dollar’s fate is largely dependent on if the bond market has faith in Uncle Sam, it might be helpful to add five additional warning signs that the bond market is freaking out (see chart):

  • Prices of bonds maturing start falling (i.e., investors start to demand higher interest rates to hold U.S. government debt).
  • A narrower spread between rates on Treasury bills and other short-term credit or near substitutes, e.g. LIBOR – This would be a sign of waning faith in the U.S. government.
  • A narrower spread between Treasuries and near substitutes – A sign of falling creditworthiness of Uncle Sam.
  • Price spikes in U.S. CDS (credit default swaps, insuring against a U.S. debt default) – According to Markit, the most noticeable movement has occurred in 1-year spreads, which have converged closer to 5-year spreads, and is up about 430% since early April, while 5-year CDS also has risen about 46%.
  • Higher volatility in the U.S. bond market – Another sign of lost confidence from bond investors.


(Click to enlarge) Chart Source: The Washington Post

So far, out of the 20 signs, there’s one that’s sending up a red signal flare – U.S. sovereign debt CDS, which is directly linked to the dollar (see chart above).

The U.S. does not have control over many of the indicators listed here, but at least the No. 1 risk factor — the U.S. dollar — is influenced by the national debt and by the monetary and fiscal policies set by the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve.

The longer the debt ceiling debate lingers, the more likely the bond market would start reacting and demanding higher interest rates. A sovereign credit downgrade as a result of missing the debt ceiling deadline would just translate into billions more in interest payments, piling on to the existing debt.

The United States is not like Iceland or Argentina, resorting to default as retorted by some could mean calamity not only to its citizens, but also to the rest of the world. Unless the government and this Congress get their act together, there will be no bailout, and instead of one lost generation to the Great Recession, there could be multi-generation missed in the next Grand Depression.

EconMatters.com

 

Share

Original source at: zero hedge - on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero | http://www.zerohedge.com/article/20-warning-signs-global-doomsday

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,