1. #1
    Brock Landers
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    Good summary of whats really going on in the Markets

    Thursday, October 9. 2008
    Posted by Karl Denninger at 07:38


    What The Media *Didn't* Cover
    So yesterday the "news" was all about the long end of the Treasury curve rocketing higher (yield), which many people believe is about "risk acceptance" and The Fed (along with other central banks) cutting rates by 50 basis points.

    Uh huh.

    Let's talk about what's really going on.

    First, our rates. The EFF (Effective Fed Funds) rate has been trading at 1.5% now for a couple of weeks. Two percent schmoo percent; a target rate only in name is no target at all. In reality the 50 bips cut, even though it resulted in an instantaneous 40 handle rocket shot in the /ES futures Wednesday morning, was entirely a CONfidence game (with the emphasis on "Con"!)

    The RTS (Russian Market) is down 87% YTD, and is closed until further notice. The Nikkei is trading below the DOW - that's not good. Indonesia's stock market was shuttered Wednesday and remains closed after tripping "lock limits" within 90 minutes of the opening bell. As of Thursday morning the RTS was closed again after Putin allegedly strong-armed a whole bunch of Russian wealthy to "stick it in" (to the stock market); this sort of v-fib in a market does horrifyingly bad things to ordinary investors who find themselves out just before the market rockets higher without underlying economic cause.

    Iceland has essentially melted down. Their currency went straight into the toilet and two of the three largest banks were nationalized - all in the space of 24 hours. The culprit? Bad loans. Where have we seen this movie before?

    Mexico's peso has fallen some 40% in days against the dollar. Great if you're traveling there as an American. Sucks severely if you're a Mexican. That alleged fence on our southern border is going to need reinforcements.

    Wednesday morning Britain and the EU zone all announced major bank rescue operations. Same deal - "throw money at it, paper it over."

    Nowhere a mention of forcing balance sheet transparency and truth.

    Except in one place - here in the US! Plans to standardize CDS contracts and force them onto an exchange are actually under way. This is a major positive move and fulfills one of the three prongs of my view of how to solve this problem, once implemented. We'll see how much pushback we get, and whether OTC derivatives are actually banned (as they should be), or whether the big trading houses and banks insist on being able to play "pick pocket" along side the "regulated" world.

    The NY Fed announced plans to extend a further $39.6 billion credit line to AIG. The tab is now almost $120 billion dollars. Where did the other $80 billion go? Has it been vaporized trying to raise capital to pay down CDS contracts that have gone the wrong way on them?

    Speaking of which, Thursday is D-Day - D standing for either "derivative" or, if things go sideways on people, "detonation."

    See, this is the day that Lehman's CDS contracts are supposed to be resolved. Since Lehman's bonds are trading at ~20-30% recovery (horrible, on balance) the writers may have to fork up 60 to 70 cents on the dollar.

    The $64,000 question is how many of those contracts net out. The real liability is what's left once everything is "balanced" (a long and short held by the same guy net to zero, assuming that both contracts are "money good", leaving the holder with no liability - and no asset)

    This has the potential to be a big "nothingburger", a minor tremor, or a 250' high tsunami that washes over Lower Manhattan (and the City) tomorrow. There's no good way to know in advance which outcome will manifest, since nobody (at present) knows what the true netted-out open interest is. This is one of the problems with not having a public exchange; lack of knowledge.

    The bright light of reality will shine tomorrow......

    The architects of this, by the way, are the folks who took the cuffs off the banks, going back to the Gramm-Leach-Bailey law and the repeal, piece-by-piece prior but finished by GLBA, of Glass-Steagall. GLBA, by the way, was passed in 1999 - just as the Internet bubble was in full force. Coincidence? No. The root cause of this mess? Right there. Thank Congress, and make sure you include those members who have been around for the entire thing, including John McCain.

    On the equity market side shorting is once again available, the order having expired. The lack of shorts was a definite factor in the stiff selloff that we've seen, and Chris Cox owes investors in America an apology - on the air. This was an objectively stupid decision, as shorts provide necessary liquidity during serious downturns. Without them you get "no bid" circumstances, and they sporadically appeared during the last few days in financials, which certainly exacerbated the selloff.

    In the bond markets Treasury refunded some "off the run" bonds and got an ugly surprise - the market didn't want them. They had to pay a 40 bips "tail" to get them to go, which may be the start of a really troublesome trend. See, Treasury is now throwing over $100 billion a week into the market, and this only works on days when the market is crashing. THEN you can get people to suck up all you puke out, but the rest of the time you're going to have to pay up, and Treasury has had to do so - dearly.

    This may be the start of the "bond market dislocation" that I have long feared. I hope and pray not, but if this trend continues Treasury is going to find that it cannot sell its debt into the market without slamming rates higher, especially on the long end of the curve, which means an instantaneous implosion of what's left in the housing market.

    The ugly is that 3-month LIBOR widened today, as did the TED Spread. Both should have come in. They did not. LIBOR is essentially unsecured lending and the bad news is that a lot of corporate (and some personal) borrowing is indexed off it. If you are, you're screwed.

    Why has LIBOR refused to come in despite these "coordinated" effort? Its simple: the underlying trust issue has not been addressed, and nobody is seriously proposing to do so.

    Paulson and Bernanke now are truly caught in the box, as I have been talking about for more than a year. As they introduce and fund these silly programs like the "TARP" each new program produces more foreclosures by depressing home values and thus tightens the spiral.

    See, as long rates go up house prices go down, since the value of a home for most people is Dependant on what they can finance, and that is directly related to interest rates. Get out your HP12C and run the principal value change for a fixed payment if interest rates change from 6% to 8% or 10% - that's the impact on the value of your house from these changes that are occurring in the Treasury marketplace.

    This outcome is what I warned of in "Our Mortgage Mess" back in April of this year; a potential ramping of borrowing costs for government debt, which will not only make sustaining government spending (and perhaps government operation) impossible, but in addition destroy private credit by driving costs in the private sector skyward as well.

    Simply put, the "TARP" or "EESA" must be repealed here and now.

    It is unacceptable to risk Treasury Funding destruction in order to bail out some bankers. And make no mistake - there is and will be no benefit to taxpayers.

    We are also now entering into earnings season, and Alcoa was a warning blast. They missed badly. That won't be the last.

    This is the "value trap" problem that many investors fall into. You see the market down 30% and think its a great buying opportunity.

    It is a great buying opportunity only if earnings going forward can be sustained. But in this case, they cannot. It is flatly impossible; with Treasury borrowing money like a madman, tacking on more than 20% to the national debt in the space of months, carrying costs will inevitably rise as will taxes. Both of these have a multiplier effect (in the wrong direction) on corporate profits, and in addition the "faux profits" from financial engineering have all disappeared at the same time.

    The S&P 500's profit, in terms of gross dollars, are almost certainly going to come in by 50% from the highs, and that assumes we get a garden-variety recession and not something worse. This of course puts "Fair Value" on the SPX down around 750, or another 25% down from here.

    The ugly stick potential is what I discussed yesterday, and that risk is very real. Treasury borrowing cost ramps can produce a 1930s-style dislocation in credit, and if it happens then you will see mass bankruptcies not only in corporate America but among individuals as well as borrowing costs ramp to the point of shutting down the marketplace for credit.

    Treasury and Bernanke claimed that "credit markets seized"; this is only half-true. Credit markets always close to those who are lying, because there is no reason to loan someone money if you're not reasonably sure you will get paid back.

    But there is a second form of seizure and this is the frying pan into which we've now jumped - that is a credit market that prices beyond what the market can bear at its imputed rate of return. In that market credit is available but it does not matter, as you can't make enough profit to generate a positive carry on the borrowed money, and consumers in that environment fall into a vortex of interest payments that spiral faster than they can borrow to stay ahead of them.

    That rabbit hole is how we got the 1930s, and it is the danger we now face. Congress was in fact conned by Treasury, George W. Bush and the banking industry (including Ben Bernanke), who instead of forcing the malefactors into the open and exposing those who were bankrupt (or just plain corrupt - notice the common stem on both words?) threw them a line - unfortunately, the line is cleated to the entire economy of the United States, and they have enough negative buoyancy to drag us all under the waves.

  2. #2
    bigboydan
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    That actually was a pretty good read sir. Thanks for sharing.

    SBR Founder Join Date: 8/10/2005


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