As gold completes its golden cross today and remains by far the best-performing asset of 2014, we thought it intriguing that Goldman Sachs’ commodity group would issue a strong “sell your gold” recommendation… of course, when Goldman’s clients are selling, who is buying? As a reminder, the last time the bank was extremely bearish on gold (about a year ago), our skepticism at the time was well warranted as Goldman was in fact the largest buyer of gold in the following quarter.
Via Goldman Sachs’ Damien Courvalin,
Full note below:
Submitted by Simon Black of Sovereign Man blog,
In its 2013 annual report to Congress, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate wrote that the IRS shows “disrespect for the law and a disregard for taxpayer rights.”
Further, the report says that the current system “disproportionately burdens those who [make] honest mistakes,” and that “tax requirements have become so confusing and the compliance burden so great that taxpayers are giving up their U.S. citizenship in record numbers.”
We all know the stories. The IRS has nearly infinite power to do whatever it wants, including freezing you out of your own bank account without so much as a phone call, let alone due process.
In the Land of the Free, people think they’re innocent until proven guilty. This is total BS. If you are only suspected of wrongdoing, you can be locked out of your entire savings.
This is an incredible amount of authority to wield.
But the British government has just gone even further.
Buried in its most recent budget package is a curt little paragraph that reads “The Government will modernise and strengthen [the tax agency’s] debt collection powers to recover financial assets from the bank accounts of debtors who owe over £1,000 of tax.”
Read that one more time just to let it sink in.
The British government is setting an absurdly low threshold at £1,000… about $1,650 in back taxes.
And they’re saying that if the tax authorities believe you owe even just a minor tax debt, they will not only FREEZE your assets, they’ll dip into your bank account and TAKE whatever they want.
Judge, jury, and executioner. They get to decide in their sole discretion if you owe them money, and they get to take as much as they want to satisfy the debt.
I can’t even begin to imagine why any Brit in his/her right mind would continue to hold a substantial amount of savings in UK banks.
You are practically begging for the government to relieve you of your hard-earned savings.
Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, and have paid up everything that you owe, the slightest clerical error could have them plunging their filthy hands into your account.
These issues are worldwide. Whether you’re in the US, UK, France, Cyprus, etc., when governments go bankrupt, these are precisely the sorts of tactics they resort to.
Rational, thinking people need to be aware of this trend. And it behooves absolutely everyone to come up with a plan B. Because at the rate things are going, Plan B may very soon become Plan A.
At 10:27:21 ET, the Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures contract suddenly dropped on extreme activity as someone decided it was an opportune time to dump 3000 contracts or around $220 million notional. As Nanex notes, the ETF – QQQ – also collapsed (with over 1200 trades in 1 second) as bids and offers were crossed and markets went flash-crashy for a few tenths of a second. The questions is – who was it? Waddell & Reed?
1. QQQ Trades (cicles) and NBBO shaded red when crossed (bid > ask), yellow when locked (bid = ask), or gray when normal (bid < ask).
Note how the trades print way ahead of quotes. Chart shows about 140 milliseconds of time.
2. June 2014 Nasdaq 100 (NQ) Futures trades and quote spread.
NQ trades in Chicago – comparing the activity to the QQQ’s traded in NY, we see that NQ futures initiated the drop. QQQ’s reacted about 4 milliseconds later – the time it takes light to travel between the two cities.
3. Nasdaq non-ISO trades (dots) and quote spread (shading).
ISO trades can appear slightly ahead of quotes, so we only show non-ISO trades. These trades should appear after quotes: the dots should be on or to the right of the gray shading.
4. Nasdaq and BATS non-ISO trades and quotes.
We can see that Nasdaq quotes are lagging BATS quotes: the gray shading (Nasdaq quote spread) appears offset to the right of the pink shading (BATS quote spread). This tells us that some of the delay was caused BEFORE Nasdaq quotes reached the SIP. Because Nasdaq trades appear ahead of Nasdaq quotes (and BATS trades), we know direct feeds got that information faster than the SIP did. We call this condition fantaseconds.
5. Zooming out on QQQ trades and NBBO.
6. Zooming out on the June 2014 Nasdaq 100 (NQ) futures trades and quote spread.
First the Fed screws up the “dots” – on one hand telling HFT algos not to worry about rate hikes, on the other saying the FF rate in 2016 will be a scroching 2.25%, then Yellen flubs the “6 month” statement sending stock into a tailspin and Hilsenrath and Liesman explaining in overdrive that she didn’t mean what she said, and now, we learn with the traditional Friday afternoon “shove under the carpet” bomb, that the Fed also flubbed its stress test results. Sounds about par for the world’s most powerful, and clueless, monetary institution.
The Federal Reserve on Friday issued corrected results for the 2014 Dodd-Frank Act stress test. For 26 of the 30 firms, the correction led to either no change or at most a 0.1 percentage point change in the firms’ minimum, post-stress tier 1 common capital ratios in the severely adverse scenario. The change led to a 0.3 percentage point increase at two firms, a 0.2 percentage point decrease at one firm, and a 0.5 percentage point decline at another.
The capital ratios were adjusted to address inconsistencies in the treatment of the fourth quarter 2013 actual capital actions and assumptions about preferred and employee compensation-related issuance over the course of the planning horizon.
The attachment reflects the updated minimum tier 1 common capital ratios and the changes from the prior release. The Federal Reserve will reissue a full result paper on Monday with corrections as they affect all capital ratios.
This is almost as sad, if entertaining, as the Treasury releasing a complete set of TIC data, then hours later admitting it had the goalseek formula set incorrectly, and revising the entire thing.
For those who still care about anything the megalomaniacal, if somewhat confused, central planners at Marriner Eccles have to say, here are the revised results.
Quad-witching only added to an extremely volatile week as the entire bond, stock, FX complex pumped and dumped on the basis of whether a “considerable period” was really six months and whether “quite some time” was more or less than six months. The S&P hit record highs early on this morning thanks to a ramp in AUDJPY (but once again bonds didn’t blink). All that ended when Europe closed and the Biotech sector’s weakness spread, leaving the Nasdaq -1.4% post-FOMC (and all other indices in the red post-FOMC). The range of moves in bonds, FX, commodities, and vol this week were impressive as we noted below…
Year-to-date, gold remains the winner (and HY credit the loser)…
Year-to-date, the Dow is back in the red and Russell outperforming…
To summarise this week’s carnage…
When the bottom fell out… as Europe closed…
Post-FOMC, all indices are now in the red…
With only financials holding any gains…
Bear in mind that financial stocks will rally into the capital announcements (as it has done for 3 years) but credit is weaker and not confirming this move at all…
Notably, “most shorted” names have been very weak since the FOMC – even as the broad market is pumped on the heels of financials…
On the week 30Y is practically unchanged while 5Y is +17bps!
FX markets were also volatile with EUR and JPY weakness (but AUD relatively outperforming)…
Gold has been limping higher thelast 2 days but on the week PMs remain under pressure with oil and copper around unch…
Bonus Chart: The MoMos no likey Ms. Yellen…
Bonus Bonus Chart: Biotechs battered…by most in almost 3 years today
U.S. lawmakers have asked Gilead Sciences Inc to explain the $84,000 price tag of its new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which is encountering resistance from health insurers and state Medicaid programs – spraking concerns they may have a harder time pricing new medicines.
It seems like the government is basically going after externalities from yet another bubble sector likely bursting the bubble
A month ago we presented a must read interview by Swiss Finanz und Wirtschaft with respected value investor Howard Marks, in which, when explaining the motives driving rational investing he summarized simply, “in the end, the devil always wins.” Today, we are happy to bring our readers the following interview with one of our favorite strategists, GMO’s James Montier, in which true to form, Montier packs no punches, and says that the market is now overvalued by 50% to 70%, adding that there is “nothing at all” that has an attractive valuation, and that he sees a “hideous opportunity set.”
Still, despite the clear bubble in stocks, he is unsure what to do since financial repression could last very long with “the average length of periods of financial repression in history is 22 years. We’ve only had five years so far.” Finally on the topic of Japan and Abenomics, “for me, there is too much hope and expectation embedded in Abe, not unlike Obama in 2009: There was so much hope projected into Obama that he could only disappoint.” He did, well… everyone but the 0.001% billionaires. Then again in a world in which there is only hope left, what happens when that too is removed?
James Montier is a full-blooded value investor. Pickings are slim these days, though, says the member of the asset allocation team at the Boston-based asset manager GMO. He sees a «hideous opportunity set» for investors, with the S&P-500 being overvalued by 50 to 70 percent.
James, are you able to find anything in today’s financial markets that still has an attractive valuation?
Nothing at all. When we look at the world today, what we see is a hideous opportunity set. And that’s a reflection of the central bank policies around the world. They drive the returns on all assets down to zero, pushing everybody out on the risk curve. So today, nothing is cheap anymore in absolute terms. There are pockets of relative attractiveness, but nothing is cheap or even at fair value. Everything is expensive. As an investor, you have to stick with the best of a bad bunch.
Where are these pockets of relative value?
There are two and a half of them. The half pocket is high quality stocks, companies that have high and stable profitability. But granted: They are nowhere near as compelling as they were even a year ago, so we are slowly selling our high quality positions. We are by the way also reducing our overall equity weight gradually as this year goes on. We have already taken about five points out, and we are at 50 percent now. By the end of the year we’ll probably be at around 39 percent.
And what are the other pockets of value?
European value is still somewhat okay – although there we have increasing concerns about the prospect of deflation in the Eurozone. The breakup risk of the Eurozone has been diminished, the thing seems to be holding together. But that comes with the cost of outright deflation in peripheral countries. That’s a big issue for European equities, not only because deflation increases the discount rate in real terms, but it also increases their debt in real terms. They will owe more in real terms the longer this deflation goes on.
What sectors fall under European value?
A mixture of asset rich sectors: Utilities, oil & gas, some telecom, some industrials. Names we like in that field are Total, BP, Royal Dutch, Telefonica and the like. The problem with all those sectors is that they tend to be debt heavy, which is why the prospect of deflation is such a big issue.
But the European market in general is not cheap anymore?
No. The time to be buying broad European equities was two years ago.
How do you make sure you don’t fall into a value trap with sectors like utilities and telecom?
You can deal with it by demanding a very large margin of safety. I’d argue you don’t get that right now. You could try fundamental analysis, have guys who think they know something about these stocks, and the third is good diversification. You don’t want too much in any one individual name. That’s why we own 150 stocks in our European value portfolio.
What about the mining sector?
They are tricky. We spent a lot of time thinking about mining as well as oil & gas. We’re quite happy with oil & gas. But the mining sector looks expensive to us today. The problem is there is so much supply coming onstream over the coming years, that commodities like iron ore and copper will show significant excess supply even on the assumption of unchanged demand. So we stay away from materials.
What about financials?
We tend to stay away from them, too. You just don’t know what you’re buying. Their balance sheets are built the wrong way around, their assets are liabilities, their liabilities are assets, you just end up scratching your head. So generally, they end up in our too-difficult-to-understand bucket. We own some financials, but only in small size.
And the third pocket of value?
Emerging markets are relatively attractive. But again, despite their underperformance of late, they are not outright cheap.
Every investor seems to hate emerging markets these days, and everyone loves developed markets like the U.S. and Europe. What do you make of that?
This is weird. We see a reverse decoupling theory. For years we heard that emerging markets can decouple from developed markets, and now we hear it the other way round. Neither of these assumptions is true. I don’t think decoupling can happen in either direction. If my assumption is correct that emerging markets are the canary in the coal mine, developed markets will get a hit.
Brazil, China and Russia all trade on single digit P/E right now.
Yes, true. The trouble is that many of these markets basically consist of two things: Financials and resources. Russia is a prime example. And when you look at the credit cycle in many of these markets, they are often quite extended. So they might look cheap, but you have to ask yourself if the earnings they have today will be sustainable. You definitely want to be cautious with financials in emerging markets. We own some assets in markets like Russia or Korea. Gazprom for example, which trades at a P/E of 2, is very cheap. But again, this is not a market to be enthusiastic. Every asset has been affected by the quest for return. I call this the Cinderella curse: Cinderella has already been taken out by Prince Charming, so you are left with the choice between her two ugly stepsisters.
And in order not to be alone, you end up taking out the ugly stepsister?
Yes. That’s what the investing world looks like right now. Not attractive, but there is no good alternative. You have to own some assets. And you just try to get paid as much as possible for taking these risks.
Do you see outright bubbles anywhere?
By some measures, you can say we are in a bubble, for example in U.S. equities. But it doesn’t feel like a mania yet. Today we experience something like a near-rational bubble, based on overconfidence and myopia by investors. It’s a policy-driven, cynical kind of bubble. Not a mania.
You coined the term foie gras rally, where the Fed just shoves liquidity down investor’s throats. How will it all end?
Probably not well. The exit from these policies is going to be extraordinarily difficult to handle. Today’s situation shows parallels with 1994. Then, the Fed had thought that they had done a great job in communicating their policy going forward. But it turned out the markets were not prepared at all, given the fact that it resulted in the Tequila crisis in Mexico. Couple that with expensive markets, and you have a good reason to want to own a reasonable amount of dry powder. You don’t want to be fully invested in this world.
Since the tapering started in December 2013, markets take it rather calmly.
Yes, the ones that suffered were the emerging markets. The S&P-500 just keeps drifting upwards. But I think emerging markets are the canary in the coalmine, the first signal. They had been the beneficiaries of these incredible capital inflows. So the fact that they are the first ones to suffer makes sense. It’s not a huge surprise that stock markets in the U.S. have not reacted, because the bond market has not reacted. The bond market seems to think the tapering will turn out fine. Maybe they’re right. But there is no margin of safety in asset pricing these days. That’s no comfortable position to begin a tightening cycle.
What if there won’t be any exit?
That’s a possibility. The Fed might decide that growth is still too weak and that inflation is not an issue. Then they could keep their policy in place for longer. The history of financial repression shows that it lasts a very long time. The average length of periods of financial repression in history is 22 years. We’ve only had five years so far. That creates a huge dilemma for asset allocators today: How do you build a portfolio with such a binary situation? Either they exit QE, or they don’t. And the assets you want to own in these two scenarios are pretty much inverse. So you either bet on either one of these scenarios, with is kind of uncomfortable for a value-based investor, or you say because we don’t know, the best we can do is build a robust portfolio. A portfolio that is able to survive in all kinds of scenarios.
And what does such a portfolio look like?
If you have continued financial repression, you want a much higher share of equities, because they are the highest performing asset, compared to bonds and cash. If you think financial repression will go on for another 20 years, you need to have equities. For the scenario that the central banks will exit their policies, you will want to own cash, because that’s the only asset that does not get impaired when interest rates rise. So you have two extreme portfolios: One almost fully in equities, the other almost fully in cash. So that’s what we do: We have about 50% in equities, and 50% in dry powder-like assets. That means some cash, some TIPS, and some long/short equity spread trades. But as said, we are reducing the equity part over the course of the year, to build up dry powder.
The pattern in the past years was rather simple: Whenever the S&P 500 corrected by more than 10%, the Fed launched a new program. Could that continue?
You can’t rule it out. That’s part of the Greenspan-Bernanke-Yellen put. Whenever there was a problem, the Fed rescued equity markets. That created a huge moral hazard. Investors have come to believe that the Fed will always make sure that nothing bad happens to equity markets.
Does that explain the buy the dip mentality we see these days? Or is there really so much money left on the sidelines, just waiting to get into equities?
Valuations suggest that most people are fully invested today. I don’t see much evidence of people being overly cautious, but a lot more evidence of people getting exuberant. But bear in mind: Owning a large chunk of cash today hurts your performance. Following a value-based strategy requires you to be patient. We know that patience is a rare treat in human beings, and it is extraordinarily rate among investors. Patience hurts. But it is less foolish to do the right thing for the long term, than try to second guess what will happen in the short term.
What is the fair value of the S&P 500 right now?
Several valuation measures suggest that the S&P is overvalued by 50 to 70%. Every piece of valuation I do says this market is too expensive. The only U.S. equities we currently own are high quality names like Microsoft, Procter & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson.
What’s your view on Japan?
It is far from obvious that prime minister Shinzo Abe will succeed in breaking the mold. He has succeeded in weakening the Yen, but now they increase consumption taxes next month – and thereby run the risk of a re-run of 1998, when Japan killed its own recovery. For me, there is too much hope and expectation embedded in Abe, not unlike Obama in 2009: There was so much hope projected into Obama that he could only disappoint. I’m not sure that Abe will succeed in ending deflation in Japan.
While mainstream media was awash with status quo huggers proclaiming Yellen’s “6-month is a considerable period” comment as a slip – and assuming several Fed heads would come to the rescue to focus investors on lower-for-longer – it appears they are wrong:
This came on the heels on Fed Fisher’s comments on the end of efficacy of Fed QE and that asset-buying would end in October and short-dated bonds and stocks are fading (as JPY crosses are tumbling).
Stocks and short-end bonds double-whammied…
and then Bullard:
Not what the doves or stock/bond bulls wanted to hear…
And the short-end is not happy (as stocks drop to lows of the day)
JPY carry unwind en masse…
And the Nasdaq now at post-FOMC lows…
With Bernanke gone, the remaining Fed members knowing full well they will be crucified, metaphorically of course (if not literally) when it all inevitably comes crashing down, are finally at liberty with their words… and the truth is bleeding out courtesy of the president of the Dallas Fed, via Bloomberg.
Which incidentally coincides with Bernanke’s heartfelt “admission” that “my natural inclinations, even if it weren’t for the legal mandate, would be to try to help the average person.“ As long as helped to boost the wealth of the non-average billionaire., all is forgiven. “The result was there are still many people after the crisis who still feel that it was unfair that some companies got helped and small banks and small business and average families didn’t get direct help,” Bernanke said. “It’s a hard perception to break.” The truth, as again revealed by Fisher, will not help with breaking that perception.
We wonder how President Obama, that crusader for fairness, equality and all time Russell 200,000 highs, will feel about that? In the meantime, just like the Herp, QE is the gift that keeps on giving.. and giving… and giving… to the 0.001%.
Attorneys with the SEC’s Investment Management Division are exhorting managers of registered investment funds, such as your mutual fund, to disclose their holdings in Russia and warn of the risks associated with them, now that the Crimean debacle has turned into a magnificent sanction spiral. “Several people familiar with the matter” had been talking to Reuters. The SEC is apparently fretting that the funds aren’t truthful with investors and aren’t even thinking about how to respond to the possible outcomes of the crisis.
Investment Management Division Director Norm Champ, when contacted by Reuters, didn’t even deny it. “We want to be proactive,” he said.
The Division contacted asset managers on other occasions when civil unrest erupted or when things threatened to blow up; it wanted to make sure managers weren’t omitting or misrepresenting material information – for example, during the uprising in Egypt in 2011, when the Cairo stock market simply shut down. But this time it’s different: the lawyers at the Investment Management Division were joined by another group of SEC lawyers who focus on risk examinations.
Would the White House be trying behind the scenes to give investors second thoughts about plowing money into Russia? Would it be trying to demolish Russian stocks, bonds, and the ruble? Naw.
The efforts by the SEC, which started “over a week ago,” were accompanied by a White House announcement that 5 million barrels would be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. WTI tanked. Russia, a huge energy exporter, depends on its oil and gas revenues, and knocking down the price of oil could wreak havoc on the Russian economy. It was a declaration that commodities would be used as a weapon against the Putin Regime.
Then on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney launched another attack on the Russian markets at a press briefing. In light of the sanctions the US and the EU were slapping on Russia, its economy would pay the price, he said. “I wouldn’t, if I were you, invest in Russian equities right now, unless you’re going short.”
Shaken to its roots by these threats, Russia annexed the Crimea and picked a new target: Estonia. A Russian diplomat told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that Russia was “concerned” by the treatment of the ethnic Russian minority “in Estonia as well as in Ukraine” … even while Vice President Joe Biden was in Lithuania to calm tattered nerves in the Baltics and the EU.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Merkel announced in Parliament, shortly before the EU summit in Brussels, that the EU would come up with new sanctions, such as expanding the list of Russians subject to travel limitations and freezing assets. And if the situation escalates, there would be “without doubt” economic sanctions, she said. Russia was “largely isolated in all international organizations.” And the G-8, which includes Russia, and whose upcoming shindig has already been cancelled, “no longer exists.”
She was immediately attacked by the parliamentary leader of the opposition Left Party, Gregor Gysi, who accused the government of double standards; the separation of Kosovo from Serbia had been a breach of international law too, he said, but it had been supported by the German government at the time. The transitional Ukrainian government wasn’t legitimate, he said. “Fascists are part of this government, and we want to give them money?!” Under pressure from the US, Merkel was imposing sanctions on Russia to the detriment of Europe, he said. That’s “moral cowardice.”
The “Putin Doctrine” was what SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann, who is part of Germany’s governing Grand Coalition, was fretting about. Under that doctrine, Russia could intervene if ethnic Russians were perceived to be in danger outside Russia. It would give Russia an automatic right to intervene anywhere, he said. “Such a right does not exist, and such a right cannot exist.”
Hours later, President Obama announced he’d slapped new sanctions on a “number” of oligarchs, additional Russian government officials, and a bank that provides services to them. The White House was working “closely” with the EU “to develop more severe actions that could be taken if Russia continues to escalate the situation.” Then he urged US Lawmakers to approve the aid package for Ukraine and urged the IMF to put its aid package together pronto. Alas, read…. Aid for the Ukraine “Will Be Stolen” – Former Ukrainian Minister of Economy
As Obama’s words were still echoing around the world, the Russian Foreign Ministry shot back: nine US officials, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would be barred from entering Russia. And it published the list on its website.
Delicious irony: that boring list with nine names on it, issued by a Russian ministry whose website rarely gets shared in the social media, lit up a mini-firestorm on VK.com, the second largest social network in Europe after Facebook, and one of the most popular sites in Russia. The list got, as I’m writing this, 538 VK “likes.” Not sure if Obama’s list got any Facebook likes.
Not to be left out, Standard & Poor’s slammed Russia by lowering its outlook to Negative from Stable. “In our view, heightened geopolitical risk and the prospect of US and EU economic sanctions following Russia’s incorporation of Crimea could reduce the flow of potential investment, trigger rising capital outflows, and further weaken Russia’s already deteriorating economic performance.”
The Sanction Spiral works in a myriad ways and performs, as we can see every day, outright miracles. It spirals elegantly higher and higher and takes on grotesque forms. And by the looks of it, no one at the top has a clue how to back out of it. Yet stock and bond markets in the US and Europe, stuffed to the gills with central-bank liquidity and intoxicated by free money, the only thing that really matters anymore these crazy days of ours, are blissfully ignoring the entire drama, and what may eventually come of it.
The first official warning shot was fired. Not by a Putin advisor that can be brushed off, but by Alexey Ulyukaev, Russia’s Minister of Economy and former Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank. A major escalation. Read…. Kremlin: If The US Tries To Hurt Russia’s Economy, Russia Will Target The Dollar System
In the hopes of maintainijng his status quo amidst a plethora of corruption probes and allegations, Turkey’s Erdogan has blocked Twitter after pledging to “destroy” the social media platform after troubling leaks occurred appearing to confirm his corruption. As one can imagine, the Turkish people (among others) are not happy…
— Radikal (@radikal) March 20, 2014
— Ayla Albayrak (@aylushka_a) March 20, 2014
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) March 21, 2014
— 3rk4n H0c4 (@3rk4ny3silt4s) March 21, 2014
— Berkin Elvan (@15indebirfidan) March 21, 2014
— Simge Gungorer (@SimgeselSey) March 21, 2014
— #cumartesianalar? (@cumartesiannesi) March 21, 2014
— Hurriyet Daily News (@HDNER) March 21, 2014
— beko (@bekirbasarozer) March 21, 2014
— sad but fab (@turnerisgod) March 21, 2014
Some have offered solutions and workarounds…
— kaan sezyum (@kaansezyum) March 21, 2014
And Twitter itself helped…
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.
— Policy (@policy) March 20, 2014