S&P Downgrades Italy; Euro, S&P Futures Initially Plunge, Then See Strong Reversal (Chart)

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S&P downgraded Italy's credit rating to A from A+, read the full report at Zero Hedge: "Italy Unsolicited Ratings Lowered To 'A/A-1' On Weaker Growth Prospects, Uncertain Policy Environment; Outlook Negative". Initially the euro and equity index futures plunged, but after a few hours they rallied back to positive territory. The Fed meets today and tomorrow (correction), so markets could be positioning for the FOMC statement. Or perhaps the action is related to Greece. Either way, nice reversal; we'll see if it lasts. The December E-mini S&P Future (ESZ11) is at 1,200.25, up 0.23%; the December Comex Gold Future (GCZ11) is at 1,791, up 0.73%; and the December Euro Future (ECZ11) is at 1.3675, up 0.12%. Check out the chart comparing the S&P, euro and gold tonight.

Courtesy of OptionsXpress

Interesting news today:

Exclusive: Brazil seeks to help Europe via IMF (Reuters)

Merkel Signals She’ll Dodge Coalition Breakup (Bloomberg)

Siemens Pulls €500 Million From A French Bank, Redeposits Direct With ECB (Zero Hedge)

Bank of China halts FX swaps with some European banks (Reuters)

German Investor Confidence Fell in September (Bloomberg)

Greece Default Would Leave German Taxpayers Facing Bills From ‘Bad’ Banks (Bloomberg)

S&P Italy downgrade new blow for distressed Europe (Reuters)

Google Wallet Demo Video and Review, Looks Interesting

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Check out the demo video for Google Wallet. I would love to use this. For now, Google Wallet is only available on Sprint Nexus S 4G Android phones with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, but will be available on other phones in the future. It looks like a great way to leverage Google Offers. At this time, Google Wallet only works with Citibank MasterCards with PayPass enabled merchants, or Google Prepaid Cards. This is the future. What about biometrics? Google Keys?
"Rob von Behren and Jonathan Wall, Founding Engineers on Google Wallet, introduce the app that makes your phone your wallet. Learn more at http://www.google.com/wallet"

Moody's: Outlooks For U.S. States, Local Governments Remain Negative

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Source: gcclark.net
Moody's still sees a tough environment for states and municipalities. According to Moody's, the weak economy, real estate market and cuts in federal funding will continue to put pressure on states and local governments. Have any big local munis gone under? They are the most at risk given their limited taxing abilities and reliance on state funding. Jefferson County, Alabama has been in the news recently.

Announcement: Moody's: Outlooks for U.S. states and local governments remain negative
Global Credit Research - 19 Sep 2011

"New York, September 19, 2011 -- Moody's Investors Service is maintaining negative outlooks for the U.S. states and local government sectors despite the fact that most issuers have demonstrated strong budgetary management in difficult times, given the dual challenges of a weakening economy and diminished support from the federal government.

Fairholme Can Now Own 50% of St. Joe Co. (SEC Filing, JOE)

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St. Joe Corp (JOE) - StockCharts.com
9/14/2011, St. Joe Co. entered into a stockholder agreement with Fairholme Capital Management "permitting Fairholme to acquire beneficial ownership of up to 50% of the company's outstanding common stock" (see more below). This is up from 30% previously. The $12 billion Fairholme Fund ($FAIRX) already owns 28.86% of St. Joe Co. ($JOE) as of June 30, 2011.

In July, Bruce Berkowitz, founder and CIO of Fairholme, mentioned in a Bloomberg interview that he wanted to own more of the company if the price moved lower. His wish came true in August when equities crashed and JOE hit a low of $14.80, which is near the March 2009 low of $14.53. It closed at $18.20 on Friday, up 6.56%, after the filing hit. The stock hit a high of $30 in January on a nice short squeeze after David Einhorn's bearish report, and on speculation that some type of transaction would occur (at 3x book). But nothing happened, shares failed inside the judgment triangle, and now Berkowitz can average down on JOE cheaper for his long term thesis. Or position for a buyer? St. Joe Co. is Northwest Florida's largest private landowner with 575,000 acres and has valuable timberland assets.

I wonder if Whitney Tilson (T2 Partners) and David Einhorn (Greenlight Capital) are still short the stock. They valued the company between 7-$12 per share based on its timberland assets. The stock has been trending down since 2005, so it needs to break through that long term downtrend line for bullish confirmation. But, until then, JOE needs strength from Fairholme, other institutional investors, timberland prices and the housing market for it not to hit $12.90 (the 1999 low). The December S&P future is down 1.88% right now overnight.

Unauthorized Trading in S&P 500, DAX, EuroStoxx Index Futures Causes $2.3 Billion Loss For UBS

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UBS Trading Floor (nickjtaylor on flickr)
So it wasn't the
Swiss Franc that caused Delta One trader Kweku Adoboli to lose $2.3 billion for UBS. $2.3 billion is a lot of dough to blow! Here is the UBS statement.
"Zurich/Basel, September 18, 2011, 04:00 PM 
UBS provides more detailed information on unauthorized trading

On September 15, 2011 UBS announced that it had discovered unauthorized trading in its Investment Bank. This trading was conducted by a trader in its Global Synthetic Equity business in London. The trader in question has been charged by UK authorities with fraud by abuse of position.

Before making a further announcement, we needed to be certain that we understood the positions that were booked and that we knew the amount of our resulting loss.

We have now covered the risk resulting from the unauthorized trading, and the equities business is again operating normally within its previously defined risk limits. The loss arising from this matter is USD 2.3 billion. As previously stated, no client positions were affected.

The loss resulted from unauthorized speculative trading in various S&P 500, DAX, and EuroStoxx index futures over the last three months. The positions taken were within the normal business flow of a large global equity trading house as part of a properly hedged portfolio. However, the true magnitude of the risk exposure was distorted because the positions had been offset in our systems with fictitious, forward-settling, cash ETF positions, allegedly executed by the trader. These fictitious trades concealed the fact that the index futures trades violated UBS's risk limits.

Following inquiries directed to him by UBS control functions that were reviewing his positions, the trader revealed his unauthorized activity on September 14, 2011.

UBS's Board of Directors has set up a special committee to conduct an independent investigation of the unauthorized trading activities and their relation to the control environment. The committee will be chaired by David Sidwell, the Senior Independent Director, and will report to the Board of Directors. The other members of the committee are Ann Godbehere and Joseph Yam.


Read these interesting posts at Kid Dynamite's World:

1) Losing $ 2B Without Anyone Knowing About It Is Much Harder Than You Think
2) “I Have An Error”.

Bob Prechter Explains 'Triple Top' Forming in U.S. Stock Market (Video)

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Bob Prechter, founder of Elliott Wave International, sees a 12 year head and shoulders top forming in the Dow. Disagree? Please comment your thoughts. Will QE3-4-5-6-7 provide a backstop?

Courtesy of Elliott Wave International

Bob Prechter Explains 'Triple Top' Forming in U.S. Stock Market (Video)

This excerpt from the special video issue of the August Elliott Wave Theorist brings you Bob Prechter’s analysis of the triple top that has been forming in the U.S. stock market over the past 12 years. Watch as Bob himself explains what this pattern means for you and the markets.

Momentum Analysis Using MACD By Elliott Wave International (Video)

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Courtesy of Elliott Wave International

Momentum Analysis Using MACD

Learn more about using Momentum analysis to make Elliott wave trading decisions in this video by EWI European Interest Rate Analyst Bill Fox. Find more lessons on technical indicators in EWI's newest free report. See the information below.

BIS: $601 Trillion OTC Derivatives Are Outstanding (Notional Value As Of December 2010)

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Source: http://www.bis.org/statistics/otcder/dt1920a.pdf 
Here's a fun fact. According to the
Bank for International Settlements, at the end of 2010 the total notional amount of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives outstanding stood at $601 trillion! The gross market value stood at at 21.1 trillion.

"The notional amount (or notional principal amount or notional value) on a financial instrument is the nominal or face amount that is used to calculate payments made on that instrument. This amount generally does not change hands and is thus referred to as notional." (wikipedia)

Of this amount there were $465 trillion interest rate contracts ($364 trillion interest rate swaps, $51 trillion forward rate agreements, $49 trillion interest rate options), $57 trillion foreign exchange contracts ($28 trillion forwards and forex swaps, $19 trillion currency swaps, $10 trillion options), $29.8 trillion credit default swaps ($18.1 trillion single-name instruments and 11.7 trillion multi-name instruments, $7.4 trillion index products), $5.6 trillion equity-linked contracts ($1.8 trillion forwards and swaps, $3.8 trillion options) and $39 trillion unallocated (????). Is it just me, or does this have black swan written all over it. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Trader Loses UBS $2 Billion On Unauthorized Trades (No Client Positions Affected)

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Source: Twicepix on Flickr
This came out of nowhere.
"Zurich/Basel, September 15, 2011, 08:54 AM Media Release 
UBS has discovered a loss due to unauthorized trading by a trader in its Investment Bank. The matter is still being investigated, but UBS's current estimate of the loss on the trades is in the range of USD 2 billion. It is possible that this could lead UBS to report a loss for the third quarter of 2011. No client positions were affected."  
Source: UBS

UBSN on the Swiss Stock Exchange is down 5.85% right now on this news, and it is down 44% in 1-year. It hit a low of 9.88 today, which is somewhat close to the capitulation low of 8.55 on 3/10/2009. I found more articles on the situation: ETFs under the spotlight as shadow falls across UBS's Delta One operation (Telegraph), The curse of Delta One strikes UBS (FT Alphaville), UBS rogue trader – Grübel memo (FT Alphaville) UBS rogue trade – the wider costs (FT Alphaville). Here is related news from 11/6/2009 when it happened with client money. Risk management problems?
"The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined UBS £8 million ($13.2 million) for weak controls that allowed staff in its private bank to make thousands of unauthorised trades with clients’ money and then hide the losses. It is the third-largest fine awarded by the FSA." (timesonline.co.uk

*Update: UBSN closed down 10.75% at 9.75. Kweku Adoboli, of UBS's Delta One division, which trades and makes markets in "synthetic assets" and derivatives for clients, has been arrested. Mis-hedging against Swiss franc exposure and volatility could have been responsible for the $2 billion loss, according to eFinancialNews. The Swiss National Bank recently pegged EUR/CHF at 1.20 to halt runaway appreciation in the Swiss Franc during the Eurozone crisis.
"Several market participants told Financial News this morning that Adoboli may have mis-hedged his exposure to the Swiss franc and attempted to hide it from his team when the market moved against him by overcompensating with a hedge in the opposite direction. Any short position on Swiss franc volatility would have suffered after volatilities rose again earlier this week." (continue reading at efinancialnews)

Here's more on Delta One trading desks at the Financial Times.
"Many Delta One desks also specialise in providing swap execution services to so-called synthetic ETFs, meaning they provide the over-the-counter derivative which allows the ETF to track its underlying asset. “Delta One desks are essentially huge trading counterparties which means they take on a lot of risk for a huge amount of business,”" (continue reading at FT.com)

World Bank President Robert Zoellick's Speech, CNBC Interview (9/14/2011)

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World Bank President Robert Zoellick  (worldbank Flickr)
Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, delivered a speech yesterday ("
Beyond Aid") at George Washington University and appeared on CNBC's Kudlow & Company, see below.
"The global economy has entered a new danger zone with little running room as European countries resist difficult truths about the common responsibilities of a common currency. Japan has resisted structural economic and social reforms that could retool its sputtering economic model. The United States is facing record peacetime deficits, with no agreed approach in sight for cutting the drivers of debt. The lesson of 2008 and earlier crises is that the later you act, the more you have to do, and the more painful it becomes. It is not responsible for the Eurozone to pledge fealty to a monetary union without facing up to either a fiscal union that would make monetary union workable or accepting the consequences for uncompetitive, debt-burdened members. It is not responsible for the United States to falter in facing fundamental issues such as unsustainable growth in entitlement spending, the need for a pro-growth tax system, and a stalled trade policy. Unless Europe, Japan, and the United States can also face up to responsibilities they will drag down not only themselves but the global economy." [continue reading]

In different words, on CNBC's Kudlow & Company, Zoellick said:

Links: S&P Target, CRE, Soros, Ackman, Hong Kong Dollar, French Banks, European Debt

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Commercial Real Estate Verses Bonds (Charts: 10-year treasury, AAA, BAA corporate bond yields vs. Core Cap Rate and cap rate spreads vs. bond yields ) - CREconsole <-interesting chart comparable
Hong Kong Dollar (Wikipedia)

Ackman Bets Hong Kong Dollar to Appreciate - Bloomberg

The Ackman Trade: Reactions - NetNet

Goldman Cuts 2011 S&P Price Target From 1400 To 1250 - Zero Hedge

Markets Would Rally if Greece Defaults, Blain Says - Bloomberg Video

Risk of second recession rising in developed economies - Reuters

China Willing to Buy Bonds From Crisis Nations: Zhang - Bloomberg

China Safe From Defaults: Merchants Bank President - Bloomberg

Does the Euro Have a Future? by George Soros (on a "common European Treasury") - New York Review of Books

Goldman: EU Debt Woes Raising Risk to Commodities Outlook - Reuters at CNBC

World Bank chief says world economy in danger zone (Robert Zoellick) - Reuters

Julian Robertston on CNBC: Greece Will Default "Macro Is So Bad Everywhere " - PragCap

Moody's downgrades Credit Agricole SA’s long-term ratings to Aa2 on Greek exposures, ratings remain on review to consider impact of funding challenges on Credit Profile - Moody's

Moody's downgrades Societe Generale long-term ratings to Aa3 on normalised systemic support, Outlook negative, BFSR remains on review to consider impact of funding challenges on credit profile - Moody's

Limits to Keynesianism - Gregor.us

China, Japan Indexes Are Down Tonight (Hang Seng, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nikkei)

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Source: Bloomberg.com

Full Video of CNN Tea Party Republican Debate

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Watch the CNN videos after the jump. The Republican presidential candidates are Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Legalize and tax "alternative medicine"!

Based on CDS, Greece's Default Probability is 97.64% (CMA)

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According to CMA's Sovereign Risk Monitor (see it free), Greece has the highest default probability percentage at 97.64%. Greece's 5Y credit default swap mid spread is at 7318.25, with Portugal right behind it at 1308.51 (default probability 63.75%). You can see Ireland, Italy and Spain are further down the list. Membership in the highest default probability club hasn't changed much since June 2010 (minus Dubai, Iraq, Illinois and California), but spreads and the CPD% have increased substantially for the PIIGS.

Read these articles for more info:

Greece Default Risk Jumps to 98% as Euro Crisis Deepens (Bloomberg)
Greece – The First of the Dominoes? (Pragmatic Capitalism)

Source: CMA Datavision

Fed Minutes on Additional Policy Tools; Bernanke's Speech at Economic Club of Minnesota (9/8/2011)

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FOMC Meeting (Philadelphia Fed)
Fed Watch: Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, gave his outlook for U.S. economic growth, inflation and monetary policy during a speech at the Economic Club of Minnesota on 9/8/2011. I quoted the portion on monetary policy and provided an excerpt from the FOMC Minutes on 8/9/2011 (released 8/30/2011), which discussed additional tools the Fed could use to "promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability."

Some Fed participants believe "providing additional stimulus at this time would risk boosting inflation without providing a significant gain in output or employment." The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is on September 21-22. Also read the transcript of Ben Bernanke's
Jackson Hole Speech, which was delivered on 8/26/2011. What are the odds of QE3?

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke at the Economic Club of Minnesota Luncheon, Minneapolis, Minnesota (September 8, 2011) - Source
"Monetary Policy

BNP Paribas Is Down 12% On Possible Moody's Downgrade, EURUSD Bounced Off 1.34986

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Source: Google Finance
Large European banks, BNP Paribas (BNP), Societe Generale (GLE), Credit Agricole (ACA), Deutsche Bank (DBK) and UniCredit (UCG), are down 8-13% today with traders pricing in possible 
credit rating downgrades by Moody's and Greece's ongoing debt crisis. Greece needs to meet its budget goals to receive the next bailout tranche from the EU/IMF, or it will run out of cash in mid-October (Deputy Finance Minister). However, it appears that French banks will not be affected by a Greek default (Noyer Says French Banks Can Contend With Any Greek Problem, French banks can weather Greece default: SocGen CEO Frederic Oudea). Do they hold Portuguese, Irish, Italian and Spanish debt? To be sure, I'd monitor European bank credit default swaps or default insurance premiums. I see SocGen is planning to sell off $4 billion euros worth of assets by 2013. EUR/USD hit a low of 1.34986 and bounced back hard to 1.36252. I'll be monitoring la situation.

EUR/WTF! Traders Nervous Over Greece (Euro/US Dollar At 1.35719)

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EUR/USD is still selling off pretty hard. See the linkfest in my previous post for news on Greece and European banks. I'm not sure where support is for the pair, but it's starting to price in an important catalyst ahead. Hopefully it is clean.

Charts are courtesy of freestockcharts.com

Links: Greece Default Risk, French Banks, Jim Rogers (CNBC), China's Empty City, ECB

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Linkfest for 9/11/2011 (R.I.P to the innocent lives lost during the 9/11/2011 attacks). Market Update: EUR/USD is at 1.35870 -0.49%, Japan's Nikkei Index is down 1.9% at 8,572, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index is down 3% at 19,270, and the E-mini S&P September 2011 Future is down 1% at 1,146.

Germany May be Ready to Surrender Over Greece (Bloomberg)

Greek ‘Orderly’ Default Can’t Be Ruled Out, Roesler Tells Welt (Bloomberg)

Greece Announces New Tax As Unrest Flares (DJ @ Nasdaq)

Moody's May Downgrade Top French Banks (WSJ)

Goldman's Complete Economic Outlook From Now Through 2012 (Business Insider)

China's empty city of Ordos (Al Jazeera English Video + embedded after the jump)

The Party is Over (iBankCoin)

Jim Rogers (on CNBC) Explains Why He Is Short Stocks, Long Commodities, And Wants Europe To Fail (Zero Hedge)

China official: Swiss intervention won't work (Market Watch)

The investor’s dilemma: Earnings, valuation and what to do now (Barry Ritholtz @ Washington Post)

Europe Banks Valued at Post-Lehman Low (Bloomberg)

Greece 5Y CDS Spikes to 3,399 bps, Judgment Day is Near (Chart, 9/9/2011)

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Greece's five year credit default swap spiked to 3,399 basis points today, up 20.37%. The detailed quote on Bloomberg.com today showed the contract hitting a high of 3,623 basis points. In other words, the cost to insure 5-year Greek government bonds rose to 33.99% per year, or $3,399,000 to insure $10 million of Greek five year bonds. Judgment day is near. Will selling off (or collateralizing) state assets prevent a default? Links: "Greece says to speed up privatisation plan" (AFP, 9/7), "Greek state assets seen as collateral for new bailout" (EurActiv, 8/26). GGB yields are very high as well.

1-year Greece Government Bond yield, 97.964% (Bloomberg)
2-year Greece Government Bonds Yield, 56.97% (Bloomberg)
5-year Greece Government Bond Yield, 25.62% (Bloomberg)
10-year Greece government Bond Yield, 20.55% (Bloomberg)

"German Finance Minister Prepares for Possible Greek Bankruptcy" (Spiegel)
"Germany Is Said to Prepare Plan to Assist Banks If Greece Defaults on Debt" (Bloomberg)
"Papandreou to Defend Austerity as Greek Default Bets Mount" (Bloomberg)
"Greece Dismisses Default ‘Rumors,’ Says Committed to Agreements" (Bloomberg)
"Market Chatter Of Greek Default Over The Weekend" (Zero Hedge)
"Truglia Says Greece Is `Very Close' to Debt Default" (Washington Post/BloombergTV)
"A Greek T-bill oddity" (FT Alphaville)  - 3, 6-month bill yields aren't updating on Bloomberg.com

Greece 5Y CDS (Source: Bloomberg.com)

Euro Looks Broken For Now (EURUSD), Ashraf Laidi Gives Update on BNN

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EUR/USD (courtesy of FreeStockCharts)
China steps in here, EUR/USD looks broken to me, at least for a while. It broke the uptrend line from June 2010, so it needs an injection from somewhere to get back on path. You can see the nasty sell off that occurred recently in the first chart and the near-term downtrend line to break for a relief rally. It could roll on down to test support in the descending channel.  On BNN yesterday, Ashraf Laidi, of Intermarket Strategy, had interesting views on the Euro.
"Only a very aggressive QE from the U.S. will do the trick for the Euro. Meaning, only something so aggressive easing policy of the Fed will be bad enough for the Dollar to come down and good enough for the Euro. We think the Fed is not going to be that aggressive and we think that the Euro is going to come back down."
"But the big trades we are talking about right now is, Euro/Dollar is going to test 1.37. If we do break below that, I think we are going to look at 1.30." (Ashraf Laidi on BNN)

Here is analysis on the ECB.
"The European Central Bank, or ECB, is most likely to reverse its recent rate hikes due to weak economic outlook and fading upside risks to price stability, Jennifer McKeown, a senior economist at Capital Economics, said." (INO.com)

"If it remains a market crisis, the ECB may just give banks more liquidity but if it spreads to the real economy, they may even cut rates,” said Chris Scicluna, deputy head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe in London." (Bloomberg)

Obama's Speech on the $447 Billion American Jobs Act (Video, Full Text, Fact Sheet)

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Below I embedded Presiden't Obama's speech on the American Jobs Act. If you can't watch it, I put up the full speech transcript and fact sheet with a table showing where the $447 billion would be allocated.
"THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and fellow Americans:

Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that’s made things worse.

This past week, reporters have been asking, “What will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election?”

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don’t care about politics. They have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by -- giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.

David Tepper Has a Large Cash Position, Update on Appaloosa's Q2 Holdings

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David Tepper (Appaloosa Mgmt)
Yesterday, an article in 
Institutonal Investor mentioned that David Tepper, founder of $15 billion hedge fund Appaloosa Management, was 30-40% in cash.

"Sources say he has gone 30 percent to 40 percent in cash, which is very high for him. Some of his cash is invested in U.S. Treasuries, which have in turn risen in value in recent weeks."

"Word is he will remain cautious until there is improvement in the European bank crisis." (continue reading)

This doesn't surprise me. On 6/13/2011 he told CNBC:

"Basically Bernanke said no QE3. If SPX is down a couple hundred points and financial conditions tightened maybe they would reconsider. There is no logic to QE3 now and the only result might be more food and energy inflation. We're in a difficult investing environment."

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Debate (Full Video, 9/7/2011)

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Watch the full debate below on MSNBC.
"NBC’s Brian Williams and Politico’s John Harris moderate a debate between 2012 GOP presidential candidates live from the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California."

Republican Candidates: Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich.

Links 9/7/2011 (Yahoo, Eurozone, Swiss Franc, Jim Rogers, Bill Gross)

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Swiss Central Bank Move 'Huge Mistake': Jim Rogers (CNBC)

Swiss Franc Ceiling (1.20) May Not Heal Eastern Europe Mortgage Pain (Bloomberg)

In Euro Zone, Banking Fear Feeds on Itself (New York Times)
“This crisis has the potential to be a lot worse than Lehman Brothers,” said George Soros"

Bill Gross of PIMCO: ‘Helicopter Ben’ risks destroying credit creation (Financial Times)

Obama Said to Seek $300 Billion Jobs Package (Bloomberg)

CMA: Greece Cumulative Probability of Default is 88% (PragCap)

Albert Edwards Says It's Time To "Stiffen Up The Sinews, Summon Up The Blood, And Gird Your Loins" (Business Insider)

Chris Whalen: Bank Of America Should Declare Bankruptcy (Business Insider)

2-Year Greek Bond Yields 50%, 10-Year Treasury Yields 1.93% (Both At Records)

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2-year Greek Government Bonds yield 50% which is a record high. Is it pricing in a default? The cost of insurance on 5Y Greek debt is testing the July highs at 2,500 bps (Greek 5Y CDS). The 10-year U.S. Treasury Note yield is at 1.93% which is a record low. See my previous post on 8/15/2011: "10 Year Treasury Note Yield Near 1941, 2008 Lows (1.95%, 2.04%)". Investors are rushing into Treasury bonds as a safe haven to hedge against recessions and euro-zone default risk, unless there's a war coming somewhere. This UBS report at Zero Hedge probably has the answers: "Bring Out Your Dead - UBS Quantifies Costs Of Euro Break Up, Warns Of Collapse Of Banking System And Civil War". Watch gold and the U.S. Dollar. Is China going to save the euro-zone and European banks?

3-year chart of 2-year GGB Yield (courtesy of Bloomberg.com)

Intraday chart of 10-year UST Yield (Courtesy of Bloomberg)

Hussman: Under Extreme Secular Undervaluation S&P Hits 400

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John Hussman
John Hussman, of
Hussman Funds, had an interesting Weekly Market Comment out last week (there's a new one out tonight) that included a range of S&P targets based historical "prospective returns". He also thinks there's a possiblity that the S&P could revert back its secular valuation lows, with the potential of overshooting. He's not alone, Felix Zulauf sees the S&P reverting back to book value. In this case, Hussman values the S&P 500 between 600 and 1000 based on the historical prospective returns listed below; but under extreme secular undervaluation and/or macroeconomic conditions, he thinks the S&P could hit 400!

"Historically, the typical bull-bear market cycle has produced a range of 10-year prospective returns in a band between about 7.5% and 13%. That band presently corresponds to a range for the S&P 500 index between 600 and 1000. A 10% prospective return is right in the middle, at about 800 on the S&P. Once you recognize that profit margins are in fact cyclical, that range is about right, as uncomfortable as it may be to contemplate. Jeremy Grantham of GMO estimates that fair value is "no higher than 950." A tighter norm for prospective return between 9-11% maps to an S&P 500 between 750 and 850.

Finally, while I certainly would not expect it in the absence of extreme macroeconomic upheaval, major secular undervaluation as we observed in 1950, 1974 and 1982 would presently map to about 400 on the S&P 500. When you think of "once in a generation" valuations and "secular bear market lows" - that number, not anything near present levels, should be what crosses your mind. I am well aware that even discussing numbers like these, given the present mindset of investors, is likely to be dismissed as utterly ridiculous. Frankly, I would rather risk the ridicule of those who pay lip-service to research, cash flows, fundamentals, and value than to pretend these outcomes are impossible, when the historical record (and even the experience of the past decade) strongly indicates otherwise." (continue reading at HussmanFunds.com)

Links: Euro Crisis, Post Office Crisis, Employment Crisis, Banks Sued By US, China Services PMI

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LaSalle Street Chicago (Flickr)
Crisisfest for 9/5/2011

The worst of the euro crisis is yet to come (
Financial Times)

HSBC China Services PMI (Markit Economics)
"August data pointed to another marginal expansion of Chinese private sector activity, with the headline seasonally adjusted HSBC Composite Output Index recording 50.4. The index was unchanged on July’s 28-month low, and much lower than the long-run trend for the series"

Postal Service Is Nearing Default as Losses Mount (New York Times)
"the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances."

ABN Amro Complains About Interbank Liquidity Crunch, As CEO Says End Of Euro Would Make 1930s Seem Like "A Trifle" (Zero Hedge)

Senior IMF Official - "I Expect A Hard Greek Default This Year" - Chart of 3-month USD LIBORs (Zero Hedge)

Here It Is: Presenting Goldman's "The World Is Ending So Let's All Profit" Report (Zero Hedge)

SPY, SPX, and ES_F — charts do not get much clearer or uglier than these (Peter Brandt)

Another Historic, Incredibly Boring Bond Market Event! (10-year yield below 2%, 1950 level) (WSJ Market Beat Blog)

ECB's Coene says crisis heading to 2008/9 level: report (International Business Times)

BofA, JPMorgan Among 17 Banks Sued by U.S. for $196 Billion (Bloomberg)

FHFA Sues 17 Firms to Recover Losses to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FHFA Statement)
"Ally Financial Inc. f/k/a GMAC, LLC, Bank of America Corporation, Barclays Bank PLC, Citigroup, Inc., Countrywide Financial Corporation, Credit Suisse Holdings (USA), Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, First Horizon National Corporation, General Electric Company, Goldman Sachs & Co., HSBC North America Holdings, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co. / First Franklin Financial Corp., Morgan Stanley, Nomura Holding America Inc., The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, Société Général.."

David Rosenberg on the employment report, recession and Fed (Bloomberg Video)

El-Erian Calls U.S. Employment Report ‘Grim and Scary’ (Bloomberg Video),

Non-Farm Payroll Report (BLS.gov)
"Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent. Employment in most major industries changed little. Health care continued to add jobs; a decline in information employment reflected a strike. Government employment continued to trend down."

California Employment at Record Low (Bloomberg)

Unemployed face tough competition: underemployed (AP)

Nouriel Roubini Sees 60% chance of Recession Next Year (Bloomberg Video/ Baltimore Sun Blog)

European Bank Exposure to Sovereign Debt Dragging Down EUR/USD

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EURUSD is at 1.43125, down 0.38% at 3:25am (eastern). It is continuing its descent from Tuesday after breaking through the initial uptrend line. It is now testing the second one as you can see. To be long EUR/USD I need to see a confirmed breakout above 1.453. Until then, a break below the second trend line (around 1.430) could be a decent short to test the major uptrend line from 2010. There are fears that European banks have to take large writedowns on their holdings of Greek, Italian, Irish, Spanish and Portuguese sovereign debt, and a contagion effect could make it even worse. Read the FT article for details. The ECB and European governments think their estimates are BS since they're not factoring in the rise in German debt. The market will decide... Will China step in here?

"IMF and eurozone clash over estimates" (Financial Times)
"International Monetary Fund staff have provoked a fierce dispute with eurozone authorities by circulating estimates showing serious damage to European banks’ balance sheets from their holdings of troubled eurozone sovereign debt."
"Peeling the Onion on the Accounting for Greek Bonds" - (Accounting Onion Blog) *similar article, hat tip Zero Hedge

EURUSD Sells Off Sharply At Resistance, ECB Could End Rate Hikes (Links/Charts)

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EURUSD couldn't break above the 7/26 high (1.45358) this morning and sold off sharply. It testing the first uptrend line on the chart. I'm not sure what the exact catalyst was, but this could be it: "Euro Weakens as Trichet Spurs Bets Interest Rate Rises Over; Franc Gains" (Bloomberg.com). Read more articles after the charts.

EUR/USD (courtesy of FreeStockCharts.com)

Euro-Zone Economic Sentiment Slumps -European Commission (NASDAQ)

EU Seeks Action on Greek Deal (Finland is demanding collateral for Greece's second bailout) (WSJ)

FOREX: Euro retreats from day's high, stung by econ risks (Reuters)

European Banking Authority (EBA) chief Andrea Enria says inject EFSF capital directly into banks  (Welt.de, Financial Times Germany translate)

Futures Drop Before Data, Fed Minutes (WSJ)

Jakobsen Says ECB May Enact QE to Help Bank Funding (Bloomberg Video)

European Banks Need Bigger Greek-Bond Writedowns, IASB Says (Bloomberg)

FOREX: Euro at Risk as Debt Fears Return, US Dollar May Rebound (Daily FX)

Richard Sulík (SaS): Slovakia resists Greece rescue (Welt.de, translate) 8/27/2011

Corn ETF Breaks Out On Lower Yield Projections (USDA, Pro Farmer Tour), Corn Future Near June Highs

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Illinois Corn (courtesy of Randy Wick on Flickr)
Have you noticed that the Teucrium Corn Fund ETF (CORN:NYSE), which invests in corn futures, broke out recently? I noticed the setup when I was
writing about Adecoagro (NYSE:AGRO) on 8/20/2011, a South American farm company that owns over 283 thousand hectares of farmland and majority owned by Soros Fund Management. When equities were crashing this month, corn was being propped up by lower yield projections. On August 11, the USDA (Google doc) lowered its national corn yield projection to 153 bushels per acre (12.914 billion bushels):

USDA Corn Projections (8/11)
"U.S. feed grain supplies for 2011/12 are projected lower this month with sharp drops in forecast corn and sorghum production. Corn production for 2011/12 is forecast 556 million bushels lower with a reduction in harvested area and lower expected yields. The national average yield is forecast at 153.0 bushels per acre, down 5.7 bushels from last month’s projection as unusually high temperatures and below average precipitation during July across much of the Corn Belt sharply reduced yield prospects." (click here for the latest report at USDA)

And then on 8/26/2011 (last Friday), the 2011 Pro Farmer Tour estimated that corn yields would be even lower at 147.9 bushels per acre (12.484 billion bushels).

"Pro Farmer pegs 2011 U.S. corn crop at 12.484 billion bushels; average yield 147.9 bu. per acre +/- 1% = 146.45 bu. to 149.4 bu. per acre; 12.36 billion to 12.61 billion bushels."
"NOTE: Pro Farmer editors believe USDA will eventually lower harvested acres for both corn and soybeans, but USDA’s Aug. 1 harvested acreages were used in making these estimates...." (continue reading at Agweb.com/profarmer)

So that explains the strength in corn recently. Below are charts of the Corn ETF and future (ZC), and then links to articles. You can see how the Corn ETF broke out earlier this month and ZC is close to testing the June high. Also, the U.S. Dollar is testing June, July and August support. If it rolls over here it could test the May lows (72.70). Will the euro zone debt crisis ever affect the Euro? EUR/USD is currently trading at 1.45.

Bernanke's Jackson Hole Speech Text; No QE3 But Reiterated Low Rates, Policy Tools (8/26/2011)

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Bernanke didn't mention QE3, but reiterated that "economic conditions--including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run--are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013"; and "the Federal Reserve has a range of tools that could be used to provide additional monetary stimulus. We discussed the relative merits and costs of such tools at our August meeting. We will continue to consider those and other pertinent issues, including of course economic and financial developments, at our meeting in September." The S&P 500 and gold both closed higher on Friday.

"Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
At the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Economic Symposium, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

August 26, 2011

The Near- and Longer-Term Prospects for the U.S. Economy

Good morning. As always, thanks are due to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City for organizing this conference. This year's topic, long-term economic growth, is indeed pertinent--as has so often been the case at this symposium in past years. In particular, the financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery have caused some to question whether the United States, notwithstanding its long-term record of vigorous economic growth, might not now be facing a prolonged period of stagnation, regardless of its public policy choices. Might not the very slow pace of economic expansion of the past few years, not only in the United States but also in a number of other advanced economies, morph into something far more long-lasting?

I can certainly appreciate these concerns and am fully aware of the challenges that we face in restoring economic and financial conditions conducive to healthy growth, some of which I will comment on today. With respect to longer-run prospects, however, my own view is more optimistic. As I will discuss, although important problems certainly exist, the growth fundamentals of the United States do not appear to have been permanently altered by the shocks of the past four years. It may take some time, but we can reasonably expect to see a return to growth rates and employment levels consistent with those underlying fundamentals. In the interim, however, the challenges for U.S. economic policymakers are twofold: first, to help our economy further recover from the crisis and the ensuing recession, and second, to do so in a way that will allow the economy to realize its longer-term growth potential. Economic policies should be evaluated in light of both of those objectives.

EUR/USD Action Before Bernanke's Jackson Hole Speech, GDP Report

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EUR/USD is testing the upper-bound of the descending channel. It is currently fighting the first near-term trend line.

EUR/USD 5-Month Chart (freestockcharts.com)

EUR/USD Longer Term (freestockcharts.com)

European Bank Credit Default Swaps (RBS CDS Spread) Make New Highs Even After Bailouts!

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Royal Bank of Scotland 5Y CDS (bloomberg.com)
UPDATE: I found charts of European Bank CDSs (bond insurance premiums) online at Bloomberg.com.

Royal Bank of Scotland 5Y CDS
Lloyds TSB Bank PLC Bank 5Y CDS
BNP Paribas SA 5Y CDS
UniCredit SpA 5Y CDS
Societe Generale SA 5Y CDS
Banco Santander SA 5Y CDS
Credit Agricole 5Y CDS
Banco Popolare SC 5Y CDS
Commerzbank AG 5Y CDS
Bank of Ireland 5Y CDS
Deutsche Bank 5Y CDS

Two and a half years later, after taxpayers bailed out all of these banks, their credit default swap spreads are at record "wides" again! Read these articles at The Telegraph and PragCap: "Cost of insuring RBS debt reaches historic high" (Telegraph 8/24, Bloomberg chart), Market crash 'could hit within weeks', warn bankers" (Telegraph, 8/24), "CDS Market To Euro Banks – This Is Worse Than 2008" (Prag Cap, 8/22 with Danske Bank chart of Barclays, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale, Unicredit, Banco Santander, BNP Paribas CDS). With Royal Bank of Scotland's CDS making new highs, why the hell was its stock (RBS:NYSE) up 7.37% yesterday? Here are charts of RBS's stock and 5Y CDS. Its stock looks like Bank of America, no?

Royal Bank of Scotland Stock (stockcharts.com)
Europe Financials Debt Insurance Costs Rise To Record Highs (Dow Jones, 8/24/2011)

"Investors are worried that during times of quickly deteriorating asset prices, high volatility, and rising risks to the economic recovery, banks could be left with too little capital and a potential lack of support since governments are constrained by high indebtedness," UniCredit credit strategist Christian Weber said."

Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple (Resignation Letter), Tim Cook Named CEO (Press Release)

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Steve Jobs for Fortune magazine
Courtesy of tsevis on Flickr (for Fortune)
Big news for Apple fans and shareholders: Steve Jobs resigned as Apple's CEO and Tim Cook (COO) is taking over. Below is his
resignation letter and Apple's press release. I also embedded a video of Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford commencement speech, which I thought was interesting. E-mini Nasdaq is down 1% tonight.

"Letter from Steve Jobs

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


Apple's press release naming Tim Cook as CEO and Jobs' 2005 commencement speech.

Gold ETF is Testing Resistance On Two Trend Lines (GLD, GLD/SPY, USD, UUP Charts) 8/23/2011

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I'm watching GLD again after its two month parabolic move and 20 day spike in 
SPY terms. Gold (XAU/USD) hit 1,910 on Monday and then fell to 1,820 yesterday. From July 1 to August 22, gold moved parabolically from 1,500 to 1,900 (+26%). Is it exhausted yet using DeMark indicators? I bet gold sees volatile swings soon. Let's see 7% days. I put trend lines and channels on GLD, GLD/SPY, $USD and UUP charts using multiple time frames below. GLD is trading at uptrend resistance levels on two trend lines, one from 2006 and the other from 2009. If GLD moves vertically here through resistance, it will be in a whole new world. The overall trend is up until GLD breaks major uptrend lines. Gold has been in a bull market for 11 years. Get ready for crazy moves in gold, the U.S. Dollar and equities on Friday when Bernanke gives his Jackson Hole speech. The US Dollar ETF is testing an important downtrend and floor support level. A catalyst will determine its fate very soon. Charts are courtesy of StockCharts.com.

Recap of Today's BofA Drama; BAC Blames Henry Blodget For Stock Sell Off

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Source: Flickr
Today was somewhat interesting for Bank of America, BAC analysts and financial bloggers. Below is Bank of America's press release (via WSJ's 
Market Beat) blaming today's stock sell off on Henry Blodget's blog post. Bank of America should explain why its credit default swap spreads (insurance premiums on its bonds that trade over-the-counter) are near record highs.

"Mr. Blodget is making “exaggerated and unwarranted claims,” which is what the SEC stated publicly when he was permanently banned from the securities industry in 2003.

The sovereign exposure is off by a factor of 10.

The commercial real estate figures are off by a factor of four.

The mortgage analysis was provided by a hedge fund that has acknowledged it will benefit if our stock price declines.

The blogger’s recommendations on goodwill accounting would be prohibited by generally acceptable accounting practices.

Traditional bank valuation relies upon tangible book value per share, which excludes by definition 100 percent of goodwill and other intangibles. As of June 30, our tangible book value per share was $12.65."

These posts supposedly moved BAC today. Did they move BAC's credit default swaps as well? (lol)

Bank of America CDS Back at 2009 Highs (XLF, BAC, C, WFC, BAC CDS, Clog Index Charts)

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BAC 5Y CDS (source: Bloomberg)
The banks that were bailed out in 2008/2009 are now under pressure again. Is Bernanke going to save the day on Friday during his Jackson Hole speech? Bank of America ($BAC) and its 5Y credit default swaps are leading the way back to early 2009 levels. BAC is trying to unload its stake in China Construction Bank Corp to raise capital (BofA to maintain stake of at least 5% in CCB:
China Daily, Bloomberg).

The end of QE2, global economic slowdown, recent equity crashes, euro zone sovereign debt and banking crises, falling ABX and CMBX prices / rising premiums (credit default swap indexes insuring pools of subprime residential and commercial mortgage securitizations from 2005-2008) and the recent sunspot cycle correction are probably all responsible for the volatility recently (why sunspots). I want to show you charts of XLF, BAC, BAC CDS, C, WFC and the Financial Clog Index. See the CMBX Index and more at Zero hedge (links below). S&P, Dow and Nasdaq futures are up big tonight, while gold and the dollar are down. The next big moves will probably be Gold (going parabolic), EUR/USD (triangle squeeze coming) and DXY (testing floor support, downtrend). Those charts deserve a separate post. Traders are placing bets on whether the Fed continues to support the stock market and economy (Bloomberg).

XLF (Financials Select SPDR) broke through a 2-year channel. It looks ugly... Will the Fed backstop channel support?

Felix Zulauf Sees S&P Bottoming at 500 (Book Value), Bullish On Gold (Price/Book Ratio Chart)

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Felix Zulauf, founder of hedge fund Zulauf Asset Management, was interviewed by McAlvany Weekly Commentary on July 6 and had interesting views on the market. Listen to the full 53 minute interview here or read the full transcript ("Felix Zulauf: Marching Full Speed into Calamity"). Zulauf thinks the S&P bottoms at book value, or about 500, during the secular bear market, and believes gold is the best hedge against an "inflationary depression" as central banks keep printing money to prop up the system. He also discusses the euro zone sovereign debt crisis and the possible end-game. During a Barron's roundtable discussion on 8/13/2011 (see below), Zulauf gave his short term views on the market (hat tip PragCap). I also put up a chart of the S&P 500 price/book ratio.

Quotes from the McAlvany interview:

"But even during the 1970s and early 1980s, the last major secular lows in the stock market, we were trading slightly below book value at maybe 90% of book value or something like that. I did expect the stock market to decline into a secular low to around a book value of slightly below that. Book value is roughly 500 or a little bit over 500, depending on how you define it.