Friday 29 June 2012

The Big Fix.

Baltic Dry Index. 994 +06

LIR Gold Target by 2019: $30,000.  Revised due to QE programs.

"All for one!" "One for all!" "Every man for himself!"

Larry, Moe and Curly. Restless Nights, 1935.

No, not how Barclays Bank and the other 40 thieves stitched up Liebor for almost a decade, generating massive profits and bonus payments along the way, (for more on that scroll down to Crooks Corner,) today’s big fix is the one in Europe that saw Germany totally defeated in the EU summit, undone by the threat from Spain and Italy to use the De Gaulle nuclear option of blocking business as usual in Brussels if they didn’t get immediate access to Germany’s credit card. In a typical EU fiasco, Germany’s politicians caved in faster that their football team to Club Med blackmail, and reversed their policy stance of the last few months. Nothing good will come to Euroland by Germany caving in to Club Med blackmail, as the previous deals with Ireland and Greece will now have to be quietly renegotiated, although probably rebranded as a growth package. If this was to be the outcome, why did Merkel drag the crisis out these last 6 months? The immovable object was moved by the unstoppable force.

Below, Moe, Larry and Curly takeover running Euroland, just in time to dress up the month end and half year figures. Will the big fix work? Time will tell but I doubt it.  The euro is still in the ICU, until Germany’s credit card runs out. I suspect that after Canada returns from celebrating Canada Day next week and after the USA gets back from celebrating Independence Day next week, the markets will begin questioning just how likely the big fix is to work.

"Now when the music plays The Gates of Hell Are Open, that's where you walk in."

Moe.  Plane Nuts, 1933.

Debt crisis: Germany caves in over bond buying, bank aid after Italy and Spain threaten to block 'everything'

Germany has today caved into demands made by Italy and Spain for immediate eurozone aid to bring down their soaring borrowing costs.

On Thursday night, Italy and Spain plunged an EU summit into disarray by threatening to block “everything” unless Germany and other eurozone countries backed their demands for help.

Mario Monti, the Italian Prime Minister, celebrated the agreement, reached in the early hours of Friday, as a “very important deal for the future of the EU and the eurozone”.

He could not resist reminding Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, that Italy had also won on the football pitch, by defeating Germany two goals to one for a place in the finals of the European Championship.

“It is a double satisfaction for Italy,” he said.

Under the deal, Spanish banks will be recapitalised directly by allowing a €100 billion EU bailout to transferred off Spain’s balance sheet after the European Central Bank takes over as the single currency’s banking supervisor at the end of the year.

The decision, taken by a meeting of eurozone leaders in the early hours of Friday morning, will be based on a move to put the ECB at the centre of a “effective single supervisory mechanism” for banks after an EU summit in December.

“We affirm that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns,” said a summit statement.

Relief for Spain was accompanied by a pledge to begin purchases of Italian bonds using EU bailout funds to reduce Italy’s borrowing costs with a lighter set of conditions, based on meeting Brussels fiscal targets rather than intrusive IMF oversight.

A promise was also made to “examine the situation of the Irish financial sector” offering possible relief to Ireland by relieving the government balance sheet debt burden.

The Spanish bank bailout, to be agreed on 9 July, will initially use the euro’s European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) before it is transferred into a new permanent fund later this year.

When the transfer takes place to the European Stability Mechanism the new loans will not be given seniority, giving extra security to Spain’s creditors.

After the ECB takes over eurozone banking supervision next year then the Spanish bailout will “very rapidly taken off balance sheet” and directly loaned to banks reducing Spain’s debt burden and borrowing costs.

Below, some other news from slowing Europe. Germany’s credit card isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

German Retail Sales Unexpectedly Drop as Crisis Bites

By Joseph de Weck - Jun 29, 2012 7:00 AM GMT
German retail sales unexpectedly fell for a second month in May as the sovereign debt crisis worsened, damping the economic outlook.

Sales, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, dropped 0.3 percent from April, when they declined 0.2 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists forecast a gain of 0.2 percent, the median of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey shows. Sales dropped 1.1 percent from a year ago.

Unemployment at a two-decade low, falling energy costs and rising wages have bolstered consumer spending this year, helping to shield the German economy from Europe’s turmoil. With at least seven euro nations in recession and budget cuts across the region eroding demand for German exports, investors and executives are growing more pessimistic.

UK recession is deeper than first thought says ONS

Friday 29 June 2012
The UK's recession is deeper than first estimated, the Office for National Statistics revealed yesterday.
The ONS confirmed that the economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the first quarter, pushing Britain into its first double-dip recession since the 1970s. But it also revised up the contraction of the economy in the final quarter of 2011 from 0.3 per cent to 0.4 per cent, deepening the downturn.

Households' disposable incomes fell again in the first three months of this year emphasising the financial squeeze on families, official figures showed. Incomes were down 0.9 per cent in the quarter from the previous three months of the year, after falling by the same amount in the final quarter of last year.

"The great merit of gold is precisely that it is scarce; that its quantity is limited by nature; that it is costly to discover, to mine, and to process; and that it cannot be created by political fiat or caprice."

Henry Hazlitt.

At the Comex silver depositories Thursday final figures were: Registered 35.89 Moz, Eligible 109.90 Moz, Total 145.79 Moz.   

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner.

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.

Today, more on Ali Diamond and the 40 bankster thieves. My word is a CDO “triple-A” bond.

Why did I take up stealing? To live better, to own things I couldn't afford, to acquire this good taste that you now enjoy and which I should be very reluctant to give up.

Barclays, with apologies to Cary Grant. To Catch A Thief.

Bob Diamond: Barclays falsified Libor to protect bank during financial crisis

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has admitted for the first time that the bank made a conscious decision to falsify Libor rates in order to protect the bank at the height of the financial crisis.

The revelation in a letter to the Treasury Select Committee will put increasing pressure on Mr Diamond to reveal whether the decision was taken at board level.

“Even taking account of the abnormal market conditions at the height of the financial crisis, and that the motivation was to protect the bank, not to influence the ultimate rate, I accept that the decision to lower submissions was wrong,” he stated.

In the most detailed account so far on how the Libor rates were manipulated, Mr Diamond said fixing of Libor rates was carried out by individual trades and, separately, by the bank itself.

He said traders attempted to influence the rate in order to benefit their own desks’ trading positions. The bank made the decision in order to protect shareholders’ interests, he said.

The Libor scandal saw £3.2bn wiped off the bank’s value on Thursday in the biggest one day fall in its share price for more than three years.

After Barclays, the golden age of finance is dead

Retribution and regulation are sure to follow the Barclays scandal, but if the City is shackled, Britain as a whole will suffer

Just when you thought bankers could sink no lower in public regard, they’ve done it. News that Barclays has been found guilty of repeatedly falsifying the interbank rate – sometimes for the personal gain of traders, sometimes to make the bank itself seem more creditworthy than it really was – tops off another calamitous week in the seemingly never-ending litany of banking misdemeanours.

Coming hard on the heels of the chaos surrounding an IT breakdown at Royal Bank of Scotland, it is as if bankers are actively out to confirm their reputation for recklessness, incompetence and self-enriching disregard for the interests of customers and the wider economy.

At a time when the political and regulatory backlash against finance is already at fever pitch, much of it ill-thought out, counterproductive and economically harmful, there could scarcely have been a more spectacular own goal. And it doesn’t end there. Banking faces a whole new raft of separate regulatory strictures over the mis-selling of interest rate swaps to business customers.

A year ago, Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays, told a committee of MPs that it was time to put the crisis behind us, move on and stop apologising for the failings of the past. He should be so lucky. Not since the Thirties has finance been so much in the dock. On and on the combination of retribution and regulatory crackdown will go until banking is once again thought sufficiently imprisoned to be safe. European policymakers will delight in the ammunition they have been given to rein in the Anglo-Saxon bankers and make them subject to the rule of Brussels and Frankfurt.

Many have already said it, but it is one of those observations that bears constant repetition: in all my years as a financial journalist, it’s hard to recall a case quite as shameful as this – and I’ve certainly seen a few.

----Now, it may well be unfair to single out Barclays. We already know that at least 20 other banks are under investigation for alleged manipulation of interbank interest rates, including most of the other UK high street banks. It could be that others are equally at fault. We know about Barclays only because in a practice that City lawyers sometimes call “rowing for the shore”, it has decided to abandon the flotilla of co-defendants and settle with regulators.

In so doing, it may have succeeded in winning both a lower fine and immunity from criminal prosecution, as a corporate entity at least, though the individuals involved may not escape. The downside of such plea bargains is that they involve admission of guilt. The regulator gets free rein to be as critical as it likes, while the mitigation of any defence there might have been is lost.

That these practices appear to have been endemic, not just at Barclays, but across a wide range of international banks, neither excuses nor explains what happened.

Another weekend and a holiday weekend in Canada. It feels like a holiday weekend in Club Med too, where Italy knocked out Germany’s hated football team from the Euro 2012 final due to be played against Spain. Northern Europeans 0, Club Med 2. With Germany’s surrender in Brussels, the bank cash machines will operate across Club Med this weekend too, a big plus for tourists heading to Spain, Italy and Greece. Backed by Germany’s credit card, it’s “too infinity and beyond,” for Club Med. With the euro now headed for the scrap heap, stay long physical precious metals. Have a great weekend everyone.

Italy is not technically part of the Third World, but no one has told the Italians.

P. J. O’Rourke.

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished May:
DJIA: +71 Down. NASDAQ: +79 Down. SP500: +46 Down. All three indicators remain down but downward momentum is accelerating again after stalling earlier in the year.

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Thursday 28 June 2012

“Bah humbug.” Chancellor Merkel.

Baltic Dry Index. 988 +07

LIR Gold Target by 2019: $30,000.  Revised due to QE programs.

Communications released by authorities on Wednesday showed Barclays traders calling each other "superstar" and with little concern for covering their tracks as they urged colleagues responsible for submitting Barclays' Libor rates to try and influence final prices.

Requests came in such as: "We need a really low 3m fix, it could potentially cost a fortune. Would really appreciate any help."

We open with Barclays exposing the depravity of our financialised casino capitalism, socialism-for-banksters system. They did so only to save their own necks and past bonuses. They are only the tip of the iceberg. The authorities on both sides of the Atlantic need to pursue criminal charges against those involved in such egregious behaviour. Who hurt the public more, Bernie Madoff or corrupt banksters rigging Libor, the basis for billions of transactions each year? Madoff was a boy scout compared to banksters rigging Libor.

It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.

British Bankers Association, with apologies to W.C. Fields.

Record fines for Barclays are just the beginning of the Libor scandal

If money makes the world go around, Libor makes the money go around first. It's at the heart of everything, and dishonestly manipulating Libor is nothing less than manipulating the price of money itself.

Once you get your head round that concept it's a bit easier to understand why regulators on both sides of the Atlantic on Wednesday imposed record fines on Barclays of £290m – and don't forget that enforcers were being lenient on the grounds Barclays has been helping with inquiries.

Libor – the London Inter Bank Offered Rate – is the primary market rate of interest. The Bank of England sets the official policy rate but Libor is the actual cost to a bank of borrowing unsecured funds from one another overnight. Without that flow of funds the financial system doesn't work. That's why interest rates on subsequent loans of any shape or size are set at a margin above Libor. It's where the market pricing of money, or credit, begins. And given these loans become tradeable assets in themselves, with a multitude of derivative contracts – or financial bets – attached to them, Libor is used to price these markets too. It's the rate of interest charged at the very base of the financial pyramid.

US regulators on Wednesday gave a useful sketch of what that global pyramid looks like and why Libor is so important. At the apex it reckons there are loans worth $10 trillion (£6.4 trillion) priced off Libor. There are then interest rate swaps (derivatives which are insurance against adverse interest rate movements) worth $350 trillion, also priced with reference to Libor, and then at the base of this tower eurodollar futures (short-term loans which are also bets on interest rate movements) worth $564 trillion. Given this, it's surprising that setting the rate for Libor is unregulated. But it's not even subject to the full forces of the free market either. It emerges from a 16-strong cartel of banks which, as we now know, was ripe for abuse.
By manipulating Libor, up or down, Barclays could variously make profits on its own interest rate punts or give a dishonest impression to the market of its own cost of funding. It was, according to its own staff, "being dishonest by definition".

Now back to the fall of Europe. Either Germany caves in and free Europe dies, replaced by an unelected bankster run serf state, or Germany holds firm and the European Monetary Union ends in its present form, with Greece and others leaving the monetary union. There are no good outcomes to this European leaders summit. Do you prefer death by hanging or by garrotting? Our banksters must be hoping Germany holds firm, so an even bigger crisis/scandal than rigging Libor commences next week. Stay long physical precious metals. The road to hell seems to have reached hell for Europe.

Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

June 27, 2012, 8:52 p.m. ET

As Summit Looms, Merkel Sees 'Controversial' Talks

BRUSSELS—European leaders embark on talks here Thursday over steps they hope will begin to lift doubts about the survival of the euro, amid heavy skepticism in financial markets that they can achieve a breakthrough to stem the debt and banking crises.

At the two-day summit, the leaders of Spain, Italy and France are expected to pitch ideas for easing the crisis that will be mostly deflected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country would finance most of them.

Some European Union leaders are urging decisive action: "I think it is very important that this [summit] rules out any doubt about the irreversibility of the euro," said José Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

The leaders will discuss how euro-zone economies can move toward tying their budgets and banking systems closer together based on a report put together by senior European Union officials. But markets aren't optimistic about major progress.

"The only element this week's summit could already decide is a European bank supervision, which could be regarded as a first step towards a banking union," said Carsten Brzeski, senior economist at ING in Brussels.
Ms. Merkel acknowledged in Berlin on Wednesday that the meeting could be a tough one for her. "I have no illusions. I expect controversial discussions in Brussels and once again all eyes, or at least many eyes, will be on Germany," Ms. Merkel told lawmakers in the Bundestag.

As she spoke, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had just told his own Parliament that Spain couldn't sustain super-high interest rates on its debts for much longer. The day before, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he was prepared to stay in Brussels until Sunday if that's what it took to forge a credible solution to the euro zone's worsening troubles.

Spain cannot finance itself for long, says PM Mariano Rajoy

Spain's prime minister warned that his country cannot continue to finance itself and he called for Europe to move urgently to reduce unsustainably high interest rates.

"The most urgent subject is the subject of financing," Mariano Rajoy told Spain's Congress yesterday.

"We can't finance ourselves at the prices we are paying for very long," he said as the yield on 10-year bonds traded at more than 6.8pc.

He issued the stark warning on the eve of a European Union summit and called on EU partners to take urgent action using all "available instruments" to reassure markets and bring down punitive interest rates.
If Spain, the fourth biggest economy in the eurozone, is shut out of the markets it could be forced to seek a full-blown bailout.

"There are institutions and also financial entities that cannot access the markets. It is happening in Spain, it is happening in Italy and it is happening in other countries," he said.

----The Bank of Spain reported that the nation is sinking deeper into recession with economic output in the second quarter of this year shrinking "at a more intense pace" than the three months previously when a contraction of 0.3pc was posted

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri, Inferno.

At the Comex silver depositories Wednesday final figures were: Registered 35.89 Moz, Eligible 110.05 Moz, Total 145.94 Moz.   
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