Monday, August 04, 2014

Financial Sarcasm Roundup for 08/04/14

There is sarcasm . . . and then there is SARCASM.  There's more of the latter on this blog than the former.

Portugal's central bank pulled Banco Espirito Santo out of the fire by sticking its bad assets in a separate entity.  I don't think they got the memo from US and UK regulators that shareholder cramdowns don't need a good bank / bad bank split as long as the back office processes keep working.  The Portuguese plan is okay if it prevents any further troika bailouts.  Consider this a test case for a rescue that doesn't spook depositors as much as the Cyprus bank crisis.

The Federal Reserve is having serious difficulty finding an exit from its stimulus policy.  The public focus on interest rate targeting is the Fed's deliberate misdirection.  The real source of trouble is the Fed's bloated balance sheet.  Chair Yellen can't unwind those asset-backed holdings without forcing up short-term rates, crashing the demand for bonds, and freaking out non-US central banks.  No one wants to face the nightmare scenario of a Fed bankruptcy, but the current policy's non-exit flirts with such an outcome.

Argentina is in default on its sovereign debt, and ISDA ruled that credit default swap owners can trigger their contracts.  This is a preview of what awaits US Treasury CDS holders given the Fed's problem in my paragraph immediately above.  The smart hedge funds that purchased CDS on Treasuries with record-low credit spreads will make out quite handsomely.  The dumb ones still fixated on interest rate arbitrage are picking up nickels in front of a steamroller, with one shoelace already under the roller.  Hedge funds that bought Argentinian CDS are about to find out if they got luckier than the funds that sued for larger bond settlements.

These news items bring back memories of my days as a financial advisor, reminding me of why I don't perform that function anymore.  I prospected some real idiots who thought they could dictate market returns to me before selecting investment products.  That mentality isn't limited to individual retail investors.  People running big funds and central banks think that way too, as the articles above illustrate.  These people are going to get their big fat rear ends handed to them in the next US market crash.