Swiss Shocker Triggers Gigantic Losses For Banks, Hedge Funds And Currency Traders

Trading - Public DomainThe absolutely stunning decision by the Swiss National Bank to decouple from the euro has triggered billions of dollars worth of losses all over the globe.  Citigroup and Deutsche Bank both say that their losses were somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 million dollars, a major hedge fund that had 830 million dollars in assets at the end of December has been forced to shut down, and several major global currency trading firms have announced that they are now insolvent.   And these are just the losses that we know about so far.  It will be many months before the full scope of the financial devastation caused by the Swiss National Bank is fully revealed.  But of course the same thing could be said about the crash in the price of oil that we have witnessed in recent weeks.  These two “black swan events” have set financial dominoes in motion all over the globe.  At this point we can only guess how bad the financial devastation will ultimately be.

But everyone agrees that it will be bad.  For example, one financial expert at Boston University says that he believes the losses caused by the Swiss National Bank decision will be in the billions of dollars

The losses will be in the billions — they are still being tallied,” said Mark T. Williams, an executive-in-residence at Boston University specializing in risk management. “They will range from large banks, brokers, hedge funds, mutual funds to currency speculators. There will be ripple effects throughout the financial system.”

Citigroup, the world’s biggest currencies dealer, lost more than $150 million at its trading desks, a person with knowledge of the matter said last week. Deutsche Bank lost $150 million and Barclays less than $100 million, people familiar with the events said, after the Swiss National Bank scrapped a three-year-old policy of capping its currency against the euro and the franc soared as much as 41 percent that day versus the euro. Spokesmen for the three banks declined to comment.

And actually, if the total losses from this crisis are only limited to the “billions” I think that we will be extremely fortunate.

As I mentioned above, a hedge fund that had 830 million dollars in assets at the end of December just completely imploded.  Everest Capital’s Global Fund had heavily bet against the Swiss franc, and as a result it now has lost “virtually all its money”

Marko Dimitrijevic, the hedge fund manager who survived at least five emerging market debt crises, is closing his largest hedge fund after losing virtually all its money this week when the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly let the franc trade freely against the euro, according to a person familiar with the firm.

Everest Capital’s Global Fund had about $830 million in assets as of the end of December, according to a client report. The Miami-based firm, which specializes in emerging markets, still manages seven funds with about $2.2 billion in assets. The global fund, the firm’s oldest, was betting the Swiss franc would decline, said the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private.

This is how fast things can move in the financial marketplace when things start getting crazy.

It can seem like you are on top of the world one day, but just a short while later you can be filing for bankruptcy.

Consider what just happened to FXCM.  It is one of the largest retail currency trading firms on the entire planet, and the decision by the Swiss National Bank instantly created a 200 million dollar hole in the company that desperately needed to be filled…

The magnitude of the crisis for U.S. currency traders became clear Friday when New York-based FXCM, a publicly traded U.S. currency broker, and the largest so far to announce it was in financial trouble after suffering a 90-percent drop in the firm’s stock price, reported the firm would need a $200-$300 million bailout to prevent capital requirements from being breached. Highly leveraged currency traders, including retail customers, were unable to come up with sufficient capital to cover the losses suffered in their currency trading accounts when the Swiss franc surged.

Currency traders worldwide allowed to leverage their accounts 100:1, meaning the customer can bet $100 in the currency exchange markets for every $1.00 the customer has on deposit in its account, can result in huge gains from unexpected currency price fluctuations or massive and devastating losses, should the customer bet wrong.

Fortunately for FXCM, another company called Leucadia came riding to the rescue with a 300 million dollar loan.

But other currency trading firms were not so lucky.

For example, Alpari has already announced that it is going into insolvency

Retail broker Alpari UK filed for insolvency on Friday.

The move “caused by the SNB’s unexpected policy reversal of capping the Swiss franc against the euro has resulted in exceptional volatility and extreme lack of liquidity,” Alpari, the shirt sponsor of English Premier League soccer club West Ham, said in a statement.

“This has resulted in the majority of clients sustaining losses which exceeded their account equity. Where a client cannot cover this loss, it is passed on to us. This has forced Alpari (UK) Limited to confirm that it has entered into insolvency.”

And Alpari is far from alone.  Quite a few other smaller currency trading firms all over the world are in the exact same boat.

Unfortunately, this could potentially just be the beginning of the currency chaos.

All eyes are on the European Central Bank right now.  If a major round of quantitative easing is announced, that could unleash yet another wave of crippling losses for financial institutions.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

One of Europe’s most influential economists has warned that the quantitative easing measures seen being unveiled by the European Central Bank (ECB) this week could create deep market volatility, akin to what was seen after the Swiss National Bank abandoned its currency peg.

“There was so much capital flight in anticipation of the QE to Switzerland, that the Swiss central bank was unable to stem the tide, and there will be more effects of that sort,” the President of Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Hans-Werner Sinn, told CNBC on Monday.

As I have written about previously, we are moving into a time of greatly increased financial volatility.  And when we start to see tremendous ups and downs in the financial world, that is a sign that a great crash is coming.  We witnessed this prior to the financial crisis of 2008, and now we are watching it happen again.

And this is not just happening in the United States.  Just check out what happened in China on Monday…

Chinese shares plunged about 8% Monday after the country’s securities regulator imposed margin trading curbs on several major brokerages, a sign that authorities are trying to rein in the market’s big gains. It was China’s largest drop in six years.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea what is coming.

They just trust that Barack Obama, Congress and the “experts” at the Federal Reserve have it all figured out.

So when the next great financial crisis does arrive, most people are going to be absolutely blindsided by it, even though anyone that is willing to look at the facts honestly should be able to see it steamrolling directly toward us.

Over the past couple of years, we have been blessed to experience a period of relative stability.

But that period of relative stability is now ending.

I hope that you are getting ready for what comes next.

The Trigger Has Been Pulled And The Slaughter Of The Bonds Has Begun

The Bears Are Unleashed On Wall StreetWhat does it look like when a 30 year bull market ends abruptly?  What happens when bond yields start doing things that they haven’t done in 50 years?  If your answer to those questions involves the word “slaughter”, you are probably on the right track.  Right now, bonds are being absolutely slaughtered, and this is only just the beginning.  Over the last several years, reckless bond buying by the Federal Reserve has forced yields down to absolutely ridiculous levels.  For example, it simply is not rational to lend the U.S. government money at less than 3 percent when the real rate of inflation is somewhere up around 8 to 10 percent.  But when he originally announced the quantitative easing program, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that he intended to force interest rates to go down, and lots of bond investors made a lot of money riding the bubble that Bernanke created.  But now that Bernanke has indicated that the bond buying will be coming to an end, investors are going into panic mode and the bond bubble is starting to burst.  One hedge fund executive told CNBC that the “feeling you are getting out there is that people are selling first and asking questions later”.  And the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries just keeps going up.  Today it closed at 2.59 percent, and many believe that it is going to go much higher unless the Fed intervenes.  If the Fed does not intervene and allows the bubble that it has created to burst, we are going to see unprecedented carnage.

Markets tend to fall faster than they rise.  And now that Bernanke has triggered a sell-off in bonds, things are moving much faster than just about anyone anticipated

Wall Street never thought it would be this bad.

Over the last two months, and particularly over the last two weeks, investors have been exiting their bond investments with unexpected ferocity, moves that continued through Monday.

A bond sell-off has been anticipated for years, given the long run of popularity that corporate and government bonds have enjoyed. But most strategists expected that investors would slowly transfer out of bonds, allowing interest rates to slowly drift up.

Instead, since the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, recently suggested that the strength of the economic recovery might allow the Fed to slow down its bond-buying program, waves of selling have convulsed the markets.

In particular, junk bonds are getting absolutely hammered.  Money is flowing out of high risk corporate debt at an astounding pace

The SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond exchange-traded fund has declined 5 percent over the past month, though it rose in Tuesday trading. The fund has seen $2.7 billion in outflows year to date, according to IndexUniverse.

Another popular junk ETF, the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond, has seen nearly $2 billion in outflows this year and is off 3.4 percent over the past five days alone.

Investors pulled $333 million from high-yield funds last week, according to Lipper.

While correlating to the general trend in fixed income, the slowdown in the junk bond business bodes especially troubling signs for investment banks, which have relied on the debt markets for fully one-third of their business this year, the highest percentage in 10 years.

The chart posted below comes from the Federal Reserve, and it “represents the effective yield of the BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Index, which tracks the performance of US dollar denominated below investment grade rated corporate debt publically issued in the US domestic market.”  In other words, it is a measure of the yield on junk bonds.  As you can see, the yield on junk bonds sank to ridiculous lows in May, but since then it has been absolutely skyrocketing…

Junk Bonds

So why should the average American care about this?

Well, if the era of “cheap money” is over and businesses have to pay more to borrow, that is going to cause economic activity to slow down.

There won’t be as many jobs, part-time workers will get less hours, and raises will become more infrequent.

Those are just some of the reasons why you should care about this stuff.

Municipal bonds are being absolutely crushed right now too.  You see, when yields on U.S. government debt rise, they also rise on state and local government debt.

In fact, things have been so bad that hundreds of millions of dollars of municipal bond sales have been postponed in recent days…

With yields on the U.S. municipal bond market rising, local issuers on Monday postponed another six bond sales, totaling $331 million, that were originally scheduled to price later this week.

Since mid-June, on the prospect that the Federal Reserve could change course on its easy monetary policy as the economy improves, the municipal bond market has seen a total of $2.6 billion in sales either canceled or delayed.

If borrowing costs for state and local governments rise, they won’t be able to spend as much money, they won’t be able to hire as many workers, they will need to find more revenue (tax increases), and more of them will go bankrupt.

And what we are witnessing right now is just the beginning.  Things are going to get MUCH worse.  The following is what Robert Wenzel recently had to say about the municipal bond market…

Thus, there is only one direction for rates: UP, with muni bonds leading the decline, given that the financial structures of many municipalities are teetering. There is absolutely no good reason to be in municipal bonds now. And muni ETFs will be a worse place to be, given this is relatively HOT money that will try to get out of the exit door all at once.

But, as I wrote about yesterday, the worst part of the slaughter is going to be when the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives time bomb starts exploding.  If bond yields continue to soar, eventually it will take down some very large financial institutions.  The following is from a recent article by Bill Holter

Please understand how many of these interest rate derivatives work.  When the rates go against you, “margin” must be posted.  By “margin” I mean collateral.  Collateral must be shifted from the losing institution to the one on the winning side.  When the loser “runs out” of collateral…that is when you get a situation similar to MF Global or Lehman Bros., they are forced to shut down and the vultures then come in and pick the bones clean…normally.  Now it is no longer “normal,” now a Lehman Bros will take the whole tent down.

Most people have no idea how vulnerable our financial system is.  It is a house of cards of risk, debt and leverage.  Wall Street has become the largest casino in the history of the planet, and the wheels could come off literally at any time.

And it certainly does not help that a whole host of cyclical trends appear to be working against us.  Posted below is an extended excerpt from a recent article by Taki Tsaklanos and GE Christenson

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Charles Nenner Research (source)

Stocks should peak in mid-2013 and fall until about 2020.  Similarly, bonds should peak in the summer of 2013 and fall thereafter for 20 years.  He bases his conclusions entirely on cycle research.  He expects the Dow to fall to around 5,000 by 2018 – 2020.

Kress Cycles by Clif Droke (source)

The major 120 year cycle plus all minor cycles trend down into late 2014.  The stock market should decline hard into late 2014.

Elliott Wave Cycles by Robert Prechter (source)

He believes that the stock market has peaked and has entered a generational bear-market.  He anticipates a crash low in the market around 2016 – 2017.

Market Energy Wave (source)

He sees a 36 year cycle in stock markets that is peaking in mid-2013 and down 2013 – 2016.  “… the controlling energy wave is scheduled to flip back to negative on July 19 of this year.”  Equity markets should drop 25 – 50%.

Armstrong Economics (source)

His economic confidence model projects a peak in confidence in August 2013, a bottom in September 2014, and another peak in October 2015.  The decline into January 2020 should be severe.  He expects a world-wide crash and contraction in economies from 2015 – 2020.

Cycles per Charles Hugh Smith (source)

He discusses four long-term cycles that bottom roughly in the 2010 – 2020 period.  They are:  Credit expansion/contraction cycle;  Price inflation/wage cycle; Generational cycle;  and Peak oil extraction cycle.

Harry Dent – Demographics (source)

Stock prices should drop, on average for the balance of this decade.  Demographic cycles in the United States (and elsewhere) indicate a contraction in real terms for most of this decade.

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I was stunned when I originally read through that list.

Is it just a coincidence that so many researchers have come to such a similar conclusion?

The central banks of the world could attempt to “kick the can down the road” by buying up lots and lots of bonds, but it does not appear that is going to happen.

The Federal Reserve may not listen to the American people, but there is one institution that the Fed listens to very carefully – the Bank for International Settlements.  It is the central bank of central banks, and today 58 global central banks belong to the BIS.  Every two months, the central bankers of the world (including Bernanke) gather in Basel, Switzerland for a “Global Economy Meeting”.  At those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet.

And the BIS has just come out with its annual report.  In that annual report, the BIS says that central banks “cannot do more without compounding the risks they have already created”, and that central banks should “encourage needed adjustments” in the financial markets.  In other words, the BIS is saying that it is time to end the bond buying

The Basel-based BIS – known as the central bank of central banks – said in its annual report that using current monetary policy employed in the euro zone, the U.K., Japan and the U.S. will not bring about much-needed labor and product market reforms and is a recipe for failure.

“Central banks cannot do more without compounding the risks they have already created,” it said in its latest annual report released on Sunday. “[They must] encourage needed adjustments rather than retard them with near-zero interest rates and purchases of ever-larger quantities of government securities.”

So expect central banks to start scaling back their intervention in the marketplace.

Yes, this is probably going to cause interest rates to rise dramatically and cause all sorts of chaos as the bubble that they created implodes.

It could even potentially cause a worse financial crisis than we saw back in 2008.

If that happens, the central banks of the world can swoop in and try to save us with their bond buying once again.

Isn’t our system wonderful?

Jacob Rothschild, John Paulson And George Soros Are All Betting That Financial Disaster Is Coming

Are you willing to bet against three of the wealthiest men in the entire world?  Jacob Rothschild recently bet approximately 200 million dollars that the euro will go down.  Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson made somewhere around 20 billion dollars betting against the U.S. housing market during the last financial crisis, and now he has made huge bets that the euro will go down and that the price of gold will go up.  And as I wrote about in my last article, George Soros put approximately 130 million more dollars into gold last quarter.  So will the euro plummet like a rock?  Will the price of gold absolutely soar?  Well, if a massive financial disaster does occur both of those two things are likely to happen.  The European economy is becoming more unstable with each passing day, and investors all over the globe are looking for safe places to put their money.  The mainstream media keeps telling us that everything is going to be okay, but the global elite are sending us a much, much different message by their actions.  Certainly Rothschild, Paulson and Soros know about things happening in the financial world that the rest of us don’t.  The fact that they are all behaving in a consistent manner right now should be alarming for all of us.

Let’s start with Jacob Rothschild.  Apparently he believes that the euro is headed for quite a tumble.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

You know the euro is in deep water when a doyen of the banking industry, Lord Jacob Rothschild takes a £130 million ($200 million) bet against it.

Okay, but the euro has already been falling dramatically.  In mid-2011, the EUR/USD was above the 1.40 mark, and right now it is at about 1.23.

Does it really have that much more that it can fall?

If the eurozone ends up breaking apart it sure does.

If there is a Greek default, or if Germany leaves the euro, or if a new currency comes along to replace the euro those currently betting against it will end up looking like geniuses.

Another big name in the financial world that is betting against the euro right now is John Paulson.  The following is from a recent Der Spiegel article….

One of these warriors is John Paulson. The hedge fund manager once made billions by betting on a collapse of the American real estate market. Not surprisingly, the financial world sat up and took notice when Paulson, who is now widely despised in America as a crisis profiteer, announced in the spring that he would bet on a collapse of the euro.

And as I noted in my last article, Paulson has also been putting billions of dollars into gold.

So just what are Rothschild and Paulson anticipating?

Could we be on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe?

According to the Der Spiegel article mentioned above, a lot of investors seem to be preparing for such a possibility right now….

Banks, companies and investors are preparing themselves for a collapse of the euro. Cross-border bank lending is falling, asset managers are shunning Europe and money is flowing into German real estate and bonds. The euro remains stable against the dollar because America has debt problems too. But unlike the euro, the dollar’s structure isn’t in doubt.

The financial world is starting to wake up to the fact that the globe is absolutely drowning in debt and it is not really good to be holding fiat currencies when a debt crisis erupts.

When men like John Paulson and George Soros start pouring huge amounts of money into gold, it is time to start becoming alarmed about the state of the global financial system.

The amount of money that these men are investing in gold is staggering….

There was also news last week in an SEC filing that both George Soros and John Paulson had increased their investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest publicly traded physical gold exchange traded fund (ETF).

Mr Soros upped his stake in the ETF to 884,400 shares from 319,550 and Mr Paulson bought 4.53m shares, bringing his stake to 21.3m.

At the current price of about $156 a share, these are new investments of about $88m of Mr Soros’ cash and more than $700m from Mr Paulson’s funds. These are significant positions.

And the central banks of the world are certainly buying gold at an unprecedented rate as well.  According to the World Gold Council, the central banks of the world added 157.5 metric tons of gold last quarter.  That was the biggest move into gold by the central banks of the globe that we have seen in modern financial history.

But that might just be the beginning.

According to a recent Marketwatch article, there are persistent rumors that China has plans to buy thousands of metric tons of gold….

Within the gold market, there is unconfirmed speculation that China plans to buy up to at least 5,000 to 6,000 metric tons of gold and that it will start to buy during this year, according to Kevin Kerr, president of Kerr Trading International.

If China buys this much gold, that would exceed annual, global production of gold, he said. “We do not have enough gold for China to buy that much, and it will take China time to purchase this amount of gold.”

So what comes next?

Nobody is quite sure.

Another major financial crisis could erupt in Europe at any moment.

A major war in the Middle East could start literally at any time.

Renowned investor Jim Rogers believes that things are really going to get “bad after the next election“.

Others believe that the action could start even sooner than that.

The truth is that even though we have not seen a “Lehman Brothers moment” yet, things in Europe just continue to get progressively worse.  The following is from a recent article by Mark E. Grant….

Whether you turn your attention to Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal or even Ireland; it is getting worse. Nowhere on the Continent are things improving and even in France and Germany the financial strains are beginning to show. It is not a question of Euro-bear or Euro-bull; it is just the numbers as they come rolling out month after month.

There is a growing realization in Europe that the euro simply does not work.  Italy is absolutely drowning in debt, the Spanish economy has basically descended into a depression, and Greece has been experiencing depression-like conditions for years at this point.

The euro is doomed.  The only question is who is going to blink first.

Nobody wants to be the first to leave the euro.  There are rumblings that it could actually be Finland that leaves the euro first, and that would please Germany just fine because they don’t want to look like the bad guys in all of this.

But that doesn’t mean that Germany won’t eventually pull the trigger if nobody else does.  The German public is sick and tired of bailing out the weak sisters of southern Europe, and at this point it looks like it would take perpetual bailouts just to keep the euro together.

And recently there have been lots of little signs that Germany is starting to move slowly toward the exit doors.

In fact, I found it quite interesting that a giant euro sculpture was recently removed from the Frankfurt International Airport….

A massive € sculpture (identical to the one in front of the European Central Bank) was dismantled and removed from the Frankfurt International Airport in Germany Thursday.

The official explanation is ‘the plastic parts are getting weak after 11 years and the terminal needed the space‘.

Does € sculpture’s removal from the Frankfurt Airport indicate Germany is preparing for a surprise return to the Deutsche Mark?

Sure that might just be a coincidence, but it also could be a harbinger of things to come.

Sadly, most average people living in North America and Europe have absolutely no idea what is coming.  Most of them just want to be able to get up in the morning and go to work and pay the bills and take care of their families.

Unfortunately, millions upon millions of those hard working individuals are in for a very rude awakening.

A lot of people are about to have their current lifestyles totally turned upside down.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad.

In fact, I found it very interesting to read about how some young people are responding to the depression in Greece….

In the spring of 2010, just as the Greek government was embarking on some of its harshest austerity measures, 29-year-old Apostolos Sianos packed in his well-paid job as a website designer, gave up his Athens apartment and walked away from modern civilisation.

In the foothills of Mount Telaithrion on the Greek island of Evia, Mr Sianos and three other like-minded Athenians set up an eco-community.

The idea was to live in an entirely sustainable way, free from the ties of money and cut off from the national electricity grid.

The group sleeps communally in yurts they have built themselves, they grow their own food and exchange the surplus in the nearest village for any necessities they cannot produce.

I think there is a lesson to be learned there.

When the system fails, it is going to be important to be able to live independently of the system.

Governments and big banks all over the world have been rapidly preparing for the coming financial collapse.

Perhaps the rest of us should be too.

If you can believe it, 77 percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.

If another major economic crisis comes along, many of those people are going to be totally wiped out.

And there are already signs that the U.S. economy is basically on life support at this point.

Just look at the velocity of money.

In an economy that is growing and healthy, money tends to circulate very, very quickly.

But when an economy is sick, money tends to circulate very slowly.

And that is exactly what is happening right now.  In fact, the velocity of money is currently at the lowest level in modern U.S. history….

For much more discussion on this, please check out this article.

This is exactly what happened back in the 1930s.  The velocity of money absolutely plummeted.  When people are scared, credit is tight and times are hard, money does not exchange hands as rapidly.

But this is just the beginning.

What we are experiencing right now is rip-roaring prosperity compared to what is coming.

Jacob Rothschild, John Paulson and George Soros are preparing themselves for the tremendous chaos that is coming.

Are you getting prepared?

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