Freaky Friday Fears Give City Nightmare on Threadneedle Street*

London’s financial futures exchange will, in an unprecedented move, open at 1 a.m. on Friday to allow investors to trade gilts as the election results come in.  Investment banks and hedge funds will be at their desks overnight.  Given the closeness of the race if key results are not counted until lunchtime market uncertainty will cause volatility.

The gilt market determines long term interest rates, which fix mortgage rates.  Labour losing the election is priced into the market, consequently gilt yields have dropped below the psychological 4% interest rate as the prospect of a change of government with a focus on bringing down the deficit has buoyed debt and currency markets.  If traders sense a re-run of the 1974 Lib-Lab pact is on the cards they will sell sterling and gilts to the floor.  The pound will be devalued by morning and the gilt yields which determine long term mortgage rates will rocket. It would be a nightmare on Threadneedle Street…

The price of a Labour government will be higher mortgage payments and higher inflation imported by a devalued pound.  If it goes wrong on Freaky Friday it will f**k the economy before the day is out…

*Threadneedle Street is the location of the Bank of England.

Tories Panic, City Relaxes

George Osborne this afternoon is trying to convince us that a hung parliament will mean higher interest rates as investors panic and the gilt market plunges.   Guido begs to differ, arguing that if on May 7 the Tories went into a Change Coalition with the LibDems – the only party with a leader that admits we need “savage spending cuts”, when the Tories and Labour are being disingenuous in pretending otherwise – the City wouldn’t have a problem.

The hard evidence is clear; since the prospects of a hung parliament jumped after the first TV debate (the bookies now make it an odds on 64% probability) both the pound and the gilt market have rallied. Why?  Well the City was worried about Labour being returned and kamikaze economics being implemented by Chancellor Balls.  A Lib-Con “Change Coalition government with both parties committed to public spending cuts and rapid deficit reduction will actually cheer the City.  Here’s the evidence so far:

The left hand chart is the probability of a hung parliament based on gambler’s bets, the middle chart is the gilt futures price and the right hand chart is the pound against the dollar.    Osborne just quoted a number of  investment banking analyst’s old notes, RBS capital markets analysis this morning concurs with Guido’s analysis:

Weekend press good for Gilts: a) talking up the Liberal Democrats right wing credentials and how they form more coalitions with Conservatives than Labour in councils, so allegedly not that Budget-negative/sclerosis if Con-Lib coalition, which is most likely outcome at this moment according to pollsters; b) polls shift 1-2% back to where they were pre-debates.

Osborne needs to switch on his Bloomberg terminal for a reality check, gilts are now yielding less than 4%, City confidence has risen as Labour’s polling figures have fallen…

+ + + GDP Growth Weak : 0.2% + + +

Consensus economists were predicting 0.4%.  Gordon will use this to spin that this means he can’t cut the deficit because it would take spending out of the economy.  Cutting taxes would of course boost the private sector and keep more money in the economy.  In recent years Cananda and Sweden have both cut government overspending by 10% in a recession and achieved strong economic growth…

Cable's Soothsaying Blip

Having been the front man for the entire LibDem campaign until 45 minutes into the Leader’s Debate, Vince has all but disappeared into the background this week.  No longer the nation’s favourite politician, his soothsaying sage act is also washing a little thin. Inflation figures released yesterday were higher than Cable expected again at 3.4%, leading him to claim that “the inflation rise appears to be a blip caused by things that are out of our control...”

But that’s not how he saw it when he was reading his magical economic runes three months ago in January, then he said with his characteristic bluffer’s confidence “these figures are almost certainly a temporary spike.”  Doesn’t seem too temporary to Guido,* in fact when you print £200 billion and call it quantitative easing (as supported by Cable), you inevitably get inflation.

Perhaps if Clegg would let him back on the platform, he might be able to explain why inflation has remained high and got even worse over the last three months. Could certainly liven up this afternoon’s Chancellor’s Debate…

*Have you taken Guido’s advice?

Brown Attacks "Moral Bankruptcy" of Goldman Sachs

On the Marr show Gordon raged against the moral bankruptcy of Goldman Sachs; “I want a special investigation done into what has happened at Goldman Sachs.”

Perhaps he could ask Gavyn Davies to investigate? For many years he has been advised by Gavyn Davies, who made some £150 million during his period as a Goldman Sachs partner.

It was Davies who last year urged Gordon to implement Mugabenomics, turn on the printing presses and call it quantitative easing. Davies has been a big donor to the Labour Party and a long-term supporter. Davies’ wife Sue Nye was Gordon’s private secretary in Downing Street and they are known to be good friends. Perhaps it was they who stole Gordon’s moral compass.

UPDATE : The more Guido thinks about this, the more he likes Gordon’s idea. Questions Guido would like the Goldman Sachs special investigator to get answered:

  • Exactly how many boardroom lunches and suchlike did Gordon Brown have with Goldman Sachs figures?
  • During the many lunches Gordon had with Goldman Sachs did he discuss policy or matters which they were able to exploit to their advantage in the markets?
  • Goldmans were known to be major sellers of gold before Brown announced his extraordinarily ill-conceived plan to sell the Bank of England’s gold reserves.
  • Gavyn Davies was an adviser to Gordon Brown during this period.  Did he recommend, advise on or know anything of the intended gold sales policy?  Did Sue Nye know of the intention to sell gold?


These are not matters of little import, Gordon’s gold sales debacle cost the Treasury £6 billion, the amount that Gordon claims will devastate the economy if the Tories cut it from public spending. The bank is known at rival firms as ‘Government Sachs’ because senior partners keep so close to governments and in particular finance ministries…

Brown's Bottom : Why the Decision to Sell Gold Still Matters It Shows Brown's Bad Judgement

The billions lost by Brown’s decision to sell Britain’s gold reserves are mounting as gold prices have more than quadrupled since that debacle.  He has the reverse Midas touch when it comes to market timing.  This chart shows what is known in the gold market as “Brown’s Bottom”:

Cameron brought it up on budget day, Labour spinners reckon it is ancient history, even though they constantly hark back further to Thatcher’s days. Guido thinks it is worth the Tories bringing up gold sales fiasco as emblematic of Brown’s bad decisions.

Gilt yields, Credit Default Swap rates, inflation projections, Public Sector Borrowing Requirements and Quantitative Easing are incredibly important for an understanding of the economy, but they are unfortunately almost incomprehensible to the general public.

Selling off the Bank of England’s gold reserves is easy to understand, it was an act of monumental stupidity and it was executed incredibly badly (Brown tipped the market off to his future intentions).  Anybody who watches TV at the moment is bombarded with adverts offering to buy people’s gold (cheap), Dale Winton is telling viewers day and night that gold is up, the demographic that this is aimed at are C1s and D1s.  These voters might not be interested in the finer points of monetary policy, but they all know one thing for sure, it was a catastrophically expensive  economic error to sell the Bank of England’s gold reserves.  Driving home that simple message graphically will undermine  Brown’s claims to making the right judgements.  Whenever he says that he should be asked Was it the right judgement to sell gold at the bottom? In the past he has retorted that he bought euros, that has had very little return over above what the Bank of England could have got from leasing gold out to short sellers and nothing like the 300% return from holding gold over the same period.  It is easy to understand that selling gold was Brown’s £7 billion misjudgement…

Moodys : Britain "Substantially Closer" to Losing 'AAA' Rating

Update :

March 15 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. and the U.K. have moved “substantially” closer to losing their AAA credit ratings as the cost of servicing their debt rose, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Update : II : Pierre Cailleteau, managing director of sovereign risk at Moody’s in London, said under the ratings company’s so-called baseline scenario the UK will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other AAA rated country: “We expect the situation to further deteriorate in terms of the key ratings metrics before they start stabilizing … This story is not going to stop at the end of the year. There is inertia in the deterioration of credit metrics.” Moodys predicts the UK will spend 7% of tax revenue servicing debt this year and between 9% and 12% in 2013. Financing costs above 10% automatically put countries outside of the AAA ratings category.

Update : III : For a completely different take, see the BBC –  UK Credit Rating Viewed As Safe

Even After Earthquake, Chilean Debt Safer than UK Debt

Just how much debt-fuelled danger is Gordon risking with the UK economy?  A reasonable question and the only place we can get hope to get objective answers is from the debt default insurance market place.  Harriet claimed at PMQs yesterday that it is unpatriotic to ask questions about the British economy.  As an Irishman that doesn’t apply to Guido.

Chile has just had an 8.8 on the richter scale earthquake, looting and rioting are commonplace.  Even so, U.S. investors still prefer Chilean government debt to UK government debt as measured by CDS rates.  Do you get how bad things are?

Data source : Morgan Stanley

Wall Street is Getting Worried Tories Won't Win

Gordon loves to quote the policy endorsements of Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner – always neglecting to mention that Krugman is a friend and ally.  The New York Times today however is not so keen on Britain’s economy.

The business section is mainly read by Wall Street liberals, nevertheless they run investment funds that move markets.  The UK this morning is bracketed with Greece, the NYT warning that if the Tories don’t get a strong majority:

“… investors could start to make it greatly more expensive for the government to raise funds, setting the stage for a potential double-dip recession, if not worse… If you really want a fiscal problem, look at the U.K… In Europe, the average deficit is about 6% of G.D.P. and in the U.K. it’s 12%. It is only just beginning… the British government … has been able to finance a budget deficit of 12.5% of G.D.P. — equal to Greece’s — at an interest rate more than two full percentage points lower only because the Bank of England bought the majority of the bonds it issued last year.”

As the pound slid Nick Clegg tried to reassure investors that if there is a hung parliament the LibDems would not risk Britain’s creditworthiness – surely that effectively means he can’t prop up Gordon Brown.  Clegg said this because he realises that once foreign investors realise the only buyer of government gilts last year was the Bank of England and they lose confidence in a Tory election victory, they could rush for the exit.  Foreign holdings of gilts fell from 35% to 29% last year.  Capital flight is already starting…

Pound Sinking on Hung Parliament Fears

The pound has just fallen through the psychologically important €0.90 cents to the pound level, if it were not Greece we would now have £/€ parity.  It is sinking against the dollar as well. Think what a hung parliament and the inevitable political paralysis would mean for deficit reduction.  Markets would go into a tailspin, the cost of borrowing would rise. We would be looking at a Greek tragedy…

UPDATE : Gilt market has opened down as well.   The market has already removed the Triple-A rating on UK government debt.

S.T.U.P.I.D. : Gordon Meeting Greek PM

The papers are reporting an emergency EU meeting over Greece.  Gordon is attending despite the UK not being in the Euro.  At the end of last week Guido learnt that next week Gordon is scheduled to meet George Papandreou, the socialist Greek prime minister who has led his country to ruin. Perhaps they can compare notes or put in a joint application to the IMF?

Until the recent Irish austerity budget the financial world talked about the risk of the P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) defaulting on their sovereign debt. Now Ireland is controlling government spending with swingeing public sector cuts they are not being talked about so much. Attention has shifted to the S.T.U.P.I.D. countries: Spain, Turkey, UK, Portugual, Italy and Dubai. These are the countries the City now fears to be at risk of sovereign default.

ZeroHedge has created a S.T.U.P.I.D. index, which they are charting, it is a Credit Default Swap index, so bad news means the chart goes up.  For the record, Guido thinks there is no chance of the U.K. defaulting because we still control our own currency, though losing our AAA credit rating and devaluing is a very real possibility.  The market is pricing in the credit risk from Gordon’s economic stupidity nevertheless…

+ + + Gilts Plunge on End of Q.E. + + +

QE Or Not QE?, That is the Question

Today on Threadneedle Street in the City, the Monetary Policy Committee meets to decide the Bank of England’s base rate and whether or not to keep the printing presses running   The base rate is currently of symbolic importance (unless you have a base rate tracker mortgage), because prevailing real world market rates are far higher than the official 0.5%.

Has QE worked? We will never be able to answer that question definitively.  Economists will argue forever about what would have happened if things had been done otherwise.  We can however point to unintended consequences of the Anglo-American monetary splurge. Commodity price inflation, a non-trivial £200 billion unwinding problem in the UK, a yet more burdensome government debt disaster.  The evidence is that QE has largely allowed the Bank of England to buy the government’s new debt giving foreign investors an exit route.  Pimco, the world’s biggest bond investor has taken that exit route from gilts and says they are now resting on nitro-glycerine.

For £200 billion we got growth of 0.1%, the longest recession in history and a 6% drop in output that saw Britain as the last major country out of recession.   Most worryingly of all, inflation is now ready to rip.

The recession came to a technical end last week.  With that QE should come to an end.  Policy makers need to perform a trick never accomplished before anywhere in the world at any time in history, turn off the monetary liquidity flood without lagging inflation jumping, sterling collapsing or the economy seizing up. Mervyn’s memoirs will make interesting reading.

Dead Cat Bouncing into Double Dip?

Yesterday’s GDP disappointment makes the case for a tax cutting Emergency Growth Budget even stronger.  Policy Makers have got to go for growth, you can’t tax your way to prosperity.  Or else the cat gets it…

Graphic : Taxloss via Alphaville

+ + + UK Dec CPI Posts Largest Jump On Record to 2.9% + + +

Annual consumer price inflation increased by its greatest ever amount in a single month in December, that is well well above the Bank of England’s 2.0% target and consensus economist’s expectations that it would come in nearer 2% today.

Get your wheelbarrows out, stock up on gold and baked beans. Here comes inflation…

See also : Coming Soon : Double Digit Inflation, Double Digit Inflation is a Black Swan, Bank of England Pension Fund Surges Betting on Inflation, Yo Dude, Where’s the Deflation?

Mandy Back to Reassure Gilt Market

MandyAt 10.30 this morning we will have the first auction of government debt this year.  Gilts are ticking down* a little as the market awaits the outcome of the sale.  Mandelson is being wheeled out today to say that – shock, horror – the First Lord backs government policy; emphasising spending reductions, tax increases and reducing the deficit, all to reassure the bond markets.

At the same time Alastair Darling is introducing a Fiscal Responsibility Bill, to be debated  today, in the latest effort to reassure investors after Darling in 2008 scrapped rules to contain the deficit, he now repents:

“Whatever the economic circumstances, whatever the government, we need rules and objectives to govern fiscal policy… It is important we have that discipline.”

You can say that again.  Spending prolifically in the credit-boom years wasn’t prudent, it was reckless fiscal madness.  It was Brown’s delusion.  We really need to go further and introduce a balanced budget law, forcing the government to live within its means.  Today’s auction of £4 billion of gilts will cover a week of government overspending under the Brown and Balls economic plan.  The reality is we need to control spending as soon as possible. 

Creating spend / cut dividing lines is crass partisanship, not working in the national interest…

*Guido is short the market.

Guido's Portfolio 2009

In the right hand column of this blog below the book ads there is a spot updated in realtime showing Guido’s portfolio position. For the readers who are interested (there are a few) this is the portfolio report for the second half of this year (first half here).

The huge pink drop on the chart is when Guido decided that the U.S. stock-market was getting carried away to the upside and shorted U.S. Dow futures.  He was at the time sat in a deckchair in France drinking rosé in the August sun.  When over the next few days the trade started to go wrong, and the Dow pushed well past 9000, Guido drank more rosé and doubled up his short.  Who said rosé was cheap?

By the time Guido sobered up and exited the trade it had wiped out all the profits from the first half of the year (and some) putting the portfolio in the red.  So Guido stuck to jobbing the gilt market from the short side and dodging the QE bidding, then figured out that it was possible to join the QE bidding.  Next trade mess-up was trying in November, despite being a huge gold bull, shorting a technically over-bought gold market.  Except it wasn’t really over-bought fundamentally as India’s central bank had bought 200 tonnes.  Net-net the year’s trading of gold didn’t really make any money as a result.  Made small profits jobbing oil and getting long the euro.  The portfolio was mostly flat with no positions or risk during the year (68 trades were made all year, mostly held for less than a week).  Guido was too busy doing other things and has removed the trading software from his Blackberry to prevent himself from trading financial markets under the influence.  Nevertheless the portfolio is up 40.82% on the year versus a stock-market up about 23%.

The portfolio’s high leverage and sharp moves in Net Asset Value* are due to having a target of making a 100% annualised return.  Guido was 78% up at one point in early November before giving back profits.  Next year Guido can see no reason to hold gilts, if the markets sense a close election it will spook the gilt market and there is going to be a continuing flood of supply no matter what.  The exit from QE will probably be horrendous.

*Eagle eyed readers might spot a discrepancy in the NAV figures, the final figure is based on NAV versus the start of the year and the NAV changes throughout the year are based on trade by trade changes.

Coming Soon : Double Digit Inflation

If you haven’t got any gold, stock up on baked beans, because inflation is coming back.  Data released this morning from the Office for National Statistics showed inflation in the UK rose for the second month in succession to 1.9% in November, jumping from 1.5% in October. This rise in inflation is far stronger than consensus economists were expecting.  Guido will bet a large amount of money that the Governor of the Bank of England will have to write to Chancellor Osborne next year telling him why inflation is over-shooting target.

Not hard to figure out why when the government has printed the money to buy all the billions in government gilts offered this year. Take that in, the net effect of printing all that money via quantitative easing was to prop up the government’s debts.  Andrew Lilico at Policy Exchange is equally as pessimistic as Guido, he is predicting 2 quarters of anemic growth, followed by 2 quarters of contraction next year and double digit inflation to follow by early 2012 – a double dip. Double digit inflation and probably a recession in 2013 – stagflation.

Lilico calls the failure of Darling to use the PBR to tackle the deficit sooner rather than later a “nihilist fiscal policy”.  There has been some argument made by left-wingers that the ‘AAA’ rating is not really under threat and that it is just political scaremongering by George Osborne to claim otherwise.  The fact is that the markets have already removed the triple ‘A’ rating before the ratings agencies.  In terms of the interest rate paid and implied risk premium for UK debt, gilts trade like double ‘A’ countries – Japan, Portugal, Ireland – rather than triple ‘A’ countries like Germany.  As a result, the cost of servicing UK debt is already 20% higher* than it is for Germany despite £200 billion having been thrown at keeping short-term rates down, not surprising when the UK leads the G20 in having the highest inflation and worst indebtedness.

See also : Yo Dude, Where’s the Deflation?, Bank of England Pension Fund Surges Betting on Inflation, Double Digit Inflation is a Black Swan.

*Market rates today for UK 10 year gilts 3.90% against 3.24% for German 10 year bunds.

Danke Darling

The boss of the mighty Deutsche Bank Josef Ackermann is laughing that Downing Street and the Elysee Palace are shooting their financial centres in the foot.  He is acclaiming that Germany has a “comparative advantage” over other financial cities due to the fact that Britain and subsequently France will be taxing bonuses at penal rates.  “To strengthen the financial hub of Germany I think is a very wise move” he sarcastically mocks with that crazy German sense of humour for which they are famous.

It has come to something when boring Frankfurt, home of the European Central Bank, is rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of London’s bankers heading towards them.  Cheers Darling…

Investors Flee Fiscal Fiction

UK government debt took a whack yesterday, the gilt market dropped heavily on what the FT describes as ‘fiscal fiction’. The FT is blunt:

Investors took fright on Thursday at the timidity of the government’s plans to balance the books with one of the biggest sell-offs of British gilts this year.

[…] Read the rest

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Embattled Henry Bolton on his battles…

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