Did A Central Banker Just Margin Call All Other Central Banks’ Credibility?

Did A Central Banker Just Margin Call All Other Central Banks’ Credibility?

Authored by Mark St.Cyr,

In a stunning policy move Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda introduced and adopted negative interest rates. The word “stunning” is fitting, for just weeks prior he stated there was no need to adopt such measures. It seems by all accounts his mind changed (or was made right?) after returning from Davos.

Whether or not this is the case one thing is certain: The Bank of Japan (BOJ) has thrown not just a monkey wrench into the financial system. He may have simultaneously made every other central bankers toolbox irrelevant, as well as incapable, to deal with the resulting damage. It’s one thing to have the right tool at the right time to tweak or fix. It’s quite another to lose grip of that tool where it falls into the running gears of the machinery. That’s when far more can (and usually does) go awry than just the original issue. (Think losing the small water pumps that keep water in a nuclear reactor as an analogy.)

No matter what anyone in the “smart crowd” would argue different. Today, both the financial world along with business in general is currently being manipulated made possible via crony capitalism as well as simultaneously being stymied by central bank policies. All occurring through the direct myriad of interventions into the capital markets globally. I believe that in no other time since the days of direct rule of Kings and Queens has such a small cabal of people had so much influence, as well as control, of global finance and business influence. Ever.

Politicians of all stripes sway or prestige are pale in comparison today as to the dictates coming from one central banking authority or another. However, with such authority comes a very heavy price. That price? It’s becoming easier to spot both the “who,” as well as the “where,” catastrophic mistakes in policies effecting societies well-being may originate from. And I don’t think many central bankers truly understand just how precarious in that position they now sit.

We were told (“we” being the business world) ad nauseam by the central bankers themselves that they knew precisely what they were doing. In 2008 as the financial markets as well as the economy came-off-the-rails the Federal Reserve stepped in and stabilized what seemed to be an out of control death spiral. Many will argue valid points on both sides whether it was good, bad, or an ugly way the tools used to stem that tide were employed. Personally I believe there was a legitimate and valid argument to step in.

However: It was the remaining “in” while supplying ever more of the very things that made the original crisis inevitable in the first place that had/has anyone with a modicum of business acumen apoplectic.

The relentless iterations of QE (quantitative easing) and an unrelenting stance to remain at the zero bound on interest rate policies for years could be seen for the ever ballooning, ticking time bomb they were. It didn’t take too much imagination and thought thru to envision just how difficult along with its disruption in both financial as well as business thing would become once the proverbial punch-bowls were taken away.

Economic theory as to explain and guide central banks through this malaise are suddenly finding themselves squarely in the line of fire of business and financial fact: They’ve created an absolute mess. And what’s worse? It may be the bankers themselves that may no longer trust their own omnipotence to deal with what’s coming. i.e., They aren’t going to wait or care any longer about coordination of moves. It’s now everyone for themselves as just witnessed by what many are now calling a “Kamikaze” bank policy move from the BOJ.

Why is this so troubling many are asking. After all, it seems that the BOJ governor’s mind changed after meeting with all the other bankers and attendees at Davos. And if one is to believe all the reports; more QE, and negative interest rates were what was being called (as well as begged) for as to help stem the tide of this current market malaise. Maybe the BOJ just decided to emulate what’s now taking place in the EU? Sounds logical right?

Well yes, maybe. However, what may be far more front-of-mind for the BOJ is the current meltdown in China. Japan may try to sweep away concerns regarding contamination of any meltdown at their nuclear plants. What they can’t turn a blind eye to is the potential for contagion in any currency meltdown in the CNY. e.g., Chinese Yuan. And it seems that potential grows stronger with each passing day.

And just like the potential for radiation effects are at first unseen to the naked eye. The possible ramification of suddenly throwing one of the most heavily traded currencies (e.g., ¥Yen) into an anytime, anywhere, out-of-the-blue change in monetary pricing stability can affect carry trades across the global markets in ways far more treacherous, as well as dangerous than anyone ever considered. Especially in today’s highly levered, correlated, high frequency trading (HFT) algorithmic based market. The resulting effects are yet to be felt. After all – this all just happened Friday.

I would garner there were many a meeting across many financial houses over the weekend than will admit. For when it comes to a carry trade – any carry trade – stability of perceived pricing models is key. A change of just one fractional amount too far in the wrong direction for assumption can render a fortress balance sheet into a falling house of cards with an immediacy most never truly comprehend. One would think 2007/08 would still be well-remembered. By the way many are talking – it seems as if it was ancient history. It’s unnervingly surreal.

Today the markets are gyrating widely reminiscent of those early stage stresses and/or warning signs just prior to the first real downdraft experienced during the initial stages of the financial crisis. Back then we had one policy move, or jawboning official after another announcing plans to do this or that, sending the market into fits and starts near daily.

Many times these daily knee-jerk rises of 1% plus moves were only to be followed with subsequent selloffs erasing (and then some) any gains made prior. Sometimes with incalculable speed and disruption. Today, with an ever infected market now under near complete and utter dominance via HFT parasitic trading programs, these swings may become even more violent as well as fear induced as supposed “liquidity” vanishes and/or appears from markets faster than the laser beams can quote stuff that “liquidity” in the first place.

The problem now is: Which central banker or policy is to be believed? And more importantly: for how long? Couple that with: Who will now be trusted as having credibility both in stating what they mean, and doing what they said? As well as: doing what they said because they know what they are doing? Quite the conundrum, yes?

The issue at hand is answering the question of: just why did the BOJ do what it just did – in the way that it did it? The ramification to those questions could not be more explicit in their meaning than almost any other in my opinion. For the global markets may be in far more perilous a position than the central bankers themselves ever imagined, let alone – contemplated.

For those who never seen the movie “Margin Call” there’s a great scene as it’s then irrefutable and understood that it’s all about to fall apart where Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) is expressing concerns to John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) that he believes the firm is panicking in selling everything all at once, causing a possible run on everything and melting down the system. The response from Tuld is quite fitting when he states, “It’s not panicking if you’re first.”

Today, as many of the financial media and others are trying to explain away this monetary move by the BOJ as something as simple as “Kuroda has said he likes to shake things up, or be unpredictable.” I think they may be looking in the wrong direction. For what now must be considered into that equation is something that portends to far more concern than meets the eye at first blush. To wit:

Did the BOJ’s out-of-the-blue reversal on its monetary stance which was refuted just weeks prior by Mr. Kuroda himself take place because after listening to the arguments, suggestions, as well as concerns, from the participants at Davos he concluded much like what the movie “Margin Call” depicted: It was all about to unravel? And if so: is this him deciding to be “first” and considered it his only choice?

And if so, what does his actions pose for the credibility of his brethren bankers? Do they now act from a place of “Who can they trust?” And what does that mean for the rest of us? The implications are staggering when you begin to open those doors for they have the potential of making Pandora’s box seem harmless in comparison.

However, maybe this is all hyperbole and should be disregarded as over the top rhetoric from Chicken Little types with no actual central banking policy experience. Maybe we should take comfort in the unwavering hand of credibility that never saw the great financial crisis to begin with when he argued that subprime mortgages and the crisis they foretold were “contained.” Then Fed. chairman Ben Bernanke.

What does he say today? Well, when he was speaking in Hong Kong at the Asian Financial Forum as Davos was also transpiring he stated, “I don’t think China’s economic slowdown is that severe to threaten the global economy, ” along with “The U.S. and China are not as closely tied as the market thinks.”

Maybe “Margin Call” was one of the movies available on demand in the rooms at Davos, and all Mr. Kuroda is now doing is channeling his inner “Jon Tuld” moment. And why not? “It’s not panicking if you’re first.”

However, for the rest of us, we can only wait and see what happens next.

(PN Editor:  If you haven’t seen “The Big Short”, you need to!  Deja Vu on a biggers scale!  “The Big Short tells us to keep the focus on Wall Street: A caption at the end highlights a new product being sold called a “bespoke tranche opportunity,” just another word for a CDO. But the underlying assets in these derivatives are largely corporate debt, and the numbers are so far pitifully small — $20 billion a year, compared to the trillion dollars annually in securitized subprime loans during the bubble. Private securitization for mortgages has been basically flat for seven years.” http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2015/12/11/Big-Problem-Big-Short

Bank of England Under Investigation

Martin Armstrong Warns “The Tide Is Turning Against The Banks”

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Martin Armstrong via Armstrong Economics,

The tide is turning against the banks. We will see more and more corporations turn away from the banks as advisory entities. They just cannot be trusted when they are also the market-makers making commissions/spreads on the trading that are totally undisclosed. The day of the banks is coming to an end. It looks more like the next downturn will drive the spike right through their hearts. Just maybe, we may get back to the way its should be – relationship business, not transactional where they have the incentive to manipulate markets for the quick buck and front-run clients.

* * *

The biggest problem we have with central banks is that they are run by academics with ZERO real world experience. This applies not just at the Fed, but most central banks with the lone exception of Bank of China. The greatest danger this presents is that the money-center banks manipulate the central bankers during states of financial panic and they who are so frightened, they will do whatever the money-center banks tell them

In the USA, there is nobody who would investigate the dark corners of the Federal Reserve being manipulated by the NY bankers who walk on water without ice.

 Bank of England Under Investigation for being TOO Friendly with Banks

Bank of England

However, the system is more open in Britain where the bankers do not control the courts as they do in New York City.

Consequently, the Bank of England (BoE) is now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for being “too” friendly with the money-center banks during the crisis of 2008.

Last year, the BoE was cleared of “improper conduct” in the currency market manipulation allegations of the money-center banks. Nevertheless, major corporations are starting to wise-up to TRANSACTIONAL banking. A light is starting to go on that by no means can you go to these clowns for corporate hedging and advice for they will ALWAYS rig the game to make as much profit on the trading scalping clients until they bleed.

So while in the USA the banks can still bribe Congress to repeal Dodd-Frank and open the gates to money falling once again from heaven, that is not the case OUTSIDE the USA. Even the movie the FORECASTER is being shown around the world except the USA because of the elite control of the bankers who tell the Fed what to do and when, the Justice Department, and New York Federal Judges protect them every chance they get. We haveNOBODY outside of their control to investigate anything.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office’s investigators are now probing the central bank for possible fraud related to liquidity auctions between 2007 and 2008. During the financial crisis, the BoE invited banks to borrow money from the central bank, in exchange for collateral. This was conducted through a series of “liquidity auctions” where the funds were intended to prevent the banks collapsing. The banks always warn that there will be a complete collapse of the financial system unless their losses are covered.

The SFO is looking into the bankers’ “conduct” that was connected to these liquidity auctions. This is the criminal investigative agency that is conducting the probe of the BoE.Being investigated for “conduct” issues can be a very wide range from price fixing and handing the government the worse collateral possible (FRAUD) to the leaking of confidential information for personal gain.

How Finance Quietly Took The World Hostage

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While we have beaten the dead horse topic of collapsing global of CapEx (per Citi, net capex is now unchanged since 2000), we now have a clearer understanding why there is no global growth, why trade is plunging, and why world commerce is rapidly grinding to a halt. The answer lies in the following chart which shows the relative proportion of what the world has been investing in for the past two decades.

It shows that while investment in most traditional categories has fallen off a cliff, the money spent for business activities, i.e. services, has soared at the expense of such conventional growth components as trade, manufacturing, petrochemicals, and food and beverage.

But the punchline, and what is by far the scariest, is that rising from 19% to a record 30%, and by far the biggest use of funds, is finance, the one industry that doesn’t actually lead to growth but merely finds ways to mask the lack of growth with pro-forma adjustments and stacks leverage upon leverage on ever declining underlying equity and cash flows, until the entire system crashes as it did in 2001, 2008 and, well, soon.

It also means that forget Too Big To Fail banks: the entire financial industry has now become the monster behemoth whose crash will wipe out the world, and hence why it can never be allowed to crash. One could say that in the past two decades, finance itself succeeded in taking the world hostage and can demand any ransom… or the world gets it. A ransom, which the global central banks are all too happy to pay to let “finance” get its way, in the biggest Mutual Assured Destructionscenario in world history.



Barclays’ Gold Manipulation

Details Of Barclays’ Gold Manipulation

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/23/2014

Curious how and why commercial bank traders manipulate the price of gold? The following detailed narrative from the FCA should answer most lingering questions.

From the FCA Final Notice charging one Daniel James Plunkett

The Digital

On 28 June 2011, Barclays entered into an exotic options contract (the Digital) with Customer A. The Digital was a ‘digital’ option, meaning it had only two potential values: (i) a fixed pay-out to Customer A if the option finished ‘in the money’; or (ii) no pay-out if the option finished ‘out of the money’. In order to determine whether a digital option finishes in or out of the money, reference is usually given to the price or level of an agreed investment or benchmark on a specified date, known as the observation date.

The Digital had a notional amount of approximately USD43m and upon the signing of the contract, Customer A paid a premium of 8.18% of the notional value, USD4.4m, to Barclays, of which a proportion was attributed as a profit to Mr Plunkett’s book. The Digital had two observation dates, 28 June 2012 and 20 June 2013, and referenced the price fixed during the 3:00 p.m. Gold Fixing on each of these dates.

Under the terms of the Digital, if the price fixed in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing exceeded USD1,558.96, the Barrier, a payment of 9% of the notional amount, or approximately USD3.9m, would accrue to Customer A. If the price fixed during the 20 June 2013 Gold Fixing exceeded USD1,633.91, a payment of 18% of the notional amount would accrue to Customer A, less any accrued percentage payment related to the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing.

The Digital was sold to Customer A by Barclays’ Sales Desk. Mr Plunkett was responsible for pricing and managing Barclays’ risk on the Digital. He was therefore aware of the terms of the Digital. The Digital referenced the price of gold fixed in the 3:00 p.m. Gold Fixing on 28 June 2012. As described [...] above, the terms provided that if the price fixed above USD1,558.96 (the Barrier) then Barclays would be required to make a USD3.9m payment to Customer A. Part of this payment would be attributed to Mr Plunkett’s book. If, however, the price of gold fixed below the Barrier, then Barclays would not have to make the USD3.9m payment to Customer A and a percentage of this additional profit would be attributed to Mr Plunkett’s book.

Mr Plunkett’s trading during the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing

Mr Plunkett was aware that the Digital was the main risk exposure he had to manage on 28 June 2012. On the evening of 27 June 2012, Mr Plunkett sent an email summarising his risk exposures to other members of the Commodities business area, including members of the Precious Metals Desk, stating that the Digital was his “main event” for 28 June 2012 and that he was hoping for “a mini puke to 1558 for fixing”. The Authority understands the phrase “mini-puke” used by Mr Plunkett to have meant a drop in the price of gold ahead of the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing – the price in the 3:00 p.m. 27 June 2012 Gold Fixing had fixed at USD1,573.50 and COMEX Gold futures were trading at approximately USD1,577.50 at the time of his email. Mr Plunkett repeated this sentiment on the morning of 28 June 2012, stating to a colleague “hopefully we fix 1558, or 1558.75 ideal”.

At the start of the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing at 3:00 p.m., the Chairman proposed an opening price of USD1,562.00. However, the proposed price quickly dropped to USD1,556.00, following a drop in the price of August COMEX Gold Futures (which was caused by significant selling in the August COMEX Gold Futures market, independent of Barclays and Mr Plunkett). The proposed price in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing then rose, eventually fixing at USD1,558.50 at 3:10 p.m.

At 3:06 p.m., shortly after the Chairman had increased the proposed price to USD1,558.50, Mr Plunkett, who had not placed any previous orders during the Gold Fixing, placed a large sell order of between 40,000 oz. (100 bars) and 60,000 oz. (150 bars), with Barclays’ representative on the Gold Fixing. This order was incorporated by Barclays’ representative into Barclays’ net position, which led to Barclays declaring itself to be a seller of 52,000 oz. (130 bars).

The purpose of Mr Plunkett’s order was to decrease the likelihood of the proposed price rising further (above the Barrier) and to increase the likelihood that the price would fix at USD1,558.50 (below the Barrier).

Once all the Gold Fixing Members had declared their respective positions at USD1,558.50, the level of selling in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing exceeded the level of buying by 190 bars (155 bars buying/345 bars selling). This suggested that the proposed price in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing was likely to move lower.

At 3:07 p.m. Mr Plunkett withdrew his entire sell order, which resulted in Barclays’ representative withdrawing Barclays’ position (selling 130 bars). This reduced the imbalance in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing from 190 bars to 60 bars (155 bars buying/215 bars selling).

By withdrawing his entire sell order, Mr Plunkett intended to bring the difference between buying and selling interests within the 50 bar margin required for the price to fix. This would also increase the likelihood of the price fixing at USD1,558.50 (below the Barrier).

Following Mr Plunkett’s withdrawal of his order, one of the Gold Fixing Members reduced its selling position by 10 bars, bringing the imbalance in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing to 50 bars. However, before the price was fixed, there were a number of further changes in the levels of buying and selling in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing, which coincided with an increase in the price of August COMEX Gold Futures.

As a result of these changes, the level of buying at USD1,558.50 exceeded the level of selling (155 buying/45 selling), and the proposed price was likely to move higher. Given that the price of August COMEX Gold Futures was trading around USD1,560.00 at this time, if the Chairman did move the proposed price in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing higher, it was likely to be to a similar price level (which was higher than the Barrier).

At 3:09 p.m., Mr Plunkett again placed a large sell order, 60,000 oz. (150 bars), with Barclays’ representative, who, also taking into account changes in customers’ orders, declared Barclays’ net position in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing to be selling 40,000 oz. (100 bars).

By placing his sell order, Mr Plunkett intended to increase the likelihood of the price fixing at USD1,558.50 (below the Barrier).

Barclays’ sell order, of which Mr Plunkett’s order was a significant component, had the effect of bringing the level of buying and selling in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing to a point where the imbalance was 10 bars (155 buying/145 selling) and the price could be fixed. Indeed, shortly after Mr Plunkett placed this order, two of the Gold Fixing members adjusted their orders and at 3:10 p.m. the Chairman declared the price to be fixed at USD1,558.50 (below the Barrier). As a result, Barclays was not obligated to make the USD3.9m payment to Customer A and Mr Plunkett’s book thereby profited by USD1.75m (excluding hedging), which was in addition to the initial profit that his book had received upon the sale of the Digital.

Events after the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing

Shortly after the conclusion of the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing, Mr Plunkett repurchased 60,000 oz. (150 bars) of gold by executing an internal trade with Barclays’ Gold Spot Book. The purpose of executing this order was to unwind the 60,000 oz. (150 bars) position he had taken during the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing.

Mr Plunkett’s trade was executed at a higher price than that at which he had sold during the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing, and his trading book suffered an immediate loss of approximately USD114,000.

Customer A’s enquiry and Barclays’ and the Authority’s investigations

Very shortly after the conclusion of the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing, Customer A became aware that the price had fixed just below the Barrier and sought an explanation from Barclays as to what happened in the Gold Fixing. Customer A’s enquiry was relayed to Mr Plunkett. Mr Plunkett provided an explanation that referred only to the significant selling in August COMEX Gold Futures. Mr Plunkett did not disclose his trading activity during the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing, which was a material fact that ought to have been disclosed.

Later on 28 June 2012, and again on 29 June 2012, Mr Plunkett had further communications within Barclays regarding Customer A’s concerns. Again, Mr Plunkett did not disclose his trading activities during the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing.

After the weekend, on the morning of Monday 2 July 2012, Mr Plunkett sought out his line manager and informed him that he had traded during the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing. He also subsequently reported his trading to Barclays’ Compliance.

During Barclays’ internal investigation, Mr Plunkett provided an account of his trading during the Gold Fixing that was untruthful, in that he did not disclose the true rationale for his trading, or the reasons why he failed to disclose his trading to the Sales Desk on 28 June 2012. In giving this account,Mr Plunkett intended to give the impression that he placed orders in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing for reasons other than to increase the likelihood that the price of gold would fix below the Barrier.

Mr Plunkett continued to provide this untruthful account of events when he was interviewed by the Authority.

The circumstances of Mr Plunkett’s trading in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing were formally investigated by Barclays. Barclays subsequently repaid Customer A the full amount that Customer A would have been due had the price of gold in the 28 June 2012 Gold Fixing fixed above the Barrier.

* * *

A historical intraday chart of the gold price from June 28, 2012 reveals precisely where the action was: just so Plunkett did not have to pay out millions, gold ultimately tumbled from $1590 to just below $1559 in one day.

* * *

And now we know how it is done, and also know that a single trader can move and reprice the entire gold market courtesy of massive paper gold slams at critical points without regard for price discovery, when self-serving interests are all that matter: just as we have alleged since 2009.

Which leaves two open questions:

  1. How many other people in addition to Customer A were impacted by Daniel Plunkett’s gold manipulation, because while one person had a lot to lose on an artificial gold repricing, it is just as true that many more people positioned alongside Customer A also lost, if perhaps smaller amounts (but nobody knows). The fact that they lost, however, due to a criminal, self-serving intervention by one person, does not mean that they too aren’t entitled to monetary compensation. Or perhaps the FCA will pull out the HFT excuse which is that if millions lose minuscule amounts of money due to market rigging, it isn’t really market rigging?
  2. How many other traders at other commercial banks, other central banks and the BIS itself, do this on a daily basis, and what would the price of gold be if one would eliminate the compounded impact of all comparable gold manipulation events (whether at the fixing or at any other time) over the past decade or, if one goes back to the very beginning of the London gold fix, the past 117 years?

We aren’t holding our breath to find out.