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Swiss National Bank’s Monetary Racket, US Stock Holdings & the Wild Ride of its Own Shares

Swiss National Bank’s Monetary Racket, US Stock Holdings & the Wild Ride of its Own Shares

We’ll also look at its garbage pile at the bottom. These folks don’t even pretend to be stock pickers. They buy and let it stick till it falls off on its own.

The Swiss National Bank, which filed its disclosure of US stock holdings today with the SEC, has figured out the best money racket of all times. It works because currency speculators are eagerly gobbling up Swiss francs. In January 2015, the SNB started to print Swiss francs ostensibly to depress the value of the CHF, a tiny currency with huge global demand. It then began selling those francs for dollars, euros, and other currencies to buy securities denominated in those currencies. This monetary racket only works as long as there is endless global demand for the tiny currency.

The SNB doesn’t disclose its holdings of securities. But in the US, it has to disclose its holdings of US-traded stocks via a quarterly 13F filing with the SEC. So we know what US-traded stocks it owns, but this is just a slice of the securities it owns globally.

In its 13F filing today, the SNB revealed that it held 2,520 US-traded stocks and American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) of foreign companies at the end of the third quarter, of about 3,500 stocks traded in the US. The value of these holdings rose 1.5% during the third quarter to a record of $94.1 billion.

Its portfolio is loaded up with the FANGMAN stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Nvidia, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Netflix – with Apple and Microsoft as its largest positions. It also holds a number of ADRs, including ADRs of Chinese companies, such was Weibo, Alibaba (16th largest holding), Baozun, ZTO Express Cayman, and Huazhu Group.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Yra Harris: “There Are Increasing Concerns Around The Globe That Central Bankers Do Not Have An Exit Strategy”

Back in November, we brought to the attention of our readers a stunning admission from one of Citi’s head credit strategists, Hans Lorezen, who said matter-of -factly that during his conversations with central bankers, there was a growing fear that they’ve lost control:

In the context of a self-reinforcing, herding market, the pivot point where the marginal investor is indifferent between putting more money back into risk assets and holding cash instead is fluid. But when the herd suddenly changes direction, the result is a sharp non-linear shift in asset prices. That is a problem not only for us  trying to call the market, but also for central bankers trying to remove policy accommodation at the right pace without setting off a chain reaction – especially because the longer current market dynamics run, the more energy will eventually be released.

That seems to be a growing fear among a number of central bankers that we have spoken to recently. In our experience, they too are somewhat baffled by the lack of volatility and concerned about the lack of response to negative headlines…. Our guess is that sooner or later in the process of retrenchment they will end up going too far – though that will only be obvious with hindsight.

Fast forward to today when as Yra Harris writes in his latest Notes from the Underground, the realization that central bankers are on the verge of panic is that much closer, because as the veteran trader and strategist notes, “the continued efforts by the ECB, BOJ and Swiss National Bank to keep their overnight rates at crisis-era levels is increasing concerns around the globe that central bankers in general do not have an exit strategy.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Swiss National Bank Now Owns A Record $88 Billion In US Stocks

The Swiss National Bank Now Owns A Record $88 Billion In US Stocks

In the third quarter of 2017, one in which the global economy was supposedly undergoing a unprecedented “coordinated growth spurt”, and in which central banks were preparing to unveil their QE tapering intentions, in the case of the ECB, or raising rates outright, at the Fed, what was really taking place was another central bank buying spree meant to boost confidence that things are now back to normal, using “money” freshly printed out of thin air, and spent to prop up risk assets around the world by recklessly buying stocks with no regard for price or cost.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in the latest, just released 13F from the massive hedge fund known as the “Swiss National Bank.” What it showed is that, just like in the prior quarter, and the quarter before that, and on, and on, the Swiss central bank had gone on another aggressive buying spree and following its record purchases in the first quarter, the central bank boosted its total holdings of US stocks to an all time high $87.8 billion, up 4.2% or $3.5 billion from the $84.3 billion at the end of the second first quarter.

As reported earlier this week, as of Sept.30, the Swiss central bank had accumulated foreign exchange worth 760 billion francs (roughly the same in USD) due to its relentless open market interventions to depress the Swiss franc, and has “invested” those funds created out of thin air in both stocks and bonds. At the end of the second quarter, it held 20% in equities, of which the bulk was in US stocks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fed’s Asset Bubbles Now At The Mercy Of The Rest Of The World’s Central Bankers

Fed’s Asset Bubbles Now At The Mercy Of The Rest Of The World’s Central Bankers

“Like watching paint dry,” is how The Fed describes the beginning of the end of its experiment with massively inflating its balance sheet to save the world. As former fund manager Richard Breslow notes, however, Yellen’s decision today means the risk-suppression boot is on the other foot (or feet) of The SNB, The ECB, and The BoJ; as he writes, “have no fear, The SNB knows what it’s doing.”

As we reported previously, In the second quarter of the year, one in which unlike in Q1 fund flows showed a persistent and perplexing outflow from US stocks, a trading desk rumor emerged that even as institutional traders dumped stocks and retail investors piled into ETFs, a “mystery” central bank was quietly bidding up risk assets by aggressively buying stocks.

The answer was revealed this morning when the hedge fund known as the “Swiss National Bank” posted its latest 13-F holdings. What it showed is that, as rumored, the Swiss National Bank had gone on another aggressive buying spree in the second quarter, and following its record purchases in the first quarter, the central bank boosted its total equity holdings to an all time high $84.3 billion, up 5% or $4.1 billion from the $80.4 billion at the end of the first quarter.

Via Bloomberg,

So here we go with the latest installment of the Fed’s will they or won’t they show. It seems from reading all the insights that we’re meant to expect a dovishly spun hawkish move.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can Switzerland Survive Today’s Assault on Cash and Sound Money?

Can Switzerland Survive Today’s Assault on Cash and Sound Money?


“Switzerland will have the last word,” wrote Victor Hugo in the late 19th century. “It possesses one of the most perfect forms of government in the world.” A contemporary of his, Frederick Kuenzli, a scholar of the Swiss Army, boasted: “No purer type of Republican ideals, no more fixed and devoted adherence to those ideals can be found in all the world than in Switzerland.”

On many levels, there is reason to believe that, indeed, Switzerland remains a unique oasis of rationality and intelligence in the ocean-wide bloodbath that is contemporary Western fiscal and social self-sabotage. On the other hand, there is the Swiss National Bank — the central bank — that oddly appears to be encouraging the same monetary policy dance-with-death that has tripped up the country’s masochistic neighbors. How viable yet is the Swiss element in that which we still admire as the nation of Switzerland? First the good news:

Direct democracy is alive and kicking: No mere opinion poll, the power and vibrancy of the referendum — one that can be launched by any local who can gather 100,000 signatures in support — constitutes one of the most impressive displays of true citizen-republicanism that there is. There is an upcoming vote on the Swiss Sovereign Money Initiative — a movement to obstruct financial speculation; recent referendums that were voted into law include a phasing out of nuclear energy to be replaced by renewables, and easier naturalization of third-generation immigrants.

Cash is still very much king and carrying around personal debt is a social blackmark. In fact, the love of cash has a counter-cultural dimension to it as an anti-State, anti-globalist, anti-anti-privacy gesture intended to underscore the Swiss love of freedom. The Swiss will use huge denominations (the 1000-franc note, for example) like they use pocket change to pay for everything from monthly utility bills to buying a sandwich.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Swiss National Bank’s U.S. Stock Holdings Hit A Record $63.4 Billion

Swiss National Bank’s U.S. Stock Holdings Hit A Record $63.4 Billion

Being able to print your own money and buy stocks at any price sure can be fun. Just as the SNB which unlike many other (if ever fewer) central banks admits to doing just that.

In its latest 13F filing, the Swiss National Bank reported that the value of its portfolio of US stocks rose again in the fourth quarter, increasing by 1.6% from $62.4 billion as of Sept. 30 to a record high $63.4 billion at the end of the year. 

Over the past two years, the total Assets under management of this massive hedge fund, which occasionally engages in massive currency manipulation with disastrous results, have increased from $26.7 billion to $63.4 billion, a 138% increase, mostly as a result of relentless currency manipulation and monetization of various assets, including both bonds and stocks.

In its latest 13F, the SNB reported stakes in 2,564 companies, up from 2,536 in the previous quarter.

SNB policy makers, among them Governing Board Member Andrea Maechler, have said many times that they invest for the benefit of monetary policy, replicating broad-based indexes, and not to generate a profit, although with the S&P500 at all time highs, they have also achieved that. The SNB excludes some companies on ethical grounds, according to Bloomberg.

The SNB’s biggest holdings as of December 31 were the following:

But the biggest surprise in the latest filing – aside from a central bank admitting to buying stocks of course – is that for the second consecutive quarter, the amount of AAPL shares, the SNB’s top position, has actually declined, dropping to 15 million as of Dec. 31, from a peak of 15.6 million as of June 30. The value, however remained roughly unchanged making some wonder if the SNB may have hit its limit when it comes to US equity allocation, if only for the time being.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Time to Get Real: Part I

Time to Get Real: Part I

its-time-to-get-real1In a world where fair value is a central bank veiled enigma it’s frankly a challenge to keep things real, but I’ll have a go at it in what will be a 3 part series covering central banks, the underlying fundamental picture, and a technical assessment of charts. In this part I’ll be covering central banks and putting their actions into context of the realities of a changing world and will aim to address some of the implications.

Part I: Central banks

After years of watching central bankers do their bidding I’ve come to the conclusion that they are the designers of the ultimate Pokemon Go game by leading investors to ever more extreme locations to find little yield nuggets on their screens.

My largest criticism of this game has been that free market price discovery is largely dead and nobody knows what is real any longer, producing a false sense of security as, at any signs of trouble, central banks feel compelled to intervene ever further removing markets from their natural balance. In short: Creating a bubble with devastating consequences we will all end up paying for in one form or another.

For now one may call it a market of pure multiple expansion as GAAP earnings and price have completely diverged in 2016:


Indeed, as earnings have declined since their peak in 2015 we have seen one central bank intervention after another. Just in 2016 alone we have witnessed dozens of new rate cuts, the ECB modified and added to its QE program with QE3 an almost forgone conclusion, Japan added stimulus with the BOJ on track to own 60% of all ETFs in Japan with more to come. China intervened repeatedly, the UK cut rates and re-launched QE as well, and central banks such as the SNB have been busy expanding their share purchases of US stocks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

China “Loses Battle Over Yuan”, And Now The Global Currency War Begins

China “Loses Battle Over Yuan”, And Now The Global Currency War Begins

Almost exactly seven months ago, on January 15, the Swiss National Bank shocked the world when it admitted defeat in a long-standing war to keep the Swiss Franc artificially weak, and after a desperate 3 year-long gamble, which included loading up the SNB’s balance sheet with enough EUR-denominated garbage to almost equal the Swiss GDP, it finally gave up and on one cold, shocking January morning the EURCHF imploded, crushing countless carry-trade surfers.

Fast forward to the morning of August 11 when in a virtually identical stunner, the PBOC itself admitted defeat in the currency battle, only unlike the SNB, the Chinese central bank had struggled to keep the Yuan propped up, at the cost of nearly $1 billion in daily foreign reserve outflows, which as this website noted first months ago, also included the dumping of a record amount of US government treasurys.

And with global trade crashing, Chinese exports tumbling, and China having nothing to show for its USD peg besides a propped and manipulated stock “market” which has become the laughing stock around the globe, at the cost of even more reserve outflows, it no longer made any sense for China to avoid the currency wars and so, first thing this morning China admitted that, as Market News summarized, the “PBOC lost Battle Over Yuan.”

That’s only part of the story though, because as MNI also adds, the real, global currency war is only just starting.

And now that China is openly exporting deflation, and is eager to risk massive capital outflows, the global currency war just entered its final phase, one where the global race to the bottom is every central bank’s stated goal. Well, except for one: the Federal Reserve. We give Yellen a few months (especially if she indeed does hike rates) before the US too is back to ZIRP, maybe NIRP and certainly monetizing even more things that are not nailed down.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


The Swiss National Bank Bought Another 500,000 AAPL Shares Just Before 10% Correction

The Swiss National Bank Bought Another 500,000 AAPL Shares Just Before 10% Correction

Three months ago we were stunned to learn, and report, that the Swiss National Bank – a central bank – had been one of the biggest buyers of AAPL stock in the first quarter, when it added 3.3 million shares to its existing position, or 60%, bringing the total to 9 million shares, for a grand total of $1.1 billion. Moments ago, the SNB which unlike the Fed and the other “serious” central banks releases a 10-Q divulging its equity holdings, updated on its latest stock portfolio.

We were amused to learn that in the quarter in which AAPL stock almost hit a new all time high, the Swiss money printing authority which reported a record $20 billion loss in the second quarter, and a record $52 billion in the first half, added another 500,000 AAPL shares, bringing its new grand total to a whopping 9.4 million shares, equivalent to $1.2 billion as of June 30 (well below that now following the recent 10% correction).

At $1.2 billion, AAPL remains the top holding of the SNB, almost double the second largest position, which as of June 30 was Exxon stock valued at $637 million (and is worth much less now, and has most likely been surpassed in notional terms by #3 MSFT).

So what are the the Swiss hedge fund with nearly $94 billion in equity holdings? Here is the full breakdown.

Now if only the Fed would be this transparent about its own equity holdings…


Reckless Stock-Market Leverage Intoxicates Politicians

Reckless Stock-Market Leverage Intoxicates Politicians

The sudden bloodletting that leveraged currency speculators experienced when the Swiss National Bank yanked the cap on the franc should have been a warning: central-bank promises that everything is under control are meaningless. And because of leverage, innumerable trading accounts blew up in a matter of moments.

Leverage acts like a powerful drug. It creates buying pressure and inflates asset prices further on the way up. But when asset prices sink, leverage begets forced selling, which drives down asset prices further, which begets more forced selling….

And stock-market leverage, encouraged by the Fed’s monetary policies that make nearly free money available to all sorts of speculators, has ballooned.

Some of it is closely watched, like margin debt. FINRA’s 4,000 member securities firmsreported that their customers carried $496 billion in margin debt by the end of December, after a multi-year surge. Margin balances had peaked in September at $504 billion, by far the highest in absolute terms, and at 2.8% of GDP, the highest ever in relationship to the economy. Alas, the last two stock-market leverage bubbles ended in phenomenal crashes – the dotcom implosion and the Financial Crisis.

And corporations are issuing mountains of debt to buy back their own shares at peak prices – replacing equity with debt on their balance sheets, leveraging them up to the hilt, like others leverage up their brokerage accounts. In many cases, such as IBM, “tangible net worth” has turned negative, and stockholders are already under water.

Other forms of stock-market leverage are more difficult to quantify, like people borrowing against their home equity lines of credit or their credit cards to plow that moolah into stocks to make that quick buck that their neighbors have been bragging about.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


From Keynesian Shangri-La To Outright War

From Keynesian Shangri-La To Outright War

Over the last few weeks drum beats could be heard signalling the coming of troops from abroad to lay waste to any foe ahead of them. However, unlike what we first conjure up as troops from an opposing force made up of men and weapons. This battlefield is being waged in the ether of the currency markets.

Although barely covered by the main stream press Central Bankers have now shown they’re now far from working in unison or displaying any semblance of a cohesive group. Rather, they’ve now turned their attention and policies inward in a “shoot first, screw asking any questions later” mindset.

It wasn’t hard to extrapolate recent events happening if one only paid attention to previous clues. The swiftness along with the repercussions going forward are the only thing that were hard to calculate. However, we now see the brutality and to what extent even perceived smaller entities (such as the Swiss) are willing to take to save their own sovereignty just by counting the first wave of casualties through the metaphor of empty money bags.

Once the Swiss National Bank (SNB) decisively went rouge and un-pegged the floor between the Franc and Euro everything changed. We’ll never know who knew what, if, or when. (i.e. All the other Central banks.) Yet one thing is clear: The SNB didn’t care about who or what entity was pegged to their currency in a carry trade, nor the effects it might have on its economy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Are Central Bankers Losing The Plot: “The SNB Move Signals A Spectacular Loss Of Nerve”

Are Central Bankers Losing The Plot: “The SNB Move Signals A Spectacular Loss Of Nerve”

As we have reiterated very frequently over recent years, the biggest vulnerability in the post crisis environment was that central banks start to make policy errors, by taking activist and precipitous decisions. Thus following on from last year’s error by Norges Bank (and noting that we would not call last week’s SNB decision a mistake, despite the shockwaves that it caused), the Bank of Canada joins that policy error club.

What does not compute, in an eerie mirror image of the Norwegian central bank’s rationale, is for the BoC to

  • Slash headline CPI forecasts, while keeping core CPI forecasts around 2.0% (around target), and
  • Tweak GDP forecast lower to 2.1% this year but upping the GDP forecast for 2016, and
  • Still taking policy action

It signals a spectacular loss of nerve that central bankers should always try and eschew, above all when you have a country like Canada with the worst household debt levels in the developed world, and an overheated housing market.

The as expected cut in 2015 GDP forecast looks optimistic, when one considers that the energy sector accounts for 25% of business investment in GDP terms, and one might suggest that the GDP forecast should be closer to 1.0%, on the basis that there is likely to be a much broader fall-out from the energy sector “stall” (housing, transport, employment to name but a few).

As the evidence on this accumulates through the year, there appears to be considerable risk that the BoC’s forecasts look foolish – primarily in GDP terms, but quite possibly in CPI terms too, if the CAD starts a slide to USD 1.30 and the BoC’s disinflation problem evaporates. At which point memories of the very undistinguished period of Gordon Thiessen’s stewardship of the BoC may come back to haunt it.

But in broader terms, this is symptomatic of the whole mirage of stability that developed world central banks have sort to foster in the post crisis era starting to unravel in a rather disorderly fashion… the ECB’s task tomorrow looks ever more unenviable!


Macro Digest: Endgame for central bankers

Macro Digest: Endgame for central bankers

The Swiss National Bank’s removal of the franc’s peg to the euro last week had far-reaching consequences because we were all taken by surprise. The fact that it would (and should) happen eventually was not lost on the market, but the SNB was as late as last week end talking tough and telling the market that the floor was an integral part of Swiss monetary policy – until it suddenly wasn’t any more.

I fully understand the rationale for the move (Jakobsen: SNB move is rationality itself) but like most of the market I’m extremely disappointed in the SNB’s communication and handling of the issue, but that’s the bigger lesson: Why is it most people trust or bother to listen to central banks?

Major central banks claim to be independent, but they are totally under the control of politicians. Many developed countries have tried to anchor an independent central bank to offset pressure from politicians and that’s all well and good in principle until the economy spins out of control – at zero-bound growth and rates central banks and politicians becomes one in a survival mode where rules are broken and bent to fit an agenda of buying more time.

Just looks to the Eurozone crisis over the past eight years – if not in the letter of law, then in spirit, every single criterion of the EU treaty has been violated by the need to “keep the show on the road”. No, the conclusion has to that there are no independent central banks anywhere! There are some who pretend to be, but not a single one operates in true independence.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Swiss National Bank scraps euro cap

Swiss National Bank scraps euro cap

(Reuters) – The Swiss National Bank unexpectedly scrapped its cap on the franc on Thursday, sending the safe-haven currency crashing through the 1.20 per euro limit it set more than three years ago.

Minutes after the announcement the franc had soared by almost 30 percent in value against the euro. SNB vice-chairman Jean-Pierre Danthine had said as recently as Monday that the cap would remain the cornerstone of its monetary policy.

“This is a very risky move. You can see that in the market reaction that is extreme,” Sarasin economist Alessandro Bee said.

In its second surprise announcement in as many months, the SNB said it would discontinue the cap it introduced on Sept. 6, 2011 to fight recession and deflation threats after investors fleeing the euro zone crisis pushed the franc to record highs.

“This exceptional and temporary measure protected the Swiss economy from serious harm. While the Swiss franc is still high, the overvaluation has decreased as a whole since the introduction of the minimum exchange rate,” the SNB said in a one-page statement.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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