Liquidity Crisis Hits Markets and Gold

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By Chris Laird
Jul 27 2007 11:13AM

For the last several years, corporate buyouts, corporate stock buy backs and such, the Yen carry trade, and the mortgage derivatives markets have added tremendous liquidity to world financial markets. In tandem with this, the market analysts came to view a ‘world stock bull’ emerging, and even the most conservative market bears started to get into this world stock bull theme in their writings. The total amount of these sources of financing and liquidity in the last 2 years is over $5trillion, and has been one of the major supports for stock markets.

All of a sudden, these sources of liquidity are vanishing so fast, that market experts are amazed. This all came together in about 3 or 4 weeks after the Bear Stearns mortgage derivatives mess revealed how illiquid structured finance (derivatives in mortgages and such) can become – instantaneously. After that, investors started to flee from billions of dollars value of structured finance offerings in the last several weeks, and in the blink of an eye, almost the entire derivatives financing universe lost liquidity across the board. This is a prime cause of the latest world stock crashes.

Right now, virtually all sources of liquidity are drying up faster than anyone would have thought. Or, put another way, with corporate buy outs and stock buybacks at over $1 trillion in the last year alone – that is now almost gone as support for the markets. Investment banks such as Morgan and Goldman have had to park about 40 huge deals planned this year, as they have not been able to sell of the bonds and financing for these deals. This picture emerged in only about 3 weeks.

Continuing, the now well known debacle with mortgage derivatives – structured finance packaging risky mortgages into so called AAA rated tranches – have led to financial crises at Bear Stearns, Italease, killed deals with Morgan, and Goldman and others, and caused that sector to lose liquidity to zero basically, in a mere two or three weeks after the problems with Bears two now worthless hedge funds emerged. Now, the almost the entire mortgage derivative universe is tanking – and huge margin calls by banks to counter parties are happening- and no one wants to buy.

Then, the long threatening unwinding of the Yen carry trade is afoot, the Yen strengthening significantly now for two weeks, and as that continued apace, world stock markets finally started to fall apart – or crash – this week. Lots of cheap Yen are borrowed at about 1% and invested in every financial market imaginable. As the Yen rises, investors have to sell out stocks and whatever, and then pay back Yen at higher exchange rates – a sure loser. This effect is magnified by a factor of ten by hedge funds who use 10 to 1 or more leverage.

And the list of liquidity drying up goes on, but, only a few weeks after the Bear Stearns CDO (mortgage derivative mess) showed that no one wanted to buy CDOs any more, that rumbled through credit markets, and now, as one trader said, ‘there is a full blown liquidity crisis at hand in world financial markets’. This is not just about CDOs, but has now scared almost the entire structured finance (derivatives) universe because it showed how illiquid they can become- basically instantly illiquid.

And, as, in the case of Bear, or Italease, bankers have to call in loans from counterparties who hold their structured finance derivatives, and find that their counterparties cannot fulfill the ‘margin’ calls in many cases – read as a liquidity crisis.

Then, as this all is occurring, world financial markets are crashing, as the easy liquidity for corporate buyouts and buybacks, and mortgage financing, all of a sudden vanishes in only about 3 weeks. The speed which this liquidity crisis is emerging is amazing many.

Gold suffers because it is sold as a liquid asset by funds and investors to make margin calls among other things. As losses cascade in this latest world stock crash in Asia – down 2 to 4% last night, Europe – down about 2%, the US down 2% or so yesterday, gold (and precious metals) is dragged down with them.

We at Prudent Squirrel have been warning for several months that this was about to occur in the NL and in mid week market alerts. Tuesday this week, we put out an alert that the same factors that led to February 27th crashes were again in place. That warning was prescient. In any case, subscribers were thankful for the warning. Gold and world stock markets plummeted two days later.

The Prudent Squirrel newsletter is Chris Laird’s macro economic and gold newsletter. It is published every Sunday. Subscribers also get mid week email alerts as needed.

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Christopher Laird