May 24: Daily Contrarian Reads

“Liar Loans” Are Baaack—This Time In Securitized Subprime Auto Paper

“Liar loans” were a factor in the housing bust during the Financial Crisis that brought down the banks. Bank regulators now require lenders to verify income and employment of mortgage applicants and take other steps to make sure buyers can afford the mortgage payment. But in auto loans, no such requirement exists. So here we go again… Moody’s Investors Service analyzed $1 billion of Asset Backed Securities (ABS) backed by subprime auto loans that Santander Consumer USA Holdings, one of the largest subprime auto lenders, had issued. “Subprime” means the borrower has a credit score of 620 or below. Turns out, Santander had verified the income of the borrowers on only 8% of the subprime loans.

Pensions Gone Wild—-Chicago Teachers Fund Paid Out $1.5 Billion in 2016, Earned $8 Million

The Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF) paid out $1.5 billion last fiscal year, mostly on benefits to retirees.  But it only earned $7.8 million on its investments, according to a filing it made with the Illinois Department of Insurance…….In addition, it cost CTPF $35.8 million in investment expenses to earn that $7.8 million, according to the filing, meaning it actually lost $28 million between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016.

The Deep State Jihad Against Julian Assange—-The Untold Story

Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit Chelsea Manning had to endure.This prospect was obscured by the grim farce played out in Sweden. “It’s a laughing stock,” said James Catlin, one of Assange’s Australian lawyers. “It is as if they make it up as they go along”. It may have seemed that way, but there was always serious purpose. In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.

Thanks For The Help On Terrorism—–Saudi Arabia’s Cluster Bombs, Beheadings And Internal Terror

Despicable:deserving to be despised, or regarded with distaste, disgust, or disdain; contemptible. This is the word that comes to mind when I read the speech given by Trump while in Saudi Arabia, the land with one of the most heinous human rights records on the planet.  Forgive the length of the cites; I know you know this generally – take the time to read it specifically…..

Red Ponzi Update—-Red Heaps Of Iron Ore At Record Levels

The record heap of iron ore on China’s doorstep just got even bigger, with the increase in holdings so far this year eclipsing the build up seen over all of 2016 as mills produce unprecedented amounts of steel. Stockpiles at ports rose 1.3 percent to 136 million metric tons, expanding for a fourth week, according to Shanghai Steelhome E-Commerce Co. So far in 2017, they’ve risen 22.05 million tons, surpassing the 20.85 million added last year.

More Obamacare Chaos Ahead—Delay on Subsidy Decision Leaves Insurers in Limbo

President Donald Trump’s administration asked for another 90 days to resolve a lawsuit over subsidies that help poorer people afford to use their Obamacare insurance plans, further delaying a long-running legal fight that’s already destabilizing the health law. The U.S. Department of Justice and House Republicans made the joint request Monday as they “continue to discuss measures that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action,” such as the Obamacare replacement plan known as the American Health Care Act, according to a court filing.

Welcome To The Insanity Loop

The largest market risk to me isn’t thus a ‘systemic’ or economic one; it is a ‘systematic’ one (‘get it’?) This is essentially a ‘pure Minsky’ backdrop, where due to ‘epic’ lows in cross-asset realized vols (per the inability of monpol to sustain ‘inflation expectations’—and thus rates—higher), ‘negative convexity’ / ‘short gamma’ strategies continue to allocate large leverage / exposure onto traditionally ‘risky’ assets to generate return For example, CTA and risk-parity length in equities or EM bonds / FX; equity L/S gross- and net- leverage at cycle-highs; or ‘vol risk premia’ funds profiting from CB liquidity; or more ‘micro,’ market-neutral equities strats which have been required to load increasing amounts of leverage upon ‘working’ factor strategies to amplify returns Classic ‘pennies in front of a stream-roller’ / ‘negative skew’ return profile – Taleb distribution: “The statistical profile of an investment which normally provides a payoff of small positive returns, while carrying a small but significant risk of catastrophic losses.”

The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate

Official Washington got to relive the excitement of Watergate in a “gotcha” moment after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. There were fond recollections of how righteous the major newspapers felt when condemning President Nixon over his “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox. But the overriding question from “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia” — as President Trump calls it — is whether there is any there there. The President labeled it a “made-up story” and, by all appearances from what is known at this time, he is mostly correct.

Trump Panders to the Saudi Royals

The bar for Donald Trump’s speech in Riyadh had been set so low that it was scraping the sand. How much could be expected from a notorious exploiter of Islamophobia speaking to a gathering of leaders of majority Muslim countries? Getting through the experience without causing major new damage should perhaps be considered a success. Perhaps Trump and his speechwriters were wise not to attempt anything more. The Hippocratic principle applies: first do no (more) harm.rump Panders to the Saudi Royals

As Iran Elects a Moderate, Trump Cozies up to its Terrorist Enemy Saudi Arabia

On Friday May 19 the Iranian people elected President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate and reformist, in a landslide. 75 percent of the eligible voters cast their votes – which should be compared with 56 percent turnout in the U.S. elections in 2016 – and Rouhani received 57 percent of the total votes. And, this is in a region in which most countries that are allied with the US do not even have any elections. Once again, Iranian people resisted the call to boycott the elections by the exiled opposition that had supported economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and its allies, as well as military threats made against it by the George W. Bush administration and by Israel. Neoconservative enemies of Iran, such as Elliot Abrams, had hoped that Iranians will elect Rouhani’s main rival, the hardline Ebrahim Raisi, with the hope that it would help lay the groundwork for attacking Iran.