"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Friday, November 4, 2011

Further thoughts on the CME maintenance margin hike

In communications with my broker this evening he suggested that this might be a way for the CME to let some of the firms accepting accounts from MF Global off the hook from attempting to make one margin call after another and attempt to complete a huge number of bank wire transactions in such a short period of time.

What struck both of us as extremely odd was the fact that the communique stating that maintenance margin levels were going to be raised to a 1:1 ratio with initial margin requirements was sent later in the evening, AFTER the close of regular business hours with the change in margins being made effective AS OF THE CLOSE OF TRADING NOVEMBER 4, 2011. That means there was no advance notice given as is the usual norm (we generally have a day or two to prepare for the hikes). Actually the notice hit my box TWO HOURS AFTER the close of business on Friday. Anyone whose account is underfunded is on call immediately based on the timing of the raise in the requirement meaning that they go into the opening of trading Sunday evening already all call.

That gives the brokerage firm the RIGHT, but not the obligation or necessity to immediately liquidate all exisiting positions of customers whose accounts are underfunded ( it could be aimed at some of these new transferred accounts which, if accounts are accurate, have received no more than 75% of their original account balances, some having received only 60% of the original balance).

I am not trying to be sensational here; rather I am attempting to work through the implications of all this especially seeing that it is coming in on the heels of a $630 million shortfall with MF Global. Some 15,000 accounts or so have been transferred thus far. I cannot even imagine the efforts involved by brokerage firms attempting to sort through all these new positions on their books because of the transfers and gauge margin requirements against what is left of their remaining account balances. Some of these firms might be thinking it is just easier to liquidate everything that these newly transferred accounts have and then start with a clean slate. A maintenance margin hike to initial margin requirement levels will make it very easy to justify such an approach.

Those who trade commodities sign an agreement stating that the brokerage firm can liquidate existing customer positions in the event of financial hardship. We may be seeing that taking place.

If I can get some more information on this, I will get it posted as soon as I can but we are headed into the weekend so I would think news is going to be very scarce until we get around to market reopenings Sunday evening and into Monday morning. We could be in for a very wild and unsettling round of price volatility starting Sunday evening. This is unprecedented in my own personal trading career so I am not certain what exactly we are going to get as a result of all this.

Maybe we will get lucky and learn that the CME Clearing House issued the communique by accident or something. Boy howdy do I hope that is the case, but I fear it is not.

One last thing - it should be kept in mind that if the markets open strongly to the upside in general on a round of RISK ON trades, it is the SHORTS who are going to be hurt by the margin change. That would force additional short covering. The flip side to all this is that a great number of the transferred MF Global accounts are mainly on the long side of the market and the RISK OFF trades are what come on Sunday evening. Then the longs are in trouble... What a stinking mess caused by these ***&&$$ at MF Global.

CME Group hiking margins across the Board

If I am reading the communique from the exchange correctly, the margin requirements for ALL CME products is being raised by hiking the MAINTENANCE MARGIN requirements to the SAME LEVEL as INITIAL MARGIN requirements, effective as of the opening of trading Sunday evening/Monday morning, November7. The changes were implemented as of the close of trading Friday, November 4th.

If this is correct, and I think I am reading it correctly, this is the first time that I can recall seeing something like this occuring. It will also precipitate some very volatile trading conditions.

I suspect this is tied directly to the fallout from the MF Global debacle. Apparently CME group and its clearinghouse want to make sure there is sufficient liquidity present to cover all its obligations.

This might throw my previous assessment of silver and gold technical action out of the window. Stay tuned as this is going to get even more wild than I previously imagined.

Traders who are not margined up to their teeth and have a sufficient cushion in their accounts, will be okay. Those who are not are going to get hurt on any adverse price action. What I mean by this is simple - if a trader is long and the market sells off, his paper losses or loss of profits will cut into his account balance perhaps bringing the total margin requirements of his active positions below his account balance. He is going to get a margin call that day if not Monday morning or even Sunday evening. Once "called", the money is going to have to be wired that day or the positions will be liquidated.

Quite frankly, seeing this occuring is very unnerving as I wonder if there is more stress out there from the MF Global debacle than meets the eye. The Clearinghouses obviously want to make certain that they are well capitalized.

My guess is that many of the accounts from MF Global that were transferred and have not gotten the ENTIRETY of their former account balances reinstated, are going to be forced into liquidating unless they have adequate capital on hand elsewhere that is easily accessible and very liquid.

HUI pushing into Chart Resistance

The HUI had a strong showing this week as the return of the risk trades drew money into the sector. Along with that, many investors have come to view the sector as generally undervalued based on the good numbers being reported by several miners and the fact some were raising dividends.

The result was a move back into the large gap region formed in September when gold and silver were both taken down quite hard. Last week the index mounted its first push into the gap and managed to hold the level going into the weekend. This week after some initial weakness, it found willing buyers who came in and took it further into the gap closing above the 590 level. The index now has the potential to mount a push towards 600. If it can do that successfully, it should be able to close the gap completely. That would be a major victory for the bulls.

Note that the market found buyers on the last two days of this week when it fell back towards the BOTTOM of the previous gap near the 580 region. That is good technical action.

Let's see what we get next week with the risk trades. If they are back on, the HUI is going to hit 600.

Silver Chart improving but still bearish

Let's start by examining the weekly chart for a bit longer perspective. For starters, silver remains held under the 50 week moving average so strictly speaking it is still bearish. Once it climbs above this level, funds generally become more involved in the market so that will be the first achievement which the bulls will have to pull off to get the speculators more interested in the market. Note that the over the last two weeks, this level has effectively capped any upward progress although the bulls are working on securing a breach of this important technical level.

You might also notice that there are two sets of Fibonacci levels drawn on the chart. The first, in red, uses the peak near $50 and the subsequent spike bottom near the $26 level. The second set, in blue, uses the failed rally attempt culminating near $44.27 and the same spike low to project some potential resistance levels. The market has rallied back to exactly the 38.2% retracement level of the former and the 50% retracement level of the latter.

You can see that there is a confluence of THREE key resistance levels near the high made by silver this week. Until the bulls can better this level, the stronger-handed bears are not going to run.

What has been happening with silver is that the risk on, or risk-off trades continue to jerk the metal up or down depending on which trade happens to be in vogue on any given day. If we move into next week and market interprets any events in Europe in a negative fashion, silver is going to get sold down along with copper. If the converse is true, silver will move higher alongside of copper.

As has been the axiom of recent weeks, we will know what will happen only AFTER it happens. There is no predicting any of this madness. The bulls are very close to seizing the initiative but close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.