We had previously warned that Putin's "trump card" had yet to be played and with Obama (and a quickly dropping list of allies) preparing economic sanctions (given their limited escalation options otherwise), it was only a matter of time before the pressure was once again applied from the Russian side. As ITAR-TASS reports, Russia's Gazprom warned that not only could it cancel its "supply discount" as Ukraine's overdue payments reached $1.5 billion but that "simmering political tensions in Ukraine, that are aggravated by inadequate economic conditions, may cause disruptions of gas supplies to Europe." And with that one sentence, Europe will awaken to grave concerns over Russia's next steps should sanctions be applied.
While it has gotten to the point where the propaganda is so bad on both sides of the Ukraine crisis, that any numbers thrown about are ridiculous, made up gibberish more fabricated than anything the Chinese Department of Truth or US Bureau of Labor can possibly goalseek, it is worth pointing out that according to AP, Ukraine's ambassador to the UN said 16,000 Russian troops are now deployed in the Ukraine. This was "revealed" at the third emergency Security Council session meeting in the last four days, shortly after Ukraine's fugitive president requested Russian soldiers in the strategic Crimea region "to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order," Russia's U.N. ambassador said Monday, contradicting the president's own comments last week. But the piece de resistance, regardless if the real number of Russian troops in the Ukraine is 1,000 or 100,000, was the following:
- DOD CALLS ON RUSSIAN FORCES IN CRIMEA TO RETURN TO THEIR BASES
Wait, so the US Department of Defense, that of the United States if it was somehow unclear, suddenly has authority to control the troops... of Russia?
Kyrgyzstan was once known for its Tulip Revolution, a name the followed the trend of color-coded revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. The ouster of the corrupt regime of President Askar Akayev in 2005 gave those Kyrgyz aspiring for a better future cause for hope, but expectations were quickly dampened. Akayev’s successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev suffered the same fate, with his removal from office in 2010. The North-South political divide has only widened in the years since the overthrow. Protests in Kyrgyzstan are commonplace, with 782 in 2013 alone - a staggering number for a tiny republic, as Russia has monopolized the Kyrgyz Republic’s energy, defense and transportation industries transforming it into a Russian client state and military bulwark.
With Executive Orders flying willy-nilly, a monstrous surveillance nation, and standing on the verge of another Cold War, we thought a quick refresher on how (exactly) the separation of powers is 'supposed' to work would be useful...
Having ripped higher by over 200 points after the US close, Nikkei 225 futures have "glitched":
- *JPX SAYS NIKKEI 225 FUTURES STOPPED TRADING AFTER 11AM TOKYO
- *JAPAN EXCHANGE SAYS NIKKEI 225 FUTURES STOPPED ON SYSTEM ERROR
- *TRADING HALT MAY BE DUE TO SYSTEM PROBLEMS, TAKAHASHI SAYS
The ramp, which caught futures up to USDJPY happened as they recoupled... we will see which direction the post-break market wants to go...
Earlier today we pointed out a curious divergence: while owner equivalent rent, the measurement of imputed costs of renting, has risen to the highest since the Lehman failure, total non-shelter core CPI continues to decline. What is notable is that OER amounts to 23.9% of the CPI basket - as such it is the single largest determinant of inflation as measured by the BLS. And yet everything else, hedonically adjusted of course, keeps falling. By how much? And do you agree with the BLS' estimates of inflation? To answer these not so important questions, here is the full CPI basket, broken down by weighings, and by annual change.
Putin’s decision to back himself into this corner has been derided by the Western media as a strategic blunder but it is actually a textbook example of realpolitik. Putin has created a situation where the West’s only alternative to acquiescing in the Russian takeover of Crimea is all-out war. And since a NATO military attack on Russian forces is even more inconceivable than Putin’s withdrawal, it seems that Russia has won this round of the confrontation. The only question now is whether the new Ukrainian government will accept the loss of Crimea quietly or try to retaliate against Russian speakers in Ukraine—offering Putin a pretext for invasion, and thereby precipitating an all-out civil war. That is the key question investors must consider in deciding whether the Ukraine crisis is a Rothschild-style buying opportunity, or a last chance to bail out of risk-assets before it is too late.
Russia’s seizure of Crimea is the most naked example of peacetime aggression that Europe has witnessed since Nazi Germany invaded the Sudetenland in 1938. It may be fashionable to belittle the “lessons of Munich,” when Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier appeased Hitler, deferring to his claims on Czechoslovakia. But if the West acquiesces to Crimea’s annexation – the second time Russian President Vladimir Putin has stolen territory from a sovereign state, following Russia’s seizure of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in 2008 – today’s democratic leaders will surely regret their inaction. When Chamberlain returned from Munich, Winston Churchill said, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.” Obama and other Western leaders face a similar choice. And if they choose dishonor, one can be certain that an undeterred Putin will eventually give them more war.
You hear that old saw that "the market is not the economy," a lot these days, and for good reason. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, the S&P 500 breaks to record highs - but U.S. labor markets remain sluggish; investor portfolios do well - but over 47 million Americans (more than 15% of the population) are still in U.S. food stamp program – the same as August 2012. The important question now is: "Is the market TOO different from the economy?"
The sovereign debt of the developed world has risen from approximately 80% of GDP to 110%, an additional $12 trillion of debt, while interest rates have fallen to nothing. A ‘normal’ short term interest rate is one that is in line with inflation, which has been an average of 2% for the period 2007-2013. Therefore we can roughly calculate that ‘citizen-savers’ of the world have lost $1.75 trillion in unreceived interest. This is nothing short of being an undeclared tax levied by the State. As the quantum of debt has increased, a rise in interest rates would bring hefty costs to the State; currently, interest outlay in the USA alone, at 2.5%, is $400 billion per annum. Any sustained interest rate rise with the continued level of deficit is not manageable without growth being greater than the yields paid. Simply put, interest rates cannot rise without high growth, therefore a ‘lost interest generation’ is unfolding.
The (ironically named) United Kingdom is the first to openly raise concerns over trade sanctions against Russia. As The Telegraph reports,
"Britain is preparing to rule out trade sanctions against Russia amid fears that the Ukraine crisis could derail the global economic recovery"
Perhaps it is the fear of a massive liquidity suck out from London's real estate market (or its banking system) that has the Brits on edge. We suspect Germany will be close behind as they eye exploding gas and oil prices and their dependence on Russia's marginal production.
The Cold War being back with a bang and somehow the world again finding itself on the verge of World War got you down? Don't worry, there an insurance policy for that. Because life is unpredictable...
Having explained the Ukraine "situation" in one map, it appears the inter-connectedness of Ukraine and Russia is becoming any increasingly problematic part of the current crisis. As Reuters reports, absent Russian gas, Ukraine's natural gas stocks can meet just 4 months of demand. The modest silver-lining is that the stocks are generally in the west of the country (away from potential Russian intervention) but it bears noting that Ukraine meets around half its gas demand through Russian imports (and Russia has cut supplies in the past). The situatio is not just energy though as Bloomberg notes, that Ukraine relies on Russia for about 30 percent of its global trade activity, compared with Russia’s 6 percent dependency on Ukraine. However, Ukraine has another big problem - while it would like $3bn in IMF loans, that will not even cover interest and principal payments through June...
Gold and crude oil prices rose steadily all day even as US equities oscillated around VWAP unable to break above Friday's lows (and trading in a narrow range) on heavier than normal volume. USDJPY and US equities remained roughly coupled but stocks auctioned up and down in search of stops with algos desperate to cling to VWAP on a big down day as a rally mid-afternoon reached the S&P into the green for 2014 and marked the top of the day. Gold ended at 4-month highs, the USD rose 0.4% (led by GBP and EUR weakness), WTI crude back over $104.50 (near 6-month highs), and Treasury yields dropped 5bps or so with 10Y back under 1.60% (2nd lowest yield close in 4 months). VIX jumped above 16% - 1-month highs but still the asset-gatherers demand we BTFWWIII...