"I think it’s pretty damning," notes on complainant after receiving the detailsof the NSA's action over the last few years, adding "This shows a larger pattern that a lot of times the NSA doesn’t alert the court to serious privacy violations, whether they are intentional or unintentional, for years down the road." As Bloomberg reports, intelligence officials were forced to admit that The NSA for about three years violated restrictions on checking U.S. telephone records for surveillance and misled judges on how the data was used. Between 2006 and 2009, of the 17,835 phone numbers checked against incoming phone records, only about 2,000 were based on that reasonable suspicion standard, officials said. Despite Gen. Alexander's statement that "this is not a program where we are out freewheeling it," adding in June that "it is a well-overseen and a very focused program," it is now clear that "there was nobody at the NSA who had a full understanding of how the program worked," as one intelligence official noted.
While the world is currently glued to the events surrounding Syria; the reality is that such an event has very little to do with the real economy. The surges in expectations by business is very interesting given the actual demand that drives the real economy. Real employment remains weak and corporate earnings are struggling given the diminishing returns of cost cutting. The recent increases in interest rates also have a very important "tightening" effect on the "Main Street" economy which will also likely suppress consumption in coming months somewhat. Also not likely factored in to current survey's is the upcoming debt ceiling debate and the onset of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is a de facto increase in taxes and there is a potential for further tax hikes coming from the budget debate. The current NFIB survey suggests that the economy is still stuck in "struggle mode" and an acceleration above 2% real economic growth is currently unlikely. The divergence between expectations and real demand will likely converge in the next couple of months so we will see businesses follow through with their optimisitic outlooks - "Overall, the Index of Optimism says the small business sector is going nowhere and that's what it feels like."
As long as you ignore AAPL, today was a good day for all the bright shiny happy people who own stocks. Trannies finally snapped higher catching up to the other major indices with their best day in 6 weeks, Nasdaq closed at its highest since Nov 2000 (despite selling off for the afternoon as AAPL disappointed with pretty colored plastic stuff) with a 6-day winning streak. All sectors are now green post-Kerry's 8/36 speech with homebuilders surging from worst (-4%) to first (+2%) in the last few days. The exuberance (if not the volume) is palpable. Hedgers were once more disabused as VIX collapsed and stock indices close well above technical levels. The USD did absolutely nothing even as AUD sold off for most of the day. Treasuries were smashed higher in yield after diverging lower in yield from the open through lunch. 10Y was oddly correlated to AAPL's drop as the yield pushed up to 2.97% (and AAPL fell 2.4% by the close). Silver and Oil were hammered lower (-3.75% and 3% respectively from Friday) though we note Gold (which is down 1.9% from Friday) pushed higher from the US day session open today. All-in-all, the equity market seems convinced that Europe, China, and Japan are all good and Syria is a dud (oh and Taper - who cares!)
At 1615ET, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach will begin his firm's latest presentation of his market views. We already know his views on the potential for higher rates and the inevitability of the taper, "the 10Y Yield may go up to as highs as 3.1% by year-end," because "investors have switched from "I don't care about volatility, I want income" to "I don't care about income, I dont want volatility." While he previously noted he "sees no sign of that changing...", we wonder if the title of his always full of charts presentation sets up for some change - "what if?" Full presentation to follow...
"It's getting concerning," notes one fixed-income banker, Puerto Rico muni bond yields "never got near 10% [yields] even in the crisis." Some of the 27-year maturity Puerto Rico bonds just traded at a dismal 67 cents on the dollar (10.082% yield) and the most recently issued 2036 Electric Power bonds have collapsed from par a month ago to just above 82 cents on the dollar today. As the WSJ reports, the fall in prices also is a sign of investor risk aversion in the wake of Detroit's record municipal-bankruptcy filing in July; but it seems the anxiety and outflows from ETFs is having just as big an impact as Puerto Rico bonds now trade cheaper than Detroit's. "It's out of whack," one analysts warns, though the island's double-digit unemployment and recent weakness in economic indicators somewhat support the concerns - and while the "yields are attractive" it is possible that the island's borrowing costs could go higher as supply is extremely heavy in coming months. With 77% of managers holding Puerto Rico bonds, this is a problem...
In the aftermath of the Cyprus bail in (and to a lesser extent the Polish pension fund debacle), it is understandable if depositors are a little sensitive about the insurance, and thus confiscability (sic), of their deposits. Starting today, following a 5-0 vote by the FDIC, depositors in foreign US bank branches will officially no longer have recourse to a $250,000 in deposit insurance. The notional amount of deposits at risk: $1 trillion. This is not a new development: the FDIC rule to curb insurance on this category of deposits was proposed earlier this year, and today was the formalization. However, questions do arise: if a major US depository institution does fail domestically, the financial state of their depositors abroad will hardly be the biggest issue.
In a not-so-shocking turn of events, the Syrian 'opposition' is disappointed by the apparent shift in the US administration's warmongery. As Bloomberg reports, Najib Ghadbian, special representative of the Syrian opposition coalition, explained that they "definitely want this strike; we're using the words and decisive and strategic," adding that the strike "is a necessary step" to make the Assad regime agree to a political solution. In a separate discussion, Farah Al-Atassi - a Syran coalition member - said Russia's proposal to isolate and destroy Syria's chemical weapons was not sincere. Oh, but of course, they concluded that, "we definitely want it to lead to a democratic solution." In the meantime, Syrian people's resentment grows, "Why is there silence?" Abu Abdu asks. "Is it because we're Muslims? Is our blood cheaper than yours?"
Five years after the financial crisis former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says "the world shouold prepare for a new financial crisis" in tomorrow's Handelsblatt newspaper. His view, based on the "unacceptable" nature of too-big-to-fail banks and the lack of reform of the GSEs and the shadow-banking industry, stands in direct opposition to the leader of one of those TBTF banks. James 'not Jim' Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, told Charlie Rose last week that "the probability of [it] happening again in our lifetime is as close to zero as I could imagine." Who would you trust?
Why does the old style system still persist even though it is already demonstrably inferior? In addition to the financial disincentives, there is another reason: the current system retains a monopoly on assessing student learning and granting credit for demonstrated accomplishment. The schools are able to do this because they have arranged a monopoly on accreditation. This is ultimately a grant of state power. As a result, modern colleges and universities have collectively become a rent-seeking cartel, an alliance of nominally competitive institutions that maintains a highly profitable monopoly of accreditation.
The circus just won't stop. John Kerry takes to social media in this Google+ Hangout with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Lara Setrakian, founder of the digital news site Syria Deeply. This roundtable discussion will weigh the United States' response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We just can't wait to hear his reaction to the pending UN Security Council meeting and Russia's need for the US to denounced 'Use of Force'.
It is somewhat ironic that none other than CNBC is reporting the news (which was suggested here months ago in "Will JPMorgan's "Enron" Be The End Of Blythe Masters?") that as part of its divestment of its physical commodities unit announced previously, JPMorgan may also seek to cover up any trace of market manipulation in the division recently embroiled in the aluminum cartel scandal (which we reported on in June 2011 and which story recently rose to prominence as a result of follow up reporting by the NYT) by getting rid of none other than Blythe Masters.
Mere hours before President Obama is due to give his war-mongery-cum-diplomacy-Syria-needs-to-be-spanked speech to the nation, the UN Security Council is due for a closed-door meeting (no one will have a clue what is being said) to discuss Russia's plan to place Syrian chemical weapons (but not North Korea or Iran's) under international control. However, as Reuters reports:
- RUSSIA'S PUTIN SAYS SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS HANDOVER PLAN WILL ONLY WORK IF UNITED STATES REJECTS USE OF FORCE
...which one again puts the onus on Obama to back down as Putin hopes this handover plan will be a "good step towards a peaceful solution."
From the open of yesterday's US day session, Treasuries had been selling off as risk-on flows encouraged by Syrian 'compromise' and apparent good data from Asia (China crude imports lowest in 11 months and Japanese GDP miss). It seems that hope-fueled trend continues its momentum run this morning in stocks but once the JOLTS data hit and showed the 'recovery' for what it really is, it appears Treasuries are well bid on slow-growth (and not un-Taper) flows...
We just can't wait to hear about the different colors, the camera, the screen size, the cheapness, and everything else that has been rumored to make this Apple announcement as un-evolutionary as many of the previous ones. Of course, there could be 'just one more thing', but we suspect not... (and it seems the market agrees with 'sell the news' for now).