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Lowest Volume And Range Day In Months As Stocks Shrug Despite JPY Dump And Oil Pump

Today was simply dreadful. S&P 500 futures saw their narrowest day-session range in six months and lowest day-session volume of the year. No matter what was tried today - vol compression, EURJPY (carry) ramps, Oil stop-run - equities did not respond with any algo-driven exuberance. Stocks ended the day practically unchanged even as AAPL did its best to hold them up - filling its post-earnings gap and fading. Five things dominated the day: Gold and Silver were slammed lower early on; ECB's Weidmann slammed EUR higher early on; Oil prices surged above $97 (WTI); and then France's Moscivici spoke and retraced all the EUR's gains; and then a 3pmET rampathon in JPY. For the bulls, this is healthy stabilization; For the bears, this is a day where normal risk drivers had no impact and stocks never followed through on new highs. Credit remains pensive as renewed rises in oil prices will crimp margins (and the consumer's pocket) but none of that matters as JPY crosses remain in play.



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How The Fed Is Handing Over Billions In "Profits" To Foreign Banks Each Year

Why has the Fed paid some $6 billion in interest to foreign banks, in the process subsidizing and keeping insolvent European and other foreign banks, in business and explicitly to the detriment of countless US-based banks who have to compete with Fed-funded foreign banks and who have to fire countless workers courtesy of this Fed subsidy to foreign workers? And, perhaps more importantly, why will the Fed pay about $5 billion or much more in interest to foreign banks each year starting in 2014? 



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It's Not The Economy, It's Inflation & The Fed Stupid

It will not be a great shock to ZH readers, but the sad truth (no matter what one is told by the plethora of talking heads and commission takers) is that neither EPS upgrades nor EPS outlooks are in any way correlated to equity market performance. Instead, the central bank balance sheet size and forward inflation expectations are the key factors. As Credit Suisse notes, in fact over the past few years, EPS upgrades and outlooks are negatively correlated with stocks! Even as current inflation (CPI) is supposedly fading, forward inflation expectations have risen and supported equity P/E valuations, and until recently, central bank balance sheets remain supportive of stocks... However, in the last few weeks, as stocks have surged ahead, a few things have changed with the world's central banks seeing the lowest growth in their balance sheets since the crisis began, and in the last few weeks, forward inflation expectations have dropped notably - after peaking at post-crisis peaks once again. So, it's not at all about the fundamentals; it's about the central banks and inflation - and in the short-term, they are losing some willpower.



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Guest Post: More Stealth Inflation As Maker’s Mark Slashes Alcohol Content

They just ain’t making Maker’s like they used to.  According to the company, an apparent bourbon shortage has besieged the company leaving it no choice but to cut the alcohol content of their booze from 45% to 42%. I’m sorry, but this excuse reeks of marketing spin.  What manufacturer decides to dilute their product when they face high demand, rather than just raise the price by 3% and keep the quality intact?  In a world where horse meat is increasingly finding its way into “all beef” product, where biotech salmon is soon to hit the streets and where Subway’s foot long sandwiches are less than 12 inches, I’d be willing to bet this is simply just another case of good old fashioned stealth inflation.



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Goodbye Bond Vigilantes, Hello Brent Vigilantes

The flood of Central Bank liquidity into the world's asset markets has worked wonders for the optics of 'wealth' in the last few years. While correlation is not causation, the divergence from any sense of fundamental reality (and sheer miracle expectations of the future) simply reflect back to the leaking of that central bank liquidity into risk markets everywhere. However, there appears to be a limiter - or self-governor - that comes along every few months to tap the world's 'belief in economic miracles' on the shoulder. With the world's sovereign bond markets now repressed or 'managed'; the only 'self-regulator" (almost) beyond the control of the central banks is simply, the cost of energy - and a new breed of Brent VigilantesTM



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Janet Yellen Discovers Okun's Law Is Broken, Confused Record Russell 2000 Doesn't Lead To Plunging Unemployment

Moments ago Fed vice-chair Janet Yellen released a speech titled: "A Painfully Slow Recovery for America's Workers: Causes, Implications, and the Federal Reserve's Response." In it, Yellen finally revealed she is on the path to realizing the it is none other than the Fed's own actions that have broken the economic "virtuous cycle", and that Okun's Law - the bedrock behind the Fed's flawed philosophy of assuming more debt -> more GDP -> more jobs, is no longer relevant in the broken "New Normal." In other words, Yellen finally starts to grasp what Zero Hedge readers knew a year ago, when they read, "JP Morgan Finds Obama, And US Central Planning, Has Broken The Economic "Virtuous Cycle."



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Guest Post: Show This To Anyone That Believes That "Things Are Getting Better" In America

The economic collapse is not a single event.  The economic collapse has been happening, it is is happening right now, and it will continue to happen.  Yes, there will be times when our decline will be punctuated by moments of great crisis, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.  A lot of people that write about "the economic collapse" hype it up as if it will be some huge "event" that will happen very rapidly and then once it is all over we will rebuild.  Unfortunately, that is not how the real world works.  We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and once it completely bursts there will be no going back to how things were before. But other than that, everything is rainbows and lollipops, right?



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Santelli Slams Analyst And Media "Myside" Bias

The overwhelming herding of AAPL's analysts highlighted by James Stewart in today's NY Times sets CNBC's Rick Santelli on a path of truthiness not often seen on business media. Citing the findings, most specifically, "analysts are, in the end, salesmen," Santelli notes that the average investor (listeners and viewers of financial media) have limited time and thus are forced to rely on this herd-like behavior. The audience, of course, hears what it wants to hear as confirmation or 'myside' bias' dominates each and every word uttered. But it's not just the financial analysts, its the political pundits who continue to abjectly ignore an exploding deficit in order to support the 'brand' of independence their media provides. The 'safety in numbers' argument holds up as the analysts group together - all knowing the reality ahead, but terrified to break ranks and admit the emperor is indeed naked.



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Sovereign Defaults Past And Present In One Chart

As the chart below shows, in some 200 years of history, when expressed as a ratio of total sovereign debt to tax revenues, the empirical data as compiled by Reinhart and Rogoff ranges from 2x to 16x. This is shown by the blue bars in the chart below.  So where are we in this cycle as the debt clock counts down? As the red bars show, we are in a very uncomfortable place, with Japan now at the highest such ratio in history, well above the highest recorded which always ended up in default, while the US, whose such ratio is over 600%, is above the long-term average of about 520% public debt/revenue. The problem is that every current and subsequent attempt to reflate merely pushes both of these higher, until one day the marginal growth creation of every dollar in new debt becomes negative. How much higher can consolidated global debt go before global GDP is not only no longer growing, but every incremental dollar in debt has a negative impact on GDP, as was the case for the US in the fourth quarter? Keep an eye on global economic growth: if and when the world enters outright recession: the most feared outcome by all central bankers who realize they are out of weapons and their only recourse is much more of the same, that may be cue to quietly leave town.



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Spain Kickback Scandal Threatens Rajoy As 79% Find Corruption "Explanations" Weak

Just like for Alice, Spain's farcical kickback and bribery scandal's rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper. This morning El Pais reports that the alleged providers of payments to the government (via the kickback fraud) - known as 'Gurtel' - received an unprecedented EUR115mm in government contracts. With more than 70 people facing charges ranging from money laundering to bribing a public official, Rajoy's efforts at coming clean have fallen on deaf ears as 79% of Spaniards are dissatisfied with the explanations. This follows a weekend of disclosures including the fact that Rajoy gave himself a 32% pay rise up to 2011 as he push austerity down the throats of his people. As El Pais notes, "...The only thing that is clear is that most of the recipients of payments on the former treasurer’s list have admitted that they accepted money in cash...." The sad political truth is, as Deutsche notes, the likeliest course of action at this stage, in our view, is that on the basis of the internal investigation, Rajoy may go as far as letting go some members of his cabinet, but we think that he will protect the “hard nucleus” of his administration and will not resign. It appears, as they note, that the Spanish government's room for maneuver (over further austerity) is significantly diminished.



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Getting Richer By Getting Poorer - Japan's FX-Bond-Stock Trilemma

JPY could fall a lot further because weak JPY has been the most effective tool to create equity market wealth and spur Japanese demand. Moreover, Citi's Steven Englander notes, Japanese policymakers do not have many other options. If JPY is ticket for the Nikkei to regains ground lost versus other equity markets, USDJPY would have to go into three digits. By implication JPY would have to weaken a lot more. The loss of market share in part reflects long-term structural issues but Japanese governments (like others) are more mindful of incurring the anger of domestic political constituencies by making tough structural reforms than of G20 counterparts by weakening the exchange rate. From a political perspective, the Nikkei-JPY relationship is too much a good thing for Japanese policymakers to give up - but divergences are abundant at the short- and long-end of the JGB curve - and too much of a good thing in this case is a disaster.



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ECB Enters Currency Wars Backward As Weidmann Talks Euro... Up?

Update: Just as predicted, and right on schedule a few hours after this hit the tape, here come the French: EURO GROUP MUST WATCH RISING EURO'S IMPACT ON GROWTH: MOSCOVICI

* * *

The jawboning continues - but this time it's different. During a speech this morning, the ECB's Weidmann made it clear that the optics of EUR strength are critical to the union's survival (and Germany's balance of power vs the French):

  • *WEIDMANN SAYS ECB CANNOT SOLVE CRISIS, GOVERNMENTS MUST
  • *WEIDMANN: DEVALUATION HISTORICALLY DOESN'T HELP COMPETITIVENESS
  • *WEIDMANN: IF MANY NATIONS DEPRESS FX, CAN ONLY END IN FAILURE
  • *ECB'S WEIDMANN SAYS EURO ISN'T SERIOUSLY OVERVALUED
  • *WEIDMANN WARNS POLICY MAKERS AGAINST TRYING TO WEAKEN THE EURO

Of course, as we head towards the G-20, everyone wants to talk their book - but in this case, Weidmann is talking the EUR up. As we have been saying, Weidmann is scared of what happens when the EUR downward slide accelerates and implicitly results in a blow up of peripheral yields leading to even faster EUR collapse, and ultimately fears of EUR redenomination. This has been the case every year; as the ECB had to step in and prop the EUR up - just the opposite of what every other central bank does.



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Italian Stocks Slump As Berlusconi Proclaims Himself Poll Leader

With Italy's stock market down almost 9% (and falling again today), and Italian bond yields surging (2Y +35bps to 1.67%) in the last two weeks, it truly seems as though the two scariest words in global investing are not 'Iran-Israel', or 'Federal Reserve', but 'Silvio Berlusconi'. With the polls blacked out now until the election in just under two weeks, the posturing has begun and the media mogul is not backing down. As ANSA.It reports, Berlusconi has proclaimed "I believe that we have overtaken them... they are now (trailing) behind us," as we have been noting the convergence of the two parties poll results recently. Of course, he is still the lecherous old bastard he always was - which seems only to endear him to the Italian people (oh, and his promise of bread and circuses for all) - as ANSA notes, he is defending himself on Sunday, after Berlusconi asked a female solar power technician during a company visit if she made house calls, if she "comes to homes" and how many times she is willing "to come". Is debauchery the opposite of austerity? Never mind, the key for now is psychological as the opposition sparring will need to begin to avoid the "don't vote for the loser" bias.



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The Pope Quits: Now What?

While Dan Brown fans are intimately familiar with the details of Conclave, there are those who have not studied Robert Langdon's every clue-busting eureka moment under a microscope. For them, the AP has this handy step-by-step guide for how a new pope is chosen. Traditionally, this flowchart if followed upon the death of the Pontiff, but following today's first papal resignation since 1415, it is time to apply a little of the "New Normal" to the Catholic church as well. The only unknown after reading the below flowchart should be how Diebold will rig the Cardinal vote so that a Goldman partner is elected.



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Ron Paul: “6,000 Years of History, Gold Is Always Money, Paper Money Fails”

Ron Paul spoke with Bloomberg television and said that we are in a currency war and we have been for decades. He noted that governments have always competed against each other’s currencies even under Bretton Woods. It has always been a form or protectionism and will make people want to export more. Dr. Paul said don’t blame countries like China and Japan just look at the debt the U.S. is buying. There will always be currency wars. The Bank of Japan claims it has to defend itself against deflation and decades of slow growth. Ron Paul noted that the Bank of Japan’s yen devaluations will eventually lead to further price inflations that are to come. Investors and citizens will eventually reject the yen and switch to other currencies like dollars or Swiss francs.  Then eventually people will move to hard assets altogether as they are losing confidence in paper assets.  Dr. Paul was asked, “Do you think protectionism will lead to a crash in the international monetary system? He replied, “Nothing good can come of it. Even short run trade benefits leads to a weaker economy and higher prices. It doesn't solve the problem they won't face the truth. That is that all governments spend too much money, there is too much debt and they get away with it by taxing people”.



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