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Guest Post: The Tunnel People That Live Under The Streets Of America

Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of homeless people that are living underground beneath the streets of major U.S. cities?  It is happening in Las Vegas, it is happening in New York City and it is even happening in Kansas City.  As the economy crumbles, poverty in the United States is absolutely exploding and so is homelessness.  In addition to the thousands of "tunnel people" living under the streets of America, there are also thousands that are living in tent cities, there are tens of thousands that are living in their vehicles and there are more than a million public school children that do not have a home to go back to at night.  The federal government tells us that the recession "is over" and that "things are getting better", and yet poverty and homelessness in this country continue to rise with no end in sight.  So what in the world are things going to look like when the next economic crisis hits?



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US Economic Data Plunges Most In 10 Months To 4-Month Lows

Judging by the stock markets the last two weeks have been one of the best periods ever but the reality - hidden behind a smoke-screen of central bank liquidity and jawboning mirrors is dire. The last ten days have seen miss-after-miss in macro economic data - in fact this is the biggest plunge in macro data in 10 months. Despite the stock market's exuberance (at all-time highs), macro data has rolled over dramatically to 4-month lows. Of the major economic data points we have missed 18 of the last 20. With sentiment sagging, GDP revising lower, and earnings season disappointing, we can only imagine the BTFD opportunities that await.



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Mario Draghi Orders Cyprus To Sell Gold To Cover Bailout "Shortfall"

Update, and sure enough: PANICOS DEMETRIADES SAYS CYPRUS CENTRAL BANK INDEPENDENCE UNDER ATTACK. As a reminder, Panicos hold the now obsolete position of head of the Cyprus Central Bank.

As was noted two days ago (so certainly not the news catalyst for today's gold sell off as some are trying to make it appear) as part of its bailout expansion by 35%, Cyprus announced, then refuted, then re-admitted, it would need to fund a portion of the incremental €7 billion in cash demands by selling €400 million, or nearly all 13.9 tons, of its central bank gold. Today, we learn that this demand came from none other than the head of the ECB Mario Draghi. Bloomberg reports: "European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the profits of any gold sales by the Cypriot central bank must be used to cover losses it may sustain from emergency loans to Cypriot commercial banks."



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Japanese Bonds vs Gold: Is This Why Commodities Are Selling Off?

Japanese bond volatility appears to have crossed the Rubicon. As we noted here, the Japanese Ministry of Finance warned that a rise in JGB volatility could cause a significant sell-off in JGBs (since banks will be hampered by their VaR models-driven risk limits, which have literally gone off the charts in recent days, and be forced to reduce holdings to meet those risk limits). It seems however, that since the BoJ is set to buy more JGBs than will be issued in the next several years as noted yesterday, that financial institutions are chosing to live with the record vol noted previously, opting to raise cash buffers and liquidity reserves instead of selling bonds in order to meet surging margin demands on their JGB holdings. The synchronicity between the price of gold (and other commodities) and the volatility of Japanese bonds makes this risk-driven perspective very clear. This leaves the question, what happens when the Japanese (or in fact global - since front-running the BoJ has been a big winner until a week ago) banks run out of 'other' assets to sell and their VaR models continue to demand more capital in reserve?



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First Bitcoin, Now Gold: All Alternative Currencies Must Be Crushed

Gold prices just entered a bear market. Down 21% from their mid-2011 highs. Today's drop is the largest since 2/29/12 - LTRO2 and takes the price of the barbarous relic back to July 2011 lows. Silver is also seeing its biggest down-day since LTRO2 as it tests 2012 lows. Must. Destroy. All alternative currencies.



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Is This What Cyprus Has To Look Forward To?

In Greece "Cribs" is known as "Caves." Watch the following video to understand why.



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JPM's Tom Lee "Capitulates" On His Correction Call, Says BTFD

Remember when JPM's cuddly permabull Tom Lee called for a correction less than 2 months ago in a note titled "Stepping Aside Short-Term; Fade Strength and Look for Better Entry Point Around 1400-1450; Big Picture Constructive"? Apparently he did not take into account the $80 billion monthly hot money injection from the BOJ, which has made any fundamental analysis utterly irrelevant, and has completely destroyed any ability of the market to reflect reality or discount any other future other than that of hundreds of billions in new monthly liquidity injections. Which is why moments ago he "capitulated" on his correction call.



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Consumer Confidence Plummets To Nine Month Low, Biggest Miss To Consensus On Record

Well if this doesn't send the market into all-time record high territory, nothing ever will: seconds ago the UMich Consumer Confidence plummeted from 78.6 to 72.3, on expectations of an unchanged 78.6 print. This was not only a 9 month low in the index, but more importantly the biggest miss to expectations in recorded history! Both conditions (84.8, Exp 89.5, Last 90.7) and expectations (64.2, Exp.70.0, Last 70.8), imploded, with the current conditions number the worst print since July and posting the biggest drop since August 2011. Surely if retail sales was not a sufficient Conviction Buy signal for the Fed, then Consumer Confidence should send Kevin Henry, who is now mainlining a trail mix cocktail of Redbull, Caffeine and Meth, into F5 overdrive. And if that doesn't do it, the final economic miss of the day, Business Inventories which also missed expectations of a 0.4% print, and dropped from 0.9% to 0.1%, the lowest since September 2011 and biggest miss since September 2012, should certainly cement today's 1600+ S&P close.



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Usage Of 401(k)s As An ATM Soars By 28% In Q4

Nearly one-fifth all people with a 401(k) plan have at least one outstanding loan from it with those under 30 years old having taken an average 38.2% of their remaining untouched balance as the new ATM to maintain the credit-fueled standard of living. In a press release from Wells Fargo, data based on 1.9 million 401(k) holders shows that Q4 2012 saw a stunning 28% surge in the number of people taking loans from their retirement plans. While the numbers are scary for younger people, the older generation is taking more loans with 34.2% of those in their 50s and 28.9% of those in their 60s having taken loans from their retirement plans. Yet another example of the 'strength' of the recovery as those with at least one loan outstanding had an average balance in their retirement plan of $7,764! So much for the wealth effect.



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Visualizing The 'Orderly' Japanese Bond Market

Overnight, Japanese government bond (JGB) markets had yet another turbulent trading session. Despite reassurances from Kuroda that the bond-buying plan would continue as expected, JGB prices (and even more so yields) smashed around in a huge relative range. The market is already extremely anxious of this disorderly behavior as Japanese interest rate implied volatility (used to hedge against - or bet on - disorderly markets) have spiked to ten-year highs (and to their 3rd highest ever). This is no surprise as the following charts show, the realized volatility in this market is at generational extremes. So we are one week into the biggest and most experimental monetization scheme ever in history and the quadrillion Yen bond market is in total disarray. What could go wrong?



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March Retail Slide, Miss Expectations, Post Biggest Drop Since June

Add retail sales to the ongoing economic US crunch, which, just as predicted here in February, would start taking place once the regular seasonal adjustment rotation out of the "strong" winter season into spring started and once the now annual European swoon in the spring spread to the US, as it always does. Sure enough, March retail sales missed across the board, with headline down -0.4% (exp. 0.0%, Feb revised lower to 1.0%), ex autos down -0.4% as well (exp. 0.0%, last 1.0%), and ex autos and gas -0.1, on expectations of a +0.3%. This was the biggest miss ex autos since June and the biggest drop since June as well. More troubling perhaps for the true strength of the US consumer, electronics sales dumped -3.2% Y/Y (confirms the collapse in PC sales reported yesterday), while general merchandise sales declined by 4.9% year over year. As we have said all along, the US consumer - that very levered driver of 70% of US GDP - even when factoring in the trillion + in student loans, is getting very much tapped out. But at least car sales, funded by the still very generous Federal Reserve and Uncle Sam, of course, are merrily chugging along at a +6.5% Y/Y pace.

 



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The One-Chart Summary Of All That Is Wrong With The US Financial System: JPM Deposits Over Loans

The chart below may be the best one-chart summary of all that is wrong with the US financial system. It is a very simple chart - it shows total JPMorgan deposits, loans and the excess difference of deposits over loans.



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The Gold And Silver Morning Takedown Is Back

It's been a few days since the once ubiquitous morning take-down in precious metals showed its face but this morning with the USD leaking only modestly higher and Treasuries notably bid, gold and silver are gapping down in a hurry. Gold (-2%) is back to the May 2012 lows (within $10 of July 2011 (pre-QE2) levels and silver (-3%) is testing down to recent lows also. Other commodities (like Oil and Copper) are also in pain this morning...



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Frontrunning: April 12

  • Korean Nuclear Worries Raised (WSJ)
  • Och-Ziff, With Strategy from a 30-Year-Old Debt Specialist, Racks Up Big Score (WSJ)
  • Japan's big "Abenomics" gamble: how to tell if it's paying off (Reuters)
  • Kuroda walks a two-year tightrope (FT)
  • China Rebound at Risk as Xi Curbs Officials’ Spending (BBG)
  • BOJ Said to Consider Boosting Outlook for Inflation (BBG) - for energy prices? Absolutely: by double digits
  • Cyprus May Loosen Bank Restrictions in Days (WSJ)
  • Cyprus mulls early EU structural funds (Reuters)
  • Russia slashes 2013 growth forecast (FT)
  • Japan, U.S. Agree on Trade-Talks Entry (WSJ)
  • IMF Trims U.S. Growth Outlook in Draft Report Citing Fiscal Cuts (BBG)
  • Mexico Is Picking Up the Peso (WSJ)


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JPM Beats Thanks To $1.1 Billion Reserve Release, Revenue Misses, Drops By $900 Million, NIM At Post-Crisis Low

If JPM and its "fortress" balance sheet and business model are supposed to represent Q1 earnings for US banks, it will not be a good start to the year. While EPS beat expectations solidly, coming at $1.59 on expectations of $1.39 print, this was largly driven by a bigger than expected loan loss reserve release in its real estate portfolios ($650MM pretax), and card services ($500MM pretax), which was the largest combined release number since the $2 billion reduction in Q1 2012. This took down total JPM total loan loss reserves to $20.8 billion, down from $21.9 billion in Q4, and down $5.1 billion from the $25.9 billion a year ago. This happened even though JPM's NPL declined far more modestly, from $10.7 billion to just $10.4 billion. It was the revenue of $25.12 that missed expectations of $25.85, down from $26.05 billion a year ago, and which is the bigger issue for the bank, driven by disappointing trading results with fixed income markets revenue of $4.8 Billion, down 5% YoY, equity markets revenue of $1.3 Billion, down 6% YoY, and Securities Services revenue of $974mm, flat YoY. Not surprisingly in order to maintain expenses, headcount continue to decline from 258,753 to 255,898.



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