• Pivotfarm
    04/18/2014 - 12:44
    Peering in from the outside or through the looking glass at what’s going down on the other side is always a distortion of reality. We sit here in the west looking at the development, the changes and...

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Michael Krieger Summarizes "The Building Tension"

The reason I don’t write about markets so much anymore is because I don’t believe there are markets any longer. Sure there are flashing prices on the screens for various assets and those can be addicting to look at on a daily basis, but I think these “markets” are now merely a mechanism for government propaganda and a method to ultimately fleece more money from the uniformed masses that play in it by the casino operators and their puppets in government. It’s basically a hologram. I have alluded to this in recent interviews, but I myself feel extremely uncomfortable being involved at this point in a way I have never felt before. For now, I am still willing to play the game with some of my own capital but I fear I may regret this decision and that the smart thing would be to pull out completely and go entirely into hard assets as well as real estate abroad. This game is not safe. By definition, the longer the period of tension building the more explosive the release will be when it ultimately happens. This period has already been going on for almost five months with only minor releases so I think we are already staring down the barrel of something horrific. Should they actually succeed and delaying the release until after the election I expect the release scenario to be downright cataclysmic. Should they succeed to delay it that far I hope I am wise enough to pull the remainder of my assets out of this casino beforehand and get entirely physical.



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USS Stennis Supposedly Leaves Straits Of Hormuz, Replaced By USS Lincoln With USS Vinson Staying Put, But Not Just Yet

For those following the latest naval developments in the general Arabian Sea area and the Straits of Hormuz in particular, the latest news is that the duo of Aircraft carriers on location, as was reported last week, the USS Stennis and USS Vinson, has became a trio, with the arrival of the USS Lincoln, however, if only briefly. According to the US Navy's website, CVN 74 Stennis has left the 5th Fleet, and is now back in the 7th fleet, on its way home. Yet this is somewhat contradictory with the following picture posted on the facebook profile of one CVN 72 Abraham Lincoln (yes, faceook), which quite vividly shows CVN 74 - the same Stennis - and CVN 72, Lincoln, side by side, at least as of this morning. As such, absent further photographic evidence to the contrary, it may be the case that while the Stennis is planned to be on its way back, but in reality is still in the vicinity. Which begs the question: why three aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, and for how long?



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KKR Avoids European Sovereigns On Austerity Concerns

While we are sure Mitt Romney would not care to comment, private equity firm KKR's Henry McVey is strongly suggesting investors should avoid European sovereigns in his 2012 Outlook. While his reasoning is not unique, it does lay out a fundamental fact for real money investors as he still does not feel that Core or Periphery offer value. Specifically noting that "fiscal austerity among European nations is likely to lead to lower-than-expected growth, which would ultimately increase the debt-to-GDP ratios of several countries in the coming quarters", the head of KKR's asset allocation group sees a slowdown in Europe as core macro risk worth hedging. Expecting further multi-notch downgrades across both the core (more like BBB than AAA) and periphery, McVey also concludes in line with us) that Greece may need to restructure again in 2012 and will disappoint the Troika.



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Fed Back To Its Secretive Ways, Sells $7 Billion In Maiden Lane Assets Directly To Credit Suisse Without Public Auction

Instead of opting for a publicly transparent BWIC in the disposition of its Maiden Lane II assets, the Fed has once again gone opaque - long a critique of the Fed's practices which have required repeated FOIAs in the past to get some clarity on its secret bailouts and transactions - and proceeded with a private sale, without any clarity on the deal terms, in which it sold $7 billion in face amount of Maiden Lane II assets direct to Credit Suisse. The alternative of course would be the same snarling of the MBS and broadly fixed income market that we saw in June of last year. In other words, the Fed looked at the options: transparency and risk of grinding credit demand to a halt, or doing what it does best, which is to transact in the shadows, and avoid capital markets risk. It opted for the latter. As to why the Fed decided to go ahead with a deal shrouded in secrecy? "The New York Fed decided to move forward with the transaction only after determining that the winning bid represented good value for the public." "I am pleased with the strength of the bids and the level of market interest in these assets," said William C. Dudley, President of the New York Fed. Because if there is one thing Bill Dudley and the Fed knows is gauging what is in the best interest of the public... and the callorie content of the iPad of course.



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Keystone Aftermath Arrives: Canada Pledges To Sell Oil To Asia, As US Becomes Source Of "Uncertainty"

America's loss is China's gain. In the aftermath of the Keystone XL fiasco, which will see not only a number of jobs "uncreated" but a natural source of crude lost, Canada is already planning next steps. Which will benefit Shanghai directly and immediately. As Bloomberg reports, "Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a telephone call yesterday, told Obama “Canada will continue to work to diversify its energy exports,” according to details provided by Harper’s office. Canadian Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver said relying less on the U.S. would help strengthen the country’s “financial security.” The “decision by the Obama administration underlines the importance of diversifying and expanding our markets, including the growing Asian market,” Oliver told reporters in Ottawa." Ironically, it is diversifying away from the US, with its ever soaring, politically-predicated uncertainty, that is a source of stability and diversification. But it is not only crude. Wonder why no jobs are being created? Wonder why despite record low mortgage rates there is no bottom in sight for housing? Simple - nobody can plan one month, let alone one year ahead for any US-based venture or business. The political risk is simply too great - whether it is contract law (see GM and Chrysler) or simple solvency (see record high levels of cash hoarded by companies), it is there, and as long as it is there, there will be no hiring, no capex spending, no growth, and no real improvement in the economy, the real economy, not that defined by where the Russell 2000 closes on any given day.



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Sovereigns At One-Month Tights Ahead Of Capital-Raise-Plan and Debt-Swap Deadline

The rolling euphoria continues. European sovereigns have performed well again today with a significant surge into the close (helped earlier by ECB buying and optically successful auctions). Italian 10Y is trading back at 450bps over Bunds (one-month tights) and European banks ripped higher in equity and credit markets (as belief in capital raising plans takes hold). As we noted earlier, GGBs have been underperforming all week but equities and credit seem unstoppable here. USDJPY has crumbled in the last hour or so (around the same time as sovereign spreads started to accelerate their compression) and Treasuries (and Bunds) are very significantly underperforming (with the former now 13bps higher in 30Y for the week). While the dollar continues to weaken (and EUR strengthen back over 1.29) commodities are 'oddly' rolling over with Copper, Oil, Gold, and Silver all well off their earlier highs as Europe closes.



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Deutsche Bank Again Under Fire From Internal Whistleblower Accusing Bank Of Fudging Numbers

Back In May 2009 Zero Hedge was the only website to post (following a NYT Dealbook takedown for reasons unknown) the lament of one, now former, Deutsche Bank employee and whistleblower, Deepak Moorjani, who made it very clear that going all the way back to 2006, Deutsche Bank was allegedly fabricating data, and misleading investors about its commercial real estate holdings, courtesy of a lax regulatory strcuture and the "lack of a system of checks and balances". To wit: "At Deutsche Bank, I consider our poor results to be a “management debacle,” a natural outcome of unfettered risk-taking, poor incentive structures and the lack of a system of checks and balances. In my opinion, we took too much risk, failed to manage this risk and broke too many laws and regulations. For more than two years, I have been working internally to improve the inadequate governance structures and lax internal controls within Deutsche Bank. I joined the firm in 2006 in one of its foreign subsidiaries, and my due diligence revealed management failures as well as inconsistencies between our internal actions and our external statements. Beginning in late 2006, my conclusions were disseminated internally on a number of occasions, and while not always eloquently stated, my concerns were honest. Unfortunately, raising concerns internally is like trying to clap with one hand. The firm retaliated, and this raises the question: Is it possible to question management’s performance without being marginalized, even when this marginalization might be a violation of law?" The story was promptly drowned, despite our attempts to make it very clear just what practices the bank was engaging in in the follow up exclusive titled "One Whistleblower's Fight Against Goliath Over the Definition of Risk." Today, the questionably legal practices by Deutsche Bank are once again brought to the forefront with the Propublica article of former WSJ journalist Carrick Mollenkamp titled "Deutsche Analyst Sounded Alarm When Asked to Alter Numbers." This is the second time a pseudo-whistleblower has spoken out against an endemic culture of fraud at the German bank in two years. And nobody cares of course, for obvious reasons - the Zen-like tranquility of the status quo may never be disturbed, or else the endless crime and corruption lurking in the shadows will be exposed for all to see.



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Feel The Squeeze

As financials and builders (and implicitly markets in general) levitate further, Peter Tchir of TF Market Advisors takes a brief and somewhat sarcastic look at the factors that are supporting the rally.



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Thursday Humor - Onshore Tax Haven Edition

Friday comes early today

  • GREEK POLICE ARREST WOMAN FOR EU48 MLN IN UNPAID TAXES

No commentary necessary



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Guest Post: You Can't Fool Mother Nature For Long: The Substitution of Debt for Productivity

If you leverage $100 per month in surplus capital in a household into a $100,000 home equity loan that is squandered on luxury cruises, a new kitchen, boats and dining out, then that explosion of spending boosts "growth" like a shot of cocaine. But then what happens when the borrowed money has all been spent? What happens when the borrower defaults? The underlying assets--the boat, home, etc.--can all be auctioned off, but a massive loss remains to be swallowed by the lender. Needless to say, the bankrupt borrower will be unable to borrow another $100,000 any time soon, even if interest rates are lowered to near-zero. That's what happens when you try to fool Mother Nature by substituting debt expansion for increases in meaningful productivity. Eventually the surplus that is being leveraged into debt reaches the point where it cannot leverage any more debt, and the over-leveraged borrower defaults at the first financial bump. An economy that is dependent on constant massive increases in debt to fund its "growth" is not sustainable. In a very real sense, the U.S. has been fooling Mother Nature for 30 years. Now we've overleveraged the nation's shrinking pool of surplus capital and assets, and the last rabbit has been pulled from the magician's hat. Mother Nature (i.e. reality in the form of a transparent, marked to market balance sheet) is about to take her revenge on all those who reckoned she could be fooled forever by ever-expanding debt.



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Despite Revision, Philly Fed Misses Expectations As Outlook Nears Cyclical Peak

As usual benchmark revisions have saved the day for the headlines on the Philly Fed print. Expectations for the data was a 10.3 and it came at 7.3, a definitive miss to expectations, but of course thanks to revisions this rise to 7.3 (from 6.8 revised) is heralded (in a short-lived manner) as evidence of improvement. Under the covers though, things aren't so rosy. New Orders and Shipments dropped notably, number of employees was merely flat and while restocking seems to be occurring modestly (inventories improved) they still printed negative. On the six-months ahead outlook, expectations are for lower prices received but everything else reflects the hope-infused perception of steady growth - especially the notable rise in capex. Initial market reaction is negative to the miss.



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On Mitt Romney's Millions In Cayman Island Offshore Tax Havens

While the news that Mitt Romney has joined Warren Buffet in the "my secretary makes more than me" 15% tax club has come and gone, even as America appears largely confused or dismissive that Romney, at least on paper appears to be precisely the puppet that Wall Street wants put in charge, we are not so sure how it will react to discovering that in addition to all of the above, Romney also holds a substantial of his assets deep offshore, in the much maligned recently Cayman Islands. As a reminder, it has long been Obama's "tax-policy" to force repatriation of virtually all individual tax holdings held abroad, both legally and illegally, much to the detrimental collapse in the UBS business model. Yet apparently when it comes to potential future presidents, loopholes are quite welcome. Especially when as ABC reports, "the offshore accounts have provided him -- and Bain -- with other potential financial benefits, such as higher management fees and greater foreign interest, all at the expense of the U.S. Treasury." As a reminder: "Rebecca J. Wilkins, a tax policy expert with Citizens for Tax Justice, said the federal government loses an estimated $100 billion a year because of tax havens." But who needs taxes when America can just print all the money it will need to fund its deficit in perpetuity. Just ask the Neo-Keynesians. Perhaps all these are questions that the candidate that so hard is trying to channel Ronald Reagan and so far failing, can finally address once and for all, before he moves into one of his patented Obama bashing subject changing routing.



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Sliding Greek Bond Reality Challenges "Debt Deal" Hopium

We have been rather vociferous in our table-pounding that even if a Greek PSI deal is achieved (in reality as opposed to what is claimed by headlines only to fall apart a month later), then Greece remains mired in an unsustainable situation that will likely mean further restructuring in the future. JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest agrees and notes that Debt/GDP will remain well above 100% post-deal but is more concerned at the implications (just as we noted earlier in the week) of the process itself including ECB preferred credit status, retroactive CACs (law changes), and CDS trigger aversions. In his words, the debt exchange is a bit of a farce and we reiterate our note from a few days ago - if this deal is so close, why is the 1Y GGB (AUG 2012) price trading -8.75% at EUR 28.75 (or 466% yield) and while longer-dated prices are rallying (maybe bear flattener unwinds), the moves are de minimus (-17bps today on a yield of 3353bps?) as selling pressure is clearly in the short-end not being rolled into the long-end as some surmise.



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Rick Perry Out

And then there were four.

  • RICK PERRY MAY DROP OUT OF PRESIDENTIAL RACE TODAY, CNN SAYS

It appears even Bank of America (which had a hilarious and brilliant $600 million Goodwill impairment today - on what? The fantastically prfoitable Countrywide acquisition) could not "help him out."

Of course, everyone is now expecting tonight's impromptu ABC "Career ending" interview with Mrs. ex-Gingrich, which may make it a trio. That may happen even despite Perry's imminent enrosement.



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