A peaceful and stable Pakistan is integral to western efforts to pacify Afghanistan, but Islamabad’s obsessions with its giant eastern neighbor may render such issues moot.
Since partition in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought four armed conflicts, in 1947, 1965, 1971 (which led to the establishment of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan) and the 1999 Kargil clash. With the exception of the 1971 conflict, which involved rising tensions in East Pakistan, the others have all involved issues arising from control of Kashmir. But now a rising new element of discord threatens to precipitate a new armed clash between southern Asia’s two nuclear powers – water.
George Soros has been a busy man the last few days. Appearing at the INET Conference a number of times and penning detailed articles for the FT (and here at Project Syndicate) describing the terrible situation in which Europe finds itself - and furthermore offering a potential solution. Critically, he opines, the European crisis is complex since it is a vicious circle of competing crises: sovereign debt, balance of payments, banking, competitiveness, and structurally defective non-optimal currency union. The fact is 'we are very far from equilibrium...of the Maastricht criteria' with his very clear insight that the massive gap, or cognitive dissonance, between the 'official authorities' hope and the outside world who see how abnormal the situation is, is troublesome at best. Analogizing the periphery countries as third-world countries that are heavily indebted in a foreign currency (that they cannot print), his initial conclusion ends with the blunt statement that "the euro has really broken down" and the ensuing discussion of just what this means from both an economic and socially devastating perspective: the destruction of the common market and the European Union and how this will end in acrimonious recriminations with worse conflicts between European states than before.
From Morgan Stanley: "In our mind, many of the approaches to algorithmic execution were developed in an environment that is substantially, structurally different from today’s environment. In particular, the early part of the last decade saw households as significant natural liquidity providers as they sold their single stock positions over time to exchange them for institutionally managed products... While the time horizon over which liquidity is provided can range from microseconds to months, it is particularly shorter-term liquidity provisioning that has become more common." Translation: as retail investors retrench more and more, which they will due to previously discussed secular themes as well as demographics, and HFT becomes and ever more dominant force, which it has no choice but to, liquidity and investment horizons will get ever shorter and shorter and shorter, until eventually by simple limit expansion, they hit zero, or some investing singularity, for those who are thought experiment inclined. That is when the currently unsustainable course of market de-evolution will, to use a symbolic 100 year anniversary allegory, finally hit the iceberg head one one final time.
Of the twenty-five largest banks in the world there is only one that does not need to raise additional capital to de-lever to a 20x leverage and a 5% of Tangible Capital Ratio and that is Citigroup which has a current leverage of just 13 times and I also point out that Wells Fargo with a 14 times leverage needs a minor amount of capital to accomplish these goals. At the far other end of this scale is Deutsche Bank which is levered 62 times and would need a massive amount of new capital and tremendous shrinkage to accomplish these goals. The assets of DB are also equivalent to the entire GDP of Germany so that the bank could devour the country if Deutsche Bank were to hit the wall. Then the most leverage can be found at Credit Agricole at 66 times which would also swamp France, given its size, if asset values continue to decline or if Spain or Italy need to be bailed out and the contagion worsens.
Assymmetric Secret Servicing Initiative: Obama's Colombia Visit Found To Subsidize Local Alternative Monogamy MarketSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/13/2012 - 23:35
Obama may not be the most successful president when it comes to creating jobs at home, but when success is measured by the number of blowjobs outsourced abroad, he may be truly second to none, as his visit to Colombia proves before it has officially begun. According to the AP, "A dozen Secret Service agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Barack Obama at an international summit have been relieved of duty because of allegations of misconduct." Relieved here being a perfectly randomly selected verb. Because according to a tip received by The Associated Press "the misconduct involved prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, the site of the Summit of the Americas. A Secret Service spokesman did not dispute that allegation." Or, as Goldman would call it, an "Asymmetric (Secret) Servicing Initiative" where much more than just inside information is leasked. Unfortunately, while he may be far more successful in generating jobs in Latin America than domestically, even those jobs have proven to be quite transitory, just like virtually all quickie temp jobs "created or saved" in the US in the past several years. Furthermore, just like in the US, we doubt that the incremental wealth benefits will trickle down to the local population. After all, unlike in the US, endogenous Colombian liquidity may be abundant everywhere but certainly not at the central bank, which is far, far tighter at a rate of 5.25% (and rising), compared to extra loose central planners the "developed" world over.
My most recent trip to Calgary gave me a welcome chance to catch up with friends and colleagues in Cow Town's oil and gas sector. I found out about new projects, investigated companies of interest, and came away with an improved feel for the current state of affairs – what's hot, what's not, and why. The outlook from here is not great. When markets turn bearish, investment strategies often turn toward income stocks, and rightly so: if market malaise is expected to keep share prices in check, dividends become a very good place to look for profits. But whenever a particular characteristic – such as a good dividend yield – becomes desirable, it also becomes dangerous. The sad truth is that scammers and profiteers jump aboard the bandwagon and start making offers that seem too good to refuse. It was just such an offer that reminded me of this danger. In the question-and-answer period following my talk in Calgary at the Cambridge House Resource Conference, an audience member asked my opinion of a new, private company that was offering a 14.7% monthly dividend yield.
"All might be well in China, but Europe again is a cause for serious concern. Spain is the victim of the most intense violence – CDS trades to new all-time wides, and local banks sent nearly 5% lower. The hope might have been that once European markets closed, US equities would recoup losses. But there’s no place for hope on Friday the 13th, and stocks close at the low. The post-close price action in futures was even worse as ES1 drops further still. Back below the 50d again. Perhaps spillover from weakness in European financials, but problematic as tech, the other obvious leader of the year’s rally, is also flagging. SPX drops 17 to close 1370 (-1.25%). The DOW drops 137 to close 12850 (1.05%). The NASDAQ drops 44 to close 3011 (-1.45%)."
The heaviest weekly loss (down 2%) in the S&P 500 since mid-December and largest two-week drop since the rally began in November was dominated by losses in financials (and energy). The major financials most notably have been crushed from the start of April (MS -13%, Citi/BofA -11%, GS -8.5% since the European close on 4/2). Credit broadly underperformed on the day (after ripping to pre-NFP levels yesterday) but HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) outperformed surprisingly but this appears to be related to an equity-credit (SPY-HYG) convergence trade as HYG looks very rich now once again to its NAV. The dismal close in ES (S&P futures) on significantly heavier volume and block size. VIX pushed back above 19.5% and we worry that the violent swings that we saw in credit and equity markets this week are very reminiscent of the beginning of the chaos mid-Summer last year - and perhaps rightfully so given the European situation that is escalating. FX markets were much more active today with EURUSD breaking back under 1.31 and AUD leaking lower after gapping down on China GDP news last night. Interestingly the USD ended basically unchanged from last week's close while Gold managed to hold onto its gains for the week (+1.5% at $1655) despite drops in Silver and Copper also today (Silver and Gold retracing the spike highs from yesterday). Copper kept sliding -4.7% on the week. Treasuries slipped lower in yield from late last night exaggerated by China's news with the entire complex notably lower (5-9bps on the week) in yield and flatter as the long-end outperformed. Stocks pulled back towards CONTEXT with broad risk assets at the close today though it remains rich to Treasuries and credit on a medium-term basis.
The latest CFTC Commitment of Traders report is out, and what a difference two months makes for a currency. After everyone was uber bullish on the Yen two short months ago with nearly record high bullish bias in the form of 57K net long non-commercial spec contracts, the Yen has become the most loathed, and despised currency, as the net short interest has slid to -66K, nearly the largest net short in 5 years, and the most gross short exposure since June 2007. And while the Euro is still vastly detested, the Yen is en route to becoming the one currency with the most net shorts. Which begs the question: is the Yen preparing to once again become the funding currency, and is Andy Xie's analysis about an upcoming JPY devaluation about to be proven prescient once again? Finally, anyone who thinks that the central planners west of Nippon will stand for this aggression, you have another thing coming.
It seemed appropriate, given Europe is hitting the wall again in its vicious cycle of self-financed self-hypnotizing recovery-less recovery, to present the 'World Collapse Explained In 3 Minutes' that so mockingly relates the real state of absurdity we face in today's financial markets.
Unlike under a gold standard, in paper money the rate of interest is subject to massive volatility. Sometimes, the government has its way, fueling rising prices and interest rates. Other times bond speculators front-run the central bank’s unlimited appetite for purchasing government bonds and the rate of interest falls. We are now in year 31 (so far) of this latter phase. As the total accumulated debt increases (feature #450 of irredeemable money is that total debt cannot go down), the effect of a change in the rate of interest becomes larger and larger. Today, even very small fluctuations have a disproportionate impact on the burden of debt incurred at every level, from consumer to business to corporate to government at every level. To say that this is destructive is a great understatement. This, rather than the quantity of money, is what people and especially economists should be focused on.
The link between government spending cuts and social unrest is highly non-linear and extremely troublesome. We first noted the must-read quantification of the relationship between so-called CHAOS of social unrest and spending cuts back in early January and this brief lecture reiterates some of the frightening conclusions. Critically, small spending cuts impact social unrest in very marginal ways but once the cuts begin to rise to 2-3% of GDP then the probability of considerable and painful social unrest becomes much higher. As Hans-Joachim Voth points out in this INET lecture, analogizing between a burning cigarette as a catalyst for a forest fire in an arid landscape, he suggests the rapid build up of combustible material caused by austerity (youth unemployment in Spain perhaps?) could be inflamed by a seemingly small catalyst that would otherwise be ignored in general (a poor immigrant being shot or motorist murdered in a bad part of town) when spending cuts are at the extremes we see across Europe currently. The frightening reality of the non-economic, real social costs of the Troika's handiwork look set to be tested going forward as the link between periods of very heavy unrest (clusters of rioting for instance) and austerity is very strong. His findings on the post-chaos fiscal policies, (what does the government do once social unrest explodes) are perhaps more worrisome in that governments will immediately withdraw from austerity patterns which leads to some tough game-theoretical perspectives on the endgame in Europe in a 'lose-lose proposition' for austerity as the uncertainty shock of these events cause dramatic drops in Industrial Production.