If You Eat, Drink, & Smoke, These Are The Worst Places To Live In The World

While the golden beaches and bronzed beauties may attract the world's eaters, drinkers, and smokers to Australia's shores, Melbourne and Sydney are the most expensive place in the world to partake of these life necessities. Close behind is that other paradise... Caracas, Venezuela. But if all you want to do is eat... the socialist safe haven of Venezuela is not where you want to end up as a loaf of bread costs on average over $11. It hasn't always been that way... the cost of eating, drinking, and smoking in Caracas has soared almost 400% in the last 10 years.

"Feeding The Homeless" Is A Crime In Increasingly More US Cities

Have you ever given food to a homeless person? Well, if you do it again in the future it might be a criminal act depending on where you live. Right now, there are dozens of major U.S. cities that have already passed laws against feeding the homeless.

How Marijuana Legalization in America Is Destroying Mexican Drug Cartel Business

"The DEA doesn’t want the drug war to end,” said Nelson, when asked about a possible connection between the agency’s hatred of legal pot and its buddies in Sinaloa. “If it ends, they don’t get their toys and their budgets. Once it ends, they aren’t going to have the kind of influence in foreign government. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but where there’s smoke there’s probably fire.”

“We’ve spent 1.3 trillion since 1972 on the drug war. What have we gotten for that? Drugs are cheaper and easier to get than ever before,”

However, the Mexican drug cartels have been bailed out by America’s drug warriors who have cracked down on prescription pain killers.

The Real Reason Draghi Will Do "Whatever It Takes" To Crush The Euro

In November we showed a chart showing the yawning chasm of exuberant faith-in-Draghi hope that was 2013-to-2014 earnings growth expectations in Europe. At the time we remarked - now prophetically - how it would seem Draghi's "whatever it takes" confidence-inspiring orgy of European asset-buying had driven the EUR almost 20% higher from the 2012 crisis lows... and in the meantime had crushed European competitiveness. The hockey-stock hope at the end of 2013 has not materialized - surprise - in fact earnings growth expectations have utterly collapsed in the last 2 months... time for a "whatever it takes" to weaken the EUR jawboning soon (all without the aid of a fallacious and Treaty-busting OMT).

Not Satisfied With Taking Over America's Rental Market, Blackstone Now Takes Aim At Las Vegas

After losing $4 billion as both a lender and equity-holder, Deutsche Bank has decided now is the time to sell The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The lucky buyer of the 3000-room hotel and casino... none other than America's largest landlord - Blackstone Group. The formerly biggest "buy-to-rent" private equity firm is paying $1.7 billion for the Vegas hotspot after having piled $3.5 billion into property across the city and other parts of Nevada. It is ironic that it was Steve Wynn, another Vegas magnate, who recently noted just how great times were for the 'big guy' seeking cheap financing (and, unfortunately, just how bad it was for the average joe).

Starting Monday, Billions In ETNs Are No Longer Marginable Collateral

When is marginable collateral not marginable collateral? When it is an ETN, or Exchange Trade Note: the cousin of the Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). The very mutated, and unabashedly evil cousin of the ETF that is. At least such is the view of US brokerage Interactive Brokers " Pursuant to a recent decision by FINRA whereby Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) will no longer be eligible for Portfolio Margining, these securities, including options having an ETN as an underlying, will be phased out of the program by OCC during the week of May 19, 2014."

Wanna Be A Great Trader? Size Matters... Finger Size

Take a moment and look at your hands. Specifically, compare the length of your ring finger to the one you use to point.  Is the ring finger longer or shorter than your pointer, and by how much?  It turns out that the answer to that question can tell a lot about your mental abilities and appetite for risk. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas details, a 2009 study of mostly male traders working in London found that the ones with longer ring fingers were generally more profitable than those with shorter ones. Traders with the largest fourth finger/second (pointer) finger ratios actually made 11 times more than those with the smallest. 

Ukraine's Richest Man Mobilizes Private 'Army' After Assets Threatened

Rinat Akhmetov - Ukraine's richest man with an estimated worth of $11.4 billion - has, as Reuters reports, acquired almost feudal status in the industrial hub of Donetsk in the past 20 years - but the separatist rebellions there have altered the dynamics of power. This is not acceptable to the billionaire and so he has demanded his miners and metalworkers join police on patrol on Mariupol. As pro-Russian rebels declaring independence seized public buildings across the steel and coal belt which is the basis of his colossal fortune, he issued repeated written statements in support of a united Ukraine... but the media-shy 47-year-old, who has a workforce of 300,000 people on his payroll in the Donbass, has to tread carefully around local sensitivities and has avoided specifically condemning the action of the separatists.

5 Things To Ponder: Demographics

"Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the National Debt."  -  Herbert Hoover

The roll off of the massive slice of the population known as "baby boomers" in the years ahead will have a significant and profound impact on the economy and the markets. In my opinion, there is simply not enough attention paid this issue and it is an important one.  However, since demographic impacts take a very long time to mature, they are ignored by the mainstream media which are focused on the 24-hour news and market cycles. 

"Mysterious" VIX-Seller Ramps S&P To Unchanged On The Week

For the 4th day in a row, selling pressure in US equities climaxed as Europe closed. The big buying-panic today though was sparked with about an hour to go as VIX was pummeled lower and stocks levitated to save all kinds of key technical levels - (S&P unch, Nasdaq green on the week, S&P back above its 50DMA, Russell off its 7-month lows). Trouble with all that exuberance... bonds, the USD, commodities, JPY carry, and credit weren't buying it. The USD rose 0.2% for the 2nd week in a row (led by 0.5% weakness in the EUR) and JPY strengthened. Commodities all closed higher on the week, led by oil and copper (+2%) with WTI over $102. Treasuries sold off modestly into the late-day buying scramble in stocks but ended the week 10bps lower in yield (biggest weekly drop in 2mo, lowest in 6mo). VIX plunged back to almost 12 with its biggest daily drop in a month. T-Bonds and Bullion are both +7.2% YTD, S&P +1.6% YTD, Russell 2000 -5%YTD.

 

Meet Denmark's VoteMan: Using Sex & Violence To Get Out The Vote For EU Elections

Most people have no idea what government is about. As Bill Bonner notes, they think it is a benign institution, designed to make life better for everyone. Some governments, desperate to get more “buy in” from the public, even insist eligible voters go to the polls – or face penalties. Other countries, such as the US, merely excite the voters with dreams of avarice and threats of sanctions. Denmark - went in a different direction - "Voteman - a muscleman first seen in bed with five naked women who then proceeds to beat up young people to force them to vote."

Vacation At "The Door To Hell," Enjoy View To Burning Gas Crater!

The cosmopolitan delights of Azerbaijan’s boomtown capital Baku are well known to international oil industry types, but for adventurous tourists, Turkmenistan offers something even more spectacular than mud volcanoes: a Door to Hell.” Set amid the bleak Karakum Desert, this attraction near the village of Derweze, or Darvaza, dates to the 1970s when a sinkhole opened beneath a test well drilled by Soviet geologists. Gas just beneath the surface ignited and has been burning merrily ever since.

Epic VIX Slams Sparks Buying Panic In Stocks

Nasdaq and S&P back into the green for the week... Dow back into the green for the year... mission accomplished (but a little premature). And all it took was an options-expiration debacle-driven collapsed in VIX...

At Least 6 Chinese Cities Have Bailed Out Their Real Estate Markets In The Last Month

According to the Chinese financial publication Securities Daily, emergency real estate rescue packages have been launched in large cities such as Wuxi, Nanning, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Tongling and Zhengzhou in the last month alone..."if a borrower does not fulfill the loan repayment obligations as agreed in the contract, the guarantee institutions will have to repay the housing loans..." What a surprise – a government guarantee. The market is imploding and defaults are going through the roof. Property vacancy rates in Zhengzhou are an astounding 23%. So the government is putting taxpayers on the hook. In other words, the government is panicking. But it’s not working... so much excess inventory has built up, a major slowdown was inevitable. And like the butterfly that flaps its wings, a slowdown in China has substantial effects on the rest of the world.

Three Market Factors Which Citi Says Are Worse Now Than In 2007

"You’re picking up pennies on a train track. You are not getting paid much but you are sure that there will be a very negative surprise at some point. The risk / reward profile is as bad as ’07." - Portfolio manager speaking to Citigroup

Mapping The "Scalpel, Not A Meat Axe" Approach To US Sectoral Sanctions Against Russia

The threat of "sectoral" sanctions is the latest arrow in America's quiver against Russia's unwillingness to back off and, as the FT reports, the US is seeking support from Europe for these efforts. The problem, as we have discussed, is that energy binds Russia to the rest of the world in a codependent relationship. Consumers – especially in Europe – need Russian oil and gas as much as Russia needs the revenue they bring in. The US believes it can circumvent that obstacle as "the situation calls for a scalpel, not a meat axe... we need targeted asymmetric sanctions that hurt them more than they hurt us." In other words, do you believe in miracles? “In a global economy, each of these actions may also come at a cost to the countries imposing the sanctions that needs to be considered.”

Guest Post: Meet The Man Who Killed Keystone

One man stands in its way. No, not President Obama, but the billionaire environmentalist Thomas Steyer. How much did the Senate cost? With the dangled $100 million divided by 15 hours, the Senate was for sale at approximately $6 million an hour. Political commentators are openly speculating on what Obama will cost.

The Top 12 Things That Bother American Drivers The Most

With Memorial Day rapidly approaching and the onset of summer - and the inevitable spike in the number of drivers on the road, Expedia decided to poll American drivers to understand what really pisses them off the most. The 2014 Road Rage Report ranks "The Texter" as the most aggravating driving behavior beating out "The Tailgater". Perhaps most interestingly, 7 in 10 Americans report having been "flipped off" by a fellow motorist (while only 17% admitted to the aggressive act) and the rudest drivers live in the largest cities (71% rank NYC as the rudest).

Sell Italian Bonds But US Treasury Bulls Beware, Warns BofA

The combination of deteriorating European assets (topping European bank stocks and vulnerable peripheral debt) and poor price action (the impulsive break of 6m wedge support at 1.3685) augurs for further EURUSD weakness, warns BofAML's Macneil Curry, but it is Italian bond futures that broke a long-term uptrend and "it's time to sell the bounce in BTPs." While 30Y and 10Y US Treasuries are in medium term bull trends, he warns they are approaching a 'basing zone' - bond bulls ("if there are any" he jokes) beware.

Darth Vader Steps Up His Political Campaign In Ukraine

The (west) Ukraine locals may be caught in a proxy war vise of a western-appointed puppet government desperate to do NATO's bidding, an IMF which has made it clear bailout funds will only continue as long as said government maintains a belligerent stance toward Russia, a Kremlin which holds all the commodity trump cards with its gas supplies, and finally an imploding economy where the industrial eastern parts are on their way to becoming part of Russia not to mention insolvent banks which are one missed IMF rescue payment from total collapse, but at least they can still make some funny clips. Such as this clip showing a very symbolic Darth Vader campaigning in Odessa promising potential voters to "build the first earth-based planetary empire."