Clearing Billions in Profit Is About To Get Much Harder

The mainstream financial media nearly wet its collective pants with excitement in reporting that the planet's corporations paid $1 trillion in dividends in 2013. What they didn't report is that clearing billions in profit is about to get much harder. The point is this: technology lowers margins, and credit bubbles inevitably pop. Any company or nation that depends on maintaining high margins in credit-bubble-based "growth" is about to find that it's much harder to net $1 billion, much less $1 trillion.

Bloggers Beware; Government-Criticizing Chinese Newspaper Editor Hacked With Cleaver

Kevin Lau, the 49-year-old former editor of the respected Ming Pao newspaper (who was unexpectedly replaced last month by journalist with no experience) following his reporting on human rights abuses in China is in critical condition after being attacked with a meat-cleaver. As The Daily Mail reports, slashed three times by a man in a crash helmet in a residential neighbourhood who then fled on a motorbike, police said. His sudden dismissal sparked protests across the city over freedom of the press as the move raised fears among journalists that the newspaper's owners were moving to curb aggressive reporting on human rights and corruption in China. It appears, given this attack, they were right.

Harvard Supercomputer "Abused" To Mine Dogecoin

Harvard's Research Computing department's 14,000-core supercomputer "Odyssey" has been moonlighting as a virtual currency miner. As The Register reports, a Harvard student has had their access credentials revoked after the discovery that the Odyssey cluster had been scheduled for use in a Dogecoin mining operation. Harvard is not happy: "Any participation in 'Klondike' style digital mining operations or contests for profit requiring Harvard owned assets to examine digital currency key strength and length are strictly prohibited for fairly obvious reasons."

The Ominous Message in 200 Years of Global Public Finances

The [growing deficits of the past 50 years] suggest that we’ve never been in a predicament comparable to today. Essentially, the world’s developed countries are following the same path that’s failed, time and again, in chronically insolvent nations of the developing world. Look at it this way: the chart shows that we’ve turned the economic development process inside out. Ideally, advanced economies would stick to the disciplined financial practices that helped make them strong between the early-19th and mid-20th centuries, while emerging economies would “catch up” by building similar track records. Instead, advanced economies are catching down and threatening to throw the entire world into the kind of recurring crisis mode to which you’re accustomed if you live in, say, Buenos Aires.

JCP's Quarter In Charts: Retailer Generates Least Amount Of Cash Flow In Holiday Quarter In Recent History

Moments ago JCP did what it does best: released results that missed expectations, with Revenues in the traditionally strongest, holiday (Q4) quarter of $3.78 billion below the $3.86 billion expected, and comp sales up 2.0% below the 2.1% expected. Additionally, the company's profit margin was 28.4%, the second lowest in recent history, and only better than the 23.8% posted a year ago when the company was openly imploding. But the red flag was Free Cash Flow, driven entirely by inventory liquidation, was $246 million: the lowest such amount for the holiday quarter also in history. Whether or not this miss was not quite as bad as a worst case miss could be, whatever that means, is unclear but for now the traditional post-earning squeeze has pushed the stock higher. How long this particular squeeze persists is unclear, but likely depends on the longer-term viability of the company, and recent trends. To determine what these are, here are some charts showing how the company has performed in recent years.

Morgan Stanley Underwrites TSLA Convertible Offering Day After 100% Stock Price Upgrade

Tesla has just announced it intends to issue a $1.6 billion convertible note offering "for the development of a "Gigafactory" and a "Gen III" vehicle." While not that unusual - and of course, why not take advantage of low cost financing and a surging momentum in your stock - what we did find at least intriguing was the underwriters included Morgan Stanley. This is the same firm (though we would be very sure that Chinese walls ensured total lack of knowledge) that doubled their price target (from $153 to $320) for TSLA yesterday (following the analyst's now almost clairvoyant questions during the earnings conference call). Paging Henry Blodgett?

Third Time Not The Charm For Stock Pump-And-Dump

Shorts were well-and-truly squeezed this morning providing (yet again) just enough ammo to push the S&P back into the green for 2014 and the Russell to new record highs as the pump-and-dump we noted earlier continued for the 3rd day. However, soon after Europe closed, the fabulous five (TSLA, AMZN, FB, AMZN, and TWTR) all stopped levitating and stocks began to drop back to JPY's reality once again. Treasuries continue to rally (-6bps on the week) to 2-week low yields (leaving stocks disconnected) and while early (and considerable) USD strength faded in the afternoon, the USD index ends up 0.2% on the week (with EUR weakness leading). Gold and Silver were monkey-hammered early on but the former recovered some of its losses to end +0.35% for the week so far. While stocks ended unchanged-ish, VIX (following last night's epiuc WTF moment) rose to 14.4% and credit spreads closed wider on the day.

Kerry Promises Ukraine $1 Billion Bailout (Detroit, Not So Much)

Having threatened Russia that "any military move would be a grave mistake" and sounding awefully like a "line" to be crossed, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the US is ready to bail out Ukraine...

  • *KERRY: RUSSIA MILITARY MOVE ON UKRAINE WOULD BE GRAVE MISTAKE
  • *KERRY SAYS U.S. PLANNING $1 BLN LOAN GUARANTEE FOR UKRAINE
  • *KERRY SAYS U.S. WORKING WITH IMF, OTHERS ON AID TO UKRAINE

One has to wonder how many US jobs this will create (or save)? Or will Ukraine offer unlimited vodka to citizens of Detroit (or Puerto Rico for that matter)?

Presenting The #1 Financial Haven For Dictators & Criminals

Pop quiz: When really nasty criminals and dictators want to hide their illicit gains, which country do they go to? We’ll make this easy for you - multiple choice:

a) Switzerland
b) British Virgin Islands
c) Hong Kong

or d)...

Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre To Teach Economics Class At University of Chicago

Just in case you thought for a second that the sorry discipline we call economics couldn’t stoop any further into the gutter of academic idiocy and irrelevance, think again. It’s now being reported that ex-Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre (recently convicted on six counts of securities fraud) will be teaching an honors economics class at the “prestigious” University of Chicago. There’s nothing like an esteemed University setting the already culturally accepted example that ethics are for suckers. Stealing, cheating and corruption are the values most exalted in today’s world. It doesn’t matter how you achieve your wealth, as long as you attain it.

Pump... And Dump, Day 3

For the 3rd day in a row, the opening of the US day-session sparked some inexorable desire to buy stocks up to record highs - ignoring the realities of other assets like bonds (lower and lower yields), USD (soaring), VIX (rising), credit spreads (flat) and even JPY carry traders. And for the 3rd day in a row, the initial "pump" has failed and "dumped" back to AUDJPY reality. It seems the all-important green close for 2014 just won't hold (for now).

 

The Housing Recovery Myth In New York And New Jersey Ends With A Bang As Foreclosures Surge

It was about a year ago when we noted a core component of the US housing non-recovery: the time to sell foreclosed homes had just hit a record of 400 days across the nation. Fast forward to today when even the last traces of the lie that sustained the housing recovery myth are being swept away, and we get the following article from Bloomberg titled "Foreclosures Surging in New York-New Jersey Market."  The good news (according to some): thousands of people could live mortgage free for years until the bank delays obtaining the keys to the foreclosed property. This was money which instead of going to the mortgage owner, would instead go to buy Made in China trinkets and gizmos and otherwise keep the US retail party humming. Which brings us to the bad news: the party - retail and otherwise - is ending, as courts and banks finally catch up with inventory levels on both sides of the foreclosure pipeline, and those who lived for years without spending a dollar for the roof above their head are suddenly forced to move out and allocated the major portion of their disposable income toward rent.

Short Squeeze Goes Parabolic

The "most shorted" stocks have quadrupled the performance of the broad market this week as the dash-for-trash remains the best-performing strategy under the premise of an ever-rising strike Yellen put. The ammo for this latest rampapalooza, as we noted here, was hedge fund specs the 'shortest' in over a year which were then squeezed by an ever-present visible hand willing to sell JPY against any and everything in the world (or smash VIX - which ever works best). But as one more skeptical manager noted, "I’ve been a non-believer for so long that I just am not believing yet."

US Warns Russia Over "Provocative" Actions In Ukraine

As today's actions by Russia have raised concerns and stirred flight-to-safety flows in the markets, The White House has decided to add its $0.02 worth:

  • *OBAMA AIDE EARNEST URGES 'OUTSIDE ACTORS' TO RESPECT UKRAINE TERRITORY
  • *EARNEST SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD AVOID `PROVOCATIVE' ACTIONS
  • *U.S. WARNS RUSSIA TO RESPECT UKRAINE SOVEREIGNTY

Or else...? On the bright side, he did not say anything about crossed lines.

Bid To Cover Spikes To 17 Month High In Blistering 5 Year Bond Auction

If yesterday's 2 Year auction was largely blah, today's issuance of $15 billion in 5 year bonds can only be described as blistering. While the high yield of 1.53% was strong enough to stop through the 1.538% When Issued, and the lowest since November's 1.34%, it was the Bid to Cover that showed just how much demand there was for paper, as 2.98 dollars in tendered bids were waiting for every dollar of allocation: this was the highest Bid to Cover since September 2012 and well above the 2.62 TTM average. This outlier print snapped the recent trend of declining BTCs and showed that when it comes to Bill Gross once favorite spot on the curve, there is no lack of demand, especially from foreigners, who took down 50.7% of the allotment, the highest since July and solidly above the 44.5% average. On the other hand, Directs who lately are hardly the best friends of the Dealer community, took down only 9.2%, the lowest also since July, leaving 40.2% for the dealers.

Ocwen, Dubbed "Next Generation Subprime Lender" By Moodys, Is Focus Of NY State Regulator

Ocwen Financial, dubbed by Moody's as poised to become the "next generation" of subprime lenders, has come under considerably pressure this morning amid news that NY State regulators are investigating the firm for "conflicts of interest"...

  • *NY DEPT FINL SERVICES FINDS POTENTIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
  • *NY CITES REVIEW OF OCWEN'S MORTGAGE SERVICING PRACTICES
  • *NY SEEKS INFO ON FINL INTEREST OF OCWEN EXECS IN AFFILIATED COS

It is the Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSRs) that has Moody's the most-concerned as the volumes required may force Ocwen (and others) to shift their business model to ever lower quality loans.

Turkish Lira Blows Out As Graft Scandal Comes Back With A Vengeance

Update as things just got worse: TURKISH POLICE CLOSE DOWN GEZI PARK IN ISTANBUL, CNN-TURK SAYS

As we reported previously, on Monday new revelations in the graft scandal surrounding Turkish PM Erdogan in the form of a leaked phone conversation between him and his son, Bilal, detailing plans how to hide huge sums of cash, by some estimates up to $1 billion, brought back the political crisis that has gripped the nation front and center, and led to renewed demands by the opposition party that the PM resign. It also sent the USDTRY surging to levels not seen in weeks. We said: "Somehow we doubt that Erdogan will resign, however, this latest confirmation that the graft scandal that is and will continue to dodge the Turkish Prime Minister is not going away, may just be the catalyst that pushes the TRY, and with it some of the other recently pacified EMs, back into volatile mode." Today the crisis is fully back and so is the predicted volatility, with the Lira blowing out by another 400 pip to a level of 2.240, not seen since the first week of February when the Turkish central bank was scrambling to restore confidence in the imploding currency.

FBI Launches Probe Into "Criminal Violations" By Mt.Gox

It does not appear that things are getting any better for the virtual currency exchange named after "Magic: The Gathering."

  • *FBI SAID TO BE PROBING POSSIBLE CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS BY MT. GOX
  • *U.S. SAID TO REQUEST DOCUMENTS FROM BITCOIN SERVICE PROVIDERS
  • *MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY SAID TO BE REVIEWING MT. GOX SHUTDOWN

No real reaction yet in price across Bitcoin exchanges. Bloomberg BusinessWeek summarizes "where did the bitcoins go?" below