A few minutes ago headlines hit that as a result of a strong earthquake, buildings shook in Delhi, India. Moments later, the USGS confirmed that a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter 9 miles below the Awaran/Balochistan region in Pakistan had struck, some 43 miles NNE of Awaran, and close to the India border. It is unclear yet if the two quakes were the same although it seems likely. Reuters had this preliminary report: "An strong earthquake struck remote western Pakistan on Tuesday and was felt in the Indian capital of New Delhi where buildings shook. The United States Geological Survey said that a 7.8 magnitude quake struck 145 miles southeast of Dalbandin, in Pakistan's western province of Balochistan."
"As an anecdotal aside it was interesting that Apple yesterday reported above consensus iPhone sales on the first weekend of the new launches. When I upgraded in a phone shop on Friday there was no queue, a load left in stock and a number of extra staff put on who were standing around doing nothing. They said they all arrived early to handle the queues, only to find that their first customer didn't arrive until 30mins after opening. So my experience seemed to be different from the rest of the world as Apple climbed +4.97% yesterday after the impressive sales numbers and also guidance at the top of the range from the company on revenues and gross margins." - Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid
- Iran Icebreaker Set at U.N. (WSJ)
- Chrysler Feud Triggers IPO Filing (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Chase, 12 More Banks Said to Be Sued Over Libor (BBG)
- Regulator sues Morgan Stanley, eight others over faulty securities (Reuters)
- Monte Paschi Seen Boosting Cost Goals to Meet EU Demands (BBG)
- Here we go again - "not enough funds": CFTC chair Gary Gensler warns on fund cuts to police derivatives (FT)
- Congress Fuels Private Jails Detaining 34,000 Immigrants (BBG)
- KKR, Sycamore looking to buy Jones Group this week (NYPost) - take with lots of salt
- Fiat rethinks alliance with Chrysler after IPO filing (Reuters)
- Young Invincibles Caught in Crossfire Over Obamacare Cost (BBG)
- Mayfair Office Squeeze Spawns New London Real Estate Hubs (BBG)
Everything was proceeding according to central-plan with a gradual rise in risk and a decline in the USD until 4 am Eastern, when the German IFO Business Climate data was released and missed across the board (107.7 vs Exp. 108.0; Current assessment 111.4 vs Exp. 112.5; Expectations 104.2 Exp.104.0), reminding everyone now that Merkel is cemented for the near future, the immediate prerogative for Europe is to get the EUR lower, one way or another. A returning bid to the dollar also has pushed 10 Year yields under 2.70%, while once again sending various EM currencies sliding, and bringing back cross asset volatility to a world whose Sharpe ratio over the past several months has plummeted into negative territory. Increasing concerns about a government shutdown (misplaced) will likely prevent a solid bid from developing under markets.
Back in October of 2012, Hugh Hendry proposed a very simple investment thesis: '"I am long gold and I am short gold mining equities. There is no rationale for owning gold mining equities. It is as close as you get to insanity. The risk premium goes up when the gold price goes up. Societies are more envious of your gold at $3000 than at $300. And there is no valuation argument that protects you against the risk of confiscation. And if you are bullish gold why don’t you buy gold ETFs, gold futures or gold bullion." Since then, anyone who listened to Hendry has made a substantial double digit return (yes, one can make double digits returns on gold even when gold is sliding: such is the "magic" of long gold, short GDX pair trades). However, following a massive, 50%+ selloff, there comes a time when even gold miner stocks become attractive to those with deep pockets filled with reserve fiat. For someone like China, that time may be now. The WSJ reports that China's largest gold company, China National Gold Group Corp., has talked to Ivanhoe Mines "about buying a stake in or asset from the company."
Only a few years back, the majority of people were saying that the dollar was as good as gold. Today, even those who insist that fiat currencies are not only safe, but the only means by which commerce can reasonably occur, are admitting that they are getting a bit nervous regarding the assurance that their own currency will not be either somehow confiscated or grossly devaluated. But there is a new currency arising - Bitcoin - and it promises, like banknotes before it, to solve all the problems of currencies. Just as paper gold is proving not to truly exist, except as a promise by financial institutions, and fiat currencies are also teetering on the edge, there is every reason to believe that the latest in “theoretical” currencies may disappear at some point in the future. However, as they have throughout millennia, precious metals will continue to shine in all corners of the globe.
After a surprisingly manic election night the focus in Germany now shifts to the tricky task of forming a government. As Open Europe explains, many options remain possible. Merkel looks unlikely to gain a majority on her own while the FDP and AfD are certainly out of the Bundestag. This leaves a Grand Coalition, a CDU/CSU and Greens coalition or (as a very, very longshot) some form of SPD-Greens-Die Linke (Red-Red-Green) coalition or alliance which could still mathematically have a majority. Little progress is expected before the end of the week, with the SPD holding a small party conference on Friday where it will determine its strategy for the negotiations. SPD Chancellor Candidate Peer Steinbrück has already said that the “ball is now in Merkel’s court”, suggesting he expects her to propose the terms of any Grand Coalition. Meanwhile, Greens leader Jürgen Trittin has said that, while open to negotiations over a coalition with Merkel, the chances of finding an agreement are “extremely limited”.
With WTI crude oil prices hovering at record levels for this time of year, the spread to Brent crude has bounced from zero as Syria started up to around $4.50. At the time time we noted the plunge in the spread was as much related to US infrastructure and technical issues as the war premium and now Pierre Andurand, manager of one of this year's most successful commodity hedge funds, believes US crude will trade at a premium to the Brent benchmark within weeks, counter to the expectations of many in the market. As The FT reports, the ex-Goldman trader is known for taking bold positions, and while not commenting in specific trades, he noted "In order for Cushing inventories to stop drawing and start building, I think WTI [the US benchmark] should be at a premium to Brent [the global benchmark]," within weeks.
Och-Ziff were perhaps a little early but used the last 10 months to unwind their real estate and exit the landlord business as the hedge-fund sponsored echo-bubble in housing rolled over into the mainstream. "American-Homes-4-Rent"'s IPO suggested a scramble to exit. With 60% of home purchases now being cash-only (explains the ongoing and massive layoffs in the mortgage business not just due to rate-driven weakening of demand), it is therefore a concern when one of the biggest funds playing in this space - OakTree Capital - announces plan to exit the buy-to-rent trade - selling roughly 500 fully-leased homes. As Reuters notes, it is yet another indication that early investors are looking to cash-out on the "recovery" in U.S. housing prices. Who will be left holding the bag this time?
There is a reason why every fiat currency in the history of the world has eventually failed. At some point, those issuing fiat currencies always find themselves giving in to the temptation to wildly print more money. Today, the Fed finds itself faced with a scenario that is very similar to what the Weimar Republic was facing nearly 100 years ago. Like then, the U.S. economy is struggling and like the Weimar Republic, the U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt. Unfortunately, the Fed has decided to adopt the same solution that the Weimar Republic chose. The Fed is recklessly printing money out of thin air, and in the short-term some 'positive things' have come out of it. But quantitative easing worked for the Weimar Republic for a little while too.
"I'm not going to sit on my laurels and say I was an executive making six figures and traveling the world,” 77-year-old Tom Palome says, "I tell people I demonstrate food and I do short-order cooking. I don’t mind saying it. What's important is that I can work today." As Bloomberg reports, the former vice president of marketing for Oral-B juggles two part-time jobs: one as a $10-an-hour food demonstrator at Sam’s Club, the other flipping burgers and serving drinks at a golf club grill for slightly more than minimum wage; a sad but all too real reflection of the new normal 'job' gains that our economists and politicians love to crow about. Why is he still working? Like most Americans, he didn't save enough for retirement (despite working hard his entire career). About 7.2 million Americans over 65 were employed last year, a 67% increase from a decade ago as 59% of households headed by people over 65 have no retirement assets.
As Wall Street, CNBC, and feckless politicians tout American energy independence from the miracle of shale oil, reality is already rearing its ugly head. Production grew by 24% over the first six months of 2012. Production has grown by only 7% over the first six months of 2013. That is a dramatic slowdown. The fact is that these wells deplete at an extremely rapid rate. Oil companies will always seek out the easiest to access oil first. They have already accessed the easy stuff. This explains the dramatic slowdown. Peak Bakken oil production will be below 1 million barrels per day. The last time we checked, we consumed 18 million barrels per day. We wonder when that energy independence will be achieved?
With some politicians arguing private prisons help states save money and other politicians arguing the system is rife with corruption, there can be no debate about this basic fact: The private prison system has surged in size since the U.S. began experimenting with private prisons in 1984. Between 1990 and 2009, the inmate population housed in private prisons grew by more than 1,600 percent. As the following infographic suggests the trends are not your friend in this case.
The hullabaloo over the Fed’s communications should be the least of our concerns. It’s outranked by actual policies, which seem to be once again destabilizing markets, encouraging reckless behaviors, perpetuating global imbalances and enriching the parasitic practitioners of so-called financial innovation at the expense of the middle class. On the other hand, Chairman Bernanke claims that clear communications are a key part of his approach, forward guidance being one example of how he manipulates the economy by telling us what to expect. And yet, it sure seems like the more he and his colleagues talk, the less we know about what they’ll do next. In light of this, the best explanation for the Fed’s surprising untaper last week appears to be from Vince Reinhart’s musings and inside information about the Fed. He offers a short but interesting history on the FOMC’s attempts to increase transparency, and then goes on to share some thoughts on how the decision making has evolved and why it tends to confuse us.