US-Backed Syrian "Rebel" Commander Chased Out Of Country By Al Qaeda

Syria may be old news as any escalation has been put on hold at least until next summer, but the hilarity resulting from the bungled US foreign policy intervention in the country lingers. The latest chapter in John Kerry's book of "Diplomacy for Idiots" is the case of General Salim Adris, a so-called moderate the top Western-backed commander of the Free Syrian Army, who was literally run out of the country by the more extremist, Al Qaeda based factions among the Syrian CIA armed and Qatar funded "rebel" forces. As the WSJ eloquently puts it, "Islamist fighters ran the top Western-backed rebel commander in Syria out of his headquarters, and he fled the country, U.S. officials said Wednesday." Any references to brave Sir Robin are purely accidental. It got better when the same Al Qaeda fighters "took over key warehouses holding U.S. military gear for moderate fighters in northern Syria over the weekend." In other words, as we repeatedly forecast over the summer, the US is now once again arming Al Qaeda fighters with weapons that sooner or later will be used against the US, at a time of the CIA's choosing.

Fact, Fiction, And 11 Bitcoin Myths

Haters gonna hate, but the “Bitcoin bubble” meme has become the financial equivalent of a viral online cat video – wildly popular but pretty vacuous. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, ConvergEx's Nick Colas reviews 11 bitcoin myths (and dispels them). Still, there’s no doubt that the public is entranced: there are now 3x more Google searches for “bitcoin” than “Western Union”, and 33x more than for “Gold coins”.  We started writing about bitcoin back in February because it was – and still is – a fascinating invention (for better or worse). How it plays out, we will just have to wait and see.

Living In A Steel Box: Londoners Live In Shipping Containers Due To Soaring Rents

With even Bank of England head Mark Carney admitting UK housing prices may be a little bubbley (and affordability plumbing new depths), RT reports that a hostel in east London has come up with the ingenious idea, to try and solve homelessness amid soaring rents in the British capital, of converting a shipping container from China into a tiny low cost home for hard up and desperate Londoners. The boxes, called mYpads, cost GBP75 per week - around one-quarter of the rent of most distant yet commutable borough in London - and are affordable for even those on minimum wage.

November Retail Sales Beat Modest Expectations Despite Another Decline In Clothing Sales

There was much concern that heading into the holiday season the US consumer would hunker down, which is why the just released retail sales came as a bit of good news: the headline and core (ex-autos) numbers both beat expectations of 0.6% and 0.2%, printing at 0.7% and 0.4% respectively, and refuting rumors of a big consumer slowdown into the holiday season. On the other hand, core retail sales, ex-autos, showed a declining growth rate, following the 0.5% increase in October, declining to 0.4% in the past month, while the ex-autos and gas number remained flat from October to November, or 0.6%. It is unclear if this number is good enough to send futures sliding on the back of the horrible claims report which has so far managed to push futures into green territory, but with the bulk of the monthly change contained in the seasonal adjustment, any 0.1% increments of change or beats of expectations are very much noise.

Initial Claims Spike Most Since Sandy To Worst In 9 Months

While the Labor Department admits "difficulties in seasonally adjusting" the data, this is the biggest spike ex-Sandy in the all-important initial claims data since 2005. At 368k (versus 320k expectations), this is the worst miss sicne Sandy also (absent the government shutdown debacles) and the Labor department says no states were estimated. This is the worst initial claims print since March... just enough bad news to provide the Fed some leeway? Of course, with enough statistical noise to sink an economy, it would appear another government-inspired data series has become next-to-useless ammo for the baffle 'em with bullshit brigade.

Gold And Silver Slammed

No new news as a catalyst this morning but it appears someone decided it was highly inappropriate for the precious metals to be holding their gains as stocks and bonds revert back to pre-payrolls 'taper' levels. Gold and Silver have been monkey-hammered lower this morning as heavy volume hit futures markets about 419ET and 645ET. Futures were not halted. Some speculation that gold's drop followed positive comments from Ukraine's foreign minister but that seems a stretch...

Cops Per Capita: Who Has The World's Most And Least Concentrated Police Force

The more the cops, the safer: that's what conventional wisdom says. The contrarian view, of course, is that when police per capita are far above average, there is usually a reason. Or, it the distribution could be just pure noise, depending on how much money can be allocated to police budgets or how prone to cop extortion a given country is. The chart below doesn't provide a definitive answer, with Russia leading the world in most police per 100,000 persons according to the UN and ONS, while Greece and Serbia mark the trailing end. Still, those who would rather avoid police brutality and paying a bribe to corrupt law enforcers, may be urged to avoid the left end of the chart below...

Frontrunning: December 12

  • J.P. Morgan to Pay Over $1 Billion to Settle U.S. Criminal Probe Related to Madoff (WSJ)
  • Ford board aims to pin down CEO Mulally's plans (Reuters)
  • Raising Minimum Wage Is a Bad Way to Help People (BBG)
  • Japan Lawmakers Demand Speedy Pension Reform (WSJ)
  • EU reaches landmark deal on failed banks (FT)
  • In which Hilsenrath repeats what we said in August: Fed Moves Toward New Tool for Setting Rates (WSJ)
  • Senators Vow to Add to Iran Economic Sanctions in 2014 (BBG)
  • Centerbridge in $3.3bn LightSquared bid (FT)
  • Banks, Agencies Draw Battle Lines Over 'Volcker Rule' (WSJ)

"Something Has Changed" In Overnight Trading As Futures No Longer Track EURJPY Ramps

It has been another session of overnight weakness, in which, to quote Deutsche Bank, "something has changed" as ES algos no longer track every tick of the EURJPY (or other JPY pair variants). Usually in such transition periods where the robots are not sure how to trade risk based on highly leveraged inputs, things go bump in the night, and they did just that with the E-Mini trading just off its overnight lows, despite a notable rise in the EURJPY from yesterday's close. Keep a close eye on the now traditional pre-market ramp in the EURJPY - if unaccompanied by an increase in the E-mini, it may be time to quietly exit stage left.

Goldman's Q&A On Stanley Fischer As The Next Fed Vice Chairman

Since the bank that decides what happens at the NY Fed, and by implication, at the broader Federal Reserve system, is none other than Goldman Sachs, it would be informative to read what none other than Goldman thinks of Ben Bernanke's thesis advisor Stanley Fischer, formerly head of the Bank of Israel, as the next vice chairman - as he is now actively rumored to become shortly. Conveniently, here is just such a Q&A from Goldman's Jan Hatzius - the man who feeds Bill Dudley all his economic and monetary insights over lobster sandwiches at the Pound and Pence.

Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It

Of the 25 companies with the largest corporate profits in the world; banking, energy and technology firms are absolutely raking it in. Despite stagnating incomes, these companies made $567,856,000,000 in 2012 alone... here's the subsidies, tax breaks, and offshoring that helped them do it...

Chinese State-Run Media Embarrasses Itself By Proclaiming "Unexpected Benefits Of Smog"

In case you weren’t aware, several of China’s major cities have experienced record-breaking, extremely dangerous levels of smog in recent days. Only today, Chinese authorities raised the "safe" level of pollution to reduce the frequency of alerts. So how did China’s state-run media decide to respond to this environmental and public health disaster? With ridiculous propaganda about the “unexpected benefits” of smog of course. You have to see this to believe it.

The Federal Reserve: 100 Years Of Boom And Bust

"If we evaluate an organization's performance by what it promised when it was created, the Federal Researve has clearly failed the American people," is how Murray Sabrin concludes this documentary on the first 100 years of the Fed's reign. The sad truth, he details, is that "the USD has lost more than 95% of its purcahsing power since the Fed was created and the cost of living has skyrocketed since Nixon severed the last linkage between the USD and gold in 1971." In short, the revolution of 1913 shifted power from individuals, communities and states to the federal government and its powerful allies in the private sector.

What America's Companies Really Think

If one believes the various US diffusion indices - among which key are the assorted regional Fed surveys the monthly PMI data - and listens to the pithy soundbites of their respondents, the US economy has hardly ever been better (of course, that 60% of "growth" in the past year has been due to inventory accumulation on hope that the consumer end demand will finally come is neither here nor there). However, we don't exactly believe said indices. Instead, to get a true sense of what is going on, it is always better to listen directly to those who are not only deep in the trenches, but are also accountable to their shareholders every quarter: the various CEOs and CFOs of America's public corporations. Below, courtesy of Bloomberg chief economist Rich Yamarone, who has compiled a selection of Q3 earnings call soundbites, is an indicative snapshot of the US economy as seen most recently through the prism of executives in a wide range of industries.

New York City Has The Most Homeless Children Since The Great Depression

At a time when Wall Street is absolutely swimming in wealth, New York City is experiencing an epidemic of homelessness.  According to the New York Times, the last time there was this many homeless children in New York City was during the days of the Great Depression.  And the number of homeless children in the United States overall recently set a new all-time record Americans like to think of themselves as "the wealthiest nation on the planet", and yet the number of young kids that don't even have a roof over their heads at night just keeps skyrocketing.  There truly are "two Americas" today, and unfortunately most Americans that live in "good America" don't seem to really care too much about the extreme suffering that is going on in "bad America".

Is Your Job About To Be Outsourced By A Computer (The Probability Is 47%)

Productivity. Every employer loves it, and every employee is fascinated by it, especially if it comes in cute colors, a retina screen, and weighs under a pound... at least until such time as "productivity" results in the loss of the employee's job, which in turn makes the employer love it even more as it results in even higher profits, even if it means one more pink slip and a 91 million people outside the labor force. With a labor force already in turmoil as millions drop out every year never to be heard from again, made obscolete by the latest technological and computerized innovation, and students stuck in college where they pile up record amounts of student loans (at last check well over $1 trillion) hoping form some job, any job, upon graduation, unfortunately the future is not bright at all. In a recently published paper, "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation," Oxford researchers Frey and Osborne, look at the probability of computerization by occuption. What they find is shocking for nearly half of the US labor force.

Are The Markets Rigged?

Despite being found guilty of and fined for manipulations of every other market in the world (from FX to rates to energy), investors small and large continue to play the markets on the basis that they are fair and balanced. Aside from high-profile insider trades; day after day, the oddly high correlations, the obvious spikes, blips, and front-running are ignored... until now. In this brief documentary, CBC asks the critical question "are the world's stock markets rigged?" Amanda Lang concludes "there’s a sense among the general public that nobody seems to be maintaining the integrity of the system." as she highlights case after case "as though everything is rigged!" Conspiracy theory evolves once again into conspiracy fact as the system that's supposed to benefit many, but actually enriches a few.

The Black Death Is Back...?!

Not since the Middle Ages has the bubonic plagues taken so many lives in a year. Having wiped out 25 million people in Europe, appearances of the Black Death since have been rare but the Red Cross is reporting a new outbreak has killed more than 20 people on the island of Madagascar. Living standards in the nation have collapsed since 2009 (what else happened in 2009?) and the prevalence of rats has helped spread the disease easily. While China claims to have the bird flu under control (despite some rumors out of Hong Kong), the Red Cross warns there is a risk of a Black Death epidemic.

 

Fidelity Now Allowing Bitcoins In IRAs

We are sure this will all end well... but as Marketwatch reports, Fidelity has partnered with SecondMarket’s Bitcoin Investment Trust to allow its clients to save for their retirement by putting the virtual currency in self-directed IRAs.

Guest Post: May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor - Part 2: Hope & Defiance

In the 1st installment of this article – May the Odds Ever Be in Your Favor – The Reaping, we addressed how wealth inequality created by men rigging the system and utilizing media propaganda ultimately leads to rebellion. In Part 2, we will show how hope and defiance can ignite the flame of liberty in the minds of men. Edward Snowden has ignited that flameA Lot of Hope is Dangerous... Linear thinking old timers are likely to scoff at the notion that some trilogy of novels for teenagers could capture the mood of the time in a way that explains how the people of this country will respond to the current worsening Crisis. History is cyclical and we’ve returned to a time where leaders will step forward to lead and brave heroes step forward to fight. The future of the country hangs in the balance.