Putin Speaks To Russian Parliament On Crimea - Live Webcast

Today's prime time geopolitical risk event is Putin's speech to a joint session of parliament, in which he will address the Crimean crisis. No major surprises are likely, with mentions of retaliatory sanctions and the formal annexation of Crimea expected to be the main talking points, although it is the nuances and the phrasing that threaten to pull the USDJPY lower potentially into the double digit territory at which point all bets are off, if only for the Nikkei and the future of Abenomics. Watch Putin's speech live below.

Risk On Mood Tapers Ahead Of Putin Speech

Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.

"Putin Did The Right Thing" Says Marc Faber, But Fears China Implications More

While Marc Faber is adamant that "there’s lots of funny things that are happening in China. And when the whole thing unwinds it will be a disaster," it is his comments with regard Ukraine (and Russia) that are worth paying significant new attention to. As The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report editor notes in this brief Bloomberg TV interview, if you put yourself in Putin's shoes "he did the right thing from his perspective," given Crimea's strategic importance. However, as Faber concludes, "Crimea moving to Russia gives essentially a signal to China that one day they can also move and seize some territory that they perceive belongs to them."

Yuan Tumbles To 11-Month Lows As China Home Price Growth Slows

It would appear that the widening of the daily trading bands (we discussed last night) are having a directional effect on USDCNY as the devaluation continues on the back of forced carry-trade unwinds. At 6.19, CNY is its weakest in 11 months (2.5% weaker than its lows in January) and the last 2 months have seen by far the biggest weakening in the currency on record. This 'implied' easing is modestly supporting the stock market and copper for now (though we suspect that is more spillover from risk-on squeezes post-Ukraine). While Goldman and BofA are adamant that widening the bands will not mean a change in trend overall, it seems clear that hot money is outflowing and driving a trend change anyway as corporate bond prices are not rising and home-price appreciation is slowing in the major cities.

Bitcoin's "COO" Explains What Bitcoin Is

With Bitcoin's erstwhile founder (according to NewsWeek) denying it all, we thought it might be useful to hear from 'the horse's mouth' just what Bitcoin is. While many have heard "shit bitcoin fanatics say", Conan O'Brian's interview ith the "Bitcoin COO" is full of clarifying knowledge... (and sadly reflects most people's perspective still on the virtual currency space)

Ron Paul Asks "If Spying On Senate Is So Bad, Why Is It OK For Them To Spy On Us?"

The reaction of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to last week’s revelations that the CIA secretly searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers reveals much about what the elites in government think about the rest of us. “Spy on thee, but not on me!” The hypocrisy of Sen. Feinstein is astounding. She is the biggest backer of the NSA spying on the rest of us, but when the tables are turned and her staff is the target she becomes irate. But there is more to it than that. There is an attitude in Washington that the laws Congress passes do not apply to Members. They can trample our civil liberties, they believe, but it should never affect their own freedom. The essence of this problem has to do with the difficulty in managing the US empire. Let’s hope that Sen. Feinstein has had her wake-up call and will now finally start defending the rest of us against a government that increasingly sees us as the enemy.

Corporate Insiders Most Bearish In 24 Years

Just last week Goldman noted that February was "the busiest month in the buyback desk's history," so one has to wonder just what management is thinking when the Wall Street Journal reports that corporate insiders are more bearish than they have been at least since 1990. According to this adjusted measure, there have been two prior occasions when the insider ratio got almost as bearish as it is today - early 2007 and early 2011 - and the first came a half a year before the beginning of the worst bear market since the 1930s. Simply put, it seems management teams are using their company's balance sheet as their own personal piggybank.

Panopticon

Transparency has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with control, and the more “radical” the transparency the more effective the controlthe more willingly and completely we police ourselves in our own corporate or social Panopticons. This was Michel Foucault’s argument in his classic post-modern critique Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, which – just because it was written in an intentionally impenetrable post-modernist style, and just because Foucault himself was a self-righteous, preening academic bully as only a French public intellectual can be – doesn’t make it wrong. The human animal conforms when it observes and is observed by a crowd, at first for fear of discipline but ultimately because that discipline is internalized as belief and expectation.

SEC Freezes Bugatti-Driving 26-Year-Old "AwesomePennyStocks" Owner's Assets

"Compared to the ones I ran into," noted former-SEC chief, John Babikian's 'AwesomePennyStocks' fraud "is the biggest on ever." As Bloomberg reports, short-sellers and stock promoters have puzzled for years over who operated one of the largest penny-stock websites. A U.S. lawsuit points to a Bugatti-driving 26-year-old from Montreal. The SEC is freezing Babikian’s assets, including two homes and the proceeds of selling a fractional interest in a plane. "The traditional Stratton Oakmont has been replaced by the opt-in newsletter... the world of pump-and-dumps occurs in the shadows." Welcome to the new 'get-rich-quick' bubble euphoria...

Goldman Has Some German Stocks To Sell You

Having offloaded its short-dated Ukraine bonds to clients (recommending they buy them in size when Yanukovych was ousted for a decent loss so far), the boys from Goldman are up to their old tricks with a lorry-load of German stocks to sell you... "Year to date, the DAX is one of the worst performing indices in Europe (down 4.6% relative to the European market which is flat)... but we think the overall German market will outperform the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 index, and also highlight a list of DAX stocks that are currently Buy rated by our analysts."

"Most Transparent Administration Ever" Rejected Record Number Of FOIA Requests

One upon a time everyone got a hearty chuckle when Obama declared, on the very first day of his ascension to the throne, that his administration would be the "most transparent in history." And if they didn't then, they certainly will now following news that it none other than Obama's own administration - made infamous for spying on everyone who uses electronic communication courtesy of one whistleblower - that it has refused a record number of Freedom of Information (don't laugh) requests on the basis of, drumroll, national security. So between the NSA, whose job is to ensure national security, and all those pesky meddlesome investigators, whose only curiosity is to peek behind the secrecy of the Obama administration, there should be precisely zero acts of terrorism on US soil. Like last year's Boston bombing for example. Oh wait...

One-Third Of 'Obamacare-Prospects' Intend To Stay Uninsured

Despite spending over half-a-billion dollars on increasingly mind-blowing promotions for Obamacare, a new survey released today shows that even the website apparently fixed, over one-third of Americans without insurance say they plan to stay that way, even after being told that the new law requires them to get covered or pay a penalty. As CBS notes, some 46% of those surveyed also were unaware of the March 31 deadline for being insured as it seems "low-income, young families may have been overlooked. They're probably not spending a lot of time watching television, they never read a newspaper and if they listen to radio it's probably music in the car." 41% cited insurance as still too expensive with, oddly, 39% of middle-aged men preferring to stay uninsured.

RIP - The Truman Show of Bubble Finance, 1987-2014

Seth Klarman recently remarked:

"All the Trumans – the economists, fund managers, traders, market pundits –know at some level that the environment in which they operate is not what it seems on the surface…. But the zeitgeist is so damn pleasant, the days so resplendent, the mood so euphoric, the returns so irresistible, that no one wants it to end."

Klarman is here referring to the waning days of this third and greatest financial bubble of this century. But David Stockman's take is that the crack-up boom now nearing its dénouement marks not merely the season finale of still another Fed-induced cycle of financial asset inflation, but, in fact, portends the demise of an entire era of bubble finance.

Putin Strikes Back: Russia's Sanctions List Said To Include US Senators, High Ranking Administration Officials

Ever since the theatrical announcement of asset freezes and other related sanctions of various Putin aides, Russian military and pro-Russia Ukrainian leaders earlier today by both the US president and the EU, the nagging question was when and how would Vladimir Vladimirovich retaliate, with tomorrow's Putin address to the joint session of Parliament seeming as a probable time and place. It now appears that Putin's personal retaliation has been leaked in advance, and according to the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin, it will involve an in kind response where various US senators and highly placed officials will be banned from visiting Russia, and likely also see their particular assets - if any- in Russian custody promptly frozen.

Lessons For US Citizens From The Deposit Confiscation In Cyprus

It was almost exactly one year ago to the day that an entire nation was frozen out of its savings… overnight. Cypriots went to bed on Friday thinking everything was fine. By the next morning, they had no way to pay bills or buy food.  It’s certainly a chilling reminder of how quickly things can change. And why. The government was too insolvent to bail anyone out. And as a member of the eurozone, Cyprus didn’t have the ability to print its own money. So they did the only thing they could think of– confiscate customer deposits. Now, in the Land of the Free, you now have an insolvent government and insolvent central bank underpinning a commercial banking system that is incentivized to make risky, stupid bets with their customers’ money. And if there is one thing we can learn from the Cyprus bail-in, it’s that it behooves any rational person to have a plan B, even if you think the future holds nothing but sunshine and smiley faces.

Stocks Soar On Crimean Referendum, Russian Sanctions

The Dow has retraced half of last week's losses as exactly what everyone expected (a "yes" vote followed by US/EU sanctions and no actions yet by Putin) occurred.  The S&P was ramped thanks to the always-happy-to-help EURJPY back into the green for 2014. The big ramp occurred heading into the US open to spark momentum and save the day but weakness into the close suggests that the early short squeeze ran out of ammo relatively quickly. Volume overall was extremely weak - lowest non-holiday volume in 5 months. VIX's notable divergence from Friday likely provided some of the ammo for the early ramp. Gold and Treasuries were relatively unimpressed by equity exuberance until Europe closed and then were sold quite notably (TSYs +3-4bps, Gold/Silver -1.4%) Late-day weakness pushed Nasdaq back to unchanged post-Putin's conference call.

 

Did SF Fed's John Williams Just Predict The Next Recession??

There are three things that are often spotted, widely believed, and actively sought after with little evidence they actually exist:  Big Foot, Ghosts and Economic "Soft Landings."  Over the past 159 years, there is not much evidence that an economic "soft landing" has ever occurred.  However, it is not without precedent that as the economy reaches the latter stage of the growth cycle that the words "soft landing" are uttered by economists and Federal Reserve members. Why do we bring this up?  Bihnamin Appelbaum, via the New York Times, recently interviewed John Williams, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who stated: "John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, is feeling pretty good about the economy. He is ready to continue the Fed’s retreat from bond-buying and forward guidance. And he says he’s optimistic that this time, the Fed will manage to produce a soft landing."