Mark Spitznagel Crushes The "But, Balance Sheets Are So Strong" Fallacy

Off the top, Universa's Mark Spitznagel explains that "high-frequency traders are making markets more jumpy" and the idea of HFT as a liquidity provider is a fallacy since as he notes "that liquidity won't be there when they most need it," especially when there is one-way order flow such as in the flash crash. Spitznagel then crushes the 'cash on the sidelines' meme but explaining that while corporate cash balances have soared, net debt has actually gone up beyond the highs of 2008. As we have previously discussed, "the idea that corporate balance sheets are so strong right now is entirely wrong," as investors are conveniently focusing in one piece of the balance sheet (assets not liabilities). Maria B just can't fathom it but Spitznagel's words are clear - scale the cash on the balance sheet against debt and we are as bad as we were in 2008.

The Russian Perspective: "There Will Be War In Ukraine"

"Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict... Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already.

At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy."

The Top 12 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading Toward Another Recession

Is the U.S. economy steamrolling toward another recession?  Will 2014 turn out to be a major "turning point" when we look back on it?  Before we get to the evidence, it is important to note that there are many economists that believe that the United States never actually got out of the last recession.  In fact, that would fit with the daily reality of tens of millions of Americans that are deeply suffering in this harsh economic environment.  But no matter whether we are in a "recession" at the moment or not, there are an increasing number of indications that we are rapidly plunging into another major economic slowdown.  The following are the top 12 signs that the U.S. economy is heading toward another recession...

Trannies Top, MoMos Drop; Bonds And Dollar Flop

Dow Transports surge almost 1% as Nasdaq and many of the momo names started to weaken. The S&P closed at new highs once again despite weakness in HY credit market and a rising VIX on the day. Started by Draghi, EUR strength implied USD weakness and the greenback gave back the week's gains and then some (as AUD is up 1.8% on the week). USDJPY topped 103 - supporting the S&P. Treasury yields continue to push higher (with 30Y +10bps on the week). Gold and silver recovered their Putin losses as the formers ends above $1350. Oil prices tanked all day (testing $100) but reversed hard on chatter of escalation in Ukraine. It seems more than a few traders were hedging into tomorrow's payrolls number with VIX rising and stocks tumbling into the last few minutes (not helped by chatter of a Russian invasion overnight).

High-Probability Of Russian Assault Overnight, Ukraine Pravda Says

On the heels of the Russian navy intentionally sinking a vessel blocking the Ukrainian navy from entering The Black Sea, Ukraine Pravda reports that it is "most probable that Russian troops will assault units in Ukrainian Crimea overnight continuing to the weekend." Citing a source in the uniformed services, Ukraine Pravda warns that "despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks," and maintain "peak readiness."

House Passes $1 Billion Ukraine Loan Guarantee, Gazprom Sends Thanks

The oligarchs have taken over the asylum:

  • *UKRAINE $1 BLN LOAN-GUARANTEE BILL PASSED BY U.S. HOUSE
  • *HOUSE VOTES 385-23 TO PASS $1 BLN UKRAINE LOAN GUARANTEE

We are sure the auditors will be aggressively checking that this money does not flow directly from the US to Ukraine to Gazprom. But notably, we suspect, Jordan and Tunisia might be pissed as they just lst their funding. Not so much for Detroit or Puerto Rico also...

Happy 5th Anniversary To The Bull Market

5 years ago today, the S&P 500 made its post-crisis low at the oddly demonic 666 level. What many may not remember is... the last so-called-at-the-time "secular" bull market lasts exactly 5 years and 1 day (from October 10th 2002 to October 11th 2007)... it's different this time though.

Did Today's Flow of Funds Report Predict the Fed's Next Confession?

The Fed’s basic beliefs and workings are clearly sacrosanct, no matter how many times they fail. And as long as that continues to be the case, expect current and future Fed Chairs to follow Bernanke’s lead and draw up a list of boom-bust blunders shortly after leaving office. The aggregate equity allocation for U.S. households is now at a level that’s only ever been reached in the Internet bubble years of 1998 to 2000. This will surely lift spirits at the next FOMC meeting. (Cue the laugh track.) Higher equity allocations are exactly what the Fed tries to achieve with its so-called portfolio balance channel – their jargon for driving up the prices of a few assets by enough that you push investors into other assets (risky assets, such as equity, in the present case). The Fed’s confessions haven’t gone far enough

Watch As A US Missile Destroyer Departs Greece For The Black Sea

Yesterday we reported that with the US aircraft carrier, CVN-77 George H.W. Bush, anchoring in Piraeus, Greece, an unnamed US warship had been granted permission by Turkey to cross the Bosphorus and enter the Black Sea. There was speculation it may be the carrier itself, even though such a crossing would be forbidden by the Montreaux Convention. Today we have the answer: it is not CVN-77, but one of the ships from its aircraft carrier strike group - the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxton, which as the clip below shows, just departed the Greek port of Souda Bay earlier today.

Vladimir Putin Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

It would appear the Norwegian Nobel Institute is starting to lose it. Just a few years after President Obama won the Peace Prize (while mired in overseas wars), the director of the prestigious entity announced today that Russian President Vladimir Putin, accused of invading Ukraine - suspiciously un-peaceful action - has been nominated for the Peace Prize. Putin joins NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai as a nominee for the award to be announced in October.

The Next Shoe To Drop On Your Retirement Account

President Obama released his 2015 budget proposal this week...and as expected, it contained even more language about his MyRA initiative. As we’ve discussed so many times in the past, IRAs are an irresistible kitty for such a bankrupt government. The US government itself estimates that over $5 trillion is tucked away in American retirement accounts. They need that money. Your money. The US government is struggling to come up with new funding sources… and retirement accounts are by far the easiest target. Why? Because the majority of retirement accounts at trapped at big Wall Street banks, which are all de facto agents of the government. All the Treasury Department has to do is make a phone call. Yesterday’s budget announcement constitutes the next phase: automatic enrollment.

Record 71% Of Household Net Worth Is In Financial Assets

Another quarter down, and another $3 trillion in net worth added. On the surface, the increase in household net worth to a record $80.7 trillion is good news. The problem is that with $2.5 trillion of thie $3 trillion purely thanks to an increase in financial assets, which as has been made quite clear over the past several years, benefit only the 1%, what the lede should say is "another quarter down, another $3 trillion added to the net worth of America's richest." Put another way: of the $94.4 trillion in total assets (gross, not excluding $13.8 trillion in household liabilities), a record 71% or $66.9 trillion, is in financial products. And now you know why the Fed can not possibly allow any hiccups on the road to trickle down Fed balance sheet nirvana. If only for the 1%.

How Bitcoin's Not So Secret Satoshi Nakamoto Was Discovered (Hint: Phone Book)

Newsweek claims to have identified the mysterious creator of Bitcoin. Satoshi Nakamoto - long believed to be a pseudonym - was hunted down through searches, conversations, and national archives: "It was only while scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized U.S. citizens that a Satoshi Nakamoto turned up whose profile and background offered a potential match. But it was not until after ordering his records from the National Archives and conducting many more interviews that a cohesive picture began to take shape."  

Some remain skeptical that Newsweek have found him but making such a bold claim is aggressive and comments from Bitcoin lead developer Gavin Anderson suggest this is the real Satoshi.

 

Ukraine Acting President Loses It Over "Crime Against Nation" Crimea Referendum

Ukraine's Acting President Turchynov is not happy about what his 'fellow countrymen' in the east are doing:

  • *UKRAINE PARLIAMENT TO DISSOLVE CRIMEA LEGISLATURE: TURCHYNOV
  • *UKRAINE PRESIDENT SAYS ONLY NATIONAL CRIMEA VOTE IS LEGAL
  • *UKRAINE'S TURCHYNOV SAYS MARCH 16 REFERENDUM WOULD BE 'FARCE'
  • *TURCHYNOV CALLS MARCH 16 REFERENDUM 'CRIME AGAINST NATION'

So how will he enforce that decision? Perhaps this is the instigation that Putin has been waiting for? Bonds and precious metals are suddenly bid on this news.

Gold And Silver Recover Putin "Fold" Losses

The "safe" haven of precious metals is once again well bid this morning as Draghi's disappointment sent the EUR higher (and USD lower). Gold and silver have now recovered all the losses from the flight-to-high-beta-equity that followed Putin's press conference on Tuesday. So since he spoke, oil prices have collapsed (hurts Russia) but US stocks have surged (as bonds dumped). Must maintain the illusion of control (but it appears the PMs are leaking that status quo trust away).

How A Bankrupt Mega Law Firm Cooked Its Books For Four Years

Two years ago, the mega law firm Dewey and LeBeouf shocked the legal world when it announced, out of the blue, it would be filing for bankruptcy following an exodus of employees as the money had run out. However, as usually happens in cases like these, it was not just gross incompetence that was at fault: one must usually add major act criminality to explain such a rapid fall from grace. Such was the case in the Dewey bankruptcy too. Moments ago former top executives from bankrupt U.S. law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf were criminally charged for "cooking the books" at the once prestigious firm and defrauding investors and lenders. So for those curious, here is how a law firm - and here we can only assume Dewey is hardly alone - can cook the books for 4 years thinking it can get away with it.

Staples Celebrates The Recovery With 225 Store Closures, Sales Plunge

Nothing says global 'economic recovery' like a major retailer drastically missing revenue expectations, slashing earnings projections and announcing it will shutter 225 stores nationwide. Staples, the largest US office supplies retailer, hit the triple whammy and didn't blame it all on the weather as the CEO notes "our customers are using less office supplies." Or maybe there are just less office workers? Isolating Staples is a little unfair but as the largest (and most belwhether-ish), it is perhaps time to question the constant meme of escape velocity, improving fundamentals, and cleanest-dirty-shirt growth...

Ukraine Update: Pro-Moscow Leader Arrested In Donetsk, Russians Block Border Cross Points

While the biggest strategic news of the day is that the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia with a done deal referendum to be held in a few days, as well as collapse of the anti-Russian sanction lobby with Germany and others getting cold feet against boycotting Russian goods, the tactical developments continue. Of note: earlier today the leader of the most persistent pro-Moscow protest movement in eastern Ukraine was arrested at his home in the city of Donetsk on Thursday, a Reuters journalist who was with police on the raid said. Around 10 members of the SBU security service arrested Pavel Gubarev at his apartment in a five-story Soviet-era block in the eastern city, on charges of "infringing the territorial integrity and independence of the state". He did not resist.