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Iran Update: Six (Or Eight) UK Embassy Staff Taken Hostage: Iran Contra Redux?

Even more mysterious update #2:


Mysterious update confirming that something very fishy is going on here:


Today's developments are rapidly turning into a repeat of Iran-Contra:


Expect a very formal, and very forceful UK response imminently.

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Credit Sanity Check

Once again this morning, credit markets are deteriorating with financials the notable laggards and yet equities in US and Europe are beating to their own 'Birinyi'drum. European sub financials are the worst performers, which makes sense post the Moody's downgrade concerns, but the scale of recovery this week is incredible in terms of equities post Friday rally relative to credit market's perception of reality. At the same time, Italian all-in cost of funding - yields - are near record highs post auction, even if spreads are flat and off the highs.

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Gross On The Futility Of The European Deus Ex Machina: "A French/German Guillotine Hangs Over The Markets"

Bill Gross continues with his rational Keynes bashing with the following statement from his latest monthly piece just released: "What has become obvious in the last few years is that debt-driven growth is a flawed business model when financial markets and society no longer have an appetite for it. In addition to initial conditions of debt to gross domestic product and related metrics, the ability of a sovereign to snatch more than its fair share of growth from an anorexic global economy has become the defining condition of creditworthiness – and very few nations are equal to the challenge." In addition he also meaks it all too clear why the sudden reappearance of the Federal states of German-funded Europe proposal is a dead end: "On the fiscal side the EU’s solution has been to “clean up your act,” throw out the scoundrels and scofflaws (eight governments have fallen) and balance your budgets. Such a process, however, almost necessarily involves several years of recessionary growth and deflationary wage pressures on labor markets in the offending countries." Gross picturesque analogies never fail to amuse (maybe not the French though): "The ultimate vote of the working men and women in these countries will always hang over the markets like a Damocles sword or perhaps a French/German guillotine. If the axe falls, then bond defaults may follow no matter what current policies may promise in the short term." That's right. He went there. As for his conclusion, he is spot on: "Investors and investment markets will likely be supported or even heartened by recent days’ policy proposals. The problem of Euroland is twofold however. First of all, they will remain a dysfunctional family no matter what the outcome. You can’t tell a German much, and while they can issue what appear to be constructive orders and solutions to the southern peripherals, there is little doubt that none of them will “like it very much.”....Secondly, and perhaps more importantly however, investors should recognize that Euroland’s problems are global and secular in nature, reflecting worldwide delevering and growth dynamics that began in 2008." And that's it folks: Europe will never submit to a federalist union controlled by Germany. And even if it does, it is not just Europe that is broken. It is the entire world.  Speaking of broken marriages, we wonder just how many CDS Gross is long parent risk-soaring Allianz?

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Busy Day As 5 Fed Members Talk

House prices, consumer confidence and comments from a whopping five Fed officials.

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UK Embassy In Tehran Taken Over By Protestors, Building On Fire

Things getting ugly fast.


Time for the CVN 77 to head back to the Straits of Hormuz yet?

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ECB Fails To Sterilize Bond Purchases, €9 Billion Shortfall Confirms Euro Bank Liquidity Freeze

Those wondering what caused the accelerated reacquaintance of the EURUSD with gravity on its way to what UBS has just dubbed the "beginning of the end" (report to be published shortly), need look no further than the ECB where the ECB had its first failed sterilization since the expansion to monetize Italian and Spanish bonds was launched in August. As noted yesterday, the ECB had to sterilize €203.5 billion in cumulative bond purchases. Instead, it only got bids for €194.2 billion from a paltry 85 bidders. This means that for the first time, as shown on the chart below, the ratio of Bids to Bonds for Sterilization fell under 1. What is much worse, is that this happened on the day of the weekly 7-day MRO, during which a total of 192 banks took a combined €265.5 billion from the ECB's weekly 1.25% handout. The amount tops the 247 billion that 178 banks took last week and is the second week running that demand hit a new two-year high. In other words, despite demanding the most amount of money in 2 years, the banks were unable to flip all that cash and "sterilize" monetized paper. This is very bad news as it confirms that the SMP program is coming to a forceful close as banks withdraw in their shells and any further PIIGS bonds purchases will be no longer sterilized above some threshold level, somewhere in the high €100's, low €200 Bns. Whether this is the final straw that pushes the ECB to print outright remains to be seen: it is surely providing the needed dead cat bounce to the EURUSD as hopes that Draghi will finally do as the banks demand have once again resurfaced.

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American Airlines Files For Bankruptcy

We hope you used up those frequent flier miles which are now a General Unsecured Claim on thee company and will likely result in an exchange rate of 1 million miles for one round trip flight...

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Italy Prices €7.5 Billion In New Bonds At Unsustainable Yields, Market Rejoices If Only For A Few Minutes

Confirming just how much the market has lost it, at just after 5 am Eastern when the news of today's Italian auction as announced, the EURUSD soared by almost 100 pips on news that the auction had not failed. Apparently the lack of day to day bond issuance failure is now good enough for Europe. In the meantime, one look at the actual auctions that made up today's action show just how unsustainable Italian debt yields have become. The Italian Treasury priced 3, 9 and 11 year BTPs at yields that were simply laughable, and are completely non-sustainable in the long run. Specifically, the Tesoro sold €3.5bln in 6.00% Nov'14 bonds at a bid/cover 1.502. The yield was a mindboggling almost 8% or 7.89% compared to 4.93% on October 28 - a 3% increase in 1 month; it also sold €1.499 bln of 4.00% Sep'20 bonds at a 1.538 B/C vs. Prev. 1.49 and a yield of 7.28% vs. Prev. 5.470% a month earlier, and lastly €2.5 billion in 5.00% Mar'22 bonds, at a bid/cover 1.335 vs. Prev. 1.27 and a yield 7.56% vs. 6.060% previously. Yup, the 3 years were nearly 8%! Yet as noted earlier the fact that anything priced was enough for a quick kneejerk reaction higher in prices on the benchmark 10 Year BTP... If only for one hour. As the chart below shows, the BTP has sold off aggressively post the realization that the "successful" auction was almost as bad if not worse than a failure, as that at least would have kicked the ECB into monetizing.

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Citi: "Forget Decoupling" - Here Is How To Trade During The Sovereign Trauma

We have been strong proponents of various relative-value (RV) trades as this highly volatile and increasingly binary world infers more Knightian uncertainty than any normal strategist, talking-head, fringe blog can cope with. What is frustrating nevertheless is the degree of confidence that many economists and strategists forecast directional bets only to fail miserably (and rapidly). Refreshingly, Citi's European credit research team take a similar perspective to ours on the current policy uncertainty and expect nothing less than spreads to keep oscillating wildly in 2012 (between depression and muddle-through). Their crucial insight is to tie the evolving crisis to the Kubler-Ross stages-of-grief and recognize that expecting a decoupling (or lower correlations between and within asset classes) is only for those in denial - trade the phases of the crisis instead (focusing on exploiting the asymmetries and dislocations as opposed aggressive directional bets). Only when there is a credible lender-of-last-resort with public funds enough for Italy and Spain will it be safe to get long and earn carry once again. Falling back on strong fundamentals and balance sheets becomes moot in their eyes (and we agree) as there are simply too many linkages from sovereign stress - "Strong corporate fortifications...are built on shaky sovereign foundations".

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Ron Paul Explains His Plan For "Monetary Freedom" And Returning To The Gold Standard

Ron Paul lays it out: "We know what to do - we did it once after the Civil War period, we went from a paper standard back to the gold standard, and the event wasn't that dramatic. But today the big problem is that both the conservatives and liberals have an big apetite for big government for different reasons, therefore they need the Fed to tie them over and monetize the debt. So if you don't get rid of that appetite it's going to be more difficult, but the transition isn't that difficult. You have to get your house in order; you have to balance the budget, you have to not run up debt, and you have to promise not to print any more money... I would like to have a transition period and just legalize gold money, gold and silver as legal tender, and work our way back... We want to legalize the use of gold and silver as the constitution dictates, rather than punishing the people who try to do that... I am quite convinced that the system we have will not be maintained - that's what these last 4 years was all about, and that's what the turmoil in Europe is all about. The question is are they going to move toward a constitutional form of money. or are we going to go another step further into international money - instead of having an international gold standard based on the market, are we going to go toward a UN, IMF standard where they are going to control with the use of force another fiat standard. I consider that a very, very dangerous move." And precisely due to that piece of phenomenal insight which nobody else in the GOP or Democratic roster is even parsecs away from grasping, is why Paul can never be allowed to be elected, why he must be mocked and ridiculed by a co-opted ADHD media which focuses on how many mistresses some other idiotic presidential candidates has, instead of focusing on the one person who grasps the big picture: the status quo can not be held accountable to a political leader who understand not only how the system is rigged, but why it is broken to begin with and that there actually is a way out. However, to the "status quo's" chagrin, one that involves the wiping out of generations of plundered middle class wealth to keep the richest denizens of 'extremistan' ever richer.

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Complete List Of European Sovereign Events Through The End Of 2011

We won't focus too much on the reasons why Deutsche Bank just cut its forecast for European 2012 GDP from +0.4% to -0.5%: needless to say it is yet another ploy to force the ECB's hand to print, and not even DB is ashamed to admit it: "The good news is that the worse the economic outlook becomes, the more likely it is the ECB will have to take more aggressive steps to deal with a compromised monetary transmission mechanism and the growing downside risks to price stability." So now that that is out of the way (and those who wish to read the whole thing can do so here), we can focus on what is actually relevant: the full event calendar from tomorrow until the end of the year, not only for sovereign bond issuance (there is plenty), but for all major sovereign events.

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Guest Post: The (Euro) Answer, My Friend, Is Showing In The Bond Market

As usual, the bond market has already an idea on how this will pan out. Looking at various yield curves we get the following picture:

- Greece is “off the chart” (in the “toast” zone)
- Portugal will not make it as debt and interest is not sustainable and the EFSF struggles to raise bailout funds.
- The “soft Euro-zone” could survive by aggressive monetarization of debt by the ECB – once the German hardliners quit. Inflation would probably follow in a few years, but that is another question.
- The “hard Euro-zone” would consist of Germany and the Netherlands. They unilaterally quit the Euro-zone and introduce a pegged currency pair.
- France is really the only unsolved question in this puzzle. Bond yields have peeled away from Germany a bit too far. Historically, France was a “soft” currency country with frequent realignments of exchange rate under the European ERM (Exchange Rate Mechanism). Given the strong political ties France will probably be forced to stay married to Germany, but it will be an unhappy marriage, with an eventual break-up at a later date.
- I have included Hungary just out of curiosity, since their love-hate relationship with the IMF is slightly entertaining.

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Subordinated European Bank Debt Face Broad Downgrades, Moodys

Perhaps this helps explain the significant underperformance of European and US bank credit today as tonight we get the full downgrade watch treatment for all European bank subordinated debt. Moody's will review 87 banks in 15 countries with the view that average downgrades will be two notches for sub debt. The initial premise for the actions is the removal of government guarantees as they believe systemic support for subordinated debt is more uncertain. The greatest number of ratings to be reviewed are in Spain, Italy, Austria and France. The EURUSD is down around 20 pips on the news and ES 4-5pts.

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Is It Finally Japan's Turn?

Japan is starting to heat up a little in terms of risk and we hope that Noda is watching carefully. While the strengthening trend in USDJPY and JGBs has been a long one, the last few days are starting to worry some traders and most notably, Bloomberg points out that not only are FX options the most USD bullish-biased (JPY-bearish) in seven years, swaptions (bearish rate bets) have screamed to their highest in over seven months at 54bps. The growing concern that the European crisis will spread to Japan is extremely evident in these option bets, supporting the sentiment of S&P's recent 'downgrade' chatter, Bass's grave concerns, and the IMF's decidely negative perspective on fiscal sustainability as Japan's 'savior' trade-surplus is expected to drop significantly. Perhaps the sad inevitability of the real endgame of Richard Koo's balance sheet-recessionary view of Keynesianism is closer than many believe.

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