The Pre-Inauguration Party - Drinking Game

Well, it's 5pm somewhere in the world but we thought the following would provide some levity to the potentially stoic teleprompter's upcoming speech...

View From The Bridge: Moral Hazard Or Paranoia?

According to “Economics 101”, quantitative easing, on the heroic scale we have witnessed thus far, should already have led to rampant if not hyper inflation. That it hasn’t is down to the continuing decline in the velocity of circulation of money. In simple terms the banks aren’t lending (compared with the amount of money available to them), but instead are punting on financial assets, which is where “inflation” is ending up and benefitting their balance sheets. Markets generally front run the economy, but if, as many folk believe, including our commentator above, that quantitative easing has been a failure from the start, then why are equity markets indicating an upturn in economic activity? At the end of the day, if the central banks continue to believe they have no other option than money printing and you can put up with the volatility, it’s all aboard the equity train. Bond yields won’t rise much either; if at all. The gold price should give some indication of whether this strategy is working or not, but that is a market that is far easier to rig than sovereign debt – the Germans seem to think so as they contemplate repatriating some of their bullion held by other central banks.

A Look Back At Barack Obama's First Inaugural Address

"America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents.... The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.  Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward.  Where the answer is no, programs will end.  And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

Number Of The Year: "Unlimited"

For the first time this year, Brussels is awash with the opulent optimists of Europe as the finance ministers meet to decide how much of the EUR500bn ESM funds can be funneled direct to their banks and bypass the greedy governments. However, at the core is an uncomfortable reality that all is not well, one Brussels-based think-tank noted: "It’s really about signaling, the only thing that really has an impact on markets is when the word unlimited is uttered by somebody in charge, so in the end it’s not a question of how high the big number should be." The dilemma is Draghi's 'unlimited' promise, which has now been adopted by the Fed and the BoJ, has been hailed as the "breakthrough in tackling the causes of the euro-zone crises" but has instead unraveled into a combination of "complacency and political resistance" from creditor countries.

Putting His Mouth Where His Money Is: Meet Dylan Grice's New Home

It is no secret that one of Zero Hedge's favorite mainstream strategists over the years was SocGen's Dylan Grice, which perhaps in itself was a logical warning sign that his career in the mainstream was doomed to a premature end. Sure enough, several months ago, Grice, whose guiding motto has been sound money uber alles as he dutifully exposed - as much as he could  - crack after crack in the facade of the status quo, announced he was leaving SocGen, and was headed for greener pastures, literally, in this case Zurich-based fund Edelweiss, run by Anthony Deden. And while lateral moves in the financial industry are nothing new, we were quite impressed to learn that unlike most other "capital preservation" managers, Dylan Grice's new home has a rather stunning allocation of AUM to precious metals. How stunning? Decide for yourselves.

Frontrunning: January 21

  • With array of challenges, Obama kicks off second term at public inauguration (Reuters)
  • Uneasy in the Political Climate, Mickelson Talks Like Someone Ready to Step Away (NYT)
  • BOJ Should Slow Easing If Yen Weakens Too Much, Hamada Says (BBG)
  • Spain Recession Scars Exposed as Jobless Seen at 6 Mln (BBG)
  • Davos Doom Loses to Merkel-Draghi as Euro Defies Roubini (BBG)
  • Algeria finds dead Canadian militants as siege toll rises (Reuters)
  • Beijing tries to clean up its act (FT)
  • Investigators probe Boeing 787 battery maker (Reuters)
  • Netanyahu Gets Landslide in Markets Masking No Peace Process (BBG)
  • Google aims to replace passwords with ID ring (Telegraph)
  • Kim Dotcom launches new upload site (FT)
  • Dell Said to Hire Evercore to Seek Higher Bids After Buyout (BBG)
  • Hostess Bakers Union Hires Investment Bank Gordian in Asset Sale (BBG)

US Markets Closed On Fifth Anniversary Of Jerome Kerviel Day

To some, today is Martin Luther King day and as a result the US markets are closed, especially since today is also the day when Obama celebrates his second inauguration with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor at his side (hopefully not on the taxpayers' dime). To others, January 21 is nothing more than the anniversary of the real beginning of the end, when five years ago a little known SocGen trader named Jerome Kerviel could no longer hide his massive futures positions and was forced to unwind them, sending global indices plunging resulting in the biggest single day drop in the Dax (-7.2%), and punking the Fed into an unannounced 75 bps cut. Luckily, today such cataclysmic unwinds are impossible as the market is priced perfectly efficiently, without central bank intervention, price transparency is ubiquitous and the Volcker rule has made prop trading by banks, funded by Fed reserves (which are nothing more than the monetization of excess budget deficits) and excess deposits, impossible.

Guest Post:Gregor Macdonald: What The End Of Cheap Oil Means

For much of the twentieth century, the developed world saw a steady march upwards in wages and living standards, due primarily to huge quantities of cheap, high-yielding liquid hydrocarbon. As we find ourselves bumping along the plateau of Peak Oil's apex, suddenly we find that "growth" is a lot harder to come by. Of course, if you follow the news today, this is not the story you are hearing. Talk of an energy bonanza and imminent energy independence (in the U.S.) are everywhere, thanks to gas fracking and tight oil production. What is missing from the headlines is the cost side of the equation and a blindness towards future demand. McDonald begins: "I think the main conversation we are not having is that wages are very unlikely to ever return to a relationship to energy costs that would make the United States economy into a happy economic story once again."

'Blame The Weather' As UK Heads For Unprecedented Triple-Dip-Recession

How many 'dips' before a recession cycle becomes a depression structure? That is likely the question on Carney's mind as he enters his role as top man at the BoE shortly. As The Guardian reports, an unprecedented third slump in four years looms for the UK as shoppers stay at home and vital transport links grind to a halt amid paralyzing weather. As snow blankets much of the nation, it would appear the next round of central bank easing will be to print 'sunshine'. A series of economic releases – including weak trade data, downbeat business surveys and dreary retail sales – have fueled concerns that official figures out this week will show that output fell in the final quarter of last year. Now analysts fear a cold snap in January could lead to another quarter of contraction in Q1. The snow, bitter cold and harsh easterly winds continue to cause widespread disruption to travel by air, road and rail.  "Clearly, the longer that the snow and ice lasts, the greater will be the negative impact on the economy," IHS' Archer added, though we are sure we will hear of the 'broken icicle fallacy' soon enough.

Why Cyprus Is Big Enough To Cause Trouble

Cyprus is the euro area’s third-smallest economy in GDP terms, accounting for less than 0.2% of the region’s output. Yet, we believe it is big enough to cause trouble. The country urgently needs external funding and applied for an EU/IMF/ECB (in short: troika) program last summer. However, the conditionality that comes with this program does not go down well with the current Cypriot government, whereas politicians in core eurozone countries have started to point fingers at the small economy’s low-tax, soft banking regulation business model. What emerges is the threat of another deadlock, in which a small country pulls the eurozone’s consistency per se into question. So despite the small size of the economy, Cyprus therefore has the potential, in our view, to become a catalyst that may eventually end the complacency brought about by the ‘Draghi plan’ in H2 last year. If this proves correct, it would likely mean that peripheral spreads widen and risk assets could turn more volatile, especially in view of Italy’s election and Spain’s funding needs.

Japan Warns It May Fire On Chinese Aircraft Over Disputed Islands; China Retorts: "There Will Be No Second Shot"

A week ago we reported that following what China said was a response to counter "Japanese military aircraft disrupting the routine patrols of Chinese administrative aircraft" over the East China Sea, the world's most populous country (and one which has the largest, 2.25 million strong, standing army) scrambled several jets and put its military on high alert. Now, it is the turn of Japan, and its brand new militant and nationalistic government, to "retaliate" and escalate tensions by one more notch, in the process crashing any hope that Chinese imports of Japanese goods may resume, and obviating the ongoing temporary plunge in the yen (which while doing nothing to boost exports to this 20% trading partner, has made imports so expensive, inflation in the past two months has already soared well above the 2% target for various key goods as previously reported). Moments ago, Japan says it may fire warning shots and take other measures to keep foreign aircraft from violating its airspace in the latest verbal blast between Tokyo and Beijing that raises concerns that a dispute over hotly contested islands could spin out of control.

Surprising Loss For Merkel Coalition In Lower-Saxony Ahead Of German General Election

In what is a surprising warning shot for Merkel's popularity ahead of the September general election in Germany, moments ago the CDU/FDP ruling coalition lost the vote in Lower Saxony to the center-left Social Democratic Party/Greens block by a last minute, one-seat win according to Reuters. The SPD and Greens won a combined 46.3 percent against 45.9 percent for the centre-right, with the FDP defying predictions they would fail to win a seat and scoring 9.9 percent - twice what they had been forecast to get, however the boost coming as a result of a CDU ballot-splitting strategy that may have now backfired.

The Market Can Only Ignore Fundamentals For So Long

While it is somewhat broadly understood that the 'market' is disconnected from 'fundamentals' currently - apparently on the basis of forward hope and central bank liquidity - we thought the following charts would be worthwhile paying attention to in an effort to shake off the anchoring biases that so strongly hold us as our nominally-priced markets break to new highs. Again and again over the past six years we have seen stocks ignore (just a blip) significant trend changes in macro data, only to revert aggressively back to reality soon after. Whether compared with pure 'macro' data or the liquidity-fueled fed balance-sheet driver, reversions come - especially when the market least expects them (and is most aggressively positioned). Presented with little comment...

Guest Post: Declining Global Growth

In an increasingly globalised economy, we need more global data measurement. The Economist presents a new attempt to measure global GDP. Globally, there was a big and swift return to strong GDP growth, built on the backs of emerging countries and particularly the BRICs. Since early 2010, rather than getting stronger and stronger, global growth has actually become weaker and weaker. This is quite a departure from certain narratives popular today.

The US Was Operating In Mali Months Prior To French Incursion: Meet The "Intelligence and Security Command"

Last week we reported that in the aftermath of the so far disastrous French campaign to eradicate "rebels" in the north of Mali, because of their implied threat fo Europe, that "US Drones, Boots Arrive In Mali." Turns out we were wrong, and as the case virtually always is, for some reason there was already a US presence of at least three US commandos in Mali in the summer of 2012. What they were doing there remains a mystery, as it is a mystery if the ever co-present flip flops on the ground were there inciting the perpetual scapegoat Al Qaeda to do this, or that. Or maybe it was not the CIA. Maybe it was the Army's "little-known and secretive" branch known as the Intelligence and Security Command. Regardless, what becomes obvious is that while the US was on the ground and engaged in secret missions, it needed an alibi to avoid "destabilizing" the local situation once its presence became conventional wisdom. It got just that, thank to one Francois Hollande just over a week ago.

Around The World In 22 Charts

Courtesy of Diapason's Sean Corrigan, here are some 22 charts taking us around the world's markets and back.

Guest Post: Crisis, Contagion, And The Need For A New Paradigm

If you say…what is good science is prediction… and you can’t predict the most important event in 75 years, what good are you? In particular, it might be very nice you can talk about the likelihood of an one tenth increase in GDP growth rate…and you miss a major economic downturn….or worse, they said the things can’t happen… We all know the shock in this crisis…was a credit bubble and we have had those credit bubbles since the beginning of capitalism…So it was remarkable the intellectual bubble led people to believe there were no such thing as credit bubbles when there was 200 years of history of that…..How could people be so stupid? …The theory was with well functioning financial markets, spreading risk, diversifying risk, risk is contained. They came to believe the models and that’s always dangerous..