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Flash Developments Post Earthquake

A snapshot summary of the immediately known geopolitical and financial consequences of the Japanese earthquake per Reuters



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Photos From Earthquake Aftermath

The Yen is surging on repatriation concerns as infrastructure spending is expected to pick up following the countrywide devastation. Below are pictures summarizing just how dramatically the earthquake and following tsunami have impacted Japan.



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More Than 200 Protesters Take To Streets In Hofuf, Eastern Saudi Arabia

And while crude drops on a sudden plunge in oil demand following Japanese refinery shutdowns, supply issues may promptly be rearing their ugly head. Per preliminary Reuters reports at least 200 people protest in eastern Saudi Arabia. "More than 200 protesters took to the streets on Friday in the Saudi Arabian city of Hofuf, two activists told Reuters, responding to a call by online social networks for protests in favour of political reform. Hofuf, a major urban centre in Saudi Arabia's oil rich Eastern Province close to the Ghawar oil field, has seen scattered protests by minority Shi'ites in the last two weeks." This is just the first report of what will likely be a massive protest wave across the region following news that Yemen, Kuwait And Bahrain will all be joining in today's day of rage.



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Massive Earthquake Strikes Japan, At Least 44 Dead As 10 Meter Tsunami Hits Pacific Coast, Kan Mobilizes Forces, Declares Nuclear Emergency

A massive magnitude 8.9 earthquake, the 5th strongest since 1900 and 7th largest in history, struck Japan last night off the coast of Sendai, launching a 10 meter Tsunami across the entire Pacific ocean, killing numerous people and sending Japan into a tailspin. Bloomberg reports: "Prime Minister Naoto Kan mobilized Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the central bank pledged to ensure financial stability after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, a city of 1 million, causing damage across the east coast of Japan. “I call on citizens to act calmly,” Kan told reporters in Tokyo after convening his emergency disaster response team. “The Self-Defense Forces are already mobilized in various places. The government is making its utmost effort to minimize the damage,” he said, saying later in a news conference that the impact was widespread. The Ministry of Finance said it’s too soon to gauge the economic impact of the temblor, the world’s biggest in more than six years. Japan’s central bank set up an emergency task force and said it will do everything it can to provide ample liquidity. The BOJ, which has already cut its benchmark rate to zero in an effort to end deflation, had last month said the economy was poised to recover from a contraction in the fourth quarter." The financial reaction was swift: "Japan’s stocks slid 1.7 percent in Tokyo today as the earthquake struck less than half an hour before the market closed. The yen advanced 0.2 percent to 82.77 per dollar as of 5:07 p.m. in Tokyo. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.4 percent as of 5:22 p.m. in Tokyo, with losses accelerating after the quake. Futures on the Euro Stoxx 50 Index fell 1 percent. The central bank said in a statement that its settlement system was working and that it was able to settle all accounts today without disruption." News agencies report a ship carrying around 100 was swept away by the tsunami. The assessment of the impact is only starting and will likely be massive when all is said and done.



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Chinese Inflation Heats Up Again As PBoC Takes Another Step To Establish Yuan As Reserve Currency

That China's February inflation just came out at a consensus-beating 4.9% is no surprise. After all, the country miraculous slipped just below the consensus so the Department of Truth had to keep things somewhat symmetric. And yes, while this is the 5th consecutive month that Chinese inflation is higher than the official target of 4%, this is not the news of the evening: a press release just issued by the PBoC however is...



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Complete QE2 Cheat Sheet

The chart that answers all pent up QE2-related questions: whether one wants to know the summary purchase statistics during the life of QE2, the cumulative market reaction, the monetary aggregate response, or seeks an answer to more occult topics such as variance around the Submitted-Accepted ratio, or weighted age of purchases, it can all be found here.



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Adjusted Monetary Base: Up, Up And Away

Shortly Zero Hedge will present our quarterly analysis of the liabilities held by the shadow banking system. It's quite a doozy, and cements our belief that whether immediately following or shortly after June 30 (a day, a week, a month), the Fed will have no choice but to proceed with further monetization of public debt issuance, as the private sector debt retrenchment continues at truly alarming levels, leaving just one source of debt money available - the US central bank itself. And with the Fed's desire to stimulate inflationary expectations, it will be forced to do what it is doing precisely as shown below. In the last fortnight period, the Adjusted Monetary Base increased by the second biggest amount in the past year, or $80 billion, following the previous increase of $142 billion as of February 23, or a $222 billion increase in a month. This is due to a surge in excess reserves following the winddown of the SFP program which in the past week increased by $82.6 billion (full Fed Balance sheet breakdown to follow). We continue to expect that Excess Reserves will hit $1.7 trillion by July, or over $300 billion higher from the current level of $1.380 trillion. In the meantime, observe what happens when the Fed goes hog wild with inflationary expectations. A few more days like today in the S&P, and expect Jon Hilsenrath to start the QE3 leaks. And never forget - to the Fed, the Economy and the Russell 2000 are equivalent.



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Guest Post: Chinese Gold Fever

Earlier Lear Capital presented their view on what the basis for Chinese gold accumulation may be. Next we present a comparable analysis by SmartMoney.eu which takes a deeper dive into the demand mechanics originating in China. To wit: "In some parts of Asia, inflation is rampant. Especially in India, food prices and other staples are going through the roof. The prices of some vegetables and spices has risen more than 100%... In China, the prime goal of the communist party is to maintain social stability and to avoid unrest. Targeting inflation is key. Therefore, many Asians are investing their hard-earned money into precious metals. The latest news from China corroborates this: in the first two months of 2011, the Chinese have imported 200 tonnes of gold, which is as much as in the entire year 2010! This is just individual investor demand, we are not even speaking about central bank demand, accounting for the entire Chinese mainland gold production! Chinese gold fever has caused gold demand to triple in the past 10 years, according to the World Gold Council. The Chinese are about to overtake the Indians as the world’s biggest gold consumers." For short-term market timers, as we predicted a week ago, continued pressure on risk assets, such as that today, will most certainly result in forced liquidation in precious metals such as gold and silver. This is absolutely guaranteed as margin calls pile in, and hedge funds, already levered to the hilt have no choice but to sell all outperforming assets, among which gold is at the top. Once liquidations are completed, the question will then be: does the Fed resume its inflationary path (and as a just completed analysis by Zero Hedge confirms, the shadow banking system is once again declining leaving few options for Bernanke). If that is the case, then the long-term fundamentals from a speculative standpoint revert. Add to that the discussed organic demand, and increasingly loud calls for $2,000 gold may materialize sooner rather than later.



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Lear Capital: China Hints at Purpose for Gold Accumulation

It's no secret that China's gold demand is soaring. They are buying mines, concentrates from which to extract gold and as much physical gold as they can secretly buy in world markets.

Reports also indicate, the people of China are being encouraged to buy some gold with every paycheck as the future of the world economy is uncertain at best. As world debt expands, currencies are debased and gold prices rise as a result.



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AIG Goes For Re-Broke, Offers To Repurchase Toxic Subprime Portfolio From Fed For $15.7 Billion

When a bankrupt zombie company offers to purchase from the Fed the very instruments that put it in bankruptcy in the first place, and which the Fed was forced to put on US taxpayers in order to perpetuate the status quo farce, you know the words Banana republic don't even start to begin to express the describe the lunacy we live in.

From Reuters:

  • Submits offer to buy all of rmbs owned by Maiden lane II for $15.7 billion
    in
    cash

  • If accepted, this offer will substantially reduce the amount of
    outstanding
    government assistance to AIG
  • If accepted, offer will guarantee frbny earns a profit on its interest in
    Maiden lane II
  • Says total outstanding assistance from U.S. government will be reduced by
    about $13 billion to total of about $26 billion
  • Says conditions that necessitated Maiden lane II have been resolved


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Guest Post: On Japan’s Bond Market And Its Economy

Reader Nick Ricciardi submits a rather controversial view on the future of Japan: "Over the past few weeks there has been a new round of articles and commentaries predicting doom for Japan’s economy. Yet, as usual, Japan’s bond markets have shrugged off these fears. Japan’s capital markets and its macro-economy are replete with confounding puzzles. But they are all rooted in two basic misconceptions that Japanese hold concerning their debt. Moreover they are understandable if analyzed from a perspective of both the public and private sectors. Doing so gives us insight into why Japan’s public debt offers the lowest yields of any nation when its debt/GDP ratio is the highest, why Japan’s corporate credit spreads are so narrow and its yield curve almost flat, why Japan’s bond prices are less volatile than those of other industrialized nations when its economy and stock market is “leveraged” to global growth, and why the yen tends to strengthen when Japan’s economy turns down."



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In 53-42 Vote, Wisconsin Assembly Gives Final Passage To Bill Stripping Collective Bargaining Rights; Politicians Get Death Threats Over Imminent...

After yesterday the Wisconsin Senate passed the controversial Union Bargaining Bill, using a surprising loophole, resulting in a Union occupation of the Capitol building, the next formality before its enactment has just taken place: the Wisconsin Assembly has just given final passage to the bill, meaning just the signature of Governor Walker is all that is needed at this point, something which will surely happen in the next few hours. And after earlier the Obama administration expressed its disappointment that Wisconsin managed to find this legislative loophole, thereby making the farcical taxpayer funded self-exile of the state democrats all for naught, we are confident the president will be making the teleprompted rounds imminently.



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E-Minis Close At Lows Of Day - Market Drops By Most Since August 11 As Key Support Levels Snapped

After an attempt by the BTFD brigade to restore balance to the central planning force just after mid day was thwarted by developments out of Saudi Arabia, the upward bias gave up the ghost and correlation trading took over, with complete flight to safety overtaking all novel factors, and the market closed below key technical support levels, including both the 50 and 55 DMA. In fact the market closed below the 55 DMA for the first time since September 1, 2010. The stunningly resilient Euro also plunged, as all capital flew to the 10 Year. The last time we had an open to close move as large as today's was August 11 2010, when the market was spooked by the then downgrade of the economy by Jan Hatzius. As a reminder, the only thing that saved the market in August, and why stocks took off and never looked back at the end of August, was because the Fed announced QE Lite in mid August, and then leaked QE 2. What will have it this time, nobody knows.



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A Look At No POMO Friday As Saudi, Yemen, Kuwait And Bahrain Brace For Protests

Newsflow tomorrow is going to be heavy as Saudi, Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain all prepare for protests. And if today's actions are any harbinger of what to expect, there will be serious unrest, quite possible turning violent even lethal. The wildcard still continues to be Iran, also a hotbed of recent protest, which has so far not made much noise about the crackdown on Shi'ites in the wealthy Saudi kingdom. Reuters summarizes what to look forward to: " Arab uprisings that have spread to the conservative Gulf region face a crucial test this week in Saudi Arabia where activists have made unprecedented calls for mass protests against the kingdom's absolute monarchy. Protests are planned in other Gulf countries such as Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain on Friday, the region's weekend. The time after Friday prayers has proved to be crucial in popular uprisings that have brought down Tunisian and Egyptian rulers who once seemed invulnerable. More than 32,000 people have backed a Facebook call to hold two demonstrations in the country, the first of them on Friday. Saudi police dispersed a protest by a Shi'ite minority in the OPEC member's oil-producing Eastern province near Bahrain on Thursday with one to four people wounded as shots were heard, witnesses said." Furthermore, as we disclosed earlier, the Fed may have made a major error by not conducting a market stabilizing POMO tomorrow - arguably the day it will be needed more than ever. Those so inclined are urged to put on some fat tails insurance ahead of tomrrow's events which will most certainly result in some very violent swings in either direction.



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Household Deleveraging Continues As Net Worth Jumps On Stock Market Gains; UBS Sees Stagflation Coming As Real Estate Values Drop To Q4 2003 Levels

Today the Fed released its quarterly Flow of Funds report which is traditionally used to keep track of household net worth and general leverage. While the far more important use of this data, namely tracking shadow banking data is never in the headlines (we will present an updated version later today), the media is more than happy to present any simplistic information without much thought. To be sure, based on nothing but a jump in the stock market, household net worth increased by $2.1 trillion to $56.8 trillion. This increase was due entirely to a change in the value of Corporate Stocks held by the public ($7.6 trillion to $8.5 trillion), Pension Funds ($12.3 trillion to $13 trillion) and Mutual Funds ($4.4 trillion to $4.7 trillion), for a total change of $2 trillion. What did not go up were tangible assets such as housing, which after reversing its plunge from an all time high of $25 trillion in Q4 2006, and hitting a low of $18.5 trillion in Q1 2009, has now officially double dipped, dropping to $18.2 trillion in Q4 2010: the lowest in over 6 years. In other words, the wealth effect is working, but only as long as the Fed can continue to keep the market high. Other real assets are losing value fast. And while consumers continue to deleverage, and non-financial businesses are just barely adding new debt ($11.1 trillion in Q4 2010, a $100 billion increase Q/Q), the government, both federal and state and local, continue to binge like a drunken sailor on debt, which combined for the two increased to an all time record of $11.9 trillion. So while USA Today may rejoice at its simplistic interpretation that we are all getting richer even as real assets decline in value, UBS' Andy Lees thinks that the household leverage trends will ultimately result in stagflation.



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