World War Is Coming, Currency War That Is - Russia Warns

It will not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent more than a few cursory minutes reading ZeroHedge over the past few years (initially here, and most recently here, and here) but the rolling 'beggar thy neighbor' currency strategies of world central banks are gathering pace. To wit, Bloomberg reports that energy-bound Russia's central bank chief appears to have broken ranks warning that "the world is on the brink of a fresh 'currency war'." With Japan openly (and actively) verbally intervening to depress the JPY and now Juncker's "dangerously high" comments on the EUR yesterday, it appears 2013 will be the year when the G-20 finance ministers (who agreed to 'refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies' in 2009) tear up their promises and get active. Rhetoric is on the rise with the Bank of Korea threatening "an active response", Russia now suggesting reciprocal devaluations will occur (and hurt the global economy) as RBA Governor noted that there is "a degree of disquiet in the global policy-making community." Critically BoE Governor Mervyn King has suggested what only conspiracists have offered before: "we'll see the growth of actively managed exchange rates," and sure enough where FX rates go so stocks will nominally follow (see JPY vs TOPIX and CHF vs SMI recently).

NYSE Short Interest Plunges To March 2012 Levels

As if the already documented record $220 billion year end equity market injection courtesy of deposits (being used by bank prop arms to invest in risk assets) was not enough to send markets into nosebleed territory to start the new year, which fully explains the institutional (note: not retail) capital flood into equity funds and ETFs as has been trumpeted every day for the past week by CNBC (we will update the retail data from ICI today), here is yet another reason why the 2012 to 2013 transition has everything to do with trading technicals and nothing to do with fundamentals. As the chart below shows, the reported level of NYSE short interest tumbled as of December 31, to 12.9 billion shares, a major 5% decline - the largest incidentally since December 30, 2011 - the lowest level since March, and a trend which has likely persisted as the shorts once again have thrown in the towel (except for Herbalife of course). Of course, this collapse in bearish sentiment, which goes hand in hand with the surge in NYSE margin debt to 5 years highs, is only sustainable if and only if the Fed has now fully eradicated all risk and all volatility in perpetuity. Which for now, judging by the epic ongoing smackdown in the VIX, is succeeding. That will change.

Here Comes The Sequester, And Another 1% Cut To 2013 GDP

From Goldman Sachs: "Allowing the sequester to hit would, in our view, have greater implications for growth than a short-lived government shutdown, but would not be as severe as a failure to raise the debt limit. Although Republicans in Congress generally support replacing the defense portion of the sequester with cuts in other areas, there is much less Republican support for delaying them without offsetting the increased spending that would result." And in bottom line terms: "Sequestration would reduce the level of spending authority by $85bn in fiscal year (FY) 2013 and $109bn for subsequent fiscal years through 2021. The actual effect on spending in calendar 2013 would be smaller--around $53bn, or 0.3% of GDP--since reductions in spending authority reduce actual spending with a lag. The reduction in spending would occur fairly quickly; the change would  be concentrated in Q2 and particularly Q3 and could weigh on growth by 0.5pp to 1.0pp." In other words: payroll tax eliminates some 1.5% of 2013 GDP growth; on the other side the sequester cuts another 1%: that's a total of 2.5%. So: is the US now almost certainly looking at a recession when all the fiscal components to "growth" are eliminated? And what will the Fed do when it is already easing on "full blast" just to keep US growth barely above 0%?

Guest Post: Why The Innovation Premium Is Diminishing

Looking ahead, we can speculate what this new era will mean for all technology sectors. If this trend holds, then profits within the entire space will slide as the premium slips ever-faster toward near-zero, i.e. every device and software become commoditized. This slide in total product-cycle profits may inhibit innovation as the pay-off dwindles. This trend may also spark greater efforts to erect moats around innovations, for example, more lawsuits against global corporate competitors and louder demands for the U.S. and other advanced nations to limit the importation of knock-off products based on pirated/stolen designs and software. Many observers are of the view that intellectual property rights are impediments, and their weakening is a good thing. But that ignores the motive for innovation: will everyone have to be a Linus Torvalds and innovate in the open-source space? Hardware innovations often require substantial investments of capital. Will those with capital invest in innovations if the premium degrades too quickly to earn a high return? Or have we become greedy, and a lower total return on innovation is an outcome that we should welcome as both inevitable and positive? "Faster, better, cheaper" eventually wins-- but that should not be a justification for theft. Competition should be based on innovation, not on piracy and theft. If someone doesn't like the premium being charged for someone else's innovation, then they can create their own innovation that fills the moat with a lower-cost alternative. That is the sustainable path of "faster, better, cheaper."

Citi On The Debt Ceiling: "First Complacency, Then Horror"

While we will shortly present some practical perspectives on what the debt ceiling fiasco due in just about a month, means practically for the economy (think sequester, and another 1% cut to US GDP, which when added to the payroll tax cut expiration's negative 1.5%-2% impact on 2013 GDP, and one wonders just how the US will avoid recession in 2013), here is a must read perspective from Citigroup on how the markets may and likely will react to what is shaping up to be another "12:30th hour" (the New Normal version of the eleventh hour) debt ceiling resolution, which is now under a month away. To wit: "We think this means that 1) risk will sell off less approaching the debt ceiling deadline; 2) currency investors will hold on to risk in spot but buy tail risk hedges; and 3) there will be a wholesale cutting of positions in FX and other asset classes, if the debt ceiling is breached. So it may looks as if the debt ceiling breach is not worrying asset markets, but it means that investors are banking on the chestnuts being pulled out of the fire. If they are not pulled out, positions go up in smoke."

Chart Of The Day: The Fibonacci Fade And January 22

For the Fibonacci fans out there, here is something rather stunning from Newedge's Brad Wishak. In the chart below, the strategist looks at the duration in days of each stock rally leg since the 2009 bottom. What is rather amazing is follow through between one rally and the next in terms of, you guessed it, the Fib 61.8% retracement. As Wishak comments: "obvious is the diminishing marginal utility of each bath of QE manifesting itself in shorter and shorter rallies. Less obvious is the underlying rhythm of the start and stopping points. Applying the 61.8% retrace to time, called the the most recent September stock highs within 4 days. And projecting this pattern forward, we're now just around the corner from the next 61.8% top, which hits on January 22." Because if in a centrally-planned world DeMark indicators still have any relevance, then certainly so does Fibonacci.

No Inflation In December BLS Says

The December CPI is out, and according to the BLS, or more specifically, it's X-12 Arima reality processors, there was no inflation in the past month, with headline CPI printing at 0.0%, as expected, and up from a 0.3% deflation in November. Excluding food and gas, CPI rose 0.1%, less than the expected 0.2%. Compared to a year ago, inflation was a tame 1.7%, the BLS would like you to believe, and 1.9% ex food and energy. Luckily these numbers exclude such soaring in price items as education, and it certainly excludes a proxy for reserve inflation such as the stock market, which while certainly not a part of staple purchased goods, shows just where the free Fed money is going. As such, the S&P is as good a proxy of real, free money generated "inflation", as anything else. Naturally, once the stock market bubble pops, things will change, but for now why buy food when one can buy FUD and pray there is a greater fool to sell it to in a day or to. The biggest reported change in inflation Y/Y is in the price of medical care services which increased 3.7% compared to December 2011, and Utility gas service, which in turn declined by -2.9% from a year earlier. Finally, for those confused why producers see the need to dilute coffee and bear, and add just a little more than the RDS of horse meat to burgers, the reason is that food at home prices increased by 1.3% in 2012, while dining out has gotten a whopping 1.8% more expensive. That's right: the price of the food you eat at home has increased by 1.3% in the past year - so says the BLS which apparently like the Fed, only eats hedonically adjusted iPads.

Bundesbank Official Statement On Gold Repatriation

"By 2020, the Bundesbank intends to store half of Germany’s gold reserves in its own vaults in Germany. The other half will remain in storage at its partner central banks in New York and London. With this new storage plan, the Bundesbank is focusing on the two primary functions of the gold reserves: to build trust and confidence domestically, and the ability to exchange gold for foreign currencies at gold trading centres abroad within a short space of time.  The withdrawal of the reserves from the storage location in Paris reflects the change in the framework conditions since the introduction of the euro. Given that France, like Germany, also has the euro as its national currency, the Bundesbank is no longer dependent on Paris as a financial centre in which to exchange gold for an international reserve currency should the need arise. As capacity has now become available in the Bundesbank’s own vaults in Germany, the gold stocks can now be relocated from Paris to Frankfurt."

Goldman Removes Boeing From "Conviction Buy" List

For those curious how it is that Goldman just reported a stunning beat across the board, here is a hint: the firm had flaming paperweight extraordinaire maker Boeing (a firm which has now had at least one component in 4 Dreamliners spontaneously combust, and has lead to the grounding of the entire ANA and JAL fleets) on its Conviction Buy list. At least until today, when the stock is indicated to open some 5% lower. Which means as of moments ago, Goldman is done selling BA stock to its clients. With conviction.

Goldman Beats On Solid Top Line Results; Average 2012 Employee Pay Rises To $399,506

Unlike JPM, there is little that can be faulted with Goldman's just released Q4 earnings, which saw total top-line surge to $9.24 billion on expectations of $7.83 billion, while net earnings printed at $2.822 billion, or $5.60 diluted, nearly double the $1.458 billion reported in Q3 and far above the $978MM in Q4 2011. This beat was driven by solid performance around the board, which was to be somewhat expected: after all this was a quarter of success for the world's most connected hedge fund, which saw one of its own rise to the top of the world's most venerable central bank: the Bank of England, and is certainly pining to have a Goldmanite replace Shirakawa as head of the BOJ in one month. Rhetoric aside, Goldman's performance was impressive, posting the best results since Q1 2012, when total revenues hit $9.9 billion. Increases were seen across all segments, with Investment banking rising to $1.4 billion, Equities up to $2.3 billion, Investment Management at $1.5 billion, and Investing and Lending, aka Prop (yes, the firm discloses it has a prop group, much to the dismay of many people out there apparently) of $1.973 billion. The only weak spot was FICC which while posting a solid $2.0 billion in revenue, actually declined from the $2.2 billion in Q3. Finally, while the comp benefits accrual taken in Q4 was only $1.976 billion, or 21.4% of revenues, on a blended TTM basis and based on the firm's 32,400 employees (down from 32,600 in Q3), this means that the average Goldman bonus in 2012 will be just under $400,000. This is up from $367,057 a year ago: a nearly 10% increase. At least someone's wages are going up.

JPM Beats Thanks To Ongoing Loan Loss Reserve Releases; NIM And Trading Revenues Decline, CIO Posts Loss

The much anticipated JPM earnings are out and while the company beat superficially, posting Q4 revenue of $24.4 billion vs expectations of $24.3 billion, and adjusted EPS of $1.35 "ex-items" vs expected $1.22, the real story as usual is below the surface. And in this case below the surface means what happens with the firm's Net Interest Margin, Trading Revenues, Loan Loss Reserve Releases and, of course, the busted "CIO and Treasury" aka London Whale unit. Starting with the last we have this: "Treasury and CIO reported a net loss of $157 million, compared with net income of $417 million in the prior year. Net revenue was a loss of $110 million, compared with net revenue of $845 million in the prior year. Net revenue included net securities gains of $103 million from sales of available-for-sale investment securities during the current quarter and principal transactions revenue of $99 million. Net interest income was a loss of $388 million due to low interest rates and limited reinvestment opportunities." JPM also warned to "Expect Treasury and CIO net loss of $300mm +/- in 1Q13; likely to vary each quarter." Funny how the once amazingly profitable CIO is no longer is a cash cow when it can't invest excess deposits and recycle reserves via repo into cornering the IG market. Finally, the Net Interest Margin, firmwide and core, declined by 3 and 7 bps respectively QoQ due to, per JPM, lower loan yields, lower yields on  investment securities; limited reinvestment opportunities; and higher balances in Fed funds sold and certain secured financings. In other words, ZIRP continues to take its toll on a bank which can no longer be a hedge fund and which can't make money on the NIM curve.

Two 787 Fleets Grounded, As Well As Overnight Optimism

Those who went long Boeing in the last few days on hopes the "smoking battery" issue had been resolved, especially following Ray LaHood comment's he would fly the Dreamliner, which is rapidly becoming the Nightmareliner for Boeing, anytime anywhere, are about to be grounded, as is the entire 787 fleet of All Nippon Airlines and Japan Airlines following yet another incident forcing an emergency Dreamliner landing. This happened after ANA "alarms indicated smoke in the forward area of the plane, which houses batteries and other equipment, the airline said, and there was a "burning-like smell" in the cockpit and parts of the cabin. The plane landed at Takamatsu airport in western Japan, where the 129 passengers were evacuated using the plane's emergency chutes. The plane also carried eight crew members. ANA said that the exact cause was still undetermined. The event was designated as a "serious incident" by Japan's transport ministry, setting off an immediate investigation by the Japan Transport Safety Board, which dispatched a team to the scene." The result - a 4% drop in the stock so far premarket, and if any more airlines are to ground their fleet the implications for the backlog could be devastating, it will only get far worse for both the company and the Dow Jones average, of which it is part.

Guest Post: Inflation Rocks The UK As Beer Gets Watered Down

These types of stories are popping up with increased frequency throughout the western world.  Products are simply declining in quality, and in many cases these declines are being accompanied by price increases.  Remember my article from a week ago Inflation Hits Coffee as Brewers Secretly Swap Robusta for Arabica.  This is more or less the same story, except this time in the UK and centered around beer.  From CNBC: Britain’s favorite pint of bitter is being watered down as austerity continues to bite and taxes rise. John Smith’s Extra Smooth, billed as “no nonsense beer”, is being reduced from 3.8 percent alcohol to 3.6 percent in response to rising costs and reduced beer consumption. Heineken, which is also raising the cost of the famous bitter by about 2.5 pence a pint, said it was bringing John Smith’s “in line with competitor smooth ales that already sit at or below this alcoholic strength”, including its biggest rival, Carlsberg’s Tetley Smoothflow.... Now here is my favorite line: “Extensive research conducted with retailers and consumers consistently confirmed that a 0.2 percent reduction in [alcohol content] does not compromise on the taste and quality,” a Heineken U.K. spokesman said.... Um yeah, but it does compromise on the alcohol…the main reason most people drink beer in the first place.

America's 'Invisible' Poor - An Infographic

Are more and more people in the western world dropping off the radar and becoming the invisible poor or is the opposite happening?  We are always interested in looking at the financial health of real people. We noted earlier that an astounding 46 million Americans are officially below the poverty line (That's $23,050/year for a family of four according to the official sources). That number really caught's eye and as such they decided to do a little more digging to help put some more facts and figures around it. The below is an excellent visualization of the results they came up with. Conservative MP Norman Tebbit when responding to a question on unemployment noted "I grew up in the 30's with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking 'til he found it." Are the American (and possibly other western populations) poor really in this mess because they are lazy (27% of Americans think so) or is it because they don't have the right work ethic (49% of Americans think this is all it would take!)?

An Analytic Framework For 2013

In one sentence, during 2013, we expect imbalances to grow. These imbalances are the US fiscal and trade deficits, the fiscal deficits of the members of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the unemployment rate of the EMU thanks to a stronger Euro. By now, it should be clear that the rally in equities is not the reflection of upcoming economic growth. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, economic growth "should be made of sterner stuff". Many analysts rightly focus on the political fragility of the framework. The uncertainty over the US debt ceiling negotiations and the fact that prices today do not reflect anything else but the probability of a bid or lack thereof by a central bank makes politics relevant. Should the European Central Bank finally engage in Open Monetary Transactions, the importance of politics would be fully visible. However, unemployment is 'the' fundamental underlying factor in this story and we do not think it will fall. In the long term, financial repression, including zero-interest rate policies, simply hurts investment demand and productivity.

One Year Of Tax Hikes On The Rich Is Promptly Spent As $60 Billion Sandy Relief Aid Bill Passes

After more than two months of political grandstanding, finally the $60 billion pork-laden Sandy relief aid bill has passed through the House in a 241-180 vote (with 1 democrat and 179 republicans voting no), with the vote passing courtesy of just 49 republicans who voted with the democrats. The reminder objected in protest "against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut" Politico reports. Specifically, the House approved a $50 billion relief bill, after several hours of contentious debate in which scores of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the size of the bill and offset a portion of it with spending cuts. $9.7 billion had been already voted on January 4th for a flood insurance lending facility.The biggest winner today? Chris Christie whose anti-Boehner soapbox rant drama two weeks ago may have been just the breaking straw that forced the passage of this porkulus bill.

Exposing Europe's "Syphilitic Structural Core" With MEP Daniel Hannan

In an impassioned 80 seconds, MEP Daniel Hannan exposes the structurally rotten "syphilitic core" of a European Union whose existential crisis has now seemingly been pronounced 'over' by those wondrous self-denying members of the European elite. "There is an extraordinary denial going on," the eloquent Englishman expounds as he notes that they still "haven't addressed the fundamental problem," of 'applying a single monetary policy to countries with widely divergent conditions and means' leaving unemployment rising and growth stagnating. He notes that the crisis in one respect is over, the moment of decision of taking one of two paths, is indeed over - and "the squaller, the wretchedness, the unemployment and poverty have now become structural."

Platinum Overtakes Gold As South African Mining Problems Return

In some ways it is lucky that the platinum coin nonsense is dead and buried because there may have been certain procurement issues. The reason, as was the case late in 2012, is that the South African mining situation is once again rapidly unraveling, despite hopes by third parties that recent wage compromises between employers and unions had managed to leave striking workers and mining companies at a tense but cordial  impasse. However, as was easily predictable, following the substantial wage hike demanded by miners to end strikes, what resulted was perfectly expected: a collapse in profits. And now Anglo American Platinum has no choice but to shutter a variety of facilities and fire workers outright in order to restore the pre-riot profitability. From AP: "The world's largest platinum producer said Tuesday it will close some operations, sell one mine in South Africa and cut 14,000 jobs. Anglo American Platinum said a nearly yearlong review found that four mine shafts needed to be closed and one mine sold because of unprofitable operations. The government's minister of mines and the National Union of Mineworkers, NUM, expressed surprise and shock at the announcement." 

Deutsche's Bullish For 2013 Despite These 6 Huge Downside Risks

In their view, 2013 will likely mark the dawn of the post-crisis era, but it seems the premise for Deutsche's somewhat ebullient 2013 outlook (below) is that central-bankers remain on standby to counter any and all negative risks. Despite the brinksmanship, politicians will act to prevent systemic collapse and while structural long-term issues such as high debts across the developed world and unbalanced growth models in emerging economies remain unsettled, Deutsche argues that 2013 could be a year of stabilization after years of crisis-fighting. The following presentation is broad-based and lays out a "don't fight the central banker" meme perfectly; however, the six key downside risks (from China NPLs to European political unrest) that they highlight (but gloss over in their somewhat Pollyanna-ish way), should at least - in our humble opinion - raise some concerns about the bimodal distribution of outcomes that await risk assets in 2013.