Guest Post: Argentines Escaping Capital Controls With Bitcoins

President Cristina Fernandez has a stranglehold over what's left of the Argentine economy. Inflation is rampant, corruption is incorrigible, and freedom is waning. Price controls, media controls... they're all part of the same tired playbook that morally bankrupt politicians in financially bankrupt countries have routinely fallen back on for centuries. Fernandez's most insidious move has been to FORCE Argentines to hold the rapidly depreciating Argentine peso. She has restricted her people from changing pesos into other currencies, including gold, as well as created obstacles to move funds abroad. Many Argentines have reached their breaking points and are doing something about it - no more evidenced than by a local tour operator and rental car agency there has started accepting Bitcoins.

CFTC Investigating London Gold, Silver Price Fixing For Manipulation

Years after the CFTC, under the leadership of Goldman's Gary Gensler, theatrically agreed to investigate whether the price of precious metals was manipulated during trading - whether systematically or ad hoc - only to let that inquiry fizzle and drop the whole idea proclaiming there is manipulation, the commodity futures regulators are once again taking a look at shady activities originating at London. Or rather, it is "discussing internally" whether the daily London gold and silver price fixing is open to manipulation.

Guest Post: What Happened To The Uproar Over Energy Speculators?

Gasoline prices in the U.S. Midwest have pulled back from the seasonal highs reported in February. Motor group AAA reported Monday that U.S. commuters paid, on average, $3.69 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, just over 1 percent less than they paid last week. For some markets, that's the first time gasoline prices have declined this year. A series of refinery issues, coupled with higher oil prices, left some motorists in February paying the highest they've ever paid seasonally for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. By the end of February, some drivers in the Midwest were paying nearly $4 per gallon on average, sparking congressional debate over the impact of speculation in the energy market. Given concerns over costs associated with healthcare, insurance and other issues not related directly to energy, it's curious why there aren't hearings when prices begin to fall.

Dow Up Nine-In-A-Row On Lowest Volume Day Of Year

The Dow managed its ninth green close in a row - its best in 16 years - and obviously closed at all-time new highs. The Trannies were the real winner though as they are now up over 4% in March (considerably outperforming the rest of the major indices), and up 29% since mid-November (a 120% annualized return) with no more than a 2.5% retracement in that period. Four stocks dominated TRAN today JB Hunt, Alaska Air, CH Robinson, and Ryder accounting for half the index's gains. Volume was its lowest of the year (ex President's Day). Average trade size was low. On the week, financials and energy are the underperformers. Treasury yields spiked on retail sales, dropped on the auction and go out very modestly higher on the day but not confirming the equity exuberance again. FX markets also pointed to a less sanguine view of the world as the USD rallied and EURJPY (carry) provided little support. VIX held up for most of the day but collapsed into the close back under 12%. Commodities gave back earlier (weaker USD) gains to close at the lows of the day.

Santelli's Primer On The 'Miracle' Of Earnings Expectations

Our last discussion of the miracle of earnings expectations focused on the bottom-up hockey-stick that it seems the consensus believes is ahead (always out there in the future). Today's 'factual' and 'empirical' whiteboard lecture on the 'miracle' comes courtesy of CNBC's Rick Santelli, who appears as frustrated at his co-correspondents permabullishness (see Liesman's flip-flopping views on retail sales today) as the implicit disconnect between the market and fundamentals. To wit, the fact that expectations for GDP growth and earnings are so divergent. With earnings growth expected to be +14.7% this year and nominal GDP around +3-4%, Santelli asks his guest where nominal GDP 'normally' is for such strong earnings expectations - the answer 7.6% nominal GDP growth... reality discussion ensues...

Guess Which Country The IMF Forecasts Will Grow The Most In 2016

The IMF - known for its independence, thoroughness, and Keynesian multiplier fiascoes - is the go-to institution to back any bullish-scenario because one can always rely on any dip in data or markets to hockey-stick back to textbook trend. With that background, we thought it fascinating to see, as Bloomberg Brief notes, which European nation is expected to be the leading economy for the entire Eurozone in 2016. As a hint, in Q4 2012 its economy fell 5.7% YoY, and the nation's overall economy has shrunk 20% since the regression began in 2008. As a final hint, the nation's Finance Minister on Monday told The Guardian the nation was over the worst. We can only hope the 60%-plus of youth that remain unemployed are buoyed by these rosy projections.

Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio Elected As Pope Francis

A surprising pick for Pope, Argentina's 76 year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was not among the front-runners, is now the Pope of the Catholic Church. His chosen name is Pope Francis. He is the first non-European pope since 741.

Major US CEOs' Outlook On Rising Jobs, CapEx Worst Since Early 2010

Despite the plethora of propagandist panderings, the reality of the Business Roundtable (BRT - an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies) findings are far less enthralling than the headlines might suggest. In fact, despite the protestation that their economic outlook ticked up - which as the chart below shows so evidently - is merely a reversion to the lows of 2011; the sad 'fact' is that expectations for higher Sales, CapEx, and Employment are as bad as they have been since early 2010. CapEx, the much-vaunted miracle driver of revenues this year, is below Q4 2009 levels of expectation. Even the BRT itself offers up the words 'moderate' when describing the changes and yet the mainstream media pounce on an uptick like cardinals to the new Pope. It appears that we will have to wait another quarter to see what the CEOs of the nations largest companies are really doing as their stocks soar to record highs.

Guest Post: Net Worth Vs. Net Value

Bhutan's guiding national policy is Gross Domestic Happiness, as a reference point for Net Value. Here in the U.S., we give lip-service to all these values, but ask yourself: where do we spend most of our time? Serving our masters in the State/market economy, creating Net Worth for ourselves or someone else. Yes, we all still need to earn a livelihood, but imagine a society constructed around generating Net Value and Gross Domestic Happiness instead of Net Worth. The power structure would collapse because none of these activities or accomplishments generate enough profits or taxes to keep the Machine operational. A brush with mortality has a way of stripping away the superficial and the false. How many ghosts are we living with while our real lives have been abandoned as insufficiently ambitious and net-worthy?

White Smoke Rises As New Pope Is Elected, Dow Jones Hits New All Time High

Moments ago white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel which means that the Cardinals of the Catholic church have elected a new pope on the second day of Conclave. The identity will be revealed shortly. Stocks take this as a bullish signal and hit intraday highs, and for the DJIA, new all time record highs. All is well in the world.

NYSE Volume Lowest Of 2013

Aside from a very much vacated President's Day trading market, for 1400ET, today is the lowest volume day of the year (in line with Monday's scarcity)... given this lack of real market, the algos are let loose to ply their levitation magic - and sure enough, Dow Transports reach new highs and the S&P pushes on towards that record...

Farage Slams Eurozone As "Complete Economic Disaster"

"The air is thick with denial in this chamber," is how UKIP's Nigel Farage begins his truthiness rant at the most recent European Council meeting. Reflecting on the Italian election and overwhelming success of 'Eurosceptic' political parties, Farage barks that it "is absolutely clear that Eurozone membership is completely incompatible with nation-state democracy." The complete denial (and "unutterable drivel") about the Eurozone crisis incenses him as he says "you'd think listening to everyone this morning that it's over." The real problem, he explains, is that they won't face up to the reality that "You are not facing up to the consequences for what you've done," as he tries to make the technocrats comprehend, "the Eurozone has been a complete economic disaster," because of the Euro - and the disaster is still coming down the tracks.

Gas Prices Resume Rise As RBOB Hits 2013 Highs

The meme of the moment appears to be that sliding gas prices (which by the way merely fell back to mid-February levels) will no longer hamper the over-taxed and under-incomed consumer providing yet more upsided-ness for stocks. Sorry to burst another fictional bubble but Gas prices have now risen for the 3rd day in a row as RBOB (wholesale gas prices) surge to new 2013 highs and crude oil prices push back to one-month highs. Perhaps that is why today's retail sales data (unadjusted) is not providing the pop that so many talking-heads believe is warranted. Between RBOB highs and the RIN issues, is it any wonder the CME just hiked 'crack spread' margins in an effort to keep prices under control?

No Rotation Here: Buyside Demand Soars In 10 Year Treasury Auction

Those expecting to see any indication of that mythical, if completely non-existent rotation out of bonds into stocks (which is really originating out of money markets and savings accounts, and has already tapered out), will not find it in today's US bond auction, which saw the Treasury sell $21 billion in Treasury paper at the low, low yield of just 2.029% (70.31% allotted at the high), below February's 2.046% auction yield, and stopping well inside the When Issued of 2.053% at 1 PM, indicating massive buyside demand and confirmed by all the internals. The Bid To Cover jumped to 3.19, the highest since October's 3.26, and far above the TTM average of 2.96. The Indirect take down was a massive 47.7%, the highest December 2011, when it printed at 61.9%, leaving 30% for Directs, and a tiny 22.3% for the Dealers, which was the second lowest Primary Dealer take down in history, higher only than July 2012's 14%. Overall a whopper of an auction, and confirmation that if anyone has lost interest in frontrunning the Fed, they sure were not in today's auction roster.

Italian Stocks/Bonds Dump (And EUR Slump) On Auction Disappointment

Europe saw red today. Italian equities and bonds traded notably off (with FTSEMIB now -2.7% on the week) amid their biggest drop in over a week and heading back to post-election lows. The driver was a less-than-desirous auction at the short-end of the Italian bond curve (the part of the curve that Draghi 'promised' would be fine) as the 12-month bill went out 43bps above the January lows. This sparked weakness overall as across the board weakness was evident in stocks and bonds in Europe. EURUSD dropped back below 1.2950 for the first time in 3 months. Commerzbank's recap also stumbled markets a little even though it was widely rumored and Europe's financials underperformed broadly. A late-day ramp - oddly starting at 1130ET (when Europe used to close pre-DST) - just like we saw yesterday - saved the day for stocks and crediy overall.

Founder Of Federally-Subsidized Electric Car Fisker Calls It Quits

It turns out that when peddling a flaming paperweight (recall "Total Karma Recall: Fisker Pulls All Cars Due To Fire Risk", "As Another Fisker Karma Spontaneously Combusts, "Green" Dreams Go Up In Smoke" and of course "Fisker Karma Is First Car To Burn Underwater"), even if it is a very pretty and streamline paperweight, not even $529 million (or perhaps due to) in government subsidies can lead to a Hollywood ending and everlasing prosperity. As the WSJ reports, "The founder and executive chairman of electric-car start up Fisker Automotive Inc. said he resigned Wednesday because of "disagreements" over business strategy with the ailing company's management." The founder, "said in an email sent to a small number of journalists that has "left the company." Reached by phone, Mr. Fisker confirmed that he sent the email and that he had resigned."

Samsung Outspends Apple In Smartphone Advertising Dollars

With the marked shift in "coolness" surrounding smartphones away from Apple and toward Samsung (one of the primary reasons why AAPL is trading at or near its 52 week low and at the price target set for it by Jeffrey Gundlach back when the Smart Money crowd was advising their soon to be broke viewers to sell AAPL puts day after day), many wonder if this is merely a drop in innovation by Apple under it new, less visionary and far more Wall Street-friendly CEO, or is it something else? A possible answer is that is may be something as trivial as marketing. As the WSJ reports, in 2012 Samsung for the first time outspent AAPL in advertising dollars, handing out $401 million to raise brand awareness compared to Apple's $333 million.

Has the European Spring Started?

With Angela Merkel and her vassal at the ECB Mario Draghi seemingly in control of markets on the European continent, there is a temptation to pull a George W. Bush and unfurl the “Mission Accomplished” banner.  However, that was a PR blunder for Bush the Younger and it would be a blunder for Merghi as well. There are a couple of items that have hit the tape recently that seem to indicate the ground upon which the Euro is based is shaking. Perhaps you believe Draghi’s open-ended commitment to do, “...whatever it takes,” to bail out Europe’s broken banking system will be enough to stabilize things for good.  Could be. On the other hand, the Merghi doctrine of open-ended support depends upon the sovereigns of Europe voting more or less along traditional lines.  I feel pretty confident saying this will not happen.  Over 25% of the people in two of Europe’s largest, best educated, richest, most populous countries are already saying they reject the status quo.

Dash For Absolute Trash Outperforms Everything In 2013

Worried about potential bankruptcy next week, buy the stock. Concerned at slumping top- and bottom-line misses, buy the stock. Regulatory oversight, buy the stock. Over-leveraged, buy the stock. Fortress-like balance sheet, not so much... Since the mid-November lows at the start of this liquidity-fueled rally de luxe, the most-shorted names in the Russell 2000 have risen an impressive 27% - even more impressive is that this is a 1150bps outperformance over the index itself. As we warned a few times, the list of most-shorted stocks is often a place to find epic (and ridiculous) returns but with our macro hats on for one second, if this kind of 'capital' is flooding into these kinds of companies - we can only imagine the landscape of mal-investment that will be exposed if and when the tide ever ebbs even modestly. For now, the dash-for-trash continues - though today is the first 2-day drop in 3 weeks (but still outperforming the not-most-shorted names).

Fed Pre-Monetizes 30 Year Bond To Be Reauctioned Off Tomorrow

Steven Spielberg gave us Pre-Crime; Ben Bernanke gave us Pre-Monetization. Moments ago, as part of today's concluded $1.464 billion market funding POMO operation, one of the issues purchased by the Fed was the 30 year Treasury identified as CUSIP 912810QZ4. Why is this CUSIP interesting? Because at 1 pm tomorrow, the US Treasury will issue $13 billion in the form of a 29 year 11 month bond reopening. The CUSIP of the issue: 912810QZ4. Because the only thing better than monetizing the US debt is, well, pre-monetizing the US debt.