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Simon Black Digs Through The Black Box That Is China's Economy, Doesn't Like The Results

The way I view it, China has compressed 100 years of economic growth into 30 or 40 years, so naturally the annual growth rate has been fast. One thing that history has taught us, though, is that the free market cannot be continually outperformed by a central planning authority that inflates its money supply. Rapid credit expansions can definitely give the appearance of strong economic growth, but no credit expansion has ever lasted permanently. In the long run, an economy can only continue to move forward at strong growth rates via increases in savings, productivity, technology, and innovation. The truth is, nobody knows what China's real growth rate is. I remember spending time in the country's gray markets-- huge roadside, makeshift shopping malls with tens of thousands of people engaging in off-the-books transactions-- thinking to myself 'no way GDP numbers account for this...'



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$32 Billion 3 Year Auction Prices At 1.349% As Foreign Bid Plunges And Fed Indirectly Pockets 62% Of Issue

Today's 3 Year bond auction priced without much fanfare, and luckily so: while it came at 1.349%, slightly weaker than expected (1.345%), compared to last auction's 1.027%, ot a 30% jump in interest in one month, it is the internals that were most disturbing. The Bid To Cover was strong enough at 3.01, compared to 3.06 previously, and 3.14 LTM average, yet what was remarkable was the takedown. And as we have been warning for a while now, it was the Indirect Bids (the Chinas of the world) that basically decided to take a raincheck on the auction. The Indirect takedown was just 27.6% of total, with $8.8 billion of the $32 billion going to Indirects (nonetheless the hit rate was 57%). This is the lowest Indirect takedown since May of 2007! And while the direct bid was a subpar 10.1%, it was the Primary Dealers that saved the day: at 62.3%, or $20 billion of the entire auction, the Fed essentially monetized two thirds of the entire auction de novo. And remember this Cusip: QH6: we can guarantee that within a month, the Fed will buy back at least 50%, or $10 billion, of the Primary Dealer take down portion.



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Guest Post: Why Small Business Isn't Hiring And Won't Be Hiring

Memo to pundits and politicos: you worship at the altar of Capitalist profits driving small business--get real. People will do whatever they have to in order not to go broke. That's why the three guys or gals aren't renting an office--who needs the overhead? They also don't have health insurance: who can afford $1,000 a month for crappy, confusing "care" young people rarely even need? Better to pay cash. And they aren't hiring "employees": they're paying their friends with equity shares, or cash, and paying their own taxes is up to each free-lancer. That is the new model of American entrepreneurship: no office, no overhead, no employees, no health insurance, no business travel. That's the only way any new enterprise can survive. Everyone who buys into the myth and pays absurdly high rents, junk fees and healthcare insurance will be ground down and bled dry. The only exception are those well-connected enough to run a pipe into the limitless lake of Federal money. Yes, 40% of the lake is borrowed from our kids, but no matter--the "recovery" is real, and this stone with a crudely painted radio dial is in fact a working radio. It's magic. You just have to believe.



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The Latest In Insider-Trading Gate: Two Former SAC Traders Charged

The latest development in the insider trading gate, whose sole target is and has always been SAC, appears to be closing in on the target. According to a press release to be held shortly, two former SAC employees are about to become cooperating witnesses for the government. The ex-SACites are Noah Freeman and Donald Longueuil, which according to Bloomberg worked at the fund between 2008 and 2010. The full conference by US Attorney Preet Bharara is due any moment. This is likely just an intermediate phase before the big names start being accused as bigger cases are built against those at the very top.



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Beveridge Curve Enters Twilight Zone

Thanks to the Department of Central Planning, the Beveridge Curve has recently entered the twilight zone. According to the latest job opening rate, the unemployment rate should be around 6.5%. In reality, when accounting for the record 6.6 million persons not in the labor force who want a job now, not to mention the millions of others who are not even counted in the labor force, the true jobless rate (U-3) is somewhere around 12%! In fact, if one were to represent the data in a fashion that captures reality, the curve would start resembling that of a volatility smile, which is odd now that the only Put in the market is that of one Rudolf von Bernankestein. But such are the vagaries of data reporting in a regime whose only purpose is to represent the positive side effects of 1,000% RDA consumption of hopium.



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Here We Go: Suez Canal Workers Go On Strike

"Suez Canal Company workers from the cities of Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia began an open-ended sit in today. Disruptions to shipping movements, as well as disasterous econmic losses, are expected if the strike continues. Over 6000 protesters have agreed that they will not go home today once their shift is over and will continue their in front of the company's headquarters until their demands are met. They are protesting against poor wages and deteriorating health and working conditions." [lots of sics in there] via AhramOnline



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Guest Post: The "Matrix" Market: Effects Of Quantitative Easing, High Frequency Trading

A well-trodden meme of TV and cinema has been the plot in which someone or something uses tantalizing illusions to sap humans of their will to resist while simultaneously pursuing hostile ends. In The Martian Chronicles, the subtle race of Martians distracted the invading Americans with irresistible life-like illusions that spoke to their most intimate yearnings. In one episode of the X-Files, a fungus slowly digested an unlucky couple who lay in a field and were rendered completely passive by the fungus’ hallucinogenic properties. And then, most famously, the machines of the movie The Matrix ruled over a ruined wasteland and seduced people with a beguiling virtual reality in order to maintain their passivity while they tapped humanity’s body heat as an energy source. Now, a lot of investors believe that life is imitating art in an alliance of the Federal Reserve and the big banks to create the illusion of healthy equity markets despite massive retail equity withdrawals in the years following the financial crisis.



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Job Openings Drop By 250K In Last Two Months, Stand At 3.1 Million In December

According to the latest JOLTS survey released by the BLS, the number of total job openings in December declined to 3,063,000 a drop from November's 3.2 million and even more so from October's 3.328 million. Expressed as a Job openings rate, this was a third consecutive decline, dropping from 2.5% in October to 2.3% currently. And while job openings were dropping, separation levels increased from 4.084 million in October to 4.154 in November and 4.162 million in December. The bulk of separations occurred in the construction industry where we saw a print of 473k, or over 100K more than November's 363K. Recall that construction jobs are what the recent NFP weakness has been primarily blamed on. Digging into the Separations numbers (which includes quits, or voluntary and discharges, or involuntary separations), the Quits level, which was at 1,991K in December was the highest Quit print since August 2010, when the number hit 1,998K.



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Gold Break Out Continues As 50 DMA Gap Is Close To Being Filled

Following a strong break out this morning, gold continues its push higher and is now just $8 away from the critical 50 DMA of $1374, which had served as a major support level up until a recent round of margin collateral requirements and the CFTC's grandfathering clause spooked the weak hands in gold in mid-January. Should the 50 DMA be passed (and with the 30 DMA already in the rear-view mirror), the technicals will promptly become a tailwind again, and allow smooth sailing to resume all the way to the all time nominal highs in the $1430s.



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Rosenberg On How Only The 10 Year Can Break The Market's Trendline And What Can Dent Top-Line Corporate Growth

Comparisons to last year's market performance continue coming from left and right. Today, David Rosenberg looks not only at the broken trendline from late last summer, when the market's decline was only arrested with the seemingly unnecessary QE2 (not to mention massive fiscal stimulus into year end) - well, if it was not needed why was it implemented, and why is it still running? Because the market, pardon economy, will crack at the first hint of excess liquidity tapering, forget removal. What should market strategists look for to see if we get a repeat of last spring's market topping action? Simple: the 10 Year (and real inflation)- "If we do go to 4% on the 10-year Treasury note on the back of higher inflation expectations, then rest assured the broad expectation will be that it is headed next to 4.5% and it will be interesting to see how the equity market would respond to that prospect." We conclude by looking at why top-line corporate growth, largely driven by foreign growth, is due for a decline.



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Bruegel Think Tank Says Greece Should Restructure Debt Now, Claims Country Is Insolvent And Further Lending Is Not Viable Strategy

It has been a while since we were reminded just how bankrupt Europe continues to be. And while the market has put European solvency issues on the backburner now that some CDO is about to purchase 5 times its weight in toxic sovereign debt (which somehow means everything can be swept under the rug for at least 2-3 months), a Belgian think tank reminds us again that the "Greece Question" is still as open and festering as always, no matter how many lies G-Pap throws at anyone gullible enough to still listen to him. Greek paper Kathimerini cites Belgian think tank Bruegel which "has recommended that Greece should restructure its public debt as soon as possible, and that this should be one of the main elements of a comprehensive response to the eurozone crisis to be agreed by European Union leaders when they meet next month. In a policy brief published on Monday, the Bruegel think tank argues that Greece is “clearly on the verge of insolvency” and that the swift restructuring of its debt, with creditors accepting a 30 percent “haircut,” should form part of a three-pronged strategy that includes the strengthening of the eurozone banking system and policies to foster greater growth in member states with weak economies. “Our conclusion therefore, is that Greece has become insolvent and that further lending without a significant enough debt reduction is not a viable strategy,” the think tank argues." Of course, should Greek proceed with the inevitable impairments, the domino effect will promptly take out marginal banks across the continent leading to precisely the toxic spiral which Ben Bernanke and his European colleagues have been trying hard to avoid.



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Richmond Fed's Lacker Says FOMC Should "Seriously" Re-Evaluate QE2

Yesterday Richard Fisher, now it is Jeffrey Lacker's turn to speak out against QE2 and inflation concerns. Just more jawboning or are we actually going to see more dissenting votes finally? Keep in mind Lacker is an alternate member on the FOMC board in year 2011 and is not a voting member. From remarks presented by Lacker to the University of Delaware. "The Committee recognized that the provision of further monetary stimulus at this point in the business cycle is not without risks, and therefore committed to regularly review the pace and overall size of the asset-purchase program in light of incoming information and adjust the program as needed. The distinct improvement in the economic outlook since the program was initiated suggests taking that re-evaluation quite seriously. That re-evaluation will be challenging, because inflation is capable of accelerating, even if the level of economic activity has not yet returned to pre-recession trend."



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Morning Gold Fixing: Gold Bullion Considered As Collateral By International Clearing House – LCH.Clearnet

A further sign of how gold bullion is increasingly seen as not only a safe haven asset and a currency but also a financial asset, is news that the LCH.Clearnet is giving further consideration to a plan to accept gold bullion as collateral. They may accept gold bullion as collateral against margin positions on a range of asset classes and derivatives in the international financial markets. LCH.Clearnet have been considering allowing gold as collateral since October 2009 and the move by the CME and JP Morgan to allow physical gold as collateral may have made their plans in this regard more concrete. "We’re looking at it closely,” David Farrar, LCH.Clearnet Director of Commodities told CNBC (see News). “It’s something that, subject to regulatory approval, we’d look to introduce later this year."... Keynes’s ‘barbaric relic’ is becoming less barbaric by the day. However, the man in the street remains completely unaware of this trend as it continues to be ignored by mainstream media and its implications not realised.



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Frontrunning: February 8

  • China Raises Key Interest Rates to Counter Inflation (Bloomberg)
  • Egypt approves 15-percent pay raise for government employees (Xinhua) which supposedly are 70% of all employees 
  • Citigroup Settles Fraud Cases Tied to Texas Mortgage Assigner (Bloomberg)
  • Rival Koreas meet for talks as tensions ease (Reuters)
  • Misquoting Keynes (Hussman)
  • Osborne raises bank levy to £2.5bn (FT)
  • Rich Get Richer as Governments Tout Austerity (Bloomberg)
  • Sara Lee profit misses, blames higher commodity costs, but company backs '11 outlook (Reuters)
  • Cash Buyers Lift Housing  (WSJ)


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Egyptian Central Bank Intervenes To Prevent FX Rout

In a world in which every central bank is laser-focused on destroying its currency, interventions that serve to stabilize currencies are a fond memory. Yet that is precisely what the Egyptian Central Bank did earlier after it intervened directly in the FX market to support the EGPUSD after it plunged to lows of 0.168. Subsequent to the intervention the pound jumped modestly to 0.1701, which only means that the intervention support level will be promptly taken out in the next four days if not hours. The inverse spot rate is 5.8789, which as we predicted a few days ago is about to surge far higher, even when taking Ben Bernanke's admonitions that the ECB has no choice but to keep its currency weak. Of course, a plunge in the EGP simply means that food will get all that much more expense, and let's remember for a second just what was the reason for the revolution in Egypt to being with...



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