Meet The 'Jim Cramer' Of China

26-year-old Hu Bin is China's most popular online market commentator - just four years after starting his blog. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek notes, his success started when Premier Wen Jiabao announced a 4 trillion renminbi rescue plan and as 'Commander in Chief of the Stock Market Army' Hu says "I knew I just needed to be clever and use this chance of high liquidity in the market to make myself famous." The brash, eccentric, and outspoken blogger is among the Top 10 most influential people on the Chinese stock market (though under his alias 'Yerongtian' - though preferring the nickname 'Batman') and notes that "any eccentric behavior would attract people's attention. If you understood this vital point, you could control  people's minds." Hu says he is not a financial rabble-rouser adding that "the stock market in the US is managed by regulations; the Chinese market is managed by humans. The 72 million 'retail' Chinese investors aren't as mature as American investors, and I write to meet their immediate needs." While recognizing the irresistible pull of stocks, he understands he's giving advice to people he knows probably shouldn’t be in the market but are going to invest anyway.  What's Chinese for BooYaa?

Guest Post: The Upside Of The Fiscal Cliff

Facing reality is positive. That's the upside to the fiscal cliff. The last decade's fantasy that we could borrow our way to prosperity while lowering taxes on upper-income earners (because it's so cheap to borrow trillions at near-zero interest rates) is finally running into reality-based resistance.

Bulletproof Backpacks And Combat Apparel Sales Soar

First gun sales soared, then Wal-Mart ran out of guns, then parents, stunned by the popular response in the aftermath of the Newtown mass murder which saw the White House threaten to curb the Second Amendment and lead to an even more unprecedented scramble for guns and ammo, and seeing nothing but confusion (but lots of bickering meant to extract nothing but political brownie points) out of the government instead of any hope of actual protection, decided it was time for some vigilante protection. The end result: sales of bulletproof backpacks have soared, with sales exploding as much as 500% since Friday. And since the white line from a defensive to an offensive posture is very thin, it is likely only a matter of time before we get the first media report of a 6 year old armed with a 44 caliber during recess.

European Stocks Ignoring Everything (Like The US Until Last Night)

While Italian and Spanish sovereign bonds weakened notably today, the equity markets across Europe decided that the limit-down move in US futures was a storm in a teacup and ignored it. EURUSD has broken its inexorable 10-day linear ramp leaving the USD almost perfectly unchanged on the week. Italy and Spain equity indices are up 2.6% and 3% respectively while Italian and Spanish bond spreads are around 16bps tighter. Rather like what we witnessed this week in the US, Europe's VIX exploded today (biggest jump since July) as protection was sought in a hurry but the underlying indices did not drop as (just like over here) they are simply too illiquid to cope with the kind of selling that is desired. This leads to the game-theoretical first-mover dilemma - and the preference was to hedge via bonds, FX, and options as Europe closed - because think of the optics if Spanish stocks were to fall? Spot The Odd Market Out!

Steve Jobs' Yacht Seized As Heirs Won't Pay

Steve Jobs' EUR150mm yacht has been confiscated by a court in Amsterdam following Jobs' heirs decision not to pay the designer of the boat. As Holland's Nu.nl reports, the famous designer Philippe Starck had an 'agreement' with Steve Jobs that he would receive 6% of the price (or EUR9mm) of creating the yacht as his payment for designing the epic 80-meter, 27-iMac-controlled behemoth. Unfortunately, the 'agreement' was not on paper as the two men were 'friends' and so the heirs to Steve Jobs fortune have decided that the EUR6mm that Starck has received is quite enough. The yacht remains moored in the Port of Amsterdam under bailiff control. Must be a tough life eh?

 

Guest Post: The Interconnective Web of Global Debt

"Interconnections serve as shock-ampli ers, not dampeners, as losses cascade. The system acts not as a mutual insurance device but as a mutual incendiary device." - Andrew Haldane

 

Is The S&P Set To Test 1370 (Or 1150)?

We noted the VIX divergence (and most importantly the 14-month flatness of the term-structure - which is following the 'debt ceiling' path perfectly!) yesterday and pointed out how illiquid markets were. Critically, those that could were selling into strength and those that couldn't (due to size and illiquidity) bought protection. Overnight the flash crash recoupled S&P to VIX but this morning has seen more protecction buyers step in, driving VIX towards 20% (5 month highs). Given the recent correlations (and managers knowing full well they can't unwind their exposure into the cash market as the avalanche will be too large), VIX implies the S&P at around 1370. Interestingly, this level of S&P is also approximately what a 2% rally in the USD would imply (the FX implication we suggested yesterday of a failed cliff resolution in the short-term).

Consumer Confidence Plunges To Lowest Since July, Biggest Miss Since 2007

After theatrically soaring to a 5 year high in November, when the UMich confidence final print rose above the 82 level, the final UMich consumer confidence number just tumbled by a whopping 10 point down to 72.9, well below the expected 75.0 print, and below the preliminary read of 74.5. This was the biggest percentage slide since February 2007. So much for the great pick up in confidence, driven by the foreclosure stuffed subsidized "recovering" housing market. Perhaps it's time to get a seasonally adjusted confidence number?

Boehner To Explain Plan 'B.O.' - Live Webcast

This should be good. Part apology, part job interview, part finger-pointing; Speaker Boehner is set to speak at 10ET to explain how this is all going to be ok... or not...

Looting Breaks Out In Argentina

If you were wondering why the Argentinian leadership were unwilling to pay off a few 'annoying' hedge funds with a few billion dollars (and were pissed about losing one yacht), then perhaps this report from the BBC will enlighten. Argentina authorities have sent hundreds of troops to the southern city of Bariloche after a spate of looting. Critically, Bariloche is not some shanty-town, it is one of the nation's most popular ski resorts and 'relatively' affluent. The following clip sums up the dangerous situation the nation finds itself in, despite the government's assurances that this is a "false picture of social and political collapse." Looks real to us?

Guest Post: Repressed Fear

The Leuthold Group constructs their Risk Aversion Index (RAI) with a combination of market based indicators,  including credit and swap spreads, implied vol, currency moves, and commodity prices. No doubt quantitative easing is repressing market fear. They also note that periods of low risk aversion tend to run longer than streaks of elevated risk aversion. How long this time? We don’t know but we’re going to think long and hard over the holiday about the potential macro swans in 2013. Here are eight starting thoughts we will be contemplating...

Jingle Bells - The Fiscal Cliff Remix

Fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff;
     Politics in play!
The only thing they have in mind;
     Is the next election day! Hey!
Fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff;
     Isn’t politics great?
They've left us now in such a mess;
     We’ve no choice but to inflate.

November Disposable Income, Durable Goods Soar: Sandy's Fault?

Something funny happened on the way to another "it's all Sandy's fault" justification for economic data misses today: it flipped. Because while in November, Personal spending was expected to surge above personal spending (which printed up 0.4%, in lined with expectations), instead what the BEA - best known for producing such accurate series as the US GDP - reported is that Personal Incomes soared by a whopping 0.6% in November, double the expectations and compared to a 0% print in October. The reason? "Private wage and salary disbursements increased $41.1 billion in November, in contrast to a decrease of $16.3 billion in October.  The October decrease in private wages and salaries reflected work interruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy, which reduced wages and salaries by $18.2 billion at an annual rate." And the stunning data did not end there: real Disposable Income soared by a whopping 0.8% following a drop of -0.1% in October. As the chart below shows, this was the biggest monthly surge in Real Disposable Income in years. The result of all this is that savings, which would have otherwise dropped to a fresh 5 year low, rose to 3.6%. And concluding the wonderful data in the month when the impact of Sandy was to be most acute, we got Durable data, which blasted through the roof, if only on a Seasonal Adjusted basis: with Durable Goods rising 0.7%, on expectations of 0.3%, and the last month revised from 0.0% to 1.1%, while Capital Goods orders non-defense ex-aircraft surged 2.7% on expectations of an unchanged print (with the highest expectation being 1.0%), with the last one revised from 1.7% to 3.2%. (Of course, non-seasonally adjusted durable goods data plunged but who's counting).

The Party's Just Beginning

Still here. We are still here. All of the stuff and nonsense about taxing the wealthy and gibberish about who and when and where to tax is like so much marshmallow spread on a peanut butter sandwich; it just doesn’t matter. The galling omission of not concentrating on what is truly important, the cost of entitlements and social programs and what the nation can and cannot afford shows the true worth of our nation’s leaders which is about equal to a wooden nickel or a three dollar bill. It is the Lost Boys living in Never-Never Land and Wendy nowhere in sight. So the Munchkins have been awakened and I predict the Wicked With is right. The people of Oz have left the poppy fields where they slept in a flower induced dream and will soon be headed into the Emerald City to demand answers. The melting has begun.

Iraq Quadruples Gold Reserves In Two Months - First Time In Years

Iraq quadrupled its gold holdings to 31.07 tonnes over the course of three months between August and October, data from the International Monetary Fund showed on yesterday. The IMF's monthly statistics report showed the country's holdings increased by some 23.9 tonnes in August to 29.7 tonnes. That was followed by a 2.3-tonne rise in September to 32.09 tonnes and then a cut of 1.02 tonnes in October to 31.07 tonnes.  There was no data for November. It is Iraq's first major move in years to bolster its gold reserves. More recently, Brazil raised its gold holdings by 14.68 tonnes, or 28 percent, in November, bringing its bullion reserves to 67.19 tonnes. The addition comes on the heels of an even bigger increase in October when the South American country added 17.17 tonnes to its reserves. In September, it  increased holdings by 2 tonnes. Meanwhile Turkey cut its gold holdings last month by 5.84 tonnes to 314 tonnes from October. The country allows commercial banks to use gold as collateral for loans, and changes to its balance sheet are often connected to such activity.

Quad Witching Cliff-faller

It may not be apparent immediately, but in the aftermath of last night's epic collapse in fiscal cliff negotiations, which incidentally was perfectly obvious to anyone with half a brain and who experienced last summer's debt ceiling fiasco, which sadly excludes all paid political and financial - including sellside - commentators, all of whom expected a prompt resolution to this polarized issue as recently as a week ago, there is major behind the scenes panic. Because while banks would write profuse, long-winded essays to explain the logic and rationality of the "deal", now that they are all faced with adjusting their narrative the best they can come up with are two sentence fragments such as this one from Citi's Steven Englander "Problem is that it is the right wing of the Republican Party that wouldn’t give Boehner their support, making it less likely that he could win broad support among Republicans for a compromise with the White House. Also he will have to spend next couple of days negotiating with both his own party and the Democrats without knowing how much he can deliver." The answer: nothing at all. In fact as Scott Rigell said “I’m not sure the people who have been up here 20 or 30 years really understand what the next iteration of this process is”.  He is speaking for pretty much everyone else who has now been made a total fool by the Black Swan that is Congress. As a reminder a 3 month delay resolution assures a US recession, and a ~20% or so minimum correction in the stock market, which has been priced for absolute perfection for months, and which will once again have to be used by Wall Street as a means to get a consensus out of DC. Just as we predicted over a month ago. Finally while we may have avoided the Mayan apocalypse, we do have a quad witching and a NASDAQ rebalance to look forward to. Enjoy!

Frontrunning: Mayan Apocalypse Edition

  • This is signal, the rest is noise: Russia's Putin set for stand-off with EU on Syria, energy (Reuters)
  • Boehner's Budget 'Plan B' Collapses (WSJ)
  • Boehner has few options in "fiscal cliff" mess (Reuters)
  • Maya "end of days" fever reaches climax in Mexico (Reuters)
  • Monti Praised by Merkel Favored Less by Taxed Italians (BusinessWeek)
  • China probes Yum Brands' KFC over safety of chicken productsa (Reuters)
  • Looting in Aregentina: 400 Border Guard officials deployed to Bariloche over looting (BAH)
  • Regulatory 'Whale' Hunt Advances - Comptroller Expected to Take Formal Action Regarding JPM's Trading Fiasco (WSJ) - but no punishment
  • U.K. Banks Seen Sacrificing Lending to Meet BOE Demand (Bloomberg)
  • US banks face rise in bad loans cover (FT)
  • Daily Gun Slaughter in U.S. Obscured by Newtown Rampage (BBG)
  • China Restricts Bond Sales by Risker Companies (BBG)