These Are The Ten "People" Who Run The World (For The Last 20 Years)

Everyone knows that politicians are merely muppets, controlled by financial and corporate interests, injected into an anachronistic legacy represenational system designed to give the person on the street some sense of nominal control over day-to-day events. And while bankers control the flow, production and cost of money, without some means of converting labor (someone else's) into capital (their own), all the money in the world would be for nothing (and the myth that debt is wealth would be extinguished). Which leaves one true controlling agent: Corporations, or as they are better known by the Supreme Court: "people." Which is why, for all those curious who really calls the shots, below we list the top 10 corporations by market cap over the past 20 years. While the landscape has changed at the very top, the premise has not. Looking to find who has been truly in control over the past two decades? Look no further.

On This Day In History, Oil Prices Have Never Been Higher

The recent drop in WTI crude oil prices has brought out the ubiquitous "well, that's a tax cut for the US consumer" recency-biased talking-heads always looking for a silver-lining to justify something. What they fail to notice, is at $103.57, this is the highest price WTI crude oil has ever been at the end of September. The reason timing is important is the annual cycle of oil prices means comparing Summer with Winter and so on is misleading. So is the highest price ever for oil in the Fall still a positive for the economy?

T-Minus 4 Days Till Government Shutdown: The Latest Summary

With government shutdown day (now in 3-D IMAX) just four days away, some are unsure what the latest developments are in the fluid and rapidly shifting landscape of Capitol Hill. For their benefit, here is a pithy but comprehensive summary of where we stand currently.

Weekly Bull/Bear Recap: Sept 23-27th 2013

This objective report concisely summarizes important macro events over the past week. It is not geared to push an agenda. Impartiality is necessary to avoid costly psychological traps, which all investors are prone to, such as confirmation, conservatism, and endowment biases.

Bonds And Gold Bid; USD And Stocks Skid

Despite the late-day shenanigans that usually occur on a Friday (especially in light of the end-of-month proximity), the S&P closed red with its worst 6 day run in 5 weeks. The Nasdaq and the Russell managed to cling to unchanged as the Dow, Trannies, and S&P slid 1.3% or so on the week. Treasury yields fell for the 3rd week in a row with 5Y yields plunging 36% in that time - the biggest drop in 25 months. The USD fell 0.2% on the week with GBP and JPY strength the biggest drags. Silver and Copper ended unch after a very volatile week, gold the winner +1% and WTI -2% on the week. VIX was well bid, up 1.5 vols as the term structure cracked to the flattest in 4 months... and JCP is 'Breaking Bad'.

Obama's "You (Didn't) Shut That Government Down" Speech - Live Webcast

3:30 pm on a Friday, check. 4 days away before a possible government shutdown, check. Epic disagreement in the House over everything and anything, check. A president who can read but not really lead, check ("to you, Mr. Yellen"). So what comes next? The president takes the teleprompted podium, of course, and is about to do what he does best: blame the republicans. The only unknown: will the "middle class" people on the podium behind Obama be representative of the (non) deadbeat class whose credit cards have been cut off too?

Government Shutdown Odds: 40%, Nomura Estimates

In a world in which everyone has become an ultra-short term pathological gambler, and every outcome is a zero-sum prop bet, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to quantify the probability of the event that the market (for some inexplicable reason) is so transfixed on: the government shutdown (inexplicable, because anything more than a few day shutdown risks a full blown mutiny by the tens of millions of government workers). So without further ado, here is Nomura, with its "estimate" of a government shutdown on October 1: 40%.

The Big-Picture Economy, Part 5: The State, Taxes And The Shredding Social Contract

As the state borrows trillions of dollars to support its Aristocracy and dependents, its debt skyrockets. The political Aristocracy expects the tax donkeys will carry a heavier burden without revolting, and the 60% "tyranny of the majority" who pay little but collect enough to get by will be wary of risking their benefits by resisting the existing political-financial kleptocracy. In terms of democracy, the tax donkeys are trapped; they can't match the tens of millions in political contributions of the top .5%, and the 60% below them will support the status quo out of fear that the alternative could be even worse. Politically, the system is unbreakable. Financially, it is unsustainable.

Meanwhile, Billionaires Have Big Problems

They say "money can't buy happiness" (though it will pay for the search) and it seems despite all their billions, Tesla's Elon Musk and Amazon's Jeff Bezos just can't find a happy middle ground over the control of a historic launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. According to Bloomberg, SpaceX (Musk), and Blue Origin (Bezos) intend to ramp up their launch schedules and "there are a limited number of East Coast established launch sites." Of course, in the new normal we live in, both sides have taken the higher ground and are trying to get Congress' attention, "it doesn’t matter if you’re making buggy whips or rockets, the way to get Congress’ attention is to hire a lobbyist," and sure enough the letters are flying. And after all: what billionaire can be truly satisfied unless they own a rocket launch pad?

Thorsten Heins' "Punishment" For Destroying BlackBerry: A $55 Million Golden Parachute

While it is not entirely accurate to blame the ignominious downfall of RIMM BlackBerry on current CEO Thorsten Heins, who only took over from Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille in early 2012 at a time when the company's decline into irrelevance was already in progress, it is safe to say that the amount of stockholder value destruction under Heins' watch has been unprecedented. As such, one would imagine that the compensation for Heins is "equitable" to his value created for the company and its shareholders, i.e. zero. One would be wrong: as it turns out, and as Reuters reports, in the case of an "exit" event, such as the (faux) $4.7 billion LBO by FairFax Holdings at a price that is just shy of it decade (and longer) lows Heins will profit handsomely, and certainly make far more money than anyone who was long BBRY under his watch. Because the golden parachute that awaits the German, is valued at a whopping $55 million: an amount he will pocket no matter how said exit is achieved, and at what price (or rather cost) to shareholders.

Senate Votes On Stopgap Spending Bill - Live Webcast

Update: Senate Achieves 60 Votes to Advance Stop-Gap Spending Measure

The vote in the Senate to pass a stopgap spending bill/continuing resolution that strips out the Obamacare defunding provision has begun. It will promptly pass and be sent back to the House where the confused wrangling (see "Plan C") among the GOP will resume. Watch it live.

When Bubbles Fail: Albert Edwards Explains What Happens When The Fed Can No Longer Contain The Fury Of The "99%"

"They’re at it again! US inequality is surging and the Fed has created another house price boom. Does this matter? Well I think so. But who cares what I think. Warren Buffet, Bill Gross and Stanley Druckenmiller think it matters. Clients marvel at how the US profits’ share of GDP remains so high and that labour remains so weak. Marc Faber said recently that in postponing the QE taper, we have merely climbed to a higher diving board. I go further. I see growing inequality draining the swimming pool dry. The crunch, when it comes, will be ugly"...  Investors should make no mistake. The anger of the 99% will ultimately not be bought off by yet another central bank inspired housing bubble, engineered to pacify them and divert their attention as their real incomes fall and inequality continues to grow." - Albert Edwards

European Peripheral Bond Risk Spikes Most In 6 Months

European stocks fell for the first week in the last four with financials leading the way (though only down 1% on the week). There was considerable dispersion among the individual nations though with Greece up 4.75% (of course, why not, as Merkel's victory sunk in), Italy down 1.3% and Spain up 0.77%. But in bond land the picture was very different with Spanish and Italian bond risk surging. Italy's 29bps spike pushes the spread to 2 month highs and Spanish risk jumped 23bps on the week. Europe's VIX ended unchanged but saw some of the strangest trading we have ever seen.

Chicago Fed Crushes Recovery Dreams In 2 Tweets

Some joked that the Chicago Fed's Twitter account must have been hacked buyt it turns out that is not entirely true. Following Esther George's "renegade" comments last night, Austan Goolsbee was unleashed by Fed's Evans to lay down some ugly truthiness in 140-character-world. The results - in these 2 tweets - say everything about the level of excessive optimism that remains in our new normal world...

Five Years Later: FHA Demands $1.7 Billion Treasury Bail Out

One would think that five years after the bail out of the GSEs, that the Federal Housing Agency, the government agency created to insure loans made by banks and other private lenders for home building and home buying, would be stable and growing. After all, the "housing recovery" and those $3 trillion (and rising exponentially) in liquid injections by the Fed should have assured it. Right? Wrong. Moments ago, the FHA, just as we predicted, officially announced it needs a government bailout in the form of a $1.7 billion in funding from the Treasury to "cover projected losses in a mortgage program for seniors" and specifically losses due to reverse mortgages: those Fonzy-advertized fake piggy bank programs that end up anyone who uses them through the nose, and now taxpayers too.  But... but... but... if the FHA just failed.... does that mean they lied about the housing recovery too? Unpossible!

Consumer Sentiment Plunges To 5-Month Lows; Biggest Miss Of 2013

Following the flash print's record miss, today's UMich consumer confidence came in below expectations (that had been cranked down from 81.9 to 78.0). At 77.5, it was the first miss in 2013 and the lowest print since April and the largest 2-month decline in 2013. This is the first consecutive monthly drop in 14 months and the largest miss vs expectations on record. Printing at 76.8 (against an expectation of 82.0), this is the lowest in 5 months and points to the picture we have been painting of a consumer increasingly affected by rising rates and soaring gas prices amid stagnant incomes. As Citi notes below, this is the exact same pattern we have seen play out in the last 2 cycles and suggest significant downside risk to US equities. The economic outlook sub-index collapsed to its lowest since April.