Now that Jeff Gundlach is out there making big residual waves (with Barron's as usual just 3-6 months behind the curve), here is, once again for those who missed it the first time around, Gundlach's latest presentation. The next update from Gundlach will be on March 15. We will present it to readers as soon as it hits.
Refuting reports that the two Iranian warships had passed the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, Suez Canal officials said that the ships are not to sail through until... tomorrow (when international FX markets are open at half volume mast). Previous reports on Iran's Arabic language state television channel Al Alam TV reported that the ships had passed through the Suez Canal (as, of course, had Debka). Although in reality a 24 hour difference will likely not matter much. The key aspect is that Egypt has indicated that it will not bend to international pressure when it comes to "canal neutrality" rules - something that will likely not inspire confidence in Egypt. As for the warships, we doubt anyone will to take a real defensive posture - after all as we pointed out previously both of these are over 30 years old, and any escalation would be purely symbolic to further mobilize middle eastern forces, based on "provocation" rhetoric. Look for some fireworks in FX trading overnight and tomorrow when already subdued volumes exagerate the impact of any potentially troubling news headline.
What could possibly be the most important unreported news from the weekend comes out of China, where quietly Internet postings have circulated, calling for disgruntled Chinese to gather on Sunday in public places in 13 major cities to mark the "Jasmine Revolution" spreading through the Middle East. The postings, many of which appeared to have originated on overseas
websites run by exiled Chinese political activists, called for protests
in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and 10 other major Chinese cities. And while there has been some speculation this latest "social network" protest is nothing more than performance art, the Chinese authorities sure are taking it seriously: "The calls have apparently led the Chinese government to censor
postings containing the word "jasmine" in an attempt to quell any
potential unrest. "We welcome... laid off workers and victims of
forced evictions to participate in demonstrations, shout slogans and
seek freedom, democracy and political reform to end 'one party rule',"
one posting said." Just like surging prices (which however are either forcefully adjusted to not be reflected or eliminated entirely from the data stream) caused virtually all prior Chinese social revolts, will they succeed again? And more improtantly, will China demonstrate to the US that the only way to prevent a 'twitter revolution' is to wrest control of the internet entirely? If so, how many days before Big Brother is actively scouring through every single 100Base TX for daily keywords of choice with HBGary patiently waiting in the corridors to unleash a destructive DDOS at a moment's notice?
A topic which we anticipated last summer, and which has come to shocking and rapid fruition ever since the beginning of the year with the self-immolation of a Tunisian protester, resulting in a tsunami of violent revolutionary uprisings across the developing world, has been the question of whether and to what degree Bernanke's monetary policies are responsible for what is becoming an indirect wave of suppressionary genocide (today alone, between Libya, Yemen and Bahrain over 500 people have been killed). And while Zero Hedge is far less ambivalent about the underlying cause of the surge in anger (in most of the affected countries, the bulk of their population has to spend well over half of its income on food and energy), and when people who already have nothing, see whatever little they have left taken away as well, they see no downside in violent revolution, there are some more moderate views. Below we present one, courtesy of reader Chindit13.
Even as Ben Ali was fleeing his country, his presidential palace continued to be a hoard of all the items he had "borrowed" over the decades. As Al Arabiya reports, "Tunisia's ousted president stashed diamonds, gold and wads of cash in secret spots around his palace in the impoverished country's capital, according to video shown by state television on Saturday." The clip below shows the objects Ali was in too much of a hurry to pick up. Among these: wall safes full of cotton fiat, necklaces and other trinkets. Alas: not a single bar of silver or gold anywhere. It seems the dictator may have lacked in PR skills, but he sure knew what to pick when fleeing the country.
We were concerned that the video posted earlier of the slaughter of unarmed protesters in Bahrain would be too graphic. Alas, not even a few short hours later, we have received another video, this one far worse, of a Libyan boy shot in broad daylight by a sniper. Those who want to see the dire consequences of what the overflow of global discontent looks like, in no small part driven by Federal Reserve monetary policies which as the World Bank indicated have just made another 44 million people fall in the "extreme poverty" level, can do so here. It really is time to start keeping track of all the victims of Bernanke's monetary policies. At the rate things are going, within a few years Bernie Bernanke will have to defend himself (and his policies) before a tribunal.
A recently released report by the World Bank’s Food Price Watch confirms that rising agricultural products are sharply pushing up global food prices in lower-income nations (see “World food price uncertainty presents social risks,” in AsiaNews, 4 February 2011), especially among the poorest (where the poverty line is defined as US$ 1.25 per person per day). The WB’s global food price (GFP) index increased by 15 per cent between October 2010 and January 2011, 29 per cent above its level a year earlier. The global prices of wheat, maize, sugar and edible oils especially saw sharp increases. According to the WB estimates, an additional 44 million people fell into poverty. For some Asian nations, the price of wheat rose considerably: Kyrgyzstan (54 per cent), Bangladesh (45 per cent), Tajikistan (37 per cent), Mongolia (33 per cent), Sri Lanka (31 per cent), Azerbaijan (24 per cent), Afghanistan (19 per cent), Sudan (16 per cent), and Pakistan (16 per cent).
If you, like us, are tired of all the textbook pundits claiming over and over again that QE is nothing but an asset swap (odd how asset swaps get food prices to hit all time highs, not to mention M2, and to reverse what has formerly been a trillion dollar annualized drop in shadow banking - must be that latest outbreak of disinflation...), we urge you to read the following essay from Sean Corrigan. The Diapason Securities strategist as usual manages to cut through the academic drivel and hit at the core of the issue. The conclusion: "money does not have to be borrowed into existence, it can be
spent into existence by the state for so long as that money's recipients
show a willingness to accept it as a medium of exchange - and that is
exactly what we have at work here...the government spends money it does not have into existence and
disburses it through its welfare/patronage network; the associated debt
is then taken up by a monetary institution (not least, the Fed itself,
whether by its earlier process of debt substitution on private sector
balance sheets when it was buying MBS, or in its current, direct uptake
of Treasuries at the NYFRB) and the non-bank sector ends up with increased holdings of new MONEY as a result... The Fed has successfully placed a great deal of new
money in the hands of those same banks' customers and this is patently
exerting its expected influence on the prices of a whole range of
non-money goods and assets, in a typically differentiated,
Cantillon-effect fashion. How anyone can deny this is truly a mystery!" Indeed.
As more videos such as this make the mainstream, we are concerned that not only are the days of the current Bahrain regime numbered (which also implies the future of the US Navy's 5th fleet is uncertain), but that Saudi Arabia, which has supposedly volunteered to get involved in restoring "peace" to its small neighbor, is getting ever more nervous. We continue to be amazed at how effectively the Bernanke Put is working to mask the true level of geopolitical instability. If and when the crowd realizes that Bernanke, who has proven his efficiency at printing dollar signs on pieces of cotton, may be slightly less adept at doing the same with barrels of oil, the outcome will be amusing.
World Bank's Robert Zoellick, who has recently been on a truth-telling roll, suggesting a return to the gold standard, and also highlighting that surging food prices have suddenly pushed 44 million to extreme hunger around the world raising the likelihood for many more revolutions, penned an oped in yesterday's FT, sharing his vision for a "monetary regime for a multipolar world" in which, not surprisingly he warned that the current monetary system is perilous, and that China's Yuan should be added to the SDR, as well as other currencies "over time." This is yet another dig at the dollar's status as a reserve currency, yet without China taking proactive steps to indicate its interest at becoming the new de facto world currency, the status quo may be stuck with the greenback. Essentially, China is waiting until the right moment emerges, a time when it has stockpiled enough resources, when it can, unilaterally, or in collaboration with Russia and potentially a post-EUR Europe, make an announcement that the Yuan is the new reserve currency, backed by a basket of commodities. This is precisely the step-change that Zoellick is trying to avoid: "A framework to manage a monetary system in transition may be less headline-grabbing than sudden regime change, but it is a lot more realistic. Modernising the management of international monetary affairs could prove an important contribution to future growth. The time of powerful kings is long gone. But today’s leaders still have the chance to stamp their mark on the monetary framework of tomorrow." Unfortunately, the possibility of a gradual transition in which the US willingly cedes ever increasingly more of its reserve status is unthinkable: after all the bulk of the Fed's disastrous policy is dictated that no matter what the Chair does, the world has no choice but to continue using dollars. Which will work until it doesn't (and with total US debt at almost 100% of GDP, the "doesn't" part is approaching.
The one company that will, without a shadow of a doubt, blow up the entire market should it finally reverse its trend of near exponential growth in recent months, and which has recently started indicating some (very) modest pricing weakness, is now held by more hedge funds than ever before. According to the just released Hedge Fund tracker from Goldman Sachs, Apple is now owned by 195 hedge funds, compared to 190 in Q3 as previously reported, and 181 before that. The world's biggest hedge fund hotel is filled to the brim. These fast money, marginal price determining buyers (and, yes, sellers) now hold 4% of the $332 billion equity cap. And with a solid 12% YTD return in the name, not to mention a negligible 1% short interest of market cap, the time to move on to greener pastures may be approaching. For now, all funds are docile and very well behaved participants in the game theory "don't sell" prisoner's dilemma. Yet with every dollar upside we are getting closer the first imminent defection. And a stock which can crash 10% on the merest hint of the passage of its founder, a stock which in turn accounts for 20% of the Nasdaq, and thus is a driver the ES and the global stock market, means that the continued meltup of the global stock market continues to rest on the shoulders of a sick man. That our regulators allow this is criminal and beyond reproach. But that's ok: it's all because of their prohibitively low budget. After all, how many bangbus subscriptions can $1 billion annual budget really buy?
There goes another "fat finger" red herring. On Thursday and Friday, when we noted that borrowing under the ECB's Marginal Lending Facility has spiked from roughly €1 billion to €16 billion for two days in a row, we mocked the MSM explanation that this was merely the result of a fat finger, or at worst a faulty recalendarization of a term-MRO borrowing activity for an overnight one (at the exponentially higher rate of 1.75%). As expected, and as we predicted, this was indeed a case of bank gone wrong. Or two. The FT reports that "Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society, Ireland’s two most troubled lenders, were behind a spike in overnight borrowings this week from the European Central Bank, according to people familiar with the transactions." And while we now know who the guilty parties are, the explanation once again leave much to be desired. It is no surprise that all European banks are exclusively reliant on the ECB for funding, which as previously indicated confirms that the Euribor market is a relic of the past since nobody approaches other banks for capital - everyone goes straight to uncle Jean Claude... And in doing so pledges any and all collateral, even if it means running an outright ponzi scheme. "Both banks have become heavily reliant on the ECB’s liquidity funding over the past 2 years, as they have been unable to roll over maturing bond debt and have seen an outflow of deposits." Yet instead of acknowledging that this action is merely a liquidity crunch, the FT's explanation is that the surge in borrowing has to do with the ability to unwind collateral on a moment's notice as a function of the banks' restructuring, instead of having it locked up for a week under the MRO. We are not sure if this "explanation" is just as, or more, laughable than the fat finger one.
A week ago, when we reported on a move by the Dutch central bank that ordered a pension fund to forcibly reduce its gold holdings, we speculated that "this latest gold confiscation equivalent event is most certainly coming to a banana republic near you." And while we got the Banana republic right, the event that we are about to describe is not necessarily identical. It is much worse. A bill proposed in the State of Washington (House Bill 1716), by representatives Asay, Hurst, Klippert, Pearson, and Miloscia, whose alleged purpose is to regulate secondhand gold dealers, seeks to capture "the name, date of birth, sex, height, weight, race, and address and telephone number of the person with whom the transaction is made" or said otherwise, of every purchaser of gold in the state of Washington. Furthermore, if passed, Bill 1716 will record "a complete description of the property pledged, bought, or consigned, including the brand name, serial number, model number or name, any initials or engraving, size, pattern, and color or stone or stones" and of course price. But the kicker: if a transaction is mode for an amount over $100, which means one tenth of an ounce of golds, also required will be a "signature, photo, and fingerprint of the person with whom the transaction is made." In other words, very soon Washington state will know more about you than you know about yourself, if you dare to buy any gold object worth more than a C-note. How this proposal is supposed to protect consumers against vulture gold dealers we don't quite get. Hopefully someone will explain it to us. We do, however, get how Americans will part with any and all privacy if they were to exchange fiat for physical. And in a police state like America, this will likely not be taken lightly, thereby killing the gold trade should the proposed Bill pass, and be adopted elsewhere.
Dear Ben: I don’t know if you read ZH. I bet you do. It would be disappointing to learn that you didn’t read some of the leading edge financial blogs. But if not, I bet at least one of your staffers does. If you’re any kind of manager, they won’t be afraid to bring this to your attention. Or perhaps Ron Paul’s staffers can shoot a copy over to your office. It’s a simple petition, really, in the traditional sense. I hope you will consider it. I understand the conclusion you came to in 2008 and early 2009 after a career spent studying the Great Depression, and I also understand that you feel justified in using whatever channels are available to you as proxy helicopters to drop cash. And it works. You’ve essentially manipulated the US and world markets as though they were remote control funny-cars, bent to whatever short-term route you desire, though we have yet to see what the second and third-order effects are. I mean, beyond food riots, destabilization of the Middle East, gas prices that American citizens won’t ultimately be able to afford, agriculture prices that will play havoc with corporate margins and retail food prices, the US dollar losing its reserve-currency status… things like that.
When we reported on last week's net spec contract position per the CFTC, we noted that speculators are expecting a roughly 50% hike in the price of rice based on comparable historical patterns. Updating for this week's data confirms that the upside price bets, which increased from 6,652 to 7,114 have just surged above the previous top hit in late 2009, of 6,773. Yet they are still just shy of the all time highs from February 2008 when they stood at 7,883. As the spec activity in rice predates major price moves rather efficiently, the continued bets on a price surge mean something is bound to snap. And with rice prices continuing to be rather sticky, considering the move in all other grains, we may be in for a very major break out in the coming week. Or not: as we have now learned the hard way, the banking cartel has way to keep commodity prices low, until explosive break outs confirm that one can only manipulate a price down for so long. With recent disclosures by Wikileaks that China had been imposing pressure on the Treasury and the US banking system to get what it wants, is it too surprising to assume that just as JPM has long been manipulating the price of silver, so Chinese interests in the US (remember - quid pro quo in a M.A.D. world) have been instructed to keep the price of Rough Rice as low for as long as possible.