With Western condemnations rife, bailouts ready to flow, US F-16s on the ground in Poland, Crimea voting to join Russia, and allies pulling back from sanctions, we anxiously await President Obama to explain his next steps and just what will trigger them...
Newsweek claims to have identified the mysterious creator of Bitcoin. Satoshi Nakamoto - long believed to be a pseudonym - was hunted down through searches, conversations, and national archives: "It was only while scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized U.S. citizens that a Satoshi Nakamoto turned up whose profile and background offered a potential match. But it was not until after ordering his records from the National Archives and conducting many more interviews that a cohesive picture began to take shape."
Some remain skeptical that Newsweek have found him but making such a bold claim is aggressive and comments from Bitcoin lead developer Gavin Anderson suggest this is the real Satoshi.
Ukraine's Acting President Turchynov is not happy about what his 'fellow countrymen' in the east are doing:
- *UKRAINE PARLIAMENT TO DISSOLVE CRIMEA LEGISLATURE: TURCHYNOV
- *UKRAINE PRESIDENT SAYS ONLY NATIONAL CRIMEA VOTE IS LEGAL
- *UKRAINE'S TURCHYNOV SAYS MARCH 16 REFERENDUM WOULD BE 'FARCE'
- *TURCHYNOV CALLS MARCH 16 REFERENDUM 'CRIME AGAINST NATION'
So how will he enforce that decision? Perhaps this is the instigation that Putin has been waiting for? Bonds and precious metals are suddenly bid on this news.
The "safe" haven of precious metals is once again well bid this morning as Draghi's disappointment sent the EUR higher (and USD lower). Gold and silver have now recovered all the losses from the flight-to-high-beta-equity that followed Putin's press conference on Tuesday. So since he spoke, oil prices have collapsed (hurts Russia) but US stocks have surged (as bonds dumped). Must maintain the illusion of control (but it appears the PMs are leaking that status quo trust away).
Two years ago, the mega law firm Dewey and LeBeouf shocked the legal world when it announced, out of the blue, it would be filing for bankruptcy following an exodus of employees as the money had run out. However, as usually happens in cases like these, it was not just gross incompetence that was at fault: one must usually add major act criminality to explain such a rapid fall from grace. Such was the case in the Dewey bankruptcy too. Moments ago former top executives from bankrupt U.S. law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf were criminally charged for "cooking the books" at the once prestigious firm and defrauding investors and lenders. So for those curious, here is how a law firm - and here we can only assume Dewey is hardly alone - can cook the books for 4 years thinking it can get away with it.
Nothing says global 'economic recovery' like a major retailer drastically missing revenue expectations, slashing earnings projections and announcing it will shutter 225 stores nationwide. Staples, the largest US office supplies retailer, hit the triple whammy and didn't blame it all on the weather as the CEO notes "our customers are using less office supplies." Or maybe there are just less office workers? Isolating Staples is a little unfair but as the largest (and most belwhether-ish), it is perhaps time to question the constant meme of escape velocity, improving fundamentals, and cleanest-dirty-shirt growth...
While the biggest strategic news of the day is that the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia with a done deal referendum to be held in a few days, as well as collapse of the anti-Russian sanction lobby with Germany and others getting cold feet against boycotting Russian goods, the tactical developments continue. Of note: earlier today the leader of the most persistent pro-Moscow protest movement in eastern Ukraine was arrested at his home in the city of Donetsk on Thursday, a Reuters journalist who was with police on the raid said. Around 10 members of the SBU security service arrested Pavel Gubarev at his apartment in a five-story Soviet-era block in the eastern city, on charges of "infringing the territorial integrity and independence of the state". He did not resist.
The following charts are a summary taken from the "Money as you Grow" presentation prepared by the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability (created by executive order). What it highlights are "20 Things kids need to know to live financially smart lives" and is Barack Obama's personal advice to children ages 3 through 18+ on how they should spend their money. The list, which includes among it such brilliant advice as "you may have to wait before you can buy something you want", "it can be cost and dangerous to share information online" (with the NSA), "putting money in a savings account will protect and pay you interest", "the sooner you save, the faster your money can grow from compound interest", "your first paycheck may seem smaller than expected since money is taken out for taxes", "you should use a credit card only if you can pay the money owed in full each month", and of course "you need health insurance" has been pulled straight from Bizarro Day, and literally redefines New Normal humor since everything it recommends is the opposite of how the real world now works.
For the 3rd month in a row, US Factory Orders missed expectations with a major downward revision to December's data (-2%) and has fallen two months in a row. Inventories continue to rise - up nine of the last ten months to the highest level since records began. Better just hope for all that pent-up demand to flood back or we have a problem.
Though many may reckon the U.S. government (and its Deep State) are not so much incompetent as merely evil, we suggest incompetence sows the seeds of evil consequences. Why is our government so incompetent? Short answer: because incompetence has been fully institutionalized in every branch, every agency and every nook and cranny of the state.
Moments ago, Reuters blasted the following headline:
DECREE MAKING CRIMEA PART OF RUSSIA HAS COME INTO FORCE FROM MOMENT OF ADOPTION; RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES ARE ONLY LEGITIMATE FORCES IN REGION -DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF CRIMEA
On the surface, this would mean that the Russian annexation of the Crimea if complete (and East Ukraine is coming). Especially when one considers that earlier Crimea also said it could adopt the Russian rouble as its currency and "nationalise" state property as part of plans to join the Russian Federation, a regional official was quoted as saying on Thursday.
Promises, promises. A lack of easing, aside from a promise of "lower for longer", has driven EURUSD back above 1.38 as the market is once again disappointed by Draghi's lack of exuberance.
- *DRAGHI SAYS UNEMPLOYMENT STABILIZING, REMAINS HIGH (umm, continues to rise every month?)
- *DRAGHI SAYS UPSIDE, DOWNSIDE INFLATION RISKS REMAIN LIMITED (umm, continues to plunge every month?)
- *DRAGHI SAYS RISKS TO ECONOMIC OUTLOOK ARE ON DOWNSIDE (umm, stocks are at record highs?)
- *DRAGHI SAYS REAL INCOME SUPPORTED BY LOWER ENERGY PRICES (umm, so no sanctions on Russia then?)
But apart from that, Draghi is "nailing it"...
Must be the weather... Initial jobless claims swung from the worst in 2014 last week to the best in over 3 months this week, with a 323k print (well below the 336 expectation). No states estimated claims this week but even the Labor Department suggests the series' volatility is "coinciding" with winter storms. Overall claims dropped 8,000 to 2.91 million on the week but it is clear the descending trend is over for this series - which fits with ADP and ISM Services weakness.
Dismally drifting towards deflation as credit creation is a long and distant thing of the past in the European Union, this morning's decision to hold rates unchanged leaves a lot of "whatever it takes" hope left for the press conference. Whether he will ease lending standards, cut haircuts, enable more securitization, push direct lending (there's no demand!), or "promise" open-ended QE - it's all on the table but we suspect it will be more talk and "whatever" he is doing so far is working... stocks are near record highs and bond yields record lows - which must mean Europe is fixed...
While Janet Yellen fell back on the ubiquitous central banker statement that she "would do all that [she] can" it was Dallas Fed's Richard Fisher who raised the most eyebrows yesterday. In a speech in Mexico City, the central banker said he was concerned about "eye-popping levels" of some stock market metrics warning that the Fed must monitor the signs carefully to ensure bubbles were not forming. While other Fed members have paid lip-service to bubbles, Fisher explicitly discussed stocks in the context of the dot-com boom of the late '90s warning of "the ghost of 'irrational exuberance'" and worried about corporate bonds too.