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US Pays Half Of Gazprom's Overdue Invoice With $1 Billion Ukraine Loan Guarantee

With Ukraine no longer paying for Russian gaz, and with Gazprom making it clear Kiev has to a) first pay the overdue $2+ billion in invoice and then b) prepay some $5 billion in gas until the end of the year of Europe gets it, it was only a matter of time before the US Treasury stepped in and paid off part or all of Gazprom's demands. That time is now, when moments ago Jack Lew announced a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine - very much the same way that the US provided billions in loan guarnatees for the now long overthrown Mursi regime in Egypt. And in other news, many more "costly" and "damaging" US sanctions are surely headed Russia's way any second now.



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Flashing Red Warning: Q1 Earnings Growth Plunges To Lowest Since 2012

While the so-called "experts" were adamant in repeating that one must ignore all Q1 economic data (because of harsh weather you know), one thing the same "experts" pounded the table on was the earnings growth in 2014 which confirmed that the Fed was correct in tapering and that the corporate sector was well on its way to achieving "escape velocity" and a stable recovery. And then this happened...



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East Ukraine Braces For Military Operation As Ultimatum Passes: Full Ukraine Event Recap

As was expected, so called Russian separatists completely ignored Ukraine's 0600 GMT ultimatum to hand over their weapons and give up, which means Ukraine now is in the clear, according to its leaders, to engage in the previously warned military "anti-terrorist" operation. As a result, as Reuters updates,  "towns in eastern Ukraine on Monday braced for military action. As the 9 a.m. (07.00 a.m. BST) deadline issued by authorities in Kiev expired, a Reuters reporter in the flashpoint city of Slaviansk, where armed men had seized two government buildings, said there was no outward sign the rebels were complying with the ultimatum." Subsequent reports indicated that since the deadline passed, at least 4 people have been killed however since virtually no "factual" propaganda news out of Ukraine is to be believed, we would heavily discount this update.



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Citi Mortgage Originations Drop To Record Low

What was worst, and naturally will not be discussed at all by the peanut gallery, about Citi's just announced results is that the amount of Citigroup mortgage originations - that key aspect of the trumpeted "housing market recovery" - did what it has done at every other bank. It plunged. Only at Citigroup, it plunged so badly, it just reached a new record low which at $5.2 billion is a 71% drop from a year ago! Long live the housing recovery... in which nobody seems to be participating.



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Retail Sales Surge By Most In 18 Months Led By Spike In Auto Sales

Not entirely surprising given the data from the automakers in recent weeks, but the 3.4% jump in auto dealer sales provided enough juice to push overall retail sales in the US up 1.1% MoM (beating expectations of 0.8% and with last month's data revised higher). This is the biggest month-over-month jump in retail sales since Sept 2012. The question, of course, is whether this auto spike is sustainable to support the overall sales environment or will the ever lowering credit standards of the subprime auto loan market lead to the inevitable collapse in a few months?



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Commodity-Backed Currencies? China Buys Huge Copper Mine; Russia Onshores Largest Gold Miner

The last few days have seen Western anti-Russian rhetoric and red lines escalate dramatically as the military and economic issues come to light in any push back against Putin's pressure. From NatGas export fallacies to "boomerang"-ing sanctions, the west seems stuck (for now).. which brings up the question - why is China and Russia making huge investments in commodity-miners? Russia's largest gold miner Polyus Gold is considering a complete onshoring of its activities and China is buying a huge Peruvian copper mine from Glencore. The outcome would appear to enable both firms to do away with USD but not having to buy this resource in the market... just mine it?



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BofAML Warns VIX Complacency Suggest Stocks Fall Further

While US equities have spent much of the past several weeks under pressure (the NASDAQ bio tech index has fallen over 21%, the NASDAQ Comp is down over 8% and the S&P500 is down over 4%), BofAML's Macneil Curry is concerned that the VIX index suggests conditions should deteriorate further before greater signs of a base materialize.



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RANsquawk - Week Ahead - 14th April 2014



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Frontrunning: April 14

  • Three dead in shootings at Kansas Jewish centers; man to face charges (WSJ)
  • Sanctions Blowback in Russia Targets Burgers to Movies (BBG)
  • Deadly Virus's Spread Raises Alarms in Mideast (WSJ)
  • China group buys $6bn Glencore Peru copper mine (BBG)
  • Iran lodges complaint against United States over U.N. envoy ban (Reuters)
  • Russian assets down sharply on Ukraine conflict fears (Reuters)
  • ECB comments knock euro, but not much (Reuters)
  • World-Leading $25 Hourly Wage Roils Swiss Businesses (BBG)


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Futures Tread Water As Geopolitical Fears Added To Momentum Collapse Concerns

Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.



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"Shadows Of March 2000" - Goldman On The Great Momo Crash Of 2014

We have bad news for hedge funds who, like Hugh Hendry in December of last year, threw fundamentals and caution to the wind and, with great reservations, jumped into this momo bandwagon in which mere buying beget more buying until nobody knew why anyone bought in the first place... and then everything crashed, leading to the worst day for hedge funds in a decade: according to Goldman's David Kostin, whose job is to be a cheerleader for the intangible "wealth effect" leading to all too tangible Goldman bonuses: "The stock market will likely recover during the next few months... but not momentum stocks."



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Did CIA Director Brennan Visit Kiev Recently?

Just a few weeks ago, someone (allegedly Russia) leaked a recorded phone conversation of Victoria Nuland commenting "fuck the EU" and how she (the US) wanted the political stage set in Ukraine. A lot has happened since then but as multiple pro-Russian sources have now 'confirmed', the new puppetmaster appears to be in town (or was). As Interfax reported, citing sources inside the Ukrainian parliament, none other that CIA Director John Brennan landed in Ukraine on Saturday under an assumed name and held a "series of secret meetings" with the country's "power bloc" Interfax reported. Commenting on the report, deputy chairman for the State Duma's Defense Committee Frants Klintsevich said that he would view such a visit as a challenge to Russia.



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Ukraine Mobilizes Military, Gives Separatists Ultimatum; Russia Slams Escalation As "Criminal", Yanukovich Warns Of Civil War

If Russia's intention was to give Ukraine enough "escalation" rope with which to hang itself once again, it may have succeeded when a little over an hour ago acting president Oleksander Turchinov said in a televized address that Ukraine has mobilized its armed forces to launch a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Russian separatists. Furthermore, knowing the only real escalation Kiev can engage in is in the war of words department, Ukraine set an 0600 GMT Monday deadline for pro-Russian separatists to give up their weapons and leave buildings they have occupied in the east of the country, a presidential decree said. It is unclear if this would be the catalyst to launch the military operation, but should Kiev indeed bring in the army it is certainly clear that Russia will respond in kind.



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Beta Earthquake

What is an underlying explanation that can account for Momentum failing and Value working, but Quality NOT working? When one of my colleagues here at Salient saw these charts he said, “looks to me like the market is trading on a narrative of risk appetites and fear rather than toward some notion of seeking fundamentals or selling overbought growth stocks; otherwise Quality would be working, too.” To which I replied, “Amen, brother!” The notion that this market sell-off is limited to biotech or Internet or some other high-flying sub-sector because the market “realized” that these stocks were too expensive or out of concern with earnings this quarter (both explanations that I’ve seen of late in the WSJ and FT), just doesn’t hold water. These high-beta stocks are being hit hardest because they are at the epicenter of a broad market or beta earthquake. This is what it means to be high-beta…you live by the broad market sword and you die by the broad market sword.



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Gold Jumps To 3-Week Highs, EUR Fades As Tensions Rise In Ukraine

Early weakness in US equity futures was rescued when Asia opened and JPY was mysteriously bid but it's fading back now as the UN session escalates into he-YouTube'd-she-YouTube'd. The bigger moves on the night so far are gold (which jumped back over $1325 and 3-week highs) and EUR which fell around 40 pips to 1.3850. We suspect as Ukraine's red-line deadline draws near the bid for safe-havens may accelerate somewhat.



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