Risk assets have started the week off on a slightly softer footing but overall volumes are fairly low given the quiet Friday session last week and with the lack of any major weekend headlines. Equity bourses are down between 25-50bp on the day paced by the Nikkei (-0.4%). In China, a number of railway construction stocks are up 3-4% after reports that China Railway Corp will buy around 300 sets of high speed trains and may potentially launch 14 news railway construction projects soon as part of national investment plans.
According to WaPo, the files on intercepted Americans "have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded... résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops."
"He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past" - From George Orwell’s 1984. The reason Big Brother and his band of technocrat authoritarians spend so much time and effort erasing history in the classic novel 1984, is because they are a bunch of total criminals and they know it. Their grip on power is made so much easier if the proles are kept ignorant, confused and in the dark. This strategy is not just fiction, it is the philosophy of tyrants and authoritarians throughout history. While the internet is an amazing tool for communication and free speech, we must also be aware of how it can be abused by those in power who wish to whitewash history.
With Austrian bank contagion impacting European stocks on Friday, we thought it worth a look at the 'recovering-out-of-the-crisis-all-is-well-and-stress-tests-will-prove-it' European banks. It appears, having bid with both hands and feet for Europe's peripheral debt - thus solidifying the very sovereign-financial-system linkages that were the cause of the European crisis contagion - Europe's banks had the jam stolen from their donuts when Mario Draghi did not unveil a massive bond-buying scheme (by which they could offload their modestly haircut collateral at 100c on the euro, raise cash, take profits, and all live happily ever after). A TLTRO is no use to the banks who now know even the first sign of one dumping his domestic bonds will cause this illiquid monstrosity to collapse under its own weight. It is clear - as the following chart shows - that investors are quickly coming to that realization and exiting European bonds in a hurry.
Based on historical patterns and the alarming state of our current monetary system, Mike Maloney, monetary historian believes the fiat US dollar is in its last years as a viable currency. He sees its replacement as inevitable in the near term - as in by or before the end of the decade - "All of this is converging with the crazy experiments the Federal Reserve has done. During the last three monetary shifts, it was only the world's central banks and big international banks that were affected and were worried. The common man didn't even know what was going on. With this one, everybody is going to feel it. Everybody is going to know it. You will either be a winner or a loser, but everybody is playing this game."
What "harsh weather", aka completely unpredictable cold snaps and snow during the winter were to Q1 US GDP, which somehow cratered from an expected 2.5% increase to a -2.9% collapse (a $200 billion negative swing in the US economy due to weather, let that sink in for a second), the Brazil world cup may be to the stock market. At least that is the following chart from Bloomberg, highlighting the "World Cup Syndrome" shows.
Having pointed out the 'surges' in the cost of your 4th of July burger at the behest of Greenspan and Bernanke, we thought a reflection on the soaring costs of 'the most important meal of the day' were in order. As the following chart illustrates in words and pictures even a PhD Fed economist or CNBC pretend-economist could understand - food-flation is here from breakfast through dinner (no matter how many iPads we try and eat).
Global chessboard enthusiast Zbigniew Brzezinski has a plan for Ukraine. In a recent speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center, excerpted by the Atlantic Council, he argues forcefully in favor of the United States providing the Ukrainian military far more weapons. Under the guise of preventing a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been the rallying cry of those who seek more US involvement in the region, Brzezinski believes that the US must provide Ukraine with enough weapons to deter Russian aggression toward Ukraine. The odds of defending against the invading Russian military being very low, Brzezinski has a different idea... Ethnic cleansing.
Day after day, we are bombasted with asset-gatherers, academics, and status-quo-huggers demanding we BTFATH as 'stocks are still cheap..." Some have even deferred modestly to the old standby "stocks are 'fairly valued'" in a last lame effort to save what credibility they have left when they look themselves in the mirror. The fact is - no, stocks are not cheap (as we pointed out here, they are more expensive than at the peak of what Jim Bullard called an obvious bubble). However, still the shrill call of 'stock-picker's market' rings out to encourage the placement of hard-earned savings into easily commissioned AUM. The fact is - as the 3 charts below show - nothing is cheap - Nothing!
Investors who feel that zero interest rate policy offers them “no choice” but to hold stocks are likely choosing to experience negative returns instead of zero. While millions of investors appear to have the same expectation that they will be able to sell before everyone else, the question “sell to whom?” will probably remain unanswered until it is too late. It’s an unfortunate situation, but much of what investors view as “wealth” here is little but transitory quotes on a screen and blotches of ink on pieces of paper that have today’s date on them. Investors seem to have forgotten how that works. Few are likely to realize that apparent wealth by selling. As The BIS warned recently...“The risks of failing to act should not be underestimated.”
To complete the French triple whammy offensive against the US Dollar this weekend (first, French central banker Noyer suggesting de-dollarisation; second, French oil major Total's CEO "seeing no reason for the Petrodollar"), French finance minister Michel Sapin says "now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro" adding, more ominously for the dollar, "we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so." Careful to avoid upsetting his 'allies' across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, "This is not a fight against dollar imperialism," except, of course - that's exactly what it is... just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.
Now that Obamacare has been enacted, Americans across the nation are seeing their health insurance bills spiking, leading to what has been a documented slide in full-time hiring, a drop in consumer discretionary spending, not to mention stagnant and declining real wages. In short: a broad economic contraction (yes, yes, who could have possibly foreseen this). But how is it that insurers set their prices? As Bloomberg explains, insurers are calculating what to charge for health plans in 2015, which is no simple task. Actuaries can’t easily forecast how often the millions of new Obamacare enrollees will go to a doctor. New federal rules and expensive drugs will also increase costs. Wrong guesses could wipe out profits. Here is a quick and dirty way to understand why premiums are going up.
It's a good time to be in Iraq, if you're a crazed Muslim zealot bent on creating a caliphate, that is. As Mark Fiore explains in a format even the most iPad-addicted youf of today, Iraq is suddenly back on everyone's radar now that ISIS is taking over large chunks of that formerly-occupied nation. Here, in 120 seconds, is how they did it (and how you can too)... "now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a miserable theocratic existence..."