Archive

December 25th, 2013

3 Things To Ponder Over Christmas

While you enjoy your gifts, the traditional Christmas ham and the annual re-gifting of Aunt Meg's 12-pound fruit cake (or go to the movies and eat Chinese food) here are "3 Things To Ponder"  regarding the retail shopper this holiday season.

Of course, the reason that retailers are having to so heavily discount in the first place is because of weak wage growth, still high unemployment and rising healthcare costs which are reducing disposable income.  Of course, as I discussed yesterday, if healthcare costs due to the Affordable Care Act rise by just $100 per month per capita that is a $72.25 billion diversion of discretionary incomes away from retail spending.  This could mean that retailers will be fighting an uphill battle for quite some time to come.

An "Angry" Bart Chilton Shares His Parting Lesson From 30 Years In Washington

While one may criticize now-ex CFTC commissioner Bart Chilton for years and years of sound and fury signifying nothing, countless promises of regulatory enforcement (all of which fell short of the target) and finally putting an end to precious metals manipulation only for the world to discover that while every other asset class is manipulated (involving such individuals as JPM's chief currency dealer), gold and silver are exempt, one must admit the former regulator does have a way wtih words (and of course haircuts). Sure enough, Chilton's most memorable parting gift will not be something he did, but rather what he said. William Cohan memorializes his parting message: "As we long suspected, Wall Street continues to use every trick in its playbook to do whatever it can to eviscerate numerous post-financial-crisis rules. The arsenal includes high-powered lobbyists who outnumber lawmakers 10-to-1; $1,000-an-hour letter-writing lawyers who gain strength from negotiating over arcana; and the occasional hoodwinking of a president whose knowledge of the ways of finance are close to nil." Chilton's take home message: “The lesson for me is: The financial sector is so powerful that they will roll things back over time,” Chilton says. “The Wall Street firms have tremendous influence, and they can impact policy to a greater degree than any one regulator or a small group of regulators can.

Turkish Political Crisis Deepens As Three Cabinet Ministers Quit; Prime Minister Erdogan Urged To Resign

The Turkish high-profile corruption scandal, whose fallout has so far resulted in the jailing of the sons of the Turkish minister of the interior Muammar Guler, just escalated sharply following the abrupt resignation of three key ministers from PM Erdogan's government. Earlier today, first Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and then Interior Minister Muammer Guler submitted their resignations to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday morning. A few hours later, they were joined by Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar who also tendered his resignation as a member of parliament, however instead of doing so in a complacent manner, he lashed out at the PM and called for his resignation which roiled markets following an earlier relief rally.

 

Edward Snowden's Alternative Christmas Message To The World

Edward Snowden's Christmas message, conveyed to the world courtesy of the UK's Channel 4, from his Russian exile is simple: "end mass surveillance." Alas, in a world in which social media exhibitionism is the norm, is his message increasingly falling on deaf ears? After all, there is a Duck Dynasty scandal, or a Justin Bieber retirement at any given moment, both of which are far more important than the loss of all personal privacy and the supreme reign of Big Brother.

Target Hack Included PIN Numbers

When the first response taken by major banks such as JPMorgan, in the aftermath of the massive 40 million credit and debit card hack of the third largest US retailer Target, was to lower ATM withdrawal and purchase limits, it became clear that there was more here than simply a well-organized credit card number scrape. And indeed, as Reuters reports, the hackers who compromised up to 40 million credit cards and debit cards also managed to steal encrypted personal identification numbers (PINs) according to a senior payments executive familiar with the situation. And since from there to emptying bank accounts and saved deposits is only a keystroke away, with no credit card processor intermediate to offload liability to, banks had no choice but to immediately limit debit card access to as much 10% of their clients, in JPM's case, in an unprecedented first, which just may have shown the way of how to limit a cash withdrawal panic if and when the need to do so arises.

December 24th

Bloomberg TV Anchor's Bitcoin Stolen On Primetime TV

Over the past two weeks, Bloomberg anchor Matt Miller has been on a crusade to popularize Bitcoin, which intuitively makes sense: having risen ten-fold in the past year, the mainstream financial media is now paying attention and furthermore, is providing its audience the desired information about the hot meme du jour. To be sure, it is quite possible that his interest is sincere instead of merely the latest pageview-generating gimmick used by a majority of the other Series X preferred stock round media outlets.  Which is why it was ironic (and humorous) that in his quest to demonstrate just how "accessible" Bitcoin is on live TV, the anchor was "robbed" in broad daylight by an enterprising Reddit hacker named "milkywaymasta" who screengrabbed the QR code shown by Miller and promptly confiscated the $20 equivalent.

Spot The Paradox

This morning we showed that new home prices in America have never been higher. This is great news, right? Well not if you are an average American looking to buy a new home. Based on the median real income, home prices have never been more unaffordable at a stunning 6.7x average salary. Moreover, for those unable to see the bubble (or unsustainability), it appears Bernanke learned well from his previous planner-in-chief, having manufactured a much more aggressive ramp in prices leaving the average American even further away from the American Dream.

The Gold Rush Spreads From China And India To Saudi Arabia

In the "west", the higher the price of gold rose, the more demand there seemingly was by momentum-chasing gamblers investors, if only for paper certificates claiming to represent gold, or GLD as the case may be. Conversely, once the momentum turned, the same investors couldn't be bothered with gld (sic) even at 30% lower. At the same time, in the "east" the higher the price of gold rose, the lower the demand was for physical, which for that extinct breed of deranged gambler known as "value investor" is a familiar concept."  And now that gold's price is not only back to early 2011 levels, but is essentially below production costs, demand out of China is off the charts. Demand in India - traditionally the greatest in the world - continues to also at unprecedented levels, although now that official purchases of gold are regulated and limited through capital controls, it is forcing the local population to smuggle in gold through the most innovative of schemes.  But while the west is the west, and the east is the east, and no amount of adaptive behavioral modifications can change that, much to central bankers' chagrin, what lies in-between? Courtesy of the Saudi Gazette we learn that the uber-rich middle eastern kingdom, which floats on a sea of oil has picked its side... and it has chosen to take advantage of the ongoing paper-driven price collapse and load up on as much gold as possible.

Risk And Reality In The US Economy

The US economy is stabilizing, but it's not truly recovering. That's the view of Saxo Bank's Chief Investment Officer, Steen Jakobsen. Following the Fed's tapering news, Steen says the risk is that we trade on perception and not reality... "We're at the end of asset inflation," he says, and that "will dawn on the market very soon."