In his testimony over the last two days, Bernanke has listed the 'fiscal cliff' as one of the two greatest risks to the US economy, along with the situation in Europe, and urged Congress to enact 'earlier rather than later' a plan that achieves 'short-term and long-term objectives,' with the primary short-term objective to adjust the timing of the near-term fiscal contraction "to allow the recovery a little more space to continue." . However, like us, Goldman believes that resolving the two key issues - the fiscal cliff and the need to raise the debt limit - will be more difficult than it was last year, for three reasons: (1) the "easiest" options to lower the deficit have already been adopted, so the remaining options touch more controversial areas than those enacted last year; (2) some members of both parties have indicated that they regret the agreements reached in 2010 and 2011, implying less willingness to compromise this year, and (3) both parties appear to be contemplating strategies that involve allowing most or all of the policies to change at year end, as a means to achieving their ultimate policy goal. Stunning! Sure enough, as debate on the fiscal cliff gets underway in earnest, the tone of rhetoric has predictably worsened. We suspect the only way they will ever agree is after the market makes it clear that any other path is unacceptable.
Sometimes you just have to laugh, and with the ongoing debacle of Liebor - it's even more true as now the Swiss hedge fund community is dragged into the miasma - or else you'll cry. As the conspiracy theories morph into conspiracy fact, who better to explain that LIBOR is not the "mythical half wild-bore, half lion that was rumored to have killed Achilles' brother Jimmy" but is the "benchmark for all money-lending on errr, let's say Earth", than The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. From the concrete evidence that banks deliberately manipulated the world's most important interest rate - for the good of themselves. As Jon says, "never trust anything that rhymes with wankers". How did they do it? and what will the fallout be?
To understand modern Greece one must understand it’s ancient history and it’s Geography. The Golden era of ancient Greece was rarely Pan Hellenic, with the legendary exception of King Menelaus’ expedition and siege of Troy, the brief cooperation during the war against King Xerxes of Persia, and perhaps Alexander the Great’s domination of what is now Greece, it has predominantly been the glorious histories of city states. And it’s geography is crucial, it has always been thought to stand as the boundary between East and West, whether you consider the ‘East’ to be Persia, the Ottoman Empire, or Communist eastern Europe it is best to understand that Greece’s eastern frontiers have never been an impassable barrier, infact Greece’s porous frontiers have ebbed and flowed with fickle fate and capricious fortune. As a consequence Greece is one of the most polarised nations on the planet.
The first on-the-record comments, regarding the bombing in Bulgaria, from Israel's Netanyahu are not the most politically correct. His ire with the world's ignorance of Iran's terrorist-fostering position is very clear as are his threats and promises for retribution. Not good. And sure enough, WTI crude is spiking on this news to $91.75 (18% higher than its EU-Summit lows) back to 2-mointh highs. Via Bloomberg,
- *NETANYAHU THANKS BULGARIA FOR AID TO VICTIMS OF TERROR ATTACK
- *ISRAEL'S NETANYAHU SAYS IRAN, HEZBOLLAH CARRY OUT GLOBAL TERROR
- *NETANYAHU SAYS ATTACKS WERE PLANNED IN INDIA, THAILAND
- *NETANYAHU SAYS HEZBOLLAH ACTED AT BEHEST OF IRAN
- *NETANYAHU SAYS TOO DANGEROUS TO LET IRAN HAVE NUCLEAR ARMS
- *NETANYAHU SAYS ISRAEL WILL PURSUE, PUNISH TERRORISTS WITH FORCE
- *NETANYAHU SAYS WORLD MUST RECOGNIZE IRAN AS TERROR THREAT
Meanwhile, as a reminder, a 4th carrier group is on its way to the Gulf...
While it seems like everyone 'wants' the housing recovery to be real and organic (and not simply a reflection of limited supply and P.E. investor interest in scraping up the lowest fruit - they have to earn their commish after all), even the NAR couldn't put lipstick on this morning's pig of an existing home sales number. The biggest drop MoM in 16 months and the largest miss to expectations in 24 months is hardly the stuff of a solid foundation for the renaissance of the American Dream. CNBC's Diana Olick speaks the truth on the distressed supply drying up (despite Liesman's efforts to ignore it).
Every single economic data point keeps coming worse than expected, and the S&P is just shy of 2012 and probably all time (for those who still care about such things) highs. The Philly Fed just posted its July index print which was as usual abysmal, posting its third negative month in a row, coming in at -12.9, and missing expectations of -8.0 for the fourth month in a row. And while the bulk of index subcomponents were more or less in line, the biggest and most notable change by far was the Number of Employees which tumbled from 1.8 to -8.4. Sadly, which the economic contraction accelerates and print after print is horrible, once again they are not nearly bad enough to usher in New QE any second, even as the market has priced in not only QE 4, but 5, 6, and so on.
So far the beyond insolvent US Postal Service has been able to avoid outright bankruptcy simply because no major cash outflows were required by the organization. That is about to change in just under two weeks when the USPS is due to make a $5.5 billion payment for retirement accounts. The problem: the USPS does not have the money and needs a bailout. The bigger problem: the USPS needs Congressional action to authorize this latest and so far greatest USPS bailout, however with Congressional recess imminent this won't happen. So are several hundred thousand postal workers about to go postal once they realize that (earmuffs time for all those who love chanting ideological slogans, but have yet to graduate to the abacus) math matters, and every "welfare-funding" entity in the US is ten times broke over? And maybe most importantly: just how will the postal labor union vote in the upcoming election if indeed they suddenly are denied what they had been lied to for years is rightfully theirs?
Despite all the pats on the back from fellow EU political members and reassurances that all will be well with political reforms, 10Y Spanish bond spreads (the additional risk over German bunds that investors demand before lending money to Spain) just hit all-time record highs. At over 580bps, we are now we well above the pre-Euro era highs (remember focus on spread not yield since Bund rates were so different back then - though current yields remain above the 7% Maginot Line of unsustainability). Spain 10Y bond spreads are now 40bps wide of pre-Summit peak levels and 130bps wider than post-Summit kneejerk reaction lows. But look at stocks and we know all is fixed in Europe...
In an exclusive report Zero Hedge yesterday presented the connection between the 16 BBA member banks, and something far more sinister: the sleepy, quiet (just as they want it) universe of Swiss hedge funds and private banks. One of our key focuses was on a gentleman named Michael Zrihen. We said: "So allegedly Zrihen, who now works in Geneva (keep a note of this), manipulated Libor at CA, and is now at Lombard Odier - "Geneva's oldest firm of private bankers and one of the largest in Switzerland and Europe." There is no news on whether Zrihen has been let go by Lombard Odier. Yet." We now have news. As of moments ago:
- LOMBARD ODIER SAYS MICHAEL ZRIHEN `NO LONGER TRADING'
- LOMBARD ODIER SAYS ZRIHEN JOINED THE FIRM IN DEC 2010
- LOMBARD ODIER SAYS HAS NO ROLE IN EURIBOR, LIBOR SUBMISSIONS
As a reminder, this is just the tip of the Swiss Liebor rabbit hole. Many more hedge funds will be implicated.
The smoke from the exploded bus carrying Israeli tourists was still billowing and yet Israeli PM Netanyahu had already declared that "Iran is responsible for the terror attack in Bulgaria, we will have a strong response against Iranian terror." Perhaps that statement was a little premature: as footage released by Bulgarian police indicates, the suspected suicide bomber is Caucasian, and was in possession of a Michigan driver's license, supposedly a fake one, but why anyone in Bulgaria would be carrying a fake Michigan ID is just a little confusing.
So much for last week's shocking beat in Initial Claims, which as a reminder printed at 350K on expectations of 372K, driven by the July 4 holiday and, what we described were "onetime factors such as fewer auto-sector layoffs than normal likely caused the sharp decline." This week the initial claims soared right back to 386K on expectations of a 365K print: so last week's 22K beat was promptly reversed following this week's number- a miss 21K above expectations. And of course, last week's 350K was upward revised to352K. Of note is what we said last week: "the Not Seasonally Adjusted claims number rising by 70K is very much irrelevant." Sure enough, this week the unadjusted number rose even more, by 10.8K to 453K, just 13K below last year's number of 470K. This compares to the 32K difference from a year ago for the seasonally adjusted numbers. That this stinks to high seasonally adjusted heaven needs no observation. Finally, people for whom extended claims expired soared by 84K in one week, as those on EUC 2008 benefit is imploding with each week. Overall, a very ugly number, but not horrible enough yet to send the S&P up 100 on imminent NEW QE.
China has proposed to broaden trading of precious metals in its local market in order to help China become a "major gold trading centre" (see News). The Wall Street Journal was briefed about China's plans by "a person involved with the matter." The paper reports that "the move could increase liquidity and help Beijing gain stronger pricing power for key commodities like gold". China is the largest consumer and now the largest producer of gold in the world and has aspirations to become a major gold trading center on a par with London and New York. China is also the fifth largest holder of gold reserves in the world after the U.S., Germany, France, Italy. Chinese officials have spoken of China’s aspirations to have gold reserves as large as the U.S. in order to help position the yuan or renminbi as a global reserve currency. Indeed, it would be only natural for China to aspire to have their currency become the global reserve currency in the long term. In the longer term, being a major gold trading center would make China a more powerful financial and economic player and indeed could allow them to influence commodity and other important market prices. Indeed, Reuters reported that becoming a major gold trading center "would boost the country's clout in setting global prices".
Recently two noted Spanish economists were interviewed. One was always an optimist and one was always a pessimist. The optimist droned on and on about how bad things were in Spain, the dire situation with the regional debt, the huge problems overtaking the Spanish banks and the imminent collapse of the Spanish economy. In the end he said that the situation was so bad that the Spanish people were going to have to eat manure. The pessimist was shocked by the comments of his colleague who had never heard him speak in such a manner. When it was the pessimist’s turn to speak he said that he agreed with the optimist with one exception; the manure would soon run out.