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Guest Post: American Military Pit Bulls And Their Handlers

It is not what the few do but what the many don’t do. That really represents what we are all about, co-conspirators in a sea of silence. Marines who view despicable acts committed by other marines remain silent; the officers, who are well aware of this behavior, condone it, invariably following the “ethical criminal” attitude in war morality of “when in war, shit happens”; and the nation prefers to play the part of Pontius Pilates.



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Is German Anger Finally Coming To A Boil? Even Local CEOs Say Time To Exit Euro May Have Arrived

It would appear that the German public (and political class to some extent) are beginning to see the European project in the same manner as we described back in July. As the increasing burden of saving the eurozone from its own excess falls on the shoulders of every Tobias, Dirk, and Heike taxpayer in Germany, even industry leaders, such as Wolfgang Rietzle, the CEO of Linde, this weekend according to Reuters, are suggesting a line in the sand has to be drawn and that "if we do not succeed in disciplining countries then Germany needs to exit." This has been very much a view we have held for months, that instead of the periphery limping away one-by-one, the very core of the foundation will simply decide enough is enough or as Reitzle notes (among many other critically insightful comments) "the willingness of countries to reform themselves is abating if, in the end, the European Central Bank steps in." This morning Germany's FinMin Schaeuble added to the potential separation rhetoric with his comments, via Bloomberg:

  • *SCHAUEBLE SAYS ECB AS LENDER OF LAST RESORT WOULDN'T CALM MKTS
  • *SCHAEUBLE SAYS JOINT EURO REGION BOND SALES NOT A SOLUTION

Hardly reassuring given the dreams of every GGB owner and BTP-exposed insurance company are banking on the ECB cranking the presses to 'secure' nominal returns in the real world. Friday's mass downgrade (and S&P's more interesting Q&A) have perhaps left Germany on the hook for up to 56% of its GDP via the EFSF support mechanisms and as we noted six months ago, the moment for Atlas to shrug draws closer with every downgrade and SMP action.



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Preliminary Thoughts On The European Downgrade From Goldman And Morgan Stanley

It has been a busy weekend for Wall Street, which has been doing all it can to spin the S&P downgrade in the best favorable light, although judging by the initial EURUSD and EURJPY reaction, so far not succeeding. Below we present a quick report written by Goldman's Lasse Nielsen on why in Goldman's view the downgrade's "impact is likely to be limited" and also the quick notes from an impromptu call MS organized for institutional clients (which had just two questions in the Q&A section, of which only one was answered - it appears virtually noboby believes that global moral hazard will allow anyone to fail at this point, so why bother even going out of bed).



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Overnight Long/Intraday Short Gold Fund More Than Doubles In Just Over A Year: Generates 43% Annualized Return

Back in August 2010, we presented an idea proposed by our friends at SK Options trading for a very simple trading strategy: being long gold in the overnight session, and shorting it during the day. At the time of writing, such a strategy would have returned $2.16 billion from a $100 million initial investment in 10 years, a 37.46% annualized return. Today, we provide a much needed follow up to this quite stunning divergence. As SK notes: "we have revisited the article and written an update. Not only does the discrepancy still exist but it has been actually increasing. That fund would now be worth $5.26B, way up from $2.16B when we last wrote about it - in other words an increase of 143% in just over a year. When we wrote about this in August 2010, the annualized return of the Long Overnight/Short Intraday gold index was 37.46% since the start of 2001. However if we measure from now the annualized return since 2001 is 43.24%, with the annualized return of the Long Overnight/Short Intraday gold index standing at roughly 64.4% since 2009." So for those who wish to layer on an additional alpha buffer on top of what is already the best performing asset of the past decade, the SK Options way just may be the strategy. As for the reasons for this gross arbitrage - who cares. Is it manipulation? is it the early Asian buying offset by London pool selling? It is largely irrelvant - the point is that this is "the divergence that keeps on giving" - kinda like a Stolper trade, or an inverse Tilson ETF, and until it doesn't, or until something dramatically changes in the precious metal market, it is likely that this trading pattern will continue for a long time.



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Video And Post-Mortem of Spectacular Carnival Cruise Liner Accident Off Tuscan Coast

To those who woke up on Saturday to images of a massive cruise liner keeled over following a very peculiar Friday night accident off the coast of Italy, no, this was not a prop for the latest James Cameron movie: it is the Carnival Corp's Costa Concordia, which carried over 4,200 passengers and crew, and foundered after hit a submerged rock off the Tuscan  island of Giglio in very calm conditions. At last count 11 passengers and 6 crewmembers were missing, with at least 6 confirmed dead as of last night. Here is what is known as of right now.



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Appeasement Arrives: Joint US-Israel Exercise Postponed For "Budget Reasons", US Will Not Enforce No Fly Zone Over Syria

First we had news that out of the blue, the Western embargo against Iranian oil exports would be delayed by 6 months, and now, in the aftermath of last night's developments out of Iran which blamed the CIA for the murder of its nuclear scientist we get this (from Bloomberg):

  • ISRAEL, U.S. POSTPONE MILITARY EXERCISE, ISRAEL RADIO SAYS
  • JOINT EXERCISE POSTPONED FOR BUDGET REASONS, RADIO SAYS
  • U.S.-ISRAELI EXERCISE PLANNED TO BE BIGGEST EVER, RADIO SAYS
  • EXERCISE WAS TO TAKE PLACE IN NEXT FEW MONTHS, RADIO SAYS

And just so it doesn't look like a total cave in:

  • ISRAEL SAYS JOINT U.S. MILITARY EXERCISE STILL UNDER DISCUSSION

As a reminder Iran made it very clear an escalation in joint US-Israel war game cooperation would be met with yet another miliary exercise out of Iran.



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Iran Foreign Ministry Claims Nuclear Scientist Was Executed By CIA, As Nigeria Strike Talks Collapse

While on one hand we get news from Nigeria that the government and the labor unions have failed to end a labor strike, raising the prospect of a halt of all production in the country which produces 2.4 million barrels of oil per day or roughly the same as Iran exports, we now find out that the US attempt at de-escalating tensions with Iran (following Thursday's news of an extension in the oil embargo deadline by 6 months - one would almost think Obama realized $5.00 gas may be an issue with the election looming) may have failed massively, and it is now Iran's attempt to score political brownie points knowing well it has all the advantage. As EA WorldView reports, instead of backing away from last week's sensitive issue of the assasination of a nuclear scientist, Iran has ripped the scab right off the wound and its foreign ministry has boldly proclaimed that it has "reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA. The documents clearly show that this terrorist act was carried out with the direct involvement of CIA-linked agents." So the ball is now squarely back in America's court, and any further attempts at appeasement, such as the embargo extension was perceived as being, will merely serve to make US foreign policy appear even more toothless. Which Hillary will hardly stomach. So we may well be back at square one (only this time with two aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea instead of just one).



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Presenting Mitt Romney's Top Campaign Contributors

Periodically refreshed without commentary.



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Der Verkauf Ist Verboten - Germany Considers Ban On Sovereign Bond Sales

When back in August, Europe declared a short selling ban of any financials (here we are willing to channel Romney, and make a $10,000 bet with anyone that said ban will never be lifted), and which as we predicted has had no favorable impact on bank stocks which have since tumbled, we suggested that the next step will also be the final one: the passage of laws prohibiting sales of any kind. As usual we were partially joking. And as so often happens, we are about to be proven right again. As the FT reports in its headline article today, whose gist is simple enough, that Europe is on the verge, it is the tactically-placed final paragraph that is of particular curiosity. It says the following: "Speaking on the fringes of a start-of-year retreat of her Christian Union lawmakers in the city of Kiel, Ms Merkel said she would consider calls from her party colleagues for legislation to bar institutional investors such as insurance companies from selling bonds when ratings were downgraded, or fell below investment grade." Allow us to recopy and repaste the key part: "legislation to bar institutional investors such as insurance companies from selling bonds."



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Q4 Spanish Unemployment Soars By Most Since Lehman, Hits "Astronomical" 23.3%

For anyone convinced that yesterday's S&P two notch downgrade of Spain to A is the last one for a while, we have some bad news: in Q4 Spanish unemployment soared by the most since the Lehman collapse, hitting what new PM Mariano Rajoy called an "astronomical" 5.4 million. This compares to 4.978 million people unemployed at the end of Q3 2011. Since the official number is not yet public and will be released on January 27 we will take his word for it. In which case it becomes clear that in Q4 the Spanish economy experienced a Lehman-like collapse, losing more than 400K people, or the most since the bankruptcy of Lehman brothers. In percentage terms this means that Spanish unemployment rose by a ridiculous 2%, or from 21.5% to 23.3%, in one quarter! And since Spain is a country of the Keynesian persuasion, we can only assume the number includes a whole bunch of meaningless birth/death and seasonal adjustments, but we'll leave it at that. Incidentally, it means that by the time the mean reversion exercise, with cost-cutting and what not is complete, Spanish unemployment will be well north of 30%, and 2 out of 3 people aged between 16 and 25 will be out of a job, if ot more. It also begs the question just what the real unemployment picture in the US, which lately has put the Chinese Department of Truth to shame, would be if reported on a realistic, unadjusted, and not "workforce contracted" basis. The chart below shows you everything you need to know.



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Jamie Dimon Says JPM Could Lose Up To $5 Billion From PIIGS Exposure

In an interview with Italian newspaper Milan Finanza on Saturday, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said that he could lose up to $5 billion from the firm's exposure to the PIIGS countries. As Reuters reports, "Dimon said the bank was exposed to the five countries (PIIGS) to the tune of around $15 billion. "We fear we could lose up to $5 billion ... We hope the worst won't happen, but even if it did happen, I wouldn't be pulling my hair out," he said. Dimon said Europe was the worst problem for the banking sector. "But the EU and euro are solid even if the states will have to be financially responsible and do all they can to develop common social policies," he said." While it is admirable of JPMorgan to disclose some of its dirty laundry, as this was a topic that received hardly any mention in the firm's prepared quarterly release, and is predicated surely by the fact that its Basel III Tier 1 Common of $122 billion dwarfs this possible impairment, there are some questions left open. Such as what happens if and when Greek CDS, now most likely before March 20, were triggered? And the logical follow up - what happens when Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, and who knows who else (Hungary?) follow suit and decide that a coercive restructuring is actually not suicidal, even though it most certainly is once a given threshold is reached. In other words, how long can Europe tolerate the same two-tiered sovereign debt market that S&P warned about so explicitly yesterday? Finally what happens to JPM's Tier 1 Common when the European dominos impact not only the directly exposed PIIGS nations, and specifically their bonds, but all those other banks, insurance and reinsurance companies, whose current viability makes up the balance of JPM's remaining $117 billion in Tier 1? Because in its essence, stating that JPM is "fine" even if Europe were to collapse is analogous to Goldman telling Congress it would collect on its AIG CDS if and when the CDS market were to implode absent the government bailout of AIG, which itself was accountable for over $2 trillion of the entire CDS market itself.



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The Real Dark Horse - S&P's Mass Downgrade FAQ May Have Just Hobbled The European Sovereign Debt Market

All your questions about the historic European downgrade should be answered after reading the following FAQ. Or so S&P believes. Ironically, it does an admirable job, because the following presentation successfully manages to negate years of endless lies and propaganda by Europe's incompetent and corrupt klepocrarts, and lays out the true terrifying perspective currently splayed out before the eurozone better than most analyses we have seen to date. Namely that the failed experiment is coming to an end. And since the Eurozone's idiotic foundation was laid out by the same breed of central planning academic wizards who thought that Keynesianism was a great idea (and continue to determine the fate of the world out of their small corner office in the Marriner Eccles building), the imminent downfall of Europe will only precipitate the final unraveling of the shaman "economic" religion that has taken the world to the brink of utter financial collapse and, gradually, world war.



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Faber's Latest Rant On Global Monetization Wars

There is a little for everyone in Marc Faber's latest appearance on CNBC. The infamous boomer (and doomer) believes (as we do) that today's downgrades are less significant for stocks (at least until the realization that banks and more importantly insurance companies are about to be cut as well - keep a close eye out on Allianz and Generali (of ASSGEN fame) - it is not incidental that they are abbreviated to A&G, just one letter away from our own AIG) as it is largely priced in but the equity market's rally of the last few weeks (with its lack of breadth and volume) is strongly suggestive of a bear-market rally (as opposed to the decoupling bull market that so many hope for). His view quite simply is that the ECB has undergone a backdoor monetization and without this the EUR would be significantly stronger especially given the huge short-interest (though he sees the trend for EUR is down).  Some highlights include: EUR weakness may help exports but the debt servicing costs of major European firms with huge US denominated debt wil suffer greatly, most European nations should be CCC-rated, nominally European stocks will outperform and holding quality dividend paying companies is preferred, valuation is practically impossible given ZIRP, and finally noting the irony, the worse the global economy gets (and the Chinese economy suffers), the more money printing will occur lifting nominal equity prices while real economies stumble and standards of living drop, so hold gold.



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Ratings Actions Out

Not sure why they felt the need to wait until 430 since most of it was leaked already. Germany back to stable outlook is good. Austria and France chance EFSF but guess that is what LTRO is for. Italy and Portugal would be in trouble in the real world but so long as ECB views them as money good the countries and banks can keep printing money (sorry use LTRO). Roughly in line with expectations. I think the need to redo the EFSF and ESM concept is an issue that will need to be digested. Is BBB+ for Italy and junk for Portugal enough to cause some collateral provisions to be triggered or force some sellers? I don't think it will in any meaningful way but needs to be watched. I'm surprised Belgium got by but then again it is a rating agency.



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Stock Futures Close Almost Green Even As Protection Costs Jump

The post-European-close rally-monkey was in full force today, with somewhat average (though NYSE volume is 30% lower than last January's average!) volumes in stocks, as ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) made it almost back to unchanged in a post-cash-close squeeze (on notably lower than average trade size). However, close-to-close, the cost of protecting equity and credit (in options volatility, implied correlation, and CDS) all rose (underperformed) significantly. It seems everyone believes everything bad (event-wise) is priced in but perhaps they are missing the reality of mundane macro data and earnings.



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