White House Explains: Obama Didn't Know What He Knew When Everyone Else Knew What He Should Have KnownSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2013 - 18:04
Here is The Hill with the White House's official explanation for what happened: "White House officials were notified of a Treasury Department inspector general report on the IRS but elected not to tell President Obama about it." In other words, neither the IRS was not aware of what is going on (recall the countless "I don't knows" and "I don't recalls") and apparently, neither was the president. And in fact, it was someone else's executive duty to make the decision what the chief executive of the nation is and isn't allowed to know.
You know something isn’t right in your country when you have a “religious police force.” You know something is really, really not right in your country when the head of that religious police force starts condemning twitter and saying its users will go to hell as a consequence - echoing comments from the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in April who used his sermon – seen by millions on TV – to warn that Twitter was a threat to national unity.
You know it's getting frothy when... "We're seeing many people cash out 401(k)s or IRAs because they want to take advantage of the [real estate] market." As CNNMoney reports, in order to get in on hot housing markets, amateur investors are buying up homes and taking risky measures - like tapping their retirement accounts - to fund the deals. As one adviser noted, "our average client has retirement accounts of about $150,000 and is looking to buy one or two properties," he said. "After 2008, they didn't trust Wall Street. They wanted hard assets." but as with every bubble there is always the greater fool to rely on - "They bought a lot of stuff cheap last year, but now they're paying market value," said Jack McCabe, a Florida-based real estate consultant. "Sometimes they're overpaying... There's no way they can get an 8% return buying at today's market prices." The problem, of course, is amateur investors sometimes spend all their free cash on their purchases, as "a whole lot of the people in the markets are not experts." If the real estate market turns south again, that could leave a lot of investors in dire financial condition for their golden years.
It appears that the noose is tightening and the wobbly-chair that Steve Cohen is standing on is getting wobblier... As Bloomberg reports, after five years under investigation for insider trading Steve Cohen is considering a 'deal' with prosecutors that would shut his $15 billion fund to outside investors and (as we noted this morning) shift a family (friends and employees) office.
- *COHEN SAID TO HAVE DISCUSSED DEFERRED PROSECUTION AGREEMENT
- *COHEN SAID TO CONSIDER RETURNING OUTSIDE INVESTORS' MONEY
- *COHEN SAID TO CONSIDER CONTINUING AS A FAMILY OFFICE
The deferred prosecution is intriguing as "when a company enters into a DPA with the government, or an NPA for that matter, it almost always must acknowledge wrongdoing..." and the clock is ticking with the statute of limitations up at the end of July.
All major US cash equity indices closed an odd shade of 'green' today which some have called 'red' - though only marginally and Treasuries ended the day practically unchanged (with 10Y +1bps). But the real action took place away from these two asset-classes. Precious metals were monkey-hammered at their open overnight but staged a miraculous recovery leaving gold with its best gain since June 2012 (didn't hear too much about that on TV?). Credit markets notably under-performed - never managing to get into the green on the day. VIX rose over 0.5 vols to close back above 13%. On the bright side, only a few more hours until Tuesday...
Need a quick GDP boost in a world in which the uber levered consumer is tapped out and has no more savings or purchasing power, in which the government is facing an existential socialism or bust crisis even as global sovereign debt levels are at unseens before levels, and in which global trade has collapsed (so there go the C, G and (X-M) components of GDP)? No problem, just add some I for Inventory. Better yet, add a whole lot of I, especially if you are that global growth dynamo, China, which over the years many have accused of having taken the term "overcapacity" and put it through the Barry Bonds juicer yet where courtesy of a central-planning regime that has made sure nothing appears to be unused, except for the occasional ghost city or empty mall, proof of such overcapacity has been scarce in official, government data.
Evans Quote #1: "Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans on Monday reiterated his belief that the US economy will begin to turn around in the second half of this year. "We think conditions will improve in the second half of this year,"
Evans Quote #2: "The sovereign debt crisis that has enveloped three European nations and threatens to spread to others will slow U.S. economic growth, but the impact will be “minimal to modest," the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said Friday.
Evans Quote #3: Chicago Fed’s Evans comments in speech in Chicago: "economy improving quite a lot; companies seem to be in pretty good shape. Optimistic [XXXX] Will Be Year of Turnaround; US growth will be self-sustaining in [XXXX+1]"
There has been a growing shift in favour of assets relative to bank deposits. This was initially encouraged by zero interest rates, but more recently there is little doubt that Cyprus’s bail-in has accelerated the trend. This helps explain why, for example, Italian 10-year bonds are on a 4% yield. The reason, doubtless reaffirmed by the Cyprus bail-in, is that investors with cash balances think over-priced sovereign debt is less risky than adding to their euro deposits. However, some of depositors’ cash balances post-Cyprus will have gone into physical gold and silver, which explains why the bullion banks operating in the futures markets and the central banks behind them are so keen to dissuade us that gold and silver is a safe haven.
It will come as no surprise to ZH readers that the topic of youth unemployment is critical in Europe but as Der Speigel reports, while the German government's efforts remain largely symbolic, Southern European leaders pander to older voters by defending the status quo and are failing in their fight against the potential for social unrest. One graduate noted, "None of my friends believes that we have a future or will be able to live a normal life," as a lost generation is taking shape in Europe. And European governments seem clueless; instead of launching effective education and training programs to prepare Southern European youth for a professional life after the crisis, the Continent's political elites preferred to wage old ideological battles. In this way, Europe wasted valuable time, at least until governments were shaken early this month by news of a very worrisome record: Unemployment among 15- to 24-year-olds has climbed above 60 percent in Greece. Suddenly Europe is scrambling to address the problem making it an 'obseesion'. There are strong words coming out of Europe's capitals today, but they have not been followed by any action to date.
Moments ago, GETCO's rampathon algos did not like what they heard coming out of the mouth of the Fed's biggest permadove, Charles Evans. That thing was math, and it was as follows:
IF FED CONTINUES TO BUY ASSETS AT CURRENT PACE THROUGH YEAR END,BALANCE SHEET WOULD BE 'VERY LARGE' $4 TRILLION - FED'S EVANS
Supposedly this was news to someone although it wasn't news to our readers who knew since September that not only will the Fed's balance sheet hit "a very large" $4 trillion by 2014, it would hit a "very larger" $5 trillion by 2015, when the Fed may realistically start abandoning QE.
The last few years have been dominated by one theme and every trade has been a derivative bet on that theme. The idea that by inflating another asset bubble, a wealth effect will ripple through the market to the real economy, encourage animal spirits and spark a renaissance (in something, we are not sure what). Well, so far no good. The real economy, as discussed at length, is not recovering; but the question of just who is benefiting from the wealth effect is unclear. As the following charts across the 100 largest G4 pension plans show, the asset managers have missed the trickle-down. Despite bad (and worsening) under-funding and a Fed repressing 'safe' assets to the point of ultimate risk, G4 pension funds have refused to partake of any mythical 'great rotation', remain avid bond buyers, are as drastically under-funded as ever, and finally, have maintained the same 'cash on the sidelines' for 14 years now...
The collective state of mind in the USA these days may be even more peculiar than what went on in Germany in the early 1930s, when the Nazis were freely elected to lead the country and reconstructed the battered national psyche into a superman cult that soon beat a path to mass death and ruin. America has its own way of going crazy. We don't goose-step to tragedy; we coalesce into an insane clown posse and stumble into it by pratfall -- juggaloes dancing backwards off the cliff edge. A subset of our master wish has been on vivid display in recent months, namely the idea that God has blessed the USA with a limitless supply of new oil that will allow us to keep driving to WalMart forever. Most of the current "endless oil" fantasy revolves around shale oil. Apart from the issue of sheer economic suffering and all the damage that will ensue from the realization of the falsehoods and propaganda, consider that it will be generations before anyone believes the "authorities" again.
UPDATE 1: Chatter of a potential US downgrade from Moody's is being blamed (but that news out hours ago)
UPDATE 2: Silver futures trading volume 82% higher than 100-day average
While the mainstream media will likely be loathed to mention it, gold and silver are surging higher. Gold has retested $1400 and Silver $23 on no news... so it seems the demand for 'cheaper' precious metals was enough to warrant a 4.6% rally off overnight lows in gold and 12.5% in silver amid heavy volume in futures markets...
While we have wondered on numerous occasions previously if the collapse in lumber prices is the far more accurate indicator of end demand for housing (as confirmed by the recent collapse in multi-family housing starts), perhaps an even better indicator of trends in housing (and by implication the broader economy) is private sector intermediate end demand, such as Caterpillar North America sales, which unlike government data, are far less subject to political intervention, interpolation, guesswork, seasonal adjustments and otherwise, general manipulation. And even though we have previously reported on the woes ailing the world's largest seller of bulldozers, excavators and wheel loaders, such focus was primarily targeted in the offshore markets, and especially China (the abysmal European market needs no mention). So maybe the time has come to shift attention to the US, where as Caterpillar just reported, not only are all foreign markets still trending at several impacted levels, but where US machine retail sales just saw the biggest tumble in three years, falling 18% Y/Y: the most since early 2010. What is more disturbing is that CAT equipment is used in far-broader economic activities than merely housing, and likely is a far more accurate indicator of true industrial end-demand than any other number cherry-picked by the government.
With the bond vigilantes still suppressed by the heavy boot of central bank intervention, the role of 'governor' of monetary (and fiscal implicitly) largesse has been left to the energy markets around the world. As we noted here, the Brent Vigilantes have indeed capped economic gains in the past few years (and perhaps more worryingly for investors, as we detailed here, have capped P/E expansion hopes). Sure enough, with a one-month lead, crude oil prices are leading retail gas prices higher (now near three-month highs) which point to a rally-ending, economy-sapping $3.80 price within the next few weeks (unless oil prices are rapidly suppressed too).