While investors enjoy collecting and reading the monthly and year end letters by distinguished hedge fund managers, the only one that really matters is the annual report by the world's "greatest hedge fund in history" (not our words, those of Warren Buffet). It is here where we find that in 2013, the Fed generated a record $90.5 billion in Interest Income, surpassing the previous all time high of $88 billion set in 2011. But what is most disturbing is that the Fed is getting increasingly less bang for the buck courtesy of its own ZIRP policy. This is best manifest in the declining Return on Assets: recall that in 2013 the Fed's total assets rose by over $1 trillion from $2.9 trillion to $4.0 trillion as of December 2013, a 38% increase. And yet the profit boost was a fraction of this increase. Sure enough, ROA tumbled, and continues to drop: at 2.2% down from 2.8% in 2012, the Fed's "efficiency" is now the lowest since QE began in 2008, when ROA was just 1.9%.
A month ago we reported that according to much delayed TIC data, China had just dumped the second-largest amount of US Treasurys in history. The problem, of course, with this data is that it is stale and delayed. For a much better, and up to date, indicator of what foreigners are doing with US Treasurys in near real time, the bond watchers keep track of a far less known data series, called "Treasury Securities Held in Custody for Foreign Official and International Accounts" because it shows what foreigners are doing with their Treasury securities held, as the name suggest, in custody by the Fed. So here it goes: in the just reported latest data, for the week ended March 12, Treasurys held in custody by the Fed dropped to $2.855 trillion: a drop of $104.5 billion. This was the biggest drop of Treasurys held by the Fed on record, i.e., foreigners were really busy selling.
While we doubt anyone reading this will be shocked by major fraud at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the potential extent of the fraud is huge, and we still have no idea how big it is. A report released by the EPA’s Inspector General found that over 90% of sampled transactions were for “prohibited, improper, or erroneous purchases.”
Crimea's Prime Minister Sergie Aksenov has been very vocal this morning with comments on nationalizing the region's banks, but the following few comments are sparking concerns:
- *AKSENOV SAYS CRIMEA ISN'T TAKING ORDERS FROM RUSSIA
- *AKSENOV SAYS DOESN'T ENVISAGE UKRAINIAN CIVIL WAR
- *CRIMEA MAY FORMALLY JOIN RUSSIA NEXT WK, INTEGRATE IN 1 YR: PM
We will see what Obama, Merkel, and Ukraine's leadership has to say about that... Turchynov, for one, has warned to be "ready for a full-scale invasion at any moment."
On the heels of yet another multi-hour meeting with Russian foreign minister Lavrov, John Kerry takes to the podium to explain next steps...
US-RUSSIA TALKS ON UKRAINE "FORMIDABLY DIFFICULT"
It would appear that pending wars in Europe, freezing snow storms (and droughts) in the US, and Asian credit concerns have finaly taken their toll on US consumer confidence. At 79.9 relative to an expectation of 82.2 this is the biggest miss since Dec 2012 and lowest since Nov 2013.Current conditions rose modestly but the economic outlook fell by its most in 5 months. UMich confidence remains notably below the July 2013 peak levels (which correspond quite coincidentally to the same 4 year 4 month cycle we have seen in the prior 2 cycles) despite stocks have made higher highs since then as the decoupling remains in place.
With the Bank of England recently denying any collusion with dealers to manipulate FX rates and exclaiming "it was not our job to go hunting for the rigging of markets," the WSJ reports that none other than that bastion of trust The Federal Reserve examined key FX benchmarks months before global regulators sounded alarms over the manipulations... but took no action.
Gold was gently levitating once again overnight but in the last few hours both gold and silver have taken off (with the latter breaking through pre-Putin levels) and the former breaking above $1385. Equity prices are tumbling from solidly green levels overnight - tracking EURJPY all the way lower - and Treasury bonds are well bid (-3bps today) with 10Y yields down 17bps on the week.
Producer Prices in the US (less the all important food and energy - which no on uses) fell 0.2% month-over-month - the biggest drop since July 2013 - and missing expectations of a 0.1% rise. This is only the third month of 'disinflation in the last 18 months. Perhaps even more relevant is the dramatic slowdown in prices for final demand services which dropped 0.3% (the biggest drop since May 2013) and equal slowest rise year-over-year since the 'recovery' began.
Russia Warns Of East Ukraine Invasion To "Defend Compatriots", EU Threatens Gazprom, Rosneft CEOs With Visa BanSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/14/2014 - 08:24
While Russia has been massively piling up troops next to Ukraine's eastern border, one thing that was missing to allow the crossing of the border was a provocation, aka the proverbial spark to give Moscow the green light to "defend" Russian citizens in the East. It may have just gotten that last night, when as previously reported, clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian civilians turned lethal, killing at least one person and dozens injured. Needless to say, this escalation was just the green light Russia needed. As Reuters reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry, responding to the death of at least one protester in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk, repeated President Vladimir Putin's declaration of the right to invade to protect Russian citizens and compatriots - "Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection." But perhaps the biggest news so far this morning is that the EU is considering visa bans to 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders, which according to Germany's Bild, include the headest hocnho of all: Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller.
Until today, the prevailing theory surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was either catastrophic midair disintegration and/or terrorism. That changed overnight, following reports by various news agencies that the Boeing 777 was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course, in a westerly direction toward India's Andaman islands, heightening suspicions of foul play among investigators, as reported by Reuters. And like that the theory shifts from one of terrorism to hijacking and sabotage, ostensibly by highly skilled operators, yet considering the results, one gone horribly wrong.
- Ukraine anxiety triggers flight to safety, stocks tumble (Reuters)
- Woodrow Wilson’s Ukraine Failure Foreshadows West’s Dilemmas (BBG)
- Fortress Executives Join Peers Selling Stock After Rally (BBG)
- 303 Deaths Seen in G.M. Cars With Failed Air Bags (NYT)
- Putin Deports Executives for Speeding as Sanctions Loom (BBG)
- Russia blocks internet sites of Putin critics (Reuters)
- China Bond Risk Exceeds Ireland as Defaults Unavoidable (BBG)
- China H-Shares Post Biggest Weekly Drop Since October (BBG)
- Surge in Rail Shipments of Oil Sidetracks Other Industries (WSJ)
- Blackstone’s Home Buying Binge Ends as Prices Surge (BBG)
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.