• Pivotfarm
    04/20/2014 - 17:08
    As the audience went from laughter to applause, Vladimir Putin responded to the question that he had just read out on a televised debate in Russia. What was the question?

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Guest Post: Greece: What I Learned From A Vietnamese Rickshaw Driver

Traveling through Vietnam provided a few valuable lessons for life. You arrive, armed only with a copy of the Lonely Planet. Any map turns out to be pretty useless, as street names are frequently changed or the street layout completely altered (this is mid-1990?s). You are being inundated with offers from “cyclo-” (bicycle rickshaw) drivers. Rule number one: negotiate the fare before hopping on the seat. The Vietnamese being excellent sales people expect further price negotiations while you are riding (“Okay, price was per person” “Sir, luggage is extra”). One particular cyclo driver left me with a memorable experience. Once given his destination he claimed the hotel was closed (“I know much better hotel”). Over the entire ride he insisted my hotel was said to be either under construction, on fire or simply full. And I insisted, too, so we actually ended up at the hotel. The pure existence of the hotel should have refuted most of his statements, but did not lead to any signs of embarrassment or repentance on his part. To my surprise he followed me into my room, still trying to lure me into changing hotels (“This room not good”). Later, I found him haggling with the hotel owner over a “finder’s fee” (which was customary for cyclo drivers bringing in hotel guests). Lessons learned: (A) When you are standing inside a hotel it does exist, no matter what someone else might say. Accordingly, when a country is burdened with a debt level approaching 160% of GDP it does need a restructuring.



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Video From The Second "Egyptian Revolution"

A week ago we disclosed that the second Egyptian revolution (because the first one apparently was a dud) was scheduled for May 27. As expected, this is precisely what has happened: "Thousands of Egyptians packed Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday in what organisers called a "second revolution" to push for faster reforms and a speedy trial for ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his former aides. Activists complain of delays in putting Mubarak, his family and members of his ousted regime on trial and that the army has not restored order quickly enough to the country of 80 million. Egyptians are also demanding an end to endemic graft, one of the main grievances that drove thousands of protesters onto the streets in the uprising that began on Jan. 25. "After some 1,000 martyrs ... people do not see any change," said Mustafa Ali Menshawi, a 38-year-old accountant, who was helping marshal crowds flooding into the square." Granted there has been some change: "The only change we see is that the Mubarak metro station has been changed to the Martyrs station," he said." This is happening even as deposed president Hosni Mubarak could face the death penalty as he prepares to face charges of "pre-meditated killing" of protesters during the uprising that ousted him on Feb. 11. Yet the revolution was not a failure for all: in continuation of the tried and true "economic hitman" practice, whereby MNCs land in a country and generously provide it credit, merely to extract its resources, take control of its infrastructure, and subjugate people with unmanageable credit card interest payments, the IMF just announced it will lend $35 billion to Arab countries to "stabilize their economies." Oddly there was no reference to "humanitarian" intervention or doing god's work.



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Two Completely Irrelevant And Fabricated Numbers Offset Each Other

We just had two completely irrelevant and largely fabricated numbers come out and offset each other: on one hand the UMichigan confidence number printed at 74.3 on expectations of 72.4, courtesy of declining inflation expectations (who would think that a shallow one week drop in gas prices could do so much), as respondents, all 10 Wall Street CEOs of them, saw 1 year inflation expectations drop from 4.4% to 4.1%, the first drop since September 2010. Ignore the fact that the Billion Price Project, when it was still updating its index, indicated a 10% annualized inflation rate in the US. Regardless, the confidence number was promptly offset by a horrible number from the now completely discredited, conflicted and irrelevant National Association of Realtors, whose press releases should have absolutely no bearing on the market, and yet they do, which showed that April Pending Home sales plunged 11.6% on expectations of a mild 1% decline (from a revised +3.5% previously). Bottom line: homeless people are confident that only 100% of their paycheck (and not 200%) will go to covering gas costs.



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LinkedIn Options Start Trading: Implied Vol 50x100

LNKD options have broken for trading and it is a rather wide market: some indicative markets: July $100 calls: $0.05 bid; $4.70 ask, June $77.50 puts $1.50 by $4.50. Implied vol for ATM calls is about 50 while for puts roughly double, or 100. The most actively traded options early on: $80 June puts, and July $92.50 calls. Everyone should be grateful we have Citadel's HFT team to make markets and add option liquidity.



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Greek Political Leaders Meet, Fail To Reach Consensus On Debt Crisis

Reuters reports that following the anticipated meeting of Greek political leaders, absolutely nothing has been achieved, and, dramatic pause, no consensus was reached on the debt crisis. Expect more protests, more violence, more boosts to GDP expectations following Keynesian logic that the greater the destruction the higher the bounce, etc.



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Spanish Police Brutality Multiple Choice Time

When is the best time to attack a woman if you are a Spanish policeman?

a) When she is non-threatening

b) When she is defenseless

c) When you are caught on tape

d) Anytime really

e) All of the above

This Spanish upholder of the law has just passed with flying colors: fast forward to 30 seconds in.



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Savings Rate Remains At Lowest Since 2008 As Impact From "Squatters' Rent" Increasingly Negligible

Today's Personal Income and Outlays data confirmed that the plight of the US consumer is deteriorating: while Personal Income increased at a 0.4% M/M rate, in line with expectations and flat adjusted for inflation (under 0.1%), Spending missed consensus of 0.5%, instead rising at 0.4%, the same number as predicted by Goldman previously. What is notable is that the "rental income" which as was discussed previously is not remotely based on "rents" but to a big part comes from "squatters rent" or pseudo income as a result of not paying one's mortgage continues to have an increasingly mitigating impact, rising just $3.1 billion in April, following $8.4 billion in March. As expected, the economic "benefits" arising from those who don't pay their mortgage are starting to have an increasingly lesser impact. This is very bad news for the economy, as sooner or later those living rent and mortgage free (even in New York where the average foreclosure process takes 900 days, meaning  2.5 year of mortgage free living) will have to start paying for the roof over their head, which will have a massive impact on disposable income, and will result in a wipeout of one of the best performing sectors to date: consumer discretionary. Lastly, as expected, courtesy of a ramp in Spending in recent months, not offset by Income, the savings rate, which was at 4.9% in April, the same as March, is at the lowest level since October 2010. In other words, even as consumers continue to deleverage as presented in the latest Flow Of Funds report, they are still eating away at whatever savings they have.



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The Pain In Spain Comes Mainly In The Form Of A Police Baton

A few weeks ago some rather disturbing scenes of police brutality were caught on tape following that particular day's austerity protest (now a daily occurrence). It now appears that Spain police has learned a thing or two from Greek Policemen especially when it comes to dispersing protesters. Expect these videos showing a violent smackdown of protesters on Barcelona's main Plaça Catalunya, to go viral shortly.



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Continuing Equity Outflows Confirm Declining Risk Appetite

After peaking in Q1, retail investment in equity instruments courtesy of ongoing disenchanment with performance continues and as Lipper reports, "for the third week in a row equity fund investors were net redeemers from their accounts, taking out approximately $5.6 billion for the week ended May 25, 2011. The three-week total now stands at -$12.7 billion, the worst figure for this group since August 2010." This follows the latest ICI weekly report which saw a 4th consecutive outflow from domestic equity mutual funds. Which llikely means that as margin account cash continues to drop, margin debt has to offset it. As we disclosed recently, April margin debt grew to a fresh multi year high. Expect this number to grow even more in May, then June, and so forth until the levered beta chase ends in tears. More observations on what Goldman dubs "declining risk apetite" below.



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Frontrunning: May 27

  • Former ECB chief economist Otmar Issing: Greece "Cheated" to join Euro (Bloomberg)
  • Fitch cuts Japan credit rating outlook to negative (Reuters)
  • Japan ends 25 months of deflation (Bloomberg)
  • Basel III break for banks in EU (FT)
  • China holds eight percent of US debt (China Daily)
  • Obama, GOP unveil competing plans for job growth (WaPo)
  • Ebay and PayPal sue Google over trade secrets (Reuters)
  • Greek leaders meet to resolve crisis (WSJ)
  • Lagarde offers bigger voice to emerging nations (FT)
  • G-8: Faster growth to spur faster debt cutting (Bloomberg)


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Today's Economic Data Docket - Personal Non-Income And Lack Of Savings, UMich Sentiment And Pending Home Sales

Personal income, completely irrelevant and mostly made up consumer sentiment and pending home sales.



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Dexia Shares Halted In Advance Of Substantial Loss, Asset Disposition Announcement

Update 2: DEXB.BB reopen 0.5% lower than prehalt.

Update: DEXB.BB to resume trading at 1340 CET according to the market regulator

Two days ago Zero Hedge revealed that "someone" may know something is fishy in Belgium's biggest bank Dexia, after two of the biggest investors in the bank's recent €3.2 billion FRN issuance decided to put their portion back to the bank. Sure enough, less than 48 hours later, the company's shares were halted, without much information, and it was subsequently revealed that the bank would book a multi-billion loss on asset sales, as a result it would accelerate the sale of non-core assets, and would divest its financial products portfolio. As a result of the €3.6 billion charge, "The second-quarter provision to cover future losses will reduce Dexia’s
Tier 1 ratio, a measure of the bank’s ability to absorb losses, to about
11 percent from 13.4 percent at the end of March, the bank, based in
Brussels and Paris, said today in an e-mailed statement
." Once again, we see efficient markets in action. Luckily for Blackrock and Barclays, the market was just a little more efficient for them than for everyone else. And to anyone who dipped into Dexia protection as per our suggestion, now may be a good time to take some profits... or not. After all the last thing the bank needs now is to have to raise even more cash to meet the put demands, which are likely set to surge across all bond issues that have this investor-friendly option.



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RANsquawk European Morning Briefing - Stocks, Bonds, FX etc. – 27/05/11

A snapshot of the European Morning Briefing covering Stocks, Bonds, FX, etc.
Market Recaps to help improve your Trading and Global knowledge



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Second Biggest Weekly Drop Ever In Treasurys Held In The Fed's Custodial Account As Foreigners Dump

There was one truly interesting observation in this week's Fed balance sheet update: not that the actual balance sheet hit a new all time record (which it did at $2.779 trillion), or that the Fed added another $24 billion in Treasurys to its balance sheet, or that total reserves hit a new all time record, increasing by $53 billion to $1.59 trillion. No. The biggest surprise was that in the just ended week, Treasury securities held in custodial accounts at the Fed, considered by some the best real-time representation of foreign holdings of US Treasurys considering that the TIC update is not only wildly inaccurate in its monthly update, but is also 3 months delayed, dropped by the largest amount in 4 years. From a total of $2.704 trillion, USTs held in custodial accounts declined by $18.7 billion to $2.685 billion. This is the second largest decline in history, only topped by the $22.1 billion in the week of August 15, 2007 which is the week that followed the great quant crash of 2007 that wiped out, among others, Goldman Alpha. This observation is in stark contrast to the recent record strength of bond issuance, after both the 5 and 7 Years auctions posted record Bid to Cover investor interest.



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The Blessing (And Curse) That Is The "Linda Green" Signature

When we presented our follow up post on Sarah Palin's recent house purchase, various elements from the Pavlovian fringe decided to make the idiotic assumption that the post, and the one preceding it, were some hit piece targeting the presidential candidate. Actually, no. Frankly, we have absolutely no opinion of Ms. Palin, and as such have no intention of writing "hit pieces", or any pieces, targeting her. The whole point of the posts was to demonstrate that even a person, who soon may or may not be president of America, could have fallen for what is now the most massive mortgage fraud scheme in the history of this country (which will certainly cost banks tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars to ultimately resolve). And while we will have many more discoveries on the matter soon, as we pointed out, the key link in the whole story is the mythical entity known as "Linda Green." While the backstory is by now very well known by most, for those to whom the reference is still unclear, we present the following investigative reporting piece by WHDH.com which explains why the Linda Green signature appearing anywhere in one's mortgage doc history, is a "blessing" and comparable to winning the lottery. Furthermore, we make no ethical judgments about whether strategically defaulting on one's mortgage is "good" or "bad" - the reality is that we are where we are. As Marie McDonnell, a Forensic Mortgage Analyst says, "I'm speechless. The scope of the problem is unimaginable, the depth of the fraud is shocking." And therein lies the rub: when all is said and done, banks will ultimately be saddled with another massive round of losses, which will then necessitate another round of taxpayer bailouts, which will then likely be orchestrated by the mainstream media machine as a conflict between those who pay their mortgages and those who don't, instead of focusing on the core problem: unimaginable greed by the financial system to do whatever it takes to fatten the bottom line, which includes breaking the law. And the longer we pretend the problem does not exist, the bigger the ultimate bail out (see Greece).



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