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Ukraine Enters Hyperinflation: Currency Trading Halted, "Soon We Will Walk Around With Suitcases For Cash"

The Ukraine central bank tried to call a halt on Wednesday by banning banks from buying foreign currency on behalf of their clients for the rest of this week. Although banks could still trade with each other, by mid-morning there were no registered trades at any rate, leaving the currency in limbo.  A construction worker exchanging dollars at a kiosk in a grocery shop in return for a bag filled with thousands of hryvnia, laughed and told shoppers: "Soon we will have to walk around with suitcases for cash, like in the 1990s."



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A Most Curious Disconnect

While the actual number of new homes sold has barely budged during the so-called Recovery, the incentive for the builders, is right there, and as can been by median new home prices which continue to rise, and in fact hit an all time high as recently as December!



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Crude Oil Inventories Surge For 7th Week In A Row To Record Highs Amid Record Production

Oil prices dumped (last night's major 8.9 million barrel inventory build from API), pumped (the Saudi minister claiming "demand is growing" - which just seems like total fiction given economic backdrops and China's VLCC count plunge), and then this morning, dumped setting the scene for this morning's EIA inventory data. Against expectations of an 8 million barrel build, crude inventories saw a 8.43 million barrel build (5 times higher than the 5 year average). Record levels of production and record total inventrory sent WTI plunging out of the gate but it is stabilizing for now...



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New Home Sales & Prices Slip But Weather-Impacted Midwest Sales Surge

When existing home sales missed expectations, the fault was laid squarely at the foot of the meteorological conditions (despite a rise in NorthEast sales). New Home Sales beat expectations in January, printing 481k vs 470k expectations (though very modestly lower than December's revised 482k) and - destroying the meme that weather is to blame - sales soared in The Midwest. Median prices dropped MoM to the lowest since September but remain up an impressive 9% YoY. Lack of inventory continues to be blamed for weak sales - but, we ask rhetorically, doesn't price rise when supply drops?



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Grillin' Yellen: "Humphrey-Hawkins" Testimony Day 2 - Live Feed

While this morning's prepared remarks will be the same hodge podge of three-armed economist-speak, we suspect the Q&A will be a little aggressive as Fed Chair Janet Yellen faces The House Financial Services Committee. Having told the markets that "valuations are somewhat higher than normal," and "heightened leverage and weak underwriting terms are close to levels preceding the financial crisis," we are sure the Congressmen (and women) will focus attention on financial stability concerns - as opposed to back-patting celebrations of how well The Fed has done.



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How Far Is It From Kiev To Athens?

We don't get it, and we definitely don’t get why nobody is asking any questions. The IMF and EU make a lot of noise – through the Eurogroup – about all the conditions Greece has to address to get even a mild extension of support, while the same IMF and EU keep on handing out cash to Ukraine without as much as a whisper – at least publicly...



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HSBC CEO, Chairman Testify Over Tax Evasion, Facilitating Global Money Laundering - Live Webcast

It is time for another song and dance to appease the angry mob, if only for the next week or so until the popular attention span shifts over to the next scandal du jour. Which for today means that two top HSBC execs will appear briefly in UK parliament to testify before the Treasury committee, in a televized webcast set to start momentarily.



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After Cutting US Growth Due To Snow, Goldman Now Warns West Coast Port Congestion Will "Drag On GDP"

Last week, when with much amusement we observed that the first of many Q1 GDP cuts due to snow... in the winter... had taken place, we warned that next up on the GDP-trimming agenda would be "the West Coast port strike to take place in 2-4 weeks." We were wrong: it wasn't 2-4 weeks. It was 4 days, because overnight first Goldman (and soon all the other penguins) released a report titled "The Fallout from West Coast Port Disruptions" and sure enough, Goldman's conclusion is that "On balance, we think the net impact on Q1 GDP is probably a modest drag, although the estimated effect is highly uncertain at this point in the quarter."



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The Market Is A Red Herring... Distracting Us From The Reality Of The Economy

Janet Yellen once again repeats that the economy is “looking stronger” although still it has yet to manifest into actual strength.  In fact, it is still so weak that the Fed cannot even suggest that rates will raise anytime over the next several FOMC meetings.  In short, the economy is still very sick. The Pundits (Liesman) are suggesting Janet feels the economy is strong but that the “data just isn’t cooperating”.  What does that even mean?? The market is a red herring of sorts keeping our attention away from the reality of the economy.  And so, to give up the market strength would be synonymous to removing the one remaining support holding up that 100 storey building that is otherwise completely rotted.  Only when the economy is able to withstand a market repricing will the Fed allow the market to reprice.



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Frontrunning: February 25

  • Invade Syria already, we know you will: Islamic State in Syria abducts at least 150 Christians (Reuters)
  • Greece Struggles to Get Citizens to Pay Their Taxes (WSJ)
  • Doubts Shadow Deal to Extend Greek Bailout (WSJ)
  • In surprise result, Chicago's Mayor Emanuel faces election run-off (Reuters)
  • Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill (Reuters)
  • Another sign of the top: Cushman & Wakefield Going Up for Sale (WSJ)
  • Lure of Wall Street Cash Said to Skew Credit Ratings (BBG) ... and threat of DOJ lawsuits also
  • Oil rises to $59 as Saudis say demand growing (Reuters)


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Schauble: "Germans Doubt Greek Promises", No More Money For Athens Until All Commitments Met

Reuters quotes Schauble who said that: "It wasn't easy an easy decision for us but neither was it easy for the Greek government because (they) had told the people something completely different in the campaign and afterwards."   "The question now is whether one can believe the Greek government's assurances or not. There's a lot of doubt in Germany, that has to be understood," said Schaeuble who despite his misgivings, he has urged German lawmakers to approve the Greek extension in a vote in parliament expected on Friday. The finance minister made one thing very clear: No payments will be made to Athens unless Greek govt meets its commitments in full.



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Stocks In Holding Pattern Following Blow-Off Top, Oblivious Of Fed's Warning Of "Stretched" Valuations

Following the first of two Janet Yellen testimonies to Congress, the market read between the lines of what the Fed Chairman said when she hinted that "the Fed needs confidence on recovery and inflation before beginning to raise rates" and realized that the case of a June rate hike is suddenly far less realistic than previously expected, as a result not only did we see another blowoff top in stocks to fresh all time highs, a move which sent the USD lower, has pushed the median EV/EBITDA multiple to the mid 11x (!) range and the forward PE to just shy of 18x ironically coming on a day when the Fed itself warned about "stretched" equity valuations, and led to brisk buying of global Treasurys across the board, pushing the 10 Year in the US back under 2%, and due to the global convergence trade (because if the Fed returns to QE, it will be forced to buy up Treasuries not just in the US but around the globe, since net issuance including CBs globally is now negative) and leading to today's German 5 Year bond auction pricing at a negative yield for the first time ever.



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A Secret "Black Site" Revealed In Chicago: "When You Go In, You Just Disappear"

Located in a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side is where, according to the Guardian, one can find the domestic equivalent of a CIA "black site" - an illegal, off-the-books interrogation compound used by Chicago special police units, one which renders "Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside"; a place whose former occupants say is where you end up when you are "disappeared"; a place which confirms that when it comes to the eternal "who is better - us or them" debate, there really is no difference: "It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.” It's a Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib rolled into one. In short: it is a place where the US constitution and basic human rights have absolutely no access.



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This Is Why Hewlett-Packard Is Firing 58,000

The rich get richer and stock buybacks; the poor get poorer and pink slips. Rinse. Repeat.



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Edward Snowden's Libertarian Moment: We "Will Remove From Governments The Ability To Interfere With [Our] Rights"

"If people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren't just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing our futures... I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens' discontent."



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