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On The One Year Anniversary Of The US Downgrade

A year ago, the budget “deal” concocted between Mr Obama and his Congress was ballyhooing a “plan” to cut $US 1.2 TRILLION off annual budget deficits over a DECADE. Now, the projection for the 2012 budget is that the US government will add that amount to the funded debt of the US Treasury over ONE YEAR. This would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so tragic. What is even funnier - and more tragic - is that the entire world is “depending” on the people who concoct this stuff.

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The German Press Responds To Draghi: "Vengeance Will Be Bitter"

And, as expected, it's not happy. The punchline:

The central bank is to become subordinate to finance ministers in crisis-stricken countries. In Draghi's homeland Italy, such a situation was the norm for decades -- and the result was chronic inflation. Now, he is accepting a repeat of history. On the short term, it will create relief in the debt crisis. On the long term, vengeance will be bitter."

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Guest Post: Should Obama And Congress Be Arrested Under The NDAA?

Welcome to the beautiful and surreal reality of life under American corporatism, under a Congress that churns out thousands  and thousands of pages of (often contradictory) legislation a year. If providing material assistance to al-Qaeda is illegal under the National Defence Authorization Act (2012), and Obama and Congress are sending $25 million of aid to al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrian opposition, aren’t Congress and President Obama violating their own law? Should Obama (or at least the Justice Department) not be using “all necessary and appropriate force” including “the power to indefinitely detain” to prevent Obama and Congress from assisting al-Qaeda? Did anyone in Congress or the Obama administration even bother to read the law that they were signing? Do Federal laws no longer apply to lawmakers?

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2012: A Phelps Odyssey

The 2012 Olympics was shaping up as Ryan Lochte's breakout year, and in many respects it was. But more than anything, the London Olympics turned out to be the swan song of Michael Phelps, who hours ago completed his final Olympic event and retired from the sport of swimming where is now inducted in perpetuity into the swimming hall of fame with not only a record 18 Olympic gold medals, twice as many more as any other Olympian, in a career that stretches from Athens through Beijing and concludes with London, but a record 22 medals of all colors. What was Phelps final tally in the 2012 Olympics, how does that compare to Lochte's total, and how did the London Olympic swim times compare to Bejing? The infographic below will answer all questions.

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Charting The Un-BEAR-able Lightness Of Equity Analyst Credibility

While Mario Draghi has done wonders to expose his total and utter lack of credibility - no matter how much spin is pushed at us - it seems that equity analysts still (somewhat remarkably) move markets and remain credible in the eyes of what we assume is an entirely cognitively dissonant self-perpetuating market-structure in need of 'excuses'. To wit, the following chart, from Strategas, which illustrates perfectly the herd-like upward-biased and constant shift in year after year of S&P 500 earnings expectations that quickly and inexorably smashes lower in the face of the reality of a crushed credit cycle and 'whocouldanode' recessions/stagnations. It seems we (as investors) and they (as shills analysts) will never learn - or maybe we all will this time (as it's never different!).

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In Order To Be Saved, Spain And Italy Must First Be Destroyed

There has been much confusion over last week's remarks by Mario Draghi, with the prevailing narrative being that the market first got what Draghi meant wrong (when it plunged), then right (when it soared). The confusion is further granulated by attempts to explain what was merely a desperate attempt at delaying a decision for action, which was inevitable considering the now open opposition by Buba's Weidmann, into a formal and planned plotline: "Inverse Twist" or other such technical jargon is what we have seen floating around. The reality is that, just like all other central bankers, Draghi did what he does best: use big words and threats of action in hope it will buy him a few extra days of time. The reality is also that, just like when the LTRO was announced, the market did get it right initially, when peripheral bonds plunged, and got it wrong over the subsequent 3 months when bond prices rose, only to collapse to new lows (and in the case of Spain - record high yields as of two weeks ago). Back then, the ECB merely bought a few months time with its transitory intervention. This time it has at best bought a few days with the lack of any actual action. And yet, Draghi did leave a way out, for at least another brief respite (where unless Europe expands the available bailout machinery yet again, the respite will have an even briefer half life than that from the LTROs). The way out is simple, and in order to avoid any confusion, we will use an allegory from the movie Batman: Spain and Italy can be saved. But first they must be destroyed.

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Kirk Sorensen: A Detailed Exploration Of Thorium's Potential As An Energy Source

Kirk Sorensen, NASA-trained engineer, is a man on a mission to open minds to the tremendous promise that thorium, a near-valueless element in today's marketplace, may offer in meeting future world energy demand. Compared to Uranium-238-based nuclear reactors currently in use today, a liquid flouride thorium reactor (LTFR) would be:

  • Much safer - no risk of environmental radiation contamination or plant explosion (e.g. Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three-Mile Island)
  • Much more efficient at producing energy - over 90% of the input fuel would be tapped for energy; vs <1% in today's reactors
  • Less waste-generating - most of the radioactive by-products would take days/weeks to degrade to safe levels, vs centuries
  • Much cheaper - reactor footprints and infrastructure would be much smaller, and could be constructed in modular fashion
  • More plentiful - LFTR reactors do not need to be located next to large water supplies, as current plants do
  • Less controversial - the byproducts of the thorium reaction are pretty useless for weaponization
  • Longer-lived - thorium is much more plentiful than uranium and treated as valueless today. There is virtually no danger of running out of it given LFTR plant efficiency 

Most of the know-how and technology to build and maintain LFTR reactors exists today. If made a priority, the US could have its first fully-operational LFTR plant running at commercial scale in under a decade.

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ECB Saves Greece From Certain Bankruptcy. Again

A few days ago we wrote that "Greece Runs Out Of Money. Again" because it did. The country, which is permanently locked out of the bond markets, would be down to a negative cash balance as soon as its August bond payment to the ECB was made. The reason is that the Troika continues to delay its decision. whether or not to hand over Greece its next monthly allowance. So with the country threatening to once again be on the front page as math rears its ugly head, the ECB has decided to take the bold step and admit that in lieu of even remotely credible collateral pledged and repledged in the ponzi repo system, the ECB has no choice but to expand the universe of eligible "collateral" against which it will provide cash. From Reuters: "The ECB's Governing Council agreed at its meeting on Thursday to increase the upper limit for the amount of Greek short-term loans the Bank of Greece can accept in exchange for emergency loans, the newspaper said in an advance copy of the article due to appear in its Saturday edition."

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Guest Post: Competing For State Contracts Is Not Competition

Here in Britain, we hear the word competition a lot. Since Margaret Thatcher, there has been a general trend — in the name of competition — toward the selling-off of utilities such as water, railway, electricity and telecoms providers. More recently, there has been a trend toward government services being provided by private companies, such as the bungled Olympic security arrangements contracted out to multinational security giant G4S, as well as work capability assessments contracted out to French IT consultancy ATOS, and the contracting-out of some medical services. The way this works is that the government provides the funding for services, which private sector companies then bid to undertake. This is also the way in which defence contractors have historically competed for defence contracts, a sector which is renowned worldwide for its profligacy, waste and inefficiency. This is a bizarre arrangement. Competing for government contracts is nothing like the free market. In a true market environment businesses compete for the custom of individuals based on their ability to provide the best products and services.

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Friday Humor: "I Am Pledging To Cut The Deficit We Inherited By Half By The End Of My First Term In Office"

"If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road as our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes and our children and grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they are saddled with our debts. That's why today I am pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office... That means taking responsibility right now in this administration, for getting our spending under control."

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Fascination With Triple Levered ETFs Ends: Direxion Closing Nine 3x ETFs Due To Lack Of Interest

It was fun (not really) while it lasted, but America's habitual gamblers have finally grown tired of the theta sucking monsters known as uberlevered ETFs. End result: Direxion is announcing it is closing nine 3X levered ETFs. The casualties are: Direxion Daily Agribusiness Bull 3X Shares (COWL), Direxion Daily Agribusiness Bear 3X Shares (COWS), Direxion Daily Basic Materials Bear 3X Shares (MATS), Direxion Daily BRIC Bull 3X Shares (BRIL), Direxion Daily BRIC Bear 3X Shares (BRIS), Direxion Daily Healthcare Bear 3X Shares (SICK), Direxion Daily India Bear 3X Shares (INDZ), Direxion Daily Latin America Bear 3X Shares (LHB) and Direxion Daily Retail Bear 3X Shares (RETS).

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EUR Shorts Collapse By 35% In Two Months, Down 10% In One Week

By now even 5 year olds know that the one asset class driving the general stock market is the highly leverageable EURUSD: where the core pair goes, everything else follows, especially if the direction is up (when the EURUSD slides lately it is assumed to be a confirmation that the ECB will print; when it goes up, the agreed upon explanation is that more Fed easing is imminent). As such a key variable has been the amount of net shorts in the pair, as exposed every week by the CFTC in its COT report. And where two months ago, the net short position in the EUR hit an all time record, north of -200K contracts, in the interim this number has contracted by over a third, and as of minutes ago was revealed to be "just" 139K in the week ending July 31, a 10% drop in shorts in one week. Why is this important? Because while short covering rallies have long been yet another narrative to keep shorts on the sidelines, the probability of such an event has declined dramatically now that the bulk of the weak hands have been kicked out, and the net exposure is back to January 2012 levels. In other words, 8 months later we have completed one full shorting circle when it comes to the euro., which however now is 700 pips lower than where it was back then. The Jack in the Box potential of further squeezing is rapidly declining with every move such as today's when no news and mere rumor drives the pair up by 200 pips (only to be faded of course).

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S&P Downgrades 15 Italian Financial Institutions, Says Country Faces Deeper Recession Than Previously Thought

It is late in the afternoon on a Friday, which means one thing: it is time to dump all left over bad news under the rug. Sure enough, here comes S&P. From Bloomberg:


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Europe's Largest Insurer Allianz Not Amused That Central Banks Are Involved In Liborgate

What a difference a revisionist market rally makes. Remember when everyone was involved in Libor manipulation? No? Curious what a few hundred DJIA points will do especially when the corporate revenues and supporting them simply are not there, and one goes all in on multiple expansion. One entity which, however, has not forgotten about Lieborgate is Pimco parent and Europe's largest insurance firm, Allianz. And they are not happy: "Europe's biggest insurer, Allianz, is worried about the role central banks may have played in an interest rate rigging scandal that has enveloped some leading international lenders, the insurer's chief financial officer said on Friday. "We do not find it funny, what has happened, in particular the arising implication that it is not just the banks but central banks being involved in this," Oliver Baete told a conference call with analysts. "That really gives us cause for concern," Baete added." Of course, neither the ECB nor the FED could care much, considering that Allianz would be immediately insolvent if the same central banks who manipulated Libor stopped manipulating interest rates... which is implicitly what Allianz is unhappy about.

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TD Ameritrade Resumes Trading With Knight Hours Before Credit Line Expires; $440 MM Cash Outflow Looms

Knight's credit line expires in 90 minutes. All day it has been a dark box, with virtually no trades coming in or leaving. The company is scrambling, so what happens: some much needed good news finally hits the tape following a TD Ameritrade announcement it has resumed trading with KCG. Will others piggyback as the credit lifeline that is keeping Knight alive expires at the end of the day, and the liquidity runs out, or will firms who explicitly are Knight's competitors in a market which has ever less volume leave it out to hang in hopes of picking up its business on the cheap. A 90 minute difference between life and death for a firm in desperate need of many more such press releases.

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