The Russian occupation of Crimea has raised concerns about the European Union’s dependence on its eastern neighbor for natural gas. The EU gets about 34% of its natural gas imports from Russia, a large portion of which transits Ukraine through a web of pipelines. For Eastern Europe, that dependence is much greater. In the brutally cold winter of 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe allegedly over a pricing dispute with Ukraine. However, it was also a lesson to Western Europe on its dependence on Russia for energy. The economic damage of energy supply disruptions cuts both ways. Putin likes to play the role of bully, but Russia is not exactly in a strong position in terms of using energy as a political weapon. Whether or not the Ukraine crisis deepens, it is unlikely that Moscow would intentionally turn off the taps for any prolonged period of time.
The only thing that is unclear about the following clip released by the Ukraine's Border Guard supposedly capturing Russians "digging in" on a key route linking Crimea to the rest of the Ukraine, is what is funnier: that the Russian soldier is "painting" the drone with a laser flashlight, or that according to the Ukrainians said action was evidence the drone was being "shot at" by Russian soldiers.
There probably isn’t a more over-used phrase thrown across the media landscape than, “It’s different this time.” One can’t look at the financial markets, the political stage, and more without shaking ones head. Nothing seems to make sense. Yet if one wants to lazily answer, “It’s different this time.” Things become crystal clear. Water now seems to run uphill. The definition of words no longer mean what they once did. (we’re still marveling on what is – is) Free society means the loss of only a few freedoms per year, as opposed to everything at once. Work is a bad thing however, if someone else goes to work and pay for your things – then that’s good. You can keep your plan if you like your plan – but if we don’t like it – well – you can’t. The Federal Reserve would never monetize the debt – however if you’re a preferred dealer in the QE (quantitative easing) program – they’ll do it for you. These precarious times leave many scratching their heads. Expressed another way, When everyone is on the band wagon – except the band. You had better take notice.
President Barack Obama has recently released his budget in which he calls for an “end of austerity.” This is an amazing statement from a president whose government has spent the highest percentage of GDP in history and added more to the national debt than all past presidents combined. What must he mean by austerity? The president’s rejection of austerity represents the Keynesian view which completely rejects austerity in favor of the “borrow and spend” — increase aggregate demand — approach to recession. What he really is rejecting is the infinitesimal cutbacks in the rate of spending increases and the political roadblocks to new spending programs. President Obama and Congress should get busy doing what is best for the economy and the American public instead of enriching themselves and those who feed at the public trough.
Between China's dismal trade deficit data (desperately defended by several sell-side strategists proclaiming it's just lunar new year 'noise' - aside from the fact that all the same strategists 'knew' the dates and still missed by 6 standard deviations) and the esclalations in Ukraine, it appears 'confidence' is a little shaken in the status quo. JPY has opened notably stronger dragging Yen carry trades lower and implying notable losses on the open for stock futures...
"I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hands," former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Fox News this morning adding that there is little chance Ukraine will be able to get back control. When asked in this brief clip "You think Crimea's gone?" Gates responded clearly, "I do." Gates then goes on to explain why Obama's foreign policy didn't "embolden" Putin and perhaps more importantly defends Obama's "taking the weekend off in the middle of a crisis" golf trip...
Just in case the world did not have enough potential geopolitical flashpoints and near-crises, here comes old faithful - the simmering nationalist rivalry between China and Japan, which may have been pushed to the backburner in light of the grand return of Cold War 2.0, but is neither forgotten nor resolved. In fact, recent developments which have seen Japan fully back the US strategy in Ukraine while China has voiced its support for Russia, will probably only enflame the direct tension between the two Asian superpowers. Moments ago we got the latest manifestation of precisely this when Japan scrambled military jets on Sunday to counter three Chinese military planes that flew near Japanese airspace, defence officials said.
With a March 16th date set for Crimea's referendum (to confirm that the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority, is a part of Russia) and a few short days after Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is due to meet President Obama in the White House, Reuters reports that The United States will not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia if residents of the region vote to leave Ukraine. Obama has said a referendum on Crimea would violate international law and the Ukrainian constitution... but this raises 3 awkward (and apparently hypocritical) questions on the right to self-determination... and pins March 16th as a crucial inflection point between Russia and US.
While the US may be rejoicing its daily stock market all time highs day after day, it may come as a surprise to many that global equity capitalization has hardly performed as impressively compared to its previous records set in mid-2007. In fact, between the last bubble peak, and mid-2013, there has been a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion over this six year time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from 2007 to 2013, from "only" $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS' just-released quarterly review.
Another East-Ukraine City Falls To Pro-Russian Protesters As Ukraine Denies Sending Troops To CrimeaSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/09/2014 - 10:04
Despite clear evidence otherwise, presented here extensively yesterday, this morning Ukraine has denied that is has "plans to send armed forces to Crimea. They are doing their routine work which the armed have always had." Adding somewhat to the confusion was the statement by Pavlo Shysholin, head of country’s border guard service tells reporters in Kiev, who said that so far Ukrainian border guards denied entry to 3,500 people and that Ukraine border troops remain in Crimea, would leave only if "forced" but more importanly: UKRAINE BORDER TROOPS BOOST FORCES ON EAST BORDER: SHYSHOLIN. So there is an escalation in the mobilization, only not toward Crimea, which the Russians already control entirely, but the critical East, which as everyone knows, is the next target for Putin annexation once the Crimean referendum passes in one week. Confirming just this were just released photos from another major city in east Ukraine, this time Lugansk, where pro-Russian protesters just stormed and took over the city administration building. Their demand: to be part of the March 16 referendum to become part of Russia.
With 40% of the portfolio in cash and having returned $4 billion to clients at year-end, Seth Klarman's Baupost Group has "drawn the line in the sand" as they reflect on the diminished opportunities in the so-called "Truman Show" market we see today. In the face of mixed economic data and at a critical inflection point in Federal Reserve policy, Klarman notes, the stock market, heading into 2014, resembles a Rorschach test - "what investors see in the inkblots says considerably more about them than it does about the market." From "born bulls" to "worry genes" and from Bitcoin to flash-mob-speculation, "there is a growing gap between the financial markets and the real economy...and the overall picture is one of growing risk and inadequate potential return almost everywhere one looks... as every 'Truman' under Bernanke’s dome knows the environment is phony."
On Thursday a senior Indian official appeared to endorse Russia’s position in Ukraine in recent days, even as Delhi urged all parties involved to seek a peaceful resolution to the diplomatic crisis. When asked for India’s official assessment of the events in Ukraine, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon responded: “We hope that whatever internal issues there are within Ukraine are settled peacefully, and the broader issues of reconciling various interests involved, and there are legitimate Russian and other interests involved…. We hope those are discussed, negotiated and that there is a satisfactory resolution to them." Local Indian media noted that Menon’s statement about Russia’s legitimate interests in Ukraine made it the first major nation to publicly lean toward Russia. The larger question, of course, is why India decided to take such a relatively pro-Russian stance on the Ukraine issue? There are a number of possibilities...