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Black Swan 2: This Is "The Next Critical Chapter In The Austrian Banking System Story"

"A relatively low-profile entity in Austria – Pfandbriefbank Oesterreich AG (Pfandbriefbank) – is becoming the next critical chapter in the Austrian banking system story." - Daiwa



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Syria "Welcomes" Larger Russia Presence

Following Vladimir Putin's demands for an "immediate cessation of military activities" in Yemen, AFP reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's comment during a recent interview that "with complete confidence that we welcome any widening of the Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean and on Syrian coasts and ports," including the port of Tartus. Amid the Western-backed opposition National Coalition's planned boycott of talks, Assad pointedly remarked, "the negotiating parties must be independent and must reflect what the Syrian people want... people would not accept that their future, their fate, or their rules are decided from outside."



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Rig Count Decline Reaches 16 Weeks, Pace Of Decline Drops Dramatically

In 2008/9, the rig count decline 18 weeks straight (dropping 57% overall over a 41 week period). Today's mere 21 rig decline to 1048 marks the 16th straight week of drops (down 45%) and is the smallest drop in 11 weeks. This is the biggest 16-week decline in rig count in 30 years. Crude is not reacting significantly yet but it appears the limits of efficiency gains before production takes a hit.



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Hans-Werner Sinn Fears Europe's "Very Messy" Easy-Money Endgame

There is a risk that Japan, China, and the US will not sit on their hands while the euro loses value, with the world possibly even sliding into a currency war. Moreover, the southern EU countries, instead of leaving prices unchanged, could abandon austerity and issue an ever greater volume of new bonds to stimulate the economy. Competitiveness gains and rebalancing would fail to materialize, and, after an initial flash in the pan, the eurozone would return to permanent crisis. The euro, finally and fully discredited, would then meet a very messy end. One can only hope that this scenario does not come to pass, and that the southern countries stay the course of austerity. This is their last chance.



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Peak Gold? Goldman Calculates There Is Only 20 Years Of Gold Supply Left

According to a report issued by Goldman's Eugene King looking at commodity scarcity, the chart below "shows that there are only 20 years of known mineable reserves of gold and diamonds."



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Greek Deputy FinMin Confirms Athens Is "Prepared For Rift" With Europe

Just days after Greek FinMin Yanis Varoufakis' comments about hoping the Greek people will continue to back the government "after the rift," were played down by Syriza; ekathimerini reports that Alternate Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Friday made waves by seeming to confirm that the Greek government was "always prepared for a rift" with its European creditors - "If you don't entertain the possibility of a rift in the back of your mind then obviously the creditors will pass the same measures as they did with the previous [government]," (which perhaps explains why default risks are soaring back to post-crisis highs).



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Will Cash Always Be Trash, Or Will It One Day Be King?

When the phantom wealth evaporates and risk assets go bidless, cash will once again be king, for the simple reason there will be so little of it.



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Are We In A Biotech Bubble? You Decide

Biotech has outperformed the broad market by a count of 3.5:1 over the past four years, is up four fold over a decade that included the worst financial crisis since the Depression, is riding a 5-year reign as the top performing sector, and the number of public companies in the sector with $2B market caps has tripled in four years. But we'll let the charts do the talking.



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Oil Slides As Inventories Trump Iran-Yemen Push-Pull

Crude oil prices have rallied sharply this week on headlines that a coalition of Sunni-ruled nations initiated airstrikes on Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels. Goldman's Damian Courvalin notes that this rally reversed the sell-off that occurred in part on the rising odds of a deal with Iran being reached. Courvalin expects both events to have negligible near-term supply impacts, with the build in crude inventories set to continue in 2Q15. Longer term, a deal with Iran could lead to greater OPEC supplies although the timing of the sanction relief remains uncertain. It appears today's weakness indicates a dawning realization that there's still too much...



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Euro Basis Swaps Keep Diving

While the euro itself has recovered a bit from its worst levels in recent sessions, euro basis swaps have fallen deeper into negative territory on par with the epic nosedive of 2011. We are not quite sure what the move means this time around, since there is no obvious crisis situation – not yet, anyway. A negative FX basis usually indicates some sort of concern over the banking system’s creditworthiness and has historically been associated with euro area banks experiencing problems in obtaining dollar funding. This time, the move in basis swaps is happening “quietly”, as there are no reports in the media indicating that anything might be amiss. Still, something is apparently amiss...



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Explaining The Latest War In The Middle East With One Cartoon

Because one cartoon is worth a thousand "sponsored post" all you need to know explainers.



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UMich Consumer Sentiment Drops For 2nd Month In A Row, First Time Since Oct 2013

For the first time since October 2013, UMich Consumer Sentiment dropped for consecutive months (printing a final 93.0 for March down from 95.4 in Feb, but above the flash print earlier in the month). Under the surface there are concerns with an increasing number of respondents noting that household finance are worse than 5 years ago, and an increasing number of people seeing now as a "bad time to buy" a house or car.



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Will Greece Call A Referendum On Euro Membership?

"One of the potential options Syriza might eventually consider could be a popular referendum on Eurozone membership – a step that would obviously involve great risks and uncertainties," UBS says, as Athens stares down a tough month ahead and an even tougher June and July.



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"Serious Depressive Episode" May Have Driven Germanwings Pilot To "Criminal, Mad, Suicidal" Action, Prosecutors Allege

Andreas Lubitz, the 28-year-old co-pilot who murder-suicided a plane full of 150 people into the Alps, had been judged to have suffered a "serious depressive episode" around the time he suspended his training in 2009, according to internal documents cited by Germany's Bild. As Reuters reports, Lubitz had broken off his training in 2009 and reportedly spent a year in psychiatric treatment but as the Lufthansa CEO noted, "After he was cleared again, he resumed training. He passed all the subsequent tests and checks with flying colors. His flying abilities were flawless." French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged patience during the investigation but stated, "everything points to a criminal, mad, suicidal action that we cannot comprehend."



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Final Q4 GDP Unchanged At 2.2%, Below Expectations; Corporate Profits Tumble

So much for the "self-sustaining", "escape-velocity" recovery. Again. After rising at an annualized pace of 4.6% and 5.0% in Q2 and Q3, the final Q4 GDP estimate (a number which will still be revised at least 3-4 times in the coming years), slid more than half to 2.2%, the same as the second estimate from a month ago, and below the consensus Wall Street estimate of 2.4%.



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