David Sokol, Supposed Successor To Buffett Resigns From Berkshire, Possible Lubrizol Frontrunning ImplicatedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 - 17:25
The brain behind the Lubrizol acquisition resigns unexpectedly, and the strangest press release-cum-letter from Buffett follows: "Shortly before I left for Asia on March 19, I learned that Dave first
purchased 2,300 shares of Lubrizol on December 14, which he then sold on
December 21. Subsequently, on January 5, 6 and 7, he bought 96,060
shares pursuant to a 100,000-share order he had placed with a $104 per
share limit price. Dave’s purchases were made before he had discussed
Lubrizol with me and with no knowledge of how I might react to his idea.
In addition, of course, he did not know what Lubrizol’s reaction would
be if I developed an interest." Frontrunning? We won't know - the kindly Octogenarian of Omaha will say no more ever: " if questioned about this matter in the future, I will simply refer the questioner back to this release."
Compare and Contrast James Bullard's boilerplate optimism: "U.S. growth prospects remain reasonably good for 2011...quantitative easing was “a classic easing of monetary policy and an effective tool" and "The US is on track for a "reasonable" recovery in 2010...Now it seems like the natural thing is to withdraw the quantitative easing and then as some later point raise interest rates"
Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa arrived in Britain on Wednesday to seek refuge after quitting the government in protest against leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces attacks on civilians, a friend told Reuters. "He has defected from the regime," said Noman Benotman, a friend and senior analyst at Britain's Quilliam think tank. "He wasn't happy at all. He doesn't support the government attacks on civilians," he said. "He's seeking refuge in Britain and hopes he will be treated well," Benotman said.
While we expect the imminent attempt at refutation from Hillary Clinton, we can't help but admire the symmetry between the handling of this campaign and that of Afghanistan where Al Qaeda also ended up on the receiving end of US generosity.
Japan Considers Extending Evacuation Radius After IAEA Finds Excessive Radiation 40 km Away From FukushimaSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 - 15:56
The IAEA which is quickly outstaying its Japanese welcome by disclosing actual facts about the radioactive fallout around the power plant, has just announced that it has found excessive radioactivity in a village 40 km from Fukushima. While the news will not be a surprise to anyone watching the grand lie unfold over the past three weeks, it may hopefully force the Japanese government to finally relent and extend the evacuation perimeter from the existing 20 km, thereby actually preventing the needless loss of life in the long run. From Reuters: "Radiation measured at a village 40 km from Japan's crippled nuclear plant exceeded a criterion for evacuation, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday, the latest sign of widening consequences from the crisis. Criticized for weak leadership during Japan's worst crisis since World War Two, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said he is considering enlarging the evacuation area to force 130,000 people to move, in addition to 70,000 already displaced."The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village," Denis Flory, a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said. "We have advised (Japan) to carefully assess the situation and they have indicated that it is already under assessment," he told a news conference." Hopefully our Japanese readers who have been following our coverage of this tragedy, which many have at times called "hysteric" even if always based on facts, have already evacuated long ago. Ultimately, it is one thing for the government to lie with just the Russell 2000's closing level being at stake. It is something totally different when people's mutagenic skills and/or life expectancy is at stake. When this is all said and done, Kan will likely be forced into exile for his tragic botching of an operationg whose only downside to disclosing the truth would have been a few hundred points in the Nikkei/S&P. Well, those losses will still come eventually, but at least thousands of lives would not have been put needlessly at risk in the meantime.
After losing almost 80% of their investment in 3 weeks, here come more bad news for TEPCO shareholders. According to Yusuke Ueda analyst for Bank of Lynch TEPCO shareholders may be wiped out by clean-up costs and liabilities. "The amount of compensation demanded of TEPCO will also vary considerably depending on how long it takes to resolve the nuclear reactor crisis. Below we set out our assessment of the nuclear power damage under the scenarios we envisage and of TEPCO’s credit enhancements in each scenario. We think TEPCO will face compensation claim demands of less than ¥1tn if the nuclear reactor accident can be resolved swiftly (roughly within two months). If the problems take a longer time to resolve (up to about six months or so), we estimate that compensation claims could amount to ¥2.4-3tn.The total could potentially reach ¥10tn under a worst-case scenario (about two years needed to resolve the nuclear power plant accident). Shareholders are very likely to be held liable, through capital reductions of a certain amount, so as to clarify responsibility for damage compensation, but given the principle of maintaining stable supplies of electric power, a scheme involving a default on the company's bonds is very unlikely to be adopted." Which means when the Nikkei opens up tonight look for another demonstration of Xeno's paradox where the stock continues selling off but never reaching zero.
On the right hand side of the Treasury Department website homepage, under the subheading Wall Street Reform, is the following lofty statement: "It is time to restore responsibility and accountability to our financial system." That's the spin. Now, it's been spinning there awhile, so it's not exactly news. But today, in complete contrast to the meaning of that statement, Geithner suggested backing a 'risk-retention' proposal that excludes banks that meet high underwriting standards (probably those that got high marks on the latest Fed stress tests for which the Fed isn't releasing any details) from having to retain portions of the deals they securitize, you know, of having to maintain a stake in the outcome of those deals and the performance and integrity of their underlying loans. To recap, as a result of the 2008 debacle, banks that passed their stress tests, effectively borrow money at next to zero percent. The aftermath of the financial crisis is the loosest monetary policy in our nation's history. Even with all that help, banks don't want to be bothered holding anything that could screw around with their capital ratios. Of course.
Reports Bloomberg: "JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said some municipalities will need to renegotiate their debt and that hundreds of them may “not make it.” “I wouldn’t panic about what I’m about to say,” he said today at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event in Washington. “You’re going to see some municipalities not make it. I don’t think it’s going to shatter America, I just think it’s a part of the credit cycle." Precisely: and it is precisely the part that JP Morgan comes in and offers sale leaseback offers to said munis, and other ingenious financial solutions that see munis selling their assets to the bank which after the Fed, has the biggest balance sheet, and can thus offer to engage in some even more creative asset-liability mismatch. Also explains why unlike Meredith, Jamie will not only not be asked to come in and testify to congress over his abrasive observations of an insolvent American reality, but will be lauded as a hero as he will provide funding to buy insolvent municipalities a year or two of time, which upon expiration will see Jamie end up with even more assets formerly belong to taxpayers, but by then everyone in the current District of Corruption cadre will be long gone with their part of the spoils. And so the "credit cycle" turns.
Russ Certo, head of rates at Gleacher, shares his perspective on the rate complex, over a short, and longer-term perspective: "As I arrive back and survey markets and prospective opportunities, I see the U.S. Treasury market down nearly 10 consecutive days in a row. Although, I believe SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER rates are here come in the intermediate future, I feel asymmetry exits in the next 72 trading session hours and into next week. Let me explain..."
Hoenig Says Lower And Middle Classes Pay "Dear Price" For Fed Mistakes, Accuses Fed Of Commodity Price InflationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 - 13:50
Hoenig is back, and a few months before his retirement, has released what appears a valedictory exercise in venomous truthiness: "Today, my view has not changed. The FOMC should gradually allow its $3 trillion balance sheet to shrink toward its pre-crisis level of $1 trillion. It should move the U.S. federal funds rate off of zero and toward 1 percent within a fairly short period of time. Then, after evaluating the effects of those actions, it should be prepared to move the funds rate further toward a level that could be reasonably judged as closer to normal and sustainable." At long last, someone admits the obvious: "While some of the increase may reflect global supply and demand conditions, at least some of the increase is driven by highly accommodative monetary policies in the United States and other economies." For those terrified by the ravages of deflation: "I tracked the average growth of money and the price levels in the United States from the 19th century to the present (Chart 3). It should surprise no one that there is a striking parallel between the long-run growth of money and the growth in the price-level index. From the end of World War II alone, the price index has increased by a factor of ten. With such a track record, it is hard to accept that deflation should be the world’s dominant concern." And lastly, for those who refuse to see Bernanke's policies as genocidal (metaphorically speaking but quite literally in MENA) to the lower (and increasingly) middle classes: "Central bankers must look to the long run. If current policy remains in place, we almost certainly will stimulate the growth of asset values and inflation. This may temporarily increase GDP and employment, but in the long run, we risk instability, damaging inflation and lost jobs, which is a dear price for middle and lower income citizens to pay."
Treasury Sells $29 Billion In Bonds, Bringing Total Settled US Debt To 14.311 Trillion, More Than The Debt CeilingSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 - 13:25
First, the irrelevant news: Today's $29 billion 7 Year auction just closed at a yield of 2.895%, the highest since April 2010, just the time when QE1 was ending and everyone was certain there would be no follow through monetization. The Bid To Cover was 2.79, weaker compared to recent auctions, and 2 bps wider of the When Issued, implying the auction was not all that hot. Directs took down 8.76%, in line with the last year average, Indirects accounts for 49.41%, or the lowest foreign take down since November 2010, while PDs bought 41.83% of the auction. Altogether a weak auction. And now the relevant news: the most recently disclosed total debt was 14,211,567,662,931.23 as of March 28. This excludes the settlement of all of this week's auctions which amount to $35 + $35 + $29 billion (including today) or $99 billion. Adding the two amounts to $14,310,567,662,931.23. As a reminder the debt ceiling is $14,294,000,000,000.00. In other words, the total US debt just passed the debt limit - break out the Champagne!
Now bear with us for a second: the most recently disclosued total debt was 14,211,567,662,931.23 as of March 28. This excludes the settlement of all of this week's auctions which amount to $35 + $35 + $29 billion (including today) or $99 billion. Adding the two amounts to $14,310,567,662,931.23. As a reminder the debt ceiling is $14,294,000,000,000.00. In other words, the total US debt just passed the debt limit - break out the Champagne!
Earlier today Japan Geiger counters had a brief scare following news that a second radioactive powerplant - Fukushima Daini briefly emitted smoke. Reuters reported: "smoke was reported to be coming from a second
damaged nuclear plant nearby on Wednesday, with the authorities saying
an electric distribution board powering a water pump was the problem. The Daini plant several miles from the stricken Daiichi facility has been put into cold shutdown." And while the incident was subsequently said to be under control, a bigger issue for Japan's export market is the attempt to overturn the food export embargo which many countries have imposed on the island nation out of radiation concerns. That this is a major issue for Japan becomes apparent following disclosure that the country is already pushing hard to overturn this ban: "Japan called on the world not to impose "unjustifiable" import curbs on its goods as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to arrive on Thursday, the first leader to visit since an earthquake and tsunami damaged a nuclear plant, sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. In a briefing to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Japan said it was monitoring radioactive contamination to prevent potential food safety risks and would provide the WTO with quick and precise information." Alas, with Japanese credibility non-existent following the abysmal treatment of the catastrophe over the past three weeks, one can see why the world may be a little skeptical. Add to this earlier news that according to the IAEA there "might" be recriticality in the reactor, and we can't wait to see Japan's March trade balance when it is released in just over a month.
Third Government Set To Fall In A Week: Kuwait Cabinet Expected To Resign On Thursday "Over Questioning"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 - 12:22
Following the fall of the Portuguese and Canadian governments (and don't get us started on Belgium), here comes the latest entrant to the anarchy club. Kuwait's cabinet is expected to resign on Thursday after lawmakers asked to question three ministers, parliamentary sources said on Wednesday. More from Reuters: "The sources said that the cabinet was set to submit its resignation after lawmakers asked to question three ministers who are ruling family members, including the oil exporter's energy minister, who is also the information minister." After all what better way to avoid answering questions in a bona fide "democracy" than to take down the entire government. But this too is bullish: "Ministerial resignations are frequent in Kuwait, which has the most outspoken parliament in the Gulf Arab region." In other words it was priced on. And furthermore, with a globalized corporatocracy long in charge of the world, receiving its lifeblood of endless money and cheap credit, who needs governments anyway.
Third Largest Producer Of Silver Says Production Is Now "Totally Paralyzed" Following Week-Long StrikeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 - 11:54
In news that should move the precious metals market, we learn that the world's third largest producer of silver (as well as zinc and lead) has announced its production is now totally paralyzed. From Reuters: "A week-old strike at Bolivia's San Cristobal mine has totally paralyzed production and exports of silver, zinc and lead, a union leader said on Wednesday. San Cristobal is the world's third-largest producer of silver and the sixth-largest producer of zinc, according to Japan's Sumitomo Corp, which owns the mine." For those who recall basic central planning economics this means that silver should plunge immediately, and should react even more adversely on news that crude supplies in the US are surging. After all, oil supply demand is far more critical to silver price discovery than the actual supply of a metal that unlike gold, is used in various industrial and peacebringing applications (see Operation Odyssey Dawn).