In America, the implicit belief system promoted by marketing is that you can eat anything you want in whatever quantity you want, and if anything goes wrong with your body or mind, there is a pill or procedure to fix it. In other words, your diet and fitness level is given lip service, but what really counts is access to all the medications that are constantly touted and pushed by the Marketing/Mainstream Media complex. It would be comical if it wasn't so tragic: if you've seen one advert pushing a med, you've seen them all: the description of the disorder, the fear and pain it inflicts, the solution in a pill, and then a voice-over, spoken at a manic pace to fit all the possible side-effects in the waning moments of a 60-second spot: suicidal thoughts, symptoms of heart attack, heart attack, itchy skin, dizziness, bizarre dreams, and on and on. Good golly, all these side-effects from one med? What happens when they're combined with 7 or 8 or 11 other meds with their own swarms of nasty side effects? The core of sickcare is this: creating and treating illness is highly profitable. For creating illness, we have the packaged food, Big Food and fast food industries. Does anyone seriously believe that human beings can function healthily for decades on a diet of sugar water, fried potatoes, white-bread buns and fat-larded hamburgers?
We were not at all surprised to learn this morning that not only has an agreement not been met ahead of Monday's critical Eurozone FinMin meeting (the first of many for 2012) in Brussels, but talks have "stalled". Dow Jones reports: "Talks between Greece and its private sector creditors over a debt writedown plan appeared to stall Saturday as the banks' top negotiator left Athens amid signs of fresh disagreements over how much Greece would pay its bondholders in the future. Officials close to the talks said they may not conclude before a meeting Monday of euro-zone finance ministers where a second bailout which will keep Greece from defaulting is supposed to be discussed. Without a deal on the write-down of the debt held in private hands, the loan can't be released. Institute of International Finance chief Charles Dallara, who has been negotiating with Greek officials on the bond swap plan for the last two days, left Athens Saturday as hurdles remained over the interest rate the new bonds would pay private sector creditors. "Right now there are no talks. There will be consultations with the EU and the IMF to determine where we stand and then we'll see. It (negotiations) has again become complicated with the new demands over the coupon," said a person with direct knowledge of the talks." Which is why any statements that Greece, or the ECB, has all the leverage are total rubbish - if Greece wanted to get the deal done over Hedge Funds' dead bodies, it would have. It hasn't. And yes, a forced cram down of UK-indentured Greek bonds is still a possibiliy, but we will shortly make all too clear that should Greece proceed with this last ditch scorched earth approach, it would mean a complete overhaul of the entire PIIGS bond market, and why a sell off in €800 billion of it would be imminent.
Two weeks ago we wrote a post that should have made it all too clear that while the US and Europe continue to pretend that all is well, and they are, somehow, solvent, Asia has been smelling the coffee. To wit: "For anyone wondering how the abandonment of the dollar reserve status would look like we have a Hollow Men reference: not with a bang, but a whimper... Or in this case a whole series of bilateral agreements that quietly seeks to remove the US currency as an intermediate. Such as these: "World's Second (China) And Third Largest (Japan) Economies To Bypass Dollar, Engage In Direct Currency Trade", "China, Russia Drop Dollar In Bilateral Trade", "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System", "India and Japan sign new $15bn currency swap agreement", and now this: "Iran, Russia Replace Dollar With Rial, Ruble in Trade, Fars Says."" Today we add the latest country to join the Asian dollar exclusion zone: "India and Iran have agreed to settle some of their $12 billion annual oil trade in rupees, a government source said on Friday, resorting to the restricted currency after more than a year of payment problems in the face of fresh, tougher U.S. sanctions." To summarize: Japan, China, Russia, India and Iran: the countries which together account for the bulk of the world's productivity and combined are among the biggest explorers and producers of energy. And now they all have partial bilateral arrangements, and all of which will very likely expand their bilateral arrangements to multilateral, courtesy of Obama's foreign relations stance which by pushing the countries into a corner has forced them to find alternative, USD-exclusive, arrangements. But yes, aside from all of the above, the dollar still is the reserve currency... if only in which to make calculations of how many imaginary money one pays in exchange for imaginary 'developed world' collateral.
In this very informative interview between The Browser and Peter Boettke, the professor of economics discusses the contributions made by the Austrian School, and explains the various nuances of the economic school by way of recent books by "Austrians." He also explains what we can learn from Mises and Hayek, and argues that economics is the sexiest subject.
A few days ago, Eric Sprott decided to take advantage of the record premium over NAV of his physical silver fund PSLV (or for some other arbitrary reason) and to issue a $300MM follow-on offering, whose proceeds would be used to buy up silver to add to PSLV's existing physical holdings. Naturally, as soon as the news broke, the premium dropped to about 10%, making PSLV holders unhappy. This is not the first time that Sprott has done this: as a reminder after his April 2011 follow on offering in PHYS, we were fully expecting a comparable physical sequestration to occur via PSLV, to wit: "It appears to have already had an impact on silver, which jumped by $20 cents to another 31 year high on the news, as the market now likely expects a follow on offering in PSLV as well imminently." About 10 months later, it finally happened. As was to be expected, any short-term gains focused investors obviously became angry that by collapsing the premium, which we speculated was shortage driven, they have suffered a hit to their P&L (expressed in dollars of course, which as a reminder to the holders, should be largely irrelevant, especially to those who believe a PM-based barter system is imminent). Yet they forget the flip side to the equation: the money taken out of the premium, would be promptly used to take silver out of (hyper hypothecated) circulation, in other words, in the closed system, the drop in Premium would translate in a rising price in the underlying. Which according to UBS is precisely what has happened, and why silver moved as much as it did. Quoting from FMX Connect: "Today’s incredible move was the culmination of a comment made by UBS analyst Edel Tully. He stated that hedge fund manager Eric Sprott may be in the market buying spot futures in a private letter to his clients." And even as the premium dropped, the price of spot silver increased by over 5%, on the speculation of silver being taken out of the market and delivered to Sprott.
Equity and credit markets traded in a narrow range with late day ebullience (as VIX collapsed but we note implied correlation did not) pushing them to marginally new multi-month highs and tights respectively. The markets tracked one another very closely as did HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) but into the close HYG sold off quite notably (relative to the day's action). Financials staged a late-day advance (responsible largely for the move in the index along with Energy names) as average trade size picked up right at the end suggesting covering at the end. The relatively calm in equity, credit, and FX markets (especially post Europe's close) was not at all evident in the commodity markets where Silver jumped dramatically (up over 8% on the week) while Gold gently pushed higher (+1.7% matching USD's weakness on the week). Oil was the week's biggest loser (down 0.5%) as Copper clung to 3% gains on the week. Treasuries ended the week at their high yields (30Y +19bps) with the curve considerably steeper (and 2s10s30s up nicely) which supported risk assets broadly as opposed to oil's weakness (and stability in FX carry pairs) which did not.
While it is early to determine if the ongoing breakout is finally in anticipation of upcoming episodes of direct and indirect monetization by the Fed, ECB, or any of the many other pathological currency diluters in circulation, it is obvious that precious metals have found a new bid in recent days. Is this then, the beginning of the next surge in gold and silver to record highs? It remains to be seen, but one entity, the Duet Commodities Fund which was one of last year's best performers, has already made up its mind. 'Our central forecast in gold remains constructive as our long term view targets $2,500 in 2012. Our core view is that gold will head higher to the $2,500 range driven by consequential USD weakness once the EU crisis dissipates and the US steps into the limelight. A weaker USD is not undesirable in the world order as everyone (especially China) understands that the US consumer is the driver for global consumer confidence and consequential consumption led demand." Wow - someone in this market can actually think one step ahead of the inevitable ECB LTRO/monetization, and realize that the Fed will in turn have to escalate to that escalation. Gold, er golf clap.
While much will be made of the spurt in volume today - to its highest of the year - we present without too much comment the comparison to last January's OPEX volume. Today's volume is an incredible 27% below the January 2011 Option expiration volume...
Another week, another record bet on EUR currency collapse: this even in a countertrend week, when the EURUSD actually soared by over 300 pips. In other words, not only did shorts not cover, as some have suggested, they doubled down on losing positions, in the process bringing total net non-commercial spec contracts to -160K from -155K the week prior. As a result, should the EUR snap over the psychological barrier of 1.300 which it almost did in the overnight session by 15 or so pips, or should the CME hike EUR margins, we may promptly see a move in the pair comparable to the 300 pip surge experienced when the expanded QE1 was announced on March 18, 2009.
The spread differential between Japan sovereign CDS and UK sovereign CDS (both denominated in USD) is near its widest on record (Japan 55bps wider than UK). Furthermore, Japan's CDS trades notably wider (101bps in 5Y) than its bond's yields (which are the domestically held and subdued by local savings unlike the USD-denominated CDS market) while UK CDS trades 24bps inside its Gilts 5Y yield - quite a difference. Flows have surged into both the Japanese and British markets as AAA safe havens 'were' in demand (until the all-clear appears to have been signaled recently?). The critical point here is that these two nations have devastatingly unsustainable debt/GDP ratios (which show no sign of deleveraging - unlike the US - ignoring unfunded liabilities) with both at just about 500% in total debt/GDP, and yet in general UK trades far better than Japan. McKinsey's 'Debt and Deleveraging' note today points to significant increases in leverage for Japan, Spain, and France (and UK in the middle ground of rises in leverage for now). Of course none of this matters as clearly this debt will never be paid back and/or interest coverage will approach 100% of GDP (and perhaps that is the 100bps premium in CDS for JPY devaluation probability?).
Present-day journalism in America has an unspoken double-standard. Any "news" story or analysis based on press releases from Central State fiefdoms such as the CBO, Medicare, BLS, etc. is accepted without reservations or independent inquiry, or indeed, even basic journalistic skepticism, while any reports that are critical of the Status Quo are treated quite differently: sources are treated as suspect, critical comments are always countered with official assurances, high-visibility "experts" are tapped to dismiss the criticism, and finally, the story is buried: it runs on a public-service broadcast in the wee hours of the morning, it is relegated to page B-19 in the newspaper, and it briefly appears at the bottom of a list of web stories that is quickly "refreshed" before too many people can spot it. This gives the Corporate Media "plausible deniability" when critics question the veracity and quality of its analysis. The Corporate Media digs up the buried story and presents it as "proof" of hard-hitting journalism. We now live in an era of unmitigated propaganda that is accepted much as propaganda in wartime: we all know it's been censored or gussied up with positive spin, but we accept it as "necessary" because the Status Quo is under threat.
When Bill Maher, hardly a conservative, says that he applauds Ron Paul on his positions, and calls those Paul detractors in his audience "brainwashed liberals" it is safe to say we have seen it all. And so, once again, Ron Paul is officially cool.
Wondering why with the S&P and Nasdaq both down, the DJIA is up 60 points? Wonder no more: courtesy of a few strategic index-weighing calculations, IBM is responsible for 59.4 DJIA points, or virtually the entire up move in the most popular stock index. One company, the one which Warren Buffett so strategically picked last year to invest in, now biases the entire market to make it seem that "all is fine."