Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, money laundering and other corruption that spanned his two terms as mayor--including the chaotic years after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Mr. Nagin was convicted Feb. 12 of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Mr. Nagin's support for various projects. The bribes came in the form of money, free vacations and truckloads of free granite for his family business. The 58-year-old Democrat had defiantly denied any wrongdoing after his 2013 indictment and during his February trial.
As long as the majority of the cost of college education is not born directly by students but rather by Government loans and grants, our institutions of higher learning will not be forced to adapt and find innovative ways of delivering quality education to more students at a decent price. They will go on keeping supply low, tuition higher and expenses growing. The kindest thing our government might do for our kids is to stop throwing money at inefficient Universities in their name, or at least demanding more from those institution in return for that money - in such a world the school’s focus would then shift to keeping prices down while offering good value.
While recent US relations with Russia plumbed lows unseen since the Cold War, at the same time "succeeding" in cementing relations between Russia and China, the so-called Eurasian, anti-Petrodollar axis, and leading to an accelerated groundbreaking natgas deal between Kremlin and Beijing, at least the department of state had managed to not completely alienate China. Which maybe why China just issued a rather out of place tongue-in-cheek warning overnight, when China’s President Xi Jinping called for greater military communication with the U.S., saying as he opened high-level talks between the two countries that any conflict would be a global disaster.
Yesterday we heard from the CEO of the world's biggest company that the exuberant jobs data did not reflect any economic reality Wal-Mart was seeing. Overnight, William Arthur Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, further destroyed the myth of a 'recovery' stalled by 'weather' and threw the rest of his 'retailer' brethren under the bus: "We thought our sluggish sales were all because of weather and calendar shift...but now we've come to realize it's more than that, consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we're experiencing a retail funk."
Steep curve, lots of Net Interest Margin, buy banks, inflation's coming, rates have to rise... no! The US Treasury curve (specifically the spread between the 5Y yield and 30Y yield) has tumbled to its lowest since February 2009 as the long-end dramatically outperforms the Fed-pressured front-end amid concerns that the next cycle will be anything but exuberant and the new normal rates will be notably lower than consensus believes. On a side note, 5 years ago, US bond markets implied a 10Y yield now of 4.6% - almost double what it is; it seems the future (now) is not as rosy as everyone expected then...
Institutionalizing the speculative excesses that inflated the previous housing bubble has fed magical thinking and fostered illusions of phantom wealth and security.
It is no secret that unlike other banks who, while directly intervening in the bond market only manipulate equity prices in relative secrecy (usually via HFT-transacting intermediaries such as Citadel), the Bank of Japan has historically had no problem with buying equities outright, traditionally in the form of REITs and equity-tracking ETFs. Which explains why overnight it was revealed that in order to boost the stock market, pardon, economy, the Bank of Japan is preparing to purchase exchange-traded funds based on the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 as an "option to boost the impact of unprecedented easing," according to people familiar with BOJ discussions.
Brussels, we have a problem. As we warned 6 weeks ago, Espirito Santo International SA - is in a "serious financial condition" according to a central bank driven external audit by KPMG identified "irregularities in its accounts." Sure enough, the 'ponzi-like' maneuvers have left the bank unable to pay its bonds as Bloomberg reports bonds plunged to record lows after a parent company delayed payments on short-term notes. More importantly, given the divisively dependent nature of the domestic sovereign bond market (and hence the health of the EU) and its banking system, it is noteworthy that Portuguese bond risk has surged to 4 month highs with the biggest 2-day spike in a year. As one analyst noted, “The bigger question is whether the government will have to get involved,” leaving the EU taxpayer on the hook once again (for fear of M.A.D. threats) as most critically, it "will have to step in to prevent systemic repercussions?"
While Obama certainly enjoyed his game of pool with Colorado governor Hickenlooper, there were no immediate press reports confirming or denying whether Obama had been appropriately "choomed" in the marijuana-friendly city. Here, however, things got a little strange.
It just hasn't been a good week for the CIA. A year after Edward Snowden revealed that the US was bugging Angela Merkel's cell phone, first one then, moments ago, Suddeutsche Zeitung revealed that a second "spy case" involving the US (read CIA) have been revealed. According to SZ, an unidentified man working in military-related area likely to be questioned today over suspicion of spying for a U.S. intelligence service in Germany. The home and office of the suspect were being searched in Berlin area. SZ adds that the case is more serious than unrelated allegations against double agent at BND Federal Intelligence Service that emerged last week. In the meantime, the US ambassador to Germany went to the foreign ministry for a "talk" - perhaps it is to remind the local just how extensive Angela Merkel's DDR file is, and just what would be revealed about her proximity to the Kremlin if push came to shove.
- Xi Says China Conflict With U.S. Would Be Disaster (BBG)
- Short selling drops to lowest level since Lehman (FT)
- Scoping the new subprime as watchdogs cry 'bubble' (Reuters)
- Carlos Slim to break up América Móvil empire (FT)
- Jury Acquits Rengan Rajaratnam in Insider-Trading Case (WSJ)
- Hamas rockets land deep in Israel as it bombards Gaza Strip (Reuters)
- Hong Kong Buyers Queue for New Homes After Prices Plunge (BBG)
- Rebel Stronghold in Ukraine Braces for Its Showdown (WSJ)
- Tiny Houses Big With U.S. Owners Seeking Economic Freedom (BBG)
- Chinese Cash-Bearing Buyers Drive U.S. Foreign Sales Jump (BBG)
While the situation between Israel and Gaza continues to escalate, pulling the markets' attention away from the recent developments in Iraq (as for the Ukraine civil war, forget it), the big news overnight came out of Chine which reported another contraction in consumer prices, which both declined to 2.3% and missed expectations of a 2.4% print (down from 2.5%). Producer Prices had another negative print, the 28th in a row, and have remained negative since 2012. This led to the Hang Seng Index falling at the fastest rate since late June to erase all YTD gains. However, as has now become the norm, macro news hardly impacted US equity futures, which are driven exclusively by the Yen carry trade, which unlike yesterday's pounding, has traded rangebound between 101.6-101.7 keeping US equity futures just barely in the green. We expect the momentum ignition algo to kick in at some point, for absolute no fundamental reason beside the NY Fed trading desk issuing a green light, sending the USDJPY surging, taking the Spoos with them, and helping stocks forget all about the weak Asian session.
Want to hear the worst idea in the history of horrible ideas? How about we take the industry responsible for destroying the U.S. economy and wrecking the lives of tens of millions of people, and then allow it to create a “government-industry cyber war council.” It appears that trillions in taxpayer bailouts simply wasn’t enough for Wall Street. Noting that it can seemingly get whatever it wants whenever it wants, the industry is now positioning itself to overtly control U.S. “cyber” policy. What could go wrong?
As most Fed watchers know, last week was interesting because Janet Yellen, speaking at IMF came out and said something quite surprising. In a nutshell, she said “It’s not the Fed’s job to pop bubbles”. While many market participants immediately took this to mean, “To the moon, Alice!” and started buying equities hand over fist, there’s another possible explanation for Mrs. Yellen’s proclamation of unwillingness: The Fed could be preparing to do exactly what it said it wouldn’t. Bringing forward the next leg of the cycle, may well be on the Fed’s agenda.