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Is Syria Near The Tipping Point?

The encroachment of yet another troubled nation into global geopolitical (read US implicitly) strife, this time Syria, appears to be intensifying further. As Sabah notes today, the CIA Director David Petraeus paid a surprise visit to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan yesterday. The topics of discussion were 'regional issues' but it was evident from concerns voiced about the instability in Syria and Iraq giving the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) terrorist organization a stronger foothold (a group which has been a source of tension between USA, Syria, Iraq, and obviously Turkey before - whose 'undeclared war' with Syria was a direct response to the countries assistance to the PKK). Seemingly stuck in the middle, Erdogan warned of "the potential crisis that could develop in the region due to the sectarian strife in Iraq" and underlined his concerns of events in Syria. One can only wonder at the strategic positioning that the CIA Director's surprise visit achieved, since the published agenda seemed so calmly diplomatic, and for what reason the ninety minute visit was so spontaneous.



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Here Is Why The Fed Will Have To Do At Least Another $3.6 Trillion In Quantitative Easing

As we have repeatedly said in the past, the quarterly Flow of Funds (or Z.1) statement is most interesting not for the already public household net worth and leverage data which serves to make pretty charts and largely irrelevant articles, but due to its insight into the stock and flow of both the traditional financial system but far more importantly - into shadow banking. And this is where things get hairy. Because while equities may have returned to 2008 valuations, the credit shortfall across combined US liabilities - traditional and shadow - still has a $3.6 trillion hole to plug to get to the level from March 2008 (see first chart). It is this hole that is giving equities, which have already surpassed 2008 levels, nightmares. Because while the Fed is pumping traditional commercial banks balance sheets via reserve expansion (read: fungible money that manifests itself most directly in $5 gas at the pump) resulting in a $2.3 trillion rise in traditional liabilities from Q3 2008 through Q4 2011, what it is not accounting for is the now 15 consecutive quarters of shadow banking system contraction, which peaked at $21 trillion in Q1 2008, and in Q4 2011 declined to $15.1 trillion... and dropping. It is this differential that will be the source of the needed "Outside" money, discussed yesterday, and that is only to get equity valuations to a fair level! But considering the Fed's propensity to print at any downtick, this is very much a given, much to the horror of Dick Fisher. Any additional increase in stock prices will require not only the already priced in $3.6 trillion, but far more direct Outside money injections.



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Elijah Cummings Is First Political Muppet To Issue Goldman Op-Ed Response

It was literally a matter of hours following the release of the now historic Greg Smith "Muppets" Op-Ed, before the true criminals enabling the slow motion trainwreck of the Keynesian klepto-fascist experiment became heard. Sure enough, here is Elijah Cumming indicating he has the most to gain by scapegoating a firm that between Vampire Squids and Muppets is slowly being mocked into the same relevancy as an HR Giger petting zoo.



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Fed's Twitter Arrival uZIRPed By Hecklers, And Real Time Fed Twitter Tracker

If the Fed thought it could boldly go where hundreds of millions have gone before (in a vain attempt to be cool, hip and relevant - Twitter of course - with the @FederalReserve handle naturally), all in a quest for faux transparency and openness, which nobody who is even remotely familiar with the Fed's actions is buying, without getting a few heckles in the process, it was wrong. Unfortunately, as the currency debasement race has simply taken a short breather ahead of a presidential election and a possible regional war with wide-ranging commodity price implications, before it resumes into the frantic final lap, the below sample is merely a modest appetizer of what is yet to come.



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Listen Up Muppets: Goldman Wants You To Sell TYM2 - Is The Bond Sell Off Over?

Dear muppets: Goldman wants you to short TYM2 (reminder: a key axis? check; elephant hunting? check; three letter acronym? check). Translation: every bond you sell, Goldman buys.



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Commodities Crumble As Stocks Ignore Treasury Selling

UPDATE: The UK outlook change has had little reaction so far: TSY yield down 1-2bps, gold/silver bounced up a little, and a small drop in GBP.

While most of the talk will be about the drop in precious metals today, the sell-off in Treasuries is of a much larger relative magnitude and yet equities broadly ignored this re-risking 'signal'. At almost 2.5 standard deviations, today's 10Y rate jump (closing it above the 200DMA for the first time in eight months) trumps the 1.3 standard deviation drop in Gold prices - taking prices back to mid-January levels. According to our data (h/t JL) for only the 14th time in the last five years (and not seen for 16 months) Treasury yields rose significantly and stocks fell as the broad gains in yesterday's financials (on the JPM rip) were held on to at the ETF level but not for Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, or Citigroup (who gave all the knee-jerk reaction back). Tech led the way as AAPL surged once again (though faltered a few times intraday) having now completed back-to-back unfilled gap-up-openings. Credit and equity were generally in sync until mid afternoon when the up-in-quality rotation took over and stocks and high-yield sold off (notably HYG - the high-yield bond ETF underperformed all day long) while investment grade credit rallied to multi-month tights. VIX bounced higher (notably more than the S&P would have implied) recovering to Monday's closing levels and back above 15%. The Treasury sell-off was 'balanced' in terms of risk-on/-off by the strength in the USD (and modest weakness in FX carry pairs as JPY's weakness was largely in sync with the rest of the majors - hinting its was a USD story). Oil and Copper both lost ground (as did Silver - the most on the day) though they tracked more in line with USD strength than the PMs.



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Fitch Revises UK Outlook To Negative From Stable, Keeps Country At AAA

In keeping with the tradition of waking up to reality with a several month delay on downgrades (if being the first to upgrade insolvent Eurozone members), here comes Fitch, to boldly go where Moody's went long ago.

  • UNITED KINGDOM L-T IDR OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY FITCH
  • FITCH AFFS UNITED KINGDOM AT 'AAA'; REVISES OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE

As a reminder, UK consolidated debt/GDP is... oh... ~1000%



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What Closing The Straits Of Hormuz Will Mean In 3 Simple Charts

While WTI hovers around $105.5 (slightly underperforming USD strength), Brent has notably outperformed with the Brent-WTI spread now edging towards $20 (from under $15 two weeks ago). Given the increasing tension, we thought it useful to get a grasp of just what an oil-supply shock means. BNP points out that in all but one of the historical oil price shocks of the last 40 years, equities have notably underperformed oil (understandably) but the higher the oil price rise, the higher the chance of negative absolute returns for stocks. We also note that oil prices tend to rise in anticipation of the crisis and then explode (so arguing that we are discounting an event is proved moot) and the impact (in lost supply) from closing the Straits of Hormuz is an order of magnitude larger than the next five largest events. Regionally, positioning favors the middle-eastern oil producers obviously with Asian EM nations set to suffer dramatically worse than DMs.



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Guest Post: The Vampire Squid’s Problems

Smith’s sentiments are appreciated, but actually he is wrong about a fundamental point, at least in today’s business environment. Goldman doesn’t have to give a damn about its clients because the vampire squid has found a much more lucrative way of insuring their bottom line: government largesse.



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Dear Germans: Bring Out Ze Checkbooks

Something funny happened on the road to a "fixed" Europe....



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On This Day In History.... Gas Prices Have Never Been Higher

Presented with little comment except to remind all those newly refreshed consumers that for every penny rise in pump prices, more than $1bn is added to the hoousehold spending bill (assuming driving habits are unaffected - which brings its own set of unintended consequential events). And in the past month alone, gas prices have increased by precisely 30 cents.



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Linemployment Beckons - Knicks Coach Leaves

This is neither here nor there: we just wanted to toss our name in the Linnovative hat:

  • KNICKS COACH D'ANTONI QUITS, YAHOO SPORTS SAYS, CITING SOURCES

Linemployment benefits next: looking forward to next week's record warm weather seasonally adjusted BLS data to interpret this as one less jobless claim.



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An Alternative View On Recent Treasury Weakness

The general dogma seems to be that the recent Treasury weakness reflects either a) risk-averse bondholders rotating to stocks because everything is fixed and it seems better to buy something at its highs than its lows? or b) China is punishing us for the rare-metals challenge. We posit an alternative, less conspiracy-theory, less-conventional-wisdom (who is buying the Treasuries you are selling and who is selling the stocks you are buying reprise) perspective on the recent Treasury weakness. Its supply-and-demand stupid. The last few weeks have seen massive, record-breaking amounts of investment grade USD-based corporate bond issuance, at the same time dealer inventories for corporate bonds are at multi-year lows and Treasury holdings at all-time-highs. In general to underwrite the massive corporate bond issuance, dealers will place rate-locks (or short Treasuries/Swaps in various ways) to control the yield and sell the idea of the 'spread' to clients (which is where most real-money buyers will be focused on value. We suggest that the almost unprecedented corporate issuance and therefore need for rate-locks has provided a significant offer for Treasuries that the dealers (who are loaded) and the Fed (who is only minimally involved) was unable to suppress. The key question, going forward, is whether the expectations of a much lower issuance calendar will relieve this marginal offer in Treasuries and allow rates to revert back down?



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Guest Post: Money from Nothing - A Primer on Fake Wealth Creation and its Implications (Part 2)

Only in a debt-based money system could debt be curiously cast as an asset. We’ve made “extend and pretend” a quaint phrase for a burgeoning market for financial lying and profiteering aimed toward preventing the collapse of a debt- (or lack-) based system that was already doomed by its initial design to collapse. This primer will detail the major components and basic evolution of fake wealth creation, accelerating debt expansion, hollowing out of the economy, and inevitable financial implosion.



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