Skyscraper Index Goes Global

If the Barclays Skyscraper Index, which posits bursts of skyscraper construction are a harbinger of great economic collapse and market crashes, is accurate, then the world is in for a, well, world of pain. And nowhere more so than in China. As Skyscraper Center reports, 2014 saw an all-time high record 97 buildings of 200 meters or more completed with an increasing shift towards Asia (with a stunning 76% of all tall-building construction). For the seventh year in a row, China completed the most (58) skyscrapers... mal-investment boom much?

The Center's Got To Give

Thing is, that whole line about how lower oil prices were going to be a boost for our economies was ignorant from the start. And there’s still plenty people believing just that. That may explain those EU stock exchange gains. That sort of thing all comes from people who don’t understand to what extent oil is pivotal to our societies. We’re not in 2008 anymore, when an oil price drop actually helped us crawl out of a tight spot. We’re $50 trillion down the road, and there won’t be another $50 trillion, or another road. For all intents and purposes, we are the center today, and we cannot hold this way.

BlackBerry Shares Crash Back To Earth After Company Denies Samsung Rumor

In October, BBRY shares spiked (and dumped) on rumors that Lenovo had made an offer. Today, after a detailed report from Reuters explained that Samsung executives had offered to takeover the troubled phone-maker (or whatever they call themselves nowadays) and the stocks spiked up nearly 40% - perfectly running stopw through the mid-Nov highs and squeezing shorts out of the market... and now - after hours - BlackBerry issues a statement denying the whole thing... rigged much?

Even The Airlines Are Ignoring The "Oil Is Good" Narrative

Yesterday we highlighted the 'odd' behavior of the Airlines - cutting jobs to cut costs (but but but low fuel prices?) and seeing traffic and revenue per seat drop (but but but gas 'tax cut' spending?). It appears 2015 has heralded a broad realization that perhaps - just perhaps - the narrative of "low oil is unambiguously good" is not correct...

The US Economy Is So Bad... Even Lottery Sales Are Collapsing

For what appears to be the first time on record, Powerball Lottery Sales declined year-over-year. As the following slides show, lottery sales declined 19% in FY14 vs FY13 and even more stunningly reflective of a nation whose disposable income (and hope) is in such short supply, sales in the first half of FY15 are down 40% from the first of FY14. As LaFleurs concludes, this will make it very challenging for most Lotteries to manage their budgets...

It Begins: IRS Launches International Data Exchange Service

Yesterday, the IRS announced the International Data Exchange Service. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s is an outgrowth of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which requires every single bank in the world to get in bed with IRS to share information about customers. We’ve said this over and over, FATCA is probably the dumbest law in the history of the United States. And we don’t say that lightly, because there’s definitely stiff competition. Like any other bankrupt government, the US government has taken to intimidating its own citizens and the entire world in an attempt to make ends meet. But the fact is that tax revenues actually haven’t improved at all. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the rest of the world is one day going to create its own alternative system. One that would no longer rely on the US dollar.

French Comedian Arrested Over Sympathizing With Charlie Hebdo Killer

Yesterday we discussed the crackdown on 'extremism' around the world (and its potential implications for freedom). Today, as The Guardian reports, notorious French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is now intimately aware of the implications, having been arrested for being an “apologist for terrorism” after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathised with one of the Paris gunmen. As The Independent reports, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls attacked Dieudonné, calling him a "peddler of hate and said there should be no confusion between the 'impertinent' satire of Charlie Hebdo and 'anti-semitism, racism and negationism'." In an open letter, the comedian claimed on Tuesday that he had been misunderstood.

5 Charts For Fully Invested Bears

Remaining fully invested in the financial markets without a thorough understanding of your "risk exposure" will likely not have the desirable end result you have been promised. All five of the charts below have linkages to each other, and when one goes, they will all go. So pay attention to the details.

Crude Oil Prices Are Spiking Into Close/OPEX

WTI Crude futures are up almost 6%, spiking above $48.50 into the close and options expiration... no fundamental catalyst for now... Once again, crude futures have been 'spoofed' all day so this is hardly a surprise.

The Japanization Of Global Bond Yields

Despite proclamations that US Treasury Bond yields can't drop any further... surely... At 1.27%, US 5Y Yields are higher than 18 other developed nations in the world. Switzerland's 5Y yield is the lowest in the world at -21.9bps (and only 6 developed nation bond yields are higher than the US). Still think US yields are 'too low'?

Al-Qaeda-In-Yemen Claims Paris Attack Was "Vengeance", Mocks Western Leaders' "Weakness"

"As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we ... claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God," said Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (AQAP) in a video recording posted on YouTube. As Reuters reports, this was the first time that a group officially claimed responsibility for the attack. The group also mocked the 'unity' rally in Paris on Sunday, saying the shock on display showed feebleness: "look at how they gathered, rallied and supported each other; strengthening their weakness and dressing their wounds," it said of Western leaders who attended the event.

S&P Down 5% From Highs, Dow Drops Almost 700 Points In 27 Hours

Things are escalating... Energy credit markets are pushing back towards record high spreads, copper is pushing back to the overnight lows and gold and silver are flat. US equity markets are the big movers with The Dow down well over 300 points today (and nearly 700 points in the last 27 hours) and the S&P now down almost 5% from its highs. Treasury yields are 8-10bps lower on the day with 30Y yields at record lows and 10Y close.

Harold Hamm Pledges Almost 20% Of Continental As Collateral To Cover Divorce Loan

It's not been a good six months for Harold Hamm. The billionaire CEO of Continental Resources has seen his massive stake in the company cut in value by almost 60% since the start of September and - maybe even more distressing - agreed the largest divorce settlement ever. Hamm's divorce lawyers recently said he took out a personal loan to fund the $1 billion settlement with ex-wife Sue Ann Arnall, but as Reuters reports, a regulatory filing by the company today reveals Hamm pledged 68.7 million of his company shares as collateral for the loan on Jan. 9, or around 18.5% of the outstanding shares.

Is Hugh Hendry A Greater Fool?

The current premise is that global equities markets will rise regardless of economic fundamentals. Money must flow into equities [perceived as the only asset class capable of producing “acceptable” returns] because the alternatives offer virtually no return…with interest rates pinned near zero in most western economies. Just buy any equity [akin to dart throwing] and a “greater fool than you” will buy after your purchase, at a higher price, ad infinitum... thus ever increasing the asset’s value This is such an obviously flawed argument on so many levels... albeit, like almost any strategy, is surprisingly effective from time to time.

OPEC Who? US Crude Oil Production Hits Record High

US Crude oil production shows absolutely no sign of slowing - despite tumbling rig counts - as this morning's data shows the US produced 9.19mm barrels/day last week - the most since records began in 1983. Since the OPEC meeting in November, US crude production has only accelerated... the global 'game of chicken' continues...

The Dead Mortgage Cat Bounce Is Over

While earlier today the MBA came out with some absolutely ridiculous numbers namely that there was a 49.1% surge in mortgage applications in the week ended January 9, this was, as Stone McCarthy reported, due largely to seasonals. To wit: "The MBA's broad mortgage application index soared 49.1% last week. While we think much of the increase is a response to lower mortgage rates, we also think the application data are still subject to some holiday-related noise." So what is really going on with that all important metric for the US housing market: mortgage originations? For the answer we go to the biggest mortgage originating bank in the US itself, Wells Fargo. Here is the answer:

S&P 500 Drops Below 2,000

BTFD? The S&P 500 remains 50-60 points 'rich' to the Federal Reserve Balance Sheet.

Dear Jamie Dimon: This Is Why US Banks Are "Under Assault"

Earlier today, during the JPM conference call, when Jamie Dimon wasn't busy explaining why the Q4 earnings presentation was sorely missing the page showing JPM's latest Net Interest Margin, a staple placeholder page in the presentation appendix, he found time to lament something totally different. As Bloomberg reports, Dimon lashed out at U.S. regulators for putting his bank "under assault." We don't know how American, or how fair, or how complex, but we know why. The reason: JPMorgan and the rest of the world's banks have now become the world's biggest organized crime syndicate. The evidence? $178 billion in government kickbacks to keep their criminal scheme going for the past 5 years: something which none other than the BCG called a "cost of doing business" - criminal business that is. 

5 Key Takeaways From The ECJ's Kinda Sorta 'Thumbs Up' To Draghi

An adviser to the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) has delivered a tentative thumbs-up to an ECB bond plan unveiled in September 2012 that was aimed at countering euro break-up fears. Dow Jones explains the key five takeaways from the court's findings...