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Guest Post: Returning to Simplicity (Whether We Want to or Not)

The modern world depends on economic growth to function properly. And throughout the living memory of every human on earth today, technology has continually developed to extract more and more raw material from the environment to power that growth. This has produced a faithful belief among the public that has helped to blur the lines between human innovation and limited natural resources. Technology does not create resources, though it does embody our ability to access resources. When the two are operating smoothly in tandem, society mistakes one for the other. This has created a new and very modern problem -- a misplaced trust in technology to consistently fulfill our economic needs. What happens once key resources become so dilute that technology, by itself, can no longer meet our growth needs?  We may be about to find out.

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Presenting The Big Mac Index Infographic

With ever more Americans boldly crossing into the obesity zone, where so many have gone before, it is only fitting that the topic of today's infographic du jour is the Big Mac index: the world's intercontinental standard of purchase price parity.

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Jerry Yang Quits Yahoo Again, This Time For Good

Jerry Yang, who previously quit as YHOO CEO, has just announced his final resignation as Chairman of the company, in what appears to be a (pyrric) victory for Dan Loeb, who made the ouster of Yang his number one goal in life. Well, Yang is now gone, and Loeb can proceed with the value maximing exercise. We have a very distinct feeling Loeb will be rather disappointed with what he discovers. It may be even more difficult for Loeb to remind the general population that Yahoo is not Friendster, and is actually still in existence. Of course, the pain trade is fading all the MSFT for YHOO rumors which will start hitting the tape every day at 9:45am like clockwork. Stock was up as much as 5% after hours. Now fading.

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Financials Lead Stocks Down As Futures Volume Stays High

Friday was the most active day in ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) since 12/16 and today saw volume once again surge in the futures market as it tested 1300 for the first time since 7/28. However, NYSE stock volume (which managed a very late-day spurt on Friday) was dismal once again today (for instance -25% from Friday with 3 minutes to go) with another extremely late jump taking it back to 'normal' for the year so far (but still dramatically low compared to previous year 'norms'). Stocks rallied on China GDP and an optically decent Spanish auction but as we moved into the European close, risk started to leak off and accelerated in the afternoon as IMF headlines, LTRO rumors, and IIF/PSI chatter hit though more expansive ECB rumors seemed to stall losses at last night's ES re-open levels. ES is down very marginally from Friday's late-day ramp close and credit outperformed today (though HYG hung in with stock's weakness) as financials underperformed. The majors were the worst performers with Citi and BofA giving decent amount of YTD gains back. EUR stabilized post-Europe (after selling off into their close) with the USD (DXY) down 0.4% from Friday and GBP underperforming. In the face of the USD stability this afternoon, commodities were mixed with Oil spiking back over $100 (as NatGas was crushed), Copper leaking off but holding gains 2%-plus gains from Friday (China), as Silver and Gold lost their earlier gains (3% and 1.5% at best) to end around 0.75-1% better from Friday's close (still a double on USD weakness). Treasuries closed marginally lower in yield from Friday (1bps max) but were 4-5bps lower in yield from around the European close (as 2s10s30s slid also). Stocks closed well below broad risk assets as FX carry never really joined the derisking craze and oil's strength seemed divergent for now.

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Bloomberg Reports That Greek Private Creditor Deal Near, At 32 Cent Recovery, According To Hedge Fund Involved

Last year it was bank posturing, coupled with Germany and the rest of the Eurocore countries, when it comes to Greece. Now it is the hedge funds. Bloomberg has reported that the Greek private creditors have "reached a deal" with Greece on existing debt which "would give creditors 32 cents per euro", or a 32% recovery according to Marathon Asset Mgmt CEO Bruce Richards, who until recently was a bondholder, but recently has been rumored to have dumped his holdings, which makes one wonder why or how he is talking for the creditor committee. Of course, with Greece now a purely bankruptcy play, we expect various ad hoc splinter "committees" to emerge, coupled with an equity committee as well (yes yes, we jest). Bloomberg reports also that Richards is "highly confident" a deal will get done. Nonetheless, the Marathon CEO expects Greece won’t make the €14.5 billion ($18.5billion) bond repayment scheduled for March 20. However, he does see a deal with creditors to be in place before then. For now the Greek government has declined to comment. We fully expect the IIF's Dalara to hit the airwaves shortly and to make it all too clear that the implied 68% haircut is sheer lunacy. Naturally, should this deal come to happen, we can't possibly see how Portugal, Spain or Italy would then sabotage their economies just so they too can enjoy 68% NPV haircuts on their bonds. Finally, even if Marathon likes the deal, all it takes is for one hedge fund hold out to necessitate the application of Collective Action Clauses which would blow the deal apart, create a two-tiered market, and effectively create the perception that the deal was coercive.

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Treasury Resumes Pillaging Retirement Accounts To Fund Deficit Spending Until Debt Ceiling Raised

Back on January 5, when we first broke the news that the US debt ceiling has been reached, and breached, yet again, we said "And now the Social Security Fund pillaging begins anew until Congress signs off on the latest interim debt ceiling increase." Sure enough, operation rape and pillage is a go.


In other words: Congress better pass the debt ceiling pronot, or else it will have to explain to government retirees the tens of billions in deficit funds, i.e., marketable debt, already issued will permanently offset the level in G-fund holdings. Lastly, any comparison to similar acts of commingling performed by other insolvent entities in recent months is purely coincidental and no Obama handlers were thrown in jail as a result of this post. 

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Six Sanity Checks For A Seemingly Virtuous VIX

As short-term volatility leaks lower and lower and more and more talking heads use this 'risk-index' as reason to be longer and longer stocks, we thought it might be useful to get some context on recent movements in volatility-related factors. Whether its seasonality, volatility term structure, or the high-yield credit market, VIX looks low (underpricing short-term risk) and set to rise. Perhaps it is a plethora of new-year-new-book covered call euphoria or just belief in the LTRO firewall fixing tail-risk (or US decoupling shifting us to moderation), short-term options are sending some different messages to the risk-is-on-like-donkey-kong 'broadcast' that the contemporaneous (and in no way leading) VIX is being mis-understood as indicating. We present six perspectives that should be considered before more nickels are picked up in front of the micro (earnings) and macro (you name it) steamroller.

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Guest Post: Another Reminder Of How The US Government Destroys Business

One of the most phenomenal human beings I’ve ever met hails from Harare, Zimbabwe of all places. His name is Time. That’s seriously his name. When you ask him about it, he shrugs, grins, and says,  “My mom felt that she was in labor for way too long.” Time is a real Sovereign Man. He understands that his family comes first and foremost above all else, and growing up under the regime of Robert Mugabe, he had to get very creative in order to support his loved ones. By the time he was 15-years old, Time could see the writing on the wall. Mugabe had all but destroyed the market and private property rights, and Time knew there would be absolutely no prospects for him in Zimbabwe. So what did he do? He learned a valuable skill and looked beyond his own borders for the best opportunities. He spent years in the wilderness living with the native bushmen learning how to track animals. He worked diligently to improve his English. He read everything he could get his hands on about botany.

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What Rosenberg Is Looking At - Rolling Margin Debt Has Gone Negative

With market dynamics continuing to be virtually identical to the start of last year, many struggle to find what incremental events at the margin may  determine what is not priced in by the market (because apparently everything else is). As we pointed out recently, one such potential factor is that short interest on the NYSE has plunged to practically multi-year lows. And yet the melt up has continued indicating the short covering has come and gone, and at this point it is incremental buying that is probably driving stocks. Yet even that may be ending: since we are looking at the margin, it makes sense to present David Rosenberg's observations on what it is that he is looking at the moment, which appropriately enough, is NYSE margin debt, whose 12 month trailing average has just turned negative: traditionally an important inflection point.

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$10 TRILLION Liquidity Injection Coming? Credit Suisse Hunkers Down Ahead Of The European Endgame

When yesterday we presented the view from CLSA's Chris Wood that the February 29 LTRO could be €1 Trillion (compared to under €500 billion for the December 21 iteration), we snickered, although we knew quite well that the market response, in stocks and gold, today would be precisely as has transpired. However, after reading the report by Credit Suisse's William Porter, we no longer assign a trivial probability to some ridiculous amount hitting the headlines early in the morning on February 29. Why? Because from this moment on, the market will no longer be preoccupied with a €1 trillion LTRO number as the potential headline, one which in itself would be sufficient to send the Euro tumbling, the USD surging, and provoking an immediate in kind response from the Fed. Instead, the new 'possible' number is just a "little" higher, which intuitively would make sense. After all both S&P and now Fitch expect Greece to default on March 20 (just to have the event somewhat "priced in"). Which means that in an attempt to front-run the unprecedented liquidity scramble that will certainly result as nobody has any idea what would happen should Greece default in an orderly fashion, let alone disorderly, the only buffer is having cash. Lots of it. A shock and awe liquidity firewall that will leave everyone stunned. How much. According to Credit Suisse the new LTRO number could be up to a gargantuan, and unprecedented, €10 TRILLION!

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Guest Post: You Can't Fool Mother Nature For Long: Financial Markets

We can also shed light on the difference between a real free market and a simulacrum of a "free market" by asking: does anyone seriously believe the stock market would be higher if all market intervention and manipulation by the Central State and Central Bank (and their proxies) ceased? We can extend this by asking: what if public companies were banned from issuing "beat by a penny" pro forma earnings and other accounting tricks? What if the "shadow banking system" was outlawed, and all assets and liabilities were transparent? Does anyone seriously believe the fragile financial system that depends on shadow banking for its dodges and profits would survive transparency and marked-to-market accounting? Americans have no real experience of free, transparent financial markets or of rigorously transparent accounting by their Central State, the Federal Reserve, public corporations or the financial sector. They have been presented facsimiles of accurate statistics and accounting, and simulacra of transparent markets. When those participants' faith in the Status Quo's fairness and transparency declines below a critical threshold, then they withdraw or limit their participation, and the system enters a self-reinforcing death spiral.

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Romney Pays Less In Tax Than His Secretary

First Buffet, now Mitt Romney. Via Bloomberg:


Next thing you know he too will offer all Republicans a one for one match on all US sovereign debt repayments, and will demand that all millionaires generously hand over their income. As for us, we quietly wonder whether the account clerks at Zurich banks are sweating already?

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