Japanese real estate stocks were broadly speaking the worst global equity performers in the first quarter of 2014 along with broad weakness in Russia and China (note US consumer discretionary was the 25th worst equity index in the world). At the other end of the spectrum, the quarter belonged to everything Middle-Eastern with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, and Qatar all soaring (along with - somewhat remarkably) Greece, Portugal, and Italy...
As Bill Clinton once famously stated; "What is....is" and while the current market "IS" within a bullish trend currently, it doesn't mean that this will always be the case. This is why, as investors, we must modify Clinton's line to: "What is...is...until it isn't." That thought is the foundation of this weekend's "Things To Ponder." In order to recognize when market dynamics have changed for the worse, we must be aware of the risks that are currently mounting.
The Fed’s basic beliefs and workings are clearly sacrosanct, no matter how many times they fail. And as long as that continues to be the case, expect current and future Fed Chairs to follow Bernanke’s lead and draw up a list of boom-bust blunders shortly after leaving office. The aggregate equity allocation for U.S. households is now at a level that’s only ever been reached in the Internet bubble years of 1998 to 2000. This will surely lift spirits at the next FOMC meeting. (Cue the laugh track.) Higher equity allocations are exactly what the Fed tries to achieve with its so-called portfolio balance channel – their jargon for driving up the prices of a few assets by enough that you push investors into other assets (risky assets, such as equity, in the present case). The Fed’s confessions haven’t gone far enough
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar after it had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. The move, unprecedented in the 30-year history of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), follows the Bahrain state minister for information Samira Rajab saying she has evidence of Qatari media provocation against her country. As Gulf News reports, Qatar has been a maverick in the region, backing Islamist groups in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East that are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by some fellow GCC members. Not a good sign for the oil-generating center of the world.
Now that Ben Bernanke is no longer the head of the Fed, he can finally tell the truth about what caused the financial crash. At least that's what a packed auditorium of over 1000 people as part of the financial conference staged by National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the UAE's largest bank, was hoping for earlier today when they paid an exorbitant amount of money to hear the former chairman talk. Bernanke confirmed as much when he said he could now speak more freely about the crisis than he could while at the Fed - "I can say whatever I want."
So what was the reason, according to the man who was easily the most powerful person in the world for nearly a decade?
They have promised more than they can possibly deliver, so a lot of their promises are going to be broken before we see the end of this current bust that began in 2000. And that outcome of broken promises describes the huge task that we all face. There will be a day of reckoning. There always is when an economy and governments take on more debt than is prudent, and the world is far beyond that point. So everyone needs to plan and prepare for that day of reckoning. We can't predict when it is coming, but we know from monetary history that busts follow booms, and more to the point, that currencies collapse when governments make promises that they cannot possibly fulfill. Their central banks print the currency the government wants to spend until the currency eventually collapses, which is a key point of The Money Bubble. The world has lost sight of what money What today is considered to be money is only a money substitute circulating in place of money. J.P. Morgan had it right when in testimony before the US Congress in 1912 he said: "Money is gold, nothing else." Because we have lost sight of this wisdom, a "money bubble" has been created. And it will pop. Bubbles always do.
The winner of a currency war is the country that ends up with the most gold.
- Emerging-Market Rout Seen Enduring on Low Real Rates (BBG)
- After rocky January, markets eye data and central banks (Reuters)
- Europe will feel the pain of emerging markets (FT)
- Lloyds delays dividend prospect after mis-selling charge (Reuters)
- Snow Set to Snarl New York Commute as U.S. Flights Halted (BBG)
- Rate Decision to Drive Yellen's Early Agenda (Hilsenrath)
- Thai protesters move to downtown Bangkok in bid to topple PM (Reuters)
- China says Japan's 'hype' on air defence zone spreads tension (Reuters)
- Hedge funds seek 1.8 billion euros damages from members of Porsche's owning family (Reuters)
With Trader Monthly magazine having, ironically, gone out business long ago, all those traders whose egos demanded that their insider trading connections put them at least in one of the iconic "Top X under X" league tables, pardon, rankings, had to bide their time in expectation of one day when their prowess to frontrun others or move markets with repeated calls to 555-7617 (with or without references to Anacott Steel) would be appreciated by such sterling Wall Street "experts" as Anthony Scaramucci. Well, for this year's crop of some 30 traders under 30, the day has arrived. And while Forbes may not be Trader Monthly, the amusement, the hubris and the behind the scenes dealing to appear in such a list, sure are still the same...
Petro-dollars, the word used to describe the billions of dollars earned from the sale of oil and natural gas, have helped change the shape and future of many counties in the Middle East, usually for the better, but not always. In a few short years Petro-dollars have helped shape the Gulf states into the modern and futuristic looking cities of the future that one finds in today’s architecture in Dubai, Doha and Riyadh. But now those petro-dollars are being used to shape the political future of the region and to model specific policies in a number of countries, such as Syria, for example, where petro-dollars are hard at work today.
The latest subjunctive paraphrase, just released by the US State Department: "Please don't panic... well, actually panic just a little bit, but thanks to the NSA's pervasive snooping activity, in retrospect there will have been no need to panic, as any terror threats will have been promptly eliminated (except for those that sneak through the NSA's dragnet like the Boston bombing of course). So all is well... but not really, which is why we are extending embassy closures for a little more, due to highly specific unspecified threats which we can't reveal. Just know the threats are there. But thanks to the NSA, there is nothing to worry about. Unless there is."
- Detroit ‘Gut Kick’ Poses New Test for Long Suffering City (BBG)
- Florida lawmakers urge overhaul of 'Stand Your Ground' law (Reuters)
- Investors pour huge sums into US equity funds (FT)
- Snowden Standoff Threatens Obama-Putin Moscow Summit (BBG)
- China, U.S. companies' great hope, now a drag (Reuters)
- Morgan Stanley stock traders rebuild burned bridges (Reuters)
- Huawei spied for China, claims ex-CIA head Michael Hayden (FT)
- Gorilla Flipping Homes as Rebound Revives Rapid Trades (BBG)
- BRICS joint action at G20 summit may be wishful thinking (Reuters)
The short but profitable tale of how 483,000 private individual have "top secret" access to the nation's most non-public information begins in 2001. "After 9/11, intelligence budgets were increased, new people needed to be hired, it was a lot easier to go to the private sector and get people off the shelf," and sure enough firms like Booz Allen Hamilton - still two-thirds owned by the deeply-tied-to-international-governments investment firm The Carlyle Group - took full advantage of Congress' desire to shrink federal agencies and their budgets by enabling outside consultants (already primed with their $4,000 cost 'security clearances') to fulfill the needs of an ever-more-encroaching-on-privacy administration.
The tension to "liberate" Syria is palpable. It took just 24 hours for the US to do an about face on its position on Syria, where yesterday, as Bloomberg reported, "U.S. officials said they haven’t seen conclusive evidence supporting an assertion by Israel’s top military intelligence analyst that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons against rebels. Secretary of State John Kerry and spokesmen from the White House and the Pentagon said investigations haven’t produced hard proof that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used toxic chemicals -- a step that President Barack Obama has said would cross a “red line." Fast forward to today, and we get pretty much the opposite opposite: "The United States believes with varying degrees of confidence that Syria's regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale, the White House said on Thursday."
As is now confirmed, at least one of many JPMorgan margin calls directed at Lehman in the days before the world's biggest bankruptcy became fact, were based on glaringly erroneous information and an error so profound one wonders if this was not a premeditated "hit" on one bank by another bank. Yet a purposeful "hit" orchestrated by one bank, even JPMorgan, would require the involvement of the highest echelons of the US government. So was the US government complicit and give its blessing in this historic liquidation? The Abu Dhabi Investment Council would like to know.