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Frontrunning: June 18





  • Levin Hearing Ups Volume in High-Frequency Call to Action (BBG)
  • Ukrainian President Fires Central Bank Chief (BBG)
  • Argentina Plans Debt Swap (WSJ)
  • Fed Decision Day Guide From Dot Plots To Exit Strategy (BBG)
  • World Bank Economist: China May Face US-Style Financial Crisis (WSJ)
  • Premier Li says no hard landing for China, expects medium to high growth (Reuters)
  • Putin Talks Peace With Ukraine Leader After Gas Pipe Fire (BBG)
  • Poll Shows Erosion in President's Support (WSJ)
  • U.S. mortgage applications plunge in latest week (Reuters)
  • Ex-Goldman director goes to prison, still owes $13.9 million fine (Reuters)
 
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Adding Insult To Injury, Argentina Is Downgraded By S&P: What Happens Next





As reported yesterday, The SCOTUS dealt a major blow to Argentina hopes it would avoid making payments on its "holdout" bonds when it enforced a lower-court ruling that said Argentina can't make payments on its restructured debt unless it also pays holdout hedge funds headed by Elliott Management, best known for briefly seizing an Argentina ship in late 2012. The immediate result was a major rout in the country's sovereign bonds, which also sent Argentina CDS soaring. Sadly for Argentina, this would hardly be the end of it, and about an hour ago, Standard & Poor added insult to injury and lowered its long-term foreign currency rating on Argentina to CCC- from CCC+ citing a "higher risk of default on the country's foreign currency debt." As a result, yesterday's drop in bonds has continued, if at a more moderate pace, and the country's USD bond due 2024 hav continued to sink in intraday trading.  So what is next for the cash-strapped Latin American country for which the road ahead is suddenly quite "challenging" and default appears increasing like the only way out? For the answer we go to Citi's Jeffrey Williams who has laid out the five most likely developments.

 
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"Turbo Tuesday" Treading Water (For Now) Ahead Of Fed Wednesday





With newsflow out of Iraq having slowed down as has the ISIS offensive, which appears to have been halted north of Baghdad, the market now shifts its attention to the Fed's two-day meeting which begins today and continues through tomorrow afternoon, when it will be leaked by media outlets to ultra-wealthy speculators and robots, breaching the embargo (in exchange for a hefty payoff) some 10 minutes before 2 pm.

 
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Supreme Court Ruling Sparks Argentine Bond Rout





The years-long court battle over Argentina's sovereign debt default appears to have ended... badly for Argentina (and apparently well for Elliott Management). As WSJ reports, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Argentina's appeal (and mutually assured destruction threats that it "could trigger a renewed economic catastrophe with severe consequences for millions of ordinary Argentine citizens."; leaving in place a lower-court ruling that said Argentina can't make payments on its restructured debt unless it also pays holdout hedge funds that refused to accept the country's debt-restructuring offers. Argentine USD bonds are down 10 points on the news ahead of President Cristina Fernandez addressing the nation at 9pm local time.

 
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No Drinking Water In Venezuela Until Bankers Get Paid Back





2013 was a good year for Goldman Sachs investments in Emerging Markets, most notably Venezuelan bonds (as they bet on socialism and won). A year later and Goldman's EM debt portfolio is still loaded with Venezuelan bonds... and the arrears are mounting. As Bloomberg reports, at a time when Venezuela’s record $25 billion in arrears to importers has its citizens waiting hours in line to buy drinking water and crossing borders in search of medicine, President Nicolas Maduro is using the nation’s dwindling supply of dollars to enrich bondholders.

 
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5 Things To Ponder: The Central Bank Edition





This past week has been all about "anticipation." The markets made little headway during the first half of the week as traders waited in an almost breathless anticipation of the announcement from the European Central Bank. When the news was finally received, investors were initially disappointed but David Tepper stepped into the fray with his ever bullish optimism. The more we read, the clearer it becomes that the world's Central Banks have become caught in a "liquidity trap" which is entirely based on circular logic... Central banks must create asset bubbles in the hopes of stimulating economic activity. When the bubble eventually pops the economic activity evaporates which requires the creation of another asset bubble.

 
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"Buying Time" Doesn't Fix Financial Crises, It Makes The Next One Worse





The core strategy of central states and banks to fix the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008 was to buy time: take extraordinary emergency monetary and regulatory measures to save the parasitic too big to fail banking sector and the rest of the crony-capitalist Wall Street parasites, and initiate an unprecedented transfer of wealth from savers and Main Street to the banks and Wall Street via zero-interest rates and credit funneled to the very players who caused the crisis. The idea was that the system would "heal itself" if authorities simply "bought time" by saving the financial sector from its own predation. The terrible irony in the official strategy of "buying time so the financial system can heal itself" is the policies prohibit healing and guarantee the next financial crisis will be greater in magnitude than the last one.

 
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Equity Blow Off Top Takes Brief Overnight Rest, Prepares For Another Session Of Low Volume Levitation





Last night's docket of atrocious Japanese economic data inexplicably managed to push the Nikkei lower, not because the data was ugly but because the scorching inflation - the highest since 1991 - mostly driven by import costs, food and energy as a result of a weak yen, and certainly not in wages, has pushed back most banks' estimates of additional QE to late 2014 if not 2015 which is as we predicted would happen over a year ago. As a result the market, addicted to central bank liquidity, has had to make a modest reassessment of just how much disconnected from reality it is willing to push equities relative to expectations of central bank balance sheet growth. However, now that the night crew trading the USDJPY is replaced with the US session algo shift which does a great job of re-levitating the pair, and with it bringing the S&P 500 higher, we expect this brief flicker of red futures currently observable on trading terminals to be promptly replaced with the friendly, well-known and "confidence-boosting" green. The same goes for Treasurys which lately have been tracking every directional move in stocks not in yield but in price.

 
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Buying Of Bonds And Stocks Continues In Event-Free Overnight Session





The complete implosion in volume and vol, not to mention bond yields continues, and appears to have spilled over into events newsflow where overnight virtually nothing happened, or at least such is the algos' complete disregard for any real time headlines that as bond yields dropped to fresh record lows in many countries and the US 10Y sliding to a 2.3% handle, confused US equity futures have recouped almost all their losses from yesterday despite a USDJPY carry trade which has once again dropped to the 101.5 level, and are set for new record highs. Perhaps they are just waiting for today's downward revision in Q1 GDP to a negative print before blasting off on their way to Jeremy Grantham's 2,200 bubble peak after which Bernanke's Frankenstein market will finally, mercifully die.

 
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The Connection Between Oil Prices, Debt Levels, And Interest Rates





If oil is “just another commodity,” then there shouldn’t be any connection between oil prices, debt levels, interest rates, and total rates of return. But there clearly is a connection. As we have seen, rising interest rates will bring an end to our current equilibrium, by raising costs in many ways, without raising salaries. It will also reduce equity values and bond prices. A rise in the cost of extraction of oil, if it isn’t accompanied by high oil prices, will also put an end to our equilibrium, because oil producers will stop drilling the number of wells needed to keep production up.  If oil prices rise (regardless of reason), this will tend to put the economy into recession, leading to job loss and debt defaults. The only way to keep things going a bit longer might be negative interest rates. But even this seems “iffy.” We truly live in interesting times.

 

 
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Keynesian Madness: Central Banks Waging War On Price Stability & Savers





Central banks see their main role now in supporting asset markets, the economy, the banks, and the government. They are positively petrified of potentially derailing anything through tighter policy. They will structurally “under-tighten”. Higher inflation will be the endgame but when that will come is anyone’s guess. Growth will, by itself, not lead to a meaningful response from central bankers. No country has ever become more prosperous by debasing its currency and ripping off its savers. This will end badly...

 
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Who Is The New Secret Buyer Of U.S. Debt?





On the surface, the economic atmosphere of the U.S. has appeared rather calm and uneventful. Stocks are up, employment isn’t great but jobs aren’t collapsing into the void (at least not openly), and the U.S. dollar seems to be going strong. Peel away the thin veneer, however, and a different financial horror show is revealed.  With the Ukraine crisis now escalating to fever pitch, BRIC nations are openly discussing the probability of “de-dollarization” in international summits, and the ultimate dumping of the dollar as the world reserve currency. The U.S. is in desperate need of a benefactor to purchase its ever rising debt and keep the system running. Strangely, a buyer with apparently bottomless pockets has arrived to pick up the slack that the Fed and the BRICS are leaving behind. But, who is this buyer? At first glance, it appears to be the tiny nation of Belgium. Clearly, this is impossible, and someone, somewhere, is using Belgium as a proxy in order to prop up the U.S. But who?

 
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I'm A Fiat Slave, And So Are You





Fiat money is at base a form of indirect wealth transfer from those forced to hold the money to those issuing the money.

 
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Scotiabank On Treasuries & The Fed: "You Got Some 'Splaining To Do"





Treasuries are still cheap. The FOMC statement says that “even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels” the committee may keep “the target federal funds rate below levels” viewed as normal in the longer run. Whenever we read this, we think of Desi Arnaz screaming, “Lucy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Treasury prices do not care if Q4 is around 4%. Economic data matters little for the time being. Prices are being driven more by positions, relative value, and future Fed policy. Markets know the Fed is ending QE. What it really wants to know is the terminal Fed Funds level in the new ‘world order’. In the meantime, stay long.

 
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Frontrunning: May 9





  • Omnicom, Publicis call off proposed $35 billion merger (Reuters)
  • Apple in talks for $3.2bn Beats deal (FT)
  • Alibaba IPO Grew Out of ’80s Chaos and Guy From Goldman (BBG)
  • Nigeria's president at WEF pledges to free kidnapped girls (Reuters)
  • JPMorgan Joins Wells Fargo in Rolling Out Jumbo Offerings (BBG)
  • It's 1999 all over again: Young Bankers Fed Up With 90-Hour Weeks Move to Startups (BBG)
  • ECB stimulus talk knocks euro, peripheral yields (Reuters)
  • Deutsche Bank Currency Crown Lost to Citigroup on Volatility (BBG)
  • London Taxis Plan 10,000-Car Protest Against Uber App Use (BBG)
  • Pfizer Holders Could Face Tax Hit in a Deal for AstraZeneca (WSJ)
 
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