In a crushing blow to socialism, wealth redistribution and purveyors of the "fairness doctrine" (as defined here first) everywhere, the French Constitutional Council ruled on Saturday that Hollande's brilliant idea to tax millionaires at a 75% tax rate - a move which has since seen numerous millionaires leave France and move to Belgium - is unconstitutional. Per Reuters, the Council ruled that the planned 75 percent tax on annual income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million) - a flagship measure of Hollande's election campaign - was unfair in the way it would be applied to different households. Which is ironic because just like in the US, so in France, the selective wealth redistribution campaign waged by the government against the "rich" (which have yet to be properly defined: those making over $250K? Over $400K? Over €1MM?) was based on the premise that it is only "fair" that the rich contribute more. Turns out fairness in the eye of the government beholder, was unfair. But the move begs the question: would the court have struck down the law had it been a merely 50% tax hike? And if the income cut off was, say, €500,000? The far bigger question is, and has been in this year of encroaching socialism, just what is the definition of "rich", what is the definition of "fair redistribution", and where do the two coincide. Finally, how soon until the US Supreme Court weighs in as well on any final Fiscal Cliff tax hike proposal which, like in France, will see the "rich" pay an abnormal share, and will that too be ruled unconstitutional?
Despite the fact that myself and everyone else acting like they know what lays ahead are proven wrong time and time again, we continue to make predictions about the future. It makes us feel like we have some control, when we don’t. The world is too complex, too big, too corrupt, too lost in theories and delusions, and too dependent upon too many leaders with too few brains to be able to predict what will happen next. This is the time of year when all the “experts” will be making their 2013 predictions - but few will address where they were wrong in previous predictions. I’m more interested in why I was wrong. It seems I always underestimate the ability of sociopathic central bankers and their willingness to destroy the lives of hundreds of millions to benefit their oligarch masters. I always underestimate the rampant corruption that permeates Washington DC and the executive suites in mega-corporations across the land. And I always overestimate the intelligence, civic mindedness, and ability to understand math of the ignorant masses that pass for citizens in this country. It seems that issuing trillions of new debt to pay off trillions of bad debt, government sanctioned accounting fraud, mainstream media propaganda, government data manipulation and a populace blinded by mass delusion can stave off the inevitable consequences of an unsustainable economic system. Will 2013 be the year it all collapses in a flaming heap of rubble? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask an “expert”.
Been a while since we had some amusement out of the Bazooko Circus known as Europe, which for the past month has gone completely dormant, not because "it is fixed" but because, just like in Japan where the JPY has plunged on expectations of an action by the BOJ, so Europe has continued to benefit from the threat of the latest and greatest proposed ECB intervention: the OMT, which on one hand keeps the vigilantes in check, but on the other delays any painful reforms even as the underlying Spanish economy continues to deteriorate without any real structural reforms: something which a surge in rates would promptly precipitate (and once expectations turn to reality, it's all over: just see the recent QE3 and QE4 attempts by the Fed). So speaking of Spain, today's recap sentence of the day goes to Reuters' Julien Toyer with the following: "Spanish lender Bankia will wipe out 350,000 shareholders, many of them small savers with little knowledge of financial markets, after it emerged it had a negative value of 4.2 billion euros." Now if only the Spanish wipe out ended with Bankia's shareholders...
Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).
- Republicans put squeeze on Obama in "fiscal cliff" talks (Reuters)
- Inquiry harshly criticizes State Department over Benghazi attack (Reuters)
- Banks See Biggest Returns Since ’03 as Employees Suffer (BBG)
- Italy president urges election be held on time (Reuters)
- Bank of England Says Sterling Hurting Economy (WSJ) - there's an app for that, it's called a Goldman BOE chairman
- China slowdown hits Indonesian farmers (FT)
- China dispute hits Japanese exports (FT)
- Market to get even more monopolized by the HFT king: Getco wins Knight with $2 bln sweetened offer (Reuters)
- MF Global Cases Focus on 'Letters' (WSJ)
- UBS fined $1.5 billion in growing Libor scandal (Reuters)
- Spotlight swings to interdealer brokers (FT)
- China Widens Access to Capital Markets (WSJ)
- With Instagram, Facebook Spars With Twitter (WSJ)
Our biggest concern here on the cusp of 2013 is the current odd combination of extreme complacency about the risks presented by extend-and-pretend macro policy making and rapidly accelerating social tensions that could threaten political and eventually financial market stability. Before everyone labels us ‘doomers’ and pessimists, let us point out that, economically, we already have wartime financial conditions: the debt burden and fiscal deficits of the western world are at levels not seen since the end of World War II. We may not be fighting in the trenches, but we may soon be fighting in the streets. To continue with the current extend-and-pretend policies is to continue to disenfranchise wide swaths of our population - particularly the young - those who will be taking care of us as we are entering our doddering old age. We would not blame them if they felt a bit less than generous. The macro economy has no ammunition left for improving sentiment. We are all reduced to praying for a better day tomorrow, as we realise that the current macro policies are like pushing on a string because there is no true price discovery in the market anymore. We have all been reduced to a bunch of central bank watchers, only ever looking for the next liquidity fix, like some kind of horde of heroin addicts. We have a pro forma capitalism with de facto market totalitarianism. Can we have our free markets back please?
The longer you delay needed “radical measures,” the more private investors will be able to sell “their toxic paper without haircut to governmental bailout funds, and then hightail.”
Gold fell nearly 1% in illiquid markets in Asia overnight. Some traders may have decided to take profits on the short term long the FOMC announcement trade. Gold bullion prices had already ran up to $1,723 in the 2 weeks prior to the policy statement. Overnight, as prices fell below the 100-day moving average at $1,705, stop-loss selling was triggered which pushed prices lower quickly. Yesterday, the Federal Reserve took the bold, some would say reckless step, of linking its monetary policy to unemployment, creating concerns that the U.S. dollar will be debased even more in the coming months. The US Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at close to zero until unemployment falls below 6.5%. This is a historic and very radical change to monetary policy. It is the first time a large central bank has ever tied its interest rate policy directly to one facet of the economy – unemployment.
- Bernanke Wields New Tools to Reduce Unemployment Rate (BBG)
- Home Seizures Rise as Banks Adjust to Foreclosure Flow (BBG)
- EU Backs Release Of Greek Aid (WSJ)
- Democrats Confident They Have 'Cliff' Leverage (WSJ)
- Americans Back Obama Tax-Rate Increase Tied to Entitlement Cuts (BBG)
- Goldman flexes tentacles: Treasury open to Carney radicalism (FT)
- Launch Fuels Asia Security Concerns (WSJ)
- BOJ’s Unlimited Loan Program Seen Open to Use by Hedge Funds (BBG) - there are Japanese hedge funds?
- Abe Set to Face Manufacturing Gloom as Japan Contracts (BBG)
- US and UN condemn N Korea rocket launch (Guardian)
- Eurozone agrees common bank supervisor (FT)
- Berlusconi Adds to Italy Turmoil by Signaling He’d Step Aside (BBG)
Turkey’s trade balance may turn on whether President Barack Obama vetoes more stringent sanctions against Iran after the U.S. Senate passed a measure targeting loopholes in gold exports to the Islamic Republic. Turkey’s gold trade with neighbouring Iran has helped shrink its trade deficit over the past year according to Bloomberg. Incredibly, precious metals accounted for about half of the almost $21 billion decline. That’s calmed investor concern over its current-account gap, and helped persuade Fitch Ratings to give Turkey its first investment-grade rating since 1994. The U.S. Senate voted 94-0 on Nov. 30 to approve new sanctions against Iran, closing gaps from previous measures, including trade in precious metals. Obama, who opposes the move on the grounds it may undercut existing efforts to rein in the nation’s nuclear ambitions, signed an executive order in July restricting gold payments to Iranian state institutions. Turkey exported $11.9 billion of gold in the first 10 months of the year, according to the Ankara-based statistics agency’s website. A very large 85% of the shipments went to Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Iran is buying the gold with payments Turkey makes for natural gas it purchases in liras, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told a parliamentary committee in Ankara on Nov. 23.
- Here come the low margin products: Apple Tests Designs for TV (WSJ)
- Obama and Republicans Trade Offers to Avert Fiscal Crisis (BBG)
- Carney broaches dumping inflation target (FT)
- Bernanke Critics Can’t Fight Bonds Showing No Inflation (BBG)
- Corporate Taxes on Table in Cliff Talks (WSJ)
- US business chiefs back tax rise (FT)
- Greece Confident Bond Buyback Needed for Aid Succeeded (BBG)
- New Faith in Europe's Banks (WSJ)
- European Bank Sees Little Room for Rate Cuts (WSJ)
- North Korea Claims Success in Rocket Launch (WSJ)
- Fed Seen Pumping Up Assets to $4 Trillion in New Buying (BBG)
- China New Loans Trail Forecasts in Sign of Slower Growth (BBG)
- U.S. "fiscal cliff" talks picking up pace (Reuters)
- Insider-Trading Probe Widens (WSJ)
- U.K.'s Top Banker Sees Currency Risk (Hilsenrath)
- Three Arrested in Libor Probe (WSJ)
- Nine hurt as gunmen fire at Cairo protesters (Reuters)
- Egyptian President Gives Army Police Powers Ahead of Vote (BBG)
- Pax Americana ‘winding down’, says US report (FT)
- Japan Polls Show LDP, Ally Set for Big Majority (DJ)
- HSBC to pay record $1.9 billion U.S. fine in money laundering case (Reuters)
Need a quick and amusing pick up to start off another dreary, centrally-planned week? Well... "You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the full of pomp and circumstance ceremony of the European Union receiving the Nobel Peace Prize."
The hoaxes remain and grow more cumbersome and obvious every day - and yet, the headline-reading machines and self-referentially-biased managers of stocks justify just one more BTFD episode. To wit, Mark Grant discusses the Greek buyback debacle with its political (and entirely not economic) mandate, noting "Mr. Draghi knows the truth and Ms. Lagarde knows the truth and their credibility is whacked once again;" Berlusconi's potential return in Italy and the hoax of any pretense of an entente cordiale re-emerging between north and south flies out the window; the 'tax the rich' hoax as a solution for years of profligate spending and the 'then vs us' meme that is increasingly spewed forth from DC; and the ultimate hoax of Bernanke's money printing morasse. Happy Monday.
- Central Banks Ponder Going Beyond Inflation Mandates (BBG)
- Bloomberg Weighs Making Bid for The Financial Times (NYT)
- Hedge Funds Fall Out of Love with Equities (FT)
- Obama and Boehner resume US fiscal cliff talks (FT)
- Italy Front-Runner Vows Steady Hand (WSJ)
- Spanish Bailout Caution Grows as Business Lobbies Back Rajoy (BBG)
- Japan sinks into fresh recession (Reuters)
- China economic recovery intact, but weak exports drag (Reuters)
- Greece extends buyback offer to reach target (Reuters) ... but on Friday they promised it was done
- Basel Liquidity Rule May Be Watered Down Amid Crisis (BBG) ... just before they are scrapped
- Irish, Greek Workers Seen Suffering Most in 2013 Amid EU Slump (BBG)