Eurozone

"Money Launderer Until Proven Innocent" - Italy Imposes 20% Tax Withholding On All Inbound Money Transfers

While the propaganda surrounding Europe's "recovery" has reached deafening levels, what is going on behind the scenes is quite the opposite, and in the latest example that Europe is increasingly formalizing a regime of implicit capital controls, we learn that Italy has just ordered banks to withhold a 20% tax on all inbound wire transfers: a decree which on to of everything will apply retroactively to February 1. As Il Sole reports, "the deductions will be automatic (unless prior request for exclusion), and then it will be up to the taxpayer to prove that the money is not in the nature of compensation "income." In other words, as of this moment, but really starting two weeks ago, all Italians are money launderers unless proven innocent.

The "Sick Man Of Europe" Is Back - German Economy Barely Grows In 2013

Everyone knows that without the German export-driven growth dynamo, the European economy would quickly wither and disappear into nothingness. Which is why today's report that the German economy grew by just 0.4% last year, its worst performance since the global financial crisis in 2009, with strong domestic demand only partially offsetting the continued negative impact of the euro crisis, should be reason for significant concern to all especially since all the artificial, goalseeked GDP readings from the periphery are just that, and are completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things - should Germany's growth falter, as it clearly has been over the past two years, may as well put the lights out.

Yen Carry Trade Fumbles Again But Equities Supported By Strong European GDP Data

So far the overnight session has been a replica of yesterday, with the all important carry trade once again fizzling overnight during Japan trading hours, and dipping as low at 101.60 before staging a modest rebound to the 101.8 level. We expect the "invisible" 102.000 USDJPY tractor beam to be again engaged shortly and provide market support and/or levitate stocks higher as the now standard selling in Japan, buying in the US trade pattern repeats. On the other hand, US equity futures appear to have decoupled from the pure carry trade, and instead latched on to USD weakness and EUR strength following European Q4 GDP data, which came at 0.3% on expectations of 0.2%, up from 0.1%. Considering the constant adjustments to the European definition of GDP, at this point Mongolia would have been able to demonstrate growth if it was in Europe (but apparently not Greece which once again missed GDP expectations with Q4 GDP of -2.6% vs Exp. -2.0%). Expect ES and USDJPY to recouple shortly, as they always do - the only question if the recoupling will take place lower or higher.

Risk Off

With so much of the recent bad news roundly ignored or simply "priced in" and blamed on the snow, it is unknown just what it is that catalyzed the overnight round of risk-offness, but whatever the ultimate factor, it first dragged the Nikkei lower by 1.8%, as we noted previously, then sent the SHCOMP down by 0.55%, then ultimately dragged the USDJPY below the key 102 support area which in turn pulled US equity futures to set the scene for a red open (with no POMO and no Yellen testimony today which also was canceled due to snow), and, putting it all together, suddenly Europe too is back on the scene, with a blow out in Italian yields driven by the realization that the Letta government is on the edge of collapse, in a deja vu moment to those hot summers of 2011 and 2012.

Europe Considers Wholesale Savings Confiscation, Enforced Redistribution

At first we thought Reuters had been punk'd in its article titled "EU executive sees personal savings used to plug long-term financing gap" which disclosed the latest leaked proposal by the European Commission, but after several hours without a retraction, we realized that the story is sadly true. Sadly, because everything that we warned about in "There May Be Only Painful Ways Out Of The Crisis" back in September of 2011, and everything that the depositors and citizens of Cyprus had to live through, seems on the verge of going continental. In a nutshell, and in Reuters' own words, "the savings of the European Union's 500 million citizens could be used to fund long-term investments to boost the economy and help plug the gap left by banks since the financial crisis, an EU document says." What is left unsaid is that the "usage" will be on a purely involuntary basis, at the discretion of the "union", and can thus best be described as confiscation.

Paper Gold Ain't As Good As The Real Thing

For the first time ever, the majority of Americans are scared of their own federal government. A Pew Research poll found that 53% of Americans think the government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. Americans aren't wild about the government's currency either. Instead of holding dollars and other financial assets, investors are storing wealth in art, wine, and antique cars. The Economist reported in November, "This buying binge… is growing distrust of financial assets." Every central banker on earth has sworn an oath to Keynesian money creation, yet the yellow metal has retraced nearly $700 from its $1,895 high. The only limits to fiat money creation are the imagination of central bankers and the willingness of commercial bankers to lend. That being the case, the main culprit for gold's lackluster performance over the past two years is something else... It won't be inflation that drives up the gold price but the unwinding of massive amounts of leverage.

Deutsche Bank Explains How, And Why, Germany Opened The OMT Pandora's Box

As Deutsche Bank revealed in a note overnight, the GCC may have, quite deliberately, opened a Pandora's Box with its decision which according to Europe's largest bank, and the one whose derivatives exposure makes that of JPM pale by comparison, (i) made it clear it regards OMT as exceeding the competences granted to the ECB by the European Treaty and that (ii) would not consider itself bound by a positive ruling of the European Court of Justice. And while in DB's opinion this action does not have any immediate market consequences, the report's authors think that it "alters substantially the level of insurance we could expect from the ECB against any return of sovereign turmoil."

Italian Government On Verge Of Collapse (Again)

The growing tensions between Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (and his fragile coalition) and Matteo Renzi - the head of parliament's largest (center-left Democratic) party are intensifying this morning. Calls for Letta's resignation, sparked by a junior coalition party head "hoping he was ready to step down," have escalated into more open speculation that the Italian government could collapse within days. Following the failure today of a 'strategy meeting' with center-right coalition partners, Renzi's pro-job-creation and electoral law reforms agenda is gaining consensus. While Letta has stated he will move ahead with his government (and address the public later today), Renzi warned, via Twitter, that he will talk tomorrow afternoon on the way forward.

Are Animal Spirits Deflating?

Unfortunately many investors, with central banks having slashed deposit rates to de minimis levels, have gone ‘all-in’ with regard to risk assets in the desperate pursuit of yield. Be careful what you wish for. It is quite clear that central banks will do literally anything within their power to attempt to avert deflation – to ensure that “it cannot happen here”. That does not mean they will succeed – but they may end up destroying fiat currencies in the process (one of the reasons we have consistently held gold). It is “quite obvious” what the Fed will ultimately do... Six years into this crisis, and in the words of Lily Tomlin, things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.

Which Hedge Fund Strategies Will Work In 2014: Deutsche Bank's Take

While January was a bad month for the market, it was certainly one which the majority of hedge funds would also rather forget as we showed yesterday. So with volatility, the lack of a clear daily ramp higher (with the exception of the last 4 days which are straight from the 2013 play book), and, worst of all, that Old Normal staple - risk - back in the picture. what is a collector of 2 and 20 to do (especially since in the post-Steve Cohen world, one must now make their money the old-fashioned way: without access to "expert networks")? For everyone asking this question, here is Deutsche Bank with its take on which will be the best and worst performing strategies of 2014. So without further ado, here is the Deutsche Bank Asset and Wealth Management's forecast of hedge fund performance matrix...

Why Draghi's OMT "Whatever It Takes" Dream Is Fundamentally Flawed

The German Constitutional Court’s recent decision to refer the complaint against the European Central Bank’s so-called “outright monetary transactions” to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) leaves the scheme’s fate uncertain. What is clear is that the economics behind OMT is flawed – and so is the politics. The line between audacity and hubris is a fine one. Rather than constituting a great success, OMT may well be remembered as an error born of expediency. Worse, it could undermine the ECB’s hard-won independence and credibility. That is an outcome that the eurozone might not survive.

Another Conspiracy Theory Becomes Fact: Meet The Men With The Plan Behind Italy's Bloodless Coup

The chart below is very familiar to anyone who was observing the hourly turmoil in the European bond market in November of 2011, when Italian bonds crashed, when yields soared to record levels, and every downtick of the Euro could have been its last. What the chart may not show are the dramatic transformations in Italy's government that took place just as the Italian bond spread exploded, which saw the resignation of career-politician Sylvio Berlusconi literally days after yields soared, and the instatement of Goldman technocrat Mario Monti as Italy's next Prime Minister. In fact as some, certainly this website, had suggested the blow out in Italian yields was merely a grand plan orchestrated to usher in a new Italian government that would, with the support of yet another Goldman alum, the ECB's then brand new head Mario Draghi, unleash a new era in Italian life, supposedly one of austerity, and which would give the impression that Europe is being fixed all the while preserving the broken European monetary system for at least another year or two. In other words a grand conspiracy theory of a pre-planned bloodless coup.... And so, as lately so often happens, courtesy of the narrative by Alan Friedman of what really happened that summer, this too conspiracy theory has just become conspiracy fact.

Guest Post: Will Austrian Bank Woes Be Again the Catalyst For A European Kondratieff Winter?

Sad affairs have been heating up in the tiny Alpine republic in the center of the European Union. While Austria experiences record unemployment at record growth rates and tax revenues  have fallen behind optimistic projections, the looming bankruptcy of a mid-sized regional bank, Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA), may propel the country to the disdained position of being the catalyst for a new round of bank failures due to interwoven banks risks on both the domestic and the international level. On Monday Austrian financial market authority FMA publicly said what the official Austria never wanted to hear as it is now confronted with a widening public discussion on a problem it had surrealstically hoped to brush under the carpet. Austria's banking woes look eerily similar to the failure of Creditanstalt in 1931 that was the fuse for the last European Kondratieff winter.

Guest Post: The Smog Of Fraud

Trust is gone and credit is going and debt is sitting between a rock and a hard place with its grubby hands pressed together, praying that it will be forgiven, forgotten, or overlooked a little while longer. By the way, the reason trust and credit are gone is because oil is no longer cheap and world economies can’t grow anymore. They can’t afford to run the day-to-day operations of a techno-industrial society. They can only pretend to afford it. The stock markets are mere scorecards for players who can only lie and cheat now to keep the game going. Somewhere beyond all the legerdemain and fraud, however, there remains a real world that is not going away. We just don’t know what it will look like when the smog of fraud clears.

Frontrunning: February 10

  • Yellen's first test (Reuters)
  • Let weak banks die, says eurozone super-regulator (FT)
  • Yellen, Carney Face Explaining Policy as Benchmarks Near (BBG)
  • Commerzbank Said Seeking Debt Buyers in $6.8 Billion Spain Exit (BBG)
  • Junk Yield Premiums Soar on China’s Looming First Default (BBG)
  • Millions Trapped in Health-Law Coverage Gap (WSJ)
  • Mandel Tops Best-Earning Hedge Funds for Clients in 2013 (BBG)
  • Swiss Brace for Sour EU Relations After Immigration Vote (BBG)
  • Detroit Bankruptcy Talks to Resume (WSJ)