With more people in the world living in cities than ever before, cities’ share of global GDP is rising: 25 cities account for approximately 50% of the world’s GDP. But not all cities can be winners, and not all are destined for greatness. The following smorgasbord of charts highlight how successful cities have typically had natural advantages such as location, time zone and resources; but more importantly, to remain successful they need education, a skilled workforce, strong property rights, a broad base of industries and in some cases, policies aimed at attracting capital and talent. Conversely, As Goldman notes, when cities fail it tends to be either because of an overreliance on an industry that has seen a dramatic shift in its profitability, or as a result of the vested interests of those that control them.
When the multiple bubbles burst and the financial house of cards comes crumbling down, Ben Bernanke will be comfortably secure, far from the consequences of his policies. It is worth recalling, on today of all days, that only two U.S. presidents in the past 50 years had any experience of combat: John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush. Both men acted with care and restraint in matters of war and both sought a peaceful resolution to the Cold War. Was this merely a coincidence, or did experiencing combat inform their humility and sense of responsibility for the consequences of their choices? The more power devolves to those who actually face the consequences of their actions and authority, the less pathological it becomes. This is the power structure of liberty: each person carries the responsibility and consequence of their actions, choices and words.
We earlier discussed Bill Ackman's lengthy interview on Bloomberg TV during which he faced up to the $500 million losses (more now) from his Herbalife position, and that it is "not a trade" for him but "will take it to the ends of the earth." However, it seems his comments that "Herbalife longs are all 80-year-old billionaires" pissed off Carl Icahn enough to warrant his wrath. Icahn called in to Trish Regan and exclaimed, "I fail to understand how Bill Ackman, whom I haven’t spoken to for years, nor do I intend to speak to, would know what I am or am not committed to. I continue to believe Herbalife has a great future, and in my opinion many of the things Ackman says about it are simply the rantings of a sore loser." The stock remains +5% and back near recent record highs.
Peter Schiff is sympathetic "with what [bitcoin] is trying to achieve," but as he explains in this brief clip he believes, "they are using the wrong vehicle." After rising from less than $20 to more than $600 in one year, many investors are wondering if bitcoin might be worth the risk, Schiff adds, nothing that early adopters pitch bitcoin as "gold 2.0" – a digital currency that cannot be manipulated like fiat money. Bitcoins are even "mined," similar to physical gold and silver (and are scarce and divisble); but as Schiff explains, bitcoins still fail as a substitute for gold and strongly urges investors to avoid this risky new currency. Bitcoin could very well have already hit its top, but Peter is confident gold is still well below its future record highs.
A new opportunity to play "What's wrong with this picture" arose recently, with Larry Summers’ recent speech at the IMF and Paul Krugman’s follow-up blog. The two economists’ messages are slightly different, but combining them into one fictional character we shall call SK, their comments can be summed up "...essentially, we need to manufacture bubbles to achieve full employment equilibrium." With this new line of reasoning, SK have completely outdone themselves, but not in a good way. Think Jamie Dimon’s infamous “that’s why I’m richer than you” quip. Or, Bill Dudley’s memorable “but the price of iPads is falling” excuse for increases in basic living costs. Dimon and Dudley managed to encapsulate in single sentences much of what’s wrong with their institutions. Yet, they showed baffling ignorance of faults that are clear to the rest of us.
"A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money."
Sickcare is unsustainable for a number of interlocking reasons: defensive medicine in response to a broken malpractice system; opaque pricing; quasi-monopolies/cartels; systemic disconnect of health from food, diet and fitness; fraud and paperwork consume at least 40% of all sickcare funds; fee-for-service in a cartel system; employers being responsible for healthcare, and a fundamental absence of competition and transparency. Obamacare simply speeds up the coming collapse. The neutron bomb has gone off, unseen by politicos and the Elites who wrote the bill. It is already undercutting fulltime employment, and it will soon add momentum to the free-fall erosion of small business growth and employment.
- When it fails, do more of it - Bank of Japan hints at extending ultra-loose monetary policy (FT)
- PBOC Says No Longer in China’s Interest to Increase Reserves (BBG)
- Fed casts about for endgame on easy-money policy (Hilsenrath)
- Big trucks still rule Detroit in energy-conscious era (Reuters)
- Debt Limit Rise May Not Be Needed Until June, CBO Says (BBG)
- Some Insurance Regulators Turn Down White House Invitation (WSJ)
- Say Goodbye to the Car Salesman (WSJ)
- U.S. drone kills senior militant in Pakistani seminary (Reuters)
- French business sector contracts sharply (FT)
- How Germany's taxman used stolen data to squeeze Switzerland (Reuters)
- Fed casts about for endgame on easy-money policy (WSJ)
- France, Italy call for full-time Eurogroup chief (Reuters)
That the Fed has a problem is increasingly well known - despite the blather from the mainstream media that QE monetization can continue ad infinitum. Their problem, of course, is running out of government-provided liabilities to monetize (as deficits shrink and their ownership of the entire Treasury complex surges). They face other problems (as we have noted before) but the admission that they are boxed in would have major ramifications in the market's faith. So, how does the Fed, faced with the knowledge that they have created asset bubbles, broken the bond market, and are boxed in by their own excess still meet the market's undying desire to keep the flow going? Bill Dudley just, perhaps inadvertently, dropped a hint of the next 'market/scapegoat' for monetization - Student loans.
After the DJIA and S&P briefly crossed the key resistance levels of 16000 and 1800, the upper bound on the markets has been looking increasingly more distant and this morning's lack of an overnight ramp only makes it more so. Perhaps the biggest concern, however, is that with both Yellen and Bernanke on the tape yesterday, the S&P still was unable to close green. This follows on Monday's double POMO day when the S&P once again closed... red. Not helping things was the overnight announcement by the Japanese government pension fund, the GPIF, in which the fund announced it would lower its bond allocation further however the new law to reform the GPIF could be written by spring 2015. This was hardly as exciting as the market had expected, and as a result both the USDJPY and the ES-moving EURJPY find themselves at overnight lows. Will the EURJPY engage in its usual post 8 am ramp - keep a close eye, especially since the usual morning gold and silver slam down just took place.
Overnight repo rates are spiking once again in early trading as the typically smaller banks that are more desperate bid aggressively for whetever liquidity they can find. 5Y Chinese swap rates have also reached a record high as the Yuan reaches its highest since Feb 2005. Chinese authorities are clearly stepping up the rhetoric:
- *CHINA SHADOW-FINANCE RISKS WILL SPREAD TO BANKS, FANG SAYS
- *VERY BIG CHANCE ONE OR TWO SMALL CHINA BANKS WILL FAIL: FANG
- *SOME CHINA TRUST INVESTMENT FIRMS MAY FAIL, SELL ASSETS: FANG
- *CHINA MUST PLAN FOR BANK-FAIL SCENARIOS TO MANAGE RISKS: FANG
- *CHINA NEEDS TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO CORPORATE LEVERAGE: HU
The gambit between the PBOC's liqudity provision and the growing dependence on their "spice" is clear - the question is, of course, will banks send a message (via the markets) to the PBOC or will they self-select (on first-mover's advantage) eradicating the weakest.
It is time for the centrally-planned markets to "try" for the round number trifecta of 16000, 1800 and 4000 again, although it may be a tad more difficult on a day in which there is no double POMO and just $2.75-$3.50 billion will be injected by the NY Fed into the S&P - perhaps it is Bitcoin that will hit the nice round number of $1000 first? Overnight, the Chinese Plenum news rerun finally was priced in and the SHComp closed red, as did the Nikkei 225 as the Asian euphoria based on communist promises about what may happen by 2020 fades. What's worse, the Chinese 7-day repo rate is up 140bp this morning to 6.63% amid talk of tightening domestic liquidity conditions, and back to levels seen during the June liquidity squeeze. All this is happening as China continues leaking more details and hope of what reform the mercantilist country can achieve, and how much internal consumption the export-driven country can attain: overnight there were also additional reports of interest rate liberalization and that the PBOC are to set up a floating CNY rate. Good luck with that.
An interesting overview of Germany's attempt to solidify its hegemony in Europe.
"Every American family deserves a false sense of security," said Chris Reppto, a risk analyst for Citigroup in New York. "Once we have a bubble to provide a fragile foundation, we can begin building pyramid scheme on top of pyramid scheme, and before we know it, the financial situation will return to normal." Despite the overwhelming support for a new bubble among investors, some in Washington are critical of the idea, calling continued reliance on bubble-based economics a mistake. Regardless of the outcome of this week's congressional hearings, however, one thing will remain certain: The calls for a new bubble are only going to get louder. "America needs another bubble," said Chicago investor Bob Taiken. "At this point, bubbles are the only thing keeping us afloat."
Would printing the cash to fund pensions for low-income retirees trigger inflation? It's more of an open question than we might imagine at first glance.