Today, everyone believes that market price levels are largely driven by monetary policy and that we are all being played by politicians and central bankers using their words for effect rather than direct communication. No one requires convincing that market price levels are unsupported by real world economic activity. Everyone believes that this will all end badly, and the only real question is when.... There’s absolutely nothing sincere about the public sphere today, in its politics or its economics, and as a result we have lost faith in our public institutions, including public markets. It’s not the first time in the history of the Western world this has happened … the last time was in the 1930’s … and over time, perhaps a very long period of time, a modicum of faith will return. This, too, shall pass... It’s the public markets where faith has been lost, and that’s why the Golden Age of the Central Banker poses existential risks for firms and business strategies based on trading activity within those public markets.
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has been long viewed as one of the most corrupt of American institutions – and that’s saying a lot... when a retiring judge accuses the other remaining judge of being a total bought and paid for Wall Street crony, you know something is wrong. And sure enough, today we learn the CFTC will impose a meager $650,000 fine on JP Morgan, despite years of warnings about fraudulent data reports. You gotta love American justice. In the same week that an NYPD officer’s illegal and fatal chokehold was ruled a homicide (incredibly the man who shot the video has now been arrested), JP Morgan gets off with another slap on the wrist. As Glenn Greenwald noted, it’s Liberty and Justice for Some.
"It's a troubling continuation/expansion of trade as a geopolitical tool," warns one Washington-based consulting firm as Russia prepares to unleash retaliatory actions to US and European sanctions. As Bloomberg reports, Russia said yesterday it may ban imports of chicken from the U.S. and fruit from Europe and is investigating McDonald's cheese for safety. In addition, a Russian lawmaker has drafted legislation that might result in U.S. accounting firms being barred from doing business in his country. All of this is odd given Jack "trust me" Lew's reassurance that Russian sanctions would have no impact on the US economy. Russia's response, US will feel 'tangible losses' from 'destructive, myopic' sanctions.
After all this time Greenspan still insists on blaming the people for the economic and financial havoc that he engendered from his perch in the Eccles Building. Indeed, posturing himself as some kind of latter day monetary Calvinist, he made it crystal clear in yesterday’s interview that the blame cannot be placed at his feet where it belongs:
"I have come to the conclusion that bubbles, as I noted, are a function of human nature."
The Phoenix housing market has a special place in the heart of housing bubble watchers: together with Las Vegas and various California MSAs, this is the place where the last housing bubble was born and subsequently died a gruesome death which nearly brought down the entire financial system. Which is why the monthly WP Carey report on the Greater Phoenix Housing Market is of peculiar interest for those who want to catch a leading glimpse into the overall state of the bubble US housing market. As hoped, this month's letter does not disappoint. What we find is that while equilibrium prices have been largely flat month over month, and are up 6% on an average square foot basis from a year ago, something very bad is happening with a key component of the pricing calculation: demand has fallen off a cliff.
- Secret Path Revealed for Chinese Billions Overseas (BBG)
- Traders Flood U.S. With $3.4 Trillion of Bond-Auction Demand (BBG)
- Just in time to cover bad earnings in a massive $3.8 billion "one-time charge": Citi says to pay $7 billion to settle securities investigation (Reuters)
- Troubled Epirito Santo family loosens grip on Portugal's BES (Reuters)
- BES puts in place new executives after central bank push (Reuters)
- Bank of China-CCTV drama may reveal power struggle in Beijing (SCMP)
- Portugal speeds up Banco Espírito Santo management changes (FT)
- Dark pool probe builds pressure on Barclays boss (Reuters)
- Russia Vows to Respond After Shelling From Ukraine (BBG)
- Ukraine forces end rebel airport blockade (Reuters)
- Obama Contends With Arc of Instability Unseen Since '70s (WSJ)
It should come as no surprise that when Gallup recently conducted a poll asking residents to rank if their state is the "worst possible to live in" a whopping 25% of its residents, by far the most of any states, responded Illinois. Which were the other "worst possible" states? The table below ranks them all.
Their names are familiar to all of us: Cleveland, Flint, Youngstown, Saginaw, Gary, Toledo, Reading, Akron, Flint and Buffalo were all once booming manufacturing cities that were absolutely packed with thriving middle class families. But now most of the manufacturing jobs are gone and all of those cities are just shadows of their former selves.
The “war on compassion” when it comes to the homeless in America continues. There are many reasons we find this topic to be of such tremendous importance. First and foremost, we think that if we want to see how the state and crony corporate status quo will treat everyone in the future, all you have to do is look at how the homeless are being “dealt with.” Secondly, random groups feeding the homeless in various venues is a great example of decentralized compassion. Political power hates decentralization and is quite intentionally trying to corral the homeless into the centralized bureaucratic channels over which it has total control. So this isn’t merely a humanitarian issue, it is also a front line battle in the key war of our time: Decentralization vs. Centralization.
Reams of paper have already been spilled about the past, present, and potential future of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East but in order to attempt to simplify things a little, we offer 5 maps that answer: What ISIL already have..., What they want..., What they will gain control of if they win..., and where all the allies and enemies are..."This entire system is disintegrating like a house of cards that starts to collapse," Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said.
The unmitigated gall...
It is a well known historical trend that as discontent and dissent spread within a society, the power structure will look to demonize unpopular or weak minorities in order to deflect frustrations away from the true culprit, the power structure itself. If we want to see how the state and crony corporate status quo will treat everyone in the future, all you have to do is look at the current “war on the homeless.”
If there is one thing that the militarized warzone with the weapons ban (and which makes east Ukraine look like a kindergarten) namely Chicago, did not need in order to fall further into social chaos and disarray, it is a new tidal wave of unemployment: people freshly without jobs who for lack of better options would likely join the daily survival of the fittest routine on the streets of the windy city. And a tidal wave of unemployment is precisely what Chicago is likely to get if, as a group of Chicago aldermen have proposed, the minimum wage in the nation's third-largest city is nearly doubled to $15 an hour. Why $15? Because according to recently striking McDonalds line cooks, it's only fair, and is the minimum pay that fast-food workers have sought during national protests.
We have discussed the 'downside' of America's "black gold" rush and the town of Williston, North Dakota is the poster child for the costs and benefits of this exuberance. But, as The BBC reports, there is some silver lining for those willing to deal..."Strippers can earn $2,500 per shift here," says a bouncer, "but the men here are 100% worse. It's horrible. They're animals."
Mr. Bowden, who heads the SEC’s examinations unit, speaking at a private equity conference, explained that “more than 50 percent of private equity firms it has audited have engaged in serious infractions of securities laws.” What is so incredible about the talk, is that while Bowden goes into details of shady practice after shady practice, he ultimately admits that the SEC isn’t being particularly aggressive with the private equity industry because “we believe that most people in the industry are trying to do the right thing, to help their clients, to grow their business, and to provide for their owners and employees.” What the SEC is basically admitting, is that private equity firms are also “too big to regulate” and, of course, “too big to jail.”