International Monetary Fund

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The Father Of High Speed Trading Speaks: "The Market We Created Is A Casino; A Complete Mess; A Rigged Game"





"I must confess to you that I was an ardent proponent of bringing technology to trading and brokerage. Unfortunately, I only saw the good sides. I saw how electronic trading and record-keeping could be used to force people to be more honest, to make the process more efficient, to lower transaction costs and to bring liquidity to the markets. I did not see the forces of fragmentation and the opportunity for people to use technology to keep to the letter but avoid the spirit of the rules -- creating the current crisis....  Technology, market structure, and new products have evolved more quickly than our capacity to understand or control them. ... To the public the financial markets may increasingly seem like a casino, except that the casino is more transparent and simpler to understand.... The result has been a series of crises over the past few years that have caused many investors to lose confidence or to think that the whole system is a rigged game."

 
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Frontrunning: April 7





  • The counter-HFT-attack begins with first target - dark pools: Dark markets may be more harmful than high-frequency trading (Reuters)
  • Malaysia Jet Team Hears Pings Consistent With Black Box (BBG)
  • At Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs From Robots (BBG)
  • ‘Reverse Auctions’ Draw Scrutiny (NYT)
  • Death knell sounds for Brazil’s economic strategy (FT)
  • Technology Traders Head for the Exit as Put Trades Surge (BBG)
  • NSA Uses Corporate News to Spread Propaganda and Silence Dissent (TruthDig)
  • Holcim, Lafarge agree to merger to create cement giant (Reuters)
  • Any minute now: Investment Jump Seen From Macy’s to Berkshire After 2013 Fizzle (BBG)
  • India kicks off world's biggest election in remote northeast (Reuters)
 
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Guest Post: Russia Is Dominated By Global Banks, Too





As the Ukrainian crisis festers and other dangers in the Pacific and the Mideast grow, an odd consensus among alternative analysts is taking hold — namely the belief that President Vladimir Putin and Russia represent some kind of opposition to globalization and the rule of corporate financiers. Perhaps moments in Putin’s rhetoric have seduced elements of the Liberty Movement into assuming that Russia is a “victim” in the grand schemes of Western oligarchy and that Russia is truly the "white knight", the underdog willing to stand up against the New World Order. We're sorry to say that nothing could be further from the truth. Russia is just as much a tool of the global elite today as it was after the Bolshevik Revolution, and Vladimir Putin is just as much a socialist puppet as Barack Obama.

 
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Ron Paul Explains Why Aid For Ukraine Is A Bad Deal For All





Last week Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill approving a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine and more sanctions on Russia. The bill will likely receive the president’s signature within days. If you think this is the last time US citizens will have their money sent to Ukraine, you should think again. This is only the beginning. This $1 billion for Ukraine is a rip-off for the America taxpayer, but it is also a bad deal for Ukrainians. Not a single needy Ukrainian will see a penny of this money, as it will be used to bail out international banks who hold Ukrainian government debt. According to the terms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-designed plan for Ukraine, life is about to get much more difficult for average Ukrainians. The government will freeze some wage increases, significantly raise taxes, and increase energy prices by a considerable margin. But the bankers will get paid and the IMF will get control over the Ukrainian economy.

 
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Ukraine Parliament Rejects IMF's Bailout Terms (As US Passes Ukraine Aid Bill)





The US Senate is more than happy to hand over a few billion and confirm sanctions:

  • *SENATE PASSES UKRAINIAN AID BILL WITH RUSSIAN SANCTIONS
  • *HOUSE PASSES VERSION OF UKRAINIAN AID, RUSSIAN SANCTIONS BILL

But, it seems the IMF's requirements for Ukraine's bailout are too much for the locals to bear:

  • UKRAINE PARLIAMENT FAILS TO SUPPORT FIRST BID TO PASS ANTI-CRISIS LAW REQUIRED FOR IMF DEAL

Lawmakers will continue to work on the bill as it seems they approve the top-line budget but not the taxes required to get there... beggars can be choosers again maybe?

 
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And Now The Real Economic Pain Begins As IMF Unleashes $27BN Bailout In "Near Bankrupt" Ukraine





Gazprom must really be demanding payment on overdue Ukraine invoices which is the only way we can explain the unprecedented speed with which the IMF has managed to cobble together a makeshift bailout package of up to $27 billion - the bulk of which will naturally go to Russia - which has just made Ukraine its latest vassal state. There are of course, conditions: "Approval is “expected in April, following the authorities’ adoption of a strong and comprehensive package of prior actions aiming to stabilize the economy and create conditions for sustained growth,” IMF mission chief Nikolay Gueorguiev said in the statement. Disbursement may start next month, he said at a news conference in Kiev." And then comes the hyperinflation: "Monetary policy will target domestic price stability while maintaining a flexible exchange rate. This will help eliminate external imbalances, improve competitiveness, support exports and growth, and facilitate the gradual rebuilding of international reserves. The NBU plans to introduce an inflation targeting framework over the next twelve months to firmly anchor inflation expectations"...  Very high inflation targeting.

 
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Frontrunning: March 27





  • BOE to Sign Agreement With China on Yuan Clearing Next Week (BBG)
  • U.S. law firm plans to bring suit against Boeing, Malaysia Airlines (Reuters)
  • Citigroup Fraud Stings Mexico Star as Medina-Mora Chased (BBG)
  • Fraternity Chief Feared for Son as Hazings Spurred JPMorgan Snub (BBG)
  • UBS suspends six more forex traders (FT)
  • Goodbye CSCO Q1 EPS: China to strengthen Internet security after U.S. spying report (Reuters)
  • Good luck: Spain Banks With $55 Billion of Property Seek Deals (BBG)
  • Citic Pacific Said to Plan About $4 Billion Public Offering (BBG)
  • Yahoo Japan to buy eAccess from SoftBank for $3.2 billion (Reuters)
  • "Whatever it takes" to talk down the Euro: Euro, peripheral bond yields fall on ECB easing debate (Reuters)
 
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Russia Raises Gold Holdings By Over 7 Tonnes In February To Over 1,040 Tonnes





Russia has increased its gold holdings by 7.247 tonnes to 1,042 tonnes in February. Turkey and Kazakhstan also raised their bullion reserves, data from the International Monetary Fund showed today. Turkey's gold holdings rose 9.292 tonnes to 497.869 tonnes, the data showed. Many analysts are ignoring the important context of today's new geopolitical backdrop. Russia alone has some $400 billion in foreign exchange reserves - mostly in U.S. dollars. If they were to diversify just 5%, worth some $20 billion, of those reserves into gold - it would be equal to nearly 500 tonnes of gold or nearly 25% of global annual production.  It will be interesting to see what Russian demand is in March and indeed in the coming months. Sanctions could lead to materially higher demand from the Russian central bank, Bank Rossii.

 
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Frontrunning: March 26





  • One-Ship Ukraine Navy Defies Russia to the End (WSJ)
  • Crimea-Induced Trading Surge Stokes Moscow Exchange Rally (BBG)
  • Moscow says Ukraine stops Russian crews disembarking in Kiev (Reuters)
  • New images show more than 100 objects that could be plane debris (Reuters)
  • Anger of Flight 370 Families Explodes in Beijing (BBG)
  • Murdoch Promotes Son Lachlan in Succession Plan for Empire (BBG)
  • Facebook to buy virtual reality goggles maker for $2 billion (Reuters)
  • Syrian Regime Exploits Rebel Despair (WSJ)
  • King Digital IPO price may not bode well for stock (Reuters)
  • Rothschild in Twitter Spat as Bakries Cut Ties With Miner (BBG)
 
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Greek Government, And Bailout Deal, On Verge Of Collapse Due To Definition Of "Fresh Milk"





The Greek economic collapse, depression and bankruptcy has seen many odd things in its brief and often times violent history (in those days when the violent elements were not on strike), but this surely is the first time when one of the countless Greek bailouts may be on the rocks due to the disagreement over the definition of "fresh milk." No, really. Reuters explains that Greece's government risks another rebellion over bailout terms this week after milk producers lobbied against a move to free up prices as part of efforts to make the economy more competitive. Basically, for Greeks, milk is fresh if it is 5 days old or less, yet according to the always fascinating codex of the Troika, "fresh" can be labeled anything that is as old as 11 days.... including the salmonella bacteria it contains. What's worse, is that the "spoiled milk" scandal, far from a joke, has swept over the country, and now even threatens to topple the government.

 
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Fed Finds TBTF Banks Increase Systemic Risk, Have A Funding Advantage





For some inane reason, about a year ago, there was a brief - and painfully boring - academic tussle between one group of clueless economists and another group of clueless economists, debating whether Too Big To Fail banks enjoy an implicit or explicit taxpayer subsidy, courtesy of their systematic importance (because apparently the fact that these banks only exist because they are too big in the first place must have been lost on both sets of clueless economists). Naturally, it goes without saying that the Fed, which as even Fisher now admits, has over the past five years, worked solely for the benefit of its banker owners and a few good billionaires, has done everything in its power to subsidize banks as much as possible, which is why this debate was so ridiculous it merited precisely zero electronic ink from anyone who is not a clueless economist. Today, the debate, for what it's worth, is finally over, when yet another set of clueless economists, those of the NY Fed itself, say clearly and on the record, that TBTF banks indeed do get a subsidy. To wit: " in fact, the very largest (top-five) nonbank firms also enjoy a funding advantage, but for very large banks it’s significantly larger, suggesting there’s a TBTF funding advantage that’s unique to mega-banks."

 
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Iraq Buys Massive 36 Tonnes Of Gold In March





The Central Bank of Iraq said it bought 36 tons of gold this month to help stabilise the Iraqi dinar against foreign currencies, according to a statement from the bank that was emailed this morning. It is very large in tonnage terms and Iraq’s purchases this month alone surpasses the entire demand of many large industrial nations in all of 2013. It surpasses the entire demand of large countries such as France, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Italy, Japan, the UK, Brazil and Mexico. Indeed, it is just below the entire gold demand of voracious Hong Kong for all of 2013 according to GFMS data (see chart).  Iraq had 27 tonnes of gold reserves at the end of 2013 according to the IMF data and thus Iraq has more than doubled their reserves with their allocations to gold this month. Gold remains less than 5% of their overall foreign exchange reserves showing that there is the possibility of further diversification into gold in the coming months. The governor of the Iraqi Central Bank, Abdel Basset Turki, told a news conference that, "the bank bought 36 tonnes of gold to boost reserves and this move is to strengthen the financial capacity of the country and increase the elements of security and insurance reserves of the Central Bank of Iraq." He added that "the central bank seeks through the purchase of large quantities of gold to stabilize the Iraqi dinar against foreign currencies.” Iraq quadrupled its gold holdings to 31.07 tonnes over the course of three months between August and October 2012, data from the International Monetary Fund shows.

 
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Russia Returns Favor, Sees Chinese Yuan As World Reserve Currency





Following China's unwillingness to vote against Russia at the UN and yesterday's news that China will sue Ukraine for $3bn loan repayment, it seems Russia is returning the favor. Speaking at the Chinese Economic Development Forum, ITAR-TASS reports, the Chief Economist of Russia's largest bank stated that "China's Yuan may become the third reserve currency in the in the future."

 
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Guest Post: Oil Limits And The Economy - One Story; Not Two





The two big stories of our day are: (1) Our economic problems: The inability of economies to grow as rapidly as they would like, add as many jobs as they would like, and raise the standards of living of citizens as much as they would like. Associated with this slow economic growth is a continued need for ultra-low interest rates to keep economies of the developed world from slipping back into recession; and (2) Our oil related-problems: One part of the story relates to too little, so-called “peak oil,” and the need for substitutes for oil. Another part of the story relates to too much carbon released by burning fossil fuels, including oil, leading to climate change. While the press treats these issues as separate stories, they are in fact very closely connected, related to the fact that we are reaching limits in many different directions simultaneously.

 
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From Maid-Mauler To Money Manager; DSK Starts $2bn Hedge Fund





Three years after being accused of sexual assault, removed from an airplane in NYC, and later having the charges dismissed on an alleged out of court settlement, former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) is planning to leverage his status - as an expert on global finance - as well as his thick rolodex to raise a $2bn hedge fund in Asia. As WSJ reports, the fund, which is awaiting regulatory approval, will "invest based on Dominique's analyses," and like most global macro funds will "aim for steady capital returns" with "no leverage." Ironically, given his new role as hedge fund marketer, DSK faces another case in France on charges of "aggravated pimping."

 
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