Bitcoin has made significant progress towards becoming the world's first truly global currency over the past few years. To gain better perspective on bitcoin’s impact, we took a look at global wallet downloads, demonstrated interest by region, exchange volumes across currencies, mining node locations, real-world interactions around bitcoin, and the major companies and investors pushing the bitcoin economy forward. Perhaps most intrguingly, interest from China has grown extremely rapidly in the last 30 days.
One can read "The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama" to get a true sense of Obama's "the best defense is a relentless drone everyone offense, ignore collateral damage and take out a few Americans in the process" policy. Or one can stare at rising stawks and enjoy their Obamaphones. Obe can't have both.
Another event-free day in which the only major economic data point was the release of UK CPI, which joined the rest of the world in telegraphing price deflation, despite bubbles in the real estate and stock markets, printing 2.0% Y/Y on expectations of a 2.3% increase, the lowest since November 2009 and giving Mark Carney carte blanche to print as soon as he arrives on deck. In an amusing twist of European deja-vuness, last night Japan's economy minister who made waves over the weekend when he said that the Yen has dropped low enough to where people's lives may be getting complicated (i.e., inflation), refuted everything he said as having been lost in translation, and the result was a prompt move higher in the USDJPY, quickly filling the entire Sunday night gap. That said, and as has been made very clear in recent years, data is irrelevant, and the only thing that matters, at least so far in 2013, is whether it is Tuesday: the day that has seen 18 out of 18 consecutive rises in the DJIA so far in 2013, and whether there is a POMO scheduled. We are happy to answer yes to both, so sit back, and wait for the no-volume levitation to wash over ever. The US docket is empty except for Dudley and Bullard speaking, but more importantly, the fate of Jamie Dimon may be determined today when the vote on the Chairman/CEO title is due, while Tim Cook will testify in D.C. on the company's tax strategy and overseas profits.
A few days when reporting that the Russian Pacific fleet had crossed the Suez canal for the first time in decades in order to form a Mediterranean task force parked in Cyprus for obvious symbolic reasons (in close proximity to Syria and the Israel-parked Kearsarge), some observed that while the submarine support was adequate, the actual warship fleet designated to support any potential escalation in Syria would be largely insufficient. Perhaps the Russian Navy heard these complaints, and several hours ago RIA reported that two extra warships from the Russian Black Sea fleet had joined the Mediterranean task force, citing Capt. First Rank Vyacheslav Trukhachyov, has said. None of these recent deployment should come as a surprise: in March Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said a permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean was needed to defend Russia’s interests in the region. Read Syria, Cyrpus (where the task force will be on anchor indefinitely), and, of course, any and all western offensive involving Iran. And slowly but surely said task force is nearing completion.
The Administration simply doesn’t want to get run over by the momentum of the oil and gas industry
Earlier this week, the CIA's Russian outpost was deeply humiliated when (in a calculated move following accusations that the US had not gottern appropriate Russian information on the two Boston bombers, and following the visit of John Kerry whose primary objective was to, unsuccessfully, get Russia to relent on Syria) Russia's FSB exposed and broadcast on live TV the arrest of its agents caught while attempting to recruit a Russian spy. Back then we suggested to "expect a prompt retaliation by the US" however it turns out Russia was not nearly done with embarrassing the US in what is becoming an obvious campaign to humiliate the US intelligence service, this time by going where very few clandestine operations go, at least during peacetime detente: by publicly exposing the head counterparty US spy. As Telegraph reports, "Russia's Federal Security Service has publicly revealed the identity of a man it calls the CIA station chief in Moscow, in what experts say is a serious breach of intelligence protocol."
Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar. Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian "rebels" which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China's strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the "evil" Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention. Such attempts may be for naught especially with the earlier noted arrival of US marines in Israel, and the imminent arrival of the Russian Pacific fleet in Cyprus (which is a stone throw away from Syria) which may catalyze a military outcome sooner than we had expected. However, one question that has so far remained unanswered, and a very sensitive one now that the US is on the verge of voting to arm the Syrian rebels, is who was arming said group of Al-Qaeda supported militants up until now. Now, finally, courtesy of the FT we have the (less than surprising) answer, which goes back to our original thesis, and proves that, as so often happens in the middle east, it is once again all about the natural resources.
Since before the tech bust, we’ve been suggesting that while Americans “think” they’re getting richer... they’re actually heading in the other direction. They’re getting poorer. This proposition has been easier for folks to entertain since housing busted and the financial crisis reversed the “wealth effect” in 2008. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the logic of the American Empire and what you can expect in the year(s) ahead.
Earlier we reported that the US has now officially landed a Marine force in Israel as well as an assault ship, in a visit that the US Navy promptly assured "is not associated with, nor a reaction to, any world events." It seems we were not the only ones who read this justification somewhat skeptically: so did Russia. And in a historic event, the Russian Pacific fleet, for the first time in decades, crossed the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean, direction Cyprus' port of Limasol (hi Cyprus - Russia will be arriving shortly) in what is now the loudest implied warning to the US and Israel amassing military units across Syria's border that Russia will not stand idly by as Syria is used by the Israeli "Defense" Forces for target practice. “The task force has successfully passed through the Suez Channel and entered the Mediterranean. It is the first time in decades that Pacific Fleet warships enter this region,” Capt. First Rank Roman Martov said. This is what is also known as dropping hints, loud and clear.
Two weeks ago, when we reported on the news of yet another aerial assault by Israel on Syria, we said that "while speculation a US-led escalation is ripe, the lack of any US naval support (as shown by Stratfor's naval update map from May 2) off the coast of Syria likely makes any immediate war is hardly likely, or that Israel will be on its own for at least the foreseeable future." Today this is no longer the case, following news that the US amphibious assult ship, LHD 3 and its cargo of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, have arrived in Eilat, Israel for a "reguarly scheduled post visit." Amusingly, the US Navy was very quick to point out that "This visit is not associated with, nor a reaction to, any world events." Just purely accidental then.
... the Bank of Israel!
In the US, retail sales are expected to continue to slow in the headline, while retail sales ex autos, building materials, and gas should turn positive in April according to Wall Street analysts. Goldman remains below consensus for Thursday's Philadelphia Fed survey, forecasting a slight improvement on the previous month. The firm also expects the flash reading for Euro area Q1 GDP to come in slightly below consensus, consistent with a shallow contraction. We forecast German GDP will turn positive in Q1 after Q4 2012's negative reading. In Japan, GS sees Q1 GDP at 2.8% qoq ann., slightly above consensus, with stronger consumer spending the main driver. Among the central bank meetings this week, Russia, Chile, and Indonesia are expected to remain on hold, in line with consensus.
Following up on the earlier report that Israel had warned the US that Russia was preparing to sell "advanced" military equipment to Syria (in False Flag Broken Telephone fashion), it was only a matter of time before the new US Secretary of State voiced his indignation over a development whereby someone else was providing arms to a conflict country's government, instead of the US providing its own weapons to said country's Al Qaeda-assisted rebel forces. Sure enough, he did: "I think we have made it crystal clear that we would prefer that Russia is not supplying assistance," Mr. Kerry said at a news conference after meeting the new Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino." While there was no immediate quote substantiating it, there is a rumor that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov's response was a less than politically correct phrasing along the lines that he "would prefer that the US not supply assistance to Syrian rebels."
We almost got an entire 24 hour period that did not have news about imminent war rumblings out of Syria. Almost. Late last night WSJ reported about the civil war torn country (in which the rebels may or may not be using chemical weapons, but are backed by both Al Qaeda and the US government) again, this time on a leak by Israel having warned the US that Russians are "imminently" going to sell advanced ground-to-air missile systems to Syria "that would significantly boost the regime's ability to stave off intervention in its civil war." Supposedly this means that Israel would be unable to continue its unimpeded military incursions of Syrian sovereign airspace and blow stuff up at whim just because it feels like it, and for whatever pretext the Israeli defense forces come up with.
At the center of any military campaign is the art of deception. In the military nothing is done without a strategy, generally planned well in advance, and the misdirection of the enemy is always part of any campaign. It would be a political disaster for Israel to attack Iran. We may begin our consideration with this premise. On the other hand, it would be politically acceptable for Israel to respond to any aggression that was inaugurated by Iran. Self-protection is always a respectable retort. The Israeli attacks are not irrelevant.