Ukraine is quickly turning into a Vietnam moment for the US political scene. When will parties in the USA (including Obama camp “progressives”) stop cheerleading for a showdown over this hapless doormat of a faraway nation whose destiny is not entwined with the people of Ohio, Nebraska, Rhode Island, or any of the other fifty states? We have enough to do in our own country to adjust to the new realities of the unraveling turbo-industrial global economy — and, by the way, we are not doing a damn thing to address any of it. Our domestic political conversation at all levels is juvenile and idiotic.
- China premier warns on economic slowdown as data fans stimulus talk (Reuters)
- Li says China defaults ‘unavoidable’ (FT)
- Russia Said to Ready for Iran-Style Sanctions in Worst Case (BBG)
- Rescue the tapes from the Bank of England’s dustbins (FT)
- Obama Warns Putin of Cost to Russia for Annexing Ukraine (BBG)
- The TVIX is back: Credit Suisse VIX Note That Ran Amok in 2012 Back on Top (BBG)
- U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack (WSJ)
- U.S. Investigators Suspect Missing Airplane Flew On for Hours (WSJ)
- Malaysia says no evidence missing plane flew hours after losing contact (Reuters)
- Missed Alarms and 40 Million Stolen Credit Card Numbers: How Target Blew It (BBG)
- Death Toll in NYC Building Blast Rises to Six; Search Continues (BBG)
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar after it had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. The move, unprecedented in the 30-year history of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), follows the Bahrain state minister for information Samira Rajab saying she has evidence of Qatari media provocation against her country. As Gulf News reports, Qatar has been a maverick in the region, backing Islamist groups in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East that are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by some fellow GCC members. Not a good sign for the oil-generating center of the world.
Putin’s decision to back himself into this corner has been derided by the Western media as a strategic blunder but it is actually a textbook example of realpolitik. Putin has created a situation where the West’s only alternative to acquiescing in the Russian takeover of Crimea is all-out war. And since a NATO military attack on Russian forces is even more inconceivable than Putin’s withdrawal, it seems that Russia has won this round of the confrontation. The only question now is whether the new Ukrainian government will accept the loss of Crimea quietly or try to retaliate against Russian speakers in Ukraine—offering Putin a pretext for invasion, and thereby precipitating an all-out civil war. That is the key question investors must consider in deciding whether the Ukraine crisis is a Rothschild-style buying opportunity, or a last chance to bail out of risk-assets before it is too late.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Arab Spring is that it largely spared the Gulf monarchies. To be sure, the monarchies in Bahrain and Jordan had to contend with a degree of unrest. Still, the core of the Arab Spring protests occurred in the Arab Republics, some of which fell from power. By comparison, the monarchies in the region - many of which are located in the Persian Gulf - were spared the worst of the unrest. Although this possibility cannot be discounted, the Persian Gulf and other Arab monarchies face a much graver threat to their stability, and that threat originates in Asia. Specifically, the economic slowdowns in Asia in general, and China and India in particular, could very well ignite a second Arab Spring, and this one would not spare the monarchies.
Further protests and a plethora of headlines this morning from both sides in the troubled European (for now) nation. The Ukrainian foreign minister begins by noting that "its impossible to take Ukraine away from Russia," that Ukraine was "right to take attractive Russia offer," and that protests aren't peaceful. Opposition leader Klitschko responded that "Ukrainians dream of a stable, modern country," and that a majority of Ukrainians want "European values," and asks for "international help." Romania's Basescu is concerned and urges the Ukrainian army to stay out of the conflict. But, as Martin Armstrong notes below, according to a former adviser to Vladimir Putin, the economist Andrei Illarionov, the Kremlin will take one of three possible scenarios with respect to the Ukraine problem to "assert a lot of pressure on Kiev."
- Hilsenrath: Next Cut in Fed Bond Buys Looms - Reduction to $65 Billion Could Be Announced on Jan. 29 (WSJ)
- China Workforce Slide Robs Xi of Growth Engine (BBG)
- Obama pulls the race card: Obama Says Race May Blunt Poll Standing in Interview (BBG)
- Chinese firm's IPO deal switches banks as chairman's daughter moves from JPMorgan to UBS (SCMP)
- China and Russia may hold joint naval drill in the Mediterranean (RT)
- Iran invite to Syria talks withdrawn after boycott threat (Reuters)
- Seven Chinese IPOs Halt Trading After 44 Percent Share (BBG)
- U.S. military says readying plans for Olympic security assistance (Reuters)
- Thank you Bernanke: Investors Most Upbeat in 5 Years With Record 59% Bullish in Poll (BBG)
- From His Refuge in the Poconos, Reclusive Imam Fethullah Gulen Roils Turkey (WSJ)
Predictions are that the oil boom is temporary and is expected to level off around 2020, but by then there should be a lot more fuel efficient cars on the roads that the drop in production will not be felt. While this new development will no doubt be welcomed by most Americans, it will bring additional joy to those who are fed up with the stagnation and violence that is perpetuated in the Middle East and will welcome this news amid hopes that the US will be less dependent on that turbulent part of the world for its fuel, thus less prone to the region’s unstable politics. But here there is the need for a word of caution. Being less dependent on Middle Eastern oil does not mean the United States should become a political recluse, retrench inside fortress America and damn the rest of the world and their problems...
Of the 8 "most important ever" FOMC decisions in 2013, this one is undisputedly, and without doubt, the 8th. As Jim Reid summarizes, what everyone wonders is whether today’s decision by the FOMC will have a bearing on a few last-minute Xmas presents around global financial markets. No taper and markets probably breathe a sigh of relief and the feel-good factor might turn that handheld game machine into a full-blown PS4 by Xmas day. However a taper now might just take the edge off the festivities and leave a few presents on the shelves. Given that the S&P 500 has pretty much flat-lined since early-mid November in spite of better data one would have to say that some risk of tapering has been priced in but perhaps not all of it. Alternatively if they don’t taper one would expect markets to see a pretty decent relief rally over the rest of the year. So will it be Santa or Scrooge from the Fed tonight at 2pm EST?
When all else fails, and/or when the president is caught in yet another major scandal, there is only one way out: war. As many expected, but as nobody knew what shape the latest provocation would take, overnight at least 23 were killed and dozens hurt after a twin bomb attack shook the Iranian embassy in Beirut. As NBC reports, a local al Qaeda affiliate, the Abdullah Azzam brigades, claimed responsibility for the explosions – the latest sign that Syria’s civil war is spilling over the border into Lebanon. Burning cars, bodies and pools of blood littered the front of the embassy building, in the Hezbollah-dominated south of the city. The Zahraa hospital nearby told AFP that it had received the bodies of five people and was treating at least 35 others for wounds. Lebanese media broadcast harrowing images from the scene of the blast, with charred bodies on a street lined by blazing cars and strewn with the rubble.
Back in August, just after the false flag chemical weapon attack in Syria, we showed that despite all the posturing by the Obama administration (and, of course, France's belligerent, socialist leader Francois Hollande), the nation behind the entire Syrian campaign was not one of the "democratic", Western nations but none other than close neighbor Saudi Arabia, and the brain orchestrating every move of the western puppets was one Bandar bin Sultan, the nation's influential intelligence chief. We also explained the plethora of geopolitical and mostly energy-related issues that Saudi and Qatar had at stake, which they were eager to launch a regional war over, just to promote their particular set of selfish interests. A month later, in clear confirmation that this was precisely the case, the WSJ reported that the recent overtures by Obama, brilliantly checkmated by Putin, to push for a peaceful resolution with not only Syria, but suddenly Iran as well, has managed to infuriate Saudi Arabia: traditionally one of the US' closest allies in the region and the key source of crude oil to the western world.
Being bullish on the market in the short term is fine... The expansion of the Fed's balance sheet will continue to push stocks higher as long as no other crisis presents itself. However, the problem is that a crisis, which is 'always' unexpected, inevitably will trigger a reversion back to the fundamentals. The market will eventually correct as it always does - it is part of the market cycle. The reality is that the stock market is extremely vulnerable to a sharp correction. Currently, complacency is near record levels and no one sees a severe market retracement as a possibility. The common belief is that there is 'no bubble' in assets and the Federal Reserve has everything under control.
When Obamacare was thought up it was more than just a presidential pledge to woo the poverty-stricken Americans into believing (and voting) that healthcare should be provided for all and sundry and that any Tom, Dick and Harry could get through life by being provided for by the state.
Saudi Arabia is pumping out more crude that at any time since the 1970s and in Kuwait and The UAE, oil production levels have hit record highs. As The FT reports, the US might be 'drowning' in oil, but the world is still dependent on Saudi Arabia for the marginal barrel. This is crucial since, "whatever is happening in the US, the Gulf states remain critical to the global oil trade,” says Credit Suisse's Jan Stuart, "the fact they are producing so much shows that the global oil balance is far more stretched than consensus would have you believe." The trigger for the jump in Gulf production has been huge disruption to supplies from Libya; and with the three large Gulf producers meeting 17.1% of global demand (it has never topped 18%), the dependence on the Gulf appears to be growing. The concern remains, despite apparent nonchalance, that consuming nations like the US, China, and India will be stifled should production disruptions last.
Overnight trading started with Asian markets continuing where yesterday's S&P 500 fizzle ended, wishing Summers could withdraw from Fed running again, as both the Nikkei and SHCOMP were well lower by the close. Perhaps all the easy multiple-expanding, headline-driven money is made, or perhaps economic fundamentals will finally start having to justify a 17x multiple on the S&P (a good is good regime for those who may be too young, or old, to remember), but overnight US futures were dull, and no doubt anticipating today's start of the "Most important FOMC meeting ever", which concludes tomorrow with an announcement by the Fed of what and how much (if any) tapering it will commence with an eye toward halting QE next summer, although more realistically what will happen is an Untaper being announced before then. While the start of the FOMC meeting is the main event, today we get CPI, TIC flows and the NAHB housing market index. Today's POMO is another modest $1.25-$1.75 billion in the long-end sector.