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Bill "What Rosy Jobs Numbers?" Simon Is Out At Walmart





There are consequences to speaking publicly about the real state of the economy. After 8 years of service, Walmart CEO Bill Simon has been replaced by Greg Foran as President and CEO of the behemoth retailer. This comes just 2 week after Simon questioned the validity of the government's "rosy jobs numbers" on CNBC and several quarters of weak performance at the company (due to a weak economy). Walmart's press release explains that the new CEO has "a passion for fresh food" and is "one of the most talented retailers ever met." We are sure these are crucial factors to overcome the stagnating incomes of America for the largest retailer...

 
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Frontrunning: July 15





  • Microsoft to announce biggest round of job cuts in 5 years (BBG)
  • Palestinian rocket fire persists, Israel warns truce at risk (Reuters)
  • China tells U.S. to stay out of South China Seas dispute (Reuters)
  • Merkel Resists Sundering U.S. Ties Over Spying Affair (BBG)
  • BES slide, tumbling German sentiment hit markets (Reuters)
  • Top 1 Percent Is Even Richer Than Surveys Say, ECB Paper Finds (BBG)
  • Puerto Rico Utility May Default on January Interest Payment (BBG)
  • Can't Get a Job From an Algorithm, or So It Seems as Hot Resumes Go Nowhere Fast (BBG)
  • Bank of China-CCTV drama may reveal power struggle in Beijing (SCMP)
 
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Phoenix Housing Market Hit By Unprecedented Plunge In Demand





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.

 
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Frontrunning: July 14





  • 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)
 
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The "Miracle" Of China's PMI Resurrection In 1 Uncomfortable Chart





All around Asia, PMIs are tumbling... except for China's government-sponsored Manufacturing PMI. This week saw Aussie Services PMI (linked significantly to China) tumbled to 2014 lows, Japan's PMI drop, and China's own Services PMI disappoint and fade to 2-month lows. So where is all this exuberance coming from in China's manufacturing industry (despite a 8-month in a row drop in employment)? We don't know; but the fact that China coal prices just hit a record low hardly supports the smog-choking industry of China being at 7-month highs... Hard data vs soft surveys? You decide.

 
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Subprime 2.0 Spreads To Cars: OCC Warns Of Auto-Loan Risks





It would appear that the exuberance over today's better-than-expected car sales data should be tempered significantly. Confirming our warnings, as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) explains, across the industry, auto lenders are pursuing growth by lengthening terms, increasing advance rates, and originating loans to borrowers with lower credit scores. With average loan-to-value rates above 100%, they have an ominous warning: "risk in auto-lending is beginning to emerge." We are sure this will be dismissed (just as the BIS' warning has been), but with surging charge-offs and increased repackaging (CLOs), and banks holding a lot of this debt, this 'bubble-financing' has all the ingredients for subprime 2.0 contagion.

 
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Frontrunning: June 30





  • Facebook Researchers Manipulated News Feeds in 2012 Study (BBG)
  • Argentina at Brink of Default as $539 Million Payment Due (BBG)
  • Hedge fund correlation risk alarms investors (FT)
  • As China Flexes Muscle, Obama Frets Over Rival’s Weakness (BBG)
  • As caliphate declared, Iraqi troops battle for Tikrit (Reuters)
  • Dubai Caps Worst Month Since 2008 as Real Estate Stocks Tumble (BBG)
  • Russian Advisers Ready Iraq to Use New Combat Aircraft (BBG)
  • Blackstone Readies Big-Bet Hedge Fund (WSJ) - so what was GSO?
  • Pope says communists are closet Christians (Reuters)
  • Thomson Reuters revising FX trading standards (Reuters)
 
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Head Of Fourth Largest Albanian Bank Assassinated In Broad Daylight





It was about two months ago when in a shocking development in the otherwise sleepy tax-evasion haven of Lichtenstein, the CEO of local Bank Frick, was murdered in the underground garage of the bank by a disgruntled former client. As readers may recall, the tragic event happened at a time when there was a spike in banker suicides, prompting us to wonder if "with the first open bank CEO murder, one wonders if there will be a change in the pattern." Two months later it appears as if the vector of death is indeed changing when, as Reuters reported, overnight the head of the fourth largest bank in Albania, Credins, was murdered, shot at least five times, as he entered his office in the capital Tirana.

 
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LNG: The Long, Strategic Play For Europe





Liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe isn’t a get-rich-quick scenario for the impatient investor: It’s a long, strategic play for the sophisticated investor who can handle no small amount of politics and geopolitics along the way. When it comes to Europe, Russia’s strategy to divide and conquer has worked so far, but Gazprom is a fragile giant that will eventually feel the pressure of LNG.  Robert Bensh is an LNG and energy security expert who has over 13 years of experience with leading oil and gas companies in Ukraine. He has been involved in various roles in finance, capital markets, mergers and acquisitions and government for the past 25 years. Mr. Bensh is the Managing Director and partner with Pelicourt LLC, a private equity firm focused on energy and natural resources in Ukraine.

 
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Selling The Bear Case For Stocks





Perhaps the miserable failure of the bear case on global equities over the past 5 years has more to do with marketing the message than anything actually wrong with the arguments for higher volatility and lower asset prices. As a reminder, ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes the classic "4 P’s" of marketing are: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (Distribution), pointing out that when it comes to getting the bear case out, it is clear which component is missing: Price. Stock markets that churn higher - as they do right now - simply make it too expensive to sit out the rally.  The “Product” and “Promotion” are both fine – you can read negative commentary in many reputable places and speak with very intelligent bears. That takes care of “Place” as well; it’s not hard to find cautionary investment opinions. The take-away from this approach is simple: calling the top may not be as hard as you think. The first 10% pullback may be enough to complete the 4 Ps. Until then, however, it’s just too hard a story to sell.

 
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Frontrunning: June 18





  • Levin Hearing Ups Volume in High-Frequency Call to Action (BBG)
  • Ukrainian President Fires Central Bank Chief (BBG)
  • Argentina Plans Debt Swap (WSJ)
  • Fed Decision Day Guide From Dot Plots To Exit Strategy (BBG)
  • World Bank Economist: China May Face US-Style Financial Crisis (WSJ)
  • Premier Li says no hard landing for China, expects medium to high growth (Reuters)
  • Putin Talks Peace With Ukraine Leader After Gas Pipe Fire (BBG)
  • Poll Shows Erosion in President's Support (WSJ)
  • U.S. mortgage applications plunge in latest week (Reuters)
  • Ex-Goldman director goes to prison, still owes $13.9 million fine (Reuters)
 
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Portugal’s Financial Situation Summarized In One Graph





The graph shows that the true wealth generators of the economy continue to struggle, and now face the prospect of having to pay for the snowballing government debts in the not so distant future. With limited access to funds and rising taxes and costs (with the notable exception of labor, which has its own circular implications), how can they generate enough growth to restore the country’s finances? Bond yields better stay at historical lows indeed.

 
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Sharp USDJPY Overnight Sell Off Pushes US Equity Futures Into The Red





Yesterday's market action was perfectly predictable, and as we forecast, it followed the move of the USDJPY almost to a tick, which with the help of a last minute VIX smash (just when will the CFTC finally look at the "banging the close" in the VIX by the NY Fed?) pushed the DJIA to a new record high, courtesy of the overnight USDJPY selling which in turn allowed all day buying of the key carry pair. Fast forward to today when once again we have a replica of the set up: a big overnight dump in USDJPY has sent the dollar-yen to just over 102.000. And since Nomura has a green light by the BOJ to lift every USDJPY offer south of 102.000 we expect the USDJPY to once again rebound and push what right now is a weak equity futures session (-8) well above current levels. Unless, of course, central banks finally are starting to shift their policy, realizing that they may have lost control to the upside since algos no longer care about warnings that "volatility is too low", knowing full well the same Fed will come and bail them out on even the tiniest downtick. Which begs the question: is a big Fed-mandated shakeout coming? Could the coming FOMC announcement be just the right time and place for the Fed to surprise the market out of its "complacency" and whip out an unexpected hawk out of its sleeve?

 
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Repackaged Junk Has Never Smelled So Sweet: JPM Forecasts Record $100 Billion In 2014 CLO Issuance





If the Fed is looking for definitive proof of bubble euphoria it should look no further than the CLO market: according to Bloomberg, so far in 2014, more than $46 billion of collateralized loan obligations have been raised, after $82 billion were sold in all of 2013. As a result of this epic dash for repackaged trash, JPMorgan boosted its annual forecast for CLO issuance from $70 billion to as much as $100 billion, which means 2014 may end up as the biggest year on record. We assume it is with great irony that Bloomberg summarizes: "The business of bundling junk-rated corporate loans into top-rated securities is booming like never before after the implementation of regulation aimed at making the financial system safer."

 
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