Exxon Mobil hasn't asked federal regulatory authorities to restart the Pegasus oil pipeline, which burst open in a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark. In March, a 22-foot rupture in the pipeline spilled about 5,000 barrels of diluted Canadian crude oil into an area of marshland, though the company said it's been effectively cleaning the area with long-term remediation in mind. Talking points over pipelines are focused on economic and energy security interests on one side of the argument versus emissions and cleanup on the other. Given the legacy of pipeline spills since the Keystone XL debate began more than four years ago, the "real" issue may be the lack of debate over just why so many of these pipelines have burst open in the first place.
Last September, when we exposed the heretofore unknown entity actively managing Apple's $100 billion+ in offshore held cash (and thus untaxed in the US), we made the following "bold" prediction: "with the topic of finding effective tax loopholes which are perfectly legal, yet which apparently are unfair, serving as the basis of the entire presidential race to date, what Apple can be absolutely certain of is that once the farce culminating on November 6 is over, the government's eye will finally turn to minimizing "externalities" among such companies which have been able to pass through corporate tax savings to end consumers by abiding within the legal system that countless other muppet congressmen, senators and presidents have developed over the ages. Because while AAPL may have built the iPhone, very soon it will be only fair that it share its profits acquired over the years, and thus its cash balance...with the general public." Or in other words, in September we predicted the Apple "tax witchhunt" would take place shortly after Obama won his reelection. Today, it has officially begun.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress will be important in setting the tone for the markets (particularly the dollar, equities and US treasuries), as traders hunt for clues on when the Fed is likely to ease its rate of asset purchases.
In a day devoid of any A-grade economic data, the stop hunting GETCO USDJPY algos had no choice but to look forward to such reflexive C-grade indicators as the UMich Consumer Confidence index, where the polled "consumers" are confident if the market is up and the market is up if "consumers" are confident. Sure enough, the USDJPY literally exploded by over 50 pips and broke the 103 level (send the Yen derivative, the S&P500 spiking) when moments ago the UMich index posted a hilarious reading of 83.7, the highest since August 2007, up from 76.4, and smashing expectations of 77.9 by the most in... ever. Whether this was driven by a near record low in consumer savings, by the collapse in real wages, by the deteriorating Q1 retail results such as WalMart's showing consumers are out of cash, or if all this was irrelevant as everyone on the UMichigan rolodex was long Tesla is unknown. It just is what it is because in a world in which collapsing economic data leads to a record high "market", one buys first, buys second, then BTFD if there is D, and only then are questions asked.
When is the economic collapse going to happen? Just open up your eyes and take a look around the globe. The next wave of the economic collapse may not have reached Wall Street yet, but it is already deeply affecting billions of lives all over the planet. Much of Europe has already descended into a deep economic depression, very disturbing economic data is coming out of the second and third largest economies on the globe (China and Japan), and in most of the world economic inequality is growing even though 80 percent of the global population already lives on less than $10 a day. Just because the Dow has been setting brand new all-time records lately does not mean that everything is okay. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts. The next major wave of the economic collapse is already sweeping across Europe and Asia and it is going to devastate the United States as well.
The Buena Vista school district in Michigan accepted $402,000 of aid over three months from the state for a service is was not providing. As RT reports, the school district has taken the drastic steps of firing all of its teachers and shuttering its classrooms before the end of the school-year as the state tries to claw back (or seek an alternative plan) its ill-gotten gains. "We've hit a dead end," the local school district explains, unable to help the school of 400 mostly black and poor students, explaining that they are hesitant to bailout school districts and set a bad precedent. One parent exclaimed, "Our kids ain't really learning like they used to," adding that, "being out of school this early is going to hurt them a lot." The local democratic Representative added helpfully, "we know from past history that students have been treated differently - going back to Brown vs Board of Education." Buena Vista teachers had offered to work without pay for a week, but that was not enough to keep the district's schools open. Instead, the district may offer a “skills camp,” a voluntary substitute paid for by federal grants, and run six hours per day for up to six weeks.
Another day, another US city on the brink of insolvency. This time it's Detroit, whose recently appointed emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr said may run out of cash next month and must cut costs such as long-term debt and retiree obligations. According to Bloomberg, "Orr’s report says the cost of $9.4 billion in bond, pension and other long-term liabilities is sapping the ability to provide such basic services as public safety and transportation. He listed cutting debt principal, retiree benefits and jobs among options he may take. “No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis,” He called his report "a sobering wake-up call about the dire financial straits the city of Detroit faces."
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.
There are a dozen significant economic indicators that are warning that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession. The Dow may have soared past the 15,000 mark, but the economic fundamentals are telling an entirely different story. If historical patterns hold up, the economy is heading for a very rocky stretch. But most average Americans are not that concerned with the performance of the stock market. They just want to be able to go to work, pay the bills and provide for their families. During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions of Americans lost their homes. If we have another major recession, that will happen again. Sadly, it appears that another major recession is quickly approaching. The following are 12 recession indicators that are flashing red...
As reported earlier, JPM's head commodity maven, Blythe Masters (her very rare public appearance can be seen here) suddenly finds herself in hot water for, among other things, allegedly lying under oath, obstructing justice and "engaging in a systematic cover up" to "approve schemes" seeking to defraud the states of California and Michigan in electricity trading (Enron flashbacks are more than welcome). So just who is Blythe? Most people on this site should be very familiar with her work by now (the NYT has a good recap), so instead of reconnecting the dots, we will once again dig up the presentation by one very young Ms. Master, introducing her then quite innovative product: the Credit Default Swap, titled appropriately enough "The J.P.Morgan Guide To Credit Derivatives" (by Blythe Masters). Because it is always best to let one's work speak.
One year after the infamous Jamie Dimon "tempest in a teapot" fiasco, which promptly turned out to be the biggest TBTF prop-trading desk debacle in history, things were going well for JPMorgan. On one hand, the chairman of the TBAC (and thus US Treasury advisor and policy administrator), and former LTCM trader, Matt Zames, was just recently promoted to the sole second in command post at the biggest US bank (and 2nd biggest in the world) by assets, and first in line to take over from Jamie Dimon. On the other hand, one of Mary Jo White's former co-workers, and a JPM defense attorney from Debevoise just became head of the SEC's enforcement division, in theory guaranteeing that the US government would never do more than slap the wrist of JPM in perpetuity. And then, when everything seemed like smooth sailing ahead, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) showed up on March 13, the day before Carl Levin's committee released its latest report on JPM's prop trading blunder, and according to the NYT, alleged that JPM in the past several years, quietly became nothing short than the next Enron. ... But what is worst for JPM, and its brilliant (abovementioned) employee, often times credited with creating the Credit Default Swap product and market (simply an instrument to trade credit with negligible upfront collateral and thus allow equity option-like speculation in the credit realm), is that FERC may be seeking to throw the book at none other than Blythe Masters.
Mission Accomplished it would seem. Initial claims printed at its lowest since January 2008 at 324k. This is well below expectations of 345k - the biggest beat since September 2011. California and New York dominated the data with over 70,000 claims between them (though both dropped from last week). Michigan added the most from last month's rolls with 'educational service indutrsy' job losses affecting MA, CT, and RI. Emergency Unemployment Claims appears to have shaken off its statistical aberration of 2013 and is down a modest 12k this week.
Terrorism Is a Real Threat … But the Threat to the U.S. from Muslim Terrorists Has Been Exaggerated
The weakness in economic data (not to be confused with the centrally-planned anachronism known as the "markets") started overnight when despite a surge in Japanese consumer spending (up 5.2% on expectations of 1.6%, the most in nine years) by those with access to the stock market and mostly of the "richer" variety, did not quite jive with a miss in retail sales, which actually missed estimates of dropping "only" -0.8%, instead declining -1.4%. As the FT reported what we said five months ago, "Four-fifths of Japanese households have never held any securities, and 88 per cent have never invested in a mutual fund, according to a survey last year by the Japan Securities Dealers Association." In other words any transient strength will be on the back of the Japanese "1%" - those where the "wealth effect" has had an impact and whose stock gains have offset the impact of non-core inflation. In other words, once the Yen's impact on the Nikkei225 tapers off (which means the USDJPY stops soaring), that will be it for even the transitory effects of Abenomics. Confirming this was Japanese Industrial production which also missed, rising by only 0.2%, on expectations of a 0.4% increase. But the biggest news of the night was European inflation data: the April Eurozone CPI reading at 1.2% on expectations of a 1.6% number, and down from 1.7%, which has now pretty much convinced all the analysts that a 25 bps cut in the ECB refi rate, if not deposit, is now merely a formality and will be announced following a unanimous decision.
While the main, if completely irrelevant, macroeconomic news of the day will be the first estimate of US Q1 GDP due out later today, perhaps the best testament of just how meaningless fundamental data has become was the scheduled BOJ announcement overnight in which Kuroda's merry men simply stated what was expected by everyone: the Japanese central bank merely repeated its pledge to double the monetary base in two years. The lack of any incremental easing, is what pushed both the USDJPY as low as 98.20 overnight (98.60 at last check), over 100 pips from the highs, and has pressured the Nikkei into its first red close in days, and shows just how habituated with the constant cranking up of the liqudity spigot the G-7 market has truly become.