For an administration in its sixth year, juggling presidential optics is nothing new. And with some rare exceptions, the public relations team around the president has remained consistently stubborn about refusing to let the never-ending stream of political, economic or international crises affect Mr. Obama’s daily schedule. The current myriad incidents are no exceptions: Moments after making a grim statement about Ukraine on Friday, the president popped into the East Room, where the first lady, Michelle Obama, was holding a mock state dinner for children to promote her Let’s Move nutrition initiative. “My big thing,” he confessed to the kids, “chips and guacamole!” There was plenty of laughter all around.
- Ukraine Says Malaysian Airliner Shot Down Near Russian Border (BBG)
- Downing of airliner seen as pivotal moment in Ukraine crisis (Reuters)
- Malaysian Air Flight Took Route Avoided by Qantas, Asiana (BBG)
- Russian-Made Missile Hit Malaysia Jet, U.S. Officials Say (BBG)
- Netanyahu Orders Military to Ready Wider Gaza Incursion (BBG)
- Silvio Berlusconi Underage Sex Conviction Overturned (WSJ)
- But... but... "economic patriotism" - AbbVie to Buy Shire for $54.8 Billion as Drug Deals Surge (BBG)
- SEC targets 10 firms in high frequency trading probe - SEC document (Reuters)
- Art bubble pop: Sotheby's to Lay Off 'Modest' Number of Employees (WSJ)
- Moar Abenomics: Hermes Sales Trail Estimates as Japanese Revenue Declines (BBG)
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, money laundering and other corruption that spanned his two terms as mayor--including the chaotic years after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Mr. Nagin was convicted Feb. 12 of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Mr. Nagin's support for various projects. The bribes came in the form of money, free vacations and truckloads of free granite for his family business. The 58-year-old Democrat had defiantly denied any wrongdoing after his 2013 indictment and during his February trial.
- Tea Party struggles to repeat Cantor-style shock in Tennessee (Reuters)
- Iran Deploys Forces to Fight al Qaeda-Inspired Militants in Iraq (WSJ)
- Oil Rallies as Militant Advance in Iraq Threatens Crude (BBG)
- Gold Set for First Back-to-Back Weekly Gain Since April (BBG)
- Hedge Funds Get Stung by Slow Markets (WSJ)
- Sterling nears 5-year high after Carney speech (FT)
- Britain Warns Boom in Real-Estate Prices Threatens Economy (WSJ)
- East Europe Leaders Urge EU Unity to Counter Russia (BBG)
- Formula One Said to Be Valued at $8 Billion as Malone Seeks Stake (BBG)
- Dumb and dumber: Abe Plans Company Tax Cut in 2015 as Kuroda Warns on Budget (BBG)
Yes, U.S. capital markets have officially gone "Full Seinfeld"; As ConvergEX's Nick Colas notes, Tuesday’s selloff over “Nothing” reversed higher Wednesday throuygh Friday for similarly non-specific reasons. So, today we will go a little further afield and talk about words and what they tell us about shifting societal priorities and norms. Wonder what the most commonly searched word might be on the Merriam-Webster website? It is “Pragmatic”... which seems incredibly ironic given the total lack of pragmatism that appears to be shown in world markets.
Atlanta, Georgia suffers the greate income inequality of any city in the US - closely followed by New Orleans. According to Bloomberg, which ranked 300 U.S. cities with populations of at least 100,000 based on their level of income inequality and identified the 50 with the greatest inequality. What is stunning is that while top-down many are focused on the widening gap overall, in these 2 cities alone, over one-quarter are in poverty (earn less than $4,020), while 60% are in the nation's top quintile for household income. Interestingly, the median income does not correlate well with the inequality.
Revenues are up modestly for the US Postal Service as First-class Mail volumes continue to tumble "extremely" but package volumes are rising; however, USPS records a $1.9 billion loss in the last quarter, despite efforts to streamline efficiency and cut costs. The rise in package volumes appears related to a "Sunday delivery" deal with Amazon.com who "found a great fit with USPS' capability and desire." However, USPS says it needs $10 billion for deferred investments (i.e. Capex) and warns if it does not get its bailout:
- *USPS SEES UNABLE TO MAKE $5.7B RETIREE PAYMENT W/OUT REFORM
Given USPS says no new employees have been hired and flexible scheduling used for Sunday delivery, we wondered who exactly is benefiting from the taxpayer funded desperation of the USPS to do anything for even loss-making revenues?
It was a scene just like out of the Wild West. 18-year-old David Moreyra had stolen a purse. And an angry mob gathered in broad daylight in Rosario, Argentina to lynch him. It’s a rather unfortunate regression for a society. Civilized people don’t form angry mobs to act as judge, jury, and executioner. As I’ve long-written, there are consequences to destructive economic policy. Central bankers cannot conjure infinite quantities of currency out of thin air, nor can politicians borrow more money just to pay interest on what they’ve already borrowed, all without consequence. This is one of those consequences - a complete breakdown of the social contract, giving rise to something so Medieval as lynch gangs and mob justice. Can it happen where you live? Maybe. No nation is immune to the social effects of economic decay (think Detroit, or even New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina...).
Overnight, RealtyTrac released its latest home-flipping report. What it found is that while the latest housing bubble may have indeed popped, manifesting itself not only in a decline in flipping prices but also a tumble in flipping activity across the US as a percentage of all sales from 6.5% a year ago to just 3.7% in Q1, and down from 4.1% last quarter, flipping, where a home is purchased and subsequently sold again within six months, can still be massively profitable, leading to returns that would make the pimpliest 25-year-old, math PhD HFT-firm owner green with envy. Among the core findings was that the average sales price of single family homes flipped in the first quarter was $55,574 higher than the average original purchase price. That gross profit provided flippers with an unadjusted ROI (return on investment) of 30 percent of the average original purchase price averaged out across the US. The average gross profit per flip a year ago was $51,805 for an unadjusted ROI of 28 percent. However, it is the range that is notable: the flip ROI ranged from -8%, or a loss of $10k on the property, to a gain of 80%, a whopping $144K!
As he visited clients around the nation, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest noted a number of questions repeated... why can’t the US spend more on infrastructure? why can’t the US spend more on worker retraining? why is less money being spent on training, employment and related social services? why is energy spending falling? The answer, ne explains below, to all these questions is the same: these categories are declining since they are being squeezed out by the inexorable rise in entitlement payments.
With the Crimea referendum passed and Russia ready to annex the region, the United States and the European Union have threatened sanctions. The full extent of these sanctions is not yet known, and announcements are pending for the end of March. If these measures are concrete, they will of course be followed inevitably by economic warfare, including a reduction of natural gas exports to the EU and the eventually full dump of the U.S. dollar by Russia and China. As I have discussed in recent articles, the result of these actions will be disastrous. For those of us in the liberty movement, it is now impossible to ignore the potential threat to our economy. No longer can people claim that “perhaps” there will be a crisis someday, that perhaps “five or 10 years” down the road we will have to face the music. No, the threat is here now, and it is very real.
- Possible debris off Australia a 'credible lead' for missing Malaysia jet (Reuters)
- Maldives and Afghanistan: Theories Blossom for Airliner (BBG)
- Ukraine Military Concedes on Crimea as Russia Takes Hold (BBG)
- Asia Stocks Drop on Fed; H-Share Index Enters Bear Market (BBG)
- Scientists say destructive solar blasts narrowly missed Earth in 2012 (Reuters)
- GM’s Ignition Victims Need Help From Bankruptcy Judge (BBG)
- U.S. Alleges Inside Traders Used Spycraft, Ate Evidence (WSJ)
- God Meets Profit in Obama Contraceptive Rule Court Case (BBG)
In investing you have opportunities that open up because dogmatic investors say “I don’t do ... ”
A 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi near New Orleans remained closed Monday after two vessels collided and caused an oil spill on Saturday in foggy conditions about 30 miles west of New Orleans. As NBC news reports, the Lindsay Ann Erickson crashed with the Hannah C. Settoon, which was pushing two barges carrying barrels of light crude oil that spilled into the river. Clean-up efforts are underway.
Asian equities are trading lower across the board on the back of some negative credit stories from China. Shanghai Securities News noted that ICBC and some other banks have curbed loans to developers in sectors such as steel and cement. Slower gains in home property prices in China’s tier 1 cities are also not helping sentiment. Beijing and Shenzhen prices rose 0.4% in January, which looks to be the slowest monthly gain since October 2012 according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere there are reports that a property developer in Hangzhou (Tier 2 city in China) is reducing its unit prices by 19%. Our property analysts noted that given the strong gains seen in Tier-1 and some bigger Tier-2 cities in 2013, a slowdown or negative trends in price growth should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, it has been a very weak day for Chinese and HK markets with the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng indices down -2.0% and -1.2% lower as we type. Across the region, bourses in Japan and Korea are down -1.0% and -0.6%, respectively.