As we noted last month, President Obama sat down for an interview with Chuck Todd on November 7 and said: "When we buy I.T. services generally, it is so bureaucratic and so cumbersome that a whole bunch of it doesn’t work or it ends up being way over cost." Well, this week we learned that the gap’s been closed. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told us so. In its official report, HHS not only announced that it had “met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users,” but wrote that “the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness.” That sure was quick. Reviewing these facts, we suppose HHS could support their claim to “private sector velocity and effectiveness” with some semantic tricks. If you interpret that phrase as referring to the principle contractors’ adeptness at winning huge, no-bid contracts through personal connections, donations, fund raising and lobbying, then it all adds up.
With the mainstream media inundated with tales of low paid workers demanding higher minimum wages (thus theoretically expecting to be paid more than a market rate for their services), we thought a look at the other end of the scale was worthwhile (where, some might argue, the following 10 CEOs are also paid above market rates for their 'ability')...
- With website improved, Obama to pitch health plan (Reuters)
- Joe Biden condemns China over air defence zone (FT)
- Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low (WSJ)
- Black Friday Weekend Spending Drop Pressures U.S. Stores (BBG)
- Cyber Monday Sales Hit Record as Amazon to EBay Win Shoppers (BBG)
- Ukraine's Pivot to Moscow Leaves West Out in the Cold (WSJ)
- Investment banks set to cut pay again despite rise in profits (FT)
- Worst Raw-Material Slump Since ’08 Seen Deepening (BBG)
- Democrats Face Battles in South to Hold the Senate (WSJ)
- Hong Kong reports 1st case of H7N9 bird flu (AP)
- In Fracking, Sand Is the New Gold (WSJ)
"It’s time to put that power back where it belongs," explains Jonathan Zimmerman in today's Washington Post, "Barack Obama should be allowed to stand for re election just as citizens should be allowed to vote for — or against — him. Anything less diminishes our leaders and ourselves." The 22nd Amendment, limiting the Presidential term, according to Zimmerman, reflected "a shocking lack of faith in the common sense and good judgment of the people." Of course, in the increasingly 'entitled' America, it would only cost a few hundred million to bribe all the newly downgraded Middle-to-Lower class Americans with Obamaphones in order to finally get a "dictatorial democracy" by indirectly funding the lower common denominator with $400 in free money every election cycle.
Despite a ratings 'upgrade' Spain's youth unemployment rate has re-surged to a record 57.4% (just below that of Greece which still tops the scary chart list at 58%). Italy and Portugal also saw notable rises (despite the former's record low short-dated bond yields) at 41.2% and 36.5% respectively. Ireland and France saw modest improvements but overall the Euro-zone's youth unemployment just keeps rising. In spite of all the rhetoric from Merkel, Van Rompuy, and Barroso, 24.4% of Europe's under-25 population is unemployed...
A hungover America slowly wakes up from a day of society-mandated consumption and purchasing excess to engage in even more Fed-mandated excess in the equity markets. The only difference is that while the "90%" was engaged in the former and depleting their equity, and savings, accounts in the process, far less than 10% will be doing the latter. Overnight attention was drawn to the rapidly escalating territorial dispute between China and Japan, now in the air, Bitcoin's brief surge above the price of an ounce of gold, and the ejection of the Holland from the AAA Eurozone club (where only Germany and Finland remain), following an S&P downgrade of the Netherlands from AAA to AA+, which however had been largely priced in long ago (and was coupled with an upgrade of Spain from negative to stable outlook, as well as an upgrade of Spain from CCC+ to B-). Europe surprised pleasantly on both the inflation (better than expected) and unemployment rate (dropped from an all time high of 12.2% to 12.1%), even if youth unemployment rose to fresh record highs.
While moderate recovery in growth and inflation is BofAML's rates team's base case, there are numerous risks to that forecast. The risk of tapering is already quite well known and they suspect it may not result in the significant market-moving event many expect when it actually happens; however, the following downside and upside risks threaten BofAML's central scenarios for 2014 as well.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, "It isn't the stuff you don’t know that will kill you – it's the stuff you're sure about but is totally wrong that will do you real harm." As a corollary to this fateful phrase, Convergx's Nick Colas has collected a list of market "knowledge" that is questionable at best and harmful at worst.
As we showed very vividly yesterday, while the world is comfortably distracted with mundane questions of whether the Fed will taper this, the BOJ will untaper that, or if the ECB will finally rebel against an "oppressive" German regime - with $3.5 trillion in asset (and debt) creation per year, is China. China, however, is increasingly aware that in the grand scheme of things, its credit spigot is the marginal driver of global liquidity, which is great of the rest of the world, but with an epic accumulation of bad debt and NPLs, all the downside is left for China while the upside is shared with the world. Which is why it was not surprising to learn that China has drafted rules banning banks from evading lending limits by structuring loans to other financial institutions so that they can be recorded as asset sales. And while we are confident Chinese financial geniuses will find ways to bypass this attempt to curb breakneck credit expansion in due course, in the meantime, Chinese liquidity conditions are certain to get far tighter. This is precisely the WSJ reported overnight, when it observed that yields on Chinese government debt have soared to their highest levels in nearly nine years amid Beijing's relentless drive to tighten the monetary spigots in the world's second-largest economy.
- M&A Mystery: Why Are Takeover Prices Plummeting? (WSJ)
- Hedge-Fund Fight Club Traded Illegal Tips Not Punches (BBG)
- Speed Traders Meet Nightmare on Elm Street With Nanex (BBG)
- A new wave of U.S. mortgage trouble threatens (Reuters)
- Penny Lane: Gitmo's other secret CIA facility (AP)
- US hardens threat to leave Afghanistan with no troops (WSJ)
- Russian Prison Stuns Captain of Greenpeace’s Bombed Ship (BBG)
- ECB's Weidmann Warns Central Banks Might Be Too Dominated by Fiscal Concerns (WSJ)
- China Air Move Splits Japan as Carriers Obey New Rules (BBG)
- Inside the Breakup of the Pritzker Empire (WSJ)
It might have been the Republican shutdown (according to one person at the White House, at least). It might have been the fault of the Syrian leader Bachar Al-Assad gassing his people with chemical weapons.
Encapsulating all that is wrong with the raise-your-stock-price-by-hyperbole-alone strategy of most new 'tech' firms, Tesla's recent claim of a "5.4 Stars - out of 5" safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) perhaps takes the biscuit. But as Jalopnik reports, the NHTSA is not standing for the lies anymore and has issues a statement explaining to car-makers that NHTSA does not award higher than a 5-star rating - advertisers should avoid "double" 5-star rating, numbers greater than 5, and using the terms "perfect," "safest," "flawless" or "best in class" are misleading. What will Elon Musk do now?
The math just shot craps.
- JPMorgan $13 Billion Mortgage Deal Seen as Lawsuit Shield (BBG)
- J.P. Morgan Is Haunted by a 2006 Decision on Mortgages (WSJ)
- World powers, Iran in new attempt to reach nuclear deal (Reuters)
- Keystone Foes Seek to Thwart Oil Sands Exports by Rail (BBG) - mostly Warren Buffet?
- How Would Fed Deal With Debt Ceiling Crisis? Look to Minutes for Clues (Hilsenrath)
- Anything to prevent the loss of prop trading: 'Volcker Rule' Faces New Hurdles (WSJ)
- BOE Sees Case for Keeping Record-Low Rate Beyond 7% Jobless (BBG)
- Obama Backs Piecemeal Immigration Overhaul (WSJ)
- Abenomics Seen Cutting Japan Bad-Loan Costs to 2006 Low (BBG)
...An unidentified local bank reported a 33 percent nonperforming-loan ratio for the solar-panel industry, compared with 2 percent at the beginning of the year, with the increase due to Wuxi Suntech, China Business News reported in September.... China’s lending spree has created a debt burden similar in magnitude to the one that pushed Asian nations into crisis in the late 1990s, according to Fitch Ratings.... As companies take on more debt, the efficiency of credit use has deteriorated. Since 2009, for every yuan of credit issued, China’s GDP grew by an average 0.4 yuan, while the pre-2009 average was 0.8 yuan, according to Mike Werner, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.... “The real situation is much worse than the data showed” after talking to chief financial officers at industrial manufacturers, said Wendy Tang, a Shanghai-based analyst at Northeast Securities Co., who estimates the actual nonperforming-loan ratio to be as high as 3 percent. “It will take at least one year or longer for these NPLs to appear on banks’ books, and I haven’t seen the bottom of deterioration in Jiangsu and Zhejiang yet.”