Recession

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Fractional-Reserve Banking: From Goldsmiths To Hedge Funds To... Chaos





Banking didn’t start out as a reckless, parasitical plaything of a moneyed and politically-connected aristocracy.

 
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These Are The Most Hated Stocks (Summer 2014 Edition)





Below, for the third year running, we present the 50 most shorted (and most convex) Russell 2000 names, which are sufficiently small and illiquid, that even the tiniest rumor or upgrade by a contrarian research shop is able to send into a short covering frenzy. They are sorted by short interest as a % of the float in declining order, which means that the absolutely most hated stocks are at the top.

 
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Frontrunning: May 23





  • The Fed can't print trade? World Trade Flows Fall in First Quarter (WSJ)
  • PBOC’s Zhou Says China May Have Housing Bubble in ‘Some Cities’ (BBG)
  • ECB's Weidmann - Reviving ABS market not task for central bank (Reuters)
  • LOL: Fitch upgrades Greece by a notch to 'B'; outlook stable (Reuters)
  • LOL x2: Spain Sovereign Debt Rating Upgraded by S&P (BBG)
  • China Will Vet Tech Firms After Threatening U.S. Retaliation (BBG)
  • US to claim victory over China in WTO car dispute (BBG)
  • Obama urges Democrats to vote in midterms, attacks Republicans (Reuters)
  • U.S. Military Pushes for More Disclosure on Drone Strikes (WSJ)
 
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The Connection Between Oil Prices, Debt Levels, And Interest Rates





If oil is “just another commodity,” then there shouldn’t be any connection between oil prices, debt levels, interest rates, and total rates of return. But there clearly is a connection. As we have seen, rising interest rates will bring an end to our current equilibrium, by raising costs in many ways, without raising salaries. It will also reduce equity values and bond prices. A rise in the cost of extraction of oil, if it isn’t accompanied by high oil prices, will also put an end to our equilibrium, because oil producers will stop drilling the number of wells needed to keep production up.  If oil prices rise (regardless of reason), this will tend to put the economy into recession, leading to job loss and debt defaults. The only way to keep things going a bit longer might be negative interest rates. But even this seems “iffy.” We truly live in interesting times.

 

 
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Echoes Of 1937 In The Current Economic Cycle





It is not too early to ask how the present US business cycle expansion, already more than five years old, will end. The history of the last great US monetary experiment in “quantitative easing” (QE) from 1934-7 suggests that the end could be violent. Autumn 1937 featured one of the largest New York stock market crashes ever accompanied by the descent of the US economy into the notorious Roosevelt Recession. As we noted previously - it's never different this time...

 
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Putin Has Crimea, But Reaping Its Energy Riches May Prove Difficult





Russia’s seizure of Crimea has led to speculation that a major motivating factor was to acquire potentially vast energy resources in the Black and Azov Seas. But taking control of territory rich in oil and gas is different from being able to successfully pull those energy resources from the ground.

 
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Jobless Claims And The Issue Of "Full Employment"





Last week, the number of first-time jobless claims dropped below 300,000 which has not happened since before the onset of the financial crisis. Not surprisingly, the media and economic analysis exploded with commentary that this is a sure sign that the economic recovery is afoot. Such a recovery will lead to stronger employment, higher wages, rising interest rates and a continuation of the bullish stock market cycle. However, is that really the case?

 
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Fed President Says It Is Fed's Fault Markets Ignore Fundamentals





Equity markets are not happy about the Fed's Charles Plosser's economic exuberance ("3% growth no matter the weather" which is 20% above consensus of 2.5%) and his 'good-news-bad-news' monetary policy hawkishness ("may need to raise rates sooner rather than later"). But perhaps the most crucial part of his speech this morning was what the headlines notably left out. Plosser admonished his global central bank brethren: "if central banks do not limit their interventionist strategies and focus on returning to more normal policymaking aimed at promoting price stability and long-term growth, then they will simply encourage the financial markets to ignore fundamentals and to focus instead on the next actions of the central bank." Simply put, he warned, "central bankers have become too sensitive and desirous of managing prices in the financial world.."

 
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Thailand Army Declares Martial Law





With Russia massing troops on the border with Ukraine, China doing the same with Vietnam, the already volatile situation in Libya and Syria imploding with every passing day, the only geopolitical variable that was missing was a martial law and/or national coup. Moments ago Thailand just declares the former and while the latter is still absent it too is likely just a moment of time. AP reports that "Thailand's army has declared martial law after six months of anti-government protests and political crisis, Associated Press said on Tuesday, citing an army statement issued in Bangkok." In other words, after not sternly not taking sides in the near civil war situation in Thailand for the longest time, the army finally picked a side: its own.

 
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Take A Dive In The "Dash For Trash" Waterfall With Goldman Sachs





As we have discussed numerous times, the dash-for-trash in US equities has been insatiable as any and every consequence of screwing up is slowly removed from capitalism (and capital markets). As Goldman's David Kostin notes, companies with weak balance sheets have outperformed peers with strong balance sheets by 49 percentage points during the past two years (89% vs. 40%) with realized volatility of just 7%. Although the trend is daunting - to say the least - Goldman believes it will continue for three reasons...

 
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Where the World's Unsold Cars Go To Die





In the past several years, one of the topics covered in detail on these pages has been the surge in such gimmicks designed to disguise lack of demand and end customer sales, used extensively by US automotive manufacturers, better known as "channel stuffing", of which General Motors is particularly guilty and whose inventory at dealer lots just hit a new record high. But did you know that when it comes to flat or declining sales and stagnant end demand, channel stuffing is merely the beginning? Presenting... Where the World's Unsold Cars Go To Die

 
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"Feeding The Homeless" Is A Crime In Increasingly More US Cities





Have you ever given food to a homeless person? Well, if you do it again in the future it might be a criminal act depending on where you live. Right now, there are dozens of major U.S. cities that have already passed laws against feeding the homeless.

 
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5 Things To Ponder: Demographics





"Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the National Debt."  -  Herbert Hoover

The roll off of the massive slice of the population known as "baby boomers" in the years ahead will have a significant and profound impact on the economy and the markets. In my opinion, there is simply not enough attention paid this issue and it is an important one.  However, since demographic impacts take a very long time to mature, they are ignored by the mainstream media which are focused on the 24-hour news and market cycles. 

 
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Frontrunning: May 16





  • Bank of England sees 'no housing bubble' (Independent)
  • ‘If the euro falls, Europe falls’ (FT)
  • India's pro-business Modi storms to historic election win (Reuters)
  • Global Growth Worries Climb (WSJ)
  • Bitcoin Foundation hit by resignations over new director (Reuters)
  • Blackstone Goes All In After the Flop (WSJ)
  • SAC's Steinberg loses bid for insider trading acquittal (Reuters)
  • Beats Satan: Republicans Paint Reid as Bogeyman in 2014 Senate Races (BBG)
  • Tech Firms, Small Startups Object to Paying for Internet 'Fast Lanes' (WSJ) - but they just provide liquidity
  • U.S. Warns Russia of Sanctions as Ukraine Troops Advance (BBG)
  • Major U.S. hedge funds sold 'momentum' Internet names in first-quarter (Reuters)
 
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Yen Carry Slide Drags Futures To Lows





The perfectly expected if completely irrational overnight ramp in various Yen carry pairs tried, and failed, and both the USDJPY and EURJPY were tumbling to overnight lows as we go to print. This is happening despite a rout in India in which Narendra Modi's opposition block is poised for the biggest Indian election win in 30 years, with his BJP party currently leading in 332 of 543 seat - an outcome that is seen as very pro business (and seemingly pro asset bubbles: the INR soared and the Sensex was up as much as 6% in intraday trading before paring virtually all gains following what many say was RBI intervention). And while the Nikkei (down 200 points) did not help the mood this move was mostly in response to yesterday's US selling, which means as usual the culprit for lack of algo risk-taking overnight has been the Yen carry, which moments ago hit intraday lows, and is increasingly flirting with the 101 level (after which double digits, and Abe's second resignation, come very quickly).

 
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