Reuters

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Europe's Cognitive Dissonance





With Spanish and Italian sovereign bond spreads back at 19-month lows (admittedly driven by OMT 'promises' and self-referential buying from any and every domestic fund possible), many are arguing that all is well, crisis averted and the world can go on its merry way to Dow 30,000. However, the reality is extremely different in the real economy - and the optics of the spread compression have done nothing but armor the politicians to stall any needed reforms for now. The ultimate cognitive dissonance is highlighted nowhere better than in Italian GDP (whose 2013 forecast was just slashed further to -1% - and remember in Jan 2012, the 2012 GDP forecast was -0.4% and it is currently running at a 6x miss around -2.4%); and Spanish bad loans, which are now running at ever-new record highs of 11.6% and accelerating year-over-year. The chasm between the facts on the ground (reality) and the market's optics have never been wider as data point after data point indicates stagnation at best (core and periphery) and depression at worst.

 
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Apple iPad Supply Chain "Nearly Halted"





It seems that when it comes to looking at fundamentals, chartists such as DeMark and the other bottom-calling knife-catching 'value-players' who claim to have read the Apple tea-leaves are good at looking at, well, charts, and rather horrible at divining the underlying cash flow supporting a stock. Or lack thereof as is rapidly becoming the case of Apple. As Reuters notes, it appears Sharp (the manufacturer of iPad screens) has nearly halted production of the 9.7-inch screens - as demand shifts to the iPad mini. This semi-confirmation of Citi's supply chain checks from last month suggests that concerns over growth in iPad may well have been justified and the expectedly lower margin iPad mini will benefit - as Macquarie Research has estimated that iPad shipments will tumble nearly 40 percent in the current quarter to about 8 million from about 13 million in the fourth quarter, although Apple's total tablet shipments will show a much smaller decrease due to strong iPad mini sales. It is quite apparent, as the WSJ notes, that the shift in the coolness factor has taken place as Samsung's new smartphone is gathering more 'hype' as iPhone is now "the underdog" in innovation.

 
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“Gold Will Prove A Haven From Currency Storms” – OMFIF Study





Demand for gold is likely to rise as the world heads towards a multi-currency reserve system under the impact of uncertainty about the stability of the dollar and the euro, the main official assets held by central banks and sovereign funds. This is the conclusion of a wide-ranging analysis of the world monetary system by Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, (OMFIF), the global monetary think-tank, in a report commissioned by the World Gold Council, the gold industry’s market development body. The report warns of “twin shocks” to the dollar and the euro and of a “coming dollar shock” and points out how gold would be a safe haven in a dollar crisis. “Gold has a lot going for it; it correlates negatively with the greenback, and no other reserve asset seems safe from the coming dollar shock.” “The world is preparing for possible twin shocks from the parlous. position of the two main reserve currencies, the dollar and the euro... The OMFIF offers a confidential, convenient and discreet forum to a unique membership of central banks, sovereign funds, financial policy-makers and market participants who interact with them. They note that “western economies have attempted to dismantle gold's monetary role. This has failed.”

 
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Frontrunning: January 18





  • Foreign Hostages Die in Algeria’s Battle With Terrorists (Bloomberg)
  • The latest bank to soon join the currency wars: McCafferty Says BOE Must Keep Open Mind on New Policy Tools (Bloomberg)
  • US debt talks complicated by timing (FT)
  • BOJ eyes open-ended asset buying, agrees new inflation goal (Reuters)
  • AmEx Says U.S. Card Income Fell 42% as Loss Provisions Increased (BBG)
  • Call to raise age for US’s Medicare (FT)
  • Obama Promise to Raise Middle Class Living Already Seen in Peril (BBG)
  • China Exits Slowdown as Quarterly Growth Tops Forecasts (BBG) - actually, as new Politburo says to make it appear that way
  • Britain to drift out of European Union without reforms (Reuters)
  • Republicans weigh interim debt-limit hike (FT)
  • Abe's aide says Japan shouldn't fret if yen falls to 100 vs dlr (Reuters) ... and it was 90 just a few days ago
  • PBOC May Seek More Liquidity Operations (Dow Jones)
 
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So Much For That "Record Inflow" Into Equity Funds - Domestic Equities See $4.2 Billion Outflow In Most Recent Week





The most talked about story of the last week was undoubtedly the relentless chatter about that massive $18 billion in equity fund inflows as reported by Lipper (not ICI), which tracks primarily institutional and ETF flow of funds, and which, as we explained even before the Lipper data came out, was driven exclusively by a surge in bank deposits into the year end, to be recycled for risk investment purposes by the commercial banks' own prop desks. The details, however, were largely ignored by the mainstream media which took that inflow as an indication that the tide has finally turned and that the great rotation out of bonds into stocks is on. Turns out that just as we expected it was a year end calendar asset rebalancing. As Lipper reported earlier, the enthusiasm for US stocks appears to have abruptly ended, with a whopping $4.2 billion pumped out of domestic equities, offset by some $4.5 billion invested in non-domestic equities. The blended flow? Just $286 million going into equities. Now our math may be a little rusty, but $18 billion followed by $0.2 is not really indicative of an ongoing rotation out of bonds and into stocks, and is more indicative of a one-time, non-recurring event, just the opposite of all the Bank of America addbacks.

 
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China, Japan Do Their Best To Add To The Overnight Multiple Expansion





China’s monthly data dump was the main macro update overnight, which however with ongoing mockery of the Chinese data "goalseeking" and distribution methodologies, most recently by the likes of Goldman, UBS and ANZ, had purely political window dressing purposes for the new Chinese politburo. Sure enough, that all the data came precisely Goldilocks +1 was enough to put a smile on everyone's face. To wit - Q4 GDP growth came in just higher than consensus (+7.9%yoy v +7.8%). On a full year basis the economy grew by 7.8%, also a tad above expectations. Then we got industrial production, also just higher than expected (+10.3% v +10.2%) and retail sales - just higher as well (+15.2% v +15.1%). Much more important than meaningless, jiggered numbers, was the announcement from the PBOC that in light of the entire world going "open-ended" on easing, China - which now can't afford to lower rates for fears of rampant inflation together with importing everyone else's hot money - announced it will start short-term liquidity operations as additional tool for controlling liquidity, engaging in a reverse repo on a daily basis, which will have a maturity of less than 7 days. This way the central bank will be able to reacted almost instantly to any inflationary spikes across the economy, as it too has no choice but to ease although not by the conventional inflation targeting methods now used by everyone else.

 
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BoJ Joins ECB And Fed On Unlimited Print Train





Just as some do not believe in Santa, Christine Lagarde appeared to comment that she does not believe in currency wars (or competitive devaluation) this morning but sure enough, just a few hours later, Reuters rumors that the BoJ is about to join the Fed and ECB on the open-ended infinite print train. Sure enough, JPY is dumping (breaking recent highs on a stop-run), stocks are responding in their correlated carry way, and precious metals are surging (Silver +4.6% on the week) as fiat floods the world. It appears 2013 is the years of last last resort as the G-20 meme seems to be "if we can't reflate now, then it's all over." What is perhaps remarkable about the equity response is that everyone has known for two months that Japan plans on implementing a 2% inflation target. The only question has been "how" - and that it is only logical that the BOJ would use 'whatever means everyone else has used' - today merely confirmed this - knee-jerk algo response or sell-the-news?

 
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Germany's Gold Repatriation Unlikely To Assuage Public Concerns





Whether the repatriation of only some 20% of Germany's gold reserves from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Banque of Paris back to Frankfurt manages to allay German concerns remains in question.  Especially given that the transfer from the Federal Reserve is set to take place slowly over a seven year period and will only be completed in 2020. The German Precious Metals Association and Germany's ‘Repatriate Our Gold’ campaign said that the move by the Bundesbank did not negate the need for a full audit of Germany's gold. They want this to take place in order to protect against impairment of the gold reserves through leases and swaps. Indeed, they have called for independent, full, neutral and physical audits of the gold reserves of the world's central banks and the repatriation of all central bank gold - the physical transport of gold reserves back into the respective sovereign ownership countries. It seems likely that we may only have seen another important milestone in the debate about German and global gold reserves.

 
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34 Hostages, 14 Kidnappers Killed In Algerian Standoff





The Algeria hostage situation reported yesterday, where alleged Al Qaeda operatives took numerous hostages at a local BP, Statoil and Sonatrach JV gas plant in retaliation for the French incursion into Mali, has rapidly gone from bad to worse as some 34 hostages (out of the 41 originally reported) have been killed.

 
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Frontrunning: January 17





  • Obama's Gun Curbs Face a Slog in Congress (BBG)
  • Euro Area Seen Stalling as Draghi’s Pessimism Shared (BBG)
  • China Begins to Lose Edge as World's Factory Floor (WSJ)
  • EU Car Sales Slump (WSJ)
  • Fed Concerned About Overheated Markets Amid Record Bond-Buying (BBG)
  • Australia Posts Worst Back-to-Back Job Growth Since ’97 (BBG)
  • Abe Currency Policy Stokes Gaffe Risk as Amari Roils Yen (BBG)
  • Japan Opposition Party Won’t Back BOJ Officials for Governor (BBG)
  • Fed Reports Point to Subdued Economic Growth (WSJ)
  • China Set to Exit Slowdown by Boosting Infrastructure (BBG)
  • Greece not out of woods, must stick to reforms: finance minister (Reuters)
  • Russian Rate Debate Flares Up as Cabinet Seeks Growth (BBG)
 
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The Dream Is Over As FAA Grounds Nightmareliner





The pain for Boeing never stops. Just out from Reuters:

  • U.S. FAA says requiring airlines to temporarily stop flying Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. #BREAKING
  • FAA: Battery failures on Boeing 787s could damage critical systems and structures, spark fire, if not corrected
  • FAA: Will work with Boeing, airlines to develop corrective action plan to resume 787 operations as "quickly and safely as possible"
  • FAA: Decision to ground Boeing 787s prompted by second incident involving lithium ion battery failure
  • FAA: Will also examine Boeing 787 batteries as part of comprehensive review announced last week

So, will Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (i.e., the US government) perhaps reassess his conclusion from last week that the Dreamliner is "safe" or perhaps this too is just more teething problems... Or merely an ultra aggressive case of industrial sabotage from EADS? In other news, perhaps it is time to find a more appropriate name of the Dreamliner?

 
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Seven Americans Among Hostages Captured In Algeria In Retaliation Over French Mali Incursion





Just because the endless Israel vs Iran foreplay seems to no longer be exciting the world as much as it did all throughout 2010, 2011 and 2012 when military action seemed imminent over and over, it appears the world has a new geopolitical tension point: the recent incursion into Mali by French (and soon many other) forces, to protect "European interests" against "extremists" operating in the North, and as a corollary - the retaliation by the locals against Western Democratic powers. At least such is the simplistic plot line. Sure enough moments ago Reuters reported that islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France's intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports. The raiders were also reported to have killed three people, including a Briton and a French national. Subsequent reports indicate that the Algerian captives have been let go, and that this is purely an escalation against the invaders, an act which the US state department will harshly condemn at a 1pm press conference, and likely use as a catalyst to unleash US forces in the air or on the ground, to support the French campaign which at last check was going horribly.

 
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Two 787 Fleets Grounded, As Well As Overnight Optimism





Those who went long Boeing in the last few days on hopes the "smoking battery" issue had been resolved, especially following Ray LaHood comment's he would fly the Dreamliner, which is rapidly becoming the Nightmareliner for Boeing, anytime anywhere, are about to be grounded, as is the entire 787 fleet of All Nippon Airlines and Japan Airlines following yet another incident forcing an emergency Dreamliner landing. This happened after ANA "alarms indicated smoke in the forward area of the plane, which houses batteries and other equipment, the airline said, and there was a "burning-like smell" in the cockpit and parts of the cabin. The plane landed at Takamatsu airport in western Japan, where the 129 passengers were evacuated using the plane's emergency chutes. The plane also carried eight crew members. ANA said that the exact cause was still undetermined. The event was designated as a "serious incident" by Japan's transport ministry, setting off an immediate investigation by the Japan Transport Safety Board, which dispatched a team to the scene." The result - a 4% drop in the stock so far premarket, and if any more airlines are to ground their fleet the implications for the backlog could be devastating, it will only get far worse for both the company and the Dow Jones average, of which it is part.

 
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Presenting The Working Poor Of America





Much has been made of the slow but steady 'improvement' in the unemployment data we are treated to on a weekly and monthly basis from the hallowed eves of the BLS. Just as much has been written on the ugly under-belly of this apparent improvement with the work-force becoming dominated by older workers forced to stay in jobs for longer and an increasing downshift in the kind of jobs available and taken. To wit, Reuters cites a report from the The Working Poor Families Project that highlights the surprising levels of poverty so many Americans find themselves in. The number of low-income 'working' families has increased three straight years - and now stands at over 10.2million, with more than 46 million people living in low-income families. "Although many people are returning to work, they are often taking jobs with lower wages and less job security, compared with the middle-class jobs they held before the economic downturn," which means that nearly one in three working families in the United States is struggling to meet basic needs. Although they are often overlooked, the number of low-income working families has been increasing steadily, resulting in a shrinking middle class and challenging a fundamental assumption that in America, work pays - as we have pointed out before (at these levels, it simply doesn't thanks to the benefit availability).

 
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Fitch Issues Another Rating Warning For AmericAAA





With precisely one month left until the early bound of the debt ceiling crunch and a possible US government shut down and/or technical default, and with M.A.D. warnings from the president and treasury secretary doing nothing to precipitate a sense of urgency (which will not arrive until there is a 20% market drop, so far consistently delayed but which will eventually happen), here comes the most toothless of rating agencies, French Fitch which somehow kept its mouth shut over the past 18 months, when US debt rose by over $2.1 trillion and debt to GDP hit 103%, shaking a little stick furiously, no doubt under guidance by its corporate HoldCo owners: French Fimilac SA.

 
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