As the EU seeks a closer association with Moldova, the 97% pro-Russian state of Transnistria (that we first warned was next here) is accelerating its move towards independence. As Bloomberg reports, despite condemnation by Moldova's government of the "direct defiance", the Transnistria Assembly has approved an appeal to Russia to recognize the region's independencee. Neighboring Romania is "worried" and there are growing 'actions' by the so-called "Supreme Soviet" in the region's capital. But, according to local news wires, there is a much bigger thing for government to worry about - modeling politicians.
As we reported last Friday, a second US warship, the destroyer Donald Cook, crossed the Bosphorus last week and entered the Black Sea at precisely the time when NATO was arguing that its encroaching presence around Russia should not spook anyone. Apparently it spooked someone, namely Russia, which over the weekend decided to give the Americans a warm welcome. As AP reports, "A U.S. military official says a Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region."
- Russia's Gazprom says Ukraine did not pay for gas on time (Reuters)
- Ukraine Moves to Keep Control in East (BBG)
- Banks Set to Report Lower Earnings as Debt Trading Slumps (BBG)
- More DeGeners and Obama selfies needed: Samsung's lower first-quarter estimate highlights smartphone challenges (Reuters)
- Citi Is Bracing to Miss a Profit Target (WSJ)
- Another slam from GM? Safety group calls for U.S. probe of Chevy Impala air bags (Reuters)
- Japan drugmaker Takeda to fight $6 billion damages imposed by U.S. jury (Reuters)
- EU court rules against requirement to keep data of telecom users (Reuters)
- White House may ban selfies with president after Ortiz-Obama photo promotes Samsung (Syracuse)
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
- US, Russia talks fail to end Ukraine deadlock (AP)
- Russian forces 'gradually withdrawing' from Ukraine border (AFP)
- Turkish PM Erdogan tells enemies they will pay price after poll (Reuters)
- And Goldman arrives: Credit markets open to Argentina for first time in years (Reuters)
- Regulators Twice Failed to Open GM Probes (WSJ)
- Bad loan writedowns soar at China banks (FT)
- Investors Breathe Life Into European Banks' Bad Loans (WSJ)
- Euro zone inflation drops to lowest since 2009 (Reuters)
- Yellowstone National Park rattled by largest earthquake in 34 years (Reuters)
While Naftogaz (Ukraine's gas pipeline operator) states that all gas transportation from Russia to Europe is running normally, Bloomberg reports that Russian natgas exports to Europe are declining. Shipments are down over 4% from the prior week and also lower to Ukraine. This 'adjustment' follows increased sanctions by the West as Medvedev's notable statement this morning that Ukraine owes Russia $16bn. Furthermore, Gazprom has cut its Diesel output by the most in 7 months... and just to rub some Black Sea salt into the wound, NY Times reports that Russia's asking price for natgas to Europe is soaring.
Russian Politician Suggests Dividing Ukraine Along Lines Of Nazi-Soviet Pact, Proposes West Ukraine ReferendumSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/24/2014 12:23 -0400
It has been a while since well-known Russian nationalist and spotlight-grabbing politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, made headlines. The recent flame up of Cold War 2.0 is precisely the cover the flamboyant individual needed to reemerge once more, scandalous as ever. Because while the west scrambles to find a way to punish Russia for openly flaunting its relentless hollow threats by annexing Crimea, Zhirinovsky is back and has a "modest proposal" for Ukraine, and the countries neighboring the troubled former USSR territory: namely dividing the country along the lines of an infamous Nazi-Soviet pact, suggesting that regions in Western Ukraine hold referendums on breaking away from Kiev. In a letter sent to the governments of Poland, Romania and Hungary, Vladimir Zhirinovsky also suggested those countries hold referendums on incorporating the regions into their territory. The question is whether Zhirinovsky, who traditionally has been just a bit of a loose cannon yet whose nationalist Liberal Democratic party largely backs President Vladimir Putin in the Russian parliament,speaks only for himself, or whether Putin is using him the way the Fed uses Hilsenrath.
If there was one thing that the market was demanding after last night's disappointing March HSBC manufacturing PMI, which has now fallen so low, local market participants are convinced a stimulus is imminent (despite China's own warnings not to expect this), and sent both the SHCOMP and the CNY surging, it would have been further weak data out of Europe, where the other possible, if not probable, "QE-stimulus" bank is located now that the Fed is in full taper mode. It didn't get precisely that however there was a step in the right direction when overnight the Euro area Composite Flash PMI eased marginally from 53.3 to 53.2 in March, largely as expected. The country breakdown showed a narrowing of the Germany/France Composite PMI gap owing to a notable (3.7pt) increase in the French PMI while the German PMI eased somewhat (1.4pt). On the basis of past correlations, a Euro area Composite PMI of 53.2 is consistent with GDP growth of around +0.4%qoq, slightly stronger than our Current Activity Indicator (+0.35%qoq).
Russian Neighbor Belarus Asks To Host Another 15 Russian Fighter Jets In Response To NATO EscalationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/12/2014 08:58 -0400
With NATO actively building up its airforce support in Poland and the Baltic states in recent days in a flashback to cold war military escalation and deterrence, and even launching AWACS planes over Poland and Romania to monitor the Ukraine crisis and "enhance the alliance's situational awareness," the inevitable has finally happened, and other Russian neighbor states, ones not alligned with the military treaty, have escalated in turn only this time the are showing their allegiance not to the west but to Russia. Moments ago RIA reported that Minsk will "adequately react to the strengthening of NATO forces near the borders of Belarus, and will offer to host up to an additional 15 Russian aircraft, according to the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday at a meeting of the Security Council of Belarus.
Diplomacy Fails In Ukraine: Putin Slams Kerry Plan, Kiev Issues Ultimatum, Crimea Suspends All Non-Moscow FlightsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/11/2014 08:01 -0400
While it may have been pushed back from the front pages to keep confidence high, things in the Crimea, and in Ukraine in general (which may or may not waved goodbye to its gold reserves) are going from bad to worse with every passing day, with the near term catalyst of course being this Sunday Crimean referendum vote, which seems like a done deal, and which will give Russia a carte blanche to annex the territory over the howls of protest from Ukraine's coup government, and the west of course.
A week ago, when the idea of sanctions against Russia was first officially announced, we made a statement, which was obviously in jest yet which, as so often happens, was so rooted in reality: "U.S. CONSIDERING SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN BANKS, OFFICIAL SAYS. So short London/NYC real estate you say?" How is this an indication of reality? Well, for one, as we reported previously, the one country that has the most to lose from Russian sanctions, Germany, and specifically its industrial superlobby has already said "Nein" to any truly crippling trade blockade of Moscow would backfire on Germany's own economy and bottom line. But what about London? Here, the NYT explains why, once again, it was all about the money, and why were right even when we were being humorous: "It boils down to this: Britain is ready to betray the United States to protect the City of London’s hold on dirty Russian money. And forget about Ukraine."
The U.S. government and the Russian government have both been forced into positions where neither one of them can afford to back down. If Barack Obama backs down, he will be greatly criticized for being "weak" and for having been beaten by Vladimir Putin once again. If Putin backs down, he will be greatly criticized for being "weak" and for abandoning the Russians that live in Crimea. In essence, Obama and Putin find themselves trapped in a macho game of "chicken" and critics on both sides stand ready to pounce on the one who backs down. But this is not just an innocent game of "chicken" from a fifties movie. This is the real deal, and if nobody backs down the entire world will pay the price.
It doesn't take any special insight into the situation in Ukraine to conclude that no one narrative illuminates all the dynamics. Various contesting Grand Narratives have emerged in the media--neofascist coup, rampant corruption, east versus west, to name a few--but these only describe a few of the regional fault lines and complexities... I describe the U.S. Deep State as the National Security State which enables a vast Imperial structure that incorporates hard and soft power--military, diplomatic, intelligence, finance, commercial, energy, media, higher education--in a system of global domination and influence. One key feature of the Deep State everywhere is that it makes decisions behind closed doors and the surface government simply ratifies and implements the decisions. I have covered various aspects of geopolitics and the Deep State for years, for example:
As one might expect, the economic decline of a nation into rule by a handful of corrupt oligarchs will have many other negative repercussions. One of these is a loss of civil rights and freedoms that many of us have taken for granted. Reporters Without Borders puts out their Press Freedom Index every year, and the 2014 ranking came out today. It was not a good showing for the USSA. Specifically, the U.S. registered one of the steepest falls of all nations, down 13 slots to the #46 position. As the screen shot shows, just above Haiti and just below Romania.
A recent article at the BBC discusses the findings of a report by EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on corruption in the EU. According to the report, the cost of corruption in the EU amounts to €120 billion annually. We would submit that it is likely far more than that (in fact, even Ms. Malmstroem herself concurs with this assessment). This is of course what one gets when one installs vast, byzantine bureaucracies and issues a veritable flood of rules and regulations every year. More and more people are needed to administer this unwieldy nightmare of red tape, and naturally the quality of the hires declines over time due to the sheer numbers required. And that is merely what they actually know about...One gets an inkling of how big the problem may really be when considering the case of Greece.