With 2 Russian TV journalists killed in recent days and on the heels of Russia's cutting off Ukraine's gas supply for non-payment, Interfax is reporting that:
*EXPLOSION ON UKRAINE GAS TRANSIT PIPELINE REPORTED: IFX
*INTERFAX CITES UKRAINE INTERIOR MINISTRY ON GAS PIPELINE BLAST
Witnesses say flames are reaching 200 metres high. Gazprom shares are tumbling on the news (as should European stocks) and Russia's Foreign Affairs Committee Chief Aleksei Pushkov warned relations between Ukraine and Russia have entered a new stage and are "moving closer towards a serious conflict."
"Today, from 10:00 a.m. Moscow time, Gazprom, according to the existing contract, moved Naftogaz to prepayment for gas supplies ... Starting today, the Ukrainian company will only get the Russian gas it has paid for."
For those pressed for time, here is the one-chart post-mortem of what happened in yesterday's elections for European Parliament: the malcontents block, or the anti-EU and protest parties, soar and now control nearly a third of all seats, up nearly by 33% from a fifth currently, in the parliament they all predominantly loathe.
The ECB, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and the Riksbank of Sweden announced a new gold agreement this morning. They announced they have no plans to sell significant quantities of gold and reaffirmed the importance of gold bullion as a monetary reserve asset.
American foreign policy is mindlessly driven by the machinery of our Warfare State - a vast accretion of economic, diplomatic, spying and military capabilities which are ceaselessly in search of missions and justifications for their colossal call on the nation’s resources. Absent a dismantlement of the Warfare State machinery, giant policy errors like the Bill Clinton’s double-cross on NATO and Obama’s foolish present confrontation with Putin are nearly guaranteed to recur.
Thank god for Germany, whose Q1 GDP printed at 0.8%, above the expected 0.7%, and higher than Q4's 0.4%, or else the Eurozone's very disappointing Q1 GDP, which printed at 0.2% or half the expected 0.4%, could have been flat or negative.
There comes a point in the destiny of a failing nation when official lying is no longer distinct from official stupidity. We’ve crossed that boundary in the USA. It pays to remember that societies get what they deserve, not what they expect.
- Fed’s Fisher Says Economy Strengthening as Payrolls Rise (BBG)
- Russia Knows Europe Sanctions Ineffective With Tax Havens (BBG)
- EU Cuts Euro-Area Growth Outlook as Inflation Seen Slower (BBG)
- U.S. Firms With Irish Addresses Get Tax Breaks Derided as ‘Blarney’ (BBG)
- Portugal exits bailout without safety net of credit line (Euronews)
- Puzzled Malaysian Air Searchers Ponder What to Try Now (BBG)
- Barclays, Credit Suisse Battle Banker Exodus, Legal Woes (BBG)
- Germany says euro level not an issue for politicians (Reuters)
- Alibaba-Sized Hole Blown in Nasdaq 100 Amid New Stock (BBG)
- Obamacare to save large corporations hundreds of billions (The Hill)
As tensions between all parties in Eastern Europe boil over, Chris Martenson provides a brief tour through just some of the antics surrounding the US' involvement in bringing about change (you can believe in!) in Ukraine. We raise these items to counter the usual clutter and complete lack of context being provided in the US press and to illustrate that the US is already in pretty deep and therefore unlikely to back down now. Before we move on, do you not find it at all strange that the US media, usually extremely sensitive to anti-semitism, has given the McCain and Nuland support of the Svoboda party a complete pass? I find it to be like the case of "the dog that did not bark", meaning the silence reveals a very fickle moral compass at the heart of the western press. The demonization of Putin as the bad guy here is near complete in western media. But there’s plenty of mischief all around and, as usual, the US finds itself with some pretty strange bedfellows as it seeks an outcome it likes.
UPDATE: Dutch fighter jets were scrambled after Russian bombers approached Dutch airspace; the Russian planes turned away
With both sides appearing to have entirely un-de-escalated and the truce deal now a thing of the past (besides a few hundred Dow points), the Russians are speaking up today - and are not happy:
RUSSIA IS EXTREMELY SURPRISED BY KIEV AND WASHINGTON'S "DISTORTED" INTERPRETATION OF AGREEMENT REACHED IN GENEVA LAST WEEK ON DE-ESCALATION OF UKRAINE CRISIS - FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS KIEV AND WASHINGTON "CLOSING THEIR EYES" TO PROVOCATIVE ACTIONS BY NATIONALIST FORCES IN UKRAINE
And, on the heels of Turchynov's official restart of the so-called anti-terrorist operation, Russia is calling on Ukraine to pull back military from Ukraine's southeast... and rattles its sabre by undertaking a military exercise on the border.
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.
These Six Euroarea Countries Are In Outright Deflation As Eurozone Inflation Slides To Four Year LowsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2014 11:47 -0400
It would appear that 1.39 EURUSD is the line in the sand for Mario Draghi. As pressures build on European competitiveness, Draghi appears to have finally got sick of China buying EURs to diversify its FX reserves away from USDs. This time "whatever it takes" is to drag the EUR lower - on the back of suggestions that OMT 2.0 (new measures - double the effectiveness and just as non-existent) and guarding against deflation (not worried about inflation). The jawbone is working for now as EUR breaks down through 1.39.
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
The Russian occupation of Crimea has raised concerns about the European Union’s dependence on its eastern neighbor for natural gas. The EU gets about 34% of its natural gas imports from Russia, a large portion of which transits Ukraine through a web of pipelines. For Eastern Europe, that dependence is much greater. In the brutally cold winter of 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe allegedly over a pricing dispute with Ukraine. However, it was also a lesson to Western Europe on its dependence on Russia for energy. The economic damage of energy supply disruptions cuts both ways. Putin likes to play the role of bully, but Russia is not exactly in a strong position in terms of using energy as a political weapon. Whether or not the Ukraine crisis deepens, it is unlikely that Moscow would intentionally turn off the taps for any prolonged period of time.