- EU Court: Google Must Remove Certain Links on Request (WSJ), people have right to be forgotten on Internet (Reuters)
- Harsh weather: German Investor Confidence Drops for Fifth Straight Month (BBG)
- More harsh weather: China Slowdown Deepens (BBG)
- Harsh weather as far as the eye can see: China’s New Credit Declines (BBG)
- "Alien" artist, surrealist H.R. Giger dies aged 74 (Reuters)
- Pfizer urges AstraZeneca to talk as UK lawmakers slam offer (Reuters)
- Property sector slowdown adds to China fears (FT)
- Russia says EU sanctions will hurt Ukraine peace efforts (Reuters)
- U.S. Considers Relaxing Crude Oil Export Restrictions (WSJ)
- U.S. set to adopt Volcker rule to curb bank trading gambles (Reuters) After vote, lawsuits likely next hurdle for Volcker rule (Reuters)
- U.S. Congress budget talks could produce Tuesday deal, aides say (Reuters)
- Wealthy Go Frugal This Holiday Amid Uneven U.S. Recovery (BBG)
- Tearful Thai PM urges protesters to take part in election (Reuters)
- Fed’s Bullard Sees Higher QE Taper Odds as Labor Market Improves (BBG)
- Coeure Says ECB Would Offer More LTROs Only When Banks Can Lend (BBG)
- Inside China's Super-Sterile Chicken Farms (WSJ)
- Mandela Service Rivals JFK’s as Leaders Meet in South Africa (BBG)
- China data defy slowdown forecasts (FT), and of course the word is "data"
- Cold, ice grip U.S. as more snow to blanket East (Reuters)
As many expected:
- *ITALY SENATE REJECTS MOTIONS TO ALLOW BERLUSCONI TO KEEP SEAT
- *FORMER ITALIAN PREMIER BERLUSCONI OUSTED FROM SENATE
Of course, Sylvio is not happy:
- *BERLUSCONI SAYS HIS OUSTING WON'T LEAD HIM TO RETIRE TO CONVENT
- *BERLUSCONI SAYS TODAY IS 'BITTER DAY' FOR DEMOCRACY
Milan prosecutors ordered the seizure of a substantial batch of computer and telephone equipment from Apple's Italian HQ as part of an investigation into allegations of a one billion euro tax fraud. As L'Espresso reports, the allegations surround false representation of accounting records (EUR206mm in 2010 and EUR853mm in 2011) which were recorded by the Irish entity 'Apple Sales International' but, Italian authorities suggest were services rendered for business carried out in Italy. Beyond this investigation, it seems the growing tax divergences (and loopholes) that we have previously discussed (such as the Double Irish) are becoming a key focus for an increasingly cash-strapped European periphery (among others).
Ah Silvio, never change or, if possible, resign: the comedic world of Italian politics will never be the same without you. The latest soundbite by the billionaire with a penchant for easy, underage women comes by way of an interview conducted by Italian television journalist Bruno Vespa for his latest book, and summarized by Reuters. To wit: "Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said his children feel persecuted just as Jewish families did in Nazi Germany because he is being hounded by the country's magistrates who want to eliminate him politically."
Following last week's last two day panic buying driven not by data (since in the US it has been delayed until late October and November, and elsewhere in the world it is just getting worse) but by the catalyst that the US isn't going to default (yes, that's all that is needed to push the S&P to all time highs) and just hopes that the tapering - that horrifying prospect of the Fed reducing its monthly monetization by $15 billion from $85 to $70 billion in line with the decline in the US deficit - will be delayed until March or June 2014 because, you see, the Fed isn't sure how the economy is doing, it makes no sense to even comment on the market. Squeezes, momentum ignitions, rumors about what Messers Bernanke and Yellen had for breakfast, Goldman's 2015 S&P forecast of 2100: that's the lunacy that passes for market moving factors. News, and reality, have long since been put in the dust. Just keep an eye on flashing read headlines, and try to buy (remember: anyone caught selling by the NSA is guaranteed a lifetime of annual IRS audits) ahead of the algos. That's what Bernanke's centrally-planned "market" has devolved to.
The long-delayed vote has finally come:
- Italy Senate Panel Recommends Berlusconi Expulsion
- Italy Senate panel head Stefano speaks in Rome.
- Panel decision follows Berlusconi’s definitive conviction for tax fraud in August; the former premier has always denied any wrongdoing
So unless Sylvio has some other card up his sleeve, it may be a final goodbye for Italy's legendary ex-leader.
Moments ago, Italy's most popular politician flip-flopped on his threats from the past weekend to take down Italy's government, and after realizing he does not have enough support even in his own party to push for early elections and a vote of no confidence for prime minister Letta, Berlusconi announced his party will vote to support the government of the current Premier, a major turnabout that signals he was defeated in his efforts to bring down the government.
If there is one day the Fed's trading desk actually did want futures lower, if only for purely optical purposes and to at least suggest that the government, and not the Fed, is still in charge of the US, it is the day when the US government - for the first time in 17 years - has shut down. They certainly did not want the S&P to be up nearly 0.5% mere hours after Congress and the presidency confirmed to the world that in a world in which "the Chairman gets to work", a functioning government is completely irrelevant. Yet this is precisely what is going on. What is making matters worse is that on the other side of the world, Japan also finally announced the well-telegraphed sales tax increase to8%, offset by a JPY5 trillion yen "stimulus" which however Japan said, much to the Chagrin of Mrs. Watanabe and a 100 pip overnight plunge in the USDJPY, would be funded not with more new bond issuance (and thus without new "wealth effect" generating monetization). It is unclear just how it will be funded but since increasingly more global fiscal and monetary policy is based on science fiction we know better than to ask.
UPDATE: Reuters reports that 20 senators from Berlusconi's party are preparing to create new party if Berlusconi does not soften stance against PM Letta - EUR and Italian Bonds are ramping.
*AS MANY AS 20 BERLUSCONI SENATORS MAY LEAVE PDL: REUTERS
As Deutsche Bank notes below in the brief but complete summary of where we go next, the various scenarios that are possible, and market reactions, the actions represent the acceleration of an end to a very fragile environment. It seems, in Italy, Sentaors resign first - and ask questions later...
Following yesterday's unexpected (if not shocking) news that ministers from Berlusconi's PDL have resigned en masse in order to push for new elections, leading to the latest Italian government crisis (in a long and distinguished series), Italy's premier Letta and president Napolitano are scrambling to preserve some stability, and not only they but moments ago Ansa reported that the management and supervisory boards of Italian megabank Intesa are set to meet at 6 pm, as not even the most optimistic see an easy way out of the political dead end Italy has found itself in now.
Today, the Italian Senate will vote at 8:30 PM whether to formally expel the 76-year old former prime minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. Concurrently, the winner of three of the six Italian elections in the past 20 days will launch a delayed nationwide address on his political future. The contents of said address are unclear however, as Reuters reports, "political sources and local media said he would not use the address to torpedo the fragile left-right governing coalition of centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta - at least for now - despite weeks of threats to do so." Furthermore, as WSJ adds, citing a column in daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Marco Travaglio noted that Mr. Berlusconi came in third in the February vote but managed to pick the head of state, the prime minister and the government program. "Given all that, it would be crazy to trigger a crisis," observed Mr. Travaglio, a longtime critic of Mr. Berlusconi. That said, and as is well-known, the media magnate is highly unpredictable and in the past has made several versions of video announcements so he can choose one only at the last minute. However, no matter the content, what is most curious is that the vote, the Berlusconi expulsion vote and nationwide address, as well as the Bernanke press conference, which is also due at 2:30pm Eastern, will all coincide.
In August 2012, when isolating one of the various reasons for the latest housing bubble, we suggested that a primary catalyst for the price surge in the ultra-luxury housing segment and the seemingly endless supply of "all cash" buyers (standing at an unprecedented 60% of all buyers lately as reported by Goldman) is a very simple one: crime. Or rather, the use of US real estate as a means to launder illegal offshore-procured money. We also identified the one key permissive feature which allowed this: the National Association of Realtors' exemption from Anti-Money Laundering provisions. In other words, all a foreign oligarch - who may or may not have used chemical weapons in their past: all depends on how recently they took their picture with the Secretary of State - had to do to buy a $47 million Florida house, was to get the actual cash to the US. Well good thing there are private jets whose cargo is never checked. It appears that a year later this too hypothesis has been proven. Earlier today the Post reported that "U.S. authorities announced Tuesday that they are seeking forfeiture of pricey Manhattan real estate linked to a fraud they say was uncovered by a whistleblowing Russian lawyer before he died behind bars. A civil forfeiture complaint filed against the assets of a Cyprus-based real estate corporation and other holding companies alleges that some of the proceeds from the $230 million tax fraud in Russia were laundered through the purchase of four luxury condominiums located in a Wall Street doorman building and two commercial spaces in prime locations in midtown and Chelsea."
Sylvio Berlusconi is no stranger to being a catalyst for European crisis: in November 2011 it was his unwillingness to leave the PM post (and be replaced with a Goldman technocrat), that precipitated a bond crisis accented by the ECB's unwillingness to interject and buy Italian bonds until the career politician had left. Tomorrow, an Italian Senate committee is due to begin hearing arguments on whether to eject ex-PM Berlusconi from Parliament and on. The special Senate Elections and Immunities Committee will have its first hearing on Berlusconi’s expulsion from the Parliament and six-year ban on 9 September. It seems now less likely that a vote will already take place on 9 September. The decision of the commission will be followed by a vote of the whole Senate. According to Deutsche Bank, the duration of the process is unclear. Indeed, it could be lengthened by several months if the commission (or the parliament) asks for a ruling of the Constitutional Court. However, a worst case scenario could see the government fail, early elections being called, and a repeat of this February's political circus all over again, only this time with even less political capital, if such a thing ever existed in Italy.
Reading the financial press, one gets the impression there are only two sides to the austerity debate: pro-austerity and anti-austerity. In reality, we have three forms of austerity. There is the Keynesian-Krugman-Robert Reich form which promotes more government spending and higher taxes. There is the Angela Merkel form of less government spending and higher taxes, and there is the Austrian form of less spending and lower taxes. Of the three forms of austerity, only the third increases the size of the private sector relative to the public sector, frees up resources for private investment, and has actual evidence of success in boosting growth.