Transparency

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Frontrunning: March 26





  • One-Ship Ukraine Navy Defies Russia to the End (WSJ)
  • Crimea-Induced Trading Surge Stokes Moscow Exchange Rally (BBG)
  • Moscow says Ukraine stops Russian crews disembarking in Kiev (Reuters)
  • New images show more than 100 objects that could be plane debris (Reuters)
  • Anger of Flight 370 Families Explodes in Beijing (BBG)
  • Murdoch Promotes Son Lachlan in Succession Plan for Empire (BBG)
  • Facebook to buy virtual reality goggles maker for $2 billion (Reuters)
  • Syrian Regime Exploits Rebel Despair (WSJ)
  • King Digital IPO price may not bode well for stock (Reuters)
  • Rothschild in Twitter Spat as Bakries Cut Ties With Miner (BBG)
 
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Venezuela Bolivar Devalues 89% in Start of New FX Market





Venezuela's exchange rate is a Gordian Knot of rules and regulations meant to baffle onlookers with bullshit and, we suspect, hide the hyperinflation from prying eyes just a little longer. Today's launch of SICAD II, a new currency market which allows the free-market to bid for USD (in Bolivars), appears to be an effort to provide liquidity to a black-market for dollars. SICAD II priced at 55 Bolivars today - an 88% devaluation from the official rate of 6.29.

 
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High Speed Click Fraud: Over One Third Of All Internet "Traffic" Is Fake





"When you bundle bots, clicks fraud, viewability and the lack of transparency [in automated ad buying], the total digital-media value equation is being questioned and totally challenged," warns one advertising group executive as the WSJ reports about 36% of all Web traffic is considered fake, the product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites. This means, simply put, that marketers, who are pouring billion of dollars into online advertising, are confronting an uncomfortable reality: rampant fraud... and the fraud is only going to get worse...

 
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Furious Chinese Demand Money Back As Housing Bubble Pops





Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned or, it seems, like a Chinese real estate speculator who is losing money. After four years of talking (and not doing much) about cooling the hot-money speculation that is the Chinese real-estate bubble (mirroring the US equity market bubble since stock-ownership is low in China), the WSJ reports that the people are restless as the PBOC actually takes actions - and prices are falling. With new project prices down over 20%, 'homeowners' exclaim "return our hard-earned money" and "this is very unfair" - who could have seen this coming... "We aren't speculators. We just want an explanation from the developer," said one 35-year-old home buyer, who said he had bought an apartment and gave his surname as Wu. "This is very unfair." Unfair indeed. How long before we hear they are "entitled" to a fair return on their housing (non) speculation investment? Alas for China's "non-speculators", as we reported last week in "The Music Just Ended: "Wealthy" Chinese Are Liquidating Offshore Luxury Homes In Scramble For Cash" the real anger is only just beginning.

 
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"Surely You Can't Be Serious", Mr. Chairwoman





 

I think we are now even more strongly in a good-news-is-bad-news (and vice-versa) world. If we start seeing some strong economic data come out over the next few weeks and months, then I think the market - particularly the bond market and emerging markets - could get pretty squirrelly. Not that US stocks would be immune from this. Remember, the modern day Goldilocks environment for stocks has nothing to do with a happy medium between growth and inflation, but everything to do with growth being weak enough to  keep an accommodative Fed in play. Strong growth data would augment a Common Knowledge structure that the Fed is on track to raise rates sooner and more rather than later and less, and that's no fun for anyone. Then again, if global growth data remains weak - and you really can't look at what's coming out of China, Europe, or Japan and think that the global growth story is anything but weak - that creates enough uncertainty about the Fed's path (not to mention the cover for political and economic Powers That Be to wage a full-scale media war to keep monetary policy in QE la-la land forever) to support the markets. Sounds a lot like Freedonia to me. Rufus T. Firefly for President?

 
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When Even Goldman Complains About HFT





For the past five years we have been complaining about the two-tiered, and broken, market resulting from the near-ubiquitous presence of HFT trading strategies, where fundamentals have been tossed into the trash, and where quote churning, packet stuffing and not to mention, momentum ignition, put on candid display just before market open today when the Emini was ramped in a vertical line straight up taking the S&P to new all time highs, have become the only trading strategies that matter. Why? Because algos were in a panic buying mode as other algos were in a panic buying mode, and so reflexively on. The SEC long ignored our complaints, even after the HFT-precipitated flash crash, which we had warned apriori would happen, in a market as broken and manipulated as the one the Fed and the algos have unleashed. This changed recently when NY AG Schneiderman finally decided to "look into things" following the release of Virtu's ridiculous prop trading profits when the firm, in its IPO prospectus, announced it had made money on 1327 of 1328 trading days. However, when even Goldman Sachs begins complaining about HFT, it may be time to fire all those 20-some year old math PhDs who devies your trading algorithms.

 
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How The Government Will Eliminate Fannie & Freddie (In One Simple Chart)





On Sunday, Senate lawmakers unveiled the 442-page plan that will eliminate the mortgage-finance giants; replacing them with a new system in which the government would continue to play a potentially significant role insuring U.S. home loans. The Johnson-Crapo bill would, as WSJ reports, construct an elaborate new platform by which a number of private-sector entities, together with a privately held but federally regulated utility, would replace key roles long played by Fannie and Freddie.

 
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Panopticon





Transparency has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with control, and the more “radical” the transparency the more effective the controlthe more willingly and completely we police ourselves in our own corporate or social Panopticons. This was Michel Foucault’s argument in his classic post-modern critique Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, which – just because it was written in an intentionally impenetrable post-modernist style, and just because Foucault himself was a self-righteous, preening academic bully as only a French public intellectual can be – doesn’t make it wrong. The human animal conforms when it observes and is observed by a crowd, at first for fear of discipline but ultimately because that discipline is internalized as belief and expectation.

 
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China Expands Defense Budget Over 12% To $132 Billion





The biggest Asia-Pacific defense story this week is China’s decision to increase its defense budget by 12.2 percent to about $132 billion for the next fiscal year. Notice that the figure is noticeably uncorrelated with China’s 7.7 percent actual growth rate (with a 7.5 percent target rate). The numbers are expected, of course, and send a clear signal across the region that China is taking its investments in military hardware seriously. Contrast the Chinese trend with the United States’ belt-tightening on defense spending. The United States and China are, of course, nowhere near to a convergence in defense spending.

 
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Bank Of England Finds No Evidence Of FX Market Collusion (But Suspends Employee)





"This extensive review of documents, e-mails and other records has to date found no evidence that Bank of England staff colluded in any way in manipulating the foreign exchange market or in sharing confidential client information,” the Bank of England said today in a statement. Yet, as Bloomberg reports, a staff member was suspended amid the probe of a widening rigging scandal though "no decision has been taken on disciplinary action." As far back as 2006, they show concerns over the FX "fixings" that are at the core of this collusion but are careful not to condone any form of market manipulation. Well that's that then - until the next whistleblower exposes them.

 
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Frontrunning: February 27





  • European Bonds Surge on Slowing German Inflation, Ukraine Tumult  (BBG)
  • Ukraine tensions hit shares (Reuters)
  • Debating Geithner’s Appearances in 2008 Transcripts  (Hilsenrath)
  • Tensions in Asia Stoke Rising Nationalism in Japan (WSJ)
  • GM Investigated Over Ignition Recall Linked to 13 Deaths (BBG)
  • Smartphone wars shift from gadgetry to price (Reuters)
  • Some Companies Alter the Bonus Playbook (WSJ)
  • London’s Subterranean Luxury Manors Lure New Breed of Lenders (BBG)
  • Japan No Country for Old Farmers as 7-Eleven Takes Plow (BBG)
  • Dream of U.S. Oil Independence Slams Against Shale Costs (BBG)
 
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Why Banks Are Doomed: Technology And Risk





The entire banking sector is based on two illusions: 1) Thanks to modern portfolio management, bank debt is now riskless; and 2) Technology only enhances banks' tools to skim profits; it does not undermine the fundamental role of banks. The global financial meltdown of 2008-09 definitively proved riskless bank debt is an illusion. It's not just that banks are no longer needed - they pose a needless and potentially catastrophic risk to the nation. To understand why, we need to understand the key characteristics of risk.

 
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