Moments ago the "absorption" of Crimea into the Russian Federation was completed after Putin signed the final previously passed by parliament. And with that, in less than a month, the Crimean "question" has been answered. The only question is whether Putin will stop here or will the ease with which he just expanded the Russian political map leave him hungry for more. In other news, as part of the Western escalations against Russia, Bank of Rossia, the one bank exclusively identified in the sanctions list, announced that Visa and MasterCard have stopped, without notification, providing services for payment transactions for clients. These moves in turn promptly led to Putin announcing that he wants to open an account with the Bank Rossia.
The people sanctioned via the Russian foreign ministry:
- Caroline Atkinson
- Daniel Pfeiffer
- Benjamin Rhodes
- Harry Reed
- John Boehner
- Robert Menendez
- Mary Landrieu
- John McCain
- Daniel Coats
President Obama released his 2015 budget proposal this week...and as expected, it contained even more language about his MyRA initiative. As we’ve discussed so many times in the past, IRAs are an irresistible kitty for such a bankrupt government. The US government itself estimates that over $5 trillion is tucked away in American retirement accounts. They need that money. Your money. The US government is struggling to come up with new funding sources… and retirement accounts are by far the easiest target. Why? Because the majority of retirement accounts at trapped at big Wall Street banks, which are all de facto agents of the government. All the Treasury Department has to do is make a phone call. Yesterday’s budget announcement constitutes the next phase: automatic enrollment.
The Fed’s serial bubble machine has not only bestowed massive speculative windfalls on the 1%, but it has also fostered a noxious culture of plunder and entitlement in the gambling casinos of Wall Street. After each thundering sell-off during the bust phase, crony capitalist gamblers have been gifted with ill-gotten windfalls during the Fed’s subsequent maniacal money printing spree. In this context comes Bruce Berkowitz “scolding” and firing “salvos” at Washington from the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
The magical thinking highlighted in two charts, as WaPo reports; in his budget request, Obama projects public debt as a percentage of gross domestic project falling to 69% by 2024, while the CBO has it rising to 79% - a difference of 10 percentage points, or roughly $2.7 trillion. As WaPo notes, the likelihood of this scenario unfolding... zero.
Pop quiz: When really nasty criminals and dictators want to hide their illicit gains, which country do they go to? We’ll make this easy for you - multiple choice:
b) British Virgin Islands
c) Hong Kong
To summarize: in an act of complete disregard for the official diplomatic song and dance, both Israel and the US are now providing military support to Iran, which in turn is providing military support to Syria, which is also getting military support from Russia. And now, just to make things more interesting, the same labyrinth of "military support" is about to be unleashed in the Ukraine, whose western half is just as likely getting arms and military equipment (not to mention funding)from the West under the table, while Russia, whose main Black Sea port is in the Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, is arming the Eastern part of the Ukraine.
What can possibly go wrong?
China Sold Second-Largest Amount Ever Of US Treasurys In December: And Guess Who Comes To The RescueSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/18/2014 21:15 -0400
While we will have more to say about the disastrous December TIC data shortly, which was released early today, and which showed a dramatic plunge in foreign purchases of US securities in December - the month when the S&P soared to all time highs and when everyone was panicking about the 3% barrier in the 10 Year being breached and resulting in a selloff in Tsy paper - one thing stands out. The chart below shows holdings of Chinese Treasurys (pending revision of course, as the Treasury department is quite fond of ajdusting this data series with annual regularity): in a nutshell, Chinese Treasury holdings plunged by the most in years, after China offloaded some $48 billion in paper, bringing its total to only $1268.9 billion, down from $1316.7 billion, and back to a level last seen in March 2013! This was the second largest dump by China in history with the sole exception of December 2011.
- Frustrated by Karzai, U.S. Shifts Afghanistan Exit Plans (WSJ)
- Yellen Testimony Guide From Payrolls Report to Emerging Markets (BBG)
- Gold hits three-month high, shares up ahead of Yellen (Reuters)
- Tightfisted New Owners Put Heinz on Diet (WSJ)
- Senator describes "gruesome" bin Laden photos (Reuters)
- More reasons for the ongoing economic contraction: U.S. Winter Storm Seen Spreading Snow, Sleet Across South (BBG)
- Barclays Cuts Up to 12,000 Jobs as Quarterly Profit Falls (BBG)
- Boeing Considering 787-Size Medium-Range Jetliners (WSJ)
- AOL Chief Apologizes for ‘Distressed Babies’ Comment (BBG)
Just as we predicted it would happen, here it comes:
- OBAMACARE EMPLOYER MANDATE TO BE DELAYED FOR SOME COMPANIES
Specificaly, according Bloomberg, businesses with 50-99 workers have until 2016 before being penalized for not providing health-care coverage to full-time workers, according to final regulations released by Treasury.
Three times more Americans gave up on America in 2013 than in 2012. As The WSJ reports, last year saw a record number of US taxpayer expatriations. While "exceptionalism" and living the American Dream remain cornerstones of maintaining the US citizenry's view of the world, it seems everything from tax-code changes to spying drove 2,999 people to hand in their passports last year, "above all, fear seems to be driving this increase."
While everyone focuses on the turmoiling in Emerging Markets, a good, old standby is back - the periodic "debt ceiling" IMAX tragicomedy. Recall that the debt limit, which has been suspended since October 17, is scheduled to be reinstated on February 8. At that time, the nation will be operating right at the debt limit, and the Treasury Department will use extraordinary measures to temporarily issue additional public debt to meet federal financial obligations as it always does during episodes of political posturing that without fail take place until the 11th hour, 59th minute, and 59th second. However, unlike last year when there was a 5 month interval between hitting the debt ceiling, and the day the Treasury's funds fully ran out - the infamous X Date - this time the emergency measures will only last a limited time. What this means when looking at a calendar, is that the Treasury may not have sufficient cash-on-hand to cover all obligations due as soon as February 28.
You didn't think the US could at first slowly, and then all of a sudden, expropriate retirement accounts and invest them in the "no risk, guaranteed return" MyRA Ponzi scheme introduced by Obama during the State of the Union address without lots of behavior-modifying indoctrination in the "friendly press" first now did you? Sure enough, here is the first major propaganda salvo, coming from none other than the US Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, which will be published tomorrow across the McClatchy media empire.
The 1,582-page (apparently bipartisan) omnibus spending bill announced last night adds up to a cool $1.1 trillion. As Bloomberg reports, lawmakers notes "not everyone will like everything in this bill," and we can see why. There is no IMF funding, nothing that "blocks Obamacare," the IRS gets a reprimand - barring them from targetng groups based on their ideological beliefs, preserves language that blocks Federal funding for abortions and spending any money to legalize marijuana. But, perhaps the most critical aspect of the bill is the NSA is required to give Congress number of phone records collected, reviewed during last 5 yrs, including estimate for records of U.S. citizens (among other things). Will that be one step too far for the administration?
It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence - as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter.  While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.
- First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
- Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
- Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?