Treasury Department

White House Damage Control Script Jeopardized By New Disclosures

It has been a tough weekend for the President. First, the CEO of the Associated Press states the government's seizure of AP phone records was "so broad and so secret," among other factors, "that it was an unconstitutional act," adding that it had already had a chilling effect on newsgathering and press freedom. Add to that James Goodale's comments (the leading force behind the release of the Pentagon Papers and first amendment lawyer), that President Obama is "worse for press freedom than Nixon" and things are not going well. But, the problems did not stop there as the Wall Street Journal reports that while President Obama claims not to have been made aware of the IRS indiscretions until May 10th it seems the White House's chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the IRS likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups. The President's response so far is that "we’re not going to participate in is a partisan fishing expedition."

President Obama Demands Justice For "Intolerable And Inexcusable" IRS Behavior

We can picture the scene of abject horror at the revelations the President read about the actions undertaken by what must surely have been a rogue element in the IRS. However, as the AP (ironically) reports, Obama believes some IRS employees failed to apply the law fairly and impartially. The blame, it would seem, is being laid at "lax managers'" feet for allowing this practice to continue for 18 months. Jack Lew has been asked to hold those renegades responsible and to ensure it never happens again - or else. Where's Fabrice Tourre when you need him?

Frontrunning: May 13

  • Hilsenrath: A Top Contender at the Fed Faces Test Over Easy Money (WSJ)
  • Yen drops further as G7 avoids criticizing Japan (Reuters)
  • Markets missed Flaherty’s clues on next Bank of Canada chief (G&M)
  • Republicans turn screws over Tea Party tax probes (FT)
  • Dual-track Libor replacement lined up (FT)
  • Risks to China recovery seen as factory output underwhelms (Reuters)
  • Barack Obama’s goal of universal healthcare could be set back significantly by Texas Governor Rick Perry (FT)
  • Gold Bears Pull $20.8 Billion as BlackRock Says Buy (BBG)
  • Mexico sets shelters as volcano shakes, spews ash (AP)
  • Europe Eases Corporate Tax Dodge as Worker Burdens Rise (BBG)
  • IPOs Set to Raise Most Cash Since Crisis (WSJ)
  • Melting Ice Opens Fight Over Sea Routes for Arctic Debate (BBG)
  • Top hedge funds bet on Greek banks (FT)
  • Icahn Asks Investors to Make Big Bet on a Debt-Laden Dell (BBG)

Fed, Treasury Investigating Bloomberg Client Surveillance

As reported on Friday, the most recent example of a breach in informational Chinese walls was confirmed at Bloomberg, where it was discovered that reporters have the same degree of client surveillance as workers on the API/terminal side. The reason why this is problematic is that since Bloomberg is a monopolist in the financial terminal industry, with such competitor attempts as Reuters' Eikon being massive failures, virtually every finance professional needs a terminal (even if the rate of sale of such terminals is slowing down as a result of the ongoing financial margin headaches). Which means that Bloomberg journos, an increasingly competitive service to the likes of Dow Jones, Reuters and AP, may have had an unfair advantage when it comes to tracking their "pray" - Bloomberg's own clients. And now, following the original Goldman complaint which Bloomberg said ended such informational commingling, it is the turn of the Treasury and the Fed (certainly very heave users of the BBG Trading terminal) to complain. What is left unsaid in all of this is the simple question of just why is it material information what the Fed, arguably an entity that at least in a normal world should not have any day to day trade interactions with financial markets, looked up on its trading terminal.

What Causes The Growing Wealth Gap In America?

A major issue in America today is the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the popular narrative is that the disparity is caused by capitalism run wild and only the firm hand of government can fix the problem. But what if this narrative has it backwards? What if the growing wealth disparity in America is actually caused by the government? Take Warren Buffet, a man often at the center of this debate, as not only is he a billionaire, but also a vocal advocate for higher income taxes on the rich. Many are aware of his acumen in making investments that have a “margin of safety” – or minimal downside – but few are aware of the greatest source of such safety for Mr. Buffet in recent years, the US Government.

Frontrunning: April 30

  • Euro-Area Unemployment Increases to Record 12.1% Amid Recession (BBG)
  • Fed faces calls for radical reform (FT) - Has Jamie Dimon approved of this message? No? Carry on then
  • CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law (BBG)
  • Ex-UBS Executive Convicted of Paid Sex With Underage Girl (BBG)
  • Six months after Sandy, New York fuel supply chain still vulnerable (Reuters)
  • Older, richer shoppers lead Japan’s surge in consumer spending (FT)
  • Sharp euro zone inflation fall, joblessness point to ECB rate cut (G&M)
  • Gold Rush From Dubai to Turkey Saps Supply as Premiums Jump (BBG)
  • Japan Industrial Output, Retail Sales Disappoint (MW)
  • Gunmen surround Libyan justice ministry (Reuters)
  • Insider-Trading Probe Trains Lens on Boards (WSJ)
  • Best Buy exits Europe (WSJ)
  • Banker Roommates Follow Zuckerberg Not Blankfein With IvyConnect (BBG)

 

TIC-TIC-TIC: The Ominous Warning In Foreigners' U.S. Bond Positions

As of later this month, we’ll receive the final picture on China’s U.S. bond sales over late 2011 and early 2012, and the reaction isn’t likely to be much different than it was last year. But, we argue that there’s actually quite a lot to see. Namely, there’s a brand new reason to be concerned about America’s access to foreign capital. In a nutshell, America needs foreigners to be both willing and able to buy its bonds. China is able but much less willing than it used to be. (Treasury data that isn’t shown here suggests its interest in U.S. securities recovered somewhat in late 2012, but remains far short of the levels of two years ago.) Other countries are willing but not nearly as able as China, notwithstanding the sharp increase in purchases in the recent period. And overall, the message in the preliminary TIC data is more worrisome than it may appear on the surface. Should the final report on April 30th confirm the message, consider it a warning of a potentially disastrous future decline in foreign purchases of U.S. debt.

Fed Releases Names Of Early FOMC Minutes Recipients: Include Employees Of ECB, Goldman, Barclays, JPM, Law And PE Firms

We will release the full list of named recipients once we get it, but here is what we now for now, via BBG and CNN:

  • EMPLOYEES AT GOLDMAN SACHS, BARCLAYS, JP MORGAN, CITI, NOMURA, UBS, HSBC RECEIVED FED MINUTES EARLY YESTERDAY
  • MOST OF THE BANK EMPLOYEES APPEAR TO WORK IN GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS (Lobbies)
  • ABA, SIFMA, SENATE STAFFERS RECEIVED FED MINUTES EARLY
  • FED NAMES 154 RECIPIENTS OF EARLY RELEASE OF FOMC MINUTES
  • FED MINUTES SENT EARLY TO BANKS, LAW FIRMS, PRIVATE EQUITY
  • FED EARLIER SAID RELEASE WENT MAINLY TO CONGRESS, TRADE GROUPS
  • NONE OF THE PEOPLE ON THE LIST ALERTED THE FED THAT THEY RECEIVED NONPUBLIC INFO A DAY EARLY

In other words: absolutely everyone who trades risk assets for a living.

Frontrunning: April 4

  • Helicopter QE will never be reversed (Evans-Pritchard)
  • Bank of Japan Launches Easing Campaign under new leadership (WSJ)
  • Draghi Considers Plan B as Sentiment Dims After Cyprus Fumble (BBG)
  • Spain threatened by resurgent credit crunch (FT)
  • U.S. Dials Back on Korean Show of Force (WSJ)
  • Gillard Urges Aussie Firms to Emulate German Deutschmark Success (BBG)
  • Bank watchdog warns on retail branches (FT)
  • Xi's Russia visit confirms continuity of ties (China Daily)
  • Portuguese Government Survives No-Confidence Vote (WSJ)
  • Mortgage rates set for fall, Bank of England survey shows (Telegraph)
  • Russia’s bank chief warns on economy (FT)
  • Fed member hints at summer slowing of QE3 (FT)

Thanks, World Reserve Currency, But No Thanks: Australia And China To Enable Direct Currency Convertibility

A month ago we pointed out that as a result of Australia's unprecedented reliance on China as a target export market, accounting for nearly 30% of all Australian exports (with the flipside being just as true, as Australia now is the fifth-biggest source of Chinese imports), the two countries may as well be joined at the hip. Over the weekend, Australia appears to have come to the same conclusion, with the Australian reporting that the land down under is set to say goodbye to the world's "reserve currency" in its trade dealings with the world's biggest marginal economic power, China, and will enable the direct convertibility of the Australian dollar into Chinese yuan, without US Dollar intermediation, in the process "slashing costs for thousands of business" and also confirming speculation that China is fully intent on, little by little, chipping away at the dollar's reserve currency status until one day it no longer is.

US Begins Regulating BitCoin, Will Apply "Money Laundering" Rules To Virtual Transactions

Last November, in an act of sheer monetary desperation, the ECB issued an exhaustive, and quite ridiculous, pamphlet titled "Virtual Currency Schemes" in which it mocked and warned about the "ponziness" of such electronic currencies as BitCoin. Why a central bank would stoop so "low" to even acknowledge what no "self-respecting" (sic) PhD-clad economist would even discuss, drunk and slurring, at cocktail parties, remains a mystery to this day. However, that it did so over fears the official artificial currency of the insolvent continent, the EUR, may be becoming even more "ponzi" than the BitCoins the ECB was warning about, was clear to everyone involved who saw right through the cheap propaganda attempt. Feel free to ask any Cypriot if they would now rather have their money in locked up Euros, or in "ponzi" yet freely transferable, unregulated BitCoins.  And while precious metals have been subject to price manipulation by the legacy establishment, even if ultimately the actual physical currency equivalent asset, its "value" naively expressed in some paper currency, may be in the possession of the beholder, to date no price suppression or regulation schemes of virtual currencies existed. At least until now: it appears that the ever-benevolent, and always knowing what is "in your best interest" Big Brother has decided to finally take a long, hard look at what is going on in the world of BitCoin... and promptly crush it.