Based on media reports over the past few weeks, there are two clear front-runners in the competition to be named Ben Bernanke’s successor as Fed chairman. Current Vice Chair Janet Yellen sits in one corner, former Treasury Secretary and National Economic Council (NEC) Director Larry Summers in the other corner, and pundits are actively placing their bets. Yellen is "soft-spoken, even-tempered, 100% mainstream academic economist who boils the world down to simplistic concepts," so similarities between Bernanke and Yellen are far stronger than the differences. A hand off from one to the other would be about as eventful as a rainy day in Seattle. Compared to Yellen, Summers has a longer history as a heavyweight policymaker but as Charles Ferguson wrote, “rarely has one individual embodied so much of what is wrong with economics, with academe, and indeed with the American economy." And that’s what it seems to be coming down to: a choice between a yawn and a hiss. Why not appoint someone with a track record of getting things right, you ask? Well, that would require a culture of accountability in the White House. Does anyone remember when we last had that?
It seems that US investors has become so institutionalized in the new normal world of government bailouts and handouts that when the central planners make a decision that is not instantly accretive to the equity shareholders' bottom-line, the first instinct is to sue them. Following the conservatorship that was forced upon FNM/FRE in 2008, which required the companies to pay a quarterly dividend of 10% on the government's near-80% stake (and obviously implicitly benefited the tag-along bailout riders), the decision in 2012 to change the bailout terms to instead hand over most of their profits to the government (since they moved into profitability - thanks to a Fed-sponsored MBS market). This action "impaired shareholder value" according to Perry Capital - who, Reuters reports, is suing the government, noting "investors had every right to expect these rules to be followed." Indeed, just as the 'rules' have been followed in every bailout that has occurred since 2007.
The Financial Times has revealed that Italy is facing losses of €8 billion due to derivative contracts that were taken out in the 1990s and that were restructured during the Eurozone crisis.
The Government Actually DID Spy On the Bad Guys Before 9/11
The monthly TIC (foreign capital flows) data gets less respect than it should. Perhaps it is because it is two months delayed, or perhaps due to the Treasury Department labyrinth one has to cross in order to figure out what is going on. Either way, for those who do follow the data set, will know by now that in April, foreign investors, official and private, sold $54.5 billion. Why is this number of note? Because it is the biggest monthly sale of Treasurys by foreigners in the history of the data series. The TSY revulsion was somewhat offset by a jump in MBS purchases, which saw $23 billion in acquisitions, while corporate bonds were sold to the tune of $4.5 billion. Finally, looking at equities, foreigners were responsible for some $11.2 billion in US stock purchases. The great rotation may not be working domestically, but it seems to be finally impacting foreign investors.
Earlier this month, in an article for “Project Syndicate” famous American economist Nouriel Roubini joined the chorus of those who declare that the multi-year run up in the gold price was just an almighty bubble, that that bubble has now popped and that it will continue to deflate. Gold is now in a bear market, a multi-year bear market, and Roubini gives six reasons (he himself helpfully counts them down for us) for why gold is a bad investment. His arguments for a continued bear market in gold range from the indisputably accurate to the questionable and contradictory to the simply false and outright bizarre. But what is most worrying, and most disturbing, is Roubini’s pathetic attempt to label gold bugs political extremists. It is evident from Roubini’s essay that he not only considers the gold bugs to be wrong and foolish, they also annoy him profoundly. They anger him. Why? – Because he thinks they also have a “political agenda”. Gold bugs are destructive. They are misguided and even dangerous people.
Over the weekend we pointed out one of the more disturbing facets of the Snowden espionage affair: the covert, if massive (and very lucrative) symbiosis between private companies, who have explicitly opened up all private client data contrary to privacy disclosures, and a secretly uber-inquisitive government. We asked: "The reality is that while the NSA, which is a public entity through and through, is allowed and expected to do whatever its superiors tell it (i.e., the White House), how does one justify the complete betrayal of their customers by private corporations such as Verizon and AT&T? This may be the most insidious and toxic symbiosis between the public and private sector in the recent past." But while the quid was finally made public (if known by many long ago), the quo wasn't quite clear. It now is - the answer, as as always, is money. And not just any money, but in this specific case taxpayer money paid to either Google or Amazon by none other than the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA for short. Lots of it.
Are Emergency Plans Meant Only for Nuclear War the Real Justification for Spying?
Between Fairholme's back-up-the-truck in GSE Preferreds (demanding his fair share of the dividend), the crazy oscillations in the common stock of FNMA, and the ongoing debacle of what to with the government's implicit ownership of the US mortgage business, tonight's news from Bloomberg - that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is putting the final touches on a plan to liquidate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FMCC) and replace them with a government reinsurer of mortgage securities behind private capital - is hardly surprising. Details are few and far between except to note that the proposed legislation, which could be introduced this month, would require private financiers to take a first-loss position. The new entity, to be named the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp (or FEDMAGIC), would seek private financing to continue existing efforts to help small lenders issue securities. The 'old entity' - where existing equity and debtholders would seemingly reside would contain the existing MBS portfolio and be put in run-down mode. The following from BofAML provides a possible primer and pitfalls (we think the endgame is very unlikely to be positive for holders of the capital structure below subordinated debt) of this approach.
There are countless examples of rampant criminality and corruption as well as blatant evidence of a two-tier system of justice in America today. Too many to note or write about, but in this case we want to focus on this concept of “money laundering” in light of the recent shutdown of Liberty Reserve. The crackdown on Liberty Reserve has nothing to do with “money laundering.” It’s about a cartel of “too big to jail” banks and the fraud financial system they operate eliminating any players that try to encroach on their turf. That isn’t capitalism, or socialism and it certainly isn’t anything close to freedom. It is a parasitic, oligarch created feudalistic structure that must be done away with. We often hear people say “we never learn from our mistakes.” Incorrect. People learn from their mistakes when there are consequences to their actions. Of course criminals don’t learn from their mistakes when there are no serious consequences to their crimes.
In the 1940s, the Fed adopted pegging operations to protect the financial system against rising interest rates and to ensure the smooth financing of the war effort. In effect, the Fed became part of the Treasury’s debt management team; as the budget deficit hit 25% of GDP in WW2, it capped 1Y notes at 87.5bps and 30Y bonds at 2.5%. From the massive bond holdings of its domestic banks to its exploding public debt, Japan today faces a situation very similar to the US in the 1940s. When the long-term rate climbs above 2%, the BoJ will probably adopt outright measures to underpin JGB prices to prevent turmoil in the financial system and a fiscal crisis - and just as Kyle Bass noted yesterday, they are going to need a bigger boat as direct financial repression in Japan is unavoidable.
...understand the national threat that is our fragmented and perverted equity market microstructure that is driven by such esoteric order-types such a Post No Preference Blind Limit Order created through the buddy system of exchange/order volume producer.
White House Explains: Obama Didn't Know What He Knew When Everyone Else Knew What He Should Have KnownSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2013 17:04 -0500
Here is The Hill with the White House's official explanation for what happened: "White House officials were notified of a Treasury Department inspector general report on the IRS but elected not to tell President Obama about it." In other words, neither the IRS was not aware of what is going on (recall the countless "I don't knows" and "I don't recalls") and apparently, neither was the president. And in fact, it was someone else's executive duty to make the decision what the chief executive of the nation is and isn't allowed to know.
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."
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?