Wall Street Journal

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Frontrunning: April 7





  • The counter-HFT-attack begins with first target - dark pools: Dark markets may be more harmful than high-frequency trading (Reuters)
  • Malaysia Jet Team Hears Pings Consistent With Black Box (BBG)
  • At Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs From Robots (BBG)
  • ‘Reverse Auctions’ Draw Scrutiny (NYT)
  • Death knell sounds for Brazil’s economic strategy (FT)
  • Technology Traders Head for the Exit as Put Trades Surge (BBG)
  • NSA Uses Corporate News to Spread Propaganda and Silence Dissent (TruthDig)
  • Holcim, Lafarge agree to merger to create cement giant (Reuters)
  • Any minute now: Investment Jump Seen From Macy’s to Berkshire After 2013 Fizzle (BBG)
  • India kicks off world's biggest election in remote northeast (Reuters)
 
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Zillow Study Shows 1 In 3 Homes Are Unaffordable, But Vacation-Home Sales Are Soaring





In a further demonstration of the socially destructive and ever widening gap between the haves and have nots, we see that the affluent are buying second homes at an ever increasing clip (up 30% last year), while first home buyers recede into the abyss as private equity and Chinese buyers make purchasing a home unaffordable for the average American. Specifically, a recent study from Zillow showed that more than half the homes in seven major American cities are unaffordable based on historical standards.

 
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George Soros Pushes For Pot Legalization





It seems two states is not enough for billionaire investor George Soros (who is ranked the 9th most influential marijuane user in the US). As The Washington Times' Kelly Riddell reports, advocacy groups are leading the campaign to crush marijuana prohibition from coast-to-coast, and 83-year-old Soros is helping line the pockets of those making that push. "Through a network of nonprofit groups, Mr. Soros has spent at least $80 million on the legalization effort since 1994, when he diverted a portion of his foundation’s funds to organizations exploring alternative drug policies, according to tax filings," Riddell notes, adding that the Soros-affiliated Foundation to Promote an Open Society donates roughly $4 million annually to the Drug Policy Alliance.

 
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BATS Admits CEO Lied About HFT On CNBC





It is now quite clear why BATS CEO Bill O'Brien was so agitated during the Tuesday's screamfest on CNBC. As The Wall Street Journal's Scott Patterson reports, under pressure from the NYAG, BATS has hurriedly issued a statement correcting the CEO's false comments during the exchange with IEX's Brad Katsuyama. After Katsuyama said "you wanna do this, let's do this" clearly giving him an out, O'Brien stated that BATS priced its trades off 'high-speed' data feeds when in fact they price their trades off a much slower feed (and therefore 'enable' the exact HFT-front-running that is in question).

 
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The Chinese Are Buying Large Chunks Of Land Across America (And Zillow Is Now Enabling It)





Has the United States ever experienced a time when a foreign nation has attempted to buy up so much of our land all at once? As Michael Snyder details below, it appears the Chinese are on a real estate buying spree all over America as they are now the dominat 'buyers' of investment green cards. This is occurring as private equity buyers and hedge funds exit the buy-to-rent business en masse and are, as Mike Krieger explains, are desperate to pitch American property to anyone willing to keep Housing Bubble 2.0 inflated... it seems Zillow is more than happy to enable that, "Zillow agreed to make its U.S. property listings available to Chinese consumers through a partnership with a Beijing-based website."

 
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"HFT Is A Growing Cancer" Says Mom And Pop's Favorite Retail Broker Charles Schwab





"High-frequency traders are gaming the system, reaping billions in the process and undermining investor confidence in the fairness of the markets. It’s a growing cancer and needs to be addressed.  If confidence erodes further, the fuel of our free-enterprise system, capital formation, is at risk. We can’t allow that to happen. For sure, we still believe investing in equities is a primary path to long-term wealth creation, and we believe in the long-term structural integrity of the markets to deliver that over time for individual investors, which is all the more reason to be vigilant in removing anything that creates unfair advantage or undermines investor confidence... High-frequency trading isn’t providing more efficient, liquid markets; it is a technological arms race designed to pick the pockets of legitimate market participants. That flies in the face of our markets’ founding principles.

 
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Guest Post: The Absurdity Of US Natural Gas Exports





Quiz - 1. How much natural gas is the United States currently extracting?

(a) Barely enough to meet its own needs
(b) Enough to allow lots of exports
(c) Enough to allow a bit of exports
(d) The United States is a natural gas importer

 
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Read Michael Lewis' Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt: An Adaptation





The stock market really was rigged... “It’s 2009,” Katsuyama says. “This had been happening to me for almost two years. There’s no way I’m the first guy to have figured this out. So what happened to everyone else?” The question seemed to answer itself: Anyone who understood the problem was making money off it...

 
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Hollow Men, Hollow Markets, Hollow World





The question is not “Is it a Hollow World?”. If you’re reading Epsilon Theory I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to spend a lot of words convincing you of that fact. Nor is the question “How do we fix the Hollow World?”. Or at least that’s not my question. Sorry, but being a revolutionary is a young man’s game, and the pay is really bad. More seriously, I don’t think it’s possible to organize mass society in a non-hollow fashion without doing something about the “mass” part. So given that we are stuck in the world as it is, my question is “How do we adapt to a Hollow World?”. As Conrad wrote, the question is not how to get cured, but how to live. How do we make our way through the battlefield of modern economics and politics, a world that we know is hollow and false in so many important ways, without losing our minds and ending up in a metaphorical jungle muttering “the horror, the horror” to ourselves?

 
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Imported Deflation and a New Currency War?





Japan is not exporting deflation to the euro area.  Here's why.  And the dollar's role a the major reserve asset remains quite stable despite the perennial forecasts of its demise. 

 
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Office Of Outgoing JPMorgan Asia CEO Raided By Hong Kong's Commission Against Corruption





It just hasn't been JPMorgan's year. Or several years for that matter. The bank which has been on a steady downward slope when it comes to paying billions in quarterly "non-recurring, one-time" legal settlements and charges, and for which engaging in criminal behavior which is neither admitted nor denied, yet which has cost JPM nearly $30 billion in the past several years, has just had its latest "wristslapping" incident, one which involves none other than the recently departed CEO of JPM Asia, Fang Fang, whose office was raided on March 26 by Hong Kong's anti-corruption agency amid a U.S. investigation into the bank’s hiring practices as reported by Bloomberg.

 
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Meanwhile, Tens Of Thousands Of Russian Troops Continue Piling Up At Ukraine's Borders - The Full Update





With Russia continuing to diplomatically assure the world that no invasion is pending, and rather comically asking for President Obama's benevolent aid in policing the treatment of Russians in non-Crimean Ukraine; it seems from all actions (as opposed to words) that Putin is pressing ahead with building his forces (up to 60,000) around the divided nation and as Dmitry Tymchuk notes, planning for invasion from Chernihiv to Donetsk. Internal politics continue to roil as Klitschko pulls out of the Presidential election (just as the US wanted) but we suspect the Ukrainians will be confused to discover their USA saviors have been spying on the future Premier Tymoshenko for years. The people of Ukraine are likely a little upset at We are sure Kerry and Lavrov will have plenty to discuss tomorrow in Paris and perhaps the following map will be a good starting point.

 
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China & Germany Sign Yuan-Settlement Pact And Obama Heads To Saudi Arabia





Lots of moves appear to be afoot on the macro front at the moment. Today's deal between the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and Germany’s Bundesbank seems quite significant given the importance of Germany within the global economy generally and the E.U. specifically. And with that in mind, let’s not forget that Obama is currently in Saudi Arabia trying to restore ties with the Medieival Kingdom, i.e., he is trying to figure out a way to arm al-Qaeda in Syria without the American public finding out about it. It appears that becoming entrenched in a Syrian civil war is still very much on the table...  The months ahead should be very interesting to say the least.

 
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West Desperate To Break Russia-China Axis, But "Money Talks" Straight To Putin





Among other things, there is one major obstacle to the West's "costs" imposition on Vladimir Putin and his Russian economy - China. So far, a Xi Jinping has described, China has been a "sleeping lion" but today "the lion is awake" and with the Chinese President's first trip to Europe, as WSJ reports, western leaders are hoping to enlist his support over the crisis in Ukraine. However, privately, European diplomats concede that China's relationship with Russia remains solid and that was evidenced by their most recent investment in Russia's $10bn state-backed Direct Investment Fund (which just happens to be run by a former Goldman Sachs banker. It seems "money talks" once again and China will likely continue to play the middle ground.

 
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GM Halts Sales Of Chevy Cruze; Gives No Reason





And the hits just keep on coming for new CEO Mary Barra. By now she must be suspecting Dan Akerson threw her under the bus as he left the sinking ship. On the heels of all-time record high inventories (over-built amid a frenzy of mal-investment last year), massive recalls (amid ignition switch problems linked to 12 deaths), and potential bankruptcy fraud, GM announced today that it has instructed dealers to stop selling 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes but gave no reason for the halt.

 
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