Just when you thought the distractions in Russia, Malaysia, and Libya were enough to take the spotlight off domestic drama, Chris Christie's BridgeGate scandal bubbles back into the headlines. As WSJ reports, Manhattan federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey related to the business interests of its chairman, David Samson, people familiar with the matter said Monday. Samson, a close ally of Christie, is, according to sources, under investigation for potential conflicts between his private business interests and his actions as chairman of the sprawling bi-state authority, which oversees Hudson River crossings into New York City, airports, the PATH rail system and the World Trade Center complex.
Mere days ahead of Crimea's referendum to join Russia (or not) and following reports of shots fired between Russian and Ukrainian forces, the Ukraine Defense Ministry reports (via Facebook):
- *UKRAINE LIEUTENANT COLONEL DEFECTS TO RUSSIAN FORCES: MINISTRY
- *UKRAINE OFFICER IN CHARGE OF CRIMEA UNIT DEFECTS: UKR MINISTRY
- *OFFICER CONVINCES 'SEVERAL' SOLDIERS TO DEFECT: DEF MINISTRY
Lt. Colonel Sadovnyk is the officer reported as 'kidnapped' yesterday in Bakhchisarai. It would appear Crimea is annexing itself as this comes just one week after the head of Ukraine's Navy defected.
China's biggest blue-chip stock index - the CSI-300 - dropped over 3% overnight and fell to its lowest level since Feb 2009. Corporate bond and trust defaults (crushing confidence in credit markets), shadow-banking collateral unwinds (crushing commodity prices), and exports collapsing (crushing dreams of a global economic recovery) are all weighing on Chinese stocks. This comes, ironically as the US equity "market" celebrates the 5 year anniversary of the Mar 2009 lows and soars to new highs in the face of turmoil. There is, of course, another outlet for China's massive money-printing - that dwarfs the Fed's - its real estate market.. and that is the bubble that the PBOC is trying to tamp down.
"After digesting all the hyperbole and the pessimism, my biggest concern is not that Bitcoin will fail, but that it or one of its many virtual currency competitors will one day succeed."
Two months ago we noted the clashes between the Libyan government and the rebels over selling oil. It appears the rising threats are reaching a crescendo as AABAA reports the Libyan Navy has impounded a North Korean oil tanker trying to export oil from a rebel-held port of Es-Sider, and is on its way to Western Libya. Interestingly this comes just a day after the US issued a statement strongly condemning "illicitly obtained oil from Libya." We suspect Kim will not be a happy tyrant this evening and also note that the rebels deny the vessel is under government control.
If you travel around America you will see towns and landscapes every bit as desolate as a former Soviet republic. In fact, our towns look infinitely worse than the street-views of Ukraine’s population centers. Ours were built of glue and vinyl, with most of the work completed thirty years ago so that it’s all delaminating under a yellow-gray patina of auto emissions. Inside these miserable structures, American citizens with no prospects and no hope huddle around electric space heaters. They have no idea how they’re going to pay the bill for that come April. They already spent the money on tattoos and heroin.
You really can't make this stuff up:
- EVANS: FED NEEDS TO BE CLEAR RATES WILL BE LOW FOR LONG TIME (ok)
- EVANS SAYS 'WE NEED TO LET THE MARKET WORK' (umm, well...)
- EVANS SAYS FED WANTS TO SEE LOWER LONG-TERM INTEREST RATES (but... you just said)
- EVANS:HIGHER LONG-TERM RATES FOR RIGHT REASON IN 'OUR' INTEREST (wait, what?)
Did Charlie blow a fuse? Because he just said that the Fed will hold rates low, wants long-term rates low, but also wants to let the markets work, and wants inflation to raise long-term rates... Forward-guidance just lost another few points of credibility.
Whether or not institutional investors, read large speculators, decided to invest alongside Putin in the one trade that is most critical to the future prosperity and positive cash flow balance of Russia, namely keeping the price of Crude high, and rising, is unknown, however, as the following chart the net position in crude oil futures as of the week of March 4, just hit an all time high of $44.0 billion up from $42.4 billion the week prior, surpassing all prior peaks, and certainly any set during the summer of 2008 when oil was threatening to make a run on $150, and was set to hit $200 if one believes Goldman (which nobody does).
European sovereign bond spreads have not batted an eyelid during the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis... and why should they, Draghi will do "whatever it takes." Even HY credit in Europe is holding up - despite an ugly squeeze wider on Friday (chatter that positioning in very long credit). But with Europe's VIX above 20, the broad European stock index is now below pre-Putin levels. What is perhaps most stunning is that while investors have piled out of German, Swiss, and French stocks in the last few days, they have backed-up-the-truck in "new normal" safe-haven Portugal. The reason proferred by some - Portugal is further from Ukraine (and less dependent on Russia's gas) - which of course is the critical swing factor for an economy that remains crushed aside from trade with Germany.
That Ukraine "drill" may be coming at just the right time. Just out from Reuters:
- RUSSIAN TROOPS OPENED FIRE DURING TAKEOVER OF UKRAINIAN MILITARY POST IN CRIMEA, NO ONE WOUNDED -INTERFAX QUOTES UKRAINIAN BASE COMMANDER
And at the same time:
- RUSSIA'S PUTIN SAYS TOLD FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV TO INVITE U.S. COUNTERPART KERRY FOR MORE CONSULTATIONS ON UKRAINE
- RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV SAYS HAD INVITED KERRY TO RUSSIA TODAY, BUT KERRY SAID ON SATURDAY HE WOULD LIKE TO POSTPONE VISIT
No de-escalation yet. Any minute now though. The market said so.
One month ago, when we last looked at the incredible amount of Chinese new loan issuance, a topic which even the mainstream media is slowly starting to circle in on as the primary source of hot money flow creation in the world, we found the highest loan notional issued by the country's semi-sovereign banks since 2009, and the largest one-month ever monthly total in the largest aggregated, Total Social Financial, series, which rose by an unprecedented CNY2.6 trillion, or over $400 billion in one month! That was just before the tremors surrounding first the potential defaults of several Chinese shadow-banking Trusts, and certainly before the first official corporate bond default which took place last week. Overnight, the PBOC released its latest, February, loan data. As expected, it reveals something else entirely.
AUDJPY (and therefore US equities) is sliding this morning after the ubiquitous pre-open melt-up providing a green open for retail investors to believe in. Notably, from the close before Putin's press conference, the Nasdaq is underperforming all major indices (and Trannies soaring) but this morning has seen almost one-way traffic since the open. Treasuries are unch today as are precious metals (recovering from early losses) and the USD is modestly higher driven by AUD and GBP weakness.
The Turkish Lira is tumbling this morning (+150pips at 2.22); rapidly devaluing back towards pre-emergency-rate-hike levels and Turkish bond yields have surged back to levels seen in mid-2009. The driver appears to be the release of several political prisoners, suggesting the President is starting to lose control and given that 'political stability' is the key factor for many of these EM debt markets. The government, however, remains adamant that an "operation" by some institutional holders of lira bonds to "threaten" Turkey's economy started after the probe into government corruption began in mid-December.