"Why do we consider banks to be like holy churches?" is the rhetorical question that Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimson asks (and answers) in this truly epic three minutes of truthiness from the farce that is the World Economic Forum in Davos. Amid a week of back-slapping and self-congratulatory party-outdoing, as John Aziz notes, the Icelandic President explains why his nation is growing strongly, why unemployment is negligible, and how they moved from the world's poster-child for banking crisis 5 years ago to a thriving nation once again. Simply put, he says, "we didn't follow the prevailing orthodoxies of the last 30 years in the Western world." There are lessons here for everyone - as Grimson explains the process of creative destruction that remains much needed in Western economies - though we suspect his holographic pass for next year's Swiss fun will be reneged...
As we recently noted, the US Macro picture is considerably less sanguine than every talking head would have you believe. Not only are earnings for Q4 coming in notably weak, but the top-down macro picture is its worst in almost five months - and turned negative this week. Of course, the fact that our 'market' is dislocated from any sense of reality will come as no surprise to anyone; but, the chart below provides some, perhaps useful, insight into how to trade this disconnect (and its inevitable convergence). To add a little more impetus to this decision, the past two weeks have seen the US macro picture drop at its fastest rate since June 2011 - right before the last debt-ceiling debate, which was followed by a quite notable decline in stocks.
When the Republican party agreed last week to a push back on the debt ceiling discussion by three months to May 19, virtually without a fight in a move that may presage what is set to become a quarterly can kicking exercise on the US credit card max, some were curious what the quo to this particular quid may be. Earlier today on Meet the press Paul Ryan explained: the pound of spending flesh demanded by the GOP in exchange for caving on yet another key GOP hurdle is, as our readers have known for over two weeks, the Sequester, which is set to hit on March 1 and possibly the stop-gap government funding on March 27, after which various government agencies will start shutting down. Both programs are set to kick in automatically as incremental spending cuts, chopping away even more basis points from the 2013 US GDP, unless the GOP votes affirmatively to extend them in what would then be seen as a move that destroys any last trace of leverage and credibility that GOP may have had.
One of the first axioms of analysis is: "Garbage In, Garbage Out"! If your data is flawed, everything you do with it and the decisions stemming from it are flawed and dangerous to your financial health. Experienced analysts will often be found relentlessly checking, rechecking and validating their inputs and assumptions. If only our economists and the sell side analyst community were this diligent. But then it isn't their money. Only a year-end bonus for the 'extras' in their life is at risk. If economic practitioners were held to higher standards of accountability, they simply wouldn't accept the raft of fundamental data points that are the pillars of most economic assessment. Markets have become so dysfunctional with so much cheap money chasing so few real opportunities, that collateral values within the rehypothecation process are now in jeopardy and exposed to collateral contagion. The question is - what would things look like if the Fed wasn't engaged in Monetary Malpractice?
Anonymous Hacks Department Of Justice, Threatens To Release Secret DOJ Information, Warns "There Will Be Chaos"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/27/2013 13:19 -0400
Nearly two years ago, the hacktivist group Anonymous made waves around the fringes of financial media by announcing "Operation Empire State Rebelion" whose goal was to "engage in a relentless campaign of non-violent, peaceful, civil disobedience until Ben Bernanke steps down and the Primary Dealers within the Federal Reserve banking system be broken up and held accountable for rigging markets and destroying the global economy effective immediately." Needless to say nothing came out of it, and OperationESR was promptly forgotten as Anonymous had apparently met its match in the face of the Fed and the Primary Dealers. Now, in the aftermath of the Aaron Swartz suicide which has put the entire hacking community on high alert, Anonymous is back with yet another campaign, this one titled "Operation Last Resort", which was revealed to the public when Anonymous took control of the website for the the US Sentencing Commission for nearly one full day from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening, using it as a venue from which to distribute a massive 1.3 GB encrypted file titled Warhead-US-DOJ-LEA-2013.AES256 which may contain secret information sourced from the Department of Justice (hence the files contained are named after SCOTUS justices) and which Anonymous threatens to release unless massive reforms take place at the DOJ - reforms which will certainly never see the light of day, meaning Anonymous will have no choice but to make the contents of said file public.
The 2008 crash resulted from the bursting of the biggest bubble in financial history, a ‘credit super-cycle’ that spanned more than three decades. How did this happen? Some might draw comfort from the observation that bubbles are a long established aberration, arguing that the boom-and-bust cycle of recent years is nothing abnormal. Any such comfort would be misplaced, for two main reasons. First, the excesses of recent years have reached a scale which exceeds anything that has been experienced before. Second, and more disturbing still, the developments which led to the financial crisis of 2008 amounted to a process of sequential bubbles, a process in which the bursting of each bubble was followed by the immediate creation of another. Though the sequential nature of the pre-2008 process marks this as something that really is different, in order to put the 'credit cuper-cycle' in context, we must understand the vast folly of globalization, the undermining of official economic and fiscal data, and the fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamic which really drives the economy.
It was rumored that the 2008 crisis hit the Queen of England particularly hard – over USD 40 million in stock market losses. This experience must have jilted something, as when The Queen was visiting the esteemed London School of Economics she asked the professor a rather “un-queen” like question – why did economists fail to predict the biggest global recession since the Great Depression? Speaking on behalf of economists, investment managers and mutual fund sales people everywhere, the professor responded that “at every stage, someone was relying on somebody else and everyone thought they were doing the right thing.“ In short, no one could have predicted the 2008 crash. Meanwhile, in the parallel universe called America, Ben Bernanke January 2013 The Queen was selling everyone the exact same story. If the famed London School of Economics and the Chairman and full committee of the US Federal Reserve were unable to predict the crisis, what hope does the World have with predicting future crises? In actual truth, and despite claims by the US Federal Reserve and the London School of Economics, many people accurately predicted the collapse of the US housing market and the subsequent collapse of the stock market. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Accepting, understanding, and embracing the fact that today there are plenty of investment professionals who are willing to view the World objectively should be comforting.
This past week, America's premier financial comedy channel, which lately specializes in such "epic financial journalism" as the real billionaire hedge husbands of New York (because sagging Nielsen ratings are always a direct corollary of central market planning) wasted no time in advising its few remaining viewers that the market, which soared past 1,500, has now regained levels last seen before the start of the recession in December 2007. Sadly, this is the only thing that has been regained. Below we present some things that have not been regained since the last time the S&P 500 was at 1500.
The economy as we know it is facing a lethal confluence of four critical factors - the fall-out from the biggest debt bubble in history; a disastrous experiment with globalisation; the massaging of data to the point where economic trends are obscured; and, most important of all, the approach of an energy-returns cliff-edge. Through technology, through culture and through economic and political change, society is more short-term in nature now than at any time in recorded history. This acceleration towards ever-greater immediacy has blinded society to a series of fundamental economic trends which, if not anticipated and tackled well in advance, could have devastating effects. The relentless shortening of media, social and political horizons has resulted in the establishment of self-destructive economic patterns which now threaten to undermine economic viability.
The past and present bailouts of each and every bank (and 'important' industry) will, one day, be seen as a generational offense is how MEP Daniel Hannan begins this thoroughly British demolition of the three critical myths surrounding the crisis, that despite market optics, we are still living through. From the idea that capitalism has failed (it has not in his view, it has been ravaged by political pandering), to the crisis being caused by lack of regulation, and that greed is the single-driver of the mess that we remain in; Hannan suggests in a brief but extremely eloquent debate that there is a world of difference between being pro business and pro market as he destroys any semblance of credibility that the political (and elite) class has echoing a young Ron Paul in his thoroughly libertarian free-market sensibilities.
How many European Union officials does it take to change a light bulb?
None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its condition is improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are an illusional spin from the American media. Illuminating European rooms is hard work. That light bulb has served honorably, and any commentary not approved by the EU undermines the lighting effort. From the 'obvious 'encouragement' given to Europe's banks to pay back exceptionally cheap LTRO loans early to the world's addiction for freshly printed money and propaganda.The world seems devoid of politicians that sensibly lead though they have been quite adept at spending past what can be afforded. The worlds’ central banks have been left to pick up the bills.
James Turk: "My guess is that 2013 and 2014 are going to be big up year for the precious metals, but we still have to contend with the central planners and the various government policies, which have been actively trying to keep the gold and silver prices from reaching fair value. The central planners are losing the war. They may win an occasional battle or two, but they’re losing the war, and eventually gold and silver are going to go higher.... I can’t say that trust between central banks is waning, but you have to recognize that there are two categories of central banks: There are central banks that are in the U.S. circle of control and dominance, and then there are central banks outside the circle of U.S. control and dominance. The ones that are outside of the U.S. control and dominance are accumulating physical gold. The ones within the U.S. control tend not to do that, although it’s interesting that Germany, Netherlands, and now Austria, too, are talking about bringing their gold back."
Geithner's Legacy: The "0.2%" Hold $7.8 Trillion, Or 69% Of All Assets; And $212 Trillion Of Derivative LiabilitiesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/26/2013 14:51 -0400
As of this morning Tim Geithner is no longer Treasury Secretary. And while Tim Geithner's reign of clueless pandering to the banks has left the US will absolutely disastrous consequences, an outcome that will become clear in time, the most ruinous of his policies is making the banks which were too big to fail to begin with, so big they can neither fail nor be sued, as the recent fiasco surrounding the exit of Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer showed. Just how big are these banks? Dallas Fed's Disk Fisher explains: 'As the most recent weekly H.8 statement shows, there was $11.25 trillion in total assets at domestically chartered commercial banks. Which means that just 12 banks now control some $7.76 trillion."
Italian Scandal Widens As Italy's Third Largest Bank Set To Get Third Bailout In 3 Years; Draghi, Monti ImplicatedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/26/2013 13:09 -0400
While little has been said in the mainstream western press about the ongoing fiasco surrounding Siena's Banca Monte dei Pasci, Italy's third largest bank and the world's oldest which may get its third bailout in three years - or even be nationalized - as soon as today, for fears that it may break the thin veneer of "recovery" in the European financial system, the situation on the ground in Italy is getting more serious by the minute, and will have implications on both next month's general election, on Mario Monti, on Silvio Berlusconi, on frontrunner for the Prime Minister post Pier Luigi Bersani, and reach as far up as the head of the ECB - Mario Draghi.
Sure, the retail "investors" are coming back into the "markets"... They are coming back in shifts. And just so they know what to expect, here is what happened to Apple stock in the last second of regular trading today, courtesy of Nanex. Unlike traditional flash crashes where the trade is an HFT error, or a few shares traded through the entire bid or offer stack, in this case it looks like a very premeditated unloading of some 800K shares (some $350 million worth) of AAPL in the last second, with the full knowledge it was shake the market. Why anyone would want (or wait until the very last second) to do that, while covering the offsetting ES short in the pair trade, to ramp the market into the close, is anyone's guess.