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White House Former Chief Of Staff Joins Hedge Fund Launched By Former JPM Prop Traders





"The amount of experience he has is ridiculous," says former JPM prop trader Galuti, adding "- in a positive way," as he explains why former Clinton Commerce secretary (and Obama chief of staff) Bill Daley has joined the small Swiss-based hedge fund. The revolving door of favors continues as Daley, who The FT reports will be based in Chicago and oversee US expansion (as well as provide macroeconomic and political advice), joins an ever-growing number of former Obama administration officials to have taken jobs in the financial sector.

 
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Durable Goods Beat On Surge In Boeing Orders, Capital Goods Orders Ahead Of Expectations





It is oddly appropriate that moments after we reported that capex at Caterpillar (and virtually every other company we have looked at in detail) tumbled by 50% year over year, that the Census Bureau released the latest Durable Goods report. In it we find that unlike previous months, when headline durable goods tumbled because of "harsh weather" in March it apparently not only did it not snow (although the New Homes Sales report may have something to say about that) but the weather so so balmy, that the headline print came in stronger than the expected 2.0%, printing at 2.6%, up from a downward revised 2.1%. The bulk of the margin however was due to Boeing, which reported some 163 new aircraft orders, compared to 74 in February.

 
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Initial Jobless Claims Jump Most In 4 Months, Continuing Claims At Best Since 2007





Initial jobless claims surged from 304k to 329k this week, the biggest weekly rise since mid-December. From exuberance at new cycle lows, we swing to the average of the last 8 months. This is the biggest miss to expectations in over 2 months. Continuing Claims dropped further to new cycle lows at 2.68 million (beating expectations) - its lowest since Dec 2007. So this is as good as it gets for continuing claims - America is back at its best!

 
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Why Caterpillar Just Blew Away Earnings Expectations





How did CAT succeed in boosting EPS even as its top line was flat at best, and when in reality this is likely just a deferred revenue timing gimmick considering global retail sales in Q1 have crashed compared to a year ago?The answer, which we will merely show without explaining as we have covered this topic time and time and time again, is shown in the chart below (hint: CapEx -50% offset by Buybacks rising by #DIV/0!).

 
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Gold Slammed To Fresh 10-Week Lows Below Key Technical Level





What else should you do as Russian and Ukraine forces begin a serious un-de-escalation... sell precious metals with both hands and feet of course. The strength in stocks (whether channel-stuffed or not) is enough to make investors believe that we don't need no stinking Fed and that economy must be doing great all on its own. Gold is back below $1275, which SocGen warns could lead to $1233.

 
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Frontrunning: April 24





  • Ukraine forces kill up to five rebels, Putin warns of consequences (Reuters)
  • Obama to Russia: More sanctions are 'teed up' (AP)
  • Vienna Banks Bemoan Russia Sanctions Testing Cold War Neutrality (BBG)
  • GE’s $57 Billion Cash Overseas Said to Fuel Alstom Deal (BBG)
  • GM posts lower first-quarter profit after recall costs (Reuters)
  • Apple Stock Split Removes Obstacle to Inclusion in Dow (BBG)
  • U.S. regulators to propose new net neutrality rules in May (Reuters)
 
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Futures Creep Toward All Time Highs Again





While events in Ukraine have once again broken out into lethal fighting, and in a surprise development the Chinese Yuan crossed the 6.25 line for the first time in two years threatening to accelerate the unwind of carry trades which have a 6.25-6.30 point of max pain, futures remain completely focused solely on the strong after-hours results from Apple and Facebook which have helped push Spoos overnight to near record levels once again. The biggest push was given to NASDAQ futures which are back up 1% with optimism for US tech returning with the material earnings beats from both Apple ($11.62 EPS vs Est $10.17 EPS) and Facebook ($0.34 Adj EPS vs $0.24 forecast). Shares in both companies rose in afterhours trading with Facebook up +5% and Apple up more than +7% (supported further by the announcement that the company was expanding its share buyback plan to $90bn from $60bn). Not even the Nikkei being down 1%, the SHCOMP down 0.5% and the USDJPY once again treading water could put a dent in the tech-driven euphoria, which somehow also managed to slam gold and silver to month lows.

 
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Flash Boys Has Been Dethroned At The Top Of The Amazon Bestseller List By This Book





The "developed world" has finally come full circle.

 
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Putin Says "Use Of Force In Ukraine Will Have Consequences" As Column Of Military Vehicles Seen Heading Toward Border





As expected, Russia has responded to the latest "anti-terrorist" escalation in Ukraine both diplomatically and militarily.

 
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This Is How Empires Collapse





This is how empires collapse: one complicit participant at a time.

 
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Groupthink Or Black Swan Rising? Not A Single 'Economist' Expects An Economic Downturn





This doesn't happen very often. Marketwatch reports that Jim Bianco points out in a recent market comment that the 67 economists taking part in a regular Bloomberg survey have a unanimous forecast regarding treasury bond yields: they will be higher 6 months from now... and a separate poll of economists recently showed that exactly zero expect the economy to contract. This is an astonishing degree of consensus thinking, but it perfectly mirrors the complacency we see in stock market sentiment and positioning data. The probability that such a unanimous view will turn out to be correct is traditionally extremely low. The economy is likely resting on a much weaker foundation than is generally believed. This is not least the result of massive monetary pumping and deficit spending, both of which tend to severely weaken the economy on a structural level, even though they can create a temporary illusion of 'growth'.

 
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Hoisington On The End Of The Fed's (Mythical) "Wealth Effect"





As we noted earlier, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has continuously been overly optimistic regarding its expectations for economic growth in the United States. A major reason for the FOMC’s overly optimistic forecast for economic growth and its incorrect view of the effectiveness of quantitative easing is the reliance on the so-called 'wealth effect'. However, "There may not be a wealth effect at all. If there is a wealth effect, it is very difficult to pin down..." Since the FOMC began quantitative easing in 2009, its balance sheet has increased more than $3 trillion. This increase may have boosted wealth, but the U.S. economy received no meaningful benefit. Furthermore, the FOMC has no idea what the ultimate outcome of such an increase will be or what a return to a ‘normal’ balance sheet might entail. Given all of this, we do not see any evidence for economic growth as robust at the FOMC predicts. Without a wealth effect, the stock market is not the “key player” in the economy, and no “virtuous circle” runs through the stock market.

 
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Thomas Piketty's "Sensational" New Book





This 42 year economist from French academe has written a hot new book which, as one review puts it, "exposed capitalism’s fatal flaw." One can see why the White House likes Piketty. He supports their narrative that government is the cure for inequality when in reality government has been the principal cause of growing inequality. The White House and IMF also love Piketty’s proposal, not only for high income taxes, but also for substantial wealth taxes. The IMF in particular has been beating a drum for wealth taxes as a way to restore government finances around the world and also reduce economic inequality. Expect to hear more and more about wealth taxes. Expect to hear that they will be a “one time” event that won’t be repeated, but that will actually help economic growth by reducing economic inequality. If the Obama White House, the IMF, and people like Piketty would just let the economy alone, it could recover. As it is, they keep inventing new ways to destroy it.

 
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60% Of China's Water "Too Polluted To Drink"





Forget bank-runs, the water run has begun in China. Residents of the western city of Lanzhou rushed to buy mineral water earlier this month after local tap water was found to contain excessive levels of the toxic chemical benzene. But that is the tip of what is a massive problem facing the Chinese people. Not only do they suffer choking smog day after day, but, as The Business Times reports, sixty per cent of underground water in China which is officially monitored is too polluted to drink directly, state media have reported, underlining the country's grave environmental problems.

 
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The Middle Class In Canada Is Now Doing Better Than The Middle Class In America





For most of Canada's existence, it has been regarded as the weak neighbor to the north by most Americans.  Well, that has changed dramatically over the past decade or so.  Back in the year 2000, middle class Canadians were earning much less than middle class Americans, but since then there has been a dramatic shift.  At this point, middle class Canadians are actually earning more than middle class Americans are.  The Canadian economy has been booming thanks to a rapidly growing oil industry, and meanwhile the U.S. middle class has been steadily shrinking.  If current trends continue, a whole bunch of other countries are going to start passing us too.  The era of the "great U.S. middle class" is rapidly coming to a bitter end.

 
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