Uprisings in Africa and the Middle East last week trumpeted any and all global investment themes. The hearts and minds of peoples against regimes played out on a global scale. Crude ended the week up 9.1%. CBOE Volatility Index, VIX, rose 15%. Global equity bourses retreated a few percent with the U.S. outperforming by a marginal percent on QUALITY flight. In some ways there is a marriage of both global and domestic themes alike as the peoples yearn for representation and the embodiment of what government REPRESENTS for people. Or doesn’t represent. Played out on a minor scale, one eye this week was on Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and the battles of the hearts and minds of public and private employees alike or better quantified as the high profile and human debate of the efficient allocation of private tax dollars and the consequent rate of return of public service. To oversimplify, it seems like the relevant and searching question everywhere in nation(s) is, how effective does government allocate public and private resources and consequently represent its peoples? This is the looming topic in the United States this week as both sides of the Congressional isle try to avert a government shutdown as lawmakers have funded our domestic "obligations?" only through this Friday. I guess obligation is a relative term. Federal agencies are scrambling to figure out how to handle a shutdown of government. Hey, mail would continue but Federal Parks would be closed. There are many other obvious fiscal and market iterations to be learned as to any auxiliary impacts of how a shutdown or our budgetary largess will shut us down from our creditors.
When analyzing the Federal Reserve monetary expansions, pundits only assess economic issues like inflation, balance sheets, bubbles or public debt. Significant as they are, it will be very useful that all this smart people were added to the camp of those who want to “save the planet”. Let me to try pin down it.
JPMorgan Seeks To Buy 10% Stake In Twitter For $450 Million, As Dimon Tries To Copycat Goldman In Opening Tech Bubble Shadow Market To High Net Worth ClientsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/27/2011 21:18 -0400
The FT reports some disturbing news for lovers of free information everywhere: JP Morgan's Digital Growth Fund is rumored to be in talks to acquire 10% of Twitter for $450 million, or a $4.5 billion valuation (for a service which we have yet to get confirmation is generating any more than token revenue whatsoever). "It is not clear if the JPMorgan fund will make a direct investment or buy out existing investors and shareholders with Twitter’s approval. But the fund does not intend to buy shares on the secondary market, the people said. The deal has not closed." For those unfamiliar with the DGF, it is merely JPM's way to copycat Goldman into "allowing" its high net worth clients to put their money into the latest tech bubble frenzy. "JPMorgan’s Digital Growth Fund was established this month to give rich clients exposure to fast-growing private tech companies, and follows a similar effort by Goldman Sachs to invest in Facebook. The fund has raised $1.22bn to date, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But it plans to raise $1.3bn in total, and will have a maximum of 480 investors, say the people. JPMorgan expects to earn commission of at least $13m from the fund." And since none of these company are quite public, and all of them supposedly trade on a shadow secondary market, the frenzy for which bank can open up the tech bubble market to most high net worth investors, a race for now headed by Goldman with its Facebook investment, has certainly marked the tech top. One thing that is certain is that those who mostly enjoy using twitter as a free information conduit will now aggressively seek to find a replacement that is not backed, and thus at the mercy, of the Fed's favorite bank.
Do Plunging Tax Refunds And Declining Tax Withholdings Predict A Consumption Collapse And A Subpar Nonfarm Payroll Number?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/27/2011 21:03 -0400
Almost a year ago, Zero Hedge looked at the trend in US tax refunds, and we found that last year the government was doing everything in its power to accelerate the remittance of refunds to taxpayers. Back then we said that "one of the primary reasons why consumers may have exhibited an abnormal propensity to spend in January and most of February (at least according to government, if not Gallup, data), is the much greater individual tax refunding conducted by the Treasury/IRS this year compared to the prior year." But if accelerated tax refunds was the story in 2010, in 2011, at least so far in the year, it is precisely the opposite. In fact, to date the IRS has refunded nearly $20 billion less compared to 2010, and about $14 billion less than in 2009. With consumers suddenly having far less cash, does this mean that February and March are set to be major disappointments from a retail sales perspective, and any other vertical having to do with consumer "strength"?
The three events to watch this week are the global PMI’s, US payrolls and events in the Middle East. Goldman expects the China February PMI to be largely unchanged from January’s level. Regional factory surveys point to a strong ISM index for February. Nonfarm payrolls in February probably grew at their fastest rate since last April. Consensus is looking for a 190k NFP number, and a 9.1% unemployment rate. The dramatic events in the Middle East over the last few weeks will likely continue to impact global financial markets.
Looks like speculation that the Egyptian Central Bank's gold stash may have been just modestly plundered is starting to play out. According to Reuters. "Egypt has issued a ministerial decree
immediately banning the export of gold in all its forms, including
jewellery and ornaments, until June 30, the official news agency MENA
said on Sunday. "This decision, which comes in light of the
exceptional circumstances the country is passing through ..., is to
preserve the country's wealth until the situation stabilises," MENA
said. Egypt's currency has come under pressure after some of the
country's main sources of foreign currency, including tourism and
foreign investment, collapsed after the protests that ousted President
Hosni Mubarak erupted on Jan. 25." Obviously, this "emergency" step would not be required if the E(gyptian)CB was still in full possession of its purported stash of the inedible metal. Whether the decline is due to alleged Mubarak sequestering of the shiny metal, or by other members of the former ruling regime is unclear, but one thing is certain: the WGC is long overdue in adjusting the Egyptian gold holdings from 75.6 tonnes to their real current value... far lower. As for Egyptian fiat: that is as freely exportable now as ever. If only anyone wanted it. But yes, somehow emerging markets are manipulating their currencies lower than fair value, the conventional wisdom claims.
Rate Of Spread Between GBP And JPY Spec Bets Cut In Half, And Other Commitment Of Trader ObservationsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/27/2011 14:23 -0400
A week ago we highlighted the major inversion in the non-commercial spec bets between the GBP and the JPY, after the two had been trending with very close correlation for almost a year. This week, after GBP spec bets had hit the highest in over a year, on expectations that the BOE would commence a tightening regime (which we believe are unfounded and largely premature considering the worsening stagflation the UK finds itself in), GBP bets dropped by a the second largest amount in over a year, or by 16,563 contracts (only the 18,788 decline in February of 2010 was greater), to 36,009. And as we suggested last week, when we told readers to "note the surge in GBP bullish bets, and the plunge in JPY. Those willing to bet that the spec crowd is always one step behind the curve may be well advised to take the other side of the trade" this is indeed what is starting to happen: the drop in Yen specs was roughly half the GBP decline, at 9,198 to a total of -27,746. In other words the GBP-JPY convergence is starting to play out. Nonetheless with Yen specs at the lowest they have been since May of 2010, this is a level of concern.
Technical Observations On An Extremely Overbought Market With 123 Consecutive Closes Above The 55 DMASubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/27/2011 13:04 -0400
While John Noyce covers his usual fare of weekly FX technical developments, with an emphasis on the EURUSD, the AUDUSD, the USDSEK, the NZDUSD, and broadly the extremely low level of implied vol in FX (unlike commodities - we expect a switch from commodity implied vol to FX very soon), as well as a very curious collapse in correlation between G10 FX implied vol basket, the VIX and the EURAUD spot. But the most notable observation is what may happen to stocks now that the 55 Day Moving Average is in danger of being breached for the first time in 123 days. The two key support trendlines are the August uptrend since August, which is at 1,300 and the 55 DMA, which is at 1,284. Should both of these be taken out, there is no technical support until the Jackson Hole level of mid 1,000s.
Guest Post: Analysis of the Global Insurrection Against Neo-Liberal Economic Domination and the Coming American RebellionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/26/2011 21:53 -0400
In previous Revolution Roundups, before we were knocked offline, we featured mass protests by the people of Ireland, Italy, Britain, Austria, Greece, France and Portugal, as the Global Insurrection contagion spread throughout Europe. And now, as we have seen over the past month, North African and Middle Eastern nations have joined the movement as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Gabon, Mauritania, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Algeria have taken to the streets en masse. The connection between this latest round of uprisings and the prior protests throughout Europe is one the mainstream media is not making. We are witnessing a decentralized global rebellion against Neo-Liberal economic imperialism. While each national uprising has its own internal characteristics, each one, at its core, is about the rising costs of living and lack of financial opportunity and security. Throughout the world the situation is the same: increasing levels of unemployment and poverty, as price inflation on food and basic necessities is soaring...The global banking cartel, centered at the IMF, World Bank and Federal Reserve, have paid off politicians and dictators the world over — from Washington to Greece to Egypt. In country after country, they have looted national economies at the expense of local populations, consolidating wealth in unprecedented fashion – the top economic one-tenth of one percent is currently holding over $40 trillion in investible wealth, not counting an equally significant amount of wealth hidden in offshore accounts. IMF imperial operations designed to extract wealth and suppress populations have been ongoing for decades. As anyone researching economic imperialism will know, a centrally planned Neo-Liberal aristocracy controls the global economy.
Looks like Gaddafi's promise that civil war will never break out while he is alive, has just been broken: "Forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi made good on threats to trigger a civil war in Libya on Wednesday night, by taking up positions across the capital, Tripoli and launching a rearguard fight against rebels in major cities. Residents of parts of the capital were trapped in their homes as "thousands" of soldiers patrolled the streets accompanied by African mercenaries. Tanks took up positions around public buildings including government offices, while sandbag defences were also being built. "We will fight until death," a pro-Gaddafi soldier in his early 20s said outside a military compound close to Tripoli's Green Square, which had been cleared of demonstrators by yesterday morning. "The country needs stability at a time like this, and this is what we are providing. The people are on our side." Next Gaddafi promise to be broken: "I won't burn Libya's oil."
Albert Edwards On The Resurgence Of The "Conspiracy Of Optimism" As Groupthink Is Back To Record LevelsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/26/2011 15:01 -0400
As regular readers know too well, one topic Zero Hedge enjoys ridiculing with the disdain it deserves is groupthink of any form. The phenomenon, which is nothing but transference of laziness by those who manage other people's money with complete disregard for the consequences of their actions, was among the main reasons for the Great Financial Crash. As nobody was willing to engage in any form of critical thought, and with the market "only" going up, any investment thesis was predicated solely on what the "other guy" was doing. Of course when it all blew up, it was time to blame the evil rating agencies. After all, heaven forbid someone actually think about the logic behind the credit ratings of hundreds of billions in synthetic CDOs, or worse still, take responsibility for their own stupidity and laziness. We are now precisely in the same place we were when the market peaked last time around, with groupthink rampant, with any attempt at opposing thought squashed for fears it will end the party early, with sellside analyst optimism at all time highs, and with the administration actively encouraging rampant lies and perpetuation of the myths that take hold in the market with no factual footing whatsoever. The "conspiracy of optimism", as dubbed once by James Montier, has once again fully taken hold. As SocGen's Albert Edwards points out "despite another post mortem on forecasting failure, nothing has or will change": this is true... until the next crash. Then the finger pointing will begin anew, theatrics about the change in the Status Quo will resume, and once again the Fed will attempt to reflate the latest bubble crash. Only this time there will be no reflation, as the central planning committee's reign of terror will be over, and the fiat monetary system will have ended. Below we present Edwards' most recent solemn and very troubling thoughts on the latest break out of the great groputhink malaise, which will only last as long as the great chairsatan has some control over events. Luckily, with the amplitude from a stable market equilibrium shifting ever greater in either direction, and as the Fed's very existence (remember: the whole point of the central bank is to contain price stability) is repudiated, the time until the reset is now shorter than ever before in history.
First Peaceful European Revolt, As Irish Tsunami Ends 60 Years Of Fianna Fail Rule Following Banker Bailout FurySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/26/2011 21:26 -0400
Angela Merkel is carefully observing what can only be classified as a peaceful revolution in Ireland, where a stunning amount, over 70% by some estimates, of voters turned out to punish the ruling Fianna Fail party for its betrayal of the Irish people and for the latest (and what some say last) broad banker bailout. The Telegraph reports that "Exit polls and early tallies from Ireland's general election heralded political annihilation for Fianna Fail (FF), the party which has ruled Ireland for more than 60 years of the Irish Republic's eight decades of independence." Bloomberg adds: "Counting will continue today to fill the 166-seat parliament, with an exit poll giving Fine Gael and the Labour Party a combined 57 percent of the vote. Support for Fianna Fail, which has ruled for the last 14 years, dropped to 15 percent from 42 percent in the 2007 election, the poll showed." In other words, the Irish people have voted for a direct confrontation with the EU, and indirectly, for austerity: "Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, likely to become prime minister, wants to re-negotiate the interest rate on the emergency loans and speed up planned spending cuts to narrow the budget gap. Labour is pushing for more tax increases." And the reason Merkel is not going to sleep much tonight is that Germany is next. The country, where the CDU saw a comparable annihilation in a recent Hamburg vote, faces several regional elections as early as a few weeks from now, and the political scene is expected to change drastically, as a warning to anyone who feels like putting the banking kleptocracy (again) over the interests of the taxpaying majority. But what is most troublesome for all those who think that the EURUSD at 1.38 is remotely credible, is that the European Nash Equilibrium is now completely destroyed, and the game theory defections are about to start in earnest: "Declan Ganley, the Irish businessman who led the 2008 No vote to the Lisbon Treaty, said Ireland must "have the balls" to threaten debt default and withdrawal from the single currency. "We have a hostage, it is called the euro," he said. "The euro is insolvent. The only question is whether Ireland should be sacrificed to keep the Ponzi scheme going. We have to have a Plan B to the misnamed bailout, which is to go back to the Irish Punt." Funny nobody even pretends that modern economics is even a remotely viable concept. Also, the Fed's plan of keeping the USD artificially low against most currencies is about to crash and burn mercilessly.
After protests recently shifted to Korea, they have now migrated to very tightly controlled Vietnam (and some were wondering what the reason for the orchestrated take down of rice in the past week was), in the first public demonstration by unhappy farmer against the controlling regime in many years. In the meantime, as the media blackout over developments in Korea, Bahrain and just as importantly Algeria continues (not to mention China), keeping in mind that as Nomura predicted, a shut down in Algerian and Libyan oil production is all that is needed for crude to hit $220, we now look forward to Venezuela to join the revolutionary ranks, with the culmination being when Afghanistan and Pakistan, and associated nukes, go in play.
Throughout my 2010 article series "Extend & Pretend" and "Sultans of Swap" I stressed that we were rapidly moving from the Financial Crisis of 2008, through the Economic Fallout of 2009 -2010, towards a Political Crisis in 2011 -2012. We are now clearly beginning to see the early emergence of the final part of this continuum. From North Africa to Wisconsin all are fundamentally based on the single insidious underlying problem - excessive global debt and credit levels. It is now time to revisit our Tipping Points framework to see where this is leading. A framework that is clearly pointing to a global fiat currency failure and an emerging new world order which is detailed in our "2011 Thesis - Beggar-thy-Neighbor". Our Tipping Points which are outlined below are adjusted continuously based on daily news flow analysis. Through a proprietary 'Process of Abstraction' news is tracked and consolidated around these potentially critical flash points.