We have long talked of the last/next desperate acts of a government in demise as being total repression and confiscation of assets - an ugly endgame indeed - and so today, as The Independent reports, UK's Nick Clegg is proposing a 'Super-Rich' one-off tax. In a very Buffeett-esque speech, Clegg admonished that "people of very considerable personal wealth have got to make a bit of an extra contribution" as the UK remains mired in a "longer economic war rather than a short economic battle." Interesting Churchillian word-choice. The action is designed to ensure that very high asset-wealth is reflected in the tax-system in a way it is not right now and as one would expect he is not making much progress with his more conservative coalition partners, though ever optimistic he adds he is trying to forget the past and aim for the 'sunny uplands' - which we assume will be lit brightly with the excess blubber of fat-cats if he gets his way.
With GDP not providing the kind of dismal print that assures NEW QE, market eyes rotate back to Europe and just in time as Merkel and Monti complete their meeting and mumble a few generic (yet entirely market moving) un-newsworthy headlines, via Bloomberg:
- *MERKEL SAYS EURO AREA NEEDS MORE COHERENCE (yes, thank you, water is wet)
- *MERKEL SAYS ESM OF PRIMORDIAL IMPORTANCE FOR EURO AREA (indeed - with all its conditionality)
- *MERKEL SAYS EURO AREA HAS AMBITIOUS AGENDA IN WEEKS AHEAD ('ambitious' is one word!)
- *MERKEL SAYS SHE, MONTI DISCUSSED GERMAN COURT CASE AGAINST ESM (ya think)
and sure enough S&P 500 futures jump 4 points to overnight highs and EURUSD pops 25 pips.
After sliding from a stall speed-esque 2% in Q1 to sub stall speed 1.5% in the Q1 preliminary print, today's first revision was expected to be a solid bounce to the horrible preliminary economic data, with whisper numbers heard as high as 2.0% on the back of the recent plunge in the deficit (driven purely by a collapse in Chinese exports and a brief drop in crude prices in June, long since retraced). Instead the number came precisely in line with the consensus estimate of a 1.7% annualized growth, with the all important Personal Consumption Expenditures adding a modestly higher 1.20% (was 1.05% last). As expected, net exports shifted from a decline of -0.3% to an increase of 0.3%, which meant that the fudge factor was inventories, which also flip flopped, declining from the previously positive 0.32% to a negative -0.23%. In summary, the GDP number was the worst possible for a market in which good news, relative to an expectations benchmark, is good news, and bad news is great news. The only thing the algos don't know what to do is when numbers come "just right" - which is what just happened. And now- back to Congress doing nothing to resolve the Fiscal Cliff which would detract up to 4% from GDP in 2013 if nothing is done, which is assured as long as the S&P continues trading near 2012 highs.
Just what does all this easily accessible and now pervasive student debt fund? The chart below, courtesy of Bloomberg, provides the answer: in the past 3 decades there has been no other cost that comes even remotely close to matching the near hyperinflationary surge in college tuition and costs.
- Hurricane Isaac Whips Storm Surge on Path to New Orleans (Bloomberg)
- Republicans Vow to Transform Obama’s U.S. With Low Tax, Freedom (Bloomberg)
- Little-known Ryan to take center-stage at Republican convention (Reuters)
- An $800 billion stimulus tempest in a teapot: China State Researcher: Local Govt Investment Plans Largely Symbolic (WSJ)
- China Says Payment Delays, Defaults May Worsen (Dow Jones)
- G-7 Countries Call for Increased Oil Output to Meet Demand (Bloomberg)
- Creeping Socialism: Clegg calls for emergency tax on rich (FT)
- United Airlines computer problem delays 200 flights (Chicago Sun Times)
- Paulson, Investors Avoid Fireworks Despite Brutal Run (Bloomberg)
- Occupy Sets Wall Street Tie-Up as Protesters Face Burnout (Bloomberg)
- The nostalgic grass is always greener: Serbia Joblessness Swells as Milosevic-Era Leaders Return (Bloomberg)
Just under a year ago, in early November 2011, the ECB specifically made it a very clear prerogative that it would not buy Italian bonds under the SMP program, or in any other way seek to lower Italian bond yields, which promptly soared to all time highs, as long as the intransigent Silbio Berlusconi, then career PM, remained in his position as head of Italy. A few days after Italian bonds soared, Silvio quietly and reluctantly stepped down, paving the way for that other Goldmanite - unelected technocrat Mario Monti to take over the reins. We are now just over two months until the one year anniversary of the historic Berlusconi ouster by a central bank (whose head amusingly wrote an Op-ed in a leftist German publication that his organization is apolitical; just as the Fed is apolitical until Wall Street darling Chuck Schumer tells Bernanke to "get to work Mr. Chairman"), and suddenly Silvio is back in the picture. As Italian daily Repubblica notes, the former PM "fears the repercussions of a conviction in the Ruby process before the vote" currently scheduled for 2013, and as a result Berlusconi would agree to sign off on a plan to reform the electoral law in the next few days on the condition that early elections will be held in November. Whether or not this means that Silvio is seeking to retain his PM throne, or merely to regain prosecutorial immunity from engaging in various questionable activities (mostly of a sexual nature) is unknown, but the fact that the Italian political theater may regain its old tragicomic luster has us smiling at the prospect of what the end of 2012 has to offer, especially since America's own presidential election will culminate at about the same time.
When jawboning is stuck on max, and mere talking and exortations to just "believe" lead to no incremental benefit for PIIGS bonds and the leve of the Dax, what is a central planner to do? Why start, er, fingerboning, and write extended missive on the future of one doomed utopian vision or another. Sure enough, the former Goldmanite has just released the following Op-ed in German Zeit, titled, "The future of the euro: stability through change", which contains this piece of sheer brilliance: "The ECB is not a political institution. But it is committed to its responsibilities as an institution of the European Union." The European Union which is first and foremost a... political institution.
November 16, 2011 was a historic date: that's when the US officially surpassed $15 trillion in debt for the first time since World War 2. We celebrated it by cheering $15,OOO,OOO,OOO,OOOBAMA. Today, August 28, 2012, is when we can unofficially celebrate again, because 286 days after the last major milestone was surpassed with disturbing ease, total US debt following today's $35 billion auction of 2 Year bonds is, well, in a word: $16,OOO,OOO,OOO,OOOBAMA!
In what is shaping up to be another listless trading day, where attention is glued to Hurricane Issac making not one but two landfalls, and the implication for US refining capacity or the lack thereof, here is what has happened so far, via BBG and Deutsche. The overnight session is mixed with Chinese equities under-performing again. The Nikkei and the KOSPI are both around two-tenths of a percent higher. The Shanghai Composite (-0.4%) is lower as the economic slowdown is adding negative pressure on cyclical sector earnings, closing at fresh 3 year lows. Iron ore prices continued to fall amid the weaker growth backdrop in China. Spot iron ore prices were down nearly 5% overnight to their lowest since November 2009. Rio Tinto's 5yr CDS has widened by about 25bp in a week. Rio's share price is down by about 6.6% over the same period. European markets fall, led by the commodity-heavy FTSE 100, with Swedish, Swiss markets rising. The euro rebounds against the dollar. Crude oil falls, metal prices decline. Spanish, Italian bond yields rise slightly, German, U.K., Irish bond yields fall. U.S. futures little changed and 2Q GDP figures are released later today. The state of Italy has sold EUR9 billion in 6 month bills at a 1.69 BTC, yielding 1.585%, the lowest since March, on prayers that Draghi, who was last heard defending the ECB as a non-political institution (whose sole product is the political construct known as the Euro - go figure), will finally step up and act instead of just continuing to talk and make empty promises.
Jacques Wajsfelner of Weston, Massachusetts is a criminal mastermind. Big time. Like Lex Luthor. But rest easy, ladies and gentlemen, for this nefarious villain is about to face some serious jail time thanks to the courageous work of US government agents. 83-year-old Wajsfelner was finally caught and convicted of a most heinous crime: failing to disclose his foreign bank account to the US government and is now looking at FIVE YEARS behind bars in a Day-Glo orange jumpsuit. Sentencing guidelines suggest that he will get some combination of jail time and supervised release to the tune of several years. Then there's Eric Higgins of Port Huron, Michigan, who was recently busted for major possession of child pornography and engaging in sexually explicit conversations with juveniles online. He was given 20 months. Oh... and Mr. Higgins was a US Customs & Border Patrol agent. This is what justice means in the Land of the Free today. Have you hit your breaking point yet?
Europe and the world are eagerly awaiting the decision of Germany’s Constitutional Court on September 12 regarding the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the proposed permanent successor to the eurozone’s current emergency lender, the European Financial Stability Mechanism. The Court must rule on German plaintiffs’ claim that legislation to establish the ESM would violate Germany’s Grundgesetz (Basic Law). Nobody knows how the Constitutional Court will rule on these objections. It is good that the Court’s decisions cannot be forecast, and even better that the Court cannot be lobbied or petitioned. The European Union can be based only on the rule of law. If those in power can break its rules on a case-by-case basis, the EU will never develop into the stable construct that is a prerequisite for peace and prosperity.
"Everybody's going to war but we don't know what we are fighting for."
– Nerina Pallot, from "Everybody's Gone to War"
All sides in the coming conflict – except for the civilian populations and the soldiers maimed and killed – believe they will benefit from a limited war in the Middle East if everything goes according to plan. However, nothing ever goes according to plan in wars and this is the problem the world will face. Prolonged recession or depression, wealth and benefit confiscation throughout the EU, US and other Western democracies and the risk of a Middle East conflict spreading around the world is our fear. Who is guaranteed to win regardless of the outcome of the war and whether it can be contained? The Anglo-American financial elites and the bankers always win every conflict regardless of the military outcome. This is the history of the 20th century and we see no reason that will change now.