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No Child Labor Here

At least Chinese retirement funds don't have to worry about a cash outflow crunch any time soon. Tangentially, perhaps BlackRock can create a 3x levered ETF tracking the profitability of Chinese fake birth certificate and driver license fabricators?

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Guest Post: Whom To Believe On Gold: Central Banks Or Bloomberg?

Bloomberg reported recently that Russia is now the world's biggest gold buyer, its central bank having added 570 tonnes (18.3 million troy ounces) over the past decade. At $1,650/ounce, that's $30.1 billion worth of gold. Russia isn't alone, of course. Central banks as a group have been net buyers for at least two years now. But the 2012 data trickling out shows that the amount of tonnage being added is breaking records. Based on current data, the net increase in central bank gold buying for 2012 was 14.8 million troy ounces – and that's before the final 2012 figures are in for all countries. This is a dramatic increase, one bigger than most investors probably realize. To put it in perspective, on a net basis, central banks added more to their reserves last year than since 1964. The net increase – so far – is 17% greater than what was added in 2011, which was itself a year of record buying. The message from central banks is clear: they expect the dollar to move inexorably lower. It doesn't matter that it's been holding up against other currencies or that the economy might be getting better. They're buying gold in record amounts because they see a significant shift coming with the status of the dollar, and they need to protect themselves against that risk. Embrace the messages central bankers are telling us – the ones they tell with their actions, not their words.

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When Is A Euro Not A Euro

With the 'temporary' capital controls being imposed in Cyprus, Credit Suisse explains why a Cypriot euro not equal to a euro from any other member country. Furthermore, the clear fabrication of a 'seven-day' period for these controls (when monthly and quarterly limits on spending are also included) is questioned as they ask how such capital controls could eventually be lifted with no obvious cure of the underlying problem, i.e., the risk of a bank run. Since every guarantee is only worth as much as its guarantor, we would expect that in absence of a European wide deposit guarantee (which for political reasons and the aforementioned template look very unlikely) these capital controls are likely to stay for longer than originally planned. Unless this vicious circle is broken, this attempt to save the euro could ironically even become the template of how a member state could leave the currency union.

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Here We Go Again: Spain Says 2012 Budget Deficit "Will Be Bigger Than First Estimated"

Back in December 2011, Europe swooned and bond yields soared when it was shocked, shocked, to learn that Spain had been lying about its budget deficit all year, a number which was subsequently hiked several more times. Then in 2012, to keep up with the pretense that things are better, Spain once again did what it does best: fudged numbers, this time desperate to make it appear that its actual government deficit was better than expected because one had to 'obviously' exclude all those items that are not part of the government spending... like payments for its broke provinces, or indirect funding for its broke banks. Now it turns out that in addition to fudging the definition of "budget", Spain was, surprise surprise, lying once again. From Bloomberg: "The Spanish government said its 2012 budget deficit will be bigger than first estimated after the European Union requested changes in how tax claims are computed. The budget shortfall excluding aid to the banking sector was 6.98 percent of gross domestic product last year, more than the 6.74 percent predicted on Feb. 28, Deputy Budget Minister Marta Fernandez Curras told reporters in Madrid today. That compares with 8.96 percent in 2011."

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Guest Post: The Tailwinds Pushing The U.S. Dollar Higher

If we shed our fixation with the Fed and look at global supply and demand, we get a clearer understanding of the tailwinds driving the U.S. dollar higher. I know this is as welcome in many circles as a flashbang tossed on the table in a swank dinner party, but the U.S. dollar is going a lot higher over the next few years. In a very real sense, every currency is a claim not on the issuing central bank's balance sheet but on the entire economy of the issuing nation. All this leads to two powerful tailwinds to the value of the dollar. One is simply supply and demand: as the global economy slides into recession, trade volumes decline, and the U.S. deficit shrinks. (It's already $250 billion less than was "exported" in 2006.) That will leave fewer dollars available on the global market. The second tailwind is the demand for dollars from those exiting the euro and yen. The abandonment of the euro is already visible in these charts.

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Quote Of The Day

... Comes from Goldman's soon to be ex-tentacle in Italy, who took over, unelected, for Berlusconi when the ECB made it clear it was the Bunga way or the no SMP way.


So, one's enthusiasm for one's job wanes when one actually has to be voted in and can only muster at best about 10% of the popular vote? Unpossible.

That said, we are confident Italy feels the same way as the soon to be defunct half of Europe's Goldman Super Mario Brothers..

Elsewhere, the man who won the Italian election, comedian Beppe Grillo, called Bersani and Berlusconi, "whoremongering fathers." And scene

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Cyprus Capital Control Details Revealed

As of now, the banks are still expected to open tomorrow; some of the details of the capital controls to be put in place have been leaked (via Phileleftheros):


So no outflows allowed to a foreign country (cough Russia cough) and for only 7 days (Pluto Standard Time?); furthermore, talk is that carrying cash of over EUR3,000 across the border wil be banned.

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Cypriot Foreign Minister Blasts Germany's "Ruthless Decision To Wreck The Country's Economic System"

"We were alone... It’s clear that Germany wants to impose its views on the peoples of southern Europe, which need her at the moment. The toughest decision was that for Cyprus: it was a ruthless decision to wreck the country’s economic system, which will have huge and unpleasant consequences.

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The Next Cyprus?

In the seven days since Slovenia's new government has been in power, their 10Y bond has seen its yield explode over 120bps as the investing world searches for the next 'Cyprus'-like land-mine. Of course, the Slovenian leaders are proudly denying it all, "Slovenia won't need aid, we can do this on our own," but with the nation needing EUR3 billion in bailout funding and the previous government proposing a 'bad-bank' style breakup, one can only imagine the capital outflows that are viciously circling this nation's financial system (given the relative size of their large 'uninsured' depositor base as shown here - SI). How will they solve the problem? By tapping international bond markets of course, "depending on market sentiment."

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Breaking: Greece

Greece has re-entered a bear market. Its stock market, after seven months of exuberance has dropped 20% in the last month. Greek government bonds are also in trouble as the no-brainer trade is now at three-month lows (with its price also down 20% from just a week ago). It would seem that 60% youth unemploymet may actually mean something once again...

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"We Are Not Making This Up"

The Dutch Finance Minister chaired the meeting on Cyprus. He was the one that directed the entire affair on Cyprus and the template that he revealed was first denied then admitted, then denied by the ECB and confusion reigned supreme. Now here comes the first pig; the representatives of the Eurozone finance ministries released a document this morning stating that Cyprus was not the template for future bail-outs. I suppose it was initially written in German and translated into English however they must have forgotten to translate it into Dutch. This is because when the Dutch Finance Minister was asked about this document, and he is the Chairman of the Finance Minister group remember; he said he knew nothing about the document. I am not making this up. My imagination is good but not this good. The good news this morning is that we already know which country is going down next. That country is Luxembourg.

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Market Update - The Damage So Far

It seems the realization that i) Cyprus mattered, ii) If Europe slumps then US will be infected (no matter how clean the asset-gatherers believe the shirt to be) is impacting markets globally once again. A slew of horrible data overnight following yesterday's US data disappointments (following US earnings bellwether misses) is finally (now at quarter-end) having some impact on the euphoria. European stock markets are dropping rapidly with Spain and Italy down 5 to 6 % this week now. Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese bond spreads have blown back wider (Spain yield back over 5%) by 30 to 40bps this week alone and EURUSD is getting monkey-hammered breaking back below 1.2800 - its lowest in over 4 months. European (and US) banks are also in trouble with the former now negative year-to-date. US Treasuries are well bid on this safe-haven flow (down 6 to 7bps on the week) and Swiss and German 2Y bond yields are negative once again (with the latter more negative as the 'safety' of offshore financial centers seemed less than the core of Europe).

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Russia And South Africa To Create OPEC ‘Platinum Cartel’

Russia and South Africa, which together control about 80% of the world’s reserves of platinum group metals, plan to create a trading bloc similar to OPEC to control the flow of exports according to Bloomberg. “Our goal is to coordinate our actions accordingly to expand the markets for realization of these metals,” Russian Natural Resources Minister Sergey Donskoy said yesterday in an interview at a summit of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa in Durban. “The price depends on the structure of the market, and we will form the structure of the market.” South Africa mines about 70 percent of the world’s platinum, while Russia leads in palladium, a platinum group metal used in autocatalysts, with about 40% of output, according to a 2012 report by Johnson Matthey Plc. Palladium rose 0.8% yesterday to $763.50 after Donskoy’s comments, reversing declines to reach the highest level since March 18. Platinum, used to make jewelry and autocatalysts, has risen 2.3% this year because of increased demand from the auto industry and after supply disruptions at mines. The price jumped yesterday in the hour after Donskoy’s comments, narrowing yesterday’s decline. South African Mines Minister Susan Shabangu confirmed that the two countries aimed to counter oversupply of platinum, and said possible measures could include taxes and incentives. “We’re not really controlling the market,” she said in an interview in Durban. “We want to contribute without creating a cartel, but we want to influence the markets.”

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RANsquawk EU Market Re-Cap - 27th March 2013

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The Eurozone As An East-German Motorcycle

Recall the fate of the East German MZ motorcycle company (see picture below). Prior to the 1990 reunification of Germany these motorcycles were an extremely common sight (eyesore?) on the streets of London. But in what many saw as a cynical vote catching measure, Chancellor Kohl allowed the East German savings in Ostmark deposits to be converted into the Deutschmark at a one-for-one exchange rate (the black market rate was nearer to 10-1). The immediate euphoria of East Germans being able to spend their savings at a favourable exchange rate was replaced by gloom as East German industry was bankrupted at this wholly incorrect exchange rate.

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