Six months after the Barclays epic wristslap in which there were none - zero - criminal charges against Libor manipulators, it is time to trot out the same old theatrical song and dance again, this time focusing on bailed out RBS, which the CFTC just fined a whopping sum of $325 million, modestly less than the $16 billion profit the bank made in 2007, followed by the epic subsequent collapse which saw $104 billion in bailouts to keep the bank afloat courtesy of Biritsh taxpayers. In other words: manipulate the world's most sensitive credit-related metric, and you will see either 5% of your peak profits deducted, or we will force you to get even more bailouts.
Platinum prices have already risen by more than 12% so far in 2013, following the same advance for all of 2012. Platinum supplies have fallen to a 13-year low as mines in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer, close and the platinum industry is in crisis due to industrial unrest, geological constraints and sharply rising costs. Global production will drop 2.7% to 5.68 million ounces, the least since 2000, according to Barclays Plc, which raised its 2013 shortage estimate sixfold last month after Johannesburg-based Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS) said it plans to idle shafts. Anglo American Plc’s platinum unit, the largest producer, last month proposed the halt of four mine shafts that would cut about 7% of global production. At the same time, demand from carmakers, the biggest consumer of the metal, will increase 0.5 percent in 2013, Barclays says. Perhaps, most importantly investors are buying platinum at the fastest pace in three years and yet holdings of platinum remain very, very small. Global production of the metal will fall as South African output drops 3.4% to a 12-year low of 4.11 million ounces, Barclays estimates.
The completely bankrupt US Postal Service, employer of some 500,000 government workers, which for the past two quarters has been surviving on liquidity fumes even as it posted it biggest ever loss in Fiscal 2012, and which recently announced its latest stamp price hike (which bought it two extra weeks of time), has just disclosed what was long anticipated: the end of Saturday mail delivery - a crushing blow to shippers of junk mail everywhere. Look for many more weekdays of mail delivery to be cut before the USPS itself has to be bailed out. In the meantime, the USPS can spend what little money it does not have on TV ads on channels such as CNBC whose viewers are certainly unaware of the services provided by this most bloated of legacy government entities.
- Tunisian opposition politician shot dead, protests erupt (Reuters)
- China says extremely concerned after latest North Korea threats (Reuters)
- Postal Service to cut Saturday mail to trim costs (AP)
- Debt Rise Colors Budget Talks (WSJ)
- Obama proposes short-term budget fix, Republicans swiftly object (Reuters)
- S&P Analyst Joked of Bringing Down the House Before Crash (BBG)
- Dell’s Bigger Challenge Ahead in Turnaround After Buyout (BBG)
- Some of the Mark Carney Gloss Is Coming Off (WSJ)
- Japan Official Says BOJ Tools Sufficient as Shake-Up Looms (BBG)
- S&P Lawsuit Undermined by SEC Rules That Impede Competition (BBG)
- Heavy Clashes Erupt in Syrian Capital (WSJ)
Perhaps the biggest news of the night was the resurgence of Silvio Berlusconi, who managed to close the lead to the Democratic Party leader Bersani, embroiled in the fallout from the Monte Paschi scandal, to just 3.7 points, or within the 4 point margin of error, before the February 25th elections. According to a SkyTG24 poll, support for Bersani’s bloc dropped 0.2 point to 33.1% from yesterday while support for Berlusconi’s bloc rose 0.1 point to 29.4%. This is certainly the most catalytically destabilizing event on the horizon for Italy, and Europe, as should Silvio win the Italian elections, an outcome unthinkable as recently as a month ago, all bets about Europe's technocratic/Goldman-forced "recovery" in which only the banks are recovering, if not the people, are off.
As was reported on Monday, among the numerous files hacked and leaked in the past week by the Hacker group Anonymous was a database of some 4606 regional bankers together with copious amounts of confidential information, which according to Anonymous' twitter account was sourced at the very Federal Reserve, which in turn would imply that the Fed itself had been hacked.
Profits and leverage are locked in a deadly embrace. There is a time-honoured tradition in statistics: whipping the data until they confess. Bullish and bearish equity analysts are equally guilty of this practice. It would seem that statistical conclusions are merely an ex-post justification of a long-held prior belief about equity markets being cheap or overpriced. Clearly, consensus, notably among sellside analysts, is bullish. GLG's CIO Jamil Baz presents the bullish view before discussing the bearish counterpoint - consensus disregards leverage. In the short term, it is clear that central banks need to entertain the illusion of viable stock market valuations by pulling rabbits from a hat. But as high-powered money reaches ever higher levels, the probability of accidents looms large.
How does the saying go: it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a clueless Keynesian muppet than to open it and remove all doubt? Sure enough, if there was any confusion as to the level of economic comprehension (or lack thereof) of Japan's chosen savior du jour, one who is hell bent on destroying its currency and sending energy costs into the stratosphere (but don't worry - as Rajoy would say, inflation is plunging, except for the things that are soaring) the following two snippets should clear up the situation once and for all.
Following today's sequester-delay-seeking, tax-hiking, close-the-loophole speech by the President, it would appear that fiscal policy debates will be balanced a little more to raising effective rates on corporates (as opposed to the 'statutory' rate so many discuss). The US has the second highest global 'statutory' tax rate but less than 10% of S&P 500 firms have paid this rate over the last decade. Somewhat shockingly, since 1975, taxes have had the largest cumulative positive impact on S&P 500 ROE as effective rates fell from 44% to 30%. They estimate each percentage point rise in effective tax rate would lower S&P 500 ROE by 22 bp and EPS by $1.50, all else equal. Closing all the loopholes would smash year-end 2013 expectations from Goldman's 1575 to around 1300 with Staples and Tech the hardest hit. With the 'market' the only policy tool left, it would seem not even the Fed could monetarily save us from this fiscally fubar action.
Guest Post: Congratulations Charlottesville, Virginia! The First City To Pass Anti-Drone LegislationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/05/2013 21:45 -0400
This simple piece of legislation proves that you can make a difference at the local level - Councilmember Dede Smith, who voted in favor of the bill, says that drones are “pretty clearly a threat to our constitutional right to privacy.” We need a lot more of this type of thing all over these United States. As I have said many times, it’s not that I am against drones in all capacities; however, we must be vigilant about how these things are used and must have serious safeguards in place to protect civil liberties.
Following a brief infomercial for Gordian Group's apparent skills in bringing dough-makers and yeast-cooking perfection to the table - arguing that they are here to preserve jobs (for skilled workers who have been apparently working for below-market wages) - and maximizing value for the Bakery Union; Peter Kaufman stops the pretense of helping and goes straight for the threat. "We are here to work with credible bidders to get started right away with a great work-force; on the other hand, if bidders don't want to work with us (and re-hire Hostess employees), the union will ask the AFL-CIO to put any Hostess product on its 'boycott product' list." But "we're here to help," he reminds the somewhat stunned CNBC anchor. It seems beggars are once again choosers... as the entitled roll on.
"I went through the January data one last time with a fine tooth comb. I fail to see what got everyone so excited, beyond the upward revisions to the back data. That only proves that productivity has been weaker than initially thought. And the income from those upward job revisions has probably already been spent. But as I highlighted yesterday, the broad-term trends are slowing down and doing so discernibly."
Much has been made of Europe's impressive market performance last year (and ongoing this year) with its strength yet another confirmation-bias proving indication that every US stock dip should be bought. In recent days a few cracks in the armor of European invincibility have begun to show as political and banking system fraud comes back top haunt along with rising concerns and jawboning about the strength (or lack thereof) of the Euro. With a somewhat split view of Thursday's ECB meeting (will Draghi cut to hold EUR down for exports or hold to maintain the optics of a strong EURUSD meaning a strong Europe), it is perhaps notable that the outlook for 2013's GDP growth continues to sink. However, as the chart below so obviously highlights, expectations for earnings growth in Europe have massively disconnected from macro fundamentals (just as in the US) as nominal stock indices is all that matters anymore.
The Egyptian government is facing potential collapse and a re-run of a revolution that has never really ended. The economy is facing total collapse, and Qatari aid efforts will only go so far. The first half of 2013 will produce only worse economic indicators and the market will feed off of this. The regulatory environment in the meantime remains uncertain at best, and much will depend on which group (or combination of groups) comes out on top after the dust settles and if April elections indeed proceed. If this turns out to be a successful power grab by radical Salafi forces, it will not proceed without a great deal of bloodshed, and it will destroy Egypt’s investment climate.