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Hank Paulson Tipped Off The Goldman-Led "Plunge Protection Team" About Fannie Bankruptcy 7 Weeks In Advance





Today, BusinessWeek's Michael Serrill and Jonathan Neumann have released a blockbuster report based on a FOIA response by the Treasury, which proves that in America rules are only for little people, that this country has been a banana republic for years, that Animal Farm was spot on, and gives excruciating detail of how Hank Paulson tipped off a select group of Goldman diaspora hedge fund managers about the eventual failure of Fannie and Freddie 7 weeks ahead of this information becoming public knowledge. The report basically is a summary of a meeting that took place at the offices of Eton Mindich's Eton Park headquarters on July 21, 2008, 7 days after his famous '“If you have a bazooka, and people know you have it, you're not likely to take it out," speech and 7 weeks before both GSEs effectively filed for bankruptcy and were put into conservatorship. Now if it only ended there it would have been fine - a case of potential criminal collusion between the government (although nothing specific against Paulson as he didn't actually trade: he just made sure his former Goldman colleagues made money), and the 0.00001% in the face of a few multi-billionaires who most certainly did trade on material non-public information sourced by Hank. Where it however gets worse is when one considers the actual role of one Eric Mindich in the hierarchy of the Asset Managers' committee of the President's Working Group on Capital Markets, better known of course as the PPT: a topic we discussed first back in September 2009 when we asked "What Is Goldman Alum Eric Mindich's Role As Chair Of The Asset Managers' Committee Of The President's Working Group?" Back then we did not get an answer. Luckily, courtesy of a few answered FOIA requests, some real investigative journalism, and not reporting for the sake of brown-nosing just so one can get soundbites for their next name dropping "blockbuster" and straight to HBO movie, we are starting to get the full picture of just how high in US government the Goldman Sachs controlled "crony capitalist" adminsitration truly runs.

 


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John Taylor: "The Euro Is In A Death Struggle"





FX Concepts' John Taylor has not had a good year. A month ago, talking to Bloomberg he admitted that "What’s really frustrating is that we’re supposed to do well in a lousy world market,” said John Taylor, the founder of New York-based FX Concepts LLC, the world’s largest currency hedge fund. Taylor said in an Oct. 19 interview in London that he has lost 12 percent this year and assets under management fell to $5 billion from as much as $8 billion. "We’re doing very badly." Naturally that is to be expected: after his banner year last year, and doing what is logical in 2011, it is not surprising that he did not anticipate the level of central bank involvement, and the resulting surge of the EURUSD in the past month. Either way, he very bearish stance on the EUR will soon be vindicated. In a brand news interview with Bloomberg he says that the the Euro has entered a "death struggle" and that it is "really worse than I could have dreamed it being." Logically, to every seller there is a buyer. To wit: "What’s stupid is that the ECB is holding it up.  Why are they holding up the euro? One of the problems, besides the ECB, is the banks are shrinking, and the banks are selling all of their offshore assets and bringing them back to Europe.  That means in fact there is a persistent buyer of euros and it’s their own financial institutions." All this, and more in the full interview below with transcript.

 


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Two Fed Members Speak, Contradict Each Other





It is not only Europe who has perfected the art of baffling everyone with intolerable and relentless bullshit. Fed members have it down pat too. Case in point, just presented prepared remarks by Fed uber-dove and vice chair Janet Yellen and hawk and Atlanta Fed president (who becomes eligible to vote in 2012) Dennis Lockhart. Here are the money quotes via Bloomberg:

  • YELLEN SAYS `SCOPE REMAINS' FOR ADDITIONAL FED EASING
  • YELLEN SEES `STRONG CASE' FOR POLICIES TO BOOST U.S. HOUSING

And minutes later:

  • FED'S LOCKHART `SKEPTICAL' MORE BOND-BUYING WILL HELP ECONOMY
  • LOCKHART SAYS ASSET PURCHASES NOT A `POTENT POLICY OPTION'

Mmmk.

 


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Muddy Waters Reiterates "Strong Sell" On Focus Media (FMCN), Says Shares Remain "Uninvestable"





The Muddy Waters boys continue their fight with their latest fraud target: "FMCN’s partial response to our 80-page November 21, 2011 report reinforces our Strong Sell rating.  FMCN’s response admitted that our estimate of fewer than 120,000 LCD screens showing full motion video advertisements is correct.  Despite this admission, FMCN denied that it was fraudulently overstating the number of displays in its network because the 178,382 displays it discloses include 62,656 digital picture frames.  FMCN’s response stated that it does not also count these digital picture frames in its poster segment.  There is strong evidence that FMCN does in fact double count these digital frames.  However, in response to our report and in contrast to previous 20-F filings, FMCN has expanded the definition of its LCD commercial display network beyond full motion video, which makes a clear and final resolution of this point unlikely.  Therefore, FMCN at best prompted investors to think it had more motion displays than it does, and at worst fraudulently overstated the size of its LCD commercial display network.  Both possibilities raise concerns about the health of this business line." We maintain our Strong Sell rating on FMCN mainly because our concerns regarding the viability of FMCN’s core LCD commercial location network remain.  This issue, combined with FMCN’s additional misrepresentations about the size of the network, FMCN’s opaque business model (on both the revenue and cost sides), and insiders’ penchant for self-dealing, render FMCN shares un-investable."

 


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Pimco's 4 "Iran Invasion" Oil Price Scenarios: From $140 To "Doomsday"





Pimco's Greg Sharenow has released a white paper on what the Newport Beach company believes are the 4 possible outcomes should Iranian nuclear facilities be struck as increasingly more believe will happen given enough time. The conclusion is sensible enough "Whenever the global economy is in a fragile state, as it is today, geopolitical concerns such as the possibility of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities become much more exaggerated. Although we cannot (and will not) predict whether an attack is imminent, or even likely, our experience and research tells us that any major disruption in the supply of oil from Iran could have either subtle or profound global repercussions – especially as excess capacity is virtually exhausted and we doubt that other OPEC nations would be able to compensate for a reduction in Iranian oil production." As for those looking for numbers associated with the 4 scenarios presented by PIMCO here they are: "i) Scenario 1: Exports minimally effected. Concerns would drive initial price response; Oil could spike initially to $130 to $140 per barrel and then settle in a higher range, around $120 to $125; ii) Scenario 2: Iranian exports cut off for one month. In this case, we would expect prices could reach previous all-time highs of $145/bbl or even higher depending on issues with shipping; iii) Scenario 3: Iranian exports are lost for half a year. We think oil prices could probably rally and average $150 for the six months, with notable spikes above that level; iv) Scenario 4: Greater loss of production from around the region, either through subsequent Iranian response or due to lack of ability to move oil through Straits of Hormuz. This is the Armageddon scenario in which oil prices could soar, significantly constraining global growth. Forecasting prices in the prior scenarios is dangerous enough. So, we won’t even begin to forecast a cap or target price in this final Doomsday scenario." Needless to say, even the modest Scenario 1 is enough to collapse global economic growth by several percentage points to the point where not even coordinated global printing will do much.

 


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Financial Bonds Are Hit By Deleveraging - Basis At 2008 Levels





We have long discussed the relative changes in the bond, CDS, and equity markets and attempted to infer market sentiment from them. The last few weeks have seen financial stocks for instance sell-off and converge back to their CDS-inferred levels - after much poo-pooing of CDS in general. We have also pointed to the worrying drop in the basis (spread) between bonds and CDS. While there are a number of drivers for this basis, the current level (of basis) for investment grade bonds is akin to 2008 crisis levels and implies both inventory deleveraging and funding stresses in the markets. Bonds are underperforming CDS - the basis is dropping - as dealers are forced to unwind inventory impacting secondary prices in general (not just on risk aversion but wholesale deleveraging).

 


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Guest Post: Unleashing the Future: Advancing Prosperity Through Debt Forgiveness (Part 2)





The demand for credit and debt is driven by generational values, historical habits, and psychological desires. These in turn are premised on evolving notions of the good life. If someone thinks material consumption equates with the good life, then chances are that person will get much farther into debt than another person that values non-material staples as supporting the good life— i.e. family, community, and friendship. Where you put your energy and money communicates something strong about the person you are and the way you will interact with the world. American baby boomers were born into a world of cheap oil, plentiful jobs, and expansionary foreign policy and were raised by Depression-era parents that wanted to give them the amenities that they never had the chance to enjoy. This engrained an historical sense that physical growth was unlimited and that the “world was there for me”. Today’s so-called Millennials (children of baby boomers) are growing up in a starkly different world of peak oil, global warming, shrinking jobs, and diminished material standard of living, but one with unprecedented interconnection. Material opportunities are contracting, but social opportunities are expanding. The new motto emerging is more like: “We are in the world and for each other.” A collapse of material prosperity has given way to the increasing possibility of experiential and social richness. Consequently, there has been a huge shift in attitudes about the “good life” between generations, largely unnoticed and unreported in traditional media. Only the symptoms of this shift are being reported—social media revolutions, Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, young popular dissident authors in China, and pop-driven musical critique of conservative fundamentalism in Pakistan.

 


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InTrade Odds On Euro Collapse By End Of 2012 Now At 50%





One can listen to Eurocrats promising the moon and the stars, and that the zEUR0.PK will survive come hell or high water, or one can trade the probability of the Eurozone's breakup based on reality. For those who opt for the latter, they should head over to Intrade where the contract pricing the possibility of "Any country currently using the Euro to announce their intention to drop it midnight ET 31 Dec 2012" is now trading at perfectly even odds or 50%. In other words, the "upside benefit" of the EFSF, the ECB, the IMF and ultimately the Fed have been reduced to coin toss odds. Naturally, if there is a break up in the Eurozone the fallout will be massive and will likely lead to a far worse outcome than the freezing of money markets in the aftermath of the Lehman bankruptcy. In other words, the odds of capitalism surviving for just over a year form now are exactly fifty/fifty.

 


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EFSF - A Flowchart





Here is our best attempt at a flow chart for the EFSF that tries to capture everything it does.  If it looks complicated, that is because it is complicated.

 


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Consumer Confidence Jumps Most In Eight Years, More Than 4 Standard Deviations





The somewhat incredible rise in consumer confidence this morning is the largest absolute jump since April 2003 from prior revised 40.9 to 56. On a percentage basis, only the April 2009 reversion was higher as this represents a 4 standard deviation elevation from its long-term mean. Of course, its all about expectations, as the sub-index jumped from 50 to 67.8 - which is still only back to July 2011 levels.

 


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5th Consecutive Month Of House Price Drops As Case-Shiller Misses Expectations Again





The bottom-calling will continue of course but for the fifth month in a row, September's Case-Shiller home price index fell year-over-year as the Non-seasonally adjusted price index fell for the first time month-over-month since February. The overall index dropped 3.9% YoY, compared to expectations of a 3.1% drop. The more narrowly focused 20 City Index also missed expectations, falling 3.59% (relative to expectations of -3.00%) and saw its biggest drop in six months. The seasonally adjusted version of the index fell to a new low for the cycle, and prices are now at their lowest level since April 2003. Prices fell sharply in Atlanta (-4.1% mom, seasonally adjusted), and declined in 15 of the 20 cities in the index.

 


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Iran Update: Six (Or Eight) UK Embassy Staff Taken Hostage: Iran Contra Redux?





Even more mysterious update #2:

  • IRANIAN CENTRAL TV CONFIRMS THAT EIGHT UK EMBASSY STAFF TAKEN HOSTAGE

Mysterious update confirming that something very fishy is going on here:

  • IRAN'S MEHR NEWS AGENCY REMOVES REPORT OF HOSTAGE TAKING FROM ITS WEBSITE - NO EXPLANATION GIVEN

Today's developments are rapidly turning into a repeat of Iran-Contra:

  • SIX UK EMBASSY STAFF TAKEN HOSTAGE BY PROTESTERS IN NORTHERN COMPOUND OF TEHRAN EMBASSY - MEHR NEWS AGENCY

Expect a very formal, and very forceful UK response imminently.

 


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Credit Sanity Check





Once again this morning, credit markets are deteriorating with financials the notable laggards and yet equities in US and Europe are beating to their own 'Birinyi'drum. European sub financials are the worst performers, which makes sense post the Moody's downgrade concerns, but the scale of recovery this week is incredible in terms of equities post Friday rally relative to credit market's perception of reality. At the same time, Italian all-in cost of funding - yields - are near record highs post auction, even if spreads are flat and off the highs.

 


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ECB Fails To Sterilize Bond Purchases, €9 Billion Shortfall Confirms Euro Bank Liquidity Freeze





Those wondering what caused the accelerated reacquaintance of the EURUSD with gravity on its way to what UBS has just dubbed the "beginning of the end" (report to be published shortly), need look no further than the ECB where the ECB had its first failed sterilization since the expansion to monetize Italian and Spanish bonds was launched in August. As noted yesterday, the ECB had to sterilize €203.5 billion in cumulative bond purchases. Instead, it only got bids for €194.2 billion from a paltry 85 bidders. This means that for the first time, as shown on the chart below, the ratio of Bids to Bonds for Sterilization fell under 1. What is much worse, is that this happened on the day of the weekly 7-day MRO, during which a total of 192 banks took a combined €265.5 billion from the ECB's weekly 1.25% handout. The amount tops the 247 billion that 178 banks took last week and is the second week running that demand hit a new two-year high. In other words, despite demanding the most amount of money in 2 years, the banks were unable to flip all that cash and "sterilize" monetized paper. This is very bad news as it confirms that the SMP program is coming to a forceful close as banks withdraw in their shells and any further PIIGS bonds purchases will be no longer sterilized above some threshold level, somewhere in the high €100's, low €200 Bns. Whether this is the final straw that pushes the ECB to print outright remains to be seen: it is surely providing the needed dead cat bounce to the EURUSD as hopes that Draghi will finally do as the banks demand have once again resurfaced.

 


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