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Is Free-Market Capitalism Impossible?





In a genuinely free market, rich corporations people have both the resources and incentive to corrupt the government in order to make the market less free. In other words, Capitalism only works in a world in which people have integrity and are accountable to others and themselves - which is the weakest link. And so you end up with? America. In short: "there ain't no such thing as a free market" - which is not to say that we shouldn't try. The following clip points out that even seemingly pro-business legislation is not beneficial to society or businesses themselves broadly with the analogy that "what's good for GM may not be good for America after all"; which begs the question: do humans doom capitalism by default?

 
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Guest Post: Rational Decisions In Closed Systems





Trying to be “outside” of consensus is difficult, as it requires “mental capital”. You have to be able to withstand the daily barrage of tainted news, opinions and stock price movements. Going against the stream does not “feel” good and consumes more energy than simply floating with the tides. No pain, no gain. It is not easy to maintain your views given the unhelpful mainstream media (concerned about advertising dollars from financial services firms). Politicians and central bankers are nothing but bubbling fountains of propaganda (they somehow make it easier to read the truth between the lines, since they always seem to lie; for example, if the Spanish Prime Minister says “Spain has not asked the IMF for a bailout” you can safely assume that he if just off the phone with Christine Lagarde, begging the IMF for help)....Back to the stock market: even IF everyone was smart enough to buy stocks in the darkest days of a recession it wouldn’t work – every buyer needs a seller. The structure of the market – relatively constant supply of shares and relatively constant amount of money available for stock market investments (= demand) require any changes in investor preferences (cash or shares) to be resolved via the price. Humans are hard-wired to behave rationally. This makes it so hard for us to escape the “rationality-trap” of the stock market.

 
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Used Vehicle Prices Plunge Signaling End Of Auto Party





As channel-stuffing shifted from the US (here) to China (here) and Europe (here), so the new vehicle sales data has disconnected from a number of realities. Whether it is economic growth or Ford's share price, things look a little over-cooked in the land of if-we-build-it-the-government-will-buy-'em. However, there is one index that tends to see through all the unreality much more clearly than our analysis above, that is the Used Vehicle Price index. Each time this index has dropped and broken below its two-year average, the auto industry has tended to fade rapidly. After yesterday's comments on the lowering of collateral standards for subprime auto lending, it would appear we are setting up nicely for some whocouldanode moment in the manufacturing sector's most critical industry.

 
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Flowcharting The ECB's Known Unknown Next Steps





The ECB's announcement that it stands ready to act, first despised then embraced by the market, has left as many questions as it answers. Barclays has prepared a simple flowchart of the known unknowns from what has been discussed so far - starting from our premise that things have to get a lot worse before they get better since any action is contingent on countries (cough Spain cough) first losing face requesting help from the EFSF.

 
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A Month Later: 10 Year "WTF Auction" Snapback Is Fast And Furious





A month ago, the US issued $21 billion in 10 Year paper in what could only be dubbed as a "WTF Auction" - one in which every record was broken as demand for paper could seemingly not be satisfied. At 1 PM on July 11 the paper priced at 1.459%, a record-shattering 6 bps inside of the When Issued. What a difference a month makes. Not a month later and the just completed issuance of $24 billion in 10 Year paper could be classified as a collapse in demand, as the auction priced at 1.68% or a whopping 2.5 bps tail. Just as notably, after hitting an all time of 3.61 high last month, the Bid to Cover imploded to 2.49: the lowest broad demand indication since August of 2009. The internals were just as loopy: Direct take down imploded from a record 45.4% of total to just 5.2%, the lowest since November 2009, and with Indirects refusing to budge, the Primary Dealers were forced to take down 54.2%, or the most since October of 2011. And while the lack of interest was not surprising, especially in the aftermath of the just released Elliott Management letter (more on the later), the violent swings in demand for US paper at issue are starting to make quite a few desk traders very concerned. Because all it will take to crush the credibility of the bond market next is a few more such wild swings, and Geithner and Bernanke better hope that Knight can somehow be a DMM in TSY paper as well.

 
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"Hot, Damn Hot!" - July Is Hottest Month. Ever





In the immortal words of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam: July was Hot, Damn Hot! In fact, according to NOAA, it was the hottest July and hottest month on record and there's no short-term indication of this massively dry spell ending anytime soon. What is perhaps even more impressive is that the the last year has been the warmest 12-month period for the contiguous US since records began in 1895!

 
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Guest Post: Does Easy Monetary Policy Enrich The Financial Sector?





The easing of credit conditions (in other words, the enhancement of banks’ ability to create credit and thus enhance their own purchasing power) following the breakdown of Bretton Woods — as opposed to monetary base expansion — seems to have driven the growth in credit and financialisation. It has not (at least previous to 2008) been a case of central banks printing money and handing it to the financial sector; it has been a case of the financial sector being set free from credit constraints. Monetary policy in the post-Bretton Woods era has taken a number of forms; interest rate policy, monetary base policy, and regulatory policy. The association between growth in the financial sector, credit growth and interest rate policy shows that monetary growth (whether that is in the form of base money, credit or nontraditional credit instruments) enriches the recipients of new money as anticipated by Cantillon. This underscores the need for a monetary and credit system that distributes money in a way that does not favour any particular sector — especially not the endemically corrupt financial sector.

 
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Monti's Bluffing Unleashes Bull Market In Crude





Since the European Summit a mere six weeks ago, Crude oil prices have surged over 20%. It seems, if one looks at stock prices, that between Monti's 'bluff', Rajoy's 'threats', and Draghi's 'promise' that everything has been fixed in Europe and all-is-well in the world as Europe's stocks swing to a year-to-date gain of 5% (with Spain and Italy up 10-15% since the summit alone). However, if one considers for one moment what exactly they are supposed to have 'fixed' then it seems one of these markets is not like the others... 10Y Spanish spreads are 10bps wider than pre-summit, Italian 10Y is only 10bps tighter, Portugal 10Y is unchanged and the Bund has outperformed Treasuries by 15bps. European corporate and financial credit has rallied but has dramatically underperformed - especially post-Draghi - as it is clear that investor hope for more unsterilized Fed/ECB 'aid' is more than priced into equity markets and has had the aforementioned unintended consequence of spilling out into energy markets - with all the negative feedback implications that come with that.

 
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RANsquawk US Auction Preview - 8th August 2012





 
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Welcome To The Republic Of Federal Reserve. Please Present Your Papers





The Federal Reserve: proudly creating checkpoint police jobs since 1913.

 
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"The Beijing Conference": See How China Quietly Took Over Africa





Back in 1885, to much fanfare, the General Act of the Berlin Conference launched the Scramble for Africa which saw the partition of the continent, formerly a loose aggregation of various tribes, into the countries that currently make up the southern continent, by the dominant superpowers (all of them European) of the day. Subsequently Africa was pillaged, plundered, and in most places, left for dead. The fact that a credit system reliant on petrodollars never managed to take hold only precipitated the "developed world" disappointment with Africa, no matter what various enlightened, humanitarian singer/writer/poet/visionaries claim otherwise. And so the continent languished. Until what we have dubbed as the "Beijing Conference" quietly took place, and to which only Goldman Sachs, which too has been quietly but very aggressively expanding in Africa, was invited. As the map below from Stratfor shows, ever since 2010, when China pledged over $100 billion to develop commercial projects in Africa, the continent has now become de facto Chinese territory. Because where the infrastructure spending has taken place, next follow strategic sovereign investments, and other modernization pathways, until gradually Africa is nothing but an annexed territory for Beijing, full to the brim with critical raw materials, resources and supplies. So while the "developed world" was and continues to deny the fact that it is broke, all the while having exactly zero money to invest in expansion, China is quietly taking over the world. Literally.

 
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Be Careful What QE You Wish For #2467: Gas Prices Surging Again





After a drop of more than 20% from late April to mid June in wholesale gasoline prices which was heralded as the great savior of a slowing global economy - all those implicit tax cuts... the hopes and dreams of the next great unsterilized money-printing has not only floated equity asset valuations to near multi-year highs but energy prices across Europe and the US are soaring once again. This 'transitory' 25% surge in wholesale gasoline prices in the US in the last two months - now back above $3/gallon implies (given the lag in transmission) that retail gas prices (which historically peak around July 4th) are set to rise notably above last year's summer peak - back up near record highs and eating into that ever so happy to spend consumer's pocketbook once again. Meanwhile, Europeans are seeing near-record highs in retail gas prices once again and Brent priced in EUR (which remember is what they 'care' about) is now back above 2008 highs and within a few euros of all-time record highs - up almost 30% since Mid-June. Deflationary? Recessionary?

 
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From Chicago To New York And Back In 8.5 Milliseconds





Back in 2009 when the world wasn't filled with HFT 'experts', we deconstructed the topic of High Frequency Trading on a daily basis, and predicted not only the flash crash, not only debacles such as the Knight trading fiasco, not only the death of capital markets as a fund raising vehicle for companies who wish to go public (i.e. the FaceBook IPO fiasco), but much more (all of which has yet to pass before the stock market, as it was once known, is no more). The reason why little if anything can and will be done to fix the persistent threat to capital markets that is HFT is two fold: i) none of the current regulators understand anything about modern market topology, and ii) HFT is so embedded in markets that unrooting it would result in a complete reboot of "fair" stock valuation: imagine what would happen to stock prices if Knight and its "buy everything" algos were no longer present. Mass hysteria as the realization that vacauum tubes are now TBTF. That said it is always amusing to observe as more and more people get in on the scam that is the "equity market", now completely dominated by robots which do nothing but accelerate and perpetuate momentum moves - after all it is all they can do in lieu of being able to read financials, or anticipate events. Remember: it is always the market that makes the news, never the other way around. So it was entertaining and informative to read the latest recap of all events HFT-related as narrated by Wired's Jerry Adler, whose write up "Raging Bulls: How Wall Street Got Addicted to Light-Speed Trading" does an admirable job of showing how not only nothing has changed since those days in 2009 full of warning, but how in fact things are moving ever faster to what will one day be a trading singularity, limited strictly by the speed of light (and maybe even surpassing that). Of all the things in the article, the one we found most curious is that since 2009, the round trip from the biggest quant trading hub in Chicago to the exchange hubs in NY and NJ, has been cut by over 50%, or from over 13 milliseconds to just about 9 milliseconds, courtesy of Microwaves.

 
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First Chevron, Now Shell's California Refinery Issues "Civil Emergency"





UPDATE: Local Police have said that this is a false alarm and there is no emergency at the Shell Refinery.

In what can only be the strangest and most worrisome coincidence, the Shell refinery in Martinez has just issued an Immediate-Severe-Likely public "Shelter-in-Place" emergency alert:

RESIDENTS IN MARTINEZ. ARE ADVISED TO SHELTER IN PLACE. GO INSIDE. CLOSE ALL WINDOWS AND DOORS. TURN OFF ALL HEATERS. AIR CONDITIONERS AND FANS. IF NOT USING THE FIREPLACE. CLOSE FIREPLACE DAMPERS AND VENTS. AND COVER CRACKS AROUND DOORS AND WINDOWS WITH TAPE OR DAMPED TOWELS. MEDIA NEWS NETWORKS WILL CONTINUE TO CARRY UPDATED EMERGENCY INFORMATION. STAY OFF THE TELEPHONE UNLESS YOU HAVE A LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY.

 
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Rosenberg's 'Four Horsemen' Of Downside Risk For US Growth





Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg details the four major downside risks for US growth over the next four quarters:

  1. More Adverse News Out Of Europe
  2. The Sharp Run-Up In Food Prices
  3. Negative Export Shock
  4. The Proverbial Fiscal Cliff
 
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