Earlier today, heavily-armed masked men in military attire, stormed two Ukraine corvettes, Lutsk and Khmelnitsky, in what is now Russian territory at the port of Sevastopol. Perhaps considering Ukraine said it had pulled its troops from Crimea, they should also have pulled their ships, although it is unclear just where they would pull them to. Regardless, this is what the actual storming of the ships looked like.
With senior German officials expecting discussions among leaders at the EU Summit to solely focused on a second round of sanctions against Russia (and warnings that they "must avoid a spiral of sanctions"), we thought it worth drilling down on just how mutually-dependent the two regions are. As Acting-Man's Pater Tenebrarum notes, the following infographics suggest tit-for-tat sanctions could be a really big problem for Europe and why the EU's leaders are probably quietly praying for the crisis to simply go away.
Fact or Fiction...
"...under no circumstance is there ever a justification of the pre-emptive deployment if Hillary Clinton anywhere by any country..."
Treasuries ended the day practically unchanged. Gold, despite some early weakness, ended the day unchanged. The USD ended higher on the day - extending post-Yellen gains but was essentially flatlining aside from concerted buying pressure from 3ET to 7ET. Copper kept falling (as did silver) and oil prices slipped lower. VIX pressed lower as stocks rallied out of the gate but VIX diverged notably after Europe's close to 15% with a few minutes to go. So, given all of that, where do you think stocks closed? Thanks to a pre-CCAR ramp in US financial stocks (which notably diverged from financial credit spreads), and an idiotic 0.5 vol smackdown in VIX, US equities managed to clamber their way back up to pre-FOMC levels before giving some back inthe late-day (with a mini-melt-up into the close). AUDJPY ruled the 'fundamental'-driven US equity markets from open to close.
Each time the Fed has lowered the overnight lending rate, the next set of increases have never exceeded the previous peak. This is due to the fact, that over the last 35 years, economic growth has been on a continued decline. Increases in interest rates are not kind to the markets either. Each time the Fed has started increasing the overnight lending rates. Each time has seen either market stagnation, declines, or crashes. Furthermore, it is currently implied that the Fed funds rate will increase to 3% in the future, yet the current downtrend suggests that an increase to 2% is likely all that can be withstood. According to Jim Cramer last night, he said the idea of rising interest rates shocked the markets, however, in the long-term it's a positive sign. Rates rise as the economy does better. The assumption he makes is that as the economy "catches fire" and corporate profits increase, then it is natural for interest rates to rise also. If a growing economy is a function of expanding profitability, then what is wrong with the chart below...
Last week we discovered that Gazprom's Chairman Viktor Zubkov sold his entire stake in the company days before the Crimean invasion (and subsequent sanctions and asset freezes). Today, on the heels of the latest round of US sanctions against Russia's so-called "Putin cronies"; Cyprus-based oil trader Gunvor Group announced that co-founder Gennady Timchenko (estimated wealth $8.5 billion) - who was named on today's sanctions list - sold his entire 44% stake in the company yesterday. The question is - as we show below - did the US Treasury tip Timchenko off to what was coming?
Ukraine's honeymoon period with its new rulers may end far sooner that most expect, and it will be certainly accelerated with news such as this. A few hours ago, Interfax reported that Ukraine expects to increase domestic gas prices by 40% once discounted import prices from Russia expire, the country’s Energy Minister Yury Prodan told journalists in the European Parliament on Thursday.
"I think it was wrong for us to get involved and participate in the overthrow of the government," exclaims Ron Paul in this brief clip, adding the US is "stirring up trouble in Crimea." The American people are "tired of it," and "it would be best for us to stay out." The US doesn't need another war - and certainly can't afford it - and "we don't want trade wars." Simply put, he concludes, "it's best we stay out."
It's mid-March, which means it is time for the annual confidence boosting theatrical spectacle known as the Fed's stress test (for those who may have forgotten last year's farce when Jamie Dimon preempted the Fed by announcing a dividend in advance of the results, can read here). And like in the past, there were absolutely no surprises with 29 of 30 banks passing with flying colors. Of course, since it is a "test", and someone has the be sacrificial calf, this year that honor falls to Zions Bankshares. Last year its was Citi, SunTrust and MetLife. In both years the results are completely meaningless, as the Fed neither then, nor now, has any methodology for how to calculate capital in case of the same kind of counterparty failure chain as happened during Lehman, and when no amount of capital would have been sufficient to preserve the financial sector. Like we said: theatrical spectacle. But at least everyone's confidence has been boosted. So Buy stawks, and build your paper wealth! And here is the truly funny part: in the baseline stress test scenario, the Dow Jones "plunges" to 11.4K in Q3 2014, and then somehow surges back to all time highs by Q4 2016! Does the Fed understand the word Stress?
Following the default of 2 more corporations last night, Hang Seng's index of China Enterprises plunged to 8-month lows and officially entered bear market territory. Overnight angst in the Chinese currency markets (which saw the Yuan trade back to 1-year lows) has sparked broad commodity weakness (as CCFD unwinds en masse) with copper giving back most of yesterday's major short squeeze gains back. Chinese corporate bond prices also tumbled to one-month lows.
As is widely known by now, Barack Obama, in an executive order, earlier this week as well as moments ago in a very dramatic follow up performance, decided to sanction a handful of Russian military leaders and Kremlinites close to Putin. He didn't touch Putin of course, that could be seen as too strong a signal one which may cut off German gas supplies for a day or two. Remember: there are "costs" and stuff. So while Russian official debate just how to retaliate best to US and European sanctions, as they said they would, ordinary Russians are taking matters into their own hands. And on twitter. Here are some examples in which the "Russian on the street" has some fun with Obama's sanctions, and prohibits the US president and people close to him to approach, enter and/or use the facilities.
Truth can be a damn difficult thing to digest sometimes. Despite the Obama administration touting a budget deficit of “only” $680 billion in 2013, the GAO’s more accurate accounting shows a total government cost of $3.8 trillion on total revenue of $2.8 trillion. In other words– the administration wasn’t exactly honest with the American people– the deficit was more like $1 trillion, not $680 billion. But it gets worse.
Having been shown yesterday by the all-knowing Federal Reserve that growth expectations are "over-optimistic", we are sure President Obama will make it clear that the US is growing (but could do better), that jobs are being created (but could do better), and how middle-class opportunity is right around the corner if it wasn't for them dastardly Republicans...
While the US administration continues to fire 'sanction' bullets at Russia and explains how painful these will be, Senator John McCain - in response to his own sanctioning by the Russians - has responded... (as has John Boehner)
Remember when we said in January 2011 that Dealers merely game the daily POMO reverse auction to generate abnormal - and now confirmed criminal - profits on the back of the central bank, i.e. taxpayer? Guess what - we were right. Again.