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McDonalds Hikes Japanese Burger Prices By 20%





As we have been warning for a while now, Japan wanted inflation and is certainly getting it, just in all the wrong places. While Abe has been desperate to transfer the collapse in the yen and the (transitory) surge in the Nikkei to the all important increase in wages, and the much sought-after wealth effect, the reality is that corporate input costs are rising far faster than revenues, and wages will be the last thing profit and earnings-conscious companies raise. As for the Japanese consumer, trained by 30 years of deflation, any profits in the stock market will be promptly converted to cold hard cash and bank deposits which represents that vast majority of Japanese financial assets, which means a double whammy for companies who will also see a drop in sales volumes, crushing margins even more as a result. One company which could no longer tolerate soaring energy and food costs (both of which we described previously here and here), is McDonalds, and as the FT reports, the fast-food chain announced today that the price of its entry-level hamburger would increase by 20% from ¥100 to ¥120, while a cheeseburger would now cost ¥150 instead of ¥120.

 
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Argentina Revolts Against Government Push To Take Control Of Judicial System





The streets of Buenos Aires are full of revolting Argentinians this evening as they protest President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's (CFdK) plans to 'increase' state control of the court system. CFdK's proposal looks to limit the judicial system's ability to bring actions against the state, as Bloomberg reports, leaving citizens and companies unprotected against state actions affecting their finance or assets (i.e. mass nationalization or confiscation). As the images below show, the people are angry, exclaiming "No to impunity." CFdK's actions follow previous attempts to take action against companies have failed or taken too long; but acting behind a facade of "increasing democracy and transparency," it appears her intent is clear as the bankrupt nation struggles on. "The reform will do great damage," warned one business leader, adding that limiting these injunctions, "undermines individual's rights and freedom."

 
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IMF's Lagarde Is "Deliberately, Decisively, Desperately Optimistic"





When the head of the IMF "thinks there is some good news," and applauds Japan for its "innovation," it is clear that Christine Lagarde is struggling for positives in this interview with Bloomberg TV. Though she says all the right things, dots-the-i's-and-crosses-the-t's off as a confidence-inspiring global elite should do, the lack of enthusiasm is clear. "I'm deliberately, decisively, desperately optimistic," she exclaims even as she admits that they just downgraded global growth expectations and somewhat slams the US for "blind and blunt" fiscal consolidation, preferring instead "austerity... but not front-loaded." All-in-all, "a bit of work needs to be done," is as good as it gets for now.

 
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Reuters Releases George Soros Obituary By Mistake: "Enigmatic Financier, Liberal Philanthropist Dies At XX"





First CNN, then AP, now Reuters: the entire media is increasingly starting to look like amateur hour. Unless, of course, Soros is like Osama, and had several "reincarnated" body doubles, with the original specimen long gone. Here is our suggestion for another prepared article: "Today after XX centuries of monetizing debt, the Emperor of the Galactic Central Bank, Gaius Maximus Printius Bernankius the DCLXVIth, ended QE in the year of the alien invasion, XXXXX. Bread costs XXXXXXXXXXX."

 

 
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Guest Post: Are Earnings Expectations Realistic?





We all know that markets don’t always reflect the health of the economy. It is not unusual to experience stellar market returns in an otherwise mediocre economic backdrop – something that investors are currently experiencing. But future success in this investing climate is a greater challenge and requires a good hard look at how realistic earnings expectations are. The bottom line is that actual earnings growth will be substantially lower than what is currently built into stock prices. This view is contrary to current consensus expectations and could potentially serve as a major headwind for the market once investors begin to share it in coming months.

 
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Guest Post: Unintended Consequences Are Increasing World Demand For Gold





With the financial experts claiming, some gleefully, that gold has "lost its safe haven status" in the aftermath of its biggest tumble in 30 years, many commentators thought (hoped?) that the dramatic price drop would steer people away from gold ownership. To my eyes, the past week has all the earmarks of a high-gloss propaganda campaign complete with well-placed anti-gold stories in the media and the careful use of language aimed at sowing doubt about gold's ability to be a store of wealth. But for those who consider gold a store of value, the recent gold slam is a gift: an invitation to purchase more sound money with fewer units of paper currency. In other words, a sweet deal.  Gold and silver on sale and the world is taking advantage.

 
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Boston Marathon Bombing FBI Press Conference - Live Stream





With CNN not reporting anything (or retracting anything), we hope the FBI can clean up some of the 'facts' with regard the terrorist attack on Boston.

 
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S&P Breaks Key Trendline For First Time In 2013 As Tech Earnings Disappoint





Despite the ubiquitous last-hour rampalooza, the S&P 500 was unable to close back above its 50-day moving average. This is the first close below this key price level in 2013 as high-beta Tech (AAPL) and Homebuilders underperformed notably (on the day and week) and stocks are below Cyprus levels (and marginally above Italian election levels). VIX pushed back above 18% for the first time in 7 weeks (for its biggest spike since the Italian elections). Volume was above average and average trade size was low (suggesting no capitulation yet). Away from stocks, markets were remarkably subdued. Treasuries traded in a narrow 3bps range and closed unchanged (though stocks are catching down). The USD closed practically unchanged from yesterday's US close. Credit markets tracked lower with stocks (though the HY ETF held up). Commodities generally drifted higher (aside from Silver) with WTI up 2% on the day amid Syrian headlines. This is worst 5-day slump in 5 months.

 
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The Euro Legacy: In Greece, Children Pick Through Trash Cans For Food





"We have reached a point where children are coming to school hungry," as with an estimated 10% of Greek elementary and middle school students suffering from 'food insecurity', the troubled nation has fallen to the level of some African countries. As the NY Times reports, unlike the US, Greek schools do not offer subsidized cafeteria lunches. Exacerbated by the austerity measures including cuts in subsidies for larger families, the cost has become insurmountable for many. With 26% of Greek households on an 'economically weak diet', children are starting to steal for food and picking through trash cans as they proclaim, "our dreams are crushed." What is frightening is the speed at which it is happening, "a year ago it wasn't like this," as one family talks of the 'cabbage-based diet' which it supplements by foraging for snails in nearby fields. Programs are being started to help from wealthier Greeks, but as one parent said, "unless the EU acts, we're done for."

 
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Goldman Confirms Slowdown Accelerating





Two weeks ago we showed the notable cyclical collapse in Goldman Sachs' business cycle 'Swirlogram', due to a combination of downward revisions in over-adjusted data and actual economic decline. The latest 'swirlogram' shows that the situation has gone from bad to worse. While hope remains due to strength in AUD and CAD (commodity) currencies, Consumer confidence, global PMIs, and Industrial metals have all worsened significantly pushing the Global Leading Indicator momentum down notably. The next key indicators Goldman are watching are Belgian and Dutch manufacturing, Japanese Industrial Production Inventory/Sales, and Korean exports and they remain cautious of the increasing fiscal drag in the US.

 
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In The Past 48 Hours, AAPL Has Lost More In Market Cap Than All Of...





In the last 48 hours, everyone's beloved stock - AAPL - has lost around $35 billion in market capitalization. That is larger than the entire market capitalization of these large-cap companies...

 
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Guest Post: How Does This End?





The fleecing of the American public continues. The theft takes different forms, but it all serves one purpose — to transfer wealth from the average Joe to the crony corporatists and their political lackeys. Capitalism and free markets depend upon trust, integrity, property rights and the rule of law. Without these, there are no advantages to free markets. Nor are there any incentives to create wealth. Instead, an economy becomes little more than a massive plunder scheme where the powerful exploit the weak. No economic recovery is possible under such circumstances. Historians judge that it took Rome almost two hundred years to die. The US is in similar position. Unless you believe in the miracle of sovereign resurrection, the US is over. The coroner-historians have not pronounced death yet, but they, like with Rome, are behind the curve. This dead man too will eventually fall down.

 
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Big Ööps: Deutsche Börse Says "Flash Crash Can't Happen Here" A Week Before German Flash Crash





Yesterday, courtesy of Nanex, we provided a close look into the internals of the flash crash that took place in yesterday's trading session of German stocks. What was made obvious, is that this crash happened as a result of the same sudden liquidity vacuum that took place in May 2010 in the NYSE, when the DJIA plunged by 1000 points on a surge in offers and no bids, leading to the infamous original flash crash (about which we warned in April of 2009 of course) crushing the market, before a mysterious buying power emerged out of nowhere and returned it to an almost unchanged level. What we did not know, and what makes yesterday's German mini crash both delightfully ironic and supremely humiliating to the largest German stock exchange operator, the Deutsche Börse, is that it was less than one short weeks ago that the very same Deutsche Börse, in a direct reply to Nanex itself, stated that what we witnessed on Wednesday night couldn't possibly happen. Six days later, it did.

 
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When Gold And Stocks De-Correlate





The structural collapse in paper gold prices has been met a seeming 'money-on-the-sidelines' flourish of investors looking to buy the physical asset. However, when asset relationships break-down so significantly, as gold and stocks have in the past 90 days, one has to take a step back and think "what changed?" As the chart below shows, the last time the correlation between stocks and gold was this negative, things did not end so well for the high-valuation equity momentum chasers...

 
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Charles Gave On The Social Purpose Of Tax Havens





Thanks to the scapegoating of the Cahuzac affair, Europe can now move from its war against finance (Hollande declaring that finance was his enemy, the financial transaction tax, capping of bonuses, etc) to an outright war against tax havens (letting Cyprus sink, arm-twisting Luxembourg into abandoning its banking-secret policy, etc). Leaving aside the EU’s increasing penchant for forcing members to adopt policies that blatantly go against national interests (like the Tobin tax in the UK), yesterday’s announcement by Luxembourg of an “open-book” policy raises the question of whether the EU is cutting off its nose to spite its face. If tax havens have existed and thrived for so long, they must have some sort of economic justification. The reality for most tax havens is that their economies are far too small to absorb the excess savings that pour into their countries. Their banks thus end up being large buyers of assets outside of the country. In this position of weakness, going out all guns blazing after rich people and their wealth strikes us as sheer madness...

 
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