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Visualizing Platinum & Palladium's Place In The World





The platinum group of metals (PGMs) have received some perhaps unwarranted attention in recent weeks as the 'coin' idiocy came and went; but, it is noteworthy, as Eric Sprott points out that with demand rising and supply under pressure, the outlook for investment in physical platinum and palladium is increasingly compelling. The following infographic (and various supply and demand dynamics) provides a succinct picture of what these metals are used for, where they are produced, and the supply/demand imbalances.

 
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It's Official: Worst. Recovery. EVER





If there was any debate whether the Fed's policies have helped the economy or just the market (and specifically the Bernanke-targeted Russell 2000), the following two charts will end any and all debate. As the following chart from the St Louis Fed shows, as of the just completed quarter, US GDP "growth" since the "recovery" is now the worst in US history, having just dipped below the heretofore lowest on record.

 
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Guest Post: Energy Industry Doesn't Understand Algeria Attack





The attack on BP-operated Amenas gas facilities in the Algerian Sahara was a spectacular lesson for the energy industry: No amount of high-tech security is invulnerable to Sahelian militants. Billions will now be spent on securing Western energy interests across the region and investment will take a hit at a time when the big news was that the industry’s junior players - particularly American and Canadian - were growing ever so bold and willing to take risks in unstable regions. Their markets may not be able to sustain this bravery much longer. The biggest mistake the industry makes is to ignore regional and geopolitical dynamics. The markets - like the industry - do not respond to complicated geopolitics. They respond to specific incidents and there will be another one. That is to say, the markets will not take the Algerian incident as seriously as it should.

 
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Good News Apple Bulls: Today's $60 Billion Market Cap Loss Is Not The Biggest One Day Drop In History





Apple lost a remarkable $59.63bn in market cap today sending even the most ardent of bullish sell-side analysts scrambling for cover. However, there is a silver-lining, this is not (as many expected) the greatest market cap loss ever in history in one day for any company - it is in fact 3rd!! The holder of the Number 1 and Number 2 spot is none other than AAPL's awful analog - Microsoft (which is itself having a tough night). MSFT lost an enormous $77.18bn on 04/03/2000 and then 3 weeks later followed it up with another epic $61.81bn drop on 04/24/2000. As AAPL drops perilously close to losing the top spot of global market caps to XOM, we note that even that prestigious name had a 'moment' when it lost $52.5bn in a single-day on 10/15/2008. So, good news all around then.

 
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Hamptons Prices Soar To Record As Lloyd Blankfein Parks $33 Million In 8,000 Square Foot Mansion





If there was any confusion where New York's uberwealthy were scrambling to dump their money in December ahead of the now official tax hike on the wealthiest, we now know: some two hours north on the Long Island Expressway, or the Hamptons to be precise. Bloomberg reports: "Home prices in New York’s Hamptons, the resort towns on the Long Island coast, rose to the highest on record as deals at the upper end of the market surged before expected tax increases for sellers. The average price of homes that sold in the fourth quarter jumped 35 percent from a year earlier to $2.13 million, the highest since Miller Samuel Inc. begin tracking Hamptons sales in 1999." Needless to say the when a handful of the 0.001%, and quite close to the New Normal discount window - i.e., the Fed's excess reserves - purchase homes with no price discrimination, it has the same impact as when foreign oligrachs come to the US to launder illgotten cash (with the NAR's blessings), sending prices up some 35% in one year. And since the average price of all houses is dragged higher as a result, TV pundits can spin it as a housing recovery, and get consumers to consume even more by "charging it", making the abovementioned Hamptons' home purchasers even richer: there's your recovery. And it is a recovery, all right, for some: like Lloyd Blankfein who just parked another $32.5 million in prime 8,000 square foot Bridgehampton mansion set on some 7.3 acres.

 
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PIMCO On Hedging: It Pays To Be Countercyclical





It is a well-known phenomenon that quiet markets, low volatility and a lack of visible risks on the horizon can lead to complacence and increasingly dangerous, leveraged positions. In doing so, these market conditions set the stage for the next cycle of deleveraging and losses. What has also become apparent is a predictable behavioral response to this cycle: when the markets experience large losses, tail risk hedging comes back into fashion; on the other hand, when markets are quiet, investors can quickly forget the pain suffered during prior crises. As PIMCO's Vineer Bhansali points out, the current hedging characteristics are comparable to 1/15/2008, right before the crisis.  He adds that, for many investors, it paid to have tail hedges then. If investors believe we are still investing in a dangerous, potentially even more dangerous, environment, they should consider hedging; adding that in their view, tail hedging is not just a trade, but an asset allocation decision for robust portfolio construction. In this light, today’s valuation levels make it easy to be countercyclical and add to tail hedges. Perhaps today's VIX-SPX decoupling is the first sign?

 
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Battle Of The Hedge Rappers: Eye-Kaan Vs. Ack Man





While we doubt either Eye-Kaan or Ack Man will engage in open shootouts on the Las Vegas strip, we can't help but applaud when the "smartest guys in the room" openly talk shit about each other, such as what Ichan said about Ackman earlier on Bloomberg TV: "Look, it's no secret to the world and to Wall Street... I don't like Ackman. I have no respect for him and I don't like him and that's not a secret.... I wouldn't even say this, but it's no secret, I dislike the guy, I don't respect him." We get it, and we also get that the clear winner of Round 1 of Talking Smack is Eye-Kaan. We look look forward to the Ack Master's response with or without Titney Wilson chiming in.

 
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Guest Post: The "Majority Opinion" Is An Illusion





If there is one concept on Earth that has been the absolute bane of human existence (besides global elitism), it would have to be the concept of the “majority opinion”.  The moment men began refusing to develop their own world views without first asking “What does everyone else think?”, they set themselves up for an endless future of failures. Human beings desperately want to belong, but, they also desperately want to understand the environment around them.  Often, the desire to belong and the desire to know the truth conflict.  In some societies, in order to be accepted, one must give up on his search for truth and avoid eliciting the anger of others. The idea of the majority view or the “mainstream”, gives people the sense that they are a part of a group, and at the same time, gives them the illusion of being informed.

 

 
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Fed's Balance Sheet Tops $3 Trillion, But...





... that's not true. The Fed's balance sheet, from a transaction basis, topped $3 trillion some 5-6 weeks ago. The only reason the Fed reported a $3 trillion number in today's H.4.1, or $3.013,333 trillion to be precise, is because all those MBS purchased in September and October following the September 13 reactivation of QE4EVA finally settled. In reality, the Fed's balance sheet is now some $3.12 trillion as there is about a $80-$120 billion lag between what the Fed has actually purchased, and what has settled. Luckily, at least Treasury purchases take far less to settle.

 
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Will The Super Goldman Mario Brothers Succeed In Covering Up The Latest Italian Bailout Scandal?





Just when the Super Goldman Mario Bros (Monti and Draghi) told us everything is fine in Europe, and it is not only safe but encouraged to get back in the pool, the first canary of 2013 just died.

 
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Blow-Off Top? Or Just Another Run-Stop? AAPL 12% Drop!





Updated for the summary of MSFT, SBUX and T earnings.

Amid the deafening screams of hundreds of hedge fund managers looking for any hedging port in an AAPL storm, stock indices (expect the Nasdaq) surged to new highs from the moment the US day-session began until POMO was complete and European markets closed. Volume and block size was large as we took out S&P 500 highs up to 1500 and it appeared we ran out of the short-term proverbial great fool. In general, risk-assets and stocks were well correlated though the big disconnect today was a rising VIX. HY Credit did not play along with the exuberance early on either - as it seemed relatively clear that any and every trick in the book was being used to enable more out of the AAPL boat as we ramped up to VWAP. Once Europe had closed, AAPL slid, stocks slid (with S&P 500 dropping its most of 2013 so far), and risk-assets in general slid lower. JPY weakness and EUR strength helped support risk but Treasury yields falling back and a drop in commodities overall (Gold -0.9% on the week) had the opposite effect. The typical late-day ramp failed despite the best efforts of vol compression as stocks closed almost unch, at VWAP, in line with risk-assets (ahead of tomorrow's LTRO news). AAPL at lows as ramp failed...

 
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EURUSD Is Vulnerable Ahead Of 'LTRO Friday'





ECB will release data on the early LTRO loans repayment tomorrow. The release will help gauge the liquidity needs of the European banking sector. Consensus expectations seem to be around EUR100bn. Recent EURUSD resilience appears based on the market's growing concern that LTRO repayments will be larger than expected (thus reducing the ECB balance sheet / tightening more than expected) and driving up the EUR vs the USD (e.g. ECB vs Fed balance sheet). Critically, as Citi notes, the repayment of LTRO loans will free up collateral in the form of peripheral bonds. This seems to be particularly the case ahead of tomorrow given that Spanish and Italian banks were among the biggest borrowers under LTRO’s first tranche. If these banks opt to benefit from the spectacular rally in BTPs and Bonos and liquidate some of their LTRO collateral (shrinking their balance sheets in the process) this could fuel renewed upside pressure on the peripheral bond yields. This could then dampen any EUR upside post LTRO repayment - and as the main carry-driver for US equity performance, could lead to a risk-off switch quite rapidly. So tomorrow's LTRO repayment needs to be Goldilocks - too little and its clear banks have liquidity problems still; too much and the market's reaction could be notably risk-off.

 
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Gallup Poll: Americans Most Negative On the Nation And Economy In 30 Years





We guess Americans just haven’t heard of a little something called the stock market.  Isn’t that right Bernanke?  Wasn’t the stock market rally you engineered supposed to make everyone feel all nice and confident?  Well the great middle class squeeze continues, as the stock market is for the 1% what food stamps are for the poor.  They are just strategies to keep these groups apathetic and obedient.  The middle class isn’t buying it though, as is evidenced by this recent Gallup Poll conducted January 7-10, 2013.

 
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Racing To The Revolution: Spain Vs Greek Youth Unemployment





Spanish and Greek youth unemployment surged to yet another new record as joblessness among the under-25 cohort is now above 55% for both of these troubled nations. "We haven't seen the bottom yet," one analyst notes as the BBC notes that the youth unemployment in these nations is more than double the euro-area average. As we have noted many times, this ludicrous state of affairs (in nations that proclaim the worst is past) is by far the most-concerning for European stability. Even Frau Merkel opined this morning in Davos that: *MERKEL SAYS EU YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT BIGGEST BURDEN, NEEDS TACKLED Yet, there is nothing being done. Across the 27-nation bloc, there are 5.8 million people aged under-25 that remain long-term unemployed. This has always and forever led to extreme events and social unrest, as we warned here (must read). As the year warms up, which nation will 'spring' first?

 
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Bank Of Italy Throws The Book At Monte Paschi For "Hiding Derivative Documents"





As we reported previously, the stock of the oldest bank in the world, Italy's venerable Banca Monte Dei Paschi of Siena, was halted in early trade after plunging on news that the bank had engaged in not only the previously reported secret derivative transaction with Deustche Bank to hide losses before a prior government bailout, but yet another derivative transaction, this time with Nomura, signed three years ago and whose intention, ironically, was to reduce 2012 earnings by some €220 million.What the ultimate purpose of these deals was is still unclear and will likely become apparent eventually, however it will likely require the former Chairman of the bank, Giuseppe Mussari, who served as Chair from 2006 until April 2012, and who officially quit his post as Italy's top banking lobbyist after today's revelations, to testify. One person whom he may testify against is none other than current ECB head Mario Draghi, who just happened to be the head of the Bank of Italy from 2006 to 2011, or the entire period when Monte Paschi was engaging in what increasingly appears to have been fraudulent activity.But don't worry: just like in the US, nobody of signfiicance is about to go down for this "glitch" which is about to be blamed on some poor mid-level shmuck, and which nobody in the senior level management had any idea about, and certainly not the person who ultimately would have had to give the green light: the current head of the ECB.

 
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