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Chinese 'Gold Rush' -Year of Dragon First Week Sees Record Sales– Up 49.7%





Xinhua, the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China reports that a "gold rush" swept through China during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday this year, with demand for precious metals and jewelry surging since the Year of the Dragon began. Data released by China's Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce shows a 49.7% increase in sales volume for precious metals jewelry and bullion during the week-long holiday (over last year), which lasted from January 22 to 28 over that of last year's Spring Festival. One of Beijing's best-known gold retailers, Caibai, saw sales of gold and silver jewelry and bullion rose 57.6% during the week long New Years holiday  according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Saturday, Other jewelry stores across the country also saw sales boom during the period, with customers favoring New Year themed gold bars and ingots and other types of Dragon themed jewelries. During the week-long holiday, which lasted from January 22 to 28, the sales volume in just one gold retailer, Caibaiand Guohua, another of Beijing's top gold retailers, reached about 600 million yuan (nearly $100 million). Caibai began selling gold bars as investment items during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but the trend of buying gold or silver bars during the Spring Festival has taken off in the past two years.

 
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Previewing Today's Informal Meeting Of European Council Members, And Complete Clown List





Brussels may be striking, but its caterers sure are as busy as possible: with another informal meeting (which is a euphemism for useless) of the European Council members set to begin in under an hour, and with nothing out of the IIF negotiations contrary to expectations, look for the market to sell off at 7pm CET as Europe announces that the confusion is just as palpable as any time during 2011.

 
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Frontrunning: January 30





  • Euro-Region Debt Sales Top $29B This Week (Bloomberg)
  • Greek Fury at Plan for EU Budget Control (FT)
  • Greek "football players too poor to play", leagues running out of money, may file for bankruptcy (Spiegel)
  • After insider trading scandal, Einhorn wins the battle: St. Joe Pares Back Its Florida Vision (WSJ)
  • China Signals Limited Loosening as PBOC Bucks Forecast (Bloomberg)
  • China's Wen: Govt Debt Risk "Controllable", Sets Reforms (Reuters)
  • IMF Reviews China Currency's Value (WSJ)
  • Watching, watching, watching: Japan PM Noda: To Respond To FX Moves "Appropriately" (WSJ)
  • Cameron to Nod Through EU Treaty (FT)
  • Gingrich Backer Sheldon Adelson Faces Questions About Chinese Business Affairs (Observer)
 
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3 Months After The MF Global Bankruptcy, We Find That $1.2 Billion (Or More) In Client Money Has "Vaporized"





On the three month bankruptcy anniversary of the company whose rehypothecation gimmicks will one day be seen as a harbinger of everything that is  broken with the multi-trillion ponzi system, but not just yet despite loud warnings otherwise, we are getting close to a final verdict of where the $1.2 billion (and possibly more as originally predicted by Zero Hedge - see below) in commingled client money may have gone. Note the use of the passive voice because using the active, as in money that MF Global executives stole from clients, is prohibited in a legal system in which nobody goes to jail for something as modest as $1.2 billion in theft. That verdict? "Vaporized." No really (and yes, in the passive voice of course). From the WSJ: "As the sprawling probe that includes regulators, criminal and congressional investigators, and court-appointed trustees grinds on, the findings so far suggest that a "significant amount" of the money could have "vaporized" as a result of chaotic trading at MF Global during the week before the company's Oct. 31 bankruptcy filing, said a person close to the investigation." Uh huh... Because money simply vaporizes. Which means one of two things: i) the "vaporization" is merely the phrase that so called investigators use to avoid the far more troubling sounding "stolen" as it would imply guilt, something which the former NJ governor and Goldman CEO (and not to mention JP Morgan which most likely was on the receiving end of the $1.2 billion + transaction) will, under guidance from counsel, sternly disagree with, or ii) the capital markets are such an unprecedented and manipulated fraud, that nobody has any clue at any moment, where any client money is, and that any residual capital still "invested" in mythical representations of "assets", which are likely rehypothecated so many times, that not even Bank of America's robosigning division would have a clue where to start unraveling, will promptly be converted into tangible manifestations of capital. So when someone asks what happened to stock market volume, and to investor confidence in the "stock market" feel free to use just that phrase: "it vaporized."

 
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It's Official: German Economy Minister Demands Surrender Of Greek Budget Policy, Says It Is First Of Many Such Sovereign "Requests"





While over the past 2 days there may have been some confusion as to who, what, how or where is demanding that Greece abdicate fiscal sovereignty (with some of our German readers supposedly insulted by the suggestion that this idea originated in Berlin, and specifically with politicians elected by a majority of the German population), today's quotefest from German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler appearing in Germany's Bild should put any such questions to bed. And from this point on, Greece would be advised to not play dumb anymore vis-a-vis German annexation demands. So from Reuters, "Greece must surrender control of its budget policy to outside institutions if it cannot implement reforms attached to euro zone rescue measures, the German economy minister was quoted as saying on Sunday. Philipp Roesler became the first German cabinet member to openly endorse a proposal for Greece to surrender budget control after Reuters quoted a European source on Friday as saying Berlin wants Athens to give up budget control." And some bad news for our Portuguese (and then Spanish) readers: you are next.

 
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Guest Post: The Banker Tax





Because our political system is corrupted by corporate lobbyists, it leaves the people with few choices. Those who do not wish for a violent revolution are left with the one alternative of taking control of their own money. Money can be anything two parties in a transaction choose it to be. Precious metals is one good choice. Converting ones savings from Federal Reserve Notes into precious metals is not some kooky survivalist ploy. It is empowering a person to vote against the immoral monetary system. Hoarding food is not a kooky survivalist ploy, it is hedging against an immoral banker tax. We all have the moral obligation not to pay the banker tax. Refuse to deposit your funds into a money center bank. Support efforts to end the Federal Reserve System.

 
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SocGen Answers: "Is Greece Unique?"





Greece is now yesterday's news. The only question is if, and when, Portugal will follow in the Greek footsteps. SocGen explains, answering key "client questions."

 
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Key Events In The Coming Week





In addition to telling everyone to short the euro and go long the dollar (wink) Goldman Sachs is kind enough to summarize what the recurring Eurocentric rumor-based headlines of the coming week will be: "The week ahead starts with the EU Heads of State Summit, where discussions will be focused on finalizing negotiations around the fiscal compact, where we think important progress has been made, not least by allowing individual countries to police each other's budget policies. Attention will also be squarely focused on Greece, where negotiations over PSI continue, in addition to negotiations between the Troika and the government. The IMF mission is scheduled to remain in Athens at least through Friday. The week also brings important bond auctions, starting with Italy on Monday (at 5- and 10-year tenors), followed by France and Spain on Thursday. Outside of Europe, key data include the slew of global PMI's on Wednesday. Consensus sees China's PMI slipping below the 50 threshold in January. We are slightly more cautious than consensus on the ISM, expecting an essentially unchanged reading. The week ends with the all-important nonfarm payroll release. We think nonfarm payroll growth probably slowed somewhat in January given less of a boost from favorable weather and seasonal factors. However, we think the pace of employment growth, combined with weak labor force participation, may still be enough to pull the unemployment rate down a touch."

 
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Davos Post Mortem





And like that, this year's Davos World Economic Forum has come and gone, having achieved nothing except allowing a bunch of representatives of the status quo to feel even more self-righteous and important in the world's biggest annual circle jerk, in which fawning journalists ask the questions their cue cards demand, knowing too well their jobs are on the line if they ask anything even remotely provocative (and with the price of admission in the tens of thousands of dollars, one wonders just how many Excel classes these "journalists" could have taken as an alternative, in order to actually do some original math-based research, yes, shocking concept, to present to their readers instead of merely regurgitating others' talking points). Bloomberg TV has compiled the best video summary of the highly irrelevant soundbites by economists, CEOs and other people of transitory power, who provide absolutely no original insight into anything, and in which ironically it is Mexico's Felipe Calderon who summarizes it best: "we have a timebomb the bomb is in Europe and we are working together to deactivate it before it explodes over all of us." Lastly, we provide a quick glimpse into current and previous guests of Davos to show just how utterly worthless is the "braintrust" of those present.

 
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Iran Blinks, Delays Vote On European Crude Export Halt Even As US Escalates Military Developments Against Country





After it was the west backing down from further unnecessary escalation with Iran two weeks ago, when Israel and the US delayed indefinitely joint naval operations in the Arabian Gulf, it is now Iran's turn to blink. Following reports that Iran would pass a law halting crude exports to European countries, in advance of the full-blown embargo expected to take place some time by June, or as soon as European countries have found alternative supplies, we now learn that "Iran's parliament on Sunday postponed the debate over the bill." This is happening just as nuclear inspectors are arriving in the country "to probe allegations of a secret atomic weapons program." Yet does this mean that Iran has just exposed a major weakness that the West will immediately pounce on? It is still unclear - Reuters reports that "Iran's oil minister said on Sunday the Islamic state would soon stop exporting crude to "some" countries, the state news agency IRNA reported." Naturally the vague, open-endedness of this statement makes it quite clear that it was Iran's turn to de-escalate this time around. Or does this simply mean that Iran has been unable to conclude alternative oil trade arrangements with China, Russia and India just yet?

 
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Goldman's Tom Stolper Conducts Sunday Hitfest On The USD





It is one thing for Tom Stolper to release precious tidbits about what is not going to happen in the future on a weekday - for those we are very grateful. But doing so on god's (or is that Goldman's) day is truly a first. In a note just blasted out, it would appear there is no rest for the Stolper, and according to the world's most admired FX strategist (remember: batting 0.000 is just as useful as batting 1.000), "Dollar downside forces on the rise" and that Goldman is positioned "short the USD again"... Just as Goldman was positioned long the Russell 2000 literally the minute the market topped on Thursday (no joke - check it). And to think it was only three weeks ago that the same strategist saw downside risks for the EURUSD to 1.20...

 
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Cost Of Second Greek Bailout Raised To €145 Billion





When the first revision of the second Greek bailout to the tidy round number of €130 billion was announced, we scoffed, mockingly. Because a country which then had a 7% budget deficit, and now has a deficit that will be well in the double digits, and not to mention a banking system that is now hollow following tens of billions in deposit withdrawals as month after month the Greek bank run gets worse, would obviously need much more liquidity (but banish the thought that it is a solvency crisis...) Sure enough, earlier today Der Spiegel broke the news that the second bailout, which has yet to be re-ratified, and absent Greece meeting demands to cede fiscal sovereignty, is likely a non-starter, would be increased to €145 billion "citing an unidentified official from the so-called troika." So whether or not this is true is irrelevant: what matters is that Spiegel released the article in the same series of posts in which it explained just why Germany has full right to demand (via European enforcement mechanisms or however) virtually anything in exchange for the ongoing endless bailout (such as: Merkel macht Wahlkampf für Sarkozy and Griechenland sträubt sich gegen EU-Aufpasser). Which means one thing only: the great propaganda spin machine is now on, and its only purpose is to provide Germany a buffer of "having done everything in its power" to prevent the now inevitable Greek default. Which, incidentally, means that a Greek default is inevitable. Because at this point once the default floodgates open, the question will be not where the bonds will trade, but just how big the impairment on the European DIP (aka Troika bailout package) will be.

 
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F.A. Hayek On "The Great Utopia"





While it is hardly necessary to provide commentary to one of F.A. Hayek's timeless observations from his book, The Road To Serfdom, rereading the chapter titled The Great Utopia, in this year of what could possibly be the most important election in the history of the United States, in which the US public will be promised nothing short of utopia by virtually every candidate except the one who really knows that fixing America would require pain and sacrifice, is everyone's duty. Courtesy of the Center for Economic Liberty we recreate it below in its entirety, and urge all readers, regardless of political persuasion of economic beliefs to consider what F.A.Hayek was saying some 70 years earlier, and how very applicable it is to our current situation.

 
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Greece Politely Declines German Annexation Demands





Following yesterday's frankly stunning news that the Troika politely requests that Greece hand over its first fiscal, then pretty much all other, sovereignty to "Europe", here is the Greek just as polite response to the Troika's foray into outright colonialism:

  • GREEK GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN DECLARES THAT THE BUDGET IS SOLELY ITS RESPONSIBILITY - DJ

What is interesting here is that unlike the highly irrelevant IIF negotiations which will end in a Greek default one way or another, the real plotline that should be followed is this one: because unless Germany, pardon the Troika, gets the one condition it demands, namely "absolute priority to debt service" and "transfer of national budgetary sovereignty", as well as a "constitutional amendment" thereto. there is no Troika funding deal. Furthermore, since as a reminder the PSI talks are just the beginning, the next step is ensuring compliance, as was noted yesterday ("[ceding sovereignty] will reassure public and private creditors that the Hellenic Republic will  honour its comittments after PSI and will positively influence market access"), any refusal to implement such demands is an automatic dealbreaker. Which means anything Dallara and the IIF say, as representatives of a steering committee that at this point probably constitutes of one bondholder, with the bulk having shifted to the ad hoc committee, is irrelevant. Germany just got its answer. And the next step is, as Zero Hedge first suggested, an epic LTRO in precisely one month, whose sole purpose will be to prefund European banks ahead of the Greek default with enough cash to withstand Europe's Bear Stearns. Although as a reminder, in the US, Bear Stearns only led to Lehman and the global "all in" gambit to preserve the financial system by shifting bank insolvency risk to the sovereigns (a chart showing bank assets as a percentage of host countries' GDP can be found here). But who will bailout the world's central banks which already collectively hold over 30% of global GDP in the form of "assets", or as this term is better known these days, debt?

 
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