The polar vortex came, saw, and is on its way out, and now comes the time for the damage report. As Reuters reports, "At least nine deaths have been reported across the country connected with the polar air mass that swept over North America during the past few days. Authorities have put about half of the United States under a wind chill warning or cold weather advisory.... Homeless shelters and public buildings took in people who were freezing outside. Daniel Dashner, a 33-year-old homeless man who typically sleeps under a bridge on Milwaukee's south side, said he opted to seek a spot at a shelter on Monday night. "Usually if I have four or five blankets, I can stay pretty warm, but when that wind is blowing, I don't care how many blankets I have, the wind blows right through me," he said, as temperatures dropped to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21 degrees Celsius)." On the other hand, there was some levity in the newsflow, when as AP reported, an escape inmate opted for the familiar warmth of prison and turned himself in.
- Here comes JPM's next multibillion legal reserve: Federal Probe Targets Banks Over Bonds (WSJ)
- Mulally Bows Out of Microsoft CEO Race, Staying at Ford (BBG)
- United States sending more troops and tanks to South Korea (Reuters)
- Eurozone unemployment sticks at record high (FT)
- China-Japan 'Voldemort' attacks up ante in propaganda war (Reuters)
- Alternative Lenders Peddle Pricey Commercial Loans (WSJ)
- John McAfee: glad Intel dropping name from security software (Reuters)
- Jobless Benefits Bill Stays Alive Amid Talks on Offsets (BBG)
- Chicago Colder Than South Pole as Frigid Air Clamps Down (BBG)
- Former Miss Venezuela shot dead in attempted robbery (Reuters)
There has been much speculation recently about some immaculately conceived Spanish economic recovery. And while it has certainly sent the local Ibex stock market soaring, we fail to see any indication of such a recovery, at least in official economic data. The latest example being, of course, today's European unemployment for November, which at the Euroarea level remained flat at 12.1%, which also is the all time record high following a prior revision. However, what is more troubling is that according to the official European statistics keeper, Spanish unemployment in November was 26.7%: tied for the all time high seen in October and hardly an indicator of some imminent economic renaissance. There is, of course, always December - that month in the New Normal when hiring really picks up. But where things get really bad is when one looks at Spain's youth unemployment. At 57.7% in November, nearly two in three Spaniards under 25 had no job, and the nail in the coffin for the "recovery" is that this rate is now well above the latest update from Greece, where the youth unemployment was "only" 54.8% as of September.
Some better than expected economic news out of Europe, Greek 10 Year yields dropping to 7.65% or the lowest since May 2010, and futures are... red? Alas, such is life in a world in which the S&P500, aka the E-mini, is simply a derivative of the Yen funding currency pairs, where the USDJPY touched on 105 after a straight line diagonal move only to sell off in recent trading. Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen mixed, with peripheral stock indices outperforming, buoyed by the prospect of Portugal echoing yesterday’s Irish NTMA return to capital markets with its 10y bond syndication. As such, despite the cautious sentiment, financials led the move higher, with Italian banks gaining for 4th session as IT/GE 10y spread narrowed to its tightest level since early July 2011. Of note, FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers since the get-go, with retailers and tobacco names under pressure. In spite of opening higher by over 3%, Sainsbury's shares have since reversed and are seen lower by almost 2% after co. CFO said that he expects FY LFL sales to be just below 1% and expects Q4 to be similar to Q3. Elsewhere, tobacco names came under selling pressure following reports that China is planning a ban on smoking in public by year's end.
Recently, the FBI made a significant change to its self-proclaimed primary focus in its fact sheet from “law enforcement” to “national security.” This change merely confirms what I and countless others have claimed to be true for quite some time. That the entire regulatory, security and intelligence apparatus of these United States has been redirected away from protecting the Constitution and the rule of law, toward a narrow focus on protecting the economic and social positions of the oligarch class at all costs under the guise of a “war on terror.”
While Abe begs (and cajoles) business leaders to raise wages (whether it makes economic sense or not), his plunging approval rating could have something to do with the ongoing squeeze the average gadget-freak Joe-san consumer is experiencing. Bloomberg reports, for the first time in 21 years, mobile phone prices are rising. The typical deflationary path of technological improvement is being overwhelmed by JPY weakness. "Inflation is spilling across a range of products," warns a Dai-Ichi economist, adding that the weakening yen is driving up prices as "Japan is importing more final goods as production shifts overseas."
Even before Abe was elected prime minister on December 26, 2012, Chinese media were warning that he would be overly nationalistic. Upon Abe’s election, major Chinese news outlets expressed dismay over the future of China-Japan relations. It seems that the visit to Yasukuni Shrine was the last straw for Chinese leaders in their dealings with Abe. Hua said that Abe’s decision to visit the Shrine “severely damages the political foundations of China-Japan relations.” Simply put, “There’s no domestic political room for China to ease its attitude toward Japan on the issues of the Diaoyu Islands and the Yasukuni Shrine.” When one or both reaps a domestic advantage from stoking the fire, forget about easing tensions —avoiding actual conflict is the best case scenario. Under the circumstances, the only hope for a reset of China-Japan ties is if Abe is ousted as prime minister.
The economist Herbert Stein once said that if something can't go on forever, it will stop. The pattern of the last few decades, in which higher education costs grew much faster than incomes, with the difference made up by borrowing, can't go on forever... There is no point in trying to preserve the old regime as "working your way through college" is now impossible. For an 18-year-old, investing such a six-figure sum in an education without a payoff makes no more sense than buying a Ferrari on credit.
With Russian, Chinese, and Argentinian (with a record low in the blue dollar today) money washing ashore (in USD or Bitcoin) under the Status of Liberty, the 'prices' of upscale apartments in New York City have simply exploded. We thought some context for this apparent 'price' vs 'value' discrepancy was useful... presenting 6 castles that cost less than an apartment in NYC (and given the number of bedrooms, not to mention moats, dungeons, vineyards, ramparts and drawbridges - dramatically less in terms of per-capita spend).
A record 21 million applications were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) last year - an 8% increase over 2012 and, as The Washington Times reports, the 11th straight year that the number has risen. Background checks serve as a proxy for the number of gun sales, which soared in the months immediately after Sandy Hook (but notably fell in the last 2 months of 2013 as the Newtown and 'fear of Obama' effect wore off). "2013 was the best year for firearm sales (commercial, domestic) in history — period!" notes the president of the independent firearm owners association, adding that "Ammunition will still be very strong in 2014 as it hasn’t caught up nationally with the demand." This could become a problem since, in what many believe was an attempt to 'crowd out' private buyers, the Homeland Security Department bought 1.6 billion rounds alone.
Remember when the Fed got its Series 7 and Series 63, and was solely engaged in the business of advising on stock valuation? Neiter do we. But that doesn't prevent it from now openly opining on what it thinks is the fair value of stocks:
- FED'S WILLIAMS SAYS U.S. STOCKS AREN'T OVERVALUED
So, the implication is one should buy stock then? And if the market craters tomorrow, the Fed will surely make everyone who listened to this non-voting moron who has made a complete mockery of the Fed's inflation and full employment mandates and replaced them with the "fair stock value" mandate, whole at the expense of all the other taxpayers, right? Finally, since the market is not overvalued here, what is the Fed's price target on the S&P 500, oh unregistered financial advisors-cum-Princeton academics of the Marriner Eccles building.
With manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs disappointing, and the nation's banking system still stuck in the thralls of a liquidity crisis (each time the PBOC removes the punchbowl), Michael Pettis' warnings are becoming increasingly likely (even though consensus remains that China will save the world somehow - as it transitions 'smoothly' to a consumer-based economy). Ironically, he notes, GDP growth rates of 7% or more, on the other hand, will suggest that credit is still rising too quickly and that China has otherwise been unable to implement the reforms, in which case China is likely to reach debt capacity constraints more quickly. Growth of 7% for the next few years, in other words, is almost prima facie evidence that China is not adjusting.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make, Saxo Bank's CEO warns, is to assume that rationality will prevail, that just through superior economic performance, freedom will capture enough peoples' hearts in a democracy to win the day. In the last of his three-part series (part 1 and part 2), Lars Seier Christensen focuses on the broader relevance of Ayn Rand in society today, noting that she remains among the few that recognised with crystal clarity, that we will not win the battle through just proving that freedom and capitalism works. This, he warns, creates a major problem for those of us that like to argue rationally, rather than emotionally.
JPMorgan, Madoff, And Why No One Dared Ask "The Cult" Any "Serious Questions As Long As The Performance Is Good"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/07/2014 19:02 -0400
JPMorgan: "[t]here are various elements in the story that could make us nervous," including the fund managers "apparent fear of Madoff, where no one dares to ask any serious questions as long as the performance is good.... personnel at one feeder fund seem[ed] very defensive and almost scared of Madoff... They seem unwilling to ask him any difficult questions and seem to be considering his 'interests' before those of the investors. It's almost a cult he seems to have fostered."
Hayek knew that avoiding the credit-created boom prevents the associated malinvestments and over-consumption while boom-bust cycles will be avoided through prevention or significant reductions in credit creation. Keynes, however, thought differently. Current Fed policy is a policy of illusion, or better yet, of delusion.