Rumors of a new "preferred shares" program which could implicitly mean easier access to desperately needed liquidity for Chinese banks and real estate developers prompted what one analyst called "a short-covering-led recovery after shares had fallen a lot." The banks of the Shanghai Stock Exchanged rallied notably as chatter was they would be be first to be blessed with the ability to issue new stock and this boosting their capital. The 2.7% rally in the composite was the best day in 4 months (even as China CDS surged by their most in 9 months) but, as one trader noted, "we may see one or two more days of upside but China's fundamentals are still weak. We weren't falling for nothing."
Sanctions against billionaires - that's one (very much meaningless) thing. But halting sales of Russian vodka, now that could really cripple someone, just not clear who. And in an attempt to answer that question, the premier of Canada's Saskatchewan province, Brad Wall, says he is considering banning Russian booze in government-run liquor stores because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Wall says it’s a small measure, but sends a strong statement.
When we reported early yesterday that Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan threateningly warned that since Twitter had ignored court orders to remove content related to a government corruption scandal., that he would "destroy Twitter" and that "we'll dig up Twitter - all of them - from the roots," he raged, "they'll see the power of the Republic of Turkey" it may not have been quite clear what he meant. A few hours later it was revealed, when virtually all Twitter access was blocked in Turkey ten days ahead of the general election in a move that has already enraged the nation and resulted in a powerful public outcry.
Having warned of Putin's blind-spot (and Merkel's position of potential leadership) in the Europe-US-Russia debacle, billionaire investor George Soros has some ideas on how to punish Russia (and some warnings on the consequences)...
- Australia says nothing spotted in search for plane (AP)
- Putin looks to Asia as West threatens to isolate Russia (Reuters)
- China Billionaire Builds Metals With Dreyfus, Glencore Hires (BBG)
- China Beige Book Says Economy Slowing (BBG)
- Caterpillar Said to Be Focus of Senate Overseas Tax Probe (BBG)
- US Cancels Summit With Divided Group of Gulf Nations (WSJ)
- Cyprus defense minister suffers aneurysm (AP)
- Abe to zero in on economy as tax hike looms (Nikkei)
- Europe strikes deal to complete banking union (Reuters)
Moments ago the "absorption" of Crimea into the Russian Federation was completed after Putin signed the final previously passed by parliament. And with that, in less than a month, the Crimean "question" has been answered. The only question is whether Putin will stop here or will the ease with which he just expanded the Russian political map leave him hungry for more. In other news, as part of the Western escalations against Russia, Bank of Rossia, the one bank exclusively identified in the sanctions list, announced that Visa and MasterCard have stopped, without notification, providing services for payment transactions for clients. These moves in turn promptly led to Putin announcing that he wants to open an account with the Bank Rossia.
Once again there has been little fundamental news or economic data this morning in Europe with price action largely driven by expiring option contracts. In terms of key events, Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against US sanctions for now even as Bank Rossiya discovered Visa and MasterCard have stopped servicing its cards, and as Putin further added he would have his salary sent to the sanctioned bank - the farce will go on. Continuing the amusing "rating agency" news following yesterday's policy warning by S&P and Fitch on Russian debt (was that a phone call from Geithner... or directly from Obama), Fitch affirmed United States at AAA; outlook revised to stable from negative, adding that the US has greater debt tolerance than AAA peers. Perhaps thje most notable move was in Chinese stocks which rallied overnight after major domestic banks said to have stopped selling trust products which were blamed for encouraging reckless borrowing and diluted credit standards. Speculation of further stimulus and the potential introduction of single stock futures also helped the Shanghai Comp mark its biggest gain of 2014 closing up 2.7%.
Some 83 aircraft have been declared “missing” since 1948, according to data compiled by the Aviation Safety Network. The list includes planes capable of carrying more than 14 passengers and where no trace — bodies or debris — has ever been found.
While the most vocal mouthpieces of the western world's nations are loudly condemning Vladimir Putin's actions in Crimea - despite Ukraine itself suggesting he can keep it for a price - it appears the rest of the world is less voracious in its condemnation. As Putin noted this morning "we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea,” Putin said. “We are grateful to the people of China, whose leadership sees the situation in Crimea in all its historical and political integrity. We highly appreciate India’s restraint and objectivity.”
With the Crimea referendum passed and Russia ready to annex the region, the United States and the European Union have threatened sanctions. The full extent of these sanctions is not yet known, and announcements are pending for the end of March. If these measures are concrete, they will of course be followed inevitably by economic warfare, including a reduction of natural gas exports to the EU and the eventually full dump of the U.S. dollar by Russia and China. As I have discussed in recent articles, the result of these actions will be disastrous. For those of us in the liberty movement, it is now impossible to ignore the potential threat to our economy. No longer can people claim that “perhaps” there will be a crisis someday, that perhaps “five or 10 years” down the road we will have to face the music. No, the threat is here now, and it is very real.
Yellen’s press conference was panned by some as confusing and ambiguous. The press conference was not as “boring” as some have stated, because the FOMC (represented by Yellen) now appears to be struggling between theory and practice. This marks a significant shift from the majority of members who had almost entirely been relying on models (theory). The one thing that seemed perfectly clear is that the Fed plans to continue to unwind the QE program barring some type of disaster. After that, we will all have to reassess and see how things unfold...“Theory is when you understand everything, but nothing works. Practice is when everything works, but nobody understands why. When theory and practice are untied, nothing works and nobody understands why.”
With Ukraine troops being redeployed to other regions on the mainland - as the government appears to have folded on Crimea protection efforts but pledges to "defend our land" - we thought some postcards from the tip of the spear would be useful...
As any long-time reader of this column knows, we routinely draw from historical lessons to highlight that this time is not different. History is full of examples, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Soviet Union, which show that whenever societies reach unsustainable levels of resource consumption and allocation, they collapse. We’ve been writing about this for years, and the idea is now hitting mainstream. A recent research paper funded by NASA highlights this same premise. According to the authors: "Collapses of even advanced civilizations have occurred many times in the past five thousand years, and they were frequently followed by centuries of population and cultural decline and economic regression." The results of their experiments show that some of the very clear trends which exist today– unsustainable resource consumption, and economic stratification that favors the elite – can very easily result in collapse.
"Markets are distorted," was the message Citi's Matt King implored investors to comprehend in his latest missive, and it appears speculators are growing disillusioned with their 'faith' in markets one asset-class at a time. In the interests of simplifying the decision of whether to believe markets are driven by fun-durr-mentals (or not), the following two charts should help clarify your decision to BTFATH...