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Nigerian Countrywide Strike Suspended





Just out from Reuters:

  • NIGERIA'S LABOUR UNION LEADERS SAY STRIKE SUSPENDED - RTRS

Minor down tick in crude on the news, maybe because everyone is still sleeping. So, does this mean that the Iran embargo is back on, and the joint US-Israel wargames are set to resume as "budgetary" conditions have loosened?

 
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European Banks Deposit Entire LTRO, And Then Some, With ECB As Deposits Approach €500 Billion





Back on December 21, the day when the deus ex 3 year LTRO was completed and €489 billion in gross capital was provided to banks at a 1.00% cost, of which €210 billion was net new incremental capital (pro forma for rolling maturities), the ECB deposit facility usage was €265 billion. As of Friday, the ECB announced deposits have grown to just shy of €500 billion, or a new record of €493 billion (which pays banks just 0.25%). In other words, between the LTRO effective date, and today, an additional €228 billion has been deposited, or more than the entire LTRO! And so Sarkozy's carry promoting dreams are entirely dashed, as instead banks end up paying €1.6 billion a year net just to hold the €210 billion with the ECB. In the meantime, the question becomes whether banks are already preparing for the February 29 3 year LTRO next? Check back when the deposit facility usage hits €700 billion in 2 months as banks stash aside about $1 trillion in capital shortfall cash with the central bank. And rising.

 
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Frontrunning: January 16





  • Jon Huntsman Will Leave Republican Presidential Race, Endorse Mitt Romney, Officials Say (WaPo)
  • Dont laugh - Plosser: Fed Tightening Possible Before Mid-2013 (WSJ)
  • Greece’s Creditors Seek End To Deadlock (FT)
  • France Can Overcome Crisis With Reforms – Sarkozy (Reuters)
  • Nowotny Says S&P Favors Fed’s Bond Buying Over ECB’s ‘Restrictive’ Policy (Bloomberg)
  • Bomb material found in Thailand after terror warnings (Reuters)
  • Ma Victory Seen Boosting Taiwan Markets as Baer Considers Upgrading Stocks (Bloomberg)
  • Japan Key Orders Jump; Policymakers Fret over Euro (Reuters)
  • Renminbi Deal Aims to Boost City Trade (FT)
 
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Gold Nears €1,300/oz - Euro Lower After EU Downgrades and Greece Jitters





Although gold had its largest drop in the last 2 weeks on Friday, (-1.6%), it was 1.3% higher on the week and trading higher this morning.  Many analysts feel that current sovereign, macroeconomic and geopolitical risks are not reflected in gold's price. Friday's news of France's loss of its AAA rating has put the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) at risk. The Eurozone economy resembles a large ship sailing in rough seas since France fund's 20% of the EFSF fund and 8 other members were also downgraded. This will almost certainly lead to the EFSF's downgrade which would result in the fund too paying more to borrow as credit costs rise.  There are icebergs lurking in increasingly murky Eurozone waters. The European downgrades were long expected and may have been priced in the markets. The risk of a non orderly Greek default and of contagion in the Eurozone remains and is not priced into markets. It would lead to the euro falling sharply against other fiat currencies and particularly against gold.

 
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Summary Of The Upcoming Week's Key Events





After the fairly muted Wellington open, the reaction of the European bond markets to the S&P downgrade will be the next focus of attention. One benefit of the S&P ratings action is that it takes away one source of uncertainty. Given a French downgrade wasn't widely anticipated, market focus on this issue may well be short lived. Related to the European downgrades is the rating of the EFSF, which was also put on credit watch in early December. S&P have commented that they are in the process of evaluating the impact of the sovereign downgrades on the EFSF rating. For the AAA rating to be maintained it would require further commitments from European governments. Remaining in Europe, newswires report that Greek debt talks will resume Wednesday, thus the Greek PSI is likely to remain a focus all week.

 
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How Safe Are Central Banks? UBS Worries The Eurozone Is Different





With Fed officials a laughing stock (both inside and outside the realm of FOMC minutes), Bank of Japan officials ever-watching eyes, and ECB officials in both self-congratulatory (Draghi) and worryingly concerned on downgrades (Nowotny), the world's central bankers appear, if nothing else, convinced that all can be solved with the printing of some paper (and perhaps a measure of harsh words for those naughty spendaholic politicians). The dramatic rise in central bank balance sheets and just-as-dramatic fall in asset quality constraints for collateral are just two of the items that UBS's economist Larry Hatheway considers as he asks (and answers) the critical question of just how safe are central banks. As he sees bloated balance sheets relative to capital and the impact when 'stuff happens', he discusses why the Eurozone is different (no central fiscal authority backstopping it) and notes it is less the fear of large losses interfering with liquidity provision directly but the more massive (and explicit) intrusion of politics into the 'independent' heart of central banking that creates the most angst. While he worries for the end of central bank independence (most specifically in Europe), we remind ourselves of the light veil that exists currently between the two and that the tooth fairy and santa don't have citizen-suppressing printing presses.

 
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Stocks Open Down As EURJPY Hits Fresh 11-Year Low





UPDATE: ES leaking lower as Packers fans sell (and China's Shanghai Composite -0.8% at open and Hang Seng -1%)

Following EURUSD's modestly weak opening (though managing to hold above Friday's lows and inching higher), EURJPY has pushed to fresh new 11-year lows (and JGB yields at one-year lows). Asian equities are trading notably lower with Japan's Nikkei down 1.6% in early going (coming back a little now) and South Korea's Kospi down 1.1% so far. ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) opened lower, tried to get back up to Friday's close, failed and is now down around 6pts (at 1285) - still shy of where broad risk assets (CONTEXT) would expect - around 1280 for now - though AUD weakness (housing data bad not totally dire though carry being lifted), JPY strength (government comments on the flatness expected in Japan's recovery and safety flow) and Treasuries not open is undermining support for stock futures so far. The economically-sensitive commodities are leaking lower with Silver having given back its earlier gains and Copper down 0.75%, Oil is holding near $99 and Gold is down a smidge (and more stable than the rest) at -0.23% ($1635). The market's message is risk-off for now and we would expect Bunds to benefit (as JGBs are for now while corporate credit leaks wider) as without Treasuries open, where is risk capital going to flow.

 
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As Two Thirds Of Companies Report EPS In The Next 3 Weeks, Talk Of "Record Earnings" Is About To Hit Mute





Just like back in the first half of 2011, when GDP experienced a premature climax to coincide with the end of QE2, only to tumble promptly afterwards, so just as two thirds of the S&P by market cap prepare to announce earnings starting tomorrow, Q4 EPS forecasts have hit the lowest they have been at in the past 12 months. While the general economy has been lagging the contraction of Europe and Asia, yet finally hit a downward inflection following the disappointing data of the past week (more on that shortly, as we explain why with the Fed set to begin an easing bias in 10 days, all economic indicators are about to take a dive), it has been corporate results that have so far managed to keep the market afloat. This may be coming to an end, courtesy of a perfect storm of negative earnings preannouncements (which have soared to a ratio of 3.5x compared to positive ones; the highest since Q1 2008) together with outright coincident misses. Because as the chart below shows, at $24.09 and pointed decidedly downward, Q4 EPS and its transition to Q1 2012 does not portend anything good for the world economy or markets. In fact, with the EUR plunging, while the news is welcomed by German exports, the adverse impact to US companies, via FX losses and otherwise, is about to be unveiled.

 
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Guest Post: American Military Pit Bulls And Their Handlers





It is not what the few do but what the many don’t do. That really represents what we are all about, co-conspirators in a sea of silence. Marines who view despicable acts committed by other marines remain silent; the officers, who are well aware of this behavior, condone it, invariably following the “ethical criminal” attitude in war morality of “when in war, shit happens”; and the nation prefers to play the part of Pontius Pilates.

 
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Is German Anger Finally Coming To A Boil? Even Local CEOs Say Time To Exit Euro May Have Arrived





It would appear that the German public (and political class to some extent) are beginning to see the European project in the same manner as we described back in July. As the increasing burden of saving the eurozone from its own excess falls on the shoulders of every Tobias, Dirk, and Heike taxpayer in Germany, even industry leaders, such as Wolfgang Rietzle, the CEO of Linde, this weekend according to Reuters, are suggesting a line in the sand has to be drawn and that "if we do not succeed in disciplining countries then Germany needs to exit." This has been very much a view we have held for months, that instead of the periphery limping away one-by-one, the very core of the foundation will simply decide enough is enough or as Reitzle notes (among many other critically insightful comments) "the willingness of countries to reform themselves is abating if, in the end, the European Central Bank steps in." This morning Germany's FinMin Schaeuble added to the potential separation rhetoric with his comments, via Bloomberg:

  • *SCHAUEBLE SAYS ECB AS LENDER OF LAST RESORT WOULDN'T CALM MKTS
  • *SCHAEUBLE SAYS JOINT EURO REGION BOND SALES NOT A SOLUTION

Hardly reassuring given the dreams of every GGB owner and BTP-exposed insurance company are banking on the ECB cranking the presses to 'secure' nominal returns in the real world. Friday's mass downgrade (and S&P's more interesting Q&A) have perhaps left Germany on the hook for up to 56% of its GDP via the EFSF support mechanisms and as we noted six months ago, the moment for Atlas to shrug draws closer with every downgrade and SMP action.

 
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Preliminary Thoughts On The European Downgrade From Goldman And Morgan Stanley





It has been a busy weekend for Wall Street, which has been doing all it can to spin the S&P downgrade in the best favorable light, although judging by the initial EURUSD and EURJPY reaction, so far not succeeding. Below we present a quick report written by Goldman's Lasse Nielsen on why in Goldman's view the downgrade's "impact is likely to be limited" and also the quick notes from an impromptu call MS organized for institutional clients (which had just two questions in the Q&A section, of which only one was answered - it appears virtually noboby believes that global moral hazard will allow anyone to fail at this point, so why bother even going out of bed).

 
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Overnight Long/Intraday Short Gold Fund More Than Doubles In Just Over A Year: Generates 43% Annualized Return





Back in August 2010, we presented an idea proposed by our friends at SK Options trading for a very simple trading strategy: being long gold in the overnight session, and shorting it during the day. At the time of writing, such a strategy would have returned $2.16 billion from a $100 million initial investment in 10 years, a 37.46% annualized return. Today, we provide a much needed follow up to this quite stunning divergence. As SK notes: "we have revisited the article and written an update. Not only does the discrepancy still exist but it has been actually increasing. That fund would now be worth $5.26B, way up from $2.16B when we last wrote about it - in other words an increase of 143% in just over a year. When we wrote about this in August 2010, the annualized return of the Long Overnight/Short Intraday gold index was 37.46% since the start of 2001. However if we measure from now the annualized return since 2001 is 43.24%, with the annualized return of the Long Overnight/Short Intraday gold index standing at roughly 64.4% since 2009." So for those who wish to layer on an additional alpha buffer on top of what is already the best performing asset of the past decade, the SK Options way just may be the strategy. As for the reasons for this gross arbitrage - who cares. Is it manipulation? is it the early Asian buying offset by London pool selling? It is largely irrelvant - the point is that this is "the divergence that keeps on giving" - kinda like a Stolper trade, or an inverse Tilson ETF, and until it doesn't, or until something dramatically changes in the precious metal market, it is likely that this trading pattern will continue for a long time.

 
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Video And Post-Mortem of Spectacular Carnival Cruise Liner Accident Off Tuscan Coast





To those who woke up on Saturday to images of a massive cruise liner keeled over following a very peculiar Friday night accident off the coast of Italy, no, this was not a prop for the latest James Cameron movie: it is the Carnival Corp's Costa Concordia, which carried over 4,200 passengers and crew, and foundered after hit a submerged rock off the Tuscan  island of Giglio in very calm conditions. At last count 11 passengers and 6 crewmembers were missing, with at least 6 confirmed dead as of last night. Here is what is known as of right now.

 
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Appeasement Arrives: Joint US-Israel Exercise Postponed For "Budget Reasons", US Will Not Enforce No Fly Zone Over Syria





First we had news that out of the blue, the Western embargo against Iranian oil exports would be delayed by 6 months, and now, in the aftermath of last night's developments out of Iran which blamed the CIA for the murder of its nuclear scientist we get this (from Bloomberg):

  • ISRAEL, U.S. POSTPONE MILITARY EXERCISE, ISRAEL RADIO SAYS
  • JOINT EXERCISE POSTPONED FOR BUDGET REASONS, RADIO SAYS
  • U.S.-ISRAELI EXERCISE PLANNED TO BE BIGGEST EVER, RADIO SAYS
  • EXERCISE WAS TO TAKE PLACE IN NEXT FEW MONTHS, RADIO SAYS

And just so it doesn't look like a total cave in:

  • ISRAEL SAYS JOINT U.S. MILITARY EXERCISE STILL UNDER DISCUSSION

As a reminder Iran made it very clear an escalation in joint US-Israel war game cooperation would be met with yet another miliary exercise out of Iran.

 
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