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Italian Scandal Widens As Italy's Third Largest Bank Set To Get Third Bailout In 3 Years; Draghi, Monti Implicated





While little has been said in the mainstream western press about the ongoing fiasco surrounding Siena's Banca Monte dei Pasci, Italy's third largest bank and the world's oldest which may get its third bailout in three years - or even be nationalized - as soon as today, for fears that it may break the thin veneer of "recovery" in the European financial system, the situation on the ground in Italy is getting more serious by the minute, and will have implications on both next month's general election, on Mario Monti, on Silvio Berlusconi, on frontrunner for the Prime Minister post Pier Luigi Bersani, and reach as far up as the head of the ECB - Mario Draghi.

 
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Apple's Flash Dump In The Last Second Of Trading Caught On Tape





Sure, the retail "investors" are coming back into the "markets"... They are coming back in shifts.  And just so they know what to expect, here is what happened to Apple stock in the last second of regular trading today, courtesy of Nanex. Unlike traditional flash crashes where the trade is an HFT error, or a few shares traded through the entire bid or offer stack, in this case it looks like a very premeditated unloading of some 800K shares (some $350 million worth) of AAPL in the last second, with the full knowledge it was shake the market. Why anyone would want (or wait until the very last second) to do that, while covering the offsetting ES short in the pair trade, to ramp the market into the close, is anyone's guess.

 
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Eric Sprott On Ignoring The Obvious





The purpose of asset purchases by the Fed might no longer be improvements in the real economy, but rather a more subtle financing of U.S. government deficits. However, in the long run, expanding the money supply inevitably leads to inflationary pressures. Luckily for the Fed and the U.S. government, there is so much slack in the labour market that inflation might be years away. And, if we are right about the long run unemployment rate being structurally higher, then the Fed has all the room it needs to continue Quantitative Easing (QE) to infinity. This might allow them to continue to hide the true financial position of the government for many years to come. Nonetheless, the rising GAAP deficit and the sheer size of the U.S. Federal Government’s liabilities to its citizens makes it clear that one day or another, services (health care, social security) will have to be cut. Financial alchemy can hide reality, but it does not provide any tangible services. Europe’s (unresolved) experience with its debt crisis provides an insightful window into the future. Austerity measures in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece have caused tremendous pain to their citizens (25% unemployment rates) and wreaked havoc in their economies (double digit retail sales declines). Are we going to ignore the obvious?

 
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Guest Post: The Gold Guarantee Blowing Up In Singapore?





Today's reminder of the importance of taking physical delivery of gold at the best price possible comes from Singapore.

 
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Taleb On "Skin In The Game" And His Disdain For Public Intellectuals





Nassim Taleb sits down for a quite extensive interview based around his new book Anti-Fragile. Whether the Black Swan best-seller is philosopher or trader is up to you but the discussion is worth the time as Taleb wonders rigorously from the basic tenets of capitalism - "being more about disincentives that incentives" as failure (he believes) is critical to its success (and is clearly not allowed in our current environment) - to his intellectual influences (and total disdain for the likes of Krugman, Stiglitz, and Friedman - who all espouse grandiose and verbose work with no accountability whatsoever). His fears of large centralized states (such as the US is becoming and Europe is become) being prone to fail along with his libertarianism make for good viewing. However, his fundamental premise that TBTF banks should be nationalized and the critical importance of 'skin in the game' for a functioning financial system are all so crucial for the current 'do no harm' regime in which we live. Grab a beer (or glass of wine, it is Taleb) and watch...

 
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Marc Faber Fears 1987 Redux As "Markets Will Punish Interventionists"





"Regardless of what the markets do near-term, a correction is overdue," Marc Faber tells Bloomberg TV's Betty Liu. From discussing Europe's 'apparent' stabilization - "anything can go up when you print money"; to US equity exuberance - "a correction is overdue and February is a seasonally weak month"; Faber sees no change from Geithner's handover to Lew as he opines: "The only thing I know is one day the markets will punish the interventionists, the Keynesians and the monetary policy that the Federal Reserve and ECB has enforced because the markets will be more powerful one day. How will this look like? Will the bond market collapse or equity markets become a bubble, which would be embarrassing for the Fed's sake if the U.S. market became a gigantic bubble and at the same time the economy does not recover."

 
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Visualizing The Euphoria





Drip...drip...drip... day by day, stocks leak higher, gradually inching up to record nominal highs; credit yields compress to record lows (and spreads near record pre-crisis tights); and volatility compresses (realized and implied) to near all-time-record lows. We have discussed the positioning of the market (S&P 500 futures at their net longest since 2007), crowded nature (JPY Shorts and NKY Longs), and sentiment (AAII Bulls near record highs). But, it is Credit Suisse indicator of risk appetite that should be worrisome for most investors. With Credit Risk Appetite well beyond any previous record high and Global Risk Appetite at its highest since 2006, perhaps it is time to consider the hedging discussion we had yesterday? With the euphoria dramatically dislocated from fundamentals and empirical world wealth trough-to-peak moves indicating a turning point, the lack of bearish arguments is deafening.

 
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Weekly Bull/Bear Recap: Jan. 21-25, 2013





This objective report concisely summarizes important macro events over the past week.  It is not geared to push an agenda.  Impartiality is necessary to avoid costly psychological traps, which all investors are prone to, such as confirmation, conservatism, and endowment biases. 

 
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Bob Shiller's Healthy Dose Of Skepticism





In a week dominated by prognosticators pointing reflexively to a nominal price index flashing green on their TV as indication that all is well in the world, Bob Shiller provides some much-needed healthy skepticism on not just the state of the housing market but the broad economy itself. While Bloomberg TV's Tom Keene presses his short-term anchoring-biased view of a world heading for much better growth and a US housing recovery that will seemingly save us all; Shiller warns we have seen this before (in 2009's housing market) and that the housing decline could go on. When Keene tries to translate the market's performance into economic performance expectations, Shiller responds "you are talking to wrong man." From the fact that we should be growing super-normally now to return to 'normal' market conditions to his view of many more years to go in this stagnation, four minutes of Shiller's historical prescience is the perfect foil to the tick-watching talking-heads exuberance (especially in light of today's dismal new home sales).

 
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Geithner's Farewell Present: Gold Slammed, S&P Over 1,500 On Best January In Stocks Since 1994





A close above 1500, and the last time the S&P 500 managed 8 close-to-close gains in a row was November 2004 (with the 9th higher close marking the end of the run that time). The rise of the Dow Industrials is the best January since 1994 - which saw a rather painful 10% decline in Febuary. Today saw bonds monkey-hammered to catch up (yields) to equity's strength on the week. FX markets saw more JPY weakness (-1% on the week) as EUR strength from this morning's LTRO news followed on - dragging the USD down 0.3% on the week. Commodities were mixed with Oil unch on the week, Copper down (but global growth?), and Gold and Silver slammed on what looks like AAPL collateral calls. AAPL spent the day wiggling up to VWAP and getting dumped to new 52-week lows unable to get any bid and once again we saw VIX totally ignoring the equity exuberance. Builders outperformed (+3.2%), Tech underperformed (-0.4%), as trade-size and volume were relatively low. The close with AAPL smashing lower on huge volume and ES ripping to new highs confirms the pairs-trade unwind we have been banging on about.

 
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Friday Humor: Miniature Predator Drone Goes On Sale To Bipolar Public Reception





Just because there is a superficially-pacifist, yet supraficially genocidal, dictatorially-inclined egomaniac in every one of us, the moment the Maisto Fresh Metal Tailwinds 1:97 Scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft - US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator went on loss at Amazon (we would say sale, but that would imply some probability of profit, which as even the hotdog guy, knows is never going to happen at AMZN), everyone scrambled to buy one.  However, only those first in line got one: everyone else was greeted by a "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock" sign. So what does one do: what one should have done in the first place before going for the one impulse purchase that can murder innocent children half way around the world courtesy of the latest iPad app "iKiller": read the customer reviews of course. Below is a broad sample of the rather bipolar main street America response when faced with the opportunity of having the same great power, if not so great - or any - responsibility, as is  given, by some 25% of the population (factoring for the 55% or so who don't vote) to the president of the USA, even if on a 1:97 scale.

 
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Scam Complete: The US Government Takes A Page From Diocletian’s Book...





Early in the 4th century, Emperor Diocletian issued an infamous decree to control spiraling wages and prices in the rapidly deteriorating Roman Empire. As part of his edict, Diocletian commanded that any merchant or customer caught violating the new price structures would be put to death. This is an important lesson from history, and a trend that has been repeated numerous times. When nations are in terminal economic decline, governments will stop at nothing to keep the party going just a little bit longer. I thought of Diocletian’s desperation a few days ago when I read about the recent sanctions imposed on US rating agency Egan-Jones. Given that all this is happening at a time when Congress is voting to suspend the debt ceiling entirely, these actions are the clearest sign yet of just how desperate the government has become. Could the warning signs be any more obvious?

 
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Q4 Earnings Season: Far Worse Than Most Suspect





There has been some confusion about the quality of the ongoing Q4 earnings season, which has seen some 47% of the S&P 500 companies report to date (and with 53% still left things can certainly change). The confusion apparently is that this has been a "good" earning season so far. Nothing could be further from the truth, and as Goldman shows in its midterm Q4 earnings report, the reality, not spin, is that earnings are tracking at $24.03, or some 6% below the consensus estimate at the start of earnings season of $25.51. This revised number, which could well drop even more from here, means that Q4 earnings will post a minuscule 1% growth in EPS year over year compared to Q4 of 2011 when Europe was imploding, and when the world's central banks had to arrange a global bailout to prevent yet another Armageddon.

 
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Fed Intervention For Dummies - What A Record $3 Trillion In Fed Assets Gets You





At the heart of it, visualizing the record $3 Trillion Dollar Federal Reserve balance-sheet is practically impossible. However, in two simple charts we can easily visualize what impact that gargantuan amount of printed cash has had on the 'real' economy and the 'real' market via Bernanke's magic wealth-effect. Presented with nothing to add...

 
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Ultimate Hedge Fund Deathmatch: Icahn And Ackman As The Real Billionaire Husbands Of CNBC Going Wild





Following the epic rap battle we noted yesterday, today saw probably the greatest (and most enthralling) segment on CNBC ever as 'Bullshitting' Bill Ackman took on 'Cry-baby' Carl Icahn in a no-holds-barred discussion that covered everything from religion, ethics, trust, blasphemy, greed, desperation, and independence. CNBC's Scott Wapner found himself in the middle of a clash of the titans. The full clip has to be seen to be believed but our bevvy of quotes, tweets, and quips should summarize what happens when two Billionaire BSDs get into a pissing competition live on TV.

 

 
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