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Japan: Catharsis Or Crisis?





The recent landslide victory of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on a platform that promised positive change for the long-struggling Japanese economy has thrust a somewhat forgotten Japan back into the headlines. Indeed, as Goldman notes, asset markets have already responded aggressively to the prospective changes with Japanese equity markets climbing to multi-year highs and the Yen declining to multi-year lows against the US dollar and the EUR. But, as Kyle Bass has recently explained, very real questions remain about the ability of the LDP and new Prime Minister (PM) Shinzo Abe to deliver on promises and break the damaging cycle of low growth and deflation that has become well-entrenched in the Japanese economy over the last five-plus years. These doubts are reinforced by concerns about the health of the domestic banking sector and of Japan Inc. in general. "Abe-nomics 'appears' positive, but for how long?" Goldman asks and Hamada's recent concerns over 'going too far' are very real - though in general Goldman's positive 'take' is a useful counter-point to Bass' somewhat more realistic apocalyptic endgame thesis.

 
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Guest Post: The Grand Tradeoff Of Risk/Innovation/Growth And Financial Security





Focusing on econometric data to make sense of our economic ills blinds us to deeper dynamics, for example, the Grand Tradeoff of risk and financial security. If risk is avoided, suppressed and unrewarded, the economy will stagnate and the costs of the promised financial security will crush it. If you want a high-innovation, high-growth economy, you must reward risk and accept constant disorder and failure - the very antithesis of guaranteed financial security. The very promise of permanent security dooms the economy to stagnation as complicity, gaming the system, avoidance of risk and passivity are incentivized.

 
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House Votes On Debt Ceiling Suspension Wednesday As Pelosi Calls It "Gimmick Unworthy Of Challenges We Face"





While it is not news that the GOP has proposed a temporary debt ceiling extension that would suspend the provisions of the debt ceiling target until May 19, as was reported last week, however which would demand that the Senate do something unthinkable, and something it has not done for 4 years, namely pass a budget by April 15, it is news that as The Hill reports, the vote to suspend the debt ceiling in the House will take place "as soon as Wednesday." From The Hill: "While past measures to address the debt limit have simply increased the borrowing cap, the House bill would actually suspend the debt limit for three months. Then, on May 19, the debt limit would be automatically increased from $16.4 trillion to accommodate whatever additional borrowing the Treasury had done during that time frame." As we explained last week, this is merely a plan to shift fiscal (ir)responsibility into the Democrat camp, as it is virtually impossible that America can have a budget now or ever again. After all with $1 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see, the possibility to bluster and claim one is fiscally responsible while demanding $4 trillion in debt until 2016, will hardly fool the majority of the people any more of the time. Sure enough, Pelosi's response has made it quite clear this entire plan is DOA: "the proposed three-month debt- limit increase does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class. This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face.

 
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Obama Address Word Cloud: "America People Must Believe"





We thought it useful to succinctly summarize the words that have been spewed forth from The Capitol today (and in the past). There is plenty to consider; from Reagan's "freedom" and "government" to Schumer's unfortunate random use of the words: "America", "Today", "Finished", "People" and finally Obama's somewhat ironic punchline that "we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character." Maybe the invisible hand of wordclouds was right when it suggested from today's 2,078 word address that "America Must Believe."

 
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Live From DC, It's Obama's Second Inauguration Address





The crowd is ready; the pundits are anxious; the country mostly watching American Idol on their DVR but in an understated moment in Washington D.C. Barack Obama is about to begin the 57th Inauguration (retail version following yesterday's 'real' version) to be followed, perhaps, by his "I have a drone..." address in remembrance of MLK Day...

 
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The Pre-Inauguration Party - Drinking Game





Well, it's 5pm somewhere in the world but we thought the following would provide some levity to the potentially stoic teleprompter's upcoming speech...

 
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Did Google Just Release A Last-Minute Earnings Warning?





 
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View From The Bridge: Moral Hazard Or Paranoia?





According to “Economics 101”, quantitative easing, on the heroic scale we have witnessed thus far, should already have led to rampant if not hyper inflation. That it hasn’t is down to the continuing decline in the velocity of circulation of money. In simple terms the banks aren’t lending (compared with the amount of money available to them), but instead are punting on financial assets, which is where “inflation” is ending up and benefitting their balance sheets. Markets generally front run the economy, but if, as many folk believe, including our commentator above, that quantitative easing has been a failure from the start, then why are equity markets indicating an upturn in economic activity? At the end of the day, if the central banks continue to believe they have no other option than money printing and you can put up with the volatility, it’s all aboard the equity train. Bond yields won’t rise much either; if at all. The gold price should give some indication of whether this strategy is working or not, but that is a market that is far easier to rig than sovereign debt – the Germans seem to think so as they contemplate repatriating some of their bullion held by other central banks.

 
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A Look Back At Barack Obama's First Inaugural Address





"America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents.... The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.  Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward.  Where the answer is no, programs will end.  And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

 
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Number Of The Year: "Unlimited"





For the first time this year, Brussels is awash with the opulent optimists of Europe as the finance ministers meet to decide how much of the EUR500bn ESM funds can be funneled direct to their banks and bypass the greedy governments. However, at the core is an uncomfortable reality that all is not well, one Brussels-based think-tank noted: "It’s really about signaling, the only thing that really has an impact on markets is when the word unlimited is uttered by somebody in charge, so in the end it’s not a question of how high the big number should be." The dilemma is Draghi's 'unlimited' promise, which has now been adopted by the Fed and the BoJ, has been hailed as the "breakthrough in tackling the causes of the euro-zone crises" but has instead unraveled into a combination of "complacency and political resistance" from creditor countries.

 
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Putting His Mouth Where His Money Is: Meet Dylan Grice's New Home





It is no secret that one of Zero Hedge's favorite mainstream strategists over the years was SocGen's Dylan Grice, which perhaps in itself was a logical warning sign that his career in the mainstream was doomed to a premature end. Sure enough, several months ago, Grice, whose guiding motto has been sound money uber alles as he dutifully exposed - as much as he could  - crack after crack in the facade of the status quo, announced he was leaving SocGen, and was headed for greener pastures, literally, in this case Zurich-based fund Edelweiss, run by Anthony Deden. And while lateral moves in the financial industry are nothing new, we were quite impressed to learn that unlike most other "capital preservation" managers, Dylan Grice's new home has a rather stunning allocation of AUM to precious metals. How stunning? Decide for yourselves.

 
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Frontrunning: January 21





  • With array of challenges, Obama kicks off second term at public inauguration (Reuters)
  • Uneasy in the Political Climate, Mickelson Talks Like Someone Ready to Step Away (NYT)
  • BOJ Should Slow Easing If Yen Weakens Too Much, Hamada Says (BBG)
  • Spain Recession Scars Exposed as Jobless Seen at 6 Mln (BBG)
  • Davos Doom Loses to Merkel-Draghi as Euro Defies Roubini (BBG)
  • Algeria finds dead Canadian militants as siege toll rises (Reuters)
  • Beijing tries to clean up its act (FT)
  • Investigators probe Boeing 787 battery maker (Reuters)
  • Netanyahu Gets Landslide in Markets Masking No Peace Process (BBG)
  • Google aims to replace passwords with ID ring (Telegraph)
  • Kim Dotcom launches new upload site (FT)
  • Dell Said to Hire Evercore to Seek Higher Bids After Buyout (BBG)
  • Hostess Bakers Union Hires Investment Bank Gordian in Asset Sale (BBG)
 
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RANsquawk EU Market Re-Cap - 21st January 2013





 
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US Markets Closed On Fifth Anniversary Of Jerome Kerviel Day





To some, today is Martin Luther King day and as a result the US markets are closed, especially since today is also the day when Obama celebrates his second inauguration with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor at his side (hopefully not on the taxpayers' dime). To others, January 21 is nothing more than the anniversary of the real beginning of the end, when five years ago a little known SocGen trader named Jerome Kerviel could no longer hide his massive futures positions and was forced to unwind them, sending global indices plunging resulting in the biggest single day drop in the Dax (-7.2%), and punking the Fed into an unannounced 75 bps cut. Luckily, today such cataclysmic unwinds are impossible as the market is priced perfectly efficiently, without central bank intervention, price transparency is ubiquitous and the Volcker rule has made prop trading by banks, funded by Fed reserves (which are nothing more than the monetization of excess budget deficits) and excess deposits, impossible.

 
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Japan Warns It May Fire On Chinese Aircraft Over Disputed Islands; China Retorts: "There Will Be No Second Shot"





A week ago we reported that following what China said was a response to counter "Japanese military aircraft disrupting the routine patrols of Chinese administrative aircraft" over the East China Sea, the world's most populous country (and one which has the largest, 2.25 million strong, standing army) scrambled several jets and put its military on high alert. Now, it is the turn of Japan, and its brand new militant and nationalistic government, to "retaliate" and escalate tensions by one more notch, in the process crashing any hope that Chinese imports of Japanese goods may resume, and obviating the ongoing temporary plunge in the yen (which while doing nothing to boost exports to this 20% trading partner, has made imports so expensive, inflation in the past two months has already soared well above the 2% target for various key goods as previously reported). Moments ago, Japan says it may fire warning shots and take other measures to keep foreign aircraft from violating its airspace in the latest verbal blast between Tokyo and Beijing that raises concerns that a dispute over hotly contested islands could spin out of control.

 
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