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Forget '5 Minutes To Midnight', We Are 'An Inch From War'





After last night's sabre-rattling missile-hurling efforts in 'The Koreas', one could be forgiven for strolling down memory lane to the Doomsday Clock and how many minutes we are to the midnight of global disaster. Well, Leon Panetta has the answer today in this clip. Somewhat shockingly honest, Panetta changes the metric from time to distance and states, on CNN's 'Situation Room', that "We’re within an inch of war almost every day in that part of the world, and we just have to be very careful about what we say and what we do". As Politico reports, the lugubrious Leon says that America is prepared for "any contingency" that might result from North Korean actions. While cool diplomat Clinton "believes that [Kim Jong Un] may have some hope that the conditions in North Korea can change", Panetta underlined the administration's firm stand to any further provocative actions concluding "unfortunately these days, there is a hell of a lot that keeps me awake."

 
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The Mother Of All Infographics: Visualizing America's Derivatives Universe





A month ago we presented the latest derivatives update from the OCC, according to which the Top 5 US banks held 95.7%, or $221 trillion of the entire US derivative universe (which in turn is just a modest portion of the entire $707 trillion in global derivatives as of June 30, 2011). And while the numbers of all this credit money, because that's what it is, and the variation margin associated with all these trillions in bets is all too real, appeared impressive on paper, they did not do this story enough service. So to present, visually this time, the US derivatives problem, we go to our friends from Demonocracy, who put the $229 trillion derivative 'issue' in its proper context. For those curious what a paper equivalent of bailing out the US derivatives market would look like, now you know.

 
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Guest Post: Floating Exchange Rates - Unworkable And Dishonest





Milton Friedman was a proponent of so-called “floating” exchange rates between the various irredeemable paper currencies that he promoted as the proper monetary system. Many have noted that the currencies do not “float”; they sink at differing rates, sometimes one is sinking faster and then another. This article focuses on something else. Under gold, a nation or an individual cannot sustain a deficit forever. A deficit is when one consumes more than one produces. One has a negative cash flow, and eventually one runs out of money. The economy of a household or a national is therefore subject to discipline—sooner or later. Friedman asserted that floating exchange rates would impose the same kind of forces on a nation to balance its exports and imports. He claimed that if a nation ran a deficit, that this would cause its currency to fall in value relative to the other currencies. And this drop would tend to reverse the deficits as the country would find it expensive to import and buyers would find its goods cheap to import. Friedman was wrong.

 
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Fasten Your Seatbelts: High Frequency Trading Is Coming To The Treasury Market





In what may be the gray swan indication that all hell is about to break loose, we read that one of the world's largest hedge funds, British Man Group with $58 billion in AUM, is about to launch High Frequency Trading - the same high volume churning, sub-pennying, liquidity extracting, stub quoting and quote stuffing parasite that crashes the equity, and as of recently the FX and commodity markets, into that most sacred of markets: US Treasurys. The official spin: "The Man Systematic Fixed Income fund, yet to be launched, will try to identify and profit from dislocations in liquid government bond markets." What this really means is that the final frontier of market rationality is about to be invaded by artificial momentum generating algorithms, who couldn't care less about fundamentals, and whose propensity to crash and burn at the worst of times, may end up costing the Fed all those tens of trillions it has spent to keep the Treasury market calm, cool, collected, and largely devoid of any volatility and MOVEment. But all that is about to change: "The unit is run by Sandy Rattray, who co-developed the VIX. VIX volatility index, also known as the "fear index", widely used to measure investors' perception of risk." As a reminder, the VIX index is only relevant when there are surges in volatility, something which we are confident Mr. Rattray will no doubt bring to Treasury trading momentarily. 

 
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Volume Explodes As S&P Loses 50DMA Again





NYSE volume was 20% above yesterday's and S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) volume surged to its 2nd highest of the year as the last 30 minutes saw heavy volume and large average trade size very active as it pushed up towards VWAP and oscillated around its 50DMA. ES closed below its 50DMA for the first time since Monday but equities notably underperformed Treasuries (playing catch-up to bond's recent rally). Equities hit their lows at around 1430ET as ES coincided with Monday's closing VWAP (and Apple also tested and stayed around Monday's closing VWAP) and with a spike down and recovery in WTI prices (margin calls?). The major financials saw their best levels pre-open and slid lower all day with very little bounce at the close. While there was plenty of volatility in FX and commodity markets, close-to-close changes were relatively benign in the USD (DXY) and Oil, Copper, and Gold (while Silver modestly outperformed). All the action in FX was between US open and Europe's close but the afternoon saw AUD drifting weaker and CAD lose most of its spike gains from yesterday as JPY also slipped relative to the USD reducing some of the negative carry impact. Just as we had noted, and reiterated this morning and afternoon, equities performed the same hope-driven rally relative to broad risk assets as last week, and before the late day VWAP-seeking surge, almost completed their shift to fair-value. VIX also pulled higher to its credit-equity-implied fair-value before falling back as we rallied into the close. Overall average trade size today in ES, given its very heavy volume, was among the lowest of the year which suggests a lot of algos trying to wriggle their way back to VWAP to release some orders and with equity reverting to Treasury's, credit's, and broad-risk-asset's views of the less-than-stellar world, we suspect there is more selling to come here - albeit with OPEX complications.

 
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Blast From The Past: Laughing With Laffer





Or, rather, make that 'at'. Suffer us this brief detour into history, when hilarity ensues as we watch how Arthur Laffer, one of the "world-renowned", "greatest economists" of his generation and inventor of the Laffer curve, describes the US economy as of August 2006, indignantly making wagers with Peter Schiff that the bums bears will always lose, and otherwise validating the cardinal flaw canon of modern economics, namely that unsustainable debt is really just very  much sustainable wealth.

 
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Gravitation Returns As Apple Falls, Drags Everything With It





Four of the last five days have seen AAPL stock price swing +/- 3 sigma with today's drop approaching the largest drop in six months as rumors of iPhone sales weakness spread virally. Realized volatility is exploding on many different measures and AAPL implied volatility back to November highs. Of course as tensions mounts and the stock breaks Monday's closing VWAP, so margin calls on options expiring tomorrow are flopping over into various other markets as S&P 500 e-mini futures drop back below their 50DMA and VIX jumps up over 19.5% once again. Gold has pulled back in line with the USD and while the S&P 500 flip-flopped between bullishly synced with the USD and bearishly synced with Treasuries, for now equities in general are trying to catch up to longer-term Treasury weakness.

 

 
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Italy Jumps On Nationalization Bandwagon: Tax Police "Seizes" 20% Of Second Largest Domestic Insurer





At least Argentina kinda, sorta had the right idea: find an expensive foreign asset and nationalize it, impotent EU sound and fury be damned. Key word here: foreign. A few days later, the latest trade was escalation move appears to have gone viral, if with some curious, and serious, modification in the process. Minutes ago we learned that the Italian Finance police had seized a 20% stake in a heretofore unnamed firm (how does the police seize a stake? They pocket 20% of the electronic shares held in custody by the local DTCC? or they kidnap 20% of the Board of Directors? Inquiring minds want to know). We vaguely expected it would be a retaliatory move, and the firm would be based out of Latin America. No such luck. As Reuters fills in, the company "seized" is Premafin, "which controls Italy's No. 2 insurer Fondiaria-SAI as part of a judicial probe on market manipulation, the tax police and a judicial source said on Thursday."

 
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"Utter, Utter Piffle" - Albert Edwards Lashes Out At The Media's China Groupthink





Oh, the ignominy of thinking that China's widening of the Yuan trading band was anything other than uber-bullish and indicative of as soft a landing as can be imagined as the mainstream herd promptly, in a desperate attempt to seek affirmation from other members of the herd as always happens (see Jeremy Grantham for more), said this would be a move that guaranteed no hard landing. Albert Edwards takes the 'massive over-confidence in the ability of the Chinese authorities to achieve a soft landing' to task and furthermore indicates that between a rapidly diminishing current account surplus, a real effective exchange rate that is arguably (thank you IMF) not undervalued anymore, and the velocity with which nominal GDP has slowed recently (akin to 2007), the very fact that they widened the trading band suggests it is now a lot easier for them to achieve significant devaluation of their currency (to escape the hard landing) both technically and politically. Since widening the band, the PBOC has already devalued two days-in-a-row. Ironically, the bilateral imbalance with the US is reaching new records (seasonally adjusted) and will peak (seasonally unadjusted) just in time for some temperamental headlines right before the US election.

 
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The Porn Addicts Formerly Known As The SEC Take Their Vendetta With Egan-Jones To The Next Level





This is so pathetic, it is beyond words:

  • US SEC EXPECETED TO VOTE ON POSSIBLE CHARGES AGAINST RATING FIRM EGAN JONES ON THURSDAY - RTRS
  • POSSIBLE CHARGES STEM FROM ALLEGED WILFUL MISTATEMENTS ON EGAN JONES' REGULATORY APPLICATION WITH SEC - RTRS

If nothing else, it explains the recent WSJ hit piece against Egan, just so it can make the public record in the SEC documentation. In other news, this will surely teach any other rating agency to downgrade the US not once (ahead of everyone else), but twice. In the meantime, the SEC still has NO IDEA what liquidity is, and continues to refuse to take ANY action against High Frequency Trading, to press criminal charges against ANY banker, or for that matter, to do anything that may jeopardize its staffers future careers as 7th assistant general council at assorted bailed out Wall Street firms. Now we wait to hear news that Fitch and Moody's will receive a cash bonus from the SEC for not downgrading the US properly filing their regulatory applications. And now back to midget porn.

 
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The Risk Of 'Hot' Inflation





Ideological deflationists and inflationists alike find themselves both facing the same problem. The former still carry the torch for a vicious deflationary juggernaut sure to overpower the actions of the mightiest central banks on the planet. The latter keep expecting not merely a strong inflation but a breakout of hyperinflation. Neither has occurred, and the question is, why not? The answer is a 'cold' inflation, marked by a steady loss of purchasing power that has progressed through Western economies, not merely over the past few years but over the past decade. Moreover, perhaps it’s also the case that complacency in the face of empirical data (heavily-manipulated, many would argue), support has grown up around ongoing “benign” inflation. If so, Western economies face an unpriced risk now, not from spiraling deflation, nor hyperinflation, but rather from the breakout of a (merely) strong inflation. Surely, this is an outcome that sovereign bond markets and stock markets are completely unprepared for. Indeed, by continually framing the inflation vs. deflation debate in extreme terms, market participants have created a blind spot: the risk of a conventional, but 'hot,' inflation.

 
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No Housing Recovery Until 2020 In 5 Simple Charts





Every day (for the past 3 years) we hear countless fairy tales why housing has bottomed and will improve any minute now. Just consider the latest kneeslapper from that endlessly amusing Larry Yun of the NAR, uttered just today: "pent-up  demand could burst forth from the improving economy." Uh, right. Here's the truth - it won't and here is why, in 5 charts from Bank of America, so simple even an economist will get it.

 
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Europe Drops Dismally Amid Deja Vu





Keeping it simple, Europe was a sloppy mess today. In an almost perfect copy of last week's sovereign, corporate, and financial credit market movements, today saw all of these assets plunge back near post-Non-Farm-Payroll lows. Equity markets, which had miraculously managed to regain those pre-NFP levels this morning after the Spanish auction knee-jerk, rapidly retraced and aside from some stick-save efforts from US markets and Lagarde, keeps the chaos-ball rolling with yet another multiple-sigma flip-flop. Ugly all around as it seems the reality check we discussed on the Spanish auction overnight was better received than the spin the Euro-Elite tried to put on it as we reinforce our view of the instability as the LTRO Stigma widens further to post LTRO1 wides as 10Y Spain approaches 6% yield and 425bps spread and Italian CDS over 440bps as 10Y yields break back above 5.5%.

 
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Guest Post: Wages And Consumption Are Both In Long-Term Downtrends





Here are four charts of wages, income and consumption. The charts depict changes from a year ago (also called year-over-year) and the percentage of change from a year ago. These measure rates of change as opposed to absolute changes, and so they are useful in identifying trends... The build-out of Internet infrastructure that culminated in the dot-com boom boosted employment, wages and consumption, and the credit-housing bubble of the mid-2000s also boosted income and consumption. Now that these temporary conditions have faded, what's left is the relentless chewing up of traditional industries by the Web as distributed software boosts productivity while slashing the number of people required to create value. What's remarkable about the first chart is the increase in volatility in recent years: the changes in wages and salaries are increasingly dramatic. This might be reflecting the dynamics of the global economy pulling wages lower while massive financial-stimulus policies of the Central State and bank (the Federal government and the Federal Reserve) act to artificially boost wages with trillions of dollars in borrowed/printed money.

 
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