With home-ownership rates collapsing and the likelihood of 'wealth taxes' potentially weighing on even the oligarchs and 1%-ers willingness to throw cash at US housing, we thought the following rusting hulks of a bye-gone era in a strorage yard deep in Middle America summed it all up...
As was reported earlier, the Turkish premier, embroiled in what increasingly appears a career terminating corruption and embezzlement scandal (it is not exactly clear yet just how involved the CIA is in this particular upcoming government overthrow), blocked Turkey's access to Twitter last night, hours after vowing to "destroy twitter." The idiocy of this escalation against dissemination of information in the internet age needs no comment. Well maybe one. This is what we said in our post from this morning: "since Turkey will certainly not stop at just Twitter, here is what is coming next: "Last week, Erdogan said the country could also block Facebook and YouTube." It now appears that at least half of this threat is about to materialize because moments ago Google just announced that it would not remove a previously uploaded video, one in which Erdogan tells his son to hide money from investigators (one which can be seen here), and which Erdogan demanded be pulled from Google (seemingly unaware that by doing so he simply made sure that everyone saw it). This means that within days, if not hours, Turkey will likely block Google-owned YouTube, if not Google itself.
A month ago we presented a must read interview by Swiss Finanz und Wirtschaft with respected value investor Howard Marks, in which, when explaining the motives driving rational investing he summarized simply, "in the end, the devil always wins." Today, we are happy to bring our readers the following interview with one of our favorite strategists, GMO's James Montier, in which true to form, Montier packs no punches, and says that the market is now overvalued by 50% to 70%, adding that there is "nothing at all" that has an attractive valuation, and that he sees a "hideous opportunity set."
In the 16 months since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his bold plan to reflate Japan’s shrinking economy the yen has depreciated by 22% against the dollar, 28% against the euro and 24% against the renminbi. The hope was to stimulate trade and push the current account decisively into the black. Yet the reverse has occurred. Japan’s external position has worsened due to anemic export growth and a spiraling energy import bill: in January it recorded a record monthly trade deficit of ¥2.8trn ($27.4bn). Having eked out a 0.7% current account surplus in 2013, Japan may this year swing into deficit for the first time since 1980. So why is the medicine not working?
Look who is warning us again about the great harm conspiracy theories are doing to the minds of impressionable citizens everywhere: Cass Sunstein has emerged at Bloomberg, to once again plead for 'correction' of the many conspiracy theories that are disseminated on that pesky new medium, the intertubes, seemingly without inhibition. Contrary to the infamous paper in which he described how to precisely combat the spreading of false information that lacks the government's seal of approval, he doesn't list his favored censorship and disinformation techniques outright this time, but it is certainly implied that 'something must be done'. Mr. Sunstein's concern with 'conspiracy theories' is all about preserving the State's perceived right to rule by letting nothing intrude on the notion that politicians and bureaucrats are 'disembodied spirits solely devoted to the public good' rather than people who pursue their own personal interests.
Despite the total collapse (flattening) in the Treasury yield curve in the last 2 days, Citi's FX Technicals group is convinced that we have seen a turn in fixed income that will see significantly higher yields in the years ahead and notably higher yields by this yearend also. Furthermore, they believe this will initially come from the belief in a continued taper, and the curve will initially steepen (2’s versus 5’s and 2’s versus 10’s). This normalization, they add, will be a good thing - QE encourages misallocation of capital and poor business decisions which has a negative feedback loop into the economy - but add (as long as yields do not go too far too fast like last year).
In its 2013 annual report to Congress, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate wrote that the IRS shows “disrespect for the law and a disregard for taxpayer rights.” Further, the report says that the current system “disproportionately burdens those who [make] honest mistakes." We all know the stories. The IRS has nearly infinite power to do whatever it wants, including freezing you out of your own bank account without so much as a phone call, let alone due process. This is an incredible amount of authority to wield. But the British government has just gone even further...
As gold completes its golden cross today and remains by far the best-performing asset of 2014, we thought it intriguing that Goldman Sachs' commodity group would issue a strong "sell your gold" recommendation... of course, when Goldman's clients are selling, who is buying? As a reminder, the last time the bank was extremely bearish on gold (about a year ago), our skepticism at the time was well warranted as Goldman was in fact the largest buyer of gold in the following quarter.
Quad-witching only added to an extremely volatile week as the entire bond, stock, FX complex pumped and dumped on the basis of whether a "considerable period" was really six months and whether "quite some time" was more or less than six months. The S&P hit record highs early on this morning thanks to a ramp in AUDJPY (but once again bonds didn't blink). All that ended when Europe closed and the Biotech sector's weakness spread, leaving the Nasdaq -1.4% post-FOMC (and all other indices in the red post-FOMC). The range of moves in bonds, FX, commodities, and vol this week were impressive as we noted below... 4 words sum up stocks - "not off the lows"
The biggest news this past week was Janet Yellen's first post-FOMC meeting speech and press conference as the Federal Reserve Chairwoman. While some have the utmost respect for her accomplishments, every time we hear her speak all we can think of is a white haired, 75-year old grandmother baking cookies in her kitchen. This week's "Things To Ponder" covers several disparate takes on what she said, didn't say and the direction of the Federal Reserve from here.
First the Fed screws up the "dots" - on one hand telling HFT algos not to worry about rate hikes, on the other saying the FF rate in 2016 will be a scroching 2.25%, then Yellen flubs the "6 month" statement sending stock into a tailspin and Hilsenrath and Liesman explaining in overdrive that she didn't mean what she said, and now, we learn with the traditional Friday afternoon "shove under the carpet" bomb, that the Fed also flubbed its stress test results. Sounds about par for the world's most powerful, and clueless, monetary institution.
At 10:27:21 ET, the Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures contract suddenly dropped on extreme activity as someone decided it was an opportune time to dump 3000 contracts or around $220 million notional. As Nanex notes, the ETF - QQQ - also collapsed (with over 1200 trades in 1 second) as bids and offers were crossed and markets went flash-crashy for a few tenths of a second. The questions is - who was it? Waddell & Reed?
While mainstream media was awash with status quo huggers proclaiming Yellen's "6-month is a considerable period" comment as a slip - and assuming several Fed heads would come to the rescue to focus investors on lower-for-longer - it appears they are wrong:
*BULLARD SAYS YELLEN'S '6-MONTHS' COMMENT IN LINE WITH SURVEYS
*BULLARD SAYS FED WATCHFUL FOR 'ANY KIND OF REPLAY' OF BUBBLES
This came on the heels on Fed Fisher's comments on the end of efficacy of Fed QE and that asset-buying would end in October and short-dated bonds and stocks are fading (as JPY crosses are tumbling).