- Don't jump to conclusions over general, Pentagon chief says (Reuters)
- Bad times for generals: Pentagon demotes 4-star General Ward (Reuters)
- Investors Pay to Lend Germany Money (WSJ)
- Noda will no longer be watching... watching: Japan PM honors pledge with December 16 vote date, to lose job (Reuters)
- New China leadership takes shape (FT)
- Hispanic Workers Lack Education as Numbers Grow in U.S. (Bloomberg)
- Quest for EU single bank supervisor stumbles (FT)
- Anti-austerity strikes sweep Europe (Reuters)
- Amazon faces new obstacles in fight for holiday dollars (Reuters)
- SEC Expands Knight Probe (WSJ)
- Singapore’s Casinos Lose Luster as Gaming Revenue Decline (Bloomberg)
- Amid Petraeus sex scandal, Air Force to release abuse report (Reuters)
- Geithner’s Money Fund Overhaul Push Sparks New Opposition (Bloomberg)
If May Day is when Europe celebrates labor and jobs (if any), November 14 is its opposite, bizarro cousin as today Europe wakes up to a dead(er than usual) economy. The reason: virtually every European country is on strike. From BusinessWeek: "Spanish workers staged a second general strike this year as unions across Europe prepared the biggest coordinated protests yet against budget cuts that policy makers say are needed to end the region’s debt crisis. In Spain, unions said most auto and metal workers joined the strike, even as power demand was just 13 percent below usual. One of Portugal’s two biggest labor groups also called a strike, partial walkouts are planned in Greece and Italy, and French unions are urging workers to join protest marches. “This is a strike against the suicidal economic policies of the government,” Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, head of Spain’s CCOO union, told supporters late yesterday." In other words, Europe's economy which is already doing swimmingly, is about to see 1/60th of its Q4 GDP removed as virtually no economic goods or services are produced today.
Shining a little reality light on the otherwise pollyanna-like dearth of pragmatism that is the mainstream media's guest-list, Ron Paul provided Bloomberg TV's Trish Regan a little more than we suspect she bargained for when asked if he had any hope that we avoid the fiscal cliff. The constant "delaying-of-the-inevitable" enables our politicians to avoid facing up to the serious consequences of our reality and as Representative Paul notes the chances of a grand bargain are "probably zero... that's why I think we're over the cliff [already]." Just like the handling of the debt ceiling debacle, Paul notes they will "pretend they are going to do it" until we get a total crash of the dollar and the entire financial system (which he notes is what will occur if we continue the status quo). "We are at a point of no return" unless certain things change, since "we are not the productive nation we used to be."
China needs to add to its gold reserves to ensure national economic and financial safety, promote yuan globalization and as a hedge against foreign- reserve risks, Gao Wei, an official from the Department of International Economic Affairs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, writes in a commentary in the China Securities Journal today.
If the Fiscal Cliff negotiations are supposed to result in a bipartisan compromise, it is safe that the initial shots fired so far are about as extreme as can possibly be. As per our previous assessment of the status quo, with the GOP firmly against any tax hike, many were expecting the first olive branch to come from the generous victor - Barack Obama. Yet on the contrary, the WSJ reports, Obama's gambit will be to ask for double what the preliminary negotiations from the "debt deficit" summer of 2011 indicated would be the Democrats demand for tax revenue increase. To wit: "President Barack Obama will begin budget negotiations with congressional leaders Friday by calling for $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade, far more than Republicans are likely to accept and double the $800 billion discussed in talks with GOP leaders during the summer of 2011. Mr. Obama, in a meeting Tuesday with union leaders and other liberal activists, also pledged to hang tough in seeking tax increases on wealthy Americans." Granted, there was a tiny conciliation loophole still open, after he made no specific commitment to leave unscathed domestic programs such as Medicare, yet this is one program that the GOP will likely not find much solace in cutting. In other words, all the preliminary talk of one party being open to this or that, was, naturally, just that, with a whole lot of theatrics, politics and teleprompting thrown into the mix. The one hope is that the initial demands are so ludicrous on both sides, that some leeway may be seen as a victory by a given party's constituents. Yet that is unlikely: as we have noted on many occasions in the past, any compromise will result in swift condemnation in a congress that has never been as more polarized in history.
We are at an historic point of convergence. Firstly, we have reached the limit in the credit backing of our financial, monetary and banking system. We are at the same time hitting profoundly destabilizing ecological limits preeminent at this time is that we are almost certainly at the peak of global oil and food production. Put another way, we are at the limits of the system of trust and solvency that underpins the trade upon which we depend. We are at the limits of the least substitutable energy source that, by the laws of physics, is necessary for economic maintenance and growth. We are at the limits of our most fundamental human sustenance. They are the three most critical structural pillars of the globalized economy. Like a three-legged stool, the whole system can become destabilized by the buckling of just one. Must Read!
The questions of who are the 1% and what level of income demarcates the fat cats from the rest of Americans are likely to become more and more polarizing in the coming weeks. What is perhaps the most intriguing is the apparent dichotomy between the demographics (youth - who face considerably worse employment trends) and state-wealth who voted for Obama. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, of all the U.S. states with an above-average incidence of their citizens earning over $200,000 (14 in total), all but one (Alaska) went for President Obama in last week’s election. At the other end of the income spectrum, only 2 states in the bottom 10 for +$200K earners (Maine and Iowa) had a majority of voters who sided with the President. The central irony of this straightforward math is that any increase in income taxes on the “Wealthy” will be disproportionately borne by the states which secured the President’s reelection. Perhaps, just an intriguing is the fact that - if you look at the GINI Index – a measure of income inequality – Republican leaning states enjoy more equality on these terms than the citizens of traditionally Democratic areas of the country.
UBS’ Larry Hatheway — who once issued some fairly sane advice when he recommended the purchase of tinned goods and small calibre firearms in the case of a Euro collapse — thinks 1000% inflation could be beneficial. This is fairly typical mistake for an economist. In an imaginary economic model, it is possible to assume that inflation is stable, and that it is predictable, and to draw conclusions based on those (absurd) assumptions. There are no empirical examples of such high rates of inflation being tolerated, because at every stage in history such effects have been intolerable... Getting to a 1000% inflation rate is an inherently volatile path, historically one which has resulted in panics, crashes and breakdowns.
Earmuffs time for Europe's carefully sculpted theater of goodwill, solidarity and cohesion. Because this has to be some sort of record. Hours after Greece got its much desired two year bailout extension of Deutsche Bank from Germany Europe, Greece is already in breach of the terms it, and Europe, all "fought so hard" for. From Kathimerini: "A planned 25 percent increase in the price of public transport tickets next March is to be postponed until October, the general secretary of the Development Ministry, Nikos Stathopoulos, said on Tuesday. The increase originally demanded by the troika would have pushed the price of a ticket for all modes of public transport to 1.75 euros from 1.40." Instead the Troika's demand is overruled, and in its place is a promise that some efficiency has been extracted elsewhere, until of course, said promise is probed and uncovered to have also been a lie.
The first 13-Fs are rolling in and among them, that of iconic hedge fund Baupost and its legendary head Seth Klarman. Legendary because until now he was largely percevied as unable to lose on a trade. Ever. And then Hewlett Packard came: Klarman decided the stock was a value play just over a year ago, when he disclosed that as of September 30, 2011 he had accumulated an over 20 million share position when the HPQ price was over $20/share. The holding had gradually declined until Q1 2012, then hear nearly doubled down to a total of 27 million shares. Then the stock collapsed. And like not only a good investor, but trader, Klarman decided to book a loss and dump nearly half his HPQ position, holding just over 14 million shares as of September 30, a stake we are confident is likely zero by now. There goes the bull "alphaclone" case for the company that is not "off its lows."
Leveraging EUR strength (USD weakness) in the US-open-to-EU-close to ramp stocks to highs was rapidly followed by a collapse back to reality in US equities from EU-close-to-US-close. Just remarkable. Treasuries and FX markets were much less exuberant over the entire lack of news that drive the S&P up over 20 points from open to EU close and sure enough - helped by the obvious desperation of a 'failed' Yellen-threat - equities retraced it all; ending the day back near the recent lows. Stocks once again tested the bottom of Draghi's Dream and rejected it; commodities were mixed and very dispersed with Copper and Silver swinging wildly (up on the day) even as the USD ended the day practically unchanged. Tech and financials are the losers still on the week as AAPL clawed its way back to marginally green by the close with the magical $545 level now critical four days in a row.
There was a time when bears looked on with dread as a Fed Permadove and vice chair Janet Yellen cleared her throat in advance of delivering prepared remarks, knowing well the algos would go full liftathon retard as soon as the flashing red highlights hit the screen. Well, Yellen did just that in a speech titled "Revolution and Evolution in Central Bank Communications" (link here). Some of the highlights:
- YELLEN SAYS FED SHOULD LINK LOW-RATE OUTLOOK TO ECONOMIC GOALS
- YELLEN FAVORS ELIMINATING CALENDAR-DATE COMMITMENT TO EASING
- YELLEN WOULD LINK STIMULUS EXIT TO INFLATION, JOBS THRESHOLDS
- YELLEN SAYS 2% INFLATION SHOULDN'T BE CONSIDERED A CEILING
- YELLEN SAYS OPTIMAL POLICY FOR BALANCED APPROACH INVOLVES KEEPING ZIRP UNTIL EARLY 2016
And... nothing. In fact, worse than nothing - selloff! We have now gotten to a point where the Fed implicitly promising it may keep ZIRP until even longer than previously promised, or 2016, results in a coordinated dump.
Now that The Show is over, we are left with the equivalent of a Sunday morning hangover following a binge of promises and lies. After the Supreme Court upheld the PPACA, a spate of mergers rippled through the managed health care realm, to ostensibly cope with smaller profit margins and ‘compliance costs.’ But really, it’s because each firm wants to corner as much as possible of the market, in as many states as it can, to garner more premiums and control more disbursements and prices at the upcoming insurance ‘exchanges.’ Meanwhile the more hospitals are viewed as profit centers, the more their Chairmen will cut costs to maximize returns, and not care quality. They will seeks ways to sell underperforming assets, programs or services and reduce the number of nonessential employees, burdening those that remain. And if insurance companies can manage doctors directly, they can control not just costs, but treatment – our treatment. It’s not an imaginary government takeover anyone should fear; but a very real, here-and-now insurance company takeover, to which no one in Washington is paying attention.