The Osama Bin Laden raid was suspect from the very beginning. Not only were key initial descriptions of the assault completely incorrect (such as him being armed and his wife being killed), but the manner in which his body was rapidly tossed into the ocean was beyond bizarre... even Tony Soprano keeps a body longer than that. Well it seems the “most transparent administration ever” has made sure that the American public never receives any information beyond the propaganda of Zero Dark Thirty.
With the Western (and Japanese) media focused almost entirely on the actions of their central-planners-in-chief and how effective they are, it seems human's omnipotence over complex systems is being greatly challenged by the ongoing Fukushima disaster. The Japan Times reports that TEPCO said Sunday that 600,000 becquerels per liter of tritium has been detected in groundwater at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant - 18% higher than levels a week earlier. Furthermore, the utility also said it had measured a seawater tritium level of 2,300 becquerels per liter - the highest so far - near the water intakes of reactors 1 to 4. So it is that in a nation already suffering from a dreadfully declining demographic dilemma, the citizens are being exposed to highly cancerous substances still.
Ahead of this evening's earnings report (and Alcoa outperforming today), and amid Alcoa's ongoing capacity reduction, the yawning chasm between production (of aluminum) and price continues to suggest significant pain ahead. With China and the Middle East seemingly unwilling to follow the market's signals and reduce production (helped un-economically by their respective governments no doubt), the 'if you produce it, demand will come' view of the world is just not working out (and hasn't for 18 months). As Bloomberg reports, "the market is still looking at over-capacity, over-production and an unprecedented overhang of metal," and furthermore, while prices have plunged 12% in recent weeks, there is doubt that producers will follow-through on planned production cuts. Of course, we are sure the Alcoa CEO will be on CNBC to tell us all how great it is and how the world economy is about to pick up... this chart suggests otherwise...
The trick so far has been to create massive inflation, export the effects of it to other trading partners, and end up with a lot more money here in the USA, or the illusion of more money. Well, loans, for houses, cars, and college tuitions. In a word: debt. Let’s call it “Rainman Economics,” because it begins to resemble the behavior of a severely autistic human being who performs a small range of obsessive actions over and over and over, often centered on numbers. Rainman Economics is the policy of the Federal Reserve and, indirectly, the government under Mr. Obama. This is the eeriest summer. The coordinated effort to devalue gold - so as to maintain the sagging reputation of the world’s re$erve currency - has had the effect mainly of funneling it out of weak hands in the west to strong hands in the east, to countries that at one time or another we regarded as adversaries. In these games of currency war, there are too many moving parts for comfort. Something’s in the air this hot, soggy summer and it smells like the loss of faith.
The Guardian has released the second part of the Edward Snowden interviews with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Snowden contemplates the reaction from the US government to his revelations and gets their play-book eerily correct.
In principle, holding gold is a form of insurance against war, financial Armageddon, and wholesale currency debasement. And, from the onset of the global financial crisis, the price of gold has often been portrayed as a barometer of global economic insecurity. In fact, the case for or against gold has not changed all that much since 2010 - it makes perfect sense to hold a small percentage of your assets in gold as a hedge against extreme events. As Ken Rogoff explains, the recent collapse of gold prices has not really changed the case for investing in it one way or the other. Yes, prices could easily fall below $1,000; but, then again, they might rise; but he warns, policymakers should be cautious in interpreting the plunge in gold prices as a vote of confidence in their performance.
When it comes to Muppet-bating, there is still only one; and "The Highlander" of all strategists is none other than Goldman's David Kostin. His somewhat-exuberant year-end target for the S&P 500 at 1,750 pales in comparison to his wonderfully extrapolated - never gonna be another recession ever again - view of earnings and implicitly the S&P 500 out to 2015. At 2,100, his forecast based on 8%, 9%, and 11% rallies seems so possible when all one can see is the last few years of data... we just hope he and his clients are not disappointed when the hockey-stick doesn't turn and peak margins finally weighs on the reality of a rising debt-cost corporate universe unable to fund buybacks or dividends on the cheap anymore.
"The market for tear gas just keeps growing and growing... We can only hope that more people demand tear gas and the recovery will be here sooner than we thought," said an analyst.
Moments ago Alcoa reported adjusted earnings (because the unadjusted earnings were a disaster) of $76 million, or $0.07, on consensus expectations of a $0.06 print. In other words, a beat. So just how did the company beat its forecast?
Following Friday's ugliness in bond-land, today saw the Treasury market's best day in around 13 months as UST are starting to look a lot like JGBs in terms of volatility regime - which really won't help collateral. Gold and silver also had a positive day (both up around 1.1%) as the USD leaked 0.3% lower (led by a surging AUD that recovered a lot of Friday's gap-down losses). The Nasdaq underperformed on the day (as AAPL tumbled 3% from pre-open highs) but remains in the green (just) post-FOMC while the Dow, S&P, and Trannies are all holding red post-FOMC. Discretionary and Financials are now in the green post-FOMC as Builders continue their open-high-close-low regime (now down 7% from FOMC). WTI trod water around $103. Credit markets modestly outperformed on the day but remain significantly below pre-FOMC levels as stocks have almost regained it and VIX slid back to its lowest in 6 weeks (under 15%) though slipped higher from the open today.
Last week, in a very, very quiet release, the US Federal Court system published its annual Wiretap report to Congress. This is something that is required by law; the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) must annually report the number of federal and state applications for court orders to “intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications.” The report gives a lot of eye-popping details about these official, court-ordered wiretaps, including:
- Riverside County, California is the most spied-on county in the United States
- The average cost of a wiretap order last year was $50,452
- Only 18.19% of these wiretaps actually led to a conviction
So using the numbers from this report, for every conviction they get from wiretapping, the government wastes $277,361.19 on other wiretaps that produce absolutely nothing (based on their own metrics for success).
As if predicting the jump in interest rates in June, consumers took advantage of cheap credit condition two months ago to load up on credit, pushing the May Consumer Credit higher by $19.6 billion, well above expectations of a $12.5 billion jump. This was the second highest sequential jump post the consumer credit data set revision, only second to the $19.9 billion from last May. And just like a year ago, revolving credit jumped by $6.6 billion following months of stagnating levels. It did the same in May 2012 when it rose by $6.8 billion when consumers also appeared to be prepaying summer purchases. The balance of credit expansion was once again driven by a surge in student and car loans, which amounted to $13 billion of the total May increase. Whether this credit growth continues into June is skeptical following the jump in interest, and especially following the doubling of the prevailing subsidized Stafford Loan rate which will likely cripple future student loan extraction.
Five days ago the latest episode of the endless "Europe pays Greece to pay Europe" charade played out when the Eurozone gave Greece its latest three-day "ultimatum" to fix itself or else. Obviously, Greece did not fix itself, but since the three day ultimatum ran out two days ago, and since the BBG ticker for the Greek currency is still not XGD, one can assume that the latest European bluff, especially one coming 2 months before Merkel's reelection when nothing is allowed to disturb the precarious European house of insolvent cards, was just that: a bluff.
Looking at the banners in the massive Egyptian protests last week, we saw many anti-American slogans. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was deposed by the military last week was very critical of what it saw as US support for the coup. Why is it that all sides in this Egyptian civil war seem so angry with the United States? Because the United States has at one point or another supported each side, which means also that at some point the US has also opposed each side. It is the constant meddling in Egyptian affairs that has turned Egyptians against us, as we would resent foreign intervention in our own affairs. So, successive US administrations over the decades have supported all sides in Egypt, from dictator to demonstrator to military. There is only one side that the US government has never supported: our side.
From the world's suddenly most confused State Department:
- PSAKI WON'T CONFIRM IF U.S. RECOGNIZES MURSI AS EGYPT'S LEADER: it did in this picture
- PSAKI: WE EXPRESSED CONCERNS ON ARBITRARY ARRESTS IN EGYPT: but unconcerned by un-arbitrary arrests of politcal opponents
- PSAKI: U.S. HAS NOT BEEN IN TOUCH WITH MURSI SINCE HIS ARREST: the whole "under arrest" part may the reason why
- PSAKI: US CALLS ON EGYPT'S MILITARY TO EXERCISE "MAXIMUM RESTRAINT" IN RESPONDING TO PROTESTERS: just harsh language instead of live ammo?
- PSAKI: US "DEEPLY CONCERNED" BY INCREASING VIOLENCE ACROSS EGYPT: because the tear gas used is Made In Russia (or Taiwan) and not American
One wonders, however, at this point what difference does it make?