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The Buffett Tax Explained Using A Hippopotamus And An Oxpecker

When Warren Buffett claimed that a lot of secretaries pay higher tax rates than the super-wealthy, JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest wanted to take a closer look, and sure enough Buffett’s assertion is only the case in a minority of situations (like his own). We would therefore not expect to see large revenue estimates from an analysis of the fiscal impact of the proposals in the Fair-Share Act of 2012, since there are not that many people that would be impacted by a minimum 30% effective tax rate. Sure enough, the incremental revenue raised by the Fair-Share Tax Act is around $8 billion per year. This is real money and may be sound public policy, but in the context of a $1 trillion budget deficit expected for FY2013, it’s a rounding error. To convey this zoologically, we show two animals whose volume is proportionally the same (125 to 1): a hippopotamus, and its symbiotic companion, the yellow-billed oxpecker. We would like to think that elected officials and political commentators would avoid grandstanding and not mislead anyone on the fiscal impact of their proposals, but right now, there are some people who need help distinguishing between birds and hippos.

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Is Muddy Waters Becoming A Fade?

Nobody can doubt that (in)famous short seller Muddy Waters, whose initial research pieces received broad distribution on the virtual pages of Zero Hedge, does sufficient due diligence on the companies they designate as targets of their ire. And just for humiliating John Paulson with the utter debacle that was Sino Forest they will forever live in the pantheon of "out of the blue", ad hoc bearish research analysts with a chip on their shoulder. Furthermore, right or wrong, Muddy Waters and their fraudcap peers do a great benefit to the investing society by testing, often repeatedly, the weakest links in the "story" of any one company (especially those out of the increasingly more criminal orient) - if right, it merely precipitates the bankruptcy of what will be a dead end corporate story and thus the misallocation of capital by lazier investors; if wrong, they allow management to generate higher IRRs by buying back their stock in the open market (a far better use of funds for honest management teams than suing independent third party research analysts who may or may not have a short stake). Yet sooner or later, everyone peaks. Has Muddy Waters? This is perhaps a relevant question now that the shorters have taken up another campaign, this time against Singapore agri-processor Olam. The raw data, compiled by Bloomberg is below: decide for yourselves.

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Guest Post: When Escape From A Previously Successful Model Is Impossible

Three visualizations describe the breakdown of PSMs--previously successful models: S-Curves, Supernovas and Rising Wedges. A successful model traps those within it; escape becomes impossible.  We see the immense power of previously successful models. Straying from the previously successful trajectory looks needlessly risky, even as the trajectory has rolled over and is heading for unpleasant impact. Anyone who questions the previously successful model (PSM) is suppressed, fired or sent to Siberia as a "threat" to the enterprise's success. Anyone who realizes the Titanic will inevitably sink and abandons ship leaves behind all their sunk capital: they leave with the figurative clothes on their back.

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Presenting The Overnight Futures Ramp Full 'Millisecond' Frontal

We noted the debacle that occurred at midnight Eastern last night but the impact of this sudden and completely unfounded voluminous surge in buying activity (on no news or rumors) was much more widespread than just e-mini S&P 500 futures. The other equity indices also tagged along and we saw volumes and quote-rates jump in EURUSD futures, but more so in Crude futures and AUD futures. Thanks to NANEX, the charts below show the millisecond-by-millisecond reality of a broad and deep-pocketed algo liftathon as most of the East coast was tucked up in bed and Europe had still to wake. PPT - who knows? But it seems unusual at best or someone somewhere getting a rather large tap on the shoulder to shut their entire futures book?

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Euro Schizophrenia Continues

We warned yesterday that European equity's surge was not supported by credit and that truism is massively obvious in today's market moves. European stocks soared (especially Italy and Spain) to new cycle highs as corporate and financial credit capped in its recent range - actually widening from its opening gap tights. European sovereigns also gapped tighter on the open and then proceeded to bleed wider all day long - most notably in Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Spanish 2Y jumped over 25bps from low to high yield today (and we suspect Spain bond yields have bottomed in teh short-term). EURUSD remains practically unch on the week - having dropped from over 1.30 earlier when Van Hollen let some truth out on the US fiscal cliff deal. Oil recovered from its spike lows yesterday (as did Silver). GGBs were very quiet and stable at around 35 but Weidmann's comments into the close on transfer unions and not rewarding failure did spook some weakness into risk-assets. Europe's VIX, meanwhile, closed at 16.49% - its lowest since June 2007!


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Taking Advantage Before Year-End

In America we face our fiscal cliff or perhaps our bungee jump and while no resolution is in sight the one thing that we can hang our hats on is that we will face higher taxes. These may be the ones currently proposed or they may be totally new ones as defined by some sort of compromise. Given this 99% possibility it may be wise and in my opinion it is wise to take some profits now before the end of the year. We would start with bonds that are trading within a hairsbreadth of Treasuries or even through them and redeploy further out the curve in bonds that have some reasonable chance of continued compression. We think the compression will continue as the policy of the Fed and the ECB does not change for some period of time and the flows of money keep forcing the compression. We suggest taking some profits now because of two common sense principles.

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Will Reid's Rebuff Mark The Top Again? Transcript Below

Harry Reid's rebuttal full transcript - ES 1410 as he speaks...


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Stocks Slump On Boehner's "No Substantive Progress" Reality Check

We are stunned... S&P 500 futures traded 1415 when Boehner began speaking. By the end of his first paragraph we had dropped 8 points and gone red for the day...and further...


It seems the algos are not amused...

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Will Boehner Crash The Party? - Live Webcast

More platitudes is what we would expect. More boiler-plate 'working hard', 'looking for compromise', 'rising above' rhetoric when deep down inside we all know the two parties are as far apart as ever. What will matter as Speaker Boehner talks - live webcast below - is how the algos inspect the flashing red headlines. Then, and only then, can us mere humans know what to think. Equities are limping back higher in anticipation after rising on macro data and falling on Van Hollen's comments.

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Guest Post: Housing Recovery: What Has Been Forgotten?

As of late there has been a flood of commentary written about the housing recovery pointing to the bottom in housing and how the revival in housing will drive economic growth in the years ahead. It is true that the revival in the housing market is a positive thing and is certainly something that everyone wants.  However, the hype surrounding the nascent recovery to date may be a bit premature. Much of the current buying in the housing market has come from speculators and investors turning housing into rentals.  This, however, has a finite life and rising home prices will speed up its inevitable end as rental profitability is reduced.  Furthermore, the majority of home building has come in multifamily units, versus single family homes, and that segment has been growing faster than underlying demand. It is important to understand that housing will recover - eventually.  However, the reality of that recovery could be far different than what the current media and analysts predict. The point here is that while the housing market has recovered - the media should be asking "Is that all the recovery there is?"

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Why I Paid Up For That Negotiations Class

Senator Reid’s frustration that progress had stalled as he blamed the Republicans for not bargaining fairly in trying to iron out a compromise signaled to Speaker Boehner that the Democrats will play hardball as well. However, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article, via quotes from Erskine Bowles, claimed the White House will be flexible when proposing a raise to the top marginal tax rate.  This perceived increase in the probability of a near term accord appropriately rallied stocks aggressively. We question why Mr. Obama would leak his best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) so early in the process, for classic bargaining strategy suggests keeping that information close to the vest as long as possible. Complicating matters, Mr. Obama declared a preference to strike a deal by Christmas which approximates the Friday, December 21 “zero barrier”.  Ironically, if the Republicans acquiesce to yesterday’s posturing by Mr. Bowles, then the likelihood of a Moody’s and/or Fitch downgrade rises, for the ratings agencies would almost assuredly be disappointed by a lower than anticipated level of incremental revenues.


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Cliff-On; Risk-Off

Headline GDP better than expected (but ugly underneath); claims weak (moar QE); pending home sales (beat - confirmation bias). All is well, right? Stocks surged up to their highs of the day and Pisani proclaimed a deal is close (apparently). And then, one politician uttered those terrifying words: REP. VAN HOLLEN SAYS ON MSNBC `WE'RE NOT CLOSE TO A DEAL' and stocks dive almost instantaneously on large volume (even as most clueless algos google the name and most get hits of a certain 1980s rock band)... happy trading until 1130ET when Boehner will host a press conference.

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Fattest Finger Ever Slams Stockholm Stock Exchange With $70 Trillion Buy Order

We have seen some supposed 'fat-finger' trades in the last few days but Stockholm's stock exchange was brought to its knees yesterday as a record-breaking order hit the book and halted trading for four hours. A 4.3 billion contract buy order in the OMX30 futures (the Swedish equivalent of the Dow futures) caused the fiasco. This is equivalent to a SEK460 trillion notional exposure - or 131 times the Swedish GDP (around USD70 trillion). As one trader of the exchange noted, via SvD Narangsliv, "This just shows that it can get really bananas with machines" referring to the growing element of automated securities trading on that exchange. What's Swedish for FUBAR?

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Cashin Catches Juncker In Rare Truth-Telling Act, Confirming Everything Is A Lie

"We all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we have done it." - Jean-Claude Juncker

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Ugly Q3 GDP Confirms Personal Consumption Collapsing; Headline "Growth" Driven By Government, Inventory Accumulation

One glance at today's second read of Q3 GDP may leave some with the false impression that the US economy is soaring, because after sliding to 1.3% in Q2, and after a preliminary read of 2.0% in the first Q3 estimate, today's print, which missed estimates of a 2.8% print, did nonetheless rise to 2.7%. "A stunning success", the administration sycophants would say. Absolutely wrong. Because a quick glance at the underlying numbers shows the true picture of the economy which contracted far more than most expected, with personal consumption collapsing to 1.4% Q/Q, on hopes of a 1.9% rise, and down from 2.0%. In fact, at 0.99% personal consumption expenditures - the core driver of 70% of the US economy - were a tiny 36% of the headline number. Ironically today's second GDP revision was far worse when analyzed at the component level, than the first Q3 estimate, which while lower overall at 2.0%, at least had personal consumption nearly 50% higher at 1.42%, or well over half of the total contribution. So what drove "growth" in Q3? Nothing short of the most hollow and worst components of GDP: Government Spending, which soared to 0.67% of the annualized number, the first positive print in years, and of course, Inventories, which were responsible for 30% of the headline number. Finally, and most importantly, Fixed Investment, aka CapEx, was a meager 0.1%, or the lowest GDP contribution since Q1 2011. Without CapEx there is no corporate revenue growth (and future hiring intentions) period.

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