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Citi's Buiter On Europe's Bumble And Stumble To Large-Scale Restructuring





While still of the belief that a wholesale disintegration of the European Monetary Union remains a distinct tail-risk event, Citigroup's chief economist Willem Buiter succinctly summarizes his core view as "the euro-area will stumble and bumble towards an eventual resolution." However, that 'final' solution does not look like your grandma's European Union as he expects nothing more than a "continued Monetary Union, probably without Greece, having undergone both major sovereign debt restructurings in the periphery and financial debt restructurings for banks in the periphery and core." Transcribed from a three-minute clip, Buiter eloquently answers three key questions: How is the Euro crisis (and its consequent solution) shaping up? Does Germany have the upper-hand? and What sort of moral hazard issues might we see in the near future? He concludes "we won't have a smooth solution to this crisis."

 
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Back-To-School Spending Is In Detention





Perhaps summarising best how so many of the back-to-school shoppers feel, Reuters cites this insightful 18-year-old thus: "I feel like the economy is messed up [and it] feels like we are still in recession." The equity market's response, of course, is "whatev'" and while it has been three years since the 'official' end of the recession, unemployment among teenagers is the highest since 1964! The anecdotal evidence is starting to pile up as we see retailer after retailer cut outlooks - which is especially concerning since the back-to-school period is the second-biggest selling season after the winter holiday season and as the head of BizDev from Mall of America notes: "We used to see people starting [back-to-school shopping] in late July but I don't see that anymore" as "consumers have shown tentativeness in their spending habits" and are likely to push off the spend until September, and "just shopping when there is a good sale." Once again, consumers have become conditioned to wait for discounts - and sure enough 20%-plus price reductions and more aggressive promotions are planned according to Accenture's retail practice. However, one quote on 'thriftiness' struck a chord: "We are borrowing this year to fund a lot of things that we normally would not have borrowed to do. It makes me nervous, we are selling our second home to help pay for things" - oh, no - not your second home!

 
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Previewing The Q4 "Hail Mary" Earnings Season





Q2 earnings seasons is now (with 93% of firms reporting) over, and it is time for post mortem. The bottom line for those strapped for time is the following: In order to salvage the 2012 earnings consensus for the S&P, the sell side crew and asset managers, as wrong but hopeful as ever, are now expecting Q4 2012 earnings to grow 15% versus 4Q 2011, which is more than twice as fast as any other quarter. Indicatively, Q2 2012 earnings rose at a rate of 3% compared to Q2 2011. Elsewhere, revenues came 2% lower than consensus estimates at the start of the earnings season. In other words, the entire year is now a Hail Mary bet that in Q4, the time when the presidential election, its aftermath, as well as the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff acrimony will hit a peak, a Deus Ex Machine will arrive and lead to a 15% rise in earnings. Why? Because global central bankers will have no choice but to step in and thus lead to a surge in EPS multiples even if the underlying earnings are collapsing. With the presidential election around the corner making Fed QE before 2013 now virtually impossible, with Spain (and Italy) refusing to be bailed out and cede sovereignty thus precluding ECB intervention, and with China spooked by what may be a surge in food costs, this intervention, and any hope that the Hail Mary pass will connect, all look quite impossible.

 
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Paul Ryan Factbox, Nomination Reaction And Lifetime Donors





Reuters summarizes the key facts about the 42-year old House Budget Chair and potential future American vice president. Enclosed also select reactions from various individuals across the political spectrum to his nomination as well as a summary of his lifetime donors as well as those of Joe Biden.

 
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Guest Post: The "Maturity Crunch"





In the euro area overnight rate targeting has produced roughly a 130% expansion of the true money supply in the first decade of the euro's existence – about twice the money supply expansion that occurred in the US during the 'roaring twenties' (Murray Rothbard notes in 'America's Great Depression' that the US true money supply expanded by about 65% in the allegedly 'non-inflationary' boom of the 1920's). This expansion of money and credit is the root cause of the financial and economic crisis the euro area is in now. This point cannot be stressed often enough: the crisis has nothing to do with the 'different state of economic development' or the 'different work ethic' of the countries concerned. It is solely a result of the preceding credit expansion. Since long term interest rates are essentially the sum of the expected path of short term interest rates plus a risk and price premium, the central bank's manipulation of short term rates will usually also be reflected in long term rates. In the euro area's periphery, the central bank has lost control over interest rates since the crisis has begun. The market these days usually expresses growing doubts about the solvency of sovereign debtors by flattening their yield curve: short term rates will tend to rise faster than long term ones. This in essence indicates that default (or a bailout application) is expected to happen in the near future. It is possible that this effect has also influenced the ECB's decision to concentrate future bond buying on the short end of the yield curve. However, as is usually the case with such interventions, there are likely to be unintended consequences.

 
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Guest Post: Paul Ryan's Budget





To get private debt to a sustainable level via tax cuts, Ryan would have to cut taxes to zero for a very long time (and hope that people use their tax cut to pay down debt instead of spending it at Chipotle and the Apple Store). The biggest problem with that? Over 75% of Federal spending is mandated by law, and so US public debt — which Ryan believes is the real problem — would soar (as has happened in Britain). Ryan might seem worried about the future possibility of massive public debt (as opposed to the current reality of massive total debt), but his plan could conceivably result in much higher public debt  — after all the OMB and CBO have gotten it all very wrong before, just twelve years ago foreseeing massive tax surpluses of $48 and $87 billion respectively in 2012. So does he have any real plan to significantly raise revenues? In his entire 98-page manifesto, Ryan doesn’t name any — but he has ruled out taxing capital gains as income, surely the biggest tax loophole of all, and one that has seriously benefited his running mate.

 
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Paul Ryan Accepts VP Nomination - Live Webcast





Watch it live here.

 
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Romney Ratifies Ryan; Proscribes Pawlenty And Portman





Mitt Romney is set to announce his choice for running mate tomorrow morning according to Bloomberg news. The wires are alive with multiple sources confirming it will be none other than Paul 'budget-bill' Ryan - which appears to be a more aggressive choice than the safer options as Rubio, Portman, and Pawlenty are all bridesmaids and not the bride. Ryan-ney? Rom-an? R-Squared? Ro-Ry?

 
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Eric Sprott: The Solution…Is The Problem, Part II





When we wrote Part I of this paper in June 2009, the total U.S. public debt was just north of $10 trillion. Since then, that figure has increased by more than 50% to almost $16 trillion, thanks largely to unprecedented levels of government intervention. Once the exclusive domain of central bankers and policy makers, acronyms such as QE, LTRO, SMP, TWIST, TARP, TALF have found their way into the mainstream. With the aim of providing stimulus to the economy, central planners of all stripes have both increased spending and reduced taxes in most rich countries. But do these fiscal and monetary measures really increase economic activity or do they have other perverse effects?...  The politically favoured option of financial repression and negative real interest rates has important implications. Negative real interest rates are basically a thinly disguised tax on savers and a subsidy to profligate borrowers. By definition, taxes distort incentives and, as discussed earlier, discourage savings.... The current misconception that our economic salvation lies with more stimulus is both treacherous and self-defeating. As long as we continue down this path, the “solution” will continue to be the problem. There is no miracle cure to our current woes and recent proposals by central planners risk worsening the economic outlook for decades to come.

 
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Why Do Fed Officials Talk So Much In Advance Of Action?





The presidential season has started in earnest. First to hit the hustings was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Eric Rosengren, who, true to his blue-state roots, pressed the case for an open-ended asset purchase program. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher made the red-state argument for easing off the monetary gas pedal. Increased chatter from Fed officials is a marker Morgan Stanley's Vince Reinhart has long-identified as signifying increased chance of Fed action. And we are hearing it. But why do Fed officials talk so much in advance of action? Fed officials must be disappointed by an economic outlook that falls short of both of their objectives. They individually think that policy can do better, but they cannot collectively agree on how.

 
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Guest Post: Moral Relativism And Patriotism As Weapons Of The State





The first step toward liberty is to see through the masking fog the state engulfs itself in to carry out its deeds of conquest. Using reason to discover absolute truths is an essential part of determining how one should live their life in accordance with sound ethics.  Relativism denies this.  It can deny that evil is committed by the state and that reprehensible acts are perfectly okay when done by individuals with guns and badges.  All it takes to reverse such destructive thinking is the realization that state authority deserves no pass in moral scrutiny.  Withdrawing consent comes next on the path to a free society.

 
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Former Defense Secretary Says US Will Probably Enforce "No Fly Zone", "Take Aggressive Action" Over Syria





Three months to the election? Check. Which means war-mongering rhetoric, once considered a staple of the GOP, may very soon become action, first in Syria, and soon, everywhere else. From Bloomberg: "The U.S. and allied forces probably will impose a “no-fly zone” over Syria and take other “more aggressive action” against the Syrian regime, former Defense Secretary William Cohen said. While the U.S. has been leery of another military intervention after a decade of wars, “We’re coming to the point, however, where the violence is getting so severe, I think, that you’ll see a movement towards setting up those no- fly zones,” Cohen said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend." Is war and immediate geopolitical escalation guaranteed? Not yet: "The former Pentagon chief and Maine senator, now chairman and chief executive officer of the Cohen Group consulting firm in Washington, said any U.S. military action would depend on participation and support from allies." Although desperate times, and by that we mean unfavorably trending popularity ranking, will certainly require desperate measures. Such as the continued massive build up of US naval assets in the middle east.

 
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Presenting The Ultimate 'Muppet' Indicator





Today's MANU fiasco tipped the scale on the dichotomy between the seeming exuberance that occurs on the stock exchange floors (and the incipient media attached to it) and the reality of what an IPO is and what exchanges do. Since the middle of last year - when the impossible was suddenly made possible by the US debt downgrade and markets realized that Keynesian arithmetic was an academic version of three-card-Monti - Bloomberg's IPO index has dramatically diverged in performance from the ever-exuberant S&P 500. This index of post-IPO performance sends an ominous signal. It must be clear by now that IPOs now occur when when MANAGEMENT want to cash out - simply put they are trying to maximize their gain. The divergence between new-money weakness and stuck-money strength highlights more than ever the Muppet-fleecing purpose of 'our markets'.

 
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Guest Post: The Other Side Of Sanctions





Iran has been pushed into a corner and is fighting for its life.  The safest weapon in its arsenal is an economic strategy; and it is the one point where the United States is vulnerable. It is no secret that many governments object to the sanctions and are willing to deal outside of normal channels for a reduced price.  If the Iranians should use the new private traders to dump a few million barrels of oil onto the market at a sharply discounted price, they just might encourage one of these governments to openly defy the United States for a bargain. As a persecuted minority, the Shia have learned that the weaker in a conflict must employ cunning rather than muscle. It is the inherent weakness of the alliance that is Iran’s strength.  The unwillingness of Washington to pressure supposed allies and the simple fact that there are buyers willing to defy the sanctions secretly reveals the cracks in the system.

 
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Credit Slumps, Equity Pumps, And Volume & Volatility Dumps





UPDATE: MANU below IPO price at $13.90 now....sigh

You know the score by now. Equities stage late day surge to green driven by an irrepressible squeeze lower in short-term volatility but high-yield credit doesn't follow suit as volume remains absolutely amazingly incredibly non-existent. S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) ended the week nicely higher - closing today at the highs over 1402 (at the day-session close) with VIX at 5 month lows well under 15% (down 0.5 vols on the day which is a big move for a 1.5pt ES gain). HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) ended lower again - basically 5 days in a row - which is very unusual given equity's push to new highs. Risk assets in general did leak higher as stocks pushed up but are notably less bullish (and it appeared from our chats that credit desks left early and the IG and HY indices were simply being reracked higher - as opposed to traded there). Gold outperformed on the day - and it seemed like the EOD ramp in ES was a magnetic pull to Gold - as it disconnected from Treasuries and FX quite handily. The USD ends the week up 0.29% (yes, up), the S&P 500 up 1% while Treasuries limped a little higher in yield today to end the week 5-10bps higher (and steeper) in yield and commodities up the same as stocks (around 1%) aside from oil which managed 2.2% on the week.

 
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