We have long argued that at its core, modern society, at least on a mathematical basis - the one which ultimately trumps hopium every single time - is fatally flawed due to the existence, and implementation, of the concept of modern "welfare" - an idea spawned by Otto von Bismarck in the 1870s, and since enveloped the globe in various forms of transfer payments which provide the illusion of a social safety net, dangles the carrot of pension, health, and retirement benefits, and in turn converts society into a collage of blank faces, calm as Hindu cows. Alas, the cows will promptly become enraged bulls once they realize that all that has been promised to them in exchange for their docility and complacency has... well... vaporized. It is at that point that the final comprehension would dawn, that instead of a Welfare State, it has been, as Bill Buckler terms it, a Hardship State all along. Below we present the latest views from the captain of The Privateer on what the insoluble dilemma of the welfare state is, and what the key problems that the status quo will face with its attempts at perpetuating this lie.
Some 68% of all Americans are overweight, and obesity has almost doubled in the last couple of decades worldwide.
In the aftermath of the "Greg Smith" phenomenon, where now a variety of sources (for now of the terminated kind, but soon likely from those still on the payroll) have stepped up against the Wall Street and D.C. omerta, it is assured that we will see many more such pieces before the coolness factor of public employer humiliation. It is our hope that these lead to an actual improvement in America's criminal corporate culture (such as in "How a Whistleblower Halted JPMorgan Chase's Card Collections"), which is nowhere more prevalent than in the corner offices of Wall Street, long a place where "obfuscation" and "complexity" (recall that it was none other than the Fed telling us that "Liquidity requires symmetric information, which is easiest to achieve when everyone is ignorant") have been synonymous with legalized wealth transfer (after all, we now know that nobody ever read the fine print, and when the chips fell it was all the rating agencies' fault). Alas we are skeptical. But while we wait, here is a slightly lighter piece from the Globae and Mail's Tim Kiladze, who while not exposing anything new, shares with his readers just what the transition from "soulless banker" to a "less demanding, more fulfilling life" entails, and that it does, in the end, pay off. As Tim says - "The latter is a real option: I’m proof of it." Here is his story for all those 'wannabe Greg Smiths' who are on the fence about burning that bridge in perpetuity.
Ye mangey Goldman Skunks!
The Fed Isn’t Providing “Monetary Morphine”; It’s Spreading Financial Cancer That's Killing the Markets & Democratic CapitalismSubmitted by Phoenix Capital Research on 03/16/2012 14:46 -0400
I believe Central Bank intervention is not a drug or “hit” for an addict. Instead, it is a cancer that has spread throughout the financial system’s psyche and which is killing the markets and Democratic capitalism.
Back in early February, Zero Hedge was among the first to suggest that abnormally warm temperatures and a record hot winter, were among the primary causes for various employment trackers to indicate a better than expected trendline (even as many other components of the economy were declining), in "Is It The Weather, Stupid? David Rosenberg On What "April In January" Means For Seasonal Adjustments." It is rather logical: after all the market is the first to forgive companies that excuse poor performance, or economies that report a data miss due to "inclement" weather. So why should the direction of exculpation only be valid when it serves to justify underperformance? Naturally, the permabullish bias of the media and the commentariat will ignore this critical variable, and attribute "strength" to other factors, when instead all that abnormally warm weather has done is to pull demand forward - whether it is for construction and repair, for part-time jobs, or for retail (and even so retail numbers had been abysmal until the just released expectations meet). Ironically, while everyone else continues to ignore this glaringly obvious observation, it is Bank of America, who as already noted before are desperate to validate a QE as soon as possible (even if their stock has factored in not only the NEW QE, but the NEW QE HD), that expounds on the topic of the impact of record warm weather. In fact, not only that, but BofA makes sense of the fact why GDP growth continues to be in the mid 1% range while various other indicators are representative of much higher growth. The culprit? Global Warming.
Where does one even possibly start with this: from the WSJ: "Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman this morning criticized an op-ed written by a former Goldman Sachs Group employee, saying “I didn’t think it was fair.” Gorman, at a breakfast sponsored by Fortune Magazine in New York, said that he told the operating committee of his New York firm, not to try to take advantage of the criticisms of Goldman in the op-ed, which described a toxic culture in which profits come before client service."...“I don’t really care what one employee said,” said Gorman, who became CEO of Morgan Stanley at the beginning of 2010. “At any point, someone is unhappy… To pick a random employee, I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think its balanced.” That's funny - Gorman is only the second CEO after Jamie Dimon to "not take advantage of the criticisms" and we wonder why? Could it have something to do with the fact that every single bank is in the same position, and both Dimon and Gorman know very they are both just one disgruntled employee away from having the truth about their own sinking ships exposed to the world? Could it also be that both of them also realize that with Wall Street compensation packages now effectively downshifted for good, that the incidence of precisely such "whistleblowing" Op-Eds will soar astronomically? Finally, could Mr. Gorman perhaps comment on the allegations of yet another whistleblower who emerged right here on Zero Hedge, who alleges that it was none other than Morgan Stanley who influenced the CBO in its "conclusions" over the implications of the robosigning scandal? We would be delighted in posting Mr. Gorman's view. Alternatively, we would be just as delighted in posting the views of his employees, whether happy or unhappy. Or at least those employees who are not fired in retribution for emailing Zero Hedge... wink wink Morgan Stanely - and now you know that we know that you know that we know.
Following the latest temporary swoon in gold, the PM naysayers have once again crawled out of the woodwork, like a well tuned Swiss watch (made of 24K gold of course). Of course, they all crawl right back into their hole never to be heard of again until the next temporary drop and so on ad inf. Naturally, the latest incursion of "weak hand" gold longs is screaming bloody murder because the paper representation of the value of their hard, non-dilutable, physical gold is being slammed for one reason or another. Ironically, these same people tend to forget that the primary driver behind the value of gold is not for it to be replaced from paper into paper at some point in the future, but to provide the basis for a solid currency following the reset of a terminally unstable system, unstable precisely due to its reliance on infinitely dilutable currency, and as such any cheaper entry point is to be applauded. Yet it seems it is time for a refresh. Luckily, SocGen's Dylan Grice has coined just that with a brief explanation of "when to sell gold" which while having a modestly different view on the intrinsic value of gold, should provide some comfort to those for whom gold is not a speculative vehicle, but a true buy and hold investment for the future. And in this day and age of exponentially growing central bank balance sheets (chart), this should be everyone but the die hard CNBC fanatics. In brief: "Eventually, there will be a crisis of such magnitude that the political winds change direction, and become blustering gales forcing us onto the course of fiscal sustainability. Until it does, the temptation to inflate will remain, as will economists with spurious mathematical rationalisations as to why such inflation will make everything OK. Until it does, the outlook will remain favorable for gold. But eventually, majority opinion will accept the painful contractionary medicine because it will have to. That will be the time to sell gold."
Now in the curious world we live in today; this only came out in public as the answer to a question raised in the German Parliament. Some reflection on the nature of these guarantees, that the European Union had decided not to tell us about, causes me to think of them as “Ponzi Bonds.” These are the seeds of a great scheme that has been foisted upon us. Bonds of a feather that have flocked together and arrived with the black swans one quiet Wednesday afternoon. The quoted and much ballyhooed sovereign debt numbers are now known to be no longer accurate and hence the lack of credibility of the debt to GDP data for the European nations. Stated more simply; none of the data that we are given about sovereign debt in the European Union is the truth, none of it. According to Eurostat, as an example, the consolidated Spanish debt raises their debt to GDP by 12.3% as Eurostat also states, and I quote, that guaranteed debt in Europe “DO NOT FORM PART OF GOVERNMENT DEBT, BUT ARE A CONTINGENT LIABILITY.” In other words; not counted and so, my friends, none of the data pushed out by Europe about their sovereign debt or their GDP ratios has one whit of truth resident in the data.
Terminated CBO Whistleblower Shares Her Full Story With Zero Hedge, Exposes Deep Conflicts At "Impartial" Budget OfficeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/15/2012 22:05 -0400
Yet another whistleblower has stepped up, this time one already known to the general public, and one that Zero Hedge covered just over a month ago: we refer to the case of former CBO worker, Lan T. Pham, who, as the WSJ described in early February, "alleges she was terminated [by the CBO] after 2½ months for sharing pessimistic outlooks for the banking and housing sectors in 2010" and who "alleges supervisors stifled opinions that contradicted economic fixes endorsed by some on Wall Street, including research from a Morgan Stanley economist who served as a CBO adviser." As we observed in February, "what is most troubling is if indeed the CBO is nothing but merely another front for Wall Street to work its propaganda magic on the administration. Because at the core of every policy are numbers, usually with dollar signs in front of them, numbers which have to make sense and have to be projected into the future, no matter how grossly laughable the resultant hockeystick." As it turns out, somewhat expectedly, the WSJ version of events was incomplete. There is much more to this very important story, one which has major implications over "impartial" policy decisionmaking, and as a result, Ms. Pham has approached Zero Hedge to share her full story with the public.
Confused why every asset class is up again today (yes, even gold), despite the pundit interpretation by the media of the FOMC statement that the Fed has halted more easing? Simple - as we said yesterday, there is $3.6 trillion more in QE coming. But while we are too humble to take credit for moving something as idiotic as the market, the fact that just today, none other than Goldman Sachs' Jan Hatzius came out, roughly at the same time as its call to buy Russell 2000, and said that the Fed would announce THE NEW QETM, as soon as next month, and as late as June. Furthermore, as Goldman has previously explained, sterilization of QE makes absolutely no difference on risk asset behavior, and it is a certainty that the $500-$750 billion in new money (well on its way to fulfilling our expectation of a total $3.6 trillion in more easing to come), in the form of UST and MBS purchases, will blow out all assets across all classes, while impaling the dollar. Which in turn explains all of today's action - dollar down, everything else (including bonds, which Goldman said yesterday to sell which we correctly, at least for now, said was the bottom in rates) up. Finally, as we said, yesterday, "In conclusion we wish to say - thank you Chairman for the firesale in physical precious metals." Because when the market finally understands what is happening, despite all the relentless smoke and mirrors whose only goal is to avoid a surge in crude like a few weeks ago ahead of the presidential election, gold will be far, far higher. Yet for some truly high humor, here is the justification for why the Fed will need to do more QE, even though Goldman itself has been expounding on the improving economy: "The improvement might not last." In other words, unless the "economic improvement" is guaranteed in perpetuity, the Fed will always ease. Thank you central planning - because of you we no longer have to worry about either mean reversion or a business cycle.
So Italian banks have issued about $100 billion of these ponzi bonds and even in this day, that is a big number. Banks issue bonds to themselves. Then they get an Italian government guarantee. Then they take those bonds to the ECB and get money, which I assume they use to pay down other debt mostly. The Italian banks and Italian sovereign debt markets are essentially becoming one and the same. The sovereign has added 100 billion of risk to the banks (that today no one is focused on) and the banks and ECB would have to come up with some new gimmick if the sovereign had problems. The circularity has been powerful during this rally, but it seems too clever by half. It is an all or none strategy, and the ultimate double down. If it all works, then it is genius. If we see another round of weakness, we have the start of a death spiral.
Sean Corrigan presents an interesting chart for everyone who still believes that, contrary to millennia of evidence otherwise, money is not fungible. Such as the Lerry Meyers of the world, who in a CNBC interview earlier said the following: "I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you think he doesn't have the right model of inflation, he would allow hyperinflation. Not a prayer. Not a prayer. If you wanted to forecast inflation three or four years out and you don't have it close to 2%, I don't know why. Balance sheet, no impact. Level of reserves, no impact, so you have a different model of inflation, hey, you like the hawk on the committee, you got good company." (coupled with a stunning pronouncement by Steve Liesman: "I think the Fed is going to be dead wrong on inflation. I think inflation is going up." - yes, quite curious for a man who for the longest time has been arguing just the opposite: 5 minutes into the clip). Because despite what monetary theorists say, monetary practitioners know that money always finds a way to go from point A (even, or especially if, said point is defined as "excess reserves" which in a stationary phase generate a ridiculously low cash yield) to point B, where point B are risk assets that generate the highest returns. Such as high beta stocks (and of course crude and other hard commodities). And the following chart of Inside vs Outside Money from Sean Corrigan shows precisely how this is accomplished.
CDS is once again (still) in the spotlight. We have moved on from debating whether or not a Credit Event has occurred in the Hellenic Republic, to concerns about whether the CDS market will settle without a problem. There is a lot of talk about “net” and “gross” notionals and counterparty risk. What I will attempt to do here, is build a CDS world for you. We will look at various counterparties, the trades they do, and the residual risks in the system. It will be loosely based on Greek CDS but some liberties will be taken. None of the institutions are real world institutions (in spite of how much they sound like some people we know). It is a simplification, but to make it useful, it has to be robust enough to give a realistic picture of the CDS market/system.
While US equity futures continue to do their thing as the DJIA 13K ceiling comes into play again (two weeks ago Dow 13K was crossed nearly 80 times), ahead of today's 2:15pm Bernanke statement which will make the case for the NEW QE even more remote, none of the traditional correlation drivers are in active mode, with the EURUSD now at LOD levels, following headlines such as the following: "Euro Pares Losses vs Dollar as Germany’s ZEW Beats Ests" and 20 minutes later "EUR Weakens After German Zew Rises for 4th Month." As can be surmised, a consumer confidence circular and reflexive indicator is the basis for this Schrodinger (alive and dead) euro, and sure enough sentiment, aka the stock market, aka the ECB's balance sheet expansion of $1.3 trillion, is "improved" despite renewed concern over Spain’s fiscal outlook after better than expected German ZEW per Bloomberg. Next, investors await U.S. retail sales, which have come in consistently weaker in the past 3 month, and unless a pick up here is noted, one can scratch Q1 GDP. None of which will have any impact on the S&P 500 policy indicator whatsoever: in an election year, not even Brian Sack can push the stock market into the red.