It seems the question on many people's minds, as scandal after scandal crashes on the shores of Obama's White House is best summed up by The Telegraph's Damian Thompson. Yet another non-US paper asks, will Obama last the duration of his second term in a surveillance context where what has been revealed is said to be worse than Watergate.
Are Emergency Plans Meant Only for Nuclear War the Real Justification for Spying?
"By propping up asset markets, the Fed has created an illusion that wealth is being created. The next step, according to Bernanke’s plan, should be for growth to follow. In fact, there is no reason why the rise in prices of financial assets should lead to actual investments or a rise in the median income. So far, it has not. There has been no real increase in the private sector propensity to borrow, and the danger may be that any further public sector borrowing will hasten the decline because of our “permanent asset hypothesis”. This means that, should the Fed lose control of asset prices (is this what is now happening in Japan?), then the game will be up and the downside move in markets may well be terrifying."
Goldbugs the world over may not know it, but the one catalyst they are all waiting for, is for the PBOC to throw in the towel to Bernanke's and Kuroda's liquidity tsunami and join in the global reflation effort. Alas, those hoping the Chinese central bank would do just this on Friday were disappointed. Moments ago the 21st Century Business Herald, via MNI, reported that the People's Bank of China "decided to shelve plans to inject short-term liquidity into the market late Friday because of concerns it would be sending the wrong signal in light of the government's ongoing commitment to its "prudent" monetary policy stance. Rumors hit the market mid-afternoon about an injection in the region of CNY150 bln via the PBOC's rarely-used short-term liquidity operation (SLO) tool. But how much longer can it avoid the inevitable: what happens when overnight loan yields soar to 20% or 30% or more, and when the repo and SHIBOR markets lock up and no overnight unsecured wholesale funding is available? Because when China finally does join what is already an historic liquidity tsunami then deflation will be the last thing the world will have to worry about. In the meantime, we welcome every chance to dollar cost average lower on physical hard assets, the same hard assets that none other than 1 billion concerned Chinese will direct their attention to when inflation makes it long overdue comeback to the world's most populous country.
Hidden in the Edward Snowden story is this gem exposing just how it was that the story of Swiss bank secrecy was broken. Guess who was at the bottom? None other than the US Central Intelligence Agency. We are confident any US citizens who recently have had to shut down their Zurich, Geneva, Bern, Zug or Lugano bank accounts at a sizable loss of course, not to mention countless Swiss bankers currently facing prosecution, as well as various Swiss citizens will find it all quite fascinating.
As of this moment, Obama is making the case that the US government is not eavesdropping on phone calls. Specifically, he said "nobody is listening to your phone calls - they are just looking at phone numbers and duration of calls" and concluded that the NSA was only engaged in "modest encroachments." It was unclear if that clarification was meant to put to rest fears that Big Brother has made personal privacy a thing of the past. He further went on to add that the telephone surveillance program is fully vetted by Congress and supervised by the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). In other words: Obama is making the case that the NSA's Big Brother supervision is perfectly legal and not only that, there are checks and balances and neither the telephonic snooping nor the internet supervision is anything to be concerned about. There is one problem: Obama is lying.
To get a sense of the momentous volatility in Japan, consider that the Nikkei225 is more or less in the same numeric ballpark as the Dow Jones, and that each and every day now it continues to have intraday swings of more than 500 points! Last night was no different following swing from 13100 on the high side to 12548 on the low, or nearly 600 points, with all this ridiculous vol culminating in a close that was just red however for a simple reason that the rumor of the Japanese Pension Fund reallocation taking place hit shortly before the close sending the USDJPY higher by 200 pips... only for the news to emerge as an epic disappointment when it was revealed that the GPIF would raise its target allocation to domestic equities from 11% to... 12%. So much for the "Great Japanese Rotation."
The problem is central banks have created a vast pool of credit-money that is far larger than the pool of sound investment opportunities. Why are asset bubbles constantly popping up around the globe? The answer is actually quite simple. Asset bubbles are now so ubiquitous that we've habituated to extraordinary excesses as the New Normal; the stock market of the world's third largest economy (Japan) can rise by 60% in a matter of months and this is met with enthusiasm rather than horror: oh goody, another bubblicious rise to catch on the way up and then dump before it pops. Have you seen the futures for 'roo bellies and bat guano? To the moon, Baby! The key feature of the New Normal bubbles is that they are finance-driven: the secular market demand for housing (new homes and rental housing) in post-bubble markets such as Phoenix has not skyrocketed; the huge leaps in housing valuations are driven by finance, i.e. huge pools of cheap credit seeking a yield somewhere, anywhere:
Global Risk Off: Nikkei Plunges 700 Points From Intraday Highs, Whisper Away From 20% Bear Market CorrectionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/05/2013 06:50 -0400
Anyone expecting Abe to announce definitive, material growth reform instead of vague promises to slay a "deflation monster" last night was sorely disappointed. The country's PM, who may once again be reaching for the Immodium more and more frequently, said the government aims for 3% average growth over the next decade and 2% real growth, raising per capita income by JPY 1.5 million. The market laughed outright in the face of this IMF-type silly vagueness (as well as the amusing assumption that Abe will be still around in 7 years), which left untouched the most critical aspect of Abenomics: energy, and nuclear energy to be specific, and sent the USDJPY plummeting well below the 100 support line, printing 99.55 at last check. But more importantly, after surging briefly at the opening of the second half of trading to mask a feeble attempt at telegraphing the "all is well", it rolled over with a savage ferocity plunging 700 points from an intraday high of 13,711 to just above 13,000 at the lows: yet another 5% intraday swing in a market which is now flatly laughing at the BOJ's "price stability" mandate. Tonight's drop has extended the plunge from May 23 to 18.4% meaning just 1.6% lower and Japan officially enters a bear market.
Housing Bubble Pop Alert: Colony Pulls IPO On "Market Conditions", Blue Mountain Rushes To Cash Out Of Own-To-RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/04/2013 23:08 -0400
Here is a simple way to test if the last year of housing market gains have been due to a real, fundamental, consumer-led recovery, or nothing but the latest iteration of the Fed's money bubble machine manifesting itself in the place of least du jour resistance - houses: Assume rising interest rates.
Much has been made of the 'terrible-taper' losses that bondholders face (and have supposedly suffered in May) as the reason for the great rotation myth to rise phoenix-like from the flames of all-time-low yields. Talking-head after talking-head appears to make the same sheep-like thesis of buying dividend-paying stocks - being "paid-to-wait", why earn low Treasury yields when stocks offer more? Well the answer, though obscured from view to most, came in May. As we have noted over and over again (most recently here and here), the difference between bond (yields) and equity (dividends) are risk, drawdown, and uncertainty. It should be obvious - but with such a strong anchoring bias for stocks, sadly it is not. By way of example, the 4% dividend-paying Dow Jones Utility Index fell over 10% in May (losing 2.5 years worth of dividends) while the 2.3% yielding 10Y Treasury fell 2.5% in price. As we noted before, there is a reason boomers prefer bonds.
In yet another hit for both the administration's trustworthiness and the hope of some spin-off of the GSEs, the WSJ reports that the Federal Housing Administration's projected losses over 30 years could reach as high as $115 billion under a previously undisclosed stress test. The results, which were not included in the agency's independent actuarial review (because of the potential uproar it might create according to emails), are based on the Fed's stress-test scenario - which seems like something that should (perhaps) have been included. The fact that this data was omitted from the report is "troubling" to House Oversight Committee head Darrell Issa. In its annual audit, the agency disclosed that under current conditions, total losses would exceed its reserves by $13.5 billion over 30 years (with a $943 million loss this year alone). The projected shortfall under a 'protracted economic slump' is $64.5 billion but the 'tail risk' event, that was originally included in earlier drafts, based on the Fed's stress test, is $115 billion. Hardly the upside-encouraging potential that private-finance will be looking for in funding FEDMAGIC.
May was Iraq’s deadliest month in nearly five years, with more than 1,000 dead – both civilians and security personnel -- in a rash of bombings, shootings and other violence. As we read each day of new horrors in Iraq, it becomes more obvious that the US invasion delivered none of the promised peace or stability that proponents of the attack promised. We must learn the appropriate lessons from the disaster of Iraq. We cannot continue to invade countries, install puppet governments, build new nations, create centrally-planned economies, engage in social engineering, and force democracy at the barrel of a gun. The rest of the world is tired of US interventionism and the US taxpayer is tired of footing the bill for US interventionism.
Fractional reserve banking is unlike most other businesses. It's not just because its product is money. It's because banks can manufacture their product out of thin air. Under the bygone rules of free market capitalism, only one thing kept banks from creating an infinite amount of money, and that was fear of failure. Periodic bank failures remind depositors of the connection between risk and reward. What is not widely appreciated is that the ensuing government bailouts allowed an underlying shadow banking system to not only survive but grow even larger. To the frustration of Keynesians, and despite an unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve, conventional commercial banks have broken with custom and have amassed almost $2 trillion in excess reserves they are reluctant to lend as they scramble to digest all the bad loans still on their books. So most of the money manufactured today is actually being created by the shadow banks. But shadow banks do not generally make commercial loans. Rather, they use the money they manufacture to fund proprietary trading operations in repos and derivatives. No one knows when the bubble will pop, but when it does a donnybrook is going to break out over that thin wedge of collateral whose ownership is spread across counterparties around the world, each looking for relief from their own judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.