In recent months, the attention of the public has been consumed by concerns over private data abuse by such public spy agencies as the NSA, as well as what personal financial information may have been intercepted by rogue hacker black hats who in the past two months have been blamed for millions in credit card privacy breaches. However, so far there have been two major loose ends in the story of personal data collection (and abuse): just how web search browsers and cookie-based advertising companies collect everything there is to know about the particular interests and desires of any given individual, and just as importantly, how banks abuse client confidentiality by taking the secret financial data of their clients less than seriously. Today, one of these loose ends got some much needed public exposure.
In 1972, the CIA Director Relabelled “Dissidents” As “Terrorists” So He Could Continue Spying On Them … And Nothing Has ChangedSubmitted by George Washington on 02/07/2014 19:06 -0400
U.S. Government Labels Dissent As Terrorism
Over the last year, investors have been lulled to sleep wrapped in the warmth of complacency as the Federal Reserve stoked the fires of the market with $85 billion a month in liquidity injections. I have written many times in the past that investors were likely to be rudely awakened by an unexpected event of which was likely not even on the majority of mainstream analysts radars. That occurred this past week as a revulsion in emerging markets sent the "carry trade" running in reverse. What we will need to ponder this weekend is whether the current correction is simply just a dip within an ongoing uptrend OR have the "bears" finally awakened from their winter hibernation?
- Here is why AAPL bounced off $500: Apple Repurchases $14 Billion of Own Shares in Two Weeks (WSJ)
- German Court Refers OMT Decision to Europe's Top Court (WSJ)
- Inflation Fuels Crises in Two Latin Nations (WSJ)
- U.S. job growth seen snapping back from winter chill (Reuters)
- Google to own $750 million Lenovo stake after Motorola deal closes: HK exchange (Reuters)
- Frigid Winter Spells Trouble for U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Winter Games to open, Putin keen to prove doubters wrong (Reuters)
- Regulators Ready to Proceed on Bank Leverage Limit (WSJ)
- Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII (BBG)
These distortions are now being corrected.
The biggest fear the market currently has is not the ongoing crisis in the Emerging Markets, not the suddenly slowing economy, not even China's credit bubble popping: it is that Bernanke's successor may have suddenly reverted to the "Old Normal" - a regime in which the Fed is not there to provide the training wheels should the S&P suffer a 5%, 10% or 20% (or more) drop. Whether such fears are warranted will be tested as soon as there is indeed a bear market plunge in stocks - the first in nearly three years (incidentally the topic of the Fed's lack of vacalty was covered in a recent Reuters article). So, assuming that indeed the most dramatic change in market dynamics in the past five years has taken place, how does one trade this new world which is so unfamiliar to so many of today's "younger" (and forgotten by many of the older) traders? And, more importantly, how does one look for the signs of a bottom: an Old Normal bottom that is. Courtesy of Convergex' Nicholas Colas, here is a reminder of what to look forward to, for those who are so inclined, to time the next market inflection point.
There are two major concerns that everyone should be concerned about that we see taking this sell-off further and faster than anyone else expects...
Afghanistan’s insurgents have endured hard times before, but nothing quite like this. At first glance the war might seem to be turning in their favor. Hundreds of Taliban foot soldiers - the heart and soul of the armed struggle against the U.S.-backed Kabul government - are running out of food, money and ammunition. As Vocative reports, their plight is unlikely to improve anytime soon - people familiar with the Taliban’s finances say the organization’s main sources of revenue have dried up. Wealthy Arab donors, Afghan businessmen and even Pakistan’s powerful and secretive spy agency have all reduced or stopped funding, each for their own reasons. “Anytime I’m out there, I could be martyred,” he says. “And God does not forgive anyone—even a martyr—who dies without paying his just debts.”
As if emerging markets didn't have enough things to worry about following a week in which both the Turkish and Argentina currencies are in free fall, overnight we got a stark reminder from Thailand that the country where the 1997 Asian Crisis originated, is also on the brink and getting worse following news that a anti-government protest leader was shot and killed. Reuters reports, citing a spokesman for the national police, that the dead man as Suthin Tharatin - one of the protest leaders- was shot in the head and in the chest.
While Edward Snowden's legacy has already been felt in official, government circle most recently with Obama's amusing, if completely meaningless, theatrical reformation of the NSA (so wait, the Utah's superstasi spy center is now closed, right?), it is now the private sector's turn. Moments ago, Verizon - in what is hopefully the first such action of many - provided an extensive "Transparency Report" in which it disclosed the "number of subpoenas, orders, and warrants we received from law enforcement in the United States last year. We also received emergency requests and National Security Letters. The vast majority of these various types of demands relate to our consumer customers; we receive relatively few demands regarding our enterprise customers." So regular retail customers are being actively spied on, but corporations are safe. Good to know.
In his 712-page tour de force, The Great Deformation, David Stockman dissects America’s descent into the present era of “bubble finance.” it’s hard to refute Stockman’s perspective on the Fed’s role in the housing bubble. But that won’t stop some from trying, and especially the many academic economists beholden to the Fed. Research papers have stealthily danced around the Fed’s culpability for our crappy economy, as we discussed here. More importantly, if Stockman is right about bubble finance, there’s more mayhem to come. Consider that denying failure and persisting with the same strategy are two sides of the same coin. Just as investors avoid the pain of admitting mistakes by holding onto losing positions, Fed officials who claim to have done little wrong are also more committed than ever to propping up asset markets with cheap money. For those concerned about another policy failure, a key question is: “As of today, where do we stand with respect to bubbles and bubble finance?”
"If You Like Your Phone Records, You Can Keep Your Phone Records": Obama To Announce NSA Overhaul At 11:00 AMSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/17/2014 09:18 -0400
Remember when Obama said he would have engaged in a dramatic overhaul of the NSA with or without Edwards Snowden? Funny as that statement may have been at the time (and recall that Comedians have psychotic personality traits, study finds), we will never know just what Obama would have done if... but we do know that at 11 am this morning, Obama will say he is ordering a transition that will significantly change the handling of what is known as the telephone "metadata" program from the way the NSA currently handles it. In other words, if you like your phone records, you can keep your phone records. It goes without saying that the number of people who believe anything the president says at this point is the same number or less than the dozen or so Chinese enthusiasts who waited in "line" to get a new China Mobile phone.
The Administration Treats Congress Just Like the American People: With Scorn and Disdain
Day two of the bounce from the biggest market drop in months is here, driven once again by weak carry currencies, with the USDJPY creeping up as high as 104.50 overnight before retracing some of the gains, and of course, the virtually non-existant volume. Whatever the reason don't look now but market all time highs are just around the corner, and the Nasdaq is back to 14 year highs. Stocks traded higher since the get-go in Europe, with financials leading the move higher following reports that European banks will not be required in upcoming stress tests to adjust their sovereign debt holdings to maturity to reflect current values. As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads tightened, also benefiting from good demand for 5y EFSF syndication, where price guidance tightened to MS+7bps from initial MS+9bps. Also of note, Burberry shares in London gained over 6% and advanced to its highest level since July, after the company posted better than expected sales data. Nevertheless, the FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers, with several large cap stocks trading ex-dividend today. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Empire Manufacturing report, PPI and DoE data, as well as earnings by Bank of America.