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Mining For Minerals On Asteroids, Or Why 'Cornucopians in Space' Deliver A Dangerously Misguided Message

Ask yourself the following. For the technologies which allowed for the increased rate of extraction of coal in the 19th century, or,  which now allow for the increased rate of extraction of natural gas from shale in the 21st century: did those technologies create the resources or merely extract them as they already existed? The answer seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, I want to be sympathetic to the view that technology creates resources, in the sense that technology makes previous unrecognized or unrecoverable resources available. But a threshold I cannot cross, however, is that idea that there are always a new resources waiting to be discovered, if we can only create a technology to obtain them.

Which brings us back to mining for minerals. On asteroids.

Guest Post: The Emperor Is Naked

We are in the last innings of a very bad ball game. We are coping with the crash of a 30-year–long debt super-cycle and the aftermath of an unsustainable bubble. Quantitative easing is making it worse by facilitating more public-sector borrowing and preventing debt liquidation in the private sector—both erroneous steps in my view. The federal government is not getting its financial house in order. We are on the edge of a crisis in the bond markets. It has already happened in Europe and will be coming to our neighborhood soon. The Fed is destroying the capital market by pegging and manipulating the price of money and debt capital. Interest rates signal nothing anymore because they are zero. Capital markets are at the heart of capitalism and they are not working.

Guest Post: The European Union Is Destroying European Unity

So we know that the pro-bailout parties in Greece have failed to form a coalition, and that this will either mean an anti-bailout anti-austerity government, or new elections, and that this will probably mean that the Greek default is about to become extremely messy (because let’s face it the chances of the Greek people electing a pro-austerity, pro-bailout government is about as likely as Hillary Clinton quitting her job at the State Department and seeking a job shaking her booty at Spearmint Rhino). It was said that the E.U.’s existence was justified in the name of preventing the return of nationalism and fascism to European politics. Well, as a result of the austerity terms imposed upon Greece by their European cousins in Brussels and Frankfurt, Greeks just put a fully-blown fascist party into Parliament.

Dan Loeb Explains His (Brief) Infatuation With Portuguese Bonds

Last week, looking at Third Point's best performing positions we noticed something odd: a big win in Portuguese sovereign bonds in the month of April. We further suggested: "We suspect the plan went something like this: Loeb had one of his hedge-fund-huddles; the cartel all bought into Portuguese bonds (or more likely the basis trade - lower risk, higher leverage if a 'guaranteed winner'); bonds soared and the basis was crushed; now that same cartel - facing pressure on its AAPL position (noted as one of Loeb's largest positions at the end of April) - has to liquidate (reduce leverage thanks to AAPL's collateral-value dropping) and is forced to unwind the Portuguese positions. A quick glance at the chart below tells the story of a Portuguese bond market very much in a world of its own relative to the rest of Europe this last month - and perhaps now we know who was pulling those strings?" Since the end of April, both AAPL and Portuguese bonds have tumbled, and Portugal CDS is +45 bps today alone, proving that circumstantially we have been quite correct. Today, we have the full Long Portugal thesis as explained by Loeb (it was a simple Portuguese bond long, which explains the odd rip-fest seen in the cash product in April). There is nothing too surprising in the thesis, with the pros and cons of the trade neatly laid out, however the core premise is that the Troika will simply not allow Portugal to fail, and that downside on the bonds is limited... A thesis we have heard repeatedly before, most recently last week by Greylock and various other hedge funds, which said a long-Greek bond was the "trade of the year", and a "no brainer." Sure, that works, until it doesn't: such as after this past weekend, in which Greece left the world stunned with the aftermath of what happens when the people's voice is for once heard over that of the kleptocrats, and the entire house of cards is poised to collapse.

Greek Bonds Monkeyhammered As Hedge Funds Slash Hands Catching Falling Knives

About two years ago the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund did something truly remarkable: it invested for infinity: "Norway, which has amassed the world’s second-biggest sovereign wealth fund, says Greece won’t default on its debts. The Nordic nation’s $450 billion Government Pension Fund Global has stocked up on Greek debt, as well as bonds of Spain, Italy and Portugal. Finance Minister Sigbjoern Johnsen says he backs the strategy, which contributed to a 3.4 percent loss on European fixed income in the second quarter, compared with gains on bonds in Asia and the Americas. Norway says its long-term perspective will protect it from losses. “One could say we are investing for infinity,” Johnsen said." Well, we all know how the experiment ended: "Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund Purges All Insolvent Eurozone Debt Holdings." So much for infinity. But that has not stopped others to boldly catch falling knives where so many other have tried to catch falling knives before, and failed. Enter Greylock Capital and various other hedge funds who are positive they have rediscovered the wheel.

Greece: Next Steps

The Greek elections culminated with the worst possible outcome: 2 votes short of a majority for the pro-bailout New Democracy and Pasok parties. So what happens next? Well - two things: expect to see random stop hunting ramps in the EURUSD and ES on false rumors that despite the math, a pro-bailout coalition government is being formed. It isn't, but it will take out all FX and ES stops to the upside first as skittish shorts get burned as usual on planted fake headlines. More importantly, and as predicted last week, we will likely see yet another Greek election as the political vacuum in Athens is likely too big to be circumvented in a few days. Below we present a summary of immediate next steps as summarized by the WSJ. Yet one thing we want to bring attention to is that as we pointed out first on Saturday, a key even over the next two weeks, during a time when Greece will most likely not have an active government in place is the May 15th maturity of €430 million in international-law bonds whose holders have not agreed to the terms of the PSI and thus demand full payment... of money that Greece does not have. Finally we already know that Norway is the biggest non-PSI compliant entity out there. So will we finally see the first Greek PSI-related lawsuit on May 16 if and when Greece fails to make a payment? We will know in 9 days whether the European soap opera gets even more exciting than usual as various European countries start suing each other in international court, especially when one of the countries will have no government for the foreseeable future.

Status Quo Catastrophe Is Served

Now that France has a Socialist President the story is not over, not even close to over as the next French elections, for Parliament, will roust the nation once more into the spotlight as Ms. Le Pen and her allies assume a new role, a higher ground, and as the financial situation in France deteriorates they may get an even bigger slice of the pie than thought at present. It is not just that Europe is going to be governed in a different fashion but that France will be run differently and with more difficulties I predict than currently thought. The recession and the anger directed at Germany are rousing the spirits once thought dead; France for the French, the Netherlands for the Dutch, Greece for the Greeks and soon we may find the same dreaded tale in Germany as Nationalism rings in the death knell for European unity and for the political parties that flaunted it. It is a rolling thunder all across Europe, that much is known, and the implications of it all will be felt by the people of each separate country. The dream is fading into the reality of a different sun and daylight will mask that which was dared to be dreamed years before.

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By the look of things, French youth are celebrating Hollande’s victory by picking up all of their friends and then driving up and down the streets honking their horns incessantly. Most cars were packed to the brim with passengers hanging out of every window and even the sunroof waving French flags, singing, or simply yelling pro-Hollande slogans.

 

Strategic Investment Conference: David Rosenberg

david-rosenberg

Stocks are currently priced for a 10% growth rate which makes bonds a safer investment in the current environment which cannot deliver 10% rates of returns. We are no longer in the era of capital appreciation and growth. The “baby boomers” are driving the demand for income which will keep pressure on finding yield which in turn reduces buying pressure on stocks. This is why even with the current stock market rally since the 2009 lows - equity funds have seen continual outflows. The “Capital Preservation” crowd will continue to grow relative to the “Capital Appreciation” crowd.... According to the recent McKinsey study the debt deleveraging cycles, in normal historical recessionary cycles, lasted on average six to seven years, with total debt as a percentage of GDP declining by roughly 25 percent. More importantly, while GDP contracted in the initial years of the deleveraging cycle it rebounded in the later years.

Guest Post: Dr. Lacy Hunt On Debt Disequilibrium, Deleveraging, And Depression

If you want to know how weak the economy really is all you need to do is look at the 30-year bond. It is one of the best economic indicators available today. If economic conditions are robust then the yield will be rising and vice versa. What the current low levels of yield on 30 year bonds is telling you is that the underlying economy is weak. "The 30-year yield is not at these low levels DUE to the Federal Reserve; but in SPITE OF the Fed," Hunt said. The actions of the Federal Reserve have continued to undermine the economy which is reflected by the low yield of the 30 year bond. The "cancerous" side effects of nonproductive debt are being reflected in real disposable incomes. Just over the last two years real disposable incomes slid from 5% in 2010 and -0.5% in 2012 on a 3-month percentage change at an annual rate basis. This is critically important to understand. While the media remains focused on GDP it is the wrong measure by which to measure the economy. A truly growing economy leads to rises in prosperity. GDP does NOT measure prosperity — it measures spending. It is the measure of real personal incomes that measures prosperity. Prosperity MUST come from rising incomes.

Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund Purges All Insolvent Eurozone Debt Holdings, US Hedge Funds Buying

One month later the purge is over: "Norway’s sovereign wealth fund sold all its Irish and Portuguese government bonds after rejecting the Greek debt swap and warned that Europe faces considerable challenges." Wait, what's that? The Eurozone's political strongarming (think Steve Rattner and GM) was unable to force the world's most powerful sovereign wealth fund into agreeing to what was essentially extortion when bank after bank noted how delighted they are to be bent over and take an 80% writedown on their Greek holdings. Stunning. But at least we now know who will be suing Greece shortly in an attempt to recoup par value of their strong law bonds: grab the popcorn - Norway vs Greece will be quite a spectacle. As for their dump of Irish and Portuguese bonds, no surprise there: fool me once (in perpetuity) shame on me, fool me twice, shame on Dan Loeb... who was buying everything Norway was selling. We wonder who ends up right.

The Mightiest Of Weapons

Sunday marks the day in Greece, France, parts of Italy and Spain. May 6 will stand out perhaps as the day when the fortunes of Europe were reversed and if not reversed; re-programmed. There has been a lot of talk about this of course and a lot of speculation in the Press and, one would think, that it had all been discounted by the markets but not so fast. The discount will only go as far as the political implications are generally understood and we would submit that the particularities of the European elections are not well understood at all. We think the markets’ reaction is a first blush notion which does not get close to the more pressing questions of what some of the potential changes in power will mean past the revelry of the election night parties. Mr. Hollande, in fact, represents the wave that is sweeping all across Europe which is a return to Nationalism, to tribal pride, to economic self-protection as the European Recession, as driven by the “austerity measures” and fiscal restrictions imposed by Berlin deepen both the economic travails and the reaction to finding your nation under the economic jack boots of Berlin. All of the changes of guard in Europe are going to have a profound effect upon the marketplace in my view. There will be a widening of credit/risk spreads, a decline in the equity markets, a decline of the Euro against the Dollar as Fear climbs back in the driver’s seat and as uncertainty is the prevalent theme of each day.
 

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Remember, the core driving force in European policy-making is politics. Angela Merkel faces re-election in 2013. If inflation is already becoming a political issue in Germany now (though data shows that inflation actually slowed in April) Merkel is going to be highly incentivized to get it under control by appearing even more pro-austerity/ anti-monetization (more on this later). And if things get truly ugly she could even publicly threaten to pull out the Euro.