Moments ago, Russia casually hinted that Ukraine should use part of the IMF aid (which has been promised in virtually all increments between $1 billion up to $18 billion, but at last check not one penny has been wired) to repay Gazprom's debt, which is anywhere between the $2.2 billion Gazprom has said Ukraine is delinquent on for 2014 gas supplies, and an additional $11.4 billion which is what Gazprom said Ukraine's state-owned energy firm Naftogaz owes for unused take-or-pay arrangements in 2013. This happened just hours after Ukraine reportedly used the 'nuclear option' and halted the bulk of water supply to Russia's newest territory: Crimea. Tit for tat?
“On the way in, there’s insatiable demand.” Alas, “it’s going to be a disaster on the way out.”
So far we have experienced 7 million foreclosures. Beyond that there are still 9 million homeowners seriously underwater on their mortgages and there are millions more who are stranded in place because they don’t have enough positive equity to cover transactions costs and more stringent down payment requirements. And that’s before the next down-turn in housing prices - a development which will show-up any day. In short, the socio-economic mayhem implicit in the graph below is not the end of the line or a one-time nightmare that has subsided and is now working its way out of the system as the Kool-Aid drinkers would have you believe based on the “incoming data” conveyed in the chart. Instead, the serial bubble makers in the Eccles Building have already laid the ground-work for the next up-welling of busted mortgages, home foreclosures and the related wave of disposed families and social distress.
With all that has been written in respect to Thomas Piketty's new book "Capital", you would think someone would remark on the odd coincidence of timing of the rapid rise in inequality that the Professor is so upset about. It’s the issue of the hour. Yet when it comes to the timing at which this phenomenon presented itself, nada. Omerta from the liberal intelligentsia. What could have marked 1971 as the year the picture began to change in respect of inequality in America? It turns out that was the year America defaulted on its obligation under Bretton Woods to redeem in gold dollars held by foreign governments and the era of fiat money began.
- Ukraine Accord Nears Collapse as Biden Meets Kiev Leaders (BBG)
- Novartis reshapes business via deals with GSK and Lilly (Reuters)
- Moscow Bankers See Fees Slide 67% as Ukraine Crisis Grows (BBG)
- Why ECB's QE will be Ukraine's fault: Draghi Gauges Ukraine Effect as ECB Tackles Low Inflation (BBG)
- As Phone Subsidies Fade, Apple Could Be Hurt (WSJ)
- Amazon Sales Take a Hit in States With Online Tax (BBG)
- Ford Speeds Up Succession Plan: Mark Fields, Auto Maker's No. 2, Seen Replacing Alan Mulally as CEO Ahead of Schedule (WSJ)
- U.S. force in Afghanistan may be cut to less than 10,000 troops (Reuters)
- IBM End to Buyback Splurge Pressures CEO to Boost Revenue (BBG)
Dear Gennady, ...So you see, Gennady, we are actually quite prepared to see the stock market crash, to see all the stock markets in the world crash, and the yields on our dollar bonds rise to whatever level. We are prepared for much worse things... The inevitable economic setback may result in some political opposition within Russia itself, but in the context of an escalating confrontation with Europe it shouldn’t be too difficult to cope with.... I hope that makes things a little clearer. Yes, it is a risky strategy, but a Europe dominated by Russia, or at least detached from the United States and disunited, is a prize worth risking everything for. Beppo is worth a crash.... Think about what I’ve said – some of it may come as a shock, but in the end, I think you’ll agree that it’s actually good news that the long tense period of waiting is finally over. We can’t win a conventional or a nuclear conflict, but this plan really might succeed. If not, well, we Russians are used to overcoming adversity.. Your Friend, Sasha
"Marubeni [the world's largest soybean exporter to China] is deluded in thinking that payments will come once the cargoes have sailed," is the message from an increasing number of liquidity-strapped Chinese firms, "If they take these cargoes, some could go bankrupt. That's why they choose not to honor the contracts." As we explained in great detail here, this is the transmission mechanism by which China's commodity-financing catastrophe spreads contagiously to the rest of the world. A glance at the Baltic Dry is one indication of the global nature of the problem (and Genco Shipping's $1 billion bankruptcy), but as Reuters reports, "If buyers cannot resolve the issue, they may also cancel future shipments."
Keep interest rates at zero, whilst printing trillions of dollars, pounds and yen out of thin air, and you can make investors do some pretty extraordinary things. "Central bankers control the price of money and therefore indirectly influence every market in the world. Given this immense power, the ideal central banker would be humble, cautious and deferential to market signals. Instead, modern central bankers are both bold and arrogant in their efforts to bend markets to their will. Top-down central planning, dictating resource allocation and industrial output based on supposedly superior knowledge of needs and wants, is an impulse that has infected political players throughout history." The result was always a conspicuous and dismal failure. Today’s central planners, especially the Federal Reserve, will encounter the same failure in time. The open issues are, when and at what cost to society?
- Putin Doesn't Rule Out Sending Troops (WSJ)
- Japan Cuts Economic View on Tax Rise (WSJ)
- No "harsh weather" in Chipotle restaurants where comp store sales rose 13.4% (PR)
- No sanctions for you: EU sanctions push on Russia falters amid big business lobbying (FT)
- Consumer Spending on Health Care Jumps as Obamacare Takes Hold (BBG)
- China Seen Cracking on Property Controls (BBG)
- Google, IBM results raise questions about other tech-sector companies (Reuters)
- California city evacuation lifted after military ordnance found (Reuters)
- For Obama, Standoff With Moscow Jumbles Plans at Home and Abroad (WSJ)
"We have been cheated by CCB," exclaimed one Chinese investor who invested 1 million yuan ($160k) in China Construction Bank's Songhuajing River No.77 Trust (which offered returns of 9.8 to 12% per annum). It appears that a 12% yielding financial instrument was not hint enough of the risk to the dozens of investors who confronted police in troubled Sanhxi province yesterday demanding their money back from the trust which has missed 6 monthly payments in a row. People wearing white masks with the words "despicable bank" and "pay back our money" were among at least 30 investors facing special-forces officers in dark uniforms and the group dispersed soon after the bank had asked for more time, adding "the bank said they wouldn't risk their reputation."
There is much new info in the just released Bloomberg profile on the infamous ex-JPMorganite Blythe Masters, among which the disclosure that she had made it clear that she had wanted to go along with the disposable JPM physical commodities unit (which as was reported recently, was sold to Swiss commodities giant Mercuria) and "and continue as the group's chief", a plan which did not work out as she had planned since she has no plans to "join the unit’s purchaser" (although joining Glencore is another matter entirely, and one which looks increasingly plausible) but what we find most striking is the following revelation: "Masters is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That probe was opened following a settlement with regulators that alleged JPMorgan manipulated power markets in the Midwest and California."
European partners have left Russia with "no alternative" but to halt supplies of gas to Ukraine and Europe, according to a letter from Russian president Putin to European leaders. The remarks, as Reuters reports, were the strongest sign yet that Russia could curtail supplies of gas to (and through) Ukraine affecting supplies of gas to Europe (as they fear Ukraine will siphon off Russian gas meant for Europe). Russia is getting angry, and an angry Russia can simply turn the gas switch to the "Off" position and hibernate for a bit.
So from MF Global's "vaporized" commingled client assets to Basel's "evaporated" toughened derivatives rules, the banks are indeed "very happy." And now back to perpetuation the illusion that the system is stable.
"Fear Of Missing Out" - that is the only way one can explain the irrational idiocy with which asset "managers" are scrambling to allocate other people's money into today's "historic" Greek (where unemployment just printed at 26.7%) return to the bond market, and which according to Greek PM Venizelos was eight times oversubscribed, or far more demand than for the Facebook IPO. Ironically, while we joked earlier this week, when the Greek 5Y was trading in the 6% range that the new bond would issue at 3%, we were not too far off on the final terms which were largely expected in the mid-5% range. Instead, Greece shocked everyone when it announced that the avalanche of lemmings had made it possible for Greece to issue debt at a sub-5% yield, and a 4.75% cash coupon! Here is the final term sheet.