In today's open mic farce that has made the president a target of a fresh republican onslaught, we have Obama telling Russian presidential pawn Dmitry Medvedev that "this is his last presidential election", and that he will have "more flexibility after the election." One can only assume that Obama is referring to the aggressive NATO expansion which has angered Russia substantially as noted previously, and even led to Russia putting radar stations on combat alert. It could be this or it could be anything, including US posturing vis-a-vis Syria assuming the stance a huanitariam, if completely impotent, do-gooder globocop, or for that matter any other foreign policy fiasco in which Russia now have the upper hand by default. Naturally, one wonders why Obama would be pandering to Russia (well, aside for the country's premier export position when it comes to nat gas and crude of course) in the first place. Or more importantly, as the GOP has now figured out, why does the president need to be more flexible after the election to begin with, and to what other special interest will Obama be far more responsive than to his mere electorate. Either way, nothing but more theater as central planning continues on its merry way to terminal dislocation with reality.
Oil as a commodity has always been a highly valuable early warning indicator of economic instability. Every conceivable element of our financial system depends on the price of energy, from fabrication, to production, to shipping, to the consumer’s very ability to travel and make purchases. High energy prices derail healthy economies and completely decimate systems already on the verge of collapse. Oil affects everything. This is why oil markets also tend to be the most misrepresented in the mainstream financial media. With so much at stake over the price of petroleum, and the cost steadily climbing over the past year returning to disastrous levels last seen in 2008, the American public will soon be looking for someone to blame, and you can bet the MSM will do its utmost to ensure that blame is focused in the wrong direction. While there are, indeed, multiple reasons for the current high costs of oil, the primary culprits are obscured by considerable disinformation… The most prominent but false conclusions on the expanding value of oil are centered on assertions that supply is decreasing dramatically, while demand is increasing dramatically. Neither of these claims is true…
All you need to read and some more.
European cash equity markets were seen on a slight upward trend in the early hours of the session amid some rumours that the Chinese PBOC were considering a cut to their RRR. However, this failed to materialise and markets have now retreated into negative territory with flows seen moving into fixed income securities. This follows some market talk of selling in Greek PSI bonds due to the absence of CDSs. This sparked some renewed concern regarding the emergence of Greece from their recovery. Elsewhere, we saw the publication of the BoE’s financial stability review recommending that UK banks raise external capital as soon as possible. This saw risk-averse flows into the gilt, with futures now trading up around 40 ticks.
Back in early 2011, even as the global economy was at best flatlining, the one goalseeked explanation to justify a levitating stock market (which was rising solely due to the short-term effect of transitory QE2 liquidity), was soaring corporate profitability (which only lasted as long as companies could trim some residual SG&A fat; they have now cut into the bone in terms of layoffs). This time around, with corporate margins having peaked, there had to be some other validation to explain away the "narrative" of the latest bout of central bank infused stock market levitation: it just happened that this time it was once again that old faithful, and always wrong, justification - decoupling. After all one just has to listen to 5 minutes of CNBC to hear it taken for granted that the US economy is doing oh so swimmingly. Here is a newsflash for all the permabulls out there. It isn't. Not only that, but as David Rosenberg highlights, 11 of the 13 most recent economic indicators have missed consensus expectations, and one can demonstrate that the other 2 - car sales and jobs - have been simplistically manipulated into a favorable outcome. So now that the market is turning over, with Europe and China both solidly into contractionary territory, with Corporate profit margins turning over, and with US data missing virtually every print, how long until the permabullish validations all go up in smoke, and the one true source of stock market "nirvana" - cheap money - is once again in high demand from the central planning cabal. In turn, the Chairsatans of the world will do as requested, as they always do, however not with crude (the real one - Brent, not that Cushing-buffered substitate) at $125, and with the risk that Israel may attack Iran any day now, with or without the blessing of the Fed's Class A director.
In a number of stories in China's top newspapers today, the US has been slammed for its moves to restrict Iran's oil trade which could see Chinese banks sanctioned. As The People's Daily noted, Hong Lei (a Foreign Ministry spokesperson) warned such unilateral action was not only wrong but could exacerbate the stand-off over Iran's nuclear program. Arguing that China 'imports oil based on its economic development needs' without violating relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and undermining the third party's and international community's interests, he noted China will not accept the practice of saddling unilateral sanctions on the third country. Adding to this, China Daily notes the typical UN blah-dom of Wang Min's comments of the "more pragmatic importance to be firmly committed to dialogue and negotiations in order to properly solve the Iranian nuclear issue". While China is clearly 'disappointed' in the US efforts, Russia turns the dial to 11 with its comments that the US efforts are inflaming, as Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday, "Scientists in nearly all countries....are convinced that strikes may slow down the Iranian nuclear program. But they will never cancel it, close it down or eliminate it" warning that Iran will have no option but to develop nuclear weapons should the US strike. Well you can't please all the people all the time eh? Just ask Ben.
Commodities are broadly under significant pressure but nowhere is it more noteworthy than in Crude (even though the USD is only modestly higher on the day). Brent is falling but WTI is underperforming as it trades down on the day at the biggest drop in over three months. Brent-WTI is leaking higher though as the focus shifts increasingly to Brent. WTI and Brent are trading down close to the SPR-rumor spike-low levels as China and Russia both raise the rhetoric against the US on Iran.
- Beijing on edge amid coup rumours (FT) - as predicted two days ago, do not expect any official media update on this critical matter, until after the outcome, whatever it is
- Goldman scours emails for use of word "muppets" (Reuters)
- Germany to Balance Budget Early (WSJ)
- Osborne Gives and Takes From Rich in U.K. Budget Balancing Act (Bloomberg)
- Big Spending at Fannie, Freddie Should End, Watchdog Says (Bloomberg)
- Volcker Says U.S. Needs Reforms in Finance, Government (Bloomberg)
- Chinese Firms, Regulators in Talks on Yuan-Fund Program (FT)
- Ireland Said to Ready Bank-Debt Proposal for ECB Review (Bloomberg)
Following last Friday's majority vote by the Israel Security Council authorizing Iranian "action" when required, answering the "if", the only open question remains "when." As it turns out, based on the following analysis by Rapidan Group, there are only 10 or so distinct 10 day New Moon windows for the remainder of 2012. If one removes the sandstorm prone months of April, July and September, there are 7 periods in which a military strike is realistic. Also CVN 65 is moving at a snail's pace and is just now approaching the Straits of Gibraltar. Since any action will likely not take place unless 3 aircraft carriers are in the vicinity, and because the ICE yesterday instituted ultra-short term trading spike curbs in crude, starting April 1, one can likely eliminate the immediately proximal March 17-27 window. Which leaves six. Our advice would be to buy up OTM calls in Brent in the days just ahead of the start of any such window, as any "surprise" attack will have a uplifting impact on all combustible assets, doubly so for levered ones.
How did we get here? An argument can be made that miscalculation, accident, inattention and the like are why things go bad. Those elements do have a role, but it is minor. Potential catastrophe across the board can't be the result of happenstance. When things go wrong on a grand scale, it's not just bad luck or inadvertence. It's because of serious character flaws in one or many – or even all – of the players. So is there a root cause of all the problems I've cited? If we can find it, it may tell us how we personally can best respond to the problems. In this article, I'm going to argue that the US government, in particular, is being overrun by the wrong kind of person. It's a trend that's been in motion for many years but has now reached a point of no return. In other words, a type of moral rot has become so prevalent that it's institutional in nature. There is not going to be, therefore, any serious change in the direction in which the US is headed until a genuine crisis topples the existing order. Until then, the trend will accelerate. The reason is that a certain class of people – sociopaths – are now fully in control of major American institutions. Their beliefs and attitudes are insinuated throughout the economic, political, intellectual and psychological/spiritual fabric of the US.
Going into the US open, most major European bourses are trading in modest positive territory this follows the publication of a Goldman Sachs research note titled “The Long Good Buy” in which the bank outlines its thoughts that equities will embark on an upward trend over the next few years, recommending dropping fixed-income securities. We have also seen the publication of the Bank of England’s minutes from March’s rate-setting meeting in which board members voted unanimously to keep the base rate unchanged at 0.50%; however there was some indecision concerning the total QE, with members Miles and Posen voting for a further increase to GBP 350bln, however the other seven members voted against the increase. Following the release, GBP/USD spiked lower 35 pips but has regained in recent trade and is now in positive territory. Looking elsewhere in the session, UK Chancellor Osborne will present his budget for this financial year at 1230GMT. We will also be looking out for US existing home sales and the weekly DOE inventories.
- So much for that: Obama to fast track southern portion of Keystone XL Pipeline (1600 Report)
- French Police Say They Have Cornered Suspect in School Shooting (NYT); French shooting suspect had been arrested in Afghanistan (Reuters); Suspect in French shootings says he’ll surrender to end standoff (Globe & Mail), Toulouse suspect escaped from Kandahar jail in mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008 (BBC)
- Bernanke Says Europe Must Aid Banks Even as Strains Ease (Bloomberg)
- Monti faces clash with unions over reform (FT)
- UK budget to balance tax breaks with austerity (Reuters)
- Romney scores big win over Santorum in Illinois (Reuters)
- U.S. Exempts Japan, 10 EU Nations From Iran Oil Sanctions (Bloomberg)
- Bernanke Says Fed Failed to Meet Goals During Great Depression (Bloomberg)
- Revised tax deal reached on Swiss accounts (FT)