It wasn't long after three former General Electric Co. executives were convicted of rigging auctions for municipal-bond investment contracts that they received the ultimate sendoff: A 7,400-word torching in Rolling Stone magazine by Matt Taibbi, the writer who branded Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with the nickname "vampire squid." "Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia," Taibbi began his June 2012 opus about Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm. "Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street." Then came a surprise last week, right before Thanksgiving. A federal judge ordered the men released from prison.
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.
With Richmond, CA's plans to use eminent domain to "help" underwater homeowners still ongoing (as suits from mortgage-backed securities owners such as PIMCO, Blackrock, and DoubleLine having been initially dismissed), it appears the "wealth transfer" scheme is gaining traction around the nation. As we warned it would, the appeal of this "bailout" - with no thought to the unintended consequence of crushing an entire investing class out of the market (and its implicit rate-increasing result) - is just too strong for local government and sure nough New Jersey town Irvington is moving in that direction. As AP reports, Irvington's plan would focus on using eminent domain to purchase so-called "private label" security mortgages, or ones that are not backed by the U.S. government.
The Senate Banking Committee’s confirmation hearing for current Vice-Chair of the Federal Reserve began with Janet Yellen delivering prepared remarks. Most observers likely tuned out well before the completion of the 2 ½ hours meeting to decide whether Yellen was worthy to succeed outgoing Chair Ben Bernanke and ascend to the top spot at the Fed. With the ongoing debacle of the Affordable Health Care website handcuffing Democrats, tough questions about QE, ZIRP, the oft talked about Taper and the possibility of reducing the Fed’s gargantuan $4 trillion balance sheet were verboten. That left Republicans to address the elephant(s) in the room. Predictably, it took nearly the entire hearing until a Senator from Nebraska offered his views about the damage being done by the various fiscal and monetary machinations undertaken to combat the Great Recession. What happened, beginning just after the 2 hour point of the meeting, was both remarkable and revealing...
The Intellistreets system has finally come to the corridors of Las Vegas. So what is Intellistreets? On its website, the system is described as “the only wireless information and control network for sustainability, security and entertainment.” Even more amusing, the company that owns the Intellistreets system is rather appropriately called Illuminating Concepts. The best part is that city officials claim “right now our intention is not to have any cameras or recording device.” This is far from the first time we have learned about the installation of devices that can record audio and video being surreptitiously put in public places.
The world's first Bitcoin ATM will be ready for use this week at a coffee shop in Vancouver, Canada. Created by Las Vegas based Robocoin, the new ATM in Vancouver will allow users to turn bitcoins directly into Canadian dollars, or turn Canadian dollars into bitcoins. As The Telegraph reports, the ATM first scans the user's palm to ensure security and transfers are limited to CAD$3,000 per day. Until now, the currency existed only on the web but the introduction of these ATMs brings bitcoin-as-cash usage closer. The RoboCoin kiosks are expected to make the process of buying and selling Bitcoins much easier says Jordan Kelley, the company's chief executive. "Our goal is to make Bitcoin truly grandma-friendly," says Kelley. This is especially notable in light of President Obama asking Eric Schmidt if "Bitcoin is anything he has to worry about?"
Ordinary Americans Priced Out Of Housing: Institutional Purchases Hit Record, Half Of All Deals Are "All-Cash"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/24/2013 07:13 -0500
If there was any doubt that the US housing "recovery" is anything but the latest speculative play by deep-pocketed (namely those who already have access to cheap funding) investors, who are now engaged in rotating cash gains out of capital markets and into real estate, on their way hoping to flip newly-acquired properties to other wealthy investors, then the most recent, September, RealtyTrac report will put that to rest. To wit: Institutional investors (purchasing 10 or more properties in the last 12 months) accounted for 14 percent of all sales in September, up from 9 percent in August and also 9 percent in September 2012. September had the highest percentage of institutional investor purchases of any month since RealtyTrac began tracking in January 2011....All-cash purchases nationwide represented 49 percent of all residential sales in September, up from a revised 40 percent in August and up from 30 percent in September 2012. In other words, institutional purchases are now at all time highs, with all-cash accounting for half of all transactions!
- Despite budget win, Obama has weak hand with Congress (Reuters)
- Carney Brings In McKinsey for Bank of England Strategy Rethink (BBG)
- Bill Gates Buys Stake in Spanish Construction Company FCC (WSJ)
- Jerusalem Mayor Barkat Seeks New Term in Race Arabs Sitting Out (BBG)
- J.P. Morgan Aimed to Limit Damage (WSJ)
- EU Lawmakers Reject Draghi Call for Bank Bondholder Clemency (BBG)
- Wall Street Profits May Halve in Second Half (WSJ)
- Petrobras-led group wins Brazil oil auction with minimum bid (Reuters)
- Apple to Refresh IPads Amid Challenges for Tablet Share (BBG)
- Italy plans to offer guarantees on govt bond derivatives (Reuters)
- Berkshire Beats Apple as Favorite Stock of Tiger 21 Group (BBG)
What do you expect to happen? The causal chain cannot be disrupted by wishful thinking. Bubbles will pop, and increasingly leveraged, fragile systems will crash. Hoping causal consequences will magically vanish is a strategy doomed to catastrophe.
The last week has seen dramatic upwards price action in the bitcoin markets, driven by a series of macro and micro events across the globe. The fallout from Silk Road’s closure turned out to be but a blip in bitcoin’s price history, with significant gains since then. Turmoil in global financial markets and recent news of leading global websites accepting bitcoin may have bolstered enthusiasm for digital currency, but most interesting may be CNY’s definitive recent price leadership.
- Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party (BBG)
- Budget fight leaves Boehner 'damaged' but still standing (Reuters)
- Madoff Was Like a God, Wizard of Oz, Lawyers Tell Jury (BBG) - just like Bernanke
- Republicans press U.S. officials over Obamacare snags (Reuters)
- Brilliant: Fed Unlikely to Trim Bond Buying in October (Hilsenrath)
- More brilliant: Fed could taper as early as December (FT)
- Russia Roofing Billionaires Seen Among Country’s Youngest (BBG)
- Ford's Mulally won't dismiss Boeing, Microsoft speculation (Reuters)
- China reverses first-half slowdown (FT)
- NY Fed’s Fired Goldman Examiner Makes Weird Case (BBG)
As RealtyTrac observes in its latest flipping report, while home-flipping among high-end homes, or those reserved exclusively for the New Normal aristocracy which buys and sells with reckless abandon almost exclusively on an all cash basis, is up 34% over the prior year with flipping on houses priced between $2 and $5 million was up a ridiculous 350%, overall flipping activity is finally starting to subside and in the third quarter was down by a third from Q3 and over 10% down from the the prior year. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the ultra-luxury flips were limited to New York and the four core California bubble markets. "More than three-fourths of all high-end flips were in five markets: the New York metro area and four coastal California markets — Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego. Flips on homes priced between $1 million and $2 million increased 42 percent year over year, while flips on homes priced between $2 million and $5 million increased 350 percent year over year."
Last week we showed the worrisome level of exuberance that IPOs were creating in terms of price outperformance over the broad market. It turns out the similarities to the prior dot-com busts runs considerably deeper (and more worrisome). As the WSJ reports, 68% of U.S.-listed technology debuts this year, or 19 out of 28 deals, have been companies that lost money in the prior fiscal year or past 12 months. That is the highest percentage since 2007, and 2001 before that.
We identify the six investment themes that look likely to generate alpha over the coming decade.
Nowhere is China's historic misallocation of capital (resulting from a pace of credit creation that makes even the most fervent Keynesian western central banker green with envy) more evident and tangible, than in videos showing the tumbleweeds floating down the main streets of its ghost cities. We did that first in 2009, then followed up two years later only to find nothing has changed. Today, on yet another "two years later" anniversary, we go back to the scene of the excess capacity crime, to find out if thing may have finally normalized. For that we follow SBS' Adrian Brown who back in 2011 did an extensive report on what were some of the then unknown ghost cities dispersed across the mainland. What we find is that not only is the overcapacity problem nowhere close to being resolved, but that 20 new "ghost" cities are taking shape in this year alone.