Back in 2012, amid "intense pressure from Obama" including an appeal for its passage in his 2012 State of the Union address, Congress passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act (with 96-3 theatrical votes in the Senate, and 417-2 even more theatrical votes in the House) - a bill prohibiting the use of non-public information for private profit, including insider trading by members of Congress and other government employees. It is unclear why until 2012 it was perfectly legal for congress to trade on inside information, something we pointed out in May 2011 when we wrote that a "A Hedge Fund Comprised Of Junior Congressional Democrats Should Outperform The Market By 9%" as it turned out flagrant insider trading abuse occurred mostly within the democrat ranks of the House (compared to a mere 2%+ outperformance by Congressional stock trading republicans). It turns out that any cynical skepticism regarding Congress' ability and willingness to police itself was well founded, as last night the House eliminated a "key requirement of the insider trading law for most federal employees, passing legislation exempting these workers, including congressional staff, from a rule scheduled to take effect next week that mandated online posting of financial transactions."
- JPMorgan Report Piles Pressure on Dimon in Too-Big Debate (BBG)
- Employers Blast Fees From New Health Law (WSJ)
- Obama unveils US energy blueprint (FT)
- Obama to Push Advanced-Vehicle Research (WSJ) - here come Solar-powered cars?
- BRICs Abandoned by Locals as Fund Outflows Reach 1996 High (BBG)
- Obama won't trip over Netanyahu's Iran "red line" (Reuters)
- Samsung puts firepower behind Galaxy (FT)
- Boeing sees 787 airborne in weeks with fortified battery (Reuters)
- Greece Counts on Gas, Gambling to Revive Asset Sales Tied to Aid (BBG)
- Goldman’s O’Neill Says S&P 500 Beyond 1,600 Needs Growth (BBG)
- China’s new president in corruption battle (FT)
- Post-Chavez Venezuela as Chilly for Companies From P&G to Coke (BBG)
David Stockman On "The Great Deformation" And The US Treasury As "The M&A Department Of Goldman Sachs"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/12/2013 12:54 -0400
The fiscal cliff is permanent and insurmountable. It stands at the edge of a $20 trillion abyss of deficits over the next decade. And this estimation is conservative, based on sober economic assumptions and the dug-in tax and spending positions of the two parties, both powerfully abetted by lobbies and special interests which fight for every paragraph of loophole ridden tax code and each line of a grossly bloated budget. Fiscal cliffs as far as the eye can see are the deeply troubling outcome of the Great Deformation. They are the result of capture of the state, especially its central bank, the Federal Reserve, by crony capitalist forces deeply inimical to free markets and democracy. Why we are mired in this virtually unsolvable problem is the reason I wrote this book. It originated in my being flabbergasted when the Republican White House in September 2008 proposed the $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street. When the courageous House Republicans who voted it down were forced to walk the plank a second time in betrayal of their principled stand, my sense of disbelief turned into a not-inconsiderable outrage. Likewise, I was shocked to read of the blatant deal making, bribing, and bullying of the troubled big banks being conducted out of the treasury secretary’s office, as if it were the M&A department of Goldman Sachs.
It has been yet another quiet overnight session, devoid of the usual EURUSD ramp, and thus ES, at the Europe open (although it is never too late), which has seen the Shangai Composite finally post a meaningful rise up 2.26%, followed by some unremarkable European macro data as Eurozone CPI came as expected at 2.0%, and German unemployment just a tad better, at -3K, with consensus looking for 0K. Italy continues to be the wildcard, with little clarity on just who the now expected grand coalition will consist of. According to Newedge's Jamal Meliani, a base case scenario of Bersani/Berlusconi coalition may see a relief rally, tightening 10Y BTP/bund spread toward 300bps. A coalition would maintain current fiscal agenda and won’t implement any major reforms with fresh elections being called within a year. A Bersani/Grillo coalition is least likely, may slow reforms which would see 10Y BTP/bund spreads widening to 375bps. Of course, everything is speculation now, with Grillo saying no to any coalition, and moments ago a PD official saying against a broad coalition. But at least the market has it all priced in already - for more see Italy gridlock deepens as Europe watches nervously.
Following today's sequester-delay-seeking, tax-hiking, close-the-loophole speech by the President, it would appear that fiscal policy debates will be balanced a little more to raising effective rates on corporates (as opposed to the 'statutory' rate so many discuss). The US has the second highest global 'statutory' tax rate but less than 10% of S&P 500 firms have paid this rate over the last decade. Somewhat shockingly, since 1975, taxes have had the largest cumulative positive impact on S&P 500 ROE as effective rates fell from 44% to 30%. They estimate each percentage point rise in effective tax rate would lower S&P 500 ROE by 22 bp and EPS by $1.50, all else equal. Closing all the loopholes would smash year-end 2013 expectations from Goldman's 1575 to around 1300 with Staples and Tech the hardest hit. With the 'market' the only policy tool left, it would seem not even the Fed could monetarily save us from this fiscally fubar action.
After more than two months of political grandstanding, finally the $60 billion pork-laden Sandy relief aid bill has passed through the House in a 241-180 vote (with 1 democrat and 179 republicans voting no), with the vote passing courtesy of just 49 republicans who voted with the democrats. The reminder objected in protest "against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut" Politico reports. Specifically, the House approved a $50 billion relief bill, after several hours of contentious debate in which scores of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the size of the bill and offset a portion of it with spending cuts. $9.7 billion had been already voted on January 4th for a flood insurance lending facility.The biggest winner today? Chris Christie whose anti-Boehner soapbox rant drama two weeks ago may have been just the breaking straw that forced the passage of this porkulus bill.
Bank Of America On The "Trillion Dollar Tooth Fairy" Straight "From The Land Of Fiscal Make Believe"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/08/2013 20:47 -0400
A year ago, out of nowhere, the grotesque suggestion to "resolve" the US debt ceiling with a platinum dollar coin came, and like a bad dream, mercifully disappeared even as the debt ceiling negotiations dragged until the last minute, without this idea being remotely considered for implementation, for one simple reason: it is sheer political, monetary and financial lunacy. And yet there are those, supposedly intelligent people, who one year later, continue dragging this ridiculous farce, as a cheap parlor trick which is nothing but a transparent attempt for media trolling and exposure, which only distracts from America's unsustainable spending problem and does nothing to address the real crisis the US welfare state finds itself in. And while numerous respected people have taken the time to explain the stupidity of the trillion dollar coin, few have done so as an integral part of the statist mainstream for one simple reason - it might provide a loophole opportunity, however tiny, to perpetuate the broken American model even for a day or two, if "everyone is in on it." Luckily, that is no longer the case and as even Ethan Harris from Bank of America (a firm that would be significantly impaired if America was forced to suddenly live within its means), the whole idea is nothing more than "the latest bad idea" straight "from the land of fiscal make believe." We can only hope that this finally puts this whole farce to bed.
If you just want the facts, who can you trust?
-If you’re employed, you’re a loser.
We could say that news is actually relevant or matters in this "market" but we would be lying, just as we would be lying if we said that this market has not become so utterly predictable, with yesterday's late day market surge - on yet another ridiculous catalyst - visible from so far away, it was almost painful to watch it take place in real time. Sure enough, futures are now sliding back, and giving back much of yesterday's gains - but don't worry, in a day full of even more meetings and flashing red headlines, at least some combination of carefully phrased MSM words will set off today's algo-driven buying frenzy, guaranteeing yet another "retail investor" decides they have had it with this farcical "free market" casino for ever.
There are 16 days left before we all shoot over the falls and are plunged into the freezing water. The markets are pretending it will never happen and that some magical incantation will be found to set everything right in the moments before we take the dive. The lethargy is noticeable and the apathy is like someone has thrown the wet towel of complacency over everyone’s shoulders. The crowd meanders. In the best case scenario, according to most people, some agreement will be reached. This best case scenario however includes an assumption that I do not believe will be correct which is that something formulated by common sense will be the result and it is just there that I hold little hope - I am more frightened of what our political leaders might concoct than what we face at the cliff. Obama claims a mandate. Who gave him this mandate one may reasonable ask; the 47.5 million people on food stamps, the people living on the tax benefits of those that work, the people who game the system so that they never have to find a job and enjoy a life paid for by those that are gainfully employed? That is one heck of a mandate isn’t it and yet that is the basis of his claim. I am slowly coming to the opinion that the best that can be hoped for is that we do plunge off the cliff. Maybe that will wake up some of the intoxicated with themselves people we now find living in Washington. It also might have a further benefit of waking up the citizens of the country who seem to be traipsing around like nothing is amiss.
In a world in which the Fiscal Cliff, including headlines, rumors, leaks, and mere whispers thereof, is the main show, all other data points are at best supporting data actors. There was a lot of support overnight - for the futures, which once again closed the prior session at the lows - with a battery of PMIs released, starting with the December HSBC China Flash PMI which printed at a excel picture perfect 50.9 vs an expectation 50.8 and above 50 for the second straight month, which sent the Shanghai Composite up 4.32%, and wiped out the bitter aftertaste from the Japan December large manufacturer Tankan index which tumbled to -12 on expectation of a -10 print, confirming the Japanese recession is deteriorating at the worst possible time. Then after China, Markit released a bevy of European PMI data which came in mixed: Services PMI rose from 46.7 to 47.8 in December, beating expectations of a 47.0 print, while the Manufacturing PMI rose modestly from 46.2 to 46.3, missing expectations of a 46.6 result. The biggest wildcard once again was Germany, where the Service PMI, like in the US, posted a sizable rise, posting above 50 for the first time in months, or at 52.1 on expectations of 50.0, and up from 49.7 last, although more disturbing was the ongoing collapse in German manufacturing which dipped from 46.8 to 46.3, on expectations of a rise to 47.2. French manufacturing data did not help posting a tiny rise from 44.5 to 44.6, missing expectations of a 45.0 print. Economic data was further confounded when Spain released its quarterly home price update, which dipped 3.8%, accelerated last quarter's -3.3% drop, and sliding by a massive -15.2% in Q3, faster than the -14.4% drop in Q2, and confirming Spanish housing has a long way to go before it is fixed.
At 11:00 am Eastern, the GOP's John Boehner will continue the teleprompted farce, and in not so many words, will announce there has been no progress on a Fiscal Cliff compromise. Alternatively, he may have bought some deep OTM SPY calls expiring shortly, and will misrepresent the situation behind the scenes in hopes for a quick trend reversal, just as he did back on November 16, providing the only "goalseeked" catalyst that could halt a drop in the SPX on its way to unchanged for the year, and, in collaboration with Nancy Pelosi, preventing AAPL from sliding below $400.
Any legacy that Obama might have had will have been converted into something like Herbert Hoover’s.
Two Fridays ago, just as AAPL was in danger of plunging below the absolute last support level of $500 after which freefall for it and the entire market begins, a truly unexpected deus ex machina appeared for those still clinging to long stock positions: politicians, in this case John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, who held a press conference in which they defined the recently launched "Fiscal Cliff" talks as "constructive." In reality, this appearance was nothing but a photo opportunity for talking heads (as explained in "Risk Ramp on Boehner Banality"), and one which as Nancy Pelosi herself admitted later, served simply to halt what then looked like an assured free fall in the markets. Since then the ongoing rally in stocks and the EURUSD has been predicated on the "constructiveness" of the talks actually being real. Judging by the latest update from Reuters, Goldman will likely be right, if only in the short term. As Reuters admits, " U.S. lawmakers have made little progress in the last 10 days toward a compromise to avoid the harsh tax increases and government spending cuts scheduled for Jan. 1, a senior Democratic senator said on Sunday." That this update comes after the "big" market swoon into the recent lows from November 16, is certainly cause for alarm, because it means that at least one more violent market whipsaw to the downside will have to take place before there is any cliff progress to report.