The political balance has changed substantially over the last year, from the cosy days when Merkel met Sarkozy and Monti kept the Italians in order. Germany faces full elections in September this year, and it will be difficult for Chancellor Merkel to win, given that her party, the Christian Democrats, did badly in the local German elections in January. The German voter has generally been more concerned with Germany’s relative economic success, bringing low unemployment, than the intractable problem of supporting other Eurozone nations. Given Merkel’s political difficulties, she is likely to be slow to subscribe Germany’s full commitment and can use the excuse that she can only be expected to match the other large contributors – who are by the way, France, Italy, and Spain. It is likely to be a political virtue for her to take a tougher line. It would therefore be a mistake to think that Germany is going to continue to fund profligate governments. Since the ECB has already created the precedent (quote from Mr Draghi: “Whatever it takes”), the ECB will have to end up creating the money required.
As Greece's painfully desperate fight to collect tax revenue, any tax revenue, using traditional methods meets failure after grotesque failure, driven by such unconventional stumbling blocks as running out of ink with which to print tax forms, striking tax collectors, and repossessed (or stolen) tax department computer equipment, the necessity to prove to Europe that Greece is doing something to fill the income side of its reformist ledger has forced it to turn to the glaringly illegal. "Greece’s General Secretariat for Information Systems has completed an application that will allow the state’s monitoring and collection mechanism to access the country’s banking system via an online connection and let the government have access to depositor bank accounts. The application, which will let the Finance Ministry troll through the accounts of all depositors suspected of tax evasion means online inspectors can scour through records of deposits, loans, credit card use and other data without permission from the account holder." What is troubling is that while this happens in the US on a daily basis, at least the NSA has to dig through data illegally, and can't use what it finds against citizens in court. In Greece, however, any trace of personal privacy in the insolvent state is now gone, and in a way that is made very public and clear to all citizens. The result will be an even greater hit to all forms of electronic spending (remember that all bulk cash transactions are prohibited), and a collapse in all economic transactions, leading to an even more acute depression, and an even greater need to yet another "bailout" from Europe (this one will be the last surely, as it will be after this it will be different).
Recent news about Federal plans to "help" manage private retirement accounts renewed our interest in the topic of capital controls. One example of capital control is to limit the amount of money that can be transferred out of the country; another is limiting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from accounts; a third is the government mandates private capital must be invested in government bonds. Though presented as "helping" households, the real purpose of the power grab would be to enable the Federal government to borrow the nation's retirement accounts at near-zero rates of return. As things fall apart, Central States pursue all sorts of politically expedient measures to protect the State's power and the wealth of the political and financial Elites. Precedent won't matter; survival of the State and its Elites will trump every other consideration. All this raises an interesting question: what would America look like at $5000 an ounce gold?
And another AAA-club member quietly exits not with a bang but a whimper:
MOODY’S DOWNGRADES UK’S GOVERNMENT BOND RATING TO Aa1 FROM AAA
Someone must have clued Moody's on the fact that the UK is about to have its very own Goldman banker, which means consolidated debt/GDP will soon need four digits. In other news, every lawyer in the UK is now celebrating because come Monday Moody's will be sued to smithereens. Cable not happy as it tests 31 month lows, which however also explains why the Moody's action has another name: accelerated cable devaluation. Those who heeded our call to short Cable when Goldman's Mark Carney was appointed are now 1000 pips richer. Also, please sacrifice a lamb at the altar of Goldman: It's the polite thing to do.
One of the recurring memes of the now nearly 4 years old "bull market" (assuming the recession ended in June 2009 as the NBER has opined), is that corporate profits are soaring, and that despite recent weakness in Q4 earnings (profiled most recently here), have now surpassed 2007 highs on an "actual" basis. For purely optical, sell-side research purposes that is fine: after all one has to sell the myth that the US private sector has never been healthier which is why it has to immediately respond to demands that it not only repatriate the $1+ trillion in cash held overseas, but to hand it over to shareholders post-haste (see recent "sideshow" between David Einhorn and Apple). However, a problem emerges when trying to back this number into the inverse: or how much money the US government is receiving as a result of taxes levied on these supposedly record profits. The problem is that while back in the summer 2007, or when the last secular peak in corporate profitability hit, corporate taxes peaked at well over $30 billion per month based, the most recent such number shows corporate taxes barely scraping $20 billion per month!
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
The current government stance on Marijuana and Online/Casino Gaming is making their position from a legal standpoint look completely arbitrary and lacking in credibility.
It looks like what may be good for the environment is actually bad news for the government.
House Votes On Debt Ceiling Suspension Wednesday As Pelosi Calls It "Gimmick Unworthy Of Challenges We Face"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/21/2013 13:35 -0400
While it is not news that the GOP has proposed a temporary debt ceiling extension that would suspend the provisions of the debt ceiling target until May 19, as was reported last week, however which would demand that the Senate do something unthinkable, and something it has not done for 4 years, namely pass a budget by April 15, it is news that as The Hill reports, the vote to suspend the debt ceiling in the House will take place "as soon as Wednesday." From The Hill: "While past measures to address the debt limit have simply increased the borrowing cap, the House bill would actually suspend the debt limit for three months. Then, on May 19, the debt limit would be automatically increased from $16.4 trillion to accommodate whatever additional borrowing the Treasury had done during that time frame." As we explained last week, this is merely a plan to shift fiscal (ir)responsibility into the Democrat camp, as it is virtually impossible that America can have a budget now or ever again. After all with $1 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see, the possibility to bluster and claim one is fiscally responsible while demanding $4 trillion in debt until 2016, will hardly fool the majority of the people any more of the time. Sure enough, Pelosi's response has made it quite clear this entire plan is DOA: "the proposed three-month debt- limit increase does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class. This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face.”
The hyper-correlation of Japanese stocks (Bass - The people that buying Japanese stocks, are picking up a dime in front of a bulldozer) and the JPY have led many to believe that Abe's miracle promise will be just the ticket to bring the nation's two-decade slump to an end - a 2% inflation target is all you need. However, in a brief CNBC interview, Kyle Bass explains that not only are 99.9% of people wrong about the crisis (explaining the critical aspect of the abrupt turn of twenty years of the 'procylicality of thought' - that deflation is the norm), but Abe's actions have actually brought forward the date of the "detonation of Japan's Debt Time Bomb. Bass goes on to discuss the US Housing stabilization, European stress, and China's economic opacity (and tensions with Japan), but leaves us with the clear and present danger in Japan that the clock has started on the qualitative shift in participants' minds that the situation is untenable (signs are already among the elite with recent JPY-extricating M&A deals) and "All of the components for this [bomb] to go off 'all of a sudden' are in place." Must watch.
After witnessing the fighting of undeclared never ending wars, passage of freedom destroying legislation like the Patriot Act & NDAA, approval of pork barrel spending to the tune of hundreds of billions, rule by Executive Order, using ZIRP to extract hundreds of billions from senior citizen savers and give it to criminal Wall Street banks, forcing the American people at gunpoint to replenish the Wall Street banks with $700 billion after they had committed the greatest financial fraud in history, and a continuing trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the American people continue to remain willfully ignorant of the truth. The American Dream is dead. We’ve allowed a rich, privileged, elite few to achieve hegemony over our economic and political system with their control of the media and manipulation of our financial markets. They will collapse the country because they will never be satisfied with the amount of wealth and power they’ve accumulated. Their voracious greed will be their downfall.
- Obama's Gun Curbs Face a Slog in Congress (BBG)
- Euro Area Seen Stalling as Draghi’s Pessimism Shared (BBG)
- China Begins to Lose Edge as World's Factory Floor (WSJ)
- EU Car Sales Slump (WSJ)
- Fed Concerned About Overheated Markets Amid Record Bond-Buying (BBG)
- Australia Posts Worst Back-to-Back Job Growth Since ’97 (BBG)
- Abe Currency Policy Stokes Gaffe Risk as Amari Roils Yen (BBG)
- Japan Opposition Party Won’t Back BOJ Officials for Governor (BBG)
- Fed Reports Point to Subdued Economic Growth (WSJ)
- China Set to Exit Slowdown by Boosting Infrastructure (BBG)
- Greece not out of woods, must stick to reforms: finance minister (Reuters)
- Russian Rate Debate Flares Up as Cabinet Seeks Growth (BBG)
It's been a while since the Syntagma square riotcam was broadcasting live from Athens. After all, despite the ongoing collapse in its economy, where only 3.7 million people have jobs compared to 4.7 million who are unemployed or inactive, the general sentiment was that "austerity" measures have been put on hiatus, and no more tax, pension, or benefits cuts are on the table. That changed last night when Greece was the latest country to become the US, following a tax hike on its highest earners. However, unlike the US, this increase in "rich" taxes is being offset by at least some spending cuts such as tighter control of the budgets of ministries and state utilities, and the reduction of parliamentary employees’ wages in line with cuts to the wages of other civil servants. In other words, it is almost time for the Syntagma square daily pay-per-view daily webcast. The good news, at least for Greece, is that it does not have a debt ceiling to worry about. Then again, when all your debt is zero coupon perpetuals in the hands of the ECB and other "official" institutions, the balance sheet is the last thing you have to worry about. It's the income statement, one where not even all the one-time charges or loan loss reserve releases in the world will do any difference, that suddenly matters far more.
The debt limit was formally reached last week, and we expect the Treasury's ability to borrow to be exhausted by around March 1 (if not before) and while CDS are not flashing red, USA is at near 3-month wides. Like the previous debt limit debate in the summer of 2011, the debate seems likely to be messy, with resolution right around the deadline. That said, like the last debate we would expect the Treasury to prioritize payments if necessary, and Goldman does not believe holders of Treasury securities are at risk of missing interest or principal payments. The debt limit is only one of three upcoming fiscal issues, albeit the most important one. Congress also must address the spending cuts under sequestration, scheduled to take place March 1, and the expiration of temporary spending authority on March 27. While these are technically separate issues, it seems likely that they will be combined, perhaps into one package. This remains a 'very' recurring issue, given our government's spending habits and insistence on its solvency, as we laid out almost two years ago in great detail.
Perhaps it is time for the punditry and the chatterbox media to start considering what happens not when the much anticipated rotation out of bonds and into stocks, which has not happened for 4 years now, and won't, at least not until the government bond bubble finally pops which will only happen when the central banks finally lose control, but what happens if even a tiny amount of the global pension capital allocated to bonds and/or equities, is rotated into gold.
“Pension money invested in bullion is ‘peanuts’ at the moment,” Toshima said. “If 1 percent of their total assets shift to the metal, the gold market would explode.”
Could not have said it better ourselves.