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Channel-Stuffed US Car Dealers Cut Prices; Hope To "Sell Their Way Out Of This"





While loathed to admit it, US auto makers have done it again. As we have vociferously explained month after month (and has been vocally denied until now by the car makers themselves), much of the recovery in auto sales has been a massive channel-stuffing make-work program (mal-investment once again triggered by 'false' signals created by Fed intervention). Now, as the WSJ reports, Detroit's big 3 are trying to sweeten discounts to clear a massive inventory of unsold vehicles from dealer lots (desparate not to start a profit-killing price war). "We believe we can sell our way out," said GM, but as Morgan Stanley warns, "the best of the U.S. auto replacement cycle is over." Good luck...

 
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Futures Sneak Above 1800 Overnight But Yellen Can Spoil The Party





A sneaky overnight levitation pushed the Spoos above 1800 thanks to a modest USDJPY run (as we had forecast) despite, or maybe due to, the lack of any newsflow, although today's first official Humphrey Hawkins conference by the new Fed chairman, Janet Yellen, before the House and followed by the first post-mortem to her testimony where several prominent hawks will speak and comprising of John B. Taylor, Mark A. Calabria, Abby M. McCloskey, and Donald Kohn, could promptly put an end to this modest euphoria. Also, keep in mind both today, and Thursday, when Yellens' testimoeny before the Senate takes place, are POMO-free days. So things may get exciting quick, especially since as Goldman's Jan Hatzius opined overnight, the third tapering - down to $55 billion per month - is on deck.

 
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Frontrunning: February 4





  • Global makets plunge (Reuters)
  • Goodbye Mrs. Watanabe - Japan Sees Worst Developed-Stock Rout as Nikkei 225 Drops (BBG)
  • Who could have possibly predicted this - Firms Pinched by Pressure to Hold Down Their Prices (WSJ)
  • RBA Shifts to Neutral as It Signals Comfort With Aussie’s Level (BBG)
  • Fractures Emerge Between Obama, Congressional Democrats (WSJ)
  • Brazil suffers record trade deficit (FT)
  • El Salvador fisherman washes up in Marshall Islands after year adrift (Reuters)
  • Apple Quietly Builds New Networks (WSJ)
  • One-year prison sentence for 21-year-old Twitter user who glorified terrorists (El Pais)
 
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Markets On Edge, Follow Every USDJPY Tick





It is still all about the Yen carry which overnight tumbled to the lowest level since November, dragging the Nikkei down by 4.8% which halted its plunge at just overf 14,000, only to stage a modest rebound and carry US equity futures with it, even if it hasn't helped the Dax much which moments ago dropped to session lows and broke its 100 DMA, where carmakers are being especially punished following a downgrade by HSBC of the entire sector.  Also overnight the Hang Seng entered an official correction phase (following on from the Nikkei 225 doing the same yesterday) amid global growth concerns and has filtered through to European trade with equities mostly red across the board. Markets have shrugged off news that ECB's Draghi is seeking German support in the bond sterilization debate, something which we forecast would happen a few weeks ago when we pointed out the relentless pace of SMP sterilization failures, with analysts playing down the news as the move would only add a nominal amount of almost EUR 180bln to the Euro-Area financial system. Elsewhere, disappointing earnings from KPN (-4.3%) and ARM holdings (-2.5%) are assisting the downward momentum for their respective sectors.

 
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Alarms Going Off As 102 Dollar-Yen Support Breached





Alarms are going off in assorted plunge protecting offices, now that the USDJPY has breached the 102.000 "fundamental" support level, below which the Yen can comfortably soar to sub 100.000 in perfectly even 100 pip increments. The first trading day of February has brought another weaker session across Asia though some equity indices such as the KOSPI (-1.1%) are in catch-up mode given they were shut towards the back-end of last week. Over the weekend, the Chinese government published its latest official manufacturing PMI which showed a 0.5pt drop to 50.5, a six-month low, and consistent with consensus estimates. DB’s Jun Ma believes there was some element of seasonality affecting this month’s result including the fact that Chinese New Year started at the end of January (vs February last year), anti-pollution measures in the lead up to CNY and efforts to control government consumption around the holiday period. The official service PMI was released overnight (53.4) which printed at the lowest level since at least 2011. The uninspiring Chinese data has not helped market sentiment this morning, with the Nikkei plunging -2% and ASX200 once again under pressure. S&P500 futures have fluctuated around the unchanged line this morning although if support below the USDJPY fail solidly, then watch out below. Markets in Mainland China and Hong Kong remain closed for Lunar New Year.

 
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The Level Of Economic Freedom In The United States Is At An All-Time Low





Americans have never had less economic freedom than they do right now.  The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom has just been released, and it turns out that the level of economic freedom in the United States has now fallen for seven consecutive years.  But of course none of us need a report or a survey to tell us that.  All we have to do is open our eyes and look around.  At this point our entire society is completely dominated by control freaks and bureaucrats.  Our economy is literally being suffocated to death by millions of laws, rules and regulations and each year brings a fresh tsunami of red tape.  As you will see below, the U.S. government issued more than 80,000 pages of brand new rules and regulations last year on top of what we already had.  Even if we didn't have all of the other monumental economic problems that we are currently facing, all of this bureaucracy alone would be enough to kill our economy.

 
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December Retail Sales Beat Due To November Revision Lower, Electronics Sales Tumble





Following ongoing promises from the Fed that the Taper will continue at a pace of $10 billion per month come rain or shine, suddenly good news are critical for stocks, as the stock market is desperate for a strong economy to which Yellen can pass the baton. It did not get that with Friday's payrolls number so it was hoping for some good news in today's retail sales. And judging by the market response to the just released December retail sales, it got it, if only for now: headline December retail sales rose 0.2%, on expectation on a 0.1% increase even as auto sales tumbled -1.8%. Retail Sales ex autos rose 0.7% higher than the 0.4% expected, while ex autos and gas was up a more modest 0.6%, also better than the 0.3% expected.  How is it possible that December retail sales according to the US government were better than expected, when every retailer has posted abysmal results? Well it seems the Census Bureau merely engaged in some recalendarization, with November numbers all revised substantially lower: headline down from 0.7% to 0.4%, ex autos 0.4% to 0.1%, and ex autos and gas from 0.6% to 0.3%. In other words, a complete wash with today's "beat." So when netting away the calendar effect of an early start to the holiday season, perhaps the only value added data in the retail sales report was the data involving Electronics and Appliance Stores.They posted the biggest 2 month drop in 2 years!

 
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Snow Day Market Summary





In a day that will be remembered for the first major snowstorm to hit New York in 2014 and test the clean up capabilities and resolve of the city's new populist mayor (not starting on a good note following reports that JFK airport will be closed at least until 8:30 am Eastern), it was only fitting that there was virtually no overnight news aside for the Chinese non-manufacturing PMI which dropped from 56.0 to 54.6, a new 4 month low. Still, following yesterday's ugly start to the new year, stocks in Europe traded higher this morning, in part driven by value related flows following the sell-off yesterday. Retailers led the move higher, with Next shares in London up as much as 11% which is the most since January 2009 and to its highest level since 1988 after the company lifted profit forecast after strong Christmas trading performance. Other UK based retailers with likes of AB Foods and M&S also advanced around 2%.

 
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World's Largest Hedge Fund Uses Twitter For Real-Time Economic Modeling





As more and more amateurs have piled into Twitter, the data stream has been subject to the "Yahoo Finance effect" - there is far too much noise, and not nearly enough actionable signal, especially when one tries to strip away the bias behind any given message (see "Trading Twitter: Where Noise Becomes Signal"). Yet one entity that appears to have found significant functionality in Twitter is none other than the world's biggest hedge fund: Bridgewater.

 
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