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Latest News

  • Bank Of Russia Surprises With Unexpected Rate Cut, Brings YTD Total Of Nations Easing To 14

    Yesterday we reported that in less than 1 month in 2015, so far a whopping 13 countries have proceeded with "surprising" rate cuts: Singapore, Europe, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, India, Turkey, Egypt, Romania, Peru, Albania, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. As of this morning, make that total 14, because in one of the more "surprising surprises" so far, it was none other than the Bank of Russia which cut its main interest rate from the 17% shocker it instituted at an emergency session on December 17 to halt the Ruble collapse (as a result of the crude price plunge) to 15% less than an hour ago. At the same time it cut the deposit rate to 14% and the repo rate to 16%.

    More rate cuts may be coming:

    • NABIULLINA SAYS 15% RUSSIA'S KEY RATE STILL FAIRLY HIGH

    Not surprisingly, the ruble tumbled in response with the USDRB jumping to 72, while the RTS stock index was down 2% at last check.

    The question why Russia decided to cut rates now is relevant, and likely has to do with both the recent stabilization of crude prices in the mid-$40s, coupled with pressure from the administration to lower rates which have led to the Russian economy and banking sector grinding to a near halt.

    More from the WSJ:

    This was the first rate-setting meeting with Dmitry Tulin, a former deputy chairman who replaced Ksenia Yudaeva as monetary-policy chief earlier this month.

     

    The statement issued after the central bank’s board meeting was the latest acknowledgment by Russia’s leadership that its economy will face protracted pain amid falling oil prices and a confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

    And Bloomberg's take:

    The last time the currency weakened past 70 was on Dec. 17, a day after it tumbled past 80 in a rout that spread across emerging markets. The ruble has fallen 14 percent in January, weighed by oil’s slide and worsening violence in Ukraine. European Union foreign ministers gave the go-ahead on Thursday to prepare steps that would move beyond last year’s decisions to ban financing for Russian state-owned banks and prohibit the export of advanced energy-exploration technology.

     

    “The central bank might have weighted in the risk of a further selloff in the ruble versus the repercussions of the drastic rate hike in December for the domestic banking system and decided to cut rates,” Bernd Berg, a London-based emerging-market strategist at Societe Generale SA, said by e-mail. “Official reasoning for this rate cut is a stabilization of CPI inflation expectations.”

     

    “It looks to me like the wrong timing in easing monetary policy, as geopolitics remains a negative driver,” Luis Costa, the chief strategist for eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Citigroup Inc. in London, said by e-mail.

    The good news is that with the month of January effectively over, it will be a stretch to get any more central bank surprises in the remaining hours of the month. In February, however, expect even more capitulations from central banks around the globe as the relentless rise in the USD wreaks havoc to the global monetary system.








  • Occupied By Wall Street – The Latest TARP Taxpayer Screw-Job Is Revealed

    Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    The Treasury-created market has benefited a few savvy investors, while saddling taxpayers with a loss. Three private funds, which the report didn’t name, have won almost half the shares available at auction, often netting either a profit on paper or on the resale, according to the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The Treasury, which has held 185 auctions to date, said it has raised about $3 billion on TARP investments that were originally valued at $3.8 billion, for a loss of $800 million at the auctions.

     

    The Treasury “set up this market where investors could come in quickly and flip and profit,” said Christy Romero, TARP’s special inspector general, in an interview.

     

    – From the Wall Street Journal article: Hedge Funds, Private Equity Win Big at TARP Auctions

    One story that I’ve told several times on this site has to do with the day TARP passed. How I got into work extremely early and starting irately yelling about how TARP represented the end of America as we knew it. There weren’t many people on the trading floor at the time, but my boss was there and he told me to take a “walk around the block.” I politely declined, but continued to seethe at my desk.

    It’s almost shocking to see the horrific transformation that has occurred in the subsequent six years. It’s so bad, that many people now take things that would’ve been considered unconscionable just a few years ago as part of the “new normal.” There will be a horrible price to pay for this perspective.

    The latest scam unveiled by the Wall Street Journal is just the latest example of how and why all the income during the oligarch recovery has gone to, well, oligarchs.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    WASHINGTON—A government program to rid itself of TARP investments in small banks has proved a boon to hedge funds, private-equity and other private investors, according to a new watchdog report.

    That’s the least surprising thing I’ve read today.

    As the Treasury Department looks to exit from its taxpayer-backed investments in these lenders, private investors like hedge funds and others have stepped in and scooped up about 70% of the shares auctioned by the U.S. government. Other buyers included banks, institutional investors and brokers buying shares on behalf of other entities.

     

    The Treasury-created market has benefited a few savvy investors, while saddling taxpayers with a loss. Three private funds, which the report didn’t name, have won almost half the shares available at auction, often netting either a profit on paper or on the resale,according to the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The Treasury, which has held 185 auctions to date, said it has raised about $3 billion on TARP investments that were originally valued at $3.8 billion, for a loss of $800 million at the auctions.

     

    The Treasury “set up this market where investors could come in quickly and flip and profit,” said Christy Romero, TARP’s special inspector general, in an interview.

     

    As the new owners of the bank’s shares, the funds can profit by reselling them back to the bank at a premium. At one auction, the report said, a bidder won the shares for $3 million less than taxpayers had originally paid. Eight months later, the same bidder sold the shares back to the bank at a $1.6 million profit. Banks sometimes repurchase the shares to avoid dividend payments, which are generally at 9% of principal, or because they don’t want to owe money to the outside investors.

     

    Treasury officials say the risk of losing money at the auctions was necessary to ensure taxpayers weren’t holding the potentially risky bank investments for years to come.

    Yes, suckers, it’s for your own good.

    A Hildene fund that holds the vast majority of the firm’s TARP holdings gained about 18% last year, an investor update shows, five times the pace for hedge funds overall tracked by HFR Inc.

    Further proof, as if you needed any, that crony insider deals is where the real money is.

    EJF Capital LLC, the $6 billion Arlington, Va., hedge-fund firm, also holds a large stake in TARP securities, according to investor documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

    Naturally, based in Arlington. Right in the belly of the cancer.

    “As a banker I was happy, but as a taxpayer I was not at all happy,” said Chief Financial Officer Donald Boyer. “The discount came out of taxpayers’ pockets.”

    Yep, that pretty much sums up everything that’s happened since TARP first passed.








  • Drink Up World: The 4 Companies That Control Global Whiskey Production

    While there are eighty people who hold half the world's wealth, ten 'people' who run the world, and ten corporations that control nearly everything you buy... these four companies control what is - to some - the most precious commodity in the world... world whiskey production.

     

     

     

    h/t @BarbarianCap








  • The Next War In The Middle East Has Begun And Israel Vows "To Act Powerfully On All Fronts"

    Submitted by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

    Israel and Hezbollah are at war.  On top of everything else that is going on in the world, now we have a new war in the Middle East, and nobody is quite certain what is going to happen next.  Israel has been preparing for this moment for more than 8 years.  So has Hezbollah.  According to some reports, Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of 50,000 rockets since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war in 2006.  If all-out warfare does erupt, we could potentially see tens of thousands of missiles rain down into an area not too much larger than the state of New Jersey.  And of course the Israeli military is also much more sophisticated and much more powerful than it was back in 2006.  If cooler heads do not prevail, we could be on the verge of witnessing a very bloody war.  But right now nobody seems to be in the mood to back down.  Hezbollah is absolutely fuming over an airstrike earlier this month that killed six fighters and a prominent Iranian general.  And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is “prepared to act powerfully on all fronts” in response to a Hezbollah ambush that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven.  Just such an incident is what sparked the war between the two sides back in 2006.  But this time, a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could spark a full-blown regional war.

    Earlier this month, Israel launched a surprise assault against a group of Hezbollah fighters that Israel believed was planning to conduct terror attacks inside their borders.

    But in addition to killing six Hezbollah fighters, a very important Iranian general was also killed.  Needless to say, Iran is furious

    Iran has told the United States that Israel should expect consequences for an attack on the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights that killed an Iranian general, a senior official said on Tuesday.

     

    Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi died alongside six fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group in the January 18 attack on forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.

    And we didn’t have to wait too long for a response.  An IDF convoy was hit by anti-tank missiles near the Lebanon border.  Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven were wounded.  The following is how the Jerusalem Post described the attack.

    The terrorists launched five or six anti-tank missiles from a distance of at least four kilometers from their targets, striking the vehicles as they drove two kilometers from the international border.

     

    In the heavy Hezbollah ambush, a military D-Max vehicle containing a company commander and his driver from the Givati Brigade was the first vehicle hit.

     

    This prompted all of those inside an IDF jeep behind it to quickly evacuate their vehicle before it, too, was hit and destroyed with missiles.

    Just over an hour after that attack, mortar rounds struck an Israeli military position on Mt. Hermon.

    In response to those strikes, the Israeli military hit back at Hezbollah positions on the other side of the Lebanese border…

    Israel struck back with combined aerial and ground strikes on Hezbollah operational positions along the border, the military said.

     

    At least 50 artillery shells were fired at the villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba, according to Lebanese officials.

    But Israel is probably not done.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising a “disproportionate” response to the Hezbollah attacks, and he says that Hezbollah should consider what Israel recently did to Hamas before taking any more aggressive action…

    “To all those trying to challenge us on the northern border, I suggest looking at what happened here, not far from the city of Sderot, in the Gaza strip.  Hamas absorbed the hardest blow since it was founded last summer, and the IDF is ready to act with force on any front.”

    If things continue to escalate, we might not just be talking about another Hezbollah-Israel war.

    In the south, tensions between Israel and Hamas remain near all-time highs.  In the event of a full-blown war, Hamas probably could be easily convinced to join the fray.  And if Hamas jumps in, the rest of the Palestinians might not be far behind.

    In addition, ISIS now has territory near the border with Israel

    Because of the strategic importance of the terrain, Iran and Hezbollah have been building infrastructure there for some time.  But their interest in the Golan skyrocketed in December.

     

    The reason: ISIS gained a foothold there when the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade of the Free Syrian Army “defected” from the de facto alliance with the U.S.-Arab coalition against Assad, and declared its allegiance to ISIS.  The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had been one of the most active rebel factions holding territory directly adjacent to the “area of separation” between Syria and Israel administered (in theory) by the UN.  In particular, it has held the southern line of confrontation with Syrian regime forces, in the transit corridor leading to the Quneitra border crossing.

    Needless to say, ISIS would be extremely interested in any conflict with Israel.

    And of course there are all of the other surrounding Islamic nations that are not too fond of Israel either.

    The truth is that the Middle East is a perpetual tinderbox.  One spark could set the entire region on fire.

    Meanwhile, Barack Obama continues to do all that he can to undermine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    The animosity between the two is well known, and now an “Obama army” of political operatives has been sent to Israel to help defeat Netanyahu in the upcoming elections.

    The “leader” of this “Obama army” is Jeremy Bird, who was the national field director for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.  But he has plenty of company.  Just check out the following list that was compiled by WND

    Besides Bird, the 270 Strategies team includes the following former Obama staffers:

    • Mitch Steward, a 270 Strategies founding partner who helped the Obama campaign build what the U.K. Guardian called “a historic ground operation that will provide the model for political campaigns in America and around the world for years to come.”
    • Mark Beatty, a founding partner who served as deputy battleground states director for the Obama campaign. He had primary responsibility for Obama’s election plans for the battleground states.
    • Marlon Marshall, a founding partner at 270 Strategies who joins the team after holding several key positions in national Democratic politics, most recently as deputy national field director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
    • Betsy Hoover, a founding partner who served as director of digital organizing on the Obama campaign.
    • Meg Ansara, who served as national regional director for Obama for America where she was responsible for overseeing the 2012 programs in the Midwest and southern states.
    • Bridget Halligan, who served as the engagement program manager on the digital team of the 2012 Obama campaign.
    • Kate Catherall, who served as Florida deputy field director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
    • Alex Lofton, who most recently served as the GOTV director of Cleveland, Ohio, for the 2012 Obama campaign.
    • Martha Patzer, the firm’s vice president who served as deputy email director at Obama for America.
    • Jesse Boateng, who served as the Florida voter registration director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
    • Ashley Bryant, who served most recently as the Ohio digital director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
    • Max Clermont, who formerly served as a regional field director in Florida for Obama’s re-election campaign.
    • Max Wood, who served as a deputy data director in Florida for the 2012 Obama campaign.

    As the first month of 2015 wraps up, our world is becoming increasingly unstable.

    In addition to the oil crash, the collapse of the euro, looming stock market troubles, civil war in Ukraine, tensions with Russia, an economic slowdown in China and imploding economies all over South America, now we have more war in the Middle East.

    And if lots of missiles start flying back and forth between Israel and Hezbollah, it could potentially spark the bloodiest war in that region that any of us have ever seen.








  • The New Greek Finance Minister Has Some Questions For The World's Journalists

    It was a confusing day for Europe, for the new Greek foreign minister, and now for Greece's new finance minister who hours ago posted a question on his blog to the world's journalists:

    A question of respect (or lack thereof)… – the Greek veto over Russia that never was

    On the first day in our ministries, the power of the media to distort hit me again. The world’s press was full of reports on how the SYRIZA government’s first foreign policy ‘move’ was to veto fresh sanctions on Russia. Now, I am not qualified to speak on foreign affairs but, nonetheless, I must share this with you at a personal level. Our Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, briefed us that on his first day at the job he heard in the news bulletins that the EU had approved new sanctions on Russia unanimously. The problem was that he, and the new Greek government, were never asked! So, clearly, the issue was not whether our new government agrees or not with fresh sanctions on Russia. The issue is whether our view can be taken for granted without even being told of what it is! From my perspective, even though (let me state it again) I am certainly not qualified to speak on foreign affairs, this is all about a question of respect for our national sovereignty. Could journalists the world over try to draw this important distinction between protesting our being neglected from protesting the sanctions themselves? Or is this too complicated?

    All fair questions. And then at almost the same time we read the following, first from Bloomberg:

    • EU DECISION ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS WAS UNANIMOUS, MOGHERINI SAYS

    And then from Reuters:

    European Union foreign ministers extended existing sanctions against Russia on Thursday, holding off on tighter economic measures for now but winning the support of the new left-leaning government of Greece, whose position had been in doubt.

    ... 

     

    The run-up to the Brussels talks was dominated by Greece, whose new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, took power on Monday and complained that his government had not been consulted before tighter sanctions were threatened. But at the meeting, colleagues said new foreign minister Nikos Kotzias had swiftly dispelled suggestions that Greece would automatically torpedo any sanctions effort.

     

    According to Italy's foreign minister, Kotzias announced to the meeting: "I am not a Russian puppet."

    It appears Greece was consulted after all:

    While the Greeks did call for the decision on tighter sanctions to be delayed, they were not alone: other countries such as Italy and Austria also favored a delay, diplomats said, while Britain and the Baltic states wanted a clearer commitment to imposing new sanctions quickly. "We are not against every sanction," Kotzias said later. "We are in the mainstream, we are not the bad boys."

    And even Germany is now "less concerned"

    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed frustration with the ambiguity of the Greek position before the talks: "It is no secret that the new stance of the Greek government has not made today's debate any easier," he said. After he met Kotzias in private, German officials said he was less concerned.

    So following all this, we too have a few questions of our own: i) was or wasn't Greece consulted; ii) if yes, did Greece agree to join the unanimous European statement while declaring it is "not a Russian puppet"; and finally iii) while Greece may not be a Russian puppet, is Greece still a European puppet?









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