Updates: Greece Bailout?, Faber at Japan CLSA Forum, VW Profit Falls, February Payroll Preview, Brazil Stocks, Real, US Unemployment Benefits and China Labor Shortage

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News from Twitter stream and journey around the interwebs on 2/28/2010.

Greece Bailout Plan Takes Shape [WSJ]
h/t @alea_
Defying Global Slump, China Has Labor Shortage [New York Times] h/t @asiablues
Markets poised to punish Spain [FinancialTimes]
Payrolls Probably Declined in February: U.S. Economy Preview [Bloomberg] h/t @gregormacdonald
Brazil stocks end Feb up 1.7 pct, real firms 4 pct [Reuters]
1.2 Million to Lose Unemployment Benefits Today [Calculated Risk]
Ze Germans: "Only The IMF Can Help Greece" [ZeroHedge]
TCW On Greece: "Let It Burn" (Komal Sri Kumar) [ZeroHedge]
CLSA Greed & Fear [theback9]
Fannie Taps Treasury for $15.3 Billion More After a 10th Loss  [Bloomberg] h/t @in_economy
Lloyds in £42bn bill from toxic HBOS [FinancialTimes, 2/26]
VW Profit Falls 80% as Buyers Favor Less Costly Cars [Bloomberg, 2/26]
January home sales fall 7.2%, median price unchanged  [USA Today] h/t @asiablues
U.S. Stocks to Fall, Faber Says; Wood Doubts Recovery [Bloomberg 2/22, CLSA Japan Forum]
Marc Faber, One Dr. Doom has brighter view of Japan [MarketWatch 2/22, CLSA Japan Forum]

Bernanke Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress (2/24/2010)

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Careful Behzad! Read this: Is Ben Bernanke The Second Coming Of Rudolf von Havenstein, The Central Banker Responsible For Germany's Hyperinflationary Collapse (And Ostensibly WWII)?

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress
Before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
February 24, 2010

Chairman Bernanke presented identical remarks before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate, on February 25, 2010

Chairman Frank, Ranking Member Bachus, and other members of the Committee, I am pleased to present the Federal Reserve's semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress. I will begin today with some comments on the outlook for the economy and for monetary policy, then touch briefly on several other important issues.

The Economic Outlook
Although the recession officially began more than two years ago, U.S. economic activity contracted particularly sharply following the intensification of the global financial crisis in the fall of 2008. Concerted efforts by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and other U.S. authorities to stabilize the financial system, together with highly stimulative monetary and fiscal policies, helped arrest the decline and are supporting a nascent economic recovery. Indeed, the U.S. economy expanded at about a 4 percent annual rate during the second half of last year. A significant portion of that growth, however, can be attributed to the progress firms made in working down unwanted inventories of unsold goods, which left them more willing to increase production. As the impetus provided by the inventory cycle is temporary, and as the fiscal support for economic growth likely will diminish later this year, a sustained recovery will depend on continued growth in private-sector final demand for goods and services.

Hedge Funds Bearish On Euro, German Banks Speak (XEU/USD, XEU/XJY, XEU/GOLD)

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This was an interesting report out of Deutsche-Welle on 2/24/2010 on how banks view the Euro's future. Deutsche Bank didn't comment but economists at Deka Bank and Commerzbank did.  People on the street said they were used to the currency and didn't see a need to switch. Today (Saturday, 2/27/2010) all eyes are on Greek debt.  Germany, France, Dutch to buy Greek bonds: MEP (Reuters).
"ATHENS (Reuters) - Germany, France and the Netherlands plan to buy Greek bonds to help Athens cope with a severe debt crisis, a German member of the European Parliament said on Saturday." [full article]

Greece must take more measures or face sanctions: report (Reuters)
Flip Floppage (2/28): Greece may take more debt steps (Reuters)

Live Hawaii Tsunami Coverage Ustream Video (CBS KGMB)

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Wow live video coverage of the Hawaii tsunami warning courtesy of CBS KGMB on Ustream. One day we will live stream an asteroid about to hit us, after an ad. Dvol hopes everyone in Hawaii and on the West Coast will be alright.

Tsunami Warning for Hawaii and Alaska (NOAA), Chile/Japan Earthquakes

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Taking a break from market waves at the moment for a more important issue. There is apparently more action in the ocean. A tsunami warning for Hawaii and Alaska (via NOAA twitter) is in effect from the 8.8 mag earthquake that hit Chile (LA Times).  A 6.9 earthquake also hit Southern Japan (xinhuanet).  The US earthquake weapon is hard at work.  Is the Earth about to explode?  Here is a graphic from NOAA (from the tweet) showing Tsunami travel times and the most recent message from the NOAA.  It looks like tsunami warnings are all around the world.  Prepare for Tsu-wave volatility...

Obama Bipartisan Health Reform Panel, Business Roundtable (Videos)

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For the DV archives. Videos from the Bipartisan Meeting on Health Reform: Part 1, 2, 3, 4 and the Business Roundtable.

S&P Under 50DMA, TLT and 30-Year Yield At Make Or Break Point (SPX, SPY, TLT, TYX)

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While the S&P camps out below the 50 day moving average and potentially forms a right shoulder (we'll see), the 20+ Treasury bond ETF ($TLT) and 30-Year Treasury Yield ($TYX) are both at inflection points. TLT is just above the 50DMA and close to testing downtrend resistance.  If inflationistas get spooked on the long end and sell because Bernanke is too soft on the short end, TLT could retest the June 2009 lows of $86.

On the other hand RSI is building as is momentum so if there's some type of flight to safety and/or deflation consensus, it could break the downtrend and test the 200DMA at 92.20.  Below I also provided the 30 Year Treasury Yield chart ($TYX).  You can see the obvious make or break level at ceiling resistance and at the triangle point.  $TYX is just above the 50 day moving average so in my opinion if it breaks below that it could test the 200DMA (230 basis points lower around 44 or 4.4%).  Since the October 2009 low $TYX always found support at the 200DMA. 

If the S&P decides to roll over and test the 200 day moving average ($1,037), in the past Treasuries caught a bid so perhaps yields (inverse of price) would follow suit.  I'm not sure if that's the definite dynamic today given jitters on the long end.  Is the long bond now considered "risk" on the "flight to safety" trade even though it's technically "risk free"?  Is "temporary flight" risk officially priced in? I'll just watch the charts, follow the dough...  Charts below are $SPX, TLT and $TYX.

Municipal Crisis Is Spreading, Updates on Distressed Munis | February, 2010

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ALERT FROM DVpf (Distressed Volatility Public Finance)

I've been writing about the public finance crisis since 2008. The craziest story so far has been out of Jefferson County, Alabama.  Bankers at JP Morgan bilked Jefferson County, AL ("county paid banks $120 million in fees, six times the prevailing rate") into buying $2.7 billion interest rate swaps that turned out to be viral when the recession hit, debt was downgraded, auction-rates skyrocketed and swaps violated covenants which put them on the brink of bankruptcy (read the Bloomberg story:  JPMorgan Swap Deals Spur Probe as Default Stalks Alabama County).

Municipalities feed on their tax base, so when their underlying economy is booming they can lever up against tax revenues and throw cash at projects/developments to improve the area and create jobs. It's great until the economy crashes, tax revenues slow and they're left servicing debt and unprofitable operations, in GASB terms. So just like a company they have to cut projects, lay off workers and try to kill or lower debt payments. During the past few years I've been watching this unfold all across the Country.

Distressed Detroit.. (Analysis of Detroit Economy in 2008) (7/12/2008)
Jefferson County, AL - Possibility of Biggest Municipal Bankruptcy In History (8/13/2008)
The Municipal Meltdown. Current Health of U.S Municipalities (Videos / Links) (10/19/2008)
Oakland, California Denies Bankruptcy Rumors, General Fund Drying Up (6/9/2009)
California Issues IOUs, California GO Bond Bets (7/1/2009)
Jefferson County Volatility, Interest Rate Swaps to National Guard (8/5/2009)
Moody's Downgrades Detroit $781M GO Debt Further Into Junk (8/30/2009) 
Illinois Insolvency, Chicago Commercial Real Estate Outlook, Warehouse Vacancies Hit 12.1% (1/22/2010)
Chicago CTA Volatility, $95M Budget Hole, Service Cuts, 1100 Laid Off (Video) (2/6/2010)

So munis are distressed and it's just getting worse..

Read: UBS Pound Foreast 1.48, Soros on China, Rosenberg on FHA, GGP/Brookfield, SEC Curbs Short Selling, Fed Keeping Rates Low, Zero Hedge vs. RBS, $SPY Quant Algo, Aiko Toyoda Statement Video

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Articles for 2/24/2010, read up... 

SEC Curbs Short Selling, Disappointing Goldman Sachs (Bloomberg, Video)
Bernanke pledge of low rates lifts Wall Street (Reuters)
UBS Cuts Three-Month Pound-Dollar Forecast to $1.48 From $1.59 (BusinessWeek)
Surface Tension: George Soros on China (Caing.com, 财新网)
Real Market Control for Bubbly Real Estate (Caing.com, 财新网)
David Rosenberg: Get Ready For FHA To Go Completely Bust, Housing Market To Take Hit (BusinessInsider)
Greek strike halts transport, people back reform (Reuters)
Record Direct Bidder Share And Near Record Direct Take Down Masks Indirect Shrinkage (Zero Hedge)
General Growth shuns Simon, picks Canadian buyer (Indystar)
New class action lawsuit targets Yelp (CNET)
Is the SPY getting a "Jump" at key levels from a quant algo?  (HedgeAccording.ly) interesting
Latvia Sells 2-Year T-Bills for First Time Since 2007 (Bloomberg)
Junk Bonds May Post Double-Digit Returns in 2010: Pimco (Reuters/CNBC) wow
Bear Market Armageddon: Why Prechter Might Be Right This Time (TechTicker Video)
Greenspan: U.S. recovery "extremely unbalanced" (Reuters)
The 2014 HY Maturity Cliff: Bank of America's Take (ZeroHedge)

Auto News..
FBI raids Toyota suppliers in Michigan (DetroitFreePress)
GM to Wind Down Hummer After Sale to Tengzhong Fails (Bloomberg)
Toyota dealers rally in defense of brand (CNN)
After Toyota Recall, Best Deals Ever for Hybrids (HybridCars)

"Toyota President Aiko Toyoda gives his opening statement before the House Commerce Oversight Committee hearing 2/24/10" (CSPAN).

PIIGS, Goldman and Shanghai Index All Below Their 200 Day Moving Average

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I first heard about this from John Murphy at StockCharts.com (S&P 500 May Retreat Below 200-Day Average: Technical Analysis (BusinessWeek), that the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), Shanghai Composite Index ($SSEC) and Goldman Sachs ($GS) are all trading below their 200 day moving average. China is tightening and the "PIIGS" are dealing with a sovereign debt crisis (with Goldman as financial engineer 1, 2). The February report by Bill Gross mentioned that public debt escalation (debt-to-GDP >90%) could slow economic growth by 1% and put pressure on asset/investment returns (Ring of Fire: February report at Pimco.com).

So with major indexes currently trading below their 200dma, could they drag the S&P, Dow, Nasdaq, TSE, Sensex, FTSE, Nikkei, Hang Seng and even Bovspa (Brazil) down to test that level?  Most indexes are just under the 50 day as of today's close so if they can't get above that level I'd say there's a possibility.  Here are charts courtesy of StockCharts.com.  The 200dma is the red line.

Shia LaBeouf, Wall Street 2 Jimmy Kimmel Interview, Schwab Training and People Busted For Insider Trading On Twitter

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Hat tip to MissTrade for the video.  Actor Shia LaBeouf was on Jimmy Kimmel discussing his new movie Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (international movie trailer and teaser trailer). The most interesting part of the interview was when he talked about training at a Schwab office in Encino.  He was training to be a proprietary trader in the movie. With help from others, LaBeouf said he turned $20,000 into $489,000 and 4 of the 9 guys he was training with went to jail for insider trading on Twitter!

EUR/USD at Primero Downtrend Resistance 1.3636, Decision Imminent (Chart Continuation or Breakout)

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EUR/USD (Euro to the US Dollar) is nearing downtrend resistance. Like I stated in my previous re: $FXE (Euro Index ETF) post, if that trend gets violated it could see decent upside momentum, which would then need confirmation. I provided multiple time frames for FXE, XAU/USD and $Gold. EUR/USD is currently trading at 1.3636 and the decision is imminent imo. Check it out, here's a static chart of EUR/USD from 11:22pm central tonight (2/22/2010).

EUR/USD Daily (FreeStockCharts.com)

CME Chairman Melamed Sees Bubble In Equities Not Commodities, Likes US Dollar Over Euro (Fox Business)

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Interesting interview on Fox Business with CME Group Chairman Leo Melamed.  He said the only bubble he sees is in EQUITIES and that commodities already retraced their move. He also likes the US Dollar over the Euro (USD/EUR) with interest rate pressures in Europe (with the PIIGS in critical condition).  He blames Government and derivatives for the cheap money fueled financial crisis. Hopefully the video comes up, if not go to Fox Business.

Is Bloom Box An Energy Revolution? (60 Minutes Video)

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People are buzzing on Twitter about the Bloom Box so I thought I'd find the 60 Minutes video from last night (2/21). Supposedly a box you can put in your basement can generate enough power to nix the need for power lines/the grid. It's a plug-in power plant. It's like going wireless on a phone or computer. They said one disc powers one light bulb and 64 discs (fuel cells) in a box can power a Starbucks! "In 5-10 years we'd like to be in every home", the founder and CEO K.R. Sridhar said. He said it would be around $3,000. Here is the full article with all the videos at 60 Minutes (CBSNews).  It looks very cool.  Also, what about solar panels?  Check out Nanosolar's panel assembly factory (video). It looks to me like we're in an energy revolution, it just hasn't gone parabolic yet.

Abby Cohen Still Thinks S&P Fair Value is 1250-1300 (Video), Likes Technology, Commodities and Sees M&A or Share Repurchases With Cash On Hand

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Goldman strategist Abby Joseph Cohen is bullish on the market. Last week she said the recession's been over for several months and thinks fair value for the S&P is between 1,250 and 1,300. With the S&P at 1,109, that would mean we are 12%-17% undervalued. She likes technology from business investment, commodities from improved global demand and sees share repurchases/m&a activity from cash on hand. She was on Bloomberg radio last Wednesday. Cohen's call for 1250-1300 is unchanged from her view in December, 2009 (videos). Maybe she can get Goldman Sachs ($GS) over its 200DMA while she's at it. If she's right a break above 1,150 would probably be an area to get long in size with put protection to $1,300 (not a recommendation). Until then... Ride the double dip (where the black swans at?)!

(Courtesy of Stockcharts.com)

Large $FXE Volume, Option Trade, USDX, Golden Crosses and Sunday Action (EUR/USD, $USDX, FXE, XAU/USD, Gold Continuous Contract, GLD)

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Sunday night Gold, Euro and $USD report for 2/21/2010:  Btw, long US/CAD Olympic hockey (4-2).  Did you see the volume on FXE (Euro Trust Index ETF) Friday?  Over 3 million FXE shares traded on Friday (5.1 million on the week), a level not seen since Aug/September 2008.  Look at the volume blocks on Friday bringing up the gap down.  Tonight EUR/USD is up 0.35% breaking out on the 30-minute chart and XAU/USD is on the move.  So on Sunday at 8pm central it looks like a push out of the Dollar into the Euro and Gold.  Can't tell you what's going to happen tomorrow. 

From the charts below though the FXE trend is down, however, if Greece gets monster backing or a positive catalyst, short covering could break the closest downtrend and cause some damage.  There is another downtrend to test.  On this post (2/14) I gave you multiple FXE resistance levels for the longs to battle, including ceiling resistance, the 50dma, 200dma and downtrends (technical chess).  The weekly volume has been increasing with lower lows which is interesting.  Charts are from freestockcharts.com.  Speculative shorts on the Euro contract hit a record, see link below.  What do you make of that?

FXE (Rydex CurrencyShares Euro Trust ETF (1-minute on Friday, Feb 19)

FXE (3 month, Daily w/ 50/200dma, squeeze range)

FXE 6 Month Daily Chart

FXE Weekly (rising volume)

Now a look at the US Dollar Index ($USDX, Friday), Gold Continuous Contract ($GOLD) and XAU/USD spot (Sunday).

Soros Owns a Sh*t Ton Of $GLD (Gold ETF), Doubles Down Ending 12/31/2009 Q4 Holdings Report

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According to the most recent Soros Fund Management 13F Q4 holdings report, it appears that Soros's hedge fund doubled down on their GLD position (for holdings ending 12/31/2009). To be exact he increased his position by 152% to 6,178,342 shares. It is the biggest holding in the Soros Fund Management portfolio, totaling 676.3 million dollars.  John Paulson also owns GLD en masse which I'll touch on in a separate post.  Keep in mind these holdings are reported from the 9/30/2009-12/31/2009 period, so we'll know wtf he did with his holdings in a few months.   His top holdings are as follows:

The Onion: "Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion"

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Funny article from The Onion.com:
"U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct." [Read full article at TheOnion].

So does this mean debt jubilee, gold spike, bartering or none of the above ahead?

Peter Schiff in 2006 on Debt Ceiling, Housing and Gold, "If Things Were So Great We Wouldn't Be Raising Debt Ceiling" (CNBC/Bloomberg Videos)

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I like this line. "If things were so great we wouldn't be raising the debt ceiling", Peter Schiff on CNBC (2006). LOL. Congress raised the debt ceiling to $9 Trillion at that time and today they just raised it to $14 Trillion! Trim Tabs Biederman did not agree with anything he was saying. Schiff also made a decent gold call in the Bloomberg video. Seems like those who followed Peter Schiff's public views from 2006 are doing quite well being short housing and long gold on a 4 year time frame. So 4 minutes of free advice from Schiff, two $7 trades, some GLD puts and XHB calls as hedges (CBOE example) and you could have been up 100%+ in 4 years while sleeping at night. Not bad at all.  He runs Euro Pacific Capital.

Update: Restaurant Stocks, Basicland to Sorrowland (Munger), Volcker On Retirement Age, 20th Bank Failure of 2010, CPI Inflation, Mortgage Delinquency Rate Falls, Brevan Howard Not Short Greece CDS, Tiger Woods Apology Video

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Links for Friday February 19, 2010

Slate: Basically, It's Over: A parable about how one nation came to financial ruin. (Charles Munger of Berkshire Hathaway)

AP: Banks in Calif., Ill., Fla., Texas are shut down (20th of 2010)
ZeroHedge: Volcker Discusses The Housing Market, GSEs, Raising The Retirement Age,Volcker Rule
ZeroHedge: Options Expiration Blowout (look at restaurant stocks) via RobotTrade
WSJ: China Retail Sales Up 17.2% On Year In 7-Day Lunar New Year
Bloomberg: U.S. Economy: Consumer Prices Rise 0.2% in January (Update1)
Bloomberg: Buffett’s ‘Dangerous Business’ Grips Bond Insurers (Update1)
Bloomberg: MBA Says Delinquency Rate for Mortgage Loans Fell to 9.47%
WSJ: IMF Economist: Yuan Rise May Help China Direct Resources-Xinhua
Reuters: UPDATE 2-High borrowing costs for Greece threaten others-PM
Reuters: Brevan Howard Not Short Greece; Holds No Italian, Spanish CDS
ETFdb: Three Reasons Why The Copper ETF (JJC) Is Soaring
Reuters: Hong Kong shares hit 1-week low on Fed move, China fear

Any more? Provide a link in comments.  I'm doing a post dedicated to $FXE (Euro Index ETF) and then SPY, EUR/USD, $USDX (Dollar Index), GLD, $Gold (futures), IYT, XLP, QQQQ (tech), 30Y-Treasury Bond Yield and anything else I can think of next. Last but not least, the Tiger Woods apology video (courtesy of Fox).

Technical Outlook by John Murphy, Stockcharts.com on China, Europe 200 Day Moving Average

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I found a technical outlook by John Murphy (StockCharts.com) on Bloomberg.com.  I use their free charts and educational sources and go to their blog which is useful for trading.  So in this case, will the US equity indexes follow China and Europe below the 200dma?
"S&P 500 May Retreat Below 200-Day Average: Technical Analysis

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Declines by other countries’ stock markets and by individual companies suggest that U.S. equity benchmarks are likely to extend the past month’s retreat into a bear market, according to John Murphy, chief technical analyst at StockCharts.com Inc." [Read More]

Euro, US Dollar, Gold Move On Fed Discount Rate Decision (Analysis on EUR/USD, XAU/USD, Charts, Video)

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Look what happened to the EUR/USD (Euro/US Dollar) and XAU/USD (spot Gold) after the Fed raised the discount rate. This trade is at the crossroads.  The Euro actually broke the recent lows.  I've been watching spot Gold and Euro-$FXE recently and the last few days have been choppy around the 50 day moving average, 100dma and top of a new XAU/USD downtrend channel.  First here's the carnage from a few moments ago.

Spot Gold (USD) (fxstreet.com)

EUR/USD Minute (fxstreet.com)

So now for the short-medium term view.  If you look at the weekly charts, EUR/USD clearly broke the lows and if a magical bid doesn't appear at 1.35, it could head towards 1.30-1.32 support.  I charted out the Euro Index/FXE and saw support around the same area.

With Europe's fiscal crisis putting pressure on the EURO and higher USD interest rate (on long end at least) pressures coming from a tightening bias and discount rate releases like today, the US Dollar could see more upside which could affect the long XAU/USD (spot gold priced in US Dollars) trade.  Perhaps not XAU/EUR (Gold in Euros)We'll see where money flows.  If money flows to both the US Dollar and Gold it would be a wash for XAU/USD (sideways).  Tell me if I'm off somewhere here.  Looking specifically at the weekly gold chart, is there a wave coming in the channel?  You can see the downtrend channel and 1,008 support level from March 2008 which was broken.  The 200 day moving average hits at 1,028.

Text: Fed Raises Discount Rate From .50% to .75%, Discount/Fed Funds Spread Now 1/2 Percent, 30Y Treasury Yield Attempting To Break Out

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Interesting.   This comes after the FOMC Minutes release yesterday.  Uncle Ben is making some moves!  $TYX (30 Year Treasury Yield) looks like it is attempting to jump over 4.75% resistance, from the June, 2009 and January, 2010 highs, I'll chart it out later.  When (if ever) do metals/commodities react to higher interest rates and does it need to be on the short end of the curve?

MarketWatch: Yield curve steepens to record as long debt drops
Bloomberg: Treasurys Extend Losses On Better Data; Supply Eyed
Bloomberg: Dollar Soars Against Euro, Yen as Fed Increases Discount Rate

"Release Date: February 18, 2010
For release at 4:30 p.m. EDT

The Federal Reserve Board on Thursday announced that in light of continued improvement in financial market conditions it had unanimously approved several modifications to the terms of its discount window lending programs.

Like the closure of a number of extraordinary credit programs earlier this month, these changes are intended as a further normalization of the Federal Reserve's lending facilities. The modifications are not expected to lead to tighter financial conditions for households and businesses and do not signal any change in the outlook for the economy or for monetary policy, which remains about as it was at the January meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). At that meeting, the Committee left its target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and said it anticipates that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.

The changes to the discount window facilities include Board approval of requests by the boards of directors of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks to increase the primary credit rate (generally referred to as the discount rate) from 1/2 percent to 3/4 percent. This action is effective on February 19.

In addition, the Board announced that, effective on March 18, the typical maximum maturity for primary credit loans will be shortened to overnight. Primary credit is provided by Reserve Banks on a fully secured basis to depository institutions that are in generally sound condition as a backup source of funds. Finally, the Board announced that it had raised the minimum bid rate for the Term Auction Facility (TAF) by 1/4 percentage point to 1/2 percent. The final TAF auction will be on March 8, 2010.

Easing the terms of primary credit was one of the Federal Reserve's first responses to the financial crisis. On August 17, 2007, the Federal Reserve reduced the spread of the primary credit rate over the FOMC's target for the federal funds rate to 1/2 percentage point, from 1 percentage point, and lengthened the typical maximum maturity from overnight to 30 days. On December 12, 2007, the Federal Reserve created the TAF to further improve the access of depository institutions to term funding. On March 16, 2008, the Federal Reserve lowered the spread of the primary credit rate over the target federal funds rate to 1/4 percentage point and extended the maximum maturity of primary credit loans to 90 days.

Subsequently, in response to improving conditions in wholesale funding markets, on June 25, 2009, the Federal Reserve initiated a gradual reduction in TAF auction sizes. As announced on November 17, 2009, and implemented on January 14, 2010, the Federal Reserve began the process of normalizing the terms on primary credit by reducing the typical maximum maturity to 28 days.

The increase in the discount rate announced Thursday widens the spread between the primary credit rate and the top of the FOMC's 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate to 1/2 percentage point. The increase in the spread and reduction in maximum maturity will encourage depository institutions to rely on private funding markets for short-term credit and to use the Federal Reserve's primary credit facility only as a backup source of funds. The Federal Reserve will assess over time whether further increases in the spread are appropriate in view of experience with the 1/2 percentage point spread." [Source:  FederalReserve.gov]

Joe Stack Flew Plane Into Austin Echelon Building (Videos/Manifesto Text)

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A guy named Joe Stack flew a Piper Cherokee plane into the Echelon office building in Austin, Texas. In his manifesto (text below) he said he was fed up with the IRS, Government, etc. I embedded videos from local news sources. It appears he burned down his house as well?? I'm gathering links. The MSNBC article said 2 people were injured and one was "unaccounted for". Crazy stuff.

Statesman: Witness accounts: Plane was in ‘full dive mode’
VancouverSun: Texas plane crash: Austin man sets fire to home, flies plane into IRS building
WSJ: Pilot May Have Targeted IRS in Austin Crash
Austinist: #ATXPlaneCrash: Pilot Wrote Manifesto
Statesman: About the Piper Cherokee plane that crashed
BBC: Texas plane crash 'may be deliberate tax office attack'
Fox News: Pilot Crashes Plane Into Texas Building Over IRS Woes
NPR News Blog: Austin Pilot Details All Over Web Despite Police Silence
MSNBC: Man crashes plane into Texas office building, Officials: Pilot was upset with IRS, act may have been intentional

The full manifesto:
"If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

Updates: AIG Keeps Derivatives, Ackman Grand Slam, Toyota Corolla Steering, State Pension Shortfall, Israel/Britain, Google Buzz Lawsuit, Fake French Wine, Goldman Sues Fleeing Brokers, Greece, Law Firms, IMF Gold Sale, Botnets

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Up late wandering around the robonaut inter-botnets and found some interesting articles.

CNET:  Zeus Trojan found on 74,000 PCs in global botnet
CNET:  Google gets Buzzed with a class action lawsuit
BusinessWeek:  Toyota May Recall Corolla After U.S. Investigation (Update2)
NewYorkTimes:  French Court Finds Fraud in Wine Sent to U.S.
Telegraph:  British threat to Israel over Dubai Hamas assassination
FinancialTimes:  AIG drops derivatives portfolio sale plan
Reuters:  U.S. state pension funds have $1 trillion shortfall: Pew
Reuters:  Greece says not seeking EU taxpayers' money
Reuters:  Goldman sues seven former executives for C.Suisse move
Bloomberg:  Ackman May Make $170 Million on ‘Grand Slam’ General Growth Bet
Bloomberg:  Making Partner Less Likely as Big Law Firms Face Cash Crunch
MarketWatch:  Dollar gains on euro after IMF announces gold sale

Inside Look at Goldman Sachs, Gods Work (PBS Videos)

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Great two part series about Goldman Sachs on PBS Newshour. Featuring Jeff Macke and Nomi Prins (former Goldman trading strategist). Expand post for videos if on index page. These videos can be found at PBS Making Sen$e with Paul Salmon.

Stiglitz: Banks That Were Saved By Countries Are Now Attacking Them!

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We live in a global casino and the house will NEVER lose folks. This was funny, he said: "these very banks that were saved by these countries are attacking the countries". "The first round is not over by any means at this juncture, but what I'm really worried about is the next round".. Also, see Stiglitz and John Paulson speak about the credit bubble at an Economist panel not too long ago.

[Courtesy of Tech Ticker]

FOMC Minutes Release For January 27 Meeting, Yields Rose (Released 2/17/2010)

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While I watch Gold spot and EUR/USD, here is the FOMC Minutes release from the 1/26-1/27/2010 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.  This is just a portion of the text, I embedded the full PDF below.  They talked about asset sales and reducing reserve balances. Yields rose a bit today.

"Finally, staff noted that the Committee might want to address both the eventual size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet and its composition. Policymakers were unanimous in the view that it will be appropriate to shrink the supply of reserve balances and the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet substantially over time. Moreover, they agreed that it will eventually be appropriate for the System Open Market Account to return to holding only securities issued by the U.S. Treasury, as it did before the financial crisis. Several thought the Federal Reserve should hold, eventually, a portfolio composed largely of shorter-term Treasury securities. Participants agreed that a policy of redeeming and not replacing agency debt and MBS as those securities mature or are prepaid would contribute to achieving both goals and thus would be appropriate. Many thought it would also be desirable to redeem some or all of the Treasury securities owned by the Federal Reserve as they mature, recognizing that at some point in the future the Federal Reserve would need to resume purchases of Treasury securities to offset reductions in other assets and to accommodate growth in the public's demand for U.S. currency. Participants expressed a range of views about asset sales. Most judged that a future program of gradual asset sales could be helpful in shrinking the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet, reducing reserve balances, and shifting the composition of securities holdings back toward Treasury securities; however, many were concerned that such transactions could cause market disruptions and have adverse implications for the economic recovery, particularly if they were to begin before the recovery had become self-sustaining and before the Committee had determined that a tightening of financial conditions was appropriate and had begun to raise short-term interest rates. Several thought it important to begin a program of asset sales in the near future to ensure that the Federal Reserve's balance sheet shrinks more quickly and in a more predictable manner than could be achieved solely by redeeming maturing securities and not reinvesting prepayments; they judged that a program of asset sales spread over a number of years would underscore the Committee's determination to exit from the period of exceptionally accommodative monetary policy in a manner and at a pace that would keep inflation contained without having large effects on asset prices or market interest rates. A few suggested that the pace of asset sales, and potentially of purchases, could be adjusted over time in response to developments in the economy and the evolution of the economic outlook. The Committee made no decisions about asset sales at this meeting.

Staff Review of the Economic Situation
The information reviewed at the January 26-27 meeting suggested that economic activity continued to strengthen in recent months. Consumer spending was well maintained in the fourth quarter, and business expenditures on equipment and software appeared to expand substantially. However, the improvement in the housing market slowed, and spending on nonresidential structures continued to fall. Recent data suggested that the pace of inventory liquidation diminished considerably last quarter, providing a sizable boost to economic activity. Indeed, industrial production advanced at a solid pace in the fourth quarter. In the labor market, layoffs subsided noticeably in the final months of last year, but the unemployment rate remained elevated and hiring stayed weak. Meanwhile, increases in energy prices pushed up headline consumer price inflation even as core consumer price inflation remained subdued.

Update: Unemployment vs. Insured, MZM/M2 Velocity, Treasury Securities Held at Commercial Banks (H/T Full Carry, AC)

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February 2010 update.  I've been noticing información económica muy, muy interesante on my Macrotwits (twitter) stream from @fullcarry and @aricostello lately. Check these charts out. They seem to be leaning towards recovery/inflation no? These are 3 data points out of a gazillion but should be noted imo.

  1) Treasury securities held at Commercial Banks, 2) Velocity of money turning corner? and 3) Insured unemployment rate vs. unemployment rate.

Pricing Nuclear Bomb Risk (VIX), Take a Look Back at Hiroshima (Video)

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Is nuclear bomb risk priced too low? Nations need to keep nuclear implied volatility under control before something sourd happens.
"Hear first-hand accounts from the air and ground, re-telling every memory from the day the world first witnessed the horrors of atomic warfare."

(Courtesy of BBC on Youtube)

Bill Gross/Pimco February 2010 Investment Outlook: Ring of Fire

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I came across Bill's most recent February 2010 investment outlook titled "The Ring of Fire" at Pimco.com and it's a good read.  He favors the "less levered" developing world (China, India, Brazil) over the bloated G-7 countries (US, UK, Japan, Europe -less Germany).  In the developed world Gross prefers Canada given "current yields" and fiscal constraint (last paragraph).  He says stay far away from UK debt (paragraph 3).  Also see his "ring of fire" chart comparing country debt-to-GDP ratios with related growth studies.

"Risk/growth-oriented assets (as well as currencies) should be directed towards Asian/developing countries less levered and less easily prone to bubbling and therefore the negative deleveraging aspects of bubble popping. When the price is right, go where the growth is, where the consumer sector is still in its infancy, where national debt levels are low, where reserves are high, and where trade surpluses promise to generate additional reserves for years to come. Look, in other words, for a savings-oriented economy which should gradually evolve into a consumer-focused economy. China, India, Brazil and more miniature-sized examples of each would be excellent examples. The old established G-7 and their lookalikes as they delever have lost their position as drivers of the global economy.

Invest less risky, fixed income assets in many of these same countries if possible. Because of their reduced liquidity and less developed financial markets, however, most bond money must still look to the “old” as opposed to the new world for returns. It is true as well, that the “old” offer a more favorable environment from the standpoint of property rights and “willingness” to make interest payments under duress. Therefore, see #3 below.

Engdahl, Economist in Germany On Greece Fiscal Debt Crisis, Deficit-to-GDP and Complex Derivatives (Video)

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Taking a break from the pop news organizations at the moment, TheRealNews channel on Youtube talked to William Engdahl, an economist/author in Germany, about the Greek fiscal debt crisis, 3% deficit-to-GDP limit, exotic derivatives offered via Goldman Sachs/JP Morgan, off-balance sheet liabilities, the Euro construct, US Dollar, public debt-to-GDP, austerity measures, social issues and Italy. Also read these articles:

Is Titlos PLC (Special Purpose Vehicle) The Downgrade Catalyst Trigger Which Will Destroy Greece? (ZeroHedge)
Wall St. Helped to Mask Debt Fueling Europe’s Crisis (NYT)

Courtesy of TRNN.com (Greek people resist paying for crisis)

Bomb Exploded Outside JP Morgan Branch In Athens, Greece (Links)

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There was a blast outside a JP Morgan office in Athens today and sources below said nobody was hurt. I will keep updating with links. This isn't out of the ordinary. In September 2009, a bomb exploded outside the Athens Stock Exchange; in May 2009, a Eurobank branch was hit "shattering windows and nearby buildings" (NYT link); and in March 2009, a bomb exploded at an Athens Citibank! Social implied volatility must be higher than it was 6-9 months ago, but hopefully not.

Bomb goes off at JP Morgan offices in Athens (Reuters)
Explosion outside J.P. Morgan in Athens: reports (MarketWatch)
Blast at JP Morgan offices in Athens (ANA-MPA.GR)
Bomb blast hits J.P. Morgan building in Greece (CNNi)
Bomb Explodes at JP Morgan Offices in Athens (CNBC Video, Reuters)

The underlying issues..

IYT, SPY, DIA Set To Test 50 Day Moving Average, Gold Was Tell Last Night

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The shorts on the risk trade got squeezed this morning. Gold was the tell last night when $XAU/USD (Gold spot) broke above its 50 day moving average and futures were up (I provided charts in comment section showing what happened). Well here we are today and SPY (S&P) is up 1.1% to 109.26, DIA (Dow) up 1.14% to 102.42 and IYT (Transports ETF) is up 1.67% to 71.98.

Below I provided 6 month charts of SPY, DIA and IYT. Depending on economic, financial and sovereign related catalysts ahead, for now it looks like they broke through the recent downtrend channel and are set to test the 50 day moving average. Ceiling resistance levels from late 2009 are right around the 50dma in each case. So today looks sort of like July, 2009.  If you remember the June/July correction it was really a technical mind f--k.  The S&P was riding a 50/200dma cross to the upside. The market decided to break below the 50dma AGAIN and faked a head and shoulders breakdown right at floor support and 200dma. After $SPY broke above 50dma resistance for the second time, it was finally time to load the boat.  Is it different this time!?  So I've learned that sometimes it takes a while for confirmation. Today $SPY's 200dma is at 101.96, 50dma at 110.85 and it's currently trading at 109.32.

Below I also provided the downtrend from 2007 which is another very important resistance level (which actually started this correction).  It hits around $113-114 depending on time.  Also check out the huge volume in SPY on February 5, about 500 million shares traded and formed a bullish hammer candlestick.  All of these charts are from stockcharts.com.


DIA (Diamonds or Dow ETF)

IYT (iShares DJ Transportation Average Index Fund)

SPY 3 Year Downtrend

Gary Shilling: Dollar To Hit Parity With Euro, Risk of New Market Low (Videos)

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Gary Shilling (A.G Shilling & Co.) was back on Tech Ticker and said he's still bullish on the US Dollar and bearish on the market. Given the fiscal mess in Europe, Shilling is short the Euro and forecasts it could hit parity (1-to-1) with the US Dollar.

In the second video he said there's a 40-50% chance the stock market could hit a new low. He said he'd be long 30-Year Treasury bonds at 4.5% (could hit 3%) and short copper (industrial commodities). Shilling is going against the grain (along side Hugh Hendry, Robert Prechter) betting on deflation.

Here are older tech ticker videos with Gary Shilling from summer 2009. He's still bearish!  Gary Shilling Still Bearish, Expects Deflationary Pressures (July 19, 2009). He was right about the housing bust and recession before it happened. Let the battle begin: Marc Faber/Nassim Taleb/GregorMacdonald/Jim Rogers vs. Hugh Hendry/Robert Prechter/Gary Shilling (who else). Place your bets.

February Minutes From Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)

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Here is a portion of the RBA minutes released tonight..  Continued from previous post:  $XAU/USD (Gold Spot) Trying To Ski Through Downtrend, 50DMA Resistance.

International Economic Conditions

Members were briefed on developments in the international economy. Overall, the recovery from the global recession was continuing. The IMF had recently upgraded its world growth forecast for 2010 to 3.9 per cent, from 3.1 per cent in October. There had been significant revisions for the United States, China and India, but more modest revisions for the euro area. The Bank’s staff had also revised up their world growth forecasts for 2010, though only modestly as their forecasts had already been significantly higher than those of the IMF.

While growth had resumed in the major advanced economies, there was significant spare capacity and measures of core inflation were gradually falling. Labour markets were very weak, although there were some signs of stabilisation in the United States. US GDP had grown by 1.4 per cent in the December quarter, which was stronger than expected. There was a significant contribution from the inventory cycle. GDP data for the United Kingdom were also available, with the preliminary estimate showing growth of 0.1 per cent in the December quarter, after six straight declines.

Growth in the advanced economies was currently being supported by the inventory cycle and stimulatory policy settings. At the household level, there was growth in spending in the United States and Japan, but spending continued to contract in many European economies. Members discussed this trend, which reflected weak income growth and rising household saving rates in some of the larger European economies. The latter appeared to reflect weak consumer sentiment, broader uncertainty about economic prospects, and – in some economies – concern about high public debt levels. Regarding investment spending, there had been a slight increase in the United States in the December quarter, after a decline of more than 20 per cent over the previous five quarters. As yet, there was limited evidence of a pick-up in investment in the euro area or Japan.

Members noted that one particular challenge facing many of the advanced economies was the growth in public debt. From the point of view of long-run fiscal sustainability, this needed to be checked, but tightening fiscal policy at an early stage could undermine economic recovery. Concerns about fiscal issues had recently focused on Greece, which had entered the crisis with relatively high public debt and had seen its budget deficit rise to 13 per cent of GDP in 2009.

The issues were quite different in Asia (outside of Japan), where growth was.... [read more].

$XAU/USD (Gold Spot) Trying To Ski Through Downtrend, 50DMA Resistance

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While I sip on a Red Stripe, I'm watching $XAU/USD (gold spot priced in US Dollars) test a downtrend resistance level and 50 day moving average.  According to this free live chart at fxstreet.com, gold spot is trading at 1105.27 (up 0.55%), the 50 day moving average is at 1109.71 and it's testing the downtrend line as you can see.  I'll do a longer term analysis on gold futures and the $GLD ETF later.  I'll look into gold volatility as well and COT, whatever data is available.  We are at another serious inflection point.  If gold spot can take out this downtrend channel the long side could be in play again, at least in the short term IMO.  If it fails it could see another wave down it looks like.  You can see support from October, 2009 in the near term which hits the triangle vertex point.  We'll see.  I charted out the GLD/SPY ratio a few days ago (1:1), as well as EUR/GOLD which was testing an important low. If the Euro really falls apart here and/or people hit the safe haven ask, will the $USD or $GOLD outperform?

XAU/USD, Gold Spot courtesy of FXStreet.com

Updates: Dubai Debt Fears, Harrisburg Bond Payment, Europe Junk Bonds, Poland Real Estate, Greece, China Growth and Ford (2/14)

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Dubai stock market falls on debt fears (BBC)
Dubai Stocks Drop Most in Almost 3 Weeks on Dubai World Report (Bloomberg)
Japan’s Economy Grows Faster-Than-Anticipated 4.6% (Update3)  (Bloomberg)
The Muni Time Bomb Is Set As Harrisburg Contemplates A March 1 Chapter 9 Filing (ZeroHedge)
Europe Junk Bonds Shrug Off Greece to Beat U.S.: Credit Markets (BusinessWeek)
(US) Investors abandon junk bonds (Financial Times)
The New Generation Leaving Ireland (BusinessWeek)
China’s Growth May Top 11% Even as Officials Rein in Lending (Bloomberg)
Greece to resist push for greater austerity (Financial Times)
UPDATE 2-Ford to launch new Mercury small car in 2011 (Reuters)
Investors brace for the next overseas surprise (AP)
Poland shows signs of real estate recovery (Financial Times)
RBS stuck with German portfolio (FT Alphaville)
*Utah Proposes Scrapping 12th Grade; Nevada Rations Diapers; Harrisburg Heads For Bankruptcy; NBA Lockouts Loom (Mish's Global Economics)

$FXE Technical Outlook (Euro Index ETF), Euro/Gold Ratio Testing Lows, 50/200 Day Crosses and Technical Chess

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The Euro has been trending lower since the US Dollar broke out on the sovereign debt crisis in Euroland (Greece).  Recap:

Two EUR/USD Outlooks by Mr. Top Step and John Rogue, Charts USDX [2/10]
UPDATES: EUR/USD, Trichet Leaves Early For ECB Meeting, Stiglitz Says No Default For US, UK [2/8]
Quick Look at EURUSD Hourly, Daily and Weekly Charts, 1.3912 (Chart Video) [2/1]

I shall chart out $FXE (the Euro Index ETF) and the $XEU/$GOLD ratio (Euro/Gold Continuous Contract) on this post.  I also provided actionable news links below from tonight.  First is the 6 month $FXE chart.  It is clearly in a downtrend channel which started in December 2009.  Right now the FXE relative strength index (RSI at the top) has been camping out below 30 for a while so IF it breaks above 30 there could be an oversold rally, in technical terms.  Remember FXE is a general look at the Euro so for a more detailed look research the underlying Euro pairs.

What's notable here is the 50 day moving average crossed BELOW the 200 day moving average.  The historical move in FXE has been trending lower and now it's confirmed (imo) by the 50 day historical trading period crossing below the 200 day period [less a massive fake out here].  Going forward the 50dma will act as resistance and the 200day will provide backup foot soldiers.  The shorter the period the weaker the resistance level.  There are many resistance levels ahead including the downtrend channel, ceiling resistance, 50dma, 200dma and the ultimate 151 level.  A technical chess board?!

FXE:NYSE (Currency Shares Euro Trust) Courtesy of Stockcharts.com

Now look at the long term chart.  RSI is testing weakness from 2008 right before the financial collapse.  Today looks similar but less intense.  Both put pressure on the carry trade so far.  You can see the downtrend from a 3 year perspective and it needs to break out of that downtrend.  If FXE doesn't hold here, 132.5 (from early 2007) and 130 are next levels of support.  If all else fails, FXE could double dip to 126-7.

Elizabeth Warren: Half of Commercial Real Estate Loans Under Water Expiring 2010-2014, Loan Losses Will Affect Community Banks (Videos, Report)

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Whether credit spreads, equities, community banks and/or printing press hedges need to price this in or not, the massive refinance wave for underwater commercial real estate mortgages will hit between now and 2014, according to the Congressional Oversight Panel's February report.  $700 Billion ("half of $1.4 Trillion") commercial real estate mortgages are underwater and 2,988 banks are classified as "having a risky concentration of commercial real estate loans".  Also, TARP stress tests only factored in losses through 2010 and only at big banks.  "Commercial property values have fallen more than 40 percent since the beginning of 2007" (85% loan-to-values (LTVs) pushed and bought in mass are now at 140%) and losses at banks could hit $200-300 Billion, according to the report.  Below are videos of Elizabeth Warren, Chair of Congressional Oversight Committee, introducing the COP's February report.

GLD/SPY Ratio At 1.0, Been Swing Dancing, When Will Spread Widen and Which Direction

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If you look at the GLD/SPY ratio it is at 1.00.  At some point the spread has to widen no?  Or GLD and SPY will be joined at the hip because of a lower $USD (real return).  Look at GLD/SPY charts on multiple time frames with trends and moving averages.

1) The GLD:SPY 1 year chart is in a triangle and near an inflection point, just above the 50 and 200dma.  The GLD has been swing dancing with SPY in a 0.20 range since April, 2009.

2)  The GLD:SPY 3 Year chart is in a long term uptrend but is being squeezed in a symmetrical triangle.  If GLD falls hard, SPY spikes or simply SPY outperforms GLD to the upside / GLD falls harder than SPY on the downside, the ratio could test the August, 2009 bottom at 0.90 (also near uptrend support).  Or GLD/SPY breaks out to upside...  The GLD:SPY Ratio is up 10 fold since the beginning of the recession.  I will look at gold, silver, US Dollar and S&P 500 specifically in next post.  Thoughts?

Charts courtesy of Stockcharts.com

Put Option Activity in ZION and XHB, Plus $LUMBER Contract (Charts)

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Today had interesting option activity in ZION (Zion Bancorp) and XHB (Homebuilders ETF). First here are articles for more detail:

Unusual Options Activity: S, OMX, ZION, STI, PALM, AIG, NVDA & PEP (TheOptionInsider)
Thursday Options Update: S, ZION, GDX, PBR, BSX, AIG & PEP (Andrew Wilkinson)
Large put buying in homebuilder ETF (OptionMONSTER)

The activity that stuck out was the 12,500 put spread on the April $17-$13 puts. Also around 5,000 traded on both the March $20 call and $17 March put which was interesting. Regarding XHB, 6,500 traded on both the June $16 puts and calls and 10,695 June $14 puts traded (w/6,439 open). Again, read the articles for better analysis on the trades.  ZION closed at $18.17 and XHB, $15.76.

So here are the charts. First, ZION tested $20 for the 3rd time in what looks like an ascending triangle from April.  If weakness prevails here it could fall to trend line support and the 200dma, but above $20 resistance looks like a decent hedged long.  Does Zion Bancorp have viral CRE exposure?

ZION Chart Courtesy of Stockcharts.com

The XHB chart looks like an ascending triangle as well.  A long would be above previous resistance at $16.20.  You can see the tight inflection point coming.  XHB has been trading at the same level for 6 months now so wait for something to happen imho.  XHB closed at $15.76.  The 200dma is at $14.26.  There are a lot of people bearish on housing given the overhang of inventory, foreclosures and people don't have jobs or access to credit.  Also, the Option ARM reset wave is hitting this year.  I'll find a chart and post it, or Google Whitney Tilson housing report.  Also what is up with the lumber contract?  It is testing 2007 and 2008 highs.  I guess watch all housing data (inventory, sales figures, home prices, lumber).

XHB and $LUMBER (Random Length) Courtesy of Stockcharts.com

Also if interested, I just did a post on Chicago housing, including the S&P/Case Shiller Chicago Index, a video from Crain's Chicago giving analysis and foreclosure data.  Analysts don't expect a real recovery until 2013.  I embedded the video.

Soros Interview at Davos 2010 On China Overheating, Gold Bubble, Bank Regulation

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For the archives, here is a video of Soros being interviewed at Davos by BloombergTV. He talks about bank regulation, China overheating, bubbles, unstable markets and more.

Or click here (Bloomberg.com)

Next, according to this article at Telegraph.co.uk, George Soros said "the ultimate asset bubble is gold". So will gold peak at $1,225 or $5,000?

Check Out The BigDog and PETMAN Robots by Boston Dynamics (Videos)

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Before I get back to regular programming, I saw this link from @moorehn pointing to TheAwl.com which had a video of BigDog, a military robot built by Boston Dynamics. They explain it in detail here.  I dug a little deeper and found a PETMAN robot walking on a treadmill.  You can push these robots over and they regain balance.  It is insane.  Also GM and NASA just unleashed humanoid robots (Robonauts) that work on ergonomic tasks on an assembly line.  We already have have robots controlling the Federal Reserve vaults, conducting symphony orchestras, controlling the stock market and robot substitute teachers, chefs and receptionists.  Soon we will have Johnny Cabs too.  Is this the end of human work?

Dow 2010 vs. 1930 Rally, Tariffs Put Fuel On Fire, What Could Do It Now? (Chart Video, News)

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First off, I compared the Dow bear market rally in 1930 to 2009 (August, 2009) and it's been a very popular post (top 3 on the "popular pages" widget).  I compared both charts and dug into the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which ultimately led to the Great Depression.  Go to the post here.  So what is going on today?  The Dow corrected at the 2007 downtrend (charts) which was actually a 50% rally from the lows. It could be a normal 10% pullback in a new bull market, as Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel believes, but in this crazy world you never know wtf will happen next.  Look at what's going on a year after the biggest bailout in history: 9% unemployment, sovereign debt crisis, protectionism, currency conflicts, geopolitical tension etc..

China says U.S. protectionism jeopardizes trade ties (Reuters)
China, U.S. Friction on Trade Issues Is Escalating, Zhong Says (Reuters)
S&P Sees More Defaults in Middle East (WSJ)
UK businesses threaten to pull out of China over protectionism (Telegraph)
Trade war is no option (China Daily)
Ahmadinejad warns Israel against any military move (Reuters)
China Army Urges Treasury Dump, ADEDY Strike In Greece, Iran Anniversary (DVLINK)

Looking specifically at price action, Adam Hewison at MarketClub looks at the 1929-1932 chart, 50% correction, 2007-2009 similarities and potential psychological implications.  The video is free, go here:  Is It Déjà Vu All Over Again for the Dow?.  For FTC compliance I'm an affiliate of MarketClub.  I will chart out the S&P, Dow, US Dollar and gold tomorrow.  SPX looks like it's testing downtrend channel resistance. Also, Marc Faber (Gloom Boom Doom Report) thinks China's economy is slowing and will hurt industrial commodities in the near term.  China Economy Will Slow, Hurt Commodities, Faber Says (Update1) (BusinessWeek).

Screenshot from video

Bernanke Testimony on Fed Exit Strategy 2/10/2010, Compare To London School of Economics Speech on 1/13/2009

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It would be interesting to compare this statement to his "exit strategy" speech at the London School of Economics on 1/13/2009 (link).

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
Federal Reserve's exit strategy
Before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
February 10, 2010

Statement as prepared for delivery. The hearing was postponed due to inclement weather.

Chairmen Frank and Watt, Ranking Members Bachus and Paul, and other members of the Committee and Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Federal Reserve's strategy for exiting from the extraordinary lending and monetary policies that it implemented to combat the financial crisis and support economic activity.

Broadly speaking, the Federal Reserve's response to the crisis and the recession can be divided into two parts. First, our financial system during the past 2-1/2 years has experienced periods of intense panic and dysfunction, during which private short-term funding became difficult or impossible to obtain for many borrowers. The pulling back of private liquidity at times threatened the stability of major financial institutions and markets and severely disrupted normal channels of credit. In its role as liquidity provider of last resort, the Federal Reserve developed a number of programs to provide well-secured, mostly short-term credit to the financial system. These programs, which imposed no cost on the taxpayer, were a critical part of the government's efforts to stabilize the financial system and restart the flow of credit.1 As financial conditions have improved, the Federal Reserve has substantially phased out these lending programs.

Second, after reducing short-term interest rates nearly to zero, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) provided additional monetary policy stimulus through large-scale purchases of Treasury and agency securities. These asset purchases, which had the additional effect of substantially increasing the reserves that depository institutions hold with the Federal Reserve Banks, have helped lower interest rates and spreads in the mortgage market and other key credit markets, thereby promoting economic growth. Although at present the U.S. economy continues to require the support of highly accommodative monetary policies, at some point the Federal Reserve will need to tighten financial conditions by raising short-term interest rates and reducing the quantity of bank reserves outstanding. We have spent considerable effort in developing the tools we will need to remove policy accommodation, and we are fully confident that at the appropriate time we will be able to do so effectively.

Liquidity Programs
With the onset of the crisis in the late summer and fall of 2007, the Federal Reserve aimed to ensure that sound financial institutions had sufficient access to short-term credit to remain sufficiently liquid and able to lend to creditworthy customers, even as private sources of liquidity began to dry up. To improve the access of banks to backup liquidity, the Federal Reserve reduced the spread over the target federal funds rate of the discount rate--the rate at which the Fed lends to depository institutions through its discount window--from 100 basis points to 25 basis points, and extended the maximum maturity of discount window loans, which had generally been limited to overnight, to 90 days.

Many banks, however, were evidently concerned that if they borrowed from the discount window, and that fact somehow became known to market participants, they would be perceived as weak and, consequently, might come under further pressure from creditors. To address this so-called stigma problem, the Federal Reserve created a new discount window program, the Term Auction Facility (TAF). Under the TAF, the Federal Reserve has regularly auctioned large blocks of credit to depository institutions. For various reasons, including the competitive format of the auctions, the TAF has not suffered the stigma of conventional discount window lending and has proved effective for injecting liquidity into the financial system.2

Liquidity pressures in financial markets were not limited to the United States, and intense strains in the global dollar funding markets began to spill over to U.S. markets. In response, the Federal Reserve entered into temporary currency swap agreements with major foreign central banks. Under these agreements, the Federal Reserve provided dollars to foreign central banks in exchange for an equally valued quantity of foreign currency; the foreign central banks, in turn, lent the dollars to banks in their own jurisdictions. The swaps helped reduce stresses in global dollar funding markets, which in turn helped to stabilize U.S. markets. Importantly, the swaps were structured so that the Federal Reserve bore no foreign exchange risk or credit risk.3

Joseph Stiglitz and Hugh Hendry Debate About Greece Bailout (Video)

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Economist/Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Hugh Hendry (Eclectica Asset Management) debate about a Greece bailout on BBC.  Hugh Hendry thinks Greece should default on their debt, take a haircut and start over.  Stiglitz says give them aid and they will bring down the deficit.  Two very different perspectives.  We all know there's no chance of default (or is there...). Also watch Marc Faber, Hugh Hendry and Nassim Taleb debate at the 2010 Russia Forum.  Stiglitz recently said there was NO WAY the U.S, Greece or UK would default. By the way unions are striking in Greece: Berlin Considers Greek Bailout as Unions Strike (Spiegel).

I originally found this at Business Insider.

Updates: China Army Urges Treasury Dump, ADEDY Strike In Greece, Taiwan Drops Submarine Request, Iran Anniversary and Something Out of Moscow

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Geopolitics never sleeps..

Greek unions vow to fight austerity cuts (AFP VIDEO)
Greek unions launch 1st assault on austerity plan (AP)
Greek public sector workers strike as spectre of bailout looms (GUARDIAN)
Greek Strikes Defy Papandreou’s Bid to Stop Crisis (BLOOMBERG)
*Taiwan drops request for U.S. military subs: source (REUTERS)
China PLA officers urge economic punch against U.S. (REUTERS)
Iran anniversary 'punch' will stun West: Khamenei (AFP)
Italy Says Iranian Militia Attacked Its Embassy (REUTERS/NYT)
Moscow says U.S. missile shield aimed at Russia (REUTERS)
Chinese Reserve Managers Notified That Any Non-USG Guaranteed Securities Must Be Divested (ZERO HEDGE)
Revolution day will put Iran's disunity on show (REUTERS)

*GSEE union plans to strike on 2/24/2010.