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Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014 - Blood Moon and More

Financial Review with Sinclair Noe

DOW + 146 = 16,173
SPX + 14 = 1830
NAS + 22 = 4022
10 YR YLD + .02 = 2.64%
OIL - .11 = 103.63
GOLD + 8.20 = 1327.60
SILV un = 20.07

Here’s what you can expect; the Earth will eclipse the moon tonight about 10:58PM pacific time, adjust according to your time zone. The eclipse will take some time, a few hours. The moon will shift color from orange to blood red to brown, again depending on you locale and the weather. It should be interesting.

The stock markets started the day in positive territory and as trading dragged on, the major indices moved lower on the very cusp of turning red, almost as if they were being eclipsed, and then positive again, right at 3:15 PM eastern time, everything just picked up. Now, you might think the markets are rigged. You might.

A group of traders has sued CME Group Inc, accusing the operator of the world's largest derivatives exchange of selling market data to high frequency traders, cheating other investors who lacked such access. The suit says the CME and its Chicago Board of Trade unit have been giving high-frequency traders early access to buy and sell orders.  They said this deprived other investors of the transparent, real-time data on futures and interest rate contracts that they thought they were getting, and were paying for.

Volume was down from Friday; that’s a nasty trend, lighter volume on up days, heavier volume on down days.

The economic calendar includes the March Consumer Price Index tomorrow; Wednesday brings an update on housing starts and building permits, plus the Federal Reserve will release its Beige Book; Friday, the markets are closed for Good Friday.

This morning the Commerce Department reported retail sales increased 1.1% last month; February’s sales numbers were revised higher to 0.7% from a previously reported 0.3%. An important subset of the report showed retail inventories, excluding automobiles, rose 0.2% in February. You will recall that businesses accumulated too much inventory in the fourth quarter of last year, and we have seen fewer orders as the businesses work through unsold goods and try to clear their shelves. That has left the inventory to sales ratio at its highest level since September 2009. Now, it looks like the buyers are back.

A separate report from the New York Fed showed people grew more confident in the labor market last month, with younger workers in particular seeing a greater chance of finding work should they lose their current job.

Earnings reporting season continues with Citigroup posting better than expected net income under of $3.9 billion, or $1.23 per share, from $3.8 billion, or $1.23 per share. Citi Holdings, which holds the bank's portfolio of troubled assets left over from the financial crisis, posted a loss of $292 million, down from $798 million a year earlier. For all of Citigroup, adjusted revenue dropped 2% to $20.1 billion. Citi still has problems with its Mexican unit, which is accused of making fraudulent loans. Also, Citi flunked the recent Fed stress tests for capital reserves. So, here we are nearly 6 years after the financial meltdown and Citi is still cleaning up its books, still exhibiting signs of structural damage, and unable to put money to productive purpose.

The Congressional Budget office says the deficit isn’t as bad as they thought. For the fiscal year 2014 ending September 30, CBO said, the deficit would fall to $492 billion from a $514 billion February estimate - and nearly a third lower than last year's $680 billion deficit. And CBO lowered its cumulative deficit forecast for fiscal years 2015 through 2024 by $286 billion, to a mere $7.6 trillion; the reason for the lower deficits, is that subsidies for health care costs will be less than previously guesstimated.
Deficits will reach a low point of $469 billion, or 2.6% of US gross domestic product, in fiscal 2015, then gradually start to rise, topping $1 trillion again in 2023 and 2024, a level that would be near 4% of GDP.

Last week the IMF and the World Bank held their Spring Meeting in Washington DC. Here’s a snippet from a panel discussion featuring Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans and Citigroup chief economist Willem Buiter.

Charles Evans said: “In the U.S. monetary policy is using the standard transmission mechanism. We’re trying to reduce financing costs. Auto rates are down and the auto sector is way back compared to where it was. Housing is better. Mortgage rates are down. And if you have the ability to refinance, or get a mortgage – it’s tougher these days because of the standards - then you can do that. So it’s the standard transmission mechanism. And we are indeed trying to get inflation up because we’re below target. What comes with that is wage increases, also up to where they ought to be. Wages are a symptom of inflation – using a lagging indicator – and they’re down around 2 to 2.25% right now. When they’re at a steady growth part of the cycle they ought to be about 3.5% - 1.5% productivity and 2% inflation target. So getting everything up – and getting inflation up to where it is supposed to be is an important part of all of this. So that benefits everybody.”

Citigroup chief economist Willem Buiter responded: “Monetary policy works with asset prices. By boosting equities, raising bond prices, weakening the currency and that’s exactly how it has happened. Not very effectively, because we have poor man’s monetary policy. Which is what unconventional monetary policy is. But it’s all we have. I would have preferred to see some additional measures on the fiscal side, which could have mitigated some of the income distributional consequences…”

Over the weekend we saw the investment game plan detailed on Sunday morning talk shows. Did you catch it? The climate is changing; we can still fix it; it will require massive investment. According to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, keeping global warming down to a level people can live with means cutting carbon emissions to "near zero" by the end of the century, even in an increasingly industrialized world. That may be doable, but it will take "substantial investments" in everything from planting more trees to replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon power sources like solar, wind and nuclear energy. The report clearly shows that the challenges to resolve the global common problem are huge, but also this report shows that there are some steps to resolve this issue.

And the longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes, and if we wait too long, the Earth and all of us who are too miserly to invest now, will cook.

Any hope will require more than tripling the share of electricity produced by renewable sources or nuclear power, along with refining the still-evolving technology of capturing carbon emissions and storing them underground. And it will take a coordinated global effort, likely including taxes on emissions. No direct price tag was attached to that scenario, but the IPCC authors indicate it would require "substantial investments," and more delays just drive up the expected cost. The impact could amount to shaving the projected average growth of the global economy by six-hundredths of a percentage point, from about 2% per year to 1.94%, over the coming century. The total global economy was about $72 trillion in 2012, according to World Bank figures.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who in February called the issue "the greatest challenge of our generation," said Sunday's report is an economic opportunity.

Kerry said in a written statement: "So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available, and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago. These technologies can cut carbon pollution while growing economic opportunity at the same time. The global energy market represents a $6 trillion opportunity, with 6 billion users around the world."

Despite more than two decades of efforts to restrain carbon emissions, not only are emissions still going up, they're going up faster than ever. Though there's been an increased emphasis on generating power from renewable sources, the use of coal has gone up in the past 10 years.

The Washington Post and the Guardian captured coveted Pulitzer Prizes for public service for their revelations about the US government's massive surveillance programs. The newspapers' stories were based on thousands of secret documents obtained from Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who is living in Russia after fleeing the United States. The Post also won a Pulitzer this year for explanatory reporting. The New York Times won two Pulitzers, both for photography. No award was handed out for feature writing. The Boston Globe won for breaking news for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. Reuters won an award for its coverage on the persecution of a Muslim minority in Myanmar who in efforts to flee often fall into the hands of brutal human-trafficking networks. The prize for investigative reporting went to The Center for Public Integrity for reports on how some lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners stricken with black lung disease. The prize for explanatory reporting went to the Washington Post for work on the prevalence of food stamps in post-recession America. The prize for local reporting went to the Tampa Bay Times for an investigation into squalid housing conditions for the city's homeless population. The prize for national reporting went to The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for his examination of how wounded combat veterans are mistreated.

I know what you’re thinking; this is a shocking development. Who knew there were still newspapers?

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