Apple Denies Ever Working With The NSA

Yesterday, we broke the story that during the 30th Chaos Communication Congress, it was revealed that according to the NSA (the slide in question) virtually every Apple product can be “backdoored”, and that the presenter of the discovery Jacob Applebaum openly asked Apple if it was just its “shitty software” that provided the NSA with this privacy invading loophole, or if it was Apple secretly working in collaboration with the NSA that permitted this betrayal of the iconic company’s customers.

Moments ago the WSJ reported that according to Apple, it was just the “shitty software”, as the company denied ever working with the NSA.

Somehow we doubt this will be the end of this particular story, especially since this is an implicit admission that Apple does, indeed, have “backdoors” in its products. Whether invited or not.

Perhaps as a follow up, Apple can also confirm that none of its products permit illegal backdoor access for the NSA or anyone else, especially now that the “implantation” mechanism has been made clear to the entire world?


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/_wMgO_8I90U/story01.htm Tyler Durden

WTF Chart Of The Day: Fed Soaks Up Record $200 Billion In Year End Excess Liquidity

A week ago the Fed announced its latest expansion to its Fixed-Rate Reverse Repo facility, which boosted the maximum allotment per counterparty to a whopping $3 billion from $1 billion (initially this was “only” $500 million), to wit: “this week the Committee authorized the Desk to modify the terms of the exercise.  The maximum allotment cap will be increased to $3 billion per counterparty per day from its current level of $1 billion per counterparty per day, effective with the operation on Monday, December 23, 2013.” Some wondered why. Today we got the answer, when the Fed announced that an unprecedented $198 billion (that’s 20% of a trillion) among 102 entities was reverse repoed to it (an average of just under $2 billion per counterparty) in what can only be characterized as the most grotesque temporary open market operation conducted by the Fed in history.

 

We will leave it up to readers to decide what is more surreal: that the Fed is allowing banks to “window dress” to the tune of several times more than total Treasury holdings owned by the Primary Dealers as disclosed by the Fed, or that there is an unprecedented $200 billion in free liquidity floating out there.


    



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The Best And Worst Hedge Funds Of 2013

In a year when everyone was a winner (thank you Fed and BOJ) if some were bigger winners than others yet when virtually everyone underperformed the S&P, the biggest irony was that the very aptly named Keynes Leveraged Quantitative Strategies Fund was actually down -6.88% YTD and one of the 20 worst performing funds of the year. As for everyone else, hopefully their LPs are forgiving and don’t expect that in exchange for 2 and 20 that their funds would outperform the S&P for the first time in 5 years.

Best and Worst hedge funds of 2013:

The performance of select brand name hedge funds through mid/late December versus the S&P500:

And the full breakdown via HSBC:


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/KQ3etzFSIpg/story01.htm Tyler Durden

And The Best Stock Market Of 2013 Is…

With the world watching mouth open at the 30% gains in the US equity market (and 57% gains in Japan), the Venezuelans are cock-a-hoop at their wealth-generation this year… a sprinkling of totalitarianism, nationalization, toilet-paper shortages, and hyperinflation and, drum roll please… the Caracas Stock Index is up a disappointed-not-to-make-it-to-500%, 480% in 2013… (time to greatly rotate and chase that momentum)…

 

Think of the confidence this must be inspiring…

 

and a little context… (because it could never happen here or Japan…)


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/iH-6Zv0p1jQ/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Is America About To Reach A Breaking Point?

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

In America today, there are close to 50 million people living in poverty and there are more than 100 million people that get money from the federal government every month.  As the middle class disintegrates, poverty is climbing to unprecedented levels.  Even though the stock market has been setting record high after record high, the amount of anger and frustration boiling just under the surface in our nation grows with each passing day.

And now extended unemployment benefits have been cut off for 1.3 million unemployed Americans, and it is being projected that a total of 5 million unemployed Americans will lose their benefits by the end of 2014.  In addition, as I have written about previously, 47 million Americans recently had their food stamp benefits reduced.  The conditions for a "perfect storm" are certainly being created.  So how much longer will it be until we see all of this anger and frustration boil over in the streets of our major cities?  Is America about to reach a breaking point?

If you think that the title of this article is "alarmist", you probably have not been paying attention to what has been happening over the past few weeks.  For example, a 600 person brawl broke out at at movie theater in Jacksonville, Florida just the other day…

Five teenagers were arrested when a 600-person brawl broke out in a Florida movie theater’s parking lot on Christmas night.

Described by police as a “melee,” the fight occurred around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday outside the Hollywood River City 14 movie theater in Jacksonville when a group tried to storm the theater’s doors without purchasing tickets, police said. Several had rushed an off-duty police officer working as a security guard.

 

The officer “administered pepper spray to disperse the group, locked the doors and called for backup, following protocol,” said Lauri-Ellen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

 

Soon after the pepper spray was used, “upward of 600 people moving throughout a parking lot about the size of a football field began fighting, disrupting and jumping on cars,” she said.

And a "flash mob" of "400 crazed teens" was so violent that it forced a mall in Brooklyn to shut down just a few days ago

A wild flash mob stormed and trashed a Brooklyn mall, causing so much chaos that the shopping center was forced to close during post-Christmas sales, sources said Friday.

 

More than 400 crazed teens — who mistakenly thought the rapper Fabolous would perform — erupted into brawls all over Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Mill Basin on Thursday at 5 p.m., sources said.

 

The troublemakers looted and ransacked several stores as panicked shoppers ran for the exits and clerks scrambled to pull down metal gates.

In addition, the release of new Air Jordan sneakers caused mini-riots and brawls to break out all over the country just before Christmas.

So why is all of this happening?

Of course people will come up with all sorts of theories to explain these outbreaks of violence, but what pretty much everyone should be able to agree on is that we are seeing levels of anger and frustration rise to very dangerous levels in this country.

Right now, there are approximately 6 million Americans in the 16 to 24-year-old age group that are not in school and that are not working either.  What that means is that we have an alarmingly high number of very frustrated young people that do not have anything better to do than to cause trouble.

In some of our largest cities this has become a massive problem.  In fact, quite a few major U.S. cities actually have more than 100,000 "idle youth" living in them…

Just look at some of the nation’s largest cities. Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Riverside, Calif., all have more than 100,000 idle youth, the Opportunity Nation report found.

But the Obama administration says that this should not be a problem.  In fact, the Obama administration tells us that the unemployment rate has been steadily "declining" and that there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.

Of course that is a giant lie.  Just before the last recession, about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  During the recession that number fell below 59 percent and it has stayed there ever since

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

So the notion that we are experiencing an "employment recovery" is absolutely laughable.

But most of our politicians appear to believe this lie, and it is being used as justification to cut off extended unemployment benefits.

And the funny thing is that by cutting off these benefits, it is going to make it appear as though unemployment has gone down even more.  Millions of unemployed workers that are being forced into the streets will now be counted as having "left the labor force", and it is being projected that the unemployment rate could decline by as much as half a percentage point as a result.

What a joke.

A lot of the people that are having their benefits cut off are really hurting.  For instance, consider the case of 63-year-old paralegal Laura Walker

“Not all of us have savings and a lot of us have to take care of family because of what happened in the economy,” said Walker, of Santa Clarita, who said she has applied for at least three jobs a week and shares an apartment with her unemployed son, his wife and two children. “It’s going to put my family and me out on the streets.”

So what is she going to do?

Well, at this point she appears to be down to just one option…

“I just don’t know what to do, except pray.”

And of course the unemployed are not the only ones that have had their benefits cut.  As I mentioned above, all 47 million Americans that are currently on food stamps recently had their benefits reduced.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Mac Slavo

Earlier this year government benefits for nutritional assistance were reduced after the expiration of emergency legislation that was enacted following the 2008 financial collapse. Nearly all of the 48 million people receiving food stamp distributions were affected. The move led to warnings from food pantries and recipients around the country who said that the $40 billion in cuts would leave many American families without the ability to put food on dinner tables across America. According to Feed America, the roughly $29 per family that would no longer appear on their EBT cards will amount to about 1.5 billion meals in 2014.

The fact that government dependence has soared to all-time highs even in the midst of this so-called "economic recovery" is just another sign that the middle class is dying.  For years, middle class families have tried strategy after strategy in an attempt to survive, but now it has become apparent that the middle class is rapidly approaching a breaking point

Rising income inequality is starting to hit home for many American households as they run short of places to reach for a few extra bucks.

As the gap between the rich and poor widened over the last three decades, families at the bottom found ways to deal with the squeeze on earnings. Housewives joined the workforce. Husbands took second jobs and labored longer hours. Homeowners tapped into the rising value of their properties to borrow money to spend.

 

Those strategies finally may have run their course as women’s participation in the labor force has peaked and the bursting of the house-price bubble has left many Americans underwater on their mortgages.

And even though the Obama administration and the mainstream media have tried to convince us over and over that the economy is "getting better", most Americans are not buying it.  In fact, according to a new CNN poll, 70 percent of all Americans believe that "the economy is generally in poor shape".

As the economy continues to decline, not all Americans will respond to their desperate situations by getting violent.  Many suffer quietly, hoping that things will eventually turn around for them.  Unfortunately, the ranks of the suffering grow with each passing year.  For example, a recent CNN article discussed the continued growth of "tent cities" all over America…

The total number of homeless people residing in tents and makeshift homes is unknown. Many of these communities are small and hidden from public view, while others claim hundreds of residents and are sprinkled through major urban areas.

 

Some, like those tucked under roadways, are temporary and relocate frequently. Their conditions are vile, unsanitary and fail to provide refuge from storms and winds. Then there are communities, such as Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon, that have a more sustained presence. The 13-year-old "ecovillage" set up by homeless people is hygienic and self-sufficient.

 

Preliminary findings by The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty show that tent cities have been documented in almost every state, and they're growing.

So how do we solve these problems?

Are there any solutions that could get us out of this mess?

Of course there are.  But don't hold your breath waiting for any of them to be adopted.  In fact, the American people continue to express great support for the very people that got us into this mess in the first place.  For example, according to a Gallup survey that was just released, Barack Obama is the most admired man in America by a very wide margin and Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America by a very wide margin.

And the mainstream media will continue to tell all of us that "leaders" like Obama, Clinton, Reid, Boehner, McConnell and Pelosi can be trusted to get us out of this mess.

If you believe that, there is a bridge that I would like to sell you.

The American people need to stop having blind faith in the relentless propaganda that is being spewed at them through their televisions screens.  The pretty faces that you see "reporting the news" do not care about you and they are not watching out for your best interests.  The corporate-controlled news is highly scripted and it is pretty much the same whatever channel you turn to.  If you have any doubt that "the news" is scripted, just check out this video

 


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/gGUoAfzYGgI/story01.htm Tyler Durden

And Now Gold Is Soaring

Short-squeeze time? … and suddenly CNBC goes quiet on the precious metals market movements.

 

 

The last 2 months has seen shorts pile back on in the futures market are squeezing in the fall…

 

We expect the BIS’ Mikael Charoze, who is currently “red” after the recent gold slamdown, to promptly return to “green” at which point gold will once again mysteriously crash to its 2013 lows.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/8AWcgzgLrT8/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Consumer Confidence Jumps Most In 6 Months As "Hope" Soars

Similar to UMich's confidence measure soaring by the most in 4 years, the Conference Board's confidence measure beat expectations and jumped the most in 6 months (though remains below the year's highs). This is the best beat in 4 months. The improvement is all based on "expectations" which soared the most in 6 months. Confidence is critical (as we noted below) especially since the massive majority of actual investors are already bullish…(and definitely not bearish)…

 

 

 

 

Of course, what is critical is the continuation of the confidence bubble…

As a gentle reminder, as we have noted previously – this move in confidence is key…

But, it's all about confidence… investors will not be willing to pay increasing multiples unless they are confident that the future streams of earnings are sustainable and forecastable… And simply put, the current levels of Consumer Sentiment need to almost double for the US equity market tp approach historical multiple valuation levels…

 

 

 

and the cycle appears to be shifting…

Via Citi,

Is consumer confidence set to turn?

Consumer Confidence is once again following a dynamic where we see it move higher for 4 years and 4 months before beginning to collapse

  • Moves higher from 1996-2000 with a smaller dip halfway through in October 1998
  • Moves higher from 2003-2007 with a smaller dip hallway through in October 2005
  • Moves higher and so far tops out in June 2013. Also sees a small dip halfway through in October 2011.

 

Higher yields do not help confidence…

 

A sharp rise in mortgage rates has a negative feedback loop to consumer confidence. For those families and individuals that were now looking/able to enter the housing market, the recent spike in rates acts as a headwind.

 

In addition to the economic backdrop, there is plenty of tail risk as we head into the end of the year. Oil prices have been rising since the summer began (and in reality since the Summer of 2012), partially due to geopolitical risks which are very much “top of mind.” A bigger spike due to a supply shock would choke the economic recovery.(In our view)

In the US, the appointment of a new Fed Chairman and the upcoming budget/debt ceiling debates are likely to bring added volatility. Tapering itself can also induce concern as the “Bernanke put” is being removed from markets.

In Europe, many of the structural problems related to the single currency union have not actually been addressed and the peripheral countries could still create turmoil going forward (see Fixed Income section focusing on Italy in particular for more on this). There has also been little concern with both the German elections and the German Court decision on the constitutionality of the OMT program. A surprise in either of these could be cause for concern.

Emerging Markets are still not out of the woods yet as growth has been weak relative to expectations and countries with current account deficits are beginning to feel pressure in their FX and Bond markets. This is an issue we believe is only starting to develop which we will continue to expand on at later dates.(We have also looked at this in our EM FX section this week)

Overall, the weak economic backdrop, poor housing recovery and potential for tail risk events over the next few months suggest that we have topped out in Consumer Confidence, a warning sign for equity markets.

 

The relationship between Consumer Confidence is clear, and IF June did mark the high and Confidence continues to decline, then we would expect to see that translate to weakness in the equity markets. The removal of the “Bernanke put” only adds to this concern.

A major turn has taken place in equity markets on average four months after Consumer Confidence turns, which would point to a decline beginning around September-October. As we have previously expressed, we remain of the bias that a correction in equity markets on the order of 20%+ is likely this year/ into 2014 and the current dynamics support such a move.

Should we see a decline of that magnitude, it is almost certain that yields would move lower in a rush to safe assets.

 

For now the mid-year highs are holding as confidence cannot escape its secular downturn.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/7TcxiGtL0mA/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Consumer Confidence Jumps Most In 6 Months As “Hope” Soars

Similar to UMich's confidence measure soaring by the most in 4 years, the Conference Board's confidence measure beat expectations and jumped the most in 6 months (though remains below the year's highs). This is the best beat in 4 months. The improvement is all based on "expectations" which soared the most in 6 months. Confidence is critical (as we noted below) especially since the massive majority of actual investors are already bullish…(and definitely not bearish)…

 

 

 

 

Of course, what is critical is the continuation of the confidence bubble…

As a gentle reminder, as we have noted previously – this move in confidence is key…

But, it's all about confidence… investors will not be willing to pay increasing multiples unless they are confident that the future streams of earnings are sustainable and forecastable… And simply put, the current levels of Consumer Sentiment need to almost double for the US equity market tp approach historical multiple valuation levels…

 

 

 

and the cycle appears to be shifting…

Via Citi,

Is consumer confidence set to turn?

Consumer Confidence is once again following a dynamic where we see it move higher for 4 years and 4 months before beginning to collapse

  • Moves higher from 1996-2000 with a smaller dip halfway through in October 1998
  • Moves higher from 2003-2007 with a smaller dip hallway through in October 2005
  • Moves higher and so far tops out in June 2013. Also sees a small dip halfway through in October 2011.

 

Higher yields do not help confidence…

 

A sharp rise in mortgage rates has a negative feedback loop to consumer confidence. For those families and individuals that were now looking/able to enter the housing market, the recent spike in rates acts as a headwind.

 

In addition to the economic backdrop, there is plenty of tail risk as we head into the end of the year. Oil prices have been rising since the summer began (and in reality since the Summer of 2012), partially due to geopolitical risks which are very much “top of mind.” A bigger spike due to a supply shock would choke the economic recovery.(In our view)

In the US, the appointment of a new Fed Chairman and the upcoming budget/debt ceiling debates are likely to bring added volatility. Tapering itself can also induce concern as the “Bernanke put” is being removed from markets.

In Europe, many of the structural problems related to the single currency union have not actually been addressed and the peripheral countries could still create turmoil going forward (see Fixed Income section focusing on Italy in particular for more on this). There has also been little concern with both the German elections and the German Court decision on the constitutionality of the OMT program. A surprise in either of these could be cause for concern.

Emerging Markets are still not out of the woods yet as growth has been weak relative to expectations and countries with current account deficits are beginning to feel pressure in their FX and Bond markets. This is an issue we believe is only starting to develop which we will continue to expand on at later dates.(We have also looked at this in our EM FX section this week)

Overall, the weak economic backdrop, poor housing recovery and potential for tail risk events over the next few months suggest that we have topped out in Consumer Confidence, a warning sign for equity markets.

 

The relationship between Consumer Confidence is clear, and IF June did mark the high and Confidence continues to decline, then we would expect to see that translate to weakness in the equity markets. The removal of the “Bernanke put” only adds to this concern.

A major turn has taken place in equity markets on average four months after Consumer Confidence turns, which would point to a decline beginning around September-October. As we have previously expressed, we remain of the bias that a correction in equity markets on the order of 20%+ is likely this year/ into 2014 and the current dynamics support such a move.

Should we see a decline of that magnitude, it is almost certain that yields would move lower in a rush to safe assets.

 

For now the mid-year highs are holding as confidence cannot escape its secular downturn.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/7TcxiGtL0mA/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Chicago PMI Tumbles As Inventories Collapse Most Since 1977

Stocks dropped and bonds rallied modestly as the early subscribers received the Chicago PMI which missed expectations significantly. Seemingly, with taper in place, bad news is bad news as the 59.1 print (vs a 60.8 exp) is the biggest miss in 6 months. Under the covers things are even worse with the lowest employment index since April. Inventories also collapsed (by the most since 1977) which is a problem since New orders and production also plunged suggesting the post-government shutdown ‘surprise’ GDP-enhancing inventory-build is entirely a one-off event (as we noted here).

Biggest miss in 6 months…

 

Inventories collapsed the most since 1977…

 

and employment dumps…


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/MTL9JIFd97s/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Iranian Billionaire Promoting "PetroGold" With Turkey Arrested

Earlier this week, in “Why The Turkish Government May Be The Casualty Of A $119 Billion PetroDollar Loophole” we said “dare to mess with the Petrodollar and the wrath of the US government will hunt you down… sooner or later.” Sure enough, after resulting in a Turkish government scandal, punishing its stock market and sending the Lira reeling, the blowback has reached Iran where billionaire Babak Zanjani was arrested yesterday on corruption charges, although in reality his chief transgression was allowing the Petrogold system to show that the Petrodollar is now longer irreplaceable.

Iran’s PressTV reported that the Monday arrest comes after 12 Iranian lawmakers accused Babak Zanjani of corruption, calling for an inquiry into his financial activities in a letter to the heads of the three branches of the Iranian government. “Experts say Babak Zanjani’s estimated net worth is around USD 13.8 billion. The corporate mogul, aged nearly 40, owns and operates many holdings and companies, including the UAE-based Sorinet group, Qeshm Airlines and Rah Ahan Football Club in Iran.” According to Head of Iran’s Supreme Audit Court Amin-Hossein Rahimi, Zanjani’s role in the course of transferring the country’s oil revenues involved breach of law.

“After sanctions were imposed against the National Iranian Oil Company, Iran had to export oil and they gave Babak Zanjani the task of exporting some of this oil worth around USD 3.0003 billion. The problem is that they were supposed to get collateral from him by law and this was not done. This is a violation,” Rahimi said in a press conference.  Some other lawmakers believe Zanjani is part of a mafia that makes financial benefits out of the sanctions imposed against Iran. “Zanjani is not alone. There is a network of individuals. They are getting rich out of people’s misery caused by sanctions. There is corruption here,” said Iranian legislator Mohammad Reza Tabesh.

So, Zanjani was tasked to circumvent oil sanctions which he did for over a year, but now, for some inexplicable reason, he is arrested for not “getting collateral”?

Of course, that, however, is only half the story. For the full version we go to Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper which last week explained the full extent of Zanjani’s “transgressions”, the bulk of which involved allowing Iran to avoid the Petrodollar and promoting Petrogold.

This is how the real story goes as explained by Bloomberg:

  • Babak Zanjani, an Iranian blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury for evading Iran sanctions, denies Turkish media reports saying he was involved in illegal trade with people implicated in the country’s corruption probe, Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper reports citing a letter from Zanjani.
  • Zanjani, who was used by Iranian govt to finance sales of Iranian oil, according to the U.S. Treasury, says he was involved in gold trade with Turkey
  • Zanjani says has a minor business relationship with Riza Sarraf, formerly Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Azeri businessman who was arrested in the corruption probe. As a reminder, Sarraf was arrested two weeks ago along with children of two Turkish cabinet ministers, other senior bureucrats as part of a probe into accusations of graft, money laundering.
  • Zanjani says annual trade volume of his group of companies is around 7 billion euros; trade with Sarraf makes up a fraction of it
  • Zanjani says he made investments in Turkey due to “his confidence in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership”

And seeing how Erdogan’s government is on the edge, and may fall any minute, that confidence appears misplaced, with the result being Zanjani’s arrest. What is unknown is whether his detention was merely Iran no longer needing his assistance to promote the usage of petrogold as a bypass of the petrodollar system now that the Iranian sanctions have been lifted. The only question we have is how much of Zanjani’s arrest was due to behind the scenes US influence making it clear that the Iranian detente will only take place – nuclear enrichment strawman forgotten – only if all those who made Petrogold possible are quitely put behind bars…


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/0c1sdoPPNPs/story01.htm Tyler Durden