Mt.Gox “Closes All Transactions” Again “To Protect Site And Users”

More humor from Mt.Gox, which has once again “temporarily” suspended all transactions. Can it just make it permanent already, and get it over with?

Just released statement from the doomed exchange named after Magic: The Gathering.

Dear MtGox Customers,

 

In the event of recent news reports and the potential repercussions on MtGox’s operations and the market, a decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users. We will be closely monitoring the situation and will react accordingly.

 

Best regards,
MtGox Team

Meanwhile, here is an artist’s rendering of what Mt.Gox’ logo should have been all along:

h/t @ButtCoin


    



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Stocks Flip-Flop As Bonds And The USD Pop

This morning’s US equity “market” behavior is ‘volatile’ to say the least and of course all human-driven??! A JPY-pump-driven surge into day-session open suckered just enough in to leave vaccuum and when someone pulled the rug from under the JPY shorts right at the open (bashing USDJPY back down to the all critical 102.00 level) stocks tanked… AUDJPy stabilized and stocks surged back to it and are now treading water around VWAP. While all this was occurring bond yields went only one way – down; and the USD Index jumped notably. Given the all-time-highs, conviction in stocks seems anything but strong.

JPY-carry in charge (more AUDJPY than USDJPY again)

 

leaving S&P futures hovering at VWAP after quite a volatile start to the day…

 

Especially when bonds and the USD have been a one way street…


    



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Ukraine Bonds Re-Collapse As Russia Warns Of “High Chance Of Default”

Russian bonds had rallied for 2 days on the heels of the ouster of Yanukovych and a hope-fueled strategy (supported by Goldman’s buy-buy-buy recommendation) that Europe or the IMF would save the day and fund them back to solvency. However, Russian deputy finance minister Storchak has a different perspective…

  • *UKRAINE FACES HIGH PROBABILITY OF DEFAULT: RUSSIA’S STORCHAK
  • *RUSSIA AGAINST INCLUDING $3B UKRAINE DEBT IN ANY RESTRUCTURING
  • *RUSSIA: NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO GIVE UKRAINE REMAINING BAILOUT

And that has sent 3-month Ukraine bond prices tumbling once again…

 


    



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Ukraine Calls Russia’s Bluff, Slashes Nat Gas Imports By 80%

Twice in recent years, Russia has suspended gas supplies, or notably raised prices, as the somewhat well-known "trump card" of Russia's oil and gas supply to Ukraine (and Europe for that matter) remains Putin's easiest option for clenching his iron-first against the divided nation. Following a pre-emptive move in November by Ukraine to diversify its energy supply,  Russia had reduced the price of gas for the highly indebted Ukraine in December (to entice Ukraine under Russia's wing); but, after recent events, Dmitry Medvedev signaled on Monday that the price could be raised again. However, today we find that Ukraine's state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia's Gazprom by  stunning 80% in February as Ukraine tries to show Russia it can't be pushed around… of course, with limited (and more expensive) alternative supplies, we fear this could well shoot them in the foot.

This action is similar to that taken in November (before the EU accession discussion)…

Russia and Ukraine waged two gas wars over prices in the winters of 2006 and 2009 (which lasted 3 weeks) over a claim Ukraine was late in paying.

 

 

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that if Gazprom refuses to revise its contract, Ukraine would stop importing gas from Russia. In a step away from energy dependence on Russia, last week Ukraine signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with Chevron.

 

Ukraine is speeding up its effort to diversify its supply, and has looked at different exporters, fracking, new offshore projects in the Black Sea, as well as new LNG terminals and pipelines to diversify supply. Ukraine imports more than half of its gas from Russia, but under Viktor Yanukovich’s leadership, has intentionally scaled down Gazprom imports 40 percent over ‘unfair prices’.

And now today,

Ukraine's state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia's Gazprom to 28 million cubic meters per day as of February 24 from 147 million, two Russian industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

 

They said Naftogaz had gradually reduced its imports from 147 million cubic meters as of February 1, but did not offer a reason for the cuts.

 

 

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hinted on Monday that gas prices, reduced as part of a Russian bailout in December, may revert to higher levels.

 

Ukraine consumes about 55 billion cubic meters of gas each year, and more than half is imported from Russia. Gazprom exported 161.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe last year.

 

A Gazprom official declined to comment on Naftogaz import volumes but said Russian gas transit to Europe was unaffected.

So simply put, they want to show Russia they can't be pushed around… the trouble is, of course, that with alternative supply routes in short-supply (and only more expensive alternatives available)…

 

 

…they may well be shooting themselves in the foot.


    



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Unbelievable. 55-year old widow fights against the North Korean government

February 25, 2014
En route to Colombia

Li Mi-Yung just wanted to be free.

This 55-year old widow in North Korea had spent the last 18-months building up an off-grid residential homestead. She was, for the most part, fully independent.

She collected rain as a source of water. She had her own waste disposal. She generated her own electricity from the sun.

Sounds pretty admirable, right? Especially in a place where so few people are independent.

Unfortunately, upon finding out about Ms. Li’s living situation, the local authorities in North Korea dispatched entire teams of government workers to Ms. Li’s home, attempting to evict her and haul her in front of a tribunal.

Truly despicable. You’d think that the North Korean government would be eager to learn from her so that everyone else’s lives could be improved.

But alas, what else can one expect from the government of North Korea…?

There’s just two minor corrections I need to make to this story before I go on, though.

Li Mi-Yung is really Ms. Robin Speronis. And she does not live in North Korea. She lives in Cape Coral, Florida… in the Land of the Free. Everything else is true.

Yes, rather than try to learn from Mr. Speronis in an effort to improve the city’s public services, she was apparently branded as some kind of criminal mastermind who must be stopped at all costs.

When they heard last November that she was living off-grid, the city posted a notice of eviction, citing numerous code violations. They concluded that her dwelling (which she had been living in since January) was “unfit for human habitation.”

Furthermore, she was told that continuing to live at (or even ENTERING) the property would constitute misdemeanor trespassing and subject her to arrest.

Days ago, the case was heard in front of a special magistrate. City officials read off a seemingly endless list of code violations, and expert witnesseses were paraded into the court to confirm her nefarious deeds.

Naturally. Someone who unplugs from the system can only be trouble.

At the end of the hearing, the judge waived his hand, finding her guilty of some violations, not guilty of other violations, and then ordered her to at least partially plug back in to the grid.

I wish I could use a word like “amazing”, “unbelievable”, or “incredible” here. But I can’t. Because this is now par for the course in the Land of the Free.

Collecting rainwater now constitutes a crime. Being free and independent gets you threatened with eviction and hauled into court.

In the Land of the Free, you are unfit to decide for yourself how you want to live. And the government has all the power in the world to forcibly bend you to its will, even if it means terrorizing citizens into using public utilities.

It’s quickly getting to the point where anyone who wants to take back any personal freedom is going to have to seriously consider heading overseas to places where governments leave you the hell alone to live your life in peace.

Yes, it’s a radical thought. But so many great civilizations before were founded by intrepid free men and women who left their home countries in search of liberty and opportunity.

Why not now?

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Consumer Confidence Drops Most In 4 Months

Despite fresh record highs for stocks, previously exuberant Conference Board consumer confidence was unable to make new highs and instead tumbled by the most in 4 months, missing expectations by the most since October. This catches down to Bloomberg's less confident consumer and suggests the hopes and dreams of a nation looking for moar multiple expansion may be drifting away…

 

 

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…

 

 

[19]

 

and the cycle appears to be shifting…

Via Citi,

Is consumer confidence set to turn?

[20]

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.


    



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US To Sell Nuclear Fuel To Former Foe Vietnam, Will Permit Uranium Enrichment

There was a time when Vietnam was America’s staunchest proxy war foe. This is not those times which explains why yesterday the president signed a landmark, controversial and not to mention hypocritical deal with Vietnam in which allows the U.S. to sell nuclear fuel and technology to its former foe, which will then be allowed to further enrich it. Why (because there is always a reason when the US does something so unexpected, and especially when nuclear power is involved)? Simple: as the Hill explains, the US “aims to help guarantee Vietnams’ energy independence as China asserts a more prominent role in the region.” Of course, the last time the US sought to prevent Vietnam’s affiliation with a foreign superpower, the results were quite disastrous. One can only hope this time it’s different.

Some more on why Vietnam is not Iran:

“I have determined that the performance of the Agreement will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security,” Obama wrote in a memo for the secretaries of State and Energy.

And here is hypocrisy 101: “the deal aims to get Vietnam to import the fuel it needs for its reactors instead of producing it domestically. But it doesn’t bar the country from conducting its own uranium enrichment, raising concerns about nuclear proliferation.”

In other words, what the US allows Vietnam to do, just because it serves its own set of interests of Chinese sphere of influence containment, it will not allow Iran to do, just because Israel is still on the fences about whether the intentions of its latest weapons client are pure. “The agreement is also seen as a potential complicating factor in the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. Iran has repeatedly accused nuclear powers, and the United States in particular, of a double standard in terms of which nations are allowed to run nuclear programs that are allegedly for civilian purposes only.”

Then again, all is fair in Realpolitik, as the world return to a multi-polar theater, and in which the US is increasingly losing its superpower relevance.


    



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Tesla Plans To Build World’s Biggest Battery Factory

Submitted by Joao Peixe via OilPrice.com,

Tesla is set to announce a plan this week to build the world’s largest battery factory. The plan will include the involvement of Panasonic and other partners, and it will be so big that Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk is calling it a “gigafactory.”

The motivation for building the factory is multiple. Tesla has struggled to secure a reliable supply of batteries, and building a large facility will allow it to be able to build its own – a step towards vertically integrating Tesla’s electric vehicle business. Tesla could also sell batteries to other EV companies, as well as sell batteries for storing energy storage from renewable sources. This would provide alternative revenue streams for a company that has thus far focused solely on the luxury car market.

The impact on the EV market could be huge. Tesla’s factory, which could cost $2 billion to $5 billion, would be able to churn out 30 gigawatts of production capacity each year. The gigafactory would not only be the largest battery plant in the world, but would more or less equal all global output combined. This could dramatically lower the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, typically one of the costliest components. Bringing down battery costs will be key to making electric vehicles affordable for the mass market.

But the implications could go beyond the EV market. Renewable energy that is intermittent has been searching for a way to capture and store energy to be used in off hours. Tesla’s gigafactory could bring down the cost of energy storage, allowing solar energy to be discharged at night and wind power to be used during calm hours. SolarCity, of which Elon Musk is the largest shareholder, would purchase Tesla batteries for its solar systems.

The location of the gigafactory has not yet been announced, but Musk said it would include lots of solar and wind to power it, leading many analysts to assume somewhere in the southwest U.S., such as New Mexico.


    



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Case Shiller Has Second Consecutive Monthly Decline, Warns Of “Bleaker Picture For Housing”, Momentum Gone

While the sell-side community urgently continues to pimp Seasonally Adjusted Case Shiller data, despite the Case-Shiller index creators’ own wishes that NSA data be used, it is becoming increasingly difficult to mask the fact that home price momentum is fading. This is precisely what one sees when looking at the change in unadjusted prices, which in December posted the second sequential decline in a row, dropping by -0.08%, following a -0.05% drop in November for the 20-City Composite index, and the biggest sequential decline since November 2012. The annual increase of 13.42% was in line with the expected 13.4%, and was the third month in a row of declines in annual house prices, something we have known for a while, and which the 2 month delayed Case Shiler index finally confirmed. Finally, we are grateful to Case Shiller for being the first to admit that it was not all the weather: “Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability.” Let’s hope there is no rain in the Spring and sun in the summer then as everything else is already bad and getting worse.

However most ominously, as the report itself confirmed, the upside momentum in home prices is all but gone.

In December, the 10-City Composite remained relatively unchanged while the 20-City Composite showed its second consecutive monthly decline of 0.1%. Year-over-year, the 10-City and 20-City Composites posted gains of 13.6% and 13.4%, approximately 30 basis points lower than their November rates. Chicago showed its highest year-over-year return since December 1988. Dallas set a new peak and posted its largest annual gain since its inception in 2000. Denver declined 0.1% and is now 0.7% below its all-time index level high set in September 2013

 

“The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index ended its best year since 2005,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “However, gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of the recovery in home values may be over. Year-over-year values for the two monthly Composites weakened and the quarterly National Index barely improved. The seasonally adjusted data also exhibit some softness and loss of momentum.

The geographic breakdown:

After 26 months of consecutive gains, Phoenix posted -0.3% for the month of December, its largest decline since March 2011. Phoenix once led the recovery from the bottom in 2012, but Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco were the top three performing cities of 2013 with gains of over 20%. The Sun Belt, with the exception of Dallas, Miami and Tampa, saw lower annual rates in December when compared to their November numbers. The six cities with the highest year-over-year figures saw their rates decline (Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and Detroit) and most cities ranked at the bottom improved (Denver, Washington and New York) – Charlotte and Cleveland were the two exceptions.

And the bleak conclusion:

Recent economic reports suggest a bleaker picture for housing. Existing home sales fell 5.1% in January from December to the slowest pace in over a year. Permits for new residential construction and housing starts were both down and below expectations. Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability. Mortgage default rates, as shown by the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Index, are back to their pre-crisis levels but bank lending standards remain strict.”

Source: Case Shiller


    



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Gold At 4 Month High – Concerns About China Property Bubble Grow

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,332.75, EUR 969.48 and GBP 798.53 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,333.00, EUR 968.54 and GBP 800.46 per ounce.   

Gold climbed $14.30 or 1.08% yesterday to $1,337.80/oz. Silver rose $0.20 or 0.92% at $21.01/oz.

Webinar: Gerald Celente On Strategies For Protecting Your Wealth In 2014 And Beyond
Join Gerald Celente on this broadcast as he examines the opportunities in 2014 and in the coming uncertain years.



Gold in Euros, 5 Year – (Bloomberg)

Gold is marginally lower in all currencies today but holding near its strongest level in four months. Concerns about the possibility of the Chinese property bubble bursting affecting economic growth in China and the world is supporting gold.  Nervousness over Ukraine, after new acting President Turchinov warned Ukraine is close to default, is also supportive of gold at these levels.

Geopolitical risk has increased as seen in the deepening tensions between the U.S., EU and Russia and is not going to disappear anytime soon. Gold eased 0.15% to $1,335 an ounce after rising as high as $1,338.60 yesterday, its strongest since late October.

Chinese shares plunged in recent days and the Shanghai Composite Index is down 7% in less than a week over fears of a property bubble and the continued depreciation of the Chinese yuan.

Real estate stocks led the fall after media reports over the weekend said that real estate developers lowered house prices and banks halted  loans to some real estate businesses.

Government data released on Monday showed home prices dropped month on month in more Chinese cities in January. This should contribute to continuing store of wealth demand from buyers in China.

Indian and Indonesian buyers purchased gold bars. “We are seeing some buying, and there are purchases from India. Other clients are still buying some quantity, about 20 to 30 kilos each time,” a gold dealer in Singapore told Reuters. Premiums on gold bars in Singapore remain healthy at  $1.20 to $1.50 an ounce.

The increase in gold ETF holdings could also reflect renewed interest from investors. SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold exchange traded fund, said its holdings rose 0.41% to 801.61 tonnes on Monday from 798.31 tonnes on Friday.

Gold has risen more than 11% this year in dollar terms, 10% in euro terms and 9.1% in pound terms due to renewed safe haven demand.

Webinar: Gerald Celente On Strategies For Protecting Your Wealth In 2014 And Beyond
Join Gerald Celente on this broadcast as he examines the opportunities in 2014 and in the coming uncertain years.

Gerald Celente needs little introduction: Founder of The Trends Research Institute in 1980, Gerald Celente is a pioneer trend strategist. He is author of the national bestseller Trends 2000 and Trend Tracking (Warner Books) and publisher of the internationally circulated Trends Journal newsletter.

Celente’s Trends Research Institute has been featured on Oprah Winfrey amongst hundreds of media interviews and credited with forecasting many major geopolitical and economic trends.

These include the “Panic of ’08,” the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dot-com bust, the 1997 Asian currency crisis, the 1987 world stock market crash, increased terrorism against America, “Crusades 2000,” and the quagmire in Iraq … before war began and the last two recessions.

This webinar is scheduled for tomorrow – Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 20:00 GMT/12:00 PST/15:00 EST and will be moderated by Mark O’Byrne, Head of Research at GoldCore.


    



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