Information About Fatal Police Shooting of Army Vet Won’t Be Available for Up to a Year, Calif. Police Department Says

shot by copsPolice in Lodi, California shot and killed
Parminder Singh Shergill, a Gulf War veteran whose family says he
suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, while he was walking
with his mother and brother down the street on which he lived.
Police say Shergill was carrying a knife and charged at cops before
they shot, an account disputed by witnesses.
The San Francisco Bee reports
:

A “protocol team,” including representatives of the San
Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the state Department of
Justice and the Lodi Police Department are investigating the matter
to determine if the shooting was justified, said police spokesman
Lt. Sierra Brucia. Results may not be available for “up to a year,”
Brucia said this week. He said no further information will be
available until the probe is complete.

Mark Merin, a Sacramento civil rights lawyer who is representing
Shergill’s family, filed a tort claim Thursday against the city of
Lodi, a precursor to a lawsuit that will allege the killing
violated Shergill’s constitutional right “to be free from excessive
force” and his “substantive due-process rights to life and
liberty.”

The family’s lawsuit will also claim the police department did
not properly “train” the officers who killed Shergill. Their
attorney claims the department has shown a lack of transparency,
and not disclosed information they should have. The attorney hopes
the lawsuit will make it possible to obtain that information. The
Sacramento Bee wondered about First Amendment implications
of the police department’s intransigence and found out from the
vice president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center
that there’s “nothing new about agencies not wanting to disclose
information,” especially, naturally, in high profile cases.

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What Changed At 1035ET?

Just as we saw yesterday, US equities have decoupled from FX carry but not long after POMO started something very odd happened… at 1035ET, shorts started piling on…

 

 

So what happens next? Manufacture a short squeeze which lifts the S&P 500 to unchanged for 2014 (aroun 0.75% higher from here) or so the indices catch down to FX carry weakness?


    



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Subprime Mortgages are Back…This Time Marketed as “Second Chance Purchase Programs”

With interest rates up sharply from the lows and Blackstone and other private equity firms holding billions of dollars with of properties with no one to sell to, the time is ripe for a little muppet fleecing. Leading the charge to find new tax-payer backed subprime loans to take some properties off the hands of Mr. Schwarzman is none other than Wells Fargo. I previously forecasted this in my piece: Stage Two of the Housing Bubble Begins: Blackstone to Lend to Others for “Buy to Rent.”

They aren’t the only ones though. Citadel Servicing Corp, the country’s biggest subprime lender, is also getting in the action. The best and worst part of this story is the way these new loans are being marketed. Specifically, as ”Low Credit Score Debt Consolidation Program” as well as a “Second Chance Purchase Program.”

Time to chop up up the muppets again. Thank you Wells Fargo.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, is tiptoeing back into subprime home loans again.

The bank is looking for opportunities to stem its revenue decline as overall mortgage lending volume plunges. It believes it has worked through enough of its crisis-era mortgage problems, particularly with U.S. home loan agencies, to be comfortable extending credit to some borrowers with higher credit risks.

So far few other big banks seem poised to follow Wells Fargo’s lead, but some smaller companies outside the banking system, such as Citadel Servicing Corp, are already ramping up their subprime lending. To avoid the taint associated with the word “subprime,” lenders are calling their loans “another chance mortgages” or “alternative mortgage programs.”

It is looking at customers with credit scores as low as 600. Its prior limit was 640, which is often seen as the cutoff point between prime and subprime borrowers. U.S. credit scores range from 300 to 850.

continue reading

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Bank Of America: “Our Bearish View On The S&P500 Was Wrong”

"Our bearish view on the S&P 500 is wrong," remarks BofAML's Macneil Curry, as yesterday's close above 1,823 points to the larger uptrend resuming. However, despite the equity strength, Curry says "stay bullish Treasuries" as price action points to further gains. The USD's bullish trend is at risk and pressured by silver strength.

 

Via BofAML's Macneil Curry,

Our bearish S&P500 view is wrong. Further gains in store. 

Up until yesterday we had been bearish risk assets and the S&P500.Yesterday's close above 1823 (top of the daily cloud) says that view is WRONG and that the larger uptrend has resumed. Indeed the daily Bullish Engulfing Candle against the pivotal 50d avg (1811) provides further bullish evidence for a test of the mid-Jan highs at 1851, through which opens 28m channel resistance at 1872. Back below the 50d on a closing basis points to a more choppy environment than currently thought. 

Stay bullish Treasuries

Despite the turn higher in equities, the price action in Treasuries says STAY BULLISH. Looking specifically at 5yr yields and TYH4, the impulsive moves from Feb-03 extremes at 1.582% & 125-03 say that the month to date correction is finished and that the larger bull trend is resuming. Further supportive of this view is the fact that the overnight pullback in TYH4 from 125-31 (and 1.482% in 5yr yields) has unfolded in a counter trend manner. NOW, watch key resistance in 5yr and 10yr yields at 1.470% & 2.692%, respectively. Below these levels provides further evidence that the bull trend is resuming. In TYH4 we would like to see a daily close above the overnight high at 125-31. Through these levels target a test and break of the 200d in 5s (1.380%), 126-25 (Oct-30 high in TYH4) and 2.544% in 10s. our bullish view is wrong thru 1.582% (5s), 125-03 (TYH4) and 2.788% (10s).

The US $ is at risk, especially against £

We have been bullish the US $ Index, looking for topping in both £/$ and €/$. That bullish US $ view is NOW on the ropes as the repeated failure of the US $ to stage a rally warns off significant underlying weakness. Indeed a DXY break of 79.68 (Dec-27 low) and a €/$ break of 1.3737 (Dec-27 high) would invalidate our bullish US $ view. However, probably the most important level to watch is the £/$ Apr'11 high at 1.6748. With daily RSI breaking out a closing break of 1.6748 would clear the way for the Aug'09 highs at 1.7044 

The Silver breakout adds to the US $ woes

Adding to the US $ woes is the recent strength in precious metals. 1st it was gold, now it is silver. Today's spot silver break of 3m range highs and 7m pivot between 20.62/20.51 points to a medium term base and further gains to 22.40/23.09


    



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Bank Of America: "Our Bearish View On The S&P500 Was Wrong"

"Our bearish view on the S&P 500 is wrong," remarks BofAML's Macneil Curry, as yesterday's close above 1,823 points to the larger uptrend resuming. However, despite the equity strength, Curry says "stay bullish Treasuries" as price action points to further gains. The USD's bullish trend is at risk and pressured by silver strength.

 

Via BofAML's Macneil Curry,

Our bearish S&P500 view is wrong. Further gains in store. 

Up until yesterday we had been bearish risk assets and the S&P500.Yesterday's close above 1823 (top of the daily cloud) says that view is WRONG and that the larger uptrend has resumed. Indeed the daily Bullish Engulfing Candle against the pivotal 50d avg (1811) provides further bullish evidence for a test of the mid-Jan highs at 1851, through which opens 28m channel resistance at 1872. Back below the 50d on a closing basis points to a more choppy environment than currently thought. 

Stay bullish Treasuries

Despite the turn higher in equities, the price action in Treasuries says STAY BULLISH. Looking specifically at 5yr yields and TYH4, the impulsive moves from Feb-03 extremes at 1.582% & 125-03 say that the month to date correction is finished and that the larger bull trend is resuming. Further supportive of this view is the fact that the overnight pullback in TYH4 from 125-31 (and 1.482% in 5yr yields) has unfolded in a counter trend manner. NOW, watch key resistance in 5yr and 10yr yields at 1.470% & 2.692%, respectively. Below these levels provides further evidence that the bull trend is resuming. In TYH4 we would like to see a daily close above the overnight high at 125-31. Through these levels target a test and break of the 200d in 5s (1.380%), 126-25 (Oct-30 high in TYH4) and 2.544% in 10s. our bullish view is wrong thru 1.582% (5s), 125-03 (TYH4) and 2.788% (10s).

The US $ is at risk, especially against £

We have been bullish the US $ Index, looking for topping in both £/$ and €/$. That bullish US $ view is NOW on the ropes as the repeated failure of the US $ to stage a rally warns off significant underlying weakness. Indeed a DXY break of 79.68 (Dec-27 low) and a €/$ break of 1.3737 (Dec-27 high) would invalidate our bullish US $ view. However, probably the most important level to watch is the £/$ Apr'11 high at 1.6748. With daily RSI breaking out a closing break of 1.6748 would clear the way for the Aug'09 highs at 1.7044 

The Silver breakout adds to the US $ woes

Adding to the US $ woes is the recent strength in precious metals. 1st it was gold, now it is silver. Today's spot silver break of 3m range highs and 7m pivot between 20.62/20.51 points to a medium term base and further gains to 22.40/23.09


    



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Totalitarian government at work

February 13, 2014
Santiago, Chile

The IRS scandal caused a massive uproar last year when it was revealed that the agency was deliberately targeting non-profit political groups solely based on their names or political themes.

One of those groups was called True the Vote, a grassroots, non-partisan organization that recruits and trains volunteers to monitor elections.

The founder and president of True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht, recently gave testimony to the House Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs in which she revealed how the US government used mafia tactics to go after her, her organization, family, and her private business.

As she explained, before founding her non-profit organization a few years ago, her life was ordinary.

Since founding it, though, she has been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies ranging from the IRS, FBI, the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives, etc.

In 2012, her business was subjected to inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). And even though the agency said it found no significant irregularities, it still issued a fine of $20,000.

The FBI even investigated her non-profit organization on SIX separate occasions in conjunction with domestic terrorism cases.

This is sickening. While her only ‘crime’ was to try to make the government more transparent, the government went out of its way to ruin her.

She tells her story in a quick seven-minute account. It’s a chilling reminder of what happens when you challenge the state.

I encourage you to watch Catherine Engelbrbecht’s brief testimony here.

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25 Years After the Fatwa

Today is the 25th anniversary of the fatwa against Salman
Rushdie. Brendan O’Neill has marked the occasion with a
contrarian essay
that condemns the censors of the Islamic world
but also argues that “the true motor of the culture of
offence-taking and censorship today” is actually “moral cowardice
among the cultural elites of the West, not moral fury on the part
of Muslim groups.” Here’s the core of his argument:

I saw Salman Rushdie at McDonald's at midnight.When Western publishing houses and theatres
do hold back from publishing or displaying material critical of
Muslims, often it isn’t because massive mobs have been hammering on
their doors but rather because they themselves feel uncomfortable
with expressing strong, possibly offensive opinions. So in 2008,
Random House decided not to publish Sherry Jones’ novel The
Jewel of Medina
, which tells the story of the Prophet
Muhammad’s relationship with his 14-year-old wife Aisha, after one
academic reader said it ‘might be offensive to some in the Muslim
community’. Both the London Barbican and Royal Court Theatre have
in recent years cut or cancelled plays critical of Islam on the
entirely pre-emptive basis that they might stir up Muslim
anger. In each case, it wasn’t threats from agitated Muslims that
caused the censorship—rather, elite fear of the spectre of agitated
Muslims generated self-censorship. Today’s concern about what
‘might be offensive’ to Muslims is best understood as an
externalisation of the cultural elite’s own internal doubts about
art, politics and debate, a projection of their own uncertainty
about what is sayable and unsayable on to an imagined mass of
seething Muslims.

In essence, what the fatwa has provided over the past 25 years is a
justification for the cowardice of the West’s own gatekeepers of
knowledge and publishers of literature, who, feeling increasingly
unsure about what can be said and depicted in this era of
multiculturalism, cultural sensitivity and professional
offence-taking, often display an instinctive urge to hold back, to
pulp, to unpublish….And of course, this in turn inflames some
Muslim groups’ belief that they have the right to surround
themselves with a forcefield against offence.

I’m wary of efforts to determine a single “true motor” for any
historical development, but I think O’Neill has certainly
identified an important motor. And his point about
projection is well-taken. It doesn’t take much imagination to think
of other times a process like this has been at work—in the attempt,
say, to respond to Benghazi by suppressing
a movie
.

Bonus link: Our interview
with Rushdie.

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Steven Greenhut: California Pols Blame BB Guns, Not Militarized Cops

One of last year’s heartbreaking stories involved
13-year-old Andy Lopez, who was shot to death by a Sonoma County
deputy sheriff in October after the deputy spotted him carrying a
realistic-looking pellet gun. Deputy Erick Gelhaus said he called
on Lopez to drop the gun, and shot him seven times as the boy
turned toward the officer with the barrel of the gun rising. Steven
Greenhut says that given the high-profile nature of the Lopez case,
one would expect the legislature to weigh in, especially given a
number of other recent and troubling use-of-force incidents. But as
often happens, legislators have come up with
a “solution” that skirts the main issue.

View this article.

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The Crisis Circle Is Complete: Wells Fargo Returns To Subprime

Those of our readers focused on the state of the housing market will undoubtedly remember this chart we compiled using the data from the largest mortgage originator in the US, Wells Fargo. In case there is some confusion, as a result of rising interet rates (meaning the Fed is stuck in its attempts to push rats higher), the inability of the US consumer to purchase houses at artificially investor-inflated levels (meaning housing is now merely a hot potato flipfest between institutional investors A and B), and the end of the fourth dead-cat bounce in housing (meaning, well, self-explanatory), the bank’s primary business line – offering mortgages – is cratering.

So what is a bank with a limited target audience for its primary product to do? Why expand the audience of course. And in a move that is very much overdue considering all the other deranged aspects of the centrally-planned New Normal, in which all the mistakes of the last credit bubble are being repeated one after another, Reuters now reports that the California bank “is tiptoeing back into subprime home loans again.

And so the circle is complete.

For those  who may have forgotten the joys of a subprime lending bubble, here is a reminder from Reuters.

The bank is looking for opportunities to stem its revenue decline as overall mortgage lending volume plunges. It believes it has worked through enough of its crisis-era mortgage problems, particularly with U.S. home loan agencies, to be comfortable extending credit to some borrowers with higher credit risks.

 

The small steps from Wells Fargo could amount to a big change for the mortgage market. After the subprime mortgage bust brought the banking system to the brink of collapse in the financial crisis, banks have shied away from making home loans to anyone but the safest of consumers.

 

Any loosening of credit standards could boost housing demand from borrowers who have been forced to sit out the recovery in home prices in the past couple of years, but could also stoke fears that U.S. lenders will make the same mistakes that had triggered the crisis.

And in a world in which the new Wells Fargo is the old Wells Fargo, surely there will be companies willing to be the new New Century. Sure enough:

So far few other big banks seem poised to follow Wells Fargo’s lead, but some smaller companies outside the banking system, such as Citadel Servicing Corp, are already ramping up their subprime lending. To avoid the taint associated with the word “subprime,” lenders are calling their loans “another chance mortgages” or “alternative mortgage programs.”

Also, remember when lenders swore they were very conservative with who they make loans to, and their strict loan standards? Yup: that particular lie is also back.

Lenders say they are much stricter about the loans than before the crisis, when lending standards were so lax that many borrowers did not have to provide any proof of income. Borrowers must often make high down payments and provide detailed information about income, work histories and bill payments. Wells Fargo in recent weeks started targeting customers that can meet strict criteria, including demonstrating their ability to repay the loan and having a documented and reasonable explanation for why their credit scores are subprime.

Uh, there is a reason those borrowers are subprime. And it is: because they traditionally do not pay back their loans! But this appears to be one of those rocket surgery things that a strapped C-Suite has no choice but to confuse as it scrambles to compensate for structural revenue losses, and is willing to boost short-term revenues by offering anyone “who can fog a mirror” a mortgage. Surely, by the time the bank’s balance sheet implodes, it will be some other CEO’s problem.

It is looking at customers with credit scores as low as 600. Its prior limit was 640, which is often seen as the cutoff point between prime and subprime borrowers. U.S. credit scores range from 300 to 850.

But don’t worry, this time it’s different. Really

Subprime mortgages were at the center of the financial crisis, but many lenders believe that done with proper controls, the risks can be managed and the business can generate big profits.

Naturally, once Wells opens the floodgates, every other bank will promptly follow:

With Wells Fargo looking at loans to borrowers with weaker credit, “we believe the wall has begun to come down,” wrote Paul Miller, a bank analyst at FBR Capital Markets, in a research note.

 

Lenders have an ample incentive to try reaching further down the credit spectrum now. Rising mortgage rates since the middle of last year are expected to reduce total U.S. mortgage lending in 2014 by 36 percent to $1.12 trillion, the Mortgage Bankers Association forecasts, due to a big drop in refinancings.

The only missing pillar of the next subprime crisis is the spin that makes subprime lending seem not only ok, but in fact, necessary.

Some subprime lending can help banks, but it may also help the economy. In September 2012, then Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said housing had been the missing piston in the U.S. recovery.

 

A recent report from think tank the Urban Institute and Moody’s Analytics argued that a full recovery in the housing market “will only happen if there is stronger demand from first-time homebuyers. And we will not see the demand needed among this group if access to mortgage credit remains as tight as it is today.”

The straw on the camel’s back: just like last time, when this subprime bubble bursts, it will once again drag down Fannie and Freddie. Because humans apparently have a genetic inability to recall any historical lessons older than five years.

Wells Fargo isn’t just opening up the spigots. The bank is looking to lend to borrowers with weaker credit, but only if those mortgages can be guaranteed by the FHA, Codel said. Because the loans are backed by the government, Wells Fargo can package them into bonds and sell them to investors.

 

The funding of the loans is a key difference between Wells Fargo and other lenders: the big bank is packaging them into bonds and selling them to investors, but many of the smaller, nonbank lenders are making mortgages known as “nonqualified loans” that they are often holding on their books.

And not only the GSE: any and all idiots who buy subprime exposure direct, deserve all they get:

Citadel Servicing Corp, the country’s biggest subprime lender, is trying to change that. It plans to package the loans it has made into bonds and sell them to investors.

 

Citadel has lent money to people with credit scores as low as 490 – though they have to pay interest rates above 10 percent, far above the roughly 4.3 percent that prime borrowers pay now.

No story about subprime would be complete without the human touch, and one person’s story.

As conditions ease, borrowers are taking notice. Gary Goldberg, a 63-year-old automotive detailer, was denied loans to buy a house near Rancho Cucamonga, California. Last summer he was forced to move into a trailer park in Las Vegas.

 

Going from 2,000 square feet to 200 – along with his wife and two German shepherd dogs – was tough. He longed to buy a house. But a post-crash bankruptcy of his detailing business had torched his credit, taking his score from the 800s to the 500s.

 

“There was no way I was going to get a mortgage,” said Goldberg. “No bank would touch me.”

 

But in December, he moved into a 1,000-square-foot one-story home that he paid $205,000 for. His lender, Premiere Mortgage Lending, did not care about his bankruptcy or his subprime credit score. That is because Goldberg had a 30 percent down payment and was willing to pay an 8.9 percent interest rate.

Why what can possibly go wrong. Oh wait, we know: maybe the fact that Wells picked the absolutely worst moment to go in subprime – just as the broader housing market is about to take yet another steep plunge for the worse, as the recent foreclosure report from RealtyTrac confirmed, when it reported a dramatic 57% increase in California foreclosure starts from a year ago.

From RealtyTrac: “The monthly increase in January foreclosure activity was somewhat expected after a holiday lull, but the sharp annual increases in some states shows that many states are not completely out of the woods when it comes to cleaning up the wreckage of the housing bust,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “The foreclosure rebound pattern is not only showing up in judicial states like New Jersey, where foreclosure activity reached a 40-month high in January, but also some non-judicial states like California, where foreclosure starts jumped 57 percent from a year ago, following 17 consecutive months of annual decreases.”

In short – the party is over, and the banks are once again scrambling to delay the day of reckoning as much as possible.


    



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Peak Employment?

Submitted by Lance Roberts of STA Wealth Management,

 

"If we are creating between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs a month, how could we be at peak employment?"

The point is very valid and made me realize that a more apropos title would have been "Have We Reached Peak Employment GROWTH."  While it is very true that we are creating 150-200,000 jobs a month, it is also important that the working age population is growing each month either through natural births or immigration.  The chart below shows employment versus population growth.

Employment-population-growth-021314

Over the last 12 months, employment, as reported by the BLS has averaged 186,500 jobs per month while the working age population (16-54 years of age) has grown by 187,700 jobs.  In other words, employment is being created only by the incremental demand increases caused by population growth.

The issue of population growth is consistently overlooked when evaluating isolated jobs numbers.  By accounting for population growth, the monthly employment report is put into a contextual framework.  The chart below illustrates my point.

Employment-population-growth-021314-2

Prior to the turn of the century, employment accelerated faster than population growth.  However, beginning in 2000 the structural shift in employment began in earnest.  Outsourcing, increased productivity and technological innovations have contributed to slower rates of employment growth as the drive for profitability surged.

While my previous post generated many questions, the point was that there is a limit to employment growth in any given economic cycle.  It is also important to remember that economies do cycle.  Therefore, could the stagnation of employment growth be indicating a mature stage of the current economic cycle?

The Job Opening Labor and Turnover Survey (JOLTS) may provide some additional evidence to support the idea of "peak employment growth."  The chart below shows the ratio of job openings to hires.

JOLT-hires-openings-021314

As you would expect, there is an equilibrium where the number of individuals being hired matches the number of job openings.  At 90%, or above, the economy may be pushing the limits of full employment. 

The next chart shows Net Hires (new hires less total separations) versus employment growth.

JOLT-NetHires-Employment-021314

Again, as you would suspect, there is an equilibrium point where employment is "full" and job openings and hires are simply matching job separations caused by quits, discharges and layoffs.  This also brings up the point of "labor hoarding" as it relates to initial jobless claims.

Employers have slashed labor costs to the bone in order to maximize profitability.  This is why corporate profits are at their highest levels on record while wage and employment growth lag.  However, there is a point where businesses simply cannot cut any further and they begin to "hoard" what labor they have.  The focus then turns to maximizing the labor force's productivity (increase output with minimal increases in labor costs) and hire additional labor only when demand, such as through population growth, forces expansion.

It is this issue of "labor hoarding" which explains the sharp drop in initial weekly jobless claims.  In order to file for unemployment benefits, an individual must have been first terminated, by layoff or discharge, from their previous employer.  An individual who "quits" a job cannot, in theory, file for unemployment insurance.  However, as companies begin to layoff or discharge fewer workers the number of individuals filing for initial claims will decline.  This is shown in the chart below which shows the 4-month average of layoff and discharges versus the 4-week average of initial jobless claims.

labor-hoarding-021314

The "good news" is that for those that are currently employed – job safety is high.  Businesses are indeed hiring; but prefer to hire from the "currently employed" labor pool rather than the unemployed masses.  The "bad news" is that full-time employment remains elusive and wages remain suppressed due to the high competition for available work.

While the Federal Reserve's interventions continue to create a wealth effect for market participants, it is something only enjoyed primarily by those at the upper end of the pay scale.  For the rest of the country, the key issue is between the "have and have nots" – those that have a job and those that don't. 

While it is true that the country is creating jobs every month, the data may be suggesting it is "as good as it gets."  Of course, this is a very disappointing statement when you consider that roughly 1 in 3 people sit outside of the workforce, 20% of the population uses food stamps, and 100 million people access some form of welfare assistance.  The good news is, we aren't in a recession?


    



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