Monday, February 20, 2017

Futures: "Hedge funds hike bullish ag bets - spurring fears of grains selldown ahead"

We may be approaching the wilderness of mirrors where we become contrarian to the contrarians.
Of course that way lies madness but it might be profitable.
But not yet (it's a holiday until this evening)

Last Chg
Corn 375-4s-5-4
Soybeans 1043-2s-11-4
Wheat 455-4s-5-6

From Agrimoney, Feb. 20:

Hedge funds hiked their bullish bets in agricultural commodities near to the highest in nine months, led by a buying spree in grains – which commentators cautioned could herald revived selling pressure.
Managed money, a proxy for speculators, boosted its net long position in futures and options in the top 13 US-traded agricultural commodities, from corn to sugar, by 118,149 contracts in the week to last Tuesday, analysis of data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulator shows.

The increase in the net long – the extent to which long positions, which benefit when prices gain, exceed short bets which profit from price falls – left it at 796,016 lots, its highest since June last year and more than twice the levels heading into 2017.
The purchasing reflects a broadly more positive view of commodities, as investors bet on a recovery in inflation, to which raw materials are seen as offering some exposure.
"Funds have been situating themselves in long 'inflation' bets," said Water Street Solutions.
"But the fundamentals will need to catch up to their position," the ag advisory group added, in comments which some investors saw applying in particular to grains, which have seen prices buoyed by a wave of short-covering, which some commentators see as not proportionate to changes in world supply and demand factors alone.
'Negative for prices'
Indeed, in the latest week, hedge funds hiked their net long in grains, including the soybean complex, by 140,726 contracts – the biggest buying spree in nine months – to 378,611 lots
The purchasing was led by corn, in which managed money raised its net long by more than 56,000 contracts to a seven-month high of 85,360 lots,
Investors "bought well more contracts than expected in corn", said Terry Reilly at broker Futures International, a factor which could be viewed as a negative for prices in implying more buying pressure had been fulfilled than had been thought....MORE

"Returns on Negative Enterprise Value Stocks: Money for Nothing?"

This is a repost from a few years ago but still an interesting anomaly.

From the CFA Institute's Inside Investing blog:

Value investing is about finding and buying a bargain, a dollar selling for 70 cents or less. One of the most tantalizing apparent bargains offered by the stock market is the negative enterprise value (EV) stock: a stock that is trading for less than the net cash on the company’s balance sheet.1 Buying a negative EV stock seems like a no-lose proposition: Imagine a house selling for $1 million with a safe in the basement that contains $1.2 million in cash. Why would anyone offer up such a deal? If you find one, should you take it, or write it off as too good to be true?

To answer this question, I investigated the performance of all negative EV stocks trading in the United States between 30 March 1972 and 28 September 2012. I started with balance sheet data from Standard & Poor’s Compustat database and merged these data with price data from the database maintained by the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP). I then calculated historical enterprise values for every company every month, as well as matching forward 12-month returns. For example, Microsoft’s enterprise value on 31 August 2011 was $182 billion, and MSFT’s 12-month forward return from 31 August 2011 to 31 August 2012 was 19%. This is a total time-weighted return, including dividends and price appreciation.

The enterprise value is based on Microsoft’s 2011 Q4 report, which was released on 21 July 2011, making it 41 days old on 31 August 2011. The merging process ensures that all fundamental data have been published to the market at least five days before they are used in EV calculations so as to minimize look-ahead bias. After this math was done, I filtered the dataset to include only negative EV stocks.
I found 2,613 stocks that at one point or another traded at a negative enterprise value between 1972 and 2012 (Microsoft, unfortunately, was not among them). The list has one entry per stock-month. That is, a stock that has traded at a negative enterprise value three months in a row will appear on the list three times. Each time is a different investment opportunity with its own forward 12-month return. The average stock spent 10.17 months (not necessarily consecutive) in negative EV territory. Thus, the list shows a total of 26,569 opportunities to invest in negative EV stocks.

The average return across all 26,569 opportunities was 50.4%. That is, if you had diligently watched the market over the last 40 years and invested $1,000 into each negative EV stock each month, your average investment would be worth $1,504 after holding that investment for one year, not including trading costs, taxes, and so on. Not bad!...MORE
HT: Greenbackd

A Silicon Valley Political Fixer Is Reinventing Himself As A Trump Whisperer

A couple links for the intro.
Back in November, just after the U.S. election, the FT's Izabella Kaminska did a quick interview with Mr. Tusk.Worth one's time to watch.

And in 2015's "While the Cost of Stuff Declines, The Cost of Political Power Skyrockets":
...And why doesn't M. Andreessen accept bitcoin in payment?
Because it is not the coin of the realm he is actually interested in: The Political.

When the plebs are bought off with their $12,000/yr. guaranteed basic income (plus a smartphone) the things that will cost serious coin will be political access and law-making power.
And we're already on the way....
Here's a bonus, if interested: Silicon Valley Freakshow: "Silicon Valley’s Long History of Government Codependence".

From BuzzFeed:

A former aide to New York bigshots Chuck Schumer and Michael Bloomberg is now advising his tech clients on how to deal with the most powerful New Yorker of them all.
It might seem crazy now, with Silicon Valley bigwigs challenging the Trump administration in protests and in court, but there was a time not long ago when many tech leaders didn’t really care about politics.

For Bradley Tusk, a political consultant who made a fortune helping Uber win important regulatory battles, finding new tech clients was a challenge, he told BuzzFeed News recently.

“There was this mentality of, ‘Oh, I went to Stanford, I was in Y Combinator, John Doerr is on my board, and once this stupid regulator sees how smart I am, they’re going to do whatever I want,’” said Tusk, an ex-aide of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he sipped a latte at a Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco.

Now, President Donald Trump is on everyone’s mind, and Tusk is highly in demand. He had built up a stable of clients well before the election, with his firm, Tusk Ventures, advising fantasy sports site FanDuel and marijuana delivery startup Eaze, among others, on issues with state and local governments. But these days, as the frenzied first weeks of the Trump administration have sown anxiety in Silicon Valley, Tusk has largely shifted his focus to Washington.

Last week, he sent a memo to clients outlining a strategy for dealing with Trump, advising them to take a deep breath and think before engaging in political protest. Taking a stand against Trump might be the right choice, Tusk said, but only if it makes business sense.

“If the business demands immediate action, that’s one thing. If it’s your conscience, that’s another,” he wrote in the memo. Pressure from the media or even from employees, he added, wouldn’t necessarily be a sufficient reason to speak out, especially if it would create other problems.

The memo came just days after Tusk’s flagship client, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, resigned from President Trump’s economic advisory council. More than 200,000 Uber customers had deleted their accounts, according to The New York Times, after the ride-hailing company was accused of trying to undermine a taxi strike over Trump’s immigration order. Uber also came under pressure from employees and drivers, many of whom are immigrants. Kalanick’s resignation from the advisory council contrasted with the decision of another tech titan, Elon Musk, to stay there.

“This is one of those cases where the symbolism and the emotion on both sides of it took everything in such an incredible direction that people like Travis, like Elon, who are pretty well intentioned, and are saying, ‘O.K., let’s see if we can help things,’ got put in a really, really impossible position,” Tusk told BuzzFeed News. “And they’re handling it in different ways. But that’s kind of why I wrote this memo.”

Tusk said Kalanick made the right decision in this case, but he expressed regret that it had to be that way. “I think Travis joined the council for the right reasons,” Tusk said. “You’re far better off affecting policy if you’re in the room.”

Tusk himself has been in the room plenty of times before, as communications director for Senator Charles Schumer, as deputy governor of Illinois, and as the manager of Michael Bloomberg’s final mayoral campaign in New York City. And he’d probably be back in the room now, had election season gone differently.

About a year ago, when his former boss Bloomberg was considering a presidential run, Tusk was meeting with Silicon Valley leaders to sketch out a campaign plan. Bloomberg had widespread support in tech; one venture capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya, said he would take a break from his day job to help the billionaire technocrat get elected. Tusk even discussed a plan to enlist contract workers of the “sharing economy” as foot soldiers of the campaign.

This might have involved “Uber drivers taking Americans to the polls, DoorDash workers, when they’re inside someone’s building, handing out lit for us,” Tusk said. “It’s really, because people are independent contractors, saying, ‘Look, if you like Mike Bloomberg, we will pay you x amount of money — probably more than they were getting paid in their other job — to work for us.”...MORE
One more link:
"Capturing Political Alpha"

"What makes the perfect office?"

From Tim Harford:
In 1923, the father of modern architecture, Le Corbusier, was commissioned by a French industrialist to design some homes for workers in his factory near Bordeaux. Le Corbusier duly delivered brightly-hued concrete blocks of pure modernism. The humble factory workers did not take to Le Corbusier’s visionary geometry. They added rustic shutters, pitched roofs, and picket-fenced gardens. And they decorated the gardens in the least modernist way imaginable: with gnomes.

Companies no longer hire star architects to design housing for an industrial workforce. The architects are instead put to work producing the most magazine-shoot worthy office spaces. A pioneer was the uber-cool advertising agency, Chiat-Day, which in 1993 hired the playful Italian architect Gaetano Pesce to create a New York space for them (hot-lips mural, luminous floor, spring-loaded chairs). Their Los Angeles office (four-storey binoculars, brainstorming pods commandeered from fairground rides) was designed by Frank Gehry, whom Chiat-Day’s boss, Jay Chiat, had spotted before Gehry created the Guggenheim Bilbao and became the most famous architect on the planet.

Jay Chiat believed that design was for the professionals. Give workers control over their own space and they would simply clutter up Frank Gehry’s vision, so Jay Chiat decreed that his employees be given tiny lockers for “their dog pictures, or whatever”.

Now everyone is hiring the high priests of architecture. Google has asked Thomas Heatherwick, creator of the 2012 Olympic torch, to create a new Googleplex. Apple’s new headquarters will be a gigantic glass donut over a mile around, designed by Norman Foster and partners.

The most famous corporate architect was not an architect at all: the late Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple, owned much of the film studio Pixar and stamped his taste all over Pixar’s headquarters. Jobs pored over the finest details, choosing an Arkansas steel mill that produced steels of the perfect hue (bolted, not welded).

Jobs believed that a building could shape the way people interacted with each other, and hit upon the notion that Pixar would have just a single pair of washrooms, just off the main lobby. Every time nature called, there was only one place for the entire company to go, and serendipitous new connections would be made.

But what if all these efforts are basically repeating Le Corbusier’s error? What if the ideal office isn’t the coolest or the most aesthetically visionary? What if the ideal office is the one, dog pictures and gnomes and all, that workers make their own?

In 2010, two psychologists conducted an experiment to test that idea. Alex Haslam and Craig Knight set up simple office spaces where they asked experimental subjects to spend an hour doing simple administrative tasks. Haslam and Knight wanted to understand what sort of office space made people productive and happy, and they tested four different layouts....MORE
HT: naked capitalism-but since it wasn't tagged as to which day here's the homepage.

Here's the President's office in the Élysée.
Definitely not Le Corbusier. No garden gnomes either.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Industrial Revolution Comparisons Aren't Comforting"

Partly because of Eddington's Arrow of Time, at least in the mundane everyday experience, we only have one economic history dataset to work with. Because of this I used to argue with people who said this time will be like the last time but found that approach neither satisfying nor enlightening. I don't argue anymore, I just observe, like a kid watching a bug and wonder where the almost metaphysical certitude would be coming from, because, truth be told, nobody knows how this all works out.
Which I think is the point of this mini-essay.

From Tyler Cowen at BloombergView
“Why should it be different this time?” That’s the most common response I hear when I raise concerns about automation and the future of jobs, and it’s a pretty simple rejoinder. The Western world managed the shift out of agricultural jobs into industry, and continued to see economic growth. So will not the jobs being displaced now by automation and artificial intelligence lead to new jobs elsewhere in a broadly similar and beneficial manner? Will not the former truck drivers, displaced by self-driving vehicles, find work caring for the elderly or maybe fixing or programming the new modes of transport?

As economics, that may well be correct, but as history it’s missing some central problems. The shift out of agricultural jobs, while eventually a boon for virtually all of humanity, brought significant problems along the way. This time probably won’t be different, and that’s exactly why we should be concerned.

Consider, for instance, the history of wages during the Industrial Revolution. Estimates vary, but it is common to treat the Industrial Revolution as starting around 1760, at least in Britain. If we consider estimates for private per capita consumption, from 1760 to 1831, that variable rose only by about 22 percent. That’s not much for a 71-year period. A lot of new wealth was being created, but economic turmoil and adjustment costs and war kept down the returns to labor. (If you’re wondering, “Don’t fight a major war” is the big policy lesson from this period, but also note that the setting for labor market adjustments is never ideal.)

By the estimates of Gregory Clark, economic historian at the University of California at Davis, English real wages may have fallen about 10 percent from 1770 to 1810, a 40-year period. Clark also estimates that it took 60 to 70 years of transition, after the onset of industrialization, for English workers to see sustained real wage gains at all....MORE

"Week Ahead: Number One Rule of the Game is Stay in the Game"

From Marc to Market:
The week ahead is short on economic data and long on anticipation.  It could make for some choppy price action.  The dollar's uptrend of the first part of the month yielded to corrective forces last week, though the greenback finished the week on a firm note.  Even among dollar bulls, the near-term outlook for the dollar is not clear.  However, many, including ourselves, remain bullish over the medium-term.  

President Trump is expected to provide details of his tax plan when he addresses both houses of Congress at the end of the month.   Remember, many economists has argued that the border adjustment would "automatically" send the dollar sharply higher.  Also, lowering corporate tax schedules may get the headlines, but it is the effective tax rate that is key.  Will loopholes by closed?  Will it be revenue neutral, as scored by nonpartisans such as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)?  Will debt servicing remain tax deductible?  

We are persuaded that the reason that capital expenditures are not more robust is not that interest rates are too high or that businesses do not have access to capital.  Therefore, even if tax reform boosted after-tax profits, it would not necessarily boost investment or growth or employment. It would more likely boost returns to shareholders by funding share buyback programs and dividend payouts.  

The US President bemoans the poor economy he inherited.  The New York Fed's GDP tracker see Q1 growth a little more than 3%, while the Atlanta Fed's model is a little below 2.5%.  The point is that after a little disappointment in Q4 16, when the US economy appears to have grown at what the Fed regards as the sustainable pace (~1.8%), the economy appears to have re-accelerated.  Practically every economic report last week, including consumer prices, retail sales, and industrial production, and the Empire and Philly February surveys, were above expectations.  

The Fed's leadership--Yellen, Fischer, and Dudley--sounded increasingly confident about the trajectory of the economy and prices.   While a March hike may seem soon, but May is looking particularly interesting.  As we have argued, the Fed is a bit hamstrung by its own transparency measures.  It has regularly scheduled quarterly press conferences, which are used to explain policy and policy views (economic projections).  In effect, this halves the number of "live" meetings to four. As the pace of normalization is poised to accelerate, it is clearly in the Fed's interest to re-animate, as it were, the other half.  

To do so requires the Fed to raise raises at a non-quarterly meeting, and May is next to such opportunity.  Others are drawing the same conclusion from the Fed's comments, especially Yellen's testimony.  Last week, the implied yield on the March Fed funds futures contract ticked up one basis point to 0.69% yield.  The implied yield on the May contract rose 3.5 bp to 0.785%.  The June contract's implied yield rose three basis points to 0.85%....  

"Workmen's cafe overwhelmed with customers after it is accidentally awarded a Michelin star"

From The Telegraph, Feb. 19:
 Customers looking for a fine dining experience were surprised when they turned up to find the cheap and cheerful cafe in Bourges, central France
A workmen’s café in central France was overwhelmed with gourmet customers and TV crews after it was awarded a Michelin star by mistake.

Prospective diners were astounded when they turned up at Le Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot tablecloths, serving a fixed price lunch menu with homemade lasagna or beef bourguignon for about €10 (£8.50).

The Michelin Guide apologised, saying it had confused the café with a more refined establishment of the same name near Paris. The listing was changed on its website, but not until two days later.

Véronique Jacquet, who runs the café, said it had a regular clientèle of local tradesmen.
“Suddenly, we were rushed off our feet," she said. "Reporters were coming in and then my son phoned me from Paris, where he lives. He almost died laughing.”...MORE 
It need not have been a disaster for the wannabe diners. If they had a lot of pull they could dash down to Roanne to the 3-star the Troisgros clan has been running for 60 years.

Airbnb May Have a Real Problem: 50,000 Unit Landlord Is Suing Them

It's one thing to flout city ordinances.
It is a completely different matter to mess with the property owners.
As noted in last week's "A Lone Data Whiz Is Fighting Airbnb — and Winning":
Yeah, most buildings frown on tenants setting up mini-hotels or BnB's or whatever....
From The Verge:

US landlord AIMCO is suing Airbnb because its renters are breaking their leases
This is the first time Airbnb has been sued by a landlord 
Apartment Investment & Management Company (AIMCO), one of the largest owners and operators of apartments in the United States, has filed a pair of lawsuits in Florida and California against short-term rental site Airbnb, alleging that it helps tenants violate their leases and that it creates unsafe conditions for other renters. 

AIMCO owns or manages around 50,000 apartments in 23 states across the US. “Short-term rental arrangements, whether through Airbnb or otherwise, are expressly prohibited by Aimco's lease agreements,” according to a release by the company, and is seeking an unspecified amount of money in damages. 

While Airbnb has mounted legal challenges and faced legislation from major cities such as New York City and San Francisco, this is the first time that a landlord has sued the company, according to The Wall Street Journal.....MORE 
Airbnb's Nick Papas, speaking for the $30 billion valuation company said:

“This attack on the middle class by powerful interests is wholly without merit...”

AIMCO's market cap is $7.41billion, enterprise value 11.58 billion.
See also Feb. 14's "Airbnb Wants to Spend Some of the $3 Billion It’s Sitting On".

Mokyr: "How Europe became so rich"

Because Dutch is the language of love?
Then I give up. How did Europe become so rich?

From Aeon:
Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction (1656) by Johannes Lingelbach. 
Photo courtesy The Amsterdam Museum/Wikipedia

In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?
How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? Learned tomes by historians, economists, political scientists and other scholars fill many bookshelves with explanations of how and why the process of modern economic growth or ‘the Great Enrichment’ exploded in western Europe in the 18th century. One of the oldest and most persuasive explanations is the long political fragmentation of Europe. For centuries, no ruler had ever been able to unite Europe the way the Mongols and the Mings had united China.

It should be emphasised that Europe’s success was not the result of any inherent superiority of European (much less Christian) culture. It was rather what is known as a classical emergent property, a complex and unintended outcome of simpler interactions on the whole. The modern European economic miracle was the result of contingent institutional outcomes. It was neither designed nor planned. But it happened, and once it began, it generated a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable.

How did this work? In brief, Europe’s political fragmentation spurred productive competition. It meant that European rulers found themselves competing for the best and most productive intellectuals and artisans. The economic historian Eric L Jones called this ‘the States system’. The costs of European political division into multiple competing states were substantial: they included almost incessant warfare, protectionism, and other coordination failures. Many scholars now believe, however, that in the long run the benefits of competing states might have been larger than the costs. In particular, the existence of multiple competing states encouraged scientific and technological innovation.

The idea that European political fragmentation, despite its evident costs, also brought great benefits, enjoys a distinguished lineage. In the closing chapter of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1789), Edward Gibbon wrote: ‘Europe is now divided into 12 powerful, though unequal, kingdoms.’ Three of them he called ‘respectable commonwealths’, the rest ‘a variety of smaller, though independent, states’. The ‘abuses of tyranny are restrained by the mutual influence of fear and shame’, Gibbon wrote, adding that ‘republics have acquired order and stability; monarchies have imbibed the principles of freedom, or, at least, of moderation; and some sense of honour and justice is introduced into the most defective constitutions by the general manners of the times.’

In other words, the rivalries between the states, and their examples to one another, also meliorated some of the worst possibilities of political authoritarianism. Gibbon added that ‘in peace, the progress of knowledge and industry is accelerated by the emulation of so many active rivals’. Other Enlightenment writers, David Hume and Immanuel Kant for example, saw it the same way. From the early 18th-century reforms of Russia’s Peter the Great, to the United States’ panicked technological mobilisation in response to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, interstate competition was a powerful economic mover. More important, perhaps, the ‘states system’ constrained the ability of political and religious authorities to control intellectual innovation. If conservative rulers clamped down on heretical and subversive (that is, original and creative) thought, their smartest citizens would just go elsewhere (as many of them, indeed, did).

A possible objection to this view is that political fragmentation was not enough. The Indian subcontinent and the Middle East were fragmented for much of their history, and Africa even more so, yet they did not experience a Great Enrichment. Clearly, more was needed. The size of the ‘market’ that intellectual and technological innovators faced was one element of scientific and technological development that has not perhaps received as much attention it should. In 1769, for example, Matthew Boulton wrote to his partner James Watt: ‘It is not worth my while to manufacture [your engine] for three counties only; but I find it very well worth my while to make it for all the world.’

What was true for steam engines was equally true for books and essays on astronomy, medicine and mathematics. Writing such a book involved fixed costs, and so the size of the market mattered. If fragmentation meant that the constituency of each innovator was small, it would have dampened the incentives.

In early modern Europe, however, political and religious fragmentation did not mean small audiences for intellectual innovators. Political fragmentation existed alongside a remarkable intellectual and cultural unity. Europe offered a more or less integrated market for ideas, a continent-wide network of learned men and women, in which new ideas were distributed and circulated. European cultural unity was rooted in its classical heritage and, among intellectuals, the widespread use of Latin as their lingua franca. The structure of the medieval Christian Church also provided an element shared throughout the continent. Indeed, long before the term ‘Europe’ was commonly used, it was called ‘Christendom’.

While for much of the Middle Ages the intensity of intellectual activity (in terms of both the number of participants and the heatedness of the debates) was light compared to what it was to become, after 1500 it was transnational. In early modern Europe, national boundaries mattered little in the thin but lively and mobile community of intellectuals in Europe. Despite slow and uncomfortable travel, many of Europe’s leading intellectuals moved back and forth between states. Both the Valencia-born Juan Luis Vives and the Rotterdam-born Desiderius Erasmus, two of the most prominent leaders of 16th-century European humanism, embodied the footloose quality of Europe’s leading thinkers: Vives studied in Paris, lived most of his life in Flanders, but was also a member of Corpus Christi College in Oxford. For a while, he served as a tutor to Henry VIII’s daughter Mary. Erasmus moved back between Leuven, England and Basel. But he also spent time in Turin and Venice. Such mobility among intellectuals grew even more pronounced in the 17th century....MUCH MORE
The World's First Stock Exchange (and first bear raid, first dividend, first equity derivatives...)
Don't Swear at Nuns and Other Stories of Translation, Human and Machine
"Vermeer as Scientist"
And from "Frontrun the Bank of England for Fun and Profit":
 Re: Mr. Keohane's headline, I couldn't help thinking of De la Vega's 1688 book Confusion of Confusions regarding the trading of Dutch East India Company stock.
The analysis in The Confusion of Confusions :  Between Speculation and Eschatology is a good introduction.

As another review puts it:
...He shows us all the tricks of the trade such as front-running large orders and spoofing the market with fake news to achieve a more favorable trading price.
And then there is this from AFNS via 2012's "The World's First Stock Exchange (and first bear raid, first dividend, first equity derivatives...)":
(VOC) $64.98 (+$13.84) (+27.1%) Shares in the spice purveyor soared on word that the three sturdy galleons dispatched two years afore had been sighted off the coast of Cape Verde, returning from their dangerous voyage to the exotic Orient with their casks brimful of redolent cinnamon, cardamom, and mysteriously intoxicating curried powder.
Okay, that's actually America's Finest News Source.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rating Agencies Put ISIS on CreditWatch: Negative

That headline is "fāke " or, in the words of Sheldon Cooper "A big fat whopper".
Most of the agencies remain neutral in their forecasts
Uh oh, that's another big fat whopper.

S&P, which I thought owned the mark on CreditWatch when written in CamelCase (no spaces, individual words capitalized) but may not, doesn't cover ISIS as either a corp. or a sovereign.
Ditto for Moody's and Fitch. 
Instead they do stuff like this, from 2008: "'Like A Gang of Clowns in a Pie Shop': S&P Puts Moody's on CreditWatch (Negative)"

Russia's ACRA--see post-sanctions post: Vladimir Putin Starts His Own Credit Ratings Firm--has had ISIS at junk for quite a while while China's Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., best known for 2010's "UPDATED: Chinese Credit Rating Agency Downgrades the Entire United States" is mum on the issue.
Now where was I?

From the New York Post:

ISIS is going broke
The Islamic State group is hemorrhaging money with every piece of territory it loses, according to a new analysis that found that the group’s “business model” is on the path to failure.

The analysis released Saturday by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence and the accounting firm EY found that the self-proclaimed caliphate’s financial resources have been drained substantially since the days beginning in mid-2014 when it captured banks, oil wells and entire warehouses of weapons as it amassed land.

The report found that Islamic State revenue has declined from up to $1.9 billion in 2014 to at most $870 million in 2016.

“One of the mistakes that’s been made in the past when we were talking about Islamic State was talking about it purely as a terrorist organization. It is a terrorist organization but it is more than that. It holds territory,” said Peter Neumann, director of the center at King’s College London. “That also means it has a lot more expenses. It needs to fix roads. It needs to pay teachers. It needs to run health services. It needs to pay for these things that al-Qaida never had to.”

But less money may not make the group less dangerous, the report said.

“We know from the attacks in Paris and Brussels and Berlin that none of them was expensive,” Neumann said.

Most of the recent attacks in Europe and the U.S. were self-financed by the people that carried them out, with little input or money from the IS leadership in the war zone of Syria and Iraq.

Among the top sources of revenue for the Islamic State group were taxes and fees, oil, ransoms, and looting or other extortion. All of those, Neumann said, required newly captured territory to be sustainable and to keep the group’s promise of a caliphate.

A federal lawsuit filed in December was a prime example of Islamic State’s revenues from a combination of seized land, taxes and extortion. According to the court filing, the group received at least 20 percent of the proceeds of items excavated from archaeological sites under its control and taxed antiquities sold in its territories. At one point, a child was kidnapped to force an antiquities merchant to pay, said the lawsuit, which sought the recovery of four ancient artifacts believed to have been put up for sale by the group....MORE 
Getting deathly serious for a moment, I think it only appropriate and right that when the receivers are called in, the appointment go to the Kurdish and Yazidi women.

Hundreds of Former Sex Slaves Take Up Arms To Do What Obama, Cameron Won't: Kill ISIS Pigs

The Battle to Retake Raqqa Syria From ISIS Is Being Led By A Kurdish Woman: Jihadis, Erdoğan Not Pleased

Internet of Things Banking: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Many years ago I was counseled: "Just because you can do something does not mean you should do something."
Good advice, it keeps you grounded when you catch yourself shifting into superhero mode.
From FinExtra:

Building a case for Banking of Things
The networked economy of devices could hold promise for accelerating both banking services and operations to the next level of seamlessness
On the one hand, rising operating costs have led banks to explore technologies that could reduce the cost of operations and increase revenue while minimising costs.

On the other hand – the consumer side - clamour for ‘super-convenience’ has already reached a crescendo with banks engaging customers in discussions around sharing data for personalised services. Location based offers, personal financial management, robo-advisory are instances of solutions that rely on customers’ willingness to share personal information in exchange for convenient, contextual, customised advice and services.

So why should ‘super-convenience’ draw any attention when digital has improved the convenience of banking?

Going beyond digital
Undoubtedly, digital banking heralded the era of accessibility. Digital levelled the playing field for both established and upstart players, paving the way to move beyond the Age of Information Asymmetry, where information was held under the control of a select few.

Admittedly, analytics has played a crucial role in furthering the evolutionary journey, generating insights delivered at the right time through the right channel with the right messaging. The blend of digital with analytics has thereby, helped shape the Age of Information Democracy.
But for banks aiming to move beyond the role of transaction facilitators to information brokers and advisory partners, there are newer frontiers to conquer. 

Here comes the Internet of Things
There’s a revolution brewing and it’s marching towards the bastion of financial services, so say the tech experts.

A lot of hype exists around the technology called Internet of Things or IoT. Turns out it’s not a technology. It’s a framework.

Still, what is it?

In a nutshell, IoT comprises sensors, actuators, software and electronics that can be embedded in physical objects or ‘things’ – think anything - from cars, homes, clothes, streetlights, to even human bodies – all connected through either wired or wireless networks and using the Internet Protocol to communicate with the Internet. At its simplest, IoT is the coordination and communication of the data generated by all such interconnected things.

Let’s take the retail or the consumer facing side – an average customer uses up to 3-5 devices (smartphones, smartwatches, IPTV, laptop, desktop) to connect to internet. Household devices such as refrigerators, washing machines, thermostats and so on, if connected, will generate thousands if not millions of data. Add automobiles and wearables to the mix - the volume only grows larger. Essentially the permutations and combinations of the range of ‘things’ that can be connected to spawn data are only bound by imagination.

So, can banking remain untouched by IoT? Should banks even bother given the security, privacy and interoperability challenges posed by IoT? Yet, is it wise for banks to remain immune to this technology?

Certainly, novelty of a technology shouldn’t be the reason for considering it. Given the pace at which new technologies are introduced, it’s easy to get blinded and side-tracked by the sheer dazzle of the variety.

The real benefits of any technology can only be evidenced through identifying practical use cases. And in looking at how IoT can transform banking, there are many scenarios where the coming together of the two, IoT and banking, will benefit not just the customers but banks themselves.

Banking + IoT = Banking of Things
Banking’s mainstay is lending and taking deposits, while managing risks. But increasingly a sophisticated and demanding customer base means banks must find ways to stay relevant by not just meeting customer expectations but also devising new experiences.

Banking of Things (BoT) could help create new products, services or business models. BoT could usher in an era where products are designed not by banks but led by customers. Customers would be incentivised to build a product or a service, say a home loan or savings account, and decide the interest rate, which in turn will be dependent on behavioural factors such as customers’ utility payment patterns or eating habits, new age indicators of characteristics such as prudence and health consciousness.

Additionally, BoT could give rise to unique partnerships forged between banks and industry players, from not just within but also outside the financial services ecosystem. These could simplify or enhance the value propositions besides addressing challenges banks typically grapple with – those of compliance, unified view of customers, and customer experience.

Here are some potential use cases for banking of things in consumer finance and banking operations, each designed to simplify or improve some aspect of banking:

Appliances-turned-POS Terminals
What if home appliances could signal when they are about to malfunction? What if the appliances could place orders for their replacements or schedule repair and also initiate payments, on behalf of customers? Effectively, BoT could transform any object such as a fused bulb or faulty thermostat into a point of sale terminal, placing orders and seamlessly connecting to online payment systems. Data, read by smart sensors embedded in all such objects, would be streamed continuously to a cloud based analytics platform. Banks could extract and combine this information with other transactional data to proactively alert customers to maintain adequate balance in their accounts in addition to recommending potential cost saving options.
Banks thus, could operate along the entire continuum, from facilitating payments to being real time advisory partners.

Thank you, Jeeves, er, refrigerator
Smart fridges are already here, alerting users to replenish their fridges when the food quantity levels decrease. The data generated by the fridges could be of interest to the banking providers, who can study the food consumption patterns of customers to tailor the right set of products and services such as offering ‘Amazon-like’ services – using data from the smart fridges to predict food ordering schedules, complemented by simplified payments....MORE
See also:
Putting your kettle on the Internet of Things makes your wifi passwords an open secret (plus Izabella Kaminska does a driveby
...From FT Alphaville:
Cybersecurity dispatches: Managing the IoT poltergeist threat
Imagine the scene in the not too distant future.

An Uber self-driving electric car has just dropped you home. Your front door has recognised your face, and your fingerprint has authenticated that it’s definitely you. You get into your house, not a key in sight, kick off your shoes, and happily discover that the 3D printing feature in your fridge has already printed the food you plan to consume for dinner. All the appliances you need are on. And everything you don’t need is off, nice and efficiently saving power.

You decide to treat yourself to a quick 30-minute Netflix holographic update, only to get a nudge from your wearable tech that you’ve still got a 10 minute exercise deficit to meet your daily exercise quota. It’s a problem because you happen to have signed up to the extreme health management option which shuts down ApplePay access — without which Netflix won’t work — if you fail to meet your objectives. You quickly get busy on your smart-grid connected treadmill (which conveniently sells off the energy produced by your system back into the grid).

When all of a sudden… your utility door flings open and your iRobot Roomba begins singing Daisy, Daisy....MORE....
"How Smart Houses And Big Data Will Change Real Estate Economics" (just wait 'til your house gets a virus) 

Climateer Line of the Day: Chimera Edition

From The Information:

The Information You Missed This Week
"Snap is going to market, trying to pitch itself as a unique blend of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. And no wonder: It has the losses of a tech startup combined with the anemic growth of a media company."
-The anonymous toilers known as The Information Staff

Biotech: "CRISPR’s Breakthrough Problem"

From Chemical & Engineering News:

If the CRISPR gene editing system is to live up to its disease-curing potential, researchers must devise a plan to deliver it into the body
In fewer than five years, an important new gene-editing tool called CRISPR has radically changed the face and pace of biological research. The ability to quickly and cleanly remove and replace stretches of DNA has already inspired thousands of publications featuring the technique and led to the creation of a slew of biotech businesses hoping to capitalize on CRISPR.

CRISPR’s power to effortlessly target and tweak any piece of DNA seems limitless. Thomas Barnes is the chief scientific officer of the CRISPR-centered Intellia Therapeutics, whose founders include one of the inventors of CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna. He says there is “an ever-growing backlog of well-understood rare genetic conditions with little that people can do about them.” Barnes hopes CRISPR will change that.

By tackling genetic disease at its roots—mutations in the DNA—CRISPR could end thousands of ailments, Barnes and others believe. Multiple research groups and companies are hot on the tracks of unleashing CRISPR on sickle cell disease, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, genetic forms of blindness, and, of course, cancer.

The hype is partly about CRISPR’s broad applicability, but CRISPR’s true promise is its potential for a one-and-done cure. Changing your DNA is a permanent fix. CRISPR—short for the “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” in the bacterial immune system from which the technology was derived—is a two-part system: a customizable guide RNA and a protein called Cas9. The guide RNA directs Cas9 to any desired segment of DNA for editing. The Cas9 enzyme then cuts the DNA at that precise location, allowing for genes to be turned on or off or for the removal or insertion of DNA.

But editing the DNA of cells in a petri dish—or even curing a mouse of a disease—is one thing; making the hot new technology work in humans is a whole other challenge. Sneaking the gene-editing complex into human cells is no easy task.

It will take some fancy molecular maneuvering to get the bulky Cas9 protein and the negatively charged guide RNA into humans. To work its magic, the unwieldy gene-editing system first needs to get into the body, skirt past the immune system, and infiltrate its target tissue. From there, it must sneak across cell membranes, escape the acidic environment of the cell’s endosomes to find the nucleus, and then home in on the correct location on the DNA. In other words, CRISPR has a drug delivery problem.

The Cas9 enzyme and the guide RNA composing the CRISPR complex cannot be swallowed in pill form or simply injected into the bloodstream. And a one-size-fits-all package is unlikely to work for every condition, so researchers are eagerly testing old strategies and creating new ones to achieve a CRISPR cure.

David Liu of Harvard University says this delivery dilemma isn’t unusual for a new gene-editing technology, but “researchers now feel this incredible urgency and excitement because of the promise of using CRISPR for therapeutic applications.” Since its inception as a gene-editing tool in 2012, nearly 5,000 papers mentioning CRISPR have been published in PubMed. The CRISPR craze is reeling in polymer chemists, drug delivery designers, and bioengineers all helping move CRISPR from the lab bench to the doctor’s office.
“I’ve just never seen any field that progresses at this pace,” says Niren Murthy of the University of California, Berkeley, who cofounded a start-up called GenEdit, dedicated to CRISPR delivery, in February 2016. “There is nothing comparable to the competitiveness of the CRISPR field,” he says....MUCH MORE

Jeremy Grantham: ‘Twas Capitalism That Killed Capitalism

Via Macrobusiness:
From the always essential Jeremy Grantham’s latest note:

An extraordinary, large exit poll run by Reuters/Ipsos in which 45,000 people participated took place in the early evening on election day in the US. To say this was a detailed poll is an understatement. The spreadsheet for each question in small print runs the length of a generous dining room table, 11 feet! It will tell you how the American Hindu sample of 172 voted. The poll’s early results of 9,0002 inputs also revealed on the night before the election, when the bookies’ odds 3 against Trump were 5 to 1, that the odds were wrong. The critical statement polled, in my opinion, was this: “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

From my perspective, the pushback against the rich and powerful for several decades has been very unexpectedly wimpy. “Occupy Wall Street” aside, the average voter had sat still for a series of major tax cuts for the higher tax brackets and on capital – capital gains and dividends. The lowerincome workers had paid the cost of outsourcing and labor-saving technology but had received no material help, while corporations and corporate officers and owners were the beneficiaries. In fact, money spent on worker training and education declined relative to foreign competitors. This shows up clearly in declining educational standards where today the US global rank is, to be friendly, mediocre.
Most scarily in this regard, the average Chinese 20-year-old now ranks 2 full years ahead of his American counterpart in math proficiency! So, all in all, we can say that global forces pushed wages down and politics pushed them deliberately lower. The combined result is shown in Exhibit 1: The share of GDP going to labor hit historical lows as recently as 2014 and the share going to corporate profits hit a simultaneous high. Similarly, Exhibit 2 shows that the share of all income going to the top 0.1% rose well beyond any previous record and approached 100% of all the recovery in total income since the lows of 2009!
The “rich and powerful” not only increased their share of income and capital at an unprecedented rate in recent decades, but they also increased their grip on politics through a rising tide of political spending, including lobbying and the new Super PACs, courtesy of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United. Even before this ruling, Princeton University Professors Gilens and Page had reported4 on the complete lack of influence that voter opinion had on the probabilities of any bill passing through Congress. If favored by the public the average 31% chance of passing rose to a dizzying 32%. If not favored, it fell to 30%, justifying the nickname given to the influence of the average citizen: “Gilens’ Flatline.” When favored by the richest 10%, bills passed at a 65% rate – there is inertia after all. But when opposed by the wealthier and supported by inertia, the passing rate was essentially nil. Those hoping that there is any life at all left in representative democracy have to hope that some critics of this work are right when they claim that the data is complicated to sort out and the conclusions may be overstated. Anecdotal evidence on such issues as the minimum wage and gun laws, though, suggests that majority opinion is, shall we say, easily offset. Scarily, Gilens’ work does not include the post Citizens United data on political spending that is shown in Exhibit 3. I could not resist throwing in political contributions from unions, which are often cited by right-wingers as somehow balancing the books. And once upon a time they did. But, as unions have been severely weakened by the same combination of global forces and politics previously described, political contributions from unions have become a rounding error, offsettable by a mere handful or less of billionaires....

Friday, February 17, 2017

Florida Man Conspires To Blow Up Target Stores To Crash Stock (TGT)

Frankly I think the stock gets hurt more for not being Amazon, or for the bathroom brouhaha than it would for exploding stores.

$65.72 up 0.52 (0.80%)

From Fortune:

A Florida Man Reportedly Tried to Blow Up Target Stores to Hurt the Company’s Stock
Buy low, sell high, so goes the investing adage.

But rather than waiting for markets to hit the right conditions, a Florida man allegedly tried to tank Target's stock by setting off homemade explosives in several of the superstore's East Coast locations. according to a Thursday criminal complaint filed by Department of Justice prosecutors in a federal court.

A registered sex offender, 48-year-old Mark Charles Barnett offered an unnamed affiliate $10,000 to place 10 operational homemade explosives in 10 Target stores in Florida, Virginia, and New York, the complaint alleges. The explosives, which were capable of causing "serious injury and death to nearby persons," were expected to be placed on shelves while disguised as food products.

"Once the boxes had detonated inside of Target stores, Barnett theorized that the company's stock value would plunge allowing him to acquire shares cheaply before an eventual rebound," the complaint read.

But instead of doing as instructed, the unnamed affiliate turned in the explosives to federal officials, and worked with law enforcement in the investigation.

At one point during the investigation, Barnett told the affiliate to "start at Syracuse and work your way back down [to Florida]," the complaint alleged, saying that Barnett added: "Put one in each state, I guess."....MORE
 And here's a story about Target's former parent, Dayton-Hudson, that I've told a few times, most recently in 2013's "Attention Commodities Speculators: Hoarding is Now a Stand-alone Mental Disorder":
...Even if committed all is not lost on the manipulation front.

If you get phone privileges while in hospital remember this enterprising fellow who called up the DJ newswire and gave them the scoop:

New York Times, June 24, 1987:

A bogus takeover offer for the Dayton Hudson Corporation caused the retailer's stock to shoot up $9 a share yesterday, but skepticism quickly deflated the gain, inflicting a $15 million loss on investors.The chain of events began yesterday morning with a telephone call from a Cincinnati securities analyst, Paul David Herrlinger, to the Dow Jones News Service, in which the offer was made on behalf of ''Stone Inc.'' It ended five hours later with an announcement by the Herrlinger family's attorney that ''this was not a bona fide offer and there is no such company as Stone Inc.'' He said Mr. Herrlinger had a nervous condition and had apparently been hospitalized.

In the interim, 5.2 million shares of Dayton Hudson's common stock changed hands, much of it in the early afternoon, before the credibility of the $70-a-share offer was shattered. Rumors of a Takeover Bid

At 9:49 in the morning, 19 minutes after the New York Stock Exchange opened, the Dow Jones ticker printed its first story on the purported offer. At 9:53 A.M., the New York Stock Exchange halted trading in Dayton Hudson stock to allow the news to be disseminated....MORE
And in other Florida Man news:

David Plouffe Hit With $90,000 Fine For Uber Lobbying

From the Chicago Tribune:

Former Obama aide fined $90,000 for illegally lobbying Emanuel on Uber's behalf
A former Uber senior executive who once served as Barack Obama's campaign manager has been fined $90,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics for illegally lobbying Mayor Rahm Emanuel on behalf of the ride-sharing company.

The board voted 5-0 to find that David Plouffe violated city ethics rules by failing to register as a lobbyist after contacting Emanuel to help the company on regulations for picking up travelers at Chicago's two airports.

Plouffe's lobbying violation only became public after Emanuel in December released hundreds of personal emails related to public business under the pressure of two open records lawsuits alleging the mayor violated the state's open records law.

Included was a message Plouffe sent to the mayor Nov. 20, 2015

"Assume both of us thought the airport issue was settled and we would never have to discuss again, but unfortunately two significant new hurdles were introduced," wrote Plouffe, the political strategist who managed Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and in 2015 was Uber's senior vice president of policy and strategy. "Coming to you because of their severity that would prevent us from operating. We were all set to announce Monday we were beginning pickups."

Plouffe, who like Emanuel served in the Obama White House, went on to describe concerns Uber had about pickup fees and the requirement to display an airport pickup placard in Uber vehicles....MUCH MORE
David Plouffe Leaves Uber, Joins Chan-Zuckerberg Philanthropy
From the outro to  "Uber Hires A Bunch More Politicians":
For those playing along outside the U.S., Mr. Plouffe was the architect of President Obama's successful 2008 presidential campaign and continued working for the administration, first as an outside consultant and then as a highest-level advisor until he joined Uber in 2014.  

Now where will I go for set-ups like:
Uber Accuses NYC Of Snooping On Its Passengers: "They Want Full Details Of Every Trip You Ever Take"
I don't care who you are, David Plouffe, Kalanick, whoever, that accusation, coming from Uber, is funny.
Granted, not as funny as...
...“Plouffe said, ‘Well, you know we’re active in these markets and we’re providing a service and there is great demand in Oregon and blah blah blah,’ ” Mr. Novick said. “I said, ‘Mr. Plouffe, announcing that you’re going to break the law is not civil.’ ”

Media: Introducing Meme Insider

(not) a Henry Blodget production.

From Motherboard:

Redditors Made ‘Meme Insider,’ a Completely Insane Magazine About Memes
Day traders may have CNBC, but meme traders have 'Meme Insider.'
Do you want to know more about memes—like really know about them, in ways simply can't address?  Is Encyclopedia Dramatica too dramatically trollish for you, 4chan too poorly curated?

Then consider Meme Insider, a volunteer-run publication now in its second issue.  The magazine, available for free in .pdf format, is associated with Meme Economy, a section of Reddit where individuals discuss trends in meme usage.
The cover of the January 2017 issue of Meme Insider
Like the NASDANQ, a related Meme Economy production intended to eventually serve as a virtual stock market enabling users to track popular memes and bid up their value, Meme Insider appears both totally sincere and strangely apolitical.  An article on Pepe in the second issue, for example, focuses on the frog's "durability as a meme" rather than its association with the alt-right, and winds up projecting steady long-term returns for it in spite of a recent sharp decrease in usage.  Another piece suggests that meme aficionados buy low on "idiosyncratically undervalued" Sims memes....MUCH MORE*
A version of the cover of the first issue of Meme Insider

Natural Gas: EIA Weekly Supply/Demand Report

After breaking through $2.90 to the downside on yesterday's storage report (the pull was 114 Bcf versus the Platts consensus estimate of 126 Bcf) the front futures are up 0.0170 at $2.8710.
From the Energy Information Administration:
for week ending February 15, 2017   |  Release date:  February 16, 2017   |  Next release:  February 23, 2017
Prices fall virtually everywhere. This report week (Wednesday, February 8 to Wednesday, February 15), the Henry Hub spot price fell 13¢ from $3.05/MMBtu last Wednesday to $2.92/MMBtu yesterday. Nationally, weather was milder toward the end of the report period, except for on the Gulf Coast, where temperatures declined Tuesday and yesterday.

At the Chicago Citygate, prices decreased 18¢ from last Wednesday to $2.84/MMBtu yesterday. Prices at PG&E Citygate in Northern California fell 9¢ to $3.30/MMBtu yesterday. The price at SoCal Citygate decreased 1¢ to $3.05/MMBtu yesterday.

Northeast prices down as weather moderates. At the Algonquin Citygate, which serves Boston-area consumers, prices were down $1.49 from $5.51/MMBtu last Wednesday to $4.02/MMBtu yesterday. Prices began the week elevated, with cold weather, and peaked on Thursday as a winter storm moved through the region, knocking out power for over 80,000 customers, mostly in Massachusetts.
Similar to Algonquin, at the Transco Zone 6 trading point for New York City, prices decreased $1.39 from $4.50/MMBtu last Wednesday to $3.11/MMBtu yesterday.
Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus spot prices decreased 15¢ to $2.46/MMBtu yesterday. Prices at Dominion South in northwest Pennsylvania fell 16¢ to $2.64/MMBtu yesterday.

March Nymex contract down. Following the Henry Hub price, the price of the March 2017 Nymex contract decreased 20¢ over the report period, closing at $2.925/MMBtu yesterday. Weather forecasts of warmer-than-normal temperatures in the coming days may be applying downward pressure on the futures price. The price of the 12-month strip, which averages March 2017 through February 2018 futures contracts, declined 14¢ to $3.248/MMBtu.

Supply increases slightly. According to data from PointLogic, the average total supply of natural gas rose by 1% compared with the previous week, driven by net imports. Dry natural gas production remained constant week over week, whereas average net imports from Canada increased by 9% over the report period.

Demand falls. Total U.S. consumption of natural gas fell by 4% compared with the previous report week, according to data from PointLogic. Outside of the Northeast, average temperatures for this report week were generally warmer than last report week. Week-over-week, power burn declined by 2%, industrial sector consumption decreased by 2%, and residential and commercial sector consumption declined by 7%. Natural gas exports to Mexico increased 3%.

U.S. LNG exports. Natural gas pipeline deliveries to the Sabine Pass liquefaction terminal averaged 2.0 Bcf/d for the report week, 6% lower than in the previous week. Four vessels (combined LNG-carrying capacity of 14.0 Bcf) departed Sabine Pass last week.
Unseasonable mild temperatures during the week contribute to smaller than average net withdrawals. Net withdrawals from storage totaled 114 Bcf, compared with the five-year (2012–16) average net withdrawal of 156 Bcf and last year's net withdrawals of 136 Bcf during the same week. Warmer temperatures throughout the week for most of the Lower 48 states contributed to decreased heating demand for natural gas and lower withdrawals from storage. Working gas stocks total 2,445 Bcf, which is 87 Bcf more than the five-year average and 303 Bcf less than last year at this time....

"Frenzied Betting, Sleeping Market: Something Must Give in Oil"

From Bloomberg:
As hedge funds and money managers place record trades on a rally in oil, the price itself has fallen asleep. Logic dictates that something should give. Here are five charts examining the unprecedented speculative build-up and what the market’s next turn might be.
1. Frenzied betting...
At the start of February, speculators were betting a net 865 million barrels of oil across the market’s two global benchmarks that prices would rise. As well as being a record, their bullish positioning expanded by 78 percent since just before the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and 11 other producer nations pledged to cut global crude supplies. Benchmark prices rose about 20 percent over the same period.
2. ...sleeping market
Unfortunately for the bulls, the oil market itself has fallen asleep after an initial surge. As Standard Chartered analysts including Paul Horsnell pointed out this week, prices have been stuck around a dollar a barrel above or below $55.50 since mid-December. Meanwhile U.S. crude closed above $54 a barrel only once since OPEC’s Nov. 30 meeting, despite crossing that price level 14 times. “If crude prices are to break out of their recent range in the next few weeks, the risk is to the downside," JBC Energy GmbH in Vienna said Thursday.
3. Spreads still show glut
The shortest-term oil prices show that an oversupply endures. The nearest Brent and West Texas Intermediate contracts remain in a structure known as contango, which typically occurs when there is too much supply, depressing short-term prices....

HT: FT Alphaville's Further Reading post.

See also yesterday's "Why a NYMEX Veteran is Getting Nervous about Oil":
...The last few weeks of U.S. inventory builds would have knocked the futures down by 10-15% and the fact they didn't is cause to wonder: WTH, WTI? $53.96 up 0.36 today:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Questions America Wants Answered: "Has the Large Hadron Collider Disproved the Existence of Ghosts?" (CERN)

Before we get into the headline story, a little mood music:

nerd, yo
From RealClearScience:
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) might be the world's most incredible science experiment. A particle collider seventeen miles in circumference, it accelerates protons to velocities approaching the speed of light and slams them together. Enthralled scientists from all over the world watch the subatomic demolition derby and record what happens. Thus far, they've witnessed the creation of quark-gluon plasma (the densest matter outside of black holes), found key evidence against supersymmetry, and discovered the Higgs boson, a result which garnered the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Much of the general public probably isn't aware of these fascinating, yet unfortunately, esoteric discoveries at the LHC. Particle physics simply doesn't inspire as much interest as say, ghosts. At least four in ten Americans believe in ghosts, and it's likely that even fewer people are aware of the LHC. On that note, at least one physicist contends that the LHC has, in fact, disproved the existence of ghosts.

The physicist in question is Brian Cox, an Advanced Fellow of particle physics at the University of Manchester and a popular science communicator in Britain. On a recent broadcast of BBC Radio Four's The Infinite Monkey Cage centered around science and the paranormal, Cox had this to say on the topic:

"Before we ask the first question, I want to make a statement: We are not here to debate the existence of ghosts because they don't exist."
He continued:
"If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That's almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies."
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was also on the show, pressed Cox to clarify his statement.

"If I understand what you just declared, you just asserted that CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, disproved the existence of ghosts."

"Yes," Cox replied....

Previously on the LHC Channel:
February 2012
CERN: Light Once Again Faster then Neutrinos, Problem May Have Been a Loose Cable
Don't you hate it when that happens? A bad connection and all of a sudden you're calling Einstein a moron.
From CERN:...
March 2015
"Scientists at Large Hadron Collider hope to make contact with PARALLEL UNIVERSE in days" (time to dust off the 'end of the universe' puts)
In comparison I don't feel I've gotten a lot done today..... 
Oct. 2015
CERN Cranks LHC To 11 In Bid To Find Parallel Universes
December 2015 
After Turning Large Hadron Collider Up To 11, CERN May Have found A New Particle, End of the World Puts Trade Sideways

Regarding the puts, we have attempted to quote their action (reaction) with each CERN announcement since the machine was turned on back in 2008:

Should CERN have to really crank up the Large Hadron Collider we will make every effort to offer Long or Short Capital's proprietary "End of the Universe Puts":

Back when the LHC was supposed to fire up the first time, we mentioned Long or Short Capital's End of the Universe puts:
...That is why Long or Short is now offering LHC End of the Universe Puts. It’s a simple put option wherein the buyer retains the right to sell the Universe at a strike price of “Existing”. Based on our Black-Holes model used to value all “end of the world” options, the July 2008 vintage options are currently priced at $20....
Followed by "Large Hadron Collider Starts Up, Earth Suvives, End of the World Puts Plummet":
UPDATE: The marketers at LoS Capital* are still pushing product:
...We continue to reiterate the importance of LHC End of the Universe Puts.
“The LHC is a discovery machine,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar
If this is true and you extrapolate it out, it is only a matter of time until they discover the end of the Earth and existence as we know it. Who is to say they won’t do that tomorrow? Again, not us. 
Recommendation: These securities do NOT benefit from the implicit guarantee of the US government, God or your locally relevant deity. Wink wink nudge nudge, but between you and me, they DO.
*At Long or Short LLC, we leverage our superior intellect and extensive investing experience to recommend explicit Long or Short positions and related abstract trades, which may or may not be possible with real world financial derivatives. We use science to improve the lives of the rich.
More About LoS
From -Baguette breaks Large Hadron Collider (End of the Universe Puts Trade Down)

And many, many more.