Thursday, February 28, 2013

Attack the bankers by all means but leave us alone

non EU banking © moodys
News comments:
Bankers who enjoy unlimited reward and limited downside (no job) are no more. It serves them right.

The EU has rightly capped bonuses. Of course shareholders should have done this years ago because banks are only there for the benefit of employees, but they are a sleepy lot. Because the EU, and here we are talking about European governments, are now the owners of all the banks (the ECB, BoE et al are lenders of last resort and guarantee all these too big to fail banks) they can control what they do. If they had let capitalism do its job, most of the banks would have gone bust and only the best run would have survived but that didn't happen. So the techno-socialists have got what they wanted. They have the banks by the short and curly's. From capital to bankers pay. It serves the banks right. Bye bye Bobby Geezer and all that was wrong with banking. Hello post office banking and retail dullness.

How many other businesses are there where you can gamble other peoples money and get paid for it so handsomely? None it now seems. (fintag)

Capitalism hates interference and the EU are the great interferes. So that is where we are. Not that smug American bankers will be immune because those in Europe will be snagged and Obama will probably enact something similar to its bankers too (although he needs to hurry). Banking will become a boring place for the non thinkers and risk adverse conservative types.

Of course hedgies and pirates are not immune to this new order and are to be caught up in the AIFM bollox which will do something similiar. And this is where I think the EU will fail. Hedgies and pirates lose everything if it goes wrong (partners as opposed to spoon fed employees who just get another job). Once this happens, hedgies will set up research offices in London and trade in Singapore or most likely Switzerland because of the time zone. Or maybe South Africa? Anywhere where AIFM cannot touch you.

The EU seems to think its an old book shop and is trying to stop Amazon in its tracks.

The winner will be Asia of course. In 20 years time people will talk about JP Morgan and Barclays as if they are old classic cars.

The short term upshot will be UK leaving Europe. Once UKIP win the Eastleigh by-election that is.

Today's shorts:
American big banks torture the small guys (bloomberg)

Today's longs:
UKIP to win (telegraph)

Bankers crying in the streets (reuters)

CityAM man to replace Boy George (with Boris as King) (telegraph)

Gossip:
City of London to be turned into a homeless shelter shanty town.



Sunday, February 24, 2013

Aaaaaah to Boy George

Aaah! © moodys

News comments:
Despite Credit Rating Agencies being about as relevant as my rants on the Z10, the UK got what it deserved.

The UK has been sick for a long time and despite its best intentions in QE and austerity cuts, it has all been rather tame. If the UK wanted to grow it would be doing things differently and faster. Boy George who is way out of his depth has been given a poor report and with an election coming in the near term, the UK is going to be in the doldrums for a while longer.

Of course if GBP moves towards USD parity (one basket case kissing another) the UK will get inflation which is what it really needs to eradicate its debts and invade Australia. Or maybe Australia will get there first and launch a hostile bid for the UK? (fintag).

Shale gas, lower and more simplified taxes (including a money launderers levy), closure of the NHS and free education for all.

Today's shorts:
Why wearing lycra doesn't pay (bloomberg)

Today's longs:
Italy votes for more partying (reuters)

Gossip:
UK to form new trading zone with Greece, Spain and Ireland.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Blackberry Z10: Good, Bad and Ugly

zzzzzz10 © fintag

News comments:
The end of the world never happened (fintag) so I have upgraded my Blackberry to the Z10.

I know there are lots of reviews but they are from people who have played with it for a couple of hours. I have had mine for 6 days and know more about the device than I think Rim (oooer missus) does. Will this thing save Blackberry? Let's find out.

Firstly, it is clear the UK release before the USA was so it could be tested thoroughly by people like me. And it has bugs and omissions and damn right ugliness. A bit like a day one android phone but that is no excuse given Blackberry had plenty of time to copy the iPhone, Windows phone and Android devices.

The good...

I hate the metal iPhone. The nickel gives me a rash so I rejoice the plastic rubber of the Z10. It feels soft in the palm.

The back comes easily so replacing the battery is quick.

The app library is way better than Windows.

I have added a 128GB sd card. Awesome. Up yours iPhone. I even got this encrypted too. [Ed: Just checked and its 64GB. You should have gone to specsavers]

The phone clarity is superb. It actually works. Up yours iPhone.

Multi-tasking is great. I love the windows you can kill off.

The Camera is extremely good. Front and back facing too; fast and with some nice features. My old camera is now in the trash.

The bad...

You need big hands. We are all used to using two thumbs but the Z10 is not really designed that way. Its like an iPhone when you hold it.

The gesture swipes are inconsistent. Sometimes you open a web page and you can't escape from it! So out pops the battery like the old days ...

So you swipe up to logon and then type your password and then have to click enter at the top of the screen. This is way too crap.

The battery lasts about 5 hours. That is poor. I am on a plane to Hong Kong and my phone is dead on arrival.

The button at the top to turn it off is pants. Its too small and crap.

Where is the camera button? Why do I have to logon to use the camera? [Ed: Just read the manual and its the icon on the home screen - hold it down for 2 seconds.]

I don't want my calendar displayed on the logon screen.

The ugly...

Sync with gmail calendar? No chance. It takes 24 hours and then its read only. Yahoo works fine though. BES obviously as before. UPDATE The latest update as of 1 March 13 has fixed this.

Why can't I have different ring tones for different people and events?

Why can't I hide the useless icons that I will never need?

Why can't I group the email boxes like I used to be able to on my old bold?

Why can't I tuck away my spreadbetting email account from prying eyes?

Why are the icons like an iPhone? Why not something more interesting? And configurable too?

The Hub is a mess.

Conclusion ...
Well its better than the Storm. Its a bit like the first iPhone but with multitasking. It has lost lots of classic BB functionality and replaced it with copy cat stuff. It is better than an iPhone but the Samsung beats it hands down. I should have waited for the Galaxy IV.

Today's shorts:
Italy (bloomberg)

Today's longs:
Z10 (inquirer)

Gossip:
Blackberry Z10 to be last ever phone by Blackberry.



Thursday, February 14, 2013

The horsemeat moral panic

big mac © fintag

News comments:
Europe is in a real mess. And horses are to blame.

Never has the EU rejoiced in news such as the horsemeat = beef scandal. News is full of supply chain diagrams, DNA lab testers and Bute side effects. Horse meat is the main reason your average European is learning to duck and cover and recalling days of the Cuban missile crisis. Unless the EU sorts out the horsemeat debacle we are all doomed to eating grass from our gardens.

In the real world, the EU is continuing its contraction. London is being swamped with Spanish and Greek youngsters. The man who served me my horsemeat sandwich in Pret yesterday has a PhD in Economics. And he isn't alone. The young unemployment crisis is truly a nightmare. No wonder those who can are in London. Despite the UK being more debt savaged than Greece, London is a country in its own right. A bit like Barcelona it doesn't need the rest of its country. It is doing all right. It is doing more than alright (guardian).

Unlike Germany. The over valued EUR is starting to hurt this power house although it isn't stopping Spanards learning German and swamping its cities. Germany is also struggling with its own EU trading partners who are shutting up shop and buying Romanian made horse cars (Dacia) instead of velvet curtained Mercedes (bloomberg).

So what happens next? Well the EUR interest rate will be cut and the currency war will starting turning really nasty. Looks like 2013 is going to a great year for alpha. [Ed: What's alpha?]

Today's shorts:
They shoot horses don't they? (reuters)

French man sets fire himself after reading the new negative growth figures (euronews)

Today's longs:
75% of Americans have read Chekov (zerohedge)

Gossip:
FSA to rename itself the FCA (Food Conduct Authority) and cause even more confusion.

[Happy Birthday to Fintag - we are 7 years old today! Valentines kisses all round ...]



Monday, February 11, 2013

Cyprus isn't worth saving

a most powerful man © wiki

News comments:
Russians really freak me out. From a country that has more culture than the USA has horse burgers, business practices are not "word is my bond" but "my word means you lose your thumbs".

Russian business people don't do contracts. They are happy to execute them, and often the other counterparties if the contract works against them, but for many Russians a contract is just a one sided memo of understanding.

My rule and most of my mates is never to do business with Russians unless you have terminal cancer. Horror stories abound (hedgies gagged, lawyers slain, children kidnapped). Which is a shame because this sort of stereo typing means I too have to be careful of my thumbs. The reality is that I have benefitted hugely from the Russian rouble as have most Londoners and the owners of New Bond Street shops. They have revitalised life in debt ridden UK because we are so soft. We are happy to show our passports to ensure we can buy a loaf of bread and happy to let a VHNWI from the East spend hundreds of millions without anyone asking where the money came from (the answer being Cyprus of course).

Pre 2008 Iceland was the home of the Russian money launderer. Ex fisherman were empowered to buy up centuries old City brokers and money poured into London prime such that the small shed outside my house where I keep the trash is now worth USD5 million.

Post 2008 Cyprus began gobbling up the billions of deposits Iceland had failed to freeze to pay its fisherman. Despite Turkey's anger, Cyprus became a state of the ex USSR. Russian is the first language in Cyprus (a country once "owned" by the UK). Cyprus companies are cheap and easy to set up few dollars are used as holding companies because the corporate tax rate is only 10% (although you can negotiate this downwards if you are Russian). It is a safe haven for Russian assets.

Tiny Cyprus is officially the third largest foreign investor in the Russian economy. Wow. How is this possible?

But Cyprus is no Panama or Guatemala. It is a fully fledged EU country, unlike Iceland, and the Russians are over the moon. Middle ranking civil servants have moved their billions to this tiny island knowing that not only is the money nicely cleaned but their bank deposits are protected by the ECB! You couldn't make this up.

For those who can listen to the BBC's iPlayer, I suggest you listen to this ....(Radio 4). The premise is that London is one large laundry service. It was 2 years ago that fintag highlighted this fact (feb 2011). But for most Europeans, this is no big deal. Let's face it Luxembourg is the new Switzerland and its bang in the middle of Europe. The real crisis though is Cyprus. Unlike Luxembourg where the laundered money is from Europeans (MEP's mostly), Cyprus is full of dirty laundry from non Europeans. AIFMD technocrats can't do much about it now and its unlikely teams of techncrats will be challenging the Russians about the proceeds of their assets.

No wonder the Germans, who I am told dislike the Russians, are livid that they may soon by bailing in/out Cyprus. With Russia looking at bailing out Cyprus too, one wonders if the USA would ever bail out Cuba or Iran. You may say this aint possible but in this odd world of oddness, I wouldn't bet against it.

Today's shorts:
Cypriot comments (cm)

Today's longs:
Norway bails out the USA (bloomberg)

Gossip:
Fintagski, fintag's Russian site, closed down due to a denial of service attack.



Financial Times - RIP

FT RIP © fintag

News comments:
All good things come to an end. And so we say goodbye to the FT.

It was only a few years ago when an elite band of cowboys could trade the markets. Only a few people had access to the markets and could afford to pay for market data. The rest of us had the Financial Times (and the Investors Chronicle) to read and it was this paper that got me horned up about trading when as a child I would sneak off to the end of the garden and have my jollies. Like the Wall Street Journal, it was full of stories and predictions and magic. For a few pennies it enabled the penny stock punter to feel like they were big swingers and helped many of my generation into the wild casino west where products were created and fools lost money.

Today market data is everywhere. If you are a budding trader, you need never leave your bed. Analysis, opinion, data series, rampers, pumpers, platforms, the access to tools to make decisions are as common as muck. So where does the FT fit in?

You used to see people on the Tube devouring the FT. I never see anyone reading the FT. I still subscribe to the paper copy and usually read it at breakfast when staying at some bland foreign 5 star hotel where it is handed out for free (and added to the circulation figures). But I get most fun these days from CityAM.

It is the financial news of choice on the tube because its free, bite size and actually pretty informative. The weekend FT is by far a better read but it costs the price of a Sunday Lunch. Of course one can digest the pink stuff via a cancer inducing glare screen (roll on Gorilla Glass) but its nothing special and like most newspapers just pumps out "breaking stories" with "shock horror headlines".

We all like to hang onto our childhood toys but time moves on fast.

We learn the FT is 125 this week(guardian). Happy birthday and welcome to death. You see the FT is a bit like HMV; it has a great brand franchise and hasn't moved on with the times. If I were running the FT I would launch a daily CityAm, provide headline data for free, create some funky apps with access to simple data charts and use twitter a bit more effectively. But it wont and the FT will become Punch.

Today I cancel my FT subscription. A sad day but at least I am saving a few pink trees from being felled.

Today's shorts:
Carry trade EURO ready to implode again (bloomberg)

The end of structured products? My arse ... (barclays)

Barclays tax avoidance still alive and kicking (barclayswealth)

Today's longs:
From dog food to Michelin * restaurants (reuters)

Gossip:
The FT to launch a new page 3.



Friday, February 8, 2013

The last thing the UK needs is a technocrat

Mark Carney © fintag

News comments:
As much as Mervyn King was Bernanke's bitch, the new man Carney is looking for a new bitch called Boy .

Mark Carney, who has more facial expression than Jim Carrey, is on a mission in his new role as Bank of England guv. Given his trader like pay package it is clear he wants to be able to trade the UK balance sheet with gimmicks and ideas and get GBP into the trenches. Unlike King who pulled the printing presses with his right hand and interest rates with his left, Carrey wants to use his feet to tweak unemployment, growth and probably taxes too.

Boy George as we have seen in the last few years is way out of his depth so maybe its a good idea succumbing to become Carney's bitch. Having listened to Carrey yesterday, Carney appears to be a technocrat of the highest order. Draghi would be proud. Unelected too.

So will Carney be nominated for an Oscar or a rotten tomato?

Time will tell (my money is on the vegetable)...

Today's shorts:
EU expense accounts maxed out (reuters)

Bank of England to start libor rigging (reuters)

Today's longs:
Carney to start the GBP currency war (zerohedge)

Gossip:
Carney to move into number 11 Downing Street.