Harris&Ewing War-bond rally on Penn. Avenue, Washington DC 1918
Major shift afoot.
Parity between the dollar and euro is likely “a matter of when not if,” a strategist told CNBC on Thursday. Sameer Samana of Wells Fargo said on “Squawk on the Street” that it would depend on quantitative easing in Europe and economic data in the U.S. “The economic surprises in Europe have been getting a little bit better and the ones in the U.S. are getting a little more negative so I would say appreciation probably starts to happen at a much-slower pace,” he said. “Parity is probably only a matter of when not if.”
Meanwhile, Ward McCarthy, Jefferies chief financial economist, expects money to flow to the U.S. “Investors who sell bonds to the ECB are going to look for some place to put their money,” he also said on “Squawk on the Street.” “The dollar should strengthen and the U.S. bond market continues to be high yield, so I think expectations are a lot of this money will find its way over here and I think that is exactly what’s going to happen.” Samana recommends investors stay in stocks with diversified portfolios. “Going forward it looks like Europe has the chance to actually surprise to the upside.”
I’ve been saying this forever: there’s no way they get 7% in a 1% at best world.
In a world in which sell-side research (and even that of independent third-parties) is not only meaningless – because as we first said in 2010 the only thing that matters in the New Paranormal is ‘the Fed’s H.4.1 statement’ – there are few sources of insightful, non-conflicted analysis. One place which stands out is Cornerstone Macro – yes, it costs a lot of money, but it’s worth it. Cornerstone is the one place which actually turned bearish a little over a month ago, purely on fundamental factors (FX, oil, global recession), and has been pointing out many of the discrepancies in the narrative (then again, as we showed before, in a world in which central banks are set to have the greatest amount of nominal “intervention” surpassing even the post-Lehman period…
… one doesn’t have to be a rocket surgeon to realize that things are not only not good, but have rarely been worse even with the benefit of $13 trillion in central bank liquidity).
We bring it up because Cornerstone’s analysis of recent developments in China bears keeping a very dose eye on. We won’t spoil it, especially for those who are paying subscribers to the paid (and quite expensive) service, but we will present what they have chosen to broadcast publicly on their research section, which in light of last night’s official news of yet another confirmation the slowdown in China is getting worse (not only on the unprecedented debt build up which we have covered extensively in the past, and where monetary ‘austerity’ is suddenly a very hot topic, but where capital outflows have become the number one focal issue) has released several key research reports. Here are the key publicly-available excerpts from some of their salient recent reports:
From Hello Beijing, We Have a Problem:
China is likely to continue to ease, for 3 reasons:
1. Chinese economic activity has probably slowed to less than 3%.
2. China is likely to experience broad-based deflation.
3. China is Nicely to continue to experience net capital outflows. That last bullet, net capital outflows, is the focus of the report today.
“Mr. Draghi’s open-mouth operations to talk down the euro..”
The ECB begins its much-anticipated purchases of sovereign bonds on Monday, and ECB President Mario Draghi says the program known as quantitative easing is working before it has even begun. He’s right about that, as strange as it sounds, and therein lies the paradox of Europe’s dive into QE: It may already have had the most effect it is going to have through Mr. Draghi’s salesmanship and Europe’s will to believe. Recall how the ECB got here. Demands have grown for years for an ECB program to match the bond purchases by central banks in the U.S., U.K. and Japan. Mr. Draghi started hinting at a willingness to play along in his August speech at the global central banking conference at Jackson Hole, Wyo. By the time Mr. Draghi in September announced a plan to buy private securities, investors viewed it as a stepping-stone to buying sovereign debt too.
As investors came to view QE as inevitable, prices responded, especially the price of the euro. As a result of Mr. Draghi’s open-mouth operations to talk down the euro—coupled with an expectation that interest rates might rise soon in the U.S.—the euro has declined steadily against the dollar and other currencies. On Thursday it hit an 11-year low of $1.10, compared to about $1.40 last summer. QE boosters hope the euro devaluation will enhance European export competitiveness, although there’s little evidence so far. The euro’s fall might also have produced some inflation through higher euro-denominated import prices had the global price of oil not fallen by some 50% in the past few months. Above all, by demonstrating his commitment to bold steps to avert full-blown deflation, Mr. Draghi has been trying to jolt market expectations about future price moves.
QE expectations have driven down bond yields across Europe, which is supposed to be another benefit. Yields on government bonds have fallen significantly, some into negative territory. Large companies are also starting to line up to issue ultralow yield debt. French energy company GDF Suez on Wednesday sold bonds worth €500 million ($551 million) with a zero coupon, the first such deal in Europe in more than 14 years. Berkshire Hathaway on Thursday raised €3 billion in its first euro-denominated bond issue. So Mr. Draghi has some cause to say, as he did Thursday, that “we have already seen a significant number of positive effects” from the ECB’s January QE announcement.
“.. the only efficient way of countering smuggling was to cut the tax on cigarettes..”
It could be a scene from a thriller: a ghost ship abandoned in the crystal-clear bay of a Greek island, its hold crammed with millions of illegal cigarettes, the crew nowhere to be seen. And no one knows where the freighter Amaranthus or its cargo were bound for when it beached on the island of Zanthe off the Ionian coast of western Greece in December. But such discoveries are now almost routine for police as cigarette and petrol smuggling has become big business in crisis-hit Greece. Every country in Europe has a problem with cigarette smuggling but in Greece – which has the highest proportion of smokers of any developed country – it has mushroomed since the economy sank into crisis. A security official told AFP corruption and a lack of resources had caused “major failings in the Greek Customs system” with few major seizures or investigations into smuggling rings.
Yet it is by cracking down on this multi-billion euro business, and the even more lucrative trade in petrol smuggling, that the new left-wing government hopes to find some of the money it needs to pay off Greeces gigantic debts. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has made stamping out fuel and cigarette fraud one of his priority reforms, with the state losing an estimated €1.5 billion a year in petrol tax alone, and between €500 and €600 million in lost revenue on tobacco. According to the market research company Nielsen, which used official Greek data, more than one cigarette in five smoked in Greece last year was smuggled, compared with only 3% in 2009 when the crisis that has devastated the Greek economy first struck.
But with the price of cigarettes rocketing, and cash-strapped governments raising taxes on them five times in as many years, researcher Ioannis Michaletos of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses said “the only efficient way of countering smuggling was to cut the tax on cigarettes”. This is not, however, what the government, desperate to fill the states empty coffers, want to hear, and it seems determined instead to tighten controls and fully implement European rules on the traceability of cigarettes. Michaletos is sceptical any such crackdown would work “given that European states better equipped than Greece have not had much success.”
No kidding: “We don’t have any experience with this quantitative easing, so anybody who knows this now should speak up.”
Mario Draghi is claiming victory for his quantitative-easing program before it even starts. As the European Central Bank president set a start date of Monday for his 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) bond-buying program, he said the stimulus will spur the euro area’s fastest economic growth since 2007 and return inflation to the ECB’s goal within three years. The bullish tone after policy makers met in Nicosia on Thursday signals optimism that what Draghi called the ECB’s “final set of measures” will restore the 19-nation currency bloc to health. The risk is that this is just yet another false dawn, leaving the central bank needing to do more. “Draghi had a tough battle to reach the QE compromise, now of course he wants to promote it as much as possible,” said Thomas Harjes at Barclays in Frankfurt. “He gave a strong statement that QE will deliver.”
Draghi’s faith in quantitative easing, which he pushed through against German-led opposition, was reflected in the ECB’s new economic forecasts. After consumer prices fell 0.3% in February, the central bank now sees a deflationary spiral averted. Prices are projected to be flat over the whole of 2015. Inflation should average 1.5% next year, twice as much as the 0.7% estimate in December, and 1.8% in 2017. The ECB’s goal is just below 2%, a level not seen since early 2012. As for economic growth, the ECB’s economists lifted their outlook for this year to 1.5% from 1%, for 2016 to 1.9%, and projected 2.1% in 2017. The economy hasn’t expanded faster than 2% since 2007. “Our monetary-policy decisions have worked,” Draghi told reporters in the Cypriot capital.
He may be catching a lucky break. Critics of quantitative easing, such as Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, said the euro-zone economy would enjoy an uplift anyway after oil prices fell by half, the euro tumbled, and stimulus in recent months such as interest-rate cuts take effect. Whether QE will work “is not that easy to answer,” Bundesbank board member Andreas Dombret said on Bloomberg TV on Thursday. “We don’t have any experience with this quantitative easing, so anybody who knows this now should speak up.”
“Killing three birds with one stone…”
With the ECB about to launch its €1 trillion bond-buying program on Monday, foreign exchange experts are already preparing to readjust their forecasts for the single currency. After the ECB announced its massive quantitative easing (QE) campaign would start Monday, the euro fell below $1.1000 for the first time since September 2003. On Friday, the currency was hovering around 1.1012. Against sterling, the euro had also fallen to near seven-year lows of 72.29 pence. Whether the euro could recover after the ECB announced that it was to begin purchasing €60 billionworth of assets a month has prompted analysts to question their forecasts for the currency. One market analyst said the euro was being “brutally punished” by traders. “Volatility is the name of the game for today,” Naeem Aslam at Ava Trade said.
“Short the euro and buy the dollar is probably the most crowded trade for the last year, and yet till this day, investors are not afraid to put more chips on the table. This is causing a tremendous amount of pressure for the euro zone currency.” Derek Halpenny at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, said in a note Thursday that his year-end forecasts for euro/dollar “might quickly look too conservative.” “(The) ECB press conference certainly highlighted the determination of the ECB to implement the QE program but the forecasts suggest the markets should not expect more,” Halpenny said in a note Thursday. Currencies tend to weaken during QE as there is more money in circulation and lower interest rates tend to encourage consumers to spend and businesses to invest. Killing three birds with one stone, a cheaper euro is expected to help combat deflation and stimulate both the region’s economy and exports, which become more attractive with a cheaper currency.
At this point, it’s not Greece that’s the problem.
It’s payback time for Greece. Despite securing a four-month lifeline on its loans, the bills are already piling up. On top of this month’s repayments to the International Monetary Fund worth a total of 1.5 billion euros, the country faces debt obligations amounting to €22.5 billion for 2015. And there are mounting concerns that, in spite of the extension, Greece still won’t be able to pay its way. A snap election on January 25th led to a new government headed by left-wing Syriza party, which has pledged to make a break from the past austerity measures imposed on it by its lenders. 5 years down the line, and Greece is still tied to two loan programs worth €240 billion overseen by the so-called Troika of the EC, the ECB and the IMF. The bailout, that was due to expire at the end of last year, has been extended twice to give time to Greece’s international creditors to negotiate with the new government.
State revenues, key to helping Greece repay its loans, dropped dramatically in January as people stopped paying taxes in the hope of new legislation. Banks, meanwhile, have been hit by a big wave of capital flight as depositors took money abroad in fear of a “Grexit”.
Meanwhile, Spain’s finance minister, Luis de Guindos, said this week that a third bailout on top of the 240 billion euros already doled out is inevitable. “It is absolutely clear from a market’s perspective that Greece will have to continue relying on official sector financing if it likes to stay in the euro. The new government may try different ways to raise tax revenue etc. than previous governments, but investors have heard the same song over and again”, David Schnautz, interest rates strategist for Commerzbank in New York told CNBC.
The new Greek government is pushing for the money that it thinks is rightfully theirs. Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has been arguing that the ECB should release €1.9 billion that it gained in interest from its Greek bond holdings. These proceeds, currently held by other euro zone countries, would be returned to Greece once the final review of the country’s bailout programme was concluded. A further €7.2 billion, the last tranche of aid from this second package, is also to be released. Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said this week that a first disbursement could be made as soon as this month, if Greece picked up the speed of its reforms – as the country agreed on February 20th.
“Janet Yellen’s Fed favors too-greedy-to-fail banks versus America’s 95 million Main Street investors..”
President Obama’s new fiduciary rule for retirement advice is DOA. Why? Not just because a 2004 GOP Senate killed the fiduciary rule Vanguard’s Jack Bogle has been pushing for over a half century. Not just because Wall Street banks will defeat any and every proposed fiduciary rule, just like they’ve been killing all bank reforms like Dodd-Frank since the 2008 crash. And not just because Janet Yellen’s Fed favors too-greedy-to-fail banks versus America’s 95 million Main Street investors. Even if Obama’s fiduciary rule is not dead on arrival, it will get buried soon in Washington’s deadly partisan graveyard. No such rule will ever go far in today’s hostile GOP Congress, any more than Bogle’s Fidelity Rule did a decade ago. Why? Because banks will fight to the death to protect the hundred of billions in fees generated without any fiduciary rules.
Banks and the financial industry a ideologically selfish. They will never voluntarily put the investor’s interests first, never! Even without a fiduciary rule, America’s 95 million Main Street investors can beat Wall Street at its own game, building a bigger, better retirement portfolio. Here’s how: Last year we built our own new set of rules based on a comparison of fees in the Wall Street Journal. Listen: “For example, imagine putting $200,000 in stock ETFs averaging 0.04% fees. Do that and you’ll have $2 million for your retirement in three decades. But put the same $200,000 in mutual funds charging the industry average, an annual fee of 1.25%, and you’d have only $1.4 million in 30 years. Yes, you lose $600,000. You’d have $600,000 less for your retirement years. Meanwhile, some clever advisers would pocket your $600,000 into their retirement accounts.”
As the U.S. runs out of space to store its glut of crude-oil supplies, prices for the commodity could sink to as low as $30 a barrel. When storage is full, there is pressure on those holding oil in storage to “dump that inventory,” said Charles Perry, chief executive officer of energy-consulting firm Perry Management. So a space shortage could cause a drop in prices to the $30 to $40-per-barrel range, he said. West Texas Intermediate crude – the U.S. benchmark — has already seen its prices halved from a year ago. A cost of $30 per barrel of oil represents a 40% drop from the current level, which stands near $51. At Cushing, Okla., the “mecca” of oil storage in the U.S., “the Motel 6 may have a vacancy sign out, but the storage terminals really don’t,” said Kevin Kerr, president of Kerr Trading International.
Here’s why storage plays such a big part: While there are several storage options such as pipelines, very large crude carriers, also known as VLCCs, aboveground tanks and underground salt caverns, the costs for these have “dramatically increased, forcing some companies to sell their inventory as a cheaper option, thus putting significant pressure on prices,” said John Macaluso at Tyche Capital Advisors. It’s not clear how much costs have increased but Perry, an oil-and-gas industry veteran, points out that he’s always heard the going rate for aboveground storage at Cushing was, more or less, 50 cents a barrel a month. Oil tanker storage is the most expensive, with prices likely in the $1 to $1.25 a barrel a month range, he said. Total utilization of crude storage capacity in the U.S. is at about 60% as of the week ended Feb. 20, and capacity at Cushing, the delivery point for WTI futures contracts, is about 67% full, the EIA reported Wednesday.
Coincidentally, the CME Group announced plans Wednesday for what it calls the “first-ever physically delivered crude-oil storage futures contract.” Storage is a major component of the supply-glut dilemma. U.S. crude inventories are at their highest level on record, according to EIA records dating back to the 1980s. Supplies have climbed for eight weeks straight. Capacity for many of the storage locations will be at or near capacity in several weeks to a few months, Kerr estimates — and if storage facilities “begin to turn away supplies and/or dump them on the market en masse,” the market could see oil prices at or below the $45 level. “The scenario could keep us in cheap oil for some time to come,” Kerr said. “We don’t see much spare storage opening up anytime soon. What we do expect are higher rates for storage and a glut of supply.”
Anything for a buck.
The UK government has become embroiled in a row over financial support for fossil fuel companies after announcing a $1bn (£660m) funding package involving Pemex, the Mexican state oil group. Greenpeace said the move to provide credit for “dirty” energy projects under the UK Export Finance (UKEF) scheme flew counter to the government’s commitments to fighting climate change. The Tories and Lib Dems pledged in 2010 that export finance would be used to champion British companies that developed and exported innovative green technologies around the world, “instead of supporting investment in dirty fossil fuel energy production”.
“The truth is that the ‘greenest government ever’ has spent the last five years bankrolling some of the dirtiest energy developments on the planet, from Russian coal mining to the Saudi oil industry,” said Lawrence Carter, a Greenpeace UK energy campaigner. “Our ministers should stop acting like the merchant bankers of climate change and start using export finance to promote the cutting-edge clean technologies that are reshaping energy markets the world over.” The financing agreement was revealed during a visit to Aberdeen by Matthew Hancock, the UK energy minister, alongside Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto who is on a wider state trip to the UK.
Mexico’s energy system is undergoing significant reform and Nieto was visiting Scotland to speak to energy leaders across the business and education sectors, as well as signing agreements with the UK government for greater collaboration in the areas of energy and climate change. “This visit today by President Peña Nieto to the UK’s energy capital cements the already close links between our two countries and heralds an era of closer collaboration in energy,” said Hancock. “The government of Mexico expects $50bn of investment by 2018 in the wake of its energy reforms – boosting the economy and creating jobs while rejuvenating production,” he added.
See my artcile March 5.
Ukraine is a nation at war, which is why Natalie Jaresko, the minister of finance, has traveled 20 miles from Kiev to the town of Irpin, a settlement of 40,000 on the edge of a pine forest. She’s here to visit a rearguard army hospital and to console convalescing veterans of recent battles against Russian forces and their proxies in the Ukrainian east. “Where did you serve?” she asks, moving slowly from room to room. “How were you wounded?” She may be from Chicago’s West Side, but she speaks Ukrainian fluently, and if anyone notices her American accent, no one seems to care. Jaresko tells the soldiers they’re heroes, the country’s national accountant handling a job for generals. The crisis has thrust people into unlikely roles.
Three months ago, Jaresko, 49, left the private equity firm that she co-founded in Ukraine in 2006 to join the government of Petro Poroshenko. At the time, Jaresko didn’t even have Ukrainian citizenship. Now, as the country’s top economic official, she’s Ukraine’s liaison to the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Tax reform is hers. So is the treasury.
[..].. whether Ukraine succeeds as an independent democratic nation arguably depends as much on the efforts of Jaresko and her colleagues as it does on the military battles. Together they must rebuild a shattered economy and restore international confidence in Ukraine while confronting the corruption and cronyism that have haunted the country since the fall of communism. And they must somehow do so as state-owned banks teeter on the brink of collapse, the national treasury counts its last foreign notes, and inflation is at 28% and rising. The longer the war carries on and reforms are delayed, the more hostile Ukrainians will become to their government and its Western supporters, leaving the country even more vulnerable to Vladimir Putin.
Get rid of the freak already.
Assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland has admitted the US considers Russia’s actions in Ukraine “an invasion”, in what may be the first time a senior American official has used the term to describe a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people. Speaking before the House committee on foreign affairs, Nuland was asked by representative Brian Higgins about Russia’s support of rebels in eastern Ukraine, through weapons, heavy armor, money and soldiers: “In practical terms does that constitute an invasion?”
Nuland at first replied that “we have made clear that Russia is responsible for fielding this war,” until pressed by Higgins to answer “yes or no” whether it constitutes an invasion. “We have used that word in the past, yes,” Nuland said, apparently marking the first time a senior official has allowed the term in reference to Russia’s interference in eastern Ukraine, and not simply its continued occupation of the Crimean peninsula.
Obama administration officials across departments have strenuously avoided calling the conflict an invasion for months, instead performing verbal contortions to describe an “incursion”, “violation of territorial sovereignty” and an “escalation of aggression”. In November Vice-President Joe Biden, who has acted as one of Obama’s primary liaisons with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, rapidly corrected himself after breaking from the White House’s careful language on CNN, saying “When the Russians invaded – crossed the border – into Ukraine, it was, ‘My god. It’s over.’”
“.. the US does not want peace to break out.” “..the US hasn’t provided one piece of proof, except for Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt’s Rorschach tests he passes off as a satellite photo.”
RT:World leaders and international monitors agree the situation in Ukraine is generally improving. Why are we still witnessing aggressive rhetoric from some US officials?
Daniel McAdams: Because the US does not want peace to break out. The US is determined to see its project through. But unfortunately like all of its regime change projects this one is failing miserably. Victoria Nuland completely disregards the role of the US in starting the conflict in Ukraine. She completely glosses over the fact that the army supported by Kiev has been bombarding Eastern Ukraine, as if these independent fighters in the east are killing themselves and their own people. Victoria Nuland was an aid to Dick Cheney; she is firmly ensconced in the neocon camp. The neocons believe very strongly in lying, the noble lie… They lied us into the war in Iraq; they are lying now about Ukraine. Lying is what the neocons do.
RT: Nuland listed a lot of hostile actions by Russia without providing any reliable proof. Do you think she can be challenged on these topics?
DM: Maybe she is right but the US hasn’t provided one piece of proof, except for Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt’s Rorschach tests he passes off as a satellite photo. Maybe they are true but we have to present some evidence because we’ve seen now the neocons have lied us into the war. This is much more serious than the attack on small Iraq. This has the potential for a global nuclear war. So I think they should be held to a higher level of scrutiny. Thus far they have not provided any. We do know however that the US is providing military aid. As the matter of fact this week hundreds of American troops are arriving in Ukraine. Why is that not an escalation? Why is it only an escalation when the opponents of the US government are involved?
RT: How probable is that the Western nations ship lethal aid to Ukraine?
DM: It is interesting because Victoria Nuland this week spent some time with Andriy Parubiy, one of the founders of the fascist party in Ukraine and I believe one of the founders of the Joseph Goebbels Institute. She met with him this week and had a photo taken with him. He came back to Ukraine and assured his comrades that the US will provide additional, non-lethal weapons – whatever that means – and felt pretty strongly that they would provide lethal weapons. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey has been urging the US government to provide lethal weapons as has the new US defense secretary [Ashton Carter], both of whom come from the military industrial complex which is thrilled by prospect of a lot more arms to be sold.
RT: Nuland has said the State Department is in talks with EU leaders for another round of sanctions on Russia. Do you think the EU will agree?
DM: I think they will be pressured into agreeing. It is interesting that Nuland said that the new Rada, the new Ukrainian parliament, in this first four months has been a hive of activity. I was just watching some videos from the fights in the Ukrainian parliament. So that was one bit of unintentional humor probably in her speech. It looks like a fight club over there.
Or just stop eating crap.
You’ve heard the evidence before but one can never be too sure – yet another study has shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet is good for your health. Filling up on oily fish, nuts, whole grains and fruit and vegetables – and even the odd glass of red wine – could cut your risk of developing heart disease by almost half over a 10-year period. Scientists at Harokopio University in Athens found that the benefits even outweigh those of regular exercise – and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, old or young. The study, which will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego later this month, reinforces previous research. But it is also the first of its kind, in that it tracked heart disease risk in a general population. Most other studies have focused on middle-aged people.
Ekavi Georgousopoulou, a PhD candidate, who conducted the study along with Professor Demosthenes B Panagiotakos, said: “Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people – in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions. “It also reveals that the Mediterranean diet has direct benefits for heart health, in addition to its indirect benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension and inflammation.” More than 2,500 Greek adults, aged 18 to 89, provided researchers with details about their health each year from 2001 to 2012. The participants also completed comprehensive surveys about their medical records lifestyle and dietary habits three times throughout the study: at the start, after five years and after 10 years.
Weak little kid.
Unusual warming of waters in the central equatorial Pacific has prompted the US government to declare an El Nino event and predict a better-than-even chance that it will linger through the middle of the year. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the above-average sea-surface temperatures had exceeded key thresholds, triggering the declaration of the “long-anticipated” El Nino. However, the location of the main warming – about 10 degrees west of the International Dateline rather than to the east – and its timing early in the year are puzzling climate experts looking for similar events. “Climate scientists are monitoring this with amazement,” said Cai Wenju, a principal CSIRO research scientist who has published widely on the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern. “We only understand what we have seen.”
El Ninos involve the relative warming of sea-surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, compared with western regions. In such events, the typical east-to-west trade winds abate or reverse, and large areas of the western Pacific including eastern Australia receive reduced rainfall. Currently, the area of most anomalous warmth is located about 7000 kilometres west of the area where El Ninos are typically centred. They also tend to appear in the late autumn to winter period for the southern hemisphere. “All these are very different from a classic El Nino,” Dr Cai said. While Japanese researchers have identified similar central Pacific warming events – dubbing them El Nino Modoki, or “same but different” in Japanese – the current pattern is about 1500 kilometres further to the west than previous ones, Dr Cai said.
Earlier this week, the Bureau of Meteorology upgraded its ENSO Tracker to “watch” level, reflecting the recent warming. “Weakened trade winds are forecast to continue, and this may induce further warming,” the bureau said. Andrew Watkins, the bureau’s supervisor of its Climate Prediction Services unit, said Australia’s definition differs from the NOAA’s so it is yet to declare an El Nino event. “Even by their definition, it’s very weak,” Dr Watkins said. “It just scrapes over the line.” For the bureau to declare an El Nino event, greater warmth needs to persist in the monitored areas – 0.8 degrees above average compared with 0.5 degrees – and the atmosphere must begin to “couple” with the changed ocean conditions, reinforcing them.