Pablo Picasso Maya, Picassos daughter with a doll 1938
We get this gnawing feeling their actual view of the economy is a lot less benign than they let on.
President Donald Trump raised his demands Monday on the Federal Reserve, calling for the central bank to cut interest rates by a full percentage point and to restart its crisis-era money-printing program. In a pair of tweets again aimed at getting easier monetary policy, the president said the Fed has been hampered by a “horrendous lack of vision” and said it should institute 100 basis points worth of reductions to its benchmark rate. Criticizing the Fed is nothing new for Trump, who has stated his desire for a weaker dollar and interest rates that are more competitive with other countries around the world. The Fed approved a quarter-point cut at its July meeting, but that has not stopped Trump from wanting more.
“Our dollar is so strong that it is sadly hurting other parts of the world,” he said. Trump also has been hammering away at what he calls “quantitative tightening,” or the Fed’s efforts to reduce the amount of bonds it was holding. The central bank acquired the assets during three rounds of buying during and after the financial crisis, in an effort to tamp down long-range interest rates and to steer money toward riskier assets like stocks and corporate bonds. In previous shots at the Fed, he has claimed that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would be 10,000 points higher and that the economy would be growing at better than a 4% rate if not for the rate hikes and unwinding of the balance sheet.
Why would you want Chinese to buy up your residential real estate? That just makes it more expensive for your own people.
To date, tariffs have not succeeded in forcing concessions from Beijing. As annoying as they are, current tariffs rates are not enough to force sudden shifts in supply chains or consumption patterns, and other than a decline in U.S. agricultural exports to China, the U.S.-China trade balance has been largely static even with the tariffs. What has not been static is the level of Chinese investment in the United States. Between 2000 and 2018, according to data from the Rhodium Group, Chinese companies and individuals poured about $140 billion into the United States, with the bulk of that coming between 2011 and 2018 and with 2016 the peak year at about $45 billion.
That does not include Chinese purchases of U.S. real estate; according to the National Association of Realtors, the Chinese have been the largest foreign buyers of residential U.S. real estate, snapping up an average of nearly $30 billion annually from 2015 to 2018, mostly in Florida, Texas, California and New York. And, of course, China has also been the largest holder of U.S. government debt, having surpassed Japan and currently holding over $1 trillion of government bonds.
All of that, however, has been reversing in the past year since the tariff war began. China’s purchases of U.S. debt have been going down. Foreign direct investment from China in the United States fell 88 percent from 2016 to last year and shows no signs of rebounding this year. The over 300,000 Chinese students in U.S. universities, who by some estimates contribute $13 billion to the U.S. economy each year, were warned by Beijing in June to reconsider whether the United States is a hospitable environment in light of increased difficulties in obtaining visas. And for the first time in 15 years, Chinese tourism to the United States—which contributes another $35 billion annually—declined last year.
The entire region once depended on HSBC. Today the roles appear to have been reversed.
HSBC’s headquarters are based in London. But it’s in Hong Kong where the bank first cut its teeth (laundering the proceeds from the British East Indian company’s opium trade) and where the lion’s share of its business is still done. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, “few if any of the world’s largest financial companies dominate a single market quite like HSBC does in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people that accounted for roughly 60 percent of the bank’s pretax income in 2018.”Hong Kong is Asia’s biggest financial hub, servicing not just China but many other Asian markets. Through the majority ownership of its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank Ltd., HSBC is the city’s biggest mortgage lender in the secondary market, rules the roost in investment banking, and is one of Hong Kong’s three note-issuing banks.
In fact, so entwined is Hong Kong’s recent history with that of HSBC that some of the city’s currency bills still, to this day, carry the bank’s logo. If anything, that relationship of co-dependency has intensified in recent years as HSBC has staged a strategic retreat from other emerging markets, including Brazil and Turkey, in order to focus its attention on fast-growth Asian markets, in particular China. The number of countries it operates in has gradually dwindled from 87 in 2011 to around 70 today, spurring HSBC to eventually ditch its slogan, “the world’s local bank.” In 2015, it even went so far as to end its sponsorship of Markit’s EM PMIs, the least government-controlled index in China, a move that was widely perceived as an attempt to forge closer ties with Beijing.
As one unnamed source told The Australian Financial Review at the time, “If you are a sizable bank that wants to do more business in China, you don’t want to make parts of the Chinese government angry. Sponsoring the survey is likely to affect your future business expansion in China.” To begin with, the strategy seemed to pay off. After an agonizing wait for regulatory approval, HSBC in 2017 became the first global bank to launch a majority owned-investment banking venture in mainland China, with its base in Shenzhen, which forms part of the Pearl River Delta metropolis where HSBC earns roughly half of its total China revenue.
Will Beijing destroy its finance center?
[..] anyone who thinks China’s iron-fisted rulers will allow a scrap of paper to limit their influence over Hong Kong is dead wrong. For them, Hong Kong is as much a part of China as Shanghai. So, too, is Taiwan. The massive rioting in Hong Kong earlier this week set off alarm bells in Beijing, which runs an Orwellian police state on the mainland. China’s hardline leaders rightly fear that the fracas in Hong Kong could incite other uprisings across China. Everyone remembers the long, bloody Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s with its rampaging Red Guards. Perhaps more important, Chinese leaders study their nation’s history and draw lessons from it, unlike America’s history-free politicians. For the Americans, history is what was on Fox TV the week before.
What Beijing really fears is another Taiping Rebellion. A nobody named Hong Xiuqan proclaimed himself the brother of Jesus and raised a vast peasant army to overthrow the ruling Manchu dynasty in Beijing. Brutal civil war raged from 1850-1864 in which up to 100 million are believed to have been killed or died of famine. If this sounds completely crazy, think of all the Republican sycophants that call President Trump the reincarnation of the ancient Hebrew Queen Esther or a ‘Christian warrior.’ Bizarre behavior and beliefs are universal. China has warned the rioting Hong Kong students to cease their protests or face intervention by Beijing’s tough paramilitary police, which backs up the regular People’s Army. Chinese armed police and soldiers are massing just across the border in Shenzhen, a mere taxi ride from downtown Hong Kong.
If the Hong Kong students are not wise, they risk winding up in China’s penal camps, the ‘laogai.’ Large numbers of Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang have been locked away in China’s western laogai. The airport riots now appear over but continue in Hong Kong’s streets. If the People’s Police or Liberation Army do intervene in Hong Kong to impose China’s iron hand, they could spark another Tiananmen Square bloodbath. But once Beijing’s forces impose martial law on Hong Kong its days of autonomy will be over. The type of repression China imposed on Tibet and Muslim regions could be repeated in Hong Kong. There is absolutely nothing any of the world’s powers can do about it. China will then turn its attention to ‘renegade province’ Taiwan. Western politicians can huff and puff all they like but they are powerless to change the tide of events in Hong Kong.
The cover of darkness.
Jeffrey Epstein signed his will just two days before he hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell — leaving behind a nearly $600 million fortune, according to court papers exclusively obtained by The Post on Monday. The court document, filed in the US Virgin Islands, where the convicted sex molester owned two isles — including one that locals dubbed “Pedophile Island’’ — was filed Aug. 8. The 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager was worth $577,672,654, or about $18 million more than he previously stated in court papers while futilely trying to land bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, the new documents show. He put all of his holdings in a trust, called The 1953 Trust, after the year he was born.
“It’s done that way for privacy reasons,’’ a city estate lawyer told The Post. “It’s pretty boiler-plate. It’s what we call a ‘pour-over will,’ which means everything pours over to a trust. “What is more unusual is the date, the fact that all of this was done just days before he died,’’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. “He could have thought, ‘I need to get my ducks in a row.’” The 21-page filing includes a copy of Epstein’s death certificate from Aug. 11, the day after his suicide — and lists “Immediate Cause: Pending Further Study.’’ The city Medical Examiner’s Office has since ruled that Epstein killed himself Aug. 10. Manhattan federal prosecutors Monday asked the judge overseeing his criminal case to officially toss it in light of his death.
“Because Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, died while this case was pending, and therefore before a final judgement was issued, the indictment must be dismissed under the rule of abatement,” the assistant US attorneys wrote judge Richard Berman, who was overseeing the case. The federal prosecutors added to the judge that they have notified all of Epstein’s “identified victims” and repeated previous statements from US Attorney Geoffrey Berman that his office isn’t done looking into the alleged sex-trafficking ring that serviced Epstein and his buddies. [..] The Post’s legal expert said Epstein’ s lawyers likely filed his will in the Virgin Islands to try to keep it “more private, because that is not where people would look.’’ In New York, “There is always a risk that it would be leaked.”
He’ll take the fifth. Does Britain have such a thing?
Prince Andrew should give sworn testimony on “everything he knows” about his friend Jeffrey Epstein after saying he was appalled by the disgraced financier’s sex crimes, lawyers for some of Epstein’s victims have said. Representatives of women including Virginia Giuffre, who was pictured with Andrew in a now notorious photograph and alleges she was made to have sex with him, urged the prince to help them secure justice for the women Epstein abused. “I look forward to coordinating a formal deposition where he will be given the opportunity to tell us everything he knows,” Brad Edwards, a lawyer for Giuffre, told the Guardian on Monday. “We would like to do this as soon as possible, at his convenience, and again we are very appreciative of his willingness to help.”
Epstein, 66, died this month in an apparent suicide in a New York jail cell while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking. He was accused of abusing underage girls and making some of them pleasure several of his rich and powerful friends. In a statement released on Sunday, Buckingham Palace said Andrew was “appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes”. It said he “deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent”. Allies of Epstein’s victims noted that Andrew stood by Epstein even after some of his offending came to light. Over the weekend the Mail on Sunday published new photographs of Andrew’s visit to Epstein’s $56m home in December 2010 – two years after the money manager pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor.
In February 2011 the News of the World ran photographs of the pair walking in Central Park during the same trip under the headline “Prince Andy and the Paedo”, setting off a storm around their friendship that has raged ever since. There was renewed anger on Monday after the resurfacing of details of Epstein’s visit to Balmoral Castle in 1999. Andrew hosted him and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, a daughter of the disgraced publisher Robert Maxwell, who has been accused of assisting Epstein’s abuse and denies any wrongdoing. Giuffre alleged in 2011 testimony that Andrew “knows the truth” about Epstein’s abuse of underage girls and said he should be made to testify. In a December 2014 court filing she alleged that she was made to have sex with Andrew among other friends of Epstein. He has always vehemently denied the allegations.
In 2015 a court decided that the allegations made by Giuffre about the prince were “immaterial and impertinent” and ordered them to be struck out of a claim against Epstein.
He’ll tell you for Halloween.
Boris Johnson has dismissed calls to immediately release official assessments on the impact of a no-deal Brexit after labelling potential food and medicine shortages as just “bumps in the road”. Downing Street had said that the leaked dossier on the impact of no deal – warning of shortages, possible recession and months of chaos at ports – was outdated. But Jeremy Corbyn said these claims “can’t be trusted” and that Operation Yellowhammer documents should be released in full so that businesses and consumers can prepare. A government spokesperson rejected the call, saying “extensive information” on what businesses and citizens need to do to prepare for Brexit is already available online.
It came after Mr Johnson dismissed a push from more than 100 MPs, backed by the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, for parliament to cut short its summer break in order to tackle the looming exit from the EU on 31 October. The government was embroiled in a separate row yesterday over when the leaked documents were written. Though Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal preparations, said the dossier was an “old document”, it was reported that the assessments were sent to devolved governments as recently as this month. As the row escalated, Mr Corbyn called for the latest assessments to be released immediately. Speaking as he prepared to meet business leaders to discuss the potential impact of no deal, the Labour leader said: “The government’s own Operation Yellowhammer dossier makes the chaos and damage that will be caused by Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit crystal clear.
The last time the UK was self sufficient in food was 1800
The EU cannot back down on the backstop. Johnson knows this. He’s just pre-emptively trying to deflect the blame.
Boris Johnson has claimed that EU leaders will change their positions and allow the UK to scrap the Brexit backstop in the withdrawal agreement. As the prime minister prepares for face-to-face talks with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France this week, he acknowledged there would be “bumps in the road” before any agreement to drop the plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland. It follows the leak of cabinet papers this weekend warning that carrying out Johnson’s threat of a no-deal Brexit would cause “incredibly serious” economic harm.
“We will be ready to come out on October 31, deal or no deal,” Johnson said during a visit to Truro on Monday. Now of course our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel are showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment to change their position. “That’s fine – I’m confident that they will – but in the meantime we have to get ready for a no-deal outcome. I want a deal. We’re ready to work with our friends and partners to get a deal, but if you want a good deal for the UK, you must simultaneously get ready to come out without one.”
Johnson will meet the German chancellor on Wednesday and the French president on Thursday, before the G7 meeting in Biarritz on Saturday. When asked whether progress would be made during these talks, Johnson replied: “Well, that is, I’m afraid, very much up to our friends, and I hope that they will compromise. “They have seen that the UK parliament has three times rejected the withdrawal agreement, the backstop just doesn’t work, it’s not democratic and I hope that they will see fit to compromise, but in the meantime we get ready to come out on 31 October.”
This is dangerous. The backstop exists to protect Good Friday. Now Boris says it hurts it. He’s the kind of Brit who thinks the Irish are a lesser people.
Boris Johnson has told the EU the backstop plan for the Irish border must be scrapped because it is “unviable” and “anti-democratic”. In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, the PM said the backstop – which aims to avoid a hard border – risked undermining the Northern Irish peace process. If the plan was removed, Mr Johnson claimed a Brexit deal would be passed by parliament. Brussels has not yet responded. However, the EU has consistently insisted the backstop must remain part of the withdrawal agreement and cannot be changed. In a phone conversation with Mr Johnson on Monday evening, Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar reiterated that the agreement could not be reopened and the backstop could not change.
The backstop – part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May which has been rejected by Parliament three times – is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. If implemented, it would see Northern Ireland stay aligned to some rules of the EU single market. In his letter, Mr Johnson described the arrangement as “inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK” and insisted it could not form part of a withdrawal agreement. He also warned that it risked “weakening the delicate balance” of the Good Friday peace agreement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is putting the National Health Service (NHS) off limits in any trade deal with the United States, the Sun newspaper reported. “The Prime Minister has asked me to underline that measures affecting the NHS, including service provision and drug pricing, cannot under any circumstances form part of an agreement with the United States,” a letter from Johnson’s senior staff to Trade Secretary Liz Truss’s office said, according to the report. The letter continued that there should be no internal discussion of the issues within the government. Johnson fears the Labour Party would use any suggestion that NHS access is up for grabs to its electoral advantage, the article said. U.S President Donald Trump had said in June that Britain’s public health service should be on the table in talks about a trade deal between the two countries after Brexit but later backtracked on his comments.
I was wondering yesterday: Syria forces were firing on a Turkish convoy entering Syrian territory. Russia supports Syria, also militarily, and Turkey just bought Russian S-400’s. Confusing!
But someone should protect the 3 million people in Idlib, that should be the priority.
Jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria Tuesday as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces pressed an offensive against the jihadist-run Idlib region, a war monitor said. The fighters pulled back from the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops.
The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after government forces took control of a section of the highway into the town. Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning’s strike targeted a rebel vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy. “The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt,” it said. It was a “clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists,” the paper said, adding that the strike had “Russian support”.
“We’re on the verge of a lot of things coming apart: supply lines, revenue streams, international agreements, political assumptions, promises to do this and that.”
Even the traumas of the 20th century’s world wars did not crush that sense of amazing progress, at least not in North America, spared the wars’ mighty wreckage. The post-war confidence of American society achieved a level of in-your-face laughable hubris — see the USA in your Chevrolet! — until John Kennedy was shot down, and after that the delirious moonshot euphoria steadily gave way to corrosive skepticism, anxiety, acrimony, and enmity. My generation, booming into adulthood, naively thought they could fix all that with Earth Day, tofu, and computers, and keep the great wheel rolling down into an even more glorious cybernetic nirvana. Fakeout. That’s not where the wheel is going.
We borrowed all we possibly could from the future to pretend that the system was still working, and now the future is at the door like a re-po man come to take away both the car and the house. The financial scene is an excellent analog to our collective psychology. Its workings depend on the simple faith that its workings work. So, it is easy to imagine what happens when that faith wavers. We’re on the verge of a lot of things coming apart: supply lines, revenue streams, international agreements, political assumptions, promises to do this and that. We have no idea how to keep it together on the downside. We don’t even want to think about it. The best we can do for the moment is pretend that the downside doesn’t exist. And meanwhile, fight both for social justice and to make America great again, two seemingly noble ideas, both exercises in futility. The wheel is still turning and the change of season soon upon us. What will you do?