Sep 222017
 
 September 22, 2017  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Harry Callahan Chicago 1947

 

Albert Edwards: The Bank Of England’s ‘Monetary Schizophrenia’ (CW)
4-Warnings For The Bull Market (Roberts)
QT1 Will Lead to QE4 Rickards)
S&P Strips Hong Kong of AAA Rating A Day After China Downgrade (BBG)
China Hits Back At S&P’s ‘Mistaken’ Credit Downgrade (AFP)
Jamie Dimon Faces Market Abuse Claim Over Bitcoin Comments (ZH)
Spain’s Attack On Catalonia Spills Over To 100,000 Domain Names (IN)
Spain Hires Cruise Liner to House Police in Rebel Catalonia (BBG)
Greece Will Remain Under Strict Supervision For Years, EWG Chief Says (K.)
Life Unlikely Beyond 115 Year Mark Despite Medical Advances (DT)

 

 

“At the same time it is warning of a consumer credit bubble, the BoE has just increased its programme of lending to banks at preferential rates to increase bank lending in things like, yes you’ve guessed it, consumer credit!”

Albert Edwards: The Bank Of England’s ‘Monetary Schizophrenia’ (CW)

After last month admitting he was becoming tired of central bank bashing – a feeling many of his readers may relate to – Albert Edwards has launched another scathing attack. The Bank of England (BoE) was in the line of fire this time, with the SocGen strategist claiming Mark Carney’s team was leading the way when it comes to ‘monetary schizophrenia’. Edwards finds it remarkable how similar the US and UK macro situations often are. ‘This was most evident in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis with both the Federal Reserve and Bank of England (BoE) asleep at the wheel, building a most precarious pyramid of prosperity upon the shifting sands of rampant credit growth and illusory housing wealth,’ he said. ‘These of all the major central banks were the most culpable in their incompetence and most prepared with disingenuous excuses. And 10 years on, not much has changed.

‘The Fed and BoE are once again presiding over a credit bubble, with the BoE in particular suffering a painful episode of cognitive dissonance in an effort to shift the blame elsewhere. The credit bubble is everyone’s fault but theirs.’ Edwards sees unsecured credit at the heart of the problem, where growth has shot up by more than 10% in both the UK and US. Edwards accepts the debt time-bomb is specific to the UK. ‘We are in a QE, zero interest rate world, where central banks are effectively force-feeding debt down borrowers’ throats. They did it in 2003-2007 and they are doing it again,’ he highlights. ‘Most of the liquidity merely swirls around financial markets, but there is certainly compelling evidence now of a consumer credit bubble in both the UK and US (as well as a corporate credit bubble in the US).’

However, he finds the reaction of the BoE most ‘bizarre’, with Carney darkly warning banks of lessons of the past while recently increasing bank capital requirements on consumer loans. The perplexed Edwards points out: ‘At the same time it is warning of a consumer credit bubble, the BoE has just increased its programme of lending to banks at preferential rates to increase bank lending in things like, yes you’ve guessed it, consumer credit!

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“It may not ‘feel’ like the mania of the late 1990s to early 2000, but in terms of actually measurable data, the overall bullish consensus seems to be even greater than it was back then.”

4-Warnings For The Bull Market (Roberts)

As I have discussed many times previously, the stock market rise has NOT lifted all boats equally. More importantly, the surge in confidence is a coincident indicator and more suggestive, historically, of market peaks as opposed to further advances. As David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff noted: ‘For an investment community that typically lives in the moment and extrapolates the most recent experience into the future, it would only fall on deaf ears to suggest that peak confidence like this and peak market pricing tend to coincide with each other.” He is absolutely correct. As shown below in the consumer composite confidence index (an average of the Census Bureau and University Of Michigan surveys), previous peaks in confidence have been generally associated with peaks in the market.

For those of you unfamiliar with Texas sayings, “all hat, no cattle” means that someone is acting the part without having the “stuff” to back it up. Just wearing a “cowboy hat,” doesn’t make you a “cowboy.” I agree with the premise that leverage alone is not a problem for stocks in the short-term. In fact, it is the increase in leverage which pushes stock prices higher. As shown in the chart below, there is a direct correlation between stock price and margin debt growth. But, margin debt is NOT a benign contributor. As I discussed previously in “The Passive Indexing Trap:” “At some point, that reversion process will take hold. It is then investor ‘psychology’ will collide with ‘margin debt’ and ETF liquidity. It will be the equivalent of striking a match, lighting a stick of dynamite and throwing it into a tanker full of gasoline.”

Not surprisingly, the expansion of leverage to record levels coincides with the drop in investor cash levels to record lows. As noted by Pater Tenebrarum via Acting-Man blog: “Sentiment has become even more lopsided lately, with the general public joining the party. It may not ‘feel’ like the mania of the late 1990s to early 2000, but in terms of actually measurable data, the overall bullish consensus seems to be even greater than it was back then. Along similar lines, here is a recent chart that aggregates the relative cash reserves of several groups of market participants (including individual investors, mutual fund managers, fund timers, pension fund managers, institutional portfolio managers, retail mom-and-pop type investors). It shows that there is simply no fear of a downturn:”

So much for the “cash on the sidelines” theory. When investors believe the market can’t possibly go down, it is generally time to start worrying. As Pater concludes: “As a rule, such extremes in complacency precede crashes and major bear markets, but they cannot tell us when precisely the denouement will begin.”

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“The Fed has essentially trapped itself into a state of perpetual manipulation.” All major central banks have.

QT1 Will Lead to QE4 Rickards)

There are only three members of the Board of Governors who matter: Janet Yellen, Stan Fischer and Lael Brainard. There is only one Regional Reserve Bank President who matters: Bill Dudley of New York. Yellen, Fischer, Brainard and Dudley are the “Big Four.” They are the only ones worth listening to. They call the shots. The don’t like dots. Everything else is noise. Here’s the model the Big Four actually use: 1. Raise rates 0.25% every March, June, September and December until rates reach 3.0% in late 2019. 2. Take a “pause” on rate hikes if one of three pause factors apply: disorderly asset price declines, jobs growth below 75,000 per month, or persistent disinflation. 3. Put balance sheet normalization on auto-pilot and let it run “on background.” Don’t use it as a policy tool.

[..] Here’s what the Fed wants you to believe… The Fed wants you to think that QT will not have any impact. Fed leadership speaks in code and has a word for this which you’ll hear called “background.” The Fed wants this to run on background. Think of running on background like someone using a computer to access email while downloading something on background. This is complete nonsense. They’ve spent eight years saying that quantitative easing was stimulative. Now they want the public to believe that a change to quantitative tightening is not going to slow the economy. They continue to push that conditions are sustainable when printing money, but when they make money disappear, it will not have any impact. This approach falls down on its face — and it will have a big impact.

Markets continue to not be fully discounted because they don’t have enough information. Contradictions coming from the Fed’s happy talk wants us to believe that QT is not a contractionary policy, but it is. My estimate is that every $500 billion of quantitative tightening could be equivalent to one .25 basis point rate hike. The Fed is about to embark on a policy to let the balance sheet run down. The plan is to reduce the balance sheet $30 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017, then increase the quarterly tempo by an additional $30 billion per quarter until hitting a level of $150 billion per quarter by October 1, 2018. Under that estimate, the balance sheet reduction would be about $600 billion by the end of 2018, and another $600 billion by the end of 2019. That would be the equivalent of half a .25 basis point rate hike in each of the next two years in addition to any actual rate hikes.

While they might attempt to say that this method is just going to “run on background,” don’t believe it. The decision by the Fed to not purchase new bonds will be just as detrimental to the growth of the economy as raising interest rates. The Fed’s QT policy that aims to tighten monetary conditions, reduce the money supply and increase interest rates will cause the economy to hit a wall, if it hasn’t already. The economy is slowing. Even without any action, retail sales, real incomes, auto sales and even labor force participation are all declining. Every important economic indicator shows that the U.S. economy is slowing right now. When you add in QT, we may very well be in a recession very soon. Because they’re getting ready for a potential recession where they’ll have to cut rates yet again. Then it’s back to QE. You could call that QE4 or QE1 part 2. The Fed has essentially trapped itself into a state of perpetual manipulation.

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Hong Kong dollar is pegged to USD.

S&P Strips Hong Kong of AAA Rating A Day After China Downgrade (BBG)

S&P Global Ratings cut Hong Kong’s credit rating a day after it downgraded China for the first time since 1999, a move that reflects the “strong institutional and political linkages” between the special administrative region and the mainland, the ratings firm said. The financial hub’s long-term issuer credit rating was lowered to AA+ from AAA, S&P said in a statement Friday. The agency lowered China’s sovereign rating Thursday to A+ from AA-, citing the risks from soaring debt, and revised its outlook to stable from negative. “We are lowering the rating on Hong Kong to reflect potential spillover risks to the SAR should deleveraging in China prove to be more disruptive than we currently expect,” S&P said in a statement, referring to the Hong Kong special administrative region.

It’s the second time this year Hong Kong’s rating has been cut in response to a China downgrade. Moody’s Investors Service in May lowered the finance hub’s rating and changed the outlook to stable from negative after it cut China for the first time since 1989. “Downgrading Hong Kong after China is a natural step,” said Mark McFarland, chief Asia economist at Union Bancaire Privee. “It has been widely anticipated that S&P would eventually follow the others and that Hong Kong would be dropped a notch too.” While S&P said Hong Kong’s credit metrics remain “very strong” based on the strength of the central government in Beijing, it faces a slew of challenges from surging property prices to the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates. Because the former British colony’s currency is pegged to the dollar, it effectively imports U.S. monetary policy.

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The only thing they can do. But claiming that China is ‘so different’ from developed nations is not terribly encouraging.

China Hits Back At S&P’s ‘Mistaken’ Credit Downgrade (AFP)

China on Friday lashed out at the decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating, calling the warning against ballooning debt “mistaken” and based on “cliches” about its economy. The agency slashed China from AA-minus to A-plus on Thursday, a move that followed a similar decision in May by Moody’s stemming from concerns that the world’s second largest economy is increasingly overleveraged. “Standard & Poor’s downgrade of China’s sovereign credit rating is a mistaken decision,” the finance ministry said in a statement, adding that the move was “perplexing.” It went on to scold the company for making a decision based on “cliches” about China’s economy. The rating “ignores the unique characteristics of the capital raising structure of China’s financial markets”, it said.

“Most unfortunately, this is inertial thinking that international ratings agencies have held for a long time and is a misreading of China’s economy based on the experiences of developed countries,” the ministry said. “This misreading also overlooks the good fundamentals and development potential of China’s economy.” S&P followed the move on Friday by cutting the top-notch credit rating of Hong Kong citing the city’s close links the the mainland economy. Debt-fuelled investment in infrastructure and property has underpinned China’s rapid growth, but there are widespread concerns that years of freewheeling credit could lead to a financial crisis with global implications. Beijing has been clamping down on bank lending and property purchases, but those efforts are complicated by the government’s determination to meet its full-year growth target of around 6.5%. That compares with last year’s pace of 6.7%, which was the slowest in more than a quarter of a century.

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JPMorgan trading in what its CEO calls a fraud demands some answers.

Jamie Dimon Faces Market Abuse Claim Over Bitcoin Comments (ZH)

A week after Jamie Dimon made headlines by proclaiming Bitcoin a “fraud” and anyone who owns it as “stupid,” the JPMorgan CEO faces a market abuse claim for “spreading false and misleading information” about bitcoin. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you will be well aware of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s panicked outburst with regard the ‘fraud’ that Bitcoin’s ‘tulip-like’ bubble is. To paraphrase: “It’s a fraud. It’s making stupid people, such as my daughter, feel like they’re geniuses. It’s going to get somebody killed. I’ll fire anyone who touches it.” One week later, an algorithmic liquidity provider called Blockswater has filed a market abuse report against Jamie Dimon for “spreading false and misleading information” about bitcoin. The firm filed the report with the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority against JPMorgan Chase and Dimon, the company’s chief executive.

Blockswater said Dimon violated Article 12 of the EU Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) by declaring that cryptocurrency bitcoin was “a fraud”. The complaint said Dimon’s statement negatively impacted “the cryptocurrency’s price and reputation”. It also said Dimon “knew, or ought to have known, that the information he disseminated was false and misleading”. “Jamie Dimon’s public assertions did not only affect the reputation of bitcoin, they harmed the interests of some of his own clients and many young businesses that are working hard to create a better financial system,” said Florian Schweitzer, managing partner at Blockswater. Blockswater said JPMorgan traded bitcoin derivatives for their clients on Stockholm-based exchange Nasdaq Nordic before and after Dimon’s statements, which Schweitzer said “smells like market manipulation”.

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Democracy 2017.

Spain’s Attack On Catalonia Spills Over To 100,000 Domain Names (IN)

The offices of the .cat registry were raided by Spanish police this morning. The Guardia Civil officers entered the .cat registry’s offices around 9am local time this morning and have seized all computers in the domain registry’s offices in downtown Barcelona. The move comes a couple of days after a Spanish court ordered the domain registry to take down all .cat domain names being used by the upcoming Catalan referendum. The .cat domain registry currently has over 100 thousand active domain names and in light of the actions taken by the Spanish government it’s unclear how the registry will continue to operate if their offices are effectively shutdown by the Spanish authorities. The seizure won’t impact live domain names or general day to day operations by registrars, as the registry backend is run by CORE and leverages global DNS infrastructure. However it is deeply worrying that the Spanish government’s actions would spill over onto an entire namespace.

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Why do you think the Catalans want out? Spain is answering that.

Spain Hires Cruise Liner to House Police in Rebel Catalonia (BBG)

Spain has discreetly hired ferries to be moored in the Port of Barcelona as temporary housing for possibly thousands of police specially deployed to keep order in rebel Catalonia and help suppress an illegal independence referendum. The country’s interior ministry asked Catalan port authorities to provide a berth for one ship until Oct. 3 – two days after the planned vote – saying it was a matter of state, a spokeswoman for the port said by phone Wednesday. The vessel, known as “Rhapsody,” docked in the city about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, she said. The aim is to amass more than 16,000 riot police and other security officers by the Oct. 1 referendum, El Correo newspaper reported on its website. That would exceed the number of Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, who serve both the Catalan and central governments.

Spain is putting more boots on the ground in the northeastern region as it arrests local officials, raids regional-government offices and takes control of payroll administration in the run-up to the referendum. The ballot initiative, passed by the Catalan Parliament and declared illegal by the country’s highest court, has escalated a years-long stand-off between pro-independence campaigners and Spain’s central administration in Madrid. As well as the “Rhapsody,” with capacity for 2,448 people, the ministry also hired another vessel to dock in Barcelona with a third headed for the port of Tarragona, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west along the coast, El Confidencial website reported. The “Rhapsody” is operated by the Italian shipping company Grandi Navi Veloci SpA, the port spokeswoman said.

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Without debt relief all streets are dead ends.

Greece Will Remain Under Strict Supervision For Years, EWG Chief Says (K.)

The Greek economy will remain under close supervision for years after the completion of the third bailout deal, the president of the Euro Working Group (EWG), Thomas Wieser told insider.gr in an interview published on Wednesday. Even though he is confident the cash-strapped country will be able to recover, Wieser says that a lot of work needs to be done first, starting with the timely completion of the third bailout review. He also suggests that additional measures may be needed in 2019 and 2020 depending on the course of the budget next year. Asked whether he believes this will be Greece’s last memorandum, the Austrian-American economist says “three programs have already been implemented in the space of eight years and the political desire for yet another is zero. The rest of the eurozone also wants the third program to be the last one.”

Wieser adds that Greece’s ability to tap international lending markets by the end of the program in August 2018 will be a “decisive factor for the Greek government to push ahead with reforms.” “In other words, knowing that the program is ending in a few months is a huge incentive to get the reforms done,” he says, adding that a successful completion of the program is within reach given the government’s limited fiscal obligations. Wieser appears confident that Greece will successfully wrap up the upcoming review within the fall even though the government needs to push through 95 so-called prior actions, saying the majority has already been legislated. However, he adds, Greece may need additional measures after August 2018 depending on whose scenario plays out: the IMF’s pessimistic outlook, or the upbeat projects of the European institutions and the Greek government.

Greece will also remain under supervision – as have Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus – until 75% of its debts are paid off, and this will be much stricter “in the first few years at least, than, say, it was for Ireland,” Wieser adds. Regarding debt relief, Wieser tells insider.gr that “an analysis will be conducted in the summer of 2018 and a decision taken upon the completion of the program.”

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Freedom exists because there are limits and boundaries. Living forever is not freedom.

Life Unlikely Beyond 115 Year Mark Despite Medical Advances (DT)

Researchers claim to have discovered the maximum age ‘ceiling’ for human lifespan. Despite growing life expectancy because of better nutrition, living conditions and medical care, Dutch scientists say our longevity cannot keep extending forever. Women can only live to a maximum of 115.7 years, they said, while men can only hope for 114.1 years at the most. The research by statisticians at Tilburg and Rotterdam’s Erasmus universities said, however, there were still some people who had bent the norm. The research by statisticians at Tilburg and Rotterdam’s Erasmus universities said women could live to a maximum of 115.7 years, while men could only hope for 114.1 years at the most. However, they did concede that there were exceptions, like Jeanne Calment, the French woman who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days old – the longest life ever recorded.

Lifespan is the term used to describe how long an individual lives, while life expectancy is the average duration of life that individuals in an age group can expect to have – a measure of societal wellbeing. The team mined data over 30 years from some 75,000 Dutch people whose exact ages were recorded at the time of death. “On average, people live longer, but the very oldest among us have not gotten older over the last thirty years,” Prof John Einmahl said. “There is certainly some kind of a wall here. Of course the average life expectancy has increased,” he said, pointing out the number of people turning 95 in the Netherlands had almost tripled. “Nevertheless, the maximum ceiling itself hasn’t changed,” he said.

The Dutch findings, to be published next month, come in the wake of those by US-based researchers who last year claimed a similar age ceiling. However, that study by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found that exceptionally long-lived individuals were not getting as old as before. Einmahl and his researchers disputed that, saying their conclusions deduced by using a statistical brand called ‘Extreme Value Theory’, showed almost no fluctuation in maximum lifespan.

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May 172017
 
 May 17, 2017  Posted by at 8:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Arrest of Gavrilo Princip, the man who shoot Franz Ferdinand June 28 1914

 

Britain’s Labour Party Unveils ‘Radical’ Election Manifesto (AFP)
UK Media Trying Incredibly Hard To Keep Corbyn Out Of Number 10 (Can.)
The American Dystopia Didn’t Begin With Trump (MW)
Democratic Party Image Dips, GOP Ratings Stable (Gallup)
Chelsea Manning Set For Release After 7 Years In Prison (AP)
Hong Kong Rejects Asylum for Snowden Helpers (HRW)
The Everything Bubble: Stocks, Real Estate & Bond Implosion (Mike Maloney)
New Theory Behind Stalled Economy: Retirees Are Hoarding Too Much Cash (ZH)
Australia Needs Housing Slowdown for Stability on AAA – S&P (BBG)
Can China Afford Its Belt and Road? (Balding)
Erdogan’s Bodyguards Beat Up US Protestors in DC After He Met With Trump (Qz)
EU Warns Turkey After It Violates Greek Airspace 141 Times In One Day (EuAct)
Abe Divides Japan With Plan to Change Pacifist Constitution (BBG)
NATO Builds Infrastructure for Permanent Presence Near Russia’s Borders (SCF)
Eastern Europe Turns Its Back On Single Market (Pol.)
Germany and Italy Want EU To Halt Migrants In Libya (EuO)

 

 

Looking at the incredible mess built up by the likes of Trump and Hillary, Farge and Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen, Jeremy Corbyn looks better all the time. He’s an actual person, and he sticks to his guns.

Maybe what goes against him most is that people in this day and age don’t recognize him as a politician anymore; politicians are supposed to stab backs, tell lies and conspire against anyone threatening their shot at power.

Is there anyone who would argue that the world would have been a worse place with Bernie Sanders in the White House and Jeremy Corbyn at no. 10?

As the left has moved, and become, right, we need a left just for balance in our societies. Nothing to do with if you are a socialist or not, just balance.

Britain’s Labour Party Unveils ‘Radical’ Election Manifesto (AFP)

Britain’s opposition Labour Party pledged to raise taxes on the well-off, renationalise key industries and end austerity in its manifesto on Tuesday, presenting voters with their starkest choice in decades in next month’s election. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the programme “radical and responsible”, saying the country had been run “for the rich, the elite and the vested interests” in seven years of Conservative government. “It will change our country,” he will say in his speech at the presentation of the manifesto in Bradford in northwest England, according to extracts released by the party’s press office. “It will lead us through Brexit while putting the preservation of jobs first,” he said. The manifesto is expected to include a tax increase from 40% to 45% for salaries of between ££80,000 (€94,000, $103,000) and ££150,0000 a year, according to The Times and The Daily Telegraph.

The current 40% tax rate applies to people earning between ££31,500 and ££150,000. There would also be a new top rate of income tax of 50%, the reports said. Labour has said the rise would fund increased investment in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) and would only affect 5% of earners. The Guardian reported that the party was also planning a levy on businesses with staff earning large salaries, set at 2.5% on those earning over ££330,000 and 5.0% on those earning more than ££500,000. Labour will also promise to renationalise the railways, the Royal Mail postal service and water companies, according to various reports. Labour has also promised it will increase corporation tax to 26% by 2022 and impose a “Robin Hood tax” on financial transactions. “It’s a programme that will reverse our national priorities to put the interests of the many first,” Corbyn is expected to say. “This is a programme of hope. The Tory campaign, by contrast, is built on one word: fear.”

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Three weeks before the elections, Corbyn is still reported to lose in a landslide. Will Britain wake up in time? Theresa May is a sure bet for deterioration.

UK Media Trying Incredibly Hard To Keep Corbyn Out Of Number 10 (Can.)

An academic investigation has caught the UK media trying incredibly hard to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10. The mainstream TV and newspaper media are pushing the agenda of the Conservative Party within their coverage, according to an investigation from Loughborough University. The Conservatives are the “most frequently reported” and “most extensively quoted” party, while issues pushed by Labour are “marginalised”, say the report’s authors. In newspapers, for example, the Conservatives received by far the most direct quotation, exceeding Labour by 45%. One of the most striking findings is how much non-political personality pervades the entire media’s election coverage. Last week, Theresa May made a policy-free appearance on The One Show with her husband Philip May. The BBC hosted the personality-driven chat, despite the sitting Prime Minister refusing to debate her record on TV.

Then, according to the content analysis, the broader media amplified the appearance and sidelined the real issues. And this is precisely the aim of a Conservative Party opting for cosy sofa chats over serious policy debate. The sheer weight of reporting on the sanitised family affair propelled the Conservative leader’s husband into the fifth most covered political figure during the study’s time frame. He received nearly double the coverage of the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, who leads a party controlling 56 out of the 59 Scottish seats. The Conservative leader’s husband, a family figure irrelevant to the election, also received nearly as much coverage as Labour’s Shadow Chancellor. John McDonnell was the fourth most covered political figure, reported on in 6.1% of all the election news items analysed. Theresa May was easily the most prominent, featuring in 32.4% – over a third of all news items analysed. Corbyn received much less coverage across TV and newspaper media, appearing in 21.4%.

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And it won’t end there. Someone should be able to write it up better than this though.

The American Dystopia Didn’t Begin With Trump (MW)

Dystopia is here. It’s not just the “imagined place” of the dictionary definition or a future state of dystopian novels. It is very real and right now, at least for those of us trying to follow national politics. And it’s not just Donald Trump. It’s Barack Obama, it’s Ted Cruz, it’s the New York Times, it’s Breitbart News. It is an alternate universe detached from the world we live in but intruding into it in painful and dangerous ways. It is a media narrative of political conspirators colluding with a dictatorial archenemy, of an intemperate and delusional leader overturning the institutions of democracy, of a “deep-state” resistance to constitutional authority. It is a dystopia of rampant hypocrisy, where obstructing legislation, supporting a law-enforcement official who strays beyond the limits of his authority, or boycotting a president’s appointments is evil and undemocratic until it’s your party that wants to do it.

Two dystopian classics have shot back to the top of best-seller lists because the media suggest the authoritarian surveillance societies they portray have arrived. The 1948 novel “1984” and the 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” are touted as descriptions of where we are headed under Trump. While the author of “Handmaid,” Margaret Atwood, and the cast of the Hulu miniseries based on it see a Trump administration as the realization of the misogyny depicted in the novel, it’s obvious the U.S. is not about to become a Puritanical theocracy like that in the book. Critics on both the left and the right dispute the media meme that “Handmaid” is a depiction of the Trump era. Irish feminist Angela Nagle writes in the left-wing Jacobin magazine that it is neoliberal market forces that are oppressing women, not an imaginary theocratic state.

“The real-world dystopia for the majority of women in the age of Trump is not that they are being forced to have children by a repressive traditionalist state,” she wrote last week, “but that they’re being compelled not to by far more insidious forces, and those that do are financially and socially punished at every turn.” We are ruled by myths, she continues, but not those in the miniseries. “The mythologies of our age in the West are not enforced by repressive theocratic regimes,” Nagle says, “but by the market command to be free, to be creative, to be flexible, to love what you do for even the most uninspiring of jobs.”

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They’re all still well ahead of François Hollande. But imagine what a viable third party could do. Better let that be Bernie.

Democratic Party Image Dips, GOP Ratings Stable (Gallup)

Americans’ opinions of the two major political parties are now similar after the Democratic Party’s ratings slipped to 40% – from 45% last November – while the Republican Party’s image is essentially unchanged at 39%. The latest update on the party’s images is based on a May 3-7 Gallup poll, which asked Americans whether they have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of each party. Throughout last year’s contentious presidential election campaign, U.S. adults rated neither party highly. In fact, more rated each party unfavorably than favorably. But Democrats maintained a slight edge in favorable ratings, including 45% to 40% in Gallup’s prior measurement, conducted last November after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

So far, Trump’s unpopularity as president has done little to erode Americans’ views of the GOP, perhaps because they were already quite negative. However, Americans are now less positive toward the Democratic Party than they were last fall. The decline in Democratic Party favorability is mostly a result of lower ratings from self-identified Democrats. In November, 83% of Democrats had a positive opinion of the Democratic Party; now, 77% do. Independents are also slightly less positive toward the Democratic Party, while Republicans’ negative views of the opposing party are steady.

[..]Americans are quite negative toward both of the major political parties at this time. Trump’s unpopularity and the GOP’s challenges in governing a divided nation have done little to weaken the party’s poor image further. But those same factors have also done little to cast the opposing party, the Democrats, in a more favorable light. If anything, the Democratic Party’s positioning appears weakened, largely because its own supporters now hold a less positive view of the party. That could indicate Democrats are frustrated with the party’s minority status in Washington. Not since 2003 through 2006 have Democrats failed to control the presidency, House of Representatives or Senate. Prior to that, Democrats had control of either Congress or the presidency for more than 50 years.

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Bless you.

Chelsea Manning Set For Release After 7 Years In Prison (AP)

Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of giving classified government materials to WikiLeaks, is due to be released from a Kansas military prison on Wednesday after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence. President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency in his final days in office in January. Though she’s set to be released from Fort Leavenworth, Manning’s lawyers and the Army have refused to say when and how she’ll be freed due to potential security concerns. Manning, who was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning in prison, was convicted in 2013 of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

The Crescent, Oklahoma, native tweeted after being granted clemency that she plans to move to Maryland. Neither she nor her attorneys explained why, but she has an aunt who lives there. Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, has acknowledged leaking the materials, which included battlefield video. She said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military’s disregard of the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn’t believe would harm the U.S. Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the nation’s most-sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety. Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures.

Manning, who was arrested in 2010, filed a transgender rights lawsuit in prison and attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers. Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence to about seven years, including the time she spent locked up before being convicted, drew strong criticism from members of Congress and others, with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the move “just outrageous.” In a statement last week — her first public comments since Obama intervened — Manning thanked that former president and said that letters of support from veterans and fellow transgender people inspired her “to work toward making life better for others.” “For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” she said.

“I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine.” Her attorneys have said Manning was subjected to violence in prison and argued the military mistreated her by requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison, restricting her physical and mental health care and not allowing her to keep a feminine haircut. The Army said Tuesday that Manning would remain on active duty in a special, unpaid status that will legally entitle her to military medical care, along with commissary privileges. An Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, said Manning will be on “excess leave” while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review.

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Seems like every country punishes its best and bravest.

Hong Kong Rejects Asylum for Snowden Helpers (HRW)

Seven people who sheltered the whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2013 are at risk of return to torture and persecution at home, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 11, 2017, the Hong Kong Immigration Department rejected their asylum claim; their lawyers are in the process of appealing the decision and pursuing a separate case for entry and asylum in Canada, where sponsors are ready to assist them. “Those who helped Edward Snowden in Hong Kong when he was seeking asylum now find themselves at dire risk if sent back to their countries,” said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Canada has the opportunity to a prevent a terrible outcome and should act immediately.”

The asylum-seekers include two men and a woman from Sri Lanka, and a woman from the Philippines, along with their three children who were born in Hong Kong and are stateless. The adults allege that they suffered torture and persecution in their home countries, and have been pursued by powerful people or officials who have tracked or threatened them. Their asylum lawyer, Robert Tibbo, brought Snowden, another client, to their homes in 2013 after he revealed he had disclosed classified information to the press. The families each freely allowed Snowden to stay with them for a short time after his disclosures became public but before his arrest was sought.

Neither the asylum-seekers nor their lawyer revealed their role in Snowden’s journey. However, journalists independently discovered their identities shortly before the release of an Oliver Stone movie about Snowden that shows him being hidden among asylum-seekers in Hong Kong. At that point, the asylum-seekers went public in an effort to have some control over how they were portrayed in the media.

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The Automatic Earth doesn’t promote any specific kind of investments, but Mike is a good friend of ours, and he’s right here.

The Everything Bubble: Stocks, Real Estate & Bond Implosion (Mike Maloney)

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No, they’re not.

New Theory Behind Stalled Economy: Retirees Are Hoarding Too Much Cash (ZH)

[..] we were somewhat shocked to come across a report from money manager United Income which effectively argues that American retirees are saving too much money rather than too little. To summarize the thesis, United Income argues that retirees become more conservative as they grow older which causes them to save more and allocate less to equities…which is, of course, a somewhat self-serving conclusion but never mind that.

“Innovations in medicine and technology have extended human life by over 30 years since 1900. This has helped to double the amount of time the average adult now spends in retirement compared to several decades ago. But, the benefits of longer lives and retirement may be limited if older households curb their consumption or investment in preventive health measures because they are overly pessimistic about their future financial health. Overly negative viewpoints toward the future may also create self-fulfilling economic problems if it leads to an overly aggressive fixed-income portfolio.”

Unfortunately, when combined with the fact that “Median Net Wealth” is actually shrinking, it’s easy to deduce that while the majority of American retirees are actually spending their retirement income (and then some), there is a group of super wealthy old folks who simply can’t spend enough money to offset annual investment income growth….which speaks more to the growing wealth gap than to some economic fear that is causing retirees to hoard cash. In this context, it’s not too difficult to understand why aggregate YoY spending trends collapse as old folks get older. The most wealthy retirees can only find so many ways to burn their massive nest eggs which means that, at least for these folks, YoY spending doesn’t grow but retirement balances do…while the overwhelming majority of people simply run out of cash and have to cut every corner possible to survive….

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Perfect irony.

Australia Needs Housing Slowdown for Stability on AAA – S&P (BBG)

Australia’s prized AAA rating will only rest on a firm footing once there’s a “meaningful moderation” in housing and credit, S&P Global Ratings said as it maintained a negative outlook on the country’s sovereign score. The country’s rating was affirmed by the credit assessor after the latest federal government budget projected a return to surplus by 2021, although S&P noted that revenue could disappoint and lawmakers may struggle to implement fiscal repair policies. It also highlighted risks stemming from Australia’s high level of external indebtedness. S&P has maintained a negative outlook on the country since last July when it issued a warning in the wake of a knife-edge federal election.

“The ratings could stabilize if we were to see a significant and sustained improvement in the medium-term budget outlook, leading to a return to a general government surplus,” S&P said in a statement Wednesday. “A stabilization of the ratings would also require a meaningful moderation of the credit and house price boom.” Home prices in Sydney and Melbourne have surged in the wake of unprecedented interest-rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia as the country navigates its way through the aftermath of a mining boom. Regulators have progressively tightened lending restrictions amid concerns about financial stability.

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Debt and Road.

Can China Afford Its Belt and Road? (Balding)

China’s just-completed conference touting its Belt and Road initiative certainly looked like a triumph, with Russian President Vladimir Putin playing the piano and Chinese leaders announcing a string of potential deals and massive financial pledges. Underneath all the heady talk about China positioning itself at the heart of a new global order, though, lies in uncomfortable question: Can it afford to do so? Such doubts might seem spurious, given the numbers being tossed around. China claims nearly $900 billion worth of deals are already underway, with estimates of future spending ranging from $4 trillion to $8 trillion, depending on which Chinese government agency is doing the talking. At the conference itself, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged another $78 billion for the effort, which envisions building infrastructure to link China to Europe through Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

From no other country in the world would such pledges be remotely plausible. Yet even for China, they’ll be difficult to fulfill without clashing with the country’s other objectives. The first question is what currency to use for all this lending. Denominating loans in renminbi would accelerate China’s stated goal of internationalizing its currency. But it would also force officials to tolerate higher levels of offshore renminbi trading and international price-setting. So far, they’ve shown little appetite for either. Additionally, countries along the Belt-and-Road route would need to run trade surpluses with China in order to generate the currency needed to repay such loans. In fact, as Bloomberg Intelligence economist Tom Orlik has noted, China ran a $250 billion surplus with Belt-and-Road countries in 2016.

It will be mathematically impossible for Sri Lanka and Pakistan to repay big yuan-denominated loans when they’re running trade deficits with China close to $2 billion and $9 billion, respectively. Financing projects in dollars is no panacea either. Unless China conducts U.S. dollar bond offerings to fund these investments, it’ll have to tap its official foreign-exchange reserves. Those now hover around $3 trillion. That sounds like a lot. But outside estimates suggest anywhere from a few hundred billion to nearly $1 trillion of that money is illiquid. China needs nearly $900 billion to cover short-term external debt and another $400 to $800 billion to cover imports for three to six months. Pouring additional billions into Central Asian infrastructure projects would only tie up money China needs to defend the yuan.

And, borrowers would need to run significant dollar surpluses in order to repay dollar-denominated loans. Obviously, not every country can do so, or undervalue its currency to try and build up a surplus. Beyond the specific mechanisms, it’s unclear whether China has the financial capacity to lend at these levels to borrowers of dubious creditworthiness. As French bank Natixis S.A. has noted, in order to finance $5 trillion in projects, China “would need to see growth rates of around 50% in cross-border lending.” This would wreak havoc on Chinese creditworthiness and raise external debt from a “very comfortable” level (around 12% of GDP) to “more than 50%” if China can’t bring in other lenders.

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Violence in a myriad forms is being normalized one step at a time.

Erdogan’s Bodyguards Beat Up US Protestors in DC After He Met With Trump (Qz)

“The relations between Turkey and the United States have been erected upon common democratic values and common interests.” That’s what Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a White House press conference with US president Donald Trump on Tuesday (May 16). But shortly after the event, Erdogan’s bodyguards proceeded to beat and kick people outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington DC. The altercation was captured on camera, and resulted in nine people being hurt, Voice of America said.

A photojournalist at the site said it seemed to be a pro-Turkey gathering at first, while some witnesses said the group outside the residence included a person carrying a flag of a Kurdish party in Syria allied with a militia the US plans to aid, over Turkey’s objections. [..] It’s not the first time Erdogan’s security has roughed up protesters on American soil. In 2016, the Washington Post reported clashes between protesters and the Turkish leader’s security detail. And in 2014, in New York, Turkish security threatened and pushed around journalists working for a newspaper perceived to be critical of Erdogan.

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This has been going on for years. And only know Brussels peeps.

EU Warns Turkey After It Violates Greek Airspace 141 Times In One Day (EuAct)

Turkish aeroplanes and helicopters illegally entered Greece’s airspace 141 times yesterday (15 May), the Hellenic National Defence General Staff reported. According to Greek press reports, 20 Turkish F-16, 5 CN-235 maritime surveillance aircraft and 19 helicopters entered the Athens flight information region (FIR) without submitting a flight plan. In all cases, Turkish aircraft were identified and intercepted by Greek fighters, while in nine cases the interception process resulted in near combat situations. In addition, two Turkish missile boats entered Greek territorial waters off the southeast Aegean island of Agathonisi. The vessels, which were taking part in a maritime exercise code-named Denizkurdu (Seawolf), stayed in Greek territorial waters for about 20 minutes.

As Kathimerini journal reported, last month Agathonisi was described as a “Turkish island” by Turkey’s Minister of European Union Affairs Omer Celik. While the EU and the international community recognise the sovereignty of Greece over the Greek Aegean islands, Turkey has a list of issues regarding the delimitation of territorial waters, national airspace, exclusive zones, etc. Ankara also claims “grey zones” of undetermined sovereignty over a number of small islets, most notably the islets of Imia/Kardak. The serious incidents occurred just a few hours after the meeting of Greek premier Alexis Tsipras with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Beijing. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a strong communique saying that the incident “constitutes a flagrant violation of international law”.

“It is clear that there are forces in Turkey that do not want understanding and good neighbourly relations between the two countries,” the Greek ministry added. In the meantime, tensions between Ankara and Berlin also escalated. The German government is exploring the possibility of moving its troops out of Turkey’s Incirlik air base, which is crucial for the fight against ISIS, after a second German parliamentary delegation was prevented from visiting the Incirlik facility. German news agency dpa quoted Wolfgang Hellmich, the chairman of the Bundestag Defense Committee, as saying “we’re not going to be blackmailed” by the Ankara government.

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Another form of violence normalized. Abe is the proverbial nationalist.

Abe Divides Japan With Plan to Change Pacifist Constitution (BBG)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sudden rush to change the pacifist constitution that has defined Japan’s security policy since World War II risks eroding his popularity before an election due by the end of next year. This month, Abe proposed an amendment to recognize the existence of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces while maintaining Article 9, which renounces the right to war and prohibits land, sea and air forces. He wants the change to take effect by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics. Rewriting the constitution has been a longstanding goal of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, whose original members – including Abe’s grandfather, who was a prime minister – saw the document as a U.S. imposition that humiliated Japan after World War II.

For Abe, the timing appears opportune: not only are tensions high over North Korea, but his opponents are weak. Yet it also carries risks. The public is divided on changing the constitution, and even some members of his own party don’t support it. The issue could galvanize the opposition and potentially hurt Abe’s chances of becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. “It’s going to be very difficult for him to pull this off,” said Gerald Curtis, an emeritus professor of political science at Columbia University who is currently in Tokyo. “It will eat away at his support. Whether it eats away enough to threaten his third term – that’s unlikely.”

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Insanity rules.

NATO Builds Infrastructure for Permanent Presence Near Russia’s Borders (SCF)

A group of about 50 combat engineers based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown were deployed to Latvia on April 29 as part of Operation Reassurance. The mission is to build a town for 500 soldiers. According to commanding officer Lt.-Col. Chris Cotton, the installation will have «everything you would expect in a small town, from its kitchen to its quarters, its electrical distribution system, water distribution system, internet, gym facilities that would allow people to survive over the long term in Latvia». Obviously, this is an element of vast infrastructure to provide for a long-term commitment. In early April, a US-led battle group of 1,350 soldiers for NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Eastern Europe arrived at its base near Orzysz in northeastern Poland.

It took place just a few days after a NATO-Russia Council meeting took place on March 30. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the talks with Moscow «frank» and «constructive». Then the usual song and dance followed under the slogan of Russian threat. British RAF fighters are scheduled to be stationed to Romania this May. In March the first of 800 UK troops arrived in Estonia supported by around 300 armed vehicles. Along with French and Danish forces they’ll be stationed there on what NATO leadership calls «rotational basis». In January, German and Belgian forces arrived in Lithuania near the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The UK leads the Estonia Battlegroup while other NATO members are deploying forces to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as part of the bloc’s Enhanced Forward Presence battalion.

All in all, 4,000 NATO troops with tanks, armored vehicles, air support, and high-tech intelligence centers deployed to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In accordance with the fiscal year 2017 European Reassurance Initiative budget proposal, the US Army is reopening or creating five equipment-storage sites in the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and two locations in Germany. Last September, the service began to assemble more Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) for permanent storage in Europe. Those stocks will be sufficient for another armored brigade to fall in on. The rotating brigade will bring its own equipment. The move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced weapons systems to beef up the US European Command’s combat capability. It will also free up an entire brigade’s worth of weapons currently being used by US forces training on the continent to enable more American troops to be rushed in on short notice.

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The EU is an instrument for German, Dutch, French power and profits.

Eastern Europe Turns Its Back On Single Market (Pol.)

The EU’s newest members are the fiercest opponents of its single market. As with so many of the toughest fights in Brussels, it all boils down to farmers and food. Central Europeans say big Western European landowners and multinational supermarkets are wiping out their farmers and shopkeepers. Protecting smallholders from powerful investors like banks has leapt to the top of the political agenda. Eastern European governments have rolled out a complex web of new laws to stop foreigners buying out swaths of ultra-cheap farmland. The European Commission regards this new legislation in the former communist countries as an existential threat to the EU’s free flow of goods, people and capital — the single market, in short — and struck back with infringement cases intended to preserve its sanctity.

In Bulgaria, for example, the European Commission launched an infringement proceeding last year over a law that investors should be resident for more than five years before they can buy farmland. In Romania, Brussels objected this year to rules that supermarkets should source 51 percent of fresh produce from local suppliers. There has been no decision on either case. It is in Poland, the regional heavyweight, that the battle over respect for the single market is fought the hardest. Brussels has already ordered the authorities to halt a tax on the retail sector on the grounds it grants a selective advantage to small, local shops with a low turnover over big foreign-owned supermarkets. All eyes are now focusing on how the European Commission will react to a growing chorus of complaints in Poland over the rights of foreigners to buy farmland.

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The ‘safe zones’ notion in northern Libya blew up in their faces. So now they’re moving the empty idea to the south. Meanwhile, people keep drowning, and that serves Europe’s purposes.

Germany and Italy Want EU To Halt Migrants In Libya (EuO)

Italy and Germany are reportedly seeking an EU mission to stabilise Libya’s 5,000km southern border with neighbouring countries and curb migration. German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday (14 May) that the German interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, and his Italian counterpart, Marco Minniti, want the mission set up between Libya and Niger. The ministers sent a joint-letter last week to the European Commission, saying that an EU mission at the border between the two nations was needed “as soon as possible.” “The first months of this year have shown that our efforts up to this point have been insufficient. We must prevent hundreds of thousands of people who are in the hands of smugglers from risking their lives in Libya and the Mediterranean,” the letter states.

The letter, also seen by the French news agency AFP, says greater development and local support is needed for people living along the border. It also calls for “technical and financial support” to Libyan authorities. Abdulsalam Kajman, the vice president of the UN and EU-backed government seated in Tripoli, had also told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday that Libya was willing to launch patrols with the help of other countries. “If we don’t resolve southern Libya’s problems, we will not resolve the migrant issue,” he said. Kajman added that Italy was prepared to help train a new patrol guard for the task. The plans are part of a broader effort to prevent people from leaving Libya on boats towards the EU and crack down on migrant smugglers. The exodus from the coast has increased by over 44% – when compared to the same period last year – with some 45,000 people having disembarked between January and mid-May so far.

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Jul 132016
 
 July 13, 2016  Posted by at 8:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »
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Tim McKulka Elderly Woman Receives Emergency Food Aid, Sudan 2008

Markets Are In The Twilight Zone, Get Ready For New New Deal (AFR)
BOE Governor Carney Accused Of ‘Peddling Phoney Forecasts’ Over Brexit (G.)
Carney Should Stop Being So Gloomy About Brexit (Ashoka Mody)
German Leaders Demand Brexit Clarity From New British PM (R.)
British Pensions £383 Billion Underwater As Liabilities Hit Record (Tel.)
Ireland’s Economists Left Speechless by 26% Growth Figure (BBG)
Losing Australia’s AAA Rating To Make Losers of Mortgage Holders (BBG)
The Richest Generation in US History Just Keeps Getting Richer (BBG)
A Year After Bailout, Greece Struggles For Brighter Future (AFP)
EU Development Aid To Finance Armies In Africa (EuO)
Global Arms Race Escalates As Sabres Rattle In South China Sea (AEP)
Economic Theory as Ideology (Zaman)
Half Of All US Food Produce Is Thrown Away (G.)

 

 

Thought we were already there.

Markets Are In The Twilight Zone, Get Ready For New New Deal (AFR)

Macquarie analysts have likened the bizarre and inherently contradictory moves in markets to a “twilight zone” which is leading investors to a world where free-market economic thinking will be overtaken by the “nationalisation of credit” and state-sponsored growth. Think about that. Monetary policy is beating a path to a world where conventional market signals such as credit spreads and the price of risk will “finally perish” and be unseated by one where states are the drivers of credit, and spending and capital formation is the domain of central banks. “It would take the form of state-sponsored stimulation of consumption, investment, [research and development] and rescuing what essentially is a bankrupt financial superstructure (ie banks, insurance, life and pensions),” the Macquarie report, authored by Hong Kong-based analyst Viktor Shvets, said.

“Whilst similar to FDR’s New Deal, it would be a far more distorted world than either the 1930s or the 1960s-70s, with brand new investment signals.” [..] The unusual commentary from Macquarie says this “state driven paradise” will be brought on by ongoing high levels of volatility and “discontinuities” similar to what markets are grappling with today. “We don’t believe these conditions are yet satisfied, but the chances are high that they would be over the next 12-18 months. In the meantime, we still expect half-hearted ‘stop and go projects’. Japan is likely to be the first to ‘jump’ and wholeheartedly embrace this merger of fiscal, income support and monetary policies but others would eventually follow. It is just a matter of time.”

The Bank of Japan and re-elected Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have signalled a fiscal-led stimulus package in excess of ¥10 trillion ($98 billion) is under consideration. The contradiction that Macquarie is referring to is the way markets have behaved since Brexit, where assets historically linked to “risk-on” and “risk-off” moods have inexplicably rallied in unison. Equities, a classic risk asset, have recovered all of their losses since the Brexit vote on the belief that central banks will step in and lift asset prices by doing stimulus and ignore sound fears about asset bubbles.

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His role is questionable. Shirked far too close to influencing politics.

BOE Governor Carney Accused Of ‘Peddling Phoney Forecasts’ Over Brexit (G.)

Mark Carney has agreed to hand notes of private meetings he had with the chancellor in the run-up to the EU referendum to MPs, after a Treasury select committee hearing where the governor of the Bank of England faced questions about whether he had “peddled phoney forecasts” about the risks of a vote for Brexit. In his first appearance at the Treasury select committee since the referendum, the Bank’s governor faced questions about whether he had tried to scare the electorate by warning of the economic shock – and possible recession – that a vote to leave the EU would cause. Andrew Tyrie, the committee’s chairman, citing two former chancellors and two former leaders of the Conservative party, said the Bank had also been accused of “startling dishonesty”.

Tyrie, a Conservative MP, told Carney that the accusations, if true, would be a “very robust assault on the Bank’s credibility” and also of the independence from government it was granted in 1997 that could not be recovered under the Canadian’s tenure. Carney said he had held private meetings with George Osborne before the 23 June vote. He agreed that the MPs could appoint someone to review the notes of those meetings but said he would be reluctant for them to be made public. Carney was also asked by Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Brexit campaigner, whether the Bank should be, like Caesar’s wife, beyond suspicion in terms of being influenced by politicians. The governor, who said politicians had sought to inform him rather than influence him, replied: “Those who cast it [the independence] into question should consider their motivations and their judgments.”

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That would mean Stage Five: Acceptance. It’ll take a while. In the meantime, the ‘gloom’ is driven by politics, not economics. And yes, Carney is the champ, hoping for a self-fulfilling process. The Leave camp, which won (remember?), should perhaps ask for him to step down.

Carney Should Stop Being So Gloomy About Brexit (Ashoka Mody)

Few have been more downbeat about the outlook for the U.K. economy than the country’s own central bank governor, Mark Carney. If he wants to help mitigate the consequences of the vote to leave the European Union, he should send a more encouraging message by holding back on monetary stimulus. People charged with managing economies usually try to be optimistic, on the logic that their positive attitude will give people and businesses the confidence to spend and invest, ultimately making the optimism self-fulfilling. The rhetoric surrounding Britain’s vote on EU membership has been a glaring exception. In a bid to influence the vote, a chorus of global policymakers predicted dire consequences. That chorus has sadly persisted.

After voters chose to leave, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, reiterated forecasts of higher unemployment and permanent damage to household incomes. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, said that the decision was “casting a shadow over international growth.” Yet Brexit’s shadow is hard to discern amid the broader global decline in output growth and interest rates that began in early 2014. Perhaps no one, though, has been as active as Carney in stoking feelings of gloom and doom – a particularly notable feat, given that central bank governors rarely make predictions of economic and financial turmoil, especially when it concerns their own currency.

As far back as May, the Bank of England said that the possibility of Brexit was already weighing on the British pound, even though much of the decline in sterling’s value had happened earlier, when the polls – and especially the betting markets – showed a clear lead for the “Remain” campaign. The currency actually stabilized during the brief period when polls showed the “Leave” campaign gaining ground. Markets have come to anticipate Carney’s public appearances as harbingers of bad news. The pound began to decline in the hours before his first major post-Brexit speech on June 30, and he did not disappoint: Brexit-induced uncertainty, he insisted, had caused “economic post-traumatic stress disorder amongst households and businesses, as well as in financial markets.”

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Or else what?

German Leaders Demand Brexit Clarity From New British PM (R.)

German leaders stepped up the pressure on Britain’s incoming prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday by demanding she swiftly spell out when she will launch divorce proceedings with the European Union. “The task of the new prime minister … will be to get clarity on the question of what kind of relationship Britain wants to build with the EU,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference. Her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said clarity was needed quickly to limit uncertainty after Britain’s shock choice for ‘Brexit’, which has rocked the 28-nation bloc and thrown decades of European integration into reverse. May, 59, will on Wednesday replace David Cameron, who is resigning after Britons rejected his advice and voted on June 23 to quit the EU.

On arriving and departing from Cameron’s last cabinet meeting, she waved a little awkwardly from the doorstep of 10 Downing Street, shortly to become her home. She will face the enormous task of disentangling Britain from a forest of EU laws, accumulated over more than four decades, and negotiating new trade terms while limiting potential damage to the economy. The pound was up 1.2% against the dollar at around $1.3150, boosted by the appointment of a new prime minister weeks earlier than expected after May’s main rival dropped out. But it remains more than 12% below the $1.50 it touched on the night of the June 23 referendum, reflecting concerns that Brexit will hit trade, investment and growth.

The German leaders spoke after May’s ally Chris Grayling appeared to dampen any hopes among Britain’s EU partners that her rapid ascent might accelerate the process of moving ahead with the split and resolving the uncertainty hanging over the 28-nation bloc.

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Which of course can be blamed on Brexit again. But it’s really just a Ponzi scheme dying a natural death.

British Pensions £383 Billion Underwater As Liabilities Hit Record (Tel.)

Britain’s gold-plated pensions now have record-breaking liabilities of £1.75 trillion after the EU referendum triggered a rout in their core gilt and equity holdings, highlighting the difficulty of funding the UK’s retirement needs. The country has almost 6,000 defined benefit schemes, which are obliged to pay their members an amount in retirement often tied to their final salary. Just 950 of these schemes were in surplus on June 30, with the rest hoping to make up the shortfall from long-term investment returns. In total, defined benefit funds are £383.6bn underwater, compared to £294.6bn just a month ago, as the tumbling UK government bond yields added to liabilities while global stock markets wiped value from the schemes’ equity investments.

Around 78pc of the long-term liabilities of the schemes are funded, down from 81.5pc within a month. While these figures are merely a snapshot, the data from the Pension Protection Fund highlights the precarious position of numerous schemes. “Companies are having to divert profits into schemes to make good on their promises, which means less investment capital to help businesses grow and less money available to invest in the pensions of younger workers,” said Tom McPhail, head of retirement policy at Hargreaves Lansdown. “Accrued pension rights have to be respected and investors have to be able to trust the system, however there is also a growing argument for the Government to look at finding a more balanced approach to the retirement funding needs of UK workforce.”

UBS analysts have estimated that a 1pc fall in real yields on government bonds results in a 10pc rise in pension liabilities, although this varies by scheme depending on how many bonds they hold. Gilts have jumped in price, lowering their yields, as global investors seek out safe havens. Industrial companies have the largest pension burdens, amounting to 77pc of their overall market value of the businesses, according to UBS’s research, while telecoms firms have liabilities worth 56pc of their value and utilities’ liabilities have reached 54pc.

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Hilarious.

Ireland’s Economists Left Speechless by 26% Growth Figure (BBG)

In three days, Jim Power is due in London to brief the British-Irish Trade Association on the state of the Irish economy. Now, he has no idea what he is going to say. The economy grew 26% in 2015, officials from the Central Statistics Office told a stunned room full of economists and reporters in Dublin on Tuesday. Previously, they had estimated growth of 7.8%. “I’m not going to stand up and say the economy grew by 26%,” Power, an independent economist, said after the release. “It’s meaningless – we would be laughing” if these numbers came out of China, he said. The figure is mostly explained by the open nature of Ireland’s economy and its attraction to U.S. companies seeking access to a 12.5% tax rate.

Among firms that have inverted to Ireland, mostly through acquisitions, are Perrigo and Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Corporations with assets overseas of €523 billion were headquartered in Ireland in 2014, up from €391 billion in 2013, according to the statistics office. “We are a very small economy, and if we get a big increase in assets, this is what happens,” Michael Connolly, an official at the CSO, said on Tuesday. Once explained the numbers are “believable,” he said. In a statement, Finance Minister Michael Noonan pointed out that growth numbers cut Ireland’s debt and deficit ratios. Trouble is, they carry downsides too. For one, tax inversions artificially inflate the size of Ireland’s economy.

When the headquarters of a group of companies becomes resident in Ireland, all of its global profits may be counted as part of the nation’s gross national income, according to the ministry. Since 2008, that gauge has been boosted by about 7 billion euros thanks to corporate relocations, without accompanying substance or employment, the ministry has said. This in turn drives up the country’s contribution to the European Union budget, which is based on the size of the economy. For a second thing, it leaves self-described “baffled” analysts like Power at a loss to explain the state of the Irish economy. Power says he’ll look at indicators like employment growth and tax revenue for a better gauge, and guesses Ireland’s underlying economic growth was 5.5% last year.

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A world of pain.

Losing Australia’s AAA Rating To Make Losers of Mortgage Holders (BBG)

The biggest losers after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull scraped through to win Australia’s fractious elections could be homebuyers facing higher costs on their A$1.6 trillion ($1.2 trillion) in mortgages. The price to protect bonds issued by the nation’s banks climbed seven basis points last week after S&P Global Ratings cut its outlook on Australia’s AAA grade to negative on concern government deficits will persist without “more forceful” decisions to rein in shortfalls. It also put the nation’s biggest lenders on notice. Stephen Miller, BlackRock’s head of fixed income for Australia, said Wednesday there’s a “real risk” Australia loses its top debt score.

“An increase in funding costs relating to a ratings downgrade will impact bank margins, but banks may choose to offset this via loan pricing,” said Anthony Ip at Citigroup in Sydney, adding that any increase in funding costs will be significant but manageable. “At the end of the day it’s still a competitive lending market.” Australia’s largest lenders – Australia & New Zealand Banking, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking – rely on offshore bond markets for a fifth of their funding requirements, central bank data show. If their rankings were lowered after a sovereign downgrade, that would increase borrowing costs as much as 20 basis points, prompting them to slap mortgagees with higher interest rates, according to Citigroup.

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I smell a timebomb.

The Richest Generation in US History Just Keeps Getting Richer (BBG)

Baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011, marking the unofficial beginning of their retirement years. The timing could not have been better for older boomers, who are already part of the wealthiest generation in U.S. history. Since then, the broad S&P 500-stock index is up 91%, including dividends. U.S. stocks hit a record high yesterday. Market performance in the early years of retirement is a crucial worry for anyone living off a nest egg. In the worst-case scenario, stocks crash just as retirees start spending their savings, leaving them in a hole they can no longer earn their way out of. Older boomers have experienced what is arguably the best-case scenario: The S&P 500 has returned 269% since its March 2009 low.

As a recent study in the Journal of Financial Planning shows, wealthy retirees can be very cautious about spending down their savings. This instinct, along with the stock market’s new record, suggests that many boomers are likely to end up with far more money than they know what to do with. Researchers followed the spending and investing behavior of 65- to 70-year-olds from 2000 to 2008. The poorest 40% of the survey respondents generally spent more than they earned, according to the study, which was funded by Texas Tech University. Those in the middle were able to keep their spending at about 8% below what they could have safely spent from pensions, investments, and Social Security.

The wealthiest fifth, meanwhile, had a gap of as much as 53% between their spending and what they could have spent. The authors wrote: “Retirees in the top quintile of financial wealth were spending nowhere near an amount that would place them in danger of running out of money. In fact, the average financial assets of wealthy retirees increased during this period and most retirees spent less than their income.” In other words, these affluent Americans retired and then continued to get richer. That’s quite a feat when you’re no longer working, particularly against the backdrop of the mediocre stock market of the early 2000s.

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Conditions in Greece are getting worse, fast. I’ll soon have more on that, firsthand. Meanwhile, another 4 refugees died this morning off Lesbos.

A Year After Bailout, Greece Struggles For Brighter Future (AFP)

A year after it fought and lost a tug-of-war with its creditors, Greece remains a country that seems adrift, and many of its citizens view the present as joyless and the future as grim. Summer 2015 saw Greece’s youthful left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wage an extraordinary battle between the mighty European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF. Over five months, Tsipras and his firebrand finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, took Greece and Europe to the brink as they demanded the creditors ease reforms imposed under two previous bailouts agreed since 2010. As the EU, ECB and IMF took a hard line, Greece’s financial flows shrank and a bank crisis loomed – but Tsipras, instead of buckling, stunned the world by announcing a referendum on the new deal proposed by creditors.

On July 5, 62% of voters rejected the package. But even with the mandate of the Greek people behind him, Tsipras backed down: the risk of seeing Greece thrown out of the eurozone was too much. Instead, in a dramatic U-turn, he let go of Varoufakis, replaced him with the more moderate Euclid Tsakalotos – and just over a week later, signed the third bailout. The deal was worth €86 billion over three years and laden with conditions, such as tax hikes and pension reforms, considered by critics to be so tough that social media buzzed with talk of a coup d’etat. Since then, Greece has soldiered on, weathering popular unrest and the consequences of the 2015 migration crisis, while Tsipras strives to defend his leftwing credentials.

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Brussels is completely lost. Time to end its misery.

EU Development Aid To Finance Armies In Africa (EuO)

The EU commission wants to finance foreign armies as part of a larger effort to stop people from fleeing to Europe, including in countries with patchy human rights. A commission draft proposal released on Tuesday (5 July) spells out reasons why it is “necessary to provide assistance to the militaries of partner countries”. Some €100 million that were initially slated for development aid will be diverted to finance military-led border control exploits and other initiatives like mine-clearing The EU money can also be used to finance anything from troop transport vehicles to uniforms and surveillance equipment. Even furniture, stationary and “sport facilities” are covered. The EU has already contracted out some €1 billion from 2001 to 2009 when it came to things like law enforcement and border management.

But this is the first time it will pump money directly into a foreign military structure. “The direct financing of the military is not possible [at the moment]. Due to exceptional circumstances in some partner countries, it was important to close this gap,” notes the document, a joint communication to the European Parliament and EU Council. The document attempts to quell some concerns over how the money will be used. It notes, for instance, that it won’t fund “recurrent military expenditure”, weapons and ammunition, and combat training. But such limitations are unlikely to be taken seriously by critics. “This proposal is nothing short of scandalous,” said German Green deputy Reinhard Butikofer.

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No Ambrose, not the International Court of Justice. The ruling was by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. And your conclusion is fit for the National Enquirer: “The world has not been in such peril since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Global Arms Race Escalates As Sabres Rattle In South China Sea (AEP)

The South China Sea has become the most dangerous fault-line in the world. Beijing and Washington are on a collision course over these contested waters, the shipping lane for 60pc of global trade. As expected, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled that China has no “historic title” to areas of this sea stretching all the way to the ‘nine dash line’ – deep into the territorial waters of a ring of South East Asian states. Equally expected, Beijing has dismissed the verdict with scorn, accusing the tribunal of “shamelessly abusing its authority”. The state media said the country “must be prepared for any military confrontation” with the US, and must not flinch from war if provoked.

It is the latest in a series ominous developments in Asia and Europe that are rapidly subverting the Western international system and setting off a global rearmament race with strong echoes of the late-1930s. Tensions are flaring up across so many spots in East Asia that global investment funds are actively betting on defence stocks and technology companies linked to military expansion. Nomura has launched an “Asian Arms Race Basket” as a hedge against potential conflicts in the East China Sea, the Straits of Taiwan, and the South China Sea. Among the companies listed are Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and Sumitomo Precision in Japan, China Shipbuilding and AVIC Aircraft in China, Korea Aerospace and the explosives group Hanwha, as well as Reliance Defence and Bharat Electronics in India.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says China spent $215bn on defence last year, a fivefold increase since 2000, and more than the whole of the European Union combined. It is developing indigenous aircraft carriers. US experts say its “Two-Ocean Strategy” implies a fleet of five or six aircraft carrier battle groups to project global power. Japan has upgraded its once invisible Self-Defence Force to a full-fledged fighting machine with a humming new headquarters and an air of determined alertness. The country has been increasing military spending for the last four years, especially under its nationalist leader Shinzo Abe, commissioning its largest warship since the Second World War, an 800-ft DDH-class helicopter carrier.

Rearmament has paradoxical effects. It acts as a form of Keynesian stimulus, as it did in the late 1930s. The spending might absorb some of the Asian savings glut and eat into excess industrial capacity, lifting the world out of secular stagnation, but it is a lethal way to do it. A parallel process is underway in Europe where defence spending has been shooting up since the Russian invasion of Crimea, ending years of neglect and austerity budgets. Outlays are expected to rise by 20pc in Central and Eastern Europe this year, and 9.2pc in South-Eastern Europe, according to the French think-tank IRIS.

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Not terribly smart people.

Economic Theory as Ideology (Zaman)

[..] For a very long time, economists refused to take results from experiments seriously, because these were in direct conflict with axioms at the heart of economic theories. The empirical failure of economic axioms led to the creation of “Behavioral Economics,” which studies actual behavior of human beings. In any scientific field, “behavioral economics” would be the center of attention, since it matches the observational evidence about human behavior. Furthermore, the axiomatic theory, which is contradicted by the empirical evidence, would be a long forgotten idea belonging to the primitive history of economic science. Surprisingly, mainstream economic textbooks, used all over the planet, continue to teach axiomatic theories of human behavior as if they are true, while behavioral economics remains neglected and ignored.

Why do economists maintain an ideological commitment to patently false theories of human behavior? Certainly it is not because these theories are noble and elevating. In fact, many observers have argued that these theories create immoral behavior, by teaching that selfishness, without concern for morality or society, is rational for everyone, and good for society. For example, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman taught that businesses should maximize profits, without any concern for social responsibility. Given this license, multinational corporations have gone on a rampage, exploiting natural resources by using methods which threaten to destroy the planet. The easiest way to make a profit is to appropriate a priceless natural treasure, like a rainforest, and chop it down for timber.

The losses from industrial wastes are changing the composition of the atmosphere, oceans, lakes and rivers, and inflicting costs on all human beings, but creating profits for corporate coffers. This strategy is called ‘socializing the losses and privatizing the gains.’ With massive profits, it is easy to buy politicians to prevent environmental concerns from getting in the way. The book Merchants of Doubt documents a well funded campaign to create doubt about climate change, so that corporations can continue to make profits while destroying the planet. The persistence of economic theories which celebrate and glorify these poisonous ideologies of personal greed and social irresponsibility can be traced to corporate funding of think-tanks and research which promote “free markets”. The charms of “freedom” propagated by economic ideologies conceal the ugly reality of corporate freedom and wage slavery of the masses.

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The glory of mankind.

Half Of All US Food Produce Is Thrown Away (G.)

Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a “cult of perfection”, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment. Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards, according to official data and interviews with dozens of farmers, packers, truckers, researchers, campaigners and government officials. From the fields and orchards of California to the population centres of the east coast, farmers and others on the food distribution chain say high-value and nutritious food is being sacrificed to retailers’ demand for unattainable perfection.

“It’s all about blemish-free produce,” says Jay Johnson, who ships fresh fruit and vegetables from North Carolina and central Florida. “What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down. And then you are stuck.” Food waste is often described as a “farm-to-fork” problem. Produce is lost in fields, warehouses, packaging, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants and fridges. By one government tally, about 60m tonnes of produce worth about $160bn, is wasted by retailers and consumers every year – one third of all foodstuffs. But that is just a “downstream” measure.

In more than two dozen interviews, farmers, packers, wholesalers, truckers, food academics and campaigners described the waste that occurs “upstream”: scarred vegetables regularly abandoned in the field to save the expense and labour involved in harvest. Or left to rot in a warehouse because of minor blemishes that do not necessarily affect freshness or quality. When added to the retail waste, it takes the amount of food lost close to half of all produce grown, experts say. “I would say at times there is 25% of the crop that is just thrown away or fed to cattle,” said Wayde Kirschenman, whose family has been growing potatoes and other vegetables near Bakersfield, California, since the 1930s. “Sometimes it can be worse.”

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Jul 082016
 
 July 8, 2016  Posted by at 8:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
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Lewis Wickes Hine Whole family works, Browns Mills, New Jersey 1910

Brexit Opens Up Bank Fault Line From Milan To Lisbon (R.)
Europe Banks Close to Breaching 2011 Crisis Lows on Italy Woes (BBG)
EU Declares Spain, Portugal In Violation Of Deficit Rules (EuA)
UK Property Fund Turmoil Continues As Three More Firms Cut Value (G.)
World Faces Deflation Shock As China Devalues At Accelerating Pace (AEP)
Forget Brexit, Watch China And The Renminbi (VW)
Central Banks Put Squeeze on Sovereign-Debt Market (WSJ)
Bond Market Is In An ‘Epic Bubble Of Colossal Proportions,’ Says Boockvar (CNBC)
Race And Real Estate: How Hot Chinese Money Is Making Vancouver Unlivable (G.)
Why Australia Could Be About To Lose Its AAA Rating (VW)
Chilcot’s Judgment Is Utterly Damning – But It’s Still Not Justice (Monbiot)
More Obscuration From The British Establishment (Paul Craig Roberts)
The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War With Russia (Klare)
Pressure Mounts For Varoufakis’ Secret Plan X To Be Investigated (Kath.)
The Strange Gaps in Hillary Clinton’s Email Traffic (Pol.)
Marine’s Defense For Handling Classified Info Will Cite Hillary Case (WaPo)
Europe Is Full … Of Empty Houses (LifeSeekers)

 

 

Beautiful Brexit bursts bubbles.

Brexit Opens Up Bank Fault Line From Milan To Lisbon (R.)

The ripples from Britain’s decision to leave the EU have spread across Europe to its southwestern edge, where Portugal is quietly struggling to contain a banking crisis. Since Britain’s shock vote on June 23 for a “Brexit”, attention in the banking sector has mainly focused on Italy, where non-performing loans are causing concern, bank shares have tumbled and confidence has sunk. Political tensions in Europe have also deepened, with Rome and Lisbon trying to bend EU rules on helping laggard banks but meeting resistance from economic powerhouse Germany and the executive European Commission. “It’s putting the whole banking system under stress,” said Gunnar Hokmark, a lawmaker in the European Parliament, echoing the nervousness expressed by investors who spoke to Reuters.

“It will be serious for countries in a fragile situation,” said Hokmark, who helped write rules imposing losses on bondholders and large depositors of failing banks which Portugal and Italy want loosened to allow state help. Portugal’s problems have attracted fewer headlines than Italy’s but its predicament is potentially no less painful. Data show Portuguese savings are being spent, unlike in Italy, and private debt is much higher. A euro zone official who asked not be identified said Portugal’s situation was as critical as Italy’s but it was unlikely to be treated with leniency because it was smaller and posed no “systemic” threat to Europe’s financial stability. Portugal sees it differently. “Wherever you look, there is a threat or a risk,” said Filipe Garcia, a financial expert and consultant in Portugal.

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How much did Draghi spend to reach this point?

Europe Banks Close to Breaching 2011 Crisis Lows on Italy Woes (BBG)

European banks have fallen to levels not seen since the worst days of the region’s debt crisis as turmoil surrounding Italy’s lenders intensified. Worries about market contagion dragged the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index just 1.4% away from its 2011 low. Most of Europe’s banks lost at least 40% of their value in the last year – Banco Popular Espanol, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse reached fresh record lows this week.

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If EU sanctions Madrid and Lisbon, it can’t leave others be.

EU Declares Spain, Portugal In Violation Of Deficit Rules (EuA)

The European Commission on Thursday (7 July) officially declared Spain and Portugal in violation of the EU rules on government overspending, the first step towards unprecedented penalties against members of the 28-country bloc. “The Commission confirms that Spain and Portugal will not correct their excessive deficits by the recommended deadline,” the EU’s executive arm said in a statement. If endorsed by the EU’s finance ministers, the Commission is then legally obliged to propose fines against the two neighbouring countries, which were both hit hard by the financial crisis. “Lately, the two countries have veered off track in the correction of their excessive deficits and have not met their budgetary targets,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU Commission’s VP in charge of the euro.

“We stand ready to work together with the Spanish and Portuguese authorities to define the best path ahead,” he said. Many EU powers led by Germany have long hoped for the Commission to finally crack down on public overspenders, but with populist fires burning after the Brexit vote, ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday could decide to delay their immediate endorsement. “There is uncertainty creeping in light of the UK vote result,” an EU diplomat told AFP. France and Italy will be the most willing to delay the penalty process, fearing that their own years of EU rule breaking would put them next in line for a sanction by Brussels. Ahead of the Commission announcement, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa warned that Brussels would foster a rise in Euroscepticism in Portugal if EU sanctions are applied.

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Brexit bursts bubbles. Is that a bad thing?

UK Property Fund Turmoil Continues As Three More Firms Cut Value (G.)

Shopping centres, office blocks and warehouses worth up to £5bn could be put up for sale as the turmoil in the UK commercial property sector prompted by the Brexit vote forces fund managers to revalue their portfolios or temporarily prevent investors withdrawing their savings. With the pound under pressure on the foreign exchange markets, fund managers Legal & General, Foreign & Colonial and Dutch-owned Kames cut the value of their property funds on Thursday. L&G cut the value of its £2.3bn fund by 10% – following a 5% cut last week – while F&C and Kanes both cut by 5%. Aberdeen Fund Management announced on Wednesday it was halting trading in its property fund for 24 hours and devaluing it by 17% – thought to be the biggest adjustment ever made by a property fund.

Aberdeen has since extended the trading ban until Monday. Others have suspended dealings for longer, starting with Standard Life’s decision on Monday to halt trading in its £2.9bn commercial property fund, leading to a cascade effect with Aviva, Prudential’s M&G, Henderson, Columbia Threadneedle and Canada Life following suit – taking the total value of property funds suspended to £18bn. Mike Prew, equity analyst at Jefferies, said buildings could be sold to find the cash to repay investors in the funds: “We estimate that £3bn to £5bn of assets could be put up for sale but it’s a trading vacuum and what sells is likely to get a hefty Brexit discount. “Buildings are now being readied for sale but keys to cash can typically take three to six months.”

One of the factors weighing on sentiment is uncertainty about the role of London as a financial centre outside the EU. George Osborne, the chancellor, met the heads of major international banks including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley on Thursday to discuss ways to keep the City as a major trading centre. “We are determined to work together,” they said in a joint statement.

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Ambrose lags me by a week: Deflation Is Blowing In On An Eastern Trade Wind

World Faces Deflation Shock As China Devalues At Accelerating Pace (AEP)

China has abandoned a solemn pledge to keep its exchange rate stable and is carrying out a systematic devaluation of the yuan, sending a powerful deflationary impulse through a global economy already caught in a 1930s trap. The country’s currency basket has been sliding at an annual pace of 12pc since the start of the year. This has picked up sharply since the Brexit vote, suggesting that the People’s Bank (PBOC) may be taking advantage of the distraction to push through a sharper devaluation. “This makes a mockery of the PBOC’s suggestion that its policy is to keep the currency’s value stable,” said Mark Williams, chief China economist at Capital Economics. “Markets will not take PBOC policy statements at face value in the future.”

Mr Williams said it is unclear whether Beijing intended to deceive investors all along when it gave categorical assurances earlier this year, or whether it is feeding on events. Either way the markets have stopped believing what they are told, storing serious trouble for the authorities should there be another surge in capital flight later this year, as widely expected. “When it comes, the PBOC will find itself sorely lacking in credibility. It may have to intervene on a large scale to maintain control,” he said. Factory gate prices within China are falling at a rate of 2.9pc, further amplifying the deflationary impact. Analysts fear that Beijing is engaged is an undeclared policy of beggar-thy-neighbour mercantilism, trying to avert an industrial crisis at home by exporting its overcapacity in steel, shipbuilding, chemicals, plastics, paper, glass, and even solar panels, to the rest for the world.

“When you have a relatively closed capital account like China, it means that any currency move like this is a policy decision,” said Hans Redeker, currency chief at Morgan Stanley. “They seem to be overriding their own model and letting the remnimbi (yuan) fall to improve competitiveness. They are in the same sort of deflationary syndrome as Japan in the 1990 but on a much bigger scale. The global economy is in no position to absorb this.”

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Again, Deflation Is Blowing In On An Eastern Trade Wind.

Forget Brexit, Watch China And The Renminbi (VW)

As the world’s attention has been fixed on Brexit and meltdown of the European financial system, China has been quietly devaluing its currency without causing too much turbulence in the financial markets as it did the last time policymakers attempted such a strategy. On Wednesday the yuan fell to a fresh five-and-a-half-year low against the dollar extending its slide to a fifth straight session, after China’s central bank sharply weakened its official guidance rate as the dollar surged. The yuan traded as low as 6.6955 against the dollar at one point, closing in on the psychologically important 6.7 level. China’s policymakers have made it clear that they are willing to let the yuan fall as low as 6.8 per dollar in 2016 to support struggling exporters, a depreciation of 4.5% for the full year matching last year’s decline.

This time around China’s central bank is trying to send a message to the markets that it has the depreciation under control. Reuters reports that traders believe state-owned banks across the country are offering dollars to soothe markets while the People’s Bank of China has been intervening in the foreign exchange market to slow down the yuan’s decline. Forex reserves fell by $27.9 billion in May to $3.19 trillion, their lowest since December 2011 although currency movements are almost entirely to blame for the decline. The renminbi depreciated by 1.8% during May. FX reserves increased by $10.3 billion during March and $7.1 billion during April.

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Not enough paper left.

Central Banks Put Squeeze on Sovereign-Debt Market (WSJ)

Christopher Sullivan, a money manager in New York, is worried that when he needs U.S. Treasury bonds one day, he might not be able to get them. On the surface, the concern might seem unwarranted: The U.S. Treasury has $13.4 trillion in debt securities outstanding, making the U.S. bond market the largest in the world and Treasurys among the most easily traded asset classes. But Mr. Sullivan, who oversees $2.3 billion as chief investment officer at the United Nations Federal Credit Union, said he is afraid that he may soon be squeezed out of that market as central banks continue to vacuum up high-quality debt around the world and nervous overseas investors turn to Treasurys for relief.

A buying spree by central banks is reducing the availability of government debt for other buyers and intensifying the bidding wars that break out when investors get jittery, driving prices higher and yields lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note hit a record low Wednesday. “The scarcity factor is there but it really becomes palpable during periods of stress when yields immediately collapse,’’ he said. ”You may be shut out of the bond market just when you need it the most.’’

On Wednesday, the yield on the 20-year Japanese government bond fell below zero for the first time, joining a pool of negative-yielding bonds around the world that has expanded rapidly over the past year. In Switzerland, government bonds through the longest maturity, a bond due in nearly half a century, are now yielding below zero. In Germany, government debt with maturities out as far as January 2031 is trading with negative yields.

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Kuroda and Bernanke are meeting next week.

Bond Market Is In An ‘Epic Bubble Of Colossal Proportions,’ Says Boockvar (CNBC)

One of the most crowded trades on Wall Street is about to implode, says one market watcher. “We’re in an epic bubble of colossal proportions,” Peter Boockvar, at The Lindsey Group, said Tuesday on CNBC’s ” Futures Now “. Global yields have been tumbling to record lows, with many dipping into negative territory. The U.S. 10-year hit its lowest level ever this week as traders continue to seek safety in the bond market. Yields move inversely to prices. However, Boockvar believes that this activity is a ticking time bomb for the global economy. He reasoned that U.S. Treasury yields are being dragged down by negative-yielding debt out of Germany, Japan and Switzerland and misplaced monetary policy, and is therefore skeptical as to how much longer the rally can continue.

“It could be central banks that end this,” said Boockvar in regard to upward momentum for bonds. In his recent coverage, he reacted to the newly released FOMC minutes and further questioned the Fed’s ability to act effectively. “They’ll call it being ‘patient.’ Their forecasts are now irrelevant, their communication is now meaningless and their tools to handle whatever might come our way are toothless,” noted Boockvar when describing the Fed’s ability to address a flattening yield curve. In Europe, concern for Italy’s economy continues to rise as that nation struggles to maintain negative interest rates while simultaneously raising capital for its banking system, which is straddled with mounting debt.

“Maybe Italian banks are telling us that central bankers and their negative interest rate policies are actually destroying the Japanese and European banking system?” asked Boockvar in the CNBC interview. He reasoned that Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and ECB President Mario Draghi could take a look at what’s happening in Italy and decide that their respective monetary policies are the wrong course of action. Ultimately, Boockvar warned of the fallout that could occur if multiple nations opt to end what he referred to as a “negative deposit rate regime.” “Even if they put it back to zero, imagine the carnage, at least in the short-term bond markets,” concluded Boockvar.

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Once again: how to kill a city.

Race And Real Estate: How Hot Chinese Money Is Making Vancouver Unlivable (G.)

Here’s one,” says Melissa Fong. She’s browsing online real estate listings in a cafe near Vancouver’s City Hall. Behind her, the mountains of the North Shore – the view that launched a thousand bidding wars – rise through mist. “Three-bedroom townhouse, 1,400 sq ft, C$1.5m (£800,000). You could start a family in a place like this. Way, way out of my price range, though.” Fong moves on, scrolling through half a dozen homes, each smaller than the last, until she arrives at a tiny, 500 sq ft condominium on the east side of the city. “Unassuming” would be a generous way to describe how it looks from the photos, which, tellingly, are all exterior shots. “You could live there if you only had one kid, right?” she says with a grim smile.

An urban planning researcher, Fong divides her time between Vancouver, where her elderly parents live, and Toronto, where she’s finishing a doctorate. She grew up in Vancouver, has deep roots in the city, and plans to settle here with her husband, a home renovator. But she has looked on with a mixture of frustration and horror as the cost of housing in Canada’s famously liveable city rise beyond the means of young professionals like her. “When you think it can’t get any worse, it does. So you keep adjusting your expectations, you know?”

Over the past year, the price of a single family house in Vancouver increased by an incredible 30%, to an average of $1.4m. It’s just the latest, most dramatic jump in an already dramatic long-term trend that has turned the beautiful but unassuming Canadian city into one of the world’s least affordable, with a housing price-to-income ratio of 10.8. That’s third after Hong Kong and Sydney, and well ahead of London, which ranks eighth at 8.5. Driving the rise is an unprecedented flood of foreign capital, mainly from China.

“What you have is a huge pool of very wealthy people who want to hedge against uncertainty back home,” says Thomas Davidoff, a real estate economist at the University of British Columbia (UBC). “Combine anxious money – a lot of it – with a beautiful gateway city that has limited space to build, low property taxes, lax regulation on capital flows, and wealth-friendly immigration programmes, and you get a market like this one,” – a market where an ordinary house with a waterfront view can sell for $15m while people earning local wages struggle to buy or rent a home.

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Lemme guess. Because it’s f**king broke?

Why Australia Could Be About To Lose Its AAA Rating (VW)

Australia’s AAA credit rating was under pressure even before the election and is now looking decidedly shaky. Ratings agency Standard & Poors has moved Australia’s rating outlook from “stable” to “negative”, due to debt and a poor chance of budget repair. This follows warnings from the other major credit rating agencies – Moody’s and Fitch Ratings. The problem is budget repair will only become harder over the coming years, whatever the final numbers in the parliament. On the parties’ approach to budget repair, the Coalition and Labor are virtually indistinguishable as far as the credit agencies are concerned. The May budget projected a deficit (in underlying cash terms) of A$37 billion in 2016-17, gradually falling to $6 billion over the four-year forward estimates.

Labor’s plan is to reduce the deficit from $39 billion to $11 billion over that time. Both Coalition and Labor forecast a return to surplus over the subsequent years and indeed quite large surpluses ten years from now. Budget repair on this scale was utterly implausible before the election and is fiction now. The government’s so-called “zombie” budget measures were baked into its projections over the forward estimate period. These were mainly the cuts to university funding, family payments and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. None of these had any prospect of being legislated with the past Senate, never mind with a larger, more powerful set of crossbench senators.

The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates these “zombie” measures to be worth $8 billion in total over the forward estimates. This accounts for roughly half of the difference between the total projected deficits of Coalition and Labor over the same period. In short, there is little or no prospect of achieving the budget repair that is a pre-requisite for maintaining Australia’s AAA credit rating. Both sides of politics need to spell out to all Australians what this means. The effect of a credit downgrade is like an income cut to households, businesses and government.

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Blair won’t be jailed, neither will Dubya or Cheney. But we could at least try to make sure this can’t happen again. By telling them of consequences before they pull these things.

Chilcot’s Judgment Is Utterly Damning – But It’s Still Not Justice (Monbiot)

Little is more corrosive of democracy than impunity. When politicians do terrible things and suffer no consequences, people lose trust in both politics and justice. They see them, correctly, as instruments deployed by the strong against the weak. Since the first world war, no British prime minister has done anything as terrible as Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq. This unprovoked war caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the mutilation of hundreds of thousands more. It flung the whole region into chaos, which has been skillfully exploited by terror groups. Today, three million people in Iraq are internally displaced, and an estimated 10 million need humanitarian assistance.

Yet Blair, the co-author of these crimes, whose lethal combination of appalling judgment and tremendous powers of persuasion made the Iraq war possible, saunters the world, picking up prizes and massive fees, regally granting interviews, cloaked in a forcefield of denial and legal impunity. If this is what politics looks like, is it any wonder that so many people have given up on it? The crucial issue – the legality of the war – was, of course, beyond Sir John Chilcot’s remit. A government whose members were complicit in the matter under investigation (Gordon Brown financed and supported the Iraq war) defined his terms of reference.

This is a fundamental flaw in the way inquiries are established in this country: it’s as if a defendant in a criminal case were able to appoint his own judge, choose the charge on which he is to be tried and have the hearing conducted in his own home. But if Brown imagined Chilcot would give the authors of the war an easy ride, he could not have been more wrong. The Chilcot report, much fiercer than almost anyone anticipated, rips down almost every claim the Labour government made about the invasion and its aftermath. Two weeks before he launched his war of choice, Tony Blair told the Guardian: “Let the day-to-day judgments come and go: be prepared to be judged by history.” Well, that judgment has just been handed down, and it is utterly damning.

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PCR gets mad: Elect Hillary and die.

More Obscuration From The British Establishment (Paul Craig Roberts)

Sir John Chilcot, a member of the British establishment and also a member of the Butler Inquiry, the responsibility of which was to determine if the so-called “intelligence” used as the excuse for the US/UK invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was “fixed” to justify the invasion, has, after seven years of delay, finally issued its report. Remember, there was a leaked memo from the head of British intelligence that the intelligence justifying the Iraqi Invasion was “fixed” or orchestrated to produce the justification for the invasion, a war crime under the Nuremberg standard established by the United States. Chilcot’s job was to make this fact go away or assume less importance and to protect the Butler Inquiry’s orchestrated verdict that, despite the word of the head of British intelligence, the intelligence was not fixed.

In other words, Sir John’s assigned task under the guise of an “impartial inquiry” was to absolve former UK PM and war criminal Tony Blair not of all responsibility but of all responsibility deserving of prosecution. Sir John’s report is akin to FBI director Comey’s report on Hillary: They did it but they didn’t do it enough to be prosecuted. In the context of democratic politics, if such existed in England, Tony Blair would be in the crosshairs of the ruling UK party, the Tories or Conservatives. Yet, as both parties represent the same private interest groups, the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has announced his resignation effective next October, rushed to the opposition party’s defense and gave in Parliament what former British Ambassador Craig Murray calls a “dishonest, apologia for the invasion that bore no relationship to the Chilcot report.”

The UK media, for the most part, also came out in defense of Tony Blair, the war criminal and liar, providing, according to Amb. Murray, “unlimited airtime to Blair and his defender Alastair Campbell” and “almost no airtime to those who campaigned against the war.” Here is the judgement of a British Ambassador, Craig Murray: “Blair is still a creature of absolute self-serving slime.” You could make the same judgment on almost every member of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama regimes. And Hillary’s regime would be even worse. My prediction is that life on earth would not survive Hillary’s first term. Elect Hillary and die.

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Not Klare’s strongest effort, but the risk is there.

The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War With Russia (Klare)

For the first time in a quarter-century, the prospect of war—real war, war between the major powers—will be on the agenda of Western leaders when they meet at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, on July 8 and 9. Dominating the agenda in Warsaw (aside, of course, from the “Brexit” vote in the UK) will be discussion of plans to reinforce NATO’s “eastern flank”—the arc of former Soviet partners stretching from the Baltic states to the Black Sea that are now allied with the West but fear military assault by Moscow. Until recently, the prospect of such an attack was given little credence in strategic circles, but now many in NATO believe a major war is possible and that robust defensive measures are required.

In what is likely to be its most significant move, the Warsaw summit is expected to give formal approval to a plan to deploy four multinational battalions along the eastern flank—one each in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Although not deemed sufficient to stop a determined Russian assault, the four battalions would act as a “tripwire,” thrusting soldiers from numerous NATO countries into the line of fire and so ensuring a full-scale, alliance-wide response. This, it is claimed, will deter Russia from undertaking such a move in the first place or ensure its defeat should it be foolhardy enough to start a war.

The United States, of course, is deeply involved in these initiatives. Not only will it supply many of the troops for the four multinational battalions, but it is also taking many steps of its own to bolster NATO’s eastern flank. Spending on the Pentagon’s “European Reassurance Initiative” will quadruple, climbing from $789 million in 2016 to $3.4 billion in 2017. Much of this additional funding will go to the deployment, on a rotating basis, of an additional armored-brigade combat team in northern Europe.

As a further indication of US and NATO determination to prepare for a possible war with Russia, the alliance recently conducted the largest war games in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Known as Anakonda 2016, the exercise involved some 31,000 troops (about half of them Americans) and thousands of combat vehicles from 24 nations in simulated battle maneuvers across the breadth of Poland. A parallel naval exercise, BALTOPS 16, simulated “high-end maritime warfighting” in the Baltic Sea, including in waters near Kaliningrad, a heavily defended Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania.

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Greek politics has degenerated into Class B theater, and that’s if you want to be overly generous.

Pressure Mounts For Varoufakis’ Secret Plan X To Be Investigated (Kath.)

Opposition parties kept up the pressure on the government Wednesday to give a clearer account of its actions over the revelations in US economist James K. Galbraith’s latest book regarding preparations in Greece last year for a possible exit from the euro. The opposition pressed home its views on the matter despite the fact that coalition officials distanced themselves from the academic, who clarified exactly what role he played in 2015 while Yanis Varoufakis was finance minister. Writing on the website belonging to the DiEM25 movement founded by Varoufakis, Galbraith said that he had been asked by the then finance minister in March 2015 to “help with a delicate task.” “This was the preparation of a preliminary plan – requested by the prime minister – for the contingency that Greece might be forced out of the euro,” he wrote.

Galbraith said that he worked on a memorandum, called Plan X, for six weeks with a small group of experts that were sworn to secrecy. The economist insisted that the final note, which touched on issues such as issuing a new currency, setting up a new central bank and ensuring law and order, was not intended as a blueprint for exiting the euro but “an outline of measures that might have to be taken and of problems that could occur.” “It was not our mission to make recommendations, and we made none; we were preparing for a scenario that everyone had hoped to avoid,” wrote Galbraith. Despite the academic’s explanation, Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis launched a strong attack on Galbraith during a session in Parliament Wednesday. “Who is this gentleman?” said the ministry official. “What he is saying is unbelievably frivolous.”

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“Clinton signed documents declaring she had turned over all of her work-related emails. We now know that is not true. But even more importantly, the absence of emails raises troubling questions about the nature of the correspondence that might have been deleted.”

The Strange Gaps in Hillary Clinton’s Email Traffic (Pol.)

The past few weeks have brought a myriad of revelations about the private server Hillary Clinton used while she was secretary of state. First, there was the State Department inspector general’s devastating critique of the former secretary’s email practices. Then came sworn testimony of two key Clinton aides about how the server was set up and how the system worked (or didn’t). Just this weekend, Clinton met with the FBI to discuss her email arrangements. And on Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that the agency would not recommend criminal charges over the handling of these emails, while at the same time offering a brutal assessment of how poorly Team Clinton handled classified information.

But, when it comes to Clinton’s correspondence, the most basic and troubling questions still remain unanswered: Why are there gaps in Clinton’s email history? Did she or her team delete emails that she should have made public? The State Department has released what is said to represent all of the work-related, or “official,” emails Clinton sent during her tenure as secretary—a number totaling about 30,000. According to Clinton and her campaign, when they were choosing what correspondence to turn over to State for public release, they deleted 31,830 other emails deemed “personal and private.” But a numeric analysis of the emails that have been made public, focusing on conspicuous lapses in email activity, raises troubling concerns that Clinton or her team might have deleted a number of work-related emails.

We already know that the trove of Clinton’s work-related emails is incomplete. In his comments on Tuesday, Comey declared, “The FBI … discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014.” We also already know that some of those work-related emails could be permanently deleted. Indeed, according to Comey, “It is also likely that there are other work-related e-mails that [Clinton and her team] did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.”

Why does this matter? Because Clinton signed documents declaring she had turned over all of her work-related emails. We now know that is not true. But even more importantly, the absence of emails raises troubling questions about the nature of the correspondence that might have been deleted.

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Saw that coming from miles away.

Marine’s Defense For Handling Classified Info Will Cite Hillary Case (WaPo)

A Marine Corps officer who has been locked in a legal battle with his service after self-reporting that he improperly disseminated classified information will use Hillary Clinton’s email case to fight his involuntary separation from the service, his lawyer said. Maj. Jason Brezler’s case has been tied up in federal court since he sued the service in December 2014. He became a cause celebre among some members of Congress, Marine generals and military veterans after he sent a classified message using an unclassified Yahoo email account to warn fellow Marines in southern Afghanistan about a potentially corrupt Afghan police chief. A servant of that police official killed three Marines and severely wounded a fourth 17 days later, on Aug. 10, 2012, opening fire with a Kalashnikov rifle in an insider attack.

An attorney for Brezler, Michael J. Bowe, said that he intends to cite the treatment of Clinton “as one of the many, and most egregious examples” of how severely Brezler was punished. FBI Director James B. Comey announced Tuesday that he would not recommend the U.S. government pursue federal charges against Clinton, but he rebuked her “extremely careless” use of a private, unclassified email server while serving as secretary of state. The FBI found that 110 of her emails contained classified information. Bowe said it is impossible to reconcile President Obama’s statement that Clinton’s intentional act of setting up a secret, unsecured email server did not detract “from her excellent ability to carry out her duties” while Brezler received a “completely opposite finding… involving infinitely less sensitive and limited information.”

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“..there are at least 15.8 million verified empty homes in Europe..”

Europe Is Full … Of Empty Houses (LifeSeekers)

“Our country is full” is a statement you might often hear as a justification for not accepting any more migrants and refugees. According to this opinion, European countries do not have capacity to accept more newcomers, who put pressure on infrastructure – and especially housing. But when we look more closely, can it really be said that Europe is full? According to data from the censuses conducted across Europe in 2011, there are at least 15.8 million verified empty homes in Europe; in other words, there are enough empty homes in Europe to house all the asylum seekers that arrived in Europe last year, and all of Europe’s 4 million homeless people, several times over.

However, many Europeans are struggling with a housing market that makes it even more difficult for them to buy or rent a home. There are many reasons for this, including housing speculation, where investors buy houses to use simply as assets to be sold on when their value increases, as well as the economic situation and unstable employment. But what seems clear is that this market is not working for European people, and migrants and refugees are not the cause of the problem. This unfair housing market is especially serious for young people in Europe. Ever-rising rents mean that living situations for most young Europeans are unstable: it’s no surprise that over 48% of young people (aged 18-34) in the EU still live with their parents, unable to truly realise their independence. And meanwhile, there are millions of homes sitting empty.

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