Feb 162017
 
 February 16, 2017  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
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Pablo Picasso Femme 1930

 

 

Great read from Ed. “..while Brazil and Greece faced the same type of downturn in dollar terms — about 45% in GDP per person — Brazilian living standards only deteriorated about 2%, compared to 26% in Greece.” Good part on Dutch elections too.

Europe’s Delusional Economic Policies (Edward Harrison)

This chart encapsulates the narrative in Matt’s post – namely that Greece has underperformed other emerging market crisis countries on post-crisis growth. Here’s how Matt put it: Greece had a very different post-crisis experience: it never recovered. By contrast, all the other countries were well past their pre-crisis peak after this much time had elapsed. On average, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey have outperformed Greece by more than 40 percentage points after nine years. The reasonable question is why. Matt answers that in the paragraph before, saying: “But unlike those countries, Greece lacked the ability to use the exchange rate as a shock absorber. So while Brazil and Greece faced the same type of downturn in dollar terms — about 45% in GDP per person — Brazilian living standards only deteriorated about 2%, compared to 26% in Greece. The net effect is that Greece had a relatively typical crisis in dollars but an unprecedently painful one in the terms that matter most”.

My view is that what we are seeing, therefore, is the difference monetary sovereignty can make in post-crisis recovery because the currency does a lot of the heavy lifting. And this is true for developed economies as well. For example, we saw the UK and Sweden recover after a housing bubble and EMU turmoil in the early 1990s in part because of currency depreciations. But of course, Greece doesn’t have its own currency so the currency can’t depreciate. Greece must use the internal devaluation route, which makes its labor, goods and services cheaper through a deflationary path – and that is very destructive to demand, to growth, and to credit. This, in my view, accounts for much of Greece’s underperformance relative to emerging market crisis countries.

In response to my tweet on Greece, Danish economist Lars Christensen pointed out to me that he had compared Greece to Turkey in 2015 and Greece came out poorly too. And his post noted that: “14 years later Turkey is still in many ways politically dysfunctional – in fact it has gotten worse in recent years – there has been rumours of plans of military coups, there has been major corruption scandals even involving the Prime Minister (now president Erdogan) and the governing AKParty and lately the civil war in Syria has created a massive inflow of refugees and increased tensions with Turkish Kurdish population.” Translation: it’s not about reforms, people. It’s about growth. And the euro – and the policies tied to membership – is anti-growth, particularly for a country like Greece that is forced to hit an unrealistic 3.5% primary surplus indefinitely. And there will be no debt forgiveness either, as the IMF has said is necessary.

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The WaPo takes a break from its political campaign and shows it still has at least one person left who can write an actual -and execellent- report.

Austerity Was A Bigger Disaster Than We Thought (WaPo)

We now take a break from your regularly scheduled scandals to bring you some not-so-breaking news: austerity was as big a disaster as its biggest critics said it was. That, at least, is what economists Christopher House and Linda Tesar of the University of Michigan and Christïan Proebsting of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne found when they looked at Europe’s budget-cutting experience the last eight years. It turns out that cutting spending right after the worst crisis in 80 years only led to a lower GDP and, in the most extreme cases, higher debt-to-GDP ratios. That’s right: trying to reduce debt levels sometimes increased debt burdens. Other than that, how was the policy, Mrs. Lincoln? But let’s back up a minute. This isn’t something that’s always true. In fact, it almost never used to be.

Cutting spending, you see, shouldn’t be a problem as long as you can cut interest rates too. That’s because lower borrowing costs can stimulate the economy just as much as lower government spending slows it down. What happens, though, if interest rates are already zero, or, even worse, you’re part of a currency union that means you can’t devalue your way out of trouble? Well, nothing good. House, Tesar and Proebsting calculated how much each European economy grew — or, more to the point, shrank — between the time they started cutting their budgets in 2010 and the end of 2014, and then compared it with what actually realistic models say would have happened if they hadn’t done austerity or adopted the euro.

According to this, the hardest-hit countries of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain would have contracted by only 1% instead of the 18% they did if they hadn’t slashed spending; by only 7% if they’d kept their drachmas, pounds, liras, escudos, pesetas and the ability to devalue that went along with them if they hadn’t become a part of the common currency and outsourced those decisions to Frankfurt; and only would have seen their debt-to-GDP ratios rise by eight percentage points instead of the 16 they did if they hadn’t tried to get their budgets closer to being balanced. In short, austerity hurt what it was supposed to help, and helped hurt the economy even more than a once-in-three-generations crisis already had.

[..] the euro really has been a doomsday device for turning recessions into depressions. It’s not just that it caused the crisis by keeping money too loose for Greece and the rest of them during the boom and too tight for them during the bust. It’s also that it forced a lot of this austerity on them. Think about it like this. Countries that can print their own money never have to default on their debts — they can always inflate them away instead — but ones that can’t, because, say, they share a common currency, might have to. Just the possibility of that, though, can be enough to make it a reality. If markets are worried that you might not be able to pay back your debts, they’ll make you pay a higher interest rate on them — which might make it so that you really can’t. In other words, the euro can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy where countries can’t afford to spend any more even though spending any less will only make everything worse.

That’s actually a pretty good description of what happened until the ECB belatedly announced that it would do “whatever it takes” to put an end to this in 2012. Which was enough to get investors to stop pushing austerity, but, alas, not politicians. It’s a good reminder that you should never doubt that a small group of committed ideologues can destroy the economy. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. That’s true whether you’re talking about the European politicians who pushed for the creation of the euro itself – they ignored the economists who warned them that it might turn out just as badly as it has – or the ones who pushed for austerity a few decades later. After all, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that trying to balance your budget when interest rates were zero would end badly.

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What’s lacking in Europe is self-reflection. Maybe that’s because it has no flexibility in its policies. But that still doesn’t make Malloch wrong.

‘The European Project Has Failed’ – Trump EU Envoy Pick Malloch (Exp.)

Donald Trump’s likely EU ambassador has launched a blistering attack on the “undemocratic” bloc and its “elitist” leaders.In comments that will terrify Brussels, Ted Malloch said the EU had become “bloated” by bureaucracy and “anti-Americanism”. And he called for member states to hold their own Brexit-style referendums – which could spark the break-up of the union. It comes after Mr Trump hailed Brexit as a “blessing to the world” and said the UK would be far stronger outside the bloc. Mr Malloch, who is the President’s pick to become Washington’s envoy to Brussels, made the comments in The Parliament magazine.

He said: “Put the EU to a referendum vote in every member country. “It is time for greater scepticism and realism about the European Union and its not so hidden agenda and ever closer union.” He added: “The failure of the European integration project should by now be self-apparent to everyone. “This is simply not something Churchill or Roosevelt would countenance. “The European Union has become undemocratic and bloated by both bureaucracy and rampant anti-Americanism.” He said: “We want democracy and accountability, while the EU is intrinsically undemocratic and unaccountable. “So should the US continue to promote such a damaged European model, which is alien to our own traditions? Is it not working against US interests to do so?”

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It may be an option considered fleetingly, but that’s it.

Greece ‘May Ditch Euro In Favour Of The Dollar’ – Malloch (Ind.)

The man tipped to be Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union has said that Greece is contemplating leaving the euro in favour of the US dollar. According to the transcript of a translated interview with Greek local online news site ekathimerini.com, Professor Ted Malloch claimed Greek economists are looking into taking on the US banknotes if the country turns its back on the European single currency in a move that he said would “freak out” Germany. He said: “I know some Greek economists who have even gone to leading think tanks in the US to discuss this topic and the question of dollarisation. “Such a topic of course freaks out the Germans because they really don’t want to hear such ideas.”

Mr Malloch added that a “Grexit” would be the best options for Greek people as the current situation is “unsustainable”. Mr Malloch, a strident Brexiteer, has indicated he is no fan of Brussels on several occasions. Earlier this month, in an interview with Bloomberg, Mr Malloch said that he didn’t want to speak on behalf of the Greek people but “I think there is probably – from an economist’s perspective – a very strong reason for Greece moving away from the euro.” Last month, Mr Malloch said the euro “could collapse” in the next 18 months. “The one thing I would do in 2017 is short the euro,” he said. “I think it is a currency that is not only in demise but has a real problem and could in fact collapse in the coming year, year and a half,” he added.

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‘He will die in jail’:

US Intelligence Community Ready To ‘Go Nuclear’ On Trump (RawS)

U.S. national security officials are reportedly ready to “go nuclear” after President Donald Trump’s latest attack on the intelligence community. In a series of tweets on Tuesday and Wednesday, Trump insisted that the “real scandal” was not that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied about his contact with Russia. Instead, the president blasted what he said were “un-American” leaks that led to Flynn’s ousting.On Wednesday, former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler provided some insight into the reaction of national security officials. “Now we go nuclear,” he wrote on Twitter. “[Intelligence community] war going to new levels. Just got an [email from] senior [intelligence community] friend, it began: ‘He will die in jail.’” “US intelligence is not the problem here,” Schindler added in another tweet. “The President’s collusion with Russian intelligence is. Many details, but the essence is simple.”

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No matter where you stand, this must be of concern. A state within the state is not what the founders had in mind.

Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns (WSJ)

U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him. In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said.

Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government. A White House official said: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.” A spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence said: “Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.” Intelligence officials have in the past not told a president or members of Congress about the ins and outs of how they ply their trade. At times, they have decided that secrecy is essential for protecting a source, and that all a president needs to know is what that source revealed and what the intelligence community thinks is important about it.

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Fewer reserve requirements means less Treasury appetite.

How Trump Could Trigger A Massive Wave Of Selling In The Treasury Market (CNBC)

Since the financial crisis, banks have been stockpiling Treasurys because they qualify as “safe” assets that count toward required regulatory capital levels. U.S. commercial banks now hold $2.4 trillion in government debt and agency securities, more than double the total from nine years ago, according to the St. Louis Fed. But House Republicans – with the support of the administration – are pushing to roll back parts of the Dodd-Frank regulations that were put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. That means banks could get a reprieve from those capital level requirements, and they could reduce their Treasury holdings as a result. In a report, RBC managing director and banking analyst Gerard Cassidy calculates the 24 largest bank holding companies already hold $100 billion in excess capital, with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase having the highest dollar amount.

As regulation eases, the capital that was once used as a large cushion against a future recession could be funneled into stock buybacks. Those Treasury-heavy portfolios “will certainly be the source of cash to use to buy back stock,” Cassidy wrote in an e-mail to CNBC. Banks have already been slowly selling off the debt, which causes yields to rise. Between the middle of 2013 and 2014, Bank of America’s holdings of U.S. Treasurys grew from $2.9 billion to $58 billion. At the end of 2016, that figure had dropped to $48 billion, according to the bank’s earnings. Wells Fargo’s $26 billion Treasury balance in September is down nearly 30% from a year ago. Not all banks break out the specific balance, but the totals as of the third quarter of 2016 range from $23 billion (Morgan Stanley) to $111 billion (Citigroup).

But banks are just one source of possible selling en masse. China is a creditor of a different magnitude: The country held $1.05 trillion in Treasurys as of November, down by $215 billion from a year earlier. It dumped $41 billion in U.S. debt in October alone, a move that relinquished its ranking as the largest foreign creditor to the United States. One reason for the country selling U.S. debt previously was its need to raise cash to prop up its currency, the yuan, after years of seeking to devalue it to make its exports more attractive. Its intervention in the currency markets led President Donald Trump, while campaigning, to label China a currency manipulator and threaten a 45% tariff on products made in China but sold in the United States.

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Interesting phenomenon, but the writers have a hard time explaining.

Houses as ATMs No Longer (NYFed)

Housing equity is the primary form of collateral that households use for borrowing. This makes it a potentially important source of consumption funding, especially for younger households. In a previous post we showed that owner’s equity in residential real estate has finally, thanks to increasing home prices, rebounded to and essentially re-attained its 2005 peak level. Yet in spite of a gain of more than $7 trillion in housing equity since 2012, so far homeowners haven’t been tapping this equity at anything like the pace we witnessed during the housing boom that ended in 2006. In this post, we analyze the changes in equity withdrawal.

The blue line in the chart below shows total owner’s equity in real estate from the Flow of Funds—this is the same series as in our previous post. It shows a dramatic rebound in aggregate home equity over the last several years. The red line shows the combination of two ways that households can withdraw equity—assuming they have some—without selling the house: they can originate a junior lien against the property or they can refinance using a cash-out refinancing of an existing first-lien mortgage. The series in the chart, which we have shown in an earlier post on household debt, captures both of these, while excluding the equity withdrawal associated with selling a home.

The first observation that’s striking about the chart is the dramatic change in borrower behavior with respect to home equity. During the boom between 2000 and 2006, household equity and its extraction were both rising rapidly. From 2003 to 2007, homeowners were extracting more than $350 billion per year, resources that were available for use in a variety of purposes from home improvement to consumption. The second major point of the chart is the effect of the housing and financial crises. Beginning in 2008, equity extraction began to decline quickly and was hovering around zero by 2010, where it remained through 2012. The virtual elimination of equity withdrawal was a big contributor to the household deleveraging that ultimately shaved more than $1.5 trillion from household debt. It also likely contributed to the sharp decline of consumption during the Great Recession and its subsequent sluggish recovery.

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Looks dangerous. Fighting bubbles with bigger bubbles is always a bad idea.

Fed Frets about $2 Trillion Commercial Real Estate Bubble (WS)

Boom and bust: that’s the material CRE is made of. We had seven years of boom, and now the Fed is worried about the bust. Yellen didn’t mention CRE in her prepared testimony on Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. But it featured in the twice-yearly report that the Fed delivered to Congress in support of Yellen’s testimony. And it wasn’t the first time that it was mentioned in these twice-yearly reports – but the fifth time in a row. In its February report two years ago, the Fed first pointed at “valuation pressures” in CRE. And warnings about CRE have appeared since then in every report, twice a year, with growing sharpness, including in the report issued in June 2016, which warned that “valuations in the CRE sector appear increasingly vulnerable to negative shocks….”

Other Fed governors have also warned about the CRE boom and a potential bust, particularly Boston Fed governor Eric Rosengren, who was gazing with amazement at a stunning crane forest in his own city. What concerns the Fed about CRE aren’t the valuations per se, but the fact that the sector is highly leveraged, and that when prices collapse, which they tend to do, the collateral value gets crushed, and banks are left to twist in the wind. That’s what happened during the Financial Crisis. Just how badly can prices get crushed? The national averages hide the drama that happens on the ground in particular cities. But even these national averages still show enough drama, as per data from the Green Street Commercial Property Price Index. The index shows that overall prices across the major markets in the nation plunged nearly 40% during the Great Recession and have since more than doubled:

So that’s why the Fed is fretting about it. This time around, the Fed report said: “Commercial real estate (CRE) valuations, which have been an area of growing concern over the past year, rose further, with property prices continuing to climb and capitalization rates decreasing to historically low levels.” Then the report discusses the debt that nurtured this boom to these heights. This debt has ballooned to $1.98 trillion, and is now 14% higher than during the crazy peak of the prior bubble that collapsed with such spectacular results:

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All of a sudden Hamon has 38%?! Oh wait, the numbers don’t add up at all. More countries should discuss their colonial past- and present.

France’s Colonial Past Muscles Into Presidential Race (AFP)

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron drew a storm of criticism Wednesday after calling France’s colonisation of Algeria a “crime against humanity”. In a TV interview in Algiers this week, the centrist said French actions in Algeria, which achieved independence in 1962 after eight years of war, were “genuinely barbaric, and constitute a part of our past that we have to confront by apologising”. His visit also included a stop at the Martyrs’ Memorial in Algiers, saying he wanted to promote a “reconciliation of memories” between the two countries. His rivals on the right for the French presidency – due to be decided in a first round election in April and a run-off between the two top candidates in May – pounced on the comments.

Les Republicans candidate Francois Fillon on Wednesday denounced what he called “this hatred of our history, this perpetual repentance that is unworthy of a candidate for the presidency of the republic”. Wallerand de Saint-Just, an official in Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party, accused Macron of “shooting France in the back”, while Gerald Darmanin, an ally of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, tweeted “Shame on Emmanuel Macron for insulting France while abroad”. It was the not the first time Macron, who currently leads the polls for the two rounds of voting in April and May, has touched on the livewire issue. “Yes, there was torture in Algeria, but there was also the emergence of a state, or wealth, of a middle class,” he told the magazine Le Point in October.

“This is the reality of colonialism. There are elements of civilisation and elements of barbarism.” And Fillon has been tripped up by his own comments on French colonialism. In August, he drew claims of trying to sanitise history, claiming that “France is not guilty of having wanted to share its culture with the peoples of Africa”. Macron remains the frontrunner in the presidential race, with 39% of those surveyed in the latest survey by pollsters Ipsos giving him a favourable opinion. In the poll released by the magazine Le Point on Wednesday, Macron was followed by Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, with 38%, while Fillon tumbled 18 percentage points to 25%, just behind Le Pen, on 26%.

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One step away from a formal investigation. Does he really want it that bad?

French Prosecutor Keeps Fillon Fake Work Probe Open (R.)

France’s financial prosecutor announced on Thursday that an investigation into fake work allegations surrounding presidential candidate Francois Fillon would remain open, in a new blow to the ex-prime minister’s campaign. A three week-old scandal over hundreds of thousands of euros in taxpayers’ money which his wife was paid for work she may not have done has cost conservative Fillon his status as favorite to win the French presidency in May. “It is my duty to affirm that the numerous elements collected (by investigators) do not, at this stage, permit the case to be dropped,” prosecutor Eliane Houlette said in a statement, after receiving an initial police report on the subject.

The prosecutor did not announce any further steps, but among the choices before it are dropping the case, taking it further by appointing an investigating magistrate, or sending it straight to trial. Fillon, 62, has said he would step down should he be put under formal investigation, but his camp has also challenged the legitimacy of the probe. The first round of the election is less than 10 weeks away.

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Oct 122016
 
 October 12, 2016  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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NPC “Largest electric locomotive and Congressman John C. Schafer” 1924


October 14 Is A $7 Trillion Moment of Truth in Markets (BBG)
Pound Sterling Behaves Like An Emerging Market Currency (Ind.)
Royal Bank of Scotland’s Vampire Unit Guilty Of Financial Terrorism (Fraser)
China Weakens Yuan Fixing for Sixth Day, Fuels Depreciation Talk (BBG)
China Banks May Need $1.7 Trillion Capital Injection To Cover Bad Loans (R.)
China Cities Face End of Fairy Tale as Default Risks Rise (BBG)
Tokyo Apartment Prices To Fall 20% Or More: Deutsche (BBG)
Are Rising House Prices Good For The Economy? (Ahuri)
Bank of Russia Governor Says Oil Rally Can Mean Much Faster Easing (BBG)
The Truth About the War in Aleppo (David Stockman)
Oops! – A World War! (Dmitry Orlov)
Wounded Elephant (Jim Kunstler)
Neoliberalism Is Creating Loneliness That’s Wrenching Society Apart (Monbiot)
Obituary: Great Barrier Reef – 25 Million BC-2016 – (OO)
More Than 11,200 Migrants Stranded On Aegean Islands (Kath.)

 

 

The return of LIBOR.

October 14 Is A $7 Trillion Moment of Truth in Markets (BBG)

If the London Interbank Borrowing Rate was a musical artist, or an actor, or a sports team, we’d be calling 2016 its comeback year. Not since the financial crisis of 2008 has Libor, to which almost $7 trillion of debt including mortgages, student loans and corporate borrowings, is pegged – experienced such a surge. The three-month U.S. dollar Libor rate has jumped from 0.61% at the start of the year to 0.87% currently – a 42% rise – ahead of money market reform that’s due to come into effect on Oct. 14. The new rules require prime money market funds – an important source of short-term funding for banks and companies – to build up liquidity buffers, install redemption gates, and use ‘floating’ net asset values instead of a fixed $1-per-share price.

While the changes are aimed at reinforcing a $2.7 trillion industry that exacerbated the financial crisis, they are also causing turmoil in money markets as big banks adjust to the new reality of a shrinking pool of available funding. Some $1 trillion worth of assets have shifted from prime money market funds into government money market funds that invest in safer assets such as short-term U.S. debts. The exodus has driven up Libor rates as banks and other corporate entities compete to replace the lost funding. Now, analysts are debating whether the looming Oct. 14 deadline will mark a turning point for the interbank borrowing rate, as money markets acclimatize to a new reality.

While analysts at Deutsche Bank believe that Libor may be poised to tighten when compared to other benchmark interest rates after Oct. 14, their counterparts at TD Securities speculate that Libor will “head higher” and the spreads won’t “compress anytime soon.”

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But Britons just keep fighting and blaming each other.

Pound Sterling Behaves Like An Emerging Market Currency (Ind.)

Is the British pound the Mexican peso? Amid rising fears that the UK will take a big economic hit from its move to leave the European Union, the correlation between the pound and an index of emerging-market currencies has jumped to levels last seen in the run-up to the Brexit vote. “Investors are increasingly casting UK assets in an emerging-market light, amid a fundamental re-appraisal of the country’s medium- to long-term economic fortunes,” Chris Scicluna, London-based strategist at Daiwa Capital Markets, said. On Tuesday, the pound fell for a fourth day, tumbling 0.49% to below $1.23, bringing its year-to-date fall against the dollar to 17% — the worst among 16 major peers.

“The pound is the purest expression of investors’ fears about political risk in developed markets,” Nicholas Spiro at Lauressa Advisory wrote in a note to clients on Monday. “While the Mexican peso — the most liquid emerging market currency and the most reliable gauge of ‘Trump risk’ — has given sterling a run for its money this year, it’s the pound that has become a proxy for politically-driven volatility in markets.” While developed-country government bonds typically benefit from safe-haven buying during bouts of market nerves, the dynamic is now in reverse, with the pound and government bonds falling in tandem, and the UK 10-year note yielding 0.98% compared with 0.52% in mid-August. While global bond markets have sold off this month, amid expectations of tighter monetary policies, UK yields have outpaced rises in the US and euro-area countries.

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This story is fast moving beyond belief. A state owned bank that kills off 1000s of businesses to make a quick buck?!

Royal Bank of Scotland’s Vampire Unit Guilty Of Financial Terrorism (Fraser)

We all know that the Royal Bank of Scotland went rogue under Fred Goodwin. What was less clear – until yesterday anyway – was that, eight years after it was saved from oblivion thanks to Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s £850 billion bailout package, the bank appears be no less of a rogue institution today. A data dump of thousands of RBS documents leaked to Buzzfeed News and the BBC has demonstrated that the bank had a policy of pushing small business customer firms to the wall in order to grow its own profits, increase bonuses for staff and rebuild its tattered balance sheet in the wake of its near collapse. There have been many, many credible reports of such activity – essentially killing viable businesses for profit – over the past five years or so but, as the former business secretary Vince Cable told Newsnight last night, “there is now a smoking gun”.

What Kremlinologists of the bank knew before yesterday was that RBS, today 73% owned by UK taxpayers, together with its sister banks NatWest and Ulster Bank, had left a trail of destruction which some have described as a corporate holocaust across the UK’s and Ireland’s small and medium-sized company base, that they had been seeking to save their own skins at their customer firms’ expense, and that tens of thousands of business customers had been affected. For example, I revealed in my book Shredded: Inside RBS The Bank That Broke Britain how RBS was engaged in a form of “financial terrorism” with a view to bolstering its own balance sheet from August 2008 onwards.

In the book, I revealed that, in May 2009, RBS instituted a policy of cherry-picking businesses from across its UK and Irish customer base operating in sectors including care homes, pubs, nurseries, nightclubs, hotels, retail units, industrial units and farms etc. – for referral to its “vampire unit”, global restructuring group. The referrals often followed what I called “manufactured defaults”, which meant the bank engineered a covenant breach or an LTV breach either through a phoney “drive by” valuation of the customer’s property assets delivered by a tame firm of chartered surveyors or in some instances a missold swap.

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“They do want the depreciation; they just don’t want it to happen quickly..”

China Weakens Yuan Fixing for Sixth Day, Fuels Depreciation Talk (BBG)

China’s central bank weakened the yuan’s reference rate for a sixth day, the longest run of cuts in nine months, amid speculation policy makers will allow further declines as the dollar rises. The next possible target is 6.83 against the greenback, with a potential Federal Reserve interest-rate increase supporting the dollar, said Shaun Osborne at Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto. The People’s Bank of China may need to step up efforts to prevent market fears over any sharp depreciation, according to a Scotiabank report written by Singapore-based foreign-exchange strategist Qi Gao. The PBOC set its daily fixing at 6.7258 against the dollar, extending a six-day weakening run to 0.9%.

The onshore yuan extended declines from a six-year low to drop 0.06% to 6.7228 as of 9:49 a.m. in Shanghai, while the offshore rate climbed 0.07%. The Chinese currency has fallen 6.5% against a 13-currency index this year. “The yuan’s depreciation against the dollar and versus a trade-weighted basket are both intentional policy choice,” said Cliff Tan, a currency strategist in Hong Kong at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. “They do want the depreciation; they just don’t want it to happen quickly. Our forecast is still 6.80 at the end of this year, and it looks like the currency is headed there.”

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“S&P expects Beijing will continue to allow rapid credit growth over the next 12-18 months before attempting to rein it in…”

China Banks May Need $1.7 Trillion Capital Injection To Cover Bad Loans (R.)

Rising debt levels will worsen the credit profiles of China’s top 200 companies this year, requiring the country’s banks to raise as much as $1.7 trillion in capital to cover a likely surge in bad loans, S&P Global said in reports on Tuesday. The study sees little scope for improvement in 2017 amid worsening leverage and excess capacity in almost all sectors. Debt has emerged as one of China’s biggest challenges, with the country’s debt load rising to 250% of GDP. Excessive credit growth is signaling an increasing risk of a banking crisis in the next three years, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) warned recently. 70% of the companies in the S&P survey were state owned, and they accounted for $2.8 trillion or 90% of the total respondents’ debt.

S&P estimated the problem credit ratio at Chinese banks was already at 5.6% at end-2015. In a downside scenario of unabated credit growth, that could worsen to 11-17%. In such a situation, banks would need as much as $1.7 trillion in recapitalization by 2020, S&P estimated. Even under a base case scenario, they would require $500 billion. That compares with China’s last big bank debt cleanup some two decades ago, when an estimated 4 trillion yuan ($600 billion) was spent on restructuring as of late 2005, according to a report for French economics thinktank CEPII. S&P expects Beijing will continue to allow rapid credit growth over the next 12-18 months before attempting to rein it in, implying risks would heighten in one to two years.

The IMF has warned China its credit growth is unsustainable, with companies sitting on $18 trillion in debt, equivalent to about 169% of GDP. Chinese banks’ non-performing loans are already at nearly 2%, the highest since the global financial crisis in 2009, according to the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC). But some analysts believe the ratio could be as high as between 15 and 35%, as many banks are slow to recognize problem loans or park them off balance sheet, and as lenders come under political pressure from local governments to roll over bad loans to prevent job losses and defaults.

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LGFVs are the domain of shadow banks.

China Cities Face End of Fairy Tale as Default Risks Rise (BBG)

Finance firms that help keep cash flowing to China’s towns, cities and provinces face rising risks of landmark bond defaults just as they turn to global markets for funds. China’s economic slowdown is weighing on revenue at regional governments, hampering their ability to support the 5.3 trillion yuan ($789 billion) of outstanding onshore notes from local-government financing vehicles, which have yet to suffer nonpayments. Such issuance fell 18% last quarter as regulators curbed sales, forcing some to seek funds overseas. Financing units in provinces including Hunan, Jiangsu, Hubei and Sichuan are considering or planning U.S. currency notes, people familiar with the matters have said.

Warning signs are spreading. In the nation’s northeast, Changchun Urban Development & Investment Holdings Group was downgraded by Fitch Ratings last month. In the once-booming coal town of Ordos in Inner Mongolia, Yijinhuoluoqi Hongtai City Construction Investment & Development Co. had 189.5 million yuan of borrowings overdue as of March 31, according to Pengyuan Credit Rating, which downgraded it to A+ from AA- in May. “I don’t believe in the fairy tale that no LGFV will default,” said Terence Cheng, chief investment officer in at HuaAn Asset Management in Hong Kong. “Even China’s state-owned enterprises have been allowed to default. There is no absolute guarantee that an LGFV will not default.”

Read more …

Japan’s a big risk for bursting bubbles.

Tokyo Apartment Prices To Fall 20% Or More: Deutsche (BBG)

The Bank of Japan’s shift to controlling bond yields is driving up mortgage rates, prompting Deutsche Bank to predict Tokyo apartment prices may fall 20% or more by 2018. The BOJ’s negative-rate policy was already hurting buyer sentiment, and its move to boost longer-term yields is a double-blow to the industry, according to Yoji Otani, a real estate analyst at Deutsche Bank in Tokyo. The 35-year fixed mortgage rate has climbed for two straight months after touching a record low of 0.9% in August, and sales of new condominiums in Tokyo this year have fallen to the lowest since the nation’s property bubble collapse in the early 1990s.

“The one positive thing about negative rates was that it lowered borrowing costs, and now that is going to end,” said Otani, who expects prices to fall 20% to 30% by the end of 2018. “The collapse of this silent bubble has begun.” Banks have already started raising fixed-mortgage interest rates and some lenders may be charging customers 2% or more within two years under the BOJ’s current yield policy, according to Credit Suisse. The adoption of the new monetary policy is in effect a form of tapering and the cost of home loans will rise as the central bank becomes less aggressive in its bond purchase program, according Masahiro Mochizuki, a real estate analyst at the Swiss bank.

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Interesting findings on how Australia is the nation full of ATMs. Perverse consequences (“why Australian multi-factor productivity stopped growing at the turn of the millennium.”). h/t Yves

Are Rising House Prices Good For The Economy? (Ahuri)

Overall, the results indicate that a $1,000 increase in housing wealth is associated with an increase in debt of approximately $240 per annum. This is a large response compared to the magnitudes found in studies in the United States and United Kingdom… House price increases are associated with larger increases in total indebtedness for home owners with higher initial loan-to-value (LTV) ratios. Home owners with larger values of non-mortgage debt as well as higher LTV ratios are more sensitive to house price movements compared to other home owners… The take-up of further mortgage debt among vulnerable highly leveraged households exposes them to income, housing and financial market shocks.

The results are in contrast to the general belief in Australia that debt is held by those most able to service it—higher income and high-wealth households. Macroeconomic policy-makers should interpret high levels of debt and rising household debt-to-income ratios in Australia carefully. Overall, the findings show that house price changes influence household debt through two channels: a direct wealth effect and an indirect collateral effect via the household’s borrowing capacity. That is, some households face borrowing constraints and, for these households, rising house prices increase the value of their property that may be used as security for a loan and thereby loosen the borrowing constraints… Our results indicate that in response to increasing house prices, some home owners, especially home owners with low debt, engage in debt financing of consumption (involving extracting equity from their home).

Other home owners, especially those with relatively high debt levels refinance existing mortgages or adjust existing debt portfolios. The most important responses are in labour participation and hours of work by women, both partnered and single. The effect is strongest among the older cohort of women and is associated with early retirement for those experiencing above average housing wealth gains. Younger partnered men and women exhibit a reduction in hours of work in response to the gain in housing wealth. That is, these gains in wealth effectively fund time away from work to undertake non-market activities such as providing household care for children, ageing parents, undertaking volunteer work or enjoying more leisure.

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Putin and his people are talking up the price of oil. So far, it works to an extent.

Bank of Russia Governor Says Oil Rally Can Mean Much Faster Easing (BBG)

Russian central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina is growing confident that her country’s biggest vulnerability can turn into an asset. The Bank of Russia, which last month issued an unprecedented commitment to leave borrowing costs unchanged the rest of the year, will face an easier path to interest-rate cuts if oil prices rise further, Nabiullina said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Moscow on Tuesday. While Brent crude has almost doubled from a 12-year low in January, the central bank’s “moderately tight” stance allowed for only two reductions in 2016 before policy makers all but shut the door on more monetary easing this year.

“If there is a higher oil price, then it can lead to a stronger ruble, and – through the foreign-exchange channel – that in turn can cause a more rapid decline in inflation expectations, slowing inflation,” Nabiullina said. “Then we can ease monetary policy much faster.” The outlook marks a rare signal by the central bank that it’s open to deeper monetary easing as its chase of an inflation goal enters the final stretch. Policy makers are targeting price growth of 4% by end-2017 and see it reaching 5.5% to 6% in 2016 after overshooting their forecasts for a fourth consecutive year in 2015. Oil traded near a 15-month high after rising 3.1% Monday, when Putin said at a conference in Istanbul that his country is willing to join efforts by OPEC to stabilize the market through a production freeze or cut.

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The War Party. Read. Time to venture outside the narrative machine.

The Truth About the War in Aleppo (David Stockman)

This is starting to sound pretty ominous. The Washington War Party is coming unhinged and appears to be leaving no stone unturned when it comes to provoking Putin’s Russia and numerous others. The recent collapse of cooperation in Syria – based on the false claim that Assad and his Russian allies are waging genocide in Aleppo – is only the latest example. So now comes the U.S. Army’s chief of staff, General Mark Milley, doing his best imitation of Curtis LeMay in a recent speech dripping with bellicosity. While America has no industrial state enemy left on the planet that can even remotely challenge its economic might, technological superiority and overwhelming military power, General Milley unloaded a fusillade of bluster at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington DC:

“The strategic resolve of our nation, the United States, is being challenged and our alliances tested in ways that we haven’t faced in many, many decades,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the audience. “I want to be clear to those who wish to do us harm … the United States military – despite all of our challenges, despite our [operational] tempo, despite everything we have been doing – we will stop you and we will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before. Make no mistake about that.” That is rank nonsense. We are not being “tested” by anyone. To the contrary, Imperial Washington is provoking tensions and confrontations everywhere – from the South China Sea to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, the Black Sea, the Baltics and Ukraine – that have no bearing whatsoever on the safety and security of the citizens of Spokane WA, Topeka KS and Springfield MA.

Indeed, the clear and present danger to peace and freedom in the homeland lies not in the machinations of foreign capitals, but in the arrogant and bombastic groupthink that has overtaken the denizens of the Imperial City. The latter is again on display in the full-throated fulminations about the siege of Aleppo being emitted by the Washington War Party and its trained poodles in the establishment media – most especially the New York Times. We are told that the Russian Air Force and Assad’s military are targeting schools, hospitals and the 200,000 or so civilians of Eastern Aleppo for indiscriminate bombing and slaughter.

It’s shades of Benghazi 2011 all over again – an incipient genocide that Washington must stop in the name of R2P (Responsibility to Protect). No it’s not! What is happening in Aleppo is a raging sectarian civil war and a proxy battleground for the regional political maneuvers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. They are none of America’s business and haven’t been since the so-called Arab spring uprising spread to Syria in 2011. Indeed, Syria is a lawless, bombed-out, economically decimated failed state today owing to Washington’s heavy-handed intervention at the behest of the War Party’s bloody twin sisters. That is, the neocons and the R2P liberal interventionist claque around Hillary Clinton, including UN Ambassador Samantha Powers and National Security Council head Susan Rice.

Read more …

Does Dmitry rely too much on Russian rationalism as the main factor?

Oops! – A World War! (Dmitry Orlov)

Over the past week or so I’ve been receiving a steady stream of emails demanding to know whether an all-out nuclear war is about to erupt between the US and Russia. I’ve been watching the situation develop more or less carefully, and have been offering my opinion, briefly, one on one, to a few people’s great relief, and now I will attempt to spread the cheer far and wide. In short, on the one hand, all-out nuclear annihilation remains quite unlikely, barring an accident. But, on the other hand, such an accident is by no means impossible, because when it comes to US foreign policy “Oops!” seems to be the operative term.

One reason to be cheerful is that any plan to attack Russia is bound to become mired in bureaucracy. Battle plans are developed by mid-rank people within the US military establishment, approved and forwarded up the chain of command by higher-rank people and finally signed off on by the Pentagon’s top brass and their civilian political accomplices. The top brass and the politicians may be delusional, megalomaniacal and inadvertently suicidal, but the mid-rank people who develop the battle plans are rarely suicidal. If a particular plan has no conceivable chance of victory but is quite likely to lead to them and their families and friends becoming vaporized in a nuclear blast, they are unlikely to recommend it.

Another reason to be cheerful is that Russia has carefully limited the Pentagon’s options. One plan that, in the popular imagination, could lead to an all-out war with Russia, would be the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria. What many people miss is that it is not possible to impose a no-fly zone on a country with a sufficiently powerful air defense system, such as Syria. As a first step, the air defense system would have to be taken out, and the air campaign to do so would be very expensive and incur massive losses in both equipment and personnel. But then the Russians made this step significantly worse by introducing their S-300 system. This is an autonomous, tracked, mobile system that can blow objects out of the sky over much of Syria and some of Turkey. It is very difficult to keep track of, because it can use “shoot and scoot” tactics, launching an attack and crawling away in a random direction over rough terrain.

Last on my list of reasons why war with Russia remains unlikely is that there isn’t much of a reason to start one, assuming the US behaves rationally. Currently, the biggest reason to start a war is that the Syrian army is winning the conflict in Aleppo. Once Aleppo is back in government hands and the US-supported jihadis are on the run, the Syrian civil war will largely be over, and the rebuilding will begin.

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“..who will emerge from the rubble? I suspect it will be someone we haven’t heard of before, just as Bonaparte was unheard of in France in 1792..”

Wounded Elephant (Jim Kunstler)

It is getting to be too late to sort out all the confusion sown by this horrific campaign. From here on its really more a matter of the dust settling. In background of it all looms the train-wreck of global finance, which will be the true determinant of what the American people will have to do in the years ahead. During the weeks of the election distraction, the European banks struggle to conceal their insolvency while the politicians of Euro-land desperately try to paper over the cracks in these fracturing institutions. Few can tell what is actually happening in China’s banking system, but it’s sending out ominous tremors that are hard to ignore.

But be sure it is all daisy-chained right into Wall Street and the US banks. The potential for wrecking markets and currencies around the world is extreme at this moment. It may only be a matter of whether it happens before or after the election. Then we’ll see what happens when financial institutions can’t trust each other. Trade stops. Economies crumble. Pretenses evaporate. If it gets bad enough, the shelves of the supermarkets go bare in three days and you’re living in a permanent hurricane disaster without the wind and rain. Believe me, that will be bad enough. Hillary, if elected, will not get to play FDR-2. Rather, she’ll be stuck in the role of Hoover, the Return, presiding over a freight elevator of an economy with a broken cable.

Expect problems with the US dollar. Expect “emergency” actions. Expect the unintended consequences of those actions. If there is one outstanding upshot of these “debates” it must be their staggering failure to reassure the American public that they can expect effective leadership through the hardships ahead. There must be many others out there like myself wondering who will emerge from the rubble? I suspect it will be someone we haven’t heard of before, just as Bonaparte was unheard of in France in 1792. This is not entirely a nation of clowns, though it feels like that lately.

Read more …

Uh, no, George; that’s quite a big miss. The process of loneliness emerging as a result of breaking social ties goes back way further than neoliberalism. Try the nuclear family. Try how we design our homes and cities.

Neoliberalism Is Creating Loneliness That’s Wrenching Society Apart (Monbiot)

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis. There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract. Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves.

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do. As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their “beauty” settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves. Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress?

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One in a long line of obituaries, but a significant one. Many thousands of spcies will die with the reef.

Obituary: Great Barrier Reef : 25 Million BC-2016 (OO)

The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old. For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space. It was 1,400 miles long, with 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined. It harbored 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins. Among its many other achievements, the reef was home to one of the world’s largest populations of dugong and the largest breeding ground of green turtles.

The reef was born on the eastern coast of the continent of Australia during the Miocene epoch. Its first 24.99 million years were seemingly happy ones, marked by overall growth. It was formed by corals, which are tiny anemone-like animals that secrete shell to form colonies of millions of individuals. Its complex, sheltered structure came to comprise the most important habit in the ocean. As sea levels rose and fell through the ages, the reef built itself into a vast labyrinth of shallow-water reefs and atolls extending 140 miles off the Australian coast and ending in an outer wall that plunged half a mile into the abyss. With such extraordinary diversity of life and landscape, it provided some of the most thrilling marine adventures on earth to humans who visited. Its otherworldly colors and patterns will be sorely missed.

[..] The Great Barrier Reef was predeceased by the South Pacific’s Coral Triangle, the Florida Reef off the Florida Keys, and most other coral reefs on earth. It is survived by the remnants of the Belize Barrier Reef and some deepwater corals.

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And winter is coming, also in Greece.

More Than 11,200 Migrants Stranded On Aegean Islands (Kath.)

Authorities say 162 migrants and refugees have arrived on Greece’s Aegean islands in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to 11,215. Authorities say 38 arrivals were reported on Samos, 38 on Chios and 22 on Lesvos. The number of individuals sheltered on Samos has increased by about 40% over the past 10 days, officials say. On Tuesday, State Minister Alekos Flabouraris chaired a meeting on immigration strategy where it was decided that migrants will be gradually moved out of an overcrowded facility on the island, while there are plans to build a second facility to detain migrants who commit violations.

Read more …

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 July 11, 2015  Posted by at 4:51 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »
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Kostas Tzioumakas Constantinos Polychronopoulos 2015

I made a new best friend this week. Constantinos Polychronopoulos, Kostas for short, is an inspirational man. And a dynamo and magnet all in one at the same time. He’s a source for hope and change and dignity for literally countless people around him in the city of Athens.

Kostas’ story goes a bit like this, as far as I have been able to gather (he speaks two words of English, but when I went to see him, my friend and photographer and interpreter Dimitri was with me, a good thing):

Kostas lost his job as a marketing specialist in a big firm in Athens early on when the financial crisis broke. Gradually, he had no choice but to move back in with his mother and was forced to share her ever more meagre pension. He must have been close to 45 at the time, he’s 50 now.

Then one day in 2011, as he tells it, he saw two kids fighting over some food they found in a dumpster (yes, that is Athens, even back then). The next day, he decided to go to a farmer’s market and ask the stall keepers for leftover food. Right then and there, he started to cook a meal with what they gave him, and to give it away to anyone who wanted to eat, to share.

His main motto still is: Free Food For All! He will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. And he always eats along with the people he feeds. We share!

Kostas now cooks ‘in the street’, and I mean that literally, every day. In the beginning, he was arrested multiple times on health related charges etc, but he successfully defended his case saying there was no law against cooking food in the street and giving it away.

Today, his statement reads:

The idea of Society Kitchen “The Other Human”

In an action of solidarity and a manifestation of love towards our fellow men, with the hope to awaken consciousness and for there to be other similar actions form other individuals and from groups.

These actions are not philanthropic or charity.

We cook “live”, we eat together and we live together.

A lunch with our fellow men on the street.

Join us to make each day more beautiful.

These days, he feeds over 300 people every day. Athens is the city of homeless people. And they’re not winos or people with mental issues, as we know from North American and European cities, though some of them inevitably are.

In Athens, they’re the people who not long ago had good jobs and good prospects, and often families to raise, and who now find themselves with nothing left. Many many people have moved (back) in with parents or family or friends, but not all have that choice. And even if they do, there is no future anywhere to be seen.

A big thing for Mr. Polychronopoulos (I love that say that name) is that he’s able to provide them with a goal in life, with something useful to do, so maybe one day they can go back into a normal functioning society, instead of only sinking ever deeper into a bottomless hole.

Today, these are the people that Kostas can count on to be his volunteers. He now has 3 crews cooking meals outside, in squares and streets, every day in various places in the city. There are a few spots where he’ll be every Tuesday, or every Thursday, but the rest are all different places all the time. Because the need is everywhere.

The food he cooks is all donated. By individuals, supermarkets, restaurants, wherever he can get it. A huge task all in itself. But he and his people get it done, 24/7. Kostas is not a big fan of soupkitchens, because since Athens never had a need for them, they have no cooking facilities and instead get catered to by professional enterprises who work for profit and in his eyes provide poor quality.

That’s not to say they’re not desperately needed, mind you, he simply feels there’s a better way to do it. To get the perspective, there are easily over 100,000 people in Athens alone who need to be fed every day. Half the population of Greece, some 6 million people, live on or below the edge of poverty.

I don’t know about you, but it feels to me like these people have already been told they don’t belong to Europe, no matter what proposals and negotiations are flying over the table. They are effectively living in the third word. Or perhaps even a fourth world.

Dimitri and I went to see Kostas on Wednesday in a sort of apartment building where his organization -that’s what it’s become by now-, named O Allos Anthropos, The Other Human, rents a space where homeless people can go for a meal, or to take a shower, or even, and I must admit I wouldn’t have thought of that, to let their children enjoy a real playroom:

There are clothes being donated -though I understand any and all donations become harder to come by even if ever more people want to donate, everyone simply has less and less-:

There’s a computer where everyone who walks in can go look for job applications -there are few, though it’s no exception to find people with university degrees here-, and of course there’s a kitchen:

Obviously, there’s the proverbial me and him -and furry cuteness- picture:

And the receipt:

As you may be able to decipher between all that Greek, I donated €500 to Kostas and his organization. I thought it good to be careful with your money (I always will), but now I think I should give him more. I can hardly think of anyone more deserving, or anyone who I’d trust more to make sure it’s used in the best possible way. And he insisted on seeing me again anyway before I go.

Which brings me to the next point. I have a ticket out of here on Thursday. So time is becoming an issue. I could get an extension, but I think I’d rather come back. Also because Nicole is in Europe now, and it would be nice to bring her along. Don’t worry, we cover our own travel costs, not a penny of the money you donated to the AE for Athens Fund goes to anyone or anything but the appropriate organizations in the city. Word. Cross my heart.

But there are other snags. For one, the euro may not be legal tender here much longer. I don’t think that’s a big risk, but it’s there. Also, ATMs may stop working altogether a few days from now (Monday?). And ironically, while apparently huge amounts of bank cards are being issued in the city, the organizations we donate to plead for cash euros. Because everything has become a cash economy. It’s hard to know what to do from one day to the next.

So I will have to see what is going to happen. I’m due to visit another clinic on Monday. I have the meeting with Kostas on Tuesday. Dimitri and I are looking hard for an organization that helps refugees, and that we like. Kostas wants to steer clear of all NGOs and government help, and that seems like a good idea. But it has to be possible. There are 1000s of refugess arriving in Greece every day, and €1000 is nothing in that respect.

As you may see, this occupies a lot of my time by now, But I also have to keep The Automatic Earth running. And see some daylight from time to time. Oh, and boy, this city is hot!

After my article on the clinic Wednesday, more money rolled in. You guys are truly something else. The total donations for the AE Fund for Athens have now gone over $8000 US!!! That’s still well over €7000. So I have some big decisions, and big responsibilities, by now. And I will live up to them as best I can. Look, the clinics will need money, and badly, at any given point in time, and for a long time to come. Kostas can and will only do good with anything we give him.

So it’s not that big a problem, but the idea of course is to spread the good around. I’m looking at organizations that take care of children. Very important too. I have a phone number for a lady who runs a private initiative for street kids. There’s so many of them… Will call her tomorrow.

Please keep donating, the need is immense, and may get even bigger as the negotiations over Greek budget cuts wrangle on. And even if the Troika decided to give the government another $100 billion, which I strongly doubt, next to nothing would go to where it’s needed most, it would all go to pay off debt, and your money would be much more efficient in helping where it counts.

I’ve been here for two weeks now, and I’ve found it takes time to find the proper ‘targets’ -and I refuse to waste any of your donations-. But we’re closing in on those targets, so by all means don’t stop now. I’ll always keep you posted on where every single dollar went. Your generosity has turned this into a mission for me.

By the way, a commenter at AE said this after my last AE Fund post, and I’m sorry if that still wasn‘t clear enough:

For those who crave more specific instructions: In the left column of this site, towards the top of the page, there is a section for making donations. If you would like to donate to the Greek cause use this section…BUT MAKE SURE YOUR DONATION AMOUNT ENDS WITH .99. Donations ending with any other decimal values will go to the AE site itself.

Most people already got that, as I can see from what comes in, but it may be good to repeat it once more.

And to quote myself from a while ago: Let’s leave the political ramifications alone for the moment, I deal with that on an almost daily basis here at the Automatic Earth already. Let’s for a moment focus on the more immediate. Let’s see what we can do here and now.

Please support the AE for Athens fund. You can donate through our Paypal widget at the top of the left sidebar. Make sure if you want to donate to Greece, to end the amount with $.99 (TAE itself needs funding too).

You can also donate bitcoin at this address: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.

Thank you from a city under siege.

You wouldn’t know that, by the way, from the number of tourists, but ironic as it may be, they’re probably the only thing that keeps this city, and the country, barely alive. Double irony: I can take as much out of an ATM as I like, though not all at once, (which allows me to make cash donations..), while my Greek friends are limited to €60 a day.

So the tourists empty the ATMs, bringing the moment that much closer that the Greeks themselves can’t get any anymore. There even seems to be an app now where people can check which ATMs still have cash in them, and which don’t.

Let’s try and help them through these crazy times as best we can. And we can.

Jul 032015
 
 July 3, 2015  Posted by at 8:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »
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Dorothea Lange Miserable poverty. Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, OK 1936

So now they do it. Now the IMF comes out with a report that says Greece needs hefty debt restructuring.

Mind you, their numbers are still way off the mark, in the end it’s going to be easily double what they claim. Not even a Yanis Varoufakis haircut will do the trick.

But at least they now have preliminary numbers out. The reason why they have is inevitably linked to the press leak I wrote about earlier this week in Troika Documents Say Greece Needs Huge Debt Relief. If that hadn’t come out, I’m betting they would still not have said a thing.

It’s even been clear for many years to the IMF that debt restructuring for Greece is badly needed, but Lagarde and her troops have come to the Athens talks with an agenda, and stonewalled their own researchers.

Which makes you wonder, why would any economist still want to work at the Fund? What is it about your work being completely ignored by your superiors that tickles your fancy? How about your conscience?

Why go through 5 months of ‘negotiations’ with Greece in which you refuse any and all restructuring, only to come up with a paper that says they desperately need restructuring, mere days after they explicitly say they won’t sign any deal that doesn’t include debt restructuring?

By now I have to start channeling my anger about the whole thing. This is getting beyond stupid. And I did too have an ouzo at the foot of the Acropolis, but I’m not sure whether that channels my anger up or down. The whole shebang is just getting too crazy.

For five whole months the troika refuses to talk debt relief, and mere days after the talks break off they come with this? What then was their intention going into the talks? Certainly not to negotiate, that much is clear, or the IMF would have spoken up a long time ago.

At the very least, all Troika negotiators had access to this IMF document prior to submitting the last proposal, which did not include any debt restructuring, and which caused Syriza to say it was unacceptable for that very reason.

Tsipras said yesterday he hadn’t seen it, but the other side of the table had, up to and including all German MPs. This game obviously carries a nasty odor.

Meanwhile, things are getting out of hand here. It’s not just the grandmas who can’t get to their pensions anymore, rumor has it that within days all cash will be gone from banks. And then what? Oh, that’s right, then there’s a referendum. Which will now effectively be held in a warzone.

It’s insane to see even Greeks claim that this is Alexis Tsipras’ fault, but given the unrelenting anti-Syriza ‘reporting’ in western media as well as the utterly corrupted Greek press, we shouldn’t be surprised.

The real picture is completely different. Tsipras and Varoufakis are the vanguard of a last bastion of freedom fighters who refuse to surrender their country to an occupation force called the Troika. Which seeks to conquer Greece outright through financial oppression and media propaganda.

Tsipras and Varoufakis should have everyone’s loud and clear support for what they do. And not just in Greece. But where is the support in Europe? Or the US, for that matter?

There’s no there there. Europeans are completely clueless about what’s happening here in Athens. They can’t see to save their lives that their silence protects and legitimizes a flat out war against a country that is, just like their respective countries, a member of a union that now seeks to obliterate it.

Europeans need to understand that the EU has no qualms about declaring war on one of its own member states. And that it could be theirs next time around. Where people die of hunger or preventable diseases. Or commit suicide. Or flee.

All Europeans on their TV screens can see the line-ups at ATMs, and the fainting grandmas at the banks, the hunger, the despair. How on earth can they see this as somehow normal, and somehow not connected to their own lives?

They’re part of the same political and monetary union. What happens to Greece happens to all of you. That’s the inevitable result of being in a union together.

Don’t Europeans ever think that enough should be enough when it comes to seeing people being forced into submission, in their name? Or are they too fat and thick to understand that it’s in their name that this happens?

The July 5 referendum here in Greece is not about whether the country will remain in the EU, or the eurozone, no matter what any talking head or politician tries to make of it. The narrow question is about whether Greeks want their government to accept a June 26 Troika proposal that Tsipras felt he could not sign because it fell outside his mandate.

That the Troika after the referendum was announced then pulled a Lucy and Charlie Brown move on Syriza, and retracted the proposal, is of less interest. Lucy always pulls away the football, and Charlie Brown always kicks air. He should wisen up at some point and refuse to play ball.

However, at the same time, though it’s highly unfair to burden the Greeks’ shoulders with this, the referendum has a far broader significance. It is about what and who will rule Europe going forward, and we’re talking decades here.

It will either be a union of functioning democracies, or it will be a totalitarian regime in which all 28 nations surrender their independence, their sovereignty, their votes and then their lives to Brussels and Berlin.

Democracies are about one thing first and foremost: the people decide. If you can’t have that, than why would you have elections and referendums? Those then become mere theater pieces. Like we already have in the US, where if anyone can explain to me the difference between the Clintons and the Kardashians, by all means give it a go.

Since it’s clear that Berlin is by far the strongest voice in the three-headed monster the Troika has become, it’s no exaggeration to say that what we see unfold before our eyes is yet another German occupation of Greece. There are no tanks and boxcars involved yet, but wars can be fought in many ways. And scorched earth can take up many different forms too. It’s the result that counts.

In the meantime it has somehow become entirely acceptable for politicians and media from foreign countries to tell the Greeks what to do, who to vote for, and what to make sure happens after.

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz even dares claim that Syriza should resign if the vote is yes, and it should be replaced with a bunch of technocrats. It’s none of your business, Martin. Or yours, Bloomberg writers, or Schäuble, or anyone else who’s not Greek. Shut up! You’re all way out of -democratic- line.

It’s up to Greeks to decide what happens in their country. It’s both a sovereign state and a democracy. The utmost respect for this should be the very foundation of everything we do as free people, whose ancestors fought so hard to make us free.

How come we moved so far away from that, so fast? What happened to us? What have we become?

Jun 082015
 
 June 8, 2015  Posted by at 11:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »
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Unknown Army of the James, James River, Virginia. 1865


The Troika Is Supposed To Build Greece Up, Not Blow It Apart (Guardian)
Greece Updating Proposals It Sent To Lenders (Kathimerini)
Young Greek Radicals Don’t Just Want Power – They Want To Remake The World (PM)
VAT Rate Hikes Always Reduce State Revenues (Thanos Tsiros)
Juncker Vents Fury Over Greek Bailout Talks At G7 Summit (Guardian)
If You Think Greece’s Crisis Will End Any Time Soon, Think Again (Bloomberg)
103 Years Later, Wall Street Turned Out Just As One Man Predicted (Zero Hedge)
Obama Sidelines Kerry On Ukraine Policy (Eric Zuesse)
Masked Attackers Break Up Tent Camp On Kiev’s Maidan (RT)
Literally, Your ATM Won’t Work… (Bill Bonner)
Banks’ Post-Crisis Legal Costs Hit $300 Billion (FT)
Will China’s Stock Market Explode On Wednesday? (MarketWatch)
China Imports Fall 17.6%, Exports Decline 2.5% (AFP)
Deutsche Bank CEO’s Forced to Resign Over Imminent Derivatives Melt-Down? (Doc)
The Bristol Pound Is Giving Sterling A Run For Its Money (Guardian)
Max Keiser’s Bitcoin Capital Continues to Attract Investors (NBTC)
Canada to Train Ukrainian Police as Russia Conflict Worsens (Bloomberg)
Greek Island Gateway To EU As Thousands Flee Homelands (Irish Times)

A voice of reason, but the troika is not about reason.

The Troika Is Supposed To Build Greece Up, Not Blow It Apart (Guardian)

The phrase “trench warfare” comes to mind. On Friday evening the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, lobbed some choice words at his foes in Brussels, calling their proposed debt deal “absurd”. Days earlier, the IMF had joined its allies in Brussels to fire a volley of criticism at Athens. The Greeks already had “significant flexibility” to get out of their budget mess, IMF boss Christine Lagarde said, as she urged Athens to repay the €300m instalment of its bailout loan due on Friday. This could go on for several more weeks: Greece told the IMF it will have to wait until the end of the month to get its money, when it will “bundle” four payments together. And should the sides become more entrenched, this long-running war could still end in the disaster of Greek default.

In Washington, where the IMF is hunkered down, and in Europe’s finance ministries, the Greek stance is considered wilfully unreasonable. The Syriza government’s demand for the return of national pay bargaining, a relaxed timetable for pension reform and a lower budget surplus than that demanded by the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank are all but ridiculed in Berlin, Helsinki and Riga. As Greece’s chief creditors, the EU and the IMF want Greece to adopt flexible labour markets, immediate restrictions on early retirement and a budget surplus big enough to accommodate some debt repayments.

While much of what the radical leftists want seems unreasonable – especially the slow pace of pension reform, which in effect would allow tens of thousands of people in their late 50s to grab early retirement – it is the demands being made by Brussels and the IMF that are unconvincing and, worse, untenable. Running a larger budget surplus is only going to destroy Greece, not build it up. As US economist Joseph Stiglitz and many others, including former IMF staffers, have pointed out, the troika of creditors badly misjudged the economic effects of the programme they imposed in 2010 and 2012. “They believed that by cutting wages and accepting other austerity measures, Greek exports would increase and the economy would quickly return to growth,” Stiglitz said last week.

“They also believed that the first restructuring would lead to debt sustainability. The troika’s forecasts have been wrong.” The current proposals repeat the same mistake. Seven years after the crash, the Greek economy is still 25% smaller than it was at its previous peak, 10% of households have no electricity and youth unemployment is running at more than 50%. Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, may specialise in needling their creditors, but the troika also need to take into account the fact that Syriza has formed a legitimate, democratically elected government and cannot be told that its electoral programme is irrelevant.

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826th edition.

Greece Updating Proposals It Sent To Lenders (Kathimerini)

The Greek government is redrafting the 47-page proposal it sent to lenders last week with the aim of securing an agreement that would allow the disbursal of €7.2 billion in bailout funding. Kathimerini understands that Athens is focussing its attention on adjusting the fiscal measures it proposed with the aim of getting closer to the revenue target set by lenders. However, the coalition is reluctant to adjust its VAT proposal, which sees three brackets (6, 11 and 23%) rather than the two proposed by lenders (11 and 23). Greece also seems prepared to raise slightly its primary surplus proposals from 0.6% of GDP this year and 1.5% next year. The institutions proposed 1% for 2015 and 2% for 2016.

The updated suggestion from the Greek side is not expected to reach these targets. While Athens is prepared to change the law regarding early retirement, saving 100 million euros, it does not seem willing to go as far as lenders are demanding in terms of pension reform. There are also substantial differences between Greece and its creditors on the issue of labour market regulations. The updated proposals are expected to be discussed between Greek officials and representatives of the institutions over the next few days, ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in the Belgian capital on Wednesday.

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They want to make sure this sort of crisis will not happen again.

Young Greek Radicals Don’t Just Want Power – They Want To Remake The World (PM)

At some point, as the Greek crisis lurches to its crescendo, Syriza – the radical left party – will call a meeting of something called a central committee. The term sounds quaint to 21st-century ears: the committee is so big that it has to meet in a cinema. You will not be surprised to learn that the predominant hair colour is grey. These are people who were underground activists in a military dictatorship; some served jail time, and in 1973 many were among the students who defied tanks and destroyed a junta. But they think, speak and act in a way shaped by the hierarchies and power concepts of 50 years ago.

The contrast with the left’s mass support base, and membership, is stark. In the average Greek riot, you are surrounded by concert pianists, interior designers, web developers, waitresses and actors in experimental theatre. It is usually 50:50 male and female, and drawn from a demographic as handy with a smartphone as the older generation are with Lenin’s selected works. Like young radicals across Europe and the US, they have been schooled in the ways of the modern middle classes: launching startup businesses, working two or three casual jobs; entrepreneurship, loose living and wild partying are the default way of life. Of course, every generation of radicals looks different from the last one, but the economic and behavioural contrasts that are obvious in Greece are also present in most other countries.

And this prompts the question: what do the radicals of this generation want when they win power? The success of Syriza, of Podemos in Spain and even the flood of radicalised young people into the SNP in Scotland makes this no longer an idle question. The most obvious change is that, for the rising generation, identity has replaced ideology. I don’t just mean as in “identity politics”. There is a deeper process going on, whereby a credible identity – a life lived according to a believed truth – has become a more significant badge in politics than a coherent set of ideas.

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Just ask Abe and Kuroda.

VAT Rate Hikes Always Reduce State Revenues (Thanos Tsiros)

Greece’s value-added tax rates have been raised three times since 2010, all within the space of one year: in March and July 2010 and then in January 2011. The hike that the government is negotiating with the country’s creditors will be the fourth in five years. Already the low and very low VAT rates have gone up by 44% since early 2010 – i.e. from 4.5 to 6.5% and from 9 to 13% respectively – while the main rate has grown 22%, from 19 to 23% nowadays. Those hikes, intended to increase the state’s income takings, in fact reduced revenues by 20%: In 2014 VAT revenues dropped below €14 billion, to €13.6 billion.

For this year, the budget had provided for VAT revenues of €14.4 billion, but in the first five months there has already been a shortfall of 350 million compared with the target for that point of the year. In comparison with 2008, the year that the recession started, VAT revenues shrank by €5 billion in 2014 in spite of the major hike in the rates. Modern Greek economic history has shown that any indirect tax rate increase leads to a reduction in consumption and an increase in tax evasion, meaning that revenues go down instead of up.

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A rehearsed ploy.

Juncker Vents Fury Over Greek Bailout Talks At G7 Summit (Guardian)

European Union officials delivered a blistering attack on the Greek government at the G7 summit in Bavaria, and world leaders including Barack Obama sought to avoid a transatlantic split over Ukraine by agreeing to maintain sanctions against Russia. In a day of secluded talks in the Alpine resort of Schloss Elmau, the biggest drama was provided by a verbal attack on the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. The summit’s host, Angela Merkel, had hoped to solve the Greek bailout crisis before the summit, but instead Juncker felt forced to open proceedings by staging a press conference accusing Tsipras of undermining negotiations over new terms for a bailout and of effectively lying to the Greek parliament.

A visibly angry Juncker said he had told Tsipras during a meeting last Wednesday evening that there was room to negotiate but said the Greeks had been unwilling to take part in in-depth discussions at the meeting. Instead, he said, Tsipras had promised to send him his proposals the following day, but he was still waiting for them on Sunday. “Alexis Tsipras promised that by Thursday evening he would present a second proposal. Then he said he would present it on Friday. And then he said he would call on Saturday. But I have never received that proposal, so I hope I will receive it soon. I would like to have that Greek proposal,” he said. He told reporters he had said to Tsipras that he continued to exclude the idea of a Grexit – “because I don’t want to see it” – but that he could not “pull a rabbit out of a hat”.[..]

Juncker, perceived until now as an honest broker in the crisis – taking a softer approach than the Germans, who are viewed in Greece as the architects of austerity – has rarely been seen in such an irate state, sources close to the EU in Garmisch-Partenkirchen said. They warned that Greece might have lost its closest ally in its long fight to secure a rosier deal. Juncker said he had been disappointed by a speech Tsipras had given to the Athens parliament on Friday. “He was presenting the offer of the three institutions as a leave-or-take offer. That was not the case … He knows perfectly well that is not the case.” Juncker said Tsipras had failed to mention to parliament his (Juncker’s) willingness to negotiate over Greek pensions. [..]

In Athens Mega TV reported that relations between Berlin and Washington over Greece had become increasingly frosty – despite the exhortation from Barack Obama at the G7 for a quick solution to the European debt crisis. The Greek television channel, citing a senior German official, described the US treasury secretary, Jack Lew, imploring his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble to “support Greece” only to be told: “Give €50bn euro yourself to save Greece.” Mega’s Berlin-based correspondent told the stationthat the US official then said nothing “because, as is always the case according to German officials when it comes to the issue of money, the Americans never say anything”.

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We have at least 3 weeks left. But after that, of course, Greece will have to plod on for many years.

If You Think Greece’s Crisis Will End Any Time Soon, Think Again (Bloomberg)

Frustrated by Greece’s cat and mouse game with its creditors? Get used to it. Even if PM Alexis Tsipras clinches the €7.2 billion that creditors are withholding, he’s going to need another cash infusion shortly thereafter. What will ensue is a renewed battle after almost five months of trench warfare. The beleaguered country requires a third bailout of about €30 billion, according to Nomura analysts Lefteris Farmakis and Dimitris Drakopoulos. Tsipras says any aid must be on his terms rather than those of governments whose taxpayers have forked out billions in the past five years to keep Greece in the euro. “Any plausible deal at this stage is unlikely to do enough and it’s unlikely to be the end of the matter,” said Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform in London.

“This could just play out again and again.” The latest episode in the five-year saga has focused on releasing the final tranche of Greece’s second bailout, which expires at the end of June. The amount at stake roughly equates to the bond repayments that Greece needs to make to the ECB in July and August. Here’s the problem for the policy makers struggling to avoid a default in Athens: Even if Greece muddles through until August, it faces a financing shortfall of at least €25 billion euros through the end of 2016. That’s likely to worsen as the economy slides deeper into recession and tax revenue shrivels. [..] “The dependence on our creditors will remain for two years in the best-case scenario,” said Aristides Hatzis, associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. “Greece is going to need cheap loans for the next two years.”

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It was all there right from the start.

103 Years Later, Wall Street Turned Out Just As One Man Predicted (Zero Hedge)

In 1910, three years before the US Federal Reserve was founded, Senator Nelson Aldrich, Frank Vanderlip of National City (Citibank), Henry Davison of Morgan Bank, and Paul Warburg of the Kuhn, Loeb Investment House met secretly at Jekyll Island in Georgia to formulate a plan for a US central bank just years ahead of World War I. The result of their work was the so-called Aldrich Plan which called for a system of fifteen regional central banks, i.e., National Reserve Associations, whose actions would be coordinated by a national board of commercial bankers. The Reserve Association would make emergency loans to member banks, and would create money to provide an elastic currency that could be exchanged equally for demand deposits, and would act as a fiscal agent for the federal government.

In other words, the Aldrich Plan proposed a “central bank” that would be openly and directly controlled by Wall Street commercial banks on whose behalf it would solely operate, instead of doing so indirectly, behind closed doors and the need for criminal probe of Yellen’s Fed seeking to find who leaked what to whom. The Aldrich Plan was defeated in the House in 1912 but its outline became the model for the bill that eventually was adopted as the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 whose passage not only unleashed the Fed as we know it now, but the entire shape of modern finance.

In 1912, one person who warned against the passage of the Aldrich Plan, was Alfred Owen Crozier: a man who saw how it would all play out, and even wrote a book titled “U.S. Money vs Corporation Currency” (costing 25 cents) explaining and predicting everything that would ultimately happen, even adding some 30 illustrations for those readers who were visual learners. The book, which is attached at the end of this post, is a must read, but even those pressed for time are urged to skim the following illustrations all of which were created in 1912, and all of which predicted just what the current financial system would look like. Or, in the words of Overstock’s CEO Patrick Byrne, “that’s uncanny”

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“..she also famously said “F—k the EU!” Obama is now seconding that statement of hers.”

Obama Sidelines Kerry On Ukraine Policy (Eric Zuesse)

On May 21st, I headlined “Secretary of State John Kerry v. His Subordinate Victoria Nuland, Regarding Ukraine,” and quoted John Kerry’s May 12th warning to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to cease his repeated threats to invade Crimea and re-invade Donbass, two former regions of Ukraine, which had refused to accept the legitimacy of the new regime that was imposed on Ukraine in violent clashes during February 2014. (These were regions that had voted overwhelmingly for the Ukrainian President who had just been overthrown. They didn’t like him being violently tossed out and replaced by his enemies.) Kerry said then that, regarding Poroshenko, “we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy.

And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.” Also quoted there was Kerry’s subordinate, Victoria Nuland, three days later, saying the exact opposite, that we “reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.” I noted, then that, “The only person with the power to fire Nuland is actually U.S. President Barack Obama.” However, Obama instead has sided with Nuland on this. Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, bannered, on June 5th, “Poroshenko: Ukraine Will ‘Do Everything’ To Retake Crimea’,” and reported that, “President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to seek Crimea’s return to Ukrainian rule. … Speaking at a news conference on June 5, … Poroshenko said that ‘every day and every moment, we will do everything to return Crimea to Ukraine.’”

Poroshenko was also quoted there as saying, “It is important not to give Russia a chance to break the world’s pro-Ukrainian coalition,” which indirectly insulted Kerry for his having criticized Poroshenko’s warnings that he intended to invade Crimea and Donbass. Right now, the Minsk II ceasefire has broken down and there are accusations on both sides that the other is to blame. What cannot be denied is that at least three times, on April 30th, then on May 11th, and then on June 5th, Poroshenko has repeatedly promised to invade Crimea, which wasn’t even mentioned in the Minsk II agreement; and that he was also promising to re-invade Donbass, something that is explicitly prohibited in this agreement. Furthermore, America’s President, Barack Obama, did not fire Kerry’s subordinate, Nuland, for her contradicting her boss on this important matter.

How will that be taken in European capitals? Kerry was reaffirming the position of Merkel and Hollande, the key shapers of the Minsk II agreement; and Nuland was nullifying them. Obama now has sided with Nuland on this; it’s a slap in the face to the EU: Poroshenko can continue ignoring Kerry and can blatantly ignore the Minsk II agreement; and Obama tacitly sides with Poroshenko and Nuland, against Kerry. The personalities here are important: On 4 February 2014, in the very same phone-conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, America’s Ambassador in Ukraine, in which Nuland had instructed Pyatt to get “Yats” Yatsenyuk appointed to lead Ukraine after the coup (which then occured 18 days later), she also famously said “F—k the EU!” Obama is now seconding that statement of hers.

Read more …

Absolutely in chracter.

Masked Attackers Break Up Tent Camp On Kiev’s Maidan (RT)

Unidentified assailants wearing balaclavas assaulted and destroyed a tent camp set up on Sunday by protesters on Kiev’s landmark Maidan Square. Activists at the camp had been calling on the Ukrainian President to report on progress since taking office. The attack happened late Sunday evening, when a gang stormed the activist camp, forcefully removing tents and dispersing protesters. Police officers were reportedly stationed right next to the site and did nothing to stop the violent group. The organizer of the action, Rustam Tashbaev, was arrested, RIA Novosti reported. There were also blasts heard on Institutskaya Street near the Maidan. In Ruptly’s video, assailants are seen ripping through the camp, tearing everything apart, and dragging protesters out of the tents, while they can be heard screaming in the background.

“They took me and dragged me like I was in a sleigh. I screamed, thinking they would beat me up, but they quickly dispersed. It looked like a theater production because the police were nearby and did nothing,” one of the demonstrators told Ruptly video news agency. Earlier on Sunday, about 100 protesters set up several tents on Maidan, demanding President Petro Poroshenko and his cabinet report on what progress has been made in implementing the reforms which were promised last year. “We have launched this campaign, set up tents, and called this protest Maidan 3,” one of the organizers, Rustam Tashbaev, told Ruptly. “We demand these people perform the duties which they are obliged to perform.” Placards at the protest read “Out with [PM Arseny] Yatsenuk and his reforms” and “I’m on hunger strike against administrative dereliction.”

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“..it costs the banks almost nothing to create new credit. That’s why we have so much of it.”

Literally, Your ATM Won’t Work… (Bill Bonner)

While we were thinking about what was really going on with today’s strange new money system, a startling thought occurred to us. Our financial system could take a surprising and catastrophic twist that almost nobody imagines, let alone anticipates. Do you remember when a lethal tsunami hit the beaches of Southeast Asia, killing thousands of people and causing billions of dollars of damage? Well, just before the 80-foot wall of water slammed into the coast an odd thing happened: The water disappeared. The tide went out farther than anyone had ever seen before. Local fishermen headed for high ground immediately. They knew what it meant. But the tourists went out onto the beach looking for shells! The same thing could happen to the money supply…

Here’s how.. and why: It’s almost seems impossible. Hard to imagine. Difficult to understand. But if you look at M2 money supply – which measures coins and notes in circulation as well as bank deposits and money market accounts – America’s money stock amounted to $11.7 trillion as of last month. But there was just $1.3 trillion of physical currency in circulation – about only half of which is in the US. (Nobody knows for sure.) What we use as money today is mostly credit. It exists as zeros and ones in electronic bank accounts. We never see it. Touch it. Feel it. Count it out. Or lose it behind seat cushions. Banks profit – handsomely – by creating this credit. And as long as banks have sufficient capital, they are happy to create as much credit as we are willing to pay for.

After all, it costs the banks almost nothing to create new credit. That’s why we have so much of it. A monetary system like this has never before existed. And this one has existed only during a time when credit was undergoing an epic expansion. So our monetary system has never been thoroughly tested. How will it hold up in a deep or prolonged credit contraction? Can it survive an extended bear market in bonds or stocks? What would happen if consumer prices were out of control?

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Jailing them would be better for shareholders value. And who in their right mind can claim it’s time to go easy on the banks?

Banks’ Post-Crisis Legal Costs Hit $300 Billion (FT)

The total cost of litigation aimed at a group of the biggest global banks since 2010 has broken the £200bn ($306bn) barrier, according to a new study that challenges assumptions that banks are through the worst of post-crisis reparations. The annual study, carried out by the UK-based CCP Research Foundation, uses regulatory notices, annual reports and other public disclosures to tally the cost of fighting claims of misconduct over rolling five-year periods. In the latest report, which runs until the end of last year, the total for 16 banks stands at £205.6bn of fines, settlements and provisions — up almost a fifth from the previous year.

Despite that trend, many bank executives continue to act as if these are irregular charges from “legacy” issues, said Chris Steares, research director at the foundation. He noted that a recent flurry of settlements for currency manipulation cited abuses continuing until 2013. “If you ask the banks if their reputational risk is going to change, they’d have to say yes,” he said. “[But] with conduct costs continuing to be incurred, year after year, it does beg the question whether behaviours are being changed for the better.”

Some politicians in the US and UK have tried to draw a line under years of heavy lawmaking, taxes and fines, arguing that regulators should now go easier on the banks. Executives, too, have signalled that expenses have begun to fall, particularly after the resolution of cases linked to the mis-selling of residential mortgage-backed securities. Presenting earnings in April, for example, Bruce Thompson, Bank of America’s finance chief, noted two “much lighter” quarters of legal expenses which he hoped would allow the bank to hold less capital under international standards on operational risk.

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Not unlikely.

Will China’s Stock Market Explode On Wednesday? (MarketWatch)

Wednesday could be huge for Chinese stocks. On that day, about four hours before Shanghai opens for trade, MSCI will announce whether it will welcome China’s top yuan-denominated stocks into its extremely influential Emerging Markets Index, tracked by a mountain of roughly $1.7 trillion in assets worldwide. Such a move would be expected to ignite a significant rally in Shanghai blue chips, and a recent Wall Street Journal report cited major funds such as those of Vanguard Group Inc. planning to purchase Chinese equities ahead of the MSCI decision, which is due to be revealed Tuesday at about 5:30 p.m. EDT (Wednesday 5:30 a.m. in Shanghai) on the financial company’s website.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese companies – known as “H-shares” – are already a sizeable presence in the MSCI EM Index. Rival FTSE Group (owned by the London Stock Exchange) recently added the mainland-listed stocks – known as “A-shares” – into transitional global indexes, and may add them to its benchmark EM index this September, according to HSBC. The possible MSCI move has been making big headlines in China’s news media, but that said, many analysts are not so sure the index compiler will take the plunge into Chinese equities this week, suggesting it will wait a little longer for the country’s financial reforms to solidify further.

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Ironically, this means a huge increase in the trade surplus…

China Imports Fall 17.6%, Exports Decline 2.5% (AFP)

Chinese imports fell for a seventh straight month in May while exports also sank, according to official data, as the world’s second-biggest economy shows protracted weakness even in the face of government measures to stimulate growth. The disappointing figures, out on Monday, also come as leaders try to transform the economy to one where growth is driven by consumer spending rather than government investment and exports. Imports slumped 17.6% year on year to $131.26bn, the Chinese customs department said in a statement. The decline was much sharper than the median forecast of a 10% fall in a Bloomberg News poll of economists, and followed April’s 16.2% drop.

“The May trade data … suggest both external and domestic demand remain weak,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an analyst with the research firm Capital Economics. Exports dropped for the third consecutive month, falling 2.5% to $190.75bn, customs said, although that was better than the median estimate of a 4% fall in the Bloomberg survey. The sharp decrease in imports meant the trade surplus expanded 65.6% year on year to $59.49bn, according to the data. In yuan terms, imports fell 18.1%, exports decreased 2.8% and the trade surplus expanded 65%. The figures provided further evidence that frailty in the Chinese economy, a key driver of world growth, has extended into the current quarter despite intensified government stimulus measures.

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“Deutsche Bank is sitting on a powderkeg of derivatives dynamite..”

Deutsche Bank CEO’s Forced to Resign Over Imminent Derivatives Melt-Down? (Doc)

The co-CEOs of Deutsche Bank unexpectedly stepped down. Recall that Deutsche Bank is now the largest holder of derivatives in the world. The ONLY reason these resignations would have been unexpectedly coerced like this is if Deutsche Bank was having a potentially uncontrollable problem in its OTC derivatives holdings. Because of accounting rules, we have no possible way of knowing what DB’s OTC derivatives book looks like. Although Jain oversaw the build-up of the book, it’s likely that not only does he not know where all the bodies are buried, he has lied to the board of directors and shareholders about the riskiness of the bank’s holdings. I know Jain from personal experience with him right after Deutsche Bank acquired Bankers Trust for BT’s derivatives capabilities.

It instantly put Deutsche Bank in the forefront of the fraud-based OTC derivatives business. Jain has lost money wherever he worked. He was brought over to DB from Merrill when Edson Mitchell assumed the reigns at Deutsche Bank’s US unit. I just remember thinking Jain was about as sleazy as they come. His sole charge was to build Deutsche’s derivatives book of business into the biggest in the world. From there he sleazed his way into the CEO position, a few years after Mitchell went down in plane accident. He then proceeded to climb to the top of Deutsche Bank by conspiring to “shoot” then-CEO Josef Ackerman in the back. Deutsche Bank is sitting on a powderkeg of derivatives dynamite. DB is also the entity that has leased out most of Germany’s sovereign gold.

From a good friend of mine who worked at DB and still keeps in touch with former colleagues: “Deutsche Bank is sitting on a lethal amount of derivatives and everyone at the bank knows it.” [..] “Like I said many times over the past 6 months…the derivatives in Europe have gone SIDEWAYS and there is blood in the back rooms of the world’s biggest derivative traders! News yesterday that $6B in derivatives were being “internally investigated” at the world’s largest derivative holder, Deutsche Bank, is followed today by the resignation of BOTH of it’s CEO’s!! Anshu Jain has thus overseen the world’s largest arsenal of deadly financial derivatives. When Deutsche Bank goes down in flames, the Jain’s bank account should be the first source of funding the losses. May whatever Higher Power there may be up above help us all when the derivatives financial nuclear daisy-chain starts to blow…

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Moany spent locally is worth many times what is spent into box stores. Shopping at Wal-Mart impoverishes your economy, and ultimately you yourself.

The Bristol Pound Is Giving Sterling A Run For Its Money (Guardian)

When his firm was going up against national companies for contracts to manage waste, Jon Free needed an edge to win the pitches. The answer he found was in the sense of community that existed among small businesses like his. By using his local currency, the Bristol pound, he saw companies were more willing to give their business to him and keep money flowing in the area. Launched almost three years ago, the community currency aims to keep money circulating among independent retailers and firms by encouraging people to use the local ‘cash’ instead of sterling, an idea that has inspired other towns and cities to take up similar schemes in the UK and abroad. “To be able to drop in and create a link to make [the money] a circular thing is a big part of it,” the managing director of Waste Source said.

“To say that we are registered with the Bristol pound shows that we are more community based.” In use since 2012, the system operates as both notes and in electronic form with each Bristol pound equal to one pound sterling. Some 800 businesses in the Bristol area now use the community currency, with coffees, meals, council tax and even pole-dancing lessons paid for with it. “The practical vision was to get something which would connect local communities with their businesses in a way which kept money building up in their local communities,” the currency’s co-founder, Ciaran Mundy, said. “What happens is that if you spend it at a large supermarket chain, 80% of that will exit the economy very quickly.”

While community currencies have a history going back to Victorian times, there has been a resurgence in recent years, with Bristol emerging as the standard-bearer in the UK. The system works by people exchanging their sterling for paper Bristol pounds – in single, five, 10 and 20 denominations – or by opening an account at the Bristol Credit Union. The currency can then be spent in participating businesses, or between businesses, in return for goods or services. So far, some £1m has been issued in the community currency, according to Mundy, of which about £700,000 is still in circulation. As it is a voluntary scheme, the currency can switch between sterling and Bristol pounds, he said.

The thinking behind the creation of the new currency, said Mundy, was to make a minor change to allow for more money to be spent in local areas. “I was looking for a technological and cultural innovation which allows people to conduct themselves in a way which is more sustainable. A big part of that is being aware of the impact of your economic activity,” he said.

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Just did an interview with Max. Airs tomorrow on RT.

Max Keiser’s Bitcoin Capital Continues to Attract Investors (NBTC)

Bitcoin Capital, a venture capital fund initiated by the celebrated finance journalist Max Keiser, is hinting to close on a very optimistic note. According to the details available at BnkToTheFuture.com, the VC fund has already generated a little over $1 million upon receiving support from 580 backers (at press time), especially when there are still three days left to the curtain call. The reports also claim that each investor has injected over $1,000 into the Bitcoin Capital, for which they are offered a 50% equity in the fund. A third part of the generated funds are promised to be invested in Bitcoin Capital’s Bitcoin mining rig in Iceland, a place which will also make sure that investors get to receive daily dividends in the form of newly-minted Bitcoins.

This step is planned to ensure speedy investment returns for the investors, something that puts Bitcoin Capital’s plan in an altogether different category, as it seems. But more than its promises, the VC fund is riding high on its backer’s reputation in the market. Max Keiser is known to be one of the most celebrated faces in the finance sector, for his previous professional collaborations with BBC News, Al Jazeera, Resonance FM and Huffington Post. He currently works for the last two, and also hosts a self-branded financial program on RT, titled Keiser Report. His activism for the cryptocurrency sector however was something that earned him a reputation inside the Bitcoin sector. He supported the idea of decentralization when every government and bank was rubbishing it right away.

“I have been critical of the traditional financial system for many years on my show” Keiser said. “I was the first global news outlet to cover bitcoin when it was trading at $3, recognizing its potential to change the world. Many startups in the bitcoin space credit Keiser Report for getting them started in the business. Bitcoin Capital allows the founders and investors to experiment with new crypto financial business models and currencies to transform global finance.”

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Canada was once a nice country. Harper changed all that.

Canada to Train Ukrainian Police as Russia Conflict Worsens (Bloomberg)

Canada will send officers and provide funding to bolster the Ukrainian police force, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his latest show of support for Ukraine on the eve of a Group of Seven nations summit. Canada will never accept the Russian occupation of Crimea or parts of eastern Ukraine, Harper said after meeting Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday in Kiev. Work continues between the countries on trade talks and visa restrictions. “I’m proud to be here with you again to demonstrate our continued resolve in the face of the enormous challenge you and all Ukrainians are confronted with,” Harper said after earlier announcing the funding to help train Ukrainian police.

The conflict with Russia is “very high on Canada’s agenda” heading into the G7 summit in Germany, which begins Sunday, Harper said. He called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw all troops, equipment and support for separatists in Ukraine. “Canada will not, and the world must not, turn a blind eye to the near-daily attacks that are killing and wounding Ukrainians here on their own soil, soldiers and civilians alike,” Harper said. Poroshenko thanked Canada, and said he spoke Saturday with the leaders of the U.S., Japan and Germany. “The support by Canada in this very difficult and decisive time is very important for every Ukrainian,” Poroshenko said. “The relentless violation of international norms will not stand without punishment.”

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Brussels lets others do its job and washes its hands.

Greek Island Gateway To EU As Thousands Flee Homelands (Irish Times)

“Excuse me. Is this Greece?” asked a 24-year-old Pakistani man, whose suit was soaked to his waist. Behind him, a group of young Somali men struggled to lift the sole woman passenger from the boat to her wheelchair, the only possession she managed to bring from the other side. Later, Riyan (30), would explain that she had been shot in the back 15 years previously. She said she was making the journey on her own, and her aim was to reach Germany where she hoped she could have an operation. This migrant vessel was one of four to land last Tuesday morning near the beautiful town of Molyvos, with its medieval hilltop fortress that can be seen from miles around.

Tourism is the lifeblood of the place and the permanent population of about 1,500 relies almost exclusively on the money they make during the summer to keep them going during the difficult winter months after the tourists have gone. For weeks, Kempson, a British painter and sculptor who made his home in Molyvos 16 years ago, and his wife Philippa have been daily witnesses to the rapid increase in the numbers of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey. “It’s been a nightmare for the last few weeks. We really need some help. Only a few of us have been trying to help. This story needs to get out there and Europe really needs to send some help,” he says.

About 70% of those arriving on the boats are Syrian refugees, including many families with young children. They are fleeing the four-year civil war that has devastated their country and, according to the United Nations, triggered the largest humanitarian crisis since the second World War. An estimated 7.6 million people are now displaced within Syria, while almost four million have fled to neighbouring countries, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, where the vast majority have remained, often in appalling conditions. Syrians in Molyvos say only Europe – by which they usually mean Germany or Sweden – can offer them and their families the safety and opportunities they desperately seek.

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