Felix Vallotton On the beach 1899
“Negative interest rates are terrible for banks. They destroy the business model for banks. They make future bank collapses more likely because banks cannot build capital to absorb losses.”
Now there is talk everywhere that the United States too will descend into negative interest rates. And there are people on Wall Street and in the media that are hyping this absurd condition where government bonds and perhaps even corporate bonds, and eventually even junk bonds have negative yields. All of that NIRP absurdity is already the case in Europe and Japan. There is now about $17 trillion – trillion with a T – in negative yielding debt in the world, government and corporate debt combined. This started out as a short-term emergency experiment. And now this short-term emergency experiment has become the new normal. And now more short-term emergency experiments need to be added to it, because, you know, the first batches weren’t big enough and haven’t worked, or have stopped working, or more realistically, have screwed things up so badly that nothing works anymore.
So how will this end? The ECB rumor mill over the past two weeks hyped the possibility of a shock-and-awe stimulus package, on top of the shock-and-awe stimulus packages the ECB has already implemented, namely negative interest rates, liquidity facilities, and QE. The entire German government bond market, even 30-year bonds have negative yields. And the German economy shrank in the last quarter. That gives Germany two out of the last four quarters where its economy shrank – despite negative interest rates from the ECB and despite the negative yields on its government bonds, and despite the negative yields among many corporate bonds. In other words, the German economy, the fourth largest in the world, is hitting the skids despite or because of negative yields. And now the ECB wants to flex its muscles to get yields to become even more negative.
And there are folks who want to prescribe the same kind of killer application to help out the US economy – which is growing just fine. Since the ECB’s shock-and-awe package started to appear in the rumor mill at the beginning of August, the European bank stock index – it includes banks in all EU countries, not just those that use the euro – well, since that shock-and-awe rumor appeared, the stock index for those banks has dropped 11%. Negative interest rates are terrible for banks. They destroy the business model for banks. They make future bank collapses more likely because banks cannot build capital to absorb losses.
Any control they seemed to have was always fake.
The Federal Reserve has lost control of interest rates as evidenced by the federal funds rate trading higher than any part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve, Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said on Tuesday. “What else do you need to call it an inversion?” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “Everyone is parsing all of these little arbitrary things. But we’ve got an inversion.” At around 1.55% and 2.03%, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note and 30-year Treasury bond, respectively, are below the target federal funds rate of 2.25% to 2.5%. The yield on the two-year Treasury note is currently around 1.51%.
Three weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell characterized the U.S. central bank’s first rate cut since 2008 as a “mid-cycle adjustment to policy,” suggesting the move was not the start of a lengthy series of rate cuts. Gundlach, who oversees more than $140 billion in assets, told Reuters last week that Powell’s message to the markets have been inconsistent. He said Powell “can’t put a back-to-back consistent message together. It is different at every single meeting – the mid-cycle adjustment statement is not going to hold up.”
Crisis leads to measures which are then watered down which leads to crisis. Rinse and repeat.
Two federal bank regulators voted Tuesday to approve a significant rollback of a controversial ban on risky trades passed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Tuesday adopted a weakened version of the so-called “Volcker Rule,” which bans banks from making high-risk bets with their own assets. While the OCC and FDIC are but two of five agencies that must sign off on the new Volcker Rule, their approval of the proposal is the first step in a massive lobbying victory for some of the largest U.S. banks. The Volcker Rule was one of several provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law designed to ban risky and overly complex investments that helped crash the global financial system in 2008.
While advocates for banks have fought to loosen several aspects of Dodd-Frank in the nine years since its passage, firms with mammoth trading desks such as Goldman Sachs have paid particular attention to the Volcker Rule. Named after its chief advocate, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the rule bans banks from certain “proprietary” trades, or investments using the bank’s own capital. Industry advocates insisted that while banks supported stricter limits on risk, the Volcker Rule was too complex and burdensome to be effective. “The new Volcker Rule finalized today is recognition that the original rule was overly complex and unworkable,” said Greg Baer, president and CEO of the Bank Policy Institute, a research and advocacy group representing 17 of the largest banks and financial firms.
Fighting Intelligence is not easy.
Behind the scenes, some major events were set in motion last autumn that could soon change the tenor in Washington, at least as it relates to the debunked Russia collusion narrative that distracted America for nearly three years. It was in September 2018 that President Trump told my Hill.TV colleague Buck Sexton and me that he would order the release of all classified documents showing what the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other U.S. intelligence agencies may have done wrong in the Russia probe.
About the same time, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under then-Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), voted unanimously to send 53 nonpublic transcripts of witnesses in its Russia review to the director of national intelligence (DNI) for declassification. The transcripts were officially delivered in November. Now, nearly a year later, neither release has happened. To put that into perspective, it took just a couple of months in 2004 to declassify the final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks after a presidential commission finished its work, which contained some of the nation’s most secretive intelligence revelations. But the long wait for transparency may soon end.
Salvini smells power.
Italy’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday after launching a blistering attack on his own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the ruling coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing parliament after it was recalled from its summer recess to decide the future of the 14-month-old government, accused the far-right League party chief Salvini of seeking to cash in on his rising popularity. In a shock move on Aug. 8, Salvini declared that his alliance with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was dead and called for elections, but the gambit could yet prove a big political blunder and open the door to power for his rivals.
Politicians from 5-Star and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) are openly discussing forming a new coalition which would push the League into opposition and give Italy a more centrist, pro-European government. “The interior minister has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party,” Conte told a packed Senate, a stony-faced Salvini sitting by his side. “His decisions pose serious risks for this country.” He described Salvini’s actions as reckless and “liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability”.
The UK will have to define an alternative to the backstop, but it has nothing so far.
The European Union on Tuesday rebuffed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand that it reopen the Brexit divorce deal, saying Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border. After more than three years of Brexit crisis, the United Kingdom is heading towards a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the divorce terms.
In his opening bid to the EU ahead of meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Johnson wrote a four-page letter to European Council President Donald Tusk asking to ax the Irish border “backstop”. Johnson proposed that the backstop – part of the Withdrawal Agreement that then-prime minister Theresa May agreed last year – be replaced with a “commitment” to implement alternative arrangements as part of a deal on the post-Brexit relationship. Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, said the EU would consider “practical solutions” but that the Withdrawal Agreement, which contains the protocol on the Irish border “backstop”, did not need to be changed.
The finance hub crumbles. Not good for China either.
China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has delayed its up to $15 billion listing in Hong Kong amid growing political unrest in the Asian financial hub, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listing plans are being closely watched by the financial community for indications on the business environment in the Chinese-controlled territory and provides a window into Beijing’s reading of the situation.
While no new timetable has been formally set, Alibaba could potentially launch the deal as early as October, still seeking to raise $10 billion-$15 billion, depending on whether political tensions had eased and market conditions became more favorable, one of the people said. The decision to postpone the deal, initially set to launch in late August, was taken at a board meeting before Alibaba’s earnings release last week, the second person said. The delay was due to the lack of financial and political stability in Hong Kong, the people added, following more than 11 weeks of frequently violent pro-democracy demonstrations which have plunged the city into turmoil.
Message brought to you by the US military-industrial complex.
The US military is no longer the primary force in Asia, and missiles from China’s rapidly improving military could overwhelm its bases in hours, according to a new report. The study by the United States Study Center, at the University of Sydney, in Australia, warned that America’s defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific region “is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis” and could struggle to defend its allies against China. That means Australia, Japan and other US partners need to build up and refocus their forces in the region, and consider increased cooperation with the US, to ensure their security, the study claimed.
The report highlights areas where China’s military is making huge strides in comparison to the US and its Asian allies and partners. Chief among those is in missiles. “China has deployed a formidable array of precision missiles and other counter-intervention systems to undercut America’s military primacy,” the report states. Those missiles number in the thousands, the report says. Almost all US military installations in the Western Pacific, as well as those of its key partners and allies, “could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict,” according to the report. China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it had not seen the report, but spokesperson Geng Shuang stressed that the country’s military policy was “defensive in nature.”
Time for Russia or China to send a tanker?!
The United States will take every action it can to prevent an Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of U.S. sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday. “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters. “If that ship again heads to Syria we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.” The Adrian DArya – formerly the Grace 1 – left Gibraltar on Aug. 18 and ship-tracking data showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata.
“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct..”
US President Donald Trump Tuesday postponed a planned visit to Denmark after Danish officials insisted its autonomous territory of Greenland was not for sale. Trump’s decision confirms just how interested he was in purchasing Greenland, an idea initially dismissed as a joke by some, but which the White House later insisted had a serious purpose because of its strategic location. “Based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump tweeted.
During a Sunday visit to Greenland — the largest island on Earth — Frederiksen called Trump’s idea “absurd.” “The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump tweeted. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”.
One party says climate change is not real, and now all other parties -and third parties- are banned from talking about it. It’s not just ads.
Canada’s election watchdog has warned environmentalists that saying climate change is real could break the law. The issue arose because one party running in October’s election denies climate change is a threat. That has led Elections Canada to warn groups that running paid advertisements about climate change could be considered partisan activity. Advocates called the guidance “ludicrous” and say it will dampen urgent climate discussions. The UN has called for decisive political action by 2020 to put an end to climate change. “The guidance is extremely troubling,” Stephen Cornish, the CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental charity, told the BBC.
“We would have to bury the scientific consensus around climate change when we should be ramping up our activities.” Canada has strict regulations on partisan advertising during the election period, whether they be from candidates, parties or third-party organisations. Individuals or organisations that take out “issue” advertisements that cost C$500 ($375, £309) or more during the election period have to register with Elections Canada as a third party. “Issue” advertisements are paid media campaigns that take positions on issues related to parties’ platforms but do not explicitly address a particular candidate or party.
The election period will begin when the writ is dropped sometime in September, before Canadians head to the polls on 21 October. Keith Brooks, programme director for advocacy group Environmental Defence, says Elections Canada told him that because one candidate denies that climate change is an issue, any ad urging action on climate change, or calling climate change an emergency, could be considered partisan. Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has said numerous times that he does not believe climate change is a crisis. “There is no climate change urgency in this country,” Mr Bernier said in June.
97% of tigers are already gone.
More than 2,300 endangered tigers have been killed and illegally trafficked since the turn of the century, according to a report published Tuesday, urging more action to protect the giant cats. With an average of more than 120 illegally trafficked tigers seized each year – which amounts to over two each week – since year 2000, conservation group Traffic warned there was little sign of respite for the species. Report author Kanitha Krishnasamy, who heads Traffic’s Southeast Asia operations, said the numbers were deeply concerning. “It looks like we are losing this fight,” she told AFP.
In 1900, more than 100,000 tigers were estimated to roam the planet. But that fell to a record low of 3,200 globally in 2010. Since then, population numbers have inched upwards, but there are still estimated to be fewer than 3,900 tigers left in the wild. “This pernicious trafficking,evidenced by the continuously high number of whole skins, whole animals – both dead and alive – and bones is testament to the ongoing demand for Tiger parts,” Krishnasamy said. “The time for talking is over: words must be turned into action to prevent further Tiger loss,” she said in a statement. Traffic, which campaigns to protect endangered animals and help governments catch those who trade in their parts, published a new analysis looking at 19-years of tiger seizure data from across the globe.
It found that an estimated total equivalent to 2,359 individual tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories. Skins are the single most frequently seized tiger part, with on average 58 whole tiger skins seized each year, the report found, also noting a clear increase in seizures of whole animals, both dead and alive. The study also highlighted the growing role breeding centres play in fuelling the illegal tiger trade, especially in Southeast Asia. The tiger farm industry often argues the trade in captive animals helps to relieve the pressure on wild felines, but wildlife groups argue it reduces the stigma around buying the animals or their body parts and could create new markets for them.
Fidel Narváez served as consul and then first secretary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2010 until July 2018.
The Western corporate media has shown extreme bias against the whistleblowing publication WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Nowhere is this more evident than in a recent CNN article on the imprisoned journalist, which completely botches the facts. On July 15, CNN published an exclusive report that sent shock waves through the press: “Security reports reveal how Assange turned an embassy into a command post for election meddling.” This two-pronged hit piece mixes character assassination with a clumsy attempt to show that he and WikiLeaks supposedly served as agents of chaos for the Kremlin during the 2016 US presidential election.
But the article contains numerous errors, omissions, examples of bias, speculations, and simply false information. CNN’s attempts to shape the narrative on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are not new. On March 28, the TV program Conclusiones, on CNN Español, claimed — without evidence — that Assange had published the famous INA Papers leak, exposing the corruption of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and his family. The fact that WikiLeaks never published a single document or image of Moreno or his family did not matter to CNN Español. The intentions of the show were immediately transparent from the loaded questions made by the reporters: “How long will Julian Assange remain at the Ecuadorian embassy in London?” “Aren’t you going to kick him out?” “What has Julian Assange brought to Lenin Moreno’s government but headaches?”
This baseless accusation was subsequently used two weeks later by the Ecuadorian government to justify expelling Assange from its London embassy, in a flagrant violation of international law. This pattern of smear pieces against WikiLeaks and its publisher begs the question: Why CNN is shaping public opinion against Julian Assange, as he prepares to defend himself from continued political persecution by the US government?