Jul 292017
 
 July 29, 2017  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
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Dorothea Lange Grocery store in Widtsoe, Utah 1936

 

Trump’s Mistake In Taking Ownership Of The Stock Market Bubble (LR)
Congress Checkmates Trump (And The American People) (LR)
Russia Hits Back Over Sanctions, Orders US Diplomats To Leave (R.)
EU Explores Account Freezes To Prevent Runs At Failing Banks (R.)
The Great Transatlantic Bond Divergence Unwind (WSJ)
Top German Automakers Sued in US Over Two-Decade ‘Cartel’ (BBG)
Wells Fargo Faces Angry Questions After New Sales Abuses Uncovered (R.)
Wells Fargo Cuts 70 Senior Managers in Retail Bank After Accounts Scandal (BBG)
What Explains amazon.com’s Share Price? (PCR)
Panama Leaks and the Fall of Pakistan’s Prime Minister (Niaz)
Plastic Microparticles Found In Flesh Of Fish Eaten By Humans (Ind.)

 

 

More incentives for the Fed to trigger a crisis.

Trump’s Mistake In Taking Ownership Of The Stock Market Bubble (LR)

Let’s start at the beginning. Bubbles and Busts are both created by The Federal Reserve. Presidents are merely along for the ride. They like to credit themselves for the bubbles, and then look for scapegoats, usually the (non-existent) free market during the busts. But it is The Fed that creates them both. President Trump has made a big (yet understandable) mistake. He’s tried to portray himself as the cause of the current bubble in the stock market. He wants credit where credit is due. In this case, credit is not due. As we already mentioned, the Fed created the current bubble, and did so a long time ago. One look at a chart of the S&P 500 says it all:

Chances are, Trump realizes that most people won’t look at a chart of the stock market and he just wants some good PR. The president wants people to think that he is the reason for the stock market bubble. This is a big mistake. The Fed is the premier member of the so-called “Deep State”. In fact, without The Fed, there would hardly be a “Deep State” to speak of. The Fed sits at the top of the Deep State. They have the ultimate power (that no human beings should ever have) to create new money out-of-thin-air. In case Trump hasn’t figured it out yet, the Deep State does not like him. Should a major decline in the stock market occur during Trump’s Administration, guess who will take the blame? President Trump. After all, he took ownership of the bubble!

Should the market tumble, the mainstream media (that also despises Trump) will have plenty of his quotes, YouTubes, and Tweets to use against him. The economic woes will be pinned on Trump. Will Trump deserve the blame? No, but it’ll be too late. This is not to say that a major decline will occur during Trump’s tenure. Bubbles can take on a life of their own, and this one may last during Trump’s full term. But that’s a risky gamble to make. This bubble is going on almost 10 years now without a serious decline. Should we see a major selloff, Trump has very few friends in the major power centers that will come to his aid. As Peter Schiff points out in this fantastic clip below: The Fed now has their fall guy:

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A curious move. An ultimate power game.

Congress Checkmates Trump (And The American People) (LR)

Yesterday, the US Senate passed HR 3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act by a massive 98 yeas to two nays. Opposing the bill were Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY). The bill passed in the House by 419-3 on Tuesday, with Reps Massie (R-KY), Amash (R-MI), and Duncan (R-TN) opposing. The new sanctions bill ties President Trump’s hands on foreign policy, as he will be forced to ask Congress for permission to ease the measures. Speaking in favor of the legislation, Sen. Bob Menendez (R-NJ) cited the need to send Russia a message that it cannot meddle in US elections, that it cannot annex Crimea, that it cannot invade Ukraine, and that it cannot indiscriminately kill women and children in Syria.

Those of us living in the actual real world recognize that the first count remains unproven and the remaining counts are simply fatuous, fact-free bluster by Washington’s uninformed, group-thinking, foreign policy elites. Fueled by the millions coming in to the military-industrial complex. The House and Senate passed “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” now goes to President Trump’s desk, where he faces a damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t scenario. A veto would certainly be over-ridden, handing the president a bitter bi-partisan blow that would likely end whatever aspirations he may retain to keep his campaign promises to get along better with Russia.

Similarly, signing the bill signs a death warrant for any foreign policy different than the one served up by the neocons for decades: create enemies; push war propaganda; collect massive checks from military industrial complex; demonize any American refusing to go along; repeat, adding bombs as necessary. Checkmate, President Trump.

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Over 600 would have to leave. Question: why does the US have over 6000 more staff in Russia than vice versa?

Russia Hits Back Over Sanctions, Orders US Diplomats To Leave (R.)

Russia told the United States on Friday that some of its diplomats had to leave the country in just over a month and said it was seizing some U.S. diplomatic property as retaliation for what it said were proposed illegal U.S. sanctions. Russia’s response, announced by the Foreign Ministry, came a day after the U.S. Senate voted to slap new sanctions on Russia, putting President Donald Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation and anger his own Republican Party. President Vladimir Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia had so far exercised restraint, but would have to retaliate against what he described as boorish and unreasonable U.S. behaviour. Relations between the two countries, already at a post-Cold War low, have deteriorated even further after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to meddle in last year’s U.S. presidential election, something Moscow flatly denies.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the United States had until Sept. 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the same number of Russian diplomats it said were left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December. It said in a statement that the decision by Congress to impose new sanctions confirmed “the extreme aggression of the United States in international affairs.” “Hiding behind its ‘exceptionalism’ the United States arrogantly ignores the positions and interests of other countries,” said the ministry. “Under the absolutely invented pretext of Russian interference in their “Under the absolutely invented pretext of Russian interference in their domestic affairs the United States is aggressively pushing forward, one after another, crude anti-Russian actions. This all runs counter to the principles of international law.”

[..] An official at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, said there were around 1,100 U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia. That included Russian citizens and U.S. citizens. Most staff, including around 300 U.S. citizens, work in the main embassy in Moscow with others based in outlying consulates. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was also seizing a Moscow dacha compound used by U.S. diplomats to relax from Aug. 1 as well as a U.S. diplomatic warehouse in Moscow.

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Confidence spelled backwards. How to cause a bank run in 3 easy lessons.

EU Explores Account Freezes To Prevent Runs At Failing Banks (R.)

European Union states are considering measures which would allow them to temporarily stop people withdrawing money from their accounts to prevent bank runs, an EU document reviewed by Reuters revealed. The move is aimed at helping rescue lenders that are deemed failing or likely to fail, but critics say it could hit confidence and might even hasten withdrawals at the first rumors of a bank being in trouble. The proposal, which has been in the works since the beginning of this year, comes less than two months after a run on deposits at Banco Popular contributed to the collapse of the Spanish lender. It also come amid a bitter wrangle among European countries over how to deal with troubled banks, roughly a decade after a financial crash that required the ECB to print billions of euros to prevent a prolonged economic slump.

Giving supervisors the power to temporarily block bank accounts at ailing lenders is “a feasible option,” a paper prepared by the Estonian presidency of the EU said, acknowledging that member states were divided on the issue. EU countries which already allow a moratorium on bank payouts in insolvency procedures at national level, like Germany, support the measure, officials said. “The desire is to prevent a bank run, so that when a bank is in a critical situation it is not pushed over the edge,” a person familiar with German government’s thinking said. To cover for savers’ immediate financial needs, the Estonian paper, dated July 10, recommended the introduction of a mechanism that could allow depositors to withdraw “at least a limited amount of funds.”

Banks, though, say it would discourage saving. “We strongly believe that this would incentivize depositors to run from a bank at an early stage,” Charlie Bannister of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), a banking lobby group, said. The Estonian proposal was discussed by EU envoys on July 13 but no decision was made, an EU official said. Discussions were due to continue in September. The plan, if agreed, would contrast with legislative proposals made by the European Commission in November that aimed to strengthen supervisors’ powers to suspend withdrawals, but excluded from the moratorium insured depositors, which under EU rules are those below 100,000 euros ($117,000).

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Price discovery.

The Great Transatlantic Bond Divergence Unwind (WSJ)

Many of the trades embraced by markets after President Donald Trump’s election have been slowly unwinding in 2017. Here’s an important one that could have further to go: the gap between U.S. and German government bond yields. The spread between 10-year Treasurys and bunds ballooned after Mr. Trump’s November victory to a level not seen since before the fall of the Berlin Wall, around 2.3 percentage points by the end of 2016. U.S. yields rose sharply on the idea of reflation and stimulus, while Europe appeared stuck in a rut. At 1.75%age points, the gap is close to its pre-election level. But even that is unusual by historical standards. Between 1990 and 2014, the spread was only rarely wider than one percentage point, and over that period averaged just 0.2 point, according to data from FactSet.

Such a tight relationship between German and U.S. bonds reflected the long global bull market for bonds in the glory years of globalization. Relatively synchronized monetary policy meant yields fell on both sides of the Atlantic together. The Fed’s 2013 taper, followed by signals of coming European Central Bank bond buying helped set the bond markets apart. That both helped weaken the euro and encouraged a rush of bond issuance by U.S. companies in European markets as borrowing costs fell. Where policy goes now is key. Markets doubt how far the Fed might get with its tightening, and seem unflustered by the prospect of the central bank shrinking its balance sheet. Investors may be too relaxed, but in the absence of fiscal stimulus and inflation, much higher yields for Treasurys might be hard to achieve in the near term.

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But they rule Germany. So yeah, some fines etc., but the culture just goes on.

Top German Automakers Sued in US Over Two-Decade ‘Cartel’ (BBG)

German’s major automakers were accused in a U.S. lawsuit of acting as a cartel, colluding for nearly two decades to limit the pace of technological advances in their vehicles and stifle competition – allegations that widen the scope of the latest scandal to hit the nation’s auto industry. BMW AG, Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG and its Audi and Porsche brands shared competitive information about vehicle technologies with one another from 1996 through at least 2015 in violation of antitrust laws, according to a complaint filed Friday in San Francisco federal court. “These coordinated actions enabled the manufacturer defendants — the self-named ‘Fünfer-Kreise,’ or Circle of Five — to impose a German automobile premium on consumers premised on superior German engineering, while secretly stunting incentives to innovate,” the suit alleges.

The suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of U.S. drivers, says the companies agreed to limit the development of vehicle systems, including emissions control. The arrangement allegedly led to the development of so-called “defeat devices” used by Volkswagen to cheat on pollution tests. Plaintiffs claim the operation of convertible roofs, body design, brakes and electronic systems were also part of the “technological innovations inhibited” by the pacts. The supplier of VW’s cheat software, Robert Bosch Gmbh, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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“The added cost of insurance pushed 274,000 customers into delinquency..”

Elizabeth Warren has called on the Fed to remove Wells Fargo board members. I think if your legal system does not allow you to put these people behind bars, maybe you should look there first. Many of these people should be put before a judge and Wells Fargo should be forced to close. Institutions like that are diseases in a society.

Wells Fargo Faces Angry Questions After New Sales Abuses Uncovered (R.)

New revelations that Wells Fargo spent years enrolling unknowing borrowers in costly auto insurance has put the bank under new pressure to answer for a months-long scandal over sales practices that have harmed millions of Americans. The latest news that 800,000 Wells Fargo auto borrowers were improperly charged for insurance rattled investors yet again, and sent its stock down 2.6% on Friday. Shareholders, analysts, lawmakers and consumer advocates demanded answers about how the situation manifested, and why Wells Fargo did not disclose the problems sooner, given existing turmoil over phony deposit and credit card accounts opened in customers’ names without their permission.

“This is a full-blown scandal — again,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees public pension funds that hold roughly 11.6 million Wells Fargo shares. “It’s unbelievable, outrageous, sad, and yet quintessential Wells Fargo. This isn’t just a corporate debacle. It’s caused real human harm.” Stringer called on the bank to install a new independent chair and “immediately” disclose more information. Wells Fargo first became aware of potential problems a year ago, when the auto lending business began receiving an unusually high number of complaints, Franklin Codel, head of consumer lending, said in an interview. The auto insurance program was quickly suspended, and the problem escalated to senior management, the board and regulators, he said.

Wells Fargo planned to delay public disclosure until it could notify affected customers and reimburse them. “The problem with disclosing to the marketplace today or several months ago is customers start calling and asking when they’re going to get their money,” he said. “It’s not a great customer experience to say, ‘Yeah, we’ll get back to you.'” [..] Wall Street analysts expect the financial damage to go beyond the $80 million in reimbursements. In a note on Friday, Piper Jaffray’s Kevin Barker predicted the true cost would be “multiples” of that figure, with lawsuits and further customer remediation. The added cost of insurance pushed 274,000 customers into delinquency, and led to at least 20,000 wrongful repossessions, according to the Times.

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“Community bank” and Wells Fargo in one sentence. Take out the ones that are most guilty and go on as you were.

Wells Fargo Cuts 70 Senior Managers in Retail Bank After Accounts Scandal (BBG)

Wells Fargo, the lender struggling to overcome a fake-accounts scandal in its community bank, said the division’s new leader is cutting about 70 senior executive jobs. The lender will reduce the number of regional and area presidents to 91, Mary Mack, head of the retail bank, said Friday in a memo to staff, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. Bank spokeswoman Bridget Braxton confirmed the contents of the memo and said employees whose positions are eliminated will remain staff members for 60 days until further steps are decided. Most of the remaining managers will be re-titled as region bank presidents with direct responsibility for more employees than before, in a move aimed at reducing management levels across the branch network, Mack wrote.

Across its 10 geographical divisions, Wells Fargo previously employed 160 regional and area presidents. “Change is hard, yet change is necessary to make sure we are well positioned for the future,” Mack wrote. “In order to truly be better, we must put the right structure in place,” she added. The community-banking division, which houses the retail bank, has generated weaker profit since September when Wells Fargo was fined $185 million because employees had been opening accounts for more than a half decade without customers’ permission. This week, the firm’s consumer operations revealed another scandal, announcing that the bank had charged as many as 500,000 customers for auto insurance they didn’t need.

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“..Bill Gates who heads the largest digital technology company is on occasion second fiddle to Bezos who heads an online Sears or Macy’s.”

What Explains amazon.com’s Share Price? (PCR)

“Here are today’s top stories on Bloomberg” “Jeff Bezos briefly overtook Bill Gates as the world’s richest person. A surge in Amazon shares Thursday morning in advance of its earnings report gave Bezos a net worth of $92.3 billion, surpassing the Microsoft founder’s $90.8 billion fortune. In afternoon trading, Bezos remains ranked second on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Gates has held the top spot since May 2013.” Amazon’s stock closed yesterday at $1,046 per share. Amazon’s profits do not support this extraordinary price. Apple, a very profitable company, has a share price of $150.56, an overprice itself. What or who is making Bezos so rich from an online sales company? Note, amazon.com is just sales. It is not some new manufacturing technology that produces valuable output at low cost.

amazon.com is what Walmart, Sears, and Macy’s do, the difference being that amazon.com is online and Walmart, Sears, and Macy’s are in physical locations where real merchandise can be experienced hands on and tried on for fit. In other words, online purchases are convenient, but you don’t know what you are getting. Does it fit? What is the quality? And so forth. How many times do you send it back before you get what you want? There are two answers to the question about who is making Bezos rich. One is that Wall Street is betting that the collapse of US anti-trust law and regulatory authority—it is still on the books but not enforced, just look at the Big Banks—and the ability of Bezos to use his ownership of the Washington Post, the newspaper of the country’s capital, to support those who support him, ensure that amazon.com will be an online monopoly.

Once this is put in place, amazon’s prices and profits will rise, and the extraordinary amazon.com P/E ratio will come into line with reality. Another is that Bezos’ cooperation with Washington’s spy network over all Americans is paid for by the CIA’s many front companies driving up the price of amazon.com’s stock. As the price of amazon.com rises, so does Bezos’ wealth. I don’t know that either of these answers is correct. What I notice is that Bill Gates who heads the largest digital technology company is on occasion second fiddle to Bezos who heads an online Sears or Macy’s.

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Just in case you’re thinking things are a mess where you are. His brother is rumored to succeed him.

Panama Leaks and the Fall of Pakistan’s Prime Minister (Niaz)

On July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) rendered a unanimous verdict by a five-member bench that disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office. This outcome was the result of the Panama Leaks, which revealed that the premier and his family owned assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, seized on this issue and managed to compel Pakistan’s normally apathetic state institutions to take notice. For over a year, the premier and his family failed to explain how they acquired upscale properties in London. The ruling family dug themselves even deeper into the hole in their effort to establish some kind of cover for their acquisitions by being deliberately inaccurate before the SCP and even forging documents.

Surrounded by sycophants, the premier was evidently badly advised at each step and he and his family have paid a very high political price and could well face jail time. Pakistan has a long tradition of dragging its civilian chief executives over the coals. No prime minister has completed a regular term in office, their tenures cut short by assassination, civilian or military coups, judicial intervention, and intra-party machinations. Many premiers have been overthrown or dismissed for alleged abuse of power, mal-administration, and corruption. Nawaz Sharif and his family, in being unable to account for their wealth, and in their crude attempts at a cover up, have demonstrated that they are evidently crooks.

This said, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has done a better job of delivering on its campaign promises than any political party in Pakistan’s democratic experience. Pakistan’s energy crisis has eased, the economy is headed towards 6% annual growth, FDI is the highest in a decade, per capita income has risen perceptively, major cities have seen considerable investment in their infrastructure, and the gross level of terrorist violence has declined. Given that the ruling party won in 2013 with as many votes as the next two largest parties combined, its victory in 2018 seemed all but assured.

[..] Since 1947, Pakistan state elites have presided over a massive privatization of public wealth. Entitlements in the form of plots, perks, benefits, are part of an elaborate system of bureaucratically induced shortages that breed systemic corruption and undermines governance. Pakistani private and public sector corporations and entrepreneurs guzzle subsidies and thrive only in a cartelized environment. Any attempt by a government to rationalize the economy or improve productivity is met with howls of protest and demands for more subsidies. Pakistani professionals, be they lawyers, doctors, engineers, educators, behave like mafias, seeking to avoid ethical checks while relentlessly pursuing self-aggrandizement.

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We’ll eat our own crap yet. Garbage in, garbage out.

Plastic Microparticles Found In Flesh Of Fish Eaten By Humans (Ind.)

Plastic microparticles are getting into the flesh of fish eaten by humans, according to a new study. A team of scientists from Malaysia and France discovered a total of 36 tiny pieces of plastic in the bodies of 120 mackerel, anchovies, mullets and croakers. They warned that as plastic attracts toxins in the environment, these poisons could be released into people’s bodies after they ate the fish. The plastics found included nylon, polystyrene and polyethylene. Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers said: “The widespread distribution of microplastics in aquatic bodies has subsequently contaminated a diverse range of aquatic biota, including those sold for human consumption such as shellfish and mussels.

“Therefore, seafood products could be a major route of human exposure to microplastics. “Microplastics were suggested to exert their harmful effects by providing a medium to facilitate the transport of other toxic compounds such as heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants to the body of organisms. Upon ingestion, these chemicals may be released and cause toxicity.” They suggested people eating the fish examined in this study, which are often dried and sold across Malaysia and neighbouring countries, could consume up to 246 pieces of microplastic a year. However, they added: “The majority of the tested fish in this study did not contain microplastics. Therefore, it is less likely that an individual would ingest the suggested maximum number of microplastics per annum.”

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Feb 172017
 
 February 17, 2017  Posted by at 11:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
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John Collier Workmen at emergency office construction job, Washington, DC Dec 1941

 

Global Growth is All About China…Nothing but China (Econimica)
US Household Debt Is Dangerously Close To 2008 Levels (CNN)
“Seriously Delinquent” US Auto Loans Surge (WS)
3 Reasons The US Could Be Headed For A Fresh Debt Crisis (MW)
Fed President Says US Banks Have “Half The Equity They Need” (Black)
Harward Turns Down National Security Adviser Job Over Staffing Dispute (CBS)
The Swamp Strikes Back (Escobar)
Who’s Sucking Up All the World’s Safest Bonds? (WSJ)
Mary Jo White Seriously Misled the US Senate to Become SEC Chair (Martens)
European Financial Centres After Brexit (E.)
Putin Orders Russian Media To “Cut Back” On Positive Trump Coverage (ZH)
‘Bank Run’ under Capital Controls: Greeks withdraw €2.5bn in 45 days (KTG)

 

 

Let this sink in. Then realize how reliable Chinese numbers are. And that’s where all the ‘growth’ is in the world.

Global Growth is All About China…Nothing but China (Econimica)

Since 2000, China has been the nearly singular force for growth in global energy consumption and economic activity. However, this article will make it plain and simple why China is exiting the spotlight and unfortunately, for global economic growth, there is no one else to take center stage. To put things into perspective I’ll show this using four very inter-related variables…(1) total energy consumption, (2) core population (25-54yr/olds) size and growth, (3) GDP (flawed as it is), and (4) debt. First off, the chart below shows total global energy consumption (all fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, renewable, etc…data from US EIA) from 1980 through 2014, and the change per period. The growth in global energy consumption from ’00-’08 was astounding and an absolute aberration, nearly 50% greater than any previous period.

Of that growth in energy consumption, the chart below breaks down the sources of that growth among China (red), India/Africa (gold) and the rest of the world (blue). It’s plain to see the growth of Chinese energy consumption, the decelerating growth among the rest of the world, and the stagnant growth among India / Africa.

But here is the money chart, pointing out that the growth in energy consumption (by period) has shifted away from “the world” squarely to China. From 2008 through 2014 (most recent data available), 2/3rds or 66% of global energy consumption growth was China. Also very noteworthy is that India nor Africa have taken any more relevance, from a growth perspective, over time. The fate of global economic growth rests solely upon China’s shoulders.

The chart below shows China’s core population (annual change) again against total debt, GDP, and energy consumption. The reliance on debt creation as the core population growth decelerated is really hard not to see. This shrinking base of consumption will destroy the meme that a surging Chinese middle class will drive domestic and global consumption…but I expect this misconception will continue to be peddled for some time.

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Fewer delinquencies, says the Fed. But then look at the next article: “Seriously Delinquent” US Auto Loans Surge

US Household Debt Is Dangerously Close To 2008 Levels (CNN)

Total household debt climbed to $12.58 trillion at the end of 2016, an increase of $266 billion from the third quarter, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For the year, household debt ballooned by $460 billion — the largest increase in almost a decade. That means the debt loads of Americans are flirting with 2008 levels, when total consumer debt reached a record high of $12.68 trillion. Rising debt hints that banks are extending more credit. Mortgage originations increased to the highest level since the Great Recession. Mortgage balances make up the bulk of household debt and ended the year at $8.48 trillion. However, growth in non-housing debt – which includes credit card debt and student and auto loans – are key factors fueling the rebound in debt.

Student loan debt balances rose by $31 billion in the fourth quarter to a total of $1.31 trillion, according to the report. Auto loans jumped by $22 billion as new auto loan originations for the year climbed to a record high. Credit card debts rose by $32 billion to hit $779 billion. At these rates, the New York Fed expects household debt to reach its previous 2008 peak sometime this year. But while that may sound alarming, there is one big difference between now and 2008, according to the Fed: Fewer delinquencies. At the end of 2016, 4.8% of debts were delinquent, compared to 8.5% of total household debt in the third quarter of 2008. There were also less bankruptcy filings – a little more than 200,000 consumers had a bankruptcy added to their credit report in the final quarter of last year, a 4% drop from the same quarter in 2015.

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“There’s nothing like loading up consumers with debt to make central bankers outright giddy.”

“Seriously Delinquent” US Auto Loans Surge (WS)

Bank regulators have been warning, now it’s happening. The New York Fed, in its Household Debt and Credit Report for the fourth quarter 2016, put it this way today: “Household debt increases substantially, approaching previous peak.” It jumped by $226 billion in the quarter, or 1.8%, to the glorious level of $12.58 trillion, “only $99 billion shy of its 2008 third quarter peak.” Yes! Almost there! Keep at it! There’s nothing like loading up consumers with debt to make central bankers outright giddy. Auto loan balances in 2016 surged at the fastest pace in the 18-year history of the data series, the report said, driven by the highest originations of loans ever. Alas, what the auto industry has been dreading is now happening: Delinquencies have begun to surge.

This chart – based on data from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, which varies slightly from the New York Fed’s data – shows how rapidly auto loan balances have ballooned since the Great Recession. At $1.112 trillion (or $1.16 trillion according to the New York Fed), they’re now 35% higher than they’d been during the crazy peak of the prior bubble. Note that during the $93 billion increase in auto loan balances in 2016, new vehicle sales were essentially flat. No way that this is an auto loan bubble. Not this time. It’s sustainable. Or at least containable when it’s not sustainable, or whatever. These ballooning loans have made the auto sales boom possible.

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Not a new topic, but some useful numbers.

3 Reasons The US Could Be Headed For A Fresh Debt Crisis (MW)

Subprime car loansThe amount of total open car loans just topped $1 trillion, according to credit ratings firm Experian. But is that a sign of consumer confidence … or a cause for alarm? According to the latest data, from the third quarter of 2016, about 1 in 5 car loans are made to subprime borrowers, at an average interest rate of almost 11%. And broadly speaking, the average car loan in the U.S. is for a balance of almost $30,000 and a monthly payment of about $500. With stats like that, it’s no wonder the default rate on car loans is rising. A study by lending analysis firm Lending Times recently found that auto loan delinquencies are up over 21% compared with 2012 levels. A senior vice president at TransUnion, one of the three major credit rating bureaus, recently said he expects “a modest increase in delinquency” for auto loans going forward, too.

Just image what would happen if rates tick a bit higher. After all, if homeowners who were “underwater” on their homes in 2007 could shrug off the impact of a foreclosure on their credit report and simply walk away from a big mortgage, then why in the world would they stick with a double-digit interest rate on a car loan — especially as that car ages or breaks down? The real weight of these loans continues to hit the balance sheets of lenders, with net subprime losses continuing to march upward in December to 8.52%. Standard & Poor’s U.S. Auto Loan Tracker noted that while some of the acceleration was seasonal, “the year-over-year increases indicate that 2017’s losses could surpass last year’s levels.” No wonder the New York Fed called subprime auto debt a “significant concern” at the end of last year.

Student loans Hedge-fund guru Bill Ackman has said “I think that the government’s going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars” on student loans. And while that may sound like hysterics, when you consider that there is roughly $1.4 trillion in outstanding student debt, according to the Federal Reserve, that number doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Most of that is owned by the federal government via subsidized loans, too, with a recent Bloomberg report estimating the government owned some $850 billion in student loan debt as of 2014. Even a modest default rate would quite literally eat up hundreds of millions of dollars in a hurry. The losses for the government are disturbing, but at least can be made up with higher taxes or cuts elsewhere in the budget. There’s no relief for the millions of young Americans who are stuck paying for their college degree instead of spending on consumer goods.

Government-insured mortgagesAfter the collapse of subprime mortgages during the financial crisis, banks learned a hard lesson about these risky home loans. But if you think that means they avoided all loans to less-than-stellar borrowers, think again. The New York Fed recently juxtaposed the rise of government-insured mortgages vis-à-vis the decline in subprime lending to find that “government insurance programs rapidly expanded and more than filled the void.” That mirrors a report from ProPublica back in 2012 that estimated 9 in 10 mortgages issued at the time were being guaranteed by taxpayers via government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And while standards are moderately higher for loans with this government backstop than precrisis loans to subprime borrowers, “they are not low-risk loans,” write the New York Fed economists. “The combination of high leverage and low credit scores documented above translates into extremely high default rates.”

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It’s all about political power.

Fed President Says US Banks Have “Half The Equity They Need” (Black)

In a scathing editorial published in the Wall Street Journal today, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, blasted US banks, saying that they still lacked sufficient capital to withstand a major crisis. Kashkari makes a great analogy. When you’re applying for a mortgage or business loan, sensible banks are supposed to demand a 20% down payment from their borrowers. If you want to buy a $500,000 home, a conservative bank will loan creditworthy borrowers $400,000. The borrower must be able to scratch together a $100,000 down payment. But when banks make investments and buy assets, they aren’t required to do the same thing. Remember that when you deposit money at a bank, you’re essentially loaning them your savings.

As a bank depositor, you’re the lender. The bank is the borrower. Banks pool together their deposits and make various loans and investments. They buy government bonds, financial commercial trade, and fund real estate purchases. Some of their investment decisions make sense. Others are completely idiotic, as we saw in the 2008 financial meltdown. But the larger point is that banks don’t use their own money to make these investments. They use other people’s money. Your money. A bank’s investment portfolio is almost entirely funded with its customers’ savings. Very little of the bank’s own money is at risk. You can see the stark contrast here. If you as an individual want to borrow money to invest in something, you’re obliged to put down 20%, perhaps even much more depending on the asset.

Your down payment provides a substantial cushion for the bank; if you stop paying the loan, the value of the property could decline 20% before the bank loses any money. But if a bank wants to make an investment, they typically don’t have to put down a single penny. The bank’s lenders, i.e. its depositors, put up all the money for the investment. If the investment does well, the bank keeps all the profits. But if the investment does poorly, the bank hasn’t risked any of its own money. The bank’s lenders (i.e. the depositors) are taking on all the risk. This seems pretty one-sided, especially considering that in exchange for assuming all the risk of a bank’s investment decisions, you are rewarded with a miniscule interest rate that fails to keep up with inflation. (After which the government taxes you on the interest that you receive.) It hardly seems worth it.

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Murky.

Harward Turns Down National Security Adviser Job Over Staffing Dispute (CBS)

Vice Admiral Robert Harward has rejected President Trump’s offer to be the new national security adviser, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports. Sources close to the situation told Garrett Harward and the administration had a dispute over staffing the security council. Two sources close to the situation confirm Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted. Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.

Harward, a 60-year-old former Navy SEAL, served as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command under now-Defense Secretary James Mattis. He previously served as deputy commanding general for operations of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Harward has also commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan for six years after the 9/11 attacks. Under President George W. Bush, he served on the National Security Council as director of strategy and policy for the office of combating terrorism.

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As I said: the New Cold War is being fought INSIDE the US.

The Swamp Strikes Back (Escobar)

The tawdry Michael Flynn soap opera boils down to the CIA hemorrhaging leaks to the company town newspaper, leading to the desired endgame: a resounding victory for hardcore neocon/neoliberalcon US Deep State factions in one particular battle. But the war is not over; in fact it’s just beginning. Even before Flynn’s fall, Russian analysts had been avidly discussing whether President Trump is the new Victor Yanukovich – who failed to stop a color revolution at his doorstep. The Made in USA color revolution by the axis of Deep State neocons, Democratic neoliberalcons and corporate media will be pursued, relentlessly, 24/7. But more than Yanukovich, Trump might actually be remixing Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping: “crossing the river while feeling the stones”. Rather, crossing the swamp while feeling the crocs.

Flynn out may be interpreted as a Trump tactical retreat. After all Flynn may be back – in the shade, much as Roger Stone. If current deputy national security advisor K T McFarland gets the top job – which is what powerful Trump backers are aiming at – the shadowplay Kissinger balance of power, in its 21st century remix, is even strengthened; after all McFarland is a Kissinger asset. Flynn worked with Special Forces; was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); handled highly classified top secret information 24/7. He obviously knew all his conversations on an open, unsecure line were monitored. So he had to have morphed into a compound incarnation of the Three Stooges had he positioned himself to be blackmailed by Moscow.

What Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak certainly discussed was cooperation in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, and what Moscow might expect in return: the lifting of sanctions. US corporate media didn’t even flinch when US intel admitted they have a transcript of the multiple phone calls between Flynn and Kislyak. So why not release them? Imagine the inter-galactic scandal if these calls were about Russian intel monitoring the US ambassador in Moscow. No one paid attention to the two key passages conveniently buried in the middle of this US corporate media story. 1) “The intelligence official said there had been no finding inside the government that Flynn did anything illegal.” 2) “…the situation became unsustainable – not because of any issue of being compromised by Russia – but because he [Flynn] has lied to the president and the vice president.” Recap: nothing illegal; and Flynn not compromised by Russia. The “crime” – according to Deep State factions: talking to a Russian diplomat.

Vice-President Mike Pence is a key piece in the puzzle; after all his major role is as insider guarantor – at the heart of the Trump administration – of neocon Deep State interests. The CIA did leak. The CIA most certainly has been spying on all Trump operatives. Flynn though fell on his own sword. Classic hubris; his fatal mistake was to strategize by himself – even before he became national security advisor. “Mad Dog” Mattis, T. Rex Tillerson – both, by the way, very close to Kissinger – and most of all Pence did not like it one bit once they were informed.

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A big way in which central banks distort markets.

Who’s Sucking Up All the World’s Safest Bonds? (WSJ)

The world is running out of safe financial assets. One reason may be regulators’ push to make trading safer. A scarcity of safe collateral can create bouts of volatility in the markets where investors fund their purchases. Economists also worry that a lack of quality public-sector assets leads the private sector to create less reliable and riskier substitutes. Global rules increasingly require that investors deposit cash as security, called margin, when they trade with each other. This money is often left at clearinghouses, which are intermediaries that stand between buyers and sellers and step in if one of the parties won’t make good on a transaction. Regulators are trying to give these clearinghouses more heft to make the financial system safer.

The clearinghouses, in turn, have to do something with the cash, and they frequently take it to repurchase, or “repo,” markets, where they lend it out in exchange for high-quality assets such as German bunds or U.S. Treasurys. That has the effect of vacuuming up safe assets. Paradoxically, cash—at least its electronic form—isn’t ultrasafe: It needs to be left in bank deposits, and even the strongest banks have some risk. Treasurys and bunds don’t. Europe’s dearth of safe assets is especially acute. According to a semiannual survey released Tuesday by the International Capital Market Association, demand for collateral in the eurozone increased significantly in the second half of 2016. The ECB and other central banks across the developed world have been blamed for this safe-asset scarcity because they have bought trillions of dollars worth of government bonds in a bid to boost economic growth.

However, during a speech last month, ECB official Yves Mersch pointed to clearinghouses as a key culprit, and warned that “the requirements for trades to be centrally cleared are still being introduced, so the demand from market infrastructure to exchange cash for collateral will rise.” Data are scarce, but the latest figures from the Bank for International Settlements show that more than half of the notional amount outstanding of derivatives transactions was centrally cleared by the end of 2014, after new regulation was enacted—twice as much as in 2009.

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“Americans will continue to be relegated to the status of dumb tourist in their own country.”

Mary Jo White Seriously Misled the US Senate to Become SEC Chair (Martens)

Less than two weeks after Mary Jo White was nominated to become Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission by President Barack Obama on January 24, 2013, White filed an ethics disclosure letter advising that she would “retire” from her position representing Wall Street banks at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. White wrote on this subject in great detail, stating:

“Upon confirmation, I will retire from the partnership of Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP. Following my retirement, the law firm will not owe me an outstanding partnership share for either 2012 or any part of 2013. As a retired partner, I will be entitled to the use of secretarial services, office space and a blackberry at the firm’s expense. For the duration of my appointment, I will forgo these three benefits, though I may pay for some secretarial services at my own expense. Pursuant to the Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP Partners Retirement Program, I will receive monthly lifetime retirement payments from the firm commencing the month after my retirement. However, within 60 days of my appointment, the firm will make a lump sum payment, in lieu of making monthly retirement payments for the next four years. Within 60 days of my appointment, I also will receive payouts of my interest in the Debevoise & Plimpton LLP Cash Balance Retirement plan and my capital account.”

Yesterday it was widely reported in the business press that Mary Jo White is returning to her former law firm as a partner representing clients who face government investigations. She will also fill the newly created position of Senior Chair of the law firm. This news is highly significant because it would appear that the U.S. Senate was seriously misled by White’s ethics letter in its deliberations to confirm her as the top cop of Wall Street. The news is also highly significant because it will mark the fourth time in four decades that Mary Jo White has spun through the revolving doors of Debevoise & Plimpton (where she represented serial law violators) to government service (prosecuting serial law violators).

[..] Until there is meaningful legislative reform of political campaign financing and revolving door appointments, Americans will continue to be relegated to the status of dumb tourist in their own country.

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Bankers have too much money and too much power.

European Financial Centres After Brexit (E.)

“WHEN the vote took place,” says Valérie Pécresse, “it was an opportunity for us to promote Île de France”, the region around Paris of which she is the elected head. Two advertising campaigns were prepared, depending on the result of Britain’s referendum last June on leaving the European Union. The unused copy ran: “You made one good decision. Make another. Choose Paris region.” Brexit has made Paris bolder. Once Britain leaves Europe’s single market, the many international banks and other firms that have made London their EU home will lose the “passports” that allow them to serve clients in the other 27 states. Possibly, mutual recognition by Britain and the EU of each other’s regulatory regimes will persist. But no one can rely on the transition to Brexit being smooth, rather than a feared “cliff edge”. Best to assume the worst.

Britain is expected to start the two-year process of withdrawal next month. Given the time needed to get approval from regulators, find offices and move (or hire) staff, financial firms have long been weighing their options. London will remain Europe’s leading centre, but other cities are keen to take what they can. The Parisians are pushing hardest, pitching their city as London’s partner and peer. “I don’t see the relationship with London as a rivalry,” says Ms Pécresse. “The rivalry is not with London but with Dublin, Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Frankfurt.” Especially, it seems, Frankfurt. Paris has more big local banks, more big companies and more international schools than its German rival. London apart, say the French team, it is Europe’s only “global city”. When, they smirk, did you last take your partner to Frankfurt for the weekend?

This month the Parisians were in London, briefing 80 executives from banks, asset managers, private-equity firms and fintech companies. They are keen to dispel France’s image as an interventionist, high-tax, work-shy place. The headline corporate-tax rate is 33.3% but due to fall to 28% by 2020. A scheme giving income-tax breaks to high earners who have lived outside France for at least five years will now apply for eight years after arrival or return, not five. The Socialists, who run the city itself, and Ms Pécresse’s Republicans are joined in a business-friendly “sacred union”, says Gérard Mestrallet, president of Paris Europlace, which promotes the financial centre. Ms Pécresse and others play down the risk that Marine Le Pen, of the far-right, Eurosceptic National Front will win the presidential election this spring.

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“Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?” the U.S. president tweeted.

Putin Orders Russian Media To “Cut Back” On Positive Trump Coverage (ZH)

Trump’s honeymoon with capital markets is on the rocks, kept alive only by the occasional soundbite about “massive” or “phenomenal” tax cuts; it now appears that the US president’s – until recently – amicable relationship with Russia is also quickly souring. According to Bloomberg, the Kremlin has ordered Russian state media to cut “way back” on their fawning coverage of President Donald Trump, in what three sources told BBG is a “reflection of growing concern among senior Russian officials that the new U.S. administration will be less friendly than first thought.” The Russian president has defended his decision saying it is the result of declining interest among the Russian viewers in Trump’s rise to power, but Bloomberg adds that some of the most popular TV segments on Trump touched on ideas the Kremlin would rather not promote, such as his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

The suggestion is that since Trump is looking to end governmental corruption, the “authoritarian” Putin should be worried; and yet instead of “draining the swamp” Trump has filled it by surrounded himself with precisely those bankers he used as populist examples of all that is wrong with the government. As such, Putin should greet Trump’s failed “swamp draining” although that part did not make it into the Bloomberg report. Putin’s decree comes at a time of rising anti-Russian sentiment in Washington, where U.S. spy and law-enforcement agencies are conducting multiple investigations to determine the full extent of contacts Trump’s advisers had with Russia during and after the 2016 election campaign.

According to Bloomberg, the order marks a stark turnaround from just a few weeks ago when Russia hailed Trump’s presidential victory as the beginning of a new era of cooperation between the former Cold War foes. “Trump’s campaign was watched with rapture as news anchors gushed over the novelty of hearing an American presidential candidate praise Putin. But the wall-to-wall coverage went too far for the Kremlin’s liking.” In January, Trump reportedly received more mentions in the media than Putin, relegating the Russian leader to the No. 2 spot for the first time since he returned to the Kremlin in 2012 after four years as premier, according to Interfax data.”

That said, there has certainly been a chilling in relations between Trump and Putin. In recent weeks, numerous White House officials, including Trump, have criticized Russia for its annexation of Crimea and the subsequent violence in Ukraine. Trump on Wednesday accused Putin of seizing Crimea from Ukraine in a series of Twitter posts that were delivered amid a flurry of allegations that his team has ties to Russia. “Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?” the U.S. president tweeted. As Bloomberg concludes, Russian officials, who had readily commented to local media on earlier news from Washington, suddenly became less talkative after the Crimea comment. And so, with Trump-Putin relations suddenly in purgatory, and Trump’s domestic “Russia-facing” exposure in chaos, it is now unclear how Trump will pivot away to restore what many had hoped would lead to a restoration in normal relations between the two countries.

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And there we go again.

‘Bank Run’ under Capital Controls: Greeks withdraw €2.5bn in 45 days (KTG)

Delays in the talks between Greece and its lenders have brought back the ghost of Grexit. The grave disagreement between the IMF and the European lenders, Grexit bombshell flying around and Greece’s reluctance to accept additional austerity measures have increase uncertainty among citizens – for one more time. And what do citizens do when they feel political and economical insecurity? The run to banks and withdraw deposits. 2.5 billion euros left Greek banks in the last 45 days. And this despite the capital controls that allow Greeks to withdraw a maximum of just €1,800 per month. However, in better situation are those who brought back cash to the banks. Cash that was largely withdrawn before the capital controls were imposed in July 2015 as a result of a major bank run from November 2014 until end of June 2015.

Those who pulled the cash from under the mattress and brought it to bank are allowed to withdraw money above the €1800 cap. According to newspaper Eidiseis, the cash withdrawal in the last 45 days has set bankers in alert. In addition to cash withdrawals, business loans and mortgage, amounting a total of €500 million, turned red. A sign that the delay in the conclusion of the second review has increased uncertainty among the Greeks, as the daily notes. Speaking to the daily, sources from the Union of Greek Banks said that “time is not working in our favor.” They stressed that the government and the lenders should reach a compromise. Beginning of February, Greek websites for economic news had reported that more than one billion euros was withdrawn in January 2017.

According to a report of November 2015, more than €120 billion left the Greek banks during the years of the crisis. €45 billion left the banks during November 2014 – 2015. 80% of this amount, that is some €36 billion are been kept in homes, company safes or in bank lockers.

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Dec 272016
 
 December 27, 2016  Posted by at 9:47 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
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Konstantinos Polychronopoulos, Athens Christmas Day 2016

Recession, Market Crash Next Year, Expect Rate Cuts: Rickards (CNBC)
Did Donald Trump Just Jump The ‘Dow 20,000’ Shark? (ZH)
Yuan Trading Volume Has Been Surging In December (BBG)
ECB: Monte dei Paschi Must Now Raise €8.8 Billion After Recent Withdrawals (R.)
War & The Rejection of Peace (Rossini)
Israel Claims ‘Evidence’ That Obama Orchestrated UN Resolution (G.)
Corbyn Hits Back After Obama Suggests Labour Is ‘Disintegrating’ (G.)
Hard Brexit ‘Could Boost UK Economy By £24 Billion’: Pro-Leave Group (Ind.)
Mervyn King: Britain Should Be More Upbeat About Brexit (G.)
EU Faces Two Major Problems – And Has Answers To Neither: King (Ind.)
Exit, Hope and Change (Jim Kunstler)
Cheetahs Heading Towards Extinction As Population Crashes (BBC)
The Automatic Earth in Greece: Big Dreams for 2017 (Automatic Earth)

 

 

“..a “head-on collision” between perception and reality…”

Recession, Market Crash Next Year, Expect Rate Cuts: Rickards (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates just two weeks ago for the second time in a decade, but it will soon be cutting them again, said Jim Rickards on Tuesday. Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box, the director of The James Rickards Project said a stock market correction is coming as President-elect Donald Trump’s economic stimulus plans will not pan out, causing a “head-on collision” between perception and reality. “When the reality of no stimulus catches up with the perception of stimulus plus the Fed tightening: that’s the train wreck. Either we’re going to have a recession or a stock market correction,” he said. The markets have been rallying on the back of Trump’s win as investors bet on tax cuts and fiscal spending under the new administration.

However, “the stimulus is not going to come” as Trump’s proposed tax cuts will hit government revenue while the Congress is likely to block his stimulus plans as the U.S. is already $20 trillion in debt, Rickards added. This will lead to a recession or a “very severe correction” in the stock market, prompting rate cuts later next year, he said, prompting the Fed to cut rates. “They will raise (rates) in March and then something will hit the wall, either the economy or the stock market or both. Then the Fed will backpedal from there, starting with a forward guidance then perhaps a rate cut later in the year,” said Rickards, who recommends holding gold and U.S. 10-year Treasurys.

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Ominous.

Did Donald Trump Just Jump The ‘Dow 20,000’ Shark? (ZH)

It appears the sugar-high from holiday celebrations is still running through president-elect Trump's veins as his tweets took an even more narcisistic tone on this oh-so-aptly-named 'Boxing Day' in America. First Trump decided to take credit for the unprecedented short-squeeze in US stock markets – and the Christmas spending numbers…

We just wonder what he will sat if/when Goldman Sachs stops rising and stocks tumble ("never gonna happen", probably The Fed's fault after all), but perhaps even more importantly, how does he feel about the $1.2 trillion of value he has erased from global capital markets since his election?

 

The drop in global debt and equity values in Q4 2016 is very reminiscent of the drop into 2015's Fed rate hike… which did not end well…

 

But, the last time that global stocks and global bonds decoupled so aggressively was following the end of QE3… here's what happened next…

But it's probably different this time, right? China is fine (oh wait, failed auctions and liquidity crisis), Europe is fine (oh wait, Italian banks are collapsing), and the US economy is great (oh wait, automakers are shuttering plants due to credit-created excess inventory).

*  *  *

But Trump was not done there, he took on the arrogance of Obama, as we detailed earlier

Invincible politician and stock market savior…Let's just hope nothing goes wrong to break that narrative in the next 4 years (or 4 weeks).

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Beijing will be forced to take very unpopular decisions. Xi signaled tolerance for a lower growth target, and whoops goes the money. They’re stuck in their own bubbles.

Yuan Trading Volume Has Been Surging In December (BBG)

The onshore yuan’s surging trading volume is another piece of evidence that capital is fleeing China at a faster pace. The daily average value of transactions in Shanghai climbed to $34 billion in December as of Monday, the highest since at least April 2014, according to data from China Foreign Exchange Trade System. That’s up 51% from the first 11 months of the year. The increase suggests quickening outflows, given that data in recent months showed banks were net sellers of the yuan, according to Harrison Hu at RBS This month’s jump in trading volume signals sentiment has kept deteriorating since November, when the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves shrank by the most since January.

The Chinese currency is headed for its steepest annual slump in more than two decades and when the year turns, authorities will be faced with a triple whammy of the renewal of citizens’ $50,000 conversion quota, prospects of further Federal Reserve interest-rate increases, and concern that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may slap punitive tariffs on China’s exports to the world’s largest economy. “Capital outflow pressures will stay, and in near term, we should monitor the impact upon the reset of the annual quota,” said Frances Cheung at Societe Generale. The pressures will likely ease toward the end of the first quarter as foreign flows into China’s bond market quicken, she said.

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If it quacks like a typical bank run… Don’t you think they could perhaps have done this deal in silence?

ECB: Monte dei Paschi Must Now Raise €8.8 Billion After Recent Withdrawals (R.)

The ECB has told Monte dei Paschi it needs to plug a capital shortfall of €8.8 billion, higher than a previous €5 billion gap estimated by the bank, the lender said on Monday, confirming what sources told Reuters. Last Friday the Italian government approved a decree to bail out Monte dei Paschi after Italy’s No. 3 lender failed to win investor backing for a desperately needed €5 billion capital increase. The bank said on Monday it had officially asked the ECB last Friday for go ahead for a “precautionary recapitalization”. A precautionary recapitalization is a type of state intervention in a struggling bank that is still solvent. It means only a modest bail-in of investors though the government can buy shares or bonds only on market terms endorsed by EU state aid officials in Brussels.

In its reply, the ECB said it had calculated the capital it believed the bank needed on the basis of a shortfall emerging from European stress test of large lenders earlier this year. In those tests Monte dei Paschi was the only Italian bank to come short under an adverse scenario. The ECB said the lender was solvent but signaled the bank’s liquidity position had rapidly deteriorated between the end of November and December 21, Monte dei Paschi said. [..] The European Commission said on Friday it would work with Rome to establish conditions were met for a bailout of Monte dei Paschi. But on Monday ECB policymaker Jens Weidmann said plans for a state bailout of Monte dei Paschi should be weighed carefully as many questions remain to be answered.

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“..He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but ended up invading 7 countries. He also became the very first U.S. President to be at continuous war during his entire 8 years in office…”

War & The Rejection of Peace (Rossini)

Try to think of a time in your life when the U.S. government was not militarily involved somewhere in the world. It’s a sad fact that a vast majority of us can’t recall such a time. [..] When war is all that a population knows to exist, the idea of peace becomes an anomaly. We all know that people are habitual. We cling to our habits (good and bad) and resist the unknown where change can occur. Well, in America the unknown has become peace! How sad to think that the idea of peace actually terrifies so many people both in and out of government. One can at least understand why governments would want to avoid peace. As Randolph Bourne famously pointed: “War is the health of the state.” During times of war, government capitalizes on the fear that it generates and concomitantly seizes unbelievable powers for itself.

We can at least see the benefit to government and those with a lust for power and the ability to dominate others. But what’s in it for the people? Here we can quote Samuel B. Pettengill who said: “War – after all, what is it that the people get? Why – widows, taxes, wooden legs and debt.” Sounds like a raw deal for the people. And yet, Americans have sat idly by, and have turned a blind eye to an incredible list of military interventions over the years. More war, less liberty …. More war, less liberty …. If it happens over an administration or two, it can be spun as government losing its way to a few bad apples. But 100+ years of more war, less liberty? That’s a system!

[..] There is a tremendous amount of upside to war for those who are in power. It provides them with an opportunity to swipe away liberties at an exponential pace. The populace will give up virtually everything. Is it any wonder that those in power run away from even the prospect of peace? We’re soon about to have a new president, and he’s coming into office with a lot of expectations. The outgoing president had high expectations as well. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but ended up invading 7 countries. He also became the very first U.S. President to be at continuous war during his entire 8 years in office. Will this new president keep the boots of war firmly pressed against American throats? Will he continue the asphyxiation of the American Dream?

So far, when it comes to the insane idea of confronting a nuclear Russia, he has shown admirable qualities of restraint and cordial behavior. Will that continue through his presidential term? Or will he keep the century old American tradition of military adventurism overseas? The world is much bigger than Russia. There are plenty of other places that America can mire itself. There are other nuclear powers (like China) where trouble can be fomented. The president-elect has already shown that he has a bone to pick with the Chinese. Are we merely exchanging trouble with one nuclear power for another? Let’s hope that Donald Trump doesn’t repeat the mistakes of history. Let’s hope that he doesn’t become just another bad example for future generations to study.

Wouldn’t it be nice for Americans to someday be born into a life of liberty and peace? That was the original idea in the ‘land of the free’. A return to a foreign policy of non-interventionism and peace is desperately needed.

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Quite the allegation.

Israel Claims ‘Evidence’ That Obama Orchestrated UN Resolution (G.)

Israel has escalated its already furious war with the outgoing US administration, claiming that it has “rather hard” evidence that Barack Obama was behind a critical UN security council resolution criticising Israeli settlement building, and threatening to hand over the material to Donald Trump. The latest comments come a day after the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, was summoned by Netanyahu to explain why the US did not veto the vote and instead abstained. The claims have emerged in interviews given by close Netanyahu allies to US media outlets on Monday after the Obama administration denied in categorical terms the claims originally made by Netanyahu himself.

However, speaking to Fox News on Sunday, David Keyes – a Netanyahu spokesman – said Arab sources, among others, had informed Jerusalem of Obama’s alleged involvement in advancing the resolution. “We have rather iron-clad information from sources in both the Arab world and internationally that this was a deliberate push by the United States and in fact they helped create the resolution in the first place,” Keyes said. Doubling down on the claim a few hours later the controversial Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, went even further suggesting it had gathered evidence that it would present to the incoming Trump administration. “We will present this evidence to the new administration through the appropriate channels. If they want to share it with the American people, they are welcome to do it,” Dermer told CNN.

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Curious things for Obama to say. It’s not obvious enough yet that his own party has fallen apart?

Corbyn Hits Back After Obama Suggests Labour Is ‘Disintegrating’ (G.)

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn has hit back after Barack Obama appeared to suggest that the Labour party has moved away from “fact and reality” and is disintegrating. The spokesman said the Labour leader “stands for what most people want” and suggested that the outgoing president’s Democratic party needed to “challenge power if they are going to speak for working people”. Obama had earlier said he was not worried when asked if the US Democrats could undergo “Corbynisation” and “disintegrate” like Labour in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s election defeat by Donald Trump. The departing US president was giving an in-depth interview, in which he also said he would have won the 8 November contest if he ran for a third term, to David Axelrod, formerly an adviser to Corbyn’s predecessor as Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

The 55-year-old compared the way the Labour party and the US Republicans had chosen to swing away from the middle ground and claimed even left-wing senator Bernie Sanders was a centrist compared to Corbyn. Asked about a potential “Corbynisation” of his party, he said: “I don’t worry about that partly because I think that the Democratic party has stayed pretty grounded in fact and reality.” He added: “[The Republican party] started filling up with all kinds of conspiracy-theorising that became kind of common wisdom or conventional wisdom within the Republican party base. That hasn’t happened in the Democratic party. I think people like the passion that Bernie brought, but Bernie Sanders is a pretty centrist politician relative to … Corbyn or relative to some of the Republicans.” In response Corbyn’s spokesman said: “Both Labour and US Democrats will have to challenge power if they are going to speak for working people and change a broken system that isn’t delivering for the majority.

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They’re going to continue to fight over this for much longer.

Hard Brexit ‘Could Boost UK Economy By £24 Billion’: Pro-Leave Group (Ind.)

The UK economy could benefit by £24bn a year – more than £450m a week – by leaving the European single market and customs union, a pro-Brexit pressure group has claimed. The Change Britain group said that the option – which it describes as “clean Brexit” – is likely to deliver annual savings of almost £10.4bn from contributions to the EU budget and £1.2bn from scrapping “burdensome” regulations, while allowing the UK to forge new trade deals worth £12.3bn. The group said its estimate was “very conservative” and that the benefits of withdrawal from the single market and customs union could be as much as £38.6bn a year. Even the lowest forecast within its range of likely outcomes was a boost of £20bn.

But the figure does not factor in the possibility of large-scale loss of exports to the remaining 27 EU nations, which advocates of a “soft Brexit” argue could happen if the UK faces tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade as a result of leaving the single market. Britain exported around £220bn of goods and services to the EU in 2015, while imports from the EU totalled around £290bn. Change Britain said that the biggest prize on offer was in potential trade agreements outside the EU which Britain could strike if it left the customs union, which requires it to take part only in deals negotiated by the European Commission. Depending on how many deals the UK secures, GDP could be boosted by between £8.5bn and £19.8bn, said Change Britain.

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Might as well. It’s just that King has been ‘unlucky’ in his predictions for years.

Mervyn King: Britain Should Be More Upbeat About Brexit (G.)

Britain may be better off going for a hard Brexit that would mean leaving the single market and customs union, Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, has suggested. Lord King, who has been more optimistic about leaving the EU than many economic commentators, acknowledged that Brexit would bring great political difficulties and would not be a “bed of roses”. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he also said there would be many opportunities economically for the UK striking out on its own. The crossbench peer, who led the bank for a decade until 2013, said the UK should leave the European single market and warned there were “real question marks” over whether it should seek to remain in the customs union, which would limit its ability to forge trade deals on its own.

Theresa May’s cabinet is split on the issue of the single market and customs union, with the most pro-Brexit ministers seeking a clean break and others warning of the economic dangers of being cut adrift from the UK’s closest trading partners. King said before the referendum that warnings of economic doom about leaving the EU were overstated. Since then, he has welcomed the fall in the pound and said he believes Britain can be better off out than in the EU. He told the BBC on Boxing Day: “I think the challenges we face mean it’s not a bed of roses – no one should pretend that – but equally it is not the end of the world and there are some real opportunities that arise from the fact of Brexit we might take. “There are many opportunities and I think we should look at it in a much more self-confident way than either side is approaching it at present. Being out of what is a pretty unsuccessful European Union – particularly in the economic sense – gives us opportunities as well as obviously great political difficulties.”

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At least he’s right on this.

EU Faces Two Major Problems – And Has Answers To Neither: King (Ind.)

The European Union is facing “existential problems” over migration and the single currency for which it does not yet have the answers, former Bank of England governor Lord King has warned. Lord King said the scale of the crises was such that Brexit amounted to little more than “minor irritant” by comparison. And he suggested that the factor which could bring the problems to a head was German voters asking whether they want to remain part of a project which involves them propping up less competitive eurozone economies like Italy, Portugal and France. Lord King said that the single currency project was flawed from the start, and that it would probably have been better to create two monetary unions for “premier league” and “second division” economies. But he said it was too late to move to this model now.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the former governor said: “I think the EU is facing two existential problems and it has answers to neither of them. “The first is the fate of the monetary union, which even the ECB is saying is in a critical position and needs major reform. “Secondly, migration from outside the EU into the EU and the knock-on consequences of that for the free movement of people. “I don’t think they have answers for either of those issues and it is a real crisis for the EU. “British membership is irrelevant to these two questions and from that perspective I think they regard our decision to leave the EU as a minor irritant.” Lord King said it was impossible to put any timescale on when the problems of the eurozone might come to a head. But he said: “They simply haven’t put in place the framework to make it a success, desperately trying to struggle from one month to the next.

“For a long period they were relying on the confidence that financial markets had in the words of (ECB) president Mario Draghi that they would do ‘whatever it takes’. But I think words in the end run out and you need to back them up by actions. “The problem now is that people in Germany and other countries in the northern part of the EU are deeply reluctant – understandably – to pay for countries in the south. That wasn’t the prospectus they were offered when they joined the monetary union. “In the long run, it would make some sense to recognise that it was a mistake to go to monetary union as early as 1999. I think they might have been able to divide it into two divisions – a premier league and a second division – but I think it may be too late to do. If you look at economies like Italy, Portugal and even France, they are really struggling.

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Excellent from Jim, and that’s before his predictions for 2017.

Exit, Hope and Change (Jim Kunstler)

From the get-go, he made himself hostage to some of the most sinister puppeteers of the Deep State: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner on the money side, and the Beltway Neocon war party infestation on the foreign affairs side. I’m convinced that the top dogs of both these gangs worked Obama over woodshed-style sometime after the 2008 election and told him to stick with the program, or else. What was the program? On the money side, it was to float the banks and the whole groaning daisy chain of their dependents in shadow finance, real estate, and insurance, at all costs. Hence, the extension of Bush Two’s bailout policy with the trillion-dollar “shovel-ready” stimulus, the rescue of the car-makers, and a much greater and surreptitious multi-trillion dollar hand-off from the Federal Reserve to backstop the European banks with counter-party obligations to US banks.

In April of 2009, Obama’s new SEC appointees, strong-armed by bank lobbyists, pushed the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) into suspending their crucial Rule 157, which had required publically-held companies to report their asset holdings based on standard market-based valuation procedures — called “mark-to-market.” After that, companies like Too-Big-Too-Fail banks could just make shit up. This opened the door to the pervasive accounting fraud that allowed the financial sector to pretend it was healthy for the eight years that followed. The net effect of their criminal fakery was to only make the financial sector artificially larger, more dangerously fragile, and more prone to cataclysmic collapse.

[..]in foreign affairs, there is Obama’s mystifying campaign against the Russian Federation. The US had an agreement with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union that we would not expand NATO if they gave us a quantity of nuclear material that was in danger of falling into questionable hands in the disorder that followed the collapse. Russia complied. What did we do? We expanded NATO to include most of the former eastern European countries (except the remnants of Yugoslavia), and then under Obama, NATO began holding war games on Russia’s border. For what reason? The fictitious notion that Russia wanted to “take back” these nations — as if they needed to adopt a host of dependents that had only recently bankrupted the Soviet state. Any reasonable analysis would call these war games naked aggression by the West.

Then there was the 2014 US State Department-sponsored coup against Ukraine’s elected government and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych. Why? Because his government wanted to join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union instead of an association with European Union. We didn’t like that and we decided to oppose it by subverting the Ukrainian government. In the violence and disorder that ensued, Russia took back the Crimea — which had been gifted to the former Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic (a province of Soviet Russia) one drunken night by the Ukraine-born Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. What did we expect after turning Ukraine into another failed state? The Crimean peninsula had been part of Russia for longer than the US had been a country. Its only warm water naval ports were located there.

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One by one they leave us.

Cheetahs Heading Towards Extinction As Population Crashes (BBC)

The sleek, speedy cheetah is rapidly heading towards extinction according to a new study into declining numbers. The report estimates that there are just 7,100 of the world’s fastest mammals now left in the wild. Cheetahs are in trouble because they range far beyond protected areas and are coming increasingly into conflict with humans. The authors are calling for an urgent re-categorisation of the species from vulnerable to endangered. According to the study, more than half the world’s surviving cheetahs live in one population that ranges across six countries in southern Africa. Cheetahs in Asia have been essentially wiped out. A group estimated to number fewer than 50 individuals clings on in Iran.


ZSL

Because the cheetah is one of the widest-ranging carnivores, it roams across lands far outside protected areas. Some 77% of their habitat falls outside these parks and reserves. As a result, the animal struggles because these lands are increasingly being developed by farmers and the cheetah’s prey is declining because of bushmeat hunting. In Zimbabwe, the cheetah population has fallen from around 1,200 to just 170 animals in 16 years, with the main cause being major changes in land tenure. [..] “The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough,” said Dr Kim Young-Overton from Panthera, another author on the report. “We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-reaching cats inhabit, if we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the cheetah forever.”

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We had a great Christmas Day live cooking event in Monastiraki square in Athens (see photos). I’ll get back to you on that. Donations through Paypal -top left hand corner of this page- of course remain welcome.

The Automatic Earth in Greece: Big Dreams for 2017 (Automatic Earth)

Both Konstantinos and myself -and all the other volunteers at O Allos Anthropos- want to thank you so much for all the help you’ve given over the past year -and in 2015-. If I may make a last suggestion, please forward this ‘dream’ to anyone you know -and even those you don’t-, by mail, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, word of mouth, any which way you can think of. Go to your local mayor or town council, suggest they can help and get -loudly- recognized for it. There may be a dream involved for 2017, but that was our notion a year ago as well, and look what we’ve achieved a year later: it is very real indeed. And anyone, everyone can become part of that reality for just a few bucks. If the institutions won’t do it, perhaps the people themselves should. That doesn’t even sound all that crazy or farfetched. There’s a lot of us.


Konstantinos Polychronopoulos, Athens Christmas Day 2016

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Sep 302016
 
 September 30, 2016  Posted by at 9:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle September 30 2016
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NPC Auto races, Rockville Fair, Montgomery County, Maryland 1923

Deutsche Bank Shares Fall Below €10 First Time Ever; Commerzbank Down 6% (CNBC)
Gundlach: The Market Will Keep Pushing Deutsche Lower Till It’s Bailed Out (ZH)
Deutsche Bank Hedge Fund Clients Reduce Derivatives Exposure (BBG)
Fines, Withdrawals, Job Cuts. It Was an Ugly Day for Global Banks (BBG)
U.S. Stocks Retreat as Deutsche Bank Woes Hit Financial Shares (BBG)
Germany Under Pressure To Show It’s Ready To Rescue Deutsche Bank (CNBC)
Deutsche Bank Exposes Europe’s Capital Shortfall (BBG)
Commerzbank To Axe Nearly 10,000 Jobs (R.)
ING, Largest Dutch Lender, To Announce Thousands Of Job Cuts (BBG)
China Factories Limp Along, Japan Inflation Goes Backwards (R.)
‘This Is Just The Start’: China’s Passion For Foreign Property (G.)
More Wealth, More Jobs, Just Not for Everyone (NYT)
Trump Isn’t All Wrong About The Fed (WSJ)
Society Goes Through Painful, Cathartic Change – Dave Collum (CR)
Iceland’s Pirates Head For Power On Wave Of Public Anger (R.)
Erdogan Disputes 1923 Treaty Of Lausanne, Athens Responds (Kath.)

 

 

How can Merkel NOT bail out/bail in Deutsche over the weekend?

Deutsche Bank Shares Fall Below €10 First Time Ever; Commerzbank Down 6% (CNBC)

Shares of Deutsche Bank fell 7% at the start of the European trading session Friday, amid capital concerns following a proposed settlement by the U.S. Department of Justice and a report that some hedge funds were reducing their exposure to the embattled bank. The German lender’s stock has been on wild ride in recent weeks and dipped below 10 euros a share on Friday morning, a new record low for its European-listed shares. By 9.30 a.m. London time the stock had pared some losses to trade around 5.7% lower. The German DAX was down 1.7% and the banking sector as a whole in Europe was down 3%.

Rival German lender Commerzbank saw its shares fall 6.5% after announcing job cuts on Thursday and a plan to cut its dividend. Other European lenders like Unicredit, Barclays and Credit Agricole also saw hefty losses as the session progressed. The cost of insuring Deutsche Bank’s debt against default jumped by 21 basis points on Friday, according to data from Markit, and trading in Deutsche Bank’s so-called “CoCo” bonds – widely-watched contingent convertible bonds – set a new record low, according to Dow Jones. These bonds are converted into equity once a specified event has occurred (if the bank were to undergo a precautionary recapitalization, for instance).

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Vigilantes wake up.

Gundlach: The Market Will Keep Pushing Deutsche Lower Till It’s Bailed Out (ZH)

With stunned investors reliving memories of the 2008 crisis as Deutsche Bank, a bank that is half the size of its host, Germany, seemingly on the precipice, and with Angela Merkel vowing as recently as this weekend not to bailout the bank, the market felt paralyzed: should it BTFD as it always has every time in the past 7 years, or should it wait for more clarity from the bailouters-in-chief before allocating capital to another riskless transaction, which may well be the next Lehman brothers. Not helping matters was Jeffrey Gundlach, who as part of his weekly chat with Reuters’ Jennifer Ablan said that should tread lightly carefully when trading Deutsche Bank shares because a government bailout is not out of the question. The problem is how does one get to it. “I would just stay away.

It’s un-analyzable,” Gundlach said about Deutsche Bank shares and debt. “It’s too binary.” Gundlach said investors who are betting against shares in Deutsche Bank might find it futile. Maybe, but not if they cover their shorts before the max pain point, something which the market – where equity/CDS pair trades now allow a “go for default” strategy – will actively seek out. “The market is going to push down Deutsche Bank until there is some recognition of support. They will get assistance, if need be.” What happens then? “One day, Deutsche Bank shares will go up 40%. And it will be the day the government bails them out. That jump will happen in a minute,” Gundlach said. “It is about an event which is completely out of your control.”

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Trigger?

Deutsche Bank Hedge Fund Clients Reduce Derivatives Exposure (BBG)

Amid mounting concern about Deutsche Bank’s ability to withstand pending legal penalties, about 10 hedge funds that do business with the German lender have moved to reduce their financial exposure. The shares slumped. The funds, a small subset of the more than 800 clients in the bank’s hedge fund business, have moved part of their listed derivatives holdings to other firms this week, according to an internal bank document seen by Bloomberg News. Among them are Izzy Englander’s $34 billion Millennium Partners, Chris Rokos’s $4 billion Rokos Capital Management, and the $14 billion Capula Investment Management, said a person familiar with the situation who declined to be identified talking about confidential client matters.

Deutsche Bank’s New York-listed shares fell 6.7% to a record low of $11.48 on Thursday. “In any given week, we experience ebbs and inflows,” said Barry Bausano, the bank’s chairman of hedge funds. “And this week is no different; it goes on all the time.” He declined to comment on net flows. While the vast majority of Deutsche Bank’s more than 200 derivatives-clearing clients have made no changes, the hedge funds’ move highlights concern among some counterparties about doing business with Europe’s largest investment bank. Deutsche Bank’s stock and debt have been under pressure after the U.S. Justice Department this month requested $14 billion to settle an investigation into residential mortgage-backed securities. The bank has said it expects to negotiate that lower, as other Wall Street banks have.

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“The 38-company Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index has tumbled 24% this year..”

Fines, Withdrawals, Job Cuts. It Was an Ugly Day for Global Banks (BBG)

Even before the opening bell in New York, Thursday looked like a grim day for some of the giants of global banking. But few expected the barrage of bad news that soon hit on both sides of the Atlantic – a rat-a-tat-tat of job cuts, scandal and financial worry that sent bank shares tumbling and left many investors wondering just where or when the pain would end. It began in Germany, where long-struggling Commerzbank unveiled yet another plan to regain its footing, this time by cutting one in five of its employees. In Washington, came still more blistering attacks on John Stumpf, whose grip atop embattled Wells Fargo, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, remains tenuous amid the uproar over a scandal involving unauthorized accounts.

And then, back in Germany, came the bombshell: revelations that some hedge funds were moving to reduce their financial exposure to Deutsche Bank, now the biggest worry in global finance. Before Stumpf left the U.S. House chambers after more than four hours of grilling, news broke his bank would be hit with more penalties after improperly repossessing cars owned by U.S. soldiers. “While each has unique challenges, the overwhelming thing that has happened to the banks is they’re forgetting their purpose, while complexity is increasing opportunity for errors,” said Jon Lukomnik at the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute in New York.

Eight years after the financial crisis, the global banking industry is groping for a way forward. Global regulators have sought to make banks look more like boring utilities, but that road has proven steep. Emboldened by an international populist groundswell, they continue to dole out fines and penalties, and firms are scrambling for ways to make money as trading volumes decline and capital requirements become more stringent. The 38-company Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index has tumbled 24% this year, while the KBW Bank Index of 24 U.S. lenders has slid 4.6%, led by Wells Fargo’s 18% decline.

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Brewing.

U.S. Stocks Retreat as Deutsche Bank Woes Hit Financial Shares (BBG)

U.S. stocks fell as banks retreated amid growing concern that Deutsche Bank’s woes will spread to the global financial sector. Health-care shares sank on speculation tighter regulations will crimp profits. Financial shares erased gains and tumbled 1.5% after a Bloomberg News report that signaled growing concern among some Deutsche Bank clients roiled markets. A number of funds that clear derivatives trades with Deutsche withdrew some excess cash and positions held at the lender, according to an internal bank document seen by Bloomberg. Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer fell more than 1.7%, pacing declines among drug companies. The S&P 500 Index slid 0.9% to 2,151.13 at 4 p.m. in New York, after falling as low as 2,145, the level that marked the bottom of a selloff on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 195.79 points, or 1.1%, to 18,143.45, and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.9%. About 7.7 billion shares traded hands on U.S. exchanges, 17% more than the three-month average. “There’s some problems in the financial industry now,” Brian Frank at Frank Capital said. “There’s no fear and no volatility in the stock market so something like Deutsche Bank could make people say, maybe we shouldn’t be trading at such high valuations. It doesn’t make it easier for U.S. banks, especially with what’s going on with Wells Fargo.” The S&P 500 trades at 18.4 times forecast earnings, the highest since 2002. The main U.S. equity benchmark slipped below its average price during the past 50 days on Thursday, while erasing its climb for the month. Stocks fluctuated earlier amid a gain in energy shares sparked by the first output-reduction decision by OPEC in eight years.

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Make or break for Merkel’s career?!

Germany Under Pressure To Show It’s Ready To Rescue Deutsche Bank (CNBC)

German officials could be about to find themselves in an uncomfortable position: Being called on to show they’re ready to rescue a bank in a part of the world where such operations are considered taboo. Deutsche Bank came under intensified market fire Thursday, the latest salvo being a Bloomberg report that a small number of hedge funds are trimming their sails at the German bank. [..] Shares tumbled more than 7% in mid-afternoon trading. The plunge took the broader market down as well. Consequently, market talk intensified that it’s becoming time for the German government step in and assure investors that it will be at the ready to stabilize both Deutsche and the broader system — much along the lines of what U.S. officials had to do during the 2008 financial crisis.

“They’re going to probably have to say that they would be willing to put funds into the bank,” said banking analyst Christopher Whalen at Kroll Bond Rating. “It’s exactly like what (former Treasury Secretary Henry) Paulson did with Citi … It’s a very analogous situation. Hopefully, the German government will take a page from that particular book and look at how the U.S. responded.” In a statement, Deutsche Bank pointed out that it is financially stable: “Our trading clients are amongst the world’s most sophisticated investors. We are confident that the vast majority of them have a full understanding of our stable financial position, the current macro-economic environment, the litigation process in the U.S. and the progress we are making with our strategy”

As Citigroup teetered in late-2008 and early-2009, Paulson’s Treasury stepped in with two cash injections to keep the financial contagion from spreading after Lehman Brothers failed on Sept. 15, 2008. The highly unpopular bailouts kept Citi afloat as fear spread about further implosions in the financial system. However, the European corporate culture is different, particularly when it comes to banking. Bailouts are considered anathema, and German officials in recent days have signaled an unwillingness to step in. “The Germans have to stop talking about this publicly unless they say, ‘Yep, we got ’em, there is no issue here,'” Whalen said. “The concern is that the statements they did make were not helpful.”

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Delusional: “From 2009 through 2015, Deutsche Bank paid out about €5 billion in dividends, a significant chunk of the €19 billion in equity it raised. ”

Deutsche Bank Exposes Europe’s Capital Shortfall (BBG)

Less than a decade after the financial crisis, Deutsche Bank is in trouble again, with investors speculating about whether the German government will have to rescue one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The sad thing is how easily this predicament could have been avoided. This time around, Deutsche Bank isn’t dealing with an unforeseen market meltdown or sovereign-debt crisis. Rather, the proximate cause of distress is the U.S. Justice Department’s threat to fine the firm $14 billion for decade-old transgressions involving U.S. mortgage-backed securities – more than double what the bank has set aside to cover such legal costs. Concerns about capital adequacy have sent the stock price to record lows, and the German government says it won’t provide a financial safety net.

The episode illustrates Europe’s failure to learn an important lesson from the last crisis: The largest banks must have plenty of loss-absorbing equity capital, so that even after suffering a hit, their balance sheets are strong. Otherwise, governments risk finding themselves choosing between a taxpayer-backed rescue and the potentially devastating repercussions of letting a systemically important financial institution go bust. Instead of using the post-crisis years to build up irreproachable equity capital buffers, however, European banks have given back hundreds of billions of euros to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases. From 2009 through 2015, Deutsche Bank paid out about €5 billion in dividends, a significant chunk of the 19 billion in equity it raised.

Today it is among the most thinly capitalized banks in Europe, with tangible equity amounting to less than 3% of assets – an astonishingly thin layer. Even if Germany genuinely wanted to let Deutsche Bank fail, it couldn’t credibly threaten to do so. The institution is arguably Europe’s most systemically risky, with assets amounting to more than half of Germany’s total annual gross domestic product. Making an example of Deutsche Bank could lead to a devastating contagion. [..] The euro region desperately needs better-capitalized banks, not only to avoid disaster but to help heal its faltering economy. If the near-death experience of one of the world’s largest institutions can’t spur European officials to action, it’s hard to imagine what could.

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It’s not just Deutsche…

Commerzbank To Axe Nearly 10,000 Jobs (R.)

Commerzbank is to cut nearly 10,000 jobs and suspend its dividend as part of a wide-ranging restructuring plan. Germany’s second biggest lender after Deutsche Bank said on Thursday it expected restructuring costs of €1.1bn as it combined business operations and cut costs to offset the impact of low loan demand and negative ECB interest rates amid a shift to digital banking. The revamp will come at a heavy cost for staff as Commerzbank slashes 9,600 of its 45,000 full-time positions – almost one in five jobs. The move is a more drastic reduction than at Deutsche Bank, which is axing about 10% of staff but suggests deeper cuts may be needed.

Commerzbank plans to merge its business with medium-sized German firms with its corporate and markets operations, while also scaling back trading activities in investment banking. That move is expected to prompt a writedown of about €700m in the third quarter, leading to a quarterly net loss. Commerzbank expects to turn a small net profit in full-year 2016, down from €1.1bn last year. The bank will concentrate on two customer segments in future: private and small business customers and corporate clients, with the restructuring expected to lift net return on tangible equity to at least 6% by the end of 2020 from 4.2% last year. Commerzbank aims to add 2,300 jobs in areas where business was growing, which would ease the net reduction to 7,300.

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…and it’s not just German banks either.

ING, Largest Dutch Lender, To Announce Thousands Of Job Cuts (BBG)

ING, the largest Netherlands lender, will announce thousands of job cuts at its investor day on Monday, Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad reported Friday, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter. The reorganization will result in more central management and may generate billions of euros in savings, the paper said. The bank employs about 52,000 people, according to its website. ING sees opportunities in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland, Het Financieele Dagblad said. The lender has doubts about its presence in Turkey, where it lacks scale, according to the report. CEO Ralph Hamers has transformed ING into a bank focused on Europe and is seeking to expand lending to consumers and companies outside its home market as record-low interest rates and regulatory demands to bolster capital threaten to erode profit.

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How to lose all credibility in just a few words: “”Given the modest acceleration in growth that we forecast and the many downside risks around these forecasts, it seems overly optimistic to suggest that the global economy has reached “escape velocity”,” said Barclays economist David Fernandez.”

China Factories Limp Along, Japan Inflation Goes Backwards (R.)

China’s factory sector struggled to gain speed in September while Japanese inflation went backwards in August despite the best efforts of policymakers, underscoring the limits of stimulus in reviving world growth. Friday’s unflattering figures bookmarked a week in which the IMF warned it would likely downgrade forecasts for the U.S. economy, and the World Trade Organization slashed its outlook for global trade flows. That was unwelcome news for markets spooked by troubles at Deutsche Bank, whose U.S. shares took a hammering on reports some hedge funds had reduced financial exposure to Germany’s largest lender. The bank said the “vast majority” of its clients remained supportive, but the situation still drew comparisons to the 2008 failure of Lehman and the resulting global financial crisis.

There was at least some evidence that China, the world’s second largest economy, had stabilized, if only because of a burst of government spending and a red-hot housing market. The Caixin measure of manufacturing activity (PMI) edged up a tenth of a%age point to 50.1, led by output and new orders. While the move was marginal, it was only the second time the index had reached positive territory since February 2015. The U.S. economy also looked to have bounced back in the third quarter, while a string of data showed Europe weathered Britain’s Brexit vote better than many had feared. All of which encouraged Barclays to nudge up its 2017 call for global growth to 3.5%, from an expected 3.1% this year. Yet a true lift-off still seems remote.

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Getting all giddy about foreigners buying up your country is something I’ll never understand. But it’s not going to happen either. This is simple forward projecting with blinders.

‘This Is Just The Start’: China’s Passion For Foreign Property (G.)

[..] many real-estate agents and property experts in east Asia believe a new wave of investment is just getting under way, as mainland investors develop a taste for international real estate, including postcodes up and down the UK. “Our thesis – and this is supported by quite a lot of evidence – is that in many ways the international Chinese investment journey is probably just starting,” says Charles Pittar, CEO of Juwai.com, a website that aims to pair mainland buyers with property developers in places such as Australia, the US and the UK. Pittar’s company, which lists 2.5 million properties and calls itself China’s largest international real-estate website, estimates that in 2014, Chinese outbound investment into residential and commercial property was more than $50bn.

“I guess the key is: what is it going to become?” Pittar says. “Our view is that … it could be growing to somewhere around $200bn [annually] over the next 10 years.” And Britain, despite its decision to leave the EU, is expected to be one of the key focuses, he adds. “The UK market, particularly post-Brexit, is really picking up.” Pittar traces mainland China’s hunger for overseas property back to the turn of the century, just before China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation signalled the latest phase of its integration into the global economy. But the outflow of money has gathered pace over the past decade, and is set to grow further as middle-class investors from second- and third-tier cities get in on the game.

“It’s a big market now, but it is likely to be anywhere from two to four times the size in 10 years’ time,” Pittar says. “The exciting thing about China is that there are 168 cities with more than a million people. So this is just such a huge market.”

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Curious. A good strong damning piece on globalization, but the NYT dare not draw the inevitable conclusions. They leave that to Trump, presumably.

More Wealth, More Jobs, but Not for Everyone (NYT)

When Dan Simmons started working at the mill 38 years ago, talk centered on how to make steel. These days, he spends his days at a job for which he feels little prepared — de facto social worker. Mr. Simmons is the president of the Steelworkers Local 1899, which represents 1,250 workers at the Granite City plant. On a recent morning, only about 375 of his people are employed. He sits at his desk inside the brick union hall, greeting laid-off workers who arrive seeking help. One man wants guidance scanning online job listings. Another has hit a snag with his unemployment benefits. A night earlier, Mr. Simmons took a call on his cellphone from the niece of a high school classmate, a laid-off millworker. He had shot himself to death, leaving behind two children.

Trade Adjustment Assistance, a government program started in 1962 and expanded significantly a dozen years later, is supposed to support workers whose jobs are casualties of overseas competition. The program pays for job training. But Mr. Simmons rolls his eyes at mention of the program. Training has almost become a joke. Skills often do not translate from old jobs to new. Many workers just draw a check while they attend training and then remain jobless. A 2012 assessment of the program prepared for the Labor Department found that four years after completing training, only 37% of those employed were working in their targeted industries. Many of those enrolled had lower incomes than those who simply signed up for unemployment benefits and looked for other work.

European workers have fared better. In wealthy countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, unemployment benefits, housing subsidies and government-provided health care are far more generous than in the United States. In the five years after a job loss, an American family of four that is eligible for housing assistance receives average benefits equal to 25% of the unemployed person’s previous wages, according to data from the OECD. For a similar family in the Netherlands, benefits reach 70%. Yet in Europe, too, the impacts of trade have been uneven, in part because of the quirks of the EU. Trade deals are cut by Brussels, setting the terms for the 28 member nations. Social programs are left to national governments. “You’re pursuing trade and liberalization agreements at the EU level, and then leaving to the individual member countries how to deal with the damage,” said Andrew Lang at the LSE.

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“..the S&P 500 index has gained 699 points since January 2008, and 422 of those points came on the 70 Fed announcement days. The average gain on announcement days was 0.49%, or roughly 50 times higher than the average gain of 0.01% on other days.”

Trump Isn’t All Wrong About The Fed (WSJ)

The press spends a lot of energy tracking the many errors in Donald Trump’s loose talk, and during Monday’s presidential debate Hillary Clinton expressed hope that fact checkers were “turning up the volume” on her rival. But when it comes to the Federal Reserve, Mr. Trump isn’t all wrong. In a looping debate rant, Mr. Trump argued that an increasingly “political” Fed is holding interest rates low to help Democrats in November, driving up a “big, fat, ugly bubble” that will pop when the central bank raises rates. This riff has some truth to it. Leave the conspiracy theory aside and look at the facts: Since the Fed began aggressive monetary easing in 2008, my calculations show that nearly 60% of stock market gains have come on those days, once every six weeks, that the Federal Open Market Committee announces its policy decisions.

Put another way, the S&P 500 index has gained 699 points since January 2008, and 422 of those points came on the 70 Fed announcement days. The average gain on announcement days was 0.49%, or roughly 50 times higher than the average gain of 0.01% on other days. This is a sign of dysfunction. The stock market should be a barometer of the economy, but in practice it has become a barometer of Fed policy. My research, dating to 1960, shows that this stock-market partying on Fed announcement days is a relatively new and increasingly powerful feature of the economy. Fed policy proclamations had little influence on the stock market before 1980. Between 1980 and 2007, returns on Fed announcement days averaged 0.24%, about half as much as during the current easing cycle.

The effect of Fed announcements rose sharply after 2008 when the Fed launched the early rounds of QE, its bond purchases intended to inject money into the economy. It might seem that the market effect of the Fed’s easy-money policies has dissipated in the past couple of years. The S&P 500 has been moving sideways since 2014, when the central bank announced it would wind down its QE program. But this is an illusion. Stock prices have held steady even though corporate earnings have been falling since 2014. Valuations—the ratio of price to earnings—continue to rise. With investors searching for yield in the low interest-rate world created by the Fed, the valuations of stocks that pay high dividends are particularly stretched. The markets are as dependent on the Fed as ever.

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Interview with Automatic Earth reader Collum: “We should have hung a few in the town square, but instead the Obama Department of Justice punished shareholders and savers.”

Society Goes Through Painful, Cathartic Change – Dave Collum (CR)

I was non-political throughout college and much of my adult life, focusing on chemistry and family. It is probably only in the last 15 years that I’ve started hiking up my pants and bitching about the government. Now I am relatively outspoken because I sense existential risk in the American Experiment. We have an interventionist central bank—a global cartel of interconnected central banks actually—that is determined to use untested (read: flawed) models to try to repair an economy that was hurt by their policies and would fix itself if the Fed would just get out of the way. I think these guys are what Nassim Taleb calls I-Y-I (intellectual-yet-idiot). They will continue with their experiments until the system finally breaks in earnest. They will blame the unforeseeable circumstances.

The social contract on the home front is faltering badly. When the system started to fail in ’09, we stitched up a putrid wound without cleansing it. We needed reform of a highly flawed banking system corrupted by poor incentives. In the 1930s, the Pecora Commission rounded up scoundrels (including the head of the New York Stock Exchange) and threw them in prison. We should have hung a few in the town square, but instead the Obama Department of Justice punished shareholders and savers. A scandal at Wells Fargo emerging just this week, for example, led to a token fine while leaving some wondering if Wells Fargo is too corrupt to exist in its current form. It is not the government’s job to break up these institutions, nor should it save them.

We have stirred up a mess in the Middle East that seems to be washing up on our shores. (This weekend there were a half dozen attacks that appeared highly correlated to all but those in the politicized press.) Our policy in Syria is incomprehensible. The refugee crisis in Europe is our doing, and it is spreading. Fear of Trump seems odd given that the current neocons in liberal garb are stunningly militaristic. I think they are war crimes. Meanwhile, these I-Y-I’s insist on poking Putin in the eye with a stick as part of a policy that appears to be designed to take us to the brink of far greater armed conflict. People are now mad, and it shows in the chaotic election. We are guaranteed to elect a president that half the populace finds repugnant. It’s hard to imagine that the post-election temperament will improve. Change is in the air.

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Anything ‘traditional’ in politics is now suspect.

Iceland’s Pirates Head For Power On Wave Of Public Anger (R.)

A party that hangs a skull-and-crossbones flag at its HQ, and promises to clean up corruption, grant asylum to Edward Snowden and accept the bitcoin virtual currency, could be on course to form the next Icelandic government. The Pirate Party has found a formula that has eluded many anti-establishment groups across Europe. It has tempered polarizing policies like looser copyright enforcement rules and drug decriminalization with pledges of economic stability that have won confidence among voters. This has allowed it to ride a wave of public anger at perceived corruption among the political elite – the biggest election issue in a country where a 2008 banking collapse hit thousands of savers and government figures have been mired in an offshore tax furor following the Panama Papers leaks.

[..] Opinion polls show support for the party running at over 20%, slightly ahead of the Independence Party, which shares power with the Progressive Party. The left-leaning party is part of a global anti-establishment typified by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. But their platform is far removed from the anti-immigration policies of UKIP, France’s National Front and Germany’s AfD, or the anti-austerity of Greece’s Syriza. Iceland’s gross income per capita was almost $50,000 in 2015, according to the World Bank, well above the $34,435 EU average – though still 20% below a 2007 peak. Immigration levels are low compared with many other European countries. Helped by a tourism boom, economic growth this year is expected to hit 4.3% and the latest data shows a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.1%.

There appears little appetite among the public or any party leader for economic radicalism. The Pirate Party has not set out detailed plans, but has made clear that it would not deviate far from current policies in the next government term. “We will not be doing any dramatic things in this regard, we will carry on with the lifting of capital control. We are not going to make any dramatic changes in the financial sector,” said Jonsdottir. There is little sign of business or investor panic. “Regarding the economic stability, looking at the long term, they can’t do any worse than what has been done so far,” said Jon Sigurdsson, CEO of prosthetics maker Ossur, one of Iceland’s biggest companies, referring to the banking crisis.

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I’ve said it before, his overconfidence will get him. He now wants to redraw Turkey’s borders. And not just with Greece. Turkey’s borders with Syria hold a mich bigger prize.

Erdogan Disputes 1923 Treaty Of Lausanne, Athens Responds (Kath.)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan caused displeasure in Athens on Thursday by indicating that Ankara “gave away” Aegean islands to Greece under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the pact that defined the borders of modern Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In a speech to regional officials in Ankara, Erdogan appeared to express his regret for the border decisions imposed by the pact. “Some tried to deceive us by presenting Lausanne as victory,” he said. “In Lausanne, we gave away the islands that you could shout across to,” he said, referring to Greek islands located in the Aegean Sea close to the Turkish coastline. Reacting to Erdogan’s comments, a Greek Foreign Ministry source remarked that “everyone should respect the Treaty of Lausanne,” noting that it is “a reality in the civilized world which no one, including Ankara, can ignore.”

The same source indicated that the Turkish leader’s comments were likely geared for domestic consumption. While making clear his displeasure with the Treaty of Lausanne, Erdogan indicated during his speech that those who attempted a coup against Turkey in July would have imposed a far worse state of affairs. “If this coup had succeeded, they would have given us a treaty that would have made us long for Sevres,” he said, referring to the pact that preceded the Treaty of Lausanne in 1920, abolishing the Ottoman Empire. “We are still struggling about what the continental shelf will be, and what will be in the air and the land. The reason for this is those who sat at the table for that treaty. Those who sat there did not do [us] justice, and we are reaping those troubles right now,” he said..

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Jun 292015
 
 June 29, 2015  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »
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Alfred Eisenstaedt Actress Marilyn Monroe at home 1953

The World Is Defenceless Against The Next Financial Crisis, Warns BIS (Telegraph)
BIS Warns Low Interest Rates Could Spell ‘Entrenched Instability’ (AFP)
The Staggering Cost Of Central Bank Dependence (Wyplosz)
Greece Introduces Capital Controls, Keep Banks Shut As Crisis Deepens (Reuters)
EU Offers Greek Voters 10-Point Plan on June 26 Bailout Offer (Bloomberg)
Athens Is Being Blackmailed (Philippe Legrain)
A Disaster For Athens And A Colossal Failure For The EU (Guardian)
US Urges Europe, IMF To Reach Deal To Keep Greece In Eurozone (Reuters)
The Moral Crusade Against Greece Must Be Opposed (Guardian)
Cautious Merkel On Verge Of Biggest Risk With ‘Grexit’ (Reuters)
The Greeks For Whom All The Talk Means Nothing – Because They Have Nothing (G.)
Grisis (Paul Krugman)
El-Erian: 85% Grexit Odds as ‘Massive’ Contraction Looms (Bloomberg)
Chinese Stocks Crash Most In 19 Years Despite PBOC Hail Mary (Zero Hedge)
A China Market Crash “Poses Great Danger To Social Stability” (Zero Hedge)
Will Beijing Really Be The Last Rescuer For Everyone In The Stock Market? (SCMP)
Does China’s Central Bank Know What It’s Doing? (Bloomberg)
Puerto Rico’s Governor Says Island’s Debts Are ‘Not Payable’ (NY Times)

The central bank of central banks takes position against central bank policy.

The World Is Defenceless Against The Next Financial Crisis, Warns BIS (Telegraph)

The world will be unable to fight the next global financial crash as central banks have used up their ammunition trying to tackle the last crises, the Bank of International Settlements has warned. The so-called central bank of central banks launched a scatching critique of global monetary policy in its annual report. The BIS claimed that central banks have backed themselves into a corner after repeatedly cutting interest rates to shore up their economies. These low interest rates have in turn fuelled economic booms, encouraging excessive risk taking. Booms have then turned to busts, which policymakers have responded to with even lower rates.

Claudio Borio, head of the organisation’s monetary and economic department, said: “Persistent exceptionally low rates reflect the central banks’ and market participants’ response to the unusually weak post-crisis recovery as they fumble in the dark in search of new certainties.” “Rather than just reflecting the current weakness, they may in part have contributed to it by fuelling costly financial booms and busts and delaying adjustment. The result is too much debt, too little growth and too low interest rates. “In short, low rates beget lower rates.” The BIS warned that interest rates have now been so low for so long that central banks are unequipped to fight the next crises. “In some jurisdictions, monetary policy is already testing its outer limits, to the point of stretching the boundaries of the unthinkable,” the BIS said.

Policymakers in the eurozone, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have taken their interest rates below zero in an attempt to support their economies, contributing to a decline in bond yields. Extraordinarily low interest rates are not a “new equilibrium” said Jaime Caruana, general manager of the BIS, rejecting the theory of so-called “secular stagnation” which some economists blame for the continued decline in global lending rates. “True, there may be secular forces that put downward pressure on equilibrium interest rates … [but] we argue that the current configuration of very low rates is neither inevitable, nor does it represent a new equilibrium,” he said.

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“..low rates beget lower rates…”

BIS Warns Low Interest Rates Could Spell ‘Entrenched Instability’ (AFP)

The Bank of International Settlements warned Sunday that persistently low interest rates were symptoms of a malaise in the global economy that could end in entrenched instability. The Basel-based institution, considered the central bank for central banks, hailed that plunging oil prices had boosted the global economy over the past year. But it cautioned that global debt burdens and financial risks remained too high, while productivity and financial growth were too low, leaving policy makers with little room to maneuvre. “In the long term, this runs the risk of entrenching instability and chronic weakness,” the report said. Claudio Borio, the head of the BIS monetary and economic department, said the “most visible symptom of this predicament is the persistence of ultra-low interest rates.”

“Interest rates have been exceptionally low for an extraordinarily long time,” he said, warning that previously “unthinkable” monetary policies were being so widely used they risked becoming the new norm. A number of countries, including Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden, have in recent months introduced negative rates, meaning investors have to pay to lend money to these states. Between December 2014 and the end of May, around $2.0 trillion in global long-term sovereign debt, much of it issued by euro area sovereigns, was trading at negative yields, BIS said. Key interest rates are lower now than at the height of the financial crisis that began in 2007, it added. “Such yields are unprecedented,” said the report.

The current low rates “are a vivid reminder of the extent to which monetary policy has been overburdened in an attempt to reinvigorate growth,” Borio said. “They have underpinned the contrast between high risk-taking in financial markets, where it can be harmful, and subdued risk-taking in the real economy, where additional investment is badly needed,” he said. Borio warned that the low rates do not just reflect the current weakness in the global economy, but “may in part have contributed to it by fuelling costly financial booms and busts and delaying adjustment.” “The result is too much debt, too little growth and too low interest rates,” he said, stressing that “low rates beget lower rates.”

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“..central banks are not commercial entities. Accepting losses is part of its public service mission. Keeping the banking system afloat is part of its core mission.”

The Staggering Cost Of Central Bank Dependence (Wyplosz)

This weekend’s dramatic events saw the ECB capping emergency assistance to Greece. This column argues that the ECB’s decision is the last of a long string of ECB mistakes in this crisis. Beyond triggering Greece’s Eurozone exit – thus revoking the euro’s irrevocability – it has shattered Eurozone governance and brought the politicisation of the ECB to new heights. Bound to follow are chaos in Greece and agitation of financial markets – both with unknown consequences.

The ECB has decided to maintain its current level of emergency liquidity to Greece (ECB 2015). By refusing to extend additional emergency liquidity, the ECB has decided that Greece must leave the Eurozone. This may be a legal necessity or a political judgement call, or both. Anyway, it raises a host of unpleasant questions about the treatment of a member country and about the independence of the central bank. As anticipated (Wyplosz, 2015), the negotiations between Greece have led nowhere. As a result, Greece is bound to default on all maturing debts in the days and weeks to come. With a primary budget close to balance, the Greek government could have soldiered on until new negotiations about the unavoidable write-down of its debt.

The risk for the Greeks of this ‘default strategy’ has always been that it depended entirely on the ECB’s willingness to continue providing the Greek banking system with liquidity, especially at a time of a bank run by rational depositors who put a non-zero risk of Grexit. Over the last weeks, the ECB has provided the needed liquidity in the face of a “slow-motion run” on Greek banks. Suddenly, on the morning of 28 June, the ECB has stopped providing emergency funding to Greek banks. In a classical self-fulfilling crisis fashion, this decision is bound to turn the “slow-motion run” into a panic. The bank holiday and capital controls announced will create some breathing space, but very briefly. These measures will not prevent the banking system from collapsing.

The natural consequence will be the collapse of the Greek banking system. At that stage, possibly earlier, the Greek authorities will have no choice but to leave the Eurozone and provide banks with the re-created drachma. Why did the ECB freeze its Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to Greece? The ECB will undoubtedly come up with all sorts of legal justifications. Whether true or not, this will not change the outcome. If the ECB is truly legally bound to stop ELA, this means that the Eurozone architecture is deeply flawed. If not, the ECB will have made a political decision of historical importance. Either way, this is a disastrous step. Whether it likes it or not, every central bank is a lender of last resort to commercial banks. By not keeping the Greek banking system afloat, the ECB is failing on a core responsibility.

One explanation is that the ECB fears losses. This is partly incorrect, partly misguided. It is incorrect because the ELA loans are provided by the Central Bank of Greece. It is the Central Bank of Greece, and therefore the Greek people, which stands to suffer losses from defaults by commercial banks. It is misguided because central banks are not commercial entities. Accepting losses is part of its public service mission. Keeping the banking system afloat is part of its core mission.

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Forced into capital controls by legally questionable troika measures. Some partnership.

Greece Introduces Capital Controls, Keep Banks Shut As Crisis Deepens (Reuters)

Greece will introduce capital controls and keep its banks closed on Monday after international creditors refused to extend the country’s bailout and savers queued to withdraw cash, taking Athens’ standoff to a dangerous new level. The Athens stock exchange will also be closed as the government tries to manage the financial fallout of the disagreement with the EU and IMF. Greece’s banks, kept afloat by emergency funding from the ECB, are on the front line as Athens moves towards defaulting on a €1.6 billion payment due to the IMF on Tuesday. Greece blamed the ECB, which had made it difficult for the banks to open because it froze the level of funding support rather than increasing it to cover a rise in withdrawals from worried depositors, for the moves.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the decision to reject Greece’s request for a short extension of the bailout program was “an unprecedented act” that called into question the ability of a country to decide an issue affecting its sovereign rights. “This decision led the ECB today to limit the liquidity of Greek banks and forced the central bank of Greece to propose a bank holiday and a restriction on bank withdrawals,” he said in a televised address. Amid drama in Greece, where a clear majority of people want to remain inside the euro, the next few days present a major challenge to the integrity of the 16-year-old euro zone currency bloc. The consequences for markets and the wider financial system are unclear.

Greece’s left-wing Syriza government had for months been negotiating a deal to release funding in time for its IMF payment. Then suddenly, in the early hours of Saturday, Tspiras asked for extra time to enable Greeks to vote in a referendum on the terms of the deal. Creditors turned down this request, leaving little option for Greece but to default, piling further pressure on the country’s banking system.

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First they present Tsipras with a do-or-die plan, and now they come with another one again.

EU Offers Greek Voters 10-Point Plan on June 26 Bailout Offer (Bloomberg)

The European Commission offered Greek voters a 10-point plan for bailout requirements on Sunday, urging Greece to stay in the euro area. The list reflects the state of play as of 8 p.m. on June 26 and was never finished because negotiations broke down when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced on Friday he would seek a referendum. It’s being published now “in the interest of transparency and for the information of the Greek people,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Twitter. Juncker will hold a news conference in Brussels at 12:45 p.m. on Monday, the commission said.

The list of measures was never finished or presented to euro-area finance ministers alongside an “outline of a comprehensive deal” because of “the unilateral decision of the Greek authorities to abandon the process,” the European Union’s executive arm said. The plans, published in English and in the process of being translated into Greek, were endorsed by the ECB and IMF, the commission said. The commission said the plans take into account Greek proposals from June 8, June 14, June 22 and June 25, as well as subsequent political and technical talks.

The Greek government hasn’t been informed of any change in the creditors’ proposals after June 25 if there has been one, a Greek government official said in an e-mailed statement. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she briefed the IMF board on the state of play. “I shared my disappointment and underscored our commitment to continue to engage with the Greek authorities,” Lagarde said in a statement. “I welcome the statements of the Eurogroup and the European Central Bank to make full use of all available instruments to preserve the integrity and stability of the euro area.”

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“Democracy? What’s that?”

Athens Is Being Blackmailed (Philippe Legrain)

“If the Greek government thinks it should hold a referendum, it should hold a referendum. Maybe it would even be the right measure to let the Greek people decide whether they’re ready to accept what needs to be done.” Fine words from Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, on May 11. Yet on June 26, when prime minister Alexis Tsipras duly announced a referendum on whether the Greek government should accept its creditors’ highly unsatisfactory final offer, Schäuble and other eurozone finance ministers reacted very differently. They cut off negotiations with Athens, sabotaged the referendum, and set Greece on a course for capital controls, default, and potentially even euro exit. Democracy? What’s that?

The creditors have tried to blame Tsipras for the breakdown in negotiations. But it was their stubborn refusal to offer an insolvent Greece the debt relief that its depressed economy desperately needs to recover which backed Tsipras into a corner. In exchange for a short-lived infusion of cash, they were insisting on years of grinding austerity dressed up as “reforms”, as I explained previously. With rapacious creditors intent on pillaging the impoverished Greek economy, Tsipras could scarcely agree to their terms. So he gave Greeks themselves a say, while rightly urging them to vote No. Ironically, the exaggerated fear of Grexit and the emotional association, even after five years of debt bondage, between euro membership and being part of modern Europe might well have led Greeks to vote Yes to the creditors’ iniquitous terms.

But eurozone authorities are so terrified of voters that they have sought to deny Greeks a say. They rejected the Greek government’s request to extend the current EU loan program for a month beyond its expiry on June 30. So, if and when Greeks vote on July 5, the program will have expired, and with it the creditors’ offer on which they will be casting their ballots. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. [..] In the meantime, the creditors continue to ratchet up the pressure. Following on from the refusal to extend the EU loan program, the ECB on June 28 decided not to provide Greek banks with any additional emergency liquidity to cover cash withdrawals, which have gathered pace over the weekend. That political move forced the Greek government to declare a bank holiday on Monday to prevent a run that would cause the Greek banking system to collapse, along with capital controls to prevent euros draining out of the Greek economy.

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“Three days, three crises, and a collective performance that inspires little hope or confidence in their crisis management.”

A Disaster For Athens And A Colossal Failure For The EU (Guardian)

Five years from its inception, the world’s biggest bailout of a sovereign state will grind to an excruciating halt on Tuesday, theoretically leaving Greece high and dry and on its own under a leftwing government bitterly accusing the EU elite of deliberately using the country as a neo-liberal laboratory. If the experiment has been a disaster for Greece, it is also a colossal failure for Europe, with the result that at the very apex of leadership the EU nowadays resembles an unhappy assembly of squabbling politicians locked in what could not be called an “ever closer union”. Take just the last few days. On Thursday leaders at a summit contemplated formally for the first time, however briefly, the prospect of Britain leaving the EU.

By three o’clock on Friday morning they were all at one another’s throats in an unseemly quarrel over who should take part in accommodating a mere 40,000 refugees from Italy and Greece over two years, and on what terms. On Saturday, 18 governments of the eurozone cut Greece off and initiated a process that could end in pushing Athens out of the currency and perhaps out of the union. Three days, three crises, and a collective performance that inspires little hope or confidence in their crisis management. The air is already thick with recrimination, not just between Greece and the rest of Europe, but among the Europeans. France says that Greece must be saved, Germany says impossible.

The European commission is seeking to revive negotiation that are on their deathbed. The Finnish finance minister, Alex Stubb, is looking forward to the funeral. The IMF is at odds with the Europeans over the levels of Greek debt. Everywhere there is the sight of leaders seeking to escape responsibility for a sorry state of affairs. For weeks, in anticipation of the criticism certain to be directed at them in the event of a Greek collapse, senior German figures have privately been saying: “Well, nobody will be able to say that we did not try our best. At the meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Saturday that ended the Greek bailout, the French finance minister, Michel Sapin, was the only one with enough humility to remark that maybe the Europeans had got some things wrong and that things might have been done differently, according to witnesses.

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The US had better get going on the topic.

US Urges Europe, IMF To Reach Deal To Keep Greece In Eurozone (Reuters)

Top US officials waded in at the weekend to try to help resolve Greece’s financial woes, urging Europe and the IMF to come up with a recovery plan that keeps the country in the eurozone. In a series of separate phone calls on Saturday to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and the finance ministers of Germany and France, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urged them to “find a sustainable solution that puts Greece on a path toward reform and recovery within the eurozone,” according to a Treasury Department statement on Sunday about the calls. Lew noted it is “important for all parties to continue to work to reach a solution, including a discussion of potential debt relief for Greece,” in the run-up to a planned July 5 referendum in Greece on the terms of a bailout.

Greece is facing a looming Tuesday deadline on a 1.6-billion-euro payment due to the IMF. Earlier Sunday, Greece announced it will impose capital controls and keep its banks shut on Monday, after international creditors refused to extend the country’s bailout. Lew also underscored the need for Greece to adopt “difficult measures to reach a pragmatic compromise with its creditors,” the Treasury statement said. The Treasury spokesperson said senior department officials have also been in regulator communication with Greece and that Lew had spoken to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras “multiple times” over the past two weeks. The department has urged Greece to work closely with its international partners on planning for a bank holiday and capital controls, the spokesperson said.

President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday about the Greek situation. “The two leaders agreed that it was critically important to make every effort to return to a path that will allow Greece to resume reforms and growth within the eurozone,” a White House statement said. “The leaders affirmed that their respective economic teams are carefully monitoring the situation and will remain in close touch.”

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“The Eurogroup is an informal group. Thus it is not bound by treaties or written regulations. While unanimity is conventionally adhered to, the Eurogroup president is not bound to explicit rules.”

The Moral Crusade Against Greece Must Be Opposed (Guardian)

‘This is our political alternative to neoliberalism and to the neoliberal process of European integration: democracy, more democracy and even deeper democracy,” said Alexis Tsipras on 18 January 2014 in a debate organised by the Dutch Socialist party in Amersfoort. Now the moment of deepest democracy looms, as the Greek people go to the polls on Sunday to vote for or against the next round of austerity. Unfortunately, Sunday’s choice will be between endless austerity and immediate chaos. As comfortable as it is to argue from the sidelines that maybe Grexit in the medium term won’t hurt as much as 30 years’ drag on GDP from swingeing repayments, no sane person wants either.

The vision that Syriza swept to power on was that if you spoke truth to the troika plainly and in broad daylight, they would have to acknowledge that austerity was suffocating Greece. They have acknowledged no such thing. Whatever else one could say about the handling of the crisis, and whatever becomes of the euro, Sunday will be the moment that unstoppable democracy meets immovable supra-democracy. The Eurogroup has already won: the Greek people can vote any way they like – but what they want, they cannot have. On Saturday the Eurogroup broke with its tradition of unanimity, issuing a petulant statement “supported by all members except the Greek member”.

Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, sought legal advice on whether the group was allowed to exclude him, and received the extraordinary reply: “The Eurogroup is an informal group. Thus it is not bound by treaties or written regulations. While unanimity is conventionally adhered to, the Eurogroup president is not bound to explicit rules.” Or, to put it another way: “We never had any accountability in the first place, sucker.” More striking still is this line of the statement: “The Eurogroup has been open until the very last moment to further support the Greek people through a continued growth-oriented programme.” The measures enforced by the troika have created an economic contraction akin to that caused by war. With unemployment at 25% and youth unemployment at nearly half, 40% of children now live below the poverty line.

The latest offer to Greece promises more of the same. The idea that any of this is oriented towards growth is demonstrably false. The Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has started to assert that black is white. [..] These talks did not fail by accident. The Greeks have to be humiliated, because the alternative – of treating them as equal parties or “adults”, as Lagarde wished them to be – would lead to a debate about the Eurogroup: what its foundations are, what accountability would look like, and what its democratic levers are – if indeed it has any. Solidarity with Greece means everyone, in and outside the single currency, forcing this conversation: the country is being sacrificed to maintain a set of delusions that enfeebles us all.

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Merkel’s fumble. Dropped ball.

Cautious Merkel On Verge Of Biggest Risk With ‘Grexit’ (Reuters)

“If you break it, you own it,” former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President George W. Bush before his invasion of Iraq. Whether it will ever be fair to blame Angela Merkel for “breaking” Greece is debatable. But if the euro zone’s weakest link does default this week and is eventually forced out of the single currency, it seems inevitable that the German chancellor, Europe’s most powerful leader, will “own” the Greek problem and that a decision to let Athens go would profoundly shape her legacy. For months, the notoriously cautious Merkel has been wrestling with the question of whether to risk a “Grexit” and accept the financial, economic and geopolitical backlash it would surely unleash.

Unlike her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who sent abundant signals in recent months that he could accept a euro zone that does not include Greece, Merkel has been determined to avoid such an outcome, according to her closest advisers. If Greece ends up leaving the euro zone anyway, many in Germany and elsewhere will blame the left-wing government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that came to power in January. It has infuriated its partners with what they have perceived to be an erratic, confrontational stance in the debt talks. Tsipras’s call on Friday for a referendum on Europe’s latest bailout offer, only days before Greece is due to run out of cash, made it easy for Merkel, 60, to say enough is enough, and threaten to pull the plug once and for all.

But it will be Merkel, more than any other European leader, who will have to sort through the rubble of a “Grexit” and answer the question of why disaster was not averted. A Greek exit could lead to a humanitarian crisis on Europe’s southern rim, spark contagion in euro countries that are only just emerging from years of deep recession, and stoke a fiery new debate about German austerity policies and Merkel’s handling of the crisis. Allowing Greece to exit would be by far the boldest move she has taken since coming to power nearly a decade ago, far riskier than her decision in 2011 to phase out nuclear power.[..]

France has toed the German line until now. But at a decisive meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Saturday, France broke with Germany and other countries, arguing in favor of extending Greece’s bailout to allow a referendum to take place, euro zone officials said. The French were slapped down and the Greek request for an extension denied. Now Merkel, barring a miraculous eleventh hour deal with Athens, must face the consequences.

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Incredibly tragic.

The Greeks For Whom All The Talk Means Nothing – Because They Have Nothing (G.)

On a steep, gardenia-scented street in the north-eastern Athens suburb of Gerakas, in one corner of a patch of bare ground, stands a small caravan. Plastic mesh fencing – orange, of the kind builders use – encloses a neat garden in which peppers, courgettes, lettuces and beans grow in well-tended raised beds. Flowers, too. The caravan is old, but spotless. It is home to Georgios Karvouniaris, 61, and his sister Barbara, 64, two Greeks for whom all the Brussels wrangling over VAT rates, corporation tax and pension reforms has meant nothing – because they have nothing, no income of any kind.

Next Sunday’s referendum – which, if the country stays solvent that long, will either send Greece back to the negotiating table with its creditors or precipitate its exit from the eurozone – is unlikely to affect them much either. “I do not see how any of it will change our lives. I have no hope, anyway,” said Georgios, sitting in a scavenged plastic garden chair beneath a parasol liberated from a skip. After seven years of a crisis that has left 26% of Greece’s workforce unemployed, 30% of its people below the poverty line, 17% unable to meet their daily food needs and 3.1 million without health insurance, it is hard to see how anything decided in Brussels or in Athens in the coming week will do much to change the lives of a large number of Greeks any time soon.

“Those that were already on the margins have been pushed right to the very, very edge, and those who were in the middle have been pushed to the margins,” said Ioanna Pertsinidou of Praksis, a charity that runs day centres for vulnerable people and offers legal and employment advice. “So many people – ordinary, low-to-middle income people with jobs and homes and their lives on track – have seen their lives go drown the drain so fast,” Pertsinidou said. “People who never dreamed that one day they would not be able to pay their electricity bill, or feed their children properly.”

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“The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept..”

Grisis (Paul Krugman)

OK, this is real: Greek banks closed, capital controls imposed. Grexit isn’t a hard stretch from here — the much feared mother of all bank runs has already happened, which means that the cost-benefit analysis starting from here is much more favorable to euro exit than it ever was before. Clearly, though, some decisions now have to wait on the referendum. I would vote no, for two reasons. First, much as the prospect of euro exit frightens everyone – me included – the troika is now effectively demanding that the policy regime of the past five years be continued indefinitely. Where is the hope in that? Maybe, just maybe, the willingness to leave will inspire a rethink, although probably not.

But even so, devaluation couldn’t create that much more chaos than already exists, and would pave the way for eventual recovery, just as it has in many other times and places. Greece is not that different. Second, the political implications of a yes vote would be deeply troubling. The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don’t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.

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Another useless number from El-Erian. RBS just said 40%. Equally void of meaning.

El-Erian: 85% Grexit Odds as ‘Massive’ Contraction Looms (Bloomberg)

Greece is heading for a “massive economic contraction” and is likely to be forced out of the euro zone, according to Mohamed El-Erian, the former chief executive at Pimco. Greece shut its banks and imposed capital controls in a dead-of-night announcement designed to avert the collapse of its financial system after a weekend of turmoil. People rushed to line up at ATMs and gas stations following Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s shock announcement late Friday of a July 5 referendum on austerity measures demanded by the country’s creditors. “There’s an 85% probability that Greece will be forced to leave the euro zone” in the next few weeks, El-Erian said in an interview from New York.

“What we are seeing here is what economists call the sudden stop, when the payment system stops. The logic of a sudden stop is a massive economic contraction, social unrest and it’s going to make continued membership of the euro zone very difficult for Greece.” The euro dropped more then 1% and Treasuries surged by the most since 2011 as the collapse of Greek rescue talks roiled global markets. The lack of trust on both sides now makes it very hard to see how there can be an agreement that would resolve the impasse, said El-Erian, who worked at the IMF from 1983 to 1997.

“This has been an accident in the making for a number of years,” said El-Erian, who is also a Bloomberg View columnist. “It reflects an inability to understand each other’s point of view and an inability to compromise. Europe should have been much more forthcoming on debt reduction and Greece should have been much more forthcoming on implementing reforms.” El-Erian said the ECB will be a key player in trying to contain fallout across the region as the crisis threatens to undo much of the work that President Mario Draghi has done to shore up confidence in the euro as a leading currency of global trade.

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Long predicted, now reality.

Chinese Stocks Crash Most In 19 Years Despite PBOC Hail Mary (Zero Hedge)

Carnage…

*CHINA STOCK PANIC SELLING TO CONTINUE, CENTRAL CHINA ZHANG SAYS

This leave China’s CSI-300 broad stock index futures up just 7% year-to-date…

*CHINA CSI 500 STOCK-INDEX FUTURES FALL BY MAXIMUM 10% LIMIT
*CHINA CSI 500 STOCK-INDEX FUTURES FALL BY LIMIT FOR 2ND DAY

*SHANGHAI COMPOSITE INDEX EXTENDS DROP TO 7.5%
*SHANGHAI COMPOSITE HEADS FOR BIGGEST 3-DAY DROP SINCE 1996

The bounce is dead. CHINEXT – China’s tech-heavy high beta ‘Nasdaq’ – is down 5-6% today, 19% in 3 days, and 33% from highs in early June…!

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XI and Li better think of something, fast.

A China Market Crash “Poses Great Danger To Social Stability” (Zero Hedge)

While Greece has understandably been the focal news event over the weekend – after all it has been 5 years in the making – let’s not forget that in another massive move, one geared squarely to prevent a market collapse and to avoid even further panic, the Chinese central bank cut both its policy rate and the reserve rate in a dramatic push to calm down markets after a 10% crash in just two trading days. Which, incidentally, shows that after the Fed, the BOE, the SNB, the BOJ and the ECB, the PBOC is the latest bank to have cornered itself in a world where it must inflate the bubble at all costs or face the dire consequences. What consequences? Nomura explains:

The policy easing should be viewed as a measure to contain the risk of a hard landing or systemic crisis rather than one to achieve faster growth. In this case, the stronger-than-expected monetary easing may help stem the decline in the equity market following a 10.6% drop over the past two trading days. The positive wealth effect of the equity market on consumption or aggregate demand is limited in China, but an equity market collapse would hurt millions of mid-class households and pose great danger to the economy and social stability.

And there you have it: just like all other central banks, the opportunity cost to markets returning to fair value is nothing short of social conflict (as admirably displayed with every passing day in the US) and even, perhaps, civil war. Which means that unlike before, when the bursting of the bubble would merely lead to a few high flying 1%-ers literally flying from the top floor having lost everything, this time the gamble could not have been higher, and when the central banks finally lose control the outcome will be nothing short of war… just as Paul Tudor Jones, Kyle Bass and countless others have warned before.

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No way.

Will Beijing Really Be The Last Rescuer For Everyone In The Stock Market? (SCMP)

The most dangerous idea gaining traction in the Chinese stock market is the naïve consensus among ordinary investors that no matter how bad the market gets, the Communist Party will eventually rescue everyone. The central bank surprised everyone with its announcement on Saturday that it will cut its benchmark deposit and lending rates by 25 basis points – the fourth reduction since November. Meanwhile, it also decided to reduce the reserve requirement ratio at selected banks to further ease liquidity in the banking system. The unusual “double cut” move came just 24 hours after more than US$760 billion was wiped off the value of mainland stocks – equivalent to the market capitalisation of US technology giant Apple.

The reasons for the market crash are complicated, including margin calls, tight liquidity at the end of the month, and panic. Afterwards, the most frequently heard question was, what will the government do to rescue the market. Rescue? Is this really government’s responsibility? China has been through the planned economy model for decades. This is especially ingrained in the generation of my parents, who make up the bulk of individual investors. Just as everything once belonged to the government, many of these people believe the stock market should also belong to the government. So it’s the job of the government – in other words, the Communist Party – to rescue the market.

Unfortunately, many Chinese experts and professors are also promoting this naïve view of the relationship between domestic investors and the government. After the central bank’s moves on Saturday, many experts told state media that they believed the central bank acted mainly to rescue the stock market, given the timing of the decision. Suddenly, investors who felt that Friday was the end of the world – with more than 2,000 stocks sinking – began to talk about what stocks they should buy on Monday morning. “You still don’t get it? It’s now like the government policy that the stock market must go up. Otherwise, why bother asking the central bank to rescue the market?” said one investor in a post on Weibo. Many others echoed his views on the social media network.

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Not a chance.

Does China’s Central Bank Know What It’s Doing? (Bloomberg)

If you think the U.S. Federal Reserve has a problem communicating its intentions, spare a thought for the People’s Bank of China. In the space of a few days, China’s central bank has changed policy twice, and the message was largely unintelligible both times. Does that matter? One answer: Over the past two weeks, thanks partly to confusion over monetary policy, China’s stock market has suffered its biggest drop in almost 20 years. On Thursday, with the stock market already down from its peak, the central bank subtly eased policy with a technical maneuver involving so-called reverse-repurchase agreements. This left investors wondering, “Is that it?” They’d thought a cut in interest rates was coming; when they concluded it wasn’t, stocks plunged.

Afterward, on Saturday, the PBOC not only cut the benchmark interest rate but also eased its reserve requirements – the first time it has done both at once since 2008. So the central bank went from a surprisingly mild adjustment to a surprisingly dramatic one with a stock-market crash in between. And what PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan intended by these moves still isn’t clear. With the economy slowing, a further lowering of interest rates already made sense on macroeconomic grounds. But the timing of the second and larger change in policy suggests that China’s still-overvalued stock market, rather than the slowing economy, is directing policy. Some analysts are even talking about a “Zhou put” – a Chinese version of the notorious “Greenspan put,” supposedly intended to put a floor under stock prices after the crash of 1987. Many argue that it also pushed U.S. interest rates too low for too long.

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More crisis.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Says Island’s Debts Are ‘Not Payable’ (NY Times)

Puerto Rico’s governor, saying he needs to pull the island out of a “death spiral,” has concluded that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts, an admission that will probably have wide-reaching financial repercussions. The governor, Alejandro García Padilla, and senior members of his staff said in an interview last week that they would probably seek significant concessions from as many as all of the island’s creditors, which could include deferring some debt payments for as long as five years or extending the timetable for repayment. “The debt is not payable,” Mr. García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.”

It is a startling admission from the governor of an island of 3.6 million people, which has piled on more municipal bond debt per capita than any American state. A broad restructuring by Puerto Rico sets the stage for an unprecedented test of the United States municipal bond market, which cities and states rely on to pay for their most basic needs, like road construction and public hospitals. That market has already been shaken by municipal bankruptcies in Detroit; Stockton, Calif.; and elsewhere, which undercut assumptions that local governments in the United States would always pay back their debt. Puerto Rico’s bonds have a face value roughly eight times that of Detroit’s bonds. Its call for debt relief on such a vast scale could raise borrowing costs for other local governments as investors become more wary of lending.

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Jun 192015
 
 June 19, 2015  Posted by at 7:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  5 Responses »
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G.G. Bain Three-ton electric sign blown into Broadway, New York. 1912

The troika of Greek creditors has gone into full-frontal morals-be-damned attack mode, handpicking arms from a weapons arsenal we haven’t seen used before, and that we never should have seen in an environment that insists – and prides – on presenting itself as a union, both in name and in spirit. Now that they are being used, there no longer is such a union other than in name, in empty words.

This has turned into the kind of economic warfare one would expect to see between sworn and lethal enemies, that the US would gladly use against Russia for instance, but not between partners in a union founded on principles based entirely and exclusively on being mutually beneficial to everyone involved.

Those principles, and everything that has been based on them, the common currency, the surrender of ever more sovereignty on the part of the nations involved, the relinquishing of national powers to the various supra-national bodies in Brussels, has for everyone involved been based on trust. Nobody would ever have signed up to any of it without that trust. But just look where we are now.

When spokespeople at the troika side of the table stated on Thursday that they don’t know if Greek banks will be open on Monday, they crossed a line that should never even have been contemplated. This is so far beyond the pale, it should by all accounts, if everyone involved manages to keep a somewhat clear head, blow up the union once and for all. If a party to a negotiation that can’t get its way stoops to these kinds of tactics, there is very little room left for talk.

And all EU nations should understand by now that this is not about Greece anymore, it’s about all of them. Any member nations that does not fall into -goose- step with Brussels must from here on in be prepared to deal with attempts to crush it economically and politically.

Whatever trust there once was is now gone. And trust, once blown, is painfully difficult to regain. The negotiations on the Greek debt crisis have become just another dirty business deal, and have nothing to do anymore with conversations between equal partners in a union. Even though that is still what they’re supposed to be. Officially.

Translation: there are no equal partners in Europe. There only ever were in name. When people thought they signed up for a tide to lift all boats. The Greek crisis has destroyed that lift-all-boats notion once and for all. All that’s left of the union is power politics, of those (s)elected to represent all member nations, working to crush one of them with all weapons at their disposal.

One of those weapons is utilizing the media to incite a bank-run in Greece, aimed at paralyzing the Greek government into full submission. The run-up to the bank-run has been building up steam ever since Syriza took over 5 months ago, but apparently not fast enough for the troika.

The threat has always been simmering below the surface; what changed is that the moral constraint which kept the creditors from speaking out loud in public about it, was dropped yesterday. And that changes everything.

The European Union cannot deliberately aim at a bank-run in an individual eurozone member nation without quashing the very trust that holds the union together. The only remaining question after this is: who’s next in line?

This is from the Guardian:

Greece Faces Banking Crisis After Eurozone Meeting Breaks Down

Greece is facing a full-blown banking crisis after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers broke down in acrimony and recrimination on Thursday evening, bringing the prospect of Greek exit from the eurozone a step nearer. Some €2bn of deposits have been withdrawn from Greek banks so far this week – including a record €1bn yesterday – triggering fears that a breakdown in talks would spark a further flight of funds.

[..] leaders of the eurozone and the IMF aimed bitter criticism at the leftwing Greek government, accusing it of lying to its own people, misrepresenting and misleading other EU leaders, refusing to negotiate seriously, and taking Greece to the brink of catastrophe.

‘Not negotiating seriously’ translates as ‘not doing what we tell you to do’. It’s absurd to claim that Syriza, which has tabled an entire range of proposals, one even more detailed than the other, does not attempt to negotiate seriously. It’s a claim the Greek side can make just as well. The underlying tendency is that the troika does not see the talks as taking place between equal partners. And that is lethal for the whole idea behind the European Union. It’s its instant death even if people will be slow to realize it.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, said there was an urgent need for dialogue “with adults in the room”. She added: “We can only arrive at a resolution if there is a dialogue. Right now we’re short of a dialogue.”

This is something only a juvenile mind would come up with. Lagarde is obviously not worried about her reputation, she feels -nigh- omnipotent, but she really should be. She’s causing enormous damage to the IMF, and its future standing in the world. There are many IMF member nations who now know they can and must expect to be treated in the same way should there ever be a conflict involving their nation and the Fund.

Lagarde has taken a tough line on debt talks with Athens over the past four months, since the radical leftist Syriza government took control and insisted creditors drop proposals for further austerity as the price of releasing the last tranche of bailout funds. At the talks in Luxembourg she reportedly introduced herself to Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis as “the criminal in chief”, in reference to Tsipras’s claim earlier this week that the IMF bore “criminal responsibility” for the situation in Greece.

Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic affairs, who has been more sympathetic to the Greek case, said: “There’s not much time to avoid the worst.” He appealed to the Tsipras government to return to the negotiating table, making it plain that Athens has been treating its creditors and EU partners with contempt.

Who’s been treating whom with contempt? Have the Syriza team ever been treated as equal partners in the conversation? This is perhaps best expressed by Bob Dylan’s “It’s a restless hungry feeling that don’t mean no-one no good; when everything I’m-a-sayin’, you can say it just as good”.

Dijsselbloem demanded that the Greek government act quickly to restore trust and stem the haemorrhaging of deposits. “It’s a sign of great concern for the future,” he said. “It can be dealt with, but it requires quick action.”

It’s Greece that caused the deposit flight? The only sense in which that could be true is that is has refused to bend over and let the troika have its way with its democratically elected government.

Top officials from the ECB told the meeting that Greece might need to impose capital controls within days. They said the banks would be open on Friday. “On Monday, I don’t know,” Benoit Coeure from the ECB board was said to have told the ministers.

There is no longer even any semblance of equality among partners either in the eurozone or at the negotiating table. It’s important to see this not just in the light of the current talks, but in that of future of the European Union as a whole, and in that of future talks about debts that EU member nations have incurred with any of the troika parties.

What the antagonism is about is really quite simple. Though the fact that the troika is split doesn’t make it any simpler. The IMF won’t budge on imposing additional austerity measures, but wants Europe to execute debt relief. Europe is more flexible on austerity but refuses debt relief.

Or, actually, it says debt relief can be discussed, but only after Greece has signed on for a list of demanded ‘reforms’. For the Greeks, that’s the wrong way around. Not in the least because the EU floated debt relief back in 2012 but has never delivered.

Politicians and media in countries like Germany and Holland have engaged in so much rhetoric about Greeks living lavishly off other nations’ taxpayers’ money that they fear for their political careers if they were to offer an overt restructuring and tell the truth about wat actually happened in the bailouts.

The IMF’s Olivier Blanchard this week held out some vague idea of even longer maturities and even lower interest rates as the definition of debt relied for Greece, but what is needed is a much more comprehensive restructuring. Along the lines of a 50% or so reduction of the debt.

The problem is that Germany, France and Holland used the money that Greece now supposedly owes, to bail out their own banks. And never presented it domestically this way. But that is not Greece’s fault, or its responsibility.

The second main issue, austerity measures, comes in the shape of ‘reforms’ to the Greek pension system. Which badly needs a revamp, and Syriza is the first to acknowledge that. What it doesn’t want, though, is for the system to be cut first, and changed only later. Because that would mean that many Greeks who are already in dire need would from one day to the next be made even poorer.

And since any comprehensive change to the pension system would be laborious and time consuming even under advantageous circumstances, and there is little faith that Europe wouldn’t stretch it out even further, cutting now and talking about it later is not acceptable for Varoufakis and his people.

To add to the vicious irony of the situation, as Paul De Grauwe noted, Greece is illiquid -it has no access to capital markets-, but it’s not insolvent.

Greece Is Solvent But Illiquid. What Should The ECB Do?

[Greece’s] headline debt burden of 175% of GDP in 2015 vastly overstates the effective debt burden. The latter can be defined as the net present value of the expected future interest disbursements and debt repayments by the Greek government [..] Various estimates suggest that this effective debt burden of the Greek government is less than half of the headline debt burden of 175%.

[..] the effective debt burden of the Greek government is lower than the debt burden faced by not only the other periphery countries of the Eurozone but also by countries like Belgium and France. This leads to the conclusion that the Greek government debt is most probably sustainable provided Greece can start growing again[..]. Put differently, provided Greece can grow, its government is solvent. [..]

Today Greece has no access to the capital markets except if it is willing to pay prohibitive interest rates that would call into question its solvency. As a result, it cannot rollover its debt despite the fact that the debt is sustainable. There is something circular here. If Greece is unable to find the liquidity to roll over its debt it will be forced to default. [..] The expectation that the Greek government will be faced with a liquidity problem is self-fulfilling.

If the ECB would simply include Greece in its €60 billion a month QE bond-buying scheme, and buy Greek bonds as well as allow Athens to access international capital markets through one of Mario Draghi‘s whatever-it-takes statements, the crisis would be lifted in very substantial ways, in a heartbeat.

Instead, the troika part of the ‘negotiations’ does not involve trying to find such a solution, what they want is for Greece to give in, give up, bend over, and take it up the …

The powers that be are so full of hubris and of themselves that they ignore the fact that their actions today sow the seeds for the demise of all three of their constituencies, IMF, ECB and EU.

None of these institutions has any raison d’être or any claim to fame unless there is explicit trust in what they represent. That trust is now gone, and it’s hard to see how it can ever be recovered.

Whatever happens to Greece going forward, that is perhaps the biggest gain its dramatic crisis will gift to the rest of Europe, and indeed the world. Which therefore owe it a debt of gratitude, and of solidarity.