Sep 052016
 
 September 5, 2016  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle September 5 2016


DPC Sternwheeler Mary H. Miller in Mississippi River floating dry dock, Vicksburg 1905

China, US Commit To Refrain From Currency Wars (R.)
China’s $3.9 Trillion Wealth-Management Product Boom Seen Cooling (BBG)
China Banks Play Catch Up With Capital Raising As Bad Loans Soar (BBG)
Stiglitz: “Cost Of Keeping Euro Probably Exceeds Cost Of Breaking It Up” (LSE)
Hanjin Shipping Shares Drop 30% As It Seeks Stay Orders In 43 Countries (BBG)
Japan’s Long-Term Bonds Add To Worst Rout Since 2013 (BBG)
BOJ’s Kuroda Says Room For More Easing, Including New Ideas (R.)
EU Finds Volkswagen Broke Consumer Laws In 20 Countries (R.)
The Greater Depression (Quinn)
The Ultimate 21st Century Choice: OBOR Or War (Escobar)
EU Will Not Release More Bailout Money For Greece This Month (R.)
Hungary Police Recruit ‘Border-Hunters’ To Keep Migrants Out (BBC)
Overnight Clashes At Lesvos Refugee Center (Kath.)
9,000-Year-Old Stone Houses Found On Australian Island (G.)
World’s Largest Gorillas ‘One Step From Going Extinct’ (AFP)

 

 

Sure. We believe you.

China, US Commit To Refrain From Currency Wars (R.)

China and the United States on Sunday committed anew to refrain from competitive currency devaluations, and China said it would continue an orderly transition to a market-oriented exchange rate for the yuan. A joint “fact sheet”, issued a day after U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held talks, also said the two countries had committed “not to unnecessarily limit or prevent commercial sales opportunities for foreign suppliers of ICT (information and communications technology) products or services”. While China and the United States cooperate closely on a range of global issues, including North Korea’s disputed nuclear program and climate change, the two countries have deep disagreements in other areas, like cyberhacking and human rights.

Both countries said they would “refrain from competitive devaluations and not target exchange rates for competitive purposes”, the fact sheet said. Meanwhile, China would “continue an orderly transition to a market-determined exchange rate, enhancing two-way flexibility. China stresses that there is no basis for a sustained depreciation of the RMB (yuan). Both sides recognize the importance of clear policy communication.” China shocked global markets by devaluing the yuan in August 2015 and allowing it to slip sharply again early this year. Though it has stepped in to temper losses in recent weeks, the currency is still hovering near six-year lows against the dollar.

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Only when Beijing can locate another bubble to blow.

China’s $3.9 Trillion Wealth-Management Product Boom Seen Cooling (BBG)

China’s multi-trillion dollar boom in wealth-management products, under scrutiny around the world because of potential threats to financial stability, is set to cool as yields fall on tighter regulation, according to China Merchants Securities analyst Ma Kunpeng. Ma cited a “significant slowdown” in the products’ growth in the first half and said that WMPs may shrink in the future, with money flowing elsewhere. Banks have started to lower yields on WMPs in preparation for requirements for funds to be held in third-party custody, the analyst said, adding that such a change may be implemented over six months to a year. Currently, lenders can use newly invested money to pay off maturing products. The Chinese government and agencies including the IMF are focused on potential risks from WMPs that rose to a record 26.3 trillion yuan ($3.9 trillion) as of June 30.

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Have investors, who are mostly domestic, buy your banks’ bad debt. This is just shifting the rotten fish from the right pocket to the left.

China Banks Play Catch Up With Capital Raising As Bad Loans Soar (BBG)

China’s banks, which dialed down fundraising efforts this year even as bad debts swelled, are making up for lost time. Both lenders and the companies set up to acquire their delinquent assets are bolstering their finances. China Citic Bank last month announced plans to raise as much as 40 billion yuan ($6 billion), while Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial Bank and China Zheshang Bank are also boosting capital. China Cinda Asset Management and China Huarong Asset Management are poised to tap investors. “Chinese banks are preemptively raising capital while pricing remains favorable in order to tackle higher loan impairments,” said Nicholas Yap at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities in Hong Kong.

“Additionally, the mid- and small-sized lenders also need to boost their capital levels as they have been growing their asset bases rapidly, largely through their investment receivables portfolios.” Chinese banks have strained their finances with the busiest first-half lending spree on record, despite having the highest amount of bad debt in 11 years. Still, completed offerings of hybrid capital declined 38% after two consecutive years of record fundraising. A rule change in April that requires lenders to make full provisions for loan rights they have transferred is also encouraging the fundraising. BNP Paribas said Chinese lenders may be assessing the right time to approach investors.

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You have to specify who’s going to pay that cost, Joe.

Stiglitz: “Cost Of Keeping Euro Probably Exceeds Cost Of Breaking It Up” (LSE)

Can the euro be saved? In an interview with Artemis Photiadou and EUROPP’s editor Stuart Brown, Nobel Prize-winning economist and bestselling author Joseph Stiglitz discusses the structural problems at the heart of the Eurozone, why an amicable divorce may be preferable to maintaining the single currency, and how European leaders should respond to the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Your new book, The Euro: And its Threat to Europe, outlines the problems at the heart of the euro and their effects on European economies. Can the euro be saved?

The fundamental thesis of the book is that it is the structure of the Eurozone itself, not the actions of individual countries, which is at the root of the problem. All countries make mistakes, but the real problem is the structure of the Eurozone. A lot of people say there were policy mistakes – and there have been a lot of policy mistakes – but even the best economic minds in the world would have been incapable of making the euro work. It’s fundamentally a structural problem with the Eurozone. So are there reforms that could make the euro work? Yes, I think there are and in my book I talk about what these reforms would be. They are not that complicated economically, after all the United States is made up of 50 diverse states and they all use the same currency so we know that you can make a currency union work. But the question is, is there political will and is there enough solidarity to make it work?

There is an argument that even if the euro was a mistake, the costs of breaking it up may be so severe that it is worth pushing for a reformed euro rather than pursuing what you call an ‘amicable divorce’. Are the benefits of a properly functioning euro worth the costs to get there? You are right. The question of whether you should form the union is different from whether you should break it up: history matters. I think it’s pretty clear now that it was a mistake to start the euro at that time, with those institutions. There will be a cost to breaking it up, but whichever way you look at it, over the last 8 years the euro has generated enormous costs for Europe. And I think that one could manage the cost of breaking it up and that under the current course, the cost of keeping the Eurozone together probably exceeds the cost of breaking it up.

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Chapter 11.

Hanjin Shipping Shares Drop 30% As It Seeks Stay Orders In 43 Countries (BBG)

South Korea’s financial regulator said Hanjin Shipping will seek stay orders in 43 countries to protect its vessels from being seized, after its court receivership filing last week roiled companies’ supply chain before the year-end shopping season. Applications in 10 countries will be made this week and the remainder soon, the Financial Supervisory Commission said in a statement Monday. Hanjin Group, owner of the shipping line, should also take more action to account for the “chaos” caused to the shipping industry, FSC Chairman Yim Jong Yong said. Vessels of Hanjin – the world’s 7th-largest container carrier with a 2.9% market share – are getting stranded at sea and ports after the box carrier sought protection, hurting the supply of LG televisions and other consumer goods ahead of the holiday season.

Hanjin Shipping shares resumed trading Monday limit down 30% and later erased losses to rally as much as 18%. Any optimism may be misplaced, said Park Moo Hyun Hana Financial Investment in Seoul. “Retail investors are hoping for the best on false hopes,” Park said. “They think that government measures to help resolve the supply-chain disruptions could mean it’s also supporting Hanjin Shipping. They don’t seem to realize that that’s the wrong conclusion.” The commission said 79 of Hanjin’s vessels, including 61 container ships, have had their operations disrupted. Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang Ho and Korean Air Lines, the shipping company’s largest shareholder, should take steps to ease the disruptions, Yim said.

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Keep digging!

Japan’s Long-Term Bonds Add To Worst Rout Since 2013 (BBG)

Japanese long-term bonds fell, with 30-year debt adding to its biggest weekly loss in almost 2 1/2 years, as investors prepared to bid at an auction of the securities Tuesday. The rout is being driven by speculation the Bank of Japan will reduce its bond-buying program at its next policy meeting Sept. 20-21 now that it owns a third of the nation’s government debt. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said Monday he doesn’t share the view there’s a limit to monetary easing. PIMCO said last month the central bank has pushed monetary policy as far as it can. “Unless Governor Kuroda directly rules out scaling back bond purchases, the market will continue to hold that as a possibility,” said Shuichi Ohsaki, the chief rates strategist at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit in Tokyo. “Selling of longer-dated debt is likely ahead of tomorrow’s 30-year auction.”

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The whole notion that you’re going to try out ‘New Ideas’ kills off confidence, the one thing you know is needed.

BOJ’s Kuroda Says Room For More Easing, Including New Ideas (R.)

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda signaled his readiness to ease monetary policy further using existing or new tools, shrugging off growing market concerns that the bank is reaching its limits after an already massive stimulus program. He also stressed the BOJ’s comprehensive assessment of its policies later this month won’t lead to a withdrawal of easing. But Kuroda acknowledged that the BOJ’s negative interest rate policy may impair financial intermediation and hurt public confidence in Japan’s banking system, a sign the central bank is becoming more mindful of the rising cost of its stimulus.

“Even within the current framework, there is ample room for further monetary easing … and other new ideas should not be off the table,” Kuroda told a seminar on Monday. “There may be a situation where drastic measures are warranted even though they could entail costs,” he said, adding that the BOJ should “always prepare policy options.” Under its current framework that combines negative rates with hefty buying of government bonds and some riskier assets, the BOJ has gobbled up a third of Japan’s bond market and faced criticism from banks for squeezing already thin profit margins.

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Slap that wrist!

EU Finds Volkswagen Broke Consumer Laws In 20 Countries (R.)

The European Commission has found that Volkswagen broke consumer laws in 20 European Union countries by cheating on emissions tests, German daily Die Welt reported, citing Commission sources. Among them are the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive – which prohibits companies from touting exaggerated environmental claims in their sales pitches – and the Unfair Commercial Practises Directive, both of which apply across the EU, the paper said. The European Commission said Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska has repeatedly invited Volkswagen to consider compensating consumers voluntarily, without an encouraging response, and that it was for national courts to determine whether consumers were legally entitled to compensation.

To ensure consumers are treated fairly, a Commission spokeswoman said, Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova had written to consumer associations across the EU to collect information. “She will meet relevant representatives in Brussels this week,” the spokeswoman wrote in an emailed response. Jourova has been working with consumer groups to pressure Volkswagen to compensate clients in Europe as it has in the United States over the diesel emissions scandal. Volkswagen has pledged billions of euros to compensate owners of VW diesel-powered cars, but has so far rejected calls for similar payments for the 8.5 million affected vehicles in Europe, where different legal rules weaken the chances of winning a pay out.

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Jim makes a good point: today’s food lines have turned digital.

The Greater Depression (Quinn)

It’s the black and white photographs of disheartened men and hungry children from the 1930’s that define the Great Depression for present day generations. Of course after years of government run social engineering disguised as education, most people couldn’t even define when or what constituted the Great Depression. These heart wrenching portraits of average Americans suffering and in despair capture the zeitgeist of the last Fourth Turning crisis. Apologists for the status quo contend the last eight years couldn’t possibly be classified as a depression. The narrative of economic recovery has been peddled by corporate media mouthpieces, feckless politicians, Too Big To Trust Wall Street bankers, Federal Reserve puppets, and government apparatchiks flogging manipulated data as proof of economic advancement. They point to the lack of soup lines as proof we couldn’t be experiencing a depression.

First of all, if there were soup lines, the corporate media would just ignore them. If they don’t report it, then it isn’t happening. Secondly, the soup lines are electronic, as the government downloads the “soup” onto EBT cards so JP Morgan can reap billions in fees to run the SNAP program. Just because there are no pictures of starving downtrodden Americans in shabby clothes waiting in soup lines, doesn’t mean the majority of Americans aren’t experiencing a depression. If the country has actually been experiencing an economic recovery for the last seven years, why would 14% to 15% of all Americans be dependent on food stamps to survive? When the economy is actually growing and employment is really below 5%, the%age of Americans on food stamps is below 8%.

If the government economic data was truthful, there would not be 43.5 million people living in 21.4 households (17% of all households) dependent on food stamps. More than 100 million Americans are now dependent on some form of federal welfare (not including Social Security or Medicare). If the economy came out of recession in the second half of 2009, why would 6 million more Americans need to go on welfare over the next two years?

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I don’t know, it’s an ambitious dream and all, but… Reading that $40 billion has been pledged for a $1.4 trillion project doesn’t help, I guess.

The Ultimate 21st Century Choice: OBOR Or War (Escobar)

The G20 meets in tech hub Hangzhou, China, at an extremely tense geopolitical juncture. China has invested immense political/economic capital to prepare this summit. The debates will revolve around the main theme of seeking solutions “towards an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world economy.” G20 Trade Ministers have already agreed to lay down nine core principles for global investment. At the summit, China will keep pressing for emerging markets to have a bigger say in the Bretton Woods system. But most of all China will seek greater G20 backing for the New Silk Roads – or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), as they are officially known – as well as the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

So at the heart of the G20 we will have the two projects which are competing head on to geopolitically shape the young 21st century. China has proposed OBOR; a pan-Eurasian connectivity spectacular designed to configure a hypermarket at least 10 times the size of the US market within the next two decades. The US hyperpower – not the Atlanticist West, because Europe is mired in fear and stagnation — “proposes” the current neocon/neoliberalcon status quo; the usual Divide and Rule tactics; and the primacy of fear, enshrined in the Pentagon array of “threats” that must be fought, from Russia and China to Iran. The geopolitical rumble in the background high-tech jungle is all about the “containment” of top G20 members Russia and China.

Shuttling between the West and Asia, one can glimpse, in myriad forms, the graphic contrast between paralysis and paranoia and an immensely ambitious $1.4 trillion project potentially touching 64 nations, no less than 4.4 billion people and around 40 per cent of the global economy which will, among other features, create new “innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive” trade horizons and arguably install a post-geopolitics win-win era. An array of financial mechanisms is already in place. The AIIB (which will fund way beyond the initial commitment of $100 billion); the Silk Road Fund ($40 billion already committed); the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), initially committing $100 billion; plus assorted players such as the China Development Bank and the Hong Kong-based China Merchants Holdings International.

Chinese state companies and funds are relentlessly buying up ports and tech companies in Western Europe – from Greece to the UK. Cargo trains are now plying the route from Zhejiang to Tehran in 14 days, through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan; soon this will be all part of a trans-Eurasia high-speed rail network, including a high-speed Transiberian. The $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has the potential to unblock vast swathes of South Asia, with Gwadar, operated by China Overseas Port Holdings, slated to become a key naval hub of the New Silk Roads. Deep-sea ports will be built in Kyaukphyu in Myanmar, Sonadia island in Bangladesh, Hambantota in Sri Lanka. Add to them the China-Belarus Industrial Park and 33 deals in Kazakhstan covering everything from mining and engineering to oil and gas.

Read more …

Greece gets punished for not inflicting more misery on its people fast enough.

EU Will Not Release More Bailout Money For Greece This Month (R.)

The euro zone will not release additional bailout money for Greece at a meeting in Bratislava this month, Germany’s Handelsblatt Global reported on Sunday, citing European Union diplomats. The online edition of the German business daily quoted the diplomats as saying that Athens had only implemented two of 15 political reforms that are conditions for the bailout money. Above all, they said, Greece had been slow to privatize state assets. Under a deal signed last year with the Troika, the ESM will provide financial assistance of up to €86 billion to Greece by 2018 in return for the agreed reforms.

The debt relief is due to be granted in tranches, including short-term measures to extend Greece’s debt, with a further reduction due after 2018 including interest deferrals and interest rate caps. Handelsblatt Global said the Eurogroup had approved a tranche of €10.3 billion for Greece in May from the overall package. An initial €7.5 billion of that sum had been transferred to Athens with the rest scheduled to arrive in the fall. The diplomats said the Eurogroup will only discuss a progress report on Greece at the Bratislava meeting. The comments came just days after the head of the euro zone’s bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) on Saturday said Greece could secure short-term debt relief measures “very soon” if it implements remaining reforms agreed under its bailout program.

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Civilized Europe.

Hungary Police Recruit ‘Border-Hunters’ To Keep Migrants Out (BBC)

The Hungarian police are advertising for 3,000 “border-hunters”, who will reinforce up to 10,000 police and soldiers patrolling a razor-wire fence built to keep migrants out. The new recruits, like existing officers, will carry pistols with live ammunition, and have pepper spray, batons, handcuffs and protective kit. The number of migrants reaching Hungary’s southern border with Serbia has stagnated, at fewer than 200 daily. The new guards will start work in May.\ The recruits will have six months’ training, they must be over 18, physically fit and must pass a psychological test, police officer Zsolt Pozsgai told Hungarian state television. Monthly pay will be 150,000 forint ($542) for the first two months, then 220,300 forint.

Hungary is in the grip of a massive publicity campaign, launched by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government ahead of a 2 October referendum. Voters will be asked to oppose a European Commission proposal to relocate 160,000 refugees more fairly across the 28-nation EU. Under the EU scheme, Hungary has been asked to take 1,300 refugees. The relocation programme is for refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. Currently 30 migrants are allowed into Hungary each day through official “transit zones”.

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Inevitable when far too many people are forced into far too few places, over prolonged periods of absolute uncertainty about their fate. Though children assaulting children is a new depth. Our friend Kostas says these things originate almost always in a lack of food. The solution is simple: EU countries should live up to their promises regarding refugee relocation.

Overnight Clashes At Lesvos Refugee Center (Kath.)

Authorities say clashes have broken out between rival ethnic groups of refugees and other migrants at a detention camp on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Lesvos. The trouble at the Moria hot spot started shortly after midnight in a wing of the camp where minors are held and then spread, authorities said, adding that child refugees from Syria had been assaulted by a group of Afghan children. An unspecified number of children were injured while about 40 of them escaped into nearby fields. Order was restored around 4 a.m. after intervention by riot police. Authorities were trying to locate the missing children. Nearly 5,000 migrants and refugees are currently sheltered on the islands of Lesvos. Local authorities are demanding immediate government action to decongest overcrowded migrant facilities.

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Australia’s ancient civilizations were way ahead of anyone else.

9,000-Year-Old Stone Houses Found On Australian Island (G.)

Archeologists working on the Dampier archipelago off Australia’s north-west coast have found evidence of stone houses dating back 9,000 years – to the end of the last ice age – building the case for the area to get a world heritage listing. Circular stone foundations were discovered in a cave floor on Rosemary Island, the outermost of 42 islands that make up the archipelago. The islands and the nearby Burrup peninsula are known as Murujuga – a word meaning “hip bones sticking out” – in the language of the Ngarluma people. Prof Jo Mcdonald, director of the Centre for Rock Art Research and Management at the University of Western Australia, said the excavations showed occupation was maintained throughout the ice age and the period of rapid sea level rise that followed.

“Around 8,000 years ago, it would have been on the coast,” McDonald told Guardian Australia. “This is the time that the islands were starting to be cut off and it’s a time when people were starting to rearrange themselves.” The sea level on Australia’s north-west coast rose 130 metres after the end of the ice age, at a rate of about a metre every five to 10 years. “In people’s lifetimes they would have seen loss of territory and would have had to renegotiate – a bit like Miami these days,” McDonald said. The placement of the stone structures indicated how that sudden space restriction was managed, she said. “The development of housing is really significant in terms of understanding how people actually divided up their space and lived in close proximity to each other in times of environmental stress.”

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“..we are wiping out some of our closest relatives..”

World’s Largest Gorillas ‘One Step From Going Extinct’ (AFP)

The world’s largest gorillas have been pushed to the brink of extinction by a surge of illegal hunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are now critically endangered, officials said Sunday. With just 5,000 Eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei) left on Earth, the majestic species now faces the risk of disappearing completely, officials said at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s global conference in Honolulu. Four out of six of the Earth’s great apes are now critically endangered, “only one step away from going extinct,” including the Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan, said the IUCN in an update to its Red List, the world’s most comprehensive inventory of plant and animal species. Chimpanzees and bonobos are listed as endangered.

“Today is a sad day because the IUCN Red List shows we are wiping out some of our closest relatives,” Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, told reporters. War, hunting and loss of land to refugees in the past 20 years have led to a “devastating population decline of more than 70%,” for the Eastern gorilla, said the IUCN’s update. One of the two subspecies of Eastern gorilla, known as Grauer’s gorilla (G. b. graueri), has drastically declined since 1994 when there were 16,900 individuals, to just 3,800 in 2015. Even though killing these apes is against the law, hunting is their greatest threat, experts said. The second subspecies of Eastern gorilla – the Mountain gorilla (G. b. beringei) – has seen a small rebound in its numbers, and totals around 880 individuals.

Read more …

Jul 302016
 
 July 30, 2016  Posted by at 7:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Delano Street scene on a rainy day in Norwich, Connecticut 1940

US GDP Grew a Disappointing 1.2% in Q2 As Q1 Revised Down to 0.8% (WSJ)
Rescue Package In Place For Europe’s Oldest Bank, Weakest In Stress Tests (G.)
ECB Bond Buying Risks Blocking Debt Restructurings (R.)
Chinese Capital Outflows May Still Be Happening – But In Disguise (BBG)
Bank of Japan’s Quest for 2% Inflation (BBG)
The Bank of Japan Is At A Crossroads (BBG)
US Authorities Subpoena Goldman In 1MDB Probe (R.)
Australia Headed For Recession As Early As Next Year – Steve Keen (ABC.au)
‘Sell The House, Sell The Car, Sell The Kids’ – Gundlach (R.)
British Columbia Violates NAFTA With Its Foreign Property Tax (FP)
Another “Smoking Gun” Looms As Hillary Campaign Admits Server Hacked (ZH)
Greek Islands Appeal For Measures To Deal With Influx Of Refugees (Kath.)
England’s Plastic Bag Usage Drops 85% Since 5p Charge Introduced (G.)

 

 

Only positive is consumer spending. But without knowing how much of that is borrowed (let alone manipulated), it’s a meaningless number.

US GDP Grew a Disappointing 1.2% in Q2 As Q1 Revised Down to 0.8% (WSJ)

Declining business investment is hobbling an already sluggish U.S. expansion, raising concerns about the economy’s durability as the presidential campaign heads into its final stretch. GDP, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the U.S., grew at a seasonally and inflation adjusted annual rate of just 1.2% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday, well below the pace economists expected. Economic growth is now tracking at a 1% rate in 2016—the weakest start to a year since 2011—when combined with a downwardly revised reading for the first quarter. That makes for an annual average rate of 2.1% growth since the end of the recession, the weakest pace of any expansion since at least 1949.

The output figures are in some ways discordant with other gauges of the economy. The unemployment rate stands at 4.9% after a streak of strong job gains, wages have begun to pick up, and home sales hit a post-recession high last month. Consumer spending also remains strong. Personal consumption, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic output, expanded at a 4.2% rate in the second quarter, the best gain since late 2014. On the downside, the third straight quarter of reduced business investment, a large paring back of inventories and declining government spending cut into those gains. “Consumer spending growth was the sole element of good news” in the latest GDP figures, said Gregory Daco at Oxford Economics. “Weakness in business investment is an important and lingering growth constraint.”

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“This is a market operation that will reinforce the capital position of the bank and free it completely of bad loans…” If it’s that easy, do it all over the place, I’d think. Who do they think they’re fooling?

Rescue Package In Place For Europe’s Oldest Bank, Weakest In Stress Tests (G.)

A rescue package of the world’s oldest bank has been announced after a health check of the biggest banks across the EU showed that Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena’s financial position would be wiped out if the global economy and financial markets came under strain. The much-anticipated result of the stress tests – for which there was no pass or fail mark – of 51 banks showed that Italy’s third largest bank emerged weakest from the assessment. But the test – which exposed banks to headwinds in the global economy and dramatic movements in currency markets – also underlined the drop in the capital position of bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland and the hit taken by Barclays observed under the imaginary scenarios. Banks from Italy, Ireland, Spain and Austria fared worst.

Regulators said that the tests showed that the bank sector was much stronger than it had been at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, which led to the introduction of the stress tests. Even so, the European Banking Authority (EBA), which conducted the tests on lenders, acknowledged that more needed to done.Under the latest stress test scenario, some €269bn (£227bn) would be wiped off the capital bases of the banks. “The EBA’s 2016 stress test shows the benefits of capital strengthening done so far are reflected in the resilience of the EU banking sector to a severe shock,” said Andrea Enria, EBA chair. “This stress test is a vital tool to assist supervisors in accelerating the process of repair of banks’ balance sheets, which is so important for restoring lending to households and businesses.

“The EBA’s stress test is not a pass [or] fail exercise. While we recognise the extensive capital raising done so far, this is not a clean bill of health. There remains work to do which supervisors will undertake.” The bank that fared the worst was MPS, which suffered a dramatic 14 percentage point fall in its capital position. It had been expected to perform badly and talks had already been underway before the results of the stress tests were published to try to find a way to bolster its capital. New EU regulations prevented the Italian government from pumping any taxpayer money into MPS so efforts were needed to try to stop of tens of thousands of ordinary Italians – who had bought its bonds – losing their savings. Italy’s banks are in the spotlight as they are weighed down by €360bn of bad debts.

Italy’s finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan – who as recently as Sunday said there was no crisis in Italy – endorsed the deal put together to raise €5bn from private investors and sell €9.2bn of bad debts. “The government is greatly satisfied with the operation [the deal] launched … by Monte dei Paschi of Siena,” he said. “This is a market operation that will reinforce the capital position of the bank and free it completely of bad loans. The operation will allow the bank to develop a solid industrial plan, thanks to which it will boost its support for the real economy through lending to families and businesses.”

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Unintended consequences. Hilarious, really.

ECB Bond Buying Risks Blocking Debt Restructurings (R.)

The European Central Bank could scupper future eurozone debt restructurings if it increases the amount of a country’s bonds it can buy under its economic stimulus program, a top debt lawyer warned. The problem, on the radar of European authorities suffering a hangover from the 2012 crisis, has been pushed to the fore by expectations the ECB will need to raise limits on its bond purchases to keep its quantitative easing scheme on track.

Kai Schaffelhuber, a partner at law firm Allen & Overy, said that if the ECB permitted itself to buy more than a third of a country’s debt it would make a restructuring of privately-held bonds more difficult, a move that could increase the likelihood of taxpayer rescues. In a debt restructuring, a quorum of investors has to agree the terms of a deal. The ECB cannot participate because it is forbidden from directly financing governments. “They (the ECB) should avoid a situation where they are holding so much (of a) debt that a restructuring becomes virtually impossible,” said Schaffelhuber, whose firm worked on Greece’s 2012 debt restructuring.

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Samoa….

Chinese Capital Outflows May Still Be Happening – But In Disguise (BBG)

When there’s a will to get money out of China, there’s a way: overpay. Authorities in the world’s second-largest economy have been able to pursue a policy of managed depreciation for the Chinese yuan without spooking markets and eliciting expectations of major foreign-exchange volatility, the way the one-off devaluation did last August. One big reason is that Beijing seems to have had success in cracking down on the flood of money leaving the country, which had been prompting sizable drawdowns in the central bank’s foreign currency reserves, to prop up the value of the yuan. But a report from a Nomura team led by Chief China Economist Yang Zhao says these capital outflows have merely taken another form: the over-invoicing of imports from select locales.

And this time, it’s not just a Hong Kong story. “A detailed breakdown by region shows imports from some tax haven islands or offshore financial centres surged” in the first half of the year, he writes, “against the backdrop of a large decline in overall imports.” Now, it may be the China’s appetite for copra and coconut oil, two key Samoan exports, has indeed surged. But Zhao has a different explanation. “This suggests to us that capital outflows may have been disguised as imports in China’s trade with these tax-haven or offshore financial centres, though the precise volumes are unknown,” according to the economist. “With stronger capital controls in place we believe continued capital outflows via the current account are likely.”

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Exposing the uselessness of the whole idea.

Bank of Japan’s Quest for 2% Inflation (BBG)

The U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the ECB are among the world’s monetary authorities that have set an inflation target right around 2%. Nowhere, though, does the quest for this special number carry drama like it does in Japan, where Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has vowed to do whatever it takes to stimulate prices. On Friday in Tokyo, the BOJ indicated there were risks to achieving this target anytime soon.

1. What’s so special about 2%? The BOJ set its current inflation target in January 2013, less than a month after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power with a plan to pull the economy out of two decades of stagnation. In Japan and many other developed economies, prices rising by 2% a year is seen as optimal for encouraging companies to invest and consumers to spend. It’s also thought to be low enough to avoid sparking the runaway inflation that crippled Germany’s Weimar Republic in the 1920s and Zimbabwe in more recent times.

2. How close has Japan gotten to 2% inflation? Not very. What Japan has had, on-and-off since the late 1990s, is deflation – inflation below 0% – with prices dropping across a wide range of goods.

3. What caused deflation? It began with the bursting of a real estate and asset-price bubble. Wounded banks curbed lending, companies focused on cutting debt, wages stagnated and consumers reined in spending. Households became accustomed to falling prices and put off purchases. The global financial crisis of 2008, and the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011, entrenched what Kuroda describes as a “deflationary mindset” among consumers and companies in Japan. The nation’s aging and shrinking population is now making matters worse.

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I think they passed that crossroads long ago. Just didn’t recognize it for what it was.

The Bank of Japan Is At A Crossroads (BBG)

After more than three years of pumping out wave after wave of cheap money that’s failed to secure its inflation target, the Bank of Japan has signaled a rethink. Instead of buying yet more government bonds, cutting interest rates or pushing further into uncharted territory, the BOJ disappointed some Friday when its policy meeting concluded with only a modest adjustment. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, 71, and his colleagues declared it was time to assess the impact of their policies, which have variously spurred strong criticism from bankers, bond dealers and some lawmakers and former BOJ executives. The next gathering, on Sept. 20-21, offers a chance to either provide greater evidence that the current framework should continue, head further into uncharted territory, or scale back.

Regardless of the decision, this isn’t where one of the world’s most aggressive central bankers wanted to be in his fourth year in office. In early 2013, he expressed confidence the BOJ had the power to ensure its 2% inflation target could be reached within about two years. This year, with the shock adoption of a negative interest rate policy backfiring through a welter of warnings from commercial banks, there’s a growing perception monetary policy is losing effectiveness. “We are at a turning point” for the BOJ, because “it can no longer assume that stepping harder on the gas pedal would make this car go faster,” said Stephen Jen, co-founder of hedge fund SLJ Macro Partners and a former IMF economist. “Arrow 2 will take the lead now,” he said, in a reference to the three arrows of Abenomics – monetary, fiscal and structural-reform policies.

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Yeah, that’ll result in some jail time….

US Authorities Subpoena Goldman In 1MDB Probe (R.)

U.S. authorities have issued subpoenas to Goldman Sachs for documents related to the bank’s dealings with scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1MDB, the Wall Street Journal reported late on Friday. Goldman received the subpoenas earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission , the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The authorities also want to interview current and former Goldman employees in connection with the inquiries, but none of those meetings had occurred by Friday, WSJ said.

1MDB, which was founded by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 shortly after he came to office, is being investigated for money-laundering in at least six countries including the United States, Singapore and Switzerland. Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing. U.S. law enforcement officials are attempting to identify whether Goldman violated federal law after failing to flag a transaction in Malaysia, the Journal reported in June. New York state regulators have also asked the Wall Street bank for details about probes into billions of dollars it raised in a bond offering for 1MDB, Reuters reported in June, citing a person familiar with the matter.

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Note – Steve says: “I’ve said “as early as” 2017 and “between 20% & 70% fall” but all people hear is 2017 & 70%..”

Australia Headed For Recession As Early As Next Year – Steve Keen (ABC.au)

Australia’s credit binge will lead to a bust as soon as next year, with house prices to fall between 40 and 70% and unemployment to rise sharply, Professor Steve Keen says. The professor famously lost a bet when he predicted a catastrophic crash in Australian house prices following the GFC and had to walk from Canberra to Mount Kosciusko as a result. But he says, this time, he is right and does not have his hiking boots at the ready. “We have borrowed ourselves so much to the hilt that we are now dependent on that continuing to rise over time and it simply won’t,” he told the ABC’s The Business.

Many believe the Reserve Bank has been a steady guiding hand to the Australian economy in the years since the GFC, but Professor Keen believes it has guided the economy “straight toward the shoals” by encouraging households to borrow with low rates which has led to asset bubbles. “They don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “Our debt level according to the Bank of International Settlements, private debt level, has gone from 150% of GDP to 210% of GDP.” He argued that means a large part of the growth that Australia has enjoyed since the GFC, while many other countries plunged into recession, has been fuelled by a 60% rise in household debt. “Ireland did the same thing when they called themselves the Celtic Tiger and they don’t call themselves that anymore,” he said.

“Spain was doing the same thing during its housing bubble and we’ve replicated the same mistakes. He believes the Reserve Bank will be forced to take rates down to zero from their current level of 1.75% as the economy continues to slow, but that will not stop the collapse of the credit binge that has kept the country afloat until now. “[Lower rates] will suck more people in, it will suck more people in for a while and the [Reserve Bank] can delay this for a while by cutting the rates,” he said. He said the catalysts for the recession were the declining terms of trade, the continued fall in investment into the economy and the Federal Government’s “stupid” pursuit of a budget surplus. “The Government is frankly stupid about the economy and is obsessed about running surpluses when it is bad economics.”

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“The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong.”

‘Sell The House, Sell The Car, Sell The Kids’ – Gundlach (R.)

Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said on Friday that many asset classes look frothy and his firm continues to hold gold, a traditional safe-haven, along with gold miner stocks. Noting the recent run-up in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index while economic growth remains weak and corporate earnings are stagnant, Gundlach said stock investors have entered a “world of uber complacency.” The S&P 500 on Friday touched an all-time high of 2,177.09, while the government reported that U.S. GDP in the second quarter grew at a meager 1.2% rate. “The artist Christopher Wool has a word painting, ‘Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.’ That’s exactly how I feel – sell everything. Nothing here looks good,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview.

“The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong.” Gundlach, who oversees more than $100 billion at Los Angeles-based DoubleLine, said the firm went “maximum negative” on Treasuries on July 6 when the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note hit 1.32%. “We never short in our mainline strategies. We also never go to zero Treasuries. We went to lower weightings and change the duration,” Gundlach said. Currently, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note is 1.45%, which has translated into some profits so far for DoubleLine. “The yield on the 10-year yield may reverse and go lower again but I am not interested. You don’t make any money. The risk-reward is horrific,” Gundlach said. “There is no upside” in Treasury prices.

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The perks of trade agreements.

British Columbia Violates NAFTA With Its Foreign Property Tax (FP)

The British Columbia government has suddenly introduced a penalty tax forcing non-Canadian purchasers of residential real estate in the Greater Vancouver Regional District to pay a 15% tax on all purchases registered from Aug. 2, 2016. This penalty tax discriminates by definition against foreign investors buying residential real estate in the Greater Vancouver Area: Canadian citizens buying residential real estate are exempt; foreign buyers must pay the tax. That discrimination is a glaring violation of our trade treaties. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other Canadian trade agreements prohibit governments from imposing discriminatory policies that punish foreigners while exempting locals.

NAFTA’s national treatment obligation requires that citizens from other NAFTA partners investing in B.C. receive the same treatment from the government as the very best treatment received by Canadian investors. Americans and Mexicans forced to pay the 15% penalty tax would be able to pursue direct compensation for B.C.’s discriminatory tax from an independent international tribunal. [..] While the vast majority of Vancouver’s foreign property buyers might be Chinese, who were apparently the provincial government’s main target, enough investors from our dozens of treaty partners, comprising of hundreds of affected foreigners with trade rights, could be caught up in this tax, leading to mass claims. Those claims would be against the Canadian government, the signatory to NAFTA and the other international trade treaties, not B.C. Canadian taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars.

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Big kahuna remains: the classified mails on Hillay’s server(s).

Another “Smoking Gun” Looms As Hillary Campaign Admits Server Hacked (ZH)

In the third cyberattack on Democratic Party-related servers, Reuters reports that the computer network used by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign was hacked. This follows hacks of the DNC and the DCCC (the party’s fund-raising committee) in the past week. Who to blame this time? Well with US intelligence head Jim Clapper having exclaimed that he was “somewhat taken aback by the hyperventilation [blaming Russia]” by Democratic surrogates, we suspect another scapegoat will need to be found. The latest attack, which was disclosed to Reuters on Friday, follows reports of two other hacks on the Democratic National Committee and the party’s fundraising committee for candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The U.S. Department of Justice national security division is investigating whether cyber hacking attacks on Democratic political organizations threatened U.S. security, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday. The involvement of the Justice Department’s national security division is a sign that the Obama administration has concluded that the hacking was state sponsored, individuals with knowledge of the investigation said. The Clinton campaign, based in Brooklyn, had no immediate comment and referred Reuters to a comment from earlier this week by campaign senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and calling the hacking “a national security issue.”

It was not immediately clear what information on the Clinton campaign’s computer system hackers would have been able to access, but the possibility of more ‘smoking guns’ only rises with each hack. Of course the finger will inevitably be pointed at Vladimir Putin (and his media-designated puppet Trump) but even The Director of Nation Intelligence has urged that an end be put to the “reactionary mode” blaming it all on Russia…

“We don’t know enough to ascribe motivation regardless of who it might have been,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said speaking at Aspen’s Security Forum in Colorado, when asked if the media was getting ahead of themselves in fingering the perpetrator of the hack. Speaking on Thursday, Clapper said that Americans need to stop blaming Russia for the hack, telling the crowd that the US has been running in “reactionary mode” when it comes to the numerous cyber-attacks the nation is continuously facing. “I’m somewhat taken aback by the hyperventilation on this,” Clapper said, as cited by the Washington Examiner. “I’m shocked someone did some hacking,” he added sarcastically, “[as if] that’s never happened before.”

Of course that won’t stop the endless distraction and guilt-mongering to avoid any accountability for actual content of anything that is released. Finally, does it not seem a little “reckless” that so many Democratic servers have been hacked so easily?

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It’s starting to increase again.

Greek Islands Appeal For Measures To Deal With Influx Of Refugees (Kath.)

As the influx of migrants from neighboring Turkey continues – with a slight but noticable increase – regional authorities and tourism professionals are calling for measures to support communities on the Aegean islands. Over the past two weeks, following a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, the influx of migrants has increased, according to government figures. Overall, more than 1,000 migrants landed on the five so-called hot spots: Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Samos and Leros since the failed coup. Those islands are now accommodating 9,313 migrants in camps, many of whom have been there for several months awaiting the outcome of asylum applications or deportation.

In a letter to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas and Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas, the governor of the northern Aegean region, Christiana Kalogirou, asked for immediate steps to decongest the islands. “We are seeing a constant and apparently increasing flow of migrants and refugees toward the islands of the northern Aegean,” she wrote, noting that the maximum capacity of state reception centers has been exceeded on all the islands. A representative of an aid agency working on Lesvos said that the increase in migrant arrivals on the island has not yet fuelled tensions in the camps. “But if they keep arriving at the same rate, we’ll have a problem soon,” according to the worker who asked not to be identified.

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That’s how hard that is. 5p.

England’s Plastic Bag Usage Drops 85% Since 5p Charge Introduced (G.)

The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge last October, early figures suggest. More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said. The data is the government’s first official assessment of the impact of the charge, which was introduced to help reduce litter and protect wildlife – and the expected full-year drop of 6bn bags was hailed by ministers as a sign that it is working.

The charge has also triggered donations of more than £29m from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups, according to Defra. England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy, after successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees have to charge a minimum of 5p for the bags they provide for shopping in stores and for deliveries, but smaller shops and paper bags are not included. There are also exemptions for some goods, such as raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, seeds and flowers and live fish. Around 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Experts estimate that plastic is eaten by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds.

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Jun 082016
 
 June 8, 2016  Posted by at 8:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Harris&Ewing Washington Monument, view from air 1919

Bank of Japan’s Sovereign Debt Endgame Is The Naked Emperor (FP)
Japan’s Biggest Bank To Quit As JGB Primary Dealer (ZH)
Draghi Fires Starting Gun on Corporate Bond Purchases in Europe (BBG)
Public Support For The EU Plunges Across Europe (R.)
France Shuns Europe As Brexit Revolt Spreads (AEP)
Billions Of Pounds Taken Out Of Britain Amid Fears Of Brexit (Ind.)
China’s Exports Weaken, Signaling More Headwinds For Growth (BBG)
China Central Bank Holds Line On Growth Forecast, Sees More Pain To Come (R.)
US-China Talks Limited by Disagreements (WSJ)
Millions Around The World Are Fleeing Neoliberal Policy (RNN)
Only 10 Countries In The World Are Not At War (Ind.)
Arctic Sea Ice Hit A Stunning New Low In May (WaPo)
Greek Legal Rulings Back 35 Refugees Appealing Deportation (Kath.)
EU Considers Linking African Aid to Curbs on Migrant Flows (WSJ)

“The workability of the institution breaks down when a different set of rules are seen to apply to governments versus those that apply to everyone else.”

Bank of Japan’s Sovereign Debt Endgame Is The Naked Emperor (FP)

Last week, Bloomberg reported in depth on Japan’s miraculous diminishing debt load. Turns out, despite a steady rise in government borrowing, the burden of repayment is diminished because the buyer of 90% of that debt is the Bank of Japan. This has serious implications for Canadian investors, yet the full significance has not yet been thoroughly unpacked by media. My bet is most analysts and economists are aghast at this admission by a G7 government that debt could just be summarily forgiven. It suggests the notion of liability in credit does not apply to government, or its associated (yet private, to varying degree) central banks. But it’s really quite simple. The single most important rule upon which our global debt-driven economic growth equation is dependent is that debt is repaid.

If it isn’t, assets are confiscated. Just like if you don’t keep up with the mortgage payments on your house, you lose it. But what happens when the biggest creditor is also the debtor? The entire debtor/creditor relationship is rendered nonsensical. The size of the debt any one nation can undertake is directly related to its ability to repay any proposed amount over time. Its ability to repay its debt, in turn, is derived from the consensus of markets that demand a higher rate of interest the closer a debtor gets to defaulting. The debt limit is reached when no one will lend, because even at the highest rate of interest, the chance of default is greater. Or when the debtor misses a payment. This works well in a world ostensibly governed by free markets, and when the rules are universally applied. The workability of the institution breaks down when a different set of rules are seen to apply to governments versus those that apply to everyone else.

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BoJ buys everything. Banks have to deal with a monopoly, no profit in that.

Japan’s Biggest Bank To Quit As JGB Primary Dealer (ZH)

Ever since the launch of Japan’s QE, and worsening in the aftermath of January’s shocking NIRP announcement, Japan’s bond market, which moments ago slid to new record lows yields across the curve, has had its share of near-death experiences: between repeated VaR shocks, to days in which not a single bond was traded, to trillions in bonds with negative yields, it has seemed that the Japanese Government Bond is on life support. That support may be ending. According to Nikkei, and confirmed by Bloomberg, Japan’s biggest bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, is preparing to quit its role as a primary dealer of Japanese government bonds as negative interest rates turn the instruments into larger risks, a fallout from massive monetary easing measures by the Bank of Japan.

While the role of a Primary Dealer comes with solid perks such as meetings with the Finance Ministry over bond issuance and generally being privy to inside information and effectively free money under POMO, dealers also are required to bid on at least 4% of a planned JGB issuance, which as the Nikkei reports has become an increasingly heavy burden for BTMU. In other words, one of the key links that provides liquidity and lubricates the Japanese government bond market has just decided to exit the market due to, among other thinks, lack of liquidity entirely due to the policy failure of Abenomics in general, and Kuroda’s disastrous monetary policies in particular.

One could, of course, ask just how does BTMU plan on also exiting the Japanese economy itself, if and when the country’s $8 trillion bond market implodes, but we doubt the bank will ever be able to answer that. The ministry is expected to let the bank resign. Japan has 22 primary dealers including megabanks and major brokerages. Several foreign brokerages had pulled out before as part of restructuring efforts at home or for other reasons, but BTMU will be the first Japanese institution to quit. In a revolutionary shift, one created by the Bank of Japan itself, banks, once the biggest buyers of JGBs, see little appeal in sovereign debt today. The bonds have very low yields, and a rise in interest rates could leave banks with vast unrealized losses.

Private-sector banks held just over 229 trillion yen ($2.13 trillion) in JGBs at the end of 2015, nearly 30% less than at the end of March 2013, before the BOJ launched massive quantitative and qualitative easing measures. Negative rates introduced this year by the BOJ reinforced the trend. The highest bid yield on benchmark 10-year JGBs sank to a record low of negative 0.092% on Thursday. BTMU was the fifth-largest buyer of Japanese government bonds among the 22 primary dealers until spring 2015, but ranked 10th or lower between October 2015 and March 2016 as shareholders turned up their nose on government debt.

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One day we’ll understand just how insane this is. One massive debt orgasm.

Draghi Fires Starting Gun on Corporate Bond Purchases in Europe (BBG)

Investors will be watching Mario Draghi’s first corporate bond purchases on Wednesday for an indication of whether they were right to snap up the notes before the ECB. The ECB is adding investment-grade corporate notes to its €80 billion monthly purchase program, which already includes covered bonds, asset-backed securities and government debt, as part of efforts to encourage growth. The challenge will be buying enough bonds in increasingly illiquid markets, investors and analysts say. “There is a fair amount riding on this in terms of the ECB’s credibility,” said Victoria Whitehead at BNP Paribas Investment Partners. “The perception is that if they can’t buy at least €5 billion of bonds a month, the program will be seen as unsuccessful.” Investors have piled into investment-grade corporate bonds on the promise of central bank purchases, driving up prices and cutting borrowing costs.

The average yield for euro notes tumbled to 1.002% on Monday, the lowest in more than a year, according to BofAML index data. Companies responded to the surge in demand by selling more than €50 billion of bonds in the single currency in May, the second-busiest month on record. While purchases of more than €5 billion of bonds may boost the market, investors may be disappointed if the ECB bought less than €3 billion a month, CreditSights analysts wrote in a June 5 report. Commerzbank and Morgan Stanley don’t expect the monthly purchases to surpass €5 billion. “We’re worried that they won’t be able to buy quite as much as they want to,” said Tim Winstone at Henderson Global Investors. “If the buying underwhelms and reported volumes are less than most people expect, there is a risk of a selloff.”

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Dissolve the monster peacefully while you still can. Or else.

Public Support For The EU Plunges Across Europe (R.)

Public support for the European Union has fallen sharply in its biggest member states over the past year, a survey showed on Tuesday, weeks before Britons vote on whether to leave the 28-nation bloc. The survey of 10 large EU states by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed strong support for Britain to stay in the EU, with 89% of Swedes, 75% of Dutch and 74% of Germans viewing a so-called Brexit as a bad thing. But most striking was a plunge in the percentage of Europeans who view the EU favorably, a development which appears linked to the bloc’s handling of the refugee crisis and the economy. The fall was most pronounced in France, where only 38% of respondents said they had a favorable view of the EU, down 17 points from last year.

Favorability ratings also fell by 16 points in Spain to 47%, by eight points in Germany to 50%, and by seven points in Britain to 44%. Public support for the EU was strongest in Poland and Hungary, countries which ironically have two of the most EU-sceptical governments in the entire bloc. The Pew survey showed that 72% of Poles and 61% of Hungarians view the EU favorably. “The British are not the only ones with doubts about the European Union,” Pew said. “Much of the disaffection with the EU among Europeans can be attributed to Brussels’ handling of the refugee issue. In every country surveyed, overwhelming majorities disapprove of how Brussels has dealt with the problem.”

This was especially true in Greece, which has been overwhelmed by migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. Some 94% of Greeks believe the EU has mishandled the refugee crisis. In Sweden it was 88%, in Italy 77% and in Spain 75%. At 92%, Greeks were also the most disapproving of the EU’s handling of the economy, followed by the Italians at 68% and French at 66%. Roughly two-thirds of Greeks and Britons said powers should be returned to national governments from Brussels, far higher than in the other surveyed countries.

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Close to what I’ve written before: “They may have to dissolve the EU as it is and try to reinvent it, both in order to bring the Brits back and because they fear that the whole political order will be swept away unless they do..”

France Shuns Europe As Brexit Revolt Spreads (AEP)

France has turned even more viscerally eurosceptic than Britain over recent months, profoundly altering the political geography of Europe and making it impossible to judge how Paris might respond to Brexit. An intractable economic crisis has been eating away at the legitimacy of the French governing elites for much of this decade. This has now combined with a collapse in the credibility of the government, and mounting anger over immigration. A pan-European survey by the Pew Research Center released today found that 61pc of French voters have an “unfavourable” view, compared to 48pc in the UK. A clear majority is opposed to “ever closer union” and wants powers returned to the French parliament, a finding that sits badly with the insistence by President Francois Hollande that “more Europe” is the answer to the EU’s woes.

“It is a protest against the elites,” said Professor Brigitte Granville, a French economist at Queen Mary University of London. “There are 5000 people in charge of everything in France. They are all linked by school and marriage, and they are tight.” Prof Granville said the mechanisms of monetary union have upset the Franco-German strategic marriage, wounding the French psyche. “The EU was sold to the French people as a `partnership’ of equals with Germany. But it has been very clear since 2010 that this is not the case. Everybody could see that Germany decided everything in Greece,” she said. The death of the Monnet dream in the EU’s anchor state poses an existential threat to the European project and is running in parallel to what is happening in Britain.

The Front National’s Marine Le Pen is leading the polls for the presidential elections in 2017 with vows to restore the French franc and smash the EU edifice. While it has long been assumed that she could never win an outright majority, nobody is quite so sure after the anti-incumbent upset in Austria last month. “The Front National is making hay from the Brexit debate,” said Giles Merritt, head of the Friends of Europe think tank in Brussels. “The EU policy elites are in panic. If the British vote to leave the shock will be so ghastly that they will finally wake up and realize that they can no longer ignore demands for democratic reform,” he said.

“They may have to dissolve the EU as it is and try to reinvent it, both in order to bring the Brits back and because they fear that the whole political order will be swept away unless they do,” he said. Mr Merritt said it is an error to suppose that the EU would carry on as a monolithic bloc able to dictate terms after a Brexit vote. “The British would have pricked the bubble. The Germans are deeply alarmed at how suddenly the mood is shifting everywhere,” he said.

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It’s going to be so much fun, the next two weeks. Can the footballers save England at the Euro Cup?

Billions Of Pounds Taken Out Of Britain Amid Fears Of Brexit (Ind.)

Investors are moving billions of pounds in assets out of British currency and assets ahead of the EU referendum, new figures suggest. An analysis by Sky News found £65bn left the UK or was converted into other currencies in March and April, the largest amount since the economic crash. In the six months to the end of April, £77bn was pulled out of British pounds, compared to just £2bn in the six months to the end of last October. The figures, published by the Bank of England, are consistent with investors worrying that the pound is due for a sharp fall should Brexit to occur. Because financial markets are prone to collective panic, investors’ views are the main factor in determining whether the pound will actually fall. Any perception that a fall was about to take place could end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In February, HSBC warned that 20% could be wiped off the value of sterling were Britain to leave the EU. In May this figure was corroborated by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. The pound plunged to a three-week low yesterday, probably partly in response to polls showing the Leave campaigning ahead. It hit a seven-year low against the dollar the day after the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced he was backing Brexit, and also suffered the biggest one-day fall since David Cameron become Prime Minister. The collapse of the pound at the end of June would mean Britons going abroad during the summer would have their spending power reduced. Imported goods such as electronics would also likely become significantly more expensive.

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That is one damning graph. Where would China’s imports be without the fake invoices?

China’s Exports Weaken, Signaling More Headwinds For Growth (BBG)

China’s exports stabilized in May, with a weakening currency giving some support to growth in the world’s biggest trading nation. Overseas shipments fell 4.1% in dollar terms from a year earlier, the customs administration said Wednesday. Imports slipped 0.4% – the smallest drop since late 2014 – to leave a trade surplus of $50 billion. Reflecting a weaker currency, both exports and imports fared better when measured in local currency terms. The Shanghai Composite Index pared losses and the Australian dollar rallied. “The worst time for Chinese exports has passed,” said Harrison Hu at Royal Bank of Scotland in Singapore, adding that the dollar-denominated export growth is slightly misleading due to the price changes.

“The quantity of exports actually showed a subdued increase. The yuan also depreciated against a basket of currencies, which supports exports.” Still, that support remains restrained. The World Bank on Tuesday cut its global growth estimate to 2.4% for this year, which would be the same as 2015, from the 2.9% projected in January. Ma Jun, chief economist of the People’s Bank of China’s research bureau, lowered his forecast for China’s exports this year to a 1% decline, versus a 3.1% increase seen previously, according to a work paper published Wednesday. “The weakening momentum of global growth is our main reason to lower the forecast,” he wrote. “A 10-percentage point decline in exports can drag GDP growth down by about 1%.”

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“China’s trade shrank 8% last year, compared with the government’s goal for 6% growth..”

China Central Bank Holds Line On Growth Forecast, Sees More Pain To Come (R.)

China’s central bank slashed its forecast for exports on Wednesday, predicting a second straight annual fall in shipments, but said the economy will still grow 6.8% this year. The People’s Bank of China also warned in its mid-year work report that the government’s push to reduce debt levels and overcapacity could increase bond default risks and make it more difficult for companies to raise funds. And ahead of a meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policymaking board next week, it said the pace of U.S interest rate rises would affect global capital flows and emerging market currencies, but it did not mention the yuan. “Since the beginning of this year, the global and domestic economic environment has experienced a number of changes,” the PBOC said in the report.

“Reflecting these recent developments, we revised our China macroeconomic forecasts for 2016. Compared with our published forecasts in December last year, we maintain our baseline projection of 2016 real GDP growth at 6.8%.” The report was released shortly after monthly data showed China’s exports fell an annual 4.1% in May, more than expected and the 10th decline in the past 12 months. Imports were more encouraging, however, declining only marginally and much less than expected, pointing to improving domestic demand and adding to views that the economy may be slowly stabilizing. Preliminary commodity trade data showed sharp rises in imports of copper and iron ores.

[..] Despite cutting its forecast for exports to minus 1% from growth of 3.1%, the PBOC saw a domestic recovery remaining on track. It upgraded its forecast for fixed-asset investment growth to 11%, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from estimates it made late last year. A government spending spree on major infrastructure projects and a continuing recovery in the housing market have boosted demand for materials from cement to steel. China’s trade shrank 8% last year, compared with the government’s goal for 6% growth , in the worst performance since the global financial crisis.

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And those are here to stay. Sharply conflicting interests.

US-China Talks Limited by Disagreements (WSJ)

The U.S. and China made little progress on a series of disagreements during two days of high-level economic and security talks, as both countries prepare for leadership change and further economic uncertainty. Statements by officials from both sides on Tuesday suggested mostly incremental results from the dialogue. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Chinese officials reaffirmed a commitment not to devalue an already weakening yuan for competitive purposes and pledged not to “target” an expansion of the steel industry, whose surging production he previously called market-distorting. Beijing widened access to its tightly regulated financial markets, offering U.S. investors a quota of 250 billion yuan ($38.1 billion) to buy Chinese stocks and bonds.

The two governments agreed to designate clearing banks in the U.S. for settling yuan transactions, a move that would promote greater use of the Chinese currency. Mr. Lew said it was too early to say which U.S. financial institution might be chosen but said the U.S. will have the second-largest quota after Hong Kong. On the more contentious issues in the relationship, the senior officials appeared to restate positions and, in some cases, outright disagree. A new Chinese law that grants police the authority to monitor foreign nonprofits provoked sharp differences. This year’s meeting of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue is the last for the Obama administration, with the U.S. presidential election approaching. China soon will face its own important leadership transition.

In 2017, five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body, are due to step down. The timing of the meetings, combined with tensions over the South China Sea—where the U.S. is challenging Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over islands, reefs and surrounding waters claimed by other countries—limited prospects for breakthroughs on issues such as trade and investment barriers and China’s currency policy.

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TEXT

Millions Around The World Are Fleeing Neoliberal Policy (RNN)

What it tells is almost identical to what has already been narrated for Russia and Greece. And what’s responsible for the increasing death rates is actually neoliberal economic policy, neoliberal trade policy, and the polarization and impoverishment of a large part of society. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, death rates soared, lifespans shortened, health standards decreased all throughout the Yeltsin administration, until finally President Putin came in and stabilized matters. Putin said that the destruction caused by neoliberal economic policies had killed more Russians than all of whom died in World War II, the 22 million people. That’s the devastation that polarization caused there.

Same thing in Greece. In the last five years, Greek lifespans have shortened. They’re getting sicker, they’re dying faster, they’re not healthy. Almost all of the British economists of the late 18th century said when you have poverty, when you have a transfer of wealth to the rich, you’re going to have shorter lifespans, and you’re also going to have immigration. The countries that have a hard money policy, a creditor policy, people are going to emigrate. Now, at that time that was why England was gaining immigrants. It was gaining skilled labor. It was gaining people to work in its industry because other countries were still in the post-feudal system and were driving them out. Russia had a huge emigration of skilled labor, largely to Germany and to the United States, especially in information technology. Greece has a heavy outflow of labor.

The Baltic states have had almost a 10% decline in their population in the last decade as a result of their neoliberal policies. Also, health problems are rising. Now, the question is, in America, now that you’re having as a result of this polarization shorter lifespans, worse health, worse diets, where are the Americans going to emigrate’ Nobody can figure that one out yet. There’s no, seems nowhere for them to go, because they don’t speak a foreign language. The Russians, the Greeks, most Europeans all somehow have to learn English in school. They’re able to get by in other countries. They’re not sure where on earth can the Americans come from’ Nobody can really figure this out.

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Curious ‘thingy’ from the Independent: somewhere in the article it says Iceland is the world’s most peaceful country, even though it’s not in that list of 10.

Only 10 Countries In The World Are Not At War (Ind.)

The world is becoming a more dangerous place and there are now just 10 countries which can be considered completely free from conflict, according to authors of the 10th annual Global Peace Index. The worsening conflict in the Middle East, the lack of a solution to the refugee crisis and an increase in deaths from major terrorist incidents have all contributed to the world being less peaceful in 2016 than it was in 2015. And there are now fewer countries in the world which can be considered truly at peace – in other words, not engaged in any conflicts either internally or externally – than there were in 2014. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, a think-tank which has produced the index for the past 10 years, only Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Vietnam are free from conflict.

Brazil is the country that has dropped out of the list, and as one of the worst performing countries year-on-year represents a serious concern ahead of the Rio Olympics, the IEP’s founder Steve Killelea told The Independent. But perhaps the most remarkable result from this year’s peace index, he said, was the extent to which the situation in the Middle East drags down the rest of the world when it comes to peacefulness. “If we look at the world overall, it has become slightly less peaceful in the last 12 months,” Mr Killelea said. “But if we took the Middle East out of the index over the last decade – and last year – the world would have become more peaceful,” he said. “It really highlights the impact the Middle East is having on the world.”

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Man was here.

Arctic Sea Ice Hit A Stunning New Low In May (WaPo)

The 2016 race downward in Arctic sea ice continued in May with a dramatic new record. The average area of sea ice atop the Arctic Ocean last month was just 12 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). That beats the prior May record (from 2004) by more than half a million square kilometers, and is well over a million square kilometers, or 500,000 square miles, below the average for the month. Another way to put it is this: The Arctic Ocean this May had more than three Californias less sea ice cover than it did during an average May between 1981 and 2010. And it broke the prior record low for May by a region larger than California, although not quite as large as Texas.

This matters because 2016 could be marching toward a new record for the lowest amount of ice ever observed on top of the world at the height of melt season — September. The previous record September low was set in 2012. But here’s what the National Snow and Ice Data Center has to say about that: Daily extents in May were also two to four weeks ahead of levels seen in 2012, which had the lowest September extent in the satellite record. The monthly average extent for May 2016 is more than one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) below that observed in May 2012. In other words, for Arctic sea ice, May 2016 was more like June 2012 — the record-breaking year. Going into the truly warm months of the year, then, the ice is in a uniquely weak state.

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The whole thing is turning into such a mess you would think this is happening on purpose.

Greek Legal Rulings Back 35 Refugees Appealing Deportation (Kath.)

Fears are rising about the possible breakdown of a deal between the European Union and Turkey for the return of migrants after legal committees in Greece upheld dozens of appeals by refugees against their deportation. By late Monday, Greek appeals committees had ruled in favor of 35 refugees, ruling that Turkey is “an unsafe country.” Only two rulings overturned appeals by refugees against their deportation. On Tuesday a crowd of refugees blocked the container terminal at the port of Thessaoniki to protest the slow pace at which asylum applications are being processed. Hundreds of applications are pending and there are fears that they too will result in rulings in favor of refugees, undercutting a deal signed between Ankara and Brussels in March to return migrants to Turkey.

Meanwhile there are also concerns about a pickup in arrivals from neighboring Turkey. For several weeks, a crackdown by Turkish authorities on smugglers had all but stopped the migrant influx. Now that ties between Turkey and the EU are strained over the former’s refusal to reform terrorism laws and its insistence that Turks be granted visa-free access to the bloc, more migrants have started arriving in Greece from Turkey. The total number of refugees in Greece is 57,458, according to government figures made public on Tuesday. The figure includes 5,700 people in rented accommodation arranged by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. The remainder of the migrants are living in makeshift camps or state-run facilities on the Aegean islands or mainland Greece.

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When in a hole, keep digging. One deal with a madman is not enough.

EU Considers Linking African Aid to Curbs on Migrant Flows (WSJ)

The European Union’s executive body on Tuesday presented plans linking trade and investment perks for African countries to their efforts in reducing migration to Europe, a controversial idea that still needs the backing of EU governments. While the bloc has managed to stem the influx of Syrian refugees and other migrants after striking a deal with Turkey in March, an increasing number of mostly African migrants are attempting to make the perilous journey via Libya across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. Nearly 50,000 people were rescued and brought to Italy this year and over 2,000 are feared dead after several boats capsized off the Libyan coast, according the United Nations’ refugee agency.

“We must do in the southern Mediterranean what we’ve done in the Aegean,” European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Tuesday in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Under the proposed measures from the European Commission, which still need the approval of EU governments and the European Parliament, EU development funding and trade incentives would be linked to the countries’ level of cooperation on migration. “We propose a mix of positive and negative incentives, to reward those countries willing to cooperate effectively with us and to ensure there are consequences for those who do not. This includes using our development and trade policies to create leverage,” Mr. Timmermans said.

EU diplomats in Brussels expect “quite heated discussions” on the idea of linking development aid and trade policies to cooperation on migration, as governments have different views on whether it is ethical to make aid conditional on countries taking people back or preventing them from leaving. EU interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Friday will have a first exchange of views on the topic.

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Feb 212016
 
 February 21, 2016  Posted by at 10:50 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


“6 gals for 99c”, Roosevelt and Wabash, Chicago 1939

That the world’s central bankers get a lot of things wrong, deliberately or not, and have done so for years now, is nothing new. But that they do things that result in the exact opposite of what they ostensibly aim for, and predictably so, perhaps is. And it’s something that seems to be catching on, especially in Asia.

Now, let’s be clear on one thing first: central bankers have taken on roles and hubris and ‘importance’, that they should never have been allowed to get their fat little greedy fingers on. Central bankers in their 2016 disguise have no place in a functioning economy, let alone society, playing around with trillions of dollars in taxpayer money which they throw around to allegedly save an economy.

They engage solely, since 2008 at the latest, in practices for which there are no historical precedents and for which no empirical research has been done. They literally make it up as they go along. And one might be forgiven for thinking that our societies deserve something better than what amounts to no more than basic crap-shooting by a bunch of economy bookworms. Couldn’t we at least have gotten professional gamblers?

Central bankers who moreover, as I have repeatedly quoted my friend Steve Keen as saying, even have little to no understanding at all of the field they’ve been studying all their adult lives.

They don’t understand their field, plus they have no idea what consequences their next little inventions will have, but they get to execute them anyway and put gargantuan amounts of someone else’s money at risk, money which should really be used to keep economies at least as stable as possible.

If that’s the best we can do we won’t end up sitting pretty. These people are gambling addicts who fool themselves into thinking the power they’ve been given means they are the house in the casino, while in reality they’re just two-bit gamblers, and losing ones to boot. The financial markets are the house. Compared to the markets, central bankers are just tourists in screaming Hawaiian shirts out on a slow Monday night in Vegas.

I’ve never seen it written down anywhere, but I get the distinct impression that one of the job requirements for becoming a central banker in the 21st century is that you are profoundly delusional.

Take Japan. As soon as Abenomics was launched 3 years ago, we wrote that it couldn’t possibly succeed. That didn’t take any extraordinary insights on our part, it simply looked too stupid to be true. In an economy that’s been ‘suffering’ from deflation for 20 years, even as it still had a more or less functioning global economy to export its misery to, you can’t just introduce ‘Three Arrows’ of 1) fiscal stimulus, 2) monetary easing and 3) structural reforms, and think all will be well.

Because there was a reason why Japan was in deflation to begin with, and that reason contradicts all three arrows. Japan sank into deflation because its people spent less money because they didn’t trust where their economy was going and then the economy went down further and average wages went down so people had less money to spend and they trusted their economies even less etc. Vicious cycles all the way wherever you look.

How many times have we said it? Deflation is a b*tch.

And you don’t break that cycle by making borrowing cheaper, or any such thing, you don’t break it by raising debt levels, and try for everyone to raise theirs too. Which is what Abenomics in essence was always all about. They never even got around to the third arrow of structural reforms, and for all we know that’s a good thing. In any sense, Abenomics has been the predicted dismal failure.

Now, I remember Shinzo Abe ‘himself’ at some point doing a speech in which he said that Abenomics would work ‘if only the Japanese people would believe it did’. And that sounded inane, to say that to people who cut down on spending for 2 decades, that if only they would spend again, the sun would rise in concert. That’s like calling your people stupid to their faces.

The reality is that in global tourism, the hordes of Japanese tourists have been replaced by Chinese (and we can tell you in confidence that that’s not going to last either). The Japanese economy simply dried out. It sort of functions, still, domestically, albeit it on a much lower level, but now that global trade is grasping for air, exports are plunging too, the population is aging fast and there’s a whole new set of belts to tighten.

So last June, the desperate Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda did Abe’s appeal to ‘faith’ one better, and, going headfirst into the fairy realm, said:

I trust that many of you are familiar with the story of Peter Pan, in which it says, ‘the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it’. Yes, what we need is a positive attitude and conviction. Indeed, each time central banks have been confronted with a wide range of problems, they have overcome the problems by conceiving new solutions.

And that’s not just a strange thing to say. In fact, when you read that quote twice, you notice -or I did- that’s it’s self-defeating. Because, when paraphrasing Kuroda, we get something like this: ‘the moment the Japanese people doubt whether their government can save the economy, they cease forever to believe that it can’.

Now, I’m not Japanese, and I’m not terribly familiar with the role of fairy tales in the culture, but just the fact that Kuroda resorted to ‘our’ Peter Pan makes me think it’s not all that large. But I also think the Japanese understood what he meant, and that even the few who hadn’t yet, stopped believing in him and Abe right then and there.

Then again, Asian cultures still seem to be much more obedient and much less critical of their governments than we are, for some reason. The Japanese don’t voice their disbelief, they simply spend ever less. That’s the effect of Kuroda’s Peter Pan speech. Not what he was aiming for, but certainly what he should have expected, entirely predictable. Why hold that speech then, though? Despair, lack of intelligence?

In a similar vein, we chuckled out loud on Friday, first when president Xi demanded ‘Absolute Loyalty’ from state media when visiting them, an ‘Important Event’ broadly covered by those same media. Look, buddy, when you got to go on TV to demand it, someone somewhere’s bound to to be thinking you don’t have it…

And we chuckled also when the South China Morning Post (SCMP) broke the news that the People’s Bank of China, in its monthly “Sources and Uses of Credit Funds of Financial Institutions” report has stopped publishing the “Position for forex purchase”, which is that part of capital movements -and in China’s case today that stands for huge outflows- which goes through ‘private’ banks instead of the central bank itself.

It’s like they took a page, one-on-one-, out of the Federal Reserve’s playbook, which cut its M3 money supply reporting back in March 2006. What you don’t see can’t hurt you, or something along those lines. The truth is, though, that if you have something to hide, the last thing you want to do is let anyone see you digging a hole in the ground.

But the effect of this attempt to not let analysts get the data is simply that they’re going to get suspicious, and start digging even harder and with increased scrutiny. And they have access to the data anyway, through other channels, so the effect will be the opposite of what’s intended. And that too is predictable.

First, from Fortune, based on the SCMP piece:

Is China Trying to Hide Capital Outflows?

China’s central bank is making it harder to calculate the size of capital outflows afflicting the economy, just as investors have started paying closer attention to those mounting outflows, which in December reached almost $150 billion and in January around $120 billion. The central bank omitted data on “position for forex purchase” during its latest report, the South China Morning Post reported today.

The unannounced change comes at a time pundits are questioning whether outflows have the potential to cripple China’s currency and economy. Capital outflows lead to a weaker currency, which concerns the hordes of Chinese companies that borrowed debt in foreign currencies over the past few years and now have to pay it back with a weaker yuan.

The news of the central bank withholding data is important because capital outflow figures aren’t released as line items. They are calculated by analysts in a variety of ways, one of which includes using the omitted data. The Post quoted two analysts concluding the central bank’s intention was to hide the true amount of continuing outflows.

The impulse to hide bad news shouldn’t come as a surprise. China’s government has been evasive about economic matters from this summer’s stock bailout to its efforts propping up the value of the yuan. Analysts still have a variety of ways to estimate the flows, but the central bank is making it ever more difficult.

And then the SCMP:

Sensitive Financial Data ‘Missing’ From PBOC Report On Capital Outflows

Sensitive data is missing from a regular Chinese central bank report amid concerns about capital outflow as the economy slows and the yuan weakens. Financial analysts say the sudden lack of clear information makes it hard for markets to assess the scale of capital flows out of China as well as the central bank s foreign exchange operations in the banking system.

Figures on the “position for forex purchase” are regularly published in the People’s Bank of China’s monthly report on the “Sources and Uses of Credit Funds of Financial Institutions”. The December reading in foreign currencies was US$250 billion. But the data was missing in the central bank’s latest report. It seemed the information had been merged into the “other items” category, whose January figure was US$243.9 billion -a surge from US$20.4 billion the previous month.

[..] “Its non-transparent method has left the market unable to form a clear picture about capital flows,” said Liu Li-Gang, ANZ’s chief China economist in Hong Kong. “This will fuel more speculation that China is under great pressure from capital outflows. It will hurt the central bank’s credibility.”

[..] All forex-related data released by the central bank is closely monitored by financial analysts. They often read item by item from the dozens of tables and statistics to try to spot new trends and changes. China Merchants Securities chief economist Xie Yaxuan said the PBOC would not be able to conceal data as there were many ways to obtain and assess information on capital movements.

“We are waiting for more data releases such as the central bank’s balance sheet and commercial banks’ purchase and sales of foreign exchange released by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange for a better understanding of the capital movement and to interpret the motive of the central bank for such change,” Xie said.

It’s like they’ve landed in a game they don’t know the rules of. But then again, that’s what we think every single time we see Draghi and Yellen too, who are kept ‘alive’ only by investors’ expectations that they are going to hand out free cookies, and lots of them, every time they make a public appearance.

And what’s going on in Japan and China will happen to them, too: they will achieve the exact opposite of what they’re aiming for. They arguably already have. Or at least none of their desperate measures have achieved anything close to their stated goals.

They may have kept equity markets high, true, but their economies are still as bad as when the QE ZIRP NIRP stimulus madness took off, provided one is willing to see through the veil that media coverage and ‘official’ numbers put up between us and the real world. But they sure as h*ll haven’t turned anything around or caused a recovery of any sorts. Disputing that is Brooklyn Bridge for sale material.

Eh, what can we say? Stay tuned?! There’ll be a lot more of this lunacy as we go forward. It’s baked into the stupid cake.


Professor Steve Keen and Raúl Ilargi Meijer discuss central banking, Athens, Greece, Feb 16 2016

Feb 192016
 
 February 19, 2016  Posted by at 8:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Richardson Hope for a New Life: Man passes baby through fence, Serbia/Hungary border 2015

Negative Interest Rates Set The Stage For The Next Crisis (Stephen Roach)
Why Negative Interest Rates Spell Doom For Capitalism (Romano)
Central Banking Is In Crisis. Can The World Economy Be Far Behind? (Economist)
Bank of Japan Baffled by Negative Reaction to Negative-Rate Policy (WSJ)
Nomura Sees Yen Falling More Than 10% on BOJ Negative Rates (BBG)
Abenomics? How About Kurodanomics? (BBG)
OECD Calls for Urgent Increase in Government Spending (WSJ)
China Bears Say the Capital Outflow Is Just Beginning (BBG)
Red Ink In China (Economist)
Overproduction Swamps Smaller Chinese Cities, Revealing Depth of Crisis (WSJ)
You Cannot Print Your Way to Prosperity (Ron Paul)
The Real Economy Is Talking, but Treasuries Aren’t Listening (BBG)
Number Of UK Homes Worth More Than £1 Million Set To ‘Triple By 2030’ (G.)
400,000 Americans In Jeopardy As Giant Pension Fund Plans 50% Benefit Cuts (ZH)
The Political War on Cash (WSJ)
Swiss MPs Want New 5,000-Franc Banknotes To ‘Save Privacy And Freedom’ (L.)
The Stressed-Out Oil Industry Faces an Existential Crisis (BBG)
Oil Gives Up Gains as Inventories Build (WSJ)
Anglo American Cut to Junk for Third Time This Week (BBG)
Wary On Turkey, EU Prepares For Refugee Crisis In Greece (Reuters)

As QE and ZIRP did before them. This started years ago.

Negative Interest Rates Set The Stage For The Next Crisis (Stephen Roach)

In what could well be a final act of desperation, central banks are abdicating effective control of the economies they have been entrusted to manage. First came zero interest rates, then quantitative easing, and now negative interest rates — one futile attempt begetting another. Just as the first two gambits failed to gain meaningful economic traction in chronically weak recoveries, the shift to negative rates will only compound the risks of financial instability and set the stage for the next crisis. The adoption of negative interest rates — initially launched in Europe in 2014 and now embraced in Japan — represents a major turning point for central banking. Previously, emphasis had been placed on boosting aggregate demand — primarily by lowering the cost of borrowing, but also by spurring wealth effects from appreciating financial assets.

But now, by imposing penalties on excess reserves left on deposit with central banks, negative interest rates drive stimulus through the supply side of the credit equation — in effect, urging banks to make new loans regardless of the demand for such funds. This misses the essence of what is ailing a post-crisis world. As Nomura economist Richard Koo has argued about Japan, the focus should be on the demand side of crisis-battered economies, where growth is impaired by a debt-rejection syndrome that invariably takes hold in the aftermath of a “balance sheet recession.” Such impairment is global in scope. It’s not just Japan, where the purportedly powerful impetus of Abenomics has failed to dislodge a struggling economy from 24 years of 0.8% inflation-adjusted growth in GDP.

It’s also the U.S., where consumer demand — the epicenter of America’s Great Recession — remains stuck in an eight-year quagmire of just 1.5% average real growth. Even worse is the eurozone, where real GDP growth has averaged just 0.1% over the 2008-2015 period. All of this speaks to the impotence of central banks to jump-start aggregate demand in balance-sheet-constrained economies that have fallen into 1930s-style “liquidity traps.” As Paul Krugman noted nearly 20 years ago, Japan exemplifies the modern-day incarnation of this dilemma. When its equity and property bubbles burst in the early 1990s, the keiretsu system — “main banks” and their tightly connected nonbank corporates — imploded under the deadweight of excess leverage.

But the same was true for over-extended, saving-short American consumers — to say nothing of a eurozone that was basically a levered play on overly inflated growth expectations in its peripheral economies — Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. In all of these cases, balance-sheet repair pre-empted a resurgence of aggregate demand, and monetary stimulus was largely ineffective in sparking classic cyclical rebounds. This could be the greatest failure of modern central banking. Yet denial runs deep. then-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan’s “mission accomplished” speech in early 2004 is an important case in point. Greenspan took credit for using super-easy monetary policy to clean up the mess after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, while insisting that the Fed should feel vindicated for not leaning against the speculative madness of the late 1990s.

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“When, not if, central banks go completely negative, they will wind up paying banks to borrow money from them. That’s quantitative easing by another name.”

Why Negative Interest Rates Spell Doom For Capitalism (Romano)

Interest rates in Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, the European Central Bank and now the Bank Japan have now plunged into negative territory, starting a new phase in the era of central banking that is very much uncharted. Time will tell if it leaves the global economy lost at sea. So far, banks are primarily being charged for keeping excess reserves on account at these central banks, a policy designed to jumpstart lending by making it more expensive for banks to sit on reserves. In some cases, like Sweden, the deposit rates have gone negative, too. Whether it will all work out or not remains to be seen — initiating inflation and economic growth. Maybe it will, but so far it’s not really looking good. So what if it doesn’t work? The longer term implication is that central banks will then feel compelled to move their discount rates and other rates negative, too.

Once that Pandora’s Box is open, it will mean that when financial institutions borrow money from the central bank, they will earn interest instead of owing it. You read that right. When, not if, central banks go completely negative, they will wind up paying banks to borrow money from them. That’s quantitative easing by another name. Say, the interest rate is -1%. For every $1 trillion that is lent, the central bank in theory would owe an additional $10 billion in interest to the borrowing banks. Fast forward 10 or 20 years into the future. Can you imagine a world where commercial banks pay their customers to borrow money? Sure, scoff now. But mark my words. Central banks are so desperate to kick start the economy and credit creation, they will do almost anything. So, if they have to bribe you to borrow money to start acquiring more things, then that’s exactly what they’ll do.

A few problems immediately emerge. If it ends up costing money for banks to lend money, how will they make any profits? The answer might be that the profits will be the difference between the interest earned from that bank borrowing the money from the central bank less the interest owed to the borrowing customer. So, say the bank borrowed from the central bank at -5% and then issued a loan with that money at -1%. The customer still earns 1%age point of negative interest, and the bank still gets to pocket the remaining 4%age points of negative interest from the central bank. But what about savers? Would they be charged just to put money into the bank? If so, why would they keep it there? Since banks depend on deposits to make up their capital requirements, they would have a powerful disincentive against charging customers to keep deposits, lest it provoke a run on the banks. But why invest in bonds? This is where the real rub comes.

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Chicken and the egg. Central bankers incompetence will drag us all down.

Central Banking Is In Crisis. Can The World Economy Be Far Behind? (Economist)

A world of helicopter drops is anathema to many: monetary financing is prohibited by the treaties underpinning the euro, for example. Incomes policies are even more problematic, as they reduce flexibility and are hard to reverse. But if the rich world ends up stuck in deflation, the time will come to contemplate extreme action, particularly in the most benighted economies, such as Japan’s. Elsewhere, governments can make use of a less risky tool: fiscal policy. Too many countries with room to borrow more, notably Germany, have held back. Such Swabian frugality is deeply harmful. Borrowing has never been cheaper. Yields on more than $7 trillion of government bonds worldwide are now negative.

Bond markets and ratings agencies will look more kindly on the increase in public debt if there are fresh and productive assets on the other side of the balance-sheet. Above all, such assets should involve infrastructure. The case for locking in long-term funding to finance a multi-year programme to rebuild and improve tatty public roads and buildings has never been more powerful. A fiscal boost would pack more of a punch if it was coupled with structural reforms that work with the grain of the stimulus. European banks’ balance-sheets still need strengthening and, so long as questions swirl about their health, the banks will not lend freely. Write-downs of bad debts are one option, but it might be better to overhaul the rules so that governments can insist that banks either raise capital or have equity forced on them by regulators.

Deregulation is another priority—and no less potent for being familiar. The Council of Economic Advisors says that the share of America’s workforce covered by state-licensing laws has risen to 25%, from 5% in the 1950s. Much of this red tape is unnecessary. Zoning laws are a barrier to new infrastructure. Tax codes remain Byzantine and stuffed with carve-outs that shelter the income of the better-off, who tend to save more. The problem, then, is not that the world has run out of policy options. Politicians have known all along that they can make a difference, but they are weak and too quarrelsome to act. America’s political establishment is riven; Japan’s politicians are too timid to confront lobbies; and the euro area seems institutionally incapable of uniting around new policies.

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Makes sense, since they have no idea what they’re doing. Then again, since this is a double negative…

Bank of Japan Baffled by Negative Reaction to Negative-Rate Policy (WSJ)

A clash Thursday between Japan’s central-bank chief and lawmakers highlighted the downside of negative interest rates: They are making the Japanese public feel negative. Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, who announced the nation’s first move into minus rates three weeks ago, found himself dodging a concerted attack in Parliament from lawmakers who charged the policy was victimizing consumers and sending a message of despair. Even a ruling-party member, Masahiro Ishida, called the policy hard to grasp. “It could have the opposite effect of confusing the market,” he said. The criticism has come as a surprise to central-bank officials who thought their efforts to spark lending and faster economic growth would gain more public support.

“Those who understand this policy are criticizing us, and those who do not are also criticizing us,” said one official this week. It is a symptom of a global problem. The more central banks move into unconventional policies, the harder it becomes to get their message across. That is a particular problem when the policies are supposed to work in part by inspiring confidence. It also highlights an open question about negative rates: Commercial banks, for the most part, haven’t started charging depositors to hold their cash, despite increasing pressure on margins. But what happens if they do? Under new rules that took effect Tuesday, the Bank of Japan started imposing an interest rate of minus -0.1% on some deposits it holds for commercial banks, meaning the banks have to pay to store their money.

The goal was to bring down interest rates generally, including long-term rates charged for home loans. The move followed years of attempts to defeat deflation and stimulate moribund spending, including by pumping ¥80 trillion ($701 billion) of cash annually into the economy with purchases of government bonds. The immediate impact was muted as global markets swooned and the yen, seen as a haven in times of trouble, rose against the dollar, threatening the profits of Japanese exporters. This week, markets have stabilized, but the central bank is struggling with a different and equally hard-to-control force: public opinion.

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But if that’s true for all negative rates, who would the yen fall against?

Nomura Sees Yen Falling More Than 10% on BOJ Negative Rates (BBG)

Nomura is sticking to its forecast for the yen to weaken to 130 per dollar by year-end on the view Japan’s negative interest-rate policy will prompt investors to buy more overseas assets and U.S. borrowing costs will rise. Japan’s biggest brokerage has maintained the projection since December 2014, when the yen completed a six-month slide to 119.78 after the central bank boosted its debt purchases to a record. The yen has rallied 5.5% this year against the dollar, about 14% stronger than Nomura’s target, as a flight to haven assets from tumbling global stocks burnished the currency’s allure. “There is nothing convincing yet to alter the outlook,” said Yunosuke Ikeda at Nomura Securities in Tokyo. “The most important check points for now are a set of U.S. data in early March. If we can confirm recession risks are low, the 130-yen forecast can be maintained.”

The yen’s recent strength was partly driven by the dollar’s weakness as concerns over a slowdown in China and the health of banks in Europe caused traders to pare bets that the Federal Reserve will raise rates again this year after moving in December. There’s a 41% probability the Fed will boost rates by the end of December, according to futures data compiled by Bloomberg. The odds were more than 90% at the end of last year. The yen’s advance is being driven by “low conviction” risk aversion, according to Nomura’s Ikeda, a trend that may lose momentum should the U.S. show signs of strength when economic figures are released next month. “The worst case scenario is the low-conviction risk off will become high-conviction should the U.S. economy become decisively bad,” he said. “ For this, ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing as well as jobs data due in early March are very significant.”

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I’ve suggested seppuku before.

Abenomics? How About Kurodanomics? (BBG)

Despite all Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has done, Japan’s economy contracted an annualized 1.4% in the final three months of 2015, the government announced on Feb. 15. Consumer prices rose just 0.2% year to year, perilously close to deflation. Japanese consumers, hurt by tepid growth in wages and bonuses and a 3%age point rise in the consumption tax in 2014, are holding on to their wallets, with private consumption dropping 0.8% in the quarter. The yen has gained 5.6% against the dollar since the start of the year, eroding profits for exporters such as Toyota Motor and Panasonic. These companies have benefited from the yen’s weakness since the prime minister came to office in late 2012 and began the policy changes known as Abenomics.

“There’s no clear driver to support Japan’s economy,” says Yuichi Kodama at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance in Tokyo. Yet on the same day the government announced the economy’s contraction, the benchmark Nikkei stock index rose more than 7%. Investors hope that the weak data could spur Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who pushed through a negative interest rate last month, to move even deeper into negative territory, or purchase even more bonds. They also hope Abe will postpone another hike in the consumption tax. Handpicked by Abe in 2013, Kuroda has aggressively implemented the monetary policy envisioned by Abenomics. He has championed a quantitative easing program of bond and other asset purchases by the central bank that has left the BOJ with a balance sheet about three-quarters the size of Japan’s $4.6 trillion economy.

Kuroda’s bold and unconventional moves helped drive down the yen, contributing to an increase in corporate earnings and stock prices. In January, the Bank of Japan started charging 0.1% on part of the cash deposited at the central bank by big financial institutions. The idea is to encourage banks to lend instead of watching their cash lose value. “Kuroda is doing everything he can,” says Marcel Thieliant, Japan economist for Capital Economics. Abe’s program has what he calls three “arrows”: an easy-money policy, fiscal stimulus, and structural reforms. Although the BOJ has done its part in terms of interest rates and bond purchases, Abenomics has been a disappointment in the other two areas. The government has moved slowly on reforms of labor laws and other regulations.

As for fiscal stimulus, Abe has increased spending, but also raised the consumption tax to 8%. He wants to raise it to 10%. “Abe and the government have no choice but to depend on Bank of Japan policy,” says Kazuhiko Ogata at Crédit Agricole. But with the BOJ rate negative, Kuroda has little room to maneuver. GDP growth for the fiscal year ending in March will be just 0.8%, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, lower than the central bank’s target of 1.1%. Confidence in Abenomics is falling. In a Yomiuri poll published on Feb. 16, approval of Abe’s economic policies fell to a record low of 39%.

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Can we talk about timing here, OECD?

OECD Calls for Urgent Increase in Government Spending (WSJ)

Governments in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere should take “urgent” and “collective” steps to raise their investment spending and deliver a fresh boost to flagging economic growth, the Organization for Economic Growth and Development said on Thursday. In its most forceful call to action since the financial crisis, the OECD said the global economy is suffering from a weakness of demand that can’t be remedied through stimulus from central banks alone. Releasing its first economic forecasts of 2016, it urged governments that can borrow at very low interest rates to boost their spending on infrastructure. The OECD said that if governments work together, fresh borrowing could have such a positive impact on growth that it would reduce rather than increase their debts relative to economic output.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann said that without such action, governments will be unable to honor their pledges to deliver a “better life” for young people, adequate pensions and health care for old people, and the returns anticipated by investors. “The economic performance generated by today’s set of policies is insufficient to make good on these commitments,” said Ms. Mann, who has worked at the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Council of Economic Advisers. “Those commitments will not be met unless there is a change in policy stance.” The Paris-based think tank lowered its forecasts for global growth this year and next. It now expects the U.S. economy to grow by 2.0% in 2016 and 2.2% in 2017, having in November projected expansions of 2.5% and 2.4%, respectively.

The OECD lowered its eurozone growth forecasts to 1.4% and 1.7% from 1.8% and 1.9%, and nudged down its Japanese growth forecast for this year to 0.8% from 1.0%. It left its growth forecasts for China unchanged. Overall, it expects the global economy to grow by 3% this year, the same rate of expansion as in 2015 but slower than the 3.3% it anticipated in November. “The downgrade in forecasts is broadly based, reflecting a wide range of disappointing incoming data for the fourth quarter of 2015 and the recent weakness and volatility in global financial markets,” the OECD said. “These trends have been apparent in both advanced and emerging economies.” Last month, the IMF cut its global growth forecast for this year, but still expected a pickup from 2015.

Ms. Mann said the sharp and varying falls in prices of assets and commodities since the start of the year largely reflect a delayed response to weaker growth prospects around the world, and not just in China. “We should have had a decline starting a year ago,” she said. “We can see in those different rates of decline both investor views of prospects, but some over shooting.” The OECD said that budget policy in a number of major economies -including Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.- is “contractionary,” while some developing economies had also made recent budget decisions that will slow growth. It urged governments to reverse course.

“Governments in many countries are currently able to borrow for long periods at very low interest rates, increasing fiscal space,” the OECD said. “Many countries have room for fiscal expansion to strengthen demand. This should focus on policies with strong short-run benefits and that also contribute to long-term growth. A commitment to raising public investment collectively would boost demand while remaining on a fiscally sustainable path.”

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Seems obvious.

China Bears Say the Capital Outflow Is Just Beginning (BBG)

Yuan bears say this month’s rally shouldn’t be taken as a sign China’s great reversal in capital flows has finished. Goldman Sachs warns that any further shock depreciation will only accelerate the exit. Daiwa Capital Markets, which predicted the outflow risks back in 2014, says less than half of the $3 trillion of dollar debt that ended up in China has been repaid. Commerzbank said record new yuan loans in January showed companies are raising money to repay more debt abroad. Corporate bond sales onshore have more than doubled this year, as offshore issuance in the greenback dropped about 30%. Goldman Sachs says there have been $550 billion of outflows in the second half of 2015, and that every 1% yuan weakening risks $100 billion more.

The yuan’s appreciation in the four years through 2013 prompted companies to borrow dollars offshore and use the money to profit from a strong currency and higher interest rates in China. The one-way bets began to fade in 2014 as the exchange rate to the dollar plunged the most since 1994. This month’s 0.9% rally hasn’t dissuaded analysts from forecasting a further 3.4% drop by year-end. “We’re less than halfway done” in terms of carry trade unwinding, said Kevin Lai at Daiwa. “My main focus is not about unwinding, but the reverse carry trade. People are taking fresh positions to sell the yuan. We’re talking about a massive deflationary scenario now, which is very bad for the market, economy, for everything.” Daiwa’s estimate for the carry trade is on the high side because it includes borrowing by companies outside China, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Oversea-Chinese Banking economist Tommy Xie estimates the positions at around $1 trillion, based on data from the Bank of International Settlements and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Chinese companies’ total foreign-currency debt dropped by about $140 billion in the second half of 2015 to $1.69 trillion, including corporate borrowing from onshore banks, Goldman estimates. That was dwarfed by the $370 billion outflows by Chinese residents buying foreign currencies, it said. “A risk is that any further shocks to renminbi confidence and the perception of policy uncertainty could sharply compound the outflow pressure and render any subsequent stabilization attempts much less effective,” Goldman wrote in a note released to media on Jan. 26.

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Much worse now: “As of 2014, according to an estimate by the McKinsey Global Institute, total debt in China stood at 282% of GDP.”

Red Ink In China (Economist)

This week began with the release of a staggering number. In January, new debt issued in China rose to just over $500 billion, an all-time high. Not all of the “new” debt was actually new; some represented a move out of foreign-currency loans and into local-currency borrowing (in order to reduce foreign-currency risk). But the flow of red ink is not a mirage. China’s government opened the credit taps early in 2016 in order to reduce the odds of a sharp economic slowdown. Private borrowing in China has grown rapidly and steadily since 2008, even as nominal output growth has slowed. As of 2014, according to an estimate by the McKinsey Global Institute, total debt in China stood at 282% of GDP. China is rapidly becoming one of the most indebted countries in the world.

So what? There is a cottage industry of analysts out there gaming out the ways in which a crisis of some sort might unfold within China. But with debts of this magnitude accumulating, you don’t need to posit a looming crisis to draw some reasonably strong, and reasonably gloomy conclusions about the near-term future of the Chinese economy—and the world as a whole. At some point, Chinese corporates will need to deleverage. It is hard to say precisely when or why, but a deleveraging at some point is inevitable. The result of that deleveraging, when it occurs, will be a big drag on demand growth within China. That, in turn, will translate into much slower GDP growth, unless some other source of demand can be found. China could try to boost demand by encouraging more spending and investment by non-corporates.

This probably wouldn’t work especially well, if the history of other economies in such circumstances is any guide. Households have also been adding debt at a good clip. To get them to borrow at an even faster pace, especially at a time when (presumably, given the corporate deleveraging) animal spirits are not at their most spirited, the Chinese government would basically have to force new loans down households’ throats. Certainly, we could expect China to hit the zero lower bound on interest rates and to begin QE. Zero rates and QE would place significant downward pressure on the value of the yuan. That’s just as well, since another thing history tells us is that demand-deficient, deleveraging economies depreciate their currencies and rely on exernal demand to support growth.

Of course, most countries in the situation we’re imagining here aren’t already running big trade surpluses. It is possible, given the importance to China of supply-chain trade, that even a big depreciation wouldn’t boost demand in the economy very much, since it would make imported components more expensive even as it made exports cheaper. If those arguments are right, they suggest that a Chinese adjustment would require either a really big depreciation, or would be slower and more painful, or a bit of both. Conventional wisdom has it, however, that China does not want to depreciate the currency. Depreciation might not boost net exports by much, but it would make dollar-denominated loans more expensive (increasing the pressure on some of those deleveraging corporates), it would squeeze Chinese consumers, and it would represent a big loss of face for the government.

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Delusional: “The government aims to urbanize 100 million lower-income people within five years to expand a middle class that can afford movies and medicine, and sustain China’s upward trajectory.”

Overproduction Swamps Smaller Chinese Cities, Revealing Depth of Crisis (WSJ)

Even in China’s remotest places, relentless overproduction—here it is mushrooms and cement trucks—is clouding the country’s path to prosperity and jolting the global economy. When 48-year-old farmer Yang Qun began trading at Suizhou’s bustling morning mushroom market a half decade ago, the fungus industry was expanding, even attracting a rural lending arm of British financial giant HSBC. Ms. Yang saved enough to buy a minivan. When wet snow fell last month, she was settling for closeout prices to unload six bags of dried mushrooms that took a half year to cultivate. For Xu Song, a clanging sound was once a welcome reminder that his 200 colleagues were busy pounding steel into the giant barrels used on cement trucks.

On a recent day, he sat alone watching videos in an unheated office, the only worker left on an abandoned factory floor where dozens of rusting barrels were stacked like multi-ton footballs. “The decline was steep,” says Mr. Xu, standing inside the all-but-defunct Hubei Aoma Special Automobile Co. factory, where he was hired to do quality control. “I don’t know what had really happened to us.” Beyond the glut of steel and apartments that weighed down growth in recent years, China’s economy is also saturated with surplus goods from farms and factories. Numerous small and midsize cities such as Suizhou, which boomed on easy credit and government support for agribusiness and construction, were supposed to provide the second wave in China’s growth story. Instead they are now sputtering, wearing down prices, profits and job opportunities.

The struggles in Suizhou show how China’s slowdown is broad and deep and hard to fix. It has fueled volatile market trading around the world and has contributed to anxiety about potentially stalled U.S. growth. Domestic overproduction means China is now spending less overseas, while businesses that sell to China are bracing for possible protectionist moves aimed at propping up local companies. And with Chinese demand at risk, its industrial giants with idle capacity are looking to capture market share abroad, including construction and railway equipment makers. The government has made a priority of eliminating “zombie companies,” kept alive with loans to produce unneeded goods, to clear the path for more vibrant parts of the economy. The squeeze won’t be easy because in small, remote places such as Suizhou, overbuilt industries are often the economic backbone.

[..] China’s future is dependent on spreading opportunity more widely. While Shanghai and other gleaming metropolises on the coast powered the first decades of market liberalization, Beijing is now counting on smaller cities for the next phase. The government aims to urbanize 100 million lower-income people within five years to expand a middle class that can afford movies and medicine, and sustain China’s upward trajectory.

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How many times have we said this?!

You Cannot Print Your Way to Prosperity (Ron Paul)

Last week US stock markets tumbled yet again, leaving the Dow Jones index down almost 1500 points for the year. In fact, most major world markets are in negative territory this year. There are many Wall Street cheerleaders who are trying to say that this is just a technical correction, that the bottom is near, and that everything will be getting better soon. They are ignoring the real message the markets are trying to send: you cannot print your way to prosperity. People throughout history have always sought to acquire wealth. Most of them understand that it takes hard work, sacrifice, savings, and investment. But many are always looking for that “get rich quick” scheme. Monetary cranks throughout history have thought that just printing more money would result in greater wealth and prosperity. Every time this was tried it resulted in failure.

Huge economic booms would be followed by even larger busts. But no matter how many times the cranks were debunked both in theory and practice, the same failed ideas kept coming back. The intellectual descendants of those monetary cranks are now leading the world’s central banks, which is why the last decade has seen an explosion of money creation. And what do the central bankers have to show for it? Lackluster employment numbers that have not kept up with population growth, increasing economic inequality, a rising cost of living, and constant fear and uncertainty about what the future holds. The past decade has been a lot like the 1920s, when prices wanted to drop but the Federal Reserve kept the price level steady through injections of easy money into the economy. The result in the 1920s was the Great Depression.

But in the 1920s prices were dropping because of increased production. More goods being produced meant lower prices, which the Fed then tried to prop up by printing money. Unlike the “Roaring 20s” however, the economy isn’t quite as strong today. It’s more of a gasp than a roar. Production today is barely above 2007 levels, while heavily-indebted households already hurt during the financial crisis don’t want to keep spending. The bad debts and mal-investments from the last Federal Reserve-induced boom were never liquidated, they were merely papered over with more easy money. The underlying economic fundamentals remain weak but the monetary cranks who run the Fed keep trying to pump more and more money into the system. They fail to realize that easy money is the cause, not the cure, of recessions and depressions. [..] The more money the Federal Reserve creates, the more ordinary Americans will end up suffering.

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What happens when you make it all up.

The Real Economy Is Talking, but Treasuries Aren’t Listening (BBG)

There’s a massive divergence between recent economic data and U.S. Treasury yields. Amid widespread risk aversion, the yield on 10-year debt fell below 1.60% this month before recovering to back over 1.75% on Thursday. According to Deutsche Bank Chief International Economist Torsten Sløk, that’s still far too low. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow indicator provides an estimate for quarterly economic growth based on recently released economic data, which currently stands at 2.6% for the first quarter: “Using the historical relationship between the Atlanta Fed GDP Now estimate and 10y rates shows that 10y rates today should not be 1.82% but instead 2.3%,” he wrote. “Put differently, markets are currently pricing a deep recession, but that is simply not what the data is showing.”

Some caveats apply: The sample size depicted here is quite small, so there’s no guarantee the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow will prove accurate, and the composition of growth, not merely the headline rate, is important in assessing economic health. Additionally, while it makes intuitive sense for there to be a relationship between yields on sovereign debt, it’s worth remembering what goes into a bond yield: expectations regarding short-term interest rates, market-based measures of inflation compensation, and the term premium (what investors demand for taking on more duration). At present, market-implied expectations for the federal funds rate and inflation are quite low. Term premiums are also suppressed, due in part to strong demand for U.S. assets that are perceived as a safe haven, particularly in times of market turmoil. Those assets also provide a yield that’s more attractive than most other advanced economies.

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How the Anglo model of ownership obsession ritually murders itself.

Number Of UK Homes Worth More Than £1 Million Set To ‘Triple By 2030’ (G.)

The number of properties in Britain worth £1m or more is set to more than triple by 2030, widening the gap between the housing haves and have-nots, according to a report. Less than half a million homes in the UK are currently valued at £1m-plus, but a study by high street lender Santander claims this number will rise to more than 1.6m in the next 15 years. The report also warns that affordability will worsen considerably by the end of the next decade as house price rises far outstrip growth in household incomes. The average property price amounts to 7.9 times the average income at present, but by 2030 this is expected to hit a multiple of 9.7. Santander said: “By 2030 the UK will be even more starkly divided into the housing wealthy and the housing poor than it is now.”

There is a stark geographical divide among the projected members of the £1m club, according to Santander. One in four homes in London will cost £1m-plus by 2030, rising to 70% in two boroughs in the capital – Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster. More than half of homes in three more London boroughs – Camden, the City of London and Hammersmith and Fulham – will also be worth more than £1m. Across the south-east, 7% of homes are expected to be valued at that level. However, many areas of the UK – the north-east, north-west, Yorkshire and Humber, Scotland and the East Midlands – are expected to host a negligible number of such expensive houses (less than 1%). One area, Torfaen in Wales, home to more than 90,000 people, will have none.

The report, carried out in partnership with Paul Cheshire, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics, predicts that prices in London, which are currently 11.5 times average incomes, will soar to a multiple of 16.5 by 2030. Cheshire said: “By 2030, the divide between housing haves at the top and the have-nots at the bottom will be even wider than it is now. More owners will enjoy millionaire status, as homes that many would consider modest fetch seven figure prices in sought-after areas. “It will make entering the market more difficult still for new buyers, further highlighting the importance of the right timing, advice, support and financial planning; and not just having a mum and dad who bought a house, but a grandparent, too.”

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Make that the entire western world; pensions are Ponzi’s: “What’s happening to us is a microcosm of what’s going to happen to the rest of the pensions in the United States..”

400,000 Americans In Jeopardy As Giant Pension Fund Plans 50% Benefit Cuts (ZH)

Dale Dorsey isn’t happy. After working 33 years, he’s facing a 55% cut to his pension benefits, a blow which he says will “cripple” his family and imperil the livelihood of his two children, one of whom is in the fourth grade and one of whom is just entering high school. Dorsey attended a town hall meeting in Kansas City on Tuesday where retirees turned out for a discussion on “massive” pension cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund, which covers 400,000 participants, and which will almost certainly go broke within the next decade. “A controversial 2014 law allowed the pension to propose [deep] cuts, many of them by half or more, as a way to perhaps save the fund,” The Kansas City Star wrote earlier this week adding that “two much smaller pensions also have sought similar relief under the law, and still more pensions are significantly underfunded.”

“What’s happening to us is a microcosm of what’s going to happen to the rest of the pensions in the United States,” said Jay Perry, a longtime Teamsters member. Jay is probably correct. Public sector pension funds are grossly underfunded in places like Chicago and Houston, while private sector funds are struggling to deal with rock bottom interest rates, which put pressure on expected returns and thus drive the present value of funds’ liabilities higher. Illinois’ pension burden has brought the state to its knees financially speaking and in November, Springfield was forced to miss a $560 million payment to its retirement fund. In the private sector, GM said on Thursday that it will sell 20- and 30-year bonds in order to meet its pension obligations.

“At the end of last year GM’s U.S. hourly pension plan was underfunded by $10.4 billion,” The New York Times writes. “About $61 billion of the obligations were funded for the plan’s roughly 360,000 pensioners.” Maybe it’s time for tax payers to bail themselves out. Speaking of GM, Kenneth Feinberg – the man who oversaw the distribution of cash compensation to victims who were involved in accidents tied to faulty ignition switches – is now tasked with deciding whether the Central States Pension Fund’s proposal to cut benefits passes legal muster. “Central States’ proposal would allow the retirees to work and still collect their reduced benefits. But some are no longer able to work, and the idea didn’t seem plausible to others,” the Star goes on to note.

“You know anybody hiring a 73-year-old mechanic?” Rod Heelan asked Feinberg. “I’m available.” “I’ll have to go find a job. I don’t know. I’m 68,” Gary Meyer of Concordia, Mo said. “It would probably be a minimum-wage job.” To be sure, retirees’ frustrations are justified. That said, the fund is simply running out of money. “We simply can’t stay afloat if we continue to pay out $3.46 in pension benefits for every $1 paid in from contributing employers,” a letter to retirees reads. The fund is projected to go broke by 2026. Without the proposed cuts, no benefits at all will be paid from that point forward.

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Not even the WSJ is fooled.

The Political War on Cash (WSJ)

These are strange monetary times, with negative interest rates and central bankers deemed to be masters of the universe. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that politicians and central bankers are now waging a war on cash. That’s right, policy makers in Europe and the U.S. want to make it harder for the hoi polloi to hold actual currency. Mario Draghi fired the latest salvo on Monday when he said the ECB would like to ban €500 notes. A day later Harvard economist and Democratic Party favorite Larry Summers declared that it’s time to kill the $100 bill, which would mean goodbye to Ben Franklin. Alexander Hamilton may soon—and shamefully—be replaced on the $10 bill, but at least the 10-spots would exist for a while longer. Ol’ Ben would be banished from the currency the way dead white males like him are banned from the history books.

Limits on cash transactions have been spreading in Europe since the 2008 financial panic, ostensibly to crack down on crime and tax avoidance. Italy has made it illegal to pay cash for anything worth more than €1,000, while France cut its limit to €1,000 from €3,000 last year. British merchants accepting more than €15,000 in cash per transaction must first register with the tax authorities. Fines for violators can run into the thousands of euros. Germany’s Deputy Finance Minister Michael Meister recently proposed a €5,000 cap on cash transactions. Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan predicted last month that cash won’t survive another decade. The enemies of cash claim that only crooks and cranks need large-denomination bills. They want large transactions to be made electronically so government can follow them.

Yet these are some of the same European politicians who blew a gasket when they learned that U.S. counterterrorist officials were monitoring money through the Swift global system. Criminals will find a way, large bills or not. The real reason the war on cash is gearing up now is political: Politicians and central bankers fear that holders of currency could undermine their brave new monetary world of negative interest rates. Japan and Europe are already deep into negative territory, and U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week the U.S. should be prepared for the possibility. Translation: That’s where the Fed is going in the next recession. Negative rates are a tax on deposits with banks, with the goal of prodding depositors to remove their cash and spend it to increase economic demand. But that goal will be undermined if citizens hoard cash. And hoarding cash is easier if you can take your deposits out in large-denomination bills you can stick in a safe. It’s harder to keep cash if you can only hold small bills.

So, presto, ban cash.

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First Austria, now Switzerland. 5000 francs is well over $5000.

Swiss MPs Want New 5,000-Franc Banknotes To ‘Save Privacy And Freedom’ (L.)

Two MPs from the canton of Zug’s parliament are calling on the Swiss federal government to create 5,000-franc banknotes to “save the privacy and freedom” of citizens. Philip Brunner and Manuel Brandberg, members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, have proposed a motion that they hope Zug will support for a cantonal initiative seeking changes to the federal currency law. They argue that the creation of 5,000-franc notes will ensure that the Swiss franc maintains its status as a safe haven currency. The move goes in the opposite direction of in the European Union, where finance ministers have talked about withdrawing 500-euro bills from circulation to deter their use for financing terrorism, money laundering and other illegal activities.

But Brunner and Brandberg maintain that the tendency in the EU and in OECD member countries is to “weaken individual liberties” and to exercise greater control over citizens. In this context “cash is comparable to the service firearm kept by Swiss citizen soldiers,” the pair argued in their motion, saying they both “guarantee freedom”. “In France and Italy already cash payments of only up to 1,000 euros are allowed and the question of the abolition of cash is being seriously discussed and considered in Europe, “ Brunner said on his Facebook page. The move toward electronic payments allows governments “total surveillance” over individuals, the pair claim. Switzerland already has a 1,000-franc note (worth around $1,008), which is the most valuable banknote in Europe and second in the world only to the Singapore $10,000 note among currencies in general circulation.

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“You can’t have these conversations when oil is $125 because then you can’t get it out of the ground quickly enough. And you can’t have it at $27 because you’re just trying to survive.”

Hmmm. Looks to me like it’s at $27 that you can’t get it out of the ground quickly enough.

The Stressed-Out Oil Industry Faces an Existential Crisis (BBG)

The Saudis may go public, OPEC’s in disarray, the U.S. is suddenly a global exporter, and shale drillers are seeking lifelines from investors as banks abandon them. Welcome to oil’s new world order, full of stresses, strains and fractures. For leaders gathering in Houston next week at the IHS CERAWeek conference – often dubbed the Davos of the energy industry – a key question is: what will break first? Will it be the balance sheets of big U.S. shale companies? The treasuries of Venezuela and Nigeria? The resolve of Saudi Arabia, whose recent deal with Russia to freeze output levels offered the first hint of a rethink? After watching prices crash through floor after floor in the worst slump for a generation, the industry is eager for answers.

Insiders say it’s not too hard to visualize what markets might look like after the storm – say five years down the line, when today’s cost-cutting creates a supply vacuum that will push up prices. But it’s what happens in the meantime that’s got them scratching their heads. “This is a weird thing for a market analyst to say because it’s usually the opposite case, but I have more conviction in my five-year outlook than my one-year outlook,” said Mike Wittner at Societe Generale. “Maybe I’m letting my head get turned upside down by the last couple months.” Seeking clarity at closed-door sessions, cocktail hours and water-coolers in Houston will be some of the industry’s biggest players, from Saudi Petroleum Minister Ali al-Naimi to Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden.

In a less volatile year, the long-term viability of fossil fuels might have been high on their agenda after December’s breakthrough climate deal in Paris. But within the industry, that debate has “fallen into the abyss of $27 oil,” said Deborah Gordon, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s energy and climate program. “It seems like it’s never a good time,” she said. “You can’t have these conversations when oil is $125 because then you can’t get it out of the ground quickly enough. And you can’t have it at $27 because you’re just trying to survive.”

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Keep watching below.

Oil Gives Up Gains as Inventories Build (WSJ)

U.S. oil prices eked out a gain Thursday as the U.S. government’s weekly oil-inventory report showed another increase in stockpiles of crude oil. U.S. crude inventories rose by 2.1 million barrels last week to 504.1 million barrels, a new weekly record high, the Energy Information Administration said. In monthly data, which don’t line up exactly with weekly data, inventories last exceeded 500 million barrels in 1930. Light, sweet crude for March delivery settled 0.4%, at $30.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, slipped 0.6% to $34.28 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Both benchmarks had been up about 3% ahead of the government data, which was delayed one day due to the Presidents Day holiday. Oil prices are down more than 70% since a peak in June 2014, driven lower by a mismatch between ample supplies and tepid demand for crude around the globe.

“U.S. and global inventories are nearing maximums, and global production is showing little sign of slowing,” said Rob Haworth at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in a note. Price moves have been especially volatile in recent weeks amid uncertainty about the pace of global demand growth. The U.S. oil benchmark settled up or down by 1% or more for 23 straight sessions until Thursday, the longest such streak since 2009. U.S. crude stockpiles have climbed since the start of the year as production continued to outpace demand. Inventories fell in the week ended Feb. 5 as imports declined, but imports rose again last week, the EIA data show. ”It’s back to business as usual,” said Bob Yawger at Mizuho. He predicted that prices “will eventually cave under the weight of these storage numbers.”

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Better come clean before you’re forced to?!

Anglo American Cut to Junk for Third Time This Week (BBG)

Anglo American’s credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s, following similar downgrades by Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings this week, amid questions about the miner’s ability to sell assets. The company’s rating was reduced to BB from BBB- with a stable outlook, S&P said in a statement Thursday. Moody’s cut Anglo to Ba3, and Fitch lowered the rating to BB+ earlier in the week. The shares slid 4.6% as of 2:25 p.m. in London. Anglo, which became the first major London-based miner to be rated junk, has said it’s looking to speed up sales of coal and iron ore assets after losses bled into a fourth year. It’s trying to engineer a turnaround by focusing on its best mines that produce diamonds, platinum and copper. The company wants to raise $4 billion from mine sales and cut net debt to less than $10 billion this year.

Anglo said on Thursday it will start a tender for a maximum of $1.3 billion of bonds to reduce debt and interest costs. It may purchase $1 billion of notes maturing in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in euros and pounds as well as a maximum of $300 million in dollar-denominated securities, according to company statements.= On Tuesday, Anglo added mines including coal in Australia and nickel in Brazil to an already long list of assets for sale as it seeks to scale back its $12.9 billion debt. CEO Mark Cutifani expects to sell 10 assets by the first half of 2016 and because there are so many up for sale, Anglo wouldn’t be forced to accept any offer, he said.

“Although the program should enable Anglo to lower its debt levels, the depressed market means that we view the proceeds and timeline as very uncertain,” S&P said in the statement. “Because other companies are also seeking to divest assets at this time, we remain very cautious about the timing of any sales and the level of proceeds they will generate.” Goldman Sachs said Tuesday that the miner’s plan to sell off assets was “ambitious” in such a tough environment. Bank of America questioned whether the market trusted the management team to execute sales, while Citigroup said the process was coming too late.

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Translation: Dump ’em all in Greece. And then dump Greece itself.

Wary On Turkey, EU Prepares For Refugee Crisis In Greece (Reuters)

The European Union hopes Turkey will prevent as many migrants reaching Greece as last year but is readying “contingency” plans to shelter large numbers who may arrive but can no longer trek north toward Germany. Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told Reuters on Thursday that it was unclear how far Turkey could reduce numbers once the weather improves and, with efforts under way to prevent a repeat of last summer’s chaotic treks through the Balkans, the EU was working with Athens to shelter refugees in Greece. “As long as our cooperation agreement we made with Turkey doesn’t start giving results, the situation will not be easy at all. The flows will continue,” said Avramopoulos. “That is why we have already started working on contingency planning.”

“If this happens, we are going to be confronted with a huge humanitarian crisis and this has to be avoided.” When more than 800,000 people, many Syrian refugees, arrived in Greece last year, most moved north through the Balkans to Germany. Berlin does not want a repeat, leaving states to the south along the route tightening borders and raising a prospect that a large proportion of new arrivals may be halted in Greece. Assessing how far Turkey will help reduce the flow in return for cash and closer ties with the EU is difficult. Avramopoulos noted that arrivals had dropped sharply in the past week or so, despite good sailing weather, but spiked again on Wednesday.

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Jan 302016
 
 January 30, 2016  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle January 30 2016


William Henry Jackson Steamboat Metamora of Palatka on the Ocklawaha, FL 1902

Bank Of Japan’s Negative Rates Are ‘Economic Kamikaze’ (CNBC)
Negative Rates In The US Are Next (ZH)
The Boxed-In Fed (Tenebrarum)
Central Banks Go to New Lengths to Boost Economies (WSJ)
China Stocks Have Worst.January.Ever (ZH)
China’s ‘Hard Landing’ May Have Already Happened (AFR)
China To Adopt 6.5-7% Growth Target Range For 2016 (Reuters)
Junk Bonds’ Rare Negative Return In January Is Bad News For Stocks (MW)
I Worked On Wall Street. I Am Skeptical Hillary Clinton Will Rein It In (Arnade)
VW Says Defeat Software Legal In Europe (GCR)
Swiss To Vote On Basic Income (DM)
Radioactive Waste Dogs Germany Despite Abandoning Nuclear Power (NS)
Mediterranean Deaths Soar As People-Smugglers Get Crueller: IOM (Reuters)

The essence, as Steve Keen keeps saying, is that negative rates on reserves are madness, because banks can’t lend out their reserves. Something central bankers genuinely don’t seem to grasp, weird as that may seem. Which speaks volumes, and shines a very bleak light, on the field of economics.

Bank Of Japan’s Negative Rates Are ‘Economic Kamikaze’ (CNBC)

The Japanese central bank has only dug the country deeper into a hole by adopting negative interest rates, Lindsey Group chief market analyst Peter Boockvar said Friday. “I think it’s economic kamikaze,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Let’s tax money and hope things get better. Let’s create higher inflation for the Japanese people, who are barely seeing wage growth. And let’s amp up the currency battles, and hope everything gets better.” The Bank of Japan surprised markets on Friday by pushing interest rates into negative territory for the first time ever. By doing so, the BOJ is essentially charging banks for parking excess funds. The fact that the vote was split shows that BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda got a lot of pushback to advance the policy, Boockvar said. “If this means now that they’re out of bullets with [QE], and this is their last hope, then I think this is a mess,” he said.

In a statement released along with the rate decision, the BOJ said the Japanese economy has recovered modestly with underlying inflation and spending by companies and households ticking up. But the bank warned that increasing uncertainty in emerging markets and commodity-exporting countries may delay an improvement in Japanese business confidence and negatively affect the current inflation trend. The BOJ’s inflation target is 2%. The BOJ now forecasts core inflation to average 0.2 to 1.2% between April 2016 and March 2017. Boockvar said he believes it’s a fallacy that Japan needs inflation to generate growth. “Inflation readings are a symptom of what underlying growth is,” Boockvar said. “For Kuroda to think ‘I need to generate higher inflation to generate growth’ to me is completely backwards, especially when Japanese wage growth is so anemic. You’re basically penalizing the Japanese consumer, and I don’t know what economic theory is behind that.”

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And they will make things worse.

Negative Rates In The US Are Next (ZH)

When stripping away all the philosophy, the pompous rhetoric, and the jawboning, all central banks do, or are supposed to do, is to influence capital allocations and spending behavior by adjusting the liquidity preference of the population by adjusting interest rates and thus the demand for money. To be sure, over the past 7 years central banks around the globe have gone absolutely overboard when it comes to their primary directive and have engaged every possible legal (and in the case of Europe, illegal) policy at their disposal to force consumers away from a “saving” mindset, and into purchasing risk(free) assets or otherwise burning through savings in hopes of stimulating inflation. Today’s action by the Bank of Japan, which is meant to force banks, and consumers, to spend their cash which will now carry a penalty of -0.1% if “inert” was proof of just that.

Ironically, and perversely from a classical economic standpoint, as we showed before in the case of Europe’s NIRP bastions, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland, the more negative rates are, the higher the amount of household savings! This is what Bank of America said back in October: “Yet, household savings rates have also risen. For Switzerland and Sweden this appears to have happened at the tail end of 2013 (before the oil price decline). As the BIS have highlighted, ultra-low rates may perversely be driving a greater propensity for consumers to save as retirement income becomes more uncertain.” Bingo: that is precisely the fatal flaw in all central planning models, one which not a single tenured economist appears capable of grasping yet which even a child could easily understand.

[..] And here is the one chart which in our opinion virtually assures that the Fed will follow in the footsteps of Sweden, Denmark, Europe, Switzerland and now Japan. Since the middle of 2015, US investors have bought a big fat net zero of either bonds or equities (in fact, they have been net sellers of risk) and have parked all incremental cash in money-market funds instead, precisely the inert non-investment that is almost as hated by central banks as gold.

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Lots of good graphs. This one must be the scariest.

The Boxed-In Fed (Tenebrarum)

As we often stress, economics is a social science and therefore simply does not work like physics or other natural sciences. Only economic theory can explain economic laws – while economic history can only be properly interpreted with the aid of sound theory. Here is how we see it: If the authorities had left well enough alone after Hoover’s depression had bottomed out, the economy would have recovered quite nicely on its own. Instead, they decided to intervene all-out. The result was yet another artificial inflationary boom. By 1937 the Fed finally began to worry a bit about the growing risk of run-away inflation, so it took a baby step to make its policy slightly less accommodative.

Once the artificial support propping up an inflationary boom is removed, the underlying economic reality is unmasked. The cause of the 1937 bust was not the Fed’s small step toward tightening. Capital had been malinvested and consumed in the preceding boom, a fact which the bust revealed. Note also that a huge inflow of gold from Europe in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power boosted liquidity in the US enormously in 1935-36, with no offsetting actions taken by the Fed. Moreover, the Supreme Court had just affirmed the legality of several of the worst economic interventions of the crypto-socialist FDR administration, which inter alia led to a collapse in labor productivity as the power of unions was vastly increased, as Jonathan Finegold Catalan points out.

He also notes that bank credit only began to contract after the stock market collapse was already well underway – in other words, the Fed’s tiny hike in the minimum reserve requirement by itself didn’t have any noteworthy effect. On the other hand, if the Fed had implemented the Bernanke doctrine in 1937 and had continued to implement monetary pumping at full blast in order to extend the boom, it would only have succeeded in structurally undermining the economy and currency even more. Inevitably, an even worse bust would eventually have followed.

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There’s not a number left you can trust.

Central Banks Go to New Lengths to Boost Economies (WSJ)

Central banks around the world are going to new lengths to boost their economies, underscoring both the importance and limits of monetary policy in a global economy plagued by paltry growth and unsettled markets. The Bank of Japan on Friday joined a host of European peers in setting its key short-term interest rate below zero. The move, long denied as a possible course by the bank s governor, came a week after the ECB president indicated he was ready to launch additional monetary stimulus in March and days after the Fed expressed new worries over market turbulence and sluggish growth overseas. The latest moves by central banks to rescue the global economy capped a volatile month across financial markets, with U.S. stocks finishing strong Friday but nonetheless posting their worst January since 2009, and major currencies lurching lower against the dollar.

The swings highlighted the fragile mood of investors despite hopes that some economies, particularly the U.S., could lead an exit from crisis-era policies. Fresh data Friday that showed the U.S. economy had sputtered in the final months of 2015 could cloud Fed deliberations over the timing of another round of rate increases. U.S. GDP, the broadest measure of economic output, grew by just 0.7% in the fourth quarter, hit hard by shrinking exports and business investment. Despite growth in consumer spending and clear strength in the job market, the weak performance added to concerns that the sagging global economy could hit the U.S.

Markets around the world were buoyed by Japan s move, extending the earlier assurances delivered by the ECB. Japan s Nikkei Stock Average closed up 2.8% in a volatile session, while the yield on Japanese government bonds fell to historically low levels. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 3.1% and the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 2.2%. U.S. stocks also rose, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbing nearly 400 points. Despite the day s surge, some investors remained skeptical about the lasting impact of the central banks efforts. People are starting to feel more and more that central bank action is having less and less fire for effect, said Ian Winer, head of equities at Wedbush Securities.

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Lunar New year starts Feb 7. Beijing will be so happy with the week long break.

China Stocks Have Worst.January.Ever (ZH)

Thanks to BoJ’s global “float all boats” NIRP-tard-ness, Chinese stocks avoided the headline of “worst month in 21 years” by rallying above the crucial 2,667 level (for SHCOMP). However, January’s 23% plunge is the worst month since October 2008 and is officially the worst start to a year in the history of Chinese stocks. While Shanghia Composite was ugly, the higher beta Shenzhen and ChiNext indices were a disaster…

Making it the worst January ever…

So February is a buying opportunity?

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4% over past 5 years. Could easily be 2% for 2015.

China’s ‘Hard Landing’ May Have Already Happened (AFR)

It’s the biggest question in the world of finance: how fast is China’s economy growing? And the biggest frustration is: what are the actual numbers? China’s lack of transparency – with murky data releases, opaque policy making and confusing announcements – is notorious among emerging-market watchers. But rarely do research firms or analysts use different figures to the official statistics. Until recently. The Conference Board, a widely respected and often-cited non-profit research group, used an alternate series of Chinese GDP estimates in its latest economic outlook paper. In an effort to adjust for overstated official Chinese data, the Conference Board looked to the work of Harry Wu, an economist at the Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, to adjust its calculations.

This was a footnote of the report: “Growth rates of Chinese industrial GDP are adjusted for mis-reporting bias and non-material services GDP are adjusted for biases in price deflators. This adjustment has important implications for our assessment of the growth rate of the global economy in general and that of the emerging markets in particular – both reflecting a downward adjustment in their recent growth rates.” Macquarie Wealth Management analysts picked up on the change, adding: “We are unaware of any other reputable agency adopting anything other than official numbers as a base case, although clearly there has always been a lot of scenario analysis.” Traditionally, China has used the Soviet system of collecting information through a chain of command, where local officials reported on their states, often misrepresenting their figures to meet designated targets.

Over the past 10 years, China has gradually moved towards the internationally recognised System of National Accounts, which relies on statistical surveys to discover what people are spending their money on and where. But as Macquarie points out, that transition is far from complete. The Wu-Maddison estimates are starkly different to those issued by Chinese authorities. Whereas Chinese authorities have claimed average GDP growth of about 7.7% for the past five years, Wu suggests it is much lower, about 4%. These new figures show a much higher degree of volatility than suggested by the official numbers. While the world frets about the possibility of a “hard landing” for the Chinese economy, the Conference Board observed the new estimates “suggest that the economy has already experienced a significant slowdown over the past four years, beginning in 2011.”

Macquarie echoes this sentiment. “In our view, Wu-Maddison numbers explain the current state of commodity markets and fit into the global deflationary narrative much better than official numbers,” the analysts Macquarie said in a note. But, as the bank points out, if the “hard landing” has already occurred, there will be a range of consequences for productivity growth, overcapacity absorption and financial stress. “If Wu estimates are right, the room for stimulus and investment is more limited and the need to drive productivity [structural reforms] much more urgent. Although by the time China retroactively adjusts its GDP, it would be treated as history. “In the absence of stronger productivity rebound, China would be in danger of getting stuck in the ‘middle-income trap’ and would be unable to inject incremental demand into the global economy. Stay safe.”

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They can target what they want, and so they do. But it’s meaningless.

China Set To Adopt 6.5-7% Growth Target Range For 2016 (Reuters)

China’s leaders are expected to target economic growth in a range of 6.5% to 7% this year, sources familiar with their thinking said, setting a range for the first time because policymakers are uncertain on the economy’s prospects. The proposed range, which would follow a 2015 target of “around 7%” growth, was endorsed by top leaders at the closed-door Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, according to the sources with knowledge of the meeting outcome. The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.9% in 2015, the weakest in 25 years, although some economists believe real growth is even lower. “They are likely to target economic growth of 6.5-7% this year, with 6.5% as the bottom line,” said one of the sources, a policy adviser.

Policymakers, worried by global uncertainties and the impact on growth of their structural economic reforms, struggled to reach a consensus at the December meeting, the sources said. The State Council Information Office, the public relations arm of the government, had no comment on the growth forecast when contacted by Reuters. The floor of 6.5% reflects the minimum average rate of growth needed over the next five years to meet an existing goal of doubling gross domestic product and per capita income by 2020 from 2010. The 2016 growth target and the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, a blueprint covering 2016-2020, will be announced at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament, in early March.

Although the target range was endorsed by the leadership in December, it could still be adjusted before parliament convenes. “The government will not be too nervous about growth this year and will focus more on structural adjustments,” said a government economist. “Growth may still slow in the first and second quarter and people are divided over the third and fourth quarter. The full-year growth could slow to 6.5-6.6%.” A string of cuts in interest rates and bank reserve requirements since November 2014 have failed to put a floor under the slowing economy. Beijing is expected to put more emphasis on fiscal policy to support growth, including tax cuts and running a bigger budget deficit of about 3% of GDP.

China’s leaders have flagged a “new normal” of slower growth as they look to shift the economy to a more sustainable, consumption-led model. About half of China’s 30 provinces and municipalities have lowered their growth targets for 2016, while nearly a third kept targets unchanged from last year, according to local media. Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces have set a growth target of 7-7.5% this year, while Jiangsu and Shandong are aiming for growth of 7.5-8%. In 2015, growth in Chongqing municipality was 11%, the fastest in the country, while growth in Liaoning province in the rustbelt northeast, was 3%, the country’s lowest. For this year, Chongqing is eyeing 10% growth and Liaoning is aiming for 6%.

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Correlation.

Junk Bonds’ Rare Negative Return In January Is Bad News For Stocks (MW)

The U.S. high-yield, or “junk” bond market, has started the year on the back foot, which history suggests could be a very bad sign for the stock market. The asset class is showing negative returns of almost 2% for the year so far, and negative returns of 7.6% for the last six months, according to The Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Index. The negative return is especially significant, given that the month of January has recorded positive returns in 25 of the 29 years that the BofA high-yield index has existed, or 86.2% of the time, according to Marty Fridson, chief Investment Officer–Lehmann Livian Fridson, in a report published in LCD. With the S&P 500 index also heading for the biggest monthly decline in nearly six years, stock investors may finally be catching on to the high-yield bond market’s bearish message.

In previous instances in which the high-yield bond market and stocks trended in a different direction, it was the high-yield bond market that proved prescient. The reason stocks have been so late to follow the high-yield market’s bearish trend, may be because of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to prop up asset prices through quantitative easing. The current bearish trend is showing no signs of letting up. The high-yield index’s option-adjusted spread widened to 775 basis points at Thursday’s close from 695 basis points at the end of December, and 526 basis points at the end of July. The OAS is now about 200 basis points wider than its historical average of 576 basis points, according to Fridson. Much of the weakness is still due to the troubled energy sector, which combined with slowing Chinese growth to spark a more than 100 basis-points widening of the BofA US High Yield Index’s option-adjusted spread in the first three weeks of January. That send the spread to a high of 820 basis points on Jan 20.

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Condemnation.

I Worked On Wall Street. I Am Skeptical Hillary Clinton Will Rein It In (Arnade)

I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons. I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street. That is why when I recently went to see Hillary Clinton campaign for president and speak about reforming Wall Street I was skeptical. What I heard hasn’t changed that skepticism. The policies she offers are mid-course corrections. In the Clintons’ world, Wall Street stays at the center, economically and politically. Given Wall Street’s power and influence, that is a dangerous place to leave them.

Salomon Brothers hired me in 1993, seven months after President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Getting a job had been easy, Wall Street was booming from deregulation that had begun under Reagan and was continuing under Clinton. When Bill Clinton ran for office, he offered up him and Hillary (“Two for the price of one”) as New Democrats, embracing an image of being tough on crime, but not on business. Despite the campaign rhetoric, nobody on the trading floor I joined had voted for the Clintons or trusted them. Few traders on the floor were even Democrats, who as long as anyone could remember were Wall Street’s natural enemy. That view was summarized in the words of my boss: “Republicans let you make money and let you keep it. Democrats don’t let you make money, but if you do, they take it.”

Despite Wall Street’s reticence, key appointments were swinging their way. Robert Rubin, who had been CEO of Goldman Sachs, was appointed to a senior White House job as director of the National Economic Council. The Treasury Department was also being filled with banking friendly economists who saw the markets as a solution, not as a problem. The administration’s economic policy took shape as trickle down, Democratic style. They championed free trade, pushing Nafta. They reformed welfare, buying into the conservative view that poverty was about dependency, not about situation. They threw the old left a few bones, repealing prior tax cuts on the rich, but used the increased revenues mostly on Wall Street’s favorite issue: cutting the debt. Most importantly, when faced with their first financial crisis, they bailed out Wall Street.

That crisis came in January 1995, halfway through the administration’s first term. Mexico, after having boomed from the optimism surrounding Nafta, went bust. It was a huge embarrassment for the administration, given the push they had made for Nafta against a cynical Democratic party. Money was fleeing Mexico, and much of it was coming back through me and my firm. Selling investors’ Mexican bonds was my first job on Wall Street, and now they were trying to sell them back to us. But we hadn’t just sold Mexican bonds to clients, instead we did it using new derivatives product to get around regulatory issues and take advantages of tax rules, and lend the clients money. Given how aggressive we were, and how profitable it was for us, older traders kept expecting to be stopped by regulators from the new administration, but that didn’t happen.

When Mexico started to collapse, the shudders began. Initially our firm lost only tens of millions, a large loss but not catastrophic. The crisis however was worsening, and Mexico was headed towards a default, or closing its border to money flows. We stood to lose hundreds of millions, something we might not have survived. Other Wall Street firms were in worse shape, having done the trade in a much bigger size. The biggest was rumored to be Lehman, which stood to lose billions, a loss they couldn’t have survived. As the crisis unfolded, senior management traveled to DC as part of a group of bankers to meet with Treasury officials. They had hoped to meet with Rubin, who was now Treasury secretary. Instead they met with the undersecretary for international affairs who my boss described as: “Some young egghead academic who likes himself a lot and is wide eyed with a taste of power.” That egghead was Larry Summers who would succeed Rubin as Treasury Secretary.

To the surprise of Wall Street, the administration pushed for a $50bn global bail-out of Mexico, arguing that to not do so would devastate the US and world economy. Unmentioned was that it would have also devastated Wall Street banks.

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New twist.

VW Says Defeat Software Legal In Europe (GCR)

Another week brings more new stories on the diesel-emission cheating scandal that threatens to dig Volkswagen deeper into a ditch of its own making. Following reports in German newspapers late last week suggesting that the “defeat device” software was an “open secret” in VW’s engine group, the company bit back yesterday. VW Group CEO Matthias Müller told reporters at a reception that the sources for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung report “have no idea about the whole matter.” Müller’s statement, as reported by Reuters, “casts doubt” on the newspaper’s report, which it said came from statements by a whistleblower cited in the company’s internal probe of the scandal. The CEO also suggested that the company would not release results of that probe, conducted by U.S. law firm Jones Day, any time before its annual shareholder meeting on April 21.

“Is it really so difficult to accept that we are obliged by stock market law to submit a report to the AGM on April 21,” asked Müller, “and that it is not possible for us to say anything beforehand?” VW Group’s powerful Board of Directors will hold their third meeting in three weeks on the affair this coming Wednesday. Despite PR fallout, VW Group’s German communications unit continues to allege that while the “defeat device” software in its TDI diesels violated U.S. laws, it was entirely legal in Europe. The majority of the 11 million affected vehicles were sold in European countries, helped by policies instituted by some national governments that gave financial advantages to diesel vehicles and their fuel.

In a statement to The New York Times, which published an article on the matter last week, the VW Group wrote that the software “is not a forbidden defeat device” under European rules. As the Times notes, that determination, “which was made by its board, runs counter to regulatory findings in Europe and the United States.” “German regulators said last month that VW did use an illegal defeat device,” the newspaper said, suggesting that the statement reflected VW’s legal approach to the affair. “While it promises to fix affected vehicles wherever they were sold,” it said, “it is prepared to admit wrongdoing only in the United States.” The VW view only underscores the loosely-regulated European emission testing rules, now the subject of a fight in the European Parliament.

Two issues are at stake. The first is the degree to which new and tougher testing rules continue to allow manufacturers to exceed existing emission limits The second is whether European Union authorities can, in some circumstances, overrule the testing bodies of individual countries -namely Germany- which enforce common EU limits within their own borders. And so the saga continues.

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I think that as pensions plans crumble to levels where too many elederly go hungry, basic income will come to the forefront.

Swiss To Vote On Basic Income (DM)

Swiss residents are to vote on a countrywide referendum about a radical plan to pay every single adult a guaranteed income of £425 a week (or £1,700 a month). The plan, proposed by a group of intellectuals, could make the country the first in the world to pay all of its citizens a monthly basic income regardless if they work or not. But the initiative has not gained much traction among politicians from left and right despite the fact that a referendum on it was approved by the federal government for the ballot box on June 5. Under the proposed initiative, each child would also receive 145 francs (£100) a week. The federal government estimates the cost of the proposal at 208 billion francs (£143 billion) a year.

Around 153 billion francs (£105 bn) would have to be levied from taxes, while 55 billion francs (£38 bn) would be transferred from social insurance and social assistance spending. The group proposing the initiative, which includes artists, writers and intellectuals, cited a survey which shows that the majority of Swiss residents would continue working if the guaranteed income proposal was approved. ‘The argument of opponents that a guaranteed income would reduce the incentive of people to work is therefore largely contradicted,’ it said in a statement quoted by The Local. However, a third of the 1,076 people interviewed for the survey by the Demoscope Institute believed that ‘others would stop working’. And more than half of those surveyed (56%) believe the guaranteed income proposal will never see the light of day.

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There will be no money to pay for even temporary storage, and there is no solution for permament.

Radioactive Waste Dogs Germany Despite Abandoning Nuclear Power (NS)

Half a kilometre beneath the forests of northern Germany, in an old salt mine, a nightmare is playing out. A scheme to dig up previously buried nuclear waste is threatening to wreck public support for Germany’s efforts to make a safe transition to a non-nuclear future. Enough plutonium-bearing radioactive waste is stored here to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools. When engineers backfilled the chambers containing 126,000 drums in the 1970s, they thought they had put it out of harm’s way forever. But now, the walls of the Asse mine are collapsing and cracks forming, thanks to pressure from surrounding rocks. So the race is on to dig it all up before radioactive residues are flushed to the surface.

It could take decades to resolve. In the meantime, excavations needed to extract the drums could cause new collapses and make the problem worse. “There were people who said it wasn’t a good idea to put radioactive waste down here, but nobody listened to them,” says Annette Parlitz, spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), as we tour the mine. This is just one part of Germany’s nuclear nightmare. The country is also wrestling a growing backlog of spent fuel. And it has to worry about vast volumes of radioactive rubble that will be created as all the country’s 17 nuclear plants are decommissioned by 2022 – a decision taken five years ago, in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster. The final bill for decommissioning power plants and getting rid of the waste is estimated to be at least €36 billion.

Some 300,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate-level waste requiring long-term shielding, including what is dug from the Asse mine, is earmarked for final burial at the Konrad iron mine in Lower Saxony. What will happen to the high-level waste, the spent fuel and other highly radioactive waste that must be kept safe for up to a million years is still debated. Later this year, a Final Storage Commission of politicians and scientists will advise on criteria for choosing a site where deep burial or long-term storage should be under way by 2050. But its own chairman, veteran parliamentarian Michael Muller, says that timetable is unlikely to be met. “We all believe deep geology is the best option, but I’m not sure if there is enough [public] trust to get the job done,” he says.

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Is it the smugglers or the EU?

Mediterranean Deaths Soar As People-Smugglers Get Crueller: IOM (Reuters)

More people died crossing the eastern Mediterranean in January than in the first eight months of last year, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday, blaming increased ruthlessness by people-traffickers. As of Jan. 28, 218 had died in the Aegean Sea – a tally not reached on the Greek route until mid-September in 2015. Another 26 died in the central Mediterranean trying to reach Italy. Smugglers were using smaller, less seaworthy boats, and packing them with even more people than before, the IOM said. IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the more reckless methods might be due to “panic in the market that this is not going to last much longer” as traffickers fear European governments may find ways to stem the unprecedented flow of migrants and refugees.

There also appeared to be new gangs controlling the trafficking trade in North Africa, he said. “There was a very pronounced period at the end of the year when boats were not leaving Libya and we heard from our sources in North Africa that it was because of inter-tribal or inter-gang fighting for control of the market,” Millman said. “And now that it’s picking up again and it seems to be more lethal, we wonder: what is the character of these groups that have taken over the trade?” The switch to smaller, more packed boats had also happened on the route from Turkey to Greece, the IOM said, but was unable to explain why.

The increase in deaths in January was not due to more traffic overall. The number of arrivals in Greece and Italy was the lowest for any month since June 2015, with a total of 55,528 people landing there between Jan. 1 and Jan. 28, the IOM said. Last year a record 1 million people made the Mediterranean Sea crossing, five times more than in 2014. During the year, the IOM estimates that 805 died in the eastern Mediterranean and 2,892 died in the central Mediterranean. In the past few months the proportion of children among those making the journey has risen from about a quarter to more than a third, and Millman said children often made up more than half of the occupants of the boats.

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Jan 292016
 
 January 29, 2016  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


DPC Grand Central Station and Hotel Manhattan, NY 1903

Nikkei Ends Up After Roller-Coaster Ride On BOJ’s Rate Cut (CNBC)
US Durable Goods Orders Tumbled 5.1% in December (WSJ)
Amazon Shares Plunge 13% As Profit Misses Estimates (Reuters)
The Shipping News Says the World Economy Is Toast (BBG)
Red Ponzi Ticking (David Stockman)
China’s Debt-To-GDP Rises To A Gargantuan 346% (ZH)
The $29 Trillion Corporate Debt Hangover That Could Spark a Recession (BBG)
Capital Flight Is The Evil Twin Brother Of Currency War (MW)
Hundreds of Billions of Dollars Have Fled China. Now What? (WSJ)
China’s January Outflows Soar To Second Highest Ever (ZH)
Cracks In America’s Economy Are Growing (CNN)
How Italy’s Bad Loans Built Up (FT)
Brexit Vote To Turn UK Into ‘Safe Haven’ Triggering EU Disintegration (Tel.)
Germany Tightens Refugee Policy, Finland Joins Sweden In Deportations (Guar.)
Mass Expulsions Ahead For Europe As Refugee Crisis Grows (AP)
Why Europe’s Refugee Crisis May Be Getting Worse (BBG)
Twelve Refugees Drown As Boat Sinks Off Greek Island (Reuters)
24 Iraqi Kurdish Refugees Drown Off Greek Island (NY Times)
Italy Navy Recovers Six Bodies, Rescues 209 From Migrant Boats (Reuters)

Right. Stability is the goal.

Nikkei Ends Up After Roller-Coaster Ride On BOJ’s Rate Cut (CNBC)

Asian markets climbed, with most indexes trading up, after Japan shares took a roller-coaster ride in the immediate aftermath of the Bank of Japan’s decision to adopt a negative interest rate policy. The Nikkei 225, which traded down 0.6% before the announcement, surged as much as 3.51% soon after, before tumbling as much as 1%. It then surged to close up 2.80%, or 476.85 points, at 17,518.30. After the BOJ move, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Japan government bond (JGB) fell to a record low of 0.11% from around 0.22% before the decision. There was no quick agreement on why the market outlook on the move shifted so quickly.

Gavin Parry at Parry International Trading, suggesting that a move to negative deposit rates just after a supplementary increase in Japan’s qualitative and quantitative easing (QQE) program could have been read to mean the BOJ was running out of bullets. In its statement on Friday, the central bank said it would continue with the QQE and negative interest rate policies for “as long as it is necessary for maintaining that target in a stable manner.” Marcel Thieliant at Capital Economics thought the overall complexity of the BOJ’s move may have spurred the midday selloff. “What they did announce today will be effective. It will lead to lower rates in the money market. But some people had second thoughts once they read the statement,” he said.

He noted that the BOJ had imposed a “three-tier” system on negative rates. With the huge amount of bank reserves currently sitting with the central bank, “if they impose a negative rate on all these balances, it would have a big impact on banks’ profitability,” he said, noting that existing reserves were going to be exempted, but there was likely confusion about how the amounts subject to negative rates would be increased. The dollar-yen pair gained as much as 1.52% in the aftermath of the BOJ announcement, trading as high as 121.35, from around 118.50 before the news. The pair trimmed gains to trade around 120.82 after the Japan stock market closed.

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Recovery.

US Durable Goods Orders Tumbled 5.1% in December (WSJ)

A key measure of U.S. manufacturers’ health suffered its largest annual decline since the recession ended more than six years ago, showing how global headwinds are eroding a onetime pillar of the economy. Demand for long-lasting manufactured products made in the U.S. fell 5.1% in December from a month earlier, and declined 3.5% for all of 2015, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The annual decline in durable-goods orders is the largest outside a recession on records back to 1992. The figures add to mounting evidence the manufacturing sector is contracting. And with the dollar strengthening further this month and financial-market tumult likely threatening business confidence, a factory slowdown could last well into this year. “The entire year of 2015 was pretty much a bust for durable-goods makers,” said Michael Montgomery at IHS Global Insight.

“Industries faced stiff competition from foreign rivals for U.S. market share, and exporters faced intense pressures abroad.” Thursday’s release is in line with data from Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, showing a nearly three-year-long expansion in manufacturing came to an end in November. And the Federal Reserve’s reading on industrial production has declined in 10 of the past 12 months, putting it off nearly 2% from its peak in December 2014. A number of forces hampered U.S. factories last year. An economic slowdown in China, Brazil and other markets for U.S. goods limited foreign demand. Meanwhile, a stronger dollar made U.S. goods more expensive overseas and foreign products relatively more affordable for American consumers. And a pullback in U.S. oil production last year reversed a recent source of strength for many metal and equipment makers.

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Plenty bubbles created by cheap money are still around.

Amazon Shares Plunge 13% As Profit Misses Estimates (Reuters)

Amazon.com posted its most profitable quarter ever on Thursday but the world’s No. 1 online retailer still managed to disappoint Wall Street by badly missing estimates, sending its shares down more than 13% in after-hours trading. The results, as well as the company’s determination to invest more in new areas and its extremely low profit margins, brought back perennial questions for investors about the company’s ability to consistently earn money. “By comparative retail standards, Amazon’s level of profitability is still painfully weak,” said Neil Saunders, head of retail analyst firm Conlumino, who is still positive on Amazon’s prospects. “For every dollar the company takes, it makes just 0.75 of a cent in profit.”

Amazon’s net profit for the fourth quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season, rose to $482 million, or $1.00 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from $214 million, or 45 cents per share, a year earlier. That figure was held back by rising operating costs. It was well below analysts’ average forecast of $1.56 per share, according to Thomson Reuters. The company’s shares plunged 13% to $551.50 after hours on Thursday, following a 9% increase in regular trading. They are still up 80% over the past 12 months. Amazon notched its third consecutive profitable quarter for the first time since 2012, but it still left Wall Street wanting more. “The growth story that investors were looking for… clearly Amazon has not been able to live up to the hype,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital.

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But China grows 7%?

The Shipping News Says the World Economy Is Toast (BBG)

In October 2008, as the repercussions of the financial crisis were starting to ripple through the global economy, I noticed a press release from Swedish truckmaker Volvo saying that its European order book had fallen by more than 99% between the third quarters of 2007 and 2008 – to just 155 from 41,970. That prompted me to study various other real-world activity measures ranging from shipping to air freight, and to conclude that “the news is all bad and getting worse, fast.” The same exercise today, I’m afraid to say, leads me to a similar conclusion about the growth outlook. Here’s a chart showing what’s happening to the volume of goods being shipped in containers from China’s ports, one for the country and one for Shanghai. Both indexes are compiled by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, and cover shipments to the rest of the world including Europe, the U.S. and Africa; activity is down more than 40% from its peak in mid-2012:

The traditional global shipping measure is called the Baltic Dry Index. Shipping purists (who rival gold bugs in their dedication to minutiae) will tell you it mostly reflects how many vessels are afloat on the world’s oceans; a glut of shipbuilding means more boats available, which drives down the cost of shipping bulk raw materials such as iron ore, steel and coal. But given the fragile state of the global economy, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the index has been trying to tell us something important about global demand in recent years:

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Dave in fine form:..China is the rotten epicenter of the world’s two decade long plunge into an immense central bank fostered monetary fraud..”

Red Ponzi Ticking (David Stockman)

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark. And we are not talking just about the hapless socialist utopia on the Jutland Peninsula – even if it does strip assets from homeless refugees, charge savers 75 basis points for the deposit privilege and allocate nearly 60% of its GDP to the Welfare State and its untoward ministrations. In fact, the rot is planetary. There is unaccountable, implausible, whacko-world stuff going on everywhere, but the frightful part is that most of it goes unremarked or is viewed as par for the course by the mainstream narrative. The topic at hand is the looming implosion of China’s Red Ponzi; and, more specifically, the preposterous Wall Street/Washington presumption that it’s just another really big economy that overdid the “growth” thing and is now looking to Beijing’s firm hand to effect a smooth transition.

That is, an orderly migration from a manufacturing, export and fixed investment boom-land to a pleasant new regime of shopping, motoring, and mass consumption. Would that it could. But China is not a $10 trillion growth miracle with transition challenges; it is a quasi-totalitarian nation gone mad digging, building, borrowing, spending and speculating in a magnitude that has no historical parallel. So doing, It has fashioned itself into an incendiary volcano of unpayable debt and wasteful, crazy-ass overinvestment in everything. It cannot be slowed, stabilized or transitioned by edicts and new plans from the comrades in Beijing. It is the greatest economic trainwreck in human history barreling toward a bridgeless chasm.

And that proposition makes all the difference in the world. If China goes down hard the global economy cannot avoid a thundering financial and macroeconomic dislocation. And not just because China accounts for 17% of the world’s $80 trillion of GDP or that it has been the planet’s growth engine most of this century. In fact, China is the rotten epicenter of the world’s two decade long plunge into an immense central bank fostered monetary fraud and credit explosion that has deformed and destabilized the very warp and woof of the global economy. But in China the financial madness has gone to a unfathomable extreme because in the early 1990s a desperate oligarchy of despots who ruled with machine guns discovered a better means to stay in power. That is, the printing press in the basement of the PBOC – and just in the nick of time (for them).

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What did I say about that devaluation bomb?

China’s Debt-To-GDP Rises To A Gargantuan 346% (ZH)

In early 2015, after years of China’s massive debt pile being roundly ignored by most so-called experts (despite being profiled here many years prior), McKinsey released a report showing that not only has the world not delevered since the financial crisis, adding well over $60 trillion in debt (through 2016), but also revealing in a format so simple even an economist could grasp it, just how massive China’s all-in leverage has become. Many were shocked when they read that China’s total debt/GDP had risen by 125% in under 7 years, hitting 282% as of Q2 2014. Those same people may be just as shocked to learn that according to the head of financial markets research Asia Pacific at Rabobank, Michael Every, not only has China not begun to delever at all, but since McKinsey’s update, its debt has risen by another 70% of GDP!

According to Every, China’s 2015 debt-to-GDP might be as high as 346%, and while that is in line with wealthier developed economies but is “vastly higher” than any EM peer. Cited by Bloomberg, Every adds that the time-frame for debt accumulation pre-crisis varies, but what always follows is a major currency drop afterwards, as has happened even with reserve currencies such as dollar, yen, euro and pound. He also adds that nominal GDP needs to rise faster than debt for a sustained period if deleveraging is to truly be under way, aka Dalio’s beautiful deleveraging thesis. The problem, however, is that with even Goldman admitting that China’s real GDP growth rate is about 4.5%, China’s debt load is rising orders of magnitude faster than its underlying economy and is on the daily verge of entering the final phase of the Minsky Moment breakdown.

While no surprise to people with common sense, Every concludes that debt must be repaid with interest, which acts as a drag on economic activity, and is the reason why such monstrous debt loads always lead to an economic collapse; making matters worse is that in China cheap credit is channeled to state-owned firms with low or no profitability. So what happens next? Every believes that China has no choice but to proceed with a massive devaluation, far bigger than the prevailing consensus, and expects the Yuan to plunge to 7.60 against the dollar over the next year.

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But wait: if we make interest rates negative, we can make money on being in debt, right?

The $29 Trillion Corporate Debt Hangover That Could Spark a Recession (BBG)

There’s been endless speculation in recent weeks about whether the U.S., and the whole world for that matter, are about to sink into recession. Underpinning much of the angst is an unprecedented $29 trillion corporate bond binge that has left many companies more indebted than ever. Whether this debt overhang proves to be a catalyst for recession or not, one thing is clear in talking to credit-market observers: It’s a problem that won’t go away any time soon. Strains are emerging in just about every corner of the global credit market. Credit-rating downgrades account for the biggest chunk of ratings actions since 2009; corporate leverage is at a 12-year high; and perhaps most worrisome, growing numbers of companies – one third globally – are failing to generate high enough returns on investments to cover their cost of funding.

Pooled together into a single snapshot, the data points show how the seven-year-old global growth model based on cheap credit from central banks is running out of steam. “We’ve never been in a cycle quite like this,” said Bonnie Baha, a money manager at DoubleLine Capital in Los Angeles, which oversees more than $80 billion. “It’s setting up for an unhappy turn.” While not as pronounced as the rout in global equity markets, losses are beginning to pile up in the bond market too. The average spread over benchmark government yields for highly rated debt has widened to 1.84 percentage points, the most in three years, from 1.18 percentage points in March, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes.

Investors lost 0.2% on global corporate bonds in 2015, snapping a string of annual gains that averaged 7.9% over the previous six years, the data show. Debt at global companies rated by Standard & Poor’s reached three times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in 2015, the highest in data going back to 2003 and up from 2.8 times last year, according to the ratings company. Total debt at listed companies in China, the world’s second-largest economy, has climbed to the highest level in three years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Worsening debt profiles contributed to S&P downgrading 863 corporate issuers last year, the most since 2009. More than a third of commodity and energy companies have ratings with negative outlooks or are on credit watch with negative implications, S&P said.

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“The problem, however, is that China’s competitors are employing the same tactics and their currencies have more or less shadowed the yuan’s movements against the dollar..”

Capital Flight Is The Evil Twin Brother Of Currency War (MW)

A currency war is not all it’s cracked up to be. That is the verdict from Citi’s currency expert Steven Englander, who argues that efforts by central banks to devalue their currencies to maintain an edge over competing economies are not as effective as many are led to believe. “Policy makers and investors talk about currency depreciation as if it is the ultimate weapon of economic policy, but that overstates its importance in driving activity,” said Englander in a report. “The economic bang for the depreciating buck, or yen or euro is relatively small.” The currency strategist stressed that engaging in a currency war is mostly an exercise in futility, in part because it is not all that effective as a monetary tool. “You have to go much further than you think for much longer than you think,” he said.

And if a country has to rely on manipulating the exchange rate to prop up the economy, then it may be in worse trouble than those in charge want to admit, according to Englander. While the criticism was not specifically directed at China, the observation coincides with a continuing debate over how far Beijing will go to weaken its currency in a bid to prop up its flagging economy. Economists generally expect the Chinese government to depreciate the renminbi to bolster export competitiveness to combat a sharp economic slowdown. The People’s Bank of China officially projected GDP to grow 6.8% in 2016 versus 6.9% last year with some economists projecting GDP growth to decelerate to around 6.5%. The problem, however, is that China’s competitors are employing the same tactics and their currencies have more or less shadowed the yuan’s movements against the dollar, according to Englander.

“If the trading partners keep matching CNY depreciation at this pace, CNY will have to go a long way before any material competitive advantage emerges,” he said. That has not deterred the Chinese authorities from pushing the currency lower after its dramatic devaluation in August and analysts project the yuan-dollar pair to soften to 7 by the end of the year from 6.57 currently. Ironically, in a bid to buttress the economy via the cheap yuan, China faces the risk of accelerating capital outflows. “Capital flight is the evil twin brother of currency war,” Englander said. “If currency war is typically capital outflows encouraged by government policy, capital flight is currency war driven by the private sector with policy makers typically on the other side.”

The Institute of International Finance last week estimated that $676 billion exited China in 2015 and outflows are likely to continue this year, further exposing the yuan to speculative attacks.

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“..the $700 billion decline in China’s foreign-currency reserves is bigger than the total foreign-currency reserves of all but three other central banks in the world—Japan, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia..”

Hundreds of Billions of Dollars Have Fled China. Now What? (WSJ)

For lovers of dramatic numbers, China has long been a gift. The flood of cash leaving the country has produced another impressive statistic: We are witnessing the greatest episode of capital flight in history. China’s foreign-exchange reserves fell by $700 billion last year. The flood of cash across its borders is complicating the country’s economic transformation and is raising the risks of problems in other emerging markets, where cash already is flowing outward. “What happened in 2015 coming out of China was unprecedented in magnitude,” said Charles Collyns, chief economist for the Institute of International Finance, a global trade group for the financial industry. The size of China’s $10 trillion economy and its still-huge foreign reserves means the outflow won’t cause an immediate crisis in the country, though there are risks.

According to World Bank data, the $700 billion decline in China’s foreign-currency reserves is bigger than the total foreign-currency reserves of all but three other central banks in the world—Japan, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. China’s outflows are the biggest in absolute terms, although other countries have had larger outflows relative to the size of their economies. The big worry is that China devalues its currency, which would come at a time that money already is flowing out of emerging markets as investors grow more risk averse and the U.S. Federal Reserve slowly begins to raise interest rates. If the yuan does fall further, it makes the economies of its Asian neighbors less competitive. That could lead to more capital flight from emerging markets, which could drain foreign-currency reserves in countries trying to keep their currencies from falling.

Places that do see their currencies tumble also could face inflation, slowing investment and tapering growth. Most historical cases of capital flight have one main cause—economic turmoil, political instability or an outside crisis that leads investors to pull their cash home. In China, however, there are several interconnected reasons that both locals and foreigners are pulling out their money, and the combination appears to be making the situation worse.

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“..nearly $1.6 trillion in Quantiative Tightening is taking place just due to China’s attempts to stem capital flight..”

China’s January Outflows Soar To Second Highest Ever (ZH)

While China’s currency devaluation has, alongside the price of commodities, become one of the two key drivers of market volatility and tubulence around the globe, when it comes to risk, one far more important Chinese metric is the actual amount of capital that leaves the nation. The reason for this is that as explained over the weekend, in a world where Quantitative Tightening by EMs and SWFs has emerged as a powerful counterforce to Quantitative Easing – or liquidity injections – by developed central banks, what matters for global risk levels is the net effect of these two opposing money flows. Of all the global “quantitative tighteners”, the biggest culprit is China, which has seen over $1 trillion in reserve selling since the summer of 2014, the direct result of a virtually identical amount in capital outflows.

Furthermore in for a “closed’ Capital Account system like is China, the selling of FX reserves is a direct function of capital outflows, so the only real data needed to extrapolate not only the matched reserve selling and thus Quantitative Tightening, but also the direct impact onglobal risk assets, is how much capital outflow has taken place. This takes place in one of two ways: by relying on official Chinese historical data, or by estimating how much outflows take place on a concurrent basis, thus allowing one to estimate how much capital is flowing out in real time. Indicatively, China’s SAFE released onshore FX settlement data for the whole banking system (PBoC+banks), suggesting some $97bn of FX outflows in Dec, which is broadly in line with the fall in official reserves.

But much more important is the question what is taking place right now, the answer to which can either wait until SAFE releases January data in several weeks… or rely on day to day estimates of outflows in the form of central bank FX intervention. Luckily, we have just that. According to a Goldman report, so far in January “there has been around $USD 185bn of intervention (with the recent intervention predominantly taking place in the onshore market)” split roughly $143 billion on the domestic side and $42 billion on the offshore Yuan side. This would make January the month with the second largest amount of intervention since August 2015, and thus the second highest month of capital outflows, and would explain the ongoing deterioration across global asset classes as China’s various FX reserve managers have been forced to sell not just government bonds but equities as well.

Goldman also calculates that “total intervention over the last 6 months, using our estimates, sums to USD 775bn.” Run-rating this amount would suggest that nearly $1.6 trillion in Quantiative Tightening is taking place just due to China’s attempts to stem capital flight. This number excludes the hundreds of billions in reserves that all other petrodollar and EM nations have to liquidate as well to prevent the rapid devaluation of their own currencies as the world remains caught in the global dollar margin call we first explained in early 2015.

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Even CNN gets alarmed. Graph is not from article, but seems a good fit.

Cracks In America’s Economy Are Growing (CNN)

America’s economy hit the brakes during the holidays. Some recent economic data even raises fears that we might be heading towards a possible U.S. recession in 2016. Big banks like Morgan Stanley estimate there’s a 20% chance of recession this year. On Friday, the government will release data that show how the U.S. economy fared in the last three months of the year. Many experts forecast that the U.S. economy barely grew – about 1% or less – between October and December of 2015 compared to a year ago. Even the Federal Reserve admitted Wednesday that the economy “slowed” at the end of last year. On Thursday, the bad news continued. A key sign of confidence is orders for new products and equipment – known as “durable goods” – placed by companies to power their business.

Orders for durable goods fell 5% between November and December, according to the Commerce Department. That was a lot below expectations that orders would be flat. It shows that some companies are delaying or deciding not to purchase any new piece of equipment they need. The news on durable goods caused Barclays (BCS) to lower its GDP forecast to 0.4% on Thursday. Capital Economics, a research firm, admitted the new data posed risks “firmly to the downside” for its estimate of 1%. Here are 3 more warning signs that the U.S. economy is heading in the wrong direction:

1. American are not spending much U.S. economic growth depends on shoppers. Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the nation’s economic engine. Yet they’re sending mixed signals: U.S. retail sales declined a bit in December and they were negative or flat seven times last year. Consumer confidence has wavered too. It peaked at 98% in January 2015 but has since drifted down in general. Consumer confidence is currently 93%. While it’s a lot better than what it was just a few years ago, any downward movement is still a cause for concern.

2. U.S. manufacturing already in recession American factories are suffering from the global economic slowdown. Manufacturing makes up 10% of the U.S. economy, according to Morgan Stanley. The key ISM manufacturing index has declined for six straight months, and its been negative – below 50% – for the last two months. The strong dollar is making products manufactured in the U.S. more expensive overseas, lowering demand for American made goods. The slowdown in emerging market economies isn’t helping trade either.

3. Corporate America is hurting Earnings season isn’t over yet but one thing is clear: American companies are making less money than a year ago. Put together, when America’s biggest companies – and employers – suffer, the economy follows suit. The S&P 500 is down 7% so far in January. Apple, the nation’s biggest company by market size, just announced record profits with a gloomy outlook ahead. It believes iPhone sales will decline in the first quarter of this year for the first time in 13 years. Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed serious caution about the global economy. When a major American CEO raises the warning flag that’s not good for the U.S. economy. “We’re seeing extreme conditions unlike anything we have experienced before just about everywhere we look,” Cook said Tuesday.

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Waiting for the final whistle..

How Italy’s Bad Loans Built Up (FT)

The EU agreed a deal with Italy on Wednesday to help Italian banks sell off their large portfolios of non-performing loans to private investors, in the hope it will restore confidence in the country’s troubled banking system. The move came as concerns over the loans — worth 21% of GDP— sent Italian banks’ share prices into freefall, heaping pressure on the sector. A logjam of bad loans has built up over the past decade as economic stagnation, multiple recessions and a weak recovery have weighed on companies, particularly smaller businesses that account for the majority of Italy’s business make-up. According to the Italian Association of Banks, the ratio of bad loans is higher for loans to small companies than the large ones. These charts show how Italy grew as a lender of bad loans, and the banks that have been most affected.

Since the onset of the financial crisis, Italian banks have accrued a much larger exposure to non-performing loans than other large European countries. The EU average for non-performing loans as a percentage of total loans is 6%; in Italy the proportion has reached 17%. Slow growth has been a big setback. In the fourth quarter last year, Italian GDP was at the same level as at the beginning of 2000, while that of Germany and France grew 20%. Italy returned to growth at the start of 2015, but the recovery has been anaemic with quarterly growth rates below 0.5%. Until economic growth picks up strongly, any decline in the relative proportion of non-performing loans held by Italy’s banks is likely be marginal, as it was in 2015.

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I’m all for it.

Brexit Vote To Turn UK Into ‘Safe Haven’ Triggering EU Disintegration (Tel.)

A British exit from the European Union could see the UK becoming a “safe haven” amid a disintegrating Europe, Barclays has said. Analysis from the bank said a ‘leave’ vote would open a “Pandora’s Box” in the crisis-hit continent, and could dissuade Scotland from breaking away from the relative safety of the UK. Barclays said financial markets had failed to grasp the sheer “breadth” of the British vote, calling it one of “the most significant global risks of the year”, and one which could lead to the collapse of the European project. Investors have been selling off the pound in anticipation of an EU referendum, which could take place as early as the summer. Sterling has depreciated by 9pc against the single currency since November.

But if Britain voted for an EU exit, the political and institutional reverberations on the continent would be far greater than any economic fall-out, said the bank, who compared the implications to that of a “Grexit”. A number of European countries would be caught in the grip of extremist left-wing and right-wing populist parties, pushing them towards leaving the EU, they said. “If politics in the EU turned for the worse, the UK may be seen as a safe haven from those risks, reversing the euro’s exchange rate appreciation”, said the report’s authors. “In that environment, Scottish voters could be even less inclined to leave the relative safety of the UK for an increasingly uncertain EU”. The warning echoes fears that Europe, rather than the UK, would suffer the worst consequences of a Brexit.

Deutsche Bank’s chief economist said earlier this week that Brexit would be “devastating” for the continent, consigning Europe to the status of a “second rank” power. “The referendum is generally seen as a ‘UK’ issue, when it is better seen as a European issue” said Philippe Gudin of Barclays. Analysts highlighted the “emotionally charged” immigration debate as a “wildcard” which could see the UK leave the EU. Survey data shows concerns about immigration have surged to become the most important issue facing the EU, according to voters – elicpsing fears over economy, terrorism, and unemployment since the start of 2015. Should Brexit occur, this would embolden other member states who are struggling to control immigration and unleash a fresh wave of turmoil in the EU, said Barclays.

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Give them something to go back to.

Germany Tightens Refugee Policy, Finland Joins Sweden In Deportations (Guar.)

Germany has moved to toughen its asylum policies as Finland and Sweden announced plans to deport tens of thousands of people in a bid to contain the migrant crisis. Sigmar Gabriel, the vice chancellor, announced that Germany would place Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of “safe countries of origin” – meaning that migrants from those countries would have little chance of winning asylum. Some migrants would also be blocked from bringing their families to join them in Germany for two years, Gabriel said. The tougher rules come after Germany, the European Union’s powerhouse economy, took in some 1.1 million migrants in 2015 – many of them refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fierce pressure in recent months to reverse her open-arms policy to those fleeing war and persecution, including opposition from within her own conservative camp. Finland meanwhile joined Sweden on Thursday in announcing plans to deport tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers. The two Nordic countries are both struggling to cope with an influx of refugees and migrants fleeing misery in the Middle East and elsewhere – receiving amongst the highest numbers of arrivals per capita in the EU. The Finnish government expects to deport around two thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers that arrived in 2015, Paivi Nerg, administrative director of the interior ministry, told AFP.

“In principle we speak of about two-thirds, meaning approximately 65% of the 32,000 will get a negative decision (on their asylum applications),” she told AFP. In neighbouring Sweden, interior minister Anders Ygeman said on Wednesday that the government was planning over several years to deport up to 80,000 people whose asylum applications are set to be rejected. “We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000,” he told Swedish media, adding that, as in Finland, the operation would require the use of specially chartered aircraft. He estimated that Sweden would reject around half of the 163,000 asylum requests received in 2015.

Swedish migration minister Morgan Johansson said authorities faced a difficult task in deporting such large numbers, but insisted failed asylum seekers had to return home. “Otherwise we would basically have free immigration and we can’t manage that,” he told news agency TT. The clampdown came as at least 31 more people died trying to reach the EU. Greek rescuers found 25 bodies, including those of 10 children, off the Aegean island of Samos, in the latest tragedy to strike migrants risking the dangerous Mediterranean crossing hoping to start new lives in Europe. The Italian navy meanwhile said it had recovered six bodies from a sinking dinghy off Libya – and in Bulgaria, the frozen bodies of two men, believed to be migrants, were found near the border with Serbia.

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This will fail.

Mass Expulsions Ahead For Europe As Refugee Crisis Grows (AP)

Dazzled by an unprecedented wave of migration, Sweden on Thursday put into words an uncomfortable reality for Europe: If the continent isn’t going to welcome more than 1 million people a year, it will have to deport large numbers of them to countries plagued by social unrest and abject poverty. Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Sweden could send back 60,000-80,000 asylum seekers in the coming years. Even in a country with a long history of immigration, that would be a scale of expulsions unseen before. “The first step is to ensure voluntary returns,” Ygeman told Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri. “But if we don’t succeed, we need to have returns by coercion.” The coercive part is where it gets uncomfortable.

Packing unwilling migrants, even entire families, onto chartered airplanes bound for the Balkans, the Middle East or Africa evokes images that clash with Europe’s humanitarian ideals. But the sharp rise of people seeking asylum in Europe last year almost certainly will also lead to much higher numbers of rejections and deportations. EU officials have urged member countries to quickly send back those who don’t qualify for asylum so that Europe’s welcome can be focused on those who do, such as people fleeing the war in Syria. “People who do not have a right to stay in the EU need to be returned home,” said Natasha Bertaud, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive Commission.

“This is a matter of credibility that we do return these people, because you don’t want to give the impression of course that Europe is an open door,” she said. EU statistics show most of those rejected come from the Balkans including Albania and Kosovo, some of Europe’s poorest countries. Many applicants running away from poverty in West Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh also are turned away. Even people from unstable countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia can’t count on getting asylum unless they can prove they, personally, face grave risks at home.

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Just numbers. That’s all you need to know.

Why Europe’s Refugee Crisis May Be Getting Worse (BBG)

More than 50,000 refugees fleeing violence and unrest in the Middle East and Africa have arrived on Europe’s shores already this month — almost 10 times as many as in January 2015. This unrelenting influx will add to the pressure on leaders who are already reeling from the impact of the crisis. With European Union countries reintroducing border controls, chaos at Europe’s external frontiers and the threat of terrorism associated with the civil war in Syria looming over the continent’s largest cities, the dilemma has fractured European politics and frayed the social fabric. The following charts show why the worst may yet be to come.

The number of refugees fleeing to Greece by sea this month is almost 10 times what it was this time last year, according to UNHCR data through Jan. 27. Normally the winter months are quieter as migrants wait for better weather but with this January’s total almost as high as that of last June, the figures suggest that Europe will continue to face a huge inflow. As the crisis in Syria has intensified, the makeup of the refugees has changed. Whereas in 2015 more than half of the migrants arriving in Greece were men, that’s now slipped to 44% as whole families follow them to seek asylum in Europe.

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And we keep on going.

Twelve Refugees Drown As Boat Sinks Off Greek Island (Reuters)

Twelve migrants drowned when their boat sank off a Greek island close to Turkey, the Greek coastguard said on Thursday, as people continue to make crossings to Europe despite the harsh winter conditions. “A man who managed to swim to the shore told Greek authorities the boat carried 40 to 45 people,” a coastguard official said. The sinking occurred late on Wednesday north of the island of Samos in the eastern Aegean Sea, close to the Turkish coast. Nine people have been rescued so far, and Frontex and coastguard vessels are looking for other survivors. “We are not sure if the nine rescued were among the 45 or if they were on a different boat,” the official said.

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On average, 8 people have reportedly drowned every single day this year.

24 Iraqi Kurdish Refugees Drown Off Greek Island (NY Times)

At least 24 people drowned and 11 others were missing after a boat carrying Iraqi Kurds sank off the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea, close to Turkish coast, the authorities said on Thursday. More than 3,700 migrants died while trying to enter Europe via the Mediterranean last year, and the latest sinking was a reminder that the flow has not stopped in the dead of winter. Kelly Namia, an Athens-based representative of the International Organization for Migration, confirmed the death toll. According to accounts provided to the organization at a hospital, the wooden vessel was carrying 65 people, when it sank on Wednesday night, even though it had a maximum capacity of 30 people. The passengers were all Iraqi Kurds, aside from the smugglers, who were believed to be Afghans. At least one smuggler is believed to have drowned, but his body has not been located, Ms. Namia said. The Greek Coast Guard continued to search for survivors Thursday afternoon, using vessels and a helicopter.

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Number of refugees fleeing to Italy rises sharply again.

Italy Navy Recovers Six Bodies, Rescues 209 From Migrant Boats (Reuters)

Italy’s navy rescued 290 migrants and recovered six bodies from the water near a half-sunken rubber boat on Thursday, the first sea deaths recorded on the North Africa to Italy route this year, a spokesman said. The navy rescued 109 migrants from a large rubber boat in the morning, and then 107 from a second boat a few hours later. When the navy arrived at a third rubber craft, it was sinking. They managed to pull 74 to safety, but six bodies were recovered from the water. A navy helicopter is continuing to search for survivors, the spokesman said.

Italy and Greece are on the frontline of Europe’s biggest immigration crisis since World War Two, with overcrowded boats packed with migrants reaching their shores from North Africa and Turkey by the hundreds. The sea route to Italy from Africa is the most dangerous border for migrants in the world. Of the more than 3,700 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean in 2015, about 2,000 perished on the way to Italy from North Africa. After a lull in arrivals during the first three weeks of this year, Libya-based people smugglers have taken advantage of recent mild weather to send out boats. Italy’s coastguard said 1,271 migrants were rescued on Tuesday.

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 November 21, 2015  Posted by at 10:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Frances Benjamin Johnston Courtyard, 620-621 Gov. Nicholls Street, New Orleans 1937

Total US Household Debt Hits $12.1 Trillion As Subprime Auto Lending Jumps (WSJ)
US Oil Producer Bankruptcies Are Piling Up (WSJ)
Low Crude Prices Catch Up With the US Oil Patch (WSJ)
Speculators Test Saudi Currency As Oil Crisis Deepens (AEP)
Petrobras’s Dangerous Debt Math: $24 Billion Owed in 24 Months (Bloomberg)
Bank of Japan To Switch To Indicators That Show Rising Prices (Reuters)
Mario Draghi All But Announced an Expansion of ECB QE (Fortune)
The Power And The Impotence Of The ECB (Steve Keen)
Financially Engineered Stocks Drag Down S&P 500 (WolfStreet)
Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal Is Getting Even Bigger, Again (AP)
EU Journalists Take European Parliament To Court Over Expense Accounts (EUO)
Australia Is A ‘Plaything’ Of World Economic Forces It Can’t Control (Guardian)
‘Terrible’ Public Finance Figures Heap Pressure On UK Chancellor (Ind.)
Is It Time To Close The Door To Foreign Buyers Of British Property? (Guardian)
A Nation Of Immigrants Wants To Close Its Doors (MarketWatch)
How Refugees Are Selected, Vetted, And Settled In The United States (Quartz)
EU-Turkey Refugee Talks Turn Sour As Erdogan Belittles Juncker
Merkel Slowly Changes Tune on Refugee Issue (Spiegel)
Over 900,000 Migrants Arrived In Germany This Year (Reuters)

Predators still rule. And that makes the economy look better for the moment.

Total US Household Debt Hits $12.1 Trillion As Subprime Auto Lending Jumps (WSJ)

Subprime auto lending is shifting into higher gear, raising some concerns in Washington where top financial regulators have sounded alarms about this category of loans. Over the six months through September, more than $110 billion of auto loans have been originated to borrowers with credit scores below 660, the bottom cutoff for having a credit score generally considered “good,” according to a report Thursday from the New York Fed. Of that sum, about $70 billion went to borrowers with credit scores below 620, scored that are considered “bad.” This rise in subprime auto lending comes against a backdrop of gradually improving credit across the economy. Overall household borrowing has climbed to $12.1 trillion, the highest level in more than 5 years, with rising balances for mortgages, auto loans, student loans and credit cards in the third quarter, according to the report.

But when it comes to auto loans, in particular, a rising volume of loans is going to borrowers with poor credit. The sum in that category has nearly reached the same level as in 2006, raising questions about the health of the nation’s auto-lending portfolio and drawing uncomfortable comparisons to the rise in subprime mortgages that helped fuel the housing collapse, financial crisis and recession. The comptroller of the currency, Thomas Curry, said in a speech last month that some of the activity in auto loans “reminds me of what happened in mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the crisis.” And Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, warned in September 2014 that subprime auto-loan borrowers “may be more vulnerable to predatory practices” and that “direct oversight of their lending practices is essential.”

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2016 will be a disaster year for US oil. And the lenders that allowed the restructuring delay.

US Oil Producer Bankruptcies Are Piling Up (WSJ)

It’s been a long year for oil and gas companies. After trading at an average price of $92.91 a barrel in 2014, the U.S. oil benchmark has averaged around $50 a barrel this year. It dipped below $40 a barrel briefly this morning. 36 North American oil and gas producers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcies this year through Nov. 8, according to law firm Haynes and Boone. The cases so far involve $13 billion in secured and unsecured debt, and “industry and economic indicators suggest more producer bankruptcy filings will occur before the year is out,” the law firm says. Sixteen of this year’s bankruptcies were filed in Texas, with another six in Canada, four each in Delaware and Colorado and the rest in Louisiana, Alaska, Massachusetts and New York. The biggest, with $4.3 billion of secured and unsecured debt, was KKR’s Samson Resources in September.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Samson’s resigning chief executive won’t be paid his bonus outright. Even so, some investors argue that not enough U.S. oil producers have gone under to help shrink the glut of crude that is weighing on oil prices. Oil producers have gotten more efficient, keeping production higher than some expected. U.S. production has fallen from 9.6 to about 9.2 million barrels a day, but recent weekly estimates from the Energy Information Administration show that the pace of declines has slowed. “There’s been more efficiency in the space than we all expected, and that’s helped current owners hold on a little longer,” said Rob Haworth at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “We’re not seeing as much turnover in the oil patch as we’d expect, in terms of weak hands to strong hands. But things like that will need to happen at some point.”

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“Forty-dollar to fifty-dollar oil prices don’t work in this business..”

Low Crude Prices Catch Up With the US Oil Patch (WSJ)

The ingenuity and easy money that allowed American oil companies to keep pumping through a year-long price crash appear to be petering out as U.S. crude slides toward $40 a barrel. U.S. companies have stunned global rivals by continuing to produce oil—particularly from shale deposits—ever more cheaply as American crude prices plunged from over $100 a barrel in 2014. But the recent drop toward $40 a barrel and below puts even the most efficient operators in a bind. “Forty-dollar to fifty-dollar oil prices don’t work in this business,” Ryan Lance, chief executive of ConocoPhillips, the largest independent U.S. oil producer, said in an interview. The worst-case scenario most major producers have discussed in the past six weeks with investors involved a price of $50 a barrel. That is beginning to look optimistic as Saudi Arabia continues to produce near-record volumes and major exporters such as Iraq have increased output.

Many oil executives, including BP CEO Bob Dudley, expect prices to be “lower for longer.” The U.S. Energy Department is forecasting the price of oil will average around $50 a barrel next year. More than 250,000 people world-wide have lost their jobs in the industry over the past year, according to Graves & Co., a Houston consulting firm. Many companies that were hoping to weather low energy prices without new rounds of layoffs and salary cuts may be forced to slash those costs yet again, said Eric Lee, an energy analyst with Citigroup. “Who’s going to take the brunt of this? Shale has already cut back a lot,” Mr. Lee said, adding that new oil projects are being deferred around the world. In a way, he added, oil companies are responsible for the current situation. During brief price rallies, they raced back into fields to drill new wells—adding to the global glut of crude and cutting off the price rebounds.

Even as the number of rigs operating in the U.S. fell 60% so far this year, American oil production through August dipped just 3% from its April peak, federal data show. What happened was a combination of declining costs for oil-field services and equipment and impressive feats of engineering. Companies doubled the amount of sand they pumped into wells, figuring out how to better prop open rock layers to draw out more oil and natural gas. Operators moved rigs into areas where crude flowed the most freely, cut the number of days it took to drill by nearly half and extended the length of horizontal oil wells to reach nearly 2 miles. Costs for such big wells fell by as much as a third as oil explorers put extreme pressure on the suppliers that help them coax more fuel from the ground, including Halliburton. And producers became far more efficient. In the seven most prolific U.S. shale fields, they boosted oil production per rig by as much as 60% this year.

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“The Saudi strategy of flooding the world with oil in a bid to drive out rivals..” is a made-up idea. The Saudi’s simply looked at their forward contracts and thought: “Holy Sh*t!”

Speculators Test Saudi Currency As Oil Crisis Deepens (AEP)

Saudi Arabia’s currency regime is at risk of blowing up if oil prices fall further and the US dollar spikes higher, Bank of America has warned. The Saudi strategy of flooding the world with oil in a bid to drive out rivals may be hard to square with the country’s fixed dollar-peg, which is increasingly under scrutiny by currency traders as the US Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates. “The crucial point is what happens to the Saudi riyal. Saudi Arabia’s foreign exchange reserves still provide an ample buffer, but they have been falling fast,” said Francisco Blanch, the bank’s energy strategist. “Should Brent crude oil prices drop to $30, we estimate the foreign exchange reserve drain could accelerate to $18bn per month. Saudi Arabia may face a critical choice: cut oil supply, or de-peg,” he said.

The 12-month riyal forward contracts – watched by experts for signs that traders are betting on a collapse of the peg – has spiked violently to 535 from just 13 points in June. This is even higher than the peak after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, and is approaching extremes seen in January 1999. Credit default swaps pricing bankruptcy risk has jumped to 153, the highest since the global financial crisis. Mr Blanch said a devaluation by China would leave the Saudis badly exposed and might ultimately force their hand. “A de-peg of the Saudi riyal is our number one ‘black-swan’ event for oil in 2016,” he said. The 30-year old dollar peg is the weak link in Saudi strategy. It matters more than dissent within OPEC as the cartel prepares for a stormy meeting in Vienna on December 4. To varying degrees, Algeria, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq, and Iran all want production cuts to stabilize the market.

Russia has been able to cushion the effects of the oil price crash by letting the rouble fall from 32 to 65 against the dollar since mid-2014. This protects oil revenues of the Russian state in local-currency terms. Saudi Arabia is taking the blow head-on, and is facing an extra tourniquet effect as Fed tightening pushes the global dollar index to a 12-year high. The central bank’s holdings of foreign securities fell $23bn in October. They are down $90bn since February. Foreign reserves are still $647bn but not all is usable. The Saudi government has had to cancel a raft of infrastructure projects and push through drastic spending cuts to rein in a budget deficit near 20pc of GDP. It denies reports that contractors are not being paid. Bank of America warned that a break-down of the Saudi dollar-peg would send the riyal tumbling, with major knock-on effects. “Oil could collapse to $25,” it said in a client note.

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2016: Annus Horribilis for Brazil.

Petrobras’s Dangerous Debt Math: $24 Billion Owed in 24 Months (Bloomberg)

The debt clock is ticking down at Brazil’s troubled oil giant, Petrobras. Next up: $24 billion of repayments over 24 months. That’s a towering hurdle for a company that hasn’t generated free cash flow for eight years and whose borrowing rates are soaring. Annual debt servicing costs have doubled to 20.3 billion reais ($5.4 billion) in the past three years. The delicate task of managing the massive $128 billion mound of debt accumulated by Petroleo Brasileiro – 84% of it in foreign currencies – falls to the two banking veterans parachuted atop the company earlier this year, CEO Aldemir Bendine, 51, and Chief Financial Officer Ivan Monteiro, 55. The pair came from the state-controlled Banco de Brasil to contain the damage from the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s history.

While prosecutors continue to grind away at years of suspicious dealings, Act II for the boys from the Bank of Brazil will further test their mettle. The challenge of Petrobras’s runaway debt, which has grown four-fold in five years, has been exacerbated by low oil prices, a weak currency and the Brazilian government’s own fiscal travails. “If you considered them to be totally independent and there were no chance of any kind of government support, I think the risk of default would certainly be there in a big way,” said Jason Trujillo at Invesco. Petrobras is not without options, but they tend to be either politically unpalatable or unattractive to the marketplace.

Bendine is actively trying to peddle off minority stakes in the Rio de Janeiro-based oil producer’s pipeline and gas station units, among others, but that plan is behind schedule and faces fierce opposition from the oil industry’s most powerful union. Other alternatives are also running up against resistance from one interest group or another. The only source of comfort for many bondholders is the belief the Brazilian government would stop at nothing to save the country’s biggest company – though, even at that, Trujillo said markets are “lessening the amount of implied government support.”

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Inventing new accounting methods, that’ll help!

Bank of Japan To Switch To Indicators That Show Rising Prices (Reuters)

The Bank of Japan will release a new set of price indicators this month that reconfigures the way price trends are measured as the central bank seeks to show the country’s below-target inflation rate is due to volatile items such as energy. Importantly, a new consumer price index (CPI) will exclude energy costs, which have been falling, but include the costs of items such as processed and imported foods, which have been rising. The BOJ currently uses the government’s core CPI, which excludes fresh food but includes energy costs, as its key price measurement in guiding monetary policy. With core CPI now slipping due largely to slumping oil prices, the central bank began internally calculating a new index that conveniently shows inflation exceeding 1% in the past few months.

That index strips away volatile fresh food and energy costs, but includes processed and imported food prices, which are rising. The BOJ said on Friday it will start publishing this month the new CPI, as well as other indicators such as one showing the ratio of goods seeing prices rise versus those that are falling, on a regular basis each month. “The performance of the government’s core CPI (in tracking broad price trends) seems to be deteriorating, although this is probably because of the temporary effect of large swings in crude oil prices,” the BOJ said in a research paper. The BOJ’s new indicators will be released on the day the government’s CPI figures are published. The upcoming release of the CPI and BOJ indicators is on Nov. 27. Government data showed core consumer prices fell 0.1% in the year to September, a second straight month of declines, keeping inflation distant from the BOJ’s 2% target.

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Beggar all of thy global neighbors.

Mario Draghi All But Announced an Expansion of ECB QE (Fortune)

The world’s two most important central banks are going separate ways. As the Federal Reserve drops increasingly heavy hints about raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, ECB President Mario Draghi all but pre-announced a new round of stimulus for a Eurozone economy that is still flirting with deflation. In a closely-watched keynote speech at a banking conference in Frankfurt, Draghi dropped his clearest hint yet that the ECB will expand its program of asset purchases, which depresses interest rates by injecting money into the financial system, and may also push its official deposit rate even further into negative territory, from its current record low of -0.20%.

The latter move would be particularly radical, and has been bitterly resisted by banks who claim it effectively forces them to make losses. But the ECB’s chief economist Peter Praet said in an interview earlier this week that the evidence suggested it hadn’t had a negative impact so far. The ECB’s governing council is due to meet next on Dec. 3, two weeks before the Federal Open Market Committee Meeting where the Fed is expected to raise its official interest rates. Draghi said: “If we decide that the current trajectory of our policy is not sufficient to achieve our objective, we will do what we must to raise inflation as quickly as possible. If we decide that the current trajectory of our policy is not sufficient to achieve our objective, we will do what we must to raise inflation as quickly as possible.”

Speculation on further easing has been growing since Draghi’s last press conference in October, when he expressed concern about fresh risks to the economy from the slowdown in China and other emerging markets, and about the stubborn refusal of inflation to come back to its targeted level of just under 2%. Thanks to low oil prices, consumer prices in the Eurozone have barely changed all year, and were up only 0.1% in the year to October. Gross domestic product, meanwhile, grew only 0.3% in the third quarter, down from 0.4% in the summer. The euro has already lost nearly 6% against the dollar since Draghi’s October press conference, and is already trading close to the 12-year low it posted back in March.

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“The King spoke, the subjects listened, and The King left. There was nothing his subjects could do about it but cope with its consequences.”

The Power And The Impotence Of The ECB (Steve Keen)

I’ve attended two conferences in two days where both the power and the impotence of the European Central Bank (EBC) have been on vivid display. Its political power is considerable, both in form and in substance. At both seminars, the ECB speaker—ECB Board member Peter Praet at the first, and ECB President Mario Draghi at the second—spoke first, and then left. In form, the ECB has no need to defend its policies because it is unimpeachable in its execution of them. In substance, it does not even considering engaging with its subjects—I use the word deliberately—in open and robust discussion. It’s not unusual for a political leader to turn up at an event, speak and then immediately leave. But even political leaders have to tolerate sometimes being savaged by fearless CNBC moderators when they speak in public.

And I expected that economic leaders would want to hang around and get some feedback—positive or otherwise—from the economic elite that gathered to hear them. Might they not learn something about why their policies weren’t working as they had expected them to? Not a bit of that for the ECB. There was plenty that could be criticised, even within the context their speeches set. Speaking at the FAROS Institutional Investors Forum, Praet acknowledged, numerous times, that the ECB had failed to hit many of its policy targets—in particular, he noted how many times the ECB had to put off into the more distant future its objective to return to 2% inflation. But there was no chance to challenge him as to why they had failed, because after a couple of perfunctory exchanges with the moderator, he was out the door.

At the more prestigious Frankfurt European Banking Congress Draghi stated bluntly that the ECB would continue to do all it takes to support asset markets via QE—in the belief that this supported the real economy. This was a declaration of the intention to use unlimited power—since there is no effective limit to the ECB’s capacity to buy assets from the private sector. A politician would have to respond to sceptics about the use of such unlimited powers. But there was not even a single question, nor even a murmur, from the audience. There was however a jolt of recognition. Draghi was going to continue supporting asset markets, and that was that. The King spoke, the subjects listened, and The King left. There was nothing his subjects could do about it but cope with its consequences.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who book-ended the EBC conference, had no such luxury of freedom from interlocution—nor did he need it. He engaged in a lively banter with his interviewer as he defended the far more limited power he has over expenditure in Germany. I doubt that Schäuble will suffer electoral defeat any time soon, but unlike Draghi he faces the prospect that it could happen. That doesn’t make him any less resolute in defending his policies; it just means that he has to defend them. This is what the originally principled concept of “Central Bank Independence” has transmuted into.

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One buybacks start failing to support stocks, there’s a big black hole looming beneath.

Financially Engineered Stocks Drag Down S&P 500 (WolfStreet)

Stocks have been on a tear to nowhere this year. Now investors are praying for a Santa rally to pull them out of the mire. They’re counting on desperate amounts of share buybacks that companies fund by loading up on debt. But the magic trick that had performed miracles over the past few years is backfiring. And there’s a reason. IBM has blown $125 billion on buybacks since 2005, more than the $111 billion it invested in capital expenditures and R&D. It’s staggering under its debt, while revenues have been declining for 14 quarters in a row. It cut its workforce by 55,000 people since 2012. And its stock is down 38% since March 2013.

Big-pharma icon Pfizer plowed $139 billion into buybacks and dividends in the past decade, compared to $82 billion in R&D and $18 billion in capital spending. 3M spent $48 billion on buybacks and dividends, and $30 billion on R&D and capital expenditures. They’re all doing it. “Activist investors” – hedge funds – have been clamoring for it. An investigative report by Reuters, titled The Cannibalized Company, lined some of them up:

In March, General Motors acceded to a $5 billion share buyback to satisfy investor Harry Wilson. He had threatened a proxy fight if the auto maker didn’t distribute some of the $25 billion cash hoard it had built up after emerging from bankruptcy just a few years earlier. DuPont early this year announced a $4 billion buyback program – on top of a $5 billion program announced a year earlier – to beat back activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which was seeking four board seats to get its way.

In March, Qualcomm Inc., under pressure from hedge fund Jana Partners, agreed to boost its program to purchase $10 billion of its shares over the next 12 months; the company already had an existing $7.8 billion buyback program and a commitment to return three quarters of its free cash flow to shareholders.

And in July, Qualcomm announced 5,000 layoffs. It’s hard to innovate when you’re trying to please a hedge fund. CEOs with a long-term outlook and a focus on innovation and investment, rather than financial engineering, come under intense pressure. “None of it is optional; if you ignore them, you go away,” Russ Daniels, a tech executive with 15 years at Apple and 13 years at HP, told Reuters. “It’s all just resource allocation,” he said. “The situation right now is there are a lot of investors who believe that they can make a better decision about how to apply that resource than the management of the business can.”

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VW keeps flipping regulators the bird. “VW never told regulators about the software, in violation of U.S. law.”

Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal Is Getting Even Bigger, Again (AP)

Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal widened Friday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the German automaker used software to cheat on pollution tests on more six-cylinder diesel vehicles than originally thought. Volkswagen told the EPA and the California Air Resources Board the software is on about 85,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles with 3-liter engines going back to the 2009 model year. Earlier this month the regulators accused VW of installing the so-called “defeat device” software on about 10,000 cars from the 2014 through 2016 model years, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The regulators said in a statement they will investigate and take appropriate action on the software, which they claim allowed the six-cylinder diesels to emit fewer pollutants during tests than in real-world driving.

The latest allegation means that more Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche owners could face recalls of their cars to fix the software, and VW could face steeper fines and more intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers. Audi spokesman Brad Stertz on Friday conceded that VW never told regulators about the software, in violation of U.S. law. He said the company agreed with the agencies to reprogram it “so that the regulators see it, understand it and approve it and feel comfortable with the way it’s performing.” The software is on Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg SUVs from the 2009 through 2016 model years, as well as the Porsche Cayenne from 2013 to 2016. Also covered are Audi A6, A7, A8, and Q5s from the 2014 to 2016 model years, according to the EPA.

Stertz said the software is legal in Europe and it’s not the same as a device that enabled four-cylinder VW diesel engines to deliberately cheat on emissions tests. VW has told dealers not to sell any of the models until the software is fixed. VW made the disclosure on a day it was meeting with the agencies about how it plans to fix 482,000 four-cylinder diesel cars equipped with emissions-cheating software. U.S. regulators continue to tell owners of all the affected cars they are safe to drive, even as they emit nitrogen oxide, a contributor to smog and respiratory problems, in amounts that exceed EPA standards — up to nine times above accepted levels in the six-cylinder engines and up to 40 times in the four-cylinders.

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Letting politicians self-regulate their own spending?! Great idea!

EU Journalists Take European Parliament To Court Over Expense Accounts (EUO)

A group of 29 European journalists have filed complaints with the EU’s Court of Justice, demanding access to documents that will show how members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been spending their allowances. The reporters filed freedom of information (FOI) requests with the European Parliament, asking for copies of documents that show details for the MEPs’ travel expenses, accommodation expenses, office expenses, and assistants expenses for the past four years. “We are not demanding access to records about how MEPs spend their salaries, which are intended for their personal and private use,” the group said in a statement. “We are demanding access to records that show details of how they spend all the extra payments they receive on top of their salaries, and only those extras which are paid to them solely for the exercise of their professional public mandates as elected representatives of European citizens,” they added.

In September, the parliament denied access to these documents, either because they contain personal data or, they argue, because no such records are held. A week ago, the reporters filed complaints with the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union, with assistance from Natassa Pirc Musar, Slovenia’s former Information Commissioner. EP press spokesperson Marjory van den Broeke said the parliament has not yet received a formal notification from the court. “So formally, officially we cannot react to this, as we haven’t received it,” she told this website at a press conference Friday (20 November). However, she pointed out that when the EP does receive a FOI request, a balance must be struck between the EU’s rules on access to documents and its rules on personal data protection.

“Both these different aspects are taken into account when there is a proper investigation into the need to transfer personal data [to the FOI applicant],” said Van den Broeke, adding as an example of personal data that “some of these data could reveal political activities, which are the prerogative of an MEP to have, and which are their personal political convictions”. No clarification on the difference between personal political activities and public political activities was offered. According to the EP, around 27% of its almost €1.8 billion budget in 2014 was spent on MEP salaries and expenses, which include travel, office costs and assistants’ salaries. The journalists already know that there will be little information they can expect on the office costs, which are covered by the so-called general expenditure allowance (GEA), because little is recorded.

While MEPs are required to hand in receipts for their travel, accommodation and assistants expenses, they receive the GEA, which covers costs such as rent, phone bills, software, and furniture, as a monthly lump sum of €4,299 per MEP office. “The European Parliament spends €3.2 million each month solely on MEPs’ general expenditure allowance (almost €40 million per year). No one is monitoring this spending,” the journalists’ group noted.

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That’s still putting it mildly.

Australia Is A ‘Plaything’ Of World Economic Forces It Can’t Control (Guardian)

Australia is a “plaything” of forces it cannot control as the world economy heads into another phase of the global financial crisis, according to the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The “remarkable” flow of overseas money into the economy in recent years had created a “false sense of well-being”, he said, but the economy needed to change direction quickly to avert a crisis. Varoufakis, who quit as finance minister after a tumultuous six months in charge of the near-bankrupt Greek economy, taught economics at Sydney University for 12 years up to 2000 before he returned to Europe in dismay at Australia’s turn to the right under John Howard. The economist, who has dual Greek and Australian citizenship and whose daughter lives in Sydney, said Australia had become “complacent” about the health of its economy.

The Sydney and Melbourne housing boom, where price growth has been in double figures, was particularly alarming, said Varoufakis, who is in Australia for a short speaking tour. “Australia – especially Sydney and Melbourne – has always insulated itself from facts about the world. Aided and abetted by the remarkable flow of capital towards the property market in Sydney and Melbourne, it has created a false sense of wellbeing,” he told the Guardian. “People have always said to me that Australia is immune to the crisis because during the good times money has come as an investment. Then if things go wrong the rich Chinese will emigrate here and bring their dosh with them.” But Australia had become a “plaything of forces out of its control”, he said, and risked an economic shock as the credit bubble created by China in the wake of the global financial crisis began to deflate.

“The crisis of 2008 won’t go away. It is a unified, solid crisis, although it is metamorphisising and changing. Between the 80s and 2008 the world economy was fuelled by US debt, then financialisation [the huge increase in credit] which created a pyramid of money which collapsed in 2008. “The world economy lost its capacity to create demand for factories, but China reacted by creating a huge bubble. They were hoping the west would stabilise but it didn’t because America is ungovernable and Europe even more so.” After his bruising experience trying to face down the might of Germany, the ECB, the EU and the IMF, Varoufakis has become an outspoken critic of economic policy. He has described the settlement imposed on Greece in July as doomed to failure and will “go down in history as the greatest disaster of macroeconomic management ever”.

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And they’re thinking of making him PM?

‘Terrible’ Public Finance Figures Heap Pressure On UK Chancellor (Ind.)

The weakest set of October public finance figures for six years has given George Osborne a serious headache ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement. The borrowing figures for last month came in well above expectations, meaning the Chancellor is likely to fall short of his budget deficit reduction target set by the Office for Budget Responsibility only in July. Borrowing shot up to £8.2bn for the month – £1.1bn higher than the same month last year. Most City experts had pencilled in a £1.1bn fall to £6bn. The last time the Government borrowed more in an October was in 2009, when the deficit for the month was £9.6bn and the economy was still mired in recession. The figures are the latest in a run of disappointments in the monthly public finances. In the seven months of the financial year so far, cumulative borrowing is £54.3bn.

Although 10.9% below last year, it means the Chancellor needs a minor miracle to hit the Office for Budget Responsibility’s £69.5bn deficit target for the full year. Analysts said it was likely the OBR would revise up its full-year 2015-16 deficit forecast next month and that the deterioration would make the Chancellor’s job of mitigating his controversial tax credit cuts more difficult. “A critical question will be to what extent the OBR believes that this has implications for the fiscal targets further out,” said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the deficit could hit £80bn this year, adding that the “terrible borrowing figures provide a grim backdrop to the Autumn Statement”. He said: “Barring revisions, borrowing would have to be an implausible 48% lower year-over-year in the second half of this fiscal year for the official forecast to be met.”

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The horse has long bolted. It’ll take many years to repair that door.

Is It Time To Close The Door To Foreign Buyers Of British Property? (Guardian)

A global super-rich elite, some of them criminal, are snapping up property in Britain, pushing up costs for all of us and throwing the poor to the edge of the cities. Rampant landlordism is dividing Britain into a nation of housing haves and have-nots. Tax breaks for buy-to-lets are still too generous. Tenants are in despair. Many young people will never be able to buy their own home. This, extraordinarily, is not the language of some lefty academic or pressure group, but comes from the heart of the Conservative party in a new report by the Bow Group, the oldest Tory thinktank in the UK, which styles itself as the “intellectual home to conservatives”. It is a dramatic repudiation of decades of thinking in the Conservative party.

These are the people who have, until now, equated rising house prices with wealth and prosperity, and who have profited enormously from buy-to-let and billions in foreign cash. But the Bow Group now recognises that Britain’s housing market is broken – and its prescription for reform may stagger traditional Tory supporters. It turns conventional thinking on its head by saying the solution to Britain’s housing crisis is not millions of new homes, as so many argue, but cutting demand. The report’s author, Daniel Valentine, traces the phenomenal increase in house price inflation to the mid-1990s when three factors came together: a sudden surge in population growth, the explosion in buy-to-let lending, and the entry of China and Russia into the global economy, producing a global elite seeking a safe home for their cash.

These factors have corrupted the market, creating an insatiable “investment demand” divorced from the underlying needs of the people of Britain. Foreign buyers now own close to 10% of the UK’s housing stock, he claims, and, unchecked, will gobble up much more, increasingly in Manchester, Edinburgh and other regional cities. With the global financial elite numbering at least 15 million, “increasing housing supply can never bring down prices, no matter how much public land and green belt is turned into flats, because the demand for investment returns is almost infinite.” The accepted wisdom is that Chinese billionaires buying in Belgravia have no impact on Bromley or Birmingham. Not so, says the report, citing academic studies that prove that top-end buyers pull up prices through the entire market.

The Bow Group’s solution? To follow the example of Denmark, Switzerland and Australia and make it much tougher for foreign buyers to snap up homes as investment vehicles. It is astonishing that we allow, for example, millionaires in Singapore to buy land and property in Britain, but Singapore bars British and other foreign nationals from buying in their country. Denmark prohibits non-EU nationals from buying a home unless they have lived in the country for five years – and, like Finland and Malta, is allowed by the EU to restrict EU citizens from buying second homes in the country.

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“Yes, it’s happened before. (See European Jews and World War II.) It was not our finest hour.”

A Nation Of Immigrants Wants To Close Its Doors (MarketWatch)

Close the borders! Deny refugees from war-torn Syria asylum in the U.S.! Pass a bill to provide a safe haven to Syrian Christians, not Syrian Muslims! Such knee-jerk reactions to the multipronged terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday only exacerbated the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may be the loudest proponent of build-a-wall and ship-’em-back, but evidence of the expanding reach of Islamic State has won him many converts. So far 28 governors have said they will refuse to accept Syrian refugees in their states. (It’s not clear they have the legal authority to deny refugees entry to a particular state once they have been admitted to the U.S.) Another 20 are lobbying for increased screening. Congressional leaders have called for a suspension of President Barack Obama’s announced program to settle 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal 2016.

The 2,150 Syrian refugees that have been admitted to the U.S. so far have undergone extensive background checks, including biometric screening, a process that can take years, according to the Obama administration. To deny these victims of ISIS terror entry to the U.S. is, quite frankly, un-American. Yes, it’s happened before. (See European Jews and World War II.) It was not our finest hour. U.S. authorities do need to practice smarter security and improve screening procedures in light of the heightened risk. Have you ever wondered how many terrorists the Transportation Security Agency has nabbed asking travelers, “Did you pack your own bags?” As a nation of immigrants, the U.S. reaps considerable benefits from foreigners who come here to live and work.

Consider some statistics from the Kauffman Foundation, which focuses on entrepreneurship:
• More than 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children;
• Between 2006 and 2012, one quarter of all technology and engineering startups had at least one immigrant founder.
• Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to become entrepreneurs;
• Immigrant entrepreneurs accounted for 28.5% of all new entrepreneurs in the U.S. last year, up from 13.3% in 1997.

Small companies, especially startups, are responsible for most, if not all, of the job growth in the U.S. To the extent that immigrants are drawn to entrepreneurship, they are a big plus. You may have heard it said that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. (You can substitute “machines” or “automation” for immigrants.) This is one of those silly ideas that persists despite evidence to the contrary. So prevalent is the notion that immigrants and innovation steal jobs that economists have a name for it: the lump of labor fallacy. It’s based on the false idea that there is a fixed amount of work in an economy, to be divided up among the pool of workers. This discredited notion inspired France to implement a 35-hour workweek in 2000, widely considered to be a failure. While the official 35-hour workweek still exists — most businesses apply for an exemption — it has failed to reduce unemployment in France.

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Very thoroughly. The rest is all just fearmongering.

How Refugees Are Selected, Vetted, And Settled In The United States (Quartz)

Who are the refugees coming to the US? Every year, the President, in consultation with Congress, determines how many refugees should come into the U.S. In FY16, the ceiling is 85,000, up from 70,000 last year. They come from diverse areas. The largest groups of refugees the U.S. received last year came from Iraq, Burma, Somalia and Bhutan. In the past five years, the U.S. has received less than 2,500 Syrian refugees, most of whom were women and children.

How does the vetting process work? The vetting process for each refugee is highly rigorous, and usually takes two to three years to complete. Refugees first have to prove that they are actually refugee by registering and being accepted by the United Nations’s refugee agency overseas. This means they have to have a well-founded fear of persecution based on five specific grounds: nationality, race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. A small number of those registered—the most vulnerable cases—are referred to the U.S to be considered for resettlement. Only those who cannot return home or locally integrate in the country of asylum are referred for resettlement.

The US State Department’s Resettlement Support Center then collects biographical information and personal data for security clearance. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies then work together to carry out multiple security screenings based on biometric and biographic data, photographs, and other background information over a period that lasts on average 18 to 24 months. Any refugee who is deemed to pose a threat to our national security is denied. Syrian refugees also undergo “enhanced reviews” in which specially trained officers examine each case biography for accuracy and authenticity. In addition to these security checks, every single refugee is interviewed face-to-face by a Department of Homeland Security official and must undergo a medical screening.

How are refugees resettled in the US? Once refugees are conditionally approved for resettlement, they go through cultural orientation and pay for their own plane tickets to come to the U.S. World Relief, which is one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S, partners with local communities to help refugees get on their feet upon their arrival. This includes, partnering with local businesses and churches to assist with living arrangements, providing English classes, aiding in their job search, and much more. Refugees have been welcomed all over the country where they have become integrated, and become tax-paying, contributing members of many communities.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t carefully vet refugees, but let’s get the facts first before making generalizations and shutting down a program that has literally saved thousands of lives. To turn our backs on refugees now would betray our nation’s core values to provide refuge for the persecuted and affirm the very message those who perpetrate terrorism are trying to send.

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Nothing funnier than the truth: “Mr Erdogan at one point referred to Mr Juncker as the former premier of Luxembourg, “a country the size of a Turkish city”.

EU-Turkey Refugee Talks Turn Sour As Erdogan Belittles Juncker

The potential deal between the EU and Turkey to stem the migrant flow to Europe is floundering as Ankara pushes Brussels to deliver on a multibillion-euro aid package and other elements of the bargain. The challenge of completing the deal, hammered out in a month of negotiations, was underlined at a difficult meeting on Monday between EU officials and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to people familiar with the talks, Mr Erdogan balked as Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the respective presidents of the European Commission and Council, pressed him for a timetable for measures intended to discourage migrants in Turkey from continuing their journey to Europe. These include tighter border controls and awarding work rights to 2m Syrian refugees.

One official familiar with the discussion said the meeting turned “sour” as Mr Erdogan demanded that Europe move first on its pledges. Ankara is seeking €3bn in financial support, regular Turkey-EU summits, and a clear political path to open several chapters in stalled EU membership talks. There was also disagreement as to whether a planned EU assistance package covered one or two years. According to another European official briefed on the meeting, Mr Erdogan at one point referred to Mr Juncker as the former premier of Luxembourg, “a country the size of a Turkish city”. On Thursday, Mr Juncker described the meeting as “sportive and exhausting”. German and other EU officials are convinced Mr Erdogan has the ability to sharply cut the outflow from Turkey and want to see tangible results by the end of the year. But it remains unclear how much Turkey can actually do to make that happen, even if it reaches an agreement with the EU.

Frans Timmermans, the commission’s vice-president, went to Ankara on Thursday to try to rescue the plan with Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey’s foreign minister. It was supposed to have been fleshed out and formally signed off at an EU-Turkey summit on November 29. Mr Juncker said the discussions with Mr Timmermans showed the will of “both sides to get closer together”. Thursday’s talks helped to steady the situation but diplomats worry that difficulties with Mr Erdogan may jeopardise the final sign-off. “We don’t want a summit for the sake of a summit,” said one Turkish official. “We have to see they are serious.” One European diplomat said the “tough exchange of views” underlined how difficult it was to negotiate with Turkey — particularly at a time when some member states are desperate for assistance with the crisis and have a weak bargaining position. “They are trying to exploit this situation in a way that some countries find unacceptable,” he said.

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Angela better stop the ugly side of Germany from rising from its ashes.

Merkel Slowly Changes Tune on Refugee Issue (Spiegel)

In early September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued an order to bring thousands of refugees who were stranded in Hungary to Germany. Germany’s basic right to asylum has no upper limits, she said. It was a moment of unaccustomed conviction from a chancellor who had become notorious for her ability to avoid making decisions until the last possible moment. But she went even further. She equated the refugee issue with other significant turning points in the history of her party, the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). Issues such as West Germany’s integration into Western alliances and Kohl’s commitment to keeping nuclear weapons stationed in West Germany in the 1980s. It was as though she were elevating her refugee policy into the pantheon of Christian Democratic basic principles.

And she didn’t even bother to inform the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), before doing so. Now, though, Merkel is in the process of preparing a reversal of her refugee policy. At the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey at the beginning of the week, she spoke of quotas – fixed numbers of refugees that Europe is willing to accept. On the one hand, of course, introduction the idea of quotas is a concession to reality, because the chancellor knows that the ongoing arrival to Germany of up to 10,000 refugees every day is not sustainable. But the change is also a silent capitulation to her critics. Horst Seehofer, the head of the CSU, and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière are now setting the tone in Germany’s refugee policy, and the Paris terrorist attacks have only given them more leverage.

Seehofer and de Maizière have been calling for an upper limit on immigration for months. “Quota” is simply a different word for the same thing. Merkel is in a tight spot. She made the right decision by accepting the desperate refugees who set out from Budapest for Germany on foot in early September. But in the period that followed, the dimensions of the inflow kept growing and Merkel never conveyed the message that Germany’s capacity is limited. Even the coming winter has not stopped the flow of refugees, and leading conservatives are now more openly questioning the efficacy and wisdom of Merkel’s plan to limit immigration by combating the underlying causes of migration. For many, the notion of Germany serving as an intermediary and arbiter of global crises borders on megalomania.

Even though she is still publicly sticking to her rhetoric, Merkel has been on the retreat for about two weeks. Leading CDU parliamentarians received the first signs of her change of heart in early November, when they met with her at the Chancellery. In the meeting, the chancellor clearly promised that she would support a reduction in refugee numbers, says one of the attendees. “I cannot guarantee that you will already see a change in the coming weeks,” the attendee said, quoting Merkel. But she also said that the current situation could not continue as it was.

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It’ll be well over 1 million by year’s end.

Over 900,000 Migrants Arrived In Germany This Year (Reuters)

More than 900,000 migrants have been registered in Germany since the beginning of the year, the Bavarian Interior Ministry said on Friday. “The number of 900,000 was surpassed in the nationwide registration system last night,” a spokesman for Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said. The federal government had forecast that some 800,000 refugees would arrive in Germany this year, but senior politicians have said there could be as many as 1 million new arrivals.

Read more …

Mar 102015
 
 March 10, 2015  Posted by at 11:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


William Henry Jackson Tunnel 3, Tamasopo Canyon, San Luis Potosi, Mexico 1890

The entire formerly rich world is addicted to debt, and it is not capable of shaking that addiction. Not until the whole facade that was built to hide this addiction must and will come crashing down along with the corpus itself.

Central banks are a huge part of keeping the disease going, instead of helping the patient quit and regain health, which arguably should be their function. In other words, central banks are not doctors, they’re crack dealers and faith healers. Why anyone would ever agree to that role for some of the world’s economically most powerful entities is a question that surely deserves and demands an answer. But no such answer is forthcoming.

Instead, we all pretend Yellen, Kuroda and Draghi are in fact curing us of our ailments. Presumably because that feels better. That our health deteriorates in the process is simply ignored and denied. But then, that’s what you get when you allow for a bunch of shaky goalseeked economic rules to be taken as some sort of gospel. People one thought leeches healed too, or bloodletting, exorcism, burning at the stake, you name it. Same difference, just a few hundred years later.

What’s happening today is that central bankers start to find that their goalseeked ideas are no longer working. What might work for one may backfire for another. That this might be the direct result of their own mindless policies will never even cross their minds. And so they will continue making things worse, until that facade they operate on cannot hold any longer.

The EU started its braindead QE program yesterday. If it gets to purchase the entire €1.14 trillion in bonds it aims for, that will be a bad thing. If it doesn’t, that will be an arguably worse thing. Draghi should have stayed away from this heresy, but it’s too late now: the die is cast.

Why banks and funds would sell their long maturity bonds, with a relatively high yield, to him, is not clear. On the other hand, that many funds will compete with the ECB for the few bonds that are available, is clear. Draghi simply attempts to turn the sovereign bond market into casino with zero price discovery. Whether he will succeed in that is not clear. To get it done, though, he will have to make some very peculiar moves. That again is clear. Durden:

Presenting The Buyers Of Over 100% Of New German And Japanese Bond Issuance

Back in December, when the total amount of annual ECB Q€ was still up in the air and and consensus expected a lowly €500 billion annual monetization number, we calculated that based on Germany’s capital key contribution of about 26%, the ECB would monetize some €130 billion of German gross issuance, or about 90% of the total scheduled issuance for 2015. Subsequently, the ECB announced that the actual amount across all ECB asset purchasing programs, will be some 44% higher, or €720 billion per year (€60 billion per month). So what does that mean for the revised bond supply and demand across two of the most important developed markets?

Well, we already know that the Bank of Japan will monetize 100% or just over of all Japanese gross sovereign bond issuance (source). As for Germany, on a run-rate basis, and assuming allocation based on the abovementioned capital key, it means that for the next 12 month period, assuming no major funding changes in Germany, the ECB will swallow more than a whopping 140% of gross German [Bund] issuance! Or, said otherwise, the entities who will buy more than all gross German and Japanese issuance for the next 12 months, are the ECB and the Bank of Japan, respectively.

This also means that to fulfill its monthly purchase mandate, the ECB will have to push the price to truly unprecedented levels (such as the -0.20% yield across the curve discussed previously, or even lower) to find willing sellers. That said, please don’t tell your average Hinz and Kunz that more than all German bond issuance in 2015 will be monetized. It will bring back some very unpleasant memories.

Japan’s Abenomics are a huge failure, and so it looks like another double or nothing is in the offing. They’ll keep doing it until they can’t, because that’s their whole repertoire. Though it is a little weird to see Bill Pesek, and BoJ chief Kuroda, claim that Japan’s QE failed because it wasn’t big enough. Seen Japanese debt numbers lately, Bill? Not big enough yet?

Three Reasons Japan Will Get More Stimulus

With annualized growth of 1.5% between October and December after two straight quarters of contraction, Japan is hobbling out of recession far more slowly than hoped. A third dose of quantitative easing is almost certain. Here are three reasons why.

First, the initial rounds of QE weren’t potent enough. “In order to escape from deflationary equilibrium, tremendous velocity is needed, just like when a spacecraft moves away from Earth’s strong gravitation,” Kuroda recently explained. “It requires greater power than that of a satellite that moves in a stable orbit.”

Although the Bank of Japan managed to lower the value of the yen by more than 20% beginning in April 2013, that clearly hasn’t provided enough of a boost to the economy.

Maybe you can’t boost the 20-year coma the Japanese economy has been in by hammering the currency? Just a thought, Bill. And sure, Kuroda’s spacecraft metaphor is mighty cute, but what tells you economies are just like rocket ships? I like this piece from Deutsche Welle much better:

Central Bank Blues

On Monday the European Central Bank begins its long-anticipated program to buy sovereign bonds on secondary bond markets – i.e. previously issued government bonds held by institutional investors like banks or insurance funds. In central bankers’ jargon, this is called “quantitative easing,” or QE. The ECB’s plan is to pump €60 billion euros into the financial markets each month, by trading central bank reserve money (a form of electronic cash) for bonds. That’s set to continue until at least September 2016, which means at least €1.1 trillion will be put into the hands of investment managers – who will have to find some alternative investments to make with the money.

On Thursday last week, at the ECB’s governing board meeting in Nicosia on Cyprus, the central bank revised its projections for both GDP growth and inflation in the eurozone upward: The inflation rate is projected to go up to 0.7% for this year, and GDP growth from 1.0 to 1.5%. But are the new projections just a case of whistling in the dark? There are in fact serious doubts as to whether the ECB will actually be able to meet its targets, or if, instead, the bond-purchasing program will have effects that will make a structural recovery of the eurozone more difficult.

For a start, many observers doubt whether the ECB will even be able to find willing sellers for €60 billion a month of bonds. Sovereign bonds – especially those of the core eurozone member states, like Germany – may soon become rather scarce on secondary markets. Neither domestic banks and insurance funds, nor foreign central banks, will have much incentive to sell their government bond holdings to the ECB. The older bonds with long maturities and decent interest rates, in particular, will probably be held rather than sold. Moreover, experts question whether a flood of central bank reserve money, pumped into the hands of players in secondary financial markets, can generate a stimulus at all.

It probably won’t lead to any boost in their lending activities to real-economy businesses or households, for two reasons: First, banks have recently been obliged to increase their core capital reserves – the amount of shareholders’ money, including retained earnings, which is available to cover possible loan losses – and they’re still adjusting their balance sheets accordingly. That means they’re being cautious about lending.

That’s the basic question, isn’t it? “..whether a flood of central bank reserve money, pumped into the hands of players in secondary financial markets, can generate a stimulus at all.” But how do we answer it? Lots of people will want to point to the ‘success’ story of the US and the Fed, but there’s no way we can have any confidence in the numbers coming from the US. As for the EU and Japan, the failures are more obvious, but that may be because they’re less skilled in ‘massaging’ the data. All in all, the evidence, if it exists at all, is flimsy at best.

Oh, and then there’s China:

China’s ‘Money Garrote’ May Choke Us All

In this new era of all-powerful central banks, it is hard for investors to look past who will be next to take out the big gun of quantitative easing. This week, all eyes are on the ECB, which follows the Bank of Japan as the latest of the major monetary-policy makers to embark on its own aggressive bond-buying program. In contrast, China appears to be entering a “new normal” era, in which its central bank only has a pea-shooter [..] the benchmark money-supply growth target of 12% was the lowest in decades. Another part of China’s new normal is not just lower growth, but also an era where the central bank is no longer able to magically speed its money-printing presses.

Conventional wisdom holds that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has a gargantuan monetary arsenal, given that the country has the world’s largest stash of foreign reserves at $3.89 trillion [..] according to some analysts, this reserve accumulation is merely a byproduct of another form of quantitative easing. Rather than strength, its size indicates just how staggeringly large China’s domestic credit expansion has become in recent decades. According to strategist Albert Edwards at Société Générale, such foreign-reserve accumulation — which typically takes place in emerging markets — is equivalent to quantitative easing.

The PBOC’s historic mass-printing of money to buy foreign currency and depress the yuan’s value is little different from what the Federal Reserve and others have done, Edwards said. [..] the recent reversal in such reserve accumulation points to a significant turning point in monetary conditions. Indeed, Joe Zhang, author of “Inside China’s Shadow Banking System,” argues that China’s credit expansion has in fact been far more aggressive than the QE attempted in the U.S. or Europe.

Zhang, a former PBOC official, calculated that China’s money supply is already 372% of what it was at the beginning of 2006. And if you add up official data between 1986 and 2012, China’s benchmark M2 money supply has grown at a compound rate of 21.1%. While 7% economic growth is slow for China compared to the double-digit rates of the past, such data makes 12% money-supply growth looks positively measly. Another reason to believe that China is at the tail end of a huge monetary expansion is found in a recent study by McKinsey. They estimated that total credit in China’s economy has quadrupled since 2008, reaching 282% of GDP.

But now the conditions that enabled this debt habit have turned. Edwards argues that foreign-exchange accumulation by central banks is the key measure of global liquidity to pay attention to — and it is currently in free-fall. [..] while markets are focusing on the ECB’s easing announcement, they are missing this Chinese liquidity garrote that is strangling the global economy. Data from the IMF shows that central-bank foreign-reserve accumulation has been declining rapidly. China is at the center of this, with a $300 billion annualized decline over the last six months

The stress point for China is now its currency, which has fallen to a 28-month low against the dollar. The dilemma facing the PBOC is how to keep growth and liquidity sufficiently strong, while also maintaining its loose currency peg to a resurgent dollar. As China defends its currency regime, it must do the opposite of printing new money: using foreign reserves to buy yuan, contracting the money supply in the process.

The People’s Bank of China is a crack dealer with a client that no longer can afford its fix. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that all central banks are now crack dealers with such clients, and the PBOC is the first one that’s forced to admit it. And it now looks as if perhaps it can’t win back its market without spoiling it. And that is all about the dollar. A lot is about the dollar, and the looming shortage of them. And there’s nothing (central) banks can do. Not that they won’t try, mind you. Durden:

The Global Dollar Funding Shortage Is Back With A Vengeance

[..].. one can be certain that the current fx basis print around – 20 bps will most certainly accelerate to a level never before seen, a level which would also hint that something is very broken with the financial system and/or that transatlantic counterparty risk has never been greater. Unlike us, JPM hedges modestly in its forecast where the basis will end up:

.. different to previous episodes of dollar funding shortage such as the ones experienced during the Lehman crisis or during the euro debt crisis, the current one is not driven by banks. It is rather driven by the monetary policy divergence between the US and the rest of the world. This divergence appears to have created an imbalance in funding markets and a shortage in dollar funding. It is important to monitor how this dollar funding shortage and issuance patterns evolve over time even if the currency implications are uncertain.

And to think the Fed’s cheerleaders couldn’t hold their praise for the ECB’s NIRP (as first defined on these pages) policy. Because little did they know that behind the scenes the divergence in Fed and “rest of the world” policy action is leading to two things: i) the fastest emergence of a dollar shortage since Lehman and ii) a shortage which will be arb[itrage]ed to a level not seen since Lehman, and one which assures that over the coming next few months, many will be scratching their heads as to whether there is something far more broken with the financial system than merely an arbed way by US corporations to issue cheaper (hedged) debt in Europe thanks to Europe’s NIRP policies.

If and when the market finally does notice this gaping dollar shortage (as is usually the case with the mandatory 3-6 month delay), the Fed will once again scramble to flood the world with USD FX swap lines to prevent the global dollar margin call from crushing a matched synthetic dollar short which according to some estimates has risen as high as $10 trillion.

Until then, just keep an eye on the Fed’s weekly swap line usage, because if the above is correct, it is only a matter of time before they are put to full use once again. Finally what assures they will be put to use, is that this time the divergence is the direct result of the Fed’s actions…

And then, again with Tyler, we return to Albert Edwards:

“Ignore This Measure Of Global Liquidity At Your Own Peril”

With all eyes squarely on the ECB as Mario Draghi prepares to flood the EMU fixed income market with €1.1 trillion in new liquidity starting Monday, Soc Gen’s Albert Edwards reminds us that “another type of QE” is drying up thanks largely to the relative strength of the US dollar. The printing of currency to buy US dollar denominated assets in an effort to prop up “mercantilist export-led growth models [is] no different to the Fed’s QE,” Edwards says, explicitly equating EM FX intervention with the asset purchase programs employed by the world’s most influential central banks in the years since the crisis. Via Soc Gen:

Clearly when the dollar is declining sharply, global FX intervention accelerates as the Chinese central bank, for example, needs to debauch its own currency at the same rate. Conversely, when the dollar rallies strongly, as is the case now, FX intervention rapidly dries up and can even reverse, exerting a massive monetary tightening on emerging economies,

.. and ultimately the entire over-inflated global financial complex… The swing in global foreign exchange reserves is one key measure of the global liquidity tap being turned on and off, with the most direct and immediate effect being felt in emerging economies.

The bottom line is that in a world of over-inflated asset values, the strength of the dollar is resulting is a rapid tightening of global liquidity as emerging economies (and indeed the Swiss) stop printing money to buy the US dollar. This should be seen for what it is a clear tightening of global liquidity. Traditionally these periods of dollar strength are highly disruptive to emerging markets and often end in the weakest links blowing up the entire EM and commodity complex and sometimes much else besides! Investors ignore this at their peril.

So: the ECB has started doing its painfully expensive uselessness , the Fed refuses to do anymore and even threatens to derail the whole idea by hiking rates, both Japan and its central bank are so screwed after 20 years of having an elephant sitting on their lap for afternoon tea that nothing they do makes any difference anymore even short term, and China is faced with the riddle that what it thinks it should do to look better in the mirror mirror on the Great Wall, only makes it look old and bitter.

But as Edwards rightly suggests, the first bit of this battle will be fought in, and lost by, the emerging markets. And there will be nothing pretty about it. They’re all drowning in dollar denominated loans and ‘assets’, and it gets harder and more expensive all the time to buy dollars as all this stuff must be rolled over. And the game hasn’t even started yet.

Nov 282014
 
 November 28, 2014  Posted by at 8:58 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC Thanksgiving turkeys for the President Nov 26 1929

Thinking plummeting oil prices are good for the economy is a mistake. They instead, as I said only yesterday in The Price Of Oil Exposes The True State Of The Economy, point out how bad the global economy is doing. QE has been able to inflate stock prices way beyond anything remotely looking fundamental, but energy prices have now deflated instead of stocks. Something had to give at some point. Turns out, central banks weren’t able to inflate oil prices on top of everything else. Stocks and bonds are much easier to artificially inflate than commodities are.

The Fed and ECB and BOJ and PBoC may of course yet try to invest in oil, they’re easily crazy enough to try, but it will be too late even if they did. In that sense, one might argue that OPEC – or rather Saudi Arabia – has gifted us QE4, but the blessings of the ‘low oil price stimulus’ will of necessity be both mixed and short-lived. Because while the lower prices may free some money for consumers, not nearly all of the freed up ‘spending space’ will end up actually being spent. So in the end that’s a net loss as far as spending goes.

The ‘OPEC Q4′ may also keep some companies from going belly up for a while longer due to falling energy costs, but the flipside is many other companies will go bust because of the lower prices, first among them energy industry firms. Moreover, as we’re already seeing, those firms’ market values are certain to plummet. And, see yesterday’s essay linked above, many of eth really large investors, banks, equity funds et al are heavily invested in oil and gas and all that comes with it. And they are about to take some major hits as well. OPEC may have gifted us QE4, but it gave us another present at the same time: deflation in overdrive.

You can’t force people to spend, not if you’re a government, not if you’re a central bank. And if you try regardless, chances are you wind up scaring people into even less spending. That’s the perfect picture of Japan right there. There’s no such thing as central bank omnipotence, and this is where that shows maybe more than anywhere else. And if you can’t force people to spend, you can’t create growth either, so that myth is thrown out with the same bathwater in one fell swoop.

Some may say and think deflation is a good thing, but I say deflation kills economies and societies. Deflation is not about lower prices, it’s about lower spending. Which will down the line lead to lower prices, but then the damage has already been done, it’s just that nobody noticed, because everyone thinks inflation and deflation are about prices, and therefore looks exclusively at prices.

It’s like a parasite can live in your body for a long time before you show symptoms of being sick, but it’s very much there the whole time. A lower gas price may sound nice, but if you don’t understand why prices fall, you risk something like that monster from Alien popping up and out.

I had started writing this when I saw a few nicely fitting articles. First, at MarketWatch, they love the notion of the stimulus effects. They even think a ‘consumer-spending explosion’ is upon us. They’re not going to like what they see. That is, not when all the numbers have gone through their third revision in 6 months or so.

OPEC Has Ushered In QE4

Welcome to the new era of QE4. As if on cue, OPEC stepped in just as monetary policy (at least the Fed’s) has dried up. Central bankers have nothing on the oil cartel that did just what everyone expected, but has still managed to crush oil prices. Protest away about the 1% getting richer and how prior QE hasn’t trickled down to those who really need it, but an oil cartel is coming to the rescue of America and others in the world right now.

It’s hard to imagine a “more wide-reaching and effective stimulus measure than to lower the cost of gas at the pump for everyone globally,” says Alpari U.K.’s Joshua Mahoney. “For this reason, we are effectively entering the era of QE4, with motorists able to allocate more of their money towards luxury items, while firms are now able to lower costs of production thus impacting the bottom line and raising profits.”

The impact of that could be “bigger than anything that has come before,” says Mahoney, who expects that theory to be tested and proved, via sales on Black Friday and the holiday season overall. In short, a consumer-spending explosion as we race to the malls on a full tank of cheap gas. Tossing in his own two cents in the wake of that OPEC decision, legendary investor Jim Rogers says it’s a “fundamental positive for anybody who uses oil, who uses energy.” Just not great if you’re from Canada, Russia or Australia, he says. Or if you’re the ECB, fretting about price deflation. Or until it starts crushing shale producers.

Bloomberg, talking about Europe, has a less cheery tone.

Eurozone Inflation Slows as Draghi Tees Up QE Debate

Eurozone inflation slowed in November to match a five-year low, prodding the European Central Bank toward expanding its unprecedented stimulus program. Consumer prices rose 0.3% from a year earlier, the EU statistics office said today. Unemployment held at 11.5% in October [..] While the slowdown is partly related to a drop in oil prices, President Mario Draghi, who may unveil more pessimistic forecasts after a meeting of policy makers on Dec. 4, says he wants to raise inflation “as fast as possible.” [..]

“The only crumb of comfort for the ECB – and it is not much – is that November’s renewed drop in inflation was entirely due to an increased year-on-year drop in energy prices,” said Howard Archer at IHS. The data are “worrying news” for the central bank, he said. Data yesterday showed Spanish consumer prices dropped 0.5% this month from a year ago, matching the fastest rate of deflation since 2009. In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, inflation slowed to the weakest since February 2010. [..]

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, a long-running opponent to buying government bonds, today highlighted the positive consequence of low oil prices. “There’s a stimulant effect coming from the energy prices – it’s like a mini stimulus package,” he said in Berlin.

Sure, there’s a stimulant effect. But that’s not the only effect. While I’m happy to see Weidmann apparently willing to fight Draghi and his pixies over ECB QE programs, I would think he understands what the other effect is. And if he does, he should be far more worried than he lets on.

But then I stumbled upon a long special report by Gavin Jones for Reuters on Italy, and he does provide intelligent info on that other effect of plunging oil prices. Deflation. As I said, it eats societies alive. I cut two-thirds of the article, but there’s still plenty left to catch the heart of the topic. For anyone who doesn’t understand what deflation really is, or how it works, I think that is an excellent crash course.

Why Italy’s Stay-Home Shoppers Terrify The Eurozone

Italy is stuck in a rut of diminishing expectations. Numbed by years of wage freezes, and skeptical the government can improve their economic fortunes, Italians are hoarding what money they have and cutting back on basic purchases, from detergent to windows. Weak demand has led companies to lower prices in the hope of luring people back into shops. This summer, consumer prices in Italy fell on a year-on-year basis for the first time in a half-century ..

Falling prices eat into company profits and lead to pay cuts and job losses, further depressing demand. The result: Italy is being sucked into a deflationary spiral similar to the one that has afflicted Japan’s economy for much of the past two decades. That is the nightmare scenario that policymakers, led by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, are desperate to avoid.

The euro zone’s third-biggest economy is not alone. Deflation – or continuously falling consumer prices – is considered a risk for the whole currency bloc, and particularly countries on its southern rim. Prices have fallen for 20 months in Greece and five in Spain, for example. Both countries are suffering through deep cuts in salaries and state welfare. Yet Italy, a large economy with a huge public debt, is the country causing most worry. [..]

Like Japan, Italy has one of the world’s oldest and most rapidly aging populations – the kind of people who don’t spend. “It is young people who spend more and take risks,” says Sergio De Nardis, at thinktank Nomisma. In recent years, young people have been the hardest hit by layoffs, he says. Many have left the country to seek work elsewhere. People tend to spend more when they see a bright future. Italian confidence has steadily eroded over the past two decades … In Italy, as in Japan, the lack of economic growth has become chronic.

Underpinning economists’ worries is Italy’s biggest handicap: a huge national debt equal to 132% of national output and still growing. Rising prices make it easier for high-debt countries like Italy to pay the fixed interest rates on their bonds. And debt is usually measured as a proportion of national output, so when output grows, debt shrinks. Because output is measured in money, rising prices – inflation – boost output even if economic activity is stagnant, as in Italy. But if activity is stagnant and prices don’t rise, then the debt-to-output ratio will increase. [..]

Sebastiano Salzone, a diminutive 33-year-old from the poor southern region of Calabria, left with his wife five years ago to run the historic Cafe Fiume on Via Salaria, a traditionally busy shopping street near the center of Rome. Salzone was excited by the challenge. But after four years of grinding recession, his business is struggling to survive. “When I took over they warned me demand was weak and advised me not to raise prices. But now, I’m being forced to cut them,” he says. [..] Despite the lower prices, sales have dropped 40%, or 500 euros a day, in the last three years. [..]

For hard-pressed individuals, low and falling prices can seem a godsend; but low prices lead to business closures, lower wages and job cuts – a lethal spiral. Since Italy entered recession in 2008 it has lost 15% of its manufacturing capacity and more than 80,000 shops and businesses. Those that remain are slashing prices in a battle to survive.

Home fixtures maker Benedetto Iaquone says people are now only changing their windows when they fall apart. To hold onto his €500,000-a-year business, Iaquone says he is cutting prices. By doing so, he is helping fuel the chain of deflation from consumers to other companies.

In Italy’s largest supermarket chains, up to 40% of products are now sold below their recommended retail price, according to sector officials. “There is a constant erosion of our margins,” says Vege chief Santambrogio.

What Italy would look like after a decade of Japan-style deflation is grim to imagine. It is already among the world’s most sluggish economies, with youth unemployment at 43%. As a member of a currency bloc, Rome’s options are limited [..] Italy’s budget has to follow European Union rules.

Lasting deflation would force more companies out of business, reduce already stagnant wages and raise unemployment further [..] The inevitable rise in its public debt could eventually lead to a default and a forced exit from the euro.

Many in southern Europe say the EU should abandon its strict fiscal rules and invest heavily to create jobs. They also say Germany, the region’s strongest economy, should do more to push up its own wages and prices. Mediterranean countries need to price their products lower than Germany to make up for the fact that their goods – particularly engineered products such as cars – are less attractive. But with German inflation at a mere 0.5%, maintaining a decent price difference with Germany is forcing southern European countries into outright deflation.

Italy’s policymakers are trying to stop the drop. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi cut income tax in May by up to €80 a month for the country’s low earners. But so far the emergency measures have had little effect – partly because Italians don’t really believe in them. A survey by the Euromedia agency showed that, despite the €80 cut, 63% of Italians actually think taxes will rise in the medium-term. Early evidence suggests most Italians are saving the extra money in their paychecks. If so, it will be reminiscent of similar attempts to boost demand in Japan in the late 1990s. The Japanese hoarded the windfalls offered by the government rather than spending them.

That same process plays out, as we speak, in a lot more countries, both in Europe and in many other parts of the world: South America, Southeast Asia etc.

Deflation erodes societies, and it guts entire economies like so much fish. Deflation is already a given in Japan, and in most of not all of southern Europe. Where countries might have saved themselves if only they weren’t part of the eurozone.

If Italy had the lira or some other currency, it could devalue it by 20% or so and have a fighting chance. As things stand now, the only option is to keep going down and hope that another country with the same currency Italy has, i.e. Germany, finds some way to boost its own growth. And even if Germany would, at some point in the far future, what part of that would trickle down to Italy? So what’s Renzi’s answer? An €80 a month tax cut for people who paid few taxes to begin with.

Deflation is not lower prices. Deflation is people not spending, then stores lowering their prices because nobody’s buying, then companies firing their employees, and then going broke. Rinse and repeat. Less spending leads to lower prices leads to more unemployment leads to less spending power. If that is not clear, don’t worry; you’ll see so much of it you own’t be able to miss it.

And don’t think the US is immune. Most of the Black Friday and Christmas sales will be plastic, i.e. more debt, and more debt means less future spending power. Unless you have a smoothly growing economy, but that’s not going to happen when Europe, Japan and soon China will be in deflation.

And yes, oil at $50-60-70 a barrel will accelerate the process. But it won’t be the main underlying cause. Deflation was baked into the cake from the moment that large scale debt deleveraging became inevitable, and you can take any moment between the Reagan administration, which first started raising debt levels, to 2008 for that. And all the combined central bank stimulus measures will mean a whole lot more debt deleveraging on top of what there already was.

We’ll get back to this topic. A lot.