Jan 112016
 
 January 11, 2016  Posted by at 9:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Thin White Duke

David Bowie Dies Aged 69 (Reuters)
Chinese Stocks Down 5%, As Rout Ricochets In Asia (MarketWatch)
Chinese Stocks Extend Rout as Economic Growth Concerns Deepen (BBG)
Yuan Liquidity Extremely Tight, Interbank Rates Soar In Hong Kong (BBG)
London Hedge Fund Omni Sees 15% Yuan Drop, and More in a Crisis (BBG)
Australia Bet The House On Never-Ending Chinese Growth (Guardian)
India Concerned About Chinese Currency Devaluation (Reuters)
China PM: We’ll Let Market Forces Fix Overcapacity (Reuters)
Fed’s Williams: “We Got It Wrong” On Benefits Of Low Oil Prices (ZH)
Free Capital Flows Can Put Economies In A Bind (Münchau)
Pensions, Mutual Funds Turn Back to Cash (WSJ)
UK House Price To Crash As Global Asset Prices Unravel (Tel.)
The West Is Losing The Battle For The Heart Of Europe (Reuters)
Newly Elected Catalan President Vows Independence From Spain By 2017 (RT)
Dutch ‘No’ To Kiev-EU Accord Could Trip Continental Crisis: Juncker (AFP)
Britain Abandons Onshore Wind Just As New Technology Makes It Cheap (AEP)
400,000 Syrians Starving In Besieged Areas (AlJazeera)
World’s Poor Lose Out As Aid Is Diverted To The Refugee Crisis (Guardian)

Bowie’s secret: hard work.

David Bowie Dies Aged 69 From Cancer (Reuters)

David Bowie, a music legend who used daringly androgynous displays of sexuality and glittering costumes to frame legendary rock hits “Ziggy Stardust” and “Space Oddity”, has died of cancer. He was 69. “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” read a statement on Bowie’s Facebook page dated Sunday. Born David Jones in the Brixton area of south London, Bowie took up the saxophone at 13. He shot to fame in Europe with 1969’s “Space Oddity”. But it was Bowie’s 1972 portrayal of a doomed bisexual alien rock star, Ziggy Stardust, that propelled him to global stardom. Bowie and Ziggy, wearing outrageous costumes, makeup and bright orange hair, took the rock world by storm.

Bowie said he was gay in an interview in the Melody Maker newspaper in 1972, coinciding with the launch of his androgynous persona, with red lightning bolt across his face and flamboyant clothes. He told Playboy four years later he was bisexual, but in the eighties he told Rolling Stone magazine that the declaration was “the biggest mistake I ever made”, and he was “always a closet heterosexual”. The excesses of a hedonistic life of the real rock star was taking its toll. In a reference to his prodigious appetite for cocaine, he said: “iI blew my nose one day in California,” he said. And half my brains came out. Something had to be done.”

Bowie kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004 but marked his 69th birthday on Friday with the release of a new album, “Blackstar”, with critics giving the thumbs up to the latest work in a long and innovative career. British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.” Steve Martin from Bowie’s publicity company Nasty Little Man confirmed the Facebook report was accurate. “It’s not a hoax,” he told Reuters.

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Close to circuit breaker again. Plunge protection.

Chinese Stocks Down 5%, As Rout Ricochets In Asia (MarketWatch)

China shares slid Monday, and losses in other regional markets deepened, as a rout that knocked trillions of dollars off global stocks last week ricochets back to Asia. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 5.3% to 3,018 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index was last down 3.5%. Shares in Hong Kong sank to their lowest in roughly 2.5 years. The Hang Seng Index was off 2.4% at 19,970, on track to close below 20,000 for the first time since June 2013. A gauge of Chinese firms listed in the city fell 3.5%. Australia s benchmark was down 1.3%, and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.7%. Japan s market was closed for a national holiday. Worries about weakness in the Chinese yuan and how authorities convey their market expectations continue to unnerve investors.

Poorly telegraphed moves last week exacerbated volatility in China, and triggered selling that spread to the rest of the region, the U.S. and Europe. Concerns about China’s stalling economy, with the yuan weakening 1.5% against the U.S. dollar last week, has sparked selling in commodities and currencies of China s trading partners, and sent investors to assets perceived as safe. “There’s no reason for Chinese stock to move up for now”, said Jiwu Chen, CEO of VStone Asset Management. He said investors are closely watching for hints in coming days from officials on their outlook for shares and the yuan, noting that authorities have nudged the yuan stronger starting Friday.

Earlier Monday, China’s central bank fixed the yuan at 6.5833 against the U.S. dollar, guiding the currency stronger from its 6.5938 late Friday. It was the second day the bank guided the yuan stronger, after eight sessions of weaker guidance. The onshore yuan can trade up or down 2% from the fix. The onshore yuan, which trades freely, was last at 6.6727 to the U.S. dollar, compared with 6.6820 late Friday. It reached a five-year low of 6.7511 last Thursday. China’s central bank appears to have spent huge amounts of dollars to support the yuan amid decelerating economic growth and the onset of higher U.S. interest rates. The country’s foreign-exchange regulator said over the weekend that its reserves are relatively sufficient. Reserves dropped by $107.9 billion in December, the biggest monthly drop ever.

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“Policy makers have to be cautious in using intervention as they can’t rescue the market all the time.”

Chinese Stocks Extend Rout as Economic Growth Concerns Deepen (BBG)

Chinese stocks fell, extending last week’s plunge, as factory-gate price data fueled concern the economic slowdown is deepening. The Shanghai Composite Index slid 2.4% to 3,109.95 at the break, led by energy and material companies. The producer price index slumped 5.9% in December, extending declines to a record 46th month, data over the weekend showed. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index tumbled 3.5% at noon, while the Hang Seng Index fell below the 20,000 level for the first time since 2013. “Pessimism is the dominant sentiment,” said William Wong at Shenwan Hongyuan Group in Hong Kong. “The PPI figure confirms the economy is mired in a slump. Market conditions will remain challenging given weak growth and volatility in external markets and the yuan’s depreciation pressure.”

Extreme market swings this year have revived concern over the Communist Party’s ability to manage an economy set to grow at the weakest pace since 1990. Policy makers removed new circuit breakers on Friday after blaming them for exacerbating declines that wiped out $1 trillion this year. [..] The offshore yuan erased early losses after China’s central bank kept the currency’s daily fixing stable for the second day in a row, calming markets after sparking turmoil last week. While state-controlled funds purchased Chinese stocks at least twice last week, according to people familiar with the matter, there was little evidence of intervention on Monday. “Sentiment is very poor,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific Yamaichi Hong Kong. “I don’t see any clear signs of state buying in the mainland market. Policy makers have to be cautious in using intervention as they can’t rescue the market all the time.”

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Yuan shortage.

Yuan Liquidity Extremely Tight, Interbank Rates Soar In Hong Kong (BBG)

Interbank yuan lending rates in Hong Kong climbed to records across the board after suspected intervention by China’s central bank last week mopped up supplies of the currency in the offshore market. The city’s benchmark rates for loans ranging from one day to a year all set new highs, with the overnight and one-week surging by the most since the Treasury Markets Association started compiling the fixings in June 2013. The overnight Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate surged 939 basis points to 13.4% on Monday, while the one-week rate jumped 417 basis points to 11.23%. The previous highs were 9.45% and 10.1%, respectively. “Yuan liquidity is extremely tight in Hong Kong,” said Becky Liu, senior rates strategist at Standard Chartered in the city.

“There was some suspected intervention by the People’s Bank of China last week, and the liquidity impact is starting to show today.” The offshore yuan rebounded from a five-year low last week amid speculation the central bank bought the currency, an action that drains funds from the money market. Measures restricting overseas lenders’ access to onshore liquidity – which make it more expensive to short the yuan in the city – have also curbed supply. The PBOC has said it wants to converge the yuan’s rates at home and abroad, a gap that raises questions about the currency’s market value and hampers China’s push for greater global usage as it prepares to enter the IMF’s reserves basket this October. The offshore yuan’s 1.7% decline last week pushed its discount to the Shanghai price to a record, prompting the IMF to say that it will discuss the widening spread with the authorities.

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What would make one think this is not a crisis?

London Hedge Fund Omni Sees 15% Yuan Drop, and More in a Crisis (BBG)

Omni Partners, the $965 million London hedge fund whose wagers against China helped it beat the industry last year, said the yuan may fall 15% in 2016, and even more if the nation has a credit crisis. The currency, which tumbled to a five-year low last week, would have to drop to 7 or 7.5 a dollar to meaningfully reverse its appreciation and be commensurate with the depreciation of other slowing emerging markets, Chris Morrison, head of strategy of Omni’s macro fund, said in a telephone interview. The yuan slumped 1.4% last week to around 6.59 in Shanghai. “While Chinese authorities have been intervening heavily in the dollar-yuan market, they cannot ultimately fight economic fundamentals,” Morrison said, adding that even the 7-7.5% forecast would be too conservative if China were to have a credit crisis.

“You’ll be talking about the kind of moves that Brazil and Turkey have seen, more like 50%, and that’s how you can create serious numbers like 8, 9 and 10 against the dollar.” The yuan’s biggest weekly loss since an Aug. 11 devaluation prompted banks including Goldman Sachs and ABN Amro Bank, which Bloomberg data show had the most-accurate forecasts for the yuan over the past year, to cut their estimates for the currency. The options market is also signaling that the yuan’s slide has plenty of room to run, with the contracts indicating there’s a 33% chance that the yuan will weaken beyond 7 a dollar, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The declining currency, a debt pile estimated at 280% of GDP and a volatile equity market are complicating Premier Li Keqiang’s efforts to boost an economy estimated to grow at the slowest pace in 25 years. While intervention stabilized the yuan for almost four months following an Aug. 11 devaluation, the action led to the first-ever annual decline in the foreign-exchange reserves as capital outflows increased. Policy makers also propped up shares in the midst of a $5 trillion rout last summer, including ordering stock purchases by state funds. While a weaker yuan would support China’s flagging export sector, it also boosts risks for the nation’s foreign-currency borrowers and heightens speculation that the slowdown in Asia’s biggest economy is deeper than official data suggest.

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A hard rain is gonna fall.

Australia Bet The House On Never-Ending Chinese Growth (Guardian)

Over the last couple of decades, China has undergone profound change and is often cited as an economic growth miracle. Day by day, however, the evidence becomes increasingly clear the probability of a severe economic and financial downturn in China is on the cards. This is not good news at all for Australia. The country is heavily exposed, as China comprises Australia’s top export market, at 33%, more than double the second (Japan at 15%). A considerable proportion of Australia’s current and future economic prospects depend heavily on China’s current strategy of building its way out of poverty while sustaining strong real GDP growth.

To date, China has successfully pulled hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty and into the middle class through mass provision of infrastructure and expansion of housing markets, alongside a powerful export operation which the global economy has relied upon since the 1990s for cheap imports. Though last week’s volatile falls on the Chinese stock markets alongside a weakening yuan sent shockwaves through the global markets, Australia’s exposure lies much deeper within the Chinese economy. The miracle is starting to look more and more fallible as it slumps under heavy corporate debts and an over-construction spree which shall never again be replicated in our lifetimes or that of our children.

As of the second quarter of 2015, China’s household sector debt was a moderate 38% of GDP but its booming private non-financial business sector debt was 163%. Added together, it gives a total of 201% and its climbing rapidly. This may well be a conservative figure, given it is widely acknowledged the central government has overstated GDP growth. Australia, though it frequently features high on lists of the world’s most desirable locations, currently has the world’s second most indebted household sector, at 122% of GDP, soon to overtake Denmark in first place. Combined with private non-financial business sector debt, Australia has a staggering total of 203%, vastly larger than public debts at all levels of government.

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There’ll be alot of this.

India Concerned About Chinese Currency Devaluation (Reuters)

India on Friday called the slide in China’s yuan a “worrying” development for its flagging exports and said it was discussing possible measures to deal with a likely surge in imports from its northern neighbour. Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the yuan’s fall would worsen India’s trade deficit with China. While the government would not rush into any action, it had discussed likely steps it could take to counter an expected flood of cheap steel imports with domestic producers and the finance ministry, she said. The comments came a day after China allowed the biggest fall in the yuan in five months, pressuring regional currencies and sending global stock markets tumbling as investors feared it would trigger competitive devaluations.

“My deficit with China will widen,” she told reporters. India’s trade deficit with China stood at about $27 billion between April-September last year compared with nearly $49 billion in the fiscal year ending in March 2015. India steel companies such as JSW Ltd have asked the government to set a minimum import price to stop cheap imports undercutting them. A similar measure was adopted in 1999. “We have done ground work but are not rushing into it,” Sitharaman said when asked if India would impose a minimum import price for steel.

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?? “..even during an enormous steel glut last year, China had to import certain high-quality steel products, such as the tips of ballpoint pens. ..”

China PM: We’ll Let Market Forces Fix Overcapacity (Reuters)

China will use market solutions to ease its overcapacity woes and will not use investment stimulus to expand demand, Premier Li Keqiang said during a recent visit to northern Shanxi province, according to state media. “We will let the market play a decisive role, we will let businesses compete against each other and let those unable to compete die out,” the state-run Beijing News quoted Li as saying. “At the same time, we need to prioritize new forms of economic development.” Li said the country needed to improve existing production facilities because even during an enormous steel glut last year, China had to import certain high-quality steel products, such as the tips of ballpoint pens.

China needed to set ceilings on steel and coal production volumes and government officials should use remote sensing equipment to check companies, the premier also said, according to the article, which was re-posted on the State Council’s website. During his visit to Chongqing earlier this month, President Xi Jinping said China would focus on reducing overcapacity and lowering corporate costs.

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As I said from the start. ZH did too. Seems such an easy thing to predict, because such a large part of our economies depend on jobs connected with oil.

Fed’s Williams: “We Got It Wrong” On Benefits Of Low Oil Prices (ZH)

In late 2014 and early 2015, we tried to warn anyone who cared to listen time and time and time again that crashing crude prices are unambiguously bad for the economy and the market, contrary to what every Keynesian hack, tenured economist, Larry Kudlow and, naturally, central banker repeated – like a broken – record day after day: that the glorious benefits of the “gas savings tax cut” would unveil themselves any minute now, and unleash a new golden ago economic prosperity and push the US economy into 3%+ growth. Indeed, it was less than a year ago, on January 30 2015, when St. Louis Fed president Jim Bullard told Bloomberg TV that the oil price drop is unambiguously positive for the US. It wasn’t, and the predicted spending surge never happened. However, while that outcome was not surprising at all, what we were shocked by is that on Friday, following a speech to the California Bankers Association in Santa Barbara, during the subsequent Q&A, San Fran Fed president John Williams actually admitted the truth.

The Fed got it wrong when it predicted a drop in oil prices would be a big boon for the economy. It turned out the world had changed; the US has a lot of jobs connected to the oil industry.

And there you have it: these are the people micromanaging not only the S&P500 but the US, and thus, the global economy – by implication they have to be the smartest people not only in the room, but in the world. As it turns out, they are about as clueless as it gets because the single biggest alleged positive driver of the US economy, as defined by the Fed, ended up being the single biggest drag to the economy, as a “doom and gloomish conspiracy blog” repeatedly said, and as the Fed subsequently admitted. At this point we would have been the first to give Williams, and the Fed, props for admitting what in retrospect amounts to an epic mistake, and perhaps cheer a Fed which has changed its mind as the facts changed… and then we listened a little further into the interview only to find that not only has the Fed not learned anything at all, but is now openly lying to justify its mistake. To wit:

I would argue that we are seeing [the benefits of lower oil]. We are seeing them where we would expect to see them: consumer spending has been growing faster than you would otherwise expect.

Actually John, no, you are not seeing consumer spending growing faster at all; you are seeing consumer spending collapse as a cursory 5 second check at your very own St. Louis Fed chart depository will reveal:

But the absolute cherry on top proving once and for all just how clueless the Fed remains despite its alleged epiphany, was Wiliams “conclusion” that consumers will finally change their behavior because having expected the gas drop to be temporary, now that gas prices have been low for “over a year” when responding to surveys, US consumers now expect oil to remain here, and as a result will splurge. So what Williams is saying is… short every energy company and prepare for mass defaults because oil will not rebound contrary to what the equity market is discounting. We can’t wait for Williams to explain in January 2017 how he was wrong – again – that a tsunami of energy defaults would be “unambiguously good” for the US economy.

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Capital controls, protectionism, we’ll see all this and more.

Free Capital Flows Can Put Economies In A Bind (Münchau)

When Margaret Thatcher took power in Britain in 1979, one of her first decisions as prime minister was to scrap capital controls. It was the beginning of a new era and not just for Britain. Free capital movement has since become one of the axioms of modern global capitalism. It is also one of the “four freedoms” of Europe’s single market (along with unencumbered movement of people, goods and services). We might now ask whether the removal of the policy instrument of capital controls may have contributed to a succession of financial crises. To answer that, it is instructive to revisit a debate of three decades ago, when many in Europe invested their hopes in a combination of free trade, free capital mobility, a fixed exchange rate and an independent monetary policy — four policies that the late Italian economist, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, called an “inconsistent quartet”.

What he meant was that the combination is logically impossible. If Britain, say, fixed its exchange rate to the Deutschmark, and if capital and goods could move freely across borders, the Bank of England would have to follow the policies of the Bundesbank. In the early 1990s, Britain put this to the test, joining the single European market and pegging its currency to Germany’s. The music soon stopped; after less than two years in the exchange-rate mechanism, sterling went back to a floating exchange rate. Other European countries took a different course, sacrificing monetary independence and creating a common currency. Both choices were internally consistent. What has changed since then is the rising importance of cross-border finance. Many emerging markets do not have a sufficiently strong financial infrastructure of their own.

Companies and individuals thus take out loans from foreigners denominated in euros or dollars. Latin America is reliant on US finance, just as Hungary relies on Austrian banks. With the end of quantitative easing in the US and rising interest rates, money is draining out of dollar-based emerging markets. Theoretically, it is the job of a central bank to bring the ensuing havoc to an end, which standard economic theory suggests it should be able to do so long as it follows a domestic inflation target. But if large parts of the economy are funded by foreign money, its room for manoeuvre is limited — as the French economist Hélène Rey has explained. In the good times, Prof Rey finds, credit flows into emerging markets where it fuels local asset price bubbles. When, years later, liquidity dries up and the hot money returns to safe havens in North America and Europe, the country is left in a mess.

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Unease.

Pensions, Mutual Funds Turn Back to Cash (WSJ)

U.S. public pension plans and mutual funds are sheltering more of their holdings in cash than they have in years, a sign of growing stress in financial markets. The ultradefensive stance reflects investors’ skittishness about global economic growth and uncertain prospects for further gains in assets. Pension funds have the added need to cut more checks as Americans retire in greater numbers, while mutual funds want cash to cover the risk that investors spooked by volatile markets will pull out more of their money. Large public retirement systems and open-end U.S. mutual funds have yanked nearly $200 billion from the market since mid-2014, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the most recent data available from Wilshire Trust Universe, Morningstar and the federal government.

That leaves pension funds with the highest cash levels as a percentage of assets since 2004. For mutual funds, the percentage of assets held in cash was the highest for the end of any quarter since at least 2007. The data run through Sept. 30, but many money managers say they remain very conservative. Pension consultants say some fund managers are considering socking even more of their assets into cash as they wait for the markets to calm down. “Some clients are asking us, ‘Would we be crazy to put 10% or 15% of our assets into cash?’,” said Michael A. Moran Goldman Sachs. Public pensions and mutual funds collectively manage $16 trillion, close to the value of U.S. gross domestic product, so even small shifts in their holdings can ripple through the trading world.

The movement of longer-term money to the sidelines has left the market increasingly in the hands of investors such as hedge funds, high-speed traders and exchange-traded funds that buy and sell more frequently, potentially leaving it more vulnerable to sharp swings, according to some money managers. [..] Managers of some pension plans and mutual funds said they limited their losses last year by moving more of their holdings into cash. Returns on cash-like securities were basically zero in 2015, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.2% and the S&P 500 declined 0.7%. New York City’s $162 billion retirement system has more than tripled its cash holdings since mid-2014 to cut the plan’s interest-rate exposure. As a result, New York City’s allocations to plain vanilla stocks and fixed-income securities have fallen.

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“In the US following the December rate rise the cost of mortgages has soared by 50pc. ”

UK House Price To Crash As Global Asset Prices Unravel (Tel.)

House prices have broken free from reality and defied gravity for far too long, but they are an asset like anything else, and there are six clear reasons a nasty correction looms in the coming year . Asset prices around the world soared as central bankers embarked on the greatest money printing experiment in history. While much of that money flowed into the stock market, a great deal also found its way into house prices. What we are now witnessing on trading screens around the world is the unwinding of the era of monetary excess, and house prices will not escape the fallout. The end of easy money began when the US stopped its third QE programme in October 2014. That date marks the point the US balance sheet, or amount of money in the system, stopped rising, having soared from $800m in 2008 to more than $4 trillion.

Without an ever-increasing supply of money the world economy is now slowing sharply. The first assets to be impacted by the downturn were commodities. The price of things such as oil are set daily in one of the largest and most highly traded markets across the world and as a result it is highly sensitive to any changes in demand and supply. Admittedly there are also supply-side factors impacting the oil price, but the weak demand from a slump is still a major factor. The next asset to fall was share prices. There was a delay of about 12 months because even though shares are also traded daily, their value depends on the profits of the company, and the impact of the commodity collapse took about a year to feed through. There is a delayed effect on property prices because the market is so inefficient.

Transactions can take up to three months to complete and the property itself may have to languish on the market for even longer. The prices are also dictated by estate agents, who have an interest in inflating them to raise fees. The number of transactions is also still about 40pc below that of 2006 and 2007, which allows prices to stray from the fundamentals for a longer period. It is true that Britain is suffering from a housing shortage, which drove UK house prices to a record high of an average of £208,286 in December, but like all asset prices they are on borrowed time. The fundamentals of demand and supply in UK housing will undergo a huge shift in the year ahead. A large portion of the demand for UK housing will fall away as the benefits of buy-to-let have effectively been killed off in recent budgets.

George Osborne slapped a huge tax increase on buy-to-let in the summer Budget, which will take effect from 2017 onwards. The removal of mortgage interest relief was the first stage and was followed by hiking stamp duty four months later in the November review. This could prove a double whammy on the housing market, turning potential buyers into sellers, and flooding the market with additional supply. A survey of landlords suggested 200,000 plan to exit the sector. The rapid growth of buy-to-let during the past decade looks set to be slammed into reverse.

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Implosion.

The West Is Losing The Battle For The Heart Of Europe (Reuters)

A little over a quarter of a century ago, Europe celebrated the healing of the schism that Communism enforced on it since World War Two, and which produced great tribunes of freedom. Lech Walesa, the Polish shipyard electrician, climbed over his yard wall in Gdansk to join and then lead a strike in 1980 – lighting the fuse to ignite, 10 years and a period of confinement later, a revolution that couldn’t be squashed. He was elected president in 1990. Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer and dissident who served years in prison for his opposition to the Communist government, emerged as the natural leader of the democrats who articulated the frustration of the country. He was elected president of the still-united Czechoslovakia in 1989.

Jozsef Antall, a descendant of the Hungarian nobility who opposed both the Hungarian fascists and communists, was imprisoned for helping lead the 1956 revolt against the Soviet Union. And he was foremost in the negotiations to end Communist rule in the late 1980s. He survived to be elected prime minister in 1990. These men were inspirations to their fellow citizens, heroes to the wider democratic world and were thought to be the advance guard of people who would grow and prosper in a Europe eschewing every kind of authoritarianism. Havel could say, with perfect certainty, that the Communists in power had developed in Czechs “a profound distrust of all generalizations, ideological platitudes, clichés, slogans, intellectual stereotypes… we are now largely immune to all hypnotic enticements, even of the traditionally persuasive national or nationalistic variety.”

It isn’t like that now. Poland, largest and most successful of the Central European states has, in the governing Law and Justice Party, a group of politicians driving hard to remold the institutions of the state so that their power withstands all challenge. The government has sought to pack the constitutional court with a majority of its supporters; extended the powers of the intelligence services and put a supporter at their head; and signed into law a measure which puts broadcasting under direct state control.

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Democracy under scrutiny.

Newly Elected Catalan President Vows Independence From Spain By 2017 (RT)

The Catalan parliament has sworn in Carles Puigdemont as the president of Catalonia. He will lead the region in its push towards independence from Spain by 2017. “We begin an extremely important process, unparalleled in our recent history, to create the Catalonia that we want, to collectively build a new country,” Puigdemont told the Catalan parliament, vowing to continue with his predecessor Artur Mas’ initiative to pull the region into independence. Puigdemont’s candidacy was backed by 70 lawmakers while 63 voted against, with two abstentions. The parliament has been in deadlock since Spain’s ruling party won most of the seats in September elections but failed to obtain a majority.

The Catalan parties had to agree on a new leader before Monday to avoid holding new regional elections. In a “last minute change”, Catalonia’s former president Artus Mas agreed to step down on Saturday and not seek reelection as pro-independence ‘Together for Yes’ coalition representative. The new candidate was backed by the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, whose 10 seats has allowed them to secure a majority in the 135-seat chamber. The Catalan 18-month roadmap to independence suggests the approval of its own constitution and the building of necessary institutions, such as a central bank, judicial system and army.

Meanwhile Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated on Sunday that he would block any Catalan move towards independence to “defend the sovereignty” and “preserve democracy and all over Spain.” Catalonia has a population of 7.5 million people and represents nearly a fifth of Spain’s economic output. The local population has been dissatisfied with their taxes being used by Madrid to support poorer areas of the country.

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Shut up! Show some respect for democracy.

Dutch ‘No’ To Kiev-EU Accord Could Trip Continental Crisis: Juncker (AFP)

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged Dutch voters Saturday not to oppose an EU cooperation deal with Ukraine, saying such a move “could open the doors to a continental crisis”. A citizens’ campaign in the Netherlands spearheaded by three strongly eurosceptic groups garnered more than 300,000 votes needed to trigger a non-binding referendum on the deal, three months from now. Observers said the vote, set for April 6, pointed more towards broader euroscepticism among the Dutch than actual opposition to the trade deal with Kiev, which fosters deeper cooperation with Brussels. A Dutch ‘no’ “could open the doors to a continental crisis,” Juncker told the authoritative NRC daily newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

“Let’s not change the referendum into a vote about Europe,” Juncker urged Dutch voters, adding: “I sincerely hope that (the Dutch) won’t vote no for reasons that have nothing to do with the treaty itself.” Should Dutch voters oppose the deal, Russia “stood to benefit most,” he said. The 2014 association agreement provisionally came into effect on January 1 and nudges the former Soviet bloc nation towards eventual EU membership. On a visit to the Netherlands in November, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the deal as the start of a new era for the Ukraine. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said his government was bound by law to hold the referendum, and would afterwards assess the results to see if any change in policy was merited.

Although the results are not binding on Rutte’s Liberal-Labour coalition, the referendum is likely to be closely watched as eurosceptic parties – including that of far-right politician Geert Wilders – rise in the Dutch polls ahead of elections due in 2017. Russia has been incensed by the EU’s move to bring Ukraine closer to the European fold.

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Ambrose won’t let go of his techno dreams.

Britain Abandons Onshore Wind Just As New Technology Makes It Cheap (AEP)

The world’s biggest producer of wind turbines has accused Britain of obstructing use of new technology that can slash costs, preventing the wind industry from offering one of the cheapest forms of energy without subsidies. Anders Runevad, CEO of Vestas, said his company’s wind turbines can compete onshore against any other source of energy in the UK without need for state support, but only if the Government sweeps away impediments to a free market. While he stopped short of rebuking the Conservatives for kowtowing to ‘Nimbyism’, the wind industry is angry that ministers are changing the rules in an erratic fashion and imposing guidelines that effectively freeze development of onshore wind. “We can compete in a market-based system in onshore wind and we are happy to take on the challenge, so long as we are able to use our latest technology,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“The UK has a tip-height restriction of 125 meters and this is cumbersome. Our new generation is well above that,” he said. Vestas is the UK’s market leader in onshore wind. Its latest models top 140 meters, towering over St Paul’s Cathedral. They capture more of the wind current and have bigger rotors that radically change the economics of wind power. “Over the last twenty years costs have come down by 80pc. They have come down by 50pc in the US since 2009,” said Mr Runevad. Half of all new turbines in Sweden are between 170 and 200 meters, while the latest projects in Germany average 165 meters. “Such limits mean the UK is being left behind in international markets,” said a ‘taskforce report’ by RenewableUK. The new technology has complex electronics, feeding ‘smart data’ from sensors back to a central computer system.

They have better gear boxes and hi-tech blades that raise yield and lower noise. The industry has learned the art of siting turbines, and controlling turbulence and sheer. Economies of scale have done the rest. This is why average purchase prices for wind power in the US have fallen to the once unthinkable level of 2.35 cents per kilowatt/hour (KWh), according to the US energy Department. At this level wind competes toe-to-toe with coal or gas, even without a carbon tax, an increasingly likely prospect in the 2020s following the COP21 climate deal in Paris. American Electric Power in Oklahoma tripled its demand for local wind power last year simply because the bids came in so low. “We estimate that onshore wind is either the cheapest or close to being the cheapest source of energy in most regions globally,” said Bank of America in a report last month.

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This is where EU, Turkey wish to send people back into.

400,000 Syrians Starving In Besieged Areas (AlJazeera)

As aid agencies prepare to deliver food to Madaya, on the outskirts of Damascus, and two other besieged towns in Idlib province, an estimated 400,000 people are living under siege in 15 areas across Syria, according to the UN. A deal struck on Saturday permits the delivery of food to Madaya, currently surrounded by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the villages of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib, both of which are hemmed in by rebel fighters. Due to a siege imposed by the Syrian government and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, an estimated 42,000 people in Madaya have little to no access to food, resulting in the deaths of at least 23 people by starvation so far, according to the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Reports of widespread malnutrition have emerged, some of them suggesting that Madaya residents are resorting to eating grass and insects for survival. In Kefraya and Foua, about 12,500 people are cut off from access to aid supplies by rebel groups, including al-Nusra Front. On December 26, Syrian government forces set up a checkpoint and sealed off the final road to Moadamiyah, a rebel-controlled town on the outskirts of Damascus, demanding that opposition groups lay down their arms and surrender. The Moadamiyah Media Office, run by pro-opposition activists, estimates that 45,000 civilians are stuck in the area for more than two weeks. The organisation said on Saturday that a siege that started in April 2013 and lasted a year, resulted in the deaths of 16 local residents due to a lack of food and medicine. It said the current one has killed one local resident so far this year: an eight-month-old boy who died from malnutrition on January 10.

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As we enter another crisis ourselves, we will need to become more generous. Or face chaos.

World’s Poor Lose Out As Aid Is Diverted To The Refugee Crisis (Guardian)

Sweden is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to international aid. Along with other Scandinavian countries, it has given bounteously to less fortunate nations for many years. With a population of under 10 million, it also takes more than its fair share of asylum seekers – an estimated 190,000 last year, with a further 100,000 to 170,000 expected to arrive in 2016. This is proving to be an expensive business. The Swedish migration agency says the cost of assimilating such a large number of asylum seekers will be €6.4bn (£4.4bn) this year – and a debate is raging about whether the aid budget should be raided to help meet the bill. In 2015, 25% of the aid budget was spent on refugees. One proposal is to raise that figure to 60%.

Other countries are responding in similar fashion. Italy raised its aid spending in 2015, but the extra money was mostly spent domestically on those who successfully made the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean from north Africa. Final figures for development assistance collated by the OECD show that global aid spending rose to a record level of $137.2bn (£94bn) in 2014 – an increase of 1.2% on the previous year. But the money is not going to those countries that are in the greatest need. Spending on the least developed countries (LDCs) fell by almost 5% and as a share of the total fell below 30% for the first time since 2005. Donor countries are increasingly dipping into their aid budgets to deal with the migration crisis or diverting money that would previously have gone to sub-Saharan Africa to countries that are deemed to be fragile, such as Egypt, Pakistan and Syria, but are not classified as LDCs.

What’s more, the trend is likely to have continued and accelerated in 2015, a year that saw far more people arriving in Europe from north Africa and the Middle East. Italy was already spending 61% of its aid budget on refugees in 2014. For Greece, the other country on the front line, the figure was 46%. It is hardly surprising that the governments in Rome and Athens have responded in this way. Both have had austerity measures foisted upon them and are seeking to make ends meet as best they can. The fact is, though, that the entire development assistance system is creaking under the strain at a time when demands for aid are increasing.

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Jun 292015
 
 June 29, 2015  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Alfred Eisenstaedt Actress Marilyn Monroe at home 1953

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“..low rates beget lower rates…”

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

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

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

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

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

The Staggering Cost Of Central Bank Dependence (Wyplosz)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Democracy? What’s that?”

Athens Is Being Blackmailed (Philippe Legrain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The US had better get going on the topic.

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

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

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

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

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

The Moral Crusade Against Greece Must Be Opposed (Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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Merkel’s fumble. Dropped ball.

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

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

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

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

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

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Incredibly tragic.

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

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

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

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

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

Grisis (Paul Krugman)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Long predicted, now reality.

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

Carnage…

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

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

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

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

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

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XI and Li better think of something, fast.

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

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

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

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

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No way.

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

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

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

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

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Not a chance.

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

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

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

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More crisis.

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

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

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

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Mar 182015
 
 March 18, 2015  Posted by at 6:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


DPC Station at foot of incline, American Falls, Niagara Falls 1890

The US Economy Just Keeps Disappointing (Bloomberg)
‘Hell Will Break Loose’ If Fed Loses Patience (MarketWatch)
Options Market Signals 2007-Like Crash Risk, Goldman Warns (Zero Hedge)
US Housing Starts Plunge Most in Four Years (Bloomberg)
New BoE Regulator Warns Of Risks From US Rate Hikes, Dollar Strength (Reuters)
Europeans Defy US To Join China-Led Development Bank (FT)
Debunking $1.4 Trillion Europe Debt Myth in Post-Heta Age (Bloomberg)
Greek PM Tsipras To Meet Merkel, Draghi In Brussels On Friday (Kathimerini)
Greece WWII Reparations Cause Split Among German MPs (RT)
Athens Furious At Eurogroup Suggestion Of Capital Controls (Kathimerini)
Greece Grabs Cash as More Than $2 Billion in Payouts Loom (Bloomberg)
Greece’s Euro Exit Seems Inevitable (Bloomberg)
EU Warns Against Bills On Debt Settlement, Humanitarian Crisis (Kathimerini)
Japan Exports Slow Sharply In February But Beat Expectations (CNBC)
China New Home Prices Post Sixth Consecutive Monthly Decline (CNBC)
BoE’s Brazier Says Greek Shock Could Trigger Market Correction (Bloomberg)
EU Support for Russia Sanctions Is Waning (Bloomberg)
ECB Celebration of Its New $1.4 Billion Tower Spoiled by Protests (Bloomberg)
Bolivia: A Country That Dared to Exist (Benjamin Dangl)

“..relative to where economists thought we would be, the U.S. is missing by a large margin..”

The US Economy Just Keeps Disappointing (Bloomberg)

Last week, we reported on how the U.S. economy was the most disappointing major economy in the world based on the Bloomberg Economic Surprise Index, which measures incoming economic data against economist expectations. These measures tend to move in cycles, as they reflect both the absolute economic data as well as the optimism or pessimism of the forecasters, which is in itself cyclical. For the U.S. we keep driving lower, hitting depths not seen since the economic crisis. Again, this doesn’t mean that the economy is anywhere near as bad as it was then. But whether it’s a slowdown caused by the harsh winter or something else, relative to where economists thought we would be, the U.S. is missing by a large margin.

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“On the other hand, if Janet is patient and says so, we’re all going to make an absurd amount of money.”

‘Hell Will Break Loose’ If Fed Loses Patience (MarketWatch)

Daytraders tend to relish when the market bounces around like a leprechaun on a hot griddle. But for everybody else, it’s tense times in the trading pits these days. While a calm often settles over markets in the days leading into a hyped-up Fed statement, recent action says to gird for more rockiness. Dips are being bought and profits are being scalped. Yet for all the sparks flying on the S&P, its up only 1% so far this year. That’s better than down, of course, unless you’re betting the “don’t pass” line. But compare that with the 24% explosion to the upside on Germany’s main index, and you’d be pardoned for suffering Teutonic envy. Shanghai, while no Germany, is also doing better than U.S. stocks, and a tandem of brokers are feeling the bull run in China has a long way to run (see call of the day).

Nevertheless, the U.S. is still firmly entrenched in its own bull party, despite recent queasiness. In fact, we’re just about 2,200 days into it. Another two months, and this bull market will overtake the one from 1974-1980 as the third-longest since 1929, according to Bloomberg. Getting there just might hinge on the Fed’s next move. It could go either way, according to the Fly from the iBankCoin blog, who spoke of extremes. “If we find out this Wednesday that [Janet Yellen] is not, in fact, patient, hell will break loose and 66 seals of hell will be broken — paving way for actual centaurs to roam, wall-kicking people in the faces with their hooves,” he wrote. “On the other hand, if Janet is patient and says so, we’re all going to make an absurd amount of money.”

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“..an epic decoupling of put prices and S&P P/E ratios”

Options Market Signals 2007-Like Crash Risk, Goldman Warns (Zero Hedge)

Although US equity prices have demonstrated a remarkable propensity to completely disregard apparently unimportant things like macro fundamentals, forward earnings estimates, and top-line growth projections, we’ve long argued that eventually, reality will come calling and the farther stretched valuations become in the meantime, the more painful the correction will be. As we noted on Sunday, the cracks are starting to form as DB became the first sell-side firm to predict that EPS will in fact not grow in 2015, prompting us to remark that “EPS growth in 2015 [is] now a wash (if not negative), which implies the only upside for the S&P 500 will once again come from substantial multiple expansion.” Against this backdrop of declining revenues, declining earnings, and pitiable economic projections (thanks a lot Atlanta Fed Nowcast), we bring you yet another sign that a “correction” may indeed be in the cards: an epic decoupling of put prices and S&P P/E ratios. Here’s Goldman:

Long-dated crash put protection costs on the SPX have more than doubled over the past 9 months. We believe it is an important development to watch as it implies investors are increasingly concerned about downside risk even as US equities trade near all-time highs. Based on our conversations with investors over the past few months, it appears the increase in long-dated put prices has largely gone unnoticed among equity and credit investors. In fact, Investment Grade credit spreads have actually tightened slightly over the same period. The rise in long-dated equity put prices may signal an increasing fear that a substantial market correction is on the horizon, despite low short-term put prices which suggest low probably of a near-term drawdown vs history.

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“It was just the weather, basically..”: “Starts of single-family properties dropped 14.9%..” “New construction slumped a record 56.5% in the Northeast..”

US Housing Starts Plunge Most in Four Years (Bloomberg)

Housing starts slumped in February by the most in four years as bad winter weather in parts of the U.S. prevented builders from initiating new projects. Work began on 897,000 houses at an annualized rate, down 17% from January and the fewest in a year, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday in Washington. The median estimate of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 1.04 million. “It was just the weather, basically,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp. in Birmingham, Alabama. Still, “my view of the recovery in single-family housing is that it’s coming more gradually than others think.” An increase in building permits was driven by applications for multifamily units, indicating single-family construction, the biggest part of the market, will keep struggling.

While stronger hiring and low borrowing costs have helped the industry advance, sales remain challenged by limited supply of cheaper homes and sluggish wage growth. The median estimate of 81 economists in the Bloomberg survey called for 1.04 million starts. Estimates ranged from annualized rates of 975,000 to 1.08 million after a previously reported January pace of 1.07 million. Building permits climbed 3% to a 1.09 million annualized pace, the fastest since October, after a 1.06 million rate a month earlier. They were projected at 1.07 million, according to the Bloomberg survey median. Permits for single-family dwellings were the lowest since May.

Stock-index futures held losses after the figures. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in June dropped 0.3% to 2,063.3. Starts of single-family properties dropped 14.9% to a 593,000 rate in February. Construction of multifamily projects such as condominiums and apartment buildings decreased 20.8% to an annual rate of 304,000. New construction slumped a record 56.5% in the Northeast and fell 37%, the most since January 2014, in the Midwest. Starts also dropped in the South and West, indicating weather was only partly to blame.

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Hollow.

New BoE Regulator Warns Of Risks From US Rate Hikes, Dollar Strength (Reuters)

The start of U.S. interest rate rises could inject volatility into global financial markets and create risks for Britain’s financial stability, a new member of the Bank of England’s top panel of financial regulators said on Tuesday. Alex Brazier, who took a seat on the BoE’s Financial Policy Committee on Monday, cited the normalisation of U.S. borrowing costs as one of the main global risks for markets. The FPC was set up in 2013 after the failure of Britain’s financial regulation to protect the country against the 2007-08 financial crisis. Last year it imposed curbs on large mortgages and required banks to hold more reserves against potential losses. Brazier – in remarks which share concerns expressed by other BoE officials – said rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve or a change in perceptions of their timing and scale would reflect good news about the U.S. economic recovery.

“However, it would probably reduce the extent of the search for yield and prompt a reduction in global risk appetite,” Brazier said in answer to questions from members of parliament who are reviewing his appointment. Brazier joined the BoE in 2001 after university, and most recently served as principal private secretary to Governor Mark Carney and his predecessor, Mervyn King. “Both of them pushed me to the edges of my limits,” Brazier said, noting that his hair had turned prematurely grey. Brazier is now the BoE’s executive director for financial stability, strategy and risk. This is a new role created last year by Carney as part of a shake-up of the bank. BoE chief economist Spencer Dale briefly held the job before he quit to become chief economist for oil company BP.

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“.. the White House criticism of Britain was a case of sour grapes: “They couldn’t have got congressional approval to join the AIIB, even if they wanted to.”

Europeans Defy US To Join China-Led Development Bank (FT)

France, Germany and Italy have all agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join a China-led international development bank, according to European officials, delivering a blow to US efforts to keep leading western countries out of the new institution. The decision by the three European governments comes after Britain announced last week that it would join the $50bn Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a potential rival to the Washington-based World Bank. Australia, a key US ally in the Asia-Pacific region which had come under pressure from Washington to stay out of the new bank, has also said that it will now rethink that position.

The European decisions represent a significant setback for the Obama administration, which has argued that western countries could have more influence over the workings of the new bank if they stayed together on the outside and pushed for higher lending standards. The AIIB, which was formally launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping last year, is one element of a broader Chinese push to create new financial and economic institutions that will increase its international influence. It has become a central issue in the growing contest between China and the US over who will define the economic and trade rules in Asia over the coming decades. When Britain announced its decision to join the AIIB last week, the Obama administration told the Financial Times that it was part of a broader trend of “constant accommodation” by London of China.

British officials were relatively restrained in their criticism of China over its handling of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year. Britain tried to gain “first mover advantage” last week by signing up to the fledgling Chinese-led bank before other G7 members. The UK government claimed it had to move quickly because of the impending May 7 general election. The move by George Osborne, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, won plaudits in Beijing. Britain hopes to establish itself as the number one destination for Chinese investment and UK officials were unrepentant. One suggested that the White House criticism of Britain was a case of sour grapes: “They couldn’t have got congressional approval to join the AIIB, even if they wanted to.”

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A potential bombshell.

Debunking $1.4 Trillion Europe Debt Myth in Post-Heta Age (Bloomberg)

Austria’s decision to burn bondholders of a failed state bank may mean almost €1.3 trillion of European debt once deemed risk-free now comes with a hazard warning. Austria is the first country to wind down a bank, Heta, under the EU’s new Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive after changing laws last year to allow it to write down subordinated debt of its failed predecessor, Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank. The government is also refusing to stand behind guarantees by the province of Carinthia on Heta’s senior debt. The moves are putting bondholders at risk of losses. As age-old banking mores clash with modern banking rules, investors are being forced to take a second look at how governments have used explicit or implicit promises in the past to issue debt that doesn’t show up in official ledgers.

“People had too much trust in public authorities,” said Otto Dichtl, a credit analyst for financial companies at Stifel Nicolaus. “Austria dropping Carinthia like this is an extraordinary step. We have to see just how this is carried out. From a legal perspective, this is uncharted territory.” Based on current bond prices, Heta’s senior creditors, who bought securities covered by a guarantee from Carinthia province, face losses of more than 40% on their €10.2 billion of debt. Carinthia, a southern Austrian region of 556,000 people with annual revenue of less than €2.4 billion, may face insolvency if the guarantees are triggered. Until this year, figures for debt guarantees weren’t disclosed in most European countries, a fact that helped Greece conceal its true debt levels to gain entry to the euro in 2001.

Greece undertook the biggest debt restructuring on record in 2012. New rules by the European Council, known as the “six pack” directive, led to data as of 2013 being published for the first time last month, revealing €1.28 trillion of government guarantees. The EU introduced the six laws in 2011. As the EU’s biggest user of guarantees, Austria has contingent liabilities corresponding to 35% of national output, or €113 billion, the data show. It isn’t just Austria that has liberally applied state guarantees. Ireland has contingent liabilities equivalent to 32% of its economy, reflecting the collapse of its banking system, while Germany’s tally stands at more than 18% of output. German guarantees, encompassing €512 billion, are the biggest in absolute terms, followed by Spain with €193 billion and France with €117 billion.

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Merkel gets closer.

Greek PM Tsipras To Meet Merkel, Draghi In Brussels On Friday (Kathimerini)

With Greece rapidly running out of funds, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has proposed an urgent meeting on the sidelines of the European Union summit that begins on Thursday in a bid to reach an agreement that would allow Athens to get more funds. Greece urgently needs between €3 and €5 billion. Tsipras on Tuesday telephoned European Council President Donald Tusk and asked him to convene a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Francois Hollande, ECB President Mario Draghi and EC President Jean-Claude Juncker. The meeting will be held on Friday morning, despite the fact that European officials questioned its use.

Sources in Brussels said the proposal was a mistake, as it focused on meeting with the leaders of two countries, and the heads of the ECB and the Commission, rather than pursuing a collective agreement in the EU, and it was not clear what Tsipras wanted to achieve. If the aim was to achieve more funding, this would have to be the subject of technical discussions between experts and could not be dealt with at the political level. However, with teams of experts still unable to reach a conclusion as to Greece’s financing needs and its compliance with the bailout agreement, agreement at the political level is precisely what Tsipras is after.

He wants an agreement on a framework that will set out what Greece must do in order to get the ECB to allow his country to borrow more, a source in Tsipras’s office told Kathimerini. Tsipras is prepared to accept reforms that will be proposed by Greece’s partners, including privatization, the same source said. They stressed that Athens would draw the line at adopting further austerity measures. “We accept everything else, on the basis of the commitments made in [Finance Minister] Yanis Varoufakis’s letter to the Eurogroup,” the source added. The Greek prime minister is to meet the German chancellor in Berlin on March 23, following an invitation from Merkel on Monday.

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That’s what I said: “Germany can’t simply sweep the demands from Greece off the table.”

Greece WWII Reparations Cause Split Among German MPs (RT)

Several senior Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens have for the first time acknowledged that Greece has a case for WWII reparations. This contradicts the stance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government which had ruled it out. “We should make a financial approach to victims and their families,” said Gesine Schwan, chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) values committee told Der Spiegel Online on Tuesday. “It would be good for us Germans to sweep up after ourselves in terms of our history,” she said. “Victims and descendants have longer memories than perpetrators and descendants,” said Schwan, who was nominated as a candidate for President twice in 2004 and 2009. SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner agreed that the issue should be resolved, however independently from the current debate over the Euro crisis and Greek sovereign debt.

“But independently, we must have a discussion about reparations,” Ralf Stegner told Spiegel. “After decades, there are still international legal questions to be resolved.” SPD is the second major party in Germany that shares power with Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU). The SPD were joined by the Green party, with leader Anton Hofreiter saying that “Germany can’t simply sweep the demands from Greece off the table.” “This chapter isn’t closed either morally or legally.” Demands for reparations from Germany dating back to the Nazi occupation during World War II have been voiced by Greek politicians over the past 60 years, but have gained renewed energy amid the recent financial crisis and tough austerity measures in exchange for largely German-backed loans.

In April 2013 Greece officially declared that it would pursue the reparations scheme. Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leader of the anti-austerity Syriza party relaunched the heated debate in February by saying that Athens has a “historical obligation” to claim from Germany billions of euros in reparations for the physical and financial destruction committed during Nazi occupation. However, Germany’s government has said that this issue has already been legally resolved, arguing that Greece is trying to detract attention from the serious financial problems the country is facing.

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“We cannot easily understand the reasons that pushed him to make statements that are not fitting to the role he has been entrusted with.”

Athens Furious At Eurogroup Suggestion Of Capital Controls (Kathimerini)

The chairman of the Eurogroup, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, on Tuesday became the first European Union official to suggest the possibility of capital controls to prevent Greece leaving the euro, drawing a furious reaction from Athens, which accused him of “blackmail.” “It’s been explored what should happen if a country gets into deep trouble – that doesn’t immediately have to be an exit scenario,” Bloomberg quoted the head of the eurozone’s finance ministers telling his country’s BNR Nieuwsradio. On Cyprus, he said, “we had to take radical measures, banks were closed for a while and capital flows within and out of the country were tied to all kinds of conditions, but you can think of all kinds of scenarios.”

Greece is scrambling to pay its obligations as revenues drop and it needs the European Central Bank to allow it to borrow more funds. Its eurozone partners are awaiting the result of an inspection into Greece’s finances and its compliance with the bailout program. In Athens, the government issued an angry reply. “It would be useful for everyone and for Mr. Dijsselbloem to respect his institutional role in the eurozone,” Gavriil Sakellaridis said. “We cannot easily understand the reasons that pushed him to make statements that are not fitting to the role he has been entrusted with. Everything else is a fantasy scenario. We find it superfluous to remind him that Greece will not be blackmailed.”

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Schaeuble keeps at it: “Greek leaders are “lying to the population..”

Greece Grabs Cash as More Than $2 Billion in Payouts Loom (Bloomberg)

Greece will begin debating measures to boost liquidity as the cash-starved country braces for more than €2 billion in debt payments Friday. Unable to access bailout funding and locked out of capital markets, the government will outline emergency plans to parliament Tuesday to increase funding. Payments due March 20 include interest on a swap originally arranged by Goldman Sachs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified publicly discussing the derivative. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government is burning through cash while trying to get its creditors – euro area member states, the ECB and the IMF – to release more money from its €240 billion bailout program.

European governments have said they won’t disburse any more emergency loans unless the government in Athens implements a set of economic overhauls agreed last month, including pension and sales tax reform. “As days go by, room for maneuver becomes ever smaller,” said Theodore Pelagidis at the Brookings Institution. “The impression given is that there’s no plan A or plan B. There’s nothing.” The government’s revenue-boosting plan includes eliminating fines on those who submit overdue taxes by March 27 to encourage payment, helping cover salaries and pensions due at the end of the month. The bill also requires pension funds and public entities to invest reserves held at the Bank of Greece in government securities and repurchase agreements, and transfers €556 million from the country’s bank recapitalization fund to the state.

A vote on the measures is scheduled for Wednesday. Greek stocks rebounded Tuesday, ending four days of declines, with the benchmark Athens Stock Exchange gaining 2.6%. Yields on 3-year bonds rose 8 basis points to 20.25%. The government said March 14 it has a plan to “enhance its liquidity” and won’t have problems meeting payments for civil servants and retirees due just one week after the March 20th debt payments. Tsipras has pledged to meet the country’s obligations while at the same time ending austerity measures. “None of my colleagues, or anyone in the international institutions, can tell me how this is supposed to work,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Berlin Monday. Greek leaders are “lying to the population,” he said.

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“Put them in front of their contradictions. Make them face the contradictions of the eurozone themselves.”

Greece’s Euro Exit Seems Inevitable (Bloomberg)

Greece’s money troubles resemble a game of pass the parcel, where each successive participant rips another sheet of wrapping paper off the box — which turns out to be empty when the final recipient reaches the core. With time and money running out, a successful endgame seems even less likely than it did a week or a month ago. It’s increasingly obvious that the government’s election promises are incompatible with the economic demands of its euro partners. Something’s got to give. The current money-go-round is unsustainable. Euro-region taxpayers fund their governments, which in turn bankroll the ECB. Cash from the ECB’s Emergency Liquidity Scheme flows to the Greek banks; they buy treasury bills from their government, which uses the proceeds to …repay its IMF debts! No wonder a recent poll by German broadcaster ZDF shows 52% of Germans say they want Greece out of the euro, up from 41% last month.

There’s blame on both sides for the current impasse. Euro-area leaders should be giving Greece breathing space to get its economic act together. But the Greek leadership has been cavalier in its treatment of its creditors. It’s been amateurish in expecting that a vague promise to collect more taxes would win over Germany and its allies. And it’s been unrealistic in expecting the ECB to plug a funding gap in the absence of a political agreement for getting back to solvency. There’s a YouTube video making the rounds on Twitter this week of a lecture Yanis Varoufakis gave in Croatia in May 2013. The most arresting section comes after about two minutes, when the current Greek finance minister literally flips the bird at Germany [..] And if what Varoufakis went on to say is instructive of the game-theory professor’s mind-set, the lack of progress in negotiations with lenders isn’t so surprising:

The most effective radical policy would be for a Greek government to rise up or a Greek prime minister or minister of finance, to rise up in EcoFin in the euro group, wherever, and say “folks, we’re defaulting. We shall not be repaying next May the 6 billion that supposedly we owe the ECB. My God you know, to have a destroyed economy that is borrowing from the ESM to pay to the ECB is not just idiotic, but it’s the epitome of misanthropy.

Say no to that. Put them in front of their contradictions. Make them face the contradictions of the eurozone themselves. Because the moment that the Greek prime minister declares default within the euro zone, all hell will break loose and either they will have to introduce shock absorbers, or the euro will die anyway, and then we can go to the drachma.

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A sovereign nation?

EU Warns Against Bills On Debt Settlement, Humanitarian Crisis (Kathimerini)

The European Commission’s chief representative on the technical team monitoring Greece, Declan Costello, has described draft laws aimed at tackling the humanitarian crisis and launching a 100-installment payment scheme for taxpayers to settle their debts to the state as unilateral actions taken in a fragmentary fashion, according to a text he has reportedly sent to the Greek side. Costello effectively vetoes the bills in his letter, arguing that they are not compatible with the Eurogroup’s February 20 agreement with Athens, as Paul Mason – a journalist who claims to have seen the correspondence between Costello and the Greek authorities – revealed on Tuesday.

There was no reaction to the news from the Finance Ministry up until late last night, with officials pointing to the list of seven actions that Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis submitted to the latest Eurogroup meeting which, according to the ministry, included the above bills. Nevertheless other government officials confirmed the existence of the text sent by Costello and noted that certain points related to the draft laws – especially those concerning the settlement of debts to tax authorities – must be clarified.

According to the text that Mason published as a Costello letter, the Commission representative says that those bills will have to be included in the general context of reform promotion. “We would strongly urge having the proper policy consultations first, including consistency with reform efforts. There are several issues to be discussed and we need to do them as a coherent and comprehensive package,” Costello reportedly told the government: “Doing otherwise would be proceeding unilaterally and in a piecemeal manner that is inconsistent with the commitments made, including to the Eurogroup as stated in the February 20 communique.” The debt settlement bill was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday night.

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“A plunge in export volumes offset another decline in the cost of oil imports. Net exports should therefore become a drag on [GDP] growth soon..”

Japan Exports Slow Sharply In February But Beat Expectations (CNBC)

Japan’s exports rose at a faster-than-expected pace in February but slowed sharply from the previous month as exports to China waned amid the Lunar New Year holidays. Exports rose 2.4% on year, Ministry of Finance data showed on Wednesday, above expectations for a 0.3% increase in a Reuters poll, but down from a 17% on-year rise in January. Despite the above-view reading, exports were sharply lower compared to January’s reading largely due to 17.3% on-year drop in exports to China, which celebrated the Lunar New Year holiday during February. “A plunge in export volumes offset another decline in the cost of oil imports. Net exports should therefore become a drag on [GDP] growth soon,” Marcel Thieliant, Japan economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

But Mizuho Bank analysts were more optimistic. “We think this supports the [Bank of Japan’s] view of an ongoing, gradual recovery, underpinning its decision to withhold from adding further stimulus even as [central bank governor] Kuroda expresses his view that inflation might turn negative due to oil prices,” it say in a note. Meanwhile, imports fell 3.6% on year in February, sharply below expectations for a 3.1% increase in a Reuters poll. “[The] drop in import values was largely caused by another decline in petroleum import values, which reached the lowest since late 2010,” Thieliant said. “Judging by the Bank of Japan’s import price index, the plunge in the price of crude oil since last summer has now mostly been reflected in the cost of oil imports. However, import prices of natural gas, which tend to follow the price of crude oil with a lag of about six months, have just started to fall. The trade shortfall may therefore still narrow a touch further in the near-term.”

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“New home prices fell 5.7% on year in February..”

China New Home Prices Post Sixth Consecutive Monthly Decline (CNBC)

China new home prices registered their sixth straight month of annual decline in February, as tepid demand continued to weigh on sentiment despite the government’s efforts to spur buying. New home prices fell 5.7% on year in February, according to Reuters calculations based on fresh data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday. The reading was worse than January’s 5.1% decline and marks the largest drop since the current data series began in 2011. Meanwhile, both Beijing and Shanghai clocked home price declines. In Beijing, prices fell 3.6% on year following a 3.2% drop in January, while prices in Shanghai fell 4.7%, following January’s 4.2% drop.

However, in a statement after the data was released the Chinese statistics bureau said that home sales are expected to show a significant rebound in March, according to Reuters. “The news isn’t great, and it hasn’t been great for some time. The credit crunch in China is very real and prices do have to adjust after a very long time,” John Saunder, head of APAC at Blackrock told CNBC. “I think the China government is trying to make moves to stabilize things. They’ve undergone a lot of policies and obviously the [central bank] is now reducing the policy rates, so that will all help. but you can’t turn it around instantly,” he said.

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No kidding.

BoE’s Brazier Says Greek Shock Could Trigger Market Correction (Bloomberg)

A failure to find a political solution to Greece’s sovereign debt problem could trigger a market correction, Bank of England official Alex Brazier said. “A bad outcome in these negotiations could trigger a broader reassessment of risk in financial markets,” Brazier, executive director for financial stability at the BOE, told U.K. lawmakers in London on Tuesday. “We start from a position where market pricing looks potentially subject to correction,” he said. “I don’t view Greece as a big direct risk but it could potentially be a trigger for a market reappraisal” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government is negotiating with euro-area member states, the ECB and the IMF to release more money from its bailout program.

European governments have said they won’t disburse any more emergency loans unless the government in Athens implements a set of economic overhauls agreed last month, including pension and sales tax reform. “I don’t presume to know how likely it is for Greece to leave the euro,” Brazier said. “Although the economic issue is in some ways very simple – there’s a debt overhang that needs to be dealt with – the way that is dealt with is a political issue and I don’t presume to be able to forecast in any way” how the talks will progress, he said. Brazier said U.K. banks’ direct exposure to Greece was small, “amounting to about £2 billion ($3 billion), which is about 1% of their common equity.”

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Given the propaganda underlying the sanctions, inevitable.

EU Support for Russia Sanctions Is Waning (Bloomberg)

For evidence of the European Union’s diminishing appetite for sanctions against Russia, look no further than Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin guestbook. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades visited the Russian leader in February, granting the Russian navy access to Cypriot ports; March brought Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, labeled a “privileged partner” by Putin; Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due next in Moscow, in April. Along with Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Spain, the three countries were reluctant backers of economic curbs to protest Russia’s interference with Ukraine. As a wobbly truce takes hold in eastern Ukraine, the anti-sanctions bloc will lay down a marker at an EU summit starting Thursday in Brussels.

“The likeliest outcome is that they will not agree to roll over the sanctions now and they will put off a decision until the last possible moment before the sanctions expire,” Ian Bond, a former British diplomat now with the Centre for European Reform in London, said by phone. EU governments halted trade and visa talks with Russia and started blacklisting Russian politicians and military officers last March, after the annexation of Crimea. Those asset freezes and travel bans were extended by six months in January 2015. It took the shooting down of a Malaysian passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in July to prompt wider-ranging curbs including bans on financing of major Russian banks and the sale of energy-exploration gear to Russia’s resource-dependent economy. Those “stage three” measures are set to expire in July.

Proponents of extending them are led by Poland, the Baltic states and the U.K., and count as one of their own the EU president and summit chairman: former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The hawks have already backed down by seeking a five-month prolongation until the end of 2015, instead of the usual 12 months. “At some time there should be a decision in our view about the extension of the sanctions until the end of the year,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said in an interview in Brussels at a meeting of EU diplomats on Monday. Even that is a stretch, at least at this week’s summit. Sanctions require all 28 EU countries to agree, enabling skeptics to play for time, shape policies to their liking and, in the extreme, cast a veto. Greece’s new government, for example, voiced discomfort about renewing the blacklists in January before finally going along.

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As it should be. How can you spend $1.4 billion in tax money, where a few million would have done, when people have no health care, unless you’re a full-blown megalomaniac?!

ECB Celebration of Its New $1.4 Billion Tower Spoiled by Protests (Bloomberg)

As the ECB prepares to inaugurate its new headquarters four months after moving in, more than 10,000 protesters are seeking to spoil the party. Frankfurt, the euro area’s financial capital and home of the common currency, is bracing for demonstrations and sit-ins on Wednesday at locations throughout the city by anti-austerity groups and organizations sympathizing with the plight of Greece. At the ECB’s €1.3 billion premises in the east end, police have erected barbed wire and barricades to keep the protesters at least 10 meters (33 feet) away. “We want a march open to anyone, peaceful and not harming anyone,” Ulrich Wilken, a lawmaker for the Left Party in the Hesse state parliament, said on Tuesday after meeting with police to outline the marchers’ objectives.

“We want an atmosphere of peaceful protest, not the kind of situation the police prepares for with its tanks.” Nine days after the ECB started buying sovereign debt in a €1.1 trillion plan to revive inflation and rescue the economy, protesters are laying the blame for recession and unemployment in the 19-nation euro area at the doors of ECB President Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A new government in Greece, led by the leftist Syriza party, is preparing emergency measures to boost liquidity as the cash-starved country braces for more than €2 billion in debt payments on Friday. The country is unable to access bailout funding as it haggles with euro-area governments over the terms of its aid program. Its lenders have been cut off from regular ECB finance lines and pushed onto emergency credit from the Greek central bank.

“In the past, we protested against things like the rescue of the banks in Europe,” said Werner Renz, a representative of protest group Attac. “The focus of our protests this year is on Greece. We need more of Athens in Europe and less of Berlin. There is no way Greece can repay all its debt. The situation can’t be solved by austerity alone.” Draghi is scheduled to host an inauguration ceremony at 11 a.m. with guests including Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann and Hesse’s Economy Minister Tarek Al-Wazir.

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“..indigenous language education, gender parity in government, historical memory, indigenous forms of justice, anti-racism initiatives, and indigenous autonomy.”

Bolivia: A Country That Dared to Exist (Benjamin Dangl)

This movement toward decolonization in the Andes is as old as colonialism itself, but the process has taken a novel turn with the administration of Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Morales, a former coca farmer, union organizer, and leftist congressman, was elected president in 2005, representing a major break from the country’s neoliberal past. Last October, Morales was re-elected to a third term in office with more than 60% of the vote. His popularity is largely due to his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party’s success in reducing poverty, empowering marginalized sectors of society, and using funds from state-run industries for hospitals, schools and much-needed public works projects across Bolivia.

Aside from socialist and anti-imperialist policies, the MAS’s time in power has been marked by a notable discourse of decolonization. Five hundred years after the European colonization of Latin America, activists and politicians linked to the MAS and representing Bolivia’s indigenous majority have deepened a process of reconstitution of indigenous culture, identity and rights from the halls of government power. Part of this work has been carried forward by the Vice Ministry of Decolonization, which was created in 2009. This Vice Ministry operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture, and coordinates with many other sectors of government to promote, for example, indigenous language education, gender parity in government, historical memory, indigenous forms of justice, anti-racism initiatives, and indigenous autonomy.

Before becoming the Vice Minister of Decolonization when the office opened, Félix Cárdenas had worked for decades as an Aymara indigenous leader, union and campesino organizer, leftist politician and activist fighting against dictatorships and neoliberal governments. As a result of this work, he was jailed and tortured on numerous occasions. Cárdenas participated the Constituent Assembly to re-write Bolivia’s constitution, a progressive document which was passed under President Morales’ leadership in 2009. This trajectory has contributed to Cárdenas’ radical political analysis and dedication to what’s called the Proceso de Cambio, or Process of Change, under the Morales government.

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