Nov 222015
 
 November 22, 2015  Posted by at 10:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Marjory Collins “Italian girls watching US Army parade on Mott Street, New York” 1942

Will $4.6 Trillion Leveraged Loan Market Cause Next Financial Crisis? (Cohan)
Asia-Europe Container Freight Rates Drop 70% in 3 Weeks (Reuters)
Nightmare of Mario Draghi’s Crowded Trade (FT)
The Long, Cold Winter Ahead (Tenebrarum)
Oil Companies Brace For Big Wave Of Debt Defaults (CNBC)
Eurozone Agrees Greece Can Get Next Loan Tranche, Cash For Bank Recap (Reuters)
Half Of UK Care Homes To Close If £2.9 Billion Gap Is Not Plugged (Guardian)
Report Urges UK Government To Act Now To Avoid Energy Crisis (EAEM)
How Did a UK Power Plant Get 25 Times the Market Price? (Bloomberg)
State Of Emergency In Crimea After Electricity Pylons ‘Blown Up’ (Reuters)
Brazil Dam Toxic Mud Reaches Atlantic Ocean (BBC)
Deforestation Threatens Majority of Amazon Tree Species (PSMag)
Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It (NY Times)
The Saudi Connection to Terror (Daniel Lazare)
Terrorism Links Trigger Greater Scrutiny For Greece (Kath.)
Chaos In Greek Islands Over Three-Tier Refugee Registration System (Guardian)

One of many factors that could be the trigger.

Will $4.6 Trillion Leveraged Loan Market Cause Next Financial Crisis? (Cohan)

Financial crises take about a decade to be born. Having lived through four of them, I see the raw materials for a fifth one — flowing from the collapse of so-called leveraged loans — debt piled on top of companies with weak credit ratings. Before examining the latest news on leveraged loans, let’s take a quick tour down the memory lane of financial crises I’ve lived through. My first one was in 1982 — that’s when banks lent too much money to oil and gas developers in Oklahoma and Texas as well as local real estate developers. At the suggestion of McKinsey, money-center banks like Chemical Bank thought it would be a great idea to buy a piece of those loans. It’s all described nicely in a wonderful book — Belly Up. Too bad the price of oil and gas tumbled, leaving lenders in the lurch and causing a spike in bank failures that gave me the chance to spend a balmy summer in Washington helping the FDIC develop a system to manage the liquidation of those failed banks.

By 1989, it was time for another banking crisis — this one was pinned to too much lending to commercial real estate developers in New England and junk-bond-backed loans for what used to be known as leveraged buyouts. The government shut down Bank of New England and was threatening my employer, Bank of Boston, with the same. I worked on a government-mandated strategic plan intended to save the bank from a similar fate. Next up — the dot-com bust — which introduced me to the idea that not all bubbles are bad if you can get in when they’re forming and exit before they burst. I invested in six dot-coms and had a mixed record — the three winners offset the three wipe outs.

Finally, there is the latest and greatest — the so-called Great Recession of 2008. I am now getting to the end of Ben Bernanke’s The Courage To Act. It brings back all the memories — from my first story on subprime mortgages back in December 2006 in which I recommended selling short shares of subprime lender, NovaStar Financial when they traded at $106 apiece. (NovaStar changed its name to Novation in 2012 and you can pick up a share for 17 cents.) The key causes of the crisis that Bernanke describes as the worst in history were weak subprime regulation, liar loans, global securitization, too little capital, limited transparency, skewed banker and ratings agency incentives, and lame risk management. What does this little financial crisis tour have to do with leveraged loans? I have often cited the Mark Twain’s expression that history does not repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.

I think leveraged loans rhyme with junk bonds and subprime mortgages. Banks make leveraged loans “to companies that have junk credit ratings in the hope of quickly selling the debt to investors, including mutual funds, hedge funds and entities called collateralized loan obligations,” according to the New York Times. Why the rhyme? As in the late 1980s, leveraged loans are made to companies with bad credit ratings; like subprime mortgages they are being packaged into securities that supposedly give investors a diversified portfolio; and like the early 1980s crisis, there is excess debt on the books of energy and mining companies.

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World trade comes to a crawl.

Asia-Europe Container Freight Rates Drop 70% in 3 Weeks (Reuters)

Shipping freight rates for transporting containers from ports in Asia to Northern Europe plunged by 27.9% to $295 per 20-foot container (TEU) in the week ending on Friday, one source with access to data from the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index told Reuters. The drop came after spot freight rates on the world’s busiest route dropped 39.3% last week, and the current rates are widely seen as loss-making levels for container shipping companies. The spot freight rates for transporting containers, carrying anything from flat-screen TVs to sportswear from Asia to Northern Europe, has fallen 70% in three weeks.

In the week to Friday, container freight rates fell 22.5% from Asia to ports in the Mediterranean, dropped 8.6% to ports on the U.S. West Coast and were down 8.0% to ports on the U.S. East Coast. Maersk Line, the global market leader with more than 600 container vessels and part of Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, earlier in November reported a 61% drop in net profit in the third quarter. The Danish shipping company controls around one fifth of all transported containers from Asia to Europe.

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He leaves nothing for others to buy.

Nightmare of Mario Draghi’s Crowded Trade (FT)

Investors are putting too much faith in Mario Draghi. The ECB president is largely responsible for one of the most overcrowded trades in markets — and there is a risk it could all go horribly wrong. In the past month, every investor I have spoken to has told me they are overweight European equities, citing the quantitative easing policy of Mr Draghi and the ECB as one of the main reasons. But is Mr Draghi creating a potential nightmare scenario for investors? The European equity trade makes sense for a variety of reasons. The eurozone economy is recovering, albeit sluggishly, earnings are growing, valuations are relatively attractive and, most important of all, the ECB is buying billions of euros of bonds to underpin the market.

Indeed, European equities have rallied sharply since the start of September when Mr Draghi first hinted he was prepared to launch a second round of QE, expected in December. Investors reason that it is unwise to fight a central bank. It makes sense to be fully invested in risk assets such as equities when a central bank is actively easing, as looser monetary policy encourages corporations to borrow at cheap rates. This is certainly true. Euro-denominated investment grade corporate debt issuance has surged to a record high so far this year. This corporate borrowing often translates into higher profits as the money is invested for growth, which in turn boosts the share price. With the US Federal Reserve expected to diverge from the ECB and tighten policy next month, it makes European stocks even more appealing, particularly given that US valuations are stretched.

With the ECB easing and the Fed tightening, the euro is likely to remain weak. A cheaper euro should lift demand for exports. This is helpful to Germany, the region’s biggest economy, which relies on exports for growth. However, when a trade becomes this crowded, there are risks. Upside is limited because the good news is largely priced in. More significantly, if the market reverses, it can be difficult to exit as everyone wants to sell at the same time. Investors only have to look back to the summer for a reminder of the dangers. Worries about the Chinese economy wiped out all the equity gains from Mr Draghi’s first round of QE, which was launched in March, in a matter of days. European equities plunged about 10% in August.

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“..somewhere between collapsing oil prices, dollar strength, and consumer lethargy the economy’s narrative has drifted off plot. The theme has transitioned from one of renewed growth and recovery to one of recurring sickness and stagnation.”

The Long, Cold Winter Ahead (Tenebrarum)

Cold winds of deflation gust across the autumn economic landscape. Global trade languishes and commodities rust away like abandoned scrap metal with a visible dusting of frost. The economic optimism that embellished markets heading into 2015 have cooled as the year moves through its final stretch. If you recall, the popular storyline since late last year has been that the U.S. economy is moderately improving while the world’s other major economies – Japan, China, and Europe – are rolling over. The U.S. economy would power through. Moreover, stock prices had achieved a permanently high plateau. But somewhere between collapsing oil prices, dollar strength, and consumer lethargy the economy’s narrative has drifted off plot. The theme has transitioned from one of renewed growth and recovery to one of recurring sickness and stagnation.

Mass malinvestments in U.S. shale oil, Brazilian mines, and Chinese factories and real estate must be reckoned with. Price adjustments, bankruptcies, and debt restructuring must be painfully worked through like a strawberry picker hunkered over a seemingly endless furrow row of over ripening fruits. Sore backs, burnt necks, and tender fingers are what the over-all economy has in front of it. The U.S. economy is not immune to the global disorder after all. More evidence is revealed each week that the unexpected is happening. Instead of economic strength and robust growth, economic fundamentals are breaking down. Manufacturing is slowing. Consumer spending is soft. For additional edification, let’s turn to Dr. Copper…

Dr. Copper – the metal with a PhD in economics – is always the first to know which way the economy will go. Copper’s broad use in industry and many different sectors of the economy, ranging from infrastructure to housing and consumer electronics, makes it a good early indicator of economic activity. When copper prices rise, economic activity soon increases. When copper prices fall the economy often then stagnates. Thus, here’s the latest from Dr. Copper and his industrial metals cohorts… As Bloomberg reported earlier this week: “Copper plunged to the lowest intraday price since May 2009 on concern Chinese demand is slowing and as the dollar traded near its strongest level in more than a decade. Lead touched the lowest since 2010, while all industrial metals retreated.”

No doubt, marking price levels last seen during the depths of the Great Recession would not be happening if the economy was strengthening. If demand was robust industrial metals prices would be going up. Instead, they continue their slide into the void of worldwide non-activity. Stocks may soon follow…The last time copper prices were this low, in May 2009, stocks were also much lower. Yet, today, they’re at extremely lofty prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently over 17,500. Back then, the Dow was less than half that…it ranged in the low 8,000s. In other words, stocks are still up while the economy is slowing down. Perhaps the economy is taking a brief pause before roaring back to life. Most likely it’s hunkering down for the long, cold winter ahead.

Financialization, namely massive amounts of leverage, has made the disconnect between the stock market and the economy extend wider and longer than ever before. Maybe another speculative melt up is ahead. Who knows? Maybe DOW 20,000 or 30,000 is in the cards. With enough monetary deception anything’s possible. But, nonetheless, gravity still exists. Stocks cannot go up for ever. After a six year bull market, accompanied by a lackluster recovery, stocks could return to prior levels that were in line with present commodity prices. Remember, just a few years ago, Dow 8,000 matched up with current copper prices. Soon it likely will again.

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Remember how lower oil prices would be a boon for the economy?

Oil Companies Brace For Big Wave Of Debt Defaults (CNBC)

Low oil prices are leaving many oil and gas companies with difficult debt loads, causing them to default at an extraordinary rate. On top of that, rating firm Moody’s forecasts the default rate will increase. “The energy sector remains the most troubled, accounting for almost a quarter of the 79 defaults so far this year,” said Sharon Ou, Moody’s Credit Policy Research senior credit officer. The strain on the oil patch comes after years of borrowing heavily at the start of the domestic energy renaissance. At the time, oil was hovering around $100 a barrel. But now, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil slightly above $40 a barrel, these companies are seeing their revenue dry up — and remain saddled with debt.

Marc Lasry, the chief executive of distressed investing specialist Avenue Capital Group, said these energy companies boosted their borrowings to between $250 billion and $300 billion, compared with the $100 billion at the start of this year. The energy boom of the past decade was fueled by a wave of credit from U.S. banks that now say they expect more delinquencies and charge-offs from energy companies this year. Federal Reserve officials earlier in November noted an increase in weakness among credits related to oil and gas exploration, production, and energy services following the decline in energy prices since mid-2014. Among the major banks raising red flags about the health of the loans are Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

Some banks are renegotiating their credit lines to gas and oil companies, while others are cutting credit lines to oil and gas firms and are requiring more collateral to protect against the surge of defaults. Of the 31 companies that have disclosed information on loan resets so far, banks have cut credit lines of 10 firms by just over $1.1 billion, Reuters reported. Some energy companies are aggressively looking to take matters into their own hands to alleviate the debt pressure. Some are selling assets, others are cutting spending, some are issuing new shares, and others are hedging their oil production at a certain price. Some, however, can’t escape the grip of debt, falling victim to low oil prices and filing for bankruptcy.

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There is a government in Greece only to lend legitimacy to Brussels.

Eurozone Agrees Greece Can Get Next Loan Tranche, Cash For Bank Recap (Reuters)

Greece has done all the reforms in the a first package of measures agreed with euro zone creditors, which paves the way for Athens to get the next tranche of loans, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday. Greece is getting very cheap loans form the euro zone bailout fund ESM under its third bailout agreement in exchange for putting its public finances in order and reforming the economy to make it more efficient and competitive. Euro zone deputy finance ministers (EWG) reviewed on Saturday the progress made by Athens in the reforms.

“On the basis of a final compliance notice… the EWG agreed that the Greek authorities have now completed the first set of milestones and the financial sector measures that are essential for a successful recapitalization process,” Dijsselbloem said. “The agreement paves the way for the formal approval by the ESM Board of Directors on Monday 23 November of disbursing the €2 billion sub-tranche linked to the first set of milestones,” he said. He said that it will also allow the ESM to make case by case decisions to transfer money to Greece for the recapitalization of the Greek banking sector. The ESM already has €10 billion earmarked for this purpose and the capital needs of Greek banks from the euro zone are estimated at between six and nine billion, one euro zone official said on Friday.

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This is happening all across the western world. We better make up our minds, fast, about what kind of society we want.

Half Of UK Care Homes To Close If £2.9 Billion Gap Is Not Plugged (Guardian)

Up to half of Britain’s care homes will close and the NHS will be overwhelmed by frail, elderly people unless the chancellor, George Osborne, acts to prevent the “devastating financial collapse” facing social care, an alliance of charities, local councils and carers has warned. In a joint letter, 15 social care and older people’s groups urge Osborne to use his spending review on Wednesday to plug a funding gap that they say will hit £2.9bn by 2020. They warn that social care in England, already suffering from cuts imposed under the coalition, will be close to collapse unless money is found to rebuild support for the 883,000 older and disabled people who depend on personal care services in their homes.

Osborne has already decided to use his overview of public finances to give town halls the power to raise council tax by up to 2% to fund social care, in a move that could raise up to £2bn for the hard-pressed sector. However, the signatories of the letter, such as Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, want him to commit more central government funding to social care. The looming £2.9bn gap “can no longer be ignored”, the letter says. “Up to 50% of the care home market will become financially unviable and care homes will start to close their doors,” it adds. “74% of domiciliary home-care providers who work with local councils have said that they will have to reduce the amount of publicly funded care they provide. If no action is taken, it is estimated that this would affect half of all of the people and their families who rely on these vital services.”

Osborne’s endorsement of a hypothecated local tax to boost social care comes after intense lobbying behind the scenes and public warnings from bodies such as the King’s Fund health thinktank. “Social care in England has been in retreat for a long time. But the fact that the industry is now losing its appeal, both as a business and as a form of employment, marks a new and dangerous phase in its decline,” said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director. She urged Osborne to use the spending review “to bring stability to a worryingly fragile situation”. Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, another signatory, said: “Since 2010, £4.6bn of cuts have already resulted in an estimated 500,000 older and disabled people being denied access to care. If the government blazes ahead with 25%-40% cuts to local authority budgets, more people with dementia will be severely affected.”

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I count on them to fail spectacularly.

Report Urges UK Government To Act Now To Avoid Energy Crisis (EAEM)

Britain is on the verge of an energy crisis, with demand set to outstrip supply for the first time in early 2016, according to a new report by a leading energy analyst. In the report The Great Green Hangover, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, author Tony Lodge says that electricity demand is set to outstrip dispatchable supply for the first time from early 2016. Due to widespread plant closures, on-tap energy capacity has been in decline – and now for the first time will be lower than the forecasted demand. Lodge argues that decades of energy policy mismanagement have overseen the shutdown of energy plants vital to Britain’s long-term energy security.

The average dispatchable capacity remaining by the end of March 2016 is calculated to be 52,360MW, whereas National Grid’s 2015/2016 Winter Outlook demand forecast is 54,200MW. The report also raises concerns over the continued affordability of energy costs. Over the last ten years electricity bills have risen by 131% in real terms, easily outstripping any other household essential. High energy prices also burden British industry, jeopardising manufacturing in particular as businesses consider closure or overseas relocation due to unaffordable production costs. Though operating efficiently, they nevertheless consume large quantities of energy, which can account for between 20 and 70% of their production costs.

Author Tony Lodge comments: “Britain has lost over 15,400MW (20%) of its dispatchable electricity generating capacity in the last five years as baseload power plants have closed with no equivalent replacement. This month National Grid used emergency measures for the first time to call on industry to reduce its power usage in order to avoid shortages. “High UK Carbon Price Support should be abandoned before it forces the premature closure of more baseload power plants and thus threatens energy security and affordability,” he added. Lodge says the Government should prioritise energy security alongside its environmental commitments and legislate to deliver targets to maintain security of energy supply, diversity and affordability.

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I can see Britain’s future from here.

How Did a UK Power Plant Get 25 Times the Market Price? (Bloomberg)

On the afternoon of Nov. 4, a U.K. power station began to shut down one of its gas-fired units and the network manager was told it wouldn’t be available. Within an hour, the operator ramped it up again after the grid called for increased reserves and the power station got paid a handsome premium for doing so. The facility at the Severn power plant in Wales, operated by Macquarie Group Ltd., was running near full throttle at 396 megawatts. It didn’t report any operational problems, a requirement of European regulations, that would have prevented it supplying the market. Nonetheless, it began to decrease output from 3 p.m. When the network manager requested additional generation capacity for two hours from 4:30 p.m., Severn responded.

The reward for providing extra power was a payout 25 times the market price for that time in the day, according to calculations by Bloomberg based on exchange and grid data. The episode raises questions about how U.K. power plants operate as National Grid Plc, the company responsible for ensuring supply meets demand, grapples with a thinner buffer of surplus generating capacity. That margin will be about 5% this winter, down from as much as 16% four years ago, according to data from the London-based company. “This is a market, and it might be argued that price spikes are a necessary condition for its long-term viability, and therefore that it’s not unreasonable for individual generators to exploit scarcities,” said John Rhys, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Energy Institute. “If we really are in a period of very tight capacity, then I’m afraid that’s what having a market means and it’s going to happen.”

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Curious that this didn’t happen earlier.

State Of Emergency In Crimea After Electricity Pylons ‘Blown Up’ (Reuters)

A state of emergency has been declared in Crimea after pylons carrying electricity from Ukraine were blown up cutting off power to almost two million people, media and the Russian government said on Sunday. The Russian Energy Ministry didn’t say what had caused the outages, but Russian media reported that two pylons in the Kherson region of Ukraine north of Crimea had been blown up by Ukrainian nationalists. The attack, if by Ukrainian nationalists opposed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year, is likely to further increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s Energy Ministry said in a statement that two power lines bringing power from Ukraine to Crimea had been affected, as a result of which 1,896,000 people had been left without power.

The ministry said that a state of emergency had been declared in Crimea. It also said that emergency supplies had been turned on for critical needs and 13 mobile gas turbine generators were being prepared. Ilya Kiva, a senior officer in the Ukrainian police who was at the scene, also said on his Facebook page that the pylons had been blown up, without giving further details. On Saturday, the pylons were the scene of violent clashes between activists from the Right Sector nationalist movement and paramilitary police, Ukrainian media reported. The pylons had already been damaged by the activists on Friday before they were blown up on Saturday night, according to these reports.

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“..compromised for a minimum of a 100 years..”

Brazil Dam Toxic Mud Reaches Atlantic Ocean (BBC)

A wave of toxic mud travelling down the Rio Doce river in Brazil from a collapsed dam has reached the Atlantic Ocean, amid concerns it will cause severe pollution. The waste has travelled more than 500km (310 miles) since the dam at an iron mine collapsed two weeks ago. Samarco, the mine owner, has tried to protect plants and animals by building barriers along the banks of the river. Workers have dredged the river mouth to help the mud flow out to sea fast. The contaminated mud, tested by the water management authorities, was found to contain toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, chromium and manganese at levels exceeding human consumption levels. Samarco has insisted the sludge is harmless.

In an interview with the BBC, Andres Ruchi, director of the Marine Biology school in Santa Cruz in Espirito Santo state, said that mud could have a devastating impact on marine life when it reaches the sea. He said the area of sea near the mouth of the Rio Doce is a feeding ground and a breeding location for many species of marine life including the threatened leatherback turtle, dolphins and whales. “The flow of nutrients in the whole food chain in a third of the south-eastern region of Brazil and half of the Southern Atlantic will be compromised for a minimum of a 100 years,” he said. The magazine Chemistry World quotes Aloysio da Silva Ferrao Filho, a researcher at the respected Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, as saying that the impact has been severe in the river itself. “The biodiversity of the river is completely lost, several species including endemic ones must be extinct.”

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Compromised forever.

Deforestation Threatens Majority of Amazon Tree Species (PSMag)

It’s been estimated that the Amazon rainforest and surrounding areas are—or once were—home to upwards of 11,000 different tree species. It’s also been estimated that those forests have shrunk by about 12%, and that human meddling could double or triple that number by 2050. Now, researchers report, the loss of forest cover could threaten the existence of more than half the tree species in the Amazon. The Amazon basin hosts perhaps the greatest biodiversity on Earth—so much so that researchers know relatively little about many of the region’s native species. “While we know quite a bit about Amazonian deforestation, we know little about the effects on the Amazonian [tree] species,” says lead author Hans ter Steege at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.

“We’ve never had a good idea about how many species are threatened in the Amazon, and now with this study we have an estimate,” adds study co-author Nigel Pitman, a senior conservation ecologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. To get a picture of the health of forests in the Amazon basin and the Guiana Shield north of Brazil, a team of 160 botanists, ecologists, and taxonomists from 97 institutions went out into the field and, well, started counting. The team ultimately mapped 4,953 “relatively common” tree species at 1,485 sites throughout the region. Using a standard model of biodiversity, the researchers inferred the existence of another 10,000 species, which they assumed were largely hidden in the densest Amazonian forests, but rare enough that even a careful accounting could have missed them.

Hans ter Steege and his colleagues next compared species maps with maps of deforested and protected areas, then computed how many trees of each species could be lost under two different chain of events: a business-as-usual scenario, in which deforestation continues more or less as it has been for decades, and 40% of the Amazon’s trees would be gone by 2050; and a less severe scenario, in which governments step up protections, and deforestation tops out at 20%. Under the business-as-usual scenario, 51% of the Amazon’s common tree species’ populations and 43% of rare tree species’ populations would decline by 30% or more, qualifying them for inclusion on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” of threatened species.

Even under the less severe scenario in which forest governance improves, 16% of common species and 25% of rare species qualify for the Red List. Those losses would likely affect iconic tree species including Brazil nut, cacao, and açai palm, which play central roles in the regional economy. What’s more, Amazonian forests help trap a vast amount of carbon, which, if unleashed through deforestation, could exacerbate an already warming climate. “We want to make sure the Amazon keeps the carbon sink,” ter Steege says. “This is important.”

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Russia has far fewer qualms about confronting The House of Saud.

Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It (NY Times)

Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on. Wahhabism, a messianic radicalism that arose in the 18th century, hopes to restore a fantasized caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.

Born in massacre and blood, it manifests itself in a surreal relationship with women, a prohibition against non-Muslims treading on sacred territory, and ferocious religious laws. That translates into an obsessive hatred of imagery and representation and therefore art, but also of the body, nakedness and freedom. Saudi Arabia is a Daesh that has made it. The West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.

One might counter: Isn’t Saudi Arabia itself a possible target of Daesh? Yes, but to focus on that would be to overlook the strength of the ties between the reigning family and the clergy that accounts for its stability — and also, increasingly, for its precariousness. The Saudi royals are caught in a perfect trap: Weakened by succession laws that encourage turnover, they cling to ancestral ties between king and preacher. The Saudi clergy produces Islamism, which both threatens the country and gives legitimacy to the regime. One has to live in the Muslim world to understand the immense transformative influence of religious television channels on society by accessing its weak links: households, women, rural areas. Islamist culture is widespread in many countries — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania.

There are thousands of Islamist newspapers and clergies that impose a unitary vision of the world, tradition and clothing on the public space, on the wording of the government’s laws and on the rituals of a society they deem to be contaminated. It is worth reading certain Islamist newspapers to see their reactions to the attacks in Paris. The West is cast as a land of “infidels.” The attacks were the result of the onslaught against Islam. Muslims and Arabs have become the enemies of the secular and the Jews. The Palestinian question is invoked along with the rape of Iraq and the memory of colonial trauma, and packaged into a messianic discourse meant to seduce the masses. Such talk spreads in the social spaces below, while up above, political leaders send their condolences to France and denounce a crime against humanity. This totally schizophrenic situation parallels the West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia.

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“The more one side gains political control in the name of Islam, the more vulnerable it becomes to accusations from the other side that its claim to power is less than legitimate.”

The Saudi Connection to Terror (Daniel Lazare)

[..] the proceeds from a hundred-odd oil trucks doesn’t explain how ISIS pays its bills. Nor does the speculation about ISIS’s antiquity sales. So if Islamic State does not get the bulk of its funds from such sources, where does the money come from? The politically inconvenient answer is from the outside, i.e., from other parts of the Middle East where the oil fields are not marginal as they are in northern Syria and Iraq, but, rather, rich and productive; where refineries are state of the art, and where oil travels via pipeline instead of in trucks. It is also a market in which corruption is massive, financial controls are lax, and ideological sympathies for both ISIS and Al Qaeda run strong. This means the Arab Gulf states of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, countries with massive reserves of wealth despite a 50% plunge in oil prices.

The Gulf states are politically autocratic, militantly Sunni, and, moreover, are caught in a painful ideological bind. Worldwide, Sunnis outnumber Shi‘ites by at least four to one. But among the eight nations ringing the Persian Gulf, the situation is reversed, with Shi‘ites outnumbering Sunnis by nearly two to one. The more theocratic the world grows – and theocracy is a trend not only in the Muslim world, but in India, Israel and even the U.S. if certain Republicans get their way – the more sectarianism intensifies. At its most basic, the Sunni-Shi‘ite conflict is a war of succession among followers of Muhammad, who died in the Seventh Century. The more one side gains political control in the name of Islam, consequently, the more vulnerable it becomes to accusations from the other side that its claim to power is less than legitimate.

The Saudi royal family, which styles itself as the “custodian of the two holy mosques” of Mecca and Medina, is especially sensitive to such accusations, if only because its political position seems to be growing more and more precarious. This is why it has thrown itself into an anti-Shi‘ite crusade from Yemen to Bahrain to Syria. While the U.S., Britain and France condemn Bashar al-Assad as a dictator, that’s not why Sunni rebels are now fighting to overthrow him. They are doing so instead because, as an Alawite, a form of Shi‘ism, he belongs to a branch of Islam that the petro-sheiks in Riyadh regard as a challenge to their very existence. Civil war is rarely a moderating force, and as the struggle against Assad has intensified, power among the rebels has shifted to the most militant Sunni forces, up to and including Al Qaeda and its even more aggressive rival, ISIS.

In other words, the Islamic State is not homegrown and self-reliant, but a product and beneficiary of larger forces, essentially a proxy, paramilitary army of Gulf state sheiks. Evidence of broad regional support is abundant even if news outlets like The New York Times have done their best to ignore it.

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Are they making it up as they go along? Something fishy: “It later emerged that the passport was fake and that four other people, including a dead Syrian soldier, shared the same details.” Look, if there are four people with identical -fake- passports, how do they know the perpetrator was the one who passed through Greece, and not one of the other three?

Terrorism Links Trigger Greater Scrutiny For Greece (Kath.)

Greece is under growing pressure to monitor its borders and properly register the thousands of refugees and migrants who arrive each week after it emerged that at least two of the Paris suicide bombers passed through the country on their way to France. The European Union has already started taking measures in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. EU interior ministers agreed on Friday to tighten checks on points of entry to the 26-country Schengen area, which includes Greece. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the European Commission would present plans to introduce “obligatory checks at all external borders for all travelers,” including EU citizens, by the year’s end. Previously, only non-EU nationals had their details checked against a database for terrorism and crime when they enter the Schengen area.

Earlier, Cazeneuve revealed that a second suicide bomber at the Stade de France in Paris had entered the EU via Greece. A total of three jihadists blew themselves up at the stadium. One had already been identified as having arrived on Leros with a larger group of migrants. He was carrying a Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad Almohammad. It later emerged that the passport was fake and that four other people, including a dead Syrian soldier, shared the same details. It is thought a second bomber arrived with him on Leros, while unconfirmed sources suggest that the third Stade de France bomber also followed the same route. There has been no official reaction from the government to these revelations but Greek authorities have handed all the information from the registered arrivals to Europol.

Athens, however, has not confirmed that the alleged leader of the terrorist cell that carried out the fatal attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had been in Greece in January. In fact, the citizens’ protection minister issued a statement on Friday asking Cazeneuve to retract comments in which he suggested the Belgian national, who was killed in a police raid last week, had passed through Athens. Greek authorities mounted a search for Abaaoud in Athens after his mobile phone was allegedly traced to the Greek capital but the device was eventually found in the possession of an Algerian man who was extradited to Belgium due to alleged links with a terrorist cell there.

Nevertheless, this adds to the pressure on Greece to ensure proper checks are being carried out. Authorities made multiple arrests last week in connection to the alleged forging of documents for migrants. Also, the police picked up 50 migrants that were allowed to board ferries in Lesvos and Chios without having registered with authorities there.

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It’s hard not to think now and again that the EU deliberately screws this up. Couldn’t do a better job at it if they tried.

Chaos In Greek Islands Over Three-Tier Refugee Registration System (Guardian)

The EU’s refugee registration system on the Greek islands has created a three-tier system that favours certain nationalities over others, encourages some ethnic groups to lie about their backgrounds to secure preferential treatment, and has led to a situation Human Rights Watch calls absolute chaos. The dynamic will increase fears over the security threat posed by the hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe amid a backlash against refugees after the Paris attacks. The passport of a Syrian refugee who passed through Greece was found on or near the body of a dead suicide bomber. It will also amplify calls to scale up resettlement schemes from the Middle East, which will help Europe to improve screening of refugees and give them an incentive not to take the boat to Greece.

Syrian families arriving on the island of Lesbos, where nearly 400,000 asylum seekers have landed so far in 2015, are separated from other nationalities and given expedited treatment that allows them to leave the island for mainland Europe within 24 hours. Syrian males, Yemenis and Somalis are registered in a separate and slower camp but still receive preferential treatment and are usually able to continue their journey within a day. But a third category of asylum seekers – including many from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan – are being processed in another camp where there are roughly half as many passport-scanners. The result is a chaotic parallel registration process that can last up to a week, and which has left many non-Syrians sleeping outside in the cold of winter for several nights, while they wait to be registered.

The Guardian found families living in dire, unsanitary conditions in an olive grove surrounding the main registration centre. They said they were receiving just one significant meal a day, and had resorted to burning trees to keep warm at night. Even once they are finally processed, Afghans only receive one month’s leave to remain in Greece, while Syrians are given six months. The island’s mayor told the Guardian that the three-track process is to prevent fighting between different ethnic groups and nationalities. But the director of one of the three camps admitted that non-Syrians are given lower priority because officials assume that they do not have as strong a claim for asylum. “In the [lowest-priority] camp, there are the Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis who are mostly migrants, economic migrants,” said Spyros Kourtis. By contrast, he said that the better-equipped centre was for “people who come from countries with a refugee profile”.

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Nov 072015
 
 November 7, 2015  Posted by at 9:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 7 2015


Russell Lee Front of livery stable, East Side, New York City 1938

US Looks Set For December Interest Rate Rise After Jobs Boost (Guardian)
US Jobs Report: Workers Aged 25-54 Lose 35K Jobs, 55+ Gain 378K (Zero Hedge)
Peter Schiff: It’s Going To Be A ‘Horrible Christmas’ (CNBC)
US Consumer Credit Has Biggest Jump In History, Government-Funded (Bloomberg)
Primary Dealers Are Liquidating Corporate Bonds At An Unprecedented Pace (ZH)
Will China’s Consumers Step Up In 2016? (Bloomberg)
China’s Demand For Cars Has Slowed. Overcapacity Is The New Normal. (Bloomberg)
World’s Largest Steel Maker ArcelorMittal Loses $700 Million in Q3 (NY Times)
Berlin Accomplices: The German Government’s Role in the VW Scandal (Spiegel)
EU Asks Members To Investigate After VW Admits New Irregularities (Reuters)
VW Says Will Cover Extra CO2 And Fuel Usage Taxes Paid By EU Drivers (Guardian)
Goldman Sachs Dumps Stock Pledged By Valeant Chief (FT)
New Countdown For Greece: A Bank Bail-In Is Looming (Minenna)
UK Care Home Sector In ‘Meltdown’, Threatened By US Vulture Fund (Ind.)
US Congress Proposes A Chilling Resolution On Social Security (Simon Black)
Germany Imposes Surprise Curbs On Syrian Refugees (Guardian)
Germany Receives Nearly Half Of All Syrian Asylum Applicants (Guardian)
Sweden Feels The Refugee Strain (Bloomberg)
Sweden Tells Refugees ‘Stay in Germany’ as Ikea Runs Out of Beds (Bloomberg)
Greek Coast Guard: Five More Migrants Found Dead (Kath.)

We -should- know better than to trust US jobs reports.

US Looks Set For December Interest Rate Rise After Jobs Boost (Guardian)

The US appears to be on course for its first interest rate rise in almost a decade next month after higher than expected job creation pushed the unemployment rate down to 5%. Non-farm payrolls – employment in all sectors barring agriculture – increased by 271,000 in October, according to official figures published on Friday, compared with 142,000 the previous month and above the 185,000 that economists polled by Reuters had expected. In September, the US Federal Reserve signalled that, barring a deterioration in the US economic recovery, it would raise rates from 0.25% at its December meeting. Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve, repeated her forecast a few days ago.

Analysts said the prospect of a rate rise was now almost certain, especially after figures from the US labor department also showed wages increased at a healthy 0.4% month on month. The dollar jumped by more than 1% to a seven-month high and benchmark US bond yields rose to their highest in five years as traders priced in a 72% chance of a move next month. Stock market futures on New York exchanges slipped as it became clearer that a long period of cheap borrowing costs was coming to an end. The rise in pay took the wage inflation rate to 2.5% year on year, the best annual wages boost since 2009, when it was falling in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Growth in jobs occurred in industries including professional and business services, healthcare, retail, food services and construction, according to Tanweer Akram, a senior economist at Voya Investment Management. Rob Carnell, an analyst at ING Financial Markets, said: “While this does not guarantee a December rate hike from the Fed at this stage [there is one more labour report before the December 16 meeting], we feel that we would need to see a catastrophically bad November labour report for the Fed to sit on their hands again.”

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And there we go again: it’s all a sleight of hand.

US Jobs Report: Workers Aged 25-54 Lose 35K Jobs, 55+ Gain 378K (Zero Hedge)

After several months of weak and deteriorating payrolls prints, perhaps the biggest tell today’s job number would surprise massively to the upside came yesterday from Goldman, which as we noted earlier, just yesterday hiked its forecast from 175K to 190K. And while as Brown Brothers said after the reported that it is “difficult to find the cloud in the silver lining” one clear cloud emerges when looking just a little deeper below the surface. That cloud emerges when looking at the age breakdown of the October job gains as released by the BLS’ Household Survey. What it shows is that while total jobs soared, that was certainly not the case in the most important for wage growth purposes age group, those aged 25-54.

As the chart below shows, in October the age group that accounted for virtually all total job gains was workers aged 55 and over. They added some 378K jobs in the past month, representing virtually the entire increase in payrolls. And more troubling: workers aged 25-54 actually declined by 35,000, with males in this age group tumbling by 119,000! Little wonder then why there is no wage growth as employers continue hiring mostly those toward the twilight of their careers: the workers who have little leverage to demand wage hikes now and in the future, something employers are well aware of. The next chart shows the break down the cumulative job gains since December 2007 and while workers aged 55 and older have gained over 7.5 million jobs in the past 8 years, workers aged 55 and under, have lost a cumulative total of 4.6 million jobs.

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Schiff always see some right signs, and then always finds it hard to interpret them.

Peter Schiff: It’s Going To Be A ‘Horrible Christmas’ (CNBC)

The Grinch has nothing on Peter Schiff. On CNBC’s “Futures Now” Thursday, the contrarian investor said that while Americans are wrapping presents this holiday season, they should instead brace themselves for “a horrible Christmas” and possible recession. “I expect [job] layoffs to start picking up by the end of the year,” Schiff said, pointing to retailers as the first victim. “Retailers have overestimated the ability of their customers to buy their products. Americans are broke. They are loaded up with debt,” he said. “We’re teetering on the edge of an official recession,” and “the labor market is softening.” For Schiff, there is no one else to blame but the Federal Reserve.

As he sees it, the central bank’s easy money policies have created a bubble so big that any prick could send the U.S. economy spiraling out of control. And that makes the possibility of hiking interest rates slim to none. “The Fed has to talk about raising rates to pretend the whole recovery is real, but they can’t actually raise them,” said the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital. “[Fed Chair Janet Yellen] can’t admit that she can’t raise them because then she’s admitting the whole recovery is a sham and that the policy was a failure.” According to Schiff, the recent rally in the dollar is “the biggest bubble that the Fed has ever inflated” and “it’s the only thing keeping the economy afloat.”

The greenback hit a three-month high this week after Yellen said a December rate hike was a “live” possibility. “[The inflated dollar] is keeping the cost of living from rising rapidly and it’s keeping interest rates artificially low. It’s allowing the Fed to pretend everything is great,” Schiff said. “Eventually the bottom is going to drop out of the dollar and we are going to have to deal with reality,” he added. “That reality is we are staring at a financial crisis much worse than the one we saw in 2008.”

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It’s all still built on debt, and increasingly so. The more ‘confident’ the consumer, the more willing (s)he’s to put her neck in a noose.

US Consumer Credit Has Biggest Jump In History, Government-Funded (Bloomberg)

Borrowing by American households rose at a faster pace in September on increased lending for auto purchases and bigger credit-card balances. The $28.9 billion jump in total credit followed a $16 billion gain in the previous month, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Non-revolving debt, which includes funding for college tuition and auto purchases, rose $22.2 billion, the most since July 2011. Borrowing probably remained elevated in October in the wake of the strongest back-to-back months of motor vehicle sales in 15 years. Having made progress in restoring their balance sheets after the last recession, some households are more willing to finance purchases as the labor market continues to improve.

The median forecast of 31 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an $18 billion increase in credit, with estimates ranging from gains of $10 billion to $26 billion. The Fed’s consumer credit report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home equity lines of credit and home mortgages. The pickup in non-revolving credit in September followed a $12 billion increase the previous month. Revolving debt rose $6.7 billion, the biggest gain in three months, after a $4 billion advance, the data showed.

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The biggest threat to US markets?

Primary Dealers Are Liquidating Corporate Bonds At An Unprecedented Pace (ZH)

By now it is common knowledge that over the past two years the primary source of stock buying have been corporations themselves (recall Goldman’s admission that “buybacks have been the largest source of overall US equity demand in recent years”) with two consecutive years of near record stock repurchases. However, now that a December rate hike appears practically certain following the “pristine” October jobs report, suddenly the question is whether the recent strong flows into bond funds will continue, and generously fund ongoing repurchase activity. The latest fund flow report from BofA puts this into perspective

“The increase in interest rates is starting to impact US mutual fund and ETF flows. Hence, the inflow into the all fixed income category declined to +$0.96bn this past week (ending on October 4th) from a +$2.80bn inflow the week before… Outflows from government funds accelerated further to -$2.43bn this past week from -$1.73bn and -$1.00bn in the prior two weeks, respectively.”

But more concerning for corporations than even fund flows, which will surely see even bigger outflows now that both yields are spreads are set to blow out making debt issuance far less attractive to corporations whose cash flows continue to deteriorate, is what the NY Fed reported as activity by Primary Dealer, i.e., the most connected, “smartest people in the room” who indirectly execute the Fed’s actions in the public markets, in the most recent week. As the charts below show, the Primary Dealers aren’t waiting for the December announcement to express how they feel about their holdings of both Investment Grade and Junk Bond (mostly in the longer, 5-10Y, 10Y+ maturity buckets where duration risk is highest). Indeed, as of the week ended October 28, Primary Dealer corporate holdings tumbled across both IG and HY, plunging to the lowest level in years in what can only be called a rapid liquidation of all duration risk.

Investment Grade Bonds:

And Junk Bonds:

Why would dealers be liquidating their corporate bond portfolios at such a fast pace? For junk, the obvious answer is that with ongoing concerns around rising leverage, not to mention yields being dragged higher by the ongoing pain in the energy sector, this may be merely a proactive move ahead of even more selling. But for IG the answer is less clear, and the selling likely suggests fears that any December rate hike will see spreads blow out even further, and as a result dealers are cutting their exposure ahead of December.

Whatever the answer keep a close eye on this series: if Dealer net positions turn negative it will mean that the corporate buyback door is about to slam shut in a hurry as others begin imitating the ‘smartest and most connected traders in the room’, depriving corporations of their biggest source of stock buyback “dry powder.” In fact, taken to its extreme, if companies suddenly find it problematic to raise capital using debt, we may soon enter that phase of the corporate cycle best known by a spike in equity issuance, whose impact on stock price is just the opposite to that of buybacks.

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Not a chance. They’re scared to bits.

Will China’s Consumers Step Up In 2016? (Bloomberg)

)China’s practice of laying out five-year economic plans is a legacy of its Maoist past. And so, as the Communist Party has done since the 1950s, officials met in Beijing in October to hash out the plan to take the world’s second-biggest but now struggling economy from 2016 to 2020. Policymakers have two big goals. In 2016 they’ll continue to feature the consumer as the star of a hoped-for economic resurgence. They’ll also try to ensure by any means necessary that gross domestic product doesn’t slow rapidly, even if that involves injecting more credit into overleveraged, declining industries. China will target “medium-high economic growth,” the Party said in an Oct. 29 communiqué after meeting to discuss the new five-year plan.

Those two goals—fostering a consumer economy and giving GDP a short-term boost—are contradictory. Developing a consumption-driven economy means accepting growth below the 7%+ annual rise of recent years, which was achieved in part by state-run banks and local government finance companies giving enterprises cheap credit to build often unneeded factories and real estate developments. For many economists, it’s a no-brainer to switch to this slower-growing but more sustainable model, one that relies on a strong service sector and robust household consumption. The dramatic growth of the last 35 years has brought serious industrial overcapacity, a polluted environment, and declining productivity even as the workforce shrinks.

In October, days after the announcement that GDP rose in the third quarter at a rate of 6.9% from a year earlier, the slowest pace since 2009, the central bank cut rates for the sixth time in a year. It also lowered the amount of funds banks must hold in reserve, allowing them to make more loans. Economic planners have loosened curbs on borrowing by local officials and stepped up approvals of railway and costly environmental projects. Says Andrew Polk, senior economist at the Conference Board China Center for Economics and Business in Beijing: “Cutting interest rates and adding fiscal spending are temporary salves to much bigger problems. The leadership has very little power to stop the slide in growth into next year.”

In the first quarter of 2015, for the first time, service industries—including jobs from lawyers to tourist guides—made up a bit more than half of GDP. The service economy grew 8.4% in the first nine months; manufacturing, only 6%. “The answer to the question of whether China’s economy is sinking or swimming lies in its service sector,” wrote Capital Economics’ Mark Williams and Chang Liu in an Oct. 29 note. Service companies employ more people than manufacturers to generate the same amount of GDP. Not only are service workers more numerous, they’re also often better paid than factory hands. More Chinese with more money in their pockets should nurture consumption. To date, that’s been hard to engineer, with households socking away about 30% of disposable income, one of the world’s highest savings rates. Household consumption makes up only a little more than one-third of GDP. (In the U.S., consumption is almost 70% of the economy.)

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Overcapacity is China’s 2016 key word.

China’s Demand For Cars Has Slowed. Overcapacity Is The New Normal. (Bloomberg)

For much of the past decade, China’s auto industry seemed to be a perpetual growth machine. Annual vehicle sales on the mainland surged to 23 million units in 2014 from about 5 million in 2004. That provided a welcome bounce to Western carmakers such as Volkswagen and General Motors and fueled the rapid expansion of locally based manufacturers including BYD and Great Wall Motor. Best of all, those new Chinese buyers weren’t as price-sensitive as those in many mature markets, allowing fat profit margins along with the fast growth. No more. Automakers in China have gone from adding extra factory shifts six years ago to running some plants at half-pace today—even as they continue to spend billions of dollars to bring online even more plants that were started during the good times.

The construction spree has added about 17 million units of annual production capacity since 2009, compared with an increase of 10.6 million units in annual sales, according to estimates by Bloomberg Intelligence. New Chinese factories are forecast to add a further 10% in capacity in 2016—despite projections that sales will continue to be challenged. “The Chinese market is hypercompetitive, so many automakers are afraid of losing market share,” says Steve Man, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “The players tend to build more capacity in hopes of maintaining, or hopefully, gain market share. Overcapacity is here to stay.” The carmaking binge in China has its roots in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when China unleashed a stimulus program that bolstered auto sales.

That provided a lifeline for U.S. and European carmakers, then struggling with a collapse in consumer demand in their home markets. Passenger vehicle sales in China increased 53% in 2009 and 33% in 2010 after the stimulus policy was put in place. But the flood of cars led to worsening traffic gridlock and air pollution that triggered restrictions on vehicle registrations in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Worse, the combination of too many new factories and slowing demand has dragged down the industry’s average plant utilization rate, a measure of profitability and efficiency. The industrywide average plunged from more than 100% six years ago (the result of adding work hours or shifts) to about 70% today, leaving it below the 80% level generally considered healthy. Some local carmakers are averaging about 50% utilization, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

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And this is what China’s overcapacity leads to.

World’s Largest Steel Maker ArcelorMittal Loses $700 Million in Q3 (NY Times)

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel maker, on Friday reported a $700 million loss for the third quarter, blaming falling prices and competition from Chinese exports. In a news release, the company said that customers were hesitating to buy its products and that “unsustainably low export prices from China,” which produces far more steel than any other country, had hurt its bottom line. Lakshmi N. Mittal, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Friday that steel demand in the company’s main markets, Europe and North America, was healthy, but that low-cost Chinese steel was depressing prices. “The Chinese are dumping in our core markets,” Mr. Mittal said. “The question is how long the Chinese will continue to export below their cost.”

The company’s loss for the period compared with a $22 million profit for last year’s third quarter. ArcelorMittal, which is based in Luxembourg, also sharply cut its projection for 2015 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — the main measure of a steel company’s finances. The new estimate is $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, down from the previous projection of $6 billion to $7 billion. On a call with reporters, Aditya Mittal, Mr. Mittal’s son and the company’s chief financial officer, said that a flood of low-price Chinese exports was the biggest challenge for ArcelorMittal in the European and North American markets. The company estimates that Chinese steel exports this year will reach 110 million metric tons, compared with 94 million tons last year and 63 million tons in 2013. ArcelorMittal produced 93 million metric tons of steel in 2014.

ArcelorMittal is one of several companies operating in the United States that have brought complaints against the dumping of Chinese steel. On Tuesday, the United States Commerce Department issued a preliminary ruling in those companies’ favor in one product category, saying it would impose tariffs of up to 236% on imports of corrosion-resistant steel from some Chinese companies, on the grounds that their products are subsidized by the government. “That clearly shows there is substance in the trade cases,” Lakshmi Mittal said.

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Berlin fails. Having VW investigate itself is crazy.

Berlin Accomplices: The German Government’s Role in the VW Scandal (Spiegel)

This week wasn’t just a bad one for the Volkswagen concern. The German government is also happy that it’s over. Berlin had painstakingly developed a damage control strategy in an effort to prevent the VW scandal from damaging the reputation of German industry as a whole. Top advisors to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had even written a confidential letter to German diplomats around the world, providing guidelines for how they should go about defending “the Germany brand.” “The emissions scandal should be presented as a singular occurrence,” they wrote. “External communication” should focus “to the extent possible on preventing VW and the ‘Made in Germany’ brand from being connected.”

But then Monday arrived and the announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States that “VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans.” In addition to the 11 million diesel vehicles whose emissions values were manipulated, additional models are also thought to have been outfitted with illegal software to cheat on emissions compliance tests, including the popular SUV Cayenne. That vehicle is manufactured by Porsche, the company that VW’s new CEO, Matthias Müller, used to lead before being hired to replace Martin Winterkorn, who was ousted when the VW scandal first broke. Then Tuesday arrived, and along with it the admission from Müller that VW had deceived even more of its customers.

The fuel consumption claims for more than 800,000 vehicles were manipulated, with the specified average mileage not even achievable in testing, much less in real-world conditions. The new scandal affects models carrying the company’s own environmental seal-of-excellence known as BlueMotion, a label reserved for “the most fuel efficient cars of their class,” as the company itself claims. It has now become clear that such claims are a fraudulent lie. And it shows that this scandal may continue to broaden before VW manages to get it under control.

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Short version: nothing is happening. This is how the EU ‘runs’.

EU Asks Members To Investigate After VW Admits New Irregularities (Reuters)

The European Commission has written to all 28 European Union member countries urging them to widen their investigations into potential breaches of vehicle emissions rules after Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) admitted it had understated carbon dioxide levels. Europe’s biggest motor manufacturer admitted in September it had rigged U.S. diesel emissions tests to mask the level of emissions of health-harming nitrogen oxides. In a growing scandal, the German company said on Tuesday it had also understated the fuel consumption – and so carbon dioxide emissions – of about 800,000 vehicles. In a letter seen by Reuters, the Commission said it was not aware of any irregularities concerning carbon dioxide values and was seeking the support of EU governments “to find out how and why this could happen”.

It said it had already contacted Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), which is responsible for approving the conformity of new car types, and raised the issue with other national authorities at a meeting late on Thursday in Brussels. A Commission spokeswoman confirmed the letter, adding it asked national governments “to widen their investigations to establish potential breaches of EU law”. “Public trust is at stake. We need all the facts on the table and rigorous enforcement of existing legislation,” the spokeswoman said. With vehicle testing in the EU overseen by national authorities, the bloc’s executive body, the Commission, is reliant on each country to enforce rules.

This arrangement has come under fire from environmentalists because on-road tests have consistently shown vehicles emitting more pollutants than laboratory tests. Car manufacturers are a powerful lobby group in the EU, as a major source of jobs and exports. In an open letter on Friday, a group of leading investors urged the EU to toughen up testing of vehicle emissions to prevent a repeat of the VW scandal and the resulting hit to its shareholders. VW shares have plunged as much as a third in value since the crisis broke in September.

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Do note this by Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board: “The case is “the biggest direct breach of laws that I have ever uncovered … This is a serious issue, which will certainly lead to very high penalties..”

VW Says Will Cover Extra CO2 And Fuel Usage Taxes Paid By EU Drivers (Guardian)

Volkswagen has said it will foot the bill for extra taxes incurred by drivers after it admitted understating the carbon dioxide emissions of about 800,000 cars in Europe. In a letter to European Union finance ministers on Friday, seen by Reuters, Matthias Müller, the VW chief executive, asked member states to charge the carmaker rather than motorists for any additional taxes relating to fuel usage or CO2 emissions. The initial emissions scandal, which erupted in September when Volkswagen admitted it had rigged US diesel emissions tests, affecting 11m vehicles globally, deepened this week when VW said it had also understated the carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption of 800,000 vehicles in Europe. Analysts say VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker, could face a bill of up to €35bn for fines, lawsuits and vehicle refits.

To help meet some of the anticipated costs, VW has announced a €1bn programme of spending cuts. The head of VW’s works council said the announcement of the cuts had broken strict rules in Germany on consultation with workers and demanded immediate talks with company bosses. “Management is announcing savings measures unilaterally and without any foundation,” Bernd Osterloh said in an emailed statement. [..] Since the emissions revelations, VW has been criticised by lawmakers, regulators, investors and customers frustrated at the time it is taking to get to the bottom of a scandal that has wiped almost a third off the carmaker’s market value. Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board, which is investigating VW in the US, told the German magazine WirtschaftsWoche: “Volkswagen is so far not handling the scandal correctly.

“Every additional gram of nitrogen oxide increases the health risks for our citizens. Volkswagen has not acknowledged that in any way or made any effort to really solve the problem.” The case is “the biggest direct breach of laws that I have ever uncovered … This is a serious issue, which will certainly lead to very high penalties,” Nichols added. The scandal has also piled pressure on European regulators, who have long been criticised by environmentalists on the grounds that on-road tests have consistently shown vehicles emitting more pollutants than official laboratory tests. In an open letter, a group of leading investors urged the EU to toughen up vehicle testing. But it faces a battle because carmakers have traditionally had a strong influence on policy in countries such as Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, where they are an important source of jobs and export income.

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Now everyone else must jump ship too.

Goldman Sachs Dumps Stock Pledged By Valeant Chief (FT)

Valeant said on Friday that Goldman Sachs had sold more than $100m-worth of shares in the struggling drugmaker, which had been pledged as collateral against a personal loan from the investment bank to the company’s chief executive. Goldman contacted Michael Pearson, Valeant’s chief executive, earlier this week and gave him 48 hours to pay off a $100m loan that he took out in 2013 after a precipitous decline in the company’s share price triggered a so-called margin call on the debt. After he failed to raise enough cash to pay off the loan, Goldman Sachs on Thursday morning dumped the entire block of just under 1.3m shares, held in Mr Pearson’s name, which were worth roughly $119.4m at the open of trading in New York on Thursday.

The sale of Mr Pearson’s pledged shares contributed to a rout in the company’s stock price on Thursday, during which its market value fell as much as 20%. Roughly 57m shares changed hands during the day, compared with a daily average of 4m over the past 12 months. The embarrassing announcement is the latest setback for Valeant and its high-profile hedge fund backers, who include Bill Ackman, Jeff Ubben and John Paulson. It comes after months of controversy surrounding the drugmaker’s reliance on high prices, aggressive sales techniques and debt-fuelled deal making. Goldman’s decision to terminate the loan to Mr Pearson underscores the impact of the rout in Valeant’s shares on his personal wealth. Mr Pearson owns roughly 9m shares, accounting for Goldman’s sale on Thursday. In August that stake was worth almost $2.4bn; as of Friday morning, the value had plummeted to $720m.

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The EU’s criminal folly: “In the questionable strategy of EU bureaucrats, an increase in foreclosures should boost the banks’ assets and in this way should help to reduce the financial demands on the ESM bailout fund.”

New Countdown For Greece: A Bank Bail-In Is Looming (Minenna)

The debt crisis may no longer be in the spotlight but the financial situation in Greece remains complex. Greek banks continue to survive at the edge of bankruptcy, kept afloat only by Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) from the ECB and by still-enforced capital controls. After the August “agreement”, the Troika has promised the Greek government €25 billion for bank recapitalization, of which €10bn is in a Luxembourg account ready to be wired. The funds will be disbursed only if the government manages, before the 15th of November, to approve a long list of urgent reforms: the infamous list of the “48 points” that embraces tax increases, public spending cuts and the highly controversial pensions reform. It is obviously a tough task for the Tsipras government, even if September’s election victory gave him a solid mandate.

After a parliamentary marathon, it seems that the government has successfully passed some unpopular measures: the increase from 26% to 29% in income tax, the rise from 5% to 13% in the tax on luxury goods and the restoring of the tax on television advertisements. The process was not so smooth with the first steps in reforming pensions and slowdowns are on the horizon. Tsipras is also trying to gain time against the pressure of Brussels to modify the laws that still protect primary homeowners from foreclosure. According to some estimates, there are around 320,000 families in Greece that are not paying down their mortgages and obviously these bad loans are dead weights for the banking system. In the questionable strategy of EU bureaucrats, an increase in foreclosures should boost the banks’ assets and in this way should help to reduce the financial demands on the ESM bailout fund.

Anyway, the Greek government is still living for the day, and the Troika has noticed that only 19 of the mandatory 48 reforms have been approved so far. Brussels is unhappy with this situation and has sent a strong “signal” to the Tsipras government by delaying the last €2 billion tranche of loans. At end-October 2015, €13 billion has already been transferred to Greece; these cash inflows alone have allowed the government to guarantee payments of salaries and pensions and reduced the dangerous social tensions experienced in July. Moreover, part of these funds has been diverted to pay down the ECB and this could allow the QE programme to be extended to Greece as early as November. This would be an unexpected image success for Mr. Tsipras and would give breathing space to the banking system, where up to €15 billion of government bonds eligible for purchase by the ECB are still languishing.

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2016 looks to be a watershed year for British care in general.

UK Care Home Sector In ‘Meltdown’, Threatened By US Vulture Fund (Ind.)

The UK’s largest provider of care homes is preparing to sell scores of properties and slash its budget by millions to fend off an attack from a US vulture fund hoping to cash in on the UK elderly-care crisis. Four Seasons Health Care, which cares for thousands of residents, is facing a £500m-plus credit crunch after government spending cuts and financial engineering by City investors left it struggling to pay lenders. The little-known H/2 Capital Partners has been buying up the group’s debt in the hope that the current owners, Terra Firma, will cede control of the homes after finances were squeezed by local government funding cuts.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, a trade group for elderly-care provision, said the Government needed to step in to stop speculative investors targeting the troubled industry. “If the Government does not fund the sector properly, people will come into it to make money rather than deliver care,” he warned. To stave off the hedge fund assault, Four Seasons is considering plans to make deep cuts to the money it spends refurbishing and developing care homes. [..] Unions are concerned that the funding crisis will force many elderly residents to move into NHS beds and have called on Chancellor George Osborne to deliver ringfenced funding to the social care sector in his spending review later this month.

“The sector is going through a slow-motion collapse and Four Seasons is part of that situation,” GMB national officer Justin Bowden said. “It’s in meltdown and there will be tens of thousands of our mums and dads who will have to be looked after.” The squeeze on funding has put Four Seasons’ owner Terra Firma in a bind as it tries to meet annual costs of about £110m a year. The buyout group, led by well-known dealmaker Guy Hands, bought Four Seasons in 2012 from Royal Bank of Scotland for £825m in a debt-fuelled takeover. Most of the takeover cash was borrowed using two loans sold on to investors – one worth £350m and the other £175m.

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The care disaster will spread across the western world. It will get ugly and deadly.

US Congress Proposes A Chilling Resolution On Social Security (Simon Black)

Officially, the US government is now $18.5 trillion in debt, and Social Security is the biggest financial sinkhole in America. Social Security’s various trust funds currently hold about $2.7 trillion in total assets; yet the government itself estimates the program’s liabilities to exceed $40 trillion. And Social Security’s second biggest trust fund, the Disability Insurance fund, will be fully depleted in a matter of weeks. The trustees who manage these massive funds on behalf of the current and future retirees of America are clearly concerned. In the 2015 report of the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees they state very plainly:

“Social Security as a whole as well as Medicare cannot sustain projected long-run program costs…”, and that the government should be “giving the public adequate time to prepare.” Wow. Now, we always hear politicians say that ‘Social Security is going to be just fine’. So this Board of Trustees must be a bunch of wackos. Who are these guys anyhow? The Treasury Secretary of the United States of America, as it turns out. Along with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Secretary of Labor. Etc. These are the folks who sign their name to the report saying that Social Security is going bust, and that Congress needs to give people time to prepare. And prepare they should.

The US Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing that tens of millions of Americans haven’t saved a penny for retirement; and roughly half of Baby Boomers have zero retirement savings. This means that there’s an overwhelming number of Americans pinning all of their retirement hopes on Social Security. Bad idea. In a recently proposed resolution, H. Res 488, Congress states point blank that Social Security “was never intended by Congress to be the sole source of retirement income for families.” Apparently they got the message from the Social Security Trustees and they want to start preparing people for the inevitable truth. This is no longer some wild conspiracy theory.

The Treasury Secretary is saying it. Congress is saying it. The numbers are screaming it: Social Security is going to fail. Ultimately this is a just another chapter in the same story– that government cannot be relied on to provide or produce, only to squander and fail. Sure, their intentions may be noble. But this level of serial incompetence can no longer be trusted, nor should we be foolish enough to believe that some new candidate can fix it. If you’re in your fifties and beyond, you’re probably going to be OK and at least get 10-15 years of benefits. If you’re in your 40s and below, you have to be 100% prepared to fend for yourself. Fortunately you have time to recover. Time to build. And time to learn.

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The chaos only deepens.

Germany Imposes Surprise Curbs On Syrian Refugees (Guardian)

Angela Merkel has performed an abrupt U-turn on her open-door policy towards people fleeing Syria’s civil war, with Berlin announcing that the hundreds of thousands of Syrians entering Germany would not be granted asylum or refugee status. Syrians would still be allowed to enter Germany, but only for one year and with “subsidiary protection” which limits their rights as refugees. Family members would be barred from joining them. Germany, along with Sweden and Austria, has been the most open to taking in newcomers over the last six months of the growing refugee crisis, with the numbers entering Germany dwarfing those arriving anywhere else.

However, the interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, announced that Berlin was starting to fall into line with governments elsewhere in the European Union, who were either erecting barriers to the newcomers or acting as transit countries and limiting their own intake of refugees. “In this situation other countries are only guaranteeing a limited stay,” De Maiziere said. “We’ll now do the same with Syrians in the future. We’re telling them ‘you will get protection, but only so-called subsidiary protection that is limited to a period and without any family unification.’” The major policy shift followed a crisis meeting of Merkel’s cabinet and coalition partners on Thursday.

The chancellor won global plaudits in August when she suspended EU immigration rules to declare that any Syrians entering Germany would gain refugee status, though this stirred consternation among EU partners who were not forewarned of the move. Thursday’s meeting decided against setting up “transit zones” for the processing of refugees on Germany’s borders with Austria, but agreed on prompt deportation of people whose asylum claims had failed.

Until now Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans entering Germany have been virtually guaranteed full refugee status, meaning the right to stay for at least three years, entitlement for family members to join them, and generous welfare benefits. Almost 40,000 Syrians were granted refugee status in Germany in August, according to the Berlin office responsible for the programme, with only 53 being given “subsidiary” status. That now appears to have ended abruptly. An interior ministry spokesman told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is instructed henceforth to grant Syrian civil war refugees only subsidiary protection.”

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What happens when you fail to prepare.

Germany Receives Nearly Half Of All Syrian Asylum Applicants (Guardian)

Germany has received nearly one in two of all asylum applications made by Syrians in EU member states this year. New figures released by the ministry of the interior on Thursday put the total number of asylum applications filed in Germany so far this year at 362,153, up 130% on January to October 2014. Nearly 104,000 of these applications were made by Syrians. This corresponds to about 47.5% of all requests for asylum submitted by Syrians in EU member states this year. Together with Germany, the countries that have received the most asylum applications from Syrians relative to their population sizes are Austria, Sweden and Hungary, with 1.3, 1.5, 2.7 and 4.7 applications per 1,000 people respectively. Europe’s next two biggest economies, France and Britain, on the other hand, have received only 0.03 and 0.02 applications from Syrians per 1,000 people respectively, according to Eurostat data.

Germany received 54,877 asylum applications in October alone, an increase of nearly 160% compared with the same month last year, according to the same figures. But the figure for formal asylum applications doesn’t reveal the full scale of the number of people Germany is absorbing. Filing the required paperwork takes time. The German interior ministry notes that the country registered 181,166 asylum seeker arrivals in October alone. Of these, 88,640 were from Syria, 31,051 from Afghanistan and 21,875 from Iraq. Between January and October, Germany registered the arrival of 758,473 asylum seekers, about a third of which (243,721) were from Syria. The country expects to receive more than a million asylum seekers this year. So far this year, 81,547 people have been granted refugee status in Germany, which represents just under 40% of all asylum decisions taken from January to October 2015.

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Sweden’s been a light in a very opaque darkness, but…

Sweden Feels The Refugee Strain (Bloomberg)

Sweden, which considers itself a humanitarian superpower, has long welcomed refugees, whether they be Jews escaping the Holocaust or victims of civil wars and natural disasters. Some 16% of its population is foreign-born, well above the U.S. figure of 13%. Since the 1990s the Scandinavian nation of 9.6 million has absorbed hundreds of thousands of migrants from the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and Africa. Still, Swedes have never experienced anything like the current influx. Some 360,000 refugees—mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—are expected to enter the country in 2015 and 2016, on top of the 75,000 who sought asylum last year. It’s as if North Carolina, which has about the same population as Sweden, sprouted a new city the size of Raleigh in three years.

In a sign that its hospitality may be wearing thin, the government announced on Oct. 23 that by next year it will end a policy of automatically granting permanent residency to most refugees. In the future, adults arriving without children will initially get only a temporary residence permit. The Swedish Migration Agency says that meeting refugees’ basic needs could cost the national government 60 billion kronor ($7 billion) in 2016. Local governments and private organizations will spend billions more. If the flow doesn’t subside, “in the long term our system will collapse,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström in an Oct. 30 interview with the daily Dagens Nyheter.

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And Germany says ‘Stay in Austria’, and we’re off to the races…

Sweden Tells Refugees ‘Stay in Germany’ as Ikea Runs Out of Beds (Bloomberg)

Europe’s refugee crisis is having such a major impact in Sweden that even Ikea is running out of beds. The Swedish furniture giant says its shops in Sweden and Germany are running short on mattresses and beds amid increased demand due to an unprecedented inflow of asylum seekers in the two countries. In Sweden, which along with Germany has been the most welcoming, the Migration agency had to let about 50 refugees sleep on the floor of its head office on Thursday night as it tries to find accommodation for the latest arrivals. “There are some shortages of bunk beds, mattresses and duvets” in some stores in Germany and Sweden, Josefin Thorell, an Ikea spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response when asked whether the company had been affected by the biggest influx of migrants since World War II.

“If the situation persists we expect that it will be difficult to keep up and maintain sufficient supply,” Thorell said. Ikea has been supplying local authorities handling the refugee crisis. So far, 120,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Sweden this year and as many as 190,000 are expected to head to the country of 10 million people. Although Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters on Friday that the pressure on public finances “is not acute,” the Swedish government says it is no longer able to offer housing to new arrivals. “Those who come here may be met by the message that we can’t arrange housing for them,” Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told reporters. “Either you’ll have to arrange it yourself, or you have to go back to Germany or Denmark again.”

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Meanwhile, ….

Greek Coast Guard: Five More Migrants Found Dead (Kath.)

Greek authorities say the bodies of five more migrants have been found in the eastern Aegean Sea, which hundreds of thousands have crossed in frail boats this year seeking a better life in Europe. The coast guard said Friday that three men and a woman were found dead over the past two days in the sea off Lesvos. The eastern island is where most of the migrants head from the nearby Turkish coast, paying large sums to smugglers for a berth on overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels. The body of another man was found Thursday off the islet of Agathonissi. Well over half a million people have reached the Greek islands so far this year – a record number of arrivals – and the journey has proved fatal for hundreds.

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Nov 012015
 
 November 1, 2015  Posted by at 10:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 1 2015


Unknown Drowned baby boy, Lesbos Oct 25 2015

New Tragedy In The Aegean, Sinking 11 Dead, 4 Babies (In.gr)
‘So Many Of Them Were Babies. We Saw At Least 30 Bodies In The Water’ (HRW)
Crunch Talks For Merkel On Refugee Crisis As Thousands More Arrive (Reuters)
Greek Banks Need Extra €14 Billion To Survive Dire Economic Downturn (Guardian)
Greek Bad Debt Rises Above 50% For The First Time, ECB Admits (Zero Hedge)
Cash Crisis ‘Could Close 50% Of UK Care Homes’ (Observer)
Crisis In UK Care Homes Set To ‘Dwarf The Steel Industry’s Problems’ (Observer)
China Bad Loans Estimated At 20% Or Higher vs Official 1.5% (Bloomberg)
China’s Official Factory Gauge Signals Contraction Continues (Bloomberg)
‘Lipstick’-ing The GDP Pig Amid An Epochal Global Deflationary Swoon (Stockman)
Fed Admits: ‘Something’s Going On Here That We Maybe Don’t Understand’ (ZH)
Fed Looks At Way To Shift Big-Bank Losses To Investors (AP)
Australia Should ‘Tell The Story Of The Pacific To The World’ (Guardian)

At dawn Sunday: “five are women, two are children and four infants..” Four more deaths reported since… (Google translation)

New Tragedy In The Aegean, Sinking 11 Dead (In.gr)

Without end continues the refugee drama in the Aegean Sea. This time 11 refugees died when the six meter plastic boat, which was carrying them sank while approaching rocky area in Samos Blue, in the six meters from the shore, just before they occupants disembark. From the dead five are women, two are children and four infants. Most of the dead were trapped in the cabin of plastic boat. The new wreck occurred at dawn Sunday. From the new wreck rescued 15 people. The point is boat of the Coast, volunteer groups and divers.

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Deaths of single often go unreported: “The ultimate death toll is no doubt even higher, since only families with surviving members were able to report their missing to the coast guard..”

‘So Many Of Them Were Babies. We Saw At Least 30 Bodies In The Water’ (HRW)

On Wednesday off the Greek island of Lesbos, a large Turkish fishing boat carrying some 300 people trying to reach Europe sank, causing at least seven to drown, including four children, with at least 34 still missing. The needless loss of life should be enough to outrage us all. But just as outrageous is the reality that months into Europe’s refugee crisis, Europe’s leaders still have not taken the steps necessary to help prevent such unnecessary tragedies, let alone adopt policies that could provide people fleeing war and repression with legal and safe alternatives to seek asylum in Western Europe. Turkish smugglers taking advantage of those desperately fleeing the horrors of war in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq promised the victims that the trip aboard a “yacht” would be safer than the more common trips in overloaded rubber dinghies.

They then packed the 300 people like sardines on both decks of the aging fishing vessel. Disaster unfolded as the boat hit rough seas and high winds at about 4 in the afternoon. Suddenly, the sheer weight of those packed on the upper deck caused it to collapse, crashing everyone down onto the lower deck. Spanish volunteer life guards, working on the beaches of Lesbos to bring in the boats safely, watched the tragedy unfold through their binoculars from a beachhead on the Greek island. A Syrian man who survived told one of the doctors who treated the survivors that the collapse of the upper deck injured many people and created a large hole in the bottom of the boat, which began filling with water. The Turkish smuggler driving the boat called his fellow smugglers, and a speedboat came to evacuate him, its occupants firing several times in the air to warn off the panicking people on the boat.

As it evacuated the skipper, the speedboat hit the fishing boat, causing it to sink almost immediately. “Suddenly, we just saw hundreds of lifejackets in the sea,” Gerard, one of the Spanish volunteer lifeguards, told me over the phone. “We rushed down to get our jet skis, and we were in the water in minutes.” For more than four hours, until long after nightfall, three Spanish lifeguards tried to rescue as many of the people in the water as they could, using only their jetskis in the rough water many kilometers offshore. They performed CPR on some right on their jetskis. Several local fishing boats also came to join the rescue efforts, pulling survivors out of the water until their decks were packed with shivering, traumatized survivors.

Both the Greek coast guard and boats under the coordination of FRONTEX, the EU’s external borders agency, joined the effort as well, but their large boats sitting high out of the water made it difficult to hoist survivors unto their decks in the rough seas. The Spanish lifeguards had to risk their lives to scramble onto the Greek coast guard ship to perform CPR on those who had lost consciousness, including a tiny baby. Their jetskis were damaged in the process. Long after nightfall, the Spanish volunteers returned to shore, themselves so chilled to the bone that they were risking hypothermia. “We passed so many lifeless bodies floating in the sea as we left the rescue area,” Gerard said, his voice still shaking a day later.

“So many of them were babies. We saw at least 30 bodies at the scene in the water.” By Thursday, 242 people had been rescued, and the Greek coast guard confirmed that at least 34 people remained missing, in addition to the seven bodies recovered from the water the evening before. The ultimate death toll is no doubt even higher, since only families with surviving members were able to report their missing to the coast guard.

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WIll Merkel pull to the right with her country?

Crunch Talks For Merkel On Refugee Crisis As Thousands More Arrive (Reuters)

Nearly 10,000 refugees continued to arrive in Germany daily, police said on Saturday, highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the country’s stretched border staff ahead of a crunch meeting between Angela Merkel and a Bavarian ally on the crisis. Chancellor Merkel will discuss refugee policy on Saturday evening with Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and who has criticized her asylum policy and handling of the crisis. The CSU, sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has been outspoken about her “open doors” policy towards refugees, in part because its home state of Bavaria is the entry point for virtually all of the migrants arriving in Germany.

Berlin expects between 800,000 and a million refugees and migrants to arrive in Germany this year, twice as many as in any prior year. The huge numbers have fueled anti-immigration sentiment, with support for Merkel’s conservatives dropping to its lowest level in more than three years. There have also been a spate of right-wing attacks on shelters: police in Dresden reported two more arson attacks on Friday night on a hotel and a container, both of which were planned to house refugees and asylum seekers. On Sunday, Merkel and Seehofer will hold talks with Sigmar Gabriel, who leads the other party in her “grand coalition”, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Conservative officials believe it is likely Seehofer will come away from this weekend’s meetings with Merkel with a deal to introduce so-called ‘transit zones’ at border crossings to process refugees’ asylum requests. SPD politicians have rejected that idea, instead calling for faster registration and processing of asylum applications. The crisis has also prompted squabbling among EU states over how best to deal with the influx. European leaders last weekend agreed to cooperate to manage migrants crossing the Balkans but offered no quick fix. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe needed to work together to come up with a solution to the crisis but that Germany would continue to welcome refugees. “We will not slam the door in the face of the refugees,” she said at a security conference in Bahrain.

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A lot less than was prviously announced.

Greek Banks Need Extra €14 Billion To Survive Dire Economic Downturn (Guardian)

Greece’s four main banks need to find another €14bn of reserves to ensure they could withstand an economic downturn, the ECB said on Saturday. The four banks – Alpha Bank, Eurobank, NBG and Piraeus Bank – have until 6 November to say how they intend to make up that shortfall, the ECB said. The money could come from private investors or from EU bailout funds. An ECB stress test known as a “comprehensive assessment” identified a capital shortfall of €4.4bn under a best-case scenario and €14.4bn in a worst-case situation. The shortfall is smaller than originally feared, with the most recent bailout deal setting aside up to €25bn to prop up Greece’s banks.

The ECB audit examined the quality of the banks’ assets and considered the “specific recapitalisation needs” of each institution under Greece’s EU bailout. “Overall, the stress test identified a capital shortfall across the four participating banks of €4.4bn under the baseline scenario and €14.4bn under the adverse scenario,” the ECB said. “The four banks will have to submit capital plans explaining how they intend to cover their shortfalls by 6 November. This will start a recapitalisation process under the economic adjustment programme that must conclude before the end of the year.” Increasing the banks’ capital reserves would “improve the resilience of their balance sheets and their capacity to withstand potential adverse macroeconomic shock”, the central bank added.

In August, eurozone finance ministers released €26bn of the €86bn in bailout funds that went to recapitalising Greece’s stricken banking sector and make a debt payment to the ECB. Greek banks have already been bailed out under earlier deals for the country. They suffered further losses as Greece headed towards a third bailout earlier this year. Depositors pulled billions out of the country fearing that Greece would be forced to leave the euro. Limits on withdrawals and transfers imposed in June to prevent Greek banks from collapsing remain in place, although they have been loosened.

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Now that’s a real ugly number. And austerity assures the number will get worse. What does that spell for Greek banks?

Greek Bad Debt Rises Above 50% For The First Time, ECB Admits (Zero Hedge)

According to the FT, “the bill states that bank rescue fund HFSF will have full voting rights on any shares it acquires from banks in exchange for providing state aid. Under the bill the bank rescue fund will have a more active role, assessing bank managements.

The exact mix of shares and contingent convertible bonds the HFSF will buy from banks in exchange for any fresh funds it will provide will be decided by the cabinet. The capital hole has emerged chiefly due to the rising number of Greeks unable or unwilling to repay their debt.

And therein lies the rub, because in the span of three months, Greek NPLs have risen from 47.6% of total to 51%: an increase of just over 1% in bad debt every month. Which means that whether or not the latest attempt to boost confidence by the ECB, ESM, and the Greek parliament succeeds is moot. Yes, a few hedge funds may invest funds alongside the ESM, but in the end, as the NPLs keep rising and as long as Greek debtors refuse – or simply are unable – to pay their debt or interest, the next Greek crisis is inevitable. The biggest wildcard is whether or not the Greek population will accept this latest promise of stability in its banking sector at face value: a banking sector which since July is operating under draconian capital controls.

Granted, we should point out that in the past two months the deposit outflow from banks has stopped, and even reversed modestly adding about €900 million in deposits in the past two months, although that is mostly due to the inability of households and corporations to withdraw any sizable amount of funds. The real answer whether Greek banks have been “saved” will wait until the shape of the final bank recapitalization takes place, even as NPLs continue to mount. Remember: Greek lenders are currently kept afloat only by the ECB’s ELA but there is a rush to get the recapitalization finished. If it is not done by the end of the year, new EU rules mean large depositors such as companies may have to take a hit in their accounts.

If the proposed recap is insufficient – and it will be since under the surface the Greek economy continues to collapse and NPLs continue to mount – and a bank bail-in of depositors takes place (a bail-in which took place immediately in the case of Cyprus back in 2013 when Russian oligarch savings were “sacrificed” to bail out the local insolvent banking system), the next leg in the Greek bank crisis will promptly unveil itself, only this time Greece will have some 200% in debt/GDP to show for its most recent, third, bailout. Finally, the real question is: having read all of the above, dear Greek readers, will you hand over what little cash you have stuffed in your mattress to your friendly, neighborhood, soon to be recapitalized bank?

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The entire western world get bogged down under this pressure.

Cash Crisis ‘Could Close 50% Of UK Care Homes’ (Observer)

Ministers are under mounting pressure to pump more money into care for the elderly as investigations by the Observer reveal how some of the largest providers may have to pull out of supplying services because of an escalating financial crisis. Before chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement on 25 November, Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities. Meanwhile, the head of Care England, which represents independent care providers, claims that the care home sector is heading for a bigger crisis than the steel industry, while Chai Patel, the boss of one of Britain’s largest care home operators, HC-One, says half of Britain’s care homes could go bust.

The warnings come as residents in the 470 homes and specialist centres run by leading provider Four Seasons face uncertainty about the future of the company. Four Seasons has to make a £26m interest payment in December, but is losing money under the weight of £500m of debt. Four Seasons has insisted that it can make the payment, but bosses at rival companies warned that the industry was under unsustainable pressure. In the home care sector, where specialists look after the elderly in their own properties, the United Kingdom Homecare Association cautioned that leading providers could pull out of 55,125 care hours and 33 contracts because of the shortfall between the cost of care and the amount local authorities were paying for the service. Wollaston, a former GP, said she supported the new national living wage and moves to pay transport costs to carers, but added that the government had to recognise that both measures would increase the costs of care.

“There has been a longstanding gap in funding for social care and this will become much more severe if there is not adequate recognition of the rising costs the sector will face as a result of the living wage. Otherwise, we will see more care providers pulling out of the sector,” she said. Many problems result from the fact that local authorities, which have suffered funding cuts of more than 40% since 2010, cannot offer enough to make contracts attractive or, in many cases, viable. Many providers are turning to the private market as an alternative, where they can. Martin Green, the head of Care England, said the crisis would lead to more people ending up in hospitals and Patel, whose company runs 250 care homes, said he had given research to the government that showed that half of care homes could disappear.

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So who’s going to pay, now and in 5 years, 10 years?

Crisis In UK Care Homes Set To ‘Dwarf The Steel Industry’s Problems’ (Observer)

The ghost of Southern Cross hangs over Britain’s care home industry. Four years ago the country’s largest care home group collapsed, sparking months of uncertainty and worry for its 31,000 residents and their families, until Southern Cross’s rivals stepped forward to agree rescue deals for its 750 homes. Now, however, the industry could be rewarded by facing an even bigger crisis. While it was a set of circumstances unique to Southern Cross that laid it low in 2011 – particularly high rents for its properties and the costs of a debt mountain left by its private equity owners – today care homes across the country are feeling the squeeze. Four Seasons, which has more than 22,000 beds spread among 470 homes nationwide, is at forefront of the new crisis.

The company is owned by private equity group Terra Firma, the organisation led by financier Guy Hands that has, at various times, controlled companies as diverse as Méridien hotels, Odeon cinemas and record label EMI. It is losing millions of pound a year and struggling under £500m of debt. Four Seasons needs to make a £26m interest payment in December to satisfy creditors who could put it into administration. Terra Firma insists it will be able to make the payment, but the private equity group, trade unions, and local authorities all agree this is only the start of the problems for the care home industry. Justin Bowden, national officer at the GMB union, which represents thousands of care home employees, said: “You are looking potentially at several Southern Crosses in the next 12 months if something drastic is not done.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, the body that represents independent care providers, warned that the crisis in the sector would dwarf the problems in the steel industry. “We are looking at Redcar happening twice a month if care homes go down,” he said. “These people can only be looked after in care homes and hospitals. If Jeremy Hunt thinks he has a problem with bed blocking now, it is nothing on what it is going to be like if these care homes start to close. Hospitals won’t be able to do elective care because they will be full of old people.” The problems for care homes are rooted in the gap between the costs of care and the amounts local authorities are paying for residents. There are staggering variations in fees across the country, ranging from £350 a week to as high as £750, according to consumer watchdog Which?

The Local Government Association itself estimates that there will be a £2.9bn annual funding gap in social care by the end of the decade. This gap will widen with the introduction of the national living wage next April, which will add another £1bn to the costs of care homes between now and 2020.

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“China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

China Bad Loans Estimated At 20% Or Higher vs Official 1.5% (Bloomberg)

Corporate investigator Violet Ho never put a lot of faith in the bad loan numbers reported by China’s banks. Crisscrossing provinces from Shandong to Xinjiang, she’s seen too much — from the shell game of moving assets between affiliated companies to disguise the true state of their finances to cover-ups by bankers loath to admit that loans they made won’t be recovered. “If I have one piece of advice for people worrying about the financial status of Chinese companies, it’s this: it’s right to be worried,” said Ho, senior managing director in Hong Kong for Kroll Inc., a U.S. risk consultancy. “Often a credit report for a Chinese company is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

As China’s banking industry persists with publishing delinquent-debt numbers that few have faith in – a survey in 2014 indicated that even lenders didn’t believe them – some financial analysts, too, have turned detectives to try to work out what the real numbers may be. The amount of bad debt piling up in China is at the center of a debate about whether the country will continue as a locomotive of global growth or sink into decades of stagnation like Japan after its credit bubble burst. Bank of China Ltd. reported on Thursday its biggest quarterly bad-loan provisions since going public in 2006. While the analysts interviewed for this story differ in their approaches to calculating likely levels of soured credit, their conclusion is the same: The official 1.5% bad-loan estimate is way too low.

Charlene Chu, who made her name at Fitch Ratings making bearish assessments of the risks from China’s credit explosion since 2008, is among those crunching the numbers. While corporate investigator Ho relies on her observations from hitting the road, Chu and her colleagues at Autonomous Research in Hong Kong take a top-down approach. They estimate how much money is being wasted after the nation began getting smaller and smaller economic returns on its credit from 2008. Their assessment is informed by data from economies such as Japan that have gone though similar debt explosions. While traditional bank loans are not Chu’s prime focus – she looks at the wider picture, including shadow banking – she says her work suggests that nonperforming loans may be at 20% to 21%, or even higher.

The Bank for International Settlements cautioned in September that China’s credit to gross domestic product ratio indicates an increasing risk of a banking crisis in coming years. “A financial crisis is by no means preordained, but if losses don’t manifest in financial sector losses, they will do so via slowing growth and deflation, as they did in Japan,” said Chu. “China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

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But there’s still plenty voices willing to paint rosy picstures.

China’s Official Factory Gauge Signals Contraction Continues (Bloomberg)

China’s first key indicator this quarter, an official factory gauge, missed analysts’ estimates, signaling that the manufacturing sector has yet to bottom out as global demand falters and deflationary pressures deepen. The official purchasing managers index was unchanged at 49.8 in October, the National Bureau of Statistics said Sunday, compared with the median estimate of 50 in a Bloomberg survey. It was the third straight reading below 50, the line between expansion and contraction. The official non-manufacturing PMI, a barometer of services and construction, fell to 53.1 from 53.4 in September, the weakest since December 2008. “The manufacturing sector is still contracting, though stabilizing,” and the report indicates economic momentum remains sluggish, said Liu Ligang at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.

“We still believe the Chinese economy will experience modest rebound supported by faster infrastructure investment in November and December.” The newest data highlight the challenges confronting China’s old growth drivers. The nation’s leaders have reiterated priorities of both reforming the economy and maintaining medium- to high-speed growth in the next five years, according to a communique released by Xinhua News Agency on Thursday. The readings suggest continued monetary easing by the central bank hasn’t yet boosted smaller businesses as much as their larger, state-owned counterparts, which are able to borrow at reduced rates. “Big companies are stabilizing, while smaller ones continue to perform below the contraction-expansion line,” Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician at NBS, wrote in a statement interpreting the data on Sunday.

“The percentage of small companies facing a financial strain is considerably higher than that of bigger companies.” The unchanged manufacturing PMI suggests “managed stabilization” as policy makers strive to balance growth, reform, and market stability, according to Zhou Hao at Commerzbank in Singapore. The manufacturing sector stabilized “somewhat” due to monetary policy easing, Zhou said, while slowing power generation, steel production and housing sales are “suggesting that the overall economy is still under downward pressure.” The employment gauges of both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors remained mired in contraction zone, Sunday’s report showed. China’s survey-based unemployment rate picked up slightly to around 5.2% in September, while a ratio of job supply and demand rose in the third quarter.

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Stop confusing inflation with rising prices, and things get a lot clearer.

‘Lipstick’-ing The GDP Pig Amid An Epochal Global Deflationary Swoon (Stockman)

The talking heads were busy yesterday morning powdering the GDP pig. By averaging up the “disappointing” 1.5% gain for Q3 with the previous quarter they were able to pronounce that the economy is moving forward at an “encouraging” 2% clip. And once we get through this quarter’s big negative inventory adjustment, they insisted, we will be off to the ‘escape velocity’ races. Again. No we won’t! The global economy is in an epochal deflationary swoon and the US economy has already hit stall speed. It is only a matter of months before this long-in-the-tooth 75-month old business expansion will rollover into outright liquidation of excess inventories and hoarded labor. That is otherwise known as a recession.

Its arrival will be a thundering repudiation of the lunatic monetary policies of the last seven years; and it will send into panicked shock all those buy-the-dip speculators and robo-traders who still presume the central bank is omnipotent. So forget all the averaging and seasonally maladjusted noise in yesterday’s report and peak inside at the warning signs. To begin, the year/year gain of just 2.0% was the weakest result since the first quarter of 2014. And that’s only if you believe that inflation during the last 12 months was just 0.9%, as per the GDP deflator used by the Commerce Department statistical mills. Needless to say, there are about 90 million households in America below the top 20%, which more or less live paycheck to paycheck, that would argue quite vehemently that their cost of living including medical care, housing, education, groceries, utilities and much else – has gone up a lot more than 0.9%.

So put a reasonable “deflator” on the reported “real” GDP number, and you are getting pretty close to stall speed – even before you look inside at the internals. Indeed, even before you get to the components of the “deflated” GDP figure, you need to examine an even more important number contained in yesterday’s report that was not mentioned by a single talking head. To wit, the year/year gain in nominal GDP was only 2.9%, and it represented a continuing deceleration from 3.7% in the year ending in Q2 2015 and 3.9% in the years ending in Q1 2015 and Q4 2014, respectively. In short, the US economy is sitting there with $59 trillion of credit market debt outstanding, but owing to the tides of worldwide deflation now washing up on these shores, nominal GDP growth is sinking toward the flat line.

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QE accelerates deflation.

Fed Admits: ‘Something’s Going On Here That We Maybe Don’t Understand’ (ZH)

In a somewhat shocking admission of its own un-omnipotence, or perhaps more of a C.Y.A. moment for the inevitable mean-reversion to reality, Reuters reports that San Francisco Fed President John Williams said Friday that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand. With Japan having been there for decades, and the rest of the developed world there for 6 years… Suddenly, just weeks away from what The Fed would like the market to believe is the first rate hike in almost a decade, Williams decides now it is the time to admit the central planners might be missing a factor (and carefully demands better fiscal policy)… (as Reuters reports)

“I see this as more of a warning, a red flag that there’s something going on here that isn’t in the models, that we maybe don’t understand as well as we think, and we should dig down deep deeper and try to figure this out better,” said San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams on Friday pointing out that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand.

Williams, who is a voting member of the Fed’s policy-setting panel through the end of the year, has said the central bank should begin to raise interest rates soon but thereafter go at a gradual pace; ironically adding that the low neutral interest rate had “pretty significant” implications for monetary policy, and put more focus on fiscal policy as a response.

“If we could come up with better fiscal policy, find a way to have the economy grow faster or have a stronger natural rate of interest, then that takes the pressure off of us to try to come up with other ways to do it, like through a large balance sheet or having a higher inflation target,” Williams said. “It also means we don’t have to turn to quantitative easing and other policies as much.”

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As long as the investors are not the big banks?!

Fed Looks At Way To Shift Big-Bank Losses To Investors (AP)

In their latest bid to reduce the chances of future taxpayer bailouts, federal regulators are proposing that the eight biggest U.S. banks build new cushions against losses that would shift the burden to investors. The Federal Reserve’s proposal put forward Friday means the mega-banks would have to bulk up their capacity to absorb financial shocks by issuing equity or long-term debt equal to prescribed portions of total bank assets. The idea is that the cost of a huge bank’s failure would fall on investors in the bank’s equity or debt, not on taxpayers. The Fed governors led by Chair Janet Yellen voted 5-0 at a public meeting to propose the so-called “loss-absorbing capacity” requirements for the banks, which include JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America.

The eight banks would have to issue a total of about $120 billion in new long-term debt to meet the requirements of the proposal, the Fed staff estimates. If formally adopted, most of the requirements wouldn’t take effect until 2019, and the remainder not until 2022. The new cushions would come atop rules adopted by the Fed in July for the eight banks to shore up their financial bases with about $200 billion in additional capital — over and above capital requirements for the industry. And they would be in addition to 2014 rules directing all large U.S. banks to keep enough high-quality assets on hand to survive during a severe downturn. Combined with the regulators’ previous actions, the new proposal “would substantially reduce the risk to taxpayers and the threat to financial stability stemming from the failure of these (banks),” Yellen said at the start of the meeting.

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Problem is: Australia would need to address its own role.

Australia Should ‘Tell The Story Of The Pacific To The World’ (Guardian)

Australia should “tell the story of the Pacific to the world” when global leaders sit down to climate change talks in Paris at the end of this month, Labor has said. The impact of climate change on the nations of the Pacific is a focus for both the government and opposition ahead of COP21, where governments of more than 190 nations will gather to discuss a possible new global climate accord. The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, accompanied by foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek and immigration spokesman Richard Marles, will visit Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati over four days this week, while the government’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, will travel to New Caledonia, Fiji and Niue. The Labor leaders said climate change was an existential threat to some countries in the region.

“The dangerous consequences of climate change is no more evident than in the Pacific region. Pacific leaders have consistently identified climate change as the greatest threat to their livelihoods, food production, housing, security and wellbeing. “This is a serious problem that demands serious attention.” Marles, the former parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs, told Guardian Australia that it was important for Australia to have strong and constructive relations with its Pacific neighbours. He praised Pacific leaders, in particular Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, for highlighting the issues being faced by Pacific nations on the international stage. “It is crucial that, in the lead-up to Paris, the world understands the problems being faced by the Pacific. And it’s important that Australia plays a role in telling that story of the Pacific to the world.”

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