Sep 092016
 
 September 9, 2016  Posted by at 8:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle September 9 2016


NPC Daredevil John “Jammie” Reynolds, Washington DC 1917

ECB’s Mario Draghi Has Run Out Of Magic As Deflation Closes In (AEP)
ECB Stands Pat on Stimulus as Draghi Defends Policy (WSJ)
German July Exports, Imports Plunge (Street)
Goldman Calculates True Growth Rate Of China’s Debt: 40% of GDP Per Year (ZH)
China’s Reviving the American Heartland – One Low Wage at a Time (BBG)
Bank of Japan Risk: Running Out of Bonds to Buy (WSJ)
Australia, New Zealand Housing Booms Set Currencies On Course For Parity (BBG)
Coal Rises From the Grave to Become One of Hottest Commodities
Historic Tax Fraud Rocks Denmark As Loss Estimates Keep Growing (BBG)
Goldman Sachs Just Launched Project Fear in Italy (DQ)
Humans Have Destroyed A Tenth Of Earth’s Wilderness In 25 Years (G.)

 

 

Why does it seem so normal to use the word ‘magic’ in this context? When did that start?

ECB’s Mario Draghi Has Run Out Of Magic As Deflation Closes In (AEP)

Large parts of the eurozone are slipping deeper into a deflationary trap despite negative interest rates and €1 trillion of quantitative easing by the ECB, leaving the currency bloc with no safety buffer when the next global recession hits. The ECB is close to exhausting its ammunition and appears increasingly powerless to do more under the legal constraints of its mandate. It has downgraded its growth forecast for the next two years, citing the uncertainties of Brexit, and admitted that it has little chance of meeting its 2pc inflation target this decade, insisting that it is now up to governments to break out of the vicious circle. Mario Draghi, the ECB’s president, said there are limits to monetary policy and called on the rest of the eurozone to act “much more decisively” to lift growth, with targeted spending on infrastructure.

“It is abundantly clear that Draghi is played out and we’re in the terminal phase of QE. The eurozone needs a quantum leap in the nature of policy and it has to come from fiscal policy,” said sovereign bond strategist Nicholas Spiro. Mr Draghi dashed hopes for an expansion of the ECB’s monthly €80bn programme of bond purchases, and offered no guidance on whether the scheme would be extended after it expires in March 2017. There was not a discussion on the subject. “The bar to further ECB action is higher than widely assumed,” said Ben May from Oxford Economics. The March deadline threatens to become a neuralgic issue for markets given the experience of the US Federal Reserve, which suggests that an abrupt stop in QE stimulus amounts to monetary tightening and can be highly disruptive.

The ECB has pulled out all the stops to reflate the economy yet core inflation has been stuck at or below 1pc for three years. Officials are even more worried about the underlying trends. Data collected by Marchel Alexandrovich at Jefferies shows that the percentage of goods and services in the inflation basket currently rising at less than 1pc has crept up to 58pc. This is a classic precursor to deflation and suggests that the eurozone is acutely vulnerable to any external shock. The figure has spiked to 67pc in Italy, and is now significantly higher that it was when the ECB launched QE last year. The eurozone should have reached economic “escape velocity” by now after a potent brew of stimulus starting last year: cheap energy, a cheaper euro, €80bn a month of QE, and the end of fiscal austerity. [..] “The euro is far stronger than they want, and stronger than the economy deserves, but they don’t know how to weaken it. This is exactly what happened to the Japanese,” said Hans Redeker, currency chief at Morgan Stanley.

Read more …

Draghi’s starting to come down on Germany, but it’s too late: their exports just fell 10%.

ECB Stands Pat on Stimulus as Draghi Defends Policy (WSJ)

The ECB left its €1.7 trillion stimulus unchanged at a policy meeting Thursday, brushing off concerns over economic shock waves from Britain’s vote to leave the EU and disappointing investors expecting the ECB to act again soon. The decision to stand pat, even as new forecasts showed the ECB missing its inflation target for years, underlines how central banks are approaching the limits of what they can achieve without support from other policy areas, notably governments. In China earlier this month, Group of 20 leaders warned that monetary policy alone can’t fix the world’s economic ills, and pledged to boost spending and adopt overhauls aimed at boosting growth.

At a news conference here, ECB President Mario Draghi said he was concerned about persistently low eurozone inflation, which has fallen short of the ECB’s near-2% target for more than three years. Fresh ECB staff forecasts, published Thursday, showed inflation rising very gradually, to 1.2% next year and 1.6% in 2018. Despite that, Mr. Draghi said policy makers didn’t even discuss fresh stimulus, and praised the effectiveness of the bank’s existing policy measures, which include negative interest rates and €80 billion a month of bond purchases. He also aimed an unusually direct rebuke at Germany, criticizing Berlin for not boosting spending to support the economy. “Countries that have fiscal space should use it,” Mr. Draghi said. “Germany has fiscal space.”

Read more …

Germany looks a lot like Japan and China.

German July Exports, Imports in Shock Plunge (Street)

German imports and exports unexpectedly shrunk in July, with a sharp export contraction causing a surprise narrowing in Germany’s trade balance. Federal Statistical Office data showed seasonally adjusted exports fell by 2.6% – analysts had expected about 0.3% growth – whereas imports fell by 0.7%, as against expectations for a 0.8% rise. On the year exports slumped by 10% and imports shriveled by 6.5%. The foreign trade balance shrunk to €19.4 billion from €21.4 billion in June, as against expectations for a balance of €22 billion. The Federal Statistical Office said the pace of German exports to other EU countries fell by 7% in July, while imports from the region fell by 4.5%. The falls were slightly narrower for trade with other eurozone countries.

German trade outside the 28-nation EU fared worse, with exports plunging by 13.8% and imports by 10.1%. Faltering German exports amid lackluster worldwide growth and emerging-market volatility has long been a drag on German growth. But the sharper-than-expected export fall challenges expectations of a second-half pickup in German trade with the rest of the world, and the surprise – albeit small -import decline suggests domestic demand isn’t robust enough to step into the breach. The trade data come in a week that the statistics office reported weaker-than-expected industrial output and manufacturing production for July. But the euro held firm against the dollar after the figures and was recently up 0.11% at $1.1272.

Read more …

“..some time around 2019, China’s total Debt/GDP will be over 400%, an absolutely ridiculous number, and one which assures a banking, if not global, financial crisis.”

Goldman Calculates True Growth Rate Of China’s Debt: 40% of GDP Per Year (ZH)

For a long time when it came to Chinese loan creation, analysts would only look at the broadest reported aggregate: the so-called Total Social Financing. And, for a long time, it was sufficient – TSF showed that in under a decade, China had created over $20 trillion in new loans, vastly more than all the “developed market” QE, the proceeds of which were used to kickstart growth after the 2009 global depression, to fund the biggest capital misallocation bubble the world has ever seen and create trillions in nonperforming loans. However, a problem emerged about a year ago, when it was revealed that not even China’s TSF statistic was sufficient to fully capture the grand total of total new loan creation in China.

[..] according to Goldman, “a substantial amount of money was created last year, evidencing a very large supply of credit, to the tune of RMB 25tn (36% of 2015 GDP).” This massive number was 9% higher than the TSF data, which implied that “only” a quarter of China’s 2015 GDP was the result of new loans. As Goldman further noted, the “divergence from TSF has been particularly notable since Q2 last year after a major dovish shift in policy stance.” In short, in addition to everything else, China has also been fabricating its loan creation data, and the broadest official monetary aggregate was undercutting the true new loan creation by approximately a third. The reason for this is simple: China does not want the world – or its own population – to realize just how reliant it is on creating loans out of thin air (and “collateralized” by increasingly more worthless assets), as it would lead to an even faster capital outflow by the local population sensing just how unstable the local banking system is.

Here is the good news: compared to late 2015, the record credit creation has slowed down fractionally, and the gap with the TSF total has shrunk. The smaller gap seems to be in line with recent reports that listed banks’ “investment receivables” expanded less rapidly in 2016 H1, and it might partly reflect the regulators’ tougher stance against shadow lending in recent months. And now, the bad news: this “tougher stance” has not been nearly tough enough, because as the following chart shows on a 1-year moving average, nearly 40% of China’s “economic growth” is the result of new credit creation, or in other words, new loans. What this really means, is that China’s debt/GDP, estimated most recently by the IIF at 300%…

… is now growing between 30% and 40% per year, when one accounts for the unaccounted for “shadow” credit conduits. Here is how Goldman concludes this stunning observation: “The PBOC appears to have shifted to a less dovish, though still supportive, policy bias in the last few months. However, given the prospective headwinds from slower housing construction and tighter on-budget fiscal stance in the coming months, there remains a clear need to sustain a high level of infrastructure investment, which is credit intensive, to achieve the minimum 6.5% full-year growth target. This poses constraints on how much further the PBOC can keep reining in credit, in our view.”

Translating Goldman, some time around 2019, China’s total Debt/GDP will be over 400%, an absolutely ridiculous number, and one which assures a banking, if not global, financial crisis.

Read more …

The resounding success of globalization.

China’s Reviving the American Heartland – One Low Wage at a Time (BBG)

For six years, the General Motors factory that used to make Chevy Trailblazers in Moraine, Ohio, sat abandoned, a rusting monument to the decline of the American auto industry. These days, the plant is humming again, fueled by a resurgent U.S. consumer – but now under Chinese management. On the shop floor, Chinese supervisors in sky-blue uniforms that carry the logo of the new owners, Fuyao Glass, teach American employees how to assemble windshields. Drive along Interstate 75, through America’s industrial heartland, and you’ll find no shortage of Chinese-owned firms like Fuyao. They’re setting up shop in states such as Ohio and Michigan, key voter battlegrounds in November, where traditional manufacturing has been hollowed out – in many cases, by trade. With China.

[..] Fuyao acquired roughly half the old GM plant in 2014, spending $450 million to buy and remodel it. For a company that started out as a small producer of covers for water-meters and is now the world’s second-biggest auto-glass supplier, the acquisition capped a decade-long push into U.S. markets. For the Dayton area, it meant employment: the city, hometown of the Wright brothers, was hit hard by the shutdown of the GM plant two days before Christmas in 2008. [..] “Hey, 1,700 jobs is 1,700 jobs,” said Shawn Kane, a 28-year-old chef shopping at the Kroger grocery store in Moraine last month. “At least it’s not sitting empty anymore.” They’re jobs that tend not to pay as well as factory work once did, though – and there probably aren’t as many of them.

To keep its production in the U.S. viable, Fuyao uses more automation than it does in China, said John Gauthier, president of Fuyao Glass America. “Our customers, all they care about is that their cost doesn’t increase,” he said. A line worker at Fuyao starts at $12 per hour, equivalent to an annual salary of about $25,000. GM workers at the old Moraine plant could make at least twice that, topped off by perks like defined-benefit pensions, according to union officials and former employees. “When you don’t have enough protections for American workers, and when you’ve got a globalized economy, this is what happens,” said Chris Baker, a 40-year-old sales rep based near Moraine. “This is the new normal. It’s very sad.”

Read more …

WHen will they start buying people’s homes? Cars perhaps?

Bank of Japan Risk: Running Out of Bonds to Buy (WSJ)

Japan’s central bank is facing a new problem: It could be running out of government bonds to buy. The Bank of Japan is snapping up the equivalent of more than $750 billion worth of government debt a year in an effort to spur inflation and growth. At that rate, analysts say, banks could run out of government debt to sell within the next 18 months. The looming scarcity is a powerful sign of the limits central banks face as they turn to ever-more aggressive means of stimulating their economies. The problem is mirrored in Europe, where self-imposed rules limit how many eurozone government bonds the ECB can buy from individual governments. Facing a diminishing supply of sovereign bonds, the ECB started buying corporate debt in June.

Some economists have even called for the ECB to start buying stocks. The central bank left its bond-buying program and interest-rate policy unchanged at its meeting Thursday. The Japanese central bank has fewer options if the country’s banks, which have to hold a certain amount of safe debt to use as collateral in everyday transactions, ever become unwilling to sell more of their holdings. Its most obvious alternatives—pushing rates deeper into negative territory or buying other types of assets—have practical limitations. Meanwhile, the BOJ’s economic goals remain out of reach: Inflation is stubbornly low, and the yen has strengthened about 18% this year.

Read more …

Does nobody have any common sense down under?

Australia, New Zealand Housing Booms Set Currencies On Course For Parity (BBG)

Housing booms in New Zealand and Australia could be putting the neighbors’ currencies on course to reach parity for the first time ever. Both nations have seen house prices surge in recent years, but the underlying causes are fundamentally different, according to Deutsche Bank analysis. Australia’s boom is largely home-grown, whereas New Zealand’s is being fueled by record immigration. That’s affecting the countries’ current accounts differently. While Aussies are feeling richer due to house-price gains, prompting them to spend more on imports and boosting their current account deficit, New Zealand is sucking more offshore capital into its housing market, narrowing its current account gap. Currencies are sensitive to trends in the current account – a country’s balance with the rest of the world – because they are a gauge of risk for investors.

“The nature of the real estate boom in Australia should have bearish currency implications because it leads to deterioration in the basic balance,” Robin Winkler, a London-based strategist for Deutsche Bank, said in a research note. “This is not the case in New Zealand and adds to our conviction that AUD/NZD should drop to parity.” The two currencies have never converged in the free-floating era that began in the 1980s. They came close in April last year, when the kiwi briefly reached 99.79 Australian cents or, to express it the other way, the Aussie dollar fell below NZ$1.01. The New Zealand dollar was worth 96.8 Australian cents at 12:35p.m. in Wellington Friday.

Read more …

Burn baby burn.

Coal Rises From the Grave to Become One of Hottest Commodities

For all the predictions about the death of coal, it’s now one of the hottest commodities in the world. The resurrection may have further to run. A surge in Chinese imports to compensate for lower domestic production has seen European prices jump to near an 18-month high, while Australia’s benchmark is set for the first annual gain since 2010. At the start of the year, prices languished near decade lows because of waning demand from utilities seeking to curb pollution and amid the International Energy Agency’s declaration that the fuel’s golden age in China was over. Now, traders are weighing the chances of extreme weather hitting major producers and China further boosting imports as factors that could push prices even higher.

“It’s a commodity that’s been on a slippery slide for the past four years and it’s making a remarkable recovery,” said Erik Stavseth, an analyst at Arctic Securities in Oslo, who’s tracked the market for almost a decade. “There’s a strong pulse.” What could light up the market further is the occurrence of a La Nina weather pattern later this year. Last time it happened in 2010 and 2011, heavy rains flooded mines in Australia and Indonesia, the world’s two largest exporters. While some meteorologists have toned down their predictions for the weather phenomenon forming, “another strong forecast” would cause prices to rise further, according to Fitch’s BMI Research.

Read more …

Still don’t think I know what exactly the fraud was. Though I read the piece twice.

Historic Tax Fraud Rocks Denmark As Loss Estimates Keep Growing (BBG)

About two weeks after Denmark revealed it had lost as much as $4 billion in taxes through a combination of fraud and mismanagement, the minister in charge of revenue collection says that figure may need to be revised even higher. Speaking to parliament on Thursday, Tax Minister Karsten Lauritzen said he “can’t rule out” that losses might be bigger than the most recent public estimates indicate. It would mark the latest in a string of revisions over the past year, in which Danes learned that losses initially thought to be less than $1 billion somehow ended up being about four times as big. The embarrassment caused by the tax fraud, which spans about a decade of successive administrations, has prompted Lauritzen to consider debt collection methods not usually associated with Scandinavian governments.

Denmark has long had one of the world’s highest tax burdens – government revenue as a percentage of GDP – and a well-functioning tax model is essential to maintaining its fabled welfare system. “We’re entertaining new ideas, considering more new measures,” Lauritzen told Bloomberg. Danish officials are now prepared to pay anonymous sources for evidence from the same database that generated the Panama Papers. Jim Soerensen, a director at Denmark’s Tax Authority, says the first batch of clues obtained using this method is expected by the end of the month.

Read more …

Project Fear didn’t work in Britain either.

Goldman Sachs Just Launched Project Fear in Italy (DQ)

Project Fear began two years ago in the run up to Scotland’s national referendum. It then spread to the rest of the UK in the lead up to this summer’s Brexit referendum. But it keeps on moving. Its latest destination is Italy, where the campaign to instill fear and trepidation in the hearts and souls of Italy’s voters was just inaugurated by the world’s most influential investment bank, Goldman Sachs. It just released a 14-page report warning about the potentially dire consequences of a “no” vote in Italy’s upcoming referendum on the government’s proposed constitutional reforms. The reforms seek, among other things, to streamline Italy’s government process by dramatically restricting the powers of the senate, a major source of political gridlock, while also handing more power to the executive.

The polls in Italy are currently neck and neck, though the momentum belongs to the reform bill’s opponents. If the Italian public vote against the bill, the response of the markets could be extremely negative, warns Goldman, putting in jeopardy the latest attempt to rescue Italy’s third largest and most insolvent bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena. The rescue is being led by JP Morgan Chase and Italian lender Mediobanca, and includes the participation of a select group of global megabanks that are desperate to prevent contagion spreading from Italy’s banking system to other European markets, and beyond. In the event of a “no” vote, MPS’ planned €5 billion capital increase would have to be put on ice, while investors wait for the political uncertainty to clear before pledging further funds.

This being Italy, the wait could be interminable and the delay fatal for Monte dei Paschi and other Italian banks, Goldman warns. It also points out that Italy is the only European country where a substantial portion of its bank bonds are held in household portfolios (about 40% according to data from Moody’s, four times more than Germany and eight times more than France and Spain). In other words, things could get very ugly, very fast, if those bank bonds collapse! As for Italian government bonds and Europe’s broader debt markets, they would be insulated from any fallout by former Goldmanite Mario Draghi’s bond binge buying.

Read more …

We are unstoppable.

Humans Have Destroyed A Tenth Of Earth’s Wilderness In 25 Years (G.)

Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study. Researchers found a vast area the size of two Alaskas – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today, which experts said was a “shockingly bad” and “profoundly large number”. The Amazon accounted for nearly a third of the “catastrophic” loss, showing huge tracts of pristine rainforest are still being disrupted despite the Brazilian government slowing deforestation rates in recent years. A further 14% disappeared in central Africa, home to thousands of species including forest elephants and chimpanzees.

The loss of the world’s last untouched refuges would not just be disastrous for endangered species but for climate change efforts, the authors said, because some of the forests store enormous amounts of carbon. “Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around,” said lead author Dr James Watson, of the University of Queensland and Wildlife Conservation Society. The analysis defined wilderness as places that are “ecologically largely intact” and “mostly free of human disturbance”, though some have indigenous people living within them. The team counted areas as no longer wilderness if they scored on eight measures of humanity’s footprint, including roads, lights at night and agriculture.

Read more …

Apr 132016
 
 April 13, 2016  Posted by at 9:47 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Lewis Wickes Hine Child labor at Gorenflo Canning Co., Biloxi, Mississippi 1911

What in the World’s Going on with Banks this Week? (WS)
The “Independent” Fed Is About to Become Partisan (JR)
IMF Cuts World Growth Forecast, Warns Over Brexit (AFP)
Don’t Trust Ben Bernanke On Helicopter Money (Steve Keen)
Bundesbank’s Weidmann Rebukes Draghi Critics In Berlin (FT)
China Rail Freight Volume Plunges 10.5%, and The Economy Still Grows 6.9%? (WS)
Peabody, World’s Top Private Coal Miner, Files For Bankruptcy (Reuters)
IMF Says Greek Debt ‘Highly Unsustainable’, Debt Relief ‘Essential’ (R.)
Pro-EU Leaflets Spark ‘Return To Sender’ Revolt In Britain (AFP)
Why Younger People Can’t Afford A House: Money Became Too Cheap (G.)
Iceland Shocked By Elite’s Love Of Offshore Holdings (AFP)
Swiss Banker Whistleblower: CIA Behind Panama Papers (CNBC)
Australia Issues The Most Hideous Banknote In History (SMH)
Canadian First Nation Suicide Epidemic Has Been Generations In The Making (G.)
Brussels Gives Greece Two Weeks To Tighten Borders (Kath.)
Refugees Become Smugglers Following EU-Turkey Deal (MEE)
Greek Coast Guard Rescues 120 Refugees Off Lesvos, Samos (Kath.)

Obama meets with Biden and Yellen. Hadn’t happened since Truman?!

What in the World’s Going on with Banks this Week? (WS)

Just about every major banker and finance minister in the world is meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, following two rushed, secretive meetings of the Federal Reserve and another instantaneous and rare meeting between the Fed Chair and the president of the United States. These and other emergency bank meetings around the world cause one to wonder what is going down. Let’s start with a bullet list of the week’s big-bank events:
• The Federal Reserve Board of Governors just held an “expedited special meeting” on Monday in closed-door session.
• The White House made an immediate announcement that the president was going to meet with Fed Chair Janet Yellen right after Monday’s special meeting and that Vice President Biden would be joining them.
• The Federal Reserve very shortly posted an announcement of another expedited closed-door meeting for Tuesday for the specific purpose of “bank supervision.”
• A G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central-bank heads starts in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, too, and continues through Wednesday.
• Then on Thursday the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund meet in Washington.
• The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta just revised US GDP growth for the first quarter to the precipice of recession at 0.1%.
• US banks are expected this coming week to report their worst quarter financially since the start of the Great Recession.
• The press stated that the German government will sue the European Central Bank if it launches a more aggressive and populist form of quantitative easing, often called “helicopter money.”
• The European Union’s new “bail-in” procedures for failing banks were employed for the first time with Austrian bank Heta Asset Resolution AG.
• Italy’s minister of finance called an emergency meeting of Italian bankers to engage “last resort” measures for dealing with €360 billion of bad loans in banks that have only €50 billion in capital.

It is rare for presidents to meet with the chair of the Federal Reserve. The last time President Obama met with Janet Yellen was in November of 2014, a year and a half ago. It is even more rare for the vice president of the United States to join them. In fact, I’ve heard but haven’t verified that it has never happened in a suddenly called meeting with the Fed before. For security reasons, the president and vice president don’t regularly attend the same events. There are, of course, many planning sessions or emergency meetings where they do get together, but not with the head of the Federal Reserve. Emergency meetings where the VP is included in the planning session would include situations related to dire national security in case the VP winds up having to take over.

In fact the meeting with the prez and vice prez is so rare that the White House is bending over backwards to assure the entire nation that the president is not meeting with Yellen to try to influence the Fed, which is required to act independently of politics (so they say). According to the White House, President Obama is meeting with the Fed chair and Biden to discuss the nation’s “longer-term economic outlook,” even though Yellen just told the entire nation that the economy was strong and had arrived nearly back at “full health.” The president says they will be “comparing notes.” Do their notes about the nation’s outlook disagree?

Read more …

Clinton and Cameron: monsters under the bed.

The “Independent” Fed Is About to Become Partisan (JR)

Late last night it was revealed that President Obama has summoned Janet Yellen to the White House today. There’s nothing unusual in itself about the president meeting with the Chair of the Federal Reserve over lunch to discuss policy. Bush 43, for example, frequently met with Alan Greenspan to discuss the economy. But this meeting is different… This isn’t a casual lunch. It’s a high-profile, last-minute meeting Obama orchestrated. The last time something like this happened was in 1951, when Harry Truman summoned the entire Federal Reserve Board of Governors to the White House. Since this is something that hasn’t happened in almost 70 years, today’s meeting is a fairly extraordinary event. Why did Obama order the meeting? There are a few factors to consider… Number one, Obama does not want the Fed to raise rates.

If the Fed remains on its path of interest rate hikes this year, it would give the Republicans the strongest chance at the White House in this fall’s election. That’s because rate hikes would likely lead to recession, and that would bode poorly for the Democrats. Obama is deeply concerned about his legacy, which the Republicans would like to reverse. So the best chance the Democrats have in the upcoming presidential election is if rates stay low. Janet Yellen herself is a Democrat, with a background as a labor economist and a career at U.C. Berkeley. She’s not necessarily hostile to Obama’s message. By bringing her to the White House, Obama is sending Yellen a highly visible public message. Don’t raise rates. You can consider this meeting more like an implied threat. There are two openings on the Fed’s Board of Governors. Obama could nominate two of Yellen’s biggest policy opponents if he wanted to play hardball with her.

Those two opponents could fight Yellen at every turn and threaten her control. Or, Obama could no nothing if she confirms and let her maintain control of the board. He’s very cleverly held the vacancies open, which he can use as leverage to influence Yellen’s course of action. He can nominate her worst opponents if she doesn’t follow his wishes. There’s also another factor at play: The Democrats are as afraid of Bernie Sanders as Republicans are of Donald Trump. Sanders has won seven straight primaries and caucuses. One of his biggest weapons is his bashing of the big banks, Wall Street and his criticism of Hillary Clinton for being in their pocket. Sanders has demanded that Hillary release the transcripts of her three speeches to Goldman Sachs, for which she received $675,000. She has refused to release those transcripts. That’s the Achilles heel of the Clinton campaign, and Sanders is making the most of it.

Read more …

No credibility.

IMF Cuts World Growth Forecast, Warns Over Brexit (AFP)

The IMF said Tuesday that the global economy faces wide-ranging threats from weak growth and rising protectionism, warning of possible “severe” damage should Britain quit the EU. The Fund cut its global forecast for the third straight quarter, saying economic activity has been “too slow for too long,” and stressed the need for immediate action by the world’s economic powers to shore up growth. It said intensifying financial and political risks around the world, from volatile financial markets to the Syria conflict to global warming, had left the economy “increasingly fragile” and vulnerable to recession. The IMF raised concerns over “fraying” unity in the European Union under pressure from the migration crisis and the “Brexit” possibility.

And it pointed to the contractions in large emerging market economies, most notably Brazil, where the economic downturn has been accompanied by deep political crisis that has President Dilma Rousseff facing impeachment. Seeing a broad fall in trade and investment, the IMF cut its forecast for world growth this year to a sluggish 3.2%, 0.2 percentage points down from its January outlook and down from the 3.8% pace expected last July. That reflects a glummer view of growth in both developed and emerging economies, with the forecasts for Japan and oil-dependent Russia and Nigeria all sharply lowered. Growth expectations for most leading economies were pared back by 0.2 percentage points. The outlook for the United States – hit by the impact of the strong dollar – was trimmed to 2.4% this year, from 2.6% in January.

Only the pictures in China and developing eastern Europe were better. But at a slightly upgraded pace of 6.5% growth, China was still on track for a significant slowdown from last year. The growth downgrade was expected but the tone of the IMF message was more dire than in recent months. It came as an increasing number of countries are approaching the IMF and World Bank for financial support. Last week Angola, its finances devastated by the crash in oil prices, asked the IMF for a three-year bailout program. And the World Bank said requests for loan support had reached levels seen only during financial crises. IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld said there was a risk of a full stall in global growth without efforts to boost investment and demand. “The weaker is growth, the greater the chance that the preceding risks, if some materialize, pull the world economy below stalling speed,” he said.

Read more …

It’s too late for helicopter money. It would evaporate before touching the ground.

Don’t Trust Ben Bernanke On Helicopter Money (Steve Keen)

Ben Bernanke earned the sobriquet “Helicopter Ben” for his observations in a 2002 speech that “the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost”, that the existence of this technology means that “sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation”, and that using this technology to finance a tax cut is “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous “helicopter drop” of money.” But just because he’s called “Helicopter Ben” doesn’t mean that he knows how “Helicopter Money” would actually work.

His column “What tools does the Fed have left? Part 3: Helicopter money” discusses both the nuts and bolts of actually implementing a “Helicopter Drop” (or as he more accurately describes it, “an expansionary fiscal policy—an increase in public spending or a tax cut—financed by a permanent increase in the money stock”) and also discusses how such a policy might affect the real economy. While his discussion of the nuts and bolts is realistic, his discussion of how it would work is fantasy. The nuts and bolts are straightforward (and Bernanke has a good practical suggestion for how to implement it too, which I’ll discuss at the end of this post). “Helicopter money” (or as he excitingly renames it, “a Money-Financed Fiscal Program, or MFFP”) is a direct injection of money from the government into people’s bank accounts, which is financed by a loan from the Federal Reserve to the Treasury. This differs from the standard way that Government spending is financed, which is by issuing Treasury Bonds that are then bought by the public.

The standard method doesn’t put additional money into circulation in the economy, because the increase in some private sector bank accounts caused by the government spending—a tax rebate, for example—is completely offset by the fall in other private sector bank accounts as they buy the Treasury Bonds that financed the tax rebate. But with “MFFP”, the tax rebate is financed by new money created by the Federal Reserve “at essentially no cost”. It thus directly increases the money supply, and this is where Friedman’s “Helicopter” analogy comes from. In the private sector economy, the money supply is increased when private banks lend to the public. Money created by private bank lending also goes by the nickname of “inside money”, since it is created by institutions that are “inside” the private sector—private banks.

Government-created money, which is what a tax rebate financed by a direct loan from the Federal Reserve to the Treasury would be, is “outside money”, because it comes from outside the private sector. Friedman’s analogy likened it to a helicopter flying over an economy and dropping new dollar bills from the sky. So how does “Helicopter Money” differ in impact from the standard way of financing government spending? Here’s where Bernanke passes from the practical nuts and bolts to the fantasy world of mainstream economics. According to Ben, the Helicopter flies, so to speak, because it causes “a temporary increase in expected inflation,” and because it “does not increase future tax burdens.”

Read more …

Best friends?!

Bundesbank’s Weidmann Rebukes Draghi Critics In Berlin (FT)

Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann has rebuked German politicians for attempting to pressure European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi over his easy money policies, suggesting their criticism was interfering with the bank’s independence. “It’s not unusual for politicians to have opinions on monetary policy, but we are independent,” Mr Weidmann told the Financial Times last Thursday. “The ECB has to deliver on its price stability mandate and thus an expansionary monetary policy stance is appropriate at this juncture regardless of different views about specific measures.” The head of Germany’s central bank and his counterpart at the ECB have often been at odds over how to respond to the threat of falling prices, with Mr Weidmann frequently raising objections to measures tabled by Mr Draghi.

But they have emerged as unlikely allies at a time when monetary policymakers around the world are facing mounting criticism over record-low interest rates, including the decision by some central banks – among them the ECB – to cut rates below zero and into negative territory to counter the threat of a vicious bout of deflation. The policy has been deeply unpopular in Germany, prompting criticism from senior politicians, led by finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, that the central bank’s low interest rates are expropriating savings from the German public and fuelling the rise of rightwing populism.

While the ECB targets inflation of just below 2%, the latest reading was minus 0.1%. Mr Weidmann also said the German debate on the ECB is focused too narrowly on the consequences of low interest rates for savers. “The debate does not focus enough on the broader macroeconomic consequences of monetary policy. People are not just savers: they’re also employees, taxpayers, and debtors, as such benefiting from the low level of interest rates,” he explained. The Bundesbank built its reputation on its independence from politics, frequently falling out with German lawmakers in the 1970s and 1980s over the central bank’s use of high interest rates to tackle inflation. But Mr Weidmann faces a more sensitive challenge: defending an EU institution from criticism from within Germany at a time of acute unease fuelled by the refugee crisis.

Read more …

Riddle me this.

China Rail Freight Volume Plunges 10.5%, and The Economy Still Grows 6.9%? (WS)

Rail freight volumes are an indicator of China’s goods-producing and goods-consuming economy, not just manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and the like, but also consumer goods. Thus they’re also an indication of consumer spending on goods. Alas, rail freight volume is collapsing: the first quarter this year puts volume for the whole year on track to revisit levels not seen since 2007. While China’s economy was strong, rail freight volumes were soaring. For example, in 2010, when China was pump-priming its economy, rail freight volume jumped 10.8% from a year earlier. In 2011, it rose 6.9%. It had soared 44% from 2005 to 2011! But 2011 was the peak. In 2012, volume in trillion ton-kilometers declined one notch and in 2013 stagnated. But in 2014, volume skidded 5.8%.

And in 2015, volume plunged 10.5% to 3.4 billion tons, according to Caixin, citing figures from the National Railway Administration. It was the largest annual decline ever booked in China. It was a year that the People’s Daily, the official paper of the Communist Party, described in this elegant manner: “Dragged by a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand, and unsteady exports, China’s economy expanded 6.9% year on year in 2015, the weakest reading in around a quarter of a century.” Which is precisely where things stop making sense: rail freight volume plunges 10.5% in 2015, and the economy still increases 6.9%? I mean, come on. At the time, Caixin said that China’s central planners aimed to increase rail freight volumes to 4.2 billion tons by 2020. This would assume an average annual growth rate of 4.3%.

So these declines are not part of the planned transition to a consumption-based economy. They’re totally against that plan or any other plan. They’re very inconvenient for the rosy scenario! Then came the first quarter of 2016. Rail freight volume plunged 9.4% year-over-year to 788 million tons, according to data from China Railway Corporation, cited today by the People’s Daily. At this rate, rail freight volume for 2016 will be down 20% from 2014, which had already been a down year! At this rate, volume in 2016 will end up where it had been in 2007! China — hobbled by soggy domestic demand, perhaps even soggier demand overseas, rampant factory overcapacity, cooling investment, an insurmountable mountain of bad debt, and a million other domestic problems — may be trying to transition from a manufacturing-based economy to an economy based on consumption.

But even consumer goods must be transported, even those purchased online! Only services don’t require much transportation. But we doubt that service sales have jumped in two years to the extent that they would even halfway make up for the crashing demand for goods transported by rail. The World Bank just figured that China’s economy would grow 6.7% in 2016, the IMF pegs it at 6.5%, both kowtowing to the GDP declarations issued by the Chinese government. Whose Kool-Aid have they been drinking? This would make 2016 another year when rail freight plunges by a dismal 10% or so while economic growth soars nearly 7% – which would make China one of the fastest growing economies in the world. So something in this convoluted, government-imposed math doesn’t add up here.

Read more …

Demand destruction and debt deflation.

Peabody, World’s Top Private Coal Miner, Files For Bankruptcy (Reuters)

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal producer, filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Wednesday in the wake of a sharp fall in coal prices that left it unable to service a recent debt-fueled expansion into Australia. The company listed both assets and liabilities in the range of $10 billion to $50 billion. Falling global coal demand, stricter environmental controls and a glut of natural gas have pushed big miners, including the second largest U.S. coal producer, Arch Coal, into bankruptcy protection over the past year.

Read more …

It’s cruel game that EU and IMF enjoy far too much.

IMF Says Greek Debt ‘Highly Unsustainable’, Debt Relief ‘Essential’ (R.)

The IMF wants Greece’s European partners to grant Athens substantial relief on its debt which it sees remaining “highly unsustainable”, according to a draft IMF memorandum seen by Reuters. Earlier on Tuesday, Greece and inspectors from its EU/IMF lenders adjourned talks on a crucial bailout review, mainly due to a rift among the lenders over a projected fiscal gap by 2018 and over Athens’ resistance to unpopular reforms. They will resume the review after this week’s IMF spring meetings in Washington, where the lenders are also expected to discuss Greek reforms and debt., Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told Reuters on Tuesday that he saw no need for debt restructuring, will also be there.

“Despite generous concessional official financing and further reform plans … debt dynamics are projected to remain highly unsustainable,” the IMF draft said. “To restore debt sustainability, in addition to our reform efforts, decisive action by our European partners to grant further official debt relief will be essential.” EU institutions expect Greece to have a fiscal shorfall equivalent to 3% of economic output in 2018, while the IMF projects a 4.5% shortfall. The EU institutions also believe Athens can reach a primary surplus – the budget balance before debt-servicing costs – of 3.5% of GDP by 2018, as targeted in its latest financial bailout.

But the IMF’s draft Memorandum of Financial and Economic Policies (MFEP), which is compiled during the review, projected a primary deficit of 0.5% this year, a surplus of 0.25% in 2017 and a primary surplus of just 1.5% in 2018. It said these figures reflected reform fatigue after five years of adjustments and social pressures in Greece due to high unemployment, which rose to 24.4% in January. The draft projected an average rate of economic growth of 1.25% for the long term, which is lower than its previous forecast. The targets, which it called “ambitious, yet realistic”, could be underpinned by implementing measures that would save the equivalent of 2.5% of GDP by 2018, including reforms to its pension system, income tax, value-added tax and the public sector wage bill.

Read more …

If Cameron stays on, Brexit is here.

Pro-EU Leaflets Spark ‘Return To Sender’ Revolt In Britain (AFP)

Britons who want to leave the EU in June’s referendum are sending the government’s pro-Europe leaflets back to Downing Street in a furious protest against a campaign critics have slammed as scaremongering. The “Post It Back” campaign on Facebook and Twitter has attracted support from hundreds of people who do not appreciate the taxpayer-funded, pro-European Union leaflets being delivered to their homes this week. Kirsty Stubbs posted a picture of her leaflet on Facebook defaced with slogans including “What scaremongering rubbish” and “Vote Leave!” before sending it back. Alex Armstrong sent his leaflet back to a freepost address for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives with an added special package in the hope of lumbering the party with a large bill for postage.

“Just sent back the propaganda leaflet to the freepost address with a suitably heavy attachment – a lump of concrete,” he wrote on Facebook. Others burnt their leaflets or said they would use them as toilet paper, coffee mats or cat litter. Eurosceptic MPs are also angry that Cameron’s government has spent over £9 million on the leaflets, which will eventually go to every home in Britain. They forced a debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Monday. “It is bad enough getting junk mail, but to have Juncker mail sent to us with our own taxes is the final straw,” said Liam Fox, a senior Conservative, punning on the name of European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker. Another Conservative, Nigel Evans, spoke of his work as an election monitor and compared ministers’ campaign tactics to those in Zimbabwe.

“If in any of the countries I visit I witnessed the sort of spiv (racketeer) Robert Mugabe antics that I have seen carried out by this government, I would condemn the conduct of that election as not fair,” he said. More than 200,000 people have signed a petition on parliament’s website opposing the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for the “biased” leaflet, forcing MPs to schedule another debate on the issue for May 9. The glossy, 16-page leaflet makes a series of claims including that leaving the EU would “create years of uncertainty and potential disruption” and that EU membership “makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK”. The main pro and anti-EU campaigns will each be entitled to send a publicly-funded leaflet to all households or electors, worth up to £15 million each, in the run-up to the June 23 vote. But opponents say that by spending £9 million on this extra leaflet before the formal campaign period begins on Friday, the government is getting an unfair advantage.

Read more …

Housing bubbles save governments.

Why Younger People Can’t Afford A House: Money Became Too Cheap (G.)

House prices have risen by 10% in the last year, the Halifax announced last week. Whoopeedoo. What that means is that the intergenerational wealth divide just rose by another 10% – and anyone born after 1985 is going to find it 10% harder to ever buy a home. There is perhaps no greater manifestation of the wealth gap in this country than who owns a house and who doesn’t, and yet it’s so unnecessary. Ignoring land prices for the moment, houses do not cost a lot of money to build – a quick search online shows you can buy the materials for a three-bed timber-framed house for less than £30,000; in China a 3D printer can build a basic home for less than £3,000 – and the building cost of the houses we already have has long since been paid. How can it be that, in the liberal, peaceful, educated society that is 21st-century Britain, a generation is priced out?

These are not times of war, nor are they, for the most part, periods of national emergency, so why should one couple be able to settle down and start a family and another not, by virtue of the fact that one was born 15 years earlier than the other? There has been a failure in both the media and government to properly diagnose the cause of high house prices. Until the causes – our systems of money and planning – are properly understood, we cannot hope to fix the problem. The standard solution is: “we need to build more”, but this is not a simple supply-and-demand issue. Between 1997 and 2007 the housing stock grew by 10%, but the population only grew by 5%. If house prices were a function of supply and demand, they should have fallen slightly over this period. They didn’t. They rose by more than 300%. The cause of house price rises is the unrestrained supply of something else: money.

Mortgage lending over the same period went up by 370%, thinktank Positive Money’s research shows. It was newly created debt that pushed up prices in a decade of extraordinarily loose lending, which gave birth to a national obsession. Houses were no longer places to live, but financial assets. Property owners became immensely wealthy without actually doing anything. And this great, unearned wealth saw the rise of a new rentier class: the buy-to-let landlord. When you have runaway inflation such as this, the Bank of England has a responsibility to quash it, usually by putting up interest rates. But – and here is the great sleight of hand – the Bank has seen fit not to include house prices in its measures of inflation. So, throughout the 90s and 00s, they could then “prove” inflation was low or moderate and interest rates meandered lower. Meanwhile, more and more mortgages were issued, and so more and more money was created, and it pushed up prices. The government didn’t mind.

Read more …

Hilarious.

Iceland Shocked By Elite’s Love Of Offshore Holdings (AFP)

Cabinet ministers, bankers and CEOs: the offshore companies at the heart of the leaked Panama Papers have drawn large numbers of Iceland’s elite into a scandal that has already brought down the country’s premier. The documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed just how many Icelanders had holdings hidden away in tax havens.That number is astounding: some 600 Icelanders are named in the documents, in a country of just 320,000. That’s the highest per capita number for any country, according to Johannes Kristjansson, an independent Icelandic journalist who worked with the Consortium. In the streets of Reykjavik, people are disgusted.

“It’s a small clique, and even after the 2008 (financial) crisis they wouldn’t let go. It just confirms that money made during the boom years didn’t disappear into thin air,” a 50-year-old resident, Kolbrun Elfa Sigurdardottir, told AFP. “Who are the people who benefited from this system? We all want to know,” asked Alli Thor Olafsson, 32. The offshore companies are part of the legacy from the euphoria that was rampant in Iceland’s financial sector in the early 2000s when the country’s banks borrowed beyond their means to fund aggressive investments abroad, ultimately causing the 2008 collapse of the three main banks. According to Sigrun Davidsdottir, a journalist at public television RUV who has been investigating offshore holdings since the 2008 crisis, Iceland’s financial advisors were quick to suggest to all and sundry that their money should be placed offshore.

“During the heady years up to 2008, a source said to me that you just weren’t anyone unless you owned an offshore company,” she wrote on her blog. By now, the best-known case is that of ousted prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. In 2007, his then-future wife, Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir, placed her inheritance from her wealthy businessman father in an offshore tax haven, the British Virgin Islands, via the Credit Suisse bank. Gunnlaugsson owned 50% of the offshore company, named Wintris, a fact he neglected to disclose as required in April 2009 when he was elected to parliament. He resigned last week after massive public protests. Offshore accounts were so well-known in Iceland that the expression “Tortola company” – referring to the most populated island in the British Virgin Islands – had been widespread in Icelandic media, though not the extent to which they were used and by whom.

Gunnlaugsson was definitely not the only government official to own an offshore company. Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson owns a company in the Seychelles, while Interior Minister Olof Nordal has one in Panama. Both have so far managed to hold onto their cabinet posts despite the scandal. A former central bank governor and ex-industry minister, Finnur Ingolfsson, the head of pharmaceutical group Alvogen, Robert Wessman, as well as journalist Eggert Skulason of the daily DV are all known to be on the Panama Papers list of offshore account holders.

Read more …

All files should be transferred to a Wiki-style open source server.

Swiss Banker Whistleblower: CIA Behind Panama Papers (CNBC)

Bradley Birkenfeld is the most significant financial whistleblower of all time, so you might think he’d be cheering on the disclosures in the new Panama Papers leaks. But today, Birkenfeld is raising questions about the source of the information that is shaking political regimes around the world. Birkenfeld, an American citizen, was a banker working at UBS in Switzerland when he approached the U.S. government with information on massive amounts of tax evasion by Americans with secret accounts in Switzerland. By the end of his whistleblowing career, Birkenfeld had served more than two years in a U.S. federal prison, been awarded $104 million by the IRS for his information and shattered the foundations of more than a century of Swiss banking secrecy.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday from Munich, Birkenfeld said he doesn’t think the source of the 11 million documents stolen from a Panamanian law firm should automatically be considered a whistleblower like himself. Instead, he said, the hacking of the Panama City-based firm, called Mossack Fonseca, could have been done by a U.S. intelligence agency. “The CIA I’m sure is behind this, in my opinion,” Birkenfeld said. Birkenfeld pointed to the fact that the political uproar created by the disclosures have mainly impacted countries with tense relationships with the United States. “The very fact that we see all these names surface that are the direct quote-unquote enemies of the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, Argentina and we don’t see one U.S. name. Why is that?” Birkenfeld said. “Quite frankly, my feeling is that this is certainly an intelligence agency operation.”

Asked why the U.S. would leak information that has also been damaging to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, a major American ally, Birkenfeld said the British leader was likely collateral damage in a larger intelligence operation. “If you’ve got NSA and CIA spying on foreign governments they can certainly get into a law firm like this,” Birkenfeld said. “But they selectively bring the information to the public domain that doesn’t hurt the U.S. in any shape or form. That’s wrong. And there’s something seriously sinister here behind this.” Birkenfeld also said that during his time as a Swiss banker, Mossack Fonseca was known as one piece of the vast offshore maze used by bankers and lawyers to hide money from tax authorities. But he also said that the firm that is at the center of the global scandal was also seen as a relatively small player in the overall offshore tax evasion business.

Read more …

Ha!

Australia Issues The Most Hideous Banknote In History (SMH)

The new $5 note continues Australia’s proud history of monetary innovation. When the British founded the convict colony of NSW in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip embarked on a unique social experiment. He would establish a society without money, as having it around would only give the convicts something else to steal. Rum became the currency of choice, with the pound making way for the pint and the shilling swapped for the shot. In 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie decided he could not run a colony on a currency prone to spillage and evaporation. He bought 40,000 Spanish pieces of eight, the currency more pirates prefer, and cut the centre out of each piece, creating two coins, the holey dollar and the dump. In a moment of Scottish fiscal genius, Macquarie declared the two new coins would have a combined value of one-and-a-quarter pieces of eight, generating a tidy profit for his government.

Australia’s first banknote was printed by the Bank of NSW in 1817. The bank, established by convicted criminals, was commonly known as the Convict’s Bank and is now known as Westpac. In 1988, Australia celebrated its bicentenary by revolutionising banknote design, issuing the world’s first polymer note, the brainchild of Australia’s CSIRO. The organisation was so good at the science of making money that this is now the only science the Australian government will let it do. And now, with the new $5 note, Australia is again leading the world in banknote design. The Reserve Bank is proud to announce it has designed, possibly, the most hideous banknote in history. This is the start of a campaign to make our currency so nauseatingly unappealing that people will switch to electronic payments (saving the Australian government printing costs).

The new wattle motif, designed to look like anthrax spores, will stop old people sending money by mail (saving the Australian government postage costs). The government must have retained the designer of Australia’s 1984 Olympic uniforms to come up with a startling combination of off-pink and bilious yellow, before giving the Reserve Bank’s gibbon the keys to the inkjet. Blind people will love the new banknote for its revolutionary tactile features, but mainly because they won’t be able to see it. The worst thing about the new $5 note, however, is that it dispenses with one of the greatest Australians ever, Catherine Helen Spence – who was commemorated in 2001 for the note issued to celebrate the centenary of federation.

Spence was the first Australian woman novelist to write about Australian issues, the mother of the Australian foster care system, the leading campaigner for proportional representation in government, a hero of the women’s suffrage movement, and Australia’s first female political candidate. And those are but a few of her achievements. Spence has been forced to make way for a lump of neo-brutalist architecture – our Parliament House –topped by a giant Australian flag. A non-Australian, the Queen retains pride of place on the new note.

Read more …

Canada, US, Australia and more.

Canadian First Nation Suicide Epidemic Has Been Generations In The Making (G.)

The Attawapiskat First Nation, or the people of the parting rocks, as they are known in their indigenous Swampy Cree language, number roughly 2,000 souls. They live on a small Indian reserve 600 miles north of the Canadian capital of Ottawa, at the mouth of James Bay’s Attawapiskat River. This subarctic First Nation declared a state of emergency after 11 community members tried to take their own lives Saturday night. Since last September, more than 100 Attawapiskat people have attempted suicide in what local MP Charlie Angus has described as a “rolling nightmare” of a winter. The ghastly toll reveals a grim reality with which a nation in the midst of a process of truth and reconciliation now must reckon.

Suicide does not merely roll in like a hurricane to uproot homes and families, and drown out neighborhoods before receding from where it came. No, this has been an emergency generations in the making, tacitly supported by a Canada fully willing to mine natural resources, proselytize and brutalize generations of children in residential schools, and then leave with basic housing, education systems and healthcare in a state of disrepair. In 2011, Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency due to a “severe housing shortage”. In 2014, the community opened the first proper elementary school to serve Attawapiskat’s children in 14 years. At the same time, the De Beers mining company pulled $392m worth of diamonds out of their Victor Lake mine on lands taken from the Attawapiskat First Nation through an extension of Treaty 9 in 1930.

This is how First Nations live in the Bantustans of Canada’s north. Broke and broken people with little to no opportunities live in cold, run-down homes and suffer from generations of sexual, physical and psychological abuse. They look on as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of resources are mined from their ancestral homelands. This is not an emergency – a catastrophe for which Canada was unprepared and never saw coming. No, this is and always has been part of the design and devastation that colonization wrought. In order to take the land, Canadian settlers needed to eliminate First Nations and their prior and legitimate political claims to territories. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, infectious diseases and state-supported starvation gave way to the institutional violence of Indian reserves and residential schools, where more than 150,000 First Nations children were taken from 1876 to 1996.

Read more …

No more Schengen.

Brussels Gives Greece Two Weeks To Tighten Borders (Kath.)

The European Commission on Tuesday gave Greece two weeks to determine how it plans to tighten control of its borders, noting that although progress has been made, the process of registering thousands of migrants streaming through the country remained inadequate. The Commission criticized an action plan submitted by Athens, noting that it lacked “detailed time frames” for fixing problems. It also demanded guarantees that EU funding for migration will be used properly. “The Commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April,” it said in a statement which acknowledged Athens had made “significant progress.” If Greece fails to take remedial action, Brussels could authorize other EU member-states to extend border controls in the Schengen passport-free area for up to two years instead of the normal six months. Such a scenario would effectively suspend Greece’s participation in the Schengen zone.

Read more …

Can’t stop this.

Refugees Become Smugglers Following EU-Turkey Deal (MEE)

Refugees and migrants in Greece have begun joining smuggling networks in growing numbers in a desperate bid to earn enough cash to pay for their own journeys north since an agreement between the EU and Turkey has made it more difficult for people to make it to places like Germany. In Idomeni, the northern border between Greece and Macedonia where more than 11,000 people have been stuck for weeks, the smugglers have been out in full force since the controversial deal officially – slated as a major blow to smuggling rings in Turkey and Europe – began to be implemented and the first migrants sent back. In contrast to the stated aim of cutting down on smuggling, smugglers can be seen in parking lots of hotels and abandoned gas stations, nor are the locals working alone.

In their bid to earn enough cash to make it north, some of the refugees and migrants stranded in Greece have started working as “fixers” for the smugglers, while smaller groups, mostly from Afghanistan, have started to self-organise and develop their own smuggling routes through parts of the Balkans. While the development is not altogether new, and some new arrivals have long stayed on with smugglers, the practice appears to be accelerating and is happening more in the open than ever before. [..] Despite the dangers, growing numbers of people feel they have no choice as border closures and barbed wire fences have made paying smugglers even more expensive. Karam, a Syrian refugee who paid smugglers to get to Germany last year and has now returned to Greece as a volunteer, says that prices have gone up and that he only paid $2,700 to make it all the way to Germany, significantly less than the journey would cost today.

“When I travelled to Germany, the smugglers did not see us as people but as commodities. We were often in risky situations during the trip and they didn’t care much. The only thing important to them was to transfer us as quickly as possible and return back for a new tour of people. I suppose they treat people even worse now,” said Karam. “I think that today, in this situation, I would apply to stay in Greece.”

Read more …

And the beat goes on and on.

Greek Coast Guard Rescues 120 Refugees Off Lesvos, Samos (Kath.)

Greek coast guard officers rescued 120 refugees and migrants in three separate incidents off Lesvos and Samos, authorities said on Wednesday morning. Officials said that between Tuesday and Wednesday morning there had been 101 arrivals on the Aegean islands. There are currently 3,644 people at the Lesvos hotspot, 1,827 in Chios and 516 on Samos, according to authorities.

Read more …

Mar 272016
 
 March 27, 2016  Posted by at 11:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


NPC Pittsburg Water Heater Co., Washington DC 1920

Hugh Hendry: “If China Devalues By 20% The World Is Over” (ZH)
The Great Deflation: Stocks To Plunge 80-90% – Harry Dent (Maloney)
You Are -Still- Here (ZH)
US Banks Ramp Up Push for Home-Equity Lines (WSJ)
China Warns Officials: No Unrest, Or Lose Your Job (WSJ)
China Coal Use Slides Further On Weakening Industrial Demand (BBG)
Guessing The Future Without Say’s Law (Macleod)
Seven Ugly Latina Sisters In Deep Political Trouble (Bawerk)
California Lawmakers, Unions Reach Deal for $15 an Hour Minimum Wage
The Church of Economism and Its Discontents (EI)
The State Has Lost Control: Tech Firms Now Run Western Politics (Morozov)
Trump Questions US Position On OPEC Allies, NATO, China (NY Times)
Greece Removes Migrants From FYROM Border Camp (AFP)
The Bar at the End of the Road (WSJ)

Hendry finds trouble sticking to his bull position.

Hugh Hendry: “If China Devalues By 20% The World Is Over” (ZH)

For now, as we showed just ten days ago, those short the Yuan have swung to wildly profitable to losing money as both the USD has slid and the Yuan has spiked, although both of these trades appear to be reversing now. Needless to say, Hendry disagrees with the China contrarians and believes that the way to fix the Chinese economy is through a stronger currency, even if there is no logical way how that could possibly work when China’s debt load is 350% of GDP while its NPLs are over 10% and rising.

So, borrowing form a favorite Keynesian trope, one where when the countrfactual to his prevailling – if incorrect – view of the world finally emerges, Hendry is convinced that a 20% devaluation would lead to global devastation; the same way if Paulson did not get Congress to sign off on his three page term sheet that would lead to the “apocalypse.” Only unlike Paulson who only hinted at a Mad Max world, for Hendry the alternative to him being right is a very explicit doomsday scenario, as he explains in the following excerpt from his RealVision interview:

Tomorrow we wake up and China has devalued 20%, the world is over. The world is over. Euro breaks up. The world is over. The euro breaks up. Everything hits a wall. There’s no euro in that scenario. The US economy, I mean everything hits a wall! Everything hits a wall!

The dollar strength that you imagined is devastation because you just eliminated dollars. They’re a scarce commodity. You’ve wiped them out. And China is a pariah state.

It’s a ‘Mad Max’ movie, right. OK, China gets to be the king in ‘Mad Max’ world. How appealing is that? There is no world after the tomorrow where China devalues by 20%. There is no world. Yeah, it’s looney tunes to believe that, people say, ‘oh wow, they needed to catch a break.’

Their share of world trade has never been higher. They’re facing no pressure, immense terms of trade improvement, and you would destroy world trade. World trade is down 25%. You would probably have passport restrictions, the world is over.

And while it is clear on which side of the Yuan Hugh is currently positioned (Hendry’s Eclectica is down 2.1% through March 18 and -5.9% YTD) either directly or synthetically, we can’t wait to see who is right in the end: China and its central bank (as well as Hugh Hendry) or reason and common sense (as well as some of the smartest hedge funds in the world).

Read more …

Mike Maloney’s a TAE fan.

The Great Deflation: Stocks To Plunge 80-90% – Harry Dent (Maloney)

Read more …

Look out below.

You Are -Still- Here (ZH)

Buybacks blacked out, option expiration ramp over, and real investors fleeingwhat happens next?

Dip, Jawbone, Rip… Repeat…

 

And close-up…


 

But this time it’s different, 150 days of almost perfect correlation and co-movement means nothing – right?

Read more …

Insane that this is possible.

US Banks Ramp Up Push for Home-Equity Lines (WSJ)

At hardware stores along the U.S. East Coast in recent weeks, TD Bank has been trying to persuade shoppers to think bigger than paint and plumbing supplies: The bank wants them to start taking cash out of their homes again. The TD Bank tour bus, equipped with a galley kitchen and iPads where homeowners can start the application process, is part of a marketing push unusual for the mortgage industry since the housing bust. As the broader mortgage market remains in the doldrums, banks are again touting home-equity lines of credit, which allow homeowners to draw down the equity in their home as they need the cash, as well as cash-out refinances, which involve taking cash out of a home while refinancing and ending up with a larger mortgage balance.

The effort is gaining steam as banks try to offset faltering mortgage originations and a refinancing wave that is fizzling out. Lenders are betting that offers for home-equity lines of credit, or helocs, will resonate with many borrowers whose home values are higher than they were just a couple of years ago and who need cash for renovations or other expenses after holding on to their homes for longer than expected. Lenders extended just over $156 billion in home-equity lines of credit last year, the largest dollar amount since 2007, the beginning of the housing bust, according to new figures from mortgage-data firm CoreLogic. That marks a 24% increase from 2014 and a 138% spike from 2010 when new approvals hit a low point. The average line amount extended to homeowners last year reached a record $119,790, according to the firm, which tracks the data back to 2002.

Read more …

No. 1 worry.

China Warns Officials: No Unrest, Or Lose Your Job (WSJ)

In China, the timing of an announcement is sometimes more significant than the announcement itself. The Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, China’s cabinet, this week warned party and state officials that they will lose their jobs if they fail to control public unrest. That’s not altogether surprising: on one level,it’s just a restatement of longstanding practice. “For more than 10 years, one of the assessment criteria for promotion of regional officials is the extent to which they can minimize protests,” said Willy Lam, a China politics analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “So most local officials pull out all stops to prevent petitioners going to Beijing.” But this week’s announcement marks the first time authorities have come up with a definitive public statement explicitly warning party and state officials “at all levels” that their jobs are on the line, state media said.

Why the urgency? The policy announcement comes two weeks after hundreds of unpaid coal workers took to the streets in the gritty northeastern city of Shuangyashan, after their provincial governor claimed a troubled coal company there did not owe its miners any wages. The governor, Lu Hao, later said he misspoke. Mr. Lu remains in office. It’s quite likely the Shuangyashan incident was pivotal in galvanizing the State Council and the party’s Central Committee, Mr. Lam and others say. The incident, widely publicized in the media, came in the thick of China’s annual meeting of its top legislature in Beijing, where Mr. Lu made his comments. At the meeting, known as the lianghui or “two sessions,” a battery of top officials including Premier Li Keqiang repeatedly vowed that they would be able to navigate a sharp slowdown in the economy without seriously affecting workers caught in the transition.

Mr. Li’s public positioning percolates through to a wide swathe of policy in the immediate wake of the congress. “In China, the political calendar doesn’t start in January – it starts with the lianghui in March,” human rights activist Hu Jia said. Government officials are likely worried that the Shuangyashan incident and others could inflict a political cost on the leadership by highlighting issues such as the deficit of labor rights in China, Mr. Hu said. Party chiefs face a difficult task. Over the next five years, they need to shut down millions of tons of industrial capacity that’s making China’s economy inefficient. This means downsizing scores of steel, coal and other large industries that currently employ hundreds of thousands of workers. They have promised to do this without large-scale layoffs. Those displaced, Mr. Li said, would be given new jobs or government assistance.

These promises now hang in the balance. The Shuangyashan incident came amid a surge in other forms of public unrest. Data from labor rights watchdog China Labour Bulletin show a 200% increase in the number of strikes, industrial action and other protests occurring in China from July last year to January this year. Disparate groups of Chinese, from jobless migrant workers to angry taxi drivers have taken to the streets to protest a new era of economic dislocation. The slowing economy has wiped out at least 156 billion yuan ($24 billion) worth of investments in wealth management products across the country, mostly involving small investors. Many of these failures have sparked public protests. Dogged by the prospect of more layoffs and deepening economic woes, the question looms: How many officials will China axe?

Read more …

Not because it wants to come clean.

China Coal Use Slides Further On Weakening Industrial Demand (BBG)

China’s coal use is forecast to fall a third year as industrial output slows, adding force to President Xi Jinping’s drive to cut overcapacity and dimming the hopes of global miners for an uptick in demand by the world’s biggest consumer. Demand will slide 2% this year and prices will remain at a low level, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, citing Xu Liang, deputy secretary general of the China Coal Industry Association. Output by the world’s largest producer will also fall by 2%. Consumption has weakened amid a push to use cleaner fuels and shift a slowing economy away from heavy industry. Demand for coal, which accounted for 64% of the country’s total energy use last year, contracted 3.7% last year, following a 2.9% decline in 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

“This year’s coal situation is equally bleak,” Xinhua quoted Xu as saying. China’s easing coal appetite has helped push prices in Asia to their lowest since 2006, punishing mining companies and prompting the government to propose capacity cuts that threaten the jobs of 1.3 million coal miners. By cutting capacity in the next two to three years, production could fall to about 3.5 billion to 3.6 billion tons, balancing supply and demand, Xu said. The country aims to eliminate as much as 500 million metric tons of coal capacity by 2020, almost 9% of its total. Coal output dropped 3.3% to 3.75 billion metric tons last year, while consumption slipped to 3.965 billion tons, both sliding from record highs in 2013, according to Xu. Use of the fuel in power generation dropped 6.2% last year, while demand from industries including steel, cement and glass making declined.

Read more …

“..when an economist talks of economic growth being above or below trend, he is talking about a measure that has no place in sound economic reasoning, and that is gross domestic product.

Guessing The Future Without Say’s Law (Macleod)

With Japanese and Eurozone interest rates becoming increasingly negative, and the Fed backing off from at least some of the planned increases in the Fed funds rate this year, economists are reassessing the interest rate outlook. Economists lack consensus, with some expecting yet more easing, based on the apparent collapse in cross-border trade last year. The fact that the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank see fit to pursue increasingly aggressive monetary reflation is taken as evidence of underlying difficulties faced in these key economies. And lingering doubts about the sustainability of China’s credit bubble point to a high risk of a credit-induced slump in the world’s growth engine.

Other economists, citing official US data and relying on the Fed’s statements, point out that unemployment levels have more than satisfied the Fed’s target, and that core inflation has picked up to the point where the Fed would be fully justified to increase interest rates over the course of this year, or risk overheating in 2017. These two opposite camps conflict in their forecasts, but where they fundamentally differ is in expectations of future economic growth. Far from displaying the highest levels of macroeconomic discipline, their diversity of opinion should alert us that their forecasts may lack sound theoretical foundation. The purpose of reasoned theory is to reduce uncertainty, not promote it. And the explanation for most of the failures behind modern macroeconomic thinking is the substitution of market-based economics by economic planning.

The fact that today’s macroeconomics dismisses the laws of the markets, commonly referred to by economists as Say’s law, explains all. Subsequent errors confirm. The many errors are a vast subject, but they boil down to that one fateful step, and that is denying the universal truth of Say’s law. Say’s law is about the division of labour. People earn money and make profits from deploying their individual skills in the production of goods and services for the benefit of others. Despite the best attempts of Marxism and Keynesianism along with all the other isms, attempts to override this reality have always failed. The failure is not adequately reflected in government statistics, which have evolved to the point where they actually conceal it. So when an economist talks of economic growth being above or below trend, he is talking about a measure that has no place in sound economic reasoning, and that is gross domestic product.

Read more …

The CIA still has a lot of power to the south.

Seven Ugly Latina Sisters In Deep Political Trouble (Bawerk)

Get beyond endless Latin American headlines burning column inches and you come to far broader strategic conclusion: The seven ‘ugly Latino sisters’, namely Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina are all deep political trouble from collapsed benchmark prices. It’s merely a case of who’s in more advanced states of political decay where left leaning governments’ can’t hang on much longer vs. those trying to buy a bit of time with more ‘centrist’ positions. In either case, it’s going to be a classic example of too little too late where the seven ugly sisters have committed at least seven deadly sins when it comes to resource mismanagement over the past decade. This isn’t about whether crisis can be avoided, but how bad the impacts will be. Another ‘lost Latino decade’ beckons. The ugliest twins are obviously Brazil and Venezuela right now.

We firmly expect Rousseff to be impeached next month on the back of endless corruption scandals, and the drastically ill-judged return of Lula that poured far more oil on corruption cover up flames. Watch for Michel Temer to take over the reins of a coalition PMDB government, busily negotiating posts behind closed doors with other players to tee up a formal Worker’s Party split to form a caretaker government through to 2018. How much Temer can get done depends on how far the outstanding ‘car wash’ scandal still rubs off on PMDB factions for major economic reforms, where the rot still runs pretty deep. Initial rhetoric (and inevitable market lifts) on supposed ‘structural reforms’ and far broader liberalisation measures remain unlikely to play through. Although it’s possible Petrobras might push through 2017 licencing rounds purely for political appearances, it’s not going to deliver tangible results in current price environments.

Dig just ‘under the salt’, and Petrobras leverage will remain high; local content even higher. Until Brazil can properly clear its electoral decks in 2018 Mr. Temer is going to have a very limited mandate. If anything, his core challenge is trying to make sure his caretaker outfit doesn’t end up ‘washed out’ day one, given Temer is by no means beyond political reproach, with the PMDB basically as corrupt as the ruling PT. The smart move for Brazil would actually be calling fresh elections with the TSE (electoral authority) invalidating the entire Rousseff-Temer 2014 ticket to put a line under what currently shapes up to be the worst commodity driven economic crash Brazil has ever experienced. Regrettably, Brazilian politics has nothing to do with national interests at this stage, and everything to do with narrow self-preservation societies.

Read more …

“..most proposals have the wage increasing about a dollar a year until it reaches $15 an hour”

California Lawmakers, Unions Reach Deal for $15 an Hour Minimum Wage

California legislators and labor unions on Saturday reached an agreement aims to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 from $10 an hour, a state senator said, a move that would make for the highest statewide minimum in the nation. Sen. Mark Leno (D., San Francisco) said the proposal would go before the Legislature as part of his minimum-wage bill that stalled last year. Mr. Leno didn’t confirm specifics of the agreement, but most proposals have the wage increasing about a dollar a year until it reaches $15 an hour. The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the deal, said the wage would rise to $10.50 in 2017, with subsequent increases to take it to $15 by 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply.

At $10 an hour, California already has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation along with Massachusetts. Only Washington, D.C., at $10.50 an hour is higher. The hike to $15 would make it the highest statewide wage in the nation by far, though raises are in the works in other states. The deal means the issue won’t have to go to the ballot, Mr. Leno said. One union-backed initiative has already qualified for the ballot, and a second, competing measure is also trying to qualify. Union leaders, however, said they wouldn’t immediately dispense with planned ballot measures. Sean Wherley, a spokesman for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, confirmed that his group was involved in the negotiations. But he said the group would continue pushing ahead with its initiative on the ballot. “Ours is on the ballot. We want to be certain of what all this is,” Mr. Wherley said.

Read more …

The Econocene.

The Church of Economism and Its Discontents (EI)

The global human population increased from approximately 1 billion in the year 1800 to 7 billion in 2011. Over this period, the field of economics emerged, transforming political discourse. The institutional conditions for market expansion were put in place, and the success of markets suppressed myriad other ways societies have organized themselves. Economic activity per capita increased somewhere between 10 and 30-fold, resulting in a 70 to 210-fold increase in total economic activity.1 Population growth has slowed significantly in recent decades, but both economic growth through market expansion and its attendant environmental destruction have only continued.

Econocene is a fitting term for this new era because it makes us think about the expanding market economy, the ideological system that supports it, and its impact on society and the environment. Reflecting on environmental boundaries led ecological economist Herman Daly to propose limits on material throughput. Environmental economists propose taxes on greenhouse gas emissions and the creation of markets to resolve environmental conflicts. While acknowledging the importance of making markets work within the limits of nature and for the common good, I will explore how this new dominance of economic thinking, which I will call economism, has reshaped the diverse cultures of the world and come to function as a modern secular religion.

An advantage of the term Econocene is that it evokes the everyday cosmos of modern people. Artifacts of the economy—towering buildings, sprawling shopping malls, and swirling freeways—surround the 50% of the globe’s population who live in cities. A combination of smog and bright lights now obliterates the starry heavens so important to humanity’s historic consciousness and so humbling to our species’s historic sense of importance, focusing our attention on the economic constructs all around us. The cosmos reflected in the term Econocene includes not only the material artifacts of the economy, but also the market relations that bind us and define our place in the system. Urban dwellers are now fully dependent on markets for material sustenance.

They awake to radio announcers discussing supposedly significant changes in exchange rates, stock markets, and the proportion of people looking for work. The dominance of the market is not just an urban phenomenon: its “invisible hand” guides rural life as well. The crops planted reflect expected future prices, and soils reflect their history of economic use. Farmers have become so specialized that they, too, buy most of their food in supermarkets. In order to grapple with the challenges of this new era, we need to give it a name that resonates with people’s lived experiences.

Read more …

The role of Google and Facebook clearly warrants more scrutiny.

The State Has Lost Control: Tech Firms Now Run Western Politics (Morozov)

[..] The grim reality of contemporary politics is not that it’s impossible to imagine how capitalism will end – as the Marxist critic Fredric Jameson once famously put it – but that it’s becoming equally impossible to imagine how it could possibly continue, at least, not in its ideal form, tied, however weakly, to the democratic “polis”. The only solution that seems plausible is by having our political leaders transfer even more responsibility for problem-solving, from matters of welfare to matters of warfare, to Silicon Valley. This might produce immense gains in efficiency but would this also not aggravate the democratic deficit that already plagues our public institutions? Sure, it would – but the crisis of democratic capitalism seems so acute that it has dropped any pretension to being democratic; hence the proliferation of euphemisms to describe the new normal (with Angela Merkel’s “market-conformed democracy” probably being the most popular one).

Besides, the slogans of the 1970s that were meant to bolster the democratic pillar of the compromise between capital and labour, from economic and industrial democracy to codetermination, look quaint in an era where workers of the “gig economy” cannot even unionise, let along participate in some broader management of the enterprise. There’s something even more sinister afoot though. “Buying time” no longer seems like an adequate description of what is happening, if only because technology companies, even more so than the banks, are not only too big too fail but also impossible to undo – let alone replicate – even if a new government is elected. Many of them have already taken on the de facto responsibilities of the state; any close analysis of what’s happening with “smart cities” – whereby technology firms become key gateways to essential services of our cities – easily confirms that.

In fact, technology firms are rapidly becoming the default background condition in which our politics itself is conducted. Once Google and Facebook take over the management of essential services, Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum that “there is no alternative” would no longer be a mere slogan but an accurate description of reality. The worst is that today’s legitimation crisis could be our last. Any discussion of legitimacy presupposes not just the ability to sense injustice but also to imagine and implement a political alternative. Imagination would never be in short supply but the ability to implement things on a large scale is increasingly limited to technology giants. Once this transfer of power is complete, there won’t be a need to buy time any more – the democratic alternative will simply no longer be a feasible option.

Read more …

Some questions must be asked. If nobody else does that, you get Trump.

Trump Questions US Position On OPEC Allies, NATO, China (NY Times)

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said that if elected, he might halt purchases of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies unless they commit ground troops to the fight against the Islamic State or “substantially reimburse” the United States for combating the militant group, which threatens their stability. “If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection,” Mr. Trump said during a 100-minute interview on foreign policy, spread over two phone calls on Friday, “I don’t think it would be around.” He also said he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals rather than depend on the American nuclear umbrella for their protection against North Korea and China. If the United States “keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway, with or without me discussing it,” Mr. Trump said.

And he said he would be willing to withdraw United States forces from both Japan and South Korea if they did not substantially increase their contributions to the costs of housing and feeding those troops. “Not happily, but the answer is yes,” he said. Mr. Trump also said he would seek to renegotiate many fundamental treaties with American allies, possibly including a 56-year-old security pact with Japan, which he described as one-sided. In Mr. Trump’s worldview, the United States has become a diluted power, and the main mechanism by which he would re-establish its central role in the world is economic bargaining. He approached almost every current international conflict through the prism of a negotiation, even when he was imprecise about the strategic goals he sought.

He again faulted the Obama administration’s handling of the negotiations with Iran last year — “It would have been so much better if they had walked away a few times,” he said — but offered only one new idea about how he would change its content: Ban Iran’s trade with North Korea. Mr. Trump struck similar themes when he discussed the future of NATO, which he called “unfair, economically, to us,” and said he was open to an alternative organization focused on counterterrorism. He argued that the best way to halt China’s placement of military airfields and antiaircraft batteries on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea was to threaten its access to American markets. “We have tremendous economic power over China,” he argued. “And that’s the power of trade.” He did not mention Beijing’s ability for economic retaliation.

Read more …

Keep it peaceful.

Greece Removes Migrants From FYROM Border Camp (AFP)

Greece has begun evacuating refugees from the main Idomeni camp on the Macedonia border, while the flow of refugees arriving on the Aegean islands has slowed to a trickle, officials said on Saturday. Eight buses transported around 400 refugees from Idomeni to nearby refugee camps on Friday, police sources said. A dozen more buses were waiting for migrants reluctant to leave the border, which has been shut down since earlier this month. “People who have no hope or have no money, maybe they will go. But I have hope, maybe something better will happen tomorrow, maybe today,” said 40-year-old Fatema Ahmed from Iraq, who has a 13-year-old son in Germany and three daughters with her in the camp. She said she would consider leaving the squalid Idomeni camp – where people are sheltering even on railway tracks – if the Greek government decides to give every migrant family “a simple house”.

Those persuaded to board the first buses were mainly parents with children who can no longer tolerate the difficult conditions. Janger Hassan, 29, from Iraqi Kurdistan, who has been at the Idomeni camp for a month with his wife and two young children, thinks he will probably leave. “There’s nothing to do here. “The children are getting sick. It’s a bad situation the last two days: it’s windy, sometimes it’s raining here,” he said. “We don’t have a choice. We have to move,” he said. Desperation was evident in the camp. One tent bore the slogan: “Help us open the border”. A total of 11,603 people remained at the sprawling border camp on Saturday, according to the latest official count. Giorgos Kyritsis, spokesman of the SOMP agency, which is coordinating Athens’s response to the refugee crisis, said the operation to evacuate Idomeni will intensify from Monday.

“More than 2,000 places can be found immediately for the refugees that are at the Idomeni camp and from Monday on, this number can double,” Kyritsis added, pledging to create 30,000 more places in the next three weeks in new shelters. Meanwhile, the flow of refugees arriving in Greece is slowing. Athens on Thursday said no migrants had arrived on its Aegean islands in the previous 24 hours, for the first time since the controversial EU-Turkey deal to halt the massive influx came into force at the weekend. The agreement, under which all migrants landing on the Greek islands face being sent back to Turkey, went into effect last Sunday. Despite the deal, 1,662 people arrived on Monday, but this fell to 600 on Tuesday and 260 on Wednesday.

Read more …

“Today we had little people, but if we have all the people then we will succeed.”

The Bar at the End of the Road (WSJ)

A tiny bar in a rundown train station in a remote Greek town has become the center of the universe for the migrants stuck at the border of Macedonia. When Macedonia shut its border to Greece in early March, the Greek border town of Idomeni, once a quick stopover for migrants on route to Europe became the end of the line for many. At least for now. But that isn’t stopping many migrants from trying to make their way across the border and beyond. On a recent cold and wet few days at the camp, migrants hang out in the bar for the warmth it provides and the food and friendship it offers. People talk over chips, pizza and beer, but mostly take solace in having a temporary escape from the misery of the camp. Out of their cold, muddy tents and playing games like checkers and backgammon, or connecting with distant relatives on their phones.

Groups are usually separated by nationality, but talking about how to get out of Greece and farther into Europe is a topic everyone discusses. One morning, someone had a plan to cross a fast-flowing, ice-cold river to the border, despite the fence and increased police presence. It was a dangerous plan, but any escape would do. Someone had a printout of a map showing the route across the river all the way to the border. People study it and take photos of it. Zakaria, a migrant from Aleppo, Syria, says, “I want to continue my studies. I don’t care which country. It can be Germany or another country so long as I can continue my studies. I will wait here until I cross somehow. I would go back home to Syria if I could. Believe me I don’t want to be here, I want to be home, but I don’t even have a home there. No country and no home.”

By noon that day, hundreds of people amassed at the meeting point on the map. Following the trail through forests and fields, this group of men and women, young and old carry their belongings and eventually come to the river. The water is freezing. People are yelling and crying. Children are terrified. But they made it across. They were lucky. Earlier that morning, a separate group attempted to cross and three people reportedly died attempting the cross. After resting, they continue to the border, but are turned back by the Macedonian army. Back at the camp, they are exhausted and downtrodden, but they have the bar, and talk soon turns to finding another way to escape. Sarwar, a migrant from Lahore, Pakistan, who has been in Idomeni for 16 days and just returned from trying to cross the border says, “They stop us today but we will try again. We are many, many people and more come now. Soon we can run through the fence. Today we had little people, but if we have all the people then we will succeed.”

Read more …

Mar 172016
 
 March 17, 2016  Posted by at 9:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Christopher Helin Kissel military Highway Scout Kar at Multnomah Falls, Oregon 1918

US Lost 30% Of Manufacturing Jobs Between 1998 And 2016 (WaPo)
Rich Countries Have A $78 Trillion Pension Problem (CNBC)
The Budget That Wasn’t (Halligan)
Asia Cheers as Yellen Succumbs to Cry-Bullies (Barron’s)
China’s Exporters Struggle as Yuan Swings Disrupt Business (BBG)
China Banks Face Credit Risks From Ties To Wealth Management Products (CNBC)
America’s No. 1 Coal Miner to Seek Bankruptcy Protection (WSJ)
Energy Sector Defaults Could Start Falling Like Dominoes (MW)
Oil Investors See $7.4 Billion Vanish as Dividends Are Targeted (BBG)
Big-Oil Bailout Begins as Pemex’s Debt Spirals Down (WS)
Munich Re Rebels Against ECB With Plan To Store Cash In Vaults (BBG)
Netherlands Votes To Ban Weapons Exports To Saudi Arabia (Ind.)
Austria’s Highest Court Proclaims Asylum Cap Illegal (NE)
Huge Challenges Await EU’s Refugee Plan (FT)
EU Prepares To Scale Back Resettlement Of Syrian Refugees (Guardian)
Three Migrants Dead As 2,400 Rescued Off Libya (AFP)

Killing off your manufacturing base is the worst thing you can do.

US Lost 30% Of Manufacturing Jobs Between 1998 And 2016 (WaPo)

Thomaston, Ga. — Not so long ago, this rural town an hour outside Atlanta was a hotbed of textile manufacturing. In the late 1990s, there were six major mills here. Their machines spun children’s clothing for Carter’s, made tire cords for B.F. Goodrich and produced bed sheets for J.C. Penney, Sears and Walmart. In all, they employed about 4,000 workers. By 2001, all of those jobs were gone. What has happened here in the 15 years since then tracks the slow comeback of manufacturing in the United States. Two textile companies have come in, investing millions in new technology and adding about 280 jobs in this town where one-third of the residents still live below the poverty line. It is becoming more affordable to produce textiles in the United States as machines become more efficient, companies say.

Major firms are more willing to pay higher prices for domestically sourced products, and rising wages in China mean there is less of an advantage to making products overseas. Last week, there was new cause for celebration when Marriott International announced that all towels in its 3,000 U.S. hotels would be manufactured by Standard Textile in plants here and in Union, S.C., a move expected to bring $23 million worth of business and 150 jobs back to the United States. The hotelier joins a number of other companies, including Walmart, Apple and General Electric, that have pushed for more U.S.-made products in recent years. But manufacturing employment here is a small fraction of what it was. Although a company such as Standard Textile once might have employed close to 1,000 people, today it has a couple of hundred workers who oversee machines that spin, scour and weave cotton.

“We’ve had to redefine who we were because we were a mill town for so long,” said Kyle Fletcher, executive director of the Thomaston-Upton Industrial Development Authority. “We lost a lot of the middle class.” The United States lost 30% of its manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2016, according to Federal Reserve data. As of February, the country had 12.3 million workers in the sector, down from 17.6 million in April 2008. In February 2010, that figure was 11.5 million. There are hints that manufacturing is returning to the United States in small ways: The nation’s quarterly output has climbed steadily since the end of the recession, growing 35% and adding 650,000 jobs since mid-2009, according to the Fed. But the glory days are gone, Fletcher said. About one-third of Thomaston’s 9,000 residents live below the poverty line, compared with 23% in 1999. Average income has dropped more than 20% since 1999, to $14,243 from $18,193, according to U.S. Census data.

Read more …

Pon Zi.

Rich Countries Have A $78 Trillion Pension Problem (CNBC)

Dreams of lengthy cruises and beach life may be just that, with 20 of the world’s biggest countries facing a pension shortfall worth $78 trillion, Citi said in a report sent on Wednesday. “Social security systems, national pension plans, private sector pensions, and individual retirement accounts are unfunded or underfunded across the globe,” pensions and insurance analysts at the bank said in the report. “Government services, corporate profits, or retirement benefits themselves will have to be reduced to make any part of the system work. This poses an enormous challenge to employers, employees, and policymakers all over the world.” The total value of unfunded or underfunded government pension liabilities for 20 countries belonging to the OECD – a group of largely wealthy countries — is $78 trillion, Citi said. (The countries studied include the U.K., France and Germany, plus several others in western and central Europe, the U.S., Japan, Canada, and Australia.)

The bank added that corporates also failed to consistently meet their pension obligations, with most U.S. and U.K. corporate pensions plans underfunded. Countries with large public pension systems in Europe appear to have the greatest problem. Citi noted that Germany, France, Italy, the U.K., Portugal and Spain had estimated public sector pension liabilities that topped 300% of GDP. Improvements in health care mean retirees need to string out their income for longer. Meanwhile, the increase in the retirement-age population versus the working population is straining government pension schemes. Several countries, including the U.K., France and Italy are gradually hiking retirement ages. Citi recommended that governments explicitly link the retirement age to expected longevity. It also advised that government-funded pensions should serve merely as a “safety net,” rather than the prime pension provider, and that corporate pensions should be “opt out” rather than “opt in” to encourage greater enrollment.

Read more …

Osborne’s not worried. He knew everyone would be talking about his sugar tax. Great diversion tactic.

The Budget That Wasn’t (Halligan)

George Osborne’s latest Budget pretended to be many things it wasn’t. The Chancellor talked repeatedly about “borrowing falling”, yet in the next three years, borrowing on our behalf goes sharply up. He warned about “financial instability” and “storm clouds” on the economic horizon, yet he’s relying on growth assumptions that are surely too optimistic. While barely mentioning the EU referendum, the Chancellor’s determination to avoid Brexit pervaded almost every paragraph of his 63-minute Commons statement. Far from being “a Budget for the next generation” – a phrase wielded 18 times – his policies were aimed at attracting as many “Remain” voters as he could, while doing as little as possible to upset those still undecided. Rather than a “long-term Budget” (19 mentions), the package was designed for the next three months, ahead of the EU vote that will decide Osborne’s political future.

What we’ve just seen, then, was possibly the most short-term “long-term budget” in history. Bound to get the chattering classes chuntering (“G&T slimline, anyone?”), Osborne’s flab-fighting “sugar levy” was cynically tactical, broadening his appeal among non-Conservatives, while diverting attention from the statistical sleight of hand at the heart of this Budget. “Borrowing continues to fall,” the Chancellor told us. Really? It’s astonishing that, a full eight years after the financial crisis, and after a surge in growth and employment, the UK is still borrowing more than £72bn a year. Government debt stands at £1,591bn, 50pc up since Osborne took office, more than £50,000 per person in full or part-time employment. The Government is spending £46bn annually on interest payments alone – more than on defence – and that’s with interest rates at historic lows.

As the debt and rates spiral upwards, that interest bill can only rise, all at the expense of spending on services. Instead of cutting borrowing on Wednesday, the Budget fine print shows that, over the next three years, we’ll be adding another £116bn to our national debt – more than £36bn up on the borrowing projections in last November’s Autumn Statement. We’ll probably end up borrowing even more, of course, than these already gargantuan numbers, not least if growth is lower than forecast. Since last November, some £5 trillion has been wiped off global stock markets. Morgan Stanley now warns clients of a 30pc chance of global recession over the next year. Many financiers privately judge the chance of a financial collapse to be far higher. “As one of the most open economies in the world, the UK isn’t immune to global slowdowns and shocks,” Osborne told the Commons. Yet, over each of the next six years, the Budget borrowing projections rest on growth of 2pc or more. While I obviously hope that happens, it amounts to a mighty optimistic assumption.

Read more …

“Yellen has surrendered after achieving victory.”

Asia Cheers as Yellen Succumbs to Cry-Bullies (Barron’s)

Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten us into, Janet. U.S. Fed Chair Janet Yellen left rates unchanged this week, and confided after the Fed’s two-day policy meeting that, despite continuing improvement in the U.S. economy, weak global economic growth and turbulent markets had spooked the Fed into halving the number of times it expects to raise rates this year, to two from four. Yellen’s capitulation is already producing a predictable whoop of jubilation in Asian markets, as it confirms this column’s observation that the hot money crowd has succeeded in cry-bullying global central bankers into keeping the punchbowl of cheap cash full to overflowing. Stocks in Shanghai and Hong Kong rose by more than 1%, while Philippine stocks were up almost 2%.

While it’s often the case that Asian stocks move reflexively with those on Wall Street, today it’s all about the U.S. dollar, which fell 1% against the Japanese yen and about 0.7% against the Euro. Even though Tokyo stocks are up, the Fed’s move is bad news for Japan and Europe as well as their respective central bankers, Haruhiko Kuroda and Mario Draghi. As this column explained yesterday, both gentlemen are working furiously to use a negative interest-rate policy to weaken their currencies, boost inflation and revive economic growth. Hearing that Yellen won’t be riding to the rescue soon with another rate hike will come as bad news to them. But it’s excellent news for Asia’s smaller markets, since investors hunting for higher yields can no longer count on getting more bang for the buck out of Yellen.

Indonesia’s rupiah, which has risen 6% already this year, gained another 0.8% after the Fed’s announcement. Malaysia’s ringgit – what corruption scandal? – rose 1% and South Korea’s won soared by 2.5%. Don’t get too excited. While a more reluctant Fed extends the risk-on rally for Asian assets, it does not bode well for investors looking for fundamental value or an upturn in corporate profitability. For starters, the Fed is once again behind the market. Even as they’ve kicked and screamed after the Fed ended a 10-year, zero interest-rate policy by raising rates last December, sending Asian stocks down roughly 15% by mid-February, investors are starting to adjust to the reality that the U.S. economy is not sinking into recession. Jobs and inflation are improving and markets that early this year were predicting no rate hike until 2017 were yesterday betting on another hike as early as July. Yellen has surrendered after achieving victory.

Read more …

Will exporters force Beijing to devalue?

China’s Exporters Struggle as Yuan Swings Disrupt Business (BBG)

The yuan’s swings are becoming a headache for the Chinese companies that should have been the biggest beneficiaries of last year’s devaluation. In rare overt comments, exporters including Midea and TCL are expressing apprehension about the nation’s exchange-rate policy. Two said the increased volatility has made it difficult to manage costs because customers are choosing to place only short-term orders, while a third said the yuan was allowed to strengthen far too much in the past few years. “Overseas clients are taking into account losses that can be caused by exchange-rate swings and are placing shorter-term orders with smaller volumes, which creates difficulty for our operations,” said Yuan Liqun, VP at Midea, China’s biggest maker of household appliances by market share.

“The fluctuations last year were relatively significant. Companies can accept a market-based yuan that moves within a reasonable range.” Exports slumped 25% in February from a year earlier and a gauge of overseas orders contracted for the 17th month in a row, while the currency’s volatility held near the highest levels since August’s shock devaluation. This illustrates the challenge facing Premier Li Keqiang as he balances the need to nudge the exchange rate lower to help an economy growing at the slowest pace in 25 years, while trying to avoid a run that would create financial instability. The currency, which has plunged 4.8% since last year’s devaluation, climbed in September and October, and dropped in the following three months before rebounding in February. It has strengthened 0.5% in March so far, almost wiping out this year’s losses. The wild swings contributed to an estimated $1 trillion in capital outflows last year.

The yuan, which Royal Bank of Canada says is currently overvalued, will face renewed selling pressure once the Federal Reserve decides to raise borrowing costs again. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists is for a drop of 4.1% by the end of the year. Its decline against the dollar in 2015 – the most in 21 years – masked a sixth straight annual gain against the exchange rates of China’s main trading partners, according to a BIS index. This shows that there is more room for depreciation, according to Fuyao Glass Industry, which makes automobile windows and whose clients include BMW and Volkswagen. “The yuan is strong, so Chinese companies can’t go abroad and most exporters are making losses,” Cho Tak Wong, chairman of Fuqing, Fujian-based Fuyao, said in an interview over the weekend. “China should allow the yuan to weaken. If the currency doesn’t depreciate, exports will be negatively influenced and export-focused firms will suffer.”

Read more …

“There were around 23.5 trillion yuan ($3.60 trillion) worth of WMPs outstanding at the end of 2015, up from around 15 trillion yuan a year earlier..”

China Banks Face Credit Risks From Ties To Wealth Management Products (CNBC)

Chinese banks are starting to create a web of risk through their wealth management products (WMPs), raising concerns about the health of the financial system just as China’s economic growth has slowed to its weakest pace in 25 years. Retail investors are the majority of buyers of WMPs, which offer higher interest rates than a bank deposit. But it isn’t always clear what assets the funds are buying to finance those payouts. The industry publishes aggregated data on where WMPs tend to invest, but the disclosures of individual products can be vague. Overall, WMPs tend to invest in the industrial sector as well as industries related to local government and real estate, according to Fitch. All of these are segments of the economy suffering from overcapacity.

Most WMPs – as many as 74% – don’t carry the issuing bank’s guarantee that investors will be made whole at the end of the product’s term, which is usually less than six months, Fitch said. But even if the products fail to meet performance expectations, banks may choose to repay investors anyway to avoid the spectacle of mom and pop protesters in front of its branches – something that occurred outside a Hua Xia Bank branch near Shanghai in 2012, according to a Reuters report. When the WMP’s performance isn’t up to snuff, it can become a risk for more than just the issuing bank. “The fear is that investments are in industries that might not be generating cash so when they come due, the cash to repay investors might not be there.

There’s always pressure to roll them over,” Jack Yuan, associate director for financial institutions at Fitch, said last week. Additionally, some banks are investing in other banks’ WMPs – those investments are usually on banks’ balance sheets in a category called “investments classified as receivables,” Yuan noted. “There are a lot of interlinkages in the banking sector in terms of banks investing in other banks’ WMPs and calling on the interbank market for funding if they do go bad,” he said. “It’s going to be more and more difficult to resolve these if they do go bad.” There were around 23.5 trillion yuan ($3.60 trillion) worth of WMPs outstanding at the end of 2015, up from around 15 trillion yuan a year earlier, Fitch noted, with around 3,500 new ones offered each week.

Read more …

“Peabody’s share price has fallen to under $2.50 from more than $1,300 in 2008.”

America’s No. 1 Coal Miner to Seek Bankruptcy Protection (WSJ)

Peabody Energy, the U.S.’s biggest coal miner, Wednesday posted a going-concern notice in a regulatory filing, warning of possible bankruptcy. A chapter 11 filing by Peabody, which operates 26 mines in the U.S. and Australia, would be the latest in a wave of bankruptcies to hit top American coal producers, including Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal and Walter Energy, as they wrestle with low energy prices, new regulations, and the conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas. Punctuating Peabody’s woes, the Energy Information Administration Wednesday said that 2016 “will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation.”

The EIA said Americans would get 33% of their electricity from gas in 2016, and 32% from coal. As recently as 2008, coal fed half of U.S. electricity consumption. The weakening demand is hurting markets. Coal prices have fallen 62% since 2011, and 18% in the past year, according to the EIA. That drop is crushing companies like Peabody. The company has now lost money in nine straight quarters, and in 2015 posted a $2 billion deficit. As of Dec. 31, it had $6.3 billion in debt and $261.3 million in cash. Peabody, whose biggest mining operations are in Wyoming, has also been weighed down by its ill-timed acquisition of Australia’s Macarthur Coal for $5.1 billion in 2011. Prices have been declining ever since. Company shares, which have already lost more than 95% of their value in the past 12 months, fell 44% in midday trading.

Peabody’s share price has fallen to under $2.50 from more than $1,300 in 2008. On Wednesday, Peabody pointed to uncertainty around global coal fundamentals, economic growth concerns of some major coal-importing nations and the potential for additional regulatory requirements on coal producers as reasons for its notice. Because of operating problems and other financial problems, “we may not have sufficient liquidity to sustain operations and to continue as a going concern,” the St. Louis-based miner said in a filing with the SEC. “We may need to voluntarily seek protection under chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.” Peabody said it had delayed an interest-rate payment on two loans, triggering a 30-day grace period. If the payments aren’t made within 30 days, an event of default would be declared.

Read more …

Oh yeah!

Energy Sector Defaults Could Start Falling Like Dominoes (MW)

Energy-sector bond defaults – and for some producers, bankruptcy risks – are piling up and coal liabilities aren’t the only culprit. Oil-and-gas producers, suffering with low crude prices after a shale revolution made the U.S. a viable energy producer, are smothered under their own junk bonds. Small- and medium-sized U.S.-based producers, especially those that expanded with the shale boom, are most vulnerable; any small blip in oil prices may not be high enough or fast enough to protect all producers. And just this week at least two more have warned about their near-term future. It’s a climate that’s driven some of this sector’s high-yield paper to trade at 30 cents on the dollar or less.

Peabody Energy said Wednesday it filed a “going concern” notice with regulators. Peabody has opted to exercise the 30-day grace period with respect to a $21.1 million interest payment due March 16 on its 6.50% notes due in September 2020, as well as a $50 million interest payment due March 16 on its 10% senior secured second lien notes due in March 2022. Costs and lost business to tougher coal regulation were cited. But Linn Energy – which on Tuesday filed its own “going concern” after missed interest payments now in a grace period — is primarily an oil-and-gas producer with shale interests in western U.S. states. If it files for bankruptcy protection, its $10 billion in debt would make it the largest U.S. oil company to do so since oil prices began their sharp decline in 2014.

In all, about 40 oil and gas producers have filed for bankruptcy protection globally since 2014, according to a February report from Deloitte. Crude traded to 12-year lows, below $30 a barrel, in February before a recent, mild rebound. Energy consulting firm Rystad Energy says smaller players typically need a minimum $50-a-barrel oil price to make a profit. Last week, Fitch said it’s raising its 2016 forecast for U.S. high-yield bond defaults to 6% from 4.5%, and said it expects energy and materials issuers to default on $70 billion of debt this year, including $40 billion for energy alone. The new rate of default is the highest that Fitch has ever forecast during a non-recessionary period, beating the 5.1% it forecast for 2000.

Read more …

Might as well sell then, right?

Oil Investors See $7.4 Billion Vanish as Dividends Are Targeted (BBG)

The check is not in the mail. Bludgeoned by falling energy prices, at least a dozen oil and natural gas companies have opted to cut dividends this year to preserve cash, cannibalizing payouts considered sacrosanct by many investors. The cost to shareholders: more than $7.4 billion in lost income, compared to what they would have received this year if the payouts remained the same. It’s another painful measure – along with tens of thousands of layoffs and more than $100 billion in canceled investments – of the toll taken on the industry by the worst oil and gas price slump in decades. The quarterly payments, prized by conservative shareholders as a source of steady income, are unlikely to be restored any time soon. “It really reinforces the necessity of having a margin of safety if you are buying a stock primarily for its dividend,” said Josh Peters, editor of Morningstar’s DividendInvestor newsletter.

“What we have found for some of the energy companies is that the margin of safety was either slim or nonexistent.” Kinder Morgan’s 75% dividend cut was the biggest, amounting to a $3.44 billion loss for shareholders over the course of 2016. The announcement from North America’s largest pipeline operator “came as a shock to some people and obviously was deplored by some people,” founder and Executive Chairman Richard Kinder told analysts at a Jan. 27 meeting. The move was necessary to help the Houston-based company keep its investment-grade credit rating while ensuring it has enough money to pay debts and grow, Kinder said. Since the Dec. 8 announcement, shares have risen about 20%, compared with a 3% gain for the Alerian MLP stock index, which tracks energy infrastructure companies.

Read more …

It’s a miracle Pemex still exists.

Big-Oil Bailout Begins as Pemex’s Debt Spirals Down (WS)

Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil giant, cannot seem to get a break these days. It notched up 13 straight quarters of rising losses. It now owes over $80 billion to international investors and banks. It needs to raise $23 billion this year to stay afloat. The cost of servicing that gargantuan debt mountain continues to rise. So it tries desperately to rein in its spending, without tackling — or even discussing — its endemic culture of corruption. In recent days, Pemex received a 15 billion peso ($840 million) lifeline from three of Mexico’s homegrown development banks, Banobras, Bancomext and Nafinsa, to help the firm pay back some of its smallest providers, consisting mainly of domestic SMEs. The loan was part of an arrangement cobbled together between the banks and the Mexican government.

By today’s standards the amount involved is pretty meager, but the operation was about more than just raising funds: it was meant to restore confidence among both investors and suppliers in the firm’s ability to repay its debts. “This sends a sign of stability and confidence to the sector, which has been very nervous” payments would not be made, explained Erik Legorreta, President of the Mexican Oil Industry Association, which represents around 3,000 service providers. “Members of the industry now have the confidence and certainty that the payments will be honored.” Not everyone agrees. Last week the U.S. credit rating agency Moody’s flagged concerns that the loan will significantly increase the three banks’ combined exposure to Pemex’s debt, calculated to grow from 44% to 62%.

“The three lenders now have high concentration risks with their 20 biggest creditors,” cautioned Moody’s, which already downgraded Pemex’s debt in November to Baa1, with a negative outlook. In its report last week, the agency piled on the pressure by warning that there’s “a high likelihood” that it will downgrade Pemex’s rating another notch in the coming weeks. What this all means is that rather than restoring investor confidence in Pemex, the loan operation has merely served to reinforce investors’ fears that lending to the debt-laden oil giant is fast becoming a very dangerous risk.

Read more …

We’ll see more of this.

Munich Re Rebels Against ECB With Plan To Store Cash In Vaults (BBG)

Munich Re is resorting to the corporate equivalent of stuffing notes under the mattress as the world’s second-biggest reinsurer seeks to avoid paying banks to hold its cash. The German company will store at least €10 million in two currencies so it won’t have to pay for the right to access the money at short notice, Chief Executive Officer Nikolaus von Bomhardsaid at a press conference in Munich on Wednesday. “We will also observe what others are doing to avoid paying negative interest rates,” he said. Institutional investors including insurers, savings banks and pension funds are debating whether to store cash in vaults as overnight deposit rates fall deeper below zero and negative yields dent investment returns. The costs associated with insurance and logistics may outweigh the benefits of taking this step.

Munich Re’s move comes after the ECB last week cut the rate on the deposit facility, which banks use to park excess funds, to minus 0.4%. Munich Re’s strategy, if followed by others, could undermine the ECB’s policy of imposing a sub-zero deposit rate to push down market credit costs and spur lending. Cash hoarding threatens to disrupt the transmission of that policy to the real economy. Munich Re wants to test how practical it would be to store banknotes having already kept some of its gold in vaults, von Bomhard said. This comes at a time when consumers are increasingly using credit cards and electronic banking to pay for transactions. Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan in January predicted the disappearance of physical cash within a decade. Munich Re also said on Wednesday that it expects its profit to decline this year as falling prices for its products and low interest rates weigh on investment earnings.

Read more …

UK rules!

Netherlands Votes To Ban Weapons Exports To Saudi Arabia (Ind.)

The Dutch parliament has voted to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia in protest against the kingdom’s humanitarian and rights violations. It sees the Netherlands become the first EU country to put in practice a motion by the European Parliament in February urging a bloc-wide Saudi arms embargo. The bill, voted through by Dutch MPs on Tuesday, quoted UN figures which suggest almost 6,000 people – half of them civilians – have been killed since Saudi-led troops entered the conflict in Yemen. It also cited the mass execution of 47 people, largely political dissidents, ordered by the Saudi judiciary on 2 January this year.

According to Reuters, the Dutch bill asks the government to implement a strict weapons embargo that includes dual-use exports which could potentially be used to violate human rights. The vote adds to the growing pressure on Britain, one of the main arms suppliers to Riyadh, to reconsider its stance. According to Campaign Against Arms Trade figures from the start of the year, the UK has sold more than £5.6 billion worth of weapons to the Saudi government under David Cameron. France is the other major European supplier of arms to the Saudi kingdom. Germany’s exports amounted to almost £140 million in the first six months of 2015, while figures for the Netherlands itself were not available.

Read more …

Has this changed their policy yet?

Austria’s Highest Court Proclaims Asylum Cap Illegal (NE)

Austria’s asylum cap to 37,500 refugees has been declared unlawful by the country’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday, March 15. While Chancellor Werner Faymann is calling on Germany to introduce its own cap, the president of Austria’s Constitutional Court, Gerhart Holzinger, stated that Austria is obliged to grand asylum to everyone that meets the legal requirements. Vienna allows 80 asylum seekers per day and allows 3,200 to transit to Germany. Meanwhile, the Austrian Defense Minister, Peter Doskozil, suggested on Tuesday that the EU should help the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – an EU candidate state – to secure its borders with Greece, an EU member state. Doskozil praised the government in Skopje for the work it has done “for the whole of the EU.” Austria’s Vice-President, Reinhold Mitterlehner, reiterated that “the Balkan route must stay closed.”

Read more …

How the EU sees this: “We have a week to build a Greek state..” Insane, but true. It smells like the efficiency goal of German camps 70 years ago. If you don’t put people first, you’re going to get it wrong.

Huge Challenges Await EU’s Refugee Plan (FT)

On paper the EU’s latest migration plan promises a straightforward solution to a crisis that has vexed European leaders for months. But in practice, it is anything but simple. By returning thousands of migrants to Turkey, Brussels and Berlin are hoping that others will become convinced the route is now impassable and join a formalised system instead. But its implementation poses an enormous administrative test, with little time to prepare. One of the EU’s weakest states, Greece, will be asked to play a central role. “We have a week to build a Greek state,” joked one senior EU official intimately involved with the planning. Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice-president, acknowledged: “You don’t need to tell me that this is going to be very complicated in legal and logistical terms.” Here are five Herculean tasks ahead:

Preparing the ground — legally and literally Europe’s return plan violates Greek law. To address this, Greece must overhaul its asylum laws in a matter of days to enshrine Turkey as a “safe third country” to receive asylum seekers. The next step is harder: clearing the backlog. There are around 8,000 migrants on Greek islands, such as Lesbos and Chios. Officials say they ideally need to be moved before the so-called “X Day” -as early as Friday- when the returns policy officially begins. Yet Greek facilities are strained. Shelter is lacking on the mainland, where almost 40,000 migrants are already stranded. Mixing the groups — those who are trapped in Greece, awaiting relocation to Europe, and those who will be sent straight back to Turkey – could get ugly.

Creating a functioning asylum system in Greece “Unacceptable”, “degrading” and “unsanitary” were a few of the words used to describe Greece’s asylum system when the European Court of Human Rights banned other EU members from sending asylum seekers there in 2011. Yet the Greek system will now be the fulcrum of the EU’s deal with Turkey. Greece is the place where thousands of asylum seekers will land, be processed, housed and then returned to Turkey. This will require more manpower, particularly on the Aegean Islands. Everyone from judges -estimates range from 50 to 200- to a small army of Arabic or Pashto translators are required. “We’re far away from having the people, let alone trained people,” said one European official involved in preparations.

An asylum seeker’s claim is supposed to take a week to process, according to the EU plan. But the legal hoops are multiplying as Brussels attempts to guard against court challenges. This requires an assessment of each individual case and an interview. Applications must be dealt with fast – but not too fast. (In October, the European Commission criticised Budapest for rejecting applications in under an hour.) Most difficult is the appeals procedure, which must be heard by a judge. If Greece fails to jump through any of these legal hoops then judges in Greece, Luxembourg or Strasbourg could strike down the agreement. “That would bring the whole system to a halt,” said one senior EU official.

Managing unco-operative migrants So-called “hotspots” in Greece were first promised in September, yet these registration and sorting centres are only now taking shape. They can accommodate around 8,050 arrivals, according to the European Commission. Yet their role is about to change drastically. For a returns policy to work efficiently, hotspots must not simply register migrants but detain them. The centres will become containment facilities, according to EU plans, from which migrants who are about to be returned cannot escape. That requires more fences, more overnight shelter and more security guards. This is a horrible challenge. The UNHCR survey of Syrian refugees in February found almost half to be children. Some detainees will be desperate and angry at the prospect of return, having just risked their lives on a sea journey that possibly cost their life savings. The risk of disorder is high.

Read more …

Isn’t that a crazy headline, given that less than 1000 of 160,000 have actually been resettled?!

EU Prepares To Scale Back Resettlement Of Syrian Refugees (Guardian)

The EU is preparing to scale back the number of Syrian refugees offered resettlement in Europe, as part of a controversial pact being drawn up with Turkey. The bloc’s 28 leaders will hold a summit in Brussels on Thursday, before a meeting the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday, to hammer out the final details of a plan aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants coming to Europe. The EU has pledged to resettle Syrian refugees currently in Turkey, but figures that emerged on Wednesday suggested only 72,000 places would be available, with uncertainty about the bloc’s commitment beyond this number. As the UNHCR stepped up calls for a coordinated approach to manage the number of people, European diplomats were scrambling to finalise a deal with Turkey.

Under a proposed “one-for-one” scheme, for every Syrian refugee in Turkey who is resettled in Europe, a Syrian in Greece would be sent back across the Aegean. The vast majority of refugees and migrants in Greece can also expect to be sent back to Turkey. When these broad principles were agreed at an EU-Turkey summit 10 days ago, the numbers were vague but details are now emerging. Of the 72,000 places identified by the Commission for Syrian refugees, 18,000 places would be available under a voluntary resettlement scheme agreed last year. A further 54,000 places may be available “if needed” under a separate scheme designed to spread asylum seekers more evenly around the bloc, although this would require a change to EU law.

Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European commission, said the EU would continue to help after these places were used up. It pointed to “a coalition of the willing”, made up of EU member states including Germany and Austria, who have pledged to resettle Syrians once irregular arrivals had stopped. “When we succeed in breaking the pattern of irregular arrivals one-for-one will not become none-for-none,” Timmermans said. But the various EU schemes to rehouse refugees are painfully slow. A plan to find homes for 160,000 refugees has led to only 937 being resettled, according to the latest data. Several countries are concerned that the Turkey deal could mean large-scale resettlement of Syrians in Europe.

A senior EU official said there “cannot be an open-ended commitment on the EU side”. The numbers discussed indicate that the EU wants to scale back help in Europe offered to refugees. Syrians in Greece will go to the back of the queue for resettlement in Europe once they are returned to Turkey. “Priority will be given to Syrians who have not previously entered the EU irregularly,” states an unpublished draft. The commission argues the plan will kill the business model of people smugglers, as potential migrants will have no incentive to come to Europe if they think they will be turned away. But the UN’s human rights chief has warned that the EU risks compromising its human rights values if it cuts corners on asylum standards.

Read more …

As the Balkan borders close, refugees will use new routes and old ones. At an even higher risk.

Three Migrants Dead As 2,400 Rescued Off Libya (AFP)

More than 2,400 migrants and three corpses have been recovered from people smugglers’ boats off Libya since Tuesday, Italy’s coastguard said Wednesday. After several quiet weeks, the figures represent a pick-up in the flow of migrants attempting to reach Italy via Libya, a route through which around 330,000 people have made it to Europe since the start of 2014. Prior to the latest rescues, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) had reported 9,500 people landing at Italian ports since the start of the year. This compares with more than 143,000 who have reached Greek islands by crossing the Aegean Sea since January 1.

With efforts underway to close the entry route through Greece, Italian authorities are wary of a surge in the number of migrants attempting to come through Libya. So far there has been no indication of that happening. Numbers arriving from Libya have always fluctuated in line with weather conditions in the Mediterranean and other factors. Arrivals were slightly down in 2015 compared with 2014 – a trend that may be related to the political chaos in Libya which might have deterred some migrants and has made it harder for those that do make the journey to find work there while awaiting boats to Italy.

Read more …


Merry St. Paddy’s

Dec 222015
 
 December 22, 2015  Posted by at 9:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle December 22 2015


DPC Old Absinthe House, bar, New Orleans 1906

Global Investors Are More Exposed To Interest-Rate Hikes Than Ever (BBG)
The Keynesian Recovery Meme Is About To Get Mugged, Part 1 (Stockman)
Brent Oil Hits 11-Year Low As Global Supply Balloons (Reuters)
US Gas Prices Fall Below $2 – In Some Places Under $1.60 (MarketWatch)
The Real “Death Cross” Of Oil Markets (ZH)
Risk Of Insolvency Hangs Over UK High Street Retailers (Guardian)
UK Economy Concerns As Household Debt Balloons To £40 Billion (PA)
The Bank of Japan’s $2.5 Billion Plan to Buy Non-Existent ETFs (BBG)
China ‘Suspends’ Another Unofficial PMI Data Set For A ‘Major Adjustment’ (ZH)
Zimbabwe To Make Chinese Yuan Legal Currency After Beijing Cancels Debts (AFP)
Russia, EU Trade Talks Fail, Kiev Set To Face Retaliation (Reuters)
Political Uprising In Spain Shatters Illusion Of Eurozone Recovery (AEP)
Portugal Taxpayers Face €3 Billion Loss After 2nd Bank Bailout In 2 Years (ZH)
Christmas Present (Jim Kunstler)
Et Tu, Brute? – How Empires Die (Thomas)
Do We Need The Fed? (Ron Paul)
Apple Says UK Surveillance Law Would Endanger All Customers (BBG)
Half of World’s Coal Must Go Unmined to Meet Paris Climate Target (BBG)
It’s ‘Almost Too Late’ To Stop A Global Superbug Crisis (PA)

Because the entire system is leveraged to the hilt.

Global Investors Are More Exposed To Interest-Rate Hikes Than Ever (BBG)

With any luck, the world economy will eventually be strong enough for central banks to follow the U.S. Federal Reserve in ending what has been an unprecedented period of extremely low interest rates. If and when they do, they’ll run straight into the same issue that the Fed now faces: Raising rates will precipitate unusually large losses for investors. Over the past several years, investors have gone to great lengths in their search for returns in a low-rate environment. They’ve done so in part by buying longer-maturity bonds, which tend to offer higher yields but are also more sensitive to changes in rates. One gauge of this risk is effective duration, which estimates the percentage decline in a bond’s price given a one-percentage-point increase in yield.

The measure is near all-time highs in the U.S., according to a report issued last week by the Office of Financial Research. The situation globally is no less precarious. Consider the effective duration for the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Index, which tracks about $45 trillion in investment-grade bonds issued in major currencies – including government, corporate, mortgage and other asset-backed securities. As of last week, it stood at 6.6, meaning that a one-percentage-point increase in yield would wipe almost $3 trillion off the value of all the bonds included in the index. That’s a larger potential loss than at just about any point since the index’s inception in 1996. Here’s how that looks:

The high level of interest-rate risk illustrates a dilemma for central bankers everywhere. The power of traditional monetary stimulus depends in large part on the willingness of people and companies to borrow for new projects and purchases. But as the debt burden grows, it makes markets and the entire economy more susceptible to rate increases. It can also undermine the effect of rate cuts, as borrowers increasingly struggle under the weight of their existing obligations.

Read more …

“These academic pettifoggers are so blinded by their tinker toy macro-model that they can’t even see the flashing red lights warning of recession just ahead.”

The Keynesian Recovery Meme Is About To Get Mugged, Part 1 (Stockman)

Yellen said at least one thing of importance last week, but not in a good way. She confessed to the frightening truth that the FOMC formulates its policies and actions based on forecasts of future economic developments. My point is not simply that our monetary politburo couldn’t forecast its way out of a paper bag; that much they have proved in spades during their last few years of madcap money printing. Notwithstanding the most aggressive monetary stimulus in recorded history – 84 months of ZIRP and $3.5 trillion of bond purchases – average real GDP growth has barely amounted to 50% of the Fed’s preceding year forecast; and even that shortfall is understated owing to the BEA’s systemic suppression of the GDP deflator.

What I am getting at is that it’s inherently impossible to forecast the economic future, but that is especially true when the forecasting model is an obsolete Keynesian relic which essentially assumes a closed US economy and that balance sheets don’t matter. Actually, balance sheets now matter more than anything else. The $225 trillion of debt weighing on the world economy – up an astonishing 5.5X in the last two decades – imposes a stiff barrier to growth that our Keynesian monetary suzerains ignore entirely. Likewise, the economy is now seamlessly global, meaning that everything which counts such as labor supply and wage trends, capacity utilization and investment rates and the pace of business activity and inventory stocks is planetary in nature. By contrast, due to the narrow range of activity they capture, the BLS’ deeply flawed domestic labor statistics are nearly useless. And they are a seriously lagging indicator to boot.

Nevertheless, Yellen & Co. are obsessed with the immeasurable and largely irrelevant level of “slack” in the domestic labor market. They falsely view it as a proxy for the purported gap between potential and actual GDP. Not surprisingly, they are now under the supreme illusion that the labor slack has been largely absorbed and the output gap nearly closed. So they are raising money market rates by a smidgeon to confirm the US economy’s strength and that the Keynesian nirvana of full employment is near at hand. No it isn’t! These academic pettifoggers are so blinded by their tinker toy macro-model that they can’t even see the flashing red lights warning of recession just ahead.

Read more …

Oil went up a whiff overnight. I always look at the spread between WTI and Brent. The smaller it gets, the higher the risks. Usually, it hovers between $2-3. Right now, it’s at 50 cents.

Brent Oil Hits 11-Year Low As Global Supply Balloons (Reuters)

Brent oil cratered to its lowest price in more than 11 years on Monday, as demand for heating oil slumped on warmer-than-normal temperatures and traders tested for a bottom. U.S. crude remained above its 2009 low and settled up a penny a barrel as traders squared positions ahead of the January contract’s expiration. The February contract declined and analysts expect stockpiles to build again this week, signaling further oversupply in already glutted market. Concerns about swelling global crude supply and slow demand sparked by economic weakness in China have been recurring themes during this year’s rout. Analysts said the market was still testing for a bottom. “The key in finding the bottom of the market comes in a tightening of the supply side,” said Gene McGillian, senior analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

OPEC and Russia will keep producing at high volumes, increasing pressure on U.S. producers to throttle back production, he said. “I think we’re getting ready for another round of capex cuts in North America,” he said. Heating oil futures weighed down the crude complex, hitting a new July 2004 low warmer-than-expected temperatures have hit seasonal demand. “The market is waiting for the next announcement,” said Tyche Capital Advisors senior research analyst John Macaluso. “The equity markets are waiting on crude oil, and crude oil is waiting for a bounce before shorts will come back into the market.” Crude short-sellers will be reluctant to return before U.S. crude recovers to $35.50, he said. Global oil production is running close to record highs. With more barrels poised to enter the market from nations such as Iran and Libya, the price of crude is set for its largest monthly percentage decline in seven years.

Read more …

“..1% of stations selling gas at $1.59 a gallon..”

US Gas Prices Fall Below $2 – In Some Places Under $1.60 (MarketWatch)

Christmas came early for U.S. drivers on Monday, as the national average gasoline price fell below $2 a gallon for the first time since March 2009. AAA put the average U.S. gas price at $1.998 per gallon on Monday, while fuel-price tracking service GasBuddy.com calculated the national average at $1.995 a gallon. That’s the lowest price by either measure since March 25, 2009. Unsurprisingly, drivers can credit a global glut of crude oil for the steady pressure on gas prices. Brent crude the global oil benchmark, plumbed levels last seen in 2004 on Monday, while the January contract for the U.S. benchmark CLF6, -0.20% West Texas Intermediate crude, was down 49 cents, or 1.4%, ahead of expiration at $34.24 a barrel on Nymex. The most-active February contract is down 1.3% at $35.58.

“In areas where there are no refinery bottlenecks, we’ve been able to see the falling price of crude oil translated directly into cheaper gas prices,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, in a phone interview. Nymex reformulated gasoline futures for January delivery slumped 6.33 cents, or 5%, to $1.2114 a gallon. So how low are gas prices? In much of the country, the price is already well under $2 a gallon, AAA notes, with 1% of stations selling gas at $1.59 a gallon. On a state-by-state basis, Missouri has the lowest average price at $1.77, followed by Oklahoma and South Carolina at $1.78, and Tennessee and Kansas at $1.79.

Read more …

China. That’s all.

The Real “Death Cross” Of Oil Markets (ZH)

The ‘death cross’ of these two energy market indicators is all one needs to know about the oil market… As Bloomberg notes, total industry oil stocks reported by the International Energy Agency rose for a third month, increasing by 0.5% to the highest on record at 2.99 billion barrels. China’s Beige Book, released last week, showed further economic deterioration in one of the world’s largest commodity-consuming nations in the fourth quarter. Until these two indicators change direction, lower-er for longer-er will remain.

Read more …

Lots of last legs there.

Risk Of Insolvency Hangs Over UK High Street Retailers (Guardian)

A string of retailers could face insolvency in the new year with tough trading on the high street in the run-up to Christmas leaving businesses fighting for survival, two influential industry bodies have warned. Widespread discounting and warmer-than-average weather have cranked up the pressure on high street retailers over the festive period. In the last few years a number of high street retailers have called in administrations either just before or after Christmas, including Woolworths, HMV, Zavvi, and Jessops. Retailers generate roughly 40% of their annual profits between October and December, underlining the importance of the period. However, if a high street business struggles during the festive season then its death knell is typically the quarterly rental payment they have to make to landlords at the end of December.

Atradius, one of the world’s largest trade credit insurers, has warned that retailers face a “perfect storm” that could lead to a bleak start to 2016 and a “fresh wave of insolvencies”. The comments from Atradius are significant because if a credit insurer refuses to back a retailer then suppliers will be unable to insure their orders with the business and could decide not to provide it with products. Owen Bassett, senior risk underwriter at Atradius, said: “Those who went into the fourth quarter needing – rather than wanting – a strong performance could be looking at a troubled future. “Experience tells us that when retailers need an exceptional seasonal sales period and then hit financial difficulty, we often see failures in the first quarter. It is not unusual in this sector to be loss-making during Q1 and with the first payment of quarterly rent due in January it can be difficult to survive after a poor Q4.”

Read more …

Private debt. Should have a lot more attention. And not just in Britain.

UK Economy Concerns As Household Debt Balloons To £40 Billion (PA)

Families are expected to run up £40bn of debt this year, sparking fears about Britain’s economic recovery. Labour raised concerns that millions of households would face “serious hardship” if interest rates rise and warned the borrowing trend could harm the economy. The latest Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts have found that households have moved from a surplus of £67bn in 2010, the year the coalition took power, to a £40bn deficit this year. Unsustainable borrowing is on course to near the levels reached in the run-up to the 2008 financial crash, according to Labour. Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “George Osborne is relying on millions of British families going further into debt to hit his growth targets.

“This is risky behaviour from a chancellor whose policy decisions are hurting, not helping, British families. Alarm bells should be ringing. There is a real risk that millions of families will face serious hardship if interest rates start to rise. “Of course families need access to credit and the ability to borrow to invest for the future. George Osborne should be seeking to rebalance the economy away from an over-reliance on borrowing and debt. “Labour is clear about the need for a strong and sustainable economic recovery. Osborne’s short-term political decisions risk real long-term damage to the finances of millions of British families and the nation’s economy.” The former business secretary Sir Vince Cable warned Britain was returning to “old and unhappily discredited” methods of economic growth. He told the Independent: “We’re back on the treadmill of growth being sustained by personal borrowing. Much of it is against an inflating housing stock.

Read more …

Abenomics is a different way of saying anything goes.

The Bank of Japan’s $2.5 Billion Plan to Buy Non-Existent ETFs (BBG)

Haruhiko Kuroda has a new plan. He’s going to buy $2.5 billion of something that doesn’t exist. Markets were roiled Friday after the Bank of Japan unveiled measures including purchasing exchange-traded funds that track companies which are “proactively making investment in physical and human capital.” The central bank will spend 300 billion yen ($2.5 billion) a year from April buying such securities to offset the market impact as it resumes selling stocks purchased earlier from financial institutions. The only problem is such ETFs have never been made in Japan, at least not yet. Even as fund providers start hundreds of so-called “smart beta” products that choose stocks based on everything from dividends to volatility, ETFs that pick companies for how they deploy their cash are rare in global markets.

“These kinds of ETFs don’t exist now. Using capital spending as a factor in deciding what goes in an ETF is quite unusual,” said Koei Imai, who oversees $25 billion of ETFs at Nikko Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “I think the message from the BOJ is for us to go out and make them.” The central bank is aware such products aren’t yet available and in the meantime will buy ETFs tracking the JPX-Nikkei Index 400, a government-backed equity measure started last year that chooses companies based on return on equity and operating profit. The BOJ also already purchases ETFs linked to the Nikkei 225 Stock Average and Topix index and owns roughly half of the market for ETFs in Japan.

Read more …

How to kill confidence.

China ‘Suspends’ Another Unofficial PMI Data Set For A ‘Major Adjustment’ (ZH)

For the second time in two months, an economic data series that indicate drastically weak performance in China has been “suspended.” Having seen Markit/Caixin’s flash gauge of China’s manufacturing discontinued in October (having plunged notably divergently from the government’s official data), Bloomberg reports that the publishers of the alternative China Minxin PMI will stop updating the series to make a “major adjustment.” Guess which time series was just “suspended”…

As Bloomberg details,

Release of the unofficial purchasing managers index jointly compiled by China Minsheng Banking Corp. and the China Academy of New Supply-side Economics will be suspended starting this month, the Beijing-based academy said in an e-mailed statement Monday, about six hours before the latest monthly data were scheduled for release.

Minxin’s suspension is the second in recent months as policy makers in the world’s second-largest economy struggle to arrest a deceleration in growth. Another early estimate of China’s manufacturing sector, a flash gauge of a purchasing managers index compiled by Markit Economics and sponsored by Caixin Media, was discontinued Oct. 1. Minxin’s PMI readings are based on a monthly survey covering more than 4,000 companies, about 70% of which are smaller enterprises. The private gauges have shown a more volatile picture than the official PMIs in the past year.

The manufacturing PMI declined to 42.4 in November from 43.3 in October, while the non-manufacturing reading fell to 42.9 from 44.2, according the the latest release. The factory gauge fell to a record low of 41.9 in August. China’s official PMI from the National Bureau of Statistics fell to a three-year low of 49.6 in November.

Read more …

Humor?

Zimbabwe To Make Chinese Yuan Legal Currency After Beijing Cancels Debts (AFP)

Zimbabwe has announced that it will make the Chinese yuan legal tender after Beijing confirmed it would cancel $40m in debts. “They [China] said they are cancelling our debts that are maturing this year and we are in the process of finalising the debt instruments and calculating the debts,” minister Patrick Chinamasa said in a statement. Chinamasa also announced that Zimbabwe will officially make the Chinese yuan legal tender as it seeks to increase trade with Beijing. Zimbabwe abandoned its own dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation, which had peaked at around 500bn%, rendered it unusable. It then started using a slew of foreign currencies, including the US dollar and the South African rand.

The yuan was later added to the basket of the foreign currencies, but its use had not been approved yet for public transactions in the market dominated by the greenback. Use of the yuan “will be a function of trade between China and Zimbabwe and acceptability with customers in Zimbabwe,” the minister said. Zimbabwe’s central bank chief John Mangudya was in negotiations with the People’s Bank of China “to see whether we can enhance its usage here,” said Chinamasa. China is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner following Zimbabwe’s isolation by its former western trading partners over Harare’s human rights record.

Read more …

Europe’s dumb struggle with Moscow continues.

Russia, EU Trade Talks Fail, Kiev Set To Face Retaliation (Reuters)

The EU failed to allay Russia’s concerns about Ukraine’s free-trade accord with the 28-nation bloc on Monday, leaving Kiev to face Russian retaliation through tighter bilateral trade rules from 2016. Closer ties between Ukraine and the EU, including the free trade deal, were at the heart of a battle for influence between Brussels and Moscow in Russia’s former satellite. When the then-Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, ditched the accord in early 2014 under pressure from Russia, protests erupted on the street of Kiev leading to a crisis in which he fled power and a pro-Europe leadership took over. The EU and Ukraine delayed implementation of their trade deal by a year out of deference to Moscow’s concerns that it could lead to a flood of European imports across its borders, damaging the competitiveness of Russian exports.

But comments by EU and Russian officials on Monday indicated that numerous meetings between the two sides to try to narrow differences and assuage Moscow’s concerns had failed. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom raised doubts about the validity of the Russian concerns, saying some were “not real.” “We have been very open in listening to some of the concerns of Russia. Some of them we think are not real in economic terms. Some of them could potentially be real,” Malmstrom told a news conference following final talks in Brussels. Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, speaking in Brussels, said there was no deal and Moscow would scrap trade preferences dating back to 2011 for Ukraine as of 2016, when the bilateral EU-Ukraine deal will be implemented. “An agreement has not been reached. We were left with our concerns on our own and we are forced to safeguard our economic interest unilaterally,” Ulyukayev told reporters.

Read more …

A stalemate that seems to end in either a fragile left government or new elections.

Political Uprising In Spain Shatters Illusion Of Eurozone Recovery (AEP)

Spain risks months of political paralysis and a corrosive showdown with Germany over fiscal austerity after insurgent movements smashed the traditional two-party system, leaving the country almost ungovernable. The electoral earthquake over the weekend in one of the eurozone’s ‘big four’ states has echoes of the shock upsets in Greece and Portugal this year, a reminder that the delayed political fuse from years of economic depression and mass unemployment can detonate even once the worst seems to be over. Bank stocks plummeted on the Madrid bourse as startled investors awoke to the possibility of a Left-wing coalition that included the ultra-radical Podemos party, which won 20.7pc of the votes with threats to overturn the government’s bank bail-out and to restructure financial debt.

Pablo Iglesias, the pony-tailed leader of the Podemos rebellion, warned Brussels, Berlin, and Frankfurt that Spain was retaking control over its own destiny after years of kowtowing to eurozone demands. “Our message to Europe is clear. Spain will never again be the periphery of Germany. We will strive to restore the meaning of the word sovereignty to our country,” he said. The risk spread on Spanish 10-year bonds jumped eight basis points to 123 over German Bunds, though there is no imminent danger of a fresh debt crisis as long as the European Central Bank is buying Spanish bonds under quantitative easing. The IBEX index of equities slid 2.5pc, with Banco Popular and Caixabank both off 7pc. Premier Mariano Rajoy has lost his absolute majority in the Cortes.

Support for the conservative Partido Popular crashed from 44pc to 29pc, costing Mr Rajoy 5m votes as a festering corruption scandal took its toll. The electorate punished the two mainstream parties that have dominated Spanish politics since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s, and which by turns became the reluctant enforcers of eurozone austerity. The Socialists (PSOE) averted electoral collapse but have lost their hegemony over the Left and risk being outflanked and ultimately destroyed by Podemos, just as Syriza annihilated the once-dominant PASOK party in Greece. It had been widely assumed that Mr Rajoy would have enough seats to form a coalition with the free-market and anti-corruption party Ciudadanos, but this new reform movement stalled in the closing weeks of the campaign.

“There is enormous austerity fatigue and the country as a whole has clearly shifted to the Left,” said sovereign bond strategist Nicholas Spiro. Yet the Left has not won enough votes either to form a clear government. “The issue now is whether Spain is governable. All the parties are at daggers drawn and this could drag on for weeks. I don’t see any sustainable solution. We can certainly forget about reform,” he said. Mr Spiro said Spain has already seen a “dramatic deterioration” in the underlying public finances over the last eighteen months, although this has been disguised by a cyclical rebound, the stimulus of cheap oil and a weak euro, and QE from Frankfurt. “They have simply gone for growth,” he said.

Read more …

Posterchild no more.

Portugal Taxpayers Face €3 Billion Loss After 2nd Bank Bailout In 2 Years (ZH)

Back in August of 2014, Portugal had an idea. Lisbon would use some €5 billion from the country’s Resolution Fund to shore up (read: bailout) Portugal’s second largest bank by assets, Banco Espirito Santo. The idea, basically, was to sell off Novo Banco SA (the “good bank” that was spun out of BES) in relatively short order and use the proceeds to pay back the Resolution Fun. That way, the cost to taxpayers would be zero. You didn’t have to be a financial wizard or a fortune teller to predict what was likely to happen next. Unsurprisingly, the auction process didn’t go so well.

As we recounted in September, there were any number of reasons why Portugal had trouble selling Novo, not the least of which was that two potential bidders – Anbang Insurance Group and Fosun International which, you’re reminded, is run by the recently “disappeared” Chinese Warren Buffett – suddenly became far more risk-averse in the wake of the financial market turmoil in China. Talks with US PE (Apollo specifically) also went south, presumably because no one knows if this “good” bank will actually turn out to need more capital going forward given that NPLs sit at something like 20% while the H1 loss totaled €250 million thanks to higher provisioning for said NPLs. Now, the auction process has been mothballed and will restart in January. This matters because if the bank can’t be sold, the cost of the bailout ends up being tacked onto Lisbon’s budget.

The impact is substantial. In September, when the effort to sell Novo collapsed, the government restated its 2014 deficit which, after accounting for the bailout, ballooned to 7.2% of GDP from 4.5%. Portugal will tell you that this is only “temporary,” but let’s face it, if they haven’t managed to sell it by now, then one has to believe the prospects are grim – at least in terms of fetching anything that looks like a decent price. Well don’t look now, but Portugal’s seventh-largest bank, Banco Internacional do Funchal, now needs a bailout too. Banif (as it’s known) will be split into a “good” and “bad” bank, and its “healthy” assets will be sold to Banco Santander for €150 million. The government will inject up to €2.2 billion the European Commission said on Monday, to cover “future contingencies.”

Hilariously, the bailout was necessary because the bank was unable to repay a previous government cash injection. “The government injected €1.1 billion of fresh capital into the lender in January 2013 to allow it to meet minimum capital thresholds imposed by the banking regulator,” WSJ writes. For its trouble, Lisbon got a 60% stake in the bank and several hundred million worth of CoCos which the bank missed a payment on last year. “That,” WSJ goes on to note, “triggered close scrutiny by the European Commission, which opened an investigation into the legality of the state aid.” “The commission had said that Banif’s restructuring plan might not be enough to allow the bank to repay the state,” Bloomberg adds. “The Bank of Portugal said in the statement on Sunday that a ‘probable’ decision from the commission declaring the state aid illegal would create a shortage of capital at the bank.”

Read more …

“We now enter the “discovery” phase of financial collapse, where things labeled “capital” and “credit” turn out to be mere holograms.”

Christmas Present (Jim Kunstler)

Theory du jour: the new Star Wars movie is sucking in whatever meager disposable lucre remains among the economically-flayed mid-to-lower orders of America. In fact, I propose a new index showing an inverse relationship between Star Wars box office receipts and soundness of the financial commonweal. In other words, Star Wars is all that remains of the US economy outside of the obscure workings of Wall Street — and that heretofore magical realm is not looking too rosy either in this season of the Great Rate Hike after puking up 623 points of the DJIA last Thursday and Friday. Here I confess: for thirty years I have hated those stupid space movies, as much for their badly-written scripts (all mumbo-jumbo exposition of nonsensical story-lines between explosions) as for the degenerate techno-narcissism they promote in a society literally dying from the diminishing returns and unintended consequences of technology.

It adds up to an ominous Yuletide. Turns out that the vehicle the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee was driving in its game of “chicken” with oncoming reality was a hearse. The occupants are ghosts, but don’t know it. A lot of commentators around the web think that the Fed “pulled the trigger” on interest rates to save its credibility. Uh, wrong. They had already lost their credibility. What remains is for these ghosts to helplessly watch over the awesome workout, which has obviously been underway for quite a while in the crash of commodity prices (and whole national economies — e.g. Brazil, Canada, Australia), the janky regions of the bond markets, the related death of the shale oil industry, and the imploding hedge fund scene. As it were, all credit these days looks shopworn and threadbare, as if the capital markets had by stealth turned into a swap meet of previously-owned optimism.

Who believes in anything these days besides the allure of fraud? Capital is supposedly plentiful these days — look how much has rushed into the dollar from the nervous former go-go nations with their wobbling ziggurats of bad loans and surfeit of production capacity — but what actually constitutes that capital? Answer: the dwindling faith anyone will pay you back next Tuesday for a hamburger today. We now enter the “discovery” phase of financial collapse, where things labeled “capital” and “credit” turn out to be mere holograms. Fed Chair Janet Yellen herself had a sort of hologramatic look last Wednesday when she stepped onto her Delphic platform to reveal the long-heralded interest rate news. Perhaps Mrs. Yellen is a figment conjured by George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic shop (now owned by Disney). What could be more fitting in a smoke-and-mirrors culture?

Read more …

Recognizable patterns.

Et Tu, Brute? – How Empires Die (Thomas)

The state-owned Bank of China has been ordered by an American court to hand over customer information to the US. The bank has refused to comply, as to do so would violate China’s privacy law. The US court has subsequently ordered the Bank of China to pay a fine of $50,000 per day. Any guess as to how this is likely to turn out? China is a sovereign nation, halfway around the globe from the US, yet the US seems to feel that it’s somehow entitled to set the rules for China (as well as the other nations in the world). When China sees fit to develop islands in the South China Sea that it has laid claim to for centuries, it begins to hear threatening noises from the US military. A candidate for US president declares that he would buzz the islands with Air Force One, the Presidential jet, saying, “They’ll know we mean business.”

All over the world, those who live outside the US are increasingly observing that the US has become so drunk with power that they’re threatening both friend and foe with fines, trade restrictions, monetary sanctions, warfare, and invasions. And in so-observing, those of us who have studied the history of empires note that history is once again repeating itself. Time and time again, great empires build themselves up through industriousness and sound economic management only to subsequently decline into debt, complacency, and an entitlement mind-set. Over the millennia, empires as disparate as Persia, Rome, Spain, and Great Britain rose to dominate the world. Of course, we know how those empires turned out and, by extension, we might hazard an educated guess as to how the present American Empire will end.

In the final throes of empire-decline, we invariably observe the more sociopathic trends of a failing power, such as we’re seeing today from the US. First and foremost, any empire declines as a result of economic mismanagement. Decline from within (pandering to the populace with “bread and circuses”) and without (endless conquest and/or maintenance of dominance over far-flung geography) drain even the wealthiest government. Even eighteenth-century Spain, with all its billions in stolen New World gold, could not pay its ever-increasing bills and warfare-driven debt. Typically, the empire of the day enjoys the world’s greatest fighting force/armada/weapons build-up yet, when the money runs out, the war machine simply stops. Soldiers think more about their empty bellies than how much ammunition they have left.

Generals continue to issue orders, but they cease to be followed after the supply lines begin to dry up. And the leaders of a collapsing empire invariably make a fatal mistake: they assume that all the goodwill the empire gained when it was on its rise is permanent – that it will continue, even if the empire behaves like the world’s foremost bully. This is never the outcome. Invariably, as the decline nears its end, allies, without ever saying so, begin to withdraw their support. We see this today, as European leaders (America’s most essential allies) realise that the empire is becoming an arrogant liability and they begin cutting deals with the other side, as European leaders are now doing with Russia and others.

Read more …

“The only way to avoid future crashes is for the Fed to stop creating inflation and bubbles.”

Do We Need The Fed? (Ron Paul)

Stocks rose Wednesday following the Fed’s announcement of the first interest rate increase since 2006. However, stocks fell just two days later. One reason the positive reaction to the Fed’s announcement did not last long is that the Fed seems to lack confidence in the economy and is unsure what policies it should adopt in the future. At her Wednesday press conference, Fed Chair Janet Yellen acknowledged continuing “cyclical weakness” in the job market. She also suggested that future rate increases are likely to be as small, or even smaller, then Wednesday’s. However, she also expressed concerns over increasing inflation, which suggests the Fed may be open to bigger rate increases. Many investors and those who rely on interest from savings for a substantial part of their income cheered the increase.

However, others expressed concern that even this small rate increase will weaken the already fragile job market. These critics echo the claims of many economists and economic historians who blame past economic crises, including the Great Depression, on ill-timed money tightening by the Fed. While the Federal Reserve is responsible for our boom-bust economy, recessions and depressions are not caused by tight monetary policy. Instead, the real cause of economic crisis is the loose money policies that precede the Fed’s tightening. When the Fed floods the market with artificially created money, it lowers the interest rates, which are the price of money. As the price of money, interest rates send signals to businesses and investors regarding the wisdom of making certain types of investments.

When the rates are artificially lowered by the Fed instead of naturally lowered by the market, businesses and investors receive distorted signals. The result is over-investment in certain sectors of the economy, such as housing. This creates the temporary illusion of prosperity. However, since the boom is rooted in the Fed’s manipulation of the interest rates, eventually the bubble will burst and the economy will slide into recession. While the Federal Reserve may tighten the money supply before an economic downturn, the tightening is simply a futile attempt to control the inflation resulting from the Fed’s earlier increases in the money supply. After the bubble inevitably bursts, the Federal Reserve will inevitability try to revive the economy via new money creation, which starts the whole boom-bust cycle all over again. The only way to avoid future crashes is for the Fed to stop creating inflation and bubbles.

Read more …

The more they can infringe on privacy, the more they will.

Apple Says UK Surveillance Law Would Endanger All Customers (BBG)

Apple outlined its opposition to a proposed U.K. surveillance law, saying threats to national security don’t justify weakening privacy and putting the data of hundreds of millions of users at risk. The world’s most valuable company is leading a Silicon Valley challenge to the proposed U.K. law, called the Investigatory Powers bill, which attempts to strengthen the capabilities of law-enforcement agencies to investigate potential crimes or terrorist attacks. The bill would, among other things, give the government the ability to see the Internet browsing history of U.K. citizens. Apple said the U.K. government already has access to an unprecedented amount of data.

The Cupertino, California-based company is particularly concerned the bill would weaken digital privacy tools such as encryption, creating vulnerabilities that will be exploited by sophisticated hackers and government spy agencies. In response to the U.K. rules, other governments would probably adopt their own new laws, “paralyzing multinational corporations under the weight of what could be dozens or hundreds of contradictory country-specific laws,” Apple said. “The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers,” Apple said in an eight-page submission to the U.K. committee considering the bill. “A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.”

Read more …

And that will not happen.

Half of World’s Coal Must Go Unmined to Meet Paris Climate Target (BBG)

Coal, the fuel that powered the industrial revolution, is in hiding. While the world still has 890 billion tons of reserves, enough to last more than 65 years, about half must stay underground if nations are to meet environmental limits agreed to earlier this month in Paris, Bank of America Corp. said in a report. Burning less coal is the easiest way to lower emissions blamed for climate change, the bank said. The pact reached by 195 nations doesn’t target specific fuels, yet coal remains the world’s largest source of planet-warming carbon dioxide. A global oversupply of the power plant fuel has pushed producers into bankruptcy and sent prices to at least seven-year lows. The Paris agreement only further diminishes prospects for a recovery.

“The latest carbon initiatives are the nail in the coffin for global coal,” Sabine Schels, Peter Helles and Franciso Blanch, analysts at Bank of America said in the Dec. 18 report. If emissions limits take hold, “50% of the world’s current coal reserves may never be dug out.” Coal demand stopped growing in 2014 for the first time since the 1990s as China’s economy cooled, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said Dec. 18. Coal for delivery to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, an Atlantic benchmark, is trading near an eight-year low. Newcastle coal, a barometer for the Asia-Pacific market, is at the cheapest in records going back to 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Read more …

Last month, the warning came from China. Now it’s England and Wales.

It’s ‘Almost Too Late’ To Stop A Global Superbug Crisis (PA)

It is “almost too late” to stop a global superbug crisis caused by the misuse of antibiotics, a leading expert has warned. Scientists have a “50-50” chance of salvaging existing antibiotics from bacteria which has become resistant to its effects, according to Dr David Brown. The director at Antibiotic Research UK, whose discoveries helped make more than £20bn ($30bn) in pharmaceutical sales, said efforts to find new antibiotics are “totally failing” despite significant investment and research. It comes after a gene was discovered which makes infectious bacteria resistant to the last line of antibiotic defence, colistin (polymyxins). The resistance to the colistin antibiotic is considered to be a “major step” towards completely untreatable infections and has been found in pigs and humans in England and Wales.

Public Health England said the risk posed to humans by the mcr-1 gene was “low” but was being monitored closely. Performing surgery, treating infections and even travelling abroad safely all rely to some extent on access to effective antibiotics. It is feared the crisis could further penetrate Europe as displaced migrants enter from a war-torn Middle East, where countries such as Syria have increasing levels of antibiotic resistance. Dr Brown told said: “It is almost too late. We needed to start research 10 years ago and we still have no global monitoring system in place. “The issue is people have tried to find new antibiotics but it is totally failing – there has been no new chemical class of drug to treat gram-negative infections for more than 40 years.

Read more …

Dec 192015
 
 December 19, 2015  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle December 19 2015


John Vachon Auto of migrant fruit worker at gas station, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Jul 1940

Rate Rally Fizzles as Dow Loses 621 Points in 2 Days (WSJ)
Explaining Today’s “Massive Stop Loss” Quad-Witching Market Waterfall (ZH)
Hedge Funds Cut Fees To Stem Client Exodus (FT)
History of Junk Bond Meltdowns Points to Trouble (BBG)
IEA Sees ‘Peak Coal’ As Demand For Fossil Fuel Crumbles In China (AEP)
Congress Slips Controversial CISA Law In With Sure-To-Pass Budget Bill (Wired)
US-Mexico Border: Arizona’s Open Door (FT)
Bundesbank’s Weidmann: Greek Debt Relief Is Not Urgent (Kath.)
Iceland Bank Collapse Nears End as Creditors Reach Last Accord (BBG)
Ukraine Debt Default and EU Sanctions Extension Anger Russia (IT)
Merkel Defends Russian Gas Pipeline Plan (WSJ)
The Unraveling Of The European Union Has Begun (MarketWatch)
‘Cameron’s Battle Against EU Is Like Grappling With A Jellyfish’ (RT)
‘Cancer of Europe’ – Russian Duma Speaker Calls For NATO Dissolution (RT)
135 Jobs In 2.5 Years: The Plight Of Spain’s New Working Poor (Guardian)
One Of Every 122 Humans Today Has Been Forced To Flee Their Home (WaPo)

The Dow doesn’t often lose over 2% in a day. “..on pace for its first negative year since 2008.”

Rate Rally Fizzles as Dow Loses 621 Points in 2 Days (WSJ)

In the two days after the Federal Reserve gave investors exactly what they expected, the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its steepest loss since a late-August plunge. The back-to-back selloff erased 621 points from the blue chips—sending the Dow to its lowest level in two months and wiping out a three-session winning streak logged around the Fed’s liftoff for interest rates. The fizzled rally underscores the difficult backdrop across markets as investors prepare to close out what is shaping up to be worst year for U.S. stocks since the financial crisis. Investors are going into the holidays with grim news from the energy and mining sectors, uncertainty about the stability of markets for low-rated debt and worries about slowing economies overseas.

Meanwhile, public companies have struggled to post higher profits, and investors remain wary of buying stocks that look expensive compared with historical averages. “When you buy a share of stock you’re paying for a piece of future cash flows,” said David Lebovitz, global market strategist, at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, which has about $1.7 trillion under management. “If those cash flows aren’t materializing, it doesn’t make sense.” Investors had taken heart from stronger jobs data and the Fed’s signal that the U.S. economy is strong enough to begin returning rates to a more normal level. But optimism took a back seat at the end of the week. The Dow fell 367.29, or 2.1%, to 17128.55 on Friday, leaving it with a loss of 0.8% for the week. The index is down 3.9% so far in 2015, on pace for its first negative year since 2008.

The S&P 500 fell 1.8% to 2005.55. It ended the week down 2.6% for 2015, on track for first yearly decline since 2011 and its biggest fall since 2008. Both indexes had rallied broadly over the past six years, in part fueled by record-low interest rates. Weaker stocks and crude oil prices Friday added to demand for safe havens, sending investors into Treasurys. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.197% late Friday from 2.236% Thursday, as investors bid up the price. Yields on the note now aren’t much above where they started the year. “Shorting Treasury bonds which are a safe haven beneficiary when the economic and geopolitical risks are rising is foolhardy,’’ said Jonathan Lewis at Samson Capital Advisors.

Read more …

They kept the S&P500 neatly just above 2000, for a reason.

Explaining Today’s “Massive Stop Loss” Quad-Witching Market Waterfall (ZH)

One week ago, and again last night, we previewed today’s main event: an immensely important quad-witching expiration, the year’s last, one which as JPM’s head quant calculated will be the “largest option expiry in many years. There are $1.1 trillion of S&P 500 options expiring on Friday morning. $670Bn of these are puts, of which $215Bn are struck relatively close below the market level, between 1900 and 2050.” What is most important, is that the “pin risk”, or price toward which underlying prices may gravitate if HFTs are unleashed to trigger option stop hunts, is well below current S&P levels: as JPM notes, “clients are net long these puts and will likely hold onto them through the event and until expiry. At the time of the Fed announcement, these put options will essentially look like a massive stop loss order under the market.”

What does this mean? Considering that the bulk of the puts have been layered by the program traders themselves, including CTA trend-followers and various momentum strategist (which work in up markets as well as down), and since the vol surface of today’s market is well-known to everyone in advance, there is a very high probability the implied “stop loss” level will be triggered. Not helping matters will be the dramatic lack of market depth (thank you HFTs and regulators) and overall lack of liquidity, which means even small orders can snowball into dramatic market moves. “While equity volumes look robust, market depth has declined by more than 60% over the last 2 years. With market depth so low, the market does not have capacity to absorb large shocks. This was best illustrated during the August 24th crash.”

[..] the problem is that since over the past 7 years, the entire market has become one giant stop hunt, the very algos which “provide liquidity” will do everything they can to inflict the biggest pain possible to option holders – recall that for every put (or call) buyer, there is also a seller. As such, illiquid markets plus algo liquidity providers makes for an explosive cocktail at a time when the Fed is already worried whether the Fed may have engaged in “policy error.” So what does this mean in simple English? As Reuters again points out, levels to watch are the large imbalances in favor of puts in Dec SPX put contracts at 2050, 2000, 1950, 1900 strikes It further writes that “as SPX moves below these levels market makers who are short these puts would be forced to sell spot futures to hedge, which could exacerbate a market selloff.” In other words, selling which begets even more selling, which begets even more selling.

Read more …

They might as well close then.

Hedge Funds Cut Fees To Stem Client Exodus (FT)

Many hedge funds are cutting fees and negotiating with investors to trim some of their hefty costs and avert withdrawals after another mediocre year for returns. The industry has been shifting for several years away from its traditional model of charging 2% of assets and keeping 20% of profit. Some funds are already wooing customers with fees closer to 1% and 15%, people in the industry say. Now pressures are mounting on a wider range of fund managers, as a crowded sector copes with a middling year. The HFRI Fund Weighted Composite index is up 0.3% on the year and returned just under 3% in 2014, according to Hedge Fund Research. Management fees declined this year in every strategy except event driven, falling to a mean of 1.61% from 1.69%, according to JPMorgan’s Capital Introduction Group.

For performance fees, some strategies were impacted more than others, with the biggest declines in global macro, multi-strategy, commodity trading advisers and relative value. When Sir Chris Hohn founded The Children’s Investment Fund about a decade ago, he was an outlier. His $10bn fund charges management fees as low as 1%, depending on how long investors lock up their money. He recently referred to himself as “the antithesis of the classic hedge fund,” because he waived performance fees until the fund crossed a set return hurdle for the year. But others are following his lead in an effort to attract and retain clients amid tough competition.

There are now more than 10,000 hedge funds compared with 610 in 1990, HFR data show, and there are increasing benefits for the larger operators, including lower prime broker costs and better access to company management for research. The client base has also moved away from wealthy individuals, who were happy to take on significant risk in exchange for high returns. Now funds depend on institutional investors such as insurers and pension schemes, who cannot afford to miss minimum return targets and are themselves under pressure from boards that oversee investments. “Most [fund] managers prefer to haggle like rug-salesmen at a bazaar; institutional investors would rather shop at Ikea,” says Simon Ruddick, founder of consultant Albourne.

Read more …

Nothing new, but nothing learned either.

History of Junk Bond Meltdowns Points to Trouble (BBG)

The rout in junk bonds is intensifying and there’s blood in the water. After claiming some high-profile casualties – notably Third Avenue Management – the turmoil is raising fears of a larger meltdown in the markets, perhaps even a recession. In other words, is high-yield debt the canary in the credit mine? Academic work on the subject suggests that the difference in the rates for high-risk debt and rock-solid government securities – the so-called risk premium, or high-yield spread – often is a significant harbinger. A paper published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy in 1999 concluded that the high-yield spread “outperforms other leading financial indicators,” such as the term spread and the federal funds rate. An International Monetary Fund staff paper published in 2003 offered a similar assessment, but added that “abnormally high levels of the high-yield spread have significant short-term predictive power.”

The trouble with these findings is that the pool of data is focused on very recent financial history, which makes it harder to draw broad conclusions. This limitation reflects the conventional wisdom that junk bonds are a recent invention cooked up by the likes of Michael Milken and company, and as a consequence, there are no comparable data sets before the late 1980s. But several economists at Rutgers – Peter Basile, John Landon-Lane and Hugh Rockoff – recently disputed that conclusion in an intriguing working paper that resurrected neglected data on high-yield securities from 1910 to 1955. These forerunners of today’s junk bonds initially merited Aaa or Baa ratings, but lost their appeal once they were downgraded to Ba or worse. Such speculative-grade bonds constituted, on average, approximately a quarter of the total book value of outstanding bonds before the end of World War II.

The authors of the study argue that although other kinds of spreads also have predictive power, “junk bonds may be a more sensitive indicator, perhaps a more sensitive leading indicator, of economic conditions than higher-grade bonds.” While their research opens all sorts of avenues for academic exploration – Was there a decline in lending standards in the late 1920s? Was there a liquidity trap in the late 1930s? – the most intriguing question it raises is about the predictive power of the spread between high-yield and high-quality debt. In theory, this power to predict turning points in the business cycle could manifest in two ways. The first would be a narrowing of the spread, which would mean that investors recognized the worst was over, a trough was imminent and a rebound was in offing. The second would be a spike in the spread, which means that investors anticipated that the economy had peaked and that a contraction was in the offing.

The authors found that a narrowing of the high-yield spread predicted a mere three of 10 troughs. But spikes were another matter: Exceptional bumps in the high-yield spread accurately predicted eight of 10 peaks (and the subsequent declines, most notably the downturn that began in August 1929 and turned into the Great Depression, as well as the recession that began in 1937 after the Fed prematurely hiked rates). It may be too early to read too much into these findings. But when combined with the research on the predictive capacity of the high-yield spread from the 1980s onward, this recent work suggests that the spread is a leading indicator worth watching.

And given the recent spike, something far worse than a junk bond meltdown may be brewing. How bad? In the three months before August 1929, the high-yield spread spiked by 47 basis points, and in the three months before May 1937, it shot up 85 basis points. In the past six weeks of 2015, it has spiked by about 120 basis points. That doesn’t mean we’re headed for disaster: There’s still an apples-and-oranges quality to comparisons of the two eras, despite the best efforts to create a commensurate set of data. But if the spread continues to widen, another downturn – or worse – could be ahead.

Read more …

Ambrose is blind: “Crucially, the switch is happening because the country is moving up the technology ladder and switching to a new growth model. ” No, coal use is tumbling because the Chinese economy is.

IEA Sees ‘Peak Coal’ As Demand For Fossil Fuel Crumbles In China (AEP)

China’s coal consumption has been falling for two years and may never recover as the moment of “peak coal” draws closer, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said. The energy watchdog has slashed its 2020 forecast for global coal demand by 500m tonnes, warning that the industry risks unstoppable decline as renewable technologies and tougher climate laws shatter previous assumptions. In poignant symbolism, the peak coal report came as miners worked their final shift at Britain’s last surviving deep coal mine at Kellingley in North Yorkshire, closing the chapter on the British industrial revolution. Mines around the world are at increasing risk as prices slump to 12-year lows of $38 a tonne, and the super-cycle gives way to a pervasive glut. The IEA said the $40bn Galilee Basin project in Australia may never become operational.

There is simply not enough demand, even for cheap, open-cast coal. “The golden age of coal seems to be over,” said the IEA’s medium-term market report. “Given the dramatic fall in the cost of solar and wind generation and the stronger climate policies that are anticipated, the question is whether coal prices will ever recover.” “The coal industry is facing huge pressures, and the main reason is China,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s director. The IEA reported that China’s coal demand fell by 2.9pc in 2014 and the slide has accelerated this year as the steel and cement bubble bursts. The country produced more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the US in the entire 20th century, according to one study. This will never happen again. Crucially, the switch is happening because the country is moving up the technology ladder and switching to a new growth model.

The link between electricity use and economic growth has completely broken down. The “energy intensity” of GDP fell by 4pc in 2014. Mr Birol said China’s coal consumption is likely to flatten out until 2020 before declining, but the definitive tipping point could happen much faster if president Xi Jinping carries out his economic reform drive with real vigour. Coal demand will drop by 9.8pc under the agency’s “peak coal scenario”. The shift is dramatic. China’s coal demand has tripled since 2000 to 3.920m tonnes – half of global consumption – and the big mining companies had assumed that it would continue. The market is now badly out of kilter. Rising demand from India under its electrification drive will not be enough to soak up excess supply or replace the lost demand from China.

Read more …

“They’ve got this bill that’s kicked around for years and had been too controversial to pass, so they’ve seen an opportunity to push it through without debate. And they’re taking that opportunity.”

Congress Slips Controversial CISA Law In With Sure-To-Pass Budget Bill (Wired)

Update 12/18/2015 12pm: The House and Senate have now passed the omnibus bill, including the new version of CISA.

Privacy advocates were aghast in October when the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21, leaving intact portions of the law they say make it more amenable to surveillance than actual security. Now, as CISA gets closer to the President’s desk, those privacy critics argue that Congress has quietly stripped out even more of its remaining privacy protections. In a late-night session of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new version of the “omnibus” bill, a massive piece of legislation that deals with much of the federal government’s funding. It now includes a version of CISA as well. Lumping CISA in with the omnibus bill further reduces any chance for debate over its surveillance-friendly provisions, or a White House veto.

And the latest version actually chips away even further at the remaining personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought for in the version of the bill that passed the Senate. “They took a bad bill, and they made it worse,” says Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute. CISA had alarmed the privacy community by giving companies the ability to share cybersecurity information with federal agencies, including the NSA, “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” That means CISA’s information-sharing channel, ostensibly created for responding quickly to hacks and breaches, could also provide a loophole in privacy laws that enabled intelligence and law enforcement surveillance without a warrant. The latest version of the bill appended to the omnibus legislation seems to exacerbate that problem.

It creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security. And it also changes when information shared for cybersecurity reasons can be used for law enforcement investigations. The earlier bill had only allowed that backchannel use of the data for law enforcement in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat,” potentially allowing the search of the data for any specific terms regardless of timeliness. [..] Even in its earlier version, CISA had drawn the opposition of tech firms including Apple, Twitter, and Reddit, as well as the Business Software Alliance and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

In April, a coalition of 55 civil liberties groups and security experts signed onto an open letter opposing it. In July, the Department of Homeland Security itself warned that the bill could overwhelm the agency with data of “dubious value” at the same time as it “sweep[s] away privacy protections.” That Senate CISA bill was already likely on its way to become law. The White House expressed its support for the bill in August, despite its threat to veto similar legislation in the past. But the inclusion of CISA in the omnibus package may make it even more likely to be signed into law in its current form. Any “nay” vote in the house—or President Obama’s veto—would also threaten the entire budget of the federal government. “They’re kind of pulling a Patriot Act,” says OTI’s Greene. “They’ve got this bill that’s kicked around for years and had been too controversial to pass, so they’ve seen an opportunity to push it through without debate. And they’re taking that opportunity.”

Read more …

Reality vs hubris.

US-Mexico Border: Arizona’s Open Door (FT)

Many people in the US today look towards the country’s border with Mexico and tremble. So great are the fears about illegal immigration and the possible infiltration of terrorists that Donald Trump has vaulted to the top of the Republican presidential field by vowing to build a wall between the two countries and make the Mexicans pay for it. So it may come as a surprise to learn about the economic ideas now emerging from Arizona, a solid red state — having voted Republican in 15 of the past 16 presidential elections – that sits cheek by jowl with the Mexican state of Sonora. Arizonan movers and shakers have started to think that bringing in more Mexicans is a good way to stimulate growth.

To make people from south of the border feel more welcome, county planning organisations, municipal officials and business leaders are lining up behind a proposal to transform their entire state into a “free-travel zone” for millions of better-off Mexicans with the money and wherewithal to qualify for a travel document that is widely used in the south-west, but little known elsewhere – a border-crossing card, or BCC. “Fear gets you nowhere. Chances get you somewhere,” says Dennis Smith, executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments, planning body for the county that includes Phoenix, Arizona’s capital and biggest city. “What do we have to lose? Nothing.” BCC holders are currently allowed to go 75 miles into Arizona, which takes them as far as Tucson, the state’s second-largest city.

But Arizona officials are seeking a change in federal rules that would allow these people to roam across the state, hoping that if the visitors travel further, they will stay longer and spend more money at malls, restaurants and tourist attractions. The desired Mexicans are a far cry from the “murderers” and “rapists” of Mr Trump’s stump speeches. They can afford the $160 fee and offer the proof of employment and family ties back home that are required for a BCC, which is good for 10 years and enables Mexicans to remain in the US for up to 30 days at a time. To stay longer or travel further, they need more documentation. However, Arizona’s charm offensive illustrates the complexity of border politics as the 2016 presidential election approaches. In the US imagination, Mexico looms as both a menace and a market. People want to keep some kinds of Mexicans out — and encourage others to come in.

The impulses are often contradictory. For now, the emphasis in Arizona is shifting toward accommodation. Local planners speak excitedly of integrating the economies of Arizona and Sonora into an “Ari-Son” mega-region, in which cross-border trade will increase and more Mexicans will attend pop concerts or sports events in Phoenix, take family car trips to the Grand Canyon and ski in the state’s northern mountains. “This is vitally important to the state’s economic health,” says Glenn Hamer, chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and a former executive director of Arizona’s Republican party. “On the business side, it is a great asset for the state to be close to a market that is growing and becoming more prosperous every single day.”

Read more …

Yes, it is.

Bundesbank’s Weidmann: Greek Debt Relief Is Not Urgent (Kath.)

Greece faces relatively low debt servicing needs in the coming years and further debt relief is not a matter of urgency, Greek financial daily Naftemporiki quoted ECB Governing Council member Jens Weidmann as saying on Thursday. “In 2014 interest payments as a percentage of GDP were lower in Greece than in Spain, Portugal and Italy,” Weidmann, head of Germany’s central bank, told the paper. “Taking into account the low refinancing needs for the next years, further debt relief does not seem to be an issue of particularly urgent interest.” Athens has been struggling to legislate reforms agreed with its eurozone partners in exchange for an €86 billion bailout, the third financial aid package to keep it afloat since its debt crisis exploded in 2010.

The government, however, wants some form of debt relief to allow for future growth. Weidmann said the most important task at hand was the full implementation of the agreed economic adjustment program of reforms. “This will not simply increase the ability to grow but also dissolve prevailing uncertainty which acts as a brake for investments,” he told the paper. Weidmann added it was up to the Greek government to decide when to lift capital controls it imposed in late June to stem a flight of deposits.

Read more …

And this is what can happen when you don’t have the EU to bully you.

Iceland Bank Collapse Nears End as Creditors Reach Last Accord (BBG)

A seven-year standoff between Iceland and the international creditors of its failed banks is nearing an end after a court approved the last remaining settlement. The agreement signed by the caretakers of LBI hf paves the way for creditor payments from the bank’s 455.6 billion kronur ($3.5 billion) estate. It follows similar deals involving Glitnir Bank hf and Kaupthing Bank hf. The three banks hold combined assets of $17.6 billion, according to their latest financial statements. The banks failed within weeks of each other in 2008 under the weight of $85 billion in debt. Iceland then resorted to capital controls to prevent a total collapse of its $15 billion economy. International creditors, among them the Davidson Kempner Capital Management, Quantum Partners and Taconic Capital Advisors hedge funds, have been unable to access the lenders’ assets.

Glitnir’s administrators said they planned to make the first payments to creditors on Friday. Theodor S. Sigurbergsson, a member of Kaupthing’s winding up committee, said in an interview this week that he expects “to start payments to creditors early next year.”
In June, the government offered creditors in Glitnir, Kaupthing and LBI the option of either paying a 39% exit tax on all their assets or making what it calls a stability contribution of as much as 500 billion kronur by the end of the year. To be eligible for the offer, creditors needed to complete settlements by Dec. 31. Parliament later extended that deadline to March 15. The island’s handling of the financial crisis has won praise from Nobel laureates and the IMF. The krona has strengthened about 8% this year and Iceland’s economy is now growing at a faster pace than the euro-zone average. With Glitnir having been granted an exemption from capital controls on Thursday, Iceland is expected to make a full return to the international financial community during the course of 2016.

Read more …

It’s a miracle Russia stays so quiet.

Ukraine Debt Default and EU Sanctions Extension Anger Russia (IT)

Ukraine and Russia are on a collision course over major trade and finance disputes, as the European Union prepares to extend sanctions against Moscow for annexing Crimea and fomenting a bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine. Kiev has refused to meet Sunday’s due date on a $3 billion loan that Moscow gave to authorities led by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in December 2013, when they were rocked by huge street protests. Moscow has vowed to take Kiev to court over the disputed bond, which comes due just as Russia gets ready to scrap its free-trade zone with Ukraine in response to the planned January 1st launch of a landmark EU-Ukraine trade pact. “The government of Ukraine is imposing a moratorium on payment of the so-called Russian bond,” Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Friday.

“I remind you that Ukraine has agreed to restructure its debt obligations with responsible creditors, who accepted the terms of the Ukrainian side. Russia has refused, despite our many efforts to sign a restructuring deal, to accept our offers.” Russian officials have threatened to launch legal action by the end of the year to reclaim the cash from Ukraine. “By announcing a moratorium on returning this sovereign debt, the Ukrainian side has, you could say, in fact admitted default,” said Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. Russia long argued that the unpaid debt should block future IMF funding for cash-strapped Ukraine, and Moscow was furious with the lender this week for changing its rules to allow aid to keep flowing to countries that are in arrears. The IMF agreed with Moscow, however, that the bond should be treated as sovereign debt, and told Kiev that it must negotiate with Russia “in good faith” to ensure continued access to a $17.5 billion aid package.

Ukraine relies on the IMF, United States and EU to prop up its ailing economy, and depends on the West to maintain diplomatic pressure on Russia. Diplomats say EU states have agreed to extend sanctions on Russia for another six months from Monday, due to its continuing failure to fulfil a deal aimed at ending an 18-month conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 9,000 people. “It was an expected decision, we heard nothing new, and it will have no effect on the economy of the Russian Federation, ” said Alexei Ulyukaev, Russia’s minister for economic development. Russia’s economy has been damaged by sanctions and above all by the plunge in the price of oil. The Kremlin has ordered the suspension of a free-trade agreement between Russia and Ukraine from January 1st, when a far-reaching trade deal is due to start between Ukraine and the EU.

Read more …

Gas is more important than Ukraine.

Merkel Defends Russian Gas Pipeline Plan (WSJ)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel found herself under pressure on Friday from other Europe Union leaders over her government’s support for a natural-gas pipeline from Russia that others fear could further undermine the economic and political stability of Ukraine. The planned expansion of PAO Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline, which ships Russian gas via the Baltic Sea to northern Germany, would add an extra 55 billion cubic meters of gas in capacity—about as much as the company currently transports through Ukraine. Officials in Brussels and Washington as well as Kiev have accused Moscow of using the project, dubbed Nord Stream 2, to deprive Ukraine of much of its remaining political leverage as well as much-needed revenues from transit fees. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday called Nord Stream 2 his country’s “greatest concern as of today.”

But Ms. Merkel defended the planned pipeline. “I made clear, along with others, that this is a commercial project; there are private investors,” Ms. Merkel said following talks with the other 27 EU leaders. During the discussion on Nord Stream, the chancellor’s position was attacked by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Bulgaria’s Boyko Borisov, while she received some backing from Dutch Premier Mark Rutte. Gazprom holds a 50% stake in the Nord Stream 2 consortium. The other 50% are held in equal parts by Shell, Germany’s E.On and BASF, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie. Despite the involvement of these private investors, several European Union and U.S. officials have questioned the commercial reasoning behind Nord Stream 2, arguing that existing transit routes from Russia, including the first Nord Stream pipeline and the Ukrainian lines aren’t used at full capacity.

In a recent interview, the U.S. special envoy for international energy affairs, Amos Hochstein, called Nord Stream 2 “an entirely politically motivated project” and warned European authorities against “rushing into” the project. Since relations with Moscow cooled over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the EU has been working to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. Building Nord Stream 2, however, would concentrate 80% of the bloc’s gas imports from Russia onto a single route, according to the EU’s climate and energy commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete. “In my perspective, Nord Stream does not help diversification nor would it reduce energy dependence,” said European Council President Donald Tusk, who presided over Friday’s discussions among the 28 EU leaders. He said, however, the EU must avoid politicizing this issue and check whether the pipeline would comply with EU rules, which block companies from controlling both a pipeline and its supply.

Read more …

“..the mantra of 28 states having the same ultimate objective … is officially dead.”

The Unraveling Of The European Union Has Begun (MarketWatch)

Whatever spin comes out of the Brussels summit this week, the European Union finds itself in the midst of an existential crisis after the bloc’s most challenging year since the launch of economic and monetary union in 1999. National leaders will continue to do what they do best — muddle through in a fog of obfuscation as they fail again to address the fundamental problems that have led to a string of financial, political and foreign policy crises from the Ukraine incursion through the Greek bailout to a flood of refugees. Even as British Prime Minister David Cameron tries to renegotiate his country’s terms of membership to avoid an exit from the EU, recent elections in Poland, France and Portugal reflect a shift in public opinion to question whether European integration on the current model is such a good idea after all.

Spain faces an election Sunday in which the conservative Popular Party, which has toed the Brussels line on austerity, is sure to lose its majority as voters are poised to create a new political landscape with four major parties and big questions about the future of the country. And Cameron himself is wrestling with a growing momentum in Britain favoring an exit from a Brussels regime that seems increasingly onerous or irrelevant. It is, of course, Cameron’s Conservative Party that historically has championed EU membership, and the EU itself is generally touted as a boon for business and the economy. So it is perhaps telling that recent commentary from a London-based think tank that generally mirrors the relatively conservative views of its central-banking and asset-management constituency is taking an increasingly critical view of Europe.

“There is a sense that the Union is drifting towards some form of calamity — the end of free movement of people, or the exit of Greece from the euro, or the departure of Britain from the Union itself,” John Nugée, a former Bank of England official who is a director of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum in London, wrote this week after meeting with officials in Asia, who have a pessimistic view of Europe’s situation. “The view from Asia is that the Union is struggling because it falls between two extremes of strength and weakness: It has neither a strong democratic regime nor a strong autocratic one,” Nugée writes in an OMFIF commentary. The EU is instead a “weak democracy” in this view. “The authorities have sufficient strength to try to rule without popular consent,” Nugée observes.

“But they are too weak to ignore the negative populist response such action inevitably incites and which, in turn, exacerbates their initial weakness.” The bottom line, according to this analyst, is that Europe’s leaders are simply overwhelmed. “The complexity of each individual issue seems to make the combined difficulties beyond the capacity of the political system to solve,” Nugée writes. In another OMFIF commentary this week, Antonio Armellini, a former Italian diplomat who represented his country in a number of foreign capitals and international organizations, argued that the British request for special terms “obliges everyone to recognize that the mantra of 28 states having the same ultimate objective … is officially dead.”

Read more …

“They [EU] have already made these decisions. They are not known for being democratic – [Jean-Claude] Juncker and [Donald] Tusk. There is no democracy in the EU. They pay lip service to democracy, they have decided, what is going to happen. ”

‘Cameron’s Battle Against EU Is Like Grappling With A Jellyfish’ (RT)

It’s unlikely that ‘lame duck PM’ David Cameron, would get any concessions over the UK’s EU membership, but he is still banging his head against that brick wall, says investigative journalist Tony Gosling. EU leaders have gathered in Brussels for a summit to partly determine Britain’s future within the union. Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday pushed for changes to the terms of the country’s EU membership saying that “there is a pathway to a deal in February.” He also emphasized the importance of UK’s demand to constrain access to in-work benefits for EU migrants in Britain. RT: Would the EU be better to lose Britain altogether than sacrifice the main principles. Who’s going to win in this regard?

Tony Gosling: … You can almost pick a tramp from the streets of London – there are plenty more since Cameron came to power – and they probably would make a better job of this than David Cameron, because he first promised this referendum back in 2009, and still we’re waiting. Also we’ve got the situation back in May, when we had a general election that [François] Hollande and [Angela] Merkel made absolutely clear to Cameron – there would be no concessions, but he is still banging his head against that brick wall. No, I don’t think he is going to get these concessions. The battle is almost like he is grappling with a jellyfish, with the EU. They [EU] have already made these decisions. They are not known for being democratic – [Jean-Claude] Juncker and [Donald] Tusk. There is no democracy in the EU. They pay lip service to democracy, they have decided, what is going to happen.

Cameron’s real problem here is that he is looking for this four-year ban on benefits going to migrants coming into Britain. The problem being that four years is just not enough. Those benefits are keep going up to about 40 percent of everybody that comes into Britain’s pay packets. We’ve got a massive problem here with the working poor on benefits. He’s effectively saying that if migrants come to Britain, that they are going to be below the poverty line immediately… And of course, we can’t have that. Anybody in Britain that needs benefits is going to have to get them. We’ve already seen signs of this with things like tent cities springing up across the country…

RT: Are EU leaders growing tired of negotiating with the UK? TG: It almost seems we are the basket case of Europe, doesn’t it? And partly that is because we’ve stayed out of the euro and they wanted us in the euro. But we are in a similar position to many of the countries economically. We’ve got a massive property bubble. We’ve just heard here in Britain – it is so difficult to just to find somewhere to live. The house prices in Britain are now up to 300,000 pounds – that is $450,000 average to buy a house here in Britain. And that is what a classic bubble – massively over inflated house prices; no real market anymore.

Read more …

Just like Ron Paul does. And me.

‘Cancer of Europe’ – Russian Duma Speaker Calls For NATO Dissolution (RT)

State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin has said that Russia is very concerned by continuing NATO expansion, adding that global security would benefit significantly from the dissolution of the military bloc. “My attitude to this organization is special – I see it as a cancerous tumor on the whole European continent. It would only be for the better if this organization is dissolved,” Naryshkin said during a meeting with Serbian lawmakers on Thursday. This dissolution could be conducted in several stages, the Duma speaker suggested. “First of all, the USA should be excluded from the bloc and after this it would be possible to painlessly disband the whole organization,” he said. “This would be a good step towards greater security and stability on the whole European continent.”

Naryshkin also told Serbian lawmakers that Russia was aware of the fact that large numbers of Montenegrin citizens, possibly even the majority of the country’s population, were resisting their nation’s potential entry into NATO. He noted that in late November the Russian State Duma called for the Montenegrin parliament to abandon plans to enter the military bloc, and expressed hope that Serbian politicians would offer some help in persuading Montenegro – which historically has been always close to Serbia – not to make this dangerous step. In early December NATO foreign ministers agreed to invite Montenegro to join the military alliance. In September, Montenegro’s parliament voted for a resolution to support the country’s accession to the military organization. The opposition called for a national referendum on the issue, but failed to push their initiative through the national legislature.

Moscow has promised that a response would follow if Montenegro joined NATO, but added that the details of any such steps are still under consideration. The head of the Russian Upper House Committee for Defense and Security, Viktor Ozerov, said that the step would force Russia to cut a number of joint projects with Montenegro, including military programs. In mid-December Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the row over possible NATO membership had revealed deep divisions in Montenegrin society. “We think that the Montenegrin people should have their say in a referendum on this issue. This would be a manifestation of democracy that we call for,” Zakharova said.

Read more …

Election tomorrow.

135 Jobs In 2.5 Years: The Plight Of Spain’s New Working Poor (Guardian)

He has taken on stints as a stable hand, been a door-to-door salesman and set up stages for local concerts: rarely does David Pena turn down a job. “In the past two a half years, I’ve probably had about 135 contracts,” said Pena. Most of them last between one and three days. “It’s a bit tiresome not to ever have anything stable.” Tiresome is perhaps an understatement. The 33-year-old’s disjointed CV stands out as an extreme example of a growing section of Spanish society made up of those ousted from the workforce during the economic crisis and now struggling to land anything but precarious short-term contracts. On Sunday Spaniards will cast their ballots in one of the tightest races in the country’s recent history.

The result promises to offer a glimpse of the national mindset as Spain emerges from a prolonged economic downturn that sent unemployment soaring, triggered painful austerity measures and saw thousands of families evicted. The wide brush of corruption has sent Spaniards’ trust in politicians and institutions plunging in recent years, and given rise to a crop of national newcomers promising a better future. For many, however, the key issue in this campaign is jobs. Unemployment in Spain stands at 21.6% – the highest in the EU after Greece. Mariano Rajoy, the country’s current prime minister, has based his re-election campaign on the economy and its fragile recovery, pointing to more than 1m jobs created in the past two years and one of the fastest growth rates in the eurozone.

Polls suggest that his conservative People’s party (PP) will remain the largest party after Sunday’s election, even it looks likely to lose its majority. Rajoy’s critics point to the dire situation still facing many Spaniards, who, like Pena, have been forced to string together a salary from a series of low-paying contracts that offer scant benefits. Temporary workers now make up more than a quarter of the workforce in Spain. Far from just seasonal work, temporary contracts have become more common among hospital workers, teachers and other public servants. Statistics suggest that short-term work is the definitive feature of the new jobs being created, making up about 90% of the contracts signed this year so far in Spain, with about one in four lasting seven days or less.

Read more …

But arms sales are booming.

One Of Every 122 Humans Today Has Been Forced To Flee Their Home (WaPo)

The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes has reached a staggering level, with 2015 on track to break previous records, according to a United Nations report released Friday. People who have been forcibly displaced — including those who fled domestically as well as international refugees and asylum-seekers — has likely “far surpassed 60 million” for the first time, reads the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees report. Last year, 59.5 million had been displaced. “In a global context, that means that one person in every 122 has been forced to flee their home,” the agency said in a statement. Forced displacement “is now profoundly affecting our times,” High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in a statement.

“It touches the lives of millions of our fellow human beings – both those forced to flee and those who provide them with shelter and protection. Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything.” War in Syria has become the “single biggest generator worldwide of both new refugees and continuing mass internal and external displacement,” the agency said. More than 4 million Syrians are now refugees – compared t0 less than 20,000 in 2010. Following Syria, most refugees come from Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan. The report, which covers the first six months of 2015, found that by June, the world had 20.2 million refugees – nearly 1 million more than a year before.

An average of 4,600 people flee their homes daily, and nearly 1 million refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to get to Europe so far this year. Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon host the most refugees. Such a massive flow of people from country to country has also put a strain on host nations, and left unmanaged, this “can increase resentment and abet politicization of refugees,” the report notes.

Read more …

Nov 192015
 
 November 19, 2015  Posted by at 11:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Robert Capa Anti-fascist militia women at Barcelona street barricade 1936

Looking through a bunch of numbers and graphs dealing with China recently, it occurred to us that perhaps we, and most others with us, may need to recalibrate our focus on what to emphasize amongst everything we read and hear, if we’re looking to interpret what’s happening in and with the country’s economy.

It was only fair -perhaps even inevitable- that oil would be the first major commodity to dive off a cliff, because oil drives the entire global economy, both as a source of fuel -energy- and as raw material. Oil makes the world go round.

But still, the price of oil was merely a lagging indicator of underlying trends and events. Oil prices didn‘t start their plunge until sometime in 2014. On June 19, 2014, Brent was $115. Less than seven months later, on January 9, it was $50.

Severe as that was, China’s troubles started much earlier. Which lends credence to the idea that it was those troubles that brought down the price of oil in the first place, and people were slow to catch up. And it’s only now other commodities are plummeting that they, albeit very reluctantly, start to see a shimmer of ‘the light’.

Here are Brent oil prices (WTI follows the trend closely):

They happen to coincide quite strongly with the fall in Chinese imports, which perhaps makes it tempting to correlate the two one-on-one:

But this correlation doesn’t hold up. And that we can see when we look at a number everyone seems to largely overlook, at their own peril, producer prices:

About which Bloomberg had this to say:

China Deflation Pressures Persist As Producer Prices Fall 44th Month

China’s consumer inflation waned in October while factory-gate deflation extended a record streak of negative readings [..] The producer-price index fell 5.9%, its 44th straight monthly decline. [..] Overseas shipments dropped 6.9% in October in dollar terms while weaker demand for coal, iron and other commodities from declining heavy industries helped push imports down 18.8%, leaving a record trade surplus of $61.6 billion.

44 months is a long time. And March 2012 is a long time ago. Oil was about at its highest since right before the 2008 crisis took the bottom out. And if you look closer, you can see that producer prices started ‘losing it’ even earlier, around July 2011.

Something was happening there that should have warranted more scrutiny. That it didn’t might have a lot to do with this:

China’s debt-to-GDP ratio has risen by nearly 50% in the past four years.

The producer price index seems to indicate that trouble started over 4 years ago. China dug itself way deeper into debt since then. It already did that before as well (especially since 2008), but the additional debt apparently couldn’t be made productive anymore. And that’s an understatement.

Now, if you want to talk correlation, compare the producer price graph above with Bloomberg’s global commodities index:

World commodities markets, like the entire global economy, were propped up by China overinvestment ever since 2008. Commodities have been falling since early 2011, after rising some 60% in the wake of the crisis. And after the 2011 peak, they’ve dropped all the way down to levels not seen since 1999. And they keep on falling: steel, zinc, copper, aluminum, you name it, they’re all setting new lows almost at a daily basis.

Moreover, if we look at how fast China imports are falling, and we realize how much of those imports involve (raw material) commodities, we can’t escape the conclusion that here we’re looking at not a lagging, but a predictive indicator. What China doesn’t purchase in raw materials today, it can’t churn out as finished products tomorrow.

Not as exports, and not as products to be used domestically. Neither spell good news for the Chinese economy; indeed, the rot seems to come from both sides, inside and out. And no matter how much Beijing points to the ‘service’ economy it claims to be switching towards, with all the debt that is now deflating, and the plummeting marginal productivity of new debt, most of it looks like wishful thinking.

And that is not the whole story either. Closely linked to the sinking marginal productivity, there is overleveraged overcapacity and oversupply. It’s like the proverbial huge ocean liner that’s hard to turn around.

There are for instance lots of new coal plants in the pipeline:

China Coal Bubble: 155 Coal-Fired Power Plants To Be Added To Overcapacity

China has given the green light to more than 150 coal power plants so far this year despite falling coal consumption, flatlining production and existing overcapacity. [..] in the first nine months of 2015 China’s central and provincial governments issued environmental approvals to 155 coal-fired power plants — that’s 4 per week. The numbers associated with this prospective new fleet of plants are suitably astronomical. Should they all go ahead they would have a capacity of 123GW, more than twice Germany’s entire coal fleet; their carbon emissions would be around 560 million tonnes a year, roughly equal to the annual energy emissions of Brazil; they would produce more particle pollution than all the cars in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing put together [..]

And new car plants too:

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

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. [..] 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 [..] New Chinese factories are forecast to add a further 10% in capacity in 2016—despite projections that sales will continue to be challenged. [..] “The players tend to build more capacity in hopes of maintaining, or hopefully, gain market share. Overcapacity is here to stay.”

These are mere examples. Similar developments are undoubtedly taking place in many other sectors of the Chinese economy (how about construction?!). China has for example started dumping its overproduction of steel and aluminum on world markets, which makes the rest of the world, let’s say, skittish. The US is levying a 236% import tax on -some- China steel. The UK sees its remaining steel industry vanish. All US aluminum smelters are at risk of closure in 2016.

The flipside, the inevitable hangover, that China will wake up to sooner rather than later, is the debt that its real growth, and then it’s fantasy growth, has been based on. We already dealt extensively with the difference between ‘official’ and real growth numbers, let’s leave that topic alone this time around.

Though we can throw this in. Goldman Sachs recently said that even if the official Beijing growth numbers were right -which nobody believes anymore- ”Chinese credit growth is still running at roughly double the rate of GDP growth”. And even if credit growth may appear to be slowing a little, though we’d have to know the shadow banking numbers to gauge that (and we don’t), that hangover is still looming large:

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

[..] 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 [..] 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.”

Looking at the producer price graph, we see that the downfall started at least 44 months ago, and that 52 months is just as good an assumption. And we know that debt rose 50% or more since the downfall started. That does put things in a different perspective, doesn’t it? (Probably) the majority of pundits and experts will still insist on a soft landing at worst.

But for those who don’t, please consider the overwhelming amount of deflationary forces that is being unleashed on the world as all that debt goes sour. As the part of that debt that was leveraged vanishes into thin air.

It’s ironic to see that it’s at this very point in time that the IMF (Christine Lagarde seems eager to take responsibility) seeks to include the yuan in its SDR basket. Xi Jinping’s power over the exchange rate can only be diminished by such a move, and we’re not at all sure he realizes to what extent that is true. Chinese politics are built on hubris, and that goes only so far when you free float but don’t deliver.

To summarize, do you remember what you were doing -and thinking- in mid-2011 and/or early 2012? Because that’s when this whole process started. Not this year, and not last year.

China’s producers couldn’t get the prices they wanted anymore, as early as 4 years ago, and that’s where deflationary forces came in. No matter how much extra credit/debt was injected into the money supply, the spending side started to stutter. It never recovered.

Nov 092015
 
 November 9, 2015  Posted by at 10:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


DPC Broadway from Chambers Street, NYC 1910

Dash For Debt Ahead Of US Rate Rise (FT)
Ex-GAO Head David Walker: US Debt Is Three Times More Than You Think (Hill)
Fed Proves Irrelevant in $2.6 Trillion Slice of Debt Market (Bloomberg)
Zombie Debt Is Menacing America And Mine Even Has A Name: Kathryn (Guardian)
Dollar Bulls are Vulnerable as Currency’s Strength May Cap Rates (Bloomberg)
Global GDP Worse Than Official Forecasts Show, Maersk CEO Says (Bloomberg)
China Slowdown Hits Earnings in Japan (WSJ)
China’s Trade Drop Means More Stimulus Measures Coming (Bloomberg)
China Exports Slump as Global Demand Shrinks (WSJ)
Steel Exports From Top Producer China Drop as Trade Friction Rises (Bloomberg)
China Delays Economic Liberalization (WSJ)
Greece Told To Break Bailout Deadlock By Wednesday (Kath.)
Global Coal Consumption Heads for Biggest Decline in History (Bloomberg)
Saudi Arabia Will Not Stop Pumping To Boost Oil Prices (FT)
Kuwait Sees Oil Glut of Up to Five Years (Bloomberg)
Airpocalypse Now: China Pollution Reaching Record Levels (Guardian)
The Unbearable Lightness Of Chinese Emissions Data (Reuters)
New Zealand To Reform Intelligence After Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom (NZH)
German Disagreement Over Tighter Asylum Rules (Bloomberg)

Adding more debt! Brilliant!

Dash For Debt Ahead Of US Rate Rise (FT)

A spate of jumbo corporate debt offerings has lifted US issuance to a record high as companies seek to lock in financing to fund multibillion-dollar acquisitions before the Federal Reserve lifts rates for the first time since the financial crisis. US multinationals have raised more than $132bn in so-called jumbo-deals debt offerings above $10bn in size in 2015, more than a fourfold increase from a year earlier as companies including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and UnitedHealth take advantage of low interest rates, according to data from Dealogic. The offerings have buoyed overall corporate debt deal values in the US to a record of $815bn, with more than a month and a half to go before year end. The figure surpasses the previous high set in 2014 of $746bn.

There has been strong investor appetite for the debt offerings, which have been used to fund acquisitions, buy back stock and pay for dividends, leading bond funds to balloon in size. “It’s two years of incredible issuance flows”, says Mitch Reznick at Hermes Investment Management. “It’s driven by a desire to get financing done ahead of lift-off and a lot of this is going into M&A … The issuance just continues and continues.” After a slow summer, with companies braced for a rise in interest rates that never came as they struggled with the global oil price rout, issuance has picked up. Close to $30bn of debt has been raised in each of the past two weeks. It has been a particularly big year for highly rated debt, with issuance at a record $633bn. The $182bn worth of junk bond sales trail the 2012 peak of $246bn.

Read more …

David Walker seems to have been silent for a while. But he’s back.

Ex-GAO Head David Walker: US Debt Is Three Times More Than You Think (Hill)

The former U.S. comptroller general says the real U.S. debt is closer to about $65 trillion than the oft-cited figure of $18 trillion. Dave Walker, who headed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said when you add up all of the nation’s unfunded liabilities, the national debt is more than three times the number generally advertised. “If you end up adding to that $18.5 trillion the unfunded civilian and military pensions and retiree healthcare, the additional underfunding for Social Security, the additional underfunding for Medicare, various commitments and contingencies that the federal government has, the real number is about $65 trillion rather than $18 trillion, and it’s growing automatically absent reforms,” Walker told New York’s AM-970 in an interview airing Sunday.

The former comptroller general, who is in charge of ensuring federal spending is fiscally responsible, said a burgeoning national debt hampers the ability of government to carry out both domestic and foreign policy initiatives.“If you don’t keep your economy strong, and that means to be able to generate more jobs and opportunities, you’re not going to be strong internationally with regard to foreign policy, you’re not going to be able to invest what you need to invest in national defense and homeland security, and ultimately you’re not going to be able to provide the kind of social safety net that we need in this country,” he said.

He said Americans have “lost touch with reality” when it comes to spending. Walker called for Democrats and Republicans to put aside partisan politics to come together to fix the problem. “You can be a Democrat, you can be a Republican, you can be unaffiliated, you can be whatever you want, but your duty of loyalty needs to be to country rather than to party, and we need to solve some of the large, known, and growing problems that we have,” he said.

Read more …

Other than for gamblers, The Fed’s made itself irrelevant for quite a while now.

Fed Proves Irrelevant in $2.6 Trillion Slice of Debt Market (Bloomberg)

The blowout U.S. jobs report for October means the Federal Reserve may be weeks away from raising interest rates. For U.S. savers earning next to nothing on $2.6 trillion of money-market mutual funds, the move will barely register. The reason is that there’s an unprecedented shortfall in the safest assets, especially Treasury bills – a mainstay of money funds and traditionally the government obligations that are most sensitive to changes in Fed policy. The shortage means some key money-fund rates will probably remain near historic lows even if the central bank increases its benchmark from near zero next month. The phenomenon is a consequence of regulators’ efforts to curb risk after the financial crisis.

Money-market industry rules set to take effect in October 2016 may lead investors and fund companies to shift as much as $650 billion into short-maturity government obligations, according to JPMorgan Chase. Meanwhile, the amount of bills as a share of government debt is the lowest since at least 1996, at about 10%, and the Treasury is just beginning to ramp up issuance of the securities after slashing it amid the debt-ceiling impasse. “The demand for high-quality short-term government debt securities is insatiable and there is just not enough supply,” said Jerome Schneider at PIMCO. “Even given the increased bill sales coming as the debt-limit issue has passed, it won’t keep up with rising demand from regulatory forces. This will keep rates low.”

While the U.S. government stands to benefit as the imbalance holds down borrowing costs, it’s proving the bane of savers. Average yields for the biggest money-market funds, which buy a sizable chunk of the $1.3 trillion Treasury bills market, haven’t topped 0.1% since 2010, according to Crane Data. In 2007, they were above 5% before the Fed started slashing rates to support the economy. With returns this low, investors have less incentive to sock away cash. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index has earned 3.8% this year, including dividends.

Read more …

Debt that gets sold for pennies on the dollar from one collector to the next. American disgrace.

Zombie Debt Is Menacing America And Mine Even Has A Name: Kathryn (Guardian)

Her name is Kathryn. Every few weeks, I’ll answer the phone, and someone will want to talk to her. In fact, whoever is on the other end of the line will insist on talking to her. They assume that I am her, even when I inform her that I’m not and that I don’t know who she is. They threaten that if I don’t bring her to the phone, I’ll face “consequences”. Sometimes I’ll get two phone calls a day, every day of the week. These debt collectors want Kathryn to repay some student loans, and every time her file is sold to a new agency, my phone number is transferred along with it – and I have to begin convincing a new bunch of folks that this isn’t the way to find her. Halloween may be over, but the world of zombie debt is a year-round horror show.

Aggressive collectors buy credit card accounts from original lenders like Chase or Bank of America that have been written off as in default and impossible to collect on. Having paid only pennies for every dollar owed to acquire these accounts, the new collectors have a big financial incentive to collect the maximum they can – it’s not about recouping money but about seeing how much they can make. Getting someone to agree to pay $1 for every $10 of debt owed could mean a 100% return. Small wonder that a number of players in this space resort to abusive practices, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last week a new nationwide initiative involving not only 47 attorneys general and many state regulatory agencies but also numerous local bodies and even a Canadian provincial regulator.

Operation Collection Protection will try to halt the industry’s worst practices – and it’s needed, says Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the FTC. “We receive more complaints about this industry than any other,” she told a press conference last Thursday, noting that debt collectors make a billion contacts a year with consumers. “The majority [of those] are legal. Many are not.” With consumer debt climbing steadily, the problem is more likely to grow than to diminish. In 2010, Americans had total consumer debt of nearly $2.5tn, Ramirez said. Today, excluding mortgage debt, that figure is closer to $3.34tn (with mortgages added to the mix, it would be more than $11tn), and the average household has a credit card balance that stands at $7,281. When you consider the fact that many Americans don’t have credit cards or don’t carry balances, that average balance is actually much higher.

True, new rules mean that it’s harder for banks and credit card purveyors to get students to load up on debt, over and above their student loans. And more households are being more disciplined in how they use their credit cards, paying off their balance in full. But there also are some troubling signs, including the Federal Reserve’s survey results showing that of those Americans who carried a balance from one month to the next, more than half made only the minimum payment on their accounts. It’s those folks who are most at risk of ending up fielding calls from debt collectors down the road.

Read more …

Meanwhile back in the casino…

Dollar Bulls are Vulnerable as Currency’s Strength May Cap Rates (Bloomberg)

Dollar bulls have reason to be wary of the currency’s Friday rally on stronger-than-forecast U.S. labor data. The jobs report bolstered the case for a December interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve and propelled a broad gauge of the greenback past this year’s previous high. Yet the last time the dollar was this strong, the central bank flagged it as a burden on exporters and a damper of inflation, driving the currency down by the most since 2009. The March experience is raising red flags for investors and strategists. A surging dollar may lead Fed officials to warn that currency moves will limit rate increases in 2016, even if they boost their benchmark next month from near zero, where it’s been since 2008.

“It’s going to be really hard for them to hike rates aggressively,” said Brendan Murphy, a senior portfolio manager at Standish Mellon. Once the Fed lifts rates, “you may be nearing the end of this broader move we’ve seen in the dollar.” Murphy says he’s betting on the greenback versus the euro and currencies from commodity exporting nations, but he’s trimmed positions since the start of the year. The dollar appreciated to its strongest level since April versus the euro and its highest in more than two months versus the yen after a Labor Department report showed U.S. employers added 271,000 workers in October, the most this year.

Read more …

And then still poo-poohs the downfall. Talk your book.

Global GDP Worse Than Official Forecasts Show, Maersk CEO Says (Bloomberg)

The world’s economy is growing at a slower pace than the IMF and other large forecasters are predicting. That’s according to Nils Smedegaard Andersen, CEO at A.P. Moeller-Maersk. His company, owner of the world’s biggest shipping line, is a bellwether for global trade, handling about 15% of all consumer goods transported by sea. “We believe that global growth is slowing down,” he said in a phone interview. “Trade is currently significantly weaker than it normally would be under the growth forecasts we see.” The IMF on Oct. 6 lowered its 2015 global gross domestic product forecast to 3.1% from 3.3% previously, citing a slowdown in emerging markets driven by weak commodity prices. It also cut its 2016 forecast to 3.6% from 3.8%.

But even the revised forecasts may be too optimistic, according to Andersen. “We conduct a string of our own macro-economic forecasts and we see less growth – particularly in developing nations, but perhaps also in Europe – than other people expect in 2015,” Andersen said. Also for 2016, “we’re a little bit more pessimistic than most forecasters.” Maersk’s container line on Friday reported a 61% slump in third-quarter profit as demand for ships to transport goods across the world hardly grew from a year earlier. The low growth rates are proving particularly painful for an industry that’s already struggling with excess capacity.

Trade from Asia to Europe has so far suffered most as a weaker euro makes it tougher for exporters like China to stay competitive, Andersen said. Still, there are no signs yet that the global economy is heading for a slump similar to one that followed the financial crisis of 2008, he said. “We’re seeing some distortions amid this redistribution that’s taking place between commodity exporting countries and commodity importing countries,” he said. “But this shouldn’t lead to an outright crisis. At this point in time, there are no grounds for seeing that happening.”

Read more …

And everywhere else. The entire global economy was propped up by China’s Ponzi for years. No more.

China Slowdown Hits Earnings in Japan (WSJ)

Profits at major Japanese companies are on track to fall for the first time in more than a year during the third quarter, partly the result of a slowdown in China’s economy. Earnings fell a combined 3.2% from a year earlier, according to data compiled by SMBC Nikko Securities that covered 70% of companies listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange with a financial year ending March 31. All had released quarterly earnings as of Friday. If that result holds after all companies have reported, it would be the first decline since earnings fell 7% in the second quarter of 2014, after a sales-tax increase hit Japanese consumers and set off a recession. Now external factors are playing a bigger role, analysts say. As China’s economy has cooled further, for example, its steel makers unloaded supply on the international market, driving prices lower and hurting their Japanese competitors.

Kobe Steel Ltd. saw its profit fall by more than half during the fiscal first half and cut its projection for full-year earnings by another 20%, after lowering it by half in September. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo, meanwhile, saw its shares tumble last week after it lowered its full-year net profit forecast by 31%. JFE Holdings Inc. downgraded its full-year ordinary profit outlook by 50%. “The China-related sectors performed poorly, especially Japan’s top three steel makers, who were hit hard by an oversupply of Chinese steel,” said Atsushi Watanabe at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley. Komatsu, which makes heavy machinery, said its sales to China fell by half during the first half of the fiscal year, and reported a 16.5% drop in net profit. Demand in China showed no signs of improving in the most recent quarter after worsening in the previous quarter, said Yasuhiro Inagaki, the company’s senior executive officer and general manager for business coordination.

Read more …

But stimulus doesn’t make people spend.

China’s Trade Drop Means More Stimulus Measures Coming (Bloomberg)

China’s exports fell for a fourth straight month and imports matched a record stretch of declines, signaling that the mounting drag from slower global growth will push policy makers toward expanding stimulus. Overseas shipments dropped 6.9% in October in dollar terms, the customs administration said Sunday, a bigger decline than estimated by all 31 economists in a Bloomberg survey. Weaker demand for coal, iron and other commodities for China’s declining heavy industries helped drag imports down 18.8% in dollar terms, leaving a record trade surplus of $61.6 billion.

The report signals that policy makers may need to unleash more fiscal stimulus to support growth even after the People’s Bank of China cut the main interest rate six times in the last year to a record low and devalued the currency. The government has already relaxed borrowing rules for local authorities, and the top economic planning body has stepped up project approvals. “The October trade data keep pressure on for more domestic easing,” said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics in Hong Kong. “Measures are likely to continue to focused on shoring up domestic demand rather than weakening the currency. And over time the role of fiscal policy expansion should rise.”

Read more …

At least we’re all falling together.

China Exports Slump as Global Demand Shrinks (WSJ)

China’s exports fell in October for the fourth consecutive month, as a once-powerful engine of the country’s growth continued to sputter in the face of weak global demand. The world’s appetite for goods from China—the world’s second-largest economy accounts for nearly one-fifth of global factory exports—has been lower than expected this year. Meanwhile, weak domestic demand continues to reduce imports. Both are contributing to China’s growth slowdown. “The mix of the data is again not encouraging,” said Commerzbank economist Zhou Hou. “Trade momentum is unlikely to turn around in the near term.” Sunday’s results suggest the export scene is worsening. China’s General Administration of Customs said October exports fell 6.9% year-over-year in dollar terms, after a drop of 3.7% in September.

Imports in October fell by a sharper-than-expected 18.8% from a year earlier, after a 20.4% fall in September. China’s trade surplus widened in October to $61.64 billion from $60.3 billion in September. China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday in a report that exports are likely to see little increase in 2015, while imports will likely report a “relatively big” decline as falling commodity prices continue to weigh on trade flows. China’s rising labor and land costs in recent years have weakened the competitiveness of the nation’s exporters, the Commerce Ministry said. The average wage for workers in coastal provinces, including the manufacture hub of Guangdong province, has reached $600 a month, twice the level of Southeast Asian countries.

Read more …

Yay! Protectionism! Let’s sign us another free trade deal, shall we?!

Steel Exports From Top Producer China Drop as Trade Friction Rises (Bloomberg)

The flood of steel that mills in China are pushing onto global markets eased from a record in October amid rising trade frictions and weak overseas demand, signaling that what’s been a safety valve for the world’s top producer may now be starting to close. Outbound cargoes shrank 20% to 9.02 million metric tons last month from September, according to customs data released on Sunday. That was the lowest figure since June, and below the monthly average so far this year of 9.21 million tons. “The slump in steel exports last month compared with September reflects rising trade frictions for Chinese products,” Helen Lau at Argonaut Securities said by e-mail on Sunday.

China’s mills, which account for half of global production, have exported unprecedented volumes of steel this year to try to counter contracting demand in Asia’s top economy. The surge has undermined prices and increased competition from India to Europe and the U.S., spurring complaints that the trade is unfair. While down on-month, China has still shipped 25% more steel this year than in the same period of 2014. The global steel market is being overwhelmed with metal coming from China’s state owned and state-supported producers, a collection of industry groups including the American Iron and Steel Institute said on Thursday. The next day, ArcelorMittal cut its full-year profit target, citing exceptionally low Chinese export prices.

Evidence of cases against Chinese steel imports is surfacing worldwide. Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce said it planned duties of 236% on imports of corrosion-resistant steel from five Chinese companies. More than 20 cases have been lodged against China’s cargoes, with about seven from Southeast Asia. “Lower steel exports reflect waning demand from overseas trading partners,” Xu Huimin at Huatai Great Wall Futures said before the data. Financial markets and many businesses in China were closed Oct. 1-7, which may have also contributed to the drop in exports, Xu said.

Inbound cargoes of iron ore shrank 12% to 75.52 million tons last month from September, according to the customs figures. Purchases totaled 774.5 million tons in the first 10 months, little changed compared with the same period a year earlier, the data showed. China is the world’s largest buyer. Iron ore stockpiled at Chinese ports rose 1.5% to 86 million tons in the week to Nov. 6, according to Shanghai Steelhome Information. Ore with 62% content delivered to Qingdao was at $48.21 a dry ton on Friday, 32% lower this year, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd.

Read more …

No kidding: “President Xi Jinping was already unhappy he was taking the blame for the economic gloom that had settled over China..”

China Delays Economic Liberalization (WSJ)

The closed-door meeting of some of China’s most powerful economic mandarins this fall was getting tense. Their boss, President Xi Jinping, was already unhappy he was taking the blame for the economic gloom that had settled over China this summer, and it was their job to come up with ways to fix it. Officials from the state planning commission at the Sept. 22 meeting in a conference room at the agency’s headquarters called for the kind of big spending on airports, roads and other government projects that Beijing had relied on to rev up the economy in recent years, according to internal minutes of the meeting. Finance-ministry officials disagreed, favoring a plan to encourage Chinese consumers to buy more electronics, cars, clothes and other goods China churns out.

But most in the room agreed on one thing: It would be hard to proceed with plans to liberalize the tightly controlled economy and still hope to meet Mr. Xi’s 7% GDP-growth target for 2015. Such plans, laid out in better times, weren’t likely to deliver the shot of growth China’s economy needed. “Reform itself faces huge problems,” said an attendee at the Sept. 22 meeting, which gathered officials of the National Development and Reform Commission—the planning agency—and the finance ministry, according to the minutes, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “It’s doubtful that any reform dividends can be translated into economic growth in the foreseeable future.” In the weeks following, China has taken new steps to slow plans that had been meant to loosen control over the financial system, adding to similar delaying moves since summer.

Some steps have the effect of keeping industries on life support. On Oct. 23, the central bank scrapped its cap on deposit rates. But it backed away from freeing interest rates from its control, as it was previously expected to do, saying it feared that might raise funding costs for businesses and consumers. Other steps seek to hold money in the domestic economy rather than letting it flow abroad. On Oct. 30, the central bank and other agencies dialed back on plans for Shanghai’s free-trade zone, a testing ground for financial overhauls, that would have let residents more easily buy foreign assets.Many measures China’s leaders have delayed since summer are ones that economists and some Chinese leaders have long said are needed to put the world’s second-largest economy on a sustainable growth path in coming years.

Read more …

Foreclosures. Throwing people out into the streets. Make them slaves.

Greece Told To Break Bailout Deadlock By Wednesday (Kath.)

A Euro Working Group held via teleconference on Sunday failed to result in an agreement between Greece and its lenders ahead of Monday’s Eurogroup. A high-ranking European official told Kathimerini’s Brussels correspondent Eleni Varvitsiotis said it was agreed that the two sides would try to settle the outstanding issues by Wednesday so that another Euro Working Group, possibly with officials meeting in person, could be held on Friday. During Sunday’s teleconference it was made clear to the Greek participants that Athens is already three weeks behind schedule, Kathimerini understands. The key stumbling block is primary residence foreclosures. Greece has put forward stricter criteria that protects 60% of homeowners, while suggesting that this is then gradually reduced over the next years. Greek officials will continue deliberating with their eurozone colleagues over the next hours in a bid to ensure that Monday’s Eurogroup does not end in a negative manner.

Read more …

“..driven by China’s battle against pollution, economic reforms and its efforts to promote renewable energy..” No, driven by deflation. By China’s economic slump.

Global Coal Consumption Heads for Biggest Decline in History (Bloomberg)

Coal consumption is poised for its biggest decline in history, driven by China’s battle against pollution, economic reforms and its efforts to promote renewable energy. Global use of the most polluting fuel fell 2.3% to 4.6% in the first nine months of 2015 from the same period last year, according to a report released Monday by the environmental group Greenpeace. That’s a decline of as much as 180 million tons of standard coal, 40 million tons more than Japan used in the same period. The report confirms that worldwide efforts to fight global warming are having a significant impact on the coal industry, the biggest source of carbon emissions. It comes a day before the International Energy Agency is scheduled to release its annual forecast detailing the ways the planet generates and uses electricity.

“These trends show that the so-called global coal boom in the first decade of the 21st century was a mirage,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace’s coal and energy campaigner. The decline in coal use will help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that are blamed for heating up the planet. To limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) – the level scientists say cannot be exceeded if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change – emissions from coal must fall 4% annually through 2040, Greenpeace said.

In China, responsible for about half of global coal demand, use in the power sector fell more than 4% in the first three quarters and imports declined 31%, according to the report. Since the end of 2013, the country’s electricity consumption growth has largely been covered by new renewable energy plants. “The coal industry likes to point to China adding a new coal-fired power plant every week as evidence that coal demand will pick up in the future, but the reality on the ground is rather different,” according to the report. “Capacity utilization of the plants has been plummeting. China is now adding one idle coal-fired power plant per week.”

Read more …

They can’t. Nobody can. Get that through to your skulls. It’s a demand issue. Deflation.

Saudi Arabia Will Not Stop Pumping To Boost Oil Prices (FT)

Saudi Arabia is determined to stick to its policy of pumping enough oil to protect its global market share, despite the financial pain inflicted on the kingdom’s economy. Officials have told the Financial Times that the world’s largest exporter will produce enough oil to meet customer demand, indicating that the kingdom is in no mood to change tack ahead of the December 4 meeting in Vienna of the producers’ cartel Opec. “The only thing to do now is to let the market do its job,” said Khalid al-Falih, chairman of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco). “There have been no conversations here that say we should cut production now that we’ve seen the pain.”

Saudi Arabia rocked oil markets last November when Opec decided against production cuts, making clear that the kingdom was abandoning its policy of reducing supplies to stabilize the price. Since then, the oil price has collapsed from a high of $115 a barrel last year to $50 a barrel. Global oil companies, which have put hundreds of billions of dollars of investment on hold as a result of low prices, will be disappointed by the Kingdom’s stance. The effect on business sentiment has sparked domestic criticism of the market share policy engineered by Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister, and agreed by both the late King Abdullah and the current King Salman, who was crown prince last year and ascended the throne in January.

Officials in Riyadh say their policy will be vindicated in one to two years when revived demand swallows the global oil glut and prices begin to recover. They argue that in the past, Opec output cuts raised prices to levels where more expensive production, such as shale and deep-sea oil, could flourish. Moving ahead, Opec – led by Saudi Arabia – plans to pump as much as it can towards meeting global oil demand, leaving higher-cost producers to make up the remainder. For higher-cost producers, “$100 oil was perceived as a guarantee of no risk for investment”, said Mr Falih. “Now, the insurance policy that’s been provided free of charge by Saudi Arabia does not exist any more.”

Read more …

Yeah, they can really see 5 years ahead over there. It’s something in the air.

Kuwait Sees Oil Glut of Up to Five Years (Bloomberg)

Oil markets will continue to be oversupplied for as long as five years as producers in the Middle East ramp up output, according to Mohammed Al-Shatti, Kuwait’s representative to OPEC. Iraq pumped a record 4.4 million barrels a day in June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Libyan output, which has declined by more than half due to conflict, can return “at any moment,” Al-Shatti said in an interview Saturday in Doha. Iran has the capacity to boost exports by 500,000 barrels a day within one week of sanctions being lifted and by 1 million a day within six months, Roknoddin Javadi, managing director of state-run National Iranian Oil Co., said last month.

“Lower prices will continue until the glut in the market ends,” Al-Shatti said. “Many countries are expected to increase production. Iranian crude is expected to return and that means an increase in production.” Demand isn’t expected to absorb the extra capacity and it will take shifts in supply to affect prices, he said. Al-Shatti said geopolitical disruptions or reduced future output because of the 30% fall in capital expenditure by oil companies could cause an increase.

Read more …

And these are just guesses.

Airpocalypse Now: China Pollution Reaching Record Levels (Guardian)

Residents of north-eastern China donned gas masks and locked themselves indoors on Sunday after their homes were enveloped by some of the worst levels of smog on record. Levels of PM2.5, a tiny airborne particulate linked to cancer and heart disease, soared in Liaoning province as northern China began burning coal to heat homes at the start of the winter. In Shenyang, Liaoning’s capital, visibility levels plummeted to as little as 100 metres, the state broadcaster CCTV said. China’s official news agency, Xinhua, published an apocalyptic gallery of images showing the country’s latest smog crisis alongside the headline: “Fairyland or doomsday?” In some areas of Shenyang, PM2.5 readings reportedly surpassed 1,400 micrograms per cubic metre, which is about 56 times the levels considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

“The air stings and makes my eyes and throat feel sore when I’m outdoors,” one woman, who had ventured out to buy a face mask, was quoted as saying. “As for what exactly we should do, I don’t know,” she added. By Monday afternoon there had been a slight improvement, although air quality remained at “hazardous” levels in Shenyang, an industrial city of about 8 million inhabitants. The Associated Press said Sunday’s smog represented one of the worst episodes of air pollution recorded in China since authorities began releasing air quality data in 2013. There was indignation on social media as China confronted its latest “airpocalypse”. “The government knows how severe the smog problem is, so why haven’t they tackled it?” one critic wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

“What’s the point of having an environmental protection department? The precondition for developing the economy is not damaging the environment. Our leaders are all well educated. Can’t they understand this simple truth?” Others reacted with resignation. “Other than reporting it, what can the government do?” Shenyang, a major industrial centre since the days of Mao Zedong, has been attempting to clean up its act in recent years by relocating factories and starting to use natural gas instead of coal to heat homes. But on Monday doctors in Shenyang were dealing with the consequences of the latest bout of toxic pollution to hit their city. Yang Shenjia, who works at the Liaoning Jinqiu Hospital, said there had been a sudden influx of patients suffering from breathing complaints over the past two days. “The respiratory department’s inpatient wards are full,” the doctor told Xinhua.

Read more …

Because nobody really keeps track.

The Unbearable Lightness Of Chinese Emissions Data (Reuters)

Precise data collection is a tricky business everywhere, as the Volkswagen scandal over discrepancies between the German auto company’s emissions claims and the real world performance of its engines has shown. But getting accurate emissions data is crucial for governments seeking a global climate accord in Paris this December. Negotiators say that, to succeed, any agreement must be built upon “measurable, reportable and verifiable” statistics in order to assess whether countries are on track to meet their emissions targets. And getting a better grasp of the right numbers is particularly crucial in the case of China, which is widely assumed to be the world’s largest carbon emitter. China’s energy use is so great that even minute errors in data can translate into a difference of millions of tonnes of emissions.

No one currently knows how many tonnes of carbon China emits each year. Its emissions are estimates based on how much raw energy is consumed, and calculations are derived from proxy data consisting mostly of energy consumption as well as industry, agriculture, land use changes and waste. Many outside observers view the accuracy of those figures with skepticism. “China’s contribution (to the global climate plan in Paris) is based on CO2 emissions but China doesn’t publish CO2 emissions,” said Glen Peters, senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. “You’re left in the wilderness, really.”

Demands for better data played a major role in the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen conference, when China and several developing nations balked at providing the rest of the world with detailed data, claiming it would be an intrusion on their sovereignty. The last time Beijing produced an official figure was in 2005, when it said its emissions stood at “approximately” 7.47 billion tonnes. And while it has promised that emissions will peak by 2030 at the latest, experts say the statistical uncertainty is so great that forecasts on what that peak means can vary from 11 to 20 billion tonnes a year. That margin is greater than the entire annual carbon footprint of Europe.

Read more …

Dotcom should sue to bankrupt the entire nation.

New Zealand To Reform Intelligence After Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom (NZH)

John Key has opened up the spy agencies to public scrutiny in a way which we have never seen in New Zealand. We know more now about what they do and even how they do it. We know how the two agencies are managed, in that the GCSB and NZSIS both have top-flight lawyers in charge. There will always be those who say we don’t know enough. For those people, we now have improved oversight of the agencies. This also happened under the Prime Minister’s watch as minister in charge of the agencies. The new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn – another superb lawyer – has been a breath of the freshest air. Mr Key has since stepped away from directly overseeing the agencies, which is a further liberation. It seems right that the most powerful weapons of state should sit with someone whose role is to objectively challenge his Cabinet colleagues.

Now, even at a ministerial level, the SIS and GCSB answer to a lawyer, this time Attorney General Chris Finlayson. In terms of oversight and public disclosure, we are heading into an era unparalleled in our history. Citizens now have more ability to see and have explained the tasks done in their name. Again, it might not be enough but it is considerably more than we have had before. That’s where we have come to, three years after Mr Key had to admit Kim Dotcom and one of his co-accused had been illegally spied on by the GCSB. He also had to apologise – a concession which must have been galling. That single event appears to be the point at which the Prime Minister stopped taking at face value the assurances given by the intelligence agencies, and began a programme for reformation which is huge in its scale and largely behind closed doors.

For all the comparative openness, it is unlikely the public will ever know the truth about how far adrift our intelligence agencies wandered. As a broad indication, consider the fact that respected senior lawyers with strong state experience now sit at all significant levels of the intelligence community. When you’re unsure about the law, you need lawyers. But there have also been reports which paint a picture of the state of New Zealand’s intelligence services, past and present. None are individually explicit in their descriptions of how bad it was but the collective run of reports gives an impression of the intelligence community as an isolated part of government, lost to the public they were serving, changing purpose and shape under a cloak of secrecy.

Read more …

Ha ha! There’s Herr Schäuble again. Been a while. Always good for laugh. At the expense of others.

German Disagreement Over Tighter Asylum Rules (Bloomberg)

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel were at odds over stricter asylum rules for some applicants from Syria, just days after Chancellor Angela Merkel defused a rebellion in her ruling coalition against her open-door refugee policy. Speaking on German ARD public television on Sunday, Schaeuble and Gabriel disagreed over a proposal by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to grant refugees from Syria who aren’t individually persecuted a limited asylum status that restricts family reunions in Germany. “Family reunions can and must be restricted for people who are granted subsidiary protection, and that’s the large majority,” Schaeuble said. “This is a necessary decision and I’m very much in favor that we find agreement on this in the coalition quickly.”

De Maiziere cast doubt on a lasting compromise in the coalition over the weekend, telling N-TV television that the government should consider granting some Syrians only temporary asylum and limiting family reunions. Merkel earlier extracted a compromise from her coalition partners to set up migrant processing centers in Germany, in which the Social Democratic Party, led by Gabriel, prevailed. “Every time we reach an agreement, shortly thereafter there’s a new proposal that wasn’t on the table before,” Gabriel said on ARD, adding his party can’t agree to a proposal that wasn’t previously discussed in the coalition. “That leads to a situation in which Germans get the impression that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in the government.”

As many as 1 million people are expected to seek shelter in Germany from war and poverty in their homelands. Merkel, while having pledged to do everything to stem the flow, has ruled out closing borders or placing upper limits on the numbers who qualify for asylum. A European Union report last week said the influx could boost Germany’s economy by 0.1 percentage point this year and 0.4 point in 2016. Schaeuble and Gabriel agreed the EU needs to regain control over its borders and set quotas for refugees who would then be distributed among the bloc’s members. “We are close to the limit of our capabilities,” Schaeuble said. As long as there’s no coordinated distribution within Europe, “we must send the message to the countries where the refugees are coming from that they shouldn’t be misled, that not everyone can come.”

Read more …

Nov 042015
 
 November 4, 2015  Posted by at 10:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Lesvos town hall mourns the dead Nov 4 2015

China’s Slump Might Be Much Worse Than We Thought (Bloomberg)
China Burns Much More Coal Than Reported (NY Times)
Investors Are Way More Scared of China Than of Janet Yellen (Bloomberg)
Corporate Debt in China: Above Cruising Altitude (CEW)
A 127-Year-Old US Industry Collapses Under China’s Weight (Bloomberg)
Xi Says China Needs at Least 6.5% Growth in Next Five Years (Bloomberg)
China’s Xi Says 6.5% Annual Growth Enough To Meet Goals: Xinhua (AFP)
China’s Money Exodus (Bloomberg)
Standard Chartered’s Bad Loans Reveal Cracks in Asian Economies (Bloomberg)
VW Admission Suggests Cheats Went Much Further Than Diesel Emissions (Guardian)
VW Emissions Issues Spread to Gasoline Cars (Bloomberg)
VW Says Fuel Usage Understated On Some Models; Porsche Warns (Reuters)
Hugh Hendry: “Today We Would Advise You That You Don’t Panic!” (Zero Hedge)
Hugh Hendry Says “Don’t Panic”; Paul Singer Says You May Want To (Zero Hedge)
Europe’s Biggest Banks Are Cutting 30,000 Jobs, More To Come (Bloomberg)
Wall Street/Washington Revolving Door More Dangerous Than Ever: Prins (Yahoo)
Gathering Financial Storm Just One Effect Of Corporate Power Unbound (Monbiot)
Merkel Warns Of Balkans Military Conflicts Amid Migrant Influx (AFP)
European Union States Have Relocated Just 116 Refugees Out Of 160,000 (Guardian)
Greek Coast Guard Says 5 Refugees Die In Boat Accident Tuesday Night (AP)

As I’ve said a thousand times now.

China’s Slump Might Be Much Worse Than We Thought (Bloomberg)

The unreliability of Chinese official economic data has become almost a cliche. A few years before he became China’s premier, Li Keqiang said that the country’s numbers were “man-made” and “for reference only.” If the top economic policy maker of a country says that the numbers aren’t reliable … well, you believe him. But how unreliable? [..] Economic number-fudging is a cheap way to prevent jittery investors from making a stampede for the exits. Of course, knowing this, a number of people have tried to estimate China’s true growth rate. Tom Orlik, Bloomberg’s chief Asia economist, recently rounded up a number of independent figures, and collected them in the following chart:

The numbers range from Lombard Street’s pessimistic figure of a bit more than 3% to Bloomberg Intelligence’s optimistic number of just under 7%. In other words, there is a wide band of uncertainty here. But I would like to suggest a scenario even more pessimistic than the lowest of the numbers above. After reading reports by Peking University professor Chris Balding on the state of China’s financial sector, I think there’s a possibility that China’s growth is lower even than 3%. Chinese electricity usage is growing at more like 1%. Rail freight traffic, though volatile, has suffered some dizzying drops in recent months. These are traditional proxies for heavy industry output. That they are barely growing, if at all, implies that much of Chinese industry has ground to a halt.

China bulls, of course, will argue that the country is merely in the middle of a transition from industry to services, and from wasteful power usage to greater efficiency. That is probably true. But the speed of the transition would have to be incredible to make up for the precipitate drop in industrial activity. Why would China’s service sector and energy efficiency suddenly skyrocket immediately following the bursting of a major stock bubble? One reason is government spending. A stealth stimulus is underway. But another big part of the equation is the financial sector, which has logged stunning growth in recent months despite the stock crash. Why are Chinese financial services growing? Loan growth alone will not do the trick – banks need to be paid in order to log revenue. Or do they? Chris Balding reports:

“[S]ome Chinese researchers…compared the loan payments made by firms to the amount owed to banks…[Their findings imply] that Chinese firms are paying only half the financial costs they should be paying…The amount of revenue that banks are recording from loans is nearly four times the cost firms are associating with those loans…[B]ank revenue [has been] outpacing firm financial cost growth by a factor of almost four.” In other words, the amount of loan payments Chinese banks say they are receiving is a whole lot more than the amount Chinese borrowers say they are paying. If Balding’s numbers are to be believed – and of course, they are only one glimpse into a murky financial system – a large portion of the recent growth surge of China’s financial services sector may simply be fake.

Read more …

Rounding error: “.. the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70% of the total coal used annually by the United States.”

China Burns Much More Coal Than Reported (NY Times)

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, is burning far more annually than previously thought, according to new government data. The finding could vastly complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming. Even for a country of China’s size and opacity, the scale of the correction is immense. China has been consuming as much as 17% more coal each year than reported, according to the new government figures. By some initial estimates, that could translate to almost a billion more tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere annually in recent years, more than all of Germany emits from fossil fuels. Officials from around the world will have to come to grips with the new figures when they gather in Paris this month to negotiate an international framework for curtailing greenhouse-gas pollution.

The data also pose a challenge for scientists who are trying to reduce China’s smog, which often bathes whole regions in acrid, unhealthy haze. The Chinese government has promised to halt the growth of its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse pollutant from coal and other fossil fuels, by 2030. The new data suggest that the task of meeting that deadline by reducing China’s dependence on coal will be more daunting and urgent than expected, said Yang Fuqiang, a former energy official in China who now advises the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This will have a big impact, because China has been burning so much more coal than we believed,” Mr. Yang said. “It turns out that it was an even bigger emitter than we imagined.

This helps to explain why China’s air quality is so poor, and that will make it easier to get national leaders to take this seriously.” The adjusted data, which appeared recently in an energy statistics yearbook published without fanfare by China’s statistical agency, show that coal consumption has been underestimated since 2000, and particularly in recent years. The revisions were based on a census of the economy in 2013 that exposed gaps in data collection, especially from small companies and factories. Illustrating the scale of the revision, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70% of the total coal used annually by the United States.

Read more …

“..concern over growth in China and the rest of the developing world coincided with a rise in the share of investors who think deflation is a larger risk to the markets than inflation.”

Investors Are Way More Scared of China Than of Janet Yellen (Bloomberg)

China—not the prospect of the first rate hike from the Federal Reserve in almost a decade—is what keeps investors up at night. Barclays surveyed 651 of its clients around the world to glean their biggest fears, as well as their thoughts on commodities, yields, currencies, and other questions about the market outlook. “Only 7% sees Fed normalization as the main risk for markets over the next 12 months, compared with 36% whose main worry is China,” said Guillermo Felices, head of European asset allocation. The share of investors who judged softness in China and other developing economies to be the biggest risk to markets spiked in the third quarter, the period in which Beijing unexpectedly moved to devalue the yuan. The elevation in concern over growth in China and the rest of the developing world coincided with a rise in the share of investors who think deflation is a larger risk to the markets than inflation.

China’s devaluation sparked similar moves from other nations that had pegged their currencies to the greenback. All else being equal, this process engenders a stronger U.S. dollar and weaker commodity prices, thereby exerting downward pressure on headline inflation rates. As such, investors’ reactions to the Fed’s Oct. 28 statement, which resulted in an increase in the implied odds of a December rate hike, may not fully be reflected in its results. Nonetheless, roughly 40% of those surveyed indicated that they expected the Fed to initiate its tightening phase before the year was out. A plurality of respondents think liftoff will be a negative for risk assets, though only for a short period. “Indeed, the risk of Fed policy withdrawal is at a two-year low, suggesting complacency about the threat of higher rates,” warned Felices.

Read more …

Pon Zi.

Corporate Debt in China: Above Cruising Altitude (CEW)

By far the most worrying debt in China is held by the corporate sector. Total borrowing by the nonfinancial sector shows that the total debt-to-GDP ratio has reached 240% of GDP as of the first quarter of 2015. The corporate debt-to-GDP ratio was 160% of GDP, or $16.7 trillion as of the first quarter of 2015, and total corporate liabilities up to 200% of GDP when including corporate debt securities (bonds). For some perspective, the corporate debt-to-GDP ratio in the United States is 70%, less than half that of China’s. China’s economy has seen some cyclical scares this year (think stock market and currency), but high corporate debt is a structural issue, potentially leading to a period of slower expansion of credit in an effort to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio weighing on rapid growth.

Corporate debt has risen faster than expected. As noted in an earlier blog post, in 2013, Standard & Poor’s predicted that China’s corporate debt would be between 136 and 150% of GDP by 2017. This year Standard & Poor’s said China’s corporate debt has already reached 160% of GDP, a figure in line with data from the Bank of International Settlements. Yu Yongding, a senior fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), has calculated that without any fundamental change in the current situation, the corporate debt-to-GDP ratio will reach 200% by 2020. Increased borrowing by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has contributed significantly to this rise, and SOEs account for around half of all the corporate debt in China. But problematically, SOEs have a much lower return on assets than private firms, as low as one-third.

Which begs the question: If a large SOE is unable to pay its interest payments, what will the government do? Will it take control of the debt, and will the debt therefore be counted as government rather than corporate debt? This would do nothing to the overall credit-to-GDP ratio but may cause moral hazard. Besides corporate debt from bank loans, China has seen dramatic growth of the corporate bond market. Overall this growth is seen as a positive move, as it means the firms are either refinancing old loans with bonds at lower yields or simply expanding their balance sheets using the bond market rather than bank loans. Also helpful is that the majority of corporate bonds in China are in renminbi, protecting them from foreign exchange fluctuations. The IMF reports that total bond issuance in China in 2014 was over $600 billion.

Real estate, construction, mining, and energy production have been leading the increase in leverage. These cyclical sectors loaded up on credit after the 2008 financial crisis and have some of the most highly leveraged firms in China. The rise in corporate debt in China is one of the most pressing issues for future growth. A drop in corporate revenue could prompt a number of defaults, lowering overall economic growth and reducing revenue further—a vicious cycle. Potential headwinds include normalizing interest rates in the United States, decreasing capital efficiency, disinflation, or a property market slowdown. Moreover, banks lend about half of their loans to corporations, so a rise in corporate defaults could have broader banking implications, including liquidity concerns and nonperforming loans.

Read more …

“If prices don’t recover, the researcher predicts almost all U.S. smelting plants will close by next year..”

A 127-Year-Old US Industry Collapses Under China’s Weight (Bloomberg)

Alcoa’s latest aluminum-making cutback is signaling the end of the iconic American industry. For 127 years, the New York-based company has been churning out the lightweight metal used in everything from beverage cans to airplanes, once making it a symbol of U.S. industrial might. Now, with prices languishing near six-year lows, it’s wiping out almost a third of domestic operating capacity, Harbor Intelligence estimates. If prices don’t recover, the researcher predicts almost all U.S. smelting plants will close by next year. While that’s a big deal for the U.S. industry and the people it employs, it doesn’t mean much for global supplies. Alcoa’s decision to eliminate 503,000 metric tons of smelting capacity accounts for about 31% of the U.S. total for primary aluminum, but less than 1% of the global total, according to Harbor.

For more than a decade, output has been moving to where it’s cheaper to produce: Russia, the Middle East and China. A global glut has driven prices down by 27% in the past year, rendering American operations unprofitable and accelerating the pace of the industry’s demise. “You’ve seen a fair clip of closures in the U.S., that is just unfortunate, but a development that’s very difficult to change,” Michael Widmer at Bank of America said. “It means you’ll just have to purchase from somewhere else.” That’s exactly what Jay Armstrong, the president of Trialco is doing. The company, which turns aluminum into finished manufactured products, now buys about 80% of the supplies it turns into car wheels from overseas. That’s up from 40% five years ago, he said. “It’s not the kind of business where we’re going to pay more and buy all American,” Armstrong said in a telephone interview. “It’s too competitive a business to do that.”

Read more …

Not.Going.To.Happen. So what then?

Xi Says China Needs at Least 6.5% Growth in Next Five Years (Bloomberg)

China’s president signaled policy makers will accept slower growth, but not much slower, as details of a blueprint set to define his term as leader were released Tuesday. Annual growth should be no less than 6.5% in the next five years to realize the goal to double 2010 gross domestic product and per capita income by 2020, President Xi Jinping said Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The 13th five-year plan, details of which were announced Tuesday, is the first to confront an era of sub-7% economic growth since Deng Xiaoping opened the nation to the outside world in the late 1970s. “Policy makers still want to maintain a high growth pace, while the policy expectation is tuned slightly lower,” said Tao Dong at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong.

“The stance of policy makers is to gradually transform to a ’new normal.’ But to maintain the peoples’ confidence, the bar is set relatively high.” China will seek to increase the yuan’s convertibility in an orderly manner by 2020 and change the way it manages currency policy, according to the Communist Party’s plan. Authorities will opt for a “negative list” foreign-exchange system – an approach that lets companies do anything that’s not specifically banned – and open the finance industry as it promotes the yuan’s inclusion in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights basket, Xinhua reported. The proposals coincide with heightened anxiety over China’s economic outlook following a stock market slump and a surprise yuan devaluation in August that roiled global markets.

China will target medium- to high-speed growth during the period, and officials pledged to reduce the income gap, further open up to overseas investment and boost consumption, according to the draft. Officials said they will accelerate financial system reform and promote transparent and healthy capital markets while also overhauling stock and bond sales. They’ll continue reforms of the fiscal and tax systems and transfer some state capital to pension funds. [..] Xi’s growth baseline matches guidance provided by Premier Li Keqiang, who said Sunday that China needs average growth of more than 6.5% in the next five years to meet the goal of achieving a “moderately prosperous” society by 2020. Xi and Li are managing the priorities of both reforming the economy and keeping short-term growth fast enough so that structural changes don’t cause a hard landing.

Read more …

“..Xinhua cited Xi as saying that annual growth should be no less than 6.5% in the next five years to achieve the Communist Party’s aim of doubling GDP per capita from 2010 by the end of the decade..”

China’s Xi Says 6.5% Annual Growth Enough To Meet Goals: Xinhua (AFP)

Growth of only 6.5% a year in 2016-2020 will be enough for China to meet its wealth goals, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday according to the official news agency Xinhua. The report came as the ruling Communist party issued guidelines for the next five-year plan for the world’s second-largest economy, whose slowing growth has alarmed investors worldwide. The first documents released by the leadership conclave did not include a numerical growth target. But Xinhua cited Xi as saying that annual growth should be no less than 6.5% in the next five years to achieve the Communist Party’s aim of doubling GDP per capita from 2010 by the end of the decade. It said he made the remarks in a speech, without giving direct quotes. The doubling target is part of achieving what China’s ruling party calls a “moderately prosperous society” in time for the 100th anniversary of its foundation.

The comments are the clearest indication yet that Beijing will reduce its target growth rate from the current “around 7%”, after expansion slowed last quarter to its lowest in six years. Some economists say that the current figure is unattainable going forwards, and that trying to do so risks derailing painful but necessary markets reforms. The country has faced economic turbulence in recent months as it attempts to transition its economy from years of super-charged growth to a more modest pace it has dubbed the “new normal”. Botched stock market interventions and a sudden currency devaluation have rattled confidence in the country’s leadership, which has staked its legitimacy on maintaining an aura of economic infallibility.

Read more …

“..during the three weeks in August after China devalued its currency, Goldman Sachs calculated that another $200 billion may have left.”

China’s Money Exodus (Bloomberg)

The ranks of China’s wealthy continue to surge. As their economy shows signs of weakness at home, they’re sending money overseas at unprecedented levels to seek safer investments — often in violation of currency controls meant to keep money inside China. This flood of cash is being felt around the world, driving up real estate prices in Sydney, New York, Hong Kong and Vancouver. The Chinese spent almost $30 billion on U.S. homes in the year ending last March, making them the biggest foreign buyers of real estate. Their average purchase price: about $832,000. Same trend in Sydney, where Chinese investors snap up a quarter of new homes and are forecast to double their spending by the end of the decade. In Vancouver, the Chinese have helped real estate prices double in the past 10 years.

In Hong Kong, housing prices are up 60% since 2010. In total, UBS Group estimated that $324 billion moved out last year. While this year’s numbers aren’t yet in, during the three weeks in August after China devalued its currency, Goldman Sachs calculated that another $200 billion may have left. So how do these volumes of cash get out when Chinese are limited by rules that allow them to convert only $50,000 per person a year? The methods include China’s underground banks, transfers using Hong Kong money changers, carrying cash over borders and pooling the quotas of family and friends – a practice known as “smurfing.” The transfers exist in a gray area of cross-border legality: What’s perfectly legitimate in another country can contravene the law in China.

“It’s not legal for people to use secret channels to move money abroad, because this is smuggling,” says Xi Junyang, a finance professor at Shanghai University of Finance & Economics. “But the government has kept a laissez-faire attitude until recently.” Now, policy makers are starting to take the outflow seriously. While it’s not about to run out of money, China has intensified a crackdown on underground banks that illegally channel cash abroad. It’s also trying to capture officials suspected of fleeing overseas with government funds. Longer term, China has pledged to remove its currency controls and make the yuan fully convertible by 2020.

Read more …

There’s so much more of this in the pipeline.

Standard Chartered’s Bad Loans Reveal Cracks in Asian Economies (Bloomberg)

As China’s growth sputters, the troubles at Standard Chartered are another bad omen for what were once Asian economic darlings. The bank, which generates most of its income in the region, had gambled on success in emerging markets such as India, which instead saddled the lender with delinquent loans. As a result, the company which opened its offices in Mumbai under Queen Victoria is now axing 15,000 jobs and is asking investors for $5.1 billion. “Standard Chartered are Asian specialists and are in all the main markets in the region, so in looking at them you can get a good sense for credit direction and lending appetite,” said Mark Holman at TwentyFour Asset Management. For now, Asia still has fewer corporate debt defaults than other developing countries, but rising leverage from India to Indonesia point to the risk of further nonpayments.

More stringent conditions from banks like Standard Chartered are slowing loan growth in the region, exposing more fissures in the corporate credit market. “The picture that emerges is that Asian credit cycles are far more advanced than those in Europe and loan losses and impairment charges are mounting,” Holman said. Like other developing nations, Asian companies took advantage of low interest rates overseas to go on a borrowing binge. The move is backfiring as slower economic growth makes it more difficult to pay back the obligations. Fitch Ratings warned on Nov. 2 that 11% of India’s loans will fall into the category of “stressed assets” in the fiscal year ending in March 2016 and only improve “marginally” the next year. In China, Sinosteel, a state-owned steelmaker, missed an interest payment last month, becoming the latest firm that teeters on the verge of default.

Read more …

It’s still only about money: “VW said it estimated the “economic risks” of the latest discovery at €2 billion..”

VW Admission Suggests Cheats Went Much Further Than Diesel Emissions (Guardian)

The crisis at Volkswagen has deepened after the carmaker found “irregularities” in the carbon dioxide levels emitted by 800,000 of its cars. An internal investigation into the diesel emissions scandal has discovered that CO2 and fuel consumption were also “set too low during the CO2 certification process”, the company admitted on Tuesday night. The dramatic admission raises the prospect that VW not only cheated on diesel emissions tests but CO2 and fuel consumption too. VW said it estimated the “economic risks” of the latest discovery at €2bn (£1.42bn). The company said the “majority” of cars involved have a diesel engine, which implies that petrol cars are involved in the scandal for the first time.

Matthias Müller, chief executive of VW, said: “From the very start I have pushed hard for the relentless and comprehensive clarification of events. We will stop at nothing and nobody. This is a painful process, but it is our only alternative. For us, the only thing that counts is the truth. That is the basis for the fundamental realignment that Volkswagen needs.” VW said it will now work with the authorities to clarify what took place during the CO2 tests and “ensure the correct CO2 classification for the vehicles affected”. Müller added: “The board of management of Volkswagen AG deeply regrets this situation and wishes to underscore its determination to systematically continue along the present path of clarification and transparency.”

VW has already admitted fitting a defeat device to 11m vehicles worldwide that allowed them to cheat tests for emissions of nitrogen oxides. The carmaker has put aside €6.7bn to meet the cost of recalling the 11m vehicles, but also faces the threat of fines and legal action from shareholders and customers. The company has hired the accountancy firm Deloitte and the law firm Jones Day to investigate who fitted the device into its vehicles. It is understood that the carmaker believes a group of between 10 and 20 employees were at the heart of the scandal.

Read more …

“VW is leaving us all speechless..”

VW Emissions Issues Spread to Gasoline Cars (Bloomberg)

Volkswagen said it found faulty emissions readings for the first time in gasoline-powered vehicles, widening a scandal that so far had centered on diesel engines. Separately, the company’s Porsche unit said it’s halting North American sales of a model criticized by U.S. regulators. Volkswagen said an internal probe showed 800,000 cars had “unexplained inconsistencies” concerning their carbon-dioxide output. Previously, the automaker estimated it would need to recall 11 million vehicles worldwide — more than Volkswagen sold last year. It was unclear how much overlap there was between the two tallies. The company said the new finding could add at least €2 billion to the €6.7 billion already set aside for fixes to the affected vehicles but not litigation, fines or customer compensation.

The crisis that emerged after Volkswagen admitted in September to cheating U.S. pollution tests for years with illegal software has shaved more than one-third of the company’s stock price and led to a leadership change. Today’s revelation adds to the pressure on Volkswagen’s new chief executive officer, Matthias Mueller, who replaced Martin Winterkorn and was previously head of Porsche. Volkswagen’s supervisory board said it will meet soon to discuss further measures and consequences. “VW is leaving us all speechless,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst with Evercore ISI. [..] The 3.0-liter diesel motors targeted on Monday by a U.S. Environmental Protect Agency probe aren’t part of the latest finding. The company rejected allegations that its cheating on diesel-emissions tests included Porsche and other high-end vehicles.

The EPA said its new investigation centers on the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg sport utility vehicles and as well as larger sedans and the Q5 SUV from Audi. But then late Tuesday, Porsche’s North American division said it would voluntarily discontinue sales of diesel-powered Cayennes from model years 2014 to 2016 until further notice. The Atlanta-based unit’s statement reiterated that the EPA notice was unexpected and that owners can operate their vehicles normally. “We are working intensively to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” Porsche said in the statement.

Read more …

Porsche is worried about ‘its results’. It should rethink that one.

VW Says Fuel Usage Understated On Some Models; Porsche Warns (Reuters)

Volkswagen on Tuesday said it had understated the fuel consumption of 800,000 cars sold in Europe, while majority stakeholder Porsche Automobil Holding warned that VW’s latest findings could further weigh on its results. The latest revelation about fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions, which Germany’s largest automaker said represented a roughly €2 billion economic risk, deepened the crisis at VW. The scandal initially centered on software on up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide that VW admitted vastly understated their actual emissions of smog-causing pollutant nitrogen oxide. U.S. environmental regulators said on Monday that similar “defeat devices” were installed on larger 3.0 liter engines used in luxury sport utility vehicles from Porsche and Audi, although VW has denied those allegations.

Porsche’s North American unit said it was discontinuing sales of Porsche Cayenne diesel sport utility vehicles until further notice, citing the allegations. The latest findings that VW understated fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, areas which U.S. regulators have yet to address, were disclosed as VW continues a broad review of its handling of all pollution-related issues. While the findings mostly apply to smaller diesel engines, one gasoline-powered engine is also affected. “VW is leaving us all speechless,” said Arndt Ellinghorst of banking advisory firm Evercore ISI. “It seems to us that this is another issue triggered by VW’s internal investigation and potentially related to Europe.” The carmaker said it would immediately start talking to “responsible authorities” about what to do about the latest findings.

Read more …

Will Hugh be the greater fool?

Hugh Hendry: “Today We Would Advise You That You Don’t Panic!” (Zero Hedge)

In his latest letter, he valiantly trudges on down the path of bullish abandon and tries to convince if not so much others as himself why continuing his desertion of the bearish camp he did two years ago is the right thing to do, and how in the aftermath of the VIX explosion in August, he “learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.” Key highlights:

… it is ironic that we are perhaps best known for advising “that you panic”. However, if you are anxious at the wrong time it can prove very painful. Today, we would advise that you don’t panic!

… by withdrawing the “Greenspan put” and using their asset purchase schemes to eviscerate any notion of value, the authorities have paradoxically created a safer yet more paranoid market.

… first it was Europe, then the high yield credit space with the vulnerabilities of the shale oil issuers, and then it was back to Greece and then the mother of them all, China, with its falling property and stock prices seemingly knocking economic growth and making a sizeable devaluation inevitable. And yet nada… the weeping prophets have failed to force a crisis after one hell of a go.

… perhaps we are being premature and the cards are about to fall. Or perhaps there simply are no dead bodies in the system and the global economy has proven itself much more resilient to shocks. We certainly believe that if we had been forewarned two years ago that the dollar would rise versus selected EM currencies by 50% and that important commodities such as oil and iron ore would fall by 50% we would never have been able to predict just how orderly things have turned out at both the company and sovereign level. The turmoil it seems has remained contained within financial markets in a very curious way.

… perhaps it’s time to stop worrying and love the bomb?

Actually at last check, practically all the “bears” predicted exactly what happened: trapped by their own policies, central banks would have no choice than to unleash another onslaught of easing. This is precisely what happened when first the ECB previewed its QE2, then the PBOC cut rates, then Sweden boosted QE, then the BOJ said it would “not hesitate” to act (and would have done so had other central banks not pushed the Yen lower thanks to its carry trade status). The real question, Hugh, is how much time did the latest doubling down by the world’s central banks buy? We should know the answer in 2-4 months.

Read more …

“What policymakers will do, in all likelihood, is hope and pray, and when that fails, they will likely double down on monetary extremism. ”

Hugh Hendry Says “Don’t Panic”; Paul Singer Says You May Want To (Zero Hedge)

Businesspeople in today’s world are either concerned, actively sweating or oblivious to the rumblings and dangers around them. We recommend that both investors and businesspeople be highly alert to the implications of populism, the increasing concentration of power into the hands of unaccountable elites and the dissipation of the rule-of-law protections of liberty. It is very odd and dangerous that governments, satisfied with policies which, by raising asset prices (stocks, bonds, real estate, high-end art), are seemingly designed to make the rich richer, nevertheless simultaneously excoriate inequality as the cause of slow growth and societal disquiet. It is also strange that policymakers are not concerned by the obvious failure of monetary extremism to achieve the predicted levels of growth, or by the risks that may exist either in the continuation of the monetary experiment or in its ultimate unwinding.

Policymakers who are sticking with the failed policy mix have invented creative explanations for why growth has been so bad for such a long a period of time. The most prevalent (and tautological) of these explanations is “secular stagnation,” a theory that the developed world simply cannot grow faster due to ageing populations, growth-destructive technologies and competition from cheap labor around the world. We disagree with this theory, and assert that it can be examined for validity only after a full range of first-line “fiscal” policies (as we have defined them) has been put firmly and comprehensively in place. In contrast to the “secular stagnationistas,” we believe that there is a great deal of low-hanging fruit (that is, far higher rates of growth in incomes, jobs and national wealth) to be had from simple changes in leadership and policies.

The question of the day is: What will be the policy response of the developed world toward the currently deteriorating (at least in EMs and China) conditions, and the policy response if the deterioration spreads to Europe and the U.S.? If we know anything about the policy decision-making landscape in developed countries, it is that policymakers are all on super-keen-alert for signs of deflation (which they basically equate with credit collapse — a false and misleading connection, but that is a topic for another day). They will not remain passive in the face of a renewed global recession and/or financial crisis. So what will they do next, and how will it affect global markets? We can be reasonably certain that policymakers will not leap into action on the fiscal measures that we have described as the front-line policies needed to meaningfully quicken economic growth. Try to imagine more flexible and business-friendly tax, regulatory and labor policies being enacted by current political leadership in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

Sorry, our imaginations — never inert — just can’t get there. What policymakers will do, in all likelihood, is hope and pray, and when that fails, they will likely double down on monetary extremism. This landscape is essentially baked, unless you think that sometime in the near future the global economy will turn higher, either on its own or in anticipation of such policy measures in the future. To many policymakers today, jawboning seems like a magic button, since markets often create the desired result in anticipation of possible future actions. Consequently, governments may be able to get a particular outcome without requiring the central bankers to actually take any action.

Read more …

This is nothing yet. Wait till next year’s pring cleaning.

Europe’s Biggest Banks Are Cutting 30,000 Jobs, More To Come (Bloomberg)

Standard Chartered became the third European bank in less than two weeks to announce sweeping job cuts, bringing the total planned reductions to more than 30,000, or almost one in seven positions. The London-based firm said Tuesday it will eliminate 15,000 jobs, or 17% of its workforce, as soaring bad loans in emerging markets hurt earnings. Deutsche Bank last week announced plans for 11,000 job cuts, while Credit Suisse said it would trim as many as 5,600 employees. The three firms, which all named new chief executive officers this year, are undertaking the deepest overhauls since the financial crisis as stricter capital rules erode profitability. Standard Chartered and Credit Suisse will tap shareholders for funds, while Deutsche Bank scrapped its dividend for this year and next to conserve capital.

“It’s just further evidence that Europe’s banks didn’t adapt quickly enough to the post-crisis world and are now playing catch up,” said Christopher Wheeler at Atlantic Equities in London. More bloodletting may be on the way. UniCredit is considering as many as 12,000 job cuts as it seeks to improve profit and capital levels, people with knowledge of the discussions said last week. The numbers, which are still under review, increased from 10,000 a month ago and may change depending on the outcome of asset sales. The largest Italian bank reports earnings next week. Including jobs lost through asset sales, John Cryan, Deutsche Bank’s co-CEO since July, intends to eliminate 26,000 employees, or a quarter of the workforce, by 2018. Tidjane Thiam, Credit Suisse’s new CEO, will shed jobs in the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland.

Read more …

“..the big six banks in this country control 97% of all trading assets in the U.S. and 93% of all derivatives.”

Wall Street/Washington Revolving Door More Dangerous Than Ever: Prins (Yahoo)

What are the consequences of regulators leaving government work to join the financial services industry, and vice versa? Nomi Prins, a Senior Fellow at Demos, chronicles the problems of the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street in her latest book “All the Presidents’ Bankers.” “The difference is that now people know each other less in their personal lives before they make those transitions,” she says. “Now it’s a little more like ‘I know you from the industry of Wall Street and Washington’ as opposed to ‘We hung out and our dads smoked cigars together.’ Prins notes that there was more personal accountability in the relationships between Wall Street and Washington during the mid-20th century.

She points out that before the crash of 1929, the Morgan bank (predecessor of J.P. Morgan) had strong connections with Presidents Coolidge and Hoover. Yet, a shift in the relationships occurred during the Great Depression. “There was this accountability moment where the bankers that ascended to run these banks, to run Chase, to run Citibank & they wanted economic stability throughout the country,” she says. “They actually thought [stability] was important for confidence in the banking system & people would actually keep their money there and trust that they had a future with this bank, so the relationships with individuals and corporations and countries all mattered.” Prins says that the modern-day deterioration of the bank-customer relationship is a direct result of the growing size and risk profiles of bank behemoths.

“The banks are so big right now [and] they have access to so much of apercentage of the deposits of individuals, she says. “The leverage is so much higher on the back of those deposits, the bailouts that have happened for numerous reasons in the past 25 years have all been an indication that is okay to take more reckless bets.” And while the idea of banks being “too big to fail” caused widespread Main Street anger towards Wall Street, Prins believes the policy of government bailouts will continue post-Financial Crisis as banking has become more concentrated. She noted that the big six banks (J.P. Morgan, Citi, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo) in this country control 97% of all trading assets in the U.S. and 93% of all derivatives.

Prins also added that the anti-banking rhetoric of many U.S. Presidents (remember President Obama’s Wall Street “fat cats”?) has a long history, but one that is at odds with actual policy. It goes all the way back to Woodrow Wilson and the creation of the Federal Reserve, she said. “In practice Woodrow Wilson was behind the creation of the Fed, which we know now has substantiated a lot of Wall Street losses, has a $4.5 trillion book. It’s the largest hedge fund in the world right now…But [Dodd Frank] hasn’t fundamentally changed the concentration of power. The revolving door…influences the risk inherent to what’s going on on Wall Street. It hasn’t made the economy more stable with respect to the banking industry, which is an industry that infiltrates every aspect of our individual and political lives.

Read more …

“..to force nations to accept new financial products and services, to approve the privatisation of public services and to reduce the standards of care and provision.”

Gathering Financial Storm Just One Effect Of Corporate Power Unbound (Monbiot)

What have governments learned from the financial crisis? I could write a column spelling it out. Or I could do the same job with one word: nothing. Actually, that’s too generous. The lessons learned are counter-lessons, anti-knowledge, new policies that could scarcely be better designed to ensure the crisis recurs, this time with added momentum and fewer remedies. And the financial crisis is just one of the multiple crises – in tax collection, public spending, public health and, above all, ecology – that the same counter-lessons accelerate. Step back a pace and you see that all these crises arise from the same cause. Players with huge power and global reach are released from democratic restraint. This happens because of a fundamental corruption at the core of politics.

In almost every nation the interests of economic elites tend to weigh more heavily with governments than do those of the electorate. Banks, corporations and landowners wield an unaccountable power, which works with a nod and a wink within the political class. Global governance is beginning to look like a never-ending Bilderberg meeting. As a paper by the law professor Joel Bakan in the Cornell International Law Journal argues, two dire shifts have been happening simultaneously. On one hand governments have been removing laws that restrict banks and corporations, arguing that globalisation makes states weak and effective legislation impossible. Instead, they say, we should trust those who wield economic power to regulate themselves.

On the other hand, the same governments devise draconian new laws to reinforce elite power. Corporations are given the rights of legal persons. Their property rights are enhanced. Those who protest against them are subject to policing and surveillance – the kind that’s more appropriate to dictatorships than democracies. Oh, state power still exists all right – when it’s wanted. Many of you will have heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These are supposed to be trade treaties, but they have little to do with trade, and much to do with power. Theyenhance the power of corporations while reducing the power of parliaments and the rule of law. They could scarcely be better designed to exacerbate and universalise our multiple crises – financial, social and environmental.

But something even worse is coming, the result of negotiations conducted, once more, in secret: a Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), covering North America, the EU, Japan, Australia and many other nations. Only through WikiLeaks do we have any idea of what is being planned. It could be used to force nations to accept new financial products and services, to approve the privatisation of public services and to reduce the standards of care and provision. It looks like the greatest international assault on democracy devised in the past two decades. Which is saying quite a lot.

Read more …

Damn right. Damn late too.

Merkel Warns Of Balkans Military Conflicts Amid Migrant Influx (AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that fighting could break out in the Balkans, along the main route of migrants trying to reach Europe, if Germany closed its border with Austria, in remarks published Tuesday. Amid ever-louder calls for Merkel to undertake drastic action to stem the tide of people entering her country, she again rejected the appeals, noting that tensions were already running high between the Western Balkans countries. With an eye to deep rifts exposed after Hungary closed its frontier with Serbia and Croatia, Merkel said blocking the border with Austria to refugees and migrants would be reckless. “It will lead to a backlash,” Merkel was quoted in media reports as saying late Monday in an address to members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the western city of Darmstadt.

“I do not want military conflicts to become necessary there again,” Merkel added, referring to the Balkans. She said disputes in a region already ravaged by war in the 1990s could quickly escalate, touching off a cycle of violence “no one wants.” Germany has become the main destination for people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia via the Balkans, with up to one million people expected this year. The EU vowed last month to help set up 100,000 places in reception centres in Greece and along the migrant route through the Balkans as part of a 17-point action plan devised with the countries most affected by the crisis. But just as Merkel attempts to convince European partners to share out the burden more fairly, she has faced a revolt from within her own conservative alliance against the welcome she has extended to people escaping violence and persecution.

Read more …

Must take this out of the hands of the EU. All it is is a facade for sociopaths to hide behind.

European Union States Have Relocated Just 116 Refugees Out Of 160,000 (Guardian)

EU member states have so far relocated only 116 refugees of the 160,000 they are committed to relocating over the next two years, according to new figures. EU members states agreed in September to relocate 160,000 people in “clear need of international protection” through a scheme set up to relocate Syrian, Eritrean, and Iraqi refugees from the most affected EU states – such as Italy and Greece – to other EU member states. So far 116 people have been relocated, and only 1,418 places have been made available by 14 member states, according to data released on Tuesday by the European Commission. A total of 86 asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy, and 30 asylum seekers will travel from Athens to Luxembourg on Wednesday.

Denmark, Ireland and the UK have an opt-out from the scheme, but Britain is the only member state that has said it will not contribute to the relocation. The EU’s emergency relocation mechanism is only one facet of the broader refugee crisis. Syria, Iraq and Eritrea account for the majority of those crossing the Mediterranean. According to the UNHCR, more than one in two are fleeing from Syria. While 6% of those arriving via the Mediterranean are originally from Iraq, and 5% from Eritrea. Not all those seeking asylum remain or travel via Italy or Greece. About 770,000 asylum applications were lodged across the EU in the first nine months of 2015, compared to 625,920 in all of 2014 and 431,090 in 2013. This has contributed to a backlog of applications.

At the end of last year there were just under 490,000 pending applications across EU member states. In July of this year, the figure stood at 632,000. The backlog is not showing signs of receding any time soon: for every asylum decision made there are 1.8 new applications. Approximately 240,000 applications were processed between January and June this year. Over the same six months, 432,345 applications were filed. However, the European Commission data also reveals that beyond the logistical challenges, a “large number of member states has yet to meet financial commitments” and “too few member states” have responded to calls to help Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia; among the most used routes by asylum seekers, with essential resources such as beds and blankets.

Read more …

What happened to numb the rich west the way it did?

Greek Coast Guard Says 5 Refugees Die In Boat Accident Tuesday Night (AP)

Greece’s coast guard says the total number of people rescued from a boat carrying people from Turkey to the nearby Greek island of Lesvos has increased to 65, while a total of five bodies were recovered from the water. The coast guard said Wednesday that the bodies were those of three children and two men. There were no further missing people reported. The migrant boat ran into trouble north of Lesvos Tuesday night. The coast guard says a total of 457 people were rescued between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning in 13 separate incidents. More than 600,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year, with most arriving on Lesbos. From there, they make their way to the Greek mainland on ferries and then head overland to more prosperous EU countries in the north. Thousands of migrants are stranded on Lesvos due to a ferry strike that began Monday.

Read more …

Sep 282015
 
 September 28, 2015  Posted by at 8:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


John Vachon Koolmotor, Cleveland, Ohio May 1938

Cash Beats Stocks And Bonds For First Time In 25 Years (MarketWatch)
US Bonds Flash Warning Sign (WSJ)
Waiting for Collapse: USA Debt Bombs Bursting (Edstrom)
China August Industrial Profits Fall 8.8% From A Year Earlier (Reuters)
Chinese Mining Group Longmay To Cut 100,000 Coal Jobs (China Daily)
VW Proves That Global Business Has Become A Law Unto Itself (Guardian)
Seven Reasons Volkswagen Is Worse Than Enron (FT)
German Transport Authority Demands VW Car Clean-Up Plan By October 7 (Bloomberg)
VW Scandal to Hurt Its Financing Arm (WSJ)
VW Staff, Supplier Warned Of Emissions Test Cheating Years Ago (Reuters)
VW’s New CEO Is Moving Forward With a Strategy Shift (Bloomberg)
Catalan Separatists Claim Election Win As Yes Vote For Breakaway (Guardian)
Sweden’s Negative Interest Rates Have Turned Economics On Its Head (Telegraph)
Zero Inflation Looms Again for ECB as Oil Drop Counters Stimulus (Bloomberg)
Tory Welfare Cuts Will Destroy Benefit Of UK’s New Living Wage (Guardian)
Corbyn Recruits Top Global Economists to Boost Economic Credentials (Bloomberg)
Swiss Watchdog Says Opens Precious Metal Manipulation Probe (Reuters)
Rousseff Worried About Brazilian Companies With Dollar Debt (Bloomberg)
Shell Halts Alaska Oil Drilling After Disappointing Well Result (Bloomberg)
Banksy’s Dismaland To Be Taken Down And Sent To Calais To Build Shelters (PA)
500 Migrants Rescued In Mediterranean This Weekend: Italian Coastguard (AFP)

Brought to you by QE.

Cash Beats Stocks And Bonds For First Time In 25 Years (MarketWatch)

Cash is on track this year to outperform both stocks and bonds, something that hasn’t happened since 1990, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. And it might all be down to the notion that central bank-fueled liquidity has peaked. Year-to-date annualized returns are negative 6% for global stocks and negative 2.9% for global government bonds, according to analysts led by Michael Hartnett in a Friday note. The dollar is up 6% and commodities are down 17%, while cash is flat. Here’s what this has to do with the liquidity story:

[Quantitative easing] & zero rates reflated financial assets significantly. The only assets that QE did not reflate were cash, volatility, the US dollar and banks. Cash, volatility, the US dollar are all outperforming big-time in 2015, which tells you markets have been forced to discount peak of global liquidity/higher Fed funds. Frequent flash [crashes] (oil, UST, CHF, bunds, SPX) tell the same story. Peak in liquidity = peak of excess returns = trough in volatility.

The note speaks to what has become a very important theme for investors. While the Bank of Japan and the ECB continue to provide quantitative easing, the Fed has stopped its asset purchases and is moving toward lifting rates from near zero, as is the Bank of England. The notion that liquidity has peaked and that financial markets must now adjust to that new dynamic. Indeed, billionaire hedge-fund investor David Tepper earlier this month argued that as China and other emerging-market central banks shed foreign reserves, liquidity is no longer flowing one direction, making for more volatile conditions.

Read more …

“Clearly, the fact that spreads have been widening since the middle of 2014 is a very worrisome trend..” “We continue to scratch our heads as to the driver of that.”

US Bonds Flash Warning Sign (WSJ)

The U.S. corporate-bond market is starting to flash caution signals about the broader economy. The difference in yield, called the “spread,” between bonds from America’s strongest companies and ultrasafe U.S. Treasury securities has been steadily increasing, a trend that in the past has foreshadowed economic problems. Wider spreads mean that investors want more yield relative to Treasurys to own bonds from U.S. companies. It can signal that investors are less confident about companies’ business prospects and financial health, though other factors likely also are at play. Spreads in investment-grade corporate bonds—debt from companies rated triple-B-minus or higher—are on track to increase for the second year in a row, according to Barclays data.

That would be the first time since the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 that spreads widened in two consecutive years. The previous times were in 1997 and 1998, as a financial crisis roiled Asian countries, and a few years before the dot-com bubble burst in the U.S. Investors and analysts say they are closely watching the action to determine whether trouble is brewing once again. Concerns are growing about companies’ ability to pay back the massive debt load taken on in recent years, as ultralow interest rates spurred corporate finance chiefs to sell record amounts of bonds. There is also anxiety that economic weakness overseas could ultimately spill over into the U.S., a worry highlighted on Thursday when Caterpillar said it could cut more than 10,000 jobs amid a slowdown in construction-equipment sales in China.

“We could see the economy accelerate; we could see this global weakness pass,” said Brian Rehling at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “But you could also see things go the other way, where the global economy continues to weaken.” [..] As investors grow more skittish, companies looking to sell new debt are being forced to pay up. Altice NV on Friday reduced the size of a junk-bond deal backing its purchase of Cablevision from $6.3 billion to $4.8 billion and paid higher yields than initially expected, according to S&P Capital IQ LCD. The company also increased the size of a term loan to help finance the $10 billion acquisition. “Clearly, the fact that spreads have been widening since the middle of 2014 is a very worrisome trend,” said Krishna Memani at OppenheimerFunds, which oversees some $220 billion. “We continue to scratch our heads as to the driver of that.”

Read more …

A very extensive overview of what locations in the US are due to default first, and second. Pick your local flavor.

Waiting for Collapse: USA Debt Bombs Bursting (Edstrom)

) It’s been so easy the past 15 years for local governments in the USA, state governments, government authorities, corporations, banks, hedge funds and the US Federal government to simply say how many millions, billions or trillions of dollars they wanted, pay some high priced call accountants to fill out some paperwork with fine print and voila, millions, billions and trillions of dollars in borrowed money simply appeared. It has been that easy! Now, the government in the USA owes $46 trillion, US corporations owe $15 trillion, US individuals owe $13 trillion plus there are $315 trillion in outstanding Wall Street derivatives. (Few Americans know what a derivative is, but we as a nation are on the hook for up to $315 trillion in additional debt because of these derivatives.)

These debt figures continue to escalate with each passing month. Detroit and Puerto Rico have only just begun the debt bombs bursting in the USA, the USA’s slow motion economic collapse. Who’s next? I’m going to tell you about some US local and state governments that have too much debt and are ripe for debt collapse along with a few US government authorities and corporations that borrowed too much money and are also ripe for debt collapse. Mr. Dudley of the New York Federal Reserve Bank recently warned of a wave of US municipal debt collapses coming soon. The problem is bigger than solely US municipalities as Mr. Dudley no doubt is aware.

Chicago or LA, which one is more likely to collapse first? Chicago. Kanakee County IL or Perry County KY? Kanakee County is more likely to go belly up first. Atlantic City (AC) or Yonkers? AC is more likely to bite the dust first. 1 out of 25 states are ready to collapse within months, as are 1 out of 20 US cities, 1 out of 15 US government authorities and 1 out of 7 US corporations. Within a few years, many US cities, counties, authorities, states and corporations will have debt collapsed, before the USA as a nation debt collapses. A tsunami of debt collapses is hitting the USA. The causes are government officials and corporate executives who borrowed too much easy money plus Wall Street bankers and hedge fund vultures who lent too much easy money.

Besides city, county and state collapses, there will also be school debt collapses, hospital debt collapses, government authority debt collapses, individual bankruptcies, corporate debt collapses and finally the nationwide debt collapse of the USA. If change cannot be brought about fast – like increasing revenue (e.g. raising taxes on the rich) or cutting spending (e.g. ending endless war, cutting military/intel spending) or both – then, the best way forward may be to evacuate. Get away from the places about to collapse as quickly as you can. If you find your home is burning to the ground, as I discovered one Sunday evening in New York City in the Summer of 2011, what are you going to do? Evacuate.

Read more …

TEXT

China August Industrial Profits Fall 8.8% From A Year Earlier (Reuters)

Profits earned by Chinese industrial companies declined 8.8% in August from a year earlier due to rising costs and persistent falling prices, official data showed on Monday, adding to signs of weakness in the world’s second largest economy. Also hurting firms was the stock market slump, which pushed down their investment returns while yuan fluctuation increased companies’ financial costs in August, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said. During August, profits of industrial companies suffered the biggest annual fall since the NBS began monitoring such data in 2011. For the first eight months of this year, profits were down 1.9% from the year-earlier period, according to the NBS. The bureau said firms were squeezed by rising costs and falling prices with profits falling more quickly in August than in July.

In total, August profits were down 156.6 billion yuan ($24.59 billion) from a year earlier. The NBS said investment returns for industrial companies from a year earlier increased by 4.12 billion yuan in August, compared with a 11.04 billion yuan gain in July. Financial payments of industrial firms’ increased by 23.9% in August from a year earlier, compared to a 3% year-on-year drop in July. A plunge in China’s stock market over the summer and a surprise devaluation in the yuan have roiled global markets, and raised doubts inside and outside China over Beijing’s ability to manage its economy. Among 41 industrial sectors, 31 sectors had year-on-year growth of profit in the first eight months of this year, while 10 recorded drops, the NBS said.

Read more …

Beijing will spin this as some clean air initiative.

Chinese Mining Group Longmay To Cut 100,000 Coal Jobs (China Daily)

The largest coal mining group in Northeast China is cutting 100,000 jobs within the next three months to reduce its losses – one of the biggest mass layoffs in recent years. Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Holding Group Co Ltd, which has a 240,000 workforce, said a special center would be created to help those losing their jobs to either relocate or start their own businesses. Chairman of the group Wang Zhikui said the job losses were a way of helping the company “stop bleeding”. It also plans to sell its non-coal related businesses to help pay off its debts, said Wang. The State-owned mining group has subsidiaries in Jixi, Hegang, Shuangyashan and Qitaihe in Heilongjiang province, which account for about half the region’s coal production.

China’s coal mining industry has been struggling with overcapacity and falling coal prices since 2012. Last year, Longmay launched a management restructuring and cut thousands of jobs to stay profitable, amid the overall industry decline. However, the company still reported around 5 billion yuan ($815 million) in losses. It has been a dramatic fall from grace for the company, which in 2011 reported 800 million yuan in profit with annual production exceeding 50 million metric tons.

Read more …

Entire political systems in their pockets.

VW Proves That Global Business Has Become A Law Unto Itself (Guardian)

A well-functioning capitalism has, and will always need, multiple and powerfully embedded checks and balances – not just on its conduct but on how it defines its purpose. Sometimes those checks are strong, uncompromised unions; sometimes tough regulation; sometimes rigorous external shareholders; sometimes independent non-executive directors and sometimes demanding, empowered consumers. Or a combination of all of the above. CEOs, company boards and their cheerleaders in a culture which so uncritically wants to be pro-business do not welcome any of this: checks and balances get in the way of “wealth generation”. They are dismissed as the work of liberal interferers and apostles of the nanny state. Germany’s economy has been a good example of how checks and balances work well.

But the existential crisis at Volkswagen following its systematic cheating of US regulators over dangerous diesel exhaust emissions shows that any society or company forgets the truth at its peril. Volkswagen abused the system of which it was part. It became an autocratic fiefdom in which environmental sustainability took second place to production – an approach apparently backed by the majority family shareholder, with no independent scrutiny by other shareholders, regulators, directors or consumers. Even its unions became co-opted to the cause. Worse, the insiders at the top paid themselves, ever more disproportionately, in bonuses linked to metrics that advanced the fiefdom’s interests. But they never had to answer tough questions about whether the fiefdom was on the right track.

The capacity to ignore views other than your own, no external sanction and the temptation for boundless self-enrichment can emerge in any capitalism – and when they do the result is toxic. VW, facing astounding fines and costs, may pay with its very existence. So why did a company with a great brand, passionate belief in engineering excellence and commitment to building great cars knowingly game the American regulatory system, to suppress measured emissions of nitrogen dioxide to a phenomenal degree? Plainly, there were commercial and production benefits. It could thus sell the diesel engines it manufactured for Europe in the much tougher regulatory environment – at least for diesel – of the US and challenge Toyota as the world’s largest car manufacturer. Directors, with their bonuses geared to growth, employment and profits, could become very rich indeed.

Read more …

Bailout?!

Seven Reasons Volkswagen Is Worse Than Enron (FT)

It has only been a week since the stunning revelation that the Volkswagen group equipped millions of diesel-powered cars with software designed to fool anybody testing their emissions, and just days since the company’s chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, resigned. And yet there are reasons to believe that the fallout from this scandal will be as big as Enron, or even bigger. Most corporate scandals stem from negligence or the failure to come clean about corporate wrongdoing. Far fewer involve deliberate fraud and criminal intent. Enron’s accounting manipulation is often held up as a prime example of the latter and cases featuring the US energy company’s massive financial fraud are therefore taught in business schools around the world. Here are seven reasons why the Volkswagen scandal is worse and could have far greater consequences.

First, whereas Enron’s fraud wiped out the life savings of thousands, Volkswagen’s has endangered the health of millions. The high levels of nitrogen oxides and fine particulates that the cars’ on-board software hid from regulators are hazardous and detrimental to health, particularly of children and those suffering from respiratory disease. Second, led by Volkswagen, Europe’s car manufacturers lobbied hard for governments to promote the adoption of diesel engines as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Whereas diesel engines power fewer than 5% of passenger cars in the US, where regulators uncovered the fraud, they constitute more than 50% of the market in Europe thanks in large part to generous government incentives.

It was bad enough that Enron’s chief executive urged employees to buy the company’s stock. This, however, is the equivalent of the US government offering tax breaks at Enron’s behest to get half of US households to buy stock propped up by fraudulent accounting. Third, the fines and lawsuits facing Volkswagen are likely to surpass Enron in both scale and scope. Volkswagen’s potential liability to Environmental Protection Agency fines is $18bn. Add to this fines in most or all of the 50 US states and class action lawsuits by buyers and car dealers who have seen the value of their cars and franchises diminish overnight and you have a massive legal bill.

Read more …

Presumably, if you lower performance enough, it might be doable. But that makes it a toss-up between NOx and CO2.

German Transport Authority Demands VW Car Clean-Up Plan By October 7 (Bloomberg)

Germany’s car regulators have asked Volkswagen to provide a plan by Oct. 7 for if and when its vehicles will meet national emissions requirements, after the company admitted cheating on U.S. air-pollution tests. The Federal Motor Transport Authority sent a letter to VW requesting a “binding” program and schedule for a technical solution, Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. Volkswagen will present a plan in the coming days for how it will fix its affected vehicles and will notify customers and relevant authorities, Peter Thul, a company spokesman, said by phone. Bild reported earlier about the letter.

VW may have known for years about the implications of software at the center of the test-cheating scandal, newspapers reported. Robert Bosch GmbH warned VW in 2007 that its planned use of the software is illegal, according to Bild. A Volkswagen employee did the same in 2011, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported. Volkswagen is investigating and will present its findings as soon as they’re available, Thul said, declining to elaborate.

Read more …

When it rains…

VW Scandal to Hurt Its Financing Arm (WSJ)

Volkswagen’s giant U.S. and European financing operations often act as lenders for car buyers and dealers for any of the brands in the company’s stable, from the namesake VW to Bentley, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche and others. It bundles banking activities, including deposit taking and consumer lending to spur car sales, as well as leasing and insurance operations. The unit’s lending and leasing contracts are backed by cars. If the value of the car drops, the financial services unit may have to book a write-down. Volkswagen Financial Services AG, as it is formally known, is now evaluating whether it has to book charges on the collateral value of cars affected by a recall, a spokesman said. “We’re in talks with Volkswagen to evaluate the potential impact” and aim to produce results next week, he said.

With more than 11,000 employees and assets of around €114 billion, the Financial Services unit contributed €781 million or nearly 14% to the group’s overall net profit of €5.66 billion in the first half, according to an analyst presentation. The entire unit had 12.6 million contracts, 15% of which are in North America and 70% in Europe. The ECB late last week temporarily excluded asset- backed securities originated by Volkswagen AG from its bond buying program to review recent developments, according to a person familiar with the matter. The ECB hopes to complete its review soon, the person said. VW bonds fell last week.

Read more …

And nothing happened at all..

VW Staff, Supplier Warned Of Emissions Test Cheating Years Ago (Reuters)

Volkswagen’s own staff and one of its suppliers warned years ago about software designed to thwart emissions tests, two German newspapers reported on Sunday, as the automaker tries to uncover how long its executives knew about the cheating. The world’s biggest automaker is adding up the cost to its business and reputation of the biggest scandal in its 78-year history, having acknowledged installing software in diesel engines designed to hide their emissions of toxic gasses. Countries around the world have launched their own investigations after the company was caught cheating on tests in the United States. Volkswagen says the software affected engines in 11 million cars, most of which were sold in Europe. The company’s internal investigation is likely to focus on how far up the chain of command were executives who were responsible for the cheating, and how long were they aware of it.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, citing a source on VW’s supervisory board, said the board had received an internal report at its meeting on Friday showing VW technicians had warned about illegal emissions practices in 2011. No explanation was given as to why the matter was not addressed then. Separately, Bild am Sonntag newspaper said VW’s internal probe had turned up a letter from parts supplier Bosch written in 2007 that also warned against the possible illegal use of Bosch-supplied software technology. The paper did not cite a source for its report. Volkswagen declined to comment on the details of either newspaper report. “There are serious investigations underway and the focus is now also on technical solutions” for customers and dealers, a Volkswagen spokesman said. “As soon as we have reliable facts we will be able to give answers.”

Read more …

All the smoke and mirrors they can get their hands on.

VW’s New CEO Is Moving Forward With a Strategy Shift (Bloomberg)

Matthias Mueller pressed the Volkswagen board to move ahead with a reorganization he helped devise before the carmaker was caught up in an emissions-cheating scandal, as the new leader seeks to put his stamp on the company. The former Porsche boss wanted the new strategy to remain on the agenda of the Friday meeting in Wolfsburg, Germany, according to a person familiar with Mueller’s thinking, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private. Volkswagen had intended to hold off on a reorganization aimed at streamlining decision-making to give the new boss a chance to settle in. But Mueller, who had assisted his predecessor Martin Winterkorn with devising the plan, didn’t want to wait to start making the changes.

Volkswagen said Friday that more authority will be given to individual brands and regions, a departure from the centralized structures that kept key decisions in Wolfsburg and the chief executive officer’s inner circle. The announcement capped a tumultuous week after the company admitted it rigged some diesel engines to cheat on emissions tests. Friday’s meeting, which took place in a newly constructed office building within Volkswagen’s main plant, started before noon and stretched into the evening amid wrangling over who knew what and when. Documents from four years ago that flagged the illegal software was evidently never sent up the chain of command, underscoring the need for external investigators, said another person familiar with the meeting.

When the 20-member panel finally dispersed and presented VW’s new CEO, Mueller was flanked by Volkswagen’s power players: Wolfgang Porsche, the head of the family that controls a majority of the company’s voting shares; Bernd Osterloh, the chief representative of Volkswagen’s 600,000 workers; the prime minister of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, whose state owns 20% of Volkswagen; and Interim Chairman Berthold Huber. Mueller vowed to do what it takes to fix the company and its tattered reputation. His mission statement was echoed by Osterloh, who said the company needs a new corporate culture that’s more inclusive and avoids a climate in which problems are hidden. Huber called the crisis a “political and moral catastrophe.”

Still, Mueller’s authority isn’t absolute. Winterkorn remains CEO of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Volkswagen’s dominant shareholder. His continued role is a contentious issue especially for labor leaders, said a person familiar with the issue. The investment vehicle of the Porsche family moved on Saturday to tighten its control of the automaker by buying shares held by Suzuki Motor. The purchase takes the family’s holding in VW to 52.2% from 50.7%.

Read more …

A test of European democracy bigger than Greece. When the laws of the land you want to secede from won’t allow you to secede…

Catalan Separatists Claim Election Win As Yes Vote For Breakaway (Guardian)

Separatists took control of Catalonia’s regional government in an election result that could plunge Spain into one of its deepest political crises of recent years, by forcing Madrid to confront an openly secessionist government at the helm of one of its wealthiest regions. A record-breaking number of Catalans cast their vote in Sunday’s election, billed as a de facto referendum on independence. With more than 98% of the votes counted, the nationalist coalition Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) were projected to win 62 seats, while far-left pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy, known in Spain as CUP, were set to gain 10 seats, meaning an alliance of the two parties could give secessionists an absolute majority in the region’s 135-seat parliament. “We won,” said Catalan leaderArtur Mas i Gavarró, as a jubilant crowd waved estelada flags at a rally in Barcelona.

“Today was a double victory – the yes side won, as did democracy.” After attempts by Catalan leaders to hold a referendum on independence were blocked by the central government in Madrid, Mas sought to turn the elections into a de facto referendum, pledging to begin the process of breaking away from Spain if Junts pel Sí won a majority of seats. His party fell six seats short of a majority on Sunday. But Mas vowed to push forward with independence. “We ask that the world recognise the victory of Catalonia and the victory of the yes,” he said. “We have won and that gives us an enormous strength to push this project forward.” Junts pel Sí, representing parties from the left and right, as well as grassroots independence activists, captured 39.7% of the vote, while CUP received 8.2%.

The result leaves the separatists with 47.9% of the vote, shy of the 50%, plus one seat, that they would have needed if Sunday’s vote had been a real referendum. It’s a result that will leave the movement struggling to gain legitimacy on the world stage, said political analyst Josep Ramoneda, while setting Madrid and Barcelona on course for a collision. “The government in Catalonia will try to move forward with independence, but this result won’t allow them to take irreversible steps,” he said, pointing to a declaration of independence as an example. “I mean, nobody will recognise that.” Instead, Catalonia will be left to face Madrid alone, who will seek to stymie any attempts to move forward with independence. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has vowed to use the full power of the country’s judiciary to block any move towards independence.

Read more …

The war on cash intensifies.

Sweden’s Negative Interest Rates Have Turned Economics On Its Head (Telegraph)

It has long been believed that when it comes to interest rates, zero is as low as you can go. Who would choose to keep their money in the bank if they had to pay for the privilege? But for the people who control the world’s money, this idea has recently been thrown out of the window. Many central banks have pushed their rates into negative territory and yet the financial system has still to come to an abrupt end. It is a discovery that flips on its head the conventional idea of how authorities could respond to future economic crises; and for central bankers, this has come as a relief. Central bank policymakers had believed they had run out of room to support their respective economies, with their interest rates held close to the floor. Traditionally, it was thought that if you wanted to boost the economy, the central bank would reduce its interest rates.

Normally, the rates offered on savings accounts would follow, and people would choose to spend more, and save less. But there’s a limit, what economists called the “zero lower bound”. Cut rates too deeply, and savers would end up facing negative returns. In that case, this could encourage people to take their savings out of the bank and hoard them in cash. This could slow, rather than boost, the economy. What is happening now should not – according to conventional thinking – be possible. As central bank rates have turned negative, the rates offered on bank deposits have followed. Yet rather than stuffing cash under mattresses, people have left their money in the bank or spent it. Nowhere is the experiment with negative rates more obvious than among Nordic central banks.

Sweden – the first to dabble with negative rates – is perhaps the prime candidate for such experimentation. The country already has high savings rates, the third highest in the developed world according to the OECD and, despite growing at healthy rates, there appears to be plenty of slack left in the economy to prevent an overheat. Unemployment is unusually high for an advanced economy at more than 7pc, still well above its pre-crisis levels of sub-6pc. Crucially, the Riksbank’s mandate suggests that such a radical experiment is necessary. Policymakers have battled with deflation since late 2012, and with inflation at minus 0.2pc in August, it remains well below the central bank’s 2pc target.

To a great extent, the Riksbank’s hand has been forced by the plight of the eurozone. A tepid recovery in the currency union has required the ECB to bring in ever-looser policy. As the ECB’s actions have weakened the euro against Sweden’s krona, the cost of importing goods into Sweden has fallen, and weighed down on inflation. The Riksbank has had to cut its own rates in response in an attempt to avoid deep deflation. Sweden’s flexible approach to monetary policy has won it the plaudits of leading credit ratings agency. Standard and Poor’s recently reaffirmed the country’s triple AAA sovereign rating, remarking on the benefits it derives from “ample monetary policy flexibility”. Noting that the Riksbank had introduced both negative interest rates and quantitative easing, S&P said that “should inflation rates stay low or the krona appreciate materially, the central bank could lower the repo rate further”.

Read more …

It’s bewildering to see people describe QE as a success. But they get away with it.

Zero Inflation Looms Again for ECB as Oil Drop Counters Stimulus (Bloomberg)

If the euro area is about to run out of inflation – again – it won’t shock Mario Draghi. The ECB said more than three weeks ago that the inflation rate could turn negative this year because of the renewed decline in oil prices. The 19-nation region is set to take a step in that direction on Wednesday, when data will show consumer prices stagnated in September for the first time in five months, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. Stalled prices would mark a setback for policy makers who have been trying to steer inflation back toward 2% for the better part of two years, and may spark a new debate about deflation risks. Yet while officials have repeatedly stressed that they’re prepared to add stimulus if needed, they’ve also said they want more evidence before making a decision.

“The figures this month are unlikely to prompt any action from the ECB,” said Ben May, an economist at Oxford Economics Ltd. in London. “Quantitative easing has prevented the emergence of second-round effects from the new decline in oil prices and the pickup in core inflation in recent months is a cause for comfort. Some people may be concerned by this new fall in inflation, but the ECB has tried to distance itself from these concerns.” The EU’s statistics office will publish September inflation data on Wednesday. Estimates in the Bloomberg survey range from 0.3% to minus 0.2%. Eurostat will release unemployment data for August at the same time, and the European Commission will issue its latest report on economic confidence on Tuesday.

Oil prices have fallen more than 23% since the end of June, and a barrel of crude now costs about half what it did a year ago. The decline has boosted disposable income, underpinned consumer confidence that is already benefiting from slowly receding unemployment, and turned domestic demand into a key driver of the region’s economic recovery. At the same time, it has made the ECB’s job more complicated.

Read more …

Basic income is a much better approach than living wage. Huge boost to an economy.

Tory Welfare Cuts Will Destroy Benefit Of UK’s New Living Wage (Guardian)

A record 6.5 million people – almost a quarter of UK workers – will remain trapped on poverty pay next year, despite George Osborne’s 50p-an-hour increase in the national minimum wage, according to research by the Resolution Foundation thinktank. Adam Corlett, Resolution’s economic analyst, said: “While the chancellor’s new wage floor will give a welcome boost to millions of Britain’s lowest-paid staff, it cannot guarantee a basic standard of living or compensate for the £12bn of welfare cuts that were announced alongside it.” The chancellor announced the introduction of a “national living wage” in his July budget. It was an eyecatching bid for the votes of Britain’s workers and will see the statutory minimum pay rate for over-25s increase from £6.70 an hour to £7.20 next April – and to about £9 an hour by 2020.

But the new national minimum will still fall short of an actual “living wage”, calculated on the basis of the cost of basic essentials, including housing, food and transport, that has been the centrepiece of a long-running public campaign. Supermarket giant Lidl recently became the latest high-profile company to promise its staff this higher rate, which stands at £7.85 outside London and £9.15 in the capital. In its annual Low Pay Britain report, to be published next week, the Resolution Foundation will suggest that the living wage will have to be higher – £8.25 an hour outside the capital in 2016 – in part to compensate for the reductions in tax credits and benefits also announced in the budget. Households that receive less in welfare payments will need higher wages to make ends meet.

Resolution forecasts that, despite Osborne’s announcement, the number of people struggling to survive on less than the living wage will continue to rise, hitting 6.5 million people, or 24.4% of employees, in 2016 – up from 5 million, or less than 20% of workers, in 2012. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “This analysis provides a sobering reality check. While any increase in the minimum wage is to be welcomed, the new supplement will not cure in-work poverty on its own.” She urged ministers to continue encouraging firms to adopt the living wage – a cause backed in the past by many senior Conservatives, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Read more …

Quite a panel. Steve Keen’s missing though.

Corbyn Recruits Top Global Economists to Boost Economic Credentials (Bloomberg)

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recruited Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and wealth and inequality expert Thomas Piketty to advise his party as he seeks to regain credibility for policies attacked by many academics as potentially disastrous. His finance spokesman, John McDonnell, will outline the opposition’s “new economics” in a speech Monday that will cover his deficit-reduction plans and a goal to “change the economic discourse.” McDonnell’s office would say only that his plans involve a “radical review” of the Bank of England. Appointing Stiglitz – a well-known opponent of western governments’ austerity policies – and Piketty, whose book, “Capital in the 21st Century,” became a best-seller in 2013, mark Corbyn’s effort to restore trust among the business and academic community.

They will serve on a panel that will also include David Blanchflower, a former member of the BOE’s Monetary Policy Committee and labor-market economist who’s been vocal in his criticism of British central-bank policy and the U.K.’s Conservative government. “There is now a brilliant opportunity for the Labour Party to construct a fresh and new political economy which will expose austerity for the failure it has been in the U.K. and Europe,” Piketty said in an e-mailed statement. They’ll be joined on Labour’s Economic Advisory Committee by Mariana Mazzucato of Sussex University and Anastasia Nesvetailova and Ann Pettifor of City University in London, the main opposition party said in an e-mailed statement Sunday as it began its annual conference in Brighton, on England’s south coast.

“Corbynomics” has been the subject of much debate since the anti-austerity lawmaker become frontrunner in the party’s leadership race over the summer. His campaign leaflet “The Economy in 2020,” citing analysis by tax expert Richard Murphy, said the government is missing out on £120 billion ($180 billion) in uncollected revenue a year – enough to give every person in Britain £2,000. Corbyn also suggested creating a National Investment Bank, with the power to issue bonds that would then be acquired by the Bank of England. Corbyn’s form of quantitative easing would be used specifically to kick-start infrastructure projects – for instance building schools and hospitals. Murphy estimated this could generate £50 billion a year.

Read more …

The Swiss will need US, UK cooperation.

Swiss Watchdog Says Opens Precious Metal Manipulation Probe (Reuters)

The Swiss competition regulator said on Monday it had opened an investigation into possible manipulation of the precious metals market by several major banks. Switzerland’s WEKO watchdog said its investigation, the result of a preliminary probe, was looking at possible collusion of bid/ask spreads in the market by UBS, Julius Baer, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Mitsui. A WEKO spokesman said the investigation would likely conclude in either 2016 or 2017.

Read more …

She’s still there? Right to be worried, though. Not worried enough, I’d say.

Rousseff Worried About Brazilian Companies With Dollar Debt (Bloomberg)

Brazil is “extremely concerned” about companies that have debt in dollars, President Dilma Rousseff told reporters in New York, after volatility in the country’s foreign exchange market last week reached the highest level in almost four years. “Brazil today has sufficient reserves to avoid any problems in relation to disruptions because of the real,” Rousseff said. “The government will take a very clear and firm position, as did the central bank at the end of last week.” Brazil’s currency fell to a historic low last week amid concern about the president’s ability to push budget cuts and tax hikes through Congress. Rousseff has said Brazil is better prepared to recover from this year’s recession, compared to past crises, because it has $370 billion in international reserves.

Rousseff arrived Friday in New York for the United Nations General Assembly after a week of negotiations with political allies over cabinet changes intended to consolidate her fragile ruling coalition and reduce government expenses. Political uncertainty has aggravated what is expected to be Brazil’s longest recession since the 1930s, and was cited by Standard & Poor’s as part of their decision to downgrade Latin America’s largest economy to junk status. Speaking after a meeting with heads of state from Germany, Japan and India, Rousseff repeated Brazil’s demands for reform of the UN Security Council to make it more representative of all member states. She said global challenges such as conflict in the Middle East and Europe’s refugee crisis could be better solved by more collective action.

Read more …

$3 billion spent on no oil at all.

Shell Halts Alaska Oil Drilling After Disappointing Well Result (Bloomberg)

Royal Dutch Shell will stop further oil and gas exploration offshore Alaska, citing high costs and “challenging” regulation for drilling in the region. Shell forecast it will take related financial charges, according to a company statement on Monday. The balance sheet carrying value of its Alaska position is about $3 billion, with additional future contractual commitments of about $1.1 billion, The Hague, Netherlands-based energy explorer said. The company will abandon the Burger J well in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, saying indications of oil and gas weren’t sufficient to warrant further exploration. The company holds a 100% working interest in 275 Outer Continental Shelf blocks in the sea, according to the statement. “Shell will now cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future,” the company said. “This decision reflects both the Burger J well result, the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.”

Read more …

“The exhibition sold out every day of its five-week run, attracting about 4,000 people a day – a total of 150,000 visitors. ”

Banksy’s Dismaland To Be Taken Down And Sent To Calais To Build Shelters (PA)

Britain’s most disappointing tourist attraction is to be dismantled and sent to Calais to be shelter for migrants, creator Banksy has revealed. Work to take down Dismaland begins on Monday and the elusive street artist said all the timber and fixtures from the ‘bemusement park’ would be sent to the Jungle camp. An estimated 5,000 people displaced from countries including Syria, Libya and Eritrea are believed to be camped in and around the French port. On the Dismaland website, Banksy posted a picture of the migrant camp in Calais and had superimposed onto it his fire-ravaged fairytale Cinderella Castle. In a message accompanying the picture, he wrote: “Coming soon … Dismaland Calais.

“All the timber and fixtures from Dismaland are being sent to the Jungle refugee camp near Calais to build shelters. No online tickets will be available.” The theme park opened at a derelict seaside lido at Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and even though Banksy said it was ‘crap’, thousands of people visited. The controversial attraction featured migrant boats, Jimmy Savile and an anarchist training camp, and there were long queues as visitors waited to get inside when it first opened on 22 August. The exhibition sold out every day of its five-week run, attracting about 4,000 people a day – a total of 150,000 visitors.

North Somerset council, which has described the site as the centre of the contemporary art universe, said it would bring £7m to the local economy, while local business leaders have estimated that the economic benefit to the seaside town could top £20m. Banksy described the park as a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism, adding: “This is an art show for the 99% who’d rather be at Alton Towers.” The Bristol-based artist later told the Sunday Times: “This is not a street art show. It’s modelled on those failed Christmas parks that pop up every December – where they stick some antlers on an Alsatian dog and spray fake snow on a skip. “It’s ambitious, but it’s also crap. I think there’s something very poetic and British about all that.”

Read more …

Will this ever stop? How many children must drown?

500 Migrants Rescued In Mediterranean This Weekend: Italian Coastguard (AFP)

Some 500 migrants were rescued in seven operations launched over the weekend in the Mediterranean, the Italian coastguard said. A spokesman told AFP on Sunday that four of the rescue operations had already wound up but the others were ongoing. “Saturday was quiet on the whole but now there is further movement,” he said. “We have had several interventions – one by a ship belonging to (medical charity) MSF, two coastguard units as well as an Italian naval ship and a ship belonging to EU Navfor Med,” he said. The EU Navfor Med is a military operation launched at the end of June to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and rescue migrants undertaking risky journeys in a desperate bid to try and get to Europe from war-ravaged Syria and other trouble spots.

The mission is equipped with four ships, including an Italian aircraft carrier, and four planes. It is manned by 1,318 troops from 22 European countries. A German frigate named Werra and an MSF (Doctors Without Borders) ship rescued 140 people from a giant dinghy on Saturday afternoon, according to an AFP photographer. The migrants mainly came from the west African countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone and left Libya three days earlier. They were rescued about 80 kilometres off the Libyan coast. EU leaders have agreed to boost aid for Syria’s neighbours, including one billion dollars through UN agencies, in a bid to mitigate the refugee influx into Europe.

Read more …