Oct 212019
 October 21, 2019  Posted by at 10:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »

Vincent van Gogh Self-portrait with dark felt hat at the easel 1886


Recession Likely Years Away Due To Bullish Trump Effect – Shiller (CNBC)
Global Economy Faces $19 Trillion Corporate Debt Timebomb – IMF (G.)
“Toe The Line Or Be Destroyed”: Tulsi Gabbard (ZH)
Will the Democratic Party Exist after 2020 Election? (OffG)
Why 97% Of Congress Get Re-Elected Each Year (F.)
Scottish Court Asked To Delay Ruling On Johnson’s Brexit Extension Request (R.)
Many Firms In China’s Third-Biggest Province Struggle To Pay Debt – S&P (R.)
Chile’s Deadly Weekend Of Fire As Youth Anger Ignites (R.)
Boeing Expresses Regret As Text Messages Plunge Company Into New Crisis (R.)



If a crisis next year is seen as the only way to derail Trump, don’t be surprised if one is fabricated.

Recession Likely Years Away Due To Bullish Trump Effect – Shiller (CNBC)

Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Shiller believes a recession may be years away due to a bullish Trump effect in the market. According to the Yale University professor, President Donald Trump is creating an environment that’s conducive to strong consumer spending, and it’s a major force that should hold off a recession. “Consumers are hanging in there. You might wonder why that would be at this time so late into the cycle. This is the longest expansion ever. Now, you can say the expansion was partly [President Barack] Obama,” he told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Friday. “But lingering on this long needs an explanation.”

Shiller, a behavioral finance expert who’s out with the new book “Narrative Economics,” believes Americans are still opening their wallets wide based on what President Trump exemplifies: Consumption. “I think that [strong spending] has to do with the inspiration for many people provided by our motivational speaker president who models luxurious living,” said Shiller. Shiller emphasizes there’s still uncertainty and risk surrounding Wall Street. Before the markets can take-off, Shiller stresses President Trump needs to get past the impeachment inquiry. He sees this as the biggest threat to his optimistic forecast.

Read more …

From last week, but pretty timeless.

Global Economy Faces $19 Trillion Corporate Debt Timebomb – IMF (G.)

Low interest rates are encouraging companies to take on a level of debt that risks becoming a $19tn (£15tn) timebomb in the event of another global recession, the International Monetary Fund has said. In its half-yearly update on the state of the world’s financial markets, the IMF said that almost 40% of the corporate debt in eight leading countries – the US, China, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain – would be impossible to service if there was a downturn half as serious as that of a decade ago.

The IMF noted that the stimulus provided by central banks in both developed and developing countries had the side-effect of encouraging firms to borrow more, even though many would have trouble paying it back. Officials at the Washington-based organisation fear that the buildup of debt makes the global financial system highly vulnerable and are telling member states not to repeat the mistake of the early 2000s, when warning signs of a possible market meltdown were ignored.

The IMF said share prices in the US and Japan appeared to be overvalued, while the credit spreads in bond markets – the compensation demanded by investors against risk – seemed to be too low, given the state of the global economy. Tobias Adrian and Fabio Natalucci, two senior IMF officials responsible for the Global Financial Stability Report, said: “A sharp, sudden tightening in financial conditions could unmask these vulnerabilities and put pressures on asset price valuations.” In a blogpost published alongside the GFSR, Adrian and Natalucci noted: “Corporations in eight major economies are taking on more debt and their ability to service it is weakening.

Read more …

Let’s see how nasty Hillary will get.

“Toe The Line Or Be Destroyed”: Tulsi Gabbard (ZH)

Tulsi Gabbard unleashed her latest counterattack to the establishment hit-job against her, after Hillary Clinton suggested she’s an Russian asset. “If you stand up to the rich and powerful elite and the war machine, they will destroy you and discredit your message…,” says Gabbard, who said she’s suffered smears “from day one of this campaign.” In a Sunday tweet accompanied by a video which has nearly 450,000 views on Twitter (and 18,000 on YouTube) as of this writing, Gabbard writes “Hillary & her gang of rich, powerful elite are going after me to send a msg to YOU: “Shut up, toe the line, or be destroyed.” But we, the people, will NOT be silenced.”

Read more …

Durham’s probe has just been widened again.

Will the Democratic Party Exist after 2020 Election? (OffG)

As a result of the corrupt foundation of the Russiagate allegations, Attorney General Bob Barr and Special Investigator John Durham appear hot on the trail with law enforcement in Italy as they have apparently scared the bejesus out of what little common sense remains among the Democratic hierarchy as if Barr/Durham might be headed for Obama’s Oval Office. Barr’s earlier comment before the Senate that “spying did occur’ and that ‘it’s a big deal’ when an incumbent administration (ie the Obama Administration) authorizes a counter-Intelligence operation on an opposing candidate (ie Donald Trump) has the Dems in panic-stricken overdrive – and that is what is driving the current Impeachment Inquiry.

With the stark realization that none of the DNC’s favored top tier candidates has the mojo to go the distance, the Democrats have now focused on a July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which Trump allegedly ‘pressured’ Zelenskyy to investigate Joe Biden’s relationship with Burisma, the country’s largest natural gas provider. At issue is any hanky panky involving Burisma payments to Rosemont Seneca Partners, an equity firm owned by Joe’s errant son, Hunter, who served on Burisma’s Board for a modest $50,000 a month. Zelenskyy, who defeated the US-endorsed incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a landslide victory, speaks Russian, was elected to clean up corruption and end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The war in the Donbass began as a result of the US State Department’s role in the overthrow of democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Trump’s first priority on July 25th was Crowd Strike, a cybersecurity firm with links to the HRC campaign which was hired by the DNC to investigate Russian hacking of its server. The Dems have reason to be concerned since it is worth contemplating why the FBI did not legally mandate that the DNC turn its server over to them for an official Federal forensic inspection. One can only speculate…those chickens may be coming home to roost.

Read more …

And why the Democratic party will survive: the funneling of government money to donors.

Why 97% Of Congress Get Re-Elected Each Year (F.)

How is 97 percent of Congress able to get re-elected each year even though only 17 percent of the American people believe our representatives are doing a good job? It’s called an incumbent protection system. Taxpayers have a right to know how it works. Recently, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com, mashed up the federal checkbook with the congressional campaign donor database. We found powerful members of Congress soliciting campaign donations from federal contractors based in their districts. We followed the money and found a culture of conflict-of-interest.

The confluence of federal money, campaign cash, private employment, investments, prestigious committee appointments, political power, nepotism, and other conflicts are a fact pattern. Furthermore, members of Congress own investment stock in, are employed by, and receive retirement pensions from federal contractors to whom they direct billions of taxpayer dollars. Moreover, members sponsor legislation that affects these contractors. The contractor’s lobbyists then advocate for the legislation that helps the member and the contractor. Oftentimes, the contractor’s lobbyist also donates campaign cash to the member.

[..] Nothing we discovered is illegal. At arms-length, all of the transactions are legal. And that’s the problem. We polled our subscribers and 1,900 people responded: 96 percent thought it was unethical for a member of Congress to solicit campaign donations from federal contractors based in their districts. Furthermore, 92 percent said it was an important or very important issue. The American people get it. Members should refuse to accept campaign donations from federal contractors and their affiliates.

Read more …


Scottish Court Asked To Delay Ruling On Johnson’s Brexit Extension Request (R.)

Anti-Brexit campaigners said they would ask a Scottish court on Monday to delay its ruling on a legal challenge that sought to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson to comply with a law requiring him to request a delay to Brexit. The so-called Benn Act compelled Johnson to write a letter to the EU asking for a Brexit extension if parliament had not approved either a deal or a no-deal exit by Saturday. Johnson had repeatedly said he would not ask for a delay. The group asked the court earlier this month either to issue an order forcing Johnson to ask for a delay or instruct that a letter be sent to the EU on his behalf if he refused to.

Johnson sent an unsigned letter to the EU on Saturday requesting a delay but added another note in which he said he did not want a “deeply corrosive” Brexit extension, prompting some lawmakers to say he was seeking to frustrate the law. Johnson’s plan to put his Brexit withdrawal deal to the UK parliament on Saturday was derailed after lawmakers voted to withhold a decision on the deal, a move that forced him to seek a third postponement of Britain’s departure from the bloc. The exit is currently due to take place on Oct. 31. Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, has been waiting to rule on the matter pending developments up to Oct. 19. It is due to consider the challenge again on Monday.

“What I and … the other petitioners have instructed our lawyers to do is to seek a continuation of the case until the end of the week to keep a watching brief over matters,” Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry told ITV on Sunday. “We don’t want the focus to be all on the court case. We want the focus to be on what is happening in Brussels, the negotiation for an extension.” Cherry said the way Johnson had gone about sending the letter, without signing it, was “immensely childish” and was “arguably frustrating the purpose of the act”. “The EU … have overlooked the childish tricks and are taking the extension at face value, taking it seriously,” Cherry said. “It will be for the court to comment or otherwise on whether they think what has occurred is a frustration of the act or a contempt of court.”

Read more …

There’s the shadow banks again.

Many Firms In China’s Third-Biggest Province Struggle To Pay Debt – S&P (R.)

Many privately held firms in Shandong, China’s third-biggest province by economic output, are struggling to repay short-term debt due to declining industry fundamentals, entangled cross guarantees and ill-managed investments, S&P Global Ratings said. China’s slowing economy and enforcement of environmental protection rules have pressured the profitability and cash flow of Shandong companies in over-capacity sectors including oil refining, petrochemicals, steel, aluminium and textiles, S&P said. “The Shandong economy is skewed toward gritty smoke-stack industries where companies are typically highly leveraged,” said Chang Li, China country specialist for S&P Global Ratings.

“We view the plight of Shandong POEs (privately owned enterprises) as indicative of China’s wider challenge: the difficulty of transitioning to a higher value-added economy, while managing high debt and slowing growth.” Private firms in Shandong are also frequent users of the cross guarantee, which has the potential to send one company’s liquidity problems reverberating through the credit system, the ratings agency said. Reuters reported in February, citing court rulings, that at least 28 private companies in Dongying, a hub for oil refining and heavy industry in Shandong, are seeking to restructure their debts and avoid bankruptcy, mainly due to souring loans that they guaranteed for other firms.

Read more …

Places with mass protests in yesterday’s list: Chile, Ecuador, Lebanon, Barcelona, France, London, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Iraq.

New additions today: Guinea, Bolivia, Algeria, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil.

Chile’s Deadly Weekend Of Fire As Youth Anger Ignites (R.)

Chile’s capital Santiago has been singed by fire. In riots sparked by anger over fare hikes, masked and hooded protesters have torched buses, metro stations, supermarkets, banks and the high-rise headquarters of a major energy firm. Around the city, flames and smoke mixed with tear gas and water cannon spray as armed forces mobilized on the streets for the first time in almost 30 years in a country that still shudders at the memory of military rule. Fare-dodging protests largely by school children and students exploded into violent riots on Friday.

Amid the looting, arson and clashes, thousands of residents of rich and poor neighborhoods alike also took to the streets to express a more widespread discontent over rising living costs and patchy public services that is boiling beneath the surface of one of South American’s wealthiest and most liberal economies. The demonstrations spread around the country over the weekend, and there was little sign of tempers cooling. “This is not a simple protest over the rise of metro fares, this is an outpouring for years of oppression that have hit mainly the poorest,” Karina Sepulveda, an anthropology student, told Reuters at a protest in central Santiago on Sunday as she banged a frying pan with a wooden spoon. “The illusion of the model Chile is over. Low wages, lack of healthcare and bad pensions have made people tired.”

Read more …

Fire them all. And then sue them for wrongful death.

Boeing Expresses Regret As Text Messages Plunge Company Into New Crisis (R.)

Boeing Co. said on Sunday that it regrets and understands concerns raised by the release of a former Boeing test pilot’s internal instant messages noting erratic software behaviour two years before deadly crashes of its 737 Max jet. The world’s largest plane maker, plunged into a fresh crisis over the safety of the banned 737 Max after Reuters reported the messages on Friday, also said it was investigating the “circumstances of this exchange” and regretted the difficulties that the release of messages presented for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA on Friday ordered Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg to give an “immediate” explanation for the delay in turning over the “concerning” document, which Boeing discovered some months ago. In the messages from November, 2016, then-chief technical pilot Mark Forkner tells a colleague that what’s known as the MCAS anti-stall system – the same one linked to deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia – was “running rampant” in a flight-simulator session. At another point, he says: “I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly).” The messages prompted a new call in the U.S. Congress for Boeing to shake up its management as it scrambles to rebuild trust and lift an eight-month safety ban of its fastest-selling plane.

“We understand entirely the scrutiny this matter is receiving, and are committed to working with investigative authorities and the U.S. Congress as they continue their investigations,” Boeing said in its statement on Sunday. The instant messages prompted harsh reactions from several Democratic lawmakers in Washington, with Representative Peter DeFazio saying, “This is no isolated incident.” “The outrageous instant-message chain between two Boeing employees” suggests “Boeing withheld damning information from the FAA,” Mr. DeFazio, who chairs the U.S. House transportation committee, said on Friday.

Read more …






Sep 302019
 September 30, 2019  Posted by at 2:25 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »

Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1940


Two countries, the US and UK, both seem to barrel down towards great troubles, hence the title Twisted Pair. When I set it up yesterday, I was going to write an essay combining the two, but it now looks like there’s going to have to be two separate essays. Still, I’m wondering how connected both are, and how they’re connected.

And I don’t mean in the popular Boris equals Trump sense, I find the role of for instance the respective intelligence communities and media far more interesting than such cheap ‘solutions’. That’s for the MSM to sell to you, not me.

Let’s start with the US. Over the past few days, a series of snippets have appeared that each make me think: can this be true? The first such snippet is that House Intelligence Committee head Adam Schiff supposedly sat on the ‘whistleblower’ complaint for over a month.

By the way, the term whistleblower is a terrible misnomer, but everyone’s using it, can’t undo that anymore. Still, you can’t be a CIA agent, be planted somewhere, leak on what goes on there and then be labeled a whistleblower. That works only if you share CIA secrets.

Niceties aside, it appears that Schiff sat on the complaint since August 12. First question is: why? But there are other questions as well. Two weeks ago, Schiff complained that acting DNI chief Joseph Maguire refused to share the contents of the complaint with Congress. But Maguire did that only after consulting with his legal counsel:

Schiff: Top Intel Official Has Refused To Turn Over ‘Urgent’ Whistleblower Complaint

Schiff ripped Maguire for breaching a law that requires him to share with Congress any whistleblower complaint deemed urgent by the intelligence community’s inspector general. He said the confluence of factors led him to believe the complaint involved Trump or other senior executive branch officials.

But DNI general counsel Jason Klitenic insisted in a letter to Schiff on Tuesday that Maguire had followed the letter of the law in blocking the transmission of the complaint to Congress. The whistleblower statute governing his agency, he said, only applies when the complaint involves a member of the intelligence community. Because it was aimed at a person outside the intelligence community, he said, the whistleblower statute does not apply to this scenario.

Under the statute, Klitenic stated, deeming a whistleblower complaint “urgent” is only valid when it applies to conduct by someone “within the responsibility and authority” of the DNI. Therefore, he said, after consulting with the Justice Department, he determined the complaint did not qualify as an “urgent” concern requiring transmittal to Congress.



Note the date. Also note the term ‘urgent’. Which didn’t keep Schiff from sitting on it for 5-6 weeks. And note that Schiff knew what was in the complaint, despite Politico reporting that “the confluence of factors led him to believe the complaint involved Trump or other senior executive branch officials.”

Okay, so why did he sit on the letter? Is it possible this has been a set-up all along? Snippet no. 2 became known on September 24:

Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge

Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. This raises questions about the intelligence community’s behavior regarding the August submission of a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump. The new complaint document no longer requires potential whistleblowers who wish to have their concerns expedited to Congress to have direct, first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing that they are reporting.

The brand new version of the whistleblower complaint form, which was not made public until after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the complaint addressed to Congress were made public, eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

The internal properties of the newly revised “Disclosure of Urgent Concern” form, which the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) requires to be submitted under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), show that the document was uploaded on September 24, 2019, at 4:25 p.m., just days before the anti-Trump complaint was declassified and released to the public.

Here’s what the requirements looked like before the changes:



Why were the changes made? Who authorized them? Can anyone who hears something from their gossipy aunt now become a whistleblower? Can the aunt?

And then a few days ago there was this little tid-bit, snippet no. 3, which seems to fit right into a pattern:

Pelosi’s House Rule Changes are Key Part of “Articles of Impeachment”

Back in December 2018 CTH noted the significant House rule changes constructed by Nancy Pelosi for the 116th congress [..] With the House going into a scheduled calendar recess, those rules are now being used to subvert historic processes and construct the articles of impeachment. A formal vote to initiate an “impeachment inquiry” is not technically required; however, there has always been a full house vote until now.

The reason not to have a House vote is simple: if the formal process was followed the minority (republicans) would have enforceable rights within it. Without a vote to initiate, the articles of impeachment can be drawn up without any participation by the minority; and without any input from the executive. This was always the plan that was visible in Pelosi’s changed House rules.

Anyone can be a whistleblower, all it takes is for the intelligence community to express an interest in your aunt’s gossip. And then anything anyone says can be used to draw up an article of impeachment. Which can then be voted on by the Democrat majority in Congress, and accepted.

Which has no practical meaning, obviously, because there will be no Senate majority to actually impeach Trump. It’s pure theater. And anyway, impeached for what? For asking Ukraine assistance in investigating 2016 election meddling? Sure, you can rephrase that as “digging up dirt”, but isn’t that phrasing by now a purely partisan thing and hence worthless?

I see two options. A few days ago I wrote: “Pelosi called for impeachment without having seen the transcript or the complaint. That will forever be weird.” If that is true, as we’ve been led to believe by both the protagonists and the press, it is weird indeed. But now there is another option on the table.

Namely, that Pelosi has known the contents of the complaint since August 12, when the ‘whistleblower’ wrote to Adam Schiff, or soon thereafter. And that she, too, sat on it. Urgent or not. And then a few days ago went all-in for impeachment. No matter what the exact details here are, it very much looks like a well-prepared operation, step by step.

I started out with the term Twisted Pair for the US and UK, because both countries raise the question: how are they going to remain governable? Leave or Remain, GOP or Democrat, the trenches are being dug deeper fast. The only way forward appears to be even deeper divides. GOP and Democrats are a Twisted Pair all by themselves.


PS: I don’t get the attention for the whistleblower. The only interesting parties involved are the people who fed him/her their info. Are they also CIA by any chance? Let’s ask them.





Sep 252019
 September 25, 2019  Posted by at 12:58 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »

Kazimir Malevich Woman torso 1932


Earlier today, I wrote: “What is an impeachable offense? Turns out, it’s anything the Democrats can get enough votes for.” And I realize saying that gets rid of half my possible audience, but it’s still the impression I’ve gotten over the past -less than- 24 hours.

After 2+ years of her fellow party members and Congress(wo)men riding on the now-defunct Robert Mueller train and clamoring non-stop for impeachment of Donald Trump, the man who stole the 2016 election from their candidate, God’s own candidate Hillary, the one who deserved to win, after 2+ years Nancy Pelosi does a 180 and joins the chorus. So as not to end up as fish food.

And sure, if she’s finally spotted an impeachable offense, that would make sense. But she herself states she joined because of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s Zelensky, and we know Pelosi doesn’t know what was said in that call, nor what’s in the opaque whistleblower complaint linked to it, a complaint moreover that’s based solely on hearsay.

Making the contents of the call public would set a dangerous precedent, because no foreign leader would ever again speak freely to a US president. Even sharing it ‘only’ with Capitol Hill would make them cautious. In that regard, the White House reluctance to share both the call and the complaint makes a lot of sense.

We’re talking many decades of carefully crafted tradition, whose importance cannot be overestimated. Wars have been avoided by these calls. But then again, as Trump said, he’s sure everybody and their pet intelligence hamster is listening in the talks already, so what’s the use anymore?


Democratic Party members smell something, and they think they’re sure is blood, without ever contemplating it might be their own. They’ve all been thinking impeachment for a long time, and now more than ever, because they appear to realize it might be the only way to get rid of Trump and get their people in charge, that the ballot box may well not deliver that outcome.

Ryan Grim’s piece for the Intercept provides a a good picture of what is going on in Dem Camp, not because it’s so well written, it’s actually quite shaky, but because between the lines the despair seeps through. Do read the whole thing, it’s worth the while because it tells a story nobody really talks about.

That is, on various levels of the US political system, Democratic party candidates have become increasingly fearful of losing their seats, and impeachment must bring them ‘salvation’. You get the idea it’s not even so much about what Trump does, but squarely about him standing in their way, like he stood in Hillary’s.


Why The House Democratic Caucus Was Able To Move So Rapidly Toward Impeachment

[..] as Democrats prepped for a series of private meetings, it was clear that nerves had been frayed. August had been a challenge for the party’s rank-and-file, as activists and angry citizens back home browbeat them at town halls, grocery stores, and local events for the party’s unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump.

“We spent all summer getting the shit kicked out of us back home,” said one Democrat who received such treatment. The day before, former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski had made a mockery of the Judiciary Committee’s interview of him, betraying open contempt for the process and the people running it.

Swing district freshmen Democrats known as frontliners, meanwhile, had spent the last few weeks vocally decrying the pressure on them to call for impeachment, claiming it was putting them in a political jam. Democrats were debating publicly whether the hearings Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was running at his Judiciary Committee were or were not in fact the launch of impeachment proceedings.

I’m not sure to which extent to believe this. Do Democrat voters really pester their local politicians about impeaching Trump? Or are they making this up because they need something to blame for their own failures?

[..] The members without official primary challenges were by no means safe, either, as they might soon draw a challenge unless the trajectory of the politics changed. Freshman Lori Trahan from Massachusetts, for instance, came out for impeachment after Dan Koh, whom she beat in a primary by 147 votes in 2018, called on her to do so, with the clear threat that he may run again.

The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud frontliners, Raskin argued, and it wasn’t obvious that the strategy was actually protecting them from anything. Grassroots activists were demobilizing, Democrats across the board were facing primary challenges, and somehow, someway, Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.

“Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.” That sums it up. And we now know what it was that had to give. That doesn’t make it a winning strategy, though. And then came the Ukraine “news”. It was god-given. The “new” Kavanaugh story a few days before had seemed to, but it was false. Now, however….

[..] That something came later that night, in the form of a Washington Post scoop about a whistleblower complaint from a member of the U.S. intelligence community about a promise Trump had made to a foreign leader. Then, on Thursday evening, the Post reported that the country involved was Ukraine.

The news had landed like a bomb in a Democratic caucus that was already ready to explode. Calls to impeach Trump rained down from the party’s left flank and its presidential candidates. On Friday evening, Democrats were bracing for a backlash back home. “It’s going to be a brutal weekend for a lot of people, especially those who haven’t spoken for impeachment,” one Democrat predicted. Indeed it was.

Democrats, including frontliners, spent the weekend furiously texting and calling each other as they worked through how to respond to Trump’s latest lawlessness. “People are pissed,” said another Democrat over the weekend. “Frontliners are pissed! And not even the ‘progressive’ frontliners either.”

It’s a feeding frenzy inside an echo chamber. All quite rational, of course. And Pelosi had no choice but to join in, or she would have been fish food.

Pelosi didn’t seem to understand the shift that was taking place under her feet. Reporter John Harwood asked an aide to Pelosi over the weekend if the news changed her calculus on impeachment and got back the reply: “no. see any GOP votes for it?”

Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for President Barack Obama who now serves, from his perch at Pod Save America, as something of a tribune for the volunteer-resistance army that phone banked and door-knocked Democrats into the majority, was apoplectic. “This is insane,” he said. “This is pathetic. This is not what we worked so hard for in 2018.” By Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi was calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.

We want impeachment, and we’ll figure out later what for. There are Democrats right now, after recognizing nobody knows what is in either the call or the complaint, who say it’s about Trump’s entire body of work, about months and months of violating the constitution etc. I think they’ll have to be more specific than that for the inquiry, however.

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the constitution,” Pelosi said in a formal address in Washington on Tuesday evening. “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

I swear, one of these days I’m going to lose it over the next person who says “No one is above the law.” That must be the emptiest statement in politics, ever, but certainly these days.

Now, of course, lest we forget, that plenty Democrats ‘support’ impeachment doesn’t mean much of anything. There’s about a zero Kelvin chance of getting it through the Senate. Plus, you need a specific reason for impeachment, and we’ve already seen the Ukraine isn’t it, because nobody even knows what was said.

Which makes me think Pelosi’s heart can’t be in it, and that makes her a weak advocate for the issue. So what other grounds for impeachment will they come up with? That can only be things that happened in the past, and things Pelosi never thought were impeachable, or at least wouldn’t get enough votes. Why should they now?


As an aside, the Democrat candidates and frontliners -and Nancy Pelosi as per last night- are throwing Joe Biden under the bus, who’s still their leading candidate. Because there’s no way Biden will survive a thorough investigation into Ukraine. That is so obvious I’m wondering if they meant to get rid of him all along.

And then there are the ‘technicalities’. “In his response to the Democrats’ move, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said: “Speaker Pelosi happens to be the Speaker of this House, but she does not speak for America when it comes to this issue.” “She cannot unilaterally decide we’re in an impeachment inquiry,” he added.”

And I absolutely love this bit: “In her announcement Ms Pelosi said the six congressional committees already investigating Mr Trump would continue their work, but now under the umbrella of a formal impeachment inquiry.”. That says Heads of the Five Families to me, right there. You got your Tattaglia, your Barzoni etc.

There are 6 different active investigations into Trump. Well over two years after Robert Mueller started his $40 million utter failure of an investigation. Why? Impeachment. And they have all come up empty so far.

Love this bit too from the BBC on Ukraine media: “Some argue that the timing could not be worse for President Zelensky, who is scheduled to meet Donald Trump in New York later on Wednesday. Public TV station Pershy describes the controversy as a “trap” for Ukraine. “It would be stupid to start playing into the hands of either Democrats or Republicans,” said one of the channel’s commentators. Others contend that the Ukrainian president has US politicians over the barrel. “Zelensky has two pistols in his hands: one pointing at Trump, and the other at Biden,” reports Pryamy TV.


There’s no way to end this without yet another shout-out to Tulsi Gabbard, who made the October Democratic debate after ‘missing’ the September one, and who has no qualms going against the official DNC-sponsored party line party on this either if she thinks it’s wrong.

She told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that she’ll remain consistent to her message that the road to 2020 can only be found in a clear victory and mandate, saying it’s for “the American people… making that decision” of who is in the White House, not impeachment.

“I believe that impeachment at this juncture would be terribly divisive for the country at a time when we are already extremely divided. The hyperpartisanship is one of the main things driving our country apart,” Gabbard told host Brian Kilmeade. “I think it’s important to beat Donald Trump, that’s why I’m running for president,” she said.

“But I think it’s the American people who need to make their voices heard making that decision.”

We need to get Tulsi her own party, right? Because right now, she’s not fighting Trump, she’s fighting the DNC and the rest of her ‘own’ party. What a waste of time and money, and conviction and talent.





Apr 192019
 April 19, 2019  Posted by at 1:18 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »

Rembrandt van Rijn A woman bathing in a stream 1654


A dear friend the other day accused me of defending Trump. I don’t, and never have, but it made me think that if she says it, probably others say and think the same; I’ve written a lot about him. So let me explain once again. Though I think perhaps this has reached a “you’re either with us or against us’ level.

What I noticed, and have written a lot about, during and since the 2016 US presidential campaign, is that the media, both in the US and abroad, started making up accusations against Trump from scratch. This included the collusion with Russia accusation that led to the Mueller probe.

There was never any proof of the accusation, which is why the conclusion of the probe was No Collusion. I started writing this yesterday while awaiting the presentation of the Mueller report, but it wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other: the accusation was clear, and so was the conclusion.

Even if some proof were found though other means going forward, it would still make no difference: US media published over half a million articles on the topic, and not one of them was based on any proof. If that proof had existed, Mueller would have found and used it.

And sure, Trump may not be a straight shooter, there may be all kinds of illegal activity going on in his organization, but that doesn’t justify using the collusion accusation for a 2-year long probe. If Trump is guilty of criminal acts, he should be investigated for that, not for some made-up narrative. It’s dangerous.


Axios report[ed] that since May 2017, exactly 533,074 web articles have been published about Russia and Trump-Mueller, which in turn have generated “245 million interactions – including likes, comments and shares – on Twitter and Facebook.” “From January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day) through March 21, 2019 (the last night before special counsel Robert Mueller sent his report to the attorney general), the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts produced a combined 2,284 minutes of ‘collusion’ coverage, most of it (1,909 minutes) following Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017,” MRC reports

What the Mueller report says is that 500,000 articles about collusion, and 245 million social media interactions in their wake, were written without any proof whatsoever (or Mueller would have used that proof). That doesn’t mean they may not have been true, or that they can’t be found to be true in the future, it means there was no proof when they were published. They Were All Lying.

The same goes for the Steele dossier. It holds zero proof of collusion between Trump’s team and Russia. Or Mueller would have used that proof. New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, CNN: they all had zero proof when they published, not a thing. Or Mueller would have used that proof. Rachel Maddow’s near nightly collusion rants: no proof. Or Mueller would have used that proof.

That there is no proof also means there has never been any proof. Why that is important, and how important it is, is something we’re very clearly seeing in the case concerning Julian Assange. That, too, is based on made-up stories.

I suggested a few days ago in the Automatic Earth comment section that the advent of the internet, and social media in particular, has greatly facilitated the power of repetition: say something often enough and few people will be able to resist the idea that it must be true. Or at least some of it.

If you look at the amount of time people spend in ‘their’ Facebook, the power of repetition becomes obvious. 245 million social media interactions. On top of half a million articles. How were people supposed to believe, in the face of such a barrage, that there never was any collusion?

Or that Assange is squeaky clean, both in person and in his alleged involvement in the collusion? There is only one way to counter all this: for people like me to keep pointing it out, and to hope that at least a few people pick it up.

That has nothing to do with defending Trump. It has to do with defending my own sanity and that of my readers. Of course it would have been easier, and undoubtedly more profitable, to go with the flow and load on more suspicions, allegations and accusations.

All those media made a mint doing it, and the Automatic Earth might have too. But that is not why we are here.


The Democrats, and the media sympathetic to them, now have seamlessly shifted their attention from Collusion to Obstruction. Which leads to a bit of both interesting and humorous logic: No Collusion? No Obstruction.

The Mueller probe would never have happened if it had been clear there was no collusion. But everyone and their pet hamster were saying there was. And there was the Steele dossier, heavily promoted by John McCain and John Brennan. Neither of whom had any proof of collusion.

The obstruction the anti-Trumpers are now aiming their arrows at consists of Trump allegedly wanting to fire Mueller and/or stopping an investigation that should never have been instigated into a collusion that never existed and was based on a smear campaign.

And now they want to impeach him for that? For attempting to stop the country wasting its resources and halt an investigation into nothing at all?

Know what I hope? That they’ll call on Mueller to testify in a joint session of Senate and Congress and that Rand Paul gets to ask him to address this tweet of his:

“Rand Paul: BREAKING: A high-level source tells me it was Brennan who insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier be included in the Intelligence Report… Brennan should be asked to testify under oath in Congress ASAP.”

And why Mueller refused to go talk to Assange, who offered actual evidence that no Russians were involved. Or how about these stonkers:

“Undoubtedly there is collusion,” Adam Schiff said. “We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised? … It doesn’t appear that was any part of Mueller’s report.”

Preet Bharara: “It’s clear that Bob Mueller found substantial evidence of obstruction.”

There’ll never be such a joint session, the Democrats want to play a home game in Congress. So there will have to be a separate session in the Senate. No doubt that will happen. Trump was right about one thing (well, two): 1) A special Counsel fcuks up a presidency, and 2) this should never happen to another president again.

Not that I have any faith in Capitol Hill, mind you. Because they will agree, and they will agree on one thing only, as Philip Giraldi stipulates once more:

Rumors of War – Washington Is Looking for a Fight

[..] even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people. A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189.

It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.”

And that brings us back to Robert Mueller’s investigation into hot air, which, while it entirely eviscerates even the notion of collusion, still contains accusations against Julian Assange and ‘the Russians’.

Why does he leave those in, when there was no collusion? It’s dead simple. Because unlike accusations against Trump, he doesn’t have to prove them. Which is why I will not stop saying, as I first did some 10 weeks ago, that Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar.

Again, this has nothing to do with defending Trump, it’s about defending and maintaining my own sanity and yours, and the rule of law.

As I said back then about Mueller refusing to talk to Assange, and James Comey in 2017 making sure the DOJ didn’t either :

Every single American should be alarmed by this perversion of justice. Nothing to do with what you think of Trump, or of Assange. The very principles of the system are being perverted, including, but certainly not limited to, its deepest core, that of every individual’s right to defend themselves. Just so Robert Mueller can continue his already failed investigation into collusion that has shown no such thing, and which wouldn’t have been started 20 months ago if we knew then what we know now.

Get off your Trump collusion hobby-horse, that quest has already died regardless, and start defending the legal system and the Constitution. Because if you don’t, what’s to keep the next Robert Mueller from going after you, or someone you like or love? It’s in everyone’s interest to demand that these proceedings – like all legal proceedings- are conducted according to the law, but in Mueller’s hands, they are not.

And that should be a much bigger worry than whether or not you like or dislike a former game-show host.

I’ve said this before as well: I’ll always defend Julian Assange, but I won’t defend Donald Trump. Is that clear now?



Feb 282019

Leonardo da Vinci Ginevra de’ Benci 1474-78


Perhaps against better judgment, I just can’t keep silent about the Michael Cohen’s in da House show performed on February 27. I was watching it and increasingly fearing for the future of America. We had all been able to read his prepared statement before he opened the party with it, and therefore we all knew there was nothing there. So why did this thing take place, and why were all the cameras and reporters there? Do we live in split realities these days?

Both before and after the gruelling -for the viewer- session, words like ‘explosive’ and bombshell’ were all over, so I thought I’d watch, since I might have missed something, but no, there was nothing, there wasn’t even a there there. Apparently, US House members are by now immune to being revealed as nutcases frantically phishing for evidence of accusations they formerly made but could never prove.

A phishing expedition with a willing whale in the center who sort of volunteered to be harpooned, and still came up with absolutely nothing but blubber. And then like 4 hours of that. There’s never been a more convincing picture of what US politics and media have become. But they’re all entirely impervious to it. They’re discussing nothing for hours on end with millions watching, and they see it as normal.

Now, I’ve been following the decay of the American press ever since Trump entered politics stage right, and I’ve written a hundred thousand words about it, but it really hit home during the Cohen session. Tellingly, the Republican House members were exclusively focusing on Cohen credibility, since he had been caught lying to Congress before, and the Supreme Court just days ago disbarred him.

But this was not about the man’s credibility, and sure, I felt sorry for him too, it was about the fact that he had nothing at all to say, but Republicans had nothing on that. They instead joined the Dems in questioning him about nothing, pretending it was big and explosive and stuff. If anything has ever resembled the Emperor’s new clothes, it was that charade there yesterday.


If you insist, we can walk through a few of the topics. A nice example that was not in the prepared statement was that Cohen claimed he had never wanted a White House job, but even the CNN pundits were saying he had wanted one for a long time, and was very insulted when he didn’t get it. Poof! went the last shred of his credibility. Well, not for the House members, they have shorter memories even than CNN talking heads.

Second, the issue of a Trump Tower in Moscow, about which Cohen allegedly lied earlier on, in that the plans were shelved later than he had claimed. But the only thing that really interests the House, because even they understand that wanting to build a hotel in the city is not some criminal thing, is Russiagate, invented out of thin air but still popular stateside.

The one thing related to this that collusion ‘experts’ emphasize time and again, and it came up again in the Cohen thing, is that Trump supposedly planned to gift a penthouse apartment in a potential Trump hotel on Red Square to Vladimir Putin. Conveniently, not a single American appears to have wondered whether Putin would be interested in such a gift.

And I can assure you he wouldn’t. Putin can get -just about- any piece of real estate he wants on Red Square, besides he already has the Kremlin, and he can get anything built there which he might desire. Accepting a free dwelling from a US builder makes no sense. Why should he? Still, this is one of the main items Russiagaters keep coming up with. It makes no sense, and that’s fitting, because neither do they.

Second, pornstar pay-offs. Male politicians worldwide and through the ages have had affairs, and in modern times (re: JFK) there’s been an understanding that the media leave these things alone. On the one hand, it’s proof of virility, something voters like in their candidates, and on the other it shows infidelity, something they don’t. A battle no-one can win, hence the understanding.

In France, this all plays out a bit more openly, though never in the open, but in the US you can break the pact if you want. And since the initial story was that campaign funds had been used to pay Stormy Daniels, there was a potential criminal angle. But we now know that that angle was fake, so no there there either. Trump paid so it (true or not) didn’t become a big campaign story, and that he did so just before an election is irrelevant, because the whole topic is irrelevant. Unless you want to exhume JFK.


Third and what pisses me off more than anything, is that Cohen both volunteered, and was coaxed into, talking about Roger Stone’s alleged contacts with Julian Assange. Cohen talked about a conversation between Stone and Trump on July 18-19 2016, in which Stone allegedly said he had talked to Assange who told him WikiLeaks was going to release a big batch of Hillary-related mails.

The DNC convention was July 25-28, the WikiLeaks release July 22. Looks like a slam-dunk collusion story, right? Except that Assange had said 5 weeks earlier, on June 12 2016, that such a batch would be released. So even if Stone had talked to him, there was no news there. Moreover, both Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied the conversation ever took place. And of course Assange can’t defend himself against anything anyone says anymore.

And we can keep going: the assertion that the DNC mails were hacked has been refuted many times, and if they were stolen it was by someone inside the DNC. No story, no collusion, no there there. Only hour after tedious hour of Michael Cohen House testimony about nothing at all.

It felt a lot like a new low point in US political history, but you need to be careful with such classifications these days, since competition’s stiff and still picking up. I liked the following lines from an article in the Guardian this morning to appropriately describe the goings-on:

Trump’s former fixer cautioned that he could not prove the “collusion” with Moscow that the president vehemently denies. Still there was, Cohen said, “something odd” about the affectionate back-and-forth Trump had with Vladimir Putin in public remarks over the years.

Here’s the best thing Cohen could do in the entire time wasted on the topic:

“There are just so many dots that seem to lead in the same direction,” he said.”

How does that not make you want to scream? No collusion, only “something odd”, and “so many dots”. A thorough analysis out of the mouth of an at least questionable character who worked closely with Trump for a decade. That’s all the US House of Representatives had to show for the show it put on. And that’s a really big problem, but there’s no-one in sight to address, let alone rectify, it.

There are a thousand things wrong with Donald Trump, but even though that would not necessarily disqualify him for the presidency, the Democrats and the mainstream press have opted to go all-in on the Russia collusion theme, which even two years and change of Mueller hasn’t been able to prove.

Whether this will be the winning ticket for the Democrats in a next election is very doubtful, and what the press hope to get other than a few more readers and viewers addicted to scandals is anyone’s guess. But more importantly: why do they do it? Why focus on all the made-up stories instead of going out and finding the real ones?

Even if the Cohen show not constitute a new low, it was certainly scraping the gutter of American political reality, and someone better do something, or entirely new and thus far unimaginable lows will be attained. Not a single national political system can survive on entirely trumped-up accusations for long, let alone that of the globe’s most powerful nation. Does anyone ever wonder what the Dems will do if Trump wins again in 2020? Where can they flee to?

I’ll leave you with a few Twitter voices who also see no there there. Note: the first one is dated July 7 2016, some two weeks before Stone -unverifiably- said he talked to Assange (who always denied it, but it wouldn’t matter even if he had) :





May 102018
 May 10, 2018  Posted by at 6:38 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »

James McNeill Whistler Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket 1875



Dr. D again. And wait, that deal was never even -legally- signed?



Dr. D: I know the U.S. hasn’t followed the law in 100 years, but let’s review the Iran Deal. A “Deal” with a foreign nation is supposed to be, for 200 years has been, and legally must be, a “Treaty”. Treaties under U.S. law are unique, as they are NOT to be brokered by the Congress and are a point of contention if Congressmen get involved, as you can imagine special deals and/or information leaks could damage the negotiating position.

This is one of the few things Congress doesn’t do. However, the deal, brokered by the President, is presented to the Senate and only the Senate, which is supposed to be the older, more stable house, and once upon a time when Americans were adults and the Senate was chosen by the State governments, this was true. Even with a Democratic election of Senators representing the people and not the States, (which is what the House is supposed to be) it’s the best we have.

So when Obama arranged the Iran “Deal”, he knew and did so against 220 years of history exclusively BECAUSE he knew the Senate would never approve an honest-to-God, legal “Treaty.” Worse, it was part of the reason the “Deal” was effectively secret, not overseen by anyone, and even John Kerry when asked what was in it said, “I don’t know.” You don’t know??? You’re the Secretary of State presumably brokering the deal. Who’s above you in the food chain that you’re not allowed to know? That was an interesting disclosure that the media – of course – never followed up on.

He also said, as the deal was never signed, it was “not legally binding.” Okay, yes, if the Senate does not approve it, making it therefore a “Treaty”, then it’s just a gentleman’s handshake verbal agreement and not binding. So…Iran therefore did NOT agree to stop weapons development, and certainly as proven did not agree to continue to use the U.S. petrodollar.

On the other hand, Obama DID send pallets of cash on 3 jumbo jets, and the U.S. prisoners were not released until those planes touched down. So Iran can legally reverse their weapons development, while you’re not going to get that cash back. That sounds like a terrible, terrible deal, a no-deal deal no one read and no one signed. And they’re upset this is cancelled? Why? What’s in it? Can we finally know now? Nope.

My personal theory is that since General Wesley Clark’s reveal that they planned 7 MENA wars, and named them in order back in 2001 and were to culminate in attacking Iran by 2013, they were years behind schedule on this world-domination murder-death play. In order to keep Iran in a holding pattern, still lacking viable nuclear weapons, they had to pay them billions and billions. Iran for their part knew they would win Syria anyway, so they were happy to play along and get a few billion dollars. And a lot of those billions Obama “gave” to Iran were Iran’s money anyway.

What? Yes, the U.S. confiscated and “froze” (actually stole and used) Iran’s western assets in 1979, and by law Iran was almost certainly owed this money plus interest. Then if I’m any judge of world politics, the negotiating parties — U.S., France, Germany, Iran, took these pallets of unmarked bills and used them for slush fund payouts among the various power factions, and about $50 ended up with the people.

This proved to be true, as Iran immediately ignored the U.S., moved into Syria, dumped the dollar, traded in Euros, and arguably continued weapons (missile) development. …But like I said, the important part got through: free cash payoffs, untraceable, back to the “right” people: the “Deep States” of the U.S., Iran, France, etc. You can see this in Macron and Merkel’s top priority and panic to force this deal to continue. And why? Isn’t that money gone? A one-time thing? Hmmm.

Back to the present, the nation is all agog about “ending” the Iran deal. You mean the deal we didn’t have? The one that was neither signed nor (generally) followed? How can Trump end it? He can end it because it was never a deal, it was a side-agreement by a specific President, THAT’S WHY WE HAVE TREATIES. So that they are in law, hard to negate, and much more stable. In fact, the Senate told Iran this outright: “if you sign this, you know that as soon as Obama is out of office, we’ll just reverse it.”

That wasn’t exactly a threat, it was simply a fact. If you don’t enlist the Senate and 220 year-old legal processes, you effectively have nothing but a wink and a smile. Then, yes, it is easy to undo as the wind blows. Now why the Senate and Congress didn’t stop this wink, withhold funds, or impeach the President for subverting law and Congressional authority is another matter: the only thing here is that there was no legal agreement, widely reported by all parties in the public media, so what is Trump really cancelling? Something that never existed except in the news?

We have law for a reason and this is what happens when you don’t follow it, but after not following it for 100 or more years, everyone forgets. This ain’t rocket science, folks. You want an Iran deal? Pass one.



May 072018

John French Sloan Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair 1912


Behold The Sudden Stop. Risk of Emerging Markets Collapse (Lacalle)
Dollar Surge Bringing Emerging Market Rate Cut Cycle To A Halt (R.)
WTF Just Happened to Argentina’s Peso? (Fernet)
Remedies Trump Prescribes For Trade Problems Harm US (Xinhua)
In the Coming Crash We’ll be Falling from a Higher Height – Nomi Prins (USAW)
Mueller Investigation is In Jeopardy (ZH)
Why The Justice Department Defies Congress (WSJ)
Merkel Allies Reject Idea Of European Finance Minister (R.)
Weak Foreign Demand Pushes Down German Industrial Orders (R.)
A Million More UK Children In Poverty Than In 2010 (G.)
Air France Survival In Doubt Over Strikes (BBC)
Greece’s Incredibly Shrinking Middle Class (K.)
Conoco Moves To Take Over Venezuelan PDVSA’s Caribbean Assets (R.)



Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia. Brazil in a bit. The list will grow. As the dollar rises, emerging countries need more dollars to pay their debt, pushing the dollar up even more. And investors pull their money out of these countries. Vicious circles everywhere.

Behold The Sudden Stop. Risk of Emerging Markets Collapse (Lacalle)

Argentina even issued a one-hundred-year bond at a spectacularly low rate (8.25%) with a very high demand, more than 3.5 times bid-to-cover. That $ 2.5 billion issuance seemed crazy. A one-hundred-year bond from a nation that has defaulted at least six times in the previous hundred years! Worse of all, those funds were used to finance current expenditure in local currency. The extraordinary demand for bonds and other assets in Argentina or Turkey was justified by expectations of reforms and a change that, as time passed, simply did not happen. Countries failed to control inflation, deliver lower than expected growth and imbalances soared just as the U.S. started to see some inflation, rates started to rise.

Suddenly, the yield spread between the U.S. 10-year bond and emerging markets debt was unattractive, and liquidity dried up faster than the speed of light even with a modest decrease of the Federal Reserve balance sheet. Liquidity disappears because of extremely leveraged bets on one single trade – a weaker dollar, higher global growth- unwind. However, another problem exacerbates the reaction. An aggressive increase in the monetary base by the Argentine central bank made inflation rise above 23%. With an increase in the monetary base of 28% per year, and seeking to finance excess spending by printing money and raising debt to “buy time”, the seeds of the disaster were planted. Excess liquidity and the US dollar weakness stopped. Local currencies and external funding face risk of collapse.

The Sudden Stop. When most of the emerging economies entered into twin deficits -trade and fiscal deficits- and consensus praised “synchronized growth”, they were sealing their destiny: When the US dollar regains some strength, US rates rise due to an increase in inflation, the flow of cheap money to emerging markets is reversed. Synchronized indebted growth created the risk of synchronized collapse.

Read more …

Is this really the end of cheap debt? It’s dangerous too: if Turkey gets into real trouble, Erdogan will seek a scapegoat.

Dollar Surge Bringing Emerging Market Rate Cut Cycle To A Halt (R.)

A resurgent dollar and higher borrowing costs are smashing through Argentina and Turkey’s currencies like a wrecking ball and raising the likelihood more broadly that emerging markets’ three-year long interest rate cutting cycle is at an end. Emerging markets came into the year flying, riding on the back of a healthy global economy and rising commodity prices alongside tame inflation and a weak dollar. It looked more than likely that a wave of rate cuts would keep rolling, allowing a bond rally to continue. From Brazil and Russia to Armenia and Zambia, developing countries, big and small, have been on a rate cutting spree. With hundreds of rate cuts since Jan. 2015, the average emerging market borrowing cost fell under 6% earlier this year from over 7% at the time.

Fund managers’ profits too have soared in this time, with emerging local currency debt among the best performing asset classes, with dollar-based returns of 14% last year. Even in the first quarter of 2018, returns were a buoyant 4.3% Now though, almost exactly five years since the so-called taper tantrum shook an emerging market rally, these gains appear to be on the cusp of reversal. Argentina has jacked up its interest rates to 40% in response to a rout in its peso currency, while Turkey was also forced into a rate rise as its lira hit record lows against the dollar. Indonesia, after heavy interventions to stem rupiah bleeding, has also said it could resort to policy tightening.

Read more …

Déja vu.

WTF Just Happened to Argentina’s Peso? (Fernet)

If you’re watching Argentina’s economy, it hasn’t been a banner week. This week, Argentina had to raise its key interest rate three times to keep the Argentine peso from losing even more value against the dollar. Three interest rate hikes in one week is a lot – it implies the first two didn’t work, and the Central Bank is not in control. The interest rate currently sits at 40%. That means the Central Bank pays 40% per year on peso-denominated debt, which can imply that they expect the value of the peso to fall somewhere in the ballpark of 40% over a one year period. A year ago in April, the rate was closer to 26%. Yikes. And the exchange rate kicked off the week at around 20.5 ARS/USD. It jumped almost to 23 ARS/USD, and is currently hovering around 21.8 ARS/USD.

[..] When the US dollar increases in value, emerging market currencies decrease, meaning in Argentina’s case it will take increasingly more pesos to buy dollars. This then amplifies the risk that emerging markets will be unable to make payments on dollar denominated debt, causing investors to sell their emerging market investments, further amplifying the currency stress. The timing specifically in the case of Argentina is uncannily bad. Until this week, non-residents investing in Argentina were exempt from paying the equivalent of capital gains taxes across the board, including local-currency peso-denominated central bank notes, or LEBACs. This Tuesday, this exemption on LEBACs officially no longer applied, meaning foreign holders of these notes now incur a tax equal to 5% on profits.

Read more …

“Increased American consumption born of an overstimulated economy..”

Remedies Trump Prescribes For Trade Problems Harm US (Xinhua)

Remedies the Trump administration is prescribing for U.S. trade problems won’t work, and forays in trade disputes with China will harm the United States, a veteran China expert with decades of experience in bilateral relations said [in Silicon Valley] on Saturday. “I believe that Washington has misdiagnosed our trade problems, that its remedies for them won’t work, and that what it is doing will harm the United States and other countries as much or more than it does China,” said Chas Freeman, senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute, when addressing the annual conference of a prominent Chinese American group, the Committee of 100 (C100).

“The United States and China are each too globalized and dynamic to contain, too big and influential to ignore, and too successful and entangled with each other to divorce without bankrupting ourselves and all associated with us,” Freeman, also former U.S. assistant secretary of defense, said in an opening keynote speech. Pointing out that there are many reasons for the United States to seek cooperative relations with a rising China, Freeman added that the Trump administration has decided “to pick a fight — to confront China both militarily and economically.” “The fact that we Americans consume more than we save means that we import more than we produce. That creates an overall trade deficit. Ironically, the Trump administration has just taken steps guaranteed to increase this deficit,” he said.

“It has reduced tax revenues and boosted deficit spending, mostly on military research, development, and procurement. These actions take the national savings rate even lower while inflating domestic demand for goods and services. They cause imports to surge,” he added. “Increased American consumption born of an overstimulated economy explains why China’s trade surplus with the United States is again rising even as its surplus with the rest of the world falls,” he said. “Unless Americans boost our national savings rate by hiking taxes or cut our consumption by falling into recession, our overall trade deficit is sure to bloat,” he said.

Read more …

The Market Will Plummet if Global Central Banks Pull Plug

“..the reality is when a financial crisis happens, banks close their doors to depositors..”

In the Coming Crash We’ll be Falling from a Higher Height – Nomi Prins (USAW)

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with two-time, best-selling author Nomi Prins, who just released “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged The World.” Will the next crash be worse than the last one? Prins says, “Yes, it will because we will be falling from a higher height. The idea here is you are sinking on the Titanic as opposed to sinking on a canoe somewhere. All of this artificial conjured money is puffing up the system, along with money that is borrowed cheaply is also puffing up the system and creating asset bubbles everywhere. So, when things pop, there is more leakage to happen. The air in all these bubbles has created larger bubbles than we have had before.”

How does the common man protect himself? Prins says, “They have to own things, and by that I mean real assets, hard assets like silver and gold. That’s not as liquid, so taking cash out of banks and sort of keeping it in real things and keeping it on site . . . keeping cash physically. You need to extract it from the system because the reality is when a financial crisis happens, banks close their doors to depositors. . . . Also, basically try to decrease your debt.”

Read more …

Did Flynn plead guilty because he couldn’t pay the legal bills?

How much longer until Mueller is whistled back by his superiors? Can Rosenstein keep silent as one judge after another slams the Special Counsel?

Mueller Investigation In Jeopardy (ZH)

A funny thing happened on the way to impeaching Donald Trump. After two-years of investigations by a highly politicized FBI and a Special Counsel stacked with Clinton supporters, Robert Mueller’s probe has resulted in the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the arrests of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and the indictment of 13 Russian nationals on allegations of hacking the 2016 election – along with the raid of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The nation has been on the edge of insanity waiting for that much-promised and long awaited link tying President Trump to Vladimir Putin we were all promised, only to find out that there is no link, the deck appears to have been heavily stacked against Donald Trump by bad actors operating at the highest levels of the FBI, DOJ, Obama admin and Clinton camp, and the real Russian conspiracy in the 2016 election was the participation of high level Kremlin sources used in the anti-Trump dossier that Hillary Clinton paid for. Now, as the out-of-control investigation moves from the headlines and into court, the all-encompassing “witch hunt,” as Trump calls it, may be in serious jeopardy.

As of Friday, three separate Judges have rendered harsh setbacks to the Mueller investigation – demanding, if you can believe it, facts and evidence to back up the Special Counsel’s claims – in unredacted format as one Judge demands, or risk having the cases tossed out altogether. [..] And as we noted yesterday, some have suggested that Flynn pleaded guilty due to the fact that federal investigations tend to bankrupt people who aren’t filthy rich – as was the case with former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee “God damn you to hell” after having to sell his home due to mounting legal fees over the inquiry. “Your investigation and others into the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia are costing my family a great deal of money — more than $125,000 — and making a visceral impact on my children.”

Read more …

Quite strong for the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Andrew McCabe – they have already shattered the FBI’s reputation and public trust.”

Why The Justice Department Defies Congress (WSJ)

Until this week, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and fellow institutionalists at the department had fought Congress’s demands for information with the tools of banal bureaucracy – resist, delay, ignore, negotiate. But Mr. Rosenstein took things to a new level on Tuesday, accusing House Republicans of “threats,” extortion and wanting to “rummage” through department documents. A Wednesday New York Times story then dropped a new slur, claiming “Mr. Rosenstein and top FBI officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about [Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s ] investigation so that it could be shared with the White House.”

Mr. Rosenstein isn’t worried about rummaging. That’s a diversion from the department’s opposite concern: that it is being asked to comply with very specific – potentially very revealing – demands. Two House sources confirm for me that the Justice Department was recently delivered first a classified House Intelligence Committee letter and then a subpoena (which arrived Monday) demanding documents related to a new line of inquiry about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Trump investigation. The deadline for complying with the subpoena was Thursday afternoon, and the Justice Department flouted it. As the White House is undoubtedly monitoring any new congressional demands for information, it is likely that President Trump’s tweet Wednesday ripping the department for not turning over documents was in part a reference to this latest demand.

Republicans also demand the FBI drop any objections to declassifying a section of the recently issued House Intelligence Committee report that deals with a briefing former FBI Director James Comey provided about former national security adviser Mike Flynn. House Republicans say Mr. Comey told them his own agents did not believe Mr. Flynn lied to them. On his book tour, Mr. Comey has said that isn’t true. Someone isn’t being honest. Is the FBI more interested in protecting the reputations of two former directors (the other being Mr. Mueller, who dragged Mr. Flynn into court on lying grounds) than in telling the public the truth?

We can’t know the precise motivations behind the Justice Department’s and FBI’s refusal to make key information public. But whether it is out of real concern over declassification or a desire to protect the institutions from embarrassment, the current leadership is about 20 steps behind this narrative. Mr. Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Andrew McCabe – they have already shattered the FBI’s reputation and public trust. There is nothing to be gained from pretending this is business as usual, or attempting to stem continued fallout by hiding further details.

Read more …

And debt pooling. So much for closer integration.

Merkel Allies Reject Idea Of European Finance Minister (R.)

Leading politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want to pass a resolution at a meeting this week to reject any pooling of debts in Europe and any fiscal policy without national parliamentary controls, Handelsblatt reported. The daily business newspaper, citing sources from the conservative bloc’s parliamentary leadership, said the senior politicians also oppose European Commission plans for a European finance minister. The group includes the parliamentary leaders of the conservative bloc in the Bundestag, the European Parliament as well as from Germany’s 16 states, Handelsblatt reported.

Merkel will join them on Monday for a meeting in Frankfurt. The report highlights the resistance among Merkel’s conservatives to any euro zone reforms that could see more German taxpayers’ money being used to fund other member states. The conservatives are nervous about European Union reform after bleeding support to the anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) party at national elections last September. Last month, Merkel called for a spirit of compromise on reforming the euro zone at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who pressed for solidarity among members of the currency union.

Read more …

No smooth sailing.

Weak Foreign Demand Pushes Down German Industrial Orders (R.)

German industrial orders unexpectedly dropped for the third month running in March due to weak foreign demand, data showed on Monday, suggesting factories in Europe’s largest economy are shifting into a lower gear. Contracts for German goods fell 0.9% after a downwardly revised drop of 0.2% the previous month, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed. Analysts polled by Reuters had on average predicted a 0.5% rise in orders. “The economy is slowing down, that’s the sure take-away from today’s industrial orders data,” VP Bank Group analyst Thomas Gitzel said, adding that some growth forecasts would soon have to be revised down.

The government last month cut its 2018 growth forecast to 2.3% from 2.4% and expressed concern about international trade tensions. “The debate about tariffs has probably created great uncertainty in Europe’s export-driven industry,” Gitzel added. As Europe’s biggest exporter to the United States, Germany is desperate to avoid an EU trade war with the United States. In the run-up to a June 1 deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide on whether to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU, Berlin is urging its European partners to be flexible and pursue a broad deal that benefits both sides. The drop in industrial orders was led by foreign orders which fell by 2.6%, while domestic orders rose 1.5%, the data showed.

Read more …

But the government says there a million LESS people in poverty.

A Million More UK Children In Poverty Than In 2010 (G.)

The number of children growing up in poverty in working households will be a million higher than in 2010, a new study has found. Research for the TUC estimates that 3.1 million children with working parents will be below the official breadline this year. About 600,000 children with working parents have been pushed into poverty because of the government’s benefit cuts and public sector pay restrictions, according to the report by the consultancy Landman Economics. The east Midlands will have the biggest increase in child poverty among working families, followed by the West Midlands and Northern Ireland, the research found. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said child poverty in working households had shot up since 2010.

“Years of falling incomes and benefit cuts have had a terrible human cost. Millions of parents are struggling to feed and clothe their kids,” she said. “The government is in denial about how many working families just can’t make ends meet. We need ministers to boost the minimum wage now, and use the social security system to make sure no child grows up in a family struggling to get by.” [..] A government spokeswoman said it did not recognise the TUC’s figures. She said: “The reality is there are now 1 million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010, including 300,000 fewer children. “We want every child to get the very best chances in life. We know the best route out of poverty is through work, which is why it’s really encouraging that both the employment rate and household incomes have never been higher.”

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Shares down 13% this morning.

Air France Survival In Doubt Over Strikes (BBC)

The survival of strike-hit Air France is in the balance, according to the country’s economy minister. Bruno Le Maire’s warning that Air France could “disappear” comes as staff begin another round of industrial action over a pay dispute. Despite the French state owning 14.3% of the Air France-KLM parent group, the loss-making airline would not be bailed out, he said. On Friday Air France-KLM’s chief executive quit over the crisis. Air France-KLM is one of Europe’s biggest airlines, but has seen a series of strikes in recent weeks. Monday’s walk-out is the 14th day of action, as staff press for a 5.1% salary increase this year. The government’s response is seen as a test of labour reforms launched by French President Emmanuel Macron. There have also been strikes at the state-owned SNCF rail company.

On Sunday, Mr Le Maire told French news channel BFM: “I call on everyone to be responsible: crew, ground staff, and pilots who are asking for unjustified pay hikes. “The survival of Air France is in the balance,” he said, adding that the state would not serve as a backstop for the airline’s debts. “Air France will disappear if it does not make the necessary efforts to be competitive,” he warned. Despite the strike, the airline insisted that it would be able to maintain 99% of long-haul flights on Monday, 80% of medium-haul services and 87% of short-haul flights. On Friday, Jean-Marc Janaillac, chief executive of parent company Air France-KLM, resigned after staff rejected a final pay offer from him, which would have raised wages by 7% over four years.

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That’s about 1 in 20: “From the 8.8 million individual taxpayers who submitted a declaration last year, no more than 450,000 showed a net annual income of 18,000 euros or more..”

Greece’s Incredibly Shrinking Middle Class (K.)

For salaried workers to bring home 1,500 euros per month net on a 12-month basis, or 18,000 euros per year not including holiday bonuses, their employers need to pay 2,610 euros a month or over 31,300 euros a year, given Greece’s particularly high taxes and social security contributions. For a self-employed professional to pocket the same amount , about 18,000 euros per annum, he or she would have to earn at least 50,000 euros on a yearly basis so as to cover professional expenses, taxes and contributions. As for new pensioners, a net income of 1,500 euros/month or 18,000 euros/year can only be achieved if they worked without pause for 40 years at an average monthly salary of 2,400 euros over that entire period.

The framework that has emerged in the last three years with tax and contribution hikes, in particular, as well as the new way pensions are being calculated are drastically reducing the chances of any worker or pensioner to have a decent monthly salary or pension. Official figures already highlight the shrinking of the so-called middle class: From the 8.8 million individual taxpayers who submitted a declaration last year, no more than 450,000 showed a net annual income of 18,000 euros or more, down from 840,000 in 2010. The shrinking trend of the middle class is expected to continue both for taxation and for practical reasons.

An employer will face the same cost hiring five or six part-timers offering a total of 20-24 working hours per day as in hiring one full-timer offering eight hours of work. Particularly in sectors where there is no need for highly skilled workers, such as retail commerce or tourism, the trend to replace well paid positions has already become dominant. Among the self-employed, overtaxation is this year anticipated to reduce the number of those declaring a taxable income of over 30,000 euros per year. As for pensioners, already the first pensions issues on the basis of the new system of calculation prove that the chances for anyone to secure a benefit of 1,500 euros after retirement are next to zero, and will shrink further in the years to come.

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Curious. Bonaire and St. Eustatius are part of the Dutch Kingdom. Conoco can’t move without their permission.

Conoco Moves To Take Over Venezuelan PDVSA’s Caribbean Assets (R.)

U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips has moved to take Caribbean assets of Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA to enforce a $2 billion arbitration award over a decade-oil nationalization of its projects in the South American country, according to two sources familiar with its actions. The U.S. firm targeted Caribbean facilities on the islands of Bonaire and St. Eustatius that play critical roles in PDVSA’s oil exports, the country’s main source of revenue. PDVSA relies on the terminals to process, store and blend its oil. “We will work with the community and local authorities to address issues that may arise as a result of enforcement actions,” ConocoPhillips said in a statement to Reuters.

Read more …

Dec 272016
 December 27, 2016  Posted by at 10:01 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »

Joan Miró Caballo, Pipa y Flor Roja (Horse Pipe and Red Flower) 1920


I was surprised to see how surprised I was, like I’m sure millions of people were, to see the term ‘fake news’ pop up in what are still called ‘respectable’ (which is by now really just another word for ‘old’) news outlets.

Because a huge part of what they have been feeding their readers and viewers for years is that very thing: fake news. Who needs a bunch of bored highschool kids in small town Montenegro when you have the offices of America’s ‘official’ news sources at your disposal?

That there are still people trying to make a serious point by quoting anything at all published in the Washington Post -and to an only slightly lesser extent the New York Times- is beyond me. And not a little bit beyond. Well, that people still read these sheets is just as incredible, I grant you that.

I haven’t kept count of the number of ‘articles’ the WaPo has published over the past year or so -the election campaign- that referred to unsubstantiated reports emanating from anonymous US intelligence sources about Russian involvement in everything bad under the sun, but I’m dead certain that put together they would add up to a Christmas bestseller of respectable size. A chance missed there, gents. You could have had your own garbage lead your own bestseller lists. Snake, tail.

And it’s not as if it was a new thing for them either, what’s new is the sheer volume and the concerted campaign we’re talking about. We of course had a similar thing in 2003 with the Weapons of Mass Destruction ‘fantasy’. Now that I mention it, how is it possible that Colin Powell is still walking around free, and Cheney and W.?

When did it become de rigueur to lie to the people, let alone Congress and the UN? What have we become? When did that happen? Remember Ukraine, and the stories you were told about that, less than 3 years ago? Crimea? G-d I hope Trump will get rid of Victoria Nuland.

Trump called the UN a sad club for people to “get together, talk and have a good time”. Is he wrong? Really? If so, do tell, how wrong is he? Perhaps wrong in the same way that the IMF is wrong for letting Christine Lagarde keep her plush tax-free seat after being convicted for handing €400 million in French taxpayer money to a crony? That kind of wrong?

I’m thinking there are still awfully few people who understand what’s happening in the world. What’s changing. And I don’t hold out much hope that they will until it hits them smack upside the backs of their heads.

Why there’s Trump and Brexit, and why many more changes are in the offing. Well, it’s precisely because the UN and EU and IMF and Capitol Hill are self-serving ‘clubs’ filled with unaccountable and overpaid people who have turned the world into a godawful mess.

Not for themselves, they’re fine, thank you very much, they all have pensions from here to Rome and back again for the rest of their lives, but for everyone else. G-d I hope Trump will come through on his pre-election promise to limit the terms of American Congressmen and Senators. And that this is subsequently applied to all these ‘clubs’. Because if anything, it’s them who are the bane of this world. Public service…

There may be fine individuals among them, that’s not even -the worst of- the point, it’s the dilapidated, decayed, rotten to the core institutions that they ‘serve’ which are the problem. They serve themselves and they serve the institutions, the one thing they sure don’t serve is the people. You know who’s given (‘voted’) them those lavish pensions and benefits? They themselves did, and their predecessors.

The UN is supposed to keep the peace in the world. Well, works like a charm, doesn’t it? The IMF is tasked with keeping 200 or so nations in reasonably balanced economic conditions. Got it down. The US Congress was set up as a pillar of democracy, but it’s occupied by guys and gals who spend so much more time raising funds for their next campaign than representing those who voted them in, that they need lobbyists to tell them which way to vote.

As for the EU, is it even possible they’re the worst of the bunch? Europe is falling apart before all of our eyes, and they’re all in full tard denial about it. They are turning Greece into a third world country, they’re alienating Britain to the point where the English will, once they wake up to what’s going on, want to set Brussels on fire. And why? There’s no point left to any of it at all.

Italy’s a goner, once enough Italians realize what the ECB wants to do to their banks. France is such a key member nobody wants to even imagine it falling, so its broke banks are ignored. Holland will come very close to voting in Wilders, which means Nexit. Germany is destabilizing rapidly. Spain has been a hornets’ nest for years. Etc.

And again: why? Well, because the Obama/Merkel model has so dramatically failed. All these places where left and right work together to produce a shapeless blob somewhere in the center that has no identity and doesn’t speak out for anyone.

You just wouldn’t know it from reading the Washington Post. Or any comparable old and respected medium in any of these European countries. It’s not just the politics that have failed, it’s its propaganda machine too.

This is something that manifests itself differently in different places, but it shouldn’t be that hard to see the ties that bind it all together. For one thing, because, not even touched on so far, the amount of fake financial news that has been forced down our throats for decades, and increasingly so: the worse things get, the bigger the lie…

There is no economic recovery. Never was. Not in the US, not in Europe anywhere. It’s a fairy tale. There are plates shifting, sure. You can cherry pick a region stateside that does well if only you select the ‘right’ stats. Like you can say employment is on a roll, if you’re willing to discard the number of ‘newly created’ jobs that are part time.

And yes, if you just completely ignore that 94 million Americans are not counted at all in unemployment numbers, Obama has been a big success. It’s just that those 94 million have a vote, too. We will see that exact same dynamic, and we have already started, play out all across Europe.

It’ll be much messier, for instance because in Holland last time I looked 81 different political parties were vying to take part in the upcoming elections, but the end result will be the same. That is, the existing order will be voted out. Not everywhere, and it won’t be replaced by radically different parties and people in all places, but do please understand that it doesn’t have to.

In Europe, it’s not and/and, it’s if/or. As in, if either Italy or France or Holland vote in a party that wants to leave the EU or the Euro, it’s game over. The endgame will be almighty messed up because of all the laws and regulations the EU has invented, but eventually the walls of Brussels will crumble. Good riddance too.

I’ve said it a hundred times before, all the institutions mentioned before, EU, IMF, UN and yes, even Congress, exist by the grace of growth. People accept them only as long as they can show reasonable proof that they bring economic benefits. As soon as that’s gone (or I should say as soon as people figure it out), so are they.

People are going to vote for someone close to their own lives, their own world, to lead them in times of contraction. That is inevitable. It’s why Trump won, and it’s also why he’s set to fail. Isn’t that a lovely paradox? We’re going to split up into smaller entities, economic contraction guarantees it.

And while everyone tries to talk you into thinking that’s terrible, there’s no reason why it should be. We can work together in many different ways. All these supranational institutions have merely become straight jackets that serve only the people who work inside them and those outside who benefit from keeping up appearances and clinging to power.

That of course gets us back to the Washington Post and its comatose brethren. The US press has been a full accomplice with Washington in reporting fake news about the recovery, and it’s not there. Never has been. The Dow Jones says one thing, the votes for Trump say another. In the end, democracy is that simple. Same goes for Britain, same goes for continental Europe.

And there’s no doubt that Trump is an iceberg-sized gamble, but a change had to come. A change from the monsoon of fake news we have all been fed, but also initially a change that won’t be able to help itself from being replete with more fake news, from all sides.

Put it this way: in 2016, the engine of change got cranked up. In the new year, it will accelerate. That is 2017. That is what the new year will bring.

Mar 062016
 March 6, 2016  Posted by at 8:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »

Arnold Genthe San Francisco , Chinatown. The street of the gamblers at night 1900

China never had an actual economic model or growth model. It simply printed an obscene amount of money, especially after 2008, and used it to build factories, 30-story see-through apartment blocks and highways into nowhere cities, without giving much if any thought to where this would lead when their formerly rich western customers had less to spend on its ever increasing amount of ever more useless products, or when its workers would stop spending ever more on apartments as investments, or when no more roads and bridges were needed because nowhere was already in plain sight. Or all of the above. It was ‘to infinity and beyond’ from the start, but that’s a line from a kids’ fantasy story, not a 5-year plan or an economic model.

Going into its 10-day, 3,000 delegates National People’s Congress opening on Friday, China was facing -and very much still is- two major and interconnected problems. Both are problems that the country has never faced before -not a minor point to make. The first is a giant debt load, one that could easily be as high as $40 trillion, or 350% of GDP, once one includes the shadow banking system (watch the shadows!). The second is the Communist Party’s -economic- credibility.

The debt problem is impossible to solve without very far-reaching restructurings of both the debt itself and of the entire Chinese economy. There appears to be a problem within the problem, however: the Party neither looks prepared to truly tackle the debt nor does it seem to know how.

As for the credibility issue, the very fact that a 5-year plan will be unveiled is the perfect in-a-nutshell illustration of what’s ailing Beijing. Not only does it hark back to communist days of old, not exactly a confidence booster, but trying to look 5 years ahead in today’s global economy is in itself not credible. It forces the Party to make statements nobody in their right mind will believe. And to compound the issue, that is something the leadership doesn’t really seem to take seriously. President Xi Jinping, more than anything else, looks like a man in the tradition of ‘what I say is true because I say so”.

That may have worked for a long time inside the country, but the desire to be part of the global economy means the ‘because I say so’ attitude is now being questioned by people Xi can neither bully nor bend into submission. Something he doesn’t seem to have clued into yet. Surrounded as he will be over these ten days by people who’ll say Yes at any appropriate and inappropriate instance, and laugh at anything he says that might be construed as a joke, Xi won’t come out any the wiser. He’d probably be better off spending those days with someone like Kyle Bass, but he’s not doing that.

Everybody, including most NPC delegates, knows that China’s grossly overleveraged, overproducing and overcapacitated economy needs another round of mass layoffs. Some initial numbers relating to job losses have been ‘leaked’ prior to the Congress. First, it was 1.8 million jobs cut in the coal and steel sectors, and a few days later that became 6 million. But that can only possibly be just a start.

It’s all in the numbers. China has something in the order of a billion workers, give or take 100 million or so. Even with the largest mass migration in human history, in which 100s of millions moved from the countryside to the cities, there are still an estimated 300 million people working in agriculture. That’s the entire US population. It’s also 30% of the Chinese workforce. In the US just 2 or 3% work in farming.

But that still leaves 700 million Chinese in other jobs. Many of these jobs were ‘invented’ in the past 20 years, as China’s ‘miracle growth’ transformed it first into the world’s no. 1 trinket producer, then into a kind of powerhouse that built highways to nowhere cities, and today a powerhouse with a fast plummeting global consumer base.

Many millions of Chinese workers produce things that can’t be sold. This is by no means confined to just coal and steel. The sharply dropping Chinese import and export numbers, as well as the purchasing indices, tell a bleak story. It’s evident that China must re-invent itself. And while that may be exactly what it claims it’s doing, the -alleged- transition to a service- and/or consumer economy may sound good, but its practical success is far from guaranteed.

Transforming a factory worker into a service sector employee is not a matter of flicking a switch. Repeating this 10 million times over, or 20 or 30 million, is a nightmare in an economy that is seeing its growth rates plummet while at the same time needing to deleverage its debt levels.

What are all these people going to do that produces actual economic value? And what will be the character of the companies they produce this value at? China is still dominated by state-owned enterprises, with workers relying on the faith that Beijing will always make everything right that goes wrong.

Losing that faith may have far-reaching consequences. At the same time, China cannot get the international economic status it so desperately seeks if so many de facto work for the government.

Though most tend to forget this, China was in a similar situation not so long ago:

In the late 1990s, China drastically restructured its state-owned enterprises, privatizing some and shutting down others. The result: from 1995 to 2002, over 40 million jobs in the state sector were cut, along with nearly 30 million jobs lost in the manufacturing, mining, and utilities sectors.

Although many of these workers were able to pick up jobs in the newly-growing private sector, the societal and cultural shift entailed in the restricting should not be underestimated. Prior to that wave of reforms, state sector employees (the vast majority of China’s workforce) enjoyed the benefits of an “iron rice bowl,” absolute job security along with social benefits (such as healthcare and pensions) provided by the state.

70 million – unproductive- jobs cut in 7 years. An average 10 million per year. A problem the country ‘solved’ by throwing tens of trillions (in US dollars) into overleveraged overproduction at exports-driven manufacturing enterprises. And by moving hundreds of millions of people into the cities that housed the enterprises.

15 years later, many of these newly created jobs have in their turn become unproductive. And the country may have to start the same process all over again. With probably tens of millions more jobs to replace. Question is, how will it fare this time around? Will people accept it as obediently as 15 years ago?

The reforms of the 1990s resulted in massive lay-offs. Overnight, tens of millions of workers lost their “iron rice bowls.” There were people who didn’t want to accept it, even those who actively resisted, but the government ruled with an iron fist and eventually the reforms went through. Even today, some of these people have grown old on the edge of poverty. On a certain level, we sacrificed them in exchange for huge reforms to the economic system.

But before wondering about civil obedience, let’s ask again: what are all these people going to do that produces actual economic value? Service economy? Consumer economy? There is no move available this time into another giant and overleveraged export industry. They’re at the end of the -debt- line.

Those people that had some money have lost a lot -and will lose much more- in equities and housing markets. Moreover, the government’s attempts to make them feel more secure about their old age would take decades to convince the people. So those who have something to save will do just that. So.. what consumer economy?

Service economy? Much of that in China is in financial services. Which has no future. So what else is there? How about the US model of burger flippers? That looks like a winner…

See, here’s a depiction of Chinese debt:

And here’s what they plan to do about it:

It looks like subprime derivatives on steroids: China hopes to bundle together billions of dollars worth of non-performing loans and eventually sell them to global investors Such a massive securitisation programme would represent the latest tactic in China’s campaign to lift one of the biggest shadows cast over its slowing economy -a debt pile that is as big as 230% of GDP. It would whittle back debts at Chinese banks and move some of the risk outside the domestic financial system.

According to official figures, such debts at the banks have reached Rmb1.27tn ($194bn), while analysts estimate the real number is likely to be many times higher. Chinese media has reported that the regulator has granted a total of Rmb50bn for the first wave of products. Demand for the scheme, however, is expected to be significantly more modest than supply. “How many global investors have been interested in the traditional [bad debt in China]?” asked one Hong Kong-based investor with experience buying distressed debt in Asia. “Not many.. is a more complicated version of this going to change that soon? No.”

This’ll be great, as great as the western approach to drowning in debt. Mind you, the Chinese haven’t even started talking about ‘recovery’ like we have, they’re still thinking -or propagandizing- that they’re on an ever upward trail. Well, they’re not. One of the early notes coming out of the People’s Congress was this: “China Says Will Keep Yuan Basically Stable Against Basket Of Currencies ..”

That’s not happening. They know it, we know it, and Kyle Bass knows it. Perhaps once the Congress is over, they’ll come clean? Hard to say. What’s certain is that global markets WILL force a substantial re-adjustment of the yuan, and there’s nothing Xi or the entire Communist Party can do to prevent it. And then, after a 30% readjustment, take another look at that dollar-denominated debt!

And they’ll have to cut many millions of jobs, and try to ‘pacify’ the newly unemployed, and deleverage the insane debt levels they’ve created, and find a way to explain to their people where it all went so wrong.

China no longer lives in a kids’ fantasy Toy Story.

Dec 152014
 December 15, 2014  Posted by at 11:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »

Wyland Stanley REO taxicab, San Francisco 1924

Santa Got Run Over By An Oil Tanker (MarketWatch)
U.A.E. Sees OPEC Output Unchanged Even If Oil Falls to $40 (Bloomberg)
The Oil-Price-Shock Contagion-Transmission Pathway (Zero Hedge)
UK Energy Firms Go Under As Oil Price Tumbles (Guardian)
Oil Bust Veterans Brace While Shale-Boom Newbies Swagger (Bloomberg)
Warning Over Horrible End To Japan’s QE Blitz (AEP)
Time to Take Away the Punchbowl in Japan (Bloomberg)
Samaras Grexit Talk Summons Bond Vigilantes to Greece (Bloomberg)
EU Finance Chief Flies Into Athens As Grexit Fears Mount (Guardian)
The EU Must Face Up To Austerity’s Failures (Steve Keen)
The Eurozone Crisis History Is Repeating Itself … Again (Guardian)
Time For Bottom Fishing In The Eurozone? (CNBC)
London House Prices Fall By More Than £30,000 In A Month (Guardian)
Fed Vice-Chairman Fisher: ‘Boy, Was I Wrong’ About Banks’ Political Power (WSJ)
Krugman Says Fed Is Unlikely to Raise Interest Rates in 2015 (Bloomberg)
Congress Deals A Blow To Financial Reform (Bloomberg ed.)
Shiller Sees Risk In New Push For First-Time Homebuyers (CNBC)
China Economic Growth May Slow To 7.1% In 2015 – PBOC (Reuters)
Australia’s Budget Deficit Blows Out Amid Commodity Slide (Reuters)
The Implosion Of American Culture (PhoM)
Why Milennials Are Stuck Living At Home With Parents (Dr. Housing Bubble)

“.. a stunning $1.6 trillion annual loss, at oil’s current $57 low ..” What about $50, $45, $40?

Crashing Crude May Blow $1.6 Trillion Annual Hole In The Global Oil Sector (MW)

Santa Got Run Over By An Oil Tanker

Talk about an oil spill. The spectacular unhinging of crude oil prices over the past six months is weighing mightily on the U.S. stock market. And while it may be too early to abandon all hope that the market will stage a year-end Santa rally, it appears that if Father Christmas comes, there’s a good chance his sleigh will be driven by polar bears, instead of gift-laden reindeer. Indeed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average already endured a bludgeoning, registering its second-worst weekly loss in 2014, shedding 570 points, or 3.2%, on Friday. That’s just shy of the 579 points that the Dow lost during the week ending Jan. 24, earlier this year.

It’s also the second worst week for the S&P 500 this year, which was down about 58 points, over the past five trading days, or 2.83%, compared to a cumulative weekly loss of 61.7 points, or 3.14%, during the week concluding Oct. 10. But all that carnage is nothing compared to what may be in store for the oil sector as crude oil tumbles to new gut-wrenching lows on an almost daily basis. On the New York Mercantile exchange light, sweet crude oil for January delivery settled at $57.81 on Friday, its lowest settlement since May 15, 2009. Moreover, the largest energy exchange traded fund, the energy SPDR off by 14% over the past month and has lost a quarter of its value since mid-June.

The real damage, however, is yet to come. By some estimates the wreckage, particularly for the oil-services companies, may add up to a stunning $1.6 trillion annual loss, at oil’s current $57 low, predicts Eric Lascelles, RBC Global Asset Management chief economist. Since it’s a zero-sum game, that translates into a big windfall for everyone else outside of oil players. In his calculation, Lascelles includes the cumulative decline in oil prices since July and current supply estimates of 93 million barrels a day. It’s a fairly simplistic tally, but it gets the point across that the energy sector is facing a serious oil leak. Here’s a look at a graphic illustrating the zero-sum, wealth redistribution playing out as oil craters:

Read more …

Setting the new price level in one fell swoop.

U.A.E. Sees OPEC Output Unchanged Even If Oil Falls to $40 (Bloomberg)

OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting, the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said. OPEC won’t immediately change its Nov. 27 decision to keep the group’s collective output target unchanged at 30 million barrels a day, Suhail Al-Mazrouei said. Venezuela supports an OPEC meeting given the price slide, though the country hasn’t officially requested one, an official at Venezuela’s foreign ministry said Dec. 12. The group is due to meet again on June 5. “We are not going to change our minds because the prices went to $60 or to $40,” Mazrouei told Bloomberg at a conference in Dubai. “We’re not targeting a price; the market will stabilize itself.” He said current conditions don’t justify an extraordinary OPEC meeting. “We need to wait for at least a quarter” to consider an urgent session, he said.

OPEC’s 12 members pumped 30.56 million barrels a day in November, exceeding their collective target for a sixth straight month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait this month deepened discounts on shipments to Asia, feeding speculation that they’re fighting for market share amid a glut fed by surging U.S. shale production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries supplies about 40% of the world’s oil. Brent crude, a pricing benchmark for more than half of the world’s oil, slumped 2.9% to $61.85 a barrel in London on Dec. 12, for the lowest close since July 2009. Brent has tumbled 20% since Nov. 26, the day before OPEC decided to maintain production. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 3.6% to $57.81 in New York, the least since May 2009.

The U.A.E. hasn’t been informed of any plan for an emergency meeting, Al-Mazrouei said. OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said, “we don’t know,” when asked at the same conference about the possibility of such a meeting. An increase of about 6 million barrels a day in non-OPEC supply, together with speculation in oil markets, triggered the recent drop in prices, El-Badri said, without specifying dates for the higher output by producers outside the group such as the U.S. and Russia. Prices will rebound soon due to changes in the global economic cycle, he said, without giving details. “We will not have a real picture about oil prices until the end of the first half of 2015,” El-Badri said. Price will have settled by the second half of next year, and OPEC will have a clear idea by then about “the required measures,” he said.

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Bet you there’s tons of similar notes around.

The Oil-Price-Shock Contagion-Transmission Pathway (Zero Hedge)

As we noted previously, counterparty risk concerns (and thus financial system fragility) are starting to rear their ugly heads. In the mid 2000s, it was massive one-way levered bets on “house prices will never go down again.” When the cracks started to appear, the mark-to-market losses in derivatives led to forced liquidations and snowballed systemically. In the mid 2010s, it is massively levered one-way asymmetric bets on “commodity prices [oil] will never go down again.” Meet WTI-structured-notes… the transmission mechanism for oil-price-shocks blowing up the financial system. Because nothing says exuberant ignorance like limited upside, unlimited downside OTC (illiquid) derivatives… Here’s BNP Paribas’ 1-Yr WTI-linked notes that collapse if oil drops below $70…

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It’ll be a bloodbath. Or, it already is, but you can’t see it yet.

UK Energy Firms Go Under As Oil Price Tumbles (Guardian)

The tumbling oil price has led to a trebling of insolvencies among UK oil and gas services companies so far this year, while £55bn of further oil projects reportedly under threat. Brent crude closed below $62 a barrel on Friday, a five-and-a-half-year low, amid fears of falling demand and oversupply as the global economy slows down. [..] On Sunday, the United Arab Emirates energy minister, Suhail Al-Mazrouei, said Opec would not cut crude output even if the price dropped as low as $40 a barrel. He told Bloomberg at a conference in Dubai: “We are not going to change our minds because the prices went to $60 or to $40. We’re not targeting a price; the market will stabilise itself.” A report due on Monday from accountancy firm Moore Stephens said 18 businesses in the UK oil and gas services sector had become insolvent in 2014 compared with just six last year. It said that although the increase was from a low base, it was significant because insolvencies in the sector had been rare over the last five years.

Jeremey Willmont at Moore Stephens said: “The fall in the oil price has translated into insolvencies in the oil and gas services sector remarkably quickly. The oil and gas services sector has enjoyed very strong trading conditions for the last 15 years, so perhaps they have not been quite so well prepared for a sustained deterioration in trading conditions as other sectors would have been. “There was a sharp drop in the oil price during the financial crisis, but the sense that oil prices could be depressed for some time is much more widespread this time around. “It is clear that oil and gas majors are already cutting costs. Both Shell and BP have recently announced cuts to investment in a number of major projects. Smaller players are also reconsidering their capital deployment. If this retrenchment continues the result will be less work for oil and gas services companies.”

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A lot of these guys are in for a nasty surprise next time they go see their bankers.

Oil Bust Veterans Brace While Shale-Boom Newbies Swagger (Bloomberg)

Autry Stephens knows the look and feel of an oil boom going bust, and he’s starting to get ready. The West Texas wildcatter, 76, has weathered four such cycles in his 52 years draining crude from the Permian basin, still the most prolific U.S. oilfield. Though the collapse in prices since June doesn’t yet have him in a panic, Stephens recognizes the signs of another downturn on the horizon. And like many bust-hardened veterans in this region – which has made and broken the fortunes of thousands – he’s talking about it like a gathering storm. The ups and downs of oil are a way of life in Midland and Odessa, Texas, dating all the way back to the Great Depression. It’s as much a part of the culture as Gulf Coast hurricanes, and residents often prepare accordingly.

“We’re going to hunker down and go into survival mode,” Stephens, founder of Endeavor Energy Resources LP, said in an interview from his Midland office, where visitors are first greeted by a statuette of a Texas Longhorn steer. “Stay alive is our mantra, until the price recovers.” Go about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) due north and you get a very different take from the rookie oil barons in North Dakota, where crude output from the Bakken formation went from 200,000 barrels a day in 2008 to about 1.2 million today. They’re not seeing any need to take shelter, and it shows in their swagger. Rich Vestal, who’s seen his trucking business double, double again and then double one more time in the past five years, is sipping root beer out of a Styrofoam cup at the Courthouse Cafe in Williston, North Dakota.

“I would welcome a slowdown,” he says, while believing one’s not really in the works. Of all the booming U.S. oil regions set soaring by a drilling renaissance in shale rock, the Permian and Bakken basins are among the most vulnerable to oil prices that settled at $57.81 a barrel Dec. 12. With enough crude by some counts to exceed the reserves of Saudi Arabia, they’re also the most critical to the future of the U.S. shale boom. For the Texas veteran, the forecast is telling him to batten down the hatches. Up in North Dakota, oil’s new kids on the block figure there’s just a few clouds floating by. Early signs are pointing in favor of the worriers.

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“The Year of Living Dangerously.”

Warning Over Horrible End To Japan’s QE Blitz (AEP)

HSBC has warned that Japan’s barely-disguised attempt to drive down the yen is becoming dangerous and may spin out of control, leading to an exchange rate crisis next year and a worldwide currency storm. “It is entirely possible that the Yen decline becomes disorderly and swift,” said the bank, in one of the starkest criticisms so far of Japan’s radical stimulus policies. David Bloom and Paul Mackel, HSBC’s currency strategists, voiced growing concern that premier Shinzo Abe is backing away from fiscal retrenchment and may pressure the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to fund policies aimed at boosting household spending. “The temptation to drift towards increasingly generous fiscal programmes could grow. We do not expect a ‘helicopter drop’ of income into every household, but the yen would react very badly to any sign that the government is heading down a route of overt monetisation,” they wrote in a report entitled “The Year of Living Dangerously”.

The warning came as Mr Abe won a sweeping victory in Japan’s snap elections over the weekend, consolidating his power in the Diet and giving him a further mandate for deep reforms. “I promise to make Japan a country that can shine again at the centre of the world,” said Mr Abe. Japan’s recovery has faltered. Mr Abe’s Thatcherite shake-up, or Third Arrow, has yet to get off the ground, though he is now in a much stronger position to break monopolies and confront vested interests. The economy slumped back into recession in the middle of this year after a rise in the sales tax from 5pc to 8pc, a move that was clearly premature. The Abenomics experiment still depends largely on the BoJ’s asset purchases, running at 1.4pc of GDP each month, the most extreme monetary blitz ever attempted in a modern economy. Economists are deeply divided over whether this alone can overwhelm the fiscal shock, and lift the economy out a 20-year stagnation trap. HSBC said Mr Abe may succeed in driving up wages, setting off a “wage-inflation spiral”.

This may not necessarily lead to a bond rout since the Bank of Japan is effectively holding down bond yields. However, the exchange rate might take the strain instead. The worry is that this could set off a beggar-thy-neighbour devaluation process across Asia, eventually sucking in China. “The tentacle of the currency war would spread,” said the report. HSBC said China is determined to avoid joining this debasement game as it tries to wean its own economy off export-led growth, but there may be limits. The Chinese economy is slowing and is already in deep producer price deflation. Japanese exporters have been switching to a new strategy over the last six months, cutting export prices to gain market share as the yen falls, rather than pocketing the windfall as extra profit. “There are grounds to argue that China would join the currency war and devalue the yuan if currency moves elsewhere became disorderly,” it said. The warnings have raised eyebrows since HSBC has close policy ties with the Chinese authorities.

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Will Kuroda dare turn on Abe?

Time to Take Away the Punchbowl in Japan (Bloomberg)

As the world watches to see what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does with his renewed mandate in Japan, my eyes are on Haruhiko Kuroda instead. After all, the Bank of Japan governor probably deserves about 90% of the credit for whatever success Abe’s reflation efforts have had thus far – in particular, a more than 70% rise in the benchmark Topix index. Whether the prime minister now goes further and implements the real structural reforms Japan needs depends as much on Kuroda as anyone else. Abe’s victory was not as sweeping as might appear at first glance. Amid record-low turnout, his Liberal Democratic Party ended up with a couple fewer seats than previously – although still enough for the ruling coalition to maintain its two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament.

Not surprisingly, officials in Tokyo are talking less about politically difficult reforms and more about putting money in the hands of Japanese to spend. Analysts are expecting a rush of new fiscal stimulus early in the new year. Kuroda, too, will face pressure to one-up himself when the BOJ meets on Friday. Like addicts looking for their next fix, markets want the central bank governor to outdo his “shock-and-awe” from April 2013 and recent Halloween surprise, when he boosted bond purchases to about $700 billion annually. It’s time for Kuroda to do exactly the opposite: hold his fire and prod Abe to begin doing his part to push through his “third arrow” structural reforms. To this point, Kuroda has been a dutiful and circumspect policymaker – perhaps to a fault. Other than a brief flash of impatience with Abe’s foot-dragging in a May Wall Street Journal interview – when he said “implementation is key, and implementation should be swift” – Kuroda has held his tongue.

Yet he bears a responsibility to play the honest broker role that monetary powers have over the years – from Paul Volcker at the Federal Reserve decades ago to Raghuram Rajan at the Reserve Bank of India today. On Friday, Kuroda should tell reporters, “Now that the election is over, it’s up to Prime Minister Abe to carry out the will of the people and deregulate the economy. For now, we at the BOJ have done all we can – and are willing to do – to make Abenomics a success.” Stock traders would abhor such candor from a central bank that’s spent the last 21 months refilling the punchbowl. But a smart economist and wise tactician like Kuroda has to know this Japanese experiment will end very badly if Abe fails to encourage innovation, loosen labor markets, lower trade tariffs and cut red tape. If bond traders drive government bond yields higher and credit-rating companies pounce, the blame will fall squarely on Kuroda.

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“Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras called Samaras “the prime minister of chaos” in a speech on Saturday.”

Samaras Grexit Talk Summons Bond Vigilantes to Greece (Bloomberg)

As he enters a critical week for his premiership, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has awoken the bond market to the dangers of a political rupture in Greece. Samaras will put forward his candidate for the presidency in the first of three votes on Dec. 17 in a process that risks toppling his government. He spent the weekend trading barbs with the Syriza party that leads in the polls, setting out the consequences of letting the anti-austerity group into power, as Syriza accused him of “begging” markets to attack Greece. A bond selloff pushed the yield on the three-year notes Greece sold earlier this year up more than 60 basis points in an hour on Dec. 11 after Samaras accused the opposition of reviving concerns that Greece could be forced out of the euro. The debt, which symbolized Greece’s financial rehabilitation when it was issued earlier this year, closed the week yielding more than 10-year bonds, a signal of the growing default risk.

“The leading party could be portraying the movement as a way to scare voters,” said Yannick Naud, a money manager at Pentalpha Capital in London. “They are blaming Syriza for the move, and rightly so, and it’s probably to tell the electorate it’s our way or chaos.” Samaras triggered the worst stock market selloff in 27 years last week when he decided to bring forward the vote in parliament on a new head of state. The prime minister will be forced to call a snap election unless he can find another 25 lawmakers for the supermajority required to confirm his nominee by Dec. 29. Samaras wrote in an article in Real News that anxiety about Greece is justified and caused by Syriza. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras called Samaras “the prime minister of chaos” in a speech on Saturday.

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“The pressure from the European commission on the electoral process of a sovereign country is unbearable, and raises serious questions about the future of democracy in Europe ..“

EU Finance Chief Flies Into Athens As Grexit Fears Mount (Guardian)

The EU’s finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, flies into Athens on Monday amid mounting political uncertainty following the Greek government’s abrupt decision to bring forward the presidential elections. The Frenchman’s visit comes as the country’s radical-left opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, steps up claims that Greece is being subjected to a campaign of “frenetic fear-mongering” not only by its Prime Minister Antonis Samaras but senior European officials ahead of this week’s ballot, the first of three polls. “An operation of terror, of lies, is underway,” the leader of Syriza told supporters on Sunday. “An operation whose only aim is to sow terror among the Greek people and MPs, and to thrust the country ever deeper into the poverty and uncertainty of the memorandum,” he said referring to the EU-IMF-sponsored rescue programme to keep the debt-stricken economy afloat.

Tsipras was speaking after government leaders reiterated fears that Greece could be forced to exit the eurozone if parliament failed to elect a new head of state by 29 December. Should the ruling alliance lose the three-round race, the Greek constitution demands that general elections are called, a vote Tsipras’s party is tipped to win. “Everything is hanging by a thread … and if it is cut, it could lead the country to absolute catastrophe,” said the deputy premier, Evangelos Venizelos, whose centre-left Pasok party is junior partner in Athens’ two-party coalition. In a re-run of the drama that haunted Greece at the height of the eurozone crisis in 2012, markets have tumbled with the country’s borrowing costs soaring on the back of revived fears of a Greek exit – called Grexit – if a Syriza-led government assumes power.

Moscovici, whose two-day visit is expected to focus on discussing stalled negotiations with the nation’s troika of creditors – the European commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank – will not be meeting Tsipras. Aides described the snub as “unbelievable”. Last week, the finance commissioner said he thought Samaras “knows what he is doing” and would win his gamble of expediting the vote for a new head of state. In an interview with Kathimerini on Sunday, he described the former EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, who is the government candidate for president, as “a good man.” But the newly installed president of the European commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who is a close friend of Samaras, has gone further, warning of the perils of the “wrong election result”. “I wouldn’t like extreme forces to come to power,” he said of the poll’s potential to trigger early general elections. “I would prefer if known faces show up.”

Although it is not the first time that the politics of fear have been invoked to ensure that the twice bailed-out Greece toes the line, the flagrant intervention of figures so directly linked to Athens’ €240bn financial rescue programme has been quick to stir angry reaction abroad. Rushing to the support of Syriza on Saturday, the Party of the European Left, the continent’s alliance of leftist groups, deplored what it said was evidence of declining levels of democracy in the EU. “The pressure from the European commission on the electoral process of a sovereign country is unbearable, and raises serious questions about the future of democracy in Europe,” Pierre Laurent, the organisation’s president said in a statement posted on the party’s website.

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There’s one solution, and one only: Grexit. Not sure what Steve feels about that, though.

The EU Must Face Up To Austerity’s Failures (Steve Keen)

The Greek stockmarket slumped further overnight as investors continue to digest Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ decision to call a snap presidential election. Greek stocks fell a further 7%, bringing the market’s loss for the year to 29%. Oliver Marc Hartwich commented in Business Spectator earlier this week that the election might “allow the radical anti-austerity forces to gain power. This would not only dash any hopes of a Greek recovery, it would also force the eurozone to make a choice between the lesser of two evils: to expel Greece from the monetary union and let it default on its debt, or to continue supporting it financially, despite an end to fiscal consolidation”. If, as appears likely, the leftist Syriza Party takes over in Greece, Hartwich lamented that “then, whatever may have been achieved on budget consolidation and reform in the meantime will not be worth much anymore.” This assumes that “whatever may have been achieved on budget consolidation and reform” was worth something in the first place.

So let’s stop assuming and check the data. Figure 1 shows Greek GDP since 1996, and it has clearly collapsed since the policy of austerity was imposed. If the Greeks feel inclined to kick out the incumbent government after a more than 25% fall in nominal GDP over the last six years, could you really blame them? Supporters of austerity, such as Hartwich, point to the tiny uptick in GDP in the last six months as a sign that austerity is working. But the original proponents of austerity actually argued that it would cause the economy to grow, not shrink. Some growth. Austerity began in February 2010 in Greece (as marked on Figure 1), and since then the economy has shrunk by almost 25%. Unemployment rose from 10% when the policy began to a peak of 27.5% — worse than the US experienced during the Great Depression. Rather than seeing the slight recovery in the last six months as signs of success, supporters of austerity should be asking why their policies failed so abjectly.

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“If by the time of the third vote at the end of the December, the centre right’s candidate Stavros Dimas, a former EU commissioner, has not secured 180 votes out of 300 – unlikely as things stand – there will be an election that Syriza could win.”

The Eurozone Crisis History Is Repeating Itself … Again (Guardian)

It’s funny how history repeats itself. The inconclusive general election in 2010 took place when the economy appeared to be on the mend and against the backdrop of a crisis in the eurozone prompted by Greece. As things stand, we could be in for a repeat performance in May 2015. Be in no doubt, what’s happening in Europe matters to Britain. The eurozone is perhaps one crisis and one deep recession away from splintering. The more TV pictures of rioting on the streets of Athens or general strikes in Italy between now and the election, the better support for Nigel Farage’s UK Independence party will hold up. Stronger support for Ukip will encourage the Conservatives to adopt a more Eurosceptic approach, hardening their stance on the concessions required for them to continue supporting Britain’s membership of the EU.

Meanwhile, a permanently weak eurozone economy will push Britain’s trade balance into the red. The economic debate in the current parliament has been about sorting out the budget deficit; the debate in the next parliament will also be about sorting out the current account deficit. Let’s start with Greece, which was where the eurozone crisis began all those years ago. The French statesman Talleyrand once said of the Bourbons that they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. The same applies to the bunch of incompetents in Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt responsible for pushing Greece towards economic and political meltdown. Greece’s recent economic performance has been pretty good. The economy is growing, unemployment is on the decline and the debt to GDP ratio has come down a bit. Time, you might think, to cut Athens a bit of slack.

Not if you are the German government, the European commission or the European Central Bank. No, they are insisting on even more austerity and continued surveillance by the IMF. But the Greeks have had a bellyful of austerity. They have had enough of being pushed around. Predictably, support for the anti-austerity Syriza party is strong and the mood is angry. In an attempt to regain the initiative, the government in Athens brought forward the dates for the votes in parliament to elect a new president. If by the time of the third vote at the end of the December, the centre right’s candidate Stavros Dimas, a former EU commissioner, has not secured 180 votes out of 300 – unlikely as things stand – there will be an election that Syriza could win.

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” .. the sorry state of the French-German couple – the stalled engine of European integration..”

Time For Bottom Fishing In The Eurozone? (CNBC)

By taking the euro area stocks down 2.9% in the course of last Friday’s trading, markets may be signaling that recessionary and stagnant economies have set the stage for unsettling political developments throughout the monetary union. There is no safe harbor left in that troubled region. Even Germany is moving toward the eye of the storm. When you see the German Chancellor Merkel’s blistering attack on its coalition partners – the Social Democrats – for having formed the government in the federal state of Thuringia with the far Left Party (Die Linke) and the Greens, you know that German political stability is gone. In fact, she sounded like she was actively searching for a new partner when, in the same speech last Tuesday (December 9), she invited the Greens (polling at 11%) to cooperate with her center-right party CDU/CSU (polling at 41%). Germany’s current governing coalition is at odds about euro area economic policies and the economic fallout from sanctions against Russia.

More generally, it seems, Chancellor Merkel’s hostile policies toward Russia have opened ominous differences on issues of European security. It looks like a perfect deal breaker may be in the offing. And then there is Germany’s deteriorating relationship with France. Invectives and name calling are flying across the Rhine, and things are seriously amiss at the highest political level. For example, in response to Chancellor Merkel’s repeated criticisms of France’s failure to meet budget deficit targets and to implement structural reforms, the French Prime Minister Valls is saying that France is doing its reforms for its own needs rather than to please foreign governments. In other words, what France is doing, or not doing, is none of Germany’s business. That is the sorry state of the French-German couple – the stalled engine of European integration.

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But asking prices are up!

London House Prices Fall By More Than £30,000 In A Month (Guardian)

The average asking price of a home in London has tumbled by more than £30,000 over the past month, figures from property website Rightmove showed on Monday, with new sellers in all of the capital’s boroughs seemingly becoming less optimistic about the price they can achieve. Across the country, Rightmove reported the largest ever monthly fall in the price of properties coming to market, a 3.3% or nearly £9,000 decline to £258,424. Asking prices in Greater London have been falling since the summer, and the drop to an average of £570,796 from £601,180 in November, represents a 5.1% decline in sellers’ expectations over the month, the second biggest after August. Prices were down in all 32 London boroughs, with the biggest drops in Hammersmith & Fulham and Hackney, where new asking prices dropped by 7% and 6% respectively.

However despite the drop, average asking prices of homes coming onto the market across London are up by £57,000, or 11.1%, on December 2013. In Hackney, sellers are asking 22.5% more than in December last year, while in Haringey prices are 21% higher. Rightmove reported month-on-month drops everywhere except Wales, where new sellers put homes up for sale for 0.2% more than in November, at an average of £167,271. However asking prices are set to end the year up 7%, and the website said it expected further increases in the range of 4% to 5% in 2015. The falls come despite the changes to stamp duty announced in this month’s autumn statement. Estate agents have predicted the changes could lead to higher prices being paid for homes, particularly around the old “cliff edge” thresholds at which higher tax rates kicked in.

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“.. we are two bad decisions away from not being an independent central bank ..”

Fed Vice-Chairman Fisher: ‘Boy, Was I Wrong’ About Banks’ Political Power (WSJ)

Did the political influence of big Wall Street banks wane after the financial crisis? Not according to the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. Stanley Fischer gave some unscheduled remarks Friday morning at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, waxing philosophic about the global process for setting financial-system rules. Mr. Fischer suggested rules set directly by legislatures can be imperfect, lamenting the role of Wall Street banks in shaping the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law.
“I thought that when Dodd-Frank started, that the banks would not succeed in influencing it, having lost all the prestige they lost,” he told a crowd of several dozen at the Washington, D.C., think tank. “Boy, was I wrong.”

His remarks came less than a day after the House passed a spending bill that included a provision, long sought by banks, to scale back a Dodd-Frank requirement. Mr. Fischer also recalled how during his time leading the Bank of Israel, he felt keenly aware of political considerations. When his central bank colleagues asserted that the institution acted independently of the elected government, his reply was, “Yes. And we are two bad decisions away from not being an independent central bank.”

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When did Krugman last get anything right? I still think he lost it in the Swedish schnapps he drank when picking up his Fauxbel.

Krugman Says Fed Is Unlikely to Raise Interest Rates in 2015 (Bloomberg)

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman said the U.S. Federal Reserve is unlikely to raise interest rates next year as it struggles to meet its inflation target and global economic growth remains weak. “When push comes to shove they’re going to look and say: ‘It’s a pretty weak world economy out there, we don’t see any inflation, and the risk if we raise rates and turns out we were mistaken is just so huge’,” Krugman said in Dubai today. “It’s certainly a real possibility that they’ll go ahead and do it, but probably not.” Top Fed officials, including Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer and New York Fed President William C. Dudley, said this month they expect the drop in oil prices to spur domestic consumption, playing down the risk that it could push inflation further below the central bank’s 2% goal. Krugman, however, said he agrees with signals from financial markets suggesting that policy makers will delay raising borrowing costs.

U.S. Treasuries rallied, with 10-year yields falling the most since June 2012 on Dec. 12 while bond yields showed five-year inflation expectations fell to the lowest since 2010. The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, which next meets Dec. 16-17, will take energy prices into account in its assessment of inflation and the economy. While most major central banks view inflation of about 2% as the yardstick for price stability, more than a fourth of 90 economies monitored by researcher Capital Economics Ltd. are below 1%, the most since 2009. The outlook for world economic growth may deteriorate in 2015 with risks of crises in China and the euro-area, Krugman said, as the European Central Bank fails to dodge deflation and the world’s second-biggest economy struggles to bolster domestic demand. “The two scary spots are the euro-area and China,” Krugman said in a presentation about the state of the world economy at the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai.

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It’ll take a crash for people to really understand what the swaps rule demise entails. And by then it’ll be too late by a wide margin.

Congress Deals A Blow To Financial Reform (Bloomberg ed.)

Passing a last-minute spending bill to avoid shutting down the U.S. government might be better than another self-inflicted budget crisis, but the deal on the table is nothing to be proud of. The measure approved by the House of Representatives last night and now before the Senate carries with it a set of so-called riders, which change policy in ways that haven’t been examined or discussed. One of them is especially troublesome. It weakens the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. The rider in question removes the so-called swaps push-out rule, which was intended to reduce the risks posed by the largest U.S. banks’ trading in derivatives. Without it, regulators will have to work harder in other areas to promote stability. The rule addressed a dangerous incentive created by the pre-crash regulatory system. Various government backstops, such as deposit insurance and access to emergency loans from the Federal Reserve, have given the largest banks a great advantage in the derivatives market.

Counterparties assume that the government will help them make good on their obligations. This implicit subsidy encouraged them to build huge, interconnected trading operations. Trouble at any one of them could trigger a broader panic and necessitate a rescue. The size of the business is staggering. As of June, the top four banks – JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America – had written derivative contracts on the equivalent of more than $200 trillion in stocks, bonds and other assets. The rule told banks to move some of their derivatives out of federally insured, deposit-taking subsidiaries and to put them in other units instead. This was never going to make the financial system safe on its own. In the case of the biggest banks, all units, not just deposit-takers, enjoy government support, as the bailouts of 2008 and 2009 plainly demonstrated. In addition, pleading practical difficulties, banks had already succeeded in narrowing the scope of the requirement. Still, the swaps rule would have been helpful. Its demise gives regulators more work to do.

They’ll probably need to take further steps to reduce the value of the government subsidy, by making banks less likely to need it. How? First, by making sure that banks have ample capital, and plenty of cash on hand, to cope with sudden setbacks. Here, the regulators have made a start but need to do more. Second, by requiring derivatives trades to be routed transparently through new central counterparties and by setting up trading hubs that let investors transact directly with one another. This strengthening of the financial infrastructure is in train. Third, by monitoring the market for dangerous concentrations of risk, such as the credit-derivative positions that almost brought down insurance giant AIG and a number of large banks in 2008. Here, progress has been sluggish at best. The killing of the swaps rule needn’t be a disaster. That’s what it would be, though, if it proved to be the first step in a broader rollback of financial reform, and if regulators failed to use their other powers to better effect.

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A ‘little risky’, clueless Robert? Check this for ‘deep thinking’: “Maybe neighborhoods are not as important. Or maybe there’s an urbanization trend going on.”

Shiller Sees Risk In New Push For First-Time Homebuyers (CNBC)

Lax lending standards were widely faulted for triggering the 2008 financial crisis. If recent developments are any indication, those conditions may be making a comeback. In an effort to accelerate lending to lower- and middle-income borrowers, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are launching programs that will guarantee loans with down payments of as little as 3%. But could an ultralow down payment create a housing market boom, or could it lead to another mortgage bubble? A prominent housing market expert who made his name predicting the 2008 bust has at least some doubts. “It sounds a little risky,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller told CNBC. “Risky for the lender, and for the mortgage insurer who is going to insure” the mortgage obligations, he added.

Borrowing criteria tightened after the housing market crashed, but in recent days some of those strictures have been loosened. Lack of a big cash down payment has been cited by some as keeping many possible buyers from becoming homeowners. According to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to get a mortgage with just 3% down, borrowers must have a credit score of at least 620. They must also be able to able to prove income, assets and job status, and purchase private mortgage insurance. However, Shiller still cast doubt on whether that would be the best course of action. “Because it’s only a 3% margin, if somebody defaults and they have to sell the house, they might not get all the money back.”

Although banks have implemented tighter lending standards, a spate of new borrowing programs have been aimed at first-time and lower-income homebuyers, most of whom have stayed on the sidelines of the housing market. According to recent data from the National Association of Realtors, first-time homebuyers account for just 33% of all home purchases. That’s the lowest level in 27 years. “Maybe there’s a cultural change. Our millennials spend more time on Facebook than standing over the backyard fence and talking to the neighbor,” Shiller said, attempting to explain the drop in new homebuyers. “Maybe neighborhoods are not as important. Or maybe there’s an urbanization trend going on.”

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Didn’t have the guts to go below 7%, did you?

China Economic Growth May Slow To 7.1% In 2015 – PBOC (Reuters)

China’s economic growth could slow to 7.1% in 2015 from an expected 7.4% this year, held back by a sagging property sector, the central bank said in research report seen by Reuters on Sunday. Stronger global demand could boost exports, but not by enough to counteract the impact from weakening property investment, according to the report published on the central bank’s website. China’s exports are likely to grow 6.9% in 2015, quickening from this year’s 6.1% rise, while import growth is seen accelerating to 5.1% in 2015 from this year’s 1.9%, it said. The report warned that the Federal Reserve’s expected move to raise interest rates sometime next year could hit emerging-market economies.

Fixed-asset investment growth may slow to 12.8% in 2015 from this year’s 15.5%, while retail sales growth may quicken to 12.2% from 12%, it said. Consumer inflation may hold largely steady in 2015, at 2.2%, it said. China’s economic growth weakened to 7.3% in the third quarter, and November’s soft factory and investment figures suggest full-year growth will miss Beijing’s 7.5% target and mark the weakest expansion in 24 years. Economists who advise the government have recommended that China lower its growth target to around 7% in 2015. China’s employment situation is likely to hold up well next year due to faster expansion of the services sector, despite slower economic growth, said the report.

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Oz has different worries today.

Australia’s Budget Deficit Blows Out Amid Commodity Slide (Reuters)

Australia’s government forecast its budget deficit would balloon to A$40.4 billion ($33.2 billion) in the year to June as falling prices for key resource exports and sluggish wage growth blew a gaping hole in tax revenues. Releasing his midyear budget outlook on Monday, Treasurer Joe Hockey predicted the economy would grow by 2.5% in 2014/15 before picking up to 3.5% over the next few years, while unemployment was likely to peak at 6.5%. “While there are positive signs of the Australian economy strengthening and transitioning towards broader-based drivers of growth, there is still much work to be done and budget repair will take time,” said Hockey. Just a year into office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government has suffered record low approval ratings, with the economy running into strong external headwinds.

The deficit for 2014/15 had been forecasted at A$29.8 billion in the May budget, while the 2015/16 shortfall was now put at A$31.2 billion, instead of A$17.1 billion. The release was delayed for over an hour as the government reacted to a hostage siege in the heart of Sydney’s financial district, which has diverted media coverage away from the budget update and the government’s political troubles. Hockey predicted tax receipts would be A$31 billion less than first hoped in the four years to 2017/18, due largely to a slide in the price of iron ore, Australia’s biggest export earner. The government has had to cut its forecast from A$92 a ton in May, to A$60 a ton for the foreseeable future. The government has also faced problems getting unpopular cost cutting and revenue raising measures through the Senate, which Hockey said cost another A$10.6 billion.

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“The Cold War was the dialectic conditioning of the whole world ..”

The Implosion Of American Culture (PhoM)

It was widely expressed by the mainstream media of the time that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall could not have been predicted. In hindsight, the stagnation and drop in oil prices should have been the obvious signs that a dramatic change was coming. And when the USSR began to borrow from western banks, the fix was in. Western banks is something of a misnomer, as no bank, or conglomerate of banking interests, can exist separate and independent of the larger international banking structure which has been built throughout the the 20th Century. Stagnating growth and the deflationary oil prices which began in 1986 acted as fine toothed methods of transferring wealth from the social trust within the Soviet Union, forcing banks within the USSR to borrow from western banks, which was in fact an exchange of assets amongst financial institutions.

The inevitable policy shifts towards “perestroika” were obvious and planned well in advance. The agricultural crisis within the country was designed to parallel the mass movement towards “glasnost”, or openness. When we consider the larger mandates of the CSI, Cultural and Socioeconomic Interception, the same machinations as “perestroika” and ‘glasnost” can be observed in the social fragmentation and devolution of the American middle class. Where the Soviet Union enacted policies which instigated the CSI changes within the country, it will be Americas lack of enacting policy change which will precipitate the implosion of its culture.

To understand what this means we must consider the expansion of American culture around the globe since 1944, which was the year the USD became the primary reserve currency used in global trade. As use of the dollar increased, so did the acceptance of western culture. Everything from McDonald’s burgers to Hollywood creations were exported around the world. America has followed the Soviet Union down the path of re-engineering its ideological culture. Russia has no more moved towards democracy than America has moved towards Communism. Both have shifted towards a new socialist middle ground where centralization has woven the macro economic system tighter around a supra-sovereign statehood. The Cold War was the dialectic conditioning of the whole world.

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“Nearly half of those 25 years of age are living at home with parents. The rate is up to 30% for those 30 years of age.”

Why Milennials Are Stuck Living At Home With Parents (Dr. Housing Bubble)

The Federal Reserve conducted a study on Millennials and tried to ascertain why so many of them are living at home. Is it too much student debt? Lower incomes? Or is it that home prices are simply unaffordable? The study finds that all of these factors have a big impact on why many Millennials are living at home and why the first time home buyer market is performing so badly. It also gives us insight into the shifting building demand of new construction. Many builders are focusing their energies on multi-unit structures to cater to an audience that will look for rentals or lower priced condos. There is a heavy renting trend undertaking this country. We are seeing a record numbers of young people living at home with mom and dad heading directly back into their childhood rooms to rock out the NES and attempting to pass Super Mario Brothers once again. There are major implications for housing because of this new structural change. First time home buying is down dramatically. Construction is catering to a lower income cohort. Let us look at what the Fed found in their report.

One of the interesting findings is that the trend of young adults living at home has continued on an upward slope going all the way back to 1999. Even the toxic mortgage days of Housing Bubble 1.0 didn’t really shift this figure by much. But the homeownership rate increased which means that the push came from older cohorts or young buyers that had the misfortune of buying near the top (and of course many were burned in epic fashion).

So let us look at the findings: Nearly half of those 25 years of age are living at home with parents. The rate is up to 30% for those 30 years of age. These are dramatic increases from 1999. There has been paltry data on the makeup of housing composition because some were saying that many were shacking up with roommates. That does not appear to be the case. If you were placing a bet, you would be in a good position putting your money on those 25 years of age living at home with parents. The first time home buyer market continues to perform pathetically. Of course, with investors pulling back we now have the FHFA trying to push for 3% down payment loans to get the juices flowing again. We are already at 5% down payments so this move to 3% will likely offer minimal help for younger Americans.

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