Dec 182018
 


Caravaggio St. John the Baptist in the wilderness 1604

 

S&P 500 Drops More Than 2% To New Low For 2018, Dow Dives 500 Points (CNBC)
The Latest Key Death Cross Is Poised To Engulf The Stock Market (MW)
Stock Market On Pace For Worst December Since Great Depression (CNBC)
How The Federal Reserve Could Spark A ‘Santa Claus’ Stock Rally (Yahoo!)
You Have A “Trading” Problem (Roberts)
China Politics Getting In The Way Of Reforms (G.)
China To Mark Economic Miracle That Pulled 700 Million People Out Of Poverty (RT)
Australia’s Central Bank Sees Risks From High Debt As House Prices Fall (R.)
‘No Existing Countermeasures’ To Russian Hypersonic Weapons – US Gov’t (RT)
The Bigotry Behind NY Times’ ‘Russians Targeted African-Americans’ (GJ)
Racist ‘Russians’ Targeted African-Americans In 2016 Election – Reports (RT)
Russia! The Gift That Keeps Giving For The BBC, Even In France (Bridge)
Fatal Over-Reach (Kunstler)
Coal Demand Will Remain Steady Through 2023 -IEA (CNBC)

 

 

Can’t wait for Christmas amd some days off. Close it down and it can’t fall further. Either that or give Jay Powell a call.

S&P 500 Drops More Than 2% To New Low For 2018, Dow Dives 500 Points (CNBC)

Stocks tanked on Monday, pushing the S&P 500 to a new low for the year amid growing concerns that the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates could be too much for the economy and stock market to handle. The S&P 500 fell as much as 2.5% to 2,530.54, surpassing its February intraday low of 2,532.69. The broad market index finished the session down 2% at 2,545.94, its lowest close for the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 507.53 points to close at 23,592.98, bringing its two-day losses to more than 1,000 points. Shares of Amazon and Goldman Sachs led the declines.

The Dow and S&P 500, which are both in corrections, are on track for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931, down more than 7% so far for the month. The S&P 500 is now in the red for 2018 by 4%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.2% to finish the day at 6,753.73 as Microsoft dropped 2.9%. The Russell 2000 — which tracks the performance of smaller companies — entered a bear market, down 20% from its 52-week high. DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach said Monday that he “absolutely” believes the S&P 500 will go below the lows that the index hit early in 2018. “I’m pretty sure this is a bear market,” Gundlach told Scott Wapner on CNBC’s “Halftime Report. The major averages fell to session lows following his comments.

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There are so many death croses lately, the term loses meaning.

The Latest Key Death Cross Is Poised To Engulf The Stock Market (MW)

Ominous-sounding death crosses have been emerging in the stock market like weeds, with the latest — and arguably, the last important such cross — about to take hold in the Dow. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on the verge of joining other major equity benchmarks in a so-called death cross, where the 50-day — a short-term trend tracker — crosses below the 200-day, used to determine a long-term trend in an asset. Chart watchers believe that such a cross marks the point where a shorter-term decline graduates to a longer-term downtrend.

Currently, the Dow’s 50-day moving average stands at 25,173.14, compared against its 200-day average at 25,083.23, according to FactSet data, as of Friday’s close of trading. That puts the 50-day less than 90 points shy of breaching the long-term average, which could occur by the end of this week or next, based on the current pace of decline. The Dow has suffered a series of punishing drops on nagging fears of slowing global growth, unresolved trade worries and the pace of the Federal Reserve’s rate increases, with Monday’s action placing the Dow at its lowest close since March 23, 2018.

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Thank the Fed.

Stock Market On Pace For Worst December Since Great Depression (CNBC)

Two benchmark U.S. stock indexes are careening toward a historically bad December. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 are on pace for their worst December performance since 1931, when stocks were battered during the Great Depression. The Dow and S&P 500 are down 7.8% and 7.6% this month, respectively. December is typically a very positive month for markets. The Dow has only fallen during 25 Decembers going back to 1931. The S&P 500 averages a 1.6% gain for December, making it typically the best month for the market, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac. While the S&P 500 began dissemination in 1950, the performance data was backtested through 1928. It’s worth noting that historically, the second half of December tends to see gains.

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The Fed has absolute control. I don’t see nearly enough people being afraid of that.

How The Federal Reserve Could Spark A ‘Santa Claus’ Stock Rally (Yahoo!)

After a bruising few months for stocks, investors are banking on a ‘Santa Claus’ rally to close out 2018. Even with just a handful of trading sessions left in 2018, there is still one remaining catalyst that could spark a stock rally: the Federal Reserve. The market is pricing in a 78% chance the Fed announces a rate hike Wednesday, when it wraps up its two-day policy meeting, according to CME futures data. The rate hike itself wouldn’t spark the rally. In fact, rate hikes make stocks less attractive. But this rate hike is so priced in, that not going forward with it could signal that the Fed is worried about the economy. This would be the Fed’s fourth interest rate hike of 2018. It was in June that the Fed telegraphed this fourth rate hike.

Instead, the stock rally could be sparked by the Fed’s guidance about monetary policy in 2019. “For U.S. stocks to drift higher this week, the Fed will have to strike an easier tone about future rate hikes without signaling undue concerns about U.S. economic growth,” wrote Nick Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, in a note to clients Monday. But doing so may force them to downgrade U.S. economic growth forecasts for 2019, Colas said. “Changing course on rates without that air cover will make it look like the Fed is targeting asset price volatility (a.k.a. the “Fed Put”) or – worse – that the central bank is taking orders from the White House,” Colas noted, referring to President Trump’s months-long criticism — which occurred as recently as Monday — of the Fed’s monetary tightening.

[..] the Fed’s statement on Wednesday, roughly 200 words in length, will be scrutinized by investors. “The Fed could delete the words ‘gradual increases’ — meaning a hike every quarter is no longer a working assumption,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Fed advisor and CEO of Quill Intelligence. “That would take March off the table in theory and could spark a rally, even if based only on technicals, that could run into year-end.” The Fed has started to use the phrase “gradual increases” when referring to interest rate hikes in its statements starting in June. Prior to that, many of the statements included the phrase “gradual adjustments.” “Investors are hungry for even a morsel of dovishness, and what they do not say could be even more powerful than what they do say,” Booth noted.

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I don’t think the problem is where Lance sees it.

You Have A “Trading” Problem (Roberts)

As Sy Harding says in his excellent book “Riding The Bear:” “No such creature as a ‘buy and hold’ investor ever emerged from the other side of the subsequent bear market.” Statistics compiled by Ned Davis Research back up Harding’s assertion. Every time the market declines more than 10%, (and “real” bear markets don’t even officially begin until the decline is 20%), mutual funds experience net outflows of investor money. To wit: “Lipper also found the largest outflows on record from stocks ($46BN), the largest outflows since December 2015 from taxable bond ($13.4BN) and Investment Grade bond ($3.7BN) funds, and the 4th consecutive week of outflows from high yield bonds ($2.1BN), offset by a panic rush into cash as money market funds attracted over $81BN in inflows, the largest inflow on record.”

Most bear markets last for months (the norm), or even years (both the 1929 and 1966 bear markets), and one can see how the torture of losing money week after week, month after month, would wear down even the most determined “buy and hold” investor. But the average investor’s pain threshold is a lot lower than that. The research shows that it doesn’t matter if the bear market lasts less than 3 months (like the 1990 bear) or less than 3 days (like the 1987 bear). People will still sell out, usually at the very bottom, and almost always at a loss. So THAT is how it happens. And the only way to avoid it – is to avoid owning stocks during bear markets. If you try to ride them out, odds are you’ll fail. And if you believe that we are in a “New Era,” and that bear markets are a thing of the past, your next of kin will have our sympathies.

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Xi is not reforming, he’s trying to keep China above water.

China Politics Getting In The Way Of Reforms (G.)

Xi’s speech comes as the Chinese leadership is facing criticism over slowing growth and confrontation with the US. Observers hoped his speech would lay out new directions or reforms needed to help the Chinese economy, weighed down by debt and lagging consumption, and an overly dominant state sector. Instead, Xi stressed that the Party’s leadership and strategy up to now have been “absolutely correct.” He promised to support the state sector while continuing reforms in appropriate areas. His remarks lacked any detail about new policies and failed to inspire confidence in Asian markets. Hong Kong and Shanghai both dropped sharply during the speech. They are now off 1% for the day while losses have deepened to 1.8% in Tokyo and more than 1% in Sydney.

“President Xi was perhaps unsurprisingly long on rhetoric and short on details,” said Tom Rafferty, regional manager for China at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “There will be a sense of disappointment, among both local and international investors, that Xi did not give clearer signals about the direction of future economic reform at a time when the Chinese government’s commitment to market liberalisation is seen to have waned.” Critics say politics are getting in the way of needed reforms – a rare challenge to Xi, who has amassed power more quickly than any of his predecessors.

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Central question is how much of it was borrowed. How much is based on unproductive investments and sheer waste?

China To Mark Economic Miracle That Pulled 700 Million People Out Of Poverty (RT)

China has pledged more economic reforms to push growth higher and help offset any impact from the US trade conflict. It comes as the world’s second-largest economy marks the 40th anniversary of “reform and opening up” this week. Statistics show that more than 700 million Chinese people have shaken off poverty since Beijing started its program of economic reforms four decades ago. The figure accounts for over 70% of global poverty reduction during that period. The first wave of reform, which lasted from 1978 to 1989, was characterized by agricultural reform and revival of the private sector. The second wave of reform (from 1992 to 2012) resulted in the legalization of the market economy, China’s accession to the WTO, and a booming private sector.

China’s record in poverty reduction since reform and opening up is without parallel in human history, according to Wang Yiwei, professor of the School of International Studies at Renmin University. “Between 1978 and 2017, China’s economy expanded at an annual average 9.5% growth rate, increasing in size almost 35 times,” he told Xinhua News. The total expansion of China’s economy over a 39 year period was almost three times as much as Japan’s, Ross noted, adding that “No other economy commencing sustained rapid economic growth even remotely approaches the 22.3% of the world’s population as China had in 1978 at the beginning of reform and opening up.”

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Australia hasn’t gone down in 2 decades. That takes a lot of debt.

Australia’s Central Bank Sees Risks From High Debt As House Prices Fall (R.)

A combination of falling home prices, stratospheric household debt and low wage growth posed downside risks to the Australian economy, the country’s central bank warned on Tuesday, even as it predicted the next move in interest rates would likely be up. Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) December policy meeting showed members spent a considerable time discussing the recent slowdown in global growth momentum, partly caused by a bitter tariff dispute between the United States and China. Australia is heavily leveraged to global trade with China its No.1 trading partner so any deceleration in momentum overseas will likely be negative for the A$1.8 trillion economy.

Indeed, Australia’s gross domestic product expanded at a weaker-than-expected 2.8% pace last quarter, when policy makers were hoping for “above-trend” 3%-plus growth. Dismal private consumption was a major factor hurting economic activity, even though there were some early signs of a small uptick in wages growth. “The outlook for household consumption continued to be a source of uncertainty because growth in household income remained low, debt levels were high and housing prices had declined. Members noted that this combination of factors posed downside risks,” the RBA said.

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The key to why Russia is seen as a problem. And that in turn leads to all the articles following this one.

‘No Existing Countermeasures’ To Russian Hypersonic Weapons – US Gov’t (RT)

The US is currently unable to repel an attack from the hypersonic weapons that are being developed by Russia and China, as they can pierce most missile defense systems, a recent US government report has revealed.
“China and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons because their speed, altitude, and maneuverability may defeat most missile defense systems, and they may be used to improve long-range conventional and nuclear strike capabilities,” the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reads. The report also highlights the challenges to American security posed by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons and stealth aircraft that “could fly faster, carry advanced weapons, and achieve further distances.”

The rapid development of the cutting-edge technology “could force US aircraft to operate at father distances and put more US targets at risk,” the report notes. Speaking at a Valdai Club session in October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia surpassed its rivals in terms of hypersonic weapons, calling Russia’s prevalence in the field “an obvious fact.” “Nobody has precise hypersonic weapons. Some plan to test theirs in 18 to 24 months. We have them in service already,” Putin said. In March Putin unveiled several advanced weapons systems, including the Avangard hypersonic glider warheads and the Kinzhal –or Dagger– hypersonic cruise missile. The Kinzhal can fly at Mach-10 speed and has a reported range of 2,000 km (1243 miles).

It was reported that Russia’s advanced Sukhoi Su-57 jet might soon be armed with a missile similar to the Kinzhal. While the Avangard is about to enter military service, the Kinzhal has already been deployed with the force. Faced with the unmatched hypersonic capabilities, the Pentagon has launched about a dozen programs to protect the US from hypersonic weapons. A project named ‘Glide Breaker’ to develop an interceptor capable of neutralizing incoming hypersonic gliders has been in the works with The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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If you were African-American and you’re told all the time that you would have voted Hillary if not for the Russians co-opting you with $5,000 in ads, you would get mad too.

The Bigotry Behind NY Times’ ‘Russians Targeted African-Americans’ (GJ)

This morning, the New York Times decided to stop insulting our intelligence and instead chose to insult decency. In an article written by Scott Shane and Sheera Frenkel, Russians allegedly unleashed an intricate plot to targeted African-Americans in order to foment discontent and dupe “black people” to vote against their self-interest. According to the corporate recorders at the NY Times, the reason that African-Americans did not uniformly vote for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats is because they were too dimwitted to think for themselves and were subsequently manipulated by foreign agents. [..] Let me dispel some myths here about people who refused to vote for Hillary since I happen to be one of them.

I chose to withhold my support not because Russians conditioned me to think that way but because I refused to support a warmongering sociopath otherwise known as John McCain in pantsuits. I’ve followed Hillary’s career long enough to know that she is a corporate courtesan who can’t get enough of destabilizing nations and enriching herself by trading access for cash. Eight years of Obama catering to Wall Street and furthering George Bush’s war first policies was enough for me to tap out. [..] In other words, just because my skin color is “black” does not mean I owe my vote and loyalty to Democrats. True enough, there was a time where I was an unflinching supporter of team blue, but after seeing how Democrats are no different than Republicans, I chose to wake up.

[..] The level of duplicity on display by establishment voices is truly astounding. If leading Democrats and media personalities want to know who is responsible for the rise of Trump, they should look in the mirror. After all, it was Hillary Clinton’s “pied piper” strategy—heeded by her sycophants in the press—that elevated a reality show clown into a serious contender. Hillary Clinton and her cronies rigged the primaries, spent more than $1.2 billion and Trump was given more than a billion dollars in free media by CNN, MSNBC and their ilk, yet we are supposed to believe that $5,000 in Google ads and $50,000 on Facebook was enough to tilt the outcome of the 2016 elections.

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Who exactly here operates a troll factory?

Racist ‘Russians’ Targeted African-Americans In 2016 Election – Reports (RT)

Low voter turnout among African-Americans is usually blamed on purged voter rolls or decades of socioeconomic stasis – but in 2016, ‘evil’ Russia was the main culprit, according to two controversial reports for the US Senate. Though described as “Senate reports” by mainstream US media outlets, the two documents were actually compiled by third parties. The first was produced by a consultancy called New Knowledge, with the help of two other researchers, while the second was done by a group at Oxford University and the UK research firm Graphika. By the social media giants’ own admission, the criteria for labeling posts as “Russian” is so broad as to be practically meaningless.

That hasn’t stopped the authors of the two reports, though, who saw President Vladimir Putin’s fingerprints on every keyboard and under every bed. In particular, they argued, the “Russians” sought to depress the 2016 turnout by targeting Black Americans. Both groups relied on posts provided to the US government by Twitter, Facebook and Google and identified as coming from the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), also known as the “troll factory.” “These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead,” said the Oxford report.

“The most prolific IRA efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” says the New Knowledge report. While some African-American activists saw the reports as recognition of their community’s influence in US politics, others pointed out that blaming the “Russians” downplayed very real and long-standing racism in American society.

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African-Americans have no opinions of their own, and neither do Yellow Vests. They’re all like Putin’s zombie armies. Next up is Orban blaming Putin for Hungary’s protests.

Russia! The Gift That Keeps Giving For The BBC, Even In France (Bridge)

Given the rash of conspiracy theories leveled against Russia of late, it is no surprise that the BBC is deep-sea fishing for a Kremlin angle to explain the protests against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron. This new and improved beast of burden to explain every uprising, lost election, accident and wart, popularly known as ‘Russia’ – a strategy rebuked by none other than President Putin as “the new anti-Semitism” – provides craven political leaders with a ready-made alibi when the proverbial poo hits the fan. Yes! It can even rescue Emmanuel Macron, who just experienced his fifth consecutive weekend of protests in the French capital and beyond.

Here is the real beauty of this new media product, which promises to outsell Chanel No.5 this holiday season. Reporting on ‘Russia’ does not require any modicum of journalistic ethics, standards or even proof to peddle it like snake oil to an unsuspecting public. Simply uttering the name ‘Russia’ is usually all it takes for the fairytale to grow wings, spreading its destructive lies around the world. ‘Russia’ is truly the gift that keeps on giving! Allow me to demonstrate how easy it is to apply. Just this weekend, BBC journalist Olga Ivshina was engaged in correspondence with a stringer in France. In an effort to explain what has sparked the French protests, Ivshina gratuitously tossed out some live ‘blame Russia’ bait.

“And maybe some Russian business is making big bucks on it,” the BBC journalist solicited in an effort to conjure up fake news out of thin air. “Maybe they are eating cutlets out there en masse, for example. Or maybe the far-right are the main troublemakers?” When the question only managed to elicit an uncomfortable laugh from the stringer, the nonplussed BBC journalist exposed more trade secrets than was probably advisable. In fact, what followed seems to have been the only nugget of truth to emerge from the discussion. Ivshina confided that she was “looking for various angles” since the broadcaster, like a modern day Dracula flick, was “out for blood.”

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The next scheduled chapter in the story is Gen. Flynn’s sentencing this Tuesday. It would be a surprise if the Judge does not observe that Mr. Mueller has acted in contempt of court. Ditto if the charge against Gen. Flynn is not thrown out.

Fatal Over-Reach (Kunstler)

Last Friday morning, we adjourned the blog in anticipation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller handing over certain FBI documents in the General Flynn matter demanded by DC District Federal Judge Emmett G. Sullivan no later than 3:00 p.m. that day. Guess what. Mr. Mueller’s errand boys did not hand over the required documents — original FBI 302 interrogation reports. Instead, they proffered a half-assed “interview” with one of the two agents who conducted the Flynn interrogation, Peter Strzok, attempting to recollect the 302 half a year after it was written. Of course, Mr. Strzok was notoriously fired from the Bureau in August for bouts of wild political fury on-the-job as FBI counter-intel chief during and after the 2016 election. (This was the second time he was fired; the first was when Robert Mueller discarded him from the SC team in 2017 as a legal liability.)

So, 3:00 p.m. Friday has come and gone. It appears that the FBI 302 docs have come and gone, too. Actually, we have reason to believe that nothing ever created on a computer connected to the internet can actually disappear entirely. Rather, the data gets sucked into the bottomless well of the NSA server-farm out in Utah. Most likely, the original 302s exist and Mr. Mueller is pretending he can’t find them. In effect, it appears that Mr. Mueller has responded by gently whispering “fuck you” to Judge Sullivan.

Interestingly, The New York Times didn’t even report the story (nor The WashPo, nor CNN, nor MSNBC). Since their “Russia Collusion” narrative is foundering, they can’t tolerate any suggestion that their Avenging Angel of Impeachment, Mr. Mueller, is less than the sanctified plain dealer he affects to be. Judge Sullivan kept his own counsel all weekend. The next scheduled chapter in the story is Gen. Flynn’s sentencing this Tuesday. It would be a surprise if the Judge does not observe that Mr. Mueller has acted in contempt of court. Ditto if the charge against Gen. Flynn is not thrown out. After all, the main articles of evidence against him apparently don’t exist.

And if it turns out that Mr. Mueller and his team are disgraced by their apparent bad faith behavior in the Flynn case, what then of all the other cases connected to Mueller one way or another: Manafort, Cohen, Papadopoulos? And the other matters still in question, such as the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian “Magnitsky” lawyer and Golden Golem Junior, the porn star payoffs… really everything he has touched. What if it all falls apart?

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This is it. Given recent claims that emissions must be cut five times more than is now recognized, and there are just 2 years left to do anything meaningful concerning climate change, this is it.

Coal Demand Will Remain Steady Through 2023 -IEA (CNBC)

Coal consumption is expanding after two years of decline, but miners should brace for another period of sluggish growth, according to the International Energy Agency. In its latest annual report, the IEA forecasts global coal demand will remain essentially stable over the next five years, inching up by just over 1% between 2017 and 2023. The reason for coal’s stagnation remains unchanged from recent years: Developed nations are ditching the fossil fuel, while India and other emerging economies are turning to coal to quickly scale up electric power generation.

“In a growing number of countries, the elimination of coal-fired generation is a key climate policy goal. In others, coal remains the preferred source of electricity and is seen as abundant and affordable,” said the IEA, a Paris-based agency that advises developed nations on energy policy. The IEA’s forecast comes on the heels of a series of reports that the world is falling short of commitments to prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change and running out of time to take action. Burning coal for electric power and industrial purposes such as steelmaking is a major contributor to global warming.

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Dec 082018
 


Getty Vigil in front of White House on the evening after Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7 1941

 

France Braced For ‘Ultra-Violent’ Protests (BBC)
S&P 500 Closes In An Official ‘Death Cross’ (CNBC)
A Death Cross For The S&P 500 Highlights A Stock Market In Tatters (MW)
Dow Down Over 500 Points, Wipes Out 2018 Gains In Wild Week On Wall Street (CNBC)
George H. W. Bush, Wimp (Matt Taibbi)
Five Eyes Against Huawei (Voltaire)
Russia Ready To Switch Off Visa & Mastercard Ahead Of Tougher Sanctions (RT)
UK Ministers Warn No-Deal Brexit Chaos May Last Six Months (Ind.)
EU Support For Austerity Opens Door To Far Right – Corbyn (G.)
Capture the Flag (Kunstler)
Uber Files Confidential IPO Paperwork (R.)
The Column I Didn’t Want To Write About Julian Assange (SMH)
Media Is Giving The US Cover To Extradite Assange (Hrafnsson)
97% Decline In Monarch Butterflies (G.)

 

 

The French government goes about this so wrong you’d think they want the violence. Macron hasn’t been seen in many days, he left public displays up to his PM and left his country alone. Now they say there will be only 10,000 protesters, a ridiculously low number, and solemnly proclaim “10,000 is not the people, it’s not France.”

In fact, a large majority of people support the protests. Not the violence, but that’s not the core of this. Moreover, the students, who were not taking part last week, have now joined the yellow vests. And the government’s suggesting they -and the other protesters- are not really French.

Tear gas is being employed already on Saturday morning. Paris is under siege. And not from the protesters.

France Braced For ‘Ultra-Violent’ Protests (BBC)

France is braced for renewed anti-government protests, with nearly 90,000 security personnel on the streets. Some 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles will be deployed in Paris alone, where shops have been boarded up and sites like the Eiffel Tower closed. The “yellow vest” movement began three weeks ago in opposition to a rise in fuel tax but ministers say it has been hijacked by “ultra-violent” protesters. Last week saw hundreds arrested and scores injured in violence in Paris. They were some of the worst street clashes seen in the capital for decades. The authorities are certainly not underestimating the threat. There were 65,000 security officers across the country last weekend and that has been increased to 89,000, even though Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he expected fewer protesters than last weekend, perhaps about 10,000 nationwide. He said: “10,000 is not the people, it’s not France.”

The security forces will want to prevent a repeat in the capital, where the Arc de Triomphe was vandalised, police were attacked and cars overturned and burned last weekend. Mr Castaner has vowed “zero tolerance” towards violence. He said: “According to the information we have, some radicalised and rebellious people will try to get mobilised. Some ultra-violent people want to take part.” The barricade-smashing armoured vehicles have not been seen in the Paris area since riots erupted in poor suburbs in 2005. Mr Castaner added: “These past three weeks have seen the birth of a monster that has escaped its creators.”

[..] The government has said it is scrapping the unpopular fuel tax increases in its budget and has frozen electricity and gas prices for 2019. The problem is that protests have erupted over other issues. Granting concessions in some areas may not placate all the protesters, some of whom are calling for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions, easier university requirements and even the resignation of the president. He has been called by some “the president of the rich”.

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“It’s almost confirming what could be a change in trend to the downside.”

S&P 500 Closes In An Official ‘Death Cross’ (CNBC)

The chart of the S&P 500 Index is flashing a warning of more selling ahead. A pattern, called the ‘death cross,’ appeared on the chart on Friday as stocks plunged. The S&P 500’s average price of the last 50 days, dropped below the 200-day moving average, a sign of negative momentum and possible change in trend, according to technical analysts. “It just means you’re lower for longer, meaning there’s no real bounce, which is a sign of real selling.” said Scott Redler, partner with T3Live.com. “Sometimes you break moving averages and you get some kind of quick fast recovery…but when you stay down longer, all of a sudden it’s showing real selling. That’s why people don’t like the death cross. It’s almost confirming what could be a change in trend to the downside.”

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It highlights a stock market that doesn’t exist.

A Death Cross For The S&P 500 Highlights A Stock Market In Tatters (MW)

The S&P 500 index on Friday has joined the ranks of market benchmarks forming that dreaded Wall Street chart pattern: the death cross. A death cross has materialized in the S&P 500 with the 50-day moving average at 2,759.28.02, below the 200-day moving average of 2,762.02, according to FactSet data. A death cross is what chart watchers refer to as the point where the 50-day — a short-term trend tracker — crosses below the 200-day, which is used to define the longer-term trend. Many believe the cross marks the point where a shorter-term decline graduates to a longer-term downtrend.

S&P 500’s Thursday action— falling in tandem with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (and briefly with the Nasdaq Composite)— helped deliver a breach for the large-cap index’s short-term trend line beneath the 200-day. The formation marks the first time the 50-day MA was below the 200-day for the S&P 500 since April 22, 2016, according to Dow Jones Market Data. However, the last time that a death cross formed was in January of 2016. The move for the benchmark comes amid a series of bearish patterns that have cropped up in equities and fixed-income markets, highlighting growing concerns about the durability of a bull run in stocks that has lasted about a decade as the economy’s vital signs have also been strong, in a long-running, if measured, rebound from the 2007-09 financial crisis.

[..] the ominous formation also is a sign of how viciously equity markets have unraveled in the past several weeks. More than half of the S&P 500’s 11 sectors have seen death crosses, and a chunk of the index’s constituents are in bear markets, having declined at least 20% from a recent peak. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are in correction, usually defined as a 10% drop from a peak, while the Russell 2000 is 15% beneath its recent peak.

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Without functioning markets, wild swings are guaranteed.

Dow Down Over 500 Points, Wipes Out 2018 Gains In Wild Week On Wall Street (CNBC)

Stocks dropped sharply on Friday, concluding what has been a wild week for Wall Street. A weaker-than-expected jobs report and China-U.S. trade tensions sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average lower by 558.72 points to 24,388.95 and erased its gains for the year. At one point, the Dow was up more than 8 percent for 2018. The S&P 500 pulled back 2.3 percent to 2,633.08 and also turned negative for the year. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.05 percent to close at 6,969.25. Shares of large-cap tech companies led the way lower. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet all traded lower. Apple’s stock also fell 3.6 percent — erasing its gains for the year — after Morgan Stanley cut its price target on the tech giant’s shares, citing weakening iPhone sales.

For the week, the major indexes all dropped more than 4 percent. Thursday’s session included a violent drop of nearly 800 points, followed by a strong rebound from those levels. This week was also the worst for the indexes since March. Indexes fell to their lows of the day after the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors are expected to bring charges against Chinese hackers allegedly trying to break into technology service providers in the U.S., another negative headline amid tense trade talks between the two countries. [..] “You’ve gone from a period of zero sensitivity to headlines to a period of hypersensitivity,” said James Athey, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “We’re now in a world where no one knows which way is up and which way is down.”

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Delightful from Taibbi on among other things the years-long feud between HW and Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau. Do read¡

I’ve left the HW story alone, overkill. But I was thinking all the time: if there’s one thing HW was not, it was a leader. I’m not the only one.

George H. W. Bush, Wimp (Matt Taibbi)

For most of his political life, George Herbert Walker Bush was basically the unimaginative proxy for other powerful interests. He was always the front man for the fellas at the club, be it Skull and Bones or the CIA (he retains the dubious distinction of being the only spy head to become president). He excelled in this brute-behind-the-scenes role. But once fashioning himself as something other than Ronald Reagan’s wingman, politics demanded he offer the national public glimpses of his personality. Sadly, he was president before he found out he didn’t really have one. This would have been fine, if he’d been a more confident person.

But Bush was not satisfied to be remembered as a dull imperial steward, and his flailing efforts to carve out a macho personal myth on par with Reagan or Kennedy marred both his presidency and large swaths of the planet. Unable to let insults stand, he dreamed up stunt after stunt in an attempt to counter Heathers-style media taunts that grew out of inside jokes circulated in Washington during the Reagan years. His presidency turned into an endless cycle: Bush would do something goofy/out of touch, the press would bash his brains in for it and he’d overreact, often by having someone bombed or jailed.

[..] In December 1989, Bush invaded Panama, ostensibly to capture former American client/human rights monster Manuel Noriega. The New York Times cheered Bush for going through the “rite of passage” of the presidency, which involved “a need to demonstrate the willingness to shed blood.” The paper was one of many to describe the invasion as a triumph over both Newsweek and Doonesbury: “For President Bush… a man still portrayed in the Doonesbury comic strip as the invisible President – showing his steel had a particular significance.”

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Encryption. Wonder how many people will get a Huawei phone now, and be safe from spying.

Five Eyes Against Huawei (Voltaire)

Washington has asked Ottawa to arrest Meng Wanzhou and to extradite her. This young woman is the financial director and daughter of the founder of Huawei, the Chinese Telecom Giant. She was arrested on 6 December in Canada. The motive for the war undertaken by Washington against Huawei is deep-rooted and spurious are the justifications. The heart of the problem is that the Chinese firm uses a system of encryption that prevents the NSA from intercepting its communications. A number of governments and secret services in the non-Western world have begun to equip themselves exclusively with Huawei materials, and are doing so to protect the confidentiality of their communications.

The covers/excuses for this war are theft of intellectual property or in the alternative, trade with Iran and North Korea, and violating rules of competition by benefitting from national subsidies. The Five Eyes is a system of electronic espionage by Australia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. They have begun to exclude Huawei from their auctions.

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Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but Russia is well prepared.

Russia Ready To Switch Off Visa & Mastercard Ahead Of Tougher Sanctions (RT)

Moscow faces prospects of harsher sanctions this coming January as the US Congress is set to discuss a new package of anti-Russian penalties. The Russian central bank has warned the country’s lenders over potential risks.
The regulator has recommended that Russian financial institutions take the necessary preventive steps in case their partner-banks are forced to stop providing connection to services by the world’s two most used payment systems – Visa and Mastercard, reports Russian business daily Vedomosti. The list of Russia’s banking majors that are currently working as an intermediary include Credit Union “Payment Center,” one of Russia’s largest private lenders Uralsib, Rosbank that operates as a Russian subsidiary of the international financial group Societe Generale, Russia’s second biggest bank VTB and privately owned Promsvyazbank.

VTB and Promsvyazbank have already been included in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), approved by US Congress last summer. The legislation allows Washington to introduce penalties against enterprises and individuals that are seen as hostile towards the US or loyal to regimes that are hostile to the US. The Central Bank of Russia advises that Russian banks should look for an alternative sponsor that will be able substitute a current provider of Visa and MasterCard services, seal a maintenance service contract and test an opportunity of integrating.

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May’s cabinet now warns of chaos unless her Brexit plan is executed. Ignoring that if such chaos erupts, it’s their own fault; the government must prepare. So essentially they’re saying: we haven’t prepared the country, so you must support us.

UK Ministers Warn No-Deal Brexit Chaos May Last Six Months (Ind.)

Emergency plans to fly in medical supplies have been laid to ensure hospitals remain stocked amid six months of expected chaos at Britain’s channel ports after a no-deal Brexit. Critical supplies could also be diverted away from channel routes and some drugs may even be rationed to ensure stocks do not run out. The plans were published as a government assessment suggested a no-deal departure from the EU could mean severe disruption until the end of September 2019 to shipping between Dover and Calais and traffic using the Channel Tunnel.

Ministers continued to put up a defiant front on Friday, saying they were determined to push ahead with the House of Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, though Downing Street insiders indicated it could still be pulled if efforts to turn rebels fall flat at the weekend. While MPs secured measures this week that make a no-deal scenario less likely, it is still possible if Ms May’s deal is rejected and parliament fails to opt for any alternative course before 29 March. Ministers had already told drug manufacturers to build six-week stockpiles in anticipation of Brexit customs disruption, but after the new assessment indicated Brexit disorder could last six months, further measures were deemed necessary.

In a letter to pharmaceutical firms, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The revised cross-government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits, for up to six months. “This is very much a worst-case scenario; however, as a responsible government, we have a duty to plan for all scenarios. “Whilst the six-week medicines stockpiling activities remain a critical part of our UK-wide contingency plan, it is clear that in light of the changed border assumptions described above this will now need to be supplemented with additional action.”

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True enough, but declaring yourself ‘internationalist’ and ‘socialist’ may not be the smartest meassage at this point.

EU Support For Austerity Opens Door To Far Right – Corbyn (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has told an audience of European socialists that EU support for austerity has caused hardship for ordinary people, and that unless something changes there is a risk that “the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum”. Speaking at the Congress of European Socialists in Lisbon, the Labour leader also said his party respected the result of the Brexit referendum and it was the duty of the left in the UK to “shape what comes next”. Corbyn argued that Labour would be internationalist whether the UK was inside or outside the EU, and promised that the party would “work together to help build a real social Europe” by protecting workers’ and consumers’ rights. He said: “EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe.”

It had “damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties and played a significant role in the vote for Brexit”. However, he promised that under his leadership Labour would take a different approach, and he added a stark warning: “If the European political establishment carries on with business as usual, the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum. European socialists have to fight for a different kind of Europe.” In a speech on the first day of the two-day event attended by Labour’s sister parties around Europe, Corbyn said of Brexit: “In a country where a million families are using food banks, over 4 million children are living in poverty, and real wages are lower today than they were in 2010, the British people voted to leave the EU. We respect that decision; it’s our job to shape what comes next.”

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What’s the difference between analysis and propaganda? It’s very unclear in America these days.

Capture the Flag (Kunstler)

It’s obvious that the Obama White House, along with CIA director John Brennan, and Director of National intel James Clapper, used the FBI and the DOJ (with support from the nation’s two leading newspapers), and help from Britain’s MI6 intel shop, to run illegal operations against Mr. Trump during the 2016 election, and then persisted in acts to delegitimize him after Jan 20, 2017. All this, of course, is apart from whether you like Mr. Trump or approve of his policies. It’s well documented elsewhere that Robert Mueller’s mission to detect election “collusion” between Russia and Mr. Trump was a bust, and that all he has to show for it is a roll of contrived convictions for lying to federal prosecutors and the FBI.

The case of General Flynn lies at the center because he served as Mr. Obama’s Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and he knew too much about US shenanigans around the notorious Iran nuclear deal and other shady doings. They were alarmed when he went over to Mr. Trump’s campaign, and determined to disable him. Once Mr. Trump appointed Gen. Flynn Director of National Security, Mr. Obama engineered an “incident” in late December of 2016 (confiscating Russian properties in Maryland over alleged election meddling and laying down new sanctions), that prompted Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to phone Gen. Flynn, the incoming DNS. US Intel was prepared for that set-up and recorded the call, which required the illegal “unmasking” of Flynn, a nicety of spycraft.

Thus, the FBI had a transcript of the phone call and were easily able to entrap Flynn in mis-remembering the particulars of the call. Where is that transcript? The predicate for this operation was completely dishonest: that incoming senior government officials are forbidden to speak to foreign ambassadors. In fact it is their duty to consult with foreign officials, especially in Mr. Flynn’s job, and a long-established tradition of every presidential transition. The coup cadres of the Deep State used The New York Times and The Washington Post to persuade the public that Gen. Flynn had done something treasonous, when it was nothing more than routine transition business.

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The IPO to end all IPO’s?!

Uber Files Confidential IPO Paperwork (R.)

Uber Technologies Inc has filed paperwork for an initial public offering, according to three people with knowledge of the matter, taking a step closer to a key milestone for one of the most closely watched and controversial companies in Silicon Valley. The ride-hailing company filed the confidential paperwork on Thursday, in lock-step with its smaller U.S. rival, Lyft Inc, which also announced on Thursday it had filed for an IPO, setting the stage for one of the biggest technology listings ever. The simultaneous filings extend the protracted battle between Uber and Lyft, which as fierce competitors have often rolled out identical services and matched each other’s prices.

Uber’s most recent valuation was $76 billion, and could be worth $120 billion in an IPO. Its listing next year would be the largest in what is expected to be a string of public debuts by highly valued Silicon Valley companies, including apartment-renting company Airbnb and workplace messaging firm Slack. Uber’s debut will be a test of investor tolerance for legal and workplace controversies, which embroiled Uber for most of last year..

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For some reason, people think it’s very normal to hate Assange. They don’t explain why, though, it’s presented as a given.

The Column I Didn’t Want To Write About Julian Assange (SMH)

We don’t like Julian Assange. That much is clear. Back in 2010, after the original Iraq leak, he seemed a reasonable imitation of a public-spirited whistleblower. By the time I met him in 2012 he was already obsessed by how the leftist media had abandoned him, blaming a conspiracy among Oxbridge PPE (Politics, Philosophy, Economics) graduates. That struck me as narcissistic paranoia although it is, I suppose, remotely possible that such a cabal existed. Now, the question of why the left “hates” Assange occupies his few remaining supporters almost exclusively. Personally I think hate is too strong. Most people just consider Assange a spoilt-brat egomaniac with murky motives, a limelight habit and some profoundly questionable political affiliations.

As further allegations emerge (from Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigations) as to his working with Russia to destabilise Clinton, perhaps in return for being rescued from London (allegations which Assange denies), many hold Assange responsible for Trump. So yes, the dislike is legit. But if egomania and dumb politics were a crime half the population would be in porridge. You don’t abandon someone to a system of revenge indictments, secret trials and solitary confinement because they’re arrogant, or even arrogant and wrong. So it’s not the emotion we need to analyse but the leap from “I’m no longer sympathetic” to “throw away the key”.

[..] Back in 2011 a grand jury was convened in Virginia to determine whether Assange was indictable. Grand jury proceedings are inherently secret. Involving neither judge nor jury they are prosecutor-led, with no defendant right to a defence, attendance or even knowledge. Their findings too are secret. Thus, despite years of enduring rumours of a “sealed indictment” against Assange we know only that last month, US prosecutors inadvertently revealed that secret charges had been laid against Assange. Put it together. An old arrest warrant for skipping bail on a charge that was always feeble and has since been dropped, a refusal to deny extradition intentions, secret charges emerging from a secret court over an act that may not even be illegal and for which the principal culprit has already been pardoned. Does anyone really think such a system could produce a fair trial?

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The Guardian piece is way overexposed, but okay, here’s WikiLeaks new editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson.

Media Is Giving The US Cover To Extradite Assange (Hrafnsson)

The Guardian’s attack on Assange came only days after it was confirmed that he has been indicted some time ago, under seal, and that the U.S. will seek his extradition from the U.K. The story was published just hours before a hearing brought by media groups trying to stop the U.S. government from keeping its attempts to extradite Assange secret. The story went viral, repeated uncritically by many media outlets around the world, including Newsweek. This falsely cast Assange into the center of a conspiracy between Putin and Trump. The Guardian even had the gall to post a call to its readers to donate to protect “independent journalism when factual, trustworthy reporting is under threat.”

[..] This is part of a series of stories from The Guardian, such as its recent claim of a “Russia escape plot” to enable Assange to flee the embassy, which is not true. What do these stories have in common? They all give the U.K. and Ecuador political cover to arrest Assange and for the U.S. to extradite him. Any journalists worth their salt should be investigating who is involved in these plots.

[..] Numerous commentators have criticized The Guardian for its coverage of Assange. Glenn Greenwald, former columnist for The Guardian, writes that the paper has “…such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.” Another former Guardian journalist, Jonathan Cook, writes: “The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.”

Hours before The Guardian published its article, WikiLeaks received knowledge of the story and “outed” it, with a denial, to its 5.4 million Twitter followers. The story then made the front page, and The Guardian asserted they had not received a denial prior to publication—as they had failed to contact the correct person. A simple retraction and apology will not be enough. This persecution of Assange is one of the most serious attacks on journalism in recent times.

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Really, guys? Blame it all on climate change? I wouldn’t.

97% Decline In Monarch Butterflies (G.)

In the 1980s, roughly 4.5 million monarchs wintered in California, but at last count, there may be as few as 30,000. The hillside groves of eucalyptus trees that tower over the Santa Cruz shoreline would, not so long ago, be teeming with monarch butterflies at this time of year. Boughs would be bent under the weight of black and orange clusters, as hundreds of thousands of the magical invertebrates nestled into the leaves, waiting out the frost on the California coast before returning north. Now, on a sunny December afternoon the boardwalk that weaves through the monarch preserve, at Natural Bridges State Beach, is filled with school children craning necks and straining eyes to catch a glimpse. The monarchs are there – but they are harder to spot.

Just two years ago, 8,000 overwintered here, but these days, just more than a thousand are fluttering amidst the Santa Cruz trees. It’s part of a troubling trend: over the last two decades monarch numbers in the West have declined by roughly 97%. “It is a sad reality of climate change,” said Anthony Dutierrez, a volunteer guide at the park and biology student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as he takes a break from guiding school children through a tour. “For every little thing that changes there’s not just one consequence – it’s a whole chain reaction.” According to the Xerces Society, a conservation organization, in the 1980s between 10 million and 4.5 million monarchs spent the winter in California. The last count, conducted annually by volunteers each November, showed that in 2018 there may be as few as 30,000 across the state – a number that’s 87% lower than just the year before.

“We had a lot of reason to suspect that it was going to be a bad year, but we were shocked at just how bad,” said Xerces Society Conservation biologist Emma Pelton. She said that year-to-year fluctuations can be expected, but this kind of continuous drop-off is cause for concern. “It is in the context that the population has already declined 97%. So, it’s OK if you have millions of butterflies and they drop down a little bit – that’s not a huge deal. But if you have 200,000 butterflies to begin with and you have a bad year? Now we only have 30,000 left.”


Photograph: Michael Yang / Rex Features

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Nov 212018
 
 November 21, 2018  Posted by at 10:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Jack Delano Lower Manhattan 1941

 

Senate Calls On Trump For Saudi Answers (BBC)
Saudi Arabia Tortured Female Right-to-Drive Activists – Amnesty (AP)
Trump Submits Answers To Robert Mueller Questions In Russia Probe (Ind.)
Trump Wanted To Order Justice Dept To Prosecute Clinton, Comey – NYT (R.)
Dow Plunges More Than 500 Points, Erases Gain For 2018 (CNBC)
Stunned Investors Observe The Market Carnage In Shock (ZH)
A Death Cross Is Forming In US Oil (MW)
Bitcoin Plunges As Much As 16% To Below $4,100, A New Low For The Year (CNBC)
Misguided Share Buybacks Are Hollowing Out Companies’ Balance Sheets (MW)
Bank of England Backs Theresa May’s Brexit Deal, Warns Of No-Deal Dangers (G.)
May’s Brussels Trip Only Start Of ‘Endless’ EU Trade Talks (G.)
UK To Be ‘Frozen Out’ Of 182 EU Decisions During Brexit Transition (Ind.)
Interpol Elects South Korean As Its President In Blow To Russia (G.)
Tax ‘Virgin Packaging’ To Tackle Plastics Crisis – Report (G.)
Dead Whale Washes Ashore In Indonesia With 6 Kilos Of Plastic In Stomach (AP)
Julian Assange Deserves A Medal of Freedom, Not A Secret Indictment (USA Today)

 

 

The indignation over Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia is shifting into overdrive. Perhaps that’s needed to expose the hypocrisy inherent in them. It’s not Trump, it’s America that has condoned torture and murder by the House of Saud for decades. That started actively assisting the Saudi’s in Yemen under Obama. Trump refuses to be set up by the media and Democrats as the fall guy for $150 oil prices. He’s thinking: let Congress do it, now that it’s blue. If that’s immoral, he’s not alone.

Senate Calls On Trump For Saudi Answers (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has been asked to ascertain whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Republican and Democratic leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday sent a letter demanding a second investigation. Mr Trump earlier defended US ties with Saudi Arabia despite international condemnation over the incident. Khashoggi was killed on 2 October inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Trump acknowledged that the crown prince “could very well” have known about Khashoggi’s brutal murder, adding: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

He later stated that the CIA had not made a “100%” determination on the killing. Following the president’s comments, Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez issued a statement on behalf of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In it they called on Mr Trump to focus a second investigation specifically on the crown prince so as to “determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation” of human rights. The request, issued under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, requires a response within 120 days.

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OK, CNN, do your job.

Saudi Arabia Tortured Female Right-to-Drive Activists – Amnesty (AP)

Several activists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since May, including women who campaigned for the right to drive, have been beaten and tortured during interrogation, Amnesty International has said. Saudi Arabia has detained at least 10 women and seven men on vague national security allegations related to their human rights work, the organisation said on Tuesday. Those detained include Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, who had campaigned for the right to drive before the decades-long ban was lifted in June. Amnesty said that according to three testimonies it obtained, some of the activists were repeatedly given electric shocks and flogged, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly. In one instance, an activist was hung from the ceiling.

Another testimony said one of the detained women was subjected to sexual harassment by interrogators wearing face masks. The kingdom is at the centre of an international firestorm after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had written critically about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent, including the arrests of the women activists. Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director, said: “Only a few weeks after the ruthless killing of Jamal Khashoggi, these shocking reports of torture, sexual harassment and other forms of ill-treatment, if verified, expose further outrageous human rights violations by the Saudi authorities.”

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What a waste of resources.

Trump Submits Answers To Robert Mueller Questions In Russia Probe (Ind.)

Donald Trump has submitted written answers to questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. “We answered every question they asked that was legitimately pre-election and focused on Russia,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in an interview. “Nothing post-election. And we’ve told them we’re not going to do that.” Mr Giuliani said Trump did not plan to answer any questions from Mr Mueller on whether he tried to obstruct the investigation once he won office, such as by firing former FBI Director James Comey last year. “It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion,” the lawyer said in an earlier statement on the probe, which Mr Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

Mr Trump signed the submission on Tuesday before he left Washington to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Florida, a person familiar with the matter said. Mr Mueller was tasked to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” into possible collusion between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. [..] Mr Giuliani said in his statement the president had provided “unprecedented cooperation” with the probe over the past year and a half, noting that more than 30 White House-related witnesses had been questioned and 1.4 million pages of material turned over before Mr Trump responded to the pre-election questions in writing. He added that “much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry.”

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Not exactly news, is it? Of course there will be an investigation of Hillary, Comey and a whole circus around them. It would be a serious perverson of justice if there isn’t.

Trump Wanted To Order Justice Dept To Prosecute Clinton, Comey – NYT (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two political foes, his one-time presidential opponent Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey, in the spring, but his White House counsel rebuffed him, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. Don McGahn, the White House counsel at the time, wrote a memo to the president outlining consequences for Trump if he did order these prosecutions. The outcomes ranged from the traditionally independent Justice Department refusing to comply, to congressional probes and voter outcry, the Times reported.

The New York Times also reported Trump’s lawyers privately asked the Justice Department to investigate Comey for mishandling sensitive government information and his role investigating Clinton’s use of a private email account and server, but law enforcement officials declined. It was not clear if Trump read the memo or pursued the prosecutions further, the New York Times said. It was also not clear what specific charges Trump wanted the Justice Department to pursue against Comey and Clinton, the Times reported. Trump has publicly railed against Clinton’s private email use during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State, as well as her role in the Obama administration’s decision to allow a Russian company to buy a uranium mining firm.

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Time to start writing about finance again?!

Dow Plunges More Than 500 Points, Erases Gain For 2018 (CNBC)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 fell sharply on Tuesday and turned negative for the year as a decline in Target shares pressured retailers, while some of the most popular tech shares dropped again. The 30-stock Dow dropped 551.80 points to 24,465.64 and the S&P 500 plunged 1.8 percent to close at 2,641.89. The Dow and S&P 500 were up 1.2 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, for 2018 entering Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite also dropped 1.7 percent to 6,908.82 but managed to hang on to a slight gain for 2018. Tuesday’s declines come after the Dow dropped 395 points on Monday.

Stocks hit their lows of the day after Doubleline Capital founder Jeffrey Gundlach said stocks are still too expensive, adding there has not been a “panic low” yet. The Dow was down nearly 650 points at its session low, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq had both dropped more than 2 percent. Target fell 10.5 percent after reporting weaker-than-expected earnings for the previous quarter. The company also posted lighter-than-forecast same-store sales, which is a key metric for retailers.

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Nah, they’re not investors.

Stunned Investors Observe The Market Carnage In Shock (ZH)

After another abysmal day, in which every single sector in the market closed in the red as stocks tumbled 2%, capping a dreadful two-month stretch since the S&P hit its all time highs exactly two months ago, which has seen both the S&P and the Dow turn red for the year with the Nasdaq just barely holding onto green, while oil crashed 6% slumping to a one year low, junk bonds matched a record streak of losses, the overall market just suffered one of its worst sessions in the past three years. But what is most remarkable is the following chart from Bloomberg which shows the year-to-date return of the best performing asset between US and global equities, corporate bonds, Treasuries, gold and real cash, and according to which 2018 is shaping up as what may be the worst year on record for cross-asset investors. Indeed, nothing at all has worked this year!

The inability of any single asset class to escape the dismal black hole supergravity of devastating losses in a brutal post-BTFD catharsis that has mutated into an equal-opportunity rout, crushing returns across all assets, has left investors reeling, shellshocked and paralyzed, and dreading what may come tomorrow let alone next year when both the US economy and corporate earnings are expected to see their supercharged recent growth rates come crashing back down to earth. “While there’s still no ‘panic in the streets,’ most traders are unconvinced that the selling will slow down anytime soon,” said Instinent’s head of trading Larry Weiss. “The flight to quality is now a flight to cash. It’s tough to convince anyone that now is the time to put money to work.”

[..] Hedge funds, who hoped that “buy the dip” would work one last time and who rushed into the traditional “safety” of tech stocks at the end of October, were whipsawed, and turned net sellers this month, with the group accounting for the most selling among major industries according to Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, as if sensing the coming storm, Goldman writes that hedge fund net exposures steadily declined throughout 2018, including during 2Q and 3Q while the broad equity market rallied, leaving most investors in the cold. Net long exposure calculated based on 13-F filings and publicly-available short interest data registered 49% at the start of 4Q, a decline from 56% at the start of 2018, and one of the lowest in years.

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Potential volatility in oil is huge. Any little shrapnel of news, Saudi, Iran, Russia, shale, can force prices up 50%.

A Death Cross Is Forming In US Oil (MW)

Oil is already in a bear market, but now a fresh, negative pattern is crystallizing in the commodity that has absolutely bludgeoned bulls over the past two months. January West Texas Intermediate crude on its first full session as the front-month contract, was down a whopping 7.5%, to $52.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and that downtrend has propelled the U.S. benchmark to the brink of forming a death cross—a chart formation in an asset that many market technicians believe marks the point that a short-term decline morphs into a longer-term downtrend (see chart below).

Based on the continuous chart for the most-active oil contract, the 50-day moving average at $67.58 a barrel is less than 0.5% shy of falling beneath the long-term 200-day moving average at $67.25, according to FactSet data. At the current rate of decline, a death cross could occur within a week or two. Both the U.S. contract and the global benchmark Brent oil are in bear market, usually characterized as a decline of at least 20% from a recent peak. In fact, U.S. oil is down 31% from its Oct. 3 peak at $76.41 a barrel.

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Miners are ditching their equipment.

Bitcoin Plunges As Much As 16% To Below $4,100, A New Low For The Year (CNBC)

Bitcoin is still struggling to find a bottom this week. The digital currency dropped as much as 16 percent on Tuesday to its lowest level since Sept. 30, 2017, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. Bitcoin fell as low as $4,076.59, bringing its total losses in seven days to roughly 30 percent. The cryptocurrency briefly pared those losses and was down about 7 percent in afternoon trading. As U.S. stock markets closed though, bitcoin was still down 12 percent over 24 hours, trading near $4,299, according to data from CoinDesk.

The price plunge came after weeks of rare stability for the world’s largest and best-known cryptocurrency. While global markets churned in October, bitcoin traded comfortably in the $6,400 range — a break from volatility earlier this year. Its total losses this year are now more than 65 percent. ts epic rise last year started right after Thanksgiving as it began to gain status as a household name. Since then, the cryptocurrency has fallen more than 40 percent. Bitcoin first topped $10,000 at the end of November and made it to nearly $20,000 a week before Christmas as retail investors poured in and two regulated exchanges prepared to launch futures markets.

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“With share repurchases in these companies being almost three times their actual investment, one must wonder how much actual U.S. economic growth they are expecting.”

Misguided Share Buybacks Are Hollowing Out Companies’ Balance Sheets (MW)

GE was one of Wall Street’s major share buyback operators between 2015 and 2017; it repurchased $40 billion of shares at prices between $20 and $32. The share price is now $8.60, so the company has liquidated between $23 billion and $29 billion of its shareholders’ money on this utterly futile activity alone. Since the highest net income recorded by the company during those years was $8.8 billion in 2016, with 2015 and 2017 recording a loss, it has managed to lose more on its share repurchases during those three years than it made in operations, by a substantial margin. Even more important, GE has now left itself with minus $48 billion in tangible net worth at Sept. 30, with actual genuine tangible debt of close to $100 billion.

As the new CEO Larry Culp told CNBC last Monday: “We have no higher priority right now than bringing those leverage levels down.” The following day, GE announced the sale of 15% of its oil services arm Baker Hughes, for a round $4 billion. Of course, since that sale values Baker Hughes at $26 billion, and GE paid $32 billion for 62% of Baker Hughes as recently as last year, which looks to me like a valuation for the whole company of $52 billion, GE shareholders appears to have lost half the value of their investment in Baker Hughes in about 18 months. [..] A recent Financial Times article outlined how the five tech companies with the most cash (Apple, Alphabet, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle) have repurchased an astounding $115 billion of stock in the first three quarters of 2018.

By contrast, the total capital spending of the five companies was only $42.6 billion during the same period. The story then congratulated investors for having done so well out of President Trump’s tax reform, which lowered the corporate tax rate, thus encouraging investment in the United States. With share repurchases in these companies being almost three times their actual investment, one must wonder how much actual U.S. economic growth they are expecting. [..] These share repurchases are misguided in so many ways. First, Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft are valued by the stock market at close to $1 trillion, levels no company has ever reached before. If you ignore the current stock price, a company repurchasing its shares is simply giving away its cash and reducing its share count; it creates no value.

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Dangerously close to a political statement.

Bank of England Backs Theresa May’s Brexit Deal, Warns Of No-Deal Dangers (G.)

Mark Carney has thrown his weight behind Theresa May’s Brexit deal, warning that a no-deal scenario would damage the economy, trigger job losses, lead to lower pay for workers and cause inflation to rise. The governor of the Bank of England said May’s draft EU withdrawal agreement would “support economic outcomes” that would be positive for the British economy, primarily because it would give Britain more time to prepare for whatever final Brexit deal is agreed between Westminster and Brussels. “We welcome the transition arrangements in the withdrawal agreement. It’s at the heart [of the deal],” he told MPs on the Treasury select committee, a week after the prime minister agreed the terms of the deal with the EU.

“[The deal] improves our ability to discharge our function relative to having no deal,” he added. The timing of the governor’s comments could help to support May as she faces tough opposition from across the political divide, following cabinet resignations and Labour’s promise to vote it down in parliament. Carney warned that failure to agree a Brexit deal with Brussels before the March 2019 deadline would deliver a “large negative shock” to the UK economy that would have a persistent effect, lowering growth and causing job losses. He said such an outcome would deliver an “unprecedented supply shock” to the UK economy with few historical or international comparisons. “It wouldn’t be a happy situation to be in,” he said.

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These talks should have started two years ago. And even then.

May’s Brussels Trip Only Start Of ‘Endless’ EU Trade Talks (G.)

When Theresa May goes to Brussels for tea with Jean Claude Juncker on Wednesday afternoon, the two leaders will have in front of them a metaphorical Christmas tree of a political declaration. “And every member state has put a bauble on it”, an EU diplomat said. A seven-page document published last week, offering some heads of terms on the future relationship, is set to more than double to some 20 pages. Calls for more ambitious language around the trade elements have been made. Demands for a Spanish veto over any deal covering Gibraltar have been tabled. And an array of asks on so called “level playing field” commitments in any future trade deal are in the mix.

There is even talk of side-declarations to the political declaration emerging at the special Brexit summit next Sunday to allow member states to feel that they have drawn a line in the sand about the real trade talks to come. “It’s all getting very confusing,” admitted a second EU diplomat. Not to Sir Andrew Cahn, the former chief executive of the government’s UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department, who was also an aide to Neil Kinnock when vice president of the European commission in the late 1990s. This is, he said, likely to be a mere amuse-bouche to the “continuous endless” talks that will open on the UK’s trading relationship with Brussels after 29 March 2019 as the UK finds its way around the EU’s orbit.

“It is a classic EU negotiation and the member states are performing their normal way,” Cahn said. “The French always come in late to toughen their negotiating position towards the end, and that’s when they can get some additional things. “The Spanish are copying with Gibraltar – although that is partly a function of domestic Spanish politics with Pedro Sánchez [the Spanish prime minister] being vulnerable at home.”

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What, she didn’t tell you?

UK To Be ‘Frozen Out’ Of 182 EU Decisions During Brexit Transition (Ind.)

The UK will be “frozen out” of EU decisions on no fewer than 182 new rules in the months after Brexit, a new analysis says, including over budget spending, road signs and drinking water. The full scale of fresh regulations in the pipeline – during Theresa May’s planned 21-month transition period – exposes the blunder of making Britain “a rule-taker, not a rule-maker”, it warns. During that transition, the UK will be bound by Brussels’ decisions but without any ministers in the EU council, or MEPs in the European parliament, to influence them. Now the campaign for a People’s Vote on the Brexit outcome has examined the decisions expected before 2020, which also include alcohol-taxing and rules for UK investment funds.

“This analysis sets out for the first time the full scale of the UK’s capitulation under this so-called deal,” said Chris Bryant, a Labour supporter of People’s Vote. “The prime minister’s deal would weaken our ability to have a say in over 180 crucial decisions that are going to be made in Europe while the UK is in transition – meaning we have to abide by their rulings but have no say and no ability to protect Britain’s interests. “This dodgy deal will leave Britain frozen out of decision making and forced to pay billions of Euros for the privilege.” The argument goes to the heart of criticism – by both pro and anti-Brexit MPs – that the UK will be a “vassal state” during the transition phase.

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Russophobia continues unabated.

Interpol Elects South Korean As Its President In Blow To Russia (G.)

South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang has been elected as Interpol’s next president, edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services who was strongly opposed by the US, Britain and other European nations. The White House and its European partners had lobbied against Alexander Prokopchuk’s attempts to be named the next president of the international police body, saying his election would lead to further Russian abuses of Interpol’s “red notice” system to go after political opponents. Prokopchuk is a general in the Russian interior ministry and serves as an Interpol vice-president. Kim was chosen by Interpol’s 94-member states at a meeting of its annual congress in Dubai.

He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who went missing in his native China in September. Beijing later said Meng resigned after being charged with accepting bribes. Critics say that Prokopchuk oversaw a policy of systematically targeting critics and dissidents during his time in charge of the Russian office of Interpol. On Tuesday, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, threw his weight behind Kim, who is the acting president of the global police body. “We encourage all nations and organisations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with integrity. We believe Mr Kim will be just that,” Pompeo told reporters.

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If only we move to recycled plastic! Geez, Louise, how about no plastic at all? You can cut at least 50% without changing anything much at all. More recycling is a fake message.

Tax ‘Virgin Packaging’ To Tackle Plastics Crisis – Report (G.)

The government should introduce a new tax on virgin packaging to revolutionise the recycling system in the UK and tackle the plastics crisis, according to a new report. The study, presented to MPs and industry figures at Westminster on Tuesday evening, calls on ministers to impose a fee on packaging materials and offer a rebate for those products that use more recycled material. The WWF and the Resource Association, which commissioned environment consultancy Eunomia to produce the report, said the proposals would transform the UK’s broken recycling system – and drastically reduce the demand for raw materials, including fossil fuels. Dr Lyndsey Dodd, head of marine policy at WWF UK, said: “Our oceans are choking on plastic, 90% of the world’s sea birds have fragments of plastic in their stomach.

Despite the public outcry, more products are being made with virgin, or new, plastic than with recycled plastic.” Last year the Guardian revealed that plastic production is set to increase by 40% over the next 10 years as fossil fuel companies look to use raw materials produced by fracking in the US. The new report follows an announcement in October that the government is launching a consultation on the introduction of a tax on all plastic packaging with a recycled content of less than 30%. [..] Earlier this year the Guardian reported the plastics recycling industry was under investigation for suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system. Since China banned the import of plastic waste, the UK has been chasing other markets in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, but these countries are also imposing restrictions due to the stockpiling of waste.

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“..115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic..”

Dead Whale Washes Ashore In Indonesia With 6 Kilos Of Plastic In Stomach (AP)

A dead whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia had a large lump of plastic waste in its stomach, including drinking cups and flip-flops – causing concern among environmentalists and government officials in one of the world’s largest plastic polluting countries. Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the 9.5-metre sperm whale late on Monday in waters near Kapota Island, southeast of Sulawesi, after receiving a report from environmentalists that villagers had surrounded the dead creature and were beginning to butcher its rotting carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said. Researchers from wildlife conservation group WWF and the park’s conservation academy found about 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in the animal’s stomach – including 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic.

“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia. She said it was not possible to determine if the plastic had caused the whale’s death because of the animal’s advanced state of decay. Indonesia, an archipelago of 260 million people, is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a study published in the journal Science in January. It produces 3.2 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste a year, of which 1.29 million tonnes ends up in the ocean, the study said.

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Can we say the MSM wakes up with this USA Today piece?

Julian Assange Deserves A Medal of Freedom, Not A Secret Indictment (USA Today)

On the same day the Assange indictment scored headlines, Trump awarded seven Presidential Medals of Freedom. No controversy greeted posthumous awards to Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley — unlike the ruckus regarding Miriam Adelson, wife of Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson. Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit, howled that the Adelson award “is just the latest sign of [Trump’s] ability to corrupt and corrode all aspects of the government.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman caterwauled that it was “ludicrous” and “and an insult to people who received the medal for genuine service.” In reality, Presidential Medals of Freedom have routinely been exploited to buttress the political establishment, with bevies of awards for political operators, members of Congress, and pliable foreign leaders.

President Lyndon Johnson distributed a bushel of Medals of Freedom to his Vietnam War architects and enablers, perhaps as consolation prizes for losing the war. (The medal awarded to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, whose lies about the war making progress cost thousands of Americans and Vietnamese their lives, fetched $40,625 at an auction a few years ago.) President George W. Bush conferred Medals of Freedom on his Iraq war team, including CIA chief George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, Iraq viceroy Paul Bremer, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, whom Bush called “America’s Lawrence of Arabia.”

Some of the biggest fabulists of the modern era — including Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney — also pocketed the award.The controversies over Assange and Adelson provide a serendipitous opportunity to update the freedom awards. Because few things are more perilous to democracy than permitting politicians to coverup crimes, there should be a new Medal of Freedom category commending individuals who have done the most to expose official lies. This particular award could be differentiated by including a little steam whistle atop the medal — vivifying how leaks can prevent a political system from overheating or exploding.

Assange would deserve such a medal — as would Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden (who revealed NSA’s abuses), John Kiriakou (who revealed CIA torture), and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers). Admittedly, there may be no way to stop presidents from giving steam whistle freedom awards to political donors’ wives. Organizations like Wikileaks are among the best hopes for rescuing democracy from Leviathan. Unless we presume politicians have a divine right to deceive the governed, America should honor individuals who expose federal crimes.

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Jun 302018
 


Paul Gauguin We hail thee Mary 1891

 

If The US Middle Class Disappears So Will The US Economy (Hutch)
Nervous Investors Exiting US Stocks At Near-Record Pace (CNBC)
Emerging Markets Are In A Death Cross (CNBC)
Are Central Banks Embracing Too Much Risk? (R.)
Stress Test Results Signal More Flexible New-Look Fed (R.)
EU Warns Deep Disputes With UK Threaten No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)
EU Leaders Say Post-Brexit Single-Market Access For Goods A Nonstarter (G.)
Hidden Figures (Jim Kunstler)
Canada Hits US With Retaliatory Tariffs: ‘We Will Not Back Down’ (G.)
Merkel Confirms Bilateral Migrant Agreements With Spain And Greece (DW)
Not Up To US To Decide On Assange Asylum, Ecuador Says (AFP)
Edward Snowden Calls Russian Government ‘Corrupt’ (Ind.)
The Great Firewall Of China (G.)

 

 

“..the “Walmartization” of America.”

If The US Middle Class Disappears So Will The US Economy (Hutch)

Economies have ebbs and flows. In spite of what they teach you in economics 101 nothing is ever in equilibrium. There are just too many parts as well as internal and external influences although there are times when activity is stronger than others. The US built one of the greatest economic powerhouses on earth after World War II, however it was already well on its way from the 1800s as it built out its infrastructure and put many to work. There was a time when the US consumed the majority of what it produced as a nation and then exported the remainder. Who was responsible for the consumption? It was the middle class. The middle class made up the majority of the population. They had jobs and respectable salaries. So what happened?

According to a research report by the Pew Research Center in 2012, “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class” they state: “For the half century following World War II, American families enjoyed rising prosperity in every decade—a streak that ended in the decade from 2000 to 2010, when inflation-adjusted family income fell for the middle income as well as for all other income groups, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.” The above graph shows that the 50s and 60s had the strongest middle class. In 1950 and 1951 the US had successive years of 8% GDP growth. The report also highlights how the net worth of middle income families—that is, the sum of assets minus debts— took a hit from 2001 to 2010 from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Median net worth fell 28%, to $93,150, erasing two decades of gains.

So we have a situation where consumer debt has increased over the years and incomes have fallen. There are a large number of reasons for this. The manufacturing base has shrunk as companies chose to produce goods in other countries in order to take advantage of cheap labour so they could give themselves pricing advantages. There is, what has become to be known as the “Walmartization” of America. Author John Atcheson writes, “If you want to know why the middle class disappeared and where they went, look no further than your local Walmart. People walked in for the low prices, and walked out with a pile of cheap stuff, but in a figurative sense, they left their wages, jobs, and dignity on the cutting room floor of the House of Cheap.” Driving prices lower and lower is just a race to the bottom that erodes everyone’s quality of life.

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Safety.

Nervous Investors Exiting US Stocks At Near-Record Pace (CNBC)

Investors bailed out of U.S. stocks at a near-record pace in the last week, as money flowing into Treasury bills surged to a 10-year high. Outflows from U.S. stock funds and ETFs totaled $24.2 billion, the third-highest ever, and the $30 billion that came out of global stock funds in total in the past week was the second-highest ever and largest since the financial crisis, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists. The outflows from U.S. stocks were the highest since the stock market correction in February. Bonds, at the same time, saw small inflows of $700 million. “That nervousness, the losses people were experiencing in non-U.S. markets with the trade wars has probably led to what you’re seeing in the markets in the last week or so — a big unwind of positioning, a flight to quality,” said Michael Hartnett, BofAML chief investment strategist.

Hartnett said there was a “pervasive euphoria” about the U.S. at the beginning of the year and that has faded. Now, investors are adjusting positions, not panicking, though T-bills, considered the safest of safe haven bets, continued to pull in funds at a rapid pace. “It’s not like it’s February 2016. It’s not like we’re staring recession in the face, and everyone is cashed up to the eyeballs and policymakers are panicking. That’s not what’s happening. It’s just that people were pricing in Goldilocks forever earlier on in the year, and that was wrong. They’re probably unwinding that positioning,” he said. “It helps explain why the markets have firmed up in the last couple of days. You want to buy fear and sell greed.” Hartnett said July could be a month where investors sell volatility, but then the market could get rockier in August and September, ahead of the midterm elections.

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Prone to get a whole lot worse.

Emerging Markets Are In A Death Cross (CNBC)

Emerging markets are feeling the heat. China is in a bear market, Brazil is closing in on one, and the EEM emerging markets ETF could close out its worst quarter in nearly three years on Friday. Brace for more pain, says one technical analyst. “There’s really a time to own EEM and it’s time not to own EEM,” Piper Jaffray’s chief market technician Craig Johnson told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Thursday. “Our rising dollar is going to be an issue for EEM in here and it looks like to me you got probably another 12 percent downside before you get down to a material support area.”

A 12 percent decline from Thursday’s close would put the EEM ETF at around $37.50, its lowest level since March 2017. On Friday afternoon it had risen 1.5 percent to $43.35. The EEM ETF has also entered a death cross, a technical red flag for Johnson. A death cross marks the point on a chart where a longer-term moving average, such as the 200-day, breaks above a shorter-term moving average, such as the 50-day. The technical indicator demonstrates a sharp breakdown in a security’s price and often prefaces further downside.

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How is that a question?

Are Central Banks Embracing Too Much Risk? (R.)

Central banks are usually thought of as very conservative institutions; if they were cars they would be safe, family sedans. Lately, though, some central banks have been doing the market equivalent of zipping around in a sporty convertible. In recent years, at least two large central banks have been snapping up large quantities of equities, typically considered a risky investment. The Swiss National Bank now has about 20% of its reserves in equities, up from about 7 percent a decade ago. More than half of that is in U.S. equities. And to say that the Bank of Japan has become a player in that country’s equity market is an understatement; BOJ currently owns nearly 75% of the Japanese exchange-traded fund (ETF) market, again up sharply from just a few years ago.

Other central banks, including the European Central Bank and South African Reserve Bank, also make similar purchases, although Japan and Switzerland are the most aggressive buyers of equities. If the idea of a central bank owning a significant amount of stock in a company sounds strange to you, that’s hardly surprising. In the United States, for example, the Federal Reserve Bank is legally prohibited from owning equities, and instead invests its reserves in bonds and other government-backed securities. Some other countries, obviously, have different rules in their bank charters, and modest equity holdings have been a central bank strategy for years. Even so, the practice of central banks owning significant shares of equities is a very recent phenomenon. So why is it happening now, and what kind of risks does this unprecedented trend carry?

In the case of Japan, the motive is clear: for decades the country has had difficulty sustaining economic growth, and the Bank of Japan has already exhausted more traditional forms of stimulus, such as interest rate cuts and bond purchases. Both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda have been at pain to stimulate growth and defy expectations of deflation. Switzerland’s bank, by contrast, seems to be acting more like an aggressive individual investor: it has been buying stocks because that is where money is to be made. Unbeknownst to many American investors, the Swiss National Bank is a significant shareholder in well-known American firms like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.

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All in for Wall Street.

Stress Test Results Signal More Flexible New-Look Fed (R.)

This year’s Federal Reserve stress test results suggested a more flexible approach, a further sign the regulator’s new leadership is responding positively to a Wall Street push for pragmatic bank supervision, analysts and lawyers said. Banks that took a one-off capital hit due to the 2017 U.S. tax overhaul got a conditional pass, a departure from the Fed’s traditional strict pass-fail approach to quantitative capital issues, while scandal-plagued Wells Fargo was able to double share buyback plans. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were dinged since their capital fell below the Fed’s minimum, but the regulator’s response this year sounded a more industry-friendly tone under Chairman Jerome Powell and Vice Chairman Randal Quarles, President Donald Trump appointees, analysts and lawyers said.

“They have allowed firms to pass on the basis there were special circumstances and applied a level of pragmatism in the way they haven’t in the past. This is the new Fed and it signals to me an early retirement of this super-strict quantitative test,” said Mike Alix, financial services risk leader at PwC. The Fed on Thursday approved the capital plans of 34 lenders following the second leg of its annual tests, a process introduced after the 2007-2009 financial crisis to assess banks’ capacity to withstand a severe recession. The U.S. central bank has ramped up its worst-case scenarios each year.

The U.S. tax code rewrite signed into law in December meant Goldman and Morgan Stanley’s Thursday results were weighed, in part, by changes to the treatment of past losses on hypothetical tax bills under the Fed’s scenarios. But since the tax issue was a one-off and capital levels in the system are high, the Fed felt it was unnecessary to fail the two banks, senior Fed officials said.

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“Asked about Ms May’s dinner speech on Friday morning, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, looked confused, and said: “There was a speech? Haha.”

EU Warns Deep Disputes With UK Threaten No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)

The European Union has warned that “serious divergence” between itself and Britain in Brexit talks risks the possibility of a no deal, following a meeting by the 27 national leaders in Brussels on Friday. After roughly an hour of discussion, leaders signed off a joint statement pledging to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal situation and highlighting their “concern” at the lack of progress on the Irish border issue. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, warned: “On Brexit, we have made progress, but huge and serious divergence remains, in particular on Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Mr Barnier called for “workable and realistic proposals” to be included in a UK government white paper scheduled for release next month. He added that “time is very short” and said UK negotiators should return to Brussels on Monday to intensify talks. The EU says a deal must be struck before October to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc in March without a transition period – a scenario that would be expected to cause economic chaos. Theresa May on Thursday night addressed leaders over dinner about Brexit for 10 minutes but her speech was apparently overshadowed by hours of discussions about the EU migration crisis, the main focus of the summit. Asked about Ms May’s dinner speech on Friday morning, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, looked confused, and said: “There was a speech? Haha.”

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One long litany of nonstarters.

EU Leaders Say Post-Brexit Single-Market Access For Goods A Nonstarter (G.)

Theresa May has been told by European leaders that an attempt to protect the UK’s industrial base by gaining single market access for goods alone after Brexit is a nonstarter, as the Irish prime minister warned: “We are not going to let them destroy the European Union.” After being given a “broad brush approach” presentation at a Brussels summit of May’s long-awaited paper, yet to be signed off by her warring British cabinet, the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, told her that unless the final document presented a departure from the UK government’s thinking over the last two years, it would be dead on arrival. The British government is continuing to push the idea of keeping frictionless trade on goods, claiming that it would be a good deal for Europe, given the large trade surplus it enjoys.

May has promised to publish her vision for the future trading relationship after a cabinet meeting at Chequers on Friday. Speaking at the end of a summit dominated by a row over migration, Donald Tusk, the European council president, said that “quick progress” in the Brexit negotiations was needed for there to be any hope of an agreement in October, at what is increasingly being billed as a make-or-break summit. “This is the last call to lay the cards on the table,” Tusk said, of the EU’s call for a workable plan. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said: “There is a clear message in this respect – we can no longer wait”.

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Anyone seen Jeff Sessions lately?

Hidden Figures (Jim Kunstler)

Now, Mr. Trey Gowdy (R – SC) is a different breed of porpoise among congressmen, kind of legal man-eating orca. In look and demeanor, he comes off as a cross between Atticus Finch and the young feller who played the banjo so well in the opening scenes of Deliverance. Mr. Rosenstein didn’t dare lay any mirthful smirky trips on Mr. Gowdy, who radiated the consolidated wrath of the legislative branch at this flock of executive branch popinjays. Mr. Gowdy, who is declining to run for his seat this year, may be bound for bigger things. Some say he may be the next Attorney General. In case you’ve forgotten, Rod Rosenstein is not the Attorney General, he’s the Deputy AG.

His boss is Mr. Jeff Sessions, an elusive figure for months now in the malarial DC backwaters, like that Louisiana Swamp Thang that turns up in the fake Bigfoot documentaries, looming hairily through the night-vision goggles in a cypress slough. Maybe three or four people have laid eyes on him since sometime back in April. Better check his office, make sure he isn’t hunched over face-down in a take-out order of tonkatsu ramen. It’s rumored that our president, the Golden Golem of Greatness, can, shall we say, put the Department of Justice and its subsidiary, the FBI, out of their current misery by finally firing a few of these conniving top dawgs. Order Rosenstein to release un-redacted files he’s been sitting on for a year, and fire his ass for cause when he refuses. In the case of Mr. Sessions, for Godsake, call the undertaker.

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Yogurt and whiskey.

Canada Hits US With Retaliatory Tariffs: ‘We Will Not Back Down’ (G.)

Canada has announced billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs against the US in a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration’s duties on Canadian steel and aluminum. Justin Trudeau’s government released the final list of items that will be targeted beginning 1 July. Some items will be subject to taxes of 10 or 25%. “We will not escalate and we will not back down,” the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said. The taxes on items including ketchup, lawnmowers and motorboats amount to $12.6bn. “This is a perfectly reciprocal action,” Freeland said. “It is a dollar-for-dollar response.” Freeland said they had no other choice and called the tariffs regrettable.

Many of the US products were chosen for their political rather than economic impact. For example, imports just $3m worth of yoghurt from the US annually and most of it comes from one plant in Wisconsin, the home state of the House speaker, Paul Ryan. The product will now be hit with a 10% duty. Another product on the list is whiskey, which comes from Tennessee and Kentucky, the latter of which is the home state of the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell. Freeland also said they are prepared if Donald Trump, the US president, escalates the trade war. “It is absolutely imperative that common sense should prevail,” she said. “Having said that, our approach from day one of the Nafta negotiations has been to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

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How much money is on the line, Angela?

Merkel Confirms Bilateral Migrant Agreements With Spain And Greece (DW)

Spain and Greece have agreed to take back asylum seekers already registered in those countries who are intercepted at the Austria-German border, Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed on Friday. However she said no bilateral agreement had been made with Italy. The agreements are temporary measures to stem secondary migration until EU-wide policies take effect. “What we achieved here together is perhaps more than I had expected,” Merkel told reporters at the end of the summit. Merkel is to inform her coalition allies about the agreement on Friday evening.

Merkel was asked if the agreements with Athens and Madrid met demands from her German conservative CSU coalition partners. Merkel told reporters she believed they even surpassed them: “They are more than equivalent in their effect,” she said. “We are not at the end of the road. I always said that we would never be able to agree a common European asylum system here. But the more we agree among ourselves, the closer we get to a possible European solution. I’m convinced of that.” The tentative agreement with Greece and Spain came on the sidelines of an EU leaders’ summit that reached a breakthrough on migration. It will go into effect once operational details are worked out in the next four weeks, the Chancellery said.

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Does Ecuador have a spine?

Not Up To US To Decide On Assange Asylum, Ecuador Says (AFP)

It’s not up to Washington to decide the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuador’s top diplomat said Friday, following the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence. Pence “raised the issue” of the Australian anti-secrecy activist – holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012 – when he met with Lenin Moreno on Thursday, an official with the US vice president’s office confirmed. “Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and of course Mr Assange as a person who is currently staying, on asylum, at our embassy” will decide the next steps, Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told reporters. “It does not enter, therefore, on an agenda with the United States.” Pence and Moreno “agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward,” the US official told reporters traveling with Pence.

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Snowden sure has a spine.

Edward Snowden Calls Russian Government ‘Corrupt’ (Ind.)

Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia after releasing thousands of documents from the US National Security Agency, has suggested his current homeland’s government is “corrupt in many ways”. The ex-IT contractor and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worker, said the country’s citizen’s were warm and clever but he “strongly” disagreed with the policies of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “I think the public feels disempowered. Russians are not naive, they know that state TV is unreliable. The Russian government is corrupt in many ways, that’s something the Russian people realise,” the 35-year-old told German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. “Russian people are warm, they are clever. It’s a beautiful country. Their government is the problem not the people.”

Mr Snowden was granted asylum in Russia after his flight from the US when he made public the NSA’s widespread undeclared surveillance in 2013. He faces three charges under the Espionage Act in his homeland, each of which carry a minimum of 10 years in jail. He has been granted permission to stay in Russia until 2020. Asked by the Suddeutsche Zeitung whether his comments could put him in danger by angering Mr Putin, Mr Snowden said: “There’s no question, it’s a risk. Maybe they don’t care, right? Because I don’t speak Russian. “And I am literally a former CIA agent, so it’s very easy for them to discredit my political opinions as those of an American CIA agent in Russia.”

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Thought control.

The Great Firewall Of China (G.)

In December 2015, thousands of tech entrepreneurs and analysts, along with a few international heads of state, gathered in Wuzhen, in southern China, for the country’s second World Internet Conference. At the opening ceremony the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, set out his vision for the future of China’s internet. “We should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber-development,” said Xi, warning against foreign interference “in other countries’ internal affairs”. No one was surprised by what they heard. Xi had already established that the Chinese internet would be a world unto itself, with its content closely monitored and managed by the Communist party.

In recent years, the Chinese leadership has devoted more and more resources to controlling content online. Government policies have contributed to a dramatic fall in the number of postings on the Chinese blogging platform Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter), and have silenced many of China’s most important voices advocating reform and opening up the internet. It wasn’t always like this. In the years before Xi became president in 2012, the internet had begun to afford the Chinese people an unprecedented level of transparency and power to communicate. Popular bloggers, some of whom advocated bold social and political reforms, commanded tens of millions of followers.

Chinese citizens used virtual private networks (VPNs) to access blocked websites. Citizens banded together online to hold authorities accountable for their actions, through virtual petitions and organising physical protests. In 2010, a survey of 300 Chinese officials revealed that 70% were anxious about whether mistakes or details about their private life might be leaked online. Of the almost 6,000 Chinese citizens also surveyed, 88% believed it was good for officials to feel this anxiety.

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Jun 012016
 


Arthur Rothstein Steam shovels on flatcars, Cherokee County, Kansas 1936

China’s Debt Bubble Bigger Than Subprime Bubble (MW)
Yuan Tumbles As China PMI Miraculously Hugs Flatline (ZH)
Double Blow for China Banks as Fed Worry Meets June Cash Crunch (BBG)
Hong Kong April Retail Sales Fall 7.5%, 14th Straight Month (R.)
Abenomics “Death Cross” Strikes As Japan PMI Plunges To 40-Month Lows (ZH)
Pension Funds Pile on Risk Just to Get a Reasonable Return (WSJ)
Germany: Draghi v the Banks (FT)
The Most Powerful Man in Banking (WSJ)
Central Banks As Pawnbrokers Of Last Resort (M. Wolf)
Germany Considers Easing of Russia Sanctions (Spiegel)
Elephants In Tanzania Reserve Could Be Wiped Out By 2022 (AFP)
Mediterranean Death Toll Soars In First 5 Months Of 2016 (UNHCR)
Frontex Denies, Prevents Help To Refugees: Witnesses (MEE)

“The problem is that the banking sector in China has been pushing out new lending aggressively, but with slowing economic growth many loans have not gone to create more factories and jobs but to financial assets that have been leveraged to boost returns..”

China’s Debt Bubble Bigger Than Subprime Bubble (MW)

Unproductive debt in China—that is, debt that’s used to drive up asset prices—swelled in 2015, eclipsing the level seen in the U.S. in the run-up to the Great Financial Crisis, said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank, in a note to clients published Tuesday. Slok’s findings are illustrated in the chart below, where he compares the level of credit growth required in the U.S. and China to generate 1percentage point of GDP growth. (He notes that the red bar for 2015 also grew, suggesting more credit growth is now required in the U.S. to produce onepercentage point of GDP growth).

Chinese officials are partly responsible for the expansion of credit last year, analysts say, as the People’s Bank of China lessened requirements regarding the collateral lenders put up to borrow funds from the central bank, among other stimulus measures. The move was meant to spur economic growth, the pace of which slowed last year, stoking fears that it could precipitate a sharp global downturn. The world’s second-largest economy saw growth slow to 6.8% in 2015—missing the government’s target for 7% growth by a hair. In the first quarter of 2016, the country’s economy grew at an annual rate of 6.7%, its slowest pace since 2009.

It’s important to note, however, that many economists believe Chinese data overstates the strength of its economy. Over the past year, Chinese stocks, and more recently commodities like iron ore and steel rebar traded in China, have seen a series of dizzying rallies and frightening crashes as investors, emboldened by easy credit engage in speculation. “The problem is that the banking sector in China has been pushing out new lending aggressively, but with slowing economic growth many loans have not gone to create more factories and jobs but to financial assets that have been leveraged to boost returns,” Slok said.

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Everyone, US, Japan and EU too, needs that services PMI to flourish, but…

Yuan Tumbles As China PMI Miraculously Hugs Flatline (ZH)

Since May 2012, China Manufacturing PMI has miraculously stayed within a 1 point range of the knife-edge 50 level between contraction and expansion. May 2015 just printed 50.1, the same as April with New Orders weaker and business activity expectations (hope) tumbling to 4 month lows. The Steel Industry PMI collapsed from 57.3 to 50.9 with New Steel Orders collapsing from 65.6 to 52.7 – the biggest monthly drop in record. And while non-manufacturing PMI remained in ‘expansion territory at 53.1, it fell back from a brief bounce in April with employment and business expectations both weaker. For now, equity markets are unreactive but offshore Yuan is tumbling on the news, not helped by a sizable devaluation in the official fix. The magic of manufacturing data… as non-manufacturing slowly catches down…

Disappointment triggering more offshore Yuan selling… Not helped by yet another devaluation by PBOC…
*CHINA SETS YUAN FIXING AT 6.5889 VS 6.5790 DAY EARLIER
*PBOC CUTS YUAN FIXING TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 2011 FOR THIRD DAY

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Refinancing is becoming a major problem.

Double Blow for China Banks as Fed Worry Meets June Cash Crunch (BBG)

Shanghai’s money market is braced for higher borrowing costs as a credit-fueled economic recovery coincides with the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates in June, a month that has historically seen funding crunches in China. The overnight interbank lending rate averaged 1.99% in May, up from 1.18% a year ago, as Federal Reserve tightening weakened the yuan, spurring capital outflow pressures. That borrowing cost has climbed every June since 2011, as lenders hoard deposits ahead of quarter-end regulatory checks. The cost of fixing rates in the swap market is surging as data showed property leading a rebound in investment in the world’s second-biggest economy.

“The internal and external factors combined will certainly add pressure to the money market in June, driving interest rates higher,” said Liu Dongliang at China Merchants Bank, the nation’s sixth-largest lender. “We’re not optimistic about the bond market in the short term.” Any cash crunch would aggravate a rout in bonds that led to 190.6 billion yuan ($28.9 billion) in canceled sales this quarter, making it harder for issuers to refinance a record amount of maturing debt. The overnight money rate has been moving in tandem with the weakening currency in the past year after touching a six-year low, as estimated outflows reached $1 trillion in the past year, according to a gauge compiled by Bloomberg.

The yuan declined 1.5% in May as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that evidence of strength in the U.S. economy means there could be an increase in borrowing costs in the coming months. The probability of Fed action in June has surged to 24% from 12% at the end of April, while the premium for China’s one-year sovereign yield over U.S. Treasuries has narrowed to a seven-week low. The People’s Bank of China has an incentive to keep monetary conditions relatively tight as it looks to control the yuan’s decline, rein in excessive lending by banks and keep a lid on inflation. The authority will create a neutral and appropriate monetary environment, it said in an article published in China Business News last week. The comments came after data showed the nation’s consumer price index maintained a 2.3% acceleration for the third month in April, a pace not seen since mid-2014.

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Mainland Chinese fail to appear.

Hong Kong April Retail Sales Fall 7.5%, 14th Straight Month (R.)

Hong Kong’s retail sales fell for the 14th successive month in April, as a drop in tourists and weak local consumption deepened the pain for retailers in the city. Retail sales in April slid 7.5% from a year earlier to HK$35.2 billion ($4.5 billion) in value terms, less than a 9.8% slump in March. In volume terms, April sales dropped 7.6%, government data showed on Tuesday. “Many types of retail outlet still recorded notable falls in sales, reflecting the continued drag from the slowdown in inbound tourism as well as the more cautious local consumer sentiment amid subpar economic conditions,” the government said in a statement.

Hong Kong is struggling with mounting economic challenges from the prospect of rising U.S. interest rates, which has stepped up capital outflows, and from China’s economic slowdown. Mainland tourists are avoiding the city amid political tensions with China and growing calls from radical activists for greater autonomy from Beijing. “The near-term outlook for retail sales will continue to depend on the performance of inbound tourism,” the government added.

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“Output tumbled at the fastest pace in 25 months and new orders are the worst since Jan 2013. This is the death cross for Abenomics..”

Abenomics “Death Cross” Strikes As Japan PMI Plunges To 40-Month Lows (ZH)

Since Abenomics was unleashed on the world (with QQE starting in April 2013), things have not worked out as the smartest men in the Japanese rooms predicted. In fact, with April’s final manufacturing PMI printing at 47.7, operating conditions in Japan worsened at the sharpest pace in 40 months… since Abe began his three arrows. Output tumbled at the fastest pace in 25 months and new orders are the worst since Jan 2013. This is the death cross for Abenomics… The weakest Japanese manufacturing PMI since the start of Abenomics…

Commenting on the Japanese Manufacturing PMI survey data, Amy Brownbill, economist at Markit, which compiles the survey, said: “The aftermaths of the earthquakes in one of Japan’s key manufacturing regions continued to weigh heavily on the manufacturing sector. Both production and new orders declined sharply midway through the second quarter of 2016. A marked fall in international demand also contributed to the drop in total new orders, as exports declined at the fastest rate since January 2013.” Flashing the “death cross” of Abenomics three arrows… As it is now clear that the massive expansion of the Bank of Japan balance sheet has done nothing… in fact worse than nothing… for the Japanese economy.

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Talk about a death cross…

Pension Funds Pile on Risk Just to Get a Reasonable Return (WSJ)

What it means to be a successful investor in 2016 can be summed up in four words: bigger gambles, lower returns. Thanks to rock-bottom interest rates in the U.S., negative rates in other parts of the world, and lackluster growth, investors are becoming increasingly creative—and embracing increasing risk—to bolster their performances. To even come close these days to what is considered a reasonably strong return of 7.5%, pension funds and other large endowments are reaching ever further into riskier investments: adding big dollops of global stocks, real estate and private-equity investments to the once-standard investment of high-grade bonds. Two decades ago, it was possible to make that kind of return just by buying and holding investment-grade bonds, according to new research.

In 1995, a portfolio made up wholly of bonds would return 7.5% a year with a likelihood that returns could vary by about 6%, according to research by Callan Associates, which advises large investors. To make a 7.5% return in 2015, Callan found, investors needed to spread money across risky assets, shrinking bonds to just 12% of the portfolio. Private equity and stocks needed to take up some three-quarters of the entire investment pool. But with the added risk, returns could vary by more than 17%. Nominal returns were used for the projections, but substituting in assumptions about real returns, adjusted for inflation, would have produced similar findings, said Jay Kloepfer, Callan’s head of capital markets research.

The amplified bets carry potential pitfalls and heftier management fees. Global stocks and private equity represent among the riskiest bets investors can make today, Mr. Kloepfer said. “Stocks are just ownership, and they can go to zero. Private equity can also go to zero,” said Mr. Kloepfer, noting bonds will almost always pay back what was borrowed, plus a coupon. “The perverse result is you need more of that to get the extra oomph.”

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How to destroy the euro from within.

Germany: Draghi v the Banks (FT)

In Dillingen an der Donau, a small town in rural Bavaria, the local Sparkasse savings bank is providing an unusual service. For customers who live a long way from a branch, it is giving out free bus tickets. And for those who cannot get to the bank at all — the old or sick, for example — it offers to send a member of staff directly to their homes to deliver small sums of cash. The Sparkasse came up with the idea to compensate for the fact that it was closing several branches as revenues dwindled due to interest rates being at a record low and customers visiting less frequently. “If your revenues are shrinking, then you have to do something about your costs,” says an official at the bank. “You have to economise.” The pressure on Germany’s army of savings banks is just one example of the increasing strains on the country’s financial system caused by the ultra-loose monetary policy of the Frankfurt-based ECB.

In a bid to jolt the eurozone’s lacklustre economy back to life , the central bank has, over the past five years, slashed interest rates to record lows and even pushed its deposit rate into negative territory. On top of this, it has launched a €1.7tn asset purchase programme, which has driven down bond yields across the continent. The measures have bought time for reform in the battered economies of southern Europe. Yet in Germany, they have met a blizzard of opposition. The country’s hawkish monetary policy establishment has always nurtured a degree of scepticism about the institution that succeeded the Bundesbank as the custodian of Germany’s monetary stability. But as savers, banks and insurers have been increasingly hurt by low interest rates — nominal yields on 10-year German bonds have fallen from about 4% in 2008 to less than 0.2% today — the criticism of the ECB has intensified.

The media has accused the central bank of fuelling a “social disaster”, while one bank has claimed that low interest rates will have deprived German households of €200bn between 2010 and the end of this year. Germany’s financial watchdog, BaFin, branded low rates a “seeping poison” for the country’s financial system. The most dramatic intervention, however, came from Wolfgang Schäuble, the hawkish finance minister, who blamed ECB president Mario Draghi for “half” the rise in support for Alternative for Germany, the rightwing, anti-immigration, anti-euro party. Mr Draghi hit back, archly noting that the ECB has a mandate “to pursue price stability for the whole of the eurozone, not only for Germany”, and argued that low borrowing costs were symptomatic of a glut in global savings for which Germany was partly to blame.

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“He’s judge and jury and everything else..”

The Most Powerful Man in Banking (WSJ)

The most important person in the banking business isn’t a banker. To most Wall Street executives, that title goes to Federal Reserve governor Daniel Tarullo, a brusque, white-haired former law professor who has come to personify Washington’s postcrisis influence over how banks do business. Mr. Tarullo heads the Fed’s Committee on Bank Supervision. On paper—and in practice for most of the previous decades—the post isn’t a hugely powerful one. But the 63-year-old took office at the Fed in 2009 at a moment of broad public support for a more aggressive tack and has pressed that advantage ever since. Financiers privately call Mr. Tarullo “the Wizard of Oz” for his behind-the-scenes sway over everything from corporate strategy to how many billions of dollars banks must maintain in capital.

Through the stress tests he championed to evaluate how banks might fare in another market shock, the Fed wields control over whether banks can raise the dividends they pay to shareholders. For a big bank in 2016, getting a stamp of approval from Mr. Tarullo is an effort consuming thousands of employees. The industry’s lawyers pore over transcripts of Mr. Tarullo’s dense speeches to grasp the meaning of every word. When Citigroup and Bank of America stumbled on the stress tests in recent years, each bank said it spent at least $100 million to correct the problems the Fed had called out. Peter Conti-Brown, a historian and author of “The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve,” called Mr. Tarullo’s influence extraordinary. One former bank executive put a finer point on it: “He’s judge and jury and everything else,” he said.

Mr. Tarullo in an interview attributed his power to his longevity at the Fed and consensus with other regulators. And, he said, the full impact of the regulatory changes made on his watch have yet to be felt. “I think it likely that firms are going to have to change in some cases their size, in some cases their business model, and in some cases their organization,” he said. Mr. Tarullo’s influence illustrates the outsize role that government regulation now plays for banks. For most of the modern era, regulators took a more hands-off approach, monitoring the industry for abuses but stopping short of injecting themselves into bank operations. But the near collapse of the financial system in 2008 brought widespread criticism of regulators for not being more vigilant and changed the equation.

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“..governments try to make finance safer and finance exploits the support to make itself riskier.”

Central Banks As Pawnbrokers Of Last Resort (M. Wolf)

Will there be another huge financial crisis? As Hamlet said of the fall of a sparrow: “If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come – the readiness is all.” So it is with banks. They are designed to fall. So fall they surely will. A recent book explores not only this reality but also a radical and original solution. What makes attention to this suggestion even more justified is that its author was at the heart of the monetary establishment before and during the crisis. He is Lord Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England. His book is called The End of Alchemy . The title is appropriate: alchemy lies at the heart of the financial system; moreover, banking was, like alchemy, a medieval idea, but one we have not as yet discarded. We must, argues Lord King, now do so.

As Lord King remarks, the alchemy is “the belief that money kept in banks can be taken out whenever depositors ask for it”. This is a confidence trick in two senses: it works if, and only if, confidence is strong; and it is fraudulent. Financial institutions make promises that, in likely states of the world, they cannot keep. In good times, this is a lucrative business. In bad times, the authorities have to come to the rescue. It is little wonder, then, that financial institutions have become so large and pay so well. Consider any large bank. It will have a wide range of long-term and risky assets on its books, mortgages and corporate loans prominent among them. It will finance these with deposits (supposedly redeemable on demand), short-term loans and longer-term loans. Perhaps 5% will be financed by equity.

What happens if lenders decide banks might not be solvent? If they are depositors or short-term lenders, they can demand their money back immediately. Without aid from the central bank, the only institution able to create money without limit, banks will fail to meet that demand. Since a generalised collapse would be economically devastating, needed support is forthcoming. Over time, this reality has created a “Red Queen’s race”: governments try to make finance safer and finance exploits the support to make itself riskier. Broadly speaking, two radical solutions are on offer. One is to force banks to fund themselves with far more equity. The other is to make banks match liquid liabilities with liquid and safe assets. The 100% reserve requirements of the “Chicago plan”, proposed during the Great Depression, is such a scheme.

If liquid, safe liabilities finance liquid, safe assets — and risk-bearing, illiquid liabilities finance illiquid, unsafe assets — alchemy disappears. Finance would be safe. Unfortunately, the end of alchemy would also end much risk-taking in the system. Lord King offers a novel alternative. Central banks would still act as lenders of last resort. But they would no longer be forced to lend against virtually any asset, since that very possibility must create moral hazard. Instead, they would agree the terms on which they would lend against assets in a crisis, including relevant haircuts, in advance. The size of these haircuts would be a “tax on alchemy”. They would be set at tough levels and could not be altered in a crisis. The central bank would have become a “pawnbroker for all seasons”.

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The US will need to pressure a lot harder to keep the sanctions going.

Germany Considers Easing of Russia Sanctions (Spiegel)

As expected, G-7 leaders reiterated their hardline approach to Moscow in the Japan summit’s closing statement. Chancellor Angela Merkel complained last Thursday that there still isn’t a stable cease-fire in Ukraine and the law pertaining to local elections in eastern Ukraine, as called for by the Minsk Protocol, still hasn’t been passed. That, she said, is why “it is not to be expected” that the West will change its approach to Russia. What Merkel didn’t say, though, is that behind the scenes, her government has long since developed concrete plans for a step-by-step easing of the sanctions against Russia and that the process could begin as early as this year. Thus far, the message has been that the trade and travel restrictions will only be lifted once all the provisions foreseen by the Minsk Protocol have been fulfilled. 100% in return for 100%.

Now, however, Berlin is prepared to make concessions to Moscow – on the condition that progress is made on the Minsk process. “My approach has always been that sanctions are not an end in themselves. When progress is made on the implementation of the Minsk Protocol, we can also then talk about easing sanctions,” says Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The Chancellery also supports the new approach. Thus far, it was the Social Democrats that were particularly vocal about rapprochement with Russia. Led by Economics Minister Gabriel, the SPD is Merkel’s junior coalition partner. While Steinmeier, also a senior SPD member, has never explicitly demanded the easing of sanctions, he has long supported Russia’s return to the G-7. Merkel, by contrast, had always maintained a hard line. Now, though, the Chancellery also appears to be changing course.

[..] more and more EU member states have begun questioning the strict penalty regime, particularly given that it hasn’t always been the Russians who have blocked the Minsk process. Despite Tusk’s apparent optimism, indications are mounting that getting all 28 EU members to approve the extension of the sanctions at the end of June might not be quite so simple. Berlin has received calls from concerned government officials whose governments have become increasingly skeptical of the penalties against Russia but have thus far declined to take a public stance against them. Members of some governments, though, have very clearly indicated that they are not interested in extending the sanctions in their current stringent form. Austrian Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner is among the skeptics as is French Economics Minister Emmanuel Macron. So too are officials from Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal.

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Time for the death penalty?! Time to put our armies to good use?

Elephants In Tanzania Reserve Could Be Wiped Out By 2022 (AFP)

Elephants in Tanzania’s sprawling Selous Game Reserve could be wiped out within six years if poaching continues at current levels, the World Wildlife Fund warned. Tanzania’s largest nature reserve was in the 1970s home to 110,000 elephants, but today only 15,000 remain and they are threatened by “industrial-scale poaching”. The Selous “could see its elephant population decimated by 2022 if urgent measures are not taken,” the WWF said. More than 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year to supply an illegal trade controlled by criminal gangs that feeds demand in the Far East. Tanzania is among the worst-affected countries with a recent census saying the country’s elephant population fell by 60% in the five years to 2014.

The Selous reserve is a tourist draw contributing an estimated $6 million (5 million euros) a year to Tanzania’s economy, according to a study commissioned by WWF and carried out by advisory firm Dalberg. It is named after Frederick Selous, a British explorer, hunter and real-life inspiration for the H. Rider Haggard character Allan Quatermain in King Solomon’s Mines. “By early 2022 we could see the last of Selous’ elephants gunned down by heavily armed and well trained criminal networks,” the report said. The 55,000-square kilometre (21,000-square mile) reserve in southern Tanzania was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. But it was put on a watch list in 2014 as poaching spiked, with six elephants killed every day and industrial activities including oil and gas exploration, as well as mining, threatening the delicate environment.

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The sadness just intensifies.

Mediterranean Death Toll Soars In First 5 Months Of 2016 (UNHCR)

At least 880 people are believed to have drowned last week in a spate of shipwrecks and boat capsizings on the Mediterranean, the UN Refugee Agency said today. “For so many deaths to have occurred just in a matter of days and months is shocking and shows just how truly perilous these journeys are,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. UNHCR told a press briefing in Geneva that the latest figures were arrived at following new information received through interviews with survivors brought ashore in Italy.

“As well as three shipwrecks that were known to us as of Sunday, we have received information from people who landed in Augusta over the weekend that 47 people were missing after a raft carrying 125 people from Libya deflated,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler detailed. He added that eight others were reported separately to have been lost overboard from another boat, and four deaths were reported after fire on board another. “Thus far 2016 is proving to be particularly deadly. Some 2,510 lives have been lost so far compared to 1,855 in the same period in 2015 and 57 in the first five months of 2014,” Spindler added.

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“Everything started after the EU agreement,” he said. “These people are no longer refugees to them [the authorities]. They are prisoners and are being detained. But they have left the humanitarian aspect out of the story.”

Frontex Denies, Prevents Help To Refugees: Witnesses (MEE)

Frontex denied aid to refugees including a baby and kept them floating in the sea off Greece for nearly two hours, according to aid workers. Eyewitnesses told MEE that Frontex officers prevented aid workers helping 50 people as they landed on the northern shore of the Greek island of Lesbos early on Monday. Their tactic was to take them directly into detention “without any aid, even the injured,” one aid worker said. Witnesses also told MEE that officers from the Maltese branch of the European border control police prevented a doctor tending to a baby that was “unresponsive”. In a written statement to MEE, Frontex said the crew on the Maltese ship had followed a Hellenic Coast Guard officer’s instructions and that none of the volunteers identified themselves as a doctor.

The reports come as the UN says that more than 2,500 people have died trying to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far in 2016, a sharp jump from the same period last year. In the past week alone, at least 880 people are believed to have died in a series of shipwrecks – but thousands of people have also been rescued in the last seven days, with some 90 rescue operations launched. Frontex, supported by a series of national fleets and coast guards as well as several NGOs and some private volunteers, is charged with carrying out rescue operations in the Mediterranean. However, witnesses told MEE that the boat crammed with refugees was made to float out at sea until Frontex ground units came to take the passengers away in buses, after the Greek coastguard granted permission for the landing at the fishing hamlet of Skala Skiaminias on Lesbos’s north coast.

Esther Camps, from Spanish NGO Proactiva, which provides aid and rescue operations at sea, was at the scene. She said the incident took place at around 01:00 on Monday morning – the arrivals, she said, included around 10 children, as well as women who were crying out for help. “We were told to do nothing and to ‘stay away’,” she told MEE. “As they [the refugees and migrants] were disembarking, we saw there was a baby that was not making any noise. One of the officers said the baby was ‘fine’ and kept us away. We said, ‘how do you know it is OK? You are not doctors.'” Camps, who has been working with Proactiva since December, said that babies normally cry when they are brought ashore, but that in this case the child was not making any noise. MEE understands that a doctor from the aid organisation Waha was also at the scene but was denied access.


Handout photo released as courtesy by German humanitarian NGO Sea-Watch shows a crew member holding a drowned baby as dead bodies were recovered after a wooden boat transporting migrants capsized off the Libyan coast on 27 May, 2016 (AFP)

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May 192016
 
 May 19, 2016  Posted by at 9:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle May 19 2016


Harris&Ewing Streamlined street car passing Washington Monument 1938

Not All Death Crosses Are Created Equal (BBG)
China’s Communist Party Goes Way Of Qing Dynasty As Debt Hits Limit (AEP)
China’s Housing Bubble Is So Big, Goldman Will “Need A Bigger Chart” (ZH)
Emerging-Market Assets Under Pressure as Fed Minutes Lift Dollar (BBG)
The Case For Germany Leaving The Euro #Gexit (Bibow)
Europe’s Troubled Push For Bank Bail-Ins (FT)
Euro Area Shifts Greek Focus to Debt Relief to Win IMF Support (BBG)
All Economics Is Political (WSJ)
5 Banks Sued In US For Rigging $9 Trillion Agency Bond Market (R.)
Another Year of Anger for Deutsche Bank’s Investors (BBG)
First Look At Explosive Hillary Documentary, ‘Clinton Cash’ (NY Post)
Earth Breaks 12th Straight Monthly Heat Record (AP)
India To Start Massive Project To Divert Ganges And Brahmaputra Rivers (G.)

Difference is in 2001, 2008 there were no people as nuts as Draghi, Kuroda and Yellen. Or, if there were, they were not in charge.

Not All Death Crosses Are Created Equal (BBG)

In a note to clients, Intermarket Strategy Chief Executive and Strategist Ashraf Laidi points out that the S&P 500’s 50-week moving average is falling below its 100-week moving average. This “statistically significant” death cross has only happened twice is the past two decades, Laidi points out. The first took place in 2001 and was followed by a 37% decline in the index, while the second pattern occurred in 2008 and preceded a 48% drop. With investors already growing increasingly nervous about prospects for equities, a death cross of grave proportions could give extra reason for caution.

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“With luck, the rest of us outside China will have three or four more months to order our own affairs before the storm gathers.”

China’s Communist Party Goes Way Of Qing Dynasty As Debt Hits Limit (AEP)

[..] The latest stop-go credit cycle began in mid-2015 and has since accelerated to an epic blow-off, with the M1 money supply now growing at 22.9pc, by the fastest pace since the post-Lehman blitz. Wei Yao from Societe Generale estimates that total loans rose by $1.15 trillion in the first quarter, equivalent to 46pc of quarterly GDP. “This looks like an old-styled credit-backed investment-driven recovery, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of the ‘four trillion stimulus’ package in 2009. The consequence of that stimulus was inflation, asset bubbles and excess capacity,” she said. House sales rose 60pc in April, despite curbs to cool the bubble. New starts were up 26pc. Prices jumped 63pc in Shenzhen, 34pc in Shanghai, 20pc in Beijing, and 18pc in Hefei. Panic buying is spreading to the smaller Tier 3 and 4 cities with the greatest glut.

It all has echoes of the stockmarket boom and bust last year. “Investors are convinced that the government will guarantee that housing prices won’t fall,” said Professor Zhu Ning from the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, speaking to the South China Morning Post. It also sounds like Britain. There was a slight cooling in April but less than headlines suggested. The old measure of total social financing (TSF) slipped but this was more than offset by record bond issuance of $180bn. Together they reached a 26-month high. Capital Economics says budgeted funds must be disbursed by the end of this quarter under new finance ministry rules, implying another $310bn of bonds by late June. The fiscal boost will be ‘front-loaded’. The money will pile up in accounts and flood the economy over the late summer. If the usual time-lags hold, the mini-boom will last for a few more months. Then the trouble will start. Needless to say, markets may roll over long before the economy itself.

[..] .. this year the China bears may get their revenge, if they have any money left to play with. The rot in the country’s $7.7 trillion bond markets is metastasizing. Bo Zhuang from Trusted Sources said more than 100 firms cancelled or delayed bond issues in April due to widening credit spreads. Ten companies have defaulted this year, with the shipbuilder Evergreen, Nanjing Yurun Foods, and the solar group Yingli Green Energy all in trouble this month. But what has really spooked markets is the suspension of nine bonds issued by the AA+ rated China Railways Materials, the first of the big central SOE’s to signal default. “This has greatly weakened investors’ long-standing expectation of implicit government support,” he said.

Bo Zhuang said investors have poured money into bonds in the latest frenzy. The stock of corporate bonds has jumped by 78pc to $2.3 trillion over the last year. It is the epicentre of leverage through short-term ‘repo’ transactions, and it is now coming unstuck. “The experience with the stock market shows how difficult it can be to contain a reversal in leveraged bets. In our view, a bond market crisis would be much more destructive,” he said. With luck, the rest of us outside China will have three or four more months to order our own affairs before the storm gathers. Whether it is bumpy landing, a hard landing, or a crash landing, depends on who the “authoritative person” in Beijing turn out to be.

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“..year-over-year price growth in tier-1 cities [..] 28.3%..”

China’s Housing Bubble Is So Big, Goldman Will “Need A Bigger Chart” (ZH)

One of the stated reasons for the Shanghai Composite’s 1.3% drop (and it would have been worse had the PPT not launched its infamous last minute buying blitz) was also the most amusing one: the stock market bubble is in danger of popping even more as a result of a housing bubble that is now raging at a pace not seen since the last Chinese housing bubble, and thus threatens to soak up even more cash from China’s chronic gamblers-cum-speculators.

So just how high of a housing number did the NBS report that spooked stocks so much? Well, as Goldman summarizes, housing prices in the primary market increased 1.1% month-over-month after seasonal adjustment in April, higher than the growth rate in March. Out of 70 cities monitored by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 63 saw housing prices increase from the previous month. On a year-over-year, population-weighted basis, housing prices in the 70 cities were up 6.9% (vs. 5.5% yoy in March).  According to an alterantive set of calculations by MarketNews, aggregate home prices rose 12.4% Y/Y in April after rising 10.4% in March. Since both numbers are ridiculously high, we’ll just leave them at that.

However, it was not the overall market bubble that is troubling, but that focused on the most desired, top – or Tier 1 – cities. Here, April price growth was 2.6% month-over-month after seasonal adjustment, vs. 3.0% in March.

But the real shocker was that on a year-over-year price growth in tier-1 cities continue to rise however, reaching 28.3% vs. 26.0% yoy in March. In fact it is so bad that Goldman, which tried to show the surge in the second chart below, clearly needs a bigger chart. Incidentally, total property sales in tier-1 cities accounted for around 5% of nationwide property sales in volume terms, and around 15% in value terms (2015 data).

And the stunning charts: Home price inflation month over month

And year over year: to show the Tier 1 housing bubble, Goldman will need a bigger chart.


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Can’t keep the dollar down forever.

Emerging-Market Assets Under Pressure as Fed Minutes Lift Dollar (BBG)

Emerging-market stocks and currencies fell to two-month lows as the dollar got a boost from minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting that showed officials want to raise interest rates in June. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index headed for its biggest two-day drop in two weeks after minutes of the April 26-27 meeting released Wednesday in Washington showed most officials judged it “likely would be appropriate” to hike next month provided incoming data are in line with a second-quarter pickup. China’s yuan, South Korea’s won, Malaysia’s ringgit and Taiwan’s dollar fell to the weakest levels since March, while Indonesia’s rupiah and Thailand’s baht reached February lows.

The release of the minutes and speeches by regional Fed bank presidents warning investors not to dismiss the chance of a June increase have seen the chance of such a move increasing to 32% from 4% at the beginning of the week, Fed Funds futures show. Developing-nation stocks have now wiped out all of their gains this year and there’s a risk of outflows accelerating if the dollar keeps strengthening. “Investors should avoid any additional investments in emerging markets because their currencies and stocks will be under huge pressure from the strong dollar,” said Komsorn Prakobphol at Tisco Financial in Bangkok. Energy stocks will probably be resilient as the oil price is being driven more by supply and demand dynamics, he said.

A gauge of the greenback against 10 peers was steady after jumping 0.8% overnight, the most since November. The Bloomberg Dollar Index has rallied 3.1% in May, on track for its best month since January 2015. Overseas investors have pulled $2.9 billion from Taiwanese stocks this month and close to a combined $1 billion from Indian, Indonesian and Thai bonds, exchange data show. “Asian currency weakness has been exacerbated by portfolio outflows from the region and we see little respite in the weeks and months ahead,” said Mitul Kotecha at Barclays in Singapore. The ringgit, baht, rupiah and, to an extent, the Taiwan dollar are the most vulnerable Asian currencies to a Fed rate increase, while India’s rupee and the Korean won are better placed, he said.

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“It is undeniable that the euro has turned out to be an instrument of widespread impoverishment rather than shared prosperity.”

The Case For Germany Leaving The Euro #Gexit (Bibow)

The case for or against a British exit from the EU – #Brexit – is headline news. For the moment the earlier quarrel about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone – #Grexit – seems to have taken the back seat – with one or two exceptions such as Christian Lindner, leader of Germany’s liberal FDP. Most EU proponents are deeply concerned about these prospects and the repercussions either might have on European unity. Yet, while highly important, neither of them should distract Europe from zooming in on the real issue: the dominant and altogether destructive role of Germany in European affairs today. There can be no doubt that the German “stability-oriented” approach to European unity has failed dismally. It is high time for Europe to contemplate the option of a German exit from the Eurozone – #Gexit – since this might be the least damaging scenario for Europe to emerge from its euro trap and start afresh.

Germany’s membership of the Eurozone and its adamant refusal to play by the rules of currency union is indeed at the heart of the matter. Of course, it was never meant to be this way. And it was not inevitable for Europe to end up in today’s state of never-ending crisis that impoverishes and disunites its peoples. I have always supported the idea of a common European currency as I believed that it could potentially provide a monetary order that is far superior to the status quo ante of deutschmark hegemony: the Bundesbank – in pursuit of its German price stability mandate – pulling the monetary strings across the continent. While I have also always held that the euro – the peculiar regime of Economic and Monetary Union agreed at Maastricht – was deeply flawed, I kept up my hopes that the political authorities would reform that regime along the way to make the euro viable.

In this spirit I proposed my “Euro Treasury” plan that would, among other things, fix the Maastricht regime’s most serious flaw: the divorce between the monetary and fiscal authorities that is leaving all key players vulnerable and short of the powers required to steer a large economy like the Eurozone through anything but fair weather conditions, at best. Watching developments over in Europe from afar my hopes are dwindling by the day that the failed euro experiment will usher in reforms that could save it. Instead, the likelihood of some form of eventual euro breakup seems to be rising constantly. It is undeniable that the euro has turned out to be an instrument of widespread impoverishment rather than shared prosperity.

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“For US investors it will become very different to follow.”

Europe’s Troubled Push For Bank Bail-Ins (FT)

When Ignazio Visco, governor of the Bank of Italy, spoke in Florence this month, his focus turned to regulation. At a sensitive moment for Italian lenders, whose shares had collapsed over recent months, the governor chose to address what he called “regulatory uncertainty” in the wake of new European-wide rules for failing banks. “We must strike the right balance,” he said. “We should not rule out the possibility of temporary public support in the event of systemic bank crises, when the use of a bail-in is not sufficient”. Taxpayer support for banks, however, was precisely what the new European rules introduced at the start of this year aimed to avoid. To protect taxpayers, investors in banks bonds – mostly untouched during the bailouts of the last crisis – now face losses, or “bail-ins”.

The tension between the Italian central bank and European regulations is related to who owns this debt. In Italy, many retail investors hold exposed bank bonds, and a “bail-in” of small Italian banks in November last year was politically sensitive for this reason. But Mr Visco’s comments also reflect the challenges of implementing continent-wide rules in very different individual countries, with contrasting banking systems. So how else might this regulatory uncertainty, and the role of national governments, complicate a European vision for dealing with bank failure? Under the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), European banks are now required to have a certain amount of bonds that are exposed to losses. The key issue is who suffers losses first. Whereas senior bank bonds ranked alongside depositors during the crisis, new bonds need to be subordinated to take losses.

But the actual instruments that count towards this measure are determined by national legislation. As a result, different countries have taken different approaches. Italy has raised corporate depositors above bondholders. France is currently legislating for a new class of bank debt, which will sit below depositors and existing senior bonds. In Germany, the law has been changed to subordinate outstanding senior bonds. In the UK, banks sell bonds from their holding companies, which will rank below other senior bank bonds. In the Netherlands, it is unclear how the rules will work. Robert Muller, treasurer at Rabobank, says the bank is strongly leaning towards the French approach, rather than the German. For investors, this represents a challenge. “At this point in time it’s very difficult for investors to see how this pans out,” says Mr Muller. “For US investors it will become very different to follow.”

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Why am I thinking deck chairs? Anyway, can’t see Germany agree to spend its money on buying up loans.

Euro Area Shifts Greek Focus to Debt Relief to Win IMF Support (BBG)

Euro-area officials are weighing a proposal to purchase loans that member states made to Greece in a move that would ease the nation’s debt burden, a precondition for the IMF’s involvement in a bailout program. Senior finance ministry officials held a conference call on Wednesday night to discuss ways to make Greece’s €321 billion of obligations sustainable, according to two people with knowledge of the talks. One option would be for the European Stability Mechanism, the euro-area’s financial backstop, to purchase loans individual euro nations made to Greece and reduce the interest payments, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. About €52.9 billion of bilateral loans were made in 2010 and 2011.

Greece’s creditors are struggling to complete a review of the nation’s third bailout, which would pave the way for the disbursal of much-needed aid. The IMF has made its participation in the program contingent upon debt relief, a prospect euro-area finance ministers began discussing last week during an emergency meeting meant to resolve the impasse in unlocking the funds. Nations including Germany have said that the IMF needs to be involved in any future bailout program. The ESM is also considering purchasing the IMF’s loans as a way to give Greece a financial boost since its debt terms are more lenient than those of the Washington-based fund, according to a sustainability report prepared by the European institutions.

Buying back the IMF loans “amounts to debt relief,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in remarks in Brussels on Wednesday at a Politico conference. The officials mulled three debt-relief options during the call: have the ESM purchase bilateral loans made to Greece from individual countries; have the ESM purchase the IMF’s obligations; and extending the maturities of Greece’s debt and reducing the interest rates, one of the people said.

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Economics is politics in disguise.

All Economics Is Political (WSJ)

The models have been run and the numbers crunched: Bernie Sanders’s presidential platform, if enacted, would create 26 million jobs and 5.3% growth. An economist has done the calculating, and there’s no use arguing with mathematics. CNN’s headline reads: “Under Sanders, income and jobs would soar, economist says.” When I run that line by Russ Roberts, he replies with a joke: “How do you know macroeconomists have a sense of humor? They use decimal points.” Mr. Roberts is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a University of Chicago Ph.D., and the gregarious host of EconTalk, a weekly podcast that celebrated its 10th anniversary in March. He is also an evangelist for humility in economics. “The world’s a complicated place,” he says. “We demand things from economics that it can’t provide, and we should be honest about that.”

What’s striking is Mr. Roberts isn’t talking only about politically contrived agitprop. Nobody believes that stuff: One of President Obama’s former economic advisers stirred ire from Sandernistas earlier this year when he said that getting Bernie’s agenda to add up requires assuming “magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.” The deeper question is: How much better—more credible, or reliable, or falsifiable—are the economic forecasts pouring out of respectable think tanks, the White House and Congress? Mr. Roberts’s answer: not all that much. He cites the Congressional Budget Office reports calculating the effect of the stimulus package—for instance, one in late 2009 suggesting it had increased employment by between 600,000 and 1.6 million.

Leaving aside the incredible range of the estimate, how did the CBO come up with those numbers? Did it somehow measure employment in the real world? Nope: The CBO gnomes simply went back to their earlier stimulus prediction and plugged the latest figures into the model. “They had of course forecast the number of jobs that the stimulus would create based on the amount of spending,” Mr. Roberts says. “They just redid the estimate. They just redid the forecast. And you’re thinking, that can’t be what they really did.”

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Definitely the new normal.

5 Banks Sued In US For Rigging $9 Trillion Agency Bond Market (R.)

Five major banks and four traders were sued on Wednesday in a private U.S. lawsuit claiming they conspired to rig prices worldwide in a more than $9 trillion market for bonds issued by government-linked organizations and agencies. Bank of America, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Nomura were accused of secretly agreeing to widen the “bid-ask” spreads they quoted customers of supranational, sub-sovereign and agency (SSA) bonds. The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court by the Boston Retirement System said the collusion dates to at least 2005, was conducted through chatrooms and instant messaging, and caused investors to overpay for bonds they bought or accept low prices for bonds they sold.

“Only through collusion could a dealer quote a wider spread than market conditions otherwise dictate without losing market share and profits,” the complaint said. “Defendants reaped millions of dollar(s) in profits at the expense of plaintiff and members of the class as result of their misconduct.” The proposed class-action lawsuit seeks triple damages, and follows probes by U.S. and European Union antitrust regulators into possible SSA bond price rigging.

[..] The lawsuit is one of many in the Manhattan federal court seeking to hold banks liable for alleged price-fixing in bond, commodity, currency, derivatives, interest rate and other financial markets. One such lawsuit, concerning competition in the credit default swaps market, led last September to a $1.86 billion settlement with a dozen banks. SSA bonds are sold in various currencies by issuers such as regional development banks, infrastructure borrowers including highway and bridge authorities, and social security funds. Many carry explicit or implicit backing from governments, and thus enjoy high investment-grade ratings.

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Will Deutsche self-destruct?

Another Year of Anger for Deutsche Bank’s Investors (BBG)

Deutsche Bank investors expressed their frustration with management at the company’s annual meeting a year ago. Weeks later, co-Chief Executive Officer Anshu Jain was gone. Now it’s Chairman Paul Achleitner and Jain’s replacement, John Cryan, who are set to feel the displeasure of shareholders when they gather in Frankfurt on Thursday. With revenue plunging and the need for capital mounting, some investors worry it may be just a matter of time before they’re asked to stump up and buy new stock. “The mood’s going to be bad, maybe even worse than at last year’s meeting,” said Klaus Nieding, vice president of DSW, a German firm that advises shareholders on company proposals.

Deutsche Bank shares dropped by more than half in the past year – erasing about $22.6 billion in market value – as plans to bolster capital and slash costs failed to revive confidence and profits shriveled across the industry. For Achleitner, a supervisory board dispute in April raised questions about his commitment to rooting out misconduct at Germany’s largest bank. Jain, 53, resigned in June after he and co-CEO Juergen Fitschen received the lowest approval rating in at least a decade in a vote at last year’s annual meeting. Fitschen, 67, will stand down on Thursday, leaving Cryan as sole CEO. Cryan, a British citizen who chaired the audit committee of the supervisory board before becoming co-CEO, has been outspoken about the company’s shortcomings, criticizing excessive pay, spiraling legal costs and outdated technology.

He suspended the dividend to bolster capital and pledged to shed about 9,000 jobs, or almost 10% of the workforce, and shrink the investment bank by scaling back the debt-trading empire built by Jain. While some investors applauded the cost reductions as long overdue, others expressed concern the cutting would eat too deeply into sales, especially during a trading slump. Debt-trading revenue, Deutsche Bank’s largest source of income, fell 29% in the first quarter from a year before, while net income dropped 61%. Cryan told analysts last month that his efforts to overhaul the company and settle outstanding legal matters may lead to a second straight annual loss. “The issue that we have is that we want to get an awful lot done this year,” he said.

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Sorry for doing politics, but this is going to be a really big item. Question’s going to be: who can fill in for Hillary once she’s behind bars?

First Look At Explosive Hillary Documentary, ‘Clinton Cash’ (NY Post)

Hillary Clinton says that when she and her husband moved out of the White House 15 years ago, they were “dead broke.” Today, they’re worth more than $150 million. In the new documentary “Clinton Cash,” it becomes all too clear how the former first couple went from rags to filthy rich — with the emphasis on filthy. As the movie shows, the Clintons are political Teflon dons compared with another Beltway power couple, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. The McDonnells were convicted of accepting more than $150,000 in gifts from a businessman while the governor was in office. Meanwhile, the Clintons raked in 700 times that amount – $105 million – under the pretext of speaking fees while Hillary was in public office.

Yet while the McDonnells face time in the Big House, the Clintons are once again aiming for the White House. The documentary is based on a book by former Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer and was just screened during the Cannes Film Festival. It is set to be shown in major US cities, including Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention there in July. Schweizer’s research has withstood a year of intense scrutiny from critics because it is fact, not fiction. And the facts are compelling. The film whisks you around the globe, retracing how the Clintons personally pocketed six-figure speaking fees and collected billions of dollars for their family foundation. How? By trading on Hillary’s position as secretary of state and possible future president.

She and her ex-president husband sold out to titans, dictators and shady characters in Nigeria, Congo, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, not to mention at Goldman Sachs and TD Bank. Along the way, the Clintons betrayed the values they profess on the campaign trail: human rights, environmentalism and democracy. That’s why Schweizer is bringing the documentary to the Democratic convention — to show the party faithful how the Clintons used and abused their liberal principles to amass a fortune. The Clintons earned the bulk of their money from speaking fees. It was simple: Bill’s fees skyrocketed when Hillary became secretary of state in 2009, suggesting that countries and companies hiring him counted on getting more than just Bill — they also expected to land what his wife had to offer.

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“The last month that wasn’t record hot was April 2015. ”

Earth Breaks 12th Straight Monthly Heat Record (AP)

Earth’s heat is stuck on high. Thanks to a combination of global warming and an El Nino, the planet shattered monthly heat records for an unprecedented 12th straight month, as April smashed the old record by half a degree, according to federal scientists. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly climate calculation said Earth’s average temperature in April was 58.7 degrees (14.8 degrees Celsius). That’s 2 degrees (1. 1 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average and well past the old record set in 2010. The Southern Hemisphere led the way, with Africa, South America and Asia all having their warmest Aprils on record, NOAA climate scientist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said. NASA was among other organizations that said April was the hottest on record. The last month that wasn’t record hot was April 2015.

The last month Earth wasn’t hotter than the 20th-century average was December 1984, and the last time Earth set a monthly cold record was almost a hundred years ago, in December 1916, according to NOAA records. “These kinds of records may not be that interesting, but so many in a row that break the previous records by so much indicates that we’re entering uncharted climatic territory (for modern human society),” Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler said in an email. At NOAA’s climate monitoring headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina, “we are feeling like broken records stating the same thing” each month, Sanchez-Lugo said. And more heat meant record low snow for the Northern Hemisphere in April, according to NOAA and the Rutgers Global Snow Lab.

Snow coverage in April was 890,000 square miles below the 30-year average. Sanchez-Lugo and other scientists say ever-increasing man-made global warming is pushing temperatures higher, and the weather oscillation El Nino — a warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide — makes it even hotter. The current El Nino, which is fading, is one of the strongest on records and is about as strong as the 1997-1998 El Nino. But 2016 so far is 0.81 degrees (0.45 degrees Celsius) warmer than 1998 so “you can definitely see that climate change has an impact,” Sanchez-Lugo said. Given that each month this year has been record hot, it is not surprising that the average of the first four months of 2016 were 2.05 degrees (1.14 degrees Celsius) higher than the 20th-century average and beat last year’s record by 0.54 degrees (0.3 degrees Celsius).

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Complete and utter idiots. Everything that can go wrong, will. And then some.

India To Start Massive Project To Divert Ganges And Brahmaputra Rivers (G.)

India is set to start work on a massive, unprecedented river diversion programme, which will channel water away from the north and west of the country to drought-prone areas in the east and south. The plan could be disastrous for the local ecology, environmental activists warn. The project involves rerouting water from major rivers including the Ganges and Brahmaputra and creating canals to interlink the Ken and Batwa rivers in central India and Damanganga-Pinjal in the west. The minister of water resources, Uma Bharti, said this week that work could start in a few days. A spokesperson from her department told the Guardian that the government is still waiting for clearance from the environment ministry. The project will cost an estimated 20 lakh crore rupees (£207bn) and take 20-30 years to complete.

The government of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, is presenting the project as the solution to India’s endemic water problems. For years, parts of India have suffered from devastating spells of drought. As average temperatures in India rise, and the growing population puts increasing demands on water resources, millions of people are without a reliable water supply. This year, 330 million Indians have been affected by drought. State governments used emergency measures to deliver water by train in the western state of Maharashtra; in other areas, schools and hospitals were forced to close, and hundreds of families were forced to migrate from villages to nearby cities where water is more easily accessible.

According to the National Water Development Agency, which will oversee the rivers project, “the water availability even for drinking purposes becomes critical, particularly in the summer months … On the other hand excess rainfall occurring in some parts of the country create[s] havoc due to floods.” The scheme is a pet project of Modi, who has made several promises to end India’s long-term water problems. In the first few months of his premiership, Modi’s cabinet revived the idea of linking 30 rivers across India. The water resources ministry spokesperson said: “The idea is old, but the Modi government has done all the work on it.” Plans to interlink rivers were drawn up in the 1980s by Indira Gandhi’s government, and were gathering dust as central governments repeatedly failed to win the approval of states. Now, with a supreme court mandate, and government backing, save the rubber stamp of the environment ministry, the project could get under way in a matter of days.

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Aug 122015
 
 August 12, 2015  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


DPC Belle Isle Park Aquarium, Detroit 1905

Greek Debt Deal Reached But Targets Branded ‘Utterly Unachievable’ (Telegraph)
Dow Death Cross Is A Bearish Omen For The Stock Market (MarketWatch)
China Stuns Financial Markets By Devaluing Yuan For Second Day Running (Guardian)
China Roils Markets Second Day as Yuan Cut by 1.6%; Bonds Rally (Bloomberg)
How The Dollar’s Rise Led To China’s Yuan Devaluation (MarketWatch)
Roach Sees Currency Wars Just Getting Worse After Yuan Decision (Bloomberg)
China’s Devaluation And The Impossible Trinity (Beckworth)
Yuan Move Threatens to Add $10 Billion to China Inc.’s Debt Costs (Bloomberg)
One of China’s Most Popular Trades May Be Coming to an End (Tracy Alloway)
Goldman Says China Yuan Move Is Attempt to Get Ahead of the Fed (Bloomberg)
The Fed Is In A Bind (Haselmann)
An Economic Earthquake Is Rumbling (Livingston)
The Social Cost of Capitalism (Paul Craig Roberts)
Yanis Varoufakis Backs Wikileaks Bounty To Crack TTIP (Telegraph)
Euromaniacs: An Addiction To Euroin (Diego Fusaro)
PKK Leader: Turkey Is Protecting Islamic State By Attacking Kurds (BBC)
50,000: More Migrants Reached Greece In July Than During All Of 2014 (Quartz)
Greece Sends Police Reinforcements To Kos In Migrant Crisis (Kathimerini)
United Nations Failing To Represent Vulnerable People, Warn NGOs (Guardian)

Bill submitted to Greek parliament, vote due on Friday morning. Chances of a split in SYRIZA are large.

Greek Debt Deal Reached But Targets Branded ‘Utterly Unachievable’ (Telegraph)

Greece has agreed the broad terms of a new three-year bail-out deal with its international creditors, though experts warned that severe austerity demands mean the country’s fiscal targets remained “utterly unachievable”. Technical details of the deal were finalised in the early hours of Tuesday morning, paving the way for Greece to unlock around €85bn in new loans. The measures include increases in the retirement age, opening up the energy and pharmaceutical industries and new taxes on shipping firms. More measures will follow in October. While Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s finance minister, said there were just “two or three” details remaining to reach an accord, Germany, the country’s biggest creditor, has called for more time to complete a deal.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is understood to have told Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras that she would prefer to give Greece a second bridging loan rather than rush a deal through. Mr Tsipras rejected the idea, arguing that it would ride roughshod over an agreement with the eurozone that had been struck after marathon talks on July 12 and implemented by the Greek government. Under the terms of Greece’s third rescue package, the country will be required to post a primary deficit no larger than 0.25pc of GDP this year. In 2016, the country is required to post a surplus of 0.5pc of GDP rising to 1.75pc in 2017 and 3.5pc in 2018. Greece had previously proposed a primary surplus target of 1pc of GDP this year and 2pc in 2016.

Officials claimed the deal would reduce Greece’s obligations with regards to primary surpluses by 11pc of GDP over the next three years, meaning Greece would avoid austerity measures worth around €20bn over that period. The Greek parliament must now pass the reforms agreed with creditors, ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers expected on Friday. However, Costas Lapavitsas, a Syriza MP and professor of economics at SOAS university in London, criticised the package, and suggested he would vote against it. “To lower the targets because the economy is in recession is one thing. To present this as lightening the recessionary burden is quite another and wrong. Nothing has been lightened because the tax rises have already been voted in,” he said.

Capital Economics described the fiscal targets as “fantasy” and “utterly unachievable”, while Raoul Ruparel, co-director at the think-tank Open Europe, said: “The new targets have not been so much negotiated as made inevitable by the recent economic destruction – claiming savings thanks to significant economic downturn has a touch of claiming success in cutting off your nose to spite your face,” he said.

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Moving averages intersect.

Dow Death Cross Is A Bearish Omen For The Stock Market (MarketWatch)

A rare “death cross” appeared Tuesday in the chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, suggesting the stock market may have already begun a new long-term downtrend. Although chart watchers have seen the bearish technical pattern coming for some time, it can still send a chill down bulls’ spines when it is finally confirmed. The fact that the Dow industrials’ death cross follows the appearance of one in its sister index, the Dow Jones Transportation Average, warns that this one is more than a one-off event. A death cross is said to have occurred when the 50-day simple moving average, which many use to track the short-term trend, crosses below the 200-day moving average, which is widely used to gauge the health of the longer-term trend.

For the Dow industrials, it marked the first time the 50-day moving average, which ended Tuesday at 17,806.99, was below the 200-day moving average, at 17,813.42, since Dec. 30, 2011, according to FactSet. Therefore, many technicians see the death cross as marking the spot that a shorter-term pullback morphs into a longer-term downtrend. The Dow closed down 1.2% suffer an eighth loss in the past nine sessions. It has lost 5% since its record close of 18,312.39 on May 19. Some argue that death crosses have very little predictive value, since some previous ones have appeared right around market bottoms. For example, a death cross appeared on July 7, 2010, when the Dow closed at 10,018.28. The Dow’s closing low for the year had actually been hit two sessions earlier, at 9,686.48.

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One day after claiming it was a one-off.

China Stuns Financial Markets By Devaluing Yuan For Second Day Running (Guardian)

China stunned the world’s financial markets on Wednesday by devaluing the yuan for the second day running, sparking fears that the world’s second largest economy is in worse shape than investors believed. The currency hit a four-year low on Wednesday after the People’s Bank of China set the yuan’s daily midpoint even weaker than in Tuesday’s devaluation. With the bank having said that Tuesday’s move was a “one-off depreciation”, the rapid drop in the value of China’s currency – around 4% in the last two days – dealt a blow to appetite for risky assets, and markets across the region plunged amid concerns that Beijing has embarked on a damaging currency war. Stocks, currencies and commodities came under heavy pressure as money managers feared it could ignite a currency war that would destabilise the global economy.

The Nikkei stock market index in Japan was down more than 1% while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was down 1.64%. The Australian dollar, often seen as a proxy for the Chinese economy, fell again to a fresh six-year low of US$72.25c, having been sold off heavily on Tuesday. The US dollar, on the other hand, rose strongly again against all Asian currencies. Oil was hit, too, with Brent futures were down 31c at $48.87 per barrel at 0251 GMT. US crude was trading at $43.02 per barrel, down 6 cents from Tuesday when it marked its lowest settlement since March 2009. Key industrial and construction materials nickel, copper and aluminium also hit six-year lows. “China’s currency moves will hurt appetite for risky assets such as equities and commodities,” said Rajeev De Mello, head of Asian fixed income at Schroders in Singapore.

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Well, the IMF says they like it.

China Roils Markets Second Day as Yuan Cut by 1.6%; Bonds Rally (Bloomberg)

China’s unexpected decision on Tuesday to devalue the yuan and shift to a more market-determined rate sparked concern that the world’s second-largest economy is faltering. Vietnam widened the trading band on its currency Wednesday, underscoring the risk of competitive devaluations. Traders are seeking safety in government debt as China’s move reduces inflation expectations and eases pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. China’s government “is focused on domestic issues rather than global implications at the moment, employing all the possible means to stabilize the economy,” said Ronald Wan at Partners Capital in Hong Kong. “A weaker yuan means weaker consumption power and Chinese demand for foreign products and commodities will weaken.”

The yuan is heading for its biggest two-day drop since 1994 and has returned to levels last seen in August 2011. There’s no economic or financial “basis” for the exchange rate to fall continuously, the PBOC said in a statement Wednesday. Traders increased bets on further movement in the currency, with options volume surging to more than triple the 5-day average for the time of day, Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. data showed. China’s central bank said Tuesday that market-makers who submit prices for the reference rate will have to consider the previous day’s closing spot rate, foreign-exchange demand and supply, as well as changes in major currency rates. Previous guidelines made no mention of those criteria.

The IMF welcomed China’s move to devalue the yuan and said it doesn’t directly impact the country’s push to win reserve-currency status. The devaluation is aimed at buying China some flexibility against continued dollar appreciation as the Fed prepares to lift rates, according to Goldman Sachs.

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Beijing is way behind the ball.

How The Dollar’s Rise Led To China’s Yuan Devaluation (MarketWatch)

The Obama administration, like many U.S. administrations before it, has long pushed China to allow the market to play a greater role in setting the exchange rate. U.S. officials have long argued that China’s currency is undervalued, giving the country’s exporters an unfair advantage over manufacturers in the U.S. and elsewhere. As recently as April, the Treasury Department praised China’s decision to allow the yuan to appreciate over recent years, but maintained the currency was still undervalued. But forex analysts note Beijing’s willingness to allow the yuan to appreciate over recent years, taking its cue from a rising U.S. currency. That’s made the yuan the second-best-performing emerging-market currency over the past 12 months, noted Jane Foley at Rabobank. China’s real effective exchange rate has been rising at the same time.

Kit Juckes, global macro strategist at Société Générale, noted that since the taper tantrum during the summer of 2013, the yuan has fallen 3% versus the dollar. But over the same time, the yen is down 23%, the euro is down 18% and other Asian currencies have dropped between 5% and 25%. Against the other so-called BRIC emerging market currencies—Brazil, Russia and India—the yuan has gained more than 50% over the last decade, Juckes said, in a note. The yuan’s valuation “has looked increasingly unsustainable as the others have seen their currencies tumble, and the 1.9% adjustment today is far too small to change that,” he said. “Via the dollar-yuan peg, China is in effective importing the Fed’s tighter policy bias at a time when its own economy is struggling,” said Rabobank’s Foley.

Much will depend on whether the devaluation is, as China says, a one-time move or if Beijing takes further action to weaken the yuan. “The renminbi will presumably come under additional downward pressure and a new gap has already opened up between the reference and market rates. But we expect the PBOC to resist this pressure—it has done over most of the past year—rather than continue to ratchet the reference rate lower,” said Julian Jessop at Capital Markets. “As well as the political sensitivities, allowing further big falls would encourage ‘one-way’ speculation and undermine the credibility of the description of today’s move as a one-time correction.” Nonetheless, China’s move is unwelcome news for its Asian neighbors, who saw their currencies knocked lower in the wake of the move. In that regard, China’s move is seen as a belated salvo in the so-called currency wars.

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No doubt.

Roach Sees Currency Wars Just Getting Worse After Yuan Decision (Bloomberg)

China’s shock move to devalue the yuan risks opening a new front in a currency war that stretches from the euro zone to Japan as nations look to energize their economies. The People’s Bank of China slashed the yuan’s fixing by a record 1.9% on Tuesday, sparking the currency’s biggest one-day loss since the official and market exchange rates were united in 1994. It triggered the steepest selloff among Asian currencies in almost seven years, led by slides in South Korea’s won and the Taiwan and Singapore dollars. The euro and the yen tumbled 18% against the greenback in the past 12 months as monetary policies diverged in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

“In a weak global economy, it will take a lot more than a 1.9% devaluation to jump-start Chinese exports,” said Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University and former Morgan Stanley chairman in Asia. “That raises the distinct possibility of a new and increasingly destabilizing skirmish in the ever-widening global currency war. The race to the bottom just became a good deal more treacherous.” China’s devaluation shook global markets just as the currency war appeared to be losing steam in Asia, with Australia and New Zealand toning down calls for weaker rates and Japan refraining from expanding stimulus this quarter.

Even with almost all major currencies losing ground against the dollar this year amid rising expectations for increased borrowing costs in the U.S., China maintained a de facto peg since March amid a push for the yuan to win reserve status at the International Monetary Fund. “They built into the market an expectation that they were keeping the currency stable,” said Ray Farris at Credit Suisse. “Then all of a sudden they blinked. Because they blinked today, markets will continue to look for similar conditions in the future. If exports are falling off a cliff, then against the background of this development, markets will expect more” depreciation, he said.

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It’s like when you say you want a job done good, cheap and fast: pick two.

China’s Devaluation And The Impossible Trinity (Beckworth)

So China devalued its currency peg almost 2% against the dollar. It happened just as I was wrapping up a twitter debate on this very possibility, a very surreal experience. Many more twitter discussions erupted after the announcement of this policy change and I got sucked into a few of them. My key takeaways from these discussions on the yuan devaluation are as follows. First, this devaluation was almost inevitable: the economic outlook in China had been worsening. The question is why? As I explained in my last post, the proximate cause is the Fed’s tightening of monetary conditions. China’s currency is quasi-pegged to the dollar and that means U.S. monetary policy gets imported into China.

The gradual tightening of U.S. monetary conditions since the end of QE3 has therefore meant a gradual tightening of Chinese monetary conditions. Recently, it has intensified with the Fed signalling its plans to tighten monetary policy with a rate hike. U.S. markets have priced in this anticipated rate hike and caused U.S. monetary conditions to further tighten. Through the dollar peg this tightening has also been felt in China and can explain the slowdown in economic activity. Consequently, China had to loosen the dollar choke hold on its economy via a devaluation of its currency.

There is, however, a more fundamental reason for the devaluation. China has been violating the impossible trinity. This notion says a country can only do on a sustained basis two of three potentially desired objectives: maintain a fixed exchange rate, exercise discretionary monetary policy, and allow free capital flows. If a country tries all three objectives then economic imbalances will build and eventually give way to some kind of painful adjustment. China was attempting all three objectives to varying degrees. It quasi-pegged its currency to the dollar, it manipulated domestic monetary conditions through adjustment of interest rates and banks’ require reserve ratio, and it allowed some capital flows. This arrangement could not last forever, especially given the Federal Reserve’s passive tightening of monetary policy.

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Talk about lowballing…

Yuan Move Threatens to Add $10 Billion to China Inc.’s Debt Costs (Bloomberg)

The biggest offshore borrowers in Asia are about to understand the costs of a devaluation. Chinese companies, which have $529 billion in dollar and euro bonds and loans outstanding, could see their debt costs jump by $10 billion after the People’s Bank of China devalued the yuan by 1.9%, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. The weaker yuan increases expenses for firms that have to exchange it into those currencies to pay interest and principal on offshore borrowings. Chinese corporations have sold bonds and gotten bank loans offshore at a record pace and now are the biggest component of major fixed-income indexes in the region. A narrow trading band for their home currency meant that many did not hedge against exchange losses that Tuesday’s devaluation, the biggest in two decades, now threatens.

“Most Chinese companies don’t hedge their forex exposure,” said Ivan Chung, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. “The sudden devaluation in the currency will add pressure to those with offshore dollar debt, especially the property sector that relies heavily on offshore debt.” The central bank cut its daily reference rate for the currency by a record, triggering the yuan’s biggest one-day loss since China unified official and market exchange rates in January 1994. “Chinese property developers have lots of offshore debt outstanding – more than 20% of their total debt for some – and the majority of them have high leverage and weak cash flow,” said Christopher Lee at Standard & Poor’s in Hong Kong. “If the yuan depreciation sustains, they will face pressure on servicing their debt.”

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Carry me Carry.

One of China’s Most Popular Trades May Be Coming to an End (Tracy Alloway)

Years of the Chinese yuan practically pegged to the U.S. dollar gave succor to a massive carry trade that involved mainland speculators borrowing from overseas banks at relatively low rates and then investing in higher-yielding renminbi-denominated assets. Pocketing the spread between the two netted hefty returns, but the era of “peak” China carry looks to be coming to an end following China’s move to devalue its currency. While the exact size of the carry trade is unknown, the Bank for International Settlements estimates that dollar borrowing in China jumped five-fold since 2008 to reach more than $1.1 trillion.

Global dollar borrowing is something like $6 trillion to $9 trillion, according to the BIS, thanks largely to an emerging market borrowing spree. The speed and nature of the China carry trade unwind will now depend largely on the pace of the dollar’s appreciation. It’s doubtful that Chinese authorities want to see a disorderly unwind of any sort. Still, the flipside is that China still has some pretty impressive foreign exchange reserves, which could soften the blow from an unwind of the carry trade. The devaluation may also have the added benefit of taking some of the froth out of a Chinese market that has arguably been overheated by foreign borrowing.

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Duh..

Goldman Says China Yuan Move Is Attempt to Get Ahead of the Fed (Bloomberg)

China’s shock devaluation of its currency is designed to cushion it from rising along with the dollar after a projected interest-rate increase from the Federal Reserve, according to Goldman Sachs. “This is about Fed liftoff most obviously and further dollar strength,” Goldman Sachs chief currency strategist Robin Brooks wrote in a note to clients. “It certainly makes sense for China’s policy makers to buy some flexibility ahead of Fed liftoff, in particular since the fix had become very peg-like in its stability in recent months.” Goldman Sachs projects the dollar strengthening 20% on a trade-weighted basis by the end of 2017. The yuan fell the most Tuesday since China ended a dual-currency system in January 1994 after the central bank cut its daily reference rate by 1.9%.

China has stepped up efforts to boost old growth drivers as new ones fail to offset slowing investment and trade. Developing markets are feeling the strain as domestic growth slows while the U.S. nears its first interest-rate increase in almost a decade. Until Tuesday, China had kept the yuan steady against the dollar, effectively pushing it higher against other emerging-market currencies and hurting its exporters. While the change is reminiscent of Swiss abandonment of the franc’s ceiling versus the euro in January, which anticipated quantitative easing from the ECB, China isn’t looking to push the currency significantly lower, according to Brooks. The change is a one-time correction, a spokesman for the People’s Bank of China said Tuesday. “Our bias is that the move overnight was more about buying flexibility as opposed to the beginning of a large devaluation trend,” New York-based Brooks wrote.

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“..total credit outstanding (household, corporate, government and financial) has expanded by over $50 trillion in the past 30 years, while GDP has expanded by only $13 trillion.”

The Fed Is In A Bind (Haselmann)

The intention of Fed policy over the past 30 years has been to self-correct business cycles into a ‘steadier state’ by easing interest rates into weakness and hiking them into strength. Unfortunately, there is political-asymmetry between easing and hiking which has resulted in the stair-stepping of official interest rates down to the zero lower bound. Interest rates that are held lower than the ‘natural or normal rate’ (discussed in a moment) may have short-term benefits, yet there are longer-term costs that aggregate and eventually need to be addressed. These costs are then typically dealt with by lowering interest rates even farther away from the normal or natural rate. Eventually the Fed ends up worsening the very business cycles they intended to smooth out.

The fact that rates today have reached zero means that the day of reckoning is quickly approaching, because monetary policy has reached the practical limits of what it can do. Thus, the multi-decade credit era is coming to an end. Credit-based consumption is unsustainable. US corporate issuance has broken a new record in four successive years. According to David Stockman, the amount of total credit outstanding (household, corporate, government and financial) has expanded by over $50 trillion in the past 30 years, while GDP has expanded by only $13 trillion. In addition, while the whole world has gotten significantly more indebted, it also has terrible demographics to contend with. The S&P over this same 30-year period has returned just over 6% adjusted for inflation, while real GDP has been just above 2%.

The market has risen 3 times faster than national output in real terms. A sizable equity market correction could happen merely because the bubble-blowing machine is losing its wind. Certainly, the magnitude of the monetary and debt-based fuel that has powered equities in the past will not be available going forward. An economy runs most efficiently in the long-run when the price of money, i.e., the official interest rate, does not veer too far from the level where savings and investment can find a clearing price (i.e., the natural rate of interest). This is called the Wicksellian Differential, i.e., the difference between the money rate and natural rate of interest. It postulates that when the natural rate is higher than the money rate, the disequilibrium will drive credit expansion.

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Debts have shifted but not disappeared.

An Economic Earthquake Is Rumbling (Livingston)

While the people sleep, an economic earthquake rumbles underneath. The day that they begin to feel the quake draws near. History will record that in this decade more people will lose more money (forget about the trillions of dollars already lost) than at any time in our history, including during the Great Depression. At the same time, a very small group has made and will make huge sums of money. During the Y2K scare (a real hoax) many people stored food. Then, after Y2K, many people wanted to dump their cache; and some did. We advised readers at the time to store food simply because of the crisis world we live in, but to store those foods that you could rotate and consume. Stored food is a hedge against inflation. It’s a hedge against natural disaster. It’s a hedge against economic collapse.

It was our advice before, and it has been our advice since. This advice is still valid. People who don’t have some stored food don’t realize how dependent they are on the system and government. Of course, the system was designed and created to make the people dependent on government. That makes them easier to control. Many people have been in hard times since 2008, thanks to bursting housing and derivatives bubbles — both fueled by the Federal Reserve’s money printing and both predicted by meand by many other writers. For those of us who are not well-connected (those of us who are not in the 1%), there has been no relief. While the banksters got bailouts and Wall Street and the banksters benefited from the money printers, the middle class was impoverished. Savings were wiped out.

More working-age people than ever before are not working. More young workers than ever before are still living with their parents because they are either out of work or working at low-paying jobs. More people than ever before are on the government dole. Welfare pays more than most jobs. Retirement funds have been cashed out and spent on living expenses. [..] The default rate of companies with the lowest credit rating is at its highest level since 2013. The auto loan debt bubble is at $900 billion, fueled by easy credit and long-term loans (more than 60 months on even used cars) that put the car buyer upside down as he drives off the lot and keeps him there. U.S. mortgage holders are carrying the most non-mortgage debt they’ve had in more than 10 years; 81% of that is automobile debt. Student loan debt held by mortgage holders is the highest it’s ever been, with the average balance owed at nearly $35,000. Almost 5.7 million homeowners remain underwater on their mortgages.

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Externalities. Our economic systems’ highly destructive 800 pound gorilla.

The Social Cost of Capitalism (Paul Craig Roberts)

Few, if any, corporations absorb the full cost of their operations. Corporations shove many of their costs onto the environment, the public sector, and distant third parties. For example, currently 3 million gallons of toxic waste water from a Colorado mine has escaped and is working its way down two rivers into Utah and Lake Powell. At least seven city water systems dependent on the rivers have been shut down. The waste was left by private enterprise, and the waste was accidentally released by the Environmental Protection Agency, which might be true or might be a coverup for the mine. If the Lake Powell reservoir ends up polluted, it is likely that the cost of the mine imposed on third parties exceeds the total value of the mine’s output over its entire life.

Economists call these costs “external costs” or “social costs.” The mine made its profits by creating pollutants, the cost of which is born by those who had no share in the profits. As this is the way regulated capitalism works, you can imagine how bad unregulated capitalism would be. Just think about the unregulated financial system, the consequences we are still suffering with more to come. Despite massive evidence to the contrary, libertarians hold tight to their romantic concept of capitalism, which, freed from government interference, serves the consumer with the best products at the lowest prices. If only. Progressives have their own counterpart to the libertarians’ romanticism. Progressives regard government as the white knight that protects the public from the greed of capitalists. If only.

[..] The two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are at 39% and 52% of capacity. The massive lakes on which the Western United States is dependent are drying up. And now Lake Powell is faced with receiving 3 million gallons of waste water containing arsenic, lead, copper, aluminum and cadmium. Wells in the flood plains of the polluted rivers are also endangered. The pollutants, which turned the rivers orange, flowed down the Animas River from Silverton, Colorado through Durango into the San Juan River in Farmington, New Mexico, a river that flows into the Colorado River that feeds Lake Powell and Lake Mead. All of this damage from one capitalist mine.

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Makes a lot of sense.

Yanis Varoufakis Backs Wikileaks Bounty To Crack TTIP (Telegraph)

Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, has donated to a $110,000 bounty to reward whoever leaks the text of a major EU-US trade deal. Mr Varoufakis was named yesterday as one of a number of public figures said to have donated to a fund set up by Wikileaks, the secret-sharing website, to encourage the leaks of documents surrounding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Others said to have donated to the fund include Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer; Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon papers leaker; Slavoj Zizek, the philosopher; and Evgeny Morozov, the journalist. Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, was also named as a donor. So far some $24,000 dollars has been raised of the target.

Wikileaks wants the text of the proposed deal to be leaked. It is not clear whether such a single text exists. The deal will break down tariff and regulatory barriers between the EU and US, adding around £94 billion to the European economy and cutting the price of goods such as jeans and cars. David Cameron is a major advocate, seeing it as essential to save the EU s economies from decline, and has pledged to put rocket boosters under the deal. It has met stiff opposition from the left and radical right in Britain and the continent, who argue it will allow corporations to sue the Government for market access and force greater private provision in the NHS.

Some French farmers claim it will allow the spread of US “Frankenfoods”, such as chlorine-washed chicken, genetically modified crops and hormone-treated beef. Advocates say most controversial element the ability of companies to challenge governments in the courts is commonplace in global trade deals. Mr Assange said: “The secrecy of the TTIP casts a shadow on the future of European democracy. Under this cover, special interests are running wild, much as we saw with the recent financial siege against the people of Greece. The TTIP affects the life of every European and draws Europe into long term conflict with Asia. The time for its secrecy to end is now. Mr Varoufakis, an economist, had a toxic relationship with EU officials and European leaders, and he left office before a bailout deal could be signed. I shall wear the creditors loathing with pride, he said on resigning in July.

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Word of the week: Euroin.

Euromaniacs: An Addiction To Euroin (Diego Fusaro)

Italy, and not only Italy but indeed all of the Eurozone countries should get out of the Euro as soon as possible because the Euro has proven to be a real financial coup d’état that has enabled the imposition of a neoliberal regime and the removal of all forms of social rights and the removal of any form of guaranteed healthcare and public ownership, all in favour of privatisation. The Euro has been the Trojan Horse with which neoliberalism has imposed its wishes and it’s a bit like a charging rhinoceros that is impossible to stop, to appease or for that matter to control in any way. You simply have to move out of its way before it tramples you! We simply have to get out of the Euro as soon as possible!

Generally speaking, and I use Gramsci’s words here, the Euro is a sort of Passive Revolution, in other words a revolution by which the dominant capitalist power after 1989 strengthened itself, strengthening its own structure and ridding itself of the ties and restrictions of the State and the public, of the Sovereign National Government, in order to impose the power of the unfettered economy, in other words the power of the banks and the Financial world no longer disciplined by the State and by what Hegel’s Philosophy would refer to as Ethical forces, i.e. those powers that are capable of disciplining the Economy and to place it at the service of the community. The Euromaniacs, and I am using this term that I have borrowed from my journalist friend Alessandro Montanari, are those people that are totally unable to overcome their absolute addiction to the Euro.

Just like drug addicts, these guys keeping on wanting more Euro and more Europe, even though the Euro continues to cause social and political catastrophes, including the end of public ownership, the end of social security and the downward spiral towards poverty here in Italy. They resort to using oracle-like, almost theological terminology such as: “What we need is more Europe! It’s paradoxical. No less paradoxical in fact than if someone were faced with the tragedy of a drug addict and said: “What we need are more drugs!Nowadays, anyone looking at the twin tragedies of Europe and the Euro and obsessively and compulsively repeats: “What we need is more Euro, more Europe!”is no more and no less than an addiction to Euroin.

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A huge powderkeg.

PKK Leader: Turkey Is Protecting Islamic State By Attacking Kurds (BBC)

The man leading the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has accused Turkey of trying to protect the Islamic State group by attacking Kurdish fighters. Cemil Bayik told the BBC he believed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted IS to succeed to prevent Kurdish gains. Kurdish fighters – among them the PKK – have secured significant victories against IS militants in Syria and Iraq. But Turkey, like a number of Western countries, considers the PKK a terrorist organisation. A ceasefire in the long-running conflict with the group appeared to disintegrate in July, when Turkey began bombing PKK camps in northern Iraq, at the same time as launching air strikes on IS militants. Observers say PKK fighters have been on the receiving end of far more attacks than IS.

But Turkish officials deny that the campaign against IS group is a cover to prevent Kurdish gains. On Wednesday, Turkey said it was planning a “comprehensive battle” against IS. “The Turkish claim they are fighting Islamic State… but in fact they are fighting the PKK,” Cemil Bayik told BBC’s Jiyar Gol. “They are doing it to limit the PKK’s fight against IS. Turkey is protecting IS. “[President] Erdogan is behind IS massacres. His aim is to stop the Kurdish advance against them, thus advancing his aim of Turkishness in Turkey.”

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A 12-fold increase. And even now, where is the EU? This is sufficient reason NOT to remain a member: moral degenerancy.

50,000: More Migrants Reached Greece In July Than During All Of 2014 (Quartz)

It is a “crisis within a crisis.” That’s how prime minister Alexis Tsipras describes the massive influx of migrants to Greece, straining the resources of a country that is already strapped for cash. Nearly 50,000 migrants came to Greece in July—more than the whole of 2014. So far this year, more than 130,000 illegal border crossings have been made in Greece, according to Frontex, the EU’s border agency. The vast majority of migrants come from Syria and Afghanistan, seeking asylum in the EU after a treacherous journey in overcrowded, makeshift boats across the eastern Mediterranean—now the busiest route for people seeking a better life in Europe.

Even Greece’s shattered economy is better than what Afghans, Syrians, and others leave behind. But most migrants hope to travel further into Europe in search of jobs, stability, and states more receptive to asylum claims. But if they’re caught or rescued in Greece, in most cases they must be processed there. The UN recently described conditions for migrants in popular Greek landing spots as “total chaos,” with a severe lack of food, sanitation, and shelter. But an EU plan to distribute migrants more evenly across the bloc has stalled, with many countries rejecting proposed quotas. This weekend alone, the Greek coast guard pulled another 1,400 people out of the sea, according to reports. Tsipras recently called for urgent assistance from the rest of the EU: “This problem surpasses us,” he said.

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Better instruct them well.

Greece Sends Police Reinforcements To Kos In Migrant Crisis (Kathimerini)

The Greek Police (ELAS) has sent additional officers to the eastern Aegean island of Kos to help deal with a burgeoning migrant crisis there which escalated into violent clashes Tuesday. ELAS chief Dimitris Tsaknakis has dispatched 12 officers from the force’s immigration unit to the island, including one Arab-speaking employee, to help accelerate the process of identifying some 7,000 immigrants there, most believed to be Syrian. Local authorities allocated a municipal gymnasium and an old soccer field for officers to interview the immigrants and issue them with documents allowing them to remain in the country for six months. The officers arrived on the island on Monday and had interviewed around 750 migrants by late last night, a police source told Kathimerini.

The process of identifying the arrivals was brusquely interrupted Tuesday when a fracas broke out between migrants and police officers as the former were being transferred to the old soccer stadium. Police used truncheons and even fire extinguishers to keep back the immigrants in an apparent bid to avert a stampede amid a crush to enter the stadium. Responding to the rising tensions, ELAS ordered two riot police units to be flown to the island on a C-130 military transport aircraft. Tsaknakis also ordered the transfer of some 250 additional officers to be stationed on Kos and other islands in the eastern Aegean such as Lesvos and Samos which have been besieged by large numbers of immigrants. Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis said local authorities were overwhelmed and warned of “bloodshed if the situation degenerates.”

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UN equals special interests.

United Nations Failing To Represent Vulnerable People, Warn NGOs (Guardian)

Vulnerable people are prevented from gaining representation at the United Nations by a committee dominated by countries with repressive regimes, according to concerned NGOs. Organisations have told the Guardian how they face lengthy hold-ups, bizarre questioning and intimidation as they negotiate with the UN committee on non-governmental organisations, the group which decides which organisations get official UN status, and is currently made up of countries including Cuba, China, Russia, Pakistan and Qatar. Last month, Freedom Now, which works with prisoners of conscience around the world, finally won a six year battle to get official status, in the face of fierce opposition from China.

It took an intervention from US ambassador Samantha Power, who said she was determined “to put an end to the inexcusable attempt to deny Freedom Now’s official NGO status”. But this case is far from unique, with NGO workers from around the world warning that vulnerable people are being denied representation at the UN by the dysfunctional nature of the NGO committee and its parent body the Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc), which produces policy and makes recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues at the UN. In order to work at the UN, make speeches and gain access to important officials, organisations need to submit applications for special consultative status to the NGO committee.

The UN offers no guidance or time limit on how long it takes for applications to be processed by the committee. The 19 members of the committee are elected by other states every four years. The committee must always contain a set number of countries from each region; with four from Asian states and five from African states, for example. Jessica Stern, from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission which took three years to get special consultative status, told the Guardian that it is “almost impossible” for NGOs to operate in the UN as without this official status. She added that negotiating with the committee can be both costly and time-consuming, meaning that many organisations simply give up.

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