Jun 052019
 
 June 5, 2019  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Henri Matisse Notre-Dame, une fin d’après-midi 1902

 

The Fed Has No Choice But to Return to Ultra-Low Interest Rates (Polleit)
Australia’s Economy Slows To Levels Last Seen During The GFC (ABC.au)
Australia Federal Police Raid Home Of News Corp Journalist (SMH)
Australian Police Raids On National Broadcaster, News Corp Prompt Outcry (R.)
Global Semiconductor Sales Plunge 24% from Peak (WS)
CNN, Maddow Ratings In Absolute Freefall After Russia Narrative Collapses (ZH)
Ex-Trump Aide Hicks Agrees To Hand Over Campaign Documents To Congress (R.)
EU Gives Nigel Farage 24 Hours To Explain Arron Banks Funds (G.)
10 Million Acres Of US Farmland Won’t Be Planted With Crops This Year (Snyder)
Brazil Amazon Deforestation Rising At Fastest Rate In A Decade (R.)
Chimpanzees In The Wild Reduced To ‘Forest Ghettos’ (AFP)

 

 

End the Fed before it’s too late.

The Fed Has No Choice But to Return to Ultra-Low Interest Rates (Polleit)

If interest rates and returns hit rock bottom, people have little reason to save, and investors little incentive to invest. Consumption increases at the expense of savings, and capital consumption sets in. Existing capital will be used up and not replaced. It might take a while for people to find out that a central bank monetary policy that pushes the interest rate to ever lower levels does not bring prosperity but is very damaging, even ruinous, for the future prosperity of the commonweal. Once investors realize that the economy is losing its strength, elevated asset prices, previously driven up by an ultra-low interest rate, will come crashing down. In the case of stocks, for instance, profit expectations are scaled back, and a downward adjustment of stock prices sets in.

Falling asset prices in general would hit hard consumers’ and corporates’ balance sheets. Their equity positions and credit standing deteriorate. Malinvestment comes to the surface, and the boom is finally turning into bust. The lesson to learn is this: The monetary policy of ever lower interest rate is not the solution to problems caused by a low interest rate policy in the first place. In the short-term it might look promising, but it is a way towards economic destruction. The longer the boom is kept going by central banks’ ultra-low interest rate policy, the bigger will be the ensuing crisis – as the economists of the Austrian School of Economics have pointed out in great detail a long time ago. Murray N. Rothbard put it succinctly:

“It is only when bank credit expansion must finally stop or sharply slow down, either because the banks are getting shaky or because the public is getting restive at the continuing inflation, that retribution finally catches up with the boom. As soon as credit expansion stops, the piper must be paid, and the inevitable readjustments must liquidate the unsound over-investments of the boom and redirect the economy more toward consumer goods production. And, of course, the longer the boom is kept going, the greater the malinvestments that must be liquidated, and the more harrowing the readjustments that must be made.”

Read more …

No recession for 27 years.

Australia’s Economy Slows To Levels Last Seen During The GFC (ABC.au)

Australia’s economy has slowed further, with GDP growth tumbling under 2 per cent over the past year. The economy grew at 0.4 per cent in first three months of the year, to be up 1.8 per cent over the year — the slowest growth since the September quarter in 2009. While the quarterly figure was a step up from the moribund 0.2 per cent growth in final quarter of last year, it still fell below market expectations. It was also much weaker than the 1 per cent growth recorded in the March quarter last year. Excluding the impact of population growth, GDP growth was marginally negative for the third consecutive quarter, further extending the so-called GDP per capita recession.


The result was dragged down by weak household spending, slowing further from last year and up just 1.8 per cent over the year, with households cutting back on their discretionary spending, particularly in new household items, recreation and hospitality. However, spending rose in non-discretionary, essential areas such as insurance, power and health. Household spending overall contributed just 0.1 percentage point to growth. The rapidly cooling residential construction sector was also a significant drag, with dwelling investment falling 2.5 per cent over the quarter having been at record levels in late 2018.

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Part of me thinks Australia’s a testing ground. Another part wonders what the link might be to the economic collapse.

Australia Federal Police Raid Home Of News Corp Journalist (SMH)

Police have raided the home of a News Corp journalist in what the media company has called a “dangerous act of intimidation” after she reported on a top secret government proposal to give Australia’s cyber spies unprecedented powers. Australian Federal Police officers presented Annika Smethurst, the national political editor of News Corp’s Sunday tabloids, with a search warrant on Tuesday morning. The warrant granted officers authority to access her home, computer and mobile phone. The actions are in connection to a story published in April 2018 which revealed internal government discussions about introducing new powers for electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate.

News Corp’s report included details from a top secret internal document proposing new abilities to “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” onshore threats by “hacking into critical ≠infrastructure”. The federal police confirmed the execution of a search warrant on Tuesday as part of an “investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information”. In a statement, the police said they would allege the disclosure of “these specific documents undermines Australia’s national security”. [..] 2GB radio host Ben Fordham also revealed on Tuesday that he has been contacted by Home Affairs this week about his reporting, with the department investigating how he obtained “highly confidential” information about asylum seeker vessels.

Smethurst’s story reported the top secret proposal as one that would for the first time allow the ASD to target Australians, as opposed to enemies on foreign soil. The use of the powers would be subject to approval from the defence and home affairs ministers.

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John Lyons on Twitter: “AFP: I’m still staggered by the power of this warrant. It allows the AFP to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the ABC’s computers. All Australians, please think about that: as of this moment, the AFP has the power to delete material in the ABC’s computers. Australia 2019.”

Australian Police Raids On National Broadcaster, News Corp Prompt Outcry (R.)

Police raided the offices of Australia’s national broadcaster on Wednesday over allegations it had published classified material, the second raid on a media outlet in two days, prompting complaints that the “outrageous” raids hindered media freedom. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said its officers carried out a search warrant at the head office of the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) in Sydney on Wednesday. That came a day after police raided the home of a News Corp editor, although the AFP said the raids were unrelated. “It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC Managing Director David Anderson said in a statement.


“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters,” he said. The AFP said the ABC raid was in relation to allegations it had published classified material and followed a referral from the chief of the Australian Defence Force and a former acting defense secretary in 2017. The ABC raid was authorized by a court and based on evidence that provided “sufficient suspicion that a criminal offence has been committed”, the AFP said in a statement. Marcus Strom, president of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance trade union, said on his Twitter account the two raids were “just outrageous”. “Police raiding journalists is becoming normalized. It has to stop,” he said.

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Something’s afoot.

Global Semiconductor Sales Plunge 24% from Peak (WS)

Global semiconductor sales dropped 14.6% in April from April last year, to $32.1 billion, on a three-month moving average basis, the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization reported Tuesday afternoon. The three-month moving average in April has plunged 24% from the peak last October, thus continuing the deepest plunge in semiconductor sales since the Financial Crisis. In dollar terms, semiconductor sales plunged by over $10 billion in April compared to the pace in October 2018, the largest peak-to-trough dollar-drop ever. During the Financial Crisis, chip sales dropped by $9 billion from peak to trough.


But in percentage terms, the current plunge doesn’t quite measure up: 24% versus the 39% collapse during the Financial Crisis and the 45% collapse during the long dotcom bust. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said in its press release that sales, based on the data compiled by the WSTS, dropped in all major geographic regions in April (three-month moving averages compared to the same period last year): • Americas: -29.5% • Europe: -8.0% • Japan: -10.9% • China: -10.9% • Asia Pacific/All Other: -10.7

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“..Rachel Maddow has lost 500,000 viewers who realized life is too short for her bullshit…”

CNN, Maddow Ratings In Absolute Freefall After Russia Narrative Collapses (ZH)

According to Breitbart’s John Nolte, CNN’s primetime ratings suffered a 16% collapse in May – luring just 761,000 members of the resistance and captive airport audiences alike. Overall, the network’s total day viewers dropped to just 559,000. As Nolte points out, “Fox News earned three times as many primetime viewers (2.34 million) and more than twice as many total day viewers (1.34 million). What’s more, when compared to this same month last year, Fox lost none of its primetime viewers and only four percent of its total day viewers.” “Do you have any idea just how low 761,000 primetime viewers is…? How does a nationally known brand like CNN, a brand that is decades old, only manage to attract 761,000 viewers throughout a gonzo news month in a country of over 300 million?

But his is just how far over the cliff CNN has gone… CNN has lost almost all of its viewers, all of its moral authority, and every bit of trust it once had. Over the past six years, as soon as Jeff Zucker took over, CNN got every major national story exactly wrong, including… • Hispanic George Zimmerman: The White Racist Killer • Hands Up, Don’t Shoot • Trump Can’t Win • Brett Kavanaugh: Serial Rapist • The KKKids from KKKovington High School • Trump Colluded with Russia. And in every one of those cases, CNN got it deliberately wrong because CNN is nothing less than a hysterical propaganda outlet, a fire hose of hate, violence, and lies… -Breitbart

In a separate Tuesday article, Nolte notes that MSNBC’s top conspiracy theorist Rachel Maddow has lost 500,000 viewers who realized life is too short for her bullshit. During the first quarter of 2019, prior to the release of the Mueller Report (which debunked the media’s Russia Collusion Hoax and proved Trump did not obstruct justice), Maddow averaged 3.1 million nightly viewers. Last month, after the release of the Mueller Report (which debunked the media’s Russia Collusion Hoax and proved Trump did not obstruct justice), she averaged only 2.6 million viewers. -Breitbart

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Mueller 2.0.

Ex-Trump Aide Hicks Agrees To Hand Over Campaign Documents To Congress (R.)

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, once a close aide to President Donald Trump, has agreed to turn over documents related to his 2016 election campaign to congressional investigators, a top Democratic lawmaker said on Tuesday. The agreement marks a step forward for House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler in investigations of Republican Trump and his inner circle, digging into the campaign, his turbulent presidency and business interests. Hicks, Trump’s former campaign press secretary, agreed to supply the documents from the campaign, despite a White House directive advising her not to provide the committee with material from her subsequent time at the White House.

She and former White House lawyer Annie Donaldson were subpoenaed on May 21 by the panel as part of its inquiry into whether Trump obstructed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Hicks’ attorney Robert Trout said in a letter to Nadler that Hicks would not hand over documents related to Trump’s time in the White House and his presidential transition period because administration attorneys believe the papers may be subject to a claim of executive privilege by Trump.

[..] The committee is seeking any material Hicks has on a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between campaign officials including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russians offering to help Trump’s candidacy. The subpoena also seeks documents relating to any payments made to Trump’s convicted former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen said Trump directed “hush money” payments he made for two women’s silence before the election about their alleged sexual relations with Trump.

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Like he cares. Note that they have no instruments to punish him: “..he could potentially lose the right to make a victory speech in the chamber..”

EU Gives Nigel Farage 24 Hours To Explain Arron Banks Funds (G.)

Nigel Farage has been given 24 hours by the European parliament to explain in person his failure to declare lavish expenses funded by Arron Banks, an insurance tycoon under investigation by the UK’s National Crime Agency. The summons came just two hours before the Brexit party leader was spotted arriving at the US ambassador’s residence in London for a meeting with Donald Trump during the US president’s state visit to the UK. Last month Channel 4 News revealed emails, invoices and documents suggesting that Banks had covered Farage’s costs for a £13,000-a-month Chelsea home in the year of the Brexit referendum, visits to the US and a chauffeur-driven car. Should Farage fail to convince the parliament of his reason for not declaring Banks’s funding, he could potentially lose the right to make a victory speech in the chamber in July as head of his parliamentary group.

None of the donations were declared to the European parliament despite the MEPs’ code of conduct stipulating that all members must declare travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses from third parties. The European parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, had referred the matter to a committee of five MEPs who act as watchdogs over the parliament’s code of conduct. They met on Tuesday to agree on an unusually short deadline for Farage to explain the failure to declare the expenses at a hearing in Brussels on Wednesday. Farage, who earns €102,000 (£90,000) each year as an MEP and received up to €700,000 from media appearances in 2014-18, told the Guardian that he had no intention of attending the hearing.

He said: “What is this but an EU kangaroo court where I am given 24 hours notice about allegations picked up from press stories? “I will not be attending at such short notice. And if they try to bar me from the building, who else gives voice to the thousands of people who voted for me? Is this democracy EU style? “I did not receive any private money for political purposes. This committee would better spend its time investigating the waste of public money by well-known MEPs.” A failure to attend the advisory committee’s hearing does not bring with it any sanction in itself…

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What are the costs to Monsanto?

10 Million Acres Of US Farmland Won’t Be Planted With Crops This Year (Snyder)

It looks like 2019 could be the worst year for U.S. agriculture in modern American history by a very wide margin. As you will see below, millions upon millions of acres of U.S. farmland will go unused this year due to cataclysmic flooding. And many of the farmers that did manage to plant crops are reporting extremely disappointing results. The 12 month period that concluded at the end of April was the wettest 12 month period in U.S. history, and more storms just kept on coming throughout the month of May. And now forecasters are warning of another series of storms this week, and following that it looks like a tropical storm will pummel the region. As Bloomberg has pointed out, we have truly never seen a year like this ever before…

“There has never been a spring planting season like this one. Rivers topped their banks. Levees were breached. Fields filled with water and mud. And it kept raining.” Many farmers just kept waiting for the flooding and the rain to end so that they could plant their crops, but that didn’t happen. At this point it is too late for many farmers to plant crops at all, and it is now being projected that 6 million acres of farmland that is usually used for corn will go completely unsown this year… “There has never been weather like this, either. The 12 months that ended with April were the wettest ever for the contiguous U.S. That spurred other firsts: Corn plantings are further behind schedule for this time of year than they have been in records dating to 1980 and analysts are predicting an unheard-of 6 million acres intended for the grain may simply go unsown this year.”

[..] In the end, we could easily see more than 10 million acres of U.S. farmland go completely unused this year. And please don’t assume that the acres that have been planted are going to be okay. In Nebraska, farmer Ed Brummels said that conditions are so bad that it is “like we are trying to plant on top of a lake!”… “It’s like we are trying to plant on top of a lake! Planting will be over soon as farmers continue to be frustrated with these very saturated conditions.”

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“They are removing the lungs of our planet… ”

Brazil Amazon Deforestation Rising At Fastest Rate In A Decade (R.)

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil sped up in May to the fastest rate in a decade, according to data from an early-warning satellite system, as experts pointed to activity by illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under President Jair Bolsonaro. According to the Brazilian space research institute INPE, the DETER alerting system registered deforestation of 739 square kilometers (285 square miles) in May, the first of three months in which logging tends to surge following the region’s rainy season. That is up from 550 square kilometers in May 2018 and more than double the deforestation detected two years earlier.


“If this upward curve continues, we could have a bad year for the Amazon forest,” Claudio Almeida, head of INPE’s satellite monitoring program, said on Tuesday. “It will depend on how much policing there is in the next two critical months,” he added. The data adds to concerns from environmentalists who warn that Bolsonaro’s five-month-old government has dismantled conservation agencies, shown skepticism about fighting climate change and cut the budget to enforce environmental laws. Brazil’s environmental protection agency IBAMA, which has been starved of funds in recent years, lost authority when he took office in January, and the forestry commission was moved to the Agriculture Ministry, which is run by farm industry allies.

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The sadness is deafening.

Chimpanzees In The Wild Reduced To ‘Forest Ghettos’ (AFP)

Urban expansion and hunting have pushed chimpanzees, humanity’s closest relative in the animal kingdom, into shrinking islets of wildness, top experts said Tuesday after a three-day meeting in Germany. All four sub-species of the African primate are threatened with extinction, with at least one – the western chimpanzee – declining in number by more than 80 percent over three generations. Forty chimp experts from around the world – with a combined 300 years of field experience – issued a collective appeal to save the only animal whose DNA overlaps with humans by 98%. “Over the decades that we have been working with wild chimpanzee communities, we have all seen our study groups become isolated,” they said in a statement.


“Chimpanzees are being reduced into living in forest ghettos.” The main threat to chimps and other large mammals is habitat loss. Africa still has large tracts of undisturbed savannah and forest, but these areas are shrinking rapidly due growing cities, mining, deforestation, and industrial agriculture. The continent’s human population of more than 1.2 billion is expected to double by mid-century, and could top four billion by the end of the century.

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Mar 052018
 
 March 5, 2018  Posted by at 11:04 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Astor Theater, Times Square NYC 1945

 

Monetary Policy In The Grip Of A Pincer Movement (BIS)
The Arithmetic of Risk (John Hussman)
BOJ’s Kuroda Joins Queue of Central Banks Looking Toward Exit (BBG)
Trump’s Trade War Is For The Forgotten People (Eric Peters)
Italy Faces Political Gridlock After 5-Star Surges (R.)
China Sets 2018 GDP Target at About 6.5%, Turns Fiscal Screws (BBG)
Tax the Wealth of Older Britons to Help the Young, Report Argues (BBG)
Eliminate The Deficit? Eliminate Economic Hope, More Like (McDuff)
15,000 New Manchester Homes And Not A Single One ‘Affordable’ (G.)
The Tyranny of Algorithms (G.)
US Embassy In Turkey Closed Due To Security Threat (R.)
Erdogan Advisor Says Ankara Ready To ‘Strike’ In Eastern Med (K.)
Australia: Global Deforestation Hotspot (G.)
Europe Tree Loss Pushes Beetles To The Brink (BBC)

 

 

Financial cycles appear to have grown in amplitude and length. Next move could be really wild.

Monetary Policy In The Grip Of A Pincer Movement (BIS)

The emergence of disruptive financial cycles and the limited sensitivity of inflation to domestic slack may at first sight seem to be unrelated. In fact, there may be a common thread: the behaviour of monetary policy. Consider each in turn. The first major development is that, since around the early 1980s, financial cycles appear to have grown in amplitude and length. There is no unique definition of the financial cycle. A useful one refers to the self-reinforcing processes between funding conditions, asset prices and risk-taking that generate expansions followed by contractions. These processes operate at different frequencies. But if one is especially interested in those that cause major macroeconomic costs and banking crises, probably the most parsimonious description is in terms of credit and property prices.

Graph 1 illustrates the phenomenon for the United States using some simple statistical filters, although the picture would not be that different for many other countries or using other techniques (eg peak-trough analysis). The graph shows that the amplitude and length of the fluctuations has been increasing, that the length of the financial cycle is considerably longer than that of the traditional business cycle (blue versus red line) and that banking crises, or serious banking strains, tend to occur close to the peak of financial cycle. Another key feature of financial cycles is that the bust phase tends to generate deeper recessions. Indeed, if the bust coincides with a banking crisis, it causes very long-lasting damage to the economy.

There is evidence of permanent output losses, so that output may regain its pre-crisis long-term growth trend while evolving along a lower path. There is also evidence that recoveries are slower and more protracted. And in some cases, growth itself may also be seriously damaged for a long time. Some recent work with colleagues sheds further light on some of the possible mechanisms at work. Drawing on a sample of over 40 countries spanning over 40 years, we find that credit booms misallocate resources towards lower-productivity growth sectors, notably construction, and that the impact of the misallocations that occur during the boom is twice as large in the wake of a subsequent banking crisis.

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“.. I continue to expect the S&P 500 to lose about two-thirds of its value over the completion of the current market cycle…”

The Arithmetic of Risk (John Hussman)

At present, I view the market as a “broken parabola” – much the same as we observed for the Nikkei in 1990, the Nasdaq in 2000, or for those wishing a more recent example, Bitcoin since January. Two features of the initial break from speculative bubbles are worth noting. First, the collapse of major bubbles is often preceded by the collapse of smaller bubbles representing “fringe” speculations. Those early wipeouts are canaries in the coalmine. In July 2007, two Bear Stearns hedge funds heavily invested in sub-prime loans suddenly became nearly worthless. Yet that was nearly three months before the S&P 500 peaked in October, followed by a collapse that would take it down by more than 55%.

Observing the sudden collapses of fringe bubbles today, including inverse volatility funds and Bitcoin, my impression is that we’re actually seeing the early signs of risk-aversion and selectivity among investors. The speculation in Bitcoin, despite issues of scalability and breathtaking inefficiency, was striking enough. But the willingness of investors to short market volatility even at 9% was mathematically disturbing. See, volatility is measured by the “standard deviation” of returns, which describes the spread of a bell curve, and can never become negative. Moreover, standard deviation is annualized by multiplying by the square root of time. An annual volatility of 9% implies a daily volatilty of about 0.6%, which is like saying that a 2% market decline should occur in fewer than 1 in 2000 trading sessions, when in fact they’ve historically occurred about 1 in 50.

The spectacle of investors eagerly shorting a volatility index (VIX) of 9, in expectation that it would go lower, wasn’t just a sideshow in some esoteric security. It was the sign of a market that had come to believe that stock prices could do nothing but advance, and could be expected to do so in an uncorrected diagonal line. I continue to expect the S&P 500 to lose about two-thirds of its value over the completion of the current market cycle. With market internals now unfavorable, following the most offensive “overvalued, overbought, overbullish” combination of market conditions on record, our market outlook has shifted to hard-negative. Rather than forecasting how long present conditions may persist, I believe it’s enough to align ourselves with prevailing market conditions, and shift our outlook as those conditions shift.


Annotation in blue by Mish

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Perhaps this is truly a coordinated effort. The BIS could be doing the coordination.

BOJ’s Kuroda Joins Queue of Central Banks Looking Toward Exit (BBG)

The end of the easy money era which spanned the global economy for the last decade came into even sharper focus as the Bank of Japan gave fresh insight into when it might slow its stimulus program. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s remarks on Friday that the central bank will start thinking about how to complete its unprecedented easing around the fiscal year starting April 2019 was the clearest signal yet that a conclusion might be in sight to emergency support for the Japanese economy. While Kuroda’s statement in response to questions from lawmakers was in some ways stating the obvious – the BOJ forecasts inflation to reach its 2% target in fiscal 2019 – the significance is that he’s put down a marker in public that he can be held to.

“It’s notable how over the past few weeks Kuroda has been forced into talking more specifically about the exit,” said Izumi Devalier, head of Japan economics at BofAML. “A year and a half ago he would have shut down the discussion altogether with the blanket ‘it’s too early to talk about it’ statement.” That means the last of the big central banks is finally thinking out loud about policy normalization or how to begin the process of unwinding years of asset purchases and ultra-low interest rates that were used to stoke growth after the 2008 financial crisis sparked the worst global recession in decades. The Fed, Bank of Canada and Bank of England have already raised interest rates and may do so again soon, while the ECB is debating how soon to end its own bond-buying. China’s central bank is sticking to what it describes as neutral policy settings and is ratcheting up money market rates to cool the pace of borrowing.

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Peters is never boring.

Trump’s Trade War Is For The Forgotten People (Eric Peters)

“The import restrictions announced by the US President are likely to cause damage not only outside the US, but also to the US economy itself, including to its manufacturing and construction sectors, which are major users of aluminum and steel,” warned the IMF, their army of nerds in full sweat. Panic. Just 200k Americans work in steel, aluminum and iron. 5.5mm of our 154mm workers are employed by businesses that use steel. “How could the Americans make such an idiotic mistake?” howled the nerds. But of course, they entirely miss the point. “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the US. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!” tweeted Trump.

The US currently imposes a 2.5% tariff on EU auto imports. The EU imposes a 10% tariff on US auto imports. Germany exports $25bln of autos to America annually. “US auto prices will rise,” warned the Washington Post. But of course, they entirely miss the point. “Trade wars are good, easy to win,” tweeted Trump, knowing the statement would trigger every nerd with a college degree. Some worried about their jobs. But not terribly. Because their unemployment rate is just 2%, their labor force participation is 74%. They’re as well off as they’ve ever been. Particularly when set against those who never went to college, 5% of whom are unemployed, and 50% don’t even participate in the labor force. They’ve given up. These trade policies are for these forgotten people. To hell with the consequences. That’s the point.

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More for forgotten people. Beppe got them where he wanted; largest party by a huge margin. Merkel and Macron’s “More Europe” plans can be shelved. But first, expect more tricks to keep the old guard in power.

Italy Faces Political Gridlock After 5-Star Surges (R.)

Italy faces a prolonged period of political instability after voters delivered a hung parliament on Sunday, spurning traditional parties and flocking to anti-establishment and far-right groups in record numbers. With votes counted from more than 75% of polling stations, it looked almost certain that none of the three main factions would be able to govern alone and there was little prospect of a return to mainstream government, creating a dilemma for the EU. A rightist alliance including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) held the biggest bloc of votes. In a bitter personal defeat that appeared unlikely last week, the billionaire media magnate’s party looked almost certain to be overtaken by its ally, the far-right League, which campaigned on a fiercely anti-migrant ticket.

But the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement saw its support soar to become Italy’s largest single party by far, and one of its senior officials said on Monday that forming a coalition without it would be impossible. The League’s economics chief on Monday raised the possibility of an alliance with 5-Star. Any government based on that combination would be euro-skeptic, likely to challenge EU budget restrictions and be little interested in further European integration. The full result is not due until later on Monday and, with the centre-right coalition on course for 37% of the vote and 5-Star for 31%, swift new elections to try to break the deadlock are another plausible scenario.

Despite overseeing a modest economic recovery, the ruling centre-left coalition trailed a distant third on 22%, hit by widespread anger over persistent poverty, high unemployment and an influx of more than 600,000 migrants over the past four years.

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Plus huge cuts to steel production. China is hurting.

China Sets 2018 GDP Target at About 6.5%, Turns Fiscal Screws (BBG)

China stepped up its push to curb financial risk, cutting its budget deficit target for the first time since 2012 and setting a growth goal of around 6.5% that omitted last year’s aim for a faster pace if possible. The deficit target – released Monday as Premier Li Keqiang delivered his annual report to the National People’s Congress in Beijing – was lowered to 2.6% of GDP from 3% in the past two years. The 6.5% goal is consistent with President Xi Jinping’s promise to deliver a “moderately prosperous” society by 2020. Policy makers dropped a target for M2 money supply growth, saying it’s expected to expand at similar pace to last year. Authorities reiterated prior language saying prudent monetary policy will remain neutral this year and that they’ll ensure liquidity at a reasonable and stable level.

Xi has ratcheted up his drive to curb debt risk, pollution and poverty at a time when the world’s second-largest economy is on a long-term growth slowdown. His efforts to rein in spending contrast with an historic expansion of U.S. borrowing under Donald Trump during a period of economic expansion. The 2018 targets “suggest slower growth and a fiscal drag,” said Callum Henderson, a managing director for Asia-Pacific at Eurasia Group in Singapore. “This makes sense for China in the context of the new focus on financial de-risking, poverty alleviation and environmental clean-up, but is less good news at the margin for those economies that have high export exposure to China.”

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Is it too late to close the gap in a peaceful manner?

Tax the Wealth of Older Britons to Help the Young, Report Argues (BBG)

Britain should impose higher wealth taxes on the older generation to ease the growing burden on young people, according to the Resolution Foundation. In a speech Monday, Executive Chair David Willetts will warn that welfare spending is set to rise by the equivalent today of 60 billion pounds ($83 billion) by 2040 as aging “baby boomers” drive up the cost of health care. “The time has come when we Boomers are going to have reach into our own pockets,” he will say. “The alternative could be an extra 15 pence on the basic rate of tax, paid largely by our kids. Is that kind of tax really the legacy we – a generation who own half the nation’s wealth – want to bequeath our children and grandchildren?”

Willetts, a former minister in the ruling Conservative Party, will make the case for reform of council tax – a property-based levy that helps fund local services – and of inheritance tax. Failure to act could fuel a sense of grievance among young people who are already struggling to match to the living standards enjoyed by older generations, he will say.

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“..deficits aren’t only not bad, they’re necessary…”

Eliminate The Deficit? Eliminate Economic Hope, More Like (McDuff)

Congratulations, everyone! We did it! The deficit has been eliminated! George Osborne, the architect of austerity, emerged from one of his non-jobs as the editor of the London Evening Standard to tell us all it was a “remarkable national effort” on Twitter, as if he’d ever broken a sweat over it. David Cameron, who will go down as arguably the worst prime minister in history thanks to the gigantic power move of doing a Brexit and running away, simply added: “It was the right thing to do” – safe in the knowledge that he was now out of the line of fire from tough questions.

That will all be cold comfort to the thousands of homeless people struggling to cope with sub-zero temperatures, or those having to choose between keeping the heating on, or risk going into rent arrears and losing their home entirely; to public sector workers in the NHS or local government, trying to keep the wheels from falling off as they deliver vital services in the face of budget cuts; and to disabled and unemployed people, bearing the brunt of the government’s spending cuts and facing harassment from the authorities. Forget all that. We’ve eliminated the deficit, and all we had to do was attack the poor and vulnerable with a relentless fury, create a new generation of young people for whom the concept of pensions or even steady wages is a fantasy, and undermine public services to such a grotesque extent that it will take years to rebuild what we’ve lost. Hooray!

[..] As Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK points out: “A growing economy requires general price increases, or inflation. Except under unusual circumstances, a general increase in prices requires an increasing money supply. A fiscal deficit is the only way in which money can be injected into an economy continuously. It follows that governments must run a near perpetual deficit or face the risk of creating a liquidity crisis due to a shortage in the money supply, which would then create a risk of deflation.” In other words, deficits aren’t only not bad, they’re necessary. Without them we get deflation, an over-indebted household sector, and an explosion in inequality.

The government is not like your household. It does not “run out of money,” because its job is to match the quantity of money to the desired economic activity. Its “debts” are not like your debts – they’re your savings and your pension funds. Osborne’s “remarkable national effort” was always and only to ensure that the government sector took more money out of the economy than it put into it. His great legacy is that we’re now at the stage where for every pound the government spends in day-to-day services, it taxes, and therefore destroys, more than a pound somewhere else. And we put people on the streets to freeze to achieve it. Go us.

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Thatcher-inflicted pain continues.

15,000 New Manchester Homes And Not A Single One ‘Affordable’ (G.)

Some of the UK’s biggest cities are allowing developers to plan huge new residential developments containing little or no affordable housing. In Manchester, none of the 14,667 homes in big developments granted planning permission in the last two years are set to be “affordable”, planning documents show – in direct contravention of its own rules, and leading to worries that London’s affordable housing crisis is spreading. In Sheffield – where house prices grew faster last year than in any other UK city, according to property portal Zoopla – just 97 homes out of 6,943 (1.4%) approved by planners in 2016 and 2017 met the government’s affordable definition. That says homes must either be offered for social rent (often known as council housing), or rented at no more than 80% of the local market rate.

In Nottingham, where the council aims for 20% of new housing to be affordable, just 3.8% of units given the green light by council planners meet the definition, Guardian research found. In Manchester, named by Deloitte earlier this month as one of Europe’s fastest growing cities and where property now sells three times as quickly as in London, planners have routinely waved through huge new developments – some containing swimming pools, tennis courts and more than 1,000 flats. Not one of the swanky apartments meets the national definition of “affordable” – leading critics to accuse the council of social cleansing. Others worry the city could become like London, where people on average salaries can no longer afford to live anywhere central.

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Aka the terror of social media.

The Tyranny of Algorithms (G.)

For the past couple of years a big story about the future of China has been the focus of both fascination and horror. It is all about what the authorities in Beijing call “social credit”, and the kind of surveillance that is now within governments’ grasp. The official rhetoric is poetic. According to the documents, what is being developed will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”. As China moves into the newly solidified President Xi Jinping era, the basic plan is intended to be in place by 2020. Some of it will apply to businesses and officials, so as to address corruption and tackle such high-profile issues as poor food hygiene.

But other elements will be focused on ordinary individuals, so that transgressions such as dodging transport fares and not caring sufficiently for your parents will mean penalties, while living the life of a good citizen will bring benefits and opportunities. Online behaviour will inevitably be a big part of what is monitored, and algorithms will be key to everything, though there remain doubts about whether something so ambitious will ever come to full fruition. One of the scheme’s basic aims is to use a vast amount of data to create individual ratings, which will decide people’s access – or lack of it – to everything from travel to jobs. The Chinese notion of credit – or xinyong – has a cultural meaning that relates to moral ideas of honesty and trust.

There are up to 30 local social credit pilots run by local authorities, in huge cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou and much smaller towns. Meanwhile, eight ostensibly private companies have been trialling a different set of rating systems, which seem to chime with the government’s controlling objectives. The most high-profile system is Sesame Credit – created by Ant Financial, an offshoot of the Chinese online retail giant Alibaba. Superficially, it reflects the western definition of credit, and looks like a version of the credit scores used all over the world, invented to belatedly allow Chinese consumers the pleasures of buying things on tick, and manage the transition to an economy in which huge numbers of people pay via smartphones. But its reach runs wider.

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What does Washington have to say?

US Embassy In Turkey Closed Due To Security Threat (R.)

The U.S. embassy in Turkey’s capital Ankara will be closed to the public on Monday due to a security threat and only emergency services will be provided, it said in a statement on Sunday. The embassy advised U.S. citizens in Turkey to avoid large crowds and the embassy building and to be aware of their own security when visiting popular tourist sites and crowded places. It did not specify what the security threat was that prompted the closure. Additional security measures were taken after intelligence from U.S. sources suggested there might be an attack targeting the U.S. embassy or places U.S. citizens were staying, the Ankara governor’s office said in a statement. Visa interviews and other routine services would be canceled on Monday, the embassy said, adding that it would make an announcement when it was ready to reopen.

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Same guy said if Greeks set foot on -their own- Imia islets, it will basically mean war.

Erdogan Advisor Says Ankara Ready To ‘Strike’ In Eastern Med (K.)

A close advisor of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned of a “strike” in the eastern Mediterranean if any attempt to explore or drill for hydrocarbons goes ahead without Ankara’s approval. Yigit Bulut, who is known for his incendiary remarks, was quoted by the Cyprus News Agency as telling Turkish state broadcaster TRT that Erdogan is prepared to call a “strike” at any “attempt at provocation.” “Have no doubt about it,” he said. Ankara has vowed to prevent any exploration for oil or gas around Cyprus and last month was accused to threatening to use force against a drillship chartered by Italy’s Eni to explore Block 3 of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.

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3 million hectares to be lost over 15 years.

Australia: Global Deforestation Hotspot (G.)

Australia is in the midst of a full-blown land-clearing crisis. Projections suggest that in the two decades to 2030, 3m hectares of untouched forest will have been bulldozed in eastern Australia. The crisis is driven primarily by a booming livestock industry but is ushered in by governments that fail to introduce restrictions and refuse to apply existing restrictions. And more than just trees are at stake. Australia has a rich biodiversity, with nearly 8% of all Earth’s plant and animal species finding a home on the continent. About 85% of the country’s plants, 84% of its mammals and 45% of its birds are found nowhere else. But land clearing is putting that at risk. About three-quarters of Australia’s 1,640 plants and animals listed by the government as threatened have habitat loss listed as one of their main threats.

Much of the land clearing in Queensland – which accounts for the majority in Australia – drives pollution into rivers that drain on to the Great Barrier Reef, adding to the pressures on it. And of course land clearing is exacerbating climate change. In 1990, before short-lived land-clearing controls came into place, a quarter of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions were caused by deforestation. Emissions from land clearing dropped after 2010 but are rising sharply again. “It has gotten so bad that WWF International put it on the list of global deforestation fronts, the only one in the developed world on that list,” says Martin Taylor, the protected areas and conservation science manager at WWF Australia. In Queensland, where there is both the most clearing and the best data on clearing, trees are being bulldozed at a phenomenal rate.

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And more deforestation. Sometimes you wonder what will be left of Europe in 100 years. Or 50.

Europe Tree Loss Pushes Beetles To The Brink (BBC)

The loss of trees across Europe is pushing beetles to the brink of extinction, according to a new report. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature assessed the status of 700 European beetles that live in old and hollowed wood. Almost a fifth (18%) are at risk of extinction due to the decline of ancient trees, the European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles report found. This puts them among the most threatened insect groups in Europe. Saproxylic beetles play a role in natural processes, such as decomposition and the recycling of nutrients. They also provide an important food source for birds and mammals and some are involved in pollination.

“Some beetle species require old trees that need hundreds of years to grow, so conservation efforts need to focus on long-term strategies to protect old trees across different landscapes in Europe, to ensure that the vital ecosystem services provided by these beetles continue,” said Jane Smart, director of the IUCN Global Species Programme. Logging, tree loss and wood harvesting all contribute to the loss of habitat for the beetles, said the IUCN. Other major threats include urbanisation and tourism development, and an increase in wildfires in the Mediterranean region. Conservation efforts need to focus on long-term strategies to protect old trees and deadwood across forests, pastureland, orchards and urban areas, the report recommended.

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