Feb 212018
 
 February 21, 2018  Posted by at 10:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Landscape with House and Ploughman 1889

 

90% Of Americans Strongly Opposed To Each Other (Onion)
Mueller’s Comic Book Indictment (David Stockman)
Foreigners Flock In As Buyers Of US Government Debt (CNBC)
Foreign Investors Cut Treasury Buying As US Flogs Record Level Of Debt (MW)
It’s Going to Be a Long Year for Bond Traders (BBG)
The Bear Still Cometh (Roberts)
Technical Charts Suggest Another Stock-Market Drop Is Coming (ElliottWave)
Final Version Of TPP Trade Deal Dumps Rules The US Wanted (R.)
UK Farmers: Lack Of Migrant Workers Now ‘Mission Critical’ (G.)
Vancouver’s Hot Housing Market Gets Tougher for Wealthy Chinese (BBG)
Amazon Tracks Its Workers Using Wristbands (Jacobin)
Come the Recession, Don’t Count on That Safety Net (NYT)
Plastic Bans Worldwide Will Dent Oil Demand Growth – BP (G.)
There Is No Time Left (CP)

 

 

I know, it’s sad if you need to open with the Onion. But that’s how sad things have become.

“..the 10% of survey participants who indicated otherwise did so because they didn’t consider those they disagreed with to actually be Americans..”

90% Of Americans Strongly Opposed To Each Other (Onion)

In a new study published Tuesday that surveyed U.S. residents about their attitudes toward current events, the Pew Research Center found that approximately 90 percent of Americans described themselves as strongly opposed to each other. “In the questionnaire we administered, nine out of 10 participants indicated they fundamentally disapproved of the actions currently being taken by their fellow citizens,” said polling analyst Babette Randolph, noting that the rate of opposition remained consistent across all 50 states and virtually every demographic regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or political identification. “The vast majority of poll respondents signaled they were dead set against the U.S. populace, condemning in forceful terms the way others have handled things over the past year and giving the people of their nation historically low ratings.” Randolph went on to note that the 10% of survey participants who indicated otherwise did so because they didn’t consider those they disagreed with to actually be Americans.

Read more …

Stockman goes through the whole comedy act and leaves little standing. Prior to the “13 Russians”, the Mueller investigation seemed dead. So note the timing.

Mueller’s Comic Book Indictment (David Stockman)

[..] with his comic book indictment, Robert Mueller has actually made himself a mortal threat to America’s democracy and national security. That’s because his indictment is unleashing a rabid anti-Russian mania in the Democratic party and turning flaming liberals and leftwing progressives, who used to form the backbone of the peace party in America, into outright war-mongers. The Donald tweeted over the weekend about Moscow “laughing its ass off” about the Mueller indictment, but we think he missed the mark. It is the Deep State on the banks of the Potomac that is bursting with glee – literally licking its collective chops – about the endless budget boondoggles now assured to be coming its way.

The neocons and military/industrial complex had already taken control of the GOP lock, stock and barrel. Then, his campaign rhetoric about “America First” notwithstanding, Trump abdicated to his empire-minded generals in order to concentrate on his Twitter account. And now in the wake of the RussiaGate hysteria being given a powerful new boost from Mueller’s comic book, the Dems are lining up to say we will see your $700 billion budget and crank it up from there. The truth is, there is a screaming fiscal crisis coming hard upon Imperial Washington. That’s owing to the $15 trillion of new deficits that are now built-in for the next decade – at the very time when the Fed has shut down is massive bond-buying experiment and the Baby Boom is hitting the social security and medicare rolls in droves.

Absent the RussiaGate hoax and the Dems descent into mindless, anti-Putin hysteria, there would have been a moment of maximum danger for the Deep State’s hideously inflated military, intelligence and surveillance operations. In the coming battle against fiscal collapse, they surely would have been on the fiscal chopping block like at no time since the aftermath of Vietnam in the 1970s. But rescue is now at hand. The Dems have been shell-shocked ever since the evening of November 8, 2016, and have worked themselves into deliriums about how it was all a big mistake enabled by Russian meddling and collusion with the Trump campaign. To a substantial degree, however, those narratives were on their last legs until the Mueller indictment came along. For anyone who takes the trouble to read it, of course, it’s just a potpourri of nonsense, marginalia and irrelevance.

Read more …

Dick Bove. I know. But even he can’t make it all up.

Foreigners Flock In As Buyers Of US Government Debt (CNBC)

Last week the United States Treasury Department released its latest data related to foreign buying of United States debt. It was a shocker. It showed that in the 12 months leading up to November 2016, the month that Donald Trump was elected president, foreigners had been net sellers of $339 billion in U.S. Treasurys. In the 12 months leading up to December 2017, they had shifted to being net buyers of $20 billion. Contrast this to the prior administration’s record. In November 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, the trailing 12-month figures showed that foreigners had been net buyers of $301 billion in Treasurys. This dropped to the $339 billion outflow figure in November 2016, just noted, when he lost power. Putting the two sets of numbers together one sees that foreigners swinging $640 billion to the negative during the Obama presidency.

During the Trump presidency to date, foreigners swung positive by $359 billion. Wow!! It appears that foreign U.S. debt buyers are as enthused by the Trump agenda as much as domestic equity buyers are. Or, that the faith in the U.S. economic recovery is global in nature. The largest foreign holding of U.S. debt would be the combined portfolio of China and Hong Kong. It is about 6% of outstanding Treasury debt. This portfolio, if looked at year-over-year numbers, was up 1.5% in August, 2.1% in September, 6.1% in October, 11.1% in November and 10.4% in December. Overall, it grew by $145 billion. Other big buyers year over year were Saudi Arabia (up $47.1 billion), the United Kingdom (up $34.2 billion), Singapore (up $28.1 billion), India (up $26 billion), Switzerland (up $19.3 billion), Russia (up $15.6 billion) Korea (up $11.2 billion) and France (up $10.1 billion). The biggest sellers were Japan (down $47.1 billion) and Germany (down $14.7 billion).

Finally, of note, Ireland’s holdings jumped $51.3 billion possibly due to Brexit. The importance of these numbers cannot be understated. If one segregates the buyers of U.S. debt into its four main categories foreign buying is most important. Presently, it is believed that foreigners own 31.2% of outstanding U.S. debt. American households and businesses own 29.1%; Social Security and other government pension funds own 27.5%; and the Federal Reserve holds 14.2%. There is 2% double counting in the figures mainly in the amount held by Americans. This fiscal year due to the tax cut, higher interest rates and possibly other new fiscal programs, it is expected that the government must raise possibly another trillion dollars along with refinancing a portion of the $20 trillion already owed.

Read more …

Err, Wait! We just saw they’re buying, and now they’re not?

Foreign Investors Cut Treasury Buying As US Flogs Record Level Of Debt (MW)

As traders and analysts debate over who will harbor enough appetite to snap up $250 billion of debt sales this week, one group of investors has steadily retreated into the shadows — foreign bond-buyers. With the Federal Reserve halting its asset purchases several months ago, it’s unclear who will take up its place to soak up the deluge of issuance without demanding dramatically higher yields. An increase to spending caps and Republican tax cuts have escalated the Treasury Department’s borrowing needs, with some estimating more than $1 trillion of net issuance this year. Against that backdrop of increased supply, the diminished presence of a key bulwark to the bond market is troubling. “We expect that any increase in [foreign central bank] demand this year will be modest relative to the scale of supply, and that foreign private investor demand will be sporadic,” said strategists at Credit Suisse.

Foreign investors have slowly reduced their participation in Treasury auctions since the 2007-’09 financial crisis, according to Deutsche Bank. In 2008, in the throes of a global recession, foreign bond-buyers rushed into U.S. government paper, one of the largest liquid markets for safe assets in the world. From 2009 to 2011, Wall Street banks and international investors took down around 80% of the U.S. debt issued. But by 2017, foreign buyers took up 16% of the debt sold through auctions, compared with 29% in 2009. t’s not just auctions data that shows foreign investors are pulling back. The international share of the total U.S. debt fell to less than 45% in September 2017, down from 57% in December 2008. Though there was a slight uptick last year, for the most part the downtrend has remained intact.

Read more …

With one source saying foreigners are buying, and the other denying that, no wonder it’s going to be a long year.

It’s Going to Be a Long Year for Bond Traders (BBG)

It’s not even March yet, and bond investors probably can’t wait for the year to be over. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index has fallen 2.12% since the end of December through Feb. 16, and there’s little on the horizon to suggest a rebound anytime soon. U.S. Treasuries fell across the board Tuesday as the government began flooding the market with supply to rebuild its cash balance and start paying for the recently enacted tax cuts. Investors were asked to digest $179 billion in Treasury bills and two-year notes in a matter of hours, resulting in the highest borrowing rates for the government since 2008. While that’s good news for savers who have suffered with near-zero rates since the financial crisis, it’s not so good for borrowers. Overall, the government is forecast to at least double its debt sales this year to more than $1 trillion- the most since 2010.

In a research note, the strategists at Goldman Sachs wrote that they now see 10-year Treasury yields, which were at 2.89% on Tuesday, rising to 3.25%, up from their prior forecast of 3%. And since Treasuries are the global benchmark, the firm also boosted its yield forecasts for German bunds, U.K. gilts and Japanese government bonds. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said it expects the U.S. budget deficit to swell to $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2019 alone after the Trump administration enacted tax cuts late last year that will reduce federal revenue by $1.5 trillion over a decade. The auctions continue Wednesday, with the sale of $35 billion in five-year notes followed by the sale of $29 billion of seven-year notes on Thursday.

Read more …

Central banks make for bigger crises.

The Bear Still Cometh (Roberts)

In April, the current economic expansion will become the second longest in U.S. history. However, that period of expansion will also be the slowest, based on annualized economic growth rates, as well. Could the current economic expansion become the longest in U.S. history? Absolutely. Over the next several weeks, or even months, the markets can certainly extend the current deviations from long-term means even further. But such is the nature of every bull market peak, and bubble, throughout history as the seeming impervious advance lures the last of the stock market “holdouts” back into the markets. The correction over the last couple of weeks did little to correct these major extensions OR significantly change investor’s mental state from “greed” to “fear.”

As discussed above, the bullish trend remains clearly intact for now, but all “bull markets” end….always. Do not be mistaken, the next “bear market” is coming. Of that, there is absolute certainty. As the charts clearly show, “prices are bound by the laws of physics.” While prices can certainly seem to defy the law of gravity in the short-term, the subsequent reversion from extremes has repeatedly led to catastrophic losses for investors who disregard the risk. There are substantial reasons to be pessimistic about the markets longer-term. Economic growth, excessive monetary interventions, earnings, valuations, etc. all suggest that future returns will be substantially lower than those seen over the last eight years. Bullish exuberance has erased the memories of the last two major bear markets and replaced it with “hope” that somehow “this time will be different.”

Read more …

Don’t think we really needs technical charts for that.

Technical Charts Suggest Another Stock-Market Drop Is Coming (ElliottWave)

With the market rally experienced over the past week, many in the media are now reconsidering their recent perspective regarding the demise of the bull market. Not only did the market strike the minimal upside target we laid out for members a week ago — once we broke through 2646 on the Emini S&P 500 — it even exceeded our minimal target by about 25 points. However, just as the market has everyone now considering how much more upside we can see, I think we may be setting up for another drop to begin this week. Due to the lack of impulsive patterns evident off the recent lows in many of the charts I am following, it would suggest the stock market is likely going to see a retest of the prior lows, or a lower low before this wave (4) has run its course.

Again, I want to remind you that 4th waves are the most variable of the Elliott Wave 5-wave structure. For this reason, we almost have to expect many twists and turns, especially during the b-wave of that structure. Currently, we are still in the b-wave of this wave (4), and unless we see an impulsive drop below the 2700 support region on the S&P 500 SPX, -0.58% we may remain in this b-wave for the next several weeks. In other words, should we drop below the 2700 region this week in a corrective and overlapping fashion, we will likely be only dropping in a (b) wave within a larger b-wave, as presented in the attached charts in yellow. However, if the market does provide us with an impulsive structure below 2700 for wave 1 of the c-wave down, then we will likely be targeting the 2400 region within the next few weeks.

Yet, the drop we experienced on Friday off the high was not clearly the start of an impulsive structure. While the market has certainly struck the minimum target we set for this wave (4) between 2424 and 2539, the structure of the rally off that low is suggesting that this wave (4) will likely take more time and provide more whipsaw in the coming weeks. However, as long as we hold over the 2400 region support, my expectation is that we have a date with the 3011-3223 region for the S&P, which will likely be struck by the end of 2018 or early 2019. It will be at that point that I expect we can begin a 20%-30% correction.

Read more …

Without exports we’re all dead?!

Final Version Of TPP Trade Deal Dumps Rules The US Wanted (R.)

The final version of a landmark deal aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of the Asia-Pacific’s fastest-growing economies was released on Wednesday, signalling the pact was a step closer to reality even without its star member the United States. More than 20 provisions have been suspended or changed in the final text ahead of the deal’s official signing in March, including rules around intellectual property originally included at the behest of Washington. The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo early last year when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritize protecting U.S. jobs. The 11 remaining nations, led by Japan, finalized a revised trade pact in January, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8.

The deal will reduce tariffs in economies that together amount to more than 13% of the global GDP — a total of $10 trillion. With the U.S., it would have represented 40%. “The big changes with TPP 11 are the suspension of a whole lot of the provisions of the agreement. They have suspended many of the controversial ones, particularly around pharmaceuticals,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, professor of law at the University of Sydney. Many of these changes had been inserted into the original TPP 12 at the demand of U.S. negotiators, such as rules ramping up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals, which some governments and activists worried would raise the costs of medicine. The success of the deal has been touted by officials in Japan and other member countries as an antidote to counter growing U.S. protectionism, and with the hope that Washington would eventually sign back up.

“CPTPP has become more important because of the growing threats to the effective operation of the World Trade Organisation rules,” New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker said on Wednesday.

Read more …

In reality, these farmers don’t care where workers come from, they just want them dirt cheap. Give them a good wage and the whole thing changes, you can get Britons to work for you.

UK Farmers: Lack Of Migrant Workers Now ‘Mission Critical’ (G.)

Farmers are running out of patience with what they see as government inaction over the future availability of seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers, the environment secretary has been told. Michael Gove was confronted over the issue at the National Farmers’ Union annual conference, but told delegates that while he understood their plight he did not have the power to accede to their demands for a new deal for non-EU workers on temporary contracts on farms. Ali Capper, who chairs the NFU’s horticulture team, told Gove that the availability of workers to pick fruit and vegetables was now “mission critical for 2018”. Gove told her the NFU’s demand for clarity on labour was “powerfully and loudly” made but that the lead department in the matter was the Home Office, not his.

“It’s already the case that the supply of labour from EU27 countries is diminishing as their economies recover and grow. So, in the future, we will need to look further afield,” he added later, saying he had to abide by decisions in a collective government. Capper welcomed Gove’s acknowledgement that labour shortages were now so great that farmers needed to go beyond the EU, but said time was running out. “We just need action; without wanting to blaspheme, I’m sick of hearing ‘we understand the issue, we know you need access to non-EU and EU workers’,” she said. Meurig Raymond, the outgoing NFU president, told Gove that this was a critical issue for farming, citing a recent Guardian report of a fruit farmer in Herefordshire moving part of his business to China because of Brexit.

Read more …

Yesh, like 5% more tax will work miracles.

Vancouver’s Hot Housing Market Gets Tougher for Wealthy Chinese (BBG)

Vancouver, one of the hottest housing markets in North America, is getting a little tougher for wealthy Chinese buyers. British Columbia Finance Minister Carole James announced measures targeting foreign buyers and speculators in the first budget since her government was elected on a pledge to make housing more affordable for residents of Canada’s Pacific Coast province. Starting Wednesday, foreigners will pay the province a 20% tax on top of the listing value, up from 15% now, and a levy on property speculators will be introduced later this year, according to budget documents released Tuesday. The government will also crack down on the condo pre-sale market and beneficial ownership to ensure that property flippers, offshore trusts and hidden investors are paying taxes on gains.

Premier John Horgan faces formidable demands after taking power in a fiercely contested election last July. His New Democratic Party made expensive promises to topple the Liberals, whose 16-year-rule brought the fastest growth in Canada, but also surging property while incomes stagnated. Public outrage has surged amid perceptions that global capital seeking a stable sanctuary, especially from China, is driving double-digit gains in Vancouver, the country’s most expensive property market. “The expectations that we will do everything in our first budget are huge,” James told reporters in the capital Victoria. “Our goal is fairness – fairness for the people who live here, who work here and pay their taxes here.”

Read more …

Dickens Redux. Very interesting overview of worker control since the 19th century.

Amazon Tracks Its Workers Using Wristbands (Jacobin)

The latest scandal to emerge from Amazon’s warehouses centers on the company’s newly patented wristband, which gives it the ability to track and record employees’ hands in real time. Some have described the technology as a “dystopian” form of surveillance. Amazon has countered that journalists are engaging in “misguided” speculation. To hear the retail giant tell it, all the device does is move its inventory-tracking equipment from workers’ hands to their wrists — what’s the big deal? Given the level of surveillance and regimentation already in place in Amazon warehouses, the company isn’t completely off base. Currently, warehouse workers called pickers carry a scanner that directs them from product to product. All shift they race the countdown clock, which shows them how many seconds they have to find the item, place it in their trolley, and scan the barcode.

A variation on this method exists in warehouses where robots bring the shelves to workers. There, workers stand in place as stacks of products present themselves one by one. For ten and a half hours, they must stoop and stretch to retrieve an item every nine seconds. The scanners control workers’ behavior by measuring it, preventing slowdowns and allowing managers to create new performance benchmarks. Quick workers raise the bar for everyone, while slow workers risk losing their job. The wristbands introduce a wrinkle to this regimentation, monitoring not just the task but the worker herself. It’s a distinction managers first became obsessed with more than a century ago and crystallized in the “scientific management” movement of the period. Amazon’s peculiar culture notwithstanding, the wristbands in many ways don’t offer anything new, technologically or conceptually. What has changed is workers’ ability to challenge this kind of surveillance.

The first workers required to mechanically record their location while working were the nineteenth-century watchmen. Hired to walk around plants at night, watchmen would look out for irregularities like fires, thieves, open windows, or bad odors. But employers had a problem: who would watch the watchmen? In 1861, they received their answer when the German inventor John Bürk patented one of the first practicable time detectors — a huge watch with a strip of paper running around the casing’s interior. Employers would chain different keys in each room of their property. When watchmen entered a room, they would have to insert the key into the watch, making an indentation on the strip of paper hidden inside. Since each key had a unique pattern, and since the strip of paper was tied to the hands of the clock, the employer could come in the next morning, pull the strip out, and examine a record of when the watchman visited each room.

Read more …

Sorry, NYT, it’s not the Republicans who cause this. It’s the Ponzi models. But a good warning: don’t count on the safety net.

Come the Recession, Don’t Count on That Safety Net (NYT)

What will President Trump’s first recession look like? The question is not that far-fetched. The current economic expansion is already the third longest since the middle of the 19th century, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. If it makes it past June of next year it will be the longest on record. While the economy is hardly booming, trundling along at an annual growth rate of about 2.5%, investors are getting jittery. The stock market tumble after the government reported an uptick in wages last month suggests just how worried investors on Wall Street are that the Federal Reserve might start increasing interest rates more aggressively to forestall inflation. And the tax cuts and spending increases pumped into an expanding economy since December shorten the odds that the Fed will step in forcefully in the not-too-distant future to bring an overheated expansion to an end.

It is hardly premature to ask, in this light, how the Trump administration might manage the fallout from the economic downturn that everybody knows will happen. Unfortunately, the United States could hardly be less prepared. Not only does the government have precious few tools at its disposal to combat a downturn. By slashing taxes while increasing spending, President Trump and his allies in Congress have further boxed the economy into a corner, reducing the space for emergency government action were it to be needed. The federal debt burden is now the heaviest it has been in 70 years. And it is expected to get progressively heavier, as the budget deficit swells.

To top it off, a Republican president and a Republican Congress seem set on completing the longstanding Republican project to gut the safety net built by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, which they blame for encouraging sloth, and replace it with a leaner welfare regime that closely ties government benefits to hard work. As noted in a new set of proposals by leading academics to combat poverty, published Tuesday by the Russell Sage Foundation, anti-poverty policies and related social-welfare benefits over the last quarter-century “have largely shifted from a system of guaranteed income support to a work-based safety net.”

Read more …

We waste oil to make petrol, and we waste it the make plastics. It’s like there’s a big plan to get rid of the stuff ASAP. Like nature developed mankind to get rid of a carbon imbalance issue.

Plastic Bans Worldwide Will Dent Oil Demand Growth – BP (G.)

Bans around the world on single use plastic items such as carrier bags will dent growth in oil demand over the next two decades, according to BP. However, the UK-headquartered oil and gas firm said it still expects the global hunger for crude to grow for years and not peak until the late 2030s. Spencer Dale, the group’s chief economist, said: “Just around the world you see increasing awareness of the environmental damage associated with plastics and different types of packaging of one form of another. “If you live in the UK that’s clearly been an issue, but it’s not just a UK-specific thing; you see it worldwide, for example China has changed some of its policies.” Theresa May has branded plastic waste an environmental scourge, and MPs have called for charges on plastic bags to be extended to disposable coffee cups.

Dale predicted such measures around the world could mean 2m barrels per day lower oil demand growth by 2040. But he said single use plastics were only about 15% of all non-combusted oil, which is used for petrochemicals, an industry that BP expects to be a big driver of global growth in crude demand. The company’s energy outlook report, published on Tuesday, forecasts demand peaking at about 110m barrels per day between 2035 and 2040, up from . Much of the growth comes from rising prosperity in the developing world. But Dale said his position was that “nobody knows when it’s going to peak because small changes can shift it by five to 10 years”.

Read more …

Robert Hunziker first says that only drastic measures will do, and then blames the US for not adhering to CON21, which has no such drastic measures. It’s hard.

There Is No Time Left (CP)

Imagine a scenario with no temperature difference between the equator and the North Pole. That was 12 million years ago when there was no ice at either pole. In that context, according to professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, carbon in the atmosphere today is the same as 12 million years ago. The evidence is found in the paleoclimate record. It’s irrefutable. Meaning, today’s big meltdown has only just started. And, we’ve got 5 years to fix it or endure Gonzo World. That’s one big pill to swallow! That scenario comes by way of interpretation of a speech delivered by James G. Anderson at the University of Chicago in January 2018 when he received the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, in part, for his groundbreaking research that led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate damage to the Ozone Layer.

At the time, Anderson was the force behind the most important event in the history of atmospheric chemistry, discovering and diagnosing Antarctica’s ozone hole, which led to the Montreal Protocol. Without that action, ramifications would have been absolutely catastrophic for the planet. Stratospheric ozone is one of the most delicate aspects of planet habitability, providing protection from UV radiation for all life forms. If perchance the stratospheric ozone layer could be lowered to the ground, stacking the otherwise dispersed molecules together, it would be 1/8th of an inch in thickness or the thickness of two pennies. That separates humanity from burning up as the stratospheric ozone absorbs 98% of UV radiation. In his acceptance speech, Anderson, Harvard professor of atmospheric chemistry, now warns that it is foolhardy to assume we can recover from the global warming leviathan simply by cutting back emissions.

Accordingly, the only way humanity can dig itself out of the climate change/global-warming hole is by way of a WWII type effort with total transformation of industry off carbon and removal of carbon from the atmosphere within five years. The situation is so dire that it requires a worldwide Marshall Plan effort, plus kneeling in prayer. Additionally, Anderson says the chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare. This is comparable to poking the global warming monster with a stick, as runaway global warming (“RGW”) emerges from the depths. Interestingly enough, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group/UK, composed of distinguished scientists, seems to be in agreement with this assessment.

Read more …

Oct 212016
 
 October 21, 2016  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle October 21 2016


Lewis Wickes Hine Game of craps. Cincinnati, Ohio 1908

 

 

NICOLE FOSS is the keynote speaker tonight, October 21, at the

Community Solutions Conference
McGregor Hall, Antioch College
Yellow Springs, Ohio
7.30 pm

 

 

Dollar Near 7-Month High As Euro Slides, Asia Slips (R.)
Another Thing Trump, Hillary Get Wrong In This Election: The National Debt (F.)
Trump’s Candidacy – the Good and the Bad of It (Stockman)
China Property Prices Rise At Fastest Pace On Record In September (CNBC)
Yuan Hits Record Low Against Dollar in Offshore Trading (WSJ)
China’s Property Frenzy Spurs Risky Business (WSJ)
China’s Local Governments Are Getting Into The Venture Capital Business (BBG)
The Sharing Economy is Creating a Dickensian World (Das)
‘Lions Hunting Zebras’: Ex-Wells Fargo Bankers Describe Abuses (NYT)
Washington Foreign Policy Elites Not Sorry To See Obama Go (WaPo)
Hacking Democracy (ZH)
Italy Shields Russia From EU Sanctions Threat (EUO)
Draghi Says Athens Should Focus On Reforms, And The Eurozone On Debt (Kath.)
126,956 Greeks Work In Private Sector For €100 Per Month (KTG)

 

 

“The European Central Bank removed a source of immediate risk for traders by revealing that it did not discuss tapering its QE program at this month’s meeting..”

Dollar Near 7-Month High As Euro Slides, Asia Slips (R.)

Asian stocks were mostly lower on Friday as the dollar climbed to seven-month highs against a basket of currencies and dragged down crude oil prices, cooling investor risk appetite. The greenback was boosted by a fall in the euro after the ECB shot down talk it was contemplating tapering its monetary easing – sending the common currency to its lowest since March. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.4% and Australian stocks shed 0.1%, weighed down by a retreat in energy shares. Singapore fell 0.4% while Shanghai added 0.3%. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.3% , brushing a six-month high, as the yen weakened against the dollar.

U.S. stocks ended a choppy session on Thursday slightly lower as investors digested the latest round of earnings, with a sharp drop in telecoms offset by gains in healthcare. The ECB left its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged on Thursday but kept the door open to more stimulus in December, with ECB President Mario Draghi dousing recent market speculation that the central bank may begin tapering its €1.7 trillion asset-buying program. “The European Central Bank removed a source of immediate risk for traders by revealing that it did not discuss tapering its QE program at this month’s meeting,” wrote Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. “Decisions are being deferred until December pending the outcome of research – meaning that meeting will be a key focus for markets.”

Read more …

Debt explained in the vein of Steve Keen.

Another Thing Trump, Hillary Get Wrong In This Election: The National Debt (F.)

As if there aren’t enough things to be upset about as it is, here’s another: neither candidate’s position on the debt and the deficit makes economic sense (something they each reinforced in last night’s Las Vegas debate). If they act on their campaign promises, we will most certainly be facing an economic downturn, if not an outright disaster. 1. Public sector deficits must, by definition, be private sector surpluses. If one entity spends more than it earns (the public sector) then another must earn more than it spends (you and me). This is an inescapable accounting identity. 2. Public sector debt must, by definition, be a private sector asset. If one entity adds liabilities, another adds assets–another inescapable law of accounting. 3. It is impossible for a nation to be forced to default in debt denominated in its own currency. Not unlikely, not improbable, but impossible. This is not my opinion, it’s a fact, albeit a poorly known one.

4. U.S. public debt to foreign countries like China has nothing to do with the budget deficit. It’s a result of the trade deficit. The federal government’s budget could have been in surplus for the past 100 years, but whenever we buy more from China than we sell to them, they have leftover cash which they use to buy our financial assets. These may include but are not limited to Treasury Bills. No amount of budget balancing will affect debt to China. 5. The private sector cannot consistently generate sufficient demand to create jobs for everyone who wants one. As technology and productivity have increased, so it has become more difficult. Entrepreneurs cannot be blamed for adding self-checkout lanes, they have families and stockholders. But it means the store can sell the same volume of output with fewer employees–unemployment therefore rises.

Hence, we need the public sector to spend in deficit so that a.) the private sector can net save and b.) jobs are created to supplement those generated by the market system. And it creates neither a default risk nor inflation–unless we are already at full-employment, which means we don’t need to be spending that much in the first place! It is noteworthy that when, in the midst of the Great Depression, the government decided to try to reduce the deficit, unemployment jumped from 14% (after having fallen from nearly 25%) to 19%. Once WWII hit, however, any worries about government spending went right out the window and unemployment plummeted to 1.9%. There’s no reason we can’t be there right now. Only bad policy can stand in our way.

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Dave’s new book, Trumped, is out. “God help America if she becomes president.

Trump’s Candidacy – the Good and the Bad of It (Stockman)

America is heading for a devastating financial collapse and prolonged recession that will make the last go-round look tame by comparison. The entire recovery is one giant Potemkin village of phony economics and egregious financial asset inflation. It isn’t even a mixed or debatable story. Beneath the “all is awesome” propaganda of the establishment institutions is a broken system hurtling toward ruin. For example, during the month of July 2016, when the Democrats were convening in Philadelphia to confirm a third Obama term and toast 25-years of Bubble Finance, exactly 98 million Americans in the prime working ages of 25 to 54 years had jobs, including part-time gigs and self-employment. That compares to 98.1 million during July 2000. That’s right. After 16 years of the current regime we have 5 million more prime working age Americans and not a single one of them with a job.

At the same time, the number of persons in households receiving means-tested benefits has risen from 50 million to 110 million. Even as the economic wagon has faltered and become loaded with dependents, however, the financial system has grown by leaps and bounds. For example, during those same 16 years public and private debt outstanding in America has risen from $28 trillion to $64 trillion. The value of publicly traded equity has increased from $25 trillion to $45 trillion. And the net worth of the Forbes 400 has nearly doubled from $1.2 trillion to $2.4 trillion. In a word, the U.S. economy is a ticking time bomb. Main Street economics and Wall Street finance have become radically and dangerously disconnected owing to the reckless falsification of financial markets by the Fed and Washington’s addiction to endless deficits and crony capitalist bailouts and boodle.

There is not a remote chance that this toxic brew can be sustained much longer. Under those circumstances the very last thing America will need in 2017–18 when it hits the fan is a lifetime political careerist and clueless acolyte of the state who knows all the right words and harbors all the wrong ideas. Indeed, during the coming crisis America will need a brash disrupter of the status quo, not a diehard defender. Yet when the Dow index drops by 7,000 points and unemployment erupts back toward double digits, Hillary Clinton’s only impulse will be to double down. That is, to fire-up the printing presses at the Fed from red hot to white heat, plunge the nation’s fiscal equation back into multi-trillion deficits and crank-out Washington’s free stuff like never before.

A combination of a Clinton White House and the devastating day of reckoning just ahead would result in Big Government on steroids. It would also tilt the Imperial City toward war in order to distract the nation’s disgruntled voters in their tens of millions. Indeed, her prospective war cabinet — including Victoria Nuland and Michéle Flournoy — is comprised of the actual architects of Washington’s unprovoked NATO siege on Russia’s own doorsteps. God help America if she becomes president.

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And Beijing keeps pretending they want to cool it down.

China Property Prices Rise At Fastest Pace On Record In September (CNBC)

China property prices rose at the fastest pace on record in September, fueling fears of a market bubble in the world’s second-largest economy. Property prices climbed 11.2% on-year in September in 70 major cities while prices were up 2.1% from August, according to Reuters calculations using data from the National Bureau of Statistics. In August, prices rose 9.2% from a year ago. Home prices in the second-tier city of Hefei recorded the largest on-year gain at 46.8%, compared with on-year gains of 40.3% in August. Top August performer Xiamen posted an on-year rise of 46.5% against an increase of 43.8% in August. Prices in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing rose 34.1%, 32.7% and 27.8% on an annual basis respectively, according to Reuters.

Underpinning the strong growth was simply “debt” said independent analyst, Fraser Howie, who is also co-author of “Red Capitalism” and “Privatizing China.” “A decade ago you could make a case for strong property in China (with) genuine demand and relatively low leverage in the sector. This is certainly not the case now. You are seeing a lot of leverage in the property sector, both retail and commercial,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. The quick gains in property prices in China came after the Chinese government introduced measures aimed at boosting home sales earlier this year to reduce large inventories in an effort to limit an economic slowdown. Recent fears of overheating, however, prompted local governments in China to announce a flurry of property market cooling measures in recent weeks. Any impact from those measures was not reflected in the latest data.

Despite the property cooling measures, Howie said the broad theme of how the Chinese government was responding to the situation was recurrent. “For five to six years or so, you have on-again-off-again cooling measures in the property market, trying to make property more affordable and it’s still nowhere near affordable,” he added. The Chinese government, he said, “has no clear plan”. “It’s just a bubble, they try to pull it back; they rein it in a bit, they let it go again when it impacts the real economy.”

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It’s gettiing time for the IMF to comment on this.

Yuan Hits Record Low Against Dollar in Offshore Trading (WSJ)

The yuan hit a record low against the U.S. dollar in offshore trading Friday after strong earnings on Wall Street and weakness in the euro boosted the strength of the greenback. The dollar reached a high of 6.75651 against the Chinese currency, which trades freely around the clock in offshore markets such as Hong Kong, its biggest trading center. It was last trading up 0.2% at 6.7582. The yuan has been traded outside China since 2010. Hong Kong’s markets are closed today as a typhoon lashes the city, with the yuan breaching its previous record around 7.41 a.m. local time, typically a time when market liquidity is thin. The People’s Bank of China later set its daily reference rate for the yuan traded in mainland China at 6.7558 against the U.S. dollar.

Onshore, the yuan is allowed to trade 2% either side of this level. The currency last traded at 6.7519 against the greenback, while its offshore counterpart weakened further after the fixing. “Overnight we saw a broadly stronger U.S. dollar,” says Qi Gao, Asia foreign exchange strategist at Scotiabank. He anticipates further strength in the greenback in the weeks running up to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s December meeting, at which the central bank may deliver its first rate increase in a year.

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“This is actually what we’re told by banks’ client managers to do to meet [regulatory] requirements.”

China’s Property Frenzy Spurs Risky Business (WSJ)

Xiong Meifang was about $30,000 short two months ago for a 30% down payment on an $895,000 apartment in the southern part of Beijing. To make up the difference, the 31-year-old graphic designer took out a line of credit from a national bank. She said the bank told her she could use the loan however she wanted. China bans borrowing for down payments. A surge in such financing offered by nonbank lenders earlier this year led to a regulatory clampdown. But as banks increasingly turn to mortgage lending, there are new signs of risky practices. In some instances, banks offer credit lines to borrowers buying apartments with few questions asked. In others, banks work with independent loan brokers or property agents to funnel money into down-payment financing.

Data released Tuesday showed medium- and long-term household loans, almost all of which are mortgages, made up 60% of all new loans created in the third quarter, up from 47% in the second quarter and 23% in the first. Easy credit has fanned a property-buying craze in many Chinese cities this year, helping shore up an otherwise weak economy. Government data on Wednesday showed GDP expanded by 6.7% from a year earlier in the third quarter, matching expectations, largely on the strength of the hot property market and loose monetary policies. In the past two weeks, two dozen cities have asked banks to tighten home-lending standards. Financial regulators are seeking to rein in the relatively new practice of banks working with brokers and others, such as developers, to help home buyers come up with down payments.

[..] On paper, the purpose of the loan can’t be for the home purchase itself. But the company could help arrange a contract with, say, a decorator, to show a bank that the loan would be for home decoration, the representative said, adding that ultimately the bank can’t check how the money is used. [The broker] charges a 3% flat fee on the amount of any loans it helps arrange. “It’s all legal, of course,” said the representative. “This is actually what we’re told by banks’ client managers to do to meet [regulatory] requirements.”

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While they have huge debts with the shadow banks. What could go worng?

China’s Local Governments Are Getting Into The Venture Capital Business (BBG)

China’s next billion-dollar startup could have backing from an investor with more money than Warren Buffett and a knack for promoting spicy duck-neck delicacies. The Hubei provincial government is armed with 547 billion yuan ($81 billion) earmarked for investments that can diversify a job base dependent on steel, mining and cars. And the bureaucrats in the heartland region along the Yangtze River are letting professionals do the work – allocating the money to investment houses Sequoia Capital, TCL Capital and CBC Capital. Local governments across China are getting into the venture-capital business, deploying a combined 3 trillion yuan as the Communist Party resolves to modernize the economy and reduce debt-fueled spending on infrastructure. The money is meant to spur development of biotechnology, internet and high-end manufacturing companies that can replace the stumbling heavy industries sapping economic growth.

“Our focus is more on the sector than the return,” said Wang Hanbing, who oversees $6 billion as chairman of the Yangtze River Industry Fund, one of several using Hubei government money. “We encourage people to bring real jobs back to Hubei.” China is grappling with a profusion of economic difficulties such as declining exports, surging home prices and skyrocketing corporate debt. The State Council signaled last month it had a bigger appetite for venture capital, urging local administrations to play a leading role and promising to level the playing field for foreign VC funds. Policy makers want to curb the proliferation of borrowing by regional authorities to pay for infrastructure projects that prop up growth. Local government financing vehicles borrow on behalf of governments, which often are barred from doing so. Through September, the debt issued by more than 1,600 such vehicles soared 47% from a year ago to 1.5 trillion yuan.

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The same effect as globalization: bring down wages..

The Sharing Economy is Creating a Dickensian World (Das)

Cheerleaders frame the sharing economy in lofty utopian terms: The sharing economy isn’t business but a social movement, transforming relationships between people in a new form of internet intimacy and humanitarianism. Exchanges are economic. Buyers are primarily concerned about access to services at low costs rather than social objectives. Providers are motivated by money, using their assets and labor to get by in an unforgiving and poor economic environment.

The major financial backers of the sharing economy aren’t philanthropists. They are Wall Street and Silicon Valley’s 1%, related venture-capital firms and a few institutional investors, such as sovereign-wealth funds. The amount of capital provided is substantial. Given the normal five-to-seven-year cycle for such investments, the pressure to deliver results will increase, bringing it into conflict with the social or altruistic objectives espoused. Ultimately, the sharing economy will influence how traditional businesses operate. Traditional automobile makers could offer a car-sharing service, such as BMW’s Drive Now. Users can access a car as needed, paying only for usage. These types of changes may decrease rather than increase revenue as it substitutes hiring arrangements for outright purchases.

But perhaps the real issue is that the sharing economy reverses progress in labor markets. Whatever the gains from increased efficiency, it recreates a Dickensian world for a part of the population. Formal employment protects labor from exploitation and deprivation to varying degrees. The sharing economy transfers the risk of economic uncertainty from the employer to the employee with potentially tragic consequences. Most important, the underlying economic premise is false. Consumption constitutes 60%-70% of activity in advanced economies. In 1914, Henry Ford doubled his workers’ pay from $2.34 to $5 a day, recognizing that paying people more would enable them to afford the cars they were producing. Reduction of income levels and employment security ultimately reduces consumption and economic activity, impoverishing most within societies.

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They should take the lot of them, everyone involved, and ban them from ever working in banking or finance again.

‘Lions Hunting Zebras’: Ex-Wells Fargo Bankers Describe Abuses (NYT)

Mexican immigrants who speak little English. Older adults with memory problems. College students opening their first bank accounts. Small-business owners with several lines of credit. These were some of the customers whom bankers at Wells Fargo, trying to meet steep sales goals and avoid being fired, targeted for unauthorized or unnecessary accounts, according to legal filings and statements from former bank employees. “The analogy I use was that it was like lions hunting zebras,” said Kevin Pham, a former Wells Fargo employee in San Jose, Calif., who saw it happening at the branch where he worked. “They would look for the weakest, the ones that would put up the least resistance.”

Wells Fargo would like to close the chapter on the sham account scandal, saying it has changed its policies, replaced its chief executive and refunded $2.6 million to customers. But lawmakers and regulators say they will not let it go that quickly, and emerging evidence that some victims were among the bank’s most vulnerable customers has given them fresh ammunition. This week, three members of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco, Wells Fargo’s hometown, introduced a resolution calling on the city to cut all financial ties with the bank. They cited both the recent scandal and past cases — particularly the $175 million that Wells Fargo paid in 2012 to settle accusations that its mortgage brokers had discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers.

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You may not like Trump, but do you like war any better?

Washington Foreign Policy Elites Not Sorry To See Obama Go (WaPo)

There is one corner of Washington where Donald Trump’s scorched-earth presidential campaign is treated as a mere distraction and where bipartisanship reigns. In the rarefied world of the Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama’s departure from the White House – and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton — is being met with quiet relief. The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy, via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House. It is not unusual for Washington’s establishment to launch major studies in the final months of an administration to correct the perceived mistakes of a president or influence his successor.

But the bipartisan nature of the recent recommendations, coming at a time when the country has never been more polarized, reflects a remarkable consensus among the foreign policy elite. This consensus is driven by a broad-based backlash against a president who has repeatedly stressed the dangers of overreach and the need for restraint, especially in the Middle East. “There’s a widespread perception that not being active enough or recognizing the limits of American power has costs,” said Philip Gordon, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama until 2015. “So the normal swing is to be more interventionist.” In other instances, the activity reflects alarm over Trump’s calls for the United States to pull back from its traditional role as a global guarantor of security.

“The American-led international order that has been prevalent since World War II is now under threat,” said Martin Indyk, who oversees a team of top former officials from the administrations of Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton assembled by the Brookings Institution. “The question is how to restore and renovate it.”

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Very clear video. But then, it was of course always a stupid thing to claim that US elections cannot be rigged.

Hacking Democracy (ZH)

“Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” – Joe Stalin.

With the mainstream media lambasting Trump for daring to suggest the election process is rigged – despite hard evidence – this is the hack that proved America’s elections can be stolen using a few lines of computer code. The ‘Hursti Hack’ in this video is an excerpt from the feature length Emmy nominated documentary ‘Hacking Democracy’. The hack of the Diebold voting system in Leon County, Florida, is real. It was verified by computer scientists at UC Berkeley.

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Brussels is as crazy as the US Democrats.

Italy Shields Russia From EU Sanctions Threat (EUO)

Italy has shielded Russia and Syria from a threat of new sanctions, amid warnings by some leaders that Russia was trying to “weaken” the EU. EU leaders said in a joint statement in Brussels on Thursday (20 October) that: “The EU is considering all available options, should the current atrocities [in Syria] continue.” They also urged “the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia” to “bring the atrocities to an end”, referring to Russian and Syrian airstrikes on the city of Aleppo in Syria that have caused severe civilian casualties. Germany, France, and the UK had wanted to threaten sanctions more explicitly.

“The EU is considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime, should the current atrocities continue”, they had suggested saying. Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi led opposition, also shared by some other states, to the threat, diplomats said. He said while leaving the summit that “if we want to speak with Russia then we have to leave the door open”. He also said he did not think “that the difficult situation in Syria could be solved by additional sanctions on Russia”.

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Europe has but one purpose: to humiliate Greece. Britain better watch out.

Draghi Says Athens Should Focus On Reforms, And The Eurozone On Debt (Kath.)

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday called on the Greek government to focus its efforts on implementing reforms agreed with the country’s creditors, noting that the ECB will examine the issues of Greece’s debt sustainability and its possible involvement in the Central Bank’s quantitative easing program when the time is right. “Discussions on the sustainability of the Greek debt continued” at an ECB meeting earlier in the day, he said. “We expressed concern, and steps should be taken.” Draghi said the ECB will conduct its own independent assessment of Greece’s debt.

“When the time comes we will examine independently the issue of the debt sustainability,” Draghi said, adding that “until then it is premature to speculate and weave scenarios,” an apparent reference to Greek calls for inclusion in the ECB’s QE program. Draghi appeared to indicate that the ECB would proceed with its assessment of Greece’s debt once there has been action from both sides: work from Athens in implementing reforms and action from Greece’s eurozone partners in lightening its debt burden. The timing of Draghi’s comments was significant. They came a day before Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels for talks that are expected to touch on Greece’s debt problem and the progress of reforms.

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As supermarket prices are as high as in the rest of Europe.

126,956 Greek Workers Earn €100 Per Month, 343,760 Between €100 and €400 (KTG)

When it comes to escape the nightmare of unemployment, one may grab all possible and impossible opportunities and even accept jobs with wages that let you come home with a loaf of bread, two tomatoes and a tiny piece of cheese. The data released by the Labor Ministry are shocking: 126,956 employees in the private sector are paid a gross monthly salary of €100. 343,760 employees are paid monthly salaries between €100 and €400 gross. This category of workers have part-time or rotating work contracts. Working time: 2-3 days per week or even a few hours a week. €100 per month gross could be €55-60(?) net – enough to cover transport cost and make a living at €1 per day. PS a friend recently got a job for €300 gross – net should be around €250-230. Working hours are 4 hours per day, four days per week. She has been jobless for 4 years.

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