Mar 242016
 
 March 24, 2016  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


John M. Fox National Peanut Corp. store on Broadway, NY 1947

Goldman to Fed: Stop Worrying So Much About the Stronger Dollar (BBG)
China Sends Fed A Warning: Devalues Yuan By Most In 2 Months (ZH)
Pimco Sees 7% Drop For Yuan, ‘No. 1 Risk For Global Economy This Year’ (BBG)
Kyle Bass Is Wrong On China: Policy Adviser Li (CNBC)
China’s Debt Bubble Threatens Global Economy (Nikkei)
China Online P2P Financing Firms Face More Regulation (WSJ)
There’s No Sign of a China Rebound (BBG)
China Exports Its Environmental Problems (BBG)
Liquidity Death Spiral Traps Credit Suisse (BBG)
Japan’s Bond Market Is Close to Breaking Point (BBG)
US Oil Falls After Big Jump In Stockpiles (Reuters)
Osborne’s Disability Cuts Are Devastating Families (G.)
Trump Is Right – Dump NATO Now (David Stockman)
Methane and Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry (McKibben)
EU Border Agency Has Less Than A Third Of Requested Police (AFP)
Key Aid Agencies Refuse Any Role In ‘Mass Expulsion’ Of Refugees (G.)

Everybody knows a stronger dollar is inevitable. Priced in.

Goldman to Fed: Stop Worrying So Much About the Stronger Dollar (BBG)

It’s time for the Federal Reserve to end its dollar fixation. That’s the takeaway from a Goldman Sachs report Wednesday that suggests the U.S. currency poses little threat to the Fed’s inflation goals, challenging policy makers’ comments to the contrary. That’s good news for dollar bulls who are betting on expanded monetary-policy divergence between the U.S., Europe and Japan. Inflation is at the heart of the Fed’s debate about the timing of interest-rate increases as officials look to normalize monetary policy after seven years of near-zero interest rates. With a stronger dollar not translating into significantly cheaper import prices, Goldman Sachs suggests the central bank faces fewer headwinds to hiking rates than markets are currently pricing in.

“The majority of the effects of a stronger dollar on import prices have already been realized,” analysts Zach Pandl and Elad Pashtan wrote in the note. “Inflation data to date appears to be more closely tracking a path with less dollar pass-through to core inflation” than implied by the Fed’s projections for consumer prices. Investors agree. The gap between yields on Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities and nominal 10-year notes, known as the break-even rate, climbed to the highest since August earlier this week. The measure indicates inflation will average about 1.59% over the next decade, compared with 1.2% last month. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, which tracks the currency versus 10 peers, advanced 0.7% on Wednesday, extending its longest streak of gains since the period ending Feb. 16.

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Fed must hike?!

China Sends Fed A Warning: Devalues Yuan By Most In 2 Months (ZH)

With the USD Index stretching to its longest winning streak of the year, jawboned by numerous Fed speakers explaining how April is ‘live’ (and everyone misunderstood the dovishness of Yellen), it appears that The PBOC wanted to send a message to The Fed – Raise rates and we will unleash turmoil on your ‘wealth creation’ plan. Large unexpected Yuan drops have rippled through markets in recent months spoiling the party for many and tonight, by devaluing the Yuan fix by the most since January 7th, China made it clear that it really does not want The Fed to hike rates and cause a liquidity suck-out again. The last 4 days have seen nearly a 1% devaluation in the Yuan fix with today’s drop the biggest in over 2 months…

 

And while everyone is quietly commenting on how “stable” the Yuan has been this year, the truth is that is only the case against the USD, the Yuan basket has been consistently devaluing since PBOC admitted it was more focused on that than the USD only…

The last time they sent a message, The Fed rapidly acquiesced and decided a rate hike was inadvisable due to global market turmoil… we wonder what happens this time.

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Only question is will it be voluntary.

Pimco Sees 7% Drop For Yuan, ‘No. 1 Risk For Global Economy This Year’ (BBG)

The offshore yuan dropped to a one-week low after China’s central bank weakened its daily fixing and Pimco. said it sees further depreciation for the currency. The People’s Bank of China lowered its reference rate by 0.33%, the most since Jan. 7, following an overnight advance in the dollar on comments from Federal Reserve officials on the possibility of an interest-rate increase as soon as April. The yuan, “by far the single biggest risk for the global economy and markets this year,” is expected to depreciate 7% against the dollar over the next year, according to a Pimco report issued Wednesday. “If the Fed raises interest rates in April, the dollar will rebound sharply and pressure the yuan weaker,” said Gao Qi at Scotiabank, who sees a June move as more likely. “We expect the yuan to depreciate modestly to 6.7 against the greenback by the end of this year” as capital leaves, the economy slows and the dollar advances.

The yuan’s share of global payments dropped to the lowest since October 2014, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, with data affected by the one-week Lunar New Year holiday. China’s growth will likely decelerate as a trend, with mini-cycles of weak recovery and slowdown led by policy swings, Morgan Stanley economists Chetan Ahya and Elga Bartsch wrote in a note. China won’t devalue the yuan to boost exports, and is confident that the nation’s economy will expand by more than 6.5% annually in the next five years, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech in Boao, Hainan province, on Thursday. Although pressures for the yuan to depreciate do exist, the nation will be able to keep the exchange rate basically stable as long as the economy stays sound, PBOC adviser Huang Yiping said on Wednesday.

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Saying it does not inspire confidence.

Kyle Bass Is Wrong On China: Policy Adviser Li (CNBC)

Many assumptions about China held by global market players, such as thinking Beijing wants a weaker yuan or that low oil prices are caused by the mainland’s slowing growth, are simply wrong, according to a leading Chinese policy adviser. Li Daokui, director of the Center for China at Tsinghua University and former member of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) monetary policy committee, said prominent hedge fund managers, including the likes of Kyle Bass, have misunderstood the world’s second-largest economy. For one, focusing on the currency is “the biggest mistake in reading the Chinese economy,” said Li on the sidelines of Thursday’s Boao Forum for Asia conference. “There is no need for the Chinese economy to rely on a big boost of exports….the economy is still facing a big trade surplus.”

Ever since Beijing surprised the world by unexpectedly depreciating the renminbi in August, money managers such as Kyle Bass, David Tepper and Bill Ackman have ramped up bearish bets against the yuan. Goldman Sachs predicts the dollar will be fetching 7 yuan by the end of the year, from 6.5 currently, amid expectations for looser monetary policy and the government’s desire to boost sagging exports. But exports are no longer as important as before the global financial crisis, Li explained, adding that the sector now makes up 20% of GDP, compared with 35% previously. “The renminbi is already an international currency in the region, so when it devalues, everybody devalues. The net impact is almost zero,” he added.

Indeed, fears for an Asian currency war hit fever-pitch after August’s historic devaluation. Export-oriented economies, such as neighboring South Korea, are typically flagged as the most vulnerable to a weaker renminbi as their goods appear more expensive overseas, sparking worries that other central banks would weaken their own currencies to maintain trade competitiveness. “When the Chinese economy does devaluation, the momentum of financial markets will kick in to expect more devaluation. The game has no good ending for anyone,” Li said. Li’s views echo those of Premier Li Keqiang, who said on Thursday that depreciation would not help companies be more competitive, repeating that the government would not devalue the yuan to lift exports.

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Non-financial private debt is over 200% of GDP and counting. $21.5 trillion.

China’s Debt Bubble Threatens Global Economy (Nikkei)

Excessive debt held by Chinese companies and households is highlighting a grave reality behind the country’s economy. In a sign that this debt is being regarded as a risk to the global economy, it became a topic of discussion at a meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors held in February. China even appears to be taking steps similar to Japan’s moves in its own post-bubble era. Total credit to the Chinese private non-financial sector stood at $21.5 trillion at the end of September 2015, accounting for 205% of the country’s GDP, according to the Bank for International Settlements. In Japan, the figure accounted for more than 200% of the nation’s GDP at the end of September 1989, when the country was in the late stage of its economic bubble.

After that bubble burst, the number shot up to 221% by the end of December 1995. Japan had fallen victim to its own excessive debt, and banks wrestled with bad loans for the next 10 years. In the U.S., the boom in subprime housing loans for low-income borrowers evolved into a global financial crisis in 2008. At the end of September that year, total credit to the U.S. private sector reached its peak, accounting for 169% of the country’s GDP. It took U.S. banks about four years to overcome their bad loan problems. And now in China, the outstanding amount of total credit to the private sector has surged 300% from the end of December 2008. After the crisis triggered by the Lehman bankruptcy in 2008, Chinese companies began borrowing money and increasing investment, thanks to the Chinese government’s introduction of economic measures worth 4 trillion yuan (around $586 billion at the time).

That stimulus has helped the country to account for half of the world’s crude steel production. Now, however, China is facing the difficult task of making production adjustments, which is putting deflationary pressure on overseas economies. At the opening session of the 12th National People’s Congress, which ended on March 16, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that the country will accelerate the development of a new economy. He also stated that China will address overcapacity in steel, coal and other industries. Despite the positive stance, though, total credit to Chinese non-financial companies stood at $17.4 trillion at the end of September 2015, accounting for 80% of the total.

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Beijing has let shadow banking grow so big that regulating it is a risk to the economy.

China Online P2P Financing Firms Face More Regulation (WSJ)

China’s online lending companies are bracing for an industry shake-up this year as competition heats up, the economy slows further and regulatory scrutiny tightens following a bevy of scandals. Operators of online lenders, a hot sector in Chinese finance just two years ago, bemoaned the tougher operating environment and the industry’s battered reputation. Speaking at a forum on Wednesday, executives cited rising credit risks and potential new government restrictions on their ability to accept public deposits. They said those firms that aren’t adaptable and lack proper risk controls will likely fail. “When these guys can’t get access to capital, what will they do?” Simon Loong of online financing platform WeLab said at the Boao Forum for Asia, a gathering of business and government leaders.

“They’ll slowly go bust,” and that in turn could rattle the financial system, Mr. Loong said without elaborating. Having made investing easy, major Chinese Internet companies are now competing to sell financial products. Here’s an introduction to some of the popular online investment platforms. Online lending boomed over the past half-decade. Peer-to-peer, or P2P, financing soared, raising capital from wealthier investors and routing it to smaller businesses and consumers often overlooked by commercial banks. P2P platforms numbered 2,595 at the end of last year, up from 880 at the start of 2014, while outstanding loans rose 14-fold to 440 billion yuan ($66.8 billion), according to data provider Wind Information. After the fast rise, however, business conditions deteriorated and some P2P platforms imploded.

Most spectacular was Ezubo Ltd., which collapsed last year, leaving investors short of $7.6 billion and causing regulators to vow to tighten supervision of the sector. While saying greater oversight is welcome, the online lenders at Wednesday’s panel said defended their business models. “The P2P word now seems to have a negative connotation now,” said Yang Fan, CEO of Iqianjin (Beijing) Information. “But P2P financing supplements the existing financial system. It can more effectively direct resources.” The executives said regulators should distinguish between shady operators and credible firms that are trying to manage the risks of loan default. “Those who were accused of illegal fundraising had just put on the hat of P2P” and weren’t genuine operators, said Zhang Shishi, co-founder of online platform Renrendai.

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But they’ll paint the rosy picture anyway.

There’s No Sign of a China Rebound (BBG)

China’s monetary and fiscal stimulus have yet to spur a rebound in the world’s second-largest economy, according to the earliest private economic indicators for March. A purchasing manager’s index focused on small businesses, a gauge of corporate confidence and a new reading of the economy derived from satellite imagery all remained at levels signaling deterioration, though the pace of declines moderated. Sales manager sentiment was unchanged. The reports follow mixed official data showing investment and property sales recovered in the first two months of the year as trade plummeted and manufacturing remained weak. Meanwhile, the newest data show government reforms to slash industrial capacity and shift to a greater reliance on consumption and services haven’t been able to offset the slump.

“Confidence of companies is still slowly bottoming,” Jia Kang, director of the China Academy of New Supply-side Economics, said in a statement. “As long as the supply-side reforms can push forward, the effects will gradually show up.” That’s more unwelcome news for top officials who are gathered this week at the Boao Forum for Asia on the southern island of Hainan to discuss the challenges facing the economy and goals of the reform. Premier Li Keqiang will deliver a keynote speech Thursday and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion with Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

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Obviously.

China Exports Its Environmental Problems (BBG)

One of the best pieces of news in years is that China’s finally getting serious about cleaning up its environment. Renewable energy use is growing rapidly while coal use is declining. Air pollution targets are being tightened. Contaminated farmland is finally getting high-level attention. Yet all that good could be undermined if China simply exports its environmental problems elsewhere. A case in point is China’s campaign to protect its forests. For years, logging ran rampant as the country transformed itself into the world’s biggest buyer of timber and wood products, including everything from furniture to paper. Denuded hillsides contributed to massive floods in 1998 that forced millions to evacuate their homes. Fortunately, according to a study published last week in Science, stricter enforcement of localized logging bans has reversed the trend: Between 2000 and 2010, tree cover increased over 1.6% of Chinese territory (and declined over .38%).

This year, China plans to cut its commercial logging quota another 6.8% and will expand a ban on logging natural forests nationwide. Here’s the problem, though: As China has quieted its chainsaws, the country has become the world’s largest importer of timber; the government predicts that by 2020 it will rely on imports for 40% of its needs. And as buyers, Chinese companies aren’t terribly discerning. According to the London-based think tank Chatham House, China’s purchases of illegally harvested timber nearly doubled between 2000 and 2013, growing to more than 1.1 billion cubic feet. The damage extends across the developing world. China buys up 90% of Mozambique’s timber exports, around half of which were harvested at rates too fast to sustain the forest over the long-term.

In 2013, the World Wildlife Fund declared that illegal logging in the Russian Far East had reached “crisis proportions” after finding that oak was being logged for export to China at more than twice the authorized volumes. That same year, Myanmar tripled the volume of endangered rosewood exported to China (where it’s particularly valued for its use in furniture). At those rates, some of Myanmar’s rosewood species could be extinct by 2017. Despite a total ban enacted in 2014, rosewood exports to China surged last year to levels reportedly not seen in a decade.

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This does not bode well for TBTF banks.

Liquidity Death Spiral Traps Credit Suisse (BBG)

Credit Suisse just got caught up in the same liquidity death spiral that has claimed a growing number of debt funds.Some of the bank’s traders increased holdings of distressed and other infrequently traded assets in recent months without telling some senior leaders, Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam said on Wednesday. This is bad on several levels. For one, it highlights some pretty poor risk management on the part of senior officers at the Swiss bank.But perhaps more important from a market standpoint, it exposes a trap in the current credit market: Traders are getting increasingly punished for trying to sell unpopular debt at the wrong time. The result has been a growing number of hedge-fund failures, increasing risk aversion by Wall Street traders and further cutbacks at big banks.

This all simply reinforces the lack of trading in less-common bonds and loans. At best, this spiral is inconvenient, especially for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that rely on being able to sell assets to meet daily redemptions. At worst, it could set the stage for another credit seizure given the right catalyst – perhaps a sudden, unexpected corporate default or two, or the implosion of a relatively big mutual fund. To give a feeling for just how inactive parts of the market have become, consider this: About 40% of the bonds in the $1.4 trillion U.S. junk-debt market didn’t trade at all in the first two months of this year, according to data compiled from Finra’s Trace and Bloomberg. While corporate-debt trading has generally increased by volume this year, more of the activity is concentrated in a fewer number of bonds.

This has made it even harder for big banks to justify buying riskier bonds to make markets for their clients, the way they used to, because they could get stuck holding the bag. That’s what happened with Credit Suisse, apparently. The bank suffered $258 million of writedowns this year through March 11, and $495 million of losses in the fourth quarter, because of its holdings of distressed debt, leveraged loans and securitized products, including collateralized loan obligations [..] Credit Suisse is in a tough spot because it is trying to get out of its hard-to-trade assets at a bad time. It’s re-evaluating its business model under new leadership, higher capital requirements and the shadow of poor earnings. But it’s certainly not alone in feeling the pain from a brutal and unforgiving period in debt markets. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are expected to report disappointing trading revenues in the first three months of the year, and Jefferies already reported its train wreck of a quarter.

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Abe’s run out of wiggle room. He can’t even turn around on a dime anymore.

Japan’s Bond Market Is Close to Breaking Point (BBG)

Signs of stress are multiplying in Japan’s government bond market, which is crumbling under pressure from the central bank’s unprecedented asset-purchase program and negative interest rates. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has repeatedly said his policies are having the desired effect on markets, including suppressing JGB yields. His success is driving frenzied demand for longer-dated notes as investors avoid the negative yields offered on maturities up to 10 years. And as buyers hang on to debt offering interest returns, the BOJ is finding it harder to press on with bond purchases of as much as 12 trillion yen ($107 billion) a month, sparking sudden price swings leading to yield curve inversions that have nothing to do with economic fundamentals. “We hold a lot, and we’re not selling,” said Yoshiyuki Suzuki, the head of fixed income at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, which has $59 billion in assets. “We can get interest income. If we sell, there are no good alternatives.”

Yields on 40-year JGBs dipped below those on 30-year securities Tuesday, and a BOJ operation to buy long-term notes last week met the lowest investor participation on record. Bond market functionality has deteriorated, with 41% of respondents last month rating it as “low,” the highest proportion since the BOJ began the quarterly survey more than a year ago. “It wouldn’t be surprising to see some BOJ operations fail,” said Yusuke Ikawa at UBS in Tokyo. “The biggest risk of that is in superlong bonds.” A dearth of liquidity has driven a measure of bond-market fluctuations to levels unseen since 1999.

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Back on the way to $30 and beyond.

US Oil Falls After Big Jump In Stockpiles (Reuters)

U.S. oil prices fell in Asian trading on Thursday, adding to a slump in the previous session, after stockpiles rose for the sixth week to another record, sapping the strength of a two-month rally in prices. U.S. crude futures were down 10 cents at $39.69 a barrel at 0302 GMT, trading further below the important $40 level. It closed down $1.66, or 4%, at $39.79 a barrel on Wednesday. That marked the sharpest one-day drop for the front-month contract in U.S. crude since Feb. 11. Brent crude futures were up 7 cents at $40.54 a barrel, after trading lower earlier in the session. They finished the last session down $1.32, or 3.2%, at $40.47 a barrel. Earlier this week, both benchmarks had risen by more than 50% from multi-year lows that hit in January.

The U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stockpiles climbed by 9.4 million barrels last week – three times the 3.1 million barrels build forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. The continued rise in stockpiles is grinding away at the gains in prices that were largely driven by plans of major producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, to freeze production. “OPEC production is still high and Iran is expected to continue to ramp up,” said Tony Nunan at Mitsubishi in Tokyo. “I expect crude to come back down again and test the $35 level again if we continue to get builds,” he said. The market was also supported by a release showing crude stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub – an important data point – fell for the first time in seven weeks.

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People die from austerity.

Osborne’s Disability Cuts Are Devastating Families (G.)

A few stabbings in SW1, a couple of careers seriously injured. Politicians and pundits are frantically trying to shrink the implications of Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation down to Westminster size. So it’s about cabinet feuds and leadership hopes, George Osborne’s snottiness and David Cameron’s way with a swearword. What the welfare secretary’s exit is not about, you understand, is a busted austerity programme that has missed nearly every goal and deadline set forward by its creators. It’s not about a benefits system in chaos – economic chaos being so much uglier a prospect than a flat-pack “Tory civil war”. And it’s certainly not about the people who actually have to use that benefits system.

People like Paul and Lisa Chapman. They won’t pop up in the coverage of the “great social reformer” – yet their story takes you to the heart of what’s wrong with our welfare system. It starts a decade ago when Paul, at only 39, started getting a tremor in his right hand. “Just a small one”, but then his eyes would swell up and his sense of smell disappeared. The doctors guessed what was wrong well before the scans picked it up, but a couple of years ago the diagnosis was confirmed: Parkinson’s disease. Incurable. Evil. Now Paul’s body won’t do what his brain tells it to. Miss any tablets and he shakes “really bad”. Even having taken them cramps still seize his neck, legs and arms. “My speech is going,” Paul begins. “I know what I want to say, but … ” Lisa picks up: “The words come out back to front.”

We were in the Chapmans’ small front room, gazing out on the same Northamptonshire town where Paul had worked for years. “I used to be the quickest postman in Irthlingborough!” He could knock off a round in two hours that would take his colleagues four. Even before taking medical retirement, he was slowing down, sometimes forgetting where he was. Now the same route would take “seven or eight hours”. Anyway, Lisa points out, he no longer has the strength to lift a letterbox. We met two days after Osborne’s announcement of the cuts to the personal independence payment (PIP). Disabilities such as Paul’s cost a lot, – in extra kit, travel and care – and PIP is meant to help. The Chapmans were worried that they’d lose out.

This, famously, was the cut too far for IDS. But the Chapmans told me another story, which underlined how this government’s welfare mess is so much bigger than just one line in a red book. Last summer they were summoned for a medical assessment, to be conducted by Capita for the Department for Work and Pensions. Capita employees apologised for not making a home visit, but said the £4.4bn multinational didn’t have sufficient staff to do one soon (Capita says it initially offered a home visit, which was rescheduled). Lisa asked the assessor if he was a GP. Yes, he said – but on the report he is described as a nurse. [..] The assessor found that Paul wasn’t as disabled as previously thought. He immediately lost £49 a week -a huge blow for the Chapmans.

In front of me, Paul remembered what he told Lisa: “The best thing we can do now is you go round your mum’s. I’ll clear off and I won’t take my tablets or my insulin. And it ll be over then. I won t be here. You go back to work and live your life as normal.” Paul: “I couldn’t face this much aggravation. I felt that bad. I’ve got something which anybody could get and I’m so used to doing 70-80 hours at work.” And now he was reduced to this. [..] A government assessment is made, a brown envelope of bad news is put in the post, and in a terraced house in a small town a sick man is driven to consider suicide.

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NATO does a lot of harm. Which makes a lot of sense given that it’s now 25 years over it’s best-by date.

Trump Is Right – Dump NATO Now (David Stockman)

If you want to know why we have a $19 trillion national debt and a fiscal structure that will take that already staggering figure to $35 trillion and 140% of GDP within a decade, just consider the latest campaign fracas. That is, the shrieks of disbelief in response to Donald Trump’s sensible suggestion that the Europeans pay for their own defense. The fact is, NATO has been an obsolete waste for 25 years. Yet the denizens of the Imperial City cannot even seem to grasp that the 4 million Red Army is no more; and that the Soviet Empire, which enslaved 410 million souls to its economic and military service, vanished from the pages of history in December 1991. What is left is a pitiful remnant -145 million aging, Vodka-besotted Russians who subsist in what is essentially a failing third world economy.

Its larcenous oligarchy of Putin and friends appeared to live high on the hog and to spread a veneer of glitz around Moscow and St. Petersburg. But that was all based on the world’s one-time boom in oil, gas, nickel, aluminum, fertilizer, steel and other commodities and processed industrial materials. Stated differently, the Russian economy is a glorified oil patch and mining town with a GDP the equivalent of the NYC metropolitan area. And that’s its devastating Achilles Heel. The central bank driven global commodity and industrial boom is over and done. As a new cycle of epic deflation engulfs the world and further compresses commodity prices and profits, the Russian economy is going down for the count; it’s already been shrunk by nearly 10% in real terms, and the bottom is a long way down from there.

The plain fact is Russia is an economic and military weakling and is not the slightest threat to the security of the United States. None. Nichts. Nada. Nope. Its entire expenditure for national defense amounts to just $50 billion, but during the current year only $35 billion of that will actually go to the Russian Armed Forces. On an apples-to-apples basis, that’s about 3 weeks of Pentagon spending! Even given its non-existent capacity, however, there remains the matter of purported hostile intention and aggressive action. But as amplified below, there has been none. The whole demonization of Putin is based on a false narrative arising from one single event. To wit, the February 2014 coup in Kiev against Ukraine’s constitutionally elected government was organized, funded and catalyzed by the Washington/NATO apparatus. Putin took defensive action in response because this supremely stupid and illegal provocation threatened vital interests in his own backyard.

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CH4 is some 22 times as powerful as CO2.

Methane and Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry (McKibben)

Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet’s surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn’t matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong. There’s one greenhouse gas everyone knows about: carbon dioxide, which is what you get when you burn fossil fuels. We talk about a “price on carbon” or argue about a carbon tax; our leaders boast about modest “carbon reductions.” But in the last few weeks, CO2’s nasty little brother has gotten some serious press. Meet methane, otherwise known as CH4.

In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30%, accounting for 30 to 60% of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere. To the extent our leaders have cared about climate change, they’ve fixed on CO2. Partly as a result, coal-fired power plants have begun to close across the country. They’ve been replaced mostly with ones that burn natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Because burning natural gas releases significantly less carbon dioxide than burning coal, CO2 emissions have begun to trend slowly downward, allowing politicians to take a bow.

But this new Harvard data, which comes on the heels of other aerial surveys showing big methane leakage, suggests that our new natural-gas infrastructure has been bleeding methane into the atmosphere in record quantities. And molecule for molecule, this unburned methane is much, much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. The EPA insisted this wasn’t happening, that methane was on the decline just like CO2. But it turns out, as some scientists have been insisting for years, the EPA was wrong. Really wrong. This error is the rough equivalent of the New York Stock Exchange announcing tomorrow that the Dow Jones isn’t really at 17,000: Its computer program has been making a mistake, and your index fund actually stands at 11,000.

These leaks are big enough to wipe out a large share of the gains from the Obama administration’s work on climate change—all those closed coal mines and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years. The methane story is utterly at odds with what we’ve been telling ourselves, not to mention what we’ve been telling the rest of the planet. It undercuts the promises we made at the climate talks in Paris. It’s a disaster—and one that seems set to spread.

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This is an established pattern.

EU Border Agency Has Less Than A Third Of Requested Police (AFP)

EU border agency Frontex on Wednesday said member states have provided less than a third of the personnel it requested to deal with the record influx of migrants. Frontex, which coordinates border patrols and collects intelligence about the bloc’s frontiers, had called on European countries Friday to provide 1,500 police and 50 readmission experts “to support Greece in returning migrants to Turkey.” Only 396 police officers and 47 re-admission experts have been offered, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Warsaw-based agency. “I am grateful to the countries who have offered (personnel)… but I urge other member states to pledge many more police officers if we want to be ready to support readmission to Turkey as agreed by the EU Council,” Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri said.

Leggeri had earlier said: “It is important to stress that Frontex can only return people once the Greek authorities have thoroughly analyzed each individual case and issued a final return decision.” The European Union struck a landmark deal with Turkey last week to stem the massive influx of migrants. The European Commission has said the implementation of the deal will require the mobilization of some 4,000 personnel, including a thousand security staff and military officers, and some 1,500 Greek and European police. Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure told AFP the officers requested by the agency were part of this figure.

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“Nobody knows. Every five minutes, the orders change. So who knows. Maybe God knows. If you have any communication with God, you can ask him.”

Key Aid Agencies Refuse Any Role In ‘Mass Expulsion’ Of Refugees (G.)

A triple blow has been dealt to the EU-Turkey migration deal after five leading aid groups refused to work with Brussels on its implementation, a Turkish diplomat ruled out changing Turkish legislation to make the deal more palatable to rights campaigners, and a senior Greek official said nobody knew how the agreement was supposed to work. The UN refugee agency said it was suspending most of its activities in refugee centres on the Greek islands because they were now being used as detention facilities for people due to be sent back to Turkey. UNHCR was later joined by Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children. All five said they did not want to be involved in the blanket expulsion of refugees because it contravened international law.

The UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said: “UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention. We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.” In a separate and stronger statement, Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF’s head of mission in Greece, said: “We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.” Over the past year, around 1 million people have crossed the narrow straits between Turkey and Greece to try to claim asylum in Europe. In an attempt to stop this flow, the EU and Turkey reached a deal last week that would see almost all asylum seekers returned to Turkish soil.

To do this, the EU has deemed Turkey a safe country for refugees; a decision strongly contested by rights groups. Turkey is not a full signatory to the UN refugee convention, and while it has accepted more Syrian refugees than any other country, it has sometimes forcibly returned Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers to their countries of origin. Just hours after the EU deal was signed, Amnesty International reported that 30 Afghan refugees were sent back to Afghanistan – in a sign, Amnesty said, of what could be to come. “The ink wasn’t even dry on the EU-Turkey deal when several dozen Afghans were forced back to a country where their lives could be in danger,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia director.

[..] The deputy mayor of Lesbos, the island where most migrants land, said no Greek official knew exactly how the deportation process would work, nor what to do with the refugees while they waited. When asked by the Guardian if he had received any concrete instructions about how refugees would be processed and returned to Turkey, Giorgos Kazanos said: “No, not yet.” “Nobody knows. Every five minutes, the orders change. So who knows. Maybe God knows. If you have any communication with God, you can ask him.”

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Mar 192016
 
 March 19, 2016  Posted by at 9:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Delano Union Station, Chicago, Illinois 1943

Foreign Governments Dump US Debt At Record Rate (CNN)
If Caterpillar Data Is Right, The Industrial Depression Was Never Worse (ZH)
Shades of Plaza Accord Seen in Barrage of Stimulus After G-20 (BBG)
The Yellen Fed Risks Faustian Pact With Inflation (AEP)
The End of the Chinese Miracle (FT)
Traditional Economics Failed. Here’s a New Blueprint. (Evo.)
UK Minister Resigns From Cabinet Over Disability Cuts (Guardian)
Struggling US Oil And Gas Companies Eye Unusual Financing Deals (Reuters)
TTIP: Big Business And US To Have Major Say In EU Trade Deals (Ind.)
Refugees Will Be Sent Back Across Aegean In EU-Turkey Deal (Guardian)
Amnesty Hits Out At EU Over Turkey Deal (BBC)
Migration Is A Fact Of Life – Yet Our Deluded Leaders Try To Stop It (G.)
This EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Is Exactly What The People Traffickers Want (Ind.)

Desperation in motion. Sellers of US debt must need money badly. And at the same time: “..total foreign holdings of U.S. debt actually rose in January to $6.18 trillion.”

Foreign Governments Dump US Debt At Record Rate (CNN)

Foreign governments are dumping U.S. debt like never before. In a bid to raise cash, foreign central banks and government institutions sold $57.2 billion of U.S. Treasury debt and other notes in January, according to figures released on Tuesday. That is up from $48 billion in December and the highest monthly tally on record going back to 1978. It’s part of a broader trend that gathered steam last year when central banks sold a record $225 billion of U.S. debt. “Foreigners have no longer been our BFF when it comes to buying U.S. Treasuries,” Peter Boockvar at The Lindsey Group wrote. So what are foreign central bankers doing with these piles of cash? They’re mostly using the funds to stimulate their own economies as the global growth slowdown and crash in oil prices continue to take their toll.

For instance, China has been liquidating its holdings of foreign debt to pump money into its slowing economy, plummeting currency and extremely volatile stock market. China, the largest owner of U.S. debt, trimmed its Treasury holdings by $8.2 billion in January, the Treasury Department said. The actual decline was likely larger considering China reported selling $100 billion of foreign-exchange reserves in January. Countries exposed to the oil price crash are using the cash to fill giant holes in their budget. Norway, Mexico, Canada and Colombia all cut their Treasury holdings in January as oil plunged below $30 a barrel for the first time in a dozen years. Foreign sales of U.S. debt appear to be largely driven by economic necessity. “These foreign sales are not fundamentally driven. The U.S. economy seems to be on better footing,” said Sharon Stark at D.A. Davidson.

That’s why total foreign holdings of U.S. debt actually rose in January to $6.18 trillion. That’s because demand from global investors continues to be high. Besides, some foreign governments added to their piles of Treasury bonds, including Japan, Brazil and Belgium. Despite all these foreign government sales, demand for U.S. Treasuries remains high. In fact, the U.S. can borrow money at a lower rate now than at the beginning of the year. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield is sitting at 1.99%. That’s down from nearly 3% two years ago. Demand is driven by the relative strength of the American economy, which continues to add jobs at a healthy pace despite the global headwinds. The diminished appetite from overseas is being offset by a number of factors. First, the turmoil in global financial markets has boosted appetite for safe-haven assets like U.S. government debt.

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Caterpillar has historically been the single share perceived as most reflecting the entire US economy.

If Caterpillar Data Is Right, The Industrial Depression Was Never Worse (ZH)

It has been over half a year since we first downgraded the industrial recession to an all-out global depression by using Caterpillar retail sales data, which have been so counterintuitive to what the company’s earnings have been reporting that last September we had to ask “What On Earth Is Going On With Caterpillar Sales?.” Today, we must admit that something simply does not compute. On one hand, CAT stock has soared by over 30% from its 2016 lows….

… despite warning just yesterday that the pain will continue after the company guided even lower to already depressed expectations. But what makes no sense at all is that according to the just released CAT retail sales data, the industrial recession since downgraded to a depression, just fell out of the bottom, when the heavy industrial equipment company reported that February world sales crashed by 21%, after falling “only” 15% in January, led by double digit drops in every single market:

  • US down 11% after sliding 7% in January
  • China and Asia/PAC down 26% after being down 22%
  • EAME down 23% after sliding 14% the month before
  • Latin Marica imploding by 45% after a 36% drop one month ago, and one of the worst monthly drops on record.

Visually, this is as follows:

And what is more confusing is that CAT has not only not had a positive monthly increase in retail sales in a record 39 months, or more than double the length of the Financial Crisis’ 19 months and the longest in history, but the February drop was the biggest one month decline in 5 years!


Of course, on its face, this data would explain why over the past month first the BOJ, then the PBOC, then the ECB and finally the Fed all surprised with not only more dovishness but much more outright easing as central banks panic to halt what at least according to this one indicator confirms the global economy has not been worse in nearly half a decade.

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As I wrote before.

Shades of Plaza Accord Seen in Barrage of Stimulus After G-20 (BBG)

Policy makers across the world are acting in ways that suggest there may have been more to last month’s Group of 20 meeting in Shanghai than mere platitudes about promoting global economic growth. In the past few weeks, officials from China, the euro area, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K. have taken a barrage of actions to keep the world economy afloat and currency markets calm. That’s led some analysts to conclude that there is indeed a secret Shanghai Accord, akin to those reached in an earlier era at the Plaza Hotel in New York and at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Federal Reserve on Wednesday capped off the series of moves by global policy makers by forecasting a shallower-than-anticipated rise in interest rates this year, with Chair Janet Yellen stressing the risks from a weaker global outlook and market turbulence.

Behind the suspected agreement, according to Joachim Fels of Pimco and David Zervos of Jefferies is a belief that a further major dollar rise against the euro and the yen would be bad for the global economy. “There seems to be some kind of tacit Shanghai Accord in place,” said Fels, who is global economic adviser for Pimco. “The agreement is to roughly stabilize the dollar versus the major currencies through appropriate monetary policy action, not through intervention.” Many other analysts are skeptical. “I don’t think there is a coordinated agreement among central banks to follow the policies they have,” said Charles Collyns, chief economist for the Institute of International Finance in Washington and a former U.S. Treasury official. “But clearly central banks do talk with each other and are aware of each other’s strategies.”

At the Plaza Hotel in 1985, the U.S. and its four industrial-nation allies struck a deal to bring down the sky-high dollar through concerted selling on the currency market. They came together a year and half later in Paris with the aim of stabilizing the greenback after successfully engineering its decline.

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Do we need to explain we see the world differently from Ambrose?

The Yellen Fed Risks Faustian Pact With Inflation (AEP)

Interest rates in the United States have fallen to minus 2pc in real terms and are dropping into deeper negative territory with each passing month. This is a remarkable state of affairs. It is clear that the US Federal Reserve is now trapped. The FOMC dares not tighten despite core inflation reaching 2.3pc because it is so worried about tantrums in financial markets and about that other Sword of Damocles – some $11 trillion of offshore debt denominated in dollars, up from $2 trillion in 2000. The Fed has been forced by circumstances to act as the world’s central bank, nursing a fragile and treacherous financial system struggling with unprecedented leverage. Average debt ratios are 36 percentage points of GDP higher than they were at the top of the pre-Lehman bubble in 2008, and this time emerging markets have been drawn into the quagmire as well by the spill-over effects of quantitative easing.

Like it or not, the Fed is stuck with the task of cleaning up a global mess that is arguably of its own making. You can certainly make a case that the Fed was right to hold rates steady this week and – crucially – to signal just two more rises over the rest of the year. The risks are not symmetric. It would be fatal if the US economy failed to achieve “escape velocity” and then slid back into deflation, leaving no margin of safety before the next downturn. Yet however well-intentioned, the Fed’s policy is fast becoming untenable. The Cleveland Fed’s median index of underlying inflation is already up to 2.8pc. Healthcare costs, car insurance, rents, restaurant bills, hotels, and women’s clothing are all soaring. Marc Ostwald from ADM said the Fed’s governors have effectively told the world that “they will remain forcefully ‘behind the curve’, and ignore their own forecasts of a very tight labour market”.

They are searching for excuses not to tighten, either by discovering yet more “slack” in the shadows of the penumbras of the remotest corners of the jobs market, or by dismissing the inflation data as spikey, transient, and unreliable. Fed chief Janet Yellen was asked twice in her press conference whether the institution’s credibility was at stake if it continues to drag its feet, and this time the warnings are coming from people who know what they are talking about. She admitted that the US economy is “close to our maximum employment objective”, meaning that it is near the inflexion point of NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), where unemployment is so low that wage pressures start to gather steam. She admitted too that headline inflation will pick up briskly as the effects of the oil price crash fade from the data. Yet she shrank from her own insights.

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Cool video!

The End of the Chinese Miracle (FT)

China’s economic miracle is under threat from a slowing economy and a dwindling labour force. The FT investigates how the world’s most populous country has reached a critical new chapter in its history.

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Try it on.

Traditional Economics Failed. Here’s a New Blueprint. (Evo.)

In traditional economic theory, as in politics, we Americans are taught to believe that selfishness is next to godliness. We are taught that the market is at its most efficient when individuals act rationally to maximize their own self-interest without regard to the effects on anyone else. We are taught that democracy is at its most functional when individuals and factions pursue their own self-interest aggressively. In both instances, we are taught that an invisible hand converts this relentless clash and competition of self-seekers into a greater good. These teachings are half right: most people indeed are looking out for themselves. We have no illusions about that. But the teachings are half wrong in that they enshrine a particular, and particularly narrow, notion of what it means to look out for oneself.

Conventional wisdom conflates self-interest and selfishness. It makes sense to be self-interested in the long run. It does not make sense to be reflexively selfish in every transaction. And that, unfortunately, is what market fundamentalism and libertarian politics promote: a brand of selfishness that is profoundly against our actual interest. Let’s back up a step. When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that certain truths were held to be “self-evident,” he was not recording a timeless fact; he was asserting one into being. Today we read his words through the filter of modernity. We assume that those truths had always been self-evident. But they weren’t. They most certainly were not a generation before Jefferson wrote.

In the quarter century between 1750 and 1775, in a confluence of dramatic changes in science, politics, religion, and economics, a group of enlightened British colonists in America grew gradually more open to the idea that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. It took Jefferson’s assertion, and the Revolution that followed, to make those truths self-evident. We point this out as a simple reminder. Every so often in history, new truths about human nature and the nature of human societies crystallize. Such paradigmatic shifts build gradually but cascade suddenly. This has certainly been the case with prevailing ideas about what constitutes self-interest. Self-interest, it turns out, is not a fixed entity that can be objectively defined and held constant. It is a malleable, culturally embodied notion.

Think about it. Before the Enlightenment, the average serf believed that his destiny was foreordained. He fatalistically understood the scope of life’s possibility to be circumscribed by his status at birth. His concept of self-interest extended only as far as that of his nobleman. His station was fixed, and reinforced by tradition and social ritual. His hopes for betterment were pinned on the afterlife. Post-Enlightenment, that all changed. The average European now believed he was master of his own destiny. Instead of worrying about his odds of a good afterlife, he worried about improving his lot here and now. He was motivated to advance beyond what had seemed fated. He was inclined to be skeptical about received notions of what was possible in life.

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Pro and con EU jockeying for position.

UK Minister Resigns From Cabinet Over Disability Cuts (Guardian)

Iain Duncan Smith has resigned as work and pensions secretary over cuts to disability benefits, in the most dramatic cabinet departure of David Cameron’s leadership. In a sign that divisions over Europe have heightened tensions in the Conservatives, the former party leader stormed out of his job, saying he thought the cuts to welfare for disabled people known as personal independence payments (PIP) were a “compromise too far”. Duncan Smith, who is campaigning to leave the EU in opposition to Downing Street, said he had too often felt under pressure to make huge welfare savings before a budget in a stinging critique of George Osborne’s entire approach to reducing the deficit.

In a direct attack on Osborne and a blow to the chancellor’s hopes of becoming the next Tory leader, Duncan Smith said the disability cuts were defensible in narrow terms of deficit reduction but not “in the way they were placed in a budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers”. He said he was stepping down because Osborne’s cuts were for self-imposed political reasons rather than in the national economic interest. “I am unable to watch passively while certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest,” Duncan Smith wrote in a resignation letter to Cameron.

“Too often my team and I will have been pressured in the immediate run-up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not repeatedly be salami-sliced.”

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Accountants are such creative souls, aren’t they?

Struggling US Oil And Gas Companies Eye Unusual Financing Deals (Reuters)

Some cash-strapped U.S. oil and gas companies are considering creating an unusual layer of debt as a way of surviving the rout in oil and gas prices, according to restructuring advisors. Chesapeake Energy for example is considering the strategy to swap some of its roughly $9 billion debt. Severely distressed companies may issue so-called 1.5 lien debt, sandwiched between the first and second liens, to raise new capital. Investors with a stomach for risk would get a better yield than for the top debt, and have a stronger claim than junior creditors if the company filed for bankruptcy. Companies could also create a new, middle layer of debt to swap with existing bondholders, offering them the option of giving up principal to jump the queue for repayment in the event of a bankruptcy.

But 1.5 liens, which often have longer maturities that help companies buy time to pay existing bondholders in full, are a sign of desperation that would anger junior creditors, restructuring experts said. Only six companies have done 1.5 lien deals over the past several years, according to Moody’s. The swap would make sense for Chesapeake because its bonds maturing in 2017 and 2018 are trading at depressed levels, analysts said. “This happens when the market kind of constricts,” said John Rogers, senior vice president at Moody’s. “(You) see it in deals where the company is overlevered and has a maturity coming up.” However, some credit rating agencies view the exchange of new 1.5 lien secured notes for existing senior unsecured and 2nd lien secured notes as a distressed exchange and a limited default depending on their definition of default.

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This is your world being sold up sh*t creek.

TTIP: Big Business And US To Have Major Say In EU Trade Deals (Ind.)

The European Commission will be obliged to consult with US authorities before adopting new legislative proposals following passage of a controversial series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret. A leaked document obtained by campaign group the Independent and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) from the ongoing EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations reveals the unelected Commission will have authority to decide in which areas there should be cooperation with the US – leaving EU member states and the European Parliament further sidelined. The main objective of TTIP is to harmonise transatlantic rules in a range of areas – including food and consumer product safety, environmental protection, financial services and banking.

The leaked document concerns the “regulatory cooperation” chapter of the talks, which the European Union says will result in “cutting red tape for EU firms without cutting corners”. It shows a labyrinth of procedures that could tie up any EU proposals that go against US interests, according to analysis by CEO. The campaign group said the document also reveals the extent to which major corporations and industry groups will be able to influence the development of regulatory cooperation by making what is referred to as a “substantial proposal” to the working agenda of the Commission and US agencies. The plans revealed by the document will give the US regulatory authorities a “questionable role” in Brussels lawmaking and weaken the European Parliament, CEO argues.

Kenneth Haar, researcher for CEO, said: “EU and US determination to put big business at the heart of decision-making is a direct threat to democratic principles. This document shows how TTIP’s regulatory cooperation will facilitate big business influence – and US influence – on lawmaking before a proposal is even presented to parliaments.” Nick Dearden, director of the Global Justice Now campaign group, said: “The leak absolutely confirms our fears about TTIP. It’s all about giving big business more power over a very wide range of laws and regulations. In fact, business lobbies are on record as saying they want to co-write laws with governments – this gets them a step closer. This isn’t an ‘add on’ or a small part of TTIP – it’s absolutely central.”

Mr Dearden said it was “scary” that the US could get the power to challenge and amend European regulations before elected European politicians have had the chance to debate them. Referring to the imminent EU referendum, he said: “We’re talking about sovereignty at the moment in this country – it’s difficult to imagine a more serious threat to our sovereignty than this trade deal.”

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“This is a dark day for the refugee convention, a dark day for Europe and a dark day for humanity..”

Refugees Will Be Sent Back Across Aegean In EU-Turkey Deal (Guardian)

Refugees and migrants arriving in Europe will be sent back across the Aegean sea under the terms of a deal between the EU and Turkey that has been criticised by aid agencies as inhumane. In an agreement that raises the prospect of a desperate last-minute rush to Greek shores by refugees and migrants hoping to beat the deadline of midnight on Saturday, the European council president, Donald Tusk, resolved sticking points with Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davatoglu, before all of the EU’s 28 leaders approved the deal at talks in Brussels. Anyone arriving after Saturday midnight can expect to be returned to Turkey in the coming weeks. The UN’s refugee agency said big questions remained about how the deal would work in practice and called for urgent improvements to Greece’s system for assessing refugees.

But thousands of refugees who have already made it to Greece will be resettled in Europe, although they cannot choose where. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, urged refugees at Idomeni to move to other accommodation being offered by the Greek authorities. Some 14,000 people are waiting at the border village in the hope of travelling north. “I want to take the opportunity to tell the refugees at Idomeni that they should trust the Greek government and move to other accommodation where the conditions will be significantly better,” Merkel said. She added that “from there, Greece will put asylum procedures in motion or redistribution to other European countries will take place”.

In exchange for taking in refugees, Turkey can expect “re-energised” talks on its EU membership, with the promise of negotiations on one policy area to be opened before July. Although this is a climbdown by Turkey, after Cyprus blocked a more ambitious restart of accession talks, Davatoglu said it was “a historic day” for EU-Turkey relations. But the head of the UN high commissioner for human rights in Europe raised concerns that safeguards intended to protect vulnerable asylum seekers would not be in place in time. Vincent Cochetel, director of the UNHCR for Europe, said the agreement was legal on paper, but questions remained on how it was implemented. “For us the proof is in the pudding. Clearly the deal on paper is consistent with international law and standards. The worry is that the safeguards will not be in place on 20 March.”

People claiming asylum needed access to interpreters and the right of appeal, he said, vital elements of a functioning asylum system that Greece has struggled to put in place until now. Implementation “is a big question mark, it is a big challenge”. Aid agencies accused the EU of failing to respect the spirit of EU and international laws. “This is a dark day for the refugee convention, a dark day for Europe and a dark day for humanity,” said Kate Allen of Amnesty International. Action Aid’s Mike Noyes claimed the deal would “effectively turn the Greek islands … into prison camps where terrified people are held against their will before being deported back to Turkey”.

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“Guarantees to scrupulously respect international law are incompatible with the touted return to Turkey of all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek islands as of Sunday.”

Amnesty Hits Out At EU Over Turkey Deal (BBC)

Amnesty International has accused European leaders of “double speak” over a deal which will see Europe-bound migrants returned to Turkey. The leading human rights charity said the deal failed to hide the EU’s “dogged determination to turn its back on a global refugee crisis”. Under the plan, migrants arriving in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if their asylum claim is rejected. In return, Turkey will receive aid and political concessions. John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, said promises by the EU to respect international and European law “appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow”. He added: “Guarantees to scrupulously respect international law are incompatible with the touted return to Turkey of all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek islands as of Sunday.”

Scepticism hangs heavy in the air about a host of legal issues, and about whether the agreement can actually work in practice. The idea at the heart of the deal – sending virtually all irregular migrants back to Turkey from the Greek islands – is the most controversial.
European leaders insist that everything will be in compliance with the law. “It excludes any kind of collective expulsions,” emphasised European Council President Donald Tusk. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) will take part in the scheme, but it is clearly uncomfortable with what has been agreed. Turkey is “not a safe country for refugees and migrants”, Mr Dalhuisen said, adding that any deal to return migrants based on claims it was would be “flawed, illegal and immoral”. It is hoped the plan, agreed at a summit in Brussels, will deter people from taking the often dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

As part of the arrangement, EU countries will resettle Syrian migrants already living in Turkey. EU leaders have welcomed the agreement, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of legal challenges to come. Some of the initial concessions offered to Turkey have been watered down and some EU members expressed disquiet over Turkey’s human rights record. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hailed it as a “historic” day. European Council President Donald Tusk said there had been unanimous agreement between Turkey and the 28 EU members. The UN warned that Greece’s capacity to assess asylum claims needed to be strengthened for the deal. Implementation was “crucial”, the organisation said. An EU source told the BBC up to 72,000 Syrian migrants living in Turkey would be settled in the EU under the agreement. They added that the mechanism would be abandoned if the numbers returned to Turkey exceeded that figure.

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“Migration is a fact of history.”

Migration Is A Fact Of Life – Yet Our Deluded Leaders Try To Stop It (G.)

It is all for show. The EU plan to limit migrants flowing into Europe might cut numbers by a few thousand. Subsidising Turkey’s refugee camps might hold a few back. David Cameron’s “Australia” plan to seize and return migrant boats might cut a few more. News of horrors on the Macedonian border might deter some from making the desperate bid to escape present danger in hope of a safer future. But it won’t make much difference. One force greater than all the state power in the world is that of human beings fleeing for their lives. So what is the point of yet another “EU summit” on refugees? It is done to pretend to people back home that “something is being done”. It is to allay fear with an appearance of tough measures, that in turn might deter the marginal refugee, the economic migrant, the hanger-on.

But it is hard to see any meaningful change when it comes to separating Syrians and Iraqis from Afghans and Pakistanis on a Greek island, and manhandling them into a ferry back to Turkey or Libya. It is all for show. The reality is that once a refugee has established a foothold in a particular country, he or she is that country’s problem. It is both humanity and the law. We can build fences and fortresses to keep people out, but even the sophisticated regimes of western Europe can only watch as a tide of wretchedness ebbs back and forth. Sooner or later desperate people get through. Look at America’s Mexican population. Australia’s draconian policy of turning back boats and imprisoning migrants has slackened its flow, but these are not refugees, and neighbouring Indonesia is not Libya or Syria.

The current wave of newcomers to Europe’s shores is a tiny addition to the continent’s stagnant populations. That was one reason why Germany initially welcomed half a million well-qualified Syrians. As the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula and even Africa grow and prosper, the outflow should ease. The west’s dreadful interventions in the Middle East – the prime cause of the present anarchy – must surely end. When order returns to Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, these once-stable countries will be repopulated. But other conflicts will take their place.

While economists love to chart the impact of globalisation on trade flows, no one charts its impact on flow of people. Come what may, migration will be a theme of the 21st century. No one can underestimate the stress that inflows from Asia and Africa will place on European societies. America is still wrestling to absorb its one-time black and Hispanic migrations. But absorb we must. Migration is a fact of history. We should learn to handle it, not pretend to stop it.

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There’s always another route.

This EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Is Exactly What The People Traffickers Want (Ind.)

By any measure, the war waged by the EU against the people smugglers blamed for the refugee crisis has been an abject failure. If sabre-rattling, barbed wire, and naval flotillas and other barriers could disrupt the trade in transporting migrants, this is a war would have been won long ago. Yet the EU-Turkey deal offers more of the same. Rounding up people smuggled into Greece and trading them for refugees registered in Turkey is not just unethical, it’s also unworkable. Earlier this month, David Cameron declared that despatching the Royal Navy to the Aegean to intercept and return refugees would help “break the business model of the criminal smugglers.” That outcome is unlikely. The “business model” of people smugglers is built on an imbalance in supply and demand.

Simply stated, the number of asylum seekers and other migrants driven to Europe by fear, hope and aspiration greatly exceeds the number allowed in, creating a market for intermediation served by trafficking. If there is one pervasive theme linking the diverse stories of migrants, it is a generalised indifference to the risks associated with strengthened border defences, perilous sea journeys, and strictures from EU leaders warning them not to travel. Whatever its military prowess, the Royal Navy is powerless to suspend the laws of economics. Refugees will continue to head for Europe – and the people smugglers will be there to facilitate their transit.

The overwhelming focus on strengthening borders and maritime patrolling is ultimately self-defeating. As migration and people smuggling become more risky – and more criminalised – the profits to be made from trafficking will rise. Europol estimates that a market now generating a turnover of some $6.6bn annually could triple in size over the next few years. With the risks and rewards associated with smuggling increasing, more organised criminal groups will enter the market. The Turkish mafia, assorted jihadi groups in Libya, and networked crime networks linking Europe to the Sahel are already strengthening their grip on people smuggling routes, eroding the already porous borders between people-smuggling, drugs-trafficking, gun-running and money-laundering.

Apparently immune to evidence, Europe’s policy makers appear hell-bent on repeating the mistakes of the war on drugs. That war has created extraordinary profits for organised crime, hurt vulnerable people, and supported the rise of institutions like the great Mexican drug cartels. So how should European leaders respond to the migrant crisis? They should start by pulling out of the cattle-market in refugee trading underpinning the proposed deal with Turkey. The way to defeat people smuggling is to suck the oxygen out of the market through a large-scale global resettlement programme, safe transit and orderly processing of asylum claims.

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