Jan 082018
 
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James Karales Selma to Montgomery March Alabama 1965

 

Beijing’s Yuan Ambitions Look Dashed (BBG)
Two Major Apple Shareholders Push for Study of iPhone Addiction in Children (BBG)
New Jersey Poised To Bar Drunken Droning (R.)
South Korea Inspects Six Banks Over Crypto Currency Services To Clients (R.)
Bitcoin Futures Traders Are Quietly Building A Big Short Position (ZH)
Australia Forecasts 20% Iron Ore Price Drop In 2018 (R.)
Australia Government Can’t Supply Its Way To Housing Affordability (SMH)
Rising Volatility Begets Rising Volatility (Peters)
The Artificial Liquidity Bubble (Henrich)
Wikileaks Publishes Michael Wolff’s Entire Sold Out Trump Book As A PDF (ZH)
US Freezes While Sydney Sizzles: World’s Temperature Extremes Span 85ºC (BBG)

 

 

It’s not as if a strong yuan is all that good for China. A stable one might be. But the bottom line remains: nobody wants it.

Beijing’s Yuan Ambitions Look Dashed (BBG)

As 2018 gets underway, China seems to be on top again. The yuan has strengthened 6.8% against the dollar over the past 12 months and foreign-exchange reserves are growing. Not so fast.Remember November 2015, when the IMF- with some fanfare – agreed to add the yuan to its prestigious special drawing rights currency basket. Talk then was of the yuan one day becoming one of the world’s reserve currencies, perhaps even rivaling the dollar.Two years on and central banks aren’t buying the notion. Although China’s currency has a weight of more than 10% in the SDR basket, which gives equal importance to a country’s trade status and balance-sheet metrics, just 1.1% of the world’s forex reserves were held in yuan versus 63% in dollars as of the third quarter.

It’s understandable that central banks have been shying away from the euro. German two-year bunds have been offering a negative yield since mid-2014. But why the yuan? China’s short-dated government notes offer among the best interest rates: Part of the explanation is liquidity. According to the Bank of International Settlements, in 2016, the yuan constituted only 4% of the world’s currency trades. The dollar, through pairs with the euro and the yen, accounted for 88% of transactions.

Then there’s the question of time. It could be decades before any currency, yuan or bitcoin, replaces the greenback.But China itself is also to blame. It seems to have abandoned its great yuan ambitions.What happened to the dim sum bond market? The Chinese government, along with policy banks, sold fewer than $3 billion of offshore yuan notes last year, a sharp pullback from 2016 and 2015. And oddly, last October, China sold its first sovereign dollar debenture since 2004 – a move that was widely interpreted as Beijing wishing to develop a vibrant international bond market for its state-owned enterprises. The panda bond market, where foreign companies raise yuan onshore, is also going nowhere. Hungary had a small, 1 billion yuan ($154 million) issue in July, while the Philippines keeps delaying its plans. China has also hit the pause button on the idea of trading oil in yuan.

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Curious new problems.

Two Major Apple Shareholders Push for Study of iPhone Addiction in Children (BBG)

Two big shareholders of Apple are concerned that the entrancing qualities of the iPhone have fostered a public health crisis that could hurt children – and the company as well. In a letter to the smartphone maker dated Jan. 6, activist investor Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System urged Apple to create ways for parents to restrict children’s access to their mobile phones. They also want the company to study the effects of heavy usage on mental health. “There is a growing body of evidence that, for at least some of the most frequent young users, this may be having unintentional negative consequences,” according to the letter from the investors, who combined own about $2 billion in Apple shares. The “growing societal unease” is “at some point is likely to impact even Apple.”

“Addressing this issue now will enhance long-term value for all shareholders,” the letter said. It’s a problem most companies would kill to have: Young people liking a product too much. But as smartphones become ubiquitous, government leaders and Silicon Valley alike have wrestled for ways to limit their inherent intrusiveness. France, for instance, has moved to ban the use of smartphones in its primary and middle schools. Meanwhile, Android co-founder Andy Rubin is seeking to apply artificial intelligence to phones so that they perform relatively routine tasks without needing to be physically handled. Apple already offers some parental controls, such as the Ask to Buy feature, which requires parental approval to buy goods and services. Restrictions can also be placed on access to some apps, content and data usage.

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I must admit, another new problem, and one that hadn’t occurred to me yet.

New Jersey Poised To Bar Drunken Droning (R.)

U.S. drone sales in 2017 topped $1 billion for the first time ever, but don’t raise a glass too quickly if you are in New Jersey, where lawmakers are poised to outlaw drunken droning next week. It is one of a wave of U.S. states moving to bring the unmanned aircrafts’ high-flying fun back to earth. New Jersey’s Assembly is slated to vote on a bill approved by the state Senate to ban inebriated or drugged droning, as well as to outlaw flying unmanned aircraft systems over prisons and in pursuit of wildlife. The vote was set for Thursday but postponed until Monday because of a severe snowstorm that triggered a state of emergency in New Jersey. “It’s basically like flying a blender,” said John Sullivan, 41, of New York, a drone buff and aerial cinematographer.

He said he opposed drunk droning but also fretted about regulatory overreach. “If I had like one drink, I’d be hesitant to even fly it.” A 2015 drone crash on the White House lawn fueled debate in the U.S. Congress over the need for drone regulations. It was a drunken, off-duty employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency who flew the 2-foot-by-2-foot (60 cm by 60 cm) “quadcopter” from a friend’s apartment balcony and lost control of it over the grounds surrounding the White House, the New York Times reported. [..] “Like any technology, drones have the ability to be used for good, but they also provide new opportunities for bad actors,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano of Elizabeth, New Jersey. She backed the bill, which would impose a punishment of up to six months prison and a $1,000 fine for drunk droning.

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A big gap: “..bitcoin’s global price average was trading at $16,294 while in South Korean markets, it stood at 25 million won, or $23,467.35..?

South Korea Inspects Six Banks Over Crypto Currency Services To Clients (R.)

South Korean financial authorities on Monday said they are inspecting six local banks that offer virtual currency accounts to institutions, amid concerns the increasing use of such assets could lead to a surge in crime. The joint inspection by the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) will check if banks are adhering to anti-money laundering rules and using real names for accounts, FSC Chairman Choi Jong-ku told a press conference. [..] Choi said the inspections are intended to provide guidance to banks and are not the result of any suspected wrongdoing. “Virtual currency is currently unable to function as a means of payment and it is being used for illegal purposes like money laundering, scams and fraudulent investor operations,” said Choi. “The side effects have been severe, leading to hacking problems at the institutions that handle cryptocurrency and an unreasonable spike in speculation.”

A Woori Bank spokesperson told Reuters the bank was filling out a checklist for the inspection. The spokesperson said Woori had stopped providing virtual account services last month as the costs of using a real-name transaction system were too prohibitive. [..] Choi said authorities are also looking at ways to reduce risks associated with cryptocurrency trading in the country, which could include shutting down institutions that use such currencies. Last month, the government said it would impose additional measures to regulate speculation in cryptocurrency trading within the country, including a ban on anonymous cryptocurrency accounts and new legislation to allows regulators to close virtual coin exchanges if needed.

Bitcoin and other virtual coins have been extremely popular in South Korea, drawing wide investments from housewives and students. Government officials have expressed concern over frenzied speculation, with South Korea’s central bank chief warning of “irrational exuberance” in trading of virtual currency last month. A South Korean cryptocurrency exchange, Youbit, shut down and filed for bankruptcy in December after it was hacked twice last year, highlighting security and regulatory concerns. South Korea’s virtual currency exchanges have been more vulnerable to hackers as bitcoin trades at higher rates on local exchanges than they do elsewhere. As of 0710 GMT, bitcoin’s global price average was trading at $16,294 while in South Korean markets, it stood at 25 million won, or $23,467.35, according to Coinhills.com.

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Bitcoin and Ripple are falling, ether rises.

Bitcoin Futures Traders Are Quietly Building A Big Short Position (ZH)

In retrospect, the launch of bitcoin futures one month ago has proven to be a modestly disappointing event: while it helped send the price of bitcoin soaring as traders braced for the institutionalization of bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency has stagnated since the beginning of December when first the Cboe then CME started trading bitcoin futures, trading in a range between $12,000 and $17,000. And while bitcoin futures markets volumes have been lower than most had expected, the past 4 weeks have provided enough data to observe how volumes and open interest have evolved.

We discussed previously that Bitcoin futures were off to a slow start in the first week of trading, with volumes of CBOE Bitcoin futures averaging just around $40MM per day, despite intense media hype helping fuel heavy trading when both contracts launched, at least in the first hours of trading. Since then, volumes spike briefly in the following week coinciding with the launch of the CME futures, with volumes of on both exchanges at relatively similar levels. Then, as JPM’s Nikolaos Panagirtzoglou shows, after a spike in volumes to around $200mn on 22 December, which saw sharp swings in underlying Bitcoin prices, volumes have averaged around $50mn and $60mn per day on the CBOE and CME futures, respectively.

One month after their launch, futures trading volumes remain very modest compared to average Bitcoin trading volumes of around $15bn per day since futures contracts were launched according to coinmarketcap.com data. While open interest in both the CBOE and CME contracts has risen steadily, it too remains rather modest at around $60mn and $70mn, respectively. Putting futures volumes in context, on Friday, the combined size of the bitcoin-futures markets at the two exchanges was roughly $150 million, measured in terms of the value of outstanding contracts, while the total value of all bitcoins in existence was around $290 billion.

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That’s a big drop.

Australia Forecasts 20% Iron Ore Price Drop In 2018 (R.)

Australia on Monday said it expects iron ore prices to average $51.50 a tonne this year, down 20% from 2017, because of rising global supply and moderating demand from top importer China as its steel sector shrinks. The world’s top three mining companies, BHP and Vale rely heavily on iron ore sales for the bulk of their revenue despite efforts to diversify more into other industrial raw materials, such as copper, aluminium and coal. Brazil-based Vale is planning to lift iron ore exports 7% in 2018 to 390 million tonnes. In Australia, Rio Tinto and BHP, along with Fortescue Metals Group aim to add about 170 million tonnes of new capacity over the next several years.

The forecast price decline — from an average of $64.30 a tonne in 2017 — continues into 2019, when the steelmaking raw material will average only $49 a tonne, according to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. “The iron ore price is expected to experience some ongoing volatility in early 2018, as the market responds to uncertainty regarding the impact of winter production restrictions on iron ore demand,” the department warned in its latest commodities outlook paper. Iron ore currently sells for about $75 a tonne.

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All it needs to do is let prices crash. Does wonders for affordability.

Australia Government Can’t Supply Its Way To Housing Affordability (SMH)

Sydney and Melbourne are entering a housing downturn. While the government has hoped record high levels of property development would have an impact, research shows supply is not behind the price falls. Housing economists say the market slowdown is not due to additional home building but a drop in demand, in part thanks to the banking regulator making it more difficult for some to get a loan. In fact, the effect of new supply on property prices has been very limited despite state governments largely pinning hopes on a surging home building industry to rein in affordability. In a recent Australian National University paper Regional housing supply and demand in Australia academics Ben Phillips and Cukkoo Joseph found supply levels from 2001 to 2017 were larger than necessary to cover demand requirements, with thousands of excess homes in Sydney, but prices boomed over the time period.

This flies in the face of conventional economic wisdom, with the law of supply and demand dictating that the more of something you make, the cheaper it should be. There are many reasons why housing doesn’t respond to increases in supply in the way the market for coal, apples or t-shirts might be expected to react. When economists are making models they usually assume they are calculating the impacts on a “normal” good. One of the assumptions often made when modelling supply and demand for these goods is that what is produced is all homogenous, that is they are more or less the same. Typically, someone will pay the same amount for one item as they will for another that is identical.

Housing is not in this category. Even in the most sterile of apartment blocks, there will be many different design features, flaws, views and aspects that differ in each unit. The impact of new supply on the property market is limited by whether the type of property being built caters to existing demand. For instance, new apartments on the outskirts of greater Sydney or Melbourne may not appeal to the same market bidding up the price of mansions with water views.

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It’s just like Minsky: stability begets instability.

Rising Volatility Begets Rising Volatility (Peters)

To sell implied volatility at current 50yr lows, investors must imagine tomorrow will be virtually identical to today. They must imagine that bond yields won’t rise despite every major central bank eager to hike interest rates and exit QE. They must imagine that economies at or near full employment will not create inflation; that GDP will neither accelerate nor decelerate; that governments will tolerate historic levels of income inequality despite citizens voting for the opposite; that strongly rising global debts will be supported by structurally decelerating global growth. And volatility sellers must imagine that nine years into a bull market, amplified by a proliferation of complex volatility-selling strategies and passive ETFs with liquidity mismatches, that we will dodge a destabilizing shock to market infrastructure.

I can imagine a few of those things happening, but neither sustainably nor simultaneously. It is much easier to imagine a tomorrow that looks different from today. Also consider that investment banks and asset managers have always devised creative strategies to make money once asset valuations exceed reasonable levels. These perpetual prosperity machines typically combine leverage and alchemy, transforming real risk into perceived safety. Examples abound. But in this cycle, a proliferation of cleverly disguised volatility-selling strategies has dominated. Zero interest rates and quantitative easing left yield-starved investors with few ways to achieve their target returns. Wall Street’s engineers developed many wonderful solutions to this problem. Their magnificence is matched only by the amount of negative convexity now lurking in investment portfolios.

As volatility has declined, investors have had to sell even more of it to sustain sufficient profits. This selling reinforces the trend lower, which produces an illusion that legacy volatility shorts are less risky today than yesterday. Lower volatility thus begets lower volatility. And this also ensures that quantitative models reduce overall portfolio risk estimates, which allows (and in many cases forces) investors to buy more assets at prevailing prices. This in turn reduces volatility, reflexively. Naturally, the reverse is also true. Rising volatility begets rising volatility. And given the unprecedented volatility-selling in this cycle, this market is exposed to a historic reversal somewhere along the path to policy normalization. Which has now begun.

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aka the everything bubble.

The Artificial Liquidity Bubble (Henrich)

8 years after the financial crisis we remain in an environment that is entirely dependent on artificial liquidity, be it via central bank liquidity driven low rates and/or QE or now US fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts. And while a reduction in central bank stimulus is anticipated for 2018 the $1.5 trillion US tax cut is the next active artificial boost to hit markets. You can view it perhaps this way: When the US ended QE3 Europe and Japan took over the stimulus baton, and now that Europe is reducing stimulus the US again is taking the lead, this time with fiscal stimulus. It is a bizarre dance that excels in one aspect in particular: It never ends. Consider: German unemployment is at all time lows, and European PMIs are at their highest in over 7 years.

Is the ECB raising rates from record lows? Nope. Has QE ended? Nope. QE continues to run at $30B Euro a month and rates remain in full panic mode. Not what one would’ve expected 8 years ago following a return to full employment. Stimulus programs & interventions used to be methods of crisis management now they have become permanent fixtures in global economies. Why? Because this is what it takes. And they will continue. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has just instructed central bank chief Kuroda to keep printing as he decides whether to keep him in his job. Wink wink. Normalizing rates? Reducing balance sheets back to pre-crisis levels? Letting markets run on their own without intervention? Call it the big central banking lie. It will never happen. It can’t. Global debt is now exceeding $233 Trillion.

[..] the math of higher rates doesn’t work and will eventual break the camel’s back. Low rates are an absolute must requirement to keep the construct afloat. It is no accident that Morgan Stanley wealth management has decided to pull out of junk bonds. They are warning of US tax cuts accelerating market excesses bringing about a coming recession. And make no mistake, a recession will come as we are very late in the cycle.

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Count me out.

Wikileaks Publishes Michael Wolff’s Entire Sold Out Trump Book As A PDF (ZH)

Considering that Wikileaks made its name by leaking confidential and/or hard to find documents and information, and also considering the reversal in the Trump administration vis-a-vis Julian Assange, whom it first lauded only to threaten with incarceration in recent months, it is perhaps not surprising that moments ago the official Wikileaks twitter account published Michael Wolff’s controversial – and largely sold out – book, “Fire and Fury” in pdf format.

New Trump book “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. Full PDF: https://t.co/sf7vj4IYAx

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 7, 2018

Since, somewhat ironically, WikiLeaks picked a google drive to host the leaked pdf, it will unlikely remain available for an extended period, as it would mean substantial lost revenue for book published Henry Holt and Company. So for those who wish to read what all the hoople is about – for free – they are advised to do so sooner rather than later.

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View from the west only. How do you dress for a flight like that?

US Freezes While Sydney Sizzles: World’s Temperature Extremes Span 85ºC (BBG)

Temperature extremes across the globe spanned more than 85 degrees Celsius at the weekend as Sydney melted and parts of the U.S. froze. Western Sydney touched 47.3 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday afternoon local time, the city’s hottest day since 1939. Weekend temperatures at Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire plummeted to minus 36 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 38 degrees Celsius). Roads melted, firefighters battled wildfires across New South Wales state and Sydney residents retreated to air-conditioned shopping malls as temperatures surged. English cricket captain Joe Root was hospitalized with severe dehydration after battling Australia in the cauldron of the Sydney Cricket Ground. At the same time, freezing fog and snow buffeted Mount Washington, tying the observatory for the second-coldest place on Earth.

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Dec 182016
 
 December 18, 2016  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Dorothea Lange Country store, Person County, NC Jul 1939

Here’s How Americans Spent Their Money In The Last 75 Years (MW)
Global Debt, Equity Markets Lose $1 Trillion In Value This Week (ZH)
January 2017 Earnings Is Going To Be a Bloodbath (EconMatters)
Trump Talked, the Fed Listened: Shrink the Balance Sheet, Bullard Says (WS)
Pentagon Says China to Return Drone; Trump Says They Can Keep It (BBG)
Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless. (NYT)
Monte dei Paschi to Start Taking Orders for Shares on Monday (BBG)
Hillary’s Campaign The Most Incompetent In Modern History (Davis)
Just Who Is Undermining Election? Russians Or CIA? (Albuquerque Journal Ed.)
‘Shocking’ Rise in Number of Homeless Children in UK B&Bs at Christmas (G.)
Tsipras’s Spending Spree May Be Relief To Greeks But It Won’t End Crisis (G.)

 

 

The rise in spending on housing should initiate a national debate. And not just in the US. It makes you wonder about the real dimensions of the ‘housing bubble’. Is it perhaps 75 years old already?

Here’s How Americans Spent Their Money In The Last 75 Years (MW)

Housing expenses have almost always been the largest drain on American budgets, unchanged in over 70 years. Between 1941 and 2014, Americans spent money on most of the same things, with a few changes. Housing has persisted as a large area of spending for Americans, as has the food category. However, spending on food and clothing has fallen when adjusting for inflation while spending on education and health care has risen quickly. That’s according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, adjusted for inflation and representing median spending of all Americans, charted here.


click for larger version

There is one exception to housing’s dominance, in 1941, when spending on food averaged $8,311 annually, topping the $7,537 spent on shelter that year. Interestingly, in 1941 the government included alcohol in the food spending category, which inflates the food spending data for that year. In other years, alcohol was given its own category. Americans spent the most on clothing in 1961, at an average of $4,157. In every year measured since 1961, spending on clothing fell, even when accounting for inflation. At the same time, Americans began spending more on education, transportation and health care. Spending on education has increased far more than any other category, jumping from $242 in 1941 to $1,236 in 2014. Education spending increased at a particularly fast rate between 1984 and 1994 and onward. While spending on health care increased between 1941 and 2014, overall spending dipped between 1973 and 1984, but then began rising rapidly thereafter.

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@Boomfinance: “Bonds are collateral assets. Collateral is needed to expand Credit. This is Debt Deflation writ large. Yes?”

Global Debt, Equity Markets Lose $1 Trillion In Value This Week (ZH)

Thanks to Janet Yellen’s rate-hike-hawkishness (but, but, but, we’re still ultra-easy), global equity and debt markets lost over $1 trillion in value – the biggest weekly loss since early May (weak China data and huge surge in dollar). Global bonds lost over $430 billion in market value this week (Yellen hawkishness and China bond carnage) but stocks lost even more ($525 billion) as China financial turmoil added to the world’s woes (and “three rate hikes next year” and fiscal stimulus efficacy questions did not help).

Having retraced back to pre-Trump levels before The Fed statement this week, the combination of China turmoil and Janet’s un-dovishness sent global stocks and bonds down over $1 trillion on the week – the worst week globally since May 2016 (when the dollar surged amid China weakness and slowing EU growth forecasts)

In fact, while US bank stockholders are ebullient at The Trump presidency-to-be, the rest of the world has lost a combined $1.5 trillion in market value across its bonds and stocks (thanks in major part to Janet’s help this week).

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No holding back here.

January 2017 Earnings Is Going To Be a Bloodbath (EconMatters)

We discuss a preview of January`s Earnings releases and how massive the gap down in most of these stocks will be when they report in a month. There have already been two earning`s guide downs from industrial companies this past week in UTX, and HON. But with the run up in financials and energies for the last month we are going to experience big $5 chunks taken out of these stocks and massive after hours and pre-market gap downs that will cause entire sectors to sell off during earnings in January. It is just going to be brutal, expect 500 point down days in the Dow during this upcoming earnings period. You have seasonal stocks that selloff every year like Apple and Amazon, as the 4th quarter is their best by far for sales and revenues.

And you have energy companies with exorbitant p/e ratios like COP, XOM, CVH that are priced for $115 dollar oil not $55 oil that 4th quarter earnings releases are going to bring some fundamental realities back to investors of how overpriced these stocks are right here. You have “dogshit” stocks like C, BAC that are serial underperformers in the financial sector along with WFC with its legal problems and operating distractions of the past year, and JPM which has moved too far entirely too fast and the amount of Monkey Hammering Selling Smack downs of these financials upon reporting is going to be outright brutal for investors stupid enough not to have taken profits before earnings. Not to mention all the other broken companies that have been lifted up in this 4th quarter rally, and are going to be taken out to the woodshed for a red beating when they report.

Throw in all those idiot investors who don`t take profits for tax reasons who will wish they did as everybody sells in the new year at the same time running for the tax exits together, and this January 2017 Earnings period is going to be outright one of the worst we have seen since last January`s massive stock selloff. It is the difference between being able to use a selling algorithm program that gets a decent price for the closing of the position versus taking what the market gives you during selloff and gap down closing of positions where profits are annihilated in a very short timespan. Investors need to evaluate all of the parameters when making tax deferral decisions, and it isn`t as simple as they always mistakenly calculate when making these boneheaded simpleton calculations.

No wonder they cannot outperform the market, you have to take profits into strength, not weakness when everybody and their brother is selling. Why Investors continue to exhibit the same stupid patterns is beyond me, but the smart ones will be selling in the next two weeks to beat the carnage selling that occurs in January due to tax deferral selling, and reality setting in that no amount of Trump Magic can make these pig stocks earnings for the 4th quarter look good relative to the current stock prices. It is going to get ugly folks!

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Nice piece from Wolf Richter. He recognizes the inherent risks: “Trump, as President, would be more than embarrassed to see financial markets sag under his watch.”

Trump Talked, the Fed Listened: Shrink the Balance Sheet, Bullard Says (WS)

Bullard would start by allowing maturing securities to roll off the balance sheet without replacing them with new asset purchases, he said. That would shrink the balance sheet. And it would make financial conditions more restrictive. Shedding assets accumulated on the Fed’s balance sheet is the ultimate form of tightening. It would pull liquidity out of the markets and force them to stand on their own wobbly feet. And he’s a dove! He sees only one rate hike next year. Until recently, he saw only one rate hike, period – the one we just got – and no additional hikes over the next few next years. But he’s ogling the balance sheet. If shrinking the balance sheet is too radical for now, the Fed could replace longer term securities as they mature with short-dated securities, he said. This would make unwinding the balance sheet easier, once the decision is made.

These short-dated securities could just be allowed to mature without replacement. It could go pretty quickly. “My preference would be to allow some runoff in the balance sheet,” he said. But before markets could spiral into a paroxysm, he added that he didn’t think efforts to shrink the balance sheet were “imminent.” He has been a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which makes the decisions on rates, QE, and balance sheet shrinkage. But next year, he’ll rotate into a non-voting slot. So he’s just setting some trial balloons adrift. A few Fed heads have dared to suggest that they’d want to shrink the balance sheet eventually, possibly after everyone’s life expectancy expires. They’d want to raise rates first, and if the economy hasn’t fallen into a recession or worse by then, it might be time to think about letting the balance sheet contract.

But the economy might never get to where there are some sort of normal rates without a recession. And a recession would start the whole process of rate cutting and perhaps QE all over again, and the balance sheet might never be shrunk in this scenario. Bullard doesn’t want to wait that long. For good reason. QE has caused enough distortions. Shrinking the balance sheet by allowing bonds to roll off, while keeping the fed funds rate relatively low, for example at 1.5% by next year, would cause long term rates to rise sharply while keeping a lid on short-term rates. It would steepen the yield curve. In this scenario, the 10-year yield – at 1.38% in July and now at 2.6% – might go to 4% or beyond.

It would have an epic impact on Trump’s “artificial stock market.” It would cause all kinds of mayhem, because Trump was right: The epic bond market bubble and the stock market rally that has pushed all conventional metrics off the charts have been fueled by the Fed. The effects of removing, to use Trump’s term, the “artificial” elements from the stock market could be interesting. We’d have to avert our eyes from the carnage in the bond market. And Housing Bubble 2, with 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 6%? That’s historically low and worked just fine ten years ago (it helped create Housing Bubble 1). But with the inflated home prices of today, it would mark a big reset.

Today’s equations won’t work at these interest rates. The fireworks could be astounding. But in the big picture, it would just unravel some of the excesses of the past few years, bring a hue of normalcy to the markets, and refocus attention on the real economy instead of wild financial speculations. Trump, as he was talking during the campaign, should appreciate that. Trump, as mega-investor, might get queasy. And Trump, as President, would be more than embarrassed to see financial markets sag under his watch.

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China knows Trump is a dealmaker. Just like they are. They must have chuckled at his response. But not officially of course.

Pentagon Says China to Return Drone; Trump Says They Can Keep It (BBG)

The Pentagon said China will return a U.S. Navy underwater drone after its military scooped up the submersible in the South China Sea late this week and sparked a row that drew in President-elect Donald Trump, who said on Twitter the Chinese stole it, so they can keep it. “Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement on Saturday, referring to the unmanned underwater vehicle the U.S. said had been operating in international waters. China’s ministry of defense pledged an “appropriate” return of the drone on its Weibo social media account, while also criticizing the U.S. for hyping the incident into a diplomatic row.

It followed assurances from Beijing that the governments were working to resolve the spat, punctuated by a tweet from Trump denouncing the seizure as “unprecedented.” The drone incident was disclosed by the Pentagon on Friday. China’s ministry said the U.S. “hyped the case in public,” which it said wasn’t helpful in resolving the problem. The U.S. has “frequently” sent its vessels and aircrafts into the region, and China urges such activities to stop, the ministry said in its Weibo message. Trump slammed the Chinese navy’s capture of the vehicle in a message to his 17.4 million Twitter followers. “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act,” Trump wrote Saturday hours after the Chinese government said it had been in touch with the U.S. military about the incident.

In a follow-up Twitter message, the president-elect said: “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back – let them keep it!” The tensions unleashed by the episode underscored the delicate state of relations between the two countries, weeks before Trump’s inauguration. Trump has threatened higher tariffs on Chinese products and questioned the U.S. approach to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. Meanwhile, China is growing more assertive over its claims to disputed sections of the South China Sea.

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An ‘experiment’ targeted at 2000 specific people has nothing to do with Universal Basic Income. These ‘experiments’ are only valid when it’s truly universal, or at least nationwide. And when they involve people with AND without jobs. You simply can’t do ‘universal’ on a small scale.

Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless. (NYT)

No one would confuse this frigid corner of northern Finland with Silicon Valley. Notched in low pine forests just 100 miles below the Arctic Circle, Oulu seems more likely to achieve dominance at herding reindeer than at nurturing technology start-ups. But this city has roots as a hub for wireless communications, and keen aspirations in innovation. It also has thousands of skilled engineers in need of work. Many were laid off by Nokia, the Finnish company once synonymous with mobile telephones and more recently at risk of fading into oblivion. While entrepreneurs are eager to put these people to work, the rules of Finland’s generous social safety net effectively discourage this. Jobless people generally cannot earn additional income while collecting unemployment benefits or they risk losing that assistance.

For laid-off workers from Nokia, simply collecting a guaranteed unemployment check often presents a better financial proposition than taking a leap with a start-up in Finland, where a shaky technology industry is trying to find its footing again. Now, the Finnish government is exploring how to change that calculus, initiating an experiment in a form of social welfare: universal basic income. Early next year, the government plans to randomly select roughly 2,000 unemployed people — from white-collar coders to blue-collar construction workers. It will give them benefits automatically, absent bureaucratic hassle and minus penalties for amassing extra income. The government is eager to see what happens next. Will more people pursue jobs or start businesses? How many will stop working and squander their money on vodka?

Will those liberated from the time-sucking entanglements of the unemployment system use their freedom to gain education, setting themselves up for promising new careers? These areas of inquiry extend beyond economic policy, into the realm of human nature. The answers — to be determined over a two-year trial — could shape social welfare policy far beyond Nordic terrain. In communities around the world, officials are exploring basic income as a way to lessen the vulnerabilities of working people exposed to the vagaries of global trade and automation. While basic income is still an emerging idea, one far from being deployed on a large scale, the growing experimentation underscores the deep need to find effective means to alleviate the perils of globalization.

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Covered by taxpayers.

Monte dei Paschi to Start Taking Orders for Shares on Monday (BBG)

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA will begin taking orders for shares as soon as Monday as it aims to complete raising €5 billion of capital before Christmas, people with the knowledge of the matter said. Monte Paschi will attempt to sell stock through Thursday, said the people, who asked to not be named because the plan isn’t public yet. The price and total number of shares to be sold will be determined based on investor demand and on the outcome of the separate debt-to-equity swap, the people said. CEO Marco Morelli, who took over in September, is racing to find backers for his effort to clean up the bank’s balance sheet.

The failure of the recapitalization would be a blow to Italy’s sputtering efforts to revive a banking industry that’s burdened with about €360 billion in troubled loans, dragging down the economy by limiting lending. The lender earlier this week extended a debt-for-equity swap that is one of the three main interlocking pieces of the bank’s capital-raising plan. The bank also plans a cash infusion from anchor investors and a share sale. The offer, involving the exchange of about 4.5 billion euros of Tier 1 and Tier 2 securities, is set to end at 2 p.m. on Dec. 21. Monte Paschi, facing a Dec. 31 deadline to complete the fundraising, also will promote an exchange on 1 billion euros of hybrid securities issued in 2008 known as FRESH at 23.2% of face value, the lender said in a filing on its website.

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Almost funny.

Hillary’s Campaign The Most Incompetent In Modern History (Davis)

It wasn’t sexism, or racism, or the FBI, or fake news, or the Russians, which cost Hillary Clinton the presidential election. According to a blockbuster campaign dispatch published by Politico on Wednesday, sheer incompetence was the real cause of Clinton’s electoral implosion in November. Clinton’s loss was caused not by one bad decision here or there, the Politico report shows, but by a cascade of mind-bogglingly stupid decisions made throughout the campaign. For example, there was the time campaign surrogates were ordered to stay and campaign in Iowa, which Clinton lost by 10 points, instead of working to get out the vote for Clinton in Michigan:

Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope. They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms. SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious. Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Then there was the time the campaign, instead of spending its cash in competitive states the candidate needed to win to clinch an electoral college victory, sent millions to the Democratic National Committee, which used the money to run up vote totals in uncompetitive states so Clinton would win the popular vote:

But there also were millions approved for transfer from Clinton’s campaign for use by the DNC — which, under a plan devised by Brazile to drum up urban turnout out of fear that Trump would win the popular vote while losing the electoral vote, got dumped into Chicago and New Orleans, far from anywhere that would have made a difference in the election.

There was also the time Clinton didn’t even bother to show up at a Michigan event for the United Auto Workers, a key union constituency on which Democrats traditionally rely for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts throughout the Rust Belt:

Clinton never even stopped by a United Auto Workers union hall in Michigan, though a person involved with the campaign noted bitterly that the UAW flaked on GOTV commitments in the final days, and that AFSCME never even made any, despite months of appeals.

The Clinton campaign also completely ignored cries for last-second, all-hands-on-deck GOTV help in Michigan on election day. According to Politico, Brooklyn-based campaign staff waved off data showing massive shortfalls in urban turnout and insisted the Democrat would win the state by at least five points:

On the morning of Election Day, internal Clinton campaign numbers had her winning Michigan by 5 points. By 1 p.m., an aide on the ground called headquarters; the voter turnout tracking system they’d built themselves in defiance of orders — Brooklyn had told operatives in the state they didn’t care about those numbers, and specifically told them not to use any resources to get them — showed urban precincts down 25%. Maybe they should get worried, the Michigan operatives said. Nope, they were told. She was going to win by 5. All Brooklyn’s data said so.

Clinton would eventually lose the state by 11,000 votes, less than one quarter of one %age point of all votes cast in the state. In the end, though, it appears that hubris may have been Hillary’s ultimate downfall. Hours before polls closed and long before returns began trickling in, Clinton’s top staffers weren’t scrambling for every last vote. Instead, they were busy measuring the Oval Office curtains and searching for champagne bottles to uncork to celebrate their historic victory. “In at least one of the war rooms in New York, they’d already started celebratory drinking by the afternoon, according to a person there,” Politico reported. “Elsewhere, calls quietly went out that day to tell key people to get ready to be asked about joining transition teams.” Oops.

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An editorial that means sense. Maybe America’s papers are not all doomed to oblivion after all.

Just Who Is Undermining Election? Russians Or CIA? (Albuquerque Journal Ed.)

Congress needs to dust off its Magic 8 Ball. At this point, how else are our elected representatives going to get to the bottom of allegations that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, tried to influence the U.S. general election? After all, the CIA isn’t being very open – at least not with our elected representatives. Instead of briefing the House Intelligence Committee about the alleged Russian role in hacked emails made public during the campaign – which Democrats desperately seek to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss – the agency is leaking conclusions without facts to the Washington Post, New York Times and television networks. The media, naturally, are quick to report the anonymous bits of “blame Putin” information to the public. So to the extent Putin meddled, our own spies have at least matched his efforts to discredit our electoral system.

To recap: Private emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign were made public via WikiLeaks, allegedly through hacking, even though the FBI had tried to warn the DNC back in September 2015 of problems with its security system. The agency couldn’t get past the party’s technical help desk – harking back to Hillary’s email security problems on her own private server. The media reported on the leaks daily – and if a reporter had obtained the same information from inside sources, there would be no controversy at all. Today’s uproar is over the source – not the substance. But the CIA’s alleged conclusion – that Russia intervened to help Trump win – does not square with comments made Nov. 17 by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence. He said he lacked “good insight” about whether there was a connection between the WikiLeaks releases and Russia.

Congressional Republican leaders are taking the allegations seriously. “The Russians are not our friends,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. House Speaker Paul Ryan called any Russian intervention “especially problematic because, under President Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.” But Intelligence Committee member Peter King of New York flatly accused the U.S. intelligence community of waging a disinformation campaign aimed at undermining Trump’s credibility – if not changing the course of the Electoral College. Not surprisingly, President Obama is seizing a newfound political opportunity and is taking a new interest despite earlier claims of knowing all along of Russian shenanigans but choosing not to go public with whatever evidence he had – none of which he has produced.

[..] The source of the campaign leaks remains an interesting question, but one unlikely to be answered credibly unless the CIA coughs up its findings to Congress. Cooperation also might help answer the question of possible Russian motives if it was involved: Was it to cast doubt on the U.S. election system? If so, it was highly successful with the help of our own intelligence community and desperate Democrats who simply can’t accept that Trump won 306 Electoral College votes. Though the CIA based its supposed findings of pro-Trump intervention on the fact that no Republican emails were leaked before the election, the Republican National Committee says it wasn’t hacked. And Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange stands firm in his claim the Russians were not the source of the leaks.

Cyber hacking has become one of the mainstays of life – Yahoo most recently was hacked of more than one billion user accounts. And intervention into foreign elections is something many nations, including the United States, do regularly. Obama recently tried to influence the Brexit vote. And while nobody should feel good about foreign interests intervening in U.S. elections, the reluctance of the U.S. intelligence community to share its information with official sources charged with making decisions about national security, while leaking information via media outlets, is very disturbing, raising the spectre of a political coup by our nation’s intelligence forces.

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Maybe Britain needs a full-size reboot.

‘Shocking’ Rise in Number of Homeless Children in UK B&Bs at Christmas (G.)

The number of children living in temporary accommodation this Christmas, including in bed and breakfasts, has risen by more than 10% since last year to 124,000, according to the latest government figures. The numbers of children forced into temporary housing in the run up to Christmas have described as “shocking” by the country’s leading charity for the homeless. The data, released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, also reveals a rise of more than 300% since 2014 in the number of families in England who are being housed illegally (for more than the statutory maximum period of six weeks) in B&Bs by local authorities, because they cannot find any alternative places. Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “The latest figures show that councils are increasingly struggling to help homeless families.

“But the number of children placed in B&Bs illegally is truly shocking, and there’s a worrying rise in families moved away from their support network to a new area. We know first-hand the devastating impact this can have on their lives.” He blamed a “perfect storm” of welfare cuts and rising rents, together with a lack of social and affordable housing, that was creating impossible pressure for local authorities. “Councils know that neither option is acceptable but increasingly find themselves with no alternatives,” he said. “Welfare cuts have made private rents unaffordable and that – combined with unpredictable rent rises and a lack of genuinely affordable homes – mean many families are struggling to get by.

“With the loss of private rented homes the single biggest cause of homelessness, it’s no wonder that’s so many families are turning to their council, desperate for help.” [.] The number of households that have become homeless after an eviction over the last year is up 12% compared to a year ago at 18,820 while the total number of households in temporary accommodation has risen to 74,630, up 9% on a year earlier. While 21,400 homeless households have been moved away to a different council area – a 15% rise in the last year.

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Helena Smith is the Guardian’s Athens correspondent. I haven’t met a Greek who knows of her and had positive things to say. But this is insane. I know editors make headlines, not reporters, but calling Tsipras’ move to soften the crisis blow a little for pensioners, and to feed children at school who don’t eat at home, a “spending spree”, that is way beyond the pale. Shameless.

Tsipras’s Spending Spree May Be Relief To Greeks But It Won’t End Crisis (G.)

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, likes to shake things up and, in recent days, he has reverted to form. After 16 months of faithfully toeing the line, the leader rebelled, cautiously at first and then almost jubilantly, casting off the fiscal straightjacket that has encased his government with thinly veiled glee. First came the announcement that low-income pensioners, forced to survive in tax-heavy post-crisis Greece on €800 or less a month, would receive a one-off, pre-Christmas bonus. Then came the news that Greeks living on Aegean isles which have borne the brunt of refugee flows would not be subject to a sales tax enforced at the behest of creditors keeping the debt-stricken country afloat.

Finally, another announcement both antagonising and pointed: 30,000 children living in poverty-stricken areas of northern Greece will henceforth be entitled to free meals in schools. The reaction wasn’t instant but, when it came, it was delivered with force. The European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone’s financing arm, announced that short-term relief measures, agreed only a week before to ease Greece’s debt pile, would be frozen with immediate effect. It did not take long before the German finance ministry, under the unwavering stewardship of Wolfgang Schäuble, followed suit, requesting that creditor institutions assess whether Tsipras had acted in flagrant violation of Athens’ bailout commitments with his unilateral moves.

The leftist insisted that the aid – €61m in supplementary support for pensions and €11.5m for the school meals – would be taken from the primary surplus his government, unexpectedly, had managed to achieve. The assistance would help “heal the wounds of crisis”. “We want to … alleviate all those who have over these difficult years made huge sacrifices in the name of Europe,” he announced before holding talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel late Friday.

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Oct 162015
 
 October 16, 2015  Posted by at 8:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
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Alfred Palmer White Motor Company, Cleveland 1941

Corporate America’s Epic Debt Binge Leaves $119 Billion Hangover (Bloomberg)
The Economic Doomsday Clock Is Ticking Closer To Midnight (Artemis)
Rich Nations Lose Emerging-Markets Motor (WSJ)
Be Very Afraid: “The 3 Emerging Markets Debacles” Loom, HSBC Warns (Zero Hedge)
Goldman Sachs Blames Global Market Fears For Earnings Fall (Guardian)
Debt Slump Leaves Traders Exposed as European Banks Eye Job Cuts (Bloomberg)
Markets Expect Eurozone Deposit Rate To Go Deeper Into Negative Territory (BBG)
VW Forced By Germany To Recall 8.5 Million Diesels in Europe (Bloomberg)
US Pursues Several Paths in Volkswagen Probe (WSJ)
Treasury Considers Plan to Help Puerto Rico (NY Times)
Oil Is Killing the Drillers, and the Banks Want Their Cash Back Now (Bloomberg)
Billions Are Laundered Through British Banks, Treasury Admits (Times)
UK Banks May Need $5.1 Billion of Capital for Ring-Fencing (Bloomberg)
The Drone Papers: The Assassination Complex (Intercept)
‘Drone Papers’ Revelations Mandate a Congressional Investigation (FP)
The Multitude Of False Statements In Hillary’s Snowden Answer (New Yorker)
Merkel Prepares Germans for Historic Challenge of Refugee Crisis (Bloomberg)
EU Bid to Stem Refugee Influx Stalls on How Much to Give Turkey (Bloomberg)
US Lawsuits Build Against Monsanto Over Alleged Roundup Cancer Link (Reuters)

“Agressive borrowing”. That does not sound good.

Corporate America’s Epic Debt Binge Leaves $119 Billion Hangover (Bloomberg)

The Federal Reserve’s historically low borrowing rate isn’t benefiting corporate America like it used to. It’s more expensive for even the most creditworthy companies to borrow or refinance even as the Fed has kept its benchmark at near-zero the last seven years. Companies have loaded up on debt. They owe more in interest than they ever have, while their ability to service what they owe, a metric called interest coverage, is at its lowest since 2009. The deterioration of balance-sheet health is “increasingly alarming” and will only worsen if earnings growth continues to stall amid a global economic slowdown, according to Goldman Sachs credit strategists. Since corporate credit contraction can lead to recession, high debt loads will be a drag on the economy if investors rein in lending, said Deutsche Bank AG analysts.

“The benefit of lower yields for corporate issuers is fading,” said Eric Beinstein at JPMorgan. As of the second quarter, high-grade companies tracked by JPMorgan incurred $119 billion in interest expenses over the last year, the most for data going back to 2000, according to the bank’s analysts. The amount the companies owed rose 4% in the second quarter, the analysts said. The risk of default is negligible for companies with good credit. Even so, their health isn’t likely to improve when the Fed finally raises the lending rate, and it could worsen even without a hike, said Ashish Shah at AllianceBernstein. A souring economy or a shocking event such as a prominent terrorist attack could also cause borrowing costs to spike, he said.

The fallout of more borrowing coupled with lower earnings has raised concern among the analysts who track the debt and the money managers who buy it. Yet it seems the companies themselves are acting as if it’s not happening. They’re still paying out record amounts in buybacks and dividends. In the second quarter, the most creditworthy companies posted declining earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Yet they returned 35% of those earnings to shareholders, according to JPMorgan. That’s kept their cash-payout ratio – how much money they give to shareholders relative to Ebitda – steady at a 15-year high. The borrowing has gotten so aggressive that for the first time in about five years, equity fund managers who said they’d prefer companies use cash flow to improve their balance sheets outnumbered those who said they’d rather have it returned to shareholders..

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“..global central banks have set up the greatest volatility trade in history.”

The Economic Doomsday Clock Is Ticking Closer To Midnight (Artemis)

Prisoner’s Dilemma describes when two purely rational entities may not cooperate even if it is in their best interests to do so, thereby replacing known risks for unknown risks. In an arms race when two superpowers possess the ability to destroy each other, the optimal solution is disarmament and peace. If the superpowers do not trust one another completely, the natural course of action is proliferation of conflict through nuclear armament despite great peril to all. This non-cooperation, selfishness, and conflict, ironically results in an equilibrium of peace, but with massive risk. Global central banks are engaged in an arms race of devaluation resulting in suboptimal outcomes for all parties and greater systemic risk.

In this year alone 49 central banks have cut rates or devalued their currencies to gain a competitive edge and since 2008 there have been over 600 rate cuts worldwide. Globally we have printed over 14 trillion dollars since the end of the financial crisis. The global economy did not de-leverage from the 2008 crash but instead doubled down as global debt has increased a staggering 40% since 2007. The pace of global growth is slowing with the World Bank lowering GDP projections from 3% to 2.5%, and emerging economies from China to Brazil are struggling. Global currency reserves outside the US have declined over $1 trillion USD from their peak in August 2014 as foreign central banks have sold dollars to offset the ill effects of capital flight and commodity declines.

The last time the world economy experienced declines in reserves of this magnitude was right before the crash of 2008. Cross-asset volatility is rising from the lowest levels in three decades yet markets remain complacent with the expectation that central banks will always support asset prices. Volatility regime change is happening now and is a bad omen for a global recession and bear market. As global central banks compete in an endless cycle of fiat devaluation an economic doomsday clock ticks closer and closer to midnight. The flames of volatility regime change and an emerging markets crisis ignited on the mere expectation of a minor increase in the US federal funds rate that never came to be. The negative global market reaction to this token removal of liquidity was remarkable.

Central banks are fearful and unwilling to normalize but artificially high valuations across asset classes cannot be sustained indefinitely absent fundamental global growth. Central banks are in a prison of their own design and we are trapped with them. The next great crash will occur when we collectively realize that the institutions that we trusted to remove risk are actually the source of it. The truth is that global central banks cannot remove extraordinary monetary accommodation without risking a complete collapse of the system, but the longer they wait the more they risk their own credibility, and the worse that inevitable collapse will be. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, global central banks have set up the greatest volatility trade in history.

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” International banks now have $3.6 trillion of exposure to emerging economies compared $1.2 trillion a decade ago..”

Rich Nations Lose Emerging-Markets Motor (WSJ)

New weakness emerged in China’s economy, heightening concerns that the woes of developing economies are ricocheting back to advanced ones and hurting the fragile recovery. Beijing on Wednesday reported that consumer prices slowed more than expected in September, reflecting weak domestic demand, a day after it said imports fell by one-fifth that same month. And Singapore, whose export-dependent economy is a bellwether for Asia’s health, said it narrowly avoided a recession, as its central bank on Wednesday took action to spur its economy for the second time this year. For years, emerging markets propped up global growth as their developed counterparts stalled. Now, a deepening slowdown in China and other developing markets is upending that scenario.

Central bankers from the U.S. to Japan now point to the emerging world as a risk rather than a cushion. “It’s clear that the slowdown in emerging markets is having an impact on developed markets,” said Adam Slater, a senior economist at Oxford Economics in London. “Emerging markets have been a very positive force for world growth over most of the last 10 years, and now the big contribution is dropping away.” New evidence is emerging that developing countries are buying fewer capital goods and higher-end products from richer countries. In addition to China’s announcement that its consumer-price index rose just 1.6% in September from the same period a year earlier, Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, imported 16% fewer goods for its factories in the year through August.

Such grim data is reflected in the eurozone, which on Wednesday blamed a fall in industrial output in August on large developing economies such as China; in Germany, which this month announced a surprise fall in manufacturing orders in August and the lowest exports in seven years; in Japan, whose factory output was weaker than expected in the same period; and in the U.S., where exports for that month were their smallest since 2011. Global risk has risen over the last decade as developed and emerging markets became increasingly intertwined through trade, finance and investments. International banks now have $3.6 trillion of exposure to emerging economies compared $1.2 trillion a decade ago, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

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“The growth differential between EM and DM is still narrowing, not necessarily because DM is doing well but because EM is performing miserably…”

Be Very Afraid: “The 3 Emerging Markets Debacles” Loom, HSBC Warns (Zero Hedge)

[..] this is a story about the fundamentals and the fundamentals for EM are quite simply a disaster:
• Global growth and trade have entered a new era characterized by structural, endemic sluggishness
• Thanks to loose monetary policy that has kept capital markets wide open to otherwise insolvent producers and thanks also to anemic global demand, commodity prices aren’t likely to rebound anytime soon
• Because the Fed missed its window to hike, both a hawkish and a dovish Fed are likely precipitate capital outflows

As it turns out, HSBC went looking for opportunities across EM and came to the same conclusions. First, we have the five reasons for EM malaise: These are, in brief: collapse in global trade cycle, competitiveness problems (rising manufacturing unit labour costs), faltering domestic demand, downside risks posed by China, and the slump in commodity prices. And this is leading directly to a convergence of DM and EM growth, but not because DM is performing well: “The growth differential between EM and DM is still narrowing, not necessarily because DM is doing well but because EM is performing miserably. The leading indicators do not suggest any imminent improvement, either.”

That’s not the only place we’re seeing a “convergence” between EM and DM – they are also starting to look alike in terms of leverage: “The situation becomes even more toxic when the EM leverage cycle is taken into account. Thanks to years of abundant and cheap external liquidity, EM has built up debt very rapidly, while the drivers of economic growth have shifted towards private sector (household and corporate) credit. In many ways, EM is showing similar symptoms to its DM counterparts of weak economic performance and over- reliance on credit. The outcome is what we call the three EM debacles: de-leveraging, depreciation (or devaluation even de-pegging) and downgrades of credit ratings.

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“We continue to see strong levels of activity in investment banking and growth in investment management, and looking ahead, are encouraged by the competitive positioning of our global client franchise.”

Goldman Sachs Blames Global Market Fears For Earnings Fall (Guardian)

Goldman Sachs announced quarterly earnings that fell short of expectations on Thursday, blaming “renewed concerns” about global growth for the shortfall. Revenues fell to $6.86bn from $8.39bn a year ago. The bank had been expected to announce $7.13bn in revenue. Goldman’s third-quarter net income fell to $1.43bn, or $2.90 a share, from $2.24bn, or $4.57 a share, a year earlier. “We experienced lower levels of activity and declining asset prices during the quarter, reflecting renewed concerns about global economic growth,” said Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO. “We continue to see strong levels of activity in investment banking and growth in investment management, and looking ahead, are encouraged by the competitive positioning of our global client franchise.”

The bank set aside $2.35bn for compensation and benefits for the third quarter of 2015, 16% lower than the third quarter of 2014. Fixed income, currencies and commodities trading revenue fell 33% to $1.46bn for the quarter, while equities trading revenue increased 9% to $1.75bn. Goldman is the latest US giant to announce disappointing results in this earnings season. Yesterday Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, also released results that fell short of expectations. It blamed rising wage costs and online competition for the shortfall. Goldman’s results came as Citigroup too released its latest results. The bank also reported a slowdown in trading but profits jumped 50% to $4.29bn compared to the same quarter last year as its legal bills dropped sharply. Legal and associated costs for the quarter were $376m, down from $1.55bn a year ago, when the bank was preparing for an eventual $5.7bn fine for the manipulation of foreign-exchange rates.

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“Goldman Sachs on Thursday reported a 34% decrease in fixed-income trading revenue..”

Debt Slump Leaves Traders Exposed as European Banks Eye Job Cuts (Bloomberg)

For the new leaders of Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, a debt-trading slump in the third quarter could provide fresh incentive to shrink their bond businesses as they reshape the firms to boost profitability. “Trading floors are like morgues at present,’’ Bill Blain at Mint Partners said. “For new CEOs looking to cut and kitchen-sink costs, it’s an easy call to reduce headcount.’’ John Cryan, Deutsche Bank’s co-CEO, and Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam both took over at mid-year with mandates to rebuild investor trust after their firms’ shares trailed investment-banking peers. Both will present plans this month for overhauls to adapt to stricter capital rules and interest rates stuck at record lows. Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse got more than 20% of their revenue from trading fixed-income products in the first half, a bigger slice than European rivals such as Barclays and UBS.

That reliance leaves them more vulnerable to a market rout that ensnared assets from junk bonds to emerging-market currencies and dented results at U.S. peers. Credit Suisse publishes third-quarter earnings on Oct. 21, and Deutsche Bank the following week. Goldman Sachs on Thursday reported a 34% decrease in fixed-income trading revenue in the quarter, exceeding the 23% slump at JPMorgan and 11% decline at Bank of America, excluding accounting gains. “September was awful,” said Christopher Wheeler, an analyst at Atlantic Equities in London. “It has to have a read-across to Europe.” Banks’ fixed-income units – most of which trade bonds and products tied to interest-rates, currencies and commodities – were rattled in the third quarter by China’s yuan devaluation, a glut in oil and questions over whether the Fed would increase U.S. interest-rates.

Investors dumped assets including high-risk, high-yield U.S. debt linked to energy companies, which tumbled 16%, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch index. Currencies across developing markets – including the Turkish lira and the Brazilian real – fell against the dollar. Clients’ uncertainty prompted them to avoid some fixed-income markets, hurting the revenue of banks that take commissions on every trade, said Blain at Mint Partners. That doesn’t bode well for Deutsche Bank, among the world’s biggest traders of bonds along with securities tied to interest-rates, currencies and emerging markets, according to data from Coalition Ltd. Credit Suisse, one of the biggest traders of securitized products, relied on fixed-income trading for about 21% of revenue in the first half.

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From negative to more negative. And nobody dares say the emperor is naked? At sub-zero, he’s freezing his balls off.

Markets Expect Eurozone Deposit Rate To Go Deeper Into Negative Territory (BBG)

Debt and money markets are readying for a cut to the ECB’s deposit rate, regardless of what its policy makers say in public. Traders are pricing in a possible reduction to the rate for holding overnight deposits, said UBS and Barclays. ECB officials have declared it’s too early to expand stimulus and President Mario Draghi said more than a year ago that rates have reached their nadir. Economists predict changes to its bond-buying program, or quantitative easing, would come before any adjustment to more conventional monetary tools. With inflation in the euro region once again negative, speculation has swelled that the ECB will tinker with policy, perhaps with the euro in mind. The currency’s recent appreciation has added to downside risks for growth and inflation outlooks, ECB Executive Board member Yves Mersch said.

The central bank won’t hesitate to act if the inflation outlook weakens over the medium term, Mersch said Oct. 13. “The main objective for cutting the deposit rate would be to weaken the euro,” said Nishay Patel, a London-based fixed-income strategist at UBS. “It would not be a substitute for an increase in the QE program, which is able to provide stimulus to the economy.” The deposit rate was set at minus 0.2% in September 2014, after first being cut below zero in June that year. Draghi said at the time rates had reached its “lower bound.” Yields on Germany’s two-year notes were at minus 0.27% on Thursday. The market is pricing in at least a 50% chance of a cut of 10 basis points, or 0.1 percentage point, to the deposit rate, according to UBS strategists.

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“New parts necessary to fix some vehicles will probably be ready by next September..”

VW Forced By Germany To Recall 8.5 Million Diesels in Europe (Bloomberg)

Volkswagen will embark on one of the biggest recalls in European automotive history, affecting 8.5 million diesel vehicles, after German authorities threw out the carmaker’s proposal for voluntary repairs. The Federal Motor Transport Authority, or KBA, demanded a recall of 2.4 million cars in Germany after reviewing proposals Volkswagen filed last week to fix vehicles fitted with software designed to cheat on pollution tests, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Thursday in Berlin. The mandatory recall is the basis for callbacks throughout Europe, where diesel accounts for more than half the market. Germany’s rare public snub of its biggest carmaker came after Volkswagen circumvented diesel emissions regulations starting in 2008.

The country’s demands will speed a process that Volkswagen said will last beyond 2016, and give authorities more control. “It’s an unusual measure to be ordering a mandatory recall,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst with Evercore ISI. “It shows to me that the KBA is losing patience with VW’s slow response on what to do to fix the engines so far. Customers have been left unsettled.” The 8.5 million affected cars represent slightly less than one-third of Volkswagen’s auto deliveries in the region from 2009 through August, based on sales figures the company published for the five divisions involved. The recall is also Germany’s biggest since its current rules took effect in 1997, more than the record 1.9 million cars the entire auto industry brought back in under repair programs last year.

The mandatory recall will be more expensive for Volkswagen because the company will need to work on the cars more quickly, Evercore’s Ellinghorst said. The manufacturer has yet to specify exactly how it will fix the cars, though it has said some will require only a software update while others will need new or rebuilt engine parts. “The KBA’s decision opens up the possibility of a common and coordinated response in all European Union states,” Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller wrote Dobrindt on Thursday in a letter obtained by Bloomberg. “Such a unified procedure would be in the European spirit as well as in the interests of customers.” Volkswagen must share technical details of its fix with authorities by mid-November, and the recall will begin in January.

The KBA will test vehicles to ensure the repairs were successful, Dobrindt said. New parts necessary to fix some vehicles will probably be ready by next September, he said. Throughout Europe, Dobrindt has estimated that Volkswagen will probably need to exchange or rebuild parts for about 3.6 million engines. For the sake of customers and the image of the automobile, “we will clear up what happened at Volkswagen,” Enak Ferlemann, state secretary in Germany’s Transport Ministry, said. “Germany will stay the No. 1 auto country.”

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Agressive prosecutor?!

US Pursues Several Paths in Volkswagen Probe (WSJ)

The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit and the Justice Department’s Fraud Section joined a sweeping federal probe of Volkswagen AG over emissions-test cheating, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling the government’s intent to cast a broad net and explore numerous paths to a possible criminal case. The number of federal offices now involved in the Volkswagen case suggests an investigation could target the German auto maker and its employees for alleged offenses ranging from pollution to misleading government officials to claims made to consumers. The Federal Trade Commission, which investigates fraudulent advertising, confirmed its involvement, suggesting a focus on potentially misleading claims regarding the emissions.

The involvement of the U.S. attorney in Detroit, Barbara McQuade, signals her office may take a significant role in what is expected to be a major case. Ms. McQuade has a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor, having won a corruption case against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In sprawling investigations like the Volkswagen probe, the Justice Department has a choice of which prosecutor to assign. David Uhlmann, formerly a top environmental crimes prosecutor who is now a law professor at the University of Michigan, said the number of government offices involved suggested the case would be “of national significance,” with any settlement likely to reach into the billions of dollars.

The federal investigation now includes the Detroit office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, which investigated BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, people familiar with the probe said. The EPA, which in September disclosed the auto maker’s cheating, could hit Volkswagen with more than $18 billion in fines based on the number of vehicles involved, though it isn’t clear whether the agency will pursue such a large penalty. [..] Europe’s largest auto maker faces not only aggressive investigations by European and U.S. authorities, but also class-action lawsuits from aggrieved customers. Prosecutors in Germany earlier this month raided Volkswagen offices and private homes as part of a criminal inquiry there.

The EPA alleged last month that Volkswagen had violated two parts of the U.S. Clean Air Act. That law exempts auto makers from criminal penalties for illegal pollution, but it does criminalize the conveying of false information to regulators. [..] Federal prosecutors have recently turned to other laws to charge auto makers with crimes. The Justice Department charged GM and Toyota with wire fraud for concealing information on safety defects. In the GM case, prosecutors also used a section of the U.S. code that can hold companies broadly accountable for misleading government officials.

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Dare they set a precedent?

Treasury Considers Plan to Help Puerto Rico (NY Times)

Officials in the Treasury Department are discussing a radical and aggressive response to the fiscal chaos engulfing Puerto Rico that could involve a broad debt exchange assisted by the federal government. The proposal calls for the federal government to help Puerto Rico collect and account for local tax revenues from the island’s businesses and residents, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the proposal. An inability to collect all the taxes owed is widely seen as contributing to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. The tax proceeds would be placed in a “lockbox” overseen by the Treasury and eventually paid out by the Treasury to the holders of the new bonds that Puerto Rico would issue in the proposed exchange.

Since the Treasury would effectively become the paying agent for the new bonds, they would be more attractive than the bonds that creditors now hold. That would make it easier for Puerto Rico to exchange the new debt with creditors who hold bonds that have been devastated in value since the island warned this summer that it could not pay its debts. The proposal has logistical, political and legal challenges, however, and may never get off the ground. “Right now, Puerto Ricans don’t even like to pay taxes to their own government,” said one person with knowledge of the discussions. If the I.R.S. were to suddenly replace the local tax authorities and try to gather up the money for debt service, “people would say, ‘Go to hell. I’m not paying the U.S. government.’ ”

But the fact that such an unusual idea has been floated between the Treasury and top finance officials from Puerto Rico in recent months suggests a sharp shift in Washington’s approach to the island’s economic crisis. Without addressing the proposal directly, officials from the Treasury said in a statement that it had “no plans to provide a bailout to Puerto Rico.” Until now, the Treasury has provided mostly technical assistance to island officials, while the Republican leaders in Congress have expressed strong reservations about bailing out Puerto Rico. The island’s first choice appears to be a bankruptcy law amendment that would allow the island to send some of its governmental bodies into Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy court. But bills introduced to that effect have not moved..

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“Lenders extended low interest credit to wildcatters desperate for cash, then—perhaps remembering the 1980s oil bust—wheeled the debt off their books by selling new stocks and bonds to investors, earning sizable fees along the way. ”

Oil Is Killing the Drillers, and the Banks Want Their Cash Back Now (Bloomberg)

When Whiting Petroleum needed cash earlier this year as oil prices plummeted, JPMorgan Chase, its lead lender, found investors willing to step in. The bank helped Whiting sell $3.1 billion in stocks and bonds in March. Whiting used almost all the money to repay the $2.9 billion it owed JPMorgan and its 25 other lenders. The proceeds also covered the $45 million in fees Whiting paid to get the deal done, regulatory filings show. Analysts expect Whiting, one of the largest producers in North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin, to spend almost $1 billion more than it earns from oil and gas this year. The company has sold $300 million in assets, reduced the number of rigs drilling for oil to eight from a high of 24, and announced plans to cut spending by $1 billion next year.

Eric Hagen, a Whiting spokesman, says the company has “demonstrated that it is taking appropriate steps to manage within the current oil price environment.” Whiting has said it will be in a position next year to have its capital spending of $1 billion equal its cash flows with an oil price of $50 a barrel. As for Whiting’s investors, the stock is down 36%, as of Oct. 14, since the March issue, and the new bonds are trading at 94¢ on the dollar. More than 73% of the stocks and bonds issued this year by oil and gas producers are worth less today than when they were sold. Banks’ sell-the-risk strategy underpins the shale oil boom. Lenders extended low interest credit to wildcatters desperate for cash, then—perhaps remembering the 1980s oil bust—wheeled the debt off their books by selling new stocks and bonds to investors, earning sizable fees along the way.

“Everyone in the chain was making money in the short term,” says Louis Meyer at Oscar Gruss. “And no one was thinking long term about what they’re going to do if prices fall.” North American oil and gas producers have sold $61.5 billion in equity and debt since January, paying more than $700 million in fees. Half the money was raised to repay loans or restructure debt, the data show. “Being there for our clients in all market environments, particularly the tough ones, is something we feel very strongly about,” says Brian Marchiony, a JPMorgan spokesman. “During challenging periods, companies typically look to strengthen their balance sheets and increase liquidity, and we have helped many do just that.”

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My, are we surprised.

Billions Are Laundered Through British Banks, Treasury Admits (Times)

Investigations into corrupt cash flowing through Britain barely scratch the surface of the problem, the first official report on the scale of money laundering revealed yesterday. The national risk assessment, published by the Treasury, said “hundreds of billions of pounds of international criminal money” is laundered through British banks every year. Investigations into international corruption by the National Crime Agency covered cases limited to “millions of pounds of assets in the UK . . . and financial flows that span the globe”, it added. The publication of the risk assessment forms part of the government’s anti-corruption agenda, which saw the prime minister warn this summer of the threat to the British economy and the City of London posed by “dirty money”.

Much more work was required, the report’s authors admitted, if Britain was to create a “hostile environment for illicit finance”. They wrote: “The assessment shows that the collective knowledge of UK law enforcement agencies, supervisors and the private sector of money laundering and terrorist financing risks is not yet sufficiently advanced.” The campaign group Transparency International said the report was “a clear and unambiguous recognition of the risks posed by money laundering in the UK and the weaknesses in the UK’s system for detecting illicit and corrupt money flowing into a wide range of sectors”.

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“..under Bank of England rules on the separation of retail operations from riskier investment banking.”

UK Banks May Need $5.1 Billion of Capital for Ring-Fencing (Bloomberg)

The U.K.’s largest banks may face higher capital requirements under Bank of England rules on the separation of retail operations from riskier investment banking. The BOE’s Prudential Regulation Authority estimates that so-called ring-fencing could mean an additional capital requirement of £2.2 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) to £3.3 billion pounds by 2019, when the rules kick in. The move is aimed at ensuring that financial services crucial to the U.K. economy, such as deposit-taking, payments and overdrafts, will be protected if riskier units incur losses and have to be shut down.

The additional burden is due to the protected unit being measured on a standalone basis for its capital needs. In addition, any transactions between the ring-fenced unit and other parts of the institution will be classed as third-party deals, meaning capital will have to be held against them. “The PRA recognizes that applying this approach may result in increased capital requirements for some firms,” it said in a consultation paper published in London on Thursday. The rules will probably apply to HSBC RBS, Lloyds, Barclays, Santander and Co-operative Bank.

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A second Snowden.

The Drone Papers: The Assassination Complex (Intercept)

Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination. While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word “assassination.” This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, “targeted killings.” When the Obama administration has discussed drone strikes publicly, it has offered assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to boots on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be eliminated.

Those terms, however, appear to have been bluntly redefined to bear almost no resemblance to their commonly understood meanings. The first drone strike outside of a declared war zone was conducted more than 12 years ago, yet it was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. Those guidelines offered little specificity, asserting that the U.S. would only conduct a lethal strike outside of an “area of active hostilities” if a target represents a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” without providing any sense of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been one of trust, but don’t verify.

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. The documents, which also outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program, were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides. The Intercept granted the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers. The stories in this series will refer to the source as “the source.”

The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.

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What goood would that do?

‘Drone Papers’ Revelations Mandate a Congressional Investigation (FP)

This morning, the reporting team at the Intercept published an impressive eight-part series on the policies and processes of U.S. drone strikes, called “The Drone Papers.” Some of the newly reported information is purportedly based upon “a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations … between 2011 and 2013.” Intercept journalist Jeremy Scahill writes that the slides “were provided by a source within the intelligence community.” [..] this reporting could awaken or reintroduce interested readers to how the U.S. national security apparatus has thought about and conducted counterterrorism operations since 9/11. The reporting is less one big “bombshell” and more of a synthesis of over a decade’s worth of reporting and analysis, bolstered by troubling new revelations about what has become routine. [..]

The Intercept series, at a minimum, reconfirms and illuminates much of what we knew, thought we knew, or suspected about drone strikes. For example, there is “not a bunch of folks in a room somewhere just making decisions,” as President Barack Obama put it in 2012, but indeed a clear chain of command that is displayed in a slide with the heading: “Step 1 — ‘Developing a target’ to ‘Authorization of a target.’” Also, it is clear that the Obama administration strongly prefers killing suspected terrorists rather than capturing them, despite claiming the opposite. Additionally, it is evident that the military and intelligence communities do not have the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms that they claim they need.

Finally, the documents support that military commanders have a strong bias against seemingly endless and pointless drone strikes, strongly preferring a “find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate” (F3EAD) approach, which allows a command staff to continuously improve its situational awareness of an environment through capturing and interrogating suspected militants and terrorists. As one secret study declares: “Kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available from detainees and captured materials.” One military official described to me the normalcy of killing with drones in 2012, saying, “It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?”

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Chafee: “That’s what the federal courts have said; what Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally for the Fourth Amendment. So I would bring him home.”

The Multitude Of False Statements In Hillary’s Snowden Answer (New Yorker)

I’ve already given my instant verdict on Tuesday night’s Democratic debate: in terms of the horse race, Hillary Clinton was the clear winner, although Bernie Sanders also did pretty well. But it was a long discussion about serious issues, and some of the exchanges bear closer inspection—including the one about Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who is currently languishing in Russia. The exchange began with host Anderson Cooper asking Lincoln Chafee, a former governor of Rhode Island, “Governor Chafee: Edward Snowden, is he a traitor or a hero?” Chafee replied that he would bring Snowden home without forcing him to serve any jail time. “The American government was acting illegally,” he continued. “That’s what the federal courts have said; what Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally for the Fourth Amendment. So I would bring him home.”

Chafee was stating a truth. In May of this year, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, ruled that the N.S.A., in routinely collecting the phone records of millions of Americans—an intelligence program that Snowden exposed in 2013—broke the law of the land. The Patriot Act did not authorize the government to gather calling records in bulk, the judges said. “Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans,” the decision read. The ruling overturned one that had been handed down in December, 2013, in which a federal judge, William Pauley, said that the N.S.A.’s collection of metadata was legal. After Chafee spoke, Cooper turned to Hillary Clinton and asked, “Secretary Clinton, hero or traitor?”

Clinton, who earlier in the debate had described herself as “a progressive who likes to get things done,” replied, “He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistle-blower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistle-blower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.” “Should he do jail time?” Cooper asked, to which Clinton replied, “In addition—in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.” From a civil-liberties perspective—and a factual perspective—Clinton’s answers were disturbing enough that they warrant parsing.

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This should have been done at least a year ago.

Merkel Prepares Germans for Historic Challenge of Refugee Crisis (Bloomberg)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing growing criticism from within her own party for her handling of the refugee crisis, urged lawmakers to prepare for the long haul as asylum seekers continue to surge into Europe. “It’s not an exaggeration to describe this task as a historic test for Europe,” Merkel said in a speech to parliament in Berlin Thursday ahead of a European Union summit. “I expect from this council that everyone does his part.” The chancellor, who was lambasted at a town-hall event Wednesday by members of her party accusing her of encouraging migration and failing to control the nation’s borders, also called on fellow legislators to back proposals to provide additional funding for refugees and tighten the country’s asylum rules. “I’ve said that we need to give every person a friendly welcome. And I’m not changing my mind on that.”

With Germany expecting at least 800,000 refugees and migrants this year, including many from Syria, Merkel is bucking pressure from political allies and the public to shift her principled stance and limit the influx. After a decade in power, Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II has the chancellor on the defensive as she urges other EU countries to do more to share the burden. The outbursts at a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union on Wednesday offer a snapshot of public resistance to Merkel’s open-door policy that’s eroding her poll ratings and voter support for her party. Audience members at the two-hour event in eastern Germany accused the chancellor of failing to do her job, portrayed refugees as ingrates and blamed the crush of arrivals for a housing shortage in the nearby city of Leipzig.

“This is the biggest task I’ve faced in my life as chancellor,” responded Merkel, who earlier told the audience that human dignity is universal and sought to put the refugee crisis in an international context. “I know that it’s a difficult situation. But I wouldn’t give up. Let us be confident and optimistic.” Several lawmakers in Merkel’s 311-member parliamentary group in Berlin criticized her at a closed meeting on Tuesday for failing to stem the influx, prompting her to respond that a refugee quota is impossible to set, according to two party officials who attended. Merkel said Thursday that confronting the migrant crisis will require a global approach that includes working to solve the conflict in Syria and aiding Turkey, where she will travel over the weekend, to stem the flow of refugees.

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Tusk puts things on their head: “If we are not able to find humanitarian and efficient solutions then others will find solutions which are inhuman, nationalistic and, for sure, not European..” Reality is, the EU has already created an inhuman situation simply by doing nothing.

EU Bid to Stem Refugee Influx Stalls on How Much to Give Turkey (Bloomberg)

European leaders failed to reach a final agreement on recruiting Turkey to help stem the flow of refugees from the Middle East, with some eastern member states dragging their heels over how much aid to grant their neighbor. Angela Merkel told a news conference that the European Union had a draft accord with Turkey on curtailing the flow of migrants and refugees. She said the figure of €3 billion in EU aid to Turkey was discussed at a summit in Brussels, but that the issue had yet to win full support from the 28-nation bloc. With more than a million migrants set to reach the EU in 2015 and Russian bombing raids on Syria threatening even greater flows for next year, some member states are recoiling at the sacrifices they’ll have to force on their voters.

The summit underscored the challenge facing the EU with the leaders attempting to woo Turkey, already harboring more than 2 million refugees itself, after cold-shouldering the country’s requests to join the bloc for the past decade. “If we are not able to find humanitarian and efficient solutions then others will find solutions which are inhuman, nationalistic and, for sure, not European,” EU President Donald Tusk said at a news conference after the meeting. The day that ended with a stalemate over money had begun with Merkel calling on her EU partners to pay their share of the costs of helping refugees. Afterward the chancellor described the progress made in cautious terms, saying that “outlines of cooperation” with Turkey were becoming “quite visible.”

Turkey has spent more than €7 billion euros on refugees in the last three or four years, Merkel noted, so the EU helping out was “burden-sharing.” She said there was “a general sense” among leaders that it was right “to shelter refugees closer to their home rather than financing them here in our own countries.” While the member states agreed to send hundreds more border guards to help Frontex and other joint agencies patrolling the bloc’s borders, leaders made little progress on how to redesign the system of distributing immigrants, forming an EU border guard corps or on how to ensure arrivals are properly processed. “These are all divisive issues and the goal today was to have the first serious exchange,” Tusk said.

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Mass tort.

US Lawsuits Build Against Monsanto Over Alleged Roundup Cancer Link (Reuters)

Personal injury law firms around the United States are lining up plaintiffs for what they say could be “mass tort” actions against agrichemical giant Monsanto that claim the company’s Roundup herbicide has caused cancer in farm workers and others exposed to the chemical. The latest lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Delaware Superior Court by three law firms representing three plaintiffs. The lawsuit is similar to others filed last month in New York and California accusing Monsanto of long knowing that the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was hazardous to human health. Monsanto “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers and the general population that Roundup was safe,” the lawsuit states.

The litigation follows the World Health Organization’s declaration in March that there was sufficient evidence to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” “We can prove that Monsanto knew about the dangers of glyphosate,” said Michael McDivitt, whose Colorado-based law firm is putting together cases for 50 individuals. “There are a lot of studies showing glyphosate causes these cancers.” The firm held town hall gatherings in August in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska seeking clients. Monsanto said the WHO classification is wrong and that glyphosate is among the safest pesticides on the planet. “Glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” company spokeswoman Charla Lord said.

“The most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product contradict the claims in the suits.” Roundup is used by farmers, homeowners and others around the globe and brought Monsanto $4.8 billion in revenue in its fiscal 2015. But questions about Roundup’s safety have dogged the company for years. Attorneys who have filed or are eying litigation cited strong evidence that links glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). They said claims will likely be pursued collaboratively as mass tort actions. To find plaintiffs, the Baltimore firm of Saiontz & Kirk advertises a “free Roundup lawsuit evaluation” on its website. The Washington, D.C. firm Schmidt & Clark is doing the same, as are other firms in Texas, Colorado and California.

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Nov 082014
 
 November 8, 2014  Posted by at 1:07 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Russell Lee Auto transport passing through Eufaula, Oklahoma Feb 1940

For Wall Street, It’s Not Politicians That Matter, But Profits (MarketWatch)
Ron Paul: Two- Party US Political System In Reality A Monopoly (RT)
Majority Of New October Jobs Pay Below Average Wage (MarketWatch)
When Will Americans Ever Get Raises? (BW)
Only 92.4 Million Americans Not In Labor Force (Zero Hedge)
US Shale Drillers Idle Rigs From Texas to Utah Amid Oil Rout (Bloomberg)
Transocean Takes $2.76 Billion Charge Amid Rig Glut (Bloomberg)
Consumer Credit in US Climbs on Demand for Car, Student Loans (Bloomberg)
Fannie-Freddie CEOs Tout Do-It-Yourself Housing Finance Overhaul (Bloomberg)
China Export, Import Growth Slows, Reinforcing Signs Of Fragility (Reuters)
El-Erian: Strong Dollar Could Derail The Recovery (CNBC)
G20 Experts To Act On Corporations’ Internal Loans That Help Cut Tax (Guardian)
Luxembourg, The Country Where Accountants Outnumber Police 4:1 (Guardian)
The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare (Matt Taibbi)
Russia, China Close To Reaching 2nd Mega Gas Deal (RT)
Catalans Recast Spanish History in Drive for Independence (Bloomberg)
Greek Minister: Markets Are Sending Us A Message (CNBC)
Danish Women Urged to Drop Work Till 2015 to Protest Pay Gap (Bloomberg)
Drones Over French Nuclear Sites Prompt Parliamentary Probe (Bloomberg)

“.. much of Wall Street’s profit engine isn’t sustainable. For most of the last two years, too-big-to-fail bank profits haven’t been driven by banking, they’ve been driven by sharp increases in investment banking”.

For Wall Street, It’s Not Politicians That Matter, But Profits (MarketWatch)

There’s been much in the way of speculation about how the Republican sweep in Tuesday’s midterms may impact Wall Street — the industry. Some believe a shift in control will help. Others are less sure. Both may miss a bigger point: big financial firms are on a cyclical high that isn’t built to last. David Reilly and John Carney argue that big banks are unlikely to get big breaks from Congress even though Republicans have tended to be softer on regulation. Writing for the Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” section, Reilly and Carney note “reviving the debate over financial reform could also resurrect the question of what to do about too-big-to-fail banks and renew calls for them to be broken up.” On the flip side, MarketWatch’s Philip van Doorn writes that many banks may be able to lift dividends if the new Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate follows through on promises to ease restrictions on capital requirements. Both camps make strong arguments. And they’re not really in opposition.

Tuesday’s victory by Republicans opens the door for eased banking rules, but it comes with risk of a political backlash. Investors may be better served by looking at some trends in the industry to gauge just how profitable the big six — Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo may perform in the future. On the plus side, the stream of positive economic data, including Friday’s jobs report, is likely to lead the Federal Reserve to keep its distance from quantitative easing and enter a new phase of rate increases that, in turn, would boost interest rates paid on loans and other credit instruments. This has been a big drag on bank industry profits since the financial crisis and recession. That’s the good news. The potential bad news is that much of Wall Street’s profit engine isn’t sustainable. For most of the last two years, too-big-to-fail bank profits haven’t been driven by banking, they’ve been driven by sharp increases in investment banking: underwriting equity and debt offerings and advising on mergers and acquisitions.

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“What do they do with our young people? They send them all around the world, getting involved in wars and telling them they have to have democratic elections ..”

Ron Paul: Two- Party US Political System In Reality A Monopoly (RT)

Former Congressman Ron Paul told RT in the midst of Tuesday’s midterm elections that the “monopoly” system run by the leaders of the two main parties is all too evident as Americans go to the polls this Election Day. “This whole idea that a good candidate that’s rating well in the polls can’t get in the debate, that’s where the corruption really is,” Paul, the 79-year-old former House of Representatives lawmaker for Texas, told RT during Tuesday’s special midterm elections coverage. “It’s a monopoly…and they don’t even allow a second option,” he said. “If a third party person gets anywhere along, they are going to do everything they can to stop that from happening,” the retired congressman continued.

Paul, a longtime Republican, has been critical of the two-party dichotomy that dominates American politics for decades, and once ran as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president of the United States. While third-party candidates continue to vie against the left and right establishment, however, Paul warned RT that even the two-party system as Americans know it is in danger. “What do they do with our young people? They send them all around the world, getting involved in wars and telling them they have to have democratic elections,” he told RT. “But here at home, we don’t have true Democracy. We have a monopoly of ideas that is controlled by the leaders of two parties. And they call it two parties, but it’s really one philosophy.”

All hope isn’t lost, however; according to Paul, American politics can still be changed if individuals intent on third-party ideas introduce their ethos to the current establishment. Americans can “fight to get rid of the monopoly of Republicans and Democrats,” Paul said, or “try to influence people with ideas and infiltrate both political parties.” With respect to the midterm elections, though, Paul told RT that he’s uncertain what policies will prevail this year — excluding, of course, an obvious win for the status quo. “I think the status quo is pretty strong right now, and I imagine that the status quo is going to win the election tonight,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

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Erosion presented as recovery.

Majority Of New October Jobs Pay Below Average Wage (MarketWatch)

The U.S. is becoming an engine of job creation once again, but it’s more like a four-cylinder instead of an eight-cylinder one. The 214,000 gain in new jobs in October marked the ninth straight month in which net hiring topped 200,000. The last time that happened was in 1994. Yet only about 40% of the new jobs created in October were in fields that pay above the average hourly U.S. wage of $24.57. That’s down from 60% in September. The mediocre nature of many new jobs and slow wage growth are perhaps the biggest obstacle to a full-blown economic recovery. The biggest increase in hiring in October occurred at restaurants and bars, which added a seasonally adjusted 42,000 positions. Retailers hired 27,000 workers. Temps accounted for 15,000 jobs. Transport — think package deliverers — took on 13,000 new employees. All these industries pay less than the national average.

Some of the new jobs are also unlikely to last long. Restaurants and retailers, for example, tend to beef up staff ahead of the holidays and slim down after New Year’s. Temp jobs, on the other hand, have often been converted into full-time positions. Companies use temps sometimes as a trial for a full-time job. Whatever the case, it’s not a good idea to give too much weight to the composition of hiring in any one month. Some 60% of the 256,000 jobs created in September, for instance, were in fields that pay above the average U.S. wage. That’s higher than normal. There’s also been a pronounced shift in 2014 toward higher paying jobs vs. the prior year. A MarketWatch analysis shows that roughly 58% of the new jobs created this year pay above the average hourly wage, compared to less than 50% in 2013. Still, both the composition of jobs and the trend in hourly pay bear close watching over the next few months. Both have to improve to get the U.S. economy fully back on track more than five years after the recovery started.

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“The unemployment rate is no longer a sufficient statistic.” An accurate gauge of the market, he says, must include people who’ve given up looking for work and those working in part-time or low-paying jobs because they can’t find anything else”.

When Will Americans Ever Get Raises? (BW)

Americans are overdue for a fatter paycheck: Average earnings haven’t risen in more than six years. The labor market is finally recovering—the unemployment rate is down to 5.9% from 8.2% in July 2012—and that usually pushes up wages. But it’s not clear that job growth will translate into pay increases in 2015. In an August speech, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speculated that “pent-up wage deflation” might have held wages down during the recovery. What does that mean? “In a downturn, employers may need to cut wages, but they are reluctant to do so,” says San Francisco Fed economist Mary Daly. They prefer laying people off, which they believe tends to have less impact on workforce morale, she says. The result is that when the economy recovers, employers are slower to raise pay than if they had imposed cuts during the slump.

Daly says wages were slow to increase after the past three recessions, too. She estimates that unemployment will have to fall to 5.2% before wages begin rising. Even a drop to that level might not be low enough to spur gains. Dartmouth economist Daniel Blanchflower says the labor market is in worse shape than the unemployment rate suggests. “Something changed in 2010,” he says. “The unemployment rate is no longer a sufficient statistic.” An accurate gauge of the market, he says, must include people who’ve given up looking for work and those working in part-time or low-paying jobs because they can’t find anything else. Measures that include discouraged workers, such as the labor force participation rate, have worsened since 2008. Blanchflower says pay won’t increase until the slack is absorbed, and he can’t predict when that might happen.

Today’s unusually high long-term unemployment could keep wages low for years, according to Till von Wachter, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles. People who’ve been out of work for six months or more “may have seen their skills deteriorate,” he says, “and some job losers found their previous occupation is no longer available and skills not in demand. This happens in every recession, but this last one was worse because there was more job loss.” He estimates that each additional month you’re unemployed after the first month lowers your next job’s pay by almost 1%.

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Smells like recovery?!

Only 92.4 Million Americans Not In Labor Force (Zero Hedge)

Following last month’s total collapse in the participation rate, dropping to 36 year lows, this month there was a modest improvement in the composition of the labor force, with the Household Survey suggesting the ranks of the Employed rose by 683K people, while the Unemployed actually declined by 267K, leading to a drop of the people not in the labor force to 92.378 million from 92.584 million. In other words, a little over 101 million Americans are unemployed or out of the labor force. Still, if only looking at this metric, the Fed would likely have no choice but to proceed with a rate hike in the first half of 2015.

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“There’s no doubt about it now. We’re already down 49 rigs since the peak in October. It’ll have fallen by more than 100 rigs by the end of year.”

US Shale Drillers Idle Rigs From Texas to Utah Amid Oil Rout (Bloomberg)

The shale-oil drilling boom in the U.S. is showing early signs of cracking. Rigs targeting oil sank by 14 to 1,568 this week, the lowest since Aug. 22, Baker Hughes said yesterday. The Eagle Ford shale formation in south Texas lost the most, dropping nine to 197. The nation’s oil rig count is down from a peak of 1,609 on Oct. 10. Drillers are slowing down as crude prices tumbled 24% in the past four months. Transocean said yesterday that its earnings would take a hit by a drop in fees and demand for its rigs. The slide threatens to curb a production boom in U.S. shale formations that has helped bring prices at the pump below $3 a gallon for the first time since 2010 and shrink the nation’s dependence on foreign oil imports. “We are officially seeing the slowdown in oil drilling,” James Williams, president of energy consulting company WTRG Economics, said yesterday. “There’s no doubt about it now. We’re already down 49 rigs since the peak in October. It’ll have fallen by more than 100 rigs by the end of year.”

Orices are down 17% in the past year. Executives at several large U.S. shale producers, including Chesapeake Energy and EOG Resources, have vowed to maintain or even raise production as they reported earnings this week. They say their success in bringing down costs means they can make money even if prices slump further. The oil rig count will drop to 1,325 by the middle of next year amid lower prices, Genscape, an energy data company said in a report. Drillers from Apache to Continental Resources have said this week that they’re laying down rigs in some oil plays. Transocean, owner of the biggest fleet of deep-water drilling rigs, is delaying the release of its Q3 results after saying its earnings would be hit by $2.76 billion in charges from a decline in the value of its contracts drilling business and a drop in rig-use fees. Transocean’s competitors will probably have to take similar measures as “this is going to be an industry wide phenomenon,” Goldman Sachs said in a research note yesterday.

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The shale mirage makes its first victims. Many will follow.

Transocean Takes $2.76 Billion Charge Amid Rig Glut (Bloomberg)

Transocean, owner of the biggest fleet of deep-water drilling rigs, is feeling the effect of an industrywide glut in the expensive vessels just as crude-oil prices tumble. The company will delay posting third-quarter results after saying earnings would be hit by $2.76 billion in charges from a decline in the value of its contracts-drilling business and a drop in rig-use fees. Shares in the Vernier, Switzerland-based company, which pushed back the release of its earnings report to Monday instead of today, fell 0.7% to $29.71 at the close in New York. Oil’s decline to a four-year low in recent months has caused companies to consider spending cuts, which would further reduce demand for rigs and the rates Transocean can charge to lease them to explorers. The drop in prices comes after rig contractors responded to rising demand during the past few years with the biggest batch of construction orders for rigs since the advent of deep-water drilling in the 1970s.

“Ouch,” analysts from Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. wrote in a note to investors today. The announcement “reflects the reality of this oversupplied floater rig market globally.” Other rig owners may also face writedowns, Waqar Syed, an analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., wrote today in a note to investors. Among those that may be affected are Diamond Offshore Drilling, Noble, Ensco, Rowan and Atwood Oceanics, he wrote. “This is going to be an industrywide phenomenon for the next few years,” Syed wrote. “Companies that have spent substantial amounts in the past 10-15 years in upgrading their 1970-1980 vintage rigs may face some writedowns.” Noble regularly does impairment tests on its assets, said John Breed, a company spokesman. “With the current figuration of the Noble fleet, it seems like a major writedown wouldn’t be something we would be looking at.”

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More debt. Which is a good thing, right?

Consumer Credit in US Climbs on Demand for Car, Student Loans (Bloomberg)

Consumer borrowing increased at a faster rate in September as American households took out loans for cars and education. The $15.9 billion increase in credit followed a revised $14 billion advance in August, the Federal Reserve reported today in Washington. Non-revolving loans, including borrowing for motor vehicles and college tuition, rose $14.5 billion in September. Gains in the labor market and stock portfolios, the lowest gasoline prices in four years, and cheap borrowing costs are giving Americans the confidence to borrow. Faster wage growth would provide a bigger boost for households wary of taking on more debt. The September gain in consumer borrowing was in line with the $16 billion median forecast of 34 economists in a Bloomberg survey. Estimates ranged from increases of $12 billion to $22 billion.

The report doesn’t track mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and other debt secured by real estate. Revolving credit, which includes credit-card balances, climbed $1.4 billion after a $201 million decline in August, today’s Fed figures showed. The September gain in non-revolving credit followed a $14.2 billion increase in the prior month. Today’s report showed that student loans in the third quarter increased to $1.3 trillion from $1.27 trillion in the prior three months. Borrowing for the purchase of motor vehicles climbed to $940.9 billion last quarter from $918.7 billion from April through June. Auto sales cooled in September to a 16.3 million annualized rate, capping the best quarter for the industry in more than eight years, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Group.

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The guys brought in to dissolve the GSEs now want to keep them running. The neverending nightmare, courtesy of lenders who want to offload shaky loans to the government.

Fannie-Freddie CEOs Tout Do-It-Yourself Housing Finance Overhaul (Bloomberg)

The top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, brought in to be stewards until the government figures out how to shut them down, are increasingly sounding like they think the two companies should continue to exist. Timothy J. Mayopoulos of Fannie Mae and Donald Layton of Freddie Mac today both pointed to steps they’re taking to boost stability and competition in the mortgage market, while stopping short of urging lawmakers to drop plans for an overhaul that would put them out of business. “People should recognize that there’s a lot of reform that’s already underway at Fannie Mae,” Mayopoulos said in a telephone interview. “There have been a lot of proposals for substantial changes to housing finance. People need to make sure whatever is put in place is practical and it can work.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were taken into U.S. conservatorship in 2008 amid soaring losses on subprime loans, reported third-quarter financial results today that will see them send a combined $6.8 billion to the Treasury before the end of the year. The payments stem from terms of their $187.5 billion bailout requiring them to turn over all profits. With the latest installments, Fannie Mae, which had a third-quarter profit of $3.9 billion, and Freddie Mac, which reported $2.8 billion, will have sent taxpayers $38 billion more than they took in the aid. The payments are considered to be a return on the U.S. investment and not a repayment, which means there’s no legal avenue for them to exit conservatorship. Changing the bailout terms is one area where lawmakers could help, Mayopoulos said. “That’s something that Congress will ultimately need to address if this company’s going to continue to operate,” he said. “It’s very difficult without capital.”

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‘Fragility’, spoken like a true spinner.

China Export, Import Growth Slows, Reinforcing Signs Of Fragility (Reuters)

Annual growth in China’s exports and imports slowed in October, data showed on Saturday, reinforcing signs of fragility in the world’s second-largest economy that could prompt policymakers to roll out more stimulus measures. Exports have been the lone bright spot in the last few months, perhaps helping to offset soft domestic demand, but there are doubts about the accuracy of the official numbers amid signs of a resurgence of speculative currency flows through inflated trade receipts. Exports rose 11.6% in October from a year earlier, slowing from a 15.3% jump in September, the General Administration of Customs said. The figure was slightly above market expectations in a Reuters poll of a 10.6% rise.

A decline in China’s leading index on exports in October pointed to weaker export growth in the next two to three months, the administration said. “The economy still faces relatively big downward pressure as exports face uncertainties while weak imports indicate sluggish domestic demand,” said Nie Wen, an economist at Hwabao Trust in Shanghai. “The central bank may continue to ease policy in a targeted way.” Imports rose an annual 4.6% in October, pulling back from a 7% rise in September, and were weaker than expected. That left the country with a trade surplus of $45.4 billion for the month, which was near record highs.

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Really? Recovery?

El-Erian: Strong Dollar Could Derail The Recovery (CNBC)

Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser to Allianz, has warned that policymakers don’t understand how much of a risk a strong dollar and volatile currency markets could pose to market “soundness” and the economic recovery. The former Pimco chief executive and co-chief investment officer said volatility had returned to currency markets as central banks diverge in their response to lackluster growth and deflation. This could result in “excessive movements” in currencies becoming a risk themselves, he said. “This (the strong dollar) is a key issue and I don’t think this is an issue that the markets or the policy makers have understood enough as yet—we have gone from a world where there was relative harmony in what central banks were doing—to a world where there was diverging direction and for good reasons: the economies are doing different things,” he told CNBC on Friday.

“If the other parts of the policy apparatus do not respond, then the only market that accommodates these divergent trends is the currency markets. I could tell you that, as someone who participates in the markets, this poses a threat to volatility and market soundness as a whole and the sorts of excessive movements that may result in currencies becoming a risk themselves to economic recovery,” he added. El-Erian’s comments come as the the Russian rouble tumbled to new lows on Friday before bouncing back. The rouble hit its weakest-ever level against the U.S. dollar early on Friday, sliding to 48.6, before recovering to trade at 46.2 within a few hours – 1.3% higher on the day.

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There are far more tricks than regulators.

G20 Experts To Act On Corporations’ Internal Loans That Help Cut Tax (Guardian)

Tax experts responsible for the G20-led shakeup of international tax rules are discussing radical measures to bar global corporations from using internal loans, that bear no relation to their borrowing needs, in order to avoid tax. If adopted, the move could wipe out vast swaths of the financial industry at a stroke in countries such as Switzerland and Luxembourg, which have for years courted the intra-group financing offices of multinational firms by operating friendly local tax regimes. Raffaele Russo, one of the OECD tax experts leading the reform programme that has come in response to increasingly aggressive tax planning by multinationals, told the Guardian that if the proposals were backed, “this will be the end of [tax] base erosion and profit shifting using intra-group financing”. Measures to tackle multinationals taking large tax deductions for interest payments on loans within the same group are hinted at in a report published in September.

It said: “A formulary type of approach which ties the deductible interest payments to external debt payments may lead to results that better reflect the business reality of multinational … groups.” While other measures are also on the table, pressure to take radical steps to stamp out intra-group loans contrived for tax avoidance has grown this week after revelations about tax agreements rubber-stamped by the Luxembourg tax office. Luxembourg finance minister Pierre Gramegna used a public session during a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels to deliver a statement in reaction to this week’s revelations about tax agreements with multinationals. “My country [has] come under scrutiny in the latest days. The rulings of Luxembourg are being done according to the national laws of Luxembourg and also according to international conventions. What is being done is totally legal.” He acknowledged rulings and weak tax treaties had led to “situations where companies are paying no taxes or very little taxes [which] is obviously not a good result”.

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Sounds dull. But profitable.

Luxembourg, The Country Where Accountants Outnumber Police 4:1 (Guardian)

Welcome to Luxembourg, where accountants outnumber the police by four to one – and people enjoy some of the highest living standards in the world. “Conquer the world from your Luxembourg headquarters,” is the title of one government-sponsored marketing brochure promoting the Grand Duchy and its “business-friendly legal and fiscal framework”. “Political decision-makers are very accessible to companies,” it promises. The big four accountancy firms tend to agree, if a 2009 presentation by PricewaterhouseCoopers is anything to go by: the authorities are “flexible and welcoming”, “easily contactable” and offer “a readiness for dialogue and quick decision-making” it said in the document, part of a trove of documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with the Guardian. The big four are huge global enterprises that employ 750,000 people in total and have combined earnings of $117bn (£74bn), according to the latest figures – making them bigger than the economy of Angola.

Their footprint is especially large in Luxembourg, where they employ 6,200 people – among a population of 550,000. The Grand Duchy’s economy has come to be dominated by high finance since the decline of its steel factories. Today, financial services are Luxembourg’s biggest earner, accounting for more than a third of the national income. Almost half the workforce are foreigners, with 44% of employees commuting in daily from France, Germany and Belgium. Despite the financial crisis, accountancy has been booming. Deloitte has increased its Luxembourg staff by 142% in less than a decade to 1,700. PwC is comfortably ahead of Deloitte, its nearest rival. The biggest of the big four, which once described itself as “an ambassador of Luxembourg abroad”, it employs more people in Luxembourg than the country’s police force: it has 2,300 staff, while the gendarmerie has 1,600 officers. That makes it the country’s ninth largest employer, behind steelmaker ArcelorMittal and French bank BNP Paribas.

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Good to see Taibbi back at Rolling Stone, and back to what he does best.

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare (Matt Taibbi)

She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn’t take it anymore. “It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street,” she says. “I thought, ‘I can’t sit by any longer.'” Fleischmann is a tall, thin, quick-witted securities lawyer in her late thirties, with long blond hair, pale-blue eyes and an infectious sense of humor that has survived some very tough times. She’s had to struggle to find work despite some striking skills and qualifications, a common symptom of a not-so-common condition called being a whistle-blower. Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing.

Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations. Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she’s kept her mouth shut since then. “My closest family and friends don’t know what I’ve been living with,” she says. “Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview.” Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says. This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. The banks paid big fines, without trials or even judges – only secret negotiations that typically ended with the public shown nothing but vague, quasi-official papers called “statements of facts,” which were conveniently devoid of anything like actual facts.

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Going strong. What sanctions?

Russia, China Close To Reaching 2nd Mega Gas Deal (RT)

Moscow and Beijing have agreed many of the aspects of a second gas pipeline to China, the so-called western route. It’s in additional to the eastern route which has already broken ground after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May. “We have reached an understanding in principle concerning the opening of the western route,” the Russian President told media ahead of his visit on November 9-11 to the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC). “We have already agreed on many technical and commercial aspects of this project laying a good basis for reaching final arrangements,” the Russian President added.

In May, China and Russia signed a $400 billion deal to construct the Power of Siberia pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to China. The Power of Siberia, the eastern route, will connect Russia’s Kovykta and Chaynda fields with China, where recoverable resources are estimated at about 3 trillion cubic meters. The opening of the western route, the Altai, would link Western China and Russia and supply an additional 30 bcm of gas, nearly doubling the gas deal reached in May. When the Altai route is complete China will become Russia’s biggest gas customer. The ability to supply China with 68 bcm of gas annually surpasses the 40 bcm it supplies Germany each year.

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The victor writes the history.

Catalans Recast Spanish History in Drive for Independence (Bloomberg)

In a former market hall in Barcelona, Catalans are busy championing a historic defeat. A museum and cultural center built around the 300-year-old ruins of the city aims to educate visitors about the 1714 siege during the War of Spanish Succession. The battle lasted more than a year and destroyed the old neighborhood amid “epic and heroic resistance,” according to the center’s pamphlet. For Catalan nationalists, the defeat marks the end of their region’s freedom and the beginning of their domination by Madrid. For others, there’s a catch: the version of events on display at the museum, funded by the regional government that’s been pushing for an independence referendum, is unrecognizable to most historians outside Catalonia. “It’s science fiction,” said Alejandro Quiroga, a lecturer in Spanish history at Newcastle University in England who comes from Madrid. “The distortions are tremendous. That’s part of the process of nation building.”

As they develop a narrative around national identity, arguments over the interpretation of history have for decades dogged the Catalan nationalists. Barcelona’s leadership gained control of education under the constitutional settlement that followed the death in 1975 of General Francisco Franco, who had banned the use of the Catalan language. The movement has transformed into a full-blown campaign to leave Spain over the past three years. This weekend, activists will hold an unofficial independence vote in defiance of a Spanish court ruling and the Madrid government. “It fits in with my nationalistic feelings,” said Eugenio Suarez, 61, an industrial engineer who visited the museum on Oct. 14, a little over a year after it first opened. “I am a nationalist for other reasons, so I come here to remember what Barcelona and Catalonia was and still is.” In the northeast of the country, Catalonia is the largest economic region, where output per capita is 17% above the European Union average compared with 5% below for Spain as a whole.

The risk of political upheaval temporarily halted a rally in Spanish bonds last month. Unionists and some historians say that successive regional governments have contributed to building a Catalan majority by promoting a partial, at times false, version of the region’s history through its schools and cultural institutions. In Spanish history books, Felipe V’s troops overran Barcelona at the end of a 14-month siege, bringing an end to the war. The way the Catalan nationalists tell it, that defeat marks the end of a golden age for Catalonia. The attack “led to the capitulation of Barcelona and the loss of Catalonia’s freedoms,” says the leaflet handed out to visitors at the center in the El Born district. The museum shows “the vibrant and dynamic Barcelona of 1700,” while the defeat “is a symbol of the historic fight of the citizens to defend the constitutions and institutions of the country.”

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” .. a warning for Greek politicians to “stop promising people things that we cannot deliver. Then things are going to go wrong.”

Greek Minister: Markets Are Sending Us A Message (CNBC)

As Greece waits to hear whether it will be allowed to withdraw early from a bailout program that saved the country from insolvency, its minister of public order said a recent rise in Greek interest rates is a warning that the country can’t undo reforms. Minister Vassilis Kikilias, on a visit to New York and Washington, D.C., said investors’ negative reaction toward Greece in recent weeks wasn’t due only to its attempt to leave the bailout ahead of schedule, but also about “global” events in the markets. He did add, however, that it was also a warning for Greek politicians to “stop promising people things that we cannot deliver. Then things are going to go wrong.”

Greek stocks and government bonds sold off when Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced he would try to leave the multibillion-dollar bailout program early. The European Commission took up consideration of the proposal this week. But yields also rose on fears there will be snap elections in the spring and the leader of the radical left, Alexis Tsipras, might win the election. He is currently leading in the polls. Kikilias said he hopes and believes there won’t be an election next year. A goal of the government, he said, is to change the structure of the Greek government in order to have more consistent elections cycles.

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“Go to a tropical island for the rest of the year!”

Danish Women Urged to Drop Work Till 2015 to Protest Pay Gap (Bloomberg)

Women, take today off! In fact, take the rest of the year off! Danish unions representing more than 1.1 million private and public employees, at least half the country’s workforce, are urging women members to do just that – and only half in jest – to protest a 17% pay gap to men. “It’s a way to remove the gender pay gap in a split second,” Lise Johansen, head of the campaign for the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions, said in a telephone interview. “Go to a tropical island for the rest of the year!” While “everyone knows it’s a joke,” the protest, now in its fifth year, highlights the challenges Denmark faces even as it ranks among the countries with the smallest pay disparities, Johansen said.

Scandinavian countries have been the most successful in closing the gender gap, the World Economic Forum said in a report last week. Denmark ranked number five in the study of 142 countries, trailing Iceland, Finland, Norway – where the government has recently made military service mandatory for women – and Sweden. Yet in terms of wage equality for similar work, Denmark ranked 38, according to the report.

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This weird story just keeps going. Latest drone was spotted yesterday.

Drones Over French Nuclear Sites Prompt Parliamentary Probe (Bloomberg)

French parliament will hold hearings this month on the threat posed by drones to nuclear installations even as the mystery of who is behind a series of flights over more than a dozen sites remains unsolved. Reactor builder Areva confirmed today a drone had been spotted over one of its sites while two more plants operated by Electricite de France (EDF) were visited by the remote-controlled flying objects this week. Over a little more than a month, drones have been seen at 14 of EDF’s 19 plants, according to a person familiar with the events. The flights are “irresponsible,” deputy Jean-Yves Le Deaut, a member of the Socialist Party, said by telephone. “It’s giving people ideas and suggests parallels with cyber-attacks.”

The lawmaker will head a one-day public hearing Nov. 24 into whether drone flights can be dangerous to atomic installations. Organized by the parliament’s office for evaluation of scientific and technological choices, OPECST, it will include representatives from the country’s nuclear and drone industries as well as security experts, he said. “Nuclear isn’t for staging a video game,” Le Deaut said. “It’s urgent to stop this mess.” The flights haven’t so far inflicted damage nor has anyone publicly claimed responsibility. While Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said an inquiry is underway, the flights have continued for more than a month, the latest at the Areva installation last night. Two men are being investigated for flying an aircraft in a protected zone near EDF’s Belleville-sur-Loire nuclear plant, AFP reported, citing Bourges prosecutor Vincent Bonnefoy. The incident isn’t related to the flights at other nuclear sites, he was quoted as saying.

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 October 31, 2014  Posted by at 12:03 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Russell Lee Saloon, Craigville, Minnesota Aug 1937

Kuroda Jolts Markets With Assault on Deflation Mindset (Bloomberg)
Kuroda Surprises Again With Stimulus Boost as Japan Struggles (Bloomberg)
Japan Stocks Soar To 7-Year High On BOJ, Pension Fund Boost (Bloomberg)
US And China Tighten In Unison, And Damn The Torpedoes (AEP)
Shadow Banking Grows to $75 Trillion Industry (Bloomberg)
The $75 Trillion Shadow Hanging Over The World (Telegraph)
QE Central Bankers Deserve A Medal For Saving Society (AEP)
Falling Bank Deposits Add to China Economy Warning Sign (Bloomberg)
China Snares 180 Fugitives Abroad in Global Anti-Graft Sweep (Bloomberg)
Time To Take A Zero-Tolerance Approach To The Banks (Guardian)
New Junk Bond Risk: It Matters Who Owns What (CNBC)
Putin To Western Elites: Play-Time Is Over (Dmitry Orlov)
Russia Agrees to Terms With Ukraine Over Gas Supply (Bloomberg)
Oil Rout Seen Diluting Price Appeal of US LNG Exports (Bloomberg)
Oil Price Declines Have Small-Cap Shale Investors Scrambling (Reuters)
Iran A ‘Time Bomb’ For Oil Prices (CNBC)
Drones Spotted Over Seven French Nuclear Sites (AFP)
US Fracking Advocates Urged to Win Ugly by Discrediting Foes (Bloomberg)

PM Abe and the BOJ are panicking big time. Japan debt is already well over 400% of GDP, and nothing they have done has had any positive effect other than those they’ve made up. It’s a matter of when, not if. Expect ugly.

Kuroda Jolts Markets With Assault on Deflation Mindset (Bloomberg)

Today’s decision to expand Japan’s monetary stimulus may be regarded as shock treatment in the central bank’s effort to affect confidence levels. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s remedy to reflate the world’s third-largest economy through influencing expectations saw the yen sliding and stocks climbing. Kuroda led a divided board in Tokyo in a surprise decision to expand unprecedented monetary stimulus. Bank officials hadn’t provided any hints in recent weeks that additional easing was on the cards to help reach the BOJ’s inflation goal. Kuroda, 70, repeatedly indicated confidence this month that Japan was on a path to reaching his 2% target in the coming fiscal year. Just three of 32 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predicted extra easing. “We have to admit that this is sort of a second shock – after we had the first shock in April last year,” said Masaaki Kanno, chief Japan economist at JPMorgan Chase, referring to the first round of stimulus rolled out by Kuroda in 2013.

Kanno, who used to work at the BOJ, said “this is very effective,” especially because it comes the same day as the government pension fund said it will buy more of the nation’s stocks. The BOJ chief, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat who at one time was in charge of currency affairs, had repeatedly said that the central bank wouldn’t hesitate to expand asset buying if necessary. At the same time, his public confidence in Japan being on a path to reach the inflation target left the idea that no stimulus was coming today, Kanno said. “Kuroda loves a surprise – Kuroda doesn’t care about common sense, all he cares about is meeting the price target,” said Naomi Muguruma, a Tokyo-based economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., who correctly forecast more stimulus today. “Kuroda knows that when he moves it must be big and surprising.” The BOJ is aiming to pre-empt any risk of a delay in ending Japan’s “deflationary mindset,” it said in today’s policy statement. Kuroda later told reporters that surprising the markets wasn’t his intention.

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And the Japanese are still not spending, so inflation can’t and won’t rise. The Nikkei may have gained 5%, but the people in the street only got even more scared and prudent.

Kuroda Surprises Again With Stimulus Boost as Japan Struggles (Bloomberg)

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda led a divided board to expand what was already an unprecedentedly large monetary-stimulus program, boosting stocks and sending the yen tumbling. Kuroda, 70, and four of his eight fellow board members voted to raise the BOJ’s annual target for enlarging the monetary base to 80 trillion yen ($724 billion), up from 60 to 70 trillion yen, the central bank said in Tokyo. An increase was foreseen by just three of 32 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. The BOJ also cut its forecasts for consumer prices. Facing projections for failure to reach the BOJ’s 2% inflation target in about two years, and with the economy under pressure from a higher sales tax, enlarging the stimulus at some point had been anticipated by analysts for months. Kuroda opted not to telegraph his intentions in recent weeks, leaving today’s move a surprise – sending the Nikkei 225 Stock Average to the highest level since 2007.

“It was great timing for Kuroda,” said Takeshi Minami, Tokyo-based chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute, one of two who correctly forecast today’s easing. Minami noted that it follows the Federal Reserve’s ending of quantitative easing, helping highlight the differing paths for the U.S. and Japan. Today’s decision comes almost 19 months after Kuroda unleashed his initial asset-purchase plan, with the intention of doubling the monetary base. That move similarly drove up stocks and undercut the yen. Since then, a more competitive exchange rate has triggered higher corporate earnings, and asset-price gains have expanded Japanese households’ net worth. The bank will purchase exchange-traded funds so their amounts outstanding increase by about 3 trillion yen a year, it said. Japanese real estate investment trusts will be purchased with a view to raising their amounts outstanding by about 90 billion yen annually, according to the bank.

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Down 5% again on Monday?

Japan Stocks Soar To 7-Year High On BOJ, Pension Fund Boost (Bloomberg)

Japanese stocks soared, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average closing at a seven-year high, as the Bank of Japan unexpectedly boosted easing and the nation’s pension fund prepared to unveil new asset allocations. The Nikkei 225 jumped 4.8% to 16,413.76 at the close in Tokyo, the highest since Nov. 2, 2007. The Topix index surged 4.3% to 1,333.64, bringing its gain for the week to 7.4%, the most since April 2013. The measure erased its losses for the year and is now up 2.4%. Volume on both gauges was more than 75% higher than their 30-day averages. The yen tumbled 1.5% to 110.83 per dollar.

Shares rose in the morning session after a Nikkei newspaper report that the $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund would announce new portfolio targets today, more than doubling its goal for domestic shares to 25% of assets. They surged in the afternoon after BOJ policy makers voted 5-4 to target an 80 trillion yen ($726 billion) annual expansion in the central bank’s monetary base. “Today you’re getting a double boost with talk of the GPIF increasing its shares allocation and the BOJ pumping more cash in at a faster rate,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors, which manages about $125 billion, said by phone. “It had become increasingly apparent that what the BOJ was doing wasn’t enough and they needed to do more, and it’s always been a question of when they would do that. It’s an excellent outcome.”

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” … the “Euroglut”, the largest surplus in the history of financial markets.”

US And China Tighten In Unison, And Damn The Torpedoes (AEP)

Mind the monetary gap as the world’s two superpowers turn off the liquidity spigot at the same time. The US Federal Reserve and the People’s Bank of China have both withdrawn from the global bond markets, each for their own entirely different reasons. The combined effect is a shock of sorts for the international financial system. The Fed’s message on Wednesday night was hawkish. It did not invoke the excuse of a stronger dollar or global market jitters to extened bond purchases. It no longer sees “significant” constraints to the labour market. Instead it spoke of “solid job gains” and a “gradual diminishing” of under-employment. This a tightening shift, and seen as such by the markets. The euro dropped 1.5 cents against a resurgent dollar within minutes of the release, falling back below $1.26. Rate rises are on track for mid-2015 after all. The Fed is no longer printing any more money to buy Treasuries, and therefore is not injecting further dollars into an interlinked global system that has racked up $7 trillion of cross-border bank debt in dollars and a further $2 trillion in emerging market bonds.

The stock of QE remains the same. The flow has changed. Flow matters. The Fed has ended QE3 more gently than QE1 or QE2. This helps but it may also have given people a false sense of security. The hard fact is that the Fed has tapered net stimulus from $85bn a month to zero since the start of the year. The FOMC tried to soften the blow in its statement with pledges to keep interest rates low for a very long time. This assurance has value only if you think QE works by holding down interest rates, as the Yellen Fed professes to believe. It cuts no ice if you are a classical monetarist and think that QE works its magic through the quantity of money effect, most potently by boosting broad M3/M4 money through purchases of assets outside the banking system. Pessimists argue that the world economy is so weak that it needs a minimum of $85bn a month of Fed money creation (not to be confused with zero interest rates) just to avoid stalling again.

Or put another way, there is nagging worry that tapering itself may amount to an entire tightening cycle, equivalent to a series of rate rises in the old days. If they are right, rates may never in fact rise above zero in the US or the G10 states before the global economy slides into the next downturn. It is no great mystery why the world is caught in this “liquidity trap”, or “secular stagnation” if you prefer. Fixed capital investment in China is still running at $5 trillion a year, and still overloading the world with excess capacity in everything from solar panels to steel and ships, even after Xi Jinping’s Third Plenum reforms. Europe has been starving the world of demand by tightening fiscal policy into a depression, running a $400bn current account surplus that is now big enough to distort the global system as a whole. George Saravelos, at Deutsche Bank, dubs it the “Euroglut”, the largest surplus in the history of financial markets.

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Scary situation.

Shadow Banking Grows to $75 Trillion Industry (Bloomberg)

The shadow banking industry grew by $5 trillion to about $75 trillion worldwide last year, driven by lenders seeking to skirt regulations and investors searching for yield amid record low interest rates. The size of the shadow banking system, which includes hedge funds, real estate investment trusts and off-balance sheet investment vehicles, is about 120% of global gross domestic product, or a quarter of total financial assets, according to a report published by the Financial Stability Board today. Shadow banking “tends to take off when strict banking regulations are in place, when real interest rates and yield spreads are low and investors search for higher returns, and when there is a large institutional demand for assets,” according to the report. “The current environment in advanced economies seems conducive to further growth of shadow banking.”

While watchdogs have reined in excessive risk-taking by banks in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008, they are concerned that lenders might use shadow banking to evade the clampdown and cause risks to build up out of sight of regulators. The FSB published guidelines for supervisors last year to keep track of the industry. “Risks can migrate outside of the core and as a result, the FSB’s shadow banking monitoring exercise is of the utmost importance,” Agustin Carstens, who heads up the FSB’s risk assessment committee, said in the statement. The FSB, a global financial policy group comprised of regulators and central bankers, found that shadow banking increased most rapidly in Argentina, which saw a 50% jump, and China, where growth was more than 30%. The global share of activity based in the U.S. declined to 33% last year from 41% in 2007, according to the report, while the proportion of shadow banking based in China rose to 4% from 1%.

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Same, with graphs.

The $75 Trillion Shadow Hanging Over The World (Telegraph)

Global shadow banking assets rose to a record $75 trillion (£46.5 trillion) last year, new analysis shows. The value of risky investment products, mortgage-backed securities and other non-bank entities increased by $5 trillion to $75 trillion in 2013, according to the Financial Stability Board (FSB). Shadow banking, which is not constrained by bank regulation, now represents about 25pc of total financial assets – or roughly half of the global banking system. It is also equivalent to 120pc of global gross domestic product (GDP). The FSB, which monitors and makes recommendations on financial stability issues, said that while non-bank lending complemented traditional channels by expanding access to credit, data inconsistencies together with the size of the system meant closer monitoring was warranted.

“Intermediating credit through non-bank channels can have important advantages and contributes to the financing of the real economy; but such channels can also become a source of systemic risk, especially when they are structured to perform bank-like functions and when their interconnectedness with the regular banking system is strong,” the FSB said in its annual shadow banking report. While regulators have highlighted that the size of the shadow banking system does not pose a systemic risk on its own, many non-bank lenders obtain short-term funds to invest in longer-term assets, which can trigger fire sales if nervous investors decide to withdraw their money at once.

During the financial crisis, the rapid sell-off reduced asset values and spread the stress to traditional banks, some of which controlled shadow lenders. “The system-wide monitoring of shadow banking is a core element of the FSB’s work to strengthen the oversight and regulation of shadow banking in order to transform it into a transparent, resilient, sustainable source of market-based financing for real economies,” said Mark Carney, chairman of the FSB and Governor of the Bank of England.

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Yes, it’s Ambrose.

QE Central Bankers Deserve A Medal For Saving Society (AEP)

The final word on quantitative easing will have to wait for historians. As the US Federal Reserve winds down QE3 we can at least conclude that the experiment was a huge success for those countries that acted quickly and with decisive force. Yet that is not the ultimate test. The sophisticated critique – to be distinguished from hyperinflation warnings and “hard money” bluster – is that QE contaminated the rest of the world in complicated ways and may have stored up a greater crisis for the future. What we can conclude is that extreme QE enabled the US to weather the most drastic fiscal tightening since demobilisation after the Korean War, without falling back into recession. Much the same was true for Britain. The Fed’s $3.7 trillion of bond purchases did not drive up debt ratios, as often claimed. It reduced them.

Flow of Funds data show that total non-financial debt has dropped from a peak near 260pc of GDP in 2009 and since stabilised at 237pc of GDP. Public debt did jump, matched by falls in household and corporate debt ratios. On cue, federal debt is now falling as well. The deficit is down to 2.8pc of GDP, low enough to erode the debt ratio in a growing economy through the magic of the denominator effect. This is not a “pure” economic experiment, of course. There are other variables: the shale boom and the manufacturing renaissance in chemicals and plastics that it has spawned; quick action by the US authorities to clean up the banking system. Yet it is indicative. By contrast, the eurozone carried out its fiscal austerity without monetary stimulus to cushion the shock, lurching from crisis to crisis as a result. The region has yet to reclaim it former levels of output, a worse outcome than during the Great Depression by a wide margin. Not even the 1840s were this bad. You have to go back to the Thirty Years War in the 17th century to trump the economic devastation of EMU.

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“Beijing-based ICBC reported its biggest jump in soured credit since at least 2006 in the third quarter. Smaller rival Bank of China more than doubled its provisions for bad loans”.

Falling Bank Deposits Add to China Economy Warning Sign (Bloomberg)

Chinese bank deposits dropped following a crackdown on lenders manipulating their numbers and “illicit” means of attracting money, threatening to weigh on credit growth and hinder efforts to reignite the economy. Four of the five biggest banks, led by Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, posted a drop in deposits as they reported third-quarter earnings this week. Central bank data showed it was the first quarterly decline for the nation’s banking industry since at least 1999. The lower deposit levels are likely to curtail credit as banks are prohibited from lending more than 75% of their quarter-end holdings, while a sustained drop could hamper government efforts to rejuvenate an economy forecast to expand this year at the weakest pace since 1990. The lenders may also come under pressure to tap more expensive financing.

“With banks now less able to window-dress their deposit figures, some will be forced to scale back lending to meet loan-to-deposit requirements,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist for Capital Economics said. “Regulatory controls are getting harder for banks and that’s weighing on credit growth.” ICBC, the world’s largest lender by assets, posted the biggest decline in funds during the third quarter, with its deposits dropping by 388 billion yuan ($63 billion) from June to 15.3 trillion yuan. Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of Communications also reported declines. Only China Construction Bank, the nation’s second-largest, had an increase. As a housing-market slump drags on the nation’s growth, bad loans are piling up. Beijing-based ICBC reported its biggest jump in soured credit since at least 2006 in the third quarter. Smaller rival Bank of China more than doubled its provisions for bad loans, while the combined profit growth of the five biggest banks slowed to 6% from 10% a year earlier.

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Reminds me of the IRS, for some reason. Australia in joint operation with China …

China Snares 180 Fugitives Abroad in Global Anti-Graft Sweep (Bloomberg)

China said it has now captured 180 economic fugitives from 40 countries as part of a campaign started in July to recover billions of dollars of illicit gains. The suspects were apprehended under Operation Fox Hunt 2014, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. Authorities arrested 104 suspects and the rest turned themselves in, Xinhua said. The number of those apprehended is up from 128 announced earlier this month. The Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has mounted a crackdown on corruption that has netted thousands of cadres in the country and is targeting Chinese abroad. Between 2002 and 2011, $1.08 trillion of illicit funds were spirited out of China, estimates Washington-based Global Financial Integrity.

China has sent 20 teams of investigators to Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and other neighboring countries, Xinhua reported. The government estimates the number of corrupt officials who have moved abroad at anywhere from 4,000 to 18,000 people, according to China’s chief prosecutor Cao Jianming. The two top destinations for economic fugitives are the U.S. and Canada, in part because China doesn’t have extradition treaties with them, the official China Daily reported last month. The Australian Federal Police will take part in a joint operation with Chinese counterparts to seize assets of fugitive officials, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Oct. 20.

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Right. That time goes back decades.

Time To Take A Zero-Tolerance Approach To The Banks (Guardian)

It’s been a wretched week for Britain’s banks. On Tuesday, Lloyds Banking Group announced it was setting aside an additional £900m for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance. On Thursday, Barclays made a £500m provision for the fine it can expect for rigging the foreign exchange market. The banking list of shame will no doubt be added to when Royal Bank of Scotland reports on Friday. Patience with the banks is wearing thin. As Minouche Shafik, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, said in a speech earlier this week, it is no longer credible to put the wrongdoing down to a few bad apples. The language used by Shafik was instructive. She talked of “appalling cases of misconduct”, and of a long tail of “outrageous conduct cases”. Unless banks have a tin ear, they must surely have got the message: Threadneedle Street has had enough.

What was a bit strange about Shafik’s speech was her comment that she found some of the behaviour in the City “truly shocking”. There is no longer anything remotely shocking in the unearthing of financial malfeasance. It is only shocking in the way that the gambling going on in Rick’s night club in Casablanca was shocking to Captain Renault. There are many explanations for why the rigging of markets and the rooking of customers happened. In the end, though, the simplest explanation is the best. It happened because the banks thought they could get away with it. The culture was one in which self-enrichment was seen as serving the greater good; regulation was so light-touch as to be non-existent; and the chances of being punished were slim. It’s not just the banks, of course. Why did newspapers hack phones? Because they could get away with it. Why do multinational companies pay so little tax on their UK activities? Because they can. Public trust in business generally, not just the banks, has rarely been lower and it’s not hard to see why.

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PIMCO owns dangerously large amounts of certain companies’ bonds.

New Junk Bond Risk: It Matters Who Owns What (CNBC)

Add a new concern to the stable of high-yield bond risks: ownership of some companies’ issuance has become concentrated in the hands of just a few fund managers. “A reduced number of asset managers hold a significant amount of the debt of large corporate issuers across advanced and emerging market economies,” the IMF said in a report issued earlier this month, noting the top-five fund families hold at least 50% of reported bond ownership filings by many large non-resource companies in the JPMorgan Corporate Emerging Markets Bond Index. Some managers hold large chunks of a company’s debt, with the report highlighting that Pimco holds more than 20% of Ally Financial’s total bonds outstanding and around 15% of Navient’s, while in emerging markets, the top-five hold around 30% of Digicel’s bond issuance and more than 20% of Melco’s.

Pimco didn’t immediately return an emailed request for comment But while the IMF is concerned about how dependence on just a few funds may affect issuers’ access to markets in “times of stress,” others believe the risk may be to the fund manager. “If you own 20% of a company’s debt – and that’s something we would never do, because we don’t think that’s prudent – you’re almost duty bound to support the company in its next financing,” said Tim Jagger, portfolio manager at Aviva Investors, which has around $371 billion under management. “It’s going be very difficult if you’re not involved, to think other investors will get involved.” Jagger also noted that the concentration of ownership highlights what may be one of the biggest risks in the fixed income market generally: liquidity may suffer as changes in regulations since the Global Financial Crisis mean banks can’t warehouse an inventory of bonds like they used to.

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Must read.

Putin To Western Elites: Play-Time Is Over (Dmitry Orlov)

Most people in the English-speaking parts of the world missed Putin’s speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi a few days ago, and, chances are, those of you who have heard of the speech didn’t get a chance to read it, and missed its importance. (For your convenience, I am pasting in the full transcript of his speech below.) Western media did their best to ignore it or to twist its meaning. Regardless of what you think or don’t think of Putin (like the sun and the moon, he does not exist for you to cultivate an opinion) this is probably the most important political speech since Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech of March 5, 1946.

In this speech, Putin abruptly changed the rules of the game. Previously, the game of international politics was played as follows: politicians made public pronouncements, for the sake of maintaining a pleasant fiction of national sovereignty, but they were strictly for show and had nothing to do with the substance of international politics; in the meantime, they engaged in secret back-room negotiations, in which the actual deals were hammered out. Previously, Putin tried to play this game, expecting only that Russia be treated as an equal. But these hopes have been dashed, and at this conference he declared the game to be over, explicitly violating Western taboo by speaking directly to the people over the heads of elite clans and political leaders. The Russian blogger chipstone summarized the most salient points from Putin speech as follows:

1. Russia will no longer play games and engage in back-room negotiations over trifles. But Russia is prepared for serious conversations and agreements, if these are conducive to collective security, are based on fairness and take into account the interests of each side.

2. All systems of global collective security now lie in ruins. There are no longer any international security guarantees at all. And the entity that destroyed them has a name: The United States of America.

3. The builders of the New World Order have failed, having built a sand castle. Whether or not a new world order of any sort is to be built is not just Russia’s decision, but it is a decision that will not be made without Russia.

4. Russia favors a conservative approach to introducing innovations into the social order, but is not opposed to investigating and discussing such innovations, to see if introducing any of them might be justified.

5. Russia has no intention of going fishing in the murky waters created by America’s ever-expanding “empire of chaos,” and has no interest in building a new empire of her own (this is unnecessary; Russia’s challenges lie in developing her already vast territory). Neither is Russia willing to act as a savior of the world, as she had in the past.

6. Russia will not attempt to reformat the world in her own image, but neither will she allow anyone to reformat her in their image. Russia will not close herself off from the world, but anyone who tries to close her off from the world will be sure to reap a whirlwind.

7. Russia does not wish for the chaos to spread, does not want war, and has no intention of starting one. However, today Russia sees the outbreak of global war as almost inevitable, is prepared for it, and is continuing to prepare for it. Russia does not war—nor does she fear it.

8. Russia does not intend to take an active role in thwarting those who are still attempting to construct their New World Order—until their efforts start to impinge on Russia’s key interests. Russia would prefer to stand by and watch them give themselves as many lumps as their poor heads can take. But those who manage to drag Russia into this process, through disregard for her interests, will be taught the true meaning of pain.

9. In her external, and, even more so, internal politics, Russia’s power will rely not on the elites and their back-room dealing, but on the will of the people.

To these nine points I would like to add a tenth:

10. There is still a chance to construct a new world order that will avoid a world war. This new world order must of necessity include the United States—but can only do so on the same terms as everyone else: subject to international law and international agreements; refraining from all unilateral action; in full respect of the sovereignty of other nations.

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On off on off.

Russia Agrees to Terms With Ukraine Over Gas Supply (Bloomberg)

Russia agreed to terms for restoring natural-gas exports to Ukraine, laying the groundwork to prevent residents going without heat as temperatures drop. The gas negotiations, brokered by the European Union, came as pro-Russian rebels stepped up attacks on Kiev government forces. They violated the wobbly truce 45 times in the past 24 hours, the Defense Ministry said on Facebook today. One civilian was killed by shelling, the Donetsk city council said on its website. European leaders said they hoped the agreement would help mend ties between the two countries. “This breakthrough will not only make sure that Ukraine will have sufficient heating in the dead of the winter,” European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told a news conference in Brussels last night. “It is also a contribution to the de-escalation between Russia and Ukraine.”

The 28-nation EU sought to avoid a repeat of 2006 and 2009, when disputes between the former Soviet republics over gas debts and prices led to fuel transit disruptions and shortages across Europe amid freezing temperatures. Tensions remained even as the sides made progress on fuel supplies. The EU yesterday rebuked Russia for an announcement by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the country would recognize separatist elections planned for Nov. 2 in Ukraine’s rebel-held territories. The conflict in east Ukraine has killed at least 3,700 people, the United Nations estimates. [..] Under yesterday’s agreement, Russia said it would resume sending natural-gas to Ukraine – halted since June – after receiving the first tranche of debt repayment and upfront payments for future deliveries. Ukraine agreed to pay $3.1 billion to Russia by the end of this year to partially cover what Russia estimates is $5.3 billion owed by Naftogaz Ukrainy to Gazprom. The first tranche, $1.45 billion, will be paid “in the coming days,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said.

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Large scale (would-be) LNG exporters, US, Australia, Qatar, risk a lot.

Oil Rout Seen Diluting Price Appeal of US LNG Exports (Bloomberg)

Oil’s collapse is eroding the appeal of potential U.S. LNG exports to Asia as it cuts the cost of competing supplies linked to the price of crude. Brent’s 22% drop this year outpaced the 8.9% decline in natural gas at Henry Hub, the benchmark for U.S. liquefied natural gas shipments that are scheduled to begin in 2015. When the cost of processing and shipping American supplies to Asia is taken into account, the price advantage over oil-linked cargoes from producers such as Qatar has more than halved, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the U.S. shale boom prompts the world’s biggest natural gas producer to plan exports of the fuel, it’s also boosting the country’s crude output to the most in 30 years, helping drive down global oil prices.

“The U.S. will not sell cheap gas,” Umar Jehangir, the deputy secretary of development and joint ventures at Pakistan’s Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, said in Singapore on Oct. 29, adding that the opinion was his own. “U.S. LNG will be exactly the same price as gas coming out of Qatar to Asia.” Cheniere Energy Inc., which is set to become the first natural gas exporter from the U.S. shale boom when its Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, starts next year, says the economics still make sense. Even after crude’s slump, there’s a 15% gap between Henry Hub-indexed prices and oil-linked supplies, Jean Abiteboul, the president of Cheniere Supply & Marketing, said in London on Oct. 29.

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” … a victim of its own success”?!

Oil Price Declines Have Small-Cap Shale Investors Scrambling (Reuters)

Plummeting oil prices are pushing some of the small-cap companies which flourished as part of the U.S. shale energy boom close to their breaking point, while also prompting some well-known fund managers to aggressively buy energy stocks. Concerns about slowing growth in Europe and a stronger dollar have helped push the price of light crude oil down about 25% since June to about $82 a barrel, creeping closer to the average marginal cost of crude production of about $73 a barrel for U.S. onshore work, according to a research note from Baird Equity Research. Those declines have sent the SIG Oil Exploration and Production index down 21.2% over the last three months. “The market is selling all of these companies, even if it’s clear that $75 a barrel oil is not going to affect every company the same,” said Mike Breard, an analyst who works on the Hodges Small-Cap fund, part of Hodges Capital.

It’s a sudden turnabout for an industry that appears to be a victim of its own success. The high price of oil over the last decade was largely behind the push to mine shale oil through fracking, a controversial technique that uses high pressure to capture gas and oil trapped in deep rock. Fracking has helped the U.S. become among the world’s largest oil producers and led to concern that there is now an oversupply of crude. Production in the U.S. is on pace to add a record 1.1 million barrels a day in 2014, and another 963,000 in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Already, the share price of small-cap shale oil companies such as Forest Oil has fallen below $1 as a result of high debt levels. Analysts now say that with the price of oil now close to the point where it’s no longer profitable to drill, small-cap energy stocks laden with high costs and little cash on their balance sheets could prove vulnerable to further price declines and may become acquisition targets if oil stays below $75 a barrel for six months or more.

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“If Iran walks away from the negotiation table over the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology in the country, markets could easily be spooked over the region’s stability”.

Iran A ‘Time Bomb’ For Oil Prices (CNBC)

Markets should look for “a significant additional political risk premium on the price of Brent” if nuclear arms talks between Iran and major world powers break down, Nomura has warned. If Iran walks away from the negotiation table over the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology in the country, markets could easily be spooked over the region’s stability and that could affect the price of Brent, which has tumbled since June, Nomura’s senior political analyst Alastair Newton said in a note Thursday. “Iran could bring politics very much to the fore again in determining the price of Brent crude before year-end,” Newton warned.

Brent crude for December delivery fell below $86 a barrel on Friday to $85.41 as a stronger dollar and over-supply combined to put pressure on the benchmark. The price has slipped more than 9% so far in October, its biggest monthly drop since May 2012, and a quarter since June. The deadline for the completion of negotiations between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group which comprises the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.S.) plus Germany is on November 24. “In the event of no agreement by the 24th, I think that the U.S. Congress would impose fresh sanctions anyway,” Newton said. He added there were grounds for caution that the likelihood of agreement was less than 50%.

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Curious. Mysterious.

Drones Spotted Over Seven French Nuclear Sites (AFP)

France’s state-run power firm Électricité de France (EDF) on Wednesday said unidentified drones had flown over seven nuclear plants this month, leading it to file a complaint with the police. The unmanned aircraft did not harm “the safety or the operation” of the power plants, EDF said, adding that the first drone was spotted on 5 October above a plant in deconstruction in eastern Creys-Malville. More drone activity followed at other nuclear power sites across the country between 13 October and 20 October, usually at night or early in the morning, EDF said, adding that it had notified the police each time. Greenpeace, whose activists have in the past staged protests at nuclear plants in France, denied any involvement in the mysterious pilotless flight activity.

But the environmental group expressed concern at the apparent evidence of “a large-scale operation”, noting that drone activity was detected at four sites on the same day in 19 October – at Bugey in the east, Gravelines and Chooz in the north and Nogent-sur-Seine in north-central France. Neither EDF nor the security forces had given any explanation about the overflights, the group said, urging the authorities to investigate. “We are very worried about the occurrence and the repetition of these suspicious overflights,” said Yannick Rousselet, head of Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear campaign, in a statement.

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“These are people who want to live in a dream world.”

US Fracking Advocates Urged to Win Ugly by Discrediting Foes (Bloomberg)

As he took the floor at the tony Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, the veteran Washington public relations guru had an uncompromising message for oil and gas drillers facing an anti-fracking backlash. “You can either win ugly or lose pretty. You figure out where you want to be,” Rick Berman told the Western Energy Alliance, according to a recording. “Hardball is something that I’m a big fan of, applied appropriately.” Berman has gained prominence, including a “60 Minutes” profile, for playing hardball with animal activists, labor unions and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In Colorado, he was offering to take on environmentalists pushing restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The fight over fracking in the state has been viewed as a bellwether for similar debates brewing from New York to Sacramento. Energy companies are lobbying against a slew of regulations, including ones setting safety rules for fracking on public lands and another capping carbon emissions from power plants.

That partly explains why energy and resources companies, including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and Murray Energy are spending lavishly on political campaigns this year. The Center for Responsive Politics data shows the industry will contribute an amount second only to its record $143 million leading up to the 2012 election. So far they have given $95.5 million to candidates and political committees. Industry supporters say they have no choice. They face a well-funded environmental campaign from groups such as the Sierra Club that threaten to endanger the boom in production and domestic manufacturing that followed the shale revolution. “There is an anti-fossil fuel movement, and a very well-funded lobbying campaign is behind it,” said Michael Krancer, Pennsylvania’s former top natural-gas regulator and an energy attorney at Blank Rome LLP in Philadelphia. “These are people who want to live in a dream world.”

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