Jun 292018
 
 June 29, 2018  Posted by at 8:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Paris 1878

 

Everyone’s Got A Plan (Roberts)
How Much Have Global Equities Tumbled Since 2018 Peak? (HE)
Debt For US Corporations Tops $6.3 Trillion (CNBC)
Deutsche Bank Fails Fed Stress Test, Three US Lenders Stumble (R.)
Corporate Brexodus Begins as “No-Deal” Brexit Looms (DQ)
How Merkel Broke The EU (Pol.eu)
EU Leaders Hail Summit Victory On Migration But Details Scant (G.)
The Globalising Wall (Danae Stratou, Yanis Varoufakis)
The Living World Is Dying Of Consumption (Monbiot)
90% Of Plastic Polluting Our Oceans Comes From Just 10 Rivers (Wef)

 

 

Until they get punched in the face.

Everyone’s Got A Plan (Roberts)

[..] much of the rally since the 2009 recessionary lows has been an influence of outside factors. Interest rates are low because of the Federal Reserve’s actions, corporate profitability is high due to share repurchases, accounting rule changes following the financial crisis, and ongoing wage suppression. But now, all of that is beginning to change. Interest rates are rising, the yield spread is flattening, and Central Banks globally are “beginning the end” of the “Quantitative Easing” experiment.

This is no small matter, although it is being dismissed as such. There has been a direct correlation between the “equity bull market” and the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet. Yet, much to the Fed’s dismay, little of the asset surge translated into actual economic growth. But now, that support is being withdrawn and as such the market, unsurprisingly, has run into trouble. However, such shouldn’t matter if the economy, which ultimately drives earnings, is indeed firing on all cylinders as is commonly stated.

While corporate profitability has surged since the financial crisis, those profits have come at the expense of employees. Since 2009, wages for “non-supervisory employees,” which is roughly 83% of the current workforce, is lower today than at the turn of the century. The decline in economic growth epitomizes the problem that corporations face today in trying to maintain profitability. The chart below shows corporate profits as a percentage of GDP relative to the annual change in GDP. As you will see the last time that corporate profits diverged from GDP it was unable to sustain that divergence for long and economic growth subsequently declined with profits.

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That was fast.

How Much Have Global Equities Tumbled Since 2018 Peak? (HE)

-$8,700,000,000,00. That’s $8.7 trillion… From the 2018 peak, world equity indices are down -10% from $87 trillion in market capitalization to $78.6 trillion. Below are the top-10 largest drawdowns in country-specific equity markets from the 1/29 peak in global equities:
Venezuelan: -77%
Luxemborg: -54%
Argentina: -44%
Turkey: -32%
Brazil: -28%
Kazakhstan: -25%
Poland: -25%
Hungary: -24%
South Africa: -23%
China: -21%

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“..cash-to-debt ratios more similar to those of speculative issuers..”

Debt For US Corporations Tops $6.3 Trillion (CNBC)

The debt load for U.S. corporations has reached a record $6.3 trillion, according to S&P Global. The good news is U.S. companies also have a record $2.1 trillion in cash to service that debt. The bad news is most of that cash is in the hands of a few giant companies. And the riskiest borrowers are more leveraged than they were even during the financial crisis, according to S&P’s analysis, which looked at 2017 year-end balance sheets for non-financial corporations. On first glance, total debt has risen roughly $2.7 trillion over the past five years, with cash as a percentage of debt hovering around 33% for U.S. companies, flat compared to 2016. But removing the top 25 cash holders from the equation paints a grimmer picture.

Speculative-grade borrowers, for example, reached a new record-low cash-to-debt ratio of just 12% in 2017, below the 14% reported in 2008 during the crisis. “These borrowers have $8 of debt for every $1 of cash,” wrote Andrew Chang, primary credit analyst at S&P Global. “We note these borrowers, many sponsor-owned, borrowed significant amounts under extremely favourable terms in a benign credit market to finance their buyouts at an ever-increasing purchase multiple without effectively improving their liquidity profiles.” The trend persists even among highly rated borrowers: More than 450 investment-grade companies not among the top 1% of cash-rich issuers have cash-to-debt ratios more similar to those of speculative issuers, hovering around 21%.

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Add the derivatives the BOE warned about to this mess.

Deutsche Bank Fails Fed Stress Test, Three US Lenders Stumble (R.)

Deutsche Bank’s U.S. subsidiary failed on Thursday the second part of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s annual stress tests due to “widespread and critical deficiencies” in the bank’s capital planning controls. The Fed board’s unanimous objection to Deutsche Bank’s U.S. capital plan marks another blow for the German lender, sending its shares down 1% after hours. Its financial health globally has been under intense scrutiny after S&P cut its rating and questioned its plan to return to profitability. The Fed also placed conditions on three banks that passed the test. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley cannot increase their capital distributions and State Street Corp must improve its counterparty risk management and analysis, the Fed said.

Deutsche Bank last week easily cleared the Fed’s easier first hurdle that measures its capital levels against a severe recession, the strictest ever run by the Fed. Thursday’s second test focuses on how the bank’s plan for that capital, such as dividend payouts and investments, stands up against the harsh scenarios. “Concerns include material weaknesses in the firm’s data capabilities and controls supporting its capital planning process, as well as weaknesses in its approaches and assumptions used to forecast revenues and losses under stress,” the Fed said in a statement. While failing the U.S. stress test would not likely affect the bank’s ability to pay dividends to shareholders, it will require Deutsche Bank to make substantial investment in technology, operations, risk management and personnel, as well as changes to its governance.

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Businesses can no longer wait. It’s not Brexit itself, it’s the inability to make decisions.

Corporate Brexodus Begins as “No-Deal” Brexit Looms (DQ)

“Exit” day is scheduled to begin on March 29, 2019, at 11 p.m. GMT. That’s 274 days away, and there’s scant sign of any progress on key sticking points such as the Northern Ireland border, the so-called “passporting” of UK financial services, and a future aviation agreement between the UK and the EU. Whatever the reasons for the potential departures from the UK, one of the things the recent constitutional crisis in Catalonia threw into stark relief is just how fickle and fearful money is, and just how quickly companies — even local ones — will up sticks if political developments in a particular region jeopardize their operations.

International banks and asset managers with large London-based operations are now scrambling to augment their EU outposts to mitigate the loss of passporting rights which enable them to offer financial, advisory and trading services to corporate clients across all EU states with just one local licence. JPMorgan is reportedly looking to expand its office space in Milan, where it already has around 250 staff, while Goldman Sachs is planning to double the number of staff in Frankfurt, which currently stands at 400.

Bank of America is merging its London-based subsidiary with its Dublin-based Irish entity, which will become its main EU base. It has also said it will expand its investment banking activities in Paris and shift some of its London-based back-office operations to Dublin. It is also transferring three of its most senior UK-based bankers to Paris in one of the most senior Brexit staff redeployments to date by a major bank, according to Reuters. But moving key operations and staff across the channel is a costly, complex undertaking. Many companies would still prefer to play a waiting game, and most of the moves that have taken place so far have involved small parts of firms’ operations.

But according to the European Banking Authority (EBA), which itself is relocating from London to Paris, time is running out. In an opinion paper released on Monday, it warned that City of London authorities and many UK-based banks were far from ready for a no-deal scenario. “Financial stability should not be put at risk because financial institutions are trying to avoid costs,” the paper says. In a remarkable coincidence Monday also saw a separate warning from the ECB that any banks that haven’t submitted their licence applications for operating in the Eurozone by the end of the month could find themselves without a permit by the time of Brexit.

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It’ll be her legacy.

How Merkel Broke The EU (Pol.eu)

Angela Merkel’s response to Europe’s refugee crisis has earned the German leader a reputation the world over as a modern-day Jeanne d’Arc, a bold defender of Western ideals against a populist onslaught. “I have immeasurable respect for Angela Merkel,” former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said during a visit to Berlin this week. “I think she’s an outstanding leader faced with a very difficult set of challenges.” While that view persists across much of the West, at home, questions about her leadership are growing louder by the day. Beyond the domestic concerns, more and more of Merkel’s erstwhile allies are asking a question still considered sacrilegious among much of Germany’s establishment: Is she tearing Europe apart?

“Dear Angela Merkel, after nearly 13 years as chancellor, the only thing Europe has left for you is animosity,” Malte Pieper, a correspondent of the normally staid German public broadcaster ARD said in a commentary this week that created waves in Berlin. “All the meetings in recent months have illustrated this. Help to finally stop Europe from veering toward division instead of unity! Make room in the chancellery for a successor.” The German leader has what could well be her last chance to prove her critics wrong at this week’s European Council summit in Brussels. She is under intense pressure to return home with a deal on refugees — one that would allow her Bavarian partners, CSU, who face a tough election campaign, to claim victory in a protracted standoff over the potent question of asylum policy.

The trick will be to win such a deal without further alienating the rest of Europe. Trouble is, Merkel is relying on an argument that is losing its resonance. What’s really at stake, Merkel has suggested time and again, isn’t Germany’s refugee policy, but the very survival of the EU. “Europe has to stay together,” she said this month in an attempt to deflect the attacks against her. “Especially in this situation, in which Europe is in a very fragile position, it’s very, very important to me that Germany doesn’t act unilaterally.”

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This is so absurd it’s hard to believe. They haven’t decided on anything but have their PR people take over. Think they can buy themselves camps in Egypt or Morocco. That money can solve the issue.

EU Leaders Hail Summit Victory On Migration But Details Scant (G.)

European leaders papered over the divisions on migration with a promise that some EU countries would take in migrants rescued from the Mediterranean sea, after marathon talks at an EU summit lasting nearly 10 hours. Announcing the end of tense summit talks shortly before dawn, the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, tweeted that EU leaders had reached an agreement, including on migration. Hours earlier that outcome had been in doubt, when Italy threatened to veto the entire text, unless other EU states did more to help with people arriving on Italian shores. Opposition from Poland, Hungary and other central European states to any hint of mandatory action meant talks dragged through the night.

The euro jumped 0.6% on news of the deal, while French president Emmanuel Macron declared that European cooperation “has won the day”. Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said: “We are satisfied. It was a long negotiation but from today Italy is no longer alone.” But the bloc dodged an agreement on controversial refugee quotas, as a quartet of central European countries resisted language on EU-wide responsibility. The outcome is already being seen as a thin deal. It also looked doubtful whether Angela Merkel has a deal that will secure the future of her coalition government, which has been rocked by disputes over handling refugees. On leaving the summit, the German chancellor conceded that “we still have a lot of work to do to bridge the different views”, but said it was “a good signal” that the EU had agreed a common text.

Merkel had warned on Thursday that the future of the European Union hinged on whether it could find answers to the “vital questions” posed by migration. [..] Finding a more consensual note, EU leaders called for migrant processing centres in north African countries. They agreed to “swiftly explore the concept of regional platforms in close cooperation” with non-EU countries and the UN refugee agency and the International Organisation for Migration, also a UN-backed agency. In essence, this means migrant processing centres in countries, such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia. EU funds would be available to persuade countries to sign on, but so far no countries have agreed, while a couple have ruled themselves out.

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Varoufakis and his wife on walls, symbolic and real.

The Globalising Wall (Danae Stratou, Yanis Varoufakis)

We were hit by a great paradox: the more globalisation was meant to give reasons for dismantling the dividing lines, the less powerful the forces working to dismantle them were proving. Deepening divisions, patrolled by increasingly merciless guards, and convoluted architectural techniques, roads, tunnels and fortifications, appeared to us the homage that globalisation was paying to organised misanthropy. In this era of globalised financialisation, divisions were not what they used to be. In times past they simply fended off the enemy, and lightly imprinted the empires’ footprint on the land.

Before the ‘discovery’ of the autonomous individual, the ancient polis dreamt of demolishing its walls or, at least, of never having to keep its gates closed. When a son of an ancient Greek city won an Olympics event, the elders ordered the demolition of part of the city walls. Only at times of crisis or degeneracy were the gates ordered shut. Unlike today in North Korea or the southern states of the US, open gates were, then, a symbol of power. Hadrian and the Chinese emperors built great walls, but never with the intention of freezing human movement. They were porous walls, mere symbols of their empires’ self-imposed limits, and a form of early warning system.

[..] American deficits, even after they returned to their pre-2007 levels, could no longer stabilise globalisation. The reason? Socialist largesse for the few, and ruthless market forces for the many, damaged aggregate demand, repressed the entrepreneurs’ sales expectations, restricted investment in good jobs, diminished earnings for the many and, surprise surprise, confirmed the entrepreneurs’ pessimism that underpinned low investment and low demand. Adding more liquidity to that mix made not a scintilla of a difference as the problem was not a dearth of liquidity but the dearth of demand. Abysmal inequality was merely the symptom.

Wall Street, Walmart and walled citizens – those had been globalisation’s symbolic foundations before 2008. Today, all three have become a drag on globalisation. Banks are failing to maintain the capital movements that globalisation used to rely on, as total financial movements are less than a quarter of what they were in early 2007. Walmart, whose ideology of cheapness symbolised the devaluation of global labour and the gutting of traditional local businesses, is itself squeezed by the Amazon model, whose ultimate effect is a further shrinking of overall spending. Meanwhile, the 3D printer, CAD and AI robots promise to de-globalise – and re-localise – production, denying, in the process, countries like the Philippines and Nigeria the advantage that young populations used to bestow on them during the years of globalisation’s rude health.

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Waste.

The Living World Is Dying Of Consumption (Monbiot)

It felt as disorienting as forgetting my pin number. I stared at the caterpillar, unable to attach a name to it. I don’t think my mental powers are fading: I still possess an eerie capacity to recall facts and figures and memorise long screeds of text. This is a specific loss. As a child and young adult, I delighted in being able to identify almost any wild plant or animal. And now it has gone. This ability has shrivelled from disuse: I can no longer identify them because I can no longer find them. Perhaps this forgetfulness is protective. I have been averting my eyes. Because I cannot bear to see what we have done to nature, I no longer see nature itself; otherwise, the speed of loss would be unendurable.

The collapse can be witnessed from one year to the next. The swift decline of the swift (down 25% in five years) is marked by the loss of the wild screams that, until very recently, filled the skies above my house. My ambition to see the seabird colonies of Shetland and St Kilda has been replaced by the intention never to visit those islands during the breeding season: I could not bear to see the empty cliffs, where populations have crashed by some 90% in the past two decades. I have lived long enough to witness the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish that I once feared my grandchildren would not experience: it has all happened faster than even the pessimists predicted.

Walking in the countryside or snorkelling in the sea is now as painful to me as an art lover would find visits to a gallery, if on every occasion another old master had been cut from its frame. The cause of this acceleration is no mystery. The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin. This is what has driven the quadrupling of oceanic dead zones since 1950; the “biological annihilation” represented by the astonishing collapse of vertebrate populations; the rush to carve up the last intact forests; the vanishing of coral reefs, glaciers and sea ice; the shrinkage of lakes, the drainage of wetlands. The living world is dying of consumption.

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8 of which are in Asia.

90% Of Plastic Polluting Our Oceans Comes From Just 10 Rivers (Wef)

Over the last decade we have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of plastic in our oceans. More than 8 million tons of it ends up in the ocean every year. If we continue to pollute at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. But where does all this plastic waste come from? Most of it is washed into the ocean by rivers. And 90% of it comes from just 10 of them, according to a study. By analyzing the waste found in the rivers and surrounding landscape, researchers were able to estimate that just 10 river systems carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean. Eight of them are in Asia: the Yangtze; Indus; Yellow; Hai He; Ganges; Pearl; Amur; Mekong; and two in Africa – the Nile and the Niger.

“We were able to demonstrate that there is a definite correlation in this respect,” said Dr. Christian Schmidt, one of the authors of the study from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. “The more waste there is in a catchment area that is not disposed of properly, the more plastic ultimately ends up in the river and takes this route to the sea.” Schmidt and his team found that the quantity of plastic per cubic metre of water was significantly higher in large rivers than in small ones. The rivers all had two things in common; a generally high population living in the surrounding region – sometimes into the hundreds of millions – and a less than ideal waste management process. The Yangtze is Asia’s longest river and also one of world’s most ecologically important rivers.

The river basin is home to almost 500 million people (more than one third of China’s population). It is also the biggest carrier of plastic pollution to the ocean. Recently, however, China has made efforts to curb waste. For years the country had imported millions of tons of recyclable waste from overseas, but a growing recycling burden at home prompted the government to shift its policy. Last year, it ended imports of “foreign garbage”. Recently it extended the ban to metals, saying stopping imports of foreign waste was “a symbolic measure for the creation of an ecological civilization in China”. And this year China has ordered 46 cities to begin sorting waste in order to reach a 35% recycling rate by 2020.

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Feb 052018
 
 February 5, 2018  Posted by at 11:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Horacio Coppola Calle Corientes at the corner of Reconquista, Buenos Aires 1936

 

Global Equity Slump Deepens as Rate Fears Grow (BBG)
Stocks Punished As Inflation Shadow Spooks Bonds (R.)
The Grand Crowded Trade Of Financial Speculation (Noland)
Don’t Panic. This Slump’s Just a Blip (BBG)
This Isn’t the Start of a Major Downturn – JPMorgan (BBG)
Gundlach: ‘Hard To Love Bonds At Even 3%’ Yield (R.)
Oil Rally Is Unraveling On Fears Over A Rise In US Production (BBG)
Yellen Says Prices ‘High’ for Stocks, Commercial Real Estate (BBG)
Overworked Americans Are Stuck In A Financial Groundhog Day (MW)
SYRIZA’s “Success Story”: Austerity By A Different Name (MintPress)
The Beautiful Cure – Immunology And The Heroes Of The Resistance (G.)
Whale And Shark Species At Increasing Risk From Microplastic Pollution (G.)

 

 

Out of stocks but into what?

Global Equity Slump Deepens as Rate Fears Grow (BBG)

Asian equities fell and U.S. stock futures headed lower, extending the biggest selloff for global stocks in two years as investors adjusted to a surge in global bond yields. Shares sank across the region, with Japan’s benchmarks falling the most in 15 months. S&P 500 Index futures pared a drop of as much as 0.9%, signaling Friday’s rout won’t extend for another day. Shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai trimmed declines after China’s securities regulator urged brokerages to help stem the rout. Australia’s 10-year bond yield surged as the 10-year Treasury yield neared 2.87% after solid jobs data on Friday showed rising wages. The yen advanced. “It’s likely the pullback has further to go as investors adjust to more Fed tightening than currently assumed,” said Shane Oliver at AMP Capital Investors.

“The pullback is likely to be just an overdue correction, with say a 10% or so fall, rather than a severe bear market – providing the rise in bond yields is not too abrupt and recession is not imminent in the U.S. with profits continuing to rise.” The re-pricing of markets has come as investors question whether the Federal Reserve will keep to a gradual pace of monetary tightening, and whether it may need to end up boosting interest rates by more than previously expected in coming years. A higher so-called terminal rate for the Fed’s target implies higher long-term yields – raising borrowing costs across the economy. Yields on 10-year Treasuries have climbed to a four-year high from 2.40% at the start of the year. Last week’s decline for global stocks follows one of the best starts to a year on record amid hopes for ever-expanding corporate profits and growth in the world economy that’s broadening. The MSCI All Country World Index tumbled 3.4% last week, its biggest such slide since January 2016.

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If anyone’s scared of inflation, they’re scared of the wrong thing. But perhaps that’s a fitting way to end a make-believe world.

Stocks Punished As Inflation Shadow Spooks Bonds (R.)

Wall Street had already been flashing expensive by many historical measures and sold off in reaction. “It has to be remembered that U.S. shares were priced for perfection at around 19 times earnings,” said Craig James, chief economist at fund manager CommSec, noting the historic average is around 15 times. “Still, U.S. companies have produced stellar earnings over the reporting period. So it is understandable that some ‘irrational exuberance’ would emerge.” With half of the S&P 500 companies having reported, 78% have beaten expectations against an average 64%. Chris Weston, chief market strategist at broker IG, noted the sudden spike in volatility caused some rules-based funds to automatically dump stock as their models required.

“There is talk that volatility targeting annuity funds could have to sell a further $30 billion of stock this week and another $40 billion should realized volatility not retreat lower,” he warned. The lift in U.S. yields provided some initial support to the dollar after a rocky start to the year, though it was starting to lose altitude again in Asian trade. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was down a fraction at 89.123 having climbed 0.6% on Friday for its biggest single day gain in three months. The dollar backed off to 109.95 yen from an early 110.29, while the euro was barely changed at $1.2461. Any rally in the U.S. dollar is considered a negative for commodities priced in the currency, with the Thomson Reuters CRB index down 0.5%. Gold was off a touch at $1,332.04 an ounce after losing 1% on Friday.

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Minskian fragility pops up its head.

The Grand Crowded Trade Of Financial Speculation (Noland)

Even well into 2017, variations of the “secular stagnation” thesis remained popular within the economics community. Accelerating synchronized global growth notwithstanding, there’s been this enduring notion that economies are burdened by “insufficient aggregate demand.” The “natural rate” (R-Star) has sunk to a historical low. Conviction in the central bank community has held firm – as years have passed – that the only remedy for this backdrop is extraordinarily low rates and aggressive “money” printing. Over-liquefied financial markets have enjoyed quite a prolonged celebration. Going back to early CBBs, I’ve found it useful to caricature the analysis into two distinctly separate systems, the “Real Economy Sphere” and the “Financial Sphere.”

It’s been my long-held view that financial and monetary policy innovations fueled momentous “Financial Sphere” inflation. This financial Bubble has created increasingly systemic maladjustment and structural impairment within both the Real Economy and Financial Spheres. I believe finance today is fundamentally unstable, though the associated acute fragility remains suppressed so long as securities prices are inflating. [ZH: This week’s sudden burst of volatility across all asset-classes highlights this Minskian fragility]. The mortgage finance Bubble period engendered major U.S. structural economic impairment. This became immediately apparent with the collapse of the Bubble. As was the case with previous burst Bubble episodes, the solution to systemic problems was only cheaper “money” in only great quantities.

Moreover, it had become a global phenomenon that demanded a coordinated central bank response. Where has all this led us? Global “Financial Sphere” inflation has been nothing short of spectacular. QE has added an astounding $14 TN to central bank balance sheets globally since the crisis. The Chinese banking system has inflated to an almost unbelievable $38 TN, surging from about $6.0 TN back in 2007. In the U.S., the value of total securities-to-GDP now easily exceeds previous Bubble peaks (1999 and 2007). And since 2008, U.S. non-financial debt has inflated from $35 TN to $49 TN. It has been referred to as a “beautiful deleveraging.” It may at this time appear an exquisite monetary inflation, but it’s no deleveraging. We’ll see how long this beauty endures.

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People need to be reassured, apparently.

Don’t Panic. This Slump’s Just a Blip (BBG)

Is it a blip, a correction or the end of days? Stock markets in Asia tumbled Monday, extending the biggest global selloff in two years. Equity investors are fretting as Treasury yields approach 3%. On Friday, 10-year returns touched 2.85%, and the dollar rallied 0.9%. Some context, however. While the MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index’s 7.5% return in January was good, it’s not unprecedented. In January 2001, the benchmark soared 12.8%. Also, U.S. government bond yields have been on a steady rise since the start of the year, and that hasn’t stopped Asia from partying. A currency’s strength is dictated by interest rate differentials, in theory at least. And it’s unclear the dollar will get much stronger. Based on the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, which determines currency weights according to their relative importance to the U.S. in terms of international trade, one-third of the dollar’s value is dictated by the euro.

[..] But five-year bunds finally offered you something last week, after being negative since 2015. Next in line is the Japanese yen, which dictates 18% of the dollar’s value. There have been plenty of murmurings, from this columnist included, that the Bank of Japan will start stealth tightening, especially in a world of rising U.S. interest rates. After all, Japan’s central bank already owns an unprecedented 45% of the nation’s bond market; how much more entrenched can it get? Interest rates have been climbing in emerging Asia as well. Malaysia and Pakistan have both embarked on tightening cycles while the Philippines is expected to hike by 50 basis points this year. Interest rates in China and India are also on the up, as Beijing limits credit expansion and Delhi can’t stop spending. You get my point: Just because U.S. rates are strengthening doesn’t mean the dollar will necessarily follow suit.

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Life in a fantasy world paid for by the Fed through taxpayers.

This Isn’t the Start of a Major Downturn – JPMorgan (BBG)

Equities still feel like the right place to be relative to bonds for multi-asset investors, according to JPMorgan Asset Management. The pullback in risk assets among overbought conditions and stretched sentiment doesn’t look like the start of a major downturn, the money manager said. With economic and earnings growth remaining solid amid a real macro deterioration, “stretched valuations just aren’t enough to cause a big market sell-off,” said Patrik Schowitz, global multi-asset strategist at JPMorgan Asset, in a note. The firm oversees $1.7 trillion in assets. Asian equities fell and U.S. stock futures headed lower Monday, extending the biggest selloff for global stocks in two years as investors adjusted to a surge in global bond yields.

Investors are questioning whether the Federal Reserve will keep to a gradual pace of monetary tightening, and whether it may need to boost interest rates by more than previously expected in coming years. To be sure, the biggest “endogenous” risk the firm has been pointing to is rising bond yields. “The level of yields in absolute terms is not the issue, rather the velocity of the yield moves is what matters. Investors should continue to watch this closely,” said Schowitz. He said the firm has for some time flagged rising risks of a correction in risk assets on the back of increasingly more stretched positive sentiment in markets. “This move may yet turn out to be the start of something more significant, but so far it is pretty limited and it is likely that buyers will step in before we get near ‘real’ correction levels,” he said.

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Because of accelerating US economic growth. Just wait five minutes.

Gundlach: ‘Hard To Love Bonds At Even 3%’ Yield (R.)

Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, says “it is hard to love bonds at even 3%” yield, given the backdrop for accelerating economic growth in the U.S. “It seems the tradable buy on bonds will need a flight-to-safety bid on a wave of fear washing over risk markets,” Gundlach told Reuters late on Saturday. “Hard to love bonds at even 3% when GDPNow for Q1 2018 is suggesting annualized nominal GDP growth above 7%.” The 10-year Treasury yield hit a four-year high on Friday after the latest jobs report showed solid wage gains, effectively confirming the expected rate increase at the Federal Reserve’s next meeting in March. Friday’s selloff contributed to the broad decline in U.S. government paper within the last week as inflation fears, strong economic data and an announcement of bigger Treasury auctions drove yields higher.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed 7.9 basis points to 2.852%, the highest since January 2014. “Treasury yields have been rising at a pace above 200 basis points annualized on parts of the (yield) curve since September,” said Gundlach, known as Wall Street’s Bond King. “This is partly caused by the manic mood and partly caused by the falling dollar and related rising commodities. Rates up significantly and dollar down significantly with exploding deficits is a dangerous cocktail reminiscent of 1987.” Last month, Gundlach predicted the S&P 500 may go up 15% in the first part of the year, but “I believe, when it falls, it will wipe out the entire gain of the first part of the year with a negative sign in front of it.”

On Saturday, Gundlach said: ”What matters to success this year is understanding that we entered a mania phase in 2017 that went completely out of control after September with the Bitcoin blowoff exhibiting exactly the same lunacy as the dot com blow off back in late 1999. “Similar to that period, but even more excessive this time -who’d have thought it possible – is the explosion of bullish sentiment, with some surveys registering 96%, 97%, even 100% bullish respondents. Long Island Blockchain. Kodakcoin. Cryptokitties. Sheer madness.” Gundlach said overall, the U.S. stock market is an odds-on favorite to turn in a negative return for 2018. “Whether Friday is the start of a crash or just the first chapter in the topping process is not the issue,” he said.

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Highest production in 40 years.

Oil Rally Is Unraveling On Fears Over A Rise In US Production (BBG)

Oil’s rally is unraveling on fears over a rise in U.S. production after crude’s best January in more than a decade. Futures in New York are extending declines for a second session as Baker Hughes data showed American explorers last week raised the number of rigs drilling for crude to the highest in almost six months. Short-sellers betting against West Texas Intermediate oil increased their positions for a third week, according to figures from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Crude has remained above $60 a barrel this year, extending a rally driven by the extension of an output deal until the end of 2018 by OPEC and its allies. While oil’s best start to the year since 2006 was also helped by falling U.S. inventories and a weaker greenback, Citigroup says the market is underestimating U.S. output growth as a bigger surge is forecast along with an increase capital spending.

“With the higher U.S. oil rig counts and higher oil production sustaining into February, the concerns in the market seem to be valid at this point,” Barnabas Gan, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., said by phone from Singapore. “As these worries resurface, prices are edging lower.” [..] U.S. drillers last week added 6 rigs to raise the number of machines drilling for crude to 765, the highest since Aug. 11, Baker Hughes data showed Friday. That may lead to a further increase in U.S. crude production, which breached 10 million barrels a day to the highest level in more than four decades in November.

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She starts at Bernanke’s think tank today. Good riddance.

Yellen Says Prices ‘High’ for Stocks, Commercial Real Estate (BBG)

Outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said U.S. stocks and commercial real estate prices are elevated but stopped short of saying those markets are in a bubble. “Well, I don’t want to say too high. But I do want to say high,” Yellen said on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” in an interview recorded Friday as she prepared to leave the central bank. “Price-earnings ratios are near the high end of their historical ranges.” Commercial real estate prices are now “quite high relative to rents,” Yellen said. “Now, is that a bubble or is it too high? And there it’s very hard to tell. But it is a source of some concern that asset valuations are so high.” Yellen, 71, stepped down as Fed chief on Saturday after one term, after President Donald Trump opted to replace her with Republican Jerome Powell, who’s been a Fed governor since 2012.

“I made it clear that I would be willing to serve, so yes, I do feel a sense of disappointment” about not being renominated, Yellen said. The only woman to serve as the head of the U.S. central bank described her work at the Fed as “the core of my existence.” Yellen said she’s supportive of former investment banker Powell, 64, whom she termed “thoughtful, balanced, and dedicated to public service.” The financial system is now “much better capitalized” and the banking system “more resilient” than they were entering the global financial crisis a decade ago, Yellen said. “What we look at is, if stock prices or asset prices more generally were to fall, what would that mean for the economy as a whole?” Yellen said. “And I think our overall judgment is that, if there were to be a decline in asset valuations, it would not damage unduly the core of our financial system.”

Yellen’s final act at the Fed was to hit one of the largest U.S. banks, Wells Fargo, with an unusual ban on growth that follows the lender’s pattern of consumer abuses and compliance lapses. In the interview that aired Sunday, she warned that it would be a “grave mistake” to roll back the regulations put on banks after the previous economic collapse. The current U.S. economic expansion is now approaching nine years and is the third longest in duration since 1945, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Yellen said the economy can continue to grow. “Yes, it can keep going,” she said. “Recoveries don’t die of old age.”

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Never no holiday, Try and explain that in Europe.

Overworked Americans Are Stuck In A Financial Groundhog Day (MW)

The U.S. had the fastest wage growth since 2009 in January. But in many other ways, American workers feel like they are working harder to achieve the same result. Does today feel a bit like yesterday, and the day before that? Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day. In the 1993 movie of the same name, Phil (Murray) wakes up at 6 a.m. only to find out that his day is actually exactly the same as the day before and the day before that. “I think people place too much emphasis on their careers,” he says. There may be a reason why that resonates with people in 2018. “Americans are doomed to relive the same reality each year: Forfeited vacation time, burnout, less time for loved ones, and negative consequences for health and well-being,” according to a report by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off. More than half of Americans (53%) are burned out and overworked, according to this survey of more than 2,000 workers by Staples Advantage, a division of office supplier Staples.

“We found that low pay and more hours is burning employees out and it causes up to half of what employees quit,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com. Even so, year after year, most Americans say they are one paycheck away from the street with no emergency savings for a car repair or emergency room visit. But one reason for this exhaustion does not look like it will be changing anytime soon. Some 42% of workers took a vacation last year, according to a separate survey of more than 2,000 American adults released last year by travel site Skift using Google Consumer Surveys. (Nearly 40% only took 10 days or less.) One theory: Roughly one in four workers don’t get any paid vacation from their employers. Many are low-income workers and are the least able to afford to take an unpaid vacation day. Under the The Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. is also one of the few developed countries that does not require employers to provide paid time off.

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At least I’m not the only one constantly saying this. Recovery is a mathematical impossibility for Greece.

SYRIZA’s “Success Story”: Austerity By A Different Name (MintPress)

Initially, in May 2016, the Greek parliament passed a 7,500 page omnibus bill, sans any parliamentary debate, that transferred control over all of the country’s public assets to a fund controlled by the EU’s European Stability Mechanism for a period of 99 years – that is, until the year 2115. Not even Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled that far into the future! Second, Greece’s loan commitments to the “troika” of lenders are set to continue, at the current rate of repayment, until 2059, as reported recently by the German newspaper Handelsblatt. That is the year when Greece is expected to have repaid the balance of the loans it has received, as part of its so-called “bailouts,” since 2010. The same article pointed out that the Greek government has made commitments to implement further austerity measures through 2022.

These measures — totaling €5.5 billion and agreed upon in June 2017 in what is, in essence, a fourth memorandum — include no less than 113 demands on the part of the troika, encompassing new privatizations of public assets and pension reductions. Other measures foreseen as part of this deal include a reduction in the tax- free income threshold and the further dilution of already-decimated worker rights. No increase in the also-decimated minimum wage is foreseen, nor are any new social measures to be implemented until 2023, despite Tsakalotos’ promises to the contrary. In connection with this agreement, assets slated for privatization include such strategic holdings as 25% of Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, the remaining regional airports that have not already been privatized, Greece’s national defense industry, and the Corinth Canal.

Third, the SYRIZA-led coalition government has committed to the maintenance of annual primary budget surpluses of 3.5% through 2023, and then 2% annually through 2060. In plain language, what this means is that the state will spend less than it earns in revenues. If revenues therefore decrease, expenditures will be slashed accordingly. And, as foreseen in the 2017 deal between the Greek government and the troika, should there be shortfalls in these fiscal targets, automatic budget and spending cuts are to be immediately implemented through at least 2022. Here it should be noted that the net revenues of the Greek state declined in 2017, falling to €51.27 billion from €54.16 billion in 2016, leading in turn to a reduction in the pre-tax primary budget surplus from €2.78 billion to €1.97 billion. With state expenditures having reached €55.51 billion, Greece now faces a post-interest deficit of €4.24 billion, resulting in an increase in the country’s public debt.

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WHy do people never get smallpox and measles at the same time?

The Beautiful Cure – Immunology And The Heroes Of The Resistance (G.)

In 1989, Charles Janeway, a scientist at Yale University, had an epiphany that would revolutionise immunology. For 50 years, immunologists had subscribed to the dogma that vaccines worked by training the body to recognise molecules that were foreign to the body – “non-self” in immunological jargon. The usual way of doing this was to use vaccines to expose people to a dead or harmless version of a microbe, prompting the activation of antibodies that would be ready to swamp the germ should they encounter the alien entity a second time. But there were exceptions to the rule: sometimes, proteins separated from originating germs proved ineffective as vaccines; at other times, vaccines required the addition of an adjuvant, such as aluminium, to kickstart an immune response and no one could explain why.

What if, wondered Janeway, the presence of something that had never been in your body before was not sufficient to trigger an immune reaction? What if a second signal was required? Today, that second something is known as a pattern-recognition receptor and it is understood that there are countless varieties of them, each equipped to detect specific types of germs and switch on the appropriate immune responses. Together with an alphabet soup of other specialised cells, hormones and proteins, they form part of our innate immune system, helping us to distinguish harmful bacteria and viruses from beneficial ones, such as gut microbes essential for digestion. For Daniel Davis, professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, they constitute a “beautiful cure” more powerful than any product of a pharmaceutical laboratory.

Yet it is only in the past 30 years that immunologists such as Davis and Janeway, who died in 2003, have begun to shed light on these “wonders taking place beneath the skin”. In the process, they have found new ways to treat cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other age-related diseases. Immunologists are even beginning to understand the way in which immune responses are dependent on emotional and psychological states and the role that stress and exposure to light play in fighting disease. Given this, you would have thought that research into the workings of the immune system would be a top scientific priority. But while billions have been poured into the pursuit of the Higgs boson, immunology lacks a similar programmatic call-to-arms. Instead, Davis argues, immunology has always been a curiosity-driven science, a matter of “a few individuals following their nose”.

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Filter feeders. The big boys and girls. Meaning: they ingest lots of plastic.

Whale And Shark Species At Increasing Risk From Microplastic Pollution (G.)

Large filter feeders, such as baleen whales and basking sharks, could be particularly at risk from ingesting the tiny plastic particles, say scientists Whales, some sharks and other marine species such as rays are increasingly at risk from microplastics in the oceans, a new study suggests. Species such as baleen whales and basking sharks, which feed through filtering seawater for plankton, are ingesting the tiny particles of indigestible plastic which now appear to permeate oceans throughout the world. Some of these species have evolved to swallow hundreds or even thousands of cubic metres of seawater a day, but taking in microplastic can block their ability to absorb nutrients, and may have toxic side-effects. The new study, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, advises more research on the megafauna of the oceans, as the effects of microplastics on them is currently not well understood.

Scientists have found, for instance through examining the bodies of beached whales, large pieces of plastic in the guts of such creatures, but the effect of microplastics, though less obvious, may be just as harmful. Elitza Germanov, a researcher at the Marine Megafauna Foundation and co-author the study, said: “Despite the growing research on microplastics in the marine environment, there are only a few studies that examine the effects on large filter feeders. We are still trying to understand the magnitude of the issue. It has become clear, though, that microplastic contamination has the potential to further reduce the population numbers of these species, many of which are long-lived and have few offspring throughout their lives.” Many species of whale, filter-feeding shark and rays are already under threat from other problems, such as overfishing and pollution. The added stress from microplastics could push some species further towards extinction, the authors of the study warned.

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Apr 072016
 
 April 7, 2016  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


John M. Fox “The new Hudson” 1948

Time To Stop Dancing With Equities On A Live Volcano (AEP)
Hillary Clinton’s Corporate Cash and Corporate Worldview (Naomi Klein)
How Bad Is China’s Debt Problem, Really? (Balding)
China Traders Flee to Hong Kong in Record Stock-Buying Streak (BBG)
China Set To Shake Up World Copper Market With Exports (Reuters)
Panama Papers Reveal Offshore Secrets Of China’s Red Nobility (G.)
David Cameron’s EU Intervention On Trusts Set Up Tax Loophole (FT)
Panama Papers Reveal London As Centre Of ‘Spider’s Web’ (AFP)
How Laundered Money Shapes London’s Property Market (FT)
London Luxury-Apartment Sales Slump Triggers 20% Bulk Discounts (BBG)
US Readies Bank Rule On Shell Companies Amid ‘Panama Papers’ Fury (Reuters)
US Government, Soros Funded Panama Papers To Attack Putin: WikiLeaks (RT)
Bookmakers Set Odds For Next Leader To Resign After Panama Papers (MW)
Brexit May Force Europe’s Banks To Dump $123 Billion Of Securities (BBG)
Economics Builds a Tower of Babel (BBG)
Dutch ‘No’ Vote On Ukraine Pact Forces Government Rethink (Reuters)
Greece Sees Two-Week Lag In Migrant Returns To Turkey (AFP)

Ambrose sees inflation?!

Time To Stop Dancing With Equities On A Live Volcano (AEP)

Be very careful. The US economic expansion is long in the tooth and starting to hit the time-honoured constraints that mark the last phase of the business cycle. Wall Street equities are more stretched by a host of measures than they were at the peak of sub-prime bubble just before the Lehman crisis. All it will take to bring the S&P 500 index back to earth is a catalyst, and that is exactly what is coming into view on the macro-economic horizon. This does not mean we are on the cusp of recession or racing headlong towards some imminent reckoning, but we are probably in the final innings of this epic asset boom. Didier Saint-Georges, from fund manager Carmignac, says the “massive and indiscriminate equity market rally” since February’s panic-lows is a false dawn driven by short-covering, telling us little about the world’s deformed economic, financial, and political landscape.

Corporate earnings peaked at $1.845 trillion (£1.3 trillion) in the second quarter of 2015, and recessions typically start five to seven quarters after the peak. “We will not be dancing on the volcano like so many others,” said Saint-Georges. If we are lucky it will be a slow denouement with a choppy sideways market going nowhere for another year as the US labour market tightens, and workers at last start to claw back a greater share of the economic pie. The owners of capital have had it their way for much of the post-Lehman era, exorbitant beneficiaries of central bank largesse. Now they may have to give a little back to society. Yet this welcome “rotation” spells financial trouble. Strategists Mislav Matejka and Emmanuel Cau, from JP Morgan, have told clients to prepare for the end of the seven-year bull run, advising them to trim equities gradually and build up a safety buffer in cash.

“This is not the stage of the US cycle when one should be buying stocks with a six to 12-month horizon. We recommend using any strength as a selling opportunity,” they said. Their recent 165-page report on the subject is a sobering read. The price-to-sales ratio (P/S) of US stocks is higher than any time in the sub-prime boom. Share buy-backs are at an historic high in relation to earnings (EBIT). Net debt-to-equity ratios have blown through their historical range. This is happening despite two quarters of tighter lending by US banks. Spreads on high-yield debt have doubled since 2014, jumping by 300 basis points even after stripping out the energy bust. The list goes on; the message is clear. “One should be cutting equity weight before the weakness becomes obvious,” they said.

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Hillary equals more of the same. The same disaster.

Hillary Clinton’s Corporate Cash and Corporate Worldview (Naomi Klein)

There aren’t a lot of certainties left in the US presidential race, but here’s one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: The Clinton camp really doesn’t like talking about fossil-fuel money. Last week, when a young Greenpeace campaigner challenged Hillary Clinton about taking money from fossil-fuel companies, the candidate accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of “lying” and declared herself “so sick” of it. As the exchange went viral, a succession of high-powered Clinton supporters pronounced that there was nothing to see here and that everyone should move along. The very suggestion that taking this money could impact Clinton’s actions is “baseless and should stop,” according to California Senator Barbara Boxer. It’s “flat-out false,” “inappropriate,” and doesn’t “hold water,” declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went so far as to issue “guidelines for good and bad behavior” for the Sanders camp. The first guideline? Cut out the “innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt.” That’s a whole lot of firepower to slap down a non-issue. So is it an issue or not? First, some facts. Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including her Super PAC, has received a lot of money from the employees and registered lobbyists of fossil-fuel companies. There’s the much-cited $4.5 million that Greenpeace calculated, which includes bundling by lobbyists. One of Clinton’s most active financial backers is Warren Buffett, who is up to his eyeballs in coal. But that’s not all. There is also a lot more money from sources not included in those calculations. For instance, one of Clinton’s most prominent and active financial backers is Warren Buffett.

While he owns a large mix of assets, Buffett is up to his eyeballs in coal, including coal transportation and some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country. Then there’s all the cash that fossil-fuel companies have directly pumped into the Clinton Foundation. In recent years, Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron have all contributed to the foundation. An investigation in the International Business Times just revealed that at least two of these oil companies were part of an effort to lobby Clinton’s State Department about the Alberta tar sands, a massive deposit of extra-dirty oil. Leading climate scientists like James Hansen have explained that if we don’t keep the vast majority of that carbon in the ground, we will unleash catastrophic levels of warming.

During this period, the investigation found, Clinton’s State Department approved the Alberta Clipper, a controversial pipeline carrying large amounts of tar-sands bitumen from Alberta to Wisconsin. “According to federal lobbying records reviewed by the IBT,” write David Sirota and Ned Resnikoff, “Chevron and ConocoPhillips both lobbied the State Department specifically on the issue of ‘oil sands’ in the immediate months prior to the department’s approval, as did a trade association funded by ExxonMobil.”

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“All this leads one to think that the government doesn’t recognize the severity of the problem.”

How Bad Is China’s Debt Problem, Really? (Balding)

For months now, China’s regulators have been warning about the dangers of rapidly expanding credit and the need to deleverage. With new plans to clean up bad loans at the country’s banks, you might conclude that the government is getting serious about the risks it faces. But there’s reason to doubt the effectiveness of China’s approach. In fact, it’s running a serious risk of making its debt problems worse. After the financial crisis, China embarked on a credit binge of historical proportions. In 2009, new loans grew by 95%. The government offered cheap credit to build apartments for urban migrants, airports for the newly affluent and roads to accommodate a fleet of new cars. Yet as lending grew at twice the rate of GDP, problems started bubbling up. Companies gained billion-dollar valuations, then collapsed when they couldn’t profit.

Enormous surplus capacity drove down prices. Excessive real-estate lending led to the construction of “ghost cities.” Asset bubbles popped and bad loans mounted. China’s policy makers say they recognize these problems. The government’s most recent 5-year plan, released in December, notes the need for deleveraging. The PBOC has talked up the party line about slowing credit growth and making high-quality loans. Yet officials still say that only about 1.6% of commercial-banking loans are nonperforming. Some analysts put the real figure closer to 20%. And Beijing’s primary plan to address the problem – allowing companies to swap their debt with banks in exchange for equity – actually creates new risks. For one thing, while a debt-for-equity swap may help excessively indebted firms, it will wreak havoc with banks.

Directly, a given bank will no longer receive the cash flow from interest and principal payments. Indirectly, it won’t be able to sell equity to the PBOC or to other banks as it could with a loan. Valuing the equity could present a bigger problem. In China, banks must count 100% of loans made to non-financial companies against their reserve requirements. When they invest in equity, however, they must set aside 400% of the value of the investment. If the debt isn’t worth face value to the bank, it seems unlikely that the equity is worth far more – suggesting that large write-downs will be required. The swaps program also creates a number of big-picture problems. Consider the tight relationship between banks and large government-linked companies.

If banks were under pressure to roll over loans when they were creditors hoping to get repaid, what will their incentive be when they own the firm and have essentially unlimited lending capacity? Another problem is that Chinese industry exists in a deflationary debt spiral: Prices have been falling for years, raising the real cost of repaying loans. If companies are relieved of their debt, they’ll have an incentive to reduce prices to gain market share, thus worsening one of the primary causes of the current malaise. All this leads one to think that the government doesn’t recognize the severity of the problem. Debt-for-equity swaps and loan rollovers simply aren’t long-term solutions for ailing companies on the scale China faces.

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All that monopoly money behaves like liquid gas.

China Traders Flee to Hong Kong in Record Stock-Buying Streak (BBG)

Cash is pouring into Hong Kong stocks from across the mainland border. Chinese investors have been net buyers of the city’s shares for 104 consecutive trading days, sinking 43.8 billion yuan ($6.8 billion) into equities from October through Tuesday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg tracking investments via the exchange link with Shanghai. Mainland traders have now put more money into Hong Kong than global asset managers have invested in Shanghai, a reversal of flows in the link’s first year, the data show. As concern persists about a further slide in the yuan, Chinese investors are piling into cheaper shares across the border that have lagged behind mainland counterparts for years.

While the flows are small relative to estimates of the record capital flight from China in 2015, they’re another sign of what’s at stake for policy makers seeking to stabilize the currency and stem outflows by providing credible investment options at home. “In China, there is talk of an asset drought – people don’t find domestic assets particularly attractive,” said Tai Hui at JPMorgan. “They are investing overseas in any way possible including via the southbound stock connect.” Buying mainland Chinese stocks has been a losing proposition this year, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index down 14%. Other investment alternatives such as property are coming under scrutiny as authorities impose fresh curbs after home prices jumped in the biggest cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.

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What’s next? Compete with OPEC?

China Set To Shake Up World Copper Market With Exports (Reuters)

China may be about to shock the global copper market by unleashing some of its stockpiles of the metal, which are near record highs, onto the global market. Four traders of copper, including two from state-owned Chinese smelters, said they expect China to raise its copper exports – which are usually tiny – in the next few months. China’s refined copper exports averaged less than 10,000 tonnes a month in the first two months of 2016, and around 17,000 a month in 2015. If higher exports materialize, they will be a major jolt to producers and investors in the metal across the world – in particular because it would come during what is traditionally the strongest period of demand for copper from China, the world’s largest consumer of the metal. It will also be a further sign that the Chinese economy is still struggling against headwinds. Some sectors that buy copper – such as construction and manufacturing – have been hit especially hard in the past couple of years.

Traders and analysts in China say slowing building construction and electronics manufacturing has stifled demand for refined copper from the nation’s massive smelting sector at a time when the country is already swimming in the metal. China’s copper consumption has been a crucial measure of the country’s economic growth as the metal forms the essential network of its infrastructure, carrying water, conducting electricity and comprising the circuits in its machines. “The situation for copper smelters in China is probably the worst it has been in 20 years. But they won’t admit it. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least (if they start exporting),” said a source at an Asian copper producer, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Increasing Chinese exports would mark an abrupt turnaround in global copper trade flows as China’s refined copper imports hit a record in 2015.

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Looking at China, it’s hard not to think of 1789, Robespierre, Marie-Antoinette, Bastille. Napoleon next?

Panama Papers Reveal Offshore Secrets Of China’s Red Nobility (G.)

The eight members of China’s Communist party elite whose family members used offshore companies are revealed in the Panama Papers. The documents show the granddaughter of a powerful Chinese leader became the sole shareholder in two British Virgin Islands companies while still a teenager. Jasmine Li had just begun studying at Stanford University in the US when the companies were registered in her name in December 2010. Her grandfather Jia Qinglin was at that time the fourth-ranked politician in China. Other prominent figures who have taken advantage of offshore companies include the brother-in-law of the president, Xi Jinping, and the son-in-law of Zhang Gaoli, another member of China’s top political body, the politburo standing committee.

They are part of the “red nobility”, whose influence extends well beyond politics. Others include the daughter of Li Peng, who oversaw the brutal retaliation against Tiananmen Square protestors; and Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, the ex-politburo member jailed for life for corruption and power abuses. The relatives had companies that were clients of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. There is nothing in the documents to suggest that the politicians in question had any beneficial interest in the companies connected to their family members. Since Monday, China’s censors have been blocking access to the unfolding revelations about its most senior political families. There are now reports of censors deleting hundreds of posts on the social networks Sina Weibo and Wechat, and some media organisations including CNN say parts of their websites have been blocked.

The disclosures come amid Xi Jinping’s crackdown on behaviour that could embarrass the Communist party. Two more well-connected figures – the brother of former vice-president Zeng Qinghong and the son of former politburo member Tian Jiyun – are directors of a single offshore company. They have previously been linked in a court case that highlighted how some Chinese “princelings” have used political connections for financial gain. They have emerged from the internal data of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. [..] China and Hong Kong were Mossack Fonseca’s biggest sources of business, with clients from these jurisdictions linked to a total of 40,000 companies past and present. About a quarter of these are thought to be live: in 2015, records show the firm was collecting fees for nearly 10,000 companies linked to Hong Kong and China. The Mossack Fonseca franchise now has offices in eight Chinese cities, according to its website

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How much pressure will he get?

David Cameron’s EU Intervention On Trusts Set Up Tax Loophole (FT)

David Cameron personally intervened in 2013 to weaken an EU drive to reveal the beneficiaries of trusts, creating a possible loophole that other European nations warned could be exploited by tax evaders. The disclosure of the prime minister’s resistance to opening up trusts to full scrutiny comes as he faces intense pressure to make clear whether his family stands to benefit from offshore assets linked to his late father. Although Mr Cameron championed corporate tax transparency, he wrote in November 2013 to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council at the time, to argue that trusts widely used for inheritance planning in Britain should win special treatment in an EU law to tackle money laundering.

In the letter, seen by the Financial Times, Mr Cameron said: “It is clearly important we recognise the important differences between companies and trusts. This means that the solution for addressing the potential misuse of companies, such as central public registries, may well not be appropriate generally.” Britain has emerged as the strongest European rival to Switzerland for private banking and wealth management, administering £1.2tn of assets, according to Deloitte. The sector contributed £3.2bn to the economy, according to 2014 estimates from the British Bankers’ Association. A senior government source said that Mr Cameron’s letter reflected official advice that creating a central registry for trusts would have been complex and would have distracted from the main objective of shining a light on the ownership of shell companies.

“It would have slowed down the process because of the different types of trust involved,” the official said. “They are sometimes used to protect vulnerable people, so that would have been an extra complication. “As the directive went through we reached a position where trusts which generate tax consequences had to demonstrate their ownership to HM Revenue & Customs.” According to officials, the UK stance in 2013 prompted clashes with France and Austria as well as with members of the European Parliament, who accused Britain of double standards in the fight against tax avoidance. Maria Fekter, the Austrian finance minister at the time, had attacked Britain earlier that year as “the island of the blessed for tax evasion and money laundering”. She cited trusts as a specific problem.

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“London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world..”

Panama Papers Reveal London As Centre Of ‘Spider’s Web’ (AFP)

As-well as shining a spotlight on the secret financial arrangements of the rich and powerful, the so-called Panama Papers have laid bare London’s role as a vital organ of the world’s tax-haven network. The files leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca exposed Britain’s link to thousands of firms based in tax havens and how secret money is invested in British assets, particularly London property. Critics accuse British authorities of turning a blind eye to the inflow of suspect money and of being too close to the financial sector to clamp down on the use of its overseas territories as havens, with the British Virgin Islands alone hosting 110,000 of the Mossack Fonseca’s clients. “London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world,” Nicholas Shaxson, author of the book “Treasure Islands”, which examines the role of offshore banks and tax havens, told AFP.

The political analyst said that Britain itself was relatively transparent and clean, but that companies used the country’s territories abroad – relics of the days of empire – to “farm out the seedier stuff”, often under the guise of shell companies with anonymous owners. “Tax evasion and stuff like that will be done in the external parts of the network. Usually there will be links to the City of London, UK law firms, UK accountancy firms and to UK banks,” he said, calling London the centre of a “spider’s web”. “They’re all agents of the City of London – that is where the whole exercise is controlled from,” Richard Murphy, professor at London’s City University, said of the offshore havens. The files showed that Britain had the third highest number of Mossack Fonseca’s middlemen operating within its borders, with 32,682 advisers.

Although not illegal in themselves, shell companies can be used for illegal activities such as laundering the proceeds of criminal activities or to conceal misappropriated or politically-inconvenient wealth. Around 310,000 tax haven companies own an estimated £170 billion (210 billion euros, $240 billion) of British real estate, 10% of which were linked to Mossack Fonseca. The files appeared to show that the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan owned London properties worth more than £1.2 billion and that Mariam Safdar, daughter of Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was the beneficial owner of two offshore companies that owned flats on the exclusive Park Lane.

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“..the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK”

How Laundered Money Shapes London’s Property Market (FT)

For three-quarters of Londoners under 35, owning a home in the capital remains out of reach. But according to the leaked Panama Papers, buying property in London presented little problem for associates of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president; for a convicted embezzler who is also the son of a former Egyptian president; or for a Nigerian senator facing corruption charges. The leaks from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca have brought back into focus the ownership of London property via offshore companies by people suspected of corruption overseas — a phenomenon that has helped to shape the capital’s housing market, where prices are up 50% since 2007. “We think it very likely that the influx of corrupt money into the housing market has pushed up prices,” said Rachel Davies, senior advocacy manager at Transparency International.

Donald Toon, head of the National Crime Agency, has gone further, saying last year that “the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK”. Since 2004 £180m of UK property has been subject to criminal investigation as suspected proceeds of corruption, according to Transparency International data from 2015. Yet this probably represented “only a small proportion of the total”, added the campaign group. Most of these properties were bought using anonymous shell companies based in offshore tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands. Overseas companies own 100,000 properties in England and Wales, Land Registry data show. Owning property through a company can present tax advantages but, depending where that company is based, it can also offer anonymity.

According to Transparency International figures, almost one in 10 properties in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea is owned through a “secrecy jurisdiction” such as the British Virgin Islands, Jersey or the Isle of Man. “UK property can be acquired anonymously, anti-money-laundering checks can be bypassed with relative ease, and if you invest in luxury property in London you know your investment is safe. All that comes from the flaws in the UK anti-money-laundering system,” said Ms Davies. According to the documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Soulieman Marouf, an al-Assad associate whose assets in Europe were frozen for two years from 2012, holds luxury flats in London worth almost £6m through British Virgin Islands companies.

The family of a deceased former Syrian intelligence chief owns a £1.2m Battersea home, the Guardian reported. The documents also link Alaa Mubarak — a son of Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president — who was jailed and released last year for corruption, to an £8m Knightsbridge property. Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian senate who faces charges in his home country of failing to declare assets, owns a Belgravia property, while a second is held by companies in which his wife and former special assistant are shareholders. Mr Saraki denies any wrongdoing and says he declared his assets in accordance with the law.

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This bubble too will burst.

London Luxury-Apartment Sales Slump Triggers 20% Bulk Discounts (BBG)

Developers in central London are offering institutional investors discounts of as much as 20% on bulk purchases of luxury apartments as demand from international buyers slumps amid higher taxes and low commodity prices. Concessions of about that magnitude are being offered to investors willing to take 100 homes or more, according to Killian Hurley, chief executive officer of London developer Mount Anvil. Broker CBRE is negotiating discounts of as much as 15% for bulk purchases on the fringes of the capital’s best districts, said Chris Lacey, head of U.K. residential investment. A record number of high-end homes are planned in London districts such as Nine Elms and Earls Court even as demand wanes.

Sales of properties under construction in the U.K. capital slumped 19% in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to researcher Molior, while the percentage of overseas buyers fell to 20% from about 33% a year earlier, broker Hamptons International data show. “We will see distress in prime central London and in Nine Elms, where there has been a lot of international investment,” Andrew Stanford at LaSalle Investment said in an interview. “There have been a number of house builders who have approached us directly with schemes as a direct result of off-plan sales falling, particularly in central London.” Bulk buyers may be hard to find because the apartments being built aren’t designed for the rental market, lacking features such as equal-size bedrooms, said Stanford, whose company has invested more than $457 million in U.K. multifamily housing on behalf of clients.

Many developers traveled to Asia to sell homes in advance of construction and secure cheaper development loans because the down payments made projects less risky. The imposition of higher purchase taxes has now reduced the appeal of the costliest properties, leaving developers wondering how they will secure funding, said Dominic Grace, head of London residential development at broker Savills. “It is a question everyone is asking, and the truth is no one really knows,” Grace said.

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Sure..

US Readies Bank Rule On Shell Companies Amid ‘Panama Papers’ Fury (Reuters)

The U.S. Treasury Department intends to soon issue a long-delayed rule forcing banks to seek the identities of people behind shell-company account holders, after the “Panama Papers” leak provoked a global uproar over the hiding of wealth via offshore banking devices. A department spokesman said on Wednesday the rule would “soon” be turned over to the White House for review and issuance, but did not confirm any timetable for the initiative, which has taken years. Governments around the globe have launched probes into possible financial wrongdoing after 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, nicknamed the “Panama Papers,” were leaked to the media and reports emerged Sunday. Mossack Fonseca has said it was the victim of a computer hack, and that it has consistently acted appropriately.

The papers offer “validation for those who have been screaming for a decade” about the need for financial institutions in the United States and elsewhere to address risks of money laundering, terror finance and other crime by identifying people who clandestinely control legal entities, former Treasury official Chip Poncy told Reuters. The leaked documents may give banks a glimpse into the kind of information on true, or “beneficial” owners, that they regularly should be obtaining to better understand the cross-border money flows they facilitate, said Poncy, one of the architects of the Treasury rule, which has been in the works since 2012.

But simply having a client who is linked to the offshore shell companies highlighted in the Panama papers “doesn’t necessarily mean much,” said a former FinCEN official who asked not to be named due to his role in the private sector. What would be significant is “inconsistent information or payment flows that now connect” in ways that suggest possible illicit activity, he said.

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“We have innuendo, we have a complete lack of standards on the part of the western media, and the major mistake made by the leaker was to give these documents to the corporate media..”

US Government, Soros Funded Panama Papers To Attack Putin: WikiLeaks (RT)

Washington is behind the recently released offshore revelations known as the Panama Papers, WikiLeaks has claimed, saying that the attack was “produced” to target Russia and President Putin. On Wednesday, the international whistleblowing organization said on Twitter that the Panama Papers data leak was produced by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), “which targets Russia and [the] former USSR.” The “Putin attack” was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and American hedge fund billionaire George Soros, WikiLeaks added, saying that the US government’s funding of such an attack is a serious blow to its integrity. Organizations belonging to Soros have been proclaimed to be “undesirable” in Russia.

Last year, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office recognized Soros’s Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation as undesirable groups, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects. Prosecutors then said the activities of the institute and its assistance foundation were a threat to the basis of Russia’s constitutional order and national security. Earlier this year, the billionaire US investor alleged that Putin is “no ally” to US and EU leaders, and that he aims “to gain considerable economic benefits from dividing Europe.” “The American government is pursuing a policy of destabilization all over the world, and this [leak] also serves this purpose of destabilization. They are causing a lot of people all over the world and also a lot of money to find its way into the [new] tax havens in America. The US is preparing for a super big financial crisis, and they want all that money in their own vaults and not in the vaults of other countries,” German journalist and author Ernst Wolff told RT.

Earlier this week, the head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which worked on the Panama Papers, said that Putin is not the target of the leak, but rather that the revelations aimed to shed light on murky offshore practices internationally. “It wasn’t a story about Russia. It was a story about the offshore world,” ICIJ head Gerard Ryle told TASS. His statement came in stark contrast to international media coverage of the “largest leak in offshore history.” Although neither Vladimir Putin nor any members of his family are directly mentioned in the papers, many mainstream media outlets chose the Russian president’s photo when breaking the story.

“We have innuendo, we have a complete lack of standards on the part of the western media, and the major mistake made by the leaker was to give these documents to the corporate media,” former CIA officer Ray McGovern told RT. “This would be humorous if it weren’t so serious,” he added. “The degree of Putinophobia has reached a point where to speak well about Russia, or about some of its actions and successes, is impossible. One needs to speak [about Russia] in negative terms, the more the better, and when there’s nothing to say, you need to make things up,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said, commenting on anti-Russian sentiment triggered by the publications. WikiLeaks spokesman and Icelandic investigative journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson has called for the leaked data to be put online so that everybody could search through the papers. He said withholding of the documents could hardly be viewed as “responsible journalism.”

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Almost funny.

Bookmakers Set Odds For Next Leader To Resign After Panama Papers (MW)

Whose scalp will the Panama Papers scandal claim next? Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has opened betting lines on which head of state could be the next to go. “Who needs the Grand National when you’ve got the Panama Papers to punt on?” the betting line boasted in a press release on Wednesday. Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, announced yesterday he was stepping down after Panama Papers revelations that he and his wife sought to hide their claims on Icelandic banks that were bailed out by his administration during the financial crisis. Paddy Power puts the odds of British Prime Minister David Cameron resigning next at 20-1. The leaked documents outed Cameron’s father Ian Cameron as a client of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, at the center of the scandal.

Cameron’s father used a secret but legal offshore structure to set up a fund for investors. After saying all day Monday that his tax affairs were a “private matter”, media questions about his family’s remaining interest in the fund forced Cameron’s office, according to BBC reports, to issue a statement affirming that his family “[does] not benefit from any offshore trusts.” A surer bet according to the bookmaker is Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri at 8-1 odds. Macri won last year’s general election campaigning on a platform promising to fight corruption but the leaked documents say he was a director of Fleg Trading Ltd, founded in 1998 by his father Franco Macri, one of the richest men in Argentina. The company was dissolved in January 2009. “It was an offshore company to invest in Brazil, an investment that ultimately wasn’t completed, and where I was director,” he said in a television interview with a local program.

A Paddy Power spokesman told MarketWatch that to pay off, the leader has to leave “after being implicated specifically in the Panama Papers.” There have already been a few bets made that Macri and Cameron are next, he said. Paddy Power also has laid odds that the President of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif will leave at 10-to-1 and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko almost as good at 12-1. Sharif is mentioned in the leak as the result of a £7 million loan from Deutsche Bank backed up by four London apartments owned by offshore companies established by Mossack Fonseca. Poroshenko – nicknamed the ‘chocolate king’ – hid his ongoing interest in his candy company, Roshen, in a blind trust offshore when he became president in 2014. He had promised to sell it after being elected. Longshots to leave include President Xi Jinping of China, Russia’s Putin and France’s Francois Hollande, all set at 33-1.

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Coming closer.

Brexit May Force Europe’s Banks To Dump $123 Billion Of Securities (BBG)

If Britain decides to leave the EU, a corner of the credit market may depart with it and European banks could be left having to replace as much as €108 billion ($123 billion) of securities. Lenders from the EU that bought bonds backed by U.K. mortgages, bank loans and credit-card debt may find themselves caught up in the fallout of a “Brexit” because the debt might no longer count toward their emergency cash reserves. While a settlement with the bloc would take years to reach, lawyers and analysts are beginning to flag concerns about holdings of the asset-backed securities, a market that’s already been hammered since the financial crisis.

“Banks could find themselves having a liquidity issue if these assets no longer count,” said Vincent Keaveny at law firm DLA Piper, who specializes in structured credit. “There are big risks out there, but there aren’t any easy fixes.” Under the Basel Accords, a set of agreements by global regulators, banks must meet minimum standards meant to make them more resilient to shocks after the financial crisis highlighted their weaknesses. One standard, known as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio, requires banks maintain an adequate amount of high-quality assets that can be quickly converted to cash to meet liquidity needs for 30 days.

Certain securitized notes are counted, but their underlying assets must originate from a member state, according to the European Commission’s Delegated Act for the standard. That means some bonds backed by collateral from a newly go-it-alone Britain may be excluded. “‘Brexit’ could result in certain U.K. ABS no longer qualifying as eligible assets for current LCR purposes,” Angela Clist and Nicole Rhodes, London-based lawyers specializing in securitization at Allen & Overy LLP, wrote in a note to clients in February.

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“When economists say “equilibrium,” what they really mean is “any solution to any equations I decide to write down.”

Economics Builds a Tower of Babel (BBG)

In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty proudly declares: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” To which Alice replies: “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” Humpty Dumpty could have been an economist. The modern economics profession made a collective decision, long ago, to develop a system of jargon in which words have multiple, sometimes contradictory meanings. Unfortunately, the general public’s reaction tends to be similar to that of poor Alice. Want some examples? There’s no shortage. Let’s take the word “investment.” Most people think this means buying some financial assets, such as stocks or bonds. That’s basically a form of lending – you give someone money today, and you hope they’ll give you back more money tomorrow.

Economists call that “financial investment,” but the kind of investment they usually talk about is business investment, meaning a company’s purchase of capital goods. Since companies use debt to buy capital goods (or use their own cash, which is essentially the same thing), this kind of “investment” is actually a type of borrowing. So economists use the same word to mean both borrowing and lending! That couldn’t possibly result in any confusion, right? Two similar examples are “capital” and “equity.” “Equity” can mean stock – partial ownership of a company – or it can refer to “shareholders’ equity,” which is a measure of the value of a business. “Capital” in econ can mean financial capital, i.e. money in the bank. More commonly, it refers to capital goods – productive stuff such as buildings or machines that help you create more stuff.

Though economists usually use the term in the second way, many people outside the profession refer to financial capital as “economic capital.” Confused yet? We’re just getting started. Everyone knows that economists love models where rational agents interact in an efficient market that reaches equilibrium, right? Except that almost every word in that sentence is complete nonsense, thanks to econ’s Humpty Dumpty-like tendency to redefine words without telling anyone. So how about “equilibrium”? The word used to refer to a situation where prices adjust in order to clear markets, so that supply matches demand. Later, game theorists came up with “Nash equilibrium,” named after mathematician John Nash, which refers to a situation where everyone is responding optimally to everyone else in a strategic situation. Other concepts proliferated, and so by now the word has lost all meaning entirely. When economists say “equilibrium,” what they really mean is “any solution to any equations I decide to write down.”

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Will the EU survive?

Dutch ‘No’ Vote On Ukraine Pact Forces Government Rethink (Reuters)

The Dutch government said on Wednesday it could not ignore the resounding “No” in a non-binding referendum on the EU’s association treaty with Ukraine, but that it may take weeks to decide how to respond. Although the results were preliminary, they exposed dissatisfaction with the Dutch government and policy-making in Brussels – signalling a anti-establishment mood in a founding EU member weeks before Britain votes on membership. There could also be far-reaching consequences for the fragile Dutch coalition government, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and which has lost popularity amid a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. Exit polls indicated roughly 64% of Dutch voters voted “No” and 36% said “Yes”. Although turnout was too close to call, early tallies indicated it was just ahead of a turnout minimum of 30% required for the vote to be valid.

“It’s clear that ‘No’ have won by an overwhelming margin, the question is only if turnout is sufficient,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a televised reaction. “If the turnout is above 30% with such a large margin of victory for the ‘No’ camp, then my sense is that ratification can’t simply go ahead,” Rutte added. That sentiment was shared by Diederik Samsom, leader of the Labour Party, the junior partner the governing coalition. “We can’t ratify the treaty in this fashion,” he said. A person familiar with internal EU discussions on how leaders in Brussels would respond said EU officials had been hoping for very low turnout that would disqualify or diminish the impact of a “No” vote. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive, will play for time, waiting for the Dutch government to suggest a way forward, the official said. The political, trade and defence treaty is already provisionally in place, but has to be ratified by all 28 EU member countries for every part of it to have full legal force. The Netherlands is the only country that has not done so.

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Monday there was a lot of media and brouhaha, and then they have a 17-day hiatus? EU-Assclowns.

Greece Sees Two-Week Lag In Migrant Returns To Turkey (AFP)

A last-minute flurry of asylum applications by migrants desperate to avoid expulsion from Greece to Turkey will likely cause a two-week “lag” in an EU deportation plan slammed by rights groups, a Greek official said Wednesday. Nikos Xydakis, junior foreign minister for European affairs, indicated there would likely be few migrants sent back to Turkey over the next two weeks, following the first deportation of around 200 people on Monday. “We knew there would be a lag, an intermediate period before the program takes off, of at least two weeks to get through the first batch of (asylum) applications,” Xydakis told reporters. He nevertheless said the next set of expulsions would likely take place “from Friday onwards”, without going into further detail.

Athens stressed that the people shipped back to Turkey on Monday were migrants who had not claimed asylum. But the UN’s refugee agency has expressed concern that 13 of them, mostly Afghans, had expressed a wish to claim asylum but were not registered in time. Xydakis said some two dozen EU legal experts had arrived so far to assist the asylum process, compared to hundreds of security agents from EU border agency Frontex. “This is the weakness of the whole procedure. It is easier to deploy police officers than experts in refugee law, interpreters, debriefers,” he said. But he added: “They are coming.” Once the system is fully up and running, Greece has said it can process asylum claims in two weeks. “In two weeks (authorities) can get through 400 to 500 applications,” Xydakis said.

Under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal, all “irregular migrants” arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey since March 20 face being sent back, although the accord calls for each case to be examined individually. And for every Syrian refugee returned, another Syrian refugee will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with numbers capped at 72,000. “It was overestimated that in five days everything would begin, it was crazy. We told them many times in Brussels, we knew,” Xydakis said. “Things must be done by the book, we cannot bundle people together, they have to be certified and checked,” the minister said. Out of around 6,000 migrants who have arrived on the islands of Chios and Lesvos after the March 20 deadline, more than 2,300 have now applied for asylum. And many others had previously complained of not having had access to the asylum procedure.

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Oct 022015
 
 October 2, 2015  Posted by at 8:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edwin Rosskam Service station, Connecticut Ave., Washington, DC 1940

‘Destruction Of Wealth’ Warning Looms Over Stocks (MarketWatch)
Key Global Equity Index Has Fallen Off The Precipice (Dana Lyons)
Is This The Mother Of All Warnings On Emerging Markets? (CNBC)
Global Investors Brace For China Crash (Guardian)
Over Half Of China Commodity Companies Can’t Pay The Interest On Their Debt (ZH)
Here’s How Ugly The Third Quarter Was For Stocks And Commodities (MarketWatch)
This Is The Endgame, According To Deutsche Bank (Jim Reid)
Goldman: Buyback Burst Could Be Enough to Save the S&P 500’s Year (Bloomberg)
There Are Five Times More Claims On Dollars As Dollars In Existence (Brodsky)
Few Understand Why Glencore Lost 1/3 Of Its Value. That’s Worrying (BBG)
Global Economy Loses Steam As Chinese, European Factories Falter (Reuters)
BOE Says Market May Be Underpricing Risks of Falling Liquidity (Bloomberg)
JPMorgan Said to Pay Most in $1.86 Billion CDS Rigging Settlement (Bloomberg)
IMF’s Botched Involvement In Greece Attacked By Former Watchdog Chief (Telegraph)
Volkswagen Too Big to Fail For Germany’s Political Classes (Bloomberg)
VW Says Emissions Probe Will Take Months as It Faces Fines (Bloomberg)
World’s Biggest Pension Fund Is Moving Into Junk and Emerging Bonds (Bloomberg)
How The Banks Ignored The Lessons Of The Crash (Joris Luyendijk)

The warnings come from all sides now.

‘Destruction Of Wealth’ Warning Looms Over Stocks (MarketWatch)

A new health indicator for the S&P 500 Index of the largest U.S. stocks shows a rising likelihood of a broad, long-term decline. The benchmark has fallen 6.8% this year, pulled down by an 11% correction from Aug. 17 through Aug. 25. Earlier this year, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.20% had been setting new highs. Investors are now bracing for more declines as there are plenty of indications of trouble ahead. For one thing, the S&P 500 trades for 16 times aggregate consensus 2015 earnings estimates, which is near a 10-year high. Another headwind is the coming rise in interest rates by the Federal Reserve. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said last week that she anticipated an increase of short-term rates “later this year, followed by a gradual pace of tightening thereafter.”

The federal funds rate has been locked in a range of zero to 0.25% since late 2008. That, combined with the massive expansion of the central bank’s balance sheet, made stocks attractive to investors who might otherwise have been tempted by decent yields form other asset classes. Reality Shares, a San Diego-based firm founded in 2012, has a new market-health indicator called the Guardian Gauge, which uses volatility and price-momentum data to give a long-term outlook for the S&P 500. For the past 15 days, the Guardian Gauge has been in the red. Reality Shares CEO Eric Ervin explained it this way: “Guardian looks at the 10 sectors of the S&P 500. If three of the sectors go negative, it signals a very high probability of going into a bear market. Over the past 15 years, it would have predicted the tech wreck and the financial crisis.”

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“Each and every day, we are witnessing the ongoing global selloff inflict more and more damage to the post-2009 cyclical bull market.”

Key Global Equity Index Has Fallen Off The Precipice (Dana Lyons)

On September 8, we posted a chart showing how a key worldwide equity index – the Global Dow – was “hanging on the precipice”. To refresh, the Global Dow is an equally-weighted index of the world’s 150 largest stocks. Therefore, while it may not directly be the target of a lot of money changing hands, it most certainly represents the stocks that see the most money trading hands. Thus, The Global Dow is a fairly important barometer of the state of the global large cap equity market. The “precipice” that we referenced in the September 8 post was the UP trendline from the bull market bottom in 2009. Not surprisingly, the index did attempt to climb up off of the precipice in the weeks following the post. However, as we suggested, “another test of the precipice here at 2280 would not be surprising”. The Global Dow did return to test that area and is now officially off of the precipice – having fallen down off of it in the last few days, as the following charts illustrate.

Additionally, as the charts indicate, the post-2009 UP trendline also coincided with a cluster of important Fibonacci Retracement levels shown below. Therefore, this breakdown wasn’t just about the trendline but a myriad of significant levels, making it even more consequential. [..] this is one more in a rapidly growing list of examples of indexes around the globe that are breaking long-term UP trendlines and other significant levels of various magnitude. Each and every day, we are witnessing the ongoing global selloff inflict more and more damage to the post-2009 cyclical bull market. And while that bull may not be declared dead for some time, it is now being wounded enough daily to warrant very seriously considering that possibility.

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For 27 years, money has flown into emerging markets. That trend has now reversed.

Is This The Mother Of All Warnings On Emerging Markets? (CNBC)

The last time emerging markets had it nearly this bad, Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President, KKR purchased RJR Nabisco, and a future popstar named Rihanna was born. Net capital flows for global emerging markets will be negative in 2015, the first time that has happened since 1988, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said in its latest report. Net outflows for the year are projected at $541 billion, driven by a sustained slowdown in EM growth and uncertainty about China, it added. In other words, investors will pull out more money out of emerging markets than they will pump in. The data come on the heels of a separate IIF report this week that showed portfolio capital outflows in EMs amounted to $40 billion during the third quarter, the worst performance since 2008.

Indeed, relief from the Federal Reserve’s decision to delay its first interest rate hike in a decade has proved to be short-lived for EMs amid fresh evidence of a slowing Chinese economy, precipitous currency declines, a sustained slide in commodity prices, and political uncertainty in countries such as Brazil and Turkey. Covering a group of 30 economies, the IIF report estimates net non-resident inflows at $548 billion for 2015 from $1,074 billion last year—levels not seen since the global financial crisis. “As a share of GDP, non-resident inflows have fallen to about 2% from a record high of almost 8% in 2007.” The situation is exacerbated by the fact that investors residing in emerging market countries are buying more foreign assets.

Known as resident outward investment flows, 2015’s reading is expected to hit a historical high of $1,089 billion, which is likely to further pressurize reserves, exchange rates and asset prices of EMs, the IIF said. “On a net basis, lower inflows and rising outflows imply that private capital is leaving EMs for the first time since the early 1980s.” So, which region is the weakest? No surprises here. “It is noteworthy that a large part of the decline in overall flows this year is attributable to flows out of China, which intensified after the People’s Bank of China announced a mini-devaluation of the renminbi and a shift to a more market-oriented exchange rate fixing regime in August.”

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“Global investors will suck capital out of emerging economies this year for the first time since 1988..”

Global Investors Brace For China Crash (Guardian)

Global investors will suck capital out of emerging economies this year for the first time since 1988, as they brace themselves for a Chinese crash, according to the Institute of International Finance. Capital flooded into promising emerging economies in the years that followed the global financial crisis of 2008-09, as investors bet that rapid expansion in countries such as Turkey and Brazil could help to offset stodgy growth in the debt-burdened US, Europe and Japan. But with domestic investors in these and other emerging markets squirrelling their money overseas, at the same time as international investors calculate the costs of a sharp downturn in Chinese growth, the IIF, which represents the world’s financial industry, said: “We now expect that net capital flows to emerging markets in 2015 will be negative for the first time since 1988.”

Unlike in 2008-09, when capital flows to emerging markets plunged abruptly as a result of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, the IIF’s analysts say the current reversal is the latest wave of a homegrown downturn. “This year’s slowdown represents a marked intensification of trends that have been underway since 2012, making the current episode feel more like a lengthening drought rather than a crisis event,” it says, in its latest monthly report on capital flows. The IIF expects “only a moderate rebound” in 2016, as expectations for growth in emerging economies remain weak. Mohamed El-Erian, economic advisor to Allianz, responding to the data, described emerging markets as “completely unhinged”, and warned that US growth may not be enough to rescue the global economy. “It’s not that powerful to pull everybody out,” he told CNBC.

Capital flight from China, where the prospects for growth have deteriorated sharply in recent months, and the authorities’ botched handling of the stock market crash in August undermined confidence in economic management, has been the main driver of the turnaround. “The slump in private capital inflows is most dramatic for China,” the institute says. “Slowing growth due to excess industrial capacity, correction in the property sector and export weakness, together with monetary easing and the stock market bust have discouraged inflows.” At the same time, domestic Chinese firms have been cutting back on their borrowing overseas, fearing that they may find themselves exposed if the yuan continues to depreciate, making it harder to repay foreign currency loans.

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“What wasn’t known were the specifics of just how severe this bubble deterioration was for the most critical for China, in the current deflationary bust, commodity sector. We now know, and the answer is truly terrifying.”

Over Half Of China Commodity Companies Can’t Pay The Interest On Their Debt (ZH)

Earlier today, Macquarie released a must-read report titled “Further deterioration in China’s corporate debt coverage”, in which the Australian bank looks at the Chinese corporate debt bubble (a topic familiar to our readers since 2012) however not in terms of net leverage, or debt/free cash flow, but bottom-up, in terms of corporate interest coverage, or rather the inverse: the ratio of interest expense to operating profit. With good reason, Macquarie focuses on the number of companies with “uncovered debt”, or those which can’t even cover a full year of interest expense with profit. The report’s centerprice chart is impressive. It looks at the bond prospectuses of 780 companies and finds that there is about CNY5 trillion in total debt, mostly spread among Mining, Smelting & Material and Infrastructure companies, which belongs to companies that have a Interest/EBIT ratio >100%, or as western credit analysts would write it, have an EBIT/Interest <1.0x. As Macquarie notes, looking at the entire universe of CNY22 trillion in corporate debt, the "percentage of EBIT-uncovered debt went up from 19.9% in 2013 to 23.6% last year, and the percentage of EBITDA-uncovered debt up from 5.3% to 7%. Therefore, there has been a further deterioration in financial soundness among our sample." To be sure, both the size (the gargantuan CNY22 trillion) and the deteriorating quality (the surge in "uncovered debt" companies) of cash flows, was generally known. What wasn't known were the specifics of just how severe this bubble deterioration was for the most critical for China, in the current deflationary bust, commodity sector. We now know, and the answer is truly terrifying.

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“..September picked up many of the unresolved issues that we left behind in August..”

Here’s How Ugly The Third Quarter Was For Stocks And Commodities (MarketWatch)

Needless to say, September and the third quarter overall were tough for many investors. “The third quarter of 2015 proved to be the weakest quarter for risk assets for some years and most market participants are probably glad to see the back of it,” wrote Jim Reid, global strategist at Deutsche Bank, in a Thursday note. “Indeed Q3 saw the poorest quarterly performance for the S&P 500 and the Stoxx 600 since Q3 2011. It was also the worst quarter for the Nikkei since 2010 whereas in [emerging markets] the Shanghai Composite and Bovespa posted their worst quarterly scorecard since 2008. Reid breaks down the quarterly performance in a series of charts…

September on its own was pretty brutal, with 27 of Deutsche Bank’s 42 selected global asset classes ending the month with losses. “In many ways, September picked up many of the unresolved issues that we left behind in August,” Reid wrote. The selloff in commodities and emerging markets gained more momentum on deepening recession fears that, in turn, raised more questions about the sustainability of global growth, he said.

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More Jim Reid: “Although we don’t think QE and zero interest rates does much apart from prop up an inefficient financial system it’s all we’ve got until we have a huge policy sea change..“

This Is The Endgame, According To Deutsche Bank (Jim Reid)

From Jim Reid, Deutsche Bank’s chief credit strategist: “Our thesis over the last few years has basically been that the global financial system/economic fundamentals are so bad that its good for financial assets given it forces central banks into extraordinary stimulus and for them to continue to buy assets in never before seen volumes. The system failed in 2008/09 and rather than allow a proper creative destruction cleansing, policy makers have been aggressively propping it up ever since. This has surely led to a large level of inefficiency in the system which helps explain weak post crisis growth and thus forces them to do even more thus supporting asset prices if not the global economy. However since the summer this theory has been severely tested by China’s equity bubble bursting, China’s small ‘shock’ devaluation and the start of a rundown in reserves for the first time in over a decade.

We’ve also seen associated commodities and EM woes, endless unsettling speculation about the Fed’s next move and more recently the idiosyncratic corporate scandal around VW and funding concerns around Glencore. The hits keep on coming. Is it now so bad it’s actually bad again? The most recent leg of the sell-off begun after the Fed held rates steady two weeks ago as the narrative focused on either this reflecting worrying economic concerns or a Fed that is a slave to financial markets and losing credibility. So do we think we’re now entering a period where central banks are increasingly impotent? The answer is that they have been for a while on growth so not much has changed. However they can still buy more assets and continue to keep policy loose.

Although we don’t think QE and zero interest rates does much apart from prop up an inefficient financial system it’s all we’ve got until we have a huge policy sea change which probably only happens in the next recession (more later). So for now we think central banks are trapped into continuing on the same high liquidity path. The BoJ and the ECB are likely to do more QE in my opinion and the Fed is going to have a real struggle raising rates this year which has been our long-term view. Indeed we have sympathy with DB’s Dominic Konstam that they may also struggle in 2016. At the moment central banks are fortunate that they have the conditions to do more as virtually all are failing on their mandate to keep inflation close to or at 2%. The real problem would be if inflation was consistently looking like breaching 2%.

Then central banks would generally be going beyond their mandate by printing money and keeping rates close to zero. So in short the ‘plate spinning’ era continues for a number of quarters yet and certainly while inflation is so low. We think the end game is that when the next global recession hits, then QE/zero rate world will be re-appraised. Perhaps the G20 will get together and decide to try a different approach. In our 2013 long-term study we speculated how we thought the end game was ‘helicopter money’ – ie money printing to finance economic objectives (tax cuts, infrastructure etc). While it has obvious flaws and huge risks (eg political manipulation and inflation), one can argue it will always have more economic impact than QE in its current form. However that’s perhaps a couple of years away still.”

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The only thing left to prop up the US economy is companies buying their own stock. Let that sink in.

Goldman: Buyback Burst Could Be Enough to Save the S&P 500’s Year (Bloomberg)

Stock repurchases may accelerate enough toward the end of the year to salvage an annual gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, according to David Kostin, Goldman’s chief U.S. equity strategist. November is the busiest month of the year for buybacks among S&P 500 companies. 13% of annual spending occurs during the month, according to figures that Kostin presented in a report two days ago. The data is based on averages for 2007 and 2009-2014. The fourth quarter is the year’s busiest three-month period for S&P 500 repurchases, accounting for 30% of outlays, according to Kostin’s data. The total compares with 18% during the first quarter, 25% in the second and 26% in the third. These figures don’t add up to 100% because of rounding.

“Buybacks represent the single largest source of demand for U.S. equities,” he wrote, adding that he expects companies in the index to spend more than $600 billion this year on their own shares. “The typical year-end surge in buyback activity could help boost the market above our year-end target.” Kostin reduced his projection for the S&P 500 to 2,000 from 2,100. Assuming the latest estimate from the strategist is accurate, the index would post a loss of 2.9% for the year. A return to optimism among investors may also help the index exceed 2,000, according to Kostin. He cited a Goldman sentiment indicator, based on S&P 500 futures trading, that has been at the lowest possible reading for seven of the past eight weeks. That’s the longest stretch in the gauge’s eight-year history, the report said.

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TAE’s long lasting adage in action: “Multiple claims to underlying real wealth”.

There Are Five Times More Claims On Dollars As Dollars In Existence (Brodsky)

According to the Fed, there is about $60 trillion of US Dollar credit (claims for US dollars):

Also according to the Fed, there are about $12 trillion US dollars:

So, the data show plainly there are five times as many claims for US dollars as US dollars in existence. Does this matter to investors? Well, yes, it matters a lot. Not only is there not enough money to repay outstanding debt; the widening gap between credit and money is making it more difficult to service the debt and more difficult for nominal US GDP to grow through further credit extension and debt assumption. Remember, only a dollar can service and repay dollar-denominated debt. Principal and interest payments cannot be made with widgets or labor, only dollars. This means that future demand and output growth generated through more credit issuance and debt assumption is self-defeating. In fact, it adds to the problem.

Credit-generated growth is not growth in real (inflation-adjusted) terms because rising GDP, which engenders an increase in money, is also accompanied by a larger increase in claims on that money. Why larger? Because debt comes with interest. By definition then, debt compounds while real growth does not. In fact, economies naturally economize because innovation and competition tend to drive prices lower. This natural deflation works against debt service and repayment that needs perpetual inflation. As we know, for thirty years beginning in the early 1980s the Fed helped the US and global economies grow consistently more or less by reducing interest rates, which gave consumers of goods, services and assets incentive to take on more debt. Following the inevitable debt crisis in 2008, the Fed had to reduce the overnight interest rate it targets to 0%.

As we also know, to keep the economy growing from there, the Fed then had to begin creating money, which it did through quantitative easing (QE). It bought assets directly from the money center banks it deals with (primary dealers), and paid for them with the newly created money. At the same time, the Fed paid these banks – and continues to pay them – interest on the money they created for them (Interest on Excess Reserves). This provides a disincentive for banks to lend to the public, which is how the Fed is trying to control US growth and inflation today.

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Leverage.

Few Understand Why Glencore Lost 1/3 Of Its Value. That’s Worrying (BBG)

From London to New York to Hong Kong, the frantic question kept coming: could this be another Lehman? But nowhere did it cause more alarm than inside Glencore – the Swiss commodities giant that had suddenly found itself at the epicenter of a global panic on Monday. What began that morning in London, with a sudden plunge in Glencore’s share price, cascaded across oceans and time zones and left the company’s billionaire chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, scrambling to calm anxious shareholders, creditors and trading partners. Days later, even as Glencore regained most of the $6 billion of shareholder wealth erased in a few hours, many investors wondered if Glasenberg can hold the markets at bay.

Few market players, including people close to Glencore, are able to pinpoint why a blue-chip member of the FTSE-100 Index – even one that had been under pressure from sliding commodities prices – lost almost a third of its value in a blink. And that, investors worry, suggests this could all happen again. “There’s more pain to be had,” said Serge Berger at Zurich-based Blue Oak Advisors. “I don’t think the story is over.”

Monday started out as just another workday in Baar, the tiny town where Glencore is based. The village could easily pass for a Swiss backwater, except for the billions of dollars worth of commodities that quietly course through Glencore’s headquarters on Baarermattstrasse, between the lake and the Alpine hills. Glasenberg, a former coal trader, has honed his skills over more than 30 years in the commodity-trading business since he joined a predecessor firm, Marc Rich & Co., in 1984. He was part of a $1.2 billion management buyout from Rich in 1994, when the company was renamed Glencore. A 2011 initial public offering – at the peak of a 10-year commodity boom – made him a billionaire on paper, with a stake worth about $9 billion. At the worst of Monday’s panic, that holding was worth $1.2 billion. What unfolded when the London markets opened at 8 a.m. stunned mining-industry veterans.

“Monday was certainly very scary,” said Benno Galliker, a trader at Luzerner Kantonalbank. “It had a similar feeling to that before Lehman collapsed.” There’d been no news of consequence over the weekend; the last major headline – a Bloomberg story about Glencore’s hiring of banks to sell a stake in its agriculture unit – had sent its shares up. In China, whose coal plants and steel mills are the largest consumers of Glencore’s products, there’d been some discouraging economic data. But this year’s drumbeat of negative news about the world’s second-largest economy was hardly a new phenomenon. Meanwhile, South African bank Investec had published a provocative note in which analyst Marc Elliott suggested the company could see its equity all but vanish if commodity prices stayed weak. While that was an alarming prediction, Elliott could hardly have expected his views to have much of an effect on an operation with almost $200 billion in annual turnover.

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“..the data highlight just how difficult it will be for policymakers to steer China’s economy out of the biggest slowdown in decades..”

Global Economy Loses Steam As Chinese, European Factories Falter (Reuters)

The world economy lost momentum in September, with China’s vast factory sector shrinking again and euro zone manufacturing growth weakening slightly, both casualties of waning global demand. The latest business surveys across Asia and Europe paint a darkening picture and are likely to prompt more calls for central banks around the world to loosen monetary policy even further. “The data probably increases the case for more stimulus in certain parts of the world, especially from the People’s Bank of China and the ECB,” said Philip Shaw, economist at Investec in London. “Those economies that are at less advanced paths of the recovery cycle – the key example is the euro zone, where we’re looking at more disinflation – may well find more stimulus is in order.”

Surveys of China’s factory and services sectors showed the world’s second largest economy may be cooling more rapidly than earlier thought, with deeper job cuts. Taken together with a stock market crash in Shanghai during the summer and a surprise devaluation of the Chinese yuan, the data highlight just how difficult it will be for policymakers to steer China’s economy out of the biggest slowdown in decades.

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“..a global bond rout in the second quarter erased more than a half a trillion dollars in the value of sovereign debt..”

BOE Says Market May Be Underpricing Risks of Falling Liquidity (Bloomberg)

Financial markets may not be alert to the potential damage caused by drops in liquidity, according to stability officials at the Bank of England. “Market prices might not yet sufficiently be factoring in the potential for a deterioration in liquidity conditions given changes in market functioning and elevated tail risks” related to emerging markets, the officials said, according to the record of the Financial Policy Committee meeting held on Sept. 23 in London. Concern about liquidity is intensifying since a global bond rout in the second quarter erased more than a half a trillion dollars in the value of sovereign debt. Exacerbating matters, the world’s biggest banks are scaling back their bond-trading activities to comply with higher capital requirements imposed in the wake of the financial crisis.

Stability officials at the BOE have already asked for more work to be done on the topic, including dealers’ ability to act as intermediaries in markets, contagion and investment funds. The record of the September meeting published Thursday also noted the increased importance of emerging markets and said “there was the potential for a material impact on U.K. financial stability.” Officials also discussed the appropriate settings for the countercyclical capital buffer, currently at zero, given that credit conditions were normalizing. When officials reconsider the setting in light of the 2015 stress-test results, they will assess the appropriate level for all stages of the credit cycle. There was a “possible benefit of moving the CCB in smaller increments, especially when credit growth was not unusually strong,” the record said.

In a wide-ranging record that follows last week’s statement, the FPC highlighted its need for new powers to intervene in the buy-to-let housing market. “The rapid growth of the market underscored the importance of FPC powers of direction for use in future,” the FPC said in its record. “Housing tools were important for the FPC,” given the potential for systemic risks.

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They’re all involved in scheming yet another system. But jail? Hell, no! Slap on the wrist fines to be paid not by the bankers, but by their corporations, that’s all.

JPMorgan Said to Pay Most in $1.86 Billion CDS Rigging Settlement (Bloomberg)

JPMorgan Chase is set to pay almost a third of a $1.86 billion settlement to resolve accusations that a dozen big banks conspired to limit competition in the credit-default swaps market, according to people briefed on terms of the deal. JPMorgan is paying $595 million, with the lender’s portion of the accord largely based on the plaintiffs’ measure of market share, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the firms haven’t disclosed how they’re splitting costs. The settlement also enacts reforms making it easier for electronic-trading platforms to enter the CDS market, according to a statement Thursday from attorneys for the plaintiffs, which include the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association. Morgan Stanley, Barclays and Goldman Sachs are paying about $230 million, $175 million and $164 million, respectively, the people said.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers disclosed the approximate size of the settlement in Manhattan federal court last month, saying they were still ironing out details. They updated the total Thursday. The accord averts a trial following years of litigation by hedge funds, pension funds, university endowments, small banks and other investors, who sued as a group. They alleged that global banks – along with Markit Group, a market-information provider in which the banks owned stakes – conspired to control the information about the multitrillion-dollar credit-default-swap market in violation of U.S. antitrust laws. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America will pay about $160 million, $120 million and $90 million, respectively, the people said. BNP Paribas, UBS, Citigroup, RBS and HSBC also would pay less than $100 million apiece, the people said.

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The IMF needs an independent chief. Or its credibility will continue to erode until it is irrelevant.

IMF’s Botched Involvement In Greece Attacked By Former Watchdog Chief (Telegraph)

The IMF has come under fire for failing in its duty of care towards Greece by pushing self-defeating austerity measures on the battered economy. The fund was told it should have eased up on the spending cuts and tax hikes, pushed for an earlier debt restructuring and paid more “attention” to the political costs of its punishing policies during its five-year involvement in Greece. The recommendations came from a former deputy director of IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) David Goldsbrough.The IEO is an independent watchdog tasked with scrutinising the fund’s activities. Mr Goldsbrough worked at the body until 2006. His suggestions are set to embolden critics of the IMF’s handling of the Greek crisis. They follow previous admissions from the fund that it has over-stated the benefits of imposing excessive austerity on successive Greek governments.

The suggestions from the former watchdog chief come as reports suggest the IMF is still poised to pull out of Greece’s third international rescue in five years over the sensitive issue of debt relief. The fund is pushing for a restructuring of at least €100bn of Greece’s debt pile, according to a report in Germany’s Rheinische Post. Such bold measures to extend maturities and reduce interest payments are set to be rejected by its European partners, who are unwilling to impose massive lossess on their taxpayers. The head of Greece’s largest creditor – Klaus Regling of the European Stability Mechanism – told the Financial Times that such radical restructuring was “unnecessary”. This intransigence could now see the IMF withdraw its involvement when its programme ends in March 2016.

In addition to his findings on Greece, Mr Goldsbrough urged the IMF to question its involvement in many bail-out countries for the sake of the institution’s credibility. “Few reports probe more fundamental questions – either about alternative policy strategies or the broader rationale for IMF engagement,” said the report. Accounts from 2010 show the IMF was railroaded into a Greek rescue programme on the insistence of European authorities, vetoing the objections of its own board members from the developing world. The IMF is prevented from lending to bankrupt nations by its own rules. But it deployed an “exceptional circumstances” justification to provide part of a €110bn loan package to Athens five years ago. Greece has since become the first ever developed nation to default on the IMF in its 70-year history.

Despite privately urging haircuts for private sector creditors in 2010, the IMF was ignored for fear of triggering a “Lehman” moment in Europe, by then ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet. Greece later underwent the biggest debt restructuring in history in 2012. The findings of the fund’s research division have largely discredited the notion that harsh austerity will bring debtor nations back to health. However, this stance has been at odds with its negotiators during Greece’s new bail-out talks where officials have continued to demand deep pension reforms and spending cuts for Greece. Diplomatic cables between Greece’s ambassador to Washington have since revealed the White House pressed the fund to make vocals calls for mass debt relief to keep Greece in the eurozone during fraught negotiations in the summer. However, the issue of debt relief is not due to be discussed when eurozone finance ministers gather to meet for talks on Monday, said EU officials.

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“Cars accounted for almost 20% of Germany’s near $1.5 trillion in exports last year, or to put it in blunt political terms: one in seven jobs.”

Volkswagen Too Big to Fail For Germany’s Political Classes (Bloomberg)

At Volkswagen AG, political connections come already fitted. In part, it’s due to Volkswagen’s iconic role as a symbol of West Germany’s economic revival after Nazi rule and the destruction of World War II. Angela Merkel, who grew up under communism in East Germany, has said her first car after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a VW Golf compact. Mostly it’s about jobs: around a third of Volkswagen’s almost 600,000 positions are in Germany, and that’s not to mention the company’s supply chain. For Volkswagen, however, proximity to political power is enshrined in statute. When Germany privatized the automaker in 1960, its home state of Lower Saxony kept a blocking minority and a supervisory board seat for the region’s premier. Future presidents, chancellors and cabinet ministers have cut their political teeth in the state with VW at their side.

That nexus of political affinity and economic awareness ensures the scandal engulfing VW is too big a threat to national prosperity for the government to be a neutral observer. “It’ll be important for the German government to look at scenarios for the worst possible outcome,” Stefan Bratzel at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach said. Merkel’s options could include helping the state of Lower Saxony increase its stake in VW or tax incentives to promote electric cars, he said. Merkel is thus far trying to keep VW’s scandal over cheating on diesel-car emissions at arm’s length, simply demanding that the automaker come clean quickly. Her restraint signals a reluctance by chancellery officials to exercise direct influence on private companies, according to a person familiar with government policy making. In any case, the full scope of the scandal is still not clear, the person said.

“Of course German governments take business interests into account,” Marcel Fratzscher, head of the Berlin-based DIW economic institute, said by phone. Still, “if you look at France, the ties between business and politics are much closer there than in Germany,” he said. With almost 35% wiped off VW’s share value since the affair came to light, that’s a luxury that might not be granted for long if the company’s position deteriorates further. [..] Merkel has experience of intervening when it comes to autos. In 2013, she watered down European pollution-control legislation aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from cars, an action for which she was lauded by German auto-industry lobby VDA. Justifying her decision to defend jobs, Merkel said at the time there was a need “to take care that, notwithstanding the need to make progress on environmental protection, we don’t weaken our own industrial base.” Cars accounted for almost 20% of Germany’s near $1.5 trillion in exports last year, or to put it in blunt political terms: one in seven jobs.

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Stalling as a last defense.

VW Says Emissions Probe Will Take Months as It Faces Fines (Bloomberg)

Volkswagen said its investigation into rigged diesel engines will probably take months to complete, highlighting the complexity of the scandal that upended the carmaker two weeks ago. The company set up a five-person committee led by Berthold Huber, interim chairman of the supervisory board. The group will work closely with U.S. law firm Jones Day to unravel how software to cheat diesel-emissions tests was developed and installed for years in millions of vehicles, the company said Thursday. Volkswagen stuck to a pre-crisis plan that CFO Hans Dieter Poetsch will become the permanent chairman. Frank Witter, 56, head of the financial-services division, will succeed Poetsch as CFO.

The automaker is facing a significant financial impact, including at least €6.5 billion it already set aside for repairs and recalls and a U.S. fine that may reach $7.4 billion, according to analysts from Sanford C. Bernstein. A sales stop in September already put a dent in its U.S. deliveries. The board’s leadership panel met for seven hours on Wednesday night with CEO Matthias Mueller, who was appointed after his predecessor Martin Winterkorn stepped down under pressure last week. “We’re at the beginning of a long process,” said Olaf Lies, who is economy minister of the German state of Lower Saxony, which owns one-fifth of Volkswagen’s voting shares, and a member of Volkswagen’s investigation committee. “In the end, a series of people will be held accountable, and that doesn’t mean the software developers but those responsible at the senior level.”

Volkswagen postponed an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting that had been planned for Nov. 9, saying “it would not be realistic to provide well-founded answers which would fulfill the shareholders’ justified expectations” by that time. Some investors have criticized the appointment of Poetsch. Though Volkswagen hasn’t assigned blame for the diesel scandal to the CFO or to ousted CEO Winterkorn, the two were close associates. “Making Poetsch the chairman at this point while the investigation into the diesel scandal is ongoing isn’t the right way to go about rebuilding trust in the company,” said Ingo Speich, a fund manager at Volkswagen shareholder Union Investment. “Volkswagen needs a strong chairman right now, and he’ll be in a weak position.”

The company is facing an “enormous recall” in the U.S., though it’s still not clear what hardware and software corrections it will use to fix the problem, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Thursday in an interview in Istanbul. “Obviously there’s a discussion of fines, of very, very major fines” from the Environmental Protection Agency, Moniz said. The amount of the penalties VW faces is “going to depend upon what corrective actions” the company takes, he said. Volkswagen’s 600,000-person workforce is starting to feel the impact of the scandal as the carmaker cuts spending in anticipation of fines, recalls and a drop in U.S. sales.

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Taking your pensions into the casino is an obvious last desperate step.

World’s Biggest Pension Fund Is Moving Into Junk and Emerging Bonds (Bloomberg)

Japan’s $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest, unveiled sweeping changes to its foreign bond investments, hiring more than a dozen new asset managers and creating mandates for junk and emerging-market securities. The fund picked managers for eight categories of active investments in overseas debt, it said Thursday. GPIF chose Nomura Asset Management to oversee U.S high-yield bonds and UBS Global Asset Management for European speculative-grade debt. Janus Capital Management will handle part of the pension giant’s U.S. bond investments as a subcontractor for Diam Co., according to GPIF’s statement, which didn’t specify whether the money would go to Bill Gross’s fund.

Ashmore Japan, a specialist in developing-country investment, won the only local-currency emerging-market contract. GPIF faces mounting pressure to boost returns and diversify assets as pension payouts for the world’s oldest population swell. The fund has pared domestic bonds in the past year in favor of equities, inflation-linked debt and alternative assets. Its foray into high-yield bonds comes as the securities hand investors the biggest losses in four years. “I’m worried,” said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management in Tokyo. “The timing isn’t good. We’re talking about the Fed raising rates, and the assets that are likely to be affected the most by this are junk bonds. Investing in emerging-market currencies is worrying, too.”

A gauge of global speculative-grade debt compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch dropped for a fourth month in September, the longest stretch since the data began in 1998. This year is shaping up as one to forget for investors in risky assets, with stocks, commodities and currency funds all in the red amid concern about the outlook for the global economy and as the Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates. Investors pulled $40 billion out of emerging markets in the third quarter, fleeing at the fastest pace since the height of the global financial crisis.

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Joris should get into today’s events, things move too fast to linger on the past.

How The Banks Ignored The Lessons Of The Crash (Joris Luyendijk)

I spent two years, from 2011 to 2013, interviewing about 200 bankers and financial workers as part of an investigation into banking culture in the City of London after the crash. Not everyone I spoke to had been so terrified in the days and weeks after Lehman collapsed. But the ones who had phoned their families in panic explained to me that what they were afraid of was the domino effect. The collapse of a global megabank such as Lehman could cause the financial system to come to a halt, seize up and then implode. Not only would this mean that we could no longer withdraw our money from banks, it would also mean that lines of credit would stop.

As the fund manager George Cooper put it in his book The Origin of Financial Crises: “This financial crisis came perilously close to causing a systemic failure of the global financial system. Had this occurred, global trade would have ceased to function within a very short period of time.” Remember that this is the age of just-in-time inventory management, Cooper added – meaning supermarkets have very small stocks. With impeccable understatement, he said: “It is sobering to contemplate the consequences of interrupting food supplies to the world’s major cities for even a few days.” These were the dominos threatening to fall in 2008. The next tile would be hundreds of millions of people worldwide all learning at the same time that they had lost access to their bank accounts and that supplies to their supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations had frozen.

The TV images that have come to define this whole episode – defeated-looking Lehman employees carrying boxes of their belongings through Wall Street – have become objects of satire. As if it were only a matter of a few hundred overpaid people losing their jobs: Look at the Masters of the Universe now, brought down to our level! In reality, those cardboard box-carrying bankers were the beginning of what could very well have been a genuine breakdown of society. Although we did not quite fall off the edge after the crash in the way some bankers were anticipating, the painful effects are still being felt in almost every sector. At this distance, however, seven years on, it’s hard to see what has changed. And if nothing has changed, it could all happen again.

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Sep 302015
 
 September 30, 2015  Posted by at 8:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle September 30 2015


Marjory Collins 3rd shift defense workers, midnight, Baltimore April 1943

Equities On Course For Worst Quarter Since 2011 (FT)
September 30 Is Historically Worst Day Of The Year For Investors (MarketWatch)
‘Cold Fusion’ Is Citi’s Answer to Fading Central Bank Firepower (Bloomberg)
Loss Of Traction Puts Central Bank Mandates Under Scrutiny (Reuters)
Two Very Disturbing Forecasts By A Former Chinese Central Banker (Zero Hedge)
Jim Chanos on China: The Emperor is In His Underwear (Lynn Parramore)
Bundesbank Chief Warns Of Risks From Cheap Money (Reuters)
Investors Pull $40 Billion From Emerging Markets in Current Quarter (WSJ)
Traders Flee Emerging Markets at Fastest Pace Since 2008 (Bloomberg)
IMF Warns Of New Financial Crisis If Interest Rates Rise (Guardian)
World Set For Emerging Market Mass Default, Warns IMF (Telegraph)
Volkswagen Board Member: Staff Acted Criminally (BBC)
Volkswagen Spain Faces Criminal Complaint Over Emissions Tests (Bloomberg)
Volkswagen To Refit Cars Affected By Emissions Scandal (Reuters)
Obama Re-Defines Democracy – A Country that Supports US Policy (Michael Hudson)
Greek Crisis a Tragedy For Education System (BBC)
Frackers Could Soon Face Mass Extinction (Fortune)
Chinese Buyers Holding Back On ‘High-End’ New Zealand Property (NZ Herald)
Berlin To Curb Refugees As Merkel Faces Backlash (FT)
Risking Arrest, Thousands Of Hungarians Offer Help To Refugees (NPR)

Debt deflation.

Equities On Course For Worst Quarter Since 2011 (FT)

US and global equities are heading for their worst quarterly performance since 2011, with investors rattled by China’s economic slowdown, uncertainty over Federal Reserve policy and growing pessimism about corporate earnings. Adding to investors unease, the IMF on Tuesday warned that corporate failures were likely to jump in the developing world, after a borrowing binge in the past decade. With an array of sectors slumping since the start of July, beyond those directly influenced by the rout in commodity prices, the global equity bull run of recent years is now facing a major challenge. The S&P 500 has fallen 8.5%, the biggest decline since the third quarter of 2011. Previously high-flying sectors that led the market earlier this year, notably biotech and healthcare stocks, have fallen appreciably in recent weeks.

“The question now is are investors ready for the first down year since 2011…and the worst year since the “bad days of 2008”, said Howard Silverblatt, analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. In turn, global stock markets are poised for their worst quarterly showing since 2011, shedding more than $10tn in value. The FTSE Emerging Index has tumbled more than 21% this quarter, its worst showing since 2011, and the fifth-worst quarter this millennium. Investors have become increasingly unsettled by signs of weakening global growth and are now questioning the earnings outlook for US companies as the world’s largest economy is preparing to raise rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The US earnings season, which starts in two weeks, is shaping up as pivotal driver of sentiment, Mr Silverblatt said.

Analysts expect quarterly earnings will decline 4.6% year over year in the third quarter, and revenue to decline 3.3%, the third straight quarter of declines for top-line growth, according to the data provider, FactSet. US and global companies have sold record amounts of debt against the backdrop of a blockbuster year for mergers and acquisitions. M&A, equity capital markets, debt capital markets and syndicated lending produced fees of $16.5bn in the third quarter, the lowest total since banks billed $16.3bn in the final three months of 2011 when markets were gripped by the eurozone debt crisis. Under pressure from rising defaults linked to the energy sector, corporate bond prices are signalling broader weakness that reflects the downgrading of global growth prospects, notably for emerging markets.

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Oh well…

September 30 Is Historically Worst Day Of The Year For Investors (MarketWatch)

September has been tough for stock investors. But if history is any guide, the last day of September may deliver one more blow to already battered markets, according to the financial blog Bespoke. Looking at data as far as 1945, the S&P 500 has posted positive returns just 38% on the last day of September, making it one of the worst trading days of the year, according to Bespoke (as the included table illustrates). Earlier this month, financial blogger Ryan Detrick pointed out that the 38th, 39th and the 40th weeks of the calendar—which fall in September—tend to be the weakest of the year dating back to 1950.

September has marked a particularly rough stretch for the S&P 500 with only the week of Sept. 11 closing higher as China’s slowdown, global economic uncertainties, and lack of clarity on the timing of the Federal Reserve’s expected interest-rate hike have shaken investor confidence. According to FactSet, weekly performance in 2015 for the S&P 500 was among the worst in September. For the week, the benchmark stock-market index is off 2.3% so far, putting it on track for the second-worst week of the year after Aug. 21 when the benchmark tumbled 5.8%. If tomorrow’s trading action follows the historical trend, things could get worse for investors before they get better.

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Banks rule the world.

‘Cold Fusion’ Is Citi’s Answer to Fading Central Bank Firepower (Bloomberg)

If the world economy enters a downdraft, Steven Englander, global head of G-10 FX strategy at Citigroup, proposes a more revolutionary response, akin to the “helicopter money” once advocated by Milton Friedman. In what he calls “cold fusion,” politicians would cut taxes and boost spending. Central banks would then cover the resulting increase in borrowing by purchasing more bonds as part of a commitment to permanently expand their balance sheets. The easier fiscal policy would be covered by QE Infinity. “Politically it is difficult for central banks to outright endorse monetization of government debt, but faced with another slump and armed with ineffective policy tools, we expect that central banks will quickly give the wink and nod to fiscal measures,” Englander said in a report to clients last week.

The upshot would be greater purchasing power would be injected straight into the economy, increasing activity and inflation. Long-term bond yields would rise, yet short-term yields adjusted for inflation would turn negative. “Increasingly the absence of fiscal policy is viewed as one of the reasons for a less than satisfactory recovery,” said Englander. “With rates at zero, fiscal policy will be needed to offset any negative shock that hits global economies.” Michala Marcussen, head of global economics at Societe Generale SA in London, agrees. “In a risk scenario, we believe policy makers, faced with the abyss, would take the next step into unorthodox policy, namely fiscal expansion,” she said. “Clearly not the risk that bond markets have in mind.”

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“..relatively slow growth and over-reliance on cheap credit to cope with that funk has “zombified” global economies for years to come..”

Loss Of Traction Puts Central Bank Mandates Under Scrutiny (Reuters)

Growing anxiety that the world’s top central banks have lost control of their mission has intensified scrutiny of their mandates and independence from both political and investment circles. Far from soothing already nervy financial markets, the Fed’s decision not to raise interest rates in September raised more questions than it answered. The turbulent response of equity, commodity and emerging markets marks this as a rare, if not singular instance in recent years of markets reacting so negatively to an ostensibly dovish policy signal from the Fed. Chief among the questions is whether the world’s most influential central bank, along with many of its peers, is trapped at near zero interest rates as the economic cycle crests and inflation flatlines, due to a rapid cooling of China and other emerging economies and a commodity price slump.

The uncomfortable prospect of heading into another economic slowdown with no interest rate ammunition to fight the downturn is at the root of much that investment angst. “The relative paucity of the monetary policy toolkit increases the fragility of the expansion, with risks that an adverse shock could lead businesses and consumers to retrench and thereby transform a mid-cycle slowdown into something significantly worse,” wrote Citi chief economist Willem Buiter. Yet by subsequently insisting a rate rise was still on the cards this year, the Fed simultaneously removed any low-rates balm and confused many as to its ‘reaction function’. Just which of the global pressures that stayed its hand only two weeks ago – weakening China, emerging markets and commodity prices – will disappear again by year end?

And if the rise of the dollar is at least partly behind both those pressures and the below-target U.S. inflation rate, then surely every future push to raise rates will simply strengthen the currency again and re-ignite the same chain reaction. “You can’t run a independent, domestically-focused monetary policy in this environment,” said Salman Ahmed, chief strategist at asset managers Lombard Odier, adding that a major complication is the huge uncertainty internally at the Fed about just how the world’s second biggest economy, China, is actually performing. “What has happened is that central banks have lost control to calibrate monetary policy to only domestic economic data.” The Fed may be in the hot seat, but the Bank of England has a similar dilemma.

The Bank of Japan and ECB differ only in that there’s no domestic pressure yet to tighten policy. But their attempts to avoid deep deflation and reach explicit inflation targets seem to be similarly sideswiped by global rather than domestic developments. And that’s not changing any time soon. In a world that’s wound down very little of its overall indebtedness some seven years after the credit crash was supposed to launch a wave of ‘deleveraging’, relatively slow growth and over-reliance on cheap credit to cope with that funk has “zombified” global economies for years to come, Ahmed added. And in such a low growth world, political pressure to bring central banks into a more centrally-directed policy framework will only increase.

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“..the failure will have serious consequences on China’s financial stability..”

Two Very Disturbing Forecasts By A Former Chinese Central Banker (Zero Hedge)

Earlier today, Yu Yongding – currently a senior fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing but most notably a member of the PBOC’s Monetary Policy Committee from 2004 to 2006 as well as a member of China’s central planning bureau itself, the Advisory Committee of National Planning – gave a speech before the Peterson Institute, together with a slideshow. Since the topic was China’s debt, economic growth, corporate profitability, and since, inexplicably, it wasn’t pre-cleared by the Chinese department of truth, it was not cheerful. In fact it was downright scary. Among other things, the speech discussed:
• Capital efficiency – low and falling (capital-output ratio rising)
• Corporate profitability – has been falling steadily
• Share of finance via capital market – Very low
• Interest rate on loans – High
• Inflation rate – producer price Index is falling

A key observation was the troubling surge in China’s capital coefficient, first noted here two weeks ago in a presentation by Daiwa which also had a downright apocalyptic outlook on China, and wasn’t ashamed to admit that it expects a China-driven global meltdown, one which “would more than likely send the world economy into a tailspin. Its impact could be the worst the world has ever seen.” The former central banker also discussed the bursting of China’s market bubble. This, he said was created deliberately for two government purposes: 1) To enable debt-ridden corporates to get funds from the equity market, 2) To boost share prices to stimulate demand via wealth effect He admits this shortsighted approach failed and “to save the city, we bombed the city” adding that it brings “authorities’ ability of crisis managing into question.”

He also observes that the devaluation that took place on August 11 was the government’s explicit admission that its attempt to reflate an equity bubble has failed, and it was forced to find an alternative method of stimulating the economy. Of the CNY devaluaton Yu says quite clearly that it was simply to boost the economy: “In the first quarter of 2015 China’s capital account deficit is larger that than that of current account surplus” which is due to i) The Unwinding of Carry trade; ii) The diversification of financial assets by households; iii) Outbound foreign investment; and iv) Capital flight. And now that China has officially unleashed devaluation (which Yu believes should be taken to its logical end and the RMB should float) there are very material risks: “the implication of episode can be more serious than the stock market fiasco, with much large international consequences” and that “the failure will have serious consequences on China’s financial stability”

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“If you do dumb economic things, whether you’re capitalist, communist, or some hybrid, you ultimately pay the price.”

Jim Chanos on China: The Emperor is In His Underwear (Lynn Parramore)

[..] China is the only industrialized country that knows its annual GDP on Jan. 1 of that year. Because it’s planned. You can truly manufacture your growth. Now, you may end up with lots of white elephants and a banking system with lots of bad loans, and that’s the problem, whether you’re a closed system or an open system or somewhere in between (which is what I believe): a closed system with lots of leakage. At the end of the day, other countries have tried this model and it doesn’t really work that well. The Soviet Union and Japan, to some extent, in the late 80s, followed this model. If you do dumb economic things, whether you’re capitalist, communist, or some hybrid, you ultimately pay the price.

[..] We’re getting inexorably to a tipping point in China. What has made 2015 much different from 2010, other than magnitude (almost everything I saw in 2009-2010 is twice as big today: the banking system, the economy, debt to GDP), is that the veneer of technocratic excellence has been wiped away. Now the West sees that the problems. That was not the case in 2010. I was considered a crank, someone who had never been there, never spoken Mandarin. They said, you don’t know, these people are geniuses! Now I think we’ve begun to see that, no, they make the same policy mistakes that we make. They don’t always get it right.

The other thing that’s changed dramatically, and I think more ominously, is the rise of Xi Jinping, who is a much different leader than the previous two groups of party leaders. Under Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, China was open for business. As long as you don’t rock the political boat, you can go to Macau, buy your three Ferraris, have fun, make money. This is the new China. Then Xi comes in, and his first speech is a fiery speech in Guangdong Province, where he absolutely rips into the Soviet Union for being soft on Perestroika. He says, what were you guys thinking about? Why didn’t you put the troops on the street the first chance you got? That was his first speech.

One of the next things he did was – I know this sounds silly, but to me it was very telling — he told the auto show models to cover up. Think about that for a second. He truly said, they’re showing too much skin and this is an embarrassment to China. Cover up! He told the kids, go to bed earlier! I began to see that this guy is different. This guy really sees himself as father of China. Some might say that now he sees himself as an emperor. Sure enough, the cult of personality stuff started. He made the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) senior officers take an oath of personal loyalty to him. That’s very important. His nationalism, which was unmistakable and you couldn’t miss it by 2013-14, has also taken on a very anti-Western tone. Now, if there’s a problem with the stock market, it’s Western speculators. If there’s something going on, it’s the West’s fault.

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Weidmann wants everyone to be Germany. But that is no longer such a glorious prospect.

Bundesbank Chief Warns Of Risks From Cheap Money (Reuters)

The dip in oil prices will save German companies and individuals €25 billion this year, the head of the Bundesbank said on Tuesday, as he warned of the perils of keeping the cost of money too low. “The expansionary monetary policy should not go on for longer than is absolutely necessary,” Jens Weidmann told an audience near Frankfurt, saying the economic recovery in the 19-member euro zone was holding steady. The remarks from Weidmann illustrate the continued scepticism in Germany about the need to extend the ECB’s €1 trillion-plus money printing program.

While such opposition cannot prevent extra money printing, it can delay any such move. Weidmann, who also sits on the ECB’s policy-setting Governing Council, argued that cheap money, with borrowing rates at record low in the euro zone, risked that financial markets would ‘overdo it’. He also pointed to the threat that permanently low borrowing costs would keep ‘zombie’ companies afloat that should be out of business. Weidmann also criticized the negative impact of low interest rates on German savers, who he said earned a fraction of a percentage point of interest on their deposits.

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“Companies from developing countries quadrupled their borrowing to well over $18 trillion last year from around $4 trillion in 2004..”

Investors Pull $40 Billion From Emerging Markets in Current Quarter (WSJ)

Foreign capital is gushing out of emerging markets. Global investors are estimated to have yanked $40 billion from emerging-market stocks and bonds during the current quarter, the most for a quarter since the depths of the 2008 global financial crisis, according to the latest data from the Institute of International Finance. The retrenchment reflected growing tensions in some of the world’s once-highflying emerging economies, which are struggling with slower growth, substantial debt and plunging prices for commodities, which many of these economies rely on. In a report published on Tuesday, the IMF warned that emerging markets could brace for a rise in corporate failures as debt-laden firms find it harder to repay their loans and bonds as a result of sputtering growth and weakening currencies.

Companies from developing countries quadrupled their borrowing to well over $18 trillion last year from around $4 trillion in 2004, with Chinese firms accounting for a major share, according to the bank. Thanks to low interest rates in developed countries, many of the borrowings were conducted in hard currencies, such as the dollar and euro. Investor confidence in emerging markets was further shaken in the quarter by an epic stock-market crash in China, as well as Beijing’s botched efforts to prop up share prices. The selloff in emerging markets accelerated and rattled global financial markets after the Chinese central bank’s move to let its currency devalue in August fueled suspicions that China’s underlying economy might be faring worse than expected.

These concerns had a knock-on effect on commodities, driving prices down to levels not seen in six years. As the biggest buyer of many commodities from countries including Brazil, South Africa and Malaysia, China’s woes hurt these countries’ currencies. “Emerging markets are going to be a very difficult place to invest in for the next 12 to 24 months,” said David Spika, global investment strategist at GuideStone Capital, which oversees $10.7 billion in assets. Falling commodity prices hurt many emerging countries’ growth, leading to capital outflows and weakening their currencies, he said.

Many emerging countries rely on outside capital to finance their budget deficits, and the continuous outflow is already forcing some of these countries to devalue their currencies or dip into their foreign-currency reserves to defend their exchange rates. This quarter’s exodus was about evenly divided between equities and bonds, losing $19 billion and $21 billion, respectively, according to the IIF. The $40 billion outflow would rank the current quarter the worst quarter since the fourth quarter of 2008 when emerging markets saw outflows of about $105 billion.

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“It’s the trifecta of slowing investment growth, declining commodity prices and the strong dollar.”

Traders Flee Emerging Markets at Fastest Pace Since 2008 (Bloomberg)

Investors have pulled $40 billion out of developing economies in the third quarter, fleeing emerging markets at the fastest pace since the height of the global financial crisis. The quarterly outflow was the first since 2009 and the biggest since the final three months of 2008, when traders sold $105 billion of assets, according to the Institute of International Finance. The retreat came as data signaled faltering Chinese economic growth, commodity prices slumped and the Federal Reserve moved closer to an increase in the near-zero U.S. interest rates that have supported demand for riskier assets in developing nations. About $19 billion of the selloff was equities, with the remaining $21 billion in debt, the IIF said in a report Tuesday. There were outflows in all three months this quarter.

The MSCI Emerging Markets stocks benchmark has declined 20% in the past three months, on track for the biggest retreat in four years. Local-currency developing-nation bonds have lost 6.6% in dollar terms in the third quarter, according to Bank of America Corp. indexes, the biggest retreat on a quarterly basis since 2011. Currencies from Brazil to South Africa have tumbled, sending a gauge of 20 foreign-exchange rates to a record low. “The reaction we’re seeing is quite severe, but a lot of the damage has already probably taken place,” Brendan Ahern, managing director of Krane Fund Advisors LLC in New York, said by phone. “It’s the trifecta of slowing investment growth, declining commodity prices and the strong dollar.”

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Speaking in forked tongues.

IMF Warns Of New Financial Crisis If Interest Rates Rise (Guardian)

Rising global interest rates could prompt a new credit crunch in emerging markets, as businesses that have ridden the wave of cheap money to load up on debt are pushed into crisis, the International Monetary Fund has said. The debts of non-financial firms in emerging market economies quadrupled, from $4tn in 2004 to well over $18tn in 2014, according to the IMF’s twice-yearly Global Financial Stability Report. This borrowing binge has taken business debt as a share of economic output from less than half, in 2004, to almost 75%. China’s firms have led the spree, but businesses in other countries, including Turkey, Chile and Brazil, have also ramped up their debts — and could prove vulnerable as interest rates rise.

With the US Federal Reserve expected to raise interest rates in the coming months, the IMF warns that emerging market governments should ready themselves for an increase in corporate failures, as firms struggle to meet sharply higher borrowing costs. That could create distress among the local banks who have bought much of this new debt, causing them in turn to rein in lending, in a “vicious cycle” reminiscent of the credit crisis of 2008-09. “Shocks to the corporate sector could quickly spill over to the financial sector and generate a vicious cycle as banks curtail lending. Decreased loan supply would then lower aggregate demand and collateral values, further reducing access to finance and thereby economic activity, and in turn, increasing losses to the financial sector,” the IMF warns.

Its economists find that the sharp increase in borrowing has been driven largely by international factors, including the historically low interest rates and quantitative easing unleashed by central banks in the US, Japan and Europe, as they have sought to rekindle growth in the wake of the sub-prime crisis. “Monetary policy has been exceptionally accommodative across major advanced economies. Firms in emerging markets have faced greater incentives and opportunities to increase leverage as a result of the ensuing unusually favourable global financial conditions,” the IMF says.

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A deep dark hole lies right ahead.

World Set For Emerging Market Mass Default, Warns IMF (Telegraph)

The IMF has issued a double warning over higher US interest rates, which it said could trigger a wave of emerging market corporate defaults and panic in financial markets as liquidity evaporates. The IMF said corporate debts in emerging markets ballooned to $18 trillion last year, from $4 trillion in 2004 as companies gorged themselves on cheap debt. It said the quadrupling in debt had been accompanied by weaker balance sheets, making companies more vulnerable to US rate rises. “As advanced economies normalise monetary policy, emerging markets should prepare for an increase in corporate failures,” the IMF said in a pre-released chapter of its latest Financial Stability Report.

It warned that this could create a credit crunch as risks “spill over to the financial sector and generate a vicious cycle as banks curtail lending”. In a double warning, the IMF said market liquidity, or the ease with which investors can quickly buy or sell securities without shifting their price, was “prone to sudden evaporation”, particularly in bond markets, when the Federal Reserve started to raise interest rates. It said a steady growth environment and “extraordinarily accommodative monetary policies” around the world had helped to maintain a “high level” of liquidity. However, it warned that this was not the same as “resilient” liquidity that could support markets in time of stress.

Gaston Gelos, head of the IMF’s global financial stability division, said these factors were “masking liquidity risks” that could trigger violent market swings. “Liquidity is like the oil in an engine, when there’s too little of it, the machine starts stuttering,” he said. The IMF said an “illusion” of abundant liquidity may have encouraged “excessive risk taking” by some investors that could cause market ructions if many investors suddenly rushed to the exit. “Even seemingly plentiful market liquidity can suddenly evaporate and lead to systemic financial disruptions,” the IMF said. “When liquidity drops sharply, prices become less informative and less aligned with fundamentals, and tend to overreact, leading to increased volatility. In extreme conditions, markets can freeze altogether, with systemic repercussions.”

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Politicans and board members should draw their own consequences, not point to others. This guys is both.

Volkswagen Board Member: Staff Acted Criminally (BBC)

Olaf Lies, a Volkswagen board member and economy minister of Lower Saxony has told Newsnight some staff acted criminally over emission cheat tests. He said the people who allowed the deception to happen or who installed the software that allowed certain models to give false emissions readings must take personal responsibility. He also said the board only found out about the problems at the last meeting. About 11 million diesel engine cars are affected by the problem. Mr Lies told the BBC: “Those people who allowed this to happen, or who made the decision to install this software – they acted criminally. They must take personal responsibility.” He said: “We only found out about the problems in the last board meeting, shortly before the media did. I want to be quite open. So we need to find out why the board wasn’t informed earlier about the problems when they were known about over a year ago in the United States.”

He said the company had no idea of the total bill to sort out the engines and cover any legal costs arising: “Huge damage has been done because millions of people have lost their faith in VW. We are surely going to have a lot of people suing for damages. We have to recall lots of cars and it has to happen really fast.” He added that the company was strong and that rebuilding trust – and ensuring the majority of the 600,000 workers at the car giant were not blamed, was its priority. He added his apology to those already made by senior company figures and said: “I’m ashamed that the people in America who bought cars with complete confidence are so disappointed.” VW is working out how to refit the software in the 11 million diesel engines involved in the emissions scandal. Seat is the latest VW brand to reveal it, too, used the emission cheat device.

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Be good to see how different legal systems have different approaches.

Volkswagen Spain Faces Criminal Complaint Over Emissions Tests (Bloomberg)

Volkswagen AG’s three Spanish units and their chairmen are facing a criminal complaint stemming from its rigged emissions tests that accuses them of defrauding consumers and the tax authorities and damaging the environment. Manos Limpias, a public workers’ union that has pursued corruption allegations against high-profile figures in Spain including the king’s sister, filed the private suit with the National Court on Monday. The Spanish state could face a civil liability for failing to adequately supervise the automaker, according to a copy of the lawsuit seen by Bloomberg News. German prosecutors have already started a criminal probe of the car maker that will examine the role of former CEO Martin Winterkorn. Winterkorn resigned on Friday after a tumultuous week in which Europe’s biggest car manufacturer admitted to tampering with some diesel engines to cheat on U.S. emissions tests.

The complaint named Volkswagen Audi SA Chairman James Morys Muir, Volkswagen Navarra SA Chairman Ulbrich Thomas and Seat SA Chairman Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz. Volkswagen and its Seat unit have built more than 500,000 cars in Spain with the 1.6- and 2.0-liter diesel motors subject to the German investigation, Manos Limpias said in the lawsuit. Several models from Volkswagen’s other brands that are under investigation have also been sold to Spanish consumers. In addition, the German company has been claiming subsidies from the Spanish government since at least 2009 as an incentive to produce low emission cars. While Industry Ministry Jose Manuel Soria says Spain will ask Volkswagen to give back the subsidies, the government may also face a civil charges because it ordered Seat’s technical unit to conduct the emissions tests, Manos Limpias said in the document.

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“Volkswagen did not say how the planned refit would make cars with the “cheat” software comply with regulations..”

Volkswagen To Refit Cars Affected By Emissions Scandal (Reuters)

Volkswagen said on Tuesday it will repair up to 11 million vehicles and overhaul its namesake brand following the scandal over its rigging of emissions tests. New CEO Matthias Mueller said the German carmaker would tell customers in the coming days they would need to have diesel vehicles with illegal software refitted, a move which some analysts have said could cost more than $6.5 billion. In Washington, U.S. lawmakers asked the automaker to turn over documents related to the scandal, including records concerning the development of a software program intended to defeat regulatory emissions tests. In separate letters, leading Republicans and Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested information from both Volkswagen and the EPA as part of an investigation into the controversy.

Europe’s biggest carmaker has admitted cheating in diesel emissions tests in the US and Germany’s transport minister says it also manipulated them in Europe, where Volkswagen sells about 40% of its vehicles. The company is under huge pressure to address a crisis that has wiped more than a third off its market value, sent shock waves through the global car market and could harm Germany’s economy. “We are facing a long trudge and a lot of hard work,” Mueller told a closed-door gathering of about 1,000 top managers at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters late on Monday. “We will only be able to make progress in steps and there will be setbacks,” he said. Volkswagen did not say how the planned refit would make cars with the “cheat” software comply with regulations, or how this might affect vehicles’ mileage or efficiency, which are important considerations for customers. It said it would submit the details to Germany’s KBA watchdog next month.

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Exactly what I was thinking listening to Obama. “We bring them democracy” has become a ridiculous line.

Obama Re-Defines Democracy – A Country that Supports US Policy (Michael Hudson)

In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, therenever would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Wherethere is democracy, he said, there is no violence of revolution. This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a “democracy.” In making this hardly veiled threat, he redefined the word in the international political vocabulary. Democracy is the CIA’s overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan’s secular government by the Taliban against Russia. Democracy is the Ukrainian coup behind Yats and Poroshenko. Democracy is Pinochet. It is “our bastards,” as Lyndon Johnson said with regard to the Latin American dictators installed by U.S. foreign policy.

A century ago the word “democracy” referred to a nation whose policies were formed by elected representatives. Ever since ancient Athens, democracy was contrasted to oligarchy and aristocracy. But since the Cold War and its aftermath, that is not how U.S. politicians have used the term. When an American president uses the word “democracy,” he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies. No matter if a country is a military dictatorship or the government was brought in by a coup (euphemized as a Color Revolution) as in Georgia or Ukraine. A “democratic” government has been re-defined simply as one supporting the Washington Consensus, NATO and the IMF. It is a government that shifts policy-making out of the hands of elected representatives to an “independent” central bank, whose policies are dictated by the oligarchy centered in Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt.

Given this American re-definition of the political vocabulary, when President Obama says that such countries will not suffer coups, violent revolution or terrorism, he means that countries safely within the U.S. diplomatic orbit will be free of destabilization sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and Treasury. Countries whose voters democratically elect a government or regime that acts independently (or even that simply seeks the power to act independently of U.S. directives) will be destabilized, Syria style, Ukraine style or Chile style under General Pinochet. As Henry Kissinger said, just because a country votes in communists doesn’t mean that we have to accept it. It is the style of “color revolutions” sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.

In his United Nations reply, Russian President Putin warned against the “export of democratic revolution,” meaning by the United States in support of its local factotums. ISIL is armed with U.S. weapons and its soldiers were trained by U.S. armed forces. In case there was any doubt, President Obama reiterated before the United Nations that until Syrian President Assad was removed in favor of one more submissive to U.S. oil and military policy, Assad was the major enemy, not ISIL. “It is impossible to tolerate the present situation any longer,” President Putin responded. Likewise in Ukraine. “What I believe is absolutely unacceptable,” he said in his CBS interview on 60 Minutes, “is the resolution of internal political issues in the former USSR Republics, through “color revolutions,” through coup d’états, through unconstitutional removal of power. That is totally unacceptable.”

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Greece had an excellent education system for a very long time. Now that is gone too.

Greek Crisis a Tragedy For Education System (BBC)

When considering the effects of the debt crisis on Greece, most people probably think of long queues outside banks and protests in the streets. A less visible but perhaps further reaching outcome is that Greece’s education system has become one of the most unequal in the developed world. Although education in Greece is free, public schools are suffering from spending cuts imposed as a condition of the bailout agreements. In practice, over the last 30 years it has become increasingly necessary for students to pay for expensive private tuition to pass the famously difficult Panhellenic exams required to get to university. But with unemployment rising and salaries falling, many poor and middle-class families are struggling to pay for this extra tuition.

A World Economic Forum report this month ranked Greece last of 30 advanced economies for education because of the close relationship between students’ performance and their parents’ income. And a professor of law and economics at the University of Athens warns that losing talented students from poor backgrounds is a “national catastrophe” which could hinder Greece’s long-term economic recovery. Greece’s education system was designed around the principle of equality. Article 16 of the constitution guarantees free education at all levels and university admission is decided solely by performance in the nationwide Panhellenic exams. But the low quality of some public education in Greece, and the difficulty of the Panhellenic exams, has led to a parallel education system being set up.

The majority of students in Greece attend private classes called “frontistiria” or one-to-one tuition in evenings and weekends. In 2008, the year before the crisis, families with children in upper secondary education spent more than €950m on these lessons, which represented nearly 20% of these households’ expenditure – more than any other European country. “If a student does not attend frontistirio, he is a dead man for the exams,” said Dimitra Kakampoura, a 22-year-old student who took the Panhellenic exams in 2011.

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“Banks lend to oil exploration companies based on the value of their reserves. But they only audit the value of those reserves every October. Given how much oil prices have tumbled in the past year, many analysts expect banks to greatly reduce in the next month..”

Frackers Could Soon Face Mass Extinction (Fortune)

An analyst says one-third of the companies could be bankrupt by the end of next year. Doomsday may finally be coming to the fracking industry. Despite the big drop in oil prices in the past year, there have been relatively few bankruptcies in the energy industry. That may be about to change. James West, an energy industry analyst at ISI Evercore, says months of low activity have left many of the companies in the hydraulic-fracturing business either insolvent or close to it. He says as many as a third of the fracking companies could go bust by the end of next year. “This holiday will not be a time of cheer in the oil patch,” says West. So far oil and gas exploration companies, while cutting back somewhat, have continued to spend based on budgets set a year ago when oil prices were much higher.

But now West says the price of oil is catching up to them, and they may soon have to drastically cut back their spending on services. The catalyst is the banks. Banks lend to oil exploration companies based on the value of their reserves. But they only audit the value of those reserves every October. Given how much oil prices have tumbled in the past year, many analysts expect banks to greatly reduce in the next month how much they are willing to lend to oil and gas companies. Regulators, worried banks may face losses, have recently been pressuring banks to cut back their lending to oil and gas companies. On Friday, credit ratings firm Standard & Poors reported that its distressed ratio, which measures the%age of corporate borrowers that investors appear nervous may not be able to pay back their debt, had reached the highest level since 2011. The oil and gas sector accounted for the largest number of the distressed borrowers, 95 out of 270.

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Clueless Kiwis.

Chinese Buyers Holding Back On ‘High-End’ New Zealand Property (NZ Herald)

While some Chinese buyers are holding back on buying “high-end” property in Auckland, there is still demand for houses in the medium and lower end of the market, a Chinese-based real estate website says. Juwai.com hasn’t yet finalised its numbers for the third quarter of this year but still expects to see growth. It also predicts a massive increase in overseas investment from Chinese buyers of international property over the next few years. The Auckland housing market is cooling slightly and the boss of the city’s biggest real estate company has said Chinese property investors are disappearing from the auction room. Peter Thompson, of Barfoot and Thompson, attributes the the drop off to financial instability in China. “There are a lot less Chinese in the auction room at the moment and at the open homes,” he told the Herald on Monday.

“The market has changed and some of that is the Chinese buyers. There are more requirements in getting money out of China now and that is having an impact.” Juwai.com’s chief executive Simon Henry said he’d noticed a slow-down at the expensive end of the market. “We have some high-end buyers holding back since China announced a tightening of enforcement on the export of capital. “We haven’t yet crunched the numbers on the third quarter, but we believe they will still show growth over the second quarter,” Mr Henry said. “Mid-market and lower priced properties, like those bought for students, are still in demand.” Changes in the way Chinese investors can export capital were predicted to lead to a huge swell in money flooding into New Zealand, which Mr Henry said was a “good thing”. “It will lead to more than $100 million of new investment in New Zealand property over the medium to long term, as well as new investment in local business and industry.”

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Flip flopping with people’s lives.

Berlin To Curb Refugees As Merkel Faces Backlash (FT)

Berlin on Tuesday agreed measures aimed at curbing an unprecedented surge in migrants, including cuts to cash payments, as a backlash grew over the German government’s handling of the refugee crisis. The new laws are aimed at lifting some of the pressures on overworked local officials and reassuring voters that the government is in control of the migrant problem. Berlin wants the laws to take effect as soon as November. Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under mounting pressure, including from within her own CDU/CSU coalition, since she pledged to set “no upper limit” on the right to asylum and promised to accept all refugees from Syria. Officials expects 800,000 refugees this year, four times more than 2014.

In a surprise development, Joachim Gauck, German president, who is widely viewed as a liberal, on Sunday launched a thinly veiled attack on Ms Merkel’s handling of the crisis, saying: “Our reception capacity is limited even when it has not yet been worked out where these limits lie.” Cash handouts of €143 a month for a single person are seen as making Germany more desirable for migrants than other European states. Refugees will instead receive non-cash benefits, such as food vouchers. Cash payments for living expenses will largely be stopped for asylum-seekers living in official reception centres.

Berlin will also add Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro to a list of countries where would-be refugees can be safely returned in an attempt to staunch inflows of economic migrants from the western Balkans. Failed asylum-seekers will face more rapid removal procedures and big cuts in financial support. However, successful applicants will have quicker access to language courses to improve integration into society and the jobs market. Berlin pledged to double its refugee-linked support for regional and local authorities to 2 billion euros this year, rising to about €4 billion in 2016, assuming refugee inflows of 800,000 annually.

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There are good people everywhere. They’re just not in charge.

Risking Arrest, Thousands Of Hungarians Offer Help To Refugees (NPR)

Driving in rural, southern Hungary, especially at night, you’re likely to see people emerging from dark forests along the side of the road. They trudge along the highway’s narrow shoulder and sometimes flag down passing cars, asking for help. They’re migrants and refugees who’ve entered Hungary by the tens of thousands in recent months, mostly en route to Germany and other northern European countries. But it’s illegal for civilians in Hungary to help them get there. Hungarian law prohibits offering rides — even for free — to people who’ve entered the country illegally and without a visa. Another law grants Hungarian police and military extraordinary powers to search private homes if they suspect someone of harboring illegal migrants.

The laws, passed in stages earlier this year, target human traffickers, and have led to a few high-profile arrests. Back in August, it was in Hungary that 71 Syrian refugees were loaded into a northbound truck. They were found suffocated to death in the same truck, on the side of a highway in Austria, on Aug. 28. Hungarian police arrested four alleged smugglers. But the laws are also making well-intentioned volunteers think twice about helping — because they, too, could be prosecuted, fined or jailed. At a Migration Aid warehouse in downtown Budapest, volunteers stockpile crates of fruit and sleeping bags for refugees. Dozens of Hungarians stop by to help, including Gyorgy Goldschmit, who offers up his own home. His wife and child are going out of town for a few weeks and he says he has room for another family, if needed.

“My family is not going to be there, and I will be there – so it’s obvious that someone could come,” Goldschmit says. But Migration Aid can’t arrange it. Its directors understand Hungarian law. “Maybe they cannot help like this because that would be considered as helping illegally or trafficking,” Goldschmit says. “But I don’t care so much.” Like many Hungarians, Goldschmit is not afraid of prosecution. Thousands are helping. But it’s unclear how many more are dissuaded by these laws. It’s also unclear how aggressively the laws are being enforced. The highest-profile case so far involved a Hungarian man arrested in April after using a local ride-share website, through which fuel costs are shared, to give lifts to refugees.

He was acquitted after a months-long legal battle, but his case served as a well-publicized warning to anyone thinking of transporting migrants. “Basically, if I drive you across [the country] and you don’t have a visa, then I’m liable criminally,” says Marta Pardavi, a human rights lawyer with the Budapest branch of the Helsinki Committee. “We have advised volunteers doing this that there is a risk involved — the risk of a criminal procedure, of having to go to interrogations — and I think that risk is very real.”

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