Feb 142018
 
 February 14, 2018  Posted by at 10:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Times Square, New York 1954

 

The Payback Date For Today’s Economic Recovery Is Getting Closer (WEF/PS)
Big Reset Looms for Corporate Credit Market (WS)
Record $23 Billion Flees World’s Largest ETF (BBG)
Wednesday Could Be a Huge Day for the VIX (BBG)
Europe Has a $1 Trillion Bad-Loan Problem (BBG)
Draghi Faces Impossible Task To Weaken The Euro; He Might Not Even Try (CNBC)
Greek Bond Yields Keep Increasing (K.)
Britons Face Surge In Household Debts In Next Five Years (G.)
The World’s Biggest Housing Bubbles According To UBS (VisualC)
UK House Price Growth Accelerates To 5.2% (Ind.)
First-Time Buyers Hit 10-Year High As Buy-to-let Property Sales Fade (G.)
House Price Flatlining Is A Good Thing, Despite Estate Agents’ Gripes (G.)
Boris Johnson: Stopping Brexit Would Be ‘Disastrous’ (Ind.)

 

 

But nary a soul still sees a payback ahead….

The Payback Date For Today’s Economic Recovery Is Getting Closer (WEF/PS)

In recent days, the initial New Year optimism of many investors may have been jolted by fears of an economic slowdown resulting from interest-rate hikes. But no one should be surprised if the current sharp fall in equity prices is followed by a swift return to bullishness, at least in the short term. Despite the recent slide, the mood supporting stocks remains out of sync with the caution expressed by political leaders. Market participants could easily be forgiven for their early-year euphoria. After a solid 2017, key macroeconomic data – on unemployment, inflation, and consumer and business sentiment – as well as GDP forecasts all indicated that strong growth would continue in 2018. The result – in the United States and across most major economies – has been a rare moment of optimism in the context of the last decade.

For starters, the macro data are positively synchronized and inflation remains tame. Moreover, the IMF’s recent upward revision of global growth data came at precisely the point in the cycle when the economy should be showing signs of slowing. Moreover, stock markets’ record highs are no longer relying so much on loose monetary policy for support. Bullishness is underpinned by evidence of a notable uptick in capital investment. In the US, gross domestic private investment rose 5.1% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2017 and is nearly 90% higher than at the trough of the Great Recession, in the third quarter of 2009. This is emblematic of a deeper resurgence in corporate spending – as witnessed in durable goods orders. New orders for US manufactured durable goods beat expectations, climbing 2.9% month on month to December 2017 and 1.7% in November.

Other data tell a similar story. In 2017, the US Federal Reserve’s Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization index recorded its largest calendar year gain since 2010, increasing 3.6%. In addition, US President Donald Trump’s reiteration of his pledge to seek $1.5 trillion in spending on infrastructure and public capital programs will further bolster market sentiment. All of this bullishness will continue to stand in stark contrast to warnings by many world leaders. In just the last few weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that the current international order is under threat. French President Emmanuel Macron noted that globalization is in the midst of a major crisis, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that the unrest we see around the world is palpable and “isn’t going away.”

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Ne’er a lesson learned: Collateralized Loan Obligations.

Big Reset Looms for Corporate Credit Market (WS)

“Leveraged loans,” extended to junk-rated and highly leveraged companies, are too risky for banks to keep on their books. Banks sell them to loan mutual funds, or they slice-and-dice them into structured Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) and sell them to institutional investors. This way, the banks get the rich fees but slough off the risk to investors, such as asset managers and pension funds. This has turned into a booming market. Issuance has soared. And given the pandemic chase for yield, the risk premium that investors are demanding to buy the highest rated “tranches” of these CLOs has dropped to the lowest since the Financial Crisis. Mass Mutual’s investment subsidiary, Barings, has packaged leveraged loans into a $517-million CLO that is sold in “tranches” of different risk levels.

[..] These floating-rate CLOs are attractive to asset managers in an environment of rising interest rates. If rates rise further, Libor rises in tandem, and investors would be protected against rising rates by the Libor-plus feature of the yields. Libor has surged in near-parallel with the US three-month Treasury yield and on Monday reached 1.83%. So the yield of Barings CLO was 2.82%. While the Libor-plus structure compensates investors for the risk of rising yields and inflation, it does not compensate investors for credit risk!

[..] One of the measures that track whether “financial conditions” are getting “easier” or tighter is the weekly St. Louis Fed Financial Stress Index. In this index, zero represents “normal.” A negative number indicates that financial conditions are easier than “normal”; a positive number indicates that they’re tighter than “normal.” The index, which is made up of 18 components – including six yield spreads, including one based on the 3-month Libor – had dropped to a historic low of -1.6 on November 3, 2017. Despite the Fed’s rate hikes and the accelerating QE Unwind, it has since ticked up only a smidgen and remains firmly in negative territory, at -1.35.

The Financial Stress Index and the two-year Treasury yield usually move roughly in parallel. But since July 2016, about the time the Fed stopped flip-flopping on rate hikes, the two-year yield began rising and more recently spiking, while the Financial Stress Index initially fell. The chart below shows this disconnect between the St. Louis Fed’s Financial Stress Index (red, left scale) and the two-year Treasury yield (black, right scale). Note the tiny rise of the red line over the past few weeks (circled in blue):

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Volatility ain’t done with you yet.

Record $23 Billion Flees World’s Largest ETF (BBG)

Investors actively abandoned the world’s biggest passive fund during the onset of market mayhem. The SPDR S&P 500 exchange-traded fund (ticker SPY) suffered a record $23.6 billion in outflows last week amid the worst momentum swing in history for the underlying U.S. equity benchmark. Outflows amounted to 8% of the fund’s total assets at the start of the week, a rate of withdrawals not seen since August 2010. A blowup in volatility-linked products sent markets haywire, eliciting waves of risk aversion from jittery investors. Strategists at JPMorgan said the swiftness and severity of the positioning unwind is a sign that further selling from the likes of commodity trading advisors and risk parity funds “should be limited from here.”

“The picture we are getting in the U.S. equity ETF space is one of advanced rather than early state de-risking,” they added. The five-session stampede for the exits erased the previous nine weeks of inflows into the fund, which is issued by State Street. The combination of price declines and withdrawals erased $38.6 billion in SPY’s assets. That’s nearly double the second-worst showing of $19.4 billion in asset shrinkage during the week ending Aug. 21, 2015, when China’s surprise devaluation of the yuan roiled markets. Prior to this recent market tumult, extreme enthusiasm for U.S. equities had propelled the fund’s total assets above $300 billion.

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What you say? Volatility?

Wednesday Could Be a Huge Day for the VIX (BBG)

Tomorrow’s VIX options expiration could prove extra volatile for the gauge. The Cboe Volatility Index tends to have bigger swings on days its contracts mature, with intraday moves of 13% on average on the past 12 monthly expirations. That compares with a mean daily fluctuation of 10% in the year through January. Of course, that was before this month, when a record VIX surge on Feb. 5 sent its average intraday move for February to almost 60%. What’s more, the recent market turmoil has led to a surge in the number of VIX contracts, and put open interest almost tripled to a record since the Jan. 17 expiration. Counting puts and calls, there are 15.4 million VIX options outstanding, and 40% of them mature tomorrow. While most stock-index options expire on the third Friday of every month, monthly VIX contracts expire two days earlier, on the Wednesday.

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Wait for rates to rise.

Europe Has a $1 Trillion Bad-Loan Problem (BBG)

For European banks, it’s a headache that just won’t go away: the €944 billion ($1.17 trillion) of non-performing loans that’s weighing down their balance sheets. Economists say the pile of past-due and delinquent debt makes it harder for banks to lend more money, hurting their earnings. European authorities are prodding lenders to sell or wind down non-performing credit, but they’re split on how to tackle the issue, and some investors are disappointed by the pace of progress.

The problem is particularly acute in the countries that were hit hardest by the sovereign debt crisis. Greece, which has yet to exit its bailout program, tops the list of non-performing loans as a share of total credit, while Italy has the biggest pile of bad debt in absolute terms.

Italian banks have fixed goals for shrinking their bad credit levels by selling portfolios or winding down loans. Intesa Sanpaolo, the country’s biggest bank by market value, got a head start on its rivals two years ago and plans to accelerate the reduction of non-performing loans, Chief Executive Officer Carlo Messina said last month. He says other Italian banks “are doing the right job” and should make further progress this year.

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Trumped.

Draghi Faces Impossible Task To Weaken The Euro; He Might Not Even Try (CNBC)

Mario Draghi is facing yet another headache this year as a strong currency threatens to derail his quest to keep prices stable, with many analysts suggesting there’s no easy way out for the president of the ECB. Investors have been flocking to the single currency as the euro zone economy keeps growing and political risks dissipate. However, that could become a problem for the ECB as a stronger currency can mean that European-produced products become pricier and less attractive outside the region. The euro has risen nearly 3% against the U.S. dollar since the start of the year, at a time when the ECB has been assessing how to reduce its monetary stimulus – which aims to increase lending and stoke consumer prices. At the bank’s last press conference in January, Draghi admitted that recent volatility in the exchange rate was a “source of uncertainty.”

The ECB’s primary target has always been inflation and not the exchange rate and Draghi — like many central bankers around the world — has been cautious when speaking of his own currency. However, analysts believe that Draghi wouldn’t be able to talk down the euro, even if he wanted to. “I believe it will be difficult for the ECB to talk the euro down in a very significant manner as it has already pretty much exhausted its preferred expansionary monetary policy instruments which it could use to weaken the currency (rate hikes and QE),” Thu Lan Nguyen at Commerzbank told CNBC via email. “And as the G-20 nations have agreed that they will refrain from manipulating their exchange rates, interventions are not a viable option either. Or even directly talking the euro down for that matter, because other nations would see this as a violation of the agreement as well,” she said.

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As everyone else’s yields rise (often from below zero), Greece is helpless.

Greek Bond Yields Keep Increasing (K.)

Greek bond yields continued to rise Tuesday, increasing worries about the cost of borrowing the country will face once it has to cover all of its financing needs through the market. At the same time Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is adamant that Greece will not need a precautionary credit line and is embarking on a series of contacts in an attempt to attract investor interest. Tsakalotos departed on Tuesday for Paris for meetings with representatives of investment companies, hoping to convince them about the prospects of the Greek economy. He will continue his mission in London on Thursday. He is due back to Athens on Friday. The Greek 10-year bond saw its yield climb further on Tuesday, reaching 4.38% from 4.29% on Monday, while the yield on five-year paper advanced from 3.64% to 3.77% in a day. The 7-year debt yield exceeded 4%, having been sold to investors with a 3.5% yield just last Thursday.

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I shudder to imagine what Britain will look like in 5 years time.

Britons Face Surge In Household Debts In Next Five Years (G.)

Britons will spend almost a third more on their mortgages and other household debts over the next five years, according to new data, sparking fears many may struggle to cope with mounting costs if interest rates rise as predicted. The projection, revealed by a freedom of information request to the Office for Budget Responsibility, found household debt servicing costs were set to climb 29% by 2023, the vast majority of which are likely to be mortgages. The rise may take homeowners by surprise, given that costs fell 9% over the previous five years and also declined as a share of household income by almost a quarter due to historically low interest rates.

The Bank of England has indicated that it plans to raise interest rates from as early as May. On Monday the Resolution Foundation warned it could hit millions of low-income families who have relied on cheap credit. The Bank’s governor, Mark Carney, has said he believes the growing economy, including GDP growth and rising average wages, warrants a rise in interest rates from their low of 0.5%. Labour’s analysis found that an average household would see an increase of £468 in annual debt costs, from £1,983 in 2018 to £2,451 by 2023. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, called the figures “eye-watering increases in the potential costs faced by working families at a time when incomes are being squeezed”.

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Nice series of articles on UK housing. Nice because contradictory.

The World’s Biggest Housing Bubbles According To UBS (VisualC)

If you had $1 billion to spend on safe real estate assets, where would you look to buy? For many funds, financial institutions, and wealthy individuals, the perception is that the world’s financial centers are the places to be. After all, world-class cities like New York, London, and Hong Kong will never go out of style, and their extremely robust and high-density city centers limit the supply of quality assets to buy. But what happens when too many people pile into a “safe” asset? According to UBS, certain cities have seen prices rise at rates that are potentially not sustainable – and eight of these financial centers are at risk of having real estate bubbles that could eventually deflate.

Every year, UBS publishes the Global Real Estate Bubble Index, and the most recent edition shows several key markets in bubble territory. The bank highlights Toronto as the biggest potential bubble risk, noting that real prices have doubled over 13 years, while real rents and real income have only increased 5% and 10% respectively. However, the largest city in Canada was certainly not the only global financial center with real estate appreciating at rapid rates in the last year. In Munich, Toronto, Amsterdam, Sydney and Hong Kong, prices rose more than 10% in the last year alone. Annual increases at a 10% clip would lead to the doubling of prices every seven years, something the bank says is unsustainable.

In the last year, there were three key markets where prices did not rise: London, Milan, and Singapore. London is particularly notable, since it holds more millionaires than any other city in the world and is rated as the #1 financial center globally.

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Article above: Prices did not rise in London. Article below: they did.

UK House Price Growth Accelerates To 5.2% (Ind.)

UK house price growth accelerated to 5.2% in the year to December, new official data shows. That was a rise from 5% in the twelve months to November. The jump exceeds rises in average wages, prompting experts to warn of a further strain on affordability. The average UK house price hit £227,000 in December 2017, up £1,000 from the previous month and £12,000 higher than in December 2016. The house price index compiled by the Office for National Statistics and the Land Registry shows Scotland and the South-west experienced the highest annual house price growth, registering 7.7% and 7.5% respectively.

Average prices in England rose 5% in the year, to £244,000 while Wales saw house prices increase by 5.4% over the last 12 months to stand at £154,000. Growth in Northern Ireland was slightly more subdued, with the average price rising 4.3% to £130,000. Richard Snook, a senior economist at PwC, said the overall UK rise was above his projection made at the start of 2017. [..] “In terms of regional trends, London prices showed a slight recovery from the sharp fall in November so the picture is one of a market that has plateaued since the summer. London prices are just 2.5% above their level a year ago.

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And first time buyers rise. That’s supposed to be a good thing.

First-Time Buyers Hit 10-Year High As Buy-to-let Property Sales Fade (G.)

The number of first-time buyers hit the highest level for a decade in 2017 while lending for buy-to-let has gone into retreat, according to official figures. A total of 365,000 buyers took ownership of their first home last year, an increase of 7.4% on 2016 and the highest number since 2006, said UK Finance, the trade body for Britain’s banks. Its data showed that the average first-time buyer was 30 and had an income of £41,000. Property experts said the government’s help-to-buy programme plus lower deposit and cheap mortgage deals propelled first-time buyers in 2017. But in a sign that the boom may be waning, the figures for December show the number slipped compared with the same month last year. The slowdown comes despite the stamp duty cut in the November budget, which is expected to save four out of five first-time buyers up to £5,000.

The raft of tax measures on buy-to-let introduced last year has sent the sector swiftly into retreat. There were 5,300 new buy-to-let house purchase mortgages completed in December, 17.2% fewer than in the same month a year earlier. Paul Smee, of UK Finance, said: “2017 saw the number of first-time buyers reach its highest level in a decade, which is welcome news for those getting started on the housing ladder. “But although the market remains competitive there is no room for complacency, with weaker December figures consistent with our market forecast of subdued growth this year. [..] Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that house price inflation in 2017 was 5.2%, taking the price of a typical UK home to £226,760.

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OK, we’ve had rising prices and falling prices. Flatlining is door no. 3.

House Price Flatlining Is A Good Thing, Despite Estate Agents’ Gripes (G.)

Over the past year the rate of house price inflation has fallen while the number of first-time buyers has risen to its highest level since 2006. These two facts are connected: the reason young people have become renters rather than owner-occupiers is that property became expensive. Property has become so dear that the average first-time buyer is now 30 years old and has a salary of £41,000 a year. Owner-occupation rates have fallen from 70% to 63% over the past decade and it is not difficult to see why. Ultra-low interest rates mean that it has never been cheaper to service a mortgage, but that doesn’t matter all that much when the price of a home relative to incomes is so high.

For those who want to buy their own home, the good news is that house-price inflation will be modest in 2018. Earnings growth is still around 2.5%; the Bank of England is warning that interest rates are likely to go up faster and by more than previously expected; and tax changes that have helped cause a 17% annual drop in buy-to-let purchases in the year to December are going to become more stringent in April. House prices would already be falling were it not for the fact that interest rates and unemployment are low. It was the combination of 15% interest rates and a doubling of the jobless total that caused the property-price collapse of the early 1990s, and a repeat of that looks highly improbable because of a (welcome) lack of distressed sellers.

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For his career.

Boris Johnson: Stopping Brexit Would Be ‘Disastrous’ (Ind.)

Boris Johnson will say he fears people are becoming “even more determined” in their efforts to stop Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU), as he sets out in a major speech what allies claim is a liberal vision of Brexit. The Foreign Secretary’s Valentine’s Day address – entitled the Road to Brexit – will be the first in a series of set pieces from Cabinet ministers and preludes Theresa May’s address in Germany this weekend. At a central London location, Mr Johnson will say he fears that some are becoming “even more determined” to stop Brexit and “frustrate the will of the people”.

“I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal,” Mr Johnson will say. “We cannot and will not let it happen.” “But if we are to carry this project through to national success – as we must – then we must reach out to those who still have anxieties. “I want to try today to anatomise at least some of those fears and to show to the best of my ability that they are unfounded, and that the very opposite is usually true: that Brexit is not grounds for fear but hope.”

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Oct 062015
 
 October 6, 2015  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC US Geological Survey fire, F Street NW, Washington DC 1913

In America, It’s Expensive To Be Poor (Economist)
Morgan Stanley Predicts Up To A 25% Collapse in Q3 FICC Revenue (Zero Hedge)
Bill Gross Sees Stocks Plunge Another 10%, Urges Flight to Cash (Bloomberg)
Treasury Auction Sees US Join 0% Club First Time Ever (FT)
Big US Firms Hold $2.1 Trillion Overseas To Avoid Taxes (Reuters)
Lower Interest Rates Hurt Consumers: Deutsche Bank (Bloomberg)
Bernanke Says ‘Not Obvious’ Economy Can Handle Interest Rates At 1% (MarketWatch)
UK Finance Chiefs Signal Sharp Fall In Risk Appetite (FT)
Commodity Collapse Has More to Go as Goldman to Citi See Losses (Bloomberg)
Emerging Market ETF Outflows Double as Losses Hit $12.4 Billion (Bloomberg)
China’s Slowing Demand Burns Gas Giants (WSJ)
BP’s Record Oil Spill Settlement Rises to More Than $20 Billion (Bloomberg)
Glencore Urges Rivals To Shut Lossmaking Mines (FT)
Norway Seen Tapping Its Wealth Fund to Ward Off Oil Slump Risks (Bloomberg)
South East Asia Economic Woes Test Built-Up Reserves, Defenses (Reuters)
Samsung Seen Tapping $55 Billion Cash Pile for Share Buyback (Bloomberg)
German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall in Sign of Economic Risk (Bloomberg)
Top EU Court Says US-EU Data Transfer Deal Is Invalid (Reuters)
US, Japan And 10 Countries Strike Pacific Trade Deal (FT)
TPP Trade Deal Text Won’t Be Made Public For Four Years (Ind.)
Air France Workers Rip Shirts From Executives After 2,900 Jobs Cut (Guardian)
Nearly A Third Of World’s Cacti Face Extinction (Guardian)

“In 2014 nearly half of American households said they could not cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing or selling something..”

In America, It’s Expensive To Be Poor (Economist)

When Ken Martin, a hat-seller, pays his monthly child-support bill, he uses a money order rather than writing a cheque. Money orders, he says, carry no risk of going overdrawn, which would incur a $40 bank fee. They cost $7 at the bank. At the post office they are only $1.25 but getting there is inconvenient. Despite this, while he was recently homeless, Mr Martin preferred to sleep on the streets with hundreds of dollars in cash—the result of missing closing time at the post office—rather than risk incurring the overdraft fee. The hefty charge, he says, “would kill me”. Life is expensive for America’s poor, with financial services the primary culprit, something that also afflicts migrants sending money home (see article). Mr Martin at least has a bank account.

Some 8% of American households—and nearly one in three whose income is less than $15,000 a year—do not (see chart). More than half of this group say banking is too expensive for them. Many cannot maintain the minimum balance necessary to avoid monthly fees; for others, the risk of being walloped with unexpected fees looms too large. Doing without banks makes life costlier, but in a routine way. Cashing a pay cheque at a credit union or similar outlet typically costs 2-5% of the cheque’s value. The unbanked often end up paying two sets of fees—one to turn their pay cheque into cash, another to turn their cash into a money order—says Joe Valenti of the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank.

In 2008 the Brookings Institution, another think-tank, estimated that such fees can accumulate to $40,000 over the career of a full-time worker. Pre-paid debit cards are growing in popularity as an alternative to bank accounts. The Mercator Advisory Group, a consultancy, estimates that deposits on such cards rose by 5% to $570 billion in 2014. Though receiving wages or benefits on pre-paid cards is cheaper than cashing cheques, such cards typically charge plenty of other fees. Many states issue their own pre-paid cards to dispense welfare payments. As a result, those who do not live near the right bank lose out, either from ATM withdrawal charges or from a long trek to make a withdrawal. Other terms can rankle; in Indiana, welfare cards allow only one free ATM withdrawal a month. If claimants check their balance at a machine it costs 40 cents. (Kansas recently abandoned, at the last minute, a plan to limit cash withdrawals to $25 a day, which would have required many costly trips to the cashpoint.)

To access credit, the poor typically rely on high-cost payday lenders. In 2013 the median such loan was $350, lasted two weeks and carried a charge of $15 per $100 borrowed—an interest rate of 322% (a typical credit card charges 15%). Nearly half those who borrowed using payday loans did so more than ten times in 2013, with the median borrower paying $458 in fees. In 2014 nearly half of American households said they could not cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing or selling something; 2% said this would cause them to resort to payday lending.

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Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity.

Morgan Stanley Predicts Up To A 25% Collapse in Q3 FICC Revenue (Zero Hedge)

With the third quarter earnings season on deck, in which S&P500 EPS are now expected to post a 5.1% decline (versus a forecast -1.0% decline as of three months ago), it is common knowledge that the biggest culprit will be Energy companies, currently expected to suffer a 65% Y/Y collapse in EPS. What is less known is that the earnings weakness is far more widespread than just the Energy sector, touching on more than half of all sectors with Materials, Industrials, Staples, Utilities and even Info Tech all expected to see EPS declines: this despite what will likely be a record high in stock buyback activity. However, of all sectors the one which may pose the biggest surprise to investors is financials: it is here that Q3 (and Q4) earnings estimates have hardly budged, and as of September 30 are expected to rise by 10% compared to Q3 2014.

This may prove to be a stretch according to Morgan Stanley whose Huw van Steenis is seeing nothing short of a bloodbath in banking revenues, with the traditionally strongest performer, Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity set for a tumble as much as 25%, to wit: “we think FICC may be down 10- 25% YoY (FX up, Rates sluggish, Credit soft), Equities marginally up but IBD also down 10-20%. The reason for this: the double whammy of the ongoing commodity crunch as well as the collapse in fixed income trading, coupled with the lack of major moves across the FX space where the biggest beneficiary, now that bank manipulation cartels have been put out of business, are Virtu’s algos.

To be sure, if Jefferies – which as we previously reported suffered one of its worst FICC quarters in history, and actually posted negative revenues after massive writedown on energy holdings in its prop book – is any indication, Morgan Stanley’s Q3 forecast may be overly optimistic. For the full 2015, the picture hardly gets any better: “In 2015, we see industry revenues going sideways – slowing after a strong Q1. Overall we see FICC down ~3% on 2014, Equities up ~8% and IBD down ~6%. Overall we expect top line revenues to be flattish in 2015. In constant currency, it would be a little better for Europeans. But below this, there is a huge competitive battle afoot as all firms vie for share to drive profits on the cost base.”

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Why stop at 10%?

Bill Gross Sees Stocks Plunge Another 10%, Urges Flight to Cash (Bloomberg)

Bill Gross, who in January predicted that many asset classes would end the year lower, said U.S. equities have another 10% to fall and investors should sit out the current volatility in cash. The whipsaw market reaction to the lackluster U.S. jobs report last week shows that markets, especially stocks, high-yield bonds and some emerging market debt, are trading like a casino, Gross said in an interview on Friday. He was speaking from a cruise ship which had taken shelter near New York City amid stormy weather over the Atlantic. Gross, who earlier made prescient calls on German bunds and Chinese equities, said U.S. stocks will drop another 10% because economic conditions don’t support a rally like in 2013, when corporate profits were going up.

Today they are flat-lining and low commodity prices are hurting energy companies, said the manager of the $1.4 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. “More negative numbers lie ahead and if you define a bear market by a 20% correction, at some point – that’s 6 to 12 months – we’ll have a classic definition of a bear market, meaning another 10% downside,” he said. Just as New York City was the safe harbor for Hurricane Joaquin, Gross said, cash is the best bet until investors get a better view at what the Federal Reserve and the economy are going to do. “Cash doesn’t yield anything but it doesn’t lose anything,’’ so sitting it out and making 25 to 50 basis points in commercial paper compared to 4% to 5% in risk assets is not that much of a penalty, he said. “Investors need cold water splashed on their face and sit out the dance.”

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Bottom. Race.

Treasury Auction Sees US Join 0% Club First Time Ever (FT)

For the first time ever, investors on Monday parked cash for three months at the US Treasury in return for a yield of 0%. The $21bn sale of zero-yielding three-month Treasury bills brings the US closer into line with its rich-world peers. Finland, Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan have all auctioned five-year debt offering investors negative yields. As Alberto Gallo at RBS said in February, “negative yielding bonds are the fastest growing asset class in Europe”. Demand for the US issue was the highest since June, reflecting belief — stoked by Friday’s weak jobs report — that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at basement levels throughout 2015. David Bianco, strategist at Deutsche Bank, said the window for a “2015 lift-off” has been slammed shut. “We see a better chance of landing men on Mars before a full normalisation of nominal and real interest rates,” he wrote.

US Treasury debt is a haven asset, attracting hordes of investors whenever there is a flight to safety. Monday’s auction, however, occurred alongside the S&P 500 rallying 1.8%, a fifth straight gain. Also on Monday, the US auctioned six-month bills yielding 0.065%, the lowest in 11 months. The zero-yielding bond was anticipated in the secondary market, where investors trade outstanding bonds. The yield on bonds maturing on January 8 turned negative on September 21 and now yield -0.008%. In the swaps market, the chances that the Fed will lift rates at its October 28 meeting are just 10%. Just before the last meeting, the odds of a lift were placed at one-in-three. Before the financial crisis, three-month Treasury paper routinely paid investors more than 4%. But yields at the weekly auctions have been less than 0.2% at every auction since April 2009, reflecting the Fed’s suppression of interest rates. Until Monday the record low was 0.005%.

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All legal. “..would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds..”

Big US Firms Hold $2.1 Trillion Overseas To Avoid Taxes (Reuters)

The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds, according to a study released on Tuesday. The study, by two left-leaning non-profit groups, found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The Center for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund used the companies’ own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions.

Technology firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three overseas tax havens, the study said. The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft is holding $108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries and drug company Pfizer is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries, the study said. “At least 358 companies, nearly 72% of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014,” the study said. “All told these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.”

Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid taxes, with just 30 of the firms accounting for $1.4 trillion of that amount, or 65%, the study found. Fifty-seven of the companies disclosed that they would expect to pay a combined $184.4 billion in additional U.S. taxes if their profits were not held offshore. Their filings indicated they were paying about 6% in taxes overseas, compared to a 35% U.S. corporate tax rate, it said.

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You don’t say…

Lower Interest Rates Hurt Consumers: Deutsche Bank (Bloomberg)

Central banks the world over have reduced interest rates more than 500 times since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. But a crucial part of their thesis on how lower rates are supposed to help spur economic activity may be off the mark, according to strategists at Deutsche Bank. Cutting interest rates in response to a deteriorating outlook is thought to work through a variety of channels to help support the economy. Lower rates are supposed to encourage households to borrow and businesses to invest, while ceteris paribus, the softening in the domestic currency that accompanies a reduction in rates also makes the country’s goods and services more competitive on the global stage.

Most questions raised about the broken transmission mechanism from central bank accommodation to the real economy have centered on the efficacy of quantitative easing. But Deutsche’s team, led by chief global strategist Bankim “Binky” Chadha, contends that the commonly accepted link between traditional stimulus and household spending doesn’t have the net effect monetary policymakers think it does. This assertion comes about as a byproduct of the strategists’ investigation into what drives the U.S. household savings rate, which has largely been on the decline for a number of decades.

First, the strategists make the inference that the purpose of household savings is to accumulate wealth. If this holds, then it logically follows that in the event of a faster-than-expected increase in wealth, households will feel less of a need to save because they’ve made progress in collecting a sufficient amount of assets that allows them to enjoy their retirement, pass it down to their children, and so on. Chadha & Co. argue that wealth is therefore the driver of the U.S. savings rate. As this rises, the savings rate tends to fall: “The savings rate has been very strongly negatively correlated (-86%) with the value of gross assets scaled by the size of the economy, i.e., the ratio of household assets to nominal GDP which we use as our proxy for wealth, over the last 65 years,” wrote Chadha.

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So it’s on life-support.

Bernanke Says ‘Not Obvious’ Economy Can Handle Interest Rates At 1% (MarketWatch)

Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday that he was not sure the economy could handle four quarter-point rate hikes. Some economists and Fed officials argue that the U.S. central bank should hike rates now to anticipate inflation. That argument assumes the Fed can raise rates 100 basis points and it wouldn’t hurt anything, Bernanke said. ”That is not obvious, I don’t think everybody would agree to that,” he added in an interview with CNBC. Higher rates could “kill U.S. exports with a very strong dollar,” he said. Bernanke said the “mediocre” September employment report is a “negative” for the U.S. central bank’s plan to begin hiking rates in 2015, as a strengthening labor market was the key conditions for the Fed to be confident inflation was moving higher.

Bernanke said he would not second-guess Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, saying only that his successor faced “tough” calls. He said the two do not speak on the phone. Bernanke said interest rates at zero was not “radically easy” policy stance as some have suggested. He said he did not take seriously arguments that zero rates was creating an uncertain environment was holding down business investment Bernanke defended his policies, noting the steady decline in the unemployment rate in recent years. He said that the slower overall pace of GDP since the Great Recession was due to a downturn in productivity and other issues outside the purview of monetary policy. “I am not saying things are great, I don’t mean to say that at all,” he said.,.

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No kidding.

UK Finance Chiefs Signal Sharp Fall In Risk Appetite (FT)

The optimism and risk appetite of those in charge of the UK’s corporate finances has deteriorated sharply over the past three months. “Softening demand in emerging economies, greater financial market volatility and higher levels of risk aversion make for a more challenging backdrop for the UK’s largest businesses,” said David Sproul, chief executive of Deloitte. A Deloitte survey – of 122 chief financial officers of FTSE 350 and other large private UK companies – showed that perceptions of uncertainty were at a two-and-a-half year high, and had risen at the sharpest rate since the question was first put five years ago. Three-quarters of CFOs said the level of financial economic uncertainty was either “very high”, “high” or “above normal”, marking a return to the level last seen in the second quarter of 2013.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said sentiment at large companies was heavily influenced by the global environment, especially by news flow and the performance of equity markets. “In both areas good news has been in short supply of late: UK equities down 16% from their April peaks; US institutional investor optimism at 2009 levels; financial market volatility up sharply and more downgrades to emerging market growth forecasts,” he said. But he added that CFOs were positive about the state of the UK economy. Instead, their biggest concerns were of imminent interest rate rises and of weakness in emerging market economies, particularly China. A year ago, corporate risk appetite was at a seven-year high. Now a minority of CFOs — 47% — felt that it was a good time to take risk on to their balance sheet, down from 59% in the second quarter of 2015.

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A lot more.

Commodity Collapse Has More to Go as Goldman to Citi See Losses (Bloomberg)

Even with commodities mired in the worst slump in a generation, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are warning bulls that prices may stay lower for years. Crude oil and copper are unlikely to rebound because of excess supplies, Goldman predicts, and Morgan Stanley forecasts that weaker currencies in producing countries will encourage robust output of raw materials sold for dollars, even during bear markets. Citigroup says the sluggish world economy makes it “hard to argue” that most prices have already bottomed. The Bloomberg Commodity Index on Sept. 30 capped its worst quarterly loss since the depths of the recession in 2008. The economy in China, the biggest consumer of grains, energy and metals, is expanding at the slowest pace in two decades just as producers struggle to ease surpluses.

Alcoa, once a symbol of American industrial might, plans to split itself in two, while Chesapeake Energy cut its workforce by 15%. Caterpillar may shed 10,000 jobs as demand slows for mining and energy equipment. “It would take a brave soul to wade in with both feet into commodities,” Brian Barish at Denver-based Cambiar Investors. “There is far more capacity coming on than there is demand physically. And the only way that you fix the problem is to basically shut capacity in, and you do that by starving commodity producers for capital.” Investors are already bailing. Open interest in raw materials, which measures holdings of futures and options, fell for a fourth month in September, the longest streak since 2008, government data show.

U.S. exchange-traded products tracking metals, energy and agriculture saw net withdrawals of $467.8 million for the month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Bloomberg Commodity Index, a measure of returns for 22 components, is poised for a fifth straight annual loss, the longest slide since the data begins in 1991. It’s a reversal from the previous decade, when booming growth across Asia fueled a synchronized surge in prices, dubbed the commodity super cycle. Farmers, miners and oil drillers expanded supplies, encouraged by prices that were at record highs in 2008. Now, that output is coming to the market just as global growth is slowing.

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The dollar comes home.

Emerging Market ETF Outflows Double as Losses Hit $12.4 Billion (Bloomberg)

Outflows from U.S. exchange-traded funds that invest in emerging markets more than doubled last week, with redemptions exceeding $12 billion in the third quarter. Taiwan led the losses in the five days ended Oct. 2. Withdrawals from emerging-market ETFs that invest across developing nations as well as those that target specific countries totaled $566.1 million compared with outflows of $262.1 million in the previous week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Stock funds lost $483.5 million and bond funds declined by $82.5 million. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index advanced 1.9% in the week. The losses marked the 13th time in 14 weeks that investors withdrew money from emerging market ETFs and left the funds down $12.4 billion for the quarter, the most since the first quarter of 2014, when outflows reached $12.7 billion.

For September, emerging market ETFs suffered $1.9 billion of withdrawals. The biggest change last week was in Taiwan, where funds shrank by $93.3 million, compared with $19.9 million of redemptions the previous week. All the withdrawals came from stock funds, while bond funds remained unchanged. The Taiex advanced 2.1%. The Taiwan dollar strengthened 0.2% against the dollar and implied three-month volatility is 8.5%. Brazil had the next-biggest change, with ETF investors redeeming $68.7 million, compared with $12.8 million of inflows the previous week. Stock funds fell by $64.1 million and bond ETFs declined by $4.6 million. The Ibovespa Index gained 4.9%. The real appreciated 1.1% against the dollar and implied three-month volatility is 24%.

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They’ve all been overinvesting by a wide margin.

China’s Slowing Demand Burns Gas Giants (WSJ)

The energy industry overestimated just how much natural gas China needs, and global oil-and-gas companies risk paying a heavy price. When China’s economy hummed along a few years ago, energy companies from Australia to Canada bet its demand for natural gas would grow fast. They spent billions of dollars on promising fields, with plans to freeze the gas into liquid, called LNG, and load it on tankers to sell to energy-starved Asian buyers at a premium. China was “always seen as the kind of wonder market that was going to grow and need so much LNG,” said Howard Rogers of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and a former gas executive at BP. “People got somewhat carried away.”

Recent data paints a grimmer picture. Chinese LNG imports are down 3.5% this year, compared with a 10% rise in 2014. Total gas consumption grew about 2% in the first half, a turnabout from double-digit growth in recent years. Natural gas is an extreme example of how China’s slowing economy has contributed to a global commodities crash. Producers of raw materials from aluminum to iron ore made heady bets on Chinese demand. So far, many are being proven wrong. The downturn is sparking an industrywide recalibration. Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie slashed its China gas-demand forecast by about 15% to 360 billion cubic meters by 2020.

Globally, the market faces 25 million tons of LNG oversupply by 2018, says Citi Research—more than China imported all of last year. If all the projects being constructed, planned and proposed today came to fruition, the market would face around one-third more capacity than it needs by 2025, Citi estimates. “We’re already seeing China cannot absorb all the gas that is thrown at it—that it’s choking on gas somewhat at the moment,” said Gavin Thompson, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie. Northeast Asia spot LNG prices have fallen to less than $8 per million metric British thermal units from over $14 last fall, according to pricing agency Platts. U.S. Henry Hub prices are under $3 per mmBtu versus around $4 a year ago.

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Just civil claims.

BP’s Record Oil Spill Settlement Rises to More Than $20 Billion (Bloomberg)

The value of BP’s settlement with the U.S. government and five Gulf states over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill rose to $20.8 billion in the latest tally of costs from the U.S. Department of Justice. The settlement is the largest in the department’s history and resolves the government’s civil claims under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, as well as economic damage claims from regional authorities, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement Monday. The pact is designed “to not only compensate for the damages and provide for a way forward for the health and safety of the Gulf, but let other companies know they are going to be responsible for the harm that occurs should accidents like this happen in the future,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters at a briefing in Washington.

BP’s total settlement cost of $18.7 billion announced in July didn’t include some reimbursements, interest payments and committed expenditures for early restoration of damages to natural resources. The London-based company has set aside a total of $53.7 billion to pay for the disaster in 2010, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The announcement Monday includes $700 million for injuries and losses related to the spill that aren’t yet known, $232 million of which was announced earlier. It also adds $350 million for the reimbursement of assessment costs and $250 million related to the cost of responding to the spill, lost royalties and to resolve a False Claims Act investigation, according to a consent decree filed by the Justice Department at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

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“..prices did not reflect supply and demand because of “distortions” in the market.” True, but not in the way he means.

Glencore Urges Rivals To Shut Lossmaking Mines (FT)

Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg stepped up his defence of the under-fire miner and trading house on Monday, calling on rivals to shut unprofitable mines and blaming hedge funds for pushing down commodity prices. Shares in the London-listed company, which have been the worst performer in the FTSE 100 this year falling by almost two-thirds, rallied as much as 21% in the wake of his comments and as analysts said that a recent sell-off and comparisons to Lehman Brothers were “overblown”. Glencore shares are now back above 100p and have recouped all of the losses sustained last week during a one-day sell-off that wiped out almost a third of the company’s equity.

However, the stock remains highly volatile – it has risen 68% in five trading sessions – and is significantly below its 2011 flotation price of 530p. The Switzerland-based company was forced to put out a statement early on Monday after its Hong Kong shares surged more than 70% following a speculative report that said it was open to takeover offers. Glencore’s statement said there was no reason for the share price surge. Insiders at the company said any publicly listed company was for sale at the right price, but dismissed talk of an approach or management buyout.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Financial Times Africa Summit in London, Mr Glasenberg refused to comment on the recent wild swings in Glencore’s share price, but said the company was focused on completing its $10 billion debt reduction plan, which could knock a third off its net debt pile by the end of next year. Mr Glasenberg focused on copper – Glencore’s most important mined commodity – arguing that prices did not reflect supply and demand because of “distortions” in the market. Glencore has been scrambling to reassure investors and creditors and silence its critics who claim that the company will struggle to manage its $30 billion of net debt if commodity prices do not recover quickly.

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Dutch disease.

Norway Seen Tapping Its Wealth Fund to Ward Off Oil Slump Risks (Bloomberg)

For Norway, the future may already be here. The nation could as soon as next year start making withdrawals from its massive $830 billion sovereign wealth fund, which it has built over the past two decades as a nest egg for “future generations.” The minority government will reveal its budget plans on Wednesday and has flagged new spending measures and tax cuts. Prime Minister Erna Solberg is trying to avoid a recession as a slump in the nation’s key commodity takes its toll on the $500 billion oil-reliant economy. Norway has already spent recent years using a growing chunk of its oil revenue to plug deficits while at the same time building the wealth fund. Now, with tax revenue from petroleum extraction down 42% on last year, budget spending in 2016 will probably outstrip income.

“We have reached a point where we will from now on see that the oil-corrected balance will be above the cash flow – that’s based on oil prices increasing slowly in the future,” said Kyrre Aamdal, senior economist at DNB ASA in Oslo. Tapping the fund’s returns marks a turning point that wasn’t expected to come for “several more years,” he said. The government said in May its non-oil budget deficit, or spending in real terms, would be a record 180.9 billion kroner ($21.6 billion). With its crude output waning and prices falling, the government saw petroleum income dropping to 251.6 billion kroner this year, almost 30% lower than its October projections. Those estimates assumed oil at about $69 a barrel. Brent crude has averaged $56 so far this year.

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Dollar-denominated debt.

South East Asia Economic Woes Test Built-Up Reserves, Defenses (Reuters)

Southeast Asia has spent the best past of two decades shoring defenses against a repeat of the Asian financial crisis, including building up record foreign exchange reserves, yet is now feeling vulnerable to speculative attacks again. Officials are growing increasingly concerned as souring sentiment has made currencies slide and investors reassess risk profiles in an environment where China is slowing and U.S. interest rates will rise at some point. And while economists have long dismissed comparisons with the 1997/98 currency crisis, pointing to freer exchange rates, current-account surpluses, lower external debt and stricter oversight by regulators, lately there has been a change.

Malaysia and Indonesia, which export oil and other commodities to fuel China’s factories, are looking vulnerable as the world’s second-largest economy heads for its slowest growth in 25 years and the prices of their commodity exports plunge. “We are worried about the contagion effect,” Indonesian Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said last week, using a word widely used in 1997/98. In 1997, “the thing happened first in Thailand through the baht, not the rupiah. But the contagion effect became widespread,” he added. Taimur Baig, Deutsche Bank’s chief Asia economist, said that unlike 1997, when pegged currencies were attacked as over-valued, today’s floating ones are “weakening willingly” in response to outflows. But there can still be contagion, as markets lump together economies reliant on China or on commodities.

“If you see a sell-off in Brazil, that can easily spread to Indonesia, which can spread to Malaysia, and so on,” he said. Foreign funds have sold a net $9.7 billion of stocks in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia this year, with the bourses in those three countries seeing Asia’s largest net outflows, Nomura said on Oct. 2. Baig said that as in 1997/98, falling currencies will naturally pose balance-sheet problems for companies with dollar debts and local-currency earnings. This year, Malaysia’s ringgit MYR= has fallen nearly 20% against the dollar and its reserves dropped by about the same%age, to below $100 billion. “It’s almost like a perfect storm for Malaysia,” the country’s economic planning minister, Abdul Wahid Omar, said.

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Because their new phones don’t sell.

Samsung Seen Tapping $55 Billion Cash Pile for Share Buyback (Bloomberg)

Investors in Samsung Electronics are watching their holdings plunge as new Galaxy smartphones get a lukewarm public response. With $55 billion in cash, the company may be poised to offer consolation. Analysts expect the world’s biggest smartphone maker to buy back shares as early as this month in an effort to return some value to stockholders. Removing more than $1 billion of stock from the market could prompt shares to rally by as much as 20%, according to the top-ranked analyst covering Samsung, potentially erasing their declines this year. Samsung has lost about $22 billion in market value – roughly equivalent to a Nintendo – this year as sales of the S6 and Note 5 devices sputter against new models from Apple and Chinese makers.

A buyback would be just the second in eight years and may take the sting out of sliding market share and sales projected to hit their lowest since 2011. “A share buyback should happen anytime now because the earnings haven’t been performing well,” said Dongbu Securities Co.’s Yoo Eui Hyung, who tops Bloomberg Absolute Return rankings for his calls on Samsung Electronics. Suwon-based Samsung is scheduled to release third-quarter operating profit and sales estimates Wednesday. That three-month period was marked by price cuts for the S6 and curved-screen S6 Edge phones just months after their debuts. Analysts expect profit of 6.7 trillion won in the period ended September.

While that is up from 4.1 trillion won a year earlier, it’s 34% below a record 10.2 trillion won two years ago. Net income and details of division earnings will be released later this month. Shares of Samsung rose 3.2% to 1,151,000 won in Seoul, paring this year’s decline to 13%. A stock repurchase also would help the founding Lees tighten their grip on the crown jewel of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate since the family typically doesn’t sell stock in a buyback, Yoo said. Vice Chairman Lee Jae Yong, the heir apparent, and his relatives control Samsung Group through a web of cross shareholdings with less than 10% of total shares.

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Before VW.

German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall in Sign of Economic Risk (Bloomberg)

German factory orders unexpectedly fell in August in a sign that Europe’s largest economy is vulnerable to weaker growth in China and other emerging markets. Orders, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, dropped 1.8% after decreasing a revised 2.2% in July, data from the Economy Ministry in Berlin showed on Tuesday. The typically volatile number compares with a median estimate of a 0.5% increase in a Bloomberg survey. Orders rose 1.9% from a year earlier. A China-led slowdown in emerging markets that threatens Germany’s export-oriented economy is exacerbated by an emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG that could affect as many as 11 million cars globally. Still, business confidence unexpectedly increased in September as the economy benefited from strengthening domestic demand on the back of record employment, rising wages and low inflation.

Excluding big-ticket items, orders dropped 2.1% in August, the Economy Ministry said in a statement. Domestic factory orders declined 2.6% as demand for investment goods slumped. The drop in orders was exaggerated by school holidays, it said. A bright spot was the rest of the euro area, where demand for capital goods jumped. Waning Chinese industrial demand has prompted Henkel AG to announce the removal of 1,200 jobs at its adhesives unit as it adapts capacity. While the brunt of the layoffs will be borne in Asia, 250 jobs will be cut in Europe and 100 in Germany. August factory orders don’t yet reflect the impact of VW’s cheating on U.S. emissions tests revealed last month. Chairman-designate Hans Dieter Poetsch warned that the scandal could pose “an existence-threatening crisis” for Europe’s largest carmaker.

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“..EU laws that prohibit data-sharing with countries deemed to have lower privacy standards, of which the United States is one…”

Top EU Court Says US-EU Data Transfer Deal Is Invalid (Reuters)

A system enabling data transfers from the European Union to the United States by thousands of companies is invalid, the highest European Union court said on Tuesday in a landmark ruling that will leave firms scrambling to find alternative measures. “The Court of Justice declares that the Commission’s U.S. Safe Harbor Decision is invalid,” it said in a statement. The decision could sound the death knell for the Safe Harbor framework set up fifteen years ago to help companies on both sides of the Atlantic conduct everyday business but which has come under heavy fire following 2013 revelations of mass U.S. snooping. Without Safe Harbor, personal data transfers are forbidden, or only allowed via costlier and more time-consuming means, under EU laws that prohibit data-sharing with countries deemed to have lower privacy standards, of which the United States is one.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said that U.S. companies are “bound to disregard, without limitation,” the privacy safeguards provided in Safe Harbor where they come into conflict with the national security, public interest and law enforcement requirements of the United States. Revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of the so-called Prism program allowing U.S. authorities to harvest private information directly from big tech companies such as Apple, Facebook (FB.O) and Google prompted Austrian law student Max Schrems to try to halt data transfers to the United States. Schrems challenged Facebook’s transfers of European users’ data to its U.S. servers because of the risk of U.S. snooping.

As Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland, he filed his complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. The case eventually wound its way up to the Luxembourg-based ECJ, which was asked to rule on whether national data privacy watchdogs could unilaterally suspend the Safe Harbor framework if they had concerns about U.S. privacy safeguards. In declaring the data transfer deal invalid, the Court said the Irish data protection authority had to the power to investigate Schrems’ complaint and subsequently decide whether to suspend Facebook’s data transfers to the United States. “This is extremely bad news for EU-U.S. trade,” said Richard Cumbley, Global Head of technology, media and telecommunications at law firm Linklaters. “Without Safe Harbor, (businesses) will be scrambling to put replacement measures in place.”

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Democracy it ain’t.

US, Japan And 10 Countries Strike Pacific Trade Deal (FT)

The US, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations have struck the largest trade pact in two decades, in a huge strategic and political victory for US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Trans-Pacific Partnership covers 40% of the global economy and will create a Pacific economic bloc with reduced trade barriers to the flow of everything from beef and dairy products to textiles and data, and with new standards and rules for investment, the environment and labour. The deal represents the economic backbone of the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia, which is designed to counter the rise of China in the Pacific and beyond. It is also a key component of the “third arrow” of economic reforms that Mr Abe has been trying to push in Japan since taking office in 2012.

But the TPP must still be signed formally by the leaders of each country and ratified by their legislatures, where support for the deal is not universal. In the US, Mr Obama will face a tough fight to push it through Congress next year, especially as presidential candidates such as the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump have argued against it. It is also likely to face parliamentary opposition in countries such as Australia and Canada, where the TPP has been one of the main points of economic debate ahead of an election on October 19. Critics around the world see it as a deal negotiated in secret and biased towards corporations. Those criticisms will be amplified when national legislatures seek to ratify the TPP.

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“When Australian and New Zealand trade representatives asked to view the texts, they were asked to sign an agreement promising to keep it secret for at least four years “to facilitate candid and productive negotiations..”

TPP Trade Deal Text Won’t Be Made Public For Four Years (Ind.)

The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was agreed by trade ministers from US, Japan and ten other countries will not be made public for four years – whether or not it goes on to be passed by Congress and other member nations. If ratified by US Congress and other member nations, TPP will bulldoze through trade barriers and standardise international rules on labour and the environment for the 12 nations, which make up 40% of the world’s economic output. But the details of how it will do this are enshrined in secrecy. Politicians and ordinary people have been largely excluded from TPP negotiations, leaving it in the hands of multinational corporations.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, said that the contents of the deal have been kept secret to avoid potential opposition. Wikileaks has leaked three of the 29 chapters of the TPP agreement. One section on intellectual property rights was published in November 2013, another on the environment was published in January 2014 and one on investment was published in March 2015. John Hilary, the executive director the political organisation War On Want, said the result is that nobody knows what’s being negotiated. “You have these far reaching deals that are going to change the face of our economies and societies know nothing about it,” Hilary said in an interview posted on the Wikileaks channel in August.

The US trade representative’s office keeps trade documents secret because they are considered matters of national security, according to Margot E. Kaminski, an assistant professor of law at the Ohio State University and an affiliated fellow of the Yale Information Society. The representatives claim that negotiating documents are “foreign government information” even though some may have been drafted by US officials. When Australian and New Zealand trade representatives asked to view the texts, they were asked to sign an agreement promising to keep it secret for at least four years “to facilitate candid and productive negotiations”, according to a document leaked by the Guardian.

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” It’s the nature of the social dialogue in our country.”

Air France Workers Rip Shirts From Executives After 2,900 Jobs Cut (Guardian)

Striking staff at Air France have taken demonstrating their anger with direct action to a shocking new level. Approximately 100 workers forced their way into a meeting of the airline’s senior management and ripped the shirts from the backs of the executives. The airline filed a criminal complaint after the employees stormed its headquarters, near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, in what was condemned as a “scandalous” outbreak of violence. Photographs showed one ashen-faced director being led through a baying crowd, his clothes torn to shreds. In another picture, the deputy head of human resources, bare-chested after workers ripped off his shirt and jacket, is seen being pushed to safety over a fence.

Tensions between management and workers at France’s loss-making flagship carrier had been building over the weekend in the runup to a meeting to finalise a controversial “restructuring plan” involving 2,900 redundancies between now and 2017. The proposed job losses involve 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots. After the violence erupted at about 9.30am on Monday morning, there was widespread condemnation from French union leaders who sought to blame each other’s members for the assaults. Laurent Berger, secretary general of the CFDT, said the attacks were “undignified and unacceptable”, while Claude Mailly, of Force Ouvrière (Workers Force) said he understood Air France workers’ exasperation, but added: “One can fight management without being violent.”

Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister, said he was “scandalised” by the behaviour of the workers and offered the airline chiefs his “full support”. Air France said it had lodged an official police complaint for “aggravated violence”. [..] Olivier Labarre, director of BTI, a human resources consultancy, told Libération newspaper in 2009: “This happens elsewhere, but to my knowledge, taking the boss hostage is typically French. It’s the nature of the social dialogue in our country.”

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It’s not just rhino’s. We kill across the board.

Nearly A Third Of World’s Cacti Face Extinction (Guardian)

Nearly a third of the world’s cacti are facing the threat of extinction, according to a shocking global assessment of the effects that illegal trade and other human activities are having on the species. Cacti are a critical provider of food and water to desert wildlife ranging from coyotes and deer to lizards, tortoises, bats and hummingbirds, and these fauna spread the plants’ seeds in return. But the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)‘s first worldwide health check of the plants, published today in the journal Nature Plants, says that they are coming under unprecedented pressure from human activities such as land use conversions, commercial and residential developments and shrimp farming.

But the paper said the main driver of cacti species extinction was the: “unscrupulous collection of live plants and seeds for horticultural trade and private ornamental collections, smallholder livestock ranching and smallholder annual agriculture.” The findings were described as “disturbing” by Inger Andersen, the IUCN’s director-general. “They confirm that the scale of the illegal wildlife trade – including the trade in plants – is much greater than we had previously thought, and that wildlife trafficking concerns many more species than the charismatic rhinos and elephants which tend to receive global attention.”

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Dec 042014
 
 December 4, 2014  Posted by at 2:28 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


DPC Pittsburgh by Night 1907

News reports about developments in the oil markets are coming fast and furious, and none of them indicate any stabilization, let alone rise, in oil prices. Quite the contrary. There are very large amounts of extra barrels flowing into the market, which is just, as one analyst puts it “even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.” Saudi Arabia looks set to battle for sheer market share, even if it sends strangely contradictory messages.

While the US shale industry aggressively tries to convey an attitude based on confidence and breakeven prices that suddenly are claimed to be much lower than what seemed common knowledge until recently. Bloomberg says today that most shale is profitable even at $25 a barrel, and we might want some independent confirmation and/or analysis of that. Just hearing the industry claim it seems a bit flimsy; they have plenty reasons to paint the picture as rosy as they can get away with.

Last night, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Saudi price cut for the US, and a simultaneous price hike for Asia.

Saudi Price Cut Upends Oil Market

Oil prices tumbled to their lowest point in more than two years after Saudi Arabia unexpectedly cut prices for crude sold to the U.S., likely paving the way for further declines and adding to pressure on American energy producers. The decision by the world’s largest oil exporter sent the Dow industrials into negative territory for the day amid concerns about the pace of global growth. The move heightened worries over the resilience of the U.S. oil industry, which has expanded rapidly in recent years.

But that growth, driven largely by new production technology used to extract oil from shale-rock formations, has never been tested by a prolonged slump in prices. While lower crude prices generally help consumers by reducing the amount they pay for gasoline, analysts said falling energy prices will squeeze profit margins at many U.S. energy companies, particularly smaller firms or those with large debt loads. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia raised the prices for its oil in other locations, including Asia, where the country had cut its prices for four consecutive months.

Which led Barron’s to speculate on energy ETFs.

Saudi Oil Price Cut Dings Energy ETFs

Saudi Arabia’s unexpected price cut to oil it ships to the U.S. is roiling the market for crude and squeezing a host of exchange-traded funds that hold energy stocks. The United States Oil Fund (USO) sinks 2.2% to $$29.12 in early trading, while iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (OIL) falls 2.3%. West Texas Intermediate crude futures dropped to the lowest level in three years, recently down 2.1% to $76.77 a barrel.

Oil futures prices have tumbled by about one-quarter in recent months in a world awash with oil after production increases in the U.S. and, more recently, Libya. For weeks, speculation has swirled that the Saudis might be keen to hold prices low in order to keep a tight grip on market share and choke off competitors. Monday’s move by Saudi Arabia to cut prices for crude exports to U.S. customers, while at the same time a raising the prices it charges to countries in Asia, provides more evidence that the Saudis are bent on quashing competition.

But then just now Reuters says ‘recalled’ an email that detailed the cuts:

Saudi Aramco Recalls Email Showing Steep Oil Price Cuts

Saudi Aramco said it was recalling an email it sent on Thursday which had announced a sharp drop in January official selling oil prices for Asia and the United States. Official Selling Prices (OSPs) for oil from Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer and exporter, have been eagerly watched by the market in recent months for indications of the kingdom’s oil policies.

Some analysts have said sharp drops in OSPs over the past months are an indication the kingdom is fighting for market share with other producers, but others have said the OSPs only reflect the market and are a backward-looking rather than a forward-looking indicator.

“(The) Saudis making it clear they don’t want to lose market share,” Richard Mallinson, analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects told Reuters Global Oil Forum before Aramco recalled prices. It was not clear whether Aramco was recalling all prices or only some prices, or what changes if any had been made. It was also unclear whether and when a new email might follow.

The email, which was later recalled, showed Aramco had cut its January price for its Arab Light grade for Asian customers by $1.90 a barrel from December to a discount of $2 a barrel to the Oman/Dubai average. The Arab Light OSP to the United States was set at a premium of $0.90 a barrel to the Argus Sour Crude Index for January, down 70 cents from the previous month. The email also said Arab Light OSPs to Northwest Europe were raised by 20 cents for January from the previous month to a discount of $3.15 a barrel to the Brent Weighted Average.

That $24 a barrel breakeven price for shale contrasts somewhat with what Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis, says about Saudi oil: “..because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.”

Collapse Of Oil Prices Leads World Economy Into Trouble

OPEC, the largest crude-oil cartel in the world, wanted others to feel its pain as oil prices collapsed. “OPEC wanted … to cut off production … and they wanted other non-OPEC [countries], especially in the US and Canada, to feel the pinch they are feeling,” says Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis. But in its rush to influence others, OPEC ended up hurting everyone in the process – including itself. Low oil prices, pushed down further by OPEC’s meeting last week,have impacted world economies, energy stocks, and several currencies. From the fate of the Russian rouble to Venezuelan deficits to American mutual funds full of Exxon or Chevron stock, OPEC’s decision was the shot heard round the world for troubled commodities.

So how low could oil go? Standard Chartered analysts expect a “chaotic” quarter ahead, saying OPEC’s decision to keep the production target unchanged is “extremely negative for oil prices for 2015”. The bank slashed its 2015 average price forecast for Brent crude oil by $16 a barrel to $85. Other forecasts are lower. Citi Research estimated an average 2015 price of $72 for WTI and $80 for ICE Brent. Natixis’s Deshpande said their average 2015 Brent forecast is around $74, with WTI around $69. These prices have real-world effects on world economies. Everyone in the sector is smarting. Deshpande said because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.

Other OPEC members have even higher budgetary breakevens. Saudi Arabia is sitting on a “war chest” of money it stockpiled when prices were high, Deshpande said. Citi analysts said Saudi Arabia has about $800bn in cash reserves. Venezuela, on the other hand, is a prime example of a country squandering its riches. Citi said for every $10 drop in oil prices Venezuela loses about $7.5bn in revenues. “Already weak fiscally, this should call for reducing energy subsidies. But domestic politics including the 2015 election makes this nearly impossible,” they said. OPEC countries as a whole could lose $200bn in revenue if Brent prices stay at $80, which is about $600 per capita annually, Citi said.

And that in turn makes you wonder how the Saudis feel about Bakken shale oil being sold at $49.69 a barrel.

Sub-$50 Oil Surfaces in North Dakota As Regional Discounts Swell

Oil market analysts are debating if oil will fall to $50. In North Dakota, prices are already there. Crude sold at the wellhead in the Bakken shale region in North Dakota fell to $49.69 a barrel on Nov. 28, according to the marketing arm of Plains All American Pipeline LP. That’s down 47% from this year’s peak in June, and 29% less than the $70.15 paid for Brent, the global benchmark. The cheaper price for North Dakota crude underscores how geographic and logistical hurdles can amplify the stress that plunging futures prices have put on drillers in new shale plays that have helped push U.S. oil production to the highest level in 31 years. Other booming areas such as the Niobrara in Colorado and the Permian in Texas have also seen large discounts to Brent and U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

“You have gathering fees, trucking, terminaling, pipeline and rail fees,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, said Dec. 2. “If you’re selling at the wellhead, you’re getting a very low number relative to WTI.” Discounted prices at the wellhead have been exacerbated by a 39% drop in Brent futures since June 19 to $69.92 a barrel yesterday. Prices have fallen as global demand growth fails to keep pace with surging oil production from the U.S. and Canada. Much of that new output is coming from areas that are facing steep discounts. Bakken crude was posted at $50.44 a barrel Dec. 2. Crude from Colorado’s Niobrara shale was priced at $54.55, according to Plains. Eagle Ford crude cost $63.25, and oil from the Oklahoma panhandle was $58.25.

American consumers probably still feel good about developments like ever lower prices at the pump, but they should be careful what they wish for.

First U.S. Gas Station Drops Below $2 a Gallon

$2 gasoline is back in the U.S. An Oncue Express station in Oklahoma City was selling the motor fuel for $1.99 a gallon today, becoming the first one to drop below $2 in the U.S. since July 30, 2010, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy Organization Inc., said by e-mail from Chicago. “We knew when we saw crude oil prices drop last week that we’d break the $2 threshold pretty soon, but we didn’t know if it would happen in South Carolina, Texas, Missouri or Oklahoma,” said DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Today’s national average, $2.74, now makes the current price we pay a whopping 51 cents per gallon less than what we paid a year ago.”

Gasoline is sliding after OPEC decided last week not to cut production amid a global glut of oil that has already dragged international oil prices down by 37% in the past five months. Pump prices have fallen by almost a dollar since reaching this year’s high on April 26. 15% of the nation’s gas stations are selling fuel below $2.50 a gallon, “and it may not be long before others join OnCue Express in that exclusive club that’s below $2,” said Gregg Laskoski, another senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. Retail gasoline averaged $2.746 a gallon in the U.S. yesterday, data compiled by AAA show. Stations will cut prices by another 15 to 20 cents a gallon as they catch up to the plunge in oil, AAA’s Michael Green said.

And here’s the reason to be careful with those wishes: job losses.

Norway Seeks to Temper Its Oil Addiction After OPEC Price Shock

After the biggest slump in oil prices since the start of the global financial crisis, the prime minister of Norway says western Europe’s largest crude producer must become less reliant on its fossil fuels. “We need new industries, a new tax system and a better climate for investment in Norway,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said yesterday in an interview in Oslo. The comments follow threats from SAFE, one of Norway’s three main oil unions, which warned this week it will respond with industrial action unless the government acts to stem job losses. Solberg said that far from triggering government support, plunging oil prices should be used by the industry as an opportunity to improve competitiveness.

A 39% slump in oil prices since June is killing jobs in Norway, which relies on fossil fuels to generate more than one-fifth of its gross domestic product. In the past few months, Norway has lost about 7,000 oil jobs and SAFE said this week it was up to the government to reverse that trend. Solberg says protecting oil jobs will ultimately make it harder for the economy to wean itself off its commodities reliance. “We need to lower our cost of production in the development of new fields,” she said. “Oil production is not going to rise, it will slowly fall in Norway.”

And may I volunteer as an aside that Norway’s intentions to become less reliant on oil are perhaps a little past their best before date? They have this large sovereign oil fund, but never thought of using it to diversify their economy?

Perhaps the numero uno reason that oil prices will keep sinking is production becoming available in the Middle East. And in North Africa, where Libya recently reportedly brought an extra 800,000 barrels/day to the fray. Now it’s Iraq’s turn. Bloomberg put 300,000 barrels in its headline, only to say this in the article: “As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route”. I corrected the headline.

There Are 550,000 Iraqi Barrels Signaling Oil Glut Will Deepen

Not only is OPEC refraining from cutting oil output to stem the five-month plunge in prices, it’s adding to the supply glut. Just five days after OPEC decided to maintain production levels, Iraq, the group’s second-biggest member, inked an export deal with the Kurds that may add about 300,000 barrels a day to world supplies. In a global market that neighboring Kuwait estimates is facing a daily oversupply of 1.8 million barrels, the accord stands to deepen crude’s 38% plunge since late June. Or as Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, put it: There’ll be “even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.”

Benchmark Brent crude slumped immediately after the deal was signed Dec. 2 in Baghdad, dropping 2.8% to $70.54 a barrel. Prices, which slipped 0.9% yesterday to reach the lowest since 2010, were at $70.38 at 1:30 p.m. Singapore time today. Futures are down about 10% since OPEC’s Nov. 27 decision. The agreement seeks to end months of feuding between the Kurds and officials in Iraq over the right to crude proceeds, a dispute that has hindered their joint effort to push back Islamic State militants. The deal allows for as much as 550,000 barrels a day of crude to be shipped by pipeline from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey, according to the regional government. The Kurds were already exporting about 220,000 barrels daily, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Kurdish Regional Government expanded its control of Iraq’s oil resources in June when it deployed forces to defend Kirkuk, the largest field in the north of the country, from Islamic militants. The Kurds have been shipping crude through Turkey in defiance of the central government, which took legal action to block the sales, leaving some tankers loaded with Kurdish oil stranded at sea. As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route, according to the government in Baghdad.

What it will all lead to, and increasingly so as prices fail to recover and instead keep falling, is the disappearance and withdrawal of financing in the oil industry, especially the insanely overleveraged shale patches. The financiers will need a little more time to consolidate, minimize and liquidate their losses, but they will get up and leave. So all the talk of growing the industry sounds just a tad south of fully credible. This is an industry that lost over $100 billion a year for at least three years running, i.e. didn’t produce sufficient revenue even at $100 a barrel, and at $60 they would be fine, without much of their previous external financing?

Energy Junk-Debt Deals Postponed as Falling Oil Saps Demand

Two energy-related companies are postponing financings after a plunge in oil prices made their high-yield, high-risk debt more difficult to sell. New Atlas, a newly formed unit of oil and gas producer Atlas Energy Group, put on hold a $155 million loan it was seeking to refinance debt, according to five people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not be identified because the decision is private. EnTrans International, a manufacturer of equipment used in fracking, delayed selling a $250 million bond, according to three other people with knowledge of that transaction. Investors in bonds of junk-rated energy companies are facing losses of more than $11 billion as oil prices dropped to a five-year-low of $63.72 a barrel this week. This is deepening concern that the riskiest oil explorers won’t be able to meet their obligations, and sending their borrowing costs to the highest since 2010.

More than half of Cleveland, Tennessee-based EnTrans’s revenue comes from equipment sales to the hydraulic fracturing and the energy industry, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Nov. 17 report. The notes, which were being arranged by Credit Suisse, would have been used to refinance debt. Gary Riley, chief executive officer at EnTrans International, said yesterday in an e-mail commenting on the deal status that “the decision to defer or go forward has not been made.” Riley didn’t respond to questions seeking comment today. Deutsche Bank and Citigroup were managing New Atlas’s financing and had scheduled a meeting with lenders for this morning, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Perhaps those sub-$50 Bakken prices tell us pretty much where global prices are ahead. And then we’ll take it from there. With 1.8 million barrels “that nobody needs” added to the shale industries growth intentions, where can prices go but down, unless someone starts a big war somewhere? Yesterday’s news that US new oil and gas well permits were off 40% last month may signal where the future of shale is really located.

But oil is a field that knows a lot of inertia, long term contracts, future contracts, so changes come with a time lag. It’s also a field increasingly inhabited by desperate producers and government leaders, who wake up screaming in the middle of the night from dreaming about their heads impaled on stakes along desert roads.

Nov 102014
 
 November 10, 2014  Posted by at 10:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 10 2014


DPC Wanted: 500 men to eat frankfurters, Bowery, Rockaway, NY 1905

US Economic Growth Is All An Illusion (John Crudele)
The System Is Terminally Broken (Investment Research Dynamics)
Buybacks Biggest “Source Of Equity Demand In Recent Years” (Zero Hedge)
Myopic Domestic Delusion or Planned Monetary Demolition? (De Landevoisin)
What Stocks Say About The State Of The Global Economy (Zero Hedge)
China Factory-Gate Prices Decline for Record 32nd Month (Bloomberg)
Xi Dangles $1.25 Trillion as China Counters U.S. Refocus (Bloomberg)
China’s Stock Markets Change Forever Next Week (MarketWatch)
China’s $9 Trillion Untapped Market Spurs U.S. ETF Frenzy (Bloomberg)
Russia, China Add to $400 Billion Gas Deal With Accord (Bloomberg)
Russian Ruble Firms On Putin’s Backing (Reuters)
Banks Face 25% Loss Buffer as FSB Fights Too-Big-to-Fail (BW)
Jean-Claude Juncker Needs to Go (Bloomberg Ed.)
Draghi Summons Banking Know-How for Top Posts as ECB Role Shifts (Bloomberg)
Over 80% of Catalans Vote Yes at Independence Poll (RIA)
Letter Reveals 2010 ECB Funding ‘Threat’ To Ireland (BreakingNews.ie)
GM Ordered New Ignition Switches Long Before Recall (WSJ)
A 700-Kilometre Surveillance Fence Along The Canada-US Border (NPost)
Australia ‘Giving Up’ On Renewables (BBC)
Australia Renewables Investment Drops 70% From Last Year (Tim Flannery)
Why It’s Not Enough to Just Eradicate Ebola (NBC)

Haven’t seen anything by Crudele in a long time. My bad. Then again, he hides out at the NY Post of all places.

US Economic Growth Is All An Illusion (John Crudele)

As voters were coming out of the polls on Tuesday, pesky reporters were asking why they voted the way they did — and what was going through their heads The most popular response — from 45% of the voters — was the economy. Only 28% said their families were doing better financially. The economy is always the major issue in an election during times like these. So no one should have been shocked that voters took their anger out on the party that controls the White House, even though Republicans are just as much to blame for our economy’s failures. John Harwood, a political reporter for CNBC, asked a very good question before the votes were counted: Why? As in, “Why did people appear so angry and unhappy when the stock market was at record levels, the unemployment rate is down sharply, inflation is subdued and the number of jobs is increasing?”

Harwood’s explanation was that the benefits of this economic growth weren’t being evenly distributed and were being felt only by the blessed in the American economy — the upper 1%, if you will. Harwood is only a little right. Yes, the economy is blessing the few and leaving the rest of us in limbo. What Harwood and the rest of the folks who rely solely on Washington’s mainstream thinkers and Wall Street boosters for their information don’t realize is this: The economy isn’t really doing what the statistics say it is doing. Our nation’s economic statistics are nipped and tucked, massaged, managed, fabricated and dolled up. In short, our statistics are wrong and Main Street folks know it. Here’s what a Wall Street hedge fund mogul, Paul Singer, head of Elliott Management Corp., told his clients the other day: “Nobody can predict how long governments can get away with fake growth, fake money, fake jobs, fake financial stability, fake inflation numbers and fake income growth,” Singer wrote.

“When confidence is lost, that loss can be severe, sudden and simultaneous across a number of markets and sectors.” I’m glad someone is reading my column. But it’s not like Singer — whom I don’t know — was willing to say that out loud so that everyone could understand. He wrote that in his newsletter to his clients. So, shhhhh! It’s a secret. Don’t tell Americans that the economy isn’t doing so well. (Oh, that’s right, they’ve already caught on.) I won’t get into the year-long investigation I have been conducting into the Census Bureau’s faulty economic data. Now that the Republicans control both houses of Congress, I’m sure what is going on at Census will be looked at very carefully. But fabrication of data isn’t the only problem. Put enough academics and statisticians in a room and they can turn any statistic into something it isn’t.

Read more …

Word: “What would happen if the Fed decided to “experiment” by removing this massive dead-pool of money from the banks? The money isn’t really “dead,” it’s keeping the banks from collapsing.”

The System Is Terminally Broken (Investment Research Dynamics)

The Fed has formally “ended” QE, but it hasn’t really. The Fed will continue reinvesting interest on its portfolio in more bonds and it will rollover maturities. We saw what happens to the stock market a few weeks ago when Fed official James Bullard asserted that the Fed needs to start raising rates: the S&P 500 quickly dropped 8%. Right at the bottom of the drop, the very same Bullard issued a statement suggesting that QE should be extended. This triggered an insanely abrupt “V” move back up to a new record high for the S&P 500. Bullard either did this intentionally or is a complete idiot. The stock market can’t function without Federal Reserve intervention. The stock market lost 8% quickly on just the thought that the Fed might start raising rates. Imagine what would happen if the Fed decided to “experiment” by shutting down its market intervention operations – both verbal and physical – for a month…

As for QE, if the Fed has achieved its objective of stimulating the economy, why doesn’t it start removing the $2.6 trillion of liquidity that it has injected into its member banks? This was money that was supposed to be directed at the economy. How come it’s sitting on bank balance sheets earning .25% interest? That’s $6.5 billion in free interest the Fed continues to inject into the Too Big To Fail banks. But why? What would happen if the Fed decided to “experiment” by removing this massive dead-pool of money from the banks? The money isn’t really “dead,” it’s keeping the banks from collapsing. I’m interested to watch the Government Treasury bond auctions now that the Fed is not there to soak up anywhere from 50-100% of each issue. I wonder if the banks will be moving their $2.6 trillion in Excess Reserves into new Treasury issuance. Obama is going around broadcasting the lie that the Government’s spending deficit in FY 2014 was something like $600 billion.

Yet, the amount of new Treasury bonds issued increased by $1 trillion over the same period. Either Obama is lying or the accountants at the Treasury committed a big typo. Either the Fed has found a way to continue opaquely monetizing new Government debt issuance, or the market is soon going to force U.S. interest rates up much higher.

Read more …

Time to raise rates, or companies will own all their own stock. Sort of like BOJ buying up all Japanese sovereign bonds. Snake eats tail.

Buybacks Biggest “Source Of Equity Demand In Recent Years” (Zero Hedge)

Spoiler alert: it’s not the Fed, even though the portfolio rebalancing channel courtesy of a $4.5 trillion Fed balance sheet certainly assured that the artificially inflated bubble in stocks, as a result of the Fed’s own purchases of bonds, is unlike anything seen before (and to all those debating whether the bubble is in bonds or stocks, here is the answer: it is in both). The answer, according to Goldman’s David Kostin is the following: “From a strategic perspective, buybacks have been the largest source of overall US equity demand in recent years.”

In other words, not only has the Fed made a mockery of fundamentals, the resulting ZIRP tsunami means that corporations can issue nearly-unlimited debt to yield chasing “advisors” managing other people’s money, and use it to buyback vast amounts of stock, which brings us to the latest aberation of the New Abnormal: the “Pull the S&P up by the Bootstaps” market, in which the only relevant question is which company can buyback the most of its own stock. Some further observations on the only thing that matters for equity demand in a world in which the Fed is, for the time being, sidelined:

Since the start of 4Q, a sector-neutral basket of 50 stocks with the highest buyback yields has outpaced the S&P 500.

And sure enough, with the market once again rewarding stock buybacks… companies will focus exclusively on stock repurchases in lieu of actual growth-promoting capital allocation such as CapEx (as predicted in April 2012):

We forecast S&P 500 cash spent on repurchases will rise by 18% in 2015 following a 26% jump in 2014.

Read more …

Very much worth a read. People leap into assumptions about Fed and IMF goals far too easily, if you ask me.

Myopic Domestic Delusion or Planned Monetary Demolition? (De Landevoisin)

So where is the impasse I point to? Well, as stated above, I am not quite so sanguine as Mr. Stockman is regarding the reasons behind our apparent self induced economic undoing. It is my contention that there exists ample motive behind the apparent policy insanity we are indeed witnessing and actually navigating through. What is being done is quite simply too plainly preposterous to be so innocently and readily dismissed. One has to consider what else may be driving the continuous and relentless stoking of a glaring, oncoming, head on collision train wreck dead ahead. No locomotive engineer can simply be assumed to be this brain dead, so completely out to lunch, it just doesn’t add up. Something else is at the heart of this mainlined monetary mayhem.

Call me a jaded cynic or even worse, a crackpot conspiracist, but when I see a country as majestic and powerful as the United States which has always stood for liberty and the pursuit of free enterprise, knowingly, willfully and conspicuously being undermined, as if being herded over a cliff like baffled buffaloe on the great plains, I smell a dubious dirty rat. Let us bear in mind, that the IMF Multinational Central Bankers are waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces of the train wreckage, with their deliberate SDR regime preparations. They are qualifying themselves to take on the existing immense capital account imbalances between the debtor and creditor nations. That will be a critical aspect of the developing picture.

As a new global monetary order begins to emerge and impose itself, the SDR composite will be expanded so as to address these utterly unsustainable trade imbalance. The envisaged multilateral SDR monetary instrument will be positioned to buy out the existing unserviceable sovereign debt loads, whereby the massively indebted nations of the developed world will cede a measure of influence to the creditor nations of the emerging world.

Read more …

Ouch!

What Stocks Say About The State Of The Global Economy (Zero Hedge)

The following two charts cut right through the headline propaganda and show all there is to know about the state of the global economy. The first is a chart of Global Cyclical stocks (Goldman ticker GSSBGCYC). The second shows Global Defensives (Goldman ticker GSSBGDEF). The resulting picture is worth 1000 Op-Eds welcoming you to yet another “global recovery.”

Read more …

And that economy is still supposed to grow at 7%?

China Factory-Gate Prices Decline for Record 32nd Month (Bloomberg)

China’s factory-gate prices fell for a record 32nd month in October and consumer prices remained subdued, raising pressure on policymakers to bolster the world’s second-largest economy as disinflation spreads. The producer-price index dropped 2.2% from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said in Beijing today, compared with the median projection of a 2% decline in a survey of analysts by Bloomberg News. Consumer prices rose 1.6% and the rate was unchanged from the prior month and matched economists’ estimates. China’s economy, burdened by overcapacity and weak domestic demand, is headed for the slowest full-year growth in more than two decades. Lower oil and metals prices are cutting costs at the factory gate, allowing China’s exporters to reduce prices and adding to deflationary pressures globally.

“China’s domestic demand remained soft and dis-inflationary risks are on the rise on the back of falling global commodity prices,” said Chang Jian, chief China economist at Barclays. “Subdued inflation offers room for more PBOC easing, but broad-based monetary easing will more likely to be triggered by disappointing growth numbers, which we will likely see in the coming months.” Chang said she expects the PPI drop will continue to 2015. Purchasing prices of fuels fell 3.8% in October from a year earlier, while ferrous metals costs dropped 6.9%, the NBS data showed. Prices of all nine components dropped. Oil prices have slumped into a bear market amid speculation of a global glut, slowing drilling at U.S. shale formations. Producers in OPEC countries are responding by cutting prices, resisting calls to reduce supply as they compete with the highest U.S. output in three decades.

“The extended drop in the PPI is affected by the prolonged decline of global oil prices and overcapacity in some domestic industries,” Yu Qiumei, a senior statistician at the NBS, said in a statement today. Eighteen of China’s 31 provinces and municipalities reported a nominal growth rate lower than the price-adjusted level for the first nine months of this year, signaling deflation. China’s imports moderated to a 4.6% increase in October from September’s 7% gain, according to data released by General Administration of Customs over the weekend.

Read more …

Ahem: “China’s development will generate huge opportunities and benefits and hold lasting and infinite promise.”

Xi Dangles $1.25 Trillion as China Counters U.S. Refocus (Bloomberg)

President Xi Jinping sought to counter U.S. efforts aimed at boosting influence in Asia by flexing China’s economic muscle days before a Beijing summit with his counterpart Barack Obama. Speaking to executives at a CEO gathering in Beijing, Xi outlined how much the world stands to gain from a rising China. He said outbound investment will total $1.25 trillion over the next 10 years, 500 million Chinese tourists will go abroad, and the government will spend $40 billion to revive the ancient Silk Road trade route between Asia and Europe. “China’s development will generate huge opportunities and benefits and hold lasting and infinite promise,” Xi said. “As China’s overall national strength grows, China will be both capable and willing to provide more public goods for the Asia Pacific and the world.”

China has used the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit under way in Beijing to put forward its own trade and economic proposals to strengthen its sway in Asia. Those incentives complement a greater assertiveness in territorial disputes and moves to upgrade its military after decades of U.S. dominance in the region. China is rolling out counteroffers for each promise made by President Barack Obama, whom he’ll meet this week in Beijing as part of the summit. Xi is pushing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific in response to the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which excludes China. An Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank mostly financed with money from Beijing is seen as an answer to the Asian Development Bank and other multinational lenders where the U.S. and Japan have the most influence.

“Any time they have the chance to shape international economic rules or norms they are going to do that,” said Andrew Polk, resident economist at the Conference Board China Center for Economics and Business in Beijing. “It’s a bifurcated kind of response – there’s a reactive response to the developed world but trying to take a leadership role among other emerging economies.” While spelling out his message, Xi also made clear China is ready to accept a lower rate of growth, assuring executives that the economy is more resilient than ever and his government can safely guide the country through any slowdown. China’s economy is targeted to grow at about 7.5% this year, the slowest since 1990, and Xi said a growth rate around 7% would still make the country a top performer.

Read more …

Big deal, but with China doing far worse than they let on, what possible outcomes are there?

China’s Stock Markets Change Forever Next Week (MarketWatch)

When MarketWatch covers Chinese stocks, we usually focus on those listed in Hong Kong. The reason for this is that few outside of China – mainly just institutional investors with approved quotas – are able to buy what’s sold in Shanghai, Shenzhen and the other mainland Chinese bourses, while any investor in the world can buy Hong Kong-listed names. But this is all about to change in a big way next Monday, when China launches its game-changing “Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect” program. For the first time ever, retail investors around the world will be able to invest in mainland Chinese equities.

In some high-profile cases, the same companies have stock listing in both Shanghai (known as “A-shares” when denominated in yuan) and Hong Kong (“H-shares”), though here too, opportunities exist in the form of arbitrage, as a given company’s A-shares and H-shares rarely trade at the same level. “Many international investors are completely excited,” Charles Li, the chief executive of bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEx) told MarketWatch at a recent media availability. “This is probably the last frontier market that has yet to open,” Li said, “and they [global investors] probably have never seen a rebalancing possibility like this scale anytime in past history.”

Read more …

I smell a huge rat. This has the potential to hide away the reality of global financial markets for a while. However, it also brings western scrutiny closer to China’s numbers.

China’s $9 Trillion Untapped Market Spurs U.S. ETF Frenzy (Bloomberg)

The race is on to give U.S. exchange-traded fund investors access to $9 trillion of stocks and bonds in mainland China. Money managers including BlackRock and CSOP have now registered almost 40 ETFs tracking the country’s domestic shares and debt with U.S. regulators, six times the number of existing funds. The products allow anyone with a U.S. brokerage account to gain exposure to Chinese securities that were previously off limits to all but a few qualified institutions. Equities in the biggest emerging market are heading for the best annual gain since 2009, outpacing shares of mainland companies listed overseas amid speculation government plans to ease capital controls will narrow the valuation discount on domestic securities. As programs including a planned bourse link between Hong Kong and Shanghai help open up China’s markets, fund providers are rushing to stake claims to the fees they hope will come from new investors.

“There is so much potential, you just can’t ignore China,” Patricia Oey, a senior analyst at investment data provider Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. Fund companies “want to have a foot into a very big market. China is opening up and they want to be there.” BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, is seeking to introduce its first U.S. exchange-traded fund that would invest directly in equities traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen, according to a Sept. 15 regulatory filing. CSOP, which runs a $6 billion ETF of China’s yuan-denominated A shares out of Hong Kong, filed to create a U.S. version three days later. While only a fraction of Chinese companies are listed or sell debt offshore, U.S. investors have piled almost $10 billion into ETFs that exclusively buy securities trading abroad, until recently one of the only ways for individuals to gain exposure to businesses from the world’s second-largest economy.

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“Together we have carefully taken care of the tree of Russian-Chinese relations. Now fall has set in, it’s harvest time, it’s time to gather fruit.”

Russia, China Add to $400 Billion Gas Deal With Accord (Bloomberg)

China has secured almost a fifth of the natural gas supplies it will need by the end of the decade after striking a second major deal with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the gas-supply agreement in Beijing the day before U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in the Chinese capital for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The deal is slightly smaller than the $400 billion accord reached earlier this year, shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Russia’s Gazprom is negotiating the supply of as much as 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually from West Siberia to China over 30 years, it said yesterday. Another Russian company is discussing the sale of a 10% stake in a Siberian unit to state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.

Russia has turned to China to diversify its market and spur its economy as relations soured with the U.S. and Europe over the Ukraine crisis. The initial accord “will make Russia rely more on China both economically and politically,” Lin Boqiang, director of the Energy Economics Research Center at Xiamen University, said by phone. “China is probably the only country in the world that has both the financial ability and the market capacity to consume Russia’s huge energy exports on a sustainable basis over a long period of time,” said Lin. It gives Putin an opportunity to show Europe and the U.S. that his country won’t be isolated over Ukraine, he said. The two deals could account for almost 17% of China’s gas consumption by 2020, Gordon Kwan at Nomura wrote.

Russia may start selling gas to China within four to six years as part of the agreement with CNPC, Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller told reporters in Beijing. When the new supply deal begins, China will surpass Germany to become Russia’s biggest natural gas customer, according to CNPC’s website. “Together we have carefully taken care of the tree of Russian-Chinese relations,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said yesterday at a meeting with Putin at the economic forum. “Now fall has set in, it’s harvest time, it’s time to gather fruit.”

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It’s one sunny message after the other at the APEC summit.

Russian Ruble Firms On Putin’s Backing (Reuters)

The ruble firmed broadly on Monday after President Vladimir Putin said there were no reasons for the slide in the Russian currency. After a dramatic fall in previous week and volatile swings of 6% in its rate on Friday, the rouble traded 1.9% higher at 45.77 to the dollar at 0735 GMT. The Russian currency was 1.7% stronger at 57.07 against the euro. The Russian central bank said on Monday that it expects zero economic growth in 2015 and only 0.1% growth in 2016, in a three-year monetary policy strategy that anticipates Western sanctions against Russia will remain until the end of 2017. The central bank said that it was also calculating its base forecasts on the Urals oil price recovering to an average of $95 in 2015 but falling to $90 by the end of 2017, a long-term downward trend which it said would constrain economic growth.

Putin, wooing Asian investors on Monday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, said he was hopeful that speculation against the rouble would stop soon and that there was no fundamental economic reason for the currency’s slide. The rouble has slumped nearly 30% against the dollar this year as plunging oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis shrivelled Russia’s exports and investment inflows. Russia’s central bank, which limited its support for the rouble last week by cutting the size of its interventions to $350 million a day, said on Friday it would still intervene to support the rouble it sees threats to financial stability. Putin also said Russia and China intend to increase the amount of trade that is settled in yuan, as he ruled out capital controls for Russia.

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Long overdue and even now just a plan.

Banks Face 25% Loss Buffer as FSB Fights Too-Big-to-Fail (BW)

The world’s largest banks will have to build up their loss-absorbing liability buffers to see them through a crisis, as regulators tackle too-big-to-fail lenders six years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The Financial Stability Board, led by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, said today that the biggest banks may be required to have total loss absorbing capacity equivalent to as much as a quarter of their assets weighted for risk, with national regulators able to impose still tougher standards. The FSB is seeking comment on the rule, known as TLAC, which would apply at the earliest in 2019. Carney said the plans are a “watershed” in regulators’ mission to end the threat posed by banks whose size and systemic importance mean their failure would be catastrophic for the global economy.

“Once implemented, these agreements will play important roles in enabling globally systemic banks to be resolved without recourse to public subsidy and without disruption to the wider financial system,” he said. The rules are the latest step by the FSB in a five-year quest to boost banks’ resilience in the face of financial shocks. Agreement has already been reached on measures including tougher capital requirements and enhanced scrutiny by supervisors. The TLAC rules would apply to the FSB’s register of global systemically important banks. The latest list, published last week, contains 30 banks, with HSBC and JPMorgan identified as the most significant. The draft requirements announced by the FSB would measure banks’ ability to absorb losses in a crisis, shielding taxpayers from bailouts.

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For once, I agree with the Bloomberg editors.

Jean-Claude Juncker Needs to Go (Bloomberg Ed.)

Jean-Claude Juncker, the new president of the European Commission, was always a bad choice for the job, foisted on the bloc’s 28 national governments by a European Parliament eager to expand its powers. It’s becoming clear now just how poor a decision that appointment was. Juncker was the prime minister of Luxembourg, a tiny nation with a population 1/17th the size of London’s, for almost two decades. In that time, he oversaw the growth of a financial industry that became a tax center for at least 340 major global companies, not to mention investment funds with almost €3 trillion ($3.7 trillion) in net assets – second only to the U.S. Partly as a result of the Swiss-style bank secrecy rules and government-blessed tax avoidance schemes that helped draw so much capital, the people of Luxembourg have become the world’s richest after Qatar.

The tax arrangements, described in leaked documents provided by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, allegedly enabled multinationals, from Apple to Deutsche Bank, to reduce their tax liabilities on profits earned in other countries: The effective Luxembourg tax rates that resulted were as little as 0.25%. The countries where the money was made received nothing. It’s telling that these arrangements have long been shrouded in secrecy. (Only last month did Luxembourg’s government drop its opposition to new EU rules on banking transparency.) Juncker, you could say, made his country rich by picking the pockets of other countries, including those of the European Union he is now mandated to serve.

The commission was already conducting an investigation of Luxembourg’s tax arrangements. Juncker says he won’t interfere – but he won’t recuse himself, either. Indeed, his spokesman says he is “serene” in the face of the revelations. He shouldn’t be. At this point, he could best serve the European project by resigning. Juncker’s position as the head of the body investigating the tax practices he oversaw as prime minister is a clear conflict of interest. It’s possible the commission will find nothing improper about Luxembourg’s tax-avoidance paradise: The EU allows member governments wide latitude in taxing companies, so long as they don’t favor some over others. But with Juncker in charge of the commission, any such exoneration will fail to command public confidence.

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“Oh, jeez: “This macroprudential policy was born out of the gradual recognition that the financial system isn’t always rational.”

Draghi Summons Banking Know-How for Top Posts as ECB Role Shifts (Bloomberg)

Mario Draghi is seeking economists who understand banks, and he’s not afraid to look outside Frankfurt to find them. As the European Central Bank assumes the mantle of euro-area financial supervisor, its president has just staffed two key monetary-policy posts with non-ECB experts on how lenders function in the economy. The appointments mark a trend of turning to outsiders as the 16-year-old institution struggles to meet its changing responsibilities with existing staff. “People like Draghi have much more interest in how markets and supervision affect monetary policy than the old school,” said Anatoli Annenkov, senior European economist at Societe Generale SA in London. “It’s a reflection of the problems that the ECB is facing.” Sergio Nicoletti Altimari, a Bank of Italy financial-markets official who worked closely with Draghi during the latter’s time as governor there, will become director general for macroprudential policy and financial stability from Jan. 1.

Luc Laeven, a Belgian economist at the International Monetary Fund with a track record of analyzing financial crises, will become director general for research by March. Draghi is seeking people who can handle the new powers the ECB gained when it became the euro-area banking supervisor on Nov. 4. About 900 new staff have been hired so far who will be dedicated to oversight, and the role also brings the authority to promote financial stability throughout the economy with measures such as higher capital buffers or increased risk-weightings on lenders’ assets. This macroprudential policy was born out of the gradual recognition that the financial system isn’t always rational, and so someone needs to be watching for the emergence of risks that could escalate and broaden.

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Add this to the recent revelations of the corruption agonizingly close to Rajoy and his government, and Catalunya must feel stronger every day.

Over 80% of Catalans Vote Yes at Independence Poll (RIA)

An overwhelming majority of Catalans has supported the region’s independence, vice president of the autonomy’s government Joana Ortega said early Monday. There have been two question in the ballots: “Would you like Catalonia to become a state?” and “If yes, would you like Catalonia to become an independent state?” With 88.44% of the ballots counted, 80.72% of voters answered yes to both questions in the ballot, and 10.11% answered yes only to the first questions, according to Ortega. As few as 4% of the voters said no to both questions.

More than 2.25 million people out of 5.4 million eligible voters in the wealthy breakaway region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain voted on Sunday in the unofficial independence poll. Results of the vote are expected to come on Monday morning. Spanish government sees the voting as illegal and tried to block it by filing complaints to the Constitutional Court. However Catalan President Artur Mas has stated that Catalonia would carry out the consultation despite the central government’s protests. Earlier on Sunday the central government dismissed the vote as “useless” and unconstitutional.

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The ECB is no more beyond blackmail than the rest of Brussels is.

Letter Reveals 2010 ECB Funding ‘Threat’ To Ireland (BreakingNews.ie)

A top-level threat to cut emergency European funding to Ireland days before the humiliating international bailout will shock people, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said. Letters released today by the European Central Bank (ECB) confirm the Government was warned crisis funds propping up collapsed banks in 2010 would be withdrawn unless they asked for an €85bn rescue package. The missive from then-ECB president Jean Claude Trichet to the late former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan also demanded a written commitment to punishing austerity measures, spending cutbacks and an overhaul of the financial industry. Irish high-street banks were surviving on emergency funding – known as emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) – at the time and if stopped, it could have effectively shut down the property crash-ravaged lenders.

Mr Trichet urged a speedy response to his proposals, which have been interpreted by some as the Frankfurt central bank pushing Ireland into a bailout. “It is the position of the (ECB) Governing Council that it is only if we receive in writing a commitment from the Irish government vis-a-vis the Eurosystem on the four following points that we can authorise further provisions of ELA (Emergency Liquidity Assistance) to Irish financial institutions,” Mr Trichet wrote. The four points included Ireland seeking a bailout, agreeing to austerity, reforming banks and guaranteeing to repay emergency funds. Two days after the letter was sent on November 19 Ireland officially requested a rescue package from the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. Minister Howlin said the letters – published after a years-long campaign for their release – would “come as a shock to many people”.

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OK, now we know this, go get ’em! Take ’em to court already!

GM Ordered New Ignition Switches Long Before Recall (WSJ)

General Motors ordered a half-million replacement ignition switches to fix Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars almost two months before it alerted federal safety regulators to the problem, according to emails viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The parts order, not publicly disclosed by GM, and its timing are sure to give fodder to lawyers suing GM and looking to poke holes in a timetable the auto maker gave for its recall of 2.5 million vehicles. The recall concerns a switch issue that is now linked to 30 deaths and has led to heavy criticism of the auto giant’s culture and the launch of a Justice Department investigation.

The email exchanges took place in mid-December 2013 between a GM contract worker and the auto maker’s ignition-switch supplier, Delphi Automotive. The emails indicate GM placed a Dec. 18 “urgent” order for 500,000 replacement switches one day after a meeting of senior executives. GM and an outside report it commissioned have said the executives discussed the Cobalt at the Dec. 17 meeting but didn’t decide on a recall. The emails show Delphi was asked to draw up an aggressive plan of action to produce and ship the parts at the time. In the months that followed, the size of the recall announced Feb. 7 would balloon and spark an auto-safety crisis, casting a shadow over the industry and leading to widespread calls for faster action by auto makers addressing safety concerns.

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” … the Border Integrity Technology Enhancement Project.” Alternatively, they could just burn the $92 million. Or give it to people who need it.

A 700-Kilometre Surveillance Fence Along The Canada-US Border (NPost)

A massive intelligence-gathering network of RCMP video cameras, radar, ground sensors, thermal radiation detectors and more will be erected along the U.S.-Canada border in Ontario and Quebec by 2018, the Mounties said Tuesday. The $92-million surveillance web, formally known as the Border Integrity Technology Enhancement Project, will be concentrated in more than 100 “high-risk” cross-border crime zones spanning 700 kilometres of eastern Canada, said Assistant Commissioner Joe Oliver, the RCMP’s head of technical operations. Airport search not racial profiling when based on customs officers’ on-the-job experience: court Customs officers are not guilty of racial profiling when they use on-the-job experience to decide who to stop and search at Canada’s airports, the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled.

“Officers on the front line, such as the officer herein, cannot be expected to leave their experience — acquired usually after many years of observing people from different countries entering Canada — at home,” Justice Marc Nadon said, writing on behalf of a three-person appeal panel. Justice Nadon made the comment in overturning a tribunal decision that quashed an $800 fine imposed against an Ottawa woman, Ting Ting Tam, who failed to declare some pork rolls in her luggage. “The concept involves employing unattended ground sensors, cameras, radar, licence plate readers, both covert and overt, to detect suspicious activity in high-risk areas along the border,” Assistant Commissioner Oliver told security industry executives attending the SecureTech conference and trade show at Ottawa’s Shaw Centre. “What we’re hoping to achieve is a reduction in cross-border criminality and enhancement of our national security.”

The network of electronic eyes is to run along the Quebec-Maine border to Morrisburg, Ont., then along the St. Lawrence Seaway, across Lake Ontario, and ending just west of Toronto in Oakville. The project was announced under the 2014 federal budget, but framed solely as a measure to improve the RCMP’s ability to combat contraband cigarette smuggling. The network will be linked to a state-of-the-art “geospatial intelligence and automated dispatch centre” that will, among other things, integrate the surveillance data, issue alerts for high-probability targets, issue “instant imagery” to officers on patrol and produce predictive analysis reports.

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The OZ government doesn’t seem to be in sync with its people.

Australia ‘Giving Up’ On Renewables (BBC)

Investment into renewable energy projects in Australia has dropped by 70% in the last year, according to a new report by a climate change body. The Climate Council says foreign investors are going to other countries because Australia’s government has no clear renewable energy policy. Australia has gone from “leader to laggard” in energy projects, it added. Another new report says Australia will need to raise its carbon emission reduction target to 40% by 2025. The damning report on the state of renewable energy, entitled Lagging Behind: Australia and the Global Response to Climate Change, said the country was losing out on valuable business. Investment that could be coming to Australia was going overseas “to countries that are moving to a renewables energy future”, said Tim Flannery, one of the report’s authors. He said most countries around the world had accelerated action on climate change in the last five years because the consequences had become more and more clear.

The report found China had retired 77 gigawatts of coal power stations between 2006 and 2010 and aimed to retire a further 20GW by next year. It also said the US was “rapidly exploiting the global shift to renewable energy” by introducing a range of incentives and initiatives to investors. The future of Australia’s renewable energy industry remains highly uncertain, the report concluded, because of a lack of clear federal government renewable energy policy. “Consequently investment in renewable energy in 2014 has dropped by 70% compared with the previous year,” it said. The second new report, by the Climate Institute, calls on Australia’s government to announce an “independent, transparent” process for setting the post 2020 carbon emission reduction targets. Erwin Jackson, deputy chief executive of the climate body, said too much of the political debate had “ignored growing scientific, investment and international realities”.

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With the amounts being thrown around, it looks risky to pull out.

Australia Renewables Investment Drops 70% From Last Year (Tim Flannery)

Australia’s most important trading partners and allies, such as China, the US and the European Union are strengthening their responses to climate change. Australia will be left in the wake of these big economies (and big emitters), according to the latest Climate Council report Lagging Behind: Australia and the Global Response to Climate Change. Australia’s retreat from being a global leader at tackling climate change is as impressive as our recent performances at the cricket. Looking on the bright side, even countries not known for their sunshine like Germany are going solar in a big way. Global momentum is building as more and more countries invest in renewable energy and put a price on carbon. 39 countries are putting a price on carbon. The EU and China (now with seven pilot schemes up and running) are home to the two largest carbon markets in the world, together covering over 3,000m tonnes (MtCO2) of carbon dioxide emissions.

There’s also plenty of action in the US: 10 states with a combined population of 79 million are now using carbon pricing to drive down emissions, including California, the world’s ninth largest economy. Yet, here in Australia, we now hold the dubious distinction of being the first country to repeal an operating and effective carbon price. Like carbon pricing, support for renewables is also advancing worldwide. In the last year, more renewable energy capacity was added than fossil fuels. Globally renewables attracted greater investment with US$192bn spent on new renewable power compared to US$102bn in fossil fuel plants. China is leading the charge on expanding renewable capacity. At the end of last year, China had installed a whopping 378GW of renewable energy capacity – about a quarter of renewables capacity installed worldwide, and over seven times Australia’s entire grid-connected power capacity.

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Don’t let the GOP find out Obama spends $6 billion on African health care systems.

Why It’s Not Enough to Just Eradicate Ebola (NBC)

The new U.S. plan to spend $6 billion fighting Ebola has a hidden agenda that aid workers approve of: not only stamping out the epidemic in West Africa, but starting to build a health infrastructure that can prevent this kind of thing from happening again. President Barack Obama’s $6.18 billion request is an enormous amount of money – six times what the U.S. has already committed and far more even than what the World Health Organization says is needed. Most is going for full frontal assault on Ebola – one that hasn’t really gotten off the ground yet, months into an epidemic that has been out of control despite an outcry from international groups and governments alike. But billions are also being quietly allocated to building a health care system in the countries suffering the most – a less sexy approach that could prevent another epidemic in the future. Most aid groups are focused on eradicating the virus, which has infected at least 13,000 people, probably more, and killed at least 5,000 of them.

That’s where the public support is; donors and taxpayers alike prefer to focus on a specific goal, and an emergency always gets attention. “Had we had those things in place, we would have detected this a lot earlier.” “We are not really a developmental organization,” said Dr. Armand Sprecher of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), one of the main groups fighting Ebola in West Africa. MSF focuses on providing targeted medical care. And while that has to be the first priority, it’s important to keep an eye on the long game, says Dr. Raj Panjabi, a founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, an aid group focused on helping people in the most remote corners of the world. “The goal has to be to not just contain Ebola,” Panjabi told NBC News. Ebola spread silently in villages and remote communities where there were no health care workers to diagnose Ebola and no way for them to report it even if they did catch it. “Had we had those things in place, we would have detected this a lot earlier,” said Panjabi.

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