Apr 012019
 
 April 1, 2019  Posted by at 10:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


JR-ART.net/AFP/Getty Collage by artist JR in the courtyard of the Louvre to mark 30th birthday of museum’s glass pyramid. 2019

 

Trump Is Going To Go Full-Animal On His Political Opponents – Bannon (Peters)
Trump Was Not Just Spied Upon But Entrapped (Simon)
Global Trade Takes Sharp Turn With Biggest Drop Since 2009 (ZH)
Theresa May’s Government Is On The Verge Of Meltdown (G.)
May’s Cabinet ‘Worst Example Of Discipline In British Political History’ (Ind.)
A Parliament of Fools (Coppola)
Fearing Brexit, Protesters Gather Along Irish Border (R.)
EU’s ‘Patience Over Brexit Coming To An End’ – Juncker (Ind.)
Erdogan Loses Capital In Turkey Election Blow (BBC)
TV Comic Leads First Round Of Ukraine’s Presidential Election (R.)

 

 

Curious to see who he’s going after. A lot of people will not like this.

Trump Is Going To Go Full-Animal On His Political Opponents – Bannon (Peters)

“I have a better education than them, I’m smarter than them, I went to the best schools; they didn’t. Much more beautiful house, much more beautiful apartment. Much more beautiful everything. And I’m president and they’re not,” declared Trump at his Michigan MAGA rally, refusing to take profit on the trade. You see, Mueller found him innocent of Russian collusion. And while the report stopped short of exonerating him for obstruction, Mueller’s overall ruling was an enormous windfall. A typical trader would take at least some profit, selling into the euphoria, rising above it all, extending a hand to broaden his base.

“Trump is going to go full-animal on his political opponents now that he’s no longer in the shadow of Mueller’s investigation,” predicted Bannon, the President’s former Chief Strategist. Steve’s usually right. And as Trump ordered OPEC to lower oil prices, his economic advisor Larry Kudlow and Federal Reserve nominee Stephen Moore called for an immediate 50bp interest rate cut from the Fed – desperate to fire up the economy heading into 2020. “The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigations or whether they will apologize to the American people and join us to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and bring down the cost of health care and prescription drugs,” taunted Trump.

And as his MAGA crowd went wild, replacing “Lock Her Up” with “AOC Sucks”, Democrats entered the five stages of grief: denial comes first, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And naturally, it would be so much easier if the Dems could just take a loss. But in today’s internecine conflict, with tribes fighting for absolute victory or utter defeat, no one seems willing to extend a hand, take a profit or a loss and move onward, upward, as The United States of America.

Read more …

Stefan Halper.

Trump Was Not Just Spied Upon But Entrapped (Simon)

For all his New York rough-and-tumble, Trump was an innocent abroad when he arrived in Washington. Way back in January 2017, he was warned by old-timer Chuck Schumer that “intel officials have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” The Senate minority leader–Deep Stater par excellence–knew whereof he spoke. But Trump somehow survived the storm, although sometimes it seemed as if he wouldn’t. Now, some of the obvious parties –John K. Brennan and James Clapper with their apparatchik miens — have suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs [..]

More’s afoot here, however, considerably more because the entire American intelligence system and the unique power referred to by Schumer are also now in those same crosshairs, as they should be. But many of the men and women involved are less overtly Soviet in their style than Mssrs. Brennan and Clapper and slip more easily under the radar. Notable among these, and perhaps able to reveal much of the McGuffin to the mystery of where this all started and how, is Stefan Halper. Mr. Halper is “an American foreign policy scholar and Senior Fellow at the University of Cambridge where he is a Life Fellow at Magdalene College and directs the Department of Politics and International Studies.” He is also a spook who worked for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, no less, and was a principle American connection to the UK’s MI-6.

Mr. Halper has (ahem) other connections: “A top FBI official admitted to Congressional investigators last year that the agency had contacts within the Trump campaign as part of operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” which sounds a lot like FBI “informant” Stefan Halper – a former Oxford University professor who was paid over $1 million by the Obama Department of Defense between 2012 and 2018, with nearly half of it surrounding the 2016 US election.”

Read more …

Not ideal for a presidential campaign, it would seem.

Global Trade Takes Sharp Turn With Biggest Drop Since 2009 (ZH)

According to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), world trade plunged to its weakest levels not seen since the financial crisis. The report published last week shows world trade expanded by 2.3% in January after the index tumbled in 4Q18. The recent rebound was broad-based with the strongest seen in emerging markets Asia (+6.2%), which followed a decline of -6.5% in December. The three-month global trade momentum shows a downward trend of -1.8%, indicating economic growth across the world continues to slide into 2Q. Bloomberg said, “that’s the biggest drop since May 2009.” On a y/y basis, global trade posted its first decline in nearly nine years in the three months.

The global 1H19 outlook remains in a cyclical downturn, which could hinder world trade further. The epicenter of the slowdown originates in China, which is partly due to a combination of China’s growth supercycle coming to an end, developed world economies slowing, Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy, and the US-China trade war that disrupted supply chains in Asia. This has global consequences: “For example, eurozone manufacturing PMI weakened to 47.6 in March according to Markit, marking the second consecutive month this year that manufacturing activity and export orders declined in the eurozone. The indices for January and February indicate contracting manufacturing activity in most of the east-Asian economies as well,” said ING.

Read more …

Looks like there may not be a way out at all.

Theresa May’s Government Is On The Verge Of Meltdown (G.)

Theresa May’s government is on the verge of meltdown as cabinet ministers prepare to clash over whether to support plans for a softer Brexit and a possible lengthy delay before leaving the European Union. In a decisive intervention, David Gauke, the justice secretary, said on Sunday that the prime minister would have to accept the possibility of backing a customs union if the measure is supported by parliament this week. This was dismissed by Brexiters, including those in cabinet, who have threatened to resign if May accepts a customs union or submits to a delay that goes beyond 22 May. Those threatening to quit were reported to include Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary.

In another twist, Julian Smith, the chief whip, told the BBC on Monday that a softer Brexit was “inevitable” after the government lost its majority after the 2017 election. It comes as May and her dwindling number of supporters prepare to face a second round of “indicative” votes on alternatives to her deal on Monday. Concerned by the possibility of cabinet resignations, May is being urged by some ministers to allow a free vote on any customs union proposal. If parliament backs a customs union, ministers believe May will be forced to make a decision that will lead to resignations when the cabinet meets on Tuesday.

With 12 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, Gauke said the prime minister would have to “look very closely” if MPs back a customs union in a fresh round of indicative votes. “If parliament is voting overwhelmingly against leaving the European Union without a deal but is voting in favour of a softer Brexit, then I don’t think it’s sustainable to ignore parliament’s position and therefore leave without a deal,” Gauke said.

Read more …

“The thing that people forget is that the Conservative Party went to get a majority in order to deliver Brexit [and] failed to get a majority..”

May’s Cabinet ‘Worst Example Of Discipline In British Political History’ (Ind.)

Julian Smith has lashed out at Theresa May’s cabinet ministers for attempting to destabilise the prime minister, as he criticised them over the “worst example of discipline in British political history”. In an unprecedented intervention, the chief whip also criticised the government’s approach to Brexit, suggesting a softer exit from the bloc was inevitable after Ms May gambled away the Tories’ majority in 2017. The remarks from Mr Smith, who also confessed he is “knackered”, came as MPs prepare for string of key votes in the Commons on different Brexit options during the second round of “indicative votes” later today. “The thing that people forget is that the Conservative Party went to get a majority in order to deliver Brexit [and] failed to get a majority,” the chief whip told the BBC.


He added: “The government as a whole probably should just have been clearer on the consequences of that. The parliamentary arithmetic would mean that this would be inevitably a softer type of Brexit.” While the strategy was apparently misjudged, Mr Smith said he was “frustrated” by MPs who “don’t see the light as clearly as I do”. However Mr Smith highlighted that a lack of discipline extended all the way to the Cabinet, with ministers “sitting around the Cabinet table … trying to destabilise her [Mrs May]”. Pointing to the lack of discipline at the top levels of government, he claimed: “As you aware discipline is not as good as it should be. This is I think the worst example of ill-discipline in Cabinet in British political history.”

Read more …

More votes today.

A Parliament of Fools (Coppola)

March 29 came and went without any change in the U.K.’s relationship with the EU. For now, the U.K. remains an EU member. But the U.K. Parliament has now rejected the proposed Withdrawal Agreement for a third time. Unless there is a major political shift in the next two weeks, the country is on course for no-deal Brexit on April 12. For the Leave supporters who gathered outside Parliament on March 29, April 12 can’t come soon enough. They had planned a celebration, but instead found themselves protesting at what they see as betrayal by the U.K. Government. Furiously angry, they are now worried that Parliament could try to secure a much longer delay or perhaps a second referendum. They have reason to be worried. On Monday, April 1, Parliament will vote on a set of alternative proposals.


The votes won’t commit the government to any particular course of action, but they will indicate what Parliament’s preferred outcome might be. The proposals likely to be up for consideration include a permanent customs union, which Theresa May has previously ruled out but is implied in the Political Declaration. There is also likely to be a vote on whether to hold a second referendum to “confirm” Parliament’s eventual choice. However, the previous set of “indicative votes,” taken on Wednesday March 27, resulted in no majority for anything. True, Parliament resoundingly rejected no-deal Brexit, but it was completely unable to agree on what alternative form Brexit should take, or even if it should happen at all. If this second set of votes is equally inconclusive, then no-deal Brexit it will be, unless by some miracle Mrs. May manages to persuade Parliament to vote for her ghastly deal after all.

Read more …

Someone suggested Good Friday is more important than the Magna Carta.

Fearing Brexit, Protesters Gather Along Irish Border (R.)

Anti-Brexit campaigners protested at six different points of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland on Saturday, fearing a return of customs checks could risk peace, jobs and their way of life. The currently seamless 500 km (350 mile) border would be the United Kingdom’s only land frontier with the EU after Brexit and the question of how it is kept open has become a major hurdle in efforts to ensure the UK quits the bloc in an orderly fashion. Organisers estimated more than 1,000 locals gathered from the northwest village of Bridgend to Carrickcarnon on the east coast, two of the more than 200 crossings that some 30,000 people cross each day for work.


“People are very concerned, they voted to remain (in the EU) here,” said John Sheridan, a farmer from the Border Communities Against Brexit group who led the protest in the Northern Ireland border village of Belcoo. “We feel like we’re going to be left behind again and have a border imposed on us.” The group also held a candle-lit vigil across the border in the Irish village of Kiltyclogher at 2300 GMT on Friday, when Britain had been scheduled to leave the EU until its departure was extended by at least two weeks. It has held other protests since the 2016 Brexit referendum and again erected mock customs checkpoints on Saturday, to demonstrate the disruption they could cause and the resistance their return would meet.

Read more …

The EU is not exactly losing on this one. So it’s a headache, but it’s also winner takes all.

EU’s ‘Patience Over Brexit Coming To An End’ – Juncker (Ind.)

The EU is running out of patience with Britain over Brexit, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has warned. In an interview with Italian state TV, Mr Juncker said he would like MPs in the UK to be able to reach an agreement over the way forward in the coming days. “We have had a lot of patience with our British friends but patience is coming to an end,” he told RAI. The commission president added: “So far we know what the British parliament says no to, but we don’t know what it might say yes to.” Asked if a second referendum might be possible, Mr Juncker said that was an issue exclusively for the British people.


His words were reported by his deputy chief spokesman Mina Andreeva. She tweeted that Mr Juncker had told the Italian interviewer he would “like that the UK tells us which way they want to follow now”. It comes ahead of a series of key votes in Parliament on Monday which could pave the way for a “softer” Brexit. Several Tory ministers have urged Theresa May to heed the will of MPs if they manage to unite around a customs union during the second round of “indicative votes”.

Read more …

He doesn’t care. He can use this to show Turkey’s a democracy.

Erdogan Loses Capital In Turkey Election Blow (BBC)

The party of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control of the capital, Ankara, in local elections in a setback to his 16 years in power. The opposition is also ahead in the contest for mayor of the largest city, Istanbul, the election commission says. Nationally, the president’s AKP-led alliance has won more than 51% of the vote in the municipal elections. The vote, see as a verdict on Mr Erdogan’s rule, has been taking place during an economic downturn. The currency, the lira, has been losing value recently and the economy went into recession in the last three months of 2018. The president had previously said the poll was about the “survival” of the country and his party. Commenting on the results in a speech on Sunday, he said: “If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them.”

Read more …

Can’t believe the US isn’t first in electing as president someone who plays a president on TV or in the movies.

TV Comic Leads First Round Of Ukraine’s Presidential Election (R.)

The actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy has taken a commanding lead in the first round of the Ukraine’s presidential elections, early results have shown. With just over half of the ballots counted early on Monday, Zelenskiy had 30.2% of the votes. The incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, was in a distant second place with 16.6% followed by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on 13%, the national elections commission said. The results were closely in line with a major exit poll. The final results were expected to be announced later on Monday. With no one expected to secure a majority, a runoff with the leading two candidates will be held on 21 April.


As the results of exit polling were announced, a cheer erupted at Zelenskiy’s headquarters in a sleek lounge in Kyiv. The candidate was mobbed as he made his way to a stage to say thank you to his supporters. The vote could see a comedy actor with no political experience move a step closer to becoming the country’s next president. Zelenskiy, who plays the president in the television series Servant of the People, had been the favourite to win Sunday’s vote in a rebuke of the country’s leadership.

Read more …

Sep 162018
 
 September 16, 2018  Posted by at 1:48 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Spain 1936-38

 

Yes, it is hard to believe, but still happening: 10 years after Lehman the very same people who either directly caused the financial crisis of 2008 or made things much much worse in its aftermath, are not only ALL walking around freely and enjoying even better paid jobs than 10 years ago, they are even asked by the media to share their wisdom, comment on what they did to prevent much much worse, and advise present day politicians and bankers on what THEY should do.

You know, what with all the wisdom, knowledge and experience they built up. because that’s the first thing you’ll hear them all spout: Oh YES!, they learned so many lessons after that terrible debacle, and now they’re much better prepared for the next crisis, if it ever might come, which it probably will, but not because of but despite what their wise ass class did back in the day.

Which never fails to bring back up the question about Ben Bernanke, who said right after Lehman that the Fed was entering ‘uncharted territory’ but ever after acted as if the territory had started looking mighty familiar to him, which is the only possible explanation for why he had no qualms about throwing trillion after trillion of someone else’s many at the banks he oversaw.

Somewhere along the line he must have figured it out, right, or he wouldn’t have done that?! He couldn’t still have been grasping in the pitch black dark the way he admitted doing when he made the ‘uncharted territory’ comment?! Thing is, he never returned to that comment, and was never asked about it, and neither were Draghi, Kuroda or Yellen. Did they figure out something they never told us about, or were and are they simple blind mice?

 

We have an idea, of course. Because we know central bankers serve banks and bankers, not countries or societies. Ergo, after Lehman crashed, whether that was warranted or not, Bernanke and the Fed focused on saving the banks that were responsible for the crisis, instead of the people in the country and society that were not.

They threw their out-of-thin-air trillions at making the asset markets look good, especially stock markets. Knowing that’s what people look at, and knowing foreclosures are of fleeting interest and can be blamed on borrowers, not lenders, anyway when necessary.

And obviously they knew and know they are and were simply blowing yet another bubble, just this time the biggest one ever, but the wealth transfer that has taken place under the guise of saving the economy has made the rich so much money they can’t and won’t complain for a while. They actually WILL eat cake.

Everyone else, sorry, we ran out of money, got to cut pensions and wages and everything else now. Healthcare? Nice idea, but sorry. Housing, foodstamps? Hey, what part of ‘the government is broke’ don’t you understand? You’re on your own, buddy. Remember the America Dream? Let that be your Yellow Brick Road.

The banking class is going to divest of their shares, while the individuals, money funds and pensions funds who are also in stocks because nothing else made money, will find their cupboards and cabinets replete with empty bags. Right after that the economy will start tanking, and for real this time. Want a loan to buy a home, a car, to start a business? Sorry, told you, there’s no money left.

 

But look, the banks are still standing! You don’t understand this, but that’s much more important. And oh well, those were all honest mistakes. And the ones that perhaps weren’t, shareholders paid big fines for those, didn’t they? See, we can’t have those banking experts in jail, because we need them to build the economy back up after the next crisis. The knowledge and experience, you just can’t replace that.

And it will be alright, you’ll see. Sure, it’ll be like Florence and all of her sisters blew themselves all over flyover country, but hey, that cleans up a lot of stuff too, right? And who needs all that stuff anyway? What is more important for the economy after all, Lower Manhattan or Appalachia?

And who are you going to blame for all this? We strongly suggest you blame Donald Trump, we sure as hell will at the Fed. So just fall in line, that’s better for everyone. Blame his tax cuts, or better even, blame his trade wars. Nobody likes those, and they sound credible enough to have caused the crash when it comes.

Anyway, while you’re stuck with the emergency menu at Waffle House, we hope your socks’ll dry soon, we really do, and we’re sorry about Aunt Mildred and the dogs and cats and chickens that have gone missing, but then that’s Mother Nature, don’t ya know?! Even we can’t help that. All we can really do is keep our own feet dry.

 

Central bankers haven’t merely NOT saved the economy, they have used the financial crisis to feed additional insane amounts of money to those whose interests they represent, and who already made similarly insane amounts, which caused the crisis to begin with. They have not let a good crisis go to waste.

But judging from the comments and ‘analyses’ on Lehman’s 10-year anniversary, the financial cabal still gets away with having people believe they’s actually trying to save the economy, and they just make mistakes every now and then, because they’re only human and uncharted territory, don’t you know?! Well, if you believe that, know that you’re being played for fools. Preferences and priorities are crystal clear here, and you’re not invited.

All the talk about how important it is that a central bank be independent is empty nonsense if that does not also, even first of all, include independence from financial institutions like commercial banks etc. Well, it doesn’t. Ben Bernanke’s Waffle House is nothing but a front for Grand Theft Auto.

 

 

Jan 082017
 
 January 8, 2017  Posted by at 9:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  

Trump: Only ‘Fools’, ‘Stupid People’, See Good Ties With Russia as Bad (BBG)
At Home and Abroad, Obama’s Trail of Disasters (BGlobe)
Russians Ridicule US Charge That Kremlin Meddled to Help Trump (NYT)
How RT Became The Star Of CIA, FBI & NSA’s Anticlimactic ‘Big Reveal’ (McD)
No One Can Afford To Stop The New Consumer Credit Crisis (G.)
China’s Foreign Exchange Reserves Fall To Lowest Since February 2011 (R.)
The Growing Threat to Global Trade: a Currency War (Forsyth)
Fed’s Powell Urges Congress to Take Another Look at Volcker Rule (BBG)
New Policies Coming To America Could Take Weight Off Fed: Powell (R.)
Economists Want to Be Members of Donald Trump’s Team (BBG)
EU Collapse ‘No Longer Unthinkable’ – German Vice Chancellor Gabriel (R.)
Greeks’ Mental Health Suffering (Kath.)

 

 

This is Trump’s Trump Card. Stop the empty rhetoric, and stop the warfare. If he can do that, he’ll go down in history as a great president.

Trump: Only ‘Fools’, ‘Stupid People’, See Good Ties With Russia as Bad (BBG)

Facing calls to strike back at Russia for what U.S. intelligence agencies have termed Moscow’s interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Donald Trump instead suggested warmer relations between the two countries. The president-elect took to Twitter on Saturday to discuss the potential U.S.-Russia relationship under his administration, a day after U.S. spy chiefs briefed him on the Russian measures they said were directed by President Vladimir Putin. “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said in a series of three tweets. “Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.” “When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now,” Trump assured his 19 million Twitter followers.

On Friday, top U.S. intelligence officials met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York to present evidence that Putin personally ordered cyber and disinformation attacks on the U.S. campaign. Putin developed “a clear preference” for Trump to win, the agencies said in a declassified summary of their findings. The agencies said they “assess Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” according to the report. “All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence,” the report said. “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes.”

On Saturday, posts from the Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in the U.K. dismissed the report, calling it “a pathetic attempt at tainting Americans’ vote by innuendo couched in Intel new-speak.” “All accusations against Russia are based on ‘confidence’ and assumptions,” Alexey Pushkov, a member of the Russian Parliament’s upper house, said on Twitter. As Trump’s transition team did in a statement in December, Pushkov drew a parallel with the U.S. intelligence finding of the early 2000s that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The report was released shortly after intelligence chiefs briefed Trump on their findings that Russia was responsible for the hacking of Democratic Party computers and the leaking of e-mails damaging to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Trump said negligence by the DNC had allowed the hacking to go ahead. “Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!” Trump tweeted on Saturday. By contrast, “the Republican National Committee had strong defense!” he said — although the intelligence report said that Russia had targeted both major parties.

Read more …

I guess kudo’s are due to the Boston Globe, generally in the same false news camp as the WaPo and NYT, for publishing this.

At Home and Abroad, Obama’s Trail of Disasters (BGlobe)

As he prepares to move out of the White House, Barack Obama is understandably focused on his legacy and reputation. The president will deliver a farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday; he told his supporters in an e-mail that the speech would “celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years,” and previewed his closing argument in a series of tweets hailing “the remarkable progress” for which he hopes to be remembered. Certainly Obama has his admirers. For years he has enjoyed doting coverage in the mainstream media. Those press ovations will continue, if a spate of new or forthcoming books by journalists is any indication. Moreover, Obama is going out with better-than-average approval ratings for a departing president. So his push to depict his presidency as years of “remarkable progress” is likely to resonate with his true believers.

But there are considerably fewer of those true believers than there used to be. Most Americans long ago got over their crush on Obama, as they repeatedly demonstrated at the polls. In 2010, two years after electing him president, voters trounced Obama’s party, handing Democrats the biggest midterm losses in 72 years. Obama was reelected in 2012, but by nearly 4 million fewer votes than in his first election, making him the only president ever to win a second term with shrunken margins in both the popular and electoral vote. Two years later, with Obama imploring voters, “[My] policies are on the ballot — every single one of them,” Democrats were clobbered again. And in 2016, as he campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton, Obama was increasingly adamant that his legacy was at stake. “I’m not on this ballot,” he told campaign rallies in a frequent refrain, “but everything we’ve done these last eight years is on the ballot.” The voters heard him out, and once more turned him down.

As a political leader, Obama has been a disaster for his party. Since his inauguration in 2009, roughly 1,100 elected Democrats nationwide have been ousted by Republicans. Democrats lost their majorities in the US House and Senate. They now hold just 18 of the 50 governorships, and only 31 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers. After eight years under Obama, the GOP is stronger than at any time since the 1920s, and the outgoing president’s party is in tatters. Obama urged Americans to cast their votes as a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on his legacy. That’s what they did. In almost every respect, Obama leaves behind a trail of failure and disappointment.

Read more …

Yes, even the NYT lets slip a line or two about the lack of evidence in the ridiculous US intelligence ‘report’. The article should have stopped at that, but continues in a sort of Macchiavellian spirit (actually uses the term too), trying to save some face.

Russians Ridicule US Charge That Kremlin Meddled to Help Trump (NYT)

Spies are usually thought of as bystanders who quietly steal secrets in the shadows. But the Russian versions, schooled in techniques used during the Cold War against the United States, have a more ambitious goal — shaping, not just snooping on, the politics of a nation that the Soviet-era K.G.B. targeted as the “main adversary.” That at least is the conclusion of a declassified report released on Friday that outlines what America’s top intelligence agencies view as an elaborate “influence campaign” ordered by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia aimed at skewing the outcome of the 2016 presidential race. But the absence of any concrete evidence in the report of meddling by the Kremlin was met with a storm of mockery on Saturday by Russian politicians and commentators, who took to social media to ridicule the report as a potpourri of baseless conjecture.

In a message posted on Twitter, Alexey Pushkov, a member of the defense and security committee of the upper house of the Russian Parliament, ridiculed the American report as akin to C.I.A. assertions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: “Mountain gave birth to a mouse: all accusations against Russia are based on ‘confidence’ and assumptions. US was sure about Hussein possessing WMD in the same way.” Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of RT, a state-funded television network that broadcasts in English, who is cited repeatedly in the report, posted her own message on Twitter scoffing at the American intelligence community’s accusations. “Aaa, the CIA report is out! Laughter of the year! Intro to my show from 6 years ago is the main evidence of Russia’s influence at US elections. This is not a joke!” she wrote.

Even Russians who have been critical of their government voiced dismay at the United States intelligence agencies’ account of an elaborate Russian conspiracy unsupported by solid evidence. Alexey Kovalev, a Russian journalist who has followed and frequently criticized RT, said he was aghast that the report had given so much attention to the television station. “I do have a beef with RT and their chief,” Mr. Kovalev wrote on Twitter, “But they are not your nemesis, America. Please chill.”

Read more …

And Bryan McDonald finished off what the NYT started: “..it appears that we should swallow how RT succeeded where the combined might of CNN, NBC, CBS, The WaPo and the NYT and others failed in influencing the US election.”

How RT Became The Star Of CIA, FBI & NSA’s Anticlimactic ‘Big Reveal’ (McD)

The eagerly awaited Director Of National Intelligence’s (DNI) report “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” didn’t need such a long winded title. They could have just called it: “We Really Don’t Like RT.” Almost every major western news outlet splashed this story. But it was probably the New York Times’ report which was the most amusing. America’s “paper of record” hailed the DNI’s homework as “damning and surprisingly detailed.” Then a few paragraphs later admitted the analysis contained no actual evidence. Thus, in a few column inches, the Gray Lady went from describing the DNI’s release as something conclusive to conceding how it was all conjecture. “The declassified report contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions,” the reporter, one David E. Sanger, told us.

He then reached further into his bag of tricks to warn how it is “bound to be attacked by skeptics.” Yes, those skeptics. Aren’t they awful? Like, imagine not accepting an intelligence document at face value? Especially when it warns that a nuclear armed military superpower is interfering in the American democratic process, but then offers not a smidgen of proof for its assertions. Not to mention how it appears to have been put together by a group of people with barely a clue about Russia. For instance, RT progams such as “Breaking The Set” and “The Truthseeker” are mentioned in a submission supposed to be about how RT supposedly cost Hillary Clinton the US Presidential Election. But both of these programmes went off air around two years ago. And, back then, Clinton wasn’t even the Democratic Party candidate for the 2016 contest.

[..] So how bad is this report? You’d have to say on a scale of 1-10, it’d be eleven. The core message appears to be that having a point of view which is out of sync with the liberal popular media is considered a hostile act by US spooks. And it’s specifically the liberal press’ worldview they are defending here. Now, it’s up to you to judge whether this support, from state actors, is justified or not. The DNI’s submission is ostensibly the work of highly qualified intelligence experts, but everything you learn about RT comes from publicly available interviews and Tweets posted by this channel’s own people. Yet, we are supposed to believe how the best Russia brains of three agencies – the CIA, FBI and NSA – laboured to produce this stuff? That said, the latter doesn’t appear to be fully on board, offering “moderate” confidence, in contrast to the other’s “high confidence.”

Approximately a third of the document centers on RT. And it appears that we should swallow how RT succeeded where the combined might of CNN, NBC, CBS, The WaPo and the NYT and others failed in influencing the US election. Not to mention the reality where 500 US media outlets endorsed Clinton and only 25 President-elect Donald Trump. It’s time to scream: “stop the lights!” [..] The DNI’s report is beyond bad. And it’s scary to think how outgoing President Obama has stirred up a nasty diplomatic battle with Russia based on intelligence so devoid of insight and quality. There is nothing here which suggests the authors have any special savvy or insight. In fact, you could argue how a group of students would’ve assembled something of similar substance by simply reading back issues of The New York Times. But the biggest takeaway is that it’s clear how the calibre of Russia expertise in America is mediocre, if not spookily sparse. And while this report might be fodder for amusement, the actual policy implications are nothing short of dangerous.

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And that’s by no means only true for Britain.

No One Can Afford To Stop The New Consumer Credit Crisis (G.)

Consumer debt has raised its ugly head again. According to the latest figures, the total has soared back to a level last seen just before the 2008 financial crash. To the untrained eye, the dramatic increase in spending using credit cards and loans might appear to prefigure a disaster of epic proportions. Excessive consumer debt played a big part in the collapse of Northern Rock, and looking back, this landmark banking disaster appears to have been the harbinger of an even bigger catastrophe when, a year later, Lehman Brothers fell over. This is not a view shared by the Bank of England, which says it need only keep a watching brief. Its complacency is born of forecasts of the ratio between household debt and GDP made by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

At the moment, the household debt to GDP ratio is around 140%, compared with almost 170% in 2008. The OBR’s latest analysis predicts that, over the next five years, the combination of consumer and mortgage debt will rise only gradually and fall well short of its pre-crisis peak. There is nothing wrong with judging household debt as a proportion of annual national income to gauge sustainability and the likelihood that borrowers can afford to pay it back. There is nothing wrong with it as long as you assume that GDP has been evenly shared out since the crash and that the people doing the borrowing have higher incomes, thanks to the higher GDP, to cope with repayments. Except that the Bank of England knows most people’s incomes have flatlined for years. It need look no further than official figures, which make it clear that the vast majority have missed out on the gains from GDP growth.

Incomes per head have barely recovered since 2008 and are only marginally ahead. Figures put together by the TUC last year from the official annual survey of hours and earnings paint an even gloomier picture. If they are only half right, the capacity of workers on low and average pay to manage debt payments is significantly diminished. It has estimated that, nationally, workers are more than £2,000 a year worse off after inflation is taken into account than they were in 2008 and more than £4,000 worse off in London. This should tell the central bank and the Treasury that a rise to £192bn in unsecured consumer debt in November – only a little short of the £208bn peak – is most definitely a cause for concern. And it therefore makes no sense to brush aside fears about rising debt levels by pointing to higher GDP. A debt-to-GDP figure is just not that relevant when the incomes of the people taking on the debt are stagnant.

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Beijing counting down the days till january 20. It still has $3 trillion left, but 90% or so of that is not available.

China’s Foreign Exchange Reserves Fall To Lowest Since February 2011 (R.)

China’s foreign exchange reserves fell for a sixth straight month in December but by less than expected to the lowest since February 2011, as authorities stepped in to support the yuan ahead of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. China’s reserves shrank by $41 billion in December, slightly less than feared but the sixth straight month of declines, data showed on Saturday, after a week in which Beijing moved aggressively to punish those betting against the currency and make it harder for money to get out of the country. Analysts had forecast a drop of $51 billion. For the year as a whole, China’s reserves fell nearly $320 billion to $3.011 trillion, on top of a record drop of $513 billion in 2015. While the $3 trillion mark is not seen as a firm “line in the sand” for Beijing, concerns are swirling in global financial markets over the speed with which the country is depleting its ammunition to defend the currency and staunch capital outflows.

Some analysts estimate it needs to retain a minimum of $2.6 trillion to $2.8 trillion under the IMF’s adequacy measures. If pressure on the yuan persists, analysts suspect China will continue to tighten the screws on outflows via administrative and regulatory means, while pouncing sporadically on short sellers in forex markets to discourage them from building up excessive bets against the currency. But if it continues to burn through reserves at a rapid rate, some strategists believe China’s leaders may have little choice but to sanction another big “one-off” devaluation like that in 2015, which would likely roil global financial markets and stoke tensions with the new Trump administration. The yuan depreciated 6.6% against the surging dollar in 2016, its biggest one-year loss since 1994, and is expected to weaken further this year if the dollar’s rally has legs.

Adding to the pressure, Trump has vowed to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, and has threatened to slap huge tariffs on imports of Chinese goods. That has left Chinese eager to get money out of the country, creating what some researchers describe as a potentially destructive negative feedback loop, where fears of further yuan falls spur outflows that pile fresh pressure on the currency. “For 2016 as a whole we estimate total capital outflows to have been around $710 billion,” Capital Economics’ China economist Chang Liu told Reuters in an email. Capital Economics estimated net outflows in November and December alone were $76 billion and $66 billion, respectively.

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Trump will be willing to negotiate, but there’s doesn’t seem to be much, if any, room for China to move.

The Growing Threat to Global Trade: a Currency War (Forsyth)

While Trump has talked of imposing a so-called border tax on imports or tariffs, currencies are at the nexus of trade and are the quickest means to try to influence trade flows. In that regard, he has threatened to declare China a “currency manipulator” on Day One of his administration for allegedly pushing down the yuan to gain an export advantage. The risk is that this will escalate into a currency war, with both sides attempting to gain a trade advantage, and that it ultimately ends up disrupting global trade and financial markets. As with any war, this one should be avoided at all costs. But the events of the past year suggest never say never. [..] China, of course, is central to Trump’s strategy to reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

Harris writes that this includes three actions: naming China a currency manipulator; bringing trade cases against it under the WTO and U.S. rules; and using “every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets.” In addition, last week the president-elect named Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative, adding him to the hawkish team of Peter Navarro, director of the new National Trade Council, and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross. While the U.S. and China may find common ground on environmental regulation in China, given the unbreathable air in Beijing and other cities, Harris thinks it’s unlikely China would concede that it is manipulating its currency.

“China is currently fighting to prevent currency weakness, selling its foreign currency reserves to offset private capital flight from the country,” he continues. China’s reserves have fallen by about $1 trillion, to just over $3 trillion as of November; the latest data, due this weekend, will be closely watched to see how much Beijing’s cache has been depleted. That said, “some academics in China are suggesting the country should respond to being declared a ‘manipulator’ by letting the currency float, triggering even more weakness,” adds Harris. Other observers see such a course as dangerous. Danielle DiMartino Booth, writing in her latest Money Strong missive, quotes Leland Miller, president of China Beige Book, a private research group, that the last thing Beijing wants is a floating yuan.

“It would hurt them much more than anyone else and be greeted with massive retribution from every corner of the world. There would be countervailing devaluations and would cause global contagion,” he contends. “It would also be a major blow to [President] Xi’s credibility during a politically sensitive year, since he’s pledged to not float the currency. And it would NOT stanch outflows; all it would do is exacerbate them.”

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The independent Fed talking politics?!

Fed’s Powell Urges Congress to Take Another Look at Volcker Rule (BBG)

Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell urged Congress to rewrite the Volcker Rule that restricts proprietary trading, while urging “a high degree of vigilance” against the buildup of financial risks amid improving U.S. growth. “What the current law and rule do is effectively force you to look into the mind and heart of every trader on every trade to see what the intent is,” Powell said Saturday at the American Finance Association meeting in Chicago. “Is it propriety trading or something else? If that is the test you set yourself, you are going to wind up with tremendous expense and burden.” Powell’s comments compare to Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who has supported the sweeping bank rules of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act in the wake of the global financial crisis. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to dismantle Dodd-Frank. The Volcker Rule restricts banks with taxpayer-backed deposits from making certain types of speculative “proprietary” trades.

“We don’t want the largest financial institutions to be seriously engaged in propriety trading,” Powell said. “We do want them to be able to hedge their positions and create markets.” Powell said that the Volcker Rule, as enacted by U.S. lawmakers, doesn’t achieve that goal. “I feel the Congress should take another look at it.” In the text of his remarks, Powell urged more monitoring of financial risks following a period of record low interest rates, citing commercial real estate as one area of concern. “More recently, with inflation under control, overheating has shown up in the form of financial excess,” Powell said. “The current extended period of very low nominal rates calls for a high degree of vigilance against the buildup of risks to the stability of the financial system.”

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Is this simply the Fed trying to pass on the blame?

New Policies Coming To America Could Take Weight Off Fed: Powell (R.)

A push by Washington for more business-friendly regulation and fiscal support for the economy could improve America’s mix of policies which in recent years have relied too much on the Federal Reserve, Fed Governor Jerome Powell said. Powell, speaking on Saturday at a conference, did not mention the incoming Trump administration by name but his comments suggest some Trump policies will be welcomed by U.S. central bankers who have been urging other institutions to do more to help the economy. “We may be moving more to a more balanced policy with what sounds like more business-friendly regulation and possibly more fiscal support,” Powell told an economics conference in Chicago. President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has promised to double America’s pace of economic growth, “rebuild” its infrastructure and slash regulatory burdens.

About half of the Fed’s 17 policymakers factored a fiscal stimulus into their economic forecasts published in December, according to minutes from the Fed’s December policy meeting. That expected stimulus has led several policymakers to say the Fed will likely raise rates more quickly, but Powell said new policies could also ease the Fed’s burden. “Monetary policy (might be) able to hand it off and I think that’s a healthier thing,” he said. “We may be moving to a more balanced policy mix.” Following a Congress-enacted fiscal stimulus during and immediately after the 2007-09 recession, the Fed in recent years has been widely seen as the economic authority working the hardest to help the economy. But throughout 2016, Fed policymakers worried publicly that the U.S. economy was stuck in a low growth path and central banking tools could do little to fix this. Central bankers urged Congress and the U.S. president to pass laws that would help make U.S. businesses and workers more productive.

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“..it might be more of a matter of Trump not wanting many economists in his administration..”

Economists Want to Be Members of Donald Trump’s Team (BBG)

Economists aren’t shying away from joining Donald Trump’s administration and would be willing to pitch in if asked, according to former economic policy makers now in academia. “The president will be able to get any economist he asked for,” said Glenn Hubbard, who served President George W. Bush as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003 and is now dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Hubbard spoke Saturday in Chicago at the American Economic Association annual conference. A delay in naming a new CEA chair and reports that the position might go to CNBC commentator Lawrence Kudlow spawned speculation that leading academic economists were reluctant to join a team headed by an avowed skeptic of free trade.

“I don’t see that,” said John Taylor, an economics professor who served in the Bush administration as under secretary of Treasury for international affairs and now teaches at Stanford University. “It’s a pretty exciting time and lots of things are going on,” said Taylor, who worked in three other administrations as well. Alan Krueger, who led the CEA in the White House of President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2013 before passing the torch to incumbent Jason Furman, suggested that it might be more of a matter of Trump not wanting many economists in his administration, rather than the other way around. “I worry more about the demand side than the supply side,” said the Princeton University professor said. The audience laughed.

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Should have thought of that earlier. Because this has been evident for a very long time: Germany is the biggest beneficiary of the European community – economically and politically.” Just look at the graph I inserted at the bottom of this article.

EU Collapse ‘No Longer Unthinkable’ – German Vice Chancellor Gabriel (R.)

Germany’s insistence on austerity in the euro zone has left Europe more divided than ever and a break-up of the European Union is no longer inconceivable, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel magazine. Gabriel, whose Social Democrats (SPD) are junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in her ruling grand coalition, said strenuous efforts by countries like France and Italy to reduce their fiscal deficits came with political risks. “I once asked the chancellor, what would be more costly for Germany: for France to be allowed to have half a percentage point more deficit, or for Marine Le Pen to become president?” he said, referring to the leader of the far-right National Front. “Until today, she still owes me an answer,” added Gabriel, whose SPD favors a greater focus on investment while Merkel’s conservatives put more emphasis on fiscal discipline as a foundation for economic prosperity.

The SPD is expected to choose Gabriel, their long-standing chairman who is also economy minister, to run against Merkel for chancellor in September’s federal election, senior party sources said on Thursday. Asked if he really believed he could win more votes by transferring more German money to other EU countries, Gabriel replied: “I know that this discussion is extremely unpopular. But I also know about the state of the EU. It is no longer unthinkable that it breaks apart,” he said in the interview, published on Saturday. “Should that happen, our children and grandchildren would curse us,” he added. “Because Germany is the biggest beneficiary of the European community – economically and politically.”

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Thanks, Angela.

Greeks’ Mental Health Suffering (Kath.)

More than half of Greeks complain of mental health problems, with stress, insecurity and disappointment among the issues most commonly cited, according to the results of a nationwide survey by the National School of Public Health, known by its acronym ESDY. Over half of the 2,005 adults polled (53.9%) said their mental health had not been good over the past month due to stress, depression or other emotional problems. A quarter (24.8%) of respondents, identified poor physical or mental health as causing problems in their daily lives. A total of 15% said they felt insecurity, anxiety and fear, with 14% citing anger and frustration, 9.7% complaining of depression and sadness, 8.2% of stress and 44.6% citing all these ailments.

Four in 10 (42.6%) said they only enjoyed their lives “moderately” and one in 10 said they thought their lives had little or no meaning. The findings came as official figures showed that cases of depression rose from 2.6% of the population in 2008 to 4.7% in 2015. Responding to broader questions about their health and lifestyle, 20% of those polled said their diets had been insufficient over the past month due to low finances. According to health sector experts, however, the repercussions of the economic crisis on citizens’ health are less severe than many had feared. In comments to Kathimerini, Yiannis Kyriopoulos, a professor of health economics at the ESDY, said the findings of the study “simply observe a slowdown in the improvement of health indicators.”

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Nov 212014
 
 November 21, 2014  Posted by at 9:22 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  


NPC US Navy photographers March 24, 1925

The original idea behind a central bank is that medium and longer term monetary policy should not be allowed to be held hostage by a short-term prevailing political wind, that an incumbent politician and his/her party should not be permitted and/or enabled to manipulate a nation’s currency for political gain. A central bank was (and still is officially) supposed to be independent of politics, to be a buffer between a society’s long term interests and a politician’s short-term ones.

In particular, no-one should issue huge amounts of money to make it look like they were just awesome leaders that make everyone rich, while sinking the future of a society in the process. I know, I know, there are tons of other ways to explain the drive to found central banks, just google Jekyll Island, but the issue of economic stability vs fleeting political flavors is certainly a big one.

So. Have we come a long way or what’s the story? Today’s central banks do nothing BUT engage in short term policies that keep incumbents as happy as they can be in bad economic circumstances. Central banks have become political instruments that pamper to the tastes of whoever may be in charge on any given day, which is the exact 180º opposite of why they exist in the first place.

And because they’ve gotten so far removed from what they’re supposed to be doing, central bankers start to realize they’ve ended up in completely unfamiliar and uncharted territory. And now they are, like anyone would be in that kind of position, scared. Sh*tless. And as we’ve all learned from kindergarten on is that fear is a bad counselor. They may have risen to positions of oracles and household names (also entirely contrary to their original job descriptions), and they may have fallen for the flattery that comes with all that, but deep down they know full well they’re way out of their leagues.

The best they can come up with is trying to bluff their way out of their conundrums. Because it’s not as if they don’t understand that doing exactly what they were intended not to do, i.e. flood markets with cheap money not based on any underlying real values, or work performed, will of necessity at some point blow up in their faces. They just hope and pray it will take long enough for them to be somewhere else, enjoying a Banana Daiquiri when that mushroom appears on the horizon.

Central bankers have been reduced to political toys, and they – at least at times – realize that’s not a good position to be in. If only because it makes them redundant. If they only simply do what politicians want anyway, we might as well just let those politicians set monetary policy by themselves.

That puts central bankers in a situation in which they are being set up as patsies, to catch all the bad rap if and when things get even worse then they already are. And they will. Moreover, obviously it’s not the politicians that decide, but the people who finance their campaigns (they do need long term policies), and once you realize that, you really need to wonder what kind of court jesters Bernanke, Yellen, Draghi and Kuroda have become.

Now that we’ve come to naming names, look at them: Draghi today did another press-op in which he blubbered about what he’ll do about inflation, and fast. But there’s nothing blooper Mario can do to make people in Europe spend their money any faster, if only because they don’t have any money. And his banking overlords won’t let him hand out money to the people even if he would want to (dubious for a Goldmanman), so boosting that consumer spending is never ever going to work.

All Mario gets to do is spread the alarm, and then catch the fall. But you know, you’re thinking, doesn’t he know hat’s going on, and he may well know very well. In the end that’s just a sad story, and because of the role he plays he deserves to never again have a single night of solid sleep. His role is just too ambiguous. And most of all, it hurts too many innocent people.

The Fed has Janet Yellen, who’s trying to contortion her way into explaining that the US economy is doing so well she just must raise interest rates, which is so far off reality it’s not funny, but it’s the going story, because her paymasters on Wall Street need or want more profits, and they’ve gotten all they could out of the zero % policies now that every mom and pop is on the same side of the trade as they are.

All I can think when I see her pop up again is why would anyone, let alone Janet herself, want to be in her position? Where’s the satisfaction? Why not go live somewhere out on Martha’s Vineyard and let others do the damage? What drives these clowns?

The Bank of Japan’s Haruhiko Kuroda is perhaps the most overt and obvious political tool of them all, who does only what PM Shinzo Abe tells him to, and drives his country into a deep dark stinking swamp while he’s at it. Kuroda doesn’t even know how to spell ‘independent central banker’.

And talking about bad counselors, Bloomberg reports on a meeting Abe had with Paul Krugman, who won that Fake Nobel a few years back for the same single two words he undoubtedly told Abe: Spend and More. If any country today could benefit from having a truly independent central bank it’s Japan, But of course, the Bank of Japan is, if anything, even less independent than the rest of them.

What drives central bankers in November 2014 is fear, pure and simple, if not absolute screaming panic. Together, they’ve literally spent untold trillions of dollars, and what is the result? People everywhere across the planet slow down their spending more and more. And that means deflation. Which is what they’re all supposed to be so afraid of. But which they also all know cannot be averted.

And then this morning we see that the Chinese central bank People’s Bank of China, PBOC, has lowered its interest rate targets. The PBOC chairman’s name is Zhou Xiaochuan, and there’s of course plenty reason why nobody knows that name. That is, nobody even expects the PBOC to be independent from the rulers.

Which is somewhat curious, because the role Zhou plays is no different at all from that of Yellen, Draghi and Kuroda. The only difference is the pretense that the latter are not political toys and instruments and kow-towing fools.

Why does Zhou lower interest rates? Because he’s scared. Well, he and his forbidden city masters. China’s economy is falling so much so fast that they see the historically by far biggest ever debt-driven economic model implode on their watch. Xi and Li and Zhou fear the wave that’s coming for them, and given the size of the Chinese economy, no matter how fake and debt-based it is, we should all share their angst.

Japan is dead, a zombie with lipstick, and still the world’s no. 3 economy. One more reason for all of us to be afraid. Add in Draghi whose only resort is to find different ways of saying the same thing he will never ever be able to do, to buy everything in Europe that’s not bolted down and then buy the bolts too, and you have am entire world that should be scared straight out of their undies.

Which makes Janet Yellen’s task of defending the upcoming rate hikes all the more amusing. Yeah, sure, the US economy is doing great. Sure, grandma. Look, we all know your place in history will be that of someone who was either too complicit or too stupid while the walls were crumbling. And we all know today that you’re scared to even open your mail in the morning. Because we all know as well as you do that the picture of the US economy that you paint is a virtual reality. The only question is, do you yourself actually live in it?