Nov 092018
 


Paul Henry Altan Lough, Donegal 1933-34

 

Larry King: CNN Stopped Doing News A Long Time Ago. They Do Trump (ZH)
Democrats Want Healthcare Protected – And Trump Impeached (R.)
The Fed Stands Pat on Thursday, What’s Next? (Street)
US Sues UBS, Alleges Crisis-Era Mortgage Securities Fraud (R.)
Frail Mikhail Gorbachev Warns Against Return To The Cold War (R.)
Corbyn Advisor Economist Mariana Mazzucato Has UK Residency Bid Rejected (G.)
As Renewables Drive Up Energy Prices US, Asia & Europe Opt For Nuclear (F.)
US Court Halts Construction Of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline (AFP) <
World’s First AI News Anchor Unveiled In China (G.)
UN Envoy Meets UK Food Bank Users (G.)
‘Remarkable’ Decline In Global Fertility Rates (BBC)
Stopping Antimicrobial Resistance Would Cost Just $2 Per Person A Year (OECD)

 

 

Not that I need vindication, but it’s good to see that Larry King says the same I’ve been saying: CNN – like NYT, Wapo etc.- is in it for the money only, not for the news. Think of that as the recount stories start spreading.

Larry King: CNN Stopped Doing News A Long Time Ago. They Do Trump (ZH)

HOST RICK SANCHEZ: You know it’s interesting. As I listen to you I’m thinking that both you and I are old enough to remember that there was a lot of antagonism during the 1960s. There was a lot of antagonism during Watergate. There was certainly antagonism during the Clinton years. But there is something, maybe it’s an undercurrent, that is different now. Can you put your finger on it? What is it?

KING: Two things, Rick — the internet and cable news. Could you imagine cable news in Watergate? And they don’t do news anymore. In fact, RT is one of the few channels doing news. RT does news. CNN stopped doing news a long time ago. They do Trump. Fox is Trump TV and MSNBC is anti-Trump all the time. You don’t see a story — there was vicious winds and storms in the Northeast the other day – not covered on any of the three cable networks, not covered. Not covered! So when CNN started covering Trump — they were the first — they covered every speech he made and then they made Trump the story.

So, Trump is the story in America. I would bet that ninety-eight percent of all Americans mention his name at least once a day. And when it’s come to that, when you focus on one man, I know Donald 40 years — I know the good side of Donald and I know the bad side of Donald — I think he would like to be a dictator. I think he would love to be able to just run things. So, he causes a lot of this. Then his fight with the media and fake news. I’ve been in the media a long time, like you — longer than you, Rick. And at all my years at CNN, in my years at Mutual Radio, I have never seen a conversation where a producer said to a host “pitch the story this way. Angle it that way. Don’t tell the truth.” Never saw it. Never saw it.

SANCHEZ: You know it’s funny, just quick because you know these producers are telling me you guys have to start wrapping this up … you said something interesting about how CNN played along with Trump. I think they only played along or at least gave him that much airtime in many ways because they didn’t think he was going to win, correct?

KING: I guess it’s to their regret. But, they covered him as a character. They carried every speech he made. They carried him more than Fox News, at the beginning. And so they built the whole thing up and the Republicans had a lot of candidates and they all had weaknesses. When I saw Senator Cruz hug Donald Trump the other day I said, “this is what America has become.” He said that Cruz’s father helped kill Kennedy!

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Healthcare good. Impeachment painfully dumb. These people should go looking for trustworthy news stories, not blindly parrot MSM.

Democrats Want Healthcare Protected – And Trump Impeached (R.)

Democrats have a clear message for party leaders who will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll: Protect their healthcare and impeach President Donald Trump. The poll released on Thursday found that 43 percent of people who identified as Democrats want impeachment to be a top priority for Congress. That goal was second in priority only to healthcare, which played a major role in Democratic campaigns’ closing arguments before Tuesday’s elections.

They may be disappointed: Party leaders on Wednesday vowed to use their newly won majority to impose a new level of scrutiny on the Trump White House, but said impeachment would require evidence of action to subvert the Constitution that was so overwhelming that it would trouble even Trump’s supporters. Democratic Party leaders had practical reasons for caution. While they were poised to gain at least 30 House seats, more than the 23 they needed for a majority, Republicans strengthened their control of the U.S. Senate, which has the power to determine guilt or innocence in an impeachment proceeding. [..] The American public at large was far less supportive of impeachment proceedings, with just 24 percent of overall respondents listing it among their top three goals for the new Congress.

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A raise next month is what’s next.

The Fed Stands Pat on Thursday, What’s Next? (Street)

In an unsurprising move, Fed chair Jerome Powell kept rates flat on Thursday. “The committee expects that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions and inflation near the committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term,” the Fed said following its regularly scheduled two-day meeting to discuss interest rates. “Risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.” TheStreet Founder and Action Alerts portfolio manager Jim has been adamant that the pause was necessary given a “collapse in oil” and a “collapse in housing.” He noted that Powell’s pause, and potentially an extended pause, could change that.

[..] Powell has paused, but the market seems to be slow off the starting line so far as major indices finished Thursday down slightly. So what’s next? “People have to remember that this November meeting is the last lame duck meeting,” Quill Intelligence CEO and former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas advisor Danielle DiMartino Booth told TheStreet. “imagine all of the drama with Trump castigating Powell.” She added that a raise is very likely in December and speculated that rates could possibly be raised again in January, which would surprise the markets. “I don’t think he has any qualms about having the market make monetary policy for him,” Dimartino Booth said. “He’s not afraid of the stock market.”

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Why did that take 10 years? And what are the odds an actual person will be held accountable?

US Sues UBS, Alleges Crisis-Era Mortgage Securities Fraud (R.)

The U.S. government on Thursday filed a civil fraud lawsuit accusing UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, of defrauding investors in its sale of residential mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008-09 global financial crisis. UBS was accused of misleading investors about the quality of more than $41 billion of subprime and other risky mortgage loans backing 40 securities offerings in 2006 and 2007, the Department of Justice said in a complaint filed with the federal court in Brooklyn. The lawsuit came after UBS rejected a government proposal that it pay nearly $2 billion to settle, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to speak publicly about them.

While UBS was not a big originator of U.S. residential home loans, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn said investors suffered “catastrophic losses” from the bank’s failure to fully disclose the risks of mortgage securities it helped sell. [..] U.S. officials faulted UBS for having a business culture that placed a higher priority on profits than full disclosure to investors, who were deprived of crucial information about the quality of the loans underlying the securities they bought. Thursday’s lawsuit quoted a UBS trader who in a 2006 instant message said “our crack due diligence effort is a joke,” and a UBS mortgage employee who the same year complained to his bosses about the bank’s ethics, including that “Lying is ok.”

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His last warning?

Frail Mikhail Gorbachev Warns Against Return To The Cold War (R.)

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, warned on Thursday against rising tensions between Russia and the United States and said there should be no return to the Cold War. The frail 87-year-old was physically helped by aides to a cinema hall to watch the premiere in Russia of a new documentary about his life, his Soviet reforms in the 1980s and his arms control drive that helped end the Cold War. His legacy has come under a pall as ties between Moscow and Washington have fallen to post-Cold War lows, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and rows over sanctions, election meddling and the poisoning of a spy in England.

He spoke briefly to a cinema hall in Moscow after “Meeting Gorbachev”, a new documentary directed by filmmakers Werner Herzog and Andre Singer, and was asked if the world would hold back from a new Cold War. “We must hold back,” he said. “And not just from the Cold War. We have to continue the course we mapped. We have to ban war once and for all. Most important is to get rid of nuclear weapons.” Reviled by many Russians as the man whose reforms ultimately led to the Soviet breakup, Gorbachev is lauded in the West as the man who helped end the Cold War. Gorbachev, whose visibly ailing health was in stark contrast to the vigorous reformist figure he cut in the 1980s, said the world was moving dangerously closer to a new arms race.

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This happened last year. Even university professors with 4 British kids are not safe.

Corbyn Advisor Economist Mariana Mazzucato Has UK Residency Bid Rejected (G.)

The London-based international economist Mariana Mazzucato has said her application for permanent residency in the UK was turned down, prompting renewed anger about the government’s immigration policy. Mazzucato, the founding director of University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and the author of several influential books on the economy, was born in Italy but has lived in the UK for 20 years. She applied for permanent residency in 2017, a few months after the UK voted to leave the EU. On Thursday she tweeted that her application had been refused and her Italian passport kept by the Home Office for six months. Immigration officials blamed a credit card problem with her application fee, she said, adding that there was no problem with her card.

A spokesman for University College London said Prof Mazzucato did not want to elaborate on her Twitter update. Later, after her tweet prompted widespread outrage, it clarified that she was referring to an incident in 2017. Mazzucato joined Jeremy Corbyn’s Economic Advisory Committee in 2015 and 2016 alongside other big name economists, including Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty. She is a member of the Scottish government’s Council of Economic Advisers. Her attempt to secure permanent residency ran into problems over a mixup about single digit on her 85-page application. “My ‘big’ error was making 4 look like 9 in my credit card number,” she tweeted in May 2017. At the time she said her application had to be resubmitted.

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No, we are not a smart species.

As Renewables Drive Up Energy Prices US, Asia & Europe Opt For Nuclear (F.)

Voters in the U.S., Asia, and Europe are increasingly opting for nuclear power in response to rising electricity prices from the deployment of renewables like solar panels and wind turbines. By a more than two-to-one margin (70% to 30%), voters in Arizona on Tuesday rejected a ballot initiative (proposition 127) that would have resulted in the closure of that state’s nuclear power plant and in the massive deployment of solar and wind. In Taiwan, momentum is building for a repeal of that nation’s nuclear energy phase-out. Grassroots pro-nuclear advocacy inspired a former president to help activists gather over 300,000 signatures so voters could vote directly on the issue on November 24.

And after a coalition of grassroots groups rallied in Munich, Germany last month to protest the closure of nuclear plants, a wave of mostly positive media coverage spread across Europe, inspiring a majority of Netherlands voters, and the nation’s ruling political party, to declare support for building new nuclear reactors. Now, in the wake of rising public support for nuclear energy, a longstanding foe of nuclear power, the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, has reversed its blanket opposition to the technology and declared that existing U.S. nuclear plants must stay open to protect the climate.

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The never ending battle continues. Just let interest rates bankrupt shale, and we’re good.

US Court Halts Construction Of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline (AFP)

A federal judge on Thursday halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, arguing that President Donald Trump’s administration had failed to adequately explain why it had lifted a ban on the project. The ruling by Judge Brian Morris of the US District Court for the District of Montana dealt a stinging setback to Trump and the oil industry and served up a big win for conservationists and indigenous groups. Trump granted a permit for the $8 billion conduit meant to stretch from Canada to Texas just days after taking office last year. He said it would create jobs and spur development of infrastructure. In doing so the administration overturned a ruling by then president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular the US contribution to climate change.

The analysis of a cross-border project like this is done by the State Department. The same environmental analysis that the department carried out before denying the permit in 2015 was ignored when the department turned around last year and approved it, the judge argued. “An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate,” Morris wrote. He added: “The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.” The judge also argued that the State Department failed to properly account for factors such as low oil prices, the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from the pipeline and the risk of oil spills.

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Who’ll know the difference?

World’s First AI News Anchor Unveiled In China (G.)

China’s state news agency Xinhua this week introduced the newest members of its newsroom: AI anchors who will report “tirelessly” all day every day, from anywhere in the country. Chinese viewers were greeted with a digital version of a regular Xinhua news anchor named Qiu Hao. The anchor, wearing a red tie and pin-striped suit, nods his head in emphasis, blinking and raising his eyebrows slightly. “Not only can I accompany you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news,” he says.

Xinhua also presented an English-speaking AI, based on another presenter, who adds: “The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies … I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences.” Developed by Xinhua and the Chinese search engine, Sogou, the anchors were developed through machine learning to simulate the voice, facial movements, and gestures of real-life broadcasters, to present a “a lifelike image instead of a cold robot,” according to Xinhua.

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Britian’s reality.

UN Envoy Meets UK Food Bank Users (G.)

At Britain’s busiest food bank in Newcastle’s west end people loaded carrier bags with desperately needed groceries as unemployed Michael Hunter, 20, took his chance to spell out to one of the world’s leading experts in extreme poverty and human rights just how tight money can get in the UK today. Previous destinations for Philip Alston, the United Nations rapporteur on the issue, have included Ghana, Saudi Arabia, China and Mauritania. But now his lens is trained on Britain, the fifth richest country in the world, and he listened as Hunter explained an absurdity of the government’s much-criticised universal credit welfare programme.

Users have to go online to keep their financial lifeline open, but computers need electricity – and with universal credit leaving a £465 monthly budget to stretch across the three people in Michael’s family (about £5 each a day), they can barely afford it with the meter ticking. “I have to be quick doing my universal credit because I am that scared of losing the electric,” he said. Alston mentally logged the situation, ahead of a report ruling on whether Britain is meeting its international obligations not to increase inequality. But it was not just the computer that was too expensive to power. “I am hungry sometimes,” Michael said. “I’m scared to eat sometimes in case we run out of food.”

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Maybe mankind CAN solve some of its problems?!

‘Remarkable’ Decline In Global Fertility Rates (BBC)

There has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, say researchers. Their report found fertility rate falls meant nearly half of countries were now facing a “baby bust” – meaning there are insufficient children to maintain their population size. The researchers said the findings were a “huge surprise”. And there would be profound consequences for societies with “more grandparents than grandchildren”. The study, published in the Lancet, followed trends in every country from 1950 to 2017. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. The fertility rate all but halved to 2.4 children per woman by last year. But that masks huge variation between nations. The fertility rate in Niger, west Africa, is 7.1, but in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus women are having one child, on average.

Whenever a country’s average fertility rate drops below approximately 2.1 then populations will eventually start to shrink (this “baby bust” figure is significantly higher in countries which have high rate of deaths in childhood). At the start of the study, in 1950, there were zero nations in this position. Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told the BBC: “We’ve reached this watershed where half of countries have fertility rates below the replacement level, so if nothing happens the populations will decline in those countries. “It’s a remarkable transition. “It’s a surprise even to people like myself, the idea that it’s half the countries in the world will be a huge surprise to people.”

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Apparently for the OECD, these are equal issues: ..handwashing and more prudent prescription of antibiotics. Though they know full well that simply putting a ban on antibiotics in agriculture would solve the issue in no time.

Stopping Antimicrobial Resistance Would Cost Just $2 Per Person A Year (OECD)

Superbug infections could cost the lives of around 2.4 million people in Europe, North America and Australia over the next 30 years unless more is done to stem antibiotic resistance. Yet, three out of four deaths could be averted by spending just USD 2 per person a year on measures as simple as handwashing and more prudent prescription of antibiotics, according to a new OECD report. Stemming the Superbug Tide: Just A Few Dollars More says that dealing with antimicrobial resistance (AMR) complications could cost up to USD 3.5 billion a year on average across the 33 countries included in the analysis, unless countries step up their fight against superbugs.

Southern Europe risks being particularly affected. Italy, Greece and Portugal are forecast to top the list of OECD countries with the highest mortality rates from AMR while the United States, Italy and France would have the highest absolute death rates, with almost 30,000 AMR deaths a year forecast in the US alone by 2050. A short-term investment to stem the superbug tide would save lives and money in the long run, says the OECD. A five-pronged assault on antimicrobial resistance — by promoting better hygiene, ending the over-prescription of antibiotics, rapid testing for patients to determine whether they have viral or bacterial infections, delays in prescribing antibiotics and mass media campaigns — could counter one of the biggest threats to modern medicine.

Investment in a comprehensive public health package encompassing some of these measures in OECD countries could pay for themselves within just one year and end up by saving USD 4.8 billion per year, says the OECD. While resistance proportions for eight high-priority antibiotic-bacterium combinations increased from 14% in 2005 to 17% in 2015 across OECD countries, there were pronounced differences between countries. The average resistance proportions in Turkey, Korea and Greece (about 35%) were seven times higher than in Iceland, Netherlands and Norway, the countries with the lowest proportions (about 5%).

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Jul 102016
 
 July 10, 2016  Posted by at 8:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


G.G. Bain Political museums, Union Square, New York 1909

Bank Earnings Loom Large As Stocks Near Record on Wall Street (R.)
The Epic Collapse Of The World’s Most Systemically Dangerous Bank (ZH/VC)
Bank of England Considers Curbs On Property Funds (R.)
China June Inflation Eases Further, More Policy Stimulus Anticipated (R.)
China Healthcare Costs Forcing Patients Into Crippling Debt (R.)
Gorbachev: ‘The Next War Will Be the Last’ (Sputnik)
Blair’s Deputy PM Says Iraq Invasion Broke International Law (BBC)
Families Of Soldiers Killed In Iraq Vow To Sue Blair For ‘Every Penny’ (Tel.)
Australia’s Other Great Reef Is Also Screwed (Atlantic)
10,000 Hectares Of Mangroves Die Across Northern Australia (ABC.au)
Global Insect Populations Fall 45% In Past 40 Years (e360)

 

 

Markets are now completely divorced from reality.

Bank Earnings Loom Large As Stocks Near Record on Wall Street (R.)

The focus on Wall Street will shift to corporate earnings next week after a strong June jobs report on Friday gave investors confidence that the U.S. economy was on stable footing and left the S&P 500 within a whisper of a new closing record high. Earnings next week are expected from big banks JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo as well as other financial companies such as BlackRock and PNC Financial Services. Earnings for the sector are expected to decline 5.4%. If bank earnings come in better than expected, the S&P 500 is likely to push through its record highs set in May 2015 after several failed attempts, as Friday’s jobs number helped push the benchmark index to less than one point from its closing record high of 2,130.82.

“Banks are definitely in the spotlight,” said Tim Ghriskey, CIO of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York. “There is some trepidation in the market going into this earnings season, the quarter economically was not particularly strong.” Financials have been the worst performing of the 10 major S&P sector groups this year, down nearly 6%, as they were hit by reduced expectations for a U.S. interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve and uncertainty in the wake of “Brexit.” Second-quarter earnings overall are expected to decline 4.7%, according to Thomson Reuters data, the fourth straight quarter of negative earnings, but up slightly from the 5% decline in the first quarter.

Investors will be looking for confirmation this quarter that earnings are starting to turn, with analysts anticipating a return to growth in the back half of the year, starting with expectations for a 1.8% increase in the third quarter.

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Two things still stuck in German media (Google translate for them is awful) as I write this: the chief economist for Deutsche Bank calls for a €150 billion bailout for European banks, and German top-economist Hans-Werner Sinn says Finland will be next to leave EU and first to leave eurozone.

The Epic Collapse Of The World’s Most Systemically Dangerous Bank (ZH/VC)

It’s been almost 10 years in the making, but the fate of one of Europe’s most important financial institutions appears to be sealed. After a hard-hitting sequence of scandals, poor decisions, and unfortunate events,Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes that Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank shares are now down -48% on the year to $12.60, which is a record-setting low. Even more stunning is the long-term view of the German institution’s downward spiral. With a modest $15.8 billion in market capitalization, shares of the 147-year-old company now trade for a paltry 8% of its peak price in May 2007.

If the deaths of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns were quick and painless, the coming demise of Deutsche Bank has been long, drawn out, and painful. In recent times, Deutsche Bank’s investment banking division has been among the largest in the world, comparable in size to Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citigroup. However, unlike those other names, Deutsche Bank has been walking wounded since the Financial Crisis, and the German bank has never been able to fully recover. It’s ironic, because in 2009, the company’s CEO Josef Ackermann boldly proclaimed that Deutsche Bank had plenty of capital, and that it was weathering the crisis better than its competitors.

It turned out, however, that the bank was actually hiding $12 billion in losses to avoid a government bailout. Meanwhile, much of the money the bank did make during this turbulent time in the markets stemmed from the manipulation of Libor rates. Those “wins” were short-lived, since the eventual fine to end the Libor probe would be a record-setting $2.5 billion. The bank finally had to admit that it actually needed more capital. In 2013, it raised €3 billion with a rights issue, claiming that no additional funds would be needed. Then in 2014 the bank head-scratchingly proceeded to raise €1.5 billion, and after that, another €8 billion. In recent years, Deutsche Bank has desperately been trying to reinvent itself.

Having gone through multiple CEOs since the Financial Crisis, the latest attempt at reinvention involves a massive overhaul of operations and staff announced by co-CEO John Cryan in October 2015. The bank is now in the process of cutting 9,000 employees and ceasing operations in 10 countries. This is where our timeline of Deutsche Bank’s most recent woes begins – and the last six months, in particular, have been fast and furious. Deutsche Bank started the year by announcing a record-setting loss in 2015 of €6.8 billion. Cryan went on an immediate PR binge, proclaiming that the bank was “rock solid”. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble even went out of his way to say he had “no concerns” about Deutsche Bank. Translation: things are in full-on crisis mode.

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Just in time delivery?!

Bank of England Considers Curbs On Property Funds (R.)

The Bank of England is considering curbs on withdrawals from property investment funds after Britain’s vote to leave the EU roiled the sector, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper said late on Saturday. The paper said it understood that the BoE was considering “enforced notice periods before redemptions, slashing the price for investors who rush to the door, or additional liquidity requirements for funds”. Andrew Bailey, the head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, told a BoE news conference on Tuesday that the structure of open-ended real estate funds needed to be reviewed, as investors rushed to cash in their investments.

The BoE – where Bailey was deputy governor until he moved to the FCA this month – last year expressed concern about funds that invest in assets which can become illiquid in a crisis, but allow investors to withdraw funds without notice. On Friday the FCA issued guidance to property funds to avoid disadvantaging investors who had not sought to redeem funds. The Telegraph said regulators were considering requiring funds to ask investors to give a notice period of 30 days to six months for redemptions, or to hold more liquid assets to meet withdrawals, such as cash or shares and bonds in property-related companies. More than six British property funds suspended withdrawals last week to tackle a tide of redemptions after the June 23 vote to leave the EU unnerved investors who are worried that the uncertainty will hit demand to rent and buy commercial property.

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As I said, China’s entered deflation.

China June Inflation Eases Further, More Policy Stimulus Anticipated (R.)

China’s June consumer inflation grew at its slowest pace since January as increases in food prices eased, while producer prices extended their decline, reinforcing economists’ views that more government stimulus steps will be needed to support the economy. The consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.9% in June from a year earlier, compared with a 2.0% increase in May, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 1.8% gain, a Reuters poll showed. Consumer inflation has remained low compared with the official target of around 3% for this year, indicating persistently weak demand in the world’s second-largest economy. Food prices were up 4.6% in June, compared with a 5.9% gain in the previous month.

Prices of China’s staple meat pork rose 30.1%, compared with a 33.6% increase in May. But recent flooding in China “is likely to push vegetable and fruit prices higher in the coming months,” ANZ economists Raymond Yeung and Louis Lam wrote in a research note. Non-food prices inched up 1.2% in June versus May’s 1.1% gain. “In our view, while China reiterates the importance of supply-side reform due to debt and overcapacity concerns, the authorities still need to stimulate demand in order to achieve its growth target,” Zhou Hao, senior Asia emerging market economist at Commerzbank in Singapore, said in a note. The People’s Bank of China last cut interest rates on Oct. 23, the seventh time since late 2014, as the government took steps to counter slowing economic growth.

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Hmmm. Which other country does this remind you of? Official data show up to 44% of families pushed into poverty were impoverished by illness. Does that sound like communism to you?

China Healthcare Costs Forcing Patients Into Crippling Debt (R.)

As China’s medical bills rise steeply, outpacing government insurance provision, patients and their families are increasingly turning to loans to pay for healthcare, adding to the country’s growing burden of consumer debt. While public health insurance reaches nearly all of China’s 1.4 billion people, its coverage is basic, leaving patients liable for about half of total healthcare spending, with the proportion rising further for serious or chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. That is likely to get significantly worse as the personal healthcare bill soars almost fourfold to 12.7 trillion yuan ($1.9 trillion) by 2025, according to Boston Consulting Group estimates. For many, like Li Xinjin, a construction materials trader whose son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, that means taking on crippling debt.

Li, from Cangzhou in Hebei province, scoured local papers and websites for small lenders to finance his son’s costly treatment at a specialist hospital in Beijing, running up debts of more than 1.7 million yuan, about 10 times his typical annual income. “At that time, borrowing money and having to make repayments, I was very stressed. Every day I worried about this,” said Li, 47, adding that he and his wife had at times slept rough on the streets near the hospital. “But I couldn’t let my son down. I had to try to save him,” he said. Li’s boy died last year. The debts will weigh him down for a few more years yet. Medical loans are just part of China’s debt mountain – consumer borrowing has tripled since 2010 to nearly 21 trillion yuan, and in eight years household debt relative to the economy has doubled to nearly 40% – but they are growing.

That is luring big companies like Ping An Insurance, as well as small loan firms and P2P platforms, as China’s traditional savings culture proves inadequate to the challenge of such heavy costs. The stress is particularly apparent in lower-tier cities and rural areas where insurance has failed to keep pace with rising costs, said Andrew Chen, Shanghai-based healthcare head for consultancy Parthenon-EY. “It’s a storm waiting to happen where patients from rural areas will have huge financial burdens they didn’t have to face before,” he said, adding people would often take second mortgages on their homes or turn to community finance schemes.

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“..In the current situation…all political, economic, diplomatic and cultural forces should be engaged to pacify the world..”

Gorbachev: ‘The Next War Will Be the Last’ (Sputnik)

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared in an interview with radio station Echo Moskvy that if the crisis escalates to another war, this war will be the last. NATO leaders agreed on Friday to deploy military forces to the Baltic states and eastern Poland while increasing air and sea patrols to demonstrate readiness to defend eastern members against the alleged ‘Russian aggression.’ Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly said after the summit that the decisions made at NATO summit in Warsaw should be regarded as a preparation for a hot war with Russia. On Saturday, Gorbachev told Echo Moskvy in an interview that he sticks to what he had said earlier and that he considers NATO decisions short-sighted and dangerous.

“Such steps lead to tension and disruption. Europe is splitting, the world is splitting. This is a wrong path for the global community” He said. “There are too many global and individual crises to abandon cooperation. It is essential to revive the dialogue.” According to the ex Soviet President, by irresponsibly deploying four multinational battalions to Russian borders, “within shooting distance”, the alliance draws closer another Cold War and another Arms Race. “There are still ways to…avoid military action.” Gorbachev stressed. “I would say that UN should be called upon on that matter.” He also called on Moscow not to respond to provocations but to come to the negotiating table. “In the current situation…all political, economic, diplomatic and cultural forces should be engaged to pacify the world. Mind you, the next war will be the last.”

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Closing the net on Tony.

Blair’s Deputy PM Says Iraq Invasion Broke International Law (BBC)

John Prescott, who was deputy prime minister when Britain went to war with Iraq in 2003, says the invasion by UK and US forces was “illegal”. Writing in the Sunday Mirror, he said he would live with the “catastrophic decision” for the rest of his life. Lord Prescott said he now agreed “with great sadness and anger” with former UN secretary general Kofi Annan that the war was illegal. He also praised Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn for apologising on the party’s behalf. Lord Prescott also said Prime Minister Tony Blair’s statement that “I am with you, whatever” in a message to US President George W Bush before the invasion in March 2003, was “devastating”.

“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of the decision we made to go to war. Of the British troops who gave their lives or suffered injuries for their country. Of the 175,000 civilians who died from the Pandora’s Box we opened by removing Saddam Hussein,” he went on. Lord Prescott said he was “pleased Jeremy Corbyn has apologised on behalf of the Labour Party to the relatives of those who died and suffered injury”. He also expressed his own “fullest apology”, especially to the families of British personnel who died. The former deputy PM said the Chilcot report had gone into great detail about what went wrong, but he wanted to identify “certain lessons we must learn”.

“My first concern was the way Tony Blair ran Cabinet. We were given too little paper documentation to make decisions,” he wrote. No documentation was provided to justify Attorney-general Lord Goldsmith’s opinion that action against Iraq was legal, he added.

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…and taking all his money too…

Families Of Soldiers Killed In Iraq Vow To Sue Blair For ‘Every Penny’ (Tel.)

Tony Blair will be pursued through the courts for “every penny” of the fortune he has earned since leaving Downing Street, the families of soldiers killed in Iraq vowed. Mr Blair faces a civil law suit over allegations he abused his power as prime minister to wage war in Iraq. The damages, according to legal sources close to the case, are unlimited. A well-placed source told The Telegraph that the Chilcot report appeared to provide grounds for the launch of a lawsuit. “It gives us a lot of threads to pursue and those threads make a powerful rope to catch him,” said the source. So far 29 families of dead soldiers have asked the law firm McCue & Partners to pursue a claim against Mr Blair. Others are expected to come on board.

The firm is looking at bringing a civil case of misfeasance in public office, which would see Mr Blair dragged through the courts for the first time over his decision to take the UK to war. Legal sources say for any case to be successful, lawyers would have to show that Mr Blair “had acted in excess of his powers” and that in doing so “harm has been caused and that the harm could have been predicted”. Sir John Chilcot, in his findings published on Wednesday, said Mr Blair should have seen the problems that resulted from the invasion in 2003 and came as he could to suggesting the military action was illegal.

Mr Blair has earned a fortune estimated at as much as £60 million since resigning as prime minister in 2007, largely through a complex network of companies that offers investment and strategic advice to private companies and international governments. Reg Keys, whose son Tom was one of six Royal Military Police killed at Majar al-Kabir in 2003, said: “Tony Blair has made a lot of money from public office which I believe he misused. He misused the powers of that office and has gone on to make a lot of money after leaving that office, a lot of it from the contacts he made while in Downing Street.”[..] “I would like to see him stripped of every penny he has got. I would like to see him dragged through the civil courts.”

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Runs along the entire south coast of the continent.

Australia’s Other Great Reef Is Also Screwed (Atlantic)

Imagine arriving at a region famed for its forests—the Pyrenees or the Rockies, perhaps—and discovering that all the trees had vanished. Where just a few years ago there were trunks and leaves, now there is only moss. That’s how Thomas Wernberg and Scott Bennett felt in 2013, when they dropped into the waters of Kalbarri, halfway up the western coast of Australia.

They last dived the area in 2010. Then, as in the previous decade, they had swum among vast forests of kelp—a tagliatelle-like seaweed whose meter-tall fronds shelter lush communities of marine life. But just three years later, the kelps had disappeared. The duo searched for days and found no traces of them. They only saw other kinds of seaweed, growing in thin, patchy, and low-lying lawns. “We thought we were in the wrong spot,” says Bennett. “It was like someone had bulldozed the reef. It was like a moonscape underwater—scungy, brown, and empty.”

The culprit—surprise, surprise—is climate change. The waters near western Australia were already among the fastest-warming regions in the oceans before being pummeled by a recent series of extreme heat waves. In the summer of 2011, temperatures rose to highs not seen in 215 years of records, highs far beyond what kelps, which prefer milder conditions, can tolerate. As a result, the kelp forests were destroyed. Before the heat wave, the kelps stretched over 800 kilometers of Australia’s western flank and cover 2,200 square kilometers. After the heat wave, Wernberg and Bennett found that 43% of these forests disappeared, including almost all the kelps from the most northerly 100 kilometers of the range. “It was just heartbreaking,” says Bennett.

“It really brought home to me the impact that climate change can have on these ecosystems, right under our noses.” “They have provided alarming and detailed evidence for one of the most dramatic climate-driven ecosystem shifts ever recorded,” adds Adriana Verges from the University of New South Wales.

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Soon, Australia will have only barren coasts left.

10,000 Hectares Of Mangroves Die Across Northern Australia (ABC.au)

Close to 10,000 hectares of mangroves have died across a stretch of coastline reaching from Queensland to the Northern Territory. International mangroves expert Dr Norm Duke said he had no doubt the “dieback” was related to climate change. “It’s a world-first in terms of the scale of mangrove that have died,” he told the ABC. Dr Duke flew 200 kilometres between the mouths of the Roper and McArthur Rivers in the Northern Territory last month to survey the extent of the dieback. He described the scene as the most “dramatic, pronounced extreme level of dieback that I’ve ever observed”.

Dr Duke is a world expert in mangrove classification and ecosystems, based at James Cook University, and in May received photographs showing vast areas of dead mangroves in the Northern Territory section of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Until that time he and other scientists had been focused on mangrove dieback around Karmuba, Queensland, at the opposite end of the Gulf. “The images were compelling. They were really dramatic, showing severe dieback of mangrove shoreline fringing — areas just extending off into infinity,” Dr Duke said. “Certainly nothing in my experience had prepared me to see images like that.”

Dr Duke said he wanted to discover if the dieback in the two states was related. “We’re talking about 700 kilometres of distance between incidences at that early time,” he said. The area the Northern Territory photos were taken in was so remote the only way to confirm the extent and timing of the mangrove dieback was with specialist satellite imagery. With careful analysis the imagery confirmed the mangrove dieback in both states had happened in the space of a month late last year, coincident with coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. “We’re talking about 10,000 hectares of mangroves were lost across this whole 700 kilometre span,” Dr Duke said.

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It doesn’t get much scarier than this, without insects mankind doesn’t stand a chance: ”..out of 3,623 terrestrial invertebrate species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] Red List, 42% are classified as threatened with extinction.”

Global Insect Populations Fall 45% In Past 40 Years (e360)

Every spring since 1989, entomologists have set up tents in the meadows and woodlands of the Orbroicher Bruch nature reserve and 87 other areas in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The tents act as insect traps and enable the scientists to calculate how many bugs live in an area over a full summer period. Recently, researchers presented the results of their work to parliamentarians from the German Bundestag, and the findings were alarming: The average biomass of insects caught between May and October has steadily decreased from 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) per trap in 1989 to just 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in 2014.


According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45% decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years.

“The decline is dramatic and depressing and it affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and hoverflies,” says Martin Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological Association involved in running the monitoring project. Another recent study has added to this concern. Scientists from the Technical University of Munich and the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt have determined that in a nature reserve near the Bavarian city of Regensburg, the number of recorded butterfly and Burnet moth species has declined from 117 in 1840 to 71 in 2013. “Our study reveals, through one detailed example, that even official protection status can’t really prevent dramatic species loss,” says Thomas Schmitt, director of the Senckenberg Entomological Institute.

Declines in insect populations are hardly limited to Germany. A 2014 study in Science documented a steep drop in insect and invertebrate populations worldwide. By combining data from the few comprehensive studies that exist, lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, an ecologist at Stanford University, developed a global index for invertebrate abundance that showed a 45% decline over the last four decades. Dirzo points out that out of 3,623 terrestrial invertebrate species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] Red List, 42% are classified as threatened with extinction.

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Nov 092014
 


DPC League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia. USS Brooklyn spar deck 1898

Fed to Markets: Brace for Volatility (WSJ)
Central Banks Warn of Possible Bumpy Ride for Markets (Bloomberg)
US Earnings Outlook Might Be Less Rosy Than Investors Think (Reuters)
Gorbachev Warns US, Allies Put World On ‘The Brink Of A New Cold War’ (FT)
Hungary Under ‘Great Pressure’ From US Over Its Energy Deals With Russia (RT)
Kuroda Sprang Easing Surprise To Head Off Damaging Inflation Forecast (Reuters)
It’s a Bad Time to Be a Saver in Europe (Bloomberg)
We Can Control Risks Facing The Economy, Says China’s Xi Jinping (Reuters)
Sweden Grapples With Massive Household Debt As Rates Hit Zero (Reuters)
UK Condemned Over Arms Sales To Repressive States (Observer)
It’s Official: Spain is Unraveling (Don Quijones)
Catalans Prepare to Open the Polls in Defiance of Spain (Bloomberg)
The Albanian World Cup Gambler Who Robbed The National Vault (Reuters)
Prepare For An Invasion From The North: “Polar Vortex, The Sequel” (CBS)
Harsh Winter Outlook Made More Dire by Siberia Snow (Bloomberg)
Bird Decline Poses Loss Not Just For Environment, But Human Soul (Guardian)

As rate hikes come.

Fed to Markets: Brace for Volatility (WSJ)

Federal Reserve officials are warning investors and foreign central bankers to brace for market turbulence as the Fed prepares to raise short-term interest rates next year. In a speech to central bankers Friday in Paris, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said rate increases, when they materialize in advanced economies, “could lead to some heightened financial volatility.” New York Fed President William Dudley, at the same conference, issued a more detailed alert. “This shift in policy will undoubtedly be accompanied by some degree of market turbulence,” he said of future rate increases in the U.S. “Moreover, it could create significant challenges for those emerging market economies that have been the beneficiaries of large capital inflows in recent years.”

They offered their warnings as the Labor Department released new data showing the U.S. job market is improving faster than the Fed expects. The unemployment rate, at 5.8% in October, was below the 6.3% to 6.6% range the Fed projected last December for the end of 2014. In September, the Fed revised that projection to 5.9%-6.0%, still higher than the October rate. Other metrics being watched closely by the Fed showed continued gains. For instance, the percentage of the U.S. population that is employed rose to 59.2%, its highest level since July 2009. This employment-to-population ratio increased one percentage point from a year earlier, its largest one-year gain since March 1995. The Fed is eyeing rate increases as unemployment declines and slack in the economy slowly diminishes. Higher rates will be aimed at preventing the economy from overheating.

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“Normalization could lead to some heightened financial volatility .. ”

Central Banks Warn of Possible Bumpy Ride for Markets (Bloomberg)

Global central bankers said financial markets could suffer a bout of turbulence – again – when they begin to withdraw monetary stimulus. Janet Yellen and William Dudley of the Fed, Mexico’s Agustin Carstens and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney were among those to use a Paris conference of policy makers yesterday to talk about potential fallout from the eventual shift from record-low interest rates used to revive growth since the global financial crisis in 2008. “Normalization could lead to some heightened financial volatility,” Yellen told the gathering convened by the Bank of France. Carney said “the transition could be bumpy.” The comments suggest central bankers are trying to prepare better for the global effects of any withdrawal than in 2013, when then-Chairman Ben S. Bernanke unexpectedly signaled the Fed could soon start reducing bond purchases. That pushed up yields and rattled investors worldwide in the so-called taper tantrum.

Fed Chair Yellen and Dudley, president of the Fed Bank of New York, recognized the importance of U.S. officials being clear in their plans. “The Federal Reserve will strive to clearly and transparently communicate its monetary policy strategy in order to minimize the likelihood of surprises that could disrupt financial markets,” Yellen said. [..] Given a likely increase in U.S. rates next year will “undoubtedly be accompanied by some degree of market turbulence,” Dudley said the central bank has an obligation to provide global stability. “It is clear in retrospect that our attempts in the spring of 2013 to provide guidance about the potential timing and pace of tapering confused market participants,” Dudley said. With that episode in mind, Carstens said there is a “potential for financial market disruption” amid the unwinding of unconventional monetary policy.

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They’re hot air.

US Earnings Outlook Might Be Less Rosy Than Investors Think (Reuters)

With the U.S. Q3 earnings season almost at an end, many investors are breathing a sigh of relief as more companies surpassed profit expectations than in any quarter since 2010. But some analysts say investors may be brushing off their worries about corporate profits a little too soon. While most S&P 500 companies beat analysts’ expectations for third-quarter earnings, many just barely topped estimates, said Pankaj Patel at Evercore ISI in New York. Of the S&P 500 companies that had reported results as of early this week, 66% exceeded expectations, according to Evercore’s data analysis. But that figure falls to just 43% after stripping away companies that beat expectations by 5% or less, Patel’s research shows. The figure excluding beats of 5% or less is also well below the%age of beats according to data based on Thomson Reuters polls of analysts. On that data, 74% of S&P 500 companies so far have exceeded analysts’ expectations, which is the highest for any quarter since the second quarter of 2010.

Results have come in from 88% of the S&P 500. The results could mean that an increasing number of companies are trying to “manage their beat rate,” possibly to mask profit weakness, Patel said, noting that companies that exceed expectations by 5% or less typically see their share prices decline in the three days following results. “The beat rate is artificially high, but people still watch that %,” Patel said. “They keep buying and the market goes higher.” The S&P 500 has risen more than 3% since Oct. 8, roughly when this earnings season began. The index is up 9.1% from its Oct. 15 low. In addition, analysts’ keep trimming their profit forecasts. Estimates for fourth-quarter earnings are down from the start of the quarter, along with estimates for the first part of 2015. Earnings growth for the fourth quarter now is estimated at 7.6% compared with an Oct. 1 forecast for 11.1% growth, Thomson Reuters data showed. For the 2015 first quarter, profit growth is seen at 8.8%, down from an Oct. 1 forecast for 11.5% growth.

Moreover, the magnitude by which Q4 estimates are falling has increased compared with the previous quarter, said Nick Raich, chief executive officer of The Earnings Scout, a research firm specializing in earnings trends. In outlooks given by companies themselves – done by only a minority of companies – the news is not good. Negative outlooks outnumber positive ones for Q4 so far by a ratio of 3.9 to 1, up from the third quarter’s ratio of 3.3 to 1, Thomson Reuters data showed. “That’s a worsening trend,” Raich said. “The outlooks have gotten a little bit worse this quarter.” Outlooks could become even dimmer if lackluster demand overseas translates into weak results for the fourth quarter. “The United States clearly is the bright spot in the world,” said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York. “The rest of the world isn’t nearly as strong, so demand coming from certain places is weaker, and the currency is going to have an enormous impact going forward.”

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How many western officials have you seen trying to address Gorby’s accusations?

Gorbachev Warns US, Allies Put World On ‘The Brink Of A New Cold War’ (FT)

Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned on Saturday that the Ukraine crisis had brought the world to “the brink of a new Cold War”. “The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some say it has already begun, ” said the 83-year-old former Kremlin chief in a sombre speech delivered in Berlin at an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this weekend. He was speaking as reports from eastern Ukraine suggested that Kiev’s troops and the Russia-backed rebels may be preparing for renewed fighting. Agency reporters in eastern Ukraine said they saw more than 80 unmarked military vehicles on the move on Saturday in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine. The apparent escalation threatens the fragile ceasefire agreed in Minsk in early September and increases the danger of further pressure on east-west relations.

Speaking at a conference within a few metres of the iconic Brandenburg Gate, Mr Gorbachev accused the west, led by the US, of “triumphalism” after the fall of the Berlin Wall ended Soviet dominance in eastern Europe. Trust between Russia and the west had “collapsed” in the last few months, he said, highlighting the damage done by the Ukraine crisis. He called for new initiatives to restore trust, including a lifting of personal sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on top Russian officials in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. Mr Gorbachev clearly sees the west as the culprit in the crisis, having given his unequivocal backing to Mr Putin last week. He said, before arriving in Germany, that he was “absolutely convinced that Putin protects Russia’s interests better than anyone else.”

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Hungary PM Orban is an interesting man. The country is doing quite well, relatively.

Hungary Under ‘Great Pressure’ From US Over Its Energy Deals With Russia (RT)

Washington is exerting heavy pressure on Hungary over the country’s decision to give a green light for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline and expedite the construction by allowing companies without licenses to participate in the project. “The US is putting Hungary under great pressure fearing Moscow’s rapprochement with Budapest,”Hungarian media cited Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying in Munich, Germany after a meeting with Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer. Orban said that Hungary’s relations with Russia have become “entangled in geopolitical and military and security policy issues,” AFP reports. The PM said that US is retaliating for Budapest’s willingness to endorse the South Stream gas pipeline development as well as a deal that would see Russia’s Rosatom expand Hungary’s nuclear power.

Under a deal worth up to €10 billion Rosatom will build a 2,000 megawatt addition to Hungary’s state-owned nuclear power plant MVM Paksi Atomeromu. Russia is Hungary’s largest trade partner outside of the EU, with exports worth $3.4 billion in 2013. Also it is highly dependent on Russian energy. “We don’t want to get close to anyone, and we don’t intend to move away from anybody,” Orban said.“We are not pursuing a pro-Russian policy but a pro-Hungarian policy,” as expansion of the nuclear plant was the “only possible means” to lower dependence on external energy resources. The PM remained firm that “cheap energy is key in strengthening Hungary’s competitiveness” as he also defended the law which gave a green light for the construction of the South Stream pipeline that would bypass Ukraine as a transit nation in EU gas supply chain. It “ensures Hungary gas supplies by eliminating risks posed by situation in Ukraine,” Orban said.“Even if South Stream does not diversify gas sources, it diversifies delivery routes.”

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A forecast based on slumping oil prices.

Kuroda Sprang Easing Surprise To Head Off Damaging Inflation Forecast (Reuters)

The Bank of Japan Governor not only surprised the markets with his latest splurge of monetary easing. He sprang it on his own board members just two days earlier, jolted into action to stop them making a low-ball forecast that might have sunk his flagship inflation target. To achieve maximum effect for the shock decision, Haruhiko Kuroda and right-hand man Masayoshi Amamiya kept only a handful of elite central bank bureaucrats in the loop as they laid the ground for the expansion of their quantitative and qualitative easing (QQE) program. They didn’t even give the usual forewarning to senior bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance, according to interviews with nearly a dozen insiders and government sources with knowledge of the bank’s deliberations.

No leaks reached the media, and the announcement at the Oct. 31 policy meeting pushed the Nikkei stock average to seven-year highs and the yen to seven-year lows against the dollar. The market reaction will have been welcome news to Kuroda, but the impact he wanted above all was to alter inflation expectations in a country that has struggled with crippling deflation for two decades. Timing was critical – and not of his choosing. At the policy meeting the board would also issue a new consumer inflation forecast for the next fiscal year, based on the median estimate from the nine members. But two days before publication, the preliminary estimate was only around 1.5%, three of the sources said. That was well below the 1.9% forecast made in July, and if published could have been fatal to his key goal of hitting 2% from April next year.

Since price expectations play a key role in the consumer behaviours that ultimately determine prices, doubts about the target could be self-fulfilling. There were other triggers for action, including October’s plunge in oil prices and the fact that an easing burst would have more market impact in the week the U.S. Federal Reserve decided to turn its own liquidity taps off. But it was the inflation forecast that convinced Kuroda and his aides to go for another burst of stimulus, three sources said. Board members would then have to revisit their estimates in light of the new action.

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“If you’re a central bank, it’s not a good sign when institutions actively seek to deter customers from owning your currency.”

It’s a Bad Time to Be a Saver in Europe (Bloomberg)

In the post-crisis economic environment, with record-low interest rates in many countries, it’s better to be a borrower than a lender, despite Shakespeare’s admonition to be neither. These days, however, it’s even worse to be a saver. Since the European Central Bank in June sought to prod banks to lend more – by imposing negative interest rates on banks’ ECB deposits – savers are discovering that banks aren’t the only ones paying for the privilege of having cash on hand. At least three banks – State Street Corp., Bank of New York Mellon, and Deutsche Skatbank – have introduced negative rates for large euro deposits. It makes financial sense for the banks: If the ECB is charging them 0.2% for holding their cash, banks have a fiduciary duty to try to recoup that cost.

The result is that depositors suffer the consequences of the ECB’s interest-rate tyranny. They would do better to stash their money in mattresses. The ECB addressed the implications of its monetary-policy shift on its website after it cut its deposit rate below zero. It asked the question: “Do I now have to pay my bank to keep my savings for me? What is the effect of this negative deposit rate on my savings?” And then it answered itself:

There will be no direct impact on your savings. Only banks that deposit money in certain accounts at the ECB have to pay. Commercial banks may of course choose to lower interest rates for savers. The ECB’s interest rate decisions will in fact benefit savers in the end because they support growth and thus create a climate in which interest rates can gradually return to higher levels.

So the first sentence turned out to be incorrect. And the final sentence provides scant comfort to a depositor whose hard-earned cash is dribbling away and is too pessimistic about the future of the European economy to find more productive uses for the money, such as spending it or investing it. We’ve been here before, including in 2012 when depositors fled the euro and piled into other currencies. Credit Suisse imposed negative rates on Swiss franc cash balances, for example, and said it would “invite our customers to keep cash balances as low as possible to avoid negative credit charges.” State Street also imposed negative rates on Danish kroner deposits. If you’re a central bank, it’s not a good sign when institutions actively seek to deter customers from owning your currency.

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Sure.

We Can Control Risks Facing The Economy, Says China’s Xi Jinping (Reuters)

The risks faced by China’s economy are “not so scary” and the government is confident it can head off the dangers, president Xi Jinping told global business leaders on Sunday to dispel worries about the world’s second-largest economy. In a speech to chief executives at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO summit, Xi said even if China’s economy were to grow 7%, that would still rank it at the forefront of the world’s economies. China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, has had a rocky year. Growth slid to a low not seen since the 2008/09 global financial crisis in the third quarter dragged by a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand and unsteady exports. “Some people worry that China’s economic growth will fall further, can it climb over the ridge?” Xi said. “There are indeed risks, but it’s not so scary.

“Even at growth of around 7%, regardless of speed or volume, (we) are among the best in the world,” he said, noting that China’s economy remained “stable”. The remarks from Xi came a day after data showed annual growth in Chinese exports and imports cooled in October, in another sign of fragility in the economy that could prompt policymakers to take further action to stoke growth. To shore up activity, policymakers have loosened monetary and fiscal policies since April to ensure that the economy can grow by around 7.5% this year. A marked slowdown in growth would hit countries all over the world, but especially commodity producers such as Australia, Indonesia and Brazil that have benefited from strong Chinese demand.

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This will not end well. There are limits.

Sweden Grapples With Massive Household Debt As Rates Hit Zero (Reuters)

Sweden’s new center-left government and its financial authorities are under huge pressure when they meet on Tuesday to tackle a mountain of household debt that is casting a long shadow over one of Europe’s few economic bright spots. Having slashed rates to zero to fight the risk of deflation, top Swedish officials are now in a quandary over how to rein in borrowing and house price rises without sending the real estate market into a downward spiral. The country’s AAA-rated economy is still one of Europe’s strongest, with low public debt, sound state finances and banks among the best capitalized and most profitable in Europe. But consumers, barely touched by the financial crisis, have loaded up on cheap mortgages and caused Swedish property prices to triple over the last 20 years, prompting a warning from the IMF that the market is 20% overvalued. Adding to the problem: Sweden has built too few houses for the last 20 years and its capital Stockholm is one of Europe’s fastest growing cities.

Critics say the former center-right government added fuel to the fire by slashing real estate taxes and leaving 30% mortgage tax relief untouched. Meanwhile, Sweden’s household debt-to-income ratio has risen to above 170% – among Europe’s highest. The worry is that private consumption, nearly half of GDP, would suffer if rates rose or property prices fell. “The longer we wait, the bigger the imbalances are,” said Bengt Hansson, analyst at the Swedish National Board of Housing Planning and Building. “We already have a bubble, but we will avoid an even bigger bubble.” It will be hard to dissuade bullish Swedish consumers. In Stockholm’s frenzied housing market, buyers make multi-million crown offers to snap up flats they may only have seen in photographs. And cranes and scaffolding are common sights in suburbia as householders take advantage of generous tax breaks for home improvements.

“We don’t think it will crash badly,” said Peter, a 47 year-old investment advisor, who with his wife Maria has just bought a house in Stockholm for around 12 million Swedish crowns ($1.62 million). “It might stop going up for a while, but over the longer term we expect it to go up,” he added, suggesting the lack of housing and population growth in Stockholm would support prices. Attempts by regulators so far to slow credit growth – squeezing banks by making them put aside more capital and draw up voluntary mortgage pay-down plans – have not worked because interest rates have continued to fall. Last week the central bank cut rates to zero in an attempt to answer criticism that it is not doing enough to tackle another economic risk – deflation – even while it acknowledged the problem that would create in containing household debt. “There is a fairly large consensus that household debt is a concern,” Swedish central bank chairman Stefan Ingves said after the cut. “If households continue to borrow, we could end up with very big problems later on, and this is what we want to avoid.”

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They all do it. We have no morals left.

UK Condemned Over Arms Sales To Repressive States (Observer)

The government has been accused of dishonesty over arms sales as new figures reveal that the value of British weapons sales to “countries of concern” has already hit £60m this year. Former Tory defence minister Sir John Stanley, who chairs the Commons committees on arms export controls, says ministers failed to come clean on a “significant change in policy” that makes it easier to export arms to countries with a poor human rights record. He said in a recent parliamentary debate that the government has not acknowledged that such a change has taken place, and it “should consider most carefully whether they should now offer an apology to the committees”.

The government used to reject arms export licences where there was concern they might be used for “internal repression”, but now a licence will be refused only if there is a “clear risk” that military equipment might be used in violation of international law. Former Foreign Office minister Peter Hain, who established the strict criteria on arms sales, last night demanded that the government be transparent about the change and called for parliament to be allowed a vote. He said: “The present government has run a coach and horses through our arms export controls, circumventing the legislation we put in place by putting a particular spin on it. It has enabled them to sell arms to countries and for purposes that should not be allowed under the legislation.

“There is a clear policy in the legislation that arms should only be sold to countries for defensive purposes and not for internal suppression or external aggression. In the case of Gaza over the summer, that has clearly been flouted. Bahrain is another example.” Data from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reveals that in the first six months of 2014 the UK granted licences worth £63.2m of arms sales to 18 of the 28 states on its official blacklist, countries about which the Foreign Office has the “most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”. Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka and Russia were among the countries that Britain approved military equipment for.

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How much corruption can one government shake off?

It’s Official: Spain is Unraveling (Don Quijones)

Since taking office in late 2011, Rajoy’s government has been embroiled in one sordid political scandal after another. In the latest episode, the Punica Affair, more than 100 politicians have been arrested and charged with varying acts of white collar crime, including taking kick backs from private sector companies. Payment often came in the form of cash-stuffed envelopes although, as El Confidencial reports, it could also include completely free-of-charge construction work on a politicians’ property, luxury holidays, hunting trips and even an intimate evening or two with a high-class prostitute. Most of the politicians involved in the scandal are – or at least were – members of the governing Popular Party. The rest belong – or at least belonged – to the other partner in Spain’s (until now) two-party system, the not-really-socialist-at-all party, the PSOE.

The good news is that some of Spain’s corrupt politicians and business figures are finally seeing the sharp (or at least not entirely blunt) end of the law. Scores have been arrested and some are even going down. The bad news is that Rajoy’s scandal-tarnished government of self.serving mediocrities still stands, albeit more precariously than ever. In El Pais‘ latest poll of voters’ intentions in next year’s general election, the Popular Party (PP) was, for the first time in decades, relegated to third place. Indeed, the two incumbent parties – the PP and PSOE – were unable to muster 50% of the vote between them. The most popular party in the poll was Podemos, a stridently left-wing political movement founded just at the beginning of this year. In May’s European elections the party picked up five seats; now, six months later, it is apparently the hottest contender for the spoils in next year’s general election, picking up 27% of the votes polled – 6%% more than PP and one more than PSOE.

Lead by Pablo Iglesias, a firebrand (or as the right-wing media like to call him “demagogic”) 35-year-old professor of political science, Podemos has masterfully exploited the general public’s disaffection with a political establishment that serves no one’s interests but its own – and, of course, those of the country’s biggest businesses and banks. The political establishment is quite rightly blamed for stoking and feeding the country’s biggest ever real estate bubble. Thanks to a change in the property laws enacted in 1997 by the Aznar government, local and regional administrations were encouraged to part-finance themselves through granting authorization for ever larger public and private construction projects, many of which turned out to be white elephants (empty toll roads, high-speed train stations planted slap bang in the middle of nowhere, ghost airports…).

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That same corrupt government demands the moral high road when it comes to Catalunya.

Catalans Prepare to Open the Polls in Defiance of Spain (Bloomberg)

In more than 900 towns across Catalonia, an army of volunteers is preparing to open polling stations today and offer compatriots a vote on independence in defiance of Spain’s central government and its highest court. The informal ballot, stripped of legal validity by a Constitutional Court ruling in September, poses two questions: Do you want Catalonia to be a state? And should that state be independent? Separatists led by regional president Artur Mas aim to win a majority in favor of breaking up Spain and use that mandate to force Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate. The runup to the vote has been marked by legal salvos: Rajoy’s government reminded public officials in Catalonia of their obligation to respect the Constitutional Court ban as Mas had an appeal to that ruling thrown out by the Supreme Court.

The Catalan government talked of filing a lawsuit against Spain in an international court while an activist group in Madrid responded with its own suit to state prosecutors demanding police halt the balloting. “The Spanish government is being really short-sighted,” said Alex Quiroga, a lecturer in Spanish history at Newcastle University in England. “Continually saying ‘no’ and appealing to the Constitutional Court doesn’t help. It’s clear that only through negotiation can they solve the problem.” Spain’s prosecutor’s office in Catalonia asked regional police to report on any public-sector premises such as schools being used for the vote and to gather information about the persons responsible for allowing their use, according to an e-mailed statement from the prosecutor. It also requested Catalonia’s Education Department to explain whether it asked principals to allow the schools to be used for the vote.

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Great story. “All three keys needed to access the vault were kept in his personal safe.”

The Albanian World Cup Gambler Who Robbed The National Vault (Reuters)

In the end, it wasn’t the security cameras or the audit inspections in the vault of Albania’s central bank that brought down Ardian Bitraj. It was the high blood pressure and lack of sleep, the burden of a multi-million-dollar secret. Sitting down with his boss this July, Bitraj confessed his deception: over a four-year period he had stolen the equivalent of $6.5 million from the vault, covering his tracks by stuffing the empty cash boxes with books and balls of string. The revelation brought down the central bank governor, led to the arrest of 18 employees and tarnished the reputation of an institution once lauded for its professionalism. And all for the sake of a gambling habit that led to massive losses, culminating in a series of fatal bets on the soccer World Cup.

The full story of the Balkan bank heist is only just emerging, gleaned by Reuters in interviews with bankers, investigators and others involved, and from legal documents including a transcript of Bitraj’s confession. It started in May 2010, when Bitraj, who had risen to become head of the cash processing department at the bank, first opened the metal and plastic clasps to the wooden boxes that hold its cash reserves in the cryptically named X Building on the outskirts of the capital Tirana. Bitraj, 45, had a penchant for placing bets on soccer matches, so roughly once a month he would wait for his co-workers to leave the room and swipe up to 2 million leks, roughly $18,000, according to the confession.

Choosing carefully how he returned the boxes, Bitraj would make sure those he had tampered with were not in line for delivery to Albania’s commercial banks, nor likely to be picked on in the regular random audit of the vault. As the thefts mounted, he would stuff the boxes with packaging, balls of string and books to replace the weight of the cash. All three keys needed to access the vault were kept in his personal safe. In statements to police, bank employees said they had not received any directive on how or where to store the keys. Bitraj says auditors checked only 2% of the cash boxes in the vault. Fired governor Ardian Fullani says it was 5%, maintaining that checks in the former communist country were comparable with other central banks in Europe.

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Beware the US economy, or rather the reports and excuses that will be written on the cold.

Prepare For An Invasion From The North: “Polar Vortex, The Sequel” (CBS)

Prepare yourself for an invasion from the north. A blast of polar air is about to send temperatures plunging in the heart of America. It’s the return of the polar vortex that brought misery a year ago. A mass of whirling cold air will dip southward this weekend, sending the mercury plunging. As the cold air moves south and east, it has the potential to affect as many as 243 million people with wind chills in the single digits in some places and snow. It’s all triggered by a Super Typhoon named Nuri. Images from the European Space Station show that Nuri is a growing meteorological bomb blanketing the Bering Sea. The 50-foot waves and 100 mile-an-hour winds will make conditions similar to those we had two years ago, and could make Nuri the biggest storm of the year.

But it would be wrong to think that it will affect only Alaska’s far-flung Aleutian Islands or those famous fishermen who work in the North Pacific. WBBM’s meteorologist Megan Glaros in Chicago explains. “The remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri will create a big buckle in the jet stream,” Glaros says. “And in several days time, it’s going to mean a big dip in the jet which will connect us with a big mass of Arctic air – taking temperatures east of the Rockies down to 10 to 30 degrees below average.” Say “a big mass of arctic air” to anyone who lives in the Midwest and it conjures painful memories of the dreaded polar vortex that hit the region last winter.

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“A rapid advance of Eurasian snow cover during the month of October favors that the upcoming winter will be cold across the Northern Hemisphere …”

Harsh Winter Outlook Made More Dire by Siberia Snow (Bloomberg)

Remember how evidence was mounting last month that early snowfall was accumulating across Siberia? And remember how there’s a theory that says this snowfall signals a cold winter? So in the two and a half weeks since, the news for the winter-haters has, unfortunately, only gotten worse. About 14.1 million square kilometers of snow blanketed Siberia at the end of October, the second most in records going back to 1967, according to Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab. The record was in 1976, which broke a streak of mild winters in the eastern U.S. In addition, the speed at which snow has covered the region is the fastest since at least 1998. Taken together they signal greater chances for frigid air to spill out of the Arctic into more temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia, said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, who developed the theory linking Siberian snow with winter weather.

“A rapid advance of Eurasian snow cover during the month of October favors that the upcoming winter will be cold across the Northern Hemisphere,” Cohen said in an interview yesterday. “This past October the signal was quite robust.” There are a few steps to get from the snows of Siberia to the chills in New York City. Cold air builds over the expanse of snow, strengthening the pressure system known as a Siberian high. The high weakens the winds that circle the North Pole, allowing the cold air to leak into the lower latitudes. The term Polar Vortex actually refers to those winds, not the frigid weather.

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The connection between our souls and our living world was lost in our heads long ago. 147 million fewer sparrows, a drop of 62% of their total population, since 1980; starling numbers have fallen by 45 million or 53%; skylarks are down by 37 million (46%).

Bird Decline Poses Loss Not Just For Environment, But Human Soul (Guardian)

‘That’s a buzzard!” says Richard Gregory, gesturing at a tall birch tree stump 50 metres or so away, from which a flapping streak of brown and white has just disappeared. “That was a buzzard. That’s one of the ones I was telling you about. It’s back.” When Gregory was a young child, toddling around the green bits of Cheshire with a monocular, a glimpse of a buzzard made for a thrilling day out – though he was mad about birds by the age of four, he was in his teens before he ticked the large raptor off his list. Now, though, thanks to reintroduction projects and legal protections, its number and that of several other birds of prey is on the up in Britain.

We glimpse another one, as it happens, a few minutes later, and while I suppose there is just a possibility it was the same bird on a second swoop, I’m counting that as a double sighting. The recovery in recent decades of Britain’s raptor population is welcome for a number of reasons. Firstly, it means I was right after all that time I spotted a red kite while driving up the A1 and everyone else in the car said I was talking rubbish. Secondly, it’s a snatch of good news in what could otherwise seem an unrelentingly grim picture. These are bad days to be a bird. A study released this week found that the most common birds in Europe are declining at an alarming rate, and that is not an idle term.

By studying 30 years of data across 25 countries, conservationists estimated that there are now a brain-boggling 421 million fewer birds flapping across the continent’s skies than were around in 1980. House sparrows alone account for a third of that decline, with 147 million fewer birds, a drop of 62% of their total population; starling numbers have fallen by 45 million or 53%; skylarks are down by 37 million (46%). Yes, the marsh harrier has recovered a bit, and feral pigeons and ring necked parakeets are doing well in cities, but overall, concluded the report, “global biodiversity is undergoing unprecedented decline”, and some of the species taking the hardest hit are birds which were once, not so long ago, abundant in our skies.

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Nov 072014
 
 November 7, 2014  Posted by at 12:53 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


DPC H.A. Testard Bicycles & Automobiles, New Orleans 1910

EU Dream Unravels 25 Years After The Wall Came Down (Bloomberg)
Not All QE Is Created Equal as U.S. Outpunches ECB And BOJ (Bloomberg)
Asian Currencies Set For A Beating (CNBC)
Could A Strong Dollar Derail Wall Street’s Rally? (CNBC)
Miners Facing ‘Bloodbath’ If Gold Sinks To $1,000 (Telegraph)
Gold Firms Plan Drastic Cuts As Bullion Sinks (Reuters)
Abenomics Pushes Japan Corporate Earnings Toward Record (Bloomberg)
Draghi Stokes Speculation ECB Set to Intensify Stimulus (Bloomberg)
US Investor Sentiment At Highest Level Of 2014 (MarketWatch)
Congress Is In No Hurry To Wind Down Fannie And Freddie (MarketWatch)
Eurozone Governments Look for Spending Boost (Bloomberg)
China Central Bank Pledges Policy Support As Risks To Growth Rise (Reuters)
China Central Bank Confirms New Liquidity Tool as It Holds Off Easing (Bloomberg)
Yuan Bears Say Record Chinese Dollar Debt to Fuel Decline (Bloomberg)
Europe’s Shrinking Conglomerates (Bloomberg)
Luxembourg And Juncker Under Pressure Over Tax Avoidance Deals (Guardian)
EU Auditors Refuse To Sign Off Over £100 Billion Of Its Own Spending (Telegraph)
Gorbachev: Putin Protects Russia’s Interests Better Than Anyone Else (DW)
Ukraine Lurches Back Toward Open War on East Fighting (Bloomberg)

Bloomberg attempts to blame Europe’s troubles on Putin. Unbelievable. Have you no shame? How about journalistic standards?

EU Dream Unravels 25 Years After The Wall Came Down (Bloomberg)

Europe’s post-Cold War order is fraying and there’s no consensus over how to stitch it back together. Some blame the European debt crisis for exposing the folly of the drive for economic unification. Some point to Vladimir Putin for redrawing the map by force and sending his warplanes to buzz NATO borders. For others, the vision of a peaceful, post-national Europe died off with the World War II generation. The makers of European memory will ponder those questions this weekend, marking on Sunday the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the ensuing euro-euphoria. The lessons of the intervening quarter-century are more sobering. “The easy assumption was that the international liberal order was prevailing,” said Nick Witney, a former head of the European Defence Agency, who is now with the European Council on Foreign Relations in London. “The fact is that those who don’t share those values are coming back. We’re not somehow riding the wheel of history any more than communism was.”

A few of the original builders of the post-Cold War European Union and euro are still at it. The European Commission’s new president, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, traces his career back past the 1991 negotiations in Maastricht, the Netherlands that paved the way to the single currency. Juncker’s mission as the EU’s top civil servant is primarily defensive. The turn-of-the-century notion that Europe could export its economic model to places like China, India and Latin America has given way to renewed global power politics with Europe’s heft much diminished. The EU’s stuttering recovery from the debt crisis underlines that weakness. The euro economy will muster 0.8% growth in 2014 after two years of contraction, the commission said this week. It last outperformed the U.S. in 2008 at the start of the financial crisis.

[..] there’s more than enough nationalism to go around in the European heartland. Parties with grievances against immigration, the euro, the EU and a sense of lost identity have made electoral inroads in Britain, France, Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria – and even Germany, long seen as immune to bouts of populism. As a result, the map is in flux. While Scotland voted to stay part of the U.K. in a September referendum, all British citizens will have the opportunity to vote themselves out of the EU in 2017 if Prime Minister David Cameron is re-elected next year. Spain is nagged by a separatist movement in Catalonia, its largest regional economy. “This is the worst possible time for geopolitical risk to be hitting the European continent,” Ian Bremmer, head of Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk consultancy, said this week on “Bloomberg Surveillance.” “On the one hand, you have an external environment that is much worse for the Europeans than anyone else. On the other hand, you have internal populism that’s going to make the Europeans grow farther apart.”

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The limited utility of QE outside the US.

Not All QE Is Created Equal as US Outpunches ECB And BOJ (Bloomberg)

It turns out not all quantitative easing is created equal. New stimulus measures at the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank may lack the global punch of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which last week ended its third round of quantitative easing. So investors should pay more attention to the source of the extra cash sloshing around the financial system than to the amounts. “It is unlikely that increased asset purchases by the BOJ and the ECB will be able to provide a full offset to the end of Fed purchases,” says David Woo, head of global rates and currencies at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. His calculations, contained in a Nov. 3 report, show the Bank of Japan’s surprise decision last week to boost its monetary base faster than previously planned will help add another $730 billion to its balance sheet in the next year. Meantime, the ECB’s buying of asset-backed securities and covered bonds should add $410 billion to its accounts annually.

So even with the Fed no longer buying $85 billion a month of assets, the aggregate liquidity provided each month by the three major central banks will next year return to this year’s peak of a little more than $150 billion. That may help cap any climb in market interest rates in 2015, yet won’t be enough to fully soothe markets as when Fed Chair Janet Yellen and colleagues were writing the checks, according to Woo. Woo argues that the Fed’s influence lies in the benchmark role of the dollar and U.S. Treasuries. Secondly, the Bank of Japan’s latest salvo is more about domestic issues such as reforms of the Government Pension Investment Fund than a signal that it wants to make up for U.S. withdrawal. Finally, Japanese and German bond yields are already so close to zero that the effect of purchases by their central banks will be limited. The upshot is that even with the ECB and BOJ spending, investors will probably now treat bad U.S. data such as a weak jobs report more harshly than when they thought economic deterioration spelled more monetary stimulus.

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Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia: the emerging markets eaten alive by the taper. It’s all going according to plan.

Asian Currencies Set For A Beating (CNBC)

Currencies across Asia are set for a beating, buffeted by a combination of the G3 central banks, a stronger U.S. dollar and newly volatile Chinese yuan, HSBC said. “It will be slim pickings in terms of which Asian currencies to like next year. Even the yuan will be predisposed to bouts of higher volatility, which could further upset the region’s currencies,” HSBC said in a note Thursday. “While we had expected most Asian currencies to trade on the back foot against the U.S. dollar, some are now even starting to underperform the euro.” Many of Asia’s currencies have had a tough week since the Bank of Japan (BOJ) announced a fresh batch of stimulus, with the Singapore dollar shedding 1.5% against the U.S. dollar, the Thai baht losing 1.1%, the Malaysian ringgit dropping 2.2% and Indonesia’s rupiah slipping 0.7%.

Currencies with sound external balances, such as the yuan, Korean won, Taiwan dollar and Singapore dollar, were expected to hold up better against the Federal Reserve’s tapering of its asset purchases this year, HSBC said. But it added, “It has become steadily clearer that Asian currencies are held hostage to more than just the Fed. The ECB has become increasingly important and suddenly so too has the Bank of Japan.” ECB President Mario Draghi this week indicated the central bank may take further aggressive stimulus measures, with many analysts expecting a quantitative easing program, including bond-buying, is in the works. The ECB is already buying asset-backed securities.

Draghi’s comments followed the Bank of Japan’s surprise move last Friday to expand an already large stimulus program by increasing asset purchases. It plans to increase purchases of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) to 80 trillion yen annually from the current 50 trillion yen as well as tripling purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to 3 trillion yen and tripling Japanese real-estate investment trust (REIT) purchases to 90 billion yen. “This muddies the picture as to which Asian currencies should outperform,” HSBC said. “It only fuels a stronger U.S. dollar and even those Asian currencies with sound external balances (the Korean won, the Singapore dollar and the Taiwan dollar) cannot ride out the storm. It is all proving to be a nasty combination for many Asian currencies.”

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The rally will end anyway, independent of dollar levels.

Could A Strong Dollar Derail Wall Street’s Rally? (CNBC)

A stronger greenback will ultimately hinder the U.S. stock market’s performance as domestic exporters receive less cash for their products abroad, according to Capital Economics. The U.S. dollar hit multi-year highs against several currencies this week, including a seven-year high against the Japanese yen, after Republicans gained control over both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2006, raising hopes of more pro-business policies. At the same time, U.S. stocks have been powering higher. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones hit record highs on Thursday, and are up 9.48% and 5.48% year to date, respectively. “Although the U.S. stock market has rebounded in recent weeks, its upside could by limited if, as we forecast, the rally in the dollar continues,” Capital Economics analysts said.

A stronger greenback means U.S. exporters will be faced with a conundrum: cut profit margins by keeping the foreign currency price of its exports unchanged or risk losing market share by hiking prices abroad. Either way, the dollar’s rise will prove a hindrance, Capital Economics said. Companies selling goods at home, that compete with imports from foreign countries, will also lose out, Capital Economics said. Foreign companies can cut the dollar price of their exports without hurting the value of profits in their home currency, putting them at an advantage and increasing their market share. “Finally, fluctuations in the dollar’s value also affect the earnings of U.S. companies’ foreign affiliates, which are very sizeable… As the dollar rises, those overseas earnings are worth less in U.S. currency,” the analysts added.

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PR to make people buy gold, fearing it will go up in price?

Miners Facing ‘Bloodbath’ If Gold Sinks To $1,000 (Telegraph)

The boss of the largest London-listed gold miner said his industry is suffering and is facing a “bloodbath” if the price of the precious metal sinks to $1,000 an ounce. Mark Bristow, chief executive of Randgold Rresources, said: “The [gold mining] industry is clearly stuffed at $1,140 and it will be a bloodbath at $1,000.” The price of gold is testing four-year lows. It fell again today – down 0.4pc to $1,142.8 per ounce at midday. Mr Bristow, who was speaking at his company’s third quarter results presentation in London, said demand for gold is as strong as ever. However, he beleives that the industry has failed to learn the lessons from a cyclical market and is “pumping out” unprofitable gold into the market after years of expansion.

He believes that the business plans of many companies are based on the price of gold being around $1,300 per ounce. This did not look outlandish when the price hit $1,900 in 2011 but is making things difficult now. Mr Bristow said he doesn’t expect the price of gold to recover any time soon: “Gold at $1,300 is history and big players wil struggle to repay their debts at current prices.” Randgold Resources said third-quarter pre-tax profits were down to $79.6m from $126.6m in the same period last year. The company’s own cash costs for gold production were $692 per ounce during the period, one of the lowest in the industry. “Our business is designed to make profits at $1,000 per ounce, not just survive,” Mr Bristow said.

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“..three quarters of gold mining companies burn cash at spot prices just below $1,200 on an all-in cost basis.”

Gold Firms Plan Drastic Cuts As Bullion Sinks (Reuters)

Struggling gold producers plan increasingly drastic measures such as scrapping dividends, cutting jobs, halting projects and shutting mines to survive the latest price plunge, but not all of them will make it. Gold tumbled to a more than four-year low of $1,137.40 an ounce this week, rekindling memories of last year’s 28% drop to $1,196. That fall put an abrupt end to years of over-spending on expansion projects and forced producers to cut costs. Gold prices recovered early in 2014, but the slide in the past three months to new lows will force companies to step up their efforts to cope. According to Citi analysts, about three quarters of gold mining companies burn cash at spot prices just below $1,200 on an all-in cost basis, which includes head office, interest, permitting and exploration costs. Buenaventura, Medusa and Iamgold are among the highest-cost producers with all-in costs well above $1,300, a Citi note to investors said.

“Everyone has started now to appreciate that the music has stopped and there are only so many chairs,” Mark Bristow, chief executive of gold miner Randgold, said in an interview. He said he was frustrated that not much high-cost production had been shut down so far. “It is questionable whether, without injection of liquidity, the leading companies in our industry can manage their businesses going forward. Everyone is trying to survive in hope that the gold price will go up.” Unlike prices for most other commodities, the gold price does not hinge mostly on demand and supply fundamentals. Instead, it is tied more to global economic factors such as interest rates and inflation and is more subject to investor sentiment, which make its moves more difficult to predict. And gold equities are historically even more volatile than the metal. After outperforming the bullion price for most of this year, gold mining shares have given up all gains to sink much deeper than gold itself.

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It works!

Abenomics Pushes Japan Corporate Earnings Toward Record (Bloomberg)

Japanese companies are headed toward their highest profits ever, as the falling yen boosts exporters from Toyota to Uniqlo-operator Fast Retailing. Aggregate net income at 195 of the largest listed companies will expand 10% to a record 17.5 trillion yen ($153 billion) this fiscal year, based on analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Executives are catching up to such lofty expectations, with Toyota this week raising its profit forecast to an unprecedented 2 trillion yen.

As the earnings season winds down in Japan — almost all companies will have reported results by next week — exporters are emerging as one of the biggest beneficiaries of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies. For investors, the weaker currency is outweighing slumps in wages and local consumption, prompting them to push up the Nikkei 225 Stock Average to levels last seen seven years ago. “Profits were pushed up somewhat surprisingly by the exchange rate recently,” said Tomohiro Okawa, a Japan equities strategist at UBS AG in Tokyo. “Still, there’s not much more that monetary policies can do, and structurally, nothing has changed for these companies.”

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Forget it.

Draghi Stokes Speculation ECB Set to Intensify Stimulus (Bloomberg)

Mario Draghi is stoking investor bets that he’ll intensify stimulus for the euro area after indicating he has the backing of policy makers to do so. With the European Central Bank president yesterday downplaying dissent within his 24-member Governing Council, new preparations for more-expansive action and a €1 trillion ($1.2 trillion) target for boosting the institution’s balance sheet suggest momentum is shifting toward a proposal for broader bond-buying, perhaps in December. The euro fell and southern European bonds rose as Draghi said policy makers are united in trying to revive inflation and highlighted how they’re stepping up their efforts as the U.S. Federal Reserve pulls back. Corporate bonds could be the next target before more-controversial sovereign debt, economists said. “Draghi signaled that additional monetary easing was in the pipeline,” said Nick Kounis, head of macro and financial markets research at ABN Amro Bank in Amsterdam. “Further action could be announced as soon as next month’s meeting.”

The euro area’s central bankers met yesterday in Frankfurt amid claims that Draghi often acts without the backing of them all, and just days after the Bank of Japan ramped up its own stimulus campaign. The question from investors is how much more he can do to boost an economy that risks sliding into its third recession in six years and where inflation is close to becoming deflation. Having already cut interest rates to record lows and saying they can go no lower, Draghi is now focused on boosting the ECB’s balance sheet. He told reporters that he expects to increase assets back toward March 2012 levels, a clearer commitment than previously. That means a goal of €3 trillion, or about €1 trillion more than the current level. The ECB has issued long-term loans to banks and started buying covered bonds in the hope of flooding the economy with enough liquidity to ease credit constraints. Purchases of asset-backed securities are due to start this month.

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Accurate contrarian indicator.

US Investor Sentiment At Highest Level Of 2014 (MarketWatch)

A scary selloff in U.S. stocks that gripped markets last month may seem like a gauzy memory, by now. Major U.S. stock benchmarks are hurtling to new heights. So, have the halcyon days for stocks returned? At first glance, the answer appears to be, yes. Eyeballing the most recent investor-sentiment survey from The American Association of Individual Investors indicates that optimism is at its highest level since Dec. 26, 2013, while pessimism fell to a nine-year low. More than half of people surveyed are optimistic that markets will rise over the next six months, while only 15% expect markets to fall, as the chart included shows.

It’s important to note that many market watchers use the AAII survey as a contrarian indicator. Meaning high optimism can signal that it’s not the best time to be a buyer because the markets are hopped up on a major dose of irrational exuberance. After all, if everyone is already bullish, who’s left to buy? At current levels, optimism is unusually high and pessimism is unusually low, AAII wrote, in a report accompanying its survey results, adding that “historically, such occurrences have been followed by lower-than-average levels of market gains.” The number of people feeling bullish has been rising for the past five weeks, according AAII survey. That’s despite the nasty selloff last month, which reached its nadir in the middle of October. Fueling some of this newfound euphoria has been the cessation of the Federal Reserve’s bond-purchasing program and solid corporate earnings. However, investors may be too late to the stock party, if the AAII survey is an accurate contrarian indicator.

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How to keep home prices at elevated levels.

Congress Is In No Hurry To Wind Down Fannie And Freddie (MarketWatch)

Looking for a reason why U.S. lawmakers might not rush to push through an overhaul of the U.S. housing-finance system that would involve winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? You’re in luck: There are billions of reasons, according to the companies’ quarterly earnings reports released Thursday. By the end of 2014, the government-sponsored enterprises will have delivered $38 billion more in dividend payments to the U.S. Treasury than they received in bailout money. “The GSEs are a dedicated source of revenue for the federal government and that is unlikely to change anytime soon,” said Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading, a Washington-based investment firm. Fannie and Freddie started taking federal bailout funds in 2008, and maxed out at a cumulative total of almost $190 billion several years ago. Due to a legal arrangement, the companies can’t narrow their debt to the government, but they do send periodic payments.

By the end of 2014 Fannie and Freddie will have sent the U.S. Treasury Department a cumulative total of about $225 billion in dividend payments. A strengthening housing market, large tax benefits and legal settlements in recent years have pumped up Fannie and Freddie’s earnings. Because of a controversial amendment to the government’s agreement to help the once-flailing companies, Fannie and Freddie are unable to build capital. Instead, they send their profits to the U.S. Treasury. While U.S. lawmakers may pay lip service to the idea of replacing the two mortgage-finance giants — together Fannie and Freddie back about half of new U.S. mortgages – Congress may dawdle when it comes to slaughtering the cash cows. “GSE earnings today could delay the debt ceiling deadline tomorrow,” Boltansky said.

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They all think governments can make up for the decline in cosumer spending. Fatal flaw.

Eurozone Governments Look for Spending Boost (Bloomberg)

Euro-area governments brainstormed over how to boost the bloc’s flagging recovery as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi urged countries to do more to make their economies more competitive. “The sense of urgency has to become a lot stronger,” Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said at a conference in Brussels today before talks among his euro-area counterparts. “Politicians also have to shape up and get some of the tougher things done to really create an investment climate in Europe which we badly need.” Finance ministers from the 18-nation euro bloc are beginning to converge over the need to fire up investment as growth in the region’s largest countries stagnates and inflation is predicted to remain at less than half the ECB goal of just under 2% this year and next. Draghi today said he’ll be ready to provide more ECB stimulus, while pressuring member states to do their part.

While accommodative monetary policy, such as the unprecedented stimulus measures that the ECB has already pushed through, can help economic activity, “implementation of product and labor-market reforms, as well as actions to improve the business environment for firms, need to gain momentum in several countries,” Draghi told reporters at his monthly press conference after the ECB Governing Council met in Frankfurt today. “Insufficient progress in structural reforms in euro-area countries constitutes a key downward risk to the economic outlook.” Italy, the third-largest euro-area economy in its third recession in six years, is already taking steps to make its economy more competitive, Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, said at the Brussels conference. “In order to have more investment and therefore more growth we need more resources,” he said. This needs “bringing into the field other investors alongside banks, institutional investors, pension funds, insurance companies and so forth, but also leveraging and making the most of the instruments we already have.”

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Why not come clean?

China Central Bank Pledges Policy Support As Risks To Growth Rise (Reuters)

China’s central bank pledged on Thursday to maintain modest policy support to help the world’s second-largest economy weather increasing headwinds in the near term but stressed that it will not flood markets with cash. Yet at the same time, the central bank also said publicly for the first time that it had pumped 769.5 billion yuan ($125.91 billion) worth of three-month loans into banks via a “medium-term lending facility” (MLF) to keep interest rates low. The disbursement of loans was slightly more than the 700 billion yuan expected by many in the market and underscored the risks faced by China’s economy, where third-quarter growth fell to a low not seen since the 2008/09 global financial crisis.

“During the process of economic adjustment, China will see rising downward pressure in its economy and increasing chances of exposure to potential risks in a certain period of time,” the People’s Bank of China said. It promised to stick to its “prudent” stance, fine-tune policy in a timely manner to support the economy, and maintain appropriate liquidity conditions to keep reasonable growth in credit and social financing. Indeed, to protect a wobbly economy from any painful rises in borrowing cost, the central bank said the 769.5 billion yuan worth of loans that were extended to banks in September and October were issued at an interest rate of 3.5%.

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$126 billion in two months.That just go ‘poof’.

China Central Bank Confirms New Liquidity Tool as It Holds Off Easing (Bloomberg)

China’s central bank has published details on its latest tool to provide liquidity as it refrains from across-the-board cuts to benchmark interest rates. The People’s Bank of China confirmed it pumped 769.5 billion yuan ($126 billion) into the country’s lenders in the last two months through a newly-created Medium-term Lending Facility. The PBOC injected 500 billion yuan in September and another 269.5 billion yuan in October via the facility — all termed at three months with an interest rate of 3.5%. The announcement, included in the PBOC’s quarterly monetary policy statement, is the first official confirmation of earlier reports on the injections. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said every 500 billion yuan in funds from the central bank is similar to a 50-basis-point cut in the required reserve ratio.

“It shows the central bank is very reluctant to loosen monetary policy, but it has to reduce financing costs for end borrowers,” said Guan Qingyou, chief macro-economic researcher with Minsheng Securities Co. in Beijing. “It doesn’t mean the new tools can replace traditional tools forever.” The operations “affected mid-term interest rates while providing liquidity to guide commercial banks to lower their lending rates and overall social-financing costs,” the central bank said in the report published yesterday. “As liquidity generated from capital inflows eases, MLF has played a role of covering the liquidity gap and maintaining a neutral and appropriate liquidity situation.”

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Time to lose the dollar peg?

Yuan Bears Say Record Chinese Dollar Debt to Fuel Decline (Bloomberg)

Yuan bears have added Chinese companies’ record dollar borrowings to the list of reasons why the currency may weaken. Chinese firms raised $196 billion from loans and bonds this year, 11 times more than the $17.7 billion of 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Societe General SA, Daiwa Capital Markets and Royal Bank of Canada predict the yuan, which is headed for its first annual decline in five years, will drop further in coming months as the outlook for rising U.S. interest rates and a weakening Chinese economy exposes the risk of overseas liabilities. The People’s Bank of China engineered a 2.6% decline in the yuan in the first quarter to cut one-way bets on the currency and prepare companies for the risk of exchange-rate weakness.

Daiwa Capital Markets estimates that, in addition to foreign-currency borrowing, $1 trillion of hot money has flooded into China since the Federal Reserve started quantitative easing in 2008, including through shadow-banking channels such as export financing and metals purchases. “Leverage does place China in the higher risk category in the Asian region,” Sue Trinh, a senior currency strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong, said by phone yesterday. “China is making continued progress in reducing reliance on credit and in particular the shadow-banking sector,” she said, adding that the effort “will likely limit the extent to which the yuan will be able to gain.”

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Remnants of times long gone.

Europe’s Shrinking Conglomerates (Bloomberg)

Europe’s biggest conglomerates are slimming down, discarding units that either don’t make enough money or don’t fit with how they see the future. It makes sense to concentrate on fewer industries: There’s no obvious synergy between building power stations and selling hearing aids, or between engineering more fertile seeds and making polycarbonate car parts. It just might herald the start of a second European industrial revolution. It’s certainly set off a massive mergers-and-acquisitions wave. Germany’s Siemens is leading the charge. It has discarded at least five businesses this year to focus on what it calls “electrification, automation and digitalization.” And that’s after more divestments last year than any European industrial company, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Both Germany’s Bayer and Royal Philips of the Netherlands are abandoning their century-old business roots in a burst of Schumpeterian creative destruction.

Siemens is allowing partner Robert Bosch to take over its appliance business by selling Bosch a 50% stake for €3 billion ($3.75 billion). Siemens is also selling a health data unit for $1.3 billion, a clinical microbiology division for an undisclosed sum, an alarms-and-video surveillance maker, and a hearing-aids business for €2.2 billion. On the acquisitions side, Siemens is muscling up in the markets on which it wants to focus. It paid $7.6 billion for Dresser-Rand Inc. in September to bolster the oil-field equipment division, and $1.3 billion in May for a unit making gas turbines and compressors from Rolls-Royce Holdings. It missed out on the energy assets of France’s Alstom SA, beaten by U.S. giant General Electric’s $17 billion bid. (GE is also slimming down by offloading a consumer appliance business to Sweden’s Electrolux for $3.3 billion earlier this year.)

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Time to lie, Jean-Claude.

Luxembourg And Juncker Under Pressure Over Tax Avoidance Deals (Guardian)

French, German and Dutch finance ministers have rounded on Luxembourg for allowing multinational companies to create complicated structures to avoid billions of dollars of tax. Pressure is also mounting on Jean-Claude Juncker, the new president of the European commission and former long-serving prime minister of Luxembourg, who oversaw the introduction of laws that helped turn the tiny European country into a magnet for multinationals who are seeking to reduce their tax bills. The calls for Luxembourg to stop arranging special deals that help corporations avoid tax came after a vast cache of 28,000 leaked tax papers from the Grand Duchy revealed the country had been rubber-stamping tax avoidance on an industrial scale. Details of the documents were revealed by 80 journalists in 26 countries working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), including the Guardian.

Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, said the revelations about Luxembourg’s secret tax deals showed that the Grand Duchy had “a lot to do” to meet global standards. The French finance minister, Michel Sapin, said such deals were “no longer acceptable for any country”. He added: “I wish that in a few years we never have to talk about something like this again.” The Netherlands finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also chair of the Eurogroup of all 18 finance ministers in the eurozone, said that Luxembourg was breaching international tax standards. “Many countries make agreements with companies to provide security. But these agreements need to comply with international standards. We still have some work here.” At Westminster, Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said: “[Juncker has] just taken over the European commission, [yet] he’s presided over the biggest exploitation of European nations in his own little country for decades.”

Despite the criticism, Juncker was said to be “very serene” and “cool”. Juncker, who took over as president of the commission on Saturday after serving 19 years as premier of Luxembourg, was scheduled to take part in a public debate on Thursday in Brussels. But he pulled out on Wednesday night as news organisations prepared to publish the leaked tax documents. Many of the tax deals – secured for companies including Ikea, Pepsi, Burberry, FedEx and Procter & Gamble – were aided by laws written during Juncker’s term of office. The Danish tax minister, Benny Engelbrecht, said the revelations were “shocking”. “Tax payments are down to%ages that are so crazy that you can almost not even describe the challenges that they create for other countries,” Engelbrecht told the Danish paper Politiken.

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“… the Brussels accounts have not been given the all clear for 19 years running.” How insane would you like it?

EU Auditors Refuse To Sign Off Over £100 Billion Of Its Own Spending (Telegraph)

The European Union is accused of “breathtaking hypocrisy” for continuing to demand that David Cameron pays a £1.7 billion bill despite its own auditors failing to give a clean bill of health to more than £100 billion of spending by Brussels According to the annual report of the European Court of Auditors, seen by The Telegraph, £5.5 billion of the EU budget last year was misspent because of controls on spending that were deemed to be only “partially effective” by experts. The audit found that £109 billion out of a total of £117 billion spent by the EU in 2013 was “affected by material error”. It means that the Brussels accounts have not been given the all clear for 19 years running. Treasury sources said that the disclosure shows why the EU needs “urgent reform”. Mr Cameron has said he will refuse to pay “anything like” the £1.7 billion on December 1, despite being threatened with fines by the EU.

The damning finding by the auditors emerged as senior figures in Brussels criticised Mr Cameron for refusing to pay the bill, which was demanded because of the success of Britain’s economy. The audit concluded that the European budget needed better management at a time of “continuing pressure on EU and national finances”. “More can and should be done to ensure money is spent according to rules,” it said. Among the examples of misspent money was funding used to buy helicopters to help Spain defend Europe’s borders against entry by illegal immigrants. “[Auditors] examined a project in Spain which consisted of the purchase of four helicopters, to be used 75% of their operating time for EU border surveillance and control. However, the ECA found the helicopters were only used 25% of the time for this purpose,” said the report. In another case, the commission handed out £1.4 million in funding for social development in Moldova “for which no underlying expenditure had been incurred”.

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Gorbachev was never a big fan of Putin’s. But he knows the US “.. have different plans, they need a different situation, one that would allow them to meddle everywhere.”

Gorbachev: Putin Protects Russia’s Interests Better Than Anyone Else (DW)

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he will defend Russia’s policy in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin when he meets with top German officials this week, for the festivities marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “I am absolutely convinced that Putin protects Russia’s interests better than anyone else,” Gorbachev said. The last leader of the USSR is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck during the ceremony, which comes at a time of bitter confrontation between Russia and the West. Gorbachev also said that the current Ukraine crisis provided an “excuse” for the United States to pick on Russia.

“Russia agreed to new relations, [and] created new cooperation structures. And everything would be great but not everyone in the United States liked it,” he said in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Thursday. “They have different plans, they need a different situation, one that would allow them to meddle everywhere. Whether it will be good or bad, they don’t care,” Gorbachev said, referring to Washington. The 83-year-old is widely praised for his decision not to use force to stop the wave of changes in Eastern Europe during the final years of the Cold War. He is also credited for the reforms of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) after coming to power in 1985, and allowing the Wall to fall in 1989, thus effectively ending the Cold War. He has often criticized Vladimir Putin for his authoritarian style of government. A quarter century after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many former Soviet officials say they feel betrayed by the West.

Several politicians from that era have told the AFP news agency that the reunification of Germany was allowed only under the condition that NATO would not expand to the east, into an area traditionally considered a Russian sphere of influence. Former Gorbachev advisor Anatoly Chernyaev swears that he personally witnessed a pledge from Washington to the Soviet leader not to enlarge NATO. “With my own ears, I heard Secretary of State James Baker promise Gorbachev on February 9, 1990 in the Kremlin’s Catherine the Great hall that NATO would not extend ‘even an inch’ to the east if we accepted the entry of a unified Germany into the alliance,” he said. Western leaders from the same period have rejected claims that such a deal with the Kremlin ever existed.

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The west is not interested in peace.

Ukraine Lurches Back Toward Open War on East Fighting (Bloomberg)

Ukraine’s east lurched back toward open war as the government in Kiev and pro-Russian rebels accused each other of starting major offensives in the region. The Ukrainian government said there were 26 outbreaks of fighting yesterday between its forces and separatists in the east, while the rebels said the Kiev government’s troops had gone on a large-scale military push there. The standoff is coming to a head after Ukraine and its allies accused separatists of undermining peace efforts with Nov. 2 elections in Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Nov. 5 that Ukraine’s “civil war” isn’t subsiding as cities continue to come under shelling and the civilian death toll rises.

“Both Ukrainian government and separatist forces must immediately stop carrying out indiscriminate attacks in violation of the laws of war,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia director of Amnesty International in a report posted on the human rights group’s website yesterday. “They have killed and injured civilians, and destroyed civilian homes, and there would appear to be little impetus on both sides to end these violations.” Ukrainian troops are sticking to the cease-fire worked out two months ago and are “staying at their previous positions,” the military press office said in a statement on its Facebook page. It said three Ukrainian servicemen were killed yesterday. Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency quoted Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, as saying that Ukraine had begun a large-scale offensive against the separatists in the east. Purgin said he sees “all-out war” and claimed Ukrainian forces had broken the Sept. 5 truce, according to RIA.

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