Aug 252016
 
 August 25, 2016  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Harris&Ewing US Navy Yard, Washington. Sight shop, big gun section 1917

‘It’s Easier To Start A War Than To Forgive Debt’ (ET)
Mobius: Helicopter Money Will Be Japan’s Next Big Experiment, And Soon (BBG)
Central Bankers Eye Public Spending To Plug $1 Trillion Investment Gap (R.)
World Trade Falls for Second Quarter in a Row (WS)
Largest Oil Companies’ Debts Hit Record High (WSJ)
This is What’s Wrong with US Oil (WS)
Scotland North Sea Oil Revenues Collapse 97% (Ind.)
The Woman Who Revived Russia’s Markets (WSJ)
China Imposes Caps on P2P Loans to Curb Shadow-Banking Risks (BBG)
Runaway Bosses Fleeing Debts A Symptom Of China’s Economic Slowdown (SCMP)
Real World Shows Economics Has a Deflation Problem (BBG)
S&P: Increased Risk Of ‘Sharp Correction In New Zealand Property Prices’ (Int.)
Treasury to EU: Back Off On Tax Probes Of US Companies (CNBC)
French Support For The EU Project Is Crumbling On The Left And Right (AEP)
‘It Took On A Life Of Its Own’: How One Rogue Tweet Led Syrians To Germany (G.)
We’ve Been Wrecking The Planet A Lot Longer Than You Think (SMH)

 

 

Good and long interview with Macquarie strategist Victor Shvets.

‘It’s Easier To Start A War Than To Forgive Debt’ (ET)

Shvets says the world should have actually delevered or paid down the debt to return initiative to the private sector, but thinks people could not accept the levels of pain associated with it. “You could eliminate the impact of the overcapacity through deflation. Nobody is prepared to accept that we might have to wipe out decades of growth just to eliminate leverage. Banks go, there are defaults, bankruptcies, layoffs,” he said. He thinks the Biblical debt jubilee, where slaves would be freed and debt would be forgiven every 50 years is a nice idea that would also work today if it weren’t for entrenched special interests. “The debt is not spread evenly, we still live in a tribal world, and it’s easier to start a war than to forgive debt,” Shvets said.

Global central banks with their easy money policies of negative interest rates and quantitative easing are working against a debt deflation scenario, with limited success, according to Shvets. “That was the entire idea of aggressive monetary policies: Stimulate investment and consumption. None of that works, there is no evidence. It can impact asset prices, but they don’t flow into the real economy,” he said. “Remember, the people at the Fed and the Bank of England are not supermen, they are people with an above average IQ trying to do a very difficult job in a highly complex environment.” Both overleveraging, easy money policies, and technological shifts are responsible for increasing levels of income inequality across the globe, another hallmark of the previous two industrial revolutions. Fewer people control more of the wealth.

Read more …

So far it’s all just talk.

Mobius: Helicopter Money Will Be Japan’s Next Big Experiment, And Soon (BBG)

The Federal Reserve signals a reluctance to raise interest rates. The yen strengthens to 90 per dollar. Haruhiko Kuroda decides to act. Helicopter money is coming, says Mark Mobius, even as soon as next month. The 80-year-old investment veteran is outlining how he expects central banks to respond to sluggish economic growth. For Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, traditional easing measures have just made people save instead of spend or borrow. Combined with a stronger yen, he says that’s going to force the Bank of Japan governor to contemplate a policy he’s repeatedly ruled out. “They’re really beginning to think what ammunition they have,” he said in an interview on a visit to a typhoon-struck Tokyo this week.

“The first reaction is to say, OK, let’s go for helicopter money, let’s get money directly into the hands of consumers,” he said. “I think that would probably be the next step.” Central bankers have flooded their economies with monetary stimulus in the eight years since the global financial crisis, driving up asset prices – including the stock markets that Mobius invests in – while struggling to kickstart global growth. A foray into negative interest rates in Japan has been met with the yen surging to about 100 per dollar, falling stocks and dwindling bank profits.

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Party time.

Central Bankers Eye Public Spending To Plug $1 Trillion Investment Gap (R.)

While markets wait for Janet Yellen’s latest message about the direction of monetary policy, the Federal Reserve chief and her colleagues already have one for politicians: the U.S. economy needs more public spending to shift into higher gear. In the past few weeks, Yellen and three of the Fed’s other four Washington-based governors have called in speeches and Congressional hearings for government infrastructure spending and other efforts to counter weak growth, sagging productivity improvements, and lagging business investment. The fifth member has supported the idea in the past. The Fed has no direct influence over fiscal policy and its officials traditionally refrain from discussing it in detail.

Having its top officials – from Yellen to former investment banker and Bush administration official Jerome Powell – speak in one voice sends a strong signal to the next president and Congress about the limits they face in setting monetary policy and what is needed to improve the economy’s prospects. The Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Yellen speaks on Friday, is due to focus on how to improve central banks’ “toolkit,” but the unanimous message from the Fed’s top policymakers is that those tools are not enough. “Monetary policy is not well equipped to address long-term issues like the slowdown in productivity growth,” Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer said on Sunday. He said it was up to the administration to invest more in infrastructure and education.

Behind Fischer’s statement lies a troubling feature of the recovery – business investment has fallen below levels in prior years and companies seem to have stopped responding to low borrowing costs. As a share of GDP, U.S. annual business investment since 2008 has averaged nearly a full percentage point below the previous decade’s average, government data shows. Reuters calculations indicate the investment shortfall has blown a hole in annual GDP that has grown to as much as one trillion dollars a year compared with what it would have been if the previous trend continued.

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“A full decade of stagnation.”

World Trade Falls for Second Quarter in a Row (WS)

Adding to the picture of crummy demand for goods around the world, the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, a division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, just released its preliminary data of its Merchandise World Trade Monitor for June. Trade volumes rose 0.7% in June from May, after falling 0.5% in May, but were about flat year-over-year, and below the volumes of December 2014! On a quarterly basis – it averages out the monthly ups and downs – world trade fell 0.8%, contracting for the second quarter in a row. The CPB recently adjusted its world trade data down, going back many years.

The new data now depicts a post-Financial Crisis recovery of global trade that was a lot weaker than the original data had indicated. These downward adjustments of 2% to 3% came in a world where economic growth, according to the IMF, is stuck at 3.1% in 2016. This chart of the CPB’s World Trade Monitor index shows the old data released as of July 2015 (blue line) and the newly adjusted data released today (red line). Note the 4.4% drop from the peak in global trade volumes in the original data for December 2014 and in the current data for June 2016!

World trade is a reflection of the goods-producing economy. Services don’t get shipped around the world. Goods do. So industrial production, excluding construction, is key. And here the trend is awful for advanced economies. Global industrial production, excluding construction, rose 0.6% in June, after a 0.3% decline in May. The index for industrial production in advanced economies rose to 102.5, below where it had been in January (103.4), a level it had hit after the Financial Crisis in December 2012, but down from the glory days before the Financial Crisis when the index peaked in February 2008 (107.8). And here’s a tidbit: the first time that the index hit the current level had been in April 2006. A full decade of stagnation.

Industrial production has shifted to emerging economies (“cheap labor” economies) for many years, such as China, as companies in the US, decades ago, and eventually in Europe and Japan began outsourcing and offshoring production to emerging economies. Hence, industrial production in emerging economies has surged over this period. This was particularly the case after the Financial Crisis when companies in the US, Europe, and Japan redoubled their efforts to get production relocated offshore. This chart shows the CPB’s industrial production index globally (green line), and also separated by advanced economies (the dismally flat-ish blue line at the bottom) and emerging economies (brown line at the top):

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Someone better restructure that entire industry, or ugly things will happen.

Largest Oil Companies’ Debts Hit Record High (WSJ)

Some of the world’s largest energy companies are saddled with their highest debt levels ever as they struggle with low crude prices, raising worries about their ability to pay dividends and find new barrels. Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron hold a combined net debt of $184 billion—more than double their debt levels in 2014, when oil prices began a steep descent that eventually bottomed out at $27 a barrel earlier this year. Crude prices have rebounded since, but still hover near $50 a barrel. The soaring debt levels are a fresh reminder of the toll the two-year price slump has taken on the oil industry. Just a decade ago, these four companies were hauled before Congress to explain “windfall profits” but now can’t cover expenses with normal cash flow.

Executives at BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron have assured investors that they will generate enough cash in 2017 to pay for new investments and dividends, but some shareholders are skeptical. In the first half of 2015, the companies fell short of that goal by $40 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of their numbers. “Eventually something will give,” said Michael Hulme, manager of the $550 million Carmignac Commodities Fund, which holds stakes in Shell and Exxon. “These companies won’t be able to maintain the current dividends at $50 to $60 oil—it’s unsustainable.” BP has said it expects to be able to pay for its operations, make new investments and meet its dividend at an oil price of between $50 and $55 a barrel next year.

The debt is piling up despite cuts of billions of dollars on new projects and current operations. Repaying the loans could weigh the companies down for years, crimping their ability to make investments elsewhere and keep pumping ever more oil and gas. “They are just not spending enough to boost production,” said Jonathan Waghorn at Guinness Atkinson Asset Management.

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As graphs go…

This is What’s Wrong with US Oil (WS)

Soothsayers out there have been prophesying time and again, for over a year, that very soon, in fact next week, the supply glut will start to unwind; that production in the US is already coming down sharply, that demand is up, or whatever…. In the end, a glut comes down to whether inventories are rising, particularly during a time of the year when they’re supposed to be falling (glut gets worse), or whether they’re falling (glut stabilizes or abates). It’s not just crude oil, but also the products that crude oil gets refined into for eventual use. And these stocks of petroleum products have been a doozie, particularly gasoline.

Gasoline stocks were essentially unchanged for the week, at 232.7 million barrels, a record for this time of the year, and up 8.5% from the already elevated inventory levels last year. Distillate fuels rose by 200,000 barrels to 153.3 million barrels. And “all other oils” jumped by a total of 3.9 million barrels to 490.6 million barrels. So total petroleum products stocks rose by 6.6 million barrels during the week, or 0.5%. Once again, this small-ish number, but over the period of the oil bust, total petroleum products stocks have soared by 30% and now exceed for the first time ever another huge milestone: 1.4 billion barrels. This chart shows what a truly relentless glut looks like:

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No independence then?!

Scotland North Sea Oil Revenues Collapse 97% (Ind.)

Scotland’s revenues from North Sea oil have collapsed by 97% in the past year as oil prices have plummeted, reigniting a fierce debate over whether an independent Scotland could finance itself. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The nationalists’ case for independence has been swallowed up by a £14bn black hole.” Taxes collected from oil production fell from £1.8bn in 2015 to just £60m in 2016. The gap between tax revenues and what Scotland spends is now 9.5%, or £14.8bn, compared to a 4% deficit for the UK as a whole. Scotland’s public sector now spends £12,800 per person, but collects just £10,000 each, the figures reveal. In 2008-9, as oil peaked at almost $150 per barrel, the Scottish government brought in a record £11.6bn from North Sea fields.

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Funny. Here’s what I wrote on April 8, 2015: Russia’s Central Bank Governor Is Way Smarter Than Ours

The Woman Who Revived Russia’s Markets (WSJ)

Russian markets are red hot again. Two years after plunging oil prices and Western economic sanctions fueled an investor exodus, the Micex stock index on Tuesday hit an all-time high. It is up 25% this year in dollar terms, making Russia the sixth-best performer among 23 emerging countries tracked by MSCI Inc. The ruble has gained 13% against the dollar this year, ranking third among all emerging currencies. Russia’s local-currency bonds rank third this year in performance out of 15 countries tracked by JP Morgan Chase. Many investors credit central-bank chief Elvira Nabiullina for Russia’s resurgence. They cite her surprise decision to end the ruble’s peg to the dollar in November 2014 and then sharply raise interest rates to combat capital flight and knock down inflation.

The moves were painful for Russia’s economy, which went into a sharp recession as the value of the ruble slumped, reducing consumer and business purchasing power. But over time they have helped to restore some international-investor faith in a country still shadowed by its 1998 default. “The correct steps taken by the Russian central bank have restored confidence in the ruble and its macroeconomic policy,” said Andrey Kutuzov, an associate portfolio manager of the Wasatch Emerging Markets Small Cap fund. Global investors this year have added $1.3 billion to funds that invest in Russian bonds and stocks, according to EPFR Global. The share of foreigners among government bondholders rose to 24.5% as of June 1, its highest level since late 2012, according to the Russian central bank.

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“..loans for weddings, guaranteed against the cash gifts that couples expect to receive..”

China Imposes Caps on P2P Loans to Curb Shadow-Banking Risks (BBG)

China imposed limits on lending by peer-to-peer platforms to individuals and companies in an effort to curb risks in one part of the loosely-regulated shadow-banking sector. An individual can borrow as much as 1 million yuan ($150,000) from P2P sites, including a maximum of 200,000 yuan from any one site, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said in Beijing on Wednesday. Corporate borrowers are capped at five times those levels. Tighter regulation may encourage consolidation that aids the industry long-term, said Wei Hou at Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong. China’s authorities are concerned about defaults and fraud among the nation’s 2,349 online lenders. In December, the country’s biggest Ponzi scheme was exposed after Internet lender Ezubo allegedly defrauded more than 900,000 people out of the equivalent of $7.6 billion.

The nation has 1778 “problematic” online lenders, according to the CBRC. The P2P lenders are barred from taking public deposits or selling wealth-management products and must appoint qualified banks as custodians and improve information disclosure, the regulator said. [..] China’s P2P industry brokered 982 billion yuan of loans in 2015, almost quadruple the amount in 2014 and an approximately 10-fold increase from 2013, according to Yingcan. P2P firms attracted more than 3.4 million investors and 1.15 million borrowers in July, with loans extended at an average interest rate of 10.3%, according to Yingcan. Products offered by P2P platforms in China can include anything from loans for weddings, guaranteed against the cash gifts that couples expect to receive, to high-yield lending for risky property or mining projects.

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Biggest debts must be with shadow banks, and they don’t hang up posters.

Runaway Bosses Fleeing Debts A Symptom Of China’s Economic Slowdown (SCMP)

Wanted posters for fugitive debtors, not commercials, are the main images that flash up on a big electronic screen in downtown Yixing, in the heart of the faltering Chinese industrial powerhouse that is the Yangtze River Delta. The posters, from the local courts, show the identity card numbers and pictures of dozens of people who have fled unpaid debts. Rewards ranging from 20,000 yuan (HK$23,000) to 330,000 yuan are offered to anyone reporting their whereabouts. But Hengsheng Square is the glitziest part of Yixing – with the most luxury stores, the brightest lights and the priciest office buildings – and few passers-by, their attention directed elsewhere, heed the wanted posters. They have little novelty value in any case, with the “runaway debtor” phenomenon now just part of daily life in the small city as economic growth slows.

In many ways, the square stands as a metaphor for the overall health of the Chinese economy. Under a prosperous surface, deep cracks have begun to emerge in its investment-led model, casting a shadow over the country’s economic growth prospects and even giving rise to doubts about the fundamental soundness of the world’s second-biggest economy. “The economic dynamics are waning,” said Professor Hu Xingdou, an economist at Beijing Institute of Technology. “China’s economic growth in recent years was powered by massive money printing, which is dangerous and unsustainable.”

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Holding up Spain as a success story while it has 20-25% unemployment never seemed terribly credible. It still doesn’t.

Real World Shows Economics Has a Deflation Problem (BBG)

Jacob Rothschild, the billionaire scion of arguably Europe’s greatest banking dynasty says we’re living through “the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world.” There’s a major flaw in the experiment, though: the real world isn’t responding to policy in the way that the textbooks say it should. Moreover, it seems increasingly evident that the fears that led to zero interest rates and quantitative easing were at best overblown, if not entirely unjustified. The economic quandary is easy to parse. Central banks almost everywhere have sanctioned a 2% inflation target as signifying financial Nirvana. But, as the table below shows, consumer prices in the world’s major economies are rising much slower than that arbitrary ideal:

Spain has emerged as the poster child for deflation. Prices fell by 0.6% in July, the country’s 12th consecutive month with no increase in inflation. The textbooks suggest that when there’s a prolonged period of falling prices – the definition of deflation – the economy can quickly find itself in a tailspin. Businesses and consumers will defer purchases in the expectation that goods and services will be even cheaper in the future. So if Spain has had an average inflation rate of -0.4% since the end of 2013, and has seen lower prices in 23 of the past 30 months, consumers will have responded by shunning the shops and curtailing their spending, right? Wrong:

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Heed that warning.

S&P: Increased Risk Of ‘Sharp Correction In New Zealand Property Prices’ (Int.)

International credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings has warned of the increasing risks facing New Zealand banks as a result of the continuing rise in house prices. In a new report, S&P has downgraded its Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment (BICRA) for NZ’s banks by a notch, dropping it from 3 to 4, on a scale where 1 is the lowest risk and 10 is the highest risk. However it has not changed the individual credit ratings of any New Zealand banks. [..] .. our ratings on all the financial institutions operating in New Zealand remain unchanged. “This reflects our expectation that despite some weakening in the capital levels of all these financial institutions, their stand alone credit profiles (SACPs) would remain unchanged.

However S&P did downgrade the SACPs of ASB and Rabobank by one notch each, although it did not downgrade the two banks’ credit ratings, “… reflecting our assessment of timely financial support from their respective parents, if needed,” S&P said. S&P said the increased risks to this country’s banking sector had been driven by “…continued strong growth in residential property prices nationally, coupled with an increase in private sector credit growth.” “We believe the risk of a sharp correction in property prices has further increased and, if it were to occur – with about 56% of registered banks’ lending assets secured by residential home loans – the impact on financial institutions would be amplified by the New Zealand economy’s external weaknesses, in particular its persistent current account deficit and high level of external debt.”

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This is just plain funny.

Treasury to EU: Back Off On Tax Probes Of US Companies (CNBC)

There’s a giant pot of corporate gold sitting outside the United States, and the U.S. Treasury and the European Commission are squabbling over how to get their hands on it. American multinational corporations have stashed more than $2 trillion in profits and assets outside to avoid paying what many companies argue are unduly high U.S. corporate tax rates. Over the past few years, the European Commission has opened investigations into a handful of those companies, including Apple, Starbucks and Amazon, to determine whether they owe taxes to European countries. But the Treasury Department, in a “white paper” released Wednesday, said those investigations have gone too far.

The paper attacked the legal approach the EU is using to determine tax liabilities on American companies, saying it targets “income that (European) Member States have no right to tax under well-established international tax standards.” The paper also argued that taxes collected by European countries could, in effect, come right out of the pockets of American taxpayers. That’s because taxes collected by European countries could be deducted from any future payments to the Treasury. “That outcome is deeply troubling, as it would effectively constitute a transfer of revenue to the EU from the U.S. government and its taxpayers,” the paper said. The report urged the European Commission to “return to the system and practice of international tax cooperation that has long fostered cross-border investment between the United States and EU Member States.”

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France will demand the hollowing out of the EU. Decentralization. Inevitable when economies shrink.

French Support For The EU Project Is Crumbling On The Left And Right (AEP)

The drama of Brexit may soon be matched or eclipsed by crystallizing events in France, where the Long Slump is at last taking its political toll. A democracy can endure deflation policies for only so long. The attrition has wasted the French centre-right and the centre-left by turns, and now threatens the Fifth Republic itself. The maturing crisis has echoes of 1936, when the French people tired of ‘deflation decrees’ and turned to the once unthinkable Front Populaire, smashing what remained of the Gold Standard. Former Gaulliste president Nicolas Sarkozy has caught the headlines this week, launching a come-back bid with a package of hard-Right policies unseen in a western European democracy in modern times.

But the uproar on the Left is just as revealing. Arnaud Montebourg, the enfant terrible of the Socialist movement, has launched his own bid for the Socialist Party with a critique of such ferocity that it bears examination. The former economy minister says France voted for a left-wing French manifesto four years ago and ended up with a “right-wing German policy regime”. This is objectively true. The vote was meaningless. “I believe that we have reached the end of road for the EU, and that France no longer has any interest in it. The EU has left us mired in crisis long after the rest of the world has moved on,” he said. Mr Montebourg stops short of ‘Frexit’ but calls for the unilateral suspension of EU labour laws. “As far as I am concerned, the current treaties have elapsed.

I will be inspired by the General de Gaulle’s policy of the ’empty chair’, a strike against the EU. I am not in favour of a French Brexit, but we can longer accept a Europe like that,” he said. In other words, he wishes to leave from within – as Poland, and Hungary are doing – without actually triggering any legal or technical clause. Mr Montebourg is unlikely to progress far but his indictment of president François Hollande is devastating. The party leadership was warned repeatedly and emphatically that contractionary policies would inevitably lead to another million jobless but the economic was swept aside. “They never budged from their Catechism and their false certitudes,” he said.

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“..the first post on social media to change the course of European history..”

‘It Took On A Life Of Its Own’: How One Rogue Tweet Led Syrians To Germany (G.)

The tweet was sent by Germany’s ministry for migration and refugees a year ago today. “The #Dublin procedure for Syrian citizens is at this point in time effectively no longer being adhered to,” the message read. With 175 retweets and 165 likes, it doesn’t look like classic viral content. But in Germany it is being spoken of as the first post on social media to change the course of European history. Referring to an EU law determined at a convention in Dublin in 1990, the tweet was widely interpreted as a de facto suspension of the rule that the country in Europe where a refugee first arrives is responsible for handling his or her asylum application.

By this point in 2015, more than 300,000 asylum seekers had reached Europe by boat – a figure that was already 50% higher than even the record-breaking number of arrivals in 2014. Although the German ministry’s intervention certainly did not start the crisis, it did make Germany the first-choice destination for Syrians who previously might have aimed for other countries in Europe, such as Sweden, which at the time offered indefinite asylum to Syrians. It also created an impression of confusion and loss of political control, from which Angela Merkel’s government has at times struggled to recover. Twelve months on, politicians and officials at the centre of Berlin’s bureaucratic machine are still trying to figure out how the tweet came about.

Four days previously, Angelika Wenzl, the executive senior government official at the refugee ministry, which in Germany is known as BAMF, had emailed out an internal memo titled “Rules for the suspension of the Dublin convention for Syrian citizens” to its 36 field bureaux around the country, stating that Syrians who applied for asylum in Germany would no longer be sent back to the country where they had first stepped on European soil. [..] By channels that officials and journalists have so far failed to pinpoint, Wenzl’s internal memo was leaked to the press.

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I forget who said it, but it’s still an interesting take: ”Nature developed mankind to get rid of a carbon imbalance”.

We’ve Been Wrecking The Planet A Lot Longer Than You Think (SMH)

When Charles Dickens, the English novelist, was detailing the “soft black drizzle” of pollution over London, he might inadvertently have been chronicling the early signs of global warming. New research led by Australian scientists has pegged back the timing of when humans had clearly begun to change the climate to the 1830s. An international research project has found human-induced climate change is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, earlier than expected. That’s about half a century before the first comprehensive instrumental records began – and about the time Dickens began his novels depicting Victorian Britain’s rush to industrialise.

The findings, published on Thursday in the journal Nature, were based on natural records of climate variation in the world’s oceans and continents, including those found in corals, ice cores, tree rings and the changing chemistry of stalagmites in caves. Helen McGregor, an ARC future fellow at the University of Wollongong and one of the paper’s lead authors, said it was “quite a surprise” the international research teams of dozens of scientists had been able to detect a signal of climate change emerging in the tropical oceans and the Arctic from the 1830s. “Nailing down the timing in different regions was something we hadn’t expected to be able to do,” Dr McGregor told Fairfax Media.

Interestingly, the change comes sooner to northern climes, with regions such as Australasia not experiencing a clear warming signal until the early 1900s. Nerilie Abram, another of the lead authors and an associate professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences, said greenhouse gas levels rose from about 280 parts per million in the 1830s to about 295 ppm by the end of that century. They now exceed 400 ppm.

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Aug 062016
 
 August 6, 2016  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle August 6 2016


Ben Shahn Sideshow, county fair, central Ohio 1938

UK’s Four Biggest Banks £155 Billion Short Of Safety (Ind.)
Want To Avoid Recession? Then Shower UK Households With Cash (G.)
A Realistic Look at July’s Nonfarm Payrolls (M2)
The Politically Incorrect Jobs Numbers Everyone is Hushing Up (WS)
Hacked Bitcoin Firm Plans To Spread Losses Across All Users (CNBC)
In China, When in Debt, Dig Deeper (WSJ)
Only In China: Companies Become Banks To ‘Solve’ Financial Difficulties
Galbraith Says Critics Have It All Wrong Over Greece ‘Plan X’ (Kath.)
Stiglitz Quits Panama Papers Probe, Cites Lack Of Transparency (R.)
Is Hillary Clinton Corrupt? An Archive of Financial Improprieties (Medium)
Average American 15 Pounds Heavier Than 20 Years Ago (HDN)

 

 

“That sum is not far away from the present market capitalisation of these banks, implying that they are massively overexposed.”

UK’s Four Biggest Banks £155 Billion Short Of Safety (Ind.)

The UK’s four biggest banks would need to raise another £155bn in fresh capital to withstand a new financial crisis, despite the view of the Bank of England Governor that lenders have an adequate cushion to cope with further turmoil. Those are the results of research from three respected financial academics – and add to a growing feeling that the Bank of England is dangerously undercooking its capital requirements on UK lenders in the face of swelling instability in financial markets. UK banks had to be rescued in 2008 and 2009 at massive cost to British taxpayers. Capital represents the shareholder funds in banks available to absorb losses. When losses are greater than the capital cushion the bank is bust and may need to tap state support if deemed to be systemically important by politicians and regulators.

In a new paper Viral Acharya of New York University, Diane Pierret of the University of Lausanne and Sascha Steffen of the University of Mannheim calculate that HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland would need to raise $185bn (£155bn) of new equity between them to retain a 5.5% capital cushion in a crisis, which is the benchmark of safety used in the past by the European Banking Authority. That sum is not far away from the present market capitalisation of these banks, implying that they are massively overexposed. The EBA’s stress test exercise last Friday showed the UK’s major lenders would see their capital diminished in another European economic crisis, but not below the 5.5% level of so-called “risk-weighted assets” that would have created pressure for more equity injections.

[..] Acharya, Pierret and Steffen argue that the broader European banking sector could be undercapitalised to the tune of around €890bn – a figure they calculated using stock market valuations of banks’ equity rather than the sums reported by lenders themselves. Bank share prices have continued to fall since last Friday’s EBA stress test, implying investors are far from reassured by the fact that most lenders received a clean bill of health from the regulators.

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Would it even help anymore?

Want To Avoid Recession? Then Shower UK Households With Cash (G.)

Just give people the money. Give them cash, dole it out, increase benefits, slash VAT, hand it to those most likely to spend it: the poor. Put £1,000 into every debit account. Whatever you do, don’t give it to banks. They will just hoard it or use it to boost house prices. Britain is suffering from a classic liquidity trap. There is insufficient demand. Yet all the Bank of England did on Thursday was wring its hands, blame Brexit and go on digging the same old holes. They are labelled lower interest rates, quantitative easing and more cash for banks. Those policies have been in place for some seven years. They have failed, failed, failed. Not one commentator yesterday thought cutting interest rates to 0.25% would make any difference to the threat of recession.

Worse, by cutting annuity yields it would impoverish many old people who would otherwise spend. The Bank’s cumbersome monetary bureaucracy was set up to keep inflation under control by curbing bank lending. That failed during the credit crunch. Now it is failing in the opposite direction. Channelling policy through the banks has proved useless in protecting the economy from deflation and recession. The Bank is trapped intellectually in the world in which it lives, that of the City and the banking system. Like chateau generals at the Somme, it never ventures to the economy’s frontline, where buyers meet sellers and generate growth. It thinks of bonds, investments and the only glamour spending it recognises, on infrastructure. It believes that an economy can be regenerated through middle-class home ownership and state mega-projects.

But there is no shortage of funds to invest. Companies, like banks, are awash in cash. The problem is that savers are not spending; if they spend on anything it is on property, and that, too, may now slide. It is irresponsible to await the chancellor’s autumn statement and a political fiddle with tax rates. The engine of the economy must crash into forward gear. Money must be got into bank accounts, cash cards, shops tills and revenues. The plea from 35 economists published in the Guardian this week for “unconventional measures” made only one mistake. It suggested more spending on state infrastructure, which is just spending delayed. Where the economists were right was in suggesting “an immediate increase in household disposable incomes”.

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“..the U-6 unemployment number is 10.7% of the nation’s workforce..”

A Realistic Look at July’s Nonfarm Payrolls (M2)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its nonfarm payroll data this morning, showing that 255,000 jobs were created in July. The unemployment rate remained at 4.9%. May data was revised up from the eyebrow-raising low number of 11,000 jobs to 24,000 jobs while June was also revised upward from 287,000 jobs to 292,000. That brought the monthly average to 190,000 jobs over the past three months. Unfortunately, drilling down into the more granular details, a far less rosy picture emerges; a picture which is far more consistent with an economy feeling the continued weight of unprecedented wealth and income inequality; a picture that is far more correlated to an economy where “58% of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top 1%,” to quote Senator Bernie Sanders.

The data for July shows that the U-6 unemployment number is 10.7% of the nation’s workforce, more than double the official number of 4.9%. The U-6 unemployment rate includes the number of people unemployed; plus individuals just marginally attached to the labor force; plus those employed part-time for economic reasons. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the following definition of marginally attached: “Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work.)

But a far bigger problem with the BLS data is what constitutes an “employed” worker to our Federal government’s numbers crunchers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you could be an out of work MBA graduate but if you help your brother in his deli for 15 hours in a week while living in his home, you’re counted as employed. (The BLS says that a worker who makes no money at all donating his or her services to a family business for 15 hours or more per week is considered employed.)

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The US keeps addding more people than jobs.

The Politically Incorrect Jobs Numbers Everyone is Hushing Up (WS)

On its population clock, the Census Bureau estimates that the US population on August 5, 2016, at 4:49 p.m. ET (yup, down to the minute) was 324.17 million. That’s up from 308.76 million in April 2010. Since the darkest days of the Great Recession, the US population has grown by 15.4 million. The Census Bureau also estimates that there are currently 8.6 births per minute, minus 4.6 deaths per minute, plus 2 arriving immigrants (“net”) per minute, for a gain of nearly 6 folks per minute. Everyone ages, so the young ones move into the labor force, but the baby boomers are fit and healthy and don’t feel like retiring, and so they hang on to their jobs for as long as they can, despite the rampant age discrimination they face in many sectors, particularly in tech, though obviously not in politics.

In 2010, 24% of the people were under 18. That was 74 million people. Millions of them have since moved into the labor force, elbowing each other while scrambling for jobs, as have those millions who were then between 18 and their twenties and in college or grad school. These millennials have arrived on the job market in very large numbers. In April 2010, there were 130.1 million nonfarm payrolls. In today’s July report, there were 144.4 million. Hence, 14.3 million jobs have been added to the economy over the time span, even as the total population has grown by 15.4 million. So that’s not working out very well. On average, 205,300 jobs need to be created every month just to keep up with population growth and not allow the unemployment situation to get worse.

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Maybe they should be forced to pay back all their clients and close?

Hacked Bitcoin Firm Plans To Spread Losses Across All Users (CNBC)

The bitcoin exchange Bitfinex has said it is considering sharing losses among all its users after around $70 million worth of bitcoin was stolen earlier in the week. “We are still working out the details so nothing is set in stone, however we are leaning towards a socialized loss scenario among bitcoin balances and active loans to (bitcoin/dollar) positions,” the Hong-Kong based company said on its website on Friday. Bitfinex revealed it had been hacked on Tuesday and suspended trading, causing prices of the digital currency to fall significantly. A total of 119,756 bitcoins, worth $68 million at current prices, were reportedly stolen as a result of a security breach.

The company added in its latest statement that nothing had yet been decided and it was still settling positions and account balances. Bitfinex’s “socialized loss scenario” most likely means it will distribute its losses among all of the platform’s users, according to Charles Hayter, chief executive and founder of digital currency comparison website CryptoCompare. This would mean users whose bitcoins were never originally stolen would be affected. “In essence, (this is) a haircut for all users on their deposits. To what degree depends on the devil in the details and what the total capital held by BitFinex is,” Hayter told CNBC via email.

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A heavily indebted company gets permission to open a bank, to rival another bank that has 25% of its loans off-balance-sheet and non-performing. What could go wrong?

In China, When in Debt, Dig Deeper (WSJ)

When the going gets tough in China, just get a bank. With profits headed south, heavily indebted Chinese heavy-machinery giant Sany Heavy Industries said this week it won approval to set up a bank in the Hunan province city of Changsha. With 3 billion yuan ($450 million) of registered capital, it will be a relatively large institution as Chinese city-based banks go. Sanyplans to join forces with a pharmaceutical company and an aluminum company.

In recent months several city commercial banks in China have been taken over by the likes of tobacco and travel companies, recapitalized and renamed. Banking licenses are scarce in China, and rarely are new banks set up from scratch. Sany’s Sanxiang Bank will be up and running in six months. It will go up against crosstown rival Bank of Changsha, which at the end of last year had substantial 90 billion yuan book of off-balance-sheet loans, more than a quarter of them nonperforming. Sany had better ramp up quickly.

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Comment on the WSJ piece above.

Only In China: Companies Become Banks To ‘Solve’ Financial Difficulties

China is desperate to solve several problems it has due to its debt to GDP ratio being north of 300%. It may have found a pretty unconventional one by letting companies become banks, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. “With profits headed south, heavily indebted Chinese heavy-machinery giant Sany Heavy Industries said this week it won approval to set up a bank in the Hunan Province city of Changsha. With 3 billion yuan ($450 million) of registered capital, it will be a relatively large institution as Chinese city-based banks go. Sany plans to join forces with a pharmaceutical company and an aluminum company. Sany already operates an insurance and finance division with the goal of internal financing and insurance services for clients.”

One problem is that companies are defaulting on bond payments and there is no adequate resolution mechanism for bad debts, at least according to Goldman Sachs. “A clearer debt resolution process (for example, how debt restructuring on public bonds can be achieved, how valuation and recovery on defaulted bonds are arrived at, the timely disclosure of information and clarity on court-sanctioned processes) would help to pave the way for more defaults, which in our view are needed if policymakers are to deliver on structural reforms,” the investment bank writes in a note. By becoming or owning banks, the companies can just shift debt around different balance sheets to avoid a default, although this is probably not the resolution that Goldman Sachs had in mind when talking about structural reforms.

Another problem is that the regime has more and more difficulties pushing more debt into the economy to grease the wheels and keep GDP growth from collapsing entirely. China needs 11.9 units of new debt to create one unit of GDP growth. At the same time, the velocity of money or the measure of how often one unit of money changes hands during a year has fallen to below 0.5, another measure of how saturated the economy is with uneconomical credit. If the velocity of money goes down, the economy needs a higher stock of money to keep the same level of activity.

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Kathimerini is going off the rails, as are a group of Greeks. Accusing Varoufakis and Galbraith of planning a military coup is so far beyond the pale, it’s reason to look at legal action.

Galbraith Says Critics Have It All Wrong Over Greece ‘Plan X’ (Kath.)

University of Texas professor James Galbraith, a close associate of Yanis Varoufakis, has urged the 23 US-educated Greeks who recently criticized him for his part in last year’s negotiations with Greece’s creditors to read his book. Galbraith’s response came in the form of a letter to Kathimerini, which had published a story on July 29 on the letter from the 23 academics, addressed to the president of the University of Texas. In his own letter, Galbraith mentions the fact that his critics say they learned of his work as head of the team that worked on the so-called “Plan X” from interviews in the Greek press and excerpts of the Greek translation of his book, “Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice” (Yale University Press).

He asks why, given their knowledge of English, they did not read the original: “Had they done so, they would have found that the allegations they made are factually false.” Galbraith characterizes Plan X as “preliminary,” admitting that “the work of a small team cannot fully prepare for such a dramatic event.” He repeats that it would only have been activated if the Europeans had carried out their threat to cut off emergency liquidity via the ECB to Greek banks. “This would have triggered a forced exit of Greece from the euro, against the will of the government,” he notes. “The threat had been delivered by the president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, in late January,” he adds, mentioning also the suggestion by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that Greece take a “holiday from the euro.”

Galbraith further rejects the claim made by the 23 that his plan constituted a “monetary-cum-military coup d’etat” and that it would involve “mobilizing the Greek armed forces to suppress possible civil disorder.” “We did not suggest using the military inappropriately or outside the Constitution. The only use of the word ‘mobilization’ in my book refers to the civil service.” He also denies that the plan included a plot to arrest the governor of the central bank. The memo on Plan X, as Galbraith repeats in his letter, “was prepared at the request of the prime minister” and “at no time was the working group engaged in advocating exit or any policy choice. The job was strictly to study the operational issues that would arise if Greece were forced to issue scrip or if it were forced out of the euro.”

Finally, Galbraith responds to claims in the letter from the 23 that he regretted the non-activation of Plan X. “This claim also is false,” he writes, making reference to his interview with Kathimerini on July 6, 2016, in which he had stated that “we were preparing for a scenario that everyone hoped to avoid.”

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“..even as an expert on economic and organized crime, I was amazed to see so much of what we talk about in theory was confirmed in practice..”

Stiglitz Quits Panama Papers Probe, Cites Lack Of Transparency (R.)

The committee set up to investigate lack of transparency in Panama’s financial system itself lacks transparency, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told Reuters on Friday after resigning from the “Panama Papers” commission. The leak in April of more than 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, dubbed the “Panama Papers,” detailed financial information from offshore accounts and potential tax evasion by the rich and powerful. Stiglitz and Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth joined a seven-member commission tasked with probing Panama’s notoriously opaque financial system, but they say they found the government unwilling to back an open investigation.

Both quit the group on Friday after they say Panama refused to guarantee the committee’s report would be made public. “I thought the government was more committed, but obviously they’re not,” Stiglitz said. “It’s amazing how they tried to undermine us.” The Panamanian government defended the committee’s “autonomous” management in a statement issued later on Friday, and while it said it regretted the resignations of Stiglitz and Pieth, it chalked them up to unspecified “internal differences.”

[..] In addition to embarrassing leaders worldwide who had interests tied to secretive business concerns, the leak heaped pressure on Panama, well-known for its lax financial laws, to clean up its act. “I have had a close look at the so called Panama Papers, and I must admit that even as an expert on economic and organized crime, I was amazed to see so much of what we talk about in theory was confirmed in practice,” Pieth said in a telephone interview. In the papers he said he found evidence of crimes such as money laundering for child prostitution rings. “We’re being asked to do this as a courtesy for them and we’re paraded in front of the world media first, and then we’re told to shut up when they don’t like it,” Pieth, a criminal law professor at Basel University, said.

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Long and strong summary by Kristi Culpepper. Damning.

Is Hillary Clinton Corrupt? An Archive of Financial Improprieties (Medium)

[..] Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure – derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) – represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143% increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143% increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80% increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.

[..] It’s really not all that difficult to see why Clinton hasn’t given a press conference in 244 days and avoids the media at her campaign events, is it? Asking her to explain every ethically questionable deal she has been involved in would probably take longer than the State Department requires to vet her emails.

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In just 20 years. Wow.

Average American 15 Pounds Heavier Than 20 Years Ago (HDN)

There’s no doubt about it: Americans are getting heavier and heavier. But new U.S. estimates may still come as a shock – since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the average American has put on 15 or more additional pounds without getting any taller. Even 11-year-old kids aren’t immune from this weight plague, the study found. Girls are more than seven pounds heavier even though their height is the same. Boys gained an inch in height, but also packed on an additional 13.5 pounds compared to two decades ago. When looked at by race, blacks gained the most on average. Black women added 22 pounds despite staying the same average height. Black men grew about one-fifth of an inch, but added 18 pounds, the study found.

[..] According to the report, the average weight of men in the United States rose from 181 pounds to 196 pounds between 1988-1994 and 2011-2014. Their average height remained the same at about 5 feet, 9 inches. The average woman, meanwhile, expanded from 152 pounds to 169 pounds while her height remained steady at just under 5 feet, 4 inches.

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Jul 312016
 
 July 31, 2016  Posted by at 9:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


DPC Elks Temple (Eureka Club), Rochester, NY 1908

How Slow Is US Economic Growth? ‘Close To Zero’ (CNBC)
US Non-Consumer Economy Is Now In A Recession (ZH)
US Government Entitlements – Sixth Biggest Economy On Earth (Stockman)
Helicopter Money Talk Takes Flight As Bank of Japan Runs Out Of Runway (R.)
No Clean Bill Of Health For EU Banks In Stress Test (R.)
Ireland Jails Three Top Bankers Over 2008 Banking Meltdown (R.)
Australia’s Property Market Is Completely Bonkers (Schwab)
Minsky’s Moment (Economist)
The IMF Confesses It Immolated Greece On Behalf Of The Eurogroup (YV)
Econocracy Has Split Britain Into Experts And Ordinary People (G.)
Network Close To NATO Military Leader Fueled Ukraine Conflict (Spiegel)
America’s Military Is “Lender Of Last Resort” (Cate Long)

 

 

Not a pretty picture.

How Slow Is US Economic Growth? ‘Close To Zero’ (CNBC)

While 2016’s anemic growth level isn’t an automatic disqualifier for an interest rate increase, the bar just got a little higher. Friday’s GDP reading fell below even the dimming hopes on Wall Street. The 1.2% growth ratein the second quarter combined with a downward revision to the first three months of the year to produce an average growth rate of just 1%. In total, it was far below the Wall Street forecast of 2.6% second-quarter growth and didn’t lend a lot of credence to a Fed statement earlier this week that sounded more confident on the economy. (The Atlanta Fed was much closer, forecasting 1.8%.) In short, they are not numbers upon which a rate hawk would want to hang one’s hat.

“We’re tired of talking about rate hikes when it’s not going to happen for a while,” Diane Swonk of DS Economics told CNBC. “I really think the Fed is sidelined until the end of the year. Or, perhaps, longer. Market expectations for the next Fed hike had been sliding as the release of the GDP report got closer, and they plunged afterward. The fed funds futures market Friday morning was indicating just a 34.4% chance of a rate rise this year, with the next move pushed out until well into 2017. A day earlier, the futures market had moved to just over 50% for a 2016 move. The Fed last hiked in December 2015, which was the first move after eight years of keeping the overnight rate near zero.

To be sure, GDP growth is just one input for the central bank. Ostensibly, the Fed’s mandate is to ensure full employment and price stability, and it has come close to achieving the former while continually falling short of the latter. [..] .. the Fed has been warning about weak business investment, and Friday’s data showed those concerns were well-founded. Business investment fell 2.2%, its third consecutive quarterly decline. Gross private domestic investment tumbled 9.7%, and residential investment, which had been on the rise, reversed course and declined 6.1%, the first decrease since early 2014. Those numbers act as a counterweight to the declining jobless rate, which is down to 4.9%.

“What is really worrying is that pace has still been enough to reduce the unemployment rate further, suggesting that the economy’s potential growth rate could conceivably be close to zero,” Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note. The headline jobless rate has been declining, in part, due to a generational low in labor force participation, suggesting that outside a decline in labor slack, there’s little moving economic growth.

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And consumer spending is set to contract sharply.

US Non-Consumer Economy Is Now In A Recession (ZH)

While yesterday’s GDP report was an undisputed disappointment, printing at 1.2% or less than half the 2.5% expected following dramatic historical data revisions, an even more troubling finding emerged when looking at the annual growth rate of GDP.  This is how Deutsche Bank’s Dominic Konstam summarized what we showed yesterday

The latest GDP release favors our hypothesis of an imminent endogenous labor market slowdown over a more optimistic scenario in which productivity will replace employment as the engine for growth. With real GDP growing at just 1.2%, there is little evidence that productivity is ready to do the heavy lifting. We are particularly concerned because annual nominal growth has slowed to 2.4%, essentially a cyclical trough

He was looking at the following chart (which as the BEA admitted yesterday, may be revised even lower in coming quarters).

 

However, as it turns out, that was not even the biggest risk. Recall that even as overall GDP rose a paltry 1.2%, somehow the consumer-driven portion of this number soared, with Personal Consumption Expenditures surging at an annualized 2.8% rate, nearly triple that recorded in the first quarter.

This means that the non-consumer part of the US economy subtracted 1.6% from GDP growth in the second quarter. In fact, as Deutsche Bank calculates, on an annual basis, the non-consumer portion of the economy is shrinking, i.e., in a recession, not only in real terms but also in nominal terms.

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More parts of Stockman’s upcoming book ‘Trumped’.

US Government Entitlements – Sixth Biggest Economy On Earth (Stockman)

……..Because the main street economy is failing, the nation’s entitlement rolls have exploded. About 110 million citizens now receive some form of means tested benefits. When social security is included, more than 160 million citizens get checks from Washington. The total cost is now $3 trillion per year and rising rapidly. America’s entitlements sector, in fact, is the sixth biggest economy in the world. Yet in a society that is rapidly aging to the tune of 10,000 baby boom retirees per day, this 50% dependency ratio is not even remotely sustainable. As we show in a later chapter, social security itself will be bankrupt within 10 years. Still, there is another even more important aspect of the mainstream narrative’s absolute radio silence about the monumental entitlements problem.

Like in the case of the nation’s 30-year LBO, the transfer payments crisis is obfuscated by the economic blind spots of our Keynesian central banking regime. Greenspan, Bernanke, Yellen and their posse of paint-by-the-numbers economic plumbers have deified the great aggregates of consumer, business and government spending as the motor force of economic life. As more fully deconstructed below, however, this boils down to a primitive notion of bathtub economics. In this bogus economic model, it is assumed that the supply-side of the economy is always fully endowed or even over-provided. By contrast, the perennial problem is purportedly a shortfall of an ether called “aggregate demand”.

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Can we please stop talking about it, and do it already?

Helicopter Money Talk Takes Flight As Bank of Japan Runs Out Of Runway (R.)

In the narrowest sense, a government can arrange a helicopter drop of cash by selling perpetual bonds, which never need to be repaid, directly to the central bank. Economists do not expect this in Japan, but they do see a high chance of mission creep, with the BOJ perhaps committing to buy municipal bonds or debt issued by state-backed entities, giving its interventions more impact than in the treasury bond market, where it is currently buying 80 trillion yen a year of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) from financial institutions. “Compared with government debt, these assets have low trading volume and low liquidity, so BOJ purchases stand a high chance of distorting these markets,” said Shinichi Fukuda, a professor of economics at Tokyo University.

“Prices would have an upward bias, so even if the BOJ bought at market rates, this would be considered close to helicopter money.” Other options include creating a special account at the BOJ that the government can always borrow from, committing to hold a certain%age of outstanding government debt or buying corporate bonds, economists say. With the BOJ’s annual JGB purchases already more than twice the volume of new debt issued by the government, Japan has already adopted something akin to helicopter money, said Etsuro Honda, a former special adviser to the Cabinet and a key architect of Abe’s reflationary economic policy. But it has not been enough to stop consumer prices falling in June at their fastest since the BOJ began quantitative easing in 2013.

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And these are half-ass stress tests designed to let banks pass.

No Clean Bill Of Health For EU Banks In Stress Test (R.)

Banks from Italy, Ireland, Spain and Austria fared worst in the latest European Union stress test, which the region’s banking watchdog said on Friday showed there was still work to do in order to boost credit to the bloc’s economy. Eight years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked a global banking meltdown, many of Europe’s banks are still saddled with billions of euros in poorly performing loans, crimping their ability to lend and putting off investors. “While a number of individual banks have clearly fared badly, the overall finding of the European Banking Authority – that Europe’s banks are resilient to another crisis – is heartening,” Anthony Kruizinga at PwC said. Italy’s Monte dei Paschi, Austria’s Raiffeisen, Spain’s Banco Popular and two of Ireland’s main banks came out with the worst results in the EBA’s test of 51 EU lenders.

“Whilst we recognize the extensive capital raising done so far, this is not a clean bill of health,” EBA Chairman Andrea Enria said in a statement. “There remains work to do.” Italy’s largest lender, UniCredit, was also among those banks which fared badly, and it said it will work with supervisors to see if it should take further measures. Germany’s biggest banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, were also among the 12 weakest banks in the test, along with British rival Barclays. Monte dei Paschi, Italy’s third largest lender, had been scrambling to pull together a rescue plan and win approval for it from the ECB ahead of the test results. The Italian bank confirmed less than an hour before the results that it had finalised a plan to sell off its entire portfolio of non-performing loans and had assembled a consortium of banks to back a €5 billion capital increase.

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More!

Ireland Jails Three Top Bankers Over 2008 Banking Meltdown (R.)

Three senior Irish bankers were jailed on Friday for up to three-and-a-half years for conspiring to defraud investors in the most prominent prosecution arising from the 2008 banking crisis that crippled the country’s economy. The trio will be among the first senior bankers globally to be jailed for their role in the collapse of a bank during the crisis. The lack of convictions until now has angered Irish taxpayers, who had to stump up €64 billion – almost 40% of annual economic output – after a property collapse forced the biggest state bank rescue in the euro zone. The crash thrust Ireland into a three-year sovereign bailout in 2010 and the finance ministry said last month that it could take another 15 years to recover the funds pumped into the banks still operating.

Former Irish Life and Permanent Chief Executive Denis Casey was sentenced to two years and nine months following the 74-day criminal trial, Ireland’s longest ever. Willie McAteer, former finance director at the failed Anglo Irish Bank, and John Bowe, its ex-head of capital markets, were given sentences of 42 months and 24 months respectively. All three were convicted of conspiring together and with others to mislead investors, depositors and lenders by setting up a €7.2 billion circular transaction scheme between March and September 2008 to bolster Anglo’s balance sheet. Irish Life placed the deposits via a non-banking subsidiary in the run-up to Anglo’s financial year-end, to allow its rival to categorize them as customer deposits, which are viewed as more secure, rather than a deposit from another bank.

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“..a couple of generations of Australians will be all the poorer for it…”

Australia’s Property Market Is Completely Bonkers (Schwab)

House prices are no longer a function of value but rather of how much people are prepared to pay. That in turn is determined by how much banks are willing to lend. And that amount continues to rise. Before the current boom started in 1997, the ratio of household debt to GDP was around 40% — it’s now more than 100% (it’s the same story for household income to household debt). In short, the banks are lending Australians a whole load of cash, and we’re using that cash to bid up the price of an unproductive asset (established housing).

The removal of housing prices from reality is almost total. Most investment advisers will tell you that the price of an asset is dependent on the income that asset generates. For example, the more a company earns (or more specifically, the more investors think that company will earn in the future), the higher its share price will rise. Given house and apartment prices are currently high (based on their terrible net rental yield) one would expect rents to be increasing significantly to justify their price. However, the data tells a very different story. CoreLogic found that Australian dwellings increased in price by 10% in the past year. In Sydney and Melbourne the price rises were even more significant, with Sydney increasing by 13% and Melbourne by 13.9%.

If the market had any degree of rationality, given the market is already expensive, rentals would have needed to rise by around 20% during the year to justify those price increases. However, CoreLogic also reported that Sydney rents were up a mere 0.4% and Melbourne up by 1.7% (both well below the inflation rate). That means if the market was insane a year ago, it’s even worse now. Already overprice property is increasing, in Sydney’s case, 20 times as fast as underlying income. The problem is no one seems to care what the banks do (least of all the government, even though taxpayers are on the hook if any of the big banks fall over, which if the history of banking is anything to go by is a virtual certainty at some point).

Moreover, successive governments’ taxation policies (negative gearing, no capital gains tax, minimal land tax) serve to exacerbate the insanity. How long will the boom last? Potentially some time. There are a lot of vested interests (banks, real estate industry, state governments, the media) who are utterly reliant on the bubble continuing. Sadly, a couple of generations of Australians will be all the poorer for it.

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“Economic stability breeds instability. Periods of prosperity give way to financial fragility. With overleveraged banks and no-money-down mortgages still fresh in the mind after the global financial crisis, Minsky’s insight might sound obvious.”

Minsky’s Moment (Economist)

Minsky distinguished between three kinds of financing. The first, which he called “hedge financing”, is the safest: firms rely on their future cashflow to repay all their borrowings. For this to work, they need to have very limited borrowings and healthy profits. The second, speculative financing, is a bit riskier: firms rely on their cashflow to repay the interest on their borrowings but must roll over their debt to repay the principal. This should be manageable as long as the economy functions smoothly, but a downturn could cause distress. The third, Ponzi financing, is the most dangerous. Cashflow covers neither principal nor interest; firms are betting only that the underlying asset will appreciate by enough to cover their liabilities. If that fails to happen, they will be left exposed.

Economies dominated by hedge financing—that is, those with strong cashflows and low debt levels—are the most stable. When speculative and, especially, Ponzi financing come to the fore, financial systems are more vulnerable. If asset values start to fall, either because of monetary tightening or some external shock, the most overstretched firms will be forced to sell their positions. This further undermines asset values, causing pain for even more firms. They could avoid this trouble by restricting themselves to hedge financing. But over time, particularly when the economy is in fine fettle, the temptation to take on debt is irresistible. When growth looks assured, why not borrow more? Banks add to the dynamic, lowering their credit standards the longer booms last.

If defaults are minimal, why not lend more? Minsky’s conclusion was unsettling. Economic stability breeds instability. Periods of prosperity give way to financial fragility. With overleveraged banks and no-money-down mortgages still fresh in the mind after the global financial crisis, Minsky’s insight might sound obvious. Of course, debt and finance matter. But for decades the study of economics paid little heed to the former and relegated the latter to a sub-discipline, not an essential element in broader theories. Minsky was a maverick. He challenged both the Keynesian backbone of macroeconomics and a prevailing belief in efficient markets.

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Yanis calling for heads to roll.

The IMF Confesses It Immolated Greece On Behalf Of The Eurogroup (YV)

[..] an urgent apology is due to the Greek people, not just by the IMF but also by the ECB and the Commission whose officials were egging the IMF on with the fiscal waterboarding of Greece. But an apology and a collective mea culpa from the troika is woefully inadequate. It needs to be followed up by the immediate dismissal of at least three functionaries. First on the list is Mr Poul Thomsen – the original IMF Greek Mission Chief whose great failure (according to the IMF’s own reports never before had a mission chief presided over a greater macroeconomic disaster) led to his promotion to the IMF’s European Chief status.

A close second spot in this list is Mr Thomas Wieser, the chair of the EuroWorkingGroup who has been part of every policy and every coup that resulted in Greece’s immolation and Europe’s ignominy, hopefully to be joined into retirement by Mr Declan Costello, whose fingerprints are all over the instruments of fiscal waterboarding. And, lastly, a gentleman that my Irish friends know only too well, Mr Klaus Masuch of the ECB. Finally, and most importantly, the apology and the dismissals will count for nothing if they are not followed by a complete U-turn over macroeconomic, fiscal and reform policies for Greece and beyond.

Is any of this going to happen? Or will the IMF’s IEO report light up the sky fleetingly, to be forgotten soon? The omens are pointing to the latter. In which case, the EU’s chances of regaining the confidence of its citizens, chances that are already too slim, will run through our leaders’ fingers like thin, white sand.

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“..the shift into an era of post-truth politics…”

Econocracy Has Split Britain Into Experts And Ordinary People (G.)

During the EU referendum debate almost the whole global economic and financial establishment lined up to warn of the consequences of Brexit, and yet 52% of the country ignored them. For many Remain voters it is a clear sign of the shift into an era of post-truth politics. While economists developed rigorous, evidence-based arguments, Leave campaigners slandered experts and appeared to pluck numbers out of the air. Yet they won. Post-truth politics is indeed a scary prospect but to avoid such a future we cannot simply blame “populist politicians” or “ill-informed voters”. We must understand the referendum in its wider context; economists must realise that they are both part of the problem and a necessary part of the solution. We are living in an econocracy.

Such a society seems like a democracy, with political parties and elections, but political goals are expressed in terms of their effect on “the economy”, and economic policymaking is viewed as a technical, not a political, activity. Areas of political life are increasingly delegated to experts, whether at the Bank of England, the government’s behavioural insights team, the Competition Commission or the Treasury. As members of Rethinking Economics, an international student movement seeking to reform the discipline of economics, we are campaigning for a more pluralist, critical and participatory approach. We conduct workshops in schools, run evening crash courses for adults, and this year launched Economy, a website providing accessible economic analysis of current affairs and a platform for lively public debate.

We want economists and citizens to join us in our mission to democratise economics. That’s because the language of economics has become the language of government, and as the experts on “the economy”, economists have secured a position of prestige and authority. Their rise has gone hand in hand with the increasing importance over the 20th century and beyond of the idea of the economy in political and social life. This idea in its modern use took hold only in the 1950s but today GDP growth is one of the central indicators of success for governments, and it is unheard of for a political party to win a general election without being viewed as competent on the economy.

We have also seen the economisation of daily life, so that parts of society as diverse as the arts and healthcare now justify their value in terms of their contribution to the economy. But in this process economists have largely ignored citizens and failed to consider their right to participate in discussion and decision-making.

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A bunch of dangerous sickos.

Network Close To NATO Military Leader Fueled Ukraine Conflict (Spiegel)

The newly leaked emails reveal a clandestine network of Western agitators around the NATO military chief, whose presence fueled the conflict in Ukraine. Many allies found in Breedlove’s alarmist public statements about alleged large Russian troop movements cause for concern early on. Earlier this year, the general was assuring the world that US European Command was “deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary.” The emails document for the first time the questionable sources from whom Breedlove was getting his information. He had exaggerated Russian activities in eastern Ukraine with the overt goal of delivering weapons to Kiev. The general and his likeminded colleagues perceived US President Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief of all American forces, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel as obstacles.

Obama and Merkel were being “politically naive & counter-productive” in their calls for de-escalation, according to Phillip Karber, a central figure in Breedlove’s network who was feeding information from Ukraine to the general. “I think POTUS sees us as a threat that must be minimized,… ie do not get me into a war????” Breedlove wrote in one email, using the acronym for the president of the United States. How could Obama be persuaded to be more “engaged” in the conflict in Ukraine – read: deliver weapons – Breedlove had asked former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Breedlove sought counsel from some very prominent people, his emails show. Among them were Wesley Clark, Breedlove’s predecessor at NATO, Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev.

One name that kept popping up was Phillip Karber, an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC and president of the Potomac Foundation, a conservative think tank founded by the former defense contractor BDM. By its own account, the foundation has helped eastern European countries prepare their accession into NATO. Now the Ukrainian parliament and the government in Kiev were asking Karber for help. On February 16, 2015, when the Ukraine crisis had reached its climax, Karber wrote an email to Breedlove, Clark, Pyatt and Rose Gottemoeller, the under secretary for arms control and international security at the State Department, who will be moving to Brussels this fall to take up the post of deputy secretary general of NATO.

Karber was in Warsaw, and he said he had found surreptitious channels to get weapons to Ukraine – without the US being directly involved. According to the email, Pakistan had offered, “under the table,” to sell Ukraine 500 portable TOW-II launchers and 8,000 TOW-II missiles. The deliveries could begin within two weeks. Even the Poles were willing to start sending “well maintained T-72 tanks, plus several hundred SP 122mm guns, and SP-122 howitzers (along with copious amounts of artillery ammunition for both)” that they had leftover from the Soviet era. The sales would likely go unnoticed, Karber said, because Poland’s old weapons were “virtually undistinguishable from those of Ukraine.”

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What Trump said.

America’s Military Is “Lender Of Last Resort” (Cate Long)

America is slowly awakening from its long debt-induced slumber. It has conducted two major wars, a bailout of banks and a major stimulus program without raising taxes to pay for them. Because the Federal Reserve kept interest rates low, it was easy for politicians to continue to raise the debt ceiling and spend without making reductions in other areas of the budget. But those days have ended, the punch bowl has been removed and a new sobriety has rolled into our national capital. Even with its massive deficit problems, America has been providing security for its global allies for decades at no cost to them.

This resulted in spending 4.8% of GDP on U.S. military in 2010, which was ramped up from 3.0% in 2001, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In contrast, you can see that European countries spent 1.73% of total GDP on military in 2010, which declined slightly from 1.99% in 2001. America has been subsidizing European military needs largely due to its role in the NATO alliance. The Council on Foreign Relations explains the new problems with this arrangement:

In 2011, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that ‘there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. . . . to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.’ France in Mali is now a case in point; the Obama administration is providing only grudging assistance to an under-resourced French intervention.

[…] French military spending…has since 2001 exhibited a marked constancy—one which is inconsistent with the country’s newfound passion for military engagement. (Libya in March 2011 was another example of the French, as well as British, military biting off more than it could chew). It also highlights the need for the Obama administration to address Gates’ prescient concern and to develop a clearer policy foundation for America’s global military ‘lender of last resort’ role.

America is woefully underfunded in infrastructure spending and many other social needs. A big question is whether it can also be the global military “lender of last resort” and still maintain its own house. The military contracting industry in America does create a lot of jobs, but in essence it also gives the benefits away free to its allies. Times must change. America must either charge for these services or understand more clearly what we gain from continued military involvement overseas.

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Jul 142016
 
 July 14, 2016  Posted by at 9:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC Hessick & Son Coal Co. Washington 1925

China June Exports, Imports Both Fall More Than Forecast (R.)
China’s Steel Exports Jump to Second Highest Amid Tensions (BBG)
Great American Oil Bust Rages on; Defaults, Bankruptcies Soar (WS)
Gundlach Says Wall Street’s Suffering ‘Mass Psychosis’ (MW)
Helicopter Money – The Biggest Fed Power Grab Yet (David Stockman)
35-Year-Old Bond Bull Is on Its Last Legs (WSJ)
Bank of England To Cut Interest Rates To Halt UK Recession (G.)
UK Housing Sales Forecast To Fall Sharply This Summer After Brexit (G.)
Steve Keen Accused Of Causing Australia’s Coming Recession (Mish)
Britain’s MEPs Ushered Quietly Off Stage As The EU Show Goes On (G.)
Spain’s Banks are Suddenly “Too Broke To Fine” (DQ)
What It’s Like To Be A Non-EU Citizen (Trninic)
The Fake Biodiesel Factory That Pumped Out Real Money (BBG)

 

 

And that is with record steel exports. Not the first time I ask this: where would China exports be without that?

China June Exports, Imports Both Fall More Than Forecast (R.)

China’s exports fell more than expected in June as global demand remained stubbornly weak and as Britain’s decision to leave the European Union clouds the outlook for one of Beijing’s biggest markets. Imports also shrank more than forecast, indicating the impact of measures to stimulate growth in the world’s second-largest economy may be fading, after encouraging import readings in May. Exports fell 4.8% from a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs said on Wednesday, adding that China’s economy faces increasing downward pressure and the trade situation will be severe this year. Imports dropped 8.4% from a year earlier. That resulted in a trade surplus of $48.11 billion in June, versus forecasts of $46.64 billion and May’s $49.98 billion.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected June exports to fall 4.1%, matching May’s decline, and expected imports to fall 5%, following May’s 0.4% dip. The marginal import decline in May was the smallest since late 2014, and had raised hopes that China’s domestic demand was picking up. “The world economy still faces many uncertainties. For example, Brexit, expectations of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, volatile international financial markets, the geopolitical situation, the threat of terrorism … these will affect the confidence of consumers and investors globally and curb international trade,” customs spokesman Huang Songping told a news conference. “We believe China’s trade situation remains grim and complex this year. The downward pressure is still relatively big.”

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“Sales advanced 23% from a year earlier..”

China’s Steel Exports Jump to Second Highest Amid Tensions (BBG)

China’s steel exports climbed to the second-highest level on record in June, as shipments from the world’s biggest producer ramp up amid escalating trade tensions. Sales advanced 23% from a year earlier to 10.94 million metric tons, according to China’s customs administration. That’s only eclipsed by shipments in September last year, when the country sent 11.25 million tons overseas. Exports in the first six months were 57.12 million tons, the seventh on-year increase in a row and the most ever for the period.
China’s record supplies have fueled global trade tensions as too many producers compete for sales. An EU investigation launched last week into imports from five countries is “symptomatic of the rising protectionism in global steel markets as a result of overcapacity,” according to a note from Macquarie.

“There’s a lot of trade friction but overall Chinese steel prices are relatively low, demand is steady, and together with the renminbi’s depreciation, the Chinese exports are very competitive,” Helen Lau, an analyst at Argonaut Securities Asia Ltd., said from Hong Kong. “It’s encouraging for Chinese mills and good for overseas consumers, but it’s not what foreign mills want to see.” Faced with its slowest growth in decades, China is exporting its steel surplus. Shipments will accelerate in the second half as prices decline and margins at mills are squeezed, Ren Zhuqian, chief analyst at Mysteel Research, said last month, forecasting exports could reach 117 million tons for the year, higher than last year’s record 112.4 million tons.

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Cleansing.

Great American Oil Bust Rages on; Defaults, Bankruptcies Soar (WS)

Junk bonds, trading like stocks since February, have skyrocketed and yields have plunged. But that doesn’t mean the bloodletting is over. The trailing 12-month US high-yield bond default rate jumped to 4.9% at the end of June, the highest since May 2010 as the Financial Crisis was winding down, Fitch Ratings reported today. The first-half total of $50.2 billion of defaults already exceeds the $48.3 billion for the entire year 2015. Energy companies accounted for 56% of those defaults. The energy sector default rate shot up to 15%. Within it, the default rate of the Exploration & Production (E&P) sub-sector soared to 29%! And the default party isn’t over: “Despite the run-up in prices since the February trough, there will be additional sector defaults, with Halcon Resources expected to file imminently,” Fitch reported.

Issuance of junk bonds in the first half has plunged 34% from a year ago, to $120.5 billion, according to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), as junk-rated energy companies are having one heck of a time borrowing money and issuing bonds. The fact that investors – who’ve now been burned for nearly two years – are reluctant to extend new credit to teetering oil & gas companies precipitates their default and bankruptcy. Fitch: “The combination of high energy and metals/mining default rates and lower year to date issuance has been a one-two punch for the high yield bond market this year,” said Eric Rosenthal, Senior Director of Leveraged Finance. “The question going forward is whether macro events will disrupt markets and restrain issuance for the remainder of the year.”

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“Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like investments where if you’re right you don’t make any money..”

Gundlach Says Wall Street’s Suffering ‘Mass Psychosis’ (MW)

This market is dealing with a “mass psychosis.” That’s the latest perspective on the state of Wall Street from Jeff Gundlach, the star money manager who founded DoubleLine Capital. Late Tuesday, during his regular webcasts to discuss markets, Gundlach sounded perplexed that investors’ demand for the perceived safety of government bonds has driven 10-year Treasury notes to record lows, even as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index scored fresh record highs Wednesday. Treasury yields, which have come off their 2016 nadir, are still hovering below their levels before the U.K.’s decision to exit the European Union sent global stock markets spiraling down. Bond prices move inversely to yields. Gundlach used the following chart in his Tuesday webcast presentation to highlight the historic moves in Treasury yields:

“There’s something of a mass psychosis going on related to the so-called starvation for yield,” said Gundlach, whose fund manages about $100 billion. “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like investments where if you’re right you don’t make any money,” he said. Gundlach believes that the benchmark 10-year note will move above 2% soon, but perhaps not until sometime next year. Some market participants see the benchmark’s yield tumbling further before that rise happens. Tom Di Galoma, managing director at Seaport Global, predicts the 10-year yield will slip below 1% over the next six to nine months, citing the anemic European economy in the wake of Brexit and concerns over the world’s second-largest economy, China. Meanwhile, the 10-year yield slipped below 1.47% midday Wednesday as U.S. stocks were struggling for a fourth straight session of gains, extending a record run.

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“..our monetary politburo would overtly conspire and coordinate with the White House and Capitol Hill to bury future generations in crushing public debts.”

Helicopter Money – The Biggest Fed Power Grab Yet (David Stockman)

The Cleveland Fed’s Loretta Mester is a clueless apparatchik and Fed lifer, who joined the system in 1985 fresh out of Barnard and Princeton and has imbibed in its Keynesian groupthink and institutional arrogance ever since. So it’s not surprising that she was out flogging – albeit downunder in Australia – the next step in the Fed’s rolling coup d’ etat. We’re always assessing tools that we could use,” Mester told the ABC’s AM program. “In the US we’ve done quantitative easing and I think that’s proven to be useful. “So it’s my view that [helicopter money] would be sort of the next step if we ever found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to be more accommodative.” This is beyond the pale because “helicopter money” isn’t some kind of new wrinkle in monetary policy, at all.

It’s an old as the hills rationalization for monetization of the public debt – that is, purchase of government bonds with central bank credit conjured from thin air. It’s the ultimate in “something for nothing” economics. That’s because most assuredly those government bonds originally funded the purchase of real labor hours, contract services or dams and aircraft carriers. As a technical matter, helicopter money is exactly the same thing as QE. Nor does the journalistic confusion that it involves “direct” central bank funding of public debt make a wit of difference. Suppose Washington issues treasury bonds to the 23 primary dealers on Wall Street in the regular manner. Further, assume that some or all of these dealers stick the bonds in inventory for 3 days, 3 months or even 3 years, and then sell them back to the Fed under QE (and most likely at a higher price).

So what! The only thing different technically about “helicopter money” policy is the suggestion by Bernanke and others that the treasury bonds could be issued directly to the Fed. That would just circumvent the dwell time in dealer (or “investor”) inventories but result in exactly the same end state. In that event, of course, Wall Street wouldn’t get the skim. But that’s not the real reason why helicopter money policy is so loathsome. The unstated essence of it is that our monetary politburo would overtly conspire and coordinate with the White House and Capitol Hill to bury future generations in crushing public debts.

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“It is outright panic-driven momentum.”

35-Year-Old Bond Bull Is on Its Last Legs (WSJ)

They have been saying it for 35 years. But after 3Ω decades of stunning returns, the biggest bond bull market in history looks to be entering its final stages. Why? Changing politics and the perverse, looking-glass world of negative yields. Bonds are meant to be safe, dull investments. But there is nothing boring, and not a lot of safety, in Japanese government bonds this year: The 40-year has returned an extraordinary 48% in six months, including the paltry coupon, and other long-dated JGBs have also had their best returns on record. U.K. and German long-dated bonds have produced similar returns to those after the collapse of Lehman. Returns on U.S. Treasurys are less exotic, but the 30-year has returned 22% this year—a gain big enough to worry longtime bond watchers.

It would have been easy to make the mistake of thinking the bull run in bonds was over many times since then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker got it started by taking control of inflation. The bet that the Japanese bond market—which long had the lowest yields in the world—would finally buckle has lost so much money for so many people that it is known as the “widowmaker” among traders. That hasn’t stopped Eric Lonergan, who runs a multistrategy fund for M&G in London. He has 15% of his fund betting against long-dated JGBs, and has endured a brutal move in the market against him in the past few weeks. Yet, he believes the likelihood is that the market will soon turn. “This is price driving price and is hugely, hugely vulnerable,” he said. “It is outright panic-driven momentum.”

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Did consumer confidence perhaps fall because Carney et al -the media!- spread all their fear stories before the Brexit referendum?! And now they can all go: I told you so!

Bank of England To Cut Interest Rates To Halt UK Recession (G.)

The Bank of England could cut interest rates and inject billions of pounds into the financial system as early as Thursday as policymakers seek to prevent Britain sliding into recession after the EU referendum. Under pressure to stem further falls in sterling, Mark Carney, the governor, is expected by financial markets to halve the 0.5% base rate on Thursday and reignite the Bank’s quantitative easing programme. Speculation has intensified in recent days after Carney dropped heavy hints that action would be needed to turn around an economy suffering badly as a result of the vote to leave the EU.

Several City economists said it was crucial for the central bank to step in and maintain the flow of cheap credit to the economy at a time when business and consumer confidence had fallen to levels last seen after the financial crash. A slump in the pound to a 31-year low has also undermined confidence among City investors concerned that the UK’s growth prospects will be damaged by leaving the single market. Markets have put an 80% probability on a move by the Bank by Thursday. Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “With the UK economic outlook weakened by the Brexit vote, there can be little doubt – if any – that the Bank of England will enact some stimulus following the July MPC [monetary policy committee] meeting.

The only question really seems to be what action will the MPC take?” Carney said in a speech last month that the loss of confidence highlighted by a string of negative surveys meant “some monetary policy easing will likely be required over the summer”. A closely watched consumer confidence index from market researchers GfK last week recorded the biggest drop in sentiment for 21 years, following the Brexit vote.

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Britain gets exactly what it needs. Where is the joy?

UK Housing Sales Forecast To Fall Sharply This Summer After Brexit (G.)

The number of homes changing hands is expected to slump this summer in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, with estate agents and surveyors more pessimistic about the housing market than at any point since the late 1990s. Inquiries from buyers fell for the third month running in June, and the number of sales agreed dropped sharply as the Brexit vote fuelled uncertainty in the market, according to the latest monthly survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics). New buyer inquiries declined “significantly” during the month, it said, with 36% more respondents reporting a drop than an increase – the lowest reading since the financial downturn was beginning in mid-2008.

Over the same period, the supply of properties coming onto the market fell in every region except Northern Ireland, Rics said, and sales fell for a third consecutive month. Looking ahead over the next three months, 26% more Rics members expected sales to drop further than expected a busier housing market. “This is the most negative reading for near-term expectations since 1998,” Rics said. The numbers of surveyors in London reporting falling prices slipped deeper into negative territory in June, with nearly half of surveyors in the capital reporting falls rather than rises. Price falls were particularly concentrated in central London.

The referendum is not the only factor behind the dip in activity. The stamp duty hike on second homes, which came into force on 1 April, has also disrupted the market. Rics’s chief economist, Simon Rubinsohn, said: “Big events such as elections typically do unsettle markets so it is no surprise that the EU referendum has been associated with a downturn in activity. “However even without the buildup to the vote and subsequent decision in favour of Brexit, it is likely that the housing numbers would have slowed during the second quarter of the year, following the rush in many parts of the country from buy-to-let investors to secure purchases ahead of the tax changes.”

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Australia Insolvencies +14%, Debt Agreements +25%, Bankruptcies +7%

“..we all know at heart there is precisely one person to blame: Australian economist Steve Keen, now exiled in God-forsaken London. Were it not for Keen’s incessant fearmomgering about the Australian housing bubble, property values in Sydney alone would now be worth more than the sum total of property values in the US, China, UK, Mars, and Uranus combined.”

Steve Keen Accused Of Causing Australia’s Coming Recession (Mish)

It appears there are a bit of credit difficulties down under. Cash-strapped Australian personal insolvencies, bankruptcies, and debt agreements experience their sharpest rise in seven years. Please consider Struggling Aussies Rack Up Debt.

“Alarming new figures released yesterday by the Australian Financial Security Authority found personal insolvencies in the June quarter climbed by nearly 14% compared to the June 2015. Debt agreements — an agreement between a debtor and a creditor where creditors agree to accept a sum of money from the debtor – rose by nearly a massive 25%. Bankruptcies increased by 7%. Veda’s general manager of consumer risk Angus Luffman said multiple factors were to be blamed for a stalling of consumer credit. “The continuing slowdown in residential property markets, coupled with weak wages growth and subdued retail sales growth had all contributed to the continued slowdown seen in the June credit demand index,’’ he said.

“Turnover for household goods which is often big-ticket items like whitegoods and couches which are financed by credit has slowed significantly in recent months.” Australian Bureau of Statistics lending data released yesterday found total new lending commitments including housing, personal, commercial and lease finance dropped by 3.2% in May, the second consecutive fall. Lending totalled $67.5 billion in May which was down seven per over the year and sat at a 17-month low. HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham blamed the cooling of the housing market for the softening of the willingness to borrow.”

While others point the finger every which way, we all know at heart there is precisely one person to blame: Australian economist Steve Keen, now exiled in God-forsaken London. Were it not for Keen’s incessant fearmomgering about the Australian housing bubble, property values in Sydney alone would now be worth more than the sum total of property values in the US, China, UK, Mars, and Uranus combined. Were it not for Keen, every property owner down under could retire now and live off the perpetual appreciation of their property wealth.

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“..Nigel Farage and 20 other Ukip MEPs will get to vote on the terms of Britain’s exit, while the British government, led by remain supporter Theresa May, will have to accept the EU’s terms..”

Britain’s MEPs Ushered Quietly Off Stage As The EU Show Goes On (G.)

[..] Paradoxically, British MEPs are expected to vote on the UK’s EU divorce treaty, expected to be thrashed out by David Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the EU. Although the British government will be treated as a foreign country, there is nothing in the EU rulebook that prevents British MEPs from having a say when the European parliament votes on the British divorce treaty under article 50. This throws up the odd situation that Nigel Farage and 20 other Ukip MEPs will get to vote on the terms of Britain’s exit, while the British government, led by remain supporter Theresa May, will have to accept the EU’s terms. British diplomats also find themselves in a peculiar Brexit limbo.

They will have to decide how hard to fight Britain’s corner on EU legislation that will exist for years after the UK has left. The most likely outcome is that British diplomats will continue to press British interests, because EU legislation could still affect the UK after Brexit. Norway implements all EU directives as the price of being in the EU single market – the “pay without a say” model that politicians in Oslo think the British would loathe. It is the scenario envisaged by Cameron when he promised an EU referendum in 2013. “Even if we pulled out completely, decisions made in the EU would continue to have a profound effect on our country,” he said in a Bloomberg speech. “But we would have lost all our remaining vetoes and our voice in those decisions.”

British diplomats might push British interests, but they could be frozen out of the informal wheeling and dealing. “Politics is about the future and if someone at the table has no position any more, [the others] will do deals without them,” says Dirk Schoenmaker, a senior fellow at the Bruegel thinktank. He predicts that “the big three” that decide financial regulation – Germany, France and the UK – will be cut down to a big two. “It is quite clear, from 23 June onwards the big deals in this area will be made by Germany and France, without the UK.”

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Spain’s backdoor to hurt its already shattered people.

Spain’s Banks are Suddenly “Too Broke To Fine” (DQ)

After eight years of chronic crisis mismanagement, moral hazard and perverse incentives have infected just about every part of the financial system. Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress published the findings of a three-year investigation into why the Department of Justice chose not to punish HSBC and its executives for their violations of US anti-money laundering laws and related offenses – because doing so would have had “serious adverse consequences” for the financial system – the “Too Big To Jail” phenomenon, a perfect, all-purpose, real-world Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. But now there’s “Too Broke to Fine.” Today over a dozen Spanish banks were given a life-line by the EU’s advocate general, Paolo Mengozzi, that could be worth billions of euros in savings for the banks.

For millions of Spanish mortgage holders, it could mean billions of euros in lost compensation. Just over seven years ago, when conditions were beginning to sour for Spain’s banking system, 40 out of 42 Spanish banks decided to insert “floor clauses” in their mortgage contracts. These effectively set a minimum interest rate — typically between 3% and 4.5% — for all their variable-rate mortgages (which are very common in Spain), even if the Euribor dropped far below that figure. This, in and of itself, was not illegal. The problem is that most banks failed to properly inform their customers that the mortgage contract included such a clause. Those that did, often told their customers that the clause was an extreme precautionary measure and would almost cerainly never be activated.

After all, they argued, what are the chances of the euribor ever dropping below 3.5% for any length of time? At the time (early 2009), Europe’s benchmark rate was hovering around the 5% mark. Within a year it had crashed below 1% and is now languishing deep below zero. As a result, most Spanish banks were able to enjoy all the benefits of virtually free money while avoiding one of the biggest drawbacks: having to offer customers dirt-cheap interest rates on their variable-rate mortgages. For millions of Spanish homeowners, the banks’ sleight of hand cost them an average of €2,000 per year in additional interest payments, during one of the worst economic crises in living memory. Many ended up losing their homes.

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Nice but very biased: “You have good jobs that make it possible to pay the taxes and your expenses.” Err.. no, too many don’t, and that’s why Leave won. You may have a master’s on engineering, but if you can’t understand these dynamics, what’s that worth?

What It’s Like To Be A Non-EU Citizen (Trninic)

[..] let me tell you a few things about the life of a non-EU citizen. When I came to Austria from Bosnia in 2003 to study at Technical University of Graz, I had to undergo various administrative and non-administrative checks. At one point, I and all my fellow Bosnian students had to show proof we didn’t have pneumonia, typhus – which I somewhat understand. But we even had to prove we did not have RABIES. Rabies! In the 21st century! My home country is only about 300 kilometers from Austria and yet we were treated as if we came from 200 years ago, at least. On top of that, we had – and still have – the pleasure of needing a visa every year and paying for it, of course. We even paid tuition for college, though the Austrians and EU students did not.

But that was the deal, and I personally was happy to be able to work the lowest level student jobs and in return get a decent education. The common attitude was “deal with it!” and so we did. After college, I got my first job at a big construction company. The trick? I worked with a Bosnian contract. It was an all-in contract, written for slaves. But hey, I had a job. I was one of three people in my branch office who had a master’s degree in engineering (much less went to college), spoke three foreign languages, drove 50,000 kilometers per year, yet I was still paid less than everyone. But I dealt with it. If the company was to say at any moment I was fired, I had two months to leave the country or find a new company.

Many highly qualified non-EU citizens live this kind of life day-to-day and the only thing on our minds is, “What the hell was on the UK’s mind when they voted LEAVE?” The UK always was the “favorite (and the spoiled) kid of the EU family.” It kept its currency. It had more favorable EU conditions and it always behaved a bit stand-offish toward the rest of the Europe, if we are honest. The UK has about 52 million residents and pays about €5 billion to EU fund per year (€96 per citizen). By comparison, Austria has 8 million residents and pays about €1 billion per year to EU fund (€125 per citizen).

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Great story.

The Fake Biodiesel Factory That Pumped Out Real Money (BBG)

The biodiesel factory, a three-story steel skeleton crammed with pipes and valves, squatted on a concrete slab between a railroad track and a field of storage tanks towering over the Houston Ship Channel. Jeffrey Kimes, an engineer for the Environmental Protection Agency, arrived there at 9 a.m. on a muggy Wednesday in August 2011. He’d come to visit Green Diesel, a company that appeared to be an important contributor to the EPA’s fledgling renewable fuels program, part of an effort to clean the air and lessen U.S. dependence on foreign fuel. In less than three years, Green Diesel had reported producing 50 million gallons of biodiesel. Yet Kimes didn’t know the company. He asked other producers, and they weren’t familiar with Green Diesel either.

He thought he ought to see this business for himself. Kimes, who works out of Denver, was greeted at the Green Diesel facility by a man who said he was the plant manager. He was the only employee there, which was odd. “For a big plant like that, you’re going to need a handful of people at least to run it, maintain it, and monitor the process,” says Kimes, a 21-year EPA veteran. The two toured the grounds, climbing metal stairways and examining the equipment. The place was weirdly still and quiet. Some pipes weren’t connected to anything. Two-story-high biodiesel mixing canisters sat rusting, the fittings on their tops covered in garbage bags secured with duct tape. Kimes started asking questions.

“They showed me a log, and from that you could see they hadn’t been producing fuel for a long period of time,” he says. An attorney for Green Diesel showed up. Kimes asked how he could reconcile the lack of production with what Green Diesel had been telling the EPA. The attorney said he didn’t know, he’d been hired only the day before. “It was obvious what was going on,” Kimes says. The next day, he appeared at Green Diesel’s office in Houston’s upscale Galleria neighborhood, 15 miles from the plant, hoping to collect production records and other information. Someone stuck him in a conference room. Soon he was on the phone with the lawyer from the day before, who told him not to speak with any more Green Diesel employees.

Kimes went back to Denver and started calling Philip Rivkin, Green Diesel’s founder and chief executive. He wasn’t available. And he never would be. That fall, Rivkin left Houston to live in Spain with his wife, their teenage son, a $270,000 Lamborghini Murcielago Coupe, and a $3.4 million Canadair Challenger jet. A passport Rivkin obtained in Guatemala, where he moved after living for an undetermined period in Spain, shows him with dark hair, a double chin, a lazy eye, and an impassive look. It’s one of the few publicly available photographs of the man. Now serving a 10-year sentence at the federal prison in Bastrop, Texas, Rivkin declined through his lawyer, Jack Zimmermann, to be interviewed for this story.

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Jul 122016
 
 July 12, 2016  Posted by at 8:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC L.E. White Coal Co. yards, Washington 1922

Asian Shares Rally As Wall Street Strikes New Record High (R.)
Abe Orders New Stimulus Package To Water ‘Seeds Of Growth’ (R.)
Japan Turns Again to Bernanke, as Fruits of Abenomics Wither (BBG)
Bernanke’s Black Helicopters Of Money (David Stockman)
The Trillions Spent By Central Banks Has Been A Dud: BofA (MW)
Ground Zero of China’s Slowdown Leaves Locals Looking for Exit (BBG)
HSBC Avoided US Money Laundering Charges Because Of ‘Market Risk’ Fears (BBC)
Brexit Seen Biting Profit for Years at US Banks (BBG)
Italy ‘Facing 20 Years Of Economic Woe’: IMF (BBC)
Dutch Bonds Just Did Something That We Haven’t Seen In 499 Years (BI)
Citibank To Close Key Venezuela Payment Account: Maduro (AFP)
European Commission Under Fire Over Barroso’s Goldman Sachs Job (EuO)
Oligarchs of the Treasure Islands (MWest)
Trump Wins -Even If He Loses- (Nomi Prins)

 

 

Everyone’s betting on the helicopter arriving soon.

Asian Shares Rally As Wall Street Strikes New Record High (R.)

Asian stocks rose to a 2-1/2-month peak on Tuesday, a day after Wall Street shares hit a record high thanks to a combination of upbeat U.S. data and expectations of more stimulus from global policymakers. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6% to hit its highest level since late April. Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2.5% as investors bet the country’s government may inject $100 billion in fiscal spending to boost the economy, possibly financed by the central bank’s money-printing, a policy mix that is often dubbed “helicopter money”. European shares are seen opening flat to slightly lower, with spread-betters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX to fall 0.1% and France’s CAC 40 to be flat.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index on Monday broke a new record high, its first in more than a year, extending its gain after Friday’s bumper job figures reduced worries about slowdown in employment. The benchmark closed at a record 2,137.16, overtaking the previous high of 2,130.82 hit on May 21, 2015. Globally low interest rates from central bank stimulus in both Japan and Europe are supporting risk assets. Bond yields in the U.S., Japan, Germany, France and the U.K all hit record lows last week as investors bet on more stimulus following the Brexit shock.

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Follow the strong leader no matter what he says or does. A culture fraught with danger.

Abe Orders New Stimulus Package To Water ‘Seeds Of Growth’ (R.)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered a new round of fiscal stimulus spending after a crushing election victory over the weekend as evidence mounted the corporate sector is floundering due to weak demand. Abe did not give details on the size of the package, but Japanese stocks jumped nearly 4 percent and the yen weakened over perceptions a landslide victory in upper house elections now gives him a free hand to draft economic policy. An unexpected decline in machinery orders shows the economy needs something to overcome consistently weak corporate investment. Economists worry, however, that Abe’s focus on public works spending will not tackle the structural issues around a declining population and workforce.

More public works also increases pressure on the Bank of Japan to keep interest rates low and the yen weak to make sure stimulus spending will gain traction. The government was ready to spend more than 10 trillion yen ($100 billion), ruling party sources told Reuters before the election. “We are going to make bold investment into seeds of future growth,” Abe told a news conference on Monday at the headquarters for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). [..] Abe said he wanted to strengthen agriculture exports from rural areas and improve infrastructure, such as trains and ports, to welcome more tourists and cruise ships from overseas. “We have promised through this election campaign that we will sell the world the agricultural products and tourism resources each region is proud of,” he said.

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Abe has no more ideas.

Japan Turns Again to Bernanke, as Fruits of Abenomics Wither (BBG)

Less than three weeks before the Bank of Japan’s next scheduled policy meeting, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda met with former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke over lunch on Monday. The BOJ issued no statement on the substance of the talks, which come as the central bank confronts a fresh strengthening in the yen this year that risks undermining inflation and weakening the appetite for investment and wage increases. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Bernanke at 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday, according to Abe’s office. For Bernanke, offering views on Japan’s challenges and policy options would be nothing new. He delivered a famous 2003 speech calling for greater cooperation between monetary and fiscal policy makers to defeat deflation and spur the economy.

In the room during Bernanke’s meetings with Japanese officials 13 years ago in Tokyo: Abe and Kuroda, who a decade hence unleashed an unprecedented stimulus to revive Japan. Now, that project is increasingly at risk with inflation moving away from the BOJ’s target, and GDP growth far from Abe’s goals. Bernanke’s 2003 visit, when he was a Federal Reserve Board member, and his message at the time is still discussed by BOJ officials. Japan has a tradition of seeking the advice of overseas experts, something that’s been taken to a new level under Abe, who consulted with Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz prior to his decision in June to delay a sales-tax hike. Unlike with this week’s Bernanke visit, the meetings with Krugman and Stiglitz were well-publicized.

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Stockman uses strange definitions of inflation and deflation. Nobody should use CPI.

Bernanke’s Black Helicopters Of Money (David Stockman)

Ben Bernanke is one of the most dangerous men walking the planet. In this age of central bank domination of economic life he is surely the pied piper of monetary ruin. At least since 2002 he has been talking about “helicopter money” as if a notion which is pure economic quackery actually had some legitimate basis. But strip away the pseudo scientific jargon, and it amounts to monetization of the public debt—–the very oldest form of something for nothing economics. Back then, of course, Ben’s jabbering about helicopter money was taken to be some sort of theoretical metaphor about the ultimate powers of central bankers, and especially their ability to forestall the boogey-man of “deflation”.

Indeed, Bernanke was held to be a leading economic scholar of the Great Depression and a disciple of Milton Friedman’s claim that Fed stringency during 1930-1932 had caused it. This is complete poppycock, as I demonstrated in The Great Deformation, but it did give an air of plausibility and even conservative pedigree to a truly stupid and dangerous idea. Right about then, in fact, Bernanke grandly promised during a speech at Friedman’s 90th birthday party that today’s enlightened central bankers – led by himself – would never let it happen again. Presumably Bernanke was speaking of the 25% deflation of the general price level after 1929.

The latter is always good for a big scare among modern audiences because no one seems to remember that the deflation of the 1930’s was nothing more than the partial liquidation of the 100%-300% inflation of the general price level during the Great War. In any event, Bernanke was tilting at windmills when he implied that the collapse of the US wartime and Roaring Twenties boom had anything to do with the conditions of 2002. Even the claim that Japan was suffering from severe deflation at the time was manifestly false. In fact, during the final stages of Japan great export and credit boom, the domestic price level had risen substantially, increasing by nearly 70% between 1976 and 1993. It then simply flattened-out – and appropriately so – after the great credit, real estate and stock market bubble collapse of 1990-1992.

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And this is the end result of QE et al.

The Trillions Spent By Central Banks Has Been A Dud: BofA (MW)

Toasts all around? U.S. stocks charged into record territory on Monday after Friday’s jobs report helped restore confidence in the U.S. economic recovery. But not so fast. The solid data mask a worrisome reality — despite the trillions collectively spent by central banks to breathe life into their economies since the 2008 financial crisis, authorities have been largely shooting blanks, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The S&P 500 climbed to an intraday high of 2,143 Monday, passing the previous intraday record of 2,134.72 set on May 21, 2015. Stocks gained in part because the U.S. economy added 287,000 new jobs last month, far better than the gain of 170,000 projected by economists in a MarketWatch survey.

Yet the same report revealed that the labor participation rate—a metric to measure those who are employed or actively searching for jobs—is hovering at a 38-year low of 62.7%. A weak labor participation rate is an indication that an increasing number of people are leaving the labor force either through retirement or because they’re discouraged by not finding employment. It is also a sign that job growth isn’t tracking as robustly as it should considering that the U.S. economy expanded to $18 trillion in 2015 from $2.4 trillion in 1978. What’s more, the official unemployment rate edged up to 4.9% in June from 4.7% in May as more people entered the labor force looking for jobs. This headline number, however, excludes millions of part-time workers who would really rather work full time, as well as those who have become too discouraged to look for work, period. If this broader group was accounted for, the actual jobless rate would be closer to 10%.

It all suggests that the labor market, and by extension the economy, may not be as healthy as it should be given the prolonged period of accommodative monetary policy in the U.S. and elsewhere. It’s against this backdrop that a team led by Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, demonstrated how ineffective they believe central banks’ collective quantitative easing has been. Central banks around the world have cut interest rates a combined 659 times since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008, resulting in negative rates in many major economies, according to Hartnett. “Incited by the belief that every single interest rate in the world is heading to zero, the mountain of cash on the sidelines has induced fresh ‘irrational upside’ in government and corporate bonds,” said the strategist, in a note.

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A picture of the real China.

Ground Zero of China’s Slowdown Leaves Locals Looking for Exit (BBG)

Tea-shop manager Zhang Yue is so desperate about her home city of Tieling’s future that she’s borrowed about five times her annual income to buy a work visa to leave for Japan – an economy that’s flat-lined for a generation. “Two years ago, everything was fine and I bought whatever I wanted,” said Zhang, 29, whose husband’s wages have since halved and her own have stalled. “Then, suddenly, the slump started. The economy went straight down. It’s in free fall.” The home to about 3 million people in the northeast rust-belt province of Liaoning is ground zero in China’s slowdown – the worst-performing city in the worst-performing province. Ads offering work visas abroad are peppered across hoardings, and billboards offer loans for people in “urgent need.”

Shuttered car-parts factories flank the highway to the high-speed train station. In the center, a closed wedding-photograph studio has a notice in the window that reads: “Owner is going overseas. Shop for sale.” Tieling is among the places hardest hit by a slowdown across the nation of 1.4 billion people triggered in recent years by a commodity-price slump, housing correction and campaign to rein in wasteful investment. The city has seen a triple whammy from the three dynamics, which left the local economy contracting 6.2% last year – compared with national growth of near 7%. Fixed-asset investment in Tieling – largely property and infrastructure investment – plummeted 39%, steel output plunged 89%, industrial output dropped 18% and coal production was down almost 8%.

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Keep this up and tar and feathers are your part.

HSBC Avoided US Money Laundering Charges Because Of ‘Market Risk’ Fears (BBC)

US officials refused to prosecute HSBC for money laundering in 2012 because of concerns within the Department of Justice that it would cause a “global financial disaster”, a report says. A US Congressional report revealed UK officials, including Chancellor George Osborne, added to pressure by warning the US it could lead to market turmoil. The report alleges the UK “hampered” the probe and “influenced” the outcome. HSBC was accused of letting drug cartels use US banks to launder funds. The bank, which has its headquarters in London, paid a $1.92bn settlement but did not face criminal charges . No top officials at HSBC faced any charges. The report says: “George Osborne, the UK’s chief financial minister, intervened in the HSBC matter by sending a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke… to express the UK’s concerns regarding US enforcement actions against British banks.”

The letter said that prosecuting HSBC could have “very serious implications for financial and economic stability, particularly in Europe and Asia”. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said a series of factors were considered when deciding how to resolve a case, including whether there may be “adverse consequences for innocent third parties, such as employees, customers, investors, pension holders and the public”. The report also accuses former US Attorney General Eric Holder of misleading Congress about the decision. The report says Mr Holder ignored the recommendations of more junior staff to prosecute HSBC because of the bank’s “systemic importance” to the financial markets.

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Nonsensical article. If any of this were valid, US banks were so weak pre-Brexit, lower profits were cast in stone no matter what.

Brexit Seen Biting Profit for Years at US Banks (BBG)

When U.S. banks post second-quarter results in days, it’ll boil down to this: Bonus cuts are coming for just about everyone this year, says Wall Street recruiter Richard Lipstein. “If you are break-even, it’s an achievement.” That’s the picture taking shape as analysts trim estimates for the quarter and overhaul long-term projections for banks’ main businesses after the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union. Starting this week, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs probably will say they saw a quick bump in trading after the June 23 referendum, but that deals are stalling and years of pain lie ahead. Combined net income at the six biggest U.S. banks is estimated to fall 18% in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Fred Cannon, global research director at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said many analysts are just starting to rework projections for future periods to account for Brexit’s fallout, such as the prolonging of low interest rates. “We went from lower for longer into what seems like lower forever,” he said. That will erode interest from lending. Market turmoil and economic drags linked to Brexit will hurt investment banking revenue as companies reconsider acquisitions and selling new securities. And that’s after trading units suffered their worst first quarter since 2009.

For the full year, analysts predict combined earnings at the six U.S. banks – which also include Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley – will drop 14%. It may only partially recover in 2017, the estimates show. The projections for both years tumbled after markets swung earlier this year, and then slipped further after the U.K. vote as analysts began updating research. “Up until June 24, everybody thought the second quarter was building a nice recovery, and now you have to question that,” said Chris Kotowski, a bank analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., referencing the day ballots were tallied. “I’m more cautious than I was.”

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As long as the country stays in the eurozone, yes.

Italy ‘Facing 20 Years Of Economic Woe’: IMF (BBC)

The IMF has warned that Italy faces two decades of stagnant economic growth. Its latest report on the country puts growth this year at under 1%, down from its previous 1.1% estimate, and forecasts growth in 2017 of about 1% – down from a 1.25% estimate. The IMF says Italy will not reach pre-crisis levels until 2025, by which time its neighbours will have economies 20-25% above 2008 levels. Italy is the third largest eurozone country. It has 11% unemployment and a banking sector in crisis, with government debt second only to that of Greece. The country’s banks are under pressure because the long-standing poor economic performance has depressed tax revenue and increased the chances of businesses getting into difficulty and being unable to maintain their loan payments.

Italian banks are weighed down by massive bad debts, and may need a significant injection of funds. The IMF says any recovery is likely to be prolonged and subject to risks. Among those risks are the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which it said last week had prompted it to downgrade its forecasts for growth for the entire eurozone. Other problem areas include “the refugee surge, and headwinds from the slowdown in global trade”.

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Just in case it wasn’t clear yet just how crazy our times are.

Dutch Bonds Just Did Something That We Haven’t Seen In 499 Years (BI)

Dutch 10-year government bond yields dropped below zero for the first time ever on Monday, making them the latest to join the negative yield club. The Netherlands’ 10-year dipped by 0.08 %age points to as low as -0.007%. It has fallen by about 30 basis points since the June Brexit vote. There’s roughly $13 trillion of global negative-yielding debt now, according to data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, cited by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. By comparison, there was about $11 trillion ahead of the UK’s vote on EU referendum.

When a bond is negative yielding, it means investors get less back when the debt is due than what they pay for it today. The Dutch bond yields are the lowest the country has ever seen. Amazingly, there’s nearly half a millennium of records to compare that against, as record keeping began in 1517. As a historical reference point, that’s the same year that Martin Luther published his 95 Theses. You can see the history of the Dutch 10-year going back to 1517 in the chart below, which was shared by Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid in his Monday note to clients.

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America wants revenge.

Citibank To Close Key Venezuela Payment Account: Maduro (AFP)

Citibank plans to close the account Venezuela uses to make international payments, President Nicolas Maduro said Monday, accusing the US-based bank of a “financial blockade.” “Citibank, with no warning or communication, says that it is going to close the Central Bank and Bank Of Venezuela account. That is what you call a financial blockade,” the embattled president said in televised remarks. He said the move amounted to an “inquisition” by US President Barack Obama’s administration. Maduro said his South American nation, a major oil producer, uses the account to make payments “within 24 hours, to other accounts in the United States and worldwide.” Maduro’s socialist government has often claimed that US interests and local business elites were trying to blockade his state-led economy and prevent Venezuela’s access to international credit.

“Do you think they are going to stop us by putting in place a financial blockade? No, ladies and gentlemen, nobody stops Venezuela! With Citibank or without it, we are moving forward. With Kimberly or without, we are moving.” Venezuela’s government said just hours earlier that it would take over operations at facilities where US consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark recently shut down, citing unworkable economic conditions. The American company announced on Saturday it would cease production, saying that it was impossible to get enough hard currency to buy raw materials, and that inflation was surging. “We are going to sign, at the workers’ request… to authorize immediate occupation of the workplace known as Kimberly-Clark de Venezuela… by its workers,” Labor Minister Oswaldo Vera said at the facility’s plant in the central city of Maracay.

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Look, they just don’t care. That’s what Britain has a unique oppottunity to step away from. It doesn’t mean there’s no corruption in Britain, but inside the EU it would be guaranteed. Note: it’s quite an achievement to get France’s socialists and Marine le Pen on the same page. But Barroso gets it done. AND he’ll remain eligible for his (very rich) EU benefits and pension …

European Commission Under Fire Over Barroso’s Goldman Sachs Job (EuO)

[..] “Barroso’s decision … is morally and politically deplorable”, said Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialist and Democrats group in the European Parliament. “After 10 years of mediocre governance of the EU, now the former EU Commission president will serve those who aim to undermine our rules and values,” he added. The Brussels-based lobby watchdog, Corporate Europe Observatory’s (CEO), said the commission’s line – that Barroso acted within the rules – was “pathetic”. “Major loopholes exist in both the rules and the way in which they are implemented … there should be a mandatory cooling-off period of at least five years for former commission presidents regarding direct and indirect corporate lobbying activities,” the NGO’s Nina Holland said. She noted that nine of Barroso’s former commissioners had gone to work for big business after their terms ended in 2014.

Meanwhile, the timing of Barroso’s move could hardly have been worse for the commission. Eurosceptic movements around Europe have long accused EU officials of trampling on ordinary people’s welfare to serve the interests of elites in developments that came to a head in the Brexit vote. France’s far-right Marine Le Pen tweeted that the Barrose move was “not a surprise for people who know that the EU does not serve people but high finance”. French socialist MEPs called on Goldman Sachs to let him go. In a statement on Monday they called the appointment “outrageous and shameful”. They said that he breached the EU treaty and should be stripped of his EU benefits and pension.

They cited article 245 of the EU treaty, which says that commissioners should respect the “obligations arising therefrom and in particular their duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits.” Barroso led the commission through the tumultuous years of the euro crisis and related bailouts. Under his tenure, the EU set up financial rescue funds to help troubled countries and their banks, but at the cost of severe austerity in Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Goldman Sachs was one of the US investment banks at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis that triggered the events when lenders traded failing mortgages as parts of complex financial instruments.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street firm agreed to a civil settlement of up to $5 billion with federal prosecutors and regulators to resolve claims resulting from the marketing and selling of faulty mortgage securities to investors. Goldman Sachs also helped Greece to hide part of its deficit in the early 2000s, by using so called currency swaps. But the currency trades end up doubling the Greek deficit and leading to the edge of ruin. Barroso himself had been a student leader in an underground Maoist group during his university years. The 60 year-old served as prime minister of Portugal between 2002 and 2004 before heading the EU’s executive for 10 years.

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Accountants, unaccountable.

Oligarchs of the Treasure Islands (MWest)

The “Big Four” global accounting firms – PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young – are the masterminds of multinational tax avoidance, the architects of tax schemes which cost governments and their taxpayers more than $US1 trillion a year. Although presenting as “the guardians of commerce” they are unregulated and unaccountable; they have infiltrated governments at every level and should be broken up. This is the view of George Rozvany, Australia’s most published expert on transfer pricing, which is one of the principal ways large corporations pursue cross-border tax avoidance. Rozvany stepped down last year as head of tax in Australia for the world’s biggest insurance company, Allianz. Formerly, he was an insider at Ernst & Young, PwC and Arthur Andersen.

“The Big Four have, under a Rasputin-like cloak of illusion strayed from their original and critical role of verifying the accuracy of financial accounts for all stakeholders, to be “accountants of fortune” merely representing the accounting position for multinationals and developing aggressive international tax avoidance practices,” he told michaelwest.com.au. Rozvany is writing a series of books on corporate tax ethics. “This is not a victimless crime,” he says. “While Western governments have been cutting back their aid to the most underprivileged in society, from the homeless to orphaned children in Africa, multinational companies have been diverting ever larger profits into tax havens”.

“The global community must also recognise the links between aggressive taxation behaviour, money laundering, corruption, organised crime and terrorism, of which the Brussels bombings and 9/11 are chilling reminders. This, unquestionably, is the financial sewer of humanity where the purpose for such money, no matter how malevolent, is simply hidden until used”, Rozvany says. [..] “Their signage adorns the skyline in every major city in the world. They have meticulously manicured their public image. They are spectacularly profitable but beyond the law. They are trusted but not trustworthy. They have become too big, too big to fail, so they must be broken up. Break up is hardly radical. It has been done in many industries including banking, oil and communications”.

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He’ll get stronger in the face of adversity.

Trump Wins -Even If He Loses- (Nomi Prins)

Once upon a time not so long ago, making America great again involved a bankroll untainted by the Republican political establishment and its billionaire backers. There would, The Donald swore, be no favors to repay after he was elected, no one to tell him what to do or how to do it just because they had chipped in a few million bucks. But for a man who prides himself on executing only “the best” of deals (trust him) this election has become too expensive to leave to self-reliance. One thing is guaranteed: Donald Trump will not pony up a few hundred million dollars from his own stash. As a result, despite claims that he would never do so, he’s finally taken a Super PAC or two on board and is now pursuing more financial aid even from people who don’t like him.

Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, erstwhile influential billionaire backers of Ted Cruz, have, for instance, decided to turn their Make America Number 1 Super PAC into an anti-Hillary source of funds – this evidently at the encouragement of Ivanka Trump. In the big money context of post-Citizens United presidential politics, however, these are modest developments indeed (particularly compared to Hillary’s campaign). To grasp what Trump has failed to do when it comes to funding his presidential run, note that the Our Principles Super PAC, supported in part by Chicago Cubs owners Marlene Ricketts and her husband, billionaire T.D. Ameritrade founder J.

Joe Ricketts, has already raised more than $18.4 million for anti-Trump TV ads, meetings, and fundraising activities. (On the other hand, their son, Pete, Republican Governor of Nebraska, has given stump speeches supporting Trump.) To put this in context, that $18.4 million is more than the approximately $17 million that all of Trump’s individual supporters, the “little people,” have contributed to his campaign.

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Jul 112016
 
 July 11, 2016  Posted by at 8:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


G.G. Bain Auto polo, somewhere in New York 1912

Will Merkel Hand Over The Keys To The Helicopter? (Napier)
Black Hole of Negative Rates Is Dragging Down Yields Everywhere (WSJ)
70% Of German Bonds Are No Longer Eligible For ECB Purchases (ZH)
Wall Street Monkeyshines – Look Ma, No Hands! (David Stockman)
China Pension Readies $300 Billion Warchest for Stock Market (BBG)
Massive Stockpile Means Oil Rebound Is Over: Barclays (CNBC)
Japan PM Abe To ‘Accelerate Abenomics’ After Huge Election Win (BBG)
Deutsche Bank Chief Economist Calls For €150 Billion Bailout Of EU Banks (ZH)
Bank Born Out of Black Death Struggles to Survive (BBG)
Australia First-Home Buyers Hit Lowest Level In A Decade (Domain)
The Great New Zealand Housing Down-Trou (Hickey)
The Media Against Jeremy Corbyn (Jacobin)
How the Corporate Food Industry Destroys Democracy (Hartmann)
10 Years (Or Less): Orwell’s Vision Coming True (SHTF)

 

 

Either Draghi gets to fly the chopper, or the EU falls to bits. Wait, it’ll do that anyway. So why give him the keys?

Will Merkel Hand Over The Keys To The Helicopter? (Napier)

Now only one question matters for global investors – Wo ist der Hubschrauber? (Where is the helicopter?). The decline of European commercial bank share-prices before Brexit made it clear that a monetary reflation of Europe was failing. The collapse in these same share-prices post-Brexit means that even the politicians now realise that the ECB acting alone cannot stabilize the European economy. Indeed, given the evident political strains in the European Union, saving the economy from recession is now key to saving the European political union project itself. So, will Mrs Merkel abolish fiscal austerity across Europe and permit each of the states of the European political union expand their debt mountains at the same time that the ECB is buying that debt?

Are the keys to der Hubschrauber to be handed over? To save the European political union Germany must now confront its greatest fear and enfranchise the political union’s central bank to conduct outright monetary financing of all its constituent governments. Investors need to remain very cautious indeed as it is in no way clear that Mrs Merkel will hand over the keys to der Hubschruaber. Should she do so, however, major changes in investment allocation are necessary as helicopter money will be raining from the skies in Japan, the Eurozone, the UK and even in the USA if President Clinton also wins the House and the Senate.

This form of reflation will likely work and in due course work too much. Few things are binary in investment, but this huge decision to be taken in Berlin is the biggest binary event for investors this analyst has yet come across. The repercussions will reverberate throughout this century. This analyst would like to present you with a firm forecast as to the possibility of ‘helicopter money’ coming to the European political union. However, it is too close to call. Even if that assertion is correct, this is truly dire news for financial markets.

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What? “..the global yield grab is raising questions about whether rates can prove reliable economic indicators.” That’s an actual question?

Black Hole of Negative Rates Is Dragging Down Yields Everywhere (WSJ)

The free fall in yields on developed-world government debt is dragging down rates on global bonds broadly, from sovereign debt in Taiwan and Lithuania to corporate bonds in the U.S., as investors fan out further in search of income. The ever-widening rush for yield could create problems if interest rates snap back, which would cause losses on investors’ low-yielding portfolios, or if credit quality falls. And the global yield grab is raising questions about whether rates can prove reliable economic indicators. Yields in the U.S., Europe and Japan have been plummeting as investors pile into government debt in the face of tepid growth, low inflation and high uncertainty, and as central banks cut rates into negative territory in many countries.

Even Friday, despite a strong U.S. jobs report that helped send the S&P 500 to nearly a record, yields on the 10-year Treasury note ultimately declined to a record close of 1.366% as investors took advantage of a brief rise in yields on the report’s headlines to buy more bonds. Yields move in the opposite direction of price. As yields keep falling in these haven markets, investors are looking for income elsewhere, creating a black hole that is sucking down rates in ever longer maturities, emerging markets and riskier corporate debt. “What we are seeing is a mechanical yield grab taking place in global bonds,” said Jack Kelly at Standard Life Investments. “The pace of that yield grab accelerates as more bond markets move into negative yields and investors search for a smaller pool of substitutes.”

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Self-fulfilling perversity.

70% Of German Bonds Are No Longer Eligible For ECB Purchases (ZH)

Back in April of 2015, we warned that the biggest risk facing the ECB is running out of eligible securities which the central bank can monetize. Draghi’s recent launch of the CSPP, in which the ECB has been buying not only investment grade but also junk bonds, is an indirect confirmation of that. A direct one comes courtesy of a Bloomberg calculation according to which following a seventh straight week of gains in German bunds, the yields on securities of all maturities has plunged to unprecedented lows, which has left about $801 billion of debt out of the statutory reach of the ECB. As noted earlier, there is now $13 trillion of global negative-yielding debt. That compares with $11 trillion before the Brexit vote.

The surge in sovereign debt since Britain’s vote to exit the European Union last month has pushed yields on about 70% of the securities in the $1.1-trillion Bloomberg Germany Sovereign Bond Index below the ECB’s -0.4% deposit rate, making them ineligible for the institution’s quantitative-easing program. For the euro area as a whole, the total rises to almost $2 trillion. As Bloomberg adds, following a rush for safety and a scramble for capital appreciation ahead of more ECB debt purchases, the yield on German 10-year bunds to a record-low, and those on securities due in up to 15 years below zero, even though – paradoxically – the rush to buy these bonds has made them no longer eligible for direct ECB purchases as they now have a yield lower than the ECB’s deposit rate threshold.

Or rather, they are ineligible for the time being. As a result, the rally has boosted the same concerns we warned about for the first time in the summer of 2014, namely that the ECB’s Public Sector Purchase Programme could run into scarcity problems well before its completion date of March 2017, prompting speculation policy makers may tweak their plan.

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“..the economic gods created market-based price discovery for a reason. It was to insure that in the great arena of financial market supply and demand, the forces of fear and greed would contend on a level playing field..”

Wall Street Monkeyshines – Look Ma, No Hands! (David Stockman)

The boys and girls on Wall Street are now riding their bikes with no hands and eyes wide shut. That’s the only way to explain Friday’s lunatic buying spree in response to another jobs report that proves exactly nothing about an allegedly resurgent economy. When the S&P 500 first hit 2130 back in May 2015, reported LTM earnings were $99.25 per share, and that was already down 6.4% from the cyclical high of $106 per share in September 2014. Thus, stocks were being valued at a nosebleed 21.5X in the face of falling earnings. During the four quarters since then, reported LTM earnings have slumped by a further 12.3% to $87 per share. So that brings the “cap rate” to 24.5X earnings that have shrunk by 18% over the last six quarters. Wee!

You have to use the parenthetical because the casino is not capitalizing anything rational. It’s just drifting higher in daredevil fashion until something big and nasty stops it. That something would be global deflation and US recession. Both are racing down the pike at accelerating speed. Needless to say, when these lethal economic forces finally hit home, the puppy pile-up on Wall Street is going to be one bloody mess. But that’s the price you pay when you have destroyed honest price discovery entirely, and have transformed the money and capital markets into robo-machine driven venues of rank speculation. Janet Yellen and the other 100 clowns who run the world’s central banks, of course, have no clue as to the financial doomsday machine they have enabled. Indeed, they apparently think efficient pricing and allocation of capital doesn’t matter.

After all, their entire modus operandi is to peg the price of money, bonds and the yield curve sharply below market-clearing levels – so that households and business will borrow and spend more than otherwise. Likewise, they aim to goose stock prices to ever higher levels. That’s so the top 10% and the top 1%, who own the preponderant share of equities, will feel the wealth(effects) and then spend-up and invest-up a storm. But the economic gods created market-based price discovery for a reason. It was to insure that in the great arena of financial market supply and demand, the forces of fear and greed would contend on a level playing field. Short-sellers and contrarians heading south were to intercept the lemmings of greed heading north before they reached the edge of the cliff. Now there is nothing but cliff.

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The idea is that simply because pensions buy stocks, these will go up in ‘value’. Yeah, that should work.. For a week.

China Pension Readies $300 Billion Warchest for Stock Market (BBG)

China’s pension funds are about to become stock investors. The country’s local retirement savings managers, which have about 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) for investment, are handing over some of their cash to the National Council for Social Security Fund, which will oversee their investments in securities including equities. The organization will start deploying the cash in the second half, according to China International Capital and CIMB Securities. Chinese policy makers announced the change last year in a bid to boost yields for a pension system that has long suffered low returns by limiting its investments to deposits and government bonds.

For the nation’s equity markets – which are dominated by retail investors and among the world’s worst performers this year – the state fund’s presence is even more valuable than its cash, said Hao Hong, chief China strategist at Bocom International Holdings. The NCSSF has “such a good reputation in being a value investor that if they take the lead, the signaling effect is actually quite strong,” said Hong, who had predicted the start and peak of China’s equity boom last year. “It’s almost like Warren Buffett saying he is buying a stock.” The NCSSF, which oversees 1.5 trillion yuan in reserves for China’s social security system, has returned an average 8.8% a year since 2000, the Securities Daily reported earlier this year, citing official data. The larger pension system, on the other hand, has been locally managed and made just 2.3% annually through 2014, the newspaper said.

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Is someone overestimating demand perhaps?

Massive Stockpile Means Oil Rebound Is Over: Barclays (CNBC)

A massive global stockpile of oil could mean trouble ahead for the global crude market, according to Barclays. Crude oil prices dropped to a two month low on Thursday, after the Energy Information Administration reported a smaller-than-expected decrease in oil stockpiles. That may be a canary in the coalmine, a top energy market watcher explained. “For the last 6 quarters there’s been this discrepancy between global supply and global demand,” Michael Cohen, head of energy commodities research at Barclays, said last week on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” Cohen said Barclays is bearish on oil for the next six to eight months, because the current stockpile could increase in an economic downturn, likely to drive prices lower.

In the summer months, increased travel often increases the demand for gasoline, and drags up crude oil by default. Yet once that season ends, inventory levels may continue to rise. Looking at a chart of the expected crude oil supply compared with the current amount, Cohen said the disconnect is staggering. The chart accounts for oil supply from the 38 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Canada, among others. During the recent financial crisis, crude production overhang was 138 million barrels. Now, the overhang is twice that, at 383 million barrels among the OECD, Cohen said.

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Given what a disaster Abenomics is, one wonders: how inept can Japan’s opposition be? Abe wins a two-thirds majority?! Can also change the constitution so Japan can go back to war.

Japan PM Abe To ‘Accelerate Abenomics’ After Huge Election Win (BBG)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative coalition scored a convincing upper house election win, putting it on course for a two-thirds majority that would allow Abe to press ahead with plans to revise the country’s pacifist constitution. The Liberal Democratic Party secured 56 of the 121 seats in contention, public broadcaster NHK said, while junior coalition partner Komeito had 14. Alongside others who support Abe’s view on constitutional revision, plus uncontested seats, the prime minister is set for a super majority, it said. The results raise questions over whether Abe will switch his focus to altering the postwar U.S.-imposed constitution, a potentially time-consuming process that could expend his political capital and distract the government from its economic program.

Abe vowed during the campaign to focus on policies aimed at expanding the size of the economy to 600 trillion yen ($6 trillion) from 500 trillion yen. “If Prime Minister Abe’s coalition scores a hot, two-thirds majority on Sunday, it might be tempted to pass constitutional changes, draining political capital away from urgently needed economic reforms,” Frederic Neumann at HSBC in Hong Kong, wrote in an e-mailed note before the election. Tokyo shares headed for their biggest gain in almost three months after the upper house election result and as jobs data eased concerns over the U.S. economy. The Topix index added 2.8% to 1,243.93 at 9:43 a.m. in Tokyo.

“Abe said he’ll continue to put together his economic policy package, so that optimism is going to continue to support Japanese shares,” said Shoji Hirakawa, chief global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. Abe’s coalition, which previously held 136 of the 242 seats in the chamber, fended off a challenge from opposition parties that had sought to unify the anti-government vote by avoiding running candidates against one another in many districts. “I think this means I am being told to accelerate Abenomics, so I want to respond to the expectations of the people,” Abe told TBS television after early results were announced.

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But EU demands bail-ins these days?

Deutsche Bank Chief Economist Calls For €150 Billion Bailout Of EU Banks (ZH)

The cards have been tipped, and it appears Italy’s Prime Minister may have been right. In the aftermath of Brexit, much of the investing public’s attention has turned to Italian banks which are in desperate need of a bailout as a result of €360 billion in bad loans growing worse by the day (and not a bail-in, as European regulations mandate, as that would lead to an immediate bank run) to avoid a freeze and/or collapse of Italy’s banking sector. This has pushed stock prices – and default risk – on Italian banks to record levels. So far Italy’s bailout requests have mostly fallen on deaf ears, as Germany’s political leaders have resisted Renzi’s recurring pleas for a taxpayer funded rescue.

However, as we have alleged, and as the Italian Prime Minister admitted last week, the core risk for Europe is not just the Italian banking sector but the biggest bank of all in Europe: Deutsche Bank. Recall last Thursday, when Matteo Renzi said other European banks had much bigger problems than their Italian counterparts. “If this non-performing loan problem is worth one, the question of derivatives at other banks, at big banks, is worth one hundred. This is the ratio: one to one hundred,” Renzi said. He was, of course, referring to the tens of trillions of derivatives on Deutsche Bank’s books. Today, we got the most definitive confirmation yet that the noose is tightening not only around Italy, but Germany itself [..], when none other than David Folkerts-Landau, the chief economist of Deutsche Bank, has called for a multi-billion dollar bailout for European banks.

Speaking to Germany’s Welt am Sonntag, the economist said European institutions should get fresh capital for a recapitalization following a similar bailout in the US. What he didn’t say is that the US bailout took place nearly a decade ago, in the meantime Europe’s financial sector was supposed to be fixed courtesy of “prudent” fiscal and monetary policy. It wasn’t. As Landau says the US helped its banks with $475 billion dollars, and such a program is now needed in Europe, especially for Italian banks. In other words, just because the US did it, now it’s Europe’s turn to ask for more of the same.

“In Europe, the bailout does not need to be so large. A €150 billion program should be enough to help European banks recapitalize,” said David Folkerts-Landau. He adds that the decline in bank stocks is only the symptom of a much larger problem, namely a fatal combination of low growth, high debt and a “dangerous” deflation. “Europe is seriously ill and needs to address very quickly the existing problems, or face an accident,” said the chief economist.

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Good read. “It’s the inevitable consequence of medieval governance falling prey to the fangs of Wall Street..”

Bank Born Out of Black Death Struggles to Survive (BBG)

Siena, the medieval city renowned for its Palio horse races, is home to the world’s oldest bank. Within its aging walls lies a distinctly 21st-century tale of devastation wrought by local politicians and global financiers. Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy’s third-largest lender, is struggling to survive as it seeks to repay a second bailout or face nationalization. Its downfall proved a boon to global investment banks. They offered merger and investment advice to executives beholden to politicians that helped wipe out 93 percent of Monte Paschi’s value. Then they sold it complex derivatives that hid, even worsened the losses. Efforts to rescue the 541-year-old lender have cost Italian taxpayers €4.1 billion.

The investment banks, including Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank, earned more than $200 million in fees from 2008 through 2011, filings and deal memos show. “These international banks come to exploit, and Italy is vulnerable,” said former Senator Elio Lannutti, who heads Adusbef, a consumer group for Italian bank customers. “On one side, there’s the local incompetence, and on the other side the bad faith of the international investment banks.” Franco Debenedetti, a former CEO of Olivetti, was even blunter. “It’s the inevitable consequence of medieval governance falling prey to the fangs of Wall Street,” said Debenedetti, now chairman of Italy’s Bruno Leoni Institute, a pro-free-market research group in Turin.

[..] ..the heritage of a bank with 2,300 branches and 28,500 employees that traces its origins to combating excessive loan rates. Siena officials founded Monte Paschi in 1472, after the Black Death wiped out more than half the city’s population. They modeled it on the pawnshops Franciscan monks had set up to counter usury. As it grew, the lender helped fuel the Renaissance in Tuscany that pulled Europe from the Middle Ages.

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Well, they did it. Congrats! Young people can’t afford to live in their own communities any more. Is there a govenment responsibility here somewhere?

Australia First-Home Buyers Hit Lowest Level In A Decade (Domain)

First-home buyers are now at their lowest levels in more than a decade, data released on Monday shows. As a proportion of all home buyers, first-home buyers dropped to 13.9% in May, according to housing finance data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Down from 14.4% in April, this latest result is the lowest since 2004. At that time, the proportion fell to a record low 12.8% as grants for first-home buyers came to an end. For first-home buyers to make a significant return prices would have to fall, BIS Shrapnel senior manager of residential Angie Zigomanis said. “A drop in prices of some sort is needed, but we’ll also need a reduction in expectations in terms of what [first-home buyers] are looking for,” Mr Zigomanis said.

“At some point they have to come back, in theory … but for now the market is tough.” And a slowdown might be on the cards. While month-to-month figures can be volatile, overall lending figures are slowing from the frenzied levels of 2015, HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said. “We’re seeing a pullback in [housing finance] that has been going on since late last year, which is consistent with the idea that the housing market is set to cool,” he said. “[It’s a result of] tighter prudential settings and is also a sign that the exuberance has come out of the market … there was concern that strong activity from investors was overheating the market.”

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Same in Kiwiland: “The leader of the Government is more worried about the short-term fates of leveraged-up speculators and developers than the long-term fate of Generation Rent.”

The Great New Zealand Housing Down-Trou (Hickey)

Former Reserve Bank Chairman Arthur Grimes essentially undressed our politicians in front of us this week when he challenged them to embrace a 40% fall in Auckland house prices. He exposed them as emperors without clothes. “What I do is whenever I find a politician who says they want affordable housing, I ask them a very simple question: ‘How much do you want house prices to fall by overall?’ “And not one of them has been able to answer that very simple question,” Grimes said this week. He was talking about the extraordinary response to his suggestion 150,000 houses be built in six years to push Auckland prices down. Prime Minister John Key’s response was immediate – and betrayed where he stands on the issue of using a supply shock to make housing affordable.

It was “crazy”, would leave people in the market with huge losses and put pressure on developers. So there we have it. The leader of the Government is more worried about the short-term fates of leveraged-up speculators and developers than the long-term fate of Generation Rent. Despite years of saying the only way to improve housing affordability is to increase supply, his position is any increase in supply that hurts the investors who have bought in the past couple of years is out of the question. The Prime Minister who boasts his Government is aspirational had this to say about going for a really big response to the challenge: “Where you’d get 150,000 homes from overnight, I don’t know.”

Key said he hoped house-price inflation could be slowed by the Government’s measures, with the implication affordability would somehow creep up on everyone with wage increases. The Treasury forecasts wages will rise by an average of 2.2% over the next six years. It also forecasts house prices will rise by an average of 5.7% over the same period. The Government’s own forecasts show this magical affordability catch-up is not going to happen – and is expected to get much worse. Auckland houses cost nearly 10 times household income. That’s double what it was in the early 2000s and almost double the rest of the country. The accepted model for affordability around the world is closer to three times income.

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British media are anti-journalism.

The Media Against Jeremy Corbyn (Jacobin)

The British media has never had much time for Jeremy Corbyn. Within a week of his election as Labour Party leader in September, it was engaging in a campaign the Media Reform Coalition characterized as an attempt to “systematically undermine” his position. In an avalanche of negative coverage 60% of all articles which appeared in the mainstream press about Corbyn were negative with only 13% positive. The newsroom, ostensibly the objective arm of the media, had an even worse record: 62% negative with only 9% positive. This sustained attack had itself followed a month of wildly misleading headlines about Corbyn and his policies in these same outlets. Concerns about sexual assaults on public transport were construed as campaigning for women-only trains.

Advocacy for Keynesian fiscal and monetary policies was presented as a plan to “turn Britain into Zimbabwe.” An appeal to reconsider the foreign policy approach of the last decade was presented as an association with Putin’s Russia. In the months which followed the attacks continued. Particularly egregious examples, such as the criticism of Corbyn for refusing to “bow deeply enough” while paying his respects on Remembrance Day, stick in the memory. But it is the insidious rather than the ridiculous which best characterizes the British media’s approach to Corbyn. One example of this occurred in January when it was revealed that the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg had coordinated the resignation of a member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet so that it would occur live on television. Planned for minutes before Corbyn was due to engage in Prime Minister’s Questions, it was a transparent attempt to inflict the maximum damage possible to his leadership.

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“..political bribes aren’t free speech and corporations aren’t persons.”

How the Corporate Food Industry Destroys Democracy (Hartmann)

On July 1, Vermont implemented a law requiring disclosure labels on all food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, hailed the law as “the first law enacted in the US that would provide clear labels identifying food made with genetically engineered ingredients. Indeed, stores across the country are already stocking food with clear on-package labels thanks to the Vermont law, because it’s much easier for a company to provide GMO labels on all of the products in its supply chain than just the ones going to one state.”

What that means is that the Vermont labeling law is changing the landscape of our grocery stores, and making it easier than ever to know which products contain GMOs. And less than a week later after that law went into effect, it is under attack. Monsanto and its bought-and-paid-for toadies in Congress are pushing legislation to override Vermont’s law. Democrats who oppose this effort call the Stabenow/Roberts legislation the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” Act, or DARK Act. This isn’t the first time that a DARK Act has been brought forward in the Senate, and one version of the bill was already shot down earlier this year. The most recent version of the bill was brought forward by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, both recipients of substantial contributions from Big Agriculture.

Stabenow has received more than $600,000 in campaign contributions since 2011 from the Crop Production and Basic Processing Industry, and Pat Roberts has received more than $600,000 from the Agricultural Services and Products industry. When Senator Stabenow unveiled the industry-friendly legislation, she boasted that, “For the first time ever, consumers will have a national, mandatory label for food products that contain genetically modified ingredients.” Which sounds great, and it would be great, if it were true. But the fact is, the DARK Act would set up a system of voluntary labeling that would overturn Vermont’s labeling law and replace it with a law that’s riddled with so many loopholes and exemptions that it would only apply to very few products, and there’s no enforcement mechanism and no penalties or consequences of any kind for defying the bill.

[..] If our democracy actually worked, this bill never would have seen the light of day, because people overwhelmingly want to know what’s in their food and support GMO labeling. But our democracy doesn’t work, because our lawmakers are bought and paid for by special interests like Monsanto. If we want our lawmakers to pass popular laws that actually work, we need to get money out of politics, we need to overturn Citizens United and we need to amend the Constitution to make it clear that political bribes aren’t free speech and corporations aren’t persons.

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” It’s not the independence of Britain from Europe, but the independence of Europe from the USA.”

10 Years (Or Less): Orwell’s Vision Coming True (SHTF)

In the wake of all of the Brexit vote, a chilling blurb made headlines and it went largely unnoticed and uncommented upon. The line was couched within comments made by Boris Titov, an economic policy maker for Russia’s Kremlin. Actually all of the following merits attention, but one line stands out. The source for this excerpt is a Facebook post by Titov. Here it is: “…it seems it has happened — UK out!!! In my opinion, the most important long-term consequence of all this is that the exit will take Europe away from the anglo-saxons, meaning from the USA. It’s not the independence of Britain from Europe, but the independence of Europe from the USA. And it’s not long until a united Eurasia — about 10 years.”

This is a very revealing post to show how unfavorably the past 50 years of post-World War II American imperialism has been viewed. The tipping point, as mentioned in a previous article was the outright 180º that George H.W. Bush pulled on Mikhail Gorbachev: the promise of NATO membership upon reunification of the two Germany’s and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and then not fulfilling that promise.

The American corporate interests inserted themselves, as the communist government shattered, leaving in its wake oligarchs, the Russian mafia, and a “Wild West” environment within Russia proper and the ex-SSR’s, the former Soviet satellite nations. A tremendous amount of chaos occurred for a decade that was both enabled and further fostered by the United States. The perception in Russia even before the Soviet Union came into being was that Russians were in an economic war with Great Britain, and the United States was looked upon as an “extension” of Britain: a country with language, law, and cultural parallels,especially in terms of expansion.

As of the past several years, the United States has been encroaching upon Russian territory and economic interests. That encroachment has intensified into a U.S.-created “Cold War Resurrection” stance with the bolstering of NATO forces in the Baltic states. The U.S. is virtually thumbing its nose at Russia with the distribution of the “anti-ballistic missile systems” emplaced in places such as Moldova. As Putin pointed out, it takes not even a sneeze and a couple of hours to convert those platforms into use for Tomahawks with nuclear capability. The Russians did not exercise “en passant” with such an opener, and are placing missiles of their own to face the U.S. assets.

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Apr 132016
 
 April 13, 2016  Posted by at 9:47 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Lewis Wickes Hine Child labor at Gorenflo Canning Co., Biloxi, Mississippi 1911

What in the World’s Going on with Banks this Week? (WS)
The “Independent” Fed Is About to Become Partisan (JR)
IMF Cuts World Growth Forecast, Warns Over Brexit (AFP)
Don’t Trust Ben Bernanke On Helicopter Money (Steve Keen)
Bundesbank’s Weidmann Rebukes Draghi Critics In Berlin (FT)
China Rail Freight Volume Plunges 10.5%, and The Economy Still Grows 6.9%? (WS)
Peabody, World’s Top Private Coal Miner, Files For Bankruptcy (Reuters)
IMF Says Greek Debt ‘Highly Unsustainable’, Debt Relief ‘Essential’ (R.)
Pro-EU Leaflets Spark ‘Return To Sender’ Revolt In Britain (AFP)
Why Younger People Can’t Afford A House: Money Became Too Cheap (G.)
Iceland Shocked By Elite’s Love Of Offshore Holdings (AFP)
Swiss Banker Whistleblower: CIA Behind Panama Papers (CNBC)
Australia Issues The Most Hideous Banknote In History (SMH)
Canadian First Nation Suicide Epidemic Has Been Generations In The Making (G.)
Brussels Gives Greece Two Weeks To Tighten Borders (Kath.)
Refugees Become Smugglers Following EU-Turkey Deal (MEE)
Greek Coast Guard Rescues 120 Refugees Off Lesvos, Samos (Kath.)

Obama meets with Biden and Yellen. Hadn’t happened since Truman?!

What in the World’s Going on with Banks this Week? (WS)

Just about every major banker and finance minister in the world is meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, following two rushed, secretive meetings of the Federal Reserve and another instantaneous and rare meeting between the Fed Chair and the president of the United States. These and other emergency bank meetings around the world cause one to wonder what is going down. Let’s start with a bullet list of the week’s big-bank events:
• The Federal Reserve Board of Governors just held an “expedited special meeting” on Monday in closed-door session.
• The White House made an immediate announcement that the president was going to meet with Fed Chair Janet Yellen right after Monday’s special meeting and that Vice President Biden would be joining them.
• The Federal Reserve very shortly posted an announcement of another expedited closed-door meeting for Tuesday for the specific purpose of “bank supervision.”
• A G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central-bank heads starts in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, too, and continues through Wednesday.
• Then on Thursday the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund meet in Washington.
• The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta just revised US GDP growth for the first quarter to the precipice of recession at 0.1%.
• US banks are expected this coming week to report their worst quarter financially since the start of the Great Recession.
• The press stated that the German government will sue the European Central Bank if it launches a more aggressive and populist form of quantitative easing, often called “helicopter money.”
• The European Union’s new “bail-in” procedures for failing banks were employed for the first time with Austrian bank Heta Asset Resolution AG.
• Italy’s minister of finance called an emergency meeting of Italian bankers to engage “last resort” measures for dealing with €360 billion of bad loans in banks that have only €50 billion in capital.

It is rare for presidents to meet with the chair of the Federal Reserve. The last time President Obama met with Janet Yellen was in November of 2014, a year and a half ago. It is even more rare for the vice president of the United States to join them. In fact, I’ve heard but haven’t verified that it has never happened in a suddenly called meeting with the Fed before. For security reasons, the president and vice president don’t regularly attend the same events. There are, of course, many planning sessions or emergency meetings where they do get together, but not with the head of the Federal Reserve. Emergency meetings where the VP is included in the planning session would include situations related to dire national security in case the VP winds up having to take over.

In fact the meeting with the prez and vice prez is so rare that the White House is bending over backwards to assure the entire nation that the president is not meeting with Yellen to try to influence the Fed, which is required to act independently of politics (so they say). According to the White House, President Obama is meeting with the Fed chair and Biden to discuss the nation’s “longer-term economic outlook,” even though Yellen just told the entire nation that the economy was strong and had arrived nearly back at “full health.” The president says they will be “comparing notes.” Do their notes about the nation’s outlook disagree?

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Clinton and Cameron: monsters under the bed.

The “Independent” Fed Is About to Become Partisan (JR)

Late last night it was revealed that President Obama has summoned Janet Yellen to the White House today. There’s nothing unusual in itself about the president meeting with the Chair of the Federal Reserve over lunch to discuss policy. Bush 43, for example, frequently met with Alan Greenspan to discuss the economy. But this meeting is different… This isn’t a casual lunch. It’s a high-profile, last-minute meeting Obama orchestrated. The last time something like this happened was in 1951, when Harry Truman summoned the entire Federal Reserve Board of Governors to the White House. Since this is something that hasn’t happened in almost 70 years, today’s meeting is a fairly extraordinary event. Why did Obama order the meeting? There are a few factors to consider… Number one, Obama does not want the Fed to raise rates.

If the Fed remains on its path of interest rate hikes this year, it would give the Republicans the strongest chance at the White House in this fall’s election. That’s because rate hikes would likely lead to recession, and that would bode poorly for the Democrats. Obama is deeply concerned about his legacy, which the Republicans would like to reverse. So the best chance the Democrats have in the upcoming presidential election is if rates stay low. Janet Yellen herself is a Democrat, with a background as a labor economist and a career at U.C. Berkeley. She’s not necessarily hostile to Obama’s message. By bringing her to the White House, Obama is sending Yellen a highly visible public message. Don’t raise rates. You can consider this meeting more like an implied threat. There are two openings on the Fed’s Board of Governors. Obama could nominate two of Yellen’s biggest policy opponents if he wanted to play hardball with her.

Those two opponents could fight Yellen at every turn and threaten her control. Or, Obama could no nothing if she confirms and let her maintain control of the board. He’s very cleverly held the vacancies open, which he can use as leverage to influence Yellen’s course of action. He can nominate her worst opponents if she doesn’t follow his wishes. There’s also another factor at play: The Democrats are as afraid of Bernie Sanders as Republicans are of Donald Trump. Sanders has won seven straight primaries and caucuses. One of his biggest weapons is his bashing of the big banks, Wall Street and his criticism of Hillary Clinton for being in their pocket. Sanders has demanded that Hillary release the transcripts of her three speeches to Goldman Sachs, for which she received $675,000. She has refused to release those transcripts. That’s the Achilles heel of the Clinton campaign, and Sanders is making the most of it.

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No credibility.

IMF Cuts World Growth Forecast, Warns Over Brexit (AFP)

The IMF said Tuesday that the global economy faces wide-ranging threats from weak growth and rising protectionism, warning of possible “severe” damage should Britain quit the EU. The Fund cut its global forecast for the third straight quarter, saying economic activity has been “too slow for too long,” and stressed the need for immediate action by the world’s economic powers to shore up growth. It said intensifying financial and political risks around the world, from volatile financial markets to the Syria conflict to global warming, had left the economy “increasingly fragile” and vulnerable to recession. The IMF raised concerns over “fraying” unity in the European Union under pressure from the migration crisis and the “Brexit” possibility.

And it pointed to the contractions in large emerging market economies, most notably Brazil, where the economic downturn has been accompanied by deep political crisis that has President Dilma Rousseff facing impeachment. Seeing a broad fall in trade and investment, the IMF cut its forecast for world growth this year to a sluggish 3.2%, 0.2 percentage points down from its January outlook and down from the 3.8% pace expected last July. That reflects a glummer view of growth in both developed and emerging economies, with the forecasts for Japan and oil-dependent Russia and Nigeria all sharply lowered. Growth expectations for most leading economies were pared back by 0.2 percentage points. The outlook for the United States – hit by the impact of the strong dollar – was trimmed to 2.4% this year, from 2.6% in January.

Only the pictures in China and developing eastern Europe were better. But at a slightly upgraded pace of 6.5% growth, China was still on track for a significant slowdown from last year. The growth downgrade was expected but the tone of the IMF message was more dire than in recent months. It came as an increasing number of countries are approaching the IMF and World Bank for financial support. Last week Angola, its finances devastated by the crash in oil prices, asked the IMF for a three-year bailout program. And the World Bank said requests for loan support had reached levels seen only during financial crises. IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld said there was a risk of a full stall in global growth without efforts to boost investment and demand. “The weaker is growth, the greater the chance that the preceding risks, if some materialize, pull the world economy below stalling speed,” he said.

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It’s too late for helicopter money. It would evaporate before touching the ground.

Don’t Trust Ben Bernanke On Helicopter Money (Steve Keen)

Ben Bernanke earned the sobriquet “Helicopter Ben” for his observations in a 2002 speech that “the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost”, that the existence of this technology means that “sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation”, and that using this technology to finance a tax cut is “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous “helicopter drop” of money.” But just because he’s called “Helicopter Ben” doesn’t mean that he knows how “Helicopter Money” would actually work.

His column “What tools does the Fed have left? Part 3: Helicopter money” discusses both the nuts and bolts of actually implementing a “Helicopter Drop” (or as he more accurately describes it, “an expansionary fiscal policy—an increase in public spending or a tax cut—financed by a permanent increase in the money stock”) and also discusses how such a policy might affect the real economy. While his discussion of the nuts and bolts is realistic, his discussion of how it would work is fantasy. The nuts and bolts are straightforward (and Bernanke has a good practical suggestion for how to implement it too, which I’ll discuss at the end of this post). “Helicopter money” (or as he excitingly renames it, “a Money-Financed Fiscal Program, or MFFP”) is a direct injection of money from the government into people’s bank accounts, which is financed by a loan from the Federal Reserve to the Treasury. This differs from the standard way that Government spending is financed, which is by issuing Treasury Bonds that are then bought by the public.

The standard method doesn’t put additional money into circulation in the economy, because the increase in some private sector bank accounts caused by the government spending—a tax rebate, for example—is completely offset by the fall in other private sector bank accounts as they buy the Treasury Bonds that financed the tax rebate. But with “MFFP”, the tax rebate is financed by new money created by the Federal Reserve “at essentially no cost”. It thus directly increases the money supply, and this is where Friedman’s “Helicopter” analogy comes from. In the private sector economy, the money supply is increased when private banks lend to the public. Money created by private bank lending also goes by the nickname of “inside money”, since it is created by institutions that are “inside” the private sector—private banks.

Government-created money, which is what a tax rebate financed by a direct loan from the Federal Reserve to the Treasury would be, is “outside money”, because it comes from outside the private sector. Friedman’s analogy likened it to a helicopter flying over an economy and dropping new dollar bills from the sky. So how does “Helicopter Money” differ in impact from the standard way of financing government spending? Here’s where Bernanke passes from the practical nuts and bolts to the fantasy world of mainstream economics. According to Ben, the Helicopter flies, so to speak, because it causes “a temporary increase in expected inflation,” and because it “does not increase future tax burdens.”

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Best friends?!

Bundesbank’s Weidmann Rebukes Draghi Critics In Berlin (FT)

Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann has rebuked German politicians for attempting to pressure European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi over his easy money policies, suggesting their criticism was interfering with the bank’s independence. “It’s not unusual for politicians to have opinions on monetary policy, but we are independent,” Mr Weidmann told the Financial Times last Thursday. “The ECB has to deliver on its price stability mandate and thus an expansionary monetary policy stance is appropriate at this juncture regardless of different views about specific measures.” The head of Germany’s central bank and his counterpart at the ECB have often been at odds over how to respond to the threat of falling prices, with Mr Weidmann frequently raising objections to measures tabled by Mr Draghi.

But they have emerged as unlikely allies at a time when monetary policymakers around the world are facing mounting criticism over record-low interest rates, including the decision by some central banks – among them the ECB – to cut rates below zero and into negative territory to counter the threat of a vicious bout of deflation. The policy has been deeply unpopular in Germany, prompting criticism from senior politicians, led by finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, that the central bank’s low interest rates are expropriating savings from the German public and fuelling the rise of rightwing populism.

While the ECB targets inflation of just below 2%, the latest reading was minus 0.1%. Mr Weidmann also said the German debate on the ECB is focused too narrowly on the consequences of low interest rates for savers. “The debate does not focus enough on the broader macroeconomic consequences of monetary policy. People are not just savers: they’re also employees, taxpayers, and debtors, as such benefiting from the low level of interest rates,” he explained. The Bundesbank built its reputation on its independence from politics, frequently falling out with German lawmakers in the 1970s and 1980s over the central bank’s use of high interest rates to tackle inflation. But Mr Weidmann faces a more sensitive challenge: defending an EU institution from criticism from within Germany at a time of acute unease fuelled by the refugee crisis.

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Riddle me this.

China Rail Freight Volume Plunges 10.5%, and The Economy Still Grows 6.9%? (WS)

Rail freight volumes are an indicator of China’s goods-producing and goods-consuming economy, not just manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and the like, but also consumer goods. Thus they’re also an indication of consumer spending on goods. Alas, rail freight volume is collapsing: the first quarter this year puts volume for the whole year on track to revisit levels not seen since 2007. While China’s economy was strong, rail freight volumes were soaring. For example, in 2010, when China was pump-priming its economy, rail freight volume jumped 10.8% from a year earlier. In 2011, it rose 6.9%. It had soared 44% from 2005 to 2011! But 2011 was the peak. In 2012, volume in trillion ton-kilometers declined one notch and in 2013 stagnated. But in 2014, volume skidded 5.8%.

And in 2015, volume plunged 10.5% to 3.4 billion tons, according to Caixin, citing figures from the National Railway Administration. It was the largest annual decline ever booked in China. It was a year that the People’s Daily, the official paper of the Communist Party, described in this elegant manner: “Dragged by a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand, and unsteady exports, China’s economy expanded 6.9% year on year in 2015, the weakest reading in around a quarter of a century.” Which is precisely where things stop making sense: rail freight volume plunges 10.5% in 2015, and the economy still increases 6.9%? I mean, come on. At the time, Caixin said that China’s central planners aimed to increase rail freight volumes to 4.2 billion tons by 2020. This would assume an average annual growth rate of 4.3%.

So these declines are not part of the planned transition to a consumption-based economy. They’re totally against that plan or any other plan. They’re very inconvenient for the rosy scenario! Then came the first quarter of 2016. Rail freight volume plunged 9.4% year-over-year to 788 million tons, according to data from China Railway Corporation, cited today by the People’s Daily. At this rate, rail freight volume for 2016 will be down 20% from 2014, which had already been a down year! At this rate, volume in 2016 will end up where it had been in 2007! China — hobbled by soggy domestic demand, perhaps even soggier demand overseas, rampant factory overcapacity, cooling investment, an insurmountable mountain of bad debt, and a million other domestic problems — may be trying to transition from a manufacturing-based economy to an economy based on consumption.

But even consumer goods must be transported, even those purchased online! Only services don’t require much transportation. But we doubt that service sales have jumped in two years to the extent that they would even halfway make up for the crashing demand for goods transported by rail. The World Bank just figured that China’s economy would grow 6.7% in 2016, the IMF pegs it at 6.5%, both kowtowing to the GDP declarations issued by the Chinese government. Whose Kool-Aid have they been drinking? This would make 2016 another year when rail freight plunges by a dismal 10% or so while economic growth soars nearly 7% – which would make China one of the fastest growing economies in the world. So something in this convoluted, government-imposed math doesn’t add up here.

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Demand destruction and debt deflation.

Peabody, World’s Top Private Coal Miner, Files For Bankruptcy (Reuters)

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal producer, filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Wednesday in the wake of a sharp fall in coal prices that left it unable to service a recent debt-fueled expansion into Australia. The company listed both assets and liabilities in the range of $10 billion to $50 billion. Falling global coal demand, stricter environmental controls and a glut of natural gas have pushed big miners, including the second largest U.S. coal producer, Arch Coal, into bankruptcy protection over the past year.

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It’s cruel game that EU and IMF enjoy far too much.

IMF Says Greek Debt ‘Highly Unsustainable’, Debt Relief ‘Essential’ (R.)

The IMF wants Greece’s European partners to grant Athens substantial relief on its debt which it sees remaining “highly unsustainable”, according to a draft IMF memorandum seen by Reuters. Earlier on Tuesday, Greece and inspectors from its EU/IMF lenders adjourned talks on a crucial bailout review, mainly due to a rift among the lenders over a projected fiscal gap by 2018 and over Athens’ resistance to unpopular reforms. They will resume the review after this week’s IMF spring meetings in Washington, where the lenders are also expected to discuss Greek reforms and debt., Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told Reuters on Tuesday that he saw no need for debt restructuring, will also be there.

“Despite generous concessional official financing and further reform plans … debt dynamics are projected to remain highly unsustainable,” the IMF draft said. “To restore debt sustainability, in addition to our reform efforts, decisive action by our European partners to grant further official debt relief will be essential.” EU institutions expect Greece to have a fiscal shorfall equivalent to 3% of economic output in 2018, while the IMF projects a 4.5% shortfall. The EU institutions also believe Athens can reach a primary surplus – the budget balance before debt-servicing costs – of 3.5% of GDP by 2018, as targeted in its latest financial bailout.

But the IMF’s draft Memorandum of Financial and Economic Policies (MFEP), which is compiled during the review, projected a primary deficit of 0.5% this year, a surplus of 0.25% in 2017 and a primary surplus of just 1.5% in 2018. It said these figures reflected reform fatigue after five years of adjustments and social pressures in Greece due to high unemployment, which rose to 24.4% in January. The draft projected an average rate of economic growth of 1.25% for the long term, which is lower than its previous forecast. The targets, which it called “ambitious, yet realistic”, could be underpinned by implementing measures that would save the equivalent of 2.5% of GDP by 2018, including reforms to its pension system, income tax, value-added tax and the public sector wage bill.

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If Cameron stays on, Brexit is here.

Pro-EU Leaflets Spark ‘Return To Sender’ Revolt In Britain (AFP)

Britons who want to leave the EU in June’s referendum are sending the government’s pro-Europe leaflets back to Downing Street in a furious protest against a campaign critics have slammed as scaremongering. The “Post It Back” campaign on Facebook and Twitter has attracted support from hundreds of people who do not appreciate the taxpayer-funded, pro-European Union leaflets being delivered to their homes this week. Kirsty Stubbs posted a picture of her leaflet on Facebook defaced with slogans including “What scaremongering rubbish” and “Vote Leave!” before sending it back. Alex Armstrong sent his leaflet back to a freepost address for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives with an added special package in the hope of lumbering the party with a large bill for postage.

“Just sent back the propaganda leaflet to the freepost address with a suitably heavy attachment – a lump of concrete,” he wrote on Facebook. Others burnt their leaflets or said they would use them as toilet paper, coffee mats or cat litter. Eurosceptic MPs are also angry that Cameron’s government has spent over £9 million on the leaflets, which will eventually go to every home in Britain. They forced a debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Monday. “It is bad enough getting junk mail, but to have Juncker mail sent to us with our own taxes is the final straw,” said Liam Fox, a senior Conservative, punning on the name of European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker. Another Conservative, Nigel Evans, spoke of his work as an election monitor and compared ministers’ campaign tactics to those in Zimbabwe.

“If in any of the countries I visit I witnessed the sort of spiv (racketeer) Robert Mugabe antics that I have seen carried out by this government, I would condemn the conduct of that election as not fair,” he said. More than 200,000 people have signed a petition on parliament’s website opposing the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for the “biased” leaflet, forcing MPs to schedule another debate on the issue for May 9. The glossy, 16-page leaflet makes a series of claims including that leaving the EU would “create years of uncertainty and potential disruption” and that EU membership “makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK”. The main pro and anti-EU campaigns will each be entitled to send a publicly-funded leaflet to all households or electors, worth up to £15 million each, in the run-up to the June 23 vote. But opponents say that by spending £9 million on this extra leaflet before the formal campaign period begins on Friday, the government is getting an unfair advantage.

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Housing bubbles save governments.

Why Younger People Can’t Afford A House: Money Became Too Cheap (G.)

House prices have risen by 10% in the last year, the Halifax announced last week. Whoopeedoo. What that means is that the intergenerational wealth divide just rose by another 10% – and anyone born after 1985 is going to find it 10% harder to ever buy a home. There is perhaps no greater manifestation of the wealth gap in this country than who owns a house and who doesn’t, and yet it’s so unnecessary. Ignoring land prices for the moment, houses do not cost a lot of money to build – a quick search online shows you can buy the materials for a three-bed timber-framed house for less than £30,000; in China a 3D printer can build a basic home for less than £3,000 – and the building cost of the houses we already have has long since been paid. How can it be that, in the liberal, peaceful, educated society that is 21st-century Britain, a generation is priced out?

These are not times of war, nor are they, for the most part, periods of national emergency, so why should one couple be able to settle down and start a family and another not, by virtue of the fact that one was born 15 years earlier than the other? There has been a failure in both the media and government to properly diagnose the cause of high house prices. Until the causes – our systems of money and planning – are properly understood, we cannot hope to fix the problem. The standard solution is: “we need to build more”, but this is not a simple supply-and-demand issue. Between 1997 and 2007 the housing stock grew by 10%, but the population only grew by 5%. If house prices were a function of supply and demand, they should have fallen slightly over this period. They didn’t. They rose by more than 300%. The cause of house price rises is the unrestrained supply of something else: money.

Mortgage lending over the same period went up by 370%, thinktank Positive Money’s research shows. It was newly created debt that pushed up prices in a decade of extraordinarily loose lending, which gave birth to a national obsession. Houses were no longer places to live, but financial assets. Property owners became immensely wealthy without actually doing anything. And this great, unearned wealth saw the rise of a new rentier class: the buy-to-let landlord. When you have runaway inflation such as this, the Bank of England has a responsibility to quash it, usually by putting up interest rates. But – and here is the great sleight of hand – the Bank has seen fit not to include house prices in its measures of inflation. So, throughout the 90s and 00s, they could then “prove” inflation was low or moderate and interest rates meandered lower. Meanwhile, more and more mortgages were issued, and so more and more money was created, and it pushed up prices. The government didn’t mind.

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Hilarious.

Iceland Shocked By Elite’s Love Of Offshore Holdings (AFP)

Cabinet ministers, bankers and CEOs: the offshore companies at the heart of the leaked Panama Papers have drawn large numbers of Iceland’s elite into a scandal that has already brought down the country’s premier. The documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed just how many Icelanders had holdings hidden away in tax havens.That number is astounding: some 600 Icelanders are named in the documents, in a country of just 320,000. That’s the highest per capita number for any country, according to Johannes Kristjansson, an independent Icelandic journalist who worked with the Consortium. In the streets of Reykjavik, people are disgusted.

“It’s a small clique, and even after the 2008 (financial) crisis they wouldn’t let go. It just confirms that money made during the boom years didn’t disappear into thin air,” a 50-year-old resident, Kolbrun Elfa Sigurdardottir, told AFP. “Who are the people who benefited from this system? We all want to know,” asked Alli Thor Olafsson, 32. The offshore companies are part of the legacy from the euphoria that was rampant in Iceland’s financial sector in the early 2000s when the country’s banks borrowed beyond their means to fund aggressive investments abroad, ultimately causing the 2008 collapse of the three main banks. According to Sigrun Davidsdottir, a journalist at public television RUV who has been investigating offshore holdings since the 2008 crisis, Iceland’s financial advisors were quick to suggest to all and sundry that their money should be placed offshore.

“During the heady years up to 2008, a source said to me that you just weren’t anyone unless you owned an offshore company,” she wrote on her blog. By now, the best-known case is that of ousted prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. In 2007, his then-future wife, Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir, placed her inheritance from her wealthy businessman father in an offshore tax haven, the British Virgin Islands, via the Credit Suisse bank. Gunnlaugsson owned 50% of the offshore company, named Wintris, a fact he neglected to disclose as required in April 2009 when he was elected to parliament. He resigned last week after massive public protests. Offshore accounts were so well-known in Iceland that the expression “Tortola company” – referring to the most populated island in the British Virgin Islands – had been widespread in Icelandic media, though not the extent to which they were used and by whom.

Gunnlaugsson was definitely not the only government official to own an offshore company. Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson owns a company in the Seychelles, while Interior Minister Olof Nordal has one in Panama. Both have so far managed to hold onto their cabinet posts despite the scandal. A former central bank governor and ex-industry minister, Finnur Ingolfsson, the head of pharmaceutical group Alvogen, Robert Wessman, as well as journalist Eggert Skulason of the daily DV are all known to be on the Panama Papers list of offshore account holders.

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All files should be transferred to a Wiki-style open source server.

Swiss Banker Whistleblower: CIA Behind Panama Papers (CNBC)

Bradley Birkenfeld is the most significant financial whistleblower of all time, so you might think he’d be cheering on the disclosures in the new Panama Papers leaks. But today, Birkenfeld is raising questions about the source of the information that is shaking political regimes around the world. Birkenfeld, an American citizen, was a banker working at UBS in Switzerland when he approached the U.S. government with information on massive amounts of tax evasion by Americans with secret accounts in Switzerland. By the end of his whistleblowing career, Birkenfeld had served more than two years in a U.S. federal prison, been awarded $104 million by the IRS for his information and shattered the foundations of more than a century of Swiss banking secrecy.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday from Munich, Birkenfeld said he doesn’t think the source of the 11 million documents stolen from a Panamanian law firm should automatically be considered a whistleblower like himself. Instead, he said, the hacking of the Panama City-based firm, called Mossack Fonseca, could have been done by a U.S. intelligence agency. “The CIA I’m sure is behind this, in my opinion,” Birkenfeld said. Birkenfeld pointed to the fact that the political uproar created by the disclosures have mainly impacted countries with tense relationships with the United States. “The very fact that we see all these names surface that are the direct quote-unquote enemies of the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, Argentina and we don’t see one U.S. name. Why is that?” Birkenfeld said. “Quite frankly, my feeling is that this is certainly an intelligence agency operation.”

Asked why the U.S. would leak information that has also been damaging to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, a major American ally, Birkenfeld said the British leader was likely collateral damage in a larger intelligence operation. “If you’ve got NSA and CIA spying on foreign governments they can certainly get into a law firm like this,” Birkenfeld said. “But they selectively bring the information to the public domain that doesn’t hurt the U.S. in any shape or form. That’s wrong. And there’s something seriously sinister here behind this.” Birkenfeld also said that during his time as a Swiss banker, Mossack Fonseca was known as one piece of the vast offshore maze used by bankers and lawyers to hide money from tax authorities. But he also said that the firm that is at the center of the global scandal was also seen as a relatively small player in the overall offshore tax evasion business.

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Ha!

Australia Issues The Most Hideous Banknote In History (SMH)

The new $5 note continues Australia’s proud history of monetary innovation. When the British founded the convict colony of NSW in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip embarked on a unique social experiment. He would establish a society without money, as having it around would only give the convicts something else to steal. Rum became the currency of choice, with the pound making way for the pint and the shilling swapped for the shot. In 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie decided he could not run a colony on a currency prone to spillage and evaporation. He bought 40,000 Spanish pieces of eight, the currency more pirates prefer, and cut the centre out of each piece, creating two coins, the holey dollar and the dump. In a moment of Scottish fiscal genius, Macquarie declared the two new coins would have a combined value of one-and-a-quarter pieces of eight, generating a tidy profit for his government.

Australia’s first banknote was printed by the Bank of NSW in 1817. The bank, established by convicted criminals, was commonly known as the Convict’s Bank and is now known as Westpac. In 1988, Australia celebrated its bicentenary by revolutionising banknote design, issuing the world’s first polymer note, the brainchild of Australia’s CSIRO. The organisation was so good at the science of making money that this is now the only science the Australian government will let it do. And now, with the new $5 note, Australia is again leading the world in banknote design. The Reserve Bank is proud to announce it has designed, possibly, the most hideous banknote in history. This is the start of a campaign to make our currency so nauseatingly unappealing that people will switch to electronic payments (saving the Australian government printing costs).

The new wattle motif, designed to look like anthrax spores, will stop old people sending money by mail (saving the Australian government postage costs). The government must have retained the designer of Australia’s 1984 Olympic uniforms to come up with a startling combination of off-pink and bilious yellow, before giving the Reserve Bank’s gibbon the keys to the inkjet. Blind people will love the new banknote for its revolutionary tactile features, but mainly because they won’t be able to see it. The worst thing about the new $5 note, however, is that it dispenses with one of the greatest Australians ever, Catherine Helen Spence – who was commemorated in 2001 for the note issued to celebrate the centenary of federation.

Spence was the first Australian woman novelist to write about Australian issues, the mother of the Australian foster care system, the leading campaigner for proportional representation in government, a hero of the women’s suffrage movement, and Australia’s first female political candidate. And those are but a few of her achievements. Spence has been forced to make way for a lump of neo-brutalist architecture – our Parliament House –topped by a giant Australian flag. A non-Australian, the Queen retains pride of place on the new note.

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Canada, US, Australia and more.

Canadian First Nation Suicide Epidemic Has Been Generations In The Making (G.)

The Attawapiskat First Nation, or the people of the parting rocks, as they are known in their indigenous Swampy Cree language, number roughly 2,000 souls. They live on a small Indian reserve 600 miles north of the Canadian capital of Ottawa, at the mouth of James Bay’s Attawapiskat River. This subarctic First Nation declared a state of emergency after 11 community members tried to take their own lives Saturday night. Since last September, more than 100 Attawapiskat people have attempted suicide in what local MP Charlie Angus has described as a “rolling nightmare” of a winter. The ghastly toll reveals a grim reality with which a nation in the midst of a process of truth and reconciliation now must reckon.

Suicide does not merely roll in like a hurricane to uproot homes and families, and drown out neighborhoods before receding from where it came. No, this has been an emergency generations in the making, tacitly supported by a Canada fully willing to mine natural resources, proselytize and brutalize generations of children in residential schools, and then leave with basic housing, education systems and healthcare in a state of disrepair. In 2011, Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency due to a “severe housing shortage”. In 2014, the community opened the first proper elementary school to serve Attawapiskat’s children in 14 years. At the same time, the De Beers mining company pulled $392m worth of diamonds out of their Victor Lake mine on lands taken from the Attawapiskat First Nation through an extension of Treaty 9 in 1930.

This is how First Nations live in the Bantustans of Canada’s north. Broke and broken people with little to no opportunities live in cold, run-down homes and suffer from generations of sexual, physical and psychological abuse. They look on as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of resources are mined from their ancestral homelands. This is not an emergency – a catastrophe for which Canada was unprepared and never saw coming. No, this is and always has been part of the design and devastation that colonization wrought. In order to take the land, Canadian settlers needed to eliminate First Nations and their prior and legitimate political claims to territories. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, infectious diseases and state-supported starvation gave way to the institutional violence of Indian reserves and residential schools, where more than 150,000 First Nations children were taken from 1876 to 1996.

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No more Schengen.

Brussels Gives Greece Two Weeks To Tighten Borders (Kath.)

The European Commission on Tuesday gave Greece two weeks to determine how it plans to tighten control of its borders, noting that although progress has been made, the process of registering thousands of migrants streaming through the country remained inadequate. The Commission criticized an action plan submitted by Athens, noting that it lacked “detailed time frames” for fixing problems. It also demanded guarantees that EU funding for migration will be used properly. “The Commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April,” it said in a statement which acknowledged Athens had made “significant progress.” If Greece fails to take remedial action, Brussels could authorize other EU member-states to extend border controls in the Schengen passport-free area for up to two years instead of the normal six months. Such a scenario would effectively suspend Greece’s participation in the Schengen zone.

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Can’t stop this.

Refugees Become Smugglers Following EU-Turkey Deal (MEE)

Refugees and migrants in Greece have begun joining smuggling networks in growing numbers in a desperate bid to earn enough cash to pay for their own journeys north since an agreement between the EU and Turkey has made it more difficult for people to make it to places like Germany. In Idomeni, the northern border between Greece and Macedonia where more than 11,000 people have been stuck for weeks, the smugglers have been out in full force since the controversial deal officially – slated as a major blow to smuggling rings in Turkey and Europe – began to be implemented and the first migrants sent back. In contrast to the stated aim of cutting down on smuggling, smugglers can be seen in parking lots of hotels and abandoned gas stations, nor are the locals working alone.

In their bid to earn enough cash to make it north, some of the refugees and migrants stranded in Greece have started working as “fixers” for the smugglers, while smaller groups, mostly from Afghanistan, have started to self-organise and develop their own smuggling routes through parts of the Balkans. While the development is not altogether new, and some new arrivals have long stayed on with smugglers, the practice appears to be accelerating and is happening more in the open than ever before. [..] Despite the dangers, growing numbers of people feel they have no choice as border closures and barbed wire fences have made paying smugglers even more expensive. Karam, a Syrian refugee who paid smugglers to get to Germany last year and has now returned to Greece as a volunteer, says that prices have gone up and that he only paid $2,700 to make it all the way to Germany, significantly less than the journey would cost today.

“When I travelled to Germany, the smugglers did not see us as people but as commodities. We were often in risky situations during the trip and they didn’t care much. The only thing important to them was to transfer us as quickly as possible and return back for a new tour of people. I suppose they treat people even worse now,” said Karam. “I think that today, in this situation, I would apply to stay in Greece.”

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And the beat goes on and on.

Greek Coast Guard Rescues 120 Refugees Off Lesvos, Samos (Kath.)

Greek coast guard officers rescued 120 refugees and migrants in three separate incidents off Lesvos and Samos, authorities said on Wednesday morning. Officials said that between Tuesday and Wednesday morning there had been 101 arrivals on the Aegean islands. There are currently 3,644 people at the Lesvos hotspot, 1,827 in Chios and 516 on Samos, according to authorities.

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Mar 202016
 
 March 20, 2016  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC Kidwell’s Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 1920

World Is ‘Overloaded On Monetary Policy’, Says OECD (Tel.)
Central Banks Are Already Doing The Unthinkable – You Just Don’t Know It (Tel.)
Helicopter Drops By Stealth (Tel.)
Buyback Blackout Period Starts Monday (ZH)
Another False Oil Price Rally: Crossing A Boundary (Berman)
China’s Property Rally Has ‘Reached A Tipping Point’ (Forbes)
China’s Bottom Line to Avoid Systemic Risks, Vice Premier Says (BBG)
China Top Planner Promises Foreign Companies Access To Markets (WaPo)
Why Are There Doubts Over China’s Growth Rate? (Forbes)
Support For Impeaching Brazil’s President Rises To 68% (Reuters)
German Right Wing Demands Referendum on EU, Refugee Crisis (Express)
Greece Delays Sending Refugees Back To Turkey Under EU Deal (AFP)
EU-Turkey Deal: Officials Left In The Dark As Deadline Looms (Tel.)
Don’t Make Us Ashamed To Be European (3 Mayors)

One trick ponies.

World Is ‘Overloaded On Monetary Policy’, Says OECD (Tel.)

Central banks cannot haul economies out of stagnation on their own, the OECD has warned. Catherine Mann, chief economist at the Paris-based think-tank, said countries were now “overloaded on monetary policy” as she described the use of negative interest rates as “a reaction of central banks trying to meet the objective of raising inflation and fostering growth alone”. Ms Mann said banks faced being “squeezed” by the unintended consequences of sub-zero rates in an environment where demand remained subdued. The OECD has repeatedly warned that fiscal policy and structural reforms are needed to ensure recoveries are self-sustaining. “In the economies where negative interest rates are most deployed, the credit channel is particularly important, and this is impaired. Banks in Europe for example have not deleveraged and they as a result are not in a position to effectively lend credit,” said Ms Mann.

“They are also squeezed in the middle between negative interest rates on the one hand and very soft economic activity on the other. So negative interest rates are tough. It’s a tough policy to use.” Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that negative interest rates could do more harm than good by eating into banks and building societies’ profits and pushing up consumer charges. Earlier this month, the ECB stepped up efforts to reflate the eurozone. Policymakers slashed its deposit rate deeper into negative territory and beefed-up its quantitative easing programme. In a bid to spur credit growth, the ECB sweetened its incentive for banks to lend by revamping its targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTROs).

From this June, banks that lend more will be paid as much as 0.4pc to borrow from the ECB. Ms Mann said the ECB’s actions were welcome, but would not get Europe “back on track” on their own. “The ECB has done a lot, but the effective way to enhance economic activity in the euro area is a three-legged stool: fiscal, monetary and structural. What [Mario] Draghi [the president of the ECB] has done is make the monetary leg of the stool even longer, so we’re not there yet with the recipe we need in order to get Europe back on track.” Some experts argue that central banks will be forced to inject money directly into the economy through so-called “helicopter drops” in order to boost flagging nations.

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The road to helicopter money.

Central Banks Are Already Doing The Unthinkable – You Just Don’t Know It (Tel.)

The lords of finance are losing their touch. Institutions which dragged the world from its worst depression since the early 20th century are finally seeing their magic desert them, if conventional wisdom is to be believed. Eight years on the from the Great Recession, voices as authoritative as the IMF and the BIS – dubbed the ‘central bank of central banks’ – have called time on the era of extraordinary monetary policy. Having hoovered up $12.3 trillion in financial assets and carried out 637 interest rate cuts since 2008, central banks have been stunned back into action in the last six weeks. The Bank of Japan kicked off a new round of global easing with its decision to cross the rubicon into negative interest rate territory on January 29.

Eurozone policymakers followed suit earlier this month with a triple whammy of interest rate cuts, €20bn in additional asset purchases a month, and an unprecedented move to allow commercial banks to borrow money at negative rates. The Federal Reserve has also taken its foot off the pedal by slashing its expected interest rate hikes from four a year to just two. But the new wave of policy accommodation has ushered in fresh panic that monetary policy is suddenly subject to dwindling returns. Instead, talk has turned to governments finally pulling their weight to support the shaky global recovery. Fiscal policy has been largely dormant in the wake of the crisis as countries have concentrated on bringing down debt and deficits levels, binding themselves to stringent spending rules in the process.

Without tax breaks and greater state investment, the world is at risk of another “economic derailment”, the IMF has warned. The latest G20 communique has paid lip service to the idea that global governments will adopt policies to “strengthen growth, job creation and confidence”. In reality, there are little signs that politicians are ready to jettison their fixations on low debt and balanced budgets to support global growth.

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Part 2 of the long article above that takes a while getting to the point.

Helicopter Drops By Stealth (Tel.)

For some observers, the next phase in extraordinary central bank action has already arrived, and it is Japan which is leading the way. The Bank of Japan’s move to impose a three tiered deposit rate on banks this year can be seen as a covert attempt to transfer funds to the private sector, argues Eric Lonergan, economist and hedge fund manager. He notes that the BoJ’s decision to exempt some reserves from the negative rate represents a transfer of cash to commercial lenders at rate of 0.1pc. The system “separates out the interest rate on reserves from that which affects market rates”, says Lonergan. “It is taking the first step along the journey towards helicopter money and opens up a whole new avenue of stimulus”. In the same vein, the ECB has also signaled its intention to move away from endless interest rate cuts towards targeted attempts to boost private sector credit demand.

From June, eurozone banks will be paid as much as 0.4pc to borrow from the ECB for four years – a scheme dubbed ‘Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations’ (TLTRO’s). Lenders who do the most to pass on cheap loans to customers will be rewarded with the most favourable rates. “I wish they’d done it an awful lot sooner”, says Lonergan, who notes that for all its institutional constraints, the ECB still boasts a number of tools to boost bank lending. With government borrowing costs at rock bottom across the eurozone, even more QE would be unnecessary at this stage, he says. TLTRO’s however, “open the possibility of two different rates where you can leave the policy rate unchanged but lend to banks at lower and lower rates contingent on them lending to the real economy” he adds. “It is much cleverer way of doing things because savers do not suffer.”

But central bank ingenuity – however welcome – raises separate concerns about the accountability of institutions whose independence is sacrosanct but where decision-making is often insulated from public view. Lord Adair Turner, a former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, and one of the earliest advocates of helicopter money, calls for more transparency in a bid to finally smash the taboos around injecting money straight into the hands of consumers or governments. “I think it is more dangerous for central banks to forever denying what they are doing,” says Lord Turner. He calls Japan’s move to issue government debt at a rate of 40 trillion yen, while the central bank expands its balance sheet at a rate of 80 trillion yen a year, “a de facto debt monetisation”. “You are effectively replacing government debt with central bank money,” says Lord Turner. “It would be better for authorities to publish a statement, laying out the rules and assuring the world it is not too much.”

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It’s been all buybacks, so this should scare you.

Buyback Blackout Period Starts Monday (ZH)

Last week, one day before the Fed unleashed a statement that stunned Wall Street by its dovishness and admission that the Fed had been far too optimistic on the state of the US (and global) economy, when it slashed its forecast on the number of rate hikes from 4 to 2, we said that “while everyone’s attention is on the Fed, the biggest danger to the S&P500 has little to do with what Janet Yellen may say tomorrow, and everything to do with the marginal buyer of stocks being put into a state of forced hibernation”, namely the start of the stock buyback blackout period during Q1 earnings session.

As a reminder, even Bloomberg recently acknowledged the unprecedented role corporate stock repurchases play in the current market when it penned “There’s Only One Buyer Keeping S&P 500’s Bull Market Alive.” Of course,  our readers have known the identity of the “mystery, indescriminate buyer” for two years.

Today, it is Deutsche Bank’s turn to warn about the imminent end of buybacks for the next 6 weeks. From Parag Thatte’s latest Asset Allocation and Flows report:

Buyback blackout period starts Monday. An increasing number of S&P 500 companies will enter into their blackout period starting next week, about a month before the earnings season kicks into high gear in the third week of April

Deutsche Bank tries to spin it as not necessarily a source of downside:

The blackout period means a slowing in the pace of buybacks which leaves equities vulnerable to negative catalysts. However it does not automatically imply downside and as we have emphasized before it is the total demand-supply gap that is key. So flows are critical and data surprises suggest the recent flow rotation into US equities can go further

There are two problems with this assessment. First. as DB’s own chart below shows, traditionally US equity flows have seen substantial and sharp declines during the buyback blackout period during the past three calendar years. It is unclear why this time will be any different.

Second, and more important, is that as Bank of America reported earlier this week, in the latest week “during which the S&P 500 climbed 1.1%, BofAML clients were net sellers of US stocks for the seventh consecutive week. Net sales of $3.7bn were the largest since September and led by institutional clients (where net sales by this group were the second-largest in our data history). Hedge funds and private clients were also net sellers, as was the case in each of the prior two weeks, but a different group has led the selling each week. Clients sold stocks across all three size segments, and net sales of mid-caps were notably the largest since June ’09.”

BofA’s summary: “clients don’t believe the rally, continue to sell US stocks” and they were selling specifically to corporations whose repurchasing activity is near all time highs: “buybacks by corporate clients accelerated for the third consecutive week to their highest level in six months, which is also above levels at this time last year.

Next week this “accelerating” buyback activity ends, and the question will be whether the S&P at a high enough level to give institutional investors comfort that without the buyback bid, in fact the only bid for the past seven weeks, they should now buy on their own, or will the selling, which took place as the market has soared from its recent lows in its biggest quarterly comeback ever…

 

… continue, only this time with a cheap debt-funded, price indiscriminate buyer on the other side to absorb all the selling. We will have the answer in just about one week’s time.

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Keep your eyes on the dollar.

Another False Oil Price Rally: Crossing A Boundary (Berman)

The oil-price rally that began in mid-February will almost certainly collapse. It is similar to the false March-June 2015 rally. In both cases, prices increased largely because of sentiment. As in the earlier rally, current storage volumes are too large and demand is too weak to sustain higher prices for long. WTI prices have increased 47%  over the past 20 days from $26.21 in mid-February to $38.50 last week (Figure 1).

Figure 1. NYMEX WTI futures prices & OVX oil-price volatility, 2015-2016. Source: EIA, CBOE, Bloomberg and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

A year ago, WTI rose 41% in 35 days from $43 to almost $61 per barrel. Like today, analysts then believed that a bottom had been reached. Prices stayed around $60 for 37 days before falling to a new bottom of $38 per barrel in late August. Much lower bottoms would be found after that all the way down to almost $26 per barrel at the beginning of the present rally.

Higher prices were unsustainable a year ago partly because crude oil inventories were more than 100 mmb (million barrels) above the 5-year average (Figure 2). Current inventory levels are 50 mmb higher than during the false rally of 2015 and are they still increasing.

Figure 2. U.S. crude oil stocks. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

International stocks reflect a similar picture. OECD inventories are at 3.1 billion barrels of liquids, 431 mmb more than the 2010-2014 average and 359 mmb above the 2015 level. Approximately one-third of OECD stocks are U.S. (1.35 billion barrels of liquids).

For 2015, U.S. liquids consumption shows a negative correlation with crude oil storage volumes (Figure 3). During the 2015 false price rally, consumption began to increase in April and May following the lowest WTI oil prices since March 2009–response lags cause often by several months. First quarter 2015 prices averaged $47.54 compared to an average price of more than $99 per barrel from November 2010 through September 2014 (44 months).

Figure 3. U.S. liquids consumption, crude oil stocks and WTI price. Source: EIA, Bloomberg and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

This coincided with the onset of declining U.S. crude oil production after April 2015 (Figure 4).

Figure 4. U.S. crude oil production and forecast. Source: EIA March 2016 STEO and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

Net withdrawals from storage continued until consumption fell in July in response to higher oil prices that climbed to $60 per barrel in June. Production increased because of higher prices from July through November before resuming its decline after prices fell again, this time, far below previous lows. This complex sequence of market responses shows how sensitive the current market is to relatively small changes in price, production and consumption.

Most importantly, it suggests that a price variation of only $15 per barrel was enough to depress consumption a year ago. That has profound implications for the present price rally that is now $12 per barrel above its baseline and has already increased by a greater percentage than the 2015 rally.

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“For homebuyers, it is easier than ever to get mortgages.” But more important, the downpayment itself is today often being financed through peer-to-peer lending channels, [..] basically another form of high-interest “loan shark.”

China’s Property Rally Has ‘Reached A Tipping Point’ (Forbes)

The real estate market in China is once again burning hot. Home prices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have surged by 20-30% since the Lunar New Year in February, according to state-controlled media. In Shenzhen, prices have increased by more than 70% over the past 12 months. “The makings of this rally started more than a year ago and have reached a tipping point,” says Steven McCord at JLL North China. “Policies are looser than at any time in history in the last ten years, including the major policy rollbacks of 2009.” This is not the first time China is facing a property bubble. But one thing makes this time around different – unregulated lending. Previous upswings were not driven by leverage, McCord explains. The norm was that people did not finance the maximum allowable level.

They financed, on average, half of the cost – even if 70% or 80% was allowed. Therefore, mortgages did not play a role in driving up demand or prices. “Now, we believe there are more buyers using the maximum available leverage,” he says. “For homebuyers, it is easier than ever to get mortgages.” But more important, McCord adds, the downpayment itself is today often being financed through peer-to-peer lending channels. “This is not the norm yet, but it’s appearing and it makes us uncomfortable,” he says. “This means some buyers are buying with zero down.” In his view, peer-to-peer lenders are basically another form of high-interest “loan shark.” Hong Kong Economic Journals recently reported that some 900 peer-to-peer lending platforms went belly up last year, three times the number in 2014.

While some bankruptcies were due to poor management, many companies folded after the owner or operator took the money and disappeared. “Unregulated lending adds fuel to the fire of any bubble, and this could be a real problem if it becomes common,” McCord said. Chen Zhenggao, Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said earlier this week that China’s real estate market would not collapse. “It is not appropriate to compare the real estate market in China with that of Japan in the 1990s, as the two countries are in different stages of economic development and urbanization. We also have different macro policies to control the situation,” Chen said at a news conference.

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Really?

China’s Bottom Line to Avoid Systemic Risks, Vice Premier Says (BBG)

China will do what it needs to tamp down risks to the stocks, bonds, foreign-exchange and property markets as economic growth slows, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said in a speech. The economy faces “relatively large” downward pressure, said Zhang, who is one of seven members of the ruling Communist Party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee. He said plans for a 3% fiscal deficit, outlined in Premier Li Keqiang’s March 5 report to the national legislature, are meant to ease the burden on business. “There will be no systemic risks – that’s our bottom line,” Zhang told the China Development Forum, an annual gathering of global business leaders and Chinese government officials. Zhang’s remarks echoed recent comments from top officials, including the chairman of the securities regulator, that the government would act swiftly to stop the sort of market turmoil that led to a $5 trillion stock-market wipeout last August.

Premier Li Keqiang told his annual news conference on March 16 that China needs to be on the lookout for financial-market risks with “golden-gaze fiery eyes.” Speaking earlier Sunday, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said China is in the middle of a historic transition that’s “good for China and good for the world.” “We should expect that, like any major transition, it will at times be bumpy,” Lagarde said, according to her prepared remarks. “A delicate balance needs to be struck between shifting to a relatively slower but more sustainable pace of growth, and advancing much-needed structural reforms.” Zhang said the government plans to cut overcapacity, especially in the steel and coal sectors. China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, unveiled during the legislative session that ended March 16, said the government will reduce as much as 150 million tons of steel capacity.

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After they’ve collapsed.

China Top Planner Promises Foreign Companies Access To Markets (WaPo)

China’s top planner tried to reassure foreign companies they are welcome in its slowing, state-dominated economy in a speech Sunday aimed at dispelling growing anxiety Beijing is squeezing them out of promising industries. Speaking to an audience that included executives of top global companies at a government-organized conference, Xu Shaoshi pledged to “promote two-way opening up and liberalization.” Xu promised foreign companies equal treatment with local enterprises as Beijing carries out a sweeping overhaul aimed at promoting self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and making state companies that dominate a range of industries more competitive and efficient. “We are ready to share these growth opportunities with you,” said Xu, chairman of the Cabinet’s National Reform and Development Commission.

The China Development Forum 2016 is being closely watched by global companies because it comes at the start of the ruling Communist Party’s latest five-year development plan that runs through 2020. Executives are eager to learn details of how the party might carry out pledges to make the economy more competitive, open more industries to private and possibly foreign competitors and to shrink bloated, money-losing industries including coal, steel and cement. The guest list for the weekend conference at a government guesthouse in the Chinese capital included executives of U.S., European and Asian banks, manufacturers, Internet and other companies.

The ruling party’s plan promises to give the private sector a bigger economic role, but business groups say regulators are trying to shield Chinese rivals from competition or compel foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access. Business groups say Beijing has yet to carry out most of the reforms promised in a separate 2013 plan that called for giving market forces a “decisive role” in the economy. They point to limits on foreign ownership in an array of industries and say in some areas such as information security technology for banks regulators are reducing or blocking market access.

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“Examining a range of indicators from VAT rates to steel production volumes, and comparing the results to estimates of the government deficit, produces the startling suggestion that “the real economy in China probably isn’t growing at all.”

Why Are There Doubts Over China’s Growth Rate? (Forbes)

China’s growth rate has been in the spotlight ever since Li Keqiang – China’s Premier – signalled the arrival of a ‘new normal’ in May 2015. Before then, headline rates routinely in excess of 8%, even rising above 14% in 2007, meant the detail was not scrutinised so closely. Now, however, with growth forecast between 6.5% and 7% for the period to 2020, the decimal points are beginning to matter. For China, the growth rate indicates the continuing success of their economic development, and measures their progress towards prosperity. For the rest of the world, Chinese growth has become a crucial source of global demand, driving expansion – and revenue streams – everywhere. There is, therefore, no exaggerating the significance of the number, both in fact and in appearance.

But increasing doubts are being raised. A recent article in Foreign Affairs raised the possibility that, despite a headline growth figure of 6.9% for 2015, China’s economy may not be growing at all. Examining a range of indicators from VAT rates to steel production volumes, and comparing the results to estimates of the government deficit, produces the startling suggestion that “the real economy in China probably isn’t growing at all. It may even be shrinking.” Doubts about the official figures are not new of course, but the difference between 6.9% and 0.0% is pretty striking nonetheless. And what often goes unsaid is that the official estimates are always at the high end of expectations. As a follow up, Foreign Affairs published a more optimistic account just a few weeks later.

According to this version of events, the ‘Li Keqiang’ index is out of date, reflecting the sort of industrially focussed economy that China was 10 years ago. But even this measure has different methods of calculation, producing results which vary between 2.9% and 5% for 2015. This account, however, also implies the official figures are not very precise estimates. The main argument is that the Chinese economy has changed and now shows significant growth in the service sector, as opposed to the industrial and manufacturing sector.

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Zika, poisoned water, riots and impeachment: here come the Olympics.

Support For Impeaching Brazil’s President Rises To 68% (Reuters)

A growing majority of Brazilians favor impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff or her resignation, according to a survey released on Saturday by polling firm Datafolha. The poll showed 68% of respondents favor Rousseff’s impeachment by Congress, while 65% think the president should resign. The president’s approval ratings have been hammered by Brazil’s worst recession in decades and its biggest ever corruption probe. Rousseff’s popularity also fell, with 69% of respondents rating her government negatively. The current%age is close to the president’s lowest ratings on record, in August 2015, when 71% of respondents rated the government negatively.

The poll also showed that rejection levels for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was named as Rousseff’s chief of staff on Wednesday, rose to a record 57%. That is far higher than the previous high of 40% in September 1994, before his 2003-2010 presidency. A Supreme Court judge suspended Lula’s appointment on Friday, saying it might interfere with an investigation by prosecutors, who have charged him with money laundering and fraud, as part of the probe into political kick back scheme at state oil company Petrobras. Even if Brazilians support Rousseff’s ouster, voters are not enthusiastic about a government led by vice-president Michel Temer. Some 35% of respondents say his government would be “bad” or “terrible”. Datafolha surveyed 2,794 people on March 17 and 18.

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A Europe-wide idea.

German Right Wing Demands Referendum on EU, Refugee Crisis (Express)

Alternative fur Deutschland, formed in 2013, shocked the German establishment last week with huge gains in state elections. The results have placed it in prime position to challenge Mrs Merkel’s CDU/CSU coalition in next year’s general election. Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Express last night, party leaders shared their envy of Britain’s forthcoming EU referendum on June 23, and confirmed they would be pushing for a similar move in Germany. “I want every member state to decide what is better for them, and the only way we can really do that is to have a referendum, like the UK.” said deputy chairman Beatrix von Storch MEP. “Schengen has collapsed already. Under Schengen Europe’s borders are supposed to be protected. They’re not.

“A referendum is the only way German people can truly express if they want to stay in the EU, if they want to stay in the Euro, if they want to reform border controls to deal with the migrant crisis. They should be given a voice. They must be asked what they want.” Angela Merkel last week refused to back down on her policy not to cap the number of refugees given asylum in Germany. Over the last 12 months, more than 1.1 migrants have crossed Germany’s borders with 300,000 granted asylum. The policy will cost German taxpayers £36bn by 2017, according to a recent report. AfD won an extraordinary 61 seats in 3 regional parliaments last week, coming second with 24% of the votes in Saxony-Anhalt. “We’re still a very young party so it’s a huge success,” said Ms von Storch.

“What’s even more important is the result in Baden-Wuertemberg, where we overtook the SDP, a ruling coalition party, to gain 15% of the votes. “Our success shows that the people are no longer supporting the politics of our Chancellor and all the other parties who back her. “We are the only ones arguing that the only way for Germany to fight the refugee and migrant crisis is to close our borders.”

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The 2,300 ‘experts’ promised -and needed- for the deal are not available. It’ll take weeks for them to get to the islands. What happens to new arrivals in the meantime?

Greece Delays Sending Refugees Back To Turkey Under EU Deal (AFP)

Greece will not be able to start sending refugees back to Turkey from Sunday, the government said, as the country struggles to implement a key deal aimed at easing Europe’s migrant crisis. Under the agreement clinched between Brussels and Ankara last week, migrants who reach the Greek islands will be deported back to Turkey. For every Syrian returned, the EU will resettle one from a Turkish refugee camp. The deal aims to strangle the main route used by migrants travelling to the EU and discourage people smugglers, but it has faced criticism from rights groups and thousands took to the streets of Europe in protest. Greek premier Alexis Tsipras told his ministers on Saturday afternoon to be ready to begin deporting people the following day, as agreed, but officials said afterwards they needed more time to prepare.

“The agreement to send back new arrivals on the islands should, according to the text, enter into force on March 20,” the government coordinator for migration policy (migration coordination agency) spokesman Giorgos Kyritsis told AFP. “But a plan like this cannot be put in place in only 24 hours.” Around 1,500 people crossed the Aegean to Greece’s islands Friday before the deal was brought in, officials said – more than double the day before and compared with several hundred a day earlier this week. A four-month-old baby drowned when a migrant boat sank off the Turkish coast Saturday hours before the deal came into force, Turkey’s Anatolia agency reported. Hundreds of security and legal experts – 2,300 according to Tsipras – are set to arrive in Greece to help enforce the deal, described as “Herculean” by EC chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Paris and Berlin have pledged to send 600 police and asylum experts to Greece, according to a joint letter seen by AFP. But Greek officials said they were still waiting for the extra personnel, and without them they would struggle to enforce the new accord. “We still don’t know how the deal will be implemented in practice,” a police source on the island of Lesbos told AFP. “Above all, we are waiting for the staff Europe promised to be able to quickly process asylum applications – translators, lawyers, police officers – because we cannot do it alone.” Realistically, migrants will likely not start being returned to Turkey until April 4, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key backer of the scheme. The numbers are daunting: officials said as of Saturday there were 47,500 migrants in Greece, including 8,200 on the islands and 10,500 massed at the Idomeni camp on the Macedonian border.

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“If they told me I had to go back, I would drown myself in the sea.”

EU-Turkey Deal: Officials Left In The Dark As Deadline Looms (Tel.)

Europe’s refugee resettlement programme with Turkey appeared to be descending into farce last night as officials on the Greek island of Lesbos reported they had received no instructions from the EU authorities on how to proceed. As the midnight deadline approached for the EU’s new deportation regime with Turkey, organisations and local authorities on Lesbos, where the majority of boats land, said not a single new staff member had arrived and no information had been received. “We don’t know anything,” said Marios Andriotis, advisor to the mayor of Lesbos. “We have received many officers from [the EU border agency] Frontex et cetera over the past year but no one new since Friday. And nobody told us to prepare anything or do anything differently.”

“We have taken note of the deal but we are not privy to details of the implementation,” said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission described the controversial plan as last week as a “Herculean task” that will present “the biggest challenge the EU has ever faced”, but there was no sign last night on Lesbos of even a symbolic show of intent. Under the terms of the deal agree last Friday, some 4,000 extra staff have been promised to process all new arriving refugees who will be deported back to Turkey after undergoing fast-track asylum processing. The first deportations are scheduled for April 4. The Greek authorities said yesterday there are now 47,500 migrants in the country, of which 8,200 were on the islands and some 10,500 massed at Idomeni, on the closed border with Macedonia.

NGO workers and volunteers in reception camps on Lesbos, which will serve as detention camps for migrants and refugees waiting to be returned to Turkey, shook their heads when asked about the implementation of the deal. “Like the husband of an unfaithful wife, we will always be the last to know anything about Europe’s deals,” said a UNHCR worker in Kara Tepe camp, where 1,500 Syrians and Iraqis are currently staying. “Really, we have no information.” Refugees in the camp called the idea of being returned “inhumane”, while Amnesty International has called the deal a “historic blow to human rights” raising the prospect of future legal challenges to the deal. The EU insists the deal is lawful.

Those that are now on Lesbos will not be sent back, though with Macedonia’s border still closed, they face an uncertain road ahead. “There is nothing for us in Turkey. No life, no work. I worked bad jobs for 700 lira (£170) a month, I could not put a roof over my family’s head,” said Samir, a teacher from Damascus who had been in the camp for five days. “If they told me I had to go back, I would drown myself in the sea.” In nearby Moria camp hundreds of mainly Pakistani migrants are housed in tents pitched on a muddy field outside the sealed-off EU “hotspot”, the official reception camp. Camp volunteers debated how to break the news of the returns to tomorrow’s arrivals. “They’ll just try again,” said Emma Kriss, an American volunteer. “I don’t think people will give up.”

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Article by Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, Giuseppina Nicoli, Mayor of Lampedusa, and Spyros Galinos, Mayor of Athens

Don’t Make Us Ashamed To Be European (3 Mayors)

Two and a half thousand years ago, the islands of the Western Mediterranean were the cradle of the sciences, the arts and democracy. Today, they’re where the survival of Europe is at stake. We find ourselves facing a dilemma: either we assume our responsibility and strengthen the founding principles of the European project or we allow it to sink irreversibly. There is hope. Over recent months we’ve seen thousands of citizens, volunteers and aid workers working to save lives by helping those fleeing from war. We’ve seen local governments with hardly any legal powers carry out herculean tasks to receive refugees, investing the resources that state governments have refused.

Nevertheless, we’ve also observed, with sadness, not just the inability of European states to offer a dignified solution to the humanitarian crisis, but also transit routes being choked off; increasing border controls and repression, and the aberration of a deal with Turkey that contravenes all international law regarding asylum and fundamental rights. Local initiatives stand in stark contrast to the lack of sensitivity demonstrated by European states. While state governments haggle quotas, we cities make contingency and awareness-raising strategies that, with adequate resources, we have a greater capacity to take in refugees than has been recognized. While state governments agree to repressive measures, we municipalities are working in networks to reach deals, like the agreement between Lesbos, Lampedusa and Barcelona that will allow the exchange of knowledge, resources and solidarity between the three cities.

With state governments are incapable of thinking beyond their national context, Barcelona and Athens city halls are working together to put pressure on them to meet their ethical and legal obligations. We, the cities of the Mediterranean, urgently call for other European cities to put an end to the inhumane policies of state governments and to force them to change course in response to the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. The families that have lost their homes will not rest in pursuit of a place to live in peace, however many obstacles are put in their way. Each new impediment will simply increase the risks to human life and be another incentive for those wishing to profit from people-trafficking. We call for the rejection of the deal with Turkey, which flouts international law and fundamental rights.

Human lives cannot be traded for economic and commercial agreements. The right to asylum is a basic human right that cannot be subject to discounts and bartering. We also call for an end to the criminalization of refugees, and of the aid workers and volunteers collaborating in their reception. Their work should be a source of pride, and be supported and incentivised by public institutions. Events in recent days at the border of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the xenophobic rallies seen in various European countries, and their subsequent electoral exploitation, are a display of indecency that should embarrass us as European citizens and as human beings.

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Jan 072015
 
 January 7, 2015  Posted by at 1:10 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  


DPC Foundry, Detroit Shipbuilding Co., Wyandotte, Michigan 1915

Attack at Paris Satirical Magazine Office Kills 12 People (WSJ)
Is Attack Linked to Novel Depicting France Under Islamist President? (Bloomberg)
Bill Gross Calls It: 2015 Is Going to Be Terrible (Bloomberg)
Bill Gross Says the Good Times Are Over (Bloomberg)
Not Just Oil: Are Lower Commodity Prices Here To Stay? (CNBC)
Oil Price Slump Deepens As Drillers Seen Slashing Spending (Telegraph)
How the Bear Market in Crude Oil Has Polluted Non-Energy Stocks (Bloomberg)
As Oil Drops Below $50, Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing? (BW)
ECB Considering Three Approaches To QE (Reuters)
Germany Prepares For Possible Greek Exit From Eurozone (Reuters)
Germany, France Take Calculated Risk With ‘Grexit’ Talk (Reuters)
Greece On the Cusp of a Historic Change (Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA)
Eurozone Inflation Turns Negative For First Time Since October 2009 (Reuters)
Greek 10-Year Bond Yields Exceed 10% for First Time Since 2013 (Bloomberg)
Euro’s Drop is a Turning Point for Central Banks Reserves (Bloomberg)
Eurozone Prices Seen Falling as Risk of Deflation Spiral Mounts (Bloomberg)
Operation Helicopter: Could Free Money Help the Euro Zone? (Spiegel)
Russia’s ‘Perfect Storm’: Reserves Vanish, Derivatives’ Default Warnings (AEP)
Obama Threatens Keystone XL Veto (BBC)
Bank Of England Was Unaware Of Impending Financial Crisis (BBC)

Insanity. Marine Le Pen will become a lot more popular now in France.

Attack at Paris Satirical Magazine Office Kills 12 People (WSJ)

Armed men stormed the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday morning, killing 12 people and injuring more, French President François Hollande said. The men opened fire inside the magazine’s offices using automatic AK-47 rifles before fleeing, a police officer said. In November 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters were gutted by fire, hours before a special issue of the weekly featuring the Prophet Muhammad appeared on newsstands. The weekly has often tested France’s secular dogma, printing caricatures of the prophet on several occasions. Since the arson attack, the weekly has moved to a new location, which was guarded by police. Two of the victims in Wednesday’s shooting were police, an officer on the scene said.

The 2011 fire caused no injuries but spurred debate over press freedom and religious tolerance in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population. The special issue put a caricature of the prophet on its front page, quoting him as promising “100 lashes if you don’t die from laughter.” Several journalists received anonymous threats and its website was hacked, according to French officials. In 2012, France closed embassies and French schools in 20 countries after the weekly published a series of cartoons. In 2006, the paper reprinted images of Muhammad that had appeared in a Danish magazine a year before. The next year, it published a picture of Muhammad crying, with the tagline “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.” The Grand Mosque of Paris and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France filed slander charges, but a French court cleared the paper.

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Suggestive title. Answer: no. What happened is an editorial meeting was going on to prepare a special issue, named Sharia Hebdo, with the prophet Mohamed as guest editor.

Is Attack Linked to Novel Depicting France Under Islamist President? (Bloomberg)

“Submission,” a book by Michel Houellebecq released today, is sparking controversy with a fictional France of the future led by an Islamic party and a Muslim president who bans women from the workplace. In his sixth novel, the award-winning French author plays on fears that western societies are being inundated by the influence of Islam, a worry that this month drew thousands in anti-Islamist protests in Germany. In the novel, Houellebecq has the imaginary “Muslim Fraternity” party winning a presidential election in France against the nationalist, anti-immigration National Front. “A pathetic and provocative farce,” is how Liberation characterized the book in a Jan. 4 review that scathingly said the novelist is “showing signs of waning writing skills.”

Political analyst Franz-Olivier Giesbert in newspaper Le Parisien yesterday was kinder, calling it a “smart satire,” adding that “it’s a writers’ book, not a political one.” National Front’s leader Marine Le Pen, who appears in the 320-page novel, said on France Info radio on Jan. 5 that “it’s fiction that could become reality one day.” On the same day, President Francois Hollande said on France Inter radio he would read the book “because it’s sparking a debate,” while warning that France has always had “century after century, this inclination toward decay, decline and compulsive pessimism.” In an interview on France 2 TV last night, Houellebecq denied that he was being a scaremonger.

“I don’t think the Islam in my book is the kind people are afraid of,” he said. “I’m not going to avoid a subject because it’s controversial.” Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel plan to discuss their respective countries’ struggle with Islamophobia, anti-immigration protests and the rise of Europe’s nationalist parties at an informal dinner in Strasbourg on January 11 organized by the European Parliament President Martin Schulz. Houellebecq’s book is set in France in 2022. It has the fictional Muslim Fraternity’s chief, Mohammed Ben Abbes, beating Le Pen, with Socialists, centrists, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party rallying behind him to block the National Front.

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Wow: “Gross is putting himself way out on a limb: Not one of Wall Street s professional forecasters predict the S&P 500 will drop in 2015.” Wow.

Bill Gross Calls It: 2015 Is Going to Be Terrible (Bloomberg)

Bill Gross, bond king, ousted executive, self-styled poet of the markets, has a bold, depressing prediction for 2015, and he’s not couching it in any of his usual metaphor: The good times are over, he wrote in his January investment outlook note. By the end of 2015, he goes on, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes. Gross is putting himself way out on a limb: Not one of Wall Street s professional forecasters predict the S&P 500 will drop in 2015. Their average estimate calls for an 8.1% rise. And while the global economy looks weak, the U.S. has been heating up, with GDP up 5% in the third quarter. These gloomy predictions come without Gross s usual colorful commentary. At Pimco, his monthly notes made reference to Flavor Flav and Paris Hilton. Since leaving for Janus Capital Group in September, he’s riffed on domestic violence in the NFL, the porosity of sand and the joys of dancing with his wife.

This month, Gross is almost all business. The trouble for the world s economy is that ultra low interest rates are holding back growth rather than stimulating it, he warns. After years of rising markets, investors are facing too much risk for the prospect of low returns. The time for risk taking has passed, he writes. Gross admits he’s taking his own risk with this call. Even if he’s completely right that the bear market is over, he could very well be a year or two early. And even if he’s right about economic growth, he could be wrong about how the market reacts to it. Gross advises buying Treasury and high-quality corporate bonds, but they could be hurt if U.S. interest rates rise this year.

He also puts a word in for stocks of companies with low debt, attractive dividends and diversified revenues both operationally and geographically. But as Causeway Capital Management s Sarah Ketterer warned, those high-quality dividend payers have already soared and could have trouble meeting expectations in the next few years. Gross has been wrong before, most famously in his predictions that bond yields would rise when the Federal Reserve ended quantitative easing. But maybe this time he sees something other market observers don’t. As Gross writes, deploying the commentary’s only off-color metaphor: There comes a time when common sense must recognize that the king has no clothes, or at least that he is down to his Fruit of the Loom briefs.

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Perhaps when he says it people actually will wake up.

Bill Gross Says the Good Times Are Over (Bloomberg)

Bill Gross, the former manager of the world’s largest bond fund, said prices for many assets will fall this year as record-low interest rates fail to restore sufficient economic growth. With global expansion still sputtering after years of interest rates near zero, investors will gradually seek alternatives to risky assets, Gross wrote today in an investment outlook for Janus Capital, where he runs the $1.2 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. “When the year is done, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes,” Gross, 70, wrote in the outlook. “The good times are over.” Six years after the end of the financial crisis, borrowing costs in the world’s richest nations are stuck near zero, a sign investors have little confidence that their economies will strengthen.

Gross, the former chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. who left that firm in September to join Janus, has argued the Federal Reserve won’t raise interest rates until late this year if at all as falling oil prices and a stronger U.S. dollar limit the central bank’s room to increase borrowing costs. The benchmark U.S. 10-year yield fell to 1.99% today, and bonds in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Sovereign Plus Index had an effective yield of 1.28% as of yesterday, the lowest based on data starting in 1996. The all-time 10-year Treasury low is 1.379% on July 25, 2012. Economists predict the yield will rise to 3.06% by end of 2015, according to a Bloomberg News survey with the most recent forecasts given the heaviest weightings.

Stocks plunged yesterday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropping 1.8% to 2,020.58 and the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index increasing for the fifth time in six days. Declines spurred by tumbling oil and concerns Greece will exit the euro have sent American equities to the biggest decline to start a year since 2005, data compiled by Bloomberg show. While timing the end of a bull market is difficult, the next 12 months will probably see a turning point, Gross wrote. “Knowing when the ‘crowd’ has had enough is an often frustrating task, and it behooves an individual with a reputation at stake to stand clear,” he wrote. “As you know, however, moving out of the way has never been my style.”

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Yes.

Not Just Oil: Are Lower Commodity Prices Here To Stay? (CNBC)

Oil isn’t the only commodity that’s gotten cheaper. From nickel to soybean oil, plywood to sugar, global commodity prices have been on a steady decline as the world’s economy has lost momentum. That lower demand helps explain, in part, why nearly everything from crude oil to cotton has been getting cheaper. Sure, some commodity prices are rising. Local supply constraints have pushed prices higher in some parts of the world; transportation costs can also have a big impact on local prices. In the U.S., for example, a drought in California caused the price of vegetables and other food products to spike last year. Prices are also rising for some commodities, especially meats such as beef and chicken, thanks to growing demand from an expanding middle class in the developing world. But the global cost of most commodities has been on a long-term, downward trend since the Great Recession. The chart below is based on global prices, in dollars, assembled by the World Bank.

Now, as much of the world slogs through a faltering recovery, there are fears that falling prices in slow-moving economies such as Europe and Japan could spark and extended period of deflation, when the consumer prices of finished goods fall over an extended period. Deflation can be difficult to reverse if businesses and consumers start to cut back on spending and investment, waiting for prices to fall further, setting off an economic contraction that can deepen. European central bankers are scrambling to avoid that amid signs that prices in the euro zone have all but flattened. On Monday, the latest data showed that German inflation slowed to its lowest level in over five years in December; prices inched up at an annual rate of 0.1%, down from 0.5% in November. A widely watched inflation index of the entire euro zone is due out Wednesday. Some analysts think it could show a negative reading for the first time since October 2009.

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We’ve seen nothing yet.

Oil Price Slump Deepens As Drillers Seen Slashing Spending (Telegraph)

Brent crude has slumped to a new five-and-a-half-year low as leading ratings agency Moody’s warns that oil companies could be forced to slash spending by up to 40% this year. The benchmark crude contract fell to as low as $51.64 per barrel in early trading, while West Texas Intermediate oil traded in the US fell 2.2% to $48 per barrel. Earlier, Moody’s Investors Service issued a report warning of broad cuts in spending that could soon hit the entire oil and gas industry as companies move to protect their dwindling profit margins. The agency fears that, should prices remain below $60 per barrel for a significant period, companies in North America will slash capital spending by up to 40%.

“If oil prices remain at around $55 a barrel through 2015, most of the lost revenue will hit the E&P [exploration and production] companies’ bottom line, which will reduce cash flow available for re-investment,” said Steven Wood, managing director for corporate finance at Moody’s. “As spending in the E&P sector diminishes, oilfield services companies and midstream operators will begin to feel the stress.” However, Moody’s believes that oil majors such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and Total are in a stronger position to weather the financial storm caused by lower prices because they have already trimmed their capital expenditure for 2015.

Moody’s is the latest ratings agency to issue a major warning about the impact that falling oil prices will have on exploration and production companies. Standard & Poor’s said last month that the dramatic deterioration in the oil price outlook had prompted it to take a number of “rating actions” on European oil and gas majors including Shell, BP, and BG Group. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud has said that a weak global economy was to blame for the current slide in prices, which will place his kingdom under severe economic stress. In a speech read out on state television by Crown Prince Salman, the king said that Saudi will deal with the current fall in oil prices “with a firm will”. The 91-year-old monarch of the world’s largest oil exporter was recently admitted into hospital, raising concerns over succession in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia was instrumental in convincing the other members of OPEC not to cut output in November, a decision which triggered the current sharp falls in prices. The kingdom, which has the capacity to pump up to 12.5m barrels per day (bpd) of crude), this week discounted its oil heavily to European and US customers as it seeks to protect its market share. European buyers can now pay $4.65 per barrel less than for the Brent reference price for Saudi crude. “There is little reason at present to expect any end to the nose-diving oil prices,” said analysts at Commerzbank.

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Fifth Third Bancorp 2 years ago: “The oil and natural gas sector represents a tremendous growth opportunity.”

How the Bear Market in Crude Oil Has Polluted Non-Energy Stocks (Bloomberg)

Perusing the list of the biggest stock-market losers since the price of oil peaked in June yields some predictable results. You have your large-cap energy companies like Transocean, Denbury, Naborsm Noble and Halliburton, all down at least 45%. Yet mixed in with all the obvious ugliness are some names that bring to mind the question asked of Billy Joel by those drinkers at the piano bar, or perhaps even some of the wedding guests who watched him walk down the aisle with Christie Brinkley: Man, what are you doing here? The answer illustrates how much of an impact the energy industry has had on the bottom line of corporate America, whether it’s companies profiting from the boom in domestic production or those that made big investments based on the premise that fuel will always be expensive. As such it helps explain why the entire stock market, not just the energy companies, tends to freak out when oil heads lower rapidly.

The big bets on high energy prices made by companies like Ford (down 13% since oil peaked on June 20) or Tesla Motors (down 10%) or Boeing (down 3.9%) jump immediately to mind. Not so obvious, unless you follow the stock closely, is the investment made by Fifth Third Bancorp, one of the regional lenders that tried to chase the fracking boom. (It’s down 12% since June 20.) Here’s how the company’s management described the rationale for the launch of a new national energy banking team two years ago: “The energy sector is a rapidly growing industry,” said the announcement. The new team “demonstrates our commitment to providing dedicated banking services to this evolving sector. The oil and natural gas sector represents a tremendous growth opportunity.” The sector certainly is “evolving.” Fitch Ratings last month identified regional banks lifted by the shale boom that now face potential credit pressures in loans related to the industry. Oil prices below $50 a barrel, like now, would likely trigger a jump in credit losses, Fitch said.

Fitch’s list of banks with high concentrations of loans to the industry is topped by BOK Financial, which is down 13% since June 20.; Cullen/Frost, down 16%; Hancock, down 19%; Comerica, down 14%; and Amergy Bank of Texas, which is down 13%. Losses are even worse among the industrial companies that provide the services and sell the pipes, valves and assorted doodads used to pump oil and gas. Fluor Corp. an engineering, maintenance and project management firm that counted on the oil and gas industry for 42% of its revenue in 2013, is down 27% since June 20. Flowserve Corp., whose pumps and valves are used in refineries and pipelines, is off about the same amount. Caterpillar, Joy Global, Allegheny, Dover, Jacobs Engineering and Quanta Services are all down more than 20% since oil peaked at almost $108.

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Oh come on, let’s get real.

As Oil Drops Below $50, Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing? (BW)

Oil falls below $50 a barrel on Jan. 5, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunges nearly 330 points. Seems like an open-and-shut case that the price plunge is getting to be a problem. People remember that in 1998, a sharp decline in the price of oil contributed to a Russian default that rocked the global financial system. Not quite. Cheaper oil is still creating more winners than losers. Far more people live in oil-importing countries than live in oil-exporting countries. The U.S., for one, remains a net importer. The well-publicized travails of U.S. shale oil producers are small compared with the gains by American consumers and businesses that are paying less for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, petrochemicals, and the like. With fuel prices down, people are driving more miles and buying more cars and trucks.

Do the math: Close to 70% of the U.S. economy is consumer spending, which will gain from cheaper crude. Only about 10% is capital spending, of which 10% to 15% is the energy sector. That comes to roughly 1% of U.S. output, which might decline 20% this year, making it a relative drop in the bucket of U.S. gross domestic product, says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Global Insight. Why, then, did stock prices fall when West Texas Intermediate for February delivery dropped nearly $3 a barrel on Jan. 5, to $49.89? Mostly because of market fears about global growth, which weighed down both stocks and oil prices, says Gus Faucher, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services. In other words, the latest drop in oil is a symptom, not a cause, of economic weakness, Faucher says. “Anyone who thinks that lower oil/gasoline prices is a net negative for the U.S. (and the global economy) is brain dead, economically speaking!” argues a Dec. 23 report by Faucher’s boss, PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman.

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Try and trick the Germans?!

ECB Considering Three Approaches To QE (Reuters)

The European Central Bank is considering three possible options for buying government bonds ahead of its Jan. 22 policy meeting, Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. As fears grow that cheaper oil will tip the euro zone into deflation, speculation is rife that the ECB will unveil plans for mass purchases of euro zone government bonds with new money, a policy known as quantitative easing, as soon as this month. According to the paper, one option officials are considering is to pump liquidity into the financial system by having the ECB itself buy government bonds in a quantity proportionate to the given member state’s shareholding in the central bank.

A second option is for the ECB to buy only triple-A rated government bonds, driving their yields down to zero or into negative territory. The hope is that this would push investors into buying riskier sovereign and corporate debt. The third option is similar to the first, but national central banks would do the buying, meaning that the risk would “in principle” remain with the country in question, the paper said.

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Hot air.

Germany Prepares For Possible Greek Exit From Eurozone (Reuters)

Germany is making contingency plans for the possible departure of Greece from the euro zone, including the impact of any run on a bank, tabloid newspaper Bild reported, citing unnamed government sources. The newspaper said the government was running scenarios for the Jan. 25 Greek election in case of a victory by the leftwing Syriza party, which wants to cancel austerity measures and a part of the Greek debt. In a report in the Wednesday issue of the paper, Bild said government experts were concerned about a possible bank collapse if customers storm Greek institutions to secure euro deposits in the event that Greece leaves the zone.

The European Union banking union would then have to intervene with a bailout worth billions, the paper said. Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday that Berlin considers a Greek exit almost unavoidable if Syriza wins, but believes the euro zone would be able to cope. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that Germany wants Greece to stay and there are no contingency plans to the contrary, while noting the euro zone has become far more stable in recent years. As the euro zone’s paymaster, Germany is insisting that Greece stick to austerity and not backtrack on its bailout commitments, especially as it does not want to open the door for other struggling members to relax reform efforts.

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Right. And they have their pet hamsters doing the calculating.

Germany, France Take Calculated Risk With ‘Grexit’ Talk (Reuters)

Evoking a possible Greek exit from the euro zone, Germany and France are taking a coordinated and calculated risk in the hope of averting a leftist victory in Greece’s general election on Jan. 25. The intention, according to Michael Huether, head of Germany’s IW economic institute, is to make clear that other euro area countries “can get on well without Greece, but Greece cannot get on without Europe”, and to warn that the left-wing Syriza party would bring disaster on the country. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, whose party leads in opinion polls, insists he wants to keep Greece in the euro. However, he has promised to end austerity imposed by foreign creditors under the country’s bailout deal if he wins power, and wants part of the €240 billion lent by the EU and IMF written off.

The risk is that the European Union’s two main powers are seen by Greeks as interfering and threatening them, provoking a backlash after a six-year recession that shrunk their economy by 20% and put one in four workers out of a job. French President Francois Hollande said on Monday it was up to the Greek people to decide whether they wanted to stay in the single currency, while a German magazine reported that Berlin no longer feared a “Grexit” would endanger the entire euro area. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman did not explicitly deny the weekend “Der Spiegel” report but said: “The aim has been to stabilize the euro zone with all its members, including Greece. There has been no change in our stance.”

Merkel and Hollande conferred by telephone during the winter holidays and will meet in Strasbourg on Sunday with European Parliament President Martin Schulz for what a French diplomatic source insisted were not crisis talks on Greece. Should center-right Prime Minister Antonis Samaras lose power in the election, the real issue was how a Syriza-led government might seek to reschedule Greece’s debt, not its place in the euro, the French source said. Paris and Berlin have underlined that any new government in Athens would have to honor the country’s obligation to repay the bailout loans received since 2010. In an article in the Huffington Post, Tsipras accused German conservatives of spreading “old wives’ tales”, singling out Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Syriza, a coalition of former communist and independent leftist groups, “is not an ogre, or a big threat to Europe, but the voice of reason,” he wrote.

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Tsipras himself sees it this way:

Greece On the Cusp of a Historic Change (Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA)

Greece is on the cusp of a historic change. SYRIZA is no longer just a hope for Greece and the Greek people. It is also an expectation of a change of course for the whole of Europe. Because Europe will not come out of the crisis without a policy change, and the victory of SYRIZA in the 25th of January elections will strengthen the forces of change. Because the dead end in Greece is the dead end of today’s Europe. On January 25th, the Greek people are called to make history with their vote, to trail a space of change and hope of all people across Europe by condemning the failed memoranda of austerity, proving that when people want to, when they dare, and when they overcome fear, then things can change. The expectations alone of political change in Greece, has already begun to change things in Europe. 2015 is not 2012

SYRIZA is not an ogre, or a big threat to Europe, but the voice of reason. It’s the alarm clock which will lift Europe from its lethargy and sleepwalking. This is why SYRIZA is no longer treated as a major threat like it was in 2012, but as a challenge to change. By all? Not by all. A small minority, centered on the conservative leadership of the German government and a part of the populist press, insists on rehashing old wives’ tales and Grexit stories. Just like Mr. Samaras in Greece, they can no longer convince anyone. Now that the Greek people have experienced his government, they know how to tell the lies from the truth. Mr. Samaras offers no other program except continuing with the failed MOU of austerity.

It has committed itself and others to new wage and pension cuts, new tax increases, in the framework of accumulated income cuts and over- taxation of six whole years. He asks Greek citizens to vote for him so that he can implement the new memorandum. It is precisely because he has committed to austerity, that he interprets the rejection of this failed and destructive policy as a supposedly unilateral action. He is essentially hiding that Greece as a Eurozone member is committed to targets and not to the political means by which those targets are achieved. For this reason, and unlike the ruling party of Nea Dimokratia, SYRIZA has committed to the Greek people to apply from the first days of its’ administration a specific, cost-efficient and fiscally balanced program, “The Thessaloniki Program” regardless of our negotiation with our lenders.

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The editor told them not to call it deflation.

Eurozone Inflation Turns Negative For First Time Since October 2009 (Reuters)

Euro zone consumer prices fell by more than expected in December because of much cheaper energy, a first estimate by the European statistic office showed in data that is likely to trigger the European Central Bank’s government bond buying program. Eurostat said inflation in the 18 countries using the euro in December was -0.2% year-on-year, down from 0.3% year-on-year in November. The last time euro zone inflation was negative was in October 2009, when it was -0.1%. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a -0.1% year-on-year fall in prices. The ECB wants to keep inflation below but close to 2% over the medium term. Eurostat said that core inflation, which excludes the volatile energy and unprocessed food prices, was stable at 0.7% year-on-year in December – the same level as in November and October. But energy prices plunged 6.3% year-on-year last month and unprocessed food was 1.0% cheaper, pulling down the overall index despite a 1.2% rise in the cost of services.

The ECB is concerned that a prolonged period of very low inflation could change inflation expectations of consumers and make them hold back their purchases in the hope of even lower prices, triggering deflation. Because the ECB’s interest rates are already at rock bottom, the bank is preparing a program of printing money to buy government bonds on the secondary market to inject even more cash into the economy, boost demand and make prices rise faster. Economists expect the decision to launch such a bond buying program could be made as soon as the ECB’s next meeting on January 22. “We are in technical preparations to adjust the size, speed and compositions of our measures early 2015, should it become necessary to react to a too long period of low inflation. There is unanimity within the Governing Council on this,” ECB President Mario Draghi said on January 1. Inflation in the euro zone has below 1% – or what the ECB calls the danger zone – since October 2013.

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There we go again. Maybe the ECB is behind this.

Greek 10-Year Bond Yields Exceed 10% for First Time Since 2013 (Bloomberg)

For the first time in 15 months, Greek 10-year government bond yields are back above 10%. The rate on the securities climbed to 10.18% today as investors abandoned the bonds in the run-up to a Jan. 25 election that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said will determine Greece’s euro membership. Greek stocks also fell, posting the biggest decline among 18 western-European markets. The double-digit yield is reminiscent of the euro region’s debt crisis. In 2012, Greece’s 10-year rates climbed as high as 44.21% before the nation held the biggest reorganization of sovereign debt in history.

Greek 10-year yields increased 44 basis points, or 0.44 %age point, to 10.18% at 11:02 a.m. London time. The 2% bond due in February 2024 fell 1.885, or 18.85 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,185) face amount, to 60.585. The nation’s three-year rate jumped 60 basis points to 14.65%. The ASE Index of stocks fell 2.7%, set for the lowest close since November 2012. With a 29% slump, the ASE posted the world’s worst performance among equity indexes after Russia last year.

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We said long ago that the dollar would rise.

Euro’s Drop is a Turning Point for Central Banks Reserves (Bloomberg)

Central banks and reserve managers are breaking from past practice by showing little appetite to add euros as the currency tumbles. The total amount of reserves held in euros fell 8.1% in the third quarter, more than the currency’s 7.8% decline in the period against the dollar, according to the most recent figures from the International Monetary Fund. The last two times the euro depreciated 7% or more in a quarter, 2011 and 2010, holdings declined much less. The data suggest reserve managers are passing up the chance to buy euros while they’re cheap, removing a key pillar of support. In August, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi cited the drop in central banks’ euro holdings as a factor that would help weaken the exchange rate and ultimately boost the region’s faltering economy.

“Central banks have found new reasons not to feel comfortable with the euro,” Stephen Jen, managing partner and co-founder of SLJ Macro, said. “Nobody wants to have a negative yield. You’re not keeping a currency to lose money.” The ECB has experimented with negative interest rates on deposits in an attempt to draw money out of safe government debt and into the broader economy. Yields on two-year notes in Germany, the Netherlands and France are all below zero on speculation the ECB is losing the battle against deflation. Policy makers are signaling they are ready to step up the fight by expanding the money supply through further stimulus, such as purchasing government debt, that typically weigh on a currency’s value.

Adding to the pressure is concern that Draghi won’t be able to hold the currency bloc together amid signs Greece may quit the euro area after its Jan. 25 election. The 19-nation euro fell in each of the past six months, dropping to $1.1843 today, its lowest level since February 2006. A spokesman for the Frankfurt-based ECB, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday by e-mail that the international role of the euro is primarily determined by market forces and the central bank neither hinders nor promotes it. The amount of euros held in allocated reserves – or those where the currency is specified – fell to $1.4 trillion in the third quarter, or 22.6% of the total, from $1.5 trillion, or 24.1%, at the end of June, according to figures published by the IMF on Dec. 31. The proportion is the lowest since 2002 and down from as much as 28% in 2009.

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“We expect the ECB to announce a broad-based asset-purchase program including government bonds.”

Eurozone Prices Seen Falling as Risk of Deflation Spiral Mounts (Bloomberg)

Consumer prices in the euro area probably fell for the first time in more than five years last month, pushing the European Central Bank closer to adding stimulus as it battles to revive inflation. Prices dropped an annual 0.1% in December, according to the median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey. That would be the first decline since October 2009. ECB officials are working on a plan to buy government bonds as they strive to prevent a deflationary spiral of falling prices and households postponing spending, a risk President Mario Draghi has said can’t be “entirely excluded.” They may use a gathering tomorrow to weigh options for a quantitative-easing program that may be announced at their Jan. 22 policy meeting.

“Inflation will most likely fall even further in January and remain extremely low all year long,” said Evelyn Herrmann, European economist at BNP Paribas SA in London. “We expect the ECB to announce a broad-based asset-purchase program including government bonds.” A sluggish economy and plunging oil prices are damping inflation across the euro region. Consumer prices are falling on an annual basis in Spain and Greece, while data yesterday showed inflation in Germany at 0.1%, its weakest since 2009. Crude oil prices have fallen about 50% in the past year amid a supply glut. Core euro-zone inflation, which strips out volatile items such as energy, food, tobacco and alcohol, is forecast to have increased 0.7% year-on-year in December.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, will publish the data at 11 a.m. in Luxembourg, along with its unemployment report for November. ECB officials have taken different approaches in analyzing the impact of plunging oil prices on the economy. While Draghi has warned of a dis-anchoring of inflation expectations and signaled support for QE, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann favors not acting at this time, arguing that the drop could prove to be a “mini-stimulus package.”

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“Daniel Stelter at think tank Beyond the Obvious has even called for giving €5,000 to €10,000 to each citizen. “It has to be massive if it is going to have any effect,” he says.”

Operation Helicopter: Could Free Money Help the Euro Zone? (Spiegel)

It sounds at first like a crazy thought experiment: One morning, every resident of the euro zone comes home to find a check in their mailbox worth over €500 euros ($597) and possibly as much as €3,000. A gift, just like that, sent by the ECB in Frankfurt. The scenario is less absurd than it may sound. Indeed, many serious academics and financial experts are demanding exactly that. They want ECB chief Mario Draghi to fire up the printing presses and hand out money directly to the people. The logic behind the idea is that recipients of the money will head to the shops, helping to turn around a paralyzed economy in the common currency area. In response, companies would have to increase production and hire more workers, leading to both economic growth and a needed increase in prices because of the surge in demand.

Currently, the inflation rate is barely above zero and fears of a horror deflation scenario of the kind seen during the Great Depression in the United States are haunting the euro zone. The ECB, whose main task is euro stability, has lost control. In this desperate situation, an increasing number of economists and finance professionals are promoting the concept of “helicopter money,” tantamount to dispersing cash across the country by way of helicopter. The idea, which even Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once found attractive, has triggered ferocious debates between central bank officials in Europe and academics. For backers, there’s more to this than just a new instrument. They are questioning cast-iron doctrines of monetary policy. One thing, after all, is becoming increasingly clear: Draghi and his fellow central bank leaders have exhausted all traditional means for combatting deflation.

The failure of these efforts can be easily explained. Thus far, central banks have primarily provided funding to financial institutions. The ECB provided banks with loans at low interest rates or purchased risky securities from them in the hope that they would in turn issue more loans to companies and consumers. The problem is that many households and firms are so far in debt already that they are eschewing any new credit, meaning the money isn’t ultimately making its way to the real economy as hoped. Sylvain Broyer at French investment bank Natixis, says, “It would make much more sense to take the money the ECB wants to deploy in the fight against deflation and distribute it directly to the people.” Draghi has calculated expenditures of a trillion euros for his emergency program, funds that would be sufficient to provide each euro zone citizen with a gift of around €3,000.

Daniel Stelter at think tank Beyond the Obvious, has even called for giving €5,000 to €10,000 to each citizen. “It has to be massive if it is going to have any effect,” he says. Stelter freely admits that such figures are estimates. After all, not a single central bank has ever tried such a daring experiment. Many academics have based their calculations on experiences in the United States, where the government has in the past provided cash gifts to taxpayers in the form of rebates in order to shore up the economy. Oxford economist John Muellbauer, for one, looks back to 2001. After the Dot.com crash, the US gave all taxpayers a $300 rebate. On the basis of the experience at the time, Muellbauer calculates that €500 per capita would be sufficient to spur the euro zone. “It (the helicopter money) would even be much cheaper for the ECB than the current programs>],” the academic says.

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Ambrose doesn’t like Putin.

Russia’s ‘Perfect Storm’: Reserves Vanish, Derivatives’ Default Warnings (AEP)

Russia’s foreign reserves have dropped to the lowest level since the Lehman crisis and are vanishing at an unsustainable rate as the country struggles to defends the rouble against capital flight. Central bank data show that a blitz of currency intervention depleted reserves by $26bn in the two weeks to December 26, the fastest pace of erosion since the crisis in Ukraine erupted early last year. Credit defaults swaps (CDS) measuring bankruptcy risk for Russia spiked violently on Tuesday, surging by 100 basis points to 630, before falling back slightly. Markit says this implies a 32% expectation of a sovereign default over the next five years, the highest since Western sanctions and crumbling oil prices combined to cripple the Russian economy. Total reserves have fallen from $511bn to $388bn in a year. The Kremlin has already committed a third of what remains to bolster the domestic economy in 2015, greatly reducing the amount that can be used to defend the rouble.

The Institute for International Finance (IIF) says the danger line is $330bn, given the dollar liabilities of Russian companies and chronic capital flight. Currency intervention did stabilise the exchange rate in late December after a spectacular crash threatened to spin out of control, but relief is proving short-lived. The rouble weakened sharply to 64 against the dollar on Tuesday. It has slumped moe than 20% since Christmas, with increasing contagion to Belarus, Georgia and other closely-linked economies. There are signs that Russia’s crisis may undermine President Vladimir’s Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union before it has got off the ground. Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko is already insisting that trade be carried out in US dollars, while Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev warned that the Russian crash poses a “major risk” to the new venture.

The rouble is trading in lockstep with Brent crude, which has continued its relentless slide this week, falling to a five-year low of $51.50 a barrel. “If oil drops to $45 or lower and stays there, Russia is going to face a big problem,” said Mikhail Liluashvili, from Oxford Economics. “The central bank will try to smooth volatility but they will have to let the rouble fall and this could push inflation to 20%.” Under the Russian central bank’s “emergency scenario”, GDP may contract by as much as 4.7% this year if oil settles at $60. The damage could be worse following the bank’s contentious decision to raise rates from 9.5% to 17% in December. BNP Paribas says that each 1% rise in rates cuts 0.8% off GDP a year later. BNP’s Tatiana Tchembarova said the situation is more serious than in 2008, when Russia had to spend $170bn to rescue its banks. This time it no longer has enough reserves to cover external debt, and it enters the crisis “twice as levered”.

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Why bother?

Obama Threatens Keystone XL Veto (BBC)

President Barack Obama will veto a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline if it passes Congress, the White House has said. It is the first major legislation to be introduced in the Republican-controlled Congress and a vote is expected in the House later this week. Spokesman Josh Earnest said the legislation would undermine a “well-established” review process. The $5.4bn (£3.6bn) project was first introduced in 2008. Mr Obama has been critical of the pipeline, saying at the end of last year it would primarily benefit Canadian oil firms and not contribute much to already dropping petrol prices. Environmentalists are also critical of the project, a proposed 1,179-mile (1,897km) pipe that would run from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it could join an existing pipe.

And the project is the subject of a unresolved lawsuit in Nebraska over the route of the pipeline. “There is already a well-established process in place to consider whether or not infrastructure projects like this are in the best interest of the country,” Mr Earnest said on Tuesday. He added that the question of the Nebraska route was “impeding a final conclusion” from the US on the project. Despite the veto threat from the White House, the bill sponsors say they have enough Democratic votes to overcome a procedural hurdle to pass in the Senate.

“The Congress on a bipartisan basis is saying we are approving this project,” said Republican John Hoeven, one of the bill’s sponsors. But Mr Hoeven and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said they would be open to additional amendments to the bill, a test of the changing political realities of the Senate. Democratic critics of the bill are said to be planning to add measures to prohibit exporting the oil abroad, use American materials in the pipeline construction and increased investment in clean energy. It is unclear if those amendments would gather the two-thirds of votes needed in both chambers to override Mr Obama’s veto.

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But took decisions costing trillions of pounds anyway.

Bank Of England Was Unaware Of Impending Financial Crisis (BBC)

A month before the start of the financial crisis, the Bank of England was apparently unaware of the impending danger, new documents reveal. In a unique insight of its workings, the Bank has published minutes of top-secret meetings of the so-called Court that took place between 2007 and 2009. The minutes show that the Bank did identify liquidity as a “central concern” in July 2007. However no action was taken as a result. The documents show that the Bank also used a series of code names for banks that were in trouble. Royal Bank of Scotland was known as “Phoenix”, and Lloyds as “Lark”. Following publication, Andrew Tyrie MP, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, was highly critical of some of the Court’s non-executive directors. He said they had failed to challenge senior executive members, like the then governor, Mervyn King, whom some accuse of failing to prioritise financial stability.

The minutes show that in July 2007, the Court – akin to a company board – spent time discussing staff pensions, open days and new members of the Monetary Policy Committee. Members heard that the Bank was working on a new model to detect risks to the financial system, but there was little suggestion of any impending trouble. Less than a month later, on 9 August, the French bank BNP Paribas came clean about its exposure to sub-prime mortgages, in what some believe was the start of the financial crisis. Six weeks later, despite some turmoil in financial markets, Court members were told to have confidence in the triple oversight of the Bank of England, the Treasury and the then Financial Services Authority (FSA). “The Executive believed that the events of the last month had proven the sense and strength of the tripartite framework,” the minutes asserted for the 12th September, 2007. The next day the banking crisis began in earnest.

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Jan 042015
 
 January 4, 2015  Posted by at 12:20 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  


Unknown Pontiacs being unloaded from freight cars, San Francisco 1941

Germany Believes Eurozone Could Cope With Greece Exit (Reuters)
Greek Euro Exit Would Be ‘Lehman Brothers Squared’ (MarketWatch)
A Stress Test For Mario Draghi And The ECB (NY Times)
Ten Warning Signs Of A Market Crash In 2015 (Telegraph)
Bosten Fed’s Rosengren: Rate Increases May Be Bumpy For Markets (MarketWatch)
Wall Street’s Big Problem In 2015 Is Trust (CFA Institute)
Japan’s Cash Helicopter May Be First To Take Off (Reuters)
Oil Price Slump May Spur European Oil and Gas Deal-Making (NY Times)
Endangered Species: Young US Entrepreneurs (WSJ)
North Korea Responds With Fury To US Sanctions (Guardian)
Retired Workers Could Be Given Right To Sell Their Pensions (Guardian)
The West Is Wrong Again In Its Fight Against Terror (Independent)
‘Premier Of War’: Czech President Says Yatsenyuk Not Seeking Peace (RT)
Dresden Crowds Tell A Chilling Tale Of Europe’s Fear Of Migrants (Observer)
Inside The Favela Too Violent For Rio’s Armed Police (Observer)
Ecuadorian Student Invents Revolutionary ‘Bat Sonar’ Suit For The Blind (RT)

This is just bluff in the ‘fight’ to keep SYRIZA from winning the January 25 elections. Merkel knows the risk of the eurozone falling apart.

Germany Believes Eurozone Could Cope With Greece Exit (Reuters)

The German government believes that the euro zone would now be able to cope with a Greece exit if that proved to be necessary, Der Spiegel news magazine reported on Saturday, citing unnamed government sources. Both Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble believe the euro zone has implemented enough reforms since the height of the regional crisis in 2012 to make a potential Greece exit manageable, Der Spiegel reported.”The danger of contagion is limited because Portugal and Ireland are considered rehabilitated,” the weekly news magazine quoted one government source saying.

In addition, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the euro zone’s bailout fund, is an “effective” rescue mechanism and was now available, another source added. Major banks would be protected by the banking union. It is still unclear how a euro zone member country could leave the euro and still remain in the European Union, but Der Spiegel quoted a “high-ranking currency expert” as saying that “resourceful lawyers” would be able to clarify. According to the report, the German government considers a Greece exit almost unavoidable if the leftwing Syriza opposition party led by Alexis Tsipras wins an election set for Jan. 25.

The Greek election was called after lawmakers failed to elect a president last month. It pits Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ conservative New Democracy party, which imposed unpopular budget cuts under Greece’s bailout deal, against Tsipras’ Syriza, who want to cancel austerity measures and a chunk of Greek debt. Opinion polls show Syriza is holding a lead over New Democracy, although its margin has narrowed to about three%age points in the run-up to the vote. German Finance Minister Schaeuble has already warned Greece against straying from a path of economic reform, saying any new government would be held to the pledges made by the current Samaras government.

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“.. the euro “is a historic disaster.” “It doesn’t mean it is easy to break up,”

Greek Euro Exit Would Be ‘Lehman Brothers Squared’ (MarketWatch)

A decision by a new Greek government to leave the eurozone would set off devastating turmoil in financial markets even worse than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, a leading international economist warned Saturday. A Greek exit would likely spark runs on Greek banks and the country’s stock market and end with the imposition of severe capital controls, said Barry Eichengreen, an economic historian at the University of California at Berkeley. He spoke as part of a panel discussion on the euro crisis at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting. The exit would also spill into other countries as investors speculate about which might be next to leave the currency union, he said. “In the short run, it would be Lehman Brothers squared,” Eichengreen warned.

He predicted that European politicians would “swallow hard once again” and make the compromises necessary to keep Greece in the currency union. “While holding the eurozone together will be costly and difficult and painful for the politicians, breaking it up will be even more costly and more difficult,” he said. In general, the panel, consisting of four prominent American economists, was pessimistic about the outlook for the single-currency project. Jeffrey Frankel, an economics professor at Harvard University, said that global investors “have piled back into” European markets over the last years as the crisis ebbed. Now, there will likely be a repeat of the periods of market turmoil in the region and spreads between sovereign European bonds could widen sharply.

Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and a Harvard professor, said the euro “is a historic disaster.” “It doesn’t mean it is easy to break up,” he said. Martin Feldstein, a longtime critic of the euro project, said all the attempts to return Europe to healthy growth have failed. “I think there may be no way to end to euro crisis,” Feldstein said. The options being discussed to stem the crisis, including launch of full scale quantitative easing by the European Central Bank, “are in my judgment not likely to be any more successful,” Feldstein said. The best way to ensure the euro’s survival would be for each individual eurozone member state to enact its own tax policies to spur demand, including cutting the value-added tax for the next five years to increase consumer spending, Feldstein said.

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“A central bank claiming that it will do ‘whatever it takes’ while not delivering with actions eventually loses its credibility ..”

A Stress Test For Mario Draghi And The ECB (NY Times)

Mario Draghi indulged the photographers and their rapid-fire shutters for a few moments, making his first appearance for the news media in the European Central Bank’s ostentatious new high-rise headquarters in Frankfurt. Then he shooed the cameras away. He had an important message to deliver. Mr. Draghi, the central bank’s president, told reporters on that early December afternoon that it was ready to deploy new weapons against the eurozone’s dangerously low inflation rate. Though this 19-nation bloc is one of the world’s richest economies, it has never really recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis. And low inflation is one of the impediments to growth. Emphasizing every word, Mr. Draghi said that the bank’s governing council had just agreed to prepare “for further measures, which could, if needed, be implemented in a timely manner.”

In the past, such assurances had bought time for Mr. Draghi. His famous vow in 2012 to “do whatever it takes” to save the euro currency union had seemed to work without the bank having to actually take much action. But on this day, after months of Mr. Draghi’s saying the equivalent of “stay tuned,” his statement of resolve failed to work the old magic. European stock markets sagged even as he spoke. The reaction by investors, whose money and faith will be crucial to any true economic recovery, raised an ominous question: Is the man who is arguably the most powerful official in Europe really powerful enough to pull the eurozone out of its doldrums?

“A central bank claiming that it will do ‘whatever it takes’ while not delivering with actions eventually loses its credibility,” said Athanasios Orphanides, a former ECB board member. “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the E.C.B. has not been operating in a manner that promotes fulfillment of its mandate.” Mr. Draghi’s quandary is that the actions that might save the eurozone also threaten to divide it. As he begins the fourth year of an eight-year term, the central bank has still not pursued the path that many economists say offers the greatest hope to millions of Europeans to escape from a “lost decade” of stagnation: buying government bonds and other financial assets in huge numbers. Such an approach, known as quantitative easing, was used successfully by the Federal Reserve in the United States. The idea is to pump money into the financial system, encouraging more lending and spending and kick-starting the economy.

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Interest rates may trigger all of these.

Ten Warning Signs Of A Market Crash In 2015 (Telegraph)

The FTSE 100 slid on the first day of trading in 2015. Here are 10 warning signs that the markets may drop further.

Vix fear gauge For five years, investor fear of risk has been drugged into somnolence by repeated injections of quantitative easing. The lack of fear has led to a world where price and risk have become estranged. As credit conditions are tightened in the US and China, the law of unintended consequences will hold sway in 2015 as investors wake up. The Vix, the so-called “fear index” that measures volatility, spiked to 18.4 on Friday, above the average of 14.5 recorded last year.

Rising US Treasury yields With the Federal Reserve poised to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, and the latest QE3 bond-buying programme ending in October last year, credit markets are expecting a poor year for US Treasuries. The yield on two-year US Treasuries has more than doubled from 0.31pc to 0.74pc since October.

Credit insurance Along with the increased US Treasury yields, the cost of insuring against corporate credits going bad is also going up. The cost of insuring investment grade US corporate credit against default has become 20pc more expensive, rising from lows of 55 to 66 since July, according to Markit.

Rising US credit risk The wider credit market is also flashing warning signs. The TED spread, as reported by Bloomberg, is the difference between the rate US banks are willing to lend to each other and the Federal Reserve rate, which is seen as risk free. The TED spread is taken as the perceived credit risk in the general economy, and increased 9pc in December to its highest level since the end of 2013.

Rising UK bank risk In the UK, a key measure of risk in the London banking sector is the difference between the London interbank offered rate (Libor) and the overnight indexed swap (OIS) rate, also called the Libor-OIS spread. This shows the difference between the rate at which London banks are willing to lend to each other and the Federal Reserve rate which is seen as risk free. On Friday, the Libor-OIS spread reached its highest level since October 2012.

Interest rate shock Interest rates have been held at emergency lows in the UK and US for around five years. The US is expected to move first, with rates starting to rise from the current 0-0.25pc around the middle of the year. Investors have already starting buying dollars in anticipation of a strengthening US currency, with the pound falling 10pc against the dollar since July to hit 1.538 on Friday. UK interest rate rises are expected by the end of the year.

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Bumpy?!

Bosten Fed’s Rosengren: Rate Increases May Be Bumpy For Markets (MarketWatch)

Low long-term interest rates signal that the Federal Reserve’s coming increases could be bumpy for investors, Eric Rosengren, the president of the Boston regional branch of the U.S. central bank, said Saturday. The 10-year bond’s current 2.15% yield is “not a rate that is going to be sustainable in a completely normalized economy, which does imply the 10-year rate at some point in the normalization process will not be as low as it currently is,” Rosengren told the American Economic Association. That indicates that there may be “bumpier ride” than the prior two Fed tightening cycles in 1994 and 2004 “just because there needs to be an adjustment at some point along the cycle,” Rosengren said.

The Boston Fed president also noted that it is also “unusual” how much the stock market has risen before the first rate increased compared with the last two periods. Offsetting concerns about possible volatility is that the Fed can afford to be “patient” in tightening because inflation is so low, he said. “As long as we’re experiencing very low inflation, there is no reason for the path[of rate hikes] to be particularly abrupt,” Rosengren said. Mark Gertler, an expert on monetary policy at New York University, told the same panel that the Fed funds rate could reach 4%-5% over a two-year period once the central bank starts tightening. Rosengren said his estimate was a little less, with the funds rate reaching 3.75%-4% over the same period.

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“Trust, not cash, is the fuel that makes the financial system function ..”

Wall Street’s Big Problem In 2015 Is Trust (CFA Institute)

To the U.S. prosecutors moving forward with insider trading charges all I can say is “good luck.” Wall Street isn’t afraid of you. The U.S. appeals court’s stunning, unanimous decision to overturn the December 2012 convictions of two hedge fund traders has blown the doors off the legal definition of insider trading. According to the ruling, insider trading may be legal in certain circumstances, even if it gives an investor an unfair advantage. This decision will likely reinforce the lack of trust in financial services professionals and the belief that the markets are rigged for a select few. It was yet another reputation-damaging year in the financial services industry: the collapse of Espirito Santo bank, corruption scandals in Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras and investigations of insider-trading at France’s BNP Paribas.

Closer to home, the SEC is investigating fees charged by private equity advisers, and five major U.S. banks agreed to pay $4.3 billion to settle charges of systematically manipulating the foreign currency markets, with criminal prosecutions still a possibility. It’s clear that recent scandals and the regulatory reforms they provoked have not sufficiently changed how some participants in the financial industry conduct their business. As participants in that industry, we’re doing the public – and ourselves – an injustice if we write the litany of scandals off as “just a few bad apples” or even worse, as the price of doing business. We are making it too easy for the public to equate the finance industry with self-dealing, dishonesty and corruption. Trust, not cash, is the fuel that makes the financial system function, and when investors, big and small, start to regard the system as one rigged against them, the risk of collapse will never be far away.

Acting on this belief for the past four years we’ve conducted a Global Market Sentiment Survey (GMSS) to invite the insights and perspectives of our members — respected industry experts — on the economy, market integrity, and their expectations for the coming year. This year, members said that they expect the world economy to grow, and their concerns over the negative impact of central banks’ tapering of quantitative easing programs have eased. On the other hand, their optimism is tempered by the potential for continued weakness in developed economies as well as the ongoing effects of political instability in many regions. The greatest area of concern for the health of the global economy, however, remains the same as it has year after year: the lack of trust in the industry.

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Thing is, you’d have to repeat this all the time.

Japan’s Cash Helicopter May Be First To Take Off (Reuters)

Japan could become the first rich nation to launch helicopter money. Dissatisfaction with deflation and growing disillusionment with quantitative easing might prompt the country to reach for the final trick in the monetarist playbook. Economist Milton Friedman first conjured up the enticing image of bank notes dropping from the skies in 1969. Thirty years later, Ben Bernanke proposed a helicopter drop of cash as an antidote for Japan’s anaemic demand and falling prices. The future Fed chairman’s suggestion was too outlandish for what was then still a conservative Bank of Japan. The central bank had already cut interest rates to zero, and subsequently embarked on quantitative easing. But that’s about as far as it has been prepared to go.

Yet QE is failing to live up to its billing. The monetary authority is buying staggeringly large quantities of financial assets from banks in return for newly-printed yen. Government bonds worth about $1.7 trillion – a quarter of the outstanding amount – have already vanished into the BOJ’s vaults. This bond-buying spree has yet to launch a self-sustaining cycle of private demand, or lift inflation to the central bank’s 2% target. A panicky BOJ policy board decided in October to expand its asset purchases by as much as 60%. QE makes cheap cash available to banks to lend, but they can’t do so unless there are willing borrowers with profitable investment opportunities – a problem in ageing Japan. This is where Friedman’s helicopter comes in by giving cash directly to households.

The mechanics would be relatively straightforward. Assume each of Japan’s 52 million households received a debit card with, say, 200,000 yen ($1,700) loaded onto it by the central bank. Any remaining balance on the cards would disappear after a year, ensuring that recipients spent the windfall. The move would inject an extra 10 trillion yen, or 2% of GDP, of private purchasing power into the economy. This in turn would encourage companies to invest and pay higher wages. The net effect would resemble a tax cut, but one financed by newly printed money rather than government debt. For Japan, whose government debt already equals 245% of GDP, being able to stimulate the economy without having to sell more bonds would be a major advantage. Consumers could spend freely in the knowledge that they would not have to repay the windfall in future in the form of higher taxes.

But if Friedman’s helicopter is such a doughty anti-deflation tool, why has no central bank used it yet? The usual answer is that tax cuts are fiscal decisions that only elected governments can make. Monetising the government’s debt is a recipe for a debased currency and hyperinflation. Japan has given cash to its citizens in the past and may do so again. But the cheques have always come from the government, not the central bank. Upsetting this status quo will mean the finance ministry loses control of fiscal policy. Politicians won’t let such a thing happen. The BOJ might also baulk at such a radical move: its policy board only narrowly approved the recent expansion of QE. Yet Japan could introduce a money-financed tax cut by stealth. Suppose that QE ends in late 2016. By then, the BOJ will own almost two-fifths of Japan’s government debt. Any attempt to sell those bonds back to the private sector could undermine the country’s economic and financial stability.

Adair Turner, former chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, has suggested converting the central bank’s government bonds into perpetual, zero-coupon securities. With one stroke of its pen, the government would be free of its obligation to repay the debt. The pressing need for Japan to raise taxes would vanish. The fragile consumer economy, which buckled under the burden of a modest increase in the sales tax last April, would breathe a sigh of relief. This too will be a money-financed tax cut by the back door, without the need for helicopters or debit cards. Such an experiment in monetary manipulation would attract a worldwide audience. Many rich nations have depleted their rate-cutting arsenal. If the fight against long-term deflationary stagnation becomes a losing battle, Friedman’s helicopters might not just be flying over Japan.

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“The industry has a cost problem that cannot be met forever by shrinking capital expenditures and selling assets.”

Oil Price Slump May Spur European Oil and Gas Deal-Making (NY Times)

There was $383 billion in mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas sector last year, as of Dec. 11. Yet Europe has largely missed out: About three-quarters of the targets have been in North America, according to Thomson Reuters data. Shale has played a big role. In 2015, oil and gas bankers in Europe will get a bigger slice of the action. The sharp drop in the price of crude oil, to around $60 a barrel, will make it harder to get deals done in the short term. It makes everyone more cautious. Buyers worry that prices can fall further, while the seller’s instinct is to hold out for a recovery. The last big fall in oil prices, at the end of 2008, was too short to push a big merger and acquisition wave.

But if the current oil price persists, financial stress may make small players vulnerable. Net debt at explorers including Afren, EnQuest, Premier Oil and Tullow Oil could all reach three times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or more, if oil remains at $60 through 2015, Barclays estimates. Cash-rich Repsol of Spain already took the plunge with an $8.3 billion bid last month for the Canadian oil and natural gas producer Talisman Energy. Chinese companies, active in the past, have a lot on their plate with big capital commitments, but buyout groups have raised billions of dollars to invest, including in energy infrastructure assets.

All-stock defensive mergers of the type seen in the late 1990s are possible, too. This has already started on a small scale with Ophir Energy’s all-share takeover of Salamander Energy. The industry has a cost problem that cannot be met forever by shrinking capital expenditures and selling assets. BP’s former chairman, John Browne, wrote in his memoir that a merger with Shell, pondered while he was at the helm, might have delivered $9 billion in annual synergies. BP faces big liabilities in the Gulf of Mexico and volatility in Russia. BG Group of Britain has long been a target, and the new chief executive starts in March. It’s not clear that Shell, the wallflower in the 1990s, will make a move. Exxon and other majors in the United States might be tempted. Either way, chances are Big Oil will get even bigger next year.

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“The average net worth of households under 30 has fallen 48% since 2007 to $44,354.”

Endangered Species: Young US Entrepreneurs (WSJ)

The share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has reached a 24-year-low, according to new data, underscoring financial challenges and a low tolerance for risk among young Americans. Roughly 3.6% of households headed by adults younger than 30 owned stakes in private companies, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of recently released Federal Reserve data from 2013. That compares with 10.6% in 1989—when the central bank began collecting standard data on Americans’ incomes and net worth—and 6.1% in 2010. The Journal’s findings run counter to the widely held stereotype of 20-somethings as entrepreneurial risk-takers. The sharp decline in business ownership among young adults, even when taking into account the aging population, adds to worries about business formation heading into 2015, economists said.

The number of new U.S. business establishments fell in the first quarter of 2014, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Labor Department. It is difficult to pinpoint the precise reasons for the decline in private business ownership among young Americans. One theory is that they face more postrecession challenges raising money. Such fast-growing sectors as energy and health care likely require a significant access to credit or capital. The decline also reflects a generation struggling to find a spot in the workforce. Younger workers have had trouble gaining the skills and experience that can be helpful in starting a business. Some doubt their ability. Business ownership among young adults likely remained at low levels in the year that just ended, say some economists.

“I wouldn’t expect to see a major pickup” in young adults starting or owning businesses this year, given that it’s easier for them to find jobs, said Robert Litan, a Brookings Institution economist. [..] The plunge in business ownership captured in the Fed survey is an “interesting and worrisome finding,” said John Davis, faculty chair of the Families in Business Program at Harvard Business School. If the trend continues, he said, the U.S. economy could become less vibrant. “We need startups not only for employment, but also for ideas,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s part of the vitality of this country to have people starting new businesses and trying new things.” The decline in young entrepreneurs is part of a broader drop in private business ownership over the past 25 years.

Between 2000 and 2012, new business formation slowed even in such high-growth sectors as technology, according to economists John Haltiwanger and Ryan Decker of the University of Maryland and Javier Miranda of the Census Bureau. Slowing U.S. population growth since the early 1980s has reduced the supply of potential entrepreneurs of all ages, and lessened demand for new goods and services, said Mr. Litan of the Brookings Institution. Meanwhile, business consolidation has led to more formidable competition for startups, making it harder for new entrants to gain a spot in the market, he said. Overall, the U.S. “startup rate”—new firms as a portion of all firms—fell by nearly half between 1978 and 2011, according to an analysis by Mr. Litan and his research partner, economist Ian Hathaway.[..] The average net worth of households under 30 has fallen 48% since 2007 to $44,354.

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Let’s see some proof.

North Korea Responds With Fury To US Sanctions (Guardian)

North Korea has issued a furious statement slamming the United States for imposing sanctions in retaliation for its alleged cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. It again denied any role in the breach of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files. An unnamed spokesman at North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday accused the US of “groundlessly” stirring up hostility toward Pyongyang and claimed the new sanctions would not weaken the country’s military might. US president Barack Obama last week authorised a new layer of sanctions on several Pyongyang institutions and officials, in the wake of the crippling hacking attack on the Hollywood movie studio. US investigators have said North Korea was behind the attack in November, but some experts have raised doubts about the conclusions of the FBI probe.

Pyongyang has repeatedly denied involvement and demanded a joint investigation into the attack – a proposal the US has ignored. North Korea’s foreign ministry said Washington’s rejection of the proposal revealed its “guilty conscience”. It said the US was using the attack to further isolate the North in the international community. “The persistent and unilateral action taken by the White House to slap ’sanctions’ … patently proves that it is still not away from inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward [North Korea],” the ministry spokesman told the state-run KCNA news agency. The impoverished but nuclear-armed state is already heavily sanctioned following a series of nuclear and missile tests staged in violation of UN resolutions. The spokesman also said the new sanctions would further push the North to strengthen its military-first policy known as Songgun.

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And have it managed by banks, for a nice fee.

Retired Workers Could Be Given Right To Sell Their Pensions (Guardian)

Millions of retired workers could be given the right to sell their pensions under plans being floated by a Liberal Democrat minister. Pensions minister Steve Webb said that he wanted to build on reforms in last year’s Budget which will mean that from April, working people will be able to cash in their pension savings for a lump sum when they retire. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he said that he wanted to extend the scheme to existing pensioners, enabling them to sell the annuities they had been required to buy under the old rules to the highest bidder. “I want to see people trusted with their own money wherever possible. I have already heard from people around the country who would like to see this change made,” he said.

“I want to see if we can get these freedoms extended to those who are receiving an annuity, but who might prefer a cash lump sum. “No one would be obliged to do so, but for those who would prefer up-front capital to regular income, I can see no reason why this should not be an option.” Webb said that he would like to launch a public consultation and publish an agreed coalition plan before the general election. But with time running out ahead of polling day on May 7, he indicated that he would be seeking support from Labour so as to ensure the reforms could be carried through early in the next parliament, regardless of the outcome of the election.

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Intentional errors?

The West Is Wrong Again In Its Fight Against Terror (Independent)

Islamic State (Isis) will remain at the centre of the escalating crisis in the Middle East this year as it was in 2014. The territories it conquered in a series of lightning campaigns last summer remain almost entirely under its control, even though it has lost some towns to the Kurds and Shia militias in recent weeks. United States air strikes in Iraq from 8 August and Syria from 23 September may have slowed up Isis advances and inflicted heavy casualties on its forces in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. But Isis has its own state machinery and is conscripting tens of thousands of fighters to replace casualties, enabling it to fight on multiple fronts from Jalawla on Iraq’s border with Iran to the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria.

In western Syria, Isis is a growing power as the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad loses its advantage of fighting a fragmented opposition, that is now uniting under the leadership of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda. Yet it is only a year ago that President Obama dismissed the importance of Isis, comparing it to a junior university basketball team. Speaking of Isis last January, he said that “the analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think it is accurate, is if a JV [junior varsity] team puts on Lakers uniforms it doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant [famed player for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team].” A year later Obama’s flip tone and disastrously inaccurate judgement jumps out at one from the page, but at the time it must have been the majority view of his national security staff.

Underrating the strength of Isis was the third of three great mistakes made by the US and its Western allies in Syria since 2011, errors that fostered the explosive growth of Isis. Between 2011 and 2013 they were convinced that Assad would fall in much the same way as Muammar Gaddafi had in Libya. Despite repeated warnings from the Iraqi government, Washington never took on board that the continuing war in Syria would upset the balance of forces in Iraq and lead to a resumption of the civil war there. Instead they blamed everything that was going wrong in Iraq on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a great deal to answer for but was not the root cause of Iraq’s return to war. The Sunni monarchies of the Gulf were probably not so naïve and could see that aiding jihadi rebels in Syria would spill over and weaken the Shia government in Iraq.

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Word.

‘Premier Of War’: Czech President Says Yatsenyuk Not Seeking Peace (RT)

Czech President Milos Zeman has slammed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, calling him “a prime minister of war” because he is unwilling to peacefully solve the civil conflict in the country. “From the statements by PM Yatsenyuk, I think that he is a ‘prime minister of war’, because he does not want a peaceful solution to the crisis [in Ukraine] recommended by the European Commission,” Zeman told Pravo, a Czech daily newspaper. Yatsenyuk wants to solve Ukrainian conflict “by the use of force,” added the Czech leader. According to Zeman, the current policy of Kiev authorities has two “faces.”

The first is the “face” of the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who “may be a man of peace.” The second “face” is that of PM Yatsenyuk, who has an uncompromising position toward self-defense forces in Eastern Ukraine. Zeman said he doesn’t’ believe that the February coup, during which then-President Viktor Yanukovich was deposed from power, was a democratic revolution at all. “Maidan was not a democratic revolution, and I believe that Ukraine is in a state of civil war,” Zeman said, responding to what he described as “poorly informed people” who compared Maidan with Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution in 1989.

In November 2013, the initially peaceful demonstrations which started as a reaction to then-President Viktor Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the EU association deal became violent in early 2014. Kiev’s central Independence Square – Maidan Nezalezhnosty – was turned into a battlefield as Ukrainian protesters clashed with police through January and February. The unrest resulted in a coup that toppled Yanukovich and his government in February. The Republic of Crimea’s withdrawal from Ukraine was followed by a conflict in the country’s southeast. According to UN figures, at least 4,317 people have been killed and 9,921 wounded in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since April when Kiev authorities launched a so-called anti-terrorist operation in the region.

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A huge problem all over Europe.

Dresden Crowds Tell A Chilling Tale Of Europe’s Fear Of Migrants (Observer)

The precipitous rise of Pegida, or Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the west), a populist anti-immigrant movement, has shaken Germany’s main parties to the core and prompted an acrimonious debate at a time when Europe’s biggest economy is straining to deal with a record intake of more than 200,000 asylum seekers in 2014 – mainly from Iraq and Syria – a figure higher than any other country in Europe and which is due to rise considerably this year. Merkel’s condemnation of the group gives voice to growing concern among established parties in Europe about the impact immigration is having on domestic politics, in what will be a crucial election year across the continent.

This week Merkel will travel to London for talks with David Cameron. While the main thrust of their discussions will be on Russia and Ukraine and the economy, the two will probably not be able to avoid talking about the rise of parties such as Ukip and AfD/Pegida, or Cameron’s plans to curb migration from Europe as he seeks to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s EU membership. Merkel will visit the British Museum’s exhibition, Germany: Memories of a Nation, a trawl through 600 years of German history, which inevitably gives space to the war – one of the most striking exhibits is the gate of Buchenwald concentration camp – and will further remind Merkel why immigration is so important for her country’s image of itself as a modern, progressive and welcoming land. But it is an image that is under threat. Monday’s Pegida demonstration will be extremely closely observed, by everyone from constitutional experts to sociologists and experts in neo-Nazism.

The questions most frequently addressed are what has prompted Pegida and how it can be dealt with. To condemn it means potentially isolating voters and fuelling the movement even more. But to ignore what is after all still a fledgling movement with no mandate seems too perilous a position for German politicians duty-bound to keep in mind the country’s Nazi past. Already there are suggestions, so far unfounded, of a link between the recent apparent arson attack on a hostel for asylum seekers near Nuremberg, which was daubed with swastikas and anti-immigration slogans, and a pre-Christmas graffiti onslaught on a mosque in Dormagen in North Rhine-Westphalia, which was also smeared with swastikas and slogans such as “Get yourself to concentration camp” and “Waffen SS”. Such incidents have only served to stoke the tension.

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I’ve known Nanko for a long time, haven’t seen him in ten years or so now. Very brave man, and very respected by all sides in Rio. Which is so hard to do.

Inside The Favela Too Violent For Rio’s Armed Police (Observer)

“Yeah, I want to get out,” says Ricardo, 21. Then, relaxing, he takes the hand-grenade he has been toying with on his lap and places it amid the beer bottles on the table. In Vila Aliança in Bangu, western Rio, this is not particularly unusual behaviour. Outsiders rarely come to this lawless favela – a centre of the drugs trade in Rio de Janeiro – and the armed bandidos who guard the area from police raids and rival gangs had been monitoring my approach for miles. As our car wound through the narrow roads, smiling children and friendly teenage boys wearing shorts and flip-flops and carrying rifles appeared. Vila Aliança is not on the list of favelas earmarked for “pacification” – military intervention that paves the way for a permanent Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) to move in to improve security before the 2016 Olympics.

The UPP project has been credited with improving security in 38 communities, but this violent and dangerous favela remains beyond the pale. Nanko van Buuren, a Dutchman in his 60s, has been coming to the city’s most marginalised areas for decades. His Ibiss foundation runs the Soldados Nunca Mais (Soldiers Never More) project. In Vila Aliança he is greeted as paitrao, a Portuguese neologism that combines the words for “boss” and “father”. “Nearly all [traffickers] would get out tomorrow if they could,” says van Buuren. Most start in the drugs trade as young teenagers and four fifths are likely to die before reaching 21. Since 2000, the Soldados project has used sport, arts and peer counselling to help 4,300 “child soldiers” leave a way of life that guarantees early death or imprisonment.

It also uses sport to build bridges between youths raised on hostility towards rival gangs. “What interests me is seeing how people respond to social exclusion,” says van Buuren, referring to the resilience of people in the 64 favelas where 340 Ibiss staff work. For the former World Health Organisation psychiatrist, who came to Rio in 1985, it is the role of peacemaker of which he is proudest. Building peace in communities like Vila Aliança, where a parallel power structure has evolved over decades of state neglect, is nightmarishly difficult, as residents are routinely caught in the crossfire between gangs and police ..

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Great story.

Ecuadorian Student Invents Revolutionary ‘Bat Sonar’ Suit For The Blind (RT)

The bat’s navigation system has inspired an Ecuadorian student to create an innovative costume that allows blind people to move around freely without a cane. “The suit is equipped with ultrasonic sensors to enable the person navigate in different surroundings. It emits vibrations to direct the person and warn of different objects near him,” Inti Condo, the suit’s creator, told RT’s Spanish channel. According to Condo, his invention, which started as a student project, represents an electronic copy of a biological navigations system used by bats. His project is entitled Runa Tech (Human Technology) in Kechua, which is the most widely spoken language among the indigenous peoples of South America.

The Runa Tech costume has a total of seven sensors, which are located in strategic areas of human body, including the waist, hands and shoulders. It adjusts to the rate at which the wearer is walking and warns him or her of looming threats, including staircases and other obstacles. The intensity of vibration in the suit increases the closer the person is to a dangerous object, preventing possible accidents. A single Runa Tech costume now costs an expensive $5,000, and the technology is so far unable to withstand contact with water. It’s also currently impossible to wear a coat or any other overclothes with the suit, as it would prevent the sensors from working, Pichincha Universal website reports.

But the project has already attracted interest from private investors, with Ecuador’s Yachay Tech University also promising to help the student improve his suit. “Our organization looking into the issue to advise on the ergonomics of the invention and the feasibility of its subsequent mass production,” Hector Rodriguez, Yachay’s geneneral director, said. Condo is a member of an ethnic diversification program at the San Francisco de Quito University, which attracts students from Ecuador’s indigenous communities. “These guys really want to achieve great success and commit themselves to the development of the Indian peoples. They prove that they are only needed to be given a chance in order to prove themselves,” David Romo, who heads the ethnic diversification program, said.

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