Pablo Picasso Still life 1936
Reserve curreny status is not a free for all. But if you insist on learning that the hard way…
President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused China and Europe of playing a “big currency manipulation game.” He said the United States should match that effort, a move that directly contradicts official U.S. policy not to manipulate the dollar’s value to gain trade advantages. In a tweet, the president said if America doesn’t act, the country will continue “being the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games — as they have for so many years.” Trump’s own Treasury Department in May found that no country meets the criteria of being labeled a currency manipulator, although the report did put China and eight other countries on a watch list.
A country manipulates its currency when it drives down the value to make its exports cheaper and foreign imports more expensive. As a candidate in 2016, Trump repeatedly charged that China was manipulating its currency and as president he would immediately label China as a currency manipulator. However, after taking office, Trump’s Treasury Department has issued five reports on the subject, required by law every six months. In each report it said no country met the criteria to be labeled a currency manipulator. Trump’s tweet seemed to have no impact in currency markets, a situation that would likely change if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began threatening to use currency manipulation to drive down the dollar’s value.
Feels like they’re far away from a deal.
Existing U.S. tariffs will have to be removed if there is to be a trade deal between Beijing and Washington, China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday. The leaders of the two countries agreed last weekend to relaunch trade talks that had stalled in May after U.S. officials accused China of pulling back from commitments made in the text of a pact negotiators had said was nearly finished. Trade teams from both countries are in contact, commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told a regular media briefing.
To get talks restarted, U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed not to put tariffs on about $300 billion in additional Chinese imports and ease curbs on Chinese tech giant Huawei. The United States now has tariffs of 25% on $250 billion of Chinese goods, ranging from furniture to semiconductors. China welcomes the U.S. decision not to slap new tariffs on its goods, Gao said, when asked how long the trade truce can last.
Britain has only a small shrill voice left.
London summoned Beijing’s ambassador for a dressing down Wednesday in a rapidly escalating diplomatic feud over protests in Hong Kong as China told Britain to keep its “hands off” the city and “show respect”. The demonstrations sweeping the former British colony have also revived tensions inherent in the two sides’ historic agreement on the global financial hub’s handover to Chinese rule 22 years ago. Hong Kong enjoys broad freedoms and rights not seen in mainland China under a doctrine known as “one country, two systems”. But fears and frustrations over Beijing’s gradual tightening of those liberties has spilled over into mass demonstrations against a now-stalled draft law on extradition from Hong Kong to China.
On Monday, groups of mostly young, hardline protesters stormed and ransacked Hong Kong’s legislature, daubing it with graffiti such as “HK is not China”. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — one of two candidates to become Britain’s next prime minister — on Wednesday took the global lead in condemning China’s handling of its “special administrative region”. Hunt called on Beijing not to use the protests as a “pretext for repressions” and warned of “serious consequences” if China breaches the commitments it made to London decades ago under the terms of the handover. His comments provoked a cascade of condemnations from China that began with its foreign ministry in Beijing and continued with its embassy in London.
“He seems to be fantasising in the faded glory of British colonialism and in the bad habit of gesticulating while looking down on other countries’ affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing in Beijing. “I need to re-emphasise that Hong Kong has now returned to its motherland.”
Boris will simply deny it.
Crashing out of the EU would propel Britain into a recession, a top global credit rating agency has predicted, adding its voice to similarly stark warnings from economists. Even Jeremy Hunt – who says that as prime minister he would take the UK out of the EU without a deal if necessary – has admitted that doing so could cause almost as much economic damage as the 2008 financial crisis, which led to a severe recession and put 2.7 million people out of work. “We believe that, without an agreement, the UK economy would likely enter a recession,” says the latest yearly analysis of Britain’s creditworthiness by Moody’s, one of the world’s three biggest providers of government and company credit scores to investors.
“The British pound, which has already weakened since the Brexit vote, would come under renewed pressure. Inflation would rise temporarily … squeezing real wages over the first two to three years following Brexit. This in turn would weigh on consumer spending and depress growth.” The UK government itself, Moody’s noted, estimated in November that leaving the EU without an agreement would reduce GDP by between 6.3 and 10.7 per cent over the course of 15 years. The risks of such an abrupt departure have risen in recent months, not least because both men in the running to replace Theresa May insist they are ready to go through with it on 31 October.
At the same time, the global economy is sputtering, sapped by tensions stemming from Donald Trump’s trade war, mainly with China but also threatening Europe and Mexico. In a sign of things to come, weaker demand from abroad was a key driver behind an unexpectedly sharp contraction in UK manufacturing in June.
“..what he is saying is going to be saving of money of something like $5 billion will actually reduce the UK’s GDP by $5 billion. So to begin with, it is a stupid idea.”
Boris Johnson has said that the existing system has led to “inevitable waste” as funds were simply “shoved out of the door”, calling to abolish or merge several government departments such as Justice, Business, Transport, International Trade, Work and Pensions, and Brexit in order to save 8 billion pounds if he is elected prime minister. In your view, what does Mr Johnson mean by these two terms “inevitable waste” and “shoved out of the door”?
Steve Keen: What he means is that he doesn’t understand bureaucracy nor does he doesn’t understand macroeconomics. Because the first thing he is saying is we have to save money. This is the attitude that individuals have that if they spend less than they earn then they can save money and that gives them a buffer for the future. But at the national level what you spend becomes somebody else’s income. And if the government tries to save money, what it does is spend less money, and by spending less money, GDP falls by initially precisely as much as the government stops spending. So what he is saying is going to be saving of money of something like $5 billion will actually reduce the UK’s GDP by $5 billion. So to begin with, it is a stupid idea.
Secondly, when these ideas about rearranging bureaucracies are imposed from the top, the political top – I have had personal experience of watching this happen – it doesn’t save money, it causes utter confusion inside the bureaucracy. Normally what happens is that any fall in saving, it’s courtesy of things being done less well in the future. And I think that’s certainly going to be the case where he was talking about handing across some elements of foreign affairs to the Home Office or things like that when the Home Office is notorious because its basic role is to be rude to foreigners, which is hardly the sort of thing one wants in foreign affairs. But of course, that is what Boris himself was accused of when he was Foreign Affairs Minister.
“The plot to keep Corbyn out of power.”
Even the best designed systems have flaws, especially when the maintenance of the system’s image as benevolent is considered vitally important. It wasn’t that Corbyn’s election had shown Britain’s political system was representative and accountable. It was simply evidence that corporate power had made itself vulnerable to a potential accident by preferring to work out of sight, in the shadows, to maintain the illusion of democracy. Corbyn was that accident. Corbyn’s success also wasn’t evidence that the power structure he challenged had weakened. The system was still in place and it still had a chokehold on the political and media establishments that exist to uphold its interests.
Which is why it has been mobilising these forces endlessly to damage Corbyn and avert the risk of a further, even more disastrous “accident”, such as his becoming prime minister. Listing the ways the state-corporate media have sought to undermine Corbyn would sound preposterous to anyone not deeply immersed in these media-constructed narratives. But almost all of us have been exposed to this kind of “brainwashing under freedom” since birth. The initial attacks on Corbyn were for being poorly dressed, sexist, unstatesmanlike, a national security threat, a Communist spy – relentless, unsubstantiated smears the like of which no other party leader had ever faced.
But over time the allegations became even more outrageously propagandistic as the campaign to undermine him not only failed but backfired – not least, because Labour membership rocketed under Corbyn to make the party the largest in Europe. As the establishment’s need to keep him away from power has grown more urgent and desperate so has the nature of the attacks.
Unfortunately, he would fit right in.
George Osborne is considering putting his name forward to replace Christine Lagarde as the head of the International Monetary Fund, according to reports, a move that would see him become the first Briton to lead the Washington-based body. The former chancellor – and current Evening Standard editor – has told allies he would be well suited to succeed Lagarde, the Financial Times reported, after she was picked to lead the European Central Bank this week. Such a development would mark a dramatic return to a major public role for Osborne three years after he was unceremoniously sacked as chancellor in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, facing a barrage of criticism over a botched campaign to have the UK remain in the EU.
It would also mark the first time in the 75-year history of the IMF that a Briton has led the global body, which acts as the lender of last resort to nations in financial distress. In the unwritten rules surrounding the formation of the Bretton Woods institution, a European has always held the top job, while an American has led the World Bank – its twin institution, which aims to encourage financial stability, international trade and sustainable economic growth. Osborne could face stiff competition from other highly qualified candidates at a time when Britain’s place in the world has been coloured by internal disputes over leaving the EU, clouding the UK’s international reputation.
Other contenders may include Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, who was installed by Osborne. Although Canadian by birth, he holds Irish and UK citizenship. Carney is due to leave Threadneedle Street early next year.
Wolf Richter thinks this is bad. I do not.
Ford waited until today to report its second-quarter new-vehicle deliveries in the US. So now we know what happened to total US auto sales in the second quarter and in the first half this year, and it wasn’t pretty. New-vehicle deliveries, fleet and retail combined, fell 1.5% in Q2 compared to Q2 last year, to 4.5 million vehicles; and in the first half fell by 2.4% to 8.4 million vehicles. This puts new vehicle sales on track to fall below 17 million units for the year. This would be the worst level since 2014. According to my own estimates, new vehicle sales in 2019 will decline to 16.95 million units, roughly on par with 1999, in a horribly mature market, whose two-decade stagnation was interrupted by the excitement of a collapse and recovery back to stagnation levels:
Ford, like GM, stopped reporting monthly vehicle sales, and now only reports on a quarterly basis. In the second quarter, reported this morning, sales fell 4.1% to 650,336 units. This put Ford into third place, behind GM and Toyota. Carmageddon: This is the big shift where Americans refuse to buy new “cars” and instead are buying new pickups, SUVs, compact SUVs, and vans. And they have far higher price tags and profit margins than cars. Ford’s car sales plunged another 21.4% to just 110,195 units in Q2, continuing their multi-year collapse.
As they refuse to talk to the families. The height of cynicism. Note: just one 737MAX costs more than $100 million.
Boeing is giving $100m to help families affected by the two crashes of the company’s 737 Max planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The payment, stretching over several years, is independent of lawsuits filed in the wake of the disasters, which together killed 346 people. The money will support education and living expenses for families and community programmes, Boeing said. Lawyers for victims’ families dismissed the move. [..] Boeing said in a statement on Wednesday that the “funds will support education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, community programs, and economic development in impacted communities. Boeing will partner with local governments and non-profit organizations to address these needs. This initial investment will be made over multiple years.”
Dennis Muilenburg, the chairman and chief executive, added: “We at Boeing are sorry for the tragic loss of lives in both of these accidents and these lives lost will continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and on our minds for years to come. “The families and loved ones of those on board have our deepest sympathies, and we hope this initial outreach can help bring them comfort,” he said. Nomi Husain, a Texas-based lawyer representing some of the families of victims of ET 302, said Boeing’s payment “doesn’t come anywhere close to compensating the families for what has been taken from them”.
He told the BBC’s transport correspondent Tom Burridge that “some of our clients are not interested in financial compensation at this point” and that Boeing “put profit over safety to get their number-one selling plane to market” – a claim the planemaker strongly denies. Mr Husain has so far filed seven cases on behalf of families, with some of those lawsuits seeking damages of $276m. He estimated that about 50 lawsuits had so far been filed by victims’ families.
Beware of Erdogan.
A refusal by the United States to hand over to Turkey the F-35 fighters jets which it has bought would be “robbery”, media reports on Thursday cited President Tayyip Erdogan as saying in a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of Russian air defences. US officials have told Reuters the Trump administration still plans to impose sanctions on Turkey and remove it from the F-35 programme if its NATO ally acquires the Russian S-400 missile defence system. “If you have a customer and that customer is making payments like clockwork, how can you not give that customer their goods? The name of that would be robbery,” Hurriyet newspaper quoted Erdogan as telling reporters during a visit to China.
He said that Turkey had so far paid 1.4 billion dollars for the F-35s and that four jets had been handed over, with Turkish pilots going to the United States for training. “We have made an agreement to buy 116 F-35s. We are not just a market, we are also joint producers. We produce some of the parts in Turkey,” he added. After meeting US President Donald Trump last weekend in Japan on the sidelines of a G20 summit, Erdogan said Ankara would be spared damaging US sanctions once Russia’s S-400 air defence system started arriving in Turkey in the coming days. If the United States removes Turkey from the F-35 program, and imposes sanctions on the NATO ally, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two nations.
“How many Europeans, if you told them something happened at the European Commission Security Council, would actually be able to tell you right off the bat, that this council does not exist? Not many.”
For a brief period on Tuesday evening, there was speculation online of impending doom as US VP Mike Pence canceled plans for an “urgent meeting.” When Twitter reports said the “European Commission Security Council” was also called for an “emergency meeting,” it started to sound serious. Maybe the world really was ending. However, the European Commission Security Council does not actually exist – and people were getting worked up over nothing. For a solid five minutes, I too was convinced that it must be a real body I had never heard of. This is the EU we’re talking about – one could be forgiven for confusion. EU leaders, much like their American counterparts, spend quite a lot of their time pontificating to the rest of the world about democracy – but where is the democracy in the process by which these new faces of the EU were selected?
There is none, of course. No votes were cast, no debates were held, no elections took place. It would be no exaggeration to suggest that the vast majority of Europeans hadn’t even the foggiest notion that these switches were going to happen. When you have no say in something, it’s impossible to feel connected to it. So, who are the anointed ones? German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen will head the European Commission. An ally of Angela Merkel, she is a major proponent of an EU super-army. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles will run the EU’s foreign policy. Christine Lagarde will move from the IMF to head the European Central Bank. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will replace Tusk as European Council president – and no one elected any of them.
In March, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed the creation of a “European Agency for the Protection of Democracies,” a “common border force,” a “European asylum office,” and a “European Council for Internal Security.” If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail – and if all you have is unelected neoliberal bureaucrats, the solution to every problem looks like a new mega-agency or supranational body answerable to no one. The brief furore over the fake ‘European Commission Security Council’ was the perfect demonstration of how bloated and disconnected the EU really is from the citizens it is supposed to serve. How many Europeans, if you told them something happened at the European Commission Security Council, would actually be able to tell you right off the bat, that this council does not exist? Not many.
Schools close, stores disappear, etc etc. Welcome to Disneyland.
The bells will ring for the last time this week at Vaugirard elementary school in central Paris, the latest school in the city to close as spiralling property prices drive families out of the capital. Just 51 students were enrolled this year at Vaugirard, a stark illustration of the steady decline in numbers at many schools in central Paris which some parents and teachers blame on the surge of home-renting giant Airbnb. “The centre of Paris is basically becoming a vast Airbnb hotel, and there are fewer and fewer residents,” Jean-Jacques Renard, vice president of the FCPE parents’ association, told AFP.
Real estate prices in Paris and most Western capitals have soared in recent years, making it harder for middle-class couples to find family-sized apartments in a city already known for its cramped living conditions. While record low interest rates and a shortage of housing have fuelled the boom, fingers are increasingly being pointed at Airbnb. Its popularity has encouraged thousands of property owners to turn Paris flats or commercial spaces into short-term rentals that are far more profitable than traditional leases. The number of Paris lodgings that are not permanently occupied jumped by nearly 30,000 in the five years to 2017, “likely due to the development of short-term rentals,” according to a report by the Paris Urbanism Institute last year.
[..] With 65,000 listings for a population of 2.2 million in the 20 districts that fall within the city’s limits, compared with 50,000 for the 8.5 million people spread across New York’s five boroughs, Paris is Airbnb’s single biggest market. By contrast with Berlin, where many Airbnb offerings are for a room in an apartment, nearly 90 percent of the Paris listings are for an entire home, according to the Paris Urbanism Institute. City officials accuse Airbnb of effectively siphoning thousands of apartments off the market. “We don’t have a problem with vacation rentals, but we do when we lose an apartment that’s turned into an Airbnb rental,” said Maxime Cochard, an advisor to Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor in charge of housing.