Jan 032018
 
 January 3, 2018  Posted by at 10:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


GordonParks Untitled, Paris, France 1951

 

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Financial Markets Are No Longer A Mechanism For Price Discovery (Guinn)
Stocks Start 2018 On Positive Note But Investor Confidence Keeps Falling (BBG)
Baltic Dry Index Plunges Most In 2 Years (ZH)
The Next Financial Crisis Will Be Worse Than the Last One (Nomi Prins)
China’s Small Banks Dumped on Signs of More Policy Pain in 2018 (BBG)
Brits Spend 5 Times More Of Their Pay On Rail Fares Than EU Commuters (Mirror)
US Blocks MoneyGram Sale To China’s Ant Financial (R.)
Australia Property Market Is Repeating US Mortgage Mistakes (AFR)
Bankers Work Around The Clock To Iron Out EU Finance Reforms (R.)
Welcome to 2018 – We Are All Connected (Krieger)
Athens To Propose Transfer Of Migrants To Ankara (K.)

 

 

Thsis is what people tend to forget. Things look normal. But the more normal they look, the more risk there is.

Financial Markets Are No Longer A Mechanism For Price Discovery (Guinn)

This Time It’s Different. It’s not different because people really got it right this time (in ways they missed every other time) about some new technology that’s going to Change The World! Electric cars, cryptocurrency, AI and automation, these may all be fabulous things, and they may well prove to be game-changers for productivity and returns on capital down the line, but if you think any of those things explain current valuations, you’re nuts. You’re also wrong. It’s different because financial markets are no longer a mechanism for price discovery and the pricing of risk of capital allocation decisions. Markets have been made into a utility. More to the point, they have been made into a political utility, a tool for ensuring wealth and stability of our political structures.

The easing tools we dabbled in to stabilize prior business cycles were brought to bear instead as tools for propping up and expanding financial asset prices. Beyond the direct marginal price impact of the easing itself, central bankers tailored communications policies to create Pavlovian responses to every narrative. Our President tweets about the policy implications when the S&P 500 hits new highs, for God’s sake. This isn’t a secret, y’all. The singular intent of every central banker in the world is to keep the prices of financial assets from going down, and the singular intent of every government that puts those central bankers in power is to ensure that they do so, in order to retain social stability.

Sure, there’s a dual mandate. But the mandates aren’t employment and price stability. They’re (1) expanding financial asset prices and (2) effectively marketing the idea of corresponding wealth effects to the public. Markets have also rapidly become a social utility, an inextricable part of every contract between governments and the governed. Underfunded pensions and undersized boomer 401(k) accounts mean that ownership of risky assets is not a choice driven by diversification or relative return expectations, but by the fact that it is the only asset they can buy that has any potential of meeting the returns they would need to be adequately funded.

Let’s say that you are running a state pension plan that is 65% funded. Your legislature is telling you that no help is coming from the state budget. You and every member of your agency will be fired if you even suggest cutting benefits, if you even have that authority. Your consultant or internal staff just did their new mean reversion-based capital markets return projections, and higher valuations mean projected returns on everything are lower. What’s worse, your funded status assumes returns that are higher than anything on their sheet. You are being presented with a Hobson’s Choice — behind Door #1, you get fired, and behind Door #2, you lever up your stock exposure with an increased private equity allocation. This a brutal position to be in.

Read more …

While you were sleeping.

Stocks Start 2018 On Positive Note But Investor Confidence Keeps Falling (BBG)

Stocks kicked off 2018 on a positive note, as U.S. equities led the MSCI All-Country World Index to its best start since 2013. To the bears, every move higher only serves to underscore a growing divergence between stocks and sentiment. State Street Global Markets’ index of institutional investor confidence, which differs from survey-based measures in that it is based on the actual trades, as opposed to opinions, fell for a fifth straight month in December, the firm said last week. What’s jarring is how the measure has fallen as the MSCI index of stocks has soared, after largely moving in line with the benchmark in the first half of 2017.

The latest reading of 94.8 puts State Street’s the index further below 100, which is “neutral,” or where investors are neither increasing nor decreasing their long-term allocations to risky assets. By region, sentiment fell in both North America and Asia, but rose strongly in Europe in what State Street said is a sign that that European-based investors are becoming less concerned that political risks could derail the strong economic performance in that region.

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Our old friend the Baltic has a say as well.

Baltic Dry Index Plunges Most In 2 Years (ZH)

The last six months have seen an almost unprecedented surge in world macro-economic data upside-beats as the so-called ‘global coordinated growth’ narrative surprised more dismal economists. Until recently, The Baltic Dry shipping index had confirmed that narrative… But The Baltic Dry Index has dropped for 8 straight days, tumbling over 21% – the biggest drop since Jan 2015…

While there is seasonality in the index, this is a notable decoupling… (as Bloomberg notes, peak season typically boosts trade volume and pricing, benefiting liners. The industry’s slack capacity remains a drag on rate increases.) But in a longer-term context, the decoupling between global trade volumes and the Baltic Dry Index is vast…

As the overbuilding of vessels in previous credit-fueled bubblicious malinvestment booms continues to ripple through markets still.

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Good risk overview by Nomi.

The Next Financial Crisis Will Be Worse Than the Last One (Nomi Prins)

If you look at the stock and asset markets, as Donald Trump tends to do (and as Barack Obama did, too), you’d think all is fine with the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 24% this year. The Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index rose 6.20%. The price of one Bitcoin rose about 1,646%. On the flip side of that euphoria however, is the fact that the median wage rose just 2.4% and has remained effectively stagnant relative to inflation.

And although the unemployment rate fell to a 17-year low of 4.1%, the labor force participation rate dropped to 62.7%, its lowest level in nearly four decades—particularly difficult for new entrants to the workforce, such as students graduating under a $1.3 trillion pile of unrepayable or very challenging student loan debt. (Not to worry though: Goldman Sachs is on that, promoting a way to profit from this debt by stuffing it into other assets and selling those off to investors, a la shades of the subprime mortgage crisis.)

Those of us living in the actual world without billionaire family pedigrees possess a healthy dose of skepticism over the “Make America Great Again” sect that believes Trump has transformed America “hugely,” for record-setting markets don’t imply economic stability, nor do 40% corporate tax cuts translate into 40% wage growth. We can march forward into 2018 carrying that knowledge with us.

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Can consolidation save the system?

China’s Small Banks Dumped on Signs of More Policy Pain in 2018 (BBG)

China’s smaller banks started the New Year with a double whammy from regulators and investors, and more pain may be looming. Bank of Tianjin tumbled by as much as 12% in the first two trading days, the biggest two-day decline since its Hong Kong listing in March 2016, after rallying at the end of last year. Bank of Jinzhou, Bank of Qingdao, and Huishang Bank fell by more than 3%. In contrast, bigger rivals have rallied. A policy announcement on Friday highlighted China’s tough stance toward smaller banks, which are already a target of government efforts to reduce leverage in the financial system. The People’s Bank of China said it will set up a mechanism for lowering banks’ reserve requirements as needed during the Lunar New Year festival next month, letting national lenders use as much as 2 %age points of reserves to meet liquidity needs for 30 days. The small banks, which are often the most cash-strapped, were excluded.

“This shows regulators are unrelenting in deleveraging efforts,” said Richard Cao at Guotai Junan Securities. Small banks seeking liquidity will have to borrow from bigger banks at higher costs, he added. China’s smaller banks have borne the brunt of a deleveraging campaign since April last year which has pushed up their borrowing costs, weakened profit growth and increased solvency risks, Natixis said in a December report. Funding for smaller banks “has clearly worsened” because they lack large deposit bases, said Alicia Garcia Herrero, the firm’s chief economist for Asia Pacific. The extensive branch networks of larger lenders lure deposits that act as a buffer as policy makers push ahead with deleveraging. Regulators ramped up financial supervision last year, targeting excessive interbank lending as well as the shadow financing that has helped some smaller lenders expand aggressively.

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it’s still Thatcher time in Britain. Never went away. She’s supposed to have said: A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.

Brits Spend 5 Times More Of Their Pay On Rail Fares Than EU Commuters (Mirror)

Millions of British commuters are having a miserable morning as rail fares go up by 3.4%. The eye-watering above inflation hike is the biggest for five years. So just wait until you compare it to what some commutes cost on the continent. New research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows Brits spend up to five times as much of their salary than some of their counterparts in Europe. An average worker travelling from Chelmsford, Essex, to central London will have to pay 13% of their salary for a £381 monthly season ticket, the TUC said. That compares with 2% for similar-length commute in France (£66), 3% in Italy (£65), 4% in Germany (£118) and 5% in Spain (£108) and Belgium (£144). Season tickets will increase a third faster than wages in 2018, the TUC warned.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Many commuters will look with envy to their continental cousins, who enjoy reasonably priced journeys to work.” Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, added: “While the British passenger is being pumped for cash, the same private companies are axing safety-critical staff and security on our trains and stations. “It’s a national scandal that private profit comes before public safety on our rail network. “Even worse, with 75% of Britain’s railways in overseas hands, it is the British people who are subsidising state-run rail operations across the continent. The Department for Transport today insisted 97% fares go back to the railways and will help fund the biggest modernisation since Victorian times, including Thameslink, Crossrail and the Great North Rail project.

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Too close to banking.

US Blocks MoneyGram Sale To China’s Ant Financial (R.)

A U.S. government panel rejected Ant Financial’s acquisition of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International over national security concerns, the companies said on Tuesday, the most high-profile Chinese deal to be torpedoed under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The $1.2 billion deal’s collapse represents a blow for Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Chinese internet conglomerate Alibaba Group, who owns Ant Financial together with Alibaba executives. He was looking to expand Ant Financial’s footprint amid fierce domestic competition from Chinese rival Tencent’s WeChat payment platform.

Ma, a Chinese citizen who appears frequently with leaders from the highest echelons of the Communist Party, had promised Trump in a meeting a year ago that he would create 1 million U.S. jobs. MoneyGram shares were down 8.5% at $12.06 in after-market trading. The companies decided to terminate their deal after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) rejected their proposals to mitigate concerns over the safety of data that can be used to identify U.S. citizens, according to sources familiar with the confidential discussions. “Despite our best efforts to work cooperatively with the U.S. government, it has now become clear that CFIUS will not approve this merger,” MoneyGram Chief Executive Alex Holmes said in a statement.

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Really? It’s hard to say if there’s a bubble?

Australia Property Market Is Repeating US Mortgage Mistakes (AFR)

For all the endless discussion of housing prices in Australia, it is very hard to tell if there is a bubble. Sydney price-to-income ratios are the second highest in the world—above London and New York—but hey, Sydney is a great place to live. Supply is constrained by zoning laws, two national parks, a mountain range, and an ocean. Yet demand continues to grow, so prices tend to rise. I don’t know if there’s a bubble in the Australian housing market, but there are some very troubling markers that suggest impudent borrowing and lending. Just the sort of things that preceded the US housing implosion nearly a decade ago. And I worry that bankers, borrowers, and regulators seem not to have learned the lessons of that very painful piece of economic history.

First, the markers. Australia lenders will let you borrow a lot compared to your income. If one adjusts for tax and exchange rates and uses an online mortgage calculator, it is easy to see than a major Australian bank will lend about 25% more for the same income level compared with what a major US bank will now lend. Not only can one borrow a lot, the structure of the loans is often very risk. A staggering 35.4% of home loans in Australia are interest only, according to recent APRA figures. That has dropped from above 40% thanks to APRA’s recent 30% cap on the amount of new loans that can be interest only. Don’t forget that a key trigger of the US housing meltdown was when five-year adjustable rate mortgages could not be refinanced, and borrowers faced steep upticks every quarter in their interest rates.

Interest-only loans in Australia typically have a five-year horizon and to date have often been refinanced. If this stops then repayments will soar, adding to mortgage stress, delinquencies, and eventually foreclosures. So-called “liar loans”, where borrowers provide inaccurate information about their income, assets, or expenses to lenders seem both prevalent and on the rise. A UBS survey in late 2017 found that approximately 30% of home loans, or $500 billion worth could be affected.

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Oh well, the idea I guess is commendable.

Bankers Work Around The Clock To Iron Out EU Finance Reforms (R.)

Bankers will work through the night to iron out last-minute hitches before Wednesday’s launch of a major change to European Union financial markets that aims to apply lessons from the financial crisis nearly a decade ago. The new rules are already a year late due to their complexity, with regulators having to issue 11th-hour guidance to banks and financial firms to avoid freezing up trades as well as calming nerves of those not yet fully compliant. The new regime shines a spotlight on the innards of stock, bond, commodity and derivatives markets by forcing banks, asset managers and traders to report detailed information on trillions of euros in transactions. Banks and trading firms have spent millions of euros getting ready for the big day.

A report from Expand, part of the Boston Consulting Group and IHS Markit, has estimated that top global banks and asset managers will have spent £1.5bn ($2.1bn) this year to comply with the rules. Royal Bank of Scotland’s NatWest Markets has conducted a “soft launch”. From 2 January to 4 January, some of its staff will work through the night. “Day one will hopefully go smoothly and we are as ready as we can be,” Giovanni Mazzocchi, head of macro distribution in Europe for Barclays, said. “There are a few overnighters going on to make sure everything will work on the day.”

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said there would likely be more losers than winners from the changes. The aim is to boost transparency and strengthen investor protection to avoid some of the problems of the 2007-2009 financial crisis. Stock, bond, derivatives, commodity and other trades must all be reported to a repository, giving regulators a trove of data to track trades and try to spot bubbles early after failing to see the last crisis coming. When the rules go live on Wednesday, fund managers and others must for the first time fill in a transaction report with up to 65 bits of data within 15 minutes of a trade – or risk being fined.

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I wish I could share Mike Krieger’s optimist visions of internet and social media. I can’t. I see them divide people at least as much as bringing them together.

Welcome to 2018 – We Are All Connected (Krieger)

Over the course of 2017, I spent a lot of time detailing where we stand as a species and where I think we’re going. To summarize, I think the positive impact of the internet and social media on humanity is still very much in its infancy. The more connected we become to one another across the planet, the more we’ll realize we have far more in common with one another than we do with the sociopathic oligarchs and politicians in charge of our respective nation-states.

Much of the 20th century was defined by unimaginable human conflict and terror, unleashed upon the public by crazed elites and rulers who were able to successfully manipulate large populations. The key to preventing a repeat of this sort of thing in the 21st century is billions of human beings across the planet communicating and sharing friendship with one another to the point we can no longer be tricked in killing each other. We need to learn to see “the other” in ourselves and voluntarily collaborate with our fellow humans on the challenges that face us in order to bring our species to the next level. This isn’t just a pipe-dream or insane utopian ramblings, I think it’s entirely possible.

[..] When I think about 2018 and beyond, I see a species in the early stages of a historic transformation. We are moving away from hierarchies and into networks. Away from centralization and into decentralization. From the unconscious to the conscious. That said, the old system isn’t gone just yet. It remains a dangerous zombie, and its benefactors will fight to keep their schemes alive. The years ahead will be characterized by increased tension between the old and the new. What comes next is up to us. Never forget that we are all connected. That you have tremendous power to impact the world based on your everyday thoughts and actions. Understand that we don’t have to live this way. Fill your heart with love, not hate. Stay true to your higher nature. If enough of us do this, the future is unimaginably bright.

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As Berlin and Brussels deck it out with Erdogan, they force Greece to consider an approach.

Athens To Propose Transfer Of Migrants To Ankara (K.)

In a bid to reduce overcrowding at migrant reception centers on the Aegean islands, the government is to propose to Turkey that asylum seekers who are not high on the list of eligibility for protection be transferred to camps on the mainland and subsequently to Turkey, Kathimerini understands. “We are asking that we be allowed to conduct returns either directly from the islands or from the mainland in the context of the EU-Turkey joint statement,” a government official told Kathimerini, referring to a deal between Brussels and Ankara signed in March 2016 aimed at curbing migrant smuggling across the Aegean. According to sources, Turkish government officials have indicated that Ankara will respond to Greece’s request in the first half of January.

During a landmark visit to Greece last month, the first by a Turkish head of state in 65 years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to cooperate more closely in tackling the refugee crisis. According to sources, Erdogan accepted Tsipras’s request that Turkey take back migrants from the Greek mainland as well as the islands. It remains unclear, however, whether officials in Brussels approve of the deal. Tsipras’s government is keen to ease pressure on reception centers by jumpstarting the return of migrants to Turkey, a process that has largely halted as new arrivals often lodge applications for asylum. By ensuring that those being returned are not refugees from war zones such as Syria, authorities believe they will overcome the objections of some within leftist SYRIZA who have taken a tough stance against returns to Turkey.

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To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

– “To make a prairie”, Emily Dickinson

Dec 152017
 
 December 15, 2017  Posted by at 10:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gustave Courbet The bathers 1853

 

Central Banks Want World To Party On As They Remove Punch Bowl (BBG)
This Is What Happened To The American Dream – It’s Not Pretty (MW)
The Rude Awakening Of Slumbering Bulls (Roberts)
MiFID’s Cautious Start on Bond-Price Rules Shows Lobbying Impact (BBG)
Why American Capitalism Doesn’t Work For All Americans – Deaton (MW)
Europe’s Sovereign-Bank ‘Doom Loop’ Can’t Be Broken (BBG)
Jim Chanos: We Think Tesla Is Worth Zero (CNBC)
WikiLeaks Recognised As A ‘Media Organisation’ By UK Tribunal (G.)
EU Leaders Clash Over Refugees (R.)
Palau Makes All Visitors Sign Pledge To Respect Environment (G.)
Arctic Warming So Rapid That Computer Measuring It Rejected The Results (Ind.)

 

 

And that’s not going to fly. So back to QE in 2018? Or will they wait so long the damage becomes irreversible (I know it already is, but still..)

Central Banks Want World To Party On As They Remove Punch Bowl (BBG)

Central bankers are gingerly trying to take away the punch bowl without interrupting the party. Led by interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve and the People’s Bank of China, central banks around the world shifted toward a tighter monetary stance this week. Yet the moves were either so well-telegraphed, or so tiny, and the language about future action so hedged, that there was barely a ripple in financial markets. “They’re terrified of upsetting the markets,” said Paul Mortimer-Lee, chief market economist at BNP Paribas. So “they’re all exiting quite slowly from emergency settings” on monetary policy. The likely result of this leisurely approach: another year of synchronized global growth in 2018.

Indeed, both the Fed and the ECB revised up their forecasts for the growth of their respective economies next year even as they signaled that they would be slowly scaling back the stimulus they are providing. “The global economy is doing well,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen told reporters on Wednesday after the U.S. central bank raised interest rates for the third time this year. “We’re in a synchronized expansion. This is the first time in many years that we’ve seen this.” [..] Policy makers though played down fears that asset price bubbles were building that could threaten the financial system and the economy. “When we look at other indicators of financial stability risks, there’s nothing flashing red there or possibly even orange,” Yellen said.

[..]“Central banks, who’ve been pumping money into the system for the past decade or so, are going to be removing it,” said Iain Stealey, fixed-income portfolio manager at JPMorgan Asset Management in a Bloomberg Television interview on Thursday. “It’s going to be slow to start with, very gradual, but it’s going to be a real change in rhetoric.”

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The course of inequality is very different from one continent to the other.

This Is What Happened To The American Dream – It’s Not Pretty (MW)

There’s one area where there’s been huge growth in the U.S. — the gap between the rich and poor. The divergence in the levels of inequality has been “extreme” between Western Europe and the U.S., according to the 2018 World Inequality Report, released by the World Inequality Lab, a research project in over 70 countries based at the Paris School of Economics, and co-authored by the French economist Thomas Piketty. “The global middle class has been squeezed,” it said. In 1980, the U.S. and Western Europe had similar levels of inequality. And today? Not so much. While the top 1% of earners made up just 10% in both regions in 1980, it increased slightly to 12% in 2016 in Western Europe, but doubled to 20% in the U.S. “Since 1980, income inequality has increased rapidly in North America, China, India, and Russia,” it said.

“The income-inequality trajectory observed in the U.S. is largely due to massive educational inequalities, combined with a tax system that grew less progressive despite a surge in top labor compensation since the 1980s,” it found. In Europe, tax and wage inequality was moderated by educational and wage-setting policies that were more favorable to low and middle-income groups. In the U.S., out of 100 children whose parents are among the bottom 10% of income earners, only 20 to 30 of them actually go to college. However, closer to 90 out of 100 children go to college if their parents are within the top 10% earners. What’s more, research has shown that when elite colleges open their doors to students from poor backgrounds, academic performance at the institution doesn’t decline.

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“Animal spirits”, “irrational exuberance”, “value investing”, “momentum chase”. What is this, verbal bankruptcy?

The Rude Awakening Of Slumbering Bulls (Roberts)

Here’s a little secret, “Animal Spirits” is simply another name for “Irrational Exuberance,” as it is the manifestation of the capitulation of individuals who are suffering from an extreme case of the “FOMO’s” (Fear Of Missing Out). The chart below shows the stages of the previous bull markets and the inflection points of the appearance of “Animal Spirits.” At the peak of previous bull market advances, the markets have entered into an accelerated phase of price advances.

Since “the price you pay day is the value you receive tomorrow,” as famously noted by Warren Buffet, it should not come as a surprise that “value investing” is lagging the “momentum chase” in the market currently. But again, this is something that has historically, and repeatedly occurred, during very late stage bull market advances as the “rationalization” for a “never-ending bull market” is promulgated.

Given the length of the economic expansion, the risk to the “bull market” thesis is an economic slowdown, or contraction, that derails the lofty expectations of continued earnings growth. While tax reform legislation may provide a bump to earnings growth in the near-term, it is the longer-term growth rates of the economy that matters. Furthermore, while providing a tax cut to corporations will certainly boost their bottom line, there is little evidence, historically speaking, “trickle-down economics” actually occurs. If it did, wages as a share of corporate profits wouldn’t look like this.

With an economy that is 70% driven by the 90% of the population who don’t benefit from corporate tax cuts, the long-term effects of a deficit and debt busting tax bill should be worrying investors. But, for now, that is not the case as the rise in “animal spirits” is simply the reflection of the rising delusion of investors who frantically cling to data points which somehow support the notion “this time is different,” a point recently made by Sentiment Trader: “We’ve discussed a multitude of momentum studies in the past month or two, with an almost universal suggestion that the types of readings we’ve seen this year are rare and hard to bust. This unrelenting bid has been one of, if not THE, most compelling bullish argument, and it shows little sign of stopping.”

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K-Street has taken over Brussels too.

MiFID’s Cautious Start on Bond-Price Rules Shows Lobbying Impact (BBG)

For years, the bond industry argued that price-disclosure requirements in MiFID II were unsuited to the market and would hinder trading. With less than 1% of notes affected when the rules kick in on Jan. 3, that lobbying seems to have paid off. The European Securities and Markets Authority said last week that 566 bond instruments out of 61,761 it analyzed were sufficiently liquid to fall under the pre- and post-trade transparency rules in the MiFID II package. Most were sovereign bonds, which are used as collateral in everything from repurchase agreements to derivative trades. About 150 corporate securities made the list, issued by financial firms such as CaixaBank, Italian power giant Enel and telecommunications company Wind Tre. But the small number of securities initially captured by MiFID II means the law’s goal of shedding light on the market may not be achieved anytime soon.

“ESMA’s approach will contribute very little towards improving transparency in this notoriously opaque market segment,” said Christian Stiefmueller, who’s in charge of banking for Finance Watch, a public-interest watchdog in Brussels. “ESMA’s approach is a present to market makers, i.e. traders at the major investment banks, who thrive on a lack of transparency.” As part of its efforts to prevent another financial crisis, the EU is implementing rules designed to shift trading on to exchanges where regulators can track it, boost transparency to protect individual investors and level the playing field for professionals. MiFID II transparency rules require market operators and investment firms that run a trading venue to make public “current bid and offer prices and the depth of trading interests at those prices” continuously during trading hours for some bonds and other non-equity securities.

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People only get poorer, the dream is over.

Why American Capitalism Doesn’t Work For All Americans – Deaton (MW)

MarketWatch: I want to make the bridge from your findings to the economy. You have said that white working class workers are facing a loss of their way of life.

Deaton: This is much more hypothetical because of course, you are saying “what is doing this?” Tying it to the economy is tricky because it is certainly not true that it was the Great Recession that made this happen, for example. And in fact even if you go back to the late 1990s, the patterns of income and so on are not that different across groups. They don’t match up. Any simple story that said “it is the economy stupid,” is stupid. So we trace this back sort of a long way, and if you look at birth cohorts it is like each successive birth cohort is doing worse. They are more susceptible to these deaths throughout life, and the deaths rise with age more rapidly for younger cohorts, so we’re attracted by this idea that there is a cumulative process going on which is steadily getting worse over time. And, you know, the destruction of the way of life of the white working class is maybe a good way of thinking about this.

I mean we are very attracted by that. You know, the ultimate poison may be in the labor market, but, it works through a lot of other bad stuff that is going on — like the decline in marriage rates, the increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing, and all those sort of things. It is those things that get to middle age and your life has not worked out the way you thought, not just in terms of the salary you earned, but also your marital relationship, your kids who you may not know anymore and who are living with someone else. So there are a lot of people who in their 50s that find that their life has just sort of come apart. One story is just that there has been this slow loss of the white working class life. There has been stagnation in wages for 50 years. If you don’t have a university degree, median wages for those people have actually been going down. So it is just like that model, whereby American capitalism really delivered to people who were not particularly well-educated, seems to be broken.

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“..the phenomenon whereby weak banks can destabilize governments that support them and over-indebted governments can push banks holding their bonds over the precipice..”

Europe’s Sovereign-Bank ‘Doom Loop’ Can’t Be Broken (BBG)

Ever since the financial crisis, the European Union has grappled with how to solve the so-called sovereign bank doom loop – the phenomenon whereby weak banks can destabilize governments that support them and over-indebted governments can push banks holding their bonds over the precipice. The widely touted solution is the European Banking Union, which the European Commission wants completed by 2018. New rules introduced European bank supervision, a new resolution framework that limits sovereign support and a pan-EU deposit insurance scheme as a means of breaking the interdependence between banks and sovereigns. The first problem with this approach is that it’s actually not possible to break the doom loop. The second is that trying to do so through the banking union may actually increase risks in the European Union.

Euro zone banks, who are legally required to hold safe and liquid assets, often buy disproportionately large chunks of their home country sovereign debt because these are often the most familiar safe assets, and the sovereign yield curve is used as a baseline for pricing most credit. However, if the price of these bonds plummets – or, worse, if these bonds have to be restructured – banks get into trouble, as Greek banks found. The doom loop works in other ways too. Rating agencies have a separate methodology for rating banks wherein the possibility of state support raises bank ratings between one and six notches above what these would be on a standalone basis. A weak government means that investors discount the ability of the sovereign to support a bank in times of trouble, so a bank’s rating will also fall.

That explains why, during the euro zone crisis, badly run German landesbanken (a group of state-owned banks) had a better credit rating compared to Santander, one of Europe’s best-run banks, headquartered in Spain. Sometimes the bill for bailing out banks is so large that an otherwise healthy sovereign itself needs to be bailed out, as Ireland found out. Finally, the doom loop can kick in if depositors doubt that governments can honor their guarantees. Rumors of a bank being in trouble can be self-fulfilling, leading to the withdrawal of short-term funding and deposits. It was a fear of such a run on deposits in Spanish banks that prompted ECB President Mario Draghi to say the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to stem the crisis. Deposit guarantee schemes are important in reducing the risks of such a run on the bank. But these guarantees are only as good as a government’s ability to pay.

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He’s probably right.

Jim Chanos: We Think Tesla Is Worth Zero (CNBC)

Famed short seller Jim Chanos took another shot at Tesla on Thursday, saying the company’s equity is worth nothing. “Let’s just say Tesla and Mr. Musk have a broad interpretation of the truth,” Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates, told CNBC’s Kelly Evans. “There have been all kinds of announcements that this company has made … that turned out not to be true.” Chanos mentioned the unveiling of Tesla’s electric Semi truck and roadster last month as examples. The short seller noted that Tesla CEO Elon Musk said “the Semi would be available in 2019 and the roadster in 2020. Where is he producing those? Those production lines have to be up and approved years before we get into production.”

Chanos has been short Tesla for a long time. On Nov. 14, he said he added to his short position against the electric vehicle maker throughout the year. However, Tesla shares are up sharply this year, advancing nearly 60%. “To me, where the stock is now is not the story,” Chanos said. “I don’t care that it came from $30 or $200 or $300. That’s just meaningless.” “We think the equity is worthless,” he said in the interview on “Closing Bell.”

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Politics will trump the legal system, wanna bet?!

WikiLeaks Recognised As A ‘Media Organisation’ By UK Tribunal (G.)

A British tribunal has recognised Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks as a “media organisation”, a point of contention with the United States, which is seeking to prosecute him and disputes his journalistic credentials. The issue of whether Assange is a journalist and publisher would almost certainly be one of the main battlegrounds in the event of the US seeking his extradition from the UK. The definition of WikiLeaks by the information tribunal, which is roughly equivalent to a court, could help Assange’s defence against extradition on press freedom grounds. The US has been considering prosecution of Assange since 2010 when WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of confidential US defence and diplomatic documents. US attorney general Jeff Sessions said in April this year that the arrest of Assange is a priority for the US.

The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, after leaks of emails from the US Democratic party and from Hillary Clinton, described WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”. He added Assange is not covered by the US constitution, which protects journalists. But the UK’s information tribunal, headed by judge Andrew Bartlett QC, in a summary and ruling published on Thursday on a freedom of information case, says explicitly: “WikiLeaks is a media organisation which publishes and comments upon censored or restricted official materials involving war, surveillance or corruption, which are leaked to it in a variety of different circumstances.” The comment is made under a heading that says simply: “Facts”.

The tribunal’s definition of WikiLeaks comes in the 21-page summary into a freedom of information case heard in London in November. An Italian journalist, Stefania Maurizi, is seeking the release of documents relating to Assange, mainly in regard to extradition, and had lodged an appeal with the tribunal. While the tribunal dismissed her appeal, it acknowledged there issues weighing in favour of public disclosure in relation to Assange. But it added these were outweighed by a need for confidentiality on the matter of extradition.

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A long cold lonely winter.

EU Leaders Clash Over Refugees (R.)

Two years after the Mediterranean migrant crisis blew a hole in the European Union, a tentative effort to patch up differences over what to do with refugees underlined continuing rifts among the bloc’s leaders. A free-wheeling discussion over a Brussels summit dinner that began on Thursday night and spilled into the wee hours of Friday was intended to clear the air and see if there was a way to reconcile opposing views on how to reform defunct asylum rules. But leaders emerging from nearly three hours of talks made clear that while there was little of the angry passion of 2015, when a million people flooded into Greece and headed for Germany, the “frank and sober” discussion failed to blunt sharp rifts pitting some eastern states against many of the rest.

“We have a lot of work to do,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. “The positions have not changed.” Divisions over how to share out relatively small numbers of refugees have poisoned relations in the EU, complicating efforts to present a united front in talks with London on Brexit and to agree an EU budget out to 2028. New Polish and Czech leaders stuck to lines shared with Hungary and Slovakia that their ex-communist societies cannot accept significant immigration, especially of Muslims. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called the debate “quite stormy” and told reporters that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had been “quite aggressive.” But, he said, the eastern allies would not let the majority impose obligatory refugee quotas on them.

Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni were among those who demanded that all countries take in a mandatory share of people requiring asylum, who have been concentrated on the Mediterranean coast, or after chaotic movements across Europe, in the richer northwest of the bloc.

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Only viable in countries that provide the good example.

Palau Makes All Visitors Sign Pledge To Respect Environment (G.)

The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau has introduced a new law requiring visitors to sign a pledge not to harm the environment before entering the country. The pledge will be stamped into the passports of international arrivals from this month. Visitors will be required to sign before proceeding through immigration, making a formal promise to the children of Palau to “preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home”, and to “tread lightly, act kindly and explore lightly”. Almost 6,000 people signed in the first two weeks. It’s the first time such a pledge has been written into a country’s immigration policies, but Palau has long been vocal about the environment. The country has already reported larger tides and an increase in severe tropical storms. The sea level around its 700 islands has risen by about 9mm a year since 1993, almost three times the global average rate.

President Tommy Remengesau is a vocal environmental campaigner. He told a United Nations climate forum in 2014 that if the world failed to act to curb its carbon emissions, “our global warming doomsday is already set in stone”. In 2015 Palau created the world’s sixth-largest marine sanctuary, protecting 80% of its maritime territory, an area of tuna-rich ocean the size of California, from both fishing and oil drilling. Remengesau said he hoped that requiring visitors to sign a pledge to protect the environment would create a cultural shift among tourists and make them aware of the fragility of the environment. “While Palau may be a small-island nation, we are a large ocean-state and conservation is at the heart of our culture,” he said. “We rely on our environment to survive and if our beautiful country is lost to environmental degradation, we will be the last generation to enjoy both its beauty and life-sustaining biodiversity.”

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Not surprising.

Arctic Warming So Rapid That Computer Measuring It Rejected The Results (Ind.)

Climate change in the Arctic has “outrun” a computer designed to measure it. So rapid was the temperature change at a weather station in Alaska, the computer analysing the data detected an error and stopped recording the correct temperature. In a blog post, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientist Dr Deke Arndt explained the recent incident, referring to it as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic”. The weather station is located in Utqiagvik, the most northerly town in the US. Low levels of sea ice in the region caused the air temperatures to rise quickly. The computers NOAA use to automatically record climate data have in-built algorithms that ensure the information they record is accurate.

This algorithm is meant to be triggered if the instruments measuring temperatures are damaged, or if there is an artificial change in the environment surrounding them. In this case, the temperature change was such a shock to the system that the computer “disqualified itself” from the Alaskan temperature analysis. This left northern Alaska “analysed a little cooler than it really was”, wrote Dr Arndt. The data from the station was missing for all of 2017, and the last few months of 2016. “In this case, instead of a station move, or urban sprawl, or an equipment change, it was actually very real climate change that changed the environment, by erasing a lot of the sea ice that used to hang out nearby,” wrote Dr Arndt. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the global average, meaning the effects of climate change are felt particularly keenly in polar regions.

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