Jul 142017
 
 July 14, 2017  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Pablo Picasso Nude, Green Leaves and Bust 1932

 

Global Shares Rise To Record New Highs (R.)
Britain In Worse Shape To Withstand A Recession Than In 2007 (G.)
IMF Warns Canada On Housing, Trade, Rate Hikes (R.)
40% Of The Fed’s Interest On Excess Reserves Is Paid To Foreign Banks (ZH)
Will Corporate Bonds Cross Over? (DDMB)
Turkey Chooses Russia Over NATO for Missile Defense (BBG)
100,000 and Counting: No Letup in Turkey Coup Purges a Year On (BBG)
Philip Morris’ Anti-Anti-Smoking Campaign (R.)
Globalisation: The Rise And Fall Of An Idea That Swept The World (G.)
Tepco: Decision Already Been Made To Release Radioactive Tritium Into Sea (JT)
Italy’s Poor Almost Triple in a Decade Amid Economic Slumps

 

 

Nothing has value anymore.

Global Shares Rise To Record New Highs (R.)

Upbeat data helped send world shares to a fourth all-time high in less than a month on Thursday as Wall Street edged higher in anticipation of solid earnings, while crude oil gained on evidence of stronger demand in China. Stocks were buoyed in Asia and elsewhere a day after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled a rise in interest rates would be less aggressive than some investors had expected. Sentiment was boosted after China reported upbeat data on exports and imports for June, the latest sign that the global growth is picking up a bit. That offset reports of higher production by key members of OPEC in a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), lifting oil prices.

The data pushed Asian shares up more than 1% and lifted MSCI’s 47-country gauge of global equity markets to a fresh record high with a gain of 0.29%. “Yesterday’s move was in response to Yellen comments that should inflation remain below the 2% target rate, the central bank will be less aggressive in their tightening program,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research. “Today, the market is saying that’s old news and let’s focus on the matter at hand, which is earnings that will be coming out in earnest this week,” Stovall said. U.S. shares rose in anticipation second-quarter earnings will grow 7.8% for S&P 500 companies, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Read more …

Don’t worry, everybody is.

Britain In Worse Shape To Withstand A Recession Than In 2007 (G.)

Britain’s public finances are in worse shape to withstand a recession than they were on the eve of the 2007 financial crash a decade ago and face the twin threat of a fresh downturn and Brexit, the Treasury’s independent forecaster has warned. The Office for Budget Responsibility – the UK’s fiscal watchdog – said another recession was inevitable at some point and that Theresa May’s failure to win a parliamentary majority in last month’s election left the public finances more vulnerable to being blown off course than they were in 2007. In its first in-depth analysis of the fiscal risks facing Britain, the OBR said its main message was clear: “Governments should expect nasty fiscal surprises from time to time – because policy can only reduce risks, not eliminate them – and plan accordingly.

“And they have to do so in the context of ongoing pressures that are likely to weigh on receipts and drive up spending and a variety of risks that governments choose to expose themselves to for policy reasons. This is true for any government, but this one also has to manage the uncertainties posed by Brexit, which could influence the likelihood or impact of other risks.” The OBR said the size of the UK’s Brexit divorce bill – currently a matter of dispute between London and Brussels – would have little impact on the public finances. But it noted that even a small fall in Britain’s underlying growth rate after departure from the EU would lead to a big increase in the country’s debt burden.

If a knock to trade with the rest of Europe caused productivity to slip by just 0.1 percentage points over the next 50 years, tax receipts would be £36bn lower. With spending growth left unchanged, the debt-to-GDP ratio would end up around 50 percentage points higher, the OBR added. The campaign group Open Britain said the OBR’s report showed “a hard Brexit poses a real threat to our economy. People voted for £350m a week for the NHS, not a £36bn black hole in the public finances that could mean severe cuts to the NHS”.

Read more …

Has Australia been warned yet?

IMF Warns Canada On Housing, Trade, Rate Hikes (R.)

The IMF said on Thursday that while Canada’s economy has regained momentum, housing imbalances have increased and uncertainty surrounding trade negotiations with the United States could hurt the recovery. The report, written before the central bank raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday to 0.75%, also said the Bank of Canada’s current monetary policy stance is appropriate, and it cautioned against tightening. “While the output gap has started to close, monetary policy should stay accommodative until signs of durable growth and higher inflation emerge,” it said, adding that rate hikes should be “approached cautiously.” Cheng Hoon Lim, IMF mission chief for Canada, later clarified that even with Wednesday’s rate hike, monetary policy remains “appropriately accommodative.”

“The Bank of Canada’s increase of the policy rate reflects encouraging economic data over the past few months. We welcome the good news on the economy,” Lim said in an emailed statement. “Given the considerable uncertainty around the growth and inflation outlook, the Bank should continue to take a cautious approach in further adjusting the monetary policy stance,” she added. In a statement following its annual policy review with Canada, the IMF cautioned that risks to Canada’s outlook are significant – particularly the danger of a sharp correction in the housing market, a further decline in oil prices, or U.S. protectionism. It said financial stability risks could emerge if the housing correction is accompanied by a recession, but said stress tests have shown Canadian banks could withstand a “significant loss” on their uninsured residential mortgage portfolio, in part because of high capital position.

House prices in Toronto and Vancouver have more than doubled since 2009 and the boom has fueled record household debt, a vulnerability that has also been noted by the Bank of Canada. “The main risk on the domestic side is a sharp correction in the housing market that impairs bank balance sheets, triggers negative feedback loops in the economy, and increases contingent claims on the government,” the Fund said. The Fund also warned U.S. protectionism could hurt Canada, laying out a scenario for higher tariffs that could come with the renegotiation of NAFTA. If the United States raises the average tariff on imports from Canada by 2.1 percentage points and there is no retaliation from Canada, there would be a short-term impact on real GDP of about 0.4%.

Read more …

Bankers have no more use for borders than birds do.

40% Of The Fed’s Interest On Excess Reserves Is Paid To Foreign Banks (ZH)

Recall that as we showed first all the way back in 2011, the total cash on the books of commercial banks with operations in the US tracks the Fed’s excess reserves almost dollar for dollar. More importantly, the number is broken down by small and large domestic banks, as well as international banks. It is the last number that is of biggest interest, because now that Congress is finally scrutinizing the $4.5 trillion elephant in the room, i.e., the Fed’s balance sheet, it may be interested to know that approximately 40%, or $838 billion as of the latest weekly data, in reserves parked at the Fed belongs to foreign banks.

While we will reserve judgment, and merely point out that of the $100 or so billion in dividends and buybacks announced by US banks after the latest stress test a substantial amount comes directly courtesy of the Fed – cash that ultimately ends up in shareholders’ pockets – we will note that the interest the Fed pays to foreign banks operating in the US who have parked reserves at the Fed, amounts to $10.4 billion annualized as of this moment. This is a subsidy from the Fed, supposedly an institution that exists for the benefit of the US population, going directly and without any frictions to foreign banks, who – just like in the US – then proceed to dividend and buybacks these funds, “returning” them to their own shareholders, most of whom are foreign individuals.

While the number appears modest, it is poised to grow substantially as the Fed Funds rate is expected to keep growing, ultimately hitting 3.0% according to the Fed. Indicatively, assuming excess reserves remain unchanged for the next 2-3 years and rates rise to 3.0%, that would imply a total annual subsidy to commercial banks amounting to $65 billion, of which $25 billion would go to foreign banks every year. We wonder if this is the main reason why the Fed is so desperate to trim its balance sheet as it hikes rates, as sooner or later, someone in Congress will figure this out.

Read more …

Unintended consequences? One of many?

Will Corporate Bonds Cross Over? (DDMB)

Unbeknownst to unassuming corporate bond holders, they too will soon be forced into the slow lane. For the moment, the vast majority fancy themselves that equally exasperating driver who won’t get out of the fast lane, determined to bully their way to their damned destination. As for the perils of tailgating, they’re for the other guy, the less agile driver with rubbery reflexes. That’s all good and well and has been for many years. Bond market fender benders are nearly nonexistent. The question is: Will central bankers worldwide turn placid parkways into highways to hell as they ‘remove accommodation,’ to borrow from their gently genteel jargon? That’s certainly one way to interpret Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s latest promise to shrink the balance sheet ‘appreciably.’

Care for a translation? How easily does “Aggressive Quantitative Tightening” roll off the tongue? Perhaps you’ve just bitten yours instead. Enter the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The Institute of International Finance (IIF), The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), and by the way, the Emerging Markets complex including and especially China. As a former central banker, it is with embarrassing ease yours truly can bandy about fantastic figures. No surprise that nary an eyebrow was raised at the latest figures out of the IIF that aggregate global debt is closing in on $220 trillion, as touched on last week. Consider that to be the broad backdrop. Now, narrow in on the IMF’s concerns that financial stability could be rocked by a rumble in US corporate debt markets.

Using firms’ capacity to service their debts from current earnings as a simple and elegant yard stick, the report warned that one in ten firms are failing outright. The last two years of levering up have exacted rapid damage: earnings have fallen to less than six times interest expense, this during an era of unprecedented low interest rates. And as record non-financial debt as a percentage of GDP quickly approaches 50%, the share of income required to service this mountain is at a seven-year high. Should financial conditions tighten (the report was published in April prior to the Fed’s June rate hike), one-in-five firms are likely to default, which rises to 22% if rates continue to rise.

Read more …

“..The Russian system would not be compatible with other NATO defense systems, but also wouldn’t be subject to the same constraints imposed by the alliance, which prevents Turkey from deploying such systems on the Armenian border, Aegean coast or Greek border..”

Turkey Chooses Russia Over NATO for Missile Defense (BBG)

Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades. The preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, and then producing another two inside Turkey, according to the Turkish official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. A spokesman for Russia’s arms-export company Rosoboronexport OJSC said he couldn’t immediately comment on details of a deal with Turkey. Turkey has reached the point of an agreement on a missile defense system before, only to scupper the deal later amid protests and condemnation from NATO.

Under pressure from the U.S., Turkey gave up an earlier plan to buy a similar missile-defense system from a state-run Chinese company, which had been sanctioned by the U.S. for alleged missile sales to Iran. Turkey has been in NATO since the early years of the Cold War, playing a key role as a frontline state bordering the Soviet Union. But ties with fellow members have been strained in recent years, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursuing a more assertive and independent foreign policy as conflict engulfed neighboring Iraq and Syria. Tensions with the U.S. mounted over U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists, and the relationship with the European Union soured as the bloc pushed back against what it sees as Turkey’s increasingly autocratic turn.

Last month, Germany decided to withdraw from the main NATO base in Turkey, Incirlik, after Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit troops there. The missile deal with Russia “is a clear sign that Turkey is disappointed in the U.S. and Europe,” said Konstantin Makienko, an analyst at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow think-tank. “But until the advance is paid and the assembly begins, we can’t be sure of anything.” The Russian system would not be compatible with other NATO defense systems, but also wouldn’t be subject to the same constraints imposed by the alliance, which prevents Turkey from deploying such systems on the Armenian border, Aegean coast or Greek border, the official said. The Russian deal would allow Turkey to deploy the missile defense systems anywhere in the country, the official said.

[..] The official said the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction.

Read more …

That must have been one hell of a conspiracy.

100,000 and Counting: No Letup in Turkey Coup Purges a Year On (BBG)

The scale of Turkey’s crackdown on alleged government opponents following last year’s attempted coup was confirmed by a top official, as the nation prepares to mark the anniversary of the failed putsch amid deepening concern over the rule of law. Authorities have fired 103,824 state employees and suspended 33,483 more since the July 15 bid to seize power by a section of the military, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in an interview. The purge of suspected followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by the government of orchestrating the coup attempt, is necessary to ensure national security, he said. ustice Ministry data showed 50,546 suspected members of Gulen’s organization were in prison on July 3, and that arrest warrants had been issued for 8,000 others. The preacher denies involvement in the takeover attempt.

“There might be crypto members of Feto who walk on the snow without leaving tracks,” Kurtulmus said, using an abbreviation of Gulen’s first name that officials have adopted since the defeated military power grab to refer to his movement. “Related agencies are carefully conducting their work against this possibility.” Just this week, Erdogan rebuffed criticism over the detention of a group of international rights activists, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey, as they held a workshop on an island off Istanbul. “They gathered as if they were holding a meeting to continue July 15,” the president said. Amnesty criticized Turkey on Tuesday after the detentions were extended by seven days. “It is truly absurd that they are under investigation for membership of an armed terrorist organization,” Amnesty Europe Director John Dalhuisen said in an email. “For them to be entering a second week in police cells is a shocking indictment of the ruthless treatment of those who attempt to stand up for human rights in Turkey.”

Read more …

Dirty deeds.

Philip Morris’ Anti-Anti-Smoking Campaign (R.)

A group of cigarette company executives stood in the lobby of a drab convention center near New Delhi last November. They were waiting for credentials to enter the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty conference, one designed to curb smoking and combat the influence of the cigarette industry. Treaty officials didn’t want them there. But still, among those lined up hoping to get in were executives from Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco Plc. There was a big name missing from the group: Philip Morris International Inc. A Philip Morris representative later told Reuters its employees didn’t turn up because the company knew it wasn’t welcome. In fact, executives from the largest publicly traded tobacco firm had flown in from around the world to New Delhi for the anti-tobacco meeting.

Unknown to treaty organizers, they were staying at a hotel an hour from the convention center, working from an operations room there. Philip Morris International would soon be holding secret meetings with delegates from the government of Vietnam and other treaty members. The object of these clandestine activities: the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking globally. Reuters has found that Philip Morris International is running a secretive campaign to block or weaken treaty provisions that save millions of lives by curbing tobacco use. [..] Confidential company documents and interviews with current and former Philip Morris employees reveal an offensive that stretches from the Americas to Africa to Asia, from hardscrabble tobacco fields to the halls of political power, in what may be one of the broadest corporate lobbying efforts in existence.

Read more …

It needs growth, and there ain’t none.

Globalisation: The Rise And Fall Of An Idea That Swept The World (G.)

It was only a few decades ago that globalisation was held by many, even by some critics, to be an inevitable, unstoppable force. “Rejecting globalisation,” the American journalist George Packer has written, “was like rejecting the sunrise.” Globalisation could take place in services, capital and ideas, making it a notoriously imprecise term; but what it meant most often was making it cheaper to trade across borders – something that seemed to many at the time to be an unquestionable good. In practice, this often meant that industry would move from rich countries, where labour was expensive, to poor countries, where labour was cheaper. People in the rich countries would either have to accept lower wages to compete, or lose their jobs. But no matter what, the goods they formerly produced would now be imported, and be even cheaper.

And the unemployed could get new, higher-skilled jobs (if they got the requisite training). Mainstream economists and politicians upheld the consensus about the merits of globalisation, with little concern that there might be political consequences. Back then, economists could calmly chalk up anti-globalisation sentiment to a marginal group of delusional protesters, or disgruntled stragglers still toiling uselessly in “sunset industries”. These days, as sizable constituencies have voted in country after country for anti-free-trade policies, or candidates that promise to limit them, the old self-assurance is gone. Millions have rejected, with uncertain results, the punishing logic that globalisation could not be stopped. The backlash has swelled a wave of soul-searching among economists, one that had already begun to roll ashore with the financial crisis. How did they fail to foresee the repercussions?

Read more …

The world should not allow the Fukushima secrecy any longer.

Tepco: Decision Already Been Made To Release Radioactive Tritium Into Sea (JT)

Radioactive tritium, said to pose little risk to human health, will be released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex into the sea, according to a top official of the plant operator. “The decision has already been made,” Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company, said in a recent interview with media outlets, referring to the discharge of tritium, which remains in filtered water even after highly toxic radioactive materials are removed from water used to cool the damaged reactors at the plant. At other nuclear power plants, tritium-containing water has routinely been released into the sea after it is diluted. But the move by Tepco has prompted worries among local fishermen about the potential ramifications for their livelihood as public perceptions about fish and other marine products caught off Fukushima could worsen.

They are the first public remarks by the utility’s management on the matter, as Tepco continues its cleanup of toxic water and tanks containing it continue to fill the premises of the plant, where three reactors suffered meltdowns after tsunami flooded the complex in March 2011 following a massive earthquake. Kawamura’s comments came at a time when a government panel is still debating how to deal with tritium-containing water at the Fukushima plant, including whether to dump it into sea. Saying its next move is contingent on the panel’s decision, Kawamura indicated in the interview that Tepco will wait for a decision by the government before it actually starts releasing the water into sea. “We cannot keep going if we do not have the support of the state” as well as Fukushima Prefecture and other stakeholders, he said.

Read more …

The EU is one big success story.

Italy’s Poor Almost Triple in a Decade Amid Economic Slumps

Italians living below the level of absolute poverty almost tripled over the last decade as the country went through a double-dip, record-long recession. The absolute poor, or those unable to purchase a basket of necessary goods and services, reached 4.7 million last year, up from almost 1.7 million in 2006, national statistics agency Istat said Thursday. That is 7.9% of the population, with many of them concentrated in the nation’s southern regions. As Italy went through its deepest, and then its longest, recession since World War II between 2008 and 2013, more than a quarter of the nation’s industrial production was wiped out. Over the same period unemployment also rose, with the rate rising to as high as 13% in 2014 from a low of 5.7% in 2007. Joblessness was at 11.3% at last check in May.

For decades, Italy has grappled with a low fertility rate – just 1.35 children per woman compared with a 1.58 average across the 28-nation EU as of 2015, the last year for which comparable data are available. “The poverty report shows how it is pointless to wonder why there are fewer newborn in Italy,” said Gigi De Palo, head of Italy’s Forum of Family Associations. “Making a child means becoming poor, it seems like in Italy children are not seen as a common good.” The number of absolute poor rose last year in the younger-age classes, reaching 10% in the group of those between 18 and 34 years old. It fell among seniors to 3.8% in the age group of 65 and older, the Istat report also showed.

Earlier this year, the Rome-based parliament approved a new anti-poverty tool called inclusion income that is replacing existing income-support measures. It will benefit 400,000 households, for a total of 1.7 million people, Il Sole 24 Ore daily reported, citing parliamentary documents. The program will be funded with resources of around €2 billion ($2.3 billion) this year which should rise to nearly €2.2 billion in 2018, Sole also said

Read more …

Apr 262017
 
 April 26, 2017  Posted by at 2:02 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


EdgarDegas A la mer 1863

 

Something hit me this week. The maps which came out on Monday and detailed the outcome of the French elections, were telling a story, and a familiar one by now. A story of deep division. There are a number of such maps now depicting the Brexit vote in the UK, the US presidential elections, and its French counterpart.

In all three cases they leave me wondering something along the lines of: ‘Are you guys sure you want to remain in the same country with each other?’ Because to me that is not all that obvious, and I think it’ll get less so as time passes. For instance in the case of France, the ‘ideological’ differences between Macron and Le Pen are substantial to say the least, they’re worlds apart.

And if you’re worlds apart, why live in the same country? Here’s that French map:

 

 

As you see, the country is sharply divided between west (Macron) and east (Le Pen). So much so that you wonder what these people still have in common, other than their language. There’s no doubt it’s also a dividing line between the richer part of the country, and the poorer.

Thing is, that same dividing line is visible in a similar map of the November 8, 2016 US election results, in a slightly different way.

 

 

In the US it’s not east versus west, it’s coast versus interior (flyover land). But the difference is equally clear and sharp. In fact, probably what we’re looking at is that France has only one coastline, while the US has two, and in both countries people living close to the ocean are on average richer than those who live more inland.

And in both cases there is no doubt that wealth is a deciding factor in dividing the nations to the extent that they are. We see that in an ‘urban versus rural area’ comparison as well. Cities like New York, LA and Paris are strongholds for the incumbent and establishment, the parties that represent the rich.

There can be no doubt that we’ll see more of that going forward. It won’t be there in smaller countries, Holland for instance is not nearly large enough for such dynamics. But Italy very well might. It’s always had a strong north-south-divide, and its present crisis has undoubtedly deepened that chasm.

Looking at things that way, it’s also glaringly obvious that Macron is Obama (and is Renzi is Cameron etc.). A well-trained good looking mediagenic puppet with a gift of teleprompter gab, fabricated and cultivated by the ruling financial and industrial world to do their bidding. Macron, to me, looks the most artificial of the crop so far, the Obama, Rutte, Cameron, Renzi crop. There will be more, and they will get more artificial. Edward Bernays is just getting started.

Of course there is also a strong move away from established parties. It is more pronounced in France -where they were eradicated at least in the presidential elections- than in the US or UK, but that may be more of a superficial thing. Trump and Bernie Sanders are simply America’s version of France’s ‘ultra’ right wing Le Pen and ‘ultra’ left wing Melenchon. And Trump is running into problems with the remnants of the established parties as much as Macron will if he’s elected president.

Anglo countries seem to take longer diversifying away from tradition than others, but they too will get there. The various deteriorating economies will make sure of that.

 

A third map is of the UK Brexit vote. Once again, a sharp division, and once again with a ‘character’ of its own. If you ignore Scotland for a moment, what you see is blue=poor and yellow=rich. Broad strokes, I know, but I’ve been doing that with the first two maps too. There are only a few pockets of yellow=rich=remain. But yeah, fewer people live there. Same thing as in the US and France.

That the whole Brexit thing should now be negotiated by the Tories is a cynical irony the country owes to its adherence to tradition. That is how that backfires, too little flexibility. How the UK will solve its many ignored issues is anyone’s guess. Will Scotland leave the no-longer-very United Kingdom? Will voters wake up in time to not present the Tories with a free hand to make the rich-poor divide even worse?

 

 

There’s one more, and more detailed, map of France, which shows even better to what extent ‘Le Pen country’ is eerily similar to America’s flyover land. It’s almost poetic, a poem about how countries fall apart, about centers that cannot hold. It also makes me think of a locust invasion, by the way.

 

 

Every French and European body and their pet hamster is presently telling voters in France to please please not vote for Le Pen, in a move that resembles similar calls against Trump and Brexit. And who knows, it might work this time around. The anti-Le Pen frenzy is even stronger than the others, and it has Marine’s crazy father to use as a warning sign.

But as these maps show, it’s not about Le Pen, or Trump, or Nigel Farage. It’s about people being left behind in ever larger numbers, susceptible to voices other than the ones they’ve known for a long time and who never listened to them. And nothing is being done to address these people’s claims; on the contrary, things are only getting worse for them.

I saw a headline today that said ECB president Mario Draghi’s “Stimulus Could Blunt Populism as Unemployment Declines”. There’s only one possible reaction to that: what happens when he stops his stimulus?

The growing divides that all these maps bear witness to will keep growing, unless someone decides that neo-liberalism has gone too far. But the only person who could make such a decision would have to be one who neo-liberalism itself has made rich and powerful. So don’t count on that happening.

Count instead on more Trumps and Le Pens and Sanders’s. And also on more Obama’s and Macrons for the rich to deploy to protect their power and hold on to their riches. Increasingly it would seem they have to limit democracy -even further- to remain in power. So count on that happening too.

But don’t count on all these countries surviving as sovereign nations. The chasms are widening too fast and too much.

Nov 292016
 
 November 29, 2016  Posted by at 7:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Andrea Bonetti Konstantinos Polychronopoulos 2015

 

To anyone who reads this, please send it to as many of your friends and family and others as you can. Tweet and retweet, post and share on Facebook, do whatever you can to make Christmas a better time and place for the poorest Greeks and refugees. And, of course, please donate!

 

 

It’s 4 weeks before Christmas and it’s time. Time for me to go back to the basics, the streets, the people of Athens – the people of Greece as a whole. Back to my friends at the O Allos Anthropos (The Other Human) Social Kitchen who by now serve 5,000 meals a day every day spread over a dozen+ locations on -less than- a shoestring, to the poorest Greeks and to refugees. To my dear friend Konstantinos Polychronopoulos, the little engine that could, and does, drive the entire ‘intervention’.

It’s time also to announce a Christmas/New Year’s fund raiser for these people here at the Automatic Earth, to coincide with our usual annual fundraiser for the Automatic Earth itself. As always, please donate through the Automatic Earth’s Paypal widget at the top left hand side of our pages. If you don’t fancy Paypal, there’s an address for checks and money orders on our Store and Donations page.

Donations that end in $0.99 or $0.37 all go straight to O Allos Anthropos. In fact, I will deliver them in person, something that is necessary because of continuing capital controls in Greece. And no, don’t worry, I don’t pay my travel and stay in Athens from the donations for O Allos Anthropos. Every donated penny goes where it belongs. Guaranteed.

 

I never intended to get involved in aid, I have as many reservations about institutionalized aid as so many people tell me they have. All I wanted to do initially was to donate a few dollars when I first visited Greece in June 2015. But things have taken off from there, both because of Automatic Earth readers’ generosity (over $30,000!) , and because I found what I have come to regard as the perfect vehicle to deliver aid.

O Allos Anthropos is that vehicle, because it does not fit the mold the ‘aid industry’ has built. The flipside of this is that it has a hard time getting funded. It’s mighty ironic that the one ‘organization’ that is by far the most efficient in delivering aid, should also be the one that has by far the hardest time getting support to do that.

‘The Other Human’ Social Kitchen does not rely on government contacts and contracts, as the established aid industry does. It also doesn’t pay hefty salaries (no salaries at all) or have huge overhead. It’s a loosely organized group of dedicated poor Greeks, often homeless themselves, caring for and feeding other poor Greeks and refugees, helping where they can as far as the funding allows.

It’s the difference between top down and bottom up. And yes, it’s crazy that such a difference should exist even in delivering basic needs to the most needy among us, but it’s there.

 


From Human-The Movie, Yann Arthus-Bertrand

 

There is a list of about a dozen articles with links at the bottom of this page that I’ve written about my visits to Athens over the past 15 months. And there are 4 new videos of Konstantinos and the O Allos Anthropos ‘movement’ inserted in the article. Do watch them, together they paint a great picture.

But first, please allow me to explain why I support the Greek people the way I do. There are several reasons.

 

Number one is the state of the Greek economy. The effects of austerity policies on Greek society were front page news a year and a half ago, but since then, the world has largely left the country alone (15 minutes of fame only) while things have gotten worse fast, and an additional issue, that of the refugees, was added.

The treatment of Greece by its creditors continues to be scandalous, the EU, ECB and IMF behave like a nest of boa constrictors. In a nutshell, it has intentionally been made impossible for the Greek economy to recover. No matter what else you may read, it is a cruel joke to even suggest that an economy and society in which 25% of adults, and over 50% of young people, have been unemployed for years on end, could ‘recover’. If you read headlines like ‘Greece Edges Out Of Recession’, you’re being played.

Add to the mix that consumer spending makes up some 60% of GDP in Greece, but many of those who do have jobs work for €100-€400 a month, and pensions have been cut to less than €700 for 60% of pensioners (basic pension is about €380), and 52% of households -must- live off pensions of elderly family members because most unemployed get nothing. 7 out of 10 jobless are long time unemployed, and get nada. Close to half of pensioners live below the poverty line. Never ending tax raises have put the cost of living beyond reach for millions.

Moreover, tens of thousands of the best educated young Greeks (and 1000 doctors a year) have left the country because there are no jobs and no prospects. The education system was once as highly touted globally as the health care system, but both have been gutted so dramatically now it’s hard to see how either could ever be rebuilt. 15 months ago I donated some money to social clinics, now I receive long and detailed lists of medicine that is simply no longer available. With a cry for help.

Under these circumstances, spending can only go down, and that means GDP growth is mathematically impossible. Nor has a bottom been reached; the situation will deteriorate until conditions allow for spending to rise, and no such thing is in sight. The Troika parties keep hammering on more ‘reforms’ -advertized as an investment in the future-, which invariably make matters worse, while they keep quarreling about, and delaying, debt relief. Boa constrictor. Slow strangulation. In the latest talks, the creditors are demanding additional austerity measures for 2019-2020… That is the reality for Greece.

 


From Destination: Utopia

 

Number two is the refugee situation. When I first got to Athens, refugees were not yet a major concern, the Greeks themselves were. Much has changed since then. After the initial large wave, most of which ended up in Germany and other countries, borders were shut and Greece was left to deal with those who remained. Promises to ‘fairly’ resettle refugees in the rest of the EU were largely ignored. There are presently about 60,000 refugees in Greece, and they’re stuck where they don’t want to be, in a country that doesn’t have the means to take care of them.

Brussels refuses for Greece to move the refugees stuck in camps on the islands, to the mainland, for fear they will try and travel north. Still, 60,000 should never be the problem that it is. However, the EU never sent the personnel it once promised to deal with asylum applications. Greek Immigration Minister Mouzalas said last week: “We had an agreement for 400 staffers. Just 35 have arrived. We had a new agreement for another 100 and are still waiting..”. Of course, when the applications are delayed, so is the need for Brussels to resettle the refugees. Convenient when there are elections coming in Holland, France and Germany.

But it is Greece that gets the blame for this; Athens should move faster, is the word. And because it doesn’t, Brussels doesn’t send the humanitarian funds it makes available, to the Greek government; it sends them to international NGOs instead. Which leads us to:

 


From Chris Gal

 

Number three is the reality of humanitarian aid. First, let me say I don’t mean to sound -overly- negative about this. But at the same time I feel obliged to explain to you why I’m asking for your support despite the aid that’s already flowing through ‘official’ channels. To put it mildly: things don’t work the way they could. There is aid that reaches the target groups, and there are many well-intentioned people involved, but the overall efficiency with which that happens leaves much to be desired.

Many people are reluctant to donate to large (i)NGOs because they are suspicious of their culture(s). I am not an expert on this, but from what I have heard and seen over the past while, that suspicion does not look so crazy. What it comes down to is that humanitarian aid has become an industry. In the Greek situation, this means that the about €300 million (reported numbers vary) dispersed by the EU so far (€700 over 3 years) to assist Greece and Italy with their refugee influx, has by and large been divided over some 150 NGOs and other aid organizations.

But the stories about underfed, poorly housed and overall miserable refugees and migrants keep rolling in. And more often than not, the Greek government gets the blame. However, if €300 million is not enough for NGOs and aid organizations to make sure 60,000 are properly fed and in general taken care of, what is?

What I had heard and observed on the ground was confirmed in September – in one of these ‘glad it’s not just me’ moments – by a series in the Guardian called Secret Aid Worker. An anonymous aid worker with experience in multiple countries wrote this:

Secret Aid Worker: Greece Has Exposed The Aid Community’s Failures

At the time of writing, the number of refugees in Greece is approximately 60,000. The problem is not overwhelming. This time we are in an EU country. I feel safe wherever I am – this means I can conduct a visit to monitor the impact of a programme or ensure I am consulting refugees about what they want. But I don’t, because it is something we have talked about but not done for many years, and there is little pressure to change.

The disconnect between the sector’s standards and the reality on the ground is more stark here than in any other mission I’ve been involved in. We have historically been unaccountable, failing to sufficiently consult and engage affected communities. In Greece we are continuing to operate in the same ways as before, but without the traditional excuses to rely on.

When we have enabling infrastructure, a socio-political context that is easy to operate in, access to Wi-Fi, technology and adequate funds, and yet are failing to meet the refugees’ basic needs (even for something as simple as safe accommodation), reduce serious threats (such as the prevalence of sexual violence), or to be accountable or innovative, it suggests we are disinterested or incompetent. Perhaps both.

In Greece the aid community is being exposed. Our exposure is further compounded when we are unfavourably compared to organised and efficient groups of volunteers who work with less and achieve more. In comparison INGOs and the UNHCR seem money-orientated, bloated, bureaucratic and inefficient.

Across Greece there are volunteers working both independently and as organised groups, meeting needs and filling gaps. They take over abandoned buildings to ensure refugees have somewhere to sleep, provide additional nutrition to pregnant and breastfeeding women, organise and manage informal education programmes, including setting up schools inside camps.

All of this while INGO staff sip their cappuccinos in countless coordination meetings – for cash distribution, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, food distribution and child-protection. Often to avoid engaging meaningfully in the discussions, we furiously take notes. If any response has called into question whether the humanitarian sector is still fit for purpose, it’s the response to the refugee crisis in Greece.

A good example of this is that it was O Allos Anthropos that was asked last year by the lady who ran the Moria refugee facilities on Lesbos, to run the food supply (the kitchen still operates). The NGOs and their millions in funding failed to do it. Konstantinos did, after he organized food donations by the people living on the island, and after I gave him some of your donations, so he could pay for transport etc. needed to make it possible.

O Allos Anthropos doesn’t fit the model developed by the industry that aid has become. In many aspects, that’s a good thing. But it also means it’s a daily struggle to do even the most basic good. And yes, we need to try and change that. But breaking the aid industry mold will not be easy. And in the meantime, the need will continue to be there, and it will keep growing, and Konstantinos will keep trying to fill it.

 


From Solidarity Networks 1: the mini doc series

 

One thing that struck me about the aid industry was reading that British politician David Milliband makes $600,000 a year as head of IRC, the International Refugee Committee. And when he makes that kind of money, so do others involved in the ‘industry’.

And then there are people like Konstantinos, who doesn’t make a penny, who has devoted his entire life to helping people in need, and the contrast is so big it borders on insane. Of course Konstantinos is not alone in this; there are many people who work to aid others without asking for anything in return.

Konstantinos doesn’t want to try and fit O Allos Anthropos into the established -international- aid mold. He doesn’t want to fill out paperwork on a constant basis, and rely on permissions, approval or validation from governments and other ‘high-up’ bodies. He wants by the people for the people. But he has come to realize since we met that if he wants to address the ever growing demands made on him, he can’t do it with no money at all.

Recently, he was invited, and traveled to Perugia, Italy, where people want to start their own version of O Allos Anthropos. This week, he is in Barcelona, where the same questions have been asked. And unless he starts saying No to ever more people, he will need funding.

I mentioned a long list of drugs and medical paraphernalia that social pharmacies are asking him for help in acquiring. People die in Greece, they suffer pain, they tumble into misery, from afflictions that just a few years ago were easy to treat. That’s how bad things have gotten. Earlier this year, Konstantinos told me he had an idea to set up a service to deliver food and drugs to old people in villages in the Greek countryside, in the mountains, remote villages that today often house only older people because the young have all left. A great idea, but how is he going to pay for it?

On December 4, O Allos Anthropos will have a party to celebrate its 5th anniversary, and 2 million meals served. By far most of those were served after the Automatic Earth got involved and your donations made it possible to expand the Social Kitchen to the 17 or so locations across the country, and the islands, where aid is delivered under the O Allos Anthropos banner.

In the first few years, it all operated by people donating food directly. But food donations have fallen by 50% or more this year, because ever fewer Greeks can afford to donate. It is time for the rest of the world to step in. And that doesn’t have to cost millions. The $30,000 you have donated over the past 15 months have achieved miracles already.

In an ideal scenario, I would like to be able to collect $50,000 a year for Konstantinos to do his work. More than $100,000 would not be needed, unless things take a dramatic turn for the worse. Talking of which, any of you who work in the medical field and would like to help alleviate the medicine shortages, drop me a line at Contact • at • TheAutomaticEarth • com, and I’ll tell you what’s most needed.

 

Please, those of you who have been involved on location or otherwise in delivering aid, understand that I don’t mean to insult you. Most of you come with the best intentions, and many do great work, often against the grain. But I think the account of the Secret Aid Worker above cannot sound entirely unfamiliar to you. So much goes wrong that it must be plain for most of you to see.

And it’s perhaps good to wonder whether international volunteers are the best option to deliver aid in countries where locals are available, and willing, to do the same work. The difference is one gets funding and the other does not. Maybe that, more than anything, should change.

But for now, because it’ll soon be Christmas and because we want to give Konstantinos and his people a wonderful Yuletide and a positive start to the new year, please help us by donating generously.

Because whatever economic and/or political and/or election issues you may have gotten worked up about lately, in the end, and certainly at Christmas time, it is about people. Indeed, it is about helping strangers.

 

 

For donations to Kostantinos and O Allos Anthropos, the Automatic Earth has a Paypal widget on our front page, top left hand corner. On our Sales and Donations page, there is an address to send money orders and checks if you don’t like Paypal. Our Bitcoin address is 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT. For other forms of payment, drop us a line at Contact • at • TheAutomaticEarth • com.

To tell donations for Kostantinos apart from those for the Automatic Earth (which badly needs them too!), any amounts that come in ending in either $0.99 or $0.37, will go to O Allos Anthropos.

Please give generously.

 

 

I made a list of the articles I wrote so far about Konstantinos and Athens.

June 16 2015

The Automatic Earth Moves To Athens

June 19 2015

Update: Automatic Earth for Athens Fund

June 25 2015

Off to Greece, and an Update on our Athens Fund

July 8 2015

Automatic Earth Fund for Athens Makes First Donation

July 11 2015

AE for Athens Fund 2nd Donation: The Man Who Cooks In The Street

July 22 2015

AE Fund for Athens: Update no. 3: Peristeri

Nov 24 2015

The Automatic Earth -Finally- Returns To Athens

Dec 25 2015

Help the Automatic Earth Help the Poorest Greeks and Refugees

Feb 1 2016

The Automatic Earth is Back in Athens, Again

Mar 2 2016

The Automatic Earth for Athens Fund Feeds Refugees (Too)

Aug 9 2016

Meanwhile in Greece..

 

 


Konstantinos and a happy refugee

 


Jodi Graphics What Greece lost in one year, 2014

 

 

Jul 192016
 
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Russell Lee Tracy, California. Gasoline filling station 1942

Republican Platform Calls For Return Of Glass-Steagall (MW)
Calpers Targets 7.5% Investment Return, Earns Just 0.6% In Latest FY (BBG)
Oil Prices Fall On Oversupply Concerns Despite Output Cuts (R.)
Alberta Is In The Midst Of Its Worst Recession On Record (BBG)
China’s Local Debt Problem Goes Global (BBG)
Middle-Income Families In UK Resemble The Poor Of Years Past (G.)
Brexit Could Cut London House Prices By 30-50%: SocGen (G.)
New Zealand to Rein in Housing Boom (BBG)
‘NZ First-Home Buyers Should Benefit From Central Bank Proposal’ (Stuff)
Greek Pensioners Protest Cuts At Top Constitutional Court (Kath.)
There Will Be No Second American Revolution (Whitehead)
Britain’s Part In Torture And Rendition Is Still Kept Hidden (Conv.)
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: “Put Your Hope In Radical Decentralization” (Mises Inst.)

 

 

“Opponents of the return of Glass-Steagall were swift to react. “Glass-Steagall is dumb politics and dumb economics…”

Republican Platform Calls For Return Of Glass-Steagall (MW)

Republicans and Democrats are both bending over backwards to show that they are not beholden to Wall Street. The Republican Party platform, released late Monday, calls for the return of Glass-Steagall restrictions on banks. Paul Manafort, campaign manager for presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, told reporters earlier Monday the language would be included. “We believe that the Obama-Clinton years have passed legislation that has been favorable to the big banks, which is one of the reasons why you see all the Wall Street money going to [Hillary Clinton],” Manafort said.

Glass-Steagall was a Depression-era measure restricting commercial banks from the investment-banking business. The measure was repealed in 1999. Some critics contend that loosening of the banking rules played a role in the subsequent financial crisis. Manafort’s comments suggest Republicans hope to use the issue against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. The measure was a major point of contention between Bernie Sanders and Clinton in the Democratic primary. The Democratic platform also includes language calling for a modern version of Glass-Steagall. Party platforms have no teeth. But having Glass-Steagall in both platforms suggests Congress will likely consider the issue next year.

Opponents of the return of Glass-Steagall were swift to react. “Glass-Steagall is dumb politics and dumb economics … returning to Glass-Steagall would be destructive and unworkable,” said Tony Fratto, managing partner in Washington at Hamilton Place Strategies, a lobbying firm that represents large banks. Brian Gardner, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said the market may be underestimating the likelihood of a forced breakup of big banks. “There is an unappreciated risk that Glass-Steagall might be reimposed in 2017 or 2018, especially if Congress seriously looks at changes to the Dodd-Frank Act. We think this is the case regardless of who wins the presidential election,” he said in a note to clients.

Read more …

And Calpers is not some outlier.

Calpers Targets 7.5% Investment Return, Earns Just 0.6% In Latest FY (BBG)

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension fund, earned a return of 0.6% on its investments last fiscal year, trailing its long-term target as holdings in stocks and forestland lost money. The pension’s public equity portfolio lost 3.4% in the year through June 30 and forestland assets declined 9.6%, Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos said Monday. Fixed-income holdings rose 9.3% and infrastructure investments gained 9%. “The longer-term returns of the fund – the three-, five-, 10-, 15- and 20-year total returns of the fund – are now below the assumed rate of 7.5% for the fund,” Eliopoulos said. “That’s a significant policy issue for us.”

The system must average at least 7.5% a year to match its assumed rate of return or turn to taxpayers to make up the difference. Calpers’s annualized returns were 6.9% for the last three years, 5.1% for the last 10 years and 7% over 20 years, according to a presentation to the board. It is among U.S. pensions under pressure to boost investment returns as funding shortfalls increase amid an aging population and low interest rates. In fiscal 2015, Calpers earned 2.4%. The pension lost a quarter of its value in 2009. Two years later, it earned a record 20.7% only to see the gain drop to 1% one year later. Since the recession, the fund has sought to better gauge its risks from market volatility.

Read more …

One day even Reuters will have to admit that demand is way down…

Oil Prices Fall On Oversupply Concerns Despite Output Cuts (R.)

Oil prices eased on Tuesday as concerns over a crude and refined fuel glut outweighed an expected cut in U.S. shale production and a probable further draw in U.S. crude inventories. Crude prices fell more than 1% in the previous session after worries about potential supply disruptions stemming from an attempted coup in Turkey proved unfounded. “Prices are a bit softer in the Asian trading period – traders and investors are torn which way prices are going to break. It’s a knife edge between optimism and pessimism,” said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at Sydney’s OptionsExpress. The market is waiting for U.S. crude stocks data on Tuesday and Wednesday to help give direction to prices, he said.

Brent crude slipped 11 cents to $46.85 a barrel as of 0657 GMT after finishing the previous session down 65 cents, or 1.4%. U.S. crude, known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), fell 11 cents to $45.13 a barrel after settling 71 cents, or about 1.6%, lower in the previous session. Fuel inventories in the United States, Europe and Asia are brimming despite this being the peak summer driving season, leading traders to store diesel on tankers at sea amid wilting demand growth. With landed oil product storage nearly full as well, there is little support for any sustained recovery in crude prices even as output tapers. U.S. shale oil production is expected to fall in August for a tenth straight month, by 99,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 4.55 million bpd, according to a U.S. drilling productivity report on Monday.

Read more …

And here’s the result of the demand collapse:

Alberta Is In The Midst Of Its Worst Recession On Record (BBG)

Alberta, the home of Canada’s oil sands, is going through its worst downturn in activity on record as a prolonged period of low oil prices and the wildfires earlier this year buffet the provincial economy. According to Toronto-Dominion Bank’s economics team, the cumulative annual%age contraction in real output projected for 2015 to 2016 exceeds even the financial crisis, as well as the last supply-side driven crash in oil prices in the mid-1980s, in magnitude. While the recent episode seems poised to be the worst single recession on record, the two recessions in the 1980s mean that stretch is still likely to be regarded as the most challeng≠ing period in the post-war period in Alberta, says a TD team led by Deputy Chief Economist Derek Burelton.

However, TD s team notes that labor market indicators point to a more mild downturn. Periods of boom followed by bust are no strangers to an econ≠omy that is tied to the vagaries of the global oil market, write the economists. The current recession is expected to yield a cumulative annual decline in real GDP of around 6.5%, which is more than twice that of the average of past downturns. While economic activity appeared to be picking up earlier this year, the wildfires that wreaked havoc in the region and disrupted oil operations threw a wrench in the province s nascent comeback story. The economists note that the softness in the Canadian dollar and low interest rates helped Alberta s economy escape an even worse fate.

Read more …

Buying into the last stages of a bubble.

China’s Local Debt Problem Goes Global (BBG)

A very local problem in China is being exported at an alarming rate.Debt from special-purpose vehicles linked to municipal and provincial governments — leverage that central authorities are trying (unsuccessfully) to extinguish — is becoming more common in overseas markets. What’s worse, lately it’s been the weakest cities and provinces panhandling to international investors.Since June, as many as six local government financing vehicles have sold dollar bonds, bringing the total issued by such entities to at least $4 billion this year, just shy of the record $4.1 billion logged in all of 2015. Three offerings were scored below investment grade by Fitch, whereas prior to 2016, only one junk security of its kind had surfaced internationally.

Investors should ask why these localities are going abroad when all their revenue is onshore. Could it be that they’re having a harder time raising funds domestically?That wasn’t always the case.After a 1994 law banned regional authorities from issuing bonds directly, LGFVs were set up in their thousands in China to fund infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. Beijing lost track of how big the liabilities were and deployed about 50,000 auditors across the country in 2014. That crackdown culminated in authorities’ decision last year to open the municipal debt spigots and use funds raised that way to repay local governments’ off-balance-sheet debt. As a result, provincial and municipal governments issued an unprecedented 3.8 trillion yuan ($567 billion) directly last year, and may sell as much as 5 trillion yuan this year.

Read more …

In case people still don’t get where Brexit came from.

Middle-Income Families In UK Resemble The Poor Of Years Past (G.)

Plunging levels of homeownership and an increased reliance on state benefits to top up salaries have meant that Britain’s middle-income families increasingly look like the poor households of the past, according to one of the UK’s leading thinktanks. A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that the old link between worklessness and child poverty had been broken, with record levels of employment leading to a drop in the number of poor children living in homes where no adult works. However, the study found that by 2014-15, two-thirds of children classified as living below the poverty line had at least one parent who was working. If Theresa May wanted to take forward David Cameron’s “life chances” strategy, the IFS said, the prime minister needed to focus on lifting the incomes of working households.

“In key respects, middle-income families with children now more closely resemble poor families than in the past,” the IFS said. “Half are now renters rather than owner-occupiers and, while poorer families have become less reliant on benefits as employment has risen, middle-income households with children now get 30% of their income from benefits and tax credits, up from 22% 20 years ago.” The report divided the population into five groups according to income and found that for the middle 20% of children, half were living in an owner-occupied house, down from 69% two decades ago. It also found that mothers’ earnings were increasingly important for households with children. More than 25% of the incomes of middle-income households came from mothers in 2014-15, up from less than 20% in 1996, while this figure doubled from 7% to 15% for the poorest group over the 20-year period.

Read more …

“We see a classic housing bubble in London and Brexit as the trigger for the correction..”

Brexit Could Cut London House Prices By 30-50%: SocGen (G.)

London property prices could fall by more than 30% in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU and may halve in the most expensive parts of the city, according to analysts at the French bank Société Générale. Brexit may be the trigger to end London’s seven-year house-price boom as companies move employees out of the UK, forcing sales of high-end properties, the company’s real estate analyst Marc Mozzi said in a note to clients. Commercial property has been at the centre of post-Brexit fears as investors have tried to get their money out of property funds, but residential real estate could be hit harder, Société Générale said. “While in recent stress tests the major UK banks were assessed with declines of about 30% in commercial real estate prices, we fear that London residential could experience an even more severe downturn,” it said.

Prices are already falling on properties previously valued at £1m or more, and may have further to go, particularly in the priciest parts of town. London’s highly paid investment bankers and hedge fund managers congregate in boroughs such as Hammersmith and Fulham as well as Kensington and Westminster. Société Générale added: “We see a classic housing bubble in London and Brexit as the trigger for the correction … Given the current ratio of prices to incomes in London, a price correction of even 40-50% in the most expensive London boroughs does not seem impossible.” London property prices have more than doubled since they began to recover from the financial crisis in 2009. Last month, the average London house price was £472,000 – 12 times average London earnings compared with a long-term average of six times, Société Générale said.

Read more …

Too late. Way.

New Zealand to Rein in Housing Boom (BBG)

New Zealand’s central bank is moving to quell the country’s housing boom by restricting the amount of money property investors can borrow, paving the way for another cut in interest rates. The Reserve Bank will require investors across New Zealand to have a deposit of at least 40%, it said in a statement Tuesday in Wellington. The new rule, which tightens an existing requirement that investors in Auckland have at least a 30% deposit, will be introduced Sept. 1, the RBNZ said. New Zealand’s dollar fell as markets bet Governor Graeme Wheeler will now be free to respond to persistently weak inflation by cutting the official cash rate to a record-low 2% on Aug. 11.

He has been reticent to lower borrowing costs for fear of stoking housing demand. The proposed new lending rules remove the distinction between Auckland and the rest of the country, Wheeler said in the statement. Since November, the RBNZ has required most investors buying Auckland properties to have a 30% deposit, but that has prompted many to look at opportunities in other centers. In the North Island city of Hamilton, house prices rocketed 29% in the year through June. [..] “A sharp correction in house prices is a key risk to the financial system, and there are clear signs that this risk is increasing across the country,” Wheeler said. “A severe fall in house prices could have major implications for the functioning of the banking system and cause long-lasting damage to households and the broader economy.”

Read more …

New Zealand politics as a whole built this bubble. And now comes the time to blame each other for it. It will take a long time for the country to live this down.

‘NZ First-Home Buyers Should Benefit From Central Bank Proposal’ (Stuff)

The Reserve Bank made the “right decision” to impose new lending rules on property investors, says Prime Minister John Key. Proposed restrictions announced on Tuesday would require banks to lend only a small fraction of their loans to investors with less than a 40% deposit. Key said “in theory” the restrictions would help first-home buyers get into the market by making it more difficult and “less economic” for investors to buy a property. “What the Reserve Bank’s trying to do here is not be forced to increase interest rates, while at the same time trying to take a little bit of steam out of the housing market,” he said. “It’s got a fine line to walk here and I think it’s walking it about right.”

The Labour Party accused National of being “stuck in denial mode” over the housing crisis, but Key said it was up to everyone – central government, the Reserve Bank and councils – to stem the rate of increase in house prices. Key said the new rules would not lead to a drop in house values. “I don’t think anyone’s really arguing that house prices should dramatically fall, other than probably (economist) Arthur Grimes and Don Brash, and that’s not a view supported by the Government.” Labour and the Greens both supported the bank’s proposal. Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said it was “the right thing to do” as nearly half of property purchases in Auckland were made by speculators and there were signs of house price increases spreading to other regions.

However, Robertson said the bank was openly calling on the Government to “step up and fix the crisis”. “Labour’s plan to fix the housing crisis includes banning offshore speculators from buying residential properties, an extension of the bright line test to five years and consulting on ending the practice of negative gearing,” he said. “It is clear that the only way to bring stability to the housing market and give first home buyers a fair go is to change the government.” [..] NZ First leader Winston Peters did not think the lending rules would have much of an effect on the housing market. “Given the way house financing is constructed from offshore, foreign investors will carry on as usual whilst New Zealand investors will simply have to stump up a greater deposit. “Accordingly, for a short time longer the house price bubble will just get greater before the inevitable crash.”

Read more …

Futile. The EU has willed it. But devastating too.

Greek Pensioners Protest Cuts At Top Constitutional Court (Kath.)

The new law on social security brings fresh cuts to new pensions that could reach up to €722 per month, generating more concern among citizens who are close to retirement. The law introduced by Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos provides for adjustments to pensions that have not yet been issued of between €11.38 and €722.09, prompting a group known as the Single Network of Pensions to oppose it at the Council of State, the country’s top constitutional court. The pensioners argue that the law introduces cuts that violate the constitution.

Read more …

Redefining ‘police state’.

There Will Be No Second American Revolution (Whitehead)

America is a ticking time bomb. All that remains to be seen is who – or what – will set fire to the fuse. We are poised at what seems to be the pinnacle of a manufactured breakdown, with police shooting unarmed citizens, snipers shooting police, global and domestic violence rising, and a political showdown between two presidential candidates equally matched in unpopularity. The preparations for the Republican and Democratic national conventions taking place in Cleveland and Philadelphia—augmented by a $50 million federal security grant for each city—provide a foretaste of how the government plans to deal with any individual or group that steps out of line: they will be censored, silenced, spied on, caged, intimidated, interrogated, investigated, recorded, tracked, labeled, held at gunpoint, detained, restrained, arrested, tried and found guilty.

For instance, anticipating civil unrest and mass demonstrations in connection with the Republican Party convention, Cleveland officials set up makeshift prisons, extra courtrooms to handle protesters, and shut down a local university in order to house 1,700 riot police and their weapons. The city’s courts are preparing to process up to 1,000 people a day. Additionally, the FBI has also been conducting “interviews” with activists in advance of the conventions to discourage them from engaging in protests. Make no mistake, the government is ready for a civil uprising. Indeed, the government has been preparing for this moment for years. A 2008 Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.”

The 44-page report goes on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.” Subsequent reports by the Department of Homeland Security to identify, monitor and label right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) have manifested into full-fledged pre-crime surveillance programs. Almost a decade later, after locking down the nation and spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS has concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, the government has been amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition.

Read more …

Are there perhaps more important discussions to be had than who’s to blame for Brexit?

Britain’s Part In Torture And Rendition Is Still Kept Hidden (Conv.)

Even as the Chilcot Report lays bare the sad story of the UK’s decision to join in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a veil is still drawn over another dark aspect of Britain’s partnership with George W Bush’s administration. For years now, the British state has barely acknowledged its alleged deep involvement in the abuse of terror suspects, and there has been very little in the way of justice for the victims of torture and “rendition” – the practice of abducting suspects without due legal process and transferring them to other countries or territories for interrogation. Nonetheless, my colleague Ruth Blakeley and I have found that this involvement was direct, deep and longstanding. Moreover, most official channels have been closed to keep the extent of the UK’s co-operation from coming to light.

An aborted judge-led inquiry into British involvement in prisoner mistreatment uncovered more than 200 separate allegations of abuse, at least 40 of which were significant enough to warrant detailed investigation. Some of these cases have led to civil action against the British government in the UK courts, others have led to police investigations and criminal inquiry. In response, however, the government has maintained its innocence in every individual case while simultaneously working to block the release of relevant information. There have been attempts to withhold publication of key documents in open court, such as those which demonstrate that British intelligence knew about the torture of prisoners by the CIA before participating directly in their interrogation.

Where British courts have refused to accept government attempts to hold hearings in camera, the government has offered substantial payouts without any admission of liability. Indeed, the 2013 Justice and Security Act, which introduced so-called “closed material procedures” into the main civil courts, gave the state the legal ability to keep details of British involvement in torture out of the public record.

Read more …

One of my ‘pet’ themes. Not sure Hoppe understands this is an economic phenomenon, in that centralization depends one-on-one on a growing economy. He seems to think it’s political.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: “Put Your Hope In Radical Decentralization” (Mises Inst.)

Can one say, then, that the politicians running the EU are even worse than the politicians running national affairs? No, and yes. On the one hand, all democratic politicians, with almost no exception, are morally uninhibited demagogues. One of my German books is titled The Competition of Crooks, which captures what democracy and democratic party politics are really all about. There is in this regard little if any difference between the political elites of Berlin, Paris, Rome, etc., and those running the show in Brussels. In fact, the EU elites are typically political has-beens, with the same mentality as their domestic counterparts, on the lookout for the super-lavish salaries, benefits, and pensions doled out by the EU. On the other hand, the EU elites are worse than their political cronies at home, of course, in that their decisions and rulings always affect a far larger number of people.

What do you predict, then, will be the future of the EU? The EU and the ECB are a moral and economic monstrosity, in violation of natural law and the laws of economics. You cannot continuously punish productivity and success and reward idleness and failure without bringing about the disaster. The EU will slide from one economic crisis to the next and ultimately break apart. The Brexit, that we have just experienced, is only the first step in this inevitable process of devolution and political decentralization.

Is there anything that an ordinary citizen can do in this situation? For one, instead of swallowing the high-sounding blabber of politicians about “freedom,” “prosperity,” “social justice,” etc., people must learn to recognize the EU for what it really is: a gang of power-lusty crooks empowering and enriching themselves at other, productive people’s expense. And secondly, people must develop a clear vision of the alternative to the present morass: not a European Super-State or even a federation of nation States, but the vision of a Europe made up of thousands of Liechtensteins and Swiss cantons, united through free trade, and in competition with one another in the attempt of offering the most attractive conditions for productive people to stay or move.

Can you give a comparative assessment of the USA and the situation in Europe? The difference between the situation in the US and Western Europe is much smaller than is generally surmised on either side of the Atlantic. For one, the developments in Europe since the end of World War II have been closely watched, steered and manipulated, whether through threats or bribes, by the political elites in Washington DC. In fact, Europe has essentially become a dependency, a satellite or vassal of the US. This is indicated on the one hand by the fact that US troops are stationed all across Europe, by now all the way right up to the Russian border. And on the other hand, this is indicated by the steady pilgrimage, performed more regularly and dutifully than any Muslim’s pilgrimage to Mecca, of the European political elites and their intellectual bodyguards to Washington DC, in order to receive their masters’ blessings.

Especially the German political elite, whose guilt complex has meanwhile assumed the status of some sort of mental illness, stands out in this regard by its cowardice, submissiveness, and servility. As for US domestic affairs, both Europeans and Americans have it typically wrong. Europeans still frequently view the US as the “land of the free,” of rugged individualism, and of unhampered capitalism. Whereas Americans, insofar as they know or claim to know anything about the world outside the US at all, frequently view Europe as a place of unhinged socialism and collectivism, entirely alien to their own “American way.” In fact, there exists no principal difference between the so-called “democratic capitalism” of the US and Europe’s “democratic socialism.”

Read more …

Jul 092016
 
 July 9, 2016  Posted by at 8:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle July 9 2016
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Jack Delano Mike Evans, welder, Proviso Yard, Chicago & North Western RR 1940

The Decline & Fall Of The Biggest Bond Market In The World (ZH)
More Than 20% Of Americans Are Simply Too Poor To Shop (NYPost)
What If I Told You Employment Actually Declined 119,000 In June (Rosenberg)
Chicken Little Economists Are Wrong About Brexit (MW)
UK Property Hits Levels Of Unaffordability Not Seen Since 2007 (TiM)
If Bank Stocks Are Linked to Bank Lending, Europe Should Worry (BBG)
Italy PM’s Tuscan Nightmare: The Fall Of ‘Daddy Monte’ (R.)
Albert Edwards: Brexit Is Old News, Time To Worry About Italy (VW)
Italy’s In An Economic Straitjacket, Needs To Be Freed: Albert Edwards (CNBC)
Only Europe’s Radicals Can Save The EU: Yanis Varoufakis (Newsweek)
Worst. Coup. Ever. (TeleSur)
The Persian Gulf’s Huge New Export: Debt (WSJ)
Greek Exports Record Major Decline In May (Kath.)
Russia Hits Back At ‘Anti-Russian’ NATO ‘Hysteria’ (CNBC)

 

 

Stop it already!

The Decline & Fall Of The Biggest Bond Market In The World (ZH)

Government bonds are themselves becoming more illiquid, most particularly, as CLSA’s Chris Wood notes, in a country like Japan where the Bank of Japan has been buying more than the net issuance. Monthly trading of JGBs by lenders and insurers has collapsed from a peak of ¥123tn in April 2012 to a record low of ¥15tn in May 2016. This raises the pertinent issue of whether the Bank of Japan has reached the practical limit of its government buying programme in terms of its current purchase programme of ¥80tn relative to estimated annual JGB net new issuance of ¥34tn.

In this respect, the Japanese central bank has from a potentially monetisation standpoint always defended the integrity of its JGB purchase programme by stressing that it only buys JGBs in the secondary market, which means that the seller of the JGB to the BoJ forfeits a claim to that asset. This is contrasted to what would happen if the BoJ bought JGBs in the primary market on an open-ended basis. Such a process would be highly inflationary and, sooner or later, would be viewed by the market as such. And as Wood concludes, the next step is obvious…

“This is why Japan, as well as America, is also a candidate for monetisation of infrastructure stimulus or for what Bernanke has called a “money-financed fiscal programme”, or what has been called in other quarters “overt monetary financing”. This is because Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda is now looking for a new alternative form of monetary easing, given he has probably reached the practical limits of responsible JGB buying, as already discussed, while his initial move to impose negative rates in January led to the opposite market reaction than expected (ie, a stronger yen and a weaker stock market) while also proving politically very unpopular. This probably explains why Kamikaze Kuroda has not expanded the negative rate policy further since January even though inflation and inflation expectations have moved in the opposite direction of what he has been targeting.”

The latest data will make it harder for Kuroda to do nothing at the next BoJ policy meeting due to be held on 28-29 July given the stress he has put on monitoring inflation expectations. That is unless he just admits he has failed! Given the unattractive options of buying still more JGBs or ETFs, or risking an undoubtedly unpopular expansion of negative rates, Kuroda and indeed Abe will be looking for a new approach. Monetisation of infrastructure stimulus may be the option. Meanwhile, in an effort to calm potential concerns about the integrity of the fiscal budget central bankers implementing such a future monetisation of infrastructure spending will doubtless be at pains to describe the process as a “one off” though, as the ever theoretical Bernanke stated in his blog: “To have its full effect, the increase in the money supply must be perceived as permanent by the public.”

Read more …

But the jobs report?!

More Than 20% Of Americans Are Simply Too Poor To Shop (NYPost)

Retailers have blamed the weather, slow job growth and millennials for their poor results this past year, but a new study claims that more than 20% of Americans are simply too poor to shop. These 26 million Americans are juggling two to three jobs, earning just around $27,000 a year and supporting two to four children — and exist largely under the radar, according to America’s Research Group, which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979. “The poorest Americans have stopped shopping, except for necessities,” said Britt Beemer, chairman of ARG. Beemer has been tracking this subgroup for two years, ever since his weekly surveys of 15,000 consumers picked up that 21% of consumers did not finish their Christmas shopping in 2014 due to being too busy working.

That number grew to 29% last year, and Beemer dug in to learn more about them, calling them on holidays. He estimates that this group has swelled from 6 million households four years ago, because their incomes have not kept pace with expenses like medical costs. Nearly half of all Americans have not seen an increase in salary over the last five to seven years, and another 28% have seen their take-home pay reduced by higher medical insurance deductions or switching to part-time jobs, ARG found. “It’s scary when you start to see things that you’ve never seen before,” said Beemer. “People are so pessimistic about their future.” Most of those living on the edge — 68% are women between the ages of 28 and 38 — work in retail or in call centers, according to Beemer.

Read more …

Rosenberg flip flop. “This is otherwise known as looking at the big picture.”

What If I Told You Employment Actually Declined 119,000 In June (Rosenberg)

David Rosenberg: What if I told you that employment actually declined 119,000 in June and has been faltering now for three months in a row? Yes, that is indeed the case. Of course, the focus, as always is on the non-farm payroll report but keep in mind that while this is the data series that moves markets, it does not necessarily have the final word on how the labor market is truly faring. Okay, so let’s get the pablum out of the way first. Nonfarm payrolls surprised yet again but this time to the upside — surging 287,000 in the best showing since last October and again making a mockery of the consensus economics community which penned in a 180,000 bounce….

…as if the Household sector ratified the seemingly encouraging news contained in the payroll data as this survey showed a tepid 67,000 job gain last month and rather ominously, in fact, has completely stagnated since February. Historians will tell you that at turning points in the economy, it is the Household survey that tends to get the story right.

[..] The simple fact of the matter is that May and June were massive statistical anomalies. The broad trends tell the tale. Go back to June 2014 and the six-month trend in payrolls is running at a 2.2% annual rate and the three-month trend at 2.4%. A year ago, as of June 2015, the six-month pace was 1.9% and the three-month at 2.2%. Fast forward to today, and the six-month annualized rate is 1.4% and the three-month has slowed all the way down to a 1.2%. This is otherwise known as looking at the big picture.

When the Household survey is put on the same comparable footing as the payroll series (the payroll and population-concept adjusted number), employment fell 119,000 in June – again calling into question the veracity of the actual payroll report — and is down 517,000 through this span. The six-month trend has dipped below the zero-line and this has happened but two other times during this seven-year expansion.

Read more …

“..the E.U.’s “free-trade zones” have become classic Orwellian nomenclature. Flip it: “Free-trade zone” means “unfree-trade zone.”

Chicken Little Economists Are Wrong About Brexit (MW)

A few years ago when Grexit was the E.U. crisis du jour, I explained why Greece just didn’t matter to the world’s economies or the U.S. stock markets in columns like this one called, “Apple is bigger than the entire Greek economy.” Did you know that Great Britain’s GDP is 10 times larger than Greece’s? Unlike with Apple vs Greece’s entire GDP, at $2.7 trillion per year, Britain’s economy is equal to the combined market cap of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon and Facebook. The total market cap of the DJIA is only (?) about $5.5 trillion, or twice Britain’s GDP. Clearly, Brexit has a much bigger potential to impact the broader economy and the financial markets than Greece ever did.

Which, in my opinion, is a good thing. Greece’s economy has shrunk 20% since the great Greek Financial Crises Du Jour was hitting the markets and the country chose to stay in the E.U. rather than getting out. Staying in the E.U. has created a Great Depression kind of decline in the economy there. Now I don’t think Great Britain has ever been positioned as poorly as Greece has been inside the E.U., so I certainly don’t think its economy is about to crash 20% in the next two or three years whether in or out of the E.U. But I like the prospects for the country to unwind the cumbersome red tape, regulations and control from the E.U.’s central powers, thereby unleashing entrepreneurship, innovation and freer trade,

One of the great ironies that Brexit has highlighted is that the E.U.’s “free-trade zones” have become classic Orwellian nomenclature. Flip it: “Free-trade zone” means “unfree-trade zone.” As LunaticTrader put it in a discussion about all of this on Scutify: “The E.U. worked well until the late 1990s when it was mainly a free-trade zone. It has gradually morphed into an ‘unfree trade zone’ because that ‘free’ has been gradually replaced by 80000 laws and regulations, combined with the euro, which took away the weaker countries’ (Greece, Italy, Spain…) main tool to manage their own economy. This doesn’t offer any economic benefits to the weaker E.U. members, as has become abundantly clear.”

From this corner’s perspective, Great Britain’s leaving the E.U. gives the nation itself a much higher probability of creating economic growth and prosperity for its citizens than staying in the E.U. ever did. That new upside potential, plus the fact that its economy is large enough to impact the global and U.S. economies nets out to Brexit being a positive, despite all the handwringing in the media and Chicken Little politicians, economists, pundits and traders who are basically begging you to freak out about it.

Read more …

What Brexit will correct.

UK Property Hits Levels Of Unaffordability Not Seen Since 2007 (TiM)

UK house prices continued to rise in June, adding almost £3,000 in a month, stretching affordability to levels not seen since the run-up to the financial crisis in 2007, a new survey suggests. Halifax said it was too early to say how the referendum that sanctioned the UK’s decision to leave the EU will impact the housing market, but added there were signs the pace of growth is easing. The price of the average home in the UK rose by 1.3% between May and June, or by £2,708, to hit £216,823, up from 0.6% the previous month, according to the latest index by the mortgage lender. Meanwhile, the ratio of house prices to earnings rose to 5.70 in June from 5.65 in May, marking its highest level since October 2007.

This means that buying a new home will cost the average workers close to six years of their earnings before tax. On an annual basis, however, prices grew by 8.4%, down from 9.2% in May, posting the lowest growth since July last year. Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, said: ‘There is evidence that the underlying pace of house growth may be easing.’ And added: ‘House prices continue to increase, albeit at a slower rate, but this precedes the EU referendum result, therefore it is far too early to determine any impact since.’ The Bank of England this week warned that property prices ‘had become stretched’ in recent months – meaning a cooling of the market was likely at some point regardless of the Brexit vote.

Read more …

“..if banks decide to keep their balance sheets unchanged until the end of 2017, this could halve economic growth in the euro area next year.”

If Bank Stocks Are Linked to Bank Lending, Europe Should Worry (BBG)

Don’t underestimate the toll that the post-Brexit bank equity rout can take on the euro-area economy. Initial calculations of the effect of the U.K. referendum on the region’s recovery have suggested that the blow will be relatively mild, with ECB President Mario Draghi telling European Union leaders that the impact from direct trade could add up to 0.5 %age point over three years. But such scenarios don’t take into account the consequence of the 23% decline in bank stocks since the Brexit vote. Historically, bank equities have correlated strongly with bank lending, with about a year’s lag, as the chart below shows.

Deutsche Bank analysts led by Marco Stringa argue in a July 5 paper that there’s also a causal link: As banks are now under regulatory pressure to raise capital, slumping stock prices and low profitability make it very difficult to build up funds either externally or internally. Deutsche Bank’s own share price has fallen by more than 25% since June 23. If banks struggle to raise capital, they may come under extra pressure to shrink assets. That could mean less lending to the economy. Bankers often claim that asking them to have more funds of their own instead of borrowing from the market hampers their ability to extend credit. Regulators retort that higher capital requirements in fact strengthen a bank’s ability to make loans, not the opposite.

Even so, it might mightn’t take much for Brexit to put a stop to the timid pick-up in euro-area bank lending that started just last year. That’s not least because of the impact of uncertainty on households’ and companies’ investment choices. The impact of a renewed credit crunch on Europe’s largely bank-dependent companies could be severe. Not by chance, fixing the banks to restart credit to the real economy has been one of the main goals of the ECB’s policies since the crisis. Stringa estimates that if banks decide to keep their balance sheets unchanged until the end of 2017, this could halve economic growth in the euro area next year. Worse still, if lenders only manage to raise half of the funds they need to meet what the economists refer to as “Basel IV” requirements, this could force them to reduce their loan book’s risk-weighted assets.

Read more …

May have co-financed Columbus: “In 1624, the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany rushed to the defense of depositors of a bank that was by then already 152 years old..”

Italy PM’s Tuscan Nightmare: The Fall Of ‘Daddy Monte’ (R.)

In 1624, the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany rushed to the defense of depositors of a bank that was by then already 152 years old, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, guaranteeing their savings at a time of economic crisis. Nearly 400 years later, Italian Prime Minister and fellow Tuscan Matteo Renzi aims to do something similar as the world’s oldest bank and Italy’s third-largest lender again threatens the region’s savers. This time the stakes are much higher. The collapse of Monte dei Paschi could not only impoverish thousands of ordinary Italians, it could lead to a wider banking crisis, help tip Renzi from power and provide another strong jolt to the European Union, already reeling from Britain’s referendum vote to leave the group.

“The government must assume its responsibilities, save the bank and its investors, otherwise this gangrene will spread to the rest of the system,” said Romolo Semplici, a 58-year-old real estate entrepreneur whose 22,000-euro investment in the bank’s shares is now worth less than 200 euros. “I’ve always been pro-European, but if Europe doesn’t protect its own citizens then we should think twice if this the kind of Europe that we want to be in.” Government sources say Italy is considering options to prop up the bank, including a state guarantee that would enable the bank to raise money it would otherwise struggle to secure from skeptical investors. Many bankers say the bank will inevitably have to raise around €3-4 billion.

Officials in Brussels, a world away from the medieval cobble-stoned alleys of Siena, one of Italy’s most popular tourist centers, may stand in Renzi’s way. A state rescue of Monte dei Paschi would be the first real test of EU rules limiting the use of taxpayers’ money to bail out investors. The rules require holders of the bank’s shares and junior debt to bear some of the losses. Depositors with more than €100,000 would also be hit. The bank’s share price has halved since Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU, as investors stampede out of Italian banks on concerns that Brexit could send Italy back into recession and saddle them with even more bad debts.

Read more …

“..Italy may fall in October or may not, but it will eventually occur..”

Albert Edwards: Brexit Is Old News, Time To Worry About Italy (VW)

Edwards looks at the 2008 financial crisis and says it was not Lehman Brothers that was causation. Lehman was a symptom of an economic engine already in decline. Likewise there is Brexit, an issue he notes has been accompanied by some of the most emotional ranting he’s seen – on both sides of the argument, including his own. Brexit will be used as an excuse for all sorts of economic ills, but it is only a symptom, a benchmark for a larger trend. When he takes off the emotional hat, he says the real issue is the continued dismantling of the European Union that is upon which savvy investors should focus. There is a game of dominoes being played out and Brexit was just the latest move in a trend.

“In the aftermath of the Brexit vote there is an increasing fear of other dominoes falling within the heart of the EU – the eurozone,” Edwards wrote. “Italy is bleeping very loudly on most people’s radars with its banking crisis and impending referendum seen as leaving the country on a knife-edge.” The Italian banking crisis is important, but it is not the primary problem. “It is a symptom of the problem that problem being a perpetually stagnant economy and deflation,” he wrote. “Italy simply does not appear to be able to grow inside the eurozone and more importantly probably never will.” But it is not just Italy that could be part of the trend extension, the trend could be extended across Europe.

In making this analysis, Edwards does not cite all too simple issues of immigration, fear of globalization or a lack of foresight by the slovenly masses who vote. He looks at economic numbers and notes that it’s not just Italy that is at risk of withdrawing from a marriage. There have been economic winners and losers, and they are clear and documentable. “Indeed the Italian economy has barely grown one jot since it joined the eurozone at the start of 1999 while Germany has grown rich,” he said, pointing to one clear winner with many clear losers. “As inevitably people compare their fortunes with that of their neighbours, the Italians are mighty pissed off.”

Read more …

“..the country is “condemned to perpetual economic stagnation within the strictures of the euro zone..”

Italy’s In An Economic Straitjacket, Needs To Be Freed: Albert Edwards (CNBC)

The citizens of Italy will vote to leave the euro zone after an impending recession and a shift in power inside the country’s political system, according to Societe Generale’s notoriously bearish strategist, Albert Edwards. “The people are angry,” Edwards said in a note Friday, highlighting a poll in May by IPSOS Global that showed almost half of Italians would vote “out” in a referendum on their country’s EU membership. “Italy simply does not appear to be able to grow inside the euro zone and more importantly probably never will … after the next recession I believe a majority of Italians will have had enough of the euro zone experiment and vote in the radical Five Star Movement,” he added.

Anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) is now Italy’s most popular party after a poll on Wednesday showed that it would win an election over Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD), according to Reuters. This comes at a time when Renzi is trying to deal with a fragile banking system, bogged down by non-performing loans. A referendum on constitutional reform this October is also looming and could well usher in new elections. But Edwards suggests that the Italian bank crisis – and also Brexit – are not a cause of the world’s economic problems, but just symptoms. The real issue is that the country is “condemned to perpetual economic stagnation within the strictures of the euro zone,” he said, suggesting that recapitalizing the Italian banks will not solve their problems.

With a slew of figures, the Societe Generale strategist detailed in his research note how unemployment has risen since the mid-2000s and how productivity has stagnated. Going forward, he believes Renzi should announce an “aggressive fiscal pump” despite the complaints that might arise from Germany and the European Commission. “Italy has played by the fiscal austerity rules for too long. Although its problems are structural in nature, after running an underlying primary fiscal surplus for some 20 years it is time to break free from its self-imposed deflationary fiscal chains,” he added.

Read more …

Question is: why save the EU?

Only Europe’s Radicals Can Save The EU: Yanis Varoufakis (Newsweek)

Spaniards went to the polls three days after the shock of Brexit to produce a result that, ostensibly, delivers victory to the status quo. However, the status quo is tired, fragmenting, and prone to vicious unraveling unless the EU’s deconstruction is impeded. But, the Spanish establishment, which is determined to maintain the status quo, lacks both the analytical power and the political will to impede the EU’s disintegration. And so an electoral result in favor of continuity becomes the harbinger of deep uncertainty. Reeling under the British voters’ radical verdict, “official” Europe took solace from Spain’s general election outcome. They read into it evidence that the post-Brexit fear factor may help knock some “sense” into voters, putting them off “populist” parties.

But, even if this is so, for how long will fear keep voters loyal to a crumbling status quo? The threat of a pyrrhic victory for Spain’s establishment is, thus, clear and present. Spain and the U.K. differ in one crucial sense. While EU policies and institutions have damaged the Spanish economy a great deal more than Britain’s, Spain’s political system remains largely free of euroskepticism. The paradox dissolves quickly when one considers the traditional lack of legitimacy of the Spanish elites in their own country. British Tories, like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, knew they could draw mass support from a slogan like “We want our country back!” The Spanish establishment cannot do this.

And they cannot do it because, over the last four decades, they managed to retain control by offering voters an unlikely deal: “You keep us in government and we shall do what is necessary to rid you of us, by transferring power to Brussels and to Frankfurt.” Calling for a restoration of sovereignty now would strike Spanish voters as backtracking on the promise to rid them of their local rulers. But, then again, this promise is under increasing strain at a time when the process of Europeanization is in serious trouble.

Read more …

As you may have noticed, I find it ever harder to stay away from politics. This is because the economic collapse increasingly spils over into what is after all a fully integrated politico-economic system. In this case, what caused Brexit is also what makes Corbyn strong. But Britons are not nearlly far enough along in the Kübler-Ross cycle to understand this. They’re still stuck in blaming other people for the perceived injustices that befall them.

Worst. Coup. Ever. (TeleSur)

As the Chilcot Inquiry report is released to the public, those MPs attempting to depose Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—their leading lights inescapably sullied by having supported the war—are suing for peace. Over a week of high-profile resignations, statements, demands, pleas and threats have seemingly done little but consolidate Corbyn’s position. In record time, it has gone from being a coup to a #chickencoup to a #headlesschickencoup. This could be the biggest own-goal in the history of British politics. Journalists steeped in the common sense of Westminster, assumed that it was all over for Labour’s first ever radical socialist leadership. How can he lead, they reasoned, if his parliamentary allies won’t work with him?

This, in realpolitik terms, merely encoded the congealed entitlement and lordly presumption of Labour’s traditional ruling caste. Even some of Corbyn’s bien-pensant supporters went along with this view. They should have known better. The putschists’ plan, such as it was, was to orchestrate such media saturation of criticism and condemnation aimed at Corbyn, to create such havoc within the Labour Party, that he would feel compelled to resign. The tactical side of it was executed to smooth perfection, by people who are well-versed in the manipulation of the spectacle. And yet, in the event that Corbyn was not wowed by the media spectacle, not intimidated by ranks of grandees laying into him, and happy to appeal over the heads of party elites to the grassroots, their strategy disintegrated.

This was not politics as they knew it. The befuddlement was not for want of preparation. From even before his election as Labour Party leader, there were briefings to the press that a coup would be mounted soon after his election. And in the weeks leading up to the European Union referendum, Labour Party activists reported that they were expecting a coup to be launched after the outcome was announced, regardless of what the result was. This seemed like a half-baked idea—there was still no overwhelming crisis justifying a coup attempt—and so it turned out to be.

Undoubtedly, part of the rationale for hastening the attempted overthrow was the looming publication of the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, which was expected to be harshly critical of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, of the justification for the invasion of Iraq, and of the relationship with the Bush administration. Given the role of the Parliamentary Labour Party in leading Britain into that war, against fierce public and international opposition, and given its role in supporting the subsequent occupation, this was a bad moment to have Corbyn at the helm. In the event, Corbyn survived to make a dignified statement apologizing for Labour’s role in the disaster and promising to embark upon a different foreign policy—one quite at odds with that supported by the pro-Trident, pro-bombing backbenchers.

Read more …

The world needs more debt!

The Persian Gulf’s Huge New Export: Debt (WSJ)

The energy-producing states of the Persian Gulf are issuing bonds at the fastest clip ever, showing how the oil bust is reshaping the region’s finances despite a near doubling of crude prices this year. The Gulf Cooperation Council states of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman together have raised a record $18 billion in 2016, according to Dealogic, helping refill coffers depleted by sharp revenue declines. Investors expect issuance to increase further, as governments brace for lower prices than they were budgeting only a few years ago. Saudi Arabia is expected to raise up to $15 billion more in the coming weeks, and total issuance by the Gulf nations could reach $35 billion this year, according to JP Morgan Chase, more than doubling the previous high set in 2009.

The issuers are paying slightly higher costs than other emerging countries with similar ratings, reflecting uncertainty over how successful they will be in opening up their economies, the region’s geopolitical risks and the murky outlook for oil prices, analysts and portfolio managers said. But the bond sales generally have been successful, driven by strong demand from local investors and banks, improving market sentiment due to the oil rebound, and a persistent decline in global interest rates that is putting a premium on securities with better yields. In May, Qatar raised $9 billion in an offering that drew more than twice that sum in orders. The five-year notes issued by the nation of 2.5 million trade at 2.13%. That is more attractive when compared with 1.83% on the comparably rated bonds issued by Korea National Oil, according to Anita Yadav at Emirates NBD.

Read more …

-12.4% YoY

Greek Exports Record Major Decline In May (Kath.)

Exports posted a significant decline in May, reflecting to a great extent the impact of the uncertainty from Athens’s months-long negotiations with its creditors, as well as of the industrial action at the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki. According to Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures issued on Friday, exports contracted 12.4% compared with May 2015, amounting to 2.02 billion euros. The decline came to 6.4% not including fuel products, as exports recorded their first decline in the last four months.

“This decline, besides the general problems and the continued uncertainty in the Greek economy, is partly due to the situation in the country in recent months, as the industrial action at the ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeus started in May,” noted the Greek International Business Association (SEVE) in a statement. Panhellenic Exporters Association chief Christina Sakellaridi added that “an entire year has passed since the capital controls were imposed without normality having been restored to the market. The only favorable impact is expected from the repayment of the state’s dues to private parties, the activation of the investment incentives law, the restoration of cheap liquidity flows to banks, the developments concerning bad loans and privatizations, and the attraction of new investments.”

Read more …

“..absurd to talk about any threat coming from Russia at a time when dozens of people are dying in the center of Europe and when hundreds of people are dying in the Middle East daily..”

Russia Hits Back At ‘Anti-Russian’ NATO ‘Hysteria’ (CNBC)

At a NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland on Friday, the military alliance is expected to formally agree to deploy four battalions with a total of 3,000 to 4,000 troops to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland on a rotational basis. The deployment comes amid increasing concerns in those areas (all of which were under Soviet control during the Cold War) that Russia could be prepared to try to increase or regain its sphere of influence. In a statement on Thursday, NATO also said it would “strengthen political and practical cooperation with Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova” – all former Soviet republics experiencing increasing tensions with Russia due to their political and economic relations with the EU.

In addition, the EU and NATO signed a declaration on Friday aimed at bolstering the region’s security ahead of the full NATO summit Friday afternoon. Left out in the cold from NATO and ostensibly the reason for such a deployment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly hit back at the alliance, saying its actions were akin to “anti-Russian hysteria.” “If one needs badly to look for an enemy image so that [one can] promote anti-Russian, so to say, hysteria, and then, with this emotional background, to deploy more and more air force units, ground troop units, getting them closer to Russian borders, then one can hardly find any common ground for cooperation,” he was quoted by Russia’s Itar Tass news agency as saying.

Peskov was also quoted by Reuters as telling reporters that it was “absurd to talk about any threat coming from Russia at a time when dozens of people are dying in the center of Europe and when hundreds of people are dying in the Middle East daily,” adding that “you have to be extremely short-sighted to twist things in that way.”

Read more …

Feb 152016
 
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Dorothea Lange We’ll be in California yet. We’re not going back to Arkansas 1938

Financial bubbles blown on the back of massive amounts of debt, of necessity lead to debt deflation (it’s just entropy, really). Fighting this is futile, and grossly costly to boot. The only sensible thing to do is to guide the process as best you can and try to minimize the damage, especially at the bottom rungs of society, because that’s where the deflation first takes hold, and where it spreads out from.

Attempting to boost inflation, or boost demand, before letting the debt deflation run its course through restructuring and defaults (perhaps even a -partial- jubilee) leads only to -further- distortion, and -further- impoverishes society’s poorer (at some point to a large extent the former middle classes). Whose lower spending, as nary a soul seems to comprehend, is the origin of the deflation to begin with.

All the attempts by central bankers to boost inflation that we’ve seen so far squarely ignore this, and operate on the false assumption that if only prices for financial assets and real estate can be raised even higher -artificially-, deflation can be warded off.

Thing is, deflation starts not at the top, it starts at the bottom. It’s not the banks or the bankers or the well-off who are maxed out and stop spending, but the people in the street.

They are responsible for most of the spending in an economy, and therefore for the velocity with which money moves in a society. And if the velocity of money falls below a critical point, no increase in the other side of the inflation/deflation equation -the money/credit supply- can make up for the difference. There is a point where all of the King’s horses and all of the King’s central bankers can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

The people in the street are not just maxed out in the sense that they have no money, they have less than no money, since they’re deep in debt. An increasing part of whatever they do still have, and what they make in their ever lower paying jobs, goes toward debt payments. Yeah, that’s the giant sucking sound.

QE and other ‘plans’ like it don’t address this even in the slightest, and are necessarily failures before they even start.

Central bank stimulus measures are all exclusively targeted at the upper rungs, and therefore miss their aim entirely. Or perhaps we should say ‘alleged’ aim, since it takes quite a leap of faith to presume that all the world’s central bankers fail to understand their own field so thoroughly that all they can all come up with is failures.

However, given that they all studied the same faulty economics textbooks, we can’t rule out this possibility. It is certainly strongly suggested -once again- by Steve Keen in Our Dysfunctional Monetary System.

Rather than effective remedies, we’ve had inane policies like QE, which purport to solve the crisis by inflating asset prices when inflated asset prices were one of the symptoms of the bubble that caused the crisis. We’ve seen Central Banks pump up private bank reserves in the belief that this will encourage more bank lending when (a) there’s too much bank debt already and (b) banks physically can’t lend out reserves.

What may also play a role is that the upper rungs tend to be blind to anything outside of their own circles, that because they 1) have their hands on a nation’s wallets and 2) they see themselves as the most important segment of any given society, they elect to try and solve the problem inside their own circles -and truly believe this is feasible-.

This can of course not possibly work. Because they’re hugely outnumbered. They don’t have nearly enough influence on money flows in their societies. If they can’t sell the bottom, let’s take a number, 80%, of society sufficient produce or gasoline or homes or trinkets, the entire society seizes up the way an engine does that runs out of oil.

The top makes its fortune for a while getting the bottom ever deeper into debt, only to inevitably find that this kills off the entire economy. Then they do some more of the same, and find ever more of their own kind becoming part of the bottom.

The problem for the rich is simple: there’s not enough of them. Well, that and they don’t understand how societies function. Let alone economies. Scraps off the table won’t do the trick. Next stop pitchforks.

Any deflationary period would have been hard no matter what. Still, none would have had to lead to what we’re facing now.

But look out there at what’s happening in politics, at who’s popular in various places. It’s all geared towards more inequality, not less, like some tooth and claw Darwin version were the world’s economics teacher, wherever you look it’s all the well-off making ever surer they will remain well-off or better.

And even if you look for instance at Bernie Sanders in the US, he wants more for the bottom of society, but that seems more for sentimental or ideological reasons than a sign he actually understands why it would raise the odds of the States being a going concern going forward.

The actual Darwin could have taught us all a lesson or two three about the role of balances in ecosystems, and in human societies. But then he actually studied them. Economists, politicians and central bankers have not.

Oct 172015
 
 October 17, 2015  Posted by at 9:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Wyland Stanley Indian guides and Nash auto at Covelo stables., Mendocino County CA 1925

Last 30 Years Of Global Economic History Are About To Go Out The Window (Quartz)
Nowhere in US Can A Single Adult Live On Less Than $14/Hr In 40-Hour Week (DK)
US Manufacturing Falls for a Second Month (Bloomberg)
US Export Industries Are Losing 50,000 Jobs A Month (Bloomberg)
Wrath of Financial Engineering: It’s Now Eating into Earnings (WolfStreet)
Megamergers Will Depend on Huge Amounts of Debt (Barron’s)
China’s Exporters Downcast As Orders Slow, Costs Rise (Reuters)
PBOC Data Suggest Capital Outflows Stayed Strong in September (Bloomberg)
Good News Is Bad News for China (Bloomberg)
Eurozone Inflation Confirmed At -0.1% In September (Reuters)
Party Time Is Over For Norway’s Oil Capital – And The Country (Reuters)
Africa’s Poor Grow By 100 Million Since 1990: World Bank (Reuters)
Stress Building in Kenyan Credit Markets Spells Doom for Growth (Bloomberg)
Ancient Rome and Today’s Migrant Crisis (WSJ)
Immigrants To Account For 88% Of US Population Increase In Next 50 Years (Pew)
Hungary Seals Border With Croatia to Stem Flow of Refugees (Bloomberg)
Remote Greek Village Becomes Doorway To Europe (Omaira Gill)
Turkey Pours Cold Water On Migrant Plan, Ridicules EU (AFP)

“..the story of fast Chinese growth—a story that has soothed investors and corporate managers around the world since the 1980s—is looking increasingly tough to square with the evidence. ..”

Last 30 Years Of Global Economic History Are About To Go Out The Window (Quartz)

Over the last 30 years, a near constant flow of cash has inundated China and other emerging markets. It has lifted those economies, pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and dictated corporate expansion plans worldwide. That wave is now ebbing. This year will see the first net outflow of capital from emerging markets in 27 years, according to the Institute of International Finance, a trade group representing international bankers. The group expects more than $500 billion worth of cash previously invested in things like Chinese factories, Brazilian government bonds, and Nigerian stocks to cascade out of such markets this year. What’s going on? In a word: China. In a profound change of narrative for both the global economy and markets that are closely tied to it, the story of fast Chinese growth—a story that has soothed investors and corporate managers around the world since the 1980s—is looking increasingly tough to square with the evidence.

And it’s even tougher to imagine anything else like China—a billion new consumers joining the global economy—emerging any time soon. Of course, the slowdown in China isn’t confined to China. Over the last 30 years, countries worldwide have built their economies to service the needs of the People’s Republic. Brazil would be a case in point. The South American giant has done a brisk business digging up and selling China the iron needed to feed booming steel mills. (Brazil is the world’s second largest iron ore exporter, behind Australia.) But Chinese steel mills aren’t roaring like they used to. Crude steel production fell 2% during the first eight months of the year, a decline unprecedented in data going back roughly 20 years. As Chinese steel plants cooled, iron ore prices fell sharply. At roughly $55 a tonne, iron ore prices are down 60% from where they were at the end of 2013. And as prices for iron plummeted, so did revenues of big iron-ore exporters such as Brazil.

Read more …

“..In no state is a living wage less than $14.26 per hour..”

Nowhere in US Can A Single Adult Live On Less Than $14/Hr In 40-Hour Week (DK)

You read that right. Alliance for a Just Society just released a report. In it they looked at living expenses in every state, for singles as well as families. This is an attempt to figure out what a reasonable living wage would be. What’s a “living wage”? The study’s definition includes the ability to pay for luxuries items like housing, child care, utilities and savings. The conclusions, while known anecdotally by virtually every American (sans conservatives), are still chilling: Though $15 per hour is significantly higher than any minimum wage in the country, it is not a living wage in most states. A living wage was calculated for all 50 states and for Washington DC In 35 states and in Washington DC, a living wage for a single adult is more than $15 per hour. In no state is a living wage less than $14.26 per hour.

In fact, nationally, the living wage for a single adult is $16.87 per hour ($35,087 annually) – the weighted average of single adult living wages for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Some of the people who have it the hardest? Childcare workers. In 2014, 582,970 people worked as child care providers at a median wage of $9.48 per hour. Let’s put it into perspective. According to the study, in order to get by on minimum wage as it is in each state right now, you would have to work an almost 111 hour week in Hawaii. You’d be better off in Virginia, where for $7.25 it would only take a touch over 103 hours a week to get by. IF YOU ARE SINGLE. If you’re a real lazybones or don’t like a little hard work, you can move to Washington or South Dakota where you only have to work for about 67 and half hours a week to get by.

Read more …

Ominous.

US Manufacturing Falls for a Second Month (Bloomberg)

Factory output fell in September for a second month as high inventories and lukewarm demand from overseas customers kept American producers bogged down. The 0.1% drop at manufacturers, which make up 75% of all production, followed a revised 0.4% decrease the prior month, a Federal Reserve report showed Friday. Total industrial production, which also includes mines and utilities, dropped 0.2%. A surge in the dollar since mid-2014 has made U.S. products more expensive in foreign markets at the same time the oil industry cuts back and companies contend with bloated stockpiles. Manufacturing’s woes are only partially being cushioned by steady purchases of automobiles that have led consumer spending in underpinning the economy.

“Manufacturing continues to be kind of soft,” said Joshua Shapiro at Maria Fiorini Ramirez in New York. “It’s a combination of weak foreign demand and inventories getting rebalanced. I’d expect another few months of flat-to-down manufacturing output.” Utility output climbed 1.3% for a second month as warmer September weather boosted demand for air conditioning. Mining production, which includes oil drilling, slumped 2%, the most in four months. Oil and gas well drilling decreased 4%. [..] manufacturing accounts for about 12% of the economy. The previous month’s reading was revised from a 0.5% drop.

Read more …

“The drag from job losses in export industries will linger on for some time at least.” Considering export-oriented jobs are among the better paying ones, that’s a pretty sobering forecast.”

US Export Industries Are Losing 50,000 Jobs A Month (Bloomberg)

Employment is taking a dive in industries that sell a lot of U.S.-made goods abroad, and things could get worse before they get better. The double whammy to exports from the stronger dollar and cooling overseas markets was bound to hit employment in the world’s largest economy. JPMorgan has put numbers to the damage. Export-oriented industries have been losing about 50,000 jobs a month for most of this year, after adding 9,000 a month on average in 2014, according to JPMorgan economist Jesse Edgerton. Recent manufacturing surveys hint the impact could worsen, and the employment erosion may extend into the first half of 2016, he predicts. In effect, that would mean private payrolls growth takes a step down to around 150,000 a month, from the booming 250,000-plus average of 2014.

“Employment is declining in industries exposed to exports, and we haven’t seen any sign the decline is slowing down,” Edgerton said. “The drag from job losses in export industries will linger on for some time at least.” Considering export-oriented jobs are among the better paying ones, that’s a pretty sobering forecast. U.S. jobs supported by goods exports, for example, pay as much as 18% more than the national average, according to government estimates. At a time of increased concern that growth is losing momentum, a strong labor market backed by jobs that pay well is key to sustaining consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. Edgerton has pieced out the hit to employment, which isn’t easy to gauge from the Labor Department’s monthly payrolls report.

He developed a way to measure the share of each industry’s output that is exported, both directly and indirectly through sales to other industries that cater to overseas demand. Using that, he worked out how payrolls are faring in those businesses compared with counterparts that focus on the U.S. market. Trends in the top four industries with the largest export share — transportation equipment excluding motor vehicles; machinery; computer and electronic products; and primary metals — offer another reason for concern, Edgerton said. Payrolls have been slowing for decades in capital-intensive manufacturing businesses that dominate exports. So there’s little reason to expect export jobs will see a return to positive territory.

Read more …

“..companies’ ability to pay these interest expenses, as measured by the interest coverage ratio, dropped to the lowest level since 2009. Companies also have to refinance that debt when it comes due.”

Wrath of Financial Engineering: It’s Now Eating into Earnings (WolfStreet)

Companies with investment-grade credit ratings – the cream-of-the-crop “high-grade” corporate borrowers – have gorged on borrowed money at super-low interest rates over the past few years, as monetary policies put investors into trance. And interest on that mountain of debt, which grew another 4% in the second quarter, is now eating their earnings like never before. These companies – according to JPMorgan analysts cited by Bloomberg – have incurred $119 billion in interest expense over the 12 months through the second quarter. The most ever. With impeccable timing: for S&P 500 companies, revenues have been in a recession all year, and the last thing companies need now is higher expenses.

Risks are piling up too: according to Bloomberg, companies’ ability to pay these interest expenses, as measured by the interest coverage ratio, dropped to the lowest level since 2009. Companies also have to refinance that debt when it comes due. If they can’t, they’ll end up going through what their beaten-down brethren in the energy and mining sectors are undergoing right now: reshuffling assets and debts, some of it in bankruptcy court. But high-grade borrowers can always borrow – as long as they remain “high-grade.” And for years, they were on the gravy train riding toward ever lower interest rates: they could replace old higher-interest debt with new lower-interest debt. But now the bonanza is ending. Bloomberg:

As recently as 2012, companies were refinancing at interest rates that were 0.83 percentage point cheaper than the rates on the debt they were replacing, JPMorgan analysts said. That gap narrowed to 0.26 percentage point last year, even without a rise in interest rates, because the average coupon on newly issued debt increased. Companies saved a mere 0.21 percentage point in the second quarter on refinancings as investors demanded average yields of 3.12% to own high-grade corporate debt – about half a percentage point more than the post-crisis low in May 2013.

That was in the second quarter. Since then, conditions have worsened. Moody’s Aaa Corporate Bond Yield index, which tracks the highest-rated borrowers, was at 3.29% in early February. In July last year, it was even lower for a few moments. So refinancing old debt at these super-low interest rates was a deal. But last week, the index was over 4%. It currently sits at 3.93%. And the benefits of refinancing at ever lower yields are disappearing fast. What’s left is a record amount of debt, generating a record amount of interest expense, even at these still very low yields. “Increasingly alarming” is what Goldman’s credit strategists led by Lotfi Karoui called this deterioration of corporate balance sheets. And it will get worse as yields edge up and as corporate revenues and earnings sink deeper into the mire of the slowing global economy.

But these are the cream of the credit crop. At the other end of the spectrum – which the JPMorgan analysts (probably holding their nose) did not address – are the junk-rated masses of over-indebted corporate America. For deep-junk CCC-rated borrowers, replacing old debt with new debt has suddenly gotten to be much more expensive or even impossible, as yields have shot up from the low last June of around 8% to around 14% these days. Yields have risen not because of the Fed’s policies – ZIRP is still in place – but because investors are coming out of their trance and are opening their eyes and are finally demanding higher returns to take on these risks. Even high-grade borrowers are feeling the long-dormant urge by investors to be once again compensated for risk, at least a tiny bit.

Read more …

More financial engineering to come:

Megamergers Will Depend on Huge Amounts of Debt (Barron’s)

History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes, as Mark Twain may (or may not) have said. And one of those repetitions is the preponderance of megamergers and acquisitions late in economic expansions and bull markets, which are the results of confidence brimming over in C-suites and the sense that opportunities are endless. And so the announcement of not one but two megadeals—privately held Dell mating with data-storage outfit EMC, and Anheuser-BuschInBev linking up with fellow brewer SABMiller —provoked a spate of commentary that they represented some fin-de-cycle phenomenon. As usual, these nuptials are expected to produce that most desired benefit of such unions: often-elusive synergies. That’s mainly a euphemism for cost-cutting, largely through reduced head counts, rather than the rare phenomenon of one plus one adding up to three, something seen mainly in the consultant community, not the real world.

But what really drives deals isn’t so much what’s happening with companies’ stocks as with the credit markets. And the Dell-EMC and AB InBev-SABMiller nuptials, if approved by regulators, will be made possible by nearly $120 billion from the corporate bond and loan markets. The brewers’ $106 billion merger reportedly would involve some $70 billion of borrowing, including about $55 billion in bonds and the rest in loans. The $67 billion Dell-EMC deal, meanwhile, would be funded by $49.5 billion in debt, along with new common equity and cash in the coffers. If either of those financing plans come to fruition, they would eclipse the record set by Verizon, which issued $49 billion in bonds to fund its acquisition of Vodafone’s minority stake in Verizon Wireless. The question is whether there is any limit to what Carl Sagan would describe as the billions and billions that the credit markets can conjure. The answer may determine how long the deal making can continue.

Read more …

The amount of overindebted overinvestment across China based on false expectations of growth will prove to be staggering and often deadly.

China’s Exporters Downcast As Orders Slow, Costs Rise (Reuters)

Around two-thirds of exporters at China’s largest trade fair expect the slowdown in their markets to persist for at least six months, a Reuters poll has found, with the country expected to announce its weakest economic growth in decades early next week. Many economists expect data released on Monday to show China’s third quarter GDP dipped below 7%, the slowest rate since the global financial crisis. A weak showing could possibly prompt Beijing to take more steps to stimulate the economy. In the vast, booth-filled halls of the biannual Canton Fair on the banks of the Pearl River in Guangzhou this week, a poll of 103 mostly small to medium sized Chinese manufacturers found they expected orders to rise an average of 1.83% this year, though production costs were expected to rise 5.6% in the coming 12 months.

“I feel great pressure right now,” said Kelvin Qiu, the manager of a factory making heaters and radiators based in northeastern China. “I have around 40% less customers than before and the fair is quieter,” he said, comparing activity with the previous Canton fair in April. The Canton fair draws tens of thousands of Chinese exporters and foreign buyers into one gargantuan venue, and has long been regarded as barometer for an economy that has been the world’s biggest exporter since 2009. The poll’s results reflect a gathering pessimism in the export sector, a major driver of the world’s second largest economy. A similar Reuters survey in April had been more bullish, as it showed expectations that orders would rise 3.1%. Exports, however, fell 5.5% in August and 3.7% in September, reflecting anaemic global demand for China-made goods.

36% of exporters polled saying they expected a fresh wave of factory closures. 36% also said they expected an export rebound within 6 months, though 32% said the export slowdown would persist for over one year given continued weakness in core markets like Europe and the United States. Since the previous Canton Fair in April, China’s stock market crash and surprise currency depreciation have clouded the economic outlook, with Beijing taking a series of desperate measures – including interest rate cuts and ramped up fiscal spending – to galvanize growth. Its efforts have had limited success so far. China’s dominance as an exporter has been undermined by its previously strengthening currency, soaring labor costs, and a strategic shift by the authorities away from an excessive reliance on exports to domestic consumption.

Read more …

Beijing in a bind.

PBOC Data Suggest Capital Outflows Stayed Strong in September (Bloomberg)

Chinese financial institutions including the central bank sold a record amount of foreign exchange in September, a sign capital outflows were more severe last month than was previously thought. The offshore yuan fell to a two-week low. A gauge of their foreign-currency assets declined by the equivalent of 761.3 billion yuan ($120 billion), exceeding an August drop of 723.8 billion yuan, People’s Bank of China data showed Friday. China devalued its currency on Aug. 11 and concerns about further depreciation and slowing economic growth, coupled with the prospect of a U.S. interest-rate increase, are spurring outflows of funds.

“This shows although outflows probably did slow in September from August, they didn’t slow as much as previously expected,” said Chen Xingdong, chief China economist at BNP Paribas in Beijing. “If you look at commercial banks and the central bank as a unit, in August the central bank took more of the outflows and in September commercial banks took more.” Previous data showed the decline in the central bank’s foreign reserves moderated last month, giving rise to speculation that pressure for the yuan to weaken had eased from August. The holdings declined by $43.3 billion to $3.51 trillion, after sliding a record $93.9 billion the previous month, as the PBOC sold dollars to support China’s exchange rate.

Read more …

This sounds like a death sentence: “..debt will increase to 254% of GDP in 2015, up from 248% last year.” 46% of GDP was investment, not production.

Good News Is Bad News for China (Bloomberg)

On Monday, the Chinese government will once again try to convince the world its troubled economy is not that bad off after all. Third-quarter GDP data will be released, and whether the growth rate beats or misses consensus estimates, it’s likely to be touted by the government as proof of the economy’s continued resilience. No doubt that’ll help further calm investors, whose worst fears about China have ebbed recently. Overly bearish perceptions of China’s economy have become “thoroughly divorced from facts on the ground” proclaims the latest China Beige Book study. In a survey conducted in October by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, only 39% of fund managers queried considered China the biggest “tail risk,” down significantly from 54% a month earlier.

Those investors shouldn’t get too comfortable. The panic that roiled global stock and currency markets over the summer may well have been overblown. But the real risks to China’s economic well-being are long-term, and they haven’t diminished. In fact, the strong growth rates could be setting the stage for a harder landing later. Even the regime agrees that China’s economy is seriously flawed. Excess capacity is rampant in steel, cement and other industries. Debt has risen to astronomical levels. The growth model China used during its hyper-charged decades — unleashing productivity by tossing its 1.3 billion poor workers into the global supply chain – has lost steam as costs rise and the workforce ages.

How well is China tackling these problems? Not very. Debt continues to rise even as growth slows. IHS Global Insight estimates debt will increase to 254% of GDP in 2015, up from 248% last year. In all-too-many sick industries, zombie companies are being kept afloat by creditors and the government. Deeper free-market reform is needed to spur entrepreneurship and innovation and better allocate financial resources to the most efficient companies. Yet despite much talk from President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party comrades, progress has been glacial. The government’s new plan to improve the performance of bloated state enterprises is underwhelming.

Authorities have done little to make the banking sector more commercially oriented or to open the economy to greater foreign competition or capital flows. The government’s heavy-handed intervention to quell a mid-summer stock market swoon was rightly seen a step backwards. Above all, the economy needs to “rebalance” away from its unhealthy reliance on investment – which according to Goldman Sachs’ Ha Jiming, totaled 46% of GDP last year, more than during Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward.

Read more …

Bad data.

Eurozone Inflation Confirmed At -0.1% In September (Reuters)

Annual inflation in the euro zone turned negative in September due to sharply lower energy prices, the EU’s statistics office confirmed on Friday, maintaining pressure on the ECB to increase its asset purchases to boost prices. Eurostat said consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell by 0.1% in the year to September, dipping below zero for the first time since March, and confirming its earlier estimate. Compared to the previous month, prices were 0.2% higher in September. Eurostat said milk, cheese and eggs were cheaper, while heating oil and motor fuel stripped almost a full percentage point from the annual rate. Restaurants and cafes, vegetables and tobacco had the biggest upward impact.

Excluding the most volatile components of unprocessed food and energy – what the ECB calls core inflation – prices were 0.8% up year-on-year, slightly down from the previous reading of 0.9%. Month-on-month, they rose 0.4%. Long term inflation expectations have dropped to their lowest since February, before the ECB’s asset purchases started, as China’s economic slowdown, the commodity rout and paltry euro zone lending growth reinforce pessimistic predictions. Under its money-printing quantitative easing scheme, the ECB is buying government bonds and other assets to pump around €1 trillion into the economy, aiming to lift inflation towards its target rate of just under 2%.

Read more …

Race to the bottom.

Party Time Is Over For Norway’s Oil Capital – And The Country (Reuters)

In Norway’s oil capital Stavanger, house prices are falling, unemployment is rising and orders of champagne and sushi sprinkled with gold are down – a taste of things to come for the rest of the country as slumping crude prices hit the economy. The oil-producing nation used to be the exception in Europe. At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, unemployment reached just 2.7%; when other nations have had to cut welfare spending, Oslo could rely on its $856-billion sovereign wealth fund to plug any budget deficit. But now it is joining the rest of Europe in its economic slump as oil prices have halved. GDP growth is expected to stagnate at 1.2% in 2015 and 2016. And the government expects to make its first ever net withdrawal from the fund next year as state oil revenues decline with crude prices.

“It is a new era for the Norwegian economy. We are no longer in a league of our own,” Governor Oeystein Olsen said when the central bank unexpectedly cut rates to 0.75% on Sept. 24 to support a slowing economy. Business conditions for companies in Stavanger and the surrounding region got even worse in the third quarter and the weaker sentiment is spreading to firms outside the energy industry, a survey said in September. Demand is lower and profitability is down, it said. Boosting competitiveness has been the mantra of the right-wing minority government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg, which is proposing to cut corporate tax to boost firms’ international competitiveness. Norway as an exception was most on show in Stavanger, the country’s fourth-largest city, with its compact center of white wooden houses and oil industry ships anchored in the harbor. It enjoyed the good times more than anywhere else.

Read more …

“Citizens of resource-rich countries tended to be less literate, live 4.5 years less and have higher rates of malnutrition among women and children than other African states..”

Africa’s Poor Grow By 100 Million Since 1990: World Bank (Reuters)

The number of Africans trapped in poverty has surged by around 100 million over the past quarter century, the World Bank said on Friday, despite years of economic growth and multi-million dollar aid programs. The report’s figures, described as “staggering” by the bank’s Africa head Makhtar Diop, showed widespread malnutrition, and rising violence against civilians, particularly in central regions and the Horn of Africa. “It is projected that the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa,” Diop added in a foreword. A surge in population meant the proportion of Africans in poverty had actually fallen since 1990, but the actual numbers were up. In a major study of households taking stock of African economies and societies after two decades of relatively strong growth, the Bank said 388 million – 43% of the sub-Saharan region’s 900 million people – lived on less than $1.90 a day.

In 1990, at the start of the study period, the ratio was 56%, or 284 million. The findings present a mixed bag for countries that, on average, enjoyed economic growth of 4.5% over the last two decades, dubbed the era of ‘Africa Rising’ in contrast to the post-independence stagnation, war and decay that typified the 1970s and 1980s. A child born in Africa now is likely to live more than six years longer than one born in 1995, the study found, while adult literacy rates over the same period have risen 4 percentage points. However, the Bank defined Africa’s social achievements as “low in all domains” – for instance, tolerance of domestic violence in Africa is twice as high as other developing regions – and noted that the rates of improvement were leveling off.

“Despite the increase in school enrolment, today more than two out of five adults are unable to read or write,” the report said. “Nearly 2 in 5 children are malnourished and 1 in 8 women is underweight,” it continued. “At the other end of the spectrum, obesity is emerging as a new health concern.” Perhaps most disturbingly, the study presented more evidence of the ‘resource curse’ that afflicts states endowed with plentiful reserves of hydrocarbons or minerals, often the source of internal or external conflict, or corruption and government ineptitude. Citizens of resource-rich countries tended to be less literate, live 4.5 years less and have higher rates of malnutrition among women and children than other African states, the study found.

Read more …

Weaker emerging markets will be hit hardest.

Stress Building in Kenyan Credit Markets Spells Doom for Growth (Bloomberg)

Doubts are growing about Kenya’s ability to keep economic growth on the boil as it battles a plunging stock market, surging debt costs and a weaker currency. Kenyan shilling bonds have lost more money this month than the local securities of 31 emerging markets, while equities in East Africa’s largest economy dropped the most out of 93 global indexes. Efforts to stabilize the shilling have sucked liquidity out of foreign exchange and money markets, spurring a scurry for cash that is driving short-term borrowing costs higher just as the central bank takes over the management of two lenders. An economic expansion that outstripped peers in sub-Saharan Africa since 2011 is slowing as attacks by Islamist militants decimate Kenya’s tourism industry and a drought cuts exports of tea, the two largest sources of foreign exchange.

As President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration ramps up spending on transport and energy projects to keep fueling growth, budget and current-account deficits are swelling and interest rates are rising. “It’s not looking like there will be an inflexion point for the better any time soon,” Bryan Carter at Acadian Asset Management, who cut all his Kenya bond holdings earlier this year, said by phone from Boston. “The currency looks overvalued.” Yields on short-term Treasury bills have surged above longer-dated bonds, an anomaly known as an inverted yield curve that signals investors are more concerned about near-term repayment risks than economic prospects further out. Rates on 91-day T-bills jumped to 21.4% at an auction on Oct. 8, a record high. That compares with yields of 14.6% on 21 billion shillings ($204 million) of bonds maturing in March 2025.

The inverted curve is “indicative of short-term funding stress in the economy, which is typically followed by a slowdown of credit growth and cyclical economic growth,” Chris Becker at Investec in Johannesburg, said in a note. The World Bank cut its estimate for 2015 growth in Kenya to 5.4% on Thursday, compared with a December forecast of 6%, saying volatility in foreign-exchange markets and the subsequent monetary policy response will curb output. Kenya’s shilling has weakened 12% against the dollar this year amid a rout in emerging-market currencies. The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee countered by raising the benchmark rate 300 basis points to 11.5%. Investors have been unnerved by the seizure of two small banks in as many months. Regulators placed Imperial Bank under administration on Tuesday, the same day the closely held lender was due to start trading bonds on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

Read more …

Great historical perspective.

Ancient Rome and Today’s Migrant Crisis (WSJ)

When ancient Romans looked back to their origins, they told two very different stories, but each had a similar message. One founder of the Roman race was Aeneas, a refugee from the losing side in the Trojan War, who endured storm and shipwreck around the Mediterranean before landing in Italy to establish his new home. The other was Romulus who, in order to find citizens for the little settlement he was building on the banks of the Tiber, declared it an “asylum” and welcomed any runaways and criminals who wanted to join. It was a remarkable story even in antiquity. Some of Rome’s enemies were known to have observed sharply that you could never trust men descended from a band of ruffians.

In the past 500 years, politicians in the West have often returned to ancient Rome and ancient Greece in search of models for their own decisions and policies (or, more often, for self-serving justifications). On questions of citizenship, they have found two wildly conflicting examples. The stories told by the democracy of ancient Athens were typical of the Greek cities. When they looked back to their origins, they imagined that the first Athenians sprang directly out of the soil of Athens itself. The difference was significant. The Athenians rigidly restricted the rights of citizenship, eventually insisting that people should have both a citizen father and a citizen mother to qualify. Ancient democracy came at a price: It was only possible to share political power equally if you severely limited those who were to be allowed to be equals and to join the democratic club.

That is a price that many European democracies are now wondering whether they must pay too. Rome was never a democracy in the Athenian sense. The Roman Empire, brutal as it could often be, was founded on very different principles of incorporation and of the free movement of people. Over the first thousand years of its history, from the eighth century B.C., it gradually shared the rights and protection of full Roman citizenship with the people that it had conquered, turning one-time enemies into Romans. That process culminated in 212 A.D., when the emperor Caracalla made every free inhabitant of the empire a citizen—perhaps 30 million people at once, the single biggest grant of citizenship in the history of the world.

When the Romans looked back to their beginnings, they saw themselves as a city of asylum seekers. John F. Kennedy, in his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in the middle of the Cold War, praised ideas of Roman citizenship as an inspiration for Western liberty. “Two thousand years ago,” he said, “the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum’”: that is, “I am a Roman citizen.” He was referring to the freedoms guaranteed by citizen status, particularly rights of legal protection and, in the Roman context, immunity from particularly degrading forms of punishment, including crucifixion.

Read more …

And a great future perspective.

Immigrants To Account For 88% Of US Population Increase In Next 50 Years (Pew)

Fifty years after passage of the landmark law that rewrote U.S. immigration policy, nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the United States, pushing the country’s foreign-born share to a near record 14%. For the past half-century, these modern-era immigrants and their descendants have accounted for just over half the nation’s population growth and have reshaped its racial and ethnic composition. Looking ahead, new Pew Research Center U.S. population projections show that if current demographic trends continue, future immigrants and their descendants will be an even bigger source of population growth.

Between 2015 and 2065, they are projected to account for 88% of the U.S. population increase, or 103 million people, as the nation grows to 441 million. These are some key findings of a new Pew Research analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data and new Pew Research U.S. population projections through 2065, which provide a 100-year look at immigration’s impact on population growth and on racial and ethnic change. In addition, this report uses newly released Pew Research survey data to examine U.S. public attitudes toward immigration, and it employs census data to analyze changes in the characteristics of recently arrived immigrants and paint a statistical portrait of the historical and 2013 foreign-born populations.

Read more …

More footage of razor wire and news of drowning children. Europe is completely lost.

Hungary Seals Border With Croatia to Stem Flow of Refugees (Bloomberg)

Hungary will seal its border with Croatia from midnight on Friday, expanding one of the European Union’s toughest set of measures to stem the influx of refugees, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Budapest. “This is the second-best option,” Szijjarto told reporters. “The best option, setting up an EU force to defend Greece’s external borders, was rejected in Brussels yesterday.” An EU summit on Thursday failed to reach a final agreement on recruiting Turkey to help control the flow of refugees as Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria threatens to push more people to seek safety. The bloc’s leaders also made little progress on how to redesign the system of distributing immigrants, forming an EU border-guard corps or on ensuring arrivals are properly processed.

Hungary has extended an existing barbed-wire fence on its border with Serbia to cover its frontier with Croatia. Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned this week that his government would complete the barrier if EU leaders fail to agree on closing the Greek border, the main entry point for Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees into the 28-nation bloc. Croatia will now help transport migrants to its border with Slovenia, in agreement with its northwestern neighbor, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusic told state TV late Friday. From Slovenia refugees are likely to travel to Austria and on to Germany. “Slovenia will not close its border unless Germany closes its border, in which case Croatia will be forced to do the same,” Pusic said. “We will discuss with Slovenia the number of people we can bring to them.”

More than 180,000 migrants have entered Croatia from Serbia since they started arriving in mid-September, according to police data. Most of them have since left the country to Hungary, while a minority entered Slovenia as they seek to reach western European countries. Several eastern European countries are trying to avoid hosting migrants and are against mandatory quotas for the distribution of refugees within the EU. More than 380,000 asylum seekers have crossed into Hungary from the western Balkans this year and the number may reach 700,000 by the end of 2015, government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told reporters in Budapest on Friday. From Saturday, refugees won’t be able to enter Hungary from Croatia except at designated border crossings.

Read more …

“..on an average day around 5,000 people make the crossing..” That’s 150,000 a month. 1.8 million a year. Just one border crossing.

Remote Greek Village Becomes Doorway To Europe (Omaira Gill)

Idomeni is a small village sitting within comfortable walking distance of Greece’s border with Macedonia. The 2011 census put its population at just 154 inhabitants. The locals themselves tell you there is nothing remarkable about the place, except for the stream of refugees flocking to this outpost to cross into Macedonia. Yiannis Panagiotopoulos, an Athenian taxi driver recently ferried a newly arrived group of Syrians from Athens to Idomeni. “They were so well dressed. I asked for €1,000 expecting them to protest, and they immediately paid me in cash. The were Coptic Christians and said Saudi Arabia is giving each non-Muslim $2,000 and a smartphone to leave because they want Syria for Muslims only.” Everyone wants to get to Idomeni, and if you can’t afford a taxi, there are plenty of unofficial buses that’ll take you there for €35.

The buses are more or less an illegal operation. Certain cafes near Victoria Square sell the tickets for cash, no receipts, and the trip that should take five and a half hours ends up taking nine because of various meandering detours to avoid rumored police checkpoints. Along the way, service stations have bumped up their prices to cash in on this unexpected windfall. At one, hot meals carry a starting price of eight euros, an extortionate amount for crisis-era Greece. Sitting in the front of one such coach, crammed to the last seat as children sleep on coats laid in the aisle, was 34-year-old Yahyah Abbas from Aleppo in Syria. Before the war, he used to work in a cosmetics distribution company. Now, he said, there is nothing in Syria, “only the devil.” “Syria was the best country in the world. It was ruined by terrorists. I love Bashar al Assad, he is the best. But I cannot live in my country because of terrorists.”

[..] After months of chaos and violent scenes at the border this summer the operation at the border has now fallen into an efficient routine that works “most of the time,” Greek authorities say. The border with Macedonia opens every 15 minutes to accept a group of 50-80 people. When the buses finally arrive at Idomeni, they offload passengers at a rate relevant to the pace of the crossings. Greek police issue each bus load with a number for their group which represents the order in which they will cross. They estimate that on an average day around 5,000 people make the crossing. Volunteers meet the groups straight off the bus and direct them to food, water, toiletries, clothes and medical attention. Then, they wait in huge white UNHCR tents until their turn comes.

Read more …

“They announce they’ll take in 30,000 to 40,000 refugees and then they are nominated for the Nobel for that. We are hosting two and a half million refugees but nobody cares..”

Turkey Pours Cold Water On Migrant Plan, Ridicules EU (AFP)

The EUs much-hyped deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants looked shaky on Friday after Ankara said Brussels had offered too little money and mocked Europe’s efforts to tackle the refugee crisis. Just hours after the EU announced the accord with great fanfare at a leaders’ summit, Ankara said the plan to cope with a crisis that has seen some 600,000 mostly Syrian migrants enter the EU this year was just a draft. Cracks in the deal emerged as Bulgaria’s president apologised after an Afghan refugee was shot dead crossing the border from Turkey. In the latest in a series of jabs at Europe over the crisis, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ridiculed the bloc’s efforts to help Syrian refugees and challenged it to take Ankaras bid for EU membership more seriously.

“They announce they’ll take in 30,000 to 40,000 refugees and then they are nominated for the Nobel for that. We are hosting two and a half million refugees but nobody cares,” said Erdogan. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu then slammed an offer of financial help made by top European Commission officials during a visit on Wednesday, saying his country needed at least €3 billion in the first year of the deal. “There is a financial package proposed by the EU and we told them it is unacceptable,” Sinirlioglu told reporters, adding that the action plan is “not final” and merely “a draft on which we are working.” Under the tentative agreement, Turkey had agreed to tackle people smugglers, cooperate with EU border authorities and put a brake on refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict from crossing by sea to Europe.

In exchange, European leaders agreed to speed up easing visa restrictions on Turkish citizens travelling to Europe and give Ankara more funds to tackle the problem, although it did not specify how much. As he announced the agreement on Thursday night, European Council President Donald Tusk had hailed the pact as a “major step forward” but warned that it “only makes sense if it effectively contains the flow of refugees.” European officials said they were still waiting for concrete steps from Turkey and said that the €3 billion demanded by Ankara would be a problem for the EUs 28 member states. Even as the summit was underway, the volatile situation on the EUs frontier with Turkey exploded into violence with the fatal Bulgarian border shooting, which the UN refugee agency said was the first of its kind.

The victim was among a group of 54 migrants spotted by a patrol near the southeastern town of Sredets close to the Turkish border and was wounded by a ricochet after border guards fired warning shots into the air, officials said. The migrants were not armed but they did not obey a police order to stop and put up resistance, they said. Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev said he “deeply regrets” the shooting but said it showed the need for “rapid common European measures to tackle the roots of the crisis.” The death adds to the toll of over 3,000 migrants who have died while trying to get to Europe this year, most of them drowning in the Mediterranean while trying to sail across in rubber dinghies or flimsy boats.

Read more …

Oct 062015
 
 October 6, 2015  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


NPC US Geological Survey fire, F Street NW, Washington DC 1913

In America, It’s Expensive To Be Poor (Economist)
Morgan Stanley Predicts Up To A 25% Collapse in Q3 FICC Revenue (Zero Hedge)
Bill Gross Sees Stocks Plunge Another 10%, Urges Flight to Cash (Bloomberg)
Treasury Auction Sees US Join 0% Club First Time Ever (FT)
Big US Firms Hold $2.1 Trillion Overseas To Avoid Taxes (Reuters)
Lower Interest Rates Hurt Consumers: Deutsche Bank (Bloomberg)
Bernanke Says ‘Not Obvious’ Economy Can Handle Interest Rates At 1% (MarketWatch)
UK Finance Chiefs Signal Sharp Fall In Risk Appetite (FT)
Commodity Collapse Has More to Go as Goldman to Citi See Losses (Bloomberg)
Emerging Market ETF Outflows Double as Losses Hit $12.4 Billion (Bloomberg)
China’s Slowing Demand Burns Gas Giants (WSJ)
BP’s Record Oil Spill Settlement Rises to More Than $20 Billion (Bloomberg)
Glencore Urges Rivals To Shut Lossmaking Mines (FT)
Norway Seen Tapping Its Wealth Fund to Ward Off Oil Slump Risks (Bloomberg)
South East Asia Economic Woes Test Built-Up Reserves, Defenses (Reuters)
Samsung Seen Tapping $55 Billion Cash Pile for Share Buyback (Bloomberg)
German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall in Sign of Economic Risk (Bloomberg)
Top EU Court Says US-EU Data Transfer Deal Is Invalid (Reuters)
US, Japan And 10 Countries Strike Pacific Trade Deal (FT)
TPP Trade Deal Text Won’t Be Made Public For Four Years (Ind.)
Air France Workers Rip Shirts From Executives After 2,900 Jobs Cut (Guardian)
Nearly A Third Of World’s Cacti Face Extinction (Guardian)

“In 2014 nearly half of American households said they could not cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing or selling something..”

In America, It’s Expensive To Be Poor (Economist)

When Ken Martin, a hat-seller, pays his monthly child-support bill, he uses a money order rather than writing a cheque. Money orders, he says, carry no risk of going overdrawn, which would incur a $40 bank fee. They cost $7 at the bank. At the post office they are only $1.25 but getting there is inconvenient. Despite this, while he was recently homeless, Mr Martin preferred to sleep on the streets with hundreds of dollars in cash—the result of missing closing time at the post office—rather than risk incurring the overdraft fee. The hefty charge, he says, “would kill me”. Life is expensive for America’s poor, with financial services the primary culprit, something that also afflicts migrants sending money home (see article). Mr Martin at least has a bank account.

Some 8% of American households—and nearly one in three whose income is less than $15,000 a year—do not (see chart). More than half of this group say banking is too expensive for them. Many cannot maintain the minimum balance necessary to avoid monthly fees; for others, the risk of being walloped with unexpected fees looms too large. Doing without banks makes life costlier, but in a routine way. Cashing a pay cheque at a credit union or similar outlet typically costs 2-5% of the cheque’s value. The unbanked often end up paying two sets of fees—one to turn their pay cheque into cash, another to turn their cash into a money order—says Joe Valenti of the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank.

In 2008 the Brookings Institution, another think-tank, estimated that such fees can accumulate to $40,000 over the career of a full-time worker. Pre-paid debit cards are growing in popularity as an alternative to bank accounts. The Mercator Advisory Group, a consultancy, estimates that deposits on such cards rose by 5% to $570 billion in 2014. Though receiving wages or benefits on pre-paid cards is cheaper than cashing cheques, such cards typically charge plenty of other fees. Many states issue their own pre-paid cards to dispense welfare payments. As a result, those who do not live near the right bank lose out, either from ATM withdrawal charges or from a long trek to make a withdrawal. Other terms can rankle; in Indiana, welfare cards allow only one free ATM withdrawal a month. If claimants check their balance at a machine it costs 40 cents. (Kansas recently abandoned, at the last minute, a plan to limit cash withdrawals to $25 a day, which would have required many costly trips to the cashpoint.)

To access credit, the poor typically rely on high-cost payday lenders. In 2013 the median such loan was $350, lasted two weeks and carried a charge of $15 per $100 borrowed—an interest rate of 322% (a typical credit card charges 15%). Nearly half those who borrowed using payday loans did so more than ten times in 2013, with the median borrower paying $458 in fees. In 2014 nearly half of American households said they could not cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing or selling something; 2% said this would cause them to resort to payday lending.

Read more …

Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity.

Morgan Stanley Predicts Up To A 25% Collapse in Q3 FICC Revenue (Zero Hedge)

With the third quarter earnings season on deck, in which S&P500 EPS are now expected to post a 5.1% decline (versus a forecast -1.0% decline as of three months ago), it is common knowledge that the biggest culprit will be Energy companies, currently expected to suffer a 65% Y/Y collapse in EPS. What is less known is that the earnings weakness is far more widespread than just the Energy sector, touching on more than half of all sectors with Materials, Industrials, Staples, Utilities and even Info Tech all expected to see EPS declines: this despite what will likely be a record high in stock buyback activity. However, of all sectors the one which may pose the biggest surprise to investors is financials: it is here that Q3 (and Q4) earnings estimates have hardly budged, and as of September 30 are expected to rise by 10% compared to Q3 2014.

This may prove to be a stretch according to Morgan Stanley whose Huw van Steenis is seeing nothing short of a bloodbath in banking revenues, with the traditionally strongest performer, Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity set for a tumble as much as 25%, to wit: “we think FICC may be down 10- 25% YoY (FX up, Rates sluggish, Credit soft), Equities marginally up but IBD also down 10-20%. The reason for this: the double whammy of the ongoing commodity crunch as well as the collapse in fixed income trading, coupled with the lack of major moves across the FX space where the biggest beneficiary, now that bank manipulation cartels have been put out of business, are Virtu’s algos.

To be sure, if Jefferies – which as we previously reported suffered one of its worst FICC quarters in history, and actually posted negative revenues after massive writedown on energy holdings in its prop book – is any indication, Morgan Stanley’s Q3 forecast may be overly optimistic. For the full 2015, the picture hardly gets any better: “In 2015, we see industry revenues going sideways – slowing after a strong Q1. Overall we see FICC down ~3% on 2014, Equities up ~8% and IBD down ~6%. Overall we expect top line revenues to be flattish in 2015. In constant currency, it would be a little better for Europeans. But below this, there is a huge competitive battle afoot as all firms vie for share to drive profits on the cost base.”

Read more …

Why stop at 10%?

Bill Gross Sees Stocks Plunge Another 10%, Urges Flight to Cash (Bloomberg)

Bill Gross, who in January predicted that many asset classes would end the year lower, said U.S. equities have another 10% to fall and investors should sit out the current volatility in cash. The whipsaw market reaction to the lackluster U.S. jobs report last week shows that markets, especially stocks, high-yield bonds and some emerging market debt, are trading like a casino, Gross said in an interview on Friday. He was speaking from a cruise ship which had taken shelter near New York City amid stormy weather over the Atlantic. Gross, who earlier made prescient calls on German bunds and Chinese equities, said U.S. stocks will drop another 10% because economic conditions don’t support a rally like in 2013, when corporate profits were going up.

Today they are flat-lining and low commodity prices are hurting energy companies, said the manager of the $1.4 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. “More negative numbers lie ahead and if you define a bear market by a 20% correction, at some point – that’s 6 to 12 months – we’ll have a classic definition of a bear market, meaning another 10% downside,” he said. Just as New York City was the safe harbor for Hurricane Joaquin, Gross said, cash is the best bet until investors get a better view at what the Federal Reserve and the economy are going to do. “Cash doesn’t yield anything but it doesn’t lose anything,’’ so sitting it out and making 25 to 50 basis points in commercial paper compared to 4% to 5% in risk assets is not that much of a penalty, he said. “Investors need cold water splashed on their face and sit out the dance.”

Read more …

Bottom. Race.

Treasury Auction Sees US Join 0% Club First Time Ever (FT)

For the first time ever, investors on Monday parked cash for three months at the US Treasury in return for a yield of 0%. The $21bn sale of zero-yielding three-month Treasury bills brings the US closer into line with its rich-world peers. Finland, Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan have all auctioned five-year debt offering investors negative yields. As Alberto Gallo at RBS said in February, “negative yielding bonds are the fastest growing asset class in Europe”. Demand for the US issue was the highest since June, reflecting belief — stoked by Friday’s weak jobs report — that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at basement levels throughout 2015. David Bianco, strategist at Deutsche Bank, said the window for a “2015 lift-off” has been slammed shut. “We see a better chance of landing men on Mars before a full normalisation of nominal and real interest rates,” he wrote.

US Treasury debt is a haven asset, attracting hordes of investors whenever there is a flight to safety. Monday’s auction, however, occurred alongside the S&P 500 rallying 1.8%, a fifth straight gain. Also on Monday, the US auctioned six-month bills yielding 0.065%, the lowest in 11 months. The zero-yielding bond was anticipated in the secondary market, where investors trade outstanding bonds. The yield on bonds maturing on January 8 turned negative on September 21 and now yield -0.008%. In the swaps market, the chances that the Fed will lift rates at its October 28 meeting are just 10%. Just before the last meeting, the odds of a lift were placed at one-in-three. Before the financial crisis, three-month Treasury paper routinely paid investors more than 4%. But yields at the weekly auctions have been less than 0.2% at every auction since April 2009, reflecting the Fed’s suppression of interest rates. Until Monday the record low was 0.005%.

Read more …

All legal. “..would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds..”

Big US Firms Hold $2.1 Trillion Overseas To Avoid Taxes (Reuters)

The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds, according to a study released on Tuesday. The study, by two left-leaning non-profit groups, found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The Center for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund used the companies’ own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions.

Technology firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three overseas tax havens, the study said. The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft is holding $108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries and drug company Pfizer is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries, the study said. “At least 358 companies, nearly 72% of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014,” the study said. “All told these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.”

Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid taxes, with just 30 of the firms accounting for $1.4 trillion of that amount, or 65%, the study found. Fifty-seven of the companies disclosed that they would expect to pay a combined $184.4 billion in additional U.S. taxes if their profits were not held offshore. Their filings indicated they were paying about 6% in taxes overseas, compared to a 35% U.S. corporate tax rate, it said.

Read more …

You don’t say…

Lower Interest Rates Hurt Consumers: Deutsche Bank (Bloomberg)

Central banks the world over have reduced interest rates more than 500 times since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. But a crucial part of their thesis on how lower rates are supposed to help spur economic activity may be off the mark, according to strategists at Deutsche Bank. Cutting interest rates in response to a deteriorating outlook is thought to work through a variety of channels to help support the economy. Lower rates are supposed to encourage households to borrow and businesses to invest, while ceteris paribus, the softening in the domestic currency that accompanies a reduction in rates also makes the country’s goods and services more competitive on the global stage.

Most questions raised about the broken transmission mechanism from central bank accommodation to the real economy have centered on the efficacy of quantitative easing. But Deutsche’s team, led by chief global strategist Bankim “Binky” Chadha, contends that the commonly accepted link between traditional stimulus and household spending doesn’t have the net effect monetary policymakers think it does. This assertion comes about as a byproduct of the strategists’ investigation into what drives the U.S. household savings rate, which has largely been on the decline for a number of decades.

First, the strategists make the inference that the purpose of household savings is to accumulate wealth. If this holds, then it logically follows that in the event of a faster-than-expected increase in wealth, households will feel less of a need to save because they’ve made progress in collecting a sufficient amount of assets that allows them to enjoy their retirement, pass it down to their children, and so on. Chadha & Co. argue that wealth is therefore the driver of the U.S. savings rate. As this rises, the savings rate tends to fall: “The savings rate has been very strongly negatively correlated (-86%) with the value of gross assets scaled by the size of the economy, i.e., the ratio of household assets to nominal GDP which we use as our proxy for wealth, over the last 65 years,” wrote Chadha.

Read more …

So it’s on life-support.

Bernanke Says ‘Not Obvious’ Economy Can Handle Interest Rates At 1% (MarketWatch)

Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday that he was not sure the economy could handle four quarter-point rate hikes. Some economists and Fed officials argue that the U.S. central bank should hike rates now to anticipate inflation. That argument assumes the Fed can raise rates 100 basis points and it wouldn’t hurt anything, Bernanke said. ”That is not obvious, I don’t think everybody would agree to that,” he added in an interview with CNBC. Higher rates could “kill U.S. exports with a very strong dollar,” he said. Bernanke said the “mediocre” September employment report is a “negative” for the U.S. central bank’s plan to begin hiking rates in 2015, as a strengthening labor market was the key conditions for the Fed to be confident inflation was moving higher.

Bernanke said he would not second-guess Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, saying only that his successor faced “tough” calls. He said the two do not speak on the phone. Bernanke said interest rates at zero was not “radically easy” policy stance as some have suggested. He said he did not take seriously arguments that zero rates was creating an uncertain environment was holding down business investment Bernanke defended his policies, noting the steady decline in the unemployment rate in recent years. He said that the slower overall pace of GDP since the Great Recession was due to a downturn in productivity and other issues outside the purview of monetary policy. “I am not saying things are great, I don’t mean to say that at all,” he said.,.

Read more …

No kidding.

UK Finance Chiefs Signal Sharp Fall In Risk Appetite (FT)

The optimism and risk appetite of those in charge of the UK’s corporate finances has deteriorated sharply over the past three months. “Softening demand in emerging economies, greater financial market volatility and higher levels of risk aversion make for a more challenging backdrop for the UK’s largest businesses,” said David Sproul, chief executive of Deloitte. A Deloitte survey – of 122 chief financial officers of FTSE 350 and other large private UK companies – showed that perceptions of uncertainty were at a two-and-a-half year high, and had risen at the sharpest rate since the question was first put five years ago. Three-quarters of CFOs said the level of financial economic uncertainty was either “very high”, “high” or “above normal”, marking a return to the level last seen in the second quarter of 2013.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said sentiment at large companies was heavily influenced by the global environment, especially by news flow and the performance of equity markets. “In both areas good news has been in short supply of late: UK equities down 16% from their April peaks; US institutional investor optimism at 2009 levels; financial market volatility up sharply and more downgrades to emerging market growth forecasts,” he said. But he added that CFOs were positive about the state of the UK economy. Instead, their biggest concerns were of imminent interest rate rises and of weakness in emerging market economies, particularly China. A year ago, corporate risk appetite was at a seven-year high. Now a minority of CFOs — 47% — felt that it was a good time to take risk on to their balance sheet, down from 59% in the second quarter of 2015.

Read more …

A lot more.

Commodity Collapse Has More to Go as Goldman to Citi See Losses (Bloomberg)

Even with commodities mired in the worst slump in a generation, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are warning bulls that prices may stay lower for years. Crude oil and copper are unlikely to rebound because of excess supplies, Goldman predicts, and Morgan Stanley forecasts that weaker currencies in producing countries will encourage robust output of raw materials sold for dollars, even during bear markets. Citigroup says the sluggish world economy makes it “hard to argue” that most prices have already bottomed. The Bloomberg Commodity Index on Sept. 30 capped its worst quarterly loss since the depths of the recession in 2008. The economy in China, the biggest consumer of grains, energy and metals, is expanding at the slowest pace in two decades just as producers struggle to ease surpluses.

Alcoa, once a symbol of American industrial might, plans to split itself in two, while Chesapeake Energy cut its workforce by 15%. Caterpillar may shed 10,000 jobs as demand slows for mining and energy equipment. “It would take a brave soul to wade in with both feet into commodities,” Brian Barish at Denver-based Cambiar Investors. “There is far more capacity coming on than there is demand physically. And the only way that you fix the problem is to basically shut capacity in, and you do that by starving commodity producers for capital.” Investors are already bailing. Open interest in raw materials, which measures holdings of futures and options, fell for a fourth month in September, the longest streak since 2008, government data show.

U.S. exchange-traded products tracking metals, energy and agriculture saw net withdrawals of $467.8 million for the month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Bloomberg Commodity Index, a measure of returns for 22 components, is poised for a fifth straight annual loss, the longest slide since the data begins in 1991. It’s a reversal from the previous decade, when booming growth across Asia fueled a synchronized surge in prices, dubbed the commodity super cycle. Farmers, miners and oil drillers expanded supplies, encouraged by prices that were at record highs in 2008. Now, that output is coming to the market just as global growth is slowing.

Read more …

The dollar comes home.

Emerging Market ETF Outflows Double as Losses Hit $12.4 Billion (Bloomberg)

Outflows from U.S. exchange-traded funds that invest in emerging markets more than doubled last week, with redemptions exceeding $12 billion in the third quarter. Taiwan led the losses in the five days ended Oct. 2. Withdrawals from emerging-market ETFs that invest across developing nations as well as those that target specific countries totaled $566.1 million compared with outflows of $262.1 million in the previous week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Stock funds lost $483.5 million and bond funds declined by $82.5 million. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index advanced 1.9% in the week. The losses marked the 13th time in 14 weeks that investors withdrew money from emerging market ETFs and left the funds down $12.4 billion for the quarter, the most since the first quarter of 2014, when outflows reached $12.7 billion.

For September, emerging market ETFs suffered $1.9 billion of withdrawals. The biggest change last week was in Taiwan, where funds shrank by $93.3 million, compared with $19.9 million of redemptions the previous week. All the withdrawals came from stock funds, while bond funds remained unchanged. The Taiex advanced 2.1%. The Taiwan dollar strengthened 0.2% against the dollar and implied three-month volatility is 8.5%. Brazil had the next-biggest change, with ETF investors redeeming $68.7 million, compared with $12.8 million of inflows the previous week. Stock funds fell by $64.1 million and bond ETFs declined by $4.6 million. The Ibovespa Index gained 4.9%. The real appreciated 1.1% against the dollar and implied three-month volatility is 24%.

Read more …

They’ve all been overinvesting by a wide margin.

China’s Slowing Demand Burns Gas Giants (WSJ)

The energy industry overestimated just how much natural gas China needs, and global oil-and-gas companies risk paying a heavy price. When China’s economy hummed along a few years ago, energy companies from Australia to Canada bet its demand for natural gas would grow fast. They spent billions of dollars on promising fields, with plans to freeze the gas into liquid, called LNG, and load it on tankers to sell to energy-starved Asian buyers at a premium. China was “always seen as the kind of wonder market that was going to grow and need so much LNG,” said Howard Rogers of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and a former gas executive at BP. “People got somewhat carried away.”

Recent data paints a grimmer picture. Chinese LNG imports are down 3.5% this year, compared with a 10% rise in 2014. Total gas consumption grew about 2% in the first half, a turnabout from double-digit growth in recent years. Natural gas is an extreme example of how China’s slowing economy has contributed to a global commodities crash. Producers of raw materials from aluminum to iron ore made heady bets on Chinese demand. So far, many are being proven wrong. The downturn is sparking an industrywide recalibration. Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie slashed its China gas-demand forecast by about 15% to 360 billion cubic meters by 2020.

Globally, the market faces 25 million tons of LNG oversupply by 2018, says Citi Research—more than China imported all of last year. If all the projects being constructed, planned and proposed today came to fruition, the market would face around one-third more capacity than it needs by 2025, Citi estimates. “We’re already seeing China cannot absorb all the gas that is thrown at it—that it’s choking on gas somewhat at the moment,” said Gavin Thompson, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie. Northeast Asia spot LNG prices have fallen to less than $8 per million metric British thermal units from over $14 last fall, according to pricing agency Platts. U.S. Henry Hub prices are under $3 per mmBtu versus around $4 a year ago.

Read more …

Just civil claims.

BP’s Record Oil Spill Settlement Rises to More Than $20 Billion (Bloomberg)

The value of BP’s settlement with the U.S. government and five Gulf states over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill rose to $20.8 billion in the latest tally of costs from the U.S. Department of Justice. The settlement is the largest in the department’s history and resolves the government’s civil claims under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, as well as economic damage claims from regional authorities, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement Monday. The pact is designed “to not only compensate for the damages and provide for a way forward for the health and safety of the Gulf, but let other companies know they are going to be responsible for the harm that occurs should accidents like this happen in the future,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters at a briefing in Washington.

BP’s total settlement cost of $18.7 billion announced in July didn’t include some reimbursements, interest payments and committed expenditures for early restoration of damages to natural resources. The London-based company has set aside a total of $53.7 billion to pay for the disaster in 2010, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The announcement Monday includes $700 million for injuries and losses related to the spill that aren’t yet known, $232 million of which was announced earlier. It also adds $350 million for the reimbursement of assessment costs and $250 million related to the cost of responding to the spill, lost royalties and to resolve a False Claims Act investigation, according to a consent decree filed by the Justice Department at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Read more …

“..prices did not reflect supply and demand because of “distortions” in the market.” True, but not in the way he means.

Glencore Urges Rivals To Shut Lossmaking Mines (FT)

Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg stepped up his defence of the under-fire miner and trading house on Monday, calling on rivals to shut unprofitable mines and blaming hedge funds for pushing down commodity prices. Shares in the London-listed company, which have been the worst performer in the FTSE 100 this year falling by almost two-thirds, rallied as much as 21% in the wake of his comments and as analysts said that a recent sell-off and comparisons to Lehman Brothers were “overblown”. Glencore shares are now back above 100p and have recouped all of the losses sustained last week during a one-day sell-off that wiped out almost a third of the company’s equity.

However, the stock remains highly volatile – it has risen 68% in five trading sessions – and is significantly below its 2011 flotation price of 530p. The Switzerland-based company was forced to put out a statement early on Monday after its Hong Kong shares surged more than 70% following a speculative report that said it was open to takeover offers. Glencore’s statement said there was no reason for the share price surge. Insiders at the company said any publicly listed company was for sale at the right price, but dismissed talk of an approach or management buyout.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Financial Times Africa Summit in London, Mr Glasenberg refused to comment on the recent wild swings in Glencore’s share price, but said the company was focused on completing its $10 billion debt reduction plan, which could knock a third off its net debt pile by the end of next year. Mr Glasenberg focused on copper – Glencore’s most important mined commodity – arguing that prices did not reflect supply and demand because of “distortions” in the market. Glencore has been scrambling to reassure investors and creditors and silence its critics who claim that the company will struggle to manage its $30 billion of net debt if commodity prices do not recover quickly.

Read more …

Dutch disease.

Norway Seen Tapping Its Wealth Fund to Ward Off Oil Slump Risks (Bloomberg)

For Norway, the future may already be here. The nation could as soon as next year start making withdrawals from its massive $830 billion sovereign wealth fund, which it has built over the past two decades as a nest egg for “future generations.” The minority government will reveal its budget plans on Wednesday and has flagged new spending measures and tax cuts. Prime Minister Erna Solberg is trying to avoid a recession as a slump in the nation’s key commodity takes its toll on the $500 billion oil-reliant economy. Norway has already spent recent years using a growing chunk of its oil revenue to plug deficits while at the same time building the wealth fund. Now, with tax revenue from petroleum extraction down 42% on last year, budget spending in 2016 will probably outstrip income.

“We have reached a point where we will from now on see that the oil-corrected balance will be above the cash flow – that’s based on oil prices increasing slowly in the future,” said Kyrre Aamdal, senior economist at DNB ASA in Oslo. Tapping the fund’s returns marks a turning point that wasn’t expected to come for “several more years,” he said. The government said in May its non-oil budget deficit, or spending in real terms, would be a record 180.9 billion kroner ($21.6 billion). With its crude output waning and prices falling, the government saw petroleum income dropping to 251.6 billion kroner this year, almost 30% lower than its October projections. Those estimates assumed oil at about $69 a barrel. Brent crude has averaged $56 so far this year.

Read more …

Dollar-denominated debt.

South East Asia Economic Woes Test Built-Up Reserves, Defenses (Reuters)

Southeast Asia has spent the best past of two decades shoring defenses against a repeat of the Asian financial crisis, including building up record foreign exchange reserves, yet is now feeling vulnerable to speculative attacks again. Officials are growing increasingly concerned as souring sentiment has made currencies slide and investors reassess risk profiles in an environment where China is slowing and U.S. interest rates will rise at some point. And while economists have long dismissed comparisons with the 1997/98 currency crisis, pointing to freer exchange rates, current-account surpluses, lower external debt and stricter oversight by regulators, lately there has been a change.

Malaysia and Indonesia, which export oil and other commodities to fuel China’s factories, are looking vulnerable as the world’s second-largest economy heads for its slowest growth in 25 years and the prices of their commodity exports plunge. “We are worried about the contagion effect,” Indonesian Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said last week, using a word widely used in 1997/98. In 1997, “the thing happened first in Thailand through the baht, not the rupiah. But the contagion effect became widespread,” he added. Taimur Baig, Deutsche Bank’s chief Asia economist, said that unlike 1997, when pegged currencies were attacked as over-valued, today’s floating ones are “weakening willingly” in response to outflows. But there can still be contagion, as markets lump together economies reliant on China or on commodities.

“If you see a sell-off in Brazil, that can easily spread to Indonesia, which can spread to Malaysia, and so on,” he said. Foreign funds have sold a net $9.7 billion of stocks in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia this year, with the bourses in those three countries seeing Asia’s largest net outflows, Nomura said on Oct. 2. Baig said that as in 1997/98, falling currencies will naturally pose balance-sheet problems for companies with dollar debts and local-currency earnings. This year, Malaysia’s ringgit MYR= has fallen nearly 20% against the dollar and its reserves dropped by about the same%age, to below $100 billion. “It’s almost like a perfect storm for Malaysia,” the country’s economic planning minister, Abdul Wahid Omar, said.

Read more …

Because their new phones don’t sell.

Samsung Seen Tapping $55 Billion Cash Pile for Share Buyback (Bloomberg)

Investors in Samsung Electronics are watching their holdings plunge as new Galaxy smartphones get a lukewarm public response. With $55 billion in cash, the company may be poised to offer consolation. Analysts expect the world’s biggest smartphone maker to buy back shares as early as this month in an effort to return some value to stockholders. Removing more than $1 billion of stock from the market could prompt shares to rally by as much as 20%, according to the top-ranked analyst covering Samsung, potentially erasing their declines this year. Samsung has lost about $22 billion in market value – roughly equivalent to a Nintendo – this year as sales of the S6 and Note 5 devices sputter against new models from Apple and Chinese makers.

A buyback would be just the second in eight years and may take the sting out of sliding market share and sales projected to hit their lowest since 2011. “A share buyback should happen anytime now because the earnings haven’t been performing well,” said Dongbu Securities Co.’s Yoo Eui Hyung, who tops Bloomberg Absolute Return rankings for his calls on Samsung Electronics. Suwon-based Samsung is scheduled to release third-quarter operating profit and sales estimates Wednesday. That three-month period was marked by price cuts for the S6 and curved-screen S6 Edge phones just months after their debuts. Analysts expect profit of 6.7 trillion won in the period ended September.

While that is up from 4.1 trillion won a year earlier, it’s 34% below a record 10.2 trillion won two years ago. Net income and details of division earnings will be released later this month. Shares of Samsung rose 3.2% to 1,151,000 won in Seoul, paring this year’s decline to 13%. A stock repurchase also would help the founding Lees tighten their grip on the crown jewel of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate since the family typically doesn’t sell stock in a buyback, Yoo said. Vice Chairman Lee Jae Yong, the heir apparent, and his relatives control Samsung Group through a web of cross shareholdings with less than 10% of total shares.

Read more …

Before VW.

German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall in Sign of Economic Risk (Bloomberg)

German factory orders unexpectedly fell in August in a sign that Europe’s largest economy is vulnerable to weaker growth in China and other emerging markets. Orders, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, dropped 1.8% after decreasing a revised 2.2% in July, data from the Economy Ministry in Berlin showed on Tuesday. The typically volatile number compares with a median estimate of a 0.5% increase in a Bloomberg survey. Orders rose 1.9% from a year earlier. A China-led slowdown in emerging markets that threatens Germany’s export-oriented economy is exacerbated by an emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG that could affect as many as 11 million cars globally. Still, business confidence unexpectedly increased in September as the economy benefited from strengthening domestic demand on the back of record employment, rising wages and low inflation.

Excluding big-ticket items, orders dropped 2.1% in August, the Economy Ministry said in a statement. Domestic factory orders declined 2.6% as demand for investment goods slumped. The drop in orders was exaggerated by school holidays, it said. A bright spot was the rest of the euro area, where demand for capital goods jumped. Waning Chinese industrial demand has prompted Henkel AG to announce the removal of 1,200 jobs at its adhesives unit as it adapts capacity. While the brunt of the layoffs will be borne in Asia, 250 jobs will be cut in Europe and 100 in Germany. August factory orders don’t yet reflect the impact of VW’s cheating on U.S. emissions tests revealed last month. Chairman-designate Hans Dieter Poetsch warned that the scandal could pose “an existence-threatening crisis” for Europe’s largest carmaker.

Read more …

“..EU laws that prohibit data-sharing with countries deemed to have lower privacy standards, of which the United States is one…”

Top EU Court Says US-EU Data Transfer Deal Is Invalid (Reuters)

A system enabling data transfers from the European Union to the United States by thousands of companies is invalid, the highest European Union court said on Tuesday in a landmark ruling that will leave firms scrambling to find alternative measures. “The Court of Justice declares that the Commission’s U.S. Safe Harbor Decision is invalid,” it said in a statement. The decision could sound the death knell for the Safe Harbor framework set up fifteen years ago to help companies on both sides of the Atlantic conduct everyday business but which has come under heavy fire following 2013 revelations of mass U.S. snooping. Without Safe Harbor, personal data transfers are forbidden, or only allowed via costlier and more time-consuming means, under EU laws that prohibit data-sharing with countries deemed to have lower privacy standards, of which the United States is one.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said that U.S. companies are “bound to disregard, without limitation,” the privacy safeguards provided in Safe Harbor where they come into conflict with the national security, public interest and law enforcement requirements of the United States. Revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of the so-called Prism program allowing U.S. authorities to harvest private information directly from big tech companies such as Apple, Facebook (FB.O) and Google prompted Austrian law student Max Schrems to try to halt data transfers to the United States. Schrems challenged Facebook’s transfers of European users’ data to its U.S. servers because of the risk of U.S. snooping.

As Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland, he filed his complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. The case eventually wound its way up to the Luxembourg-based ECJ, which was asked to rule on whether national data privacy watchdogs could unilaterally suspend the Safe Harbor framework if they had concerns about U.S. privacy safeguards. In declaring the data transfer deal invalid, the Court said the Irish data protection authority had to the power to investigate Schrems’ complaint and subsequently decide whether to suspend Facebook’s data transfers to the United States. “This is extremely bad news for EU-U.S. trade,” said Richard Cumbley, Global Head of technology, media and telecommunications at law firm Linklaters. “Without Safe Harbor, (businesses) will be scrambling to put replacement measures in place.”

Read more …

Democracy it ain’t.

US, Japan And 10 Countries Strike Pacific Trade Deal (FT)

The US, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations have struck the largest trade pact in two decades, in a huge strategic and political victory for US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Trans-Pacific Partnership covers 40% of the global economy and will create a Pacific economic bloc with reduced trade barriers to the flow of everything from beef and dairy products to textiles and data, and with new standards and rules for investment, the environment and labour. The deal represents the economic backbone of the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia, which is designed to counter the rise of China in the Pacific and beyond. It is also a key component of the “third arrow” of economic reforms that Mr Abe has been trying to push in Japan since taking office in 2012.

But the TPP must still be signed formally by the leaders of each country and ratified by their legislatures, where support for the deal is not universal. In the US, Mr Obama will face a tough fight to push it through Congress next year, especially as presidential candidates such as the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump have argued against it. It is also likely to face parliamentary opposition in countries such as Australia and Canada, where the TPP has been one of the main points of economic debate ahead of an election on October 19. Critics around the world see it as a deal negotiated in secret and biased towards corporations. Those criticisms will be amplified when national legislatures seek to ratify the TPP.

Read more …

“When Australian and New Zealand trade representatives asked to view the texts, they were asked to sign an agreement promising to keep it secret for at least four years “to facilitate candid and productive negotiations..”

TPP Trade Deal Text Won’t Be Made Public For Four Years (Ind.)

The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was agreed by trade ministers from US, Japan and ten other countries will not be made public for four years – whether or not it goes on to be passed by Congress and other member nations. If ratified by US Congress and other member nations, TPP will bulldoze through trade barriers and standardise international rules on labour and the environment for the 12 nations, which make up 40% of the world’s economic output. But the details of how it will do this are enshrined in secrecy. Politicians and ordinary people have been largely excluded from TPP negotiations, leaving it in the hands of multinational corporations.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, said that the contents of the deal have been kept secret to avoid potential opposition. Wikileaks has leaked three of the 29 chapters of the TPP agreement. One section on intellectual property rights was published in November 2013, another on the environment was published in January 2014 and one on investment was published in March 2015. John Hilary, the executive director the political organisation War On Want, said the result is that nobody knows what’s being negotiated. “You have these far reaching deals that are going to change the face of our economies and societies know nothing about it,” Hilary said in an interview posted on the Wikileaks channel in August.

The US trade representative’s office keeps trade documents secret because they are considered matters of national security, according to Margot E. Kaminski, an assistant professor of law at the Ohio State University and an affiliated fellow of the Yale Information Society. The representatives claim that negotiating documents are “foreign government information” even though some may have been drafted by US officials. When Australian and New Zealand trade representatives asked to view the texts, they were asked to sign an agreement promising to keep it secret for at least four years “to facilitate candid and productive negotiations”, according to a document leaked by the Guardian.

Read more …

” It’s the nature of the social dialogue in our country.”

Air France Workers Rip Shirts From Executives After 2,900 Jobs Cut (Guardian)

Striking staff at Air France have taken demonstrating their anger with direct action to a shocking new level. Approximately 100 workers forced their way into a meeting of the airline’s senior management and ripped the shirts from the backs of the executives. The airline filed a criminal complaint after the employees stormed its headquarters, near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, in what was condemned as a “scandalous” outbreak of violence. Photographs showed one ashen-faced director being led through a baying crowd, his clothes torn to shreds. In another picture, the deputy head of human resources, bare-chested after workers ripped off his shirt and jacket, is seen being pushed to safety over a fence.

Tensions between management and workers at France’s loss-making flagship carrier had been building over the weekend in the runup to a meeting to finalise a controversial “restructuring plan” involving 2,900 redundancies between now and 2017. The proposed job losses involve 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots. After the violence erupted at about 9.30am on Monday morning, there was widespread condemnation from French union leaders who sought to blame each other’s members for the assaults. Laurent Berger, secretary general of the CFDT, said the attacks were “undignified and unacceptable”, while Claude Mailly, of Force Ouvrière (Workers Force) said he understood Air France workers’ exasperation, but added: “One can fight management without being violent.”

Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister, said he was “scandalised” by the behaviour of the workers and offered the airline chiefs his “full support”. Air France said it had lodged an official police complaint for “aggravated violence”. [..] Olivier Labarre, director of BTI, a human resources consultancy, told Libération newspaper in 2009: “This happens elsewhere, but to my knowledge, taking the boss hostage is typically French. It’s the nature of the social dialogue in our country.”

Read more …

It’s not just rhino’s. We kill across the board.

Nearly A Third Of World’s Cacti Face Extinction (Guardian)

Nearly a third of the world’s cacti are facing the threat of extinction, according to a shocking global assessment of the effects that illegal trade and other human activities are having on the species. Cacti are a critical provider of food and water to desert wildlife ranging from coyotes and deer to lizards, tortoises, bats and hummingbirds, and these fauna spread the plants’ seeds in return. But the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)‘s first worldwide health check of the plants, published today in the journal Nature Plants, says that they are coming under unprecedented pressure from human activities such as land use conversions, commercial and residential developments and shrimp farming.

But the paper said the main driver of cacti species extinction was the: “unscrupulous collection of live plants and seeds for horticultural trade and private ornamental collections, smallholder livestock ranching and smallholder annual agriculture.” The findings were described as “disturbing” by Inger Andersen, the IUCN’s director-general. “They confirm that the scale of the illegal wildlife trade – including the trade in plants – is much greater than we had previously thought, and that wildlife trafficking concerns many more species than the charismatic rhinos and elephants which tend to receive global attention.”

Read more …

Mar 192015
 
 March 19, 2015  Posted by at 5:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Albert Freeman Mrs. Alice White at the War Fund Victory Store, Hardwick, VT 1942

On the day that Mario Draghi opened the ECB’s overly opulent new €1.3 billion palatial building(s) in Frankfurt, which led to fierce and fiery protests with hundreds arrested, amongst others from the Blockupy movement, and the IMF for some reason found it necessary to tell the eurozone that Greece is its most unhelpful client ever (really? let’s see the others) and to leak that finding to the press to boot, the Greek parliament voted in an anti-poverty law with a huge majority.

Oh, and it was also the day that a San Francisco church decided to dismantle an elaborate system of outdoor showerheads it had installed to get rid of those pesky homeless on its property. The showerheads would get the ‘rough sleepers’ soaking wet every hour or so. As one tweet said: “It’s what Jesus would do, right?” Anyway, enough protest was enough to get them backtracking.

I don’t know what the shower system cost, and who really cares, but I do know the price tag for the Greek law to help its poorest: €200 million. Or about 14% of what that one building cost (the EU has much more construction going on). Which, by the way, was announced as, I paraphrase and kid you not, “an example of what Europe is capable of”.

No comment there, I couldn’t have out it any better myself. One thing’s for sure: the building is not meant for the poor. There were thousands of cops at the opening alone to prevent them from entering. Cops paid for with taxpayer money, including that from the poor.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras labeled the new Greek law a “humanitarian crisis law”, and responded, when warned by the European Commission that Greece ‘should not act unilaterally’: “If they’re doing it to frighten us, the answer is – we will not be frightened.”

Still, EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici managed this: “We completely support the objective of helping those who are most vulnerable in Greek society; but there must be consultations on new measures. We have to be able to evaluate the budgetary impact.”

In other words, the Greeks no longer have the right to alleviate the misery of their poor. If it were up to Brussels, those poor now solely rely on people who find €1.3 billion palaces more important than them.

There must be consultations, which would take God knows how long, on a $200 million law aimed at relieving the worst misery for people that have been suffering for years INSIDE the same European Union that has the gall to build €1.3 billion palaces, and let their suffering continue as those consultations go on?

While at the same time there are negotiations going on over more than 500 times that amount in Greek bailouts, which only effectively helped global banks, especially in France and Germany, from facing their gambling debts?

We’ve not just lost Jesus, we’ve lost our way. That SF church has, the EU has, and most of us have too. We were never ‘blessed’ with some divine right to let people suffer, no matter who they are. There’s not a single religion I can think of that says it’s fine to do that, or even that you’re superior to your suffering brother or sister, so it can’t be a religious issue.

Therefore, I’m going to have to guess that it’s all down to sheer hubris, to people being so full of themselves they will never ever be able to pass through the eye of any needle, no matter how big or wide.

See, my problem is, I don’t want to live in this kind of world. It doesn’t just degrade Greece’s, and San Francisco’s, and the world’s, poor, it degrades me too. And I’m not even a religious person.