Dec 042016
 
 December 4, 2016  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Wyland Stanley “J.A. Herzog Pontiac, 17th & Valencia Sts., San Francisco.” 1936

Trump’s Unhappy Fate: A Financial Crisis Far Worse Than The Last (Rickards)
Trump’s Appointments (Paul Craig Roberts)
Petition To Reverse US Election Result Becomes Most Popular In History (Ind.)
Jill Stein Supporters Drop Pennsylvania Recount Suit (WSJ)
Jill Stein To Pursue Pennsylvania Recount Petition In Federal Court (R.)
Brent Caps Biggest Weekly Advance Since 2009 on OPEC Agreement (BBG)
Steve Keen, Michael Hudson Unpick Historical Path to Global Recovery (MH)
The Italian Trouble for Greek Debt (BBG)
Will 2017 See End Of US Neocons’ Promotion Of Chaos Theory? (RT)
Late Is Enough: On Thomas Friedman’s New Book (Matt Taibbi)

 

 

As I said on election day in America is The Poisoned Chalice.

Trump’s Unhappy Fate: A Financial Crisis Far Worse Than The Last (Rickards)

As earthquake doesn’t care if you’re progressive or populist. It destroys your house all the same. Likewise a financial crisis is indifferent to a politician’s policy mix. Systemic crises proceed according to their own dynamic based on the array of agents in a system, and systemic scale. The tempo of recent crises in 1994, 1998, and 2008 says a crisis is likely soon. A new global financial panic will be one legacy of the Trump administration. It won’t be Trump’s fault, merely his misfortune. The equilibrium and value-at-risk models used by banks will not foresee the new panic. Those models are junk science relying as they do on notions of efficient markets, normally distributed risk, continuous liquidity, and a future that resembles the past. None of those hypotheses match reality.

Advances in behavioural psychology have demolished the idea of efficient markets. Data shows the degree distribution of risk is a power curve not a normal bell curve. Liquidity evaporates when most needed. Prices gap down; they do not move continuously. Each of the 1994, 1998, and 2008 crises was worse than the one before, and required more drastic intervention. The future does not resemble the past; it keeps getting worse. The standard models are in ruins. Recent model improvements that take into account so-called tail risk still fail to come to grips with systemic scale. The most catastrophic event possible in a complex system is an exponential function of scale. In plain language, if you double system size, you do not double risk; you increase it by a factor of five or more.

Since 2008, the largest banks in the world are larger in terms of gross assets, share of total deposits, and notional value of derivatives. Everything that was too-big-to-fail in 2008 is bigger and exponentially more dangerous today. The living wills and resolution authority of Dodd-Frank are entrances to gated communities. They seem imposing, but are a façade. They will do nothing to stop an angry mob. Increases in regulatory capital will not suffice. When a leveraged financial institution faces a liquidity panic, no amount of capital is enough. As boxing legend Mike Tyson mused, no plan survives the first punch in the face.

[..] What snowflake could precipitate the next financial panic? Deutsche Bank is an obvious candidate. Less obvious is a failure to deliver physical gold by a London bullion bank. That would expose the hyper-leveraged “paper gold” market for what it is. A natural disaster on the scale of Fukushima would do as well. Looming over these catalysts is a global dollar shortage, which has been limned by economists Claudio Borio and Hyun Song Shin at the Bank for International Settlements. The strong dollar could precipitate a wave of defaults on $9 trillion of dollar-denominated emerging markets corporate debt. Those defaults would make the 1994 Tequila Crisis look tame.

The 2008 crisis was truncated with tens of trillions of dollars of currency swaps, money printing, and rate cuts coordinated by central banks around the world. The next crisis will be beyond the scope of central banks to contain because they have failed to normalise either interest rates or their balance sheets since 2008. Central banks will be unable to pull another rabbit out of the hat; they are out of rabbits.

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Trump vs special interests. Why jump to conclusions?

Trump’s Appointments (Paul Craig Roberts)

We do not know what the appointments mean except, as Trump discovered once he confronted the task of forming a government, that there is no one but insiders to appoint. For the most part that is correct. Outsiders are a poor match for insiders who tend to eat them alive. Ronald Reagan’s California crew were a poor match for George H.W. Bush’s insiders. The Reagan part of the government had a hell of a time delivering results that Reagan wanted. Another limit on a president’s ability to form a government is Senate confirmation of presidential appointees. Whereas Congress is in Republican hands, Congress remains in the hands of special interests who will protect their agendas from hostile potential appointees. Therefore, although Trump does not face partisan opposition from Congress, he faces the power of special interests that fund congressional political campaigns.

[..] With Trump under heavy attack prior to his inauguration, he cannot afford drawn out confirmation fights and defeats. Does Trump’s choice of Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary mean that Goldman Sachs will again be in charge of US economic policy? Possibly, but we do not know. We will have to wait and see. Mnuchin left Goldman Sachs 14 years ago. He has been making movies in Hollywood and started his own investment firm. Many people have worked for Goldman Sachs and the New York Banks who have become devastating critics of the banks. Read Nomi Prins’ books and visit Pam Martens website, Wall Street on Parade. My sometimes coauthor Dave Kranzler is a former Wall Streeter. Commentators are jumping to conclusions based on appointees past associations. Mnuchin was an early Trump supporter and chairman of Trump’s finance campaign.

He has Wall Street and investment experience. He should be an easy confirmation. For a president-elect under attack this is important. Will Mnuchin suppport Trump’s goal of bringing middle class jobs back to America? Is Trump himself sincere? We do not know. What we do know is that Trump attacked the fake “free trade” agreements that have stripped America of middle class jobs just as did Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot. We know that the Clintons made their fortune as agents of the 1%, the only ones who have profited from the offshoring of American jobs. Trump’s fortune is not based on jobs offshoring. Not every billionaire is an oligarch. Trump’s relation to the financial sector is one as a debtor. No doubt Trump and the banks have had unsatisfactory relationships. And Trump says he is a person who enjoys revenge.

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Not the Jill Stein petition. More the Soros one.

Petition To Reverse US Election Result Becomes Most Popular In History (Ind.)

A petition asking for the result of the US election to be reversed is now the most popular in the history of Change.org. The signatories – who total 4.6 million people – call on the Electoral College to stop Donald Trump from being President, which is a theoretically possible but never-before-attempted way of altering the result of the US election. Hillary Clinton won millions more votes than Donald Trump, but Mr Trump became President-elect because of the voting system. The petition is titled “Make Hillary Clinton President” and argues that because Ms Clinton won the popular vote she should be made President. It also argues that the President-elect is “unfit to serve”. With 4.6 million signatures, the petition has over two million more votes than the second largest campaign on the website. That was a campaign asking for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival to be shut down, which was begun three years ago.

The petition against Mr Trump was begun just after the election on 10 November. It was started by social worker Daniel Brezenoff. Signatures to the petition are based on the idea that it is still possible for the result of the election to be reversed. The Electoral College system requires that representatives of each state cast ballots to decide who will actually become the new President – those members of the college are supposed to vote for whoever won their state, but could theoretically change their mind. “On December 19, the Electors of the Electoral College will cast their ballots,” the petition writes. “If they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win. However, in 14 of the states in Trump’s column, they can vote for Hillary Clinton without any legal penalty if they choose.”

Since the petition has started, some legal proceedings have been launched to test the legal penalty in those other states. There has never really been any need to enforce them, since faithless electors make up only a tiny number of people, but activists are looking to encourage more people not to vote this year. The petition itself argues that the Electoral College should change its mind because of the results of the popular vote. “Hillary won the popular vote,” the description reads. “The only reason Trump “won” is because of the Electoral College.

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But wait, there’s more…

Jill Stein Supporters Drop Pennsylvania Recount Suit (WSJ)

Supporters of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Saturday withdrew a last-ditch lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court aimed at forcing a statewide ballot recount, another major setback in the effort to verify the votes in three states that provided President-elect Donald Trump his margin of victory. Ms. Stein’s campaign announced in a statement Saturday that the Pennsylvania lawsuit had been dropped after the court demanded that a $1 million bond be posted by the 100 Pennsylvania residents who brought the suit, which was backed by the campaign. Recounts will still proceed in a handful of Pennsylvania precincts, but it is far from the statewide recount that Ms. Stein initially was hoping for.

She is also pushing recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan after a prominent computer scientist laid out a case that the election results may have been hacked. Legal challenges have also been filed in state and federal court to halt those recount efforts as well. The decision also dashes the aspirations of some Democrats, who had hoped that enough irregularities or missing votes would be found across all three states to overturn the election results that saw Mr. Trump, the Republican candidate, prevail over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton would need to declared the winner in all three states to reverse the election results.

“The judge’s outrageous demand that voters pay such an exorbitant figure is a shameful, unacceptable barrier to democratic participation,” said Ms. Stein in the statement. “This is yet another sign that Pennsylvania’s antiquated election law is stacked against voters. By demanding a $1 million bond from voters yesterday, the court made clear it has no interest in giving a fair hearing to these voters’ legitimate concerns over the accuracy, security and fairness of an election tainted by suspicion.”

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…. straight to federal court.

Jill Stein To Pursue Pennsylvania Recount Petition In Federal Court (R.)

Green Party candidate Jill Stein late Saturday vowed to bring her fight for a recount of votes cast in Pennsylvania in the U.S. presidential election to federal court, after a state judge ordered her campaign to post a $1 million bond. “The Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania,” Jonathan Abady, lead counsel to Stein’s recount efforts, said in a statement. Saying it has become clear that “the state court system is so ill-equipped to address this problem,” the statement said “we must seek federal court intervention.” The Stein campaign said it will file for emergency relief in the Pennsylvania effort in federal court on Monday, “demanding a statewide recount on constitutional grounds.”

The bond was set by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania a day after representatives of President-elect Donald Trump requested a $10 million bond, according to court papers. The court gave the petitioners until 5 p.m. local time on Monday to post the bond, but said it could modify the amount if shown good cause. Instead, Stein’s campaign withdrew. “Petitioners are regular citizens of ordinary means. They cannot afford to post the $1,000,000 bond required by the court,” wrote attorney Lawrence Otter, informing the court of the decision to withdraw.

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“The last time OPEC set a quota, members exceeded it for 20 of the 24 months before the cap was scrapped..”

Brent Caps Biggest Weekly Advance Since 2009 on OPEC Agreement (BBG)

Brent oil capped its biggest weekly gain since 2009 after OPEC approved its first supply cut in eight years, with attention now shifting to compliance with the deal and how other producers will react to a price rally. Futures closed at the highest in more than a year in London and New York. OPEC’s three largest producers – Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran – overcame discord to reach Wednesday’s pact to reduce the group’s output by 1.2 million barrels a day, while Russia pledged a cut of as much as 300,000. The accord ended the group’s pump-at-will policy started in 2014 aimed at protecting market share and driving out high-cost competitors such as shale. “Everyone wins, but U.S. shale producers are the big winners from the OPEC deal,” Francisco Blanch at Bank of America said.

“The agreement made sense purely on economic logic. OPEC wanted to end the price war.” OPEC set a collective output target at the lower end of the range outlined two months ago in Algiers, boosting prices and prompting predictions of a possible advance to $60 a barrel from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Some analysts warned that the rally may encourage higher output from producers outside the group, including in the U.S. The last time OPEC set a quota, members exceeded it for 20 of the 24 months before the cap was scrapped at the end of 2015.

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Two of the finest in a long conversation. Here’s a tiny snippet of Hudson talking.

Steve Keen, Michael Hudson Unpick Historical Path to Global Recovery (MH)

Killing the Host will be published in German at the end of the month of November, and, basically, it’s a more popular version of The Bubble and Beyond. And it shows that when the financial sector takes over, it’s very much like a parasite in nature. And people think of parasites simply as taking the life blood of the host and draining the energy. But in order to do that, the parasite has to have an enzyme to take over the host’s brain. And the key thing in nature is they take over the brain, and they convince the host that the free luncher is actually part of the host’s own body, and even its baby to be protected. And that’s what the financial sector has done.

Classical economics was all about separating the rent-extracting sectors – landlords, monopolies, and finance – from the rest of the economy. And that was unearned income. It wasn’t necessary. And the whole idea of classical economics from Quesnay’s Tableau Economique to all the way through Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill was to look at the finance sector and the landlord sector and monopolies as unnecessary. You’re going to get rid of them. You’re going to tax away all the land’s rent or else nationalize the land. And you are going to have public enterprises as basic infrastructure so that they couldn’t be monopolized. Well, you had a revolution against classical economics in the 1890s and 1900s, and the national income now – accounts make it appear as if the financial sector and the real estate sector and the monopolies – oil and gas – are all contributing to GDP.

So a few months ago, you had the head of Goldman Sachs – Lloyd Blankfein – say, the Goldman Sachs managers are the most productive workers in the United States, because we make $22 million a year in salary, and we get bonuses. And that’s all considered as contributing to GDP. That’s the financial services that we’re providing $22 million per manager of financial services. Now what they don’t realize is that this $22 million per manager in that Goldman Sachs extracts money from the rest of the economy. It’s a zero-sum game. And instead of adding to the GDP, you should have – A subtraction. Yes, you should have – all of this is overhead – unnecessary. And since 2008, the 99% of the population in America, and I think in most of Europe, too, have seen their incomes go down. But the 1% have had their financial and real estate incomes go up so much more that there is an illusion of growth. And what’s been growing is the tumor, not the actual economic body.

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Italian debt is a threat to the entire eurozone, not just Greece.

The Italian Trouble for Greek Debt (BBG)

If the fallout for Sunday’s Italian referendum is bad for Italian bonds, it could well be worse for one of Europe’s star performers this year: Greece.Greek debt has tightened massively to German bonds in the past three months, while all other main European government securities have been widening. Growing confidence in Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s willingness to conform to the Troika requirements on the latest bailout package, is behind this.

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be inclusion into the ECB’s bond purchase program – Greece has long been excluded since it’s not rated investment grade. A shift in the rules would be a reward for budget discipline.This has looked until recently like a long shot, but a tectonic shift in attitude is underway. A recent piece of evidence for this is a remark from ECB policy maker Benoit Couere on Tuesday. He said that Greece can maintain a 3.5% primary budget surplus to GDP for years after the current bailout ends in 2018 – that is a major vote of confidence. Such recent Greek outperformance could easily unwind on a “no” vote on Italian constitutional reform. As Gadfly has argued, that could create serious problems not just for Italy, the world’s third-largest debtor, but also for other borrowers in the region.

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It’s all the US have done for decades.

Will 2017 See End Of US Neocons’ Promotion Of Chaos Theory? (RT)

Trump will hopefully be an assertive defender of US interests rather than an assertive meddler, says Oxford Crisis Research Institute Director Mark Almond.

RT: What obstacles remain preventing the UN from sending aid to Aleppo? Mark Almond: Obviously, there is still an area controlled by the rebels where there is fighting, and the rebels have not always been terribly concerned about discriminating between their enemies and aid workers. But it is quite bizarre that now, as you actually have people, tens of thousands of people, who are finally accessible, that the UN agencies are not actually rushing to help. Because, after all, these are people who are in need, and the weather is very bad in addition to all the suffering caused by the violence.

But I think we have to, I’m afraid, accept the fact that the UN is not composed of people from outside the normal world of politics – after all, the head of its aid agency is a former British conservative MP, [UN Special Envoy for Syria’s Senior Adviser] Jan Egeland is a Norwegian political activist who has been for a long time very critical of Russia. So, we are talking of people who do have a political past, even if they are now presented as being somehow the representatives of global charity or global concern. But I am afraid they are politicians.

RT: Do you think the standoff in Aleppo will continue for much longer? Despite major gains by the Syrian Army, the rebels are reportedly refusing to surrender. Mark Almond: I think the remaining rebel forces are in a very difficult position, so unless something changes through some external intervention which would widen the wall and would be a very dangerous development. And I don’t see the US, either doing it itself or, for that matter, encouraging any of its friends to do it, like Turkey or Saudi Arabia, neither of which, I think, really has the stomach for such a fight. So, the likelihood is that the horrible conflict in Aleppo itself is grinding towards a conclusion. And that may also mean that in 2017 we can look towards trying to repair the international situation around Syria.

The new president of the US has said that he is much more prepared to offer realpolitik rather than an ideologically driven agenda to produce regime change [that], if necessary, [says]… “if we can’t have regime change, at least we can have chaos and, perhaps, out of that chaos, something good will come.” I think we’ve seen, really, over the last 25 years, from the chaos we helped produce in Afghanistan through to Syria today, that the chaos theory that the neocons in Washington have promoted has actually bitten back. We’ve seen terrorist attacks in Western Europe, we’ve seen [them] in the US. I think Trump recognizes that even though he is going to be a very assertive defender of American interests, he is not going to be an assertive meddler. And that does offer some hope.

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Friedman’s easy fodder.

Late Is Enough: On Thomas Friedman’s New Book (Matt Taibbi)

“The folksiness will irk some critics … But criticizing Friedman for humanizing and boiling down big topics is like complaining that Mick Jagger used sex to sell songs: It is what he does well.” –John Micklethwait, review of Thank You for Being Late, in The New York Times With apologies to Mr. Micklethwait, the hands that typed these lines implying Thomas Friedman is a Mick Jagger of letters should be chopped off and mailed to the singer’s doorstep in penance. Mick Jagger could excite the world in one note, while Thomas Friedman needs 461 pages to say, “Shit happens.” Joan of Arc and Charles Manson had more in common. Thomas Friedman was once a man of great influence. His columns were must-reads for every senator and congressperson.

He helped spread the globalization gospel and push us into war in Iraq. But he’s destined now to be more famous as a literary figure. No modern writer has been lampooned more. Hundreds if not thousands of man-hours have been spent teaching robots to produce automated Friedman-prose, in what collectively is a half-vicious, half-loving tribute to a man who raised bad writing to the level of an art form. We will remember Friedman for interviewing 76% of the world’s taxi drivers, for predicting “the next six months will be critical” on 14 occasions over two and a half years (birthing the neologism, “the Friedman unit”), and for his unmatched, God-given ability to write nonsensical metaphors, like his classic “rule of holes”: “When you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

Friedman’s great anti-gift is his ability to use many words when only a few are necessary. He became famous as a newspaper columnist for taking simple one-sentence observations like, “Wow, everyone has a cell phone these days,” and blowing them out into furious 850-word trash-fires of mismatched imagery and circular argument. The double-axel version of this feat was to then rewrite that same column over and over again, in the same newspaper, only piling on more incongruous imagery and skewing rhetoric to further stoke that one thought into an even higher and angrier fire.

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Nov 292016
 
 November 29, 2016  Posted by at 10:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


NPC Skating night, Washington DC 1919

How The Global Left Destroyed Itself -Or, All Sex Is Not Rape- (DLS)
Of Hoovervilles and Trump Towers (Thomas)
The Blinkered Elite Who Still Think Austerity Works (Aditya Chakrabortty)
Athens Fears IMF, Berlin Will Reach Deal For Further Austerity (Kath.)
Where Are We In The Business Cycle? (ZH)
Cash is for Criminals – Taxing Cash Withdrawals from ATMs (Armstrong)
Canada Watchdog Warns Lenders Face Big Losses If Housing Market Turns (FP)
Canada House Price Bubble Threatens ‘Financial Stability’ (WS)
Security Experts Join Jill Stein’s ‘Election Changing’ Recount Campaign (G.)
France and Britain In Danger of Winter Power Shortages (BBG)
Pressure Grows As Athens Eyes Faster Asylum Process (Kath.)
West Antarctic Ice Shelf Breaking Up From The Inside Out (AGU)
Scientists Record Biggest Ever Coral Die-Off On Great Barrier Reef (R.)

 

 

“..the same unreconstructed global capitalism that was still sucking the life from the lower classes that it always had. Only now it was doing so with explicit public backing and with an abandon it had not enjoyed since the roaring twenties.”

How The Global Left Destroyed Itself -Or, All Sex Is Not Rape- (DLS)

With a Republican Party on its knees, Obama was positioned to restore the kind of New Deal rules that global capitalism enjoyed under Franklin D. Roosevelt. A gobalisation like the one promised in the brochures, that benefited the majority via competition and productivity gains, driven by trade and meritocracy, with counter-balanced private risk and public equity. But instead he opted to patch up financialised capitalism. The banks were bailed out and the bonus culture returned. Yes, there were some new rules but they were weak. There was no seizing of the agenda. No imprisonments of the guilty. The US Department of Justice is still issuing $14bn fines to banks involved yet still today there is no justice. Think about that a minute. How can a crime be worthy of a $14bn fine but no prison time?!?

Alas, for all of his efforts to restore Wall Street, Obama provided no reset for Main Street economics to restore the fortunes of the US lower classes. Sure Obama fought a hostile Capitol but, let’s face it, he had other priorities. And so the US working and middle classes, as well as those worldwide, were sold another pup. Now more than ever, if they said say so they were quickly shut down as “racist”, “xenophobic”, or “sexist”. Thus it came to pass that the global Left somehow did a complete back-flip and positioned itself directly behind the same unreconstructed global capitalism that was still sucking the life from the lower classes that it always had. Only now it was doing so with explicit public backing and with an abandon it had not enjoyed since the roaring twenties.

Which brings us back to today. And we wonder how it is that an abuse-spouting guy like Donald Trump can succeed Barack Obama. Trump is a member of the very same “trickle down” capitalist class that ripped the income from US households. But he is smart enough, smarter than the Left at least, to know that the decades long rage of the middle and working classes is a formidable political force and has tapped it spectacularly to rise to power. And, he has done more. He has also recognised that the Left’s obsession with post-structural identity politics has totally paralysed it. It is so traumatised and pre-occupied by his mis-use of the language of power – the “racist”, “sexist” and “xenophobic” comments – that it is further wedging itself from its natural constituents every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very doubtful that Trump will succeed with his proposed policies but he has at least mentioned the elephant in the room, making the American worker visible again.

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I like this: in the 1930s you had “Hoover blankets” for newspapers and “Hoover leather” for cardboard, and now there’s “Trump Towers” for shantytowns.

Of Hoovervilles and Trump Towers (Thomas)

In 1928, Republican Herbert Hoover was elected as president of the US. He took office in March of 1929. The following October, the stock market crashed, heralding in the Great Depression. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes and/or starved in the ensuing years. Countless people, having nowhere to live, set up shantytowns that came to be known as “Hoovervilles.” Their new residents relied for the most part on public charities or begging for whatever income they could attain. Was Mister Hoover responsible? Well, no. When elected, he had never held public office before and had not contributed to the cause of the depression. So why was he blamed? Well, whenever there’s disaster, it’s human nature to want to put a face on the cause of the problem. We tend to need to have someone at whom we can point our angry finger.

(Almost immediately after the shooting of John Kennedy, the public were shown a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald holding a rifle; the day after the destroying of the Twin Towers, the television news showed a photo of Osama bin Laden. The viewers didn’t question whether these were indeed the culprits; they simply accepted them, as their need to have someone to blame was greater than their need to have truth.) As a Republican, Mister Hoover became an easy target for Democrats seeking to further their own careers. Although the events that led up to the depression were caused by both Democrats and Republicans, both within politics and without, Mister Hoover was a convenient target for Democrats. In fact, the term “Hooverville” was created by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee. Democrats also came up with other pejoratives, such as “Hoover blankets” for newspapers and “Hoover leather” for cardboard used in a shoe when the sole had worn through.

Throughout the 1930s, hundreds of Hoovervilles sprang up, housing hundreds of thousands of recently homeless people. There was even one in New York’s Central Park. By ascribing the Great Depression and everything that went with it to Mister Hoover, it was a foregone conclusion that in the next presidential election, the Democratic candidate would win by a landslide. For the next 20 years, Democrats held the US presidency and, in that time, the government made a major transformation towards collectivism. In spite of the fact that the Great Depression dragged on for around a decade, few Americans grasped the fact that collectivist policies prolonged the depression, rather than alleviated it.

[..] If history were to repeat, Mister Trump would find that, within months of his ascendancy to the throne, market crashes would occur, followed by monetary collapse, diminishment of entitlements, loss of homes and jobs and a return to Hoovervilles. It wouldn’t be surprising if the present generation of collectivist spin doctors choose to call the new shantytowns “Trump towers.” There can be no doubt that it would be a successful political move and, along with other pejoratives, would be extremely likely to result in a one-term presidency for Mister Trump, followed by a landslide victory in 2020 for the Democratic Party. [..] Mister Trump will be no more to blame than Mister Hoover but, as the present economic cycle will reach the tipping point on his watch, there can be little doubt as to who will receive the blame. Just as in 1929, the tail will blindly be pinned on the elephant, not the donkey, and a long era of increased collectivism will be heralded in.

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“The end had come, but it was not yet in sight”.

The Blinkered Elite Who Still Think Austerity Works (Aditya Chakrabortty)

On 11 September 1929 the Wall Street Journal quoted Mark Twain for its thought of the day: “Don’t part with your illusions; when they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” Whatever that day’s subeditors thought they were doing, their choice now sounds as falsely confident as a rambler about to step off a ledge. Markets were already in turmoil, America was sinking into economic depression and running through the daily news was a thin, high note of hysteria. Still, Irving Fisher and the other wise men foresaw only the slightest of setbacks, and the brokers couldn’t take the cash fast enough. As John Kenneth Galbraith writes in his classic, The Great Crash 1929: “The end had come, but it was not yet in sight”.

Just six weeks later shares nosedived, countless families had their life savings destroyed, and an entire ruling class was stripped of its illusions. It took another 25 years, the Great Depression, the New Deal and a world war before stocks regained their 1929 levels. Look around today: the political class of 2016 is stuffed with people firmly clinging on to their illusions. Come Brexit, come Trump, come possible break-up of Europe: no lessons will be learned, barely an inch will be deviated from the ordained course. For some, the best pose is an uncomprehending defiance. Taking a break from tending to his £27m property portfolio, Tony Blair tells the New Statesman, “I can’t come into front-line politics. There’s just too much hostility.” Thus does the patron saint of exasperation inform his ex-voters: it’s not me, it’s you.

Others are smart enough at least to pay lip service to the new times. A couple of months ago George Osborne told the Financial Times how much he’d learned from Brexit: “There’s a pretty profound sense out there that the system’s not working for people, and instead of telling people, ‘Shut up, you’ve never had it so good,’ you’ve got to respond to that … I want to use this time out of office to try and understand it better.” Trouble is, lip service doesn’t pay so well. Days after that interview, the recently ejected chancellor began a speaking tour of America. In just a month, it was revealed last week, he raked in £320,400. Osborne made more from five speeches (nearly all to the finance industry, naturally, and putting in what his parliamentary register records as a total of 13 and a half hours’ work)than the average British worker will earn in over 11 years.

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Good cop, bad cop. Rinse and repeat.

Athens Fears IMF, Berlin Will Reach Deal For Further Austerity (Kath.)

With the government banking on securing a “political decision” at Monday’s Eurogroup – as the conclusion of the bailout review is now seemingly out of reach – the prospect of further austerity as demanded by the International Monetary Fund remains the biggest thorn in its side. Indeed, Athens’s biggest fear is that the IMF and Berlin will strike a deal demanding more measures as highlighted in comments by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos Monday that the government cannot accept “compromise deals made between the IMF and the European countries on the back of Greece.” Tsakalotos criticized the IMF for pressuring Greece to implement more measures while failing to urge European countries to grant the country debt relief, and aimed fire at the eurozone for agreeing to discuss labor measures that stray beyond accepted European principles.

Referring to the labor regulation demands, he said: “Those institutions should not consider a country that is in a [bailout] program to have lesser rights. I think it’s not right, not morally right.” Government aides Monday, meanwhile, said the review would have already been concluded had it not been for the IMF’s demand for more measures in exchange for its participation in the bailout. However, Athens’s case for debt relief received a boost Monday after senior European officials said a solution was overdue. ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure, who was in Athens Monday, said the ECB was “looking forward to a solution” and “all stakeholders in the Greek adjustment program must realize that there are serious concerns about the sustainability of the Greek public debt.”

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Really? There’s a business cycle left?

Where Are We In The Business Cycle? (ZH)

On the bullish side, MS writes a trend of rising yields, steeper curves and better earnings has been in place for months. It forecasts that this trend will continue through 1Q17, as still-easy year-over- year comparisons mean headline inflation and global earnings continue to rise. The bank also points out something the Fed is well aware off: avoid giving the market much, if any, information. Namely, “an initial lack of policy clarity from the Trump administration may actually be helpful allowing investors to believe that the US ultimately will pursue ‘good’ projects (e.g., infrastructure spending) and avoid ‘bad’ ones (trade protectionism), while dangling the possibility of large corporate tax cuts. ”

However, shortly thereafter the initial optimism will fade and by 2Q17, this picture is set to change: global yields and USD to rise in 1Q as markets anticipate that better growth and inflation will cause the Fed to hike twice later in the year. That will mean a material tightening in financial conditions. [..] Around the same time, China growth will slow as credit-fueled stimulus is dialed back. And high expectations that the new US administration will be market-friendly raise the likelihood of disappointment. Even with expectations of fiscal stimulus, Morgan Stanley’s full year 2017 GDP forecast is just 2%. More troubling is that the expansion, already the 4th longest in US history, and set to be the third longest by the time Trump is inaugurated… is very long in the tooth.

Which brings us to the most concerning observation by Morgan Stanley, according to which 2017 is a year in which the bank’s odds of a boom and bust have materially increased, a finding consistent with a late-cycle US environment. So late, in fact, that one look at the chart below shows the US cycle has not only plateaued but is now stalling and is turning over. This, as Morgan Stanley writes, “is a change. Our long-running narrative had been “slow growth, slow reflation, and slow policy normalization”, a backdrop that we’ve seen as favorable to credit. The prospect for more fiscal stimulus in the US and elsewhere affects all three. Our new forecasts call for higher growth, inflation and policy rates than before, an uncertain cocktail for an expansion that is already one of the longest on record.”

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Martin rants: “..even the Ten Commandments state clearly that socialism is wrong..”

Cash is for Criminals – Taxing Cash Withdrawals from ATMs (Armstrong)

We are entering a very dark phase in this battle to retain our liberty. A proposal now being whispered behind the curtain in Europe is to impose a tax on withdrawing your own money from an ATM. The banks support this measure as a whole because they see this as preventing bank runs. Nobody will look at the direction we are headed. I am deeply concerned that these type of proposals will send the West in a real revolution not much different from that of Russia in 1917. The divide between left and right is getting much deeper and the left is hell bent on stripping those who produce of their liberty and assets. This type of confrontation is in line with our War Cycle, which we will update in 2017.

This is the most dangerous period we are heading into for governments will respond only in their own self-interest to survive. The socialists hate those who produce. That is just the bottom line. Nobody should have wealth more than they and this is the same human emotion that has cost tens of millions of lives in civil conflicts through out the centuries. Proof this is a persistent problem is the fact that even the Ten Commandments state clearly that socialism is wrong: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house … or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). Nevertheless, this is repuidiated by socialists who say it’s not fair that anyone has something more than they do.

This material jealousy has been the source of so much death throughout the centuries because it has been exploited by the ruling class to justify their thievery. We will review all our models and update this after the U.S. inauguration since the socialists are trying to figure out how to steal the election from Trump. There is no way to overturn Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania without fraud and they need all three overturned to claim victory. This will not end nicely. The divide will only get bigger. The future is anything but stable and safe.

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Only China can save the day now?!

Canada Watchdog Warns Lenders Face Big Losses If Housing Market Turns (FP)

Recent increases in mortgage interest rates should be a wake-up call that lenders and borrowers should not be making decisions based on a short-term ability to repay, particularly given the risks created by high house prices and a long period of record low rates, Canada’s top banking regulator said Monday. “The recent uptick in mortgage interest rates should serve as a reminder that low rates are not a given, especially over longer periods of time,” Jeremy Rudin, head of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), told an audience of mortgage professionals in Vancouver. In prepared remarks for the Mortgage Professionals Canada National Conference, Rudin said risks in the market include rising rates and falling house prices.

“A pronounced or prolonged economic downturn could well involve a meaningful housing price correction. This could translate into significant losses for lenders and insurers,” he said. Moody’s Investors Service has estimated that a U.S.-style housing meltdown with home prices falling by as much as 35% could result in combined losses of more than $17 billion for the Canadian banks and mortgage insurers. “Given the risks and vulnerabilities arising from the current environment, sound underwriting is now more important than ever,” Rudin said. This month, Canada’s banks started raising their mortgage prime rates or posted variable rates in what market watchers said was a response to moves by the federal government to cool the housing market. On Nov. 11, mortgage tracker RateSpy.com said the typical five-year discretionary variable rate for Canada’s six largest banks had increased to 2.3% from 2.25%.

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Warnings from all sides now.

Canada House Price Bubble Threatens ‘Financial Stability’ (WS)

In its economic outlook released today, the OECD is generally gung-ho about the Canadian economy, and practically bubbling over with new enthusiasm for the global economy. It now expects global growth to accelerate from 2.9% this year to 3.3% in 2017 and to 3.6% in 2018. Call it the “Trump effect” gone global. But for Canada, despite its hunky-dory economy due to the “moderately expansionary policy stance in the 2016 federal budget,” the OECD has a stark warning: “House prices, housing investment and household debt are very high, posing financial stability risks.” The OECD’s chart shows the house price indices for Vancouver and Toronto, which make up about one-third of the national housing market, versus the index for the rest of Canada. Note the hook at the top of the red line: a feeble sign that house prices in Vancouver might be heading south:

A “disorderly housing market correction,” as envisioned by the OECD, would reduce residential investment, which has become a key in the Canadian economy. Through the reverse “wealth effects,” private consumption would take a hit, and in the end the banks are on the line, and it “could threaten financial stability.”The indebtedness of Canadian households, when measured against disposable income, continues to “edge up from already high levels,” encouraged and enabled by low interest rates. Of the OECD member states, only six have higher debt-to-disposable income ratios: Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark (the last two with a ratio of over 250%). All of them have majestic government-aided and abetted housing bubbles. For American debt slaves, this measure is just over 100%, below where Canada’s was in 2000!

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Strange circus.

Security Experts Join Jill Stein’s ‘Election Changing’ Recount Campaign (G.)

More election security experts have joined Jill Stein’s campaign to review the presidential vote in battleground states won by Donald Trump even as she sues Wisconsin to secure a full recount by hand of all of its 3m ballots. Half a dozen academics and other specialists on Monday submitted new testimony supporting a lawsuit from Stein against Wisconsin authorities, in which she asked a court to prevent county officials from carrying out their recounts by machine. Stein argued that Wisconsin’s plan to allow automatic recounting “risks tainting the recount process” because the electronic scanning equipment involved may incorrectly tally the results and could have been attacked by foreign hackers.

“There is a substantial possibility that recounting the ballots by hand will produce a more correct result and change the outcome of the election,” Stein argued in the lawsuit in Dane County circuit court. A copy was obtained by the Guardian. Stein, the Green party’s presidential election candidate, is working to secure full recounts in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Trump surprised pollsters by narrowly beating Clinton on his way to a national victory in the electoral college. A petition from Stein requesting a recount was accepted by Wisconsin last Friday.

Her efforts to obtain a recount in Pennsylvania met serious difficulties on Monday as it became clear she needed three voters in each of the state’s 9,163 voting precincts to request a recount on her behalf, and that deadlines to do so had passed in many precincts. Wisconsin also told Stein on Monday that the recount, which was previously estimated to cost $1m, would actually cost her $3.5m and that the funds must be produced by the end of Tuesday. Stein has raised more than $6m for the three-state recount effort using online crowdfunding.

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One of these years….

France and Britain In Danger of Winter Power Shortages (BBG)

France and the U.K. are the two nations in Europe most at risk of power shortages this winter, particularly if there is a cold snap in early December or January. With availability of Electricite de France’s French nuclear fleet at the lowest level in a decade, the nation will need to rely on imports during several weeks and adding a cold spell to that could make the situation “tense,” according to European grid group Entsoe’s Winter Outlook report. Britain may face a power deficit in early January if temperatures fall below average, it said in the report. The Entsoe analysis indicated that even under severe conditions, demand can be met and reserves maintained across nearly all of Europe, thanks to surpluses in most regions and available interconnector capacity.

The U.K. potentially needs high imports from all neighboring countries in the week from Jan. 9. A combination of low wind and cold temperatures means there might be a deficit. Delays to restarts of several French reactors undergoing safety checks at the request of regulator ASN will mean “significantly” decreased margins in the first three weeks of December. French electricity demand is highly sensitive to cold weather and a drop of 1ºC below normal can add 2,400 megawatts, according to Entsoe. Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, the French grid operator, earlier this month warned of an increasing risk of power shortages in Europe’s second-biggest market. It has several options to reduce demand if needed, including the last-resort possibility of rolling blackouts. The U.K. has a reserve of power stations it can activate and National Grid has described this winter as “tight but manageable.”

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The EU has so far sent 35 of 500 promised ‘staffers’ for asylum proceedings. Slow it down and they don’t have to resettle refugees. Convenient.

Pressure Grows As Athens Eyes Faster Asylum Process (Kath.)

The municipal council on the Aegean island of Chios has voted against a government proposal to create a new reception center for migrants and refugees on the site of a former landfill with the aim of easing congestion at the existing Souda facility. Adding to the strain, heavy rainfall Monday flooded the Souda camp, forcing local authorities to transfer some 800 migrants and refugees into public buildings. On Lesvos, migrants and refugees marched in the island capital of Mytilene in protest at conditions at Moria camp, while demanding that they be allowed to leave the island. Meanwhile, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas visited Germany to discuss ways of accelerating Greece’s asylum procedures within the framework of EU rules on refugee protection. According to official data, an additional 268 individuals arrived on Greece’s islands over the weekend.

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Obviously.

West Antarctic Ice Shelf Breaking Up From The Inside Out (AGU)

A key glacier in Antarctica is breaking apart from the inside out, suggesting that the ocean is weakening ice on the edges of the continent. The Pine Island Glacier, part of the ice shelf that bounds the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is one of two glaciers that researchers believe are most likely to undergo rapid retreat, bringing more ice from the interior of the ice sheet to the ocean, where its melting would flood coastlines around the world. A nearly 225-square-mile iceberg broke off from the glacier in 2015, but it wasn’t until researchers were testing some new image-processing software that they noticed something strange in satellite images taken before the event. In the images, they saw evidence that a rift formed at the very base of the ice shelf nearly 20 miles inland in 2013.

The rift propagated upward over two years, until it broke through the ice surface and set the iceberg adrift over 12 days in late July and early August 2015. Their findings were published today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “It’s generally accepted that it’s no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt, it’s a question of when,” said Ian Howat, associate professor of Earth sciences at Ohio State and lead author of the new study. “This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes.”

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No return.

Scientists Record Biggest Ever Coral Die-Off On Great Barrier Reef (R.)

Warm seas around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have killed two-thirds of a 700-km (435 miles) stretch of coral in the past nine months, the worst die-off ever recorded on the World Heritage site, scientists who surveyed the reef said on Tuesday. Their finding of the die-off in the reef’s north is a major blow for tourism at reef which, according to a 2013 Deloitte Access Economics report, attracts about A$5.2 billion ($3.9 billion) in spending each year. “The coral is essentially cooked,” professor Andrew Baird, a researcher at James Cook University who was part of the reef surveys, told Reuters by telephone from Townsville in Australia’s tropical north. He said the die-off was “almost certainly” the largest ever recorded anywhere because of the size of the Barrier Reef, which at 348,000 sq km (134,400 sq miles) is the biggest coral reef in the world.

Bleaching occurs when the water is too warm, forcing coral to expel living algae and causing it to calcify and turn white. Mildly bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops and the survey found this occurred in southern parts of the reef, where coral mortality was much lower. While bleaching occurs naturally, scientists are concerned that rising sea temperatures caused by global warming magnifies the damage, leaving sensitive underwater ecosystems unable to recover. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee stopped short of placing the Great Barrier Reef on an “in danger” list last May but asked the Australian government for an update on its progress in safeguarding the reef.

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Nov 282016
 
 November 28, 2016  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 28 2016


NPC Hendrick Motor Co., Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, Maryland 1928

US Shoppers Spend 3.5% Less Over Holiday Weekend (R.)
Some Of The Biggest UK Banks May Not Clear New Public Stress Tests (BBG)
China’s Bad Banks Serve Zombies, Not Investors (BBG)
PBOC Deputy Governor Talks Up Yuan Strength (CNBC)
Modi’s Rural Supporters May Not Hang On Much Longer (BBG)
India’s Modi Calls For Move Towards Cashless Society (R.)
Greek Banks Call For Taxing Cash Withdrawals (Kath.)
Trump Faces Dilemma As US Oil Reels From Record Biofuels Targets (R.)
Oil Trades Near $46 Amid Skepticism OPEC to Reach Output Deal (BBG)
Fillon Would Beat Le Pen in Both Rounds of Election – Polls (BBG)
Renzi Faces Pressure To Stay In Office As Italy Referendum Defeat Looms (R.)
Recount: Losers Who Won’t Lose (Mehta)

 

 

There’ll be a deluge of data on this coming out where everyone can find their favorite numbers. Everybody happy!

US Shoppers Spend 3.5% Less Over Holiday Weekend (R.)

Early holiday promotions and a belief that deals will always be available took a toll on consumer spending over the Thanksgiving weekend as shoppers spent an average of 3.5% less than a year ago, the National Retail Federation said on Sunday. The NRF said its survey of 4,330 consumers, conducted on Friday and Saturday by research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics, showed that shoppers spent $289.19 over the four-day weekend through Sunday compared to $299.60 over the same period a year earlier. The survey found that 154 million people made purchases over the four days, up from 151 million a year ago. However, there was a 4.2% rise in consumers who shopped online and a 3.7% drop in shoppers who purchased in a store.

The U.S. holiday shopping season is expanding, and Black Friday is no longer the kickoff for the period it once was, with more retailers starting holiday promotions as early as October and running them until Christmas Eve. NRF Chief Executive Officer Matt Shay said the drop in spending is a direct result of the early promotions and deeper discounts offered throughout the season. “Consumers know they can get good deals throughout the season and these opportunities are not a one-day or one-weekend phenomenon and that has showed up in shopping plans,” he said. Shay said more 23% of consumers this year have not even started shopping for the season, which is up 4% from last year and indicates those sales are yet to come. The NRF stuck to its forecast for retail sales to rise 3.6% this holiday season, on the back of strong jobs and wage growth.

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That graph is full-tard baseless and ridiculous.

Some Of The Biggest UK Banks May Not Clear New Public Stress Tests (BBG)

The Bank of England added a new, higher bar to its third round of public stress tests. Some of the U.K.’s biggest banks will scrape through; others may not clear it. The seven major British lenders tested will probably beat the lowest measures of strength required to pass the annual BOE health check when it is released Wednesday, Autonomous Research aid in a note this month. RBS and Barclays risk a “soft fail” of tougher thresholds set for lenders deemed to be integral to the global banking system, they said. HSBC and Standard Chartered’s results may be rattled by a Chinese recession scenario.

Each bank now must top its individual hurdle rate and a new threshold, called the systemic reference point, that takes into account the potential global repercussions if the lender collapses. Firms that fall short of either measure will have to boost their capital ratios, though the BOE will force them to take “less intensive” action if they only miss the SRP. “With bank investing these days, you need to be more cognizant of the economy, the rate environment and crucially of the regulator,” especially if one bank does much worse than its peers in a stress test, said Barrington Pitt Miller at Janus Capital in Denver.

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It’s what they’re for.

China’s Bad Banks Serve Zombies, Not Investors (BBG)

China’s zombie companies can rest easy. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for investors in the nation’s banks.The big five lenders, starting with Agricultural Bank of China, plan to set up bad banks that will convert soured debt to equity. Agricultural Bank, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of Communications will fork out 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) each to establish the asset-management companies, Caixin magazine reported. That banks are forging ahead with debt-to-equity swap plans, albeit via asset-management firms they happen to own, is great news for all those struggling steel and construction companies facing potential closure.

State Council guidelines issued last month indicate that zombie corporations – those ailing state firms plagued by overcapacity – can’t count on bailouts, but it’s difficult to determine which ones are actually destined for the scrapheap.The nation’s top lenders, also all backed by Beijing, are unlikely to want to be seen as responsible for mass unemployment by refusing to rescue companies, no matter how dire their situation. In fact, those companies may have an even better chance of getting capital infusions, considering financial institutions will probably be keen to use their investment-banking units to help monetize equity assets.On the face of it, bank investors might also feel relieved that lenders are farming out bad debt to distinct vehicles.

Using an asset-management company should ensure that the equity resulting from the bad-debt switch doesn’t sit on a bank’s balance sheet. That will help lenders conserve precious capital: Had the equity been on their books, they would have had to apply a risk weighting of 400%, and get special approval from the State Council. Structuring it this way will also allow banks to maintain their much-coveted dividends. But dig a bit deeper and you realize this isn’t a scenario that will necessarily play out well, and not just because equity stakes, even those held at arm’s length, are inherently riskier than loans.For one, how will these asset-management firms be funded long term?

The answer is probably by the banks themselves.According to the State Council, the debt-to-equity swaps can be financed by “social capital,” a catch-all phrase that generally includes high-yielding wealth-management products. Those investment structures come with an implicit guarantee from the banks that issue them, as lenders have found in the past when they’ve had to rescue funds in trouble. It’s ironic that just as authorities have been trying to rein in shadow banking, the debt-to-equity swap plan provides an added reason to gorge.

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They even push up the yuan a tad to coincide with the publication of the remarks. All under control.

PBOC Deputy Governor Talks Up Yuan Strength (CNBC)

Comparing the yuan’s recent moves against the dollar misses the currency’s underlying strength of the against a more appropriately watched basket, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) Deputy Governor Yi Gang said in remarks released on Chinese state-run media at the weekend. In a question-and-answer format interview with Xinhua news agency that was posted on the central bank’s website, Yi said the yuan remained a strong and stable currency in the global monetary system, while noting concerns about a slide against the dollar after Donald Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 presidential election. The yuan plunged to eight-and-a-half year lows versus the dollar last week.

On Monday, the PBOC set the yuan’s central parity rate against the dollar at 6.9042, stronger than the 6.9168 level set on Friday. “Referencing the yuan against a basket of currencies can better reflect the overall competitiveness of a country’s goods and services,” Yi said. Given that economic structures, cycles and interest rate policies differed in various countries, fixating on a single currency was not suitable and may cause the yen to be “over-managed,” he added. Yi said the yuan’s movements were due to domestic factors in the U.S., as they reflected the rise of the greenback on the back of improvements in the U.S. economy and inflation, alongside expectations of a quickening in the pace of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

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By now it’s time to wonder how massive the protests will be, and where Modi’s reaction will lead.

Modi’s Rural Supporters May Not Hang On Much Longer (BBG)

The most ardent supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise currency withdrawal are those you’d least expect: India’s rural poor, who are suffering the most with the prolonged cash shortages. But the backing of many from India’s villages – based on a belief that Modi’s actions will even out the scale of inequality and reduce corruption – may be short-lived. The jury is still out on the political and economic impact of the decision to target unaccounted cash. And it will be another two months before the government releases inflation, industrial production and growth figures – key areas that may be affected by the prime minister’s shock move on Nov. 8 to ban high-denomination notes, taking out 86% of circulating currency.

Meanwhile, five states, including the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, will go to elections, leaving the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party vulnerable to a voter backlash if one of its major support bases sees no benefit from the demonetization process. To intensify the campaign against the note ban, several opposition parties called for nationwide protests on Monday, saying the process is a political move dressed up as a fight against corruption. It is not clear whether demonetization will eliminate so-called black money, or who will pay the price if it fails, said Arati Jerath, a New Delhi-based author who has written about Indian politics for about four decades. It will take at least another three weeks to gauge the economic and political impact, she said.

Jerath points to the public reaction to Indira Gandhi’s decision to impose a state of emergency in 1975 as an example of how quickly the tide of public opinion can change. Initially people supported the emergency, welcoming improvements in law and order and the punctuality of government officials. Later they turned against Gandhi when they realized its negative effects, particularity arbitrary abuse of power by bureaucrats, she said. If the Modi government fails to address concerns around cash withdrawals and the situation worsens, there could be food shortages, farmers’ distress, layoffs, rising unemployment and a slowdown of the economy. “At the moment people are patient, they are really giving it a chance, waiting and watching,” said Jerath. “If the situation does not improve by the middle of next month, there will be a backlash against demonetization.”

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Yeah. Have them all drive Teslas too, right?

India’s Modi Calls For Move Towards Cashless Society (R.)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged the nation’s small traders and daily wage earners to embrace digital payment channels, as a cash crunch following the government’s surprise ban on high-value bank notes drags on. Modi, speaking in his monthly address on national radio, said the government understands that millions have been affected by the ban on 500-rupee and 1000-rupees notes, but defended the action. The government says the bank-note ban announced on Nov. 8 is aimed at cracking down on corruption, people with unaccounted wealth, and counterfeiting of notes.

“I want to tell my small merchant brothers and sisters, this is the chance for you to enter the digital world,” Modi said speaking in Hindi, urging them to use mobile banking applications and credit-card swipe machines. “It’s correct that a 100% cashless society is not possible. But why don’t we make a beginning for a less-cash society in India?,” Modi said. “We can gradually move from a less-cash society to a cashless society.” More than 90% of consumer purchases in India are transacted in cash, Credit Suisse estimates. While a smartphone boom and falling mobile data prices have led to a surge in digital payments in recent years, the base still remains low. Modi urged technology-savvy young people to spare some time teaching others how to use digital payment platforms.

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Pushing plastic. A new global sport.

Greek Banks Call For Taxing Cash Withdrawals (Kath.)

Banks are proposing that the government take a series of measures to combat tax evasion, which are centered around reducing the use of cash in favor of increasing online transactions. The proposal that stands out concerns the taxing of cash withdrawals. As bank executives say, cash is easily channeled to the so-called shadow economy, so imposing a tax on withdrawals would drastically reduce transactions in cash and therefore the illegal economy as well.

Lenders are also asking for the compulsory use of cards or other online means for all transactions concerning professions where there are strong indications of tax evasion or cash is used as the main means of payment. Credit and debit cards as well as the new technologies that allow for contactless transactions, such as cell phone apps, should be possible to use even for the smallest transactions, from the purchase of a newspaper to buying a bus ticket, banks argue. The illegal economy in Greece is estimated at some €40 billion every year, with state coffers losing out on tax revenues of around €15 billion per annum.

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Pitting real bad policy vs really really bad.

Trump Faces Dilemma As US Oil Reels From Record Biofuels Targets (R.)

The Obama administration signed its final plan for renewable fuel use in the United States last week, leaving an oil industry reeling from the most aggressive biofuel targets yet as President-elect Donald Trump takes over. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush, is one of the country’s most controversial energy policies. It requires energy firms to blend ethanol and biodiesel into gasoline and diesel. The policy was designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports and boost rural economies that provide the crops for biofuels. It has pitted two of Trump’s support bases against each other: Big Oil and Big Corn.

The farming sector has lobbied hard for the maximum biofuel volumes laid out in the law to be blended into gasoline motor fuels, while the oil industry argues that the program creates additional costs. Balancing oil and farm interests is likely to prove a challenge for Trump, who has promised to curtail regulations on the oil industry but is already being reminded by biofuels advocates of the importance of the program to the American Midwest, where he received strong support from voters on Nov. 8. Oil groups are renewing their calls to change or repeal the program following Wednesday’s announcement, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set record mandates for renewable fuels – for the first time hitting levels targeted by Congress nearly a decade ago.

The EPA plan is “completely detached from market realities and confirms once again that Congress must take immediate action to remedy this broken program,” said Chet Thompson, President of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, in a statement. It is unclear what Trump’s plans for the program will be and his transition team did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. Both camps are expecting an administration receptive to their demands, though both have expressed concern and uncertainty over Trump’s plans for the program, according to experts, industry and political sources.

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Pump baby pump.

Oil Trades Near $46 Amid Skepticism OPEC to Reach Output Deal (BBG)

Oil halted declines near $46 amid skepticism over OPEC’s ability to reach an agreement to cut output and as representatives prepare to meet Monday amid last-minute negotiations over the deal the group aims to formalize Wednesday. Futures were little changed in New York after earlier falling as much as 2% and dropping 4% on Friday. Saudi Arabia for the first time on Sunday suggested OPEC doesn’t necessarily need to curb output and pulled out of a scheduled meeting with non-member producers, including Russia. OPEC will hold an internal meeting in Vienna Monday to resolve its differences, and as part of the final push to reach an agreement, oil ministers from Algeria and Venezuela are heading to Moscow to get the group’s biggest rival on board.

OPEC is heading into the final stretch before its November 30 meeting to adopt a deal first floated in September to collectively reduce output. Saudi Arabia, the group’s de facto leader, is seeking to reverse the pump-at-will policy it supported in 2014 and is now pushing members to agree how they will individually shoulder the first production cuts in eight years. Saudi oil minister Khalid Al-Falih said the oil market will recover in 2017 even without cuts. “The market is currently quite pressured by the uncertainties raised from various reports, including Saudi Arabia pulling out of Monday’s talks with non-OPEC nations,” Seo Sang-young at Kiwoom Securities said by phone. “It’s also highly suspicious whether OPEC will keep its promises even if it achieves an accord because the members are constantly raising production.”

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Wanna bet?

Fillon Would Beat Le Pen in Both Rounds of Election – Polls (BBG)

Francois Fillon, the former prime minister who won the French Republican presidential nomination Sunday, would beat National Front leader Marine Le Pen in both rounds of a presidential election, two polls showed. In a scenario where incumbent Francois Hollande is running along with former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, Fillon would win the first round with 32% of the vote against 22% for Le Pen and 8% for Hollande, according to a poll by Odoxa for France 2 television. In the run-off two weeks later, he would defeat Le Pen 71% to 20%. A Harris Interactive poll showed Fillon winning the first round with 26% support compared with 24% for Le Pen and 9% for either Hollande or Manuel Valls as leader of the Socialists. The same survey showed him winning against Le Pen in the second round 67% to 33%.

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“What needs to be considered… is what is good for the country.” Translation: what is good for the incumbent class.

Renzi Faces Pressure To Stay In Office As Italy Referendum Defeat Looms (R.)

When a handful of European leaders met Barack Obama in Berlin this month to say their goodbyes, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi informed the group that he may well lose power before the U.S. president. While Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, Renzi has promised to resign if he does not win a Dec. 4 referendum on constitutional reform, opening the way for renewed political instability in the eurozone’s third largest economy. “I have no desire to hang around if I lose,” Renzi told the gathering, according to a diplomatic source who was at the low-key Nov. 18 meeting. Opinion polls now predict Renzi’s defeat, in what would be the third big anti-establishment revolt by voters this year in a major Western country, following Brexit and the U.S. election of Donald Trump.

Pressure is mounting on Renzi to drop his threat and instead agree to remain in power to deal with the fallout from a ‘No’ vote, including the risk of a fullblown banking crisis. Obama himself said in October that Renzi should “hang around for a while no matter what” and a number of businessmen and senior government officials contacted by Reuters said they feared the worst if the prime minister abandoned his post. “My personal opinion is that Renzi should stay,” Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said in an interview on Friday. “What needs to be considered… is what is good for the country.” The Italian president could appeal to Renzi’s sense of responsibility and ask him to seek a new mandate from parliament. His response might depend on the size of any defeat, with one advisor saying the 41-year-old premier could quit politics altogether if he suffers a huge snub next Sunday.

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Is it really that hard to throw out Soros?

Recount: Losers Who Won’t Lose (Mehta)

President-elect Trump won 306 electoral votes versus Hillary Clinton’s 232 (24% less electoral votes). Similar to 2000, the surrendering party then reversed course and put the nation through a recount, just for the sake of it. What are the odds that such an exercise here would yield successful for Ms. Clinton? Based on statistical randomness of re-assessing voter intent, the chance of Hillary emerging as the victor is far less than 10%. Anything can happen, but these lean odds do not rise to the level of putting our peaceful democracy into the hands of a temptuous recount scheme every time a stung party loses (let alone misleadingly blame it on something else from Russia’s Putin, to sexism, to “in hindsight the popular vote would be reasonable”, to FBI Director Comey).

All Americans should instead focus on how the 6 states that flipped this election, were all economically ignored and all flipped to Donald Trump. The only viable path for a Hillary Clinton victory at this stage is to astoundingly uncover a wide-spread (across three states) fraud. And that’s equally unlikely, since the basis for the voting aberrations occurred in less populated counties and anyway the three states employ three different voting mechanisms, so the fraud would have had to somehow occur through different transmission vehicles (paper voting, and electronic voting) and we would require a speedy judicial resolution for states such as Pennsylvania that sidestepped back-up recordings from their direct voting equipment.

We should note the following statistical facts about the electoral vote in the three recount states:
10 votes, Wisconsin (Trump leads by 0.9 %age points)
20 votes, Pennsylvania (Trump leads by 1.1 %age points)
16 votes, Michigan (Trump leads by 0.2 %age points)

Given that Mr. Trump won by 74 electoral votes, Ms. Clinton would need to flip all three states noted above, in order to liquidate this deficit (i.e., >74/2 = >37 votes). The leads described above however, among 4.4 million voters from these three states, is highly statistically significant on a state-level (and certainly when all three states are combined). It would be remarkably unlikely that we would arbitrarily second-guess every one of these millions of voters’ intents and, convert any (certainly let alone all) of these three states.

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Nov 272016
 
 November 27, 2016  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Unknown Paris 1900

This Is The Greatest Suckers’ Rally Of All Time: David Stockman (CNBC)
More Than Half Of New Yorkers One Paycheck Away From Homelessness (Gothamist)
US Thanksgiving, Black Friday Store Sales Fall 10.4%, Online Rises (R.)
Dollar to Benefit if $2.5 Trillion in Cash Stashed Abroad Is Repatriated (WSJ)
China’s Property Frenzy And Surging Debt Raises Red Flag For Economy (AFP)
India’s Rural Economy Hit Hard As Informal Lending Breaks Down (R.)
UK MPs Launch New Attempt To Interrogate Tony Blair Over Iraq (G.)
First Brexit then Trump. Is Italy Next For The West’s Populist Wave? (G.)
Clinton Camp Splits From White House On Jill Stein Recount Push (G.)
Justin Trudeau Ridiculed Over Praise Of ‘Remarkable’ Fidel Castro (G.)
Military Veterans Seek New Role In South Africa Poaching War (AFP)

 

 

Sell everything!

This Is The Greatest Suckers’ Rally Of All Time: David Stockman (CNBC)

The Trump rally raged on this week with all major U.S. indexes hitting record highs, but despite the historic run, David Stockman is doubling down on his call for investors to sell everything. “This 5% eruption is meaningless. It’s some robo machine trying to tag new highs,” Stockman said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Fast Money,” in a dismissal of the S&P 500 rally. “I see a recession coming down the pike in 2017. The stock market is going to go down and it’s going to stay down long and hard because, for the first time in 25 years, there’s nothing to bail it out.” This echoed the initial call Stockman made Nov. 3, when he urged investors to sell stocks and bonds before the presidential election. However, since the Nov. 8 election, the Dow Jones industrial average has gained 4% en route to surpassing 19,000.

Additionally, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also hit record highs in the same time period, gaining 3% and 4%, respectively. Yet Stockman, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, reaffirmed that markets are heading for disaster. “My call stands. Sell the stocks, sell the bonds, get out of the casino,” Stockman explained to CNBC in an off-camera interview. “Bonds have already cratered by nearly $2 trillion worldwide and have miles to go. This isn’t a rotation into stocks, either. It’s the greatest sucker’s rally ever.” Stockman, author of “Trumped: A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back,” lamented that there will be no Trump stimulus or Reagan-style boom.

He further added that he expects “an unprecedented fiscal bloodbath” resulting from the $20 trillion worth of debt that the U.S. currently has on the books. “This isn’t Ronald Reagan with a clean $1 trillion balance sheet and with a fluke GOP and a Southern Democratic coalition that only materialized because he got shot,” Stockman said in reference to John Hinkley Jr. attempting to assassinate Reagan in Washington, D.C., in 1981. “Nor is it LBJ in 1965 with a thundering electoral mandate and a massive congressional majority for the Great Society.” On the contrary, Stockman, who initially predicted that Trump would win the election, added that Washington will be in chaos by June. This is because he anticipates ongoing disruptions from the tea party, which Stockman doesn’t foresee as allowing additional deficit increases.

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“..landlords are increasingly claiming “chronic rent delinquency” after just a single late payment..”

More Than Half Of New Yorkers One Paycheck Away From Homelessness (Gothamist)

More than half of all New Yorkers don’t have enough money saved to cover them in the event of a lost job, medical emergency, or other disaster, according to a new report by the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development. Nearly 60% of New Yorkers lack the emergency savings necessary to cover at least three months’ worth of household expenses including food, housing, and rent, but that statistic isn’t spread evenly across the five boroughs. The Bronx has the highest rate of families without adequate emergency savings: in Mott Haven, Melrose, Hunts Point, Longwood, Highbridge, South Concourse, University Heights, Fordham, Belmont, and East Tremont, 75% of families have inadequate emergency savings.

The Staten Island neighborhoods of Tottenville and Great Kills have the lowest rate, with just 41% of families lacking the funds necessary to cover three months’ worth of expenses. Without these savings, families who face emergencies could be at risk of eviction, foreclosure, damaged credit, and even homelessness. In Brooklyn, families in Brownsville (70%), Bed-Stuy (67%), Bushwick (68%), East New York (67%), and South Crown Heights/Prospect Heights (67%) are the most at-risk—in Manhattan, an average of 67% of families in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood lack necessary savings. In Queens, the neighborhoods with the highest%age of these households were Elmhurst/Corona (64%), Rockaway/Broad Channel (60%), Sunnyside/Woodside (59%), and Jackson Heights (59%).

As DNAinfo notes, advocates say that rental assistance is crucial in preventing homelessness citywide, especially in neighborhoods where rents rise faster than incomes—many of which overlap with the neighborhoods where families lack adequate savings. And although an increase in rental assistance services like the one proposed by Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi could cost the cost $450 million in state and federal funding, it would be more cost-effective than allowing more families to enter the chronically underfunded shelter system. Many tenants don’t know where to get emergency rental assistance, which can prevent them from falling behind on their rent. And landlords are increasingly claiming “chronic rent delinquency” after just a single late payment, which allows them to begin eviction proceedings earlier on than they would otherwise.

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“Net sales on Black Friday slid 10.4% for brick-and-mortar chains..”

US Thanksgiving, Black Friday Store Sales Fall 10.4%, Online Rises (R.)

Sales and traffic at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday declined from last year, as stores offered discounts well beyond the weekend and more customers shopped online. Internet sales rose in the double digits on both days, surpassing $3 billion for the first time on Black Friday, according to data released on Saturday. Data from analytics firm RetailNext showed net sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell 5.0% over the two days, while the number of transactions fell 7.9%. Preliminary data from retail research firm ShopperTrak showed that shopper visits to such stores fell a combined 1% during Thanksgiving and Black Friday when compared with the same days in 2015.

The data highlights the waning importance of Black Friday, which until a few years ago kicked off the holiday shopping season, as more retailers start discounting earlier in the month and opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day. “We knew it (holiday season) was going to be off to a slow start,” Shelley Kohan, vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext, said. “The first couple of weeks with the election were a complete distracter from the normal course of business and…a warmer climate in November may have made the sales more stubborn,” she said, adding that she saw sales picking up in December.

Net sales on Black Friday slid 10.4% for brick-and-mortar chains, according to RetailNext. “Stores that opened on Thursday were not very busy on Black Friday,… and while the Thanksgiving Day opt-outs were busier on Black Friday, they didn’t see the crowds they saw in previous years,” NPD group’s Chief Industry analyst Marshal Cohen said. Still, total holiday season sales are expected to jump 3.6% to $655.8 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation, due to a tightening job market.

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Only if buybacks are banned.

Dollar to Benefit if $2.5 Trillion in Cash Stashed Abroad Is Repatriated (WSJ)

Part of $2.5 trillion in profits held overseas by companies such as Apple and Microsoft could be heading back to the U.S., a move analysts say could further fuel the U.S. dollar’s powerful rally. U.S. corporations have been holding billions in earnings and cash abroad to avoid paying a 35% tax that would be levied whenever the money is brought home. President-elect Donald Trump has said he would propose a one-time cut of the repatriation tax to 10% to lure money back to the U.S. that can be spent on hiring, business development and funding Mr. Trump’s fiscal stimulus proposals. Market optimism that the stimulus plan can generate U.S. economic growth and push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates has buoyed the dollar against a basket of major trading partners toward 14-year-highs since the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Now, some say the prospect of companies repatriating perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars could offer more impetus to the U.S. currency’s rally. “However small, however big this flow of money will be, it will be positive for the case of dollar strength,” said Daragh Maher at HSBC. “There will most likely be an inflow into dollars.” When a company repatriates earnings from abroad, it may have to exchange the local currency for the U.S. dollar. The $2.5 trillion hoard of overseas earnings is highly concentrated in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors, according to Capital Economics. Microsoft held about $108 billion in earnings overseas as of 2015, while pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had $80 billion. General Electric had $104 billion overseas, according to Capital Economics. Analysts note that many companies already hold their overseas earnings in U.S. dollar assets, which would mute the demand for dollars.

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Famous last words: “The notion that Chinese people do not like to borrow is clearly outdated..”

China’s Property Frenzy And Surging Debt Raises Red Flag For Economy (AFP)

Chinese household debt has risen at an “alarming” pace as property values have soared, analysts have said, raising the risk that a real estate downturn could wreak havoc on the world’s second largest economy. Loose credit and changing habits have rapidly transformed the country’s famously loan-averse consumers into enthusiastic borrowers. Rocketing real estate prices in major Chinese cities in recent years have seen families’ wealth surge. But at the same time they have fuelled a historic boom in mortgage lending, as buyers race to get on the property ladder, or invest to profit from the phenomenon. Now the debt owed by households in the world’s second largest economy has surged from 28% of GDP to more than 40% in the past five years.

“The notion that Chinese people do not like to borrow is clearly outdated,” said Chen Long of Gavekal Dragonomics. The share of household loans to overall lending hit 67.5% in the third quarter of 2016, more than twice the share of the year before. But this surge has raised fears that a sharp drop in property prices would cause many new loans to go bad, causing a domino effect on interest rates, exchange rates and commodity prices that “could turn out to be a global macro event”, ANZ analysts said in a note. While China’s household debt ratio is still lower than advanced countries such as the US (nearly 80% of GDP) and Japan (more than 60%), it has already exceeded that of emerging markets Brazil and India, and if it keeps growing at its current pace will hit 70% of GDP in a few years.

It still has some way to go before it outstrips Australia, however, which has the world’s most indebted households at 125% of GDP. The ruling Communist party has set a target of 6.5-7% economic growth for 2017, and the country is on track to hit it thanks partly to a property frenzy in major cities and a flood of easy credit. But keeping loans flowing at such a pace creates such “substantial risks” that it could be a “self-defeating strategy”, Chen said. China’s total debt – including housing, financial and government sector debt – hit 168.48 trillion yuan ($25 trillion) at the end of last year, equivalent to 249% of national GDP, according to estimates by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top government think tank.

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“..the informal sector accounts for [..] 80% of employment..”

India’s Rural Economy Hit Hard As Informal Lending Breaks Down (R.)

Life was good for Mitharam Patil, a wealthy money lender from a small village in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Small-time financiers like Patil would typically lend cash to farmers and traders every day, providing a vital source of funding for a rural economy largely shut out of the banking sector, albeit at interest rates of about 24%. All that came crashing down on Nov. 8, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned 500 and 1,000 rupee ($7.30-$14.60) banknotes, which accounted for 86% of currency in circulation. The action was intended to target wealthy tax evaders and end India’s “shadow economy”, but it has also exposed the dependency of poor farmers and small businesses on informal credit systems in a country where half the population has no access to formal banking.

Patil was stuck with 700,000 rupees ($10,144) of worthless cash. He can also only withdraw up to 24,000 rupees from his account every week, barely enough for his own personal needs given he also works as a farmer. That is bad news for farmers and traders who had come to depend on Patil, despite his high interest rates, given that bank branches are located far from the village, while the process to obtain loans is long and cumbersome. It may also hurt India’s economy, as the informal sector accounts for 20% of GDP and 80% of employment. The country is due to report July-September GDP on Wednesday. “Sowing of winter crops has been started and farmers badly need money. But I couldn’t lend (to) them due to restrictions on withdrawal,” Patil said.

Some farmers and small businesses say India’s informal credit system has ground to a virtual halt, despite government measures to steer more funds to them, including 230 billion rupees in crop loans. Not only are money lenders struggling to lend, they are also struggling to get paid. Saumya Roy, CEO of Vandana Foundation, a micro finance firm, said it has encountered difficulties in collecting payments from borrowers, which will have a knock-on effect on how much they can lend to others. “We can’t go on lending and suffer losses,” she said. “How can we force people to pay back when they don’t have money to buy food. How will they pay us?”

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That should be fun.

UK MPs Launch New Attempt To Interrogate Tony Blair Over Iraq (G.)

A cross-party group of MPs will make a fresh effort to hold Tony Blair to account for allegedly misleading parliament and the public over the Iraq war. The move, which could see Blair stripped of membership of the privy council, comes as the former prime minister tries to re-enter the political fray, promising to champion the “politically homeless” who are alienated from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the Brexit-promoting government of Theresa May. The group, which includes MPs from six parties, will put down a Commons motion on Monday calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate the difference between what Blair said publicly to the Chilcot inquiry into the war and privately, including assurances to then US president George W Bush.

Backing the motion are Alex Salmond, the SNP MP and former first minister of Scotland; Hywel Williams, Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru; and Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas. Senior Tory and Labour MPs are also backing the move, which reflects widespread frustration that the publication of the Chilcot report in July, after a seven-year inquiry, did not result in any government action or accountability for Blair. Salmond said some MPs believe that senior civil servants were “preoccupied with preventing previous and future prime ministers being held accountable”. He said: “An example should be set, not just of improving government but holding people to account.”

He pointed to last week’s Observer story revealing that, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, the inquiry was designed by senior civil servants to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk that individuals and the government could face legal proceedings. Salmond also noted that documents show many officials involved in planning the inquiry, including current cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, were involved in the events that led to war. The new motion will be debated on Wednesday in Commons time allotted to the SNP.

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What Renzi’s Dec. 4 constitutional referendum tries to achieve: “They’re sealing the system off so it can’t be changed in the future.”

First Brexit then Trump. Is Italy Next For The West’s Populist Wave? (G.)

On a bitterly cold evening, MPs and senators representing the Five Star Movement (M5S), launched by Beppe Grillo, the comedian-turned-political rabble rouser, implored a packed piazza to use a referendum on the constitution on Sunday 4 December to send the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, packing. Renzi, the telegenic, youthful leader of the centre-left Democratic party (PD), has placed his authority behind proposals to limit the powers of the senate, Italy’s second chamber. His plan involves cutting the number of senators from 315 to 100, all of whom would be appointed – rather than elected, as at present – and restricting their power to influence legislation.

Since 1948 the Italian constitution has preserved a perfect balance of powers between the two houses of parliament, frequently leading to legislative gridlock in Rome. Renzi claims that slimming down the role of the senate will, along with other reforms to strengthen executive power, finally free governments to govern. Crucially, he has indicated he will step down if the vote goes against him. In other eras, a dry and technical debate might have preoccupied a few constitutional cognoscenti. But these are not ordinary times in western democracies. In Ferrara’s Piazza Trento e Trieste, Alessandro Di Battista, a rising star of Grillo’s movement, issued a populist call to arms. Renzi’s referendum, he told the crowd, was just the latest gambit by a political class determined to insulate itself from the people it should serve.

“This unelected senate will be constituted by the arselickers of the various parties”, said Di Battista, “and by those who are in trouble with the courts and need parliamentary immunity. They’re sealing the system off so it can’t be changed in the future.” Such a devious manoeuvre should, he said, come as no surprise: “There are two Italys: on the one side the very wealthy few who look after themselves, and on the other the masses who live every day with problems of transport and public health.” As his audience launched into a favourite Five Star chant, “A casa! A casa!” (“Send them home”), Di Battista referenced the political earthquake that was in everyone’s mind. “The election of Donald Trump is the American people’s business,” he said. “But what that election does show is that so many citizens are simply not taking the establishment’s bait any more.”

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Did Stein really raise more money for this than for her entire 2016 campaign?

Clinton Camp Splits From White House On Jill Stein Recount Push (G.)

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign said on Saturday it would help with efforts to secure recounts in several states, even as the White House defended the declared results as “the will of the American people”. The campaign’s general counsel, Marc Elias, said in an online post that while it had found no evidence of sabotage, the campaign felt “an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton”. “We certainly understand the heartbreak felt by so many who worked so hard to elect Hillary Clinton,” Elias wrote, “and it is a fundamental principle of our democracy to ensure that every vote is properly counted.”

In response, President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement: “The people have spoken and the election is over, and as Hillary Clinton herself said on election night, in addition to her conceding by congratulating me, ‘We must accept this result and then look to the future.’” Wisconsin began recount proceedings late on Friday after receiving a petition from Jill Stein, the Green party candidate. Stein claims there are irregularities in results reported by Wisconsin as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania, where she plans to request recounts next week, having raised millions of dollars from supporters. Trump called Stein’s effort a “scam” and said it was “just a way … to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount”. “The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused,” he added, “which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing.”

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I bet you there’s hardly a single American -or European- who knows Cuba has been one of Canada’s most popular holiday destinations for many years.

Justin Trudeau Ridiculed Over Praise Of ‘Remarkable’ Fidel Castro (G.)

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, has been mocked and criticised over his praise of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Following the death of Castro, Trudeau, whose father had a close relationship with the revolutionary, released a statement mourning the loss of a “remarkable leader”. Castro, who died on Friday aged 90, won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor but also created legions of enemies for his ruthless suppression of dissent. Trudeau’s comments were markedly more positive than most western leaders, who either condemned Castro’s human rights record or tip-toed around the subject. Instead, Trudeau warmly recalled his late father’s friendship with Castro and his own meeting with Castro’s three sons and brother – Raul, Cuba’s current president – during a visit to the island nation earlier this month.

“While a controversial figure, both Mr Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’,” Trudeau said in the statement. He called Castro “larger than life” and “a legendary revolutionary and orator”. Fidel Castro was an honorary pall bearer at the 2000 funeral of Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. In 1976, the senior Trudeau became the first Nato leader to visit Cuba under Castro’s rule, at one point exhorting “Viva Castro!”. “I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away,” Trudeau said.

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Better be careful with private armies getting involved.

Military Veterans Seek New Role In South Africa Poaching War (AFP)

In another life, Lynn was a sniper in Afghanistan, Damien trained paramilitary forces in Iraq, and John worked undercover infiltrating drug cartels in central America. Now all three are back in action, this time fighting what they describe as a “war” against poachers in southern Africa as the killing of rhinos escalates into a crisis that threatens the survival of the species. In 2008, less than 100 rhinos were poached in South Africa, but in recent years numbers have rocketed with nearly 1,200 killed in 2015 alone. Faced with such slaughter, conservationists and government authorities have been desperately searching for ways to protect the animals.

Many ideas have been tried, including drones, tracking dogs, satellite imagery, DNA analysis, hidden cameras and even cutting horns off live animals before poachers can get to them. But the killing has continued, and now military veterans from the United States, Australia and elsewhere have been drafted to bring their expertise to the uphill battle to save the rhinos. “You have animals who are targeted by people using automatic weapons,” Damien Mander, a former Australian Navy special forces officer, told AFP. “You can not go to the communities and ask them nicely to stop. This is a war. We are fighting a war out there.”

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Nov 262016
 
 November 26, 2016  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Fidel Castro and Che Guevara ca. 1957

Cuban Revolutionary Fidel Castro Dies At 90 (AFP)
Wisconsin Agrees To Statewide Recount In Presidential Race (R.)
Bid To Challenge Brexit Gathers Pace Among Pro-Remain Politicians (G.)
Houses Have Never Been More Expensive To Buyers Who Need A Mortgage (Hanson)
Black Friday: The Death of Department Stores (WS)
US Payday Lenders Seek Emergency Court Help Against Regulators (R.)
When Money Dies (Bhandari)
Here’s What Happened When Ancient Romans Tried To ‘Drain The Swamp’ (Black)
Innovation Is Overvalued. Maintenance Matters More (Aeon)
Australia Eases Limits On Foreign Buyers As Apartment Glut Looms (AFR)
Australia Ceases Multimillion-Dollar Donations To Clinton Foundation (News)
Australia Joins Norway, Cuts Clinton Foundation Donations To $0 (ZH)
New Zealand Media Merger Risks Growth Of ‘Glib, Click-Bait’ Coverage (G.)
Greek Debt Relief Plan Said to Entail $35 Billion Bank Bond Swap (BBG)

 

 

How many people remember it was the US that drove Castro into Russian arms? He visited the US shortly after becoming president. Eisenhower refused to talk. Everything after that is propaganda and fake news.

Cuban Revolutionary Fidel Castro Dies At 90 (AFP)

Guerrilla revolutionary and communist idol, Fidel Castro was a holdout against history who turned tiny Cuba into a thorn in the paw of the mighty capitalist United States. The former Cuban president, who died aged 90 on Friday, said he would never retire from politics. But emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 drove him to hand power to Raul Castro, who ended his brother’s antagonistic approach to Washington, shocking the world in December 2014 in announcing a rapprochement with US President Barack Obama. Famed for his rumpled olive fatigues, straggly beard and the cigars he reluctantly gave up for health reasons, Fidel Castro kept a tight clamp on dissent at home while defining himself abroad with his defiance of Washington.

In the end, he essentially won the political staring game, even if the Cuban people do continue to live in poverty and the once-touted revolution he led has lost its shine. As he renewed diplomatic ties, Obama acknowledged that decades of US sanctions had failed to bring down the regime – a drive designed to introduce democracy and foster western-style economic reforms – and it was time to try another way to help the Cuban people. A great survivor and a firebrand, if windy orator, Castro dodged all his enemies could throw at him in nearly half a century in power, including assassination plots, a US-backed invasion bid, and tough US economic sanctions.

Born August 13, 1926 to a prosperous Spanish immigrant landowner and a Cuban mother who was the family housekeeper, young Castro was a quick study and a baseball fanatic who dreamed of a golden future playing in the US big leagues. But his young man’s dreams evolved not in sports but politics. He went on to form the guerrilla opposition to the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in a 1952 coup. That involvement netted the young Fidel Castro two years in jail, and he subsequently went into exile to sow the seeds of a revolt, launched in earnest on December 2, 1956 when he and his band of followers landed in southeastern Cuba on the ship Granma. Twenty-five months later, against great odds, they ousted Batista and Castro was named prime minister.

Once in undisputed power, Castro, a Jesuit-schooled lawyer, aligned himself with the Soviet Union. And the Cold War Eastern Bloc bankrolled his tropi-communism until the Soviet bloc’s own collapse in 1989. Fidel Castro held onto power as 11 US presidents took office and each after the other sought to pressure his regime over the decades following his 1959 revolution, which closed a long era of Washington’s dominance over Cuba dating to the 1898 Spanish-American War.

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How much of the $5 million so far was furnished by Soros?

Wisconsin Agrees To Statewide Recount In Presidential Race (R.)

Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to conduct a statewide recount of votes cast in the presidential race, as requested by a Green Party candidate seeking similar reviews in two other states where Donald Trump scored narrow wins. The recount process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in Wisconsin, is expected to begin late next week after Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said. The state faces a Dec. 13 federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission. The recount fee has yet to be determined, the agency said in a statement on its website.

Stein said in a Facebook message on Friday that the sum was expected to run to about $1.1 million. She said she has raised at least $5 million from donors since launching her drive on Wednesday for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – three battleground states where Republican Trump edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by relatively thin margins. Stein has said her goal is to raise $7 million to cover all fees and legal costs. Her effort may have given a ray of hope to dispirited Clinton supporters, but the chance of overturning the overall result of the Nov. 8 election is considered very slim, even if all three states go along with the recount. The Green Party candidate, who garnered little more than 1 percent of the nationwide popular vote herself, said on Friday that she was seeking to verify the integrity of the U.S. voting system, not to undo Trump’s victory.

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In the same way that life imitates art, UK and US imitate each other.

Bid To Challenge Brexit Gathers Pace Among Pro-Remain Politicians (G.)

A series of informal but concerted efforts by pro-remain politicians to reshape or even derail the Brexit process is under way and gaining momentum, according to people involved. MPs from across the parties had discussed how to push the government into revealing its Brexit plans and to ensure continued single market access, sources said, as a series of senior political figures made public interventions suggesting the result of the EU referendum could be reversed. Tony Blair and John Major both suggested this week that the public should be allowed to vote on or even veto any deal for leaving the EU. However, those connected to efforts by serving pro-remain MPs say the former prime ministers’ views had little support in the Commons.

More significant, they argued, were strategy discussions involving MPs from all parties “caught between their own views and those expressed at the ballot box” in the referendum. “It’s a long process of gradually bringing people round to our way of thinking, on all sides,” said someone who works closely with pro-remain figures. “A lot of people are a bit unsure what to do – they’re caught between their own views and those expressed at the ballot box, often by their own constituents. “There’s a growing realisation that this is a long game. There’s actually very little information out there, and very little substance to get into. It’s hard to coalesce people around particular policy positions when the government has no policy to speak of. That’s quite a challenge.”

Major told a private dinner that there was a “perfectly credible case” for holding a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal. He said the views of the 48% of people who voted to remain should be taken into account and warned against the “tyranny of the majority”. Blair, in particular, is known to be sounding out opinion on Brexit as part of his re-emergence into political life. The former Labour prime minister’s office said he had discussed the issue with the former chancellor George Osborne, among “many people”.

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Be careful out there.

Houses Have Never Been More Expensive To Buyers Who Need A Mortgage (Hanson)

Houses have NEVER BEEN MORE EXPENSIVE to end-user, mortgage-needing shelter buyers. The recent rate surge crushed what little affordability remained in US housing. It now it requires 45% more income to buy the average-priced house than just four years ago, as incomes have not kept pace it goes without saying. The spike in rates has taken “UNAFFORDABILITY” to such extremes that prices, rates, and/or credit are now radically out of scope. At these interest rate levels house prices are simply not sustainable even in the lower-end price bands, which were far more stable than the middle-to-higher end bands (have been under significant pressure since spring). [..] The Data (note, for simplicity my models assume best-case 20% down and A-grade credit, which is the “minority” of lower-to-middle end buyers).

1) The average $361k builder house requires nearly $65k in income assuming a 4.5% rate, 20% down, and A-grade credit. Problem is, 20% + A-credit are hard to come by. For buyers with less down or worse credit, far more than $65k is needed. For the past 30-YEARS income required to buy the average priced house has remained relatively consistent, as mortgage rate credit manipulation made houses cheaper. Bottom line: Reversion to the mean will occur through house price declines, credit easing, a mortgage rate plunge to the high 2%’s, or a combination of all three. However, because rates are still historically low and mortgage guidelines historically easy, the path of least resistance is lower house prices.

2) The average $274k builder house requires nearly $53k in income assuming a 4.5% rate, 20% down, and A-grade credit. Problem is, 20% + A-credit are hard to come by. For buyers with less down or worse credit, far more than $53k is needed. For the past 30-YEARS income required to buy the average priced house has remained relatively consistent, as mortgage rate credit manipulation made houses cheaper. Bottom line: Reversion to the mean will occur through house price declines, credit easing, a mortgage rate plunge to the high 2%s, or a combination of all three. However, because rates are still historically low and mortgage guidelines historically easy, the path of least resistance is lower house prices.

3) Bonus Chart … Case-Shiller Coast-to-Coast Bubbles Bottom line: IT’S NEVER DIFFERENT THIS TIME. Easy/cheap/deep credit & liquidity has found its way to real estate yet again. Bubbles are bubbles are bubbles. And as these core housing markets hit a wall they will take the rest of the nation with them; bubbles and busts don’t happen in “isolation.”

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What does this mean for the future of human interaction?

Black Friday: The Death of Department Stores (WS)

There are still four weeks left to pull out the year. And hopes persists that this year will be decent. But online sales are hot, according to Adobe Digital Index, cited by Reuters. Online shoppers blew $1.15 billion on Thanksgiving Day, between midnight and 5 pm ET, according to Adobe Digital Index, up nearly 14% from a year ago. Sales by ecommerce retailers have been sizzling for years, growing consistently between 14% and 16% year-over-year and eating with voracious appetite the stale lunch of brick-and-mortar stores, particularly department stores. The lunch-eating process began in 2001. The chart below shows monthly department store sales, seasonally adjusted, since 1992. Note the surge in sales in the 1990s, driven by population growth, an improving economy, and inflation (retail sales are mercifully not adjusted for inflation). But sales began to flatten out in 1999. The spike in January 2001 (on a seasonally adjusted basis!) marked the end of the great American department store boom.

Even as the US fell into a recession in March 2001, ecommerce took off. But department store sales began their long decline, from nearly $20 billion in January 2001 to just $12.7 billion in October 2016, despite 14% population growth and 36% inflation! The decline of department stores is finding no respite during the holiday season. Not-seasonally-adjusted data spikes in October, November, and December. But these spikes have been shrinking, from their peak in December 2000 of $34.3 billion to $23.4 billion in December 2015, a 32% plunge, despite, once again, 14% population growth and 36% inflation!

In other words: the brick-and-mortar operations of department stores are becoming irrelevant. Ecommerce sales include all kinds of merchandise, not just the merchandise available in department stores. So it’s a broader measure. They have skyrocketed from $4.5 billion in Q4 1999 ($1.5 billion a month on average) to $101 billion in Q3 2016 ($33.7 billion a month on average).

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From the “It’s Just Not Fair!” department.

US Payday Lenders Seek Emergency Court Help Against Regulators (R.)

Payday lenders asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for emergency relief to stop what they called a coordinated effort by U.S. regulators to stop banks from doing business with them, threatening their survival. In Wednesday night filings, the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) and payday lender Advance America, Cash Advance Centers Inc said a preliminary injunction was needed to end the “back-room campaign” of coercion by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Advance America said its own situation became dire after five banks decided in the last month to cut ties, including a 14-year relationship with U.S. Bancorp, putting it “on the verge” of being unable even to hold a bank account.

Payday lenders make small short-term loans that can help tide over cash-strapped borrowers. But critics say fees can drive effective interest rates well into three digits, and trap borrowers into an endless debt cycle in which they use new payday loans to repay older loans. The CFSA said other payday lenders are also losing banking relationships as a result of “Operation Choke Point,” a 2013 Department of Justice initiative meant to block access to payment systems by companies deemed at greater risk of fraud. “Protecting consumers from credit fraud is, of course, a commendable goal,” Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the CFSA, wrote. “But the manner in which the defendant agencies have chosen to pursue that ostensible goal betrays that their true intent has always been to eradicate a disfavored industry.”

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I don’t know to what extent Modi is the psychopath he’s made out to be here, but I do like the decentralization described (fits in with my end of centralization themes). “What a crazy idea it is to have a State monopoly on money..” [..] “In a tribalistic and irrational society, decentralization makes life much safer and makes the market more free, as complex decisions will be taken on the local level, where they belong”

When Money Dies (Bhandari)

Most people — particularly the salaried middle class – still seem to have a favorable opinion of Mr. Modi. They have been indoctrinated – in India’s extremely irrational and superstitious society – to believe that this demonetization will somehow alleviate corruption and that anything but support of Modi’s actions is anti-national and unpatriotic. This gives me pause to reflect. What a crazy idea it is to have a State monopoly on money, particularly a money that carries no inherent value and depends on regulatory edicts. On a deeper level, it makes me reflect on why for the culture of India – which is tribalistic, nativistic, superstitious and irrational – “India” is actually an unnatural entity. Such a society should consist of hundreds of tribes and countries, which is what “India” was before the British consolidated it.

In a tribalistic and irrational society, decentralization makes life much safer and makes the market more free, as complex decisions will be taken on the local level, where they belong . India’s institutions – not just organizations, but larger socio-political beliefs – have begun to decay and crumble after the British left, losing their underlying essence, the reason for which they had been institutionalized in the first place. This degradation is now picking up pace. They must eventually fall apart – including the nation-state of India – to adjust to the underlying culture. Let us consider some of these institutions. Western education implanted in India has mutated. It is making individuals cogs in a big machine, all for the service of one great leader. Public education and the mass-media have become instruments of propaganda.

Complexity and the diversity of options that technology brings make an irrational thinker extremely confused, forcing him to seek sanity in ritualistic religion —hence the increase in religiosity in India and elsewhere in the region. This has happened despite the explosion in information technology. The concept of the nation-state, when it took hold in Europe, was about the values the emergent rational and enlightened societies of Europe shared and had collectively come to believe in, at least among their elites. In India, the idea of the nation-state has morphed into a valueless thread, which binds people together through nothing but a flag and an anthem, symbols completely devoid of any values. It has collectivized tribalistic and irrational people (an irrationality that is amply epitomized by the negative force Islam has become in the last two decades).

In India and many similarly constituted countries, institutions that are not natural to their culture – the nation state, education, monetary system, etc. must eventually face entropy, slowly at first, and then rapidly. India has now entered the rapid phase. The death of money – amid a lack of respect for property rights (which again are a purely European concept that emerged from the intellectual revolutions of the last 800 years) – has been sudden and will very likely be catastrophic. It is a man-made disaster of gargantuan proportions. It will fundamentally change India in a very negative way, particularly if the demonetization effort succeeds, as it will have created the foundations enabling the rapid emergence of a police state.

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Yeah, expecting peaceful transitions is perhaps a bit much.

Here’s What Happened When Ancient Romans Tried To ‘Drain The Swamp’ (Black)

In late January of the year 98 AD, after decades of turmoil, instability, inflation, and war, Romans welcomed a prominent solider named Trajan as their new Emperor. Prior to Trajan, Romans had suffered immeasurably, from the madness of Nero to the ruthless autocracy of Domitian, to the chaos of 68-69 AD when, in the span of twelve months, Rome saw four separate emperors. Trajan was welcome relief and was generally considered by his contemporaries to be among the finest emperors in Roman history. Trajan’s successors included Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, both of whom were also were also reputed as highly effective rulers.

But that was pretty much the end of Rome’s good luck. The Roman Empire’s enlightened rulers may have been able to make some positive changes and delay the inevitable, but they could not prevent it. Rome still had far too many systemic problems. The cost of administering such a vast empire was simply too great. There were so many different layers of governments—imperial, provincial, local—and the upkeep was debilitating. Rome had also installed costly infrastructure and created expensive social welfare programs like the alimenta, which provided free grain to the poor. Not to mention, endless wars had taken their toll on public finances. Romans were no longer fighting conventional enemies like Carthage, and its famed General Hannibal bringing elephants across the Alps.

Instead, Rome’s greatest threat had become the Germanic barbarian tribes, peoples viewed as violent and uncivilized who would stop at nothing to destroy Roman way of life. Corruption and destructive bureaucracy were increasingly rampant. And the worse imperial finances became, the more the government tried to “fix” everything by passing debilitating regulation and debasing the currency. In his seminal work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon wrote: “The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.”

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Progress as a blind faith. “Critics wondered if Nixon was wise to point to modern appliances such as blenders and dishwashers as the emblems of American superiority.”

Innovation Is Overvalued. Maintenance Matters More (Aeon)

Innovation is a dominant ideology of our era, embraced in America by Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the Washington DC political elite. As the pursuit of innovation has inspired technologists and capitalists, it has also provoked critics who suspect that the peddlers of innovation radically overvalue innovation. What happens after innovation, they argue, is more important. Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations. The fates of nations on opposing sides of the Iron Curtain illustrate good reasons that led to the rise of innovation as a buzzword and organising concept.

Over the course of the 20th century, open societies that celebrated diversity, novelty, and progress performed better than closed societies that defended uniformity and order. In the late 1960s in the face of the Vietnam War, environmental degradation, the Kennedy and King assassinations, and other social and technological disappointments, it grew more difficult for many to have faith in moral and social progress. To take the place of progress, ‘innovation’, a smaller, and morally neutral, concept arose. Innovation provided a way to celebrate the accomplishments of a high-tech age without expecting too much from them in the way of moral and social improvement.

Before the dreams of the New Left had been dashed by massacres at My Lai and Altamont, economists had already turned to technology to explain the economic growth and high standards of living in capitalist democracies. Beginning in the late 1950s, the prominent economists Robert Solow and Kenneth Arrow found that traditional explanations – changes in education and capital, for example – could not account for significant portions of growth. They hypothesised that technological change was the hidden X factor. Their finding fit hand-in-glove with all of the technical marvels that had come out of the Second World War, the Cold War, the post-Sputnik craze for science and technology, and the post-war vision of a material abundance.

Robert Gordon’s important new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, offers the most comprehensive history of this golden age in the US economy. As Gordon explains, between 1870 and 1940, the United States experienced an unprecedented – and probably unrepeatable – period of economic growth. That century saw a host of new technologies and new industries produced, including the electrical, chemical, telephone, automobile, radio, television, petroleum, gas and electronics. Demand for a wealth of new home equipment and kitchen appliances, that typically made life easier and more bearable, drove the growth. After the Second World War, Americans treated new consumer technologies as proxies for societal progress – most famously, in the ‘Kitchen Debate’ of 1959 between the US vice-president Richard Nixon and the Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev. Critics wondered if Nixon was wise to point to modern appliances such as blenders and dishwashers as the emblems of American superiority.

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Just wow. No lessons learned from Vancouver, keep digging while in that hole.

Australia Eases Limits On Foreign Buyers As Apartment Glut Looms (AFR)

The federal government has announced it will make it easier for foreigners to buy new apartments amid concerns of a looming glut that will drive down prices. Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government will make changes to the foreign investment framework to allow foreign buyers to buy an off-the-plan dwelling that another foreign buyer has failed to settle as a new dwelling. Previously, on-sale of a purchased off the plan apartment was regarded as a second hand sale, which is not open to foreign buyers. Foreign buyers can only buy new dwellings. The move effectively opens up the pool of buyers who can soak a potential flood of apartments hitting the residential markets due to failed settlements.

“This change addresses industry concerns, and means property developers won’t be left in the lurch when a foreign buyer pulls out of an off-the-plan purchase,” Mr Morrison said in an announcement. “It is common sense that an apartment or house that has just been built, or is still under construction and for which the title has never changed hands, is not considered an established dwelling.” The policy change comes after Mirvac said it experienced a rise in the default rate for the settlement of off-the-plan residential sales, above its historic average of 1%. The changes will apply immediately and regulation change will be made soon to enable developers to acquire “New Dwelling Exemption Certificates” for foreign buyers of these recycled off-the-plan homes.

On top of defaults, the Australian apartment markets – which boomed in the last four years – are facing other fresh risks. On Friday, HSBC said an oversupply of apartments in Melbourne and Brisbane could send unit prices down by as much as 6% in 2017. The apartment building boom, an ongoing concern for the Reserve Bank of Australia, especially in inner city Melbourne is likely to “start showing through” in price drops of between 2% and 6% in that city next year, HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said in a note. It’s a similar story in Brisbane where apartment prices are forecast to fall by as much as 4%. “A national apartment building boom, which has been part of the rebalancing act, is likely to deliver some oversupply in the Melbourne and Brisbane apartment markets, which is expected to see apartment price falls in these markets,” Mr Bloxham said.

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No play no pay.

Australia Ceases Multimillion-Dollar Donations To Clinton Foundation (News)

The Clinton Foundation has a rocky past. It was described as “a slush fund”, is still at the centre of an FBI investigation and was revealed to have spent more than $50 million on travel. Despite that, the official website for the charity shows contributions from both AUSAID and the Commonwealth of Australia, each worth between $10 million and $25 million. News.com.au approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment about how much was donated and why the Clinton Foundation was chosen as a recipient. A DFAT spokeswoman said all funding is used “solely for agreed development projects” and Clinton charities have “a proven track record” in helping developing countries. Australia jumping ship is part of a post-US election trend away from the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate’s fundraising ventures.

Norway, one of the Clinton Foundation’s most prolific donors, is reducing its contribution from $20 million annually to almost a quarter of that, Observer reported. One reason for the drop-off could be increased scrutiny on international donors. The International Business Times reported in 2015 on curious links between donors and State Department approval. IBT wrote that the State Department approved massive commercial arms sales for countries which had donated to the Clinton charity. More than $165 billion worth of arms sales were approved by the State Department to 20 nations whose governments gave money to the Clinton Foundation, data shows. The countries buying weapons from the US were the same countries previously condemned for human rights abuses. They included Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

But what does Australia gain from topping up the Clinton coffers? The Australian reported in February that Australia was “the single biggest foreign government source of funds for the Clinton Foundation” but questions remain unanswered about the agreement between the two parties. “It’s not clear why Canberra had to go through an American foundation to deliver aid to Asian countries (including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam). There is now every chance the payments will become embroiled in presidential politics.” The Daily Telegraph wrote in October that “Lo and behold, (Julia Gillard) became chairman (of the Clinton-affiliated Global Partnership for Education) in 2014”, one year after being defeated in a leadership ballot by Kevin Rudd.

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“After contributing $88mm to the Clinton Foundation over the past 10 years, making them one of the Foundation’s largest contributors, Australia has decided to pull all future donations.

But why would they stop funding now that Hillary has so much more free time to focus on her charity work?

Australia Joins Norway, Cuts Clinton Foundation Donations To $0 (ZH)

For months we’ve been told that the Clinton Foundation, and it’s various subsidiaries, were simple, innocent “charitable” organizations, despite the mountain of WikiLeaks evidence suggesting rampant pay-to-play scandals surrounding a uranium deal with Russia and earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, among others. Well, if that is, in fact, true perhaps the Clintons could explain why wealthy foreign governments, like Australia and Norway, are suddenly slashing their contributions just as Hillary’s schedule has been freed up to focus exclusively on her charity work. Surely, these foreign governments weren’t just contributing to the Clinton Foundation in hopes of currying favor with the future President of the United States, were they? Can’t be, only an useless, “alt-right,” Putin-progranda-pushing, fake news source could possibly draw such a conclusion.

Alas, no matter the cause, according to news.com.au, the fact is that after contributing $88mm to the Clinton Foundation, and its various affiliates, over the past 10 years the country of Australia has decided to cease future donations to the foundation just weeks after Hillary’s stunning loss on November 4th. And just like that, 2 out of the 3 largest foreign contributors to the Clinton Foundation are gone with Saudia Arabia being the last remaining $10-$25mm donor that hasn’t explicitly cut ties or massively scaled by contributions. [..]
News.com.au confirmed Australia’s decision to cut future donations to the Clinton Foundation earlier today. When asked why donations were being cut off now, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official simply said that the Clinton Foundation has “a proven track record” in helping developing countries. While that sounds nice, doesn’t it seem counterintuitive that these countries would pull their funding just as Hillary has been freed up to spend 100% of her time helping people in developing countries?

“Australia has finally ceased pouring millions of dollars into accounts linked to Hillary Clinton’s charities. Which begs the question: Why were we donating to them in the first place? The federal government confirmed to news.com.au it has not renewed any of its partnerships with the scandal-plagued Clinton Foundation, effectively ending 10 years of taxpayer-funded contributions worth more than $88 million. News.com.au approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment about how much was donated and why the Clinton Foundation was chosen as a recipient. A DFAT spokeswoman said all funding is used “solely for agreed development projects” and Clinton charities have “a proven track record” in helping developing countries.”

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Fake News Inc.

New Zealand Media Merger Risks Growth Of ‘Glib, Click-Bait’ Coverage (G.)

A group of distinguished former newspaper editors has launched a scathing attack on plans for New Zealand’s largest print media companies to merge, calling it a threat to democracy which could see a concentration of power exceeded “only in China”. The merger of NZME and Fairfax Media, which was proposed in May, would not be healthy in a country that “already suffers from a dearth of serious content and analysis”, the editors say in a submission to the commerce commission. The group, which includes Suzanne Chetwin, former Dominion chief Richard Long and ex-New Zealand Herald editor Gavin Ellis, also criticise the trend towards “click-bait stories” at a time when television has “all but abandoned current affairs and our public discourse is increasingly glib”.

“The merger would see one organisation controlling nearly 90% of the country’s print media market (and associated websites), the greatest level of concentration in the OECD and one that is exceeded only by China. “That cannot be healthy, particularly in a society like New Zealand’s that has so few checks and balances in its constitutional arrangements.” The submission went on to state the greatest threat to New Zealand media came from off-shore publishers who had “no feel for New Zealand’s social fabric”, and urged the commerce commission to decline the merger. The merger was sold as an attempt by both companies to stem revenue losses and drastic staff and budget cuts, particularly to rural and regional newsrooms.

Dunedin’s The Otago Daily Times would be the only newspaper in the country to remain independent, although it too could be affected as they have content sharing agreements with NZME’s The New Zealand Herald. Radio stations and magazines owned by both companies would also be affected.

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That’s not debt relief, it’s Schauble-friendly creative accounting.

Greek Debt Relief Plan Said to Entail $35 Billion Bank Bond Swap (BBG)

Greece’s battered banks are being asked to swap about 33 billion ($35 billion) euros in floating-rate bonds for 30-year, fixed-rate securities under a euro-area plan to shield Athens from future interest rate increases, three people with knowledge of the matter said. The swap is part of a package of debt-relief proposals for Greece to be presented at a Dec. 5 meeting of euro-area finance ministers, according to the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The notes were issued by the European Financial Stability Facility, the region’s crisis-fighting fund, to re-capitalize Greek lenders in 2013.

While the current EFSF holdings of Greek banks fall due between 2034 and 2046, the fixed-rate notes will expire in 2047, the people said. That will reduce Greece’s interest rate risk, but it may come at a cost for its four systemically important lenders, which could be left with securities that are more difficult to trade. The technical aspects of the operation are still being hashed out. “There are discussions going on as to proposals which will improve the sustainability of the Greek debt,” Piraeus Bank Chairman George Handjinicolaou said in an interview Thursday. “Part of this proposal is a change in the EFSF bonds for something else, some form of fixed-rate debt, which would improve the predictability of the sustainability of the Greek debt profile.”

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Nov 242016
 
 November 24, 2016  Posted by at 9:49 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Kennedy and Johnson Morning of Nov 22 1963

Another Election Year, Another Bunch Of Fake Growth Numbers (John Rubino)
China Vows To Defend Trade Rights In Face Of Trump Tariff Threats (R.)
IMF: Chinese Banks Disguise A Massive Amount Of Bad Debt (BI)
The ‘Ownership Society’ Came And Went – A Long Time Ago (MW)
How (Slightly) Higher Mortgage Rates Maul Housing Bubble 2 (WS)
‘Brexit Will Blow £59 Billion Hole In UK Public Finances’ (G.)
Pro-Brexit Lawmakers Attack Fiscal Watchdog’s Gloomy Outlook (BBG)
Capital Flight From Italy (Reinhart)
Jill Stein Raises Over $2 Million To Request US Election Recounts (G.)
Bernie Sanders Should Visit Trump Sooner Rather Than Later (NYDN)
Merkel Warns Against Fake News Driving Populist Gains (AFP)
Putin: EU Resolution Equating RT to ISIS A ‘Degradation Of Democracy’ (R.)
US Navy’s New $4 Billion Stealth Warship Breaks Down – Again (ZH)
Greece Wants To Conclude EU/IMF Review, Won’t Accept ‘Irrational’ Demands (R.)
Greek Businesses Move Abroad To Escape Austerity (R.)

 

 

“So why the approximately $1.8 trillion surge in government borrowing? Because a robustly-healthy economy was necessary to help the party in power stay in power.”

Another Election Year, Another Bunch Of Fake Growth Numbers (John Rubino)

Some pretty good economic reports have energized various parts of the financial markets lately. Consumer spending is up, GDP is exceeding expectations and even factory orders, that perennial downer, popped this morning. In response the dollar is soaring and interest rates are at breaking out of their multi-decade down-channel. The economy is clearly recovering, implying a return to normality. Right? Nah, it’s just the usual election year illusion. When the presidency is at stake the party in power always pumps up spending in an attempt to put people back to work and create the impression of a well-run country whose leaders deserve more time in the spotlight. After the election, spending returns to trend and the resulting bad news gets buried in “political honeymoon” media coverage.

How do we know this year is following the script? By looking at the federal debt. If the government is borrowing more than usual and (presumably) spending the proceeds, then it’s likely that the economy is getting a bit more than its typical diet of stimulus. So here you go: Note that after seven years of massive increases, the federal debt plateaued in 2015, which is what you’d expect in the late stages of a recovery. With full employment approaching and asset prices high, there should be plenty of tax revenues flowing in and relatively few people on public assistance, so the budget should be trending towards balance. Well, more people are working this year than last, and stock, bond and home prices all rose in the first half of the year. So why the approximately $1.8 trillion surge in government borrowing? Because a robustly-healthy economy was necessary to help the party in power stay in power.

This is a huge jump in government debt, even by recent standards. And its impact is commensurately large, accounting for a big part of the “growth” seen in recent months. But it’s also unsustainable. You don’t double a government’s debt in a single decade (from an already historically high level) and then keep on borrowing. At some point an extreme event or policy choice will put an end to the orgy. Either the markets impose discipline through a crisis of some sort, or the government adopts a policy of currency devaluation or debt forgiveness. And – in a nice ironic twist – the people who did the insanely-excessive borrowing are leaving town, to be replaced by folks who will inherit something unprecedented, with (apparently) no clear idea of what’s coming or what will be necessary in response.

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Protectionism and globalism in one.

China Vows To Defend Trade Rights In Face Of Trump Tariff Threats (R.)

China will defend its rights under WTO tariff rules if US president-elect Donald Trump moves toward executing his campaign threats to levy punitive duties on goods made in China, a senior trade official has said. Zhang Xiangchen, China’s deputy international trade representative, also told a news conference in Washington on Wednesday that a broad consensus of academics, business people and government officials have concluded that China is not manipulating its yuan currency to gain an unfair trade advantage, as Trump has charged. “I think after Mr Trump takes office, he will be reminded that the United States should honour its obligations as a member of the WTO,” Zhang said through an interpreter. “And as a member of the WTO, China also has the right to ensure its rights as a WTO member.”

Trump has said China is “killing us” on trade and that he would take steps to reduce the large US goods trade deficit with China, including labelling Beijing as a currency manipulator soon after he takes office and levying duties of up to 45% on Chinese goods to level the playing field for US manufacturers. Trump said on Monday he will formally exit the 12-country TPP trade deal in January. China is not a signatory to the TPP. Zhang, who spoke at the closing news conference for a two-day technical meeting of US and Chinese trade officials in Washington, was not specific on what steps China would take to protect its rights under WTO rules. The global trading body prohibits members from unilaterally raising tariffs above levels that they have committed to maintain.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper last week warned that a 45% Trump tariff would paralyse US-China bilateral trade. “China will take a tit-for-tat approach then. A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and [Apple] iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted,” the newspaper warned.

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Shadow securities. US redux.

IMF: Chinese Banks Disguise A Massive Amount Of Bad Debt (BI)

China’s banks are disguising bad debts by turning them into “securitized packages” rather than writing them down as non-performing loans, according to the IMF. The “untradeable debt” comes from China’s “shadow credit” world, which has generated a massive amount of credit that has the potential to become suddenly illiquid. The debts consist of interbank loans in “a structure potentially susceptible to rapid risk transmission and destabilizing liquidity events,” the IMF says. The amount of “shadow credit” grew 48% in 2015, to RMB 40 trillion ($580 billion), the IMF says, “equivalent to 40% of banks’ corporate loans and 58% of GDP.” If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s similar in principal to the way American banks disguised bad mortgages inside securitized packages before the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008.

Back then, US mortgage providers gave out too many loans to people who couldn’t repay them. On its own, that should not have been a problem. A mortgage default only hurts the bank that made the loan. But banks bundled together packages of those mortgages and sold them as “mortgage-backed securities” to other institutions. Bad mortgages were mixed in with good ones, making it impossible for investors to judge their quality. When it became obvious that some of these packages were toxic, no one wanted to buy any them. The market became suddenly illiquid. And the credit derivative hedges and leveraged bets layered upon them magnified the problem throughout the entire banking system, creating the financial collapse that plunged most of the world into recession.

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It was always just a fabricated dream.

The ‘Ownership Society’ Came And Went – A Long Time Ago (MW)

Of all the aftereffects of the housing bust and financial crisis, the steady decline in the homeownership rate might be among the most pernicious. Homeownership is traditionally one of the best means into the middle class, and it’s still popularly equated with the American Dream. But in a presentation last week, St. Louis Federal Reserve economist William Emmons demonstrated that homeownership has been losing ground for decades. What’s more, Emmons showed that higher ownership rates were likely coaxed along by government policies and national priorities appropriate for a certain moment in history and unsustainable beyond that. After the Depression, Emmons noted, New Deal policies “laid the foundation” for a huge increase in homeownership.

Those policies included the creation of a government financial system, such as the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. But just as important was the return of millions of service members from World War II, rising incomes and a prosperous economy, a national push for a country full of suburban single-family homes and highways to connect them all, as well as a national process of Americans “sorting themselves out” by race and class into the broad geographic outlines that would persist for decades. That meant the U.S. enjoyed robust growth – until it didn’t. Not only was there little room left to grow, but other changes began to influence ownership, Emmons said. Americans began to age, pushing off marriage, childbearing and home-buying until later.

The U.S. is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Hispanics and African-Americans have traditionally had more limited opportunities to achieve homeownership – but as Emmons pointed out, citing research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, “aspirations to own a home are higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites and Asians, despite homeownership rates that are 20 to 30 percentage points lower.” And while much of the impact of the 2008 crash has ebbed, it still continues to impact many people through diminished personal wealth, damaged credit scores, blighted neighborhoods, and some loss of trust in financial institutions.

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How ‘little things’ add up.

How (Slightly) Higher Mortgage Rates Maul Housing Bubble 2 (WS)

After the brutal beating following Election Day, US Treasuries took a breather early this week. But today, the beating resumed and will continue until the mood improves. Mid-day, the 10-year Treasury fell so hard that its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of price, spiked to 2.42%. By the end of the day, the 10-year yield was at 2.36%, up 4 basis points for the day, and up an entire percentage point from July this year: The market is 100% certain that the Fed will stop flip-flopping in mid-December and raise rates by moving the upper limit of the Fed funds target range to 0.75%. The markets see more rate hikes next year. A Fed funds rate with the first “1”-handle since 2008 would be a phenomenon a whole generation of Wall Street gurus has never seen in their professional lives.

Mortgage rates are chasing after Treasury rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported today that the 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgage ($417,000 or less) reached 4.16%, its “highest weekly average since the beginning of 2016.” This caused a flurry of activity. Last week, amid the post-election interest rate spike, mortgage applications plunged. But homebuyers may be trying to lock in whatever rate they can get, before they go even higher, and mortgage applications surged. Ironically, from a historical point of view, nothing major has happened so far. That spike is still small compared to what came before, including the spike during the Taper Tantrum in the summer of 2013, when the Fed started musing about ending QE Infinity. Compared to prior years, rates are still very, very low, but home prices have since soared, and for home buyers even a minor uptick makes a world of difference.

From the peak of Housing Bubble 1, which in San Francisco occurred in 2007, to Q3 2016, the median house price soared 45%. But due to plunging mortgage rates, the monthly housing costs increased only 14%. Now with rates rising, that process is going to reverse. The household income needed to qualify for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with 20% down on that median $1.3 million house in San Francisco was $251,000 before Election Day. Paragon observes: “By Friday, November 18, the income requirement increased by $13,000. And if the interest rate goes up to 5% (and again, we are not saying it will), an additional $35,000 in annual income would be required.”

Hence, at 5%, a minimum qualifying household income of $286,000 a year. In this scenario, even in less costly markets, there are two things that happen: One, many people have to step down to a lower-priced home, or they don’t buy at all. A market-wide shift of this type puts downward pressure on prices and volume. And two, as people stretch more to buy homes at higher interest rates and higher monthly costs, they have even less money to spend on other things. This creates a new drag on consumer spending. It’s how low mortgage rates not only subsidized the house price bubble but the entire economy by giving consumers more money to spend – not just the US economy but exporter nations around the world.

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Or will it?

‘Brexit Will Blow £59 Billion Hole In UK Public Finances’ (G.)

Philip Hammond conceded that Brexit will blow a £59bn black hole in the public finances over the next five years, as he outlined plans to boost investment in infrastructure and housing to equip the UK economy for life outside the EU. In his first fiscal statement, the chancellor, who had supported remain, sought to strike a cautiously upbeat tone about the country’s prospects, saying the economy had “confounded commentators at home and abroad with its strength and its resilience” since the referendum result last June. But the first official projections conducted after the vote of the likely impact of leaving the EU pointed to significantly weaker growth after Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) announced that there would be a cumulative £122bn of extra borrowing over the next five years, with £59bn of that as a direct result of Brexit.

Other factors included weaker-than-expected tax revenues, and policy changes, including Hammond’s decision to spend more on infrastructure. George Osborne was expecting to achieve a surplus of £11bn on the public finances by 2020-21; instead, the OBR is now forecasting a £21bn deficit – and public debt is expected to peak at more than 90% of GDP. With little cash to spare, Hammond offered only modest handouts to the “just about managing” families (Jams) Theresa May’s government had said it wanted to help, although he repeatedly used the mantra of “building an economy that works for everyone”. The chancellor announced a renewed freeze in fuel duty, to help motorists – largely paid for with an increase in insurance premium tax from 10% to 12% – and a partial reversal of planned cuts to universal credit.

But Labour said there was no cash for either the NHS or social care, which are under increasing strain with winter approaching. Instead, the main thrust of Hammond’s first set-piece outing at the dispatch box was how to help Britain withstand the challenges of leaving the EU.

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Agree to disagree.

Pro-Brexit Lawmakers Attack Fiscal Watchdog’s Gloomy Outlook (BBG)

Conservative lawmakers attacked Britain’s fiscal watchdog after it warned that Brexit would cost £60 billion ($75 billion) in extra borrowing as the economy falters. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast — the first official assessment of the costs related to leaving the bloc – also stated that exiting the EU would leave Britain with less potential for sustainable growth. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who presented the forecasts alongside his Autumn Statement Wednesday, said the predictions showed there is an “urgent” need for Britain to tackle its long-term economic weaknesses. “We’ve had an endless slew of gloom and doom, and I just don’t buy it,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, a Tory lawmaker who backed the campaign to leave the EU. “They haven’t exactly had a brilliant track record. I’d take their predictions with a pinch of salt.”

Pro-Brexit lawmakers have been critical of both the OBR and the Treasury for overstating the negative consequences of Brexit. While Hammond made brief references to the opportunities that leaving may bring, his tone was one of caution, with few giveaways and a focus on creating a more productive economy that could weather future shocks. Responding to complaints from pro-Brexit politicians, Hammond told lawmakers that economic forecasting “is not a precise science.” He added: “The OBR very specifically says in its report that there is an unusually high degree of uncertainty in the forecasts it is making because of the unusual circumstances.”

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It’s high time for Italy to go its own separate ways. There’s nothing to gain from the EU anymore, but lots to lose.

Capital Flight From Italy (Reinhart)

Understandably, after the surprise victory in June of the “Leave” campaign in the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum, and of Donald Trump in the United States’ presidential election, no one has much faith in polls in advance of the Italian vote. There is, however, a disquieting real-time poll of investors’ sentiment: capital flight from Italy has accelerated this year. There is a recent precedent for this. In the summer of 2015, Greece’s short-lived default on its IMF loan and the introduction of capital controls and deposit-withdrawal restrictions were at the center of the eurozone drama. Tensions between the Greek and German governments ran high, and speculation about whether Greece would remain in the eurozone escalated.

The stage has now shifted to the much larger Italian economy. In the current environment of uncertainty, yield spreads on Italian bonds have widened to about 200 basis points over German bunds. Economic and political conditions in the two debt-laden southern European economies differ in important respects; but there are also similarities. Economic growth in both countries has lagged far behind other advanced economies for more than a decade, but most markedly since the Global Financial crisis of 2008-2009. According to IMF estimates, real per capita income in Italy is about 12% below what it was in 2007, with only Greece faring worse. The problem of bank insolvency, endemic in Greece, where nonperforming loans account for more than one-third of bank assets, is not as generalized in Italy.

Still, the uncertain resolution of Italy’s third-largest bank, Monte dei Paschi, together with the Italian government’s limited resources to deal with weak banks, has fueled unease among depositors. Bankers also warn that the plan for Monte dei Paschi’s rescue may be jeopardized by the December referendum, which could trigger another round of decline in share prices. But, for all the talk of a looming banking crisis, the balance-of-payments crisis already underway in Italy since the first half of 2016 is the main factor driving the real-time poll of investors. Prior to the adoption of the euro, an unsustainable balance-of-payments position in Italy (as in other countries with their own currencies) would typically spur the central bank to raise interest rates, thereby making domestic financial assets more attractive to investors and stemming capital flight. With the ECB setting monetary policy for the eurozone as a whole, this is no longer an option for Banca d’Italia.

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Nostalgia for hanging chads.

Jill Stein Raises Over $2 Million To Request US Election Recounts (G.)

Jill Stein, the Green party’s presidential candidate, is prepared to request recounts of the election result in several key battleground states, her campaign said on Wednesday. Stein launched an online fundraising page seeking donations toward a a multimillion-dollar fund she said was needed to request reviews of the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Before midnight EST on Wednesday, the drive had already raised more than the $2m necessary to file for a recount in Wisconsin, where the deadline to challenge is on Friday. Stein said she was acting due to “compelling evidence of voting anomalies” and that data analysis had indicated “significant discrepancies in vote totals” that were released by state authorities.

“These concerns need to be investigated before the 2016 presidential election is certified,” she said in a statement. “We deserve elections we can trust.” The fundraising page said it expected to need around $6m-7m to challenge the results in all three states. Stein’s move came amid growing calls for recounts or audits of the election results by groups of academics and activists concerned that foreign hackers may have interfered with election systems. The concerned groups have been urging Hillary Clinton, the defeated Democratic nominee, to join their cause.

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As I said yesterday in “Trump Moves as America Stands Still”.

Bernie Sanders Should Visit Trump Sooner Rather Than Later (NYDN)

Trump aside, evidently the most clairvoyant messenger of 2016 was Sanders, who got pitifully little support from the Democratic Party establishment — including a raw deal from the DNC, which tilted the scales against him in order to coronate Hillary. His brand of anti-Wall Street, anti-elite populism is ascendant. He is the tribune of the progressive youth, many of whom refused to back Hillary despite her repeated (and hollow) entreaties. So what should Sanders do now? Well, how about meeting with the new President-elect? It might seem incongruous. What would the nationalist, brash Trump have to gain from the aging socialist Sanders? Well, maybe quite a bit. Trump explicitly proclaimed during the campaign that he was going to take a page from Bernie’s playbook, much to the consternation of conservative pundits.

“I’m going to be taking a lot of the things Bernie said and using them,” Trump declared in April. And indeed, Trump followed through on the pledge: He made opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership a centerpiece of his campaign, thus emphasizing an area of agreement with Sanders. (Trump has since confirmed that the trade deal will be canceled.) He called for a reduced U.S. military presence abroad. And he even repeatedly defended Sanders before millions of people at the televised debates, pointing out that he’d been screwed over by the DNC and Clinton minions. Naturally, Trump and Sanders will never agree on everything, but where they do see eye-to-eye, why not take advantage?

Two days after the election, Sanders issued a statement noting Trump’s success at connecting with folks “sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media.” Sanders then offered to “work with” him on discrete initiatives. Trump has already announced that an infrastructure funding bill is one of his top priorities, so who better than Sanders to help steer the legislative process in the most fruitful possible direction? (Bernie this week characterized Trump’s plan as a “scam,” so why not register those concerns in person?)

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Sounds desperate.

Merkel Warns Against Fake News Driving Populist Gains (AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday against the power of fake news on social media to spur the rise of populists, after launching her campaign for a fourth term. Speaking in parliament for the first time since her announcement Sunday that she would seek re-election next year, Merkel cautioned that public opinion was being “manipulated” on the internet. “Something has changed – as globalisation has marched on, (political) debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” she said. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls – things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them.”

Merkel, 62, said the challenge for democrats was to “reach and inspire people – we must confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.” She said she supported initiatives by her right-left coalition government to crack down on “hate speech” on social media in the face of what she said were “concerns about the stability of our familiar order”. “Populism and political extremes are growing in Western democracies,” she warned. Last week, Google and Facebook moved to cut off ad revenue to bogus news sites after a US election campaign in which the global misinformation industry may have influenced the outcome of the vote. But media watchers say more is needed to stamp out a powerful phenomenon seen by some experts as a threat to democracy itself.

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats are the odds-on favourites to win the German national election, expected in September or October 2017.

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Well, we already knew the EU has gone crazy.

Putin: EU Resolution Equating RT to ISIS A ‘Degradation Of Democracy’ (R.)

The European Parliament called on the EU and its states to do more to counter Russian “disinformation and propaganda warfare” on Wednesday, drawing an angry response from President Vladimir Putin. A motion endorsing a committee report, which also called for more effort against attempts by Islamic State to radicalize Europeans, passed by 304 votes to 179. Members on the far left and far right were opposed; many in the center-left abstained. “The European Parliament … expresses its strong criticism of Russian efforts to disrupt the EU integration process and deplores, in this respect, Russian backing of anti-EU forces in the EU with regard, in particular, to extreme-right parties, populist forces and movements that deny the basic values of liberal democracies,” the 59-point motion read.

With East-West relations in deep freeze since Moscow responded to an EU pact with Ukraine by annexing Crimea in 2014, the Parliament’s report accused the Kremlin of funding media outlets that spread falsehoods and of sponsoring eurosceptic movements in Western Europe which are growing in strength. Putin said that after lecturing Russia on democracy Europe was now trying to silence dissenting opinions. He told reporters in Moscow: “We are observing a certain, quite obvious, degradation … of how democracy is understood in Western society, in this particular case in the European Parliament.” In Strasbourg, center-left lawmakers said they could not endorse the report because Russia was not alone in posing such threats and they objected to the way it appeared to be given an equivalent status to the non-state militants of Islamic State.

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Not a bug but a feature. Given the multibillion ‘trouble’ with the JSF, what do you think the odds are the military-industrial complex makes broken equipemnt on purpose, for profit?

US Navy’s New $4 Billion Stealth Warship Breaks Down – Again (ZH)

For the second time in two months, The Navy’s new $4 billion stealth warship has broken down. As Military.com reports, the ripped-from-the-pages-of-a-sci-fi mag-looking USS Zumwalt is now in Panama for repairs after suffering a breakdown while passing through the Panama Canal on Monday evening. Military.com’s Hope Hodge Seck reports that a spokesman for U.S. 3rd Fleet, Cmdr. Ryan Perry, told Military.com that the commander of 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, had instructed the USS Zumwalt, the first in a new class of stealthy destroyers, to remain at ex-Naval Station Rodman in Panama to address the engineering casualty. “The timeline for repairs is being determined now, in direct coordination with Naval Sea Systems and Naval Surface Forces,” he said in a statement.

“The schedule for the ship will remain flexible to enable testing and evaluation in order to ensure the ship’s safe transit to her new homeport in San Diego.” An official confirmed to Military.com that the ship had been transiting south through the canal en route to its new San Diego homeport when the incident occurred. The ship had to be towed to pier by the Panama Canal Authority, the official said. While details about what caused the breakdown were few, Navy Times – which first reported the incident – cited reports about problems with heat exchangers in the ship’s integrated power plant that had contributed to the mishap. [..]The ship also made headlines earlier this month when multiple outlets reported that the missiles fired from its 155mm Advanced Gun System, at $800,000 apiece, were too expensive for the Navy to buy in large quantities [..]

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But they’ve accepted tons of others already?!

Greece Wants To Conclude EU/IMF Review, Won’t Accept ‘Irrational’ Demands (R.)

Greece wants to conclude its bailout review but cannot accept what it sees as irrational demands on labor reform or for extra austerity, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, in his first speech to lawmakers after a cabinet reshuffle. Negotiations between Greece and its official creditors – the EU and the IMF – hit a snag this week due to differences on fiscal targets, energy and labor reforms in the country, where one in four is unemployed. “The Greek government is fully consistent with what was agreed and has proven it has the political will to conclude the second bailout review without meaningless delays,” Tsipras told his Syriza party lawmakers. “But this does not mean we would discuss irrational demands.”

The mission chiefs overseeing Greece’s bailout program implementation left Athens on Tuesday. Government officials said talks would continue but the latest disagreements and a long-standing rift among the creditors on medium-term fiscal targets have clouded Greek hopes for a swift conclusion. Unpopular labor reforms, including collective bargaining, a mechanism to set the minimum wage and giving companies more freedom to lay off workers are the main sticking point in talks with lenders. Tsipras said differences could be bridged if there is political will on all sides, adding that an agreement could be reached by Dec. 5, when euro zone finance ministers will meet in Brussels.

“It is realistic but also absolutely necessary to conclude the talks soon to secure at the scheduled Dec. 5 … meeting the agreement needed on a political level in order to conclude the bailout review,” he said. Tsipras said this would pave the way for talks on debt relief measures, not only in the short term but also in the medium and long term, which would allow Greece to lower primary surplus targets beyond 2018, when its bailout program ends.

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The Troika forces Greece to strangle itself.

Greek Businesses Move Abroad To Escape Austerity (R.)

Greek businessman Prokopis Makris believes moving to Bulgaria three years ago was the best decision he ever made. The accountant shut his failing furniture company in Greece and opened a business helping other entrepreneurs move to Bulgaria to escape a 29% tax rate, which has jumped since Athens adopted austerity as part of an international bailout. “We are bombarded with taxes in Greece, businesses are being annihilated,” he says in his plush office overlooking the town square of Petritsi, a Bulgarian town about 12 km (seven miles) north of the border with Greece. The debt crises faced by Greece and several other European countries led to drastic spending cuts and tax increases to improve government finances.

But the higher taxes punished businesses forcing many to shut or move to lower tax jurisdictions such as Bulgaria or Cyprus, helping those economies but undermining the recovery needed to balance the books at home. The number of Greek owned businesses based in Bulgaria, where the corporate tax rate is only 10%, has risen to 17,000 from 2,000 in 2010, when Greece had its first bailout, according to Bulgarian authorities. The Greek government is concerned. It plans a series of tax audits in cooperation with Bulgaria to determine if these business defections are merely changes of address designed to avoid tax rather than a physical relocation of operations. [..] Six hundred kilometers north of Athens, the Greek-Bulgarian border is teeming with traffic. A ravine through mountains on the Greek side gives way to a sweeping valley where agriculture and vineyards are the mainstay of the local economy.

At two small industrial parks 5 km inside Bulgaria, Greek signs are everywhere, advertising storage and office space. “There are dozens of Greek businesses just in this area alone, from transport companies to textile businesses and construction materials,” said Yiorgos Kalaitzoglou who runs a logistics business out of one of the industrial parks where a sign reads, “Land of Opportunities”. Three years ago, his business was stuttering in Greece. He moved to Bulgaria, leaving his wife and family in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city an hour’s drive away. “The taxman in Greece takes 70 to 90% of earnings, Greece simply doesn’t let you live,” the 50-year-old said as he walked through a warehouse stacked with ladders and paint tubs.

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